Monday, May 30, 2011

The Ultra Green Party

This past Sunday we had a BBQ. We fed 17 people. And while I do have 17 dinner plates, I opted to use paper plates.

We have a gazebo that we eat dinner in all the time during the summer and we always use real plates, flatware and cups. I never feel like disposable plates save me that much time,  I mean how hard is it to wash 3 dinner plates? Besides, I'm not using disposable cookware so it's not like I could get out of dishwashing anyway.  And why pay for plates when I already have some. And using disposables in my home makes me feel a little guilty and like I'm literally throwing money away....

Anyway, I don't know why I thought I needed paper plates for this party. But I was thinking in the interest of ease.  I know they have those plates made out of sustainable material, I could just go with those I reasoned.

But when I got to the store they had these nifty disposable items made out of cornstarch! Flatware and cups! And the plates made from sugar cane. And all of them are suitable for composting.

So I bought them all.

However, you know, when you thow something out, if you just toss it in the garbage, that garbage in landfills is packed so tightly, that even if you DO get something that will break down, there is no oxygen in there. Nothing is really breaking down at all. And if so, not that fast. These things are supposed to break down in 60-150 days in the proper conditions (Those conditions not being a landfill.)

No sweat, I thought, I'll just collect the stuff from the guests and compost it myself. This prompted one guest to comment dryly that I was "a lot of fun at parties...."  AndAnd it was messy. We had pulled pork, and baked beans and coleslaw....

But dutifully, I collected the stuff to do my part and put it all in this huge bowl that I have for moving out to the pile.

However, after everyone left I noted that the flatware was rather thick (and as I recalled, not that cheap) and how hard would it be to just wash it. (Not very) So I did. Same with the cups. This made me wonder why I even bought these things at all, I mean if I'm going to wash cups anyway, why not just use real ones. In fact, I even have a high effencicy dish washer...

So now I have some thick cornstrach plastic cups and flatware that I wouldn't buy to have in my house in the first place.

I don't even think I can recycle them because they aren't technically made of plastic and have no recycle # on the bottom.

I've been thinking we can use them for eating outside and picnics all summer long and by the end of the summer the utensils will start getting smaller and smaller and the cups will spring leaks :-)

As much as they are touted as a nice alternative to plastic and paper someone still had to make these in a factory somewhere and then ship them all the way to my Wegmans where they were waiting for someone like me who wants to feel all good about themselves for making better choices. They were still using resources to make and ship them just so I could hold my pulled pork sandwich on my lap for 15 minutes. It hardly seems worth it. A better choice would have been to use plates I already had.

Unless you compost them yourself, it's only a marginally better choice. And even at that, how many plates do you really want to collect from your guests and then have to compost yourself? Probably not many. How many parties is this really realistic for?

In the interest of seeing how these things work, I buried all of the plates, one cup and one fork to see if/when they  break down. I also left 2 cups next to the pile, but exposed to the elements to see what happens to those. I'll report back in 150 days. 

On the plus side, I think if you are going to throw awaqy utensils and cups, these are your  probably your best bet because they aren't made of plastic and do have a better chance (small though it may be) of breaking down than your average solo cups.

But for me, I'll just go back to what I was doing before-using things I already owned, which I always think is the most earth-friendly thing you can do....

What on earth was I thinking anyway?

Friday, May 27, 2011

George Washington's Letter at RMSC

This past Monday, on the Facebook page of the Rochester Museum & Science Center, they asked:

 "Did you know that the museum has a letter written by George Washington"

Heck no, I didn't know that! And in our household these days, he's called General Washington BTW....
At any rate I didn't know it. And given our recent foray into the Revolutionary War, I thought how neat it would be to take my girl there to see it soI asked if it was on display. It is not.


They told me that I could come by their library and ask to see it and they would be happy to show it to me.


So I did! I called and made an appointment and today my girl and I went to see what we could see about the George Washington letter.

The librarian, Lea, was a wonderfully kind woman who not only had the letter out and waiting for us, she spent a great deal of time talking to us about it. The letter is dated August 1776 and it's contents are regarding the Stockbridge Indians desire to join the patriots. The libriarian had also taken out a book so she could show us a passage about the same thing! Seriously!!!!

You can read the text of the letter here if you are interested.

The libriarian wore gloves so she didn't get anything on it, but she let us TOUCH THE LETTER (twice actually) ....The paper is made of rags so it felt a little different. However, that was not the big deal. The big deal was that WE WERE TOUCHING SOMETHING GEORGE WASHINGTON ONCE HELD IN HIS HANDS!!!

As you know from my Laura Ingalls Wilder letter, this kind of thing is pretty thrilling to me.... REALLY THRILLING actually.

My girl was feeling very shy and nervous about touching it. I told her she better do this because she's probably not going to get the chance to do this again...Probably ever....

The envelope. Where he wrote his name, General Washington..... OMG!

She was feeling a little overwhelmed. She didn't really want her pic taken but I told her she's probably love it for the rest of her life. Apparently that convinced her.

Later we ran into my friend Sara who works in collections and her boss, Dr McIntosh who is the Director Of Collections. They gave us a little behind the scenes tour where we saw a ton of neat things, including:  

A Mastadon head!!!!

Hummingbird Nests

General Grant's Cigar!!!

A piece of an outfit worn by Red Jacket WHEN he met with George Washington after the Revolutionary War ended....

Afterwards we enjoyed thier beautiful garden.

It was a pretty wonderful afteroon and I can't help but be thankful that we live in a world where every day people have access to things like this. All I did was ask nicely and pay my admission. That my 6 year old girl could see and touch a tiny little piece of our country's history was an experience one can't have everywhere in the world.

We're not special. We're not rich. We're not famous or notable in anyway. And yet, there we sat next to Washington's letter. Museums in general are important for this very reason, and we are lucky indeed!

Monday, May 23, 2011

What's Growing In The Garden-More Than You Would Think

Even though if you were to look at my garden, you would think hardly anything is growing to eat at this point, we've been incorporating food from it into a lot of meals lately. Having a large herb garden makes this easy.

Today I was thinking about herbs and how easy they are to grow and that how, having them handy, makes you that much better of a cook. Who can reember to pick up fresh thyme when you need it and who wants to pay those crazy prices for it. Besides, most herbs come back each year, they are pretty much no-fuss plants.

This evening we went to our neighbors for the first of their summer cocktail hours and I made this EASY EAST appetizer that everyone LOVES. I've been making it for years and you can mix it up any way you want to.

This is not mine but mine looks just like this with some olive oil on it
Goat Cheese & Herbs

1 log goat cheese-I used a big one because there were 8 people. Microwave this for about 30 seconds-just to make it soft-not to melt it into a glob.

Sprinkle fresh chopped herbs over-Today I used Chives, Dill & Parsley

Drizzle with Olive Oil

Serve with toasted baguette slices-I brushed these with olive oil before I put them into the oven.

People really really tend to like this. You can add minced garlic as well but make sure you've minced it really well, no one likes a mouth full of fresh garlic. I find that the chives usually provide enough of that kind of flavor. It's such a fresh tasting appetizer.

We'v also been eating:

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes (The last of my crop from last year-The rest are being planted for this year) with Chive pesto
Pork tenderloin with Rhubarb Chutney-This one is for you Toni Lynn with all of that rhubarb!! It was a really nice way to make a non-sweet food out of rhubarb.

The best one was the night that I served spicy greens sauteed with bacon. I told my husband they were from the gardnen to which he replied "I didn't think we had any greens ready yet."  to which I answered "Well, we had a lot of dandelions in with the iris....." They were delicious.

In related notes,

I'm planting drying beans this year. I don't really know how this is going to work out becuase I think you need a lot of beans to be able to produce an large enough amount of dried beans to make something out of. I keep wondering if someone I know will grown a large row of beans for me somewhere in their yard that doesn't get a lof of deer..... Probably not... I don't know how many I'm likely to get behind the fence...

French Horticurtural Beans

Also trying to grow sunflowers for their seeds. The seed packet (The very one pictured) says "This humongous variety was developed specifically for large delicious seeds." We'll see.

And finally, in an act of suburban homesteading, I planted the urns in the front of my house with these super cute currant tomatoes, dill, parsley and thyme. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Deal or No Deal, A Sales Training Tool

Dealing with sales people is something that I've done in many of my jobs.  On the whole I don't like sales people. More specifically, I don't enjoy the process of being sold to. It's uncomfortable and I'm good at asking questions and I find it annoying when my questions aren't answered and then everyone is uncomfortable.

And because I think that deep down, sales people are probably all pretty good eggs, I'm writing this post as a training piece, a training tool if you will.  Something for all you sales people who probably think I'm a grumpy bitch.

I am. It's your fault. Change that and you might make a sale....

Don't get me wrong, like I said,  individually, I think most sales people are probably pretty ok people and I have a few that would even qualify as my favorites Those being my current SYSCO guy, who has helped me tremendously as of late and prior computer hardwares salemen that I came across in my last job-No one provides dinner like a company about to make tons of money from you. (Have you ever priced a high end server, some of them are more expensive than cars....) .I also like the girls at the local pizza place. They are nice to me even when I'm only spending $5. And probably the most genuine....

At any rate, today I wasn't talking to my SYSCO guy and I'm not planning on spending tons of money anywhere. .

Today I was working in my office enjoying the luxury of an afternoon sans meetings when I received a call:

"Two men from XXXX are here to see you."
"I don't have a meeting with them."
"I think they just showed up"

I'm sure they did, because last week I sent them an email declining their request for a meeting to try and sell me their product. I had already gone with their competitor.

I'm sorry, waiting to contact me until the week the museum is ready to open is  pretty much a sure-fire way to insure I won't be using your product.

Another way is coming into my office and forgetting to tell me your name.

And the third, and this one I really really hate... I mean this last one makes me not want to ever deal with you, is coming in to see me and telling me you had no idea that this museum was even here. Or that you've never been here, or pretending that you've been to one of our events and then when I ask you which one, you stumble over your words. (Hint, if you mumbled Civil War, you could probably get away with it.)

I'm not saying everyone needs to visit us or know about their local museums. Maybe 19th century life isn't your thing. I get that.  But when you try and sell something to someone, it would behoove you to know SOMETHING about the place you are trying to sell to. We have a fairly nice website that tells you EXACTLY what we are about. You can also find our opening dates. This is not rocket science. Additionally, we are the biggest living history museum in the state and the 3rd biggest in the country. Telling me you've never known what we are about tells me you're a dolt. It's also kind of insulting and I wonder how you expect my business. This is not the first time this has happened either.

Incidently,  these 2 men were selling something that an "attraction" type place would use.  They were not selling printer ink or something where the type of business they were selling to didn't matter. It mattered very much. And they couldn't figure that out. Or they didn't care. And rather than tell me why their product was good, they told me why their competitor was bad.

The meeting ended quickly. And I'm not buying anything from them.

For you sales people taking my home study program, here are a few more pointers to follow if you want to walk away from me empty handed.:
1) Don't try the museum's signature beer when it's offered to you because you "Don't like dark beer" Take a sip you idiot and smile. It's not going to kill you. We're pretty jazzed about the beer, you might realize this if you were listening to me talk these past 5 minutes.
P.S. And I think you are a wuss if you can't take even take a taste of something darker than Coors Light.
2) Ask me if we have people in costumes here.
3)  Forget when your appointments are with me.
4) Take phone calls about other sales calls when we are meeting.
5) Text
6)  Treat me like the non-profit-without-a-ton-of-money that I am. I used to spend a lot of money in my last job. I see the difference. I love being made to feel like you could give a rip about my business because I don't spend a lot.
7) Make sure you aren't able to tell me how your product will make my job easier, I love trying to figure it out myself. I don't have enough stuff to do.
8) Wonder what it is that crawled up my butt today when you leave empty handed, because it certainly wasn't you.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What's Growing In The Garden-Horseradish


When I planted it my grandma told me that I probably never needed to plan it again! That ever if i dug it up, that it would probably come back. She was right.

Over the weekend I was planting and there was some horseradish growing somewhere where I swore I had dug it up last fall. In fact, I know I did. But there it was. And I wanted to plant something there.

So I dug it up again.

I made horseradish mashed potatoes with some of my garden potatoes that I still have in the refrigerator but I've already made those before. They were delish and horseradish isn't nearly so pungent grated as it is when you buy it in a jar with vinegar.

I also made a horseradish dressing that we used with grilled steaks. So simple and so good. And I've never used horseradish in that manner before. It was surprisingly good. I don't often use horseradish but after the potatoes and this dressing I think I may re-think this a little.

Horseradish dressing
15cm horseradish root, peeled and finely grated
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp white wine vinegar

Mix everything together well and the dressing is ready to use on salads, eggs, potatoes, roast beef, and thinly sliced raw tuna or trout. The dressing will keep for a week or so in the refrigerator but is at its most potent when first made.

In other food related news, we used the leftover sauce from this chicken with sauteed asparagus, mushrooms & shrimp over pasta for a nice mother's day dinner.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hot Mama?

Before I settled into my usual mother's day routine of gardening, I  went to Wegmans's to run an errand for the girl scout meeting tomorrow.

I was dressed in my typical gardening attire of jeans, a tank top, a brown zip up sweatshirt and flip flops.

While stopped at a display, a man with a perhaps 10-year old boy in tow (his son?) slowed down, gave me an appraising up and down look, and said:

"Haaaapppy  Moooothers Day."

I wish this blog had audio because written out like that, it doesn't really do it justice. If that sentence could actually be said in a lecherous manner, I woud say that he said it in a lecherous manner, although, I'm not actually sure that sentence can be said in a lecherous manner. He certainly gave me a leacherous look.

I really didn't look that fetching, but to be perfectly  honest, the man didn't seem really discerning.

This left me to ponder:

I don't wear jewlry when I garden so I was sans wedding ring I was also sans child. What about me indcates that I was part of a family unit at all? To be fair I was purchasing 24 reuseable children's cups.

Do I look like I have birthed a child in my lifetime or that I would be good at birthing children? Probably so, but really not something I would personally draw attention to if I was looking at someone in a lecherous manner....

Was I wearing mom jeans and not realizing it?

Did I look like maybe I haven't received a lecherous look in a while and the guy was throwing me a bone for mother's day????  

I was wearing a tank top and his gaze made me want to look down to be sure that it had not dipped dangerously low. But I didn't want to draw attention to that if it had.

All in all, I was somewhat confused by his choice of words.

So I said "um thanks?"  turned away and continued to put the clearance children's cups into my cart hoping to avoid any more eye contact.

It was certainly the creepiest compliment I've received in a while.....

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Best Pizza I Ever Had

About once a week my daughter and I have lunch out somewhere. It's usually at her favorite pizza place, Cam's, where we both have a slice of cheese pizza and water for under $5. It's our little thing and we sit in the same booth each time and talk about kindergarten and other things. The girls there know us and always greet us with a friendly smile.

Anyway today when she got home from school she asked if we could have lunch there. I initially said no because tonight she had a bitthday party where I knews she was having pizza. She persisted with arguments ranging from the fact that we had nothing for lunch (true) and we haven't been there in a while. I reluctantly agreed and went upstairs to get ready.

She yelled from the kitchen:
"Moooommm, how much is it when we eat at Cam's?"
"How much at Cam's?'
"What about if I have pink lemonade?"
"$6  wait until I get downstairs, I can hardly hear you"
"Which one of my jars is the spend jar?"
"Emma, hang on, I can hardly hear you."

So  I go downstairs and that little girl is counting out dollars from her spend jar on the counter. I ask what she's doing and she said "It's your mother's day weekend celebration, I'm taking you to lunch."

And she did.

She held all of the money in her little kid hands on the drive to the pizza place and told me "Even if you drive, the person paying is the one taking the other out to lunch, ok."


Then she asked what I wanted to drink and she ordered for the both of us. She ordered pink leomnade for herself which I hardly every let her get (I guess she figured it she was paying she could order pink lemonade if she wanted.) She got some change so I told her she could give some to the tip jar. She tossed in a quarter.

After our pizza she said she had some money left over and she told me she was going to buy dessert. She took 2 quarters and  bought  M&M's and skittles out of the candy machine and we ate them at the table.

While she was eating she said "You know, it tastes better when you pay for it yourself."

It sure does baby.

I know that was the best pizza I ever had.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What's Growing In The Garden-Chives

Oh my goodness, it's been a long time since I've been here. The museum is opening on the 14th and I'm feeling a little frazzled at this point. I still feel like there are many many things to do before then.

In the midst of all of this I decided that I miss cooking. I really do. I used to get immense enjoyment of browsing through cookbooks or websites for delicious things to make and then making them.  I have not done that in a long time. I haven't cooked dinner in months. (Except for the Best Roast Chicken ever-But I don't really count that because it only takes 5 minutes.)  Don't worry, we're all eating still-my husband does dinner.

They say your tastes change every 7 or so years and I believe them because I can't actually think of anything I'd like to make at this point that I have a recipe for except for these Blueberry Muffins, which I made this week.

And I'm itching for food from the garden, which there isn't very much of at this point.

So I've decided on a new feature for my blog & my life. Each week I'm going to cook something new with food from my yard. (and my freezer as I'm trying to clean it out in anticipating of new produce this summer!) and post it here. That way people can see what's actually in season and local.

Today we have chives I have a lot of chives and they are beautiful right now. ...Actually this experiment started on Monday with a horrendous Seafood Salad with herbed olive oil. That was a complete waste of shrimp, calamari, scallops & fresh herbs and  prompted my husband to ask if I just wanted to leave the dinner prep to him....

Undaunted, I made the muffins on Tuesday (Farmer's Market Frozen Blueberries) and Chicken Breasts with Chive and Mustard Sauce today.  This was delicious and it made a lot of sauce. Don't you hate it when a recipe with sauce hardly makes any sauce? Well this didn't dissapoint and I served the sauce over the chicken and the broccoli I steamed as a side dish. I even had leftover sauce that I put into the fridge that I can't decide what to do with-It was that yummy! (how many times did I just say sauce?)

I felt better about my cooking skills tonight!