Friday, October 26, 2012

New Inspiration

It's been a while since I've been in blog land. I've been trying to stay off of the computer as much as I can, only using it for practical things like looking up recipes or checking important info about my kids' busy schedules. Oh yeah, and to watch hair braiding tutorials.

That's right, braiding.

I have two new inspirations to help get me through the day and one of them is braiding.
Luckily, my daughter has been letting me braid her hair.

And so have some of my co-workers.
But mostly my trail and error is on my own head.
It's not super easy to see behind your own head, especially if you don't have another mirror. And just in case you are wondering, it's also not super easy to take a picture of the back of your head and get good lighting at the same time.
But keeping in theme with this blog, some of the most simple braids continue to be my favorite to wear.

And while I'm learning about braids, I'm trying to get in shape.
This is my time machine. In time, it will help change me. I look at one of these frequently throughout the week now, but I'm not convinced that it's working. The truth is, that while there damn well better be some results sometime in the future from all of this craziness, I am realizing how much stronger I could be. Also known as (aka): I was kind of weak.

It feels good though - to focus on bettering my physical body. I'm not sure if I shared this yet, but I am taking time off from my waldorf teacher training program. It is unfortunate, but if I can't focus on growing in that direction then at least I'm doing something! When I think about it realistically from the outside, I certainly would not want to be one of those people who works out every day and braids hair for a living... but just at this moment in time, that actually sounds good to me.

And now I'm off to pack a towel in my gym bag since I refuse to use disposable wipes to wipe down the equipment at the gym...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mason Jar Cozy

I do love mason jars.

And now that cuppow makes the great BPA free lid to put on a mason jar to turn it essentially into a sippy cup for grownups... I find myself wanting to use mason jars more and more. And then I found myself wanting a cozy for my mason jars.
I wasn't really thinking about researching a pattern until I finished making my own, but it doesn't really matter because I still can't figure out how to read a knitting pattern.
I basically knit a shape that made sense to me - I opted for it to cover the bottom, but the next ones that I make will not cover the bottom.
Once done knitting, I sewed it up while it was on the mason jar. This ensured the fit that I was hoping for.
Luckily the shape was just right and sewing it up was super easy.
And for the final product, I sewed a piece of the yarn through the top of the cozy and tied it up, giving it just a little extra something to keep it from sliding down.

And then once I was done, I decided to hop on the internet and see how other people were making cozies for their mason jars... since I was sure that others love mason jars as much as I do.

I found cool ideas for sale on etsy, but they aren't quite what I was looking for.

And then I found this cool cozy, but if was for mason jars with regular lids (which is also very cool but now what I was looking for).

Then there were the patterns for cool knitted and felted cozies made for carrying mason jars around - I love these and will come back to them some other time.

But for now, this is my favorite pattern that I have some across. But remember, I can't follow patterns, so essentially I just look at it and try to copy it visually. Hopefully some of you can make better use of some of these patterns.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Keeping it simple (fridge pickles and watermelon vodka)

I'm trying over here.

I'm constantly trying to find the balance between this life that we have created and keeping it simple. Mostly, it's easy. But when I look around at how much stuff we have, it becomes way more difficult... even if only in my head.

So every day I try to do a little something that makes me feel like our life is more simple than it is.

With abundance of food (thank you food gods!) that threatens to rot in the fridge before it gets consumed, I am determined to find ways to make use of it before I have to put it in the compost bucket. This means lots of fridge pickles, salads, stir fries and fruit crisps.
The pickles in this photo are about to be opened tonight and I'm pretty excited about them. The more I make fridge pickles, the easier it gets. I play around the flavors and ask my family which they like best and make mental notes for future recipes.

My basic fridge pickle recipe:
(makes 2 quart sized mason jar's worth)

- 2 cups of organic distilled white vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons or so of organic raw sugar
- 2 tablespoons or so of sea salt or pickling salt if you've got it
- pickling spices (I buy these from our bulk section, but you can use any combination of pickling spice ingredients or none at all) - I add about a tablespoon, maybe more

Bring these ingredients to a boil while prepping the rest. Stir occasionally to make sure the sugar dissolves well.

- veggies of your choice, chopped however you want and packed into the mason jars (leave about an inch at the top)
- garlic chopped and distributed evenly among the veggies
- fresh dill (optional)
- chopped onions (optional)
- anything else that you want to add (optional)

Pour vinegar and water mixture over the veggies and put on lids. Let them cool down for a while and then put in fridge once cool enough (about an hour or so). Let pickle for a few days, then crack them open and eat! They can last in the fridge for about 30 days... but I've only read this - the pickles in my house don't make it that long to test.


The other day I came home with some watermelon that needed eating very soon. I chopped up most of it and put it in a container in the fridge to make it an easy to grab snack for the kids - I find that making some of the food easily accessible as well as appealing can make or break the chances that my family will eat something that needs eating.
The rest of the watermelon I used to make some watermelon infused vodka.
I packed the jar about halfway full of watermelon and filled it to the top with vodka. Let it sit in the fridge for at least 24 hours, but you can leave it in longer if you want. I have to clearly label stuff like this in my fridge so that no one mistakenly thinks it's water... I don't think that would be a pleasant surprise for anyone.
Once done, I like to mix this with an organic limeade that I have been splurging on lately. But sparkling water and fresh lime juice would be great too. A great end of summer drink.


Lastly, I want to leave you with this inspiration to live more simply:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Making the most out of what is in the fridge... and going to the farmer's market

Lately things have been a little tight... I know, money is usually tight. But every now and then it gets just a little bit tighter and we have to be extra careful about every penny that we spend as well as every bit of food that we have around. I'm not one to waste (obviously) but when it comes to food, sometimes it happens if I'm not paying close enough attention. You know, the veggies that start going bad before you get to use them, the leftovers that we forget to eat... it happens.

But not right now (if I can help it).

So I found that my kids were looking for more snacky things to eat and my older two kids were going to an acting camp for a few weeks and needed to have lots of food to pack. I also found that without homework to do, my kids needed some direction so as not to drive me totally crazy.

So, I rummaged through the fridge and found that we had a lot of pears that were on the edge of going bad - still good to eat but I knew the kids weren't going to eat them in the state that they were in.
I decided to make a pear crisp... with the help of my kids of course.
I didn't really follow a recipe that I can share with you - that's the best part about cleaning out the fridge... you can make it up as you go. I basically chopped up all of the pears (ok, my kids really did that part) and in a separate bowl I tossed together some flour (I used spelt), oats, sugar, lots of melted butter and some maple syrup. It's good to make sure that you have enough butter/maple syrup so that there isn't any loose flour or oats floating around - this is what makes the topping crispy. I put a little sugar on the pears and a pinch of salt and tossed them before laying them in a baking dish. Then I put the flour mixture on top of the pears and spread it out. I baked it in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until I thought the topping looked good.
And then I rummaged through my freezer and found some coconut ice cream that no one wanted to finish and I served them together, so that no one could object.
Of course no one did.


And just because I haven't blogged in forever but have lots of material I'm just waiting to share with you, I will tell you about the garlic, which will give me a reason to talk about the farmers' market.

I had a lot of garlic this morning.

I'm not sure how it happened, but suddenly, there it was. Some free garlic from work. Some garlic gifted to me from a friend who shares his farm share with us now and then when it's too much food for him to eat. A bag of garlic still covered in dirt that a friend harvested and passed on to me weeks ago that I put out of my mind.

So, I sat down and went through it and came up with a plan of action. Sometimes, a plan of action is necessary to avoid food waste. This plan of action involved making pickles, roasting lots of garlic and sharing some with dear friends that were in town for just one night. So I cleaned it all and got ready.

First thing's first though - for pickles I needed more then just garlic. So, off to the farmers' market we went. I LOVE farmer's markets. While I do get my fair share of good local produce from work for a fabulous discount, I can't but help going to farmers' markets and putting my hard earned money directly into the hands of the people who grow/make the food. It really is such a great thing that has cultivated over time. To find a farmers' market near you or near where you might be traveling, go here.
Here is some of the loot that I scored from a farmers' market trip that I took a few weeks ago. I had intended to blog about it, but time got away from me... so I'll slip it in here. Unfortunately, there are the occasional times when I can't avoid the plastic bag. In this case it was the gluten free cookies that I promised my youngest (his brother and sister where chowing down fresh, unpackaged, gluten filled baked goods) and the lettuce. We had gotten to the market too late for the unbagged heads of lettuce and I was determined to leave with some form of salad makings, so I compromised.

And yes, lobsta.
I couldn't pass up a live lobster at the farmers' market! I took him home and made some yummy lobster salad for lunch. Thank you lobster!

But I digress.

So, this morning I went to said farmers' market and bought a bunch of pickling cucumbers. Quite a deal really - I think I paid $3 for a pound and a half of pickling cucumbers, and they made 2 jars of pickles for me. Considering how much my family loves pickles, I think that's a fair deal.
I talked about making pickles before, but I didn't follow much of a recipe this time. My youngest politely asked me not to put dill in them this time (what?) so I obliged. Mainly, it is garlic, onions and cucumbers in a brine of vinegar, sugar and salt. Pretty simple and I'm sure they will be great.

And then, I roasted up some garlic.
My son has a runny nose and I'm trying to fight off an unidentifiable rash, so I figured that we can't have too much garlic... right? This is super easy if you've never done it before: chop off the garlic right at the top of the cloves (this makes it easy to get them out), coat them in some olive oil and sprinkle a little salt on top (optional). Then, bake them at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn. Let them cool and eat! Great for spreading on anything or adding to dips.


As for the rest of my fridge and freezer, it's time to dig through the back once again and eliminate anything that might have been neglected for too long. I will save anything that I can and make something from it. I've already made another crisp since making the pear crisp - an apple cherry crisp. The good thing is that getting creative helps both make use of something that might have been wasted AND makes hungry kids happy... that is, if you make something good.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer snacks

It's been hot around these parts and my kids have been going through growth spurts. This means that they eat a lot, which means there needs to be a lot of food around. Luckily, food comes in many forms...

We just got back from a beautiful week in Maine on Deer Isle.
We were lucky enough to have to lots of seafood at our finger tips - lobster was only $3.59/lb! I'm not happy that the lobster men (lobster fishermen? lobster people to be PC?) were making so very little off of their hard work, but I am happy that we had access to so much of it. Unfortunately, one lobster man told me that they were only getting $1.50/lb for the lobsters they were hauling in... and I heard rumor of a potential strike. But if you can enjoy some of those delicious creatures, please do.

Lobster wasn't the only good food we ate.
We met a local on the dock of the small town near where we were staying - he was impressed with my 5 year old's ability to cast with his fishing pole. I guess he liked us because we walked away from there with the generous gift of 15 - 20 pounds of free crabs.
The crabs were a lot of work for the little bit of (delicious) meat they have, but we were able to get 12 good crab cakes out of them - and with mostly crab meat, not filler.
 We fished a lot too, but didn't catch a thing.
However, we did successfully collect many delicious clams. I had never really had clams before, they kind of grossed me out... but it's amazing how good something can be when you harvest or grow it yourself. I enjoyed these clams, but my muscles are still a bit sore from all of the hard work.

And now we are home, looking forward to a very hot week with all 3 kids home while I am at work. My job today (besides lots of vacation laundry and house cleaning) is to fill the fridge with lots of easy to grab things to eat and drink for kids when the temperatures soar into the 90s.
I've already made the iced tea, lemonade, hard boiled eggs, dog food (not for the kids but it still had to be done), and I will continue after my blogging break with ready to eat chopped veggies, something with lentils and anything else that I can pull together that they might like.
I had to make sure there where popsicles of course.
AND I tried out a new snack too. I bought this nori from a man at the farmer's market on Deer Isle just 2 days ago - he had harvested it himself and was selling it for cheap.
I fried it up with some raw butter that I made before we left on our trip and it is really good! It is crispy and delicious enough to eat like popcorn. My youngest just devoured the bowl that I made so I will be making more of this snack as well and will probably keep it in a jar so that it stays fresh.

Most of these snacks are things that only come with hot summer days... or they at least make us think of hot summer days. I'm enjoying our summer very much and look forward to more family fun, as well as fun with friends.

And just so you know, I've been taking a break from using a computer when I don't have to so blog posts have been and might be less often, but I promise to at least have some good pics when I do post... Instead, I'm picking up a book.

Happy summer!

Friday, June 22, 2012

A visit to the city

Last week I lived in a city for 5 days and it wasn't that bad. I was able to attend the annual co-op conference, also known as the CCMA (Consumer Cooperative Management Association) conference. This was the 3rd CCMA that I have attended, and this year it was right in my home city, Philadephia. While I grew up just outside of the city, I spent much time there as a kid... but this was a different experience for me.
My memory of Philly is driving around and looking for parking spots, going to see and/or make art, hanging out on south street, etc... teenager stuff. Then later when I was older and visited some of the not so great parts of the city, I started to become aware of how dirty cities were and how isolated people could be even though they were far from alone.
But this time, I had a new experience.
First off, I'd like to say that while I still don't understand how every single person can pretend that they don't smell sewage when walking down a city street... Philly has definitely cleaned up it's act. Of course (to be fair) I stayed in the marriott downtown, so if there is going to be a nice area of the city, I was in it.
The weather was perfect, even though the hotel was super air conditioned. City walking did a toll on my feet - hiking on pavement is nothing like hiking in the woods! My feet are better now and I have learned my lesson. I also forgot what humidity does to my hair, but none of that really mattered. I was without kids and living it up with (almost) everything paid for. Plus, hanging with fellow cooperators from all over the country, with our focus on something that I can stand behind.

The day before every CCMA, there are always local tours offered. I won't lie, I struggled with the idea of taking a tour in a place that I thought I knew pretty well... but I'm glad in the end that I took the mural tour around the city.
The murals were amazing and have certainly helped clean the city up quite a bit. This is something that has happened since I lived nearby and I'm super glad I got to see some of them.

But let's really get down to it, shall we?

It wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be to avoid disposable products... but I will say that Philly has a LONG way to go when it comes to recycling.
I saw a total of 3 recycling bins in my section of the city - and I did a lot of walking. Two of the recycling bins were stuff full with trash, and the third looked promising but I don't have a lot of faith that anything recyclable in it actually made it to a recycling facility.

The hotel that we were in straight up SUCKED at recycling. I'm not going to alter this corporate name, because everyone should know that the Marriott in downtown Philadelphia does not have one single recycling bin anywhere in their gigantic building. After talking to a few employees, I found out that they do recycle in the kitchen, so when I had a glass bottle one day, I found someone who worked in the kitchen and asked them to take it behind the scenes and recycle it for me. I later found a manger of the hotel and had a talk with her, letting her know how disappointing it was that the hotel didn't extend their recycling services to their thousands of guests. She was receptive, but she was also doing her job by taking my complaint... so who knows.

But this is something that we can all do! When you can't find a recycling bin, find someone and tell them that you are disappointed in their business for not being more responsible. It's not much, but it is something.

Downtown Philly certainly isn't the best place to seek out organic and/or natural meals, but we spent some time in the Reading Terminal Market, since it happened to be right next to our hotel. It was ok but of course there was disposable stuff everywhere. However, people were receptive (after they were confused) about me using my own containers. I carried 5 important things on me while int he city:

- stainless steel water bottle full of water (I found spring water dispensers in the conference rooms to refill it)
-  my insulated stainless steel bottle that was perfect for keeping the fresh juices and smoothies cold that I bought at the market
- a small stainless steel lunch box type thing, about the size to fit a large sandwich in... I used this the most
- metal utensils
- cloth napkin
Sometimes I still ended up with a wrapper under my food, but it was still better that using the styrofoam plates that everyone seemed to serve on. You can see my friend's food in the background of the picture above.
To be fair, I did see at least 4 recycling bins inside the market, so that made me feel better about going there!

And so, I had a great visit to Philly despite the fact that no one seems to recycle. It was good to be on foot without a car for 4 days, even if my feet got mad at the lack of earth to walk on. And it was nice to be away and get re-energized with the all of the co-op people who are thinking like me.

To learn a little more about the conference that I went to, check out this NPR show. Scroll to the bottom and you can listen to it.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Radishes, or something new

It has been so nice not having to go to school on Saturdays! I can now go to the farmer's market in my town (after sleeping in and going out to breakfast of course).

It's kind of scary and exciting to have so much produce available already in the season here.
The delicious organic strawberries actually came in a little wooden pint container, but I brought my glass pyrex container to put them in instead - the farmers where of course happy to take back the wooden container to reuse. The glass container also keeps the strawberries safe, and ensures that they don't get squished - I can essentially toss it in my bag and not worry about it.

And then there are the radishes... I am always trying to broaden my palate, but it's easy to feel comfortable with the same old shopping patterns - especially when they are based on what I know my family will definitely eat. But the other nice thing about the farmer's market is that I can buy something on a whim because it looks good when I might not buy it in the store simply because I'm not looking for it. This is how I ended up with radishes - I never buy them because I'm not generally a huge fan, plus my family finds them to be too spicy. But they looked so good, so I'm making it a point to enjoy them.
I made some guacamole from the most perfectly ripe avocados (not purchased at the farmer's market, sadly) and decided to use the radish slices in place of chips to dip in it. It was pretty good! They were perfectly crunchy and the spice grew on me. Since I'm always looking for healthier alternatives for munchy food, I think I might be doing this more frequently. By the way, cucumbers are pretty good guacamole vehicles as well.
And since I was enjoying trying to find ways to incorporate radishes into my diet, I decided to make a pressed salad with them. I had a head of cabbage that was looking to be utilized, so I sliced it finely and added thinly sliced radishes and carrots and a clove of garlic, then sprinkled some himala salt all over it and tossed it thoroughly with my hands. Mix it well until it starts to feel wet, and then place a plate on top of it and place a weight of some sort on top of that. I like to let mine sit for a long time, hours or maybe even over night. The longer it sits, the more soft and digestible it becomes - it is like a raw form of cooking. You can taste it to see if you like it and once you are satisfied with the taste, pour the water off and serve. You will be surprised how much water there is, trust me.

Ok, I'm off to find a use for my last three radishes... but I think I might just slice them up, grind a little salt on top, and munch them down. Mmmmm!