Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Work-free Wednesday

Today was a scheduled "vacation" day, since I had some errands and appointments. After all was done, I took advantage of this mid-week day off from work by mxing it up a bit in the kitchen.

I mixed up a full batch of granola and since the oven was on, tossed in spelt crackers topped with salt and pepper. I found this recipe via the Smitten Kitchen, and I think it will do quite nicely! (There are many more recipes there that I will be trying:) ) Once these were done, I made a light salad of sliced fennel and extra sharp cheddar tossed with salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. It looks like I've already made the lunch I'll be taking to work tomorrow!

Good work for a chilly, damp day!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Getting back into the swing of things

The first day back at work is always hectic, trying to catch up while work keeps moving along! But all is well and I'm back in the kitchen lab tonight, making bread. I decided on a loaf of English Muffin bread, simple and no kneading.

I may not be able to do this every time I need more bread, but I'd like to experiment with different grains and loaves. I like knowing what all the ingredients are in what I eat. The savings in cost and less plastic will probably be offset by the energy used by the oven*, but it's fresh and there are no preservatives.

*By the way, my electric use for last month sans television was 33% less than the previous month. This may not be an accurate representation of savings because the warmer weather has drastically reduced my heating usage. However, it was also 29% less than the same time period last year.

The rain that began on Sunday is expected to spill over into Tuesday, so my biking days will be limited this week. I have committments scheduled for Wednesday, which means that Thursday and Friday are my last resorts!

Yes, there really are flying monkeys

(These are the ones I mentioned in yesterday's post) ;)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hello again!

It's the sound of the wooden floorboards creaking as you walk to the back of the deli to order a freshly crafted sandwich on homemade wholegrain bread. And seeing bicycles used for transportation by both college students and middle-ages professionals, toting books or bakery goods. It's knowing where to find cuts of a lesser-known Extra Sharp Cheddar, better than the popular brand, at a really good price. Or the familiar sight of flying monkeys on top of a public building. It's feeling that collective exhale the week after tourists depart, having crowded the streets and sidewalks while spending their money on trinkets to remember this place.

We all have a familiar place that wraps us in comfort, like an old quilt. I have just returned from my familiar place, with my mind awakened and my spirit refreshed. The journey is long and tiring, but I would do it again tomorrow if I could.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day

I hope you are able to enjoy a peaceful and pleasant day. I will be working, but plan on some quality time outdoors, scattering wildflower seeds on my lunchtime walk :)

I will be leaving tomorrow morning before dawn to visit my family in VT. (It's almost a six hour drive!) I've been missing them, and can't wait to see everyone! I'm also going to enjoy the early morning songbirds and views across the Lake to NY! I need a new photo for my desk at work!

Until next week,


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A walk in the woods

I recently learned of a bike trail that starts about two miles from where I work - Woohoo! - so a co-worker and I took a 3 mile walk after work, just to check it out. And it is great! It cuts through the woods, running along a stream with all sorts of rock formations covered in moss. There were even loads of these

Jack In The Pulpit

and these

Red Trillium

At one point we left the hard-packed bike trail to wander off on paths that led down to the stream. There were three separate spots on this path covered in animal fur, like an animal had lay down there and rolled in the area. The fur looked like it was shed, or molted (is that the right word?) There was no blood or bones. Can anyone tell me what this was about?

There were three separate spots like this, each covering an area about 5 ft by 5 ft,so the animal(s) were pretty big. Or was it just a dog?

We will definitely be going back, with bikes. Supposedly, the trail goes for quite a few miles. I'm off to see if I can find out about it on the internet.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Playing with my food

If you've learned anything about me, it's that I do things the hard way :)

Tonight I decided to start "getting to know my food" rather than just eat it, so (after dinner) I hand-mixed, rolled, and cut some semolina pasta. Yep, smashed the egg right into the flour on the counter and got my hands into it. I didn't quite roll it thin enough to be able to read the headlines through it, but almost....

Okay, I know I can buy good stuff with no additives and save a LOT of time. Or buy a food processor and a pasta roller. (Notice that both of those sentences contain the word "buy"?) But this was a mini lesson in what goes into us each day, and not taking everything for granted. I'm sure I won't be doing this all the time, but it felt good to make this batch tonight. Besides, I've nothing to watch on tv ;)

Four servings, 2 fettucini, 2 spaghetti

I'm thinking plain, with a little olive oil and parsley, for lunch tomorrow. Maybe with a side of broccoli.

P.S. Many years ago, my sons, husband, and I made pasta for Christmas Eve. It was great! I still have that video.

How does your garden grow? (part two)

I've got some bad news and some good news about my Guerilla Gardening. I think I started too early and the weather was too cold, because I still don't see anything sprouting. Oh, except this - a very shiny 3-leaved ivy!

I'll be walking on the pavement now instead of the dirt ;)

Good news: Target sells these in their dollar section.

Including the package weight, these are 5 ounces each. So if there are three ounces of seed in each, I could scatter 6 ounces of wildflower seed this week. The forecast is rain this weekend, so I will save these until Thursday for the best conditions. Crossing my fingers...

So Rob, I'm still trying. And I hope to post some floral surprises this summer! I'm also sending a quick shout out to everyone to maybe pick up a packet of seeds and toss them into the wind :)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

One Small Change - mid April update and winding down

All my changes for Hip Mountain Mama's One Small Change Challenge have become part of my regular routine.

I eat very little beef, occasional chicken, and seldom pork. It's just as easy for me to cook up some wild and brown rice or a legume dish. I have fish once a week, or twice if I'm splitting a can of tuna into two meals. French toast with a banana is eggscellent for a quick and nourishing Friday night supper. Even (organic, natural) PB on toast can be satisfying knowing that it doesn't have all sorts of ingredients that I can't pronounce in it.

My coffeemaker is still packed away, since I enjoy my cold brewed coffee. It's much less bitter and has less acid. AND it takes less time since my batch is enough for about three days.

I've switched off regular deodorant for a homemade recipe that was shared by some friends. The last of the store-bought stuff is in my travel bag.

I don't have cable anymore and gave away my television. Almost 95% of the time, I don't miss it. I have been able to watch Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution on the internet, and I admit I'd like to watch the news once in a while. But overall, it was a good choice. (I will be going to my mother's to see Food, Inc on PBS this coming week. Sorry, but it's important!)

I also decided to bike to work two days per week now that the weather is good. I started with one day, but was encouraged when Jenn of the Green Phone Booth offered up a challenge.

I'm happy with all the changes I've made because they were ones I chose - ones that I thought would be difficult but turned out fun. While condo living doesn't allow for the wholesome lifestyle I'd like to be living, I can reduce my impact on the Earth.

Many thanks to Hip Mountain Mama for 3 and 1/2 months that taught me a few things about myself. I'm almost sad to see this finally coming to an end. And congratulations to all who participated, whether for one month or three. Every little step helps!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Over the years, I’ve owned some very interesting books. Most of them have been put back into circulation via donation to second hand stores. A very few have been kept in my “library”. These are books that would be difficult to find and replace. Most people would think their contents dated, but I feel they are just as valid today, since we are finding out that sometimes “the old ways are best”.

Almost everyone knows about Reader’s Digest “Back To Basics”, a guide on everything country. You can find a good starting point for buying your own country land to soap-making and basket weaving. Together with Gene Logsdon’s “Practical Skills”, it seems they have everything covered. Practical Skills has excellent instructions for cleaning your own chickens (black and white photos), and thorough instructions for building and maintaining a privy tucked in its 446 pages.

The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook (by Norge, for their appliances) is a wonderful book from the 1950’s, but doesn’t seem like it was updated from the original 1910 printing. Hollandaise sauce was an important skill, as was proper table setting for all those “extra” forks and such. But towards the rear of the book is a wonderful section on canning, drying, smoking, root cellaring, and more. Housekeepers could even have a food dryer of screen racks that hung from the ceiling to catch the heat from the stove (probably wood-burning?)

Stocking Up by the Editors of Organic Gardening and Farming is all about that – stocking up, including harvesting your grains and storage of unmilled grain. My copy was printed in 1973 by the Rhodale Press.

Notes from a Country Kitchen by Jocasta Innes is the one I’ve been pouring through a lot, lately. Breads, pasta, baking, dairy (yogurt and cheeses), curing fish and game, brined and pickled meats, preserves and more. That’s where I caught the notion of keeping and feeding a small piece of unrisen dough as a “starter”.

I have modern cookbooks (including one great volume on bread which was a gift from my oldest son and his wife), but I can leaf through these and wish that I had built the livestock fencing in the picture, or think about all the folks who lived this way their whole life, happily. Each of these books cost from fifty cents to two dollars – they didn’t break the bank. But I couldn’t walk in a thrift shop and pick one off the shelf any day of the week. I found them (or they found me?) over a period of two years. And browsing was half the fun!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Notable women

We all know the jokes about getting to that certain age where you look first at the obituaries in the newspaper to see if your name is there. Well, I don’t think I have to worry about that, yet. But I found out about two fascinating women who recently passed on by reading their notices, and then doing a little research online.

Anna Walentynowicz was one of the victims in the terrible plane crash that took the life of Polish president Lech Kaczynski and 95 others, including many Polish leaders. They were on their way to a ceremony honoring the Polish officers who were massacred by the Soviets in WWII.

Anna was “a labor leader whose firing as a crane operator at the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk in 1980 touched off the strike that led to the founding of Solidarity and the unraveling of Communism in Poland.” She published a labor newspaper, and would even hand copies of it to her bosses. She was such a force in the labor movement that workers refused to meet with authorities during negotiations unless she was reinstated. She was known as the “grandmother of Solidarity.”

The full article from the NYTimes is here, and there are many other sites with bits about her.

On this side of the globe, we have just lost Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to be elected chief of a major American Indian tribe. The fact that she was elected to that position, in itself, makes this woman unique.

Her career started by “volunteering in tribal affairs and leading campaigns for new health and school programs, like Head Start. She landed a job as economic stimulus coordinator for the Cherokee Nation, emphasizing community self-help”. After many accomplishments to help improve life for her people, she was elected as the first female deputy chief, and later, the first female principle chief. Her focus was always on helping the people of the Cherokee tribe. In recognition, she was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1998. She recently passed away at age 64.

The full article from the NYTimes is here, although there are many other articles on the internet about her.

I find it fascinating that women were/are accomplishing great things during my lifetime. Just as the brave women who crossed the plains in wagons, or rode in the stinking belly of ships for months to reach a new land, these women went beyond what was "normal" and expected of them. Please take a few minutes to read both short obituaries. I'm sure you'll find them interesting.

Full disclosure: All quotes above are directly from the NYTimes articles about these women.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday, Sunday

Yes, I did go back on Sunday, and yes, it was there. Just like the one in the book.

After that I took a long ride on the path. Quite a few other folks did, too. My only regret was not having brought my camera. I settled for my cell phone to take two pictures.

There were also marsh marigolds and lungwort, but they were too far to photo from my phone. Each week I've noticed different things. This time I was struck by the contorted roots of the trees that grow on the banks of the brook. I did not bring a headset, choosing to listen to the sounds of the bubbling, and sometimes rushing, water. There were more bird songs than I could recognize, and a few folks were scouting the birds with binoculars.

A few families were rollerblading, with tykes clinging to mom, unsteady on their new wheels. One dad was definitely in his zone, making long sweeping glides. His little son was trying to keep up. I'll bet he napped in the car after that. The little boy, that is. Not the dad :)

The weather has been beautiful for the past few days, and I'm anxious to see if any of the seeds I've planted along the roadway have sprouted. The problem is that I just scratch them in along my walks and haven't put any markers so I couldn't find them if they haven't sprouted. I have been careful to plant them in spots where the weeds don't get tough and the road crews don't mow. I'll be walking again tomorrow, with a packet of sunflower seeds. The odds are that some of them will bloom. Even one sunflower would be a benefit!

I've done a lot of thinking, now that selling my condo has been put on hold for this spring/summer. It was a depressing realization and I know that the time will come, but I have to adjust my plans for the summer. I had packed up quite a bit of my things to have the condo show well, and I'm only going to unpack what I absolutely need, like warm weather clothes.

So instead of scouting my future little house, I'm going to make use of this time by learning a few skills. I've pulled out the "country skills" type books that I have accumulated over the years and will start practicing now what I intend to use later. Basically, I want to learn how to use milk to make yogurt, soft, and hard cheeses. I have made bread for many years but never kept a starter, so that's near the top of my list. I have gardened and canned, but never fermented. I've read about sauerruben, and that sounds interesting to me. It's listed on a few blogs and I was glad to find it in one of the books. I've made dandelion wine and wild grape wine, but never gingerbeer. Certain things, like smoking fish and meat, will have to wait until I have my own property. But with a cool basement, I can do some food preservation, even in a condo.

Tomorrow's grocery list: yeast.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Obsession, it's not just a perfume

I almost skipped the second hand stores this week, but decided to take a quick look around. It worked out well. I came home with some additions to my stash of women's housedresses and smocks. I have about a dosen of these and they are by no means resellable, sometimes threadbare and stained. But I can always find parts of them that can be put into a quilt. I had first thought about a simple, cheery dresden plate quilt, or an appliqued Butterfly or Sunbonnet Sue, somewhat typical of the 40's. But my mind is also playing with a cityscape, to portray the women who stayed home to cook, clean, and raise babies while their husbands went off to work. I've got plenty of time to think about it. In the meantime, I'm having fun finding these. (Side note: why were so many housedresses from the 50's, 60's, and 70's made in blue?)

Adding to my projects is this jersey knit dress, which will make one or maybe two sleeveless bike tops which I can wear once the weather warms up again. We are at our normal 40-50 degree range today. I'm glad I closed the windows last night.

But what made it all worth going was these two treasures:

I had never seen or heard of them before. But, given my fascination with life in the time of the second World War, I had to get them. I'll be doing some research on the internet tonight.

I love the shapes that were added to some of the pieces in this one.

Today I'll be on the path, hopefully before it gets crowded. And I have to pick up some veggies on the way home. But there was one item I passed up yesterday. I wonder if it's still there? Should I?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Beyond words

I had to share with you what I saw on the Merritt Parkway today....

The duck-covered truck in my rear-view mirror:

Note: traffic was stopped at both times when photos were taken.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Craft edition

These drafting tools were at the Goodwill, at two separate times. Since this particular store sells clothing and "housewares" by the pound, they each cost me about two dollars. They earned their keep on my last quilt, helping me get those long cuts straight. So, in a way, they've been repurposed, and recycled, and will definitely get used again and again.

Check out this link to a neat idea! It looks like a lot of fun, especially if you can get a bunch of T-shirts and cut them all at once. Even more fun if you have a kitty in the house to play along with the yarn balls :)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

One of my fears

My thoughts and prayers are with the workers and their families who were involved in the recent mining tradegy in West Virginia. And also with every person who works daily in those conditions. We take for granted the energy that we use provided by folks working in hot, dirty, hazardous jobs.

Coal, whether dug underground or strip mined, has been providing us with energy for too long. We are seriously destroying our planet by digging tunnels for fuel to be burned and set off into the atmosphere. Likewise, oil and gas have been pulled from storage beneath the ground (and oceans), and consumed "like it was going out of style". Well, it is.

So one would think I must be a big supporter of nuclear power. Sorry. No. Perhaps because I vividly remember Three Mile Island. I was a young working gal, listening to the news and joining in the talk around the water cooler. The news reported contamination of the area around the reactor and could not estimate how widespread it could be. There were months of worrying about a possible melt-down, because they had trouble cooling the tower. It made a big impression on me. There was also the Chernobel disaster in the 80's, causing deaths, radioactive illnesses, and destruction. There are still miles and miles of land that can no longer be used and towns that can no longer be inhabited.

While living up north there were occassional news reports of "missing" spent fuel rods at the Vermont Yankee plant. How can you mis-place a fuel rod for a nuclear reactor? It turns out that these are stored in water baths to keep cool until they can be placed in permanent storage. The water baths are deep and dark and rods can be "overlooked" so they are reported as missing. Not being able to keep track of your nuclear waste is pretty disturbing to me, as is the fact that they have to be stored forever deep inside some mountain in the west. Along with the logistics of transporting them to that mountain.

This past winter I read several news reports about a tritium leak at the nuclear power plant in VT. Traces showed up when testing wells on company property. Reportedly, there has been no effect on residents of the area. Would I feel assured if I lived nearby? Nope.

Last week I read this report in the NYTimes about the Indian Point reactor, 35 miles north of NYC. The water that it uses from the Hudson goes back into the river, contaminated. They are not meeting acceptable limits and are violating the federal Clean Water Act. A letter from the Department of Evironmental Conservation said that "radioactive material had polluted the Hudson after leaking into the groundwater."

Now, I realize that this plant generates much of the power needed for NYC and that there would be a calamity if they had to shut down, but at what cost can they keep it running? Is it okay to kill off some fish and wildlife? How about knowing that this stuff is going into your drinking and bathing water?

And then we still have to truck those fuel rods out west.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Changing mid-thought

I am working on a energy-related post, but decided to keep it light today. Probably because I enjoyed a car-free commute to work today. I packed up a change of clothes and rode my bike. The weather was perfect; warm but not too warm. Tonight has become overcast and showers are on their way, which made the ride home cool and relaxing. I'm sitting on the deck after a dinner of lentil burgers with Italian marinated veggies and a cool glass of milk. Anyway, it's too peaceful to add on to the other post. I'll work on it tomorrow. Let's talk about last weekend....

I enjoyed an Easter meal with my mother on Saturday, since I was already there to take her to the hairdresser. Our family tradition is Easter breakfast; eggs scrambled with ricotta and mozzarella, cooked slow, with hot Italian sausage and bacon mixed in (pre-cooked, of course). Add hard rolls and lots of coffee, and you can't move till lunch :) Well, we didn't eat as much as all that....

So on Sunday I decided to drive up to the bike path in Hamden around noon, which turned out to be a good idea. Not only was it a bright, sunny day, but it didn't get crowded until after 1:00, when families started walking off their repast. I'm starting to think about upgrading. I love my Schwinn, but I need a real road bike for these trips. Maybe later this summer.

Here are a few pics from Sunday. I hope you enjoy.

Yes, we're just enjoying forsythia here. It's been in bloom for almost two weeks. Daffodils are almost done, azaleas just started. Spring is a beautiful time of year.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sweetening the pot, so to speak....

I laughed out loud when I opened the cable bill that arrived on Saturday. The revised bill showed a credit balance.

Today was even more amusing when my refund check arrived. I imagine it cost more to process than it's face value.

But wait, there's more! Tonight my doorbell rang with a cable salesperson who had my name as recently discontinued, with an offer for a package deal of $80 per month for cable, tv, and phone. (The normal rate for "Extended Basic" cable tv alone is about $65 per month. I was paying about $18 for bare-bones basic.) He was stymied when I told him I no longer own a tv and don't use a land line.

It's not about you, cable. It's me....really.....we're just not going anywhere, y'know?


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010

On Being Nice

And Melissa certainly knows this subject.

I've been reading her blog for well over a year. She's enthusiastic and encouraging and just seems to make people want to do good things for other folks. You can read through archived posts and find emails from folks who have paid for strangers meals, tolls, or coffees. Or just helped someone who was down and depressed. Operation Nice proves that a quick note or a smile and "hello" can make a difference.

Each month Pepsi is giving away grants for well-deserved ideas. And there are MANY good ideas out there. The beneficiaries of the grants will be based on votes, and you can vote once a day for the month of April. I've started voting for Operation Nice, and hope you'll take a look at the website. The goal is to create workshops and toolkits to promote the idea of being nice. You can read the details and decide for yourself if you think it's a good idea. Or check out some of the other contenders for the grants.

While you're there, take a look at some archived posts. Or print out some NICE NOTES, to spread some cheer. Like Melissa says "a little nice goes a long way". And I've found that bloggers and readers are some of the nicest people I know :)

* * * The link to vote is in my sidebar, or can be found on the Operation Nice website * * *