Monday, May 31, 2010

A Cup of Coffee for a Soldier



....a cup of joe for a Joe.

I heard this on the radio today, and thought I'd pass it on.

Green Beans Coffee has a link on their website to accept donations to buy a cup of coffee for a solider overseas. Each $2 will get a soldier a cup of joe at one of their locations, and it looks like there are about six in the Middle East area. So, a taste of home is welcome! You can write a note of appreciation/support to the soldier to accompany the receipt of the coffee.

For all they do for us, freedom, and democracy, how about buying a cup of joe for a Joe? And feel free to pass on this information :)



This information is not from a chain letter. I heard about it on CBS880 radio (NYC), and verified the website.

We should never forget







With humble thanks to all who have served our country.






Saturday, May 29, 2010

One Small Change - May recap and June goals

Well, I haven't posted one of these in a while! But it keeps me on track if I publicly announce my goals, or admit my shortcomings :) And I've certainly got room for improvement!


In May I started doing more cooking from scratch... I started baking my own bread and crackers, and making pasta. I've cut out the additives and preservatives on these, and by using (mostly) organic ingredients, I'm eating healtier in these catagories.


Coming up in June - I'll do more cooking from scratch. I'm looking for more cracker recipes, and I'll try making soft pretzels and bagels, too.

I'll revisit the biking to work option. Shamefully, I have a whole pocketful of excuses as to why I only did this a few times. I'll have to try harder.

I've come up with some good *recycled* fabric to make more cleaning wipes. The few I had needed to be replaced, so I used the paper towels that were in the back of the closet, but those are gone now so I'm going back to cloth.

I'm also going to try switching from my old brand of coffee (when I finish the open bag) to a fair trade coffee. I listened to a discussion on NPR about the loss of migratory birds due to the destruction in other countries caused by our demand for products like coffee (pesticide use, deforestation, etc). I've heard about this for years but turned a deaf ear to it. Well, maybe it's time for me to start being more responsible about this.

On the bright side, last month's lower utility bill was not an anomaly! This is the current bill, which arrived last week. Usage for these two months are lower than the same time period last year. And my one BIG change for this was eliminating the tv. Even though it was on a power cord that was turned OFF when not watching tv, this shows how much power it really draws!

Yes, I would like to watch some news programs, but I read the news online anyway. And it is said that being able to watch tv 24/7 is a stressor. Well, I feel less stressed, so maybe it's true? Who wouldn't, with a doublescoop benefit of a savings on their electric bill :)

Please visit One Small Change to see what others are doing!

4BFHOTP

Yes, this must be the "4 Bushel Farm Home for Orphaned Tomato Plants"!






I was away last night, and arrived back this afternoon to find a very thirsty young plant sitting by my back door. I gave it a thorough watering and it is now doing fine. (The above is a *before* photo) I can't help smiling! I'm hoping to have tomatoes for lunch every day in August! Life is definitely good.



I will have to go to the store tomorrow to get a bigger pot, don't you think?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pretty colors


One of the benefits of living in a century-plus old farmhouse is the flowers planted generations earlier. Lilac bushes are as tall as the second story, loaded with fragrant blooms. Each spring tulips pop up in the lawn where they naturalized before you were born. Bleeding heart is a warm sign that the snow won't be back for many months. Violets create a carpet along the shady side of the house.

Before I drove back home, my grandchildren helped me pick violet flowerheads. I carefully packed them in a small lunch cooler for the long ride.









Once I arrived home and unpacked the car, I started working with the flowerheads. By following the instructions here, I steeped the blossoms and made this beautiful liquid.







The next day I added the lemon juice, sugar, and pectin, then gave it all a water bath to complete the porcess. My reward is five of these:





(My photo, taken in the morning sunshine, doesn't do the rosy pink color justice.)



The violets we picked were a mix of lavender, blue, and white. A higher percentage of deeper color would make a darker jelly. But the flavor is just as good no matter what color combination is used! Since this batch turned out well (and easy!), next year there will be lots more. Four of these five jars are going back to my grandchildren.


Notes:


These were picked from a yard where no pesticides are used, and far enough away from the road to be safe from winter salt/chemicals.


Please don't ever pick, or try to eat any flower/plant that you are not absolutely sure is safe. When in doubt, pass it by!




Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Update for the littlest farm!

I stopped at home during my lunch break today, and decided to water the "garden" since the weather has climbed (jumped?) into the low 90's. As I finished and turned to go back inside I noticed this little guy.



An orphan left by my backdoor! But I know exactly who left him there ;)

In one of the neighboring units is an eldery woman who plants lots of tomatoes each summer. She will occassionally leave a nice red one on the railing for me, if she doesn't see any ripe ones on my plants. Last year I gave her several branches from my rosemary plant, which she likes to use as a rinse for her hair. She's a sweet woman whose native language is not English, but we manage to have good communication.

I couldn't leave the little plant stranded in the hot sun so I found my last mid-sized container and potted it with a good watering. Now it's in good company. The variety is Big Boy so I'm pretty excited, thinking about a fresh slice or two on a sandwich.



P.S. I'm at the library now, keeping cool, and thinking about a tall glass of lemonade.....

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The littlest farm

Welcome to this summer’s “back 40”. I have not planted as many containers on my deck as I have in the previous two summers, partly because I don’t want to worry about them should I decide to travel during a heat wave and partly because I enjoy shopping at the farmers market and want to support our local growers.

Of course I had to put in one tomato plant, Arkansas Traveler, purchased at the farmers market on opening day. I “companion” planted basil seeds and onion sets in the same container. (I always add a few onion sets so that I can snip some scallion greens for whatever I’m cooking.) I’ve never heard of this tomato variety before, so curiosity got the best of me and I bought it. There are some blossoms already and it has grown about a foot in these nine days.




I have two smaller pots with nasturtiums (and scallions!) to add to my salads. I’ve grown those for several years, and enjoy the color and flavor when mixed with lettuces.




I planted one pot of cucumbers and a separate one that is half dill and half parsley however, the squirrels have dug through there and I’ve lost some of the little seedlings. Squirrels are abundant here, partly because of the bucket loads of acorns that fall during the winter!



My last veggie container is a five gallon bucket with potatoes. I just “hilled” them tonight after work. Backbreaking, I tell ya’ ;) Really, I’m amazed at how well they’re doing. I bought seed potatoes in VT at a local farm and garden store when I was there in April, but they really seem to like this CT heat!



Well, after surveying the crops, I’m sittin’ back out here with my feet up, listening to the birds chirping in the nearby trees. Or is that my neighbor’s air conditioning condenser?

Have fun, folks. We’ll talk again soon.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My weekend


Looking at a map, New England is only a small section of the United States. But, topographically, it is as diverse as can be. From the shores of the Atlantic, either rocky with crashing waves, or sandy and calm, to the pine-covered mountains, you can feel like you’ve stepped into another part of the country. Driving through the middle, I pass through different agricultural zones. The willows can be in full leaf in southern N.E. and not yet showing their bright yellow pre-leaf color in the north. Southern N.E. gardeners can be planting tomatoes while their northern counterparts have yet to till the garden.

Interstates in New England weave through the cities and countryside alike, sometimes slicing through rocky mountains that were created by glaciers. Driving along, the mountain ridges line up one behind another, each mottled shades of green. The trees amazingly look like a painting by Bob Ross. An occasional swamp confirms that he knew his stuff.

I respect every person’s love of their hometown, -state, -area. But I love New England.


It was a glorious weekend, sunny and warm, and spent in the company of happy, energetic grandchildren. When I arrived on Friday we spent the afternoon outside, playing and riding bikes. But the big day was Saturday, with the town parade and get-together at the beach.

Everything that should be in a parade was there; a color guard with flags and guns, horses and donkeys, boy scouts and fire trucks, old tractors and ambulances. It’s the time where the oldest long-standing members of the community get to ride in classic cars at the front of the line and the local construction company scrubs and polishes its big truck to drive behind the library bookmobile. The was enough candy to make a dentist hyperventilate, and a local politician shaking hands with everyone along the route.













After all the excitement, we went to the gathering at the beach. There were two of the bouncing castles for the smaller children, some games, baseball, and food. It was enough to keep the little ones happy while their parents had a chance to relax and catch up with friends. And the weather couldn’t have been any nicer! It was a great start to what will be a busy summer season.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fiddleheads

I was quite surprised to find these in the big chain supermarket this morning! For the past few years, I've only bought them at the farmers market or a small organic/natural store. So I've packed them up with the last of my homemade pasta for lunch tomorrow. It's been very busy at work, so it will be nice to have something healthy to eat while I'm nose-to-the-computer! :)






My fingers have been itching to do some sewing, so after work I stopped at JoAnn's Fabrics to look at the cottons for a baby quilt. I'm thinking of bright colored flowers so I bought these two pieces of fabric, purple and yellow. I'll have to sketch something to see what other colors/shades I'll need, then I'll go back and pick out the rest.




Plans for the Memorial Day weekend have changed, and I will be travelling north this weekend! I'll be charging the battery on my camera for lots of Green Mountain goodness. It's about time I changed the photo on my desk at work - it's still one of a snowy mountain :)

My grandchildren will be in the parade, and I'll be on the side cheering and waving. One child will be with the scouts, another with the T-ball team. Even their church will have a float in it this year. It's hometown goodness. I can't wait! Lots to do, lots of good stuff to do!
Hoping you all have a great evening!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Just ducky


From an overcast morning to a drizzly evening. I'm home from work, and settled in with a cup of coffee and a book for the evening. Hoping everyone out there is well and comfy tonight!

Monday, May 17, 2010

This and that

The farmers market opened this past Saturday, so of course my lunch was a beautiful tomato, fresh basil, and delicately pan-fried baby zucchini slices, all dressed with a drizzle of oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. It doesn't get much better than that! Except for what I'll bring home next weekend, and the weekend after that, and so on :)

My car spent Saturday at the dealer, getting the 30,000 mile check up (at 37,000 miles, ooops!) But they gave me a loaner with a sun roof :) Around here, cars are necessary. Everything is just far enough so that public transportation can't get you there. Even with transferring from bus to train to bus, I couldn't get from my home to JoAnn Fabrics or Barnes & Noble, approximately 17 miles away.

I'm embarassed to say that I haven't been riding my bike much this month. (hanging my head in shame) Between the weather, which is nice one day, then c.o.l.d. or raining the next, and the sinus infection I had, there has been little mileage put on these tires. Yesterday I took a short (5 mile) ride on the bike path but the clouds were foreboding. It seemed like a good idea to head back to the car. It's getting cloudy and dark again, as I type this....

I stopped at the second-hand store and scooped up a load of quality vintage clothing. These are items from Lord & Taylor and G. Fox, the kind of things that were tailor-fitted for the customer. Women's dresses and matching jackets, some with fur collars. They're the type of clothing I would dream of wearing, but unfortunately these are a vintage size 8 and smaller. You know, the tiny waist and hips size 8 from years back before they changed the sizing? I will either be bringing them to a vintage shop in Vermont, or trying to sell them online. And I'll keep looking. Someday I'll stumble onto a great vintage outfit for myself. In the meantime, I'll be sewing :)




I also tried this recipe for Lavosh, from the Circle-B-Kitchen, and it is really good! I have to stop myself from going back for more! Now that I finally have an oven, I really enjoy using my baking to keep more of those additives out of my food. Yes, organic flour is more expensive. And yes, using the oven adds to my electric bill. But I think I'm worth it. (You might want to scroll through the recipes on Cirle B's site. Everything looks sooooo good!)

I just started reading Affluenza, borrowed from the library. Let me know if you've read it, and if you liked it, but don't give away the ending, ok? ;)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Couture vintage






Bound button holes, fabric covered snaps, large buttons, fabulous linings....




Attached net crinolines....





Details, details....





....details....



Saturday, May 15, 2010

Surprising find

As I drove through town today, I passed a church tag sale and this caught my eye. I stopped by to see if my eyes deceived me, but it is what I thought it was.




My oldest son has this exact same kitchen set, but in much better condition. (note the enamel top with extensions) The one he has belonged to my in-laws, his grandparents. My mother-in-law had promised it to me 30+ years ago, because I always admired it. I knew that my first born should have it, for all the times he sat at the table and enjoyed her home cooking. After both of them had passed on it did, indeed, come to me. I used it in my Vermont country kitchen and, eventually passed it on to the next generation. He has it stored for the time being since his family is too large to fit around it.

This evening I regret not asking a few questions to the folks who were selling this set. Since it lives in the same town that my in-laws lived in, do these folks know where it was purchased? An approximate date of purchase? Who owned it? If I had only thought of these when I was there!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Serious reading

I happened upon this OpEd piece in the NYTimes on Saturday. The article was interesting, and the comments surprised me. (200 of them!) The more I look into what's in our food, I find folks everywhere who are concerned about the same thing.

It turns out that we have a President's Cancer Panel, created in 1971, which has determined that we need to focus not only on curing cancer, but on trying to reduce the things that contribute to the incidences of cancer. Sounds reasonable. The surprising part is that they have mentioned the possible link between cancer and the chemicals used in food, toys, home products, and more. It also concurrs that
contaminents have been found in the cordblood of newborn babies.

We've been hearing about this for years from everyday folks, some celebrities, an independent filmmaker, and others who do not have those little letters after their names ;) This time we hear it from a source that advises the president. That, alone, should finally give credence to the independent reports that for the past 50 years or so, chemicals have been introduced into our foods, homes, and lives which are not safe. (Artificial colors, artificial flavors, and all that "stuff" in your 12-hour extended stay lipstick!)

Really, look at everyone's food carts on your next grocery trip. Watch the way people shop. I see people grabbing boxes off the shelf without reading the ingredients. If it's quick to prepare, or needs no preparation, it goes in the basket. I'm far from perfect, but I also don't have little ones in my house to be fed. And I realize that most folks ignore the warnings about this because the news has not come from authoritative sources. I'm concerned about all those chemical additives we've allowed the agricultural and processed food businesses to feed us. Those chemicals can potentially do a lot of damage over a life span. As parents, we want to be good providers. But just what are we setting out on the kitchen table?

Lately I’ve been just playing with making food from scratch because it’s been interesting and fun. Now it’s become more urgent. I’ve taken a second look at the “dirty dozen” and the "clean fifteen". I will once again be buying organic milk, even though the cost in my area is exorbitant. (More than twice the price of the store brand!) I may have to make some additional cuts in my budget in order to shop healthier (give up my internet subscription? shudder!!)

Yes, we’ve been living in the land of plenty for a long time, now. Before we can finish remodeling our homes, companies offer the next best thing to fill them with, keeping our appetites whetted and our wallets open. And our landfills…..filling. Filling not only with squandered resources, but with the chemicals used in production.

I’ll be checking the news this week to see if this report gets attention by the general media, or if it ends up as a one sentence blurb on a back page.




Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mothers Day!

Best wishes to all Moms, everywhere!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

One Small Change continues

I was pleased to hear that Hip Mountain Mama has decided to keep the One Small Change Challenge going, and will pop over there time and again to check on all the changes folks are making in their lives. For myself, I’ll keep working towards a simpler, healthier, ecologically friendlier footprint. For my next goal in this challenge, I’ve started exploring the fuel that keeps ME going, and cutting out some of those mysterious ingredients that I can’t pronounce. (This is definitely longer than a one month change, especially since we’re going into the peak fresh foods season.) I have been practicing with homemade bread and pasta, and look forward to more kitchen experiments. Sun-dried tomatoes? Spinach pasta? Hmmmm…


If you’re interested in seeing what folks are up to, take a hop over to One Small Change.


And now I've got to look up another bread recipe. I'm about to toast the last morsel from last week's loaf :)


Friday, May 7, 2010

Here's that biking top :)

Trying to make the most of being under the weather (in more ways than one), I took apart this gently used polyknit housedress from the Goodwill store and uncovered my sewing machine.









I chose the pattern with set-in sleeves, but omitted the sleeves. Instead of a button down front, I made a solid front so that it would be a pull-over top.







And, due to it being a sport top, I cut it shorter than the one on the pattern envelope, adding side slits for ease of movement.







For a quick refashion, I'm quite pleased. Hopefully, I'll be wearing it on the bike path soon!







I've stopped by this site now and then over the past two years. There are some really creative folks who've posted their refashions. I don't think I could commit to a full month or two to creating a refashioned wardrobe, as these dedicated people have. But I've got some thrifted clothes with good material begging to be remade into summer outfits.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sidelined

Several days of scattered rain showers, coupled with allergies/head cold/something wierd, have kept me from biking to work this week. We've had both morning and afternoon downpours, but bright, beautiful sun in the mid-day. So listening to the weather forecast is tres importante!

Also, since last Friday I've had this scratchy throat, stuffy nose, pain in my ears, which is justified by the high pollen count. I finally started taking an over-the-counter allergy medicine (actually behind the counter - I had to show my license and sign for it). I know that sleeping with the windows open doesn't help the condition, but I'm not going to close them and suffer in stuffiness all night.

So the bike will sit inside for the rest of the week. And my goal is to commute gas-free as often as possible starting Monday.

Wishing everyone sunshine and little puffy white clouds!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What a haul!


I went to thrift shopping to find a knit dress to refashion into a biking top. I came out with 3 vintage dresses, 2 old puzzles, vintage sewing patterns, a cane-seat-thingy, old postcards, old Christmas package decorations, a folding camp-type stool, and more, and more, and…..oh, my!








This one has 2 small puzzles inside, and a sheet with suggestions for a "puzzle party". Sounds like fun! Just imagine what folks did before television took over our lives ;)











I love the graphics in this one. Unfortunately, my camera exposure did not do the vibrant colors justice. There are four pieces missing, but the little girl and her dog still look sweet.





I'm thinking about the Memorial Day parade coming up soon....I may take this handy dandy seat.






Just like I used some of my vintage greeting cards last Christmas, I will definitely be adding these to packages. That's re-using, isn't it :)





And these will be re-used, or recycled to other vintage sewing enthusiasts!





I couldn't leave these postcards behind, especially the ones with the older cars in the picture!




But, best of all, I DID find a knit dress to refashion into a biking top









I'll be working on it this week.



Whatever you do, be sure to have fun!



Sunday, May 2, 2010

Yum!


It can stand up to any artisanal bakery loaf of bread!

And the house smelled SO good when I came home from biking this evening!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The weather's fine, come on out!

Yes, it’s been beautiful these past few days, and promising a repeat again tomorrow. The sunshine, warm weather, traffic, and busy work week left me a bit tired so when I arrived home this afternoon, I tossed an afghan on the deck, taking advantage of the shade. I may have dozed off for a bit, but was awakened by the song of a cardinal in the tree directly above. I enjoyed seeing his bright red coloring against the soft green of the new spring leaves. For most of the afternoon he called to his mate from high in that tree.

Refreshed, I decided it was time to plant this year’s deck “garden”. For the past two years of living in the condo, I have grown everything from zucchini to green beans and cucumbers in containers on the deck. This year I planned on buying more at the farmers market instead of growing veggies, but my two containers have already turned into six.

I purchased potatoes last week at a farm and garden store (during my VT visit), because so many folks on the ‘net have written about growing them in containers. I (loosely) followed instructions from Living the Frugal Life, and will let you know how these turn out.


I also planted nasturtiums (to add to salads), cucumbers, dill, basil, and I’m saving the big container for a tomato plant. There are also a few radishes mixed into every container. Since they sprout so quickly, they’ll be pulled before the other seeds get going. And a few onions were added to the edges of most of the containers so I can enjoy the early scallions.





For the night, I covered all the containers with netting to keep these fellas from digging in the fresh soil. They've been enjoying the acorns that fell over the winter. I hope they don't "store" any in my "garden"!




My meager garden won’t keep my from starving this winter, but it will add freshness and color to my summer meals :)

After finishing my outdoor "chores", I decided to try Mark Bittman’s “Speedy No Knead Bread” recipe. I know it’s not loaded with healthy grains or whole wheat, but there’s no artificial anything in it. That’s a plus in my book. I haven’t attempted any of the No Knead recipes before, but I am definitely looking forward to smelling fresh-baked bread tomorrow morning!





It's late and I'd like to get an early start tomorrow, but wanted to show you this:


I came across two little bunnies this morning. One ran off, but this fellow sat while I took his picture.



Hoping your weekend is filled with good things!