Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Destination: Garden

What's that you say? I haven't posted since December? Yeah... I pretty much stink at blogging. I have been crazy busy this year. I enrolled in Master Gardener classes. (It's cooler than you think... or maybe I'm just finally comfortable in my geekiness...) I have finally finished classes (pending a final and like a billion volunteer hours.) That aside, I have been filled with inspiration to try my hand at a more serious garden this year. The above picture is my blank canvas. The only thing there is dirt... excuse me, SOIL, and weeds, or rather, plants that I would rather have living somewhere other than in my yard.

We have a steep hill that always washes out anything that might happen to grow there other than goat heads. We always find bits of glass or rusted nails that make their way to the surface. So... my plan? This is where my garden goes. My goal is to catch the rain. (Here in Texas water is a pretty coveted thing, and catching your own makes pretty good sense.) I've made my first rain barrel, but we have yet to install the gutters. Once that is done, I would like to set up a drip irrigation system and use gravity to water the garden on the slope. We are going to use an oldschool method of finding the contour of the hill and planting across it. I also am going to attempt to do a "lasagna style" garden that I learned in a permaculture class. Hopefully by the end of the summer I will have made wonderful progress and will have transformed this blank canvas into a masterpiece!

Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Resolutions

I'm pretty bad about even making the effort to write these down, let alone keeping them. Nonetheless, I post them with the best of intentions.

1. STOP Drinking Cokes.

There's a billion reasons not to drink cokes. Not only are they bad for me, but they are bad for the environment. 2010 brought me a lot of awareness as to how things like food are produced. I began recycling, and I guarantee you the styrofoam that piles up in our recycling is embarrassing. Not to mention that we are tightening the reigns on our budget and as "cheap" as a coke is... they add up. Between my husband and I drinking at least one fountain drink a day, we probably spend at least $100 a month on soda alone. (Embarrassing... I admit.) I'll spare you the obvious health reasons for abstaining from drinking sodas because we all know that there is no nutritional value in them.

2. Nutritious Meal Planning
This is actually several goals combined into one. I want to reduce the amount of processed foods we eat. Realistically we won't completely stop eating processed foods this next year, but we can reduce things like eating out and buying unhealthy packaged foods. I also want to plan meals in advance to reduce costs and having unused groceries go to waste. I need to make meals on weekends to freeze so we are less likely to eat out on evenings we don't feel like cooking. I'd also like to practice making Bento boxes for my son's lunch. I'd like to experiment with new cooking techniques and try new foods.

3. Organize and Keep A Schedule
From budgets, to meal planning, to my son's activities... I'd like to keep better track of where we need to be, tighter reigns on our spending, and make an effort to plan in advance.

4. Time for Self
This year I am going to start meditation with a group. (Sound lame? I've heard positive things about meditation and just want to give it a try.) I want to commit to that and also spend time doing things that I really enjoy like art, quilting, crochet and sewing. Along with that comes the same resolution that is on almost everyone's list... exercise more. My goal would be to exercise or run three times a week. Yes, I need to lose weight. That's an uncomfortable place for me to be since the majority of my life I have been underweight. I lost several pounds after I had my son, but then gained rather quickly to a place I'm not real happy with. (Cutting the cokes should help with this, too.) Anyway, I need to make myself a priority if I want to be able to take care of my son in the way I want to.

5. Move Toward Self Sufficiency
I'm going to plan our garden ahead of time and rotate crops. I hope I can plan it successfully enough to feed our family year round. This past summer I learned how to can and want to really spend time practicing preserving food. I made many cans of jams but want to try vegetables. We also started recycling, and I want to do a better job of that. I'm going to continue studying permaculture principles.

6. Quality Time with Family
The flip side of time for myself... I want to spend time with my family that is worthwhile and not in front of a TV.

These aren't original resolutions, but I hope I can keep them. They mainly focus on living a healthier life not only for myself but for my family and the "footprint" I will leave on our earth.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bento Boxes

So naturally with my new interest in food and my frustration with processed foods, I've been struggling with what to send my preschooler for lunch. What will my picky eater eat that won't need to be heated up but also won't be just a sandwich and chips or a lunchable. I've learned about Bento boxes, and I'm going to see how these work out. Basically a Bento is a visually appealing, healthy lunch packed in a box. If you're serious about it, they have guidelines on proportions of grains, veggies, proteins and the like. Which, eventually, I'll get there. But I'm just going to start with packing him a lunch he will eat. :P (Little man only eats lunch at school one day a week, so I won't be working on one every day.)

My First Bento

Broken into four compartments are: 1. Corn on the cob, grapes, almonds, zucchini, and carrots (The lettuce is just to help it fit nicely. He won't eat it.) 2. Yogurt with a chocolate pizzelle cookie 3. Orange 4. (Covered) Extra carrots and corn

Today's Bento

1. Chicken Lo Mein (with peas, carrots, zucchini, squash hidden under the noodles.) I imagine he will only eat the carrots and noodles, maybe the peas. 2. Organic applesauce
3. Snowflake Ritz crackers with natural peanut butter and cheddar cheese with almonds 4. Another Orange
Eventually I'd like to get to the place where they are more creative and more like an actual Bento should be, but I think this is a good start. I'll be combing the web for ideas. (Nothing with quail eggs or anything...)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cherry Pies in a Jar

I've seen people bake cute tiny pies in a jar, and I wanted to try to do it for place settings on Christmas day. I will have about twenty adults, and this evening I only got five pies done from the sour cherries I froze this summer. (One of which I baked as a tester, so really I only ended up with four.) The good news is that they are super simple; they just take some time. I thought I'd share how I made mine. I know there are better ways to do this and better recipes for the filling, but I'm pretty happy with the results of my first attempt.

First thing I did was make some pie filling. I really don't know any recipes for pie filling, so I kinda made it up. (As I mentioned before, I tasted one, and it was pretty good.)

4 cups frozen sour cherries, pitted and stems removed
2 cups of sugar (to start with... I added every now and again, but didn't measure. It was more to taste.)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 TBS corn starch
1/2 cup water (Added additional water as needed.)
Splash of Lemon Juice

I combined the cherries and sugar in a pot, then I added the water and brought it to a boil. I added the cornstarch mixed with 2 TBS cold water. I added additional extracts and lemon juice and just cooked it until it was the consistency I wanted. Actually, I think I cooked it a little longer than I would have liked it, but I am still happy with it.

I cheated and bought pre-made pie crust at the store, but it sure made life easier. I used an old Country Crock bowl to cut out the dough. I then put it in the 1/2 pint glass canning jar. I grabbed four "corners" and pinched them together to drop them in the jar.

The dough didn't fit perfect, so I just added little bits to fit inside the jar.

I used the same process for the pie tops. I traced around the screw on lid that comes with the jar so that it is just a little bigger than the jar top itself. I also used a snowflake cookie cutter to cut a center piece out.

My son helped out with this part. He loves to use the rolling pin and use cutouts.

I scooped the filling into the jar but didn't fill it to the top so that I can add the pie crust top.

Now for the top! I later added some sugar to the top.

I'm going to freeze mine to use for Christmas, so after the filling cooled I added a lid. You have to remove the lids when baking them. Tonight I baked mine at 350ยบ until the crust browned. I haven't attempted to cook a frozen one yet, but I'm sure it's the same process.

So, as I said previously... I filled one too full and it overflowed through the top crust. I decided to go ahead and bake it anyway just to see how they tasted. Not the prettiest thing ever... but man, it tasted wonderful! In hindsight I probably should have just taken some filling out and made a new top. Mistakes make wonderful excuses to eat the goods though!

So I ended up with a little left over filling. Not enough for a jar... I used it to fill a rolled pizzelle I made for a different Christmas project. It has chocolate on the ends and powdered sugar on the top. Let me tell you... this wasn't too bad either. :)

And that ends my experiment with the pies in jars. I am going to further test peaches and apples that I canned over the summer. Now I know to fill them a little less. I'd also like to find a smaller cookie cutter for the top embellishment. Overall, I think it was a success. Even if they don't turn out as pretty as I hope, I know they are going to taste nummy!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Goods

So I watched this movie that has totally freaked me out about our food. I'm sure you've heard of it... "Food, Inc." I happened to watch it as our neighborhood was planning a community garden. Long story short, I've become more interested in growing and preserving my own food. I have taken a few permaculture classes and become a supporter of buying locally and unprocessed foods. This has been my first summer of learning how to can. I've spent many evenings peeling and chopping, stirring over a hot stove, and searching for room to store my cans. It is a lot of work, but it has been very fulfilling. We have two tiny fruit trees: a pear and a sour cherry. I canned the pears in syrup and made jelly out of the sour cherries. (I borrowed my mother-in-law's juicer and seriously need one of those babies.) She also gave us a ton of her apples, so I went to a friend's who taught me how to make cinnamon apples and also refrigerator pickles. Since then I have been devoted to shopping at the local farmer's market. I even found grass fed beef there for much less than at the organic food store. I bought boxes of peaches and tomatoes to make my own salsa. I also have been offered fruits that are an annoyance to people like crab apples or small sour apples. I've experimented in jellies and jams and continue to look for recipes. I'm so excited about it. I want to try vegetables, but I haven't gotten comfortable enough with a pressure cooker.

I have always frowned on being a housewife or "domestic." The word domestic still gets stuck at the back of my throat. After becoming a mother, however, my view has changed. It's damn hard work doing for yourself. I've been spoiled paying for small conveniences with no clue as to how much work those things really are. The cost of convenience is much higher than I originally thought. Yeah, the price tag is cheaper, but what I lose is much more than I could count with pennies. My goal is to become more self sufficient, and I have continued to learn more about alternative energy, harvesting rain, and growing my own food.

So, these are a few of the things I've been working on. It's been a busy summer. If you have any tips, resources or advice on self sufficiency, growing your own food, permaculture or canning, please share. Blue skies!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bikini Bootcamp

I've finally realized that I will not get back down to my 117 pound self if I don't do anything about it. After having my son, I gained a lot of weight. I half heartedly have attempted losing that weight every now and again by committing to programs I don't finish or not attending weight watchers meetings I swear I'll go to.

Weight had never been a problem for me. I was always so super skinny. I was very comfortable being underweight. I don't want to look so freakishly skinny as I use to be. (Many people have said they thought I was anorexic or something equally as offensive.) You can't win. Either you're too skinny or too fat. I've always been hurt because either way people feel the need to criticize you for either.

I've just decided that I want to be happy in my own skin, able to wear the clothes I like, and eat and exercise in a healthy way.

COKES!!!! They are my crux. I have always grown up drinking a fountain drink a day. After joining this bootcamp, cokes are not part of my "allowable foods." That has been the hardest part of bootcamp.

Oh yeah... I didn't even mention my bootcamp. I signed up at Gold's with a trainer who is doing a Bikini Bootcamp. She's pretty hard core about it. It keeps me accountable though, which is exactly what I needed. I have a list of supplements I am suppose to take, food I can eat (not exceeding 1300 calories a day,) and I get emailed daily workouts. We meet at the gym or have outdoor workouts as well. In addition to that I bought one of those Nike+ sensors to log my running. I hate cardio! But I like seeing progress and keeping track of what I've done, so it motivates me. My asthma bothers me quite a bit, but I'm hoping that will start to go away the more I run/walk. My knees, too... have been KILLING me. My chiropractor has given me some extra exercises to do that will help build muscle and take pressure off of my knees.

I am so tired of feeling tired. I feel like one of those mom's in a Suave commercial who has let herself go. I really want to get out of this rut, so fingers crossed... I'm hoping this will be a turn of a new leaf.

My new goal is to run the Komen 5K this September in honor of my Granny who passed away from breast cancer. I always walk the fun walk, but this year I want to try to run it. Baby steps since I just now started being able to run a complete mile without walking. I'm hoping I can do it for her. I'm not a runner nor fast when I attempt it. I just want to be able to do it regardless of how long it takes me.

I'll keep you posted on any struggles or successes with this bootcamp.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

So... It's Been A While

We have been swamped, and I haven't had time to update this blog. I've been working on my son's birthday party and had made these crayons like I did for Valentine's. They are little space invaders since he is wanting a spaceship party. I found an awesome tutorial on doing a spaceship out of cardboard boxes. Pix to come should this be successful...

They just got the acrylic sign put up for the logo I did for Central Church of Christ. Not the best pic since I took it with my iphone... but there you go.