Saturday, December 27, 2014

Oh My, Cherry Pie

This summer, the cherry tree in our front yard fruited gorgeously. It produces those little tart cherries that don't make for good eating, so it's not that exciting, but Shawn decided that he would make it his mission to collect enough of them for me to be able to make something with. So over about a two week span, he climbed the ladder, yanked on branches, and even practiced his tree climbing skills to collect as many of the little things as possible. Though the robins got most of the cherries, we ended up with quite a bit due to the tree being so dang huge.

It was so cute. Shawn up in the tree, being so gung-ho about his little cherries. He even pitted each one before freezing them. He cut open each one, then added a little water to the pile of pits and boiled them for a bit, adding the resulting juice to the cherries in the freezer. (He read online that that would increase the depth of flavor of the fruit.)

So after all his effort, he ended up collecting just shy of 4 cups of cherries. (It almost filled a large yogurt container.)

Christmas Eve proved to be the time when the cherries were meant to shine. My sister and her husband hosted our family Christmas Eve dinner, and we were asked to bring a pie. I had never made a cherry pie before, (much less could count the number of times I've eaten cherry pie in my life on one hand,) but decided that I needed to try my hand at a classic cherry pie.

I have a confession to make. I almost never make a pie crust from scratch. I find cutting the butter into the flour to be a pain in the ass, and though doing it that way makes for a super delicious, flaky, buttery crust, Krusteaz make a pie crust mix that is plenty yummy.

So the first step was to dump the cherries into a colander sitting over a bowl and sprinkle 1/4 cup of sugar over them. The goal is to collect the juices from the cherries to use later. While the cherries are resting, I made the pie dough and used half for the bottom, and put the other half of dough into the refrigerator to chill for later.


Then I dumped the collected cherry juice and put it into a small bowl. The cherries went into a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat with about a teaspoon of lemon juice. Into the cherry juice I mixed in 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and another 1/4 cup of sugar. Once the cornstarch was dissolved, I added that to the saucepan with the cherries. I cooked the cherries and the juice until they were starting to thicken, and took them off the heat to cool for about a half hour.

Now I knew that 4 cups wasn't going to be enough to cherries to fill an entire pie so I decided to add some pears, since that is a fruit with a mild flavor on its own. So I cut up a couple pears and used about half of them to line the bottom of the pie plate.


Once the cherries were a bit cooler, I mixed in a 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract then poured it into the prepared pie plate. This is when I added the rest of the sliced pear, but just fitting them in here and there so that they were evenly placed.

Now it was lattice crust time! I've never done a lattice before, so I was excited. It was pretty easy and super fun. I gave it a little egg wash, then sprinkled with large sugar crystals for a little sparkle and some red decorative sugar in the middle for extra festive-ness. Hey, Shawn put a lot of effort into collecting these cherries so I wanted to make sure to put as much effort into the pie.


Into a 400 degree oven it went and stayed there for about 35 minutes. I knew it was done when the filling was bubbly and the crust was nice and golden brown.


Holy shit. This pie was delicious.


Next year, I'm getting into that tree with Shawn.

Hoping everyone's holiday was a smashing success...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Festive Invasive

I just realized I've been slacking on the holiday posts lately. Well, I've been slacking on all posts, but I feel like I have an pretty decent excuse.

But what I haven't been slacking on is finding super easy projects. First was the dryer sheets, then came the sauerkraut, now I'm here to tell you about my holiday holly wreath.

In past years, I've made what I call a "festive holiday door hang." Those were always really easy to whip together, but this time I wanted to try my hand at a wreath. Pinterest LOVES wreaths. Though I personally am not on Pinterest, (I know, shocking, isn't it?) I've noticed the wreath making mania that has struck the home decorator at large. Since I'd never made one myself, I didn't realize the fun that can be had when creating this super duper satisfying and easy project.

So we have this English holly tree in our yard. I hate it. Holly is horribly invasive and the awfulness is helped even more when the berries are carried all over the place by birds. Our yard is covered in holly seedlings and I'm constantly pulling them. Ugh. Did I mention that I hate it? The problem with this tree is that it's so old, it's like old growth. The trunk is at least 18 inches in diameter, and it's hugely tall. We haven't cut it down for several reasons: it's on the border between our neighbor's and our yards, it does house tons of birds, it keeps our house cool in the summer by shading it (yeah, that big), and cutting it down won't kill it anyway.

But once a year during the holidays, I'm glad we have it.

Shawn did some pruning while cleaning the gutters a few weeks back and I took what he cut and decided to try my hand at this whole wreath-making business that everyone on Pinterest seems so excited about.

For the frame, I just took a wire hanger and stretched it out into a circle, leaving the hook as is. Next, I cut about 6-8 inch pieces of the nicest-looking parts of the holly. I think I cut about 60 pieces total, making sure to get some pieces with berries, and others with just the lush, waxy green leaves. The nice part about having an old growth holly tree is that when they get that big, they lose the need to make spiky leaves. So it was nice to not have to worry about injuring myself.  Next, I cut longer pieces of twine and tied the pieces in bunches of three. Using the ends of the twine that was left, I then tied the bunches into the hanger in two places to keep them in place. Making sure that the nicest sides were facing out with the berries scattered nicely, I just tied the rest of the bunches on the same way, all facing the same direction. I added a gold bow to finish it off, and ta-daa!

This took me a total of a little over an hour, from start to finish.

I really like it.
I think I understand this whole wreath making thing.

Happy holidays everybody. May this world be a little more peaceful. Now go hug your people.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Babies Want Good Food Too

When Eddy was 4 months old, we began our baby food feeding journey. I was really excited. I have always thought most people fall into two categories: People who eat to live, and people who live to eat. I, by the way, am part of the live to eat team. Food is so delicious. I wake up in the morning thinking about what I'm going to eat for breakfast, and I eat lunch thinking about what's for dinner. Having a delicious lunch waiting for you makes any work morning more pleasurable.

Food is also a huge part of my family. We, to this day continue to get together for family meals on an almost weekly basis (adding chairs as new additions come into the fam,) and any and all reasons to celebrate any achievement by any family member is a reason to get together for a delicious meal. (Followed by delicious dessert as well. Life is short. Eat dessert. That's a whole separate blog post.)

Food is culture, food is happiness, food brings us together. Food. Is. So. Delicious.

So introducing Eddy to the thing that brings me daily happiness was something I was really looking forward to.

Surprisingly, it was tough going at first. We started with rice cereal, which to this day she still won't eat, and slowly started trying pureed fruits at five months. There were a few things we learned in the beginning:

1) Babies have a hard time with chunks. We tried to give her some mashed well-cooked carrot, but even the tiniest chunk of carrot was too much for her, and she barfed all over herself. We have some hilarious video of that. Sorry, Eddy.
2) Spoons are foreign objects that babies generally don't want in their mouths, regardless of how much deliciousness is on the end of it.
3) Sweet things are far more desirable to non-sweet things.
4) Eating is hard and you have to take it slow.

But we persevered and kept trying everyday. The first thing she started eating willingly from a spoon was pear baby food. Then she decided she liked pureed peaches and other fruits. But even with this, she would only eat a few bites willingly, then glue her lips together and no amount of goofing around we did for her resulted in her wanting any more. Trying to keep the whole eating experience a positive one, we didn't push it too much.

During this phase, I bought several jars of baby food just for research purposes. I wanted to see what flavors Eddy liked, as well as taste it myself and check out the consistency. Once I got the info I needed, it was time to make my own. First, I pureed simple-flavored fruits and vegetables and froze them in ice cube trays to keep them in easy portions. Once frozen, I would pop them out and keep them in ziplock bags. I didn't realize at the time how helpful this would be in the future.

Clockwise from top: Pureed yam, peas, apple/pear, spinach, beet/carrot/spinach, peach in center.
When it came time to eat, I would pull out a cube or two, thaw, and heat 'till warm. She was always more willing to eat the fruit purees, but the peas I had to mix with apples or sweet potato for her to eat. She seemed to like them ok, but she really never got enthusiastic about them. Though it made me feel bad to do it, we were washing at least half of what we prepared for her down the drain. (Maybe about an ice cube's worth of food, so not much, but I still felt bad.)

Then at about 6-7 months, we discovered that she would rather feed herself. She liked trying to pick stuff up on her own, and even though the food rarely actually made it into her mouth in the beginning, she liked practicing using her hands. So we gave her soft slices of pear, avocado, and CHEERIOS! Cheerios are a magical food, I tell ya. At about this time, we also discovered that she enjoyed eating small bits of food from our fingers. Whenever we would offer something to her from our hands, she would open up eagerly. This also allowed her to start practicing her chewing motion. She didn't have any teeth yet, but the act of chewing something small helped with swallowing smaller chunks of food. We were giving her tiny pieces of banana, beans, and carrot and she was liking it. (And we were happy that chunks were no longer a catalyst for barfing.)

So we slogged along and still kept trying spoon feeding, since that was the only way she would actually get any amount of food into her mouth. She was occasionally having good feeds, but mostly only eating a handful of bites at each meal along with a few Cheerios. The thing that changed it all was a combination of the appearance of her first teeth at 7 months, and me cooking some real food for her. I found some turkey patties in the back of my freezer, and decided to fix them up for a quick weeknight dinner. I used about a quarter of a patty and pureed it with some cooked butternut squash, a couple frozen cubes of sweet potato and one cube of apples and pears for some added sweetness. That's it. I cooked it all up together in a small saucepan and then blended it with an emersion blender. I froze it into small meal portions in a silicone baby food freezer tray that my mom got me.

Dude, this stuff was so good, I would have eaten a whole bowl of it for myself. I think it helped that the turkey patty was just slightly seasoned.

So this made me think: I'll bet Eddy isn't into eating real food because we really aren't offering her real flavors. Maybe instead of one ingredient, she prefers combinations of flavors. We like different flavors, right? Wouldn't we rather eat food with real flavors and some seasonings than plain steamed vegetables? I know in the beginning it was important to start with really simple flavors to get her into the whole eating thing, but I think breastfeeding helped in getting her palate ready for more complex flavors.

So now my new favorite pastime is to make gourmet baby food. This is where I've found my simple ice cubes of pureed ingredients so helpful. They are perfect ingredients that are all ready for me to combine to make tasty baby food. Since she liked the squash/turkey concoction so much, I looked for other ways to mix vegetables and proteins. The second recipe I created was a tomato basil chicken soup. It included onions, tomatoes, basil, a cube of spinach, and chicken, all cooked and pureed together with some water, and a sprinkle of rice cereal to thicken it up.

The third recipe I came up with was a spaghetti squash tofu curry. First I heated up some leftover spaghetti squash from our dinner the night before. Then I added some silken tofu and a cube of purred apples and pear and mashed it up. For seasonings I used a few dashes of curry, some onion powder and just a tiny bit of garlic salt. My immersion blender came in handy again here as well.

So much ready to eat food!
Seriously. Eddy doesn't know how good she has it. I make sure to taste everything I make for her. I always add the least amount of salt as possible, but I also think that you really need some to let the sweetness of other flavors come through. If it passes my "I would eat it" test, then I know she will too. (Side note: I'm seriously thinking about writing a baby food cookbook with these recipes. Do you think there's a market for it?)

All of these soups I generally make for her to take to daycare. She's finally up to eating three times a day now so that packing a lunch with her bottles has become necessary in the last couple weeks. Sometimes she eats them for dinner, but usually we try to make a version of what we're eating available to her. A baby food mill makes almost any food that we are eating an option for molar-less little ones as well.

Oh, how we love you little Milly.
This sucker can instantly turn almost any food into baby food. When I am cooking, I pull out the various ingredients for her portion before I add the final seasonings that might be too much for her like salt and spicy stuff, or I wash off some of the sauce before grinding it to prevent her from getting too much sodium in her diet. Otherwise, she eats what we eat. Gotta get that habit started early, folks. Here is the list of deliciousness Eddy has enjoyed recently:

* Japanese curry rice
* Thanksgiving leftover turkey sandwiches
* Portuguese bean soup
* Creamy pasta with salmon and peas
* Lentil soup
* Roasted veggies

In conclusion... Yes, I have put a lot of effort into feeding Eddy. Like breastfeeding, this has been more work and a lot harder than I was prepared for, but it's something that is super important to me. I want her to enjoy good, wholesome food as much as I do, and not become one of those kids who only eats hot dogs and mac and cheese. It's for her health, my sanity, and really... food. Mmmm.

Yummy food = Happy baby!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

SAUERKRAUT!!!

We grew cabbage this year. Despite all the aphid killing I had to do (though spraying aphids with the hose on the jet setting is surprisingly cathartic,) we got some pretty nice looking heads. They weren't very tasty, however. They were kinda hard and kinda over-crunchy, and kinda tough. Not delicious enough to eat straight up. I made cabbage soup out of one head, which was good, but decided something else was in order.

Sauerkraut!!!

I Googled some tips and decided to keep the operation small, (I only had two smallish heads) and go with the mason jar method.

You guys, this is so easy.

First I spent about 30 minutes chopping cabbage into kraut-sized pieces... so, small. Of course, as I was just finishing up and congratulating myself on not injuring any of my phalanges, I cut off the edge of my fingernail. No blood, but a nice dose of adrenaline, that's for sure.

Next came the fun part. I put all the shredded cabbage, about 8 cups of it, into a large bowl, sprinkled about 2 teaspoons of sea salt over it and started kneading and massaging the hell out of it. Actually, the whole point is to massage the moisture out of it so it has a brine to soak in. After about 10 minutes of sweet sweet massage, it packed it into two large, sanitized  mason jars. Even after packing it really well, I still didn't have enough liquid to cover the cabbage, so I made some more brine with water and sea salt and poured it into the jars.

I covered the jars with a wash rag secured by a rubber band, and left them to sit on the counter to get their "sauer" on. I read that there was a chance that stuff could grow on the top and things could start looking funky, so I was a bit nervous. For the first few days, there was some serious fermenting going on, because a lot of air bubbles would collect in the jars around the shredded cabbage. To remedy this, I would just use a spoon to pack the cabbage down into the brine a couple times a day to squeeze the bubbles out.

After about 4 days, the bubbling stopped. At a week, we tasted it. It smelled like slightly sour cabbage, and tasted pretty much the same. It was starting to get sour but was more salty. So it stayed on the counter. We tasted it again about 5 days later, and it was better, but not quite. So it stayed on the counter for about 2 1/2 weeks total.

And you know what? No funkyness. Ever. The color of the cabbage got a little darker, the green-ness went away, and the flavor just came gradually.

Such an easy way to make the summer harvest last a little longer.

Time to get me some brats.

When packed together, I ended up with a whole mason jar of sauerkraut.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Quick Homemade Dryer Sheets

So it's flannel sheet season.

While Eddy was napping this afternoon, I decided that it was time to give our bed the winter makeover. I pulled the flannel sheets from the linen closet, only to be greeted by sheets that just smelled funky. Like closet. They're clean so I didn't feel the need to wash them again, but I felt like they needed a quick romp in the dryer with a dryer sheet.

There was one problem. I don't have dryer sheets. I haven't bought them in years. I don't really know what's on them and since Shawn and I both have sensitive skin, I just tend to avoid them.

But I still needed something to get the closet smell out. So, to the internet I went, and found some info on homemade dryer sheets.

Holy cow, this may be the quickest project in Urban Hobby Homesteader history.

Ready?

Find some fabric you can cut up. This could be an old t-shirt, or in my case, a crappy dollar store dish towel that has been sitting in my closet for years without use. You will also need some white vinegar, essential oils of your choice, and a container to put it in (I chose an old peanut butter jar.)

First cut up the fabric into dryer sheet-sized pieces. Mix a quarter cup of vinegar with 5 drops of essential oil (tea tree in my case) into your container and shake it up. Add the fabric and they're ready. You can make more solution when you need it and reuse the pieces of fabric by throwing them back in the jar.

My staging skills leave a bit to be desired, but you get the picture.
Non-toxic, no waste, super cheap, and smells good. Everyone wins.

And to end, here's Eddy in her Halloween costume jammies - NASA astronaut!

Frickin' adorable.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

So Long, Skipper

Well, our family has just gotten a little smaller. After years of talking about it and months of stressing out about it, we have found a new, much more fitting forever home for Skipper.

We had a feeling this would be the result when Eddy was born. To be honest, we were dreading his reaction to her because normally when he hears a baby cry, squeal, laugh, or make any other noise for that matter, he responds with a pretty ear-piercing scream of his own. But, to our surprise and relief, he seemed to understand that our baby was taken care of and he didn't need to let us know about it.

So we thought maybe we would be able to keep him. Unfortunately, though he is much more pleasant about Eddy than we anticipated, he still has his needs that we don't have the time or energy to attend to.

Caring for Skipper is like caring for a toddler. He needs a lot of our time and attention and will scream if he doesn't get what he wants. What makes it hard is the fact that he hates me. If we would accept any affection, or food from me without attacking me, it might be a different story. But he only wants it from Shawn and Shawn just isn't home enough for it to be fair for Skipper.

We also think Skipper is lonely. He sits by himself for most of the day and screams when he sees our neighbors out the window.

He's a sad little dude, and we needed to do something about it.

The we were informed about Pacific Parrot Placement.

PPP is a local 501(C)(3) that helps people rehome their parrots. Once I heard about them, I filled out their Placement Registration Form and was contacted by them within 5 days with the message that they had a potential match for Skipper. The email included a little information about the possible candidate. It sounded pretty good so I filled out the Release Agreement form which officially switched ownership of Skipper to PPP (they actually retain ownership of him forever, so they have the right to take him back if they feel the new owner is not a good fit.) This agreement can be rescinded by us at any point in the process if we decided to keep him afterall. Once the papers were in from both parties with a donation from us ($50, which we were happy to pay to an organization that does this amazing work,) we got the contact information from Skipper's new daddy.

Then it was up to us to contact him. I emailed him with more info about Skipper and asked for more info about him. Though we were pretty eager to get Skipper out of here, we also felt an obligation to make sure that this new home was right for him. I asked him a few questions, one of them was whether he has any kids of his own or whether any kids may come around once in a while. To be honest, finding a home with kids would have been ideal, but this new home sounds like a winner.

We dropped him off at his new house on Sunday and were super happy with his new digs. He has a nice long hallway to practice his flying and his new Amazon friend named June is already enamored with him. (He also has two African Greys to hang out with.) He will also get periodic weekend visits from two children. His new owner is very experienced with parrots, and sounds like he devotes a lot of his time to caring for his "children." He also seems really chill about the way he cares for them, and just wants his "kids" to be happy. He was talking about how he shares his fries and pizza with the birds, and allows them the freedom to just be birds. We hung out in the house for a while and we drove away feeling happy. Though it's weird to not have him around anymore, we're super happy that he finally has a home that is best suited for his species (second to the wild, or course.)


To conclude, let's reminisce.

Though super annoying more often than not, he provided us as well as all our guests with a ton of entertainment over the years. From his somewhat limited vocabulary, to his extensive sound effects, and ear-peircing screams, he was always making noise. Despite this, and maybe because of this, Skipper's intelligence was always fascinating to me. He just knew things, and you could tell he was thinking and calculating and manipulating. Cool and aggravating at the same time.

He brought many laughs and lots of joy to scores of kids. I took him in to work on at least five different occasions over the years and he made a show out of the whole thing each time. Since he was always happy to see new people he'd never met, he would also put on a show for all of our guests, oftentimes being the life of many a party. The video above is of him putting on one of his shows. He thought he was a pretty good singer. He wasn't. But it was sure funny.

Since we dropped him off, I've been getting occasional picture messages from his new daddy. Here he is with his girlfriend, June. (Though he seems to be more interested in whatever he's eating than in his new friend.)

Skipper's on the left, June on the right :)


Monday, October 13, 2014

Quinoa is Not Always Gross

Unlike most people, I don't like quinoa. In general, I think it's pretty gross. Due to the fact that it has been such a fad lately, I've eaten it quite a bit in various ways over the past several years, but I've always been somewhere between disappointed or grossed out. I actually enjoy the texture and even like the fact that it looks like a bowl full of teeny tiny worms. The taste just doesn't do it for me. It's like dust. Dirty dust.

(Remember that commercial from last football season where that guy is grilling a quinoa patty at a tailgate party and calls it "qweeno"? Oh man, I loved that commercial. Also because he said it tasted like a "dirty old tree branch." He's so right.)

I digress.

The other day I was rummaging around my pantry and found a bag of red quinoa that I had bought in a fit of health conscious insanity. I wasn't going to throw it away, even though it was quinoa, so I had to figure out what to do with it.

Quinoa salad was out. It's just too gross for me. I knew that I needed to somehow cook it with strong flavors to keep the tree-branchy dustyness at bay.

Answer: Curry.

So here's the recipe that made me like quinoa. For a day.

This is also a good, spicy, warming recipe for a chilly fall day.

Curried Quinoa with Raisins

Ingredients
1 cup quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup broth (chicken, vegetable, your choice)
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1 tablespoon curry
1/2 cup raisins

In a saucepan toss together the quinoa and olive oil. Add the spices, salt, and raisins, and toss together. Add the water and broth, cover, and simmer on medium low for 20-30 minutes or until tender.

It's actually pretty delicious. I still won't eat quinoa salad though.

Yeah, I would make and eat this again.



Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sleepy Sacky

Before I had a baby, I had all these aspirations to do fun sewing projects that would result in cute little clothes and other accessories. Well, it's been slow to start,  but I've been able to create this and that, here and there.

One of my recently completed projects was a sleep sack I made out of unused blankets. Eddy has a few sleep sacks, but they are all made out of fleece, and during the various hot streaks we were having during the summer, they were just too warm for her, but the house would cool off enough that being in just PJ's wasn't enough through the night.

So my sewing machine and I solved that problem.

First, I rummaged through my blanket drawer and pulled two blankets that Eddy had either outgrown or never used.

Both flannel receiving blankets.
Next, I used one of her fleece sleep sacks and outlined it directly onto the blankets, leaving about an inch border for hemming, etc. but also making it a few inches longer. Luckily, both the front and back panels needed to make the sleep sack are the same size and shape. Once I cut out the pieces from the pink blanket, I cut panels that matched the bottom halves of the two panels out of the smaller monkey blanket.

Next, I cut the front panels in half vertically for the zipper.

Construction was pretty simple. Sew the monkey panels onto the pink sheets, then sew the panels together, while reenforcing the neck line and arm holes. After I sewed in the zipper, I added a little velcro tab at the top. I love the little accents.

Turned out pretty cute, I think. Too bad I didn't make this earlier in the summer so it could be used. Oh well.

The. Cutest. Model.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Garden Stuff and Recap

Is summer already coming to a close? How is this possible? The 2014 harvest season has been pretty good. It probably could have been better had I spent more time watering, fertilizing, weeding, and just giving it general TLC, but I'm happy with it.

A harvest from earlier this summer.
A few things to note:
1) My cherry and grape tomatoes have been cray-cray awesome. And super delicious. We're lucky to get half of them in the house.
2) My zucchini plant never got bigger than the size of a basketball. WTF? Forget about even getting any zucchini this year.
3) I let an onion from last season go to flower to see if I could save the seeds. It totally worked. See below.

Dried up onion flower.
Not a ton, but a good amount for next year. Note Eddy eating grass in the background.
4) For some awesome reason, my dry Calypso beans (or Gussy beans as I like to call them,) decided to give me a double harvest this year. When I went out to harvest the dry pods a few weeks ago, I noticed that the plants had a BuNcH of green beans on them. Like a second wave. Why would the plants do that? Because of our silly summer weather? I'm not complaining.
5) I have an enormous beet waiting to be pulled from the ground. I can't wait to have a chance to roast and eat the shit out of it.

A harvest from this last weekend. Edamame are delicious.
6) I found some tent caterpillar eggs on our plum tree, (which was super sad and didn't give us any fruit again this year) so I cut that off. It feels nice to be able to recognize a pest before it becomes a problem next spring.

See the clump up at the top? So evil!!!
7) We have rats. They ate a bunch of my dry beans, but then the edamame started maturing and they switched to those. I think we may have gotten 25% of the harvest that could have been. The rest went to those fuzzy little asshole vermin. They might need to die. I have to research the most humane way of getting rid of rats. Ugh. I think they also decimated my shiso. Who knew that they liked shiso?

8) We got enough tomatoes for two batches of my delicious marinara. Yum.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Baby Bath Win

Babies are expensive. For various reasons. One of those reasons is the gear. Oh, the gear.

But no matter what the baby gear industry tells you, there are a lot of products out there that are on various "getting ready for baby" lists that no one really needs. Sure, you need the essentials like a car seat, a crib, clothes, diapers, etc., but there are a lot of items on those lists that are just silly. Wipe warmers? Bottle warmer? Diaper genies? Ugh, when I saw a diaper genie for sale at Babies R Us a few months back, it took everything on me to not stand there and point and laugh at it hysterically. Seriously.

You gotta be smart about it, friends.

We put a lot of thought into the things we've bought for Eddy. I didn't just buy everything on the "you need these" lists and really thought about where everything was going to go in our tiny house, and whether the item was a necessity or just a luxury. We shopped Craigslist, graciously accepted various items second hand, and did a lot of research so that we only purchased items that could be used for a longer period of time or in several different ways.

One of the things that the baby gear industry tries really hard to tell you that babies need are special bathtubs. Yes, babies need baths, and yes, you have to be careful when bathing your baby since doing it incorrectly could be dangerous. But the baby bath items out in the market are ridiculous. Before Eddy was born, we bought an inexpensive foldable bath that fits into the sink so that we could bathe her during her caterpillar stage. Of course, she grew out of this quickly. Soon we were bathing her directly in the bathroom sink. But now she's grown out of that as well.

So we found ourselves on the hunt for a baby bath. I wanted something simple. Something that would fit her little body but would allow her to splash around and play. A bathtub would do that, but the thought of filling an entire bathtub every other day seemed a bit wasteful. So we searched and searched for something simple and came across options that ranged from too much to silly to absolutely outrageous. Did you know there are baby jacuzzis out there? Ones that bubble and stuff? Ugh. Then there are the ones that are made of awful plasticky colors that are contoured for the baby's little tushy. These require the baby to lay back and be a perfect little angel in the water. Our Eddy is not this. She likes to move and play, and there was no way she was going to sit still in one of those, not to mention she would grow out of it so quickly. Then we would be stuck with this hunk of useless contoured piece of plastic.

After chatting with some friends for ideas, we finally came up with the perfect plan.

Storage tub + small bath mat = instant baby tub!

So I took a trip to Fred Meyer and got a shallower storage tub. We just used that at first, but found that the bottom was way too slippery for her to be able to sit in it herself. A small bath mat fixed that problem right up. And guess what we have after she grows out of this tub? A regular old storage container... to probably store baby stuff.

So much fun is now had at bath time. Eating the bubbles is the best.

So happy!
$15 baby bath tub for the win!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Chocolate Tapioca Decadence

Since giving birth six months ago, I have become a certified chocoholic. Don't get me wrong, I have always liked chocolate, but my love for it now has gotten to the point where it is a bit of a problem.

I used to prefer milk chocolate, and dark chocolate was always a little much for me. But now... now is a different story. I could eat an entire bar of 70% dark in one sitting. No problem. So delicious. I could do it every day. (I also love coffee. Not for the caffeine, for the taste.) The 70% is perfect for my taste buds, but I could eat the darker stuff too. I have discovered that 90% dark chocolate is perfect for s'mores. Try it. It's true.

Anyway, I need chocolate like it's oxygen. It's just something I inherited with Eddy. Naturally, I am always on the lookout for various ways to ingest this new addiction that doesn't look like stealing chocolate chips from my baking stash. (Though in an emergency, that does the trick.)

One of my favorite light(er) desserts that is super easy and quick to make is tapioca pudding. We always have extra eggs and it's super satisfying. Making it yourself allows you to make it fat free and lower in sugar as well. Winning.

So naturally, eventually I was going to make the discovery that I could make tapioca pudding with cocoa powder. Turns out, it's delicious.

Ingredients
1/4 cup small pearl tapioca
1/2 cup water
2 cups milk (moo or almond)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (or more if you need it :))
dash of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

Soak the tapioca in the half cup of water for a half an hour. Add the milk and dash of salt and slowly bring to just before boiling. In the meantime, mix the sugar and cocoa powder together in a separate bowl. (Side note: here is proof that my addiction is no joke, when adding the cocoa powder, I was super tempted to eat a spoonful. Gross, right?) Add the eggs and whisk together. Once the milk and tapioca mixture is hot, bring the heat down to low and slowly whisk in the egg/sugar mixture. Keep it on the heat until the mixture thickens, stirring often. Turn the heat off, let the pudding cool for a bit, and stir in the vanilla. Enjoy hot or cold. You could garnish with some whipped cream and a little sprinkle of cinnamon if you'd like. So decadent.

You're gonna love it. Try not to eat it all in one sitting.

I didn't have any whipped cream on hand. I know. Shame on me.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Easy, Recycled Fire Pit

Shawn has always wanted a fire pit for our backyard. Every time we saw one for sale at Fred Meyer or Costco or H-Dizzle, he would stare longingly at it and we would walk away saying "someday..." We never bought one for several reasons: price, timing, and just not wanting to buy something that was cheaply made in China.

Well, his wish finally came true on Father's Day when I built him a fire pit from recycled cinder blocks. My sister's hubby was in the process of taking apart an old fish pond that they acquired when they bought their house which resulted in lots of cinder blocks. They also had mortar on them that needed to be chipped off.

So the boys secretly kidnapped Shawn to go watch a World Cup game at a bar and my sister and I equipped ourselves with some hammers and crow bars and got to work.

Dude, chipping all that mortar off was hard work! But we did it, feeling rather proud of ourselves.

We are woman!!!
Once we got all the mortar off, the assembly was a cinch. One paver stone was stacked on each cinder block that was arranged in a hexagon and, ta daa! Fire pit. 

My original plan was to glue the paver stones onto the cinder blocks but I haven't done it yet. I don't know if it actually needs it, to be honest.

Fire. Pit.
Cleaning it out will be easy too since the cinder blocks aren't glued to the ground.

Well, as you can see, this was constructed several months ago. You're seeing this post now because Shawn finally got a chance to use it this weekend.

Happy husband.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Breastfeeding: Part 2

This post is way late. But it's World Breastfeeding Week so. Perfect.

I did it. We did it. Breastfeeding is officially easy. It's been easy for almost 3 months now. And it's awesome. I honestly don't know what helped with the change, other than Eddy growing, lots of practice, and a lot of perseverance on both our parts.

It's so convenient. I don't have to worry about packing her anything when we leave the house, and I can feed her the instant she gets hungry. Not to mention the fact that I can feed her while we're both half asleep. In bed. Super cool. And feeding her in public (without a hooter hider) is still something I'm working on getting comfortable with, but I'm determined to get there for the freedom of all mothers in the future to feed their babies without shame and ridicule.

She's just over five months old now. (Aca-believe it!) At four months, we started giving her a tiny bit of rice cereal because our doctor mentioned we could and it might help her sleep longer. After a week, we decided she wasn't quite ready for it since she was more cranky and wasn't excited about me putting a spoon in her mouth. We tried again a few weeks ago, and still no. She just doesn't seem to like it. So we stopped again. Yesterday, just for kicks, I put a piece of cantaloupe up to her lips and she made a hilariously disgusted face followed with a few adorable baby gags. I know it takes a baby up to 14 times to try a new food before she likes it, so I'm not worried. (Shawn gave her almost a negligible amount of vanilla ice cream yesterday and she actually enjoyed that. Go figure.) We're thinking maybe apple juice or peach juice next. 

So we're happy with our system now. She is starting to sleep for longer periods at night, so I know we'll eventually get there. I love the fact that I am personally responsible for her growth and nutrition, and I still get to eat the extra calories. Oh, and I've heard that breast feeding helps reduce the chances of breast cancer, and seeing as how I genetically have pretty much a 99% chance of getting it in my lifetime, I'll take all the help I can get. Oh, and hello pre-pregnancy weight!!! She's sucking the pounds right off of me. :)

The only downside to the whole breast feeding thing now is the fact that I have to pump a couple times a day while I'm at work and am constantly worried about my supply. (But that gives me good reason to drink stout beer and eat lots of lactation cookies :))

So in the end, my naive excitement about breastfeeding has come to fruition. I actually love it now. She's growing up so fast, but I feel like I'm right there with her. She smiles up at me several times throughout a feeding, and we hold hands while she kicks her little feet at whatever she can kick. She absolutely cannot stay still while eating. The thought of weaning now makes me sad. But I won't have to think about that for a little while.

I love my little lady.



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fresh Air = Happy Baby

When Eddy was a newborn, she wasn't very human-like. She was more along the lines of a puppy, but even more helpless. Of course, having never given birth or reared said human-puppy before, I really didn't know what to expect as far as when she would start acting more humanoid, or what her preferences in life would be, or what baby development even looked like.

When we were preparing for her arrival, we got the standard things like toys, clothes, some furniture, etc. There were a few items that we acquired not really knowing how important they would be in Eddy's early life. Here are the top 5:

1) High Contrast Picture Cards - I had heard that babies like super contrasty black and white drawings because that's all their little eyes and brains can process in the bright outside world in the very beginning. Well, they're right. Eddy has been pretty enthralled by them since a few days into her life and continues to be over 4 months later. Awesome.

2) Books - I am an educator/teacher. So naturally, my child will have an extensive library. But I used to think, come on, how much can an infant enjoy a book? A lot, it turns out. I've been reading to her for a couple months now and she really enjoys the pictures and, I think, our voices reading aloud. She's even now started reaching out to touch the pictures. So. Damn. Cute.

3) Hanging Toys - We got an infant/toddler chair that vibrates thinking it would help with naps. It has, to an extent, but it has now morphed into a piece of entertainment more than anything else. See, it came with a bar of hanging plastic thingies, one of which is an elephant that sings a little song when pulled. At first, even though they were hanging IN HER FACE, she didn't even notice them. Then about 2 months ago, that completely changed. Her eyes discovered them first, and she's steadily been working to grab them ever since. She has just started being able to pull the elephant and start the song herself, which pleases her greatly. We also have another toy that's a bar with a koala and butterfly that just hangs over her while she's laying down which is pretty cool too. So, in conclusion, hanging toys are awesome. Who knew?

4) Crinkly Tag Blankets - A friend and coworker of mine so generously gave me one of these for Christmas. I had never heard of them before but after I opened it I was informed about how amazing they were. I shrugged and took their word for it. I think we have yet to see its full potential, but this is definitely one of Eddy's favorite things. She likes rubbing it on her face and feeling the crinkles in her mouth. Once again, adorbs.

5) NATURE - This one makes my heart swell with pride with feelings of "that's my girl!" Eddy does not like to be cooped up in the house all day. Though the sun tends to be a little bright for her, she really likes being outside. She will sit on our laps for quite a while, content to feel the breeze on her face and watch the tree branches blowing around or listen to the birds do their thing. We have started spending about a half an hour to an hour each afternoon swinging on our front porch waiting for Shawn to get home. Any fussiness can generally be cured by a little jaunt outside. She really likes going on walks too. I salivate thinking about all the different nature adventures we're going to go on.

Babies. They're fascinating, aren't they?

Here comes the cuteness!

She loves sucking on that toucan.
Hanging out outside on 4th of July.
Major giggles for Bubba.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Food-Saving Challenge: Lessons Learned

For Earth Day I embarked on a personal challenge to live the next 30 days without wasting any food. I made some rules for myself to make it a little easier, but to also make it clear what my goal was.

In the name of saving food I did some new things that I would not have done before:

* Eat a bag of super stale crackers.
* Eat a super mealy pear (gross)
* Eat the stem of a super old broccolli but give the yellowed bud portions to the chickens

Another thing I did that I thought was pretty genious was to put some old stale cereal on a baking sheet and throw it into a recently-used oven to "freshen up." Just about 10 minutes in a not-very-hot oven will make any stale cereal edible again. Pretty cool, huh?

Things were going pretty well with the challenge until my grandma came into town. Naturally, this threw our usual daily routine out the window and we found ourselves eating dinner away from the house a lot more than usual. This resulted in leftovers in the fridge being forgotten, and extra food collecting faster than we could eat it. Things have been better since, though, and I've just come to the conclusion that not wasting any food is really hard, but a goal that we should all strive for at all times.

In other news, my garden is totes awesome this year. We've finished the first round of spinach and snow peas, and I finally got around to planting the second round of peas yesterday. The ladies are really enjoying the flowering spinach stalks that I throw into their coop each day, along with the failed (bolted) bok choy and carrot tops. Speaking of which, I've been having fun with my carrots this year. My seeds were from two seasons ago so I didn't know how viable they were. So, since I felt I had nothing to lose, I just dumped them into the soil, thinking the germination rate would be lower. It wasn't. I have a carrot forest now, that I've been thinning slowly over the last few weeks. It's better than if I had thinned when they were seedlings because now I'm getting a bunch of little carrots to eat, plus plenty of greens for the ladies. I've always struggled with the idea of killing baby plants, and now I don't have to do that anymore. :)

Oh, and I HATE aphids. Jerks.

I know this was kind of a sad excuse for a post. Better ones to come shortly. Thanks for your patience.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Freezin' Greens

My garden is off to a rockin' start this year. We harvested a bunch of our own chicken crap compost and got stuff into the ground in April. The hoop house is keeping the tomato plants warm, and everything is coming up nicely and growing really well.

One of this best things we've got is the spinach. It's doing so great, we actually can't keep up with it. I harvested some last week, but the perfect spring weather and sprinkles of rain have made it get a bit out of control. So I spent an hour today picking and prepping it for the freezer.

Here is the patch before:


And after (enough to get more next week, I'm sure):


This is how much I got. This is a big bowl.


I took about two thirds of it and ripped it into smaller pieces after rinsing it really well and stuffed it into a one gallon Ziploc bag and sucked most of the air out. I always put a handful of spinach in pasta sauce, soups, and a lot of other things for the extra bit of nutrients so this bag will be handy for that.

The rest of it I food processed with about a 1/4 cup of water and put them in ice cube trays. Once frozen, I'll pop them out of the trays and keep them in another container so they don't get freezer burned. These will be good for smoothies and... baby food! Our little monster is going to be starting solid foods in a few months, and what's better than fresh food from the garden? We'll probably mix these with some sweet potato or something for some delicious, cheap veggies for Eddy. 

Both Shawn and are excited for the whole fresh food prepping that we'll do for baby once she starts eating real food. None of that yucky tasteless Gerber stuff for our little one! Food is a big deal for us so we want to expose her to lots of different foods from the get-go so that she can have her life enhanced by all the flavors the world has to offer.


Garden 2014 is looking like it might be pretty awesome!

Friday, May 23, 2014

We Have Tenants!

Remember the birdhouse Shawn built last year? Well we've been waiting with baited breath ever since we put it up and our patience has finally been rewarded!

Chickadees! 

We've been watching them for a few weeks now as they fly from the house to our feeder to the cherry blossom tree across the street as they bring beak after beak full of super comfy looking moss.

They've been very busy. This video is from a few weeks ago.

video

It's so exciting because being so close to our living room window, we will have front row seats to the whole process. We saw a major decrease in activity for a while and thought maybe they had abandoned it, but have seen them a lot on the last couple days. My guess is that they've been tending to the eggs and now they are starting to hatch. I can't wait to see the babies. I'll keep you all posted!

Our bat box still seems empty since we aren't finding any guano. But Shawn has heard them flying around our house at dusk...

Friday, April 25, 2014

Breastfeeding is the Hardest Thing in the World

When I was about 8 months pregnant a friend asked me what I was looking forward to most when Eddy arrived. With just a little bit of thought, I confidently answered, "breast feeding." Her response was "seriously?!" I had this dreamlike vision of sitting and calmly offering to my child the perfect balance of nutrients and love. If you think about it the ability for us to actually make food that will not only sustain but help our children thrive is awesomely crazy. Over the course if human evolution, we have done a pretty good job of separating ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom. But the act of birthing a child and breast feeding it is something as natural as any other mammal would do in the wild.

Seriously. So cool.

Anyway, for these reasons, I was looking forward to the experience. I knew that breast feeding was going to be difficult. I had heard what a learning curve it is for both mother and baby and that many just don't get the hang if it for various reasons. Our 4-week baby class included a few hours with a lactation nurse where we learned the different holds, as well as other pertinent information. I was a bit nervous, but felt ready to take on the challenge.

Well, the challenge started right off the bat. An hour after Eddy was born, we attempted the first nursing session. She couldn't latch. Without skipping a beat, our awesome nurse Susan gave me a nipple shield which elongates the nipple and helps give babies something to suck on. It seemed to work because when we had our lactation appointment a few hours later, the nurse told us we were doing fine.

Cut to three days later. My milk wasn't in yet and Eddy was starving. The colostrum was no longer enough for her and she was hangry and dehydrated. She was frustrated with the fact that her efforts were not being rewarded and she gave up nursing completely. I would try to offer her the breast and she would try a few sucks then cry furiously. I too was frustrated and a bit scared but we had an appointment with the pediatrician the next morning. That night was a nightmare of a screaming baby and a frustrated mom, with dad feeling helpless next to both. At the appointment, my fears were confirmed by a scary amount of weight loss and some severe jaundice. She was also dehydrated and had low blood sugar. The doctor checked inside her mouth and mentioned she may be tongue-tied in the back. Needless to say I was a hormonal wreck. The doc gave Eddy some sugar water and formula at the clinic and she immediately felt better, as did I. (It was decided not to do anything about the jaundice for now since I have a low risk blood type.)

Lesson #1: It's ok to give your baby formula when they are hungry and your milk isn't in yet.

Once we got home, we decided to give the free lactation hotline a call because I was still nervous about my breast feeding abilities. We talked for an hour to a lovely nurse named Dolly who encouraged me and gave us some great advice. She made me feel better about having to use the nipple shield and told us about how much Eddy would need to get at each feeding. We decided at that point on a feeding plan that was a combination of our Dr's advice, the lactation nurse's advice, as well as our own parental instincts. So for the next 36 hours, I expressed colostrum, measured how much there was, and added enough formula so that Eddy was getting a half ounce every feeding. We carefully poured the colostrum into a bottle nipple so she could suck it down and did the same with the formula.

Lesson #2: It's ok to give a tiny newborn a bottle. Don't let the fears of nipple confusion get in the way of your child's need for food as well as your sanity.

Lesson #3: YOU know what's best for your baby. Don't let Google tell you otherwise.

A day and half later, Shawn looked at what I had expressed and noticed that it looked different. Four hours after that, my boobs started hurting and my milk came in. We tried nursing again (after a 2 day break,) and with the help of the nipple shield, Eddy had her first good nursing session. I thought I would cry from relief. Even though she was now getting a pretty good feeding every time, she still wanted to comfort nurse all the time. It was like she needed something in her mouth at all times. I needed a break so we introduced her to a pacifier at one week old. She LoVEs it. Best decision ever.

Lesson #4: Some babies just love and need a pacifier. You don't have to wait a whole month to give it to them if you feel like it would be beneficial.

We went to see a lactation consultant a few days later, hoping she would give us some more advice and help solidify our feeding routine. She was very thorough and weighed Eddy before and after feeding at each breast to calculate exactly how much she was getting and confirm that she was doing fine. She told us to wait a few weeks before trying to wean off the shield and agreed with the Dr. about a possible tongue-tie.

A few days after that, I had a chiropractor appointment. I was talking about our nursing struggles and the possible tongue-tie and my chiro suggested she check her atlas since that can cause latching issues. So Eddy had her first chiropractic adjustment at 10 days old. It was just a little fix and we were told to nurse right there in the office. It went really well. We thought we were on our way.

Now cut to a month later. Nursing was going pretty well, not too much nipple soreness, but I just started getting the feeling that she was having trouble getting full with the nipple shield. She would feed, then detach, then feed, then cry, then feed again. It could have been cluster feeding but I decided it was time to try again without the shield. It took a few tries, but eventually, I was able to get her to latch in the middle of a nursing session when she was nice and calm. It hurt a little, but she seemed to be more satisfied afterwards. A few weeks later, we were having whole nursing sessions without the nipple shield at all.

A few weeks ago, Eddy decided suddenly she was done with the shield. It was like a flashback to the time she stopped nursing at 3 days old. It was horrible. She would get mad that the shield was in her mouth and just scream and cry. I took the hint and didn't force the issue. I was still using the shield for my personal comfort since there are times when Eddy likes to thrash around at the breast. Like seriously tries to kill my nipple. She pulls in different directions while sucking and shakes her head back and forth like a dog trying to kill its squeaky toy. It can get really painful. She's so mean sometimes.

Then the vasospasms started. Ooooh boy. Those suckers are painful! Vasospasms are when the blood vessels in your nipples constrict and cut off circulation. Your nipple turns white or purple and it hurts like a som-bitch. It got to the point where my nipples hurt so bad I started being scared for the next nursing session. And don't get me started on the pain while toweling off after a shower. Yeow! And I couldn't use the shield anymore to help with the pain. I started pumping and bottle feeding here and there to give my poor boobies a rest, but she would get mad after each bottle feeding because she would finish it too fast and would think that she needed more. So nursing had to happen at least at night to help her calm down and sleep.

So off to the lactation consultant we went again. The good news was, Eddy seems to have grown out if her mild tongue tie. The bad news was the nurse couldn't really give me any sure ways to help with the latch to help prevent the nipple trauma that was causing the spasms. She did say that Eddy was a bit of a biter (ugh) and that I needed to do what was best for my comfort. She did give me lots of advice and made me feel better for the steps I had been taking. She suggested taking Ibuprofen and hot compressing my nipples after every feed to prevent the spasms, and changing up how I hold her. She also suggested we see a osteopathic doctor in case she needs a cranial/sacral adjustment if her jaw or skull structure is preventing a good latch. Great, more doctors. We haven't pursued this yet.

Now cut to the present. Eddy is just over 8 weeks old and is in the middle of her super angry period. You know, the time when babies just cry for the hell of it? Granted, we got lucky and she's not one that cries for hours on end, but she does get super cranky between 6-10pm and when she does cry, it's super intense. This means she has no patience to nurse during this time. She latches, sucks, then screams. I can tell she's getting full because I pumped afterwards and there was nothing left in either boob. Oh, and the fact that she dribbles it all down my stomach when she decides to scream mid-suck. She also is all of a sudden having trouble latching on the right boob unless I hold her a different way. Maybe the lactation nurse was on to something when she mentioned a slightly asymmetric jaw line. Maybe another chiro adjustment is in order. (That's free and I go there anyway, so I'm willing to give it a try.) I'm also thinking that she might be getting used to the consistent and fast flow of a bottle, since I'm pumping and bottle feeding during the day to get her used to it for when I go back to work, so maybe that's frustrating her too.

Lesson #5: Ibuprofen is the best defense against a vasospasm.

All this has got me thinking; what did the cavemen do? There weren't any nurses or doctors to analyze everything. Did babies starve? Did nipples just fall off? Were cave woman nipples just extra tough? Nursing is supposed to be a natural process. Doesn't that mean it should come naturally? Why is it so damn hard?

Lesson #6: Nursing is hard. Deal with it.

Now I understand why so many women just throw in the towel and go to formula. It really is an incredibly challenging process, nursing. But the advantages are so great. It's free food, it's perfectly balanced for babies, it convenient and always available, and it's the healthiest thing for them. It even helps prevent SIDS. Um hello. It helps babies stay alive. That's enough for me.

So I'm not ready to wave my white flag. My mind has little room to think about anything else at the moment, but through all the pain and frustration, the advantages still far outweigh the crap.

Lesson #7: Never judge a mother who gives her baby formula. You have no idea what she went through to make that decision.

Nursing often results in really cute moments like this. Or when she stares into my eyes.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

30 Day No Waste Challenge

Happy Earth Day, everyone! It's my favorite day of the year!

Since it is a special day to celebrate, appreciate, and protect our lovely home planet, I thought it would be a great day to start something I've been meaning to for a while.

I'm going to challenge myself to not throw away any food for the next 30 days. Since I got pregnant last June, my habits of wasting food have been a little sad. Being super sick, fatigued, and hating vegetables resulted in a lot of food going bad in the refrigerator. Then the heartburn made it so that I couldn't eat certain foods, which were really weird at times, so that didn't help either. Things have been better since Eddy was born, but I still forget stuff in the fridge because I've been cooking a lot less. Granted, in the grand scheme of things I think I'm actually doing ok, but any food thrown in the trash is too much food in my opinion.

Did you know that the average American throws away over 200 pounds of food per person, per year? Though that number can vary depending on the source, whatever it is, the fact that it is more than zero isn't ok. I think most of that is from the food service industry (that's another can of wasteful worms,) but we're not exempt from some of the blame. Cliche moment of the day: Think of the starving children in Africa! (Or in Seattle, for that matter.)

Seeing food get tossed is a huge pet peeve of mine. Working with kids and having this issue is really hard. Kids throw away so much food. They just don't get it. I've seen my students and campers toss whole bananas, unopened granola bars, and apples with one bite out of it, right into the can like it's nothing. There have been countless times I've picked perfectly good food out of the trash and tried to get some sense out of the kids. And they look at me like I'm crazy. It drives me crazy. I will definitely instill this value in Eddy, you can bet on it.

Why is this important? The other day, much like a fourth grader (sad face), I threw away an entire avocado that I let go brown and mushy in the refrigerator. Let's think about this one avocado. It grew from a tree, was picked by some dude, packed by another dude/machine, loaded into a truck, used fossil fuels to get to the store where I bought it, and unpacked and put out into the produce section by someone else. That's a lot of energy, effort, and hours used to get it to me, just so it can go into the compost. I definitely feel some guilt about that. And that's just a piece of unprocessed, uncooked produce. Imagine how much more wasteful it would be to throw away a loaf of bread, or a piece of meat, or a granola bar that has had even more fossil fuels pumped into it in production.

This is important to me and I think we as a society that is constantly drowning in food just aren't used to the idea that food is energy.
Food is fuel.
Food is resources.
Food is sacred.

This challenge is going to make me change my lifestyle a bit.

Tangent - Currently, I am team teaching a class at the community college with my dad called Sustainable Business. This is a class that looks at various industry and discusses the different ways businesses can be more sustainable. Making changes in the name of sustainability isn't just good for the environment, but also has economic as well as social benefits as well, that in turn, help the business itself become more efficient and profitable. It's a great class. One of the first assignments we gave the students was an ecological footprint assignment where they took an online test to see how sustainable their home lives were. After they took the test they were asked to pick 5 (out of the dozens) of possible lifestyle changes that the results page offered. Most people were thoughtful about their choices, but the answers of one lady blew my mind. She started her paper by saying that she thought she was already doing everything right. (Her result was not that of someone even trying to live sustainably.) Then she continued to say that it was really hard for her to come up with five lifestyle changes because all of them required a little bit of sacrifice on her part. THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT YOU CRAZY WENCH! It drove me nuts, but I had to give her full points for the assignment for doing it. Ok, thanks for letting me get that out.

So my sacrifices (that I'm willing to make because I know how important it is):

1. Buy less food - If I only have a few options, then I'll eat what I already have, and won't forget about something that's in the back of the 'fridge.
2. Meal plans - Have a plan for everything I buy. The avocado went bad because I liked the idea of it, but didn't have any plans for it.
3. Don't go out as much - I threw away some french fries last week because the burger I got just came with them and I couldn't eat them all. We all know day old fries are nasty.
4. Eat something that might not be the tastiest - Take responsibility for acquiring something and just eat it. As long as it hasn't gone bad it won't make me sick. 
5. Eat the thing that will go bad over the thing that can wait - If the dinner options are vegetables in the crisper vs. vegetables in the freezer, always go for the fresh ones, the frozen ones can wait.

Here are the rules I've set for myself:

1. Food counts as trashed if it goes in the garbage, disposal, or compost.
2. It does not count if the chickens eat it. (It turns into more food and fertilizer to grow more food.)
3. Peels and things that a normal person won't eat don't count either. (I'm not going extreme here.)
4. If it has gone bad, I suck, but I don't have to eat it.

So we'll see how it goes. I think this will help with my overall health, as well as keep a few dollars in the pocket since I won't be throwing them away. I have some slightly wilty carrots in the crisper that I should do something with before they get to the point of petrification.

What sacrifices can you make in the name of Earth Day?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hoopin' it Up

The greenhouse that I salvaged last year finally died. So we were faced with the decision to buy something that's going to die again or go for a different system. We went for the new system.

Turns out this new system is way cheaper and will probably last a lot longer.

So grandma Kathy was called to babysit and garden season 2014 commenced. (Better late than never, huh?)

I've always wanted to build a hoop house since it is like a greenhouse for plants that are already in the ground. This gives plants like tomatoes and peppers a chance in our cooler, shorter summers. Also, early in the season, it can be used as a greenhouse for starting seeds.

Here was our supply list:
*10ft 1/2 inch pvc piping (x4)
*PVC clamps (x8)
*Screws (x8)
*Garden cloth (10ft x 12ft)
*Random bits of long wood (two 8 ft poles-worth. 2x2's or crown molding works great.)
*A few bricks (or other heavy items to keep the sides down)
*Some clothes pins or other pinchy things to close the ends
*Staple gun
*Screw driver

I think we spent about $25-$30 on the supplies to cover a 4ft by 8ft area of one of our garden boxes.

The building part was a cinch. First we stuck the two ends of each PVC pipe into the edges of the garden box and secured them to the sides with the clamps and screws. Then I scrounged my wood pile and found some old pieces of trellis and wrapped the edges if the garden cloth around them and stapled them down. This makes it easier for one person to cover the hoop house on a windy day because they act as a bit of a weight and pulls the whole cloth over at once. I also put a few bricks down on top of the wood to really secure it. Then I gathered the cloth at each end and closed them up with some clothes pins. We chose to go with the cloth over clear plastic because plastic is gross and the cloth also breathes just a little bit, which results in not as much heat being trapped in. This also prevents overheating when we forget to open it up on a hot summer day, which I have been known to do.

Open...
and closed.
Keeping the seeds (and Gus) warm.
I plan on putting my peppers, eggplant, and tomato plants in here. (Once I get my hands on some starts...)

Oh, and we finally were able to harvest some chicken shit compost. My dad and Shawn did some heavy digging in the compost pile and harvested about two garbage can fulls of super compost which was filled with worms (which the chickens enjoyed immensely. Sorry worms.) A nice layer of it was turned into the soil, so I have high hopes for our harvest this year.
 
I've also seeded for kale, bok choy, peas, cilantro, and potatoes, all under a another sheet of the garden cloth. It works great to keep the soil just warm enough to speed up germination. I still have a lot more to plant. Even though I'm home all day, it's really hard to find the time to go out and work in the garden without a babysitter because it turns out babies don't really like to be put down, and wearing a baby on the front makes bending down to plant stuff really difficult.

Hopefully I haven't started all this too late in the season.

Finally, here's Eddy enjoying the fresh air while we were working. Seriously. Adorbs. Totes cray-cray adorbs.

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