Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Eating from the Pantry Challenge

Crystal, from Money Saving Mom is holding a "Eat from the Pantry Challenge" where she's encouraging others to participate in a month-long stint with little to no grocery shopping. She encourages everyone to look at their pantries and figure out what works for them. My Eat From the Pantry Challenge will look like this:

1-Only 3 trips to the store in January, for dairy products and fresh produce, with a total grocery budget of $60 for the month. Because of my milk issues, the majority of that budget will go to buying the more expensive milk that my crazy brain insists on. We'll also eat out once during the month, but dining out money comes from a different budget than our grocery budget.

2- Not included in the three trips is our regular trip to costco for stocking up on basics (we didn't go in december, and are running low on important things like TP), and also trips to Rite Aid (I'm not counting Rite Aid, because I don't spend "new" money there anyway, it's all recycled rebates from earlier trips).

3- The money I save on groceries will be split in half, with the first half going to the Road Home Shelter in Salt Lake, and the other half being added to our camper savings fund.

Do you have a stocked pantry? If so, join in the fun! Jessica from Utah Deal Diva is also taking part in the challenge, check out her blog to see amazing pictures of her pantry and freezer (I think she could go for several months!).

A Little Spring in January

This time of year, when Christmas is over, the next thing I look forward to is spring, when the asparagus shoots start to poke out of the soil, signaling another gardening season. My excitement makes for a long winter- one way I’ve found to help pass the time, is to do a little indoor growing. To grow indoors you need grow lights. These can be purchased (one online store has some simple ones priced at $299) or made (for much less).

With a few tools and basic building skills (it really doesn’t take a lot) you can build a simple frame. The side supports are attached at the tray where the plants sit and with one 2x4 that spans the top. The top piece of plywood is attached by chains which allows it to be raised or lowered to keep the lights close to the plants. Once your frame is built, you just need a simple hanging style shop light from a hardware store. Make sure to get the kind that plugs in. We bought two and placed them side by side. We also built our frame with the length of the lights in mind. We used scrap lumber, and screws that we already had, so we only paid for the lights, the fluorescent tubes (and it’s helpful to combine both the cool and warm spectrum lights for healthier plants), and the hooks to attach the chains to the top 2x4. I think we spent less than $30 total.

While seed starting trays are nice, they’re not necessary, you can use old margarine or yogurt containers, just keep them moist and cover with saran wrap until the seeds sprout. Once they sprout, remove the saran wrap and place under the lights, moving the lights up as your plants grow.

There’s nothing like fresh lettuce in January. The light set up is also great for starting plants for the garden indoors. A packet of seeds and some potting soil is much less expensive than buying plants at the nursery, plus it gives you a fun winter activity- reading the seed catalogs and choosing which unique varieties to grow that year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

There but by the grace of God go I

Saturday night my Mister and I went out to dinner and then to a movie with friends. We ate at the Rio Grande, I hadn't been there before, but it was so good that I ate more than I should have. The movie was also enjoyable. On the walk back to the car, my stomach hurt from eating too much and I was shivering because it was cold, and I made the comment that there's "nothing worse than having a full stomach and shivering", to which I immediately added, "except maybe an empty stomach and shivering". We were walking near the Road Home shelter, where people were lined up waiting to get in. I don't know if everyone did, or if some people spent the night on the street.

I felt selfish and wasteful to have spent money on a night out, when there are people who have no place to spend a night in. It's so easy to go about our lives and not think about the homeless.

From their website: The Road Home provides support and shelter for overcoming homelessness. We have a wide variety of programs that provide services to people. The Road Home operates out of The Salt Lake Community Shelter, the largest homeless shelter in Utah.

We begin by providing people with basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter, while immediately working with them to develop a plan for housing. Our programs are designed to connect people with resources and help integrate them back into the community.

Housing Programs
Emergency Services
Self-Sufficiency Programs

You can donate money online here, or you can go here for a list of items they are in need of. There are also opportunities for volunteering, including Eagle Scout projects.

That homelessness exists shows how far we need to come in truly caring for the least of these. The homeless are one of society's most vulnerable populations. If I can afford to go out to eat and to a movie, I can make room in my budget to support emergency shelters in hopes that someday no one has to spend a cold night on the street.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I Pinky Swear

Kindergartners are big on the pinky swear. When J was in kindergarten I thought it was weird when he said to me one day, "I pinky swear mom!" (he wanted something, and took the solemn oath of pink swear that he would do something for me in return.)

Today, A came home from kindergarten pinky swearing to his brother that he'd play with him.

I love 5-year-olds.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Where to Get Milk?

As I've been researching meat and the sustainability and health issues surrounding the way most meats are "grown" currently, I've also been looking at milk. I read an article on webmd that was a study on children fed organic dairy products versus traditional dairy products, the study found that children who ONLY consumed organic dairy products had a much lower rate of asthma and allergies than children who at any amount of traditional dairy products in their diet. I'm not quite ready to switch to organic dairy entirely (and I think in the article, it wasn't just the organic label that was important, it was that the dairy cows were pastured, therefore healthier, and didn't need antibiotics- antibiotics being my biggest concern).

I've been doing some reading on milk and where it comes from. Costco organic milk is a "great deal" at nearly $3 per half gallon. Unfortunately, today I read this: wholesalers and major "organic" brands are continuing to sell milk and dairy products labeled as "USDA Organic, even though most or all of their milk is coming from factory farm feedlots where the animals have been brought in from conventional farms and are kept in intensive confinement, with little or no access to pasture.
The Organic Consumers Association is expanding its boycott of Horizon and Aurora organic dairy products to include five national "private label" organic milk brands supplied by Aurora, as well as two leading organic soy products, Silk and White Wave, owned by Horizon's parent company, Dean Foods...Aurora Organic supplies milk for several private label organic milk brands, including Costco's "Kirkland Signature," Safeway's "O" organics brand, High Meadows, Giant's "Natures Promise," and Wild Oats organic milk. Aurora Organic received a failing grade from the Cornucopia Institute's survey of organic dairies for its practice of intensive confinement of dairy cows. For pictures of Aurora Organic's operations, follow this link. The Cornucopia Institute recently blew the whistle on Aurora Organic's greenwashing and its bogus certification of animal welfare.
Additionally, its been revealed that much of the soy for Dean Food's White Wave tofu and Silk soymilk products are sourced abroad, primarily from Brazil and China. Environmental standards and workers' rights are routinely violated in these two countries.

Anyone know of sources for milk that comes from cows not treated with routine antibiotics? Costco was going to be my source for milk. I don't care about the organic label, I just haven't found any non-organic milk that meets my requirements.

It's making me tired.

UPDATE: I think we're going to go with Rosehill dairy. It's a local, small scale dairy, and I feel fairly comfortable with the way the cows are raised and fed, and with the quality of the milk.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sugar Cereals

General Mills has announced that they will be Reducing Sugar, amounts in their cereals, the ones that we call "sugar cereal".

I suppose this is a good thing, but my feeling is that making junk food cereals slightly less junky isn't the answer to our health food woes. Especially not when it appears (I don't know for sure) that the sugar in the cereals is just being replaced by some sugar substitute (the article said it won't use artificial sweetners, but on the Doug Wright show, there was discussion on the cereals not being noticeably less sweet, with led the host to wonder if they'd be using a sugar derivative (which happens to have the happy side effect of diarhea)).

I buy my kids sugar cereals for camping trips. It's a special treat, it shouldn't be a breakfast food. Kids need foods that will fill them up and provide the nutrients and energy they need for the morning. When my kids eat sugar cereals, they're hungry again in an hour (and I don't think that's a problem stemming from just the sugar in the cereal, I think the cereals are so much air and very little else that they just don't fill kids up for long).

How about instead of trying to put a banana peel on a twinkie, we just eat the bananas.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Changing the way we live

I've been thinking a lot lately about why we do things the way we do. Why we buy the things we buy, and eat the things we eat. And why we're so hesitant to look at other options, and so quick to laugh and label different ideas as "crazy liberal ideas". Ideas can't hurt us, so why don't we do research and then accept or discount the ideas based on their actual merit?

I've been reading books like, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, and Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and watching documentaries like Botany of Desire and Food Inc..

I gow a garden in the summer, and can as much food as possible for winter use. I raise chickens for eggs (if they'd start laying again), and I try to eat real food as much as possible, though we do still eat convenience foods more than I'd like.

I've been thinking more and more about living in a sustainable way, and the changes I would have to make are scary, but I think they're scary because we've grown up thinking that the way things are are the only way.

What do we do when we can't go to costco and buy a jumbo bag of frozen chicken breast? It sometimes feels easier to live in ignorance of where your food comes from, because once you've seen it, it's a lot harder to continue eating it.

I've joined the coupon craze, though mostly for non-food items since we don't eat a lot of the things there are coupons for (though I got a great deal on walnuts and butter and now have a nice supply in my freezer), but even for things like razors, I've had feelings of guilt for quite some time. I can get razors for free, but not the extra blades, so to never pay for razors we'd end up throwing away entire razors every time the blade goes dull. It's hard to balance the desire for a years supply of all things and still not be part of a rampant consumerism culture.

There are lots of things to think about, but in thinking about starting small, I'm researching how I can avoid eating commercialized meats. Being taught not to waste things, we'll finish up the bag of frozen chicken in the freezer over the next couple of months, and hopefully by then I'll have ideas on where to buy chicken that was raised in a sustainable way, that is healthy for me, for the farmers, and for the planet. I'll also look into the milk I buy and decide if I need to pay more for organic milk, and if that means that we'll be drinking less of it. And, if my chickens don't start laying again, I'll be looking into cruelty free eggs.

I know all of this sounds crazy to some people, but I feel strongly that we humans were placed on the earth to be wise stewards over all things, and I can't justify supporting companies that don't care if they're making us sick, or if their chicken farmers are developing allergies to antibiotics because of their overuse in the chickens, or workers on a killing floor who lose their fingernails to infections, or who care more about their bottom lines than about people dying from e coli poisoning.

I'm adding links to locally grown/sustainable farms as I find them. The one I have so far is Christiansen's Hog Heaven, which sells heritage breed pigs all processed and delivered in little packages. We're ordering a whole pork and splitting it among family.

Friday, December 04, 2009

For My Mom

...because she doesn't look on facebook and misses the updates about what is going on in my life (nevermind that we live close and see each other at least once a week...).

I made pie with a BIL in Oregon. He actually made all the fillings, I just took care of the crust. It's not my best effort, but they tasted good.

Berry (see the 'B' on the pie in the back) and apple are the only pies we got a picture of. I was having crust issues.
At Multnomah Falls, we met a long-time-online-gardening-friend and her husband. It was nice to talk to her in person- she felt like family. Multnomah Falls was beautiful, as we got close the water hitting the pool below sounded like a freight train. We walked up to the bridge in the background, at that point the spray off the falls felt like a heavy rain.

K's brother took us to a Chinese garden in Portland OR, it's just under 1 acre, or one city block, right in the middle of downtown. I was fascinated by the ground. Each area of the garden had a different pattern of hand-laid stones. This was my favorite (I especially love the moss growing between the stones):

After the garden we had lunch in a park (with the homeless man peeing behind a tree) and stopped at Powells Bookstore. It was ENORMOUS, and we could have gotten lost very easily, luckily we found our way out after finding plenty of new reading material.
The day after Thanksgiving another of K's brothers took us (8 or 9 adults and nearly 20 children) to Newport to see the beach. It was cold and windy, so after looking at tidepools (and a cool mushroom growing on the cliff side (drat that I didn't take a picture of it)) we left the beach to find somewhere to eat. Walking around the harbor we stopped to watch the sea lions play King of the Mountain. A few would be up on the platform, and others would try to climb up. As soon as a new sea lion started up, the others would all start barking, we found out why when a newcomer tipped the platform in his attempt to get on and made two others fall off (he did make it on though).

I missed my family at Thanksgiving. I've been spoiled to have dinner prepared the way my mom does it, and I've had to remind myself that just because it's not the same doesn't mean it's bad. Our meal was delicious (though I missed having orange rolls and my mom's stuffing).

And lastly, a quick update on funny things the kids say and do:

J accidentally bounced a ping pong ball into the oven. The door was open because I had just taken bread out. I was able to scoop the ball out just as it started melting, using a wooden spoon. It landed on the floor and started putting off thick green smoke. I used a hot pad, which is now scorched, to pick it up and drop it into the sink, just in time for it to burst into flames. Glad that didn't happen when I was holding it two seconds prior. If you've ever wondered why the rule "no bouncing balls in the house" got started, consider our experience.

A has been really into instructing his 2-year-old brother on life lessons lately. Lesson #1: If it's alcohol, say no, but if it's not alcohol and I tell you to do it, you should do it. Life Lesson #2 "CP, I don't believe you. I don't believe it unless I can see it, unless it's Heavenly Father. Heavenly Father is the only thing we believe if we can't see it".

Monday, October 05, 2009

What you get...

Here's what you get from a friday evening feverishly picking grapes, an hour or two picking apples and tomatoes, several trips to the store for more lids and fruit fresh, and a conference weekend:

Lots of dishes
And even more jars of food

Are you amazed?  I am.  We spent ALL day saturday, and a good chunk of sunday finishing everything.  We had to buy peppers and onions for the salsa, but the grapes and apples all came from my parents' house.  

We started friday night picking grapes, saturday morning we started by chopping peppers and onions and tomatoes.  We had enough of everything to make a double batch of salsa, which is about all our big stock pot will hold.  We have 20 pints.    While the salsa was simmering we got started on the grapes, finally at 11 pm, we had all the grapes off the stems, and most of them steamed and turned into juice, by the time we went to bed there was one 5-gallon bucket of de-stemmed grapes left.  Sunday morning we took a break and made swedish pancakes (crepes) with orange butter and powdered sugar- it's a family recipe, and has become a conference tradition.  

After breakfast we put the last of the grapes in the steamers (we own one and borrowed a second).  Once those were going, we started on the apples.  Started may not be the right word since last weekend we did about 30 quarts of applesauce, and these were the apples that we didn't get to then.  My Mister chopped and cooked, and I ran them through the Victorio strainer that we borrowed from my mom (she has all the cool tools). 

My mister does applesauce differently than I do- when I do it, I cook smaller amounts of apples in a pot with just a little water and then run everything through the strainer.  He cooks a lot of apples in a huge pot with a lot of water, and then ladels the apples out with a slotted spoon.  This left us with a huge pot of apple-water when we were done, and after tasting it, we decided to strain the solid bits out and can it.  We had 11 pints (we were out of quart jars at this point) of really tasty apple juice.  

Grape juice totals were 14 1/2 gallons (I love the half gallon sized jars for grape juice!), and 33 quarts.

Applesauce totals were 20 quarts and 50 pints.  We used every pint and quart jar we could find (we even took my son's "happy helper jar" and used it- he now has a "happy helper" bowl), we borrowed more lids from a neighbor since we ran out, and we made an emergency trip to the store sunday afternoon for more fruit fresh. 

I think that works out to 81 pints (I though I counted 82 yesterday so maybe I'm missing one somewhere), 53 quarts, and 14 1/2 gallons.  

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Homemade Hamburger Buns

I've been wanting to try making my own for quite awhile now, so when I saw Mother Earth News had a recipe I was excited to try it.
I've never made something that required a sponge before, but it wasn't hard at all. I made the sponge last night:

1 Cup warm milk
4tbs unsalted butter (I just realized I used salted- hopefully mine don't turn out too salty)
3/4 C whole wheat flour
1 C all purpose flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
and (optional)
2 TBSP potato flour (or instant potato buds- I used the potato pearls and so far so good)
1/4 C dry milk
3 TBSP bread improver (I assumed that this meant wheat gluten, but who knows)

If you don't add the optional things, add an extra 1/4 to 1/2 C flour

Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let sit overnight or at least 2 hours.

In the morning, comine 1/4 C warm water and 2 tsp instant yeast.  Add mixture to sponge, and stir in with a spoon (I tried my mixer and spilled yeasty water all over), then add 1 1/4 C flour, 2 TBSP sugar, and 1 1/2 tsp salt.  Knead by hand, or in a mixer for about 10 minutes (longer if by hand)  until dough is soft and smooth.  Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and a towel and raise for 1 hour.  Pour out onto lightly floured surface, and divide into 6 balls.  Place balls on a lightly greased bun pan, cover with greased plastic wrap and a towel and rest for 10 minutes.  Remove towel (not plastic wrap) and flatten balls with your palm.  Replace towel and raise for about an hour.  Bake in preheated 375 F oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.  

Makes 6 buns.

Review:  The buns are good.  They have a light flavor that won't fight with hamburgers and ketchup.  I would make 8 or 10 buns out of the amount of dough one batch makes- they turned out huge.  I think I'd also use a big flat plate to flatten the dough with since my hand wasn't terribly even.  I think I'll make them again, but they are kind of a lot of work (not really any more than any good roll/bread recipe, but we're talking hamburgers here) so I probably won't make them often.  We don't eat hamburgers very often anyway.  Tripling the batch worked great- and the dough was a beautiful dough.  I'm not sure if that's what dough made with sponge is always like, but I'll definitely have to try other sponge recipes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Book Review and Zucchini recipes

Several months ago I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I think I've probably posted about it before, but my Mister has also read it recently, so we've been talking a lot more about being self sufficient and commenting on what we'd give up if we were to live that way. (We both recognize that we couldn't do it where we live now, and we'd have to move to the country somewhere.) For example, as I bite into a twix bar, my Mister says, "you couldn't eat those anymore", or as he mixes up a glass of gatorade after a run, I say, "that would have to be one of our exceptions to the "no food we don't grow ourselves or buy from a local source". It's a fun game, really. 

It's a fascinating book, and I really recommend it especially if you have any interest in gardening or self-sufficiency. It really makes you think about where your food comes from. It will also make you want to make your own cheese and grow asparagus.

One other thing it has made me think a lot about is eating foods during their season. Right now is the season for zucchini and tomatoes, so we've been eating those things a lot. Here are a few "recipes" we've been using a lot. I don't want to let anything go to waste, and these dishes are easy (I love one-pot meals) and different enough that I'm not gagging thinking about eating zucchini again tonight. Feel free to post your own zucchini recipes as well.

Summer Stew refers to anything thrown together with ingredients right out of the garden.  (2013 update: I'm going back through old posts to add pictures, so as I remake these meals, I'll add photos)

Moroccan Summer Stew
Saute olive oil, garlic and onions in a pan.  Add chopped potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini.  Add enough water to steam the potatoes and cover (you may want to let the potatoes steam for a bit before you add the zucchini and tomatoes so they aren't total mush).  Add a can of garbanzo beans, and several good shakes of cumin (add enough that you can smell it) and some salt and pepper to taste.  If it's too dry, add a little more water so that there's enough "sauce" to moisten the couscous you serve it over.  (I recommend couscous, but quinoa is good too, rice might be okay.)

Italian Summer Stew

Saute olive oil, garlic and onions in a pan (do you sense a theme yet?).  Add sliced zucchini, and tomatoes.  Add water if there isn't enough from the tomatoes to make it saucy.  Add oregano or basil (fresh basil from the garden is wonderful), and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and simmer until zucchini are softened.  Add a couple of handfuls of pine nuts and two or three splashes of balsamic vinegar.  Serve over pasta.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Un-Stuffed Zucchini
(you can also stuff them, in which case you cut a huge zucchini in half, scrape out seeds, fill with the following mixture, top with cheese, and bake in oven for however long it takes for the zucchini to cook all the way- I'm helpful, I know- my mom can comment and tell everyone how long this takes- but my experience is that the kids eat the stuffing part and leave the zucchini part, so I've started making my stuffed zucchini un-stuffed)

Cook however much ground burger you want.  I think I usually use 1/2 pound, but it really doesn't matter.  Add garlic, and onions.  I like to add a little beef bouillon too. Saute, then add chopped zucchini, tomatoes and a cup or two of rice (depending on how many people you are feeding and how big your pan is).  Add enough water to cook the rice.  Cover, and cook on low for 20 minutes or so (until the water is gone and the rice is cooked).  Salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with cheese (I like mozzarella), and serve.

Grilled Flatbread Pizza with zucchini: Recipe here.
Ratatouille: Recipe here.
Pizza: topping idea here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Black and White

Recently I heard someone talk about their family in California and how they were affected by proposition 8, and how it showed them that some people are ready to jump up and follow the prophet, while others let things like that damage their testimonies. I have to state clearly, that I really like the person who was speaking, and I recognize that we all have different life experiences which shape us, but it made me wonder why we (subconsciously even) view the world in such black and white terms.

I've written about my feelings toward prop 8 and same sex marriage before, so I won't go into that again, but I wonder why the only "good" response to things like prop 8 is to immediately obey. I'm certainly not advocating that we immediately disobey any time the prophet speaks, I believe we should follow the prophet, but I think that we should allow that those who aren't given the spiritual gift of immediate confirmation also have a valid experience. I remember a few months ago in sunday school, a class member said that she always wondered why she struggled so much to gain a testimony of something, but she felt like once she did, she didn't lose it.

Too often we view those who struggle to gain a testimony of something (or even those who honestly and prayerfully have come to a different answer than our own) as lacking in some way. Instead of wondering why people allow difficult issues to damage their testimonies, perhaps we should ask ourselves how we can help others through trying times in their lives, and then acknowledge that everyone is given a different experience here on earth and one is not better or worse than another, they're just different, which gives us different views and teaches us different things. Life isn't black and white, it's shades of grey.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I recently shopped for and purchased a new swim suit, which of course has me thinking about modesty. Nearly any swim suit you buy is going to have some areas that you wish were a little more covering, which has also made me think about why. Why do we view the body the way we do? What makes something modest or not? Why do we care? And finally, why do most "rules" associated with modesty apply only to females?

I was reading And They Were Not Ashamed by Laura Brotherson, and she talked about how we teach young women to be modest, and too often it comes across as "be modest so you don't tempt the boys". This has a couple of problems, first it tells the girls that boys are animals and are not capable of controlling themselves. Second, it teaches boys that they are animals and are not capable of controlling themselves.

Young men need to be taught that they are responsible for controlling their hormones no matter how girls around them are dressed, they also need to be taught what true beauty is, instead of society's idea of beauty. Young women need to be taught that dressing modestly means we show respect for ourselves by dressing in a way that shows we understand that our bodies are beautiful gifts given to us from loving heavenly parents.

Back to my original questions...

Why do we view the body the way we do? I think far too often, we've been conditioned to be ashamed or embarrassed by our bodies. Especially if they don't measure up to whatever made up level of perfection we see on TV or in magazines.

What makes something modest? When I was little, I remember my mom had the rule that shorts or skirts couldn't be more than three fingers above the knee. In high school, shorts had to be longer than our fingers when our arms were at our sides. I always viewed strappy tank tops as immodest, but not sleeveless shirts. I think the definitions of modesty change somewhat, obviously over the last 100 years there have been major changes in what is viewed as modest, even today, different cultures have very different standards of modesty. I think modesty is a personal thing. There may be, in each cultural group, things that are universally considered modest or immodest, which brings me to the next question, why do we care? We care because I think culturally, we've turned the most obvious things like modesty, or word of wisdom things into a litmus test for righteousness. I don't believe that most people are purposely going around judging each other, but on some level we all do it. Whether we're like my 5-year-old who likes to point out when he sees people not wearing motorcycle helmets ("they're not very safe mom!") because that's how we reinforce "rules" in our minds, or comparing how low cut your neighbor's swim suit is to make you feel better about your own, we all judge others. Should we? No. Are we going to stop anytime soon? Probably not.

Finally, why are nearly all modesty rules for females only? I've never heard anyone talk about a man's shirt being too tight, or low cut, or his shorts too short (although I've seen men's shorts that were too short). Are we conditioning boys to be more visually stimulated than girls, or is it prewired?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Coming to terms with aging.

A while back I bumped into a former high school crush. He had gained quite a bit around the middle, and his hair was thinning. (he was still as charismatic as ever though) My first thought was, wow, we're getting old. I don't feel like I look very old yet, but I do have some gray hairs, and wrinkles around my eyes. I've also noticed that it takes cuts and scrapes (and mosquito bites) longer to heal than it used to.

As a child I remember being told I was beautiful by my aunt. I've since wondered if she told me that primarily because she believed it, or because she worried about my self esteem since I had scarring on my face from having a birthmark removed. Whatever her reasons, I've always believed it, and am actually a little vain (well sometimes I'm vain, other times not so much). So I worry a little about getting old.

As old as I might feel at times now, I know I'm still pretty young and healthy, but what about when the few gray hairs turn into a head full, and the wrinkles fill up my face so much that a grandchild says something to the effect of "your face is full of cracks", like I said to my grandmother. Will my appearance become less important to me? Will I feel like I need to start wearing the full array of makeup? Will I be depressed that I'm no longer culturally considered young and attractive (well, attractive is relative, but you know what I mean).

The natural look has worked well for me, and I'd hate for that to change.

How do you deal with the fact that you can't stop aging? It's coming for you. Do you welcome it, or run as fast as you can for anti-aging products?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chickens in Woods Cross?

My friend S emailed me about this, so I looked it up on the WX city website:
Notice is hereby given that on June 2, 2009 at 6:30 P.M., at the Woods Cross City Municipal Building, 1555 South 800 West, Woods Cross, Utah, the Woods Cross City Council will hold a public hearing to consider a proposed amendment to the City Zoning Ordinance. This amendment details the conditions for keeping urban chickens within the R-1-8 and R-1-10 zones.

You are invited to attend this meeting to provide your input. If you wish to comment or are unable to attend, or have any questions, contact the Community Development Director at 292-4421. All exhibits and materials are available for review at the Woods Cross Municipal Building at 1555 South 800 West, Woods Cross, Utah.

I've been collecting articles on keeping chickens in urban or suburban areas, and it's becoming more and more common- people realize the benefit of having fresh eggs as part of their food storage, and also what fun pets chickens can be.

If you live in, or know anyone who lives in Woods Cross, attend the meeting, or write the city council to encourage them to allow backyard chickens.

Things to keep in mind:

-Hens don't need roosters to lay eggs, so fear of noisy crowing doesn't have to be a concern.
-In their prime, hens can lay nearly an egg every day. Three or four hens can provide more eggs than a family can eat, so you can give eggs to friends or neighbors.
-If you keep chickens in your backyard, you know if they're healthy, and you'll be assured the eggs are high quality.
-Fresh eggs are much better in cooking.
-A few hens don't need a lot of space, and using the deep litter method, don't stink, and don't require very much care.
-Hens are fun pets, especially if you raise them from chicks.
-Hens will provide fertilizer for your garden, and eat bugs.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

One-Hour Bread

Ann's Best Whole Wheat Bread

2 1/2 C hot tap water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp gluten flour
1/8 C vegetable oil
3/8 C honey (I used 1/4 cup instead because that seemed like a lot of honey)
6 C whole wheat flour (I grind my own, no guarantees if you use store bought)
1 Tbsp Saf-instant yeast

Using a mixer with the dough hook attachment, combine water, salt, gluten flour, oil, honey, and half the four. Mix until blended, then add the yeast and the rest of the flour just until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. The dough will be sticky. Be careful not to add too much flour, it will dry out the bread, Cover and let the machine knead for 5 minutes. Remove the dough hook, cover, and let rise for 10-15 minutes. Oil a cutting board and lightly oil your hands. Turn the dough out onto the board and divide into loaves. Do not overwork the dough. Let raise once more for 10-15 minutes. For standard six loaves bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, and small loaves for 22 minutes. Makes 2 standard sized loaves.

I've never used gluten flour or Saf-instant yeast before so I wasn't sure what to expect. The bread is good, it's chewier than my usual recipe, but not overly so. For how fast and easy it was, it's very good bread.

May Picture Round Up

Automatic chicken waterer- the end of the soaker hose (which is on an automatic timer) drips to fill the butter container (with the bigger container to catch the leftovers- the kinks aren't totally worked out yet, but I'm hoping it will allow us to be gone for a day or two without worrying about watering the chickens).

Leaves from last fall mixed with the neighbor's grass clippings make a nice hot compost pile.

Mother's day breakfast in bed (sorry it got turned sideways somehow). If you're wondering why the omlet looks neon-yellow, it's because we've been feeding the chickens lots of lettuce and other food scraps, which makes the yolks a lot darker.

A good rain storm turned our dry riverbed into a rain garden. I think this is the closest we've come to having the water overflow onto the sidewalk. It didn't, but it looked like it might for a little while.

A lot of the water comes from this downspout, but we also have a tube hooked up to a backyard downspout that runs underground until it comes out in the rocks just above the downspout pictured.

My Mister building our dog poop digester.

Digester in place, ready for use. (we've been using it for a couple of weeks now, without noticeable smell!)

J's last soccer game of the season- he really started doing well, being more aggressive this spring. I enjoyed being his coach, and I'm glad it will be someone else's turn next fall.

Tomato plants.  We used the walls of water (the green things on the grass next to the tomatoes) on about half of the plants, and the plants that are not covered are about half the size of the ones that are- I guess walls of water are useful even after threat of frost has passed.

This was our first successful attempt at starting from seed, I transplanted into cups several weeks prior to planting, and was amazed at how much the roots grew during that short time. 

Because CP is so darn cute:

J "losing" his 3rd baby tooth. The funniest thing was that the tooth went flying and was temporarily lost under the stove. We found it, and the tooth fairy found a note from J apologizing for the tooth being dirty. It was very sweet. Luckily the tooth fairy has a tooth washer.

CP helping dad build the shed (made from nearly all scavenged materials- we bought cement blocks to put under it and nails so far- gotta love dumpster diving).

A helping dad.

Moving parts into place. The walls aren't nailed in place yet, we just had them standing up to see how things would fit. It's going to be awesome.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What do you do for fun?

I can't remember what I used to do for fun when I was single.  I'm sure there was something.  I guess I liked reading, listening to music, shopping, playing my guitar, hanging out (is it just "hanging" now?) with friends.  

After I married my Mister, and even more so when J was born, I couldn't answer if someone asked me what I did for fun.  

Last week, someone asked me that, and I surprised myself with how many things I thought of.  I think maybe it just took me awhile (nearly 10 years?) to figure out how to be a wife and a mother and still be me, and have things that I do for myself, for fun.  

Running the 1/2 marathon was really good for me in that way- It forced me to put myself ahead of other things.  I had to run, or I wouldn't be able to make it through the race, so instead of running if I had time, I made time, I let go of some other things in my life and made running a priority.  Sometimes it messed up dinner times or nap times, but we all survived, and I'm happier because of it.  

I'm cutting back running to three times a week now that the race is over, but I plan on keeping my running time a priority.  It makes me feel good, gives me more energy, and it gives me time to think about whatever I want to think about.  Same with gardening.  I love getting my hands dirty, and watching things I plant grow.  Right now the raspberry canes I planted awhile back are starting to sprout tiny leaves and it makes me happy to know that I did that (and especially happy about the berries, I can't wait!).

So when someone asks you what you do for fun, what do you say?  (I'm embarrassed that it took me so long to realize I have a better answer than "I know I used to have things I liked to do, but I can't remember what they were".)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Baking Day

A spurt of energy, aging bananas and lack of things to eat results in this:

I had to open the oven to take this picture.  Whole Wheat Bread

Banana Bread

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Artisan Bread Dough (to put in the fridge and bake later in the week)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Strawberry Jam

I found strawberries for a great price, and bought 12lbs.  I spent the day making three batches of low-sugar jam.  I think I ended up with 6 pints and 13 half pints.  Hopefully that will be enough to get us through the year.  Between PB&J's and yogurt, we go through a lot of jam.  We also have a bowl full of sliced strawberries to eat.  

I find that I feel less overwhelmed by things when I've been getting stuff done.  A shelf full of strawberry jam certainly doesn't hurt (but drat, we're out of regular bread, guess what I'll be doing tomorrow).  I finished the last slice with a thick layer of the jam foam (I love Jam Foam...for a random flashback of jam foam drama, and a description of what jam foam is if you don't know, see here),

In other good news, I now have a ceiling fan in my bedroom (and really nice sheets, I can't wait to go to bed tonight!) so the warm weather isn't going to make it hard to go to sleep and I won't have thoughts about turning my AC before my mom does.  

My tomato seedlings are getting bigger and bigger and are doing well outside.  They've been out all day so far with no signs of sunburn (although it has been overcast) so hopefully they're about done with the hardening off process and I can plant them after this next storm passes.  Saturday maybe?

The surviving chicks seem to be doing well, they enjoyed a nice treat of strawberry stems today and were very happy.

Soccer practice & Game tonight, and then I can crash.  

Lunch with friends tomorrow, then a play date (and bread making somewhere in there).

Soccer game on saturday, and maybe I'll take the kids and go for a bike ride.  I might make it through the weekend!

Monday, April 20, 2009


It's finally spring, the chicks have been doing fine with our older hen, and I've been feeling pretty good, then this weekend, I felt so frenzied with all the activities we had, and feel a little overwhelmed with all the stuff going on this week, and My Mister heading to Moab for a few days.  

Add on today's events and I'm ready to climb into bed.  This morning I took the chicks out to the coop and left them there.  Several hours later I hear much squawking, and run out to see Taja over one of the chicks.  I have no idea how they got out.  The one I caught her with seems to be okay, but will need some antibiotics and to be separated so the other chicks don't peck her injury.  She's missing most all the feathers on her back, and might have some small puncture wounds.  After I brought that chick inside, I noticed that there were only two of the small chicks in the kennel.  I looked inside the hen house, and they weren't there either, so I started looking around the yard and eventually found two piles of feathers on opposite sides of the yard.  We're down to the older hen and three chicks now, assuming the injured one survives.  

Then this afternoon, J arrived home from school with a sore on his lip- where he said another boy slapped/punched him.  There was apparently also a headlock involved- having something to do with J getting off the bus before him.  I hate speaking on the phone and having to confront people, so this was not easy for me, but I called the boy's mom to talk to her about it.  It went okay, and I hope that it doesn't happen again.

I'm in the mood where I'd like to go to sleep and have a good dream and maybe not wake up until life calms down a bit.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Homemade Pretzels

I love pretzels, and I found this recipe today. I'll probably wait until tomorrow, although pretzels for dessert tonight don't sound too bad...

Laura’s Amazing Soft Pretzels:


1 c. water
2 T. yeast
2 t. honey
2 1/2 cups milk
1 stick butter
1/2 cup honey
4 t. salt
8 cups whole wheat flour

(You can make these with white flour and white sugar if you want to have a delicious mound of empty calories…but I have found that using these healthier ingredients does not make us like these pretzels any less!)

Okay, here are the directions for preparing the pretzels that are to die for:

In a large bowl, mix 1 cup very warm water, 2 T. yeast and 2 t. honey. Stir this together and kind of mush the yeast around. Let this sit for a few minutes while you melt a stick of butter in a large saucepan. Add 1/2 cup honey, 4 t. salt and 2 1/2 cups of milk. Heat this to 120 degrees. Pour milk mixture into yeast mixture and stir. Stir in 8 cups of flour, 2 cups at a time. (add more if you need it) Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. Plop it into a bowl, cover it and let it rise for 1-1 1/2 hours. Pull it out of the bowl and knead it a few times to get the air out.

Pull a ball of dough, about the size of your fist off and get ready to make your very first pretzel! (such a proud moment) Roll into a snake and shape into a pretzel (there are step by step photo's on the blog in the link) Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Melt a stick of butter in a saucepan.

Right when you take the pretzels out of the oven, slather them with butter. Lay it on thick. Don’t hold back. Shake salt over the tops.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Pictures by A

A (my 5-year-old) saw the camera on the table (I had it out to photograph my groceries again- don't worry, I'm posting them on their own blog now), and decided to take some pictures. I was going to delete them until I saw the focus he put into them. It's an interesting glimpse into his little head.

Throw-Up Pot

He's been sick. (A few nights ago, he ran downstairs, got a pot, went back upstairs and threw up partly in the pot partly all over the bed- he doesn't get the concept of throwing up in the toilet).


This one seems kind of random to me.

Self Portrait

Little Brother

Bowl and Spoon, Used

Since he's been sick, we haven't been letting him eat as much as usual, so this bowl of applesauce was much wanted. He's feeling hungry, which is good, but he still isn't keeping food down.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Another grocery post, sorry..

Milk was on sale at Smiths Market Place this week for less than Costco, so I decided to go there today instead of costco next week.  

Smiths doesn't break down the receipt like other stores, but before coupons started coming off, the total was pretty close to $90.  

I paid exactly $20.  

The kids soaps and cheerios were free, the knox gelatin and the salsa were -$2 (so buying them subtracted a total of $14 off my bill).  We don't use store bought salsa, but I figured we can donate them to the food bank or give them away.  There were also special deals on the quaker things that made them between 50 cents and $1 per box.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Picture Round Up

Dinner two nights ago- it looked so good I had to take a picture.  Buffalo steak with mushrooms and asparagus and couscous.  Plus a side of home made fake-sour-dough bread to dip in oil and balsamic vinegar.  Dinner doesn't get much better than that.

I've taken up couponing.  As a hobby more than a way to save money, since I can't figure out how people live off of the groceries they can buy with coupons, but getting things for free or really cheap does bring a bit of a rush.  All of this was just over $30.  I "saved" $60.  (I also got a pack of gum for free but forgot to put it in the picture.)  Yes, I'm photographing my groceries now.  My life is that exciting. 

Signs of Spring I:  Baby Chicks 4 bantam Cochins, 1 standard Rhode Island Red (not pictured).

Signs of Spring II: Bare root strawberries planted a week ago are indeed alive and growing.

Signs of Spring III: Popcorn popping on the apricot tree.  The recent cold weather doesn't appear to have done too much damage (yet).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Seed Starting and a Random Picture

I've started a couple of trays of seeds over the two weeks, and they are starting to sprout, so I told my Mister that I was going to need some kind of a light for them, and this is what he came up with. I went to a book club/girls night and when I came home it was all set up. There's a light switch on it to make it easy to turn the lights on and off, and the board that the lights are attached to raises and lowers as the plants grow.

This last picture is just a random one of my Mister after an interesting shave designed to tease and torment our 5-year-old who doesn't like his dad to have any facial hair.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Good Things

-The bulbs are up, there's no stopping spring now.
-I feel pretty good after my 6 mile run this morning.
-I pruned the fruit trees.
-If I'm really lucky, I might just get some new raised beds built today. Maybe.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Greatest Threat

Dear Senator Buttars,

You may think that gays are the greatest threat to America. I disagree.

Hatred and divisiveness are greater threats.

What is the morals of a gay person? You can't answer that, because anything goes. So now you're moving toward a society that has no morals.

Why doesn't senator Buttars understand that just because someone's morals are different doesn't mean they don't have any? I don't understand why people are gay. I'm not, so it doesn't really make sense to me. However, I do understand how it feels to love and to want to be loved, and I can't imagine being told that loving the person I do is amoral, and that the person I love and myself can't have any protections against being thrown out of our home or fired from our jobs, or the ability to provide health insurance for each other, because our love doesn't count somehow.

It's easy to focus on things that make us different, but maybe we could be a little more understanding if we focused on the things that make us the same.

There is no "Gay Agenda" other than to be treated like everyone else. I'd like to know who's behind the "Hate Agenda".

Monday, February 16, 2009

Training Schedule

I pulled out a calendar and planned my runs now through race day. Now that I know what I'm looking at I'm only a little worried about it. :) Last week (well, three days of last week) I ran 2.5-3 miles. I'm going to run 3 miles monday-friday this week, and on saturday 5 miles. (I hope the weather is good, because 5 miles on a treadmill sounds boring.)

Next week I'll run 4 miles M-F and 6 miles on saturday.

The first week of march I'll run 4 miles M-F and 7 miles on saturday.

The second week of march I'll run 4 miles M-F and 8 on saturday.

The third week of march I'll run 5 miles M-F and 9 on saturday.

The fourth week of march I'll run 5 miles M-F and 10 on saturday.

The next week I'll run 5 miles M-F and 13 on saturday.

The second week of april I'll run 5 miles M-F and 6-8 miles on saturday.

The week of April 13th I'll run 4/3/4/3/3 with the BIG Race on saturday.

Typing it all out makes me a little worried. But hopefully I'll be ready, and not over train and injure myself. May- you interested in coming out for some of the longer runs (or the short ones)? We could run on the legacy trail, if it would stop snowing! For the short runs I'm staying on the treadmill, but treadmills get awfully dull after so many miles.

my 5-year-old

Yesterday during sunday school, the primary president called me out into the hall to talk about my 5-year-old. Apparently he's been a bit wild lately, getting up and running around, and not listening to his teachers.

A has always been a bit on the energetic side, but for the most part, he's a pretty obedient kid for me, so I'm not sure what to do about his wild side in primary. My first idea is bribery. It can't be too complicated for his teacher, but I'm thinking a sticker on his hand and if the teacher has to take the sticker away during class, no treat when he gets home?

I'd rather not resort to bribery, but short of sitting in class with him every sunday, I'm not sure what to do.

I'm now thinking about how his swimming teacher struggled with him last year- because he'd get so excited that he was always getting into trouble (like the time he nearly drowned). So maybe the problem is not that he's trying to be naughty, but that he gets so excited with so many other children around and kind of loses control.

If I go with the sticker thing, it would put some power behind the teacher asking him to calm down and listen.

Any ideas?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dream Yard?

This Old House (yes, I've stopped getting Parents magazine in favor of TOH, I must be a parenting Pro by now, or it's too late to learn anything else... I'm not sure.) magazine had a neat article about a woman in Seattle and her sustainable yard. I've always thought that kids need a big patch of grass for running around on, and to some extent I still do, but when I think back about playing in the yard as a child, I think about picking raspberries, and rose hips, and those little cheese-weed things, and putting them in a bucket and rigging up sticks to pretend we were cooking our bounty over a fire. The pretend fire-cooking usually happened under the overhangs of two lilac bushes, or in the center of a close grove of trees.

We did regularly play soccer or baseball in the field next to our house, which was mostly grass, but I don't remember the grass being central to my adventures, and I look out at my backyard with no places to hide or pretend is a cave and I feel like my kids are losing out on such an important part of childhood.

I've planned so much of my yard for growing food (or grass that would have to be pulled up (and a Mister who'd have to be talked into pulling up grass)) that there are few places I could grow any kind of fort. We did make a play house out of PVC pipe and sheets several years ago, so we may have to get it out this summer, but I'm also thinking about growing a sunflower fort on the side of my house where the compost bin and nothing else is currently. Wouldn't this be fun to play in?

I had looked at the article in TOH when it came a couple of months ago, and I remember thinking how cool the yard was, and then thinking how there just wasn't enough grassy space for kids to play. Since I've changed my mind about how much grass a kid really needs in their backyard (especially considering the proximity of several parks), I'm looking again at this and thinking how much I'd like my kids to have places to imagine and hide and pretend.
Here's the layout-and to see pictures and read more information about this cool yard, click on the "sustainable yard" link above. (The only thing wrong with this layout is that it needs more fruit trees and garden beds)