Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Oatmeal-Honey Mask--my new favorite indulgence

My skin has been dry and flaky from the cold winter weather. I visited an Origins store this weekend hoping to find a solution, but their face cream burned a little and the ginger fragrance they are putting in everything right now makes me want to puke. Apparently I was going to have to take matters into my own hands.

I took a small handful of Bob's Red Mill oatmeal and added enough organic honey to make a paste. Then, I added an egg white. I smoothed it on my face and left it for ten minutes. When I washed it off, my skin was smooth and pretty, and I used probably half the moisturizer I've needed since it started snowing a few weeks ago.

If I added flour and baking powder, this facial mask could probably make some super yummy cookies, too!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sharing the Harvest

Enough about Christmas. Consider the following:

"...most of the fruit that makes it into our grocery stores is transported great distances (1,000+ miles on average). All this energy, while a large percentage of fruit in people’s backyard simply goes to waste because most homeowners lack the time and interest to properly share or store this food."

I read this at a website dedicated to promoting urban harvesting at .

In my own backyard, about a hundred apples of the almost extinct Winesap variety perished in an early freeze. I picked them as we used them, but I wasn't fast enough. One morning I woke up and the frost was half an inch thick on my porch, the tree full of brown and mushy apples. I'm not the only perpetrator; fruit trees are ubiquitous in my area, and yards full of rotten, fallen fruit just as common.

I don't buy fruit that is grown outside of a 50- mile radius. There's no need to. This severely limits our citrus intake, but we can gorge on plums, pears, and apples without leaving my yard. The wasted apples are not contributing to emissions, but I know someone out there would have been happy to pick some free fruit.

Here is my idea to remedy this: I want to form a "fruit ring" among friends in my area. As fruits ripen, we can have "picking parties", allowing families to socialize and take home a crate of free, organic fruit. Because various species and types of fruit trees ripen at different times, this could lead to a summer of free fruit while eliminating waste. Harvests were traditionally a social occasion, so this would preserve a dying aspect of our agrarian past.

If you don't feel like making harvest into a summer-long party, you can always offer the fruit on freecycle. I saw many offers for "you pick it" fruit, and there was always such a long list of willing takers that I didn't get any.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hamming It Up!

What's the perfect gift for a pork-hating family member and his Jewish wife? A ham!

Following this logic, a family member who hopefully does not read this blog bought my family a ham for Christmas. And it's HUGE. It's all natural/no preservative/etc so we'll be eating it anyway. Here are my plans for gnawing our way through the monster.

Sunday: Homemade pizza, salad
Monday: Baked ham, mashed potatoes, peas (organic frozen peas at Costco are $1 a pound!)
Tuesday: Macaroni and cheese with-you guessed it-ham, salad
Wednesday: Omelets with-yup-ham, cut up fruit and yogurt
Thursday: Hot ham (of course) and cheese sandwiches, carrot sticks
Friday: Split pea soup with what's left of the ham, which hopefully won't be too much
Saturday: Something light and blessedly ham free. I have a feeling we'll be off the ham for a year or so after this week, until next Christmas when the next ham appears in the mailbox.

Clearly, ham is the gift that keeps on giving, because we'll be thinking of this gift all week! The family should be happy because they are always clamoring for more meat in their dinners. Here it is, kids--all meat, all week. Not the healthiest, but I just can't bear to waste food.

btw.... except for wrapping and mailing, I am almost DONE with Christmas. A week early! Go me!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Election... ugh

(Rant Warning)

Election year is almost here. I hate election year.

I'm a moderate... kind of. I'm fiscally one way, socially another, and I have yet to meet a politician I would trust to hold my purse, much less control the multi-billion dollar US treasury. There are so many choices this time around, which should be promising, but they are each worse than the next. A downward spiral of corruption, self-interest, and wonkiness. Even when they take up the banners I want them to take, it feels transparent and superficial.

It's obvious that the only thing they care about is getting elected. And then it will be back to the same old crap: bickering and finger-pointing and never actually accomplishing anything.

4-H... it's not just for farmers

Not anymore at least. A few homeschooling mommies and I have decided to start our own 4-H club!

My first thought was, I am way too cool for 4-H. WAY too cool. Too cool to attend, too cool to let my kids attend, and certainly too cool to lead the darn thing. But then I looked through their catalog and saw what a variety of learning opportunities they offer. We can get materials to teach sewing, ecology, engineering, cooking, archery, computer design, government... and CHEAP! Just a few dollars for each curriculum set. Homeschoolers are used to 3 or 4 figure curriculum orders, so paying $2 for a learning experience almost makes me feel guilty. I regularly spend more on a lousy cup of green tea.

We had to attend a numbingly boring evening meeting peopled mostly by the horse-y/cow-y/farm-y set, but that, so far, has been the only drawback.

You don't have to be a homeschooler, or a farmer, or an animal lover, to be in 4-H. If you have children between the ages of 5 and 17, I would check it out. You can find your local group here.

Just the dinners, ma'am

You are probably bored with hearing about what I eat for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast is usually the same rotation of whole grain muffins/pancakes/french toast/waffles/hot cereal/cold cereal with fruit, and lunch is not a lot more interesting. It really doesn’t vary from week to week, so I’m going to start listing just the dinners.

I was a vegetarian when I married my carnivore husband. Since then, I have whittled our red meat intake from every night to once a week. We also eat chicken or other white meat about twice a week. My family knows they’ll get their caveman style supper every Sunday, which makes them a lot more open to the bean dishes that are staples in our household.

Sunday: Grilled steak, pesto pasta salad, green salad
Monday: Refried Beans, Spanish rice, corn tortillas
Tuesday: Chicken vegetable stirfry with yakisoba noodles
Wednesday: Lemon Rosemary Chicken, linguini, salad
Thursday: Pasta e fagiole soup, homemade whole wheat ciabatta, veggie sticks
Friday: Fettuccini with Creamy Blue Cheese Sauce, salad
Saturday: Vegetable Quiche with Rice Crust, fruit

I'm really looking forward to the creamy blue cheese sauce. I deserve an indulgence tomorrow because I have to juggle our big monthly co-op meeting (about 200 people), a doctor's appointment for my youngest, and a cookie exchange for which I must produce 5 dozen cookies. It's looking to be a busy day, and that creamy, tangy cheese will taste a dream when it's finally over.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

All I Want for Christmas

"All I want for Christmas is a flat-panel television, a digital camera, $50 running shoes, and a pile of toys."

It sounds like an adult wish list, and a rather ambitious one at that, but this, increasingly, is what kids are asking Santa for. And Santa is obliging.

On a message board I frequent, a woman mentioned that she is buying her young children, among other pricey gifts, their own flat-panel HD television sets. Someone mentioned that this seemed excessive, and she responded that this was the first Christmas her family could afford more extravagant gifts, so they are hopping feet first on the spend-spend-spend train with one way tickets to Debtville.

She didn't put it in those exact words, but shockingly close.

My problems with this are many. Here's a few:

  • She obviously feels guilty that her young children enjoyed simpler holidays in the past when 'simple' should be one of the major goals. Thank you, Corporate America. Your work here is done.
  • Electronics are not appropriate gifts for children. Children have no business watching TV often enough to have use for their own set. Even if they are using them for video games--no, especially if they are using them for video games! If parents decides to overdo presents one year, more power to them. They could buy one of those nifty wooden swing sets, or a Brio train set, or any of the thousands of really nice educational and earth-savvy toys.
  • As soon as her family has extra money, it goes to consumer electronics. As opposed to: savings, college funds, charities, investments, or wiser purchases that will be useful and useable in five years.
  • Her children will not be thinking about religion, goodwill toward men, or giving to others this season. They will be too busy watching TV. Their parents have left them no alternative.
  • What will happen if they are back to forced frugality next year? The kids will feel deprived.
  • They are probably convinced they can't afford organic produce.
  • If too many people do this, it will become expected, and then children from more responsible families will feel unloved and left-out. Oh, wait, that's already happened.

In essence, they have ruined Christmas, both this year and possibly the next, for their family and every family they know.

Many of us could afford to buy expensive gadgets for each of our children, but know better. Here is a good rule of thumb for buying children's holiday gifts: Buy them something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. For example, a four-year-old girl could receive the Barbie she's asking for, a bike to replace one she is outgrowing, a cute pair of flannel pajamas, and a big stack of books, plus a stocking full of miscellanea. Nowhere does a television fit in.

If you make a pie graph of a child's life, TV should be a marginal, barely visible sliver. The rest could be eating, sleeping, playing, learning, socializing. The bigger that television section gets, the smaller everything else gets. So even if a parent thought (despite scientific evidence to the contrary) that their children's minds and bodies would not be adversely affected by sitting in front of a flickering screen, they would have to consider that they are taking valuable hours away from the things that really matter.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Lest we start thinking video games and lead-infused plastic are our only options for playthings, here are a few cheap and eco-sensible ideas.

Peekaboo, how-big-is-baby (etc) with a parent or sibling
Wooden spoons and pots
My little ones are usually happiest on my hip or toddling after their older siblings!

Preschoolers/Younger kids:
Painting, especially finger painting
Homemade playdough
"Circle time" games like I'm a little teapot and ring-around-the-roses
Plain cloth dolls
Wooden blocks
Tea parties
Lacing toys
Water play--Fill a basin of water and give them measuring spoons, straws, etc. When it is too cold to be wet outdoors, we do this in the bathtub.
Small musical instruments, including homemade ones. Remember making a guitar froma shoe box and rubber bands?
Imaginative play! When you take away a small child's toys, they make up the most amazing stories and narratives. "Spoiled" children are actually being robbed of their imagination.

Older kids:
All of the above, plus:
Reading library books
Playing with/training pets
This is a great age to learn productive work, like crocheting, weaving, basket-making, carpentry, and cooking--with supervision of course.

There is a woman in my homeschool co-op who just gave birth to her sixth child. I am always amazed by her children's projects. They are the most accomplished kids, always dissecting owl pellets or weaving Egyptian-style belts. She finds the time with six children between teen and newborn, plus running a very successful business, homeschooling, remodeling a home, and all of the little things that take up a mommy's time, so I know that I can do better!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pull out your yarmulke!

Here comes Hanukkah! The only eight nights a year when I can fry potatoes, open a jar of (homemade, organic, of course) apple sauce, and call it dinner. You'd love our menorah--we just gather eight candles from around the house.

Somewhere I have a real menorah, but I can never find it. It's in the Christmas stuff and I don't start digging through that until Hanukkah is over.


Seven Weird Things...

about me!

1. I borrow over $30,000 worth of books and movies from the library every year. I have a little help from the kids. That still seems excessive. How do I read so much when I have so little time? It puts the occasional fine in perspective.

2. When I was in high school, my favorite snack was cheez-it crackers and ranch dressing. It gets weirder--I would put the crackers in a bowl, crunch them up with my spoon, and pour the dressing over, kind of like breakfast cereal and milk.

3. I'm allergic to fish, but not shellfish.

4. Cheap soap/cosmetics/etc give me a weird rash. I have had so many people try to convince me the cheap ones are exactly the same. Tell it to my epidermis, people!

5. I wish I had more children. This is only weird because I have (drumroll...) 8. We're talking about adopting because I think this factory is permanently closed.

6. I was accepted to Stanford and I DIDN'T GO. By choice. It's a long story.

7. I harbor a secret love of hip-hop, the really egregious stuff like 50 Cent and Eminem. It has a great beat.

Aren't I weird?

Monday, December 03, 2007

This Week's Menu, plus a few simple goals

Breakfast: Pancakes
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Miscellaneous Mexican food. Our company ended up staying another day due to airport difficulties—YAY—so we were caught without enough food for a another big "company" meal and ended up getting take-out from a local Mexican restaurant. At least it was local. :-) They gave us so much food; we’ll be eating rice and beans for days. No complaints here.

Breakfast: Blueberry muffins
Lunch: Fruit and yogurt smoothies, whole wheat crackers and cheese
Dinner: Leftover Mexican rice and beans, tortillas, leftover Mexican food

Breakfast: Hot cereal, bananas
Lunch: PBJ, pears
Dinner: Hanukkah Latkes, apple sauce, salad

Breakfast: Homemade apple crisp, milk
Lunch: Salad and cheese wraps
Dinner: Lemon-rosemary chicken, brown rice, salad

Breakfast: Hot cereal, bananas
Lunch: Loukoumades, fruit
Dinner: Chicken and whole wheat pasta soup

Breakfast: Cold cereal, milk, fruit
Lunch: Homemade granola, yogurt, fruit
Dinner: Vegetable quiche, homemade wheat bread

Breakfast: Oatmeal pancakes, apricot-pineapple chutney
Lunch: Hanukkah pretzels, baby carrots
Dinner: Linguine all’Amatriciana, salad, homemade bread

This week’s goals:

  • Baby proof without going crazy at Target—on her six month birthday exactly, little Rachael decided to show off for our guests by crawling. Now she’s everywhere. What a difference a week makes! But I have no inclination to fill my healthy home with plastic, or to patronize a toy industry that seems hell-bent on poisoning our children with lead, so this will be a challenge! I also have to find a safe napping spot for her. We’re co-sleepers, but the ring of pillows isn’t even a challenge anymore.
  • Experiment with whole wheat sourdough starter
  • Visit my friend and her newly home-birthed baby, just one day old as I write.
  • Finish one Christmas gift project and get at least halfway through another.