Monday, March 25, 2013

Quick & Dirty Housekeeping

When the weeks get long and busy, when the world seems like it's creeping in to keep you from housekeeping, focus on the kitchen and the bathroom(s). As long as you have someplace to cook a good home-cooked meal, and you can take a shower and brush your teeth without stepping over clutter or having to stare at globs of toothpaste, everything else can wait until next week.

But if the next week and the next come around and you're still "just having a busy week," it's time to accept this as your life and start finding ways to get the rest of the house onto a cleaning schedule and back into rotation. Maybe it's letting go of the idea that you have to do all of something at once--wipe down the mirror while you're thinking about it, scrub the toilet later, sweep the kitchen without mopping or run the vacuum in one room at a time if that's what it takes.

For us, having a set schedule is what's really helped. Occasionally, the vacuuming gets put off long enough that it's just not getting caught up, but skipped. But since we vacuum twice a week, that's no big deal. Occasionally the "Big Scrub Bathroom Day" is "just get the laundry out, swish a brush through the toilet and wipe down the vanity, the mirror and shower and floor can wait until next time!" When you know the last time you scrubbed the shower and you know the next time it's scheduled to happen, it's a lot easier to give yourself a break every once in a while--and also to remember that you skipped it the last two times and it's time to focus on that before it gets out of hand.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Menu: March 24-31



Mr. Moon has hit the jackpot with hours at his new job, 5 days this week and almost all closing shifts (which means more guaranteed hours). Of course, it also means he's left the house before he's supposed to be serving his parental units dinner, which means a week full of crockpot and casserole meals.

With the end of Lent, we're still observing the No Meat on Friday rule for the parental units. We'd been hoping to have a family Ham dinner on Easter, but Mr. Moon's big brother won't be coming down from Seattle until later in the week, Mr. Moon has to work, and none of our friends can come Sunday evening anyway, so we've postponed Ham Dinner night until next Tuesday. We're having Seafood Sunday at Mum's request, instead. I'm going to take some time this week to think up some delicious side dishes to go along with the ham (especially since I'm not a big fan of ham and don't typically eat it, so I want the sides to be flavorful and hearty enough for a decent meal on their own--or maybe I'll cook myself a steak). The ham leg is also WAY more than we can possibly eat in one meal, so I'm expecting Mr. Moon to slice and chip it up before storing it, and I'll make quiche for everyone else for the next morning.

What's on the menu?

Breakfasts: Eggs in a nest, Eggs over Polenta, cottage cheese & pineapple.

Lunches: Turkey Sandwiches, wonton soup, leftovers.

Snacks: Fruit, hardboiled eggs, cheese, mushrooms.

Dinners:
Monday: Sloppy Joe [vegetarian; lentils; crockpot; freezer]

Tuesday: On Your Own; the 'Rents are going to a friends' for card night, Mr. Moon and I will have guests over reorganizing the garage so we're going to pick up a Costco pizza. [OYO]

Wednesday: French Onion Soup [soup; traditional; pressure cooker]

Thursday: Chicken Enchiladas, using pre-shredded chicken from the freezer [bird; casserole; freezer]

Friday: Last Friday of Lent! Clam Chowder [seafood; soup; crockpot]

Saturday: Roast chicken (rosemary, garlic honey glaze), roast potatoes, green beans [bird; traditional; freezer]

Easter Sunday: Might be doing a nice brunch with some friends before Mr. Moon has to work; dinner is Seafood Lasagna (krab and shrimp, maybe scallops too) with white sauce [seafood; casserole; freezer]

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What's on your menu this week? Need planning suggestions? I'll be linking up at orgjunkie.com, if you need other ideas!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Do What Works.

I'm horrible at taking medications regularly. I've tried so many tricks and life hacks and tactics and ultimately they all fail to overcome my subconscious resistance to taking medication every day. I don't even know WHY I'm bad at it!

A couple years ago, I got so annoyed by myself and my roommates leaving coats and purses everywhere that was NOT the coat closet that I snapped. The issue was that the coat closet was across the entire house from the door that we used, and no one could be expected to use it. So, I went on Freecycle and got a freestanding wooden coat/hat rack to put by the door we used. Results were instantaneous, and worst case scenario was that if someone dropped their belongings on a chair and came back to find them not there, they knew exactly where to look.

It was a revelation. Instead of fighting to do things that I simply wasn't going to do, maybe I could find different ways of doing things that would work better. It seems so simple, really, but it was huge. I draw the line at this solution, but a great example is how I know a few people who simply will never fold their clothes. One in particular came up with a solution that works for him: Rather than throwing dirty laundry on the floor all the time because the laundry hamper was full of clean clothes, or throwing clean clothes on the floor to use the hamper for transporting dirty ones (and ultimately forgetting what was what and just rewashing everything), he got two hampers. One clean, one dirty. No piles, no folding, no confusion.

I don't know WHY I resist taking pills. It's not fear of the unknown, I know enough medical science to be able to educate myself when I need to, and my mom is a nurse. I trust western medicine, or at least I think I do. But I know that medications have side effects and I'm prone to getting them, I know that western medicine is not foolproof. I've had so many awful doctors that I'm reluctant to take them at their word, and let's face it, big words are scary even to the educated.

All this to bring us to the fact that I am bad at taking pills and inhalers daily, but I'm good at changing eating habits or remembering how to treat symptoms. I also find I'm much more likely to drink three cups of tea a day, not just because I like tea but to make a point of doing so for better asthma maintenance. I resist taking a pill for my migraines, and instead will reach for a cup of coffee and a nap, and now a cotton ball with some peppermint oil, or looking up the acupressure points for various pain relief. And then if those don't work, I don't mind taking a pill.

But rather than beating myself up about it, or waste time psycho-analysing myself, I've started embracing my natural tendencies. Bleach and ammonia (not together, obviously) both irritate my asthma in any quantity, but vinegar doesn't if I don't go overboard with it. Pills give me unusual and confusing side effects, but acupressure either works or it doesn't. If I don't drink my tea, I don't get the effects of it, but I don't go through withdrawal either.

I don't know why I resist lifestyle changes that involve daily medication, but do better with lifestyle changes that involve daily intake of sunshine and bee pollen. I still don't get my bee pollen daily, but it works when I take it, and maybe that's the biggest factor: So many of the treatments involving pharmaceutical medications work by being consistent with them, but natural remedies will still work with intermittent use. So the part of me that feels guilty for not being consistent is quieted by the part that knows that with these home remedies, consistency is less important. So I feel less defeated, and more likely to just say "oh, I should drink my tea today" and not worry about the fact that I've missed three days in a row. Instead of saying, "I missed the last three days, what's one more when I would have to get up to get water for my pills that will make me sleepy when I have stuff to do today?"

Do what works. If something doesn't work, don't beat yourself up about it, just find a different thing that will work. It's a lesson I will probably still be learning when I'm old and dying, but it's a lesson that I hope to become better at putting into practice.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Menu: March 18-24



I had an absolute BLAST this weekend, how was yours? Went to a party Saturday night and woke up with the Irish Flu, on St Patrick's day no less, and then some friends really wanted some social time so after Mr. Moon was released from servitude we went to grab a pint at the bar. By the time we got home, it was clear that this was not just The Irish Flu but some sort of actual ailment, as hangovers don't usually get worse again after getting better, or some with overfilled lymph nodes and throats so sore you can't speak. Tea and soup were consumed, menu planning was postponed.

But of course that meant we were waking up this morning to an early-ish shift that would last through dinner time, and no dinner plan. No more putting it off. Thank goodness for leftovers, we knew we could just hand the 'Rents a plate and point them toward the leftover corned beef in the fridge. We made an easy menu plan for the week, which involved many hand gestures, some texting for more complicated requests on my part, plenty of giggling, and an awful lot of comfort foods. Considering its relative healthfulness AND lack of necessary grocery shopping, I must say I was rather impressed with our work.

After apologizing to anyone with whom I may have shared my cold at the party Saturday night, I realized that this is pretty much exactly how my allergies manifest. On the one hand, yay, I haven't infected anyone, but on the other hand it means I could be looking at more than just a couple days of Yuck and hoarseness. Seems like it's going to be a bad year for allergies. Sadly, we needed lemons for tea and a couple other random things, so we made a quick run to the store, which is how I found myself staring down a box of coconut popsicles and drooling. I'll probably be living off popsicles and soup for a few days, and clearly getting back to my bee pollen regimen is required.

What do you do for allergy and cold season?
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What's on the menu?

Breakfasts: Eggs, yogurt

Lunches: Ramen, quesadillas

Snacks: I kid you not, the menu board says "Eat the fruit!"

Dinners:
Monday: Corned Beef and cabbage (I'm having mine open faced with swiss on rye if I decide I can handle swallowing solid food) [beef; traditional; leftovers]

Tuesday: Wild Rice Soup (leftover from when it got thawed but not eaten on Saturday) [vegetarian; soup; leftovers]

Wednesday: Pressure-cooker chili [vegetarian; soup; pressure cooker]

Thursday: On Your Own night [OYO]

Friday: Spaghetti [vegetarian; pasta]

Saturday: Fish Tacos [fish]

Sunday: On Your Own [OYO]

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What's on your menu this week? Need planning ideas? I'll be linking up at orgjunkie.com, if you need other ideas!

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Latest Dirt: Seeds!

I was toodling around on the internet one day and came across an offer for a free heirloom seeds catalog. Figured I might as well look through it, for entertainment value if nothing else. Well when it arrived and I finally had a chance to look through it, I discovered that the seed packets aren't significantly more expensive than buying GMO seeds from the local nurseries. And CERTAINLY less expensive than buying a garden's worth of starts! 

I made myself a wish list in the catalog, starring everything I wanted. Then discovered that I could order online, so I went through and started adding things to my cart, paring down some of my selections as I went. $112!! Well that was a little more than I wanted to pay, and I'm still not sure how much space I'm even working with, so I pared it down a bit further. Removed some of the more exotic varieties, replaced some of them with slightly less expensive more familiar varieties, and tried to map out a bit in my head where I expect these plants to go. Got it down to $85 including shipping, and the 'Rents are going to chip in a bit too. 

So without further ado, my seed list for the year:
Drumroll please.....!

  • Blue Lake Bush 274 Bean

  • Chioggia (Bassano) Beet

  • Detroit Dark Red Beet

  • Golden Beet

  • Rapini Broccoli

  • Purple of Sicily Cauliflower

  • Glory of Enkhuizen Cabbage

  • Mammoth Red Rock Cabbage

  • Kuroda Long 8 Carrot

  • Zwolsche Krul Celery (an herb-bearing rather than stalk-bearing variety)

  • Boston Pickling Cucumber

  • Red Wonder Wild Strawberry

  • Variegated Cat Grass (barley, for the kitty)

  • Dwarf Siberian Kale

  • Carentan Leek

  • Ishikura (scallion onion)

  • Southport Red Globe onion

  • Stuttgarter Onion

  • Purple Plum radish

  • Fordhook Zucchini

  • Zucchini-Golden

  • Butternut-Waltham

  • Black Early Tomato

  • Marglobe Supreme tomato

  • Riesentraube Tomato (a cherry-bunch variety)

  • Reisetomate Tomato (You'll want to image-search this, it looks like cherry-bunch tomatoes that all grow into a deformed mass. It also looks delicious.)

  • Basil - Lime

  • Basil - Corsican

  • Catnip

  • Cilantro, Slo-Bolt

  • Chinese Chives Mixed

  • Dill Vierling

  • Tarragon, Russian

  • Dwarf Jewel Mix - Nasturtium

  • Brocade Mix Marigold

  • Autumn Beauty - Sunflower




Mr. Moon and I are pretty excited to get our hands dirty. Next step is to map out the beds on paper, although to be honest I don't think we're going to "get to it." I suspect that we will end up walking out there, seed packets in hand, and marking them out like stage sets until we like how it looks, then planting. First and foremost, I'm not able to make any of the garden planning sites work for me. Secondly I'm having trouble with drawing programs, wanting to be perfectly accurate, not wanting to go out and take measurements at the times that I think of it (usually at night or when I'm having trouble walking), and really, he is a visual learner. I don't think either of us will really know what we want to do out there unless we're out there making the decisions. This is simply not going to work as a computer-model project.

I'll do what I can though. Once I get the seed packets in hand, I should be able to take the companion planting lists and at least figure out what can go together and what can't. Plus I already know where the tomatoes, sunflowers, and herbs are going.
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What's going in your garden this year? Have a small pot of herbs on the balcony, or settling into some acreage? 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Menu: March 11-17



Mr. Moon's new job is shaping up well. The busier weeks seem to actually be good for us in some ways, since it forces us to be a bit more rigid with our scheduling. it does have the benefit of not feeling as if we have all the time in the world to accomplish things. On the other hand, it makes me much more anxious when I'm hit with sudden exhaustion or the inability to walk, for example. I'm still learning to be fluid with my planning when necessary, and I suppose that will be a lesson I will keep learning throughout my life.

I am rather excited to get onto planting, though it looks like it will be waiting until next week at the earliest. I'd like to be starting seeds indoors, but as I've discovered that heirloom, Non-GMO seeds aren't any more expensive than I've been buying conventional seeds at the nurseries, I've decided to order some of those and do the best I can with the timing. Fortunately we've been saving up our milk and egg cartons, so we should have plenty of seed cups and can hurry them along a bit with some mini-greenhouse action.


What's on the menu?

Breakfasts: Bagels with chive & thyme cream cheese; yogurt and granola; fried eggs

Lunches: Pasta salad; quesadillas; turkey sandwiches

Snacks: fruit

Dinners:
Monday: Turkey Stew and Dumplings [turkey; freezer; crockpot; traditional]

Tuesday: Grilled cheese and tomato soup (possibly homemade roasted red pepper tomato soup, probably not) [vegetarian; light; soup]

Wednesday: Salmon cakes, rice cooked in salmon stock, broccoli [fish; freezer; traditional]

Thursday: On Your Own night; I'm making peppered cream steak for date night! [OYO]

Friday: Spaghetti [vegetarian; pasta]

Saturday: Wide Rice and Veggies Soup [vegetarian; rice; soup; freezer]

Sunday: Happy St. Patrick's Day! On Your Own Night; the parents are having friends over for dinner for corned beef and cabbage, the mister and I will eat leftovers [OYO]

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What's on your menu this week? Need planning ideas? I'll be linking up at orgjunkie.com, if you need other ideas!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Building raised beds (a little late in the game)

First let me start by saying: The lot this house was built on was the rock pit for the subdivision, and if you dig more than about 2 inches into the dirt, you get rocks. Solid rocks. There's not much dirt to speak of, and tilling the "earth" for planting is a pain in the--well, everything. Plus, when you add dirt, it just filters into the rocks further to fill them in. As you can imagine, the entire yard got VERY dry this past summer!

So, raised beds are the way to go here. Combine this with the old lady with bionic joints, the younger lady (that'd be me) with old lady joints, and kneeling on the ground to plant a garden is simply out of the question. We need raised beds to be at least 18 inches tall (preferably closer to 2 ft) just to be able to reach them from a chair, which means extra wood and dirt expense to build the 4 ft x 48 ft raised garden we want in the side yard. I mean it's literally two to three times what we NEED, since we only NEED a raised bed to be 6-10 inches tall to begin with!

Mr. Moon and I recently saw a link to these raised beds on legs on Pinterest, and thought they were genius. I also thought I could modify the design slightly to have the legs be detachable without dismantling the actual "bed" portion of the box, so that "eventually" when we move we might be able to take these suckers with us! (This is a down side of our situation being so fluid, we could be building a huge vegetable garden just to be moving months or a couple years later.)

My brother and I were discussing this, and he suggested putting the bed-platforms on sawhorses, thereby eliminating the need to try to support half of a garden while dismantling legs--now we'd just need the ability to move the garden onto a rolling cart of some kind to get it into a truck. Of course, now my imagination is going wild about making these planters roll to begin with. But we can screw the wheels on at a later date when we're ready to move them, if we decide they're necessary.

My next hurdle is deciding what to use for the bottom surface of the platform. I don't want plywood glue dissolving over time and leeching into my food. I think my best bet at that point is to use the same cedar wood planks, space them a little apart for drainage, and call it good. But I'm not sure a) how large or small the spaces between my planks need to be; b) whether I should put a layer of something down to reduce soil loss; and if so, c) what would that even be? chicken wire? fabric? something else?

Then we need to determine sawhorse plans. The Family Handyman has sawhorse plans that both the first two look good--though the second one looks easier to stack, I think the first one would be easier to build. Especially if I substituted a 2x6 for the top piece of wood where the platform will be resting, to distribute the weight a little more.

At this point I am thinking: 2'x4'x10" beds built out of 1"x10" cedar planks; 1"x2" cedar plank bottoms placed width-wise with 4 inch gaps; hardware cloth with 1/4 inch holes, just like the interest tutorial says; straw; dirt!; homemade sawhorses.

My next step is to now take these measurements and figure out a wood and soil requirement per-bed and the whole project, and start saving up for the first couple beds. The nice thing about making them all individual, perhaps only sharing a few of the saw horses, is that we can save up for a couple at a time.

Considering we can't even get planting outside for about another 6 weeks, I hope we can have the first couple beds built by then. But I need to order my seeds tomorrow!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Menu: Mar 4-10

What's on the menu?

Breakfasts: Eggs & toast; yogurt and granola; cottage cheese and pineapple; muffins!

Lunches: Tuna; egg salad; grilled cheese

Snacks: apples; oranges

Dinners:
Monday: Lasagna [vegetarian; casserole; pasta]

Tuesday: Leftover cabbage & pork roast soup [pork; soup; leftovers]

Wednesday: BLTs and yellow potato salad [bacon; sandwich]

Thursday: On Your Own [OYO]

Friday: French Toast Casserole and fruit salad [vegetarian; breakfast for dinner; casserole]

Saturday: Salmon cakes & broccoli & swiss chard [fish; freezer]

Sunday: OYO [OYO]
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What's on your menu this week? Need recipes ideas? Check out orgjunkie.com where I'll be linking up to Menu Plan Monday!

Down the Rabbit Hole: Kombucha

We screwed up our last batch of kombucha. Not royally or irreparably, but we let it ferment in the jar for 17 days instead of 10. We just... lost track of time, I guess. The only way we even knew what day it started was because we had the last batch's bottling date on the bottles in the fridge. So first Mr. Moon forgot to mark the jar, and then I forgot to put a reminder in my To Do list, and then we lost track of time... and then we spent 5 days going "we should bottle that!"

I did a little research to find out whether it would be palatable and safe. I found one source that said that anything gone above 21 days was "unpalatable" and "too sour," and another that said that people in cooler, northern climates often ferment theirs for 20-30 days. So I figured my 17 days was probably safe, especially since "unpalatable" is a very personal statement.

We did taste it before we bottled it all, and it tasted still very sweet. We mixed it with some tart cherry juice when we bottled it and, believe it or not, it's just about perfect! It has a nice dry, not-too-sweet flavor to it, with a hint of cherry.

The bonus to this research is that I figured out why some of my bottles kept coming out flat and some much fizzier, even within the same batch. I thought it might have to do with the amount of microbes in the tea, since if we don't stir it up there is more cloudiness in the last bottle. However, it apparently has more to do with the amount of headspace when bottling. We increased our headspace a bit, which also resulted in a little less juice action per bottle, and I thought we found a nice balance of flavors and texture.

We will be making a new batch of Kombucha later this week, so I will get some pictures then and post our recipe.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Recipe: Stuffed Cabbage Soup

As with so many of my recipes, a lot of this was "dump shit in the crockpot" and "clean out the fridge." Which it wasn't even intended to be! But that's ok. It smells (and tasted!) yummy.


Ingredients:
1 smallish head of cabbage
1 cup brown rice
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 jar spaghetti sauce (or just add another can of tomatoes)
1 chopped onion
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 to 1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder roast leftovers (totally optional!)
2 chicken or veggie bouillon cubes
6-8 cups water (or skip the bouillon and use stock)
Seasonings to taste

Directions:
1) Chop cabbage: cut into quarters, cut out the stem portion, then slice each quarter into 1/4-1/2 inch strips. Cut pork roast into cubes.

2) Dump into crockpot: rice, tomatoes, cabbage, spaghetti sauce, onion, pepper, pork cubes. If you substituted an extra can of tomatoes instead of spaghetti sauce, and even if you didn't, you probably want to add some extra Italian seasonings here. Drop in 2-3 chicken bouillon cubes, and fill crockpot with water to about an inch below the lid line. Very carefully place lid on top of overflowing crockpot.

3) Turn on high and let cook for about 3 hours. Stir as soon as the cabbage has wilted enough that you can move things around (about 1 hour).

4) Taste test: you're checking the rice for doneness, and seeing if you need any additional seasoning (or broth for that matter, if it thickened too much for your taste). Let cook longer if needed, or set to warm and let people serve themselves when they're hungry (or, you know, in the case of small humans, serve for them and make them eat whenever you like).

This recipe is by nature gluten free, assuming you have GF bouillon or stock. It's also pretty low carb; you could easily cut the carbs further by using TVP instead of rice. Make it vegetarian by using veggie stock and no pork; this was intended to be a veggie recipe anyway (because it would have been a fine meal for Lent Fridays, even to add fish to it) but then we had leftover pork roast to use up. This is easily a low-processed-food meal; if you make your own stock, you can use 3 cups fresh tomatoes instead of canned, or use tomatoes you canned yourself.

All in all, not a bad soup!
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