Sunday, December 30, 2007

Book Review: Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio

It’s time for another book review. Well, OK, the truth is I’ve been sitting on this one for a while. I wrote the review back when I used up my last "renewal" at the library and had to return the book, and then I forgot to actually post it to my blog!

I found this beautiful coffee table book fascinating, and not just in the way the authors intended. In brief, the couple who wrote the book traveled around the world visiting families in 24 countries and recording what the families ate for a week. At the end of the week, they took the families shopping to buy "a week’s worth of food" (paid for by the authors) and photographed each family with their groceries. They wrote a few pages about each family and included statistics about the country. The families were not chosen to be representative of the whole country, and sometimes the authors used multiple families from the same country to show differences in, for example, the diet of rural versus urban residents.

The pictures in the book, and it is as much a photography book as it is anything else, were outstanding. The lists of groceries (written in microscopic print!) were fascinating. But what I enjoyed the most was that the text and photo pages of each family gave a snapshot of ordinary life in that country. (There was no attempt to be consistent and some families got pages and pages while others got very little. I noticed that whenever there was a particularly cute young child in the family, the family seemed to get more press time!) I enjoyed the book so much that instead of devouring it in one sitting, as is my usual manner, I rationed myself to four families per night so I could string it out as long as possible.

I found it both encouraging that there is so much local food culture left in the world, and depressing that our processed food culture has spread so far. The one thing I wish the authors had done differently is I wish they had converted the local prices not only into US dollars, but also into what the food would have cost if purchased in the US. That would have been a really difficult task, though, so I can understand why they didn’t do it.

Overall recommendation: Outstanding!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Munchkin's Saw Quilt

Last July, I took Scott and Munchkin with me on my annual pilgrimage to the quilt show in Sisters, Oregon. The guys, particularly Munchkin, were mostly unimpressed with the over 1000 quilts hanging out in the breeze. Then, after looking at many, many quilts, Munchkin got all excited and started shouting, "Saw quilt! Saw quilt!" I realized he was pointing at a quilt made with a "sawtooth" pattern, and the quilter had quilted it in spirals, making it look like there were sawblades. Pretty sharp for a two-year-old.

In October, I got Munchkin up from his nap one afternoon and he said, "There's a saw quilt in Sisters. We should go there and get one of those." Wow. So, what's a mom to do? I made him one. I couldn't find a similar pattern, so I printed out the picture from Sisters, enlarged a section of pattern to the size I wanted, and measured it. I made the quilt the size of a bedspread for a toddler bed since we're converting his crib sometime next weekend.

We have video of Munchkin unwrapping his "saw quilt." I was a little disappointed that he didn't recognize it at first, but then I held it farther away from him so he could see the pattern. After he figured out what it was, he jumped all over the "sawblades" saying that they were sharp and cutting his toes! I think he'll enjoy it.

Saw Quilt Pattern




Here are pictures of the quilt Munchkin saw in Sisters (left) and my version (right).

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Casualty

About 15 years ago, when Scott didn't have money for Christmas ornaments, he baked a batch of gingerbread men to hang on his tree. By the time we met, some of them were missing limbs, but they were still cute, so we used them. Every year, I put them away with the ornaments, and every year when we get them out again more of them seem to be missing parts. This year, I picked out one that was a little moldy (I think), but he looked better than the others and he was only missing his eyes. I hung him high on the tree where little hands couldn't reach. Then came Trouble Day.

Munchkin had a day last week when he just couldn't be good. Every time I turned my back, he did something he shouldn't. At one point, I was on the phone when my "mommy radar" went off, and, tired, I ignored it. When I got off the phone, I didn't notice anything out of place except for Munchkin's lego bin stuck under the tree. I moved the bin and didn't think anything of it until later when I saw this little guy. He was still on the tree where I put him, but, well, the picture tells the story. I called poison control and the guy laughed and said it happens all the time. Munchkin didn't even get the tummy ache he deserved!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Local Meal (week 11): New Discoveries


This is the last week of the Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge (unless, of course, somebody decides to continue it!). Can't believe I made it and I've still got a ton of local food in the fridge and freezer! I have a little less in the (laundry room) pantry, but you'll just have to keep reading to learn about that...

This week's local meal was one of our standby favorites: beef stroganoff. It turned out very tasty served over mashed potatoes (even though I actually prefer it over rice) and we also had cut up raw veggies. The local ingredients were: grass-fed beef, potatoes, leeks (a great substitute for green onions!), sour cream, butter and carrots. Non-local were the mushrooms (Someday I'll get brave and try the local ones, I promise!), spices (allowed), and the celery, which was a goof. I thought it was local, but when I bit into it I remembered that I had purchased some at the store as well. I noticed because it wasn't half as good!

One of my own challenge "rules" was to source a new local ingredient each month. For December, I chose flour, the ingredient that seems to challenge everybody. I've done some research trying to find Oregon wheat flour and was puzzled for a while as to why I could find an Oregon Wheat Growers League, but no local flour. It turns out Oregon farmers grow soft white wheat, which is good for making pasta, and and they ship most of it to Asia. You need hard red wheat flour to make bread, but it grows no closer than Montana. Even local companies like Bob's Red Mill get their wheat for bread flour from outside the state. (Some of Bob's Red Mill soft white flour does come from Oregon.)

Then I learned about a company called Azure Standard. They serve as a distributor for many other companies (mostly organic), but they also have their own farm called Azure Farm where they grow small amounts of wheats and grains, which they mill into flours. Not everything sold under the Azure Farm label is grown at their farm, so I inquired about the source of the wheat. The flour sold by the pound (5 lb. up to 50 lb.) is from Utah, but the flour (including whole wheat and white flour) sold by the ounce (eg. 27 oz. package) is from their farm. Wa-la! Oregon flour!

Azure has a unique distribution method since to send their food by normal shipping would be prohibitively expensive. They have truck routes throughout the pacific northwest and there are drop sites on each route. You figure out what route you are on and then call them for the name of the person organizing the drop site. If the group order comes to $400 or more, shipping is free. An individual gets free shipping for an order of at least $40 that is part of an at least $400 order to the drop site. The truck comes once a month or more for some routes. Make sense? I had to call them to get it all explained. So anyway, I ordered a catalog and got the name of the person with the closest drop site. I'm planning on placing an order sometime soon. I'm not sure it really matters (except to an "Eat Local" challenge) if I buy Oregon or Utah organic wheat. What is nice is knowing that if I use the flour to bake my own bread, I don't have to be concerned about whether the bread contains weird products added to wheat gluten that came from China. (I admit I'll probably keep buying bread a lot of the time for convenience, but at least I finally found Oregon flour!)

One final note: There has been a lot of ideas proposed among the challenge blog writers about how to use butternut squash. I found a use that no one has mentioned, yet. You store the squash in a paper bag in your laundry room, which is sort of heated since it's in your house, and then one day you pick up the paper bag. The squash falls out the bottom of the bag, rotted. It lands right on your shoe. Clean the goopy glop off your shoe and then clean the floor which hasn't been mopped in months. Butternut squash can inspire housecleaning!

Thanks, Laura at Urban Hennery, for the fun!

Workman in the Moon

Somehow, the subject of astronauts came up the other day and I told Munchkin about Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. This was followed by the following conversation:

Munchkin: What was his name?
Me: Neil Armstrong.
Munchkin: Does he have tools?

And a few minutes later...
Munchkin: What kind of tools does a moon man use, Mommy?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to all!!!
And may all your kids take their naps this afternoon...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Local Meal (week 10): Not eggxiting, but I like it

I went to college in Wheaton, Illinois, a city we Wheaties called "Evangelical Mecca." On Sunday mornings, a row of buses from local churches would line up outside the college dining hall and students would board the bus of whatever church suited their fancy that morning. Church seemed to be as much a social event as it was a spiritual event and after the services, people would go to each others’ houses for brunch/dinner/whatever you want to call it. It was so much a tradition that on Sunday mornings spouses would ask each other, "Do we want to have people over today, or do we want to go to someone else’s house?" If they decided to invite people over, they put something in the oven.

It was in Wheaton that I discovered the brunch egg dish I later learned was called "strata." I loved it, but being a college student who lived in the dorms, I never thought to ask anyone for a recipe. In later years, I unsuccessfully tried different recipes to recreate that dish. I finally meshed two recipes together into a combination that comes close to what I remember from school days. Our local meal this week featured my strata accompanied by sourdough toast. Everything was local except for the spices and the bread. Since Laura, the very nice founder of this challenge, is looking for egg dishes (She has chickens! In town!), I’ll include the recipe. Everything is flexible – I use whatever I have.

Egg Strata
6-8 slices of bread, chopped into cubes (it’s better if you take the crust off)
1-2 c cheddar cheese, grated
1-2 c cooked diced ham or cooked bulk sausage (could substitute vegetables)
5-6 eggs
2 cups milk
Garlic salt (not too much)
Seasoning salt (whatever kind you like)
Lemon pepper (this one is the most important)

Combine bread cubes, meat and half the cheese in a buttered baking dish. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk together until smooth. Shake seasonings into mixture until it seems like there’s a lot floating on top (that’s my measurement – I’m afraid you’ll have to make up your own). Mix well and pour over bread, meat and cheese. Top with remaining cheese and poke down into the liquid a little. Refrigerate overnight (it works fine to bake it immediately, but the bread cubes will be more evident). Remove from fridge at least one hour before baking. Bake one hour at 350 degrees, uncovered. Use a knife inserted in the middle to test for doneness and serve immediately. Serves 4-6 people and one picky toddler.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Seattle

I don't know if I can do this one justice, but I'll try. The other day, Scott casually mentioned to Munchkin that someday he wants to take a train ride to Seattle and go see a Mariner's game. A while later, Munchkin decided he was going to Seattle. He began before dinner, talked all the way through dinner, and went into overdrive after dinner talking about his trip to Seee-attle and "packing" the entire contents of one of my kitchen cabinets into paper bags. We asked questions a la "Kid's say the darndest things" and Munchkin had an answer for everything. At one point we turned on the video recorder and left it on until it ran out of tape. It's too bad it's too long for America's Funniest because it's worthy. The length is part of its charm, though. Some sample questions:

How would he get to Seattle? By car, plane, train and taxi.
What would he do when he got there? It wouldn't be dinner, yet, so they would cook him dinner.
Where would he stay? He had Seee-attle friends.
Does he know Bill Gates? He does NOT.
Has he bought the plane tickets? He has.
How did he pay for them? He has a cash register. He bought it at Walmart.
Why is he packing all the water bottles? They might not have water in Seee-attle.
What else is he going to eat? He's bringing yogurt.
Did he bring any ice cream? No, he forgot ice cream.

It went on for at least 90 minutes. Munchkin talked continuously as he energetically packed and packed. What a hoot! By the next morning, he was on to something else.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Local Meal (week 9): Almost!

This week I began four different meals that were supposed to be our local meal for the week. Each time I added something that broke my "only one non-local ingredient" rule and disqualified the meal. :o So here's a chronicle of my attempts:

Sunday: We cut down our Christmas tree (see Our little logger) and on the way home we stopped at a wonderful farm stand where I stocked up on some end-of-fall foods. Among other things, I bought a big bag of spinach which I used as the base for salads all week. Scott is happy to eat spinach raw, but if I dare cook it, no way! It was really nice to have green salads again. For dinner we ate at Scott's parents', and celebrated Christmas early. I received a pasta maker!

Monday: I made crockpot chili (which turned out delicious -- especially the leftovers!) with local ground pork, onions, garlic, and bell peppers. The beans, tomatoes and spices were non-local. Realizing I had already exceeded my one non-local limit, I added mandarin oranges and French fried onions to the spinach salad. I also baked cornbread and used up non-local eggs since I wasn't going to make this my local dinner after all.

Tuesday: I made omlettes with local eggs (I found them at the winter farmers' market!!!), Tillamook cheese, and local milk. To this I added spinach salad with local carrots and red onion. So far so good. Oops! I topped the salad with those tasty French fried onions! I also made blueberry muffins which turned out to have a ton of non-local ingredients in them, but the blueberries came from 8 feet outside my kitchen window, so I think that makes up for it! This meal came the closest, but I still wasn't satisfied.

Wednesday: I tried again with a spaghetti dinner. I used my last bag of (local, homemade) spaghetti sauce from the freezer and added local sausage to it. We ate more salad, and I just couldn't resist adding the decidedly non-local French fried onions -- they were so good and I wasn't going to be using my non-local ingredient anyway! I had grand plans for the noodles -- I was going to make my own pasta with my new toy! That is, until I got it out and read the instructions. I think I'd better allow a couple hours the first time I try it. So I used spaghetti noodles from the store. Almost made it.

Thursday: We had dinner at Scott's work Christmas party.

Friday: In one final attempt at an all-local meal, I made a simple dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches (cheese & butter local, bread not) and cut up raw veggies (the last of my local celery and some local carrots). But it didn't look like enough for dinner, so at the last minute I added a can of tomato soup to it. Two non-local ingredients again.

The surprise: Even though I didn't succeed in a "challenge meal" this week, I'm using a whole lot more local ingredients than I used to!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Beethoven

Yesterday morning I found Munchkin standing in his crib singing softly into his stuffed tiger's tail. I asked, "Is that a microphone?"

Munchkin answered, "No, it's a horn. I'm Beethoven."

Then he went back to his song, "I like trains. I like trains. I like trains. I like trains..."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Our Little Logger


Munchkin's ready to saw down our Christmas tree! (He discovered, though, that his little plastic saw is more effective for digging in the mud!)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Local Meal (week 8): A Little Change of Plans

I made quite a find since my last post where I almost quit for loss of local ingredients – I found a farmers’ market that continues until Christmas! Believe me, I loaded up on all kinds of food I can no longer bear to buy at the grocery store! Good thing, too, since nobody has come up with any meal ideas for me! :)

Last night’s meal was supposed to be an all-local slow cooker beef recipe that we really enjoy. I figured I had just enough time to put it all together before I had to leave for work in the morning. When I heard the blood-curdling scream that woke me out of a sound sleep, I didn’t worry about it since my husband was up early and taking care of Munchkin. A few minutes later, Scott woke me up saying, "I have a problem..."

Turns out what led to the scream was Scott dropping an open jar of mayo on the kitchen floor, splattering everything and landing right on Munchkin's Elmo and Tigger. Scott did a great job of cleaning up, but when I came into the kitchen, the floor was nice and shiny... Scott asked, "Is there oil in mayonnaise?..."

So I spent my extra time mopping the floor, which didn’t really work. Tigger and Elmo both got baths today and Munchkin had such a great time giving them their baths that he's in his crib carrying on right now when he's supposed to be napping! Dinner became (not slow-cooker, but all local) pot roast with carrots, onions, celery and potatoes. Scott probably preferred it that way anyway.

The surprise: The local potatoes looked just like the brown ones in the grocery store, but they must have been some other variety because they were just a little sweet! Or maybe I'm starting to notice the change in the flavor of vegetables depending on the season. Anyway, they were very good. The roast needed something -- probably a nice long nap in the slow cooker.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Questions, Questions, Questions

Munchkin has entered his "Questions" stage. He can ask questions non-stop from morning ‘til night. I’m starting to record some of the more unusual ones before he drives me completely crazy! :)

"How do wires ‘nnect?" (How do telephone wires connect to telephone poles?)

"What tools do you need to make a sawblade clock?... You maybe need a flashlight."

"What does Frosty Snowman eat?"

And my current favorite...
"Do trains stick out their tongues?"

Friday, November 30, 2007

Naptime Musings #5

When I got Munchkin and his stuffed buddies up the other morning, he told me, "Tigger let me play drums in bed. That was very nice!"

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Local Meal (week 7) - Needs a title

I almost quit this week. I’ve actually already achieved the modest goals I set out for myself in the Dark Days challenge since I only planned to go through November. In addition to local meals, I wanted to find one new local ingredient each month. October’s was grapes, and for November I’d have to say the winner is walnuts. I bought way too many at my new favorite farm stand, and Munchkin and I have had a lot of fun cracking them. (He uses any perfect half shells as "bike helmets" for his Little People.) I've also found a source for local flour, but haven't placed an order, yet.

Still sick at the beginning of this week, I felt like I was running out of local possibilities. It’s been a month since our CSA ended and I actually had to buy onions at the grocery store. I’ve purchased almost no vegetables at a regular grocery store since last June and it was a little painful. (Cheaper, but painful!) I also bought some local, but undoubtedly CAFO, chicken because I was too tired to make an additional trip to the meat market. Monday night I cooked a meal that used to be a regular standby once/week. I don’t want to admit what was in it, except to say that after eating all so much local "real" food, my old recipe didn’t taste so good anymore!

Feeling a little better on Tuesday, but thinking that local cooking was hopeless until next spring, I took inventory of what local foods I had left. To my surprise, my list kept going, and going, and going...

Still left are local: honey, walnuts, apples, pears, grape juice, garlic, a red onion, squash, potatoes, leeks, celery, beets, pickles, milk, cheese, butter, and half a cabbage I’m not sure is still good. In the freezer are local: broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, shredded zuchini, pumpkin puree, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, 3 types of freezer jam, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, chicken broth, lots of beef, half a pig including bacon and sausage, and a wild salmon steak from a salmon caught by my father-in-law at the Oregon coast. I can easily get more local dairy products, but both my local egg supplies have ended until next spring.

There’s not much left of some items, but I figure, what kind of cook am I if I can’t make a couple meals with all that?!!! So I’m still in. (But If anybody has any menu ideas, please drop me a comment!)

This week’s official local meal was simple, but tasty: pork chops, fingerling potatoes, Thanksgiving cranberry sauce (containing the only non-local ingredient: sugar), and a broccoli/cauliflower mix I froze from last summer’s CSA. It was a hit with my husband who loves meat & potatoes and so I guess I had enough local stuff to make a good meal, huh!

What I learned: For my first summer/fall of trying to get more "direct from the farmer" foods into our diet, I guess I did better than I thought!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Big words

This morning as I was getting ready to go to work, Munchkin suggested that I wear my tennis shoes. I told him I was going to wear nicer shoes because I had to teach today, but he insisted, "Tennis shoes are versatile!"

(I had to run spell checker just to know how to spell it!)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Local Meal (week 6) - Thanksgiving




Since I hosted our family Thanksgiving, I decided to skip the meal challenge this week and just enjoy the local ingredients I was able to work into our Thanksgiving dinner. I used local honey, butter and eggs in my honey dinner rolls, local cranberries in the cranberry sauce, local walnuts in the "nuts ‘n bolts," and local celery, butter and leeks in the dressing for our free range, but not local, turkey. I also added carbonated water to my own grape juice to make sparkling grape juice, which was very good. Everybody raved about the meal. I would have enjoyed it just a little more had I not been sick and had my nose all plugged up, but such is life.

Andrew’s favorite part of the meal was ‘ssert! Here’s a picture of him eating Grandma's cookies while eyeing Grandpa’s pie!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Grandma's cookies

For Thanksgiving, Scott's mom is bringing dessert, including a batch of my favorite butterscotch cookies (from a recipe adapted by my grandmother). This evening, I told Munchkin about the cookies and so he promptly turned his lego pieces into 'scotch cookies and fed them to Scott and I. At one point he breathed in deeply and said, "Mmmmm! These are smelly!"

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Local Meal (week 5) - Doctored up Leek Soup

A little over ten years ago I traveled to Kenya on a "trip of a lifetime" African safari. While there, I had hoped to taste local cuisine, but the lodges tried their best to serve European or even American food! The presentation was lovely, but the food was nothing special -- the best meal I had the whole trip I ate at an Indian restaurant. One evening, though, we were served a course of leek soup that I have tried many times to duplicate. I still haven’t found the right recipe, and perhaps I never will since I can’t duplicate the magic of the vacation.

For our local meal this week, I tried once again to reproduce that wonderful soup. I used local chicken broth (from last week), some of the last of my CSA potatoes, carrots, celery and leeks, and some non-local spices. The taste was bland and disappointing. I fried up bacon from our pig and crumbled it into the soup, which improved the flavor considerably, but I don’t think that’s how they did it in Africa!

Whenever I serve soup, I also serve something special that Scott will like, since soup is never his first choice for dinner. To dinner I added Buffalo grapes that I picked up at the farmers' market and I tried out a new recipe for honey dinner rolls that I plan to make for Thanksgiving. The rolls were wonderful, and the only non-local ingredients I had to use were flour and yeast. I served them with homemade (all local) honey butter. Let’s just say that I’d better make a LOT for turkey-day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cute Heidi Story

I haven't had any really good "cute Munchkin" stories lately, so I thought I'd post a story from one of his little friends. Heidi is 3 years old and normally is a pretty good eater. One night, however, her mom made stuffed bell peppers. Heidi eyed them suspiciously as she ate everything else on her plate. When her dad encouraged her to taste the bell pepper, Heidi replied in perfect verse,

"Sam, if you will let me be,
I will try them, you will see!"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cheesemaking Attempt #4 (Part 2)

I'm getting closer, I guess. Part way through the process I wanted to scream at Ricki Carroll and her four sets of different instructions! I made one little mistake which was that I added the wrong amount of citric acid to the milk because the instructions when using milk powder are different than when using whole milk. Of course that little detail is mentioned on only one of the four sets of instructions plus video!

So the curd didn't look quite right, but I continued anyway and ended up with cheese that "stretched." That is a definite improvement and it means that my previous failed attempts were due to things I did wrong in the microwave stage, not the brand of milk. Good news. The bad news? My cheese did not taste like anything I would actually want to eat. Sigh. I've sent yet another email to Ricki's technical help person and am hoping for an answer soon.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Cheesemaking Attempt #4 (Part I)

I don't believe it. I should be a beta-tester for home cheesemaking recipes - I make so many mistakes! Armed with the how-to video, I'm trying to make mozarella again. I don't want to take any chances with the type of pasteurization of the milk, so I decided to go with the dry milk powder/cream method, which is supposed to be fool-proof. Instant milk has never been heated above 170 degrees, which is the temperature at which the proteins are damaged too much to make cheese.

So I bought instant milk and began to mix it up this morning. (You have to mix it 24 hours before you plan to use it.) Right before I added the water, I remembered that chlorinated water kills the rennet, and we have chlorinated water. Instead of running back to the store to buy bottled water, I boiled the water to get rid of the chlorine. Proud of myself for catching the chlorine problem, and delighted that the milk powder would dissolve so well, I poured the still boiling water into the powder. Anyone see a problem?

This evening I went back to the store, again, to buy more powder. I sure hope this works.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Local Meal (challenge week 4) - 4+ meals from a 5-pound chicken

Last summer I picked up several chickens freshly "processed" from the (local) Deck Family Farm. The Decks appear to be devoted disciples of Joel Salatin (the beyond-organic farmer in "The Omnivore’s Dilemma"). I could have just picked up the chickens at the Farmers’ Market, but I was curious so I drove 25 miles to see for myself. The farm was everything they said it was, and the first chicken I roasted (at two days after slaughter) proved to be the best I have ever tasted. The down side, of course, is that it was also the most expensive chicken I have ever tasted! My gut feeling, and I plan to write a whole blog entry about this sometime, is that chickens are supposed to cost that much. Nevertheless, it’s hard on the budget, so I try to get as many meals from each chicken as I can.

On Monday of this week, I roasted the last of my Deck chickens. We had an all-local meal of roasted chicken, baked potatoes with butter & sour cream, and string beans (frozen from last summer’s CSA). After dinner, I picked off the leftover meat and made stock from the carcass.

Tuesday, I used some of the leftovers to make chicken curry. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it qualified as another local meal since I used local onions, garlic, apples and sour cream. The only non-local ingredient (besides the spices) was rice. Scott claimed the leftovers for lunch, which is his highest compliment to my cooking. :)

This evening I made one of my favorite soups, tuna cheddar chowder (don’t laugh -- it’s really good!), but substituted chicken for the tuna. I used mostly local ingredients as the recipe calls for chicken broth, carrots, onions and cheddar cheese. The Worchestershire sauce and flour were non-local. If anyone wants the recipe, drop me a comment and I'll post it. I also made biscuits, in which the only local ingredients were the butter and honey we spread on them!

So that's three meals from the chicken. I have a half gallon of broth left and more than enough meat for another meal, which I will probably make sometime soon.

The bottom line: It was all good. There’s as much difference between a happy, pastured chicken and a grocery store chicken as there is between a real and a fake tomato – darn it! Of course, I realize that the only reason I can get four meals from one chicken is that Munchkin refuses to eat anything that says, "Bock!"

What I learned: The string beans were great! I’ve never tried freezing them before, so this was a surprise. I wish I’d frozen more! Also, substituting chicken for tuna in the soup made the soup seem sweeter -- I have no idea why. I suppose it's possible that I dribbled some of the honey from my biscuit into my bowl of soup... (Friday Update: It wasn't the honey -- I had leftovers for lunch today and it was still sweet. Is chicken sweet?)

In other news: I finally ordered the video from New England Cheesemaking Supply and it arrived yesterday. I now have an idea what I might have been doing wrong, so I’m planning Cheesemaking Attempt #4 this weekend. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Picnic Time

Munchkin played "picnic" all day today. He spread out his little blankets on the living room floor, emptied my tupperware cabinet dumping the contents on the blankets, and then ordered us to sit down and eat. Some containers were "yogurt," some were "broccoli," others were "hamburger," "cream" (oh, wait, he said that was cream colored paint), and "coffee." But my personal favorite came after dinner when he set up his picnic stuff once more and served "ssert." For dessert, we had salad and ice cream. Yummy!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Munchkin's Dictionary #2

(After a little tantrum)
"Mommy, clean Munchkin up! There's cry all over!"
Translation: Please wipe away my tears.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Local Meal #4 - Plagiarized!

If imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, then Kim should be congratulated! The photo of her first local meal looked so good that I decided to duplicate the dinner this week. We had homemade french fries (CSA potatoes), hamburgers (local grass-fed beef & CSA onion), and fresh broccoli (local). To the hamburgers, I added Tillamook cheese, a CSA tomato (my last one, sob!), and pickles that I made last summer when I had too many cucumbers. The one non-local item was the bread for the hamburger buns. I also don’t count Scott’s ketchup since it is one of my exceptions.

The bottom line: I thought it was all very good, but after Munchkin used the french fries only to mop up ketchup and then licked the ketchup off his hamburger, he pronounced himself "full." Oh, well.

What I learned: I made the pickles with one of those cheater spice packets that brag, "Make pickles tonight!" They were OK, but nothing special. I think next summer I need to learn how to make them the right way so they’ll taste better.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Local Meal #3 - Grape expectations



(Munchkin crushing grapes)

For our 3rd local meal, I adapted a recipe that has been a big hit in the past: Pork chops with apples & onions. I'd heard that it worked with pork sausage (and we have a LOT of pork sausage - see 9/14), so I decided to try it that way. It turned out just fine. Here’s the recipe the way I did it:

Sausage with Apples & Onions
(for two plus a toddler who will only eat the sausage)

½ lb bulk sausage (from our local pig)
1 crisp apple (local farmstand)
1 onion (CSA, which ended this week - boo hoo!)
Olive oil (one of my exceptions)
1/4 c apple cider (local)
salt & pepper to taste (I used RealSalt that my dad brought back from Utah, so it counts as local)
Fry spoonfuls of sausage in a heavy skillet until done. Set aside and keep warm. Add sliced apple & onion and a little olive oil to same skillet and saute 4-5 minutes until softened. Add cider and reduce liquid by half. Remove from heat. Serve the apples & onions with the pork sausage.

To the recipe above, I added baked potatoes (CSA), artichokes (local farmers’ market), and for a beverage we had the rest of the (local) apple cider.
So what’s the deal with the grapes? Yesterday, Munchkin and I went grape picking with friends. I wasn’t going to get many grapes since I didn’t really know what to do with them, but before I knew it, I had 11 pounds of Concord grapes in my bucket and Munchkin had way too many in his tummy. When I wasn’t looking, Munchkin turned his grape bucket upside-down (to use as a ladder) and stood underneath the arbor with clusters of grapes hanging down on all sides of his head. All the better to eat like a king!

Last night I found a recipe for grape jam and I halved the recipe since I didn’t really know what I was doing. The resulting quantity of jam was so small that Scott declared it a lot of work for two sandwiches! It was probably a good thing, though. Even with an emergency phone call to a friend (which saved the jam from becoming grape soup), it still didn’t turn out right. It is now grape rubber! It tastes pretty good, but it sure doesn’t spread.

I still had about 10 pounds of grapes sitting on the counter, so late this afternoon I decided to turn them into grape juice. I liked it(!), but there was no way I could cool the juice by dinnertime, so I decided to serve apple cider. I compared the local apple cider I had bought with Treetop’s 100% apple cider. It was sort of like comparing a local tomato with a grocery store pink thing -- who knew there could be such a difference?!!

What I learned: If you want to serve grape juice with dinner, don't start making it at 5:00!

The bottom line: Dinner was very tasty and I'll make it that way again. The grape juice turned out good, too. One of my "rules" for this challenge was to find a local source for a new ingredient each month and so for the month of October, I’m choosing grapes for making my own juice. Not as much work as I would have thought, and rewarding. Oh, and Jennifer, if you’re reading this, thanks for the invite. How did your grape jam turn out?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Important "Firsts"

During Munchkin’s first year, we celebrated all kinds of important "firsts" – first smile, first time he rolled over, first steps, etc. Now that he's a toddler, we don’t have so many significant firsts. We had one the other night, though – first time Munchkin handed me something alive and squirmy that almost bit me!

Monday, October 22, 2007

A little bit of fall


On a recent beautiful fall day, I took Munchkin out to a local farm stand that I'd been wanting to check out. It was everything I hoped and more. I came home with such a fun variety of fall foods that I just had to take a picture! The plastic bottle is honey -- everything else is self-explainatory.

This afternoon I shelled some of the walnuts. Munchkin was fascinated, of course. When I cracked off a perfect half walnut shell, he exclaimed, "It's a bike helmet!" and then he ran to get his collection of Little People so he could fit each one with a helmet. He had to settle for some less-than-perfect helmets, but he didn't seem to mind.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Baby face

It has happened twice, now. After a meal, Munchkin puts his hand up to his face and, I'm guessing, feels crumbs or something. Then he says, "Scruff. Munchkin's getting bigger!"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Local Meal #2 - One of life’s little ironies


On Monday I wrote about deciding to make (local) crockpot soup and then choking on the price of the pasta. Upon further consideration, I realized it was going to be hard to stick to my limit of one non-local ingredient if I also wanted fresh bread with the soup. As I thought about this, I cooked Monday night’s dinner: pork roast (so local that Munchkin fed the pig a couple times), baked CSA potatoes with local butter and local sour cream, and roasted CSA beets (a new experiment and now I know Scott doesn't like them). 100% local except for the oil and spices that are part of my "exceptions" anyway. So that’s my official local meal!

Yesterday I made the soup using local chicken, broth, vegetables and, of course, gold-plated pasta. I added a piece of Parmesan cheese rind in the soup for flavor (from Italy!). The soup was good (see 10/15 for link to recipe), but it tasted much the same as when I make it on the stove the hour before dinner, so the only real advantage was the do-ahead factor. I only used part of my luxury noodles (which were very nice, by the way), so I froze the rest to use in next month's turkey soup. :)

What I learned: If you are chopping onions as quickly as possible because your eyes are burning and then your toddler interrupts to show you something, don’t wipe away your tears with onion hands. Owwie!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The real reason for the siren

The other day Munchkin heard a siren, but he was disappointed when it didn’t pass by our house. I told him it probably went somewhere else. Munchkin said, "Fire engine is prob’ly going to (a local grocery store)." I asked why it would go there and Munchkin answered, "It needs to get coffee."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Yipes!


For our mostly local meal this week, I'm making the crockpot noodle soup recipe that is on http://www.rowhousekitchen.blogspot.com/ (Look for Oct. 9 - I can't figure out how to link right to it). It sounds wonderful. I decided to search out local pasta so I could use my one exception for my (no-longer) secret ingredient: Parmesan cheese rind. I have been as yet unable to locate Oregon wheat flour, even though I know wheat is grown in Oregon, but I found homemade pasta from a company that is in my own town. Excited, I didn't check the price before I took it to the cashier. $4.98 for one pound! Ouch! I think I see a pasta maker in my future.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Even more adventures in crayons

Then there was the time I allowed Munchkin to play with crayons while I made an important phone call. The set of very large round scribbles on the floor was a "circular saw" and the set of lines from the floor to as tall as Munchkin could reach on the sliding glass door was a "crane." This is why I buy only washable crayons.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

More adventures in crayons

Munchkin returned from Grandma’s house with a crayon drawing that looked very familiar. When he has a willing subject, Munchkin instructs the artist to draw whatever he wants drawn. His pictures are filled with grown-ups’ attempts to draw Munchkin's favorite things.

This particular picture included a sketch of a hand tool. Munchkin showed it to me and said sadly, "Grandma wouldn’t draw a reciprocating saw."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Adventures in crayons


My mom gave Munchkin his very first coloring book the other day. Delighted, Munchkin could hardly wait to get out his crayons. Choosing the page of his favorite dinosaur, a Triceratops, Munchkin declared, "He needs a hard hat!" So he drew him a blue one. Drew him some glasses, too. Maybe if Triceratops had actually worn the hard hat, he would still be here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Local Meal #1



OK, I’m in. I’m already buying local meat, dairy and produce. My goal is to push myself to find local sources for other types of products (grains?!!). Part of the fun is posting menus and watching other challenge blogs to see what they are doing. I want to participate in that, so I’ll be posting some local menus & recipes. If you only read my blog for the "cute Munchkin stories," don’t worry – I’ll keep up with his entries!

Every "challenge" needs rules, so here is what I’ve come up with. If you want to join me, please do!!! Make up your own rules! Mine are pretty modest:
  1. My challenge is for the months of October & November, then I’ll reevaluate.
  2. Make at least 3 dinners/month using local ingredients and then blog about them.
  3. "Local" means the state of Oregon. Most people do a 100 mile radius, but since the eastern half of Oregon is mostly desert, my 100 mile radius covers the part that grows food. It’s easier to just do Oregon.
  4. Search out local sources for at least one new ingredient/month.
  5. Exceptions (everyone has these for things they can’t find locally!): 1. Anything Munchkin eats – it’s hard enough to find food for a picky toddler and he has a bunch of diet restrictions on him right now. My challenge won’t apply to him. 2. Anything extra that Scott eats – like coffee or Ranch dressing. 3. Spices and oils. 4. For each "local" meal, I’ll allow one non-local ingredient in addition to my exceptions #1-3.

OK, here we go! My first local dinner was far too easy! We still get CSA veggie boxes through the end of October so I made:

  • Tossed green salad (all local except for Scott’s Ranch dressing)
  • Spaghetti noodles (I’ll use my one non-local exception for this one)
  • Homemade spaghetti sauce (Local: grass-fed ground beef, CSA tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers. Not local: spices)
  • Shredded cheese (This required an adjustment since I would normally use Parmesan. Instead, I used Tillamook cheddar. As I said, this challenge meal was far too easy.)
What I learned: The shock – even though I didn’t include Munchkin in the challenge, I actually looked at labels to see where his food came from. Munchkin’s mandarin oranges were from China. Hmmm. Could that be why they’re called "mandarin" oranges?

The bottom line: Dinner tasted pretty good. My spaghetti sauce isn’t quite right, yet, but I keep working on it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Another "Eat Local" Challenge


I’ve been reading some blogs by other "eat local" fans. Seems like it’s mostly women with small children, or maybe those are just the blogs that appeal to me. Reading blogs is a much more entertaining way to waste time than playing solitaire! (Not that I’m advocating wasting time, but it's nice to "veg out" when the active toddler finally takes a nap! Now that I think of it, maybe that's what these other authors with small children are doing, too!) Anyway, the author of one blog has begun her own wintertime eat local challenge. (http://urbanhennery.wordpress.com/2007/10/08/dark-days-of-winter-eat-local-challenge/)

It’s pretty easy to eat locally grown food during the growing season, but obviously it’s harder during the winter. Especially if you haven’t already loaded up your pantry and freezer with preserved foods! In this new challenge, you make up your own rules. For example, Ms. Hennery is going to cook one local meal per week and write about it. I’m considering joining her challenge, but haven’t decided what approach to take. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Delusions of grandeur

When confronted with an unwelcome traffic signal, Scott waves his hand Jedi-fashion and instructs the light to change. If it changes, he boasts. If it remains red, he makes excuses for the lapse in his powers. This evening, he learned the real problem. Attempting Jedi mind tricks on a red light, Scott waved his hand and said, "You will turn green."

Then a cute little voice in the back seat said, "Go back to red."

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Did you know...


Did you know that in two seconds a toddler can make such a mess of a slinky that it takes a parent 15 minutes to untangle it?!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Funny kid

We recently had an issue with a fence contractor about overspray (from the stain on the fence) that landed all over my vegetable garden. We resolved the problem, but not before Munchkin suffered through my many, many phone conversations. One day I was on the phone with my dad and I told him that I needed to hang up because I smelled something stinky. Munchkin, listening as always, grinned big as he put his hand on his diaper and said, "It's overspray!"

Monday, October 1, 2007

Munchkin's Dictionary #1

It's cute what kids come up with when they don't know the proper words. Here's some entries from Munchkin's dictionary...

"trees wiggle" = it's windy outside
"egg juice" = egg white dripping down the side of the mixing bowl
"Giggle Munchkin!" = please tickle me
"down hug" = a hug in which we don't pick up Munchkin

Saturday, September 29, 2007

What could be more fun?!!

This was Munchkin, this morning, looking at a newspaper circular from a hardware store. Read it with enthusiasm, and the last two words should be shouted at full volume:

"Hammers and wrenches and screwdrivers and hard hats and saws! OH! MY!"

Friday, September 28, 2007

Gary Nabhan Book Review

It’s a cold, rainy day today -- time to curl up with a good book from someplace warm. "Coming Home to Eat" has to be one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a while. Like Kingsolver (see blog on 8/11), Nabhan decided to eat locally for one year. Unlike Kingsolver, he lives in the desert. He got out a map and drew a circle with a 250 mile radius around Phoenix, Arizona and decided that for one year, all his food would come from within that circle.

For a lot of people, that would be nearly impossible, but Nabhan is an expert on native plants and he has the additional advantage of having friends who are members of local Indian tribes. He feasts on saguaro cactus fruit, mesquite tortillas, sea turtles and roadkill (no kidding!). He even serves it to his girlfriend, who must be some kind of a saint.

The book is peppered with information about politics and the state of our food supply. Some of it is depressing, but the book ends with hope. I felt richer for having read it.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Munchkin's Safety Tip #1




Wear "ear muffs" because a jigsaw is loud!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Naptime Musings #5

When I entered Munchkin's room after his nap, I saw he had crammed his stuffed tiger in the space between the side of the crib and the wall. I went to rescue the poor thing, but Munchkin stopped me and said, "Tiger needs a time-out. He's going to hit somebody."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Naptime Musings #4

This afternoon as I put Munchkin down for his nap, he said, "I'm going to dream... about hardhats."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Eating Local

I’ve been reading a lot about "eating local" lately. There is a group called the Locavores based out of San Francisco that issued a challenge (http://www.eatlocalchallenge.com/) to people to eat only local foods for the month of September. On the website are links to blogs from some of the participants. If you care to browse, my favorites the blogs called "Green Lemonade" and "Kale for Sale." The Locavores define local as within 100 miles. There’s a similar group from Vancouver, B.C. doing what they call a 100-Mile Diet and others have made up different "rules."

"Eating Local" folks stress the fact that a grocery store food purchase travels an average of 1500 miles, wasting fuel and becoming less tasty on the way. I don’t have the actual facts and statistics to do the math so I don’t really know if it is better for one truck to carry lots of lettuce for 1500 miles, or for lots of local farmers to carry a little lettuce, say, 15 miles to a farmers’ market. Then customers make an extra round trips since to eat locally, you normally have to go to more than one source for your food. My guess is that eating local uses less gas, but maybe not much.

But no matter, there are a lot of good reasons to eat as local as possible (good for the economy, good for the farmers, good for the environment, good for the community, good for nutrition and taste). I think the point is not really to get all one’s food from a 100 mile radius (although it makes an interesting challenge!), but instead to seek out what is available wherever you live. Locavore graduates report that after the challenge ends, they find that their new shopping habits favor more local foods without even trying.

I’m not ready to commit to a month of eating only local foods and I’m not sure it’s necessary, but I find that I’ve already made changes that favor local foods. We are members of a CSA so all our veggies are local. I’ve quit buying bananas and started buying some of our fruit from u-pick farms. We buy our meat from a meat market that sells local grass-fed beef, not-quite-local pastured chicken and farm fresh eggs. I buy local milk, and, of course, there’s a very local pig in our fridge! It's kind of fun to put together a meal where I know where everything came from.

Does it taste better? Well, the other night we had the first of our new pork chops. I stuffed them with sauted garlic, bell pepper, onion (all from our veggie box) and mushrooms (could have used local, but I couldn’t stomach the price at the farmers’ market). With our stuffed pork chops, we had fresh corn-on-the-cob and string beans from our veggie box. It was the best pork chop meal I’ve ever eaten.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Famous last words

The last thing Munchkin said as we began a long drive:
Munchkin: No, Munchkin won't take a nap on the way home.

An hour and a half later, in our driveway, after I commented on the nice nap he had taken:
Munchkin (barely able to open his eyes): No.
Me: No?
Munchkin: No. Munchkin didn't sleep.

Friday, September 21, 2007

What was I thinking?!!

This morning I took Munchkin to one of those "agritainment" farms. He loves to climb on the tractors, and he thinks the goats are nice, too. When it was time to leave, we walked through the produce section. I bought mushrooms, peaches and pears, but then I saw the tomatoes...

I love tomatoes. I love fresh tomato sandwiches that leave the bread all soggy. I love the coolness of a fresh tomato slice on pizza. I love spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce and marinara sauce. I don't love the pink styrofoam things the grocery store sells. Anyway, I had been wanting to cook up some homemade tomato sauce, but our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture -- you pay at the beginning of the season and get a share in the harvest all summer) hasn't given us many tomatoes recently. This produce stand had lovely looking tomatoes at a nice cheap price if you bought a whole box, so I did.

You know the thing about Christmas trees always looking bigger in your living room than they do on the farm? Well, 26 pounds of tomatoes looks really big on the kitchen counter. I'm on my second batch of tomato puree right now, and I've got a lot of tomatoes left over. I have no idea how I'm going to get my two gallon pot of tomatoes to "reduce by half" and cool before bedtime!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cheesemaking Attempt #3

The good news...
1. The milk from Noris was delicious. I saved the whole milk to make mozzarella, but the 2% was sweet and creamy. After tasting the Noris milk, our old milk tasted harsh and watery.
2. My blueberry plant should be really healthy since it got another gallon of whey to drink!
3. My family actually likes failed-mozarella lasagna. I also used some of batch #2 on pizza and they gobbled that up as well.
4. I'm getting much quicker at making a bad batch of 30-minute mozarella. The first attempt took 90 minutes, the second 75 minutes, the third, with better milk, failed at 60 minutes.

The bad news...
1. After drinking Noris milk for two days, I don't really want to go back to the old stuff. Naturally, Noris milk is more expensive!
2. I saved out part of the whey from last night's cheese attempt to use in making bread today and then forgot to use it!
3. I have no idea what I'm doing wrong. The only thing I have left to try is to order the DVD from the cheesemaking supply place and hope it provides answers. I haven't decided what to do. If you have suffered through my previous attempts and think I should try again, please leave a comment. :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The last of the Rainier stories

Munchkin must be in a growing spurt because he's been eating us out of house and home. One morning camping at breakfast, Munchkin had just polished off two cups of milk, corn flakes and a bagel with cream cheese when he spied the blueberry muffins. We thought he'd eaten plenty already, but Munchkin said, "Munchkin's tired... a muffin will make Munchkin feel better."

(I've saved the Rainier stories for slow news days. Actually, today is a big news day since I got a delivery of Noris milk yesterday and plan to make cheese tonight! Stay tuned.)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Just what Daddy wanted!

The other day, Scott was laying on the sofa trying to read the paper while Munchkin crawled all over him. I suggested that Munchkin leave Daddy alone for a little bit, but Munchkin said, "Munchkin's giving Daddy some 'ttention!" He meant "attention" -- he tends to drop the first syllable off long words -- but I think he got it right this time!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

He was right, too!

While at Mount Rainier we went to a slide show about the massive flooding last November that closed the park for six months. We’d spent the morning hiking on the mountain and Munchkin was tired (see 9/8 post!). I thought a slide show in a nice dark room at 3:00 in the afternoon would put him right to sleep. We sat in the front of the auditorium and put Munchkin in his stroller. He didn’t protest, and, as the slide show began, I was sure he was getting very sleepy.

Everything was fine until the ranger showed slides from Sunshine Campground. I sincerely hope it’s not your favorite camping place because it’s not there anymore! The flood removed seven acres overnight. The ranger described it by saying that so much land washed away, it would fill 16,000 dump trucks. At which point Munchkin enthusiastically piped up loud and clear, "Then Scoop will come!"

Mt. Rainier

Who cares about the mountain? Munchkin's watching the 'struction mans!


Friday, September 14, 2007

We have a pig in our fridge!

Well, actually, it’s half a pig and it’s in our freezer, but that doesn’t make a good title for a blog. What began with reading Eric Schlosser’s "Fast Food Nation" last summer has resulted in 90 pounds of pastured pork that we can enjoy guilt-free. Let me explain...

Schlosser may well have written the 21st century version of "The Jungle." He delves into our national food system and uncovers unsettling facts about how food is processed and how animals are treated. Before you write me off as a PETA member (which I am not), read his book. The treatment of the animals is not just a moral issue, it’s also a health and safety issue for those who eat the meat and live on the planet.

After reading this book and some others on the same subject, I called a like-minded friend and asked her if she had heard about any of this stuff. She had. I asked her what she does about it. She told me that she and her husband raise their own meat. It took a year, but we have been able to go in with them on a pig and a cow. We got the pig today – all except for the bacon which needs two weeks to cure – and we’ll get a quarter cow next summer. Besides knowing where the pig came from and what it ate, we get the added benefit of getting the meat sliced and sausage seasoned however we like. This weekend, Scott wants to stuff and bar-b-que a couple extra-thick pork chops. Yummy!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The thing about milk (Cheese Attempt #2)

I’ve learned more about milk through my little cheese making experiment than I even knew there was to learn. Milk is typically sold pasteurized and homogenized. The pasteurization kills bad stuff, and the homogenization breaks up the cream so it doesn’t float to the top. I won't bore you with the details, but there are four methods of pasteurizing the milk. For hard cheese making, the milk has to be pasteurized at 145 or 161 degrees, otherwise the proteins are so damaged that the curds turn into a yucky mess. Problem is, choosing milk that is pasteurized at those temps is not good enough. If the milk stays too long in cold storage before you use it, it won’t work, either, so you have to use a local source.

For my first attempt (see "Icky, icky goo" on 8/14) I used milk from a local dairy that had been pasteurized at 161 degrees. It really should have worked. I was hoping that my "goo" was due to my own mistakes rather than the type of milk, so I tried it again last night. Same milk, different mistakes (Correct burner this time, but I forgot to turn it back on!), and same icky result. Sigh. When I ordered my specialty cheese making supplies, they came in a quantity large enough to make 30 batches. Let's hope it doesn't take 29 batches to get it right!

I could use milk from another local dairy (farther away), but I am not overly hopeful. Some people absolutely swear by raw milk. I know a source for raw milk, but the milk is double the price, and I think that pasteurization (named after Louis Pasteur, who discovered microbes) was invented for a reason. I have a toddler and I don’t want to take any chances.

Just recently, I found yet another source: Noris Dairy. http://www.norisdairy.com/home.html They pasteurize their organic milk at 161 degrees and then deliver it right to your door when it is only two days old. Remember the old days when everybody had a milkman? I don’t – I was too young! Noris doesn’t homogenize their milk and my book says that’s the best type. Noris milk is almost as expensive as the raw milk, but I've placed an order for next Tuesday. If this doesn’t work, I don’t know what will! Stay tuned for the next episode.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Expensive Entertainment

We are replacing the fence behind our house. Munchkin, of course, is spellbound by the "fence guys." As Munchkin watched one workman measure the posts, he helped by counting, "Two! Eight! Half! Nine! Six!"

At last the man looked up and asked, "What?"

Munchkin surveyed the builder's work and concluded, "It’s good."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Special 'ccasion Day

Back in July, Munchkin was given several gifts including a set of tools, a truck, and a tool truck. Because of the duplication, I put away the tool truck for another day. I've done this before without any problems, but Munchkin is getting smarter. He has asked about the tool truck probably every week since then.

This morning, Munchkin started talking about the tool truck before he even got out of bed. I was planning on bringing it out sometime in September, so I gave vague answers about when he could finally play with it. Munchkin persisted, and finally he said, "This is special 'ccasion."

I asked, "What's the special occasion?"

Munchkin answered, "Munchkin's getting his tool truck!"

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Where's the snooze button?

Our whole camping trip was a phenomenal success except for the one little thing called nighttime sleep. The last night was the best – Munchkin only woke us four times. The first night, he woke up at least once every hour, and then at 4:00 a.m. he started talking. He didn’t quit until 5:30. Sigh. Another morning, bright and early, we heard a cute little voice say, "Woo, woo! Woo, woo! Munchkin's a train!"

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Mt. Rainier Trip


Over Labor Day weekend we went camping at Mt. Rainier National Park. I'll be telling some of the cute Munchkin stories over the next few posts, but I thought I'd start with this one...

The weather was perfect -- the best we've ever had on a camping trip to Rainier -- so we spent lots of time hiking around the wildflower meadows on the mountain. It was pretty quiet because the lodge is closed for renovation this summer. Next to the lodge, they are building a new visitor's center. They must be trying to beat the snow because they worked all weekend. Munchkin, of course, was spellbound. There were lifts and saws and Scoops! Oh my! ("Scoop" is the name that Bob the Builder uses for a backhoe loader. Munchkin calls anything with a scoop, "Scoop.")

At the end of vacation I asked Munchkin what was his favorite part of camping at Mt. Rainier. Munchkin answered, " 'struction mans!" (Construction mans)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Naptime Musings #3

Munchkin: Elk.
Mommy: Elk?
Munchkin: They're a kind of animal.
Mommy: Yes, elk are a kind of animal.
Munchkin: They eat elk food.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Munchkin and his Boy

Last weekend, we got together with some friends who have 9-year-old twins -- a son and a daughter. Munchkin absolutely loves being around kids. He latched onto the son and, even though he knew his name, called him "Boy!" for most of the day. Once, while straggling behind, Munchkin suddenly realized he was missing someone. He raced ahead yelling, "Munchkin needs his Boy! Munchkin needs his Boy!"

Monday, August 27, 2007

Naptime Musings #2

Yesterday, when I got Munchkin up from his nap, he wasn't wearing any socks. When I asked where his socks were, Munchkin replied, "In Munchkin's pocket." Sure enough, a pocket was bulging. Then he added, "Wants to play with your toes out!"

(Note: He still has some of his pronouns mixed up!)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

New Poll (Update)

I'm trying out the blogger polling feature (see sidebar)! Please only reply once and we'll find out how many readers there are out there. This poll will close on Labor Day. If you have a question you'd like answered on another poll, please let me know!

(I've been getting "stuck" on my blog site ever since I put up the poll. My apologies to anybody else who is having problems. I'll take down the poll after Labor Day and see if that solves the problem.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Lasagna Recipe

I tried to attach this recipe as a "comment" to my last post, but for some reason, it doesn't seem to be working. For anyone who would like to know...

Lasagna even a picky toddler might love

6 lasagna noodles
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 large cloves garlic, minced
½ lb ground beef (I use grass-fed)
1 tsp Italian seasoning (I’m guessing on the quantity since I don’t measure)
1 tsp dried basil (ditto on the quantity)
1 cup cottage cheese
1 pound failed homemade mozzarella (may substitute store-bought)
Grated Parmesan cheese to top (real cheese, not the stuff in the green can)

Boil the lasagna noodles for about 10 minutes. As the water is heating, begin making the sauce. Brown beef in a small amount of olive oil along with garlic and onion. When the meat is no longer pink and the onion is tender, add tomato sauce and seasonings. Cover and simmer (the sauce) until the noodles are done.

Layer in a smallish baking dish half the noodles, half the cottage cheese, half the sauce, and half the mozzarella. Repeat. Top with grated Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees 25-30 minutes. Serves 4 plus a picky toddler.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Icky, icky goo, Part 2 (Update)

Well, you know that icky goo from my first cheese making experiment? I poured it into a pitcher and put it in the fridge until I decided what to do with it. When I got it out a few days later, it was solid. I loosened it from the pitcher and dumped out a perfectly round cake of cheese! It had the consistency of cream cheese, but with a weak mozzarella taste, so I sliced it up and put it into dinner. (By the way, that is NOT the way the cheese recipe is supposed to work. I'm going to try again with another brand of milk.)

The lasagna was a little different, as if I used ricotta instead of my usual mozzarella. My husband thought it tasted great! (I didn't tell him. Is that OK?) (OK, I finally told him when we ate the leftovers for a second dinner. He still likes it, and even my picky, picky Munchkin gobbled it up once we got him to taste it! I've included the recipe as a "comment" to this blog, in case anybody wants it.)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hard at work




Here's Munchkin, in his pajamas, "fixing" his crib! (The dump truck against the wall has become a "crane.")

Sunday morning

When we got Munchkin up this morning, he was full of juice!

Which reminds me... The other day I asked Munchkin if he had drunk some "wiggle juice." He said, "Yes," so Scott asked him where he got the juice.
Munchkin replied, "From a moose!"

But back to my story... When we told Munchkin that it was Sunday morning, he very astutely noticed a problem. It was cloudy. How could it be "sun" day if it was cloudy?

Then, he observed, "The big hand is up! It’s time to get up! And play in the living room! And get into trouble!"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Icky, icky goo! (Cheese attempt #1)

Milk is funny stuff. This blog entry was supposed to be the glowing success story of how I made Mozzarella cheese, but instead I made Icky Goo. It wasn't that I didn't carefully follow the instructions -- I followed them to the letter. Of course, Ms. Carroll left out a step or two. She never even mentioned that the milk heats up faster if you turn on the correct burner! But I figured it out and by the time I reached the second to last step I was excited. I could see how it was working! If students turned milk into cheese in high school chemistry class, more girls might consider a career in science!

So I got to the last step and my lump of curds promptly turned into the consistency of that thick paste we used to use in grade school! It tastes all right, I guess (the curds, not the paste), but yuck! Don't tell my family, but I think I'll hide it in lasagna. I gave the leftover whey to my ailing tomato plant.

I figured the problem must have been the type of milk I used, but when I went back to the website this afternoon, it looks like I did some other stuff wrong, too. I'm going to try again with a different brand of milk and more complete instructions. Stay tuned for Cheese Attempt #2!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Best place to be?

We have a little parrot in the house. The other day Scott talked on the phone saying, "uh-huh, OK," etc. Munchkin used the pauses in the conversation to repeat every word.

This morning, as we listened to a Matt Redman song on a Veggie Tales CD, the lyrics included a line, "Better is one day in Your courts than thousands elsewhere." I heard Munchkin repeat, "One day in your golf course. One day in your golf course."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Kingsolver Book Review

Munchkin's still in sick and in slow motion, so I interrupt the "cute Munchkin stories" to bring you the following book review...

This past spring I read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver (http://www.kingsolver.com/). The book is the account of how the author and her family moved from Phoenix to a farm in the Appalachias and decided to live off the the land and eat locally for one year. It's part journal and part informational. I don't know what Kingsolver normally does for a living, but she is a very good writer with an educator's heart. For anyone interested in the issues surrounding our national food supply, or who just enjoys a back-to-the-land story, it is a really good read. I found some parts intriguing, some parts delightful and some parts very funny. I won't spoil it by telling you any of the funny stuff -- if you want to know, you'll have to read it yourself!

This book linked me to two other books. Kingsolver writes about how her experiences in making her own cheese led her to "Cheese Queen" Rikki Carroll. Carroll has a book out called "Home Cheese Making" http://www.cheesemaking.com/ that I had to wait ages for at the library. It seems I'm not the only Kingsolver reader who has followed up by searching out the cheese making book! I have almost completed gathering my supplies and am looking forward to trying the mozzarella recipe. She says it takes only 30 minutes. I'll report soon on the results!

The other book is written by Gary Nabhan, an aquaintance of Kingsolver, who did a similar "eating local" experiment, but remained in Phoenix (quite a feat!). That book deserves its own review -- a blog for another day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

When it gets quiet

Munchkin is sick, poor kid. Probably picked up the bug at Sunday school and it kicked in on Tuesday. Today was a slow day as I kept him home to get better. He was in slower motion than usual, but my mommy-radar still clicked on every time things got too quiet in the house. Here's what he was doing...

#1 He got the bathroom step stool and put it in the middle of his trampoline. Then he sat on it and bounced. When I found him, he was just about to try it standing up.

#2 He was reading a book in the corner. (Shock!)

#3 He was laying down, sandwiched between the back of the couch and a cabinet and looking through a family photo album. He's not allowed to get the albums out by himself, but he was so darling I couldn't get mad. :)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Future Banker?

I've mentioned before that there's no telling what Munchkin will say when he first wakes up from his nap. Today, he was spouting financial advice.

"If we buy some money, it will be 'xpensive... If it's not too 'xpensive, we should buy some!"

Thanks! (Update)

I just checked on the visitor statistics for my blog and discovered, to my total amazement, that there are people out there reading it! There's 42 of you since I first started the stats at the beginning of July. A few have actually visited my site over 50 times! (Update: I think I misread the stats and it is just 14 visitors visiting a total of 42 times -- so thanks to my 14 loyal readers! Don't know if the 50 visits part is right, either. It seems too high. I'll figure out how to read the stats eventually...)

So... I don't know who you are, but thanks!!! I hope I can continue to keep you entertained!

By the way, I've gotten reports of people having trouble leaving comments. If anyone wants to leave a comment but doesn't have a Google account, just click on the Comment icon and leave a comment as "Annonymous." Of course, you'll have to include your name in the comment if you want me to know who sent it. I have the site set up to accept annonymous comments and will leave it that way unless I start having problems.

Thanks again!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Funny stuff from the zoo

We took Munchkin to the Portland Zoo today. It was a lot of fun and we saw lots of animals, of course. Munchkin had a really good time. In the section called the Great Northwest there are mountain goats, bears, cougars, and the like. The highlight for me was the golden eagle, which we got to see up close. There was also a section with farm animals in a petting zoo. At the entrance to the "farm" was a John Deere tractor set up for kids to climb on. Munchkin did, of course.

On the way home, I asked Munchkin which animal at the zoo was his favorite. Munchkin answered, "A tractor." He has held steadfastly to his answer, even telling Grandma on the phone that a tractor was his favorite animal. A drive to Portland, a $20 entrance fee, and Munchkin likes the tractor!

Personally, my favorite moment occurred as we watched a large brown-orange baboon. I heard a mother say to her son who was about Munchkin's age, "No, it's not Elmo."

Friday, August 3, 2007

Oops!

While looking out the window at the clouds this morning Munchkin declared, "They forgot to get the sun out!"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Penguin's Hard Day

The other day Munchkin was playing with his stuffed animals on the kitchen floor. I never saw Penguin acting up, but Munchkin stuck him in a time-out more than once. Then, to make matters worse, I heard Munchkin emphatically say, "TIGGER, NO! NO EAT PENGUIN!"

Sunday, July 8, 2007

So much for indoctrination

Scott and I are not fans of Walmart. In fact, we sing the Darth Vader theme whenever we drive by a store or pass a Walmart semi on the freeway. We joke that someday Munchkin will ask us why the "Walmart theme" is in Star Wars. Scott's parents, on the other hand, frequently shop at Walmart and have even taken Munchkin with them on occasion.

Yesterday, Scott began humming the Darth Vader theme at home. Munchkin promptly said, "They have saws there."

Wanting to be sure, Scott asked, "Where do they have saws?"

Munchkin replied, "Walmart." Then he added, "They have crescent wrenches, too."

Monday, June 25, 2007

At least he's honest

One day while on our recent vacation Scott grew tired of the constant chatter. He asked, "Munchkin, do you ever stop talking?"

Munchkin answered, "Yes."

Scott asked, "When?"

Munchkin replied, "When Munchkin is sleeping."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Better than power tools?

Last night at bedtime, Munchkin spontaneously prayed, "Thank you, God." Scott told Munchkin that his prayer was really good. He said he thinks God likes it when people say "Thank you" better than anything else.

Munchkin thought about that for a few seconds before he asked in amazement, "Power tools? ...Drills?"

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Overheard at the Pump

Munchkin's toy garage sports a gas pump with a tiny little nozzle. Munchkin gasses up all sorts of things whether they need fuel or not. This afternoon, as Munchkin poked the nozzle into his stuffed bunny, I heard him say, "Fill it regular, please."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Some more what?

Last night Munchkin climbed on his "Daddy Jungle Gym." It's a great sport -- Munchkin can jump on Daddy's stomach and use his legs as a slide. Scott eventually tired of the game and told Munchkin that Daddy's slide was all out of order. Munchkin said, "Daddy needs some more."

Not making the connection, we asked, "Daddy needs some more what?"

Munchkin explained, "Daddy needs some more order."

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Back to the hardware store!

Today, Munchkin told me, "Daddy needs a new table saw."

I asked, "Why does Daddy need a new table saw? Is something wrong with the one he has?"

Munchkin responded, "It has sawdust on it. Get a new one."

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Naptime Musings #1

Some place between asleep and awake, Munchkin says the funniest things. I never know what will come out of his mouth when I get him up from his nap! "Naptime Musings" is a record of some of Munchkin's sleepy statements. Statements like...

"Munchkin has a green table saw."

And yesterday...
Munchkin: Chicken... laid an egg. (giggle, giggle)
Mommy: Were you dreaming about a chicken?
Munchkin: Yeah... Chicken lay egg. It's siw-wee (silly).

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Bath

The other night I gave Munchkin a bath. As I prepared the bath, Scott distracted Munchkin while I closed the bathroom door so I could go into a cabinet without little eyes seeing the secret childproof latch. Immediately I heard screams and wails. As Scott tried to comfort Munchkin and calm him down, I heard the pitiful cry, "Mommy needs Munchkin! Mommy needs Munchkin!"

It was so hard not to laugh as we reassured Munchkin that Mommy would never forget to put him in the bathtub!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

What, no mute?

We were driving in the car this morning and Munchkin was chattering, chattering, chattering...

Scott finally asked, "Munchkin, can you find the mute button?"

Munchkin replied, "No."

There was a pause and then Munchkin added, "Munchkin... doesn't... have... a... mute... button."

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Cooool!

Yesterday at the mall, Munchkin and I saw a man fixing the "S" in a department store sign. Munchkin was spellbound! He watched the man for at least 20 minutes as he climbed up and down the ladder and used various tools out of his tool bag. At one point, two preschool-age girls walked by with their mothers. Munchkin went nuts running around the girls and directing their attention by saying, "See man! See man!" The girls continued walking and Munchkin ran after them to try to take their hands and show them the "man!" He returned, a little disappointed, and continued his vigil.

As Munchkin and I were retelling the story to Daddy, I made a comment to Munchkin that when he grows up, he needs to find a girl who likes some of the same things that he likes. Munchkin answered matter of factly, "Table saws."

Thursday, May 3, 2007

All-boy!

This story happened before the start of my blog, but any collection of cute Munchkin stories has to include this one! Munchkin had just turned two when he and I were driving to the grocery store and an ambulance raced by, lights and sirens blaring. The conversation went something like this...

Munchkin: Fire?
Mommy: No, it's an ambulance. It's probably going to help somebody who got hurt.
Munchkin thinks a bit...
Munchkin:Owwie?
Mommy: That's right. Someone has a BIG owwie.
Munchkin thinks some more...
Munchkin: Fix it?
Mommy: Yes, they're going to try to fix it.
Munchkin thinks a little more...
Munchkin: Duct Tape?

Monday, April 30, 2007

Chocolate Crayons

Everyone always responds, "I hope you're writing this down!" So here's my latest experiment in writing down some cute Munchkin stories and having a little fun myself. Can't promise I'll update my site very often, but now I have a new place to write. Bear with me while I'm still trying to figure out how to add photos without it taking all day to download.

So what's the deal with "chocolate crayons?" Well, my son, who I'll refer to as "Munchkin" saw an ad in the Toys R Us flyer the other day in which kids were playing with sidewalk chalk. I told him that Mommy had some, and we could play with it sometime. Munchkin doesn't know the word, "chalk," yet, so when he asked about it later, he came up with "chocolate crayons." It's logical, when you think about it. Just so long as he doesn't think they are edible. I thought it was so cute that I named my blog site after it. Believe it or not, somebody else already has a blog site with the "chocolate crayons" address, so I had to modify it to "chocolate-crayon-family."