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 ( 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. 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.