Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Silly me

This afternoon, Munchkin and I had the following conversation...

Munchkin: Mommy, do you know how to use a drill?
Me: Well, no, not really.
Munchkin: You press the button and it goes, "Zzzzzzz!"

Monday, December 29, 2008

Exciting developments & new name

Exciting news on my Purple Elephant project -- I've approved sketches of the illustrations and am eagerly awaiting the color versions! In the next few weeks, I hope to share a preview. Stay tuned...

In anticipation of publishing my book, I'm also making a small change in my blog. For the sake of privacy, I've changed the blog name of my son to "Munchkin." It was either that, or publish my book under a pen name. Maybe I'll do both, but in any case, you'll now be reading "cute Munchkin stories." It's the same little boy and he still loves those tools. :) I'd ask that those of you who know his previous blog name please don't use the old name in your comments.

When I began this blog, I never dreamed that anybody except a few friends and family members would read it. Now, I get almost 500 hits every month, and growing. The average self-published book sells 150 copies, mostly to the author and friends of the author. Maybe that will be my luck, too, but this morning I learned that a friend of mine sold 60,000 copies of his most recent book! I have no idea how he did it, but believe me I intend to ask! I'd be thrilled with 10% of those sales numbers! Anyway, I have no idea how popular (or obscure) my book will be and what numbers of readers it will attract to my personal blog, so I decided to do what I should have done from the beginning and give my son a layer of anonymity.

It's been a royal pain to have to go back and edit about 300 posts since Blogger doesn't have a "search and replace" function (does it?). I also had to delete comments that mentioned Munchkin's name and I'm very sorry about that since I had to get rid of some really good ones by some of my best blogging buddies! As time consuming as it was to go back and read everything, it was really wonderful to reread all the comments. I'm so grateful to all of you who leave me comments as it makes blogging so much more fun. So please keep reading, and keep those comments coming! I appreciate them all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Luke 2 (NIV)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Grandma's Walnuts

Better late than never, I finally have a contribution to Abbie's recipe exchange. I'm afraid that the old family favorites I was going to post about didn't get made this year. Might be because I had so much on my to-do list...

Anyway, I did make my grandma's candied walnuts. I saved enough to give away, although this picture is all I have left. :) I'm posting her original recipe, with my comments in italics.

Cinnamon Walnuts

1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
5 Tbsp water
2-3 cups walnuts They taste better if you use local nuts and shell them yourself. :)

Cook sugar, cinnamon and water slowly until dissolved then boil until syrup threads. (I use a candy thermometer and cook until 236-240 degrees.) Remove from fire. (I just take them off the stove.) Add vanilla and nuts and stir until nuts begin to sugar. (They still taste fine if you goof and put the vanilla in at the beginning.) Pour on buttered sheet to cool. (Separate quickly with a fork or they will all stick together.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Meme me

I followed Joyce's post to Arduous's blog for this little meme. It's a good one. You bold the things you've done and italicize the things you'd really like to, but haven't, yet. I'm amazed at how much of what I'd like to do on this list I've already done! If anyone wants to pick it up and use it on your own blog, please do!

1. Started my own blog - obviously!
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity - one year in college I gave more than I made. Obviously, it was my parents who were paying for my expenses.
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning - worst night of my life! The next day wasn't much better.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty - back in 1977 when it was still open!
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort - Can't remember, so I'll say no
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run - yeah, right!
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language - sort of. I tried to teach myself both Russian and Chinese, but I didn't get very far with either. Spanish I learned in school.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling - in the Caribbean!
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie - I was in a friend's college project. We spent so much time waiting around that it was one of the more boring experiences I've had.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma - not that I didn't try, I just was never eligible
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter - see #4
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt - lots of them!
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book - stay tuned!
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous - Jimmy Carter, Madeleine L'Engle
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake - I think that's where it was!
97. Been involved in a law suit - Sort of. The crook who built my house tried to solve his legal troubles by letting his lawyer put a lien on my house 6 months after I bought it from him (!) and I had to get rid of it.
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant - at a fair :)

Christmas secret

The other night at dinner the little one, with everyone present, asked, "Mommy, what store did you say you would take me to to buy a tool for Daddy for Christmas?"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas cookies

I'm planning to take part in Abbie's Christmas Cookie Recipe Swap later this week. Actually, I was planning to post a favorite family recipe today, but Munchkin reminded me on Monday that I had promised to let him bake gingerbread cookies.

Between making the dough, baking the gingerbread men and frosting the cookies, it turned into a two-day project -- perfect for a snowed-in week. Many thanks to green bean for her recipe and inspirational picture. I'll post one of our other recipes later.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Slight change of weather

Yesterday...









And today...


I'm at the Blogging Bookworm this week -- come visit!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Okay...

As I watched Munchkin play with the figures from our wooden nativity set, we had the following exchange...

Munchkin: Why is Baby Jesus out of his manger?
Me: Is he learning how to walk?
Munchkin: No, he wants to see how to take it (the manger) apart. He's looking for a drill.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What impressed the marble guy

After my most recent post, the marble guy shared how Munchkin so impressed him. He was installing some molding, which he needed to cut, and Munchkin asked what kind of saw he was going to use. Marble guy said, "A chop saw."

To which Munchkin responded, "You mean a compound miter saw.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Contractor magnet

Today is Marble Day and, as I write this, Munchkin is "helping." The marble guy is so charmed by him that after he gave Munchkin his own roll of green tape, he asked me to take a picture of the two of them so he could show it to his wife.

So how do we break it to Munchkin that we're not going to do this every year for Christmas?

(Yes, I know Munchkin has his shirt on inside out and his jeans on backwards. I can't talk him out of it -- he says he can reach his pockets easier. Not quite sure of the advantage of the inside-out shirt.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On my must-do list this week

Choose floor & marble colors for bathroom
Choose neices' Christmas presents
Bake Christmas cookies with Munchkin
Grocery shop
Laundry
Prepare final project for work
Keep Munchkin from getting in bathroom contractor's way
Shake printer cartridge until it prints final project
Work
Borrow painting supplies for bathroom
Purchase primer, supplies & pick up paint chips for bathroom
Return incorrect fixture for bathroom
Arrange childcare before deadline at work
Keep Munchkin from getting in contractor's way
Do research on one Christmas present
Run household errands
Download picture sketches for my book
Keep Munchkin from getting in contractor's way
Paint primer in bathroom
Turn in final project at work
Work with illustrator to approve sketches
Choose paint color for bathroom
Purchase paint for bathroom
Get plumbing thingy for bathroom
Keep Munchkin from talking the ears off of contractor
Phone consultation with doctor
Paint bathroom
Keep Munchkin from getting into wet paint
Review insurance options before deadline
Be here for marble installation guys
Keep Munchkin from getting in marble guys' way
Attend work Christmas party
Be here for floor installation guys
Keep Munchkin from getting in floor guys' way
Work on homemade Christmas presents
Mail neices' Christmas presents
Get Christmas tree
Decorate for Christmas
Paint molding for bathroom window

It sure seems like I've forgotten something...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Everything he tried, he learned from his 3-year-old

I don't know if I can do this one justice, but I'll try...

This evening I made my family's favorite "Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta" (recipe to follow). Scott normally claims the leftovers for his lunch the next day. This evening, I planned to save the extras for my sister, who will be babysitting Munchkin tomorrow night and might want something for dinner. Even with that, there would have been plenty except for the fact that our growing boy really likes this meal.

At the end of dinner when Scott eyed the remaining pasta, I told him of my plans. He tried begging with his most pathetic face, but it didn't work, so he asked Munchkin what was the best way to get someone to do something. Munchkin put on his cutest expression and sweetly said, "Please?" Scott tried it, but couldn't get the cute little expression quite right.

Then Munchkin suggested Daddy try crying. Scott asked how, so Munchkin gave a perfect one-second demonstration before he broke into a big grin. We all laughed so hard that Munchkin almost choked.

Scott tried the "cry," but he's not nearly as good as Munchkin, who suggested, "Keep crying!" Poor Daddy just didn't quite have the technique. At the end, Munchkin took my side and insisted that Daddy couldn't have the pasta because it belonged to his aunt (who didn't call back to confirm tomorrow night, so the fate of the pasta is still undecided...).

Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta
(I'm sure the original recipe had quantities, but I lost them long ago. Put in amounts of ingredients to suit your own needs & taste.)

Pasta (I use tube pasta but macaroni or rotini is fine)
Ground beef or pork
Bacon, diced
1 can tomato soup (sorry, locavore friends, I've tried substitutions and nothing tastes as good!)
Cheddar cheese, grated

Cook pasta in boiling water about 10 minutes. While pasta is cooking, fry ground meat in a frying pan until brown. Remove to another bowl. In same pan, fry bacon until done. Drain on paper towels. Drain pasta. In same frying pan, combine tomato soup, pasta, ground meat and bacon and heat through. Sprinkle with grated cheese and cover until cheese is melted.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Purple Elephant update

For those blog followers eagerly awaiting my upcoming book, I just wanted to tell that Kim Sponaugle is beginning sketches and will be drawing the illustrations in the next month or so. I can't wait to see how my characters look!

I am still planning to print the book sometime this spring or early summer, and in anticiptation of that, I am working on a website for the book. As soon as I have mug shots of the main characters, I hope to get the site up and running. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Little boy's delight...

Mom and Dad's nightmare.

Our contractor suggested we send a copy of this picture to the crook who built our house. You think I'm exaggerating? A couple hours after I signed the papers, the police were here looking for him. Anyway, he apparently didn't know how to properly build a bathroom. But, hey, Munchkin's watching and learning how to use a crowbar. :)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Playground antics

This afternoon, Scott and I took Munchkin to a the playground at my old gradeschool. The play equipment may be all different, but the memories still come flooding back! Anyway, there was another little boy (Alex) about Munchkin's age and the two hit it off right away.

There were a lot of funny moments. My favorite was when Alex rode his bicycle around the playground while Munchkin chased after him on foot (Munchkin was faster). As Munchkin gained on Alex, Munchkin yelled, "Here comes the police!" Then he gave Alex a "ticket" for going too fast.

Scott's favorite moment also occured as Munchkin chased Alex, trying to grab onto Alex's bicycle. Alex said something to his dad as he rode by and the dad translated for us. He said, "Alex just told me in Chinese, 'He wants me to stop, but I want to keep going!'"

But the best was probably when Alex got his bike stuck in the mud in a grassy area and his dad had to help him get out. As soon as Alex had his bike back on the pavement, Munchkin said, "Let's get stuck in the garden again!"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Where I am

Hi blog buddies! I'm at my parents' house for Thanksgiving for the whole week and I'm having a ball reconnecting with old friends (OK, really old friends -- Munchkin and I wished a neighber happy 103rd birthday today!) and letting Munchkin play at the same parks I played at as a child. It's been fun and really busy. Don't want you to think I've gone away -- I've just been too busy to blog. I should be back with regular posts next week!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another downside to eating local

A while back I wrote about "the downside to eating local," which at that time was the fact that I had to run all over town to find ingredients instead of buying them all at the grocery store. I've had a number of hits on that post from people looking for a downside. I don't know why they're looking, but they are. So I hope they read this post, too!

The other evening we found ourselves out later than we'd planned and we had to stop somewhere for a bite to eat before one 3-year-old totally broke down. Anyone with kids knows what I'm talking about. :) Anyway, we ate dinner at a chain restaurant which I'll allow to remain nameless since the waitresses were nice.

The food wasn't so great, though. Scott's and my entrees were totally overpriced for how boring they tasted. We've gotten used to eating fresh, local food at home, and this was anything but. For Munchkin, I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich since that was about the only thing on the kids' menu I thought he'd eat. He loves grilled cheese at home.

Fried from too much excitement and too late a dinner, Munchkin was a real squirrel in the restaurant. Up and down, dump out the pepper, crawl on the floor, stand on the seat, etc. They didn't have soy milk and he still won't drink water, so I had to let him have some lemonade. I'm sure it consisted soley of flavored corn syrup, on an empty stomach, and he got even more wired with the extra sugar. We tried to coax him into eating his sandwich, but he just took a few nibbles.

Scott was baffled as to why Munchkin didn't gobble up his sandwich until I noticed that it was made with American cheese. When I mentioned this out loud, Munchkin took his barely eaten sandwich and threw it over his shoulder into the next booth and onto some poor guy's lap. The guy returned the sandwich and we left.

So here's another downside: when you get used to the taste of local, good, real food, the stuff they serve at the chains loses its appeal so much that even your preschooler will recognize "junk" masquerading as food!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What to do with that cute little pumpkin...

This morning I received a delightful surprise when I opened up the newspaper. A couple weeks ago, a friend interviewed me as a source for a story she was writing on using local foods for Thanksgiving. Little did I know that I would become her main source for the article! As a bonus, she worked my blog address into her text, so if there’s anyone out there for the first time, welcome! If you want to read about my first experiences with an "eating local" challenge, you can find the topic on the sidebar or just click here.

The newspaper article included my recipe for how to turn a local pie pumpkin into puree. In response to a request from a reader (sorry it’s taken so long!), I want to include some recipes of what to do with that puree once you bake it. Some of the ingredients are decidedly non-local, so buy fair trade if you can.

Pumpkin Puree
Buy one of those cute little pie pumpkins from a farm stand. Halve pumpkin and scoop out seeds and strings. Place halves face down on a cookie sheet, add 1/4 inch water. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Scoop out the squash part and mash in a blender or food processor. Puree can be used for pie, cookies, muffins, breads, etc. One pumpkin is more than enough for a pie.


Pumpkin Chip Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 c cooked (or canned) pumpkin puree
1 c chocolate chips

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with pumpkin. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. Apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-14 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. Yield: 4 dozen.

Apple Pumpkin Muffins
2 ½ cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup cooked (or canned) pumpkin puree
½ cup vegetable oil
2 cups finely chopped peeled apples

In a bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients. In another bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in apples. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Sprinkle with sugar if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Yield: 2 dozen small or 1 dozen large.


No-cook Pumpkin Pie
(OK, this uses a lot of grocery store ingredients, but the pumpkin can be local!)

1 pkg (3 oz) Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp cold milk
1 Tbsp sugar
1-1/2 cups thawed whipped topping
2 pkgs (4 serving size) vanilla instant pudding
1 can pumpkin (or 2 cups pumpkin puree)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 graham cracker pie crust

Mix cream cheese, 1 Tbsp milk and sugar with wire whisk until smooth. Gradually stir in whipped topping. Spread on bottom of crust. Pour 1 cup milk into mixing bowl. Add pudding mix. Beat with whisk until well blended, 1-2 minutes. Let stand 3 minutes. Stir in pumpkin and spices; mix well. Spread over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate at least two hours. Garnish with additional whipped topping if desired.


Substitute for 1 tsp Pumpkin Pie spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves


Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Separate pumpkin seeds from the goop and boil in salted water for 10 minutes. Let seeds dry a little on a towel. In a bowl, toss seeds with 1-2 Tbsp butter or olive oil, seasoned salt and a sprinkle of Worcestershire sauce. Toast on a cookie sheet at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. Chewy seeds are done when they turn light golden brown. For crunchy seeds, remove from oven as they start to turn dark brown.

Mystery solved

Well, hat's off to Aunt Janet for coming closest to guessing Munchkin's intentions with the gords. They're a group of Pavers wearing hard hats. Naturally. What else could they be?!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Playground stories

Munchkin and I went to a school playground for some badly needed wiggle time, but he quickly lost interest in the play equipment when he found some soft dirt and a stick. :)

After digging for several minutes, Munchkin explained that he was making a house for a mouse and then he would hook up the electrical wires so the mouse could have electricity!

He lost interest in that project, though, when he discovered a bunch of gopher holes. Talking the whole time, Munchkin tried to dig out a gopher and was insistant that he would see one no matter how hard I tried to convince him that they were deep in the ground hiding. Finally, frustrated that I wouldn't give in, he asked, "But how do they get attention?!!"

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Monday (Update)

I just wanted to brighten your Monday with this picture taken by my dad at the Monarch Butterfly reserve near Santa Cruz, CA. I think he should start his own photo blog, don't you?

If you haven't taken a guess, yet, for the latest mystery (11/15 post), please do try to figure it out and leave a comment. I'll post the answer later this week.

I'm also at the Blogging Bookworm this week and I've posted another butterfly picture over there that's even neater. Flap on over and check it out!

(Update: Check out the November APLS Carnival on buying local that is now up at the Green Phone Booth!)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's yet another mystery!


OK, you detectives out there, what are these? Anybody who can guess the correct answer should win a framed picture of Munchkin. (I'm not giving one away, but you deserve to win one!)

Friday, November 14, 2008

I think he got it right

Yesterday, when I picked Munchkin up from his grandparents' house, his grandpa asked with a wink if I'd like to take home the new "radio." Munchkin quickly ran to find it and even pressed the button so I could hear the "music." We left it at grandma's house.

On the way home, Munchkin asked where grandma and grandpa got the radio. I tried to explain that cheap plastic toys sometimes come in cereal boxes. Munchkin considered my answer and then he said, "They shouldn't do that." I asked why not and he said, "Because they're ug-noxious."

That was a new word and so I asked who called the radio "ug-noxious." Munchkin answered, "Grandma and grandpa."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why local?

(This blog entry is my two cents worth for the November APLS Carnival.)

I used to be a Walmart shopper. I loved walking down the aisles looking at all the cheap consumer goods for sale. During the Christmas season, I especially loved the aisle that had packaged gift sets such as his & her matching cocoa mugs or a ceramic John Deere tractor filled with cookies. I’d go there just to look, and sometimes I’d buy.

Then, one fall, our local paper did a series of expose type articles on Walmart. One article was about how Walmart treated their employees (what overtime?). One was how they treated their US suppliers (sell it cheaper or go out of business). And one was how they treated their overseas manufacturers (sell it cheaper or we’ll buy from another country). The comment that stuck, and the one that really got to me, was a quote from a lady who worked for a clothing company in Honduras. Every year, Walmart required the company to cut costs further. They could reduce their profit or cut the quality, but the cost had to go down. The Honduran lady said, and I have to paraphrase, "I just can’t believe that people in America really care if they save 50 cents on a pair of shorts."

Maybe it's because I've visited Honduras, but that one comment made me realize that there is a hidden cost to our cheap consumer goods and it is a cost I don’t like. I have no desire to gyp Hondurans out of the 50 cents they need to make a profit so they can buy tortillas for their kids, so I quit shopping at Walmart.

I occasionally purchase similar merchandise, but I buy it from a locally owned store, or at least one that has a reputation of treating people better. I figure that if they treat their employees well, they probably treat their suppliers better, too. It costs more, so I buy less stuff. I’ve done a complete 180 from searching for the cheapest price to searching for a quality product, fairly paid for. I’m buying much less from the lady in Honduras (or China or ??), but hopefully I’m paying for what I buy. If we all did that, we would need to manufacture a lot less stuff, we could cut out the junk, and we could bring back the quality. I think the world would still go around.

That began my journey. Through reading books I soon also learned about the state of our food production in this country and was similarly horrified to find out what system I was supporting. It was around the same time as a bunch of e. coli scares, I had a baby who was starting to eat solid foods, and I was concerned about what I was feeding my family. When I learned about the abuse of animals, the land, and the farmers and immigrants who do most of the work, I started looking for other options.

My search took me to local farms, the farmers’ market, and even to a friend who offered me a share in their pig! I learned about locavores and their "eat local" challenges from fellow bloggers. I started out unconvinced, but soon I was hooked and just had to try it.

I’m not a purist when it comes to eating local foods – I still shop at the grocery store every week – but I’m now buying about half our food from the people who grew it. I love that. The food is better. It’s so much better that I notice when for some reason I eat the old stuff. I don’t care what anybody says about how it’s cheaper to eat whole foods – it’s been waaaay more expensive. I’m still making compromises because of price, but when I buy locally, I know where the money is going. I’m supporting farmers who are trying to care for their people, land and animals instead of trying to milk every penny out of them and leave the problems to the next generation.

I buy locally grown food as much as I can. On some other things, I try to buy fair trade or the equivalent. I’ve got a long ways to go, but I figure that if everyone did what I’m doing we would strengthen our communities, save our land, and we’d have a lot more social justice.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Unspoken conversations are the funniest

After almost 12 years of marriage, I guess Scott and I know each other pretty well. Consider this evening's exchange. Nothing came before this -- this conversation was out of the blue.

Scott: Were you feeling stressed earlier today?
Me: That didn't take long!
And then we both cracked up.

Behind the scene: When Scott saw an open package of chocolate mint cookies in the snack cupboard, he remembered that they are my comfort food, so he asked if I was stressed. When he asked, I remembered that Scott snoops around on shopping days to find out what goodies I might have brought home. I bought the cookies this morning.

Sorry, locavore friends, I guess I fall off the wagon when I meet a chocolate mint. :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Motivation

This afternoon I had to mail a package at the post office. There is a long counter where I used to let Munchkin sit when he was younger. Munchkin wanted to sit up there today and when I told him he was now too big, he offered to be very, very, very, very good.

When we got to the window, the clerk patted the counter and said Munchkin could sit up there. I placed him on the counter with the reminder not to touch anything. Postal stuff was within reach everywhere. Munchkin was a model child and he looked at everything. Sometimes his nose was an inch away, but he was quiet and he didn't touch a thing.

Walking away, I commended Munchkin on his behavior. Munchkin responded, "Mommy, did you see how many kinds of tape they had?"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Don't forget to vote!

(Like that's even possible this year.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Better than Santa

So Munchkin is still hung over on sugar from the weekend, he's all Wiggles, and it's raining buckets outside. I decided to take him to a mall where there is an indoor play area. I parked at the far end in order to give him even more exercise, and he ran top speed through the mall just as I intended until...

There was a workman setting up the Christmas display where Santa will sit. The guy was oblivious to the 3-year-old who followed his every move as he walked around wearing a toolbelt and using a drill. We only had an hour, and it took me over half that time to drag Munchkin away to someplace where he would get some exercise. The big guy in the red suit has never interested Munchkin very much, but the workman was irrestistable.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Cupcakes

Before anybody tries to tell me that spiders have eight legs, let me just say that cutting licorice into little strips isn't as easy as it looks!

I baked these cupcakes for the harvest party this evening at our church. Munchkin helped. I'd post a picture of the ones he decorated, but I'm afraid it might cost you your appetite. Even Scott won't touch them. :) Anyway, Munchkin was not very happy about the prospect of giving up my cupcakes to become prizes in the "cakewalk." He insisted that he would do the cakewalk and win back the cupcakes.

Among all the fun activities this evening, we happened upon the cakewalk. Naturally, Munchkin wanted to try it. I was only going to let him do one or two rounds because Scott was already carrying a load of stuff (Munchkin's firecoat, his hat, his candy bag, a gift from Grandma, can't remember what else). On the second round, Munchkin won and got to choose his prize from a whole table of cupcakes. You'll never guess what he picked.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Eat Local Challenge: Riding in the wagon

Well, I kind of fell off the wagon when it came to posting about the Eat Local Challenge this month. What can I say? It's been busy. The fact is, we now eat a lot of local, although our dinners still are not up to any 90% local level. If I look at all our food purchases, we probably eat 50% local foods. Many people do a lot better than that, but for us it's a large step in a good direction. I hope I can do a post like this next October and report that the percentage is even higher.

I began sourcing local foods around this time last year and it was a big deal. Now, it's just how I shop! That's not to say that I've given up our weekly trip to the grocery store. We still go, and not just because Munchkin would miss seeing all the firemen and his favorite checker. But there are a lot of foods that I no longer even consider purchasing there. Our fruit and veggies all come from local farms (except mushrooms -- I still haven't gotten brave enough!). I buy eggs directly from local farmers or from a market that stocks local farm eggs. Our meat is 90% local, although our free-range chicken comes from Washington. Salmon comes from the fishing line of my father-in-law. All our dairy products are local except for that wonderful maple yogurt that an independent grocer stocks... I make my own jam in the summer, shell local walnuts in the fall, and grow mystery squash out of the compost pile. When I look at this list, I wonder if my 50% guess is a little low! I've not ordered local flour for a while because the prices just got to be too high, but I'll probably look into that again when winter comes. I'm also trying to buy more free trade or organic sugar and chocolate, although sometimes I don't. The organic chocolate has spoiled me for the regular stuff, though!

So I haven't had many 90% local meals to report, but every night we're eating probably half local foods. Pressed for time last night, I cut up a local onion and fried it with a little ground beef from a friend-of-a-friend's cow. Then I added a bag of homemade (local) tomato sauce from the freezer, some spices, noodles, and called it spaghetti. Later that evening, I snacked on my own roasted pumpkin seeds. That's pretty typical of how we eat when I don't get fancy, and I reach for local ingredients because that's what happens to be in the house. In the winter, the percentage of local foods will go down because I didn't do as much preserving this summer, but I now know about a local source of produce that will last at least until Christmas.

It's not too exciting, but it's become the new normal. I'm going to sit out the next "eat local" challenge because I need to spend more time on my book than I spend blogging, but I'd really encourage someone who's never tried one of these challenges to pick up the baton. It's fun, it's educational, it's good for the planet, it's delicious, and it'll spoil you for eating any other way. If you do sign up, please drop me a comment and let me know!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pumpkins, Part II

The pumpkins were transformed today. Munchkin helped with the goop. Here's his pumpkin:


But Scott really outdid himself this year. His pumpkin became this:


My pumpkin (not pictured) should be transformed into toasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin puree later this week. From there it will become pumpkin cookies, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin to freeze until next year.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Story: by Munchkin

This Sunday we feature a guest author named Munchkin, age 3. The background of this story is that we have had a workman rebuilding our front porch all week, so Munchkin has spent many hours with his nose pressed against the living room window. Thursday, when I got him up from his nap, he said:

"Once upon a time there was a little boy who liked to watch construction work out the window. Mommy? Why did he like construction?"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Say what?

This morning we had to wake Munchkin earlier than normal because I had an meeting I had to attend. After we woke him, Munchkin snuggled in Scott's lap very drowsy, without talking, until he asked, "Daddy? Where's your crowbar?"

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pumpkin picking

Munchkin's pumpkin, Daddy's pumpkin

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sunday Story: Great news!

Well, my two fans of the Sunday Story, I have some great news to report: I have found an artist to illustrate my story and am now beginning on the next stage of the process of publishing my book! From what I have learned just this week, it appears that actually writing the story was the easy part. It gets a lot more complicated from here on out! With any luck, though, I should be able to publish by late spring/early summer.

In the meantime, there may be weeks when I don't post much. If you start to wonder where I am, the answer is that I'm probably working on my book. :) I have also deleted the chapters I posted previously because I am doing more editing and I don't want an old version out on the web. If you missed it, I'm sorry, but the real book will be much better so the wait will be worth it!

Anyway, I am very excited about finding Kim Sponaugle, who will be drawing the illustrations. Here is the picture that sold me on her style...And the elephant she's drew for me is even cuter. :)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty

Yesterday was "Blog Action Day," which is a day when bloggers around the world all write about a similar topic to draw attention to it. This year’s topic is poverty, and I had been planning to participate, but I didn’t get my post up in time! So I’m writing today in the hopes that people are still out there reading.

I want to tell you about a Canadian boy named Ryan. Many years ago, when Ryan was 6 years old and too young to know what’s supposed to be impossible, he heard that kids in Africa didn't have clean water to drink, so he raised money to pay for a well. His project snowballed into 461 wells in 16 countries and he's still only 17. Ryan's is one of the most inspiring stories I've ever heard and you can read all about it on his website.

I learned about Ryan and his wells from a one page story in Readers’ Digest. I contacted him and through email correspondence became convinced that he was the real deal. I was so inspired by this grade-schooler that I began looking for how I could make a difference, too. I thought about supporting Ryan’s project, but he had just received so much press coverage that it seemed he would have all the support he needed.

It wasn’t long afterwards that I picked up a brochure about Compassion International and their programs for children in developing countries. Through Compassion, a person can sponsor a child who will then receive, in a Christian context, schooling, food, medical care and recreational opportunities. What is required of the sponsor is a small monthly commitment of money and the promise to correspond with the child through letters and pictures. This fit me perfectly and so I signed up. It’s a very small difference. I am helping one child. But I am making a really big difference for that one child, and it's because of Ryan.

Earlier this year, I read the book "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortensen and wrote about it on my blog. I have had more hits on that review than anything else I have ever written! Several readers have asked me what I know about the projects from the book and have implied that they might want to contribute. To a few, I’ve suggested that they search out the next "Mortensen," the one who is just getting started and hasn’t had such great press, and fund one of his projects. One of my readers "happened" to meet someone just like this, a man who is building schools (on a shoestring) in Sudan. The reader decided to fund the project, and it's because I wrote about the book.

The issue of global poverty is enormous, and we have a responsibility to help. I want to use this day-after-blog-action-day to urge everyone to do what you can to make a difference. Maybe it’s something small, like me, but it inspires someone else to do something big. Maybe you’ll be like Ryan and achieve more than should even be possible. Maybe you can find the next Mortensen and fund the next school. Or maybe you’ll be the proverbial butterfly who flaps his wings, and changes the weather pattern on the other side of the world. Just care. And pass it on.
For more great posts from yesterday, check out this list on Joyce's blog.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Visit to the zoo

When a zoo manager happened to walk by, he quipped, "I'm thinking of putting up an interpretive sign for the North American Construction Workers Exhibit."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sunday Story: Bad news, good news

Well, faithful fans of the purple elephant Sunday story, the bad news is that I am cancelling the feature due to lack of interest. No one answered my plea last week to those who wanted the story to continue, so I'm not sure there's anyone out there reading! If you have been enjoying the story and wish it to continue, or your kids are crushed to not find out what happens, please leave a comment on this post and I'll try to make it up to you.

The good news is that I am very close to selecting an artist and so I plan to self-publish the book sometime in 2009. I'm very excited about that prospect! I'm sure I've got tons of work to do before the book becomes a reality, but it's fun.

If you read any of the posts, I thank you. I think maybe this just isn't a good venue for a chapter book. I could be depressed that no one likes my story, but I can't determine that anyone has even been reading! Some experiments work better than others.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bruschetta, the sequel

At the end of the summer, I enjoyed my first taste of bruschetta for lunch one day and I was hooked! This week, for the Eat Local Challenge, I decided to make it myself. The inspiration came from our visit to the goat farm during which I bought some garlic & herb goat cheese. Armed with the most important ingredient, I prepared a "trial version" for my lunch. The real meal was going to be dinner, but I was just nervous enough about it to want to try it first on myself before subjecting my husband to my newest experiment. :)

I began with toasted sourdough rustic bread. For dinner, I brushed it with olive oil and grilled it, but simply toasting the bread in the toaster worked really well for a quick lunch! Onto the toasted/grilled bread I spread a thin layer of goat cheese. Then, I topped it with slices of tomato, chopped fresh basil, and a few shakes of balsamic vinegar. I was thrilled with the results as the taste was as close as I could have hoped for to the bruschetta I ate at the farmers’ market. I wonder if I bought the goat cheese from the same lady...

The photo is of my lunch, which was my bruschetta accompanied by an apple so local it had a worm in it. Yuck! Dinner’s bruschetta looked even better since I grilled the bread. I served it with fresh picked corn-on-the-cob, string beans and butter. Scott sat down at the table, looked at dinner skeptically and asked, "Is this the thing you had at the market?" Sometime during dinner I got a quiet, "This is good," and he ate every bite.

Ingredients:
Rustic bread - baked at a local grocery store
Herb & garlic goat cheese - fresh from the farm
Tomatoes, basil, green beans and wormy apple - farmers’ market
Corn - picked that day and sold at a farm stand
Butter - Tillamook
Oil, vinegar, salt & pepper - grocery store

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

20 bucks

No, that's not a typo -- I know milk goats aren't bucks.

This week Munchkin and I went on a wonderful tour of a goat farm. Munchkin enjoyed climbing on the hay bales, climbing the fence, watching the tractor, and, oh yes, the goats! The lady from the farm was wonderful with kids, both children and goats!

So where do the 20 bucks come in? I bought some goat cheese from the farm and, since we were out in the country, I stopped at a farm stand I love but rarely get to visit.

For 20 bucks, I came home with:
18 farm fresh eggs
2 large tomatoes
3 huge green bell peppers
5 Yukon Gold potatoes
5 apples (wish I'd written down the variety since Scott loved them!)
1 package of herbed goat cheese
1/2 package of blueberry goat cheese
Unfortunately they used the last package of the blueberry cheese as the sample for the children, so they offered the leftovers to us since Munchkin loved it so much (what can I say, he's cute!) As the lady wrapped it up, someone else asked for a taste. Munchkin let out a wail when she took a large piece, but in his defense, he was pretty tired after running around the farm for two hours.

Watching Munchkin milk a goat: priceless.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Visit to the goat farm

Who cares about the goats when you can watch the tractor!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mystery plant: It's what's for dinner

Munchkin felt lousy with a bad virus Wednesday. He spent most of the day curled up on the floor with a pillow and blanket in whichever room I was in. I felt really sorry for the poor kid, but boy did I get a lot of stuff done! :) Besides loads of laundry, I had plenty of time to prepare our first Eat Local Challenge dinner for October.

I started by cutting open the first of the squash that I harvested from the mystery plant that grew all summer. Munchkin might have been laying on the floor, but he had enough energy to ask to see it! I scooped out all the seeds, let Munchkin giggle at the "squash boat" and then filled the cavity with butter, honey, salt and pepper. It went into the oven to bake while I decided what to do with the pork chops.

Not yet deciding what to do, I boned the pork chops. Munchkin asked me to bring them down to the floor so he could see them, of course. Then, I decided to stuff them, which is much easier if the pork chops are still on the bone! I was limited to local ingredients, so I sauteed garlic and a red & green bell pepper. I mixed the filling with a little homemade applesauce and filled the pork chops.

When the squash and the pork chops were done, I arranged them on a plate and realized that dinner looked bland, so I added slices of tomato on lettuce. I served the applesauce as a side. It was all delicious, but the real star of the show was the squash. I probably used way too much butter and honey, but that’s the way my husband likes it. I think even Munchkin would have eaten it had he felt better.

Ingredients:
Mystery squash: Squash (backyard), honey (local), butter (Tillamook), salt & pepper
Pork chops: Pork (our pig), garlic (local), bell pepper (local), applesauce (local), salt & pepper
Salad: Tomato (local), lettuce (local)
Homemade applesauce: Apples (local from a friend and so sweet I didn’t even add sugar)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Eating local in October

This has been the weirdest year for weather here in Oregon and so much has ripened late that the best farmers' market shopping has been in the fall! During the month of September I've been cooking better local dinners (eg. shish kabobs, London broil with new potatoes and green beans, roasted chicken with corn on the cob and fresh green salad, pork roast with local homemade applesauce) with less effort than I did all summer and thinking, "Oh, this would make a great local meal post!" But then I remember that the One Local Summer challenge ended in August and I never get around to writing the posts.

Well, the locavores are once again hosting an "Eat Local Challenge" for the month of October and I've decided to sign up! They've relaxed the rules considerably since they first began, which has made it possible for me to join in. I believe when they first started, the idea was to eat entirely local foods for the entire month. I could do it, I think, but I've got a very busy 3-year-old, a husband and a job, and I don't want to commit the time required. This year, everybody sets their own rules. Mine are:

1. Local means the food is grown in the state of Oregon.

2. My exceptions include: spices, oils, flour, rice, and baking ingredients like baking powder. When I signed up, I forgot to include sugar in my exceptions list, so I'll try to use local honey instead.

3. My goal is to prepare one entirely local (minus exceptions) dinner each week and use as many local ingredients as possible in the rest.

I cooked my first dinner for the new challenge last night. I'll share about it tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Music to a musician's ears

This evening as I was fixing dinner, Munchkin was out of sorts. Wanting to cheer him up, I offered to put on some music. Munchkin liked the idea, so I turned on a Raffi CD (kiddie songs) that he enjoys. After a minute, Munchkin said, "Mommy, I don't want this music. I want Beethoven."

Monday, September 29, 2008

The coming flood (Update)

I'm afraid this isn't going to be a very humorous post, but I know that there are a lot of people out there who aren't laughing right now, anyway. I wanted to pass along a portion of a newsletter I received Saturday from David Wilkerson.

David Wilkerson is probably best known for foundingTeen Challenge decades ago. He works out of the Times Square church in New York City, now, and he has a unique ministry as a modern-day prophet. Not everybody agrees with him, and he certainly doesn't have a red telephone line directly to God, but he has given some amazingly correct prophecies over the years. Eight years ago, he got his church to hold an around-the-clock prayer virgil because he prophesied that something really bad was going to happen to New York. They prayed 24-7 for a month before 9-11 occured, across the street from their church. So he's got some credibility.

I subscribe to his (free) newsletter which comes out every three weeks. Wilkerson predicted the mortgage mess a couple years ago, and just this past weekend I received this in the mail. This excerpt is from the cover letter, and there's plenty more in his "sermon" that is also part of the newsletter. If you want to subscribe or read more, you can get there from this link.

I found this letter fascinating, particularly considering the things my (not necessarily Christian) green blogging friends have been talking about. I think you'll find it interesting no matter what you believe. Here's the quote from the newsletter:

(Update: I just found on the World Challenge website that I can't post an exerpt from the letter on my blog. So you'll have to follow the link and read it for yourself. Sorry!)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mystery plant: The harvest

Here it is -- delicata squash from the mystery plants I've been tending all summer. My husband observed that I got more produce from these volunteers than I did from the rest of my vegetable garden combined. Good thing I'm not a subsistence farmer.

Stay tuned for next week's final episode titled, "Mystery plant: It's what's for dinner!"

Monday, September 22, 2008

How not to hold a garage sale

1. Plan for months how you will hold the mother-of-all-garage-sales.
2. Collect items from around the house that you wish to sell.
3. Store the items in a place where you will trip over them in the middle of the night.
4. Wake up one Saturday morning tired of the pile of junk in your house.
5. At 9:30 am, throw out your perfect plans for next month's sale and decide to do the garage sale immediately.
6. Talk your husband (who thinks you're nuts, but is trying to cooperate) into pulling out a lot more stuff from the garage.
7. Make signs with (inadequate) materials you have on hand.
8. Haul the boxes of stuff out to the driveway.
9. Send husband and preschooler out on a mission to put up your signs.
10. Put up your sign and start putting pricing stickers on things as you pull them out of boxes.
11. Notice you have no customers, so drag the most attractive items out to the street.
12. Price more stuff.
13. Husband and preschooler return with the news that your signs are unreadable from the street.
14. Catch the preschooler in the act of removing price stickers and putting them on different items.
15. Fix the stickers and send husband and son into the house.
16. Entertain one customer who only wants to buy your display table, which is not for sale.
17. Put out more stuff.
18. Catch preschooler playing with more stickers.
19. Send husband and preschooler back into the house.
20. Observe that cars are slowing down, but not stopping.
21. Notice that you've been at this for two hours, have had only two customers and have yet to make your first sale.
22. Realize it's hopeless and start moving stuff back to the garage.
22. Save the remaining price sheets from the sticker-happy preschooler.
23. Send husband and preschooler back into the house.
24. Make your first sale ($5) as you're packing it in.
25. Let your husband tease you a little, since you've earned it.
26. Giggle as you watch preschooler price you and your husband (you: 70 cents, husband: 10 cents) and hold his own "garage sale" in your living room.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ahoy, lubbers!


September 19 is "Talk Like a Pirate Day," as I'm sure you already know...

Avast! You didn't know? Well, obviously you haven't read much of Dave Barry. Here's a quote:

"Every now and then, some visionary individuals come along with a concept that is so original and so revolutionary that your immediate reaction is: 'Those individuals should be on medication.'

Today I want to tell you about two such people, John Baur and Mark Summers, who have come up with a concept that is going to make you kick yourself for not thinking of it first: Talk Like a Pirate Day. As the name suggests, this is a day on which everybody would talk like a pirate. Is that a great idea, or what? There are so many practical benefits that I can't even begin to list them all." -- Dave Barry, Miami Herald, Sept. 8, 2002.

So brush up on your pirate talk smartly!

For your enjoyment, I'll conclude with a little pirate song by the founders of the holiday. Arrr!

A Children's Pirate Shanty
by Mark "Cap'n Slappy" Summers
(can be sung to the tune of Monty Python's "I'm a Lumberjack and I'm OK" - or make up your own!)

Chorus
I'm a pirate! That I be!
I sail me ship upon the sea!I stay up late - till half past three!
And that's a peg below me knee!

Yo Ho, my friends I have a tale
of treasure, plunder, sea and sailmy story's bigger than a whale
it gets so deep, ye'll have to bail.

I like to fish, I like to fight
I like to stay up half the night
When I say "starboard" ye go right!
Me ma, she says, "Ye look a fright!"

I've got no hand but that's me hook!
I pillage stuff but I'm no crook.
Me booty's in this chest I took.
They'll write about me in a book!

And that's all there is to this song.
I hope it hasn't been too long.
A pirate's life might just be wrong
So grow up nice and big and strong!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why didn’t they think of that?

As Munchkin and I drove down the street, we passed a station wagon with a canoe strapped to the top. I asked Munchkin what he thought it was and he answered that it was a boat, so I told him the boat was called a canoe. Munchkin remembered from our recent vacation that he had seen Indians in a canoe out in the sound. He asked, "How do the Indians make it go?"

We discussed how to use paddles for rowing and then he asked, "How to they make it go on dry ground?" Amazed at his language skills, I told him that the Indians had to pick up the canoe and carry it. Munchkin wasn’t satisfied with my answer, so he thought a minute before he said, "They could use a forklift! A forklift would do it!"

Monday, September 15, 2008

APLS Carnival

Hi everyone! The APLS Carnival is now in full swing over on green bean's blog. Check it out! Read some thoughtful posts & vote on whether to change "A" from affluence to all!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Welcome to APLS!

One of my favorite bloggers is at it again! This time green bean helped coordinate a blog, the purpose of which is to help eco-minded bloggers connect with each other. There are local chapters forming around the country and the APLS site hosts monthly "carnivals" on relevant topics. (A carnival is an event in which bloggers all write about the same topic and then there are links to everyone's posts from a central site.) There's also a cool button available, but I haven't used it because, well, it reminds me too much of the picture of a poison apple from my childhood copy of "Snow White." Sorry, green bean.

The APLS acronym stands for "Affluent Persons Living Sustainably." For last month's carnival, which I missed, the topic was "sustainability." This month's topic is "affluence." (The carnival will be posted 9/15 on green bean's blog.) Everyone hates the word, but in global terms, the majority of those who live in the US are affluent and we have unbelievable wealth compared to our poorest neighbor. Click on this link to see what's happening in Haiti right now. It's heartbreaking.

That said, I still don't like the word affluence. I have a loving husband, darling little boy, my health, a job, a house and I live in a nice community in the wealthiest country in the world. When I first wrote that list, I forgot to even include that I have food to eat and clothes to wear, because I've never known what it was like to be without. I'm late in getting my APLS submission in (and I hope they still include me!) because last night I was... well... playing with my new laptop computer. In global and historic terms, I am rich beyond measure. The word "affluence," on the other hand, connotes to me glitz, glamor, big houses and expensive cars. Maybe I'm confusing it with "opulence."

So forget the word. One thing that really impressed me after reading "Three Cups of Tea" was how little money it takes to make a really big difference in a developing country. Mortensen built his first school in Pakistan for $12K. Now, that's a lot of money for me, but really -- 12K? To build a whole school? Compassion International has a program where a gift of $32/month purchases food, schooling, recreation and medical care for one child. Try that in the US!

I don't know what to think of these figures. Things are cheaper overseas? Standards are lower? People can get along quite nicely on a lower standard of living than what we consider to be a necessity? Years ago I was deep in the jungles of Mexico in a rainstorm that threatened snow, and my group stopped off at the most welcome, warmest, coziest little house I've ever seen. The house was made of mud, but obviously it kept a family very comfortable. We don't even have the option of living like that here in the US -- the building permit guys would laugh us out of the office!

I digress. The point is, we have a lot compared to most of the world, and it takes very little to make a positive difference in the life of someone who has need. The apostle Paul wrote, "For if the willlingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality." (2 Cor. 8:12-14) It's something to think about.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Monkey hear, monkey say

The other night, Scott told Munchkin to start picking up his toys since it was time to get ready for bed. Munchkin walked into his bedroom and said, "It's a real mess in here! We should have started ten minutes ago!"

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sunday Story: Title Page!


The Purple Elephant

by Donna
at Chocolate Crayons & More


© 2008 All rights reserved.
Do not duplicate electronically.
Please feel free to print out a copy for yourself and your kids, for personal use only.
Thank you.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bruschetta

When I was about 8, or maybe 10, I had lunch at my grandmother’s house and she made me a tomato sandwich. It had fresh tomatoes and parsley from their garden, and I don’t know what else because I’ve been trying to duplicate that sandwich ever since, without success.

Ten years later, my other grandmother took me to lunch at a little deli where I ordered salami on sourdough. The man behind the counter decided that I looked underweight and so he "helped" me by adding extra meat. He must have put on half a pound – I remember it being more than ½ inch thick – and he included cheeses and veggies. I’ve never been able to duplicate that sandwich, either, in part because I just can’t justify putting ½ pound of salami on a single sandwich, but also because the memory was part of the taste.

These two sandwiches have gone down in my personal history as the best I’ve ever had, and in the decades that have followed, I’ve never found another sandwich that belonged on such an exclusive list. Until today.

I had the rare treat of walking around alone at the farmers’ market this morning. At lunch I found a booth that was selling bruschetta. Maybe everyone else knows all about it, but I had only read the word on fancy menus. I watched as the sellers created one for another customer before ordering. Their version of bruschetta is an open-faced sandwich that begins with a thick slice of "rustic bread" brushed with something (I’m guessing olive oil and garlic) and then grilled. Goat cheese is spread on the warm bread and it is topped with thin slices of brandywine tomato and chopped fresh garlic. Finally, it is drizzled with some kind of balsamic sauce.

I savored every bite. A woman walked by and demanded to know where I had purchased such an incredible looking lunch. It was perfect – a grown-up sandwich for a grown-up taste – and it was so filling that I didn’t eat my farm-fresh organic apple until much later.

I’ll probably try to duplicate the recipe at home, or maybe I’ll splurge again sometime at the market and buy another, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to really match the taste. It’s been added to my list of perfect sandwiches.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Souvenir

All day we walked around the city of Victoria, I kept my eye out for an appropriate souvenir. I wanted something distinctly Canadian – none of this made-in-China junk with a logo on it! A bottle of Canadian maple syrup seemed perfect, but the prices were so outrageous for an amount of syrup barely able to cover two pancakes that I could almost see "sucker!" written all over the labels.

About an hour before we had to report back to the ferry we let Munchkin have some wiggle time in the gardens surrounding the Parliament building. As I relaxed, Scott discovered that we could get in on a tour of the building. The tour was refreshing as we walked through no security checks and no metal detectors. They didn’t even record our names -- it was lovely.

At the end of the tour, our guide told us that the Parliament building is lit up at night with over 3300 light bulbs. They recently changed the light bulbs to a more energy-efficient variety and then, instead of throwing away the old light bulbs, they turned them into Christmas ornaments and sold them in the gift shop. I finally found my souvenir. Distinctly Canadian, it was perfect. When I went to purchase the ornament, I was dismayed to discover that they were all sold out except for the model in the display case. My dismay turned into delight when the tour guide offered to sell me the display model. I got the last light bulb.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

An Unexpected Visitor

It was a dark and stormy night when we returned to our campsite. To our surprise, we found our cooler about 15 feet away from where we had left it and food strewn around the campsite. A big plastic box that we use to store other camping gear was also opened. Food packaging was perforated with little tiny teeth marks, and it looked like something with a much larger mouth had tried to eat the bottle of pancake syrup. We picked up the mess in the dark before piling into our sleeping bags. We assumed we'd been paid a visit by a bear or a cougar. Made it a little hard to go to sleep.

Sometime later, still awake and listening to the rain on the roof of our tent, I took mental inventory of the food we had lost. The little plastic box of goodies that had been in the big plastic box was untouched. I thought that chocolate and crackers would have been sniffed out first. I turned my attention to the cooler. The cheese and lunch meat were chewed, apparently by a chipmunk. The milk was fine. Munchkin’s soymilk – wait, I didn’t see the carton of soymilk. I didn’t see the bread, bagels, butter or cream cheese, either. It would have served the beast right if he’d eaten the chocolate flavored laxative, but it was untouched.

In the morning I asked Scott if he’d picked up the missing items. Not only had he not seen them, but he hadn’t seen his carton of half and half, either. We searched the area for any sign of the missing items. No tracks, no trash, no specks of eaten food, nothing. What kind of an animal could have done this damage? It didn’t take us long to realize, and the locals confirmed it – it was Bigfoot. Naturally.

For those who follow such things, I want to draw attention to the new information that Bigfoot or someone in his family is apparently lactose intolerant. Notice, he took the soymilk and left the regular milk. Of course, he took the half and half, too, so maybe he enjoys an occasional cup of coffee.

If Munchkin were a few years older, he probably would have been scared, but instead he adopted Bigfoot as his newest imaginary friend. He’s hoping Bigfoot will come to his next birthday party.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Olympic Vacation

We had a great time camping in the Pacific Northwest. We spent two nights on Whidbey Island with some friends, and then we went on the the Olympic Peninsula. Our plan was to take day hikes into Olympic National Park, but the weather was not entirely cooperative. Let's just say that there's a reason they call it a rain forest. The highlight of our vacation was the day trip we took to Victoria – what fun! I'll share a few stories later on this week, but in the meantime, here’s a few photos...


A deer on Hurricane ridge



Ferry ride to Victoria


Hike in the rain forest



Camping in the rain

Monday, September 1, 2008

Mystery plant: And the winner is...

Congratulations to Laura at (not so) Urban Hennery for her guess that my mystery plant looked just like her delicata! And we're going to have a lot of it! I have one question, though, since I've never grown winter squash before. How do I know when it's ripe? Will the color change?

In other business, I'm afraid I've almost totally fallen off the local-food wagon these past two weeks. I wish I could blame it on the unexpected visitor to our campground (more on that in a later post!), but that's not really the whole story. We did, however, eat one meal while camping that almost qualifies. Scott invented the recipe after eating something similar at one of our favorite restaurants. I was skeptical at first, but there's so much good stuff in this meal that I hardly noticed the scrambled eggs.

Here's Scott's recipe:
Dice two (local) potatoes and saute in olive oil in a fry pan over a Coleman stove. When potatoes start to get soft, add one diced (local) onion and one diced (local) bell pepper. When they soften, add chopped mushrooms, diced pre-cooked bacon and five (local) eggs. Continue frying until eggs are done. Season with salt and pepper. Forget to add shredded cheese, and serve. Eat in the rain, under a tarp, in the great outdoors.

It was really very good, but it would have been better with the cheese. :)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

We're back!

Hi readers! We're back from camping on the Olympic Peninsula and still a little tired, although we had a great time. I'll post photos & cute stories later this week, along with a picture of my mystery-solved squash! But for now, here's a photo of how we all feel, along with Munchkin's comment in church this morning, "I have lots of tired in me."

So what is Mr. Tired doing during his nap time right now? For the last 40 minutes he's been banging on a drum and singing like a wild Indian. I don't mean to be politically insensitive -- there was a real Indian on the ferry playing a drum and singing and Munchkin sounds just like him, only wild. Scott commented a few minutes ago that it's a good thing 's only part Indian.

I'll post more tomorrow, or the next day, or whenever I get our laundry done!

How "The Purple Elephant" was born

When Munchkin was a baby and taking multiple naps/day, I had many hours during which I had to do something really, really quiet in order not to wake him up. I read a lot of books, and sometime in the fall I picked up a copy of "No Plot, No Problem" by Chris Baty. I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book, but I get hung up on that one little detail commonly known as "the plot!" The idea of being able to write without a predetermined plot was revolutionary!

Chris Baty may be better known as the founder of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which occurs in November. His method of writing, which isn’t actually new, is that you just write, write, write and worry about the details later. NaNoWriMo attracts tens of thousands of participants every year who pledge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. There are online and regional support groups, weekly email encouragements and a special logo for those who actually make it. "No Plot, No Problem" explains the method in detail.

That November I decided to go for it, although I never thought I’d actually complete 50,000 words. Partway through the month I linked up with a local support group, without whom, I think, I never would have made it. Once I joined the group, I just couldn’t quit!

By the end of November, I had my first draft of "The Purple Elephant." I spent the next year editing it and then attempted to find a publisher. My real motivation in wanting to get the book professionally published was that it needs illustrations and I knew a publisher would provide them. After too many attempts and several very nice rejection letters, I gave up and instead explored self-publishing. I have finally found a way to self-publish that won’t cost a fortune, but I am still looking for an illustrator (who won’t charge me a fortune). My goal is to do one more complete edit, add illustrations, and self-publish the book by Christmas 2009. I don’t know if anybody will buy it, but it doesn’t matter since it’s really for Munchkin, who will be almost old enough for it by then. (OK, I hope somebody buys it!)

In the meantime... it’s always fun to share what you’ve written. "The Purple Elephant" is similar to those old magazine serials in that it’s meant to be read one chapter at a time. I’m going to post Part I of my book as a chapter each week until Christmas. Check my blog for "Sunday Story." Please forgive the formatting as it won’t be perfect and my text needs another complete edit, which I'm sure I won't keep up with! I welcome any comments anyone might have. If you give me a really great idea, it might even work its way into the next edition! Finally, to anyone who thinks they can steal my book, I'd say, "Go write your own!" I know I’m taking a chance, but hey, my faithful readers can all vouch that they read it here first!

Tune in next Sunday for the first chapter of "The Purple Elephant!"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Budding modern artist?

We're finally leaving on vacation, tomorrow morning. Fortunately, it's turning out for the best since the weather this week has been very stormy and it's supposed to clear up tomorrow. I hope you don't hear from me again until August 31! That day I will introduce a new feature that will run on Sundays from September through Christmas. Just thought I'd tantalize you a little.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a little modern art from Munchkin.
Munchkin has discovered the "Paint" program on the computer, and now he begs me to let him play with it. His favorite thing to do with "Paint" is to direct a willing adult (me, naturally) to draw for him whatever he wants, but most of the time I make him do his own work. He is very particular and if he doesn't like the placement of something, he immediately asks for the eraser to get rid of it. Anyway, what do you think? College scholarship in modern art? What would it sell for in New York?


Munchkin's is certainly better than mine, but in my own defense, I had a wiggly preschooler squirming in my lap who directed my every move. You try that sometime!

Mystery plant has baby squash!

Finally, two blossoms opened up yesterday and I was able to hand-pollinate (I'm way too curious to trust the bees on this one!). It's growing already! I know it kind of looks like zucchini, but the color is too light. I suppose it could be a variety I've never grown before, but I still think it's something else. Anyone think it could be delicata? That's what I'm hoping for!

Next mystery plant update will be after I get back from vacation and I think by then we should know for sure!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mystery plant has blossoms!

Here's the latest on my "mystery" plant. I'm pretty sure it's squash, now, but what kind???? If the blossoms ever open up, I'll hand pollinate it so we'll know. Until then, any guesses?

Friday, August 15, 2008

OLS #11: BLT on the go!

By the time you're probably reading this, I will be knee deep in packing for our vacation. Or maybe I've already left. :)

As I was thinking about writing this "Gone Camping" post, I realized I hadn't posted, or even thought about, our local meal this week. I've been swamped. But tonight's dinner is a clean-out-the-fridge-before-we-go meal and it's going to qualify! No picture, haven't even made dinner, yet, but the menu this evening is:

BLT Sandwiches: bacon from our pig, backyard lettuce, farmers' market tomato, non-local bread
Corn on the cob: Fresh from a local farm, served with local butter, non-local salt & pepper
Carrot sticks: Farmers market

Next week is going to be the interesting one for local eating, and I'm not sure how that's going to turn out! So check for me back online by 8/25. Also, I'm planning a fun new series of blog posts for the fall which I will introduce on Sunday, 8/31. I'll keep you in suspense til then...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bookworm alert!

Hi fellow bookworms! I just wanted to alert you that I've got a new review up on The Blogging Bookworm of the book "Lost Mountain." Come on over and check it out!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Ant Song

Munchkin had us in stitches on the way to church Sunday morning as he sang, "The Ant Song." I’m sorry I can’t remember the whole thing, and I had to approximate the pitches, but the song went something like this:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Book Review: The Shack

New York Times bestseller, "The Shack" by William P. Young is all the buzz right now and those who love it say that it has changed their lives. After hearing so much about the book, last week I finally decided to read it for myself. If it hadn't come so highly recommended, I'm not sure I would have made it past the preface.

The story, for those who haven’t already heard, is a fictional account of a man whose young daughter is brutally murdered. Several years after the murder, the man gets a letter from God inviting him to spend a weekend in the shack where the murder occurred. The first quarter of the book is mostly flashback, and the rest is primarily dialogue as the man talks theology with a giggly and somewhat clumsy middle eastern man representing Jesus, a gardening Asian woman representing the Holy Spirit and God, who is portrayed as a black woman who goes by the name of "Papa" and can be found in the kitchen baking scones. I had many issues with the book, but I’ll highlight three of them...

Issue #1: I found the flashback of the murder chilling enough to give any parent nightmares. I could see it especially vividly because Young used a real place (Oregon’s Wallowa State Park campground) as the setting. Every detail was accurate as I remember it. I’d advise that if you have small children, or if you camp, or especially if you plan to visit the Wallowas someday, don’t read this book.

Issue #2: The way Young portrayed the trinity (God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) was weird. Some may find the various characters helpful in expanding their thinking about God, but it seemed to me that Young instead reduced God to a manageable size. It reminded me of a book title from back in the 60's: "Your God is Too Small." I was looking for the "awe" of God, and it wasn't there.

Issue #3: The theology in "The Shack" wasn't bad, but I felt like it was lacking. Young tackles many of the age-old questions (the nature of the trinity, the reason for pain and suffering, etc.) by having the characters representing God explain the answers in very neat, simple packages. These are questions that have been under discussion for thousands of years. Having "God" give the answers the author believes are correct seemed to me to be presumptuous. I also felt there was a lack of respect for the church, traditional understanding of theology, and the scriptures.

"The Shack" is obviously written from the author’s life story, which so far he has not shared, and since I’ve never experienced such a devastating loss I can’t really know if his approach is helpful to those who have. Obviously the book is meaningful to many people. I can see how some of Young's theology might be helpful to someone who has been hurt by the legalism that is all too prevalent in the Church. He also paints a clear picture of God's love for humanity. That's my best guess as to what it is that people like so much about the book. For me, I give "The Shack" 1 out of 5 stars. I recommend that church leaders read it so they know what it is, but I don’t recommend it to anyone else.

If you want to know more about God, don’t read "The Shack" and don’t watch the inevitable movie, instead read the Bible. Find a version that is in plain English (no King James-eth!). I suggest starting with the book of Luke in the New Testament – it's my favorite -- and follow it with the book of Acts. Now that's 5 star reading!