Sunday, January 27, 2008

Little boy's wish

Back in October Munchkin started asking when it would snow. This morning, he finally got his wish. When he named the snowman, "Fireman," I plopped on a hat and snapped a picture. It was only later that I appreciated the irony in Munchkin's choice.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

20 Questions

That's Munchkin's rate when he really gets going -- 20 questions per minute. That's not a misprint; we timed him.

Does anybody out there have a toddler who can beat this?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dark Days: The Upside and Downside to Eating Local

This week I experienced both ups and downs in the eating local scene. My replacement pasta maker finally arrived and so I gathered ingredients to make totally local pasta.

First off was eggs. The last time I was at the meat market, I noticed that they were again carrying local eggs from pastured chickens. I’ve purchased a couple dozen grocery store eggs after my local supply dried up and they have just not been the same. Monday, I happily drove to the meat market to get a dozen "real" eggs. They were all out. The farmer comes on Wednesday. Wednesday, I ran errands with Munchkin and dropped by the meat market. It was 11:15, and the eggs weren’t there, yet. I drove back again after lunch. I got my local eggs, but it took me three trips to the store. This cuts down on food miles?

To make local pasta, I also needed local flour. With great expectations, I received my first order from Azure Farms on Tuesday. I had to drive halfway across town to the pickup site, but the price of my gas beats the price I would have had to pay to have the 30 pound box shipped. I’d like to just combine the pickup with other errands, but the lady who hosts the pickup site wants orders picked up the same day after the 4pm delivery and it means a special trip for us. When I got home, I discovered that two items I wanted the most had not been included. Out of stock. I also discovered I forgot to order the pastry flour! I wasn’t charged for the missing items, but there is only one delivery each month and so if I want the items, I have to place another $40 order next month and hope they come. The rest of my order looked good, even the bags of local, organic dried beans that were about double the size (the bags, not the beans) I had anticipated. Let’s just say that I’d better find some new ways to cook with beans! I also got some Oregon flour, just not the type the pasta recipe calls for. And the $3 bag of local flour looked really small.

Friday afternoon I bravely set about making the pasta. Intrigued by Laura’s egg photo, I used local eggs along with one grocery egg for comparison. If depth of color defines a good egg, the Omega-3 grocery egg yolk was a lovely orange and the local, pastured, three-trips-to-the-meat-market egg yolks were pale yellow. Don’t know quite what to make of that.

Anyway, I mixed the eggs with half a bag of the Oregon flour and waited an hour for the dough to do whatever it is that dough does while it rests. Then, with some fear and trepidation and with a little boy for an audience, I put together the pasta maker and started to work. What fun! It couldn't have been easier and the noodles looked so nice that Munchkin wanted to eat them raw. (I made him wait until they were cooked, of course, but he gobbled them up at dinnertime.) The whole process minus the time to mix the dough took under 30 minutes, and that included clean-up and reading the instructions multiple times. The pasta tasted good even though it needed about a minute more cooking time, and I’m already looking forward to making more and experimenting with types of flour. I never would have thought to try anything like this before the Dark Days challenge, so the fun we had creating real pasta was a definite "upside" to eating more local, not to mention the taste!

Others doing the Dark Days challenge are making wonderful meals. If you want to read about some amazing cooking, complete with gorgeous photos, check out the summary that should be up on the Urban Hennery website by Sunday night. As for me, for the past two weeks, I don’t have a Dark Days all-local meal to report, but I’ve learned how to make bagels, bread and pasta from scratch. I can live with that.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Another important first

Munchkin has been into this "bounce on my bed like a trampoline when I'm supposed to be taking a nap" thing for over a month now and it is seriously cutting in on my blog time! He's also not quite so cute when he's missed his nap, so I've not had as many funny stories to report. I have one, though.

Last weekend, we went on a very dangerous adventure and lived to tell about it -- we took Munchkin with us to a wedding!!! Well, it was for our neighbors' oldest son and they have 9 other kids ranging in age all the way down to three, so we thought it might be OK. Munchkin did great. First time in his little life that he has applauded (without being prompted) at the correct time: "You may kiss the bride." Oh, boy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Dark Days: You win some, you lose some

Munchkin has been sick since Sunday (now he's getting better and I've got it!) and the outdoor thermometer has been stuck at 33 degrees all week, so I've been spending waaaaay too much time in the house. Wednesday, I decided to try making bagels for the first time (see photo). I did a couple things wrong, but they still tasted really good. On Friday we had tears when Munchkin found out that Daddy had taken the last bagel to work.

The downside of the making of the bagels became apparent when I heard an awful grinding sound in the garbage disposal. Scott fished out the remains of a metal ring that served as a washer to my bread machine's bread pan. Hours of research on the internet & phone revealed that, naturally, they no longer make the part. Anybody have an extra bread pan for a Breadman TR800?

Unable to use my machine, Friday I tried a recipe for bread made the normal way. It's a really forgiving recipe from Laura Colwin's book "Home Cooking." Unfortunately, it does not forgive when you use a dark colored pan and then get tied up teaching a piano lesson. I didn't think it looked that bad (see other photo), but when Scott came home he asked, "What's that? It looks like a seal." A minute or two later Munchkin noticed and said, "Mommy, this bread doesn't look too awesome." As of now, half the loaf remains on the counter. (Hey, at least they ate half the loaf!)

Neither of my bread experiments used local flour this time, but I'm including them under the Eat Local challenge anyway because, well, they were certainly homemade and they also gave me a way to use up my remaining (non-local) flour while I wait for my first Azure Farms order on Tuesday! I also got a call this afternoon that the store my pasta maker came from finally has more of them in stock. I had to return mine since when I opened the box, it looked like somebody at the factory had stepped on it. So stay tuned for uses for local flour!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Enough to drive you batty!

Munchkin has memorized his first rhyme from Mary Engelbreight's Mother Goose book (highly recommended, by the way). He spent all day today running around the house doing one of two things: shouting the rhyme or begging us to read it to him again. His choice, and I'll see if I can do this from memory myself after hearing it approximately 1,000,000 times:

Bat, bat,
Come under my hat,
And I'll give you a slice of bacon;
And when I bake,
I'll give you a cake,
If I am not mistaken.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Book Review: Serve God, Save the Planet

In Serve God, Save the Planet, J. Matthew Sleeth, MD conveys a philosophy I hope will become more common as time goes on. I predict this book will startle environmentalists when they realize it is an evangelical Christian calling for such drastic changes, and it will startle evangelical Christians to hear one of their own sounding like such a radical environmentalist and defending his position from the Bible!

The first five chapters expertly lay out a Biblical defense of "creation care." From that point on, the chapters deal with various issues and how and why we should make changes. The pastor who loaned me this book warned that the author gets more and more radical as the book goes on. He does. He is radical in the same way that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is radical. Dr. Sleeth has harsh criticism for various aspects of our culture and it will be too harsh for a lot of people, but I’m not convinced he’s wrong.

The author's personal story is inspirational, although I wished he'd plugged a few holes. The marketing brags of Dr. Sleeth downsizing from his old house to a smaller house that is the size of his old garage. He writes about it, but never actually gives the square footage of his new house, so I don’t know whether to be impressed or not! My family's house could fit inside the garage of the house of one of my relatives, and it’s just under 1300 square feet. It might be on the small side, but I don’t think we deserve environmental brownie points for it! Dr. Sleeth also makes a big deal about how he got his electric bill down to $20/month. Some of the ways he did it are certainly admirable, but he never says how he heats his house. He gives a useful "energy audit" sheet that can help people figure out how much energy their lifestyle uses. I wish he'd given a sustainable goal, though. I did it on us and we came in at about half the national average. I doubt that’s good enough, but I don’t know what is. (The real purpose of the "audit" is so you have a starting point to cut down from.) I felt that in some cases his practical suggestions didn’t go far enough, but some of what he said will stick with me. For example, in describing how to live with less things he said, "If you don’t use them, you don’t need them." I can clean out a lot of drawers and closets with that one! However, the practical stuff really isn't the strength of the book.

Dr. Sleeth uses illustrations from his medical missionary work to give a picture of what it is like in the rest of the world and how our daily choices can make a difference. The second time I read the book, I felt like I really "got" what he is trying to say, but that is largely because I’ve "been there." I participated in third world missions trips as a teenager and I’ve seen scenes like he describes for myself. And I had to read his book twice to "get it." In my opinion, this (along with the first five chapters) is the most valuable message of the book. I’m afraid it could be lost on readers who can’t relate to his illustrations.

I think in America our lifestyle is so out of whack with the rest of the world that it’s going to be a process for anybody that decides to take global issues seriously. It occurs to me that the more money one has, the more difficult it is to live a simple life. Dr. Sleeth is farther along in the process than most and he challenges commonly held assumptions. It is especially significant that he addresses the church, since evangelicals have been slow to realize how crucial these issues are.

My recommendation: Read it. And tell me what you think!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dark Days Challenge: The Sequel

Well, the "should I continue" poll results are in: 3 in favor and 2 in favor and participating. Many thanks to readers who voted or left comments. Laura at Urban Hennery got a great response, so the challenge continues and I’m in! The one significant change is that it will now be bi-weekly, which will make it easier for everybody. I’m also dropping my “source a new ingredient each month” requirement.

My first official meal for January consisted of pork chops (from our pig, of course!) with fried apples and onions. I used local apple cider and the results were delicious. I served it with delicata squash baked with butter and honey. Everything was local except the salt and pepper, although the salt was RealSalt, which my dad picked up for me when he was in Utah, so I think it should count as local, too. Who knew it was so easy to eat local in January?!! Of course, I did it for only one meal. :)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Watch what you say

Recently, we were driving during Munchkin's naptime. Instead of sleeping quietly, our little boy babbled LOUDLY -- all the way home -- for two hours -- nonstop. Finally, Scott couldn't take it anymore. He said, "Munchkin, put a sock in it."

Munchkin giggled, and then he reached down, pulled off a sock and crammed it into his mouth. Remarkably, he continued talking the whole time.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Figuring things out

This morning Munchkin said, "When babies get big, they can be a little boy!"

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

100th Post!

Happy (day after) New Years!!!
Quote of the day: I was drinking it (snow)... and I realized... it was edible! -- Munchkin, 12/31/07

Polling all readers...

In my last "Local Meal" post, I mentioned that the challenge was officially over, unless someone decided to continue it. Well, the participants of the challenge are deciding whether to continue it for the rest of the winter. I'm trying to decide whether to join them. It gets harder to find local ingredients as the winter goes on and the winter farmers' market I found has now ended. What do you think? Should I go for it, or are you tired of "local meal" posts? Please vote! The poll will be open until Monday night. You can also tell me what you think in a comment. Thanks!

If anyone wants to join in, click here to go to the Urban Hennery website and read all about it!