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.