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.