Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cement Tapestry




I think they are berries; they are some sort of fruit from a tree on the boulevard. Looked to me like a tapestry in my psychelic pregnancy-induced state of mind. "Lotus in wonderland" is what my daily walks feel like these days.
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Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall is here!

The big change hit yesterday and it arrived with 45 mile/hour winds. The cool temps, the chilly raindrops and high winds hit just minutes after the Big D got off the ladder on which he had been scraping and painting the trim of our house. Whew. It was a wobbly ladder and if the winds had been high during the hours that he was working, there might have been serious injury.

I picked the few chili peppers we had growing in the garden. I picked them a little late because they are starting to dry up and wrinkle. But then, I am planning to dry and crush them into red pepper flakes, so I'm not to concerned about the state they are in.



I spent some time fiddling with the self-timer on my camera. I want to have some maternity pictures and while looking on the internet for photographers in the area, I got it in my head that I should try a few myself. I'm only 16 weeks along, so I imagine getting better at this by the point that my belly is really bulging. I'm not all that pleased but was going to throw it up here on this site, but then, I realized that I captured a shot of the belly above my pregnancy belly and felt really fat. So, no picture yet, but am working on it. I don't know why I feel so distraught about this. It feels all of sudden, probably because I bought a scale and thought a little bit about the total number of pounds I'm supposed to put on by March. I gotta give up my lemonade which I am so bummed about. Everything else is in order in terms of whole grains, fruit snacks, etc. So, I figure it's the lemonade that's the culprit. More water, less sugar drinks.
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Library Garden



I love my library! I think it saved my life. After leaving my job and plunging into a deep pit of depression, it was the library that got me out of the house. I would wander the shelves randomly choosing thick, fat books to read. Oh, hell ya, I choose books by their covers, but every once in a while I would choose one just cuz it was a fat, long read. Then, like I did as a lonely child, I would spend the afternoon reading, escaping this world for a couple of hundred pages at a time.

The NE library is the perfect size. It is not overwhelmingly big and once you've been there a few times, the librarians say hello and smile as you walk by. I was jaded off libraries while in graduate school. The U of MN library is gigantic. The NE library is not too small and not too big, it's just right, it's perfect. It's so great to have this resource so readily available throughout the Cities*!

This year the librarians planted a teeny, tiny, eeny, wheeny, little garden. Just a couple of pumpkin plants and some sunflowers. Here's a teeny, tiny, eeny, wheeny little pumpkin that probably won't have time to mature into it's orange glory before the cold hits**.



Just look at this lovely pumpkin!


And not even one spot has been spoiled by a squirrel. At least not yet.



Playing around with some pumpkin blossom bokeh fun.



Ok. Bye. Go visit your local library! And read these here footnotes...

*I'm thinking I need to start a new feature on this site where I share my library finds. I can't say enough how wonderful it is to have this resource so readily available. I do, however, think this is a city resource that is woefully underutilized. The catalog system is very easy to use and available online; one can rent CDs and DVDs for free; magazines, newspapers, and books are available - Duh! It's the library. But, then why don't more people use it? Hmmmm. Maybe I can help spread the word. I should have been a librarian!

** Despite the fact that this might end up being the warmest September on record, the cold weather is going to hit the region soon. Perhaps even sometime next week. It's downright strange to have the sun go down sometime after 7:00 with the temperature still in the 70s, but that's Minnesota for ya. August was chilly and cold, but now September is warm and sunny, although really, really dry. We need rain! If Colorado got snow last week, we can't be that far away from the white stuff.
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kitchen and Floor projects...

...do not go well during the Mercury retrograde cycle! Oh, what a crazy set of weeks! I'm so glad to be on this side of the craziness. We repainted our kitchen and contracted to have our floors refinished, but were delayed and waylaid by a trip to the ER and a fatal system failure on my laptop.

The kitchen project started on Labor Day weekend. I quickly realized that I had clung too strongly to plans I had made years ago and no longer felt the same about those plans. There were several trips to the hardware store and change in paint color, but thankfully, that change was only quart-sized, so not too expensive. My plans were for a dusty blue on the lower third of the kitchen walls and a light yellow on the top part of the walls and the ceiling.




The yellow was much lighter than I wanted, so there were a few days of searching various stores for another color.



The hunt even took me to Home Depot, a store I haven't been to in years. But, I never did find the exact color I was wanting and in the meantime, the Big D found he could schedule the refinish of our floors much sooner than we had expected. So, I scrapped my plans to change the yellow and started the prep work for the floors.

Every thing had to be moved out of the living room and dining room. I have way too much crap in these two rooms. I am hoping that I will be able to throw out much of this and keep my house and life less cluttered.

We had assumed that it would be three weeks out to schedule the service, but it was only about four days out. We contracted with Dave's Floor Sanding and they were great! Which is the reason why I am linking to them here in case anyone in the area wants to hire them. At first I was thinking that they were available so quickly because of a drop in business due to the economy, but then I was told it was because we chose the week after school started which is typically their slow time. And as it turned out, the weather was perfect for drying.

We had to delay the beginning of the project because I got unexpectedly sick and had to go to the ER where they diagnosed a bad luck case of vertigo. Hopefully nothing chronic, but scary and debilitating. Dave's Floor Sanding was wonderfully accomodating and did not charge us for the two day delay.

They began the project by sanding the floors. We have no idea when the floors were last treated. We moved in to the house in 1997, so for us, it's been ten years of wishing and wanting newly cleaned floors.



The house was built in 1924 and they used red oak for the floors. The previous stain was dark, almost dark enough to match the dark woodwork that is throughout the house. Also, our kitties have puked up so much over the years and left evidence all over the floors. Our floors seemed to be polka-dotted with puke stains. Which made it apparent that the protective coating had worn away.



We decided on a natural finish rather than a stain in order to let the rich colors of the red oak to shine through. I knew that the floors would look nice when the work was finished. I had no idea how incredibly beautiful they would look!



Things are going to change around here! No more walking on the floors with shoes on! No more clutter in the corners of the rooms. Baby will be able to crawl around without fear of splinters. I am considering painting these two rooms while everything is stacked in other rooms.

The morning that we had to leave the house, my laptop crashed! It was such a crazy week. Thankfully it was still under warranty and so, Dell sent out a technician to replace nearly every part in the laptop. I think I had a bad motherboard, but they weren't able to figure out the exact cause of the fatal system error. We stayed one night at my parents home, then moved to a close by hotel for the weekend. It was nice little vacation even though we were just a few miles away from our house.

Now, I'm tired. And will probably spend a few weeks recovering from all the turmoil. With my bad luck case of vertigo, I am forced to rest until that goes away. I'm taking a cue from the cats and finding places to lounge around before the next project.



The next project? Oh, yes, there's another one around the corner. We are having our roof replaced which will be covered by our home owner's insurance. But I asked the Big D to wait to schedule this for after the mercury retrograde. And so, we will have a couple weeks of peace and quiet before the craziness starts again.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Food Budget

I just read a great post over at Moody's Goose about nutrition which included a bit about how grocery stores are laid out. The post pointed out that the cheaper items are usually situated on the perimeters of the store and this includes the fresh produce, fruits, etc. The packaged and processed food are situated in the center aisles and these are more expensive than the fresh stuff. I shot off a lengthy comment stating my surprise that people choose food as the thing to budget during this time that most all of us need to be curbing out budgets.

I shot off prematurely, I think, or perhaps I should say I submitted an incomplete comment. I understand that there are great many folk in our country right now that are struggling with very limited finances. My own household used to be funded by two incomes, but now we are down to one. But, we were not so greatly affected because while I was in graduate school, we lived on the one income and were able to find ways to live within our means. When I left my job in 2007, never did it occur to me that I wouldn't be able to find another one. Yet, in my situation it was far better for my mental health for me to be away from that extremely toxic environment.

So the remainder of this post is not in reference to those people who are surviving on severely limited budgets, but rather to those who curb their food budgets while keeping such things as cellphones and cable television in their monthly budgets.

I am very lucky to be living in a state in which I have access to fresh food, some of which is locally grown. There are farmer’s markets all over the place and on nearly every day of the week. There are dozens of CSA options and variety enough to fit any budget. Although the growing season is shortened by our epic winters, there is a lot of green space within the Cities and neighborhoods which allows residents to grow gardens. There are also a number of community garden spots in many of the neighborhoods. In addition to all these, there are a dozen food co-ops scattered in the Twin Cities metro area and in the recent years, organic foods are readily available in the larger grocery stores. See! I’m very lucky and very happy to admit it.

I also think the climate in this region allows me to understand the healthy benefits to eating in season. Fall foods such as squash and potatoes add the starchy hardiness needed to endure cold winters. Fresh greens in the spring clean out the toxins in the body that build up during the winter months. Lettuce and melons help to replenish fluids and hydrate through the hot, steamy summer months. Knowing this pushes me to seek variety, it helps my budget as seasonal options are often cheaper, and most importantly, creates an interesting and healthy relationship with food.

It is because of these reasons that I am surprised at the number of people in my community that opt out of eating healthy and/or choose to strictly limit their food budgets. These are people who spend what I think to be outrageous amounts on cable and cellphones; people who have no problem putting a $1000 camera on their credit cards and make up for this shortfall in their budget by loading up on boxed mac-n-cheese to feed those same children they want to photograph; people who dream about taking care of their wrinkles with botox and yet, never consider the effects of their diet on their skin; people who think nothing about shilling out $5 for a coffee drink, but will not pay the $3.79 for some organic romaine lettuce or $3.99 for a carton of organic strawberries.

Do I sound judgmental? Truthfully, I am judgmental, especially since I have been criticized for my preference for organic food. I have been told that I am preachy about my organics at a time when I was trying to share my experience with my new discovery – Harmony Valley CSA.

A former co-worker cited with a sneer some study that showed that organic food was not more nutritious than conventional food. I never actually thought it was. I assumed that organic food had less chemicals involved in the production process. I later found out that same person suffered from weekly migraines and had lost her menstrual cycle for a year because of her large consumption of MSG and other chemical additives. She expressed confusion because she didn’t eat much Chinese food, not realizing that MSG was in all the Doritoes and other processed snacks she ate. The Asian restaurants that she frequented had signs posted that clearly stated “no MSG” added.

I used to read the blog “30 Bucks a Week” because at first, I thought it was a great idea. It was a catchy blog theme sure to attract a lot of media attention especially during this economic downturn in our country. I liked it whole lot until I read how they pulled out their Blackberries (phones, not fruit) to calculate the savings during a shopping trip.

A friend of mine once told me that buying a DVR would help save her marriage and return sanity to her household. She has two young, rowdy boys. I couldn’t help but think that putting some of that money into nutritious food might help with the behavioral issues. But what do I know? I don’t have children (yet, but soon to come!). But I can say that taking the time to cook with my husband has led us to a much closer and healthier (!) relationship. We started our marriage very broke. He was making $7 an hour, I had returned to school. We had great Friday nights making stir fry, garlic bread and watching videos. Married 15 years and now making stir fries with CSA produce and watching cable television series on Netflix.

We started broke and lived on a really limited budget. But we decided early on to spend what we wanted on food so long as that was at the grocery store. We don't have cable, I don't have a cellphone (his is a company phone), and we don't drink sodas that are quite spendy. Right now because I am pregnant, we aren't buying any liquor, but believe me that's sure going to change come March! He packs a lunch for work. We do splurge on Blue Mountain coffee but this is usually bought at Marshall's and he makes a thermos of coffee every morning to take to work. The Big D is a Type 1 diabetic and because of our nutrition decisions, he endocrinologist routinely complements him on his health.

Ok, this is getting much longer than I planned for it to be. Also, I am sincerely trying to work on my writing style, seeking one that appeals to a large group of people in a way that doesn’t include being snarky towards those that disagree with me. I’m trying. Maybe not there yet, but am trying.

The way I see it, it’s all about our choices on how we want to live our lives. I just think we will all live longer and more happily by eating well, rather than by preserving our material wealth.
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Monday, September 7, 2009

Toad Lily




This little orchid-like flower is growing in my neighbor's yard. Beautiful little thing, isn't it? She ordered it through a catalog and it graces the shady part of her yard quite nicely. What a wonderful find! I have a huge elm tree in my yard that shades the entire backyard and half the house which is great to keep the place cool in the summer, but I find it terrible difficult in terms of variety for my garden.

It blooms in the Fall which, according to the Internet, may be the reason that local garden shops do have keep it in supply. There is something about wanting to feed people's spring craze and thus, the little toad lily is relegated to obscurity.

What a surprising range of color. There is the bright purple speckles not unlike a toad and then there is the bright yellow in the middle. Many people suggest planting it near the garden's path as the bloom is so tiny it can be easily overlooked. And truly when my neighbor lead me to the back of her garden I didn't even spot it until she pointed it out.

I begged a catalog from my neighbor and will be surely buying this little toad lily for my garden next year!
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Sunday, September 6, 2009

September Color




I knew this month is the time for changes, but I didn't realize that the changes were already happening. The color is wonderful and is evidence of the very cool evenings. This photo was taken up at the Wisconsin land about 1 1/2 hours north of the Cities. The changes happen there much sooner in the year.

Changes. I came home and deactivated my facebook account. How's that for change? Strange how twenty-year old high school angst can follow one around in life. Why does it feel like the popular people get a second chance for their popularity in facebook and blogging? Jeez, I feel like an immature nerd.
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Friday, September 4, 2009

Good, clean fun at the MN State Fair (and little bit of terror)!

First of all, let me start by saying, we took one of those free buses down to the Minnesota State Fair and the experience was great! We got on in a spot near our neighborhood, got dropped off about a block away from the Fair front gates, and had an easy trip back to the Jeep. What a deal! Free! I love free and I don't think we'll ever drive down to the Fair again. It was a fast and easy way to save a bit of money.

I hauled my big old SLR-D to the MN State Fair thinking I'd be shooting up a storm. I should have just brought my little point-n-shoot for all that I shot last night. I felt like the old grandpas that had their cameras hanging from their necks. Although to my credit, I did keep my camera in my bag, which I also happen to notice was ready to bust at the strap. Anyway, so there I am with my big old camera thinking I'd take pictures of all that we ate. But, I only got the one shot. And now that I look at it, the picture doesn't seem like a rousing endorsement of the Fair. In fact, it's so unappetizing that I'm going to spare you all of the larger version of this picture.




Nonetheless, it was Yuuummmmy! That's a combo of corn fritters and fried-green tomatoes. There was a lot more in that order, but unfortunately I totally forgot about taking a picture until I had eaten most of it. The corn fritters came with a dollop of sweetened butter on it which I could have done without, but the ranch side was delicious.

The Big D headed straight for the pronto pups. I did have a bite even though I'm not supposed to eat anything hot dog-related. We did good last night. We didn't overeat. He had another pronto pup and an ear of corn. I found the wild rice burgers later in the evening, then ate half of an elephant ear with butter and powdered sugar. We shared a huge, large, mongo-sized fresh-squeezed lemonade. It was also very good.

Later we got a chance to sample the deep-fried pickles because some older couple joined us on a bench outside the food building. They chatted us up and shared their pickles. After they left, we kept commenting to each other about our surprise at how nice everyone was and settled on the idea that it was because we interacted with sober people. Each and every last time we've been to the Fair, we've drank and that means we generally hung in the area where the drinkers and the drunks (two separate categories) lounged.

Good thing we walked a lot because that was a lot of calories.

We should have stuck to the walking but I got it into my head that I wanted to try the new sky ride. I was a little tired after exploring the Fine Arts building and we wanted to head back to the grandstand so we decided to take the chair lifts. Big mistake! BIG, BIG mistake!!

I started to have a panic attack the second it lifted us off the ground. I got sweaty and light-headed and felt like I was going to pass out, then slide in-between the railing to the ground below. I gripped the Big D's arm and begged him to grasp onto me tight so that I didn't fall.

Looking at the chairs behind us wasn't so bad.



Even looking below wasn't that bad at all.



But looking to the side at the other chair and people just about did me in.



[Hey! Wait just one minute! I see in these pictures that there is noone on these dang chairs! That should have been our sign to stay the heck away!]

The Big D is a skier and so is used to chair lifts. Me? Not so much. He suggested I cross my legs at my ankles and after I did that, I felt one hell of a lot better. It was a long ride, too! And although all the signs said that the ride does not stop to let passengers on and off, it did stop several times while we were in the air. At one point I noticed that the Big D was saying hello to a woman in a chair coming by us to our right and I glanced over at her in time to hear her say "hello, my friend, I'm scared out of my mind!" So, see! I wasn't the only one terrified on this ride.

We should have just stuck to the sky ride. It's a bit higher but at least there is a floor to put our feet on.



The only good thing to come out of that ride was that it took us over the Scamp exhibit. And that was fun to see these cute little trailers. We're thinking about buying one for our trips to Utah and we found that the they are within our budget. Whoo-hoo! That made the scary chair lift ride worth the trouble. But we did have to walk back towards where we had come from. Oh well, the walking was good because it was on the ground.



So those are all the pictures I took. Yep. That's it. There was a beautiful full moon right next to the space needle thingy. But no shots. I was a little deflated with shooting after seeing the entries to the State Fair photo contest. I was surprised at how many of the shots were centered, rather than within the "rule of thirds" framework. But, I suppose, that just means that I should enter a picture next year! I think I will, so long as no one forces me to go on that dang chair lift ride again!

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Starfish




I was thinking about making a baby quilt. I've done this with a friend for the babies of her two sisters. But those quilting memories are intimately connected to drinking beer. And since I can only partake in alcohol consumption in my dreams, I can't bear the thought of quilting right now. In my quest to find a baby project, I stumbled upon a book of toy knitting projects at a store in my neighborhood: Crafty Planet. I have to admit that I often feel like I'm not cool enough to shop at this store. But I do like my crafts, so I go in anyway.

My first project from this book was this starfish. I bought bamboo toy stuffing which is naturally anti-bacterial. I finished the project last Friday. And that night, and every night since, the Big D has fallen asleep on his big chair with his head on this toy/pillow. I have enough yarn for another one, so, now I'll work one for Baby. And, I'm sure Baby will like it because his Daddy likes it and I can't wait to see the two of them napping together on their pillows. So cute!

Next project: Knitted Teddy Bear.
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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Craving Nutritious Food Again!

What a relief! I want my CSA, I love my CSA and I am so glad I hung on to it!

What a sad, sad summer. Most of my CSA produce went into the compost pile. What a waste of such good vegetables! What a terrible blow on our budget!

So, here's a pregnancy fantasy: Before I got pregnant, I was quite arrogant about the CSA. I was going to eat healthy. I had invested in healthy, locally-grown, organic food. I was accused of being "preachy" about my "organics" when I didn't want to talk about botox. I stood in shock when I heard a mother openly wonder when her four year old child would start eating vegetables. I was tongue-tied when another women asked me if my husband was willing to eat such things. I was dumbfounded when my mother-in-law fretted over all the sugar in those organic fruits and vegetables that would undoubtedly do damage to my diabetic husband.

When July hit and baby came in with a bang, I started to see the crazed nature of my fantasy of nutritious food. I couldn't stomach it. Salads made me wretch. Greens seemed to me to only exist in order to wilt. Beans? Ugh. Preparing this stuff? Forget about it. Give me a burger. Order take-out. Oh, god I want a hotdog. I actually ate a Big Mac for first time in over 7 years! I broke my seven-year Big Mac fast when I got pregnant. I went to Taco Bell and ordered three different burrito items in order to scope out what I would get on my next visit. I ate tons of popsicles in which the main ingredients were a list of chemicals. Fruit bars? Nope? I couldn't stomach them. And, ok, here's the worst of it because I chided a woman for feeding this to her children on a daily basis: Kraft mac-n-cheese. But, in my defense, I didn't eat it every day. I ate it always with broccoli AND I bought the whole grain stuff, but that was mostly because I didn't want to eat the pasta shaped like Scooby Doo or Sponge Bob. But, still it was whole grain. And who the heck is Sponge Bob?

Admitting this is a frightening thing for me. But then, not many people read here, so, what do I got to be afraid of?

I was astonished with my stomach, with my body. I felt betrayed. I saw the heavy hit on our budget. I had to leave the house when the Big D cooked up bacon for a simple BLT sandwich. I couldn't bear the thought of blogging when all that seemed good locally were fast food chains. I am so glad that I haven't eaten much fast food in my life, because I felt like I ate a lifetime's worth in the month of August.

Thankfully, things started to change. Slowly. But steadily. It all began with corn.




Then came the melons.




I still haven't made my way back to cauliflower. But it looks so lovely, doesn't it?




And then came yesterday. Yesterday! Oh my, what a lovely day. I made some baba ganoush!!! I tried it for the first time and the results did turn out better than store-bought. AND, the smell of the eggplant roasting did not drive me out of the neighborhood!




What a divine day. Now I have something healthy to snack on. AND, I spent more than 5 minutes in my kitchen!




Heck! The experience was so great I moved onto roasting a chicken! I roasted a chicken. It wasn't a pretty process. I mopped the floor in case I had any Julia Child-like mishaps and pulled out a whole stick of butter to soften. It turned out great. The only problem is that I, apparently, don't know what side the breast is on because I ended up cooking it breast-side down.

The free-range chicken cost me $9 and I figured we saved $20 in that meal alone because the last time I craved chicken we got take-out from Brasa. Tonight we will have big salads topped with chicken, and I might even have enough chicken left over for a pot pie. Three meals out of one chicken. I like that. My budget likes that!

Ahhh. It's good to be back to the land of living and good eating.

Today - a chicken broth with left over carcass. Did I really say that? Yes, ma'am, I said carcass and I don't even have to go puke!
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