Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fall comes to North Texas.

I sometimes forget while reading the blogs of northern friends, who months ago showed pictures of kids playing in fallen leaves, that winter takes longer to get to North Texas.

Yesterday was 72 degrees outside and Astrid enjoyed playing in the fallen leaves. Having sprained my ankle early last month, I hadn't even noticed the leaves changing color. Children have a way of directing our attention to the important stuff in life.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Cooking.

I'm FINALLY (TODAY) getting lists made and reviewing recipes I want to use Thursday. We're having dinner at our house this year and I suppose the guest list is about 17.

For Astrid's sake, I ordered a turkey and prime rib from Whole Food that haven't been given any antibiotics or hormones in their lives. I'm hoping to use the leftovers to freeze some turkey and beef for her.

There are SO many considerations. *I* prefer one thing, the kids prefer another, Astrid can't have TOO MANY variations on a theme yet, and that's part of the reason why I always make enough food for 200 people. Each dish may only feed 6 or 8, but I make enough of them to feed more than I'll have.

I have to stop myself (MAYBE) from making a brussel sprout dish that just looked SO appealing and I know my kids love brussel sprouts. We're already having a huge salad, carrots, green beans, broccoli loaf, and a creamed corn dish and sweet potato dish provided by Dave's mom, so I don't NEED another veggie dish, but (then again) I remember one Thanksgiving where Em's brother said, "but I don't like any of those".

Em gets mad at me every time: "You make too much; we'll have leftovers through the next year!" Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Not too interested in posting of late.

My vermiposting experiment absolutely SUCKED. Turns out that the worms need to be covered from sun and/or rain and we don't have any outside coverage. So, they stayed in the house (along with their fruit-fly groupies) until cooler weather came and I could move them out to the garage (which only stays reasonably cool during the winter). By summer of next year, I need to figure out a way to keep them outside covered from the sun and rain. I need a vermiposter HUT.

STILL trying to control the fruit flies in the house! I have traps EVERYWHERE.

Em got the raised garden bed I ordered put together except for digging holes to place the "feet" in the ground.

Thanksgiving is at my house this year, so I'm trying to get that plan done (to the exclusion of others). Today, I ordered an organic turkey and roast. I make babyfood for Astrid and it's all organic; I don't think new people should be eating things containing hormones or antibiotics. So, whatever the guests invited don't eat will be cut up and frozen for Astrid.

Sorry to say that my son won't be coming for Thanksgiving this year. It'll be just Em's family and my two daughters with their families. I really don't know what happened to my son, but he's been unwilling to have his picture posted online for many years now, and has recently just grown apart from his entire family. I love him and wish him well, but it's pretty hard to take the dismissal. A cousin of mine has a brother with whom he hasn't communicated in over 30 years; he doesn't even know if he's alive or not. I hope my son's not moving in that direction because *I* still want to see him even if no one else does, but my grandfather used to hide in the basement when company came, so it's not like there aren't genetic precedents.
Hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving if I don't get back here to post before then.

Monday, October 11, 2010

10-10-10 and Three-Fifty (350)

Yesterday was the day of action for 350. I'd thought about what to do on this day for about a year and when the day came I did NOTHING ... unless stirring and spraying my vermiposter counts. I'm still worried about the 2010 midterm elections, so called people a) to ask if they could volunteer and b) ask if they would PLEASE vote.

Here are some results from people who actually did something: 350 on 10-10-10.

I also took two naps during the day yesterday. My resistance is down and I seem to have been chasing off a cold.

What did you do for 350 day this year?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Vermiposting.

Vermiposting.

Getting a move on the backyard in little baby steps. First step was to decide how I wanted to compost and I chose this method and ordered a system that hasn't arrived yet. Once it arrives, I'll take some of the kitchen waste we've been saving along with paper and brown garden waste to "start" the rotting process. The worms come a week after the vermiposter has arrived.

I ordered a smallish system because I have a smallish family and will post more details after it arrives. It'll be put in a shady part of the yard.

I look forward to showing Astrid the worms.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Making Your Own Baby Food.

When my kids were little, I thought formula was poison and was even concerned about commercial baby food. The same scares you hear about now were happening then:

Commercial Baby Food Scares.

When Astrid turned six months old, I started making baby food for her. The rice cereal was more work than it was worth. All I had to do on my end was turn the rice into more of a flour consistency, but No. 1 then had to boil while whisking the flour and it turned out pretty gummy anyway. Commercial baby cereals are dehydrated, so no boiling is necessary. You can buy whole grain, organic baby cereal. Astrid is currently on a mix of Wheat, Spelt, and Barley with no ill effects. Just squirt breast milk in with a Tablespoon of cereal in a little bowl and stir.

Banana and avocado couldn't be frozen, but were simply mashed or mashed with a little distilled water added. The first vegetable I made for freezing was sweet potatoes from my garden last year mixed with sugarless apple sauce. My sweet potatoes never grew to be very sweet. Her second dish was organic baby carrots mixed with sugarless apple sauce. Then, pears and plums from the grocery store. Then, a bag of frozen peas. This week, I got small sweet potatoes, huge peaches, and zucchini from the local Farmer's Market.

Boiling sweet potatoes from Farmer's Market after peeling and slicing:

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Puree.

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Once food is pureed, put in ice-cube tray. One cube = 1 tablespoon (or a little more if you want). I used trays with lids so could only make the cubes as high as the lid would hit.

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I let them freeze a day or two and then empty them into freezer containers to give to No. 1. [I used freezer bags] Make sure you get as much air out of the container as possible or they'll get freezer burn. At mealtimes, she can simply nuke a cube (or a cube of each she has in mind for the meal). Heat another way if you're opposed to microwaving.

If you make baby food, how do YOU do it?

Monday, September 06, 2010

More on 2010 Election.

Parts II and III published at Deanie's Blue Inkblots. Scroll down to read Part II first and then scroll up to read Part III.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

2010 Election Is Approaching.

While Em's been off work until the fall season we're trying to squeeze in some little vacations along with some longer-term changes around the house. Astrid still comes three times/week (when we're not off somewhere) and she's growing up before my eyes. Six months old already! She'll be crawling and walking before I know it!

I haven't had the time or interest to blog lately, but this article caught my eye this morning and reminded me that elections will be coming soon and it's time for me to put on my political hat and get out there with my peeps to knock on doors and make phone calls.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 Garden Planning.

Just starting to get to the point where I'm doing a serious think into what I want in future backyard gardening. When your garden flops like mine did this year, it gives ya lots of time to think. Last year was my first BIG year and I planted too much for one person to tend. This year, I wanted to include some flowers amongst the veggies, introduced the perennial day lillies from my northern friends and bought two hibiscus bushes from Home Depot this week when they went on sale 2/$10 with a coupon from their garden club.

Em and I discussed for days where to plant the hibiscus and the only thing he offered was ... "I don't want them interfering with my job" ... [which is cutting the lawn.] That meant that they were to be planted along the fence garden ... which will eventually be weeded and (I've just now decided planted completely with perennials and then lined with weed cloth and covered with an attractive mulch.)

Annual flowers and vegetables will next year be set in two 4x9 raised beds where currently I'd tried to grow them in the ground on two sides of the yard. I'll save my pennies and buy the two raised beds from a gardening center (already made to just be put together by sliding something over the ends. They sell stuff a fool can put together and while their stuff LOOKS expensive, when one needs to hire someone to build something like this it could WAY surpass their cost. I might even buy a few of their bags for growing various types of potatoes. Grass is growing into the two 4x9 gardens we have currently. I still throw compost in them and Em mows it.

So, this fall, I'll move the raspberry bush from the side of the house to the back right corner of the yard because currently Em has to mow around it and I don't look to the side of the house anyway, so the thing was getting ignored. I'll probably also move the backyard blueberry bush over near the hibiscus because they have similar soil needs and it isn't getting enough sun where it is currently, even though it's in the backyard along the fence. MY lemon balm will be trimmed and moved as well. In fact, I might put it where the blueberry bush was because it's growing way too well where it is and I don't use much lemon balm.

Not sure whether I'll do anything formal about compost with this new plan. Truth is: Just two of us don't make enough compost to feed even one 4x9 garden. I might get a small attractive composter to set on the patio for everything except g-diapers. I'll throw those into the grass and let Em mow them. Still thinking it all through. Any ideas?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Mistakes we make in caretaking ... Post 1.

I've always felt that the goal of a human caretaker is to encourage independence while providing a safe, loving environment in which this independence can flourish. Sometimes it's difficult to encourage independence (thinking back to when my mom got old and counted on me). Looking back on the early childhood years of my three children, No. 2 (the "sandwiched" child) got the least attention from me and this lack of attention basically forced her to become independent earlier. No. 3 was the new baby, kicking her out of that slot after just a little more than a year, and No. 1 was still trying to adjust (at age 4) to two siblings now taking the time once reserved for her alone.

We all have our own ideas on how to caretake and for that reason do it differently. My kids had numerous caretakers through the years and I'm sure they all did it differently. It never occurred to me to "blame" a behavior on a caretaker.

Lately, I've noticed that Astrid has been having tantrums and they always seem to occur after she's spent time with Dave's folks caretaking. Dave's folks like to hold her ... all the time and walk with her ... all the time. So, Em said that he was going to take Astrid for a walk outside (in his arms) yesterday. He said, "It seems to calm her." At one point I asked if he was ready to take her for a walk and he said, "When she's fussy." So, when she got fussy he came and got her and took her for a walk and she calmed down and when he sat down with her after the walk she got fussy again because the walk ended.

Mistake: Rewarding fussiness.

Better Approach: Not sure ... open to ideas. Typically, I put her in the swing when she throws a fit because I think she needs a nap AKA mental reorg, but if it's close to time for No. 1 to pick her up, I hate to get a reorg started that won't be able to complete. Since she obviously enjoys a walk with Em, it makes sense to include it in the routine when he's home versus reserving it for fussy periods.

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Getting Ready for Montessori Home-Schooling Post 1.

Astrid is almost 5 months old now and today I spent $5 at the Thrift Store acquiring some items to use for size/color sorting lessons. I'm hoping that if I spread out the purchases I'll not feel the monetary pinch and be ready for when the time comes. I think I can set up my office to double as a "school" setting for her using existing shelving until she's old enough to need a small chair & desk. There's a certain discipline that goes along with Montessori which includes quiet removal of each learning tool to a work area and replacement of learning tool when done which I want to reinforce when the time comes. That sounds ultra restrictive to me, so, in the beginning, it would be only for a few minutes and the only time that Astrid will be in my office. Her play area is in the living room.

Here's what I bought today:

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On the left is what might be an egg-holder, although why it would only be for 8 eggs when the classic denomination is a dozen might leave one to think that it's actually something for holding paints (which was my thought when buying it, as well as thinking ahead to the array of 2 x 4 = 8.

To the right of the "egg-holder" are two cups that were bigger than the others in the set and will be used later for other purposes. To the far right is what might be a picture frame for three square photos? It has three squares recessed almost half an inch into which are placed: 1 red cup, 2 white cups and 3 blue cups. I'm thinking that if I check Target tomorrow (which was in the plan anyway) I might be able to get some ridiculously cheap odds/ends of red/white/blue things to reinforce both the number and color lessons.

At the bottom are sea-shells laid out in order of size, to be used both in size sorting and science lessons.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dry Humps 2010 Report.

As shown somewhere on the sidebar, this past weekend was Crunchy Chicken's Dry Humps 2010 challenge. I had no intention of engaging in this challenge until the weekend came, Em had gone off to work and I found myself with no excuse not to. I find it pretty easy to do these challenges when no one is involved except me.

The only interesting thing (for me) was using water over again for cooking. For instance, I made potato salad Saturday, boiling potatoes in water and then reusing that water to boil the eggs. Also boiled brats, but got fresh water for that. Had it not been for the challenge, I wouldn't have thought to reuse the water. It's always easy to just not flush the toilet when I'm the only one here, and who bathes or showers anymore? :-)

I noticed one trade-off and it always seems like there's a trade-off SOMEWHERE. I used a paper towel to avoid using water and a dishrag to clean off areas after cooking.

Once Em came home, I'm sure he flushed the toilet because he can't stand to see a toilet unflushed. That was about the extent of his five-gallon day.

Sunday, I baked baby back ribs. No water necessary for that and leftover potato salad, so no water at all for cooking. When Em came home from work I'm sure he flushed the toilet again and he always washes the dishes after supper.

Since the whole point of these challenges is to make us conscious of what we do unconsciously, I can say there was success on this front. Today I'll be showering AND doing a small load of laundry, but the challenge is over, right?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Swimming Granddaughter 4 months old.

We share a pool with other members of our Housing Association and I bought Swim Ways float with canopy so Astrid (now 4 months old) could enjoy the water.

The first time in the pool, we had her laid back, but this week (second time) we tried her laying forward. She enjoyed that more because she could see everything better, but both experiences were quite a bit to take in. I thought she might get over-stimulated and scream her complaint, but she seemed to enjoy the experiences and give more subtle signals when she'd had enough.

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Worried about the Texas sun on her fragile skin, the canopied float was a good idea (particularly for babies who don't enjoy wearing hats). No. 1 took her out of the float this time (so we got her hat on her bald head) and let her get a taste of the water more upfront and personal.

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Our housing association doesn't put chlorine in the water; they salt it instead. I guess that's cheaper, so keeps our dues down.



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She particularly enjoyed standing on a ledge at the edge of the pool, just like she enjoys standing EVERYWHERE.

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Looks like I'm gonna need a video camera to capture the action. I had the feeling that (if left to her own devices) she would have held her breath and dived down. No. 1 was unwilling to risk the consequences of an experiment on that thought.

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Sunday, June 06, 2010

If you homeschool, please share how you do it.

I really wanted to homeschool my three kids, but their father had a bunch of reasons for why I shouldn't (including how my profession was very lucrative at the time). No. 1 is considering homeschooling Astrid and I asked her if I could help if she did. I'm retired now, so there's no excuse for me NOT doing it, even if No. 1 took a part-time job and I did it while she worked and she did it when she didn't work. So, I ordered a book by Linda Dobson entitled "The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child (Your complete Guide to Getting Off to the Right Start)". I've been reading it this morning and probably can't even put into words all the questions I already have, but thought if I asked some of you how YOU do it I might be able to form some intelligent questions.

Seems like it's just a normal progression from providing an infant the opportunity to explore the wonders of life while making a conscious effort to expand on the opportunities as the child grows older, but some families follow a pre-set curriculum, as well.

How do YOU do it, and why do you think the way you do it is preferable to other ways? Do you get together with other homeschoolers and share routinely? Does your state have reporting requirements that you must follow?

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Paul McCarthy at the White House.

I think he was one of the most talented song-writers ever to live, so I'm glad to see he was honored by the US.

I also don't agree with the folks who think that Obama should be ALL gulf oil spill ALL the time.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Planning For The End of Oil.

I know some eco-bloggers who concentrate on getting ready for life after oil's been depleted. I'm not one of them, which is why I have on my list of other places of interest Peak Oil Debunked and Wrong Tomorrow because the people doing these predictions typically don't have experience in the fields they're discussing.

Here's a few minutes by Richard Sears on Planning for the end of oil.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Not my year for gardening.

I'm starting to treat it as the gamble that some farmers know it is. I had about a .02% germination rate on EVERYTHING. I was successful only in growing mold. Now, I have hundreds of pots sitting around with NOTHING growing in them.

When we go to casinos to play slot machines, we give each machine only three tries at giving us more money than we put into it before we move on to the next machine. What's the sense in beating a dead horse? So, gardening is my dead horse this summer and I'm tired of beating it already. Hot weather has already set in and my next chance is fall.

I don't even have the interest to go outside and pull weeds ... for what? Even the beans I planted only have two plants starting. It's like the yard has been cursed! In addition, there's some kind of insect that crawls all over me when I go out there. Not fireants (at least not MOST of the time). Might be fleas; don't know.

So, I've ordered a pool float for Astrid and intend to spend my summer doing exercisey fun stuff with her and No. 1., reading more, relaxing more. Garden vegetables are always cheap at the store during the summer and I refuse to waste any more time or money on this failure. So, take that, garden!

My berry bushes are starting to fruit, so I guess THAT's one positive this year. Sugar ants are crawling around them as soon as they get sweet, though, so if I pick them I get ants crawling all over my hands. Meh.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Home-made sun-screen and Bon Ami.

The experiments with replacing portions of ground beef with cooked, mashed, brown lentils and cooked bulgur were totally successful. Em didn't notice any change in taste at all either in hamburger patties or his beloved hamburger helper. I should mention, however, that I season pretty much everything these days with Montreal Steak Seasoning. There was a sale at Kroger one day and I got about 8 of these. I use it on pretty much everything because it's got pretty much everything in it. I sprinkle it on vegetables, too!

My dandruff is back ... with a vengeance, so I'm gonna need to go through the whole routine I went through before to get it to go away again. PITA, but at least I'm getting a feel for how long I can go between "treatments" to keep my scalp healthy.

So, here we go with today's topic:

Like most envirowackos, I'm interested in ways to make non-toxic products that actually work like the toxic ones. I haven't yet tested these two, but now that I have a teensy granddaughter, I've been thinking about the impact of the world around her. To take her outside for any length of time, she's gonna need some sun screen. She's a pale-face like her dad.

Sun Screen:



I've never purchased products like Bon Ami. Em takes a more gentle approach to everything in life, so HE has, but I'm more the "shotgun it" type, not wanting to take any more time on cleaning than is truly necessary to get the job done and get away from it. If I make something, though, I have an investment in it so I'm more inclined to use it and make it work. We've got baking soda all over the place, for instance, because it's SO helpful in keeping our kitchen stain-free. Em had some problems with digestion for a while that seems to have been resolved with daily yo-chs (a combination of yogurt, cottage cheese and frozen berries). Berries love to stain anything in which they come in contact, so it's baking soda to the rescue.

Non-toxic cleaners:



Finishing up with a pic of the world's cutest baby (in MY opinion, of course):
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Thursday, May 06, 2010

My Husband's love for hamburger helper.

We went grocery shopping yesterday for the first time in over a month. It had been much longer than that since we'd had any hamburger or tuna or chicken helper on hand and Em loves to make it when it's his turn to cook.

Yesterday, our local Kroger finally had a sale that corresponded with coupons on HH that also corresponded with a sale on Angus chuck.

Thing is, since we've not had hamburger helper, I've been mixing bulgur in with ground meat dishes to both try and get us to eat less meat and add healthier foods to our diet, and Em has LOVED the substitutes ... so I'm hoping he loves the substitutes here.

I bought 6 pounds of ground chuck, to which I'll add 1 lb (dried) brown lentils (cooked and smashed) plus one cup of dry bulgur (cooked and mixed with the lentils). I'm hoping to end up with 10-12 (roughly 1-lb) piles of meat & stuff.

I think he chose 10 HH and 2 tuna helpers, but my lower back went out this week and I really didn't pay too close attention, anxiously awaiting the end of the grocery experience so I could sit down. Point is: I think 10 would be enough.

Lots more work involved over just separating and wrapping the meat for freezing, I learned. First, the lentils needed to be cooked and an attempt made at mashing them.
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Then, the bulgur needed to be cooked and added to the lentils.
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Separating and wrapping the meat is always a chore in itself and one that is never measured on the meniscus. As Rachael Ray is fond of saying, "I eyeball it." Here's the 1st half of meat mixed with 1st half of non-meat mix (eyeballed).
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Close-up, you can see that the mix definitely doesn't resemble 100% meat.
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After I finished wrapping the 2nd half of that, I went on to wrap 4 boneless primes that Em and I will share.
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I know some folks eat less/no meat all the time, but this is the first year I've been actively engaged in cutting back on our consumption of animal products. Will we give up meat altogether eventually? I kinda doubt it. We've spent over 60 years eating animals, starting before they were given hormones and antibiotics. Will I feed Astrid the kind of meat we've bought for years? No way!

Still have 40oz of bacon to cut and package. I freeze 4 pieces of bacon separately. That can wait until tomorrow, however. As I said in the beginning, I've had problems with my back this past week and today's the first day of fluidity, so I want to spend some time hooping.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Garbage - the Movie.

The First Tuesday Social Action Film Festival at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff will be showing Garbage tomorrow night. We won't be going to see it. Even though I hate to pass up an opportunity to get even more envirowacko than I already am, we're going to Winstar tomorrow and we're always way, way too tired to do anything on Winstar evenings because we go in the middle of the night and wear ourselves out walking ... which is why we're going because I did something to my lower back taking a nap this week and I need to walk it out.

Also, I really think I need to tone down this envirowackiness of mine. You can get carried away. We went to the Fort Worth Museum a week or so ago to see Sharks (which sucked as a movie), but on our way to the Omni we passed a display of plastic stuff made into a display. It was designed to bring public attention to the pacific and atlantic plastic garbage patches, but I told the woman that I probably shouldn't see it because I'm envirowacko enough as it is.

For instance, I'm thinking ahead to Astrid eating something besides breast milk and after watching Food, Inc., I don't want her to eat anything but organically grown food, and the decision isn't mine to make, not to mention that No. 1 may not be in a position to afford such a proposition.



Saturday, April 17, 2010

Plastic garbage patches all over the oceans.

I'm sure you've all heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Well, there's another one in the Atlantic Ocean. These might not be the only two, either.

The problem is that plastics were designed to last forever but then used to make products designed to be thrown away. Much of the plastic trash we generate on land flows into our oceans through storm drains and watersheds. It falls from garbage and container trucks, spills out of trashcans, or is tossed carelessly.

At sea, floating plastics are swept up into slowly moving currents. These currents are called gyres. Most of the research on plastic trash circulating in oceanic gyres has focused on the North Pacific, but there are 5 major oceanic gyres worldwide, with several smaller gyres in Alaska and Antarctica. Marine researchers don’t yet know the extent to which plastic pollution exists in the world’s oceans.



We've GOT to stop using plastics!

This is my contribution to National Environmental Education Week.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Trying on smiles ... two months old.

Yesterday was another adventure in babysitting here. Some things worked and some things didn't.

The Graco Bumper Jumper that I thought I'd pressed down HARD on fell apart when I put Astrid in it. I THINK I've fixed that problem this morning and just about did a hand-stand in it to test it. Of course she got scared and I got embarrassed.

After that, I had to build up my trust in her mind. She feels most secure if you hold her head and her behind. I think that's why she likes Em's human swing. Her head is cradled in one of his hands while her butt is cradled in the other.

Dave and No. 1 brought a swing over with her, but she didn't like to be tied into the restraints of it and placed a little too high she felt insecure and placed a little too low she could fall out of it, so it took a while to find a comfortable level for her to take in the surroundings.

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I'll order some rechargeable batteries and a charger that accommodates C cells, as the swing was left here for future use, but currently requires manual labor. My foot couldn't do it and my back started to complain leaning over, so the batteries and charger will provide musical entertainment for her and osteopathic aid for me.

Outside of those two fails, we had a good day, I think. It was a BUSY day (at least for me). She liked to fall asleep after eating in the burping position on my chest, but any attempt to remove her from my chest awakened her.

We did have some fun socializing on the floor, though. Getting social was new since I last sat for her. She's now responding to social interactions with parroting sounds and smiles.

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You're funny, Mormor!

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THAT was just SILLY!

What do you think about THIS smile?
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Em got home from work and provided the human swing while I ate supper. When his arms tired of swinging she uttered a complaint and he swung her again. This process was repeated until I finished my food and No. 1 and Dave came to the door.

Not sure Em's going to continue with the Race Track job. The employees had to buy their own shirts this year (which he thought petty) and it just doesn't seem the fun it once was.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Wet paper towel garden seed germination update.

Today I noticed the first sprout in the wet paper towel germination experiment. It was a Better Boy Hybrid. I put the sprout in a pot with starter soil, setting it on the master bathroom windowsill with the Tommy Toe Heirloom and two super-small pieces of sweet potato.

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Some of the paper towel pieces had dried out, so I sprayed a little water onto those and put them back atop the Uverse box (which provides heat for them). So, that was 6 days until germination using the wet paper towel method for that particular seed. The other Better Boy seeds in that packet have also sprouted slightly, but the one I took out had a sprout 1.5" long.

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Not gonna have as large a garden this year. We're a small family, so if we only have two tomato plants and two sweet potato plants we'll have enough. We still have sweet potatoes in the freezer from last year. More would be NICE, but I want to trim things this year and maybe introduce a little decorative landscaping that requires little maintenance in the back yard.

In other news, Em went back to work today. He had an eye appointment this morning before work and everything seems fine after the second cataract surgery. He's to come back for a final check in 3 weeks. So far, it doesn't look like he'll need glasses unless he really wants to read in our dimly lit bathroom.

I'm looking forward to caring for Astrid this weekend while Dave and No. 1 attend the Renaissance Fair with friends. I bought a Graco bumper jumper and No. 1 will bring over a swing and buggy just in case I need more ammunition in a fuss-bucket situation. Em will be at work, so there won't be a human swing for her.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

National Environmental Education Week.

Next week is National Environmental Education Week.

Seems like every time I turn around there's a week/month dedicated to something or other, but here's one I actually care about. I wouldn't have known about it had I not seen the challenge at Farmer's Daughter, so many thanks to the woman who teaches Environmental Science but is currently on maternity leave. Now that I'm a first-time grandmother, I have more than one thing in common with her.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Gardening in just one hour/week.



These folks are WAY more experienced than I. I think No. 2 could do it, though.

h/t Simple, Green, Frugal Co-Op

Friday, April 02, 2010

Seed Germination Problems.

I started tomato and pepper seeds this year at the beginning of March. I could have started them earlier, but had other things to do. Here it is four weeks later and the only thing I have to show for it all is ONE Tommy Toes start.

This year, I used a combination of seed starter (which I'll never use again - It resembles rabbit feed insofar as it's pellet-like ... to absorb moisture, I assume) and sphagnum. The seed starter was too heavy and large, not to mention that it held enough moisture to mold on occasion.

Lacking a greenhouse, basement, or any other setup, I did pretty much what I did last year with that Burpee seed-starting number (most of which fell apart over the summer). I planted the seeds in biodegradable pots (mostly peat because I found a great deal on them), watered them, and covered them with little plastic sandwich bags for humidity. On warm days, I put them outside, bringing them inside in the evening as the evenings turned cool. There was a lot of back/forth involved, including taking off the sandwich bags if it looked like there was too much moisture, etc. My kitchen table was always a mess with various stages of pots.
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Today, I took three of the peat pots apart to see what was happening within.
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The answer was, basically, NOTHING. There was NO sign of sprouting, and not even any sign of a seed!

Since we're going to be busy with other things the next few days, I decided to spend some time today starting new seeds using the hippy method that some learned during the 60s to more quickly sprout marijuana seeds. <--I don't, personally, know anything about that, but my next-door neighbor mentioned it one day.

Basically, seeds are put between two damp pieces of soft paper (like paper towel), put in a plastic baggie and put somewhere warm, but not necessarily sunny.

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Takes a lot less room and zero work while the seeds germinate. AFTER germination, they can be transferred to the pots and set in increasingly bright light.

Fortunately, peppers and tomatoes are the ONLY two garden items I germinate first. Everything else grows quite well seeding outdoors. I wouldn't even be surprised if some tomatoes and peppers will volunteer from last year's crop.

How's your garden doing?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

TED: Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity.

Funny how grandmotherhood "reactivates" interest in some things.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

First day of Spring and it snowed last night ... in North Texas.

So much for keeping the seeds outside to catch the sun.

Decided today that I'm going to experiment with not shaving this summer. The hair under my arms is now long enough that it doesn't itch at all and (as usual) I haven't shaved my legs all winter. It's a test of freedom more than anything else, I think. It's not like Em cares at all, so it's a question of whether I can maintain confidence through my daughters chiding me.

I think it was 26 or so years ago that we camped at a Coast Guard campground on the East coast. The kids were small, playing in the dirt of the campground. My husband was a CG reserve and this was the annual two-week duty training. A young, female CGer stopped by our campsite to show us a newspaper with our son's picture on the front page. He'd met a goat at the Bluebird Farm and the paper's photographer took one of those human-interest photos. She stayed for a while and discussed how she'd decided to stop shaving. I didn't have the self-confidence when I was young, but I'm willing to experiment with how I feel "going European" in this, my 63rd year. Could dispense with extraneous plastic and save money.

Friday, March 19, 2010

2010 garden seed starting and garden progress ... March 2010.

I started so many tomato and pepper seeds this year that you'd think I had a farm.

I am SO tired of starting seeds!

Done now, and sitting outside.

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Peppers: 1. jalapeno Ixtapa ( have 3 from Diane - 3 planted 03/10/10) 2. hot salsa (home-saved from my 2009 garden) - 3 planted 03/08/10 3. chiltepin - (home-saved from my 2009 garden) planted 3 seeds 03/11/10 4. Sweet pepper kaleidoscope mix - planted 3 seeds 03/08/10 5. Romanian Rainbow Sweet Pepper - planted 3 seeds 03/06/10 6. Peter Pepper - planted 3 seeds 03/11/10 7. Hungarian Black Hot Pepper - planted 3 seeds 03/13/10 8. Serrano - planted 3 seeds 03/13/10 9. Sweet Pepper Kaleidoscope 3 seeds 03/16/10 10. Hungarian Yellow Wax 3 seeds 03/17/10 11. Gourmet Sweet Pepper 3 seeds 03/17/10 12. NuMex Big Jim Hot 3 seeds 03/19/10 Tomatoes: 1. Tomatillo - planted 3 seeds 03/06/10 2. Beefsteak (Walgreens seed) - planted 3 03-12-10 3. Large Red Cherry (Walgreens seed) - planted 3 03-12-10 4. Black Prince (Diane 2005 seed) - planted 3 03-14-10 5. San Marzano (Diane) - planted 3 03-14-10 6. Taxi (Diane) - planted 3 03-14-10 7. Stupice (Diane) - planted 3 03-14-10 8. Opalka (Diane) - 3 03-16-10 9. Mortgage Lifter (Diane) - 3 03-16-10 10. Porter (Diane) 3 03-14-10 11. Tommy Toes(Diane) 3 03-16-10 12. Tiny Tim (Diane) 3 03-16-10 13. Stupice (Diane) 3 03-14-10 14. Mirabell (Diane) 3 03-16-10 15. Banana Legs (Diane) 3 03-17-10 16. Hillbilly (Diane) 3 03-17-10 17. Aztec (Diane) 3 03-17-10 18. Reisentraub (Diane) 3 03-17-10 19. Super Sioux (Diane) 3 03-17-10 20. Cherokee Chocolate (Diane) 3 03-17-10 21. Costaluto Genovese (Diane) 3 3-17-10 22. Brandywine (Diane) 3 3-17-10 23. Taos (Diane) 3 - 3-18-10 24. Peacevine (Diane) 3- 3-18-10 25. Snow White (Diane) 3 3-18-10

One would think I had a farm based on all the attempts, but I'll be happy if 10 survive the process. Thanks to Diane for most of the seeds (even if they don't have her name in the credits).

The garden is starting to come to life for the 2010 year. Here are some asparagus w Day Lillies at left. Thanks again to my friends, Bob and Judy, in Illinois for the Day Lillies.

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As usual, one peach tree starts blooming well while the other pretty much stands still. They alternate years.

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Kale is still doing well from the 2009 garden

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Last year's strawberries sent out runners which are now starting to bloom near more cilantro.

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While it looks like Spring is springing and official Spring is Sunday, we're scheduled for another freeze tomorrow.

Em felt good after eating a yogurt/cottage cheese mix every day for several days. Felt so good he got cocky and quit eating it, so I stopped making it. Now, his stomach is bothering him again. I'm not one to nag, but the handwriting's on the wall. If he asks me, I'll make it again.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cataract Surgery - What to Expect.

Em's in the middle of getting cataract surgery. That means that he's had the surgery on one eye, but not on the other eye. That means that he can see pretty well out of one eye WITH his glasses and pretty well out of one eye WITHOUT his glasses, but he can't see out of both eyes either way. We'd thought that replacing one lens with clear glass would help in the interim before he gets his other eye done, but it doesn't ... because his correction is monocular. His left eye is corrected to be his reading eye and his right eye is corrected to be his distance eye and he's trained his eyes for years to work independent of each other. He had the surgery on his left eye (his reading eye), so he can read perfectly without glasses. He could read perfectly without glasses before the surgery, too, if he got the material within 2" of his eyes, so no BIG change there.

It seems that if you live long enough, pretty much everyone eventually gets cataracts. It's nice to know what to expect. Em was very, very scared. First, the thought of someone sticking a knife in his eye wasn't comforting. Secondly, he heard his doctor talk of possible complications in a louder voice than he heard how safe the procedure is. He found no reason to believe that he'd be one of the 999 of 1,000. Third, he was told that the procedure would be performed under local anesthetic and he thought that meant he'd be aware that they were sticking a knife in his eye. I assure you he wasn't aware of much that day. They gave him some GOOD drugs and while he could walk and talk, the day of surgery is pretty much a missed day in his life.

Surgeries for each eye are spaced out with two weeks inbetween IF there are no complications. The eye doctor gave him some pills and drops to use before surgery and 3 types of drops to use 4 times/day after surgery (for two weeks). In addition to the drops, he's scheduled with two doctor visits ... one the first day after surgery and (if everything looks okay) another a week and a day after surgery. While it's out-patient surgery, it's treated as "SURGERY!". He had to get his regular doctor's approval for the surgery, which his doctor only gave after a complete physical exam complete with chest X-ray and EKG. After surgery, he's advised not to do anything much in the way of physical activity. He can't lift anything 25 lbs or more, can't lean over, can't rub his eye, can't allow water to get in his eye [no showering facing the shower], no hot-tub (smile), etc. To ensure that he doesn't rub his eye, he has to wear a patch whenever he sleeps.

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This Thursday we go back to see if he screwed up his eye lifting or bending. It's hard to stop yourself if you feel okay and you're accustomed to doing things like tying your own shoes.

If that eye is okay, he'll go through the same procedure next week on the other eye. THEN, after the two week period is over, he should be in a position to know if he'll need to wear glasses in addition to the lens implant (to correct his astigmatism) or if he'll be able to see good enough without them. Some people see well enough for a while and then get corrective glasses later.

Fortunately, Astrid doesn't weigh 25 lbs yet, so Em was able to swing her our first day of baby-sitting her. She's a good baby, but we enjoyed holding her even when she didn't demand it.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

More dietary experiments; this time we cut back on food AND try to eat the evening meal earlier.

Em and I both have been having some stomach problems lately which we felt were associated with eating too late and having too heavy a meal.

So, he threw down the gauntlet this week. Starting yesterday, we'll try to eat lighter and earlier in the evening so we can sleep with no problems.

A few days earlier, I'd made up some Cajun Trinity. Froze two quart bags of that, which will work out well for these dietary experiments.

Last night (first night) we had :

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Cauliflower, asparagus tips, mushrooms and tomatoes tossed in at the end ... served with 4 frozen Armour meatballs that got nuked for 3 minutes.

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Doesn't look like much, but that's the point.

Tonight, we're going to have something similar with different vegetables using quinoa as our protein source. Gonna also add some of that trinity I froze earlier in the week.

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Good week to start reading Omnivore's Dillemma. I'd previously been concerned that Em might hate me if I took away his meat. Now, he seems to be saying, "I want to eat lighter meals; I'm looking for an alternative."

I'm thinking we'll try this "cutting back" approach to it all and see how that works before making a rash decision on dietary changes.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

More Jamie Oliver (because ABC will have a special with him soon).

I'd already posted Jamie's presentation at TED, but it seems he's to have a series premier on ABC March 26.

Here's a sneak preview:



I wonder how many US adults could answer his questions.

h/t Crunchy Chicken.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Freezing Kale.

Yesterday we visited No. 1 and Astrid, so picked up some produce at Fiesta, which is near her house. Fiesta produce is always fresher looking than other groceries and most foods aren't in packages, so I can bring home just what I need with no packaging to discard. The girl who bagged our groceries was obviously sick, so I put everything I bought in a sink full of water with a little bleach, rinsed it off and let it sit on the counter to dry. Also still on the counter was that bowl of kale I'd picked before the snowstorm that never came, so today I'm committed to doing something with all this food.

This morning I tackled the kale. I'd read yesterday instructions on freezing it at Not Martha. It looked straightforward enough, so I got out all the things I'd need and went to it.

Some people cut and some people rip, and I cut some and ripped some. I didn't save the stems for anything, although some people eat them. Some people eat broccoli stems, too, but we're not hungry enough for that yet, either. They feed the dirt in my gardens just like asparagus stems.

First step after cutting is the blanch. Some people don't blanch, but I'm new at this, so I did.

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Following Not Martha's instructions, I took each batch of kale from the salad spinner to the towel.

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Once all the kale is processed and on the towel, the towel gets rolled tight and squeezed to remove as much moisture as possible. My largest bowl was the perfect amount to fit on the towel after processing.

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The kale is then transferred to a baking sheet (covered with parchment so there's no sticking) and put into a freezer for 30 minutes.

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We got 3 quart freezer bags of kale from this batch. Each bag will be more than enough for the two of us at one meal. Takes the guesswork out of it for me, as the kale is already cooked down from the blanch.