Saturday, March 29, 2008

Still Surprised

Remember how our littlest was such a surprise? Surprise, pregnant! Surprise, a girl! Surprise, a big girl!

We looked and looked and couldn't find a name we liked that had "surprise" as a meaning. However, she continues with the whole "surprise" theme, because this is the look she usually has on her face:

So sweet...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

March Madness

The weather continues to toy with us. March definitely came in like a lion, with cold driving wind and rain, but aside from my neighbor's new wool-endeavor, there is no lamb in sight. Today in fact, it snowed. It snowed most of the day, but thankfully it didn't stick.

The other day, season notwithstanding, my eldest brought me a lovely bouquet. Truly, she did. She picked it from the outdoors, even, and no; I don't have any crocuses in bloom. She found a lovely vase, decorated it cheerily, and even filled it up with water for the, uh, flowers.

Motherhood is awesome.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Whar's The Beef?!?

It ain't here, sadly.

We're almost down to the last of the 3/4 beef we bought, oh, about a year-and-a-half ago. I'm looking to buy one on the hoof here sometime, but s/he won't probably be edible for another couple years. We've got a handful of fine steaks (well, fine is relative, and when you thought round steak was shmancy as a kid, what's in the freezer may not be "fine" at all...) and I think that's it.

Considering my already-suspicious attitudes towards grocery store meat, the latest slaughterhouse expose' hasn't made it any easier to buy at the market. Look, I'm sure it's probably fine, but ... do you know what the incubation period is for Mad Cow disease? That is, the time between when you ingest some nasty little prions and then show symptoms? Forty years. No, I'm not kidding. And it's not pretty. My (step) grandmother "felt funny" on June 1, 1996, and by July was acting very strangely (somewhat alzheimer-ish). Before August was over, she was gone. What happened? Eventually they diagnosed her with CJD (human form of mad cow) that she must've picked up in England when her husband was stationed there in 1956!!

Sorry, that's not what this post is about. But while I'm at it, I'll just state that I really don't think grocery-store hamburger has this stuff going on at all. I am saying that I prefer the distance between the 'moo' and my mouth to be as short (and visible) as possible.

No one local has any beeves for sale, but my favorite organic grass-fed dairyman a few hours from here has some available. A $40 lb box of mixed cuts was a mere $260. Which, if you do the math, comes down to $6.50/lb....*gasp*.. *choke*.. *sputter*. Don't get me wrong, it's SO worth it... if you have it.

So what to do? This is Day 1 on Hubby's Crazy Diet, and Day 1 is traditionally Beef Day. It's also Haddock Day and Whitefish Day and Other Crazy Fish Day that we don't recognize, but here in the desert those things are hard to come by. I had some organic baby spinach in the fridge (don't worry, I always wait a few days before we eat it to see if an e. coli outbreak happens*) and thought taco salad would be tastey. Not tastey enough, however, to grind up T-bone steaks. So I used beans! Yes, yes, I know, you use beans anyway in taco salad (personally, we use garbanzos more often than kidney beans). I used some black turtle beans in place of the beef, and you know what? It was great.

So -

Earlier today I put the beans (they were the dry kind) in water with a bit of vinegar (if you have 3 hours, read about why here). While I should've started them soaking yesterday, it was better than nothing. At about 3:45 or so, I poured off the water, put fresh water in them, and simmered them 2 hours or so. I removed enough beans to replace 'the beef' (I cooked a bunch so I could freeze them for later, of course), added taco seasoning, garbanzos, salt - then served it over baby spinach with some sliced olives, taco sauce, ranch dressing, cheese, sour cream - whatever. Affordable, healthy and good.

*Ok, I'm just kidding. Usually it takes several weeks for health officials to put the pieces together enough to pin an outbreak on any one thing.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Stop The MOTHERS Act

Mother Government is at it again. This passed the House with flying colors, and now it's in the hands of the Senate. This act purports to caretake pregnant women and new mothers by requiring screening of them (while pregnant) for signs of depression and beginning treatment (while pregnant) through post-partum. One problem is that this bill aims at only one type of treatment - antidepressants/antipsychotics - which have been known to cause a host of problems (suicide, hallucinations, Andrea Yates, anyone?), while ignoring all other options for treatment. It also doesn't require full disclosure of the risks and side-effects of the medications.

Bill S.1375 is currently in the first stage of the legislative process. It was introduced to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on March 11, 2008. The “Mothers Act” would screen pregnant women for potential depression -- and treat them with antidepressants during and/or after pregnancy to avoid post partum depression.

This YouTube was done by a concerned mother who started a petition. It's worth watching:

You can sign the petition here.

You can read the bill here.

If you have a problem with this, please, please write/call/fax your senators!

If the substance of this bill wasn't enough, after starting this post I found that Barack Obama is a co-sponsor of this bill. We know how much he cares about babies.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Stupid Weather

I ran across a blog the other day of someone obviously in California. Yeah, they might be outlaws now, due to the whole homeschooling thing, but they had sunshine. And fruit trees in full bloom. And flowers in pots on porches.

Here? Notsomuch.

Thursday dawned gray and gloomy, windy and cold.

But after lunchtime the sun came out and it warmed to 60 degrees.

Then the sun went away, and the wind returned.

And with it some snow.

And rain.

And hail.

Big hail.

Saturday dawned with 2 inches of snow on the ground.

The girls ask every day when spring will come. I finally pointed to it on the calendar, with multiple admonitions that though the calendar may say it's spring, you might not know it by the weather.

So our garden thoughts are staying just that -- thoughts.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Garden Thoughts

I ordered a handful of seed catalogs last year (and several handsful of seeds), and apparently someone sold my info.

"Hey, y'all, check this one out! She's interested in seeds!"

[insert the hiss of a crowded stadium filled with seed vendors here]

I have no less than 14 different gardening catalogs here in my house. And some companies even sent me two different editions. So, more than 14 catalogs, really.

With my kitchen looking so nice, and it inspiring me to actually sweep the floors each evening [insert the hiss of a crowded stadium cheers of those who walk barefoot here], I thought it best NOT to turn my entire dining room into a potting shed this year.

Which is hard.

The local greenhouse doesn't offer all the fun and nifty heirloom tomatoes and open-pollinated corn, so catalogs become A Way. Of course, I can't just select from one catalog either. No, I have to fall in love with a few items from several catalogs... And therefore pay several shipping and handling fees.

I've probably blogged all this info before, but my three preferred places are Territorial Seed Company (they also sell live plants) out of Oregon, Seed Savers Exchange of Iowa, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Missouri. They each offer a great selection of different (darnitall!) seeds, specializing in organic, biodynamic, open-pollinated, and heirloom stuff. Baker Creek offers the best shipping ($3 flat) and is owned/operated by young-ish (late 20s) homeschool graduates! Territorial charges $6.95 (more for live plants, heavy items, or expedited shipping), and Seed Savers varies from $3 to $9, and adjusts to 10% of total after your order exceeds $100.

I'm going to have to go with locally-greenhoused tomatoes and peppers this year (which I tend to do after my starts are killed by critters/wind/me anyway), but I'm wanting some nifty old-school squash from SSE, like these and these. These are beans from Baker Creek! I would love to see them in real life! I once ate some Russian Banana potatoes that were soooo delicious, but these French Fingerling potatoes look comparable and are cheaper. And you don't have to peel them! Of course, there is added shipping charges for seed potatoes, which might preclude my obtaining them. I can buy local russet, yukon gold, and red seed and I'll plant them if nothing else. According to my mom's naturopath, potatoes are among the most chemically-infused foods out there. Whether because the vines are sprayed dead before harvest, the sprout-inhibitors applied after harvest, or just the chemical fertilizers and pesticides, apparently he doesn't buy them for his family any more. I can't say I don't buy them, but I can say I'll feel much better about growing them in my own dirt. And hopefully finding a way to preserve them well.

I'd also like to plant more Popcorn (I saved seed from last year's harvest). I'd also like to try this cool Painted Mountain Corn, which can be ground into flour, but both that and the popcorn are open-pollinated and I might come out with some crazy mutant corn if I plant them both. Would my flour be fluffy? Could it pop? Perhaps my popcorn would explode into dust? Anyways, since my popcorn seed is free this year, I'll probably go with that.

I still have some leftover mini-gourd seeds, and I don't think we ever got around to finding space for the Baby Boo pumpkins, so if the seed is still good, we'll use it.

I'm also very bad at leafy things, like lettuce and spinach. Maybe growing them indoors would suit me better? They always seem so ... dirty. Perhaps because, unlike most other vegetables, they look the same whether they're covered by bugs and dirt and *ahem* fertilizer, or they're sitting on your plate. No digging, or peeling, or shelling, or other prep required. That should be a good thing, I suppose.

Peas require early planting, and I'm never ready in time to grow them. It gets hot enough here that mine burn up before producing. Or the few produced get eaten by my darlings. :)

This year, thanks to the Dawg, we have to build a fence. I'm getting nervous, because every spring brings a giant pile of chores to accomplish, but it also brings a giant pile of working hours for Hubby. Many springtime chores never get done. So, if we can do that and change up the irrigation system enough to make watering things more reasonable, this garden attempt just might happen.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Homeschool Attack

It's hard to watch what is happening in California right now. In case you don't know, a judge in the appelate court (that's right; a judge. Not a bill through the legislature) ruled that most homeschoolers in California were breaking the law. How's that? Yeah; he ruled that kids need to be in public school, private school, or tutored by a credentialed teacher at home. I so often feel helpless in the face of The State exerting more and more control over our personal liberties, but I did manage to sign this HSLDA petition asking that the ruling be depublished.

Please do the same, if you value the right to homeschool in America.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

You Can Count On It!

My kitchen is "new!" Of course, only a little bit of it is actually new, but the aesthetic difference is incredible. Remember the broken island countertop? And the cracked sink and main counter? They are fixed, finally! We had some dear old friends (ok, I don't mean that they're exceptionally aged, but that they've been friends with us forever. By forever I mean 'friends with my mother long before I was born.') come help us. He was a cabinet-maker type back in the day before such work wore him out. And he's good, I tell ya. We had a few changes-in-plan, but they came out great. Wanna see?
Here is a 'before' shot; the island top has been removed.

No cracks in this section, but notice the gap between stove and counter.

Ok, here it is...!

You have no idea how much better these are. No cracks, no stains, no warping. That nice straight line of tile for the backsplash? Yeah, not really. Thanks to a diamond-bit angle grinder, they're straight now. We extended the island countertop to have a little snack bar area, and rounded the overhanging corners. The same with the peninsula (foreground above), though it already had an overhang along one side.

Look how it fits now!
Truly, this stove area was a challenge. The wall behind the stove is NOT at a 45-degree angle (see how the stove is not centered along it?), and the former counters did not fit it well. The counter edge to the left of the stove extended out, showing a good inch or two of the side facing the stove, while the right-hand counter edge tucked itself back behind the front corner of the stove. Now? It's perfect! The stove actually doesn't sit parallel to the rear wall now, but the amazing fit along the counter edges more than makes up for it.
Now, these pictures don't show the piles of stuff we shoved into other rooms, and I'm sorely tempted to leave it that way. :) Actually, I've replaced the mixer and moved the coffee-paraphernalia and put back the bread box, but for the most part I just want to see and enjoy every square inch of Wilsonart Laminate Crystalline Braun. Yet another undeserved blessing from above. I'm so grateful.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Monday, March 03, 2008

I AM Weird...

Because, you know, I just wasn't sure.

I've been without my right arm kitchen for a few days, and it was a challenge. More on that later.

I went to the local grocery store last night, in search of... anything, really. I think I was there to buy bread, but just really needed to find something else. Something to satisfy my heart as well as my appetite.

Hubby wanted corn chips. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Well, that's not true, because I'd bought corn chips the day before. Cheap, likely-genetically-modified corn chips. I guess I couldn't do it twice in one weekend. So I wandered the aisles in my hand-me-down Danskos, fuzzy crocheted scarf covering my pinned-up hair (mostly) and searched for something. I perused and browsed and felt a little bit like you do when you visit a foreign-speaking country. Nothing was familiar, safe, known.

I turned down another aisle and came upon a small selection of Kashi brand crackers! My heart warmed with kinship, and then my brain was astonished. What is this? Have I somehow 'crossed over' into something? I don't buy Kashi stuff; I don't even keep up with what Kashi makes (I thought they were cereal or something). But it was like wandering around Siberia and running into another American, even if they were from New York or something. At least you speak the same language.

Adjectives in the ingredients like, "expeller-pressed" and "non-GMO" and "long grain brown".


I recognize you.

I know you.


WHAT'S wrong with me???