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Last August we moved out of our tiny home into one that's not only a good bit bigger but also just plain better distributed--we can use the space we have here.  Kids each have their own small bedroom, our master bedroom is small but does the job, we have a respectable looking living room and a comfy (i.e. trashable) family room.  And there's my sewing room that becomes a guest room for the 6 days out of the year that we need one.

It's in general a great house.  There are only two major drawbacks: 1. no master bath, and 2. teeny teeny kitchen without even close to enough cabinet space.

This is actually a change from our other house which, though it was tiny, did have both a master bath and a lot of kitchen storage.  It had a whole pantry, bigger than the closet I now have, plus a nice big eat-in kitchen worth of cabinets.  The one we have now is long and skinny, broken up by a door to the garage and another door to the patio and in general wasting a good bit of what little space there is.

But we're making do.  We put some Ikea shelving units into the garage, so some of the not-every-day stuff can go there, like beer and soda, baking gear, empty containers waiting to be filled with things, herbal potions, etc.  Nothing froze over the winter, which was good.  And we have a second freezer in there too. (Greenmama needs her extra freezerspace!)

The whole adaptive process has been really good for me, though, in discovering what items of my kitchen I need and actually use, as opposed to those that are just kind of cool and I don't.  Because in this kitchen, if it's taking up space, it better be needed.

So it's made me take a good look at the things I really do use, the things without which life would be of questionable value (or, more to the point, the things without which we'd be ordering a lot more pizza).  For the moment I'm not going the Basic Pots And Pans route; I'm talking the other stuff.

Read more... )
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Okay, so here (greenmama.dreamwidth.org/3862.html ) I talk about how to make your own yogurt in the crockpot.  Easy, fun, and if you're not all Buy Organic Milk like me it's probably way cheaper than the store-bought stuff, especially if you go through it at your house like we do here. 

This is just an easy addendum recipe that I tried last time I made the stuff: the next challenge after making homemade yogurt is of course to flavor it.  The easiest way is honestly to just drizzle a little honey and cinnamon, or maple syrup, or hell even chocolate syrup over it.  Yummers.

But I really was curious about trying to do the whole fruit yogurt thing.  So this is what I did:

Place in a bowl a pound of fresh-frozen fruit. (I used triple berry mix.)  Sprinkle maybe 1/4 cup sugar over it  and maybe a tbs. lemon juice (opt) and stir. (Different fruits and different tastes will obviously have different ideas here about how much sugar to use, and whether to use the lemon juice!)  I also add a sprinkle of cinnamon to it.  Just let it sit there at room temperature until the fruit melts and gets all mooshy with the sugar. 

That's it.  Easiest thing in the world.

This stuff was amazing--just perfectly sweet, incredibly fruit-y.  Very runny, of course, and you could cook it over the stove and mix in a little cornstarch-or-flour-and-water mixture to thicken it, but for my purposes it really didn't need it.  I honestly don't know if it would work the same with fresh fruit, and I'm inclined to doubt it, because I suspect it's part of the frozenness that breaks down the fruit enough to behave like this.  But honestly, when I get fresh fruit I'm not likely to cook or moosh it up; we eat our fresh berries straight.

Drizzle to taste over your (strained and thickened) yogurt.  Or...well, you can also stand over the bowl with a spoon, like I did, but that sort of defeats the purpose. 

Alternative: mix to taste with the yogurt and then freeze in an ice cream machine for frozen yogurt.  This should be delish.  Try it with raspberries, and then drizzle a little chocolate sauce over it when you serve it.
 
(EDIT: Just to note, I probably won't actually mix and store the fruit and yogurt together, although once the yogurt is strained well it's fairly easy to do that.  I'd rather just keep plain gurt in the fridge and have an assortment of things to treat it with, way more flexible...)

Man, this weight loss thing stinks...I mean, yes, it's working, but I just once want to have a Big Pig Out, eat as much as I want of something...anything...

--J
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We have 2 flowers on the Zuke plant.  And a baby jalapeno pepper on one of the pepper plants.  And the herbs are looking lovely.

On the negative side, something keeps digging up my lilies in the front yard, which means I will probably need to figure out someplace else to grow them if any of them survive.  And something else keeps nibbling on my echinacea.  So we probably have a bunch of bunnies with very healthy immune systems. 

We also has a new dog, which is why I don't have time to write much these days...more when I can!
--J
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A friend of mine just got a new puppy, and she is floundering in a sea of way too much conflicting advice about how to deal with fleas, ticks, and other bug problems. So, being a good friend, I’ve agreed to give her even more advice, probably even more conflicting than what she’s already heard. (What are friends for?)

(Standard disclaimer: Not only has the FDA not approved any part of what I say, the FDA would laugh until they wet their pants if I even came near them. I'm a muscian with no medical training of any kind, I just read a lot and pay attention.  Follow any advice I give with a grain of salt, do your own homework, and please do not hold me responsible for any negative results.  I'm a musician.)

 

Her dilemma: to give monthly “preventative” medication or not? Obviously, me being me, I do not choose to give it to my pets. As I discussed in a previous post (http://greenmama.dreamwidth.org/7537.html ), the meds don’t actually prevent fleas, they keep a constant very small level of insecticide in the pet’s system so that the fleas die before they can reproduce. Which is very efficient, but I still do not choose to go that route, because my own belief is that it has a negative effect on the overall health of the animal.

 

I think the question for anyone would have to be something like, “How much would I freak out if I found living fleas on my animal?” Because once they are there, there’s a pretty lengthy and commitment-required regimen, if you don’t want to go the flea bomb route, for getting rid of them. (Discussed in part II of this post) (And by the way, they do sometimes appear on animals being treated in other ways! That’s another reason given for abandoning chemical flea treatment; many believe that the fleas are getting stronger and developing resistance to those meds anyhow.) 

 

Because the fact is that every animal is different, and while I can say loftily that I’ve had pets for 16 years and experienced only 2 flea outbreaks, I could have been just plain lucky. However, given that that’s all I actually did have in all that time, in hindsight, it’s fairly clear that giving the prevention would have been way more expensive and way harder on the pet than it was worth for those two weeks out of 16 years when fleas actually were a problem.

 

 

Keeping fleas out--natural flea repellent tactics )

 

 

Getting rid of fleas if they got in anyway--natural flea eradication )
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Actually, they say that if you soak the beans, dump that water, and then cook them in new water, you'll avoid a lot of the...side effects.

They also say that if red kidney beans aren't cooked really well, there's a toxin in them that can make you pretty sick. (I don't actually care for the red beans as much, so I don't cook them on anything like a regular basis.)

So for me, "beans" means either black or white, and if white, usually Great Northern because they're easier to find than cannellinis. (Cannelinis are yummy, though.)  One of my ways to try not to generate so much throwaway packaging (not to mention the cost to transport beans in metal cans full of a lot of liquid that's going to be drained away anyway) is to mass-cook dried beans in my crockpot periodically.

I have a big 6-quart cooker, so I can do 4 cups of dried beans at a go. (Not really more than that, though. I think that's about 2 lbs.)

I usually start in an ordinary stockpot, though, just for speed, to get the beans soaked.  To do this, put the beans in a big pot, covered with at least 2-3 inches of water.  I use my pot with the pasta insert because it makes draining them really easy.  Bring it t a boil on the stove and let it boil for a few minutes (some sources say 2 minutes, some say 10, I figure it's a pretty inexact science!), then turn the heat off, cover the pot, and let it sit for at least an hour untouched. (Again, some sources say an hour, others say 5, others say you can leave it up to 24.)   Basically, in the soaking process you're just shortening the amount of time actual cooking will take, although some say it also affects how soft your beans can actually get after cooking...My MO is to start the process when I get home from work, boil the beans and then let them sit in their water for a few hours.

Then  (usually after the kids have gone to bed) I drain the soaked beans and drop them in the crockpot. At this point, there's a lot more than 4 cups of beans because of all the water they've picked up, so they probably fill the crockpot 2/3 or 3/4 of the way full.   Fill it the rest of the way with water (it's honestly at this point about as full as I can get it!)  Put it on low overnight, or for 8-10 hours, or sometimes more, depending on how old the beans were and how long you soaked them.  The only way to really tell is to test them and see if they taste right.

At that point, I drain them again.  At this point I have two choices: either I can put larger quantities in quart ziploc bags in the freezer (they stack very nicely and take up not much space), or if I have more time to futz I put half cup quantities into my muffin tins, and freeze the tins for a day or so.  Then I can take the nicely pre-measured "bean muffins" out of the muffin tins and put them back in the freezer in ziplocs, and I have nice, easily thaw-able, pre-measured cooked beans.  They are easier to get out of the muffin tins if you plunge the cup parts into hot water for a couple of seconds until the "muffin" loosens.  From the original 4 cups of dried beans I ended up with 24 "muffins," i.e. about 12 cups of beans.)   I will have to again do the cost-benefit analysis of doing it this way, but in terms of greening my footprint, it's a fairly easy no-brainer.

So now I have a freezerful of black and white beans, waiting for salads and chilies and all that good stuff...

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This is the last week of school, and I'm suddenly realizing I have no idea what to have the kids give their teachers as an end-of-year little gift. (There's actually a "class gift" that everyone contributes to, which is nice--they're building a butterfly garden outside the school, and each child paints a stone that becomes part of the environment--very cool.)

I discovered melt-and-pour soaps last Christmas at teacher gift time; there was a bit of a learning curve, but we're much better at it now, so I feel okay about doing it again. (Actually, only three out of the six got soap at Christmas, and they were tiny little bars.) Since then I've bought soap molds and experienced a lot of trial and error, and I have something like six pounds of unmelted soap block sitting in the closet.  It's a great project for kids, as long as the adult does the melting, because they can pour and stir and color and blend themselves.

So...off we go. 
 

Read more... )
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(Okay, standard warnings--I'm not a doctor, and anyone who takes anything I say as actual medical advice is sort of ill-advised. Do your own research and talk with your own health care providers. I'm a musician, not a doctor. But I read a lot.)

Probably the best aromatherapy site (and finest merchant of essential oil) I've ever come across is naturesgift.com.  Marge over there has a ton of really good information, and she sells great products.  I also get good stuff from mountainroseherbs.com --their oils are a little cheaper, and they also sell dried herbs and teas and stuff.  Both companies are just amazing. 

After my daughter was born, a little delayed, actually, I got slammed witha  case of post-partum depression. (Had it after my son was born too, but at the time I really didn't know what I was dealing with--I thought I was just a bad mother who couldn't cope.) Suicidal thoughts, self-damage, bursting into hours of tears at the slightest thing, retreating into my room in fetal position for hours at a time (or until a child needed me). It lasted several months before beginning to back off.

My midwife, who couldn't prescribe anything for me, recognized the signs during my pregnancy that it would likely hit me later, and urged me then and throughout to get help, but my doctor (the one who could actually write prescriptions) thought I just needed to relax and "do less" and "not be so hard on myself. (This is the same doctor who said, based on nothing more than a family history, that another family member would probably be on SSRI's for the rest of his life.  The family member stopped on his own almost 4 years ago and has been doing really well. That's a story for another time--the short version is simply this: don't try this at home, get your doctor's help. Unless your doctor is an idiot like ours was, in which case I don't know what to tell you.) (By the way, this man is no longer our doctor.)

So here I was with a crazywild case of PPD working me over and nothing to treat it with. Honestly, I don't know if I would have gone for the SSRI's even if I had the option; I'd seen and done research on what can happen when one later tries to get off them (or some of them), and it would have been a scary step for me to take.  (Note: I know a whole bunch of people who swear by their meds, whose lives have quite literally been saved by them. Please don't take my hesitation to go there as in any way a slight on those for whom they make the difference between life and death, or between non-life and life, shadow and sun, etc.)

So I started doing research into alternative methods. In the end, I used three main things:

1. Tincture of Motherwort (Lady Barbara on ladybarbara.net/) refers to it as " 'there, there' in a bottle." The stuff tastes horrific, but buried with other things it's not too bad.  I would use a squirt of Motherwort and a squirt of Lemon Balm in a little orange juice and just toss it down.  If it was really bad I'd throw some Lavender tincture in there too--Lavender is mostly thought of as sort of a sedative, but it also seems to aid in the work of whatever other herbs it's combined with. Lemon Balm is also sort of a sedative but a different kind--Lady B refers to it as sort of a universal "decongestant," helping smooth out or get moving whatever's stopped up or twisted, whether that's muscles in spasm or stuffy sinuses or a brain full of crap that gets wound tighter and tighter. (and IT tastes lovely!). Motherwort you can kind of guess by its name--it's a very old herb used for ages to help deal with womanhormones. Now that the PPD is long gone, I still keep a bottle around for when I need it.  Usually around once a month. :-)

2. Elm flower essence. The flower essence most people are familiar with is the Bach Rescue Remedy or Five Flower Formula--supposed to be great for calming down in a crisis. (I keep a bottle around for performance anxiety or after nightmares and stuff, or to help the dog chill out when he gets all worked up.) There are dozens of others, though, individual flowers to address different imbalances.  Elm, sez the bottle, "restores your normal strength and optomism when you are temporarily overwhelmed or burdened by responsibility."   (Sounds like new mommyness to me.)  You're really supposed to dissolve these in water also, but I tended to just put a drop under my tongue.

3. Aromatherapy, or essential oils. I had become interested in these actually while I was pregnant and used a particular blend I created to prepare for birth and to use during labor, in and out of the water.  (Nature's Gift, linked above, has a lot of suggestions.) After the birth, when the PPD hit, I tried a few things and hit on a blend I still love: Clary sage, Lavender , and Lemon, in a 3:2:1 ratio (3 drops clary, 2 drops lavender, 1 drop lemon.)  Somehow that particular combination was always enough to take the edge off.  I made up a little bottle of the mixture and in a pinch could just put a couple of drops onto a tissue and inhale.  If I had more time before the worst of the spell hit, I'd put it into the diffuser.

(EDIT: Just by the way...I honestly have no idea whether the different essential oils in any way work deliberately and/or medically upon certain conditions, or whether simply by creating the blend I was also giving myself sort of the equivalent of a "post-hypnotic suggestion" that would enable that particular odor to cause me to relax and brighten a bit.  Thing is, it worked--just the faintest whiff of that smell would give me enough calm to take the next step, just like the faintest whiff of L'Air du Temps brings me back to sitting on my grandma's lap, or the smell of garlic and onions sauteeing makes me feel Home And Safe. Scent has an amazing way of working on the psyche and emotional center...hey man, whatever works.)

The combination of these three things, believe it or not, got me through a pretty bad few months.   Everything's going to be different for everyone, of course, but I offer this because it worked for me.
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We should not have been surprised.

EXPOSITION:
The basic plan: we are adopting a little dog, littler than our current wiener dog, and though our kids are generally quite good and we pay attention, there is always a risk that someone could forget to shut the screen door all the way and she could escape since our patio area is not fenced.  So we wanted to build a small, simple fence around that area, preferably not hideously ugly, that would enable two little dogs to run out there and do their Business without risk of immediate escape.

This itself was easier said than even planned, let alone done.  We have a big privet hedge along one side of the patio, and the patio goes too close to our property line, for actual fencing to go around it without removing the bushes. (We have no idea what they are, except exuberant and healthy, and we can't bring ourselves to just have them ripped out.)  So we figured some of that ornamental wrought-iron-look garden fencing would work...except that it's all 4 inch width bars, and the new dog's head is likely less than 4 inches in diameter, so that won't work.

Our next plan was to do some kind of simple mesh just along the bushes and some slightly more elaborate fencing across the front, most likely that we'd make ourselves. (Er...okay, that my husband would make himself.) First we can't find picket fence panels premade with pickets less than 4 inches apart. We could special order something closer, or make it ourselves, but honestly with the dog coming in maybe a week we want to get this done. So we get a nice piece of 8x4 cedar lattice that we can use across the front of the patio.

Stake-sinking time.

HERE BEGINS THE RANT:

Okay, remember those lovely (and yes, they were lovely) people who sold us this house and were able to close in two weeks? Who put a lot of time, effort, and money into getting their house ready to sell? Whose previous landscaping style employed a lot of white gravel, and instead of removing anything old when they relandscaped to sell, they just put mulch and stuff over the gravel, leaving all the old landscaping materials where they were?

Well, in the side yard where the newly-put-in-to-sell-the-house patio is, they apparently did the same thing. Which is apparently why the landscaping on that side is suspiciously about 6 inches higher than anything on the other side of the privet hedge.  And guess what they used for landscaping, apparently, over there? ROCKS. Big river rocks, about 7-10 inches in diameter, flush against one another, all over the entire area.  Seven inches under a thick mattress of evil cypress mulch, a single layer of rocks, practically touching each other, all the way around.  And on the house side, one of them is half-buried under the patio, and thus impossible to remove.

Rocks. This is not what I was picturing. This is not the kind of issue we expected to run into. Giant, carefully laid, probably fairly expensive rocks.  So now the fence has to be a couple of feet away from the patio in front (because the rocks seem to sort of stop up there somewhere), to avoid the under-house rock,  at which point we'll pray we don't come up with anything else heinous. 

And my tarragon is wilting, and something's chewing on my basil, and the veggies still look stunted, and I think I accidentally bought German instead of Roman chamomile.  Not that this has anything to do with the rocks or the fence, it's just something else to irritate me.

Bummer.

And the patio--the less-than-a-year-old, put-in-to-help-sell-the-house patio--is already starting to fall apart.  Cosmetically very pretty, but not well made at all.

Anyway--The plan will be to erect 4 4x4 posts along the front of the patio, 2 on each side of the walk. On each side, we'll put a 2 ft by 4 ft lattice panel, and in the middle we'll make a simple 3 ft wide gate out of the lattice, with hinges and a latch.  So far 3 out of the 4 posts are in, and the 4th one we'll wait on because the first 3 are the most important, and if we can't get the 4th one in we'll make do with extending the mesh. (Which worked but is sort of unattractive. At this point, I don't think we much care.)

And next spring, we'll ask ourselves a different question: this year it was all about, "do we tear out the bushes?" Next year it'll be, "do we tear out the patio and put in something smaller?"  Because if we do that, we can replace our makeshift  little fence with an extension of the nice cedar fencing we have around the rest of our yard.  And we will hire someone else to do it, to pull out and deal with all the ridiculousness the previous owners left behind.

I want a garden, not an archaeology site.

--J
greenmama: (Default)

Okay, we know that one of the best ways to "green" our lives is to stop eating meat, right? (http://greenmama.dreamwidth.org/4131.html )

And I'm trying to lose 30 lbs. Okay, 20 would be fine.

So today for lunch I discovered a really quick and absolutely yummy recipe.

Black Bean Quesadillas (for one)

Ingredients
corn tortillas (2, at about 50 calories each)
black beans (2 or 3 tbs, I don't know calorie count but can't be too bad)
1 pepper jack cheese slice, torn in half (about 110 calories) (Okay, I used two whole slices, but you don't have to.)
2 tsp salsa (negligable calorie count, as far as I know)

Grill the tortillas lightly, in toaster oven or if you're us directly on your stove burner. This is a trick I learned from my husband--it works with gas burners, at least, but one needs to pay really close attention to not start a fire or char your tortillas. Turn the burner on its lowest level, and just lay the tortilla directly on the burner. When it starts to curl and crisp a little (or burn, of course), flip it over.  It takes maybe a total of 30 seconds on each side, depending on how grilly you want them.

On half of each tortilla, place half a slice of the cheese, 1 tbs black beans, and 1 tsp salsa.  Fold the tortilla over, and microwave for about 45 seconds. (30 is too little, 60 is too much.) Voila. Lunch. Surprisingly yummy and filling. And we're talking a total of under 300 calories any way you slice it.

Variations on this could be endless--I happen to keep a container of cooked black beans around most of the time and throw them into all kinds of things--even delicious super-nachos can be pretty darn healthy if you go light on the chips and cheese and heavy on the beans and spices, and use yogurt cheese (strained or mediterranean yogurt) instead of sour cream.  Next thing you need a can of beans for, throw in a can and a half and save the rest for later.  A few strips of sauteed or grilled peppers and onions ( http://greenmama.dreamwidth.org/4441.html ) instead of or in addition to the beans.  Almost any meltable cheese would work; Chihuahua is actually by far the best, but not when one is trying to lose weight, unfortunately.  But this is EASY, and really good.

Seriously nummy.

peace,
J
waiting to see how the giant crockpot of white beans does, so I can have a freezer full of those as well as the black ones.
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We just replaced our 25-year-old, previous owners bought with the house, mildewy side by side horrible energy use refrigerator with a brand spankin' new one. Freezer on the bottom (more energy efficient because the colder air is on the bottom where it wants to be anyway), 22 cubic feet of space, energy star compliant.

It's very shiny and pretty. I love it.
greenmama: (Default)

Greengrade seems to cancel itself out in this case:

Lunch: homemade vegetarian lentil-and-barley soup. Low-calorie, high-nutrition, good stuff.

But...I heated it in the microwave in the #5 plastic container in which I brought it to work.

Hmm.

I checked out this website: interesting...(actual tests done on different kinds of plastic food storage products, regarding how often and how much phtelate contamination hits your food...)
www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/safe-heat-food-in-plastic
--J
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We're in the process of trying to adopt a dog. A rescue dachshund.  It's exciting and wonderful and really really cool...

But there is this little clause in the contract we have to sign, requiring us to "administer monthly flea/tick medication" to the dog, and "administer year round monthly heartworm medication."

Having had two dogs now with chronic medical conditions suspected to be caused by over-vaccination and over-medication, I'm really wary of these things, and I've spent a lot of time researching alternatives. 

The heartworm thing--first of all, there are several different levels of medication.  Most of them include extra pesticides to nail other wormy parasitey things, but there's one which contains only the heartworm stuff.  And here in Illinois, everything freezes so solid all winter that heartworm treatment isn't something that needs to happen in, say February--most vets up here say you can absolutely get away with just June-November and give an annual test for the larvae, with absolutely no danger (and likely health benefits) to the dog.

Basically, with both the monthly flea "medication" and the monthly heartworm "medication" what you're doing is administring low level pesticide to your dog's system.  Flea powders deposit it on the skin, and get inhaled; orals introduce it to the digestive system and bloodstream.  I guess for each pet guardian it comes down to your own philosophy on these things.

One school of thought says that it's such a low level that it doesn't hurt the dog and causes no harm, or whatever very slight harm it may cause is far outweighed by the harm that would come by not administering it.   For the heartworm, this may well be true, especially with smaller dogs. If a dog is bitten by a mosquito carrying heartworm parasites, the parasites are injected into the bloodstream of the dog and either are killed off by the dog's immune system or grow into active live heartworms which, as one might guess, burrow around in the heart doing significant damage.  The smaller the dog, the greater the damage, of course--the heartworms are the same size in all dogs, of course, but the small dog's heart is a lot smaller and so the worm does much worse damage, and treatment for the worm after it's there can be pretty harrowing.  So, much as I hate the idea of giving my pet pesticides in pill form, it's probably safer than the alternative.

The other philosophy, also gaining a foothold in human medicine and health, is the idea of "toxic load." That is, when creatures are exposed to low levels of toxic substances over extended periods of time, problems develop that may or may not be tracable in a linear way back to the original toxin--it's the interaction of the different toxicities over time that weaken the immune system and allow different problems to break through.  For me, living in a northern climate where all the bugs die off over the winter every year, the risk to my dogs ongoing immune health is not worth giving flea prevention "meds" every month year round. I prefer to use natural bug repellents and treat the flea infestation if it happens. (Another post, still to come.)  The same school also says that fleas generaly won't come near a healthy dog with a good immune system, so if you keep your dog healthy it's much less likely to get infested with fleas.

The wider veterinary community is beginning to realize what cost the current regimen of over-vaccination and over-medication exacts from our pets over time--cost in the health of the pet as well as money, as the afflictions that come in later years show up and themselves need treatment. 

So, after speaking with the rescue organization head, we came to a compromise: since we'll be adopting this Southern little dog who has not spent the past winter completely isolated from any kind of mosquito life, we will give her heartworm prevention through her first year with us; after that, she will go on the same regimen as our other dog, receiving the treatment just from June-November, which is when the skeeters are out for us.  And they are comfortable letting me deal with fleas as I choose to, since they are more an irritation than an actual danger to the dog.

Anti-flea treatment post to come!
--J
greenmama: (Default)

Okay, fine, I get it. It was their house, they could landscape it any way they wanted. We bought the house. No reason, seeing this lovely carpet of evil cypress mulch around everything, that we should have just assumed there was, oh, say, dirt under it.

Apparently the house's previous owners employed Landscaping With Gravel in their past life, and then just covered up the gravel beds with mulch at selling time.  And under the gravel is this horrible landscaping cloth, the stuff designed to prevent weeds from coming through.  In some places the gravel is thicker than others, but it's plenty thick everywhere.  This is pissing me off.  On the one hand, yes, there are very few weeds.  On the other, trying to plant anything is HELL. 

The right thing to do would probably be to hire a landscaper (or take a week off work and do it ourselves) to completely rip all the old stuff out, give us nice planting beds and start from scratch.  But we being we, it's not gonna happen.  We bought the plants, we knew where we wanted them to go, we tried to dig the holes to plant them, and we discovered what lay beneath the lovely but anti-earth mulch (see saveourcypress.org/ ) was anti-plant-life mess, so naturally we just hacked through what we didn't like and planted our plants there anyway, with a bunch of manure and soil and hopefully healthy otherness.  This is probably not a landscaper's best suggestion, and we may live to regret it. 

The yarrow, being yarrow, is thriving like crazy.  Something keeps chewing on my echinacea, so it's not growing at the rate I'd like to see.  And I ordered some basil, carpet thyme, marsh mallow, and St. John's Wort from Richters ( richtersherbs.com --they are awesome!), and the basil and SJW seem to be doing okay so far.  The mallow and thyme aren't planted yet.

We also discovered that as part of last year's landscaping efforts, some lovely peonies and dwarf lilacs had been planted around the property, which has been a nice discovery.  But the gravel thing is driving me nuts.  I'll probably just perennial the hell out of the front yard, punching out most of the landscaping cloth as I go, and give the whole area to things that laugh at barriers.

In back, where the veggies are growing--the peppers  and zukes look good, but one of the tomatoes looks sort of stunted, the canteloupes are dying, and the rest is sort of mediocre.  As much amendment as we tilled into this soil, it's still probably too dense and silty to support really fast-growing life, and we don't want to put nasty chemicals in there to grow our veggies, because then we'd be eating the chemicals...

Sigh...the bucolic dream of happy lovely gardening sweetness is so not happening, except for the lettuce...

More later. New ugly discoveries about the backyard are making my husband curse, so I should probably get out there.
--J
greenmama: (Default)

From the White House Blog:


Friday, March 20th, 2009 at 3:51 pm
 

Spring Gardening

"This is a big day. We've been talking it since the day we moved in," said the First Lady as she and two dozen local students broke ground on the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn of the White House.  Those students will be involved in the garden as it develops and grows, producing delicious, healthy vegetables to be cooked in the White House Kitchen and given to Miriam's Kitchen, which serves the homeless in Washington, DC. 

 
The First Lady and DC students garden

(end blog quote--but I may have to subscribe to www.whitehouse.gov/blog/  ...this particular little excerpt and photo are found at www.whitehouse.gov/blog/09/03/20/spring-gardening/

I think this is awesome, of course. (Doing my little "Go-bama, go-bama, Michelle so rocks, go-bama" dance...guess you have to be here.) What's even cooler is that it's going to be an organic garden. 

What is both funny (in a sick way) and sick (in a funny way) and highly unsurprising (in a very sick and not at all funny way) is that apparently Corporate Chemical is completely going nuts about this, all but accusing her of undermining the fabric of the United States economy (i.e. Big Agriculture) by publicly deciding not to spray poison...excuse me, crop protection products...on her family's veggies.

*************

Pro-Pesticide Group Criticizes First Lady’s Organic Garden

"And First Lady Michelle Obama is coming under criticism from a pro-pesticide industry group for deciding to plant an organic garden at the White House. The Mid America CropLife Association recently wrote to the First Lady to urge her to consider using pesticides, or what they call "crop protection products.” One official with the pro-pesticide group said, “While a garden is a great idea, the thought of it being organic made [us] shudder.” Mid America CropLife represents agribusinesses like Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont."

from http://www.democracynow.org/2009/4/14/headlines (down at the very bottom)

*********

 

Text of the letter MACA sent Mrs. Obama behind the cut.  )


This all makes me crow with glee. And do my little dance.

--J

greenmama: (Default)
This is from the Washington Post; the article is linked here:
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/20/AR2009052000932.html


Regular Sugar vs. High-Fructose Corn Syrup

By Nina Shen Rastogi
Thursday, May 21, 2009

 

Full text of article behind the cut )
greenmama: (Default)

Okay, I realize a big part of the point of jams and preserves and such were--hence the name--to enable fruit products to keep for a really long time when there were no freezers and such.  But I honestly can't be bothered (yet...but my evolution as a greenmama is still in its early stages) with the whole hot messy process of canning.  So finding recipes for jams and preserves that you can freeze was kind of cool...

This recipe for plum preserves was in this month's Cooking Light; I imagine it could easily be adapted for other fruits, adjusting sugar and lemon juice amounts...

Plum Preserves
Ingredients:
6 cups (about 3 lbs) slice ripe plums
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tbs lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick

Combine plums and sugar in a large bowl; cover and let stand 8 hours at room temp.
Combine fruit mixture and remaining ingredients in a dutch oven and bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer 15 minutes.
Uncover and cook over medium heat about an hour, until reduced to 5 cups (stir and mash fruit occasionally). Pour into a large bowl and let cool completely; discard cinnamon stick. Refrigerate up to 2 weeks. (I bet it would freeze too.)

It makes me wonder what else you could do with it...blueberry preserves are one of my absolute favorite things, and that could be really yummy...one would probably even keep the cinnamon stick for that.

Then this same month's Good Housekeeping had this:

Raspberry Jam
3 cups raspberries
1 tbs lemon juice
5 tsp fruit pectin
1/2 tsp margarine or butter
1 1/4 c sugar

Combine berries, juice, pectin, and margarine in a 12 inch skillet. Heat to boiling on high, blending and mashing fruit; boil 1 minute.  Stir in sugar, return to boil and boil 2 more minutes, until syrupy, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and cool at room temperature 15 minutes.
Pour into clean 1/2 pint jars with tight lids. Cover and refridgerate until jam is set and cold.  (Or pack into freezer-safe containers and freeze)

This recipe also gives variations for strawberry ( extra tbs lemon juice, 2 full tbs pectin) or three-berry (combination of raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry, also 2 tbs pectin) jams...

I'm looking forward to trying them.  Especially variations on the preserves thing...
--J


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I was sort of doing an inventory of my kitchen and discovered that both of my lovely non-stick expensive pasta-cooking pots had scrapes and scratches in the non-stick coating.

I figured, hey, it's not SUCH a big deal, is it?

And then I went to the internet, as I so often do when I'm curious about something.

www.ecomall.com/greenshopping/teflon4.htm

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/2005/06/15/FDGMFD2KM01.DTL

http://www.naturalpath.com/healthy_eating/teflon_coating_are_your_pans_and_cookware_safe

It goes on and on.

I recognize, of course, that the internet is prone to hyperbole and misinformation all over...but I also recognize that if certain fumes kill birds but not humans, that doesn't necessarily mean nothing's happening to the humans who breathe them.   To dismiss human reaction to the fumes as "mild flu-like symptoms" seems to miss the point...anything that makes me sick to breathe I probably don't need in my kitchen.

So I threw away my two favorite stockpots. I still have my omelette pan and my two skillets, and so far my 11 quart stockpot seems to be flake-free.  But they will have to go fairly soon, I fear.  And then today I stopped at Ikea and got a couple of stainless steel pans that should do the job...but I'll miss my non-stick.

peace,

J

greenmama: (Default)

Tonight the woman from Dachshund Rescue is coming over to do a home visit and make sure our house is an acceptable place to raise an abandoned doxie. I know we are fine, but I will schmooze her anyway by making this:

White Gingerbread

In a bowl mix

·         1 cup applesauce

·         2 cups sugar (cut to 1 cup?)

·         2 tsp nutmeg

·         Dash vanilla

Add to this:

·         4 cups flour (half white, half whole wheat)

·         Pinch salt

·         Tsp baking soda

·         1 1/3 cups buttermilk (or milk with a slug of vinegar)

Blend and turn into greased 9 by 13 pan

·         Sprinkle 1/3 cup sugar on top

·         Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (took 45 for me, just in an ordinary pan.)·        

This is an adaptation of a recipe my mom gave me on, of all things, a refrigerator magnet.  The original version had an entire cup of oil in it and all white flour--tastes yummy indeed, but very hi-cal and in my opinion overly sweet.  I've played around with the recipe and above is my new and improved take on it.  The applesauce actually does really good things to the consistency of the cake--less crusty, moister, and keeps longer.  And while the whole wheat does alter the lightness of the cake, it's a worthwhile change. 

Once I tried this after brewing the milk in black tea and using a greater variety of spices; it was very nice, but IMO the nutmeg-only version is the best. (Despite being a gingerbread recipe in which there is no ginger at all.  Whatever, right?)

And by the way, doubling this recipe is the perfect size for a bundt cake.  Has to bake longer, though.
peace,
J
greenmama: (Default)
I have been seeing commercials for the Honda Insight lately, and it looks like it's now a 4-door model.  This was a few years ago the only car that got better mileage than the Prius.  Anyone know anything about the new generation?
--J

EDIT: Okay, I want.
www.hybridcars.com/compacts-sedans/honda-insight-overview.html
greenmama: (Default)

Ten Secrets to being a Greenmom on the Fly:

 

10. Cook in quantity and freeze leftovers.  Four (or more) quarts of soup (or cooked black beans or green chili) take exactly the same amount of time to cook as 1 or 2. If it's something you eat a lot and you have room in the freezer, make LOTS and save yourself time next week. Or next month.
 

9. If you must use meat, don’t add it to the “in quantity” part unless you're freezing it right away, and don't thaw it unless you know you'll eat it soon—plant-based foods keep in the fridge much longer!  If it has meat in it and has been sitting in your fridge for 3 days, you're taking a chance; it might not taste bad, but it could have lots of live wigglies in there to completely screw up your digestive system or worse.  Veggie products are easier: if they look good, feel normal, and smell fine, they generally are. Plus when they are not, they have an obliging way of getting slimy, growing mold, or generating a weird smell which tells us fairly clearly that they are no longer good to eat.  And it takes them a lot longer to get there.  So much less scary!
 

8. Avoid generating tons of unnecessary garbage and recycling by making and freezing your own applesauce, pasta sauce, cooked legumes (beans and lentils), etc. (Yogurt too, but you can’t freeze it as well.) (See #10!)
 

7. Use your crockpot. Use it often. (See #8 and #10! Further posts about how to do this to come!)
 

6. Know that the difference between “convenience food” and “processed food” has a lot to do with how many ingredients there are in it. Try not to buy anything with more than maybe 6 or 7 ingredients max, and make sure you can pronounce them all.
 

5. Use yogurt instead of mayonnaise and sour cream, and yogurt cheese instead of cream cheese. Much better for you, and just as versatile and flavorful. Enjoy tuna or pasta salad again without guilt.
 

4. Use an immersion blender to puree soups or to disguise vegetables in otherwise chunky foods. I used to ignore any recipe that said "puree in batches in your food processor"--too messy, too many things to clean! The immersion stick blender can just go in and whack things up without moving them from their original pot or bowl. 

3. Never use white flour or rice products where you can convince your family to eat the whole wheat or brown rice version.  This sometimes takes creativity, but every family will be different.  Also, beware the term "multigrain" on packaging--that doesn't mean it's healthy, it just means that there are at least two different kinds of grain in it. It could be 90% refined white flour and 10% oat flour, or worse, and still be "multigrain."
 

2. Grow your own herbs and veggies, preferably near enough to the kitchen that harvesting is a piece of cake.  A sunny kitchen window for herbs, if you have one, is awesome.
 

1. Don’t jump into Greenmom-ness all at once! Start with a couple of small things, and just keep adding. I started this thinking I'd be making sacrifices to be greener, but once my mindset shifted I've discovered it's actually much easier and cheaper in the long run, and my kids are eating good stuff.  And it's fun.

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