Friday, February 22, 2008

Follow up from 2am

Well, we had a good day together, and a wonderful playdate with Anna. Then, at about 7:45 tonight - MELTDOWN. We couldn't figure out what was going on, but after 15 minutes of this awful behavior, it struck me....duh, missing all that sleep.

Ugh. She's still up (in pj's, in bed), crabby as can be, and overtired. I told her, and I'm telling myself, "Tomorrow will be better."


Tessa woke at 2am, crying with an earache. With Children's Tylenol, and bringing her into our bed, she finally fell back asleep, but it kept me up until about 5:30am. I yawn just thinking about it. THANK YOU to Ryan for making my morning coffee - today I'd really be lost without it.

This morning, she appears well and happy. What was that about? I'm delighted that she's fine but wondering what the middle-of-the-night hubbub was about. She slept in until about 8:45 so she's feeling rested, but not so much for me.


Tomorrow, Tessa & Ryan (along with Shep) are going snowshoeing with Artie & Anna. I am staying home to attend a baby shower for a wonderful friend, and to bake a cake for my grandma, who turned 85 this week and is having a family party tomorrow. I decided that a home made cake (enough to feed 20) was the perfect gift - she doesn't need "stuff" but I want to share love and affection, and this is my way to do that. My cake decorating skills aren't great but I do have a decorating set that I've used for Tessa's birthday. I'm going to do chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and white writing/flowers, I think. Wish me luck on that one - I'm not worried about the cake itself, just the decorating. I am truly looking forward to attending the family party, and seeing everyone.

And in waste not notes...
My refrigerator is down to bare bones: bottles of condiments, milk, cheese, a couple of lemons, a container of fresh pasta. HURRAH! My new plan is to do this weekly: to fill up the fridge, and then eat every single bit of the contents (condiments aside) by the weekend, then refill. If I'm doing this, then I'm certain that I'm not wasting things, that I'm using what I've got.

Today I'll do a small shopping trip at PCC to buy ingredients to fill out tonight's dinner (home made pizza - since that's Ryan & Tessa's favorite meal, and we're not ordering out, I'm making it). I'm determined to shop more at PCC because they do have more local/seasonal stuff, and I love that fact that they're certified organic. This week I didn't quite buy enough at the beginning to make it to the end (we're out of all vegetables, even carrots) so I'll just do a little trip to get us through until Sunday morning (not much food since we're dining at GGs tomorrow night). My long term plan is to shop as much as possible at the Farmer's Market on Sunday, buying whatever looks good, fresh, seasonal, reasonably priced, etc., then to come home and figure out a menu for the week based on those items. Then, when Tessa is at gymnastics on Mondays, I will walk to PCC (a block from gymnastics) and buy the rest of my items there.

When I'm at the store, even the grocery store, it's quite tempting to impulse shop. My hope is that by going to the grocery store only once a week I will remove some of that temptation; not so many sweets, not the funky salsa that sounds good but I'm not sure when I'll use it, etc.

In other thoughts....

The fence between our house and Steven & Sarah's needs replacing; the supports are rotten and it's leaning. I'm wondering if we can recycle the boards of the fence in the new fence, instead of buying all new (getting all new supports/posts, of course). But more than that, I'm wondering if one of the fence posts can actually become a tall post for a clothesline. I have this idea that maybe we could attach the clothesline from the corner of our house up high but where I can reach it from our deck, to a tall post along the fenceline. I remember the smell of my pillowcase from when I was small; the sunshine would get trapped inside it, and would fill my senses and linger in my hair when I layed on it. I also remember standing next to my mom, handing her the basket of clothespins, chatting away as she hung things out; I remember doing the same thing at with my Granny at her house.

Europeans don't generally use clothes dryers, seeing them as wasteful, inefficient, and unnecessary, as they use a LOT of energy. When I was in Italy, "Mama" Bianchini had a shed in her yard with clothes racks in it for drying clothes (this was also where the washing machine was), so even when the weather was poor she was able to dry her clothes this way. Europeans in general have a lower carbon footprint than we do, and practice a lot more common sense in their shopping habits (not all, I'm generalizing, of course, but the trend is clear from the data).

Now, I live in Seattle, and mid-December, I'm not going to hang my clothes out, because they wouldn't dry until February. And sometimes I have to do 3 loads in a day, and I don't plan on having 12 clotheslines to accomodate all of that. But on sunny days, with things like pillowcases and t-shirts (no desire to show off my underwear to the neighbors), I think it would be fabulous. If it cut our power bill, that would be a bonus. We aren't in a position to convert our home to solar power, but we could certainly use some solar power to dry our clothes...

I am enjoying the challenges of thinking in this way.

I've also decided that maybe we could put a bucket in the shower to catch the extra water, and use this in part to water the garden this summer. All the more reason to make sure we're using "healthy" shampoo and soap; we've been trying Avalon Organics but I'm open to hearing of other brands as their lavendar conditioner is not perfect for my hair and doesn't leave it soft enough (or as soft as usual). I'd also like to get a rain barrel, and I'm looking into sources for that.

Okay, off to the day - Tessa wants to play. Enjoy the Seattle sunshine!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Successes and setbacks

Tonight I made a vegetarian dinner that incorporated frozen spinach, and my family liked it (Tessa asked for seconds!).

I shopped for a non-stick pan (in general, I don't like to use them, so I didn't have one, but for fritattas they're necessary, as for some other dishes, so I decided to break down and get one) at Costco and saw two nice ones for $20; not a bad deal, but I held off. Today I went to the thrift stores and found one in like-new condition for $2. No wear and tear on the environment, or on my pocketbook, and it worked perfectly.

Today a friend asked me to coffee, and I (politely, I hope) declined, meaning it fully. I then realized that I had a gift certificate to a coffee place, C&P, so I altered my decline to say that I could go there. I drank my coffee in a ceramic mug, so no environmental impact, and none on my pocketbook, either.

Ryan has taken a lunch to work every day this week - either leftovers or a sandwich on home-made bread. I even included love-notes in a couple of them.

We are over budget for the week, even with all of my contortions....GRRRRR. We'll try to hit budget next week, but that is exceedingly frustrating.

My home made bread doesn't store well. I think it only lasts well for a day or so. I think that this means that instead of making a large loaf that lasts several days, I might need to make a loaf nightly, so to reduce waste. It's doable but not ideal. (It really does only take a few minutes to make, but still....)

I'm chilled with the house at 66. I keep hoping that I'll adjust (I used to be cold at 68 but eventually adjusted fine to 67) but I really am chilly...this morning it made me not want to get out of bed (thank goodness for my warm bathrobe and slippers from Mom!).

I burned my left index finger on the frypan tonight, leaving a nasty (small) mark. This is the treated side, and now I have to watch for lymphadema. Ouch and grr.

My beautiful wedding ring lost a side-diamond. It is my favorite personal possession (my favorite things aren't THINGS but people, pets, places, but this is my favorite item not in those categories) and my heart just sinks when I think about it, and I get a knot in my stomach. The diamond isn't the solitaire, but it's not a chip, either, and we can't afford to spend money on a diamond right now. I brought it to the jeweler it was purchased from, and I'm praying that through some miracle they'll cover it, but I'm not getting my hopes up. In the meantime, I can't wear it, and this makes me ache. When I wear it, I feel special and loved and more beautiful somehow, and I watch the way it catches the light all the time, and I look at it to remind me of what's important in life (Ryan, and through him, Tessa). I'm wearing another ring on that finger now, but it's just not the same, and that makes me sad.

In other news...
Snow/Genentech has asked me to write an article about breast cancer walks for their internal newsletter, and I will be paid to do so. The money is small, but my pride is immense. This will be the first time I'll be paid for a written article - time to get my portfolio going!

I have also been asked to do a KOMO 4 (local TV station) interview for the Breast Cancer 3-Day; the interview will take place in early March, and I will let you know when it is going to air (not sure myself, yet).

Speaking about breast cancer is good for me. I really wish that I could figure out how to work on a more long-term project with Komen locally without losing my mind as I was before, but there it is....hopefully these other tasks will not tip my sanity.


Tessa in her "Dorothy braids" at a gymnastics birthday party:
Pardon the orientation on this one - still getting used to my new camera and editing software. Tessa at gymnastics.
Lined up at the party, waiting to go on the gymnastics floor.
"Mommy, take my picture!"
Tea parties are becoming an even more regular feature at home. I found a tea cozy a while ago that makes me feel like I'm in a country garden every time I see it...
This picture reminds me of the first picture I ever saw of Shep, on the website. Only he was MUCH smaller! He is a fabulous dog; I do love him. My little spiritual center, on top of Grandpa G.'s bookcase. The candle with leaves reminds me of nature's beauty and bounty; the cross reminds me of forgiveness and redemption; Buddha reminds me of compassion. I feel a peacefulness each time I pass by.
"Mommy, take my picture!" Tessa in her room.
More tea parties.
Another tea party, this one for lunch with Zoe and Jenny a while ago.

The Library

I am re-addicted to the public library. I've gone twice this week, and I keep returning to my computer to place holds on books as I hear about that. I continue to remind myself that I can buy any book that I read and fall in love with; mostly I don't want to own them, I want to savor them and then give them back. (Or, I skim them, don't like them, and return them. Okay either way.)

I did make that giant spinach salad yesterday, and I brought some to my parents as well to share it for lunch. I had it for lunch AND dinner yesterday, with leftovers for lunch today. I never do that, usually choosing diversity over common sense, but I'm glad I did it. We had Jenny & Zoe over for lunch, so I supplemented with grilled cheese sandwiches made on home-made bread. I have learned that Tillamook cheese is milked and processed in Tillamook, OR, which is local enough for me (the 100 mile rule is too restrictive, in my opinion, and Tillamook is maybe 200 miles from here), and their cows aren't treated with growth hormones, which is REALLY important to me. It's not organice, but it's closer to what I want....and cheap. At Costco, for the big size, it's $2.60/pound, which is a great deal.

See, I CAN be taught. And this doesn't need to be restrictive...I'm eating better than ever.

I'm struggling with the vegetable garden, though. I am not a natural gardener; as a matter of fact, if anything, I have a red thumb, not a green one. This is going to be a stretch. How do I do tomato starts, for example? Can I do them in egg cartons or do they need something bigger? Should I be saving yogurt containers etc to grow them? I am reading books that are aimed at someone who has a higher base-level knowledge than I do; I need to find more beginner stuff. I know that crops are seasonal, and I can plan lettuce for spring harvest, tomatoes for summer harvest, and kale for winter harvest (I've learned that much), but I don't know when each has to be planted, and what can share a garden bed. Can I plant kale when the tomatoes die, in the same spot? How do I get the maximum crop from the smallest amount of space? And how do I figure out issues of sun/shade for each? Not questions of great intellect, but I'm realizing that i lack this simple knowledge. I'm also trying to learn about how much compost/worm bin material to use. Can I use only compost and not purchased fertilizer? We might need another worm bin, as our two bins won't nearly cover what I'd like to do (they're not that big).

I'd like to grow:
pumpkins (probably the baking variety, something like a sugar pumpkin)
....and maybe corn.

We have two beds: the back raised bed, which is a bit shady but has grown tomatoes before so it's not too bad on one half; and the to-be-created bed in the front yard, which gets better sun. In the back, I envision the potatoes, pumpkins, rhubarb, and zuchinni; in the front I imagine all of the other stuff.

Now, off for errands; Tessa is at preschool.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I love yoga. I've been doing some slow yoga classes lately: they're not cardio, but they are fabulous stretches and they make me feel so great. Lori and I went to one on Sunday, and Sarah and I went tonight. The Y offers these classes free to members, and it's close enough to walk (especially in this great weather). Tonight, in honor of the lunar eclipse (which was beautiful), we did a lot of moon salutes; I'd never done those before (though I've done countless sun salutes) but they were great and made me feel like I was in touch with the earth. Ancient rituals...

Today I visited with my mom, and she's doing great. I'm proud of her hard work at healing, and her great attitude about it. Nothing about it is easy - bedrest stinks, to put it mildly - but she's holding up well, and starting to be more active.

I went to the library today and picked up a book about organic vegetable gardening, in addition to some other books. I'm getting serious about growing some of our food, so we'll see how this goes. I have a LOT to learn.

I'm too tired for more; it's past my bedtime. Goodnight.

Simple Living

With all of the talk of frugality in this house, I thought I'd create a list of FUN stuff that doesn't cost money - things that bring me joy. Here's a beginning of a list:

Family days on Alki, building a sand castle
Hiking in one of the many parks in West Seattle Attending public library lectures
Attending art night downtown ("First Thursday")
Taking advantage of our memberships to the aquarium, Science Center, and zoo
Exploring different parks and events in the city: What's fun in Magnolia? The arboretum? Kirkland? What's going on in Wallingford these days?Author talks at local bookstores
Take the ferry to Bainbridge and walk around Eagle Harbor
Music at C&P
Snowshoeing in the winter
Hiking in spring, summer, and fall
Camping, camping and more camping: North Cascades, Desolation Pass, Kayak Point, etc are all right in our backyard and fabulous
Family game night with board games
Unwinding at the end of the day with a glass of wine and a square of really good chocolate
Watching movies from the library or Hisatomi-flix
Gardening and anticipating those vine ripe delights: tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, and more
Watching Shep run on the beach at Lincoln Park
Yoga on the beach, early in the morning, by myself
Family days at the YMCA: swimming together, or doing their family program
Long walks
Sitting on our front porch, the lights out, admiring the stars and drinking hot tea
Having friends around for simple dinners
Visiting family in Portland, Spokane, and Vancouver
Family bike ride to Alki Café and back
Lying in our hammock under the flowering dogwood
Making jam with Tessa and seeing her delight
Visiting community farms to learn about food production
Reading about different people, places, times, and ideas
Browsing all I like at Leisure Books and even buying things sometimes from my account of trades
Candles all over the house lit; sitting quietly and enjoying them
Mornings drinking coffee in bed
Watching birds in our backyard as the flutter around the birdfeeder
The water taxi
Picnics galore
Orcas Island trips to the cabin
Meditating in our living room
Visiting with my parents, seeing their love for Tessa and Shep's love for Foster
Feeling proud of our accomplishments toward simple living and saving the environment
Tea parties
Running into friends at the farmer's market and listening to music together

And here are some of my ideas for being frugal and protecting the environment/lowering my carbon footprint:
Find creative ways to use the food in our refrigerator, not allowing it to go to waste.
Shop according to the seasons and the sales for food: more leeks in winter, more tomatoes in summer, and if we need to eat pork for one week or chicken for a whole week that's okay.
Buy less expensive cuts of meat: whole chicken instead of boneless/skinless breasts, Costco frozen Alaskan wild salmon instead of whatever's at Thriftway, pork tenderloin instead of beef tenderloin, ground beef instead of steak, etc. Save "special" cuts of meat for "special" occassions.
Cook one vegetarian meal per week, and one egg-based meal per week.
Make organic, whole grain bread instead of buying it.
Avoid situations which prompt impulse shopping: trips to Target, Costco, shopping trips with friends, Carmelia's, Marshall's etc. When necessary to go to these places, go in with a list and stick to it.
Lower the thermostat to 66 (it has been at 67 for the past few months, down from 68) and keep it there. Put on a sweater!
Avoid coffee shops except as social destinations. Make coffee at home.
Pack a lunch for Ryan daily.
Use vinegar and baking soda as primary household cleaners.
Switch from disposable Swiffer products to old cut-up t-shirts for rags.
Take Tessa swimming at the Y once a week instead of taking her to swimming lessons.
Use the library and Hisatomi-flix for DVDs, including exercise DVDs.
Sell clothing that is still fashionable but doesn't fit well to consignment shops.
Trade books at Leisure Books, and refrain from buying books.
Refrain from buying magazines (save cost of magazine plus the desire to spend that magazines focus on!).
Never shop as a leisure activity.
Walk instead of driving whenever possible, including Tues/Thurs to and from preschool and Fri home from preschool. Take Shep for these walks.
Burn music CDs from friends (and share mine) instead of buying them.
For gifts, give home-made bread, etc. Keep gift costs low, and announce to friends/family the intent to stop the gift exchanges.
Plan ahead for the holidays - how to cut expenses/gift giving, and how to lower costs by being more organized (e.g. make jam in June).
Resume hiking as a leisure activity; encourage family to join (pack a picnic, spend the day).
Reduce entertaining expenses by having only one family over at a time, or by having potlucks.
Reduce wine intake.
If necessary to buy, buy used: Goodwill, Funky Jane's, Small Clothes, ACS Thrift, Senior Thrift, Leisure Books, etc.
Participate in Michele's "Ecomoms" group, learning how to lower carbon footprint and be economical.
Go on a crusade to turn off lights in the house.
Research how to use gray-water to water the garden.
Take the bus to doc appts or find free parking areas. Research canning, dehydrating, freezing, storing fruits and vegetables. Make jam.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Take one whole, free range chicken, rinse and pat dry.

Sprinkle dried thyme (the recipe called for fresh, but I didn't have any, so I used dry as a substitute) inside the cavity, and then stuff with lemons (leftover from the crab feast), rosemary (from our garden), and onion and garlic cloves(sitting on my countertop as a part of my usual stock of goods).

Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, then add chicken broth (from my pantry) and lemon juice (used up another fresh lemon); baste regularly until done (about another hour).

To make gravy, use pantry ingredients (water, cornstarch, shallot, garlic); mix well, stir constantly.

To this recipe, I decided to add vegetables. I chopped up potatoes from the farmer's market, as well as some carrots, zuchinni, and bok choy that I happened to have in my fridge, and placed these around the chicken at appropriate times as the bird was cooking (first just chicken, then add potatoes, then carrots, etc.).

Dinner tonight was excellent. It's amazing how different a whole chicken tastes than just a piece. I'm used to buying boneless, skinless breasts, but they're more expensive and more processed, so I bought a whole bird. I wasn't prepared for the major difference in tenderness and flavor - it was much, much better than if I'd done a similar recipe with boneless/skinless. I did remove the skin before carving; I still want to watch my weight, and this plan doesn't change that. The whole dinner was 7 points but tasted ridiculously rich.

Okay, so I'm boasting, and this kind of thing doesn't make good reading. If anyone's actually reading this, I apologize; my intent is more to remind myself than anyone else that my goals of not wasting food, eating locally, etc. are not punishments. The meal was not all local, but it was a step in the right direction. The ingredients were not all seasonal (lemons? in Seattle? in FEBRUARY?). But I didn't waste stuff. My refrigerator is starting to look (gasp! can it be?) bare. (My fridge is never bare. My fridge is always stuffed to the gills.) This delights me. Usually, food gets wasted and thrown away as new food replaces it. (Again, there's an embarassment factor...I hope nobody is here to judge.) Not today. Today, I had this little success, a little move in the right direction. And the results were beautiful, successful, delicious, flavorful.

And I haven't even mentioned yet that the carcass is bubbling away on my stove, turning into stock. I wasn't well prepared for that step - out of onions, I used green onions including the whites. No celery, so I chopped up the last fresh zuchinni. Soon, I will cool it, strain it, and put it into a container to freeze, and next time a recipe calls for stock I'll have homemade stock at home. Next time I'll be better prepared for the stock part, as this one is sure to be a little bland, but I'll figure out a good way to use it anyway.

I'm planning tomorrow's main meal around spinach because I've got loads of it. Maybe a simple spinach salad with leftover chicken diced into it....and the last couple avocados, and I'll make a couple hard-boiled eggs....

This is a lot of work. Mostly, it's a lot of planning, because I'm not used to it. That's okay. I'm adjusting. My hope and thought is that after doing this for a while, it will come easier, because I'll have thought it through before.

Also, we eat a lot of international cuisines - Japanse, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Indian, Thai...and the stuff I'm finding on local food/seasonal food seems to be more traditional (roasted veggies and meats). I'll have to work on that. I like big flavors.

The little things

Today I will walk Shep to preschool to pick up Tessa, saving two miles of driving, and getting us some exercise.

Today I parked two blocks from the parking garage at my doctor's office, on the street, so that I got to stretch my legs and didn't pay the ridiculous garage fees.

Today I decided that instead of buying myself a latte/Americano I would come home and make myself a cup of tea.

Last night, instead of watching TV, I read for a couple of hours before bed.

Tonight, I came up with a recipe (from Weight Watchers) based on ingredients currently in my refrigerator, saving me yet another trip to the grocery store, and not wasting what we already have. (And it uses a whole chicken, so my plan is to use the leftovers to make a soup, creating another healthy meal and not wasting the leftovers.)

So these things are really, really small . They don't add up to much. But I will stubbornly persist in the idea that if I continue on this path, my carbon footprint will be smaller, my bank account will be bigger, my body will be healthier, and my soul will be more content.

I hope so, anyway.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Waste not, want not

I grew up with that expression. Perhaps in rebellion, I'm slowly coming to the realization that I haven't applied it to my own life.

It's obvious in the amount of stuff I have, and that I end up throwing away or giving away.... too much stuff.

It's even more obvious by the amount of food we waste.

I have eaten according to my whims: what sounds good today? What do I feel like? I have eaten whatever I want, without regard to the contents of my refrigerator. This is a disaster.

I'm not going to get into it here today because of short time, but I wanted to record the thought even briefly.

I'm determined to eat what is available. If I defrosted cod, then we must eat cod that night. If we don't, then the cod isn't fresh, and ends up in the trash. It's embarassing to write that, it's so wasteful, but it's the truth. What a waste.

And leftovers. Leftovers are not meant to be stored until spoiled, then thrown away.

My commitment: to cook what I buy, with minimal waste. To eat leftovers. To eat what's in the fridge, not what's on my mind. Enough said.

In other notes, I followed through and went to the farmer's market yesterday, where I bought kale, potatoes, cranberry beans, cheese, and sausage (from Vashon Island, which we can see out our kitchen window). (We were already stocked up on carrots, onions, bread, and honey, or I would have made those purchases, too.)

And today, simmering away in the crockpot, are the beans, potatoes, kale, and sausage from that trip, along with carrots, onions, tomato sauce, thyme, bay leaf, wine, roasted turkey breast, a bit of ham....and one red pepper, chopped up small, because though it wasn't part of the recipe it needed to get used and I figured it wouldn't hurt. (Waste not want not - see, I can be taught!) Tonight for dinner we'll have this faux-cassoulet, with some home made bread. It's not a 100-mile diet, and it's not all local, but it's a really good start.

It feels good to be intentional.

For the record, I have no intention of becoming a 100-mile-diet person, and buying everything local. I don't want to give up coffee, chocolate, wheat, baking soda, salt, sugar, and fresh fruit in the winter. However, I believe that I can make huge strides toward eating more seasonally and more locally than I currently do. Tonight's dinner is a good example of that: I know where most of that food was grown, and I know that though I already had the tomato sauce on hand, next time I can get some made locally. The cranberry beans are a new item on the list for our family - full of protein and fiber, locally grown, they are a step in the right direction. An even bigger step would be to build the whole meal around them, vegetarian style, and we will get there.

Today, the house smells fantastic, filling with the smell of this dish. The sun is shining, the water is sparkling*, the air is fresh. Good reminders of our bounty.

*We have a view!!! Our neighbors cut down a tree between our two yards, and suddenly we can see the ocean (Puget Sound) from our deck, kitchen window, and dining room. This is a little unexpected slice of heaven. It's by no means a sweeping view, and when the trees fill in with spring leaves the view will be blocked for the warm months, but today I'm delighted to see the ocean. What a treat.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday night

This afternoon we planted blueberry bushes in the front yard - will we have a blueberry crop this summer? Time will tell.

I did yoga class at the Y tonight. My mind was going crazy and I couldn't make it still, even with the deep breathing exercises. How annoying.