Saturday, June 27, 2009

21 X 2

Remember when I was doing that 21 day blogging experiment because Shawn Achor told me that building activities like journaling into my day could make me happier? Well, the whole "21-days-to-build-a-life-habit" thing really resonated with me.  So I embarked on another. I'm working on 21 consecutive days of exercise. Today was Day Thirteen. The first few days were difficult, and many days since then have been challenging. I worked two days this week so I had to find a way to fit in at least 20 minutes of physical activity, but I did it. Some days, I have exercised with Jamie; some days, I walked alone on the treadmill. I've reached the point where I am actually *gasp* enjoying it. I look forward to it. If I weren't working on the 21 days, I might actually miss it on the days I didn't exercise. I still don't know if it will become a life habit, but for now, I feel really good. I feel stronger and healthier and have fewer aches and pains. Jamie will tell you that I do whine about being sore, but so be it. Everyone has been supportive, and I even have a walking friend in Baltimore who started on Day One with me and has also stuck it through. Go Andrea! Eight more days!  

"Duncan, LOOK!"

Words I do not want to hear from my front porch:  "Duncan, LOOK!  Did you see that big snake? It went right down that hole!"  (Points to mysterious space between the front step and the house)

It has been an exciting day in the country. This morning, Jamie and Duncan found a live mouse in the glove compartment of Jamie's car. It had made its way through the iPod cord and was working on a purse pack of Kleenex. They scared him, and he ran away. He has probably since been eaten by a garter snake that lives between the foundation and the step.  I'm not sure how I feel about that idea; happy to have someone eating the mice but not so happy to have a snake entertaining at my house.

Friday, June 26, 2009

That Bunny is Chubby for a Reason

Just so that you can get an idea of the scope of the produce we are dealing with, here is a photograph of Karl's HALF of our share.  Missing from photo:  one quart of peas because Karl chooses not to eat them.

salad greens
Asian spinach
broccoli rabe
garlic scapes

(The plastic bags do not represent the views of either Karl or Theresa, but Karl's produce bags are in his fridge, with last week's vegetables.)


This is where my paper towels used to be.

This is where my kitchen rags live now.     

So far, I have only missed the paper towels once, when I needed to kill a spider.  I used one from the secret stash of paper napkins.  Otherwise, we ran out of paper towels during the week and did not buy more.  So far, it has been a quiet, uneventful transition.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Daddies, Raccoons, and Hot Dogs, Oh My!

Our Fathers' Day weekend began on Thursday afternoon when the preschoolers hosted an ice cream party for their fathers.  I was impressed with the number of fathers who could make it at 3:15 on a work day.  The kids sang two well rehearsed Fathers' Day songs that we had heard in our house for at least a week.  At performance time, however, our child was too shy to participate and sat in Jamie's lap.  It's ironic since we're still hearing "Happy Happy Father's Day, won't you light the grill today" (sung to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) and "Thank you Dad, thank you Dad, thank you for loving me" (sung to the tune of Jingle Bells).  Kids and dads ate huge bowls of ice cream and headed home for the sugar crash.

Saturday, we cooked our Fathers' Day dinner, but you know all about that because we used no electricity that day.  The steaks were fantastic and so was the potato salad.

On Sunday, we trekked to Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill to take in a Hudson Valley Renegades game.  The last time we took Duncan to a baseball game, he lasted three innings.  In contrast, it seems that minor league baseball is PERFECT for a three year old.  There was so much going on that Duncan never got bored.  We were worried about the weather, but it held out for most of the game.  We ran for cover twice in pelting, torrential rain, but the rest of the time it was sunny.  The Renegades have four mascots, raccoons in various family relationships that I could not divine.  Also roaming the stadium were Elmo, Mickey, and a generic dog.  If we had wanted to, we could have taken Duncan to the bouncy house or the playground.  There was tons to do. The food was reasonably priced, and I even managed to get a bowl of raw vegetables with my lunch!  Dutchess Stadium also has an impressive, refreshing beer selection; I had a Blue Moon Honeymoon and Jamie had Sam Adams (Summer Ale, I think).  We all made it through nine innings of baseball and made it home in time for pancakes!

Happy Belated Fathers' Jamie, who is the perfect parenting partner, to my Dad, who helped me define what to look for in the father of my child, to John for being half of the partnership who produced Jamie...and to the Daddies who showed up in the middle of the workday to listen to the preschoolers sing, out of tune, with heartfelt joy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Turnip

Friday will be our third trip to Chubby Bunny Farm to pick up our CSA share.  We have had mixed results; there is clearly a learning curve, but I'm prepared to stick with it until I figure it all out because the CSA is good for us (organic, locally grown produce), good for the farmers (they're such nice people, with two young kids, one about 6 months old), and good for the environment, which needs our help.  And, to be perfectly candid, Chubby Bunny Farm already has my money and so I must take receipt of their vegetables.

Karl and I went together for our first pick-up.  We took a few wrong turns here and there, even with a GPS.  Karl is wont to get lost; I'm wont to distract him by babbling endlessly; together, we are wont to ignore the GPS.  So we took a few wrong turns here and there in the middle of Who-Knows-Where, CT on our way to Falls Village.  We wondered aloud how it was possible there was so much land neither of us had seen in our collective 39 years of living in Dutchess County.  It took us an hour to get there, and we had no idea where we were.  For our second trip, Karl, Jamie, and I caravaned in two cars.  Karl used the GPS; Jamie used a good, old-fashioned map.  We stayed right on course until we reached the Route 7 Detour, and Route 7 was THE ONLY way we knew to get to the farm.  We experimented by going to Cornwall Bridge and seeing how the GPS would send us from there.  We did eventually get there, after driving on a road that I'm not really sure was a road.  It was more of a hiking trail, really, that connected two other roads.  We have since figured out that as long as there is construction on the bridge, we'll have to go all the way to Canaan and then double back to the farm.  I realize that none of this means anything to any of you except locals except to demonstrate that it is taking us a LONG TIME to get to the farm, which appears to be 30 minutes away as the crow flies.  It is only 5 minutes from Stop and Shop so when we work out the kinks, one is on the way to the other, which makes the trip more efficient.  We are certain that this Friday will be the day we get it right.

It has also been difficult for me to get the hang of actually USING the produce.  Now, mind you, we are splitting a share with Karl so when I talk about not knowing what to do with all this stuff, we only have HALF of it.  The first week came as a surprise, and we had already planned our meals for that week.  We ate a lot of salads but wasted some things, like broccoli rabe.  This week, I actually sat down with the list of what was in our share and planned our meals around that.  It was a challenge; a meat-eater of 44 years, I've grown accustomed to planning my meals around the meat (or pasta, or other protein) product and then planning side dishes.  Now, my meals are revolving around the vegetables.  It's a very different way of thinking; I'm sure it's ultimately healthier for us, but it's taking a bit of research.  Thank you Internet.  Thank you Cooking Light.  Thank you Epicurious.  One community-building side effect of this project is that Karl and I are sharing recipes and talking about what we're cooking; it's nice to have that collective focus on our food.

The food has also been hit or miss for Jamie and me.  Everyone who knows us thinks we eat everything.  We do actually eat a wide variety of vegetables that many other people don't eat - asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli.  There are things coming in these shares, however, that are totally foreign to me.  I had only eaten broccoli rabe once, and hadn't liked it.  I had no idea how to prepare it.  Last week, I (gasp) threw it away.  In fact, I don't even think I composted it. This week, I braved it and really enjoyed it with garlic, olive oil, crushed red pepper, and parmesan over some gnocchi.  Tonight we ate our first swiss chard, which was not as popular. It was even less popular with Jamie, who spent the two hours in the kitchen preparing swiss chard with polenta, and then hated it.  I thought it was okay; it was not my favorite, but I could eat it again.  We've always liked arugula, but other than throwing it into a salad or on top of pizza, what do you do with it?  We made arugula pesto that was pretty tasty (though it ended up being 11 Weight Watchers points per serving, and that was without the pasta).  Garlic scapes...who knew?  These are the flowers of garlic that are removed to help the bulbs grow bigger.  You dice them and use them like garlic; they have all the flavor of garlic but no aftertaste.  They were lovely in the broccoli rabe.  My favorite new vegetable, however, was the turnip.  These were not just any turnips; there were some kind of fancy schmancy turnips.  We got about 5 in our share, so I kept 2 (in case I didn't like them) and let Karl have the "lion's share."  What can you do with 2 turnips?  So I diced them and threw them into the salad, and they were like heaven; creamy, sweet, peppery, crunchy.  I was so thrilled that day to have discovered a new vegetable.  

I know that we'll eventually figure out how to get to the corner of Undermountain Rd. and Cobble Hill Rd. in Falls Village, CT.  I know we won't like everything we try, and I'll even give the swiss chard another chance.  I do feel good about having a reason to try new things, and I feel great about eating locally grown, organic food.  I'm enjoying sharing recipes with Karl.  This Friday, we'll take Duncan, and I am excited to show him that food comes from a farm, rather than a sterile, sprinkled cooler in the grocery story.  That's really what it's about, isn't it? Teaching the next generation how to live with the earth we've been given?  And if I uncover the name of those turnips, I'll let you know.  Trust me:  you've gotta get you some of those.

P.S.  My friend Courtney is fond of photographing her restaurant meals and posting them on Facebook.  I was so thrilled with how this salad looked that I decided the entire meal warranted being photographed.  So Courtney, this one's for you.  The dinosaur has nothing to do with anything except that Toll House cookies were Monday's baking project with Duncan, and he asked if I could make a dinosaur cookie.  They made a nice dessert after all the greens.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Powering Down

Our day of self-imposed blackout was thought-provoking.  We went to the grocery store in the morning, got home at 12:30, and then used no more electricity.  Originally, we expected it would be a nice day, and we'd sit outside most of the day.  Since it was also the summer solstice, we could probably put Duncan to bed and then sit outside again until it got dark.  That was a lovely plan except that the weather didn't cooperate.  Our entire house was sort of dim all day, and Duncan kept asking "why there no lights on?"  We had planned a meal that could mostly be prepared on the grill (steak and corn on the cob) as well as potato salad, because I could make it ahead.  As I boiled eggs and potatoes on Saturday night for the next day, I had an inkling of what it would be like to work around variables like when power is and is not available.  What if we really could DO NO WORK every Saturday.  Honestly, even during the day, I was sorely tempted to cheat when I was putting the potato salad together because it was so dark in the kitchen.  Avoiding electricity didn't really affect us much during the day, and after Duncan went to bed, it was nice to sit and read together in the living room.  I didn't really feel like we had given up much.

To be honest, we cheated a little.  We were supposed to unplug everything.  We didn't unplug the refrigerator.  We didn't give up our water, which requires electricity to pump and heat.  We used a lot less, and I thought a lot about whether whatever I was doing was "worthy" of sneaking a little electricity.  We didn't give up the toilet.  We didn't use lights, TV, radio, or air conditioners.  We did use our laptops for as long as the batteries held out, but that was cheating too because the router runs on electricity.  Nevertheless, I think we did a good job.  It was nice to know we could do it, and it was useful to think about all the things we use electricity for that we take for granted.  

Some things I observed during the day:  where there is the most natural light in the house; that the family tends to congregate there in the absence of power; that I was more thoughtful in my everyday chores when I had to think about how to accomplish them without electricity; that a candle puts out a fair amount of light; that it's pleasant sometimes to have a candle lit family dinner; that I enjoyed the peace and quiet; that the place I had the hardest time not turning on the light was the bathroom; that other people might think I'm wacky, but I don't care because I want there to be trees left for my child.

Rufus suggested that we make a list of habits/behaviors we'd like to change in the coming year in order to help the environment - sort of a list of resolutions.  We didn't really do that.  I like the way I've been making changes one at a time and getting my family on board before moving on to something else.  To make a list seems somehow like a set up for failure.  How would I feel about all the things I didn't accomplish?  Instead, I looked around the house and reflected on all the changes we have made in the last year and how good I feel about them.  Once I got over my head swelling, I pondered some other things I can do, and I'm making a list anyway:

- make my own laundry soap with natural ingredients (save packaging, chemicals, money, etc.)
- reduce or eliminate paper towels
- increase the amount of food I grow
- work on taking control of the "vampires" in my home
- eating less meat
- buying more locally (read more about the 100 mile diet)
- work harder to recycle home office paper
- teach kids to be more environmentally aware
- investigate more solar chargers/gadgets to replace batteries
- eliminate disposable batters

So there's a list I can work on, and publishing it here will help me feel responsible for trying these things.  Along the lines of teaching the kids, last week Duncan took a sudden interest in "recycling."  He picks things up around the house and asks if he can recycle them; sometimes, he doesn't ask and just puts them in the recycling bin, so he needs a close eye.  I don't know if this is my influence or something he learned at school, but I'm pretty excited that he's aware. In fact, one of the things he wanted to recycle was a piece of food.  Jamie told him that we have a special recycling bin for that and boosted him up to the compost crock.  That was pretty exciting to me.  If we haven't managed to save the world by the time he's an adult, hopefully, he'll be able to do his part as well.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mark Twain House

Last Thursday, Jamie and I took a day trip to Hartford to visit the estate of Samuel Longhorn Clemens. Unfortunately, the weather was lousy so we didn't get to walk around much outside, but the house tour was great. The house was actually owned by Livy Clemens, Sam's wife, who inherited a great deal of money from her parents while Samuel was still an up and coming writer. Sadly, despite Clemens' success as a writer, he eventually had to declare bankruptcy; among other problems, he made a number of very poor business investments. They sold this estate to move to a much smaller home. The family took all their belongings with them, so they didn't remain with the house. The historical society has worked hard to reclaim as many original pieces as possible. The remainder of the house is decorated with genuine period pieces. The high Victorian style is a bit much for me to appreciate, but I enjoyed the upstairs of the house, which was more informal. My favorite feature of the house was the conservatory, which you can sort of see from the outside, through the trees. If we had had a little more time, I would have liked to see Harriet Beecher Stowe's house, which is literally across the street. In Wally Lamb's book, The Hour I First Believed, a suffragette grandmother and her granddaughter have dinner with the Clemenses and meet Harriet Beecher Stowe. I'd like to reread the book now that I can visualize what the dining room looked like and can appreciate the area where both author's lived. If you're in the vicinity of Hartford, I recommend a visit to both estates.

Here's a lovely reproduction of the Legos.

Bikes and Trikes

This is a quick follow-up to my post about the Trike-a-thon. The preschoolers left their bikes parked in front of the building all week, and I thought it was really cute to see them all there. I feel a bit like a negligent Mom because Duncan really wants a bike now, and we only just got him a trike for his third birthday. Oh well. He's a pretty good trike rider now, and there's a bike at Nana and Poppy's house that he can use to practice until we're ready to get him one.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

From Rufus

Here's a quote from Rufus Wainwright's myspace page where he discusses his original ideas for Blackoutsabbath.

"I LOVED THE NEW YORK POWER OUTAGE!!!!! I found it incredibly invigorating, spiritual and practical at the same time: we all had to pay attention to each other! Not to mention that Manhattan in total darkness was oddly enough a beautiful sight to behold.

I propose this: on a Saturday around the summer solstice (June 21st) for a 12 hour period (noon to midnight) wherever you are, let's all turn off the power at the same time, ie: lights, TV, phones, fridges, etc... Anything you possibly can do without for FOR 12 HOURS. This time could be spent contemplating alone or with friends on the coming year and what personally one can do to save the planet. And at the end of the day, as darkness rolls in, a candle is lit and a list is made of all the things we can do that year to help the environment. The list could look like this:

*dry my clothes on a line
*buy a hybrid
*go vegan

It could be anything you feel capable of doing on a personal level. When the list is completed, get a magnet and put it on the fridge for the whole year. Then during the next summer solstice, repeat the 12 hour "black out sabbath," thus reviewing the list and making a new one for the coming year. The eventual goal in my mind is for New York (or any other town) to have a full voluntary black out one day for the shear beauty of it."


In case you didn't already think we were a little...shall we say...touched, try this on for size.  On Saturday, June 20th, we will be participating in the second annual Blackoutsabbath.  Rufus Wainwright, a musician whose work we enjoy, is spearheading the event. Motivated by the way New York City pulled together as a community during the last blackout, and wanting to do his piece to reduce our collective carbon footprint, he encouraged his listeners to refrain from using electricity between the hours of noon and midnight on the summer solstice. He suggests we use that time to make some resolutions about how we can reduce our carbon footprint for the coming year.  The summer solstice is the perfect night for this kind of event because it is the night we have the most daylight hours.  In our younger years, Jamie and I had some fantastic summer solstice parties; this year, we'll use no electricity (except the fridge - I'm not going that far) and try to take back the environment a bit.

So give it a thought.  If your power went out from 12 to 12, you'd survive.  You'd make it work somehow.  Think about roughing it for 12 hours and seeing what we can give back to the grid.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tenting It

We're going to brave camping with Duncan this summer - at least once, that is. We think he'll have a great time, but we're only going to plan one trip at a time and see how it goes. The last time we camped was the summer I was pregnant with Duncan, and we have really missed it. Our first trip will be to Lake Taghkanic State Park so that if it goes horribly wrong, we'll be close to home. Because it's been a while, Jamie dragged out the tent today and put it up to make sure no mice or other critters had chewed through it. It seemed perfectly intact, and Duncan had a great time hanging out inside it for a while. In fact, in retrospect, there were only two times today Duncan wasn't naughty: at the hairdressers during his haircut; and hanging out in the tent. I think that bodes well for the camping trip though not necessarily for tomorrow.

Friday, June 12, 2009

More Deep Thoughts with Duncan

Here's another vision inside the mind of a 3 year old.  

TLC:   "What are you doing to your ear?  Are you trying to twist it off?"

DCM:  "Yeah."

TLC:  "What are you gonna do with it if it comes off?"

DCM:  "Put it up my nose."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

And So It Begins

And I speak, of course, of the practice of using my child to raise money for charitable know, the whole Girl Scout Cookie/Pay for My Trip to France...sort of thing. Next week, Duncan's preschool is holding a St. Jude Trike-A-Thon. The St. Jude Trike-A-Thon program teachers children riding-toy safety while also raising money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. St. Jude is the ONLY PEDIATRIC CANCER RESEARCH CENTER where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance and no child is denied treatment because of the family's inability to pay. If you're willing to sponsor Duncan, please consider a Flat Donation (so I don't have to do multiplication) and send me a check made out to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital before Friday, June 19.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sudsy Green

I'm not totally sold on this laundry soap yet. I haven't done the math yet, except a brief estimate in my head, but the refills are pretty reasonable, and load-for-load I think it's not more expensive than standard laundry soap. It does claim to be biodegradable, non-toxic, and hypo-allergenic, which I like. The soap comes pre-measured and wrapped in cellulose (I think) that dissolves in the wash water. When I used it last weekend, I kept finding little pellets of undissolved soap in the bottom of the washer after it finished. Jamie, who was reluctant initially, said he had no problems with Nellie's at all. I thought perhaps my culprit was the gentle cycle that possibly did not provide enough time or agitation for the pellets to dissolve. This week, I tried dropping the pellets in and filling the washer before putting my clothes in, and I've had no issues. In fact, I leave my whites soaking overnight, and when I went to finish that load today, I could still see suds. My laundry seems to be clean enough so I'll give Nellie a little more time. I'm not sure where Nellie's is available locally, but I bought mine from Greenfeet, and I feel okay about that because Greenfeet buys carbon offsets for everything they ship. It's a great website so check it out - even if you don't want Nellie's All-Natural Laundry Nuggets in a cool, reusable tin.

P.S. Now that I have looked at the price again, it IS way more expensive than standard laundry soap. I will have to decide whether I want or need to live with that. I think I'll experiment with making my own laundry soap this summer, and that would be green and cheap so I'll let you know how that goes.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


I grew this! I know it's only salad greens, but they made a salad that we actually ate with a meal. That's already a better record than all of last summer. Jamie said the arugula was the best he has ever tasted. What I have discovered about lettuce is that we're going to have to eat a lot of it, regularly, because it grows like a weed. I don't know how we'll keep up with it. I think we'll be eating a lot of salad lunches this week. We have arugula coming in our first Chubby Bunny haul as well as in our garden. I found an arugula pesto recipe online that I'm going to try out. Also, we make a fantastic pizza with arugula, cranberry sauce, and onions. I'm looking forward to it!

If you like arugula, try this out too and let me know what you think.

Arugula Pesto Recipe


2 cups of packed arugula leaves, stems removed
1/2 cup of walnuts
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 garlic clove peeled and minced


1 Brown 6 garlic cloves with their peels on in a skillet over medium high heat until the garlic is lightly browned in places, about 10 minutes. Remove the garlic from the pan, cool, and remove the skins.

2 Toast the nuts in a pan over medium heat until lightly brown, or heat in a microwave on high heat for a minute or two until you get that roasted flavor. In our microwave it takes 2 minutes.

3a Food processor method (the fast way): Combine the arugula, walnuts, roasted and raw garlic into a food processor. Pulse while drizzling the olive oil into the processor. Remove the mixture from the processor and put it into a bowl. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

3b Mortar and pestle method (photo pictures pesto produced this way): Combine the nuts and garlic in a mortar. With the pestle, grind until smooth. Add the cheese and olive oil, grind again until smooth. Finely chop the arugula and add it to the mortar. Grind up with the other ingredients until smooth.

Because the pesto is so dependent on the individual ingredients, and the strength of the ingredients depends on the season or variety, test it and add more of the ingredients to taste.

4 Mix with freshly prepared pasta of your choice. You may need to add a little bit of water or more olive oil to mix the pesto more evenly with the pasta.

Makes enough pesto sauce for an ample serving of pasta for four people.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chubby Bunny Farm

Last summer, when I started my slow but steady crusade to save the environment, Karl was one of my first supporters, and he eagerly made some of his own changes. He also suggested that we join the local CSA. CSA, or community supported agriculture, is a way to support local farmers while also securing fresh, organic food for your home. CSA members pay for a share of the local harvest, up front; the farmer invests the money in operating expenses, like seeds, compost, utilities, and greenhouse supplies. When the harvest comes in, the members receive their locally grown produce. Brilliant! So Karl and I have split a share in the Chubby Bunny Farm. Next week, we pick up our first week of produce. So far, this investment has made me the happiest of all my green adventures, except, perhaps, for the lettuce that is growing in my front yard. Find a CSA and consider buying a share for next year. It's the single best way to THINK GLOBAL-ACT LOCAL.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I don't know what people are doing here...they could just be hop scotching from my page to something else or happening upon it by accident, but the fascinating thing is that there have been 1,068 hits on my blog since I added the hit counter. They're not unique hits, so days like today when I wrote one post, signed out, and then thought of something new I wanted to say and came back...on those days...I may have accounted for 2 or 3 hits myself. Nevertheless, 1,068 kind of impresses me. I wish I had seen the 1,000. I was sort of watching for it but forgot over the last few days. Stay tuned to this channel as I talk about my CSA, the inability of my natural dish detergent to lather, my happiness with Uncommon Goods' eco friendly packing material, giving up paper towels, eating a bowl of my own lettuce, and Duncan's summer adventures!

Wait, did I just write a trailer for my blog? I think I did. Stay tuned...1,069! You could be number 2,000!

True Love, III

Because all good things come in threes...

Duncan woke up with a tummy ache this morning. I was worried because he has never complained about his stomach. Ever. We figured it was probably a little brush with constipation caused by too little water, too few vegetables, and too many dairy products over the last few days. But I digress. The sweet part was this:

"Mama? A little cuddle would make it feel better."