Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Moving On

I can't believe it has taken me a full week to find the time to sit at the computer and share our big news. Most of our friends and family already know, but last Monday we closed on a new home. That means that we will be leaving our cohousing community. It was not an easy decision for us to make, and Matt and I both waivered in our decision on multiple occasions. We are very nervous about leaving an already made community of people... many who have become good friends.

But, it happens that a few months ago we found a house that we didn't feel we could pass up. It is an old house built in 1905. It has squeaky fir floors, an old coal cellar (soon to be my root cellar!), large trees, a big backyard and a view of the mountains. A home that seemed just right for us.

Our new neighborhood is very alive with people out walking and socializing. We haven't even moved in yet and already we have invites for dinner, housewarming gifts from neighbors, and several new friends. We will still be walking or biking distance to most of our favorite places. In fact, we will be walking distance to the cohousing community, so it should be easy to maintain many of our friendships.

We won't be moving in for another few weeks yet. We are in the process of taking down wallpaper (there is wallpaper from floor to ceiling in almost every room!), painting walls, and a few other projects. Totally overwhelming to try to do these tasks in a healthy and green way. Fortunately we found a woman who takes down wallpaper with just water, and I am amazed at how accessible low and no VOC paint now is!

I hope to be blogging about our attempts to develop community outside of cohousing and our attempts to green a 100 year old house.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Reverse Trick-or-Treat

As soon as my birthday is over, I start seriously planning for the holidays. I start thinking about Halloween costumes (although Kate has been telling me since August that she wants to be a Chinese Princess - no idea where that came from!), fall decorations, holiday meals, and holiday presents. But first Halloween. Last year I scrounged the candy aisles looking for candy to pass out that met my requirements - no high fructose corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, no artificial coloring and no palm oils. Let me tell you, I don't think it exists in the mass market. I can't even remember what I settled for, but I definitely settled.

I am still formulating my plan for this year. We are expecting far too many trick-or-treaters (over 300!) to get anything too pricey, but we are going to try something new for the kids while trick-or-treating. It is the reverse trick-or-treating campaign by Global Exchange to increase awareness about the problems in the cocoa industry - child labor, low prices for farmers, etc. Trick-or-treaters surprise adults by handing them a sample of fair trade chocolate with a card explaining the problems in the cocoa industry. The bonus? Global Exchange supplies the sample chocolates and cards for free (while supplies last - deadline to order is Oct 13th)! I also couldn't resist getting the Fair Trade Trick-or-Treat Action Kit. Although I can't get enough for all 300 kids, I am hoping to hand out quite a few of the postcards. And I can't wait to get the "Fair Trade is Boo-tiful" sign up on my door!
Hope you and your family will join in for the cause.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

I need to do some catch-up blogging! So much has happened the last couple weeks. Some of it is BIG changes for us. I am excited to share it all on my blog, but I need to find a little down time first. Hopefully soon!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cohousing Community Garden

This post is finally finished thanks to the pressure from my friend Melissa. I've been promising her photos of my garden for far too long!

I have been meaning to blog about our cohousing community garden all summer, and this post has been half written for well over a month. (The photos are a bit old also, but it shows you what the garden looked like the end of July/beginning of August!) I have never been a part of any other community garden, so I am unsure how much it differs from others. I would love to hear any comparisons.
The entire community garden is fairly large. It is made up of individual plots that are roughly 3x5 ft (they all vary a bit - my main plot is funny shaped so it is 3ft on one end and about 5 on the other). Along the edges of the garden are some true community garden space where rhubarb, strawberries, and misc herbs are grown for use by anyone in the community. A native grass area around the garden serves as our orchard. Many of the trees are new this year, but we have several that were planted when the community was started and are bearing fruit. There are peach, apple, plum and cherry trees. And several varieties of each.

In late winter or early spring, a garden coordinator begins assigning plots to community members. First priority is given to gardeners from the previous year. They indicate which of their current plots is their first and second choices on plots. Your first choice is pretty much guaranteed. There are 30-something plots for 34 households, but not all community members garden. There is almost always the ability to have more than one plot. This year I have my plot, another plot that I was going to share with a friend (that didn't happen and I just took over the whole plot), plus half of another plot that yet another community member opted not to plant this year. Except for a few exceptions (like invasive mint), you can plant whatever you want in your plot. The plot plantings vary from a variety of vegetables to only pumpkins to annual flowers. By July, the garden is a mass jungle of crops. A beautiful mess!
My plots this summer contain beets, carrots, radishes, jalapeno peppers, green/yellow/red peppers, arugula, vine beans, bush beans, purple bush beans, broccoli, strawberries, butternut squash (almost ready to harvest!), mixed greens, romaine lettuce, speckled romaine lettuce, spinach, eggplant (still harvesting... hope to get another few weeks of eggplant!), yellow zucchini, green zucchini, yellow squash, marigolds, cut flowers, and multiple herbs. Most of my herbs are close to the house in a small rock garden and in pots. I also have tomatoes in self-watering containers against the house (remind me to blog about growing tomatoes in Colorado next spring!).

The garden is really slowing down. We have had unusually cool weather that started in mid-August. I imagine we'll get a frost within a few weeks. Then everyone will winterize their plots. Most of the cuttings will go in a large pile to compost over winter (anything that doesn't decompose in the pile will be added to the community compost next spring). Some people plant cover crops like rye grass. Others just let the ground sit.

I love, love, love having a garden, but I admit that by this time of the year, I am getting a bit weary of tending it. I start to look forward to the frost and a good reason to close shop. By January I'll be getting the itch to start all over again!
1 - Aerial view of the garden (from my neighbor's balcony)
2 - My corner of the garden
3 - Eggplant blooms (we've since eaten the eggplants from those blooms - we are going to have some more for dinner tonight!)
4 - Yellow peppers
5 - Purple string beans (the kids LOVED the purple beans that turn green when cooked!)
6 - Butternut squash (they are now turning a lovely apricot color and are almost ready to harvest - I can't wait!!)
7 - Orange cherry tomatoes (These little devils were like candy. None of them went into any dishes. We just picked and popped them into our mouths as we walked by. Tomatoes are definitely Matt's favorite garden item. He raves about being able to walk out the back door, pluck a tomato, and slice it for a sandwich)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Candidates With Drinking Problems

So I have vowed not to be at all political on my blog, but I just can't pass this up since it involves both candidates. Did you realize that both Obama and McCain have drinking problems? Big drinking problems. They both drink bottled water. Egads!

The Tappening campaign (which promotes tap water over bottled water) is launching an advertising campaign to promote tap water and reusable bottles. The ads will be run in the states where the candidates are making appearances but are not meant to make a political statement for or against either candidate.

Check out the Bottled Water Facts and Tap Water Facts on their website. Some pretty enlightening information.

And if you haven't switched to reusable water bottles, there is no time like the present. I've written about and given away SIGG bottles and Camelbak bottles as great options, but also check out the great bottles that Tappening sells on their website. A choice between BPA-free plastic bottles and stainless steel, and I love their slogan, "Think Global, Drink Local."

Also want to give a big thank you to Tappening for donating reusable bottles to the local charity that I am currently involved in! I plan for them to go in a "Going Green" basket for the silent auction.

(I also have copies of the ads, but I am currently having computer issues and can't get them up! I'll try soon!)

Cohousing Community Meals

While I am on a kick writing about cohousing, I thought I'd share about community meals. I am feeling a bit guilty that I am taking this description straight from our cohousing website. Cheating a little, but it describes it just as I would and saves me a lot of time! Every community runs their meals a little differently. I would be interested to hear any comparisons.

residents (both owners and renters) have the option of participating in our meal
plan, perhaps our strongest community-building activity. We have community meals
twice a week. One meal is always on Sunday, alternating between brunch and
dinner. The other meal is a dinner on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday night.
These dinners rotate each week ... one week it's on Tuesday, the next week on
Wednesday, etc.

Residents sign up for a meal rotation that lasts approximately 3 to 4
months, depending on the number of participants. During that time, each adult
participant takes one shift as head cook, one shift as assistant cook, and three
cleaning crew shifts. The head cook plans the menu, purchases the ingredients
and cooks the meal with help from the assistant cook. Attendance at the meals is
typically somewhere between 30 and 50 diners, and participants are asked to
cross their names off the list if they will not be attending. We have items such
as spices and oil available in our community pantry.

Our menus are varied and delicious, and our cooks attempt to address
various dietary requirements so that residents who are vegetarians or who avoid
wheat, for example, can still participate. Mealtime in cohousing is a great chance
to catch up with friends and relax without having to prepare a meal at home.

For those who do not wish to participate in the meal plan, we also hold
traditional potlucks on holidays such as Memorial Day, Forth of July, Labor Day,
Thanksgiving and Christmas.
So that's it. When we first moved in, I thought the idea of sharing meals with everyone was a little hippie-dippy, but it soon became one of my favorite parts of cohousing. Twice a week I don't have to think about what to cook for dinner, and I don't have to clean up either!

(I also stole the photos from the community's website - that is Matt, Kate and me piling up our plates! I'm in my yoga clothes because I came straight from a community yoga class - what?!? I haven't told you about the awesome yoga classes being taught twice a week in our common house? Gotta add that to the to blog list!)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Zucchini Pancakes

The zucchini production is slowing down significantly in our garden, but I am still getting a couple squash every other day or so. We reached the point that we were sick of zucchini about a month ago, but I am still trying to use it all as I harvest it. One of my favorite uses this summer has been zucchini pancakes. I did this last year, but for some reason the kids are really gobbling them up this summer! I've posted versions of my pancake recipe before, but I thought I would share it again.

Whole Grain Zucchini Pancakes
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tbsp of wheat germ
1 tbsp ground flax seed
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I sometimes sub other whole grain flours)
2 tbsp soy flour (optional )
1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 tbsp oil
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 small zucchini, grated
several chocolate chips

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir in zucchini until well coated with flour mixture. Blend liquid ingredients and add to dry ingredients. Mix well. Heat pan over medium heat and pour batter in 1/4 cup measures into pan. Drop chocolate chips into individual pancakes (I just add 2 per pancake!) Turn when bubbles form in batter. Cook until golden. Enjoy!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Answered Prayers

is coming to Colorado! It may still be a few years before they even begin building the store (which apparently takes 18 months), but they are still coming!

Now if only we could get a Trader Joe's...

Bargain Organic PJs

Good deal alert! I was at Costco this week and found organic cotton long john PJs for $11.99! Unfortunately they only carry them in the store, not online. My Costco was running low on sizes, but I managed to snag a couple pairs for Jack for this winter. They had girly prints also, but my girly-girl Kate only wears nightgowns so no point in getting her any. So if you need PJs, check out your Costco to see if they have any left!
I'm participating for the first time in Thrifty Green Thursday at Green Baby Blog. Check them out for other thrifty green ideas! (I meant to post this much earlier today, but that thing called life got in the way!)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Food Meme

I saw this meme on Penny's Walking Upside Down blog a few weeks ago and have been meaning to do it every since! Let me know if you do the meme so I can check it out!

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at http://www.verygoodtaste.co.uk/uncategorised/the-omnivores-hundred/ linking to your results.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (actually I've had alligator, but not sure about crocodile)
6. Black pudding*
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle (but I don't like it)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (fejoa, elder berry)
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese*
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters (don't like 'em on the half shell, but love them baked)
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (are you kidding? I was just in San Fran!)
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat (can't honestly say I've had "curried" goat, but I've had BBQ goat... a Texas thing)
42. Whole insects (does a gnat that flies in your mouth count?)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu Nah
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut. (best warm!)
50. Sea urchin (on a date at a sushi restaurant. I'm not sure I actually swallowed it. I dry heaved and had to spit it out in my napkin. It was the texture that was so awful, not the taste)
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (I've never eaten a Big Mac... I don't like sauce on my hamburgers)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads (had them in a NYC restaurant years ago... I didn't know what I was ordering!)
63. Kaolin (I didn't know what this was, but I've had Kaopectate, so I guess I've had it!)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis*
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette.
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill*
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare (rabbit and hare are the same, right?)
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse*
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam (I can't believe I've never tried Spam...)
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake (rattlesnake... it's another Texas thing)

*I can't in good faith cross anything off the list because I am willing to try just about anything. However, I am certainly not going to go looking for the starred "food" items. Blech!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival

Welcome to the Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival!
You know the old saying "Never shop when you are hungry?" I think it should be updated to "Never blog when you are hungry!" Putting all these yummy recipes together is making me hungry, and I've snacked far too much while reviewing the posts!

How I wish I had some Banana Nut Butterscotch Muffins from Teaching 4 Him. Or a slice of 11th's Heaven Homemaking Haven's 100% Whole Wheat Bread Machine Bread, maybe slathered with Crock Pot Apple Butter from Stop the Ride! Maybe I need something more substantial like Tex-Mex Chicken and Rice from Ship Full O' Pirates or a pizza with Whole Wheat Pizza Crust from Happy To Be At Home. Or something to satisfy my sweet tooth like the Black Forest Cake from Scratch from The Learning Experience or Our Red House's Rich, Creamy, Chocolate Ice Cream without an Ice Cream Maker (or Cream) or The Copyeditor's Desk's Literary Recipes: Hasty Pudding.
I was really happy to see all the great ideas for crafts for this carnival. I am planning on doing mostly homemade items for holiday gifts this year, so I need to get making! I think I am going to try several of these ideas!
I have started project from My Recycled Bags, and I can't wait to try another. Maybe her new pattern for a Mega Recycled Tote Bag made from "plarn." Another crochet (or knitting project!) was posted by It's All For the Best for Making a Simple Scarf. The best part is she is donating her scarf to a great cause.

There are also some great projects for kids. The Sojourner made An Old Fashioned Sock Monkey. Nature Moms makes Rain Sticks, and FIMBY shows us Beet Juice Painting .

There a few new-to-me projects that I would like to try. Little House in the Suburbs has Homemade Mould & Deckle for Hand Papermaking (to assist with her lily paper making from last week's carnival), or Omni-Gel Image Transfer is a project from The Spotted Sparrow. And what looks like a handy little device that I didn't know existed is explained by The Thinking Mother in Praise for the Chinois.

There are two options this week for making bags for gift giving or storage. Homemade Fabric Gift Bags with Ties from Make It From Scratch and How to Me How To Easily Make a Storage Sack. Or wouldn't it be cute to give a gift in a lunch bag? Not the Jet Set has directions on how to make one in Frugal Lunch Time Style.

Thanks for stopping by and checking out the links! Be sure to check out next week's Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival at Funny About Money.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Green Education

Everyone is back in school - preschools, public schools, private schools, home schools - so there is much buzz on the internet and in real life about school. Choices, teachers, lunches, curriculum. Both of my kids are still in preschool (Have I mentioned that I have both kids in school several times a week?? Woohoo!!), but Kate will start kindergarten next year. Matt and I have been pondering and discussing, ad nauseum, the pros and cons of all schooling choices available to us. Most likely we'll end up at the nearby public school, but we still feel the need to at least consider all options.

I often feel that we as a family (and maybe as a larger society?) are putting a little too much emphasis on our school choice and not enough on the value of family education. The old truth is that a good education begins at home. School is merely a continuation of what is started at home. We have done our best to give our children a strong base for school, and I don't mean workbooks or drills or flashcards. We talk to our children, read lots of books, go on outings together, point out letters, count rocks, measure when baking, etc. Learning is a part of our daily life. A value that we are instilling in our children with every moment.

The same applies to an environmental education and instilling a sense of responsibility for the earth. We aren't waiting until our kids are older or waiting for a good green school curriculum. In our house, we don't just act responsibly, we discuss it. We are building a base that will be expanded as they grow. A way of life that is inherent to them as recognizing letters and counting objects.

Some examples of how we do this in our family:

- At the grocery store, I verbalize to my kids why we are making certain choices. "We are going to get these peaches over here because they were grown in Colorado" or "Let's buy this brand of cereal because it has less packaging." (The grocery store is really an endless opportunity to teach. Not just about the environment. I point out commercialism while at the grocery store. The Clifford on the cereal box, the cookies on the aisle end where we walk by and see them, etc.)

- At the mailbox, "This is the third catalog we've received from this company this month. That is a waste of paper and other resources. Let's go call them and let them know we don't want to receive the catalog anymore." And do it. Right away. Where your kids can hear.
- While mixing your own cleaning supplies, "I like to make cleaning spray for several reasons. An important reason for our family is that we don't know what chemicals are in the cleaning sprays we can buy from the grocery store. Some of those chemicals are not healthy for us or for the earth. When we make our own we know just what is in the spray. Plus we keep using the same spray bottle so it is better for the earth."
- On a walk, "Oh look! Someone dropped a plastic water bottle. We better pick it up, but instead of throwing it in the trash, let's take it home and recycle it. One less plastic bottle in the landfill!"
- At the farmer's market, "Look! This honey was made by a family in the next town over. Let's buy this honey instead of the honey at the grocery store that came from someone we don't know" or "Let's buy these tomatoes at this stand because they were grown without any chemicals that can hurt the earth."
The examples could go on and on. Really start paying attention to your day. Describe everything that you do with simple explanations. You'll be amazed at how many opportunities you have to instill your environmental values. My examples are all geared for my preschoolers. Older kids can understand more complex descriptions. And start asking questions. You may not get the answer you were expecting, but the answer just may brighten your day!
"Why is it important that we bring our own bags to the store?"
"Which cantaloupe do you think we should buy? These grown in Colorado or those grown in California?"

"Can you think of a way that we can reuse this pretty tin that Aunt Wilma gave us?"

The best part about educating children in this manner is that it requires no extra time nor money! Just a conscious effort to connect with your children.
(The photo is of the kids' first day of preschool this year. Check out this photo to see how much they have grown since last year!)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Crochet and Puppies

I haven't mentioned my crochet projects in awhile. I always have something going. Maybe not going quickly, but going. I need to post some photos of some of my projects. I'm getting much better! The last few days I've been thinking that I should crochet a little "coat" for Nina Sprinkles (Go ahead, roll your eyes at me! I also can't believe I have a dog that needs a coat! Matt is going to be horrified!) since it is already cooling down at night, and she shakes when she is cold. It has been on my to do list to search the internet for patterns when my daily visit to Annie's Attic free pattern of the day solved the problem!

Getting Back on Track

Yesterday was a crisp day in Colorado. Definitely a reminder that fall is coming. I think autumn might be my favorite season. It is sorta my "spring" season where everything starts anew. With school starting and the summer craziness wrapping up, it is the time when we get back to our routines (and maybe start a new one). I feel energetic and organized. So this week I am renewing my New Year's Resolutions to Be More Creative and Get It Together.

To boost my creativity, I am again hosting the Make It From Scratch blog carnival next Tuesday. I would love to see others participate. Your post can be about anything made from scratch - food, crafts, sewing, etc. Get your entries in by this Sunday.

To get it together, we are back on our budget for September. I think I fell off the budget bandwagon this summer because I was making it too complicated. I've started using Pear Budget (learned about it from Simple Mom) and really like it so far. I'm also going to get back to meal planning... soon.

Last, and unrelated, yesterday was our 8 year wedding anniversary. Matt sent me flowers, and we had dinner out with the kids (romantic, no?). I meant to write a multi-post love story al la Renassiance Mom, but time got away. Maybe I'll start writing it now to post next year!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Nina Sprinkles

Look who officially joined our family on Sunday! Nina Sprinkles. 7 weeks old. As cute as can be! Smart, too! Pretty much housebroken and sleeps all night.

Hasn't she gotten so big since my original post about her?
I haven't really had a chance to do research on environmentally friendly puppy/dog paraphernalia. Food, toys, etc. Anyone want to help me out with some advice?
I'm posting this as part of the WFMW backwards edition!

Mommy Guilt

What does it say about me when the mom in the show Caillou gives me that inadequate mommy feeling and mommy guilt? She's a cartoon character! Sheesh...