Saturday, August 30, 2008

Home Sweet Home

We are all home, and it feels so good! We are going to enjoy our relaxing, unplanned weekend, and then get ready for our upcoming busy week. I have an ever growing "to do" list, but I am hoping to accomplish lots since preschool starts this week! Have I mentioned that this is the first time I'll have both kids in preschool for longer than an hour?? WHAT am I going to do with myself?!?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

You want proof?

I'll give you proof! LOL Unfortunately the video function on my mom's camera wasn't working, so you just get still shots. (Although I am not-so-secretly happy that I don't have to post an image of my backside in a bathing suit on the internet!)
Here I am midair doing a back flip.









And this is the entry (because isn't the splash important??)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What is an Heirloom Tomato?

In a good way, heirloom tomatoes seem to be the rage today, don't they? I happen to be in San Francisco during the last weekend for the San Fran Chef's Heirloom Tomato Week. And while we didn't actually dine at any of the participating restaurants, we did have heirloom tomatoes for several meals.

Our first evening in San Fran, we took a ferry (as a side, the Ferry Building is just amazing! I missed the farmer's market because I thought it ran all weekend not just Saturday, but I can only imagine that it is amazing. A must visit when in San Fran) to Tiburon to visit some friends. After walking around Tiburon a bit, touring the fire station (our friend is a volunteer firefighter - how cool is that??), and relaxing in their home, they took us to Bungalow 44 in nearby Mill Valley. So good. So, so good.
One of the appetizers we shared was a heirloom tomato flat bread dish. While eating, someone asked, "What makes a tomato and heirloom?" And guess what? I didn't really know! I know heirloom tomatoes are "good" and even have an heirloom variety growing in my tomato pots at home. I knew that regular tomatoes at the grocery store are grown for their consistent size and shape, their ability to travel well, their disease resistance, but NOT for their taste (and apparently, as I learned, not for their nutritional value either). I knew that heirloom tomatoes taste better, are often funny shapes and colors, and that the seeds are often passed down through generations, but I didn't really know the true definition of an heirloom tomato.

Apparently defining an heirloom tomato isn't an easy thing. Most varieties are "old"... 50, 100, or whatever number of years, the variety has been around for a long time. They must also be open-pollinated which means pollinated by natural means - birds, bees, wind, etc. And no genetically-modified varieties are allowed in the heirloom club. With many modern, hybrid tomatoes, the plants are sterile and the seeds can not be saved to produce more tomato plants next year. The seed companies like this because you have to continue to buy seeds from them year after year after year. Not with the heirloom varieties. Seed saving and sharing is actually encouraged with the heirloom varieties.
So why are heirloom tomatoes important? Besides that they taste better and are more nutritional than commercial tomatoes, buying heirloom tomatoes supports small farms as few are grown by larger institutions and most are grown locally. Heirlooms also support biodiversity which is more and more important as commercial food production limits our choices.

In our home, I will be making a conscious effort to make sure we limit or avoid hybrid tomatoes. And even while my home garden is peaking in produce (which I am sadly missing while out of town, but one of my neighbors is enjoying!), I am already mentally planning for next year's garden. I know I'll be paying closer attention to what I choose to plant.

Reference Sites


Ideal Bite Goes Local

Since it doesn't look like I am going to fit in any blogging about my San Fran trip anytime soon (I'm heading to Austin this morning to see friends - one with twin babies that I haven't met yet, my freshman college roommate who I haven't seen in at least 3 years, and my father-in-law), I thought I'd mention real quick that Ideal Bite (great site that sends a daily green email - if you don't get it, you should!) is launching a local Denver version next week. And if you aren't one of my "local" friends, they are going to be adding other cities soon.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hotel Annoyance

"As part of (fill in the blank - any large hotel chain)'s commitment to conserve the environment, we will change bed linens and towels as necessary or upon request."

You know what is really annoying to me about these little signs in all the hotel rooms? Not changing the linens has NOTHING to do with the environment. I'm happy they don't change my sheets every day, but don't tell me it is for the better of the earth. You know it is for the better of the company's bottom line. Don't have to have as many housekeepers, don't have to do as much laundry, etc.

If theses large hotel chains really had a "commitment to conserve the environment, " they would have recycling programs (better yet, they would have in-room recycling!), better menu options, and other action items that I can't think of right now because I'm so annoyed!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What?!?

I didn't announce on my blog that I'm in San Francisco for the weekend sans kids? It has been heavenly! I'll update soon, but right now I am going to go out and enjoy the city some more!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Have to brag...

I am almost 36 years old, the mother of two children, and I can STILL do both front and back flips off the diving board. Maybe not with Olympic form, but I can do them. Proved it today!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Blog Guilt

So I actually feel guilty when I let my blog slide to the back burner. I've told myself over and over (and over!) that I will not let blogging become a burden in my life. But I still feel guilty. So to ease some of the guilt without writing much, you can read about bloggers with similar thoughts... Mama-Om's great post led me to another great post at Seattle Mom Blogs.

Kate has been having a great time at grandma's house, and finally (after 3 nights away!) she told me she misses me. Jack and I are going to Dallas tomorrow. Can't wait to hug my baby. And I haven't packed, so I better get off the computer...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Friday Afternoon Club

One of the activities that our cohousing community does is called Friday Afternoon Club (aka FAC). It takes place one Friday evening a month, usually at our common house but sometimes outside or in a community member's home. Everyone participating brings a personal drink (alcoholic or non alcoholic depending on your persuasion) and a "hearty" appetizer to share. We sit and chat with neighbors for a few hours or even longer. It is a good excuse to just hang out with neighbors.


There is almost always a good variety of food, and I usually call it dinner for my family. The dishes range from straight out of the box pizza bites to made from scratch veggie dishes. The standard appetizers are almost always available - chips & dip, crackers & cheese, etc. Someone will usually bring some fruit, and (hopefully!) there is often something sweet.


Last Friday Afternoon Club caught me by surprise so I had nothing to bring. My pantry was pretty bare from all our our early summer guests. I ruled out fruit leathers, Lara bars, and Pirate's Booty as viable options, but I did find a stack of frozed corn tortillas in the freezer. I hadn't made homemade tortilla chips in a long time and had forgotten how good they are. Not everyone at FAC knew you could make your own chips, so I thought I'd share how on my blog. It is so easy!


First cut tortillas (flour work well also!) into wedges.


Place on cookie sheets brushed with butter (olive or canola oil works well also, but I like the butter flavor!). Brush tops of wedges with additional butter.

Bake at 450 for 10min or more until just starting to brown (flour tortillas take much less time!)

Remove from oven, slide off tray, salt, cool and serve with your favorite salsa!

Yum!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Off

Today I let my mom take my baby girl on an airplane to Texas. I've left the kids at home and elsewhere before, but somehow this seems bigger. Kate was extremely excited to be flying by herself with "Ama." She really didn't even want to stop to hug me goodbye...

Jack and I will join Kate in Texas later this week. I'm looking forward to my little getaway!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Annual CoHousing Campout

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic about cohousing the last few weeks, so I might be writing quite a bit about it. For me, summer is the height of cohousing fun. Everyone spends most of their time outside, and it seems that someone is always around. My kids spend most days and evenings running from one home to another, playing with other kids of all ages and even some adults.

I think the highlight of the cohousing summer is the annual camp out. This year's camp out was last Saturday night. Late afternoon and early evening, community members start pitching tents on our big open lawn. Big family tents, small 2-man tents, and even smaller "play" tents. The kids run around exploring all the tents, the adults sit on the porch of common house and socialize.
As it started to get dark, a fire was started in the fire pit. We sat around the fire and sang a variety of songs. I'm not sure how many participants were there - 30? 50? It seemed like a lot! It wasn't just campers. Many of the adults who opted NOT to pitch a tent still joined us in the circle. When the kids were getting restless from singing and the coals were hot, the marshmallows and other goodies came out for making s'mores. I ate more than my fair share of s'mores, then I took Jack inside for bed. He was exhausted, and it was easier for me to put him to sleep in his own bed. Maybe next year he'll sleep outside.
Kate continued to play outside until way past normal bedtime. When everyone started settling down, Matt got her in her PJs. They climbed in the tent and read a few books by flashlight. Kate apparently fell asleep quickly and didn't stir all night. Some families spent all night in the tents, some went in to "real" beds early like Jack and me, and some found there way home at other times in the middle of the night.
No matter where you spent the night, when morning came there was cereal and OJ on the common house porch for breakfast. Rumpled kids and adults ate, played some more, and started packing up. There was no long drive, no lack of clean toilets, and no forgetting necessities at home.
Only downside? A community of tired, cranky kids all the next day!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lemonicious Zucchini Cupcakes

Another use for my abundance of zucchini. And they are not real cupcakes - just really good muffins topped with a little lemon frosting. My kids (especially Jack) eat muffins better when I call them cupcakes. So why not!

We have also used this recipe to make mini loaf breads to give to neighbors.

Lemonicious Zucchini Cupcakes
2 1/3 cup flour*
1T wheat germ
1T ground flax seed
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1-2 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup canola oil
grated zest of 2 lemons
juice of one lemon
1 egg

Preheat over to 350. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in shredded zucchini until evenly coated with flour mixture. In another bowl, mix milk, oil, lemon zest, juice, and egg. Combine with dry ingredients. Stir until just moist.

Spoon batter into muffin pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Remove from muffin tins and cool.
Mix juice from second lemon with enough powdered sugar to be think frosting. Drizzle over each muffin.
*I use whole wheat flour, but it makes the muffins a bit denser than with all purose.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Squash-A-Thon

My summer squash plants are putting out in full capacity. I have a great squash variety this summer. I started by planting just one yellow squash plant and what I thought was one zucchini plant. A week or so later I had an empty space in the garden to fill, so I added another zucchini plant. As luck would have it, the first zucchini plant I put in is a yellow zucchini variety (I originally thought it was a second yellow squash plant, but it is definitely more zucchini-esque despite the bright yellow color). I am harvesting a basket full of summer squash like in this photo every other day, if not every day! That means lots of squash being cooked in our kitchen and lots of squash being handed out to friends.

Handing it out might be my favorite part of having a garden.

ps - Earlier this summer a neighbor taught me that zucchini and nasturtiums make great garden neighbors. After a bit of research, I found that they are also great companions for broccoli and cucumbers. Plus nasturtiums are edible!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Difficult Day

A cohousing community member was hit by a car and killed last night while riding his bike. He was one of the nicest guys I ever met with a peaceful, spiritual aura. A 20-something who always stopped to say hi to Kate and Jack. The driver is suspected of being drunk and possibly under the influence of drugs. I am still in a bit of shock and disbelief. Another reminder of how precious life is.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Morning Gift

Last week we woke up to a little gift from a neighbor. I admit that I was a little perplexed as to why we were getting organic eggs...
But look what was inside!
A dozen very ripe and very yummy apricots from their CSA. There were 12, but we devoured several before I could get my camera out!
I love having great neighbors!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Oh So Cute

Look at what we are considering adding to our clan! She is only 3 weeks old (and her eyes just opened) so we have 5 more weeks to decide for certain. Matt is more of a big dog man, but he was pretty hooked on this little one after just one glance. Her mom is a poodle/schnauzer mix and her dad is a poodle/pekingese mix.

GreenFeet Coupon

Got another good coupon to share from GreenFeet! Enter promo code SCREECH during checkout to receive $5 off your purchase of $5 or more.*

*Excludes shipping and tax. Limit one per customer. Not valid on GreenStep memberships or sale items. Not valid on previous orders. Expires 8/7/2008, so use it now!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Cheese Making

I haven't read Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (although I checked it out from the library for the third time last week. Hopefully I'll get it read this time!), but since I made my first batch of cheese about a month ago, everyone has mentioned the cheese making in the book. Can't wait to get to that part!

I had heard about the book Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll (who incidentally taught Barbara Kingsolver and family how to make cheese) and ordered a copy to investigate. Quickly after receiving the book, I ordered some supplies from the author's internet store New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. The supplies for making mozzarella aren't fancy. All you need to order is citric acid and liquid rennet, and the store sells a mozzarella kit. I didn't get the kit, because I knew I was going to experiment with other cheeses as well.
When my sister-in-law was here last month, I told her about my cheese making plans, and we took our first stab at cheese making together (Kate is helping Auntie C in the photo). It was so much fun and so good! And did I mention how easy? It took less than 30 min from start to finish. Even if you have no plans for taking up cheese making as a hobby, you should definitely at least try fresh mozzarella. If you want the full recipe, you can find it here.

First we poured a gallon of milk (NOT ultra-pasteurized - we used cream line milk from the natural grocery store) into a large pot and slowly heated it to 55 degrees. Then we added a citric acid solution (1 1/2 tsp citric acid dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water). We kept the milk on the stove until it reached 90 degrees. At that point we added 1/4 tsp liquid rennet diluted in 1/4 cup water and continued to heat the milk until it reached 100-105 degrees. Almost like magic, the milk started to really separate. It was really exciting and fun to see the process working.
I never really understood the concept of curds and whey, but I do after making cheese. The curds looked like thick yogurt and definitely separated from the liquid whey (see in the photo on the left?). We scooped the curds out with a slotted spoon and put them in a glass bowl (that's both of us scooping out the curds in the photo to the right). We then microwaved the curds several times, draining the excess whey and kneading with a spoon each time. After the last time in the microwave, we salted the cheese and kneaded it until it was smooth and stretched like taffy.

We rolled the cheese into little balls, ate half of them warm (oh-my-goodness -YUM!), set a few in bowl of ice water to cool them rapidly, and sliced the cooled cheese up for our dinner salad.

I'll share some of my other cheese making adventures as I experiment. I'm starting with simple soft cheeses and would like to someday try a hard cheese. I've already suggested to Matt that he build me a cheese cave. Like most of my other endeavors, he just laughs, rolls his eyes, and enjoys the fruits (or cheeses!) of my labors.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Not Quite Fit to a Tee

I like to read the blog Marathon Moms on the Runner's World website. I'd like to report that my interest is because I am a mom pounding out many miles every week, but no... I'm lucky to get in one run a week right now. Mostly I like the blog because my friend Dimity is a contributor and an awesome writer. I especially like this post about race t-shirts (I even stole her title!), because I certainly can relate to having a tee that doesn't fit and the whole "make a quilt from your old tees" is a bit passe, no? And I love her idea of opting out of your t-shirt and the funds being donated to charity.