Monthly Archives: November 2011

Thanksgiving family, friends & food; drooling over a seed catalog; a good/bad movie

  • So, Thanksgiving was awesome.  At one point, we had 21 people here –  some watching football, some snoozing, some chatting over coffee and pie, kids running around and playing,  spilling out into our courtyard, friends and family.  Perfect.
  • I made this recipe — Roasted Squash with Almonds and Cranberries — and it turned out so good.  I’m definitely making it again, and I probably won’t wait until Thanksgiving;  I LOVE root veggies.  I used parsnips, carrots, and butternut squash.  I baked it a little longer than recommended, and at 325°F because that’s just how it worked out with the other stuff that was in the oven at the time.  I made it about 1/3 bigger than suggested, and wished I had MORE.  Double recipe next time.  I also chose not to add the lemon zest at the end.  I guess I can’t make a recipe without messing with it.
  • On Thanksgiving, my mom gave me a seed catalog that she said would be right up my alley.  She was right.  Pinetree Garden Seeds is located in Maine, so many of their selections are for much cooler, wetter, more northerly climates than here in the sunny desert.  But, I can’t resist.  I’m making a list and hoping for the best.  They have all sorts of heirloom veggies, plus herbs for medicinal use and even plants for dying cloth.  Lots of other stuff, too…  I’ve been savoring the catalog, reading each description.  The seeds are really inexpensive, too.  So far, I have eight packets on my list, and the total is $10.30.  And their shipping is reasonable, too:  $3.95 for up to $19.99 in charges.  I have this book on companion planting, too:  Carrots Love Tomatoes.  ~sigh~  Makes me want to plant stuff.
  • The ones at Home Depot are the identical brand, but MUCH cheaper -- about half the price.

    I’ve been making my own cheapie windowsill seed starters for months:  You need a paper egg carton and a foam one.  Cut out the paper “egg cups” one at a time and place them in the tray of the foam one.  Fill each paper egg cup with seed starting soil, and place in your windowsill.  Absolutely free (except for the eggs!), but it’s easy to over-water (and thereby have water all over your windowsill), and they dry out really fast — no lid and all, and only 1-2 Tbsp of soil in each cup.  So… at Home Depot, I bit the bullet and purchased a ready-made flimsy, plastic, effective 24-plant windowsill “greenhouse” seed starter, complete with peat pellets that expand like crazy.  I now have lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower sprouts happily growing on my windowsill.  Bugs and birds seem to like lettuce and broccoli;  I haven’t had great success directly sowing them into the garden.  I haven’t tried cauli yet, but I figured if the birds like broccoli sprouts, they probably like cauli, as they’re in the same family…

  • Only (maybe) tangentially related to the above — just because we had wine at Thanksgiving — I wanted to mention that if anyone saw my little post on Facebook that said I was going to watch the documentary Blood into Wine and were interested, you may want to reconsider.  On one hand, the movie was REALLY interesting:  lots of wry humor, the fascinating process of growing and making wine in Arizona, and the relationship between the major characters (Tool’s Maynard James Keenan and Arizona winemaker and ecologist Eric Glomski).  I’m always interested in the… intersection of relationships.  Meaning, the events that conspire to bring two people of really diverse paths together.  I LOVE THAT.  I think of it all the time, and if you meet me in real life, one of the first things I will likely ask you is what brought you, here.  However, the movie was also full of f-bombs, sexual references, and way more all-out earth-worshiping religion than my husband was comfortable with.  I could have hung with the movie, compelled by the good parts and filtering out the other… but after an hour, my hubby asked that we turn it off.  And we did.

More garden stuff, including a little seed giveaway… (plus, any takers for an online/e-mail natural birthing class??)

I promise that there is more of note going on in my life than just my garden, but since I have such a nice pic, I thought I’d post another garden update.

One other thing I wanted to mention, though (buried, here in the garden post) is that I’m thinking about making my birthing class notes available as an online/correspondence/something-like-that birth class.  Anyone interested?  I can e-mail you the PDF of the first class (of six, total) as a preview.  I would send copies of each week’s class, one at a time.  I highly suggest that you take two weeks to go through each class’s material and homework, because there is a LOT of info!  And, for full disclosure, the classes are really geared to married Christian couples, but I’m thinking about editing them to be more appropriate for other… uh… demographics.  The basic idea of them is to show the wonder and amazing, kind plan of our Creator God in the process of birth — so that the mom would birth, filled with that wonder, and eager to participate fully in His transformational intentions for her… and that there would be NO FEAR in birth.  If anyone is interested, I will take on three student couples for $40 each, and you can help me work out any communication kinks that may need fixing.  Beta test, if you will.  :)  ANYONE can have a free copy of the first class’s notes, though.  karenjoy@onlysometimesclever.com

OK.  Back to this day’s regularly scheduled garden post:

This was yesterday’s harvest:  Red chard, green beans (I found more hiding under the red chard after the picture), two dinky tomatoes, and two Dragon carrots.

The carrots would have benefited from another week or two in the ground.  The packet says that they should mature in 70-90 days, and they’ve been in the ground more than 120 days!!  Things grow more slowly in the winter growing season here… less sunlight.  But, sheesh!  Mature already!!  They’re lovely carrots, though.

My tomatoes are thriving.  I’ve harvested a dozen or so in the last couple weeks, though it doesn’t look like any will be red and ready for Thanksgiving.  :(  There are probably 200+ tomatoes growing on my plants, but the bad news is that they’re all about one ounce “big”.  Teeny tiny.  Bigger than cherry tomatoes, but not by much!  I bought my seeds from Native Seeds/SEARCH, which is a fabulous, to-be-esteemed organization for growing, promoting, and selling native and heirloom seeds that do well in the Arizona desert.  However, the Native Seeds’ description of my Punta Banda tomatoes neglected the mention the size, and I neglected to notice the lack of description.  Here, on another site, they’re listed as cherry tomatoes.

My basil plants just won’t die.  Not that I really want them to, but when I add basil to any dish I’m making, I must confess that I use my basil-and-olive-oil “ice cubes” from the freezer.

Fiala, my three-year-old, ran off with a packet of carrot seeds and a packet of onion seeds a few weeks ago.  It is now clear where she planted them, as there are about one hundred carrot sprouts in about a one square foot area of my garden, onions sprouting in the gravel (leading me to think about the parable of the sower), and a sprinkling of onions and carrots in other less-than-ideal spots.  :)  Precious, rascally girl.

I hope my garlic has lovely, round, purple blooms like this!!

I have one Mexican grey squash plant that is hanging on…  Broccoli that is sprouting (not too vigorously, though, and I think the birds like the sprouts), green onions that are slowly but beautifully growing, mystery volunteer tomato plants that are starting to flower and bear new, tiny fruit…  I planted some garlic cloves, too, and they’re coming up beautifully.  I love garlic and we eat a TON, but I’m kind of planting them for their flowers.  My green beans (Yoeme Purple String Beans, to be exact) are still hanging on, though I’m only harvesting about 1/4 – 1/2 pound every week from four largeish bamboo teepees.  I have set aside 33 seeds that would be good for planting, and will give them to the first taker who mails me a self-addressed, stamped envelope, if you wanna give them a shot!  Again, e-mail if interested.

My tomatillos are fairly pointless.  I have 1/2 gallon of teeny tiny tomatillos in my fridge, waiting to see if I will make salsa out of them for Thanksgiving.  I guess I should take them out of the refrigerator and let the husks dry all the way…  I’m fairly disgusted with how much space those giant plants took up, compared to the tiny fruit.  :(  I started pruning the bushes WAY back, in hopes that the roots and stalks would super-charge the remaining tomatillos and make them grow big, but no such luck.  After Thanksgiving, I do believe I will just pull them out, amend the soil, and plant more broccoli, and maybe some cauli and rutabagas.

Now that I have a fruitful garden, I can’t imagine even NOT having one.  I pray I will continue to learn, and that my little plot of ground will continue to produce.

And, that’s it!  For today.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers, if I get overwhelmed by cleaning and baking and cooking and don’t make it back to the blog before then.  :)

MoFiN and SooP

Saturday was the 17th anniversary of marriage to my dear, integrous, handsome, and highly talented husband, Martin.  We enjoyed a fabulous day trip to central Arizona, where we enjoyed wine tastings at Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery and Page Springs Cellars.  Javelina Leap was more instructional and intimate.  Page Springs was more impressive, large, and put-together.  Page Springs had WAY more wines, but I think I enjoyed the experience at Javelina Leap better.

There are other wineries in the area, but we thought we’d better halt it at two.  :)

We also very much enjoyed an hour or more meandering around the Page Springs Fish Hatchery nature area walking on the close, wooded trails, and watching the birds in and around the ponds.  We saw a Black Phoebe, six or so Great Blue Herons, dozens of American Coots and American Widgeons, many Mallards, several White-Crowned Sparrows, and perhaps hundreds of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, which were a new add to my life birding list.  We likely would have ID’ed more birds had we given it more time.

We spent the late afternoon and evening in old town Cottonwood, where there was a festival of some sort with a variety of interesting people, booths, music, art, and general funky, small-town atmosphere.  We bought some Peruvian wool yarn for my sister, who was staying with my girls, and had dinner at the Tavern Grille.

It was a great day.

On the drive home, we stopped for Starbuck’s and watched the moon rise over the bare hills of central Arizona.  Perfect.

When we got home, we discovered that my sister nearly died watching my girls.  Not really, but she was in tears.  Of course, she never let on about any of this while we were gone.  :(  She requested that she never watch the girls again without the help of at least two of my boys.  We then sort of laughed over the apparent oxymoron of how it’s easier to care for five children than two.  Plus her own 15 month old daughter.  My sister Robin has a bad back, and she said that she realized that, most of the time she watches my children, she stays on the couch and gives orders to the older children, intervening when necessary.  :)  Much easier than chasing around one-, three-, and five-year-olds, nonstop, for about twelve hours.  She was in pain and a little horrified how Audrey in particular took advantage of Robin’s less-than-availability, instead of sympathizing and helping more, especially in light of how Robin had carted Audrey around to all sorts of special things that day — a birthday party, a paint-your-own-pottery place, the park…

I felt badly for Robin, and badly about raising a daughter who isn’t appreciative of the good things provided for her.  I’m still sorting that out in my mind, and in a couple of conversations with my sister regarding parenting…

This provided a giggle, though:

When my sister was preparing dinner (“soop”), Audrey — who had attended a birthday party earlier that day with her own gluten-free cupcakes in hand — decided to petition Robin for a better dinner.  “Mofin?  Yes!  Soop?  NO!”  It’s a “sparkle muffin” with frosting and sprinkles (a.k.a. a cupcake).  Note the appropriately-placed smiley face and frowny face.

Overall, a good day.

Next time, I’ll definitely have mercy on my sister by leaving behind some helpers for her.  :)

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GFCF Turkey Stuffing (a sort-of recipe)

A friend just asked me for a recipe for stuffing. I don’t have one written down, but here’s what I do, and it is SO tasty.  I always get compliments on this stuffing, even from those who don’t have to be gluten-free:

  1. Cook up some quinoa.  Use 2 c. quinoa and about… three cups water, I believe. I always use less water than the package suggests. Set aside.
  2. Sautee lots of veggies: onions, garlic, mushrooms, celery, and sometimes other veggies, too, using a lot of olive oil (about 1/4 cup) and a fair bit of salt (1-2 tsp).  This is just a suggestion, but I would use a whole, chopped onion; 6-8 cloves minced garlic; 5-8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms; and 1-2 cups chopped celery.  Light-colored root veggies like rutabaga or carrots work well, too, as do cubed firm winter squash, like butternut.  Steam those veggies — 2 cups or so — on the stove or in the micro until half-cooked, and stir into the sauteed veggies.
  3. When the veggies are almost done, add minced fresh herbs (often, around Thanksgiving, you can find combo packages that have several herbs inside) like sage and thyme….  Use at least 3 Tbsp minced herbs.  Remove from heat.
  4. Then, combine quinoa with the veggies & herbs, and stuff that inside the turkey. You’ll probably have to lace up the turkey, because the quinoa stuffing falls out more easily than “normal” stuffing.
  5. For vegan stuffing, or for any stuffing that won’t fit into your turkey, bake in a well-greased bowl, covered, in a slow oven (325°).  Bake at least 90 minutes.
  6. Keeps well for a long time in a warm oven, until you’re ready to serve!

Update: Homeschooling stuff

  •  Homeschooling:  Still having… issues keeping my 14yo focused and not overwhelmed.  What he feels he can do, and what he actually can do are miles apart.  He, without fail, produces well-thought-out, excellent work and I am spending lots of time encouraging him and spurring him on.  I think much of his internal conflict comes down to him longing for the “good old days” when he had less responsibility and his school day wasn’t quite as long — even though his entire day, including “homework” is at a maximum of six hours, and he often has days like yesterday, when he was done in four.  This past week, I had to take away both his iPod and his library books until he was caught up…  I really don’t like restricting his freedoms and pleasures;  I feel like he should be mature enough to self-regulate and that I shouldn’t have to do that.  I guess I still do, though.
  • More homeschooling:  I am sharing my Sonlight Core 3 (American History, Part I — recently renamed Core D) with a friend for her children, and I’m a few weeks ahead of her.  For some reason, I’m really motivated to stay ahead, and for that reason, we’re getting more done, and faster, than ever!  I guess I still have some latent competitiveness…
  • Click on image for a link to the original post by a lady named Linda, who describes planting a Mary garden, where all the plants are symbolic tributes to the Virgin Mary. Linda attributes this painting to Jan van Eyck, and I'm not really sure that's correct. However, notice the strawberries in the raised bed behind the Virgin and Child.

    Still more homeschooling:  We’ve almost wrapped up our (fairly slow) travels through the fabulous DK’s Children’s Book of Art.  I have been pondering where to go next, with art.  Then, after church on Sunday, a friend pulled me over with an almost conspiratorial whisper, “Hey, I’m helping my mom pare down the things in her home.  Are you interested in any books?”  She opened her trunk to reveal a nice, heavy box of assorted books — from a nice hardcover copy of Kipling’s Captains Courageous to a set of Time-Life books on the States, very similar to a set my own mother owns….  Also included was an intriguing book called Signs and Symbols in Christian Art by George Ferguson.  It was first published in 1959;  my hardcover copy appears to have been printed in England in 1967, though I am delighted to discover that the book is still in print!  I may have to get an additional book of color reprints of Renaissance paintings, though…  Most of this book is in black and white.  However, I have long been intrigued with the idea of art as… teacher and entertainer, especially in the days before there was widespread literacy.  Here’s what Ferguson has to say about strawberries:  “The strawberry is the symbol of perfect righteousness, or the emblem of the righteous man whose fruits are good works.  When shown with other fruits and flowers, it represents the good works of the righteous or the fruits of the spirit.  It is in line with this meaning that the Virgin is sometimes shown clad in a dress decorated with clusters of strawberries.  The strawberry is occasionally shown accompanied by violets to suggest that the truly spiritual are always humble.”  My plan is to read a little excerpt like that, then set my boys to hunting for an example.  I’m slow to notice and understand symbolism and allegory, etc., so I’m looking forward to reading this book!

  • Even more homeschooling:  I had also wanted an additional devotional book for my children — especially my 10 and 12-year-old sons.  Right now, we are using Sonlight’s book on American Indian Prayer Guide, as well as using GRN’s monthly prayer guide for its missionaries (we get a monthly newsletter mailed to us, but the link has the same info).  But, I wanted something a little more in-depth, engaging, and focused on character.  Voila!  Out of the same box from my friend’s mom came Courageous Christians:  Devotional Stories for Family Reading by Joyce Vollmer Brown.  PERFECT.  It has sixty stories of well-known and little-known Christians who acted boldly to make a difference for the cause of Christ.  So awesome to have our needs met, in such an unexpected way, and even before I really prayed about it!  I guess God knew these were the books for us…

Updates: Birth stuff (including a book review for Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering)

  • Birth stuff:  I am so very excited about the natural childbirth classes I’m teaching.  The first class is tonight!  I’m sort of considering whether or not to publish my teacher & student notes from the class…  Well, maybe it’s too early to mention that, because I only have week one done!  What I’m doing is compiling info from various sources, writing notes, fleshing out a plan… then doing the final writing.  So, I only have the first week’s notes 100% complete.  :)  Stay tuned.  I also was going to suggest that anyone who is personally interested in what I’m teaching to e-mail me for copies of the notes before I publish them… but that wouldn’t work right now, because they’re “stuck” on my computer which doesn’t have an internet connection right now, so I can’t e-mail them.  (I’m posting this from my husband’s laptop.)
  • More birth stuff:  I was at the library on Friday, looking for a different birth book when I stumbled upon this:  Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah J. Buckley, MD.  If I hadn’t seen the book in “real life”, I am pretty confident I would not have been interested in something written by a medical doctor.  However, so far, it has been the BEST book on birthing that I’ve ever read, though I have not yet read the whole thing.  Buckley is a family practitioner who lives in Australia, and who has also birthed her four children at home.  The info is, according to my personal preferences and opinion, the perfect marriage of natural/”hippie” and medical/scientific.  The book itself is about 80% birthing and 20% mothering.  It includes more than 50 pages of endnotes, mostly from medical journals and medical studies.  There are 13 chapters and most chapters have well over 100 endnotes.  In other words, it is EXTREMELY well researched.  Oddly enough, though it has such a strong scientific anchor, some of the negative reviews I read of it said the book is too far “out there” and that the author is going to scare off curious, potential natural birthers by the side stories of her own experiences, which include a waterbirth that was 3 weeks after her son’s EDD, and the “lotus birth” she chose for her son — preserving the cord & placenta of one child until the entire thing fell off naturally…  Admitted:  the author is definitely “New-Agey”*, and some of her personal choices with birth seem a bit extreme.  HOWEVER, even as a committed Christian, I can easily see the value of the research and analysis she presents (especially as she does so in a very readable, engaging style), even if I don’t agree with some of her philosophy and religious views.  From my perspective, I see natural birth as the culmination of the beautiful and apparently opposite aspects of God:  He is servant and king.  He is rational and spiritual.  He is both concrete and abstract.  And, I can easily insert/replace my own viewpoints in the places where the author’s opinion differs from mine.  No problem.  Anyway, most of the author’s “out there” opinions are written as asides on gray-tinted pages, so they are easily avoidable, if they offend.

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*Example of the “New-Agey” feel of some of the author’s writing, from the side story of her son’s birth:  “Thinking back, I can almost feel a shimmer in the air;  some solidification of the spirit that would become our third child Jacob, who had now found the smallest crack in a previously closed door and was heading toward earth — toward us, his new family — at the speed of light.”

Organic deals of the week

When I got home last night from grocery shopping, it was just after 11 p.m., and I was giddy, even though I was exhausted:  I was walking on air from being under-budget (to make up for last week’s going over-budget) and getting some great stuff… even purchasing some “extra” groceries that I know will last longer than seven days, helping keep next week’s expenditures down, or to make room for a more expensive budget-eating item (like the 3 lb bags of raw almonds that I love from Costco at $9.99 a pop).  It truly makes me feel great when my persistence and conviction to feed my  family well on a budget pays off.

Again, everything I purchased this week was “clean” –  no preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors, no polysyllabic additives that are supposedly edible*.  But, like I blogged last week, my goal is to buy as many organic products as possible while staying within my family’s budget of about $25 per week per person.

It’s my plan to regularly blog about organic deals both to encourage ANYONE that it is possible — with some planning and searching — to eat organically, inexpensively, and to give anyone in the Phoenix area a “heads up” about these local deals.

Although I went to five stores last night in my marathon weekly shopping trip, all of my organic deals came from Sprouts, a local natural foods/farmer’s market chain.  It has locations in California, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas.  Most grocery stores’ weekly sales start on Wednesday and end on Tuesday of the next week.  Sprouts, however, has “double ad Wednesdays” where the sales of both the previous and the current week are valid.  So, double the number of things are on sale if you shop on Wednesdays.  TOTALLY worth it.  So many times, I’ve purchased a sale item on one Wednesday, and purchased it again the following Wednesday.

Here are my fave cheap organic purchases from this week’s trip:

  1. $1.00 for a 12 ounce container of Pacific Natural Foods’ organic condensed cream of mushroom soup — gluten free, but not dairy-free.  Regularly $2.99 for each container, it was on sale for $2 at Sprouts.  And I had downloaded a coupon from Pacific’s website for this soup.  Sale + coupon = item at 1/3 the normal cost.  It’s been so long since I’ve purchased Campbell’s cream soup, so I don’t even know the normal price in a local grocery store, but I have to think that it’s at least a dollar, if not more.  Lemme check…  I’m sure few would buy Campbell’s online, but looking online, it’s at least $1.50 – $2.00 per can, and that’s for a 10.5 ounce can.  Frugal shoppers would buy locally, on sale, with a coupon.  Still, I think this amounts to organic for the same price — or cheaper — than conventional.
  2.  $2.99 for a  3 lb bag of Bosc pears from Sprouts.  These pears are from Domex Superfresh Growers, which (the best I can tell) is an independent coop of small, family farms in Washington state.  Honestly, Sprouts had conventional pears at $0.77 per pound, so I could have purchased my pears more cheaply…  but other local grocery stores had pears for $0.99 – $1.29 a pound or more.  So, this is roughly organic for the same price as conventional.
  3. Would you buy yogurt for 37.5¢ per 6 oz cup?  That’s way cheaper than Yoplait.  Even on sale, Yoplait is rarely less expensive than 50¢ per 6 oz cup.  So, why not buy 32 oz tubs of organic yogurt for LESS??  I paid $2 for a tub of lowfat vanilla yogurt by Wallaby Organic Yogurt at Sprouts, which works out to 6.25¢ per ounce.  Wallaby is an independent co-op of eight family farms located in Northern California.  Depending on your family’s needs, tubs of yogurt might be less convenient, but for us, tubs work better.  Those who can eat dairy typically mix a big spoonful or two of yogurt with dry cereal and some fruit (most often frozen blueberries), and a 32 oz tub lasts all week.  It’s one of my favorite late-night snack/desserts, too…  I spoon frozen blueberries into the bottom of a bowl, top it with yogurt — my favorite is actually plain, full-fat yogurt — drizzle with honey, sprinkle with granola if we have any…  Yum!  This deal is organic that is cheaper than conventional.
  4. My last deal of the week is organic celery on sale for $0.99 per bunch by Earthbound Farm, found at Sprouts.  Once you’ve eaten organic celery, you will NEVER eat its bitter conventional equivalent.  Earthbound Farm is an independent co-op of about 150 farmers, mostly in central California.  This deal is organic for the same price — or cheaper — than conventional.

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*Again this week, my least “clean” purchase was conventional cereal, two boxes of Post Honey Bunches of Oats with Strawberries.  I purchased these (my son Ethan’s favorite cereal) for my older two gluten-eating sons at $1.88/box from Bashas’.  The cereal is naturally colored and flavored, but BHT is added to the packaging as a preservative.

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