Ciambella Deliciousness

We got Marcella Hazan’s cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking as a wedding gift over three years ago. Until recently, the only recipe we had tried from there was her pizza dough recipe. Yes, in three years, the only recipe we had even attempted from quite possibly THE Italian recipe woman was pizza dough… (but it’s damn good pizza dough)

Well, we were out all day, ate a late lunch, so by the time we finally got home it was after dinner time and we really weren’t all that hungry for a meal, but still needed something in our bellies. I knew I didn’t want to be up all night preparing something, and we didn’t really have a whole lot of stuff in our pantry, so I knew just who to turn to.

I dusted off our copy, found the desserts section, and started reading through the various recipes until I found one I felt like attempting. That one was her grandmother’s ciambella recipe. Pretty straightforward, not a lot of ingredients, and not a whole lot of time. Perfect. L got the boys bathed, and I got to cooking. An hour-ish later, the boys were in their PJs, the counter was covered with flour, and we were eating delicious cake. It is now going to become one of our regulars, and we’ve made a decision to actually open up her cookbook and try some new things. Recipe is below, permanent link lives here. I’ll post a photo when I make it again… we dug into before I could snap a quick pic.

Ingredients
8 tbsp (1 stick) butter
4 c flour (preferably non-bleached, all-purpose)
Skin of 1 lemon, grated
3/4 c sugar
2 tsp cream of tartar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 c milk
2 eggs

Procedure
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Whisk together the dry ingredients while melting the butter (but don’t let the butter get too hot – 10 second increments in the microwave and stirring until melted does the trick, or putting it in a pan over low heat works too).
3. Add the butter, milk, 1 egg, the white of the other egg, and all but about 1 tsp of the other yolk to the dry ingredients and mix together.
4. Transfer everything to the counter and knead, adding more flour/milk as necessary to get a good dough that is dry but still holds itself together.
5. Make the dough into a roll about 2″ in diameter, then try as best as you can to make it into a circle.
6. Smear a baking sheet with butter, sprinkle with flour, then put the dough ring in the middle and brush with the leftover 1 tsp of egg yolk (and maybe a little bit of water).
7. Stick it into the oven and let it bake for ~35 minutes.
8. Marcella says to let it cool, then wrap it up in foil or store it in a tin bin and enjoy the next day. Do what you want. It’s delicious.

Rad Radish Green Soup.

One of the nicest things about eating seasonally is that you are forced to get creative with what you harvest from the garden. This is how zucchini bread was born, I’m convinced. Boiled/sauteed squash, well, it can get tiring. Over the last week we went from a light chopping of radishes on our salad to all-out radish salad. Enough! W had an idea…soup? Why yes! And did you know, because surely this isn’t recondite only to me: you can eat radish greens! I promise! I did an exhaustive search to make sure I wouldn’t poison us all (and Lynne Rossetto Kasper says it’s ok), as I know you should never eat rhubarb greens, for one. And it seems the jury’s out on carrot greens. But radish greens are delectable.

Anywho, I browsed several recipes and came up with my own version, below (permanent link here)! It has one-pot simplicity, is rather quick to make, fills the kitchen with a scent of “deliciousness” according to husbands walking through the door, and was mighty tasty. I hope you enjoy it too!

20140609_182149 20140609_182735 20140609_193204Ingredients:

2 cups radish leaves
3 radishes
5 medium yellow potatoes
1 medium onion
3 Tbsp butter
1 cup water
6 cups milk
1 chicken Boullion cube
salt, to taste

Directions:

Begin by washing potatoes and radish leaves and bulbs thoroughly. Radish leaves wilt promptly after being cut from the root, so do this just before you want to make the soup, not hours or days before. Peel potatoes and radishes and slice them along with the onions. No need for perfect slicing…everything will be blended in the end! In a large soup pot on medium heat sautee radishes, radish greens, and onions in the butter until they are wilted/translucent. Add potatoes, water, and bullion (truth be told, this is what I use instead of bouillion…it’s organic and awesome), and cover for ~20 minutes, or until potatoes are easily forked. The water should be mostly evaporated. Add milk and stir, deglazing a bit. When it’s all hot again, use an immersion blender to puree all the ingredients (if you do not have this kitchen tool, transfer to a blender and blend). Salt to taste. Serve with crusty home made bread!

This recipe was shared on The Prairie Homestead’s Barn Hop.

A Breakfast Trick.

There’s a new sense of legitimacy ’round here – we sold our first 4 dozen eggs last week! W and I high-fived each other frequently, like two kids who have just mastered sliding down the Big Kid slide and then continue to do it, over and over and over. W put a notice up on the internal message board at work and they went like hotcakes! No more soliciting (ok, begging) for recipes that don’t taste like eggs but use an abnormal number of them (although a great college friend recently sent me a recipe for Magic Chocolate Flan Cake that uses dang near a dozen, which I am going to attempt soon). No more opening the fridge to find a shelf devoted purely to egg cartons. No, now we can cover food costs for the Chickie Ladies AND we’ll just have a few dozen on hand at any moment for our own purposes and house gifts!

We did it! Ok, the Chickie Ladies did it, but WE DID IT!!!

In celebration, I give you my greatest breakfast trick: Onion-ring contained fried eggs, for sandwiches (or not).

20140301_075709 Just slice an onion, making sure to make the equatorial slice thick (about ~1/3 inch thick), melt butter in a pan (a bigger pan than usual because the onion rings must lay flat), add the onion rings and let sizzle for a moment to get them stuck to the pan, then crack your eggs gently into each ring. If you let the onion cook on its own long enough, the white of the egg will remain contained in the ring. When cooked mostly through, flip. Voila. Perfect round egg-onion medallions to go on your breakfast sandwich.

This post was shared at Better Hens and Gardens’ From the Farm Hop, Spring Mountain Living’s Simple Saturdays Hop, The Prairie Homestead’s Homestead Barn Hop, and Cozy Little House’s Tweak it Tuesdays.

For Later.

The snow is beginning to fall ever so gently (I do wonder how much we’ll get!), I’ve got a cup of tea just made, WV is asleep after an excellent play date with my good friend N and her three lovlies (and the dogs are, incidentally, having doggie dreams of their own), and so I thought I’d write a few things down. I don’t know about you, but it seems there is always a long list of things to do that just don’t get done around here. So much “upkeep,” so many creative projects, so much cleaning, so much writing. I welcome any advice on how other SAHMs/WAHMs structure the day to maximize efficiency and minimize exhaustion. One thing that has consistently helped us is meal planning…I’ve popped the sausages out of the freezer for tomorrow’s dinner…but I need to go further. While WV is napping, here is a small list of things planned…

CRAFTS.
I bought 49 yards (W pointed out that’s nearly half a football field’s worth) of fabric a few weeks ago and plan to get some serious sewing done. I have a couch and a chaise to recover and want to make roman shades for our bedroom. Will post a roman shade tutorial once I’m done because have you seen what’s out there? It’s not much (or good…Martha Stewart fail). I’ll surely procrastinate by making pillows and covering ottomans. Must find some ottomans.

I’d like to make my own nursing tanks (thanks, Pinterest!). This time, I’ll be more prepared to breast feed – nursing tanks are expensive, but tank tops are cheeeeap (I’m thinking Forever 21’s $2 tanks!).

Also, it’s probably time to make some more baby wipes. I hit up garage sales in the fall for receiving blankets that I will re-purpose as such.

WRITING.
W and I both have papers we want to complete from our recent degrees – we’ve thought about instituting an evening of writing once per week. Can’t decide if it should be staggered (ie one of us plays sitter) or if we should attempt to actually enforce a bed time and then write together. I like the latter idea.

We’d also like to more consistently post on this blog, and even revamp a bit. We’ve got 25+ posts in the queue that need a few hours before being set free. One on home loans. One on soups. One on inspiration. One on frugality. Several on our kitchen renovation and discovery of a secret room in our house. Even a few that we’d like to do a follow-up with (the cloth diaper post, for example); we’ve got a lot more to share in the “babies don’t cost that much” category.

WV’s birth story. Several friends of mine are currently pregnant and have asked about WV’s birth. It didn’t go as planned, I will say. And my doula and one of my midwives have suggested I get this done so that I can focus on the birth of E in the spring, afresh and with no baggage from my first labor and delivery. I want to do it. I just find it so hard. But I will.

I’ve connected with a blogger via my {this moment} posts who interviews writers each Wednesday. I’m working on her interview questions and will be featured on her Writer Wednesday sometime this spring!

COOKING.
Do I really need to say more? I have three biscotti recipes I’ve tinkered with that I want to share. A smattering of soups. And W is interested in branching out in the bread making department – his standard sandwich bread is like my quiche: memorized. Time to expand.

AROUND THE HOMESTEAD.
Oh, how the proverbial “to do” list on a homestead is a bottomless pit. Our number one priority is fencing. Lot’s of fencing. Some Morman friends I’ve made will be helping us when the ground isn’t frozen.

Make contact. We have several neighbors we need to drop in on to get to know better and to pick their brains.

Then there are lesser needs like: “what to do with the old smoke-house” (it’s a big shed…anyone? anyone?) and to prep the barn for goats and a milk cow I’ve already named Tallulah.

We also have to finish the kitchen.

Inspired by Wendell Berry, and many others, I must exclaim: homesteading requires you to be, at any given moment and all at once, an artist, an animal psychologist, a chef, an electrician, a gambler, a good neighbor, a plumber, a scientist, an even more sleep-deprived parent, a solver, a weather watcher, and a lover (and finder) of small victories.

Ok, nap over.
What’s on your to-do list? Good luck!

I’m linking up with The Prairie Homestead blog for another Homestead Barn Hop.

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.

Alright, so these weren’t back-to-back in our household, but they could be. Walter and I have been cooking a lot more around here and really enjoying the results – I wanted to virtually share the tastiness!

BREAKFAST
Ah-Mazing Cranberry Banana Muffins and/or Traditional Banana Muffins.

P1070650 The first recipe is, by gosh, the best muffin recipe I’ve ever made. It is not banana heavy, in fact the banana is just for moisture, and doesn’t really come out in the flavor. It calls for half a banana, but I doubled the recipe to use a whole one. I found (and tweaked) it in a cookbook from my mom called “The Greyston Bakery Cookbook: Gourmet Specialties from the Zen Community of New York.” That made me smile, the zen part. My mom also noted on the page: “7/22/90, Excellent Muffins” with “Excellent” underlined twice. I have to agree. There is something about the tartness of a cranberry baked into a moist sweet cake that, well, there’s no English word for it I guess.

Then I was searching for a recipe that would enable me to unload THE REST of the dead bananas in this house. WV is a banana-lover, but I guess his mama overcompensates and buys too many bananas. Doubling this recipe took care of the 6 and a half mushy black bananas I had.

So yes, I made double both these recipes in one day. I feel I often undertake a little more than really needs to be accomplished at once…but the result was something like 50 muffins (a few may have “disappeared”), half in the freezer for when E is born, so that’s not so bad.

LUNCH.
Got-Some-Eggs?-Quiche with Olive Oil Crust

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Since we’ve been keeping chickens, my go-to recipe has been a quiche so easy that the recipe is now memorized, ready to whip up on a moment’s notice. The super-simple olive oil crust was the idea of my friend and past neighbor, K; I had never heard of such a crust! It’s so great, though – the olive oil makes it such that there is no need to grease the pan, the quiche cuts up and comes out cleanly. Our pullets from the fall are starting to lay and I’m either going to start a quiche factory or perhaps branch out…lemon meringue pie?

You can put anything in a quiche, by the way – it is so versatile – a veritable mulligan pie. My “usuals” are either sauteed swiss chard and onions (spring), broccoli and cheddar cheese (summer), or diced potatoes, tomatoes and feta or Gruyere (winter). You can pretty-it-up with sliced cherry tomatoes or basil leaves. And you can make them meaty, sweeter, or more savory…sky’s the limit!

DINNER
Curried Lentil-Stuffed Peppers

P1070616 This recipe just happened, and it turned out great. W got a Groupon for Sam’s Club that basically amounted to getting every dollar back that we spent (in coupons and free chicken), so we took the plunge (instead of opting to continue to borrow family members’ Costco cards). But we’ve been unimpressed with the selection, quality and customer service. The only thing good from there, so far, has been a 6-pack of giant green bell peppers (which makes me totally crave our garden to hurry up and get going). Two things to pass along, regardless of how you stuff ’em: 1) I highly endorse steaming or blanching your peppers pre-stuffing – they’ll bake faster and be very tender and yet, oxymoronically, still retain a resident crunch. And 2) Add raisins. Always, add raisins.

Bon Appetite!

A New Week + Coffee Cake

What a busy week/weekend! We had the gas company come hook up our new stove, our counter tops came in, our dishwasher came in (although it was the wrong one, so really we got 2 dishwashers last week), and we moved our fridge back across the kitchen to its rightful spot. I also laid some brick to support a light post that had fallen over years before we bought the house (with free bricks) and upgraded the lanterns on top of the posts. The last time I did any masonry work was about 8 or 9 years ago when I was helping a coworker build his house out of autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) bricks. So, for a software developer who is extremely inexperienced at laying brick, I think the job is acceptable:

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We hadn’t used the oven to cook anything yet since the inside still smelled like the oils used in production, so after many vinegar/water wipes and running the oven for a couple hours at a time, then finally mixing up a throw-away batch of bread to cook and try to absorb the rest of the smells, the oven was finally ready! And the chickens (and kittens) got nice, warm, yeastless, probably flavorless, bread!

Saturday I whipped up a batch of chocolate white chocolate chip cookies, and by Sunday they were all but gone. So after dinner Sunday evening, we needed something to satisfy the sweet tooth. The choice was between oatmeal cookies and coffee cake. The coffee cake won. I took it out of the oven around 9:30 in the evening, then just let it cool overnight and when we woke up we had fresh and delicious coffee cake!

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The recipe is below, modified from this one. I fully intend to make further modifications, maybe sprinkling the pan with cinnamon sugar before adding the batter, or using brown sugar instead of white sugar for the filling, or adding a sweet orange glaze. You can also add nuts to it if you want, I’m not much of a nuts-in-baked-goods type of guy.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 c white sugar
3/4 c butter, softened
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 c yogurt
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 c white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Procedure:
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Grease a 10-in bundt pan (I just use the reside left on the butter wrapper).

1. Beat the butter and sugar (keep the 1/4 c out) with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla. Finally, add the yogurt.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, then add to the wet mix.

3. Combine the remaining sugar with the cinnamon in another separate bowl.

4. Pour about half the batter into the bundt pan. Then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture onto the batter. Then cover the cinnamon sugar mixture with the rest of the batter.

5. Bake at 400° F for 8 minutes, then lower the temp to 350° F and bake for another 40 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

6. Let the cake cool completely, then slide a silicone spatula into the large grooves to loosen it up, flip the pan over and jiggle the cake onto a plate.

7. Enjoy!

Goodbye Guinea Riviera

Leaving our place was the essence of bittersweet…

I stood in the misty rain that fell the whole day that we moved, just for a moment (because we had a lot to do), and thought about the kinds of sweetness tied to this life, this house.

I will miss the cocky little Carolina Wren that bravely flew under our screen door’s 4-inch gap for years to build her nest in our entry way. She would swoop off the nest and out under the door every time I opened the inner door to come out. Then she’d be all bossy, like, “What ARE you DOING?!?” until I was in my car and she could resume a-sitting. When our landlords finally replaced the door jamb, she made do, making her nest in the crook of a piece of gutter that was falling off the house.

I will miss our garden. For years we have lovingly grown and tended too many zucchinis to count, so many green beans that I once almost didn’t like them anymore, carefully observed the transformation from flower to fruit, watching the tomatoes and cucumbers and eggplants and peppers swell until we picked them.

I will miss our porch. Our poor, lead-contaminated porch. The porch we had to cut off and keep off this summer, peeling paint like decrepit beckoning fingers.

I will miss our kitchen. Not for it’s zero counter space or crappy linoleum…but for what happened here. We started this blog in the kitchen. I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation at our kitchen table. I labored at our kitchen table. My best friend got engaged in our kitchen. We made countless meals that we shared love and laughter with friends and families over. There, in that kitchen.

I will miss the end of the road. It’s only a few tenths of a mile from our old house, we walked it sometimes three times a day with our dogs. From the end of the road, we looked out at the mouth of the Perrin Creek into the York River, and out the mouth of the York River into the Chesapeake Bay. The river was never the same. In 8 years there, not one day was it like another. It always made me recall a lecture on Brownian motion, my first year in grad school. There are so many kinds of watery surfaces you learn when you live by the water – choppy, glass, foamy, prescient, chaotic, rhythmic, blue, green, turbid, reflecty (that’s a word)…and every nuanced state in-between.

I will miss all of our nearby old and new friends and neighbors. On this I shouldn’t expound, for I will begin to blubber. You’re all great. And we love you and will miss you terribly.

And the bitter will dissolve quickly, making way for our bright future. But, for humor’s sake (and so you can understand some of why being forced to leave wasn’t that horrible after all), here’s a list of the top 10 things I won’t miss:

1) Driving past my best friend’s house (she lived 6 houses closer to the main road, so I had to pass it to get anywhere)…because she no longer lives there. Every time, since she moved, it pulled at my heartstrings, and I missed her so. Not hardly a day went by when we were neighbors, that we didn’t go for a walk, share a meal or a recipe. The people who live there now don’t take care of her roses. They don’t wave. I dislike them for their sin of not being her.

2) Our landlord put-put-puttering over at 7am on his glorified go-cart, down our driveway, causing dogs to bark, babies to wake and parents to be grumpy. Every. Single. Saturday. Sundays, too. And Monday holidays.

3) The handle/pull-less particle board kitchen cabinets that have inspired endless dreaming on Pinterest for sleek, sweet new ones…with knobs.

4) The fact that this house neither stays warm in the winter or cool in the summer, but loves to stratify, so that the upper 2 feet of the kitchen are warm in the winter, the steps and upstairs landing are inferno-hot in the summer and the bathroom is like our private jungle room.

5) Mold. My enemy. See above climate issues.

6) The family down the block who swore in court that their dogs are harmless, even though one bit W, and on numerous occasions attacked me and WV and other friends. I know our friendly animal control guy, Steve, will be happy we are no longer Gloucester residents.

7) The god-awful poison ivy and oak that seems to creep and edge every green surface.

8) The flying mice with hypodermic syringe proboscises masquerading as mosquitoes.

9) The crack that kept growing…and growing…separating the upstairs from the wall, the raccoon family that brought the stench of death and rot into our ceiling crawl space the summer I was pregnant with WV (and our landlords did nothing), and the general disrepair and decrepitude that went un-addressed by our landlords, actually. There’s only so much one can do to repair a house that isn’t theirs.

10) OH YEA, AND THE LEAD PAINT!!! Siyonara!!!

Leaving our place was bittersweet…but more sweet, that’s for sure. Sweet for the future and sweet for the memories we will take with us. There is no way to replace those lovely, quirky, hidden things that made a house a home. But these things we loved were intangible anyway. I am looking forward to finding new friends and birds, new water, new wonder, a new place to call home.

New, sweet beginnings. L’shanah tova!

Blueberries for WV!

Auntie K and Uncle A (actually what we call them, not just a blog abbreviation) came to visit from NYC (“the big ci-tay”) while W was out of town. I felt like their visit was cut out of the “if you have just 4 days in Gloucester” tour book. We visited L in Richmond, enjoyed splashing in the James River at a secluded beach, noshed on fav sandwiches from The Cheese Shop in Williamsburg (best dang sandwich in VA if you ask me…now if only Edward Snowden could leak me their house dressing recipe), and I even taught the visiting Brooklynites how to pick Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs. But best of all, for A’s birthday, we went blueberry picking at College Run Farms! Picking fruit there is one of my favorite semi-local outings, because you have to cross the James on the (free!) ferry, wind your way through the cornfields (A: Monsanto? Me: Yes, Monsanto) of Surry, and come home with a trunk full of fruit. I called ahead and asked about their use of pesticides and the farmer informed me he hadn’t sprayed his blueberry bushes in 4 years – score! I’ve picked strawberries and pumpkins there, but never blueberries. Funny how whatever you are doing effectively blinds you to other things – though I’d been there 4 or so times, I hadn’t recalled blueberry bushes at the farm, but there they were, big bushy ladies bursting with fruit, rows and rows of them.

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P1050887 At first, A professed that the sweetest berries were certainly the top ones. We began by picking only “tops” then, but halfway through, had degraded to brushing lower hanging fruits half-heartedly into our buckets, not so gently, not as carefully as the first ones, which were all added, stemless, with much ado and hemming and hawing over girth, blue-ness, and mouthfeel. Soon, we had picked a fair portion of bluebs (pronounced “bloobs”). A and K each picked a quart and I had to go and pick a gallon.

Frankly, picking a gallon of blueberries is no small task, especially with a squirmy boy on your hip. WV’s sole enjoyment became picking from my basket, squishing, and then tossing. We had fun giggling about it, through blue-stained teeth and lips, but it soon became a habit that was definitely hindering progress. So, Auntie K held WV. He had a blueberry attitude going on, a little hyped on sugar (see below). A then helped carry WV, teaching him to pick from a bush instead of mommy’s basket; my picking picked up.

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I kept thinking of W’s favorite children’s book, Blueberries for Sal, and determined to read it when we got home to see how our adventure compared to Sal’s. I had a feeling Sal encountered a bear. We, on the other hand, encountered a salty old man, very serious in his picking, several full gallon baskets already a-brim, picking droves more to resell at his farm stand outside of NASA. NASA seemed like the exact opposite of us in this moment, stuffing our faces with bluebs and chortling about finding the largest one yet. Auntie K leaned into me and jokingly whispered of the old man, “he’s going in a poem” mere seconds before A, a poet by trade, looked over his shoulder and said “he’s a character” (translation: “he’s going in a poem.”).

I ended up making this blueberry muffin recipe twice. The first time, I followed it exactly. The second, I doubled the recipe and and changed around some ingredients. I have it here on our recipe page. And STILL there were bluebs left over. So, what did we do? We made jam, naturally. Nine 8-oz jars grace our cupboard now. This little tastetester approved.

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And Sal DID encounter a bear on Blueberry Hill – but got home safe with her Mamma to can blueberries for winter.

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Images from: McCloskey, Robert. Blueberries for Sal. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1948. Print.

Our CSA Experience, so far

Remember the failed $50 grocery experiment? Well, not to be discouraged, we have continued to search for ways to lower our monthly food budget.

The past few summers, we have been pretty reliant on the Yorktown and Williamsburg Farmers Markets on Saturday mornings for our fresh, local vegetables and eggs (and sometimes meats). We knew it was a little more expensive to eat this way, but figured it was worth it to have the peace of mind that we know what we’re putting into our bodies and we’re supporting local farmers rather than giant companies with their franken-foods and huge distributors. And yes, we do grow a lot of our own, but we can only grow so much with the amount of space we have.

Our neighbor came to us to ask if we would be interested in going in together on a full CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share. This is something I had considered in the past, but never put too much thought into it because of the upfront cost. Well, we did just a teeny tiny bit more research and found out that it is definitely worth the upfront cost, and signed up in a heartbeat. It comes out to just a little more than $13 a week for fresh, local produce from May through September. And it’s a lot of produce. We essentially get an overflowing brown paper grocery bag each Friday, which we split in half and still is an overflowing brown paper grocery bag, and we’re pretty much set on veggies for the week. With a nice note attached each week from the farmers themselves (see below). Can’t get that at the grocery store OR the market.

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Now, we still have to go to the store to buy a few things, but we really enjoy picking up a bag of fresh produce each Friday afternoon. And we play a little guessing game as to what we think will be in the bag each time. So far we’ve had some absolutely delicious strawberries, lettuce, mixed greens, green onions, cabbage, radish, Swiss chard, Pac Choy, arugula, and broccoli. It also forces us to come up with or find new recipes to eat what we have on hand (stay tuned for additions to the recipes page throughout the next few months).┬áSo between the CSA and our own garden, we should be pretty set for not only eating fresh produce throughout the summer, but saving what we don’t eat (need to buy a pressure canner… any advice?).

I won’t go into full details on the cost breakdown of our food budget just yet, as we have to wait a few months to see the results of the initial upfront investment, but I just wanted to share about our experience so far with the CSA and the delicious produce we have received. Here’s a link to the farm if you are interested in finding out more information: Dayspring Farm.

March: Less Lion, More Lamb

Ok, this metaphor is inherently flawed. Lions are cool (I wore a tutu on my head for some months as a child because I was a male lion), endangered, beautiful big kitties. W likes to hold WV up and pretend he’s Simba. Lambs (and their adult counterparts SHEEEP!), on the other hand (as opposed to cows, and definitely lions), wreak havoc on the root structure of grasses by cropping them too close and killing them. This has lead to anthropogenically intensified erosion in New Zealand (for example), causing the rivers there to be some of the most sediment laden in the world (intrinsic to the topic of my Ph.D. dissertation). However, for the purposes of maintaining the Marchified metaphor, I shall equate lions with destruction and lambs with tender do-gooding. We know the truth.

March was all about reevaluating our home life and reducing or removing certain things from it that are wasteful, not economical, or generally make us cranky. I wanted to make some changes that would be easy for us, as W is pretty much ensconced in his office either working or finishing his thesis and doesn’t have much time to get down and dirty with other creative projects and family extracurriculars. So, my three lambs:

1. We went paper-towel-less. I’ll pause here, while you get in a good eye roll.

Now I’ll brag about how AWESOME being free of paper towels has been (and we’re not going back). For starters, I hated using paper towels. And running out of them. So wasteful of trees and money. I always felt bad when reaching for one to dry my hands (but I still did it, even though we have plenty of kitchen hand towels) – and ended up with a soggy lump of wet-but-clean paper towels waiting to be used for a real mess later. Good for cleaning up WV’s squash eyebrows, true.

cloth paper towelQuestion: Do you know what cloth “paper” towels clean up better? Answer: Everything! From the mess at lunch on the chopping block to WV’s chin to the wet rails of the sink after washing dishes. They are more absorbent (seen here drying washed spinach), they are reusable, they are better for the earth and our family! C’mon, I’ve got to believe you have a few towels you can cut up from bygone room mates and relationships. Join me in cutting them up and wiping up messes! I put them in a small muslin bag and hung it on our paper towel rack. I took our small bedroom trash bin, since we never use it, and put it behind the kitchen trash, and that’s what I’ve been throwing the used towels into for laundering as a bunch. They don’t look terribly pretty, I’ll give ya that, but then again, neither does an expanse of land devoid of trees – and is a paper towel’s role supposed to be aesthetics? My mom totally agreed it was a good idea, when she visited and pointed out that, in the same vein, she uses cloth dish rags around the kitchen. It’s always good when your mom approves. Gave me a much needed boost of confidence.

2. Shoes are banished from the inside of the house.

details (2)If you know me, you know I LOVE shoes. Once in a while, I’ll put on my wedding shoes (at right, *le sigh*) and think to myself, gah, how did I wear these and when can I again?!? I wish there were things I could wear nice shoes to more often. I get giddy just thinking about the insanely expensive shoe parade that is Sex and the City (see #3; a girl has to have a vice, ya know). These days I rotate between my all purpose crunchy mama Toms, all purpose weary cowgirl boots and treading-on-air Mizuno running shoes that I’m breaking in and trying to keep clean (a much-needed gift from my MIL).

But, finally, after a long-standing “let’s take our shoes off once we come inside” fairly unenforced policy, we’ve relegated our everyday shoes to the vestibule. We’d tracked in enough grime and crud…I was tired of constant sweeping up, and the mess o’ shoes by the front door would slowly migrate to the kitchen and living room (cray-cray, I know, but W has way more shoes than I do). More importantly, if you think about it (I did. A lot.) where have the soles of your shoes been?!? They keep your feet from touching the floor of a public restroom (and any other non-home floors); but if you wear them inside and then take them off, you are essentially spreading the germs of the public restroom to your feet…then you get in bed…ok, gross. I’m done with shoes in the house. Socks, slippers and bare feet are welcome, but we are adopting the cultural traditions of Japan, and many other countries, when it comes to shoes. Perhaps I’ll chance upon a nice wire rack to organize them. Further impetus is that WV is about to crawl. The floors need to be clean. Period.

3. “Hey wait, I can use that!” and “Hey wait, I can use that!”

I got to using more food and household items in non-traditional ways I hadn’t before.
These included (you decide if the emphasis is on “use” or “that”):

→ Saving the bones from a roast chicken to make yummy bone broth, thereby eeking a lot more value out of that expensive organic bird. This “lamb” is more like the proverbial Native American buffalo.
→ Cleaning the bathroom with baking soda and vinegar, thereby avoiding harsh chemicals and all that is intrinsic with their use.
→ Finding yummy recipes to use the pulp leftover from our juicing endeavors. That just makes sense. Since I’m prone to buying multiple 5-lb bags of carrots: Carrot Banana Bunt Cake with Cream Cheese Icing.

I’ve enjoyed browsing through the Year of Living Less blog, even though it is defunct. It gets me thinking. We all have our limits, though – while I admire purposeful simplifications I won’t dread out my hair to live without a comb (there was a time in high school I had wanted to…ah well, opportunity missed) or reduce our towel stockpile to the number of people in the house! But I’m really happy about our March’s worth of intentional living. I’m committed to observing my household with a keen eye for what can be replaced with less expensive, safer, and/or more sustainable options (not surprising, how it’s almost always all three), and will keep in mind what I change and find for further posts. I’m taking cues from family, friends, and frustrations. Another thing I’m going to give up is straws. Yes, I love straws, but W pointed out that they are wasteful pieces of plastic and, well, he’s right. Maybe I can get a glass straw? That sounds like a bad idea.

So tell me, what have you changed, repurposed or cooked in your household lately? What are your March “lambs?” Looking forward to hearing and getting some good ideas from ya’ll…

PS: W defends his MS thesis in early April and will be back to blogging thereafter. Send him happy math thoughts!!!