Sunday, July 24, 2011

New domain

I have moved to my own personal domain: Please, check it out, make comments, give me suggestions for improvement, and in general come and hang out with me!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

More going on here than what it looks like...

I know that it looks like I am back to ignoring this blog and not writing at all, but it isn't true. Vacation has thrown me for a loop, to start with, which is putting everything a bit behind, but I am also thinking about moving this blog to wordpress. This is mainly motivated by my desire to be able to put multiple posts on various pages, rather than setting up each page as a static post. So, I am doing some brainstorming, making big diagrams of topics in circles with lines drawn to other topics in circles (or perhaps boxes), which I think would make more sense if I used different color ink for different things, and maybe got a giant poster board. At any rate, when it is all done, I should have a better idea what I want to do here anyway, and hopefully it will all look cool and on purpose rather than just a group of lists to keep me on the straight and narrow, plus reminders for things I might want to look back on someday. Not that that those are bad things (and they certainly won't be going away entirely); I just want a better organizing idea. So, for now, when I work on this, I am over drawing dubious diagrams and trying to come up with a cool name (and utterly failing to even come up with a bad idea so far!), and not having many good post ideas. Anyone with cool names that encompass all of my interests (feminism, food, gardening, family, friends, books--particularly scifi and mysteries, writing, pop culture, and probably a few more...), just let me know!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Using up the garden: Catching up

I have posted a bit about what we are doing with the garden produce on the Garden 2011 page, but I wanted to start gathering more information here, because I do look back at these posts for ideas. I want to make sure I don’t forget some of the yummy things we have done to make sure that we actually use our produce! I haven’t been chronicling them as much this year, though, so I have a whole bunch of things to dump here:
  • Fruit smoothies are a great way to use greens. The stronger flavored greens like mustard, collard, turnip and beet greens don’t really work for me here, but spinach and kale are fantastic. I do smoothies a little differently every time, depending on what kind of juice or frozen fruit I have around, but the general proportions for 3 people: 2 cups juice, soy milk or a combination, 2 bananas 1 - 1 ½ cups frozen fruit, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and a big handful of greens. I like to blend everything but the greens before adding those. Sometimes I add a bit of vanilla yogurt. I really like frozen peaches in this, or berries or mango, but anything goes. I also add fresh fruit when I have some I need to use up, but I really like the frozen because it hold together better, and makes it seem very decadent--almost like soft serve ice cream for breakfast!
  • Polenta with sausage and greens was a delicious, satisfying dinner (see picture above).
  • I am so excited that we are actually getting beets this year! This is the third time we have planted them, and the first time we actually have beets to eat. The first thing we did with them was to have beets and greens curry with chickpeas. This was pretty and so delicious. I had my Indian food friend over, and she agreed that it tasted great.
  • I made a really great veggie-filled frittata with lots of greens from the garden, onions, garlic, sliced carrots, fresh parsley and basil, and goat cheese. I sauteed the onions, garlic and carrots in a bit of olive oil, then added a huge amount of greens--all the kinds I had available in the garden, mustard greens, collards, beet greens, kale, and chard. When the greens were wilted, I added four beaten eggs and some crumbled goat cheese, then cooked until it started to set and finished it in a 350 degree oven. I am making this again this week with carrots from my garden--the first time it was some baby carrots from the store I wanted to finish using.
  • I made this pickled beets recipe for my son’s birthday party, because he loves beets. He didn’t really love these, though--too vinegary, he said. My mother and aunt and grandma and I loved them, though! It was fun peeling the skins off after I had boiled the beets, too. I know, that sounds silly, but I had such fun just slipping them off so easily once they were cooked.
  • We also had a squash and broccoli side for the birthday dinner, with a sauteed onion, plus a yellow squash and some broccoli from the garden. So delicious and easy! I diced the onion, then started that sauteing while I sliced the yellow squash. I sauteed the onion and squash for a bit, then added the broccoli and a bit of water, put a lid on the skillet and let it cook for about five minutes. Fresh vegetables really do have the best flavor.
  • We went camping again this past week, and for dinner vegetable sides, I brought a big bag of garden veggies. I sliced a couple of small onions, a yellow squash, a zucchini, a couple of small patty pan squashes and added in some green beans. Then, at the campsite, I took some out each night, added them to a small pot with some canola oil, garlic salt and freshly ground pepper and cooked them on a mini-gas grill.
  • We also took a bunch of carrots along for lunch snacking (or anytime snacking). I cannot believe how many carrots we have growing out there!
  • I have added greens to many things, I can’t even remember them all. I know I added some to risottos, like this delicious tomato and sausage risotto. I added some to soups, like our favorite chickpea noodle soup. I think I added some to pasta dishes, too. Basically, whenever it seems reasonable, I go out and grab a bunch of greens to add to whatever I am cooking.
  • I am well into making a HUGE batch of the mint liqueur I made last year,although I just realized I made the sugar syrup with too much water today. That's okay, though, because I can always add some more mint and rum and extra strong sugar syrup; there is plenty of mint still out there.
I am going to be posting more about what I am doing as I do it going forward, so I don’t lose anything. I am really enjoying my garden, and I don’t want anything to go to waste, or at least not much. I feel somewhat better about it going to compost than being thrown away, but everything that goes on the compost pile feels like a missed opportunity to me. That was some delicious, organic, as local as local gets food, and I missed it! I am much better than I used to be about that, but there is still room for improvement.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


If you follow me on Twitter, you may know we left for a camping trip this past Friday. I love camping because it is so removed from my normal life, in that it never matters what time it is. You eat when you are hungry, you hike, you ride bikes, you go to the beach, you read books, all just whenever the mood takes you. The kids love it, and I love spending some concentrated time with them.

The weekend started out okay, weather-wise. Saturday, we spent most of the day at the beach. It almost didn't seem hot enough to be swimming to me, only in the mid-80s. The sun was potent, though, and despite being careful about the sunscreen, we all got burnt. Even the boy, who almost never burns, had blisters on one cheek, his nose, and the top of one ear. My friend and her daughter burned, too, although not as badly.

So, we decided no beach. T-shirts don't protect an already red face. The kids and I went to the marina for breakfast, then we came back to find it was already starting to get really hot. We had talked about going to see a civil war enactment nearby, then heading to Walmart for some forgotten supplies. I wanted a hat, for instance, because the top of my head was quite burnt. The kids were not excited about the reenactment, and as it got hotter and hotter, my friend and I lost our enthusiasm, too, so we ended up just making a 35 mile or so drive to Walmart. In an air-conditioned car! To an air-conditioned store! We did stop to see a covered bridge historic site on the way back, so it wasn't all Walmart, but I have to admit, that was an accident, ;). We spent much of that evening in my friend's air-conditioned camper, only venturing out to cook a quick dinner.

Yesterday, the heat index was around 110 degrees. We thought about spending the day at the beach, but my kids and I still needed some sunburn recovery time, so we headed out to Hannibal instead. Hannibal is Mark Twain's boyhood home, if you didn't know, and if you had ever been to Hannibal, you would definitely know. Moat of the things they have there for tourists are Mark Twain related, although we did see a cool mansion built by a lumber baron this time. We also went to the rock shop near the Mark Twain cave, because we love that place. We didn't do the cave this time, because it is expensive, and we've seen it before--this is our 4th time camping in this area. Across from from the cave is a small amusement park type thing, although that makes it sound bigger than it is. There were some bumper boats in a tiny lake (see kids enjoying that above), a miniature golf course, some stores, a mini-arcade, a birthday party place, a platform for small kids, a restaurant and a new adventure where you go through a scene from Tom Sawyer avoiding lasers. I am not describing that well, since I didn't do it, but the kids said it was kind of like spy stuff, trying to get through without tripping alarms. They liked it. There was a wine shop with wine slushes, and my friend and I liked that. The people there were super nice, too. I hope they get a lot more business than we saw at other times.

Today we are going to try the beach again. I got even stronger sunscreen at Walmart (70+ vs. the 50 SPF I had before), so I am hoping for the best, sunburn-wise. I am bringing a book and a canvas chair to sit in the water and relax. This is what vacation is for--relaxing, spending time with kids and our friends, maybe reading a trashy novel. I am glad we came, despite the heat.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

My Planned Parenthood Story

I sat in the office, looking at a list of expenses, disturbingly long compared to the very small number on the income line. In fact, the numbers did not reconcile at all. Despite a ridiculously small food budget, cheap rent, no clothing or entertainment budget, and certainly no health insurance premiums, the total expenses were higher than the income. The financial counsellor reviewing the application for aid with me was not judgemental at all, but when she asked me to go over what I had written, I started to cry.

“I know these don’t match, and I honestly don’t know how it works.” My voice rose at the end, as I tried to keep myself from breaking into full sobbing. I was humiliated and frustrated. I had five years of college under my belt, but no degree. I was working as a waitress, trying to figure out why my post-college life was so different than what I had pictured it would be. I didn’t have a regular budget, because it was too depressing to look at the numbers.

The counsellor was soothing, understanding. She wrapped up our session quickly, telling me that Planned Parenthood was there to help, and I would get the care I needed. They would be able to give me a heavily subsidized rate for both my physical exams and my birth control prescriptions. When I turned out to have an infection, they were able to give me the antibiotics for free. What I valued most, though, was the feeling that someone was caring for me, and thought I was worth their time. Someone thought that I, like everyone, deserved access to health care that could save lives or even just improve quality life. I loved that I had this one area of my life under control, like a normal person. When you are totally broke, and cannot afford many of the basics of life, much less any extras, something as simple as having a regular gynecologist is incredibly helpful to the self-esteem. I had gone to Planned Parenthood and applied for aid. I had made something work for me.

That was a long time ago for me, and I now have a job with great benefits, including health insurance that allows me to get all of my medical needs met. I still value my experience with Planned Parenthood, though. I don’t remember all of the details, because I try not to think about that period of my life much, but I wonder if I would have my two wonderful children if I hadn’t had the reproductive health care I needed then. I also think about all of the people that are still helped by Planned Parenthood every day, and the people who work there because they truly care about getting reproductive health care to those that need it. This seems especially important here in Missouri, where it is very difficult to get any kind of medical aid. In fact, to qualify for state aid, you have to be a child or already be a parent . There is no aid for people who want to avoid becoming parents through good medical care and birth control. Except there is, because Planned Parenthood provides it.

The blog carnival is being hosted at What Tami Said and Shakesville. You can find a bunch of wonderful stories here.