December 2011


Days 23 and 24 and I feel fine. Well. Sort of. My back hurts from all the lifting and toting but other than that the Potlatch was a huge success. Lots of coming and going, lots of homemade goodies and a wonderful sense of community made for a fabulous day. I got a lot of “shopping” done. Phoebe will get a CD player and a wonderful box of school supplies. This will be her big gift as she and her friends spend hours playing school with their dolls. The added benefit is that it gives her a chance to practice her academic skills. A few home schooling families brought in all of their leftover supplies. The stuff is in perfect shape and, when put in a bin, will be just the ticket. I also got a tall stack of easy readers and a big bag of sweet dresses. Karen got a big bunch of romantic comedies on DVDs and one of those luminesque disks that responds to sound. By far the best part of the day was seeing people delighted with a find; the lady who walk out with a boxed set of Jimi Hendrix experience CDs or the gentleman with the leather-bound backgammon set. There were “like new” toys that found homes and some great decorations and housewares. The coats and hats all went to Share The Heat, a local program that distributes outerwear and sleeping bags to the homeless. Take that SuperMall! Next week we’re holding a community gift bag sew to avoid wrapping paper. It’s combined with an art opening, a pot luck dinner and an “under $20.00 and homemade” craft fair.

I made one of my cheap eats meals last night. A simple potato soup was fabulous with onions and bacon and a side helping of whole wheat crescent rolls. I’ve noticed that all complaints of “too much whole wheat” have stopped. I use fresh ground Prairie Gold wheat in my baked goods. My kids used to complain that my bread was too dense if I used more than 50% whole wheat but they seem to have gotten past that although it’s possible that they have just given up the fight. I can get away with a lot of simple food if I serve warm bread. I followed up with a very basic molasses/ginger cookie for dessert. It’s one of those recipes that isn’t. I think the Fannie Farmer Cookbook is where the original recipe came from and I fiddled with until I liked the results. I do know that I don’t cook it as long as it says too, maybe 7 minutes instead of 8 as we like chewy cookies. I hope you all have a good potato soup recipe to draw on. I carmelize some onions in a mess of bacon and add celery in the last few minutes. Set that aside and cook potato in chicken stock. You can use a good vege stock if you don’t eat meat. When the potatoes are cooked, puree them with an emersion blender and add the onions and crumbled bacon. Then pour in some very rich milk and shred some cheddar cheese over it and heat it through. Delicious and low fat (not!). I often add a bag of corn to this. I just forgot last night. If you swap clam juice for the stock and add a can of clams, you get a passable chowder. Unfortunately, Karen has developed an allergy to shellfish so the clams are out of the question.

I’m feeling a bit philosophical today. I was talking with a friend who is feeling as though she makes a lot of sacrifices for the good of the planet but that, in the end, they will have been for naught and what was the point. Here’s what I believe. If I know better, I have to do better. It may not matter one whit but how can I jack up the heat or buy an SUV when I know better? How can I purchase plastic crap when I know the results in the refuse chain? How can I enjoy iceberg lettuce in January when I know how much oil is in every bite? And how can I complain when I don’t see any of what I do without as sacrifice (most of the time)? I have been blessed with some amazing models. Sheri and Barbara and Leni and Sharon have all taught me so much about consumption and abundance. I don’t live up the high standard they set very often but I always think before I act and my choices are more responsible every day. I hope I pass that on to others in my writing and by example. I can’t bail out the whole boat but maybe I can hand out a few more pails.

PS I am having problems with my blog. Spellcheck is not working well and I keep finding comments that I approved are not always showing up (I think I fixed that) so if you made a comment and it wasn’t posted, check again. I was also having trouble posting my own comment but I think that’s resolved too. I read and approve all comments (unless it’s spam) but this computer is making me crazy. I may just switch to the desk top and forget the laptop. It’s a pain for word processing.

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Thank you for keeping me up to speed on this.

This is Potlatch weekend, our annual attempt tp derail the holiday train. We send out the call for people to come to the church vestry and drop off gift quality items and take home the same. We also take holiday decorations and outerwear as well as good quality household things. The biggest problem is that some people see this a sway to clean out junk before the holidays and we get stuck getting rid of it before Sunday services. Puzzles with missing pieces and electronics that don’t work are not gift quality but we always get some of them. The junk is a small price to pay for keeping a lot of useful stuff out of the landfill and helping folks provide gifts without spending any money. In the midst of taking donations I snagged a bookcase and a carpet for Ben and Maggie’s new place from a woman who was downsizing.

I’m on an apple rant today. I had been reading about arsenic in apple juice so I got online and did some research. It turns out that upwards of 60% of our apple juice originates from China! The problem is that China allows some arsenic based pesticides that are banned in the US. It just boggles the mind that we are importing apple anything. This country has an embarrassment of apples. I find it impossible to believe that we need to rely on some other country, a long, oil soaked boat trip away, to grow or process something so adapted to our ecosystem. The solution is to buy only organic juice but organic juice in my little market is nearly $5.00 a quart. I can get it for less if I buy a case but this still leaves most poor people, and lately that seems to be most people, out in the cold. They are forced by economics to purchase juice they know is unhealthy.

The only solution is to stop buying juice at all. I know that going juiceless would be hard for me and I can imagine for many others. I still have nearly 50 quarts of home-pressed cider and cran-apple juice as well as some grape juice in the basement. I am committed to canning much more next year. I’m delighted every time I open a jar of the canned cider. The flavor is wonderful, the process easy and the price unbeatable. For those who don’t remember. I heated the cider to 160 degrees, held it there for 60 seconds, then bottled it in sterile jars and capped it with sterile lids. They all sealed and the resulting juice has none of the cooked flavor of commercial juice. My summer kitchen will be perfect for this kind of assembly line food production.

I made a chicken for dinner last night and, while we ate, I cooked up a stock and thickened it while I did the dishes. The chicken was really expensive and I don’t want to waste a shed of meat. I did the math and turkey is much better value. I am hoping I can order a few more but I’m betting that I can’t. I think the farm I get them from only does birds for Thanksgiving. Part of food prepping is figuring out value and attacking waste. A simple calculator and a few minutes is all it takes.

Bruce replaced two more windows last night and now the whole upstairs is finished. The windows were in terrible shape and this will help keep the girls’ room a bit warmer. I’m still going to add a layer of plastic film as these windows are on the north side of the house. Doing the widows one or two at a time is a pain but it means that we can do them as we have the money to pay cash and the time to get it done. Doing all at once would have meant taking out a loan (I don’t think so) and hiring help (again, I don’t think so). Patience is a virtue. I keep telling myself that.

I did some thrift store shopping and came away with some nifty educational stuff for Phoebe. I have a used bin and I’m putting all of the school things in there and that’s Phoebe’s big gift. She loves to play school with her dolls and she’ll be delighted with this. I also picked up some sleds for kids and grandkids as we have a terrific hill. A lot of the younger kids end up sliding here as the hill is safe and extra sleds are always welcome. My criteria for gifts is to buy used whenever possible and to concentrate on things that promote health and well-being. That means few things that pug in although I an on the look-out for a small CD player for Phoebe. She loves music and loves to dance but has no way to play music in her bedroom. I saw one in the potlatch and if it doesn’t find a home it just may do.

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