Monday, April 30, 2012

Mama Makes It Special

For some reason, my mom's recipes are always tastier than mine. She makes biscuits from a recipe that has been handed down for generations in our family, but mine are never quite as good as hers. And grandma's are even better. Grandma has an amazing recipe for tea cakes from when she lived in England and also has passed down to us a wonderful recipe for deep dish fruit pies. I am blessed to have one recipe from my great grandmother on the other side of my family, whom we called Mammie. It's a family favorite, easy to make, and super healthy. Being a farmer's wife, dinner at Mammie's house always included fresh veggies and this one pot favorite was no exception. 
Many of you will know similar recipes with ground beef, but Mammie's vegetable soup didn't have any meat in it. Of course, she also didn't use measurements, like many housewives of yesteryear. The closest thing to a measurement in this recipe is "one bag" and that's because she used bags of vegetables from the freezer she kept in the "breezeway" (a narrow sun room that allowed a wonderful breeze when the windows were open). This freezer was always full of vegetables that she had "put up" throughout the spring and summer. 
All of this is on my mind for several reasons. I have been trying to cook at home and from scratch more often. I want to reach a point eventually where I only need to go to the grocery store for staples. I get vegetables from my own garden, my CSA basket, and the farmer's market. The new organic sustainable farmer's market in town offers a variety of meats and dairy products, as well. I plan to have my own chickens next spring (there are reasons I can't do that now but we are working on it). Overly processed foods are just not as healthy and I want the best for my family. I'm also thinking about Mammie's soup because it's what's for dinner tomorrow night! 
I have converted this to a crock pot recipe for convenience's sake, but really this is just her recipe and I want to share it with you. You can double it if you are feeding a crowd. This is enough for my family of four to have seconds and leftovers. Be warned, it isn't very soupy, but this is how she made it, and everyone in my house eats it by the bowl full, going back for seconds, and with nothing else for dinner. I hope you will try it and let me know what you think.

Mammie's Vegetable Soup
Combine in a large crockpot, one bag each of frozen white corn, speckled butter beans, and okra. Add two bags of tomatoes. Sprinkle a few pinches of sugar on top. Let cook for about 6 to 8 hours on low, stirring occassionally until vegetables thaw. 

Haha. I bet you're waiting for the next step, aren't you? Well there isn't one! When it's done, we don't even add salt or pepper because you don't need it! My husband is a salt fiend and he doesn't add salt to this recipe either. You can taste the freshness as it is, so why cover it up? 
You can shorten the time but cooking on high till the veggies start thawing good. You can also substitute green butter beans if you can't get the speckled ones, but I do prefer the flavor and texture of the speckled ones. If you don't have frozen vegetables at home, buy the ones at the store and use whole canned tomatoes. You can crush the tomatoes as you put them into the pot and pour the juice in, too. I've done this myself and works just as well. 


Sunday, April 29, 2012

What You Should Know About Wal-Mart

Is Walmart Green? [Infographic]

via Ethical Ocean - eco friendly products, fair trade and vegan shopping.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

This Pot Roast is always a Huge Hit!


New Facts: Draw Your Own Conclusions

I have compiled a list of facts that I have recently learned.  Some are posititve, some are negative. I find every one of them very interesting. As the title says, I will leave you to draw your own conclusions, although I could give a speech on most of these. 
  • Sales of fast food kids' meals dropped 6% in 2011, thanks to parents who are choosing healthier meals or smaller portions.
  • Chin implant surgery is on the rise. 71% more "chinplants" were performed in 2011 than the year before. 
  • The U.S. government has issued a mandate to car manufactures to increase average fuel efficiency of cars to 54.5 mpg by 2025.
  • 34% of adults in the United States are obese.
  • The average 2 year old child in America gets 41% of his vegetable calories from french fries.
  • The European Union requires mandatory labeling on foods containing genetically modified organisms.
  • The U.S. government says there is not proof that GMOs are harmful.
  • If you don't water your lawn during the summer, it may turn brown but the underground part will survive, allowing the grass to come back when it cools off. 
  • A single bat can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in a night. (Anyone see a bathouse in their future?)
  • A new study had found that increasing your consumption of carbohydrates also increases your risk of breast cancer.
  • Celiac disease, a disease that causes the immune system to attack the small intestine if one ingests gluten, is now 4 times more prevalent than it was 50 years ago.
  • Americans average 18 pounds of sugar per person per year, which translates to about 18% of our calories.
  • Over 50% of American women begin dying their hair in their youth.
  • More than 90% of cancer diagnoses can be attributed to lifestyle or environment.
  • A recent study showed that 93% of women talk negatively about the fat on their bodies. A third of those talk about it on a regular basis. 
  • 25% of groceries purchased in the U.S. are bought at Wal-Mart.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fast Food Freedom?

I have been 6 full days without fast food now! Not only have I not had anything to eat or drink from a fast food restaurant, I haven't even been in the parking lot of one. I have either eaten at home or patronized a local establishment. 
I love eating at Locals Grill when I really don't want to cook. They cook everything from scratch and they're locally owned, as the name implies. For example, the fried chicken is dipped in buttermilk and then rolled in a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper. Sound like your recipe? Then you see what I mean! My favorite item on their menu is sweet potato fries. They slice the sweet potatoes super thin and drop them in a deep fryer for just a few seconds, so they are warm and soft when they arrive at the table. Yum!
Tonight I worked late. Before this challenge, I would have gotten something to eat at a drive-thru window on the way home. Tonight, I opted for a Kashi frozen dinner. If you have to eat frozen dinners, Kashi is the way to go. It's a great choice from start to finish. I chose the Spicy Black Bean Enchilada (my favorite Kashi meal) for tonight's dinner. Like all of their frozen meals, it came in a recycled cardboard outer container. Of course, this container will now be recycled again. The inner container is also recyclable. The meal is vegetarian, as well, chock full of veggies, legumes, and whole grains. I do eat meat, but not on a regular basis. While this dinner is low fat and low calorie, it's high protein and high fiber, plus it has more than half the recommended daily allowance of whole grains. Last but not least, it tastes great! The pilaf is a little spicy and the enchilada has just touch of cheese. I am left feeling full and satisfied, which many frozen dinners cannot accomplish.
Tomorrow is the 7th day of my fast-food-free-week and the challenge will be over. I don't think fast food will be on my menu very often anymore, though. I've learned that it's not the end of the world. There are so many other choices that are convenient, and sometimes it's just worth it to take a little extra time to make a meal. Tomorrow I will be working late again. Since I know this ahead of time, I have planned to put a roast and potatoes and carrots in the crock pot before work in the morning. It should take less than 20 minutes in the morning, and my husband can cook some brown rice to go with it tomorrow evening. When I get home dinner will be waiting, the family will have already eaten, and we will have leftovers for an easy Sunday lunch after church. Not bad, huh?
By the way, local strawberries are easy to get right now. One local farm's are even sold by the basket at the grocery store. I tried some and they are so sweet that they taste like someone sprinkled them with powdered sugar, even though I ate them straight from the basket! Add an angel food cake and you have an easy, healthy, delicious dessert or snack. My daughter had some just before bed tonight.
How do you save time and still eat healthy? I would love some more ideas and I'm sure other readers would love to know, too. 



Thursday, April 26, 2012

Made from Scratch

Tonight my 12 year old daughter decided to treat us to some of her home made sugar cookies. She hit the nail on the head when she looked over at me with flour on her cheeks and said "Cookies are just better when you make the dough instead of buying it at the store." So true! It's like you can taste the love that went into them!

She's very good at making these cookies super tasty, but her favorite part is decorating them. Tonight she was in a pink kind of mood, as you can  tell from the first batch, shown here before going into the oven.


They were rolled in sugar, sprinkled with pink sugar, and then topped with little candy sprinkles! Unfortunately, they overcooked. We later referred to them as the "crunchy cookies." Heehee. And my daughter said they tasted like popcorn! She won't let me throw them out, either. 

The second batch had fewer toppings, but she opted for a criss-cross pattern on top instead of just pressing them with the fork once. The sugar settled into the depressions and looked very cute. 


This batch thankfully didn't burn. Even though dinner was still cooking, we couldn't resist a little taste test! These cookies are great even when they've cooled, but they were even better warm! Finally, the last batch came out and all of the beautiful sugar cookies were laid out to cool until after dinner. 


I'm so glad my daughter appreciates the value of home cooking from scratch. She doesn't mind the extra work because the income justifies the outcome. Cooking is fun for young people, too. It's never a chore for my daughter to make these cookies. In fact, she begs me to let her! Not to mention reducing the footprint on the earth. These cookies were not trucked across the country. They traveled though...from the counter to the oven to our tummies!






Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Blissfully Imperfect

Tonight I was meeting with what my church calls a small group. My small group is comprised only of women, ages raging all over the place. My daughter provides the childcare in a separate room while we meet and typically we discuss the previous Sunday's sermon. Tonight was different, though. Tonight the conversation naturally drifted. We talked about some very personal issues, bumps in the road so to speak, involving our children. It reminded me very much of a saying that our pastor uses and even had printed on t-shirts for our congregation: "No Perfect People Allowed."
Really, honestly, how many people go to work, church, playgroup, school, pretending to lead picture perfect lives? But nobody's life is without obstacles. We don't help ourselves by pretending these imperfections don't exist because we deny ourselves an outlet and a support system. Believe me, I know. I've been there. I used to be one of the pretenders. I used to go to a church where everyone pretended. I used to go to work and here everyone whisper about the person who was honest about a problem in their life. Everyone else just pointed fingers and gasped, pretending their lives were cookie cutter perfect. In reality, everyone who was whispering was just afraid of being whispered about!
Let me just tell you...I have an absurd schedule, some serious financial situations, a child who tests every boundary, a child in counseling, and a child who is only alive by the grace of a God who heard my prayers because that child did everything in his power to stay in danger for two straight years. My marriage is not perfect, I have too many pets, and I put excessive expectations on myself most days. I try to remember to give my worries to God, but sometimes I let them make me grumpy and stressed because I am not a perfect Christian. In fact, this blog was started by me and for me so that I could share all the ways that I want to be a better mom, wife, Christian, friend, daughter, etc. Why? Because I know I'm not perfect! There is always room for improvement! 
The important message I am trying to make here is that we don't have to stumble over every bump in the road. If we stop trying to be perfect and look perfect, we can admit that we need help when we need it. We can reach out to others and they will help us over that bump. If you know a lot of "perfect people", try being the first to admit that you aren't. Instead of talking about someone who is struggling, instead of feeling sorry for them, try talking to them. Let them know that you've been down and out at some point too! Lift them up and be there for them! Strive to become blissfully imperfect, embrace your imperfection, shout it from the rooftops! You might be surprised at how many people you know who are struggling with the same issues you are and as soon as you open up, they will too!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What Are GMOs Anyway?

If I asked you, "What's the opposite of organic?" what would you say? What would you think of? Highly processed foods like potato chips? Foods that are packaged in a way that is wasteful and unnecessary? When I think of totally un-organic, I think of GMOs. 

photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
GMO stands for genetically modified organism. Sounds disgusting, doesn't it? But we eat them! Regularly! Corn and soy products are the most common affected crops. Large seed companies have tried over the years to produce better seeds, better herbacides, better pesticides. They have used science to genetically change the seeds and produce steroids that make animals grow faster and fatter. These companies patent their seeds and farmers become dependent on them because they are not allowed to keep seed from the plants that are grown from the patented seeds. 

Monsanto is a large company that specializes in and glorifies GMOs. This is the same company that makes the common herbicide RoundUp. Monsanto controls farmers who use their seeds by suing them if they try to produce their own seeds. In fact, if seed blows from one farm to another and that seed mixes with the non-modified seed in the second farmer's field, then Monsanto will claim rights to all seed on that farm as well! 

Monsanto sells GMOs to large food processing companies like Smithfield and Conagra, too. The cattle and other animals eat this and then are butchered and processed and placed in your grocery store. Studies have shown that these animals show actual physiological differences when compared to animals raised on non-modified grain or grass. 

Until recently, there were no studies to show whether we are affected by ingesting these GMOs. France, however, has just released a study that shows GMO corn as a dangerous carcinogen. 

Legislation is underway in many areas to require that all foods containing GMOs be clearly labeled. Unfortunately, Monsanto has people in the right places and money in the right pockets, making it difficult to pass labeling laws. 

In the meantime, what can you do? Write or call your legislators asking them to take action on labeling and let them know why genetically modified organisms should be better regulated. Buy seed from local farmers or buy seeds marked organic whenever possible. Buy local, pastured beef, chicken, and pork. Patronize brands that are committed to offering non-GMO foods. And, most importantly, share what you know with others! The more the public is educated about GMOs, Monsanto, and companies that sell us GMOs as food, the less they can get away with. 



Monday, April 23, 2012

Local Food

A few days ago, I posted a list of challenges, little ways we can make a big impact. I want to expand a little on some of these topics. Tonight I will just talk about the first one: "Find and patronize local farmers, in whatever venue you desire, and then ask them if you can help solve their salvage or abundance problem. What is extra that you can acquire, perhaps at a discount in volume, to reduce throwaways?"
Find out who the local farmers are for starters. If you don't already know, try looking online. My favorite site for this is www.localharvest.org, which is a listing of farmer's markets and family farms, as well as some other sources of local sustainably grown food. This is the same site that I mentioned when I talked about CSAs in a previous post. Joining a CSA is a great way to get to know your local farmer personally by meeting up at a designated time each week to pick up a basket or crate of seasonal produce straight from the field. If you can't commit to a CSA (most require an up-front fee for the whole year), try the local farmer's market. If you go to the farmer's market before the grocery store, you may be surprised how much less you need at the store. If you have a deep freezer, you can buy meat locally and in bulk to save money and support local farms instead of huge corporations that process meat in disgusting conditions and raise the animals in even more shocking conditions. Imagine going to a local farm, purchasing an entire cow that was grass fed as nature intended, and filling the freezer with all that meat. Instead of running to the store to grab something for dinner, you can run to the freezer and choose ribs, ground beef, roast, ribeyes...you get the point!
If you learn how to freeze, can, or dry fruits and veggies to preserve them, you can ask vendors at the farmer's market about the produce they are throwing away. Perhaps they will let you take this overstock in bulk at a discount and even let you get it on a regular basis. They  may even give it to you for free! These are items that are less than perfect and won't get picked up on the table at full price. Why let them go to waste? This could be your winter's supply of vegetables! You may never need to buy veggies in aluminum cans again!
Personally, I know how to "put up" many vegetables by blanching and then freezing and this is probably the easiest technique for preserving. I love to stock up on corn, tomatoes, and, my favorite, speckled butter beans. I get the corn from a farm about 20 minutes away. The farmer is friends with my parents and lets them take what they can pick by hand before he harvests the whole crop. I grow the tomatoes myself, and if  I have a shortage my parents always grow tomatoes, too. We share if we have an overly abundant crop. The butter beans I buy form a farm that's about an hour away. They sale them to me directly by the bushel at wholesale prices.
I hope to soon be able to start doing some canning. I have done some reading on the processes and my mom does preserves and jams and jellies so she can give me advice, too. Getting started for a beginner can take a little money. I need a pressure cooker and I am currently on the hunt for a used one. I need more jars (I found a few at a local auction for free...people leave what they don't want when buying "lots"...more on that later...may be another blog...hmmm) and lids. I will keep you posted on this upcoming project.
Do you preserve summer produce for winter? What methods do you use? Care to share some canning advice with a beginner? I'd love to hear some comments on this!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day 2012

I kicked off my Earth Day with Day One of my FastFoodFreeWeek. Yes, I'm giving it a name. It's been 24 hours and so far so good. We came home for lunch when it would have been more convenient to get fast food after church, but I had forgotten how delicious peanut butter and jelly could be! I mixed it in a coffee mug the way my mom used to do it before spreading it on huge slices of whole wheat bread. Yummy! And the kids were happy too!
After a little rest, we drove to the head of the walking trail and took a nice walk, enjoying the creek that runs alongside the trail and all of the different types of plants. My son liked looking at the different marks and scars and hollows on the trees and telling us what each one looked like. We saw a cyclops, an alligator, and a heart just for starters! See some of our pictures at the botttom of the post.
The movie, Chimpanzee, was amazing! The views from overhead were spectacular and the story was so touching. You really should check it out, even if you don't have children to take. It's a great movie for everyone regardless of age. Congratulations Disney on another success!
Did your family celebrate Earth Day today? Comment and share what you did! I would love to hear it!
Now for a few pics...enjoy and good night!






Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly News

Which do you want first?
The good news or the bad news?
Okay the good wins!
You twisted my arm.
Ow.
Seriously, though, there is good news in the grocery store. I went to buy the fixings for burgers today and in the ketchup section I saw a new product that made me a very happy mama. Now every family prefers Heinz or Hunts right? Sweet or spicy. Mine prefers the Heinz, luckily, because the new product is Heinz in a squeezable foil container with a little plastic spout and cap. It was only 99 cents, too.
Bye bye plastic! I despise plastic. Too much pollution is produced in creating it, it leaks chemicals into our food when we use it for storage, and it creates too much pollution again when it's recycled. Needless to say, I bought one!

The bad news? I ate fast food today. Of course, I said I would stop for a week starting Sunday, so I haven't failed my personal challenge in any way. But I realized again how hard it will be for me to give up those convenient drive-thru windows. And it's soooo unhealthy and fattening. Yuck.
Which brings me to the ugly news. I went to Taco Bell for lunch and my husband and daughter both decided to try the new Doritos Tacos. Okay, fine, right? Wrong! The taco comes in a cardboard wrap, which is then wrapped in their usual paper wrap. Why the waste? My daughter pointed out that the cardboard keeps the orange Doritos seasoning off of your fingers, but why the paper over it when we are not even dropping it in a bag. I was very disappointed in the wastefulness!

Last but not least tonight, I want to remind you that tomorrow is Earth Day! My family and I and my daughter's friend are all going to church at Newspring, then eating our brown bag lunches, going to see "Chimpanzee" at the theater next to the church, and finally, taking a nature walk on a trail that starts behind the theater. It ought to be a full day and fun day.

One last bit of advice? A gardening quote from good ol' Lewis Grizzard: "Don't bend over in the garden granny, you know them taters got eyes!"
Heehee! Good night!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mama Tries To Be More Normal

I hope you read last night's post. For those of you who didn't, I quoted a list of challenges from the book, Folks,This Ain't Normal.

Well, I went over that list myself a few times, both before and after I posted it on my blog, and I read them to my daughter. She was aghast that I would even want to attempt some of them, while others seemed fairly easy. After much thought, I decided that I would tackle the one that I knew would be hardest for me: no fast food restaurants for a week.

A whole week, people. With my fast paced days, fast food restaurants offer a quick and inexpensive solution to meals or snacks. On the other hand, I know, even as I order it, that the food is dripping with saturated fat and lacks pretty much anything that would pass as nutritious. Sure you can go to McDonald's and get a salad or fruit and yogurt. But do you? I mean, you can smell the fries as soon as you roll down the window to order! Not me. I give in to temptation and order the fries. And the burger. And the soda or smoothie or, my favorite, the frozen strawberry lemonade. Let me stop.

The point is it will be very hard for me to stay away from drive-thru windows. I will have to think ahead, buying groceries with the intention of cooking meals, cooking extra so that I can have an easy and quick option for lunch the next day, stashing nuts and other healthy munchies in my purse and in my truck. I will need willpower like I'm not sure I have, so prayers are needed and appreciated! In fact, tomorrow I will just sit down and place an online order for groceries so that I can kick off my 7 day fast food free spree when I wake up on Sunday. What a great way to start Earth Day!

If you are attempting one or more of the 9 challenges that I posted yesterday, I would love to hear which one and how it's going. Leave comments so that everyone can be inspired by or laugh at (with, I mean with, not at) each other's attempts to get a little closer to "normal."

Just Wanted to Share...

Still posting tonight but I wanted to share this little quote with you. 


“If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains... the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Challenge: I Dare You!

You may know that I am a huge fan of Joel Salatin, author, organic farmer,etc. I first learned of Salatin when reading Time magazine and the link to the article can be found by scrolling to the bottom of the page to the Links I Love section. That article and the follow-up research I did, inspired me to stop being a couch environmentalist and get up!
Recently I have been reading Folks, This Ain't Normal and You Can Farm  (yes I am reading both at the same time), both of which were written by, you guessed it, Joel Salatin. Last night I came across a challenge list in Folks, This Ain't Normal that I would like to share with you. These are tasks that I believe we would all do well to attempt. Each one brings us closer to the lifestyle that was "normal" in the recent past, and which Salatin argues makes more sense. He makes a good argument, too. Choose one or more items from the challenge list and let me know how it goes. I dare you!
This is the list exactly as it appears in the book:

  1. Find and patronize local farmers, in whatever venue you desire, and then ask them if you can help solve their salvage or abundance problem. What is extra that you can acquire, perhaps at a discount in volume, to reduce throwaways?
  2. Preserve food yourself: dehydrating, canning, lacto-fermenting, parching, freezing, processing. A host of books exist to get you started. Ask your grandmother how she did it. commit to preserve one thing so it's not daunting.
  3. Take a fast food sabbatical - just one week, for starters. Fix a meal but make plenty so you have leftovers for lunches.
  4. Turn off the TV and read to the kids for two hours one night. I'll bet they'll want more and you might trun it into a couple of nights a week. You might actually be more lovable than when you're harried and hurried, bustling them off to some extraneous entertainment event. And reading together doesn't take any energy. 
  5. Postpone the vacation trip and discover your local farm treasures.
  6. Buy a big freezer so you can buy meat in bulk and lay by. Get the money by selling your big flat-screen TV and canceling your Netflix account. 
  7. Start a domestic hobby: woodworking, candle making, quilting, knitting, carving, repairing anything (furniture, appliances, electronics). These are the skills and crafts that have undergirded civilizations for centuries.
  8. Begin limiting your video game use. I saw a news report recently that measured average video game use by American men between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five: twenty hours per week. Do you mean the flower of America's masculinity can't think of anything more important to do with twenty hours a week than sit in front of a video screen? Folks, this ain't normal. Can't we unplug already?
  9. If you have any land at all, grow something. Anything edible.



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ooh....Earth Day on Groupon!

Thought I'd share that Groupon is celebrating Earth Day with some special deals. My fave is the eco-homestore.com deal! You can get a $40 voucher for $20 or a $60 voucher for $30 and you can buy up to 2 for yourself and one for a gift. Check it out at Groupon.com quickly because one deal I wanted was already sold out!

Busy Busy (plus a little surprise)

I am working on giving the term "busy mom" a new meaning. If I keep at it a little longer, I think they will actually change the term to "insanely over-scheduled mom who needs to learn some limits". I was talking in a live video chat with some other bloggers a few nights ago and announced nonchalantly that I home school my daughter, work full-time (not from home), and run a blog. They all had a good laugh and then asked if I was joking! I am not joking, I assure you! I just got home from work and after I finish my blog, update my twitter and check my blog's Facebook page, I will check my emails and reply to them. Then I will check over the assignments my daughter did independently today (we worked together on some things before I went to work). We will read together before we both go to bed. Whew!
How do I handle it? I think the secret to not going crazy is to love everything on your schedule. I truly enjoy my work and my blogging activities are my fun time. I love homeschooling my daughter for so many reasons. For example, we get lots more quality time together than if she were at a traditional school for 8 hours every day. She learns more easily and doesn't get embarrassed to ask questions. We can tailor the schedule and the activities around other things in our life. For example, Earth Day will be school work for us because she is studying ecology in science right now. The Farmer's Market is school, too, because she is studying healthy eating habits in Health. I could go on and on about why I love homeschooling and if I got started I could do the same with the subject of blogging or telling you why I love my job. Just like working in my garden, these things are not hard to do because I enjoy doing them. Speaking of the garden...I didn't have to water it tonight because it rained! That's one less thing to do tonight! After running strong all day, I do have trouble slowing down when I go to bed, but I read or do a puzzle in bed to help me clear my mind and get sleepy. Again, these are activities I love.
I have to go now because, as you know, I have lots more to do! In the title tonight I mentioned a little surprise. I found a special offer that you will love. I bought one! Just pay $18 for $40 from ecomom.com. Click the link below the picture to get this deal. Mine isn't a savings blog but I don't mind saving either! I forgot to mention...use coupon code APR10 to get $2 off the usual $20 price for this deal. Here it is and good night.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Compost 101

First let me be clear...I am not teaching this class, I'm a beginner myself, just sharing with you what I'm learning.   Like most of the changes we've been making around here, I've been talking about composting for more than a year. The difference now is that I'm doing something instead of talking about doing something. I did a little research before starting. I'll share the basics for beginners who want to join me in this endeavor.

The number rule of composting is no animal products. That includes dairy products. If you added butter to those beans...no compost pile for them. Meat products in the compost pile can lead to e.coli in the plants you fertilize with the compost, so that when you eat them you get e.coli. Yuck! If you are eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, the scraps and leftovers and trimmings and peelings make perfect compost. Coffee grounds can go into the pile, too, as well as grass clippings if you haven't used chemicals on the grass. Eggs are animal products, but rinse the shells and crunch them up into small pieces. You can add them to the compost or sprinkle these around the perimeter of your garden or flower beds to keep slugs out.


Rule number two of composting is to turn, turn, turn. You don't need a fancy container, although they do exist if you prefer that approach. Just shovel the stuff from the bottom and dump it on top. Turn daily. If you want to contain the pile, try a circle of chicken wire with an opening to get in with the shovel and turn.

Add worms to your compost if you want things to go faster. Their droppings are super fertilizer. There are worm composters available for that make it easier to get started if you want to go this route. You can get one on eBay for under $100. Or build a square from 2x4s and put it on legs made of 2x4s. Add a wire mesh bottom in the square and put worms and compost in top.


I am personally going the super-easy-to-get-started route...a pile in a corner of the back yard! At least the stuff is not in the trash can and my garden can benefit from natural non-chemical fertilizer this summer.

I would like to leave you with a quote from The Green Book, which I highly recommend you add to your reading list by the way... "If over the course of a year, everyone in the United States composted their kitchen scraps instead of sending them away with the trash, the organic waste diverted from landfills could make a three-foot-high compost pile to cover the city of San Francisco." That's three feet of black, nutrient rich, organic soil. Isn't that better than a three-foot-high landfill the size of San Francisco?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Reminders

Tonight is the Ultimate Blog Party 2012 Twitter Party so I am a little preoccupied. Please forgive me for not posting earlier in the night. 
I do want to remind everyone that Earth Day is this weekend. The new Disney movie, Chimpanzee, launches Friday and we are planning to see it Sunday. My daughter is home schooled and we are studying ecology in science right now. The timing is perfect. Our agenda for science on Friday is to plan an earth day event for our family so I can't tell you what else we will be doing for Earth Day until then. What do you have planned?
If you are in the Florence SC area, remember the Downtown Farmers Market is making its debut on Wednesday of this week. I found out I have to work Wednesday till 8 pm so I will miss it. Big frowny face! I had really looked forward to going and my daughter and I were going to make it a field trip. We've been studying nutrition in Health. I really wanted to shop too. Glad this is a weekly event so I can go next week! Anyone want to join me?
I hope everyone has a great night. I promise a better post tomorrow!

A Little Garden Humor

"Don't bend over in the garden, Granny! You know them taters got eyes!" - Lewis Grizzard

Hope I made your Monday a little lighter! Come back tonight for my newest post. :)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wrap Up

Well the week is ended, and with it Spring Break. I enjoyed taking some time off to spend with my kids and having my nephew here for the week. It was an eventful week, too! I got that garden planted, bought and started a food and exercise journal, did some spring cleaning, and did a lot of networking with the Ultimate Blog Party. I took time to play games with the kids, bought a new sprinkler for them to play in while I'm gardening, helped my daughter with her puppy training, and got in lots of exercise. 
My husband is jumping on the bandwagon and came up with his own idea of a change he wants to make. We've gotten into the habit of eating dinner in front of the tv on the nights we don't eat out. I've been using the dining room as an office for my eBay selling (my little sideline income). He wants to move my eBay stuff to the bonus room and start eating dinner at the table again, away from distractions, where we can just appreciate the good food and good company. I love it. He's absolutely right about how important that family time can be and we will be working on moving everything during the coming week. This used to be a priority for us but we let our busy lifestyles make us lazy about dinner. I look forward to getting back to family dinners like we used to have. 
I feel great after such a productive but relaxing week! I hope I can use that energy to be productive in the coming week as we get back to our usual schedules. Best wishes for a great Monday friends. I leave you with a bit of inspiration for your week...
"Producing good fruit can feel impossible. Our sinful natures make us self-absorbed, greedy and quick to judge. And even when we are trying, we are faced with difficult situations and people who wear on our last nerves. But with Jesus, all things are possible. He will help us to maintain the integrity and concern for others that are the core of producing good fruit.
So take a bite of repentance. Digest that attitude. Imagine your life without God’s integrity and concern for you. Be joyful in your salvation and share your joy with others. All the person next to you might need is a smile. Surely we all have an extra one to spare." - Perry Noble
PS: Remember to like my new Facebook page and share the link with your friends. You can get to it by clicking here.



Saturday, April 14, 2012

Branching Out

You can now follow 
MamaMakingChanges 
on Facebook! 
Just click  here to go to our page, 
then click Like
 and share with your Facebook friends 
to spread the word. 
Thanks!

Promise Kept...

I said those plants would be in the ground by the end of this day and I meant it! The garden has been fully planted and watered and looks great. Well everything got planted except the carrot seeds that my daughter threw away as she was cleaning up behind me. Haha. Between my garden and my CSA basket, there should be no shortage of fresh, organic produce in this house this summer! I really want to learn how to can and pickle so that I can keep some for winter, although I do know how to put up tomatoes and corn in the freezer. Canning is on my list and I've done a little reading but one thing at a time! How about a few pics of the garden? I think I promised those too.
 Peppers and Rutgers Tomatoes above
 Strawberries on the left, Cukes and Tomatoes center. 
Watermelons are just out of view on the right above.
 Onions don't look like much now but they will!
 Brussels Sprouts above. Can't wait to get these!
 More Tomatoes and Peppers
The Romaine didn't like  being transplanted. Hopefully it will recover.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mama Wants to Party

 Mama Making Changes is joining the Ultimate Blog Party 2012. I started this blog to share with others the easy and not so easy changes we are making in our home to become more green, live more sustainably, be more eco-friendly. I wanted accountability for my own promises to change and I wanted to inspire others to make changes, too. My blog is so new and already I have had nearly 1000 page views, a threshold I hope to cross this week. That number means I am reaching others and they want to hear what I have to say. I eagerly go to my computer each evening to share the new things I've learned, tried, read about, planned.
I hope the Blog Party can help me reach more fans of green living and help me find more blogs that share my interests. Check out all the blogs on www.5minutesformom.com and share the ones you like.

Local and Organic Market Coming Soon


Food Journalist?

I have been struggling with my weight for several years now. The pounds keep coming, even though I have made some significant changes. I am trying to make smarter choices about my diet, both for my sake and for the sake of the environment. I am joining a Weight Loss Challenge at work that starts next week so that I will have accountability and motivation (there's a cash prize!), but I am a little worried that I will continue to gain weight and then I will have to pay $1 for each pound gained during the contest. 
I am not giving up yet! I have heard and read several suggestions that I start keeping a food journal, partly because of my weight, partly because I get terrible migraine headaches and don't know what triggers them. I am making a commitment today to start a journal in which I will write down everything I eat, everything I drink, and any exercise I do each day. Maybe I will learn something about why I am still gaining weight instead of losing it.  Maybe I will learn more about my headaches. Maybe I will be more conscious of what goes in my mouth and where it came from. 
I will continue to share with you about how the journal is helping or not helping and what, if anything, I learn from the experience. I hope some will join me in this endeavor and share with me as you go. 



Thursday, April 12, 2012

What's Growing In the Garden?

I did it! After a morning of running errands and picking up the groceries that I ordered last night, I finished readying that garden I've been working on for so long! All of the grass is gone, transplanted to bare spots in the yard. The ground has been tilled thoroughly, the rows raised and the paths lower. The organic Miracle Gro soil has been dumped on top and then tilled into the dirt that was already there. The strawberries that came back from last year were transplanted to the new garden today, too. The plants are not all in the ground yet, but I will finish planting Saturday and pictures will follow. I am so excited! Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, brussels sprouts, lettuce, onions, and watermelon. Yum Yum!
Now to nurse my aching muscles. What a workout a tiller can give you! What is everyone else planting this year? 

Photo of the Easy Chicken Curry

And It's Yummy!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mama Gets Cookin'

One thing I really need to work on is eating out less and eating at home more. Convenience is a difficult thing to give up! How can we get healthier, though, if we don't eat healthier? Sure, we can order salad in a restaurant, but then we can't control or even know where the food came from. Besides that, we need to learn to be better stewards of the money God has blessed us with. Restaurants simply cost so much more. 

This week I have cooked every night so far and tomorrow I want to try something new. I am thinking about making Chicken Curry, which I have never cooked and haven't eaten in about 15 years. I found the recipe below at this link, Easy Chicken Curry, and thought I'd share it with you. I will be ordering the ingredients I don't have using Click'nShop at Piggly Wiggly tonight so that I don't have to go in to pick them up in the morning.  If you haven't tried it, you should! The website is www.thepig.net and click the logo in the top right corner. Choose your store and start shopping. I love that many of the produce items at Piggly Wiggly are locally grown. It doesn't hurt that I work there and employees get a discount! 

Any recipes you want to share with me, feel free! Anytime! Especially if it will help use the veggies in my garden this year! By the way, anyone know where I can buy locally farmed chicken in or near Florence so I can stop buying it at the grocery store?


Easy Chicken Curry

Ingredients

 1 tsp salt
5-6 chicken breasts
5-6 medium sized potatoes
3-4 heaping tsp curry powder
1 large onion
3-4 cloves fresh garlic
Approx. 4 tablespoons oil
Serves approx. 6 people

Preparation

1). In a large saucepan,(I use a wok) fry the onion(diced), garlic(chopped fine), curry powder and oil for approximately 3-5 minutes. Make sure not to burn. Remove from pot.
2). Dice up chicken into cubes and fry in same pan until almost cooked.
3). Peel potatoes and cut into cubes.
4). Add chicken, potatoes and onion curry mixture into saucepan. Fill with water until everything is just covered.
5). Simmer for about 45 minutes until the sauce starts to get a thick gravy like consistency.
6). Right before it is ready I will occasionally add some chopped yellow, orange, red or green peppers for a short time.




Tuesday, April 10, 2012

5 Easy Ways to Use That Leftover Ham

Wow, that Easter ham was so delicious. And those ham sandwiches last night were pretty good, too. But what now? Try some of these simple ideas for leftover ham, even the bone!

  • Chop up ham into small pieces. Spread your fave spaghetti sauce on top of pitas and top with shredded mozzarella. Add the chopped ham and some strained canned pineapple. Bake just until cheese is melted well for easy Hawaiian pizza singles. 
  • Make a quiche with ham, fresh diced tomatoes, and green onions. Yummy! Just mix these ingredients and bake for 50 minutes on 350 degrees.
    • 2 cups milk
    • 4 eggs
    • 3/4 cup biscuit baking mix
    • 1/4 cup butter, softened
    • 1 cup grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese
    • 3/4 cup fresh diced tomatoes
    • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
    • 1 cup cubed cooked ham
    • 8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Roll up a slices of swiss cheese in slices of ham and stuff into chicken breasts before baking as usual. 
  • When most of the meat has been used, place the bone with any remaining meat still on it into the crockpot with equal parts white corn, baby lima beans, and tomatoes. I use frozen corn and beans but canned whole tomatoes. When you open the cans, pour the juice in first, then let the kids have fun crushing the whole tomatoes to smithereens before adding them to the pot. Cook on low for about 12 hours, stir, and enjoy by the bowlful. 
  • Add the bone or diced ham to soup. This works best in potato, lentil, or split pea soup. For best results, let the bone simmer in the soup till the meat falls off. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Why Barefoot?

Tomorrow is the day! One Day Without Shoes 2012, which I wrote about last week, is finally here. So why should you participate? How does going barefoot help anything? It's simple! When you go barefoot all day, eventually someone is going to look at you funny or even ask you why. You get the chance to educate them and they can then educate someone else. By spreading the word, more  people will be willing to act to help those who need shoes so desperately. Consider this: Many schools require shoes. If a child has none, then what? Barefoot can be fun unless it's the only option. Still doubtful? Check out the following facts quoted from www.onedaywithoutshoes.com before you decide not to participate. And if you do participate, visit the website for a card you can download and cut out. Hand these to people who question your bare feet tomorrow or just learn the info so that you can tell them yourself. 

  • 30,000 people live in just one landfill in the Philippines, where children walk over broken glass, syringes and debris each day.
  • 1,890,000 Kenyan children are infected with jiggers, burrowing fleas that cause painful lesions.
  • 4,000,000 people have podoconiosis, a debilitating and disfiguring disease caused by living barefoot in volcanic soil.
  • 740,000,000 people are affected by hookworm, a soil-transmitted parasite that can cause intestinal pain, weakness and cognitive impairment.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

I'm Starting with the (Wo)man in the Mirror


The sermon at church today was so wonderful. It was not the typical Easter sermon, but it was just what I needed to hear. Apparently others agreed. So many people came forward and were saved today! It was absolutely amazing to see God work in such a big way. This song, Man In the Mirror, was actually performed at the end of the service. We could all do with a little less pride and a little more humility. We could all stand to take a longer look at the person in the mirror.
How can we complain about the world's problems when we do nothing to help? How can we have a legitimate complaint about anything before we deal with our sin and our own dirt? It's so easy to point fingers at others for causing our problems. We have to admit our fault in our situation first, or in some cases realize that we were not the one at fault. Then we have to do what we can to remedy the situation, which includes taking the problem to God in prayer and trusting that he will never lead you in the wrong direction.
When we are at peace with ourselves, it is easier to help others. I challenge you to spend some time soul searching. I will be looking in my mirror long and hard, too.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Easter Wishes for You

I hope this Easter is wonderful for you.
I hope that you spend it remembering Jesus and the miracle of the resurrection.
I hope you attend a church service to be reminded that the open tomb is more important than the candy.
I hope that you marvel at the beauty that is Spring as the children run around looking for eggs among the azaleas and the bright new grass.
I hope that you spend time with family and appreciate all that each member brings to make your family unique.
I hope you eat well and are able to nap afterward.
Enjoy your holiday and may God bless you on this Easter Sunday.




Friday, April 6, 2012

Food, Inc.


This week I watched the movie "Food, Inc.", which I had heard was very enlightening. Not only did I learn a lot about the food we eat and from whence it comes, some of what I learned was shocking and even disgusting.      

This documentary about how industry influences and even controls much of the farming industry also explains how our food supply has become controlled by a few huge corporations. These companies often put profit first, and what suffers is our health, the American family farm, workers, animals, and our environment. You will be surprised how many of the items in a typical grocery store contain corn, and you will be disgusted at the way your beef is fed and raised and slaughtered. "Food, Inc" also delves into the industry of highly processed food. Items like soft drinks and potato chips are to blame for many of the health problems in America. The movie also encourages us to change these trends by purchasing foods that are more nutritiv, organic, and locally grown whenever possible.Follow this link to download a list of 10 ways to help change the food industry now... Food, Inc. Postcard . Read over them and see what changes you can effect in your home. I encourage you to also watch the movie. You will be surprised, impressed, and depressed. When it's over, though, watch another movie..."Fresh" explores the opposite side of the food industry, the family farm, and inspires in me a feeling that there is hope for us yet.



Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easy Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

I thought it was only appropriate to write today's message in green. Earth Day 2012 is just around the corner. The 42nd annual Earth Day is on April 22. I love to celebrate Earth Day as a family because it shows our children that we care and it's a great time to really focus on good environmental practices in a fun way. You can commit to doing something to celebrate by going to "A Billion Acts Of Green" at this link. 
I have committed to planting my garden on that day, which is why I need to get finished preparing it! We plan to do this as a family. We are also planning to go to the movies that day to watch the new Disney movie "Chimpanzee", which looks to be very touching and is a true story. The movie is being released on April 20, but we are going to wait till the 22nd and watch as part of our Earth Day celebration. See the preview at http://disney.go.com/disneynature/chimpanzee/. During opening week Disney nature makes a donation to save chimpanzees for each ticket sold. 
Need more ideas? Here are some easy ways to celebrate:

  • Plant a tree. Simple. Or plant something else. This idea is especially good if you plant something native to the area. Plants that are imported from other areas can damage ecosystems. 
  • Walk or bike to school/work. If this isn't possible, carpool. Fewer cars on the road is still the end result and that means less carbon emitted. 
  • Organize a clean up. Get your family and even friends together to pick up trash at a nearby park or along the streets of your neighborhood. 
  • Clean out the garage or attic. Instead of throwing things away, take them to the Habitat for Humanity Home Store or another local organization. Things that can't be reused can be recycled. See how much you can keep out of landfills.
  • Build a birdhouse and nail it to a tree in the yard. Don't have trees? Nail it to the porch railing, facing away from the house or apartment. This can be as simple as cutting a hole in a milk carton and hanging it!
  • Visit a local organic farm. Most will let you volunteer to work for a day or part of a day to get a close up perspective on how things are done on the farm. This helps to farmer and educates you and your kids. Take home some fresh produce at the end of the day!
  • Join a CSA. Community supported agriculture is a great way to support local farmers. Pay a fee in the spring and get a basket or box of fresh, in-season, produce each week during the farms growing season. This helps reduce carbon emissions also because you aren't buying food that traveled from other states on big trucks. 
  • Go to the Farmer's Market. Get to know local growers and get some good eats! Or just purchase a plant to put in the ground when you return home.
  • Let the kids pick up leaves, flowers, grass, etc. from outside and use it to decorate a sheet of newspaper or recycled paper. Cut a frame from a cereal box and let them color the frame. Then hang it or gift it to a grandparent proudly!
  • Been putting off recycling at home? Make 3 bins and designate a spot for them. One is for plastic, one is for aluminum, and one is for cardboard and paper. You'll find this will account for most of the trash that you've been sending to the landfill. 
  • Start a compost bin. A very basic bin can be made with a circle of chicken wire. Cut a space at the bottom that will allow you to reach in with a shovel to turn the compost. Or you can buy a bin at the hardware store. Never put animal products in your compost. If you season your vegetables with butter or drippings, those are animal products and those vegetables should not go in. Yard clippings and produce scraps should go into the bin. This is a great way to make free organic fertilizer.
  • Write a letter to your congressman asking for less government funding to big industrial growers and more support for small family farms that use organic sustainable practices.
Have some great ideas not listed here? Share them please! And after Earth Day is over, upload your photos at http://www.earthday.org/2012 to inspire others. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mama's Got a Migraine

For the second time in a week, I find myself with a migraine headache. I take a prescription medication called Axert that helps. But does anyone know any natural remedies or preventatives? I don't know what triggers my headaches even though I had my first migraine at age 5. Medication has come a long way since then, but the pills are $12 each after insurance! Share with me if you have any helpful tips or your own migraine questions.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fans of Local Food Rejoice

Great news for the city of Florence! Here in Florence, SC, we have been undergoing a revitalization project in the old downtown area. The area is looking better and better and more events are being scheduled in the area. Today I read an announcement that a Downtown Farmer's Market will be held each Wednesday afternoon in the breezeway area of downtown. The market will feature locally grown food from local family-owned farms, including Dickson's Organics (which is the CSA I have joined), Trinity Farms, Sweet Berry Farm, Carolina Heritage Farm, and Lone Palmetto Farms...just for starters! All foods/products at the market will have been produced within an 80 mile radius of Florence.
I am a huge proponent of local, sustainable agriculture and I am so pleased to be able to easily access a variety of their fares. When we buy locally grown food, we make a larger impact than many realize. For example, the food doesn't have to be transported thousands of miles (think California and Florida) which decreases carbon emissions and fossil fuel use. We also keep our money in the local economy, where it is more likely to continue to benefit our local job market and food prices. When buying organic, we are also showing our support for these farmers who bring us healthier, chemical-free produce. These organic farmers often make less due to lower yields but they continue because they believe in what they do and because they know we want this type of food. There are so many  more reasons to buy local when it's available.
According to the Downtown Farmers' Market Facebook page, "the market is comprised of vendors implementing sustainable practices (organic growing, pasture based livestock, heritage breeds, heirloom varieities, re-purposing, re-cycling, reduced food miles, etc) and the market will implement green initiatives (ex: no plastic shopping bags)."  
The Downtown Farmer's Market in Florence will be open every Wednesday from 3:00 to 7:30 pm. Hope to see you there!

Monday, April 2, 2012

And the Winners Are...

Congratulations to Bonnie Swingle and Buffy Asaro for winning a Soap Nuts Sampler from Green Virgin Products! I can't wait to hear how they like them. What giveaway should I offer next? Hmmm....

Bare Your Feet for a Cause


On April 10, 2012, Toms is holding its annual "One Day Without Shoes".  Most are familiar with Toms, the shoe company that gives away a pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair purchased. "One Day Without Shoes" is an event to spread awareness of the need for shoes by so many children and how shoes keep kids healthy and in school. For example, little bugs called jiggers live in the dust in Kenya. Since most schools have dirt floors and the children do not have shoes, the jiggers dig into their feet. If they are not promptly treated, their feet become infected and too painful to walk upon. This is just one example of the the health risk of not owning shoes. Toms provides children like these with free shoes. My church put a concrete floor in one such school in Kenya on a mission trip, as well as providing medical care to all of the children with jiggers.
"One Day Without Shoes" is a challenge to each of us. If you go barefoot for the day, people will ask you why or simply stare. Tell them why you are doing it. On the website you can print off little cards to hand out to anyone who questions you. In some cases, entire companies have committed to allowing their employees to go without shoes for a day. Unless their is a public health reason that you can't, you can ask your employer about joining. I work in a grocery store, where the health department does not allow bare feet. You can bet I will be barefoot before and after work, though!
To learn more or to commit to a baring your feet on April 10, visit www.onedaywithoutshoes.com . Then involve your whole family to make it more fun. Go for a walk, visit the park, go window shopping! The more people see you barefoot, the more opportunity you will have to tell them why every child needs to own a pair of shoes. Still not motivated? Watch the video below to see how big this movement was last year. Let's make it bigger this year. 


Spring

Don't you just love Spring? The sunshine, the warm air and cool breezes, the birds chirping and the flowers blooming.... I am just so thankful that Spring still impresses me and amazes me and that I have not become too complacent to notice.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday Chatter

I like to make Sunday my day of rest, so I may not always have a detailed article full of new information on Sunday night. I didn't want to skip a day either, so how about a few little updates?
My daughter and I used Endomondo to track the .91 miles we walked today. We actually started with speed walking, then did some jogging, went back to speed walking, and jogged again at the end. I have been doing push-ups every evening and since yesterday have stepped up to morning and evening push-ups. We are so excited about the Mud Run and it's great motivation. 
The bad news? Apparently, register by April 1 means before April 1...I got online to register our team and the kids on April 1 and couldn't. I have emailed them and hope to be able to get registered still. Worst case scenario? We run in October instead of April. 
We have taken far longer than expected to remove all of the grass from the area I want to use as my new garden. Who knew it was so hard to remove grass? Whew! It will wear your butt out! I hope to be finished by Thursday, though, because I am planning to till on my day off. I bought some organic soil to mix in so that the soil will be rich enough but the dirt is good and black already. Pray that I finish! I need to get these plants in the ground. 
After a day of family and friends and good food and a great sermon, I am ready to sit and watch Swamp Men for a few minutes before bed. Who's with me on that? I know there are a lot of Swamp fans out there! 
I have some great ideas for the blog this week so stay tuned for some awesome info. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday and don't forget to enter the soap nuts giveaway. Tonight is the deadline!