December 30, 2008

Is it all it's cracked up to be?

I have a love/hate relationship with the whole notion of eating local. I like the idea. I think there are many benefits, some of which can include getting to know the farmer, less transportation of the food, and fresher food. But, I love things that cannot and do not grow here. I will never get an avocado grown in Oregon. If I did it would have to be grown in such an artificial environment that it would defeat the purpose of not being from California or Mexico. So, eat local or eat those things I like that aren't local or do a bit of both. I do a bit of both. Such a wide variety of tasty foods are grown in Oregon/Washington that I can usually, without trying too hard, find something in season that is relatively local (there's a lot of debate about what is local...that's not the point today).

A few things I eat just naturally seem to be local. Honey is one of them. It's readily available and I like to buy in bulk. Doesn't hurt that my in-laws gave us a gallon jar of honey. We're starting in on year two with that big boy. The fact that we don't eat large quantities plays a role as well. Today, I read an article that reminded me of another reason I like eating local. Adulteration. This can happen anywhere but it seems that more and more, food from other countries - finger pointing at China - are not all they seem. This article from the Seattle PI shows the great lengths that exporters in China have gone to export honey that is tainted with animal antibiotics (super bug anyone). Does it make sense that Singapore is now a major exporter of honey to the US and they don't have any bees?

So, while I am not a fanatic about eating local, I would like to encourage you to think about where your food is produced. Is it all it's cracked up to be? If not, you might want to consider making some changes...for your health! And read that article above. We all need to start paying attention to where our food comes from...and no, the right answer is not McDonalds!

December 23, 2008

What the hell?

The other day, I happened to be looking at BBC news headlines and stumbled on this article "Getting high on HIV drugs in S Africa." Seriously, what the hell?

People are grinding anti-retroviral drugs (the ones that keep you from progressing to AIDS when you are HIV positive) into powder and smoking them. And this is not typically the patients. Kids are doing this too. It all comes down to the money. Patients and even healthcare staff are selling the pills for money according to the author. Why are people smoking these pills? Oh wait, "Smoking the pills has a hallucinogenic and relaxing effect."

So let's get this straight. We have a country where people actually believe AIDS isn't real; we have a disease with no known cure; and we have people who are compromising their health and the ability of the drugs to work because of the potential for resistance (as in, the drugs will no longer work when someone who is truely HIV positive needs them). Sorry, climate change and peak oil don't mean a damn thing if humanity isn't on Earth!

November 13, 2008

I'll Do It Myself!

Why is it always so hard to work in a group? Is it just me or does it always seem like a few people do the lion's share of the work. I hated group projects in school. While I understand we all have different strengths, blah, blah, blah...there are a lot of times I would rather just do it myself. Thanks Dad (said with sarcasm!)

Today has reminded me of this dilemma. It appears to be happening in multiple areas of my life. I'm concerned about how easy it is to point fingers and speak poorly about others. Frustration causes me to do things I'd really rather not be doing. I don't really think pointing fingers or talking badly about one "team member" with other team members is conducive to solving the problem. Nor does it feel right.

What do you do in these situations? Do you care if you start pointing fingers? Does it bother you when you are speaking badly about other "team members"? Just food for thought.

October 31, 2008

Adventures in a Stick Shift or Finding Out What It Isn't

I got to revisit how dependent I am on my automatic yesterday.  I love my automatic.  It's taken me nearly five years to say that.  I drove my grandparents to OHSU in Portland.  It's on a hill.  There was traffic, lots of traffic.  I didn't kill the car, us or anyone else but I sure wished I had the automatic!

Know what it feels like to find out what something isn't but still not know what it is?  That's what Grandma got to feel yesterday.  While everything the doctor had to say was encouraging, it didn't get at the root of her problem.  She's healthy, he expects her to live to 113, and the veins to her brain are great.  The chances of a stroke are low.  But none of this explained why she's dizzy.  "I feel defeated," she said at lunch.  I know what she meant but had no words to buoy her up.  

Should she feel defeated? That's open to debate.  People like to say things are what they are.  All things point to health.  Is that what she should focus on?  I don't know. I know in my life I hate it when I don't know the answer.  Why do things happen the way they do?  Are we supposed to be learning something from life? Or, are things what they are? Okay, so no great answers today.  

Only once did I forget I was driving their car and try to start it without pushing in the REI.  Luckily, I had pulled forward into the next spot so there wasn't a car in front of me to hit.  It was what it was.

October 25, 2008

The Importance of Being Trustworthy

I woke up with a thought this morning.  I've been thinking about relationships for the last couple of days.  What is the most important thing we can do to create, keep or save our relationships?  Many times we think of relationships as being between partners, like a husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend.  We all have relationships though.  Relationships with family, with friends, with co-workers, with pretty much anybody we meet.   These relationships don't always go well.  I'm not trying to be negative.  I'm just trying to point out something I think we can all work on. 

Have you ever really thought about why relationships don't always go so well?  Are you pointing the finger at someone else right now?  Be honest.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that perhaps relationships don't go well when there is a trust issue.  If each person in the relationship can trust the other, all other things fall into place.  Communication cannot work if there isn't trust. If money is involved, things can get really bad really quick if there isn't trust. If it's a sexual relationship, trust plays a huge role.  Every part of a relationship comes back to trust.

Being who you say your are and doing what you say you will goes a long ways towards creating a person that others will trust.  If others trust you then you are leaps and bounds ahead on creating a good relationship!

October 4, 2008

High Taste Low Fat Pumpkin Bars

It's that time of year again...the time of year when I become obsessed with all things pumpkin. Or at least that's what Andy thinks.

However, I hate pumpkin pie. It's not because of the pumpkin though. It's the texture. Until a couple of years ago, I still thought it was the pumpkin. Once I realized how wonderful pumpkin muffins, scones, pancakes, waffles, and lattes were, there was no looking back.

Now, realize I am a seasonal girl! I don't want pumpkin muffins or lattes in July. I want them from October through December. Well guess what, it's that time of year again.

Canned pumpkin lends itself well to low fat recipes - it moist and flavorful. So, while I plan to share a recipe below that's easy and tasty, I thought I'd share a little information about pumpkins. Or, rather, about Libby's canned pumpkin.

Did you know that this product first appeared on store shelves in 1929? And for those not in the know, canned pumpkin is not that little jack o' lantern you carve at Halloween! You would do better to use squash than those things (the others are watery and stringy). Libby's uses a special variety they call the Dickinson Select. About 5,000 acres of these little jewels are grown each year around Morton, Illinois. And, they can them the same day they're harvested. I like to do things by hand or from scratch, but pumpkin puree is just not worth it.

Ok, let's get to that recipe. I'm calling it High Taste Low Fat Pumpkin Bars. I adapted the recipe from one on a blog I read, called A Veggie Venture. Go check her out! She has a ton of recipes -all with veggies. If you can't find something new to try than you have a problem! Anyways, this recipe is adapted to low fat and no wheat. They are amazing and easy. Even Andy admitted they were good after teasing me about, "Are they pumpkin?"

Note: If you don't need wheat-free just use wheat flour, preferably whole wheat!

High Taste Low Fat Pumpkin Bars
  • 1/4 cup canned sweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 cup corn flour (not corn meal)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar in the Raw Turbinado Sugar from Natural Cane
Whisk brown sugar, applesauce and egg together in large bowl. Add vanilla and pumpkin. Combine well.

In separate bowl, mix flours, baking powder, baking soda, and spices together. Add to liquid ingredients. Combine well. Pour into greased 8x8 or 9x9 pan. Spread evenly. Sprinkle raw sugar on top.

Bake about 15 minutes at 350 degrees. I had to do let mine cook a little longer. Just cook until the center is set up. The raw sugar will stay a little crunchy on top (Duh, that's why it's tasty!).

This makes 9 servings at 1 WW point/serving or 2.5 WW points/serving.

September 26, 2008

Dog Shit 101 or How to Become the Crazy Neighbor Lady!

Many of us want to rid the world of injustice. Although we'll probably never be caped crusaders over dog shit. You know how sometimes you do something stupid and then wonder what possessed you to do said stupid thing? Hi, I'm raising my hand, really high!

We moved in about a year and a half now ago. I've known neighbor A's dog was shitting in neighbor B's yard for about a year. Now, for some reason it didn't bother me when I didn't know neighbor B and it was obvious they didn't give a crap (get it, ha ha) about their yard. They literally never mowed. The grass was waist high (oh man I'm good). But, now I know neighbor B and I know they eventually want to put in edible landscaping. Dog shit and edible landscaping do not go together, just in case you were wondering.

I hadn't seen the little, yappy dog for a while so I figured the owners had a clue. WRONG! I just hadn't been getting up early enough. Wednesday, I got up at 6:30 am. There is yappy dog, shitting in the yard. It's a clear view through the fishbowl (our living room window is 100 x 70). I run outside in my robe and flip thops yelling, "Whose dog is this?" See, told you it was "How to Become the Crazy Neighbor Lady." I've tried following yappy dog before, and had narrowed down the possibilities for the owners. I went up the alley (across the street) and sure enough the dog went right to the door I thought it would. The owner opened the door and I, being the crazy neighbor, yelled "Your dog is shitting in other people's yards." Notice, I was careful not to say my yard, 'cause I didn't have a leg to stand on. The startled woman just looked at me and said, "Ok." At least that's what I think she said.

Today, I went and told neighbor B what I had said. It's not my business but thought I should let them know in case neighbor A decided to yell at them. Turns out, neighbor A is likely to be moving soon. Boy do I feel silly. At least I didn't likely cause WW III in our neighborhood since I have cats that go outside. Be my luck to have someone, "Your cats shit in other people's yards!"

And, just to show how big a problem this can be, check out this article on DNA testing of dog shit in Israel. Seriously people.

September 3, 2008

Ummm, it's like busted!

You know that "Thing" (yes it's thing with a capitol T) that you never think you could ever do.  Never in a million years. You know people who do "it" but not you. These people are called freaks, by the way.

I managed to conquer that "Thing."  My "Thing" was getting in good enough shape to ride my bicycle to Burgerville in Monmouth (approx. 32 miles round trip) for a smoothie and french fries. Those who know me, know I've been losing weight and so far, I have lost about 47 pounds.  That's great but it wasn't getting me my smoothie!  

On Labor Day, four of us set out to conquer my "Thing." And, rather than just complete the task and say okay that's done, I  decided I could add on a bit.  Instead of a nice out and back, we rode from my house in Salem, to Dallas, to Monmouth, to Independence and back on River Road. This ended up being 41 miles.  I'm not going to lie, I'm slow.  But I made it.  And, as I kept telling everyone, if I were a guy, I would be officially sterile!  But I didn't die and a blackberry smoothie never tasted so good.  So below are photo's from my epic journey.  Hopefully, you too will one day conquer your "Thing," with a capitol T of course!

August 12, 2008

What do you think...maybe a front basket for fruit?

I guess I like a challenge. Or I just don't think these things out. Below are pictures of tonight's shopping bike. All 64lbs of it. I actually didn't fill my panniers too full this time but almost everything was heavy. Canned refried beans, giant thing of lotion, face wash, and yes that is a 20lbs bag of cat food bungeed across the top of the bike rack and the panniers. I made it home in one piece but went a lot slower than normal. And, I'm again so grateful for losing that 45lbs. Can't imagine what this would be like with that and the 64 lbs of stuff!

It can be done though! I'm living proof.

August 11, 2008

Vulcan Lake and Hot Cakes

This weekend was fun! Haven't felt that way about a weekend for awhile since Andy had to work most of them last month. Hitched a ride with my great-aunt and uncle on Thursday to Coquille where we met my parents. Went home with them and spent the night. The next morning, Dad, my uncle George, and I drove east of Brookings and hiked into Vulcan Lake. It was beautiful.

The most beautiful part was that I am 45 lbs lighter than I was last year. It was probably the most enjoyable hike I have ever done...because I didn't think I was going to die!

The weather was warm but not too hot with a slight breeze. This area was part of the Biscuit Fire back in 2002 so there really wasn't much by the way of shade. Things are definitely returning after the fire though.

Physically I was seven hours away from home but mentally I was much further.

Not only did I get to go on a wonderful hike, but I got to spend some quality time with my family and my extended family. Each year, my Grandma and her two sisters and anybody from each of their families that can, get together up Fairview. I have especially enjoyed getting to know my cousin Kathy. She is such an amazing person. She and her husband have adopted five special needs children. Each child is really special and has a unique personality. I have apparently made at least a small impression on one. (For their safety I am not sharing their names.) But one of the little girls remembered that I let her help me mix up the hot cakes last year. This year she woke up on Saturday and ran full speed out of the bus, not even stopping to use the bathroom. She was going to help me mix the hot cakes. I had forgotten but when she got to the kitchen I had really just started. The picture below tells more than words could any day!

What a wonderful way to spend my weekend!

July 27, 2008

Gluten-Free Pizza Dough...or Focaccia

This week was a busy one. I can't even remember everything that happened it was that crazy. Tuesday and Wednesday night I went to a friend's orchard and picked cherries. Each year, I tend to go so crazy on cherries that I get my fill. Meaning I don't care if I never see another cherry. Well, almost never. About the time a year has rolled around, I'm craving them again. If you didn't already know, my cravings are seasonal. I picked enough Vans (dark cherries) to can seven quarts for Grandpa. I also picked enough Royal Anns (light cherries) to freeze 5 quarts, eat too many, and dry 2 quarts worth. This I did on Thursday evening after work.

On Friday, I went to my first Happy Rider's event. Basically, a bunch of people who like to ride bikes meet on Friday afternoon and go to a few different bars and have a pint of beer. I don't drink beer so I had water at the first one and a fruity drink of unknown name at the second one. After waiting for everyone to order their pint, I told the bartender I wanted something sweet, fruity and under $4. He wouldn't tell me what it was so I think he just made it up but it certainly hit the spot. Andy met me there and we went upstairs afterwards to a Mexican place for dinner.

Yesterday, I had a table for work at the Portland Farmer's Market. Everyone was great and I found some goat mozeralla. Andy did a chicken on the rotisserie in the barbie. He has had to work both days for the last two weekends so his weekend wasn't so great. But, this brings me to the title of this post. A friend of Andy's from when he was in high school called and wanted to come talk about old times. He came over and stayed for dinner. We had the chicken, a salad, and my new gluten-free focaccia bread. Everyone seemed to like it so I thought I'd share. I used the same dough to make a pizza for Andy and I last week.

Gluten-Free Pizza Dough (Joy of Cooking, 1997)

Mix on low speed in a heavy-duty mixer bowl with the paddle attachment for 1 minute:
1 c. brown rice flour
1c. white rice flour
1 1/2 c. tapioca flour
1/2 c. potato starch
1 T. xanthan gum
1 T. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 T. yeast

Add and mix on low speed for 1 minute:
1 c. buttermilk (I used lemon juice and almond milk)
3 T. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. cider vinegar
2 eggs
1 egg white
1/4 c. very water (115-125 degrees) water

Increase speed to medium-high and mix for 4 minutes. Grease a 12" round nonstick pan (for thick crust) or 14" round pizza pan (for thinner crust).* Sprinkle with:
2 T. cornmeal or polenta

With wet hands, press the batter onto the pan and spread evenly. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature until puffy, about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick the crust all over with a fork and bake for 15 minutes. Cover with sauce and other toppings (except cheese) and continue baking for 10 minutes for the thin crust or 15 minutes for thick crust. Cheese may be sprinkled on for the last 5 minutes of baking.

* I used a square cookie sheet for the pizza crust. It was thick but good. I think next time I would split it in half. For the focaccia last night, I did split the dough in half and pressed it out pretty thin. Don't be afraid to keep your hands very wet to do this. I let it rise and then poked it, spread a little bit of olive oil and pesto, and salt on top before I baked them. Then I probably baked them for about 20 minutes or so. It got golden on top and was done in the center. Getting it done in the center can be tricky with this dough. Be patient and watch it!

June 29, 2008

The Jones Cottage

This is a summer of changes around the Jones Cottage. We've been here a year.Most of the time I don't think we accomplish much...
 know, keeping the house at a minimum level of clean feels like about all we can do. But, I'm learning to give us more credit.

I have been trying to get edible landscaping approved but it looks like that isn't likely to happen. I had even given up on raised beds. Then one day, Andrew came in a said he thought they would be okay in the strip between the driveway and the alley. Great! And, since we are replacing the fence, I knew exactly where I would get the wood to build them.

I have great ideas but not always great follow through. Andrew knows he's going to get sucked into working on something he had no intention of being a part of. Anyways, I built the first box, quickly figured out it was really deep and decided to stagger them. So, the first two boxes are four fence boards deep, the next two are three fence boards deep, and the last two (which I haven't built yet) will be two fence boards deep.

We (notice how Andrew got involved) spent a Saturday finishing these four boxes (building and filling with soil). I would have never gotten them done if Andrew hadn't stepped in when he did. If you followed above, you realize I still have two more to do. I also intend to put in a drip-irrigation system on a timer but I'm thinking that will just have to wait for a while.

Green beans, celery, tomatoes, purple potatoes, peppers, delicata squash, lemon cucumber and basil all made it in this year. It has really amazed me how well everything is doing. It was late in the year, the weather was weird and some of the plants had a rough time before getting in the ground, yet in less than a week everything was going strong.
This picture is from the first week when I planted the green beans. They were seeds Mom and Dad saved from last year. I would say germination was spotty.

Just one week after planting!

But that isn't all that has been going on. Mom and Dad came up and Dad cut down the awful holly tree in our backyard and the arborvitae in the front yard. Plus, we're getting that new fence!

Maybe there is more going on at the Jones Cottage than I think.

June 11, 2008

But I Don't Like Spinach!

As I learn to be wheat and dairy free, I am exploring new foods. My current favorite is quinoa. This is the "mother of all grains" and no I'm not cursing. This grain has been a staple crop for thousands of years in South America. It was the Incas that referred to it as the mother of all grains.

For those of us who are sensitive to wheat, it is a great find. It is not technically a grain and is in the Chenopodiaceae family which also includes spinach and beets. It has a balanced set of amino acids which other grains and rice do not have.

Even if you're not sensitive to wheat, it makes a tasty addition to your cupboards and comes in a variety of colors. Use it in place of rice or couscous or as a breakfast cereal. Tonight I combined red quinoa with a fresh fava bean sauce and made a tasty dinner.

Fresh Fava Bean Sauce with Quinoa

4 tsp olive oil, divided

1 1/2 tsp garlic, minced

1 T fresh oregano, finely chopped

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, frozen

salt and pepper, to taste

1 c. cooked, peeled fava beans

1 c. dry quinoa

(garlic powder, cayenne powder, dried oregano, dried basil, dash TABASCO® brand Chipotle Pepper Sauce)

1. Cover chicken breast with water. Add garlic powder, cayenne powder, dried oregano and basil and the Tabasco (I just add a little of this and a little of that). Cover and bring to a boil. Boil until chicken is done. Remove chicken breast to cool and save the "broth."

2. In pan, heat oil and saute garlic until light brown. Add fresh oregano. Add 1/2 c. of reserved chicken broth, 3/4 c. of the fava beans, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for approximately 3 min. Puree in separte container. Return to pan. Add additional 1/2 c. chicken broth or more to make a sauce. Add remaining 1/4 c. fava beans.

3. Bring 2 c. chicken broth or water as needed to a boil in separate pan. Add quinoa. Bring back to a boil, cover, and turn down to low. Cook about 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.

4. Dice chicken. Heat 2 tsp olive oil in large pan and add chicken. Add cooked quinoa. Pour fava bean sauce over chicken/quinoa and toss. Heat until warm.

5. Enjoy! Goes well with a green salad.

Note: There are a number of ways one could approach this recipe. You could use pre-made chicken broth and pre-cooked chicken. In that case, skip step 1.

June 2, 2008

Do You Belong...Do You Even Want To?

Most of us want to belong. We want to have that sense of community, of being part of a group.

On one hand, I want to be an individual. I've been taught my entire life to be an individual, yet being an individual isn't always enough. Is this a character flaw? At times it would feel as if it is. I should be strong enough to do things on my own. I don't want to have to rely on others. I'll do it myself! Yet, I still seek out community in my life. I want to be part of a group.

According to Sarason (Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Yale University), sense of community is “the perception of similarity to others, an acknowledged interdependence with others, a willingness to maintain this interdependence by giving to or doing for others what one expects from them, and the feeling that one is part of a larger dependable and stable structure.” Others have defined sense of community as “a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together.”

A problem can arise when you don't have a perception of similarity. It's us vs them, but what about when feel like you're neither an us or a them? What if you feel like both.

Can you really be both?

Some days I'm not sure where I am. I feel pulled in many different directions. You see me one way, she sees me another way, and I don't see myself either way. None of these things are negatives, they are just opportunities to look outside of ourselves and open up to the greater world. If you don't feel the need to belong, good for you, I guess. If you do, maybe you want to think about the different groups and how you belong to each. What strengths do you see in your various groups? What are they sharing with and teaching to you? What are you providing in return? Each of us has talents and strengths that we share with those around us. Many times we don't even realize what those talents or strengths might be. Sit down with an honest friend some time and ask them what they see as your strengths or talents. It might just surprise you!

Maybe you belong more than you think and matter to those in your community! And, others are committed to you and you to them, even if you think you have to be an individual and don't yet know how to ask for those things you need.

May 11, 2008

A Great Day: Amish Friendship Bread, Morels, and One Large Malamute

This, my friends, is my story.

It started by meeting Stacie and her malamute, Taiga, at her house in Adair Village. (Psst, this is where the malamute comes in. All 105 pounds of him.) We load my stuff into the truck and we're off to Corvallis. At OSU, we add Lisa, Annie, and Jane. Five women and Taiga. A great day!

After we load their stuff, the three of them pile into the back seat with Taiga as a foot warmer. Annie and Jane brought fresh baked Amish friendship bread. You've all seen it, the one that grows exponetially. One bag turns into five! They figured, bake it and they will eat it. Little did they know the nature of the beast.

It opens tin cans with it's teeth for a snack. Pulls pots off the stove without spilling a drop. Opens the refrigerator to rummage when needed. Honestly, they didn't stand a chance.

Annie figured, one slice, we'll give Taiga one slice. That will keep him busy or maybe even satisfy. What was thought to be a foot warmer soon turned into performance art. A slip of the hand and a very quick dog was all it took for that loaf of bread to be on the floor and rapidly canine lips. Other than retrieving the aluminum foil that once housed the bread, no human hands were needed.

After the shock dissipated a bit, we were all on the road. Our goal? The elusive morel.

But, first lunch in Sisters at the Coyote Cafe. They have a nice patio when you have a three day funk after a backpacking trip. Today, I got to eat inside (no three day funk and all) and actually eat how I should. Veggie protein bowl - lemon pepper chicken over snow peas and carrots.

While we may not have been prepared for the beast, we were prepared for morels.

I did mention this dog has a thing about food, right? That's him, eyeballing Lisa's avocado. Turns out he wasn't all that interested in Annie's pretzels though!

Unfortunately, our actual mushroom hunting was much less eventful than our morning. We went to a number of places that might produce but really didn't find much. I will brag though and tell you, of the 6 or so we did find, I found the first two. Really, they count as two right, even if they're connected?

Oh well, we think maybe we were just a bit early. With a lot of snow left on the pass, things on the east side are just now starting to thaw. It was still a great day. Any day, not working, spending time with great people, looking for mushrooms, is a great day!

Below, are my two little morels... as still life.

May 1, 2008

Just a table?

What makes a piece of furniture valuable? Is it quality, availability, color, look, versatility, or society even? Is it valuable because it's old, because your grandma had one? Or, is it valuable because it's new and doesn't remind you of your childhood? Does it have to "match" or does it have value on it's own - separate from anything else you may own?

Andy and I have been looking for a dining table for about a year now. But not just any had to be the perfect table. Not a lot of moolah, maybe modern, maybe old. Probably light colored. Not sure. Not sure, you say. Why yes, not sure. That was the biggest problem.

Once in a while, we'd go to a furniture store. Or, I'd email Andy a Craigslist posting. Nothing struck us...that is, until last week. Old, simple, versatile and I was sure I could get the price down.

After borrowing a truck on Saturday, we went to check her out. She's been loved but is solid and has great lines. And, I talked them down $100. We loaded her up and brought her home.

Wednesday, Katr and I decided to figure out just what she is. Previous owners thought Duncan Phyfe but "couldn't find anything." It took us all of 2 minutes to think the stamp on the bottom of the chairs said, "Heywood Wakefield" and about another minute to find a fully legible stamp on the table itself. So much for not finding anything! Built between 1948 and 1955 or so. And, possibly to the right people, worth much more than the $350 we payed.
This company wants nearly $4000 for a refinished version (our chairs are a little different). I also saw people trying to sell the table, alone, for $700-1500. I don't think I would have ever payed that much - for us it's just a very practical table. But, I do feel like doing a little "I got a deal" dance!
Wanna join me?

April 30, 2008

Thoughts on Self-Worth

Our dog, Carson, left about 3 weeks ago. He was only in our home for about 8 months but provided me with a number of opportunities to learn and grow. The day he left was very difficult for both Andy and myself. Andy might have shed a few tears (I'm not telling). I mentioned to him that in the 6.5 years we have known each other, that was perhaps only the second time I had seen that happen. His answer was something to the extent of, "I don't let emotions rule my life. I use rational thought." In the past, he has told me that I viewed self-sufficiency as a virtue, like that was a bad thing.

Using rational thought and self-sufficiency are wonderful virtues in their place. But are they always positive or can these virtues can be a negative in our lives? And, just when, if ever, do they become a negative.

It was a rough week after Carson left. That Wednesday, I went to group meditation at my church and decided to try working on this. Later I almost wished I had stuck with, "Breathing in, breathing out," rather than try to handle such a sensitive subject. As I was working on this, I had a light-bulb moment.

For me, being self-sufficient is a virtue and I'm okay with that. In fact, I value that about myself. It had become a negative for me when somewhere along the line, my self-worth got involved. A situation, such as Carson, caused me additional pain because I felt like such a failure for not being able to fix myself or with outside help.

What a light-bulb! I am still trying to figure out how I can put this into useful practice in my life. As with many things, we often learn to recognize these traits or habits after we perform them. Being able to recognize this is a step in the right direction.

Perhaps in time, I will be able to ask myself, "Self, is your worth wrapped up in being able to perform this task? Is that good or bad?" Until then, I just hope to be able to say, "Oh, that's what happened" and move on without beating myself up over a perceived failure.

So this is my story about self-worth. I hope your self-worth is great. But if it's not, maybe you have something that might be getting in the way. Maybe it's not avoidance of emotion or the need to be self-sufficient. Do you know what's holding you back? Is there something you could lovingly ponder within yourself? How can you help yourself? Will it provide you with the opportunity to learn and grow? You are the only one who truly knows where you are.

March 10, 2008

Marion County Recycling Update

The massive amount of waste our country and world even is a situation that consumes much of my thought process. Both in how I contribute and how I can reduce, reuse and recycle. Remember, those three R's from school. Frankly, I am quite scared about how plastics in particular play into this. For those who want a good read check out "Polymers are Forever" by Alan Weisman from the Orion magazine. The moral of the story is...plastic never actually goes away. It breaks down into increasingly smaller pieces but in the limited human idea of time it never goes away. It is even killing the bottom of the food chain. Guess what happens when the bottom of the food chain dies out? Let's just say it's not too pretty for those of us a little higher up! Okay, now you have a background on why extreme plastic consumption concerns me (don't get me wrong, it's a useful product in the right situation).
Having lived in Corvallis I am very familiar with First Alternative's wonderful recycling program that supplements the curbside program. I have taken things like Styrofoam and aseptic containers there for years. Since I still go to Corvallis about once a month, I usually save these containers and take them down with me. Well, last week I noticed a sign stating that Allied Waste (the Corvallis office) was taking aseptic containers curbside. Oh...I thought to myself. This will require some looking into! After some dialog with First Alternative, I contacted my local Allied Waste. This is where I have to say, if all you get out of this discussion is a knowledge of what an aseptic container is then I will be happy. The woman on the other end of the line said, "Septic containers? No those are not recyclable!" I then explained what aseptic was. She referred me to the Mid-Valley Recycling and Garbage Haulers (or something like that). Basically, the people who run and who tell our garbage haulers what can or cannot be recycled. There I was referred to Mary (their president or head person, nice, has been with the organization since 1986). Anyways, Mary called me back today and we had an interesting discussion about aseptic containers and their recycling. They do have a program with the local schools for recycling these containers. They do not accept them curbside or at the transfer station and Mary did not anticipate this happening anytime soon. Why might that be? Well, aseptic containers are a "bug-a-boo" to recycle. First issue is they must be clean! On a side note, this really goes for all recyclables! The second issue, even if they are clean, is that they are layers of paperboard, plastic and metal. Great for the manufacturer and consumer, not so great for the recycling. According to Mary, only about 15% of the aseptic containers that end up at NW mills (this is how Mary referred to them) are actually recycled. The rest, due to cleanliness issues or just the inherent nature of aseptic containers, is basically sludge that is land-filled. This is disappointing but...maybe we can minimize our usage of these products (maybe you don't use them at all and this is a mote point) so that we are not contributing to our landfills. Now of course the Aseptic Packaging Council (APC) wants us to believe these containers are wonderful and the wave of the future. And, they are wonderful in the right situations. The APC also make the recycling process sound so easy. Just put it in a blender and like magic you have usable paperboard with plastic and metal on the side!
So what are I missing here? On a somewhat lighter note, according to Mary, Marion County leads the state in recycling at 60%. I followed up on this a bit and it looks like closer to 58% with Metro at 56%. What she failed to mention is that the energy facility (burning our garbage) makes Marion's levels higher. If you're really interested the DEQ report is an interesting read.
And in case you were interested,here is APC's list of the cities in Oregon with aseptic recycling programs:
City of Eugene
City of Portland
City of Troutdale
Clackamas County Incorporated Cities
Clackamas County Unincorporated
Lane County
Washington County

March 2, 2008

Why do we eat it with our other food?

Last week we discussed mayacoba beans and eating them with our other food. This week I would like to take you on a trip down my Fiber One bar list of ingredients - straight to confectioner's glaze or even refined lac. Ahhh, you say, what is this wonderous ingredient. First, know that it is in a number of products, such as Junior Mints, to make the hard outer coating shiny. It is not however, according to this website, what makes M&M's shiny (don't read the link just yet though). You may be more familiar with this ingredient as the hard coating on your furniture. What? Yes, confectioner's glaze is made from shellac the same stuff that can be used for furniture coatings. But before you get too grossed out realize that this process is similar to a bee making honey. According to, "Shellac, like silk, honey, and beeswax, is made by bugs, not of bugs. Laccifer lacca, a small insect about the size and color of an apple seed, swarms on certain trees in India and Thailand. Like most bugs, it eats during its larval stage, then settles down and creates a sort of cocoon in which to mature. In this case, the bugs create a huge, hard, waterproof, communal protective shell on the branches of the trees they live on. Soon, the adult males emerge from the shell and fly away. The females do not fly -- they attach permanently to the tree and stay there."
So, perhaps not something we had thought of but not so terrible. And just in case it wasn't already enough of a Saturday Night Live skit, Fiber One includes carnuba wax. We can spiff up our car, seal our furniture and have a tasty (if not exactly healthy) afternoon snack at work. Ummm, why do we eat it with our other food?

February 24, 2008

We eat it with our other food!

Andy works with a lot of Hispanic men. Having said that, based on the meals he takes to work, he has been asked repeatedly if I am Mexican. I didn't think I cooked all that different from the average American but these guys eat out of vending machines and the idea of a white American woman cooking tortillas from scratch just seems to amaze them. Or, they think he's married to a loca woman. Okay, now that you have a little history.

We were at Winco yesterday. I have decided that for our health - both of our bodies and our pocketbook - that we are going to do a better job of cooking our beans from scratch, being the bulk bin fanatic that I am. I thought I just wanted pinto, kidney and black beans. Little did I know there was such a wide variety actually available at Winco. So I get the three previously mentioned varieties and decide which of the others I "need." One is the mayacoba bean. An unassuming little yellow bean. As I'm staring at it, a Hispanic man is loading up his bag. I ask him, "What do you do with it?" He looks at me for a moment. Mind you I am the ONLY white woman in the bulk bean section. After deciding I'm perhaps just a little touched, he says, "We eat it with our other food." Well, why didn't I think of that? "We eat it with our other food." Of course, he does. Just like what Andy would probably tell someone if they asked him what he does with a potato, or rice or pasta. We eat it with our other food!
So, tonight Andy and I are eating it with our other food - in a 3 Bean and Pork Slow Cooker Chili (or actually I guess I should say 4 bean).

4 Bean and Pork Slow Cooker Chili
1/2 c. each dried pinto, black, kidney, mayacoba beans
1 T chili powder
1/2 tsp. each fresh cracked pepper and salt
2 lbs lean pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 c. carrots chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz. can tomato paste
1 c. canned tomato puree (I pureed frozen roasted tomatoes)
30 oz (3 cans) RO-TEL diced tomatoes with lime juice and cilantro
1 small jalapeno, seed and diced (used plastic bags as gloves!)
1 tsp dried organo, crushed
1. Soak beans overnight covered in water. Drain next morning. Put in pot and cover with water. Bring to a bubble with lid slightly open. Cook until desired doneness. Maybe an hour or so.
2. Mix everything together in crockpot. Cook on high 6-8 hrs.
3. Top with shredded cheese, fresh tomato, ranch dressing, basically whatever you have or want!

I'm pretty happy with the results. I adapted this recipe from one on the WW website. Never have tried the Ro-Tel products and like that addition. I also think the dried beans are better than the canned but would normally just make a chili with canned. It's rich and wonderful and very cheap. All very good things. It was only when I sat down to write this post that I realized there was such a battle going on over the mayacoba bean. Check it out if you have time!

Love Letters to My Sons..