Thursday, December 13, 2007

Quiche & Carrot Cake

I’ve tried to more of the Lean on Me Baking Company dishes. Today’s lunch consisted of their Tomato, Basil, Onion & Mozzarella Quiche (wheat & gluten free) and their Reduced Fat Wheat & Gluten Free Carrot Cake. The quiche was good. It was not as good as their broccoli quiche but still good. The carrot cake on the other hand is not worth getting again. The cake was dry, crumbly, and the flavor wasn’t very good. The topping was too thick and too sweet.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Edible Gluten-Free Lunches

As I have mentioned before I am allergic to wheat and finding tasty wheat-free or gluten-free options is often challenging. Over the past few weeks I have found 3 more to add to the shopping list.

Amy’s Garden Vegetable Lasagna (gluten-free). This single-serve microwave lunch was wonderful. This maybe the first time in seven years I have had lasagna. The noodles had a very nice taste and texture. The cheese was delightfully seasoned. The vegetables were distinguishable and quite tasty. The sauce was light and delightful. I would defiantly recommend this to any vegetarian or anyone with a wheat-allergy. This is made in a factory which also makes products which contain wheat. So those with sever allergies or Celiac disease may not want to test this one.

Lean On Me Baking Company makes a Broccoli & Cheddar Quiche which is a frozen single serve wheat and gluten free meal. This was a surprisingly tasty lunch. It tasty and rich but only has 130 calories it was. I had a small salad on the side for a perfect little lunch.

I discovered a new wheat-free snack at a friend’s party which to my pleasant surprise was filled with wheat-free snacks and knitters, too. Frito-Lay Inc tried something new. They tried to make a healthy snack and succeeded. Under the brand name of Flat Earth they are making Baked Veggie Crisps which has “½ serving of real vegetables in very ounce”. I tired the Garlic & herb Field and Berry flavored chips. Both were very good. The garlic had a nice garlic flavor without being over powering. The chip was crisp and could hold up to the same dips and a ruffle potato chip. The berry flavor was also good but a little on the sweet side. The berry would satisfy anyone looking for something sweet, crisp and a touch of salt. It’s very nice blend.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Garden Update


The Lettuce Bed

The Black Seed Simons and Oak Leaf lettuces were successful. Both grew beautifully and tasted wonderfully. The first night we were expecting temperatures to dip below 32 degrees I harvested all of the tasty plants. I used kitchen shears and cut just about an inch above the soil. I’m happy to say the bags in the refrigerator held well and made for some tasty lunches. I’m even happier to say the little nubs left behind are sprouting more leaves to be harvested this weekend before the temperatures dip again.




The beets in this bed are doing quite well. I’ve harvested a pot full of leaves, stems and baby beets. They were quite tasty cleaned up and cooked with a little olive oil and chicken broth. Since beets are a hardier plant I’m letting them be in the beds for now. One or two nights hovering at 32 should be okay and give them a chance to get bigger then a dime. I’m also considering getting a garden ‘tent’ to try to extend their growing season.

So far the kohlrabi has been a good source of food for the pesky green cabbage caterpillars which have plagued in since shortly after it was planted. Each time the leaves start to look beautiful another batch of the bugs reduces them down to sticks. I think this year they are just going to be mulch. I need to talk to the people at the garden center and try again in the spring.

The Garlic is going strong but I won’t know how it is really doing until next June when it is harvest time.

The lavender is due for a ‘hair cut’ to prepare it for the winter. So far it is looking healthy and happy where it is.




The Cabbage Bed

The Great Lakes lettuce, bok choy, and wok bok didn’t do very well. The Great Lakes didn’t take well. Very few plants germinated and the ones that did were a bit on the bitter side. Either of these could have been caused by the drought or heavy clay soil. I think the lettuce would have done better if the bed was better prepared. I’m hoping to dump ½ of the soil in this bed into a new one and then add more organic material and some sand to both beds. Since I have some seeds left I may try a small spot of them again in the spring to see what happens.

The bok choy and wok bok are suffering almost the same fate as the kohlrabi. They are fairing a little better but the leaves are so lacey I’m not sure if it is worth try to harvest and cook them up.

The pansies tucked into the corners of the bed are still flowering and beautiful.


The Carrot Bed

The carrot tops look beautiful. They are such a beautiful green ‘fuzzy’ leave in contrast to the falling maple leaves that decorate the bed. I last ‘tested’ the carrots two weeks ago and I couldn’t even call them baby carrots because they were so small. I need to pull a few to see how they are doing. The

Only a few of the pansies plated along two sides of the bed germinated. The pink flowers tucked into the corners didn’t survive the first light frost and are looking really bad. I need to cut them off and add them to the compost bin.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Totally G

A young friend was joking around with me this past weekend and told me I was “totally G” since I was wearing a bandana and a hoodie (a sweat shirt or jacket with a hood). She thought I didn’t understand but to be honest my mind drifted. Some things have changed so much in some ways and not in others.

The ‘hoodies’ I grew up wearing were to stay warm not to mark who I was affiliated with. That is until I went to college. I remember buying a sweat suit at the college I chose to attend. I walked into the house proudly displaying the York College of Pennsylvania logo. Wearing it home was how my dad and I told the rest of the family a decision was made. It marked my affiliation. I still proudly wear that sweat jacket even though it has seen some better days. It says I’m part of the college. I lived and cried at that school. The life I had there helped shape who I am and who I will become. Today hoodies still show affiliations with schools but now they have become more of a way to show affiliation to gangs . They too will influence lives and guide their members but often not in positive ways.

Bandanas seem to have had a long history of showing affiliation. The striking coal miners of West Virginia showed solidarity against the owners and the government for better pay and benefits by wearing red bandanas. The news papers who supported the coal mining company dubbed them the ‘red necks’ even after they were mowed down by gun fire. And now when most of you think of redneck you think of jokes about broken down cars and beer bottles stacked in someone’s front yard. Rosie the Riveter is a famous poster of a woman in a bandana encouraging the women of the United States to pull together to support the troops and country during WWII. And now after years of being a useful handkerchiefs, head bands, hair nets, life saving tourniquets, and so much more this simple piece of cloth has been adopted by street gangs to show their solidarity and affiliation. The symbolism of solidarity is wonderful but the violence that often comes with it needs to be replaces with hope, home, better education, and good jobs.

Gangs never appealed to me when I was young and they still don’t. I guess I found other ways to ‘belong’ and to standout with Girl Scouts, school clubs, and my own causes like March of Dimes. So as I sat there in my company’s hoodie with my bandana to keep my hair out of my eyes I wonder why there is such a love affair with gangs. Is it the ‘family”? The glitz and glamour of instant gratification? Rebelling against the system? Or allowing a hopelessness to over come and control?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bento Lunches Squared


Okay I am still feeling a little silly taking pictures of my lunch. I have to admit that using the baking cups does make it look a bit more appealing and helps with portion control. The bentos above are leftovers made much more appealing for this week's lunches with just a little silcone cup. On the left is Kasha (buckwheat) pilaf, sweet corn, peas and mango chicken sausage. On the right quinoa/corn pasta with butter, cooked spinach and Italian chicken sausage. Below: On the left: quinioa/corn pasta with Italian seasoning, Italian chicken sausage, and beet greens. On the right short grain rice, mango chicken sausage, and beet greens. Each of these delicious lunches are completely wheat-free.

I think I’m going to put off my quest for finding bento egg molds, noki (seaweed) face cutters, and little sauce bottles off until the new year. I would like to try making fruit leather faces and fun shaped foods to encourage the kids to at least try dinner before they announce they don’t like it. Right now we are using dollar store glow stick bracelets to bribe the kids to try dinner. I’ve been told this is a phase. I’m hoping it is a short one.

National Museum of Health and Medicine

Every year around Halloween this little museum gets a lot of attention for all of its weird medical exhibits but it really is a wonderful place to visit year round. Several years ago we took a friend to a lecture they were holding on Vampires. It was a fascinating lecture on the lore around vampires and what the body does after death. They even discussed modern research which helps in forensic science and all of those CSI shows we love to watch. In addition to special exhibits and lectures they have scavenger hunts where you have to diagnose a disease or find out what killed the character in question. It is a wonderful way to explore medical science.

National Museum of Health and Medicine

6900 Georgia Avenue, NWWashington, DC 20306

http://nmhm.washingtondc.museum/

Hiking Around DC

After chatting with the new guy in the office I realized how much I miss hiking as much as I have in the past. While I was gathering websites for my favorite hike groups I thought I should added them to my blog so I have a quicker resource to join a hike on a day that suddenly opens up.

The Sierra Club's Metropolitan Washington Regional Outings Program: http://www.mwrop.org/

Washington DC City Pages: Recreation : Hiking: http://dcpages.com/Recreation/Hiking/

Volksmarch
These are wonderful 6k walks you can find in your community or around the globe. This site helps you locate your local walking club or one almost anywhere you go.
American Volkssport Association: http://www.ava.org/

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pink Knitting

Here’s a knitting project I didn’t expect to find. I guess because I have been lucky enough not to need one I never thought to knit a new boob but for someone else this could be the best booby prize they could ask for.

Cotton Chenille Boob
http://www.straw.com/cpy/patterns/cot_chenille_boob.html

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cup Cake Cups for Lunch


You have no idea how silly I felt this morning taking a picture of my lunch. The idea of taking a photo of my lunch just to show off how much a Wilton’s Silicone Square Baking Cup could make a simple lunch look more appealing just seemed silly this morning. But I have to admit something so simple did make it look better. The only thing I would do differently next time is use the blue cups with the green lettuce.

I am still looking around for small bento bottles for my salad dressing along with some things to make the kids meals a bit more appealing to them. I’m hoping to find some of the bento egg molds, rice molds, and seaweed face cutters to make meals a bit more appealing to the kids who will alternate between loving something one week and refusing to touch it the next. I’m hoping the seaweed face cutters will also work on fruit leather.

Today’s breakfast is leftover homemade mac & cheese made with Ancient Harvest gluten-free elbow pasta, canned corn, and carrots with wax and green beans. (I really need to unpack my small cookie cutters to cut cheese and other things to make this look even more appealing.) Lunch is a salad of home grown lettuce, sharp cheddar cheese, dried cranberries, and slightly candied walnuts with a raspberry dressing.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Starting a ‘Wheat-Free’ Diet

A friend of mine just had her son diagnosed with a wheat allergy. Talking to her brought back all of my memories of when I was diagnosed with my allergy. The diagnosis usually means everything you are use to taking for granted in your panty is now off limits and you have no idea what to put in its place. When I was diagnosed in 2002 it was hard to find anything in the local stores or restaurants. Often if you asked for wheat-free they handed you white bread instead of whole wheat. Today there are restaurants like Boston’s Legal Seafood who have gluten-free menus and some of the chain stores have a shelf if not a section or two dedicated to wheat-free and/or gluten-free. When I was first diagnosed my husband joked I was on the Atkins diet since it seemed all I could eat was salad and meats. Now there are many more options, some more tasty than others.

If you are tested positive for wheat ask to test your doctor to test you for spelt too. Spelt is an ancient relative to wheat but for some reason about 50% of the people allergic to wheat, like me, can eat it. Spelt does contain gluten. Here is more info on spelt can be found at Wikipedia. Spelt can be substituted for wheat in most recipes. It cost more then wheat but less then the gluten-free mixes.

My Favorite Local Stores:
Healthyway Foods
Trader Joe’s
Whole Foods
My Organic Market (MOM)

Favorite Gluten-Free Foods:
Pasta: Ancient Harvest – quinoa/corn spaghetti & elbows
Cookies: Pamela’s chunky chocolate chip
Spice cake & quick mix: Gluten-Free pantry - (I have more mixes to try. I just haven’t had a chance to make them, yet.)
Chocolate dipped doughnuts & plan bagels: Kinnikinnick

Favorite Website:
Gluten-free Girl: has a bunch of links which are helpful and her outlook on Celiac Disease is so positive that reading her blog is just uplifting.

Wash Cloths


Our soap making experiment is progressing. We are in the re-batching stage. It isn’t a difficult step except I don’t have a double boiler and one the right size may not fit on my stove since it has an upper oven. I’ll figure something out.

The next stage of this slippery experiment is to knit or crochet wash cloths and soap savers. I have found a few free patterns on line and some discounted cotton yarn at Aylin's Woolgatherer, a local yarn shop. So far I have made three with the Lion Brand® Lion Cotton® Dish Cloth pattern. The pattern is making a pretty and simple wash cloth which I should be able to teach the non-knitters in the groups since it only uses knit and purl stitches.

Star Attempt for a Bento Lunch


Today I think I made a baby step towards a better bento lunch. I pulled out the only cookie cutter which isn’t still packed from the move. Today’s lunch is a gluten-free impossible pie made with low fat cheeses and spinach and a salad of home grown Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce and Oak Leaf Lettuce with Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinaigrette.

I picked all of the beautiful lettuce last week when the weather was predicted to drop below freezing. It was a light frost so I was only concerned with the delicate leaf lettuces. I found my kitchen shears made fast work of the task and enabled me to quickly cut all of the lettuce. My largest mixing bowl was over filled. I could have easily filled it twice with the bumper crop. The little stumps may grow more leaves if it survived the frost and we don’t get another one for a while. The Black Seeded Simpson and Oak Leaf Lettuces were easy fuss free crops that looked beautiful and taste wonderful. I have two small plastic trash bags in the refrigerator to use.

I made a Gluten-Free Pantry Quick Mix Impossible Pie recipe on the box with some alterations for when my parents visited. I used Monterey Jack cheese, low fat cheddar cheese, salt-free 1% cottage cheese, and 2% milk. I also switched the vegetables to sautéed onion and cooked spinach. It was quite tasty. This time around I only used the spinach and added a little garlic powder. Most of this one has been sliced and put into the freezer for easy dinners or lunches.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bento Lunches


A friend has just introduced me to the world of Bento Lunches. For some strange reason I’m having problems bending my brain around this one. I’m not sure why since I often try to make my lunches attractive. Yesterday is an example of what I often will pack for lunch, well not every day has a butter flower.

I have to say after doing some online research for "bento lunches" I took it as a challenge to make a better looking lunch. The lunches on this site just raised the bar: Lunch in a Box: Building a Better Bento

The idea is to make a very attractive cold lunch in small containers which stays cold on it’s own until it is time to eat. The bento lunch boxes seem to range from very plain box of boxes to very ‘cute’ ones like this bear and a wide range in between. I guess my little Tupperware® bowls will work.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Fashion Models


Selena has finally decided it was cool enough to try on and model one of her grandmother’s latest creations. She absolutely loves her new warm and fuzzy sweater.


And since sister was posing bother had to have a turn too.

Pirate Pumpkin


Okay this is a little late for Halloween but the kids thought it was great anyway. The last time I was in Delaware I picked up a Playskool Halloween Mr. Potato Head® Pumpkin Kit for $2 at a flee market. On Saturday I pulled it out for the kids to decorate a pumpkin.

I started by putting the feet and hat then the kids helped by pointing out where each of the other pieces should go. The pieces didn’t just press into the pumpkin. I had to push the piece to leave an indentation where the kids wanted it to go then use a kabob skewer to make a hole for the piece to slide into. The kids were thrilled with the results and are fully aware that this pirate pumpkin will become a very yummy pumpkin pie in the next week or so.

And if the pirate pumpkin is too cute for your taste, check out ExtremePumpkins.com for their wild and terrifying pumpkins.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Wake Up!

This video from YouTube has been circulating through email in one form or another. Just incase you haven't seen this really adorable short here is a link to it.


"Wake Up!"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1NNI1BgBi0


For better or worst my fur balls start with a gentle purr, then a purr with a nudge before licking my face. If that doesn't work they lick my eyelids. It works better then any alarm clock you can every buy.

Holiday Rumble

This is for everyone who was a bit disgusted to see Christmas decorations up before the summer was even over.

http://www.atomfilms.com/film/holiday_rumble.jsp

You know the “sixth degree” theory well I actually have met the creator of this short.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cute and Delicious!


It’s here! My wonderful hubby got me the Nordicware® Castles Cakelette Pan. These beautiful miniature castles were made with a gluten-free spice cake & ginger bread mix from the Gluten Free Pantry. Since these are just for me I didn’t cut off the ‘muffin tops’ to make them sit flat. So you can see how small they are there is a quarter in the corner.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Party Goers



Don’t mess with this little princess her big brother is none other than Super Man!

Happy Halloween


Happy Halloween!

Please don't ever forget how much fun a box of crayons can be.

Halloween Cakes

I had a cake marathon. I had a goal of making 4 cakes for the daycare and the office but first we searched just about every grocery store for a cake mix not marked “moist”. I don’t think they exist. The most cake mixes just don’t release from the castle cake pan and I had this great vision of a chocolate castle overlooking a cookie graveyard for the Halloween parties.


Several friends suggested I try the Hershey®’s “Perfectly Chocolate”™ Chocolate Cake from the back of the cocoa tin. The good news is the cake is very easy to make. It smelled heavenly and the cake testers at my house loved it. The bad new is it is a very moist cake that came out of the mold in 14 pieces. I managed to reassemble the cake for today’s Halloween party at the daycare. A crumbling castle with a peep ghost on top will work for Halloween but not the rest of the year.





After baking two base yellow cakes from mixes and one chocolate castle cake which wasn’t even out of the mold by 8:30p I had to change my cake decorating plans. The daycare was going to get a version of my original vision and work was going to get a graveyard cake. In the end they both looked great and fit the day’s theme but I’m still on a quest for a great tasting cake that is solid enough to slide out of the castle cake mold.


Soap Making



Friends at Mannaheim decided to take on cold press soap. On the 14th we tore apart a broken shipping pallet and made soap molds. After a few smashed fingers we had assembled 10 molds. This past weekend we met again to slide on the rubber gloves and goggles to make soap. It was the blind leading the blind. We read directions, listened to our fearless leader and referred to the web for help. After hours of looking like mad scientist and stirring our brews we had soap, beautiful orange palm-olive soap. We wrapped up 6 filled molds and tucked them away to cure.




Yesterday, our fearless leader unwrapped our soap experiments to slice them before they cured to rock hard and announced that we had did indeed made soap.


FYI: Recycled plastic car floor covers from the garden center made perfect mold liners. They were durable enough to hand taken the 'half baked' soap in and out of the mold for slicing.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Other “Kids”


The other kids are just sitting back and taking things as they come. This is Bella crashed in a sunny spot on one of the kid’s couches.

Another Year Older


Incase you haven’t seen them in awhile; the birthday duo is another year older and a little bigger.

Grandma Ruth


I’m a little behind in my blogging. October has already been a busy month.

Earlier this month we went to southern Maryland to visit Grandma Ruth. Grandma Ruth is a 98 year-young retired kindergarten teacher. She is a wonderful example of how a good spirit can live a long wonderful life. She is moving a bit slower and she can no longer get down on the floor to play with the little ones but just having them walk in the room makes her face light up. She is such a joy to talk with and be around.

We just wish she wasn’t so far because we would love to visit her much more often

The Pink Cake and Blue Pirate Bay


The strawberry super moist cake was super yummy according to the kids. It disappeared very quickly with pleads for more. Unfortunately super moist cakes and the castle cake mold don’t work well together. The cake came out of the mold in 3 pieces. I was able to ‘stick’ them together long enough to get the cake to school and show it to the kids. The top tower piece fell as I was about to cut the first piece. The kids didn’t care.

The blue pirate bay was made with 2 boxes of Jell-O® berry blue gelatin using the Jigglers® recipe . I sprayed the foil with some Pam® no-stick spray and then wiped it with a paper towel so oil would not affect the flavor or texture but still allow the gelatin to lift right out. It turned out great.


The birthday boy’s friends dove into their pieces. There was enough to share with his sister’s friends too so they all got some pink castle cake. There was only part of a tower left and part of the pirate bay blue gelatin left for the teachers.

The Peter Pan Pirate Party


The plan was to have the kids make Peter Pan (sailor) hats out of newspaper but instead they supervised as my husband made hats for all of the kids. On the other hand they were all more then willing to give up their supervisor positions and get their “hands dirty” to put pirate foam stickers all over their black beach buckets. The pirate stickers were a huge hit and the buckets turned out great. After the kids were finished decorating them I filled them with their take home goodies. I didn’t get any candy instead we went a bit over board with ‘stuff’: giant sticker pirate maps, pirate bandanas, eye patches, and Tinker Bell note pads. Tim read "Do Pirates Take Baths" to the kids. Then it was time for the cake. The birthday boy and his class all have a thing for pink so the pink castle was perfect and was a big hit. After cake they all settled down to watch the classic animated Disney® Peter Pan movie.

After naps they made Easy Spyglass Telescope from paper towel tubes and colored pirate maps. Since the birthday boy was blessed with a beautiful day they didn’t color their Peter Pan & Pirate coloring pages. The teachers are saving them for another day.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Mom Song

The news was playing The Mom Song from You Tube last week. Mom and non-mom’s can appreciate it. It is everything a mom says in a single day. I don’t recall my mom telling me not to text at the table. Who knows what I’ll be telling mine by the time they are teenagers

Mmmm, Pudding

Apartment Therapy Kitchen has posted recipes for making your own pudding and candied nuts. All we need now is for a cool night to curl up with some homemade pudding with a sprinkle of spiced nuts on top. Pudding can be a perfect wheat-free comfort food.

Recipes:
DIY Chocolate Pudding
DIY Vanilla Pudding
Sweet & Salty Cinnamon Almonds

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Castle on the Beach


This past weekend I had to alter my castle cake ‘decorations”. The host of Saturday’s pot luck requested all dishes be nut-free including no plain M&M candies. Because of multiple allergies I decided to make my castle nut-free and gluten-free. I have been taking dishes to potluck which I can eat which means wheat-free but not necessarily gluten-free.

I picked up a package of Gluten-Free Pantry® Spice Cake & Gingerbread Mix for the occasion. It made a beautiful cake in my Nordic Ware® castle Bundt® cake pan. It was a bit shorter then the other cakes I have made but since it was more of a beach theme it worked well with the wash away look. The flavor was as good as it looked. My son who can eat any kind of cake he wants requested I make it again for the family. This is very high praise for a gluten-free product. In stead of a moat I made an beach front scene. I made a Jell-O® Jigglers® ocean with 4 boxes of Berry Blue. I lined a cardboard soda can case with heavy duty aluminum foil which I propped up on one end to hold the box at an angle on the counter as I worked with it and in the refrigerator. I made up 2 boxes according to the directions and let it set. I then made small slits to insert Swedish Fish® candies. I then added 2 more boxes of prepared gelatin and let it harden until it was time to go to the party.

The result looked great. The fish looked like shadows in the water as if you were flying over. The water was ‘lapping’ at the edge of the castle. The cake tasted great and the gelatin was good but the fish were a bit ‘gooey’. They tasted okay but the moisture from the gelatin effected their texture and appearance. Next time I won’t be adding fish.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Paper Cars

There are times it comes in handy to have a gamer for a husband. Last year he found this great little paper model of a fire truck by Mega Miniatures to use for our son’s Fireman themed birthday party. This year the same fire truck and several other FREE paper models will come in handy as center pieces for an office commuting and commuting alternatives meeting.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Use, Reuse, Recycle

Today the Green Life has information about donating your old eye glasses and asks “What was the last item you donated?”

I try to donate or pass on anything we possibly can. Toilet tissue rolls and egg cartons go to the daycare for crafts. Cardboard boxes from home and my office get passed onto Carmae Office Products, Inc , a business who reuses them for their deliveries. Clothes and toys we are no longer using go to friends and family or The Closet, Inc., a local thrift store which supports local projects for battered women, homeless shelter and parks. What they can't sell will go to another charity in the Appalachia which doesn't get as many donations. Our old books get passed on to American Indian education charities (like the Red Cloud Indian School) or to the American troupes over seas. We are even passing on our old trees that had to come down. They will be recycling as firewood, gardening containers, etc by friends, family and neighbors. Our garbage gets divide between the wildlife (birds, squirrels, etc), the garden (compost), and the trash. If something can’t be reused only then does it go into the recycle bin or the trash.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Craft Season

The cooler nights have started and the growing season will be coming to an end. It’s time to start thinking about more crafts. I saw an episode (DKNG-411) of the DIY show Knitty Gritty which had ‘sushi” for the bathroom. I’m not sure about making a toilet paper cozy that looks like a sushi roll but I am still considering making the “Bamboo” Mat Tank Runner. I think a larger version would make a wonderful natural-looking area rug. Maybe after I finish the twin size blanket I’m knitting for my daughter. But then I may have to make some time to knit magic hats for both kids. So many crafts so little time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Jay's Beautiful Photos

My friend Jay says he doesn’t have a creative bone in his body but he sure can take fantastic photos. Check out his photos of Italy and his other travels at his website at http://www.pulli.com/. He was gracious enough to post my 1997 Cape Cod poem with several of his beautiful photos of the Cape.

Morning Cup of Tea


We probably have all received gifts that at first we aren’t sure we are going to use and then find that it is an essential to daily life. Well maybe not to that extreme. Years ago my parents knowing my love of tea gave me a little glass tea pot to boil water in the microwave. I had a “real” tea pot for the stove so I didn’t know if I would ever use it. I have to admit it spent a year in the cabinet but since then it has had a home next to or in the microwave. I love it. It heats water so much faster especially when I had an electric stove which is what got it out of the cabinet. It has found a permanent place in my morning routine.

Recently my sister gave me another wonderful gift which complements my little tea pot. It’s a tea bag pincher. My first thoughts were I have spoons and this going to take more space in my little kitchen. Those thoughts didn’t come back after the first time I used it. No more burnt fingers. It gets used so much that it hasn’t had to go into a draw yet it.

Since my current favorite tea Trader Joe’s Spiced Tea comes in tea bags complete with staples I have to do a little work to make this a “green” drink. Yes, tea bags cost much less in fuel etc to ship to my local store then bottled drinks but I still have a used bag when I’m done. Since I don’t want staples in my compost I separate the labels which go into the paper recycling bin (w/ staples), the used leaves get dropped into the compost bin and finally the bag gets tossed into the trash. At least it is 1/3 the trash. If I was sure what the bag was made of something biodegradable I would just remove the last staple and toss the whole bag leaves and all into the compost.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Garden Vandals


I’ve had a few instances of nuisance vandalism in my garden. The plant tags have been rearranged. The gnomes have been tipped over (actually picked up and moved to a place where they could lie down and not land on the seedlings). We think we know who is doing it but since no one has see anything we can’t do much. I decided to fight the vandalism with my own graffiti. I used white chalk to write ‘Understanding”, “Love”, “Charity”, “Peace”, “Faith” and “Hope” on the slate edging the mulch path through the garden. I placed “Love” and “Understanding” at the end facing the curb. The other three are further into the yard. Since the most probable suspect considers herself a ‘Christian woman’, I’m hoping these simple words will give her cause to stop and think. I am hoping she will then worry about tending her own garden rather then telling our neighbors how much she does not like of ours and stop doing little things to be nasty and rude.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Balloon Release


Yesterday I spotted a strange piece of trash on one of my bushes. Upon further investigation I discovered it was a latex balloon which had obviously flew high enough to freeze, explode and fall to the ground. It wasn’t little spaghetti like pieces like the balloon release people claimed. It was a blob of ‘plastic’ which did indeed look much like a jellyfish. I can easily see how aquatic animals could miss take it for a jellyfish and try to eat it. It was photographed and tossed in the trash.


The 1954 penny in the photograph is one of the treasures found from digging out the new walkway. So far our treasures total 2 pennies, a nickel, a yellow pencil sharpener with a rusty blade, several springs, and an assortment of plastic parts.

Perfect day to hang out or have a picnic


I’ve caught the squirrels having a picnic lunch of beechnuts on the kids’ picnic table. The other day I caught one just hanging out. He just looked like he was enjoying himself.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Music to Make You Laugh

XPN.org, one of my favorite radio stations and home of The World Café with David Dye, has been playing songs by Flight of the Conchords. Wikipedia describes them as a folk, pop, and comedy duo form New Zealand. They most definitely have a wonderfully strange sense of humor. They have several songs up on YouTube including “Business Time” and “Most Beautiful Girl in the Room”.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Inspiration

I receive several daily emails from Beliefnet.com . The quotes are always inspirational but some days they just really hit home for one reason or another.

Today's Quote
If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator. -W. Beran Wolfe

Friday, September 14, 2007

Take a Hike

If you would like to get out for a stroll and would to meet some others who like to do the same check out the American Volkssport Association. This group sponsors walks in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. There are sister programs in Canada and International.

Several years ago I was introduced to Volksmarching and I love the one I went on. It was held at a local winery on a beautiful day. We strolled through the vineyard and adjacent woods and then enjoyed a barbeque afterwards. The winery was also offering wine tours and samplings.

According to Wickipedia, Volksmarching is from the German word Volksmarsch which means “people’s march”. The Volksports events are people taking walks together. Most of the walks are about 6 miles long and can be on going self guided walks or special events.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

L Shana Tova

Happy Rosh Hashanah

Blowing the shofar

Garden Envy

I’m hoping to expand my garden to something we can rely on as a source of summer and fall vegetables.

The story of Manny Howard in Brooklyn is about a man who had the aspiration to turn his yard into a farm. I have no plans of going this far but it is interesting.

My Empire of Dirt by Manny Howard

Star Wars Bad Guys


It’s finally here. Selena’s birthday present’s arrival was delayed by some shipping issues. We actually had to cancel the first order and try a second supplier for her new Spud Trooper. It’s here and now working with William’s Dart Tatter. I think the only one of the series we currently don’t have is Artoo-Potatoo. This is one vegetable they both love.

Yes, they have seen Star Wars, the first one. I was concerned about the trash monster and a few other scenes but none of them seemed to bug them. They love it and keep asking to see it. I believe it was the “movie of the month” for August. William calls it either “big little” for the big space station and the little spaceships or “good guy bad guy”.

Tim even found Spud Wars on You Tube which the kids love. A search for “spud wars” will get you over 50 videos of their saga. Some of them are quite smashing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Maryland Renaissance Festival



Saturday was a beautiful day at the Maryland Renaissance Festival.

I stitched into the night to make sure all three jesters had costumes for this past weekend. Only to awake to find two willing jesters and one bug. My husband and daughter quite happily donned their jester costumes. My husband’s is an assortment of things he has gathered over the years. Hers is her brother’s hand-me-down from the 2005 Balticon Masquerade. He turned down his new one and wanted to wear his bug towel costume. Well it’s not period but why not. Several faire goers congratulated my husband for taming the beast. Others said he had slain a dragon. Whenever the little guy got one of those what is he looks I responded with a warning: "Watch out for the evil wizard. He turned the boy into a bug. Who knows what he’ll turn you into." This usually got a smile, giggle or a “Oh, my”.

The kids seemed to enjoy walking around checking out all of the people and sites. I believe their favorite two were the Aerial Angeles and the pirate ship at the kids’ playground. We did have to drag them way from the pub when the Pyrates Royale were performing. If we weren’t off to meet folks the kids could have easily stayed in one spot to listen to them sing and ‘rrr’ like pyrates often do.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Box #3 is Ready to Grow



This past week garden box number was filled and seeded. One corner now has the lavender plant I’ve been longing to have. It has been joined by garlic, 2 kinds of lettuce, beets and kohlrabi.

Last Friday the Garden Guy, Mike McGrath, from WTOP mentioned you can plant garlic from organic garlic in your grocery store. It has to be organic since some of the others have been treated not to grow. Just separate the cloves and poke them into the ground. The garlic should be ready to harvest next June. We decided give it a try and I planted a row from two heads of garlic. One was clearly labeled organic from Trader Joes and one we aren’t sure of from Safeway. Now we just need to wait and see what happens.

The rest of the bed was planted with the seeds I picked up from the garden center: Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce, Oak Leaf Lettuce, Detroit Red Beets, and Purple & White Vienna Kohlrabi.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Wildflowers


My meadow gardens won’t photograph well to show the beautiful shafts of grass but I was able to get a nice shot of one of the wildflowers in bloom. I’m not sure what it is but the butterflies love it and the kids think it is beautiful.

Copping with Traffic

The reports are out and once again the Metropolitan Washington DC area has rated as on of the worst areas for traffic. Considering just Fairfax County has over 1 million people there is no surprise the roads get a bit congested as we all try to get to and from work, school, shopping and visiting. Rush hour is not known for going very fast. BUT if you are prepared you can get around relatively easily. Most employers who can have flexible schedules so you can avoid the ‘rush’ and even have a life outside of working and commuting. Whether you have this option or not there are ways of getting around some congested areas or avoiding backups from accidents and who knows what else.

Radio

  • WTOP News radio has traffic reports on the ‘8’ as well as information on their website


Cell phone options – (best to have your navigator handle some of this for you)

  • 511 SEND free traffic updates
  • Tellme - call 1-800-555-TELL (8355), and say, "Driving directions."
  • Google Mobile - text GOOGLE (466453), enter your starting address, then to, then your destination, and get free directions via text messaging.


Internet

  • Traffic.com
  • MapQuest
  • Google traffic maps - Google maps can be downloaded to your phone or PDA. Having it on my PDA makes it very easy to check where there is congestion on the way to my car.
  • Map My Run - Hey if you can map out a good run you can possibly map out a back road route to the office.


Public Transportation

Of course if you can there is always public transportation. It may not be the best in the world but the Metro trains and buses can get you most places you want to go.

Growing Customer Service

Years ago our CEO passed out the customer service cards which the Ritz-Carlton gives to their staff. If you ever have been at the Ritz for any reason you know they pride themselves on their customer service. They treat everyone like they are royalty. I can only image how they treat the royal families who often reserve entire floors.

This week I’ve experience this same type of customer service at Merrifield Garden Center. I’ve always had pleasant experiences at their stores. Every person has been wonderful and very helpful but this week they went over the top. I check the store closest to me for some seeds to plant this fall and only found a few options. Considering I live in Metropolitan Washington DC this doesn’t surprise me. Most of the yards are solid grass or ornamental plants. The farms land has been all turned into a development of one kind or another. What was surprising was when I checked their website and called them the type of service I received for just 4 packs of seeds. Heather took my call with a smile and was so great. I was treated like I was spending hundreds or thousands in stead of $5. She checked the other store to see if the seeds were in stock and then she checked with their garden specialist to see if it was too late to plant them. She called me back with answers the same business day apologizing that she didn’t call back sooner. She set the seeds aside for me and they were waiting for me this morning as promised. The cashier and staff I spoke to this morning were all equally helpful in answering other questions and helping me check out with my handful of seeds. I have to say if I’m every having a bad morning I’m considering stopping by just to say hello and if I ever need anything else for the garden I’m definitely starting there.

In this world where stores have determined that you can find what you need on your own and check yourself out it seems places like the Ritz and Merrifield Garden Center are numbered or at least found a very pleasant niche in their markets.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Candied Sushi

I have one of those jobs that occasionally I get to surf the web to see how other people present certain elements of their pages. Since this can be time consuming and even tedious I try surfing for things I have an interest in as wells a variety of industries to make sure I get a broad cross section. Last week during one of those surfing sessions I not only found a variety of what I was looking for I also found a fun recipe to try.

Rachel Ray has posted a recipe for Candied Sushi that is wheat-free and could be fun to take to a party. Her recipe is a variation of a crisp rice treat with licorice and dried fruit leather. The photos on her site make it look easy to make and very tasty.

Candied Sushi is actually how I was introduced to NotMartha.com. She has a section of faux foods which includes candied sushi and links to many variations. The one I tried was from USA Rice and called for sushi rice, coconut milk, water, sugar and crystallized ginger. I left off the toasted coconut because of personal preferences. It takes a little practice to make beautiful rolls but no one had any problems helping to eat the messy pieces. This tasty treat can be made a head of time but needs to be eaten within 2 days. If you have sushi lovers with a sweet tooth around this will not be a problem.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Fall Crops

The Green Life by the Sierra Club posted yesterday some information about the cross-country road trip heading to Farm Aid 2007 which is promoting eating local eco-friendly foods. They had a pie contest in Ypsilanti, Michigan which had a wounderful sounding pie win the “Winner of Most Unusual/Unexpected Pie” award called Tofu Pot Pie. It sounds quite tasty and is inspiring me to plant some kohlrabi this fall if I can get some seeds next trip to the garden center or next spring. The Gardener’s Network has some helpful hints for growing Kohlrabi .

Merrifield Garden Center has gardening tips by the month posted on their website. For this area they claim I can plant beets, radishes, turnips and leaf lettuce as a fall crop. I may need to get that third gardening box ready this weekend for some beets, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, and maybe turnips.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Raising a Garden

Over the weekend I laid out some weed guard and secured it in place with the raised garden boxes and stones. The two bags of mulch only covered than half of the cloth. After another trip to Home Depot for more hardwood mulch I was able to finish the start of our little garden path.


I filled the first box with layers of dirt and fermenting grass trimmings (PEW!). Once it was with in about 2 inches of the top we planted the pansies in the corners and I planted 3 kinds of seeds: Bok Choy, Chinese cabbage and Great Lakes lettuce. The pansies flowers are edible, but may be too pretty to eat.



I lined the second box with a thick layer of news paper to smother the existing weeds and grass. This layer should turn in to wonderful compost after it has done its initial job. I then layered the top soil and clay I’m need moved to install a walkway with more fermented grass trimmings (if you live near a farm that still spreads the fields in the spring you know the smell). While at Home Depot for the additional mulch I picked up bags of play sand which we mixed into the top two layers of soil. The kids thought mixing in the sand was the best part of the project. This bed was completed by pretty pink flowers the kids picked for the corners and 3 packets of carrot seeds. The seeds were sent as fundraisers and are from 2004, 2005, and 2006. I’ve kept them in the refrigerator. I’m not sure how successful they will be. We may have a few carrots for ourselves or we may be taking them to every potluck we go to this fall and winter.


The third box is in position and will probably be next weekend’s project. I may see about getting new seeds for something different or planting more lettuce and cabbage.

Pumpkin Patch



I did a little research on fall crops this weekend trying to plan what to put into the new raised beds I’m building. I came across some good news. Pumpkins are a fall crop. (Yes, I’m not a farmer and I’m learning as I go.) I was concerned that I had gotten my little pumpkin sprouts into their garden bed too late and it appears I got them in at the perfect time. So we have a chance of one of these beautiful blossoms turning into a delicious pumpkin.

First Watermelon

Last week after testing the watermelons almost daily to see if one would let go of the vine, the kids were thrilled when one came right off in their hands. The look of surprise was followed by wanting to know if that is what it was suppose to do or if they were in trouble. It is just what the little refrigerator size melon was supposed to do. I am glad to report that it was worth waiting for and worth picking the seeds out. It was a wonderfully tasty and juicy melon.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I want one…

Researching for my blog could get expensive. While looking for the link for my existing Castle Bundt Pan, I discovered this Castles Cakelette Pan from Nordic Ware. It makes 6 wonderful miniature castles. For a family of sci-fi and renaissance faire fans, I may be able to justify getting yet another castle mold.

Our little princess turned 2


Every little girl deserves at least one princess party. We had a simple party at her school which featured Disney’s Little Mermaid movie, a castle cake with M&M ocean and a school of Swedish fish. They stuck foam stickers onto beach buckets which we then filled with their party favors.

Disney’s Little Mermaid coloring pages. We also had an underwater scene printed on to cardstock for sand painting and gluing shell pasta.

“Come In” Door hangers: The pattern is from DLT-kids.com printable doorknob hanger. I used a free coloring castle from Lucy Travels. I precut the hangers for the teachers but I left the doorknob opening in place so it would be easier for little hands to color without ripping off the hanger.

Cake: I used a Castle Bundt Pan from Nordic Ware to make the castle. The Betty Crocker yellow cake mix turned a beautiful sandy brown color. You can order bags of single colored M&Ms to fit almost any theme directly from M&M Mars. I ordered three shades of blue for our aquatic theme. A healthy ocean should have a few fish so I stocked ours with a few Swedish Fish. Strangely enough these are easily found at our local Home Depot and they taste so much better then the other gummy type fish. The cake and ocean were arranged on a cardboard soda case covered with heavy duty aluminum foil.

Party favors: The kids’ beach buckets were filled with a princes rubber duck and aquarium sticker sheets from the Oriental Trading Company and a ball from the local dollar store. The Oriental Trading Company site is a favorite for teachers, party throwers and neighborhood carnivals for their assortment of cheap stuff.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Maps

Maps are one of those things I have had an interest in since I was very young. I remember drawing detailed maps of my neighborhood when I was is 1st grade. Maps have so many used like agricultural, economical, topographical, populations and of course how to get from here to there. A while back my husband sent me the Maps of War showing the History of the Middle East in 60 Seconds. It is quite fascinating.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Monster Door Lock

Last month while surfing the web I came across this adorable door lock to keep monsters from coming out of the closet called Petunia Petunia- Monster-in-the-Closet-Lock. The image was of a large padlock or miniature crocheted purse with a green bag and blue handle. Form the handle it has a cord and hanging crocheted key. On the bag portion there is a one eyed monster with five crocheted tentacles which sort of looks like a beholder.

I not sure having this shipped from Peru is very green but I do think it is another reason for me to learn how to crochet. I might need to sketch out a pattern for a knitted or quilted variation for the little guy who is sleeping with the lights on because of monsters.

Wheat-Free Snacks for Long Walks


I find for a long walk, over 6 miles, a nice wholesome banana, a chai late with fat free 1/2 & 1/2 (watch the sugar in some of these) and an occasional Shot Block will get me where I'm going. Oh, yeah, and water, lots of water. If you walk past the port-a-potties at 2 checkpoints in a row you probably aren't drinking enough. I have also found that Zone bars are wheat free and quite tasty. I found this is a good wheat free meal replacement for all of those sandwiches they give the walkers (and runners, bikers, etc). Because of food allergies that is pretty much what got me through 17 miles this past May. Most walk-a-thons have 'carb loading' snacks loaded with wheat so I have to be prepared with a pouch of healthy complete snacks which will get me through. Other walks I have taken small single serve bags of nuts, dried meat like beef jerky, or dried fruit. It might sound strange but I have considered getting a bag of the Gerber Graduates for Toddlers Mini Veggies toddler sweet corn snack (freeze dried corn) to take to the next long walk. It is really tasty, healthy, light weight, and wheat free. The Iroquois were able to go great distances on dried meat, dried corn, nuts, and berries. It worked then and it still works now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Science Searchs & Learning Languages

Scirus is a science-specific search engine on the Internet for searching more than 415 million science-related pages. This is the site I used to find some of the references I used in my balloon release post.

This week’s WTOP website of the week is really cool. It is the Foreign Service Institute language courses . This could come in handy for the people know trying to learn Chinese. I could also use it to brush up on my Spanish.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Daddy Tree


I’ve been eyeing tree faces for a while. Up until now none were quite right. The Merrifield Garden Center has several tree faces but this one just looked too much like my husband to pass up. My son has renamed the Silver Maple the ‘daddy tree’.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fresh Tomato


I have been asked why I am trying to grow a vegetable garden when I live in the suburbs and less then 5 blocks from a grocery store. The photo should be enough of an answer. There is nothing better then a fresh tomato picked from the vine. If that isn’t, then there are at least two other reasons: 1) I want the kids to know where their food comes from. Fruits and vegetables are not born in plastic wrappers or wooden crates. I also want them to respect the land which they live and walk. The more they learn how they are connected to the earth, the more likely they are to respect it. 2) Locally grown food takes less energy to get from the garden to the plate. Yes, we need to ship in some things like seeds and water but our compost and grass trimmings should help feed the food which will feed us.

I love fresh picked tomatoes with just a dash of salt or a dollop of mayo. This past weekend Trader Joe’s was featuring samples of Heritage Tomatoes, Feta Goat Cheese and their balsamic vinaigrette. They have also introduced me to marinated fresh mozzarella cheese with tomatoes and fresh basil which has a bit more spice and heat then using a plain fresh mozzarella.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Balloon Releases

After the Virginia Tech massacre I was torn between being touched when I heard about the 33 white and the 1,000 burgundy and orange balloons which were released at the memorial ceremony shortly after and being out raged that the organizers were so indifferent to the environment and the safety of others.

Back in the 70’s I remember hearing about balloons being removed from the blow holes, lungs, and stomachs of dead whales and other marine mammals. In the past decade there has been a campaign to raise awareness of the choking dangers of latex balloons are to young children. In the hands of a young child they can pop and if swallowed can suffocate the child. A piece lodges in the throat and is nearly impossible to remove weather it be a human child or a whale at sea. The fallen balloons litter our forest, towns, and waters. There are many groups organizing clean ups across the country and trying to put out the word not to litter. Yet the news carries stories of releasing hundreds of pieces of litter… a beautiful memorial but it is all litter once released.

Released balloons threaten air traffic. I’ve been told that the latex balloons and probably the Mylar ones too are a real problem for jet engines and have caused engine failure in mid flight. The good news is most jet planes have multiple jet engines and can usually land with one less. I’ve heard people tell me that balloons don’t go that far. Balloons can travel high and far. During WWII Japan released balloons hoping they would reach the shores of the United States. Several did with one killing a civilian with its cargo.

With all the damage released balloons can do, can we come up with a better substitution to remember our loved ones and be more environmentally and safety conscious?

And to be fair here is a supporter of balloon releases with a set of rules trying make them more environmentally friendly, Outdoor Balloon Releases. To be honest as soon as they mention sending pet ashes up in a balloon, I cringed. The idea of having ashes from a cremated pet falling on me is just totally gross. Then she goes on to recommend “telling” the local airport not asking them so you don’t get tangled up in the red tap. This acknowledges the problem but sort of makes it the ‘pilot’s problem’ not theirs

BalloonRelease.com has information about balloon releases and an alternative of butterflies as well as more scientific information about balloons themselves. The argument that most fully inflated balloons will reach an altitude where they will freeze and burst before falling back down as small ribbons of latex seems to forget that all of those pieces will land somewhere, usually within 5 miles of the release. Considering people don’t want landfills in their back yards, would you really want it to be raining balloon droppings in your yard? Yes, latex balloons are biodegradable. This is a great argument to compost your old balloons. I don’t see it as a reason to release them.

The Balloon Council seems to think that adding only a small percentage of the litter cleaned up off of the beaches isn’t enough to worry about. Hmm, if everyone didn’t contribute a small amount there would be so much less to clean up.

Composting

My husband sent this YouTube video about composting a while back. I’ve saved the URL for when ever I need a smile. It is sort of like a muppets compost rap.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Pine Pitch Be Gone

I’m trying to remove a small pine tree from a very over crowded flower bed and managed to get a hand full of pine pitch. I tried dish detergent and liquid hand soap which failed. Then I had an idea of trying olive oil. Yes, OLIVE OIL and it worked. I washed my hands with the olive oil then with the dish detergent to get the oil off. It worked great and was not toxic so I was able to go right to cooking or playing with the kids.

Checking out Wikipedia they don’t mention using olive oil as a cleaner. Chrisjob at curbly.com has a list of 25 Alternate Uses for Olive Oil and pine pitch isn’t listed anywhere.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Old Time Photo


This spring the kids had old time photos taken. Since part of the package was buying the copyrights to use as we please, I should share at least one.

From Salad to Shrinky Dinks

It must be fond childhood memories or just the magic of watching plastic twist, bend, shrink and flatten out again. Either way Shrinky Dinks were one of those things I seem to be able to vividly remember from my childhood and hope to share with my children when the get a little older. Which is probably why I got a bit excited today when I found a DIY Shrinky Dinks blog on how to do your own with recycled take out dishes. He uses Clean #6 Plastic (common in cold deli take out containers & recyclable in only some areas), permanent markers, aluminum foil and an oven (or heat gun) to make his own Shrinky Dinks in just 3.5 minutes at 350°. So yet another cool (or is it hot) craft which can use stuff slated for the landfill. Even if you can recycle #6 (polystyrene) in your area you can always make it into a fun gift tag, cell phone dangle, zipper pull, etc and recycle it latter when it gets worn out.

Helpful Internet Sites

One of my favorite radio stations has a weekly Web Site of the Week segment. This week they sang the praises of How Stuff Works. The site has an amazing amount of straightforward information.

Last month they featured Webopedia’s text messaging chat abbreviations. I NEED this site to translate some of the emails and instant messages I get from my ‘younger’ friends and co-workers.

Any one in the GREATER Washington/Baltimore area should check out WTOP online or on the radio. It is a great source of local information including news, traffic, and events. The station goes almost as far as some of the commuters do and there are commuters driving in from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Finding Your Way


I’m trying to find new and interesting routes to walk. Between WalkScore.com and
MapMyRun.com I should be able to find new places to walk to and new routes to get there.

As I posted earlier, Walk Score can help you find out how ‘walk able’ a community is and list lots of different kinds of destinations in walking distance such as libraries, stores, restaurants, parks, and more.

Okay so you won’t see me running unless there is something really big and hungry chasing after me but the Map My Run site can be just as useful for walkers and bikers. On the site you can plot out a course on the interactive map. You can adjust your route to get different distances or vary your scenery during your walk, ride, or run. The results can be printed out or downloaded to your GPS. I’m considering leaving a hardcopy of the map for Tim so he knows where I am if I need to be rescued from pop up thunderstorms or surprise blisters.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Wheat-Free

Several years ago I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy. I am one of the fortunate ones who can actually eat spelt which is an ancient relative to the modern wheat. So for much of my homemade breads and such I substitute spelt flour for the modern wheats. Wheat-free products aren't always easy to find often they contain gluten, germ, or other wheat byproduct. I am so grateful for the flood of new gluten-free cookbooks, mixes and products which have broaden the possible foods even if it is only at home.

I find it absolutely amazing how few people know what is in their food. Listening to people talk about food you would think food was just made up of calories, fat, salt and maybe some fiber. So many are oblivious to the individual ingredients which make up the foods they enjoy so much.

There almost seem to be three types of people when it comes to eating: those who will eat whatever is handy, others are concerned with calories & fat, and still others that care what goes into there food. With these groups it seems two out of three people seem to have no chance to even know what wheat is. I was brought white bread and was told it was 'white not wheat' and this was while I was in a hospital.

For anyone who has a wheat allergy, Celiac, Lupus, or other reason to avoid wheat or gluten here area few helpful websites:

Gluten-Free Girl Fun to read and she has a lot of useful links
Gluten-Free mall If you can't find it at your local store they probably have it
Trader Joe’s is also increasing their gluten-free and wheat-free lines.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Shrinky Dinks Go Digital

This is so cool. There are now shrinkable sheets to go through your ink jet printers. Just print and bake. Not Martha used them for gift tags for her homemade sun jars but they have so much potential.

Pumpkin Flower


This morning I was greeted by a beautiful yellow pumpkin flower on one of the newly planted pumpkins.

The garden watch: several of the tomatoes are starting to get a pink blush, the squash and pepper are starting to form fruit and the watermelon is still growing but not quite ready yet.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Unofficial Recycling - aka trash day


Yesterday morning I saw a little plastic picnic bench propped up against a tree on the curb. It was absolutely filthy. It looked like it had been in the yard under a tree for at least the past year. I took the kids home, switched them to the van and then went to see if it was still there. YUP! The kids scrubbed it clean (almost – Tim is planning on cleaning it again when less help is around) with a bucket of water with dish detergent and the hose while I made dinner. It is in good shape but doesn't look new. The kids are happy with it. William keeps asking to have picnics and it will be perfect for kid dinning on the porch. I think they had fun getting soaking wet from head to toe while they were washing it.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Gardens


It’s been just over a month since I planted and posted our little garden. In spite of the very dry weather we have been having it is growing even faster then the kids. The tomato plant has some good size green tomatoes and the yellow pepper and yellow squash are showing some signs of fruit developing. But the watermelon is the king of the garden. Not only is it spreading to cover the whole bed but it is the only one the rest of the family is taking any interest in. This comes as no surprise and is the reason I only planted one of each of the others. When the first small watermelon was about the size of a quarter, I dragged the children over to the dirt pile they had been told not to play in for weeks. I explained that it was a baby watermelon and it was going to get bigger and then we would get to eat it. They looked at it and at me in complete disbelief. A few days latter I dragged them over again. This time it had more then doubled in size and their mouths began to water. We now have to check the watermelon every day before and after school to see how much bigger it has gotten. It probably has a week or two more to go before we can take it in side and see if we have watered it enough to get sweet juicy home grown melon.


This past week I finally got the opportunity to plant the pumpkin and watermelon we started from seed in the house. I had gotten 4 little containers of soil and seed from Kmart which fit nicely into a plastic Chinese take out dish. The clear plastic top made a great little green house and the kids thought it was really cool when the seedlings pushed the top off. It may be too late to get pumpkins and watermelon from them but the kids are really having fun watching them grow. They now have a home in the yard around yet another old tree stump. So far the garden locations have been determined by already hard to mow areas around old rotting tree stumps. The first garden covers the area where the ground was sinking from the rotting process and was hard to not get the mower stuck. The second one has a partial stump sticking up and a little sinking too. It actually looks like a cool natural garden feature now it is surrounded by a circle of salvaged bricks and healthy topsoil. And both spots are much easier to mow around.