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

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:

Washington DC City Pages: Recreation : Hiking:

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:

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

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 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!"

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.

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.