November 2007 archive

NaBloPoMo is over!

I’m shocked I did this!  Completely shocked!  Every day this month I made a blog post.  I probably won’t keep posting at this frequency because I don’t want to HAVE to make a blog post every day.  But it’s been a good habit to get into and I think it will help me in the long run to become a more productive blogger.  So thanks NaBloPoMo!

Last Penzeys Post

Tellicherry Peppercorns – the best peppercorns I’ve ever had.  I’m a complete pepper freak – in fact, take me to a restaurant and I’ll embarrass you when the pepper guy comes around.  By the time, he done with his salad, he’s got repetitive motion injuries.  I love pepper and I would never, ever be without this pepper.

Pumpkin Pie Spice – I try not to buy too many preground spice mixes but this is so good.  It’s amazing on oatmeal and in baked goods.  And it makes a dreamy pumpkin pie as well!

Buttermilk Ranch Salad Dressing – I know you make your own ranch dressing but I think this is a happy medium between completely homemade and dressing from a bottle.

Greek Seasoning – This is the herb mix I use the most.  We live on Greek salads in the summer and this makes them so easy to make.  It’s also a nice all purpose herb blend and makes a great marinade for meat.

Tuscan Sunset – This is a new purchase and I quite like it, even though it does have dried garlic in it.  It’s very good mixed with warmed extra virgin olive oil and served with bread to dip in it.  It’s also a nice blend to shake over steamed vegetables.

Double Strength Vanilla Extract – Is this expensive?  Yep.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely!  I love this stuff – a little goes a long way and it takes a yummy dish and brings it over the top.

Vanilla Sugar – imagine sun-ripened strawberries still warm from the sun and sliced in a bowl.  Now imagine them with a sprinkle of vanilla infused sugar of them.  If you’re trying to get your kids to eat more fruit, this is a great way to make fruit more appealing. 

Cinnamon Sugar – Who would be dumb enough to buy cinnamon sugar?  Isn’t is so easy to make?  I’m not ashamed to say I buy my cinnamon sugar.  This is a blend of several different cinnamons mixed with their vanilla sugar.  Your cinnamon toast will never be the same! 

Goals for 2008 and goals met for 2007

I actually started this blog post out just wanting to talk about my plans for becoming more crafty next year but it kind of expanded from there.  It’s not the end of December and not really time for end of the year ruminations but I’ve never been that great at following rules or being patient so here I go.

I’m a fairly creative person but too much of a perfectionist.  Not caring as much is actually a goal of mine for 2008.  I love being crafty but I get way too frustrated when something isn’t perfect.  My Mom used to be the same way and even with her warnings, I’m still pretty bad about it.  This time of year is too crazy for me to start any projects but I’m feeling pretty high after the successes I had reaching some creative goals in 2007.  I used to sing all the time and because of two wretchedly bitchy high school music teachers, I had all the confidence beaten out of me.  Finally, I’m singing again!  Mark signed me up for lessons and I’m finally getting the confidence back to sing again.  I also have always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance and this year, Mark and I finally started lessons.  He’s an incredible dancer and we have so much fun dancing together.  So next year, I want to take a class on mosaics.  I’ve had some experience on my own and I want to develop those skills.  I really want to take a ceramics class.  I want to learn how to crochet and/or knit.  And I am bound and determined to sew some stuff! 

I’ve only been moderately successful on my goal to declutter.  I’ve gotten a lot better about not buying stuff – that’s been part of a larger goal to simplify and become more self-sufficient.  I’ve been a little better this year about getting rid of clutter we’ve accumulated.  Mark and I both pack rats.  Add to that an old house in the process of being renovated with almost no storage space and you can see why it’s a bit difficult to nip this tendency.  The problem is that in order to get more of the house renovated, we’re going to have to declutter – it’s actually holding us back now so we need to work on that for next year.

I’m very proud of how locally we’ve managed to eat this year.  Earlier this year, we decided that we wanted to make sure the bulk of the meat we ate was humanely raised and grass-fed.  We wanted to eat animals that got to live like animals should and were treated with respect, including the way they were killed.  This summer, Mark and I both swore we’d never buy another piece of CAFO beef again.  This fall we’ve bought chicken from the grocery store twice.  We’ve taken little steps to get to where we are and I’m very proud of how far we’ve come.  I think next year I’d like to set a goal to buy no meat from the supermarket at all (maybe putting in a couple of get out of jail free cards).  I don’t ever want to be too rigid but I also enjoy the challenge of trying to make due.  We’ve also made the transition over to all local milk and I learned how to make cheese.  I’m still impressed with myself!  :-D

I’m also thrilled with how seasonal we ate this year.  And not only that, how right and how natural it felt.  Part of it is a desire for the best possible ingredients and you’re not going to get that trying to buy eggplant in December.  I think a good deal of that is learning to listen to your body.  In the spring, greens just taste right.  They’re a tonic for your soul.  And when fall comes around, it seems natural to eat heavier, warming foods.  I still get weird cravings for stuff {whispering – I love Rotel dip and I think I always will} but they’re getting fewer and farther between.  I’m also thrilled that we expanded our canning this year.  We actually pressure canned for the first time!  And next year, I’m bound and determined to get even more produce canned next year.

We had an awful late frost in our area (it devastated a lot of farmers) and we’re in the middle of a drought.  It seems like consistency and patience are skills that are very much needed when it comes to gardening so I’ve never really understood why I love it so much.  I think because it’s such a challenge to me.  It’s very hard to finesse your way through gardening.  Each year our garden expands and it gets better and that is so rewarding to me.  Last year, we got our garlic planted in January.  We still got a good crop but it didn’t get as much water as it should have.  This year, we’re hoping to get it planted in December.  Next year, we may even get it planted in November which is about the right time for around here.  Little steps!  :-D  Our tomatoes had a rough year.  It was so hot and so dry which didn’t help.  We also didn’t prune them enough towards the beginning.  We’re going to be much stricter with them to start out with.  I also plan on spraying them with Serenade (an organic fungicide) every week next year – it looks like we’re in for more hot, dry weather and I think doing that will help keep disease down.  Our tomatoes also had to deal with a very picky possum.  I’m all about living in harmony with nature so I expect some losses.   However, not when possums manage to eat 2/3 of our paltry crop.  I may try a low electric fence next year.  I’m also going to put in a bird fountain with a dripper – I think a lot of tomatoes got pecked because it was so dry this year.  I’ve also invested red, orange and yellow Christmas ornaments this year to start hanging up before the tomatoes start ripening. 

Next year, I plan on getting our plum and fig trees permanently planted.  I also plan on putting our raspberries and blueberries in a permanent bed and purchasing more.  I want to develop more of a plan for keeping crops growing successively – like greens.  I also want to work harder at developing more of a plan for fall and winter gardening.  I’m usually so worn out by gardening come fall that I don’t want to bother.  And each winter, I’m upset that I haven’t bothered.  I’m thinking about putting a few beds in our side yard that are set apart and used only for spring crops like peas and such.  That way those beds could be prepared earlier in the summer and could be quickly made ready for planting come fall. 

I think next year, I’d like to work on eating more simplistic meals.  I’d like to develop my bread baking skills.  I’d like to either make or buy a solar oven.  I’d like to look into making a clay oven for outdoors.  We’re also going to need to focus on getting our house renovated – it’s been four years now and we need to make some progress.

All in all, I’m pretty proud of ourselves for some of our goals we met.  There’s a lot of room for improvement but isn’t that true for most of us?

My new purchase

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I’ve been wanting a sewing machine for a while now but a great deal came along at Overstock on Black Friday so I got a Christmas present early!  I’m not going to have much time to mess with it until after Christmas but I’m excited.  I want to be more self-sufficient.  I want to be able to take cute vintage fabric and make simple skirts and drapes out of them.  I want to use it in my quest to recycle more.  I want to cut down on the "processing" of the clothes I buy.  The less ingredients and processes that are done to my outfits, the more I can control what I buy.  I may not be able to be completely sure that children in some distant country didn’t make some part of my outfit but I can cut down on it by simplifying things. 

Fair Trade v. Local?

It’s been a crazy day here so there’s no way to do a longer post.  Instead, here’s a wonderful article about the whole concept of eating locally and whether or not it’s biased against fair trade food products.  My only coherent thoughts on the whole debate is that there seems to be an awful lot of sniping lately about how local eating is elitist and there have been a lot of attacks directed towards it.  I think some people in power are getting pretty nervous about the eating local movement and I expect more attacks to follow.

Fair Trade Vs. Eat Local?

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