Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Weed control

I used to tell people that I hated to garden.  For years, gardening to me was going out and digging out huge dandelions from the beds that took hours and only looked marginally better, and only for a few days.  Surprisingly, this wasn't fun.  Once I got the weeds under control and I was actually able to do the fun part, planting vegetables and flowers and enjoy a weed-free bed, I really LOVE to garden!  Getting rid of the weeds is the trick.  Don't get too excited, I'm not going to share some magic words that you can say from the couch that will make all the weeds disappear.  It's work, but once you get them under control, it's really just maintenance.  Every Sunday in weed-season I go outside and pull the little guys that are peeking up.  At the beginning of the summer, it took me an hour, but as I kept pulling them and pulling them and pulling them, it only took a few minutes at the end of the summer.

Now is the time to kill the weeds.  I'm telling you this as someone who waited too long last year and I was literally pulling weeds from the back bed that were up to my shoulders.  This is still the worst area for me, because I let it get so bad, but in my defense, last year was the first year I used it as a bed and not just a dumping ground for sticks and branches.  I meant to dry this new thing I read about on Pinterest, and also in a few gardening books, but when that part of the yard was being mulched I was inside making dinner.  I'm going to suggest it anyway because I think it really would work.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Michael Pollan's Interview on Dr Oz

My mother called my the other day and told me that Michael Pollan was going to be on Dr Oz, so I recorded it and watched it this weekend. He was there to promote his new book Cooked.  I also saw him on the Colbert Report, but I think this interview gives a little better picture of what the book, and his philosophy is really about.  I couldn't find the interview in it's entirety, so here it is in 4 parts.  The last part is just this recipe of braised chicken, which Evan said looked good so I may have to try it.  

He also inspired me to go back to baking bread.  I made chicken noodle soup per Caden's request last night for dinner and I made the bread to go with it--I had forgotten how good fresh baked bread is!  Here's the recipe, if you're interested.  

One last comment, I'm so surprised that he (Michael Pollan, not Evan) still eats meat after all that research he did for The Omnivore's Dilemma.  I would think anyone who had seen the inside of a meat processing plant and a feed lot would steer clear of meat.  Hmm! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Recipe Friday: Cinnamon-Maple Quinoa

I found the answer to my grain problem!  I want to add more whole grains to my diet, but I don't really like just plain grains.  I tried adding some broth and seasonings, but since I'm not really very good at just adding a little of this and a little of that and having things turn out great---I had to take a different route--breakfast!  I don't know why I didn't think of this before.  I'm much more a sweet than savory kind of person and when I found this recipe for quinoa in Jessica Seinfeld's new book Double Delicious, it clicked--there's no reason I can't make this and serve it with dinner!  It has maple syrup in it so I know Ellie will eat it (she did) and since it's a Jessica Seinfeld recipe there's also pureed veggies, so it makes a great nutrient boosted side.  I had leftovers for breakfast the next morning!  Two meals in one!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Forks Over Knives: YOUR Challenge!

I received the book Forks Over Knives as a gift this week. It is the companion book to the movie by the same name. The basic concept behind the movie is that eating a plant-based diet is better for you, the planet and animals. I did a blog before on the movie which I'll link here. I moved the movie! It was a very convincing argument for moving to a plant-based diet. There was research galore, but also lots of real life stories about his switching to a plant based diet changed people's lives in drastic ways. The book is a VERY basic synopsis of the movie, but the cool part is that it has recipes.
 Here is a section in the book that says:
Consider this: If the entire U.S. population were to adopt a plant-based diet for just one day, the nation would conserve the following resources:

  • 100 billion gallons of drinking water, enough for every person in every home in New England for nearly four months
  • 1.5 billion pounds of crops, enough to feed the population of New Mexico for over a year
  • 70 million gallons of gasoline, enough to fuel every car in Canada and Mexico
  • 33 tons of antibiotics.

Meanwhile, the following environmental damage would be prevented:

  • 1.2 million tons of CO2 greenhouse emissions
  • 3 million tons of soil erosion
  • 4.5 million tons of animal waste
  • 7 tons of ammonia emissions.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Plants Indoor and Out

I have a little crawling girl in my house now, which means that I'm also dealing with protecting my house plants from little hands.  I thought this might be a good time to remind you about the benefits of having house plants as well as remind you that spring is a good time to reassess your house plant situation.  I'm also sitting in my house itching for the rain to stop and a few other things to fall into place to I can get outside and start working with my outside plants.  So here's a quick tutorial about indoor plants as well as a few tidbits about outdoor plants.
Even though we hear a lot about smog and outdoor air pollution, the air you breath outside it actually much less polluted than indoor air.  Indoor air is polluted by everything from dust and mold particles to off-gassing from furniture and cleaning products.  One of the easiest and best ways to clean your indoor air is to keep house plants.  There are some plants that are better at cleaning air than others, but all plants will work.  Here is a list of the top 15 houseplants that NASA found to be the best air purifiers.  This link also gives you a picture as well as a little info about each plant.  They're all common plants that are pretty easy to find.  Usually when you buy a plant it will tell you how much sun it needs, so remember, not all plants need to be right in front of a window (this is a tip from the poor plant I scorched in college by putting the poor shade loving plant in direct sunlight).

Spring is also a good time to give a little TLC to the house plants that you already have.   Now is a good time to repot and fertilize plants.  I like to take my big plants, like my money tree and parlor palm outside and spray them down with a hose to dust off the leaves and throughly soak the roots.  It's a good ideal to "rinse" your plants every once in awhile, when  you keep adding water until the water that is coming out of the bottom runs clear.  Tossing them outside in the rain works well for this.
My money tree, Sol Cane and some kind of Dracaena I got for volunteering at the kindergarten center. And Abby, who does the opposite of purify the air.    

I'm nowhere near as knowledgeable about outdoor plants as indoor (and even that's only basic knowledge) but I can tell you what's on my to do list outside.  First, I want to edge my flower beds before I get mulch.  I read on Pineterest to make your beds look more professional, "bank" the edge.  My wonderful mother bough me a straight edger after I "borrowed" hers for a year.  It's a quick way to give your beds a nice clean look.  Mulching helps to keep weeds at bay (duh, I know) but if you have a ton of weeds in your beds you can lay down a layer of newspaper first before you mulch to kill the weeds naturally.  Cardboard also works for this.

I still have those #$%@$ weeds coming up between the bricks in my patio.  So instead of a toxic herbicide that my kids will get on their shoes, track in the house and get all over the floor that Olivia crawls on, not to mention that fact that the toxic smell lingers for days on the patio they're playing on, I'm going to use a more natural weed killer.  There are tons of recipes, but I'm going to use salt, dish soap and vinegar mixed with hot water.  I'm only going to use this on the patio though because it will kill everything, not just weeds.

As for the flowers that I'm going  to put in my beds, I'm just going to follow the recommendations of light needed and zone that is at the nursery.   I'll let Ellie pick, since she really likes to do that part.

I'll leave the whole thing about my vegetable garden for another blog, but my herb garden is just along the side of my house.  I started it a few years ago when my mom got me a single herb plant and I just threw it in willy nilly.  Now I like to have the herbs along the side of the house because they're only kind of hidden, but still fast to grab when I'm.  I usually get rosemary, thyme, dill, basil, cilantro, parsley, chives and mint, but I'm always looking for more herbs to add.  The kids love to go over and pick the leaves to smell them and taste them.  I also planted garlic last fall and it looks like I have some sprouts so hopefully this fall I'll have a few heads of garlic!

The Garlic I planted in the fall in my herb garden.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Earth Day

I hate Earth Day.  I know that probably comes as a surprise coming from me, but I do.  The reason I hate it is because it always makes me feel so guilty.  I feel that because I try to live this green life, I should do something really big and significant on Earth Day.  I never do.  In fact, most years I forget it's Earth Day until the day has already passed.  This year was no different.  I didn't even blog about it.  I tried to just ignore it and hope it didn't make me feel guilty.  But this year, Earth Day surprised me.  Without doing a single thing different than any other day, I felt good about what I do to Save The Earth.  And it was all because of my husband.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Swingset

It's a beautiful spring day and I'm playing outside with the two little ones that don't abandon me everyday and go to school. I was pushing them on the swings, thinking about springs past when it was Caden and Ellie on these swings and not Vince and Olivia. All of a sudden I realizes that in the not so distant future no one will need me to push them on them on the swing. The slide will no longer be used as a water slide in the summer and the playset will no longer be a pirate ship or a house or fort or whatever their imaginations need it to be that day. I'm going to miss it when my kids are too big to "play" outside.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Seedling Update

As I've said before, sometimes I'm bad with my follow through, but this time is the exception! I blogged about starting some plants from seeds and I did it! Successfully so far too, I might add! I got a little seedling greenhouse from Target, some organic mixed bell pepper seeds and a little water and sunlight.

The Biggest Seedling

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Our Trip To The Library

Not a big post today...sorry.  Ellie was kind enough to share the fever she had last week with me.  But I did want to check in and follow up with my bean recipe from yesterday.  It was just ok.  I made the mistake of adding the seasoning to ALL the beans, instead of just a few to see how it was.  Now I have a giant bowl full of beans that are just so-so.  Well, now I know.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Eating More Whole Foods: Beans

I've been getting lazy in my eating habits the last few months.  I used to feel guilty when I ate anything that wasn't organic or something that I had to unwrap before I ate it.  Now I just feel good when I have a meal that's entirely comprised of whole foods.  This used to be my goal for every meal, but as I said, I've been lazy.  As the weather gets warmer and I'm thinking more and more about my garden (You had no idea I was thinking about my garden, did you?!  I've NEVER mentioned it!) I'm trying to incorporate more whole foods into our diet.  I'm working on more beans and grains.  I've been looking for recipes for these two groups, but what I really need is just a basic way to cook them so that I can just serve barley, not some kind of barley pilaf.  I need a way that is going to be fast (which is a relative term when talking about cooking grains and legumes) and easy, with minimal ingredients.  We have so many nights of lessons, classes, organizations  it's too much for me to be making an elaborate dinner each night.  If I want to do this right, I need to be realistic.  I don't want to set myself up for failure.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Recipe Friday: World's Best Kale Salad

I have to admit, I think this recipe's name is a little misleading, but I'm always looking for a new, different way to prepare kale and I liked this one.  I didn't follow the directions exactly, and so I think I'll make it again to see if how it tastes with yellow miso instead of the dark that I used.  This is from Kiwi Magazine's Allergy-Friendly Foods for Families cookbook that I won last year.  If you live in NE  Ohio, it's kale planting time...do you have your seeds and garden ready???

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Coming April 23rd: Cooked by Michael Pollan

I Love love love Michael Pollan's books! If you have never read one I suggest starting with Food Rules. It's a quick read--lie 1hr quick -- and it's full of great rules to flow to keep you eating healthy, whole foods. My favorite is, "If your grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, don't eat it!" His new book, Cooked comes out soon and I ant wait to read it. Here's the synopsis from his website. Michaelpollan.com

In Cooked, Michael Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements—fire, water, air, and earth— to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. Apprenticing himself to a succession of culinary masters, Pollan learns how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer. In the course of his journey, he discovers that the cook occupies a special place in the world, standing squarely between nature and culture. Both realms are transformed by cooking, and so, in the process, is the cook. Each section of Cooked tracks Pollan’s effort to master a single classic recipe using one of the four elements. A North Carolina barbecue pit master tutors him in the primal magic of fire; a Chez Panisse–trained cook schools him in the art of braising; a celebrated baker teaches him how air transforms grain and water into a fragrant loaf of bread; and finally, several mad-genius “fermentos” (a tribe that includes brewers, cheese makers, and all kinds of picklers) reveal how fungi and bacteria can perform the most amazing alchemies of all. The reader learns alongside Pollan, but the lessons move beyond the practical to become an investigation of how cooking involves us in a web of social and ecological relationships: with plants and animals, the soil, farmers, our history and culture, and, of course, the people our cooking nourishes and delights. Cooking, above all, connects us.
The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume large quantities of fat, sugar, and salt; disrupt an essential link to the natural world; and weaken our relationships with family and friends. In fact, Cooked argues, taking back control of cooking may be the single most important step anyone can take to help make the American food system healthier and more sustainable. Reclaiming cooking as an act of enjoyment and self-reliance, learning to perform the magic of these everyday transformations, opens the door to a more nourishing life.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

April Showers...

Ellie's home sick from school today.  I think she has that same fever that Olivia had a week ago.  Hopefully the fever stays down and her headache goes away so she can go back to school tomorrow.  I hope that, but it WAS fun having her here.  I missed her this year.  Vince did too.  When the clouds rolled in and he thunder started to rumble, she and Vince put on snow boots (because what else would you put on to wear in a thunderstorm?) and ran outside to dance in the rain.  "April Showers, Bring May Flowers!" Vince chanted.  I didn't know he knew that saying, but apparently he picked it up somewhere.  He's right.  I was glad to see the rain today, hoping that it would help bring out more green in my yard.  (Not the weeds though, of course!)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My Diaper Movie

It's not a cinamatic masterpiece, but it shows the diapers I have and how to use them.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring is FINALLY here!

FINALLY!  The first day of my kids' spring break they went to Nana's house to sled ride.  The last day of their spring break, it was snowing.  FINALLY, they got to play outside without coats yesterday!  I worked in the yard and got all the beds ready for mulch (except edging, still have THAT to do) and started the monstrous task of picking up all the branches our willow tree drops over the winter.  I filled two and a half trash bags and you can't tell I did anything.  Being outside with the kids, Abby sunning herself, working until my muscles hurt--I didn't realize how much I missed it!  I always thought I liked spring the least, but now that I enjoy gardening, I think I've changed my mind.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Recipe Friday: Curried Vegetable Couscous

I got this recipe from a friend.  It tried it this week and LOVED it!  The recipe say you can stuff red bell peppers with this couscous, which is what I did, but it's also great alone as a side.  If you want to stuff peppers, cut off the top and derib the peppers.  Steam them for about 8 minutes, or until tender crisp.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Book Review: The Honest Life

I read a book (actually two) over spring break.  I reread Pride and Prejudice, which I liked A LOT better than Sense and Sensibility, but also The Honest Life, by Jessica Alba.  I was prepared for your run of the mill "how-to-live-greener" guide, but I was pleasantly surprised.   I was prepared to reread info that I already know.  I realize this makes me sound arrogant, like I already know everything there is to know about being green, but the fact is, I've read SO MANY of these books that there's rarely anything that's totally new to me.  Congratulations Jessica Alba!  You had a new fact in your book!  Tear Free baby shampoos?  Not gentler than regular shampoos, as we're lead to believe.  It's not the fact that their ingredients are safer and gentler, they're tear free because there's a numbing agent in them.  Nice!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Using Those Easter Eggs!

Do you have this at your house?  I usually don't dye a ton of eggs because I never know what to do with them all, but this year I decided to dye eggs at Easter Brunch with our family.  I thought if might be fun for grandparents and uncles to dye eggs with the kids, since it's one of the biggest Easter traditions and you don't really get to do it unless you have kids.  I got 3 different decorating packs, Hello Kitty, Batman and Angry Birds.  I hard boiled 36 eggs on Saturday.  Sunday, when we drove to East Canton to my mother in laws house, I left them in the fridge.  So Easter night, we dyed eggs.  Now we have to eat them all.  My two middle kids like "egg boats" so they'll eat some, but not 36.  So if you're stuck with a ton of eggs too, I'm going to share a good egg salad recipe I found in The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook by Cathe Olson.