Monday, March 31, 2014

DIY Gardening

WOW!  I've been getting lots of txts and emails about blog topics and so I'm going to use a few today, since I've been out running errands and am short on time.  First, I got a forward from a friend of my mom's about DIY gardening--specifially compost bins and potato towers.  Here are the links.  I really like the potato tower idea.  She basically piles three tires on top of each other so she doesn't have to dig way down in the dirt when it's time to harvest--creative, right?

This one is for a Multi-Bin Composter.  I tried my hand at composting a few years ago when we had the two big dogs--it became like slopping the pigs.  I'd dump the kitchen waste and the next thing I know they're out there dining on watermelon rinds--it didn't work.  The second time I tried, I can't really tell if I failed or succeeded.  My mom gave me a garbage can with a lid and the bottom cut off. The idea was to throw compostable items in the top, allow it to break down and wheel the can away and voila! fertile soil.  I started it last summer and since the bottomless trash can was a *little* hard to transport, it's still sitting in my old garden.  This idea is to use pallets to create a compost bin that will keep dogs out.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Recipe Friday: Champagne Brie Fondue

I tried a new recipe this week, but it was a flop.  This weekend is my brother-in-law's 30th birthday party.  We're doing an "Around The World"  theme (thanks for the inspiration Lambda Chi Alpha!) and each guest is bringing a dish and a drink from a different country.  I chose France and I'm making a Champagne Brie fondue from The Bride and Groom First and Forever Cookbook.  I LOVE this recipe!  It's our traditional New Year's Eve dinner because of the champagne, but also because it's the ingredient list is pretty pricey so it's only a special occasion dish.  I've made it TONS of times and the only times it's not turned out well was when I tried to cut corners and buy pre shredded swiss or cheap, rindless brie.  You HAVE to buy the good stuff or it just curdles and is gross.  We've tried all kinds of dunkers for this, but the best are french bread, granny smith apples, cubed chicken, and roasted mushrooms.  Joyeux Anniversaire Rob!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

North Canton Chickens

My friend sent me a text this morning with announcing that Hartville Kitchen is going to be hosting a free presentation on March 27th at 6:30 to learn how to start your backyard flock.  (330) 877-3631 for more info.  So it's back to thinking about chickens again.  I don't want a lot--just two or three.  I really want them more as pets, not so much for the eggs, although that would be an added bonus.  So I thought I'd look into it yet again.  This time, I took the big step.  I called the city.  After asking the woman who answered the phone in the Permits office if she could tell me about North Canton's laws on chickens her response was , "Oh boy!".  So they're legal, but not really favorable?  Here's what I found out:

Within the City Limits of North Canton:

  • You can have up to 6 hens--no roosters
  • The birds need to be in an enclosed yard or pen up to 18 sq feet
  • The enclosure has to be 50 feet away from any residence and 20 feet from the property line
  • Chicken feed must be kept in a rodent proof container and chickens must be fed in a manner as to not attract rodents.
  • You can't slaughter chickens within city limits 

That kind of rules out free range chickens for us since we don't have a fenced you think we could fit the chickens with little tiny Invisible Fence collars?!?!  I would have to go outside and measure to make sure that we even have the space to keep them 50 ft from the house and 20 feet from the property line.  I think the dream of raising chickens is quickly fading for me.  Maybe I should focus on my children like the one who is walking around the yard with a cigarette butt in his mouth and just broke an old milk bottle on the steps outside.  We ooze class, don't we?

Is it better or worse that he found it on the ground and didn't smoke it himself? 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nine Lives

Sometimes I feel like a cat.  You know, how they're supposed to have nine lives? I think back on parts of my life and it seems like so different from how my life is now that it's almost like a totally different life.  There was the life I lived in High School, part of a family that doesn't even exist anymore, the life in college, the life of a recent college grad working in downtown Columbus,  the life in grad school, the one in the apartment in Columbus with Evan, the life Evan and I had before we had kids--just the dogs--in our first house, the life of a new mom, trying to balance a baby and a job, the life of a stay at home mom of one, with another on the way, then the life of a stay at home mom with two kids, babysitting and teaching online, the life of a mother of 3, again trying to balance work and family with a 4th on the way--each stage seems so different when I look back on it.  Evan and I laugh all the time about how EASY having two kids was!  The fact that we ever were flustered or overwhelmed seems like a joke.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that last weekend was Caden's 9th birthday party.  Being 9, he's getting to old for the kind of parties we had for him as a

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Oh, right, Swiss Chard!

Yesterday someone was asking me where to get kale-apparently it was sold out at Giant Eagle.  Clearly lots of people have been reading my blog and kale is now in high demand.  I told her I've seen it almost everywhere that carries produce--even Wal-Mart has it.  She was going to use it in smoothies, which I do as well, and I was thinking how it's so much better than spinach.  I feel like spinach really gives the smoothie a gritty, greens taste, while kale doesn't really add a whole bunch of flavor.  Then all of a sudden, I remembered my old friend Swiss Chard.  I can't BELIEVE I had forgotten about this guy!  I LOVED swiss chard so much!  I used to sautee it for lunch all the time.  I added it to smoothies and I would even throw it in soups when they called for "greens".  I haven't gotten any in a REALLY long time and that's going to change when I go to the grocery store this week.  It also made me remember how easy it was to grow.  I planted some in the first garden I did and it came up again the next year--a TON.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St Jactrick's Day!

Most people know March 17th as St. Patrick's Day, but in our house, it's Jack's birthday.  Today our little man turns one year old.  We haven't had him a year yet, but one year ago, the little pregnant dog that was rescued from a high kill animal shelter in Alabama, gave birth to a little of pups.
Trixie--Jack's Mom

A few weeks later they made their way to Ohio and a few weeks after that Jack found his way to our house.
Jack and Ellie, the day we brought him home.

So, on the day of his birth, I'd like to send a "Thank You" to the woman that took the time and effort to save a pregnant dog, whelp a litter of puppies and drive them to Ohio.  All your work has not gone unappreciated.  Every day I cure you.  THANK--I mean thank you!  I THANK you every day.  (Freudian slip)
Jack's latest mess.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Recipe Friday: Crispy Tofu Fingers

I've tried Tofu Fingers before, but they've never been very good.  The breading always falls off and they're a real mess to make.  Then they're bland.  These were different.  You use oobleck to hold the bread crumbs to the tofu (that's a cornstarch/water mix for all you non-teachers/non-Dr Seuss fans).  Worked WAY better than an egg wash--you might want to give it a try on chicken in the same fashion.

This recipe came out of my March Vegetarian Times.  It was in a section about making for recipes all at once, so it's designed to be made in advance.  I liked that it went right in the oven with the nuggets I made for the rest of the family (see, I told you I've been slacking.  I would have rather died than feed my family nuggets a few years ago-now I'm lazy and I've lost a little of my fire, but I'm working on getting it back!)  To store them, you wait until they've cooled then layer them between sheets of wax paper and put them in resealable containers.  Refrigerate up to two days or freeze for up to 3 months.  To reheat, just bake 5-7 minutes at 350.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Attempted Abduction

I keep trying to think of a better blog post, but every time I sit down to write, my thought keep going back to the phone call I got from our Superintendent about an hour ago.  He was calling to let us know of an attempted abduction from a bus stop this morning.  The driver was a white man in a black SUV.   He tried to convince the girl to get in his car by offering candy.  Apparently, he even got out of the SUV.  The girl did the right thing and ran, so she's fine--physically, but I'm sure she's more than a little freaked out.  And so are all the parents.  The Facebook page of Ellie's elementary school PTO has tons of comments.  The rumor I heard is that it was at a stop in the Greentown area, not close to us, but that's just rumor.  It's been really upsetting, coming on the heels for finishing the book The Lovely Bones.  It was supposedly a 5th grade girl, which makes me think the abductor was a novice--really, you thought CANDY would work?!?!  (Unless he had those Godiva truffles.  I might get into a car with a stranger if he offered me those.)  When I hung up the phone I turned around and saw Ellie's LaLa Loopsies all over the kitchen counter.  I was so frustrated when I saw them this morning, thinking, "I'll have to clean THAT up today!", but after the call, I saw them in a different light.  Instead of a mess to clean up, I saw a moment in time of Ellie, playing before school, quietly by herself, like she always does.  If that had been HER and not an ATTEMPTED abduction,

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Back In The Kitchen

I said the other day that I feel like I've been really lazy with my eating habits.  I used to cook a lot more and lately, I feel like I've been doing my best to NOT cook.  So this past weekend, as I was making my weekly dinner menu, I was flipping through the pages of my latest issue of Vegetarian Times and I found quite a few recipes that jumped out at me.  I'm finding this to happen less and less with this magazine, so I was excited to have the new options.  It's such a good feeling to put a try something new that actually tastes great--so often I try new recipes only to find that the extra ingredients that I had to buy and the extra time it took to prepare the new meal was only to choke down something that I swear I'll never make again.  It's frustrating.  OR, I really like it and no one else does, which means I'm eating leftovers for days and when it's all finally gone, I'm so sick of it I never want to make it again.  But this little snack I made the other day is not one of those recipes.  It's actually not from my Vegetarian Times magazine, but from my much loved Vegetarian Mother Cookbook.  I've seen it in there a lot, but never really tried it.  I was so disappointed that I've been missing out!  Such a quick, versatile recipe!  It's just roasted Garbanzo beans.  That's it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

It's HERE!

It's here!  Spring!  I know it's only for a day, but it feels so good to be able to be outside without a heavy coat and to see that sunshine and the blue sky!  I have my windows open and I'm able to enjoy the spring sounds of the guy down the street cleaning his car with the radio blasting hip-hop.  I'd prefer birds chirping, but at this point, the knowledge that the snow and ice are almost totally melted in my yard makes me not even care.  Vince is outside playing without a coat (and mud boots, but that's spring) and even Jack is outside playing (sniffing all the new smells that have been buried under the snow since we moved in.)

So I was going to blog about grass-fed cow yogurt that my mom told me about, but instead I'm just going to enjoy today.  4-6 inches of snow are on their way so I'm going to live in the moment.  I'm going to breath in the fresh air, turn off the heat, and try to remember what spring really feels like--and all the fun that goes with it--outside planting and fresh produce at the farmers market and even grocery store.  Happy Spring (even if it only lasts for a day!)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Caden is 9!

Happy Birthday to my oldest!  I've looked at him over the years and thought about how big he's gotten and today was no different. I was telling him over breakfast what was going on at that time nine years ago- judging by his interest level, it's not the best story, so I won't bore you with it.  But I like to think back on Cadens past on his birthday.  Who he was at each birthday and how he's changed.  Our old neighbors were Jehovah's Witnesses, and therefore didn't really celebrate birthdays.    She once told me that on each kid's birthday they talked about the day they were born and how much they had grown over the past year.  I thought that was a really great way to celebrate--in a different sense of the word-- each birthday.  So, Caden, here's you, over the last 9 years.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


I have to confess that I've been a little lazy with Caden's birthday.  It's surprised  me this year--all of a sudden it's here!  I think I was planning Ellie's, then I planned his family party, then I just kind of forgot about it.  But now it's quickly approaching and we are scrambling to throw together a friend party for him.  He's not making a lot of friends quickly at his new school--which is very Caden-like, and he didn't have a ton of close friends at the old school--also very Caden-like.  Therefore, he doesn't have a huge guest list for a party.  We were just going to do something kind of informal--taking a few kids to The North Canton Skate and Entertainment Center to play video games, laser tag, euro bungy, bumper cars, etc.  Of course I didn't really PLAN that until the other day when I realized we're out of weekends and we need to get this invites out NOW!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Thinking Spring: Garden Beds

It's been a long winter.  I've heard people say that before, which always seemed silly to me, but this year, I get it.  I'm SO ready for warmer weather and the ground to thaw.  I saw a woman at the YMCA today with a 31 tote in a flip-flop pattern and I sighed looking at it.  I want to wear flip flops again.  And tank tops--without layers over them.  So as I'm thinking about warmer weather, I'm also getting back to exercising at the Y again--really. Not like I did before where I mostly read on the Arc Trainer and never broke a sweat.  I'm lifting weights and really trying to focus more on the exercise part of my cardio, rather than the literary.  Along with my new exercise routine, I'm also back to eating better.  I've been eating LOTS of kale, which always makes me feel better.  I'm making smoothies again and I've been sautéing kale with beans and rice for lunch.  (Today I threw in some dried cranberries, and walnuts as well as sautéing half a zucchini and even a scrambled egg--so good!)  The  one bunch of kale I was buying before that was lasting me for weeks is now only lasting me a few days.  It KILLS me to buy kale, when I know I can grow it for so cheap--but it's not *quite* time to plant yet--Sprout Robot says March 31st.  I was going online to check out what the best containers are for container gardening and I happened across these tips for starting your bed or raised bed.  They're all on sprout robot, but I copied them here, just for a quick reference.  I love that site!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Frozen Pipe and Shaking Up Lunch

This morning we woke up with no water.  Long story short-- I accidentally put my garage door UP last night instead of putting Evan's DOWN and both garage doors were open all night long--freezing our water pipe, which caused the meter to burst, spraying water all over the garage.  It's fixed now, thanks to the North Canton City Water guys, but I wasted a TON of energy last night as I tried to heat the outdoors (we have a heated garage) and then a ton of water this morning as the burst pipe gushed out all over my van and the driveway.  Bad day for natural resources at our house.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Honest Dish Brush

I go back and forth with The Honest Company.  Sometimes I love it, sometimes I want to cancel my bundle subscription.  I really do like the products.  I have yet to find one that I don't care for (well, I guess I wasn't a big fan of the sunscreen), but the price is a little steep for me.  I actually think the products are reasonably priced, it's just the shipping.  Anyway, I got a new product in this month's bundle (which I've actually changed to every 8 weeks).  It's the Suds Up Dish Brush.  Here's what the site says about it:

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Recipe Friday: Breakfast Smoothie

I LOVE smoothies!  I have my go-to smoothie that I've been making for years with yogurt, kale, OJ, bananas and berries, but when I saw this one in a magazine, I thought I'd give it a try.  I varied from the original recipe by using mixed berries instead of strawberries and peanut butter instead of almond butter, but it was still pretty tasty.  I like how it includes some whole grains with the oatmeal.  It gives it a thicker, creamier texture and the small amount of peanut butter gives it a boost of protein with a hint of the flavor.  I might try tossing some of these ingredients into my traditional smoothie and see what happens.

Breakfast Smoothie

1 C frozen strawberries
1C skim milk
2 TBSP almond butter
1/4 C rolled oats
dash of cinnamon

Throw it all in a blender and puree until smooth!