Sunday, November 29, 2009

What Do We Eat Now??

I mentioned our plan to go veg to the moms in The Middle Child's Girl Scout troop at our last meeting. One of the moms responded the way I have in the past when someone told me they were vegetarian- what the heck do you feed your family, and what about protein? Yep, been there, had (have) those questions, and I'm trying to work out the answers myself. One thing I'm doing is combing through vegetarian and vegan cookbooks to find recipes we might enjoy. One author in particular is a favorite, Robin Robertson, and I have four of her cookbooks. We've used recipes of hers in the past and liked them a lot so she's my "go to" at this point. After drifting about menu planning, spending a lot of time doing my Radical Reading instead of looking for what we can eat now, I focused and found some potential recipes in a couple of her cookbooks. The next step is to WRITE THEM DOWN and put the items we don't have on hand on a shopping list so we can actually make said recipes. I can't just write them on any old scrap of paper, either; I've made an official document titled "The Food We Eat". (Actually, to distinguish it from the old "The Food We Eat" list that included meat, it's "The Food We Eat Now That We Are Vegetarian".) I typed it up in sections- what DH makes, what I make, what The Middle Child makes, Take Out, Delivery, and a section with a table I can fill in with new recipes we try and where to find them. (I HATE it when I lose a recipe, and I've done that several times in the past!) It's all very organized and a big help when I sit down to make up my weekly menu plan. I've really had a hard time NOT having that list up to date with vegetarian recipes, but now that I've plugged in the few new recipes we know we like, and I have space to add more recipes as we try them, I feel much better about the situation. This is an overwhelmingly HUGE change in our eating habits and it's easy to let it get away from me so I have to break it down into manageable steps.

Here's how it looks now:

The Food We Eat Now That We Are Vegetarians

DH’s Meals:
~ Lentil Tacos
~ Salads with Protein (egg, tofu, beans, nuts)
~ Veggie and Tempeh Stir fry
~ Veggie Deli Sandwiches
~ Vegetarian Chili (still have to find a recipe)
~ Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce (still have to find a recipe)
~ Black Bean Patties (Apocalypse Chow p. 120) with Rice, Applesauce, and Carrot Salad
~ Veggie Burgers, Waldorf Salad, Fries (that's IF we like the veggie burgers we bought to try)
~ White Bean Cassoulet (Vegan Planet p. 290)
~ Orecchiette with Roasted Broccoli and Walnuts

My Meals:
~ Jamaican Black Bean and Vegetable Soup (Minutemeals Vegetarian page 40)
~ Bean-a-Roni (My own recipe modified from Beef-a-Roni by subbing a can or two of rinsed and drained beans for the beef)
~ Rotini with Tomatoes and White Beans with breadsticks
~ Pasta e Fagioli (New Vegetarian Cuisine p 82) The Middle Child loves this b/c of the mushrooms
~ Mediterranean Bean Ragout (Vegan Planet p. 291)
~ Bagel Egg Sandwiches

Meals We Both Cook:
~ Refried Bean Quesadillas

Meals We Cook Together:
~ Winter Crumble (The Little Book of Vegetarian Recipes p 28) for Earth Day; time consuming
~ Creamy Ziti Vegetable Bake (New Vegetarian Cuisine p 85) DH knife work; I assemble

Meals The Middle Child Cooks:
~ Pasta and bean soup (Minutemeals Vegetarian p 42)

Take Out:
(several local eateries)

Pizza Fusion

New Recipes We’ve Tried and Like

(This is a chart that won't copy here; it has one column titled "Recipe Name" and one column titled "Where to Find It")

New Recipes We Are Trying This Week:
(I actually put this in my menu planner which is handwritten every week and not part of my "What We Eat" list. I USE my "What We Eat" list and cookbooks to help fill out the menu planner.)
~ Potato and Onion Pierogi with Broccoli and Walnuts (Quick Fix Vegetarian page 111)
~ Fusilli and Summer Vegetables with Basil-Cannellini Sauce (Quick Fix Vegetarian page 120)

So this is how I'm figuring out the WHAT about our new way of eating. As for the protein question, that's really not as big a deal as I thought it would be. I'm finding throughout my reading that we are not exactly in any danger of protein deficiencies if we eat a well balanced diet, even if that diet is vegetarian. There's protein in just about everything and we don't need as much as we are led to believe. I like cookbooks that give nutrition info and I tend to choose recipes with a higher protein content, at least for now during our "transition phase", but on the days when we've been totally meatless it's been OK, even if I don't give protein a second thought. (Robin Robertson's cookbooks don't give nutrition information, my ONLY complaint about them, but the recipes use good, wholesome ingredients so I'm not going to worry about it.) That's where things stand for now; we're taking it one step at a time and figuring out things as we go. It's kind of like "sink or swim". We've made the commitment, now we have to live it.

PS: Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh, you know the Potato and Onion Pierogi with Broccoli and Walnuts recipe we were going to try from Robin Robertson's Quick Fix Vegetarian cookbook? We just ate it for dinner and all I have to say is YUM! It's on our "keeper" list for sure. Her recipes just do NOT disappoint!

Trails and Travails of a New Semi-Vegetarian; Traditions

We had our turkey for Thanksgiving and enjoyed it tremendously, kind of like a last supper since it's the last meat I plan to buy for some time. After our feast, we had pies for dessert. DH made the Sweet Potato Pie with Hazelnut Struesel from Cooking Light but forgot to pre-bake the shell. (He went off recipe and used a regular pie crust instead of the graham cracker crust called for in the recipe. You have to cook those before you put the filling in.) Luckily my dad picked up two pies from the grocery store to contribute and wound up saving the day; we ate those instead of the homemade pie.

Later on in the evening after it got dark, DH lit a fire in our fire pit on the patio. The plan was to toast marshmallows, make s'mores, and drink hot chocolate. In trying to avoid meat products, I purchased marshmallows from Whole Foods made with gelatin from fish instead of cows. Fish counts as an animal product, but at least there wouldn't be the risk of Mad Cow disease, or something. Whatever, it was a giant FAIL. While the mini-fish marshmallows (as the kids named them) were fine as a topping on the sweet potato casserole, they didn't work quite as well in a s'more. Might I say- BLECH. They were grainy like peeps before toasting, and edible. After toasting, they were grainy, like... something you wouldn't want to eat. Grainy mush; ewww!


In spite of the marshmallow failure, we still had fun being together in front of the fire. The little ones especially LOVE a good fire and sat outside long after the rest of us went in. I've been searching for new traditions for our family since so many things have changed in recent years and a post-feast fire might be a good start. Except for my dad and brother, and my brother rarely comes to visit, we don't have any family left closer than 3 hours away. My grandmother, who lived about half an hour away, died in 2008. She was the cornerstone of my family and, until she got too elderly and sick, would orchestrate our holidays. Our traditions revolved around going to her house for the big meals and celebrations, seeing our aunts, uncles, and cousins. The last few years of her life my immediate family would still go to her house but we would cook and take the meal down to her. The aunts, uncles, and cousins tried to visit as they could but usually not on holidays. Now that she's gone I've been set adrift. Last Christmas, my first without her, was so hard; I couldn’t get into the holiday spirit but just went through the motions. I think this year will be better though, and my way to cope will be with finding our new traditions starting with that evening fire. I just wish the smoke wouldn’t make my allergies go crazy! ;)

PS: I found a place on-line that sells vegan marshmallows. I ordered a bunch; I'll write a review once I try them. I have really high hopes; after all, I'm a Girl Scout leader. Gotta have my s'mores!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What To Do?

What do I do with all of this new information I'm learning about? I'm now reading The Food Revolution, my follow up reading to Eating Animals. It is opening my eyes to the consequences MY eating habits have throughout the world and, wow, those consequences are a lot bigger than I ever thought possible. I've heard the term "lifting the veil" a lot lately, both in the book and in Food, Inc. and that's what it feels like. A veil of ignorance has been lifted and I can never go back to what I was before.

I challenge you, too, to learn more about what you eat, where it comes from, how it affects your body, the animals, other people, and the planet as a whole. I'm over halfway through The Food Revolution and I'll post a review once I finish it; I'm taking notes as I go so I can share some of the more powerful quotes. Of everything I've read and watched, this is the one book that is the most thorough. If you read nothing else, please read The Food Revolution. Lift the veil; if you don't your food could kill you.

PS: And as soon as I finished posting this, I stumbled onto an article about how meat consumption affects the planet. It's a quick little snippet for you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone is having a lovely Thanksgiving Day today. My dad will be joining us for our dinner; we've also invited a family friend and her mom but she's not sure if they'll be able to come or not. Since I started this blog because of the "Menu Plan Monday" meme, I'll go back to my roots and post our menu plan for today's big meal:

Humanely raised free range organic turkey
Cornbread Dressing (my grandmother's recipe)
Stove Top Stuffing (special request; not my idea since I don't like food out of a box)
Sweet Potato Casserole (with marshmallows on top per The Youngest's request)
Mashed Potatoes (yes, two potato dishes, but they are both expected)
Steamed Green Beans (something healthy to balance out all the starchy stuff)
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Sauce from the can (another special request)
Crescent Rolls
Guacamole and chips (appetizer; The Middle Child's specialty)
Sweet Potato Pie with Hazelnut Streusel (we use a regular pre-made pie crust instead of the graham cracker crust called for in the recipe)

And it's a good thing we didn't plan on pumpkin pie since there's been a crisis in the pumpkin patch this year. Guess the Great Pumpkin won't be making an appearance this year after all, but hopefully it won't affect your holiday too much. Or was that Halloween? ;)

I found out about the pumpkin crisis at the grocery yesterday. The store was PACKED and for some reason people kept asking ME where stuff was. (OK, two people, but still.) One woman was trying to find the canned pumpkin. I knew where the pie fillings were and I thought it should be there, but it wasn't. What WAS there was a sign saying "due to problems with the pumpkin harvest we do not have any canned pumpkin available; we regret the inconvenience, yadayadayada", or something like that. She freaked! "What am I going to tell so-and-so when I don't come home with the pumpkin?" I told her "make sweet potato pie; there's a great recipe on Cooking!!!" She thanked me, but somehow I don't think she's going to make the sweet potato pie. But the recipe really is great; DH made it last year and it was sooooo good. I highly recommend it, even if you can get pumpkin.

I'm not doing all the cooking this year if you were feeling sorry for me, by the way. ('Cause I know you totally were when you got a load of that menu!) We divvied up the menu and we're all making something. I'm responsible for the turkey (I hope I get it all the way cooked this year), the gravy, cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole, and cranberry sauce. DH is making the green beans and pie. The Eldest is making the mashed potatoes, Stove Top stuffing, and the cranberry sauce from the can. (It's her special job to get the cranberry sauce all plated up; you can ask her about it since she's very proud of that job.) ;) The Middle Child is making the guacamole. (She makes a mean guacamole, too; not very traditional, but it's delish!) Last but not least, The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, is making the crescent rolls. It's nice that we can all work on the meal and get it done together. I just hope we all get it done on time!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bug Pictures

Here are pictures of our caterpillars and our passion vine. Upon looking at them more closely, I think the orange caterpillars on the passion vine are Gulf Fritillaries after all, not Variegated Fritillaries. It's quite obvious when looking at the on-line pictures of the caterpillars; I just couldn't remember the exact coloring when I looked them up and I hadn't taken a picture yet.

The first picture below shows two of our Monarchs on a newly planted milkweed. Oooh, almost forgot- a neighbor spotted a Monarch chrysalis on one of our plants and we were able to bring it inside and put it in our Bugville Treehouse, where it can finish its metamorphosis free from predators. And maybe we'll get to watch it emerge from its cocoon if we're really lucky!!!

Here are two of the Gulf Fritallary caterpillars. You can barely see the second one; part of him is peeking out from behind a leaf. You can see a chewed up leaf in the foreground; these guys are HUNGRY!

Here is the passion vine; can you believe we just planted that thing a few months ago, and it was no more than two feet high when it went in the ground? We may be doing battle with that plant in the future 'cause I think it's trying to take over! It hasn't flowered yet, though; I'm looking forward to that since the Passion Flowers are lovely.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More Butterflies!!!

We about gave up on our butterfly garden since our milkweed attracted aphids. We thought the monarchs would pass us right on by, and they did for a while, so we stopped checking for them. Nature keeps right on going, however, even when we aren't paying attention, and today we found a Monarch caterpillar crawling across our driveway! A quick glance over at our milkweed and we knew an emergency run to Home Depot was in order. When we got back with the milkweed plants and started messing around in our garden areas The Middle Child found Monarchs all over the place! We rounded them up and put as many as we could find on the plants. Now, we're not supposed to do that under normal circumstances, because when a Monarch caterpillar leaves its milkweed plant it is looking for a place to make a chrysalis. We figured that since the plants were totally stripped of leaves they were probably looking for FOOD more than a place to cocoon, and indeed a couple of them started munching away.

THEN The Middle Child took a look at our passion vine and found caterpillars there, too, only a NEW kind of caterpillar, definitely not a Monarch. She started counting them and easily found 10. Good thing the passion vine has gone bananas where we planted it, even with my neglectful not-very-green thumb. I googled "passion vine caterpillar" and I think our caterpillars are Variegated Fritillaries but I wouldn't swear to it. They look all scary and stingy but one article I read says the "stingers" are soft and you can pick them up. I'll pass, thanks.

Friday, November 20, 2009

This Vegetarian Thing...

All right, all right, I know I've been getting all radical on everybody, but when a person is learning so many new things, and many of them are downright scary, it's hard not to be passionate about it. Now we're going veg. OK, I'm saying to myself, now what? We have a couple of meatless meals but we can't eat those everyday. I have a ton of vegetarian/vegan cookbooks, and not all of them are recent purchases, I just never took the time to look through them carefully before with an eye toward eating that way on a daily basis.

Meatless Monday to the rescue! For today, anyway. I found a recipe for Lentil Bolognese that looks like it could work for us with a few modifications so that's what we're having tonight. Last night I pulled a recipe from one of my cookbooks for Rice, Black Beans, and Squash en Papillote which was pretty good. We had Quick Chicken Stir Fry for lunch with some of the meat I'm trying to use up from the freezer. (I'm not going to throw out what we already have, I'm just not buying any more once that's gone except for special occasions.) DH makes lunch so I'm having him make the meat dishes to use up what we have on hand then I make vegetarian meals for dinner to try out new recipes.

I know I could continue to use the Maverick Ranch beef I've been buying (although it is increasingly difficult to find at my local grocery store) since I'm pretty comfortable that they raise their cows in a humane manner, but then there's still the health issue. (There's also no chicken equivalent to the Maverick Ranch beef, at least not that I've been able to find.) People who eat a largely plant based diet LIVE LONGER, HEALTHIER LIVES!!! You just can't refute that.

I'm also kind of excited because I think I'll be able to eat more. I like to eat. I like to eat a lot, which is how I gained the 45 plus pounds I lost a few years ago in the first place. It's a daily struggle to keep that weight off and one of the things I do is measure out any animal protein I eat, keeping it to no more than 5 ounces per day. I won't have to do that anymore! Although I'll still have to exercise some portion control (I also measure out carbs) I don't think I'll have to be quite as strict about it. I mean, when I ate out the other day for The Middle Child's birthday and had the Pasta Pomodoro, I didn't eat it all (it was a HUGE portion) but I did eat a lot more than I would have if there had been meat in it. My weight actually dipped a little the next day, which is totally cool. (I have to weigh daily or I stick my head in the sand and wind up gaining.) I'm going to have to figure out what I can eat now and where I will still need to weigh and measure, but I think I'll be feeling a little fuller on a vegetarian diet. :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Talking Turkey

I finished reading Eating Animals and wow- it was horrific and eye opening at the same time. So am I a vegetarian now? Well, no, but I am going to give up factory farmed meat. That means I'll be going semi-veg since it's hard to find, let alone afford, conscientiously raised meat on a regular basis. But that's OK, because this jives with another book I read recently called The Blue Zones. That book talks about how the longest lived people on the planet got to be the longest lived people on the planet, and one factor is a largely, but not necessarily exclusively, plant based diet. The Sardinians, for instance, only eat meat on special occasions. That sounds like a workable plan to me so that's what I'm going to aim for.

I've been buying only organic beef for years now, I've always avoided veal like the plague, I would rather die than eat foie gras, and I buy only free range/organic eggs so this is a natural extension of the choices I've been making to date. The beef thing started as a result of reports about mad cow disease but the veal, foie gras, and eggs were always about animal cruelty. (The kids have asked why I only buy brown eggs; I tell them it’s because they are mean to the chickens that make the white eggs. Unfortunately they are also mean to the chickens that make the brown eggs, according to the book.) I also don't eat octopus because I saw a documentary that demonstrated how intelligent they are, just to throw that out there.

I guess I should have gone veg years ago but I never could figure out what the heck to eat and feed my family without that meat based main dish. I'm learning that it's actually not as complicated as I was making it out to be. Get a couple of vegetarian or vegan cookbooks, look through them, pick out a few recipes and go to it. I started quite accidentally along this path with a cookbook called Apocalypse Chow which I purchased because it's a survival manual for eating well in post-hurricane conditions. (I’m big on hurricane preparedness.) We tested out several of the recipes and found we really liked Beat the Blahs Black Bean Patties, so we now have that meal an average of once a week. Then I found Meatless Monday and we expanded our meatless meals to a few more options. Next a friend invited me to a raw foods class, which was a lot of fun, and my eyes were opened to a great way to, um, uncook. That same friend made the switch from a traditional diet to vegan which is very inspiring. (She made the switch after watching Food, Inc, which we have from Netflix but haven't watched yet). Now I’ve read Eating Animals and I can’t stick my head in the sand anymore. Factory farming is cruel and horrible and I can no longer support it with my dollars. When I feel it necessary to eat meat I will pay more for animals that were raised with a minimum of cruelty with a goal of special occasions only.

Now here’s how I’m doing so far. We went out to eat for lunch and I ordered a lentil and bean soup. Turns out it had bacon in it so I gave it to DH. (I did eat some of it before I realized; it was really good too, darn it.) My main course was a Tomato Pasta Pomodoro which was vegetarian as far as I could tell, and was also delicious. We went out to lunch because it’s The Middle Child’s 9th birthday (happy birthday, Sweetheart) and she also requested a special meal for dinner, Delicious Beef and Potatoes. Well, it’s a special occasion so off to Whole Foods we went, where I bought grass fed beef for the recipe. (Screwed up on the food miles thing, though; I realized the sign said “from Australia” after I ordered it. Sigh.) While I was there I also ordered a free-range organic turkey for Thanksgiving and the guy PROMISED me it was humanely raised. So it’s a sputtering start, but a start nonetheless. I have a feeling this is going to be a learning process all around, but I’m up for it!

*On a side note, when I was ordering the turkey I started chatting with the guy at Whole Foods and mentioned we rented Food, Inc. but haven't watched it yet. He's seen it and he said whatever we do, DO NOT WATCH IT BEFORE THANKSGIVING!! ;)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Liberalism is Showing...

So there's a friend of mine from college who is gay. We recently reconnected through Facebook and she writes the typical posts you see on Facebook most of the time. Recently, however, she posted about freedom in our country and how discrimination against gays is still rampant. She got some interesting responses! Not all of her friends are liberal and accepting of who she is, apparently, because two people commented in support of the laws that do not allow gays to marry. I, being the loudmouth that I can be sometimes, had to stick my two cents in. (I love getting up on the old soapbox.) One guy wrote out several points he felt were important; I had my say, then some other guy wrote the following, quoted without his permission but he posted it on a semi-public forum so there:

"Caleb, I'll add one point to yours...

5) This country is NOT a democracy, it is a representative republic, and as such, the people elect representatives to speak for them. Thus, under the republican form of government, when someone says "I'm voting for X because of my beliefs" they might just be speaking for the constituents who put them in office, what a concept...

Kim, why on earth would you think that gay couples should be allowed to adopt in every state? States have the ability to set rights as determined by their populations. It seems that more and more states are over turning these kinds of rulings that were put in place by activist state courts. Don't the people get to decide the kinds of laws that they can be ruled under? After all, our constitution states that we the grant powers TO the government, not receive them FROM government.

Shari, I think you make a good point about the melting pot, however that vision has been corrupted by the political parties in the name of the multicultural agenda and pandering to an uninformed electorate to keep themselves in power. Personally, I think the LGBT community would be better served to strive for a libertarian governing style versus the social liberal one they appear to embrace so wholeheartedly. I find it interesting that so many on the ideological left are so willing to circumvent the checks and balances to create law in the courts (a la CA Prop 8) that are in direct contravention to the will of the people, just like in Maine. So, who is right, the people or the state courts?"

Here is my response, and I think I was pretty darn eloquent, so I'm putting it out there as a blog post:

The majority can be just as tyrannical as any king or dictator could ever hope to be. Why do you think we don't have a true democracy? Our founding fathers in their wisdom knew that would be a mistake, thank goodness. That's why checks and balances were put in place as well, like our "activist" state courts. Many, many things the "majority" want in this country have historically been wrong, usually in the form of discrimination of some sort. Ask Abe Lincoln about that, for instance. We fought a war with ourselves over state's "rights" to discriminate and enslave other people. This is no different. Discrimination is wrong, period. When consenting adults want to marry it is wrong to deny them something so many others enjoy. Same for adoption. Gay couples should be allowed to adopt in EVERY state. Being gay in and of itself should NEVER be a criteria to deny a couple the right to create a family. (There may be other reasons to deny a couple the right to adopt, but being gay, or black or in an inter-racial marriage for that matter, are not among them.)

As for the libertarian style of governing, that's a pie in the sky point of view. That assumes that we are all moral and decent and capable of governing ourselves and that the "big guys" won't victimize the "little guys", that people will always do the right thing and make the right choices. HA. Take a look at recent events, like lead paint in toys, the way the large financial institutions made reckless decisions with money that affected us all and sent the entire country into an economic tailspin. The way the entire farm industry lies to us and continues with practices they KNOW are getting people sick. (I'm reading "Eating Animals" at the moment so that is particularly fresh in my mind.) Corporations are greedy, people are greedy, and they will do things that will victimize and hurt others and that needs some serious regulation. Libertarians are overly optimistic if they think the market will control that. Companies are too good at hiding what they don't want the public to know. If we veer towards a libertarian form of government too many people would be hurt. For me, it's about what we have governments FOR. Any government, not just ours. Why do we as a species have them? What does a good one look like? For me, a good form of government protects the rights of EVERY person, not just the big guys like corporations. The thug down the street shouldn't be allowed to rob and steal from his neighbors because he's bigger and stronger, nor should any business be allowed to lie to the public and sell unsafe products, passing them off as a good thing. The Madoffs of this world should go to jail. The rights of everyone, including the LGBT community, should be protected, even if the people they are being protected from are the "majority". There are other things a government should do, of course, but these things are pretty basic in my book.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Book Review: Eating Animals

I've started reading the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. I must say it's a difficult book; it's hard to read, in graphic detail, about the unnecessary suffering of living creatures and the filth that goes into our food supply, all in the name of cheap food. We're not vegan or even vegetarian, although we participate in Meatless Mondays, but we're heading that way fast. I was at the grocery store earlier tonight and I couldn't bring myself to pick up a package of chicken; it just made me so sad to think about how the animal that it came from probably lived and died, plus it kind of grossed me out to know it could have taken a dip in fecal soup after it was killed. Ewwwww!!!

Now we're going to go watch Food, Inc. DH didn't want me to get the movie from Netflix but a friend watched it and said it had a powerful impact on her. She even went cold turkey on meat. (Yes, a pun, but sadly this isn't really a laughing matter.) She went from a traditional diet straight to vegan in the space of time it took to watch that movie. I'm kind of worried about it; we like our Thanksgiving turkey!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Helping others is important to me and a value I'm trying to teach my children. The girls are in Girl Scouts because that is a place where we can volunteer. (We are in Girl Scouts for many other reasons as well, but that's an important one.) Recently The Eldest started volunteering at a local children's museum. She loves art so that was a natural for her and it will help her as she works on her Girl Scout Gold Award project. Last night the museum presented a fashion show as a fund raiser, but not just any fashion show. The teen volunteers made the outfits out of recycled materials! The Eldest worked on her outfit for weeks, consistently making time to move the project along; I am so proud of the dedication she put into it. The outfits were judged and the winner's outfit will be exhibited at a big art show in the coming months.

The Eldest didn't win the prize but she won so much more because of all she learned from participating in this event. She learned about hard work and dedication and how your efforts can pay off in something truly satisfying. (She liked her outfit and got a lot of positive feedback; it was really good if I do say so myself.) She learned about how these events work. She interacted with the other teen volunteers and the staff at the museum. She interacted with one of the event advisers who helped her during the workshops they held for the teens. This was important because she was getting feedback from an adult other than me, which is a good thing for a homeschooled kid to experience. She worked with her friend's mom who helped her with the sewing parts of her outfit. She talked things over with her friend who also made an outfit for the show. She learned about losing with grace. She gained experience talking in front of an audience since all of the designers presented their outfits at the end of the show during a quick interview with the MC. She was poised and collected; she was so at ease during the interview.

All in all, it was a great event for her to participate in and it culminated in a great evening out for The Eldest, DH, and I. (The little ones were at home with a sitter.) We took her out to eat afterwards and had a lovely celebratory dinner. Now it's time for her to start thinking about her outfit for next year!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


A couple of days ago a newscaster played the Schoolhouse Rock video that puts the words of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution to music. It's something we all need to consider during the current debates about health care, and one phrase in particular comes to mind. The phrase "promote the general welfare" seems relevant to me. General welfare. Hmmm. If health care were then what it is now, as in able to actually save lives instead of just bleeding people, then I think we would have had a system of public health care a long time ago. Access to health care promotes the general welfare. We have public schools, after all. Why not public health care as well? I would love to see the government look to our school system as a model for setting up health care in this country. I think they are going about it all wrong; they are looking at ways to offer insurance to everyone. We don't need insurance, we need HEALTH CARE. The need for insurance and how to pay for insurance is the big debate when that's just all about the middle man. Chuck the insurance and go straight to the source. Provide hospitals and clinics and doctors for free the same way we provide free education. That also leaves room for private hospitals and charter hospitals and more inventive ways of delivering service. Sure there will be problems, but we can solve those as we get to them. Long waits to see a doctor? Train more doctors. Provide incentives for the best and the brightest to go to medical school and become physicians. Other problems? Solve them and continue on. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater by saying "WE CAN'T". We live in the most powerful nation on earth; there's no excuse for denying anyone health care. WE CAN.


I do NOT have a green thumb but I keep trying. Yesterday the little ones and I picked up a LARGE tomato plant at Costco with tomatoes already on it. Unfortunately there was also a LARGE caterpillar that had the same idea- yum, tomatoes! (Actually I think he was more interested in the leaves.) We found it before check out so we left that plant at the store; a kindly employee said he would take care of the caterpillar. (And he meant in a good way, not by killing it. He thought it was cute.) Google told us it was a tomato hornworm. Or tobacco hornworm. Whatever. It turns into a really big moth, which makes sense because it was a really big caterpillar. I've never seen a caterpillar that big before; it was easily as big as my middle finger! At first I thought it was a leaf that was all curled up. I started to touch it to figure out why it was curled up but before I made contact it MOVED!!! Startled the bejeezus out of me, but then I thought it was kind of cool and showed the kids. Creepy and cool all at the same time. Shudder.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Blech. I HATE doing laundry. With a family of 5 it piles up quickly so there's no way to get around it. I have to admit I can go quite a while, though! Over the years I have purchased enough clothing so that we can go a good long time between rounds.

When we are absolutely out of clean clothes, here's how it works. The kids take off their dirty clothes every night and throw them on the floor. When I'm ready to sort clothes I yell at them to pick everything up and bring it to my bathroom where I have about 10 laundry baskets all spread out. They either ignore me completely (it's amazing how The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, always has to use the potty for a good long time right when I need him to do something, but there it is) or pick up just a few things and say they are done. In exasperation, and maybe a little desperation, I go to their rooms and stand outside their doors (the younger two have rooms right next to each other) and point out what they've missed, which I can clearly see from the doorway. I never actually enter The Middle Child's room since it's hazardous. The Youngest's room isn't as bad since I cleaned it up a few weeks ago so I can go in there without risking life and limb, which I do, and round up any clothes I can find. (The Eldest is supposed to wash her own clothes in theory, but she manages to sneak her stuff into my stuff when I'm not looking.)

Then the sorting. Oh, the sorting! I have to check every pocket for foreign objects (you can ask my mom about the crayon my brother left in a pocket when we were kids; I've never forgotten that lesson!) and button and zip every pair of pants. See, open zippers ruin your clothes when the teeth rub against fabric in the washer, or so I've read. The rest is pretty easy, washer to dryer, until the folding and putting away. That's where I stall out. I use separate baskets for dirty vs. clean clothes due to pinworms (we had an outbreak several years ago; I cleared them up quickly and I think it's because I don't put clean clothes in the same baskets that hold dirty clothes- that's how those critters keep reinfecting people, I'm convinced) and I've limited myself to four of them. Clean baskets, that is. So I can only have four baskets of clean clothes sitting around at once. Can't do anymore laundry until I have some clean baskets empty! Luckily DH and The Middle Child help out with the folding every now and again 'cause I HATE that part. ~:-P

So anyway, that's what I've been up to lately. Laundry. Lots and lots of laundry. I finished almost all of the clothes and I'm down to three very large loads of towels and some sheets. Woohoo!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaBloWriMo COMPLETED (Almost)

I finished the month of October with (almost) daily posts. I only missed two days and I'm very pleased with how things turned out. It was fun to try to come up with something to write about every day; it was a good creative writing exercise. Well, it was fun most days; there were a few when it was hard. The days I missed were just too busy and I barely got a chance to sit down at the computer; some days are like that, even in Australia.

So now we move on. It's November, almost time for the Middle Child's 9th birthday, then the sprint through the holidays. The holidays! Wow, the days are flying by. Sometimes I feel like I'm caught in a current in a river; there are times when I can swim and keep up with things, then other times when the current is too fast and I'm just swept along, watching life speed by and trying to keep my head above water. Guess that's a common occupational hazard for parents everywhere.