Saturday, January 31, 2009

Muesli

OK, this is a somewhat weak recipe, but the real meaning behind it makes it loom large in my mind. I wrote it down and pasted it into my recipe file twenty years ago. Someone I just reconnected with on Facebook* asked for it, too. Throw in the fact that this stuff is horribly overpriced at Ikea and other fine retailers. So, here it is.

What we ate at Waldsee (German camp in Bemidji, MN) way back when. I bet they still do.

Muesli

Rolled oats
Corn flakes, puffed rice, or other cereal
Sliced almonds or other nuts
Dried cranberries, raisins, apricots, bananas, whatever
Brown sugar to taste

Serve with milk, yogurt, and fresh fruit as desired.



*You might be hearing that phrase from a lot of people these days. Seems like the entire 35-42 demographic just signed up recently. Gen X in the house, man.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monsanto sucks

Sorry, y’all, it’s mini-soapbox time. If you already hate Monsanto, skip ahead to figure out where to buy your veggie and flower seeds this year. And yes, it is nearly that time of year – can you believe it?

I’ll be brief. The two major reasons why you should go out of your way not to buy from Monsanto:

  • Their toxic waste dumping has created more than 50 Superfund sites. Does the movie Silent Spring ring a bell? That’s them, among other companies.
  • They genetically engineer seeds to not reproduce normally, forcing farmers to buy new seed every year (which is directly responsible for thousands of suicides in India, as they are ruined economically)

And then there’s the little stuff, like child labor and false advertising.

The big companies to AVOID include: Burpee, Gardens Alive, Jungs, Spring Hill, Breck’s, and Wayside Gardens. (full list on mothering.com here)

According to the nice people at mothering.com, these seed companies are free of Monsanto ties.

Sand Hill Preservation Center
Seeds of Change
Seed Saver's Exchange
Renee's Garden
Baker Creek Seed Co.
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
Abundant Life Seeds
Underwood Garden Seeds
Bountiful Gardens
Kitchen Garden Seeds
High Mowing Seeds
Garden City Seeds
Mountain Rose Herbs
Southern Exposure
Amishland Seeds
Tiny Seeds
Local Harvest
Heirloom Seeds
Fedco Seed Co.
Diane's Flower Seeds
Wood Prairie Farm
Victory Seeds
Wildseed Farms
Horizon Herbs
Heirlooms Evermore Seeds
Richters Herbs
Lake Valley Seeds
Organica Seed

Read more from Sourcewatch and Vanity Fair, if you are interested.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Finally, a finished product

I used to make jewelry all the time. Then I stopped. Or, more accurately, I stalled. I have a half-finished amber necklace. And a blue necklace, mostly done. But this is the first piece of jewelry I’ve finished in 5 years, at least. I even made a matching bracelet.

I warmed up with some beaded bookmarks last month. I thought they turned out well. And now that I’m back into the swing of things, I have a purple necklace that I hope to finish this week. Then I’ll go back to the amber and blue ones and finally wrap those up.
Feels good, making something again.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Deuces and toothes wild

We played poker Saturday night at our neighbor’s house, while the kids ran around in dress-up clothes. Boo called poker “Pok√©mon.” Of course, she just lost one of her front teeth on Monday, so it’s hard to take anything she says particularly seriously. She pulled it out herself during lunch in front of an audience of 5 kids. They were all very quiet and respectful. I think they were all thinking, “Dude, do NOT piss off that girl. She can rip out your teeth like THAT.” Then we passed it around in a plastic container. Instant show-n-tell magic.

Back to the poker. It was the first time in 9 years or so. We lost 3 large. (For definitions of large which equal a dollar.) Nickel ante is my friend! Then went home and watched Owning Mahowny (with Philip Seymour Hoffman). Good stuff and good timing. Note to self: do not become addicted to gambling. Looks like a crappy existence. He was not playing nickel ante at ALL.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh, hallelujah for today

For the first time in my children’s lives, they will have a president that doesn’t need to stick out his tongue in fierce concentration when tying his shoes.

I haven’t discussed politics that much on my blog, because the white-hot hatred I have for Bush is beyond discussion. For 8 years I have changed the channel when that moron* opened his mouth. To have a president that doesn’t shame me as a citizen – truly, something to be celebrated.

Both 2000 and 2004 were painful elections. Not just the blatant fraud, but the thought that over 50% of Americans were so gullible and, frankly, ignorant. I was afraid this past Election Day that somehow it would happen again.

So, Boo? Nea? It’s the beginning of another chance for America. A dawn of an age where perhaps we can undo the damage of the last 8 years. Perhaps repair our relations with other countries. Perhaps travel abroad again without a pained expression on our faces.


"Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"


*Apologies to morons everywhere.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Eat locally, Obama family!

"Eat the View! is a campaign to urge the Obamas to replant a large organic Victory Garden on the First Lawn with the produce going to the White House kitchen and to local food pantries."

Wow! Brilliant! How have I not heard of this petition before?

Coconut-Oatmeal Cookies

This recipe came to me from Earl’s mom. They are similar to a regular oatmeal cookie, except with an intriguing extra chewy component.

Three people who dislike coconut have been loving these cookies, so don’t rule them out if you are a coconut-hater. I know you’re out there. Lurking. If you come over to my house in the next few days, you can try one! Hurry, though, because N says these are his new favorites, and he’s a cookie fanatic.

Coconut-Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup coconut

Cream butter and sugars together. Add eggs one at a time and cream. Add vanilla and next 3 ingredients. Cream. Add flour slowly. You may need to hand mix. Add oatmeal and coconut and mix in.

Chill for 1 hour. Roll into 1 inch balls. Bake 375 for 10 minutes. Makes 4-5 dozen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A guide to making your own yogurt

I’m sure just a few generations ago, everyone made their own yogurt. It certainly isn’t difficult. I wonder whether the milkman used to bring it in glass jars. But as I mentioned in an earlier post, now most people think nothing of buying new plastic tubs weekly and tossing the empties into the recycling.

For my yogurt maker (Deni 5600 1-Quart Electric), I take 3.5 cups milk (skim or 2%, organic or not, whatever we have that day), heat to boiling, cool to room temperature*, add ½ cup plain yogurt, and pour into the 6 jars in the yogurt maker. The timer dings when it’s ready (I set it to 10 hours), and the yogurt must cool completely in the fridge before consumption.

Our jars are roughly the size of the tall Gerber baby food jars, so I use those when I need a few extra jars. Unfortunately, they are a touch too tall, so I can only use them in the middle two slots. The lids sort of pop on, not screw on, so I wouldn’t trust them in a lunchbag. In fact, if I had it to do over, I’d probably just go with a larger container-style maker. (like this one, maybe: Salton YM9 1-Quart)

Tips:

  1. You can purchase yogurt starter, but it makes a lot more economic sense to just use some yogurt from the store. Make sure it is unfavored and says “live active cultures” on the package.
  2. After the first time you can obviously keep using some of the results for future batches. Or start over with another kind, if you want to continue experimentation. You little scientist you.
  3. Don’t overpay for your machine. All it is doing is heating the milk for a few hours at some ideal temperature. It’s not rocket science.
  4. Use your yogurt in place of (or mixed with) sour cream on baked potatoes, Mexican dishes, in dips, etc.
  5. Make a Greek-style dessert with your yogurt, honey, and walnuts.
  6. Use fresh or frozen berries on top! The kids love it, and I’m not even adding sugar.

Which reminds me, Boo doesn't drink milk, so I consider yogurt a necessary staple of her diet. I mean, the kid can't live off sour cream alone. Or shouldn't, anyway.

* I find the brisk Midwestern winter helpful in this regard. 30 minutes in a snowbank is just about right. You sad little people without snowbanks can just use the fridge.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wii Fit

Are you bored of exercise? A little out of shape? Yeah, it seems like that’s where many of us are once we hit 40. (You whippersnappers, you’ll get your comeuppance.)

I managed to snag a Wii Fit at Target the Sunday after Christmas for $89 mid-morning, no lines no waiting. They are at least $118 everywhere online I've seen. Anyway, it's so fun! I can't believe my kids actually enjoy virtual jogging. How odd. But it’s more fun when your “mii” (a cartoon version of yourself that you create from a staggering array of choices. I think there are 36 different eyebrow styles, with options to make them bigger/smaller, lighter/darker, closer together, higher up, etc.) goes on the jogging path and sees other family mii-s out jogging. We see Oma out there all the time.

I enjoy the yoga and balance stuff. And skiing and snowboarding. And you haven't lived until you've seen my husband virtual hula-hooping. I thought I would die laughing. Which I think is also good exercise, right? Laughing? Some of the strength exercises are better than others, but my triceps are killing me today from the plank exercise.

One of the clever things on the Fit is that as you exercise more, it unlocks more games and advanced levels of exercises. Often when you are ready to quit playing, you are motivated to see what your new yoga pose or strength exercise is. And then there you are, sucked in again.

The biggest negative is the repetitive trainer advice. They say “do yoga every day to improve your posture” after every yoga exercise. I’ve taken to yelling at them to shut up. Very zen of me.

Because the Fit measures your weight (and calculates your BMI), it can measure how much weight you are putting on your front leg during lunges, for example. By earning points for how well you balance and maintain your posture, you are ranked against other players in your family. Imagine the horror of being out-jogged by your 6 year old. Naturally you have to do another round to save your dignity.

I am proud to report that I set up our Wii to connect to the Internet, so we can download games (some are free. All are cheap.), see other people’s mii-s and participate in mii contests (make a mii for Ben Franklin or a goth girl were two recent contests), and theoretically play virtual tennis with our friends across the street. This is how you play tennis in a Midwestern winter! In your living room! Why, when I was a kid, you had to play tennis outdoors, in the rain, while getting sunburned and bee stung. Kids these days.

So, my summarized review is that it won't replace actual cardio and weights, but it's a fun way to add some other exercise to your schedule. It’s easy to do 30 minutes without getting bored. If you are very athletic, it may not challenge you enough, but I really mean very athletic. If you have a significant amount of sloth to overcome, I can’t recommend this product highly enough. It’s certainly worth an extra $89, assuming you already own a Wii.

There are also other Wii games that do NOT use the Fit balance board. I think I might get My Fitness Coach, based on the positive reviews. The kids might like Active Life Outdoor Challenge, too. Beats old-fashioned working out. Uphill. Both ways.

There, Beth. Happy? Ha!

Fun with German!

A Spanish teacher I used to work with used to say that a lot of German words sounded like swear words. His example was “Schneeflocken.” (snowflakes) I maintain that German is a beautiful language but, yes, if you say Schneeflocken with a bad American accent, it’s clunky.

A word I’ve been thinking about lately is “Mehrwegflaschen” (more-way-bottles, or multiple use bottles). One of the many things I like about making my own yogurt is the absence of endless plastic cups to recycle. Plastic is very difficult to reuse, and just because you throw it in the recycling bin doesn’t mean you’ve done something to keep that container out of landfill. I think the numbers have improved, but a lot of plastic still isn’t reused.

Perhaps you noticed from my two examples that German has a limitless capacity to make compound words. Someday I’ll dig through the basement and find the actual newspaper that I have that has this word in the headline:

Katzenohrpostleitzahlumstellungsproblematik

I used to write that up on the board when I was teaching. Kids were amazed I could spell it so easily. The truth is that it’s just a series of very easily spelled words.

Katzen-ohr-postleitzahl-umstellungs-problematik
Cat – ear – zip code – reorganization – problem

The article explained how the reunification of Germany in 1991 caused problems with the reassignment of zip codes for people who had tattooed their old zip code onto their cats’ ears. Much like the chips they implant in pets now.

And that’s why I like German.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Supplements to cure my kid

So, I’m sure it was with nothing but my child’s best interest at heart that dear old Anonymous left a message about the wonders that Omega fatty acids could be doing to help my poor little wee child. Even though a specific brand was mentioned, and a loving email was also sent, with more information about how to save my kid.

Thanks, Anonymous, but why would you think I’d left that stone unturned? Of course we tried two well-respected brands, available at many fine retailers near me. We tried both Nordic Naturals Omega 3-6-9 and Coromega. Didn’t do squat for her talking, although I have heard other families say that it helped their child. Can’t hurt, really. Supposed to be good for your skin and immune system, too, or whatever.

Just don’t shill your shit on my site, asshole. I’ve got enough medical related expenses right now without someone preying on a parent’s hopes and dreams with false promises and testimonials. Fuck right off.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Apraxia update

Nea's speech is really improving in fits and starts. This morning she woke up and was a little chatterbox. She tries so hard! For the record, she is now 4.5 years old. Here's some recent utterings:

“Wow. Niiiii.” [Wow. Nice.]
“Light on.” [asking whether she can flip the light switch]
“(Boo) boot no light” [Boo’s boots don’t light up, like my really cool ones do. Nyah nyah.]
“Julia eat no.” [Julia doesn’t eat that.]
“Light no wort.” [Light not working. It was flickering.]

And a cute exchange we had:

Bluestem: Hi, baby!
Nea: No. Nea.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Not bad for the Suburbs

I know I’m supposed to wax all nostalgic for 2008 here, or make predictions, or at least give thanks. But really, let’s get back to gardening, despite the Midwest winter.

We currently have 5 fruit-bearing trees* on our lot: an apple (came with the house – not in the best of health. But we have applesauce in the freezer, so it’s good enough for that), a peach (three years old – producing a small crop), a Russian quince (not yet producing, but grown to make the fruit leather that my Tante Helga sends us transatlanticly every year), a serviceberry (native species, much like a blueberry but without the ph soil requirements), and the newest, my Meyer Improved lemon. Granted, the last one is indoors (a Christmas present from my lovely husband) but still. Technically on our lot, right? It already has a few fruits hanging enticingly.

As I have mentioned before, we are shoe-horning in another 3 fruit trees when they arrive in the spring. A honeycrisp apple, red rome apple, and some sort of self-pollinating pear tree.

So, let’s pretend that eating more locally grown fruit is my number one resolution for 2009! Wow, I’m really nailing that one!

*I should say 5 “potentially fruit-bearing” since the quince might need another few years. And I’m sure the new trees will take awhile, too.