Monday, March 31, 2008

Skating Progress

I couldn't leave you on such a low note, so take a look at Ripley's skating progress! Wow!!


video

The Blues


Or more appropriately, The Greys. I've made it until April this year, thanks to my vitamin D supplements -- but I'm finally at that annual point (after a hum-dinger of a week ... Benjamin got strep throat, week of rain and cold, that "time" of the month, then I got strep throat!) where I start asking myself ... "Why in God's Earth do people choose to live in New England?!" Yeah, yeah, yeah ... the coast is beautiful, the topography is beautiful, the annual turning of leaves (which I have to admit I view in part like a funeral ... welcome grey), but seriously, How about Virginia? I went to college there and even though my family was living by the coast in Southeastern Massachusetts where it's milder, I had two complete springs every year. One in Virginia ... and one in Massachusetts when I came home IN MAY!! Sheesh. If I was on that Mayflower boat that was meant to land in Virginia ... I would have said "Let's go south! It's too dang cold here!!" A case in point ... I took the opportunity to record this grey 40 degree and rainy last day of March and at least show you where I plan to plant my fruit trees! (poor things only have two months of good summer ... ) Thankfully, "they" are forcasting 60 degrees tomorrow ... and rain, but beggars can't be choosers I suppose.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Knitting

I know, I know ... Love, Cook, Create, Knit. I really haven't had much to say about knitting. I'm currently on a reading / anti-television kick. (not very conducive to knitting) A woman once told me when I was brand new to the whole knitting thing that I would eventually be able to knit and read at the same time. It sounds like a dream come true to me (as I love to accomplish great things - two at once, even better!) however, I still can't imagine it. It seems like mistakes waiting to happen. Anyway, if you enjoy knitting you have GOT to check out this website if you haven't already ... RAVELRY . It's so clever, and so fabulous. In order to use this online knitting community website, you have to sign-up. Because of the demand, in a few days they send you an "invitation" in your email box. But, just to give you an example, you can look up a certain pattern in a certain book and see other knitters efforts at making this project. They show pictures, list the yarn they used and explain any changes they made to the pattern or trouble they ran into. What a brilliant idea. Really, if you like to knit. Check it out. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Earth Hour 2008

Here is a small way you can join with others to make a statement. Turn off all your lights this Saturday, March 29th from 8 to 9 pm to participate in Earth Hour to raise awareness regarding our energy use and how it effects our earth. This is a global event that was first created in Sydney, Australia last year. Make it a family event - light some candles, read books, tell stories, play games, play hide and seek. Teach your children about the importance of saving electricity. Take the opportunity to check your house for ways that you can save, like connecting your television etc. to a power strip and turning it all off when you're done. Talk about ways that you can save energy. Create a plan of action. You can sign up by clicking right HERE. This will bring you to OUR TEAM Earth Hour Group. Cool Eh? Let's see how many of us we can get to join in. Plus, it's kinda fun, isn't it? Check out this video from Earth Hour. Also from You Tube ... Enjoy.

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Pediatrician Politics Lobbyists Greed ... #37

Have I mentioned I love my pediatrician? Thankfully, my children don't get sick often, so I feel I can justify driving 45 minutes to reach this man. R.B. Trivett. He is a "one man band", only books patients he has time to see in a timely fashion (you pretty much never wait), he never does things that aren't necessary, has a time or two performed "old fashioned" inexpensive methods to diagnose, he inspects the kids shins to make sure they are active enough ... ie: many bruises mean that you are an active kiddo ... No bruises = too much t.v., He also has the kids squat down like ducks and walk across the floor ... if you can do this, it's a good sign that you are getting good exercise (he usually adds that you'd be surprised how many kids can't pull this off ... I'm happy to report that my kids have always passed.) He's cautious about using antibiotics even years ago when this wasn't "in fashion" (keeps up their usefulness), he's a no nonsense old fashioned dude who loves kids -- in a laid back New Englander kind of way. I could go on. Unrelated to my experience with him, when he found that Wednesdays were slow, he decided to go over to clinics to help out those who aren't as privileged as others. He and his wife (a nurse practitioner) also go to Haiti to serve folks there in clinics. We had to go visit Dr. Trivett today because Benjamin was complaining of a sore throat, head ache and had a fever the previous day. As usual when you're hanging out watching Dr. Trivett look at your child's sore throat or whatever, he gets to talking. I mentioned that although Benjamin has a great brain, he doesn't have the stomach to become a doctor. Then Doctor Trivett shook his head and told us that becoming a doctor isn't a great idea anyway. He went on to say that we used to have the best health care system in the world. Now we are #37. He informed me (with my astonished face) that France is number ONE. Dr. Trivett went on to gripe and complain that this was due to Corporate Greed, Politics and Lobbyists. I commented "Don't get me started". He added "And Pharmaceutical Companies." Amen. Don't get me started. I felt validated hearing this from a Doctor I have a great deal of respect and trust for. (p.s. Benjamin did have strep throat, poor guy)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Save Trees


Ok, I'll confess this took me one hour. I'd collected catalogs over several weeks (I've done this once before, but not as thoroughly) and sat down and worked through my entire pile. It took me exactly one hour. Really, it wasn't too bad. A lot of catalogs have a specific selection when you call to deal with folks who want to be removed from their mailing list. This gave me hope that others too are making an effort to stop the waste. Particularly with so many being able to access catalogs online, it's really unnecessary. I've been chipping away on this ... I've unsubscribed from DMA, called Valassis at 1-800-437-0479 to stop all of the weekly flyer junk mail, and called several other catalogs previously. Now, when I go to my mailbox, there is very little in there. Exciting. It also means time-saved in that I don't have to go through it, sort it or recycle it. And, of course it saves trees, energy both to produce them and to deliver them. Be encouraged. It's worth it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Aunt Ruthie's Hummingbird Cake



This is a bunt cake family recipe from my Great Aunt Ruthie. After chatting at a small family reunion down in Maryland about my passion for family recipes, and heritage, she sent me four family recipes in the mail. One of the recipe's was my Grandmom Wohler's Raisin Bread recipe that Aunt Ruthie swears comes out best when she uses the recipe written by my Grandmom's own hand (rather than from a copy). Too Cute. I will write out the Raisin Bread recipe later. Now, enjoy Aunt Ruthie's Hummingbird Cake.

3 C flour, 2 C sugar, 1 t salt, 1 t baking soda, 1 t cinnamon, 1/2 C nuts, 1 1/2 t vanilla, 1 1/2 C oil, 2 C mashed bananas, 3 eggs, 1 8oz can crushed pineapple not drained.

By Hand: Mix dry ingredients together, Mix wet ingredients together. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients stirring with a spoon NOT a mixer. Bake in a greased and floured Bunt pan 300 degrees for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Cake will crack slightly on top. Cool in pan for 1 hour before removing.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz softened cream cheese, 1 stick butter, 1 lb. box confectioners sugar, 1 t vanilla.
Cream butter and cheese, add sugar and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
Yum. Yum. Yum.
After having TASTED this cake now, I can say with confidence ... WOW!!! It got rave reviews at our small group last night. Yumola!!!
Thank you MINDI for saving me when I realized I didn't have enough confectioner's sugar!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Kiddos, kiddos, kiddos

By the way ... when writing my last post this morning, I went to download the pictures from my camera card onto my computer AND What did I find?! Cracker crumbs in the CF card slot on my computer. Argh! Yes, Ripley tried to put his "cracker card" into my computer. Sheesh.

My Victory Garden - Beginnings







A 21st Century Victory Garden: Victory over Factory Farms, Victory over Chemicals and Pesticides, Victory over gas and pollution used to carry my vegetables all the way from California or Chile. Victory over wasting perfectly useful land on grass (we have a sizable front yard for outdoor sports), Victory over mowing large patches of grass - wasting fuel and polluting - when it's not being used. Here are the beginnings of my Victory Garden. On the left are my first seedlings. Broccoli and Broccoli Rabe, and two varieties of Leeks. Broccoli is a cold weather plant and can be planted here in Southeastern Massachusetts in mid-April. Leeks are a slow growing vegetable and need to be started early in order to be ready before snowfall. They can be "over-wintered" - which means covered with straw, protected from the elements, they go dormant and you can uncover them, pry them out with a pitch-fork and PRESTO fresh leeks in the winter. Cool. The picture to the right is the location of my new garden area (I currently have two raised beds). It should be ready by mid-April. Exciting.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Boston Marathon







My sweet, thoughtful, fab-u-dad, loving, fun, thought-provoking, interesting, Portugal-Born, handsome husband Victor is running the Boston Marathon. It will be his 26th Marathon. Wow. This year he is running to benefit the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Victor needs to raise $3000. He will be running in the memory of my cousin Eileen Murphy Churn who died in less than a year after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma at the age of 33. Eileen's two children Sarah and James were both under the age of 10. It's a worthy cause. If you'd like to donate and help raise funding for the fight against Leukemia and Lymphoma you can do so through the Team in Training's Website on which Victor has a web page. Click HERE to get to his web page. Learn more about Team in Training by checking out their official site at http://www.teamintraining.org/ Thanks for giving. p.s. Victor is shown here riding in the right seat of my brother Scott's airplane.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

More Ideas on Saving

Click HERE to link to even more ideas I've written on saving!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bread Baking, part two

Ok, I feel better. The standard "Active Dry Yeast" should be proofed in liquid between 100 and 110 degrees. Phew! I'm not completely out to lunch. By the way, I need to tell you again, the Oatmeal Raisin Bread is INCREDIBLE! See the post below to get to the link to the recipe. Yumola.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bread Baking

Like my experience with Green Tea I feel I'm the last to know some crucial information regarding bread baking. Regarding "rapid rise yeast" or "instant yeast" (I haven't researched regular "active dry yeast" yet because I'm currently out of it) ... this "instant yeast" is exclusively used in Peter Reinheart's thorough books about bread, and I see it frequently on a fabulous website for bread bakers www.thefreshloaf.com . Well, typically a recipe will indicate that "lukewarm" water should be used at some point to activate the yeast. I have always read in recipe books that the temperature of the water should be between 105 and 115 degrees -- you don't want it too hot or you could kill the yeast, you don't want it too cool or it wont activate the yeast. When my bread wasn't rising nicely I tried water closer to the 105 side of the scale -- thinking maybe I was killing the yeast. Well, I just happened to read the label on the "Fleischmann's BreadMachine / RapidRise Yeast" today. It said that some liquid (be it milk or water or a combo) should be mixed with the yeast at some point that is between 120 to 130 degrees!!! Good grief. So, of course, when making Oatmeal Raisin Bread today I heated my "liquid" to the correct temperature and don't you know my bread rose beautifully! Wow. Lesson learned. I feel like a turkey. I'm going to check the regular active dry yeast package tomorrow to see if the same applies to that. Anyway ... problem solved. PS - the Oatmeal Raisin Bread is FABULOUS! If you bake bread ... try it. (see link above) Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Saving & Giving versus Consumption *Even More Added*

Whether you are saving to make ends meet, saving for emergencies, saving for retirement, or saving to give -- I want to write down some ideas I have. In a society that encourages consumption and waste without shame, I think it's worth considering that we don't have to "buy into" what THEY say that we need. Not only is it possible to cut back on a LOT, but you'll find that it also happens to be more GREEN. I'm going to keep adding to this as I have time, so keep checking back.
My thoughts and ideas:
Watch this Saturday Night Live Clip My Pastor played this during a recent sermon - it's hilarious! "Don't Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford" FABULOUS! Click here to watch the clip.
Don't use your credit card If you don't have the money for something ... don't buy it. It's tempting once you've "charged" not to pay the entire amount on your credit card bill - and then you have to pay interest. Plan savings into your monthly budget for unexpected expenses. Use the suggestions on this post to try and get to the point where you can afford it.
Read the book AFFLUENZA I just finished the book Affluenza - get it? The authors define Affluenza as "a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more." It's a great, thought provoking book. Makes you think about how we've gotten here as a society and about the choices you make regarding the things you choose to do with your money, your stuff, your life.
Watch this Video Clip This clip The Story of Stuff is great. It talks about our consumption, and the mathematics of what it means to our society. Keep watching because it touches on a variety of subject matters -- it's well worth watching until the end. It will give you a fresh perspective and make you think twice before buying something you don't need. Save.Save.Save.
Plant a GARDEN I learned recently that Victory Gardens were created in the 40's to releave the pressure that the war put on our food supply. Everyone contributed in ways from recycling to creating victory gardens to help our country and economy. I think we should create a NEW KIND of Victory Garden ... Victory from bland vegetables ... Victory from supporting conventional (non-organic) farming ... Victory from shipping our vegetables across the country - vegetables that were picked well before they are ripened and genetically engineered to "look ripe" even though they weren't propperly ripened ... Victory from spending money on something that we can do for ourselves more cheaply and with WAY better taste!
Recycle & Compost Save money (and the environment) by cutting down on how many plastic garbage bags you use. Together with recycling and composting we produce LESS THAN one tall kitchen garbage bag worth of trash a week. We used to fill one tall kitchen garbage bag A DAY! Wow. Big difference. Check out the story on my blog - click here.
Cut down on your Electrical Bill Switch to CFL bulbs, Air Dry your clothes, Connect your computer and t.v. stations to power strips in order to shut off all "phantom electricity" and making sure everything is off. Commit to turning off lights when you're out of the room. Turn off your outdoor lighting unless you're expecting guests. Entertain yourself in ways that don't involve electricity -- read a book, play a board game with your kids. Check out my electric bill testimony - click here
Create a Weekly Menu, Shopping List At the start of your week (whenever you plan for the oncoming week) plan what you will serve for breakfasts, lunches, and especially dinners. Write a shopping list -- and when you go shopping, stick to the list! This week a got money for grocery shopping out of the bank. I am keeping it in an envelope and when I spend money on groceries (or other weekly expenses) I record the amount I spent and what I spent it on, on the envelope. It's fun to try to spend less than you have in the envelope (I love games). Today, I was thinking -- how fun it would be if - at the end of the week - if I spend less than I'd allowed for, I can donate it to charity. How cool is that?! I'll keep you posted and let you know how this goes. We do waste a lot of food. How many times have you cleaned out your fridge of tons of veggies you never used before they "went bad"? Plan. Plan. Plan. Stick to your list. Save. Save. Save.
Stop buying "to go" coffee At $2-$4 dollars a cup, this is a ridiculous waste of money. I have been on this bandwagon myself, but since being home with my children I have improved. Since going on my recycling kick I've improved even more. I'd say I "treat" myself to a to-go coffee once every one to two weeks. However, there are tons of people who regularly buy coffee two times a day. Not only is it expensive, think of the waste. Dunkin Donuts and Honey Dew are particularly bad because they use Styrofoam cups. It's tough to find a town who will recycle Styrofoam. Talking about chemicals. Ugh. With the amount of money you will save by drinking quality home brewed coffee, you will be able to afford organic, fair trade, shade-grown coffee from the Coffee Exchange in Providence! At $9.99 a pound for some varieties (16oz) - Mocha Java is FABULOUS - , it's about "on par" with ON SALE Starbucks Coffee (NOT organic, fair trade or shade grown) at Stop and Shop for $7.99 for 12 oz. Think about it.
Use your local library Free books. Go to your local library and check out books for your children and for yourself on a regular basis. Not only are books a better bet than t.v. and video games, but they are free to use at the library, and don't feed the consumerism monster. TV - commercials VIDEO games - accessories and new games. Plus, books are great for your brain and increase your vocabulary.
Stop buying bottled water. Save well over $300 a year ... stop buying bottled water. ($300 is based on buying one case a week at Walmart ... if you cave and buy SINGLE bottles of water you could save a boat-load more than $300) When you get ready to leave your house, fill up your water bottle (please, no leaching plastic) with fresh water from your faucet. Bottled water has far fewer restrictions to pass than your household water. Did you know that? Research it. Not only will you be saving big bucks by drinking water from home, but you will save the planet BIG TIME! Thank you for recycling your used bottled water containers -- if you do, but just think, there is no need to be using up the energy used to create the chemically based plastic bottles in the first place.
Stop buying soda. Honestly. The stuff is horrible for you. If you drink the sugar based soda ... not only are you getting empty calories in the sugar, but have you ever taken a gander through the ingredients list? If you drink the DIET soda ... do you really want to put ingredients in your body that have been proven to cause cancer in mice? Why? Not only is it bad for you, there is an inexpensive GOOD FOR YOU alternative .... water. Save BIG TIME by choosing water from your home. And, you wont waste needless energy producing the plastic and aluminum cans used to contain the liquid. AND, you don't have to add needless piles of cans and bottles to the recycling pile ... or worse, landfill. Eeeek.
Start a compost bin. A compost bin is a bin that you put outside in your yard (there are all kinds of sizes). In it you put all of your vegetable scraps. You can also put paper towel rolls / t.p. rolls, tissue paper (used is fine), hair, coffee grounds, egg shells, paper bags, newspaper ... click here for more information ... In the end, you get free natural chemical free fertilizer for your yard and garden. Plus, you don't fill up your landfill with stuff that you can make good use out of. Cool! Alot of towns offer a discounted compost bin. If you live in the greater Providence / Attleboro area I know that Attleboro and Seekonk offer compost bins for $25 -- which is quite a deal! Even though I live in Rehoboth, Seekonk was very willing to sell me a bin for $25 along with a kitchen compost bucket. Check it out.
Stop buying Paper towels. Use good old fashioned rags. Not only are you USING old clothing like t-shirts, sheets, towels, that might be stained, torn, or too small rather than throwing them in the land fill -- but you aren't supporting the unnecessary cutting down of perfectly good trees. It's amazing to see that if you don't buy them, you realize you don't need them. Use dish towels, dish rags and good 'ole fashioned rags (for cleaning floors, etc.).
Stop buying Swiffers. Again, no need to buy anything except environmentally friendly soap. Get down on your knees, get some extra exercise, and clean the silly floor. We are under exercised, over maxed on our credit cards, and overloaded in our landfills -- Don't "buy on" to buying "tools" we don't need to make life easier. A rag and soap is simpler, cheaper, better for you and better for the environment.
Stop buying WINDEX. My parents have a house in Florida with LOTS of LARGE windows to take advantage of beautiful views they are blessed to be nearby. Do you know what they use? White Vinegar and Water. Not only is white vinegar very low in cost, it's natural and fine for the environment! Plus, who needs to handle chemicals when other options are cheaper -- and as far as I can tell work as well or better. What a racket. Put the Windex down.
Stop buying Sponges. Not only are the majority of sponges that people use unnatural requiring chemicals to produce -- and therefore pollute the environment (and let's not rob the ocean of natural sponges, please) but they collect germs. I use one dish cloth a day. At the end of the day, it goes into the wash with our clothes.
Buy WHOLE FOODS No, I don't mean the natural foods store. I mean, foods that aren't processed. Simple whole foods are better for you, have less packaging, and have a lower impact on the environment. The Providence Journal has been running a terrific series on saving money when buying food. One article discussed how immigrants often do a better job saving by cooking whole foods - simply because they are used to cooking simply, from scratch. For example -- there is nothing cheaper and simpler to make than rice and beans. It isn't difficult to cook simply, from scratch. Let's face it, we generally don't have time and energy to cook like Martha Stewart every night -- but that's not necessary to have a good whole foods meal that taste great and takes a small amount of time to whip up. When we "bought on" to packaged and prepared foods (such the novelty in the 60's and 70's) we lost the ART of cooking quickly, simply and cheaply. You should see my Portuguese in-laws whip up a simple chicken soup in no time. I'm not talking chicken soup with boxes of broth and pre-cooked packaged chicken ... I'm talking from a whole chicken. It DOESN'T TAKE LONG! A lost art ... worth learning. (I will get around to enclosing simple whole food recipes)
Stop CATALOGS. Take time, pick up the phone and call the 800 number for free and tell stores to "hold the catalog". You will be amazed, without allowing retailers to brainwash you that you NEED MORE STUFF with their slick photo shoots and advertisements how much you will ultimately save. Plus, you save trees and the environment. Also, other mailers can be stopped by going to this site, filling out the form and paying one dollar (which simply validates your information ... and let's face it, they make a dollar out of the deal) www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist . To stop flyer's that typically come on Wednesday's in the mail including everything from Goodyear to ALL of your local grocery stores call Valassis at 1-800-437-0479 ... at least this is the number for southeastern Massachusetts.
Stop buying Dryer Sheets Stop drying your clothes in the dryer all together. We have cut down our electric bill dramatically by air drying our clothes. If you don't use a dryer, you don't need dryer sheets! Cool, eh?
I will be writing more, so please stay tuned!
Let me know if you have any ideas!
Thanks, Sandy

Ripley strikes again!

When we went skiing several weeks ago, Ripley was introduced to the snowboard. He didn't try it out, but he informed me that he'd like to. Since then, he's been eyeing Benjamin's skateboard and saying that it's like the snowboard. Well, today was a little taste of spring outside so Ripley took the opportunity to try out the skateboard. He literally worked at it for over an hour. Here is a little video clip of him trying to master the skateboard at the ripe old age of 3 1/2. Enjoy!

video

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Miraculous!

There is something miraculous about approaching spring. I just walked outside to pick up the newspaper and experienced 49 degrees at 6:45am -- which after a full season of winter, felt like a balmy 65 degree morning. That all of the planets in our solar system hang in space spinning in time on their own axis and around our sun changing our weather and seasons ... miraculous. Just like all of the minuet details that must come together to conceive, grow and give birth to a child ... it's miraculous. Welcome spring ... come quickly! And, thank you Lord for this small glimpse of what's to come.