Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving redux

Well, Turkey day has come and gone, but it wasn't exactly Turkey day for us. This was the first time we've opted out of turkey-eating in a long time. It was much less awkward than I thought it would be, mostly because there were so many wonderful things to eat. A root veggie & brussels sprouts melange from my uncle's wife (a fellow locavore), squash, homemade cranberry sauce and bread, sweet potato casserole, potatoes, homemade ice-cream, and ken and I made the pies (2 pumpkin, 2 apple). YUM!

Still, next year I'd like to find a healthy, local turkey and roast it for all. This year my idea came too late in the game for my parents, for a number of reasons. But since they are buying a side of beef with my sister and me, they're on the road to discovering local meats! Yay....

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


It's hard to resist a deal. Okay, it's not always hard. When I get a coupon for a free car "detailing" at the local shop, for example, I realize that someone would have to PAY me for the trouble of wasting my time in order for me to even consider such a thing. But there are more subtle and tempting deals that have been thrown our way... a coupon to a spa. I must say that I love a spa. I adore a facial or a massage or a nice haircut. I honestly wouldn't mind sitting in a hot tub for a few hours in preparation for a massage. I even have rather enjoyed an eyebrow wax. Sick, I know. But there IS something nice about grooming rituals, and most species enjoy such things. I'm part of a species that has let grooming occupy an enormous chunk of time and an even larger chunk of resources.

So I'm resisting the "good" deal. I reflect on some of the happiest days of my life and there were no pedicures, professional massages, and certainly no waxing. Heck, there wasn't any shaving happening either. And to be honest, I got most of my haircuts from friends: my husband, Paige who lived in my dorm at college, a friend's mother, my mother, and numerous other scissor-wielding & fearless folks. It was fun. It always made me laugh. The results were usually good, and sometimes a surprise.

I'm resisting a good deal because the salon isn't really out to help me relax, as they say on their flyer. They want to hook me as a customer and see if they can convince me to fit into a mold, just like the dreadful face*book ads that tell me I need to lose weight, diminish my wrinkles, and earn x amount of money from home. No I don't! No I don't! No I don't! The trip to the salon would undoubtably stress me out-- I hate driving, I especially hate driving to new places. The staff would stress me out with their perfumes and the "products" they would suggest I buy so that I can look more.... more.... ? More what? More like them? More like a nobody? More like a somebody?

And I'm resisting the good deal because a good deal, whether it's 25% off this or that, or buy one get one, or what-have-you usually exists to convince me to buy things or services that I don't really need. If I needed them, I would seek them out, rather than having their suggestions be the impetus for my "need." Perhaps I do need a haircut (I think my younger sister would agree), but if I can't find a volunteer, I'll find a pro on my terms, not based on the lure of a "deal."

I'm hoping it will also connect me with people in my life, even people I'm already well-connected with. If you are my friend or mother or husband or aunt or sibling or stranger reading this now, don't be alarmed if I approach you with scissors. I'm just looking for a haircut.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Visit to the shore

I love to watch T. in a new place, just playing as happily as can be. He has such unmitigated joy for the world--especially when he's just playing with no (or, very few, we didn't want him running in the freezing ocean)constraints. He loves to be outside touching new things, looking around, and just being 21months old. What a wonderful day to visit the ocean. One thing we like about this location is that we are only 20-25 minutes from the ocean. Theo had a wonderful time digging with a large shell be found.

We were also able to go to a Farmers' Market before the beach. This is (so far) the best one in our area for our needs. It's nothing like being back in the quiet corner of the state (boo-hoo), but in favor of Living In The Now, I am grateful that we have a chance to buy fresh, clean food from some local farmers, even if it's not like our old market. Today we got beets, onions, carrots, green peppers, daikon radish, shitake mushrooms, ground beef, short ribs, and a tiny ham. I do like meat, and I hope to see more meat available at markets, especially chicken.

Last night I had a vision. Not like a hallucination or anything, but more like a thought or feeling that consumed me for a few moments. I was in bed, and I closed my eyes and felt like I was back in the little red house again on a cold, snowy, starlight night snuggled in our upstairs bedroom. It was such a nice feeling-- maybe just a longing. This morning Ken asked where I might want to live, if I could live anywhere. I guess I'm in withdrawal, because I said STORRS! But here's why: it's rural and lovely, but moreover, since 2002 I had been slowly making friends and building community in that area, and that is really hard (and fun and wonderful) work. One problem with moving is that you leave behind a huge network of people, and no matter how many great people you meet in your new place, there is no such thing as "instant" community. These things take time.... and patience has never been my strong point.

Friday, November 5, 2010

T. loves to say 'baby baking.' Here's this morning's baking project: "pum-um" bread.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

it's worth it

Mmmm.... homemade bread.

I've always loved the smell of bread baking-- and I was lucky enough to smell this all the time in my home as a kid. I had homemade oatmeal bread every day for many, many years. Right now I'm in a bread-baking phase myself, and so glad to be doing it. I was wondering if it is just self-indulgent, or if it is important (beyond pleasing my own palate). But here's my bread-baking manifesto. Well, let's just call it a list of reasons I think it's a jolly good idea to bake bread.

-It smells good
-You can choose your own ingredients, according to your budget, health needs, curiousity, etc.
-It's one less thing to buy at the store. True, you have to buy the ingredients, but you can buy them in bulk and save some $.
-It doesn't come in a plastic bag = one less thing in the dump
-If you have babies or kids, they'll like to watch and help. T. likes to play with the flour and loves to say BAKING and DOUGH and BREAD. It holds his attention for a long time.
-It makes a good gift for a friend
-It warms up the house on a chilly, rainy day!
-It's a good excuse to eat some good butter (now... homemade butter should be on my list of things to try ...)

I could go on, but I think that in my attempt to do more from-scratch things, I'm finding that the benefits are often greater than I first thought. It's nice to think that healthy things have a way of being healthy in more than one way.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

the suburban hubbub

This has been my first foray into "town" living since I was 23, and I am coming to the realization that I'm not particularly well-suited to it. When I think of the best living conditions I ever had, I think back on shabby homes placed in lovely rural places. Here we have a nice home on a nice street in town. It's in great condition and I feel grateful for what we have. Our other homes, though situated in beautiful locations had hazards I'm glad that I am not exposing my baby to... well-water with unsafe stuff in it, lead paint chipping everywhere, molds/mildews, one landlord was always burning stuff in the woodstove that I'm fairly sure was not healthy for anyone, smokers who lived downstairs and upstairs, and the list goes on. I'm so glad that we are finally living in a place where we are in charge of our indoor air quality, and how/when things get fixed and replaced. That is something to feel happy about, and I do.

But it's hard to look out the window every morning, and not be surrounded by "nature." I mean, it's all nature-- we have trees and shrubs and plants, but we see a lot of houses, asphalt, fencing, and lawn, lawn, lawn, LAWN. I love to look out the window and see woods or fields. It just feels good to me. I miss being able to put T. in a carrier and walk the trails in Mansfield right from our back door. That was a blessing, and I'm glad I took advantage of it as much as I did. In our little red house, the hubby and I tromped about the 22 acres and the dirt roads every day. It was good for our health, our happiness, and our stress level. Here we can walk to the hardware store, to our new friends' homes, to bakeries, video stores, and a park that T. just loves.

It's not that I regret buying this home. I love our home, and it's been infinitely useful to have my husband only 10 minutes away at any given moment. We have met some very nice people here, and as I said, it's nice to live in a home that feels a lot less toxic than some of the cool rentals we've had in the past. I'll feel more at peace when I find some "me" places-- nature trails, abandoned fields, ponds, streams. I want to be able to put Theo in the car (since that seems our only option) and take him somewhere where we feel like we're away from the suburban hubbub.

We spend a good amount of time in our backyard, which is fenced (thank goodness, since cars drive too fast on our road). We hang a lot of laundry out there. We've enjoyed the tomatoes and herbs planted by the former owners, and I'm having fun planning our gardens for next year. I just learned our town "approved" keeping up to 5 chickens! That might make our backyard a lovelier place. If we aren't living in the country, we'll have to bring country living here, right? But I have to remind myself... one project at a time...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Diapers & frost

This morning there was a frost on the ground as I hung out the diapers. I'm not sure when it will be too cold to hang them out, but my fingers were nearly frozen stiff at the end of the line. Still, I love to see them out there getting bleached by the sun, even in the chilly weather. Diapers are a funny matter these days. My father-in-law remembers seeing diapers hung out all around the city of Hartford as he was growing up. My mother-in-law says she used to love seeing her baby's diapers hanging in the sun. And I remember my mother hanging out load after load of my sister and brother's diapers. Only a generation ago, cloth diapers were a normal part of life with babies. Less than two generations ago, line-drying was the only option.

And what about earlier generations? When I read the Little House books, I often wonder about what frontier families did for their babies. Going diaper-free is certainly possible, and something that many people do with success even now (I'm trying it if we ever have another). I bet they used old cloths... but if so, how did they keep up with the constant washing & drying? I can see how in the summer, but winters were long and cold and frontier cabins were little.

Notes on finding our "places" in our new locale: Just found a nice natural foods store! Nothing like the Willi Food Co-op, but still, it's pretty cool. I was able to get bulk oats and raisins for a great price! The mark-ups on organics in supermarkets is outrageous. They also have a nice bulk spices department. Bye-bye McCormick, over-priced nonsense!

In the photo you can probably also see a little bit of our compost bins.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween and Lawns

The title sums up my day. Oh, suburbia!

Sometimes I feel like such a sucker. I don't really want a "lawn," but we have one, and I don't really have the courage to just let it be taken over by .... whatever.... and I don't have the time to turn it into gardens, since it is in the front and our road has cars and the little one is not old enough to stay away from the street, but not young enough to just hang out in a carrier while I work. I find a lawn tedious and stressful here in suburbia. I want my neighbors to like us. I want to foster relationships with the people in my community, and for some reason I feel like that means I have to participate in lawn madness. Am I crazy? I mean, I was raking and using my push-reel mower, but I couldn't help feeling like my time could be better spent.

I look into the bowl of candy we just bought for Halloween and I think SUCKER! I remember my mom giving out raisins and I felt embarrassed that it wasn't candy. Now, I understand her impulse. It felt gross to be shoveling this "food" into kids hands. But, I know that if I were to give out apples or anything homemade, it would be thrown out. I should have just gone in for boxes of raisins. Next year, maybe. So, I'll be thought of as a health-food nut. Is that such a bad thing?

It's been a long time since I kept a blog, but I've been hankering to do it again. So I've started the sequel to my old blog, Little Red House. Always the mistress of inventiveness, this is titled Little White House. I want to start writing a little bit more intentionally about my attempts to make my (now full-time) homemaking ecologically sound, economically prudent, and peaceful. It's hard to do, and I feel very much at odds with the world-at-large, where it seems that the message is BUY BUY BUY.

There are things I have been doing that help me toward that goal. We've been cloth-diapering Theo since the week he was born. We use our clothesline as religiously as possible. We've started to compost our compostables and plan vegetable gardens for the coming year. I'm making lots of yummy things with the abundance of fall produce from the local farms. We've stopped buying meat at the grocery store, which means we've been eating more vegetables. I'm baking bread. And I'm trying to navigate the world of motherhood.

I'm not where I want to be yet. My goals are many, which is a problem. On the one hand I just want to live simply and enjoy my life, but what I'm realizing is that takes a lot of work, planning, and dedication. I'd love to start making yogurt again, since I used to love our homemade stuff. I have no idea how to care for our "lawn" (which I cringe to even type) without yucky chemicals and a lot of water. I want to be less reliant on my car, and maybe even make the transition to being a 1-car family. I want to buy less junk. I want to learn how to fix things myself without making the problem worse.

And I want to be able to get rid of bathroom mildew without bleach.

Am I asking too much? Without a community of support, I might be. In our new house, I'm learning just how many people we had back in the quiet corner of CT who I admired. I'm talking about people who knew how to be eco-friendly and frugal and fun and warm. We've met many really nice, wonderful people here. But it is much more urban/suburban/busy and less rural/chilled out around these parts. I need to find my people! People who will wear the same wool sweater almost every day of the winter b/c it's warm and lovely!