Monday, February 28, 2011

Dishwasher.... coming soon

I think we've finally made the decision to install a dishwasher in the house. I've always liked having one, especially since we eat nearly all our meals at home, and a cook/bake a lot. But I've also been hesitant recently to jump into the purchase for a few reasons, not the least of which is the cost. This home has never had one, so "installing" it is a project that costs something, and getting the cabinetry to house it will also be an expense.

But more than cost, I do wonder how we are going to overcome the situation we've had with the dishwashers of the past: the "eco-friendly" detergents we've found have been really poor performers. Our dishes have either been kind of dirty at the end of the cycle, or (and this happened a lot) there would be white detergent patches on our glasses. So we'd have to rinse them again, or rewash them. I don't care how "eco-friendly" a detergent is, it's really not meant for consumption.

Then when we used the high-test stuff with chlorine I did have some guilt. Now I know there are situations in which people absolutely need to "sterilize" the items in their dishwashers, either for their physical or mental health. We never have been in that category. The chlorine in most standard detergents is no great treat for our water quality once it goes down the drain, nor is it a particularly good item to have on our dishes and in our cabinets. The T. man has free reign right now to "play" with our cleaners: diluted dish soap, baking soda, and vinegar. Because of the chlorine and chemicals in standard dishwasher detergent I found myself always rinsing dishes again. I'm not sure if this was overly-neurotic of me or not, but the strong smell of chlorine coming from the dishwasher at the end of the cycle was not exactly comforting.

Still, I'm tired of spending so much time washing dishes. My hands and my husband's hands are pretty wrecked. T. can be very content while I'm doing dishes or very whiny and pulling on my clothes the whole time. Not my favorite thing at the end of a long day. I feel like if I only had a little more time I could do a few more projects around the house that might brighten the place up a bit. We probably spend about 2 hours a day doing dishes. Our basement could use a little of that time, I assure you. My creative life life could use a little of that time.

Another factor to consider is that we burn oil every time we use the hot water, and doing dishes by hand, even when using water conservatively as we try to do, does use a lot more hot water than the dishwasher. Those machines have become pretty low-impact compared with what they used to be.

So we're going ahead with it. If you've found any solutions to my detergent dilemmas, please share.

Of course, if you've made it this far into a post that is less-than pretty/inspiring/intellectually engaging/cute/well-written I really applaud you. You're a pal.


Friday, February 25, 2011

{this moment}

"{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see."
Another inspired idea from SouleMama.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Things to like about Vegetarian Cooking

chopped and ready for the pan

Vegetarian cooking is lovely because it's such a clean process. It's not neat; I usually choose to post photos of the pretty food instead of the messy kitchen. But it's not dirty, like make-you-sick-from-your-sponge kind of dirty. Ever since eliminating factory-farmed (grocery store) meat from our diet, I've felt more confident that my kitchen is not a haven for sketchy bacteria. I feel that I can clean with our standard vinegar and baking soda with impunity, knowing that they can handle any of the grime associated with veggies, beans, dairy, and grains.

My perception of cleanliness is one thing, and probably pretty subjective, but no one can deny that the melange of green peppers, yellow peppers, onions, garlic, and carrots sizzling in a pan is a truly lovely sight, which is something I can't say for my beef dishes, no matter how local & pasture-raised my side of beef happens to be. I'm usually hesitant to indulge in red, yellow, or orange peppers because they seem like pretty pricey items, especially since these are on the must-buy-organic list for us. But lately I've been getting them anyway, particularly after looking at my receipt and seeing that the per pound price sounds much worse than the price of the little pepper. We have to be pretty budget conscious around here, but $1.07 for a nice yellow pepper is a steal.

So tonight we're having Brazilian Black Bean Soup. Yes, another soup from the Moosewood (I've joked before that I should name this blog 'Eating Moosewood Soups for a Year" but maybe I really should). We tried a Black Bean Soup from Laurel's Kitchen several months back, but it didn't suggest soaking the beans before cooking, and WOW, that was a mistake. They argue that if you get used to eating beans enough, soaking is not needed and depletes important nutrients. Well, we eat beans a lot around here and some of them (lentils) are fine without a soak, but please dear readers, soak your black beans before serving them to loved ones.

Any favorite black bean dinners out there?


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

love notes

things i love today:

the shape of waning tulips from a dear friend

the sound of my little boy with his grandma

the smell of black beans cooking

the taste of leftover marinara on crusty bread

a surprise lunchtime visit from my husband

& dozing with my cat while my boy sleeps too

Sunday, February 20, 2011

On the nest.

I've always like this phrase, although it really doesn't typify any of the pregnant women I've known. None of us are placidly sitting still and waiting for our little chicks to arrive. It's usually a bustling time. Nesting, more than on the nest. Now that my first trimester is drawing to a close, I'm regaining some energy (have you noticed that I've been able to post a little bit more?). I'm feeling more confident that this is a strong pregnancy, not one of my many ill-fated attempts. While the nesting instinct is very strong, so far it's put me in the mood for list-making, and by the time I'm done with making the list I'm too tired to actually do anything.

Why is it that pregnant people usually want to start painting? Maybe we know that painting with a belly is going to be a heck of a lot easier than painting with a baby attached to the breast. I'm thinking that we'll keep our guest room a guest room, and have the kids share a room once baby is out of our room. So we're not thinking of painting the nursery, but our kitchen is in need of a new look. Currently there are beige walls and white cabinets, with a kind of creamy-coffee colored trim. Very bland. The rooms near our kitchen (dining room, living room, hallway) are all the same color: a kind of deep seaglassy blue-green. Our kitchen floor is gray.

I'll probably wax sentimental about the new baby another time, but the realities of making our new (to us) home a nest seem to be occupying my mind now. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for an easy second trimester so I can make some progress on homemaking projects!

view from foyer to kitchen, including our groovy 60s stereo

view from dining room to kitchen

one corner of the kitchen

over our stove

We're keeping the cabinets white, just looking for a more inspiring wall color. One that will look cool with the color of our hallway and dining room!


Oh, and we're "due" August 28th. Happy. Happy.


Friday, February 18, 2011

{this moment}

"{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see."

Another inspired idea from SouleMama.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

yeah, I had my eye on him

The kid hasn't put anything in his mouth as an experiment in as long as I can remember. Real metal screws and such are so much more fun than the kiddie stuff. He has been occupied for a REALLY long time. Totally engrossed. And it's got to be less harmful than plopping him in front of the tube, right?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

signs of spring

one soup that can still be made largely from local ingredients, even in winter!

bread resting before going in the oven

We're still eating like it's winter, but the little guy and I got out for a little walk around the block to see what we could see. We saw our neighbor and had a conversation with him during which no one seemed to get too cold. That's a good sign of spring. We saw much more grass along the edges of the sidwalk than I thought we would, and we both got somewhat muddy. Springy. We heard and saw ice dripping and snow melting. Spring! Spring! And we heard birds, now I'm pretty sure they are not the harbinger-of-spring sorts of birds, but heck, I'll call it a sign of spring.

I decided that just because most of the "nature" preserves around here are decidedly unfriendly for toddlers in this kind of winter doesn't mean we don't have other choices. We moved to this neighborhood partially because it seemed walkable. Nice sidewalks and houses and trees, etc. It lifted our spirits immensely to simply get some sunshine and breathe some air. I'm still very much in the process of adjusting to town life, and remembering that nature walks don't have to be out in the fields or woods is one adjustment that is worth making. It's the air, the sun, the breeze, the neighbors, the snow melting--- all of these things that make getting out for a walk worthwhile. It's also nice to not have to get in the car to enjoy any of it. Our backyard may be inaccessible, but people around here (my husband included) do a decent job with their sidewalks, and darn it, we're going to enjoy all their hard work!

P.S. Do you like my new background? It's a little choppier (no pun intended) than I would like it to be, but I love the color. Over the weekend Ken was in our old town and was able to go to the Farmer's Market there. Our friends Brian and Anita (awesome farmers!) really got us hooked on local veggies about 9 years ago. They still have amazing offerings at the market, and these carrots (for the beet soup) were too lovely not to photograph, don't you think? Such a delicate orange. They were juicy, sweet, and somehow seemed oh-so light and airy. Not something I usually associate with a root veggie, but somehow it suited that batch of carrots.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Play on an icy day

Yesterday was warm! That is, it reached 50 degrees. Not bad. I thought today might be like that, judging from how sunny it looked. I was quite wrong. The little guy and I headed to a local park that has a few animals, and the wind made it seem bitterly cold. Still, it was nice to get out of the house (we've been cooped up due to weather and sickness for too long). I'm glad we went, but I was reminded of why this winter has been so tedious. The ice sheets covering all parks and public open spaces makes outdoor play seriously hazardous. It never stopped me pre-kids. I have some mean looking crampons on my snowshoes, and mini-crampons for ice-walking/jogging. But sharp metal-toothed footwear and 2 year olds don't seem like comfortable bedfellows to me. So today we slipped and slid our way to see the sheep, chickens, rabbits, goats, ponies and peacocks. I'm glad we still have all our bones intact.


Friday, February 11, 2011

confessions of a negligent composter

See that lump on the left end of my back fence? That was/is my compost. This photo was taken a few weeks ago, when the snow was at its highest, and we couldn't really get out the back yard. And, of course, I took it on the day I stopped my winter composting. *Sigh.* I really didn't want to do that, but I would have needed hip boots or waders to get out there everyday. Before I really went on composting hiatus (or, that is before I admitted to myself that I had done so) I started to put our compost containers on the back stoop. Yes, dear readers, they are still there. UGH. Since the photo above we've had a couple of ice storms that have made our snow piles shorter, but the snow itself even more impossible to trudge through.

Excuses, excuses. Get a worm bin! Freeze your food scraps! Oy. I'll work on the worm bin for next winter.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


A recent blog I came across reminded me of a food I love to eat: samosas. Hers were made of a nice whole wheat crust (I'll try that next time) and some different fillings from mine, but I used the recipe I've always used and they were fantastic. The best thing is that most of the ingredients I *always* have on hand, even when I feel like we're out of most staples. I have flour, yogurt, frozen peas, potatoes, onions, garlic, and usually the right seasonings (though not today). Now that I've restocked mustard seed, I can fall back on this dinner when I feel our cupboards are bare, I have time, but I don't have the urge to shop for ingredients.

I was first introduced to the samosa during a year of volunteer work with the Student Conservation Association up in the Adirondacks. With the exception of trail season (where we lived out of our backpacks for 10 days or so) we had the incredible luxury of having a cook! But not just any cook, one well-versed in how to make vegetarian cuisine delightful in many ways (she could also make some pretty rad dishes out of game, bear teriyaki, for example). One of her not-so-secret weapons was a well-worn copy of The Moosewood Cookbook. It's still sort of my vegetarian bible for impressing non-vegetarian friends. It does have a couple of recipes that I don't like (next to Odessa Beets, I penciled in "not so thrilling" and her twist on standard mac and cheese doesn't quite satisfy my mac and cheese cravings), but in general the results are fantastic.

In fact, almost every recipe I've written about in this blog comes from that book. Some are fabulously simple, while others (like the samosas pictured above) seem to need a larger investment of time than I usually have. The last time I made them I was single and cooking for a "dinner party." Needless to say the alarming stack of dishes and the tired-of-waiting-for-dinner toddler remind me that they might not be weekday fare for this family. At least not when I start dinner AFTER my dude comes home because I didn't have mustard seeds on hand. Well, they tasted darn good, despite their tardiness. And unlike my single days, now I have a wonderful dishwasher (the man I married) and that pile was gone by the time the samosas came out of the oven. Hurrah.

And we have lunches that are ready-to-travel should we want a snow-picnic tomorrow.

Until next time,

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bad Jars

Some of you know exactly why these are bad jars. Unfortunately, I didn't know when I stocked up on glass storage jars many years ago. See that pretty little taper at the top, where the jar opens? It won't even fit a standard 1/2 cup dry measure, let alone the 1 cup measure I usually use. I was sensible enough to get wide-mouth jars for my flours, but now I'm also stuck with these somewhat annoying ones, too. I don't feel totally justified in replacing all of them, but what to do? Start measuring out beans with a 1/4 cup measure? I think not.

Just a mini-vent. Not a big deal in the scheme of the world or in my narrow sphere of housekeeping, but a wee daily annoyance.