Monday, May 29, 2006


From 163 to 133. 30 pounds gone the year I turn 30. Enough living with mediocraty. "Stop whining, start doing!"

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Breakfast Girl

*For the sensitive, a disclaimer: This post contains a meat reference, but in a reformation story, so it's all good.*

I am a breakfast girl. I love it. Breakfast buffets were my favorite treat long ago and far away. My biggest splurge, which we would do for Mother's Day or my Birthday, was to go to the Sunday Breakfast Buffet at The Machine Shed. Cheesy hashbrown casserole, freshly made belgian waffles with strawberries and whipped cream, and...yes...bacon. Even when eating meat was a rarity for us, I still enjoyed the bacon there, relatively guilt free. Now that we've become strict vegetarians and are really watching our health, The Machine Shed is no longer an option. I joked about how when I got to my Weight Watchers goal, I wanted to go do the breakfast buffet and eat whatever I wanted. The truth is that my conscience would never allow me to enjoy that. So with my goal rapidly approaching, I decided that this morning I would do my favorites at home. I made whole grain waffles, veggie bac'n, and fat-free hashbrowns. We topped our waffles with organic strawberries and organic whipped cream. Not only was it exponentially better for our health--both physical and mental (I think it was probably at least 1/4 of the fat and calories), but the entire meal cost us at most $10 for all of us. Eating out would have been about $50. Sure, I had to do the work and there's a bit of cleaning to be done, but it's definitely worth it! We'll continue the theme today with a Memorial Day cookout. Our guests will be treated to veggie bac'n veggie burgers with organic cheese on a whole grain organic bun, herbed organic potato salad, and angel food cupcakes. Life is good.

Friday, May 26, 2006

White Columbine

The gardens are coming along splendidly. A hard rain Wednesday night, combined with swelling temperatures the past two days means everything is bursting into growth. Our clematis is finally leafing out, the lilacs are opening, we're seeing flowers we've never seen on plants that didn't bloom last year. Our white columbine has come back amazingly well. They're absolutely beautiful. They just make you want to stop and appreciate them. I had one in a vase at the dinner table and realized that each petal tapers down into a cone. It's such a beautiful flower, and a native to boot. The roses are full of buds as well. I almost feel like they are smug in their knowledge of what's to come, as they show just a hint of color throught their folded leaves.

My mom left for Thailand today. She should get into Bangkok tomorrow night. Tuesday they will travel home. I'll feel so much better when they're both home safely. Keeping myself busy so as not to worry sick, I've cleaned out closets and filled up the car with stuff for Goodwill. I upped my running and registered for a 5K so that I really have to train and get miles and time in. The methodical nature of a good run is great solitary time for me. So far my knees are holding up well. Today as I thought of my Mom I needed busy hands, so I started repainting one of our big pieces for the living room. I'll post a picture when it's done. It's good to have gotten that started. I'm learning how to *not* procrastinate.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Okay, it's time to get around to sharing that wonderful curry I've learned to make. I'm going to give a step-by-step for a "gravy curry". Start by choosing some vegetables and/or a protein, and prepare them ahead of time (or while you are preparing the 'gravy'). For this curry, I lightly steamed 2 sliced red potatoes, 2 cups of fresh cauliflower florets, and a cup of spinach. I also sauteed 1/2 a package of extra firm, pressed tofu seasoned with curry powder. Here we go! Heat about 1 T. oil in a medium size saute pan. Add cumin and mustard seeds. I don't measure these, you will want to experiment with the seasonings to find out what you like. BE CAREFUL--as the seeds heat, they begin to "crackle" or pop--they will jump right out of the pan. Have a lid ready to throw on. I've found it helps to shake the pan and keep the heat low during this process so that nothing burns. Keep the lid on until you hear the popping stop. Now throw in some chopped onion. Let the onion get good and brown, then add some diced ginger and a clove of diced garlic. Saute a few minutes more, then add in about 1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes. (At this point, if anything has been sticking to the bottom of your pan, you should be able to scrape it loose and have it blend into the gravy.) Add turmeric, salt, and curry powder. Mix well, then turn heat to low and allow the mixture to simmer until the tomato has broken down and is leaving traces of oil when you stir. Add in your veggies and protein, mix well, salt lightly, and cover until you are ready to serve. Tonight I served this concoction on brown rice with a spinach salad topped with walnuts, parmesan, straberries, and a light vinagrette. The kids actually ate all of their portions (with the tempation of ice cream to follow!). I still need to work on my seasoning levels. I think I'd like to try a little more ginger, a little less cumin, and up the curry powder. It's hard to know when you're not familiar with the spices. My experience has been that the more I experiment with it, the more I learn about what works and what doesn't. For some reason curry has appealed greatly to me and has perked my interest in cooking, as I've said before. I am so grateful to Kaldave from the Veggie Board on Weight Watchers. She has been so kind in answering all of my questions and providing me with invaluable information as I've learned this method of cooking! Her website is wonderful, and she has given me permission to share it. Be sure to check it out. There are great recipes, nutritional information, and more.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Finished Projects

My Dad is doing better. He called twice yesterday and sounded good. He can feed himself but is still having trouble with liquids. They were moving him out of the ICU based on his improvement though, so that's a good sign. My Mom is at peace with waiting to decide whether or not to make the trip to Thailand herself to bring him home. I'm just so grateful that he's okay, and anxious for him to be home. To make things interesting, my sister hit a deer on her way to my Mom's house Friday night, and totaled the front of her car. Apparently it's still operating fine. What next? Hopefully this streak is over.

In the midst of all of this chaos, I've finished a few projects. The first is painting. Below are some pictures of the kitchen. It turned out a lovely turmeric gold. This is Sherwin Williams "Harmony" Zero VOC paint again, in "Ceremonial Gold" The stripes have greatly improved and will require only a bit of touch up now.

I also finished my sister's afghan. This is something I've been working on for 2 years. I did it all freehand, with no pattern, just a concept. I don't think I'll ever take on anything of this scale again. It took me a while to learn how to switch colors, so the beginning isn't as smooth as I'd like, but it's made with love and will keep her cozy in Alaska.

The past couple of days have been strange having it done. I'm used to always having something to work on. I was really hoping to have it done in time to hand deliver it to her in June, but somehow I didn't believe I'd do it. Now I feel like I have idle hands in the evening. No excuse to watch T.V.! I am planning to make another one for my other sister, but I am not ready to take on something that monumental again right now. I have a few unfinished projects sitting in the wings. We'll see if I decide to restart those, pick up something new, or give the needles a break for a while.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

One of those Weeks

What a week this has been. We kicked off the week with Bird getting sick on Mother's Day. Sprout followed soon after, then Beo, then myself. Beo mournfully applied an herbicide to the lawn Wednesday night, and woke up ill in the wee hours of the morning. Yesterday as I was lying in my sick bed I got a call from my Mom telling me that my Dad, who just arrived in Thailand to teach a Disaster Mental Health Course for the IRC, had a stroke. My Dad had a stroke in 2002, and apparently has had a number of mini-strokes since then. It's such an awful feeling of helplessness, and much worse when he is on the other side of the world. Thank goodness for trip insurance. He was able to call my Mom and tell her he was having a stroke, then she got in touch with the insurance folks, who got him to the hospital. It's so terrifying to know that someone who is the epitomy of strength in your world, is being laid low by something beyond their control. He seems to be okay, and my Mom is considering going to Thailand to bring him home in a week. Life is keeping me on my toes.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Sun Returned!

Yesterday the sun chased the day away late in the morning. I felt like the characters in that story/film about the planet where it rained all of the time and was only sunny once every how-many-years. I walked between buildings at work, despite the "waste" of time, went for a jog as soon as I got home, and then made myself paint James' room (because I'd promised) but with the window flung wide open! Beo was outside with the kids all day, catching up on various projects. Our organic, no-mow lawn is being challenged by the weeds and quackgrass that were present in the "topsoil" we purchased. After trying to get ahead of them with hours of pulling and gallons of vinegar last year, they are back in full force this year, despite a pre-emergent organic fertilizer. Most of the invasives around here have taken over for a reason, and even purchasing weed pullers hasn't helped us to get all of the roots. We're losing the battle as the weeds get bigger and try to take over our beautiful grass. Beo is struggling deeply with what to do. We need to either buy a mower or apply a broadleaf herbicide. Weighing the two "evils" is difficult. We think that in terms of long-term impact and sustainability, a one time herbicide application is the best choice. However is goes so against our grain that it's a very difficult decision. I'm hoping Beo will blog about it soon.

After I finished painting James asked if we could ride our bikes to the local coffee shop for dinner. We've been trying to say "yes" more to the little guy, so we agreed. We took a detour and went down to a bend in the river that's accessible from a little used bike trail. The fields were draining across the paths, and everywhere wildflowers were springing up and waiting to bloom. We saw yarrow everywhere. I can't wait to see it in bloom. I want to find out if it's native here, or invasive. Either way it will be beautiful. We saw birds everywhere, revelling in the long lost sun. It really felt like we were feeling the Earth wake up.

Monday, May 15, 2006

...and the Rain Continues...

It has been raining here for a week. No, not constantly, but very nearly. We were lucky to get most of our new plants for the year put in before all of this started. Beo got his prairie put in during a lull late last week. Everything is getting a good soaking. I can almost feel the plants soaking it all in, and I just know that everything will burst with growth when the sun returns. The front beds are filling in nicely, thanks in large part to the Yarrow that we put in early last year. That stuff is just taking off. It blooms all through the summer, and should be gorgeous this year.

My sister got me two of my favorite native plants for Mother's Day. I got them into the ground today during another pause in the drizzle. The first is a lovely white trillium, which we saw in abundance during my visit last summer to her at a Nature Conservancy preserve she was researching at in the Northern part of the state. I'll try to get pictures when it (hopefully) bounces back from it's transplant. The other is a jack-in-the-pulpit. I almost feel guilty about how much I love this plant. We were lucky enough to spot one on that same trip last summer, and it meant a lot to me that my sister found one for sale at the Farmer's Market and got it for me. I think it will do really well in our shade bed that we finally prepped and filled a couple of weeks ago now. I moved our native Aster from it's spot to make room, as I think the Aster can take a little more sun, and I wanted to put the jack-in-the-pulpit in a prominent spot. It's always hard for me to gauge how many plants to put in to allow for growth, while wanting it to look full now. I think the shade bed will be perfect next year. This year it will be a bit sparse but at least it's filled. Last year it was only the native aster and native wood poppies. Now it's just a matter of waiting for that sun!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Organic Standards

I learned today that the USDA is considering fudging with organic standards again. Beo and I volunteered with Organic Valley when the USDA was originally considering creating a USDA Organic standard. We believe strongly that it is important to know what "Organic" really means, especially when "Organic" is supposed to be upholding many of your ethical beliefs and allaying health concerns. One of the measures that the USDA is now considering would make it easier for conventional dairy farms to become "organic" for short periods of time. This questions the integrity of the "organic" label which we currently count on. Of course the USDA is considering public comment--for a ridiculously short period. The comment period ends today. If you believe in maintaining the integrity of the organic system, please comment today. Go to --they'll make it easy for you!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Painting Progress

Among many, many other things, here is what has been keeping the Beo-Mia-Sprout-Bird family crazy busy lately. Before and after for your oohing-aahing pleasure! Not the exact same angles, and the pictures aren't the best--but you get the idea. Please excuse the mess which seems to be perpetual around here during project time.
Here is the living room before and after. "Clary Sage"

Dining Room before and after:

Last night the burgundy was SO red ("Slaughterhouse Red" and we got through the long night making jokes about how we would tell people that it was actually a symbolic political statement for various things...we were tired and inhaling paint fumes and it was funny at the time... We like it a lot now. Very warm and romantic. The color is Martha Stewart's "Velvet Red".

The kitchen will go gold, and my idea is to have these stripeys transitioning between the two. They turned out a little rough. Do you think it will work? Can I do it and call it rustic?

The transition (needs some touching up):

Suddenly my paintings don't look so hot against these colors. I think they're going to have to go. I have no idea when I would gather the creative energies and find the time to do ones that would work okay. We are probably going to do everything with black frames in the dining room now. I don't know if I will put back up the family photo collage or not.

The burgundy was too dark, but all of other colors are Sherwin Williams "Harmony" paint, an eco-friendly 0 VOC paint. We are very impressed with it. We are going to take a break before tackling the kitchen, which is all cabinets, and the kids rooms. It has been challenging having wet paint everywhere with two dogs and two toddlers. It's feeling much more like a home though!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Joy of Cooking Indeed

The past three months have been ones of incredible change in my life. I decided to give my life the makeover it needed, stop complaining and dragging my feet, and create change. Surprisingly (to me), joining Weight Watchers has instigated all kinds of change in my life. Finding the Veggie Board there has sparked a renewed passion for me. I have found the most wonderful people, many of whom have inspired me to get back in the kitchen. We have always eaten relatively healthy meals, but we'd fallen into the habit of eating easy convenience foods, (even if they were organic they weren't the healthiest) and eating out. I think one of the things that kept me from cooking as much as I'd like was being afraid to try new recipes and not like them. It's much easier to cook when a) you need to know what's in your food, and b) the recipe comes highly reccomended, and with pointers no less! We picked up Moosewood Low-Fat Vegetarian Cookbook, and then started trying out community shared recipes. First I tried a simple recipe for calzones. It was amazing, and relatively easy! Next it was a Country Pie, with all kinds of vegetables, and seasonings I'd never used before (caraway seeds, combined with dill-very unique!). I started looking for new recipes on the web too and pulled off a low fat alfredo sauce that has great promise. Next to come was homemade dark chocolate pudding from Moosewood Low-Fat. Mmmmmm. Chickpea Mock Tuna Salad, Lentil Loaf, there have been lots of fun and healthy finds. My how I love those Veggie Boarders!

My latest joy has been learning a bit about Indian cooking. After eating at a small Nepalese place that we love, I was inspired to ask the Indians on the Veggie Board if they could help me learn to make a good curry. I wanted the basics, not just a recipe. Teach me how to fish, as it were. I couldn't have asked for more! I have been guided along every step of the way by a wonderful (and patient, generous) woman who is very skilled in Indian cuisine. I can now make a lovely curry with just her simple (but specific!) guidelines, and I'm experimenting more with the Indian spices I'm learning about. Pictured is a recent curry creation on a bed of whole wheat cous cous. This is quickly becoming a standard here.

The best thing about trying all of these new recipes is that I'm more bold with my techniques and my experiments. I can create a relatively simple meal that's different enough to keep things interesting. We've come to love the Quorn products, a brilliant me@t substitute that's easy and delicious. Recently I sauteed a couple of Quorn naked cutlets, topped them with an herbed sour cream, and did sides of steamed broccoli spritzed with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika and sunchokes sauteed with Garam Masala. It was so simple, and a delicious change. The kids can have a modified version with Quorn nuggets and either the curried vegetables or some veggies that I steam and set aside before adding to the curry. EcoMama's in the kitchen, and loving it!