Thursday, May 10, 2007

Frugal on a Time Budget Meal of the Day

Last week I committed to buckling down on frugality while trying to find time to do everything else. My current duties besides the everyday of keeping up with my paid job, keeping the house within health code standards, and keeping the family fed and clothed, include working on my church's Mother's Day for Peace event (more on that later) and working on Someday Garden's biggest consultation job to date. Not to mention, our own gardens are established and filling out, but the weeds are still competing and there are always things to be moved, pruned, watered, you name it. However busy I might be, I did find time to make a big pot of veggie chili. I made my standard from diced tomatoes, bulk kidney beans, corn, onions and seasonings, and added some bulk barley to fill it out nutritionally and budget-wise. (Saute the onions, then add remaining ingredients. Cook the barley ahead of time or add a goodly amount of veggie broth with the dried barley into the chili, and let it simmer gently until the barley is tender.) It turned out great. The first night, I decided to keep things interesting by serving it over a baked sweet potato, with a dollop of plain yogurt. For some reason I thought some steamed broccoli on top sounded good, and it ended up complimenting the whole thing quite nicely, giving a sweet freshness to the savoriness of the general dish. It may not look like much, but it was absolutely delicious, and very filling. I believe the cost per person was about $1. The kids are currently shunning tomatoes, but gobbled up a Sprout-Friendly chili version with just beans, corn, and (shhh) a little bit of tomato juice mixed in. It helps to find new ways to make old frugal favorites interesting.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Heatwave with Flowers

We are in our third year of gardens here, and it's wonderful to see how things have finally gotten well established and are coming up bigger and stronger than ever. We were surprised to see how well the shade garden is coming back. My anemone is finally doing what it's supposed, to being big, white, and showy early in the garden.

We have one Jacob's Ladder that is weeks ahead of it's kin in a shower of delicate periwinkle buds.

The columbine have budded out and the bleeding heart are already blooming. I love how they capture moisture within their luscious petals. You can see the drops when the sun shines through.

I was thrilled to spot our lone trillium which my sister picked up for me at a native plant sale. I didn't really believe it would make it back, but it made it's ephemeral debut this week. These are one of my favorite flowers. They're so simple in essence, but their elegance is enhanced by the smooth green leaves that frame the three white petals. They remind me of the big ruffs that English queens sometimes wore--or the big headresses of vegas showgirls! I hope you enjoyed the walk through our garden today.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Yesterday I had the incredible honor to join thousands of others at a teaching given by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. Seeing His Holiness has been on The List of things I'd like to do in my life, along with seeing the Great Barrier Reef and Alaska. We joined people from all walks of life to crowd into a sold out hockey stadium to hear this incredible individual. When we arrived, I had to practice my open heart and compassion as we walked past people carrying "Trust Jesus" signs, shouting at us from behind big placards with bible verses, and handing out "Heaven or Hell?" flyers. Good practice.

As we joined the massive crowd waiting to enter, we found ourselves next to a group of individuals I believe to have been Tibetan. I felt a surge of emotion as I was torn between happiness and sorrow from the old woman, who perhaps remembered leaving Tibet, to the young girl, who perhaps never would, and also the joy in them being able to see the great spritual leader from their native country.

Amazingly, arriving 45 minutes late because of the crowding, we were seated (far, far in the back but with a decent view) and only minutes later His Holiness entered the arena. I knew I would be overwhelmed by the emotion, and I was. Tears started running down my face as I saw this "humble Buddhist monk" who radiates peace and calm. He waved to everyone, even comically peering up into the highest reaches of seating and getting laughs right off the bat. As he was introduced, he removed his shoes, exposing his maroon socks and then tucking his feet up under him as he settled comfortably into a seat that was part throne, part victorian setee. I have read hundreds of pages of text in the words of HH, studied his teachings and learnings over the years, most recently about neuroscience, and to hear him speak still ignited a spark in my heart. He spoke at first in Tibetan, with a translator, but mostly in English. As I've heard, he will sometimes be so into a thought as he teaches that he switches to rapid Tibetan and his translator explains the end of the thought. He also checked words occasionally with his translator. Their relationship was so smooth and easy that you didn't miss a beat, and the nature of it was charming. His Holiness has a very strong accent, but is easily understood when you pay attention to him--easy to do when he is mixing comedy and lightheartedness with his teachings.

The nature of his teaching was Compassion as the Source of Happiness. He spoke about how humans by nature have a biological need for compassion and affection from the time we are born. He described how in consciously choosing to be truly compassionate towards another individual, we gain self-confidence and strength, dispel our fear, and are able to be more peaceful and calm. Later he described how having this underlying calm and compassion can help us not only to have a higher level of happiness day-to-day, but gives us the serenity to handle more difficult situations and even tragedies when they arise.

When his lecture was over, His Holiness spoke about his optimism for Our World--peace and sustainability. He drew wave after wave of applause when he said firmly that prayer and meditation was not enough, that we must work for change, and then we can see the next century as one that is known for it's peace, and our environment can survive. He also spoke about parenting compassionately, with affection, joking that it was easy for him to advise because he was a monk. He said that if he had to be with children he would be very kind--maybe 3, 4 hours. Then, maybe not so kind. He also spoke about being a vegetarian. He said that because many monastaries are strict vegetarian, they do promote a vegetarian diet. However, he said that he eats mostly vegetarian, but then, once maybe one or two weeks, a little not-vegetarian. He spoke about how monks are supposed to fast from solid foods after the noon meal, but that if he is very hungry, he'll have a biscuit or two. You see, His Holiness teaches us that greatness doesn't come in some abnormally Divine individual, it comes through people just like you and me. We all have the ability to be compassionate, and to actively develop that compassionate to be happier and to make a difference in the world. We are all Divine. We all have the ability to pray, meditate and move our feet as we do.

Biography of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama Teaching Webcasts
Books by His Holiness (I highly recommend "The Art of Happiness".)
Picture from the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Flickr Photos

False Cherry Blossom
Originally uploaded by SproutsMom.

One thing I've been finding time for is taking pictures. If you're in the mood for browsing, feel free to check out my Flickr account. I'll keep it updated with my latest favorites. You can also subscribe to an RSS feed of my Flickr photos if you're interested. Just click on the picture to go to Flickr, or visit my homepage at The link for the feed is at the bottom. Of course I'll continue posting photos here as well.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Frugal on a Time Budget

Oh how crazy life becomes. While I'm thrilled with the success of our garden business, its meant that Beo is away for many hours. We did get to work on a project together this week, which was great, but there's much to do at home too, and we're finding ourselves constantly in a time crunch. Housekeeping, paid-work, cooking, shopping, time with the kids--how do I balance it all? Lately I've found myself withdrawing from all of it because it feels so overwhelming. With all the crazy scheduling, we've found ourselves eating out more and cooking far less. After a week and a half of it, we both were downright sick of it. Beo and I sat down (okay, we had the conversation while we were both getting ready to go somewhere else) and came up with a plan: Back off from the gourmet, 10-step, dirt-cheap meals, but find a way to still cook inexpensively and simply. So I've tried to take what I've learned about frugality, and combine it with my favorite simple cooking. Time to take a step back.

So I went to Whole Foods Market, with only a basic idea of a plan, and here are a few things I came up with.

1. Bulk beans, rice, steel cut oats and nuts still work time-wise, and save us money. Beans and SCO may be more time intensive, but there's little labor involved, I just need to think ahead. Money and packaging saved.

2. Sweet potatoes still work over frozen potatoes. I can nuke one for lunch or throw them into the oven while something else bakes.

3. It may be warmer weather, but nothing stretches the budget and fills in menu holes like a big pot of veggie chili or soup.

4. Homemade bread is out until further notice. I found a bakery variety on sale and *gasp* had it sliced.

5. Time to go back to big batches, leaving leftovers for lunches. If I'm going to do Mollie Katzen, I'll do the full batch and we'll live with a little less variety.

6. While we wait for our favorite veggies to come into season, let's stick with frozen. A bag of mixed organic veggies is $2. That's two sides or one great stir fry. Speaking of...

Our first frugal meal this week was a stir fry, which we haven't done in ages. I made some rice from bulk (25 cents), browned some tofu in marinade ($1.50) and combined it with stir fried veggies ($2) and onion (10 cents). Total cost for the meal: $3.85. It was delicious, and even the kids ate it. It gave us each a generous portion, with enough left over for lunch for Beo today. Total time spent? I was in the kitchen for about half an hour, but I easily could have cut 10 minutes off of that by remembering to thaw the tofu beforehand. What's more, I was able to spend time putting away dishes and cleaning while things cooked up. I'll keep you updated as we try to make our frugal food more time-friendly. Now if I could just get as efficient with the other things on my proverbial plate...