Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Independence Challenge - Week 32

De-fatted pan drippings from baked ham, to use for braising cabbage
from the garden.
Aren't those teeny little cabbage heads cute?

My recent posts have been rather food-centric, but the next few will be more about about organizing. I absolutely must have room for my mom to move in by New Year. DH wanted to claim this weekend as a family "DVR Clean-up Weekend" where we watch a bunch of saved movies and TV shows. Tempting. But he saw my increasing distress that the attic is not cleaned and insulated as the earlier-than-usual ice and snow start, so we changed it to Attic Organizing Weekend.

HA! We made a decent start on the cellar on Saturday. Wait... wasn't it supposed to be the attic? Yeah, but I need room in the cellar for some attic stuff. I did some cellar organizing, and started to sort the clothes barrels. Then DD15 got called in to work early, and DD12 is just about useless at times. If she whines at me again, I swear I will give her something to whine about. (I've been waiting for a while to use that line, and it's not an empty threat. I could shave her head.) I guess she is "at that age," but it just annoys the hell out of me.

And the weekend just continued to fall apart from there. DD15 back to work Saturday, DD12 taking hours to tidy her room, church with committee meeting on Sunday. DH sits in his chair and reads, pretending he is just waiting for me to tell him what to do. DD12 needs to be given step-by-step instructions. "Please take this upstairs and put it on my bed. Then COME BACK." "Why-y-y?" "So I don't slap you silly. Now move it!" No one wants to clean the attic, including me, but it's not like I just made up a new chore for the hell of it. We need insulation, and we need the room.

It's hard to do this during the week. DD12 is at school, and then has homework and chores. DD15 is at home, but we want her to stay focused on school, and then she often goes off to work into the evening. DH works three days and has been finding odd jobs lately. He is helping an art installer friend move some things between galleries this week. On weekends, everyone wants to do fun stuff, not clean the attic. Tough! We need it done!

Planted: Nothing. Cleaned up the garden a bit more. Buried some kitchen garbage that was too much for the worm bin. Dumped rotting walnuts in the alley for squirrels but far enough away not to kill my plants. We'll take another shot at walnuts next year - maybe I was meant to have them on hand for squirrels.

Harvested: Nothing.

Preserved: Nothing.

Leftover Chicken Corn Noodle Soup

Cooked: Almost nothing! We had so much leftover food in the fridge that we bought and cooked almost nothing this week. Lots of reheating, toasting, and making hot chocolate and chai. Just bought milk, cheese, lemons, and bakery rolls. Made yogurt, baked peanut butter cookies and gingerbread. DH made two quiches on Sunday night.

Found a nice Ginger Lemonade recipe, and made a batch to heat up for soothing my throat. The dry indoor air is killing me. I wake up with my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. I must be snoring like a chain saw. I already hang wet laundry on a rack in my bedroom to add humidity. I tried a humidifier last year, but it just seems to make my bedside table wet. I'm drinking more hot tea, hot chai, and now hot lemonade to hydrate my poor throat tissues.

Stored: Nonfat dry milk, large canister of garlic powder, chili powder, yeast. Found 2-lb tubs of lard at the German-style butcher at Fairground Market, from John F. Martin & Sons, the nationally-known pork butcher in Lancaster County.

Prepped: DH bought a bucket of ice melt for the winter sidewalk. He also got us car emergency tools, a gadget that goes on your keychain and has a blade to cut a seatbelt and a spring-loaded spike to break a car window if you were trapped inside.

Managed: Dropped off our grass shears and a big old Wiss pinking shears to be sharpened at Standard Grinding (214 Lancaster Ave, if you are local). The guy is only charging me ($7) if the shears come out right. He whipped out a piece of fabric to test them, and it was evident that lots of pinkers come through there. I got the shears for $1 at a yard sale, and they would cost $30-50 to buy new. Standard Grinding is obviously a local biz for decades, full of mysterious machinery and unidentifiable pieces of metal. The proprietor seemed like the perfect guy to ask where to find sandblasting to clean my secondhand cast iron. Sure enough, he yanked out the phone book and gave me the number of a place that makes cemetery headstones - they are all about sandblasting.

I did inventory this week, inspired by the cool GoogleDocs spreadsheet posts at the Chez Musser blog. So far, I counted all the dry goods in he cellar pantry - I will do the cupboards and freezers this weekend. It was very instructive to count everything. I found 6# of forgotten oatmeal in the bottom of the cornmeal bin. I think I have a lot of good basics, but I am weak in some areas, like canned greens and pumpkin. I plan to try to inventory once a month, at least until I figure out how to set 3-month pars. How much pasta DO we use in a month? We'll see!
--> My inventory spreadsheet, so far.
There is a big difference between intending to eat oatmeal, and actually eating it. I have tons of oatmeal, and I need to eat it and make granola. I think I only eat it about once a week right now. Yes, we still have other food for breakfast, but establishing the oatmeal standard will save money and be good for me. And maybe someone else will also start eating it. I make it with wheat germ, dried fruit, whatever fresh fruit there is, and a big dollop of homemade yogurt. It only takes a few minutes to cook.
Oatmeal Challenge: I want to start eating oatmeal for breakfast five days a week. On the weekends I will have other stuff, because I love an egg sandwich, too. If I feel like eating chipped beef or waffles, there is always lunch.
Reduced, Reused, Recycled: The over-stuffed fridge hid a few items that spoiled and were wasted: a half-pound of scrapple, a bag of green beans, and a pint container of creamed chipped beef that I love. I'm kicking myself. This week gets a FAIL for reducing waste.

In our cleaning, I found an unopened set of Dora the Explorer checkers and card games. I took them to church, where I found a librarian friend that took them for the children's department at the library.

Scavenged a huge piece of heavy cardboard to use for our attic project.

DD12, as the modern hoodie-clad Winter Angel

We went to a church kids event, a sort of labyrinth walk where they followed a spiral of evergreen roping laid on the floor, to light a candle from the winter goddess/angel in the middle. The kids carved apple tealite holders. The little wiggly kids could hardly wait for their turns to walk, then marched very seriously around the spiral, and then set their lit apples on gold doilies around the spiral. It was cute and just the right length for littles. My older girls had fun carrying around babies and playing with toddlers. After, I split the used apples with another woman - she will feed them to her chickens, and I to our worms. I took some slightly used tealights for our emergency candle box. I also took some of the pine roping, to decorate our porch rail, since it was going to be thrown away. I will add some holly from my mother's house later this week.

We have been diluting our shampoo, conditioner, and liquid hand soap. I water down the Tresemme conditioner by at least 4X, making more of a creme rinse. We make our own foaming hand soap by cutting 1 part regular hand soap with 10 parts of water, and reusing (many times) a container for Dial foaming hand soap. We like that is rinses so easily, using less water. We made a reusable soap mixing container by marking out the levels of soap and water on the side, so DD12 can mix up batches.

Local/Family: I am going to the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) conference in February. I am going to find a ride to State College (where I graduated from Penn State so many years ago) and attend for 3-4 days. There is programming about all the things I want to get involved in: youth programming development, food distribution systems, and backyard farm gardening. Who Hoo! It's not terribly expensive at $170, and I will ask at the UU church congregation if someone has a spare bed, instead of a hotel room. I plan to also check in with the church's youth group to promote DD15's youth conference series. First "business trip" I have been on in ages. I am excited already. It feels like the perfect way to kickstart the new things I want to do.

Learned: There was a fascinating discussion about salt on the Women Not Dabbling blog, especially as it concerns the many of us that are hypothyroid. I am looking for sources for Celtic Sea Salt and Redmond RealSalt. Put a salt mill on my wishlist, too.

Lots of recipes "on deck" for holiday baking next week.

Library: Wanna to hear about my recipe system? I juggle computer recipe management with a fear of grid-crash; I'm a weird combo of geek and Luddite. I love technology, but don't quite trust it not to leave me stranded just when I need it most. I have over 500 recipes on the recipe website WeGottaEat.com. When I plan to cook a new one one, I print it out and tape it up on the cupboard door over the counter I work at. If I need to make changes to the recipe, I can jot them right down. If not, the recipe goes into a binder I keep as a hard copy (in case the power, the internet, or the computer goes down). Recipes that I use frequently go into my "favorites" - that means I tape them on the inside of the cabinet door. So high-tech. LOL

Frequently-used recipes taped inside cabinet doors.


fullfreezer said...

Sounds like you have been busy again. Your DD12 sounds like my 14 year old. If I get the eye roll one more time.....
I desperately need to organize my basement. I have a 'sewing room' that is anything but. It has been taken over by guitars, telescopes and legos. And I have my grow lights set up in there so I the space isn't very usable. There is another table- I just need to unearth it. Maybe over the holidays? Yeah, right.
I like your idea of diluting your soaps. I'll have to try that one.

livinginalocalzone said...

Busy you are! I like the idea of the Independence Challenge, though it does overwhelm me. Did you find the same at first? Maybe I'll try for a couple challenge aspects each week and see how it goes.... you do so much, its a great image to aim for.
And.... I have to put in a plug for oatmeal here!! Do it do it! You'll be addicted in no time, I'm sure of it. There are so many mix-ins, it can really be a seasonally based meal. As you said, summer fruit when its in season, warm pumpkin and other squash puree in the colder months, cranberries, warm milk instead of water, dried fruit.... I do something different each time rather than a multi-mix-in, but all have their preferences. Do it!!! You can even do a cornmeal/oatmeal combo, I've started doing that just this week and it makes such a neat texture. The cornmeal takes longer to cook, so that gets started first, then in goes the oats.