Monday, January 12, 2009

Independence Challenge - Week 35

These little bakers fit right in the toaster oven, but I need
to rotate them during baking to avoid the hot spots.
Still, mighty tasty apple bread pudding.

The most valuable thing I control is how I spend my time, so I am working on wasting less. For many people, TV and computer time are a waste, but I value our controlled family TV watching and discussing. The Planet Earth series has been spectacular and inspiring.
Not a Waste: cooking, eating, sleeping, reading, talking, listening, networking, tai chi, foot massage, snuggling, walking

Waste: bickering, negative people, useless ranting, bad movies, clutter, perfectionism, being so tired I fall asleep in the bathroom and wake up freezing
I would rather spend time with family than accidentally waste it on dumb stuff. I am trying to avoid some of the obvious "interesting time wasters" that can cause an hour to speed past. For instance, no more writing long snarky blog comments in places I don't normally read (usually because someone has irritated me). I don't consider blogging and commenting itself to be a waste - I have gotten more done since I started blogging. But I need to be careful about reading the New York Times headlines that arrive in my email. If I click on articles, I can spend an hour on the news, in what seems to go by in the blink of any eye. I will save my newsreading for evenings, after a day of doing things on my to-do lists.

I am also looking for things we can do while watching TV. DD15 is making felt cozies to sell on Etsy. DD12 is drawing paper doll kits. My mom peeled apples for sauce while enjoying I Love Lucy. There are limits to what my hands can do, but I am trying: cracking and cleaning nuts, sorting seed, giving myself a manicure. I have a circular knitter to try making a neck warmer, in hopes that my hands allow that kind of knitting. I can also sort papers and photos.

DD12 and I went to a monthly local scrapbooking group on Friday. It's $5 and you get to use all sorts of fancy die-cut machines. I am a little concerned that it will turn into a time and money-sucking hobby with lots of things to store, but I will combat that. It think it was a measure of my developing "independence eye" that I reacted differently than I once would have to the hostess's huge scrapbooking basement full of supplies. I once would have envied it. I still lust after that kind of space - but I envisioned shelves full of food storage, not paper supplies! I kept thinking about how much money these women were wasting on this hobby. Not that there is anything at all wrong with scrapbooking - we plan to continue doing it. But the "toys" and over-priced supplies - oy! One advantage of the group "crops" is that everyone contributes to paying for and using the expensive machines.

I would like to do as much as I can with things in everyday newspapers, magazines, ads, and with vintage paper, books, and old photos. Not to mention our own everyday stuff, like ticket stubs, birthday cards, and fortune cookie slips. I lean more toward book arts and altered art, rather then pre-made paper cutsies that require trips to the craft store. I only want to buy the most basic tools, blades and adhesives. I really want to develop an activity to do with DD12, especially since the rest of us are going back to martial arts classes (you'll see, below), and she liked this.

Planted: Nothing, but I made a planting timeline for spring. I am working my way through the seed catalogs. Wow, it's hard not to want to buy more seeds than I can possibly use in my small gardens.

Harvested: Naught.

This giant Dutch oven full of apples cooked down to a little over 2 quarts.

Made two quarts of applesauce to split between Mom and I. She peeled, I cooked. There was a bit more that we gobbled up immediately. Just apples, water, and a dash of lemon juice. I burnt my tongue tasting it too soon. I made it very smooth with a hand blender, and it even passed muster with super-picky DD12, who now takes some to school for lunch. Gotta get more apples, pronto. Also froze 8 quarts of lovely dark pork stock, a monthly task, this time from New Year's pork bones I got at market.

Cooked: Once in a while I have a day where I just want to cook everything. I think it was the new silicon baking mats. I made Sweet Potato Biscuits early on, and then DH was going to meet friends for a 'Guys Night Out', so I had 'Girls Night At The Stove'. I made a big batch of mincemeat cookies, baked sweet potatoes, and tried a tomato lentil soup recipe from the NYT (blah). DD12 made tortilla pizza. Mom peeled all my apples and I made applesauce to split with her. We didn't can it, since we are sure we can each eat a quart in a week or so. Fed the worms under the table. Mom crashed watching Wall-E, so we tucked her in DD12's bed for a sleepover. She says she doesn't want to stay the winter, but I think she likes coming over if she doesn't "have to."

I've said a couple times that I want to learn making biscuits - no time like the New Year to get started. I started with an easy drop-biscuit recipe. The Sweet Potato Biscuits were very good, but they freakin' ROCK with Sunshine Jam! It's a great way to use up leftover holiday sweet potatoes. DH also made a Roast Pork for New Year's Day, that was great with the Green Tomato Chutney I made this summer. I looove having jam and condiments I made myself!

Stored: Made a trip to the grocery liquidator, which is always fun. I feel like a total hunter-gatherer in there, since the merchandise changes all the time. I replenished a bunch of what we used in the past few months: a bale of toilet paper, 3 boxes of Total and Wheaties, 3 boxes stuffing (for DH), 2 bottles olive oil, 2 bottles balsamic vinegar, 6 big cans tomatoes, 6 cans paste, 6 cans cranberry juice concentrate, 2 big cans refried beans, 2 cans chick peas, 6 cans pumpkin, 3 cans turnip greens, cream of coconut, 2 lbs. raisins, 2 boxes of saltines, 5 boxes dehydrated mincemeat, 1-lb canisters of cinnamon and ground black pepper.

DD12 is packing her lunches now, so I picked up some small bottles of 100% juice and 3 boxes of chewy granola bars. She has a reusable water bottle, but I only want water in there, so I plan to reuse these small bottles. I need to figure out how to make chewy granola bars for her, although for now, the $1.50/box at the liquidator may be less than I would pay for dried fruit and nuts.

I found a box of Kashi puffed whole grain cereal, which I want to turn into some kind of snack bar, like better rice crispy bars. I found one recipe on the Kashi website, but if anyone has other recipe ideas, please let me know.

Prepped: I guess this could be consider preparation, since it increases our health and self-defense capacities. DH signed us up to go back to Tai Chi and King Fu classes. DH and DD15 take Wing Chun kung fu, and all three of us do Tai Chi. DD12 doesn't want to do any of it, which bugs me, but she is old enough to stay home alone, so it is not an obstacle to the rest of us. The Wing Chun and Tai Chi classes are slightly different times. I will try to go 3x a week for an hour: Mon, Thurs, and Sat. DD15 and DH will hit different weekday classes around their work schedules, and we all go together on Saturday mornings - they do Wing Chun @ 10 while I warm up my joints, and we all do Tai Chi at 11. We all got a lot out of this when we did it for 9 months. We had to quit a year ago due to money constraints. It is on my wishlist, when we have a different house, to have space dedicated to tai chi and martial arts. DH wants a heavy bag and a wooden dummy, and I want a wall of mirrors. It would be also a good space for dance, indoor games, and to set up tables and chairs for events and gatherings. But, that's getting ahead of myself.

We had a snow storm Saturday, and the power went out briefly after dark. Just long enough for me to go "Uh oh - do I really know where the flashlights are?" It would have gotten cold fast, because we keep the house so much colder now. Less residual heat. I thought about the gas oven as a short-term solution - but it has an electric ignition. We are moderately well-prepared to leave in a hurry, to bug-out, but less prepared to stay than I'd like to think. We need to make the flashlights handier, and think about back-up heat in a rented house we cannot change dramatically.

DH added a few more items to our emergency bug-out kits: 6 decks of playing cards, all-weather notebooks and mess kits. I don't know if I would have purchased kits; I could have assembled them from used stuff. But I gave him a task and he is hard at it. We are missing the easiest part of the bug-out kits, simply putting a change of clothes and some toiletries in our four bags. Discussion revealed that none of us had pants that we could take out of our weekly rotation to leave in a bug-out bag for a whole season. We are short on pants, apparently. We decided to each chose a set of worn-but-serviceable clothing, and replace it by buying pants. I wear the same "uniform" all year - khakis and t-shirts. I add a sweatshirt in the winter, and wear a button-down shirt for meetings. I have a few dresses, but seldom have occassion to wear them. I've become quite utilitarian in middle age. I wear mostly the same brand of pants all the time - Denim & Co, sold on QVC, so the size is very standardized, and there are always returns available on eBay. DD15 is taking mid-term exams this week, but when she is done, I think we need to have a Bug-Out Packing Day.

Managed: I read an article about spoilage from Matron of Husbandry, and checked my squash more closely. I have two with bad spots at the stems. Time to make something. We don't like just plain squash, so I usually bake with it, but I keep reading that I should use canned to bake, for consistent water content. Guess it will be soup!

Saved two spoiling apples by making apple bread pudding with stale whole wheat bread. In the fridge, we lost a partial jar of apple butter to mold. I should put it in half-pint jars from now on, since we don't eat it fast enough. I found a chunk of blue cheese between the tortilla bags. So, is extra mold on the outside of moldy cheese bad, or not? I saved it for research purposes.

Reduced, Reused, Recycled: DD12 proposed a family fast food challenge that will hopefuly reduce our family's contribution to plastic in the world. I turn down plastic bags everywere. One market produce vendor wanted to put each veg in a separate baggie, and seemed resistant to just putting them naked in my canvas bag. The spinach comes in a plastic clamshell. I must grow my spinach next year.

Local Food Systems: I was offered a free place to stay in State College for the PA Sustainable Agriculture conference in February. That makes it so much more affordable for me! I am planning to network and gather resources for my food discussion group, bulk buying coop, and youth food workshop series. I went to Penn State in the 80's, so I am looking forward to seeing how it has changed. My hosts heat with a wood stove, so I will get to see what that is like in the depth of winter in the Pennsylvania mountains. I keep running into these solutions for my little problems; I must be going in the right direction.

Learned: DH started his EMT training course. He already updated his CPR skills and got certified for that, in the first class. One of the trainers said, "I'm 73 and I can tell immediately who will make it and who will not. I see 9 in this class of 48 that won't make it - you are not one of them." Although, I have to quietly snicker when I see on his schedule that there is an OB/GYN segment. DH grew up in a house of only men. The discussion of anything menstrual squicks him, unless it benefits him directly - as in warnings like, "Look out! It's PMS week!". He says he will have to "do some growing." Hee hee!

Library: I will be busting my butt to finish reading Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Sunday morning for the church book club. I have not been buying books much lately. I need to get back in the habit of working on my list.

Behavior: I am making a new Challenge category for myself. Sharon recently added "Regeneration" but I haven't been able to wrap my head around that. But my family is engaged in several behavior changes, so it seems more useful to track that. I am doing OK, but not great with oatmeal. I have to take a pill when I wake up, and wait an hour to eat. The problem comes when someone else wakes up, and wants to make breakfast. I end up saying "Sure, I'll have what you are making." I am the only oatmeal eater. Maybe I can have oatmeal for lunch on days when that happens.

The fast food challenge went OK for everyone but DD12, who is the one that proposed it. That raised the problem of her very picky eating again. She didn't pack a sandwich for that scrapbook thing, and I did. She wanted a burger on the way home, and I bought it for her. I have to deal with my own issues about letting her experience "starving" if I want her doesn't plan and eat better. On the plus side, she tried eating raw spinach and liked it. That's pretty big.


fullfreezer said...

Wow! You are busy! I like your behavior category- I, too, have been having trouble wrapping my head around the regeneration one. I think it is another one of those categories that will be easier when I can work on regenerating my garden by using all that wonderful compost and such.
As far as alternative heat goes, we also don't have back up heat. I would love to install a wood stove but that would mean building a new chimney- something we're not willing to do right now- especially since we hope to sell soon. One thing we have found works fairly well for brief periods is using oil lamps. We sometimes light the lamps and candles in the evenings and it actually warms the house a bit- enough to keep the furnace from running. It wouldn't be enough to keep the whole house warm but would be enough to keep us alive and if we placed them strategically would possibly be enough to keep the pipes from freezing.
I also have a squash that I need to use. We like them peeled, diced and roasted. I make a mix of winter veggies and toss them with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and a bit of dry rosemary and roast it in the oven. The squash gets a bit sweet from the roasting but also takes on the savory flavors of the onion and garlic. We really like it that way and even I11 will eat it!
Have a great week. Keep up the good work.

Matriarchy said...

Yeah, it does seem like we are suddenly super-busy. Everyone had something they wanted to start doing. Had the first tai chi and kung fu classes last night. I'm a little sore, but we all agreed it was good to be back.

Today I am hammering away at the computer all day, and tomorrow I am taking a bus trip to our state farm show most of the day. Looking for potential vendors for the food coop I am starting.

I will try your squash recipe. I think DD15 and I will eat it, but DH is weird about squash. Worse with summer squash, but not happy with winter. Only pumpkin. I've still got 4 large-ish squashes in the cellar.

Anonymous said...

Very good week, I'd say :-) YEY for the free place to stay in the PA conference, that is amazing, and I think it really speaks to your commitment to sustainability that poeple would do that. I'm impressed by how your DDs are joining your efforts and really thinking through ways to change the family's lifestyle. How did you decide what to put in your emergency bug-out kits?
Your post about Matron of Husbandry makes me remember I have to get my own IDChallenge post up - a large part of the week was managing - perfect example of how the challenge helps keep me on my toes :-)

Anonymous said...

You always do so much! Good luck with the Tai Chi. I am trying to get back into a regular fitness routine and one thing I do love is yoga.

Not sure what kind of squash you are storing, but we recently made Southeast Asian Squash Curry and it was really, really good. The recipe is on epicurious. My husband and I really enjoy Indian and Asian flavors, so I am trying to incorporate integral condiments/ingredients from those cultures into our stores (such as they are at this point). Another way to prepare squash (we usually do this with acorn or similar) is just to wash, slice, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. It's so yummy and pretty too, since the peel is still on. The flesh will pull right away from the peel, so no worries there.

To help your daughter with the Family Challenge--could you keep some granola bars, etc. in the car that you could offer her when she doesn't remember to pack food? If she refuses, too bad, but you can feel a little better about passing up the fast food restaurants knowing that there is food available and that she is "starving" by choice and not because there's nothing to eat. That was generally my mother's approach.

I like the behavior category. I think that, for myself, I will make it behavior/attitude. I'm finding that what I need most often is to adjust my attitude and come to terms with reality and work from there, rather than go forth holding up some kind of Platonic ideal. You seem to have a firm grip on reality, which I admire. :)

Gina said...

Just love your IDC updates-so detailed!

I like the behavior catagory too and think I will add it to mine if you don't mind. Like all of you, the regeneration one seems like a repeat of the 3R's (or at least that is how I view it). I guess for me the challenge is regenerating my good behavior and not feeding the "bad".

Look forward to reading about week 36!