Friday, January 22, 2010

This is not a stunt!

I've been struggling to find my energy and motivation to get up and get things done around here lately, mainly in the garden, but also around the house. I'd really like to organize and simplify, since physically ordered things in my environment seem to have a direct impact on reducing my mental clutter.

In my search for motivation & energy, I've upped my vitamin D intake, bought some fresh flowers for the house and have taken to reading more books on the subject of simplifying, taking control and otherwise sorting out one's life. Unfortunately, more and more of these books that lure me in with their supposed tales and tips of a streamlined and fulfilling life are really just "stunt books".

Two of the best known of these stunt books are Julie & Julia, and my beloved Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In A,V,M, the author challenges her family to adhere to a relatively strict set of rules for living a low impact lifestyle for a set period of time - one year. Though I really do love that book and found it highly motivating at this time last year, in the wake of its success, a landslide of less than stellar copycats have hit the market and I just keep on falling for 'em, only to be disappointed by how shallow and insincere that most of them turn out to be.

The latest such book touted "live better with less!". Naturally, I had to check it out. Yeah... no.

The author chose one item/service/habit to give up for one month at a time for a year. Some of her sacrifices included giving up reading the New York Times for a month, not eating chocolate, not swearing, etc. Another title follows a woman's "experiment" to live her life per the doctrine of Oprah. While there's nothing wrong with experimenting with changes in one's lifestyle and habits, I find these sorts of choices being represented as meaningful or worse still as "sacrifice" to be downright offensive. If you want to try something new in your life, go for it! If it works out, great! If not, well, it was worth trying. However, not every half-baked crack at being a vegan, buying a farm or giving up coffee deserves a book deal. It completely devalues the actual sacrifice and hard work of good folks trying to improve their lives and change the world for the sake of bettering it, not for just landing themselves a fat paycheck.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Veggies on the Sly

I successfully snuck a parsnip into tonight's mashed potatoes, completely unnoticed by anyone, hubby included. Woohoo! I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I'll sneak their veggies and vitamins into them however I can.

I only wish that our foray into green smoothies had gone as well. I honestly didn't mind drinking mine, but the girls claimed that they could taste the spinach, and declined to drink more than a single sip. I'll keep tweaking the formula to see if I can come up with something that they actually enjoy the taste of. I'm also going to be on the lookout for a gently used vitamix blender, as my kitchenaid blender just can't liquefy the leafy greens completely enough to make a truly smooth smoothie.

Even if I never get the kiddos to come around on the green smoothie thing, I will continue to sneak clandestine veggies into every little thing that I can until they are brave enough or old enough to appreciate the taste of vegetables. If they only knew how many greens and veggies that they "don't like" went into the spaghetti sauce that they LOVE, they would pass out.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Dangerous New Toy

This past Christmas I received my much longed for ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchenaid stand mixer. Last night we finally broke it in.

We made the standard vanilla ice cream recipe, and in the last few minutes of the freezing/mixing phase, we threw in some diced canned peaches. Oh, mama...

It is SO GOOD. The only downsides to having this miracle device in my home are:

A) We're going to gain some weight.

B) Spontaneity is not allowed. You have to chill the freeze bowl for at least 15 hours before using it, and the cooked custard (at least for this recipe) needs to cool for 8 hours before throwing it in the freeze bowl to mix. So, you basically need a whole day's advance notice in order to whip up some ice cream.

C) The ingredients are pricey. We spent about $7 on the ingredients for this batch. Had we not had our own eggs - this recipe calls for eight yolks - it would have been more.

Having further perused the recipe booklet, it's looking like sorbet will be a lot simpler and cheaper to make, not to mention way less fattening, therefore I see us eating more sorbet than ice cream, but it's nice to have options. I've got so many potential flavors in mind that I don't know where to begin - espresso & Irish cream, tiramisu, huckleberry sorbet... It's a good problem to have.

Blackberry Battle Royale

I am posting these pictures of the back of my garden to shame myself into whipping it into shape.

Garden of Weedin' indeed!

It's too bad that it didn't occur to me to take a true "before" picture before I started whacking away at the evil wild blackberries. Then you could have appreciated it for the jungle 'o thorns that it was/sort of still is. In addition to the uninvited and VERY hard to kill Himalayan blackberry, we also have ourselves a giant clematis in need of something to climb, and an out-of-control female kiwi (who also would benefit from having something to climb) who probably needs a trim, though, because I'm terrified of killing her, hasn't received one. It took me about an hour to remove one wheelbarrow full of blackberry vines before I had to take a little self-imposed time out/ice cream break. And here I am delaying my return to battle further by telling you my tale of prickly woe.

The plan is, after clearing out the invasive weeds and other unchecked plant life, we will attempt to assemble and erect the pergola (from a kit) that I bought over a year ago. Oh, yes, we have great plans for this sad little patch of weeds. Hopefully by summer's end, we will have transformed that little corner of chaos into a peaceful little garden hideaway. That's the plan, anyway.