Thursday, May 31, 2012


Last weekend, I finally had to admit it: my favorite old leather sandals are kaput. Done for. Rolled up the curtain and joined the choir invisible.

I bought these sandals when we first moved to Jay, and I wore them every summer. I wore them throughout the summer when I was pregnant with Colden. I wore them to Texas numerous times, to Bead Fest Philly when I taught there, and to California. I've worn them out in the boat and the canoe, and I've worn them for trekking around New York City, shopping for beads.

I think I only paid around twenty bucks for them, so you can say I've gotten my money's worth. Only problem is that now that I know I have to replace them, I can't find anything as well-made in a similar style. Do a search for women's sandals on Amazon or Zappos, and all I get are these sky-high platform crappy sandals that look more suited for a ten minute strut on the catwalk than a walk in the woods.

However. Last fall, I bought a pair of Merrells loafers from a store up in Malone, and I am absolutely in love with them. I did a little search on the Merrells website and found these beauties:

And while they're a little sportier than I'd like, I think they'll work just fine. Not sure if I'll be able to just slip into them the way I could slip into my old pair.

When I told Tom that I wanted to replace my old sandals with a pair of Merrells, he said, "Expensive. Those are top-of-the-line, you know." Of course, I know they're top-of-the-line. I'm sure if I spent another twenty bucks on a pair of sandals, I'm most likely not going to get the same kind of mileage out of them. So I'd rather spend a little extra money and have a pair that I can rely on, year after year.

Wonder what new adventures my new sandals will have in store for me...?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sour Dough Starter

Because I was soooo happy with my homemade English muffins, I decided that the next thing I want to try is to make my own sourdough starter. Years ago, when I worked in non-profit environmental management, someone gave me a wonderful sourdough starter in a gallon-size plastic bag. We used it for a few years before it got trashed when we moved from Lake Placid to Jay, but sourdough bread is still some of my favorite bread.

The book that contained the recipe for the English muffins has a fabulous section on breads and bread dishes, and the directions for sourdough starter looked so easy! So, off I went, measuring the temperature of the water and measuring out the yeast and flour.

I put everything in a bowl and covered it with plastic wrap, just like the directions said. As to putting it in a mildly warm (about 74 degrees F) place, that was kinda hard, since we don't use air conditioning in this house, and the whole place is about 85 degrees right now.

I guess I should have read those directions a little more carefully, since it specified a two quart glass dish. I walked away for about forty five minutes and came back to discover THIS.

The blob! The Sourdough Starter That Ate Jay! Whatever it was, the stuff just totally took off and was pouring out the bowl, as I watched! I guess the yeast is good!

I scooped out as much as I could from off of the plastic wrap (I hate that stuff - whoever invented it should be killed) and put it in a much bigger, deeper glass bowl. I stuck it in a darker, hopefully cooler, part of the kitchen, where it still sits, bubbling and frothing its little heart out.

I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I'm getting so pumped to try my hand at baked goods, I've started scouring websites like Pampered Chef and Amazon, looking for baking stones and springform tart pans. I've read the recipes for breads in this cookbook so many times, I feel like I've got them memorized.

And just in case anyone is wondering which book I'm using, it's this one:

This was one of the first vegetarian cookbooks I bought when I decided to go totally veg. It's a wonderful book, with loads of easy (and not so easy) recipes. Diana Shaw's Essential Vegetarian Cookbook has been a fabulous friend to me these last ten years. I used many of the recipes when I was pregnant with Colden, and I think what I like best about it is that the ingredients she calls for in this book are things that I keep around the house pretty much all the time.

So, now I just need to be patient for another four or five days while the sourdough starter starts, and then this weekend, I'll be dipping into it to make a few loaves of our own crusty sourdough bread!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

English Muffins

There are really three things I want to write about here, but since that would make for one long-ass blog, I'll break them up.

The first is my English muffins. Divine!

I used whole wheat pastry flour from Essex Farm mixed with a little of the unbleached all-purpose we have leftover from our last ginormous bag. Moistened with yogurt from the farm and baked on a bed of stone-ground cornmeal, also from Essex Farm.

The dough came together pretty easy. I put it in a bowl and let it rise, just like the recipe directed me.

Then I rolled it out with my beloved wooden rolling pin, and Colden had a BLAST helping me cut the muffins out with a measuring cup/muffin cutter.

Look at that kid go!

We baked them according to the recipe, but discovered that our oven bakes at a hotter 400 degrees F than other ovens, so next weekend, I'll remember not to bake them for quite as long.

We could barely wait to try them as soon as they were out of the oven. I smeared mine with some of my friend Andrea's homemade, organic berry jam. It was like Heaven on a plate!

Tom and his fishing buddy enjoyed them, too, when they took a handful of them to make breakfast sandwiches before they went out on the lakes this weekend.

This weekend was insane. I kept Colden with me all day Friday, and we ran errands in town. Friday evening, Colden went fishing up at Lake Stevens with Tom and Claude and had SUCH a good time. Saturday was kind of a bummer for me, as I woke up with my first real ulcer attack in over a year and a half. I chugged down a glass or two of our pasteurized farm milk, and that cured me, so I figured it's just my ulcer acting up again. Drat.

Saturday night, I cooked a beautiful mushroom-goat cheese-Swiss chard tart and brought it over to Mona's house for a potluck and bonfire. Wow, was that fun! Hung out with some nice folks, had some amazing food, and dragged Colden and his little friends all over God's green Earth in the wagon that Mona had for the kids.

Sunday morning, Colden and I went into Lake Placid to get some more Pull-Ups. On Saturday, we had kind of a rough potty training day. We went through every single last clean pair of underwear, shorts, and pants that we own for Colden. Sunday morning, I woke up with another ulcer attack and though, you know what? I'm not doing this for the rest of the weekend. So there!

We stopped at Starbucks on Sunday morning, and the warm hot chocolate I bought instantly quelled the ulcer attack. Knock on wood, nothing today, so I'm hoping I've nipped it in the bud.

Sunday night, we went fishing again up at Lake Stevens. Sorta got skunked, since we only landed one fish. They just weren't biting. There was a supremely unpleasant family up there at the same time we were. One of the sons (about sixteen years old) yelled to his father across the (very tiny) lake (more like a pond, actually) that he needed some help with his fishing line. The father yelled back, "No way, no! I am not going to help you!" I don't know what was going on there, but we half expected to see NJ plates on their big truck. (Sorry, nothing against NJ folks. I grew up there, you know. It was folks like this that give the state a bad name amongst the locals up here!)

After fishing, we went to the Whitebrook Dairy Bar where we treated ourselves to some yummy soft serve ice cream. Colden had his cup finished before we even got home!

Monday morning, while Tom and Claude made one last trip around to go fishing before Claude went home, Colden and I headed over to the Lake Everest (dammed-up river) beach with some friends for a play date. Just goes to show how long it's been since I've been at the beach: I didn't bring a chair, or a towel, or a change of clothes for the kid. Colden and his two friends had such a BLAST in the water - they couldn't actually go in swimming, since the levels were down because of work going on at the dam further downstream -  but they did discover that they could float their toys in the fast current until they just floated out of sight!

I quelled some of the crying by promising that Tom would look for the toys during one of this future fishing trips at the dam.

So today, it is disgustingly hot - like August - and we're under a severe thunderstorm and tornado warning until 9 p.m. tonight. This should be fun.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Well, maybe Ganesh knows something that I don't.

This morning, I got my latest order from Sparkle Spot Bead Shop down in Florida, which included three spools of their marvelous colored Fireline (squee!) and a sheet of Lacy's self-adhesive design paper.

The self-adhesive design paper is really quite something. You can draw on it or put it in a copier or put it in a printer and print your designs directly onto it, then remove the backing and adhere it to a piece of Lacy's Stiff Stuff. (Or, in my case, a piece of Nicole's BeadBacking, which I much prefer to the Stiff Stuff any day!)

My idea for the self-adhesive design paper was to take some of the amazing and awesome artwork of my friend Susan Tompkins and turn it into bead embroidered pendants.

I printed a test page just to make sure that I knew which way my printer was oriented, and discovered that my printer was not printing any of the vibrant reds in the pictures!

So I cleaned the print heads. I replaced the magenta cartridge. I cleaned the print heads again. I contacted Brother customer service and was told that I need to take my printer to a service center. Of course, the nearest service center is Williston, Vermont.

I don't think traveling to Vermont, paying $28 for a ferry ride and then shelling out x number of dollars to have a $50 printer repaired is a wise move at this time. I hate to say it, but I think this printer is bound for the thrift shop, and I'll shell out $60 for a new one at Staples next week.

I'm frustrated, to say the least, that I'll have to put off this particular project, but maybe that's a good thing. I've got three more projects sitting on my table right now: my challenge piece for the Oct/Nov issue of Beadwork magazine (which needs to find its merry way to the Loveland office before June 12); a piece I've been tossing around in my head made from Twins and two-holed freshwater pearls that I picked up in Tucson; and not least of all, my piece for the Battle of the BeadSmith!

I did a little experiment for my Battle piece, and I'm pleased to say that with a bit of tinkering, I should be able to pull this one off. My technique for this needs to be flawless, so I'm a little nervous about that. I've never been particularly good at this technique, but I'm determined. Even if it means having to wear Band-Aids on my fingers for the next few weeks because of all the cuts I'll give myself by tugging on the Fireline, I'm going to do it.

That said, I took a few minutes last night before dinner to finish assembling this piece:

There are all those Czech glass stones that I've bezeled! Connected with vintage Czech glass pearls and finished with a vintage Vermeil clasp from A Grain of Sand. I have absolutely no idea where I'm going to be able to wear this, but a friend on Facebook suggested to a potluck dinner and bonfire tomorrow night. Ha!

Tom and his friend Claude have taken Colden fishing for a little while, so I am enjoying some veg-out time on the computer and catching up with things.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Warning: Childhood Rant

A couple of days ago while I was having my lunch, I was browsing some of the stupid articles on Yahoo. One that caught my eye was, "Eight Skills Your Child Should Have Before Kindergarten".

And I thought, really? Aside from being able to go to the bathroom by themselves, what skills does a kid need for kindergarten?

Photo courtesy of
Colden goes to preschool now. At his preschool, they have a wonderful routine: the morning starts with some outside play (unless it's bitterly cold or pouring rain), and then they have a welcome circle where they sing songs and dance and say good morning to each other. After that, it's time for a little free play where they can pull out the toys, or they have an activity. (Art, painting, bread making, pizza making, etc.) Then they have a snack and a story, and then more outdoor play. If the kids are staying a full day, then they go inside and help serve up a good lunch, and then it's time for another story and some time to rest and/or nap. After the nap, it's back outside for some more outdoor play, weather permitting, and then it's time for parents to come pick up.

Since he's begun this program, even just a few days a week, he's learned to tell his left from his right. He can use the bathroom (mostly) without help. He learns a new song practically every day, and he sings loud and proud when we're in the car or making dinner or setting the table. He's learned that trees can be turned into wood and furniture, or burned for heat. He's learned that plastics are made from oil. He's learned an awful lot by just running around outside with his friends, playing in the dirt, and singing songs.

I should mention that the food being served is REAL food. Things like eggs and potatoes, oatmeal (not instant processed from a package), fruit, pasta and veggies, veggie sticks, vegetable soup with kid-made bread. That kind of stuff. No mac and cheese from a box, no hot dogs, no french fries.

But I digress. Back to their "skills".

This article stated that before they start kindergarten, kids should know how to carry a tray loaded with lunch items like milk box and eating utensils; using glue; and being able to draw shapes. It stated that "the days of play based learning and naps are over, replaced by desk work".

For real? Are you kidding me?

When I was in kindergarten, we didn't have desks. Hell, we only had one table in the whole classroom, and it was only for art projects. We ran around. We sang songs. We played with Light Brights and read books. (Well, I read books, because I knew how to read at the tender age of four, according to my parents.) We ran around outside on the jungle gym and played kickball.

We didn't have work sheets or homework. We rarely, if ever, did anything that looked like math. We were in KINDERGARTEN, for crying out loud!

What ever happened to letting kids be kids? Are we really going to impose our crazy adult-competitive-world-insanity on our children now?!

This kind of thing makes me just chafe at the idea of sending my kid to a kindergarten where he'll be expected to sit at a desk for six hours a day. It makes me want to enroll him instead in a Waldorf-based program, where the kids don't have to sit and look at books all day - unless they want to - and instead learn and develop their intellectual capacity by DOING things and interacting with the world around them.

I can't help but wonder if all this ADHD stuff is the direct result of trying to turn our kids into little grown ups. Hell, even *I* can't stay focused some days. (Hence this second blog post in one morning, ahem.) Does that mean I need to be drugged up so that I can turn into some screen-gazing zombie all day? I think not.

Little kids are full of energy. They need to run around and play and experience things - that's how little kids learn. Little kids do not learn when you stick a book under their nose and tell them to read. Some grown ups don't even learn that way!

And you wonder why kids have behavior problems? We're trying to turn them into something that they're not. We're crushing their spirits.

And quite frankly, if my kid can't draw or carry a tray before he gets to kindergarten, well, that's just fine with me.

Battle of the Beadsmith

So, where has this week gone? I have absolutely no idea. One of Tom's college buddies is coming up for the long weekend for fishing, and Tom is in panic mode once again about the state of the house. It's not that bad, even though the bathroom is in definite need of a little cleaning, and I have to do some straightening up in the finished basement.

But before that, there are three things that I need to finish writing for work, and my brain is completely backfiring on me. Completely. I'm hoping that if I do a quick blog (or two) over here that the words will kick my brain into gear and I can finish what I need to before my "vacation" next week.

A few weeks ago, I woke up one morning to discover that I had been invited to participate in the Battle of the Beadsmith on Facebook. I had some reservations at first about joining the competition, but after a much-needed talk with a good friend (you know who you are), I realized that it was probably just my hormones and my insecurities getting the better of me, and I decided to join the fray.

The competition works by elimination. Each artist who entered has been paired up with another artist for the initial round, starting July 10th. Votes will be cast, and one artist will be eliminated from each pair. The remaining artists will be paired up, more voting, and more eliminations, etc., until someone is chosen the winner.

Truthfully, I'm not planning on making it past the first round (!), but last night, I finally had the perfect idea for my competition piece. And I need to get started on it. Now. I can't go into details, I can't show you any previews, but let's just say that this is going to be something that is a little bit new for me. It definitely pushes the envelope when it comes to my beadwork, but I'm very excited about the possibility!

The only danger in this is that if I can't make this piece work, I'm going to be stuck. So I need to get playing with the ideas and the components NOW to see what works and what doesn't. June is an awfully short month, when you're at the end of May.

Steven Weiss, the organizer of this amazing collection of talented beaders, has been playing with the photos of our beadwork that he's been sharing with the group. I was totally delighted yesterday to see what he did with my Azteca collar!

Gotta love those iPhone apps, eh?

What else is on the agenda for today? A lot. Quality time with the camera, quality time with Colden, trying to fit in a little bit of beading time, and a lot of blogging and writing for today. Next week is going to be all about the beads, for sure. I've got some tutorials I want to get finished up and into my Etsy shop, including the eBook!

Completion of the eBook was delayed yesterday, for one reason. Okay, well, twelve reasons.

I finally figured out how to create a netted beaded bezel that wasn't completely ugly. And they worked up so quick (about fifteen minutes each) and the colors were so much fun that I just couldn't help myself. The pieces have all been joined, except for the last one that is to be used as a drop, and then a quick right-angle weave strap to attach the vintage Vermeil clasp, and I've got a necklace that looks like a combination of Sabine Lippert and Mikki Ferrugiaro! No idea where I'll ever get to wear this beauty, but boy, I better find someplace. Even if it's just to the farm to pick up our food this weekend.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What's for dinner?

Our great experiment with weaning ourselves off of grocery store food continues. We've had to make a couple of trips to the store in the last couple of weeks, because really, I can't just feed my family sorrel, bread, and potatoes all week. But I am getting some great inspirations for cooking dinner using what we have on hand, and not going to the store specifically for one or two items.

Tonight's dinner was probably the best idea that I've stolen from a cookbook in a long time: a potato, red pepper, and Gruyere tart, with a side of leftover cucumber salad that has been jazzed up with a handful of fresh pea shoots.

The idea for the tart wasn't entirely my own. I'm a huge fan of author and cook Mollie Katzen, and in one of the many cookbooks by her that I own, there's a recipe for a potato, red pepper, and Gruyere tart. I changed the recipe a little bit, using the Russet potatoes that we got from the CSA instead of red new potatoes, and instead of a tart crust, I used a loaf of bread that Tom made over the weekend.

Tom has been experimenting with the many flours and grains that we have available to us through the CSA, and this one came out a bit...flat. Literally. Instead of poufing up into a nice, fluffy loaf, it came out flat and cracked. But no worries! I sliced off the top bit, hollowing it out a bit. I put the potato slices and red pepper slices in a deep skillet and boiled them for about twenty minutes in vegetable broth. Then I removed them with a slotted spoon, piled them on top of the bread, covered it with waaaaaay too much Gruyere, and baked it for ten minutes until that cheese got so gooey and melty, I thought I was going to swoon. Delicious!

I stretched out the leftover cucumber salad from last night with a big handful of the fresh pea shoots, also from the CSA. Cucumbers, tomatoes, yellow peppers, and just a tiny hint of oil and vinegar made this absolutely the most refreshing part of last night's dinner.

And of course, when I told Colden and Tom that dinner was ready, I was told by my four year old, "No, that's okay, Mommy, you go ahead - me and Daddy are too busy, gardenin'!" So, once again, I am eating dinner alone while the boys run around outside.

To be fair, it was an exceedingly beautiful day today. Here is Moose, our very own canine solar collector:

Had a wonderful chat with a good friend tonight who I miss very, very much, and had an extremely productive day at "work". If you can call it that. It was a good day.

How to Bezel Practically Anything

That's the name of an eBook I'm finishing up this weekend, getting ready to double check my instructions and put it in PDF format for downloading in my Etsy shop. And even though I covered making beaded bezels in peyote stitch, brick stitch, herringbone stitch, right-angle weave, and bead embroidery, I could NOT for the life of me figure out how to make a beaded bezel using netting stitch that wasn't completely fugly.

Thankfully, I figured it out, just in time to get up and make dinner. (It figures, right?) But I did it, and I can't show you a picture just yet, but no worries, it should be up and ready before next week!

Lots of blogging to do this week, and newsletter-making, and Hootsuiteing, in preparation for my vacation next week. Going to take a week off, focus on my beadwork, write up some new tutorials, get ready for my farmer's market season, and prepare for my upcoming trip to NYC to see the fab duo of Betcey Ventrella and Nikia Angel! I got to meet up with both of these amazingly talented ladies in Tucson back in February, and I can't wait to spend a weekend beading with them in NYC in June!

Lots more to write about, but it'll have to wait for, until then, bead happy, friends! It's a beautiful day!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Summer Porch

Since we're pretty much past the nights of freezing temperatures (except for the odd frost warning here and there), Tom decided that today was the day to put all the plants back on the porch for the summer.

You can see why we love it out here. This is where we eat most of our meals and do our socializing in the warmer months. It's like a little mini jungle with all the lush greenery, and the furniture is actually quite comfortable. The wrought iron bench and table is where I like to set up shop on a warm summer day, with the ceiling fan spinning in lazy circles above my head to keep the air moving.

The view of the Jay Range from the big window to the south is almost distracting some days. All you can see is big, green mountains and blue sky!

Some friends gave us this big, antique-looking cabinet where we keep our collection of natural artifacts (sticks, rocks, an old paper wasp nest) and the egg collecting baskets. We also keep the bird seed in a big tin bucket on the bottom shelf.

Late at night during the summer, if Tom and I can stay awake, we move this candle holder to the metal table and light a candle while we listen to the sounds of a summer night. This is, I think, the third one of these that we've purchased since we moved to the Adirondacks back in 1999. The first two fell victim to unabashed doggy joy, first with Rosie, then with Moose. By the time the second one broke, the Mexican store in Saranac Lake where tom bought it had closed, and I don't remember where he found the replacement.

We've watched some crazy storms from that back porch in the last few years. When Colden was just six or seven months old, we watched a storm blow through that got so bad, we decided to take refuge in the basement until it was over. I remember when we came back upstairs, we discovered that the wind had been so strong that it knocked over the wood pile under the pole barn, and the metal pole of our clothes hanger was bent in half.

So, if you're looking for me this summer, chances are you'll find me out here on my back porch, most likely with my beads, my computer, and a big, cold drink.

After talking to a couple of folks this week, we seem to have come to a solution for the raw dairy problem. Tom got a gallon of raw milk from the CSA yesterday, and tonight or tomorrow, we're going to pasteurize it ourselves before we give it to Colden. I know the chances that we might actually get sick from the raw dairy are very slim, but still, it's a risk that I just can't justify.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On the Dairy Fence

So, we're going to head back to Essex Farm on Friday afternoon for our second pickup, but I still have a hard time with the idea of feeding raw (unpasteurized) milk to Colden.

I mean, part of it is probably because it's not a concept I'm entirely comfortable with, yet. All my life, I grew up eating pasteurized dairy and milk. I just took it for granted that my food was safe, because it came from the grocery store.

But these days, with all the crazy GMO cow feed and growth hormones floating around, who knows what affect that will have on our health in ten, twenty, or thirty years? It seems like every time I turn around, I hear about someone else who was diagnosed with a brain tumor, or cancer in some organ. And while medical science is doing a great deal to find ways to cure cancer, I have to wonder if maybe we should start spending more time looking at ways to prevent cancer, and taking a good, hard look at our food system.

So, really, does this mean that if I choose to feed my kid pasteurized milk from the grocery store that I'm just choosing a far-off risk over a more imminent one?

I read an article about raw dairy, and raw milk in particular, this afternoon. The author summed it up like this: drinking raw milk is like driving in a car without a seat belt. Chances are, you won't have an accident, but if you do, the consequences could be catastrophic. That sort of struck a nerve with me.

I wouldn't let my son ride in a car without his seat belt, so why would I feed him something that could potentially make him critically ill, or even kill him?

I don't want to raise my kid in a bubble, by any means. I don't want to be a fear monger when it comes to things like natural and organic foods. But I just don't feel like I have enough good information on this to make an educated decision, and when it comes to keeping my kid, my ONLY kid, safe, well, that's a pretty big deal.

I know that there's always a risk with food. Anything you eat has the potential to make you sick. Look at all the outbreaks of e.Coli in spinach and peanut butter in the last few years. Those foods are supposed to be safe, but when you industrialize your food system, you introduce a greater risk of disease on a wide scale.

So for now, we're going to keep feeding Colden milk from the store. I'll go out of my way to find organic milk, if that's what I have to do. But until I  know more, I just can't bring myself to take that chance with Colden.

If anyone reading has any experience or any more information on raw milk and raw dairy, please, send it on to me. I'd love to read more about this.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Morning

And I am so not into things. Went to sleep late last night because I was working on some brilliant, killer ideas I had. Woke up after only a few hours of sleep due to a graphic, full-color, horrific nightmare. (I swear, if I could write these up as horror movies and sell them to Hollywood producers, we'd be millionaires by now.) Dragged myself out of bed to hear Colden say, "Mommy, there's a MUSHROOM in my pull-up!", which meant, of course, that he FINALLY pooped - after holding it in for 8 days and repeated doses of stool softener/laxative.

Got Colden off to preschool, came home and made myself a nice, warm breakfast, and then called the pediatrician to find out what else we can do to prevent Colden from holding his poop in for a week at a time. Then called the insurance company to find out why the hell they paid my most recent claim to Adirondack Medical Center when the doctor that I saw has nothing to do with AMC.

The internet connection has been wonky here at the house this morning, too, adding to my frustrations.

Now I'm trying to get into the swing of things at work - deadlines, etc., - and thinking about my upcoming farmer's market season. I really need to get back to the markets this year. I have a ton of inventory sitting around, collecting dust (although I'd really like to keep half of it for myself), and I think we could use the extra money this summer with all the projects we have going on. (We need a new, bigger tiller for the gardens. I have a car payment now. We have Colden's preschool to pay for now.)

The first thing I need to do is get some new packaging and a new stack of business cards. I need to wash the table coverings and get a few new displays. I need to figure out my schedule for the summer and send in my membership fee to the market. I also need to round out my inventory a bit with a few new pieces - in all my spare time, of course.

On the recommendation of Michelle Mach, I've been reading this book called Creating Time.

It's actually a great book, full of useful ideas and exercises, but boy, it is NOT an easy read. It's slow going, which is a bit frustrating for me right now, being the excitable little grasshopper that I am...

At any rate. I need to get down to the post office quickly and check the mail, and then get into my first newsletters of the day. Lots of stuff to write, lots of beading to do, and lots of great things on the horizon! I need to find some energy from somewhere for today and just hope that Colden will allow Tom to do bedtime tonight so that I can get some rest!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dinner, Day 1: Asparagus and sorrel soup with whole wheat bread

Our dinner tonight, made with ingredients we picked up at Essex Farm yesterday:

After being obsessed with the taste of that sorrel, I decided to make an asparagus and sorrel soup and spoon it over rice. The only thing that I was disappointed about was that that delicious, lemony zing of the sorrel was somewhat diluted when I blended it up in the soup. I'm thinking that tomorrow night, I'll make a shredded beet and sorrel salad for dinner with a light dressing so I can really taste it.

The soup wasn't as easy as the recipe made it look. At the end of her book, Kristin said something about if you don't have an immersion blender, you need to drop everything and go get one. And she's right.

This soup required two turns in the food processor to blend it, and it didn't do a very good job. I want a new immersion blender. (We used to have one, a Christmas present from Tom the year I was pregnant with Colden, but according to Tom, "we" melted it in the dishwasher.)

Tom made two loaves of dense, crusty bread with the whole wheat flour we picked up yesterday, too.

We could hardly wait to taste the bread as soon as it came out of the oven! It was not like the whole wheat breads that Tom made with store-bought whole wheat flour. This was a fluffy, slightly sweet, very chewy loaf. I spread it with a little bit of the butter from Essex Farm, and dunked it in the soup.

All I have to say about that butter is, DAMN! That's some butter. Tom and I agreed that getting used to the strong, bovine-scented dairy products is going to be a big adjustment. My entire life, all my dairy products have been pasteurized and processed to within an inch of their lives, and the butter that comes out of a waxed paper wrapped just does not taste the same as the thick, musky, creamy stuff that comes out of the glass jar from Essex Farm.

I told Tom that I think the trick to getting used to these dairy products is going to be for me to use them sparingly. Just a pinch goes a long way, apparently!

I'm feeling better about the whole raw dairy thing now. I've done a lot of reading, and the health benefits of eating raw dairy definitely outweigh the risks, especially if the folks making the raw dairy (like Mark and his crew) know what they're doing. 

I was glad that we had some rice in the pantry, and sliced up a couple of the tomatoes from last week's grocery shopping trip to round out the meal. Desert was (what else?) leftover birthday cake.

Unfortunately, Colden had a major potty training meltdown and spent dinner in our room, watching How to Train Your Dragon. Oy.

We went to Max's birthday party this morning over at the Jay fire house, and Colden had such a blast!

He was so tired when we got home that he actually took a nap, after which he put his fireman hat on and ran around the backyard, "putting out fires". Everything was on fire - Moose, the chickens, the box elder tree...

Tomorrow, I tackle making my very first English muffins. No more buying those from the grocery store, either, and it's the only thing I can think to do with that buttermilk that looks more like yogurt!

To be continued...

Friday, May 11, 2012

First CSA Pickup

We headed out to Essex Farm this afternoon for our first pickup from the CSA. We were both a little nervous, I think, not knowing what to expect. We loaded up the car with our bags and glass dishes and plastic storage containers, and Tom brought the largest cooler we own.

It took a few minutes to find someone who could show us around, but finally, a lovely woman in her early 20s named Jen helped us get signed up and then showed us around.

The pickup area was set up with three refrigerated trailers. The first one was Dairy World.

In Dairy World, we picked up a half gallon of skim milk, a container of butter, a container of yogurt, two dozen eggs, and because we were new, buttermilk, two quarts of sour cream that wasn't being offered to the general membership this week. The place was freezing cold, and I'm sure it will feel great in the heat of August, but on this chilly May evening, my teeth were chattering.

Next we went over to Vegetable World, where we saw what was being offered. The veggie pickins were slim this week, but we picked up some beets and potatoes, a couple of huge red onions, two handfuls of the thickest, purplest asparagus I've ever seen, a few pounds of sorrel, and a huge handful of green onions. I was too chicken to put on a glove and grab a few handfuls of stinging nettles, though. (Maybe after I get a little braver.)

I asked Jen, our tour guide, about the sorrel. I've never eaten it before, and I was curious as to how it tasted, so she told me to take a nibble.

I crunched on a green leaf, fresh from the field, and tasted a wonderful, zingy, citrus tang. It was probably one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten. And now I can't stop thinking about how I'm going to cook this stuff up!

We moved on to Meat World, where I didn't really see anything that interested me, but Tom loaded up with some spicy sausage, spicy ground boar, pork chops, and a couple of packages of thinly sliced beef.

Our last stop was the container shed where they also stored the grains and dry beans. There were two kinds of dry beans, which we didn't take because we have so many dried beans stored in our cabinet right now. But there were five or six different kinds of flours, soft and hard wheatberries, corn meal, popcorn, and some kind of cracked soft wheat with the directions to soak 1/2 cup in 1 1/2 cups of water overnight, boil the next day, season, and enjoy.

We stocked up on some of the flours, all of which were milled right there on the premises. I'm looking forward to baking with those this week and practicing my muffin and biscuit making skills.

So. The bottom line. Our cost: $130. Was it worth it? I don't know. We certainly didn't get nearly as many veggies as we get at the store, so for this week, I'm going to have to dive into our own stores of canned vegetables from the garden, which is probably what everyone else is doing.

I'm also more than a little nervous about the idea of giving Colden raw dairy products like milk and butter and yogurt. Tom and Mark both reminded me that Mark's kids, about Colden's age, have had nothing but raw dairy from the farm their entire lives. Mark and Kristin have been doing this for seven years, and no one has ever gotten sick or died from any of their food. It's just as safe, if not safer, than the food we get from the grocery store. Tom said that he has no problems giving Colden raw dairy from the farm. And I know I need to get used to the idea, because it's something so completely different from what I know.

The dairy products are completely unlike any dairy that I've ever seen or tasted before. The sour cream? It's like toothpaste, thick and creamy and so much tangier than any other sour cream I've ever tasted. The skim milk tastes like our regular milk. The buttermilk? Forget about pouring it - I think this is going to be what I end up baking with all week. Even the yogurt is thicker and zestier than the stuff we've had from the store. Even the stuff labeled "USDA Organic" can't hold a candle to this stuff, fresh from the farm. It's definitely going to take some getting used to, particularly for me, the girl who doesn't like terribly rich food.

Because we have so much stuff stocked in our pantry right now (hoarded?), I don't think we'll have to do any grocery shopping this week, and I'm starting to realize that weaning ourselves off processed food is going to be more of a gradual process, instead of the leap off the cliff that I had imagined.

On our way out, we stopped in to leave some additional information for Mark, and we stopped at the plate of snacks they had out. One a large plate was sliced cheese, labeled, "Barbara's Mozzarella". We each took a piece to try it.

Well. That was the richest damn mozzarella cheese I've ever tasted. You could taste the milk fat in every bite, and it stuck in our throats to the point where we stopped at the first gas station/convenience store we found in Essex and bought a box of saltines to try to wash it down.

We now understand why people drink wine with *real* cheese: because the wine is really the only thing that will cut that taste of thick milk fat once you've swallowed the cheese!

And to celebrate our new commitment to local food? We went back to Tom's parents' house tonight to celebrate my birthday with pizza and cake.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


So, after my metrics meeting, I picked up The Dirty Life again and read a few more chapters. And now I'm starting to panic. This morning, Mona said that there's a lot of meat that comes from this CSA. And in the book, Kristin talks about eating things like beef heart, scrapple, livers, and kidney.

I've never been a fan of organ meat, even before my digestive system and my gallbladder decided to rebel. And now we're going to spend our grocery money on a diet that consists of largely meat? Am I fucking crazy?

We'll have to see after this Friday's pickup at the farm. I don't know if I'm starting to get cold feet or what. Now I'm starting to panic.


I've been hoarding seed beads for a long, long time, but today, I hoarded something else.

I had to make a quick trip to Target to get some Pyrex glass pans with lids for our first CSA pickup on Friday. Mark told me to bring a few Pyrex dishes with lids for the meat - and apparently, it's a lot of meat. We have exactly two glass dishes with lids, so I figured this would be a wise investment.

While I was there, I went down the dried fruit aisle. Every morning for breakfast, I usually throw a handful of dried cranberries into my oatmeal, along with some toasted pecans. No more grocery trips = no more cranberries and pecans. (Unless I buy the pecans from my friend in New Mexico who has an itty bitty pecan farm, but she doesn't have any pecans for sale at the moment.)

Long story short, I wound up buying half a dozen bags of cranberries and a few bags of pecans. Cost: $17. How long will they last me? I don't know. Hopefully, long enough to wean myself off the habit of eating pecans and cranberries on my oatmeal every morning.

Tom will probably flip out when he sees that I've hoarded these items, but I sort of feel like I need to hold on to something during the beginning of this experiment.

T-minus 48 hours until we begin...

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Experiment Update

I spoke with Mark over at Essex Farm yesterday morning, and Tom, Colden, and I are all heading out there on Friday afternoon to pick up our first week's worth of food from the Essex Farm CSA. Mark requested that we sample a week before we join, and we're eager to dive in, so this Friday, it is.

I've had a couple of people asking me questions about this whole diet CSA experiment. What about things like avocados, bananas, olive oil? We'll probably still splurge for those things once in a while, yes. But the idea is to wean ourselves off grocery store shopping on a weekly basis and to reduce our dependence on processed foods like breads, English muffins, and pasta. (Not that we eat a lot of pasta around here, but you get the idea.)

Truthfully, I'm a little nervous about this journey. I'm picturing some of my more spectacular and epic baking fails, wondering how I'm going to be able to make our own English muffins and breads and flat beads. I'm wondering what I'll do for a green salad in the dead of winter - the answer being, probably not eat any green salad, since it won't really be in season.

But then I thought a little bit about Colden, and what this will mean for him. It means: homemade jams and fruit preserves. Good, whole, food for our meals here at home. And it means that he gets to help us in the kitchen when it comes time to bake, cook, can, preserve, freeze, and store our food. It's a different kind of experience for him and for us. My memories of cooking in the kitchen when I was a kid consist of standing in front of the stove, flipping my mother's hamburger over and over until the damn thing was cooked, or watching her warm up a bowl of the blended pasta and vegetable gruel she would make for herself. (But that, and her eating disorder, is a whole other story.)

Tom has expressed doubts that I will be able to carry through with this experiment, but I'm determined. I will learn to like new things, and I'll help move my family towards a better model of sustainability. Yes, I will.

Sunday, May 06, 2012


Back when I was in college, I took a wonderful class on social ecology from an equally wonderful professor who also happened to be a Native American storyteller. You can imagine how much fun his classes were! I also have to admit that it was one of the more difficult classes I took in college - every exam was essay format, open book. And he expected citations to back up your arguments.

One of the things that I took away from that class was a whole new idea of what "nature" is and how it is defined. The class opened me up to the wonderful world of philosopher and activist Murray Bookchin, and his ideas on social ecology. (The late Mr. Bookchin also happened to give a series of lectures at the college while I was attending classes there, so I had the opportunity to hear him speak.)

This new idea of nature was not an easy one to wrap your head around. After growing up thinking that pavement and my little suburban neighborhood (and the bordering urban city) where not nature, I started to understand that we as humans beings, and by extension anything of our creation, are all included in the definition of nature. That means that the wrought iron bench on which I sit right now is included in the definition of nature. Our vehicles and our buildings can also be considered "natural", as they are the product of our imaginations, and human beings are natural beings.

So I sometimes find it ironic that I live in what's considered to be the East Coast's last great wilderness area, but I find myself plugged into a computer for 8 hours a day. Nature? Maybe. But here are some photographs of nature in my backyard, in the middle of this great, green wilderness I call home.

Tom planted this row of apple trees when we first moved into this house back in 2003. They were twigs, really, from the Arbor Day Foundation. We had a couple of years where the deer just nibbled them down to nothing, and Tom was afraid that they would die. But no, last year, we had our first couple of apples, and this year, they are positively loaded down with apple blossoms! Love those delicate pink and white flowers on the tiny branches.

Our backyard looks a little wild in spring, with its purposely neglected back acreage. We just let the wildflowers and trees grow. On a day when I need to get outside, walking through our yard can be just what I need to make me feel a little more in touch with the natural world around me.

And yes, this is natural, too. As natural beings, we rely on other organisms for food. This is the head of one of Tom's deer from last winter, wired into a tree while it decomposes. Tom uses as many parts of that deer as he can. The hides are turned into pillows, rugs, or blankets. The meat will last him and Colden through the winter.

Last but not least, my little man playing outside. To him, nature is everything. I love that his preschool places an emphasis on experiencing the outdoors. They don't need a lot of fancy playground equipment - a couple of big rocks for climbing, a huge sand pit for digging, a big open field, and a forest full of trails. So lucky that he gets to do this every single day. Where I grew up, experiencing "nature" like that was reserved for the long drive up to the environmental education center.

More of my thoughts on nature later, particularly about how they pertain to be continued!

An Experiment

My sister sent me my birthday presents a little early last week, and among them was a copy of this book, The Dirty Life, by Kristin Kimball.

Last summer, this book was EVERYWHERE up here. It was on NPR, it was in the news, it was in the local papers. Everywhere you looked, there was this book. And truthfully, I wasn't really interested in reading it, figuring that it was just another book about a wealthy Manhattanite who decided to move up to the "country" in the Adirondacks and spend their money farming.

But, no. The other night, I was totally exhausted after playing the second round of Hide and Go Poop with Colden and not sleeping at all the night before, and right after dinner, I put on my jammies and went to bed, feeling too tired to lift a limb.

My fingers, however, worked, and I decided to start reading the book from my sister.

It was totally NOT what I expected. Yes, she was from Manhattan, but this book wasn't just about ditching city life for country life. Kristin's husband, Mark, has a vision: about food, about farming, and about community. These are not people who came into farming with a load of money. But they came into it with a set of core beliefs, and those beliefs have led them to create the first total-diet CSA.

In case you're not sure what a CSA is, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It's the idea that a group of people will "subscribe" to a small farm and pay them for a share of whatever that farm produces on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis. Most CSAs provide vegetables, and sometimes meat, but Essex Farm produces its own flour, grains, three kinds of meat, over fifty kinds of vegetables, eggs, milk, and even soap!

After reading three chapters, I went to her website and looked up the CSA that she and Mark run out of Essex Farm. I checked the cost, and what at first seemed to be unaffordable turned out to be exactly what we spend per month on groceries.

So, I posed the question to Tom: what if we stopped going to the grocery store and instead lived off of whatever we got from this CSA? No more prepared foods. No more buying a pack of English muffins when we want a breakfast sandwich - I'd make our own with the flour. We'd make our own bread with their flours, too.

Once I showed Tom what we were spending every month on groceries and showed him what Essex Farm has to offer in terms of a total diet, he didn't need much convincing.

There's another reason why I'm so excited about the possibility of joining this CSA. Every time I turn around lately, I'm hearing about pesticides that are causing bees to die off; vegetables that have been genetically altered with unknown consequences; factory farming practices that are wreaking havoc with antibiotic resistant bacteria; outbreaks of e.Coli from vegetables, meats, eggs, and processed foods. It's not just that I'm being paranoid - these things are real. In this industrialized society, we just don't know where our food is coming from anymore. We even went so far this year as to buy non-GMO seeds for our own gardens, concerned about what we were growing ourselves.

With a small CSA like this one, we know exactly where our food is coming from. And we know who is growing it. We know how they are growing it, and we know that they aren't using commercial pesticides, fertilizers, and GMO seeds.

I'm wondering what our friends and family are going to say when they hear about this crazy plan. No more trips to the grocery store? Well, yes, we'll still need dog food and toilet paper and toothpaste, so yes, we will still be going somewhere to purchase those things. But what this means for us is a whole new layer of things to do in the kitchen.

Our plan, if they have a spot in the CSA for us this year, is to go to Essex Farm every Friday for the pick ups. Bring home everything we get, and then spend Saturday and part of Sunday cooking for the week, and freeze our meals ahead of time. Sundays will probably be spent baking everything we need for the week - muffins, breads, cookies, etc. I'll probably have to invest in a few more items of bakeware.We'll start making our own cheese and butter.

But the payoff? Locally grown, totally organic food, including meats. Sure, it'll take a little more time, and yes, it will cost more in terms of time. But for us, this is going to be a small step towards a life that will be happier and healthier for everyone.

And who knows? Maybe I'll start nibbling on some of that locally raised grass fed beef this summer...

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Something I Can't Live Without

My family.

This is an old picture of Tom and Colden, taken when Colden was about five months old, the week after my mom died. But still. Of all the things that I originally thought I couldn't live without (my hot chocolate, my beads, a warm bath or a hot shower, my favorite pair of jeans), this is the only one that really makes sense. I can survive without all of those other things, but without my family, I'm nothing.

Friday, May 04, 2012


This is how my son colors inside the lines.

I bought Colden a new coloring book yesterday while we were at Michael's, complete with its own set of markers. He was so excited, and I think he was still feeling a little punked out after his latest bout of How Long Can I Hold My Poop In, so he started coloring pretty much as soon as we got home.

I hope my colors his life inside the lines like this, too. It's not fun to stay inside the lines all the time. Sometimes, you gotta venture out and see what's there.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

My Hometown

For this photo-a-day challenge, today is supposed to be a photo of your home town. I'm still going back and forth about that, since I've lived here in Jay for nearly twelve years now, but I still think of my home town as Maplewood, N.J., where I grew up.

A couple of years ago, I made a trip into NYC for a seminar when I was working at, and while I was there, I took an extra day and revisited some of my old haunts in Maplewood. This is a shot of Maplewood Village, the "old" downtown area full of shops and cafes and restaurants.

I was happy to see there was still an independent book shop in town. When I was a kid, this place was called The Book Stop, and my parents would bribe us to clean up our room by offering a reward of ten new paperbacks each to my sister and I if we complied. (And then, of course, we had twenty new books with which to mess up our bedroom all over again!)

The Maplewood train station and some of the artwork that adorns the walls of the passage between tracks.

My old street and the house where I grew up. The house is for sale again, if anyone is interested. I think the asking price is $350,000. And the inside looks nothing like it did when we were living there.

I don't have too many photos of my current home town of Jay. But here are a couple of pictures of a crazy snow storm we had back in 2011.

This was our road at ten a.m. on the morning of a blizzard. It was one of those mornings where it was perfectly safe to just walk out into the middle of the road, since the snow was coming down so hard and so fast and it was so quiet that you could hear a car or a plow coming from miles away.

And our house in that same blizzard. It was one of those winters where it felt like everything was going to be covered in snow forever, and you almost forgot what the sun looked like. Thankfully, we have our wonderful wood stove to provide heat and light through the darkest days of winter.

On to other things today... Have to try to get some beadwork done, have newsletters to proof out to the team, and Colden is home with a case of self-imposed constipation today. That should make for an interesting blog.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

One Year

One year ago today, I walked into the offices at Interweave Press in Loveland, Colorado and straight into the Job of My Dreams. For real. I regret that I didn't take too many pictures of my time in Colorado during that first week of orientation, but the memories are still as fresh as they were when I got home a few days later.

Since then, I have been having such an awesome time at Beading Daily: beading, writing, putting my statistical analysis skills to good use, and just generally getting to do a whole lot of cool, cool stuff. So this morning, to celebrate, I started off with an early morning hair appointment.

Purple! My hair is now purple! I've never, ever dyed my hair before. And now I have. And it's purple, and I love it.

Colden smiled when I picked him up at lunchtime from preschool, and he called out to his friend, "Hey, Cooper, come look at my mom's hair!" So freaking cute!

I love the color. Love it, love it, love it. I've never thought that I'd be daring enough to do something like this, but hey - I'm almost 38. And why the heck not? Holly at River Rock Salon is an amazing hair and makeup artist, and I put myself entirely in her hands and trusted her completely. She mixed two colors together to get this wonderful shade of purple, highlighted my natural deep brown, and let my grey hair take up a lot of the color. That woman totally knows what she's doing!

So, to add one more thing to my pile of "to do" items...

A photo and a blog post every day - why not, right?

I hope I'm not cheating, but I'll use today's new-hair-coloring photograph as #1 and #2 on the list. A new self-portrait, with my Favorite Color of the Moment: purple.

Colden always asks what my favorite color is, and it's hard for me to answer with just one! I love so many different shades of brown, pink, purple, green, and blue... They're all wonderful in their own way, and it's hard for me to choose one, unless it happens to be the one that I'm using at the moment.

Tomorrow's photo will be a little more difficult, but I think I can find something. For now, back to work!