Friday, April 29, 2011

Chickadee-dee-dee at the Lib-rare-eee-eee-eee

I noticed two chickadees systematically investigating all the new buds on a tree in front of the library.  It was very, very systematic.  There is no other way to describe it.  They started at the trunk and moved out to the tips of the branches, stopping at each new budding green along the way.  I don't know what they were up to exactly, but it caught my attention.  I stood and watched for a while and they didn't seem to give me any notice. 

Then I thought, Aha!  this is the time to get a decent chickadee photo.  Chickadees are one of my all time favorites but are harder than heck to photography because they are small and always on the go.  These two were more of less staying put, or at least following a pattern in their movements.  However, by the time I went back in and then out again with my camera they were gone.  Drats!  Oh well!

Then I noticed one fly above the library's front doors and lo and behold...they are making a hole there!

These are not the first birds to try nesting in our, apparently, soft walls.  We've have flickers and nuthatches attempt it before.  The nuthatches were probably the most exciting.  The flicker was the loudest.  In any case, these aren't the first and I doubt they'll be the last.

I am sure the building maintenance people would disapprove, but I thought it was neat.  I hope they stay (I mean they already MADE the hole!) and then I can enjoy have a nesting cavity nearby to observe over the coming seasons.  Even if they do go, it was still neat to watch them hollow out the space on a sunny day.  Mouthful by mouthful.  It is impressive.

Chickadees are my grandmother's favorite bird too.  I am glad we share that connection.  They are so cheerful and lively. 

"Was Beth in the Backyard Picking Dandelion Greens?"

Over the winter I had brought to my attention the notion of eating "weeds," something I'd never thought to consider before.    Of course, I couldn't really put it into practice because I hadn't seen anything remotely green (save the evergreen trees) for months.  Now....spring is here!  Green is back.  Things are growing and budding and blooming.

So, day before last I went out in the backyard with a big kitchen bowl and started picking the dandelion leaves that are growing like crazy back there.  (Seriously, we have quite the patch of them)  I've read they are best when they are young, especially before the flower starts to grow and blossom, and that is just the conditions in my yard.  So, I went a picking.

It was really relaxing and didn't take long at all before I had more than enough for Matt and I and our friend, Derek, who would be coming over for dinner. 

I hear there are many benefits of eating wild things over cultivated things.  The wild things are stronger and more nutritionally robust because they have to be.  They have to fend for themselves.  They are not "pampered" and given exactly the "right" conditions.   My only caution is to be sure that the area where you are picking from has not been treated with dangerous chemicals. 

Also, in the case of at least the dandelion, they are prolific and grow just about everywhere!  And almost everyone can recognize them.  It is FREE food!  Do I need to say more?!

I cannot wait to try fried dandelion blossoms when the flowers emerge.

The finale of the story is that yesterday Matt was working in the garden and our kindly neighbor, Rodney, came over to chat, as he frequently does, about how nice the garden was looking and the nice weather, etc.  After the customary garden talk he says, somewhat skeptically, "Was Beth in the backyard picking dandelion green yesterday?"  Matt said "Yeah, we ate them for dinner."  Rodney replied with what seemed minor shock "How on Earth do you eat dandelion greens?!" 

For the record:  I sauteed slivered onion and minced garlic in olive oil.  I added the greens which were finely chopped in the food processor.  I added kidney beans.  I flavored it with lemon juice, soy sauce, maple syrup, cayenne, salt, pepper and a splash of some Asian toasted sesame sauce I am trying to finish use up.  I tossed it with some quinoa.   It was pretty darn good.  I think the leftovers were even better than the first go-round.

I will definitely be adding this as a regular, seasonal, (free) food in my diet.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Expanding My Food Choices

April 8, 2011: The first time I tried broccoli in oh, a decade, and the first time in my life that I thought it tasted good!  Photo credit to my sister who realized the shocking nature of the meal and photographed the whole thing.
I have always been a picky eater.  Ask my parents.   I was pretty bland and narrow.  I ate more with my mind and eyes than my mouth and taste-buds.  I wasn't keen on vegetables except raw carrots, green beans (only with cheese on top), or potatoes.  I didn't like salads of any sort be it lettuce salad, potato salad, or macaroni salad (they were cold).  I didn't like milk (it coated my mouth).  I didn't like eggs (bad texture and smell).  I didn't really like fruit except apples or oranges or canned fruit in syrup.  I didn't eat anything that came from water (that fishy taste and smell!).   I was huge on grains.  I still am.

If I look skeptical it is probably because I was.
Over the years I have trained myself to enjoy a variety of foods I would never have previously touched with a ten foot pole.  Like beans of any sort.  (As a child my mother would make me a special pot of chili with NO beans just hamburger, tomato sauce, and spices.)   Adopting a plant-based diet really helped.  It "forced" me to look at my food choices in a whole new way.  No longer could I call just chicken nuggets and tater-tots a meal.  I was "forced" to try things!  I now can't imagine my life without beans, fruits of all sorts, squash, peas, spinach, mushrooms, yams and so many other things that I used to turn my nose up at. was sometimes slow going.  Case in point:  green salads and broccoli.

Roasted broccoli and garlic with white beans.
So, after reading In Defense of Food a few months ago I began a campaign of increasing the variety of the foods I ate, particularly leaves.   I felt all along that a diet composed from a wide variety of foods was the key to robust nutrition.  In Defense of Food just drove home that my diet still wasn't quite as varied as I'd like it to be. 

So, I tried a salad.  I tried different kinds of mushrooms.  I tried a radicchio, which was the one experimental food that I thought was horrible.  I tried quinoa, which I absolutely love.  I tried chard again.  I tried red cabbage.  I ate broccoli.  I tried a arugula.  I ate miso.  I bought kale for the first time.  I ate a whole fresh pear.  I made a green smoothie.  And so on.

I still don't love salad, but maybe someday I will.  Broccoli was pretty darn good roasted and even if I never learn to like it prepared a different way at least I have that.  I had roast broccoli for lunch in fact!  The pear was amazing.  Green smoothies are a subtle way to engest raw greens for breakfast.  Miso soup is incredible.  And there are still so many things I need to try.  Like collard greens, and bok choy, parsnips, turnips, and oh so many others.  All in due time....

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Simple Day Book for April 26, 2011

 A Simple Woman's Day Book for April 26, 2011

Outside my window....
it is grey and rainy...but hey, its not snowing!  I am happy!  April showers bring May flowers!  The grass is green and the lilac is budding.  The greens and peas are inches tall in the garden.

I am thinking....
that it seems like no matter how I try I make trash.  Even if it is just something tiny like the twist tie around my bunch of spinach.  This is just one more reason to strive for self-sufficiency.  If all the spinach I ate was grown in my yard it wouldn't come in a piece of metal and plastic.  Perhaps zero waste is impossible for me, but I can always strive for the ideal...inching along in progress every day.

I am thankful for...
the wonderful time I shared with family this past weekend:  singing around the piano with aunts, uncles, cousins, and my sister, delicious foods, chickens to watch, cats to cuddle, cards to play, glorious weather. 

From the learning rooms...
it is nearly final exam time and that means a lot more students in the library needing my help!   Busy time soon to be followed by the summer lull.

From the kitchen...
I just gobbled up some homemade thin crust pizza topped with roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes (still from the garden 2009!), and spinach.  I also thought it was the last jar of tomato sauce from 2010, but Matt found one more squirreled away in the basement.  Hooray!  One more jar of delicious, homemade tomato sauce....oh, how to use this last demands something special.

I am wearing...
silky, black paisley top, tan skirt, short black socks, sneakers.

I am creating...
ojos de dios for a few gifts.  I am also top-stitching the sleeves of the cloak.

I am going...
to Minnesota soon.  It was one of those trips that I thought was a long way off and then all the sudden it is less than two weeks away.  Matt's family is gathering once again for a memorial golf tournement in honor of his Uncle Kim.  I am so glad we are able to go this year.  I don't golf, but look forward to spending time with all the family.

I am reading...
No Impact Man:: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process by Colin Beavan.  I am almost done.  This book was/is life changing and inspiring.  Oh, it was good.

On my mind...
Pain.  Not something I like to have in mind, but....what can ya do?  My arthritis has been badly flared up since Sunday evening.  2011 has been a particularly hard year for me in regards to my arthritis, perhaps the worst since the first year of my diagnosis.  I have learned to silently manage the daily ache caused by inactivity, such as sleeping.  It is the stabbing fire of radiating pain that comes without reason or warning (as far as I can tell) and stays until it decides to leave, also without reason or warning, that I have a harder time coping with.  I know what to do to make the ache stop...move and work it out and it goes away.  The stabbing fire pain in my hip doesn't seem there is anything I can do.  It makes me feel helpless (because I don't know what to do) and a little worthless (because I can't stand long enough to make dinner, etc and Matt kindly starts to wait on me which I appreciate and at the same time makes me feel a little more worthless)

I'm sorry...I try not to complain and then I just did for a whole paragraph.  I'd erase it, IS on my mind.

Around the house...
the tomato seedlings are almost ready to move out to the mini-greenhouse.  They are so thick and hardy this year.  They really put last years attempt to shame.  Practice makes perfect! 

One of my favorite things...
warm grass on bare feet, especially after the long winter of being trapped in shoes.  Keleigh and I went running in the green, baby grass of the pasture this weekend.  It was delightful.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
tie-dye, top-stitch cloak sleeves, make bread, send Alli a birthday card, rest my lousy hip, plant some more things in the garden, free flute concert at the public library.

A small window into my life...

This format comes from The Simple Woman blog.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sewing Weekend Photos

The drive included some majestic scenery.

I spent last weekend sewing with my mother and her friends. 

I probably sewed more in that one weekend than I have in my entire life.  It was serious madness.  Sewing commenced as soon as you woke and ate breakfast and didn't stop until it was well past dark and you were ready to tumble into bed. 

I learned a whole lot and gained a lot more confidence in my sewing ability.

It still needs hemmed up on the bottom so it isn't so long, but I ran out of time despite the epic amount of sewing.  I took a break the last day to visit my brother-in-law and thus didn't quite finish.
The sleeves are really something.
After tackling this gigantic cloak I sort of feel up for almost anything.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Good Riddance Qwest Mailings

Inspired by recent discovery and reading of the book No Impact Man and the blog Zero Waste Home, I took action when I came home and discovered yet ANOTHER advertisement mailing from Qwest, my phone provider.  Since we dropped the cellphones and went to just a landline toward the end of 2010 Qwest has been hounding us to increase our, admittedly, very basic services.  Add home internet!  Add caller ID!  Add voicemail!  Add....add...add.  That is pretty much the opposite of the direction we are trying to head. 

This mailer yesterday was the last straw.

These mailers amuse me in that they are trying to get me to save money by signing up for services I don't have which would actually mean I am NOT saving money, but spending more of it.
So I called Qwest today and asked the customer service representative, Bill, if there was a way to get myself removed from their mailing list.  I told him I wasn't interested in adding new services and that I was happy with my Qwest services except for the fact I kept getting mailers from them.  I told him I was getting the promotions in my email as well so that was probably more than sufficient.  I told him that I was trying to reduce my waste.  "Is that option even possible?" I asked.

"I don't know.  No one has ever asked me that before." He replied.  "Can I put you on hold for a minute?"

So, I wait for a few moments listening to the recorded version of the mailers I was calling about....promotions about bundling and adding wireless and 10 extra calling features and so on.
Bill comes back on the line.  "Okay, so I've got you removed from all promotional mailings."
"Oh, really?  Cool so it IS possible!"
"Yup, it is all taken care of and goes into effect today."

It was as easy as that.  Why didn't I think to do right away when they started landing in the mailbox?!  I removed myself from catalog lists and generic junkmail.  Why did I put up with this one?  I guess because it seemed so small.  But, these things small all add up.

I am so pleased it was that simple.  Bye-bye Qwest mailings!  Good riddance.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Simple Daybook for April 19, 2011

A Simple Woman's Day Book for April 19, 2011

Outside my window....
a surprising batch of fresh spring snow is covering the ground.  I guess we will find out how cold resistant the peas and greens really are!

I am thinking....
that I need to find a non-disposable razor, but am too intimidated by the thought of using a straight razor.  I'll have to go researching....

I am thankful for...
all the moisture.  It is going to be so green this year!

From the learning rooms...
most of the students are growing quite anxious for the semester end.  Or, alternately, they are like me and just shocked that the semester is almost over already!  Yeeesh....where did the time go?

From the kitchen...
comes yummy roasted veggies and gravy.

I am wearing...
an olive jumper linen dress with a long-sleeved wild print shirt underneath, tall, black (Halloween) socks, and birks.

I am creating...
a cloak!  It is all together except the finishing touches!  I look like a wizard queen!

I am going...
to Bozeman for Vegan Earth Day this Friday.

I am reading...
No Impact Man:: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process by Colin Beavan.

On my mind...
is saving money for our very own house....I am so weary of renting.  I want a little piece to call my own where I can rip up the lawn and plant a garden and fruit trees.  Where I can paint the walls.  Where I can have a room for crafting.  Where I can have a bigger kitchen.  Where I can have chickens.

Around the house...
we have seedlings who are growing like crazy!  I am so excited for the weather to warm up enough for them to migrate outside.

One of my favorite things...
green bean casserole.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
bake some bread, finish a skirt I'm sewing, practice my flute, go to Bozeman, spend time with Keleigh.

A small window into my life...
I am not allowed pets at my house so visiting my mother has the added bonus of allowing me time to bask in the unconditional love of my kitty friends, like Crimson.

This format comes from The Simple Woman blog.

The "Curse" of the Camera-Holder

I am very in to photography.  You may have noticed this on my blog as almost every post includes a photo, in many cases, multiple photos.  Photos help me remember good times and good places.  They help me identify birds.  They help remind and illustrate the progress and changes in my life from the condition of the garden to my weight to the length of Matt's beard.  Every year Matt and I go through the digital photos and print off a Highlights-Of-the-Year collection to add to the photo album.  Looking at it makes me relive the adventures of the year.  It is very satisfying....especially on a cold winter day when I feel that summer will never come back.

The yuccas are looking very green already.
So, I am photographer in our household.  Matt always makes sure I've grabbed the camera when we go out adventuring, but 98% of the time it is me who holds and operates the camera (The other 2% is when I feel like breaking into a wild-and-free run which I worry jostles the camera too much so I hand it off to Matt who carries it in his pocket for me until I get back or when I request Matt take a photo of me which I try to do at least once per adventure.)

So, the "Curse of the Camera-Holder" is that I am rarely in photos.  I have countless photos of Matt and our friends and families exploring and playing, but not too many of myself.  The camera is in my hand!

The place was huge!  I think that was what was being discussed here.

Which way should be go?!  THAT way!  There was layer upon layer of cliffs.  We would navigate around the rim until we were inside the cooley and then soon enough find ourselves on the rim of yet another sandstone formation to navigate around and into.  I guess we didn't need keep going deeper and deeper into the valleys, but it was one of those things where it seemed like each layer was better than the one before.

This selection of photos is from an outing to Yellowstone River State Park last weekend.  It is a fairly new state park and this was our very first visit there.  We will most certainly be going back.  If I wasn't going to be out of town this weekend I would be going back this very weekend!  It is an absolutely amazing place: wide open sky, sage and sandstone cliffs every-which-way, wildlife everywhere you look, no litter (Matt described it as "The Rims, only with trees and no people or garbage."  I admit this may not mean much if you are not from the Billings area). 

There were so many pieces of just magnificently twisted, aged wood.
Perhaps the best part is that it is also only 30 miles outside of Billings so it gets a great big woohoo!  A new playground for Matt and Beth!

Being from Eastern and Central Montana I pleasantly surprised by the fact that this park is surprisingly covered in trees.
My favorite kind of sage, possibly called Fringe Sage.   It is tiny, only growing a few inches off the ground.  It is also very soft and, like all sage, smells just heavenly.

I knew it was going to be a great place to be when this Bald Eagle swooped low over the field next to us as we were driving in.  I took it to be a good sign.
Rock Doves on the cliff's edge.
The Lamb's Ears were giant and so very soft and lovely.  I got to teach Justin about them, which with my limited knowledge consisted of: "Oooh, look! Some Lamb's Ear.  They feel so soft, check it out!
I got only one cactus spine through the sole of my fivefingers in the several hours we wandered.  Considering how much cactus was out there I thought that was pretty good.
Here I am!  (This being the once-per-trip occasion at which I require Matt to take my this case three whole times!)
I found a really neat feather which is tucked up in my cap.  I am watching the rock doves.  Matt proudly told me he got an action shot of me since there are so few of me and so many of him. 

I like that we are all scattered about in this photo with Jeremy itty-bitty in the background.
Oh well, if this is my "curse" in life I am doing just dandy!  : )

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On my Mind....

I leave this afternoon for a long weekend of sewing and spending time with my mother at her house in Belgrade! 

My mother recently sent me the BHG Sewing book.  Heck, I think that is her old iron, too.  Oh, and the patterns on the right...those came from her too!
My mother is hosting a sewing/quilting retreat for a small group of women.  Since I have been learning to sew she invited me to come along this year.  I am going to make a cloak to match my first skirt.  She has the pattern and the fabric so it is a very frugal project...right up my alley.   I am sure I will learn a whole heck of a lot from these ladies that have been at it much longer than I have been. 

Food, family,  friends, laughter, and crafting...hip, hip hooray!  I have been looking forward to it all week!

Mom's are the best.
An old 2009 photo of my mama and I. the best one I can find readily.  

The On My Mind concept comes from  Rhonda on her Down to Earth blog.  Won't you join in on the fun?!

That Sneaky Spring...

It seems like spring is a sneaky character.  We've been bursting with excitement over the fading long winter and spring was being a classic tease.  Everyone I know claims to have spring fever worse than ever before.  I suppose that is a testament to the winter that was longer and snowier that usual.

Then, as if overnight, spring is here at last.  Suddenly there is green popping up everywhere.  The grass is green. 

The tulips are pushing up.  Peas and leafy greens are sprouting in the garden (just as Matt was growing discouraged that he had planted too early). 

The lilac bush out the kitchen window is budding.    The male house finches are a stunning scarlet with their new feathers. 

The sky is so blue and warm looking, no more of the steel winter skies.

Hooray for Spring!  For sunshine and the barefeet!  I am so glad you are here.