My world

Slow week for the blog –

Busy week for me

Saturday:Saturday started on Friday when Kyle and I went out to fix the boy’s bunk bed situation.  We had ordered a nice set from American the Beautiful Dreamer and they hadn’t come in, it had been a month, the store person (Lilly) was a perfect gem and really nice, but the best should could tell us was maybe by June they would be in.  So we took back our deposit and went looking.  I had heard their might be some bunk beds available homeschool community, but it looked like someone else was interested in those before us so we went ahead and headed to one of the furniture stores that was going bankrupt and picked up a good deal on a really nice set.

Enter Saturday morning.  My dad has a rather large truck so we borrowed it went and got the beds and mattresses and then unloadedthem and put them together.  Happy boys, sore muscles and some darn nice looking beds:

Sunday:  We do more driving on Sundays than we do the rest of the week combined.  First to mass, then to either get Rachel and then  take Rachel home or just take her home, take Ashely to her Social thing then back to pick her up.  Crazy times. 

Monday: Monday is always busy.  It is my Kitchen day.  This Monday was so beautiful.  The weather was just perfect.  We spent the whole day hanging laundry out on the new line, playing in the back yard, doing seeds for science and riding bikes.  Just a fantastic day.

Tuesday: Was busy also, I made bread, did more laundry. The rain returned so we had to move the drying indoors.  I had some client work that needed attending.

Wednesday: Always our fun day.  We had CCD and our homeschool group in the afternoon.  Made crock-pot dinner and had a good day.

Thursday: Started with an Ashley Dr appointment (regular check up stuff) then had friends over for dinner.  Lots of fun.  Lots of kiddo fun five of ours and five of theirs all having as much noisy fun as possible.  Insanely loud, busy boys.  Dinner turned out good, I made a couple pies  the husbands got to get acquainted and seemed to hit it off.  We all looked up at the clock and were shocked that it was after 10pm.  Then I had to take Christoper over to my parent’s house so he could go camping with dad this weekend.

Friday: Man it is Friday already…..

Food · Homemaking · Mary Mary and Martha

Eating with the seasons

In my menu planning article I mentioned that one of my goals when planning my family meals was to use in season and locally grown food when possible.  The first question I am asked about this is “How do you know what is in season?”.  Portland, Oregon has a Department of Sustainable Development  and part of their mission is to promote Sustainable Food.  If you do a google search for  “in season produce” + “your state” or “your city” you (hopefully) will find something similar.

Some websites you might want to look at (I am not vouching for the content on these sites, but they look interesting and topical,  if you know a good site please shoot me a link):

Local Harvest 
USDA Farmer’s Markets
ATTRA

 

Homemaking · Mary Mary and Martha · My world

Menu Planning Part 2

In the early 1960’s my mother sat in a home economics classroom thumbing through her “Betty Crocker New Picture Cookbook” like so many young women her age.  It was the colorful 3rd edition, the reprint of the trusty classic.  She kept that old book, in fact she still owns it.  When I was a girl I used it to learn to make bread and cookies and read through it.  For years I had wondered why housekeeping was so difficult for me and then it dawned on my sometimes thick skull,  I had no idea what I was doing. As I mentioned in my last menu planning article I didn’t learn the skills I needed to have to run a home a my mother’s knee.  I actually had to learn many of the most important things later and on my own which has been rather daunting and something I am still working on.   One thing I did that helped me was to purchase my own “Betty” from e-bay.  I had love my mother’s old edition.  When I left home my mother bought me the 6th edition, which had been sadly gutted to fit the “modern woman’s” needs.  So I eventually bought the older edition for myself. 

It was then that I started to see how much I was really creating extra work for myself simply by running my household so inefficiently.  Menu planning was one of the first things that I set my mind to fixing.  I started by just listing the meals my family likes and randomly fitting them into meals over the course of a few weeks.  This was far better than nothing, but still had a ways to go.  Kyle and I used the South Beach Diet.  Its menu plan covers everything from breakfast to desert and I found this to be even more helpful.  So I carried it farther.  I have used my Betty Crocker cookbook and two nutritional sites to help me develop my new menu plan templates you can read about the process behind that here.  

For my family and our nutritional needs this is the basic outline I use:

·     Vegetables:  at least 5 servings per day
·     Fruit:  2-4 servings per day
·     Whole grains: 4-11 servings per day
·     Legumes: 1-3 servings per day
·     Soy: 2-4 servings per week
·     Oils, nuts, seeds, olives: 3-9 servings a day
·     Dairy: 1-3 servings a day
·     Eggs: 1 per day
·     Fish 2-4 servings per week, with at least 2 being omega-3 rich or having omega-3 in something else
·     meat 1-3 servings per week

 

That is the goal.  Each day we have three meals and two snacks to fill.

·     Breakfast
·     morning snack
·     lunch
·     tea
·     dinner

 

So over a week it looks like this :

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast
vegetable Fruit vegetable Fruit vegetable Fruit Fruit
oils Dairy  Dairy Dairy Eggs Eggs  Eggs
Dairy Eggs Eggs Eggs Dairy Dairy Dairy
Eggs            
             
             
Morning Snack Morning Snack Morning Snack Morning Snack Morning Snack Morning Snack Morning Snack
Fruit vegetable Fruit vegetable Fruit vegetable vegetable
  Dairy oils Dairy oils Dairy  
             
             
Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch
vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable
Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit
Legumes oils Legumes oils Legumes Legumes oils
oils   oils   oils oils  
             
             
Tea Tea Tea Tea Tea Tea Tea
vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable
oils Legumes oils   Dairy oils Dairy
Dairy   Dairy        
             
             
             
Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner
vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable
vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable vegetable
Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit Fruit
Oils Legumes meat Legumes Meat Dairy Legumes
Dairy oils oils oils oils oils oils
meat Dairy Dairy Dairy Dairy Fish Dairy
  Fish         Chicken or Fish

Whole grain at every meal, work soy into the menu at least two or three times.

This menu template covers the basics of good nutrition as I see it.  You might disagree or have some other important idea to work in.   But this more about practice than theory.   No matter what theory drives your menu plan at some point the theory has to work in practice.  Pretty much how I got the template was to list out what needed to be served, how many times per day or week then distributed the amounts over the day and week.   Any nutritional plan will lend itself to this method, though some will require more work than others.  

I list out my families favorite dishes and then place them into the menu.  Note that for vegetables the amount is unlimited the daily minimum is 5 serving.  A bean and vegetable soup for lunch with a whole grain roll with olive oil to dip and a piece of fruit will cover a legume, vegetable, whole grain, oil and fruit slot.  With that in mind it is easier to get all those servings in than it might at first seem.  Two vegetable servings can be covered as easily as having salad and steamed broccoli at the meal.  Peanut butter and celery or cauliflower bits with hummus for a snack fill both the slots for the tea-time snack.   I also don’t get overly stressed out about breaking the menu a little bit.  A slice of Canadian bacon at breakfast a couple times a week, a slice of lunch meat to make a veggie-turkey roll-up or even hot-dogs on a Saturday night is not something I worry about.  The menu plan is to serve me and my family with nutrition in mind, not become something rigid and painful.

All that said there is more to eating than vitamins and calories.  The Smart Homemaker of my Betty Crocker cookbook, of course she realizes that good nutrition is the cornerstone happy family meals, but she also knows that it takes more than just the “right” foods.  She stressed that our menus should be Appropriate to our situation, Be appetizing in appearance, be satisfying and that we should be mindful of cost.  To this list I personally add seasonal, local and as sustainable as possible.

Appropriate: Each family is different.  I am home during the day and this allows me to devote more time to meal preparation than some families.  We have a larger family, small children, we homeschool and we live in the city and we don’t have any allergies or food sensitivities.   If any of these things changed our meals might look different.

Menu planning has to also be appropriate to my brain.  For me it doesn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel each week.  I am a thinking junkie, in fact I can over think just about anything as all my friends and anyone who has read this blog can attest to. I like to weigh every possibility and find out all the facts and making a commitment to a decision gets me a little nervous.  Consequently I can burn a lot of time making choices.  Knowing this about myself I realize that every time I can remove deliberation out of the process I am saving myself a lot of time.  Set menu plans are a good thing for me, going through a stack of cookbooks and searching online for new recipes each week is going to take me too much time.  It is much better for me to use set menus.

 

Appearance:  Betty’s advice is to prepare, serve and present each meal attractively.  Plan ahead so that you serve a variety of colors an textures.  This adds both nutritional value and visual appeal to the meal.   Take the time to eat together, use the good china more frequently, set the table for dinner.   I was listening to a discussion on food several months ago, it may have been Michael Pollen who was speaking about how food has become less satisfying us, and part of the decline in that is how we have made eating so utilitarian.  It requires a certain time commitment to serve  a lovely meal at an attractive table for the whole family, but it is worth it for so many reason.

 Satisfaction:  This section could have been called “prepare with care” and it is closely related to the suggestions of appearance.  Well seasoned, carefully prepared food in variety is more satisfying.  I remember having read the little poem as a girl:

Something soft and something crisp
Should always go together,
And something hot with something cold
No matter what the weather;
Something bland needs the complement
Of something with tang and nip.
Follow these rules and all your meals
Will have taste appeal and zip.

  It really does make sense and isn’t as complicated as it seems, warm bread, a crispy salad and a well seasoned soup makes a perfect meal that follows the above suggestions to the letter.   Macaroni and cheese with peach slices and cooked carrots lacks variety in color and texture.  I served this once and my children, who usually are not the type to protest about any of those menu choices all looked at me sort of funny and complained:  “Everything is orange, mom”  caught off guard I had to come up with a quick reply, “ummm, yes, it is ‘Orange lunch’ today”.  They thought that was cool and happily ate it, but it does illustrate the point:  Even my little ones prefer a little variety of color and texture on the plate.

Wine: I know some people dislike wine or have some sort of objection to it.  We have wine, usually red, several times a week with dinner.  It is inline with most of the healthy eating plans I have seen and both my husband and I enjoy a glass with our evening meal.  It is a highly satisfying touch to the table for us.  As the children reach their teen years they are allowed a bit of their own on occasion and we are comfortable with this.  I have one acquaintance who drinks a small amount of red wine, for health reasons, but only when her children can’t see.  I suspect this sort of secretive behavior sets a worse example than pouring a glass at dinner would, but to each their own.

Technique: Cooking well make preparing your family meal more fun for you and more satisfying for everyone.  If you are new to cooking or haven’t had much success in the kitchen I highly recommend taking the time to learn basic kitchen techniques.  Alton Brown’s “I’m Just Here for the Food” is one of my favorites; there are websites that illustrate basic techniques and possibly even classes through your local college or home extension office.  Don’t be afraid to try something new from time to time.  I try to work one new recipe every two weeks or so.  Food in addition to being prepared to be satisfying can be very satisfying to prepare.

Cost: Food costs have gone up rather sharply lately and there are many places where you can cut family food budget.  Menu planning just by itself will help you save money.  You can plan ahead what to eat, you can stock your pantry when things are on-sale, take advantage of seasonal food, coupons and “loss leader sales”, you can shop at bulk and discount stores and you can basically eat better for less.  You might want to try cooking ahead or freezer cooking in order to save even more.  But the biggest differences for us are cutting out what I call “Oh, crap, dinners”  — those times when it is 5pm and I have no idea what to cook and nothing quick in the house to prepare which results in a last minute trip to the store or drive through.  When I am on top of my menu planning we aren’t making last minute trips to the store (saving time, gas and not purchasing impulse items) and we aren’t resorting to fast food and eating out which are both budget and diet busters.

Appropriateness, appearance, satisfaction, nutrition and cost are Betty Crocker’s list of important menu planning considerations.  But a lot has changed since the 1950s.  We are more aware of the impact our actions as a society have on our health and the environment in which we live. The University of Michigan Integrative Medicine’s Healing Foods Pyramid states that it emphasizes (among other things) “Support of a healthful environment”  the way in which our food is grown, the amount of pesticides, hormones and fertilizers all affect the health-value of our food and health of the land it is grown on.  Supporting local farm families in turn supports our communities economically.  All these things matter when put together.  While I am certainly not militant about being organic or “green” I view these ideas as personal lifestyle choices and I offer them up for consideration.

Seasonal, local and sustainable: Eating food that is in season locally allows you to take advantage of what is available in your farmer’s market and in local u-pick and small farms near you.  You might even be able to grow some of your own vegetables and seasoning.  Herbs are especially easy to go and require no more space then a window box or small platter; salad greens, radishes, green onions require very little more and tomatoes will happily grow in a large patio pot.   Learning to freeze, can, dry and/or pickle is a great way to save money, support local your local economy and avoid pesticides and other unwanted chemicals.   You might even be lucky enough to be able to purchase eggs, meat and dairy from small operations.   A side of beef in the freezer can provide meat for a year.  For items beyond your local market keep an eye open for fair-trade options to help ensure that more of the profit goes to those who actually produce the product.  Consider researching the possibilities available to you, you might find yourself happily surprised at the variety and quality. 

On a seriously Catholic note, you might also, when possible try top purchase from religious orders. The Anchoress has been raving about her sponsor “Mystic Monk Coffee“.   Many orders have some sort of food items they sell.  Hopefully I will be able to work up a list soon.  If you know of one please send me a link.

I will be continuing this series.  Next in the works is an article on Pantry and Shopping Lists and I will start posting completed menus later next week. 

 

rants · Uncategorized

Defining art

A couple of stories have attracted my attention the past few weeks.  One was that poor, silly woman from Yale who apparently (or not) tried to impregnate herself as often as possible, then took some sort of herbal abortificant (not really) and filmed herself aborting (or menstruating) and then wanted to combine that with plastic wrap and something or other and this was supposed to be displayed as a medium for inciting conversation about the relationship between the female body esthetically and functionally or something like that.   Because women and reproduction is such a very neglected discussion point in our society.   She succeeded in grossing out a lot of people and really getting Yale very up-tight.  But is that “art”?

Then there is some fellow who got a dog off the street (or hired some kids to find one) then took it to an art gallery where it was tied up and allowed to die (or not) and the artist laid out the cryptic message “you are what you read” in dog biscuits were the dog died (or not – the stories keep changing to fast to keep up).  Maybe we are supposed to see ourselves as the dog biscuits? Or maybe this is some commentary on animal cruelty and the absolute irony of modern society. A lot of people got upset and it looks like the “artist” is going to perform his art again… because it is art.  Isn’t it?

Really, if either of the above things count as art I must be completely mad.  I love good art.  I spent a lot of time in the BMFA in college and I loved my art history classes.  I love a lot of the new art coming out, the classical revival work is really exciting to me.   I love music and poetry and theater and visual art in all its many forms.  Art has shaped and enlighten my thoughts and enriched my life in innumerable ways.  That is the main reason that I really wish that the “art” community would stop treating this juvenile, sadistic, duncical, low-class, gutter obsessed, attention whoring,  offensive, drek as art.  It is not.

It is not art in the same way my child throwing a temper tantrum is not negotiation.  Art, as it is arguably defined in some college classes I have attended, is designed to make you think. Maybe something that challenges the viewer.  (At that point it usually collapses into verbal garbage about the deep, challenging, thought provoking thing that is the insulting, argumentative and usually down right disgusting excuse for modern de-constructed art).  These types of exhibitions can at best be called performances.  What they actually seem to be is rather pathetic screaming fits thrust into what should be the rational discourse of public ideas.  When what you do is so offensive that it ceases to be thought provoking and becomes merely provoking, it ceases to be about the ideas and becomes about the “artist”.

What these forms of performance art most represent is a break down of discourse in the public sphere.  Everyone has an opinion and every opinion must be expressed but the only opinions that count are the ones that get 15-minutes of fame.  They make the news, hit the top of Goggle and technorati, they scream really loudly for a few seconds and then are gone, replaced by then next wacko with an opinion that they want to shock the world into thinking about. Instant attention doesn’t equal fame, and even fame doesn’t equal any sort of gravitias, it just means that you are the one in the spotlight this second.   These pathetic attention stunts excused with the misbegotten title of art are more like those silly game shows where the audience dresses up in outrageous costumes so the camera will pan over them for a moment than they are any type of serious discourse on important topics.     They don’t even serve their stated purpose of getting people to discuss the ideas they are supposed to be about all they do is create offense and outrage usually directed towards the artist and/or the institution they are sponsored by.

In normal society when someone starts raving and offends those they are with they soon find themselves excluded and unwelcome.  The same should happen to this crass form of expression called performance art.  We, as a society, have to refuse to call this art and start calling it what it is.  It might be self-absorbed, pathetic, disgusting attention whoring.  It might be cruel, sadistic, attention-whoring, but it isn’t art.

40 bags of stuff. · Homemaking · Mary Mary and Martha · My world

40 Trash bag Challenge

 

So far I have managed to get about 17 bags of stuff out of my house for good.  Most of this is old clothing and sheets.  In part because I haven’t even gotten out of the bedroom closet area.  Today I am heading into the bathroom and then on to the girl’s room. 

I was about to write that I hadn’t learned anything insightful so far, but that isn’t true.  When Kyle and I were going through the closet (I didn’t want to toss anything of his without his input) one thing we both noticed was how ofter we said “Wow, I forgot I owned that”.  We have some items that we more or less store in our closet and somehow things we like had dissapperead behind things we didn’t and before long they were completly forgotten.  So, the lesson I take from this is pretty straight forward.  Don’t store things you rarely use with things you use all the time.  Seperate them in some way.  Put them in a storage bag or box, move them to a storage area in your home, but sperate them in some way.  This lesson was reiterated with the linen closet.  Things had more or less been put back in a rather haphazard manner and so it was difficult to find sets, pillow cases had taken to hidding in the oddest places and a good portion of this problem was simply that there were too many items not regularaly used mixed in with the items I need every week.

Catholic Homeschooling · My world

May for Mary

 

May is the month of Mary, the Blessed Mother.  At our parish there is a Grotto on the north side where we have a beautiful statue of Mary and the children love bringing flowers to Mary when we go for mass or CCD. 

This month we have a few activities that we will be working on.  The biggest is to plan our “Mary Garden” this has been a long term thing for me.  Something I keep thinking about then putting off and picking back up but I haven’t done it.  This month we will be actually doing it.  

We are also going the be studying the Rosary prayers and talking about the life of Christ through his mother’s eyes.  Kind of exciting really.

One of the things as a convert to the Catholic faith that took a long time for me to click with was the Mary thing.  Part of me didn’t really get it.  I could intellectually say that yes, Mary is very special, she has a unique mission in all of creation and she lived her mortal portion out in a way that is splendid and shinning example, but at the same time it just didn’t click.

Slowly I got to know her better.  I can see my own need for a mother in my faith experience.  The rosary has been helpful there, especially reflecting on the mysteries and how they show Christ to us in the most intimate and human way, through the eyes of his mother.