Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wonderful Good Market

They are just about to break ground on a strip mall, the first in our local area. Included in that plan is a Giant Grocery Store. I was mildly excited about this because our local grocery store is a hard place for me to shop. It has been stepping up the effort to get new products in, but often they don't know where to put them. The organic food ends up in no man's land next to seasonal things like water pistols or pumpkin buckets. And the new cheese island is filled with more kinds of processed cheese-ish products than I ever thought possible. And they aren't open on Sunday. I realize this is an issue of religious beliefs. I respect that, but I also respect my desire to sometimes make a grocery run on a Sunday.

Here's the thing--an even better option opened up today: Wonderful Good Market. I live near Stoudt's Brewery. At the complex they not only brew fabulous beer, they have a restaurant, a bakery, a village of shops, and an antique market. Now they have a farmer's market and cheese-making facility. I am the queen of cheese, so I am in heaven. The operation is bare bones at the moment. Cheese will come in a month or so, along with a deli, olive bar, organic frozen dinners, farmer's produce, meats and dairy. But they have the bread, a line of organic food, Pennsylvania maple syrup, free range eggs. One of the owners stopped me when she admired my market basket. We started talking about everything from cheese to yoga, to my workshops, to Radiance (a store we both love and the place I bought my basket.), books we read. By the end of the conversation, we were so excited by our aligned interests, we just gave one another a hug. With any luck, my supermarket days are behind me. Heck, I may even apply for a part time job. (How often do you hear me say that?) I just want to be a part of it all. I am that excited.

Opera for Broccoli

What a beautiful day. I just went outside to look at my garden. Stuff is a sproutin'. Radish, fava beans. I replaced the cruciferous plants the bunnies ate and I surrounded my garden with a little human hair. It is supposed to keep away the invaders. So far, so good. The morning was just so alive and the air smelled so fresh. I just wanted to sing. I didn't, but I played opera for the seedlings and sprouts and plants and the bunny who was eyeing me from the neighbor's yard. (It was that kind of a morning.) Maybe I'll install some speakers out in the yard.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Recipe redux

My Friday morning indulgence is Grey's Anatomy. Husband is off to work. Son is off to school. Daughter is not up yet to start cyber school. Alone with the remote control. At some point in starting or pausing the show, I saw a clip from Good Morning America. They were showing off the week's worth of meals to feed a family of 4 for under $15 a meal. Is this hard? It's a rare night when I don't cook for my family. I be willing to bet I do the limbo under that $15 pole with regularity and dare I say...finesse. I think it is funny when magazines and TV shows proclaim, dinners under 500 calories or dinners that are good for the environment, or dinners that save you money, or dinners you can make in 30 minutes or less. Each of these tasks is a no-brainer. Want to impress me? How about a dinner that is light, filling, healthy, environmentally friendly, quick, cost-effective, AND that kids and grown-ups alike will love. (Doesn't quite all fit on the cover of a magazine--does it?). But basically, we the meal mavens weigh the pros and cons of each dinner we make against all of these standards. It is science, math, artistry (and at my house it often also includes a social studies lesson thrown in for sport). Let's add poetry. Haiku? Check out this Twitter user (Maureen) whose entries are complete recipes in 140 characters. She was featured in the N.Y. Times. Maybe it is all novelty rather than substance. But I love the spare minimalism of it all. Steps and ingredients are scaled back (which often translate into savings of $ and time). Chef's intuition is a must. I am thinking of trying the rhubarb upside-down cake, the Stout ice cream, Saffron Asparagus Orzo, spicy tofu. It's fun. Makes cooking into playtime. And in an economic recession, we all need as much joy as we can get.

*While I was a little harsh on GMA for their $15 menu story idea, it did help raise awareness of and increase donations for the food bank, which is another thing of joy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Free the Chickens

I see progression on my walk. Fields being planted, livestock relocated, trees felled, streams melting, buds, buildings going up. One day on my walk I noticed a new platform on wheels. The next walk it was enclosed in plastic--Conestoga wagon style. I thought the farmers were going to sell plants for Easter. Then I saw boxes and shelves inside the sheltered space. HMM? A moving vegetable stand? I did not expect what I saw next on my walk: dancing chickens. That is what they looked like, running in and out of the covering, clawing the fields for food, talking to one another. Had the farmer been out that day, I would have rushed over and started talking to him. I had read about these gypsy chickens and the health of field eco-systems from reading The Omnivore's Dilemma last summer. One of my top recommended reads, it detailed how farms used to be more savvy in using animals and plants as self-contained eco-systems. The chickens eat the bugs that feast on the cow patties. They leave droppings which leave the pasture in better order so the cows can have better grazing land. One farmer profiled in the book, had a moving chicken coop so he could rotate it over the pasture and make his farm a healthier organism. I have a lot of farms nearby. Family farms, not big agri-business. I have seen crop rotation, animal raised along-side crops to better enhance the fertilization/feed cycles. I have even seen rotting citrus fruit dotting fields as a way to get acid into the soil. The Pennsylvania German population which make up a good percentage of the farming community has had a better than average reputation as being good stewards of the land since they came to the county in the early 1700's.
I was thrilled to see the practice of roaming chickens as described on my walk. And I was sad when I went for a walk one day and they were gone. The farmer and his family own a lot of land, but I thought I could see most of it on my walk. Where did the chickens go? Did he sell them? I got my answer today while running errands. In a nearby field, stuck between houses, I saw my chickens frolicking once more. I vowed to visit them after running errands. (They were a lot more energetic than the orthodontic assistants I surprised on their lunch hour. Going in for a new container for my son's retainer, I found them all napping in the chairs.) I was happy to get back to the chickens. Surprise. The farmers, father and son, were with them. I talked to the son. They have about 250 chickens. They are happy critters, who don't exactly want to stay in their pasture. He is working on that. They just started laying eggs. Ten yesterday. They will be sold at a premium at the produce stand a mile from house. It opens in late May. I can't wait! I wanted to ask more questions--What kind are they? Will you be selling meat? I got a bit shy. So did he. I wanted to take more pictures. I will eventually--now that I know where to find them.

Earth Day Daring

Happy Earth Day. I got a happy earth day email from my friend Regina. She wished me enjoyment and care of our sweet earth. Some of my earth day activities included going for my usual 4 miles walk, buying plants for my garden, finding out where and when I can buy more plants from Happy Cat Organics, signing up for online banking to use less paper, reading about safe cleansers online, taping Oprah's special on saving money by going green, stopping a farmer alongside the road and asking him about his new project of free range chickens and where I can buy the eggs (more on that later), and stopping for an ice cream cone. (I ate the container. No waste!) Small things--but all today. My other new and earth-friendly practices of continuing to cancel catalogs as they trickle in and composting are ongoing.

In addition--20 things I am glad to have done. 2009

1. Had both a son and a daughter to teach me all sorts of lessons.
2. Had a baby at a birthing center with no drugs; home the same day
3. Ran a marathon.
4. Wrote a few novels.
5. Got one published and reveled in the book signings.
6. Planted a garden
7. Visited some great American Cities: New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago, San Diego, Dallas to name a few
8. Taught some classes on art, writing, journaling, LIFE
9. Traveled to Europe (England and France). Thanks, Nate.
10. Visited Disney World and Vegas. Two places I thought I would hate and ended up loving. (I bow to you, Kathy.) And visited California wine country. One place I knew I would like and I was right.
11. Researched my family tree
12. Been interviewed for newspaper, radio, and television.
13. Rode some rollercoasters in spite of my fears and aversions.
14. Watched my brothers and sister become parents
15. Engaged with other women in a deep way with spiritual work/group dynamics.
16. Started my own website
17. Painting my paintings and the art shows that followed.
18. Experienced the magic of Moondance (my friend's summer retreat) with family and friends.
19. Read over 60 novels out loud to my children.
20. Gained some great friends. Actually, the month I wrote the first list is the month I met 4 of our best friends of all time.

20 things I am glad to have done--written in 1996, age 27

1. Had a baby
2. Got married
3. Went to a foreign country (Canada and Mexico)
4. Learned to knit. (Thanks Darcey and Karen!)
5. Made salsa
6. Visited New York City
7. Traveled in a airplane
8. Made my prom gown
9. Grew my hair past my shoulders
10. Hosted Thanksgiving
11. Floated on my back in a swimming pool during a lunar eclipse
12. Pulled off a surprise party
13. Fixed a flat tire
14. Ate sushi
15. Graduated from college
16. Took music lessons
17. Gave a speech in public
18. Camped in the great outdoors.
19. Learned some French
20. Saw a President in person (Bill Clinton)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Taking a whale for a walk in NYC

I already said I went to NYC and saw my first Broadway show. I guess the reason I haven't gone to shows is that I'm always at the museums. The occasion for this show was my son's chorus trip. They've gone in the past years, but we never went with them. Jonah brought the papers too late or finances were an issue. (They always want the money around the holidays.) But this was his last year to go, so we went and saw Phantom. Of the choices, I would have picked Lion King, but Jonah wanted Phantom, and it was his trip. The musical was in the afternoon, which left the morning in NYC open. We were being dropped off at 10 and had to eat and be back to the theater by 1:30. What to eat? What to do? We could go to a museum, but that would leave little time to see much and we'd still have to pay the $20 admission. I suggested walking to see the renovated Grand Central Station with its shops and restaurants. I also suggested walking up to Central Park. I tried to get Jonah to participate in this pre-trip planning. The most I could get out of him was that he would like either pizza, a barbecue joint, or chili for lunch.

I thought the excitement of the city would wash over him once we got there. I was wrong. Once we were actually in the city, Jonah was sullen. I don't like big cities. UGH! I used an analogy with my mother-in-law telling her it was like trying to walk a whale around NYC on a leash.

He eventally agreed to Grand Central Station after my iPhone indicated it had a bookstore. So I started walking quickly in the direction of the station. Jonah plodded behind. At one point I almost turned around and told Jonah to keep up, but then I had an A-HAH moment. Why should he keep up with me? This was his trip. We weren't pressed for time. I slowed down to his pace. It was hard. I like to walk fast. But I tried to look around and really absorb the city rather than getting ot my destination. Later, we opted for brick-oven pizza across the street from the theater. (Never my choice but I was able to get my favorite topping--eggplant.) I don't know if Jonah knows how I struggled to let him have the trip his way. Maybe he doesn't even think it was his way.

Day later, I heard a radio interview about mindfulness and how parents always rush their kids. I am terribly guilty of this one. It talked about present moment and teaching moments. The best way to show kids the power of now (a la Tolle) is to let them see you as a parent be totally immersed in the moment. If by totally immersed in the moment they mean running around like a crazy person shouting, "Let's go, we will be late! MOVE!" then I have it covered. I think I even rush my kids when we are ahead of schedule. Mark is the same. So, we have some work to do when it comes to teaching our kids to be in the moment. I think for me, it'll take a few more walks around the block with a whale on the leash.

Checking the list

A while ago, let's call it mid-nineties, I wrote a list of things I wanted to do in my lifetime. Not quite a bucket list. I only had 17 things on the list with room for more.

1. Visit all 50 states. I am at about 28 states (a few more if you count sitting on an airplane in an airport). I may just get another one this summer.
2. Travel over an ocean. check
3. Publish something. check
4. Paint a mural. check minus. I did paint a small mural in my daughter's bedroom. Not sure if that is what I had in mind, but it is cute.
5. Perfect Salsa. check. Had a great batch this summer.
6. Own a log cabin. Not yet. The Little House on the Prairie dream is still alive.
7. Write a novel. check.
8. Teach a class. check.
9. See a Broadway Show. check. And the reason I am blogging. I finally saw my first Broadway show on Saturday. You would have thought that would be an easy one.
10. One year, make all of my Christmas gifts. No, and I really have no desire to do this one. I am taking it off the list.
11. One year, make none of my Christmas gifts. I think I am taking this off my list, too. I don't think I really have ever had a year where I didn't make something, however small.
12. Learn to dance--for those slow dances at weddings. Haven't done it. Can't say I am chomping at the bit to do this one, but never say never.
13. Get a professional massage. check.
14. Take a cross-country motorcycle trip with Mark. I have no desire to do the motorcycle thing, but a cross country trip with Mark and/or kids intrigues me. We have done a 10 state, 10 day, 40 hour-in-car trip in 2000 with kids ages 3 and 5. I think that was pretty gutsy and fun.
15. Have a foreign exchange student. One of my biggest regrets is not doing a semester abroad in college. I guess this is to make up for it. We haven't done this yet, but I could see it happening. Conversely, I'd like to see Maren and I setting up shop in Paris for an extended stay, Jonah and I in England touring castles, and Mark and I in Italy.
16. Make clay pots with Mark. No. He was taking a ceramics at the time I wrote this list. I guess I got a romantic notion. My daughter is taking a class now. In our living room, you will find an example of ceramics by each of the four of us. It would be fun to take a family ceramics class.
17. Make a quilt. check. It is a lame quilt, but it fits the definition.

It isn't on here, but I thought for sure that run a marathon was on this particular list. check.

I think I am going to have to make a new list of 20. But that is for another blog. Also, at the time I made my original list, made a list of 20 things I was glad to have already done. Again--another entry.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cob Studio

A few weeks ago, my daughter had a long play practice, so Mark and I took in the sites. We went to Terrain Garden Center which is a real treat for the senses and unlike any garden center I have ever been. Go for a whole day with a bunch of girlfriends and make sure to lunch in their greenhouse. Mark and I also hit Chaddsford Winery for a barrel tasting. This is probably the most well-known and one of the best wineries in PA. I especially like their select vineyard Chambourcin wines
But, like I said, the play practice was long, so Mark and I didn't stop there. We capped off our experience by attending an open house at Cob Studio, a ceramic studio built in cob construction (the only of its kind in PA) about 4 years ago. The place as an aura of enchantment. It is bigger than it looks with meandering earthen shelves, a wood stove guarded by handmade tea cups, and an organic form that makes it seem as if the whole structure grew out from the ground like fungi. Quite hobbit-like, with reclaimed windows and colored bottles set playfully in the earth, hay mix. The place of whimsy houses ceramicist and holistic health counselor, Cara Graver. It is where she gives classes, has tea parties, hosts organic suppers parties, and creates her own work. My daughter is taking a ceramics class this year at her school. I'll need to get her there over the summer to see the place and perhaps create. Maybe I'll bring my mom along too, for the tea and scones. No website for the place, but Cara does have an email list. The Cob Studio 1281 Green Lane, Chester Springs, PA 610-469-9509.
Although our entire Sunday experience was fun, we saved the best place for last.

Hail storm

We had a bad hail storm recently. I had taken a picture of a tree on one of my walks. The next day it was gone. I am glad I took the time to notice it.

Latest Breakfast craze

I have a new breakfast thing going. Bob's Red Mill 6-Grain hot cereal with flax seed. Make it in the microwave. Add a splash of milk. Some blueberries. I could add honey, but I add toasted coconut which seems the most decadent thing in the world. I refuse to look at the nutritional information of the toasted coconut. It is helping me get my anti-toxins, omega-3's and fiber. I actually have started craving this now. Pretty good for someone who is usually in muffin mode.

I have also started taking vitamins with breakfast. I don't know what the results are. Perhaps I'll never know. I am looking for energy and if it can help focus my brain, keep me healthy, help my joints and help me live a longer more productive life, so be it.

Still drinking my 16 oz of coffee. Black. Thought about giving it up for some sort of tea. Seems more spa-like. More in line with a morning yoga practice. I don't know. I recently gave up all sodas. I was drinking about one coke zero day at lunch time. Wanted to be done with chemicals. We'll see. I'm not on some drastic health kick, but if I can make a few gradual changes, it may be worth it.