Lookin’ Rosey

It’s been a bit of a busy week thus far, so I’m excited to write about what we got accomplished last weekend. While we got started on some larger projects outside, such as building the frame (and filling it) for my garden, major weeding, and laying some loose stone for a one-two punch under our front porch (working to both kill weeds and make it look purdy), I actually finished ONE project. But, this one’s been coming.

For my birthday, my co-worker, Debbie, got me one of the most thoughtful gifts — a rose plant. I cheerily brought it home aaaaaand proceeded to have yet another busy weekend. Followed by a busy week. While Dave and I rushed to and fro, the little plant watched and thrived in its bag — to the point where I noticed new shoots coming off of its woody branches, with pretty leaves and everything! So, I knew this thing was ready to hit some dirt.

When we moved in, there was an empty patch of dirt near an off-shoot structure of the garden which used to house a swing. This spring, it came back as a weedy, grassy patch — which would’ve been fine (except for the weeds), but it’s in a prime morning-sun spot for growing something beautiful! We don’t have many of those around our shady house, so we’re trying to use what we’ve got. Aaaand this is what we had:


Woo. Hoo. So, after some digging, we had…


DIRT! I mixed some organic soil in, as well. And all the while, the quiet rosebush sat aside, patiently watching; polite, but still hoping I knew what the heck I was doing.


Okay, enough personification. I dug down as far as it told me to, performed a water soaking ritual and, ultimately, got the thing planted and *hopefully* happy. (Apparently I lied, personification abounds. Ohhhh, just wait ’til we plant our veggies and herbs!)

Well, what do you think? Happy guy?


I’ll give you an update whether he took to his new home or not. πŸ™‚ This weekend looks to be another busy one, with Pre Cana all day Saturday — but if the weather looks good enough, Sunday is the big garden day!

Cave Cow Burgers

Lots of fun (well, in terms of this blog “fun”) stuff happened today, but I’ll save some of it for other posts. One of the exciting things that Dave and I have been waiting for is our first taste of grass-fed beef — and, today, we had it! As the Lord would say — “It was good!”

I bought 3 vacuum-packed, frozen 1-lb. packages of ground beef at this week’s Herkimer Farmer’s Market. After talking with the owners of the booth (and farm, presumably), I found out that the beef that they raise is called Limousin (pronounced like the vehicle you took to the prom…or your wedding) rather than Angus. She explained that the difference between them is in their digestive system; they look completely different, so the way their flesh and fat develop look completely different, too. She then handed me a sheet filled with information on the breed and I grabbed my purchases and left.

Dave asked to read the information later, so we did so together. I ended up finding out that this type of beef is a lot leaner, but that many agricultural colleges have performed taste tests (among other types of tests, like cholesterol — it’s equal to that of eating chicken) and that this breed scored high every time. I’m pretty pleased with the not-cheap purchase, overall. Most of all, knowing that the burger I was eating was raised (and slaughtered, but I try not to think about that part) in Little Falls — the shortest distance my meat has ever traveled!

Another informational tidbit about the Limousin is that they have been around for over 20,000 years — in fact, they’re the cows that you’ll find painted in the caves in Lascaux. So, I’m lovingly referring to them as cave cows. I just think that’s so cool!

I considered just having normal burgers to test the taste, but I was in a chef-y mood. Here’s what I did, instead:

(from allrecipes.com, Chris’ Bay Area Burger, which I prefer to call…)

Italian Burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 4 hamburger buns, split

Directions

  1. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat. Mix together the ground beef, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and basil. Divide into four balls, and flatten into patties.
  2. Cook the patties for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or to desired doneness. The internal temperature should be at least 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). Remove from grill and place onto hamburger buns. Top with desired toppings and condiments.

But, since the burgers had such an Italian spin to them, I roasted some sliced grape tomatoes for Dave (in some olive oil and basil) and the following aioli:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (and its zest)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preparation

Mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt using a large heavy knife. Whisk together yolk, lemon juice, and mustard in a bowl. Combine oils and add, a few drops at a time, to yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until all oil is incorporated and mixture is emulsified. (If mixture separates, stop adding oil and continue whisking until mixture comes together, then resume adding oil.)

Whisk in garlic paste and season with salt and pepper. If aioli is too thick, whisk in 1 or 2 drops of water. Chill, covered, until ready to use.

So, our first taste of local, grass-fed, no-hormone beef was a huge success! Tomorrow, we’ll be setting up my victory garden (it’ll be victorious if we actually get it growing) — but, next weekend, hopefully I’ll be able to plant. With my fiance in cahoots with the weather people at his station, I’ve been told I need to be patient; we’ve had a pretty chilly spring as far as our usual season goes. (However, in my next post, I’ll tell you about something I WAS brave enough to plant!)

(Picture from http://donsmaps.com/cavepaintings.html)

“Pret” Another Good Experience

Last Wednesday, I accompanied a small group of seniors (12th graders; not elderly) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While I was mesmerized by the King Tut exhibit and inspired and awed by the rooms filled with Picasso, I’ll instead write about something else — our eating experience.

While at the Met, my tiny group and I ate in the cafeteria. While they offered plenty of healthy foods, I was disgusted by something else — the rudeness. I was expecting extremely over-priced items (to the tune of around .78 per pound of cold sides and salad; my total came to over $13), so that wasn’t too bad. However, I couldn’t believe how utterly despicable people were. I’ve been to NYC numerous times and the streets are what I call “adjustable” — they’re not rude, you just have to adjust your thinking and think more like they do. But, this was nuts.

I hate to say it, but most of the other “tourists” (the ones being literally pushy and giving you the evil eye) were French. So, let’s just say that our lunch was crowded and tense. And, did I mention expensive? Well, again, THAT was to be expected, at least.

The main teacher who set up the trip had planned in advance for us to visit Pret A Manger for our pre-bus dinner. I had visited one of these establishments when on an NYC trip with Dave, but I didn’t think much about it at the time. This time, I paid a lot more attention. This time, after wishing so many times that “fast food” restaurants (or any restaurants, really) offered more all-natural food alternatives, I came into this eating experience with eyes much more open.

For those of you who don’t know, Pret A Manger is French for “ready to eat”, which sounds a little misleading. A lot of fast food commercials lately talk about how they make your food once it’s ordered — which sounds great, right? Sure, but that stuff’s still manufactured meat and never-go-bad fries.

This is how the experience went:
– We arrived at the Pret next to Bryant Park. Luckily, it wasn’t insanely busy, so it accommodated our 14ish people. I noticed several perma-smiling employees waiting to let us pay (or to take an order), but who didn’t rush us to pick out our food.
– I turned to a wall of food and beverages. They present you with an open cooler of sandwiches and salads, all made with close-as-possible vegetables (some grown on-premises) and daily-made fresh bread. Most of the beverages are as all-natural as possible, from lemonades to juices, smoothies to flavored waters (although there is the occasional Coke). I picked the Pret Pure Ginger Beer (which we had to remind the students several times was NA). It was the strongest ginger beverage I’ve ever had, to the point of being wicked spicy — I had a carbonated water the next day and I still could only taste ginger. I liked it.
– Next, to figure out what to eat. Some of the items I considered were: roast beef baguette, cheddar and chutney sandwich, chicken/apple/cranberry sandwich, corn chowder, and sweet butternut squash soup (among others). I settled on a balsamic chicken and avocado sandwich and grabbed some all-natural chips. Later, I ruined a lot of the health factor with a chocolate chunk cookie, but knowing that it was fresh-made that day (and still warm!) helped me reason with myself about eating it.
– Sitting down, I noticed many slick posters that informed me about what I was eating. This is some of the info I learned that day, from pret.com:

It’s important our sandwiches and salads taste better than everybody else’s. To achieve this, we build a beautiful sandwich kitchen in every Pret. “Every night we receive good, natural ingredients and our chefs get cracking early in the morning. …We don’t like big food factory/depot/processing places. We make our stuff fresh so we can sell it fresh (it’s old fashioned but works well). We donate our sandwiches to charity instead of keeping them over to sell the next day. Because we make our food by hand in each store throughout the day, you won’t find “shelf life” dates and “display until” messages on our salads and sandwiches. We simply don’t need to sell old food.

Next to the fact that they donate their leftovers (when they have them) to charities at the end of the day rather than re-sell the next day, I’m most impressed by the fact that they will not franchise. They’re a privately-owned company and they’re growing slowly — over 3/4 in UK (where Pret started), only a handful in the states. While I wish it would travel upstate, knowing their slow-moving approach, I’m okay not having one here quite yet. Our area isn’t the most 21st century (or, at all?) — we don’t have a true Starbucks. I’m praying for a Whole Foods — the best I can get is Hannaford’s. But, I’m looking forward to having a place in the city we visit the most to actually eat the way we’re trying to “upstate.” So, all in all, I give Pret a huge red star (actually, the best customer service workers get a Tiffany silver star for good feedback, ha!) for staying true to their ideals and helping us do the same.

Organic Shopping Budgets Itself

Hi, again! I dropped another chunk o’ change on some healthy goodies at Aldi’s and Hannaford’s tonight — and don’t feel TOO badly about it. There are a couple of reasons to feel guilt-less (or less guilty, at least) about my expensive purchases. (And, yeah, I’m an Irish Catholic — one of the guilt-built-in breeds; the occasional twinge of “is my mom watching me and did she just see how much that organic kumquat I just picked up was?” does hit me in the grocery store.)

  1. When I know how much I spent on something, I take a lot more care in preparing it. My cooking ability has improved greatly just out of fear of ruining a not-too-cheap ingredient. Organics make you a better cook.
  2. I think more about snacking. I finally bought some organic snacks that I’ll feel much better noshing on after school; for awhile now, I’ve gotten home and either starved when my salty cravings hit or went after the worst thing in the cabinets. Now, I don’t have ANYTHING really bad in the cabinets and, again, knowing how much I spent on the good stuff, I’m not likely to eat the whole bag in one sitting. Organics make you watch your diet.

    (This goes hand-in-hand with the fact that someone mentioned Doritos today and my mind immediately went to, “What the hell is IN those?!” — when I used to think, “Mmm. Dip ’em in PB or cream cheese, you’re golden.” I can’t believe it.)

  3. Dave and I have been a lot more conscious and verbal about what we eat. He’d prefer to be able to grocery shop with me every time it’s called for, but his hours just don’t work out in his favor on this front. So, today I showed him absolutely everything I got — and, no, he wasn’t bored by it. Organics make you aware and, dare I say, bring you closer together with your significant other.

  4. When shopping for organic and natural foods (not the same thing), you’re much more in-touch with the shopping experience. I don’t buy half of what I’d like to, and I don’t shop at Walmart anymore. Shopping at Hannaford’s, I KNOW I have to watch myself because I could spend a whole paycheck on groceries. Walmart is, admittedly, cheaper but stocked with SO MUCH CRAP that I’d end up leaving the store with more crap than cupboard space — oh-so healthy, oh-so what they want you to do. So, I have to shop fully aware and almost in a trance — which is also helpful when you see people you’d rather not talk to while you’re grocery shopping. πŸ˜‰ Just kidding! Regardless, I think to myself, “Will I have time this week to make homemade granola? Should I buy the ingredients now, or put it off?” My priorities this week concerned healthy snack foods and a few less expensive, quick lunch options (organic cup o’ soups). So, that said, organics budget themselves and make you prioritize.

Yeah, all the italicized ideas are vast generalizations, but sometimes it’s fun to make them. Overall, the cost being spent so far hasn’t put us in the poor house, the act of purchasing has been therapeutic and conversational (“When we have kids, they’ll drink these” conversations are always uplifting), and we’ve taken to enjoying cooking AND eating a lot more. I like the new consciousness. I think I’ll keep it.

Cooperstown Farmers’ Market – Our First F.M. Adventure of the Year

Although the weather forecast seemed doomed, Dave bouncily suggested that we head to our first farmers’ market of the year – in Cooperstown. With all that enthusiasm, how could I possibly say, “What, no cozy, “stay in and clean” day?” Plus, I already knew that it’s one of the area’s only indoor markets — it’s open every other Saturday throughout the winter, with normal hours the rest of the year. After hearing some great things about it, and with such an eager partner in tow, we left beneath a steady stream of chilly rain.


Strangely enough, by the time we reached the baseball rhetoric-riddled Main Street, the sun had taken over and our jackets were unnecessary. It made the short walk toward the barn-like structure used for the market incredibly quaint, especially with other locals and travelers meandering their way with grocery store reusable bags and homemade baskets in tow. The vendors were overflowing to outside its doors, which we saw as a good sign.

Compared to the, admittedly, only other farmers’ market I can recall attending, it was kind of sparse. I’m sure the local ones I’ll start attending next week will be teeny-weeny, so I’m not necessarily complaining about it. There were plenty of vendors, several with the same goods (which we LOVE — it makes it easy to compare prices), mostly incredibly friendly and willing to talk. However, several of the goods were pretty irrelevant to us — tie-dyed shorts, anyone? And there were only a couple vegetable vendors, each with few items we could actually choose from.

Having worked on a dairy farm and lived in a quasi-rural area my whole life, I’m not ignorant about the reasons I wasn’t overwhelmed by lush and plentiful goodies at the CFM. I know. We’re still pretty much off-season. And, I knew that when Dave asked me to go, wide-eyed. Mostly, I wanted to see what the place was about, what the farmers and artisans and cheese-makers were like, and whether it truly is worth it to schlep 45 minutes away for locally-grown goods. There arises a paradox: If you’re going to release your fossil fuel into the atmosphere with a 1 1/2 hour round-trip to get organic, locally-grown goods which are good for you and the environment, is it really equaled-out?

Mind you, it was a wonderful drive (other than for the occasional rain shower) and we did get our first-ever free-range multi-colored XL eggs, Amish cheddar cheese (INCREDIBLE!), very well-priced European-style yogurt and some homemade, environmentally-friendly soaps (all well-thought-out and exciting purchases) as well as a side-trip to visit the ducks at the Fly Creek Cider Mill.

And, as far as the quandary is concerned, I say we still hit the ball out of the park (I do spend too much time at Cooperstown! We’d live there if we could! – not for the baseball). While we used up some gas, we got a great overview of what to expect when the yields REALLY start coming in. I foresee perhaps visiting the CFM once a month while supplementing the occasional CSA and local farmers’ markets more regularly, but it’s definitely not only a great resource for healthy, sustainable goodies, but an always-needed excuse to get away for part of a day.

***I realized after I wrote this that I’d taken a bit of a novelistic approach. Perhaps a slightly-more-sophisticated version of Donna Thompson *cringe*? (If you’re local, you know what that means.) Just a thought.***

Appreciate the Now

After reading this article, it dawned on me that our current surroundings may not just be a starter home — it may be our after-starter home. Certainly not our ending home, but a bigger player in our future as a couple and family and careers than expected. I’ve gotta start coming to terms with that.

We found this house a little over a year ago, thanks to my mother. She was on the look-out for a cheap starter home for us (it seems lots of people were — my sister and Dave’s brother both bought their first homes around the same time). In luck, she found a foreclosed property in our suburban area for a great low price. Yeah, no. Ridiculously low. Dave and I walked through, knowing that it might have some unforeseen issues (the realtors couldn’t inform us due to its foreclosure status, which we were fine with), but the place seemed just right for our needs. I think once Dave saw the brightly-lit sun room in the front, he silently fell for it — I think the age of it (close to that of my first home, where I lived for 18+ years) did me in.

Shortly after moving in, we discovered that the house hadn’t been winterized in sufficient time, so the pipes had burst. A funny story involving our kitchen’s leaking ceiling fan and my niece calmly proclaiming that, “The light’s got water coming out of it” will always be engraved in our memories of our first day in the place.

With great thanks and appreciation for my step-father, before too long we had all new pipes, toilet, and energy-efficient water heater and furnace. Then, he and Dave worked together to put in a pedestal sink, vanity, overhead light, light/heater/fan, front door locks, etc etc etc. Dave’s dad supplied us with well-priced windows, which we’re still working on getting put in — a vast majority are finished. We’ve turned our eyes to getting the lawn green (in a green fashion — like by using his old-school push mower, as mentioned in this post) and will be planting a modern “victory garden” when the weather stays warm for a bit.

Oh, we’ve done more — much more. Lots of painting and cosmetic stuff, but nothing too costly (yet). We put in some cool vintage-looking (but modern material) black-and-white-check flooring in the kitchen, painted nearly every room, and am in the midst of finishing the cellar-way. Oh, and as a wedding present, my stepdad will be helping us put in a back deck. But, we’ve talked over other plans and what we’d like for the rest of the house while we own it. This is where it gets a little complicated.

See, the house itself is pretty small. I’m not sure of its exact square footage, but I’m pretty sure it’s misleading when I say we’ve got 3 bedrooms. In actuality, we have one bedroom (slightly cramped), one guest room (it’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s covered in my clothing — it contains a closet and a large dresser, but I still don’t have much room for clothes), and a den/office which houses 3 not-big desks (Dave uses this closet for some of his clothes; he also has 2 dressers in our room, plus the tiny closet). Add a small bathroom and you’ve got our upstairs.


Downstairs is a little roomier. Our living room feels pretty expansive, but once you get 4 people in it you realize how uncomfortable it really is — it’s a hard room to furnish correctly! But, YAY, at least it’s got a sufficient closet; still tiny, but works for seasonal items. The front door and “sun room” (tiny!) open from the living room, as do the kitchen and dining room (each have a door; this is the 1920s, after all). The kitchen is a sufficient size, but there’s not enough storage and some of the cabinets were downright abused by the prior owners. Mom always says it’s the brightest kitchen she’s ever seen in her life, so once we add a back door onto the deck, it may just be my favorite room. The dining room isn’t very big, and won’t be once we get my piano in there, but it fits its purpose.

The basement is a “future project.” It’s pretty expansive, but with lots of opportunities for head-bumping. We’ve discussed how to do over the basement and have decided not to completely finish it, but to waterproof it and designate storage areas — and even a comfy TV area and bar. Oh, and there’s already an area for a possible 1/2 bath, so it only makes sense to put one in. πŸ™‚ I can’t wait to get some kitchen pantry/storage built in!

Outside, however, is another situation. We have a tree in front of our house which has pushed up the sidewalk and doesn’t allow much to grow around our foundation area. It’s also buckled our already-curvy driveway — so, those projects would pretty much be a necessity if we’re going to stay.

So, that’s what we’re dealing with. I already know that I simply need (need vs. want) to downsize lots of my stuff, particularly clothes. Perhaps we both do. Who knows? I know that people only use 10% of their clothing, which is a discouraging figure, so to garage sale it or give it away would only make sense. But, this is just to get it to be a comfortable living situation for a young-ish engaged couple now — what about the next step?

I’ve thought a lot about what will happen when kids come along — I think we both have. It’s pretty obvious that, for now, we’d stay here; but how long? The article makes me re-think it. When we moved in, I mentioned that things’ll be very different when we move out, to which we both agreed; I figured we’d have a toddler running around, Dave thought we’d have teenagers helping us. Very different ideas!!! I can’t possibly imagine raising 2 or 3 kids in this house — but, I’m sure it was done, back in the day. I know of a family with 3 grown children who did just fine in a house as small as ours, if not smaller…but, they were uber-close and uber-religious (we weren’t raised to be “close” in the literal sense, and our religion was always pretty mute).

But, as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s not that things are desperate now, just tighter, and I can’t imagine how tight they’ll be with young ones around. However, it may not be plausible to just move, and I’m considering whether we should put more money into the place than we were originally intending to (that tree was definitely a “eh, leave it” thing before).

So, what will help make the house more user-friendly in the long run? I’ve got a few ideas. πŸ™‚
– Well, obviously, get the tree/sidewalk/driveway taken care of. *shivers* These are “little at a time” projects, but, in this case, a priority.
– Finish the basement. Dave recalls his childhood home as having a sort of rec room basement where he and his brother could crash and play to their heart’s content. Well, why can’t our kids have that? We already have an extra TV and entertainment center, and eventually when we get a new living room set, we could easily put our “old one” down there. Plus, waterproofing will help the organization we do create even safer. (And an extra bathroom is helpful in ANY house!)
– Once we have our back door, life will be a lot easier. Currently, our driveway is on one side of the house and both the front and side doors are on the complete opposite side. With the plan of adding this entrance, we can bring groceries directly from the car and into the kitchen — what a luxury!
– If we’re living here long-term, the floors will have to be re-done. While we can pretty easily live with the cheap living room/stairway/office carpet with just the two of us, no amount of steam cleaning will make it sufficient for when we’ve got babies crawling. I’d like to see what wood we’re working with and whether it’d be cheaper to have it repaired/refinished or to get a nice carpet throughout.
– DE-CLUTTER, DE-CLUTTER, DE-CLUTTER!!! We’re currently using pretty much all of our space, which I think is a little bit much (I’m guilty as much as Dave is!!!). This is something that we could pretty easily accomplish without much, or any, money. πŸ˜€
– Re-analyze our needs. Do we need all the books we’ve got? Dave does a great job with purging his collections through eBay and amazon.com, but our bookshelves are full. Do we NEED more bookshelves, or less books? (No right or wrong answer.) Do we NEED 3 desks, or more office storage? Do we NEED the huge extra bed in the guest room? (That’s probably one that we won’t work on until *dun dun duuuunnnn* eventual pitter-patter.) Organization isn’t easy in this house, and once you let it slide for a few days, you’re buried — with Dave being pretty particular about his space and us both being brought to tears by the shows about hoarders, it’s pretty obvious what we’ll need to do.
– Eventually, a small kitchen reno — and, hopefully, some new appliances. The cabinets under the sink were very poor quality and currently stink when you open them — seems they had a moisture issue and the bottom of them fell through. I’ve still got some items down there for my cleaning, etc, but it’s pretty ridiculous. Can’t wait to have them GONE and simply something cleaner (and that match the rest of the kitchen — white!) and better-quality. While we’re at it, we may get some granite-esque tops for them, and the old, original cabinets.
– This summer, I’m planning on re-doing the main bathroom. It’s small, but I like it. The tub isn’t white, but it’s livable. The mosaic tiling on the walls I find disgusting and the floor and trim need an update. The paint isn’t staying on correctly, so that’ll take some sanding, and I’d like to fix up the cabinet to be a nice, open concept. Since we have some new items in there already, it shouldn’t be TOO costly — but let’s see if summer school + bathroom reno + wedding planning = happy Meg. πŸ˜‰
– A cohesive, non-green color scheme outside. (And I don’t mean non-eco friendly, hee hee.) The shutters are pretty yucky and, after replacing the tree, will be quite viewable, so I’d like to paint them a high-gloss black, along with thresholds and doors (possibly a tan thrown in), but we’ll see when the time arises.

So, those are some ideas for our “home sweet home” if it’s going to remain such for 5+ years. If another great deal (higher-priced but within our budget) comes along before that, ’tis fine, but for now my philosophy of “get out and spend relatively little before doing so” may have to go the way of the dinosaurs.

Not (Just) a Couple of Hippies


Just so that you don’t think we’re nothing but Buddhist hippies in this household (oh, we’re so much more — and there’s not an ounce of patchouli in the place), I thought I’d let you know what else I’m about. Come along. (BTW, no offense is meant by “Buddhist hippies.” I love both groups of people!…hmm, if I generalize toward the positive, is it still bad generalizing?)

My last post let you know about Dave’s blog, which is about finding his Buddhist “side”, as it were. I’m super excited that he’s working to implement what he’s been learning into his — and, in a way, OUR — everyday life. It helps him deal with his high-stress job and appreciate life more, which definitely spills into my life. While we were both raised Catholic (and are getting married in the Catholic church), we are pretty non-religious. So, it’s not as if we’re converting to Buddhism. One great post that he made concerned the fact that Buddhism is actually a way of living that can coincide with (and should work quite well with) other religions — and even work in the lives of the non-religious! When I mention Buddhism, it often elicits a raised eyebrow, but we’re very much ourselves and are quite a down-to-earth (I hope!) and “normal” couple. To look at us, we’re not hippies.

While I’ve had hippie tendencies throughout my life (I love the Beatles and many of the hippie ideals), it doesn’t define Dave or myself. We have many varying interests. For example, we met at our local community theater, became friends, and the rest is history (in short). Hence, the name of the blog! Currently, he’s the president and I’m the secretary of the theater, so it’s a pretty important part of our lives. Oh, and when we have time, we like to make stops at antique shops. I think that, in a way, this goes hand-in-hand with our timelessness. We’re a pretty classic couple, so when we choose lifestyle paths, it’s based on our true feelings and connections, not fads (‘cuz that would get even more expensive!). I’m lucky that Dave has been not only supportive but just as enthusiastic about our eating and other lifestyle changes as I have. Little did we know that with a couple of minor choices we first bought our house a year ago, we were already on our way to a greener lifestyle. Dave was all about energy efficiency (more for cost than Earth-saving reasons) and bought nothing but energy-efficient light bulbs. Also, it being our first house, we needed a lawnmower — so I bought him an update of the old school push mower (pay no attention to the reviews; we give it 4/5 stars). He can mow as early as he wants on weekends without waking a single neighbor, and the “whirring” noise is lovely to listen to. It’s also a great workout, and he really enjoys using it.

So, that’s a little bit about us. We’re a pretty passionate, low-key couple. To learn more about how our wedding plans are going, check out our wedding blog.

First Meatless Monday

Yesterday, I received a cheerful, super-excited email from Dave with a link to a CNN article about meatless Mondays. While this concept is nothing new — especially both growing up Catholic (which made Fridays the meatless days rather than Mondays) — and Paul McCartney, among others, have been doing it for awhile — it’s new to us. Or, at least, a new idea to try. So, we made a couple of large salads and ate plenty of pasta with veggie-laden tomato sauce. Oh, all while watching the 3rd installment of our Netflixed Ken Burns’ “Jazz”. Fun night!

So, after one day of it, what do I think? So far, it didn’t feel like anything different. I think that if we went vegetarian for a few days a week, it’d be much more noticeable. But, we were still excited to be making an effort and, in a way, feel like we’re part of a bigger “movement” — although we’re not ones to be categorized (especially politically, and particularly since Dave takes his news job very seriously) or do things because a group is doing them. πŸ™‚

Last Sunday, we did some shopping at Hannaford to start our process, from buying their bulk corn meal and raw sugar to picking up some great fruits and veggies. It’s hitting the pocketbook pretty hard, but it’s not getting us down. Oh, I even got some organic shampoo and soap, which Dave loooooves the smell of — I’m getting used to it. πŸ˜‰

I’m now off to research soap-making. I find myself getting distracted by about a million different things to research, from safe cosmetics to Earth-friendly cleaning products, when I’m suddenly hit with “get simple about it — look up historic ways of doing this” to stay true to my historical interests and to avoid overdoing things. Thanks for checking in! Things are definitely going very well and even bringing Dave and I closer and closer together.

By the way, check out Dave’s blog, Dave’s Path to Enlightenment, where you can follow his thoughts while reading and learning more about the how to incorporate Buddhist concepts into his everyday life.

Earth Day — in our own way

My fiance, Dave, and I stumbled upon “Food, Inc.” on PBS last night and were equally touched and horrified by what we saw. I gotta tell ya, well-produced documentaries sure are the way to get tears and fears out of me, but I suppose that’s what they’re meant to do. I hate to fall into the trap, but I agree with and accept the information they provide — in general.

While watching it, my mind started hopping from thought to thought. Why are we so dependent on big business? Has it been given too much of an opportunity to grow, thus take over our lives? Are Americans (well, many humans, not just us) so ignorant that they follow the leader so eagerly (and lazily)? I don’t want to sound overly hippie, but this all turned my stomach…well, it could’ve been all the slaughter scenes, but anyhoo….

One reason that Dave and I get along so well is that we seem to transcend time. No, we’re not Dr. Who or Marty McFly. We’re just very connected to past time periods. I’m not sure about him, but I’ve always wished that I could live in a different time, from the Colonial period to 19th century to the 1940s to the 1960s…hard to live in the now, but we are where we are. I know the grass isn’t always greener, but when it comes to eating, I wonder if we’d be a lot better off living a century ago. So, my first extreme idea was to buy a farm, quit our jobs and start a whole new lifestyle.

Go ahead, take the time you need to finish laughing. I can wait. πŸ™‚

Not even sure Dave understood what I meant when I tearfully explained that. But, I never expected it to become a reality. The second idea was less extreme…but still extreme: moving away to an area that has more resources for healthy living. Of course, this would mean leaving family, friends and jobs. Not something that we’re currently ready to do.

So, the compromise that Dave came up with after sleeping on it a bit was to take our first steps to get healthier — and we don’t mean in order to lose weight, but to retrain our bodies not to depend on the salt, sugar and fat that they have thus far grown to crave. Mmm. Sugar. *shakes head* That’s gonna be a tough one.

In our area of the country, we’ve gotta drive about half an hour to a modestly-sized city (where Dave works) or an hour to the east or west for a larger option. We’re between suburban and rural; we’re relatively close to farms but they still seem foreign. Many of my students live on farms, and a lot of the kids I went to school with back in the day (a town over from where we currently live) also lived on farms. Oh, and suffice it to say, Dave’s from the above city and my parents both grew up on farms (Mom eventually dated a dairy farmer, so I spent lots of time on it during that time — being a youngster on a farm has its merits), so farms are a little less foreign to me since I’ve vast experience scraping cow pies into gutters. Yessiree.

While you’d think that a quasi-rural area like this would allow us tons of great organic produce, it isn’t necessarily the case. We still rely on Walmart, Aldi (man, why can’t they have more organics?!) and Hannaford for groceries; the harsh winters take up most of the year, so farmers markets get set up for the summer — making it rough the rest of the year. Also, much of the “goods” the local farmers create are for a larger market, so they’re feeding (literally) right into the big business hype. *sigh* Sometimes we think that if we lived closer to a city, we’d have an easier time living differently. Strange how that works.

But, there’s some good news (albeit not cost-effective), and it’s what Dave’s great idea is. We found a local buying club called The Foodshed Buying Club on Facebook which, depending on the time of year and availability, offers eggs, meat, produce, etc from local farmers. You can order by Sunday night and pick up your goods that Friday or Sunday. There’s an annual $15 fee for their services (can’t blame ’em, and that’s not too bad, is it?), you get organic, hormone-free foods, AND support local farmers who, in turn, support our cause — buying locally.

So, here’s our first step — talking. Ohhhh, it sounds so simple, but rather than jumping in and spending a fortune (which we don’t have) on everything the Foodshed has to offer, we’re going to discuss our priorities and what we can’t already buy at a sufficiently healthy level in a “normal” environment. So far, my priorities are as follows:

  • MEAT!!! Ew. What are they FEEDING us?! We were raised as the traditional, all-American omnivores (with a big accent on the meat and potatoes…or heavy pasta), which there’s nothing wrong with. Well. There sort of is. We’re flabbier than we probably could/should be, and that probably has something to do with it. Regardless, once I’ve used up all the bulk goodies in the freezer, I’m buying no more meat from the grocery stores (unless specifically labeled as grass-fed…which is rare around here). This is one area that we will pay a pretty penny, and rightfully so.
  • Dairy – All the corn-fed (corn sounds healthy…it’s not…and it ain’t natural) cattle are producing hormone-infested milk and cheese products. Now, we’re not big milk-drinkers (didn’t we drink it, like, constantly as kids?) but I’d like to get into the habit of not grabbing whatever plastic container is cheapest, especially since we’d like to have a brood of our own one day. Instead, here’s one place that we’re a little luckier. Hannaford has organic milks as well as some locally-produced no-hormone brands which aren’t uber pricey — so, shall we say score?! Yes. They and the Foodshed also have great cheeses and yogurts which, although slightly expensive, aren’t enjoyed that much in the McCoy-Dellecese household, so will be a nice splurge here and there.
  • Produce – Here’s where I’ll have to do some experimenting. I’m not completely ignorant; I know that just because it’s a fruit or veggie, it’s not necessarily “good for” us. But, this is also the area that I think leaves us the most wiggle room. It’s still way healthier than hormone-laden meats and poultry, so, for now, we’ll work on getting fruits and veggies that help us stay within our budget.
  • Grains – Since I don’t bake as much as I should (why can’t I be Donna Reed?), I figure I can splurge on the whole wheat and organic flours from Foodshed. The harder thing is figuring out what to feed my guy — brown rice is always a go-to, but pretty boring, and anything with a strange-sounding name is a no-no. He’s a little like a child with some foods; I guess we all are in our own ways (I hate hate HATE raw tomatoes). Here’s where I’ll need to do some research. ANY SUGGESTIONS ARE WELCOME! πŸ˜€

We’ve already gotten well underway with our beverage consumption (except for that moo juice!), drinking mostly seltzer or flavored waters with zero additives, juice, plain water, etc. The occasional soda (ginger ale) gets tossed in when we’re feeling naughty. Oh, okay, and beer or wine, but those are social or mental health beverages (rough day at work much?), and consumed rarely.

So, that’s a start, I think. We’ll update when things get further underway. I know there’s a lot more in our area that’s still untapped. What better way to celebrate Earth Day than to take a new stance on our own impact? Well, at least I’m not crying over meat anymore.