Story of a Cat

I’ve hinted for awhile of a change happening around the McCoy-Dellecese household. Well, here it is! Our last two weekends have been life-changing — we’ve endured some of the happiest, scariest, most stressful moments we’ve ever had as a couple. It all started when…

Two Fridays ago, Dave and I went out for a bite to eat and a drink or two at the bar in the basement of Beardslee Castle [which happens to be the site of our reception (Sign #1), and is undoubtedly haunted — very cool place] with our friends, Tom and Christine. A good time was had and, when it was time to leave, one of the employees told us of a different exit to use. (Sign #2) After ascending the stairs, we turned toward the car, and were immediately approached by a highly affectionate, clearly sick, EXTREMELY smelly cat. He rubbed up against our legs and wouldn’t stop talking. We all looked at each other, wondering where he was from, if he lived at the castle, 3/4 of us thinking about taking him home. Tom talked us all out of it quickly and we left, deflated. On the way home, we chattered about him (Sign #3 — I always refer to animals as females, but knew this guy was a man without catching a glimpse of…anything), deeming him “Dudley” due to his funny, drunk careening while trying to walk straight.

The next morning, Dave awoke to my staring eyes. I’d been up all night, wondering about the cat. Once it got brighter outside, we threw on crappy clothes, grabbed an old towel, and (without thinking much about it) hopped in the car. On the way there, I called my sister for advice — whether or not to bring him to the humane society (we decided against this, thinking it’d cost money, he might get put down if they needed to do lots of surgery, etc.), could I catch any diseases by handling him, how would I know if he was rabid, etc.

Upon arrival, Dave took hold of his senses, realizing that we were probably trespassing and that we could be arrested if anyone was there. My quick temper flared up at him, knowing that we had to just LOOK; I didn’t expect in the slightest for him to still be around, given that the area was farmland and woods (and that he was probably just a barn cat). While in the middle of exchanging spats, Dave followed my frantic searching. In mid-sentence (about the fact that a gardener was on-premises) he turned and saw the cat, asleep (and near death) in a self-made nest within a large bush/tree. His voice changed instantly and his words made no sense — “You mean, THAT?! *pause* I’ll get the car!!!” (Sign #4)

Our hearts were in our throats; he pulled up and I still hadn’t gotten him out of the brush. I made noises to get the little guy’s attention; the only energy he had was to look up with his eyes, meow silently, and put out a paw. (Sign #5) I burst out in tears and scooped him up (using the towel). He was so frail, his nose was running, he reeked of his own urine, but he seemed 100% trusting. He meowed, a little scared of what we were doing with him, but his energy was gone; he seemed as if he’d been preparing for death, and we interrupted.

Shortly after grabbing some food and a couple of items (by the way, we’re not cat people — you’d think I’d have mentioned that by now) we brought the kitty home, where we stayed for a few hours. It was pretty clear that he was sick in the terms that we were used to — coughing and sneezing. But there was more wrong. I guessed that he either had ear mites or an ear infection since he still couldn’t “walk a straight line.” Knowing that he was starving, he still couldn’t eat or drink without having a sneezing fit. We decided to call around for an animal hospital that was open on a Saturday.

Luckily, we could get into the New Hartford Animal Hospital, so we quickly jumped in the car. He was on my lap, in a small new bed Dave had bought him, and quickly failing. While he was bothered by the car earlier, this time he was calm — thanks to the 1940s XM/Sirius radio channel (Sign #6 — what other cat likes oldies and classics?!).

Upon arrival, we brought the still-nameless cat to the exam room, where he was weighed, checked for a temp (nada), and eventually just taken from us. We had lots of questions, and the doctor was great. It turned out that his kidneys were already failing, so he was being put on an IV immediately, and given antibiotics for an upper-respiratory infection. In the end, he was hospitalized for several days, brought back for an emergency visit the next weekend (he wasn’t responding right to the medication), and we’ve been fearful about his health ever since, but that’s mostly because we’ve been on the look-out for issues.

But, he’s massively improved. Although he has had setbacks, we’ve got an appointment coming up (and I’m praying we won’t need to visit the ER before that!) to see what we might have missed. His breathing is still a little strained at times and his balance may never be perfect (he has a head tilt, too, that may be permanent — but it’s adorable and doesn’t bother him), but his personality and ability to show his gratitude and happiness is infectious. Oh, and he’s got a name — Beardslee. (Although, we call him “buddy” and I, especially, call him “Boo” ; I found out from my mother last weekend that, apparently, that was a nickname that people called my dad and, now, my brother. My dad passed away when I was young and I’d never heard the nickname. Sign #7)

And, I’m still concerned that we took him from some family. He’s a year old, has claws (and will continue to — we’re not declawing him; we DID get him fixed, however, but his “friendliness” and chubby testosterone-induced cheeks will stay with him forever) but never uses them, gets picked up without being too bothered, and is just the sweetest cat I’ve ever encountered. The nurses and doctors assured us that someone outgrew the “cute kitten” phase and made him an outdoor cat (or got rid of him) — an outdoor cat in the boonies, where male cats will chase female cats for literally many, many miles, only to get lost. He’d been in fights. He was on his death bed. I have to be resigned to the idea that he’s ours, that we spent a fortune (as Dave calls him, “the most expensive free cat EVER”, but we could care less about the cash) saving his life, that whomever had him before didn’t find him fast enough. *sigh* I’m even a little scared to post this in case the family happens upon it — but it needs to be announced, ‘cuz it’s HUGE for us.

We’ve learned a lot, especially as our future as parents. I’m the disciplinarian but the provider (usually of food, and I’m generally more attuned to his health issues); Dave’s the worrier but loves with 100% of his heart. Dave has also overcome some of the icky stuff of “parenthood” — potty time and the surprises brought on by illness. We’re working on giving him enough attention but still maintaining our relationship; for awhile there, his illness was ALL we thought about, talked about, worried about. Took a bit of a toll, but it’s a healthy, good lesson to learn.

So, help us welcome Beardslee to the McCoy-Dellecese household. We hope he’ll be here to add continued humor and warmth (and countless other positives!) to our family for many years to come!

Quitting Walmart

Well, maybe quitting is a strong word. Somehow, I’ve escaped “needing” a Walmart visit for a good while; or, at least, one where I look around a lot and actually USE the place. (I was using their prescription department, so once a month I’d have to go in, but it was a quick stop.) It might be the fact that we’re buying our groceries at Hannaford (mostly) and Aldi (occasionally), and are visiting more farmers’ markets.

Today, I had little choice but to go to Walmart for my consumerism needs. An after-school meeting for summer school made my time scarce, and somehow the crumby weather and my mood matched, so I wanted to get home ASAP. I needed to grab a couple items — and I needed to do it fast. Fast = hesitation to go to the busiest place in the Valley at the busiest time of the day.

Most Walmart stores are, admittedly, the hub of their town. Unfortunately, this is what Walmart hopes for. Heck, I remember going to Walmart in high school to hang out with friends (they DID have air hockey, after all). Trips to Walmart have marked several important points in my life, from heading to college to getting an apartment to when we finally moved into this house — huge Walmart hauls accompanied each.

A quick stop at our Walmart is never that. The parking and general traffic there is a flustercuck. (Yeah, I said that.) People (myself included — hey, following the flow of traffic!) drive over the parking lines, criss-crossing and nearly hitting other cars driving in opposite directions. An overhead camera shot throughout the day would probably look similar to a beehive. Bzzz bzzz. Only less organized. πŸ˜‰ So, the driving itself is a lesson in patience and life philosophy. “Do I hate people, or do I pity them? Wait! I LOVE people, that guy just let me in.”

The stress only follows you into the aisles. Why are there not driving lessons for carts?!?! Or, at the very least, lights and turn signals? Rudeness abounds. And, above all, don’t get me STARTED on the fact that you enter for one item (in this case, a baby gift) and you leave with a million extras. Some say convenience; I say too much.

Walmart used to be such a routine for me, I went to no other stores locally. Zilch. Occasionally, for clothes, I went to Utica (our closest, mid-sized city). Man, did I have a lot of grocery bags to show for it!

Since buying groceries mostly at Hannaford, we haven’t noticed our grocery bill getting larger — which is surprising because Hannaford’s prices are higher. However, we’re looking a lot more at what we’re purchasing and why, and are building our organic and natural products a little at a time. Overall, though, we may actually be saving money while spending more. How crazy is that?! It makes me feel pretty darn good.

I realized that, when I walked into Walmart, it felt as if it was my first time entering. It drew me in. I saw hip-designed beach towels, cool sunglasses, and comfy flip-flops that called to me. It was kind of like a drug or some other addiction — when you’re off it for awhile, you forget the appeal until it’s introduced again — at which point, it’s intoxicating (sometimes literally). Thank God I was aware of myself and only ended up leaving with ONE extra product — some gum. *whew* But, man, was that tough!

After recognizing that Walmart can be so addicting, I resolved myself to continue avoiding it — to shop locally as much as possible, and to make the occasional trip to Target (in New Hartford) for sustainable products when absolutely NEEDED. Yeah, I think Target IS better than Walmart, mostly because you can find biodegradable and eco-friendly products and because it’s further away, it’s less likely for me to stop by weekly, becoming dependent.

I’m happy that I’ve realized my choices — and the fact that I have them — when shopping.

“V” Stands for Victory Garden :-)

This week, the Young Actors Workshop (at ILTC — if you don’t know what that stands for, read this or check out this site…er, please) had its culminating performance(s) for friends and family, so I was a little blog-distracted. Now, I’m waiting a few days to announce some HUUUUGE news (for us, anyway) which is currently being released on a semi-need-to-know basis — at least, ’til my mom finds out. No, we’re not pregnant.

So, while patiently (not) waiting to say the stagnant news, I thought, “Hmm, I should blog about something. But, what?” Then, I looked over my recent entries and smacked myself in the forehead. Dave and I planted our herb/veggie garden last weekend and I hadn’t posted it. D’oh! *smack*
Buuuut, there are pics, so it MUST be forgivable, right? RIGHT?!

Anyhoo, I’m calling it our victory garden because a) I secretly live in the 1940s and occasionally ration myself and b) our neighbor seemed strangely confident that our attempts at gardening would be battled by seed-stealing birds and rodents, among other things (apparently she hasn’t had much luck in the past). So, yeah, part of the name comes from petty “ha-ha, I-told-you-so” thinking. Something wrong with that? Heh.

While we did have to dig a bit, we had decided to take my parents’ advice and just create a frame with 2x4s to contain the garden. Dave did a great job of putting it together.

Yeah, we got overzealous on the whole digging thing. Working on getting that grass back. ANYhoo…here’s a close-up of our oh-so-professional construction technique. We bought three 2x4s at Lowe’s (under $10) and had the friendly fellows in the lumber department cut one in half — for free, might I add — which would create two short ends for the box. Genius! But, we can’t take all the credit; Jerry suggested it.

Here I am in the oh-so-sexy work jeans leveling out the dirt. Yeah, enough of that. Next picture! Oh, wait. After I did that, I filled in s’more with topsoil.

Now, it’s time for the eco-friendly plug! We had originally bought (for 2x the price) some good ol’ regular weed-preventing landscape fabric, but the NEXT DAY found this. It’s the same quality, made from recycled plastic bottles and works just as well. Oh, and it was around $8, a bit cheaper.

Good stuff. So, we laid down enough to cover the bottom of the garden bed (overlapping in the middle). We poured the dirt in, then trimmed the edges down. (Found wayward garden tools to keep the fabric from blowing away on that delightfully breezy day.)

Check out that stud doing his best to keep things in place. Lookin’ good, buddy!

Close-up of my kindergarten-level cutting ability.

Oh, yeah. This is the stuff we used. I believe we used one of the fertilizer (COW POOP! Hee hee) and 9, count ’em, 9 of the Organic Choice garden soil. Good stuff.

Now, it’s time to PLANT! Oh, wait. I forgot. This part of the project, we finished the prior week. So, at this point, we actually…um…rested.

Fast-forward to LAST weekend! (Wow. How much of a procrastinator am I that it took me 3 weeks to plant and post the story? In my defense, we still had a frost possibility for awhile there, so nyah.) We went to two local stores to find our produce: T&J’s (which also contains a yummy local grocery store) and Massaro’s (our wedding florists — we may just be lifers), and split it up pretty evenly at the two places.


Mwahaha. Had to include this. I foresee some verbal harassment in my near future. Eh, worth it.

So, here are our lovelies awaiting their new places in the world on that fateful morning. Well, I know I was pretty excited about it, not sure what they thought. We had the following (and, gotta tell ya, I was worried we might’ve gone overboard for the space we were allotting ourselves): tomatoes (ick…but I’ll cook with ’em), peppers, onions, Romaine, mescalin mix, red lettuce (can you see we’re salad fans?), hot peppers for the outskirts (we hear they keep pesky bugs and cats away), and my herbs: thyme, parsley, and *adoring siiiigh* basil. Here are their “before” beauty shots.

“All right, Mr. DeMille. I’m ready for my close-up.”

After posing for awhile, we played with their placement while still in their containers. Then, one at a time, I showed Dave how to get his hands dirty. It was fun and relatively easy, although I’m still wondering, “are they too close? Will Mom approve? Will my neighbor try to sabotage their success?” (Naw, just kidding.) Here’s the final placement:

I’ve got some more close-up shots, but I won’t bother you with them here. I figure I’ll give it a month or so and compare them. Leave something to the imagination. πŸ˜‰

So far, we had SWELTERING heat and BLAZING sunshine during these little guys’ first week, and they seem okay. The lettuces (particularly the two weaker) wilted, but would come back early in the morning — and seem much stronger now. I’ve already stolen some of the basil for an orzo recipe. I know, I know, but I couldn’t help myself! πŸ˜€ I’ll let you know how it all goes. I’m also planning on planting some strawberries for a container garden, and perhaps a lemon tree in one of our backyard’s “monstrous tree bush from the black lagoon used to be there” gaping holes (I’m just wondering how well it could POSSIBLY do since we don’t live in a Mediterranean environment…hmm).

I just can’t help myself. I LOVE BASIL!!!

Blog Name Explained

Oops! I’ve realized that my blog name (which was chosen out of a plethora of ideas that were spewed onto one of my Facebook status updates) may be a little confusing to those who don’t know me. So, here’s a quick explanation.

I suppose there is a double-meaning (or maybe even triple) to “Meg, Acting Out” (or megactsout, whichever). The most literal comes from my involvement at our local community theater group, Ilion Little Theatre Club. I’ve been acting there, thanks to my sister’s earlier membership (and a desperate last-minute need for someone who could, heck, READ) for a few years now, with several shows under my belt. More recently, (a year ago) I became a board member – secretary – which takes up lots of time, but is something I strangely enjoy. In all honesty, this place is like home; a home full of strange, mostly-wonderful family members whom I care deeply for — and whodathunk I’d find a FUTURE family member there!? Yep, it’s where I met Dave, where we started as acquaintances, moved to friends, and eventually became partners. Oh, and although he doesn’t readily admit it, he’s the president. πŸ˜‰

So, from the literal, we explore the abstract. I’m the youngest of four talented, unique individuals; we’re similar in some ways (particularly in twos — the older brother and older sister (1 & 3 in the line-up) are quieter and more reserved, in general; the younger brother and sister (2 & 4) share similar illnesses and allergies as well as their tempers and flair for the dramatic), but all quite different. I grew up known as the “spoiled one” — which is all relative. Compared to my siblings, yes. Compared to all of my friends, no.

I was also very vocal from a young age. For better or worse, and for all who truly know me, it’s who I am. My senior superlative was “Most Outgoing.” I’m slightly outrageous (but generally responsible and not prone to poor choices — can’t really do stupid things that’ll get you in trouble with the cops when you work in a school) and am known to say extremely random, at times slightly offensive things. I had a problem with interrupting family members at the dinner table. I’ve never liked being talked down to, and tend to speak up about it (can you picture a cute 4-year-old speaking up? Yeah, I’d want to give me a spanking, too). But, I was raised with enough sense to respect my elders (with exception to my mom back in the day, and my stepdad during my teen years, poor parents!) and never spoke rudely to teachers, grandparents or, well, any other adults. Regardless, my closest friends and family know that “Meg, Acting Out” just describes the person they’ve always known. I’m grateful that they’ve remained loving, and that I’ve been lucky enough to find a guy to put up with this quirk.

I suppose a third meaning could come just from living life, since that’s essentially what this blog is about. I could have just decided to write a blog about living green — but I’m not an expert. Or, I could have written about students — which I’ll, on occasion, do, but would rather not air their business too publicly. I could also have written a design blog — but, again, I’m no expert and would rather just share our renovations as they come. I could’ve written a wedding blog — but I’m not a hugely wedding-obsessed bride (although I’ll be writing more about the planning as we go along; besides, I’ve got a blog on our wedding web site). So, one reason the name appealed to me was in the fact that it somehow describes EVERYTHING I wanted to write about — which is, pretty much, EVERYTHING. πŸ™‚

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts….”

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, everyone! I’m a lucky duck; got an extra day off. Hope it’s as gorgeous where you are as it is here.

You’re Really Writing a Post About Peanut Butter? Heck, Yes!

Peanut butter. How could we have survived childhood intact without it? Besides, what’s childhood without getting sticky fingers to use for strategically-placed hand prints to drive a harried mother crazy? My sister, particularly, wouldn’t be on a deserted island without it (and some milk to wash it down).

So, why talk about it? That’s because I’ve seen the light. Or, more specifically, tasted it: organic peanut butter made of nothing but PEANUTS.

At first, the slightly gritty texture and more pungent flavor made me raise my eyebrows. It also had to be stirred (which I only remember from when we had little money, when Mom got a huge vat of it in a red plastic container — with no label) and, since it hadn’t been refrigerated yet, it was ruuuuunny! So, it made me play with my food all the more. But, I’ve gotta say, once you go runny, you never go back!

One reason is that, after you refrigerate it, it gets less runny. However, you still get this gorgeous sheen when you spread it that you definitely don’t see in the old stuff. I still get excited just thinking about it! (No, really, I do!)

Once we finish this jar (yep, it’s glass), we’re going to bring it to Peter’s Cornucopia (about a half an hour away; we go there every few weeks to see what organics we’d like to splurge on) for a refill. Although this was store-bought PB, we’ll be SEEING the peanuts crushed before our eyes, filling our re-used jar, making us feel involved in the process. It’s pathetic, sure, but just thinking about doing this with our kids, having them involved with their food, never having to deal with wallpaper paste PB & J sandwiches. Yum!

Things Are A-Changing — Yay!

As we all know, thanks mostly to the economic downturn here in America (or, should we say, in the Western world?), life as we know it is changing — and I hope it’s for good. It’s time we reevaluate our priorities if we haven’t already. Here are some ways that people are making changes.

Hey, look! We’re already making some changes that they listed. Sweet! Oh, and it should be known that while the area that we live was affected in a different way by the recession — we’ve survived because we have insanely low cost-of-living to begin with and our job force was already running at its lowest ability (in most areas; schools are finally getting pounded). So, I think that most of our residents were already used to the “tough stuff.” But, we weren’t completely safe — I mean, our house WAS a foreclosure.

Anyhoo, here are the changes that we’ve been making (as compared to the 21 listed at the link):
1- Monthly Debt: We’re living without this, but to an extent. We were already watching our credit debt since we both have it. We’re both working HARD at cutting down on our debt, so clearly we’re still making monthly payments, but not adding a penny to it.
3- Simpler Gadgets Rather Than Bells ‘n Whistles: This is one we’ve considered. We have 3 computers (2 laptops and a VERY important desktop) between the 2 of us — sounds off, right? Well, we do host the theater’s web site and Dave stores lots of movie and news stuff on his, so what we’re talking about doing is selling my hardly-used older laptop and purchasing a simple netbook — especially since we’re newly in LOVE with GoogleDocs. He’s already using it for his writing! I’m so proud. πŸ™‚
4- Clutter-kicking: Since we have such a small place (and had moved two pretty sizable apartments into it just about a year ago), we’ve been working at getting rid of lots of STUFF. Dave’s much better at this. I need to work on thinning out my wardrobe; he works VERY hard at selling off comics and other randomly-found items. We also have an annual garage sale — fun!
(5 – Quitting Cable: MAAAAAN have we considered this!!!)
6- Cell Phone Over Land Line: We’re both cell-only, which has followed us from the apartment days.
8- Home Cookin’: When Dave and I were first friends, I used to grab his favorite dinner at McDonald’s on my way to the theater — knowing that he got out of work really late and would head straight to rehearsal rather than eat. Sweet at the time, perhaps, but since then (and much more recently), and thanks to the fact that we’re going organic, we eat at home a lot more. We’re also a lot more verbal about when we are going out to eat.
11- Coffee Out, Tea In: A norm in the McCoy-Dellecese household is tea — and usually quite inexpensive tea (can we say Christmas Tree Shop?). I drink this at work and home; Dave grabs his coffee (when he drinks it) at work. Plus, we don’t have a single Starbucks. Yes, I said that. (Dunkin’ Donuts, however, are rampant. A lot easier to avoid those.)
12- Guilt-Free: I shed my guilt complex for buying “the best” within the last day. I set my standards when shopping accordingly — “Will buy sandals if under $10” — and, today, went to Goodwill for the first time to actually SHOP. I’ve gone for theater stuff (and, once, inadvertently found our awesome TV stand) and was able to do so with a clear mind, so why not try it for MYSELF? By the way, two skirts and a glass cake stand for the wedding. Ka-ching! I’m braggin’, you know it. I will only allow myself cheaper clothing, at least until the wedding is paid for, my credit debt is gone, and I’ve got better savings. Yep. I can do it pretty easily, actually. πŸ™‚
17- Run It Into the Ground: Dave’s doing well with this one; I, however, purchased a brand new Sportage last year. It’s served us well, though, and I’m not planning on getting a new car ’til…eh, the kids are driving this one, maybe? Anyhoo, Dave has a policy on his car where he can trade this one in for a new one or keep paying on it (like lease-to-own) — and he’s doing the latter. He’s proud that his car has held up relatively well, and there’s little to no reason to get a new one. I’d say this is definitely “new wave” way of thinking.
18- Regulating Ourselves: We’re lucky. When we moved in, we already had a programmable thermostat. And, that heinous tree out front has helped us keep the cool in during the summertime (although we do occasionally run an air conditioner in the bedroom). You’ll find me covered in blankets (and sweats) in the winter and scantily-clad in the summer (Dave’s not a fan of wearing shorts, but he’s getting better). We try.
20- Low-Key Dating: What?! Who has time to date anymore?? No, actually, we’ve come to enjoy our “home time” together (especially on work nights) more than we ever thought we would. So, heck, the rare date we do budget for is even more enjoyable — and we usually use gift certificates for those, so it’s pretty much free.
21- More Debt: This seems like a repeat of #1 to me, but who am I to complain? Like I said, we’re workin’ on it!!

So, this makes me wonder how others are faring on these stats. Rolling your own cigs? Driving your ’98 jalopy into the ground? Oh, and here are the 10 things that people AREN’T giving up during this recession (although the TV findings seem contradictory to this study).

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.