Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Aubergine Adventures

Still on that mission to master eggplant. It's so pretty...it's so weird. I need to be able to cook eggplant in a way that tastes good to the whole family. I don't have a rational reason for this. I just wanna.

I think we've finally found a recipe we all like. I say, "think" because the man had a pretty bad head cold when we had this, and couldn't taste anything. The kids loved it though, and I loved it. It's nice enough and yummy enough I'd serve it to company. In fact, I think it would serve as a nice substitution for hamburgers at a barbecue for my non-meat eating friends.

"Eggplant Torta Sandwich
Marinated Eggplant
1 lb eggplant, preferably small, young eggplant
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, seeds removed
1 cup refried beans
2 ripe red tomatoes, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 ripe avocado, peeled, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch clices
1/2 lb shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce
4 pickled jalapeno peppers, sliced very thinly
1 red onion, sliced into thin rings
4 crusty French or rustic-style sandwich rolls

1. Prepare the eggplant first. Slice it lengthwise, about 1/4 inch thick, place in a colander above a sink and lightly salt with kosher salt, if desired. Let the eggplant soften and drain for 30 minutes. While the eggplant drains, prepare the marinade by whisking together the lime juice, olive oil, tomato paste, garlic, oregano and cumin. Add the drained eggplant, coat the slices with marinade and let stand for 10 minutes, turning the slices occasionally.
Heat the oven to 375F. When ready to roast the eggplant, lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and spread with a layer of eggplant, trying not to overlap the slices too much. Brush each side generously with the marinade and roast for 10 to 12 minutes, slipping each slice and roasting for another 10 minutes until the eggplant is tender. remove from the oven and wrap in foil to keep the eggplant warm.

2. To make the chipotle mayonnaise, pulse the vegan mayonnaise and chipotle peppers in a food processor until smooth. Warm the refried beans either in the microwave or on a stovetop, adding a little water if necessary to creat a spreadable consistency. Have ready the tomatoes, avocado, lettuce and red onion rings.

3. Slice each sandwich roll in half horizontally, and, if desired, remove some of the bread inside to allow more room for the filling. Toast or grill each roll half until hot. Assemble sandwich by spreading the inside of a roll with chipotle mayonnaise, then topping that with the refried beans. Stack on the bottom half a generous layer each of eggplant, tomato, avocado, shredded lettuce, jalapeno and some onions. Top with the upper half of the roll. Slice each sandwich in half and serve immediately."

My tweaks:
  • I didn't use vegan mayo, because Best Foods is all some of us will eat around here. Instead of putting chipotle peppers in the mayo (I couldn't find them) I added chili powder & a little cumin. Because I love cumin. 
  • I didn't put jalapeƱos, because I forgot. 
  • I didn't bother to warm the beans.
  • I added a slice of pepper jack to each sandwich, mostly because I have a cheese addiction.
Not pretty, but pretty delish.

While the once a week meatlessness is going well, it's just a minor thing. I'm very excited for tomorrow...we're getting vinyl energy efficient windows. That's a serious energy conserver. Details to come...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Squishy Tushies

There are some days I'd really like to be plugged back in to the Matrix.

Now that I'm really paying attention to our habits and lifestyle, there is so much potential for guilt. While there is much internet discussion about slacktivism and people easing their consciences with quick band-aid fixes, I think the converse is true as well. Sometimes there's so much I want to do, I'm almost paralyzed by the guilt/difficulty of doing it all. I don't want to be a slacktivist, I want to change the world.

My favorite writer, Anthony Doerr, recently wrote a somewhat depressing and frustrating article about how little awareness really changes things, and extreme technological fixes might just be the only viable solution. He also seems to be saying that even on the path to extinction we can stop to smell the roses.

I can't decide if I feel admiration or anger.

But enough of this intellectual codswallop! I'm a stay-at-home mom, I shouldn't be reading or thinking. I should be talking about baby bowel movements and diapers.*



In an earlier post I fretted about the expense and complications of cloth diapering vs. my huge guilt over the number of dipes Girl 2 is generating. The internet is CRAZY confusing when it comes to cloth diapering, even though there are 80 gazillion sites that claim to have an easy explanation. I gave up and decided that diapering was the one area I was just going to have to remain a wasteful Earth killer. Maybe I could potty train Girl 2 sooner, to reduce the number?

A friend of mine read my blog and shot me an email about how she cloth diapers. She was straight-forward, she was simple, and she told me what I really need in practical terms. Here's what she said, in a nutshell:

  • I need a minimum of 3 diaper covers. She recommended Econobum   
  • I need a stack of pre-fold diapers. Each of the diaper covers comes with one, plus you can use a good, absorbent flannel to make your own. Basically it's a 30 inch square, which you fold thusly. (first set of pics). I can use old receiving blankets.
  • Then you just have to make sure you wash them sans fabric softener, and check to make sure your detergent works well with them. She recommended washing with baking soda.
Here's my math, once I understood what I really needed:
           I spend an average of .18 on a disposable diaper. (coupons!)
           If I do 5 changes a day, that's $0.90 a day in diapers.
           One econobum cover costs $9.95 on Amazon (free shipping since it'd be over $25)
           I can get by with 3, which would be a total of $29.85
           I have lots of flannel receiving blankets I'm not using, so the insert part is basically free.

          $29.85/.9 = 33.16, so basically in 34 days, I'd have broken even. 

One month. Seriously. 

So I talked to the man, and we decided to go for it. I bought 3 Econobums, folded all my old receiving blankets into diapers, and then the sweetest part, my cloth diaper mentor sent me this care package:

My econobum purchases with lots of adorable prefolds from my cloth diaper guru. 

Girl 2 has been wearing cloth diapers since Saturday afternoon, and it is going great. 

The relief I feel from eliminating disposable diapers is HUGE. I didn't realize how heavily it was weighing on me every time I rolled one up and pitched it in the trash. We still have a big stash of them, so she'll be wearing  one a night since she sleeps so long. That should give me a little wiggle room with laundry too. I can do the wash at night.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Yesterday while Boy 3 was hanging upside-down by his knee pits (in gymnastics) and I had the mom-chauffeur down time that comes with it, I made a list of all of my responsibilities as well as everything I'd like to fit into my day. It was a hefty list. I categorized, sorted and shifted all of it into list after list, until I came up with a schedule that allows me to do it all. It isn't sustainable, and it means functioning on 6 hours of sleep, which I'm not sure I can do for an extended period of time. My hope is that if I stick to the routine for a week or two, I should be able to determine what can use less time, what can be cut. Hopefully I can slim down my day a bit.

I love lists. Two of those are front and back.

Bright side: it's a quarter after 8 and I've meditated, done a load of laundry, exercised, made the kids' lunches, fed the girls, had breakfast, and now I'm blogging. That's pretty serious productivity for me.

So. Progress.

Today, being Wednesday, is garbage day. We are down to two bags of trash in a week, plus a little extra. That's pretty good.

Composting...basically it's a big box the dog eats out of right now. So sick. I really need to get that wire to enclose it. But less trash is going to the landfill...more is being processed through the dog. Eww.

Recycling week this week. They pick up every two weeks, and we are consistently using more than the alloted can. We're going to ask for a second. That's good in that it means we're being more conscious and  recycling everything we can. It's bad in that there's still a lot of waste.

The big can. 

The extra can.

Finally, and the most exciting for me, school is back so we can take a realistic look at our gasoline consumption. At our old house out in suburbia we would have to fill up the van every 5-7 days. I don't think we ever made it more than a week on a tank of gas. 6 days is a reasonable average. And that's just my van. Horrible. I last filled the car on September 10th. That's 12 days ago, twice the span we used to be able to go before filling up...and we're still sitting at 3/4 of a tank. Seriously. I can't wait to see how long this tank lasts us. It's pretty amazing.

So all in all, we're trucking right along. But I sense I'm getting complacent. I'm not searching for the ways to cut like I did when I first started. I'm thinking a room by room analysis is next.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Speak Softly, Carry a Big Stick

Image credit: www.cs.virginia.edu

Roosevelt had other ideas in mind, I'm sure, when he espoused the "Carry a Big Stick" ideology. 

I can't find balance. There are so many things I want to do, so many pulls and calls on my time. 
I want to spend time teaching the girls.
I need to keep this house clean...the kids help, but it's an unending battle.
I want to write...while I'm sticking fairly well to my blogging, my creative writing has vanished.
I haven't read a whole book since Christmas of last year...that breaks my heart. 
I'm fourth grade room parent, and I love being back involved with the boys' school.
I've had an ear infection since July. I finally went in at the end of August to have it checked and the antibiotics they gave me made me sick to my stomach so I didn't run the course. I don't have time to get back in to the doc.
I want to talk to intelligent people about world issues, 
I want to take our green living to the extreme. 
I want to sew.
I have my part-time web work. 
I want to make a little more money to help around here,
I want to exercise and eat better...

There isn't the time. Or maybe it's focus. 

The point of this blog is sustainable living. I am not living it. Materially we're getting better...time wise, things are much worse. On one hand I have people in my volunteer life clamoring for me to be more available. I have other people telling me I'm doing my family a disservice by taking on too much. I can't find the tightrope, let alone center myself on it. There is no way to sustain all of this activity. 

I need lists, routines, a schedule. I need priorities. 

I had someone tell me once that just because something is worth doing, it doesn't mean that I have to do it. I just hate to pick and choose.  

Saturday, September 18, 2010

That's a Spicy Taco.

Apparently anything with needles is addicting. While I've never been an IV drug user, I've heard it's kinda catchy, once you start.
I've read that acupuncture is addicting.
And now this. Sewing.

It's all I can do not stitch-rip apart all of the cloth goods in the house and sew them into something else. I promise this is not going to turn into another craft blog...as tempting as that sounds...But, I've started making the lunch bags, which is so fun, and then I tried my hand at making a t-shirt apron. The tutorial can be found at Ruffles And Stuff

Ages ago a friend of mine brought me a t-shirt back from Vegas. It cracks me up, and I really like it, but due to "mature content" I have no place to wear it. It's not really the kind of thing one wears to the PTA. So after another friend sent me the above tutorial, I decided to turn it into an apron. It has a food theme, and there's something slightly ironic about the juxtaposition of domesticity and a gentleman's club...who'm I kidding? It's just funny.

The text: The Hot Taco Stand and Gentleman's Club. The Hottest Little Tacos West of the Pecos. Only in Sin City, Las Vegas. Two for One Special for only $1.00 more. 

Anyway, I can't wear the thing in the house even, because it embarrasses Boy 1, and I can't imagine Boy 3's reaction, should he see it. Anything even hinting at nudity sends him into hysterics. Rolling on the floor, literally. So I need to find a good use for it, but it was fun to make.

 But one thing I'm noticing is that once you start re-purposing, everything starts to look different. I see things around the house, and out in public, not only as they are, but I also see what they're made of, and how well, and how wastefully. I start to see things as what they could be, what I could make them into. It's added a dimension to my perception that I wasn't expecting. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Two things. (2)

So, thing two...

I'm assuming you know about the oceanic garbage patches. (I cannot type "oceanic" without thinking "815"...) If not, it's an easy google, but beware, it's depressing. The BBC has a really amazing interactive graphic that shows you how big the Great Pacific Garbage patch is in relationship to where you live. It's horrible, really. Plastic bags are insidious, hegemonic demons.

Photo swiped from Raubi Marie

I'm kind of being hyperbolic. Kind of.

The thing is, even if you eliminate the plastic bags at the grocery store for hauling your food, there are still the bags you put the produce in, the little baggies in lunches, the plastic liners in processed foods like cereal, etc. They are everywhere.

I've been reusing the produce bags from the grocery store & fruit stands for kids' sandwiches and lunch items. I've also been reusing bread bags for this. But they get dirty & nasty, and there's still no choice but to pitch them eventually. So I'm trying to eliminate them one by one.

My first step is to eliminate the need for sandwich/snack bags. I know you can buy plastic (it's eve.ry.where.) containers for sandwiches and such, but we often don't use the standard square bread, and I don't want to spend a ton of money. Plus, I have this dream of eliminating petroleum-based products entirely...not sure we'll ever get there (especially when I think about toys) but it's something to aim for.

I decided to dust off the old sewing machine and make my own reusable sandwich bags. My mom gave me a yard of fabric to play with, and I had to fiddle with sizes and linings.

The first attempt:

The sewing is kind of a mess, the bag a was a bit too small, and the liner (a repurposed tablecloth from Girl 1's birthday) is tooflimsy, but still, I was excited. The shape and function seemed workable.

So I made a bigger bag, lined with a thick plastic shopping bag: 

Terrible picture, but basically while the liner works great, the bag is much too big. You could fit two sandwiches on Dave's Killer Bread in the thing. Which is fine, but kind of unwieldy. 

So I reduced the size a little, and decided to try repurposing a Dorito's bag for the liner: 

Success! This bag looks good, has a satisfying and sturdy feel, makes a neat-o crinkly noise, and is made by reusing materials that can't be recycled. I was able to make two identical bags. The kids all had hot lunch at school today, but they will be testing these next time they bring their own lunch.

I am so exited by the idea that I can make these, I'm inspired to make a bunch more. I went to the thrift shop to look at clothes and bedding that could be transformed into replacements for plastic bags. I spent very little money and came home with some really cool fabrics. I forgot how much I love the thrift store. 

I'm pretty dang excited. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Two things. (1)

Boy 3 never has just one topic of discussion. Anytime he wants to talk to his dad or I, he always has two things. Always. "Mom? Two things...First, can I have a granola bar? and....Can I watch Avatar shows?"  "Mom? Two things. First, my throat hurts. and....Whatcha doin?"

Maybe it's a middle child thing. Maybe he needs to add weight to his conversations. Whatever it is, it's become a family joke to start all conversations with the phrase, "Two things..."


Dear Readers, two things...

First, I found some free pallets on craigslist to build into a compost box, but then realized I don't really have a vehicle to haul them. We do own an ancient uglytruck for macho-type activities, but I have never attempted to drive the monstrosity, and tooling around in a jittery old pickup truck doesn't seem safe for the ever-present Girl 1 and Girl 2 (they will not bite you, they want to have fun! And out of the box came Girl 2 and Girl 1.). The organic garden store (!) that had them isn't open when the man is home from work, so I was stymied as to how to get the pallets from across town to mi casa.

The day after Labor Day, the man had the day off, so I thought I'd ask him to go pick up the pallets. Turns out, he had plans of his own, and that turned out to be organizing our wood pile. We have two fireplaces in this house and the previous owners left logs & branches strewn all over. So no pallets for me. BUT, as he was hauling and moving branches, he found this:

It was hidden along the side of the house and covered in brush. We moved it into the backyard, and voila! (I actually saw online someone type "whala!"... I wanted to break stuff.) We are composting!

Problem: we need some chicken wire or something, because the dog is runty and can pull scraps out of the box. She's in heaven. Us, not so much. 

Older pic of Dumpster Diving Dawg.
She wouldn't hold still for me to get a picture of her today. 

So that's thing one. We have achieved a compost beginning, and we didn't have to drive anywhere or buy a thing. I'm hoping to find some cheap or free wire to enclose it, but we are moving right along.

Stay tuned for thing two...


School started and life, as always, became a chaotic mess of scheduling. I thought for sure that when the boys were in school I'd have more time to write, but I didn't account for the fact that I'd signed up to be 4th grade room parent, nor did I realize that being said room parent meant I'm the co-chair of the first major fund raiser of the year.

I also didn't account for the fact that Girl 1 would become destructo-baby. She's managed to chop her bangs off, short out a night light with a quarter, cover the bathroom floor with a quarter-inch of old Lysol we had in there, fill a toilet (in a different bathroom) with an entire roll of toilet paper and flood the room, and generally lay waste to the house. I haven't even had time to post to "Shit My Kids Ruined".

That's less than a month's worth of destruction.

She does this in no time flat. Hair? Everyone thought everyone else was watching her. She was alone less than 15 minutes. Night light? She put the quarter in it while we were all sleeping. Bathrooms? Again, she's alone less than 15 minutes and she's wreaking havoc.

She's my sweetheart. She's my archenemy. 

So I'm getting up half an hour earlier to try and get a jump on the day and make time for blogging. Just because I haven't been putting finger pads to keys doesn't mean I haven't been working. Hang on for some catch-up posting.