Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Things I want to do

  • Migrate from paper napkins to cloth napkins
    • at this stage in life, I don't need fancy cute matching ones- Ross or thrift store will be fine, but need to buy them in order to migrate :)
  • Minimize use of paper towels- use kitchen rage instead
    • Many options for this- I have a pattern for knitting my own, you can buy pre-made ones, or you can get color coded ones for levels of "contamination"
    • Already moving towards this with my use of my e-cloths
  • Migrate from chemical cleaners to natural home cleaners- vinegar, baking soda, lemon etc - Haven't started yet
    • Need some spray bottles, recipes, to make the mixes, and to USE THEM
    • Need to dilute my simple green and store the other easy to reach cleaners farther back and make an effort to use my natural ones instead!
  • Change over from chemical based laundry detergent - DONE
    • Using soap nuts successfully!
  • Change over from chemical based dishwasher detergent - DONE
    • Tried Biokleen and now Trader Joes brand with white vinegar as a rinse aid
  • Change over from chemical based soaps and shampoo and conditioner - DONE
    • ACV and baking soda and organic soap, tea tree face wash
  • Use a more natural and environmentally friendly dish soap
    • need to pick one and buy it :)
  • Eliminate grains from my diet -  DONE
    • this one I do pretty good at
  • Moderate potato consumption -  DONE
  • Minimize sugar consumption- eliminate refined sugar consumption - In progress
    • Honey and a little maple syrup along with dairy are my highest sweeteners
    • Refined sugar hides in SO many things- even those bought at my healthy food store. But I try to really keep an eye out and keep treats to a rare occasion!
  • Grow some stuff! In progress
    • Started with succulents- thought those would be good- native- right? Tried some cuttings, some purchased, some given. Some are ok, others died, none are amazingly great or growing like crazy.
    • I really want a vegetable garden someday. Generally planting in the earth is "easier" than container gardening, yet most successful vegetable gardens use raised planters- big containers. I have researched and read and the consensus seems to be that experience teaches you best about gardening. 
    • Still want to try self watering planters
    • I think I'd do better with water every day or every couple days than don't water or water once a week or once a month plants- I am not sure if I am over or under watering- some looks crisped
    • Saw succulent cuttings (and other little plants) sprout roots by sitting in a glass of water- want to try this more as I think having roots out is always a better start than sticking a stem in the ground hoping it will grow roots!
  • Use natural toothpaste -  DONE  
    • another way to get rid of chemicals and refined sugars!
  • Use aluminum free deodorant -  DONE
  • Try and get all organic animal products -  DONE
    • Still need to communicate more with my farmers market folks- not sure what the chickens making my eggs eat, and that matters to me
  • Try and eat only grass fed organic dairy  DONE
    • Pretty close! Butter and milk and cheese are pretty much done, no luck with cottage cheese so far
  • Buy organic produce from the dirty-dozen list! - NEED TO WORK ON
    • Found out some of our farmer's market stands actually use pesticides! EEK! Yay locally grown, but gotta pass on those stalls. You don't have to be organically certified to practice organically. 
  • Not have dessert every time I eat out! NEED TO WORK ON
    • This is a trained behavior! trying to teach myself that tea is a delicious and satisfying replacement
  • Eat outside with no movies or TV- chat and enjoy my food - In progress!
  • Get plenty of sleep - DONE
    • this has never been too hard for me :)
  • Swim! - In Progress
    • At about once a week for now
  • Yoga- at least twice a week - In progress
    • Attending my class regularly, and it is a harder class so I am usually so sore a couple days later I have to spend some time doing yoga and stretching out
  • Art Journaling! - In Progress
    • Got some supplies out and started/finished a few pieces! Feels great
  • Scan finished artwork
    • need to do that :)
  • Knit! - Well in progress
    • Completed several projects, having a blast
  • Organize and USE found object art supplies!!!  NEED TO WORK ON
    • When it cools down I still need to redistribute my supplies after I packed them all up for my altered dolls class 6 months ago- I want to put a bunch back up on the pegboard in the garage. The garage is such an ideal studio space and I need to start USING IT
  • Strength Training -  NEED TO WORK ON
    • Trying pull ups, planks and other basic moves now and then, but not consistently
    • Doing sit ups consistently - thanks yoga!
    • Still taking the stairs a good 10 times a week (4 flights!)
  • Wear shoes that mimic bare feet - DONE
    • mostly my converse, vibrams or flip flops these days!
  • PLAY! - Well in progress!
    • Snorkelled, fishing, walking, exploring, board games, running around with Brutus, frolicking in the pool, etc etc! Hoping to go backpacking soon!
  • Minimize use of single use storage items like ziplock bags- try to use more containers, etc - Well in progress
    • Doing ok on this! Need to be doing better about reusing my zipclock bags by rinsing them and drying them
  • Stand at standing desk at work more -  NEED TO WORK ON
    • Used to do at LEAST an hour a day, now I don't even use it once a week :(
Overall I think I have made some really awesome changes. I have taken a few steps back, but the forward progress is undeniable. I feel so blessed and happy in my life. I still cook lots- still trying plenty of new things!  Life is great, but sometimes it is good to take an inventory of what is left to work on (along with all that you have already started/done to help with the motivation and confidence). 

And as a quick aside- I like all of these:

Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cooking update!

As for cooking, things are great. We got new mats for the kitchen that have padding- one for in front of the sink, where most of my time in the kitchen used to be spent, and now also one for in front of the stove, where much of my kitchen time is now spent! :)

I have a friend who has a friend who grows their own vegetables and has far too many and does not sell at a market, and so I have received varieties of zucchinis and cucumber and eggplants and whatnot. I was not sure what to do with the eggplant, so I tried a recipe for something like an eggplant lasagna that came out quite well. Upon my next shipment of eggplant, I got brave and altered the recipe to add ground beef as well, and it came out incredible!

I also received some pampered chef stoneware from my very generous boyfriend's parents, and they cooked this dish perfectly- crispy on the edges,bubbling sauce, cheese browned on top. Couldn't have asked for more! Well actually, I should have made one twice as big, we finished it off in two meals!

With another eggplant I tried a simple pan fried eggplant recipe that I found scrumptious though I almost over-salted it! They even tasted great from the fridge later :)

Also made some more of my weekday breakfast favorites including my cluck-moo sausages and spinach bacon cheese egg muffies

I gave these mini shepphard's pies a try, but it did not end up working as the recipe indicated!!! Firstly, adding the stock to the beef made it much too liquidy to form cakes with (maybe I had way too small of a potato and parsnip mash?) Secondly I added the egg and almond flour right in (accidentally) rather than dipping the unformable cakes into it to bread them for frying. I ended up sticking the mixture in a muffin tin to make mini meaty pies and they are quite good :)

We continue to make dried peaches, pears, nectarines, strawberries, and apples- absolutely delicious. It is cherry season MMMM! I also started my first batch of soaked and then dried almonds that are so much fresh and crunchier! I followed this recommendation and dried them in the dehydrator for best results, but have yet to try making them into flour!

We also continue to dry the zucchinis using our new mandolin (that I don't touch, not until I get one of those chainmail glove things anyway) and tossing them in coconut oil when they are chilled- these are a huge hit with anyone I share them with. We even tried it with the cucumber and they were pretty darn good too.

We tried our first attempt at fresh Swiss chard- I washed and tore into bite sized pieces and pan fried in bacon grease with red pepper flakes and garlic. Though good, it was still a tough veggie, like many bitter greens are, and I used too much bacon grease. John was not a huge fan :) It is crazy how such a huge bunch of greens are reduced to so little once wilted in the skillet.

I intend to make another batch of my split pea soup tomorrow! I still haven't typed up that recipe, but I wrote it down :)

Finally, we went on a tour of a local farm (Tanaka Farms) where we learned so many cool things, tried delicious organic veggies right out of the ground, and picked and ate fresh strawberries to our hearts' delight. What a pleasure it was! I highly recommend it- you ride in a tractor trailer and even get a free 1lb of strawberries at the end. Depending on the season, they do pumpkin tours, watermelon tours, and cook out (pick your veggies and they grill em up!) tours!

Food porn- one of John's typical Primal lunches :)

Been too long

I keep thinking about posting an update, and then I get distracted and do something else :)

Life is wonderful and full of blessings. Yesterday was the first class in a new session of yoga taught by Sandy Jones through Upland Recreation called Challenge You Yoga. I have been taking her Yoga Fit class for over 2 years, once a week- it is Hatha. It has helped me calm my mind, learn how to be still, appreciate meditation, quiet, and being slow. It has had a massive effect on my life, and I am eternally grateful to have found it/her.

If her previous class was a level 0/beginner, this new class felt like a 2/advanced, skipping right over intermediate! We were sweating quickly, and it was so much wonderful that my mind had no time at all to wander. After several of the poses the sensation of bliss and release was astounding! While there is so much value to the slow (and longer) class I had previously taken (and is still available), I am very excited at the prospect of the experience of this newer harder class. We used blocks and straps and warmed up and balanced and moaned and grunted and pushed and held and it was just amazing. I felt positively exhilarated afterwards and also pooped :P

I have been swimming at the pool in my apartment complex- it is so peaceful. Sometimes there are kids in there, and though I prefer it empty, I can still do laps with them there, and they are sweet and curious, attempting to race and copy me :)

Swimming is another incredibly valuable time of mindfulness for me- under the water my brain shifts gears, and as I get more adjusted and stretch out each stroke and get a rhythm of my breathing, I do get into a meditative state.

Gardening is another activity I have been enjoying. How long has it been since you actually had both hands full of soft soil with pleasure at the texture of it? To see our little succulents root and bloom and flourish or shrivel and shrink is such an adventure. It reminds me of when my fish tank was much younger and each life form was such a fascinating victory as I maintain its home. My tank is stable and mature and at this point I spend most of my time culling and rearranging to accommodate growing into each other, stinging, and shading each other as opposed to adding new little frags and trying to see where they are happiest with the light and flow.

I love to walk in Claremont and admire all the gardens and yards- I love the overgrowth Southern California's temperate weather, ample sun, and man-made watering can accomplish. I like ivy climbing, buganvilias with morning glories growing interspersed, xeriscaping, etc. I like to see the hodge-podge of planters and pots people use, the trees with shady old branches and fascinating exposed root structures.

I grew up in a place of squat juniper and pinon trees with aspens in the mountains and cottonwoods near the rivers. Many chamisas and cacti and dry shrubs. The debris created by this is minimal, and so also are the garden workers. Most yards are more rock than life. Here, palm fronds and pine needles and massive amounts of flowers, petals, blooms, cuttings, leaves- they all gather and clog the gutters and every day people are out scooping and blowing them away.

Next I am excited to try my terrariums- I have two containers ready, but no plants planned for either. I have the activated carbon but need to gather some pea gravel and some sand and buy some more cactus soil. I feel absolutely ridiculous purchasing pea gravel- in NM you can get it EVERYWHERE, and yet the gravel I see is either clearly skimpy and just a visual layer (and so I would be destructive in taking it) or spread on parking lots with absolutely no growth of weeds which leads me to believe it has been chemically treated. So perhaps I will just buy some after all. I think I could go to Mt. Baldy and find some finer gravel here and there- it would be an adventure to harvest it rather than buy it. So many places are either developed or have been excavated and thus likely chemically treated to reduce weed growth, and their dirt and gravel is not ideal for gardening.

We are also considering trying to raise a staghorn fern- one of the coolest plants I have ever seen, though admittedly this is once they are older and larger, and I am not sure what kind of success we will have trying to grow one from a smaller plant. The succulent guy at the farmer's market says he can bring us one for a very reasonable price, and I am guessing we would need to mount it ourselves! I love how they grow when given a hanging basket but also mounted on a board- I hope to do one of each :) Many Californians mount them on trees, but I would mount it to a board and secure that to our patio post.

Here is a wonderful idea for hanging it

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pictures of garden

Here are some results! Going to add some gravel to the bottom of the wood box planters to avoid rot. Treated them with a basic waterproofing first (inside and out- should have lined them as this is not really plant friendly stuff, but hey it was my first try, I got excited :P)
John drilled some holes in the bottoms and reinforced them with brackets.

aeoniums looking a little crispy but I know my temptation to water them is likely only going to hurt them... 

burrows tail, cuttings, and agave hanging, succulent boxes, buganvalia and torbay dazzler (not pictured, further on the right) on the railing!

boxes treated and reinforced, drilled for drainage and planted! Need to go back in and add a gravel layer

I can take an updated photo and a night photo, but the succulent furthest on the left is already blooming little purple flowers!! The brackets on the bottom are for if we decide to hang these planters!!

 antique mini mall score :)
for a tea light, but I like it better as a planter :D

Friday, June 1, 2012

Garden Inspirations!

I need to snap a photo, but currently we have blue LED xmas lights, 1 Torbay Dazzler, 1 aloe vera (in an ugly black pot that needs to be transplanted!) 2 hanging baskets that aren't hanging yet because the succulent cuttings in them are still pretty delicate, and a fake ficus tree to decorate my patio. There are also 2 fake red flower plant things, but they are faded and will come down soon. On our trip to Texas I visiting an antique mini-mall (it was like heaven- junk and strange things and knick-knacks everywhere- the closest thing to this I have found in CA is flea markets, and they are much more expensive, as people out here eat that stuff up like I do for art :)) and I got a couple things- a glass terrarium, a green glass sphere hung in fish netting, and a couple other artsy things for my assemblage work. John already hung the green sphere, and I have yet to decide what I shall put in the terrarium!

I am trying to think of fun and unique things to plant succulents in- came across this :)
Maybe planting some in bigger shells :)

Plant them in little jars which can be hung at different heights

Glass bowls/candy dishes/fish bowls (easy to find and goodwill/etc)
I don't like giant visible macrame planters- I like the hanging part to be more subtle- like floating plants.

Here is a great Ikea Hackers where she lined a bath organizer with felt to make a planter!

Here is a gorgeous plant mister for watering your delicate littler terrariums and air plants (for $12!)
I also want a totally awesome and unique bird feeder.

I am sure what my next step is before I go shopping for all these things though- I have a terrarium to plant in, and transplanting to do (though no spade...)
Next I need to go through all of my art stuff and see if I want to construct planters and garden deco with them! I dunno if moisture/sun would ruin them (or if in the time it took to do so I would care) but I have wine and cigar boxes I could line, plant in, and hang!! 
(bring it on)

In fact if I am careful enough, I could staple wire mesh and grow my vertical succulent gardens in these. I wonder f I should try to line them with black plastic or varnish them/treat them with something?

Found this tip: "For outdoor use, you're pretty much good to go with a raw box with holes drilled in the bottom. If the case will be used indoors, it should be sealed with caulk to prevent leaking. A non-toxic sealer can be applied to the inside of the box to prevent the wood from falling apart."

Looks like you line the inside with heavy plastic (must account for drainage or put a rock layer at the bottom like a green roof) and coat the outside with a clear sealant to help it last longer. Some people used liquid rubber or fancy boat varnish- I think these are such low quality boxes in the first place, for my first few tries I can go with the cheap stuff :) I saw a recommendation for adding some little L brackets to the corners for added support- s0unds like a good plan!. This is a good instructable-like-thing I will likely follow. I even have some crappy heavy duty plastic that is falling apart in places and would love to be recycled into planter liners :) http://www.ehow.com/how_2194355_prepare-wooden-planter.html

I have other random things I can plant things in to :) I will hunt around my stuff and take some photos :)

Just Checking In!

Been a while since I updated this! Things are going pretty good! Still cooking away, experimenting! Still loving the no shampoo, and I even flew with my ziplock bag of baking soda and small glass bottle of apple cider vinegar, which their names and uses written on them, as they look a bit like cocaine and a clean urine sample :P

Had too much refined sugar on vacation and craved it for days afterward. Having trouble not getting desserts at restaurants/parties, and even at home having issues with having second helpings of dessert- just really struggle to say no to myself- to do anything in moderation. I am definitely better at abstinence rather than moderation, but abstinence from sugar and sweets is a massive challenge for me.

Still cooking up egg muffins- recently with no meat and kale instead of spinach, accompanied by breakfast sausages- recently a sweet Italian sausage that was on manager's special sale from Sprouts :) Made another batch of pumpkin leather- definitely need to use coconut oil to lubricate the trays and not olive oil just because it is in a convenient spray can. I even have pecan oil in a spray can I could have used instead, but the EVOO left a bitter taste on some of the leather :(

Still devouring pears and apples and strawberries from the dehydrator- these are sweet snack items for me, rarely eaten because I am hungry, and much more often eaten because they are so easy, accessible, and chewy delicious. Also we are officially spoiled rotten by farmer's market fruits- grocery store and even organic grocery store pears and berries taste flavorless and bland and grimy to us now :/

I have made some crockpot Barbacoa - it came out too tomato-y and a little flat though- will try a different recipe next time. Made some pulled chicken that was very easy and would have been fabulous but the recipe makes them massively oversalted- surely they must have meant Tsp instead of Tbsp for the salt *shrug

I made some pan seared porkchops that were so fabulous, cheap, and easy as can be! Definitely going to be making those again!!! Also made some pan seared salmon filets that I was careful not to overcook and they came out so delicate and moist and tender- I think I have definitely overdone salmon in the past!

Still using harsh chemicals for mopping and using simple green and real dishsoap, so cleaning supplies have yet to be converted to Earth-friendly, but still working on changing out gum to natural choices, eating all organic animal products and many locally grown/farmer's market produce items.

Still making beef jerky which was excellent for our trip to Texas. Getting grass-fed milk (organic valley), butter (kerrygold) and cheese (dubliner or TJ's new zealand sharp cheddar), and treating ourselves to full-fat Greek yogurt and coconut ice cream sweetened without refined sugars as well. :)

Despite the carbs, we do delight on dried goji berries and some potatoes as well, but each of us has continued relatively steady with our energy levels, appetite, happiness, gut-health, and weight. John continues to slowly drop weight, and I gained back to about 150 which my body and I are quite pleased with- less bony!

Both John and I have fought a couple sicknesses, that I imagine without our increased health and nutrition would have been much worse- mostly they manifest through fatigue and aches as opposed to lots of congestion.

I have been working to make yoga a better habit having missed several weeks here and there regularly. I am walking longer and taking the stairs often. I have also been doing some tracking on eatdifferent.com which I am very much enjoying- much more free form and personal goal oriented as opposed to regimented carb counting.

Work and home life are pretty steady, stable, and extremely blessed and satisfying. Spiritually I continue on my journey, struggling and growing, constantly seeking balance- sometimes trying harder than other times :)
Physically I haven't been doing much strength training, but I do feel continued improvement in my flexibility and enjoyment of yoga, as well as my ability to meditate and be still and present. A good friend of mine started cross-fit and is a huge inspiration to me. Her dedication and endurance are mindblowing, and she is getting the results to support her efforts! I plan to buy the $100 membership for summer access to the pool so that I can back to swimming at least once a week :)

I have finished South, Earnst Shackleton's Last Expedition and am now on to Robinson Crusoe for my audio books. Next I have Swiss Family Robinson and the Dhammapada translated by a recommended author.  (wow spelled that right on first try!)

Still VERY excited about GARDENING!!! Our succulent cuttings are trying to live- as it is getting hotter, we may move them back into partial shade until they are more rooted. I purchased a mixed pot with medium yellow flowers, tiny yellow flowers and some ivy as well as a cute little pot of aeonium to go by the front door. Yesterday I picked up a little buganvilia as well- always loved those! We have yet to transplant our Torbay Dazzler or aloe very, but pots are purchased and so is extra soil. I even picked up a strawberry pot I hope to put farmer's market succulent cuttings in!
(Torbaz Dazzler- not mine)
I like to think about all the ways I can grow things and hang them and love them and make are of them. I am not really ready to grow things to eat, or even grow much more than basics that are very hardy, so for now I can gather inspirational ideas and photos. To take advantage of the vertical space of my patio, I eagerly research plant hanging ideas. (see next post!)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Recent Cooking Adventures

Things I have made lately:

Primal Krabby-patties (crab cakes)
This recipe is how I have been doing most of my recipes lately - search and find recipes, take what is consistent/looks best about each and combine Cooks Illustrated style.Used pastured crab from sprouts and home made mayo and "breadcrumbs"

These came out pretty dense and filling and were tasty, though I should have whipped up some kind of dipping sauce. They were not so amazing as to make up for the cost of the crab, and even so it was still just claw meat, and I wonder if better more tender crab meat would have made for a tastier outcome.

Paleo Mayo
Just egg, pecan oil (avocado or macadamia nut oil is suggested, but I had pecan), dry mustard and salt and pepper and lemon juice. Came out a little liquid-y, but did the job just fine. Going to use it to coat chicken tenders before breading them in paleo breadcrumbs :)

Paleo Breadcrumbs
Golden flax seed meal, coconut flour, almond flour, and salt and pepper- came out great. This will be my alternative to crushed plantain chips for breading of meat and seafood.

Breakfast sausages using TJ's 21 seasoning salute instead of other seasonings- came out meh. Totally ok, but just not as good as my original cluck-moo recipe.

Breakfast muffins with kale instead of spinach and no meat- came out tasty, but I miss the meat in them. In fact, since the sausages aren't amazing alone, I simply take a bite of each when I have breakfast :P

Baked spaghetti squash with my Italian sausage meatballs - turned out fabulous! no sauce, just butter and garlic :)

Three Cheese Eggplant melt
This was my first time cooking with eggplant- weird stuff. Dipped slices in an egg wash and seasoned coconut/almond flour and Parmesan cheese, then baked until cheese browned a bit. Then I layered in a pan with ricotta, mozzarella and more Parmesan and some marinara sauce. Tasted a lot like vegetarian lasagna.

To use the leftover ricotta cheese from above, I tried coconut flour blueberry ricotta cheese pancakes. Normally the go-to pancake for paleo is mashed banana and almond butter, but I know you can do it with almond flour or coconut flour. Mine came out pretty eggy, but the blueberry and cheese flavors complimented it nicely.

Made some beef ribs in the crock pot, so now I have baked them and braised them, but still doesn't compare at all to smoking them :)

Next up are my orange power balls- sweet potato almond flour protein powder covered in shredded coconut balls, chicken tenders, crushed plantain chip covered fish sticks, green casserole with kale, and "split pea" soup (uses green beans and cauliflower instead of peas) with lots of ham. Also going to try dehydrating some beets and some salt and vinegar chips. :)

Eating is good, life is good. Ups and downs and bumps and bruises, but learning and growing. Still LOVING tea (adiago teas black dragon pearls are my favorite currently) and working on my lindt 90% dark chocolate with almond butter snacking addiction- trying different less-scrumptious almond butter. Not necessarily working :P

Love and happiness and meat and veggies and no grains to all my readers :P