Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sleep Geek Gone Extreme?

I drive a lot.  Really, a lot.  So I've developed highly structured strategies for when to go which way on what highway at what time of day.

On one of those highways, I often pass by some sort of small scale alternative farm.  From my quick glances as I whiz by, the building seems to be a hydroponic farm with a fancy gyrating light system that insures that all the plants in the largish room get consistent "full sun" effect. Tonight I passed by at 9:30 pm, realized the lights were still gyrating along and guessed that probably those lights go all night long.

My first thought?  "That is so inappropriate.  Those plants need their rest."

That's pretty sleep geeky, don't you think?

AND, honestly, who wants to eat food from a plant that is forced to grow 24/7?  Plants, like humans, need their rest and quality of the night time dark has been shown to be as important as the day time light for their growth and development. I'm confident that the level of nutrition provided by these plants on "no-dose" is far inferior to the well-rested ones out in a dark field.

It entertains me that now I'm wondering if my salad might be sleep deprived.  It's 8pm, do you know where your chard is?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Man Catcher Cake

For Christmas, my always thoughtful hubby, gave me the cookbook All Cakes Considered.  I fell in love with it while humorlessly waiting for the kids at the Costco book isle. For months, I dropped subtle hints like sending him a picture of it from my phone and emailing links from The author Melissa Grey, a writer for the radio show All Things Considered, started a personal cake baking project that morphed into this lovely book.

Rosie and I made the first cake in the book last week.  More than a mere cookbook, it is an entire cake baking curriculum. The author recommends aspiring bakers start at the first cake and work through to the end, about 52 cakes. So, signed onto that tantalizing journey, we began at the beginning.

These recipes are not your basic "cream butter and sugar" version.  "Cream butter..." was followed by 5 useful, entertaining, and convincing paragraphs on how to properly cream the butter.  "...and sugar" required several more paragraphs of enlightening information and directions.  By the time we got the 4 paragraphs on "add the eggs" our cake looked unlike any cake I'd ever baked.  I was hooked.

Our results were amazing. The first cake in the book is a lemon sour cream pound cake, called The Man Catcher.  (The author promises the cake will always catch the man, but makes no promises on the baker's abilities to catch or keep one.) The one that emerged from our oven was fragrant, fluffy, moist and dense.     Once we mixed and drizzled on the lemon glaze, the cake was catching every living thing in sight.

Now, how many posts have I written about the wonders of the low carb lifestyle? No, these cakes aren't anything close to low carb, but I have come up with a clever solution to the delicious-cake-hanging-around-the-kitchen-all-day-long problem.  Park Day.  If Rosie and I bake on Monday evening while Bill and Theo are at Boy Scouts, then there is cake at lunch on Tuesday and an hour later the rest goes to the masses of enthusiastic homeschoolers at our weekly park date.

What do I love best about this book? The writing engages and entertains me.  The pictures make my mouth water and create serious desire to move forward to the next projects.  The instructions are clear and very easy to follow.   Still, my favorite part is being able to learn beside my child, tailoring the study of several subjects to her level and needs with something she is truly passionate about.  And then serving all this "schooling" up for dessert

PS  Yes, that lovely pictures is OUR cake.  Isn't it amazing!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

It's All About Direction

In case you wondered, in Seattle, one can get a ticket for parking face-in when the sign says back-in angle parking only.  $42, in fact.  So the answer to the question, "is it worth the time and effort to do the clumbsy 7-point turn around on a cold rainy dark Friday night when there are 4 other cars hoping to swipe this prime Capital Hill parking spot I just claimed?" is yes.

According to Seattle Municiple Code, it's also worth while to turn the car around so that once parked it is facing the direction of traffic.

You know,  in case you wondered.

Seattle Municipal Code

Information retrieved February 13, 2010 6:24 AM
Subtitle I Traffic Code*
Part 7 Stopping, Standing, Parking and Loading
Chapter 11.70 - Method of Parking

SMC 11.70.020  Angle parking -- General.
No person shall park a vehicle upon streets or alleys which have been marked
or signed for angle parking, at an angle in relation to the curb or margin
of the shoulder, other than cons

Seattle Municipal Code

Information retrieved February 13, 2010 6:23 AM
Subtitle I Traffic Code*
Part 7 Stopping, Standing, Parking and Loading
Chapter 11.70 - Method of Parking

SMC 11.70.040  Parallel parking -- Right-hand side.
No person shall stop, stand, or park a vehicle in a roadway other than
parallel with the edge of the roadway headed in the direction of lawful
traffic movement and with the wheels on the right side of the vehicle within
twelve inches (12") of the right constructed curb or with the wheels on the
right side of the vehicle on a shoulder as provided in Section  11.70.080,
except as otherwise provided in this chapter. (RCW 46.61.575(1))

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rites of Passage: My First Mammogram

Apparently I've reached a new milestone in my life - the age of the baseline mammogram.

I have to admit I hadn't put much thought into the need for a mammogram, that's for "older" women. Imagine my shock and surprise when my doctor recommended one for me during an appointment this summer.

After 6 months of putting off making the call for an appointment, I started thinking about why I was stalling. I had stacks of stories about why this was going to be a horrid and scary and bad thing.  Using my mommy skills, I asked myself what I needed to shift my stories.

Easy answer - a buddy.  So I wouldn't have to face my growing age, probably physical discomfort and eventual mortality alone. Enter my lovely friend Thea.  A few years ahead of me on the journey, she is always a kind and wise mentor.    She enthusiastically agreed to join me, and I quickly set up an appointment at the women's imaging center.

The day of my appointment, she came and picked me up at my house.  We chatted and caught up all the way to the hospital.  She gave me a sense of what to expect in the mammogram and shared some pointers on how to make things go quickly and easily.  She peppered me with questions in the waiting room while I filled out paperwork. The nice people at the office let her come to the inner waiting room with me, where we whispered away like school girls.

The mammogram itself was quick and not terribly uncomfortable (this coming from a woman who is used to having 60 pound children dig their elbows into my breast as leverage for standing up).  The doctor reviewed my images and proclaimed my breasts healthy.  After a short hour, we were free to go.

From the hospital, we drove straight to Queen Mary's Tea House and marked my coming of age with high tea.  My time with my friend was precious, I felt celebrated and the staff presented me with a tiara!  "The only time you can really get away with wearing a tiara is your first prom and your first mammogram."

Here's what I learned and my advice to us all.  Life is always moving forward and changing.  We can met that change with fear and resistance and make ourselves miserable.  Or we can ask a friend for help and joyfully celebrate the moments of life together. So, grab a friend, connect and find comfort in life!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Anyone Know this Dude?

We've looked through our bug identification guide and perused the internet, but can't find this beetle's name.  Anyone know anything about it?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sad Doggie Day

We put Maggie down Tuesday.  

She'd been a little under the weather and our vet had been keeping an eye on her. We figured she'd gotten into some bad food or water.  Then Tuesday morning her health changed drastically.  It turns out she had a huge cancer in her stomach that probably took over part of her liver.  It had grown so large and she lost so much blood there wasn't really anything we could do for her. 

We spent a while in the afternoon sun with her and then said goodbye to our funny, frumpy, patient dog. 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Savin' My Bacon

Currently I am experiencing something close to lunch ecstasy.

How, I'm sure you must be asking yourself, is someone who serves 5 meals a day most days enjoying her lunch experience?

Well, let me tell you!

First of all, the normal lunch whine around here goes something like: I don't know what to fix, the kids are sick of the same old meals again and again, they want trash and I'm aiming for nutritious and delicious, I couldn't think of any good ideas while I was at the grocery store so really now we're scrapping the bottom of the fridge.

Enter my impulse purchase at the Whole Foods magazine rack two weeks ago: America's Test Kitchen 30 Minute Suppers, 96 tear out cards.  Standing there I thought, wait!  this works.  I easily spend 30 minutes moping around the kitchen trying to figure out what to make and cobbling some lame thing together.  So why not be prepared to spend those 30 minutes cooking?

Because the magazine is produced by Cooks Illustrated and their test kitchen, I knew the food was going to be good.

And the magazine is brilliant.  First of all the format works - each page has four 4x5 tear out recipe cards.  The front of each card sports a tantalizing picture of the meal in question, grouped by protein source: chicken, beef, pork, soy, veggie. The back covers the usual recipe basics: ingredients and directions.   Did you catch that there are 95 recipes?  This means even if my family only likes 1/3 of the recipes, I have an entire month's worth of novel, delightful lunches.

Now on Sunday night I pick 5 meals, tear the cards out, flip them over and enter the ingredients list directly into  Then I post the cards on our bulletin board.  Viola, lunch is planned for the week.

What I most love about the recipes, besides the fact that they really do only take 30 minutes to prepare and they taste wonderful, is that 90% of the ingredients use whole foods.  Other quick recipes that I've used call for all sorts of processed foods to create the illusion of a nutritious meal. Speed at the cost of quality is not my thing.

A definite advantage I've discovered to this new system is that when we're out on a homeschool adventure and I know there is a 30 minute delicious, nutritious meal planned, it is so easy to say no to the kids' begging to go out for lunch. Honestly, aside from fast food, rarely does a restaurant seat and serves us food all of us will eat in less than 30 minutes.  Since we're easily out several times a week, we're talking measurably enhanced nutrition and money saved.

And did I mention the food is great?  Today we enjoyed muffuletta panini.  The other day there was a chicken parmesan so good I'm still geeking out about it.  Later this week I'm anxiously awaiting the Thai chicken curry with sweet potato and green beans.

Magazines usually only last a month at the stands - so run quick and grab one of these so you can join me in lunch nirvana.