Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The poor person's air conditioning

So. It got up to 104 degrees today. It's supposed to hit at least 100 tomorrow. No a/c in the house, no a/c at my PT office job, no a/c on the bus. It's been a lot more tolerable than I would've expected, but really, I gotta maximize the complainance potential of this scenario, right?

What do you do to stay cool in a situation like this? There's massive hydration, of course. The wearing of natural fibers (I was wearing a rayon slip under my skirt on Monday and boy o boy did I regret that). Eating cold foods (pasta salad, green salads, fruit). But nothing takes the edge off the end of a hot day like:

The summer cocktail. This is a rather poorly-rendered picture of a gin and tonic. Summer cocktails are great in that they don't need lots of booze, and therefore can stretch your alcohol for a lengthy period of time. Lemonade cocktails are also great--lemonade with vodka, with strawberry vodka, with a few splashes of bourbon--good stuff. Gives you a sip of summer, lets you chill out after a hard day, and stretches your liquor cabinet. If you have a fave summer drink, feel free to toss your preferences in the comments.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Blackberries--not the digital kind

Whoa. Um...ok, way, way too long since I've posted. Eep. Time to get back in the saddle with this baby.

Of course, summer in the PNW makes that pretty easy to do. There's lots of free entertainment to be had (hiking, taking walks, hanging out at the fantabulous public library) and hopefully those are easy things to do all over the country. But I gotta say, foraging is pretty great out here. In the last 3 days I've picked about 4 pounds of these:

They're coming into their own, but as you can probably see, a lot of 'em are still they'll be ripening for the next month or so. Plenty of blackberries whenever I want them. I've made 4 cups into a cobbler:

A very, very easy one courtesy of a FB friend. I love FB way too much for my own good. 

And muffins are next on the list. 

Meanwhile, there's also a cherry plum tree in our driveway. They're kinda small-looking to be plausible plums, but they're definitely edible (and tasty):

So I'm gonna try to take full advantage of the free fruit. 

Meanwhile I've seen chammomile growing wild along the side of the road. I'd love to harvest and dry it to make tea, but it doesn't seem to be blooming before it dies. It needs to flower first before being dried for tea, am I right?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I've had the honor of doing some writing and web development work for this family for a couple months now. Their drive, ability, and great attitude constantly remind me of what's possible when you focus on the ways you want to create positive change in your environment. Check it out...

Saving Up

I’ve always been a compulsive pack rat. It’s almost inevitable when one of your obsessions is crafting—save the fabric scraps, maybe you can use ‘em in a quilt. Those little pieces of yarn? You might be able to use them as stitch markers for your knitting. Little bits of paper left over from making Valentines? You could use them in another card!

Now that I’m keeping a closer eye over our food expenditures, I find myself doing the same while cooking. A roast chicken recently made a nice dinner. The extra meat was stripped off the bones so I could freeze the carcass for making stock later. The extra meat found its way into sandwiches and a chicken casserole, made with leftover frozen veggies, a quick milk and mushroom roux and some sautéed onion, celery and pasta. The extra onion and celery went into this morning’s scrambled eggs. The piece of bacon I didn’t end up eating with my eggs made it into a grilled cheese sandwich.

Naturally if you lose track of all the little items you save, you can have some scary results in the fridge. But that little bit-by-bit chipping away of leftovers can make a difference in the grocery bill. The chicken casserole alone resulted in 2 dinners I hadn’t planned on, extending my menu planning and creating a quick-heat meal to enjoy in the next day or two.

It’s also good to keep a few items on hand that allow for easy folding-in of leftovers. Quesadillas are a great way to use up leftover meat—scatter in some cheese and a bit of chopped jalepeno with the meat between 2 tortillas and heat on both sides in an oiled skillet and you’ve got a meal. Keeps eggs around for when you want to toss leftover ingredients into an omlet for a quick dinner.

And as usual, organizing works wonders. That may seem obvious, but given how disorganized I can be I’m constantly amazed by what can be accomplished by a list on the fridge to keep track of prepped food leftovers waiting to perk up or even make a dish.

Ok, now I’m getting hungry. What are your fave ways to use up leftovers?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Interesting vid

I'm ashamed to say I'm still kinda confused about it all, but then, so are a lot of economists. But I found this video to be somewhat helpful:

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Community Sponsored Agriculture: Investment with visible returns

Steve and I bought into a local Brooklyn-based CSA last summer for several reasons. Firstly, I was spending way too much money at the farmer’s market. I’d see all the beautiful vegetables and go crazy, buying things ‘cause they looked cool, or because I couldn’t wait to shove them through our juicer (we’ve gotten rid of that). Or because I had elaborate dishes dancing around my head that all too often got lost in the busyness of life, combined with a regrettable amount of laziness on my part when trying to recover from chaos and stress.

In spite of all my fruit and veggie purchases, we didn’t eat nearly enough of them. So Steve crunched the numbers, and we committed to a weekly pickup of seasonal harvest: fruit, veg, 6 eggs, and a bunch of flowers each week. I committed to not buying any additional fruit or veg unless completely necessary, something I was able to stick to for the most part. And we were happy to be investing directly in local food production. The farm we got our produce farm was on Long Island, so the carbon footprint of our food was reasonably low.

I have to admit, I didn’t always get around to cooking everything we got—we got a lot of food. For 2 people I think a 2-times-a-month pickup would’ve been sufficient for us. But we ate a lot of it, we ate seasonally, ate a little healthier, and we tried a lot of new things I never would have thought to pick up otherwise. And we ended up saving some money over the long run, which is always a bonus.

There’s a lot of CSAs across the country. I encourage you to look into it, see if it’s right for you. This is one good link that can direct you to CSAs across the country:

Some of them do fruits and veg, some also have eggs, some even have free-range meat (I would love to find a good CSA with a meat share!). It all depends on the availability of CSAs in your area.

Clara's Kitchen

This is pretty cool. A 93 year old grandmother whose grandson has shot a few videos of her creating Depression-era recipes out of her little New York kitchen. She's articulate, funny, and hands-down adorable. Gives a person pause too, to think of a family living on these recipes. But hey, they're filling and reasonably nutritious, so why the heck not?

Also love her chitchat about the family garden and keeping chickens...looks like things are going full circle, or at least starting to.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Tide: A spokesperson for conservation?

This is interesting. Tide has a new product that claims to make your clothes stay like new longer--that's the thrust of their ad campaign. Tim Gunn did a series of videos for their website, and keeps plugging the "use what you've got in new ways" line. Yet another example of industry shifting to meet customer concerns. I wonder how effective it'll be.

Take a look.

Just saw after posting the link that this goes to the main ad site. Click on the right-side icon to see Gunn's vids. Nothing revealing per se, just interesting that conservation of what you've got is the spin of this campaign.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wake and Bake: The lure and fear behind bread baking

When I was little my mom made bread once a week. She did the requisite 2 sandwich loaves on Tuesdays, she made dinner rolls and French bread. She helped my dad to make a cinnamon swirl bread for my sister’s preschool bake sale and made special sweet breads at Christmas and Easter.

The homemade sandwich bread was a constant in my childhood. I’d wait for the loaf to cool so we could have a fresh slice with butter on it. When we were low on cereal she’d toast a couple slices, break them into pieces in a bowl, sprinkle a little sugar, pour milk over it and call it breakfast (which I loved, since it was the only time we were allowed sugar on our cereal). If we wanted a snack, we were given peanut butter on toast.

But although I watched her bake bread every week for at least a decade, once I was an adult I caved and bought mine at the grocery store. Bread baking just seemed too mysterious, too fraught with the risk of failure. This was brought home to me when I first tried to make bread on my own, and ended up with pale, loaf-shaped bricks that fell onto the counter with a thud when I turned the loaf pan over. They smelled great, but they were inedible. After all the kneading I’d done and the 3-4 hours I’d spent mulling over the instructions in the Joy of Cooking, I figured I’d be better off letting Key Food give me bread when I needed it.

I got good at cooking other things, but the spectre of bread kept nagging at me. I finally did some reading and realized that my mistake last time was almost certainly in mishandling the yeast. After a little digging I found a very easy recipe—if you follow the temperature specifications. A thermometer can make all the difference between bread or a brick—I didn’t have one the first time I made bread, and behold—bricks!

So anyway. Here’s a link to a decent, relatively easy bread. It’s pretty pedestrian, but it’s tasty. No doubt real bakers out there will have issues with it, but it’s a good “starter” bread. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Everything I know about home economics I learned from mom

When I six, my parents were working their way up in academia. My dad was a college teacher. My mom was working on her Ph.D., acting as the primary caregiver to two kids, working part time in the women’s department at Woodward & Lothrop on a seasonal basis, and feeding a family of four on $60 a week.

I got my foundation of home economics from her. She made as much of our food from scratch as she could. She watched every purchase with an eagle-eye vigilance. And while we weren’t rolling in toys or accessories or sweets, we didn’t have a Spartan lifestyle shoved in our faces, either.

It’s no news to anybody that things are tough right now. Everyone’s trying to tighten their purse strings, cut corners, and get the most out of every dollar. The Homey Economic is a forum to share ideas on how to do just that. I’m starting this off as my personal sounding board, but feel free to debate or contribute in the comments—and if you have an idea for a post, drop me a line--I'd love to share the platform.

The biggest challenge to the home economy, in my experience, is time. You need time to make things from scratch, time to buy the supplies, time to plan out projects, and time to organize what you already have and to figure out what you can do with it, instead of just going out and buying something that’s been prefabricated for you.

The internet can be one of our biggest assets when trying to cut back, plan things, and find solutions. DIY recessionistas are constantly innovating better, greener, more efficient ways to make do with less, and do it with style. This blog is just one more avenue for tossing out ideas and promoting the dialogue.