Lately I have had my mind where many gardeners do this time of year— in the garden. It isn’t hard to spot someone with a love for gardening. We’re either a hot mess with lots of plants everywhere and the cottage garden feeling where it is abundant and full, with lots of variety, or some (not me) are immaculately cared for and weeded, always in bloom and perfect. I find that many times it depends on the type of gardener, but not always.
Some people confine food items to a square or block and everything else is… elsewhere. When I was the one with a choice I could only plant in flower beds. Ultimately the need to beautify and somewhat hide produce production led me to look at plants differently.
Take this one for instance. One year I planted these along the front of my house and got a lot of compliments. They loved them. The shock on their faces when I told people they were potatoes was funny to say the least. Beans also have a pretty yellow flower, albeit a bit more hidden under leaves usually. Easier to eat as you work though.
I have moved away from the place hat required nothing but flowerbeds. But since I moved in September I wound up with stuff in the ground and the hopes it would survive rather than a well laid plan of where things would be. And with little to nothing in terms of beds it literally just went in the ground. All 2.5 kiddie pools of them.
I was not in good health then, and in all honesty, I didn’t do terribly well for several years after that. Then I had some things getting progressively worse (sensitivities never seem to decrease :'( ) while life in general has been getting better. Last year after I recovered from the blahs after going gluten free I have been feeling more able to plant and garden and keep up than I have in a long time. Most things that go in my yard are either edible or medicinal in some capacity. A few volunteers insist on sticking around, and occasionally help in other ways (poke berries do make an awesome ink or dye…. But man I would like for them to give up sometimes).
So I really just wanted to share a few quick photos I took this afternoon where plants are both useful and pretty. Hope you enjoy and can get some inspiration for your own garden.
Each year when it gets toward the end of the year I start I start to reflect on the year. Things that have happened, things that haven’t gotten done but I wanted to, even things I didn’t know I wanted to do but have shown up anyway. Somewhere in there I usually start seeing a theme come up, and that theme usually becomes my word for the following year. I have been doing this for the better part of 10 years, and it gives a different feel to the year than a bunch of new years resolutions.
This year’s word is Intention. Before last fall I don’t think it had really come up before, but with a year focused on letting go, the topic of what am I keeping and what am I going toward kept coming up. It also comes with an air to the idea that a person must be responsible for their life. If you want to do more than drift along and go where the wind blows, you have to make a choice, you have to determine what you want, even if it is a general direction.
The interesting part of this for me, is the amount of times I have been blindsided by this word and how it ties into previous words. While my word of the year is usually an overall theme, it is not something that I spend a ton of time trying to implement or do something about. It is more of a mantra that runs in the background and when I get stuck it comes up… Nudging me one direction or the other. You see, in order to be intentional, you have to be present in your current surroundings, you have to let go of the hopes and plans for tomorrow, tonight, next week, or next year. You have to be mindful of the places you are coming out of, and the past in relation to the situation, but you, or at least I, have to slow down and say, here is where I am at, this is the grand scheme of things result I think I want, and what is the next best step. Do you know how hard it can be to think about what I want out of that next best step?
I find myself trying to stay open to possibilities I don’t know exist, and refocus on where I am right now. Maybe some of that is because the kitchen by necessity focuses on here and now first, then the next 2-3 steps. Somewhere I am sure that someone is watching numbers, comings and goings, people and how it all interacts. But it isn’t me, it isn’t us. That is the type of thing that we talk about the next day. In the current moment it is what do we need on the line now, what are we going to need and how long does that process take… what keeps things running smoothly and with as little waste as possible in the current moment to serve our customers the best that we can. It was definitely a needed lesson the universe set in place when things were conspiring for me to get into this job. In all honesty it makes perfect sense though. I wake up and do a meditation. Ive been finding that learning to breath, relax, and focus are helpful when things get stressful. Setting the intention that I want it to be a peaceful and learning focused day means I am meeting the challenges with the intention that I will get through it and learn whatever it is I need to. I am looking for that little gift being wrapped up for me by the universe.
For these little nuggets of wisdom I am forever grateful,
Growing up, Mom made something she would call Skillet Supper. Usually it was a way to use up leftovers, or maybe just throw something together really quick with shelf stable ingredients. I find myself questioning now, what makes something a skillet supper? When I started this job we would have a Saute of the Day in the employee dining room and the buffet. In a lot of ways those were similar to the things we had growing up. Maybe it would have some pasta or some rice. Maybe some veggies or some sauce. Maybe it would have some beans or maybe the beans were what got thrown in so it would have some sauce. If you look at them from the point of view that Skillet Supper is something done to use up leftovers and a saute basically got prepped as needed and is a coherent mix of things that could be chosen from it starts sounding like a capsule wardrobe…. And that doesn’t sound appetizing. Obviously I need more sleep before I try writing these things.
Anyway, if you have a fairly standard set of things you wind up with for leftovers, and you keep some basic foods in the pantry, you have a wide array of options for your next Skillet Supper…. And if it was standard-ish on what you had you could maybe have a base set of sautes you could schedule into your meal plan rather than the way I learned to do Skillet Suppers with a hope and a prayer that they would turn out yummy.
If you have been on my Instagram for very long you probably realize that I do this a fair bit with odds and ends I got from marked down produce. Mom would often throw chili beans or baked beans in the pan with some rice…. Maybe mushrooms if my brother was gone that night. Back then I was a vegetarian, so I honestly don’t know if they ever had meat in them, and if she added that it was at the end(after mine was pulled out). My guess is that she started with beans and rice so that there was a complete protein and then didn’t worry about meat.
What the kids and I have done the last few years that would fit this concept of a formula of ingredients would be Meat and Greens. The meat we start with might be pepperoni, or salami, or pork chops (I am making this for the first time this year tonight with chicken, previously we would often use pepperoni, but it also has pork and wouldn’t be in our normal choices now). Julienne some onion, and toss that in. I used to also use butter with the meat and onions as well. Tonight I am using rendered chicken fat. Throw in some cut up root veggies. Carrots, turnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes are all good. After that stuff is all heated up and most of the way cooked through you toss the stems of your greens in, and then a minute or two later (or whenever you get them cut down) you add the strips of kale, collards, turnip greens, swiss chard, or whatever other greens you have on hand to the pan and let them get wilted down. Salt/Pepper as desired and serve.
The other night I didn’t have the kids and I made one that was a take on my Buttery Ranch Brussel Sprouts that I had been working on as an alternative to the Bacon and Brussels recipe that got my kids to finally eat Brussel sprouts that weren’t coated in some sort of yellow sludge out of a box. I did the Brussel sprouts the way I had been, but then tossed in mushrooms and onions to go with it. This did change the flavor quite a bit, but that very well may have been because I used way more mushrooms than I probably should have.
You might notice a trend that I don’t really have the rice, beans, or pasta in there like my Mom did. Over the years I have occasionally made things that could fall in the Skillet Supper category with these ingredients, and my kids just really don’t care for them. Now maybe I should have listened to them sooner, but we are eating a lot less rice these days, and pasta pretty much went away with the gluten free thing. We will still have the occasional bit of pasta with spaghetti sauce, but since it just isn’t the same and for the last few years I hadn’t been able to find a GF spaghetti I liked, we went with Penne pasta and the little spirally one whose name I don’t remember. I don’t know if this was because of the urging from so many doctors to go paleo, or if we just quit fixing that type of stuff, and maybe it was both. Either way, I know that I feel better the less I eat grains…. processed or not. I still do, but if I can pair meat and veg and be satisfied, that is usually our best bet. And if I am just feeding me I will often just take one thing and cook it somehow, and eat that.
Wishing you the best of luck in your hope and pray supper experiments,
I walked into Wally world today because it is right off the highway. If I go to such a place from home it is 15 minutes out of the way. Or even going on the way home, but going to the store that is closest to where we live it is almost that long. Either way this is probably the first time in 6 months I have gone there, and it had been about 6 months before that the time before. This is somewhat twofold. I disagree with the idea that they can tell other companies how to run their businesses and what they will be allowed to charge. You run your business, and let me run mine…. Not that I have one at the moment, but still. If I did. It affects everyone else too. If they are going to sell something made in a third world country they don’t have to charge enough to cover the cost of a living wage and materials that someone making things or sourcing them from responsible sources would have to. This conditions people to always think something should cost next to nothing and they should be able to pay less than the value of utility that they will get from that item if it is used. I say if it is used because I know a lot of people go to stores and find the stuff in bags months later untouched…. They didn’t need any of it.
I am not immune from this phenomenon. I wanted to get one thing. A dishwasher cleaner. My kids’ stepmom had told me about one that is naturally based and since she was running it when I was picking up the kids and I was not reacting to the smell or anything I figured it was a pretty safe bet. I got out of my car, and by the time I made it through the hundred degree heat I wanted a cart to lean on rather than to carry a basket. I had already thought about surprising the kids with some of the Italian bread from the bakery, and when I called they said we were getting close on needing milk…. And tortillas, and I still needed cheese for the pizza I want to make since my last Vitacost order came complete with 2 gluten free pizza crust mixes for me to try. Now, I don’t know if I have mentioned it, but I have sensitivities other than just food…. And maybe I should start a running list in the sidebar with what I react to and what the reactions are. But anyway, fragrances is a huge one. All those chemicals in the detergent and fabric softener, that was all after I had gotten rid of fragrances several years before. I get dizzy, nauseous, headaches that would probably be considered migraines if I actually went to the doctor for them.
So anyway, I am zigzagging my way around this unfamiliar store, or maybe I should say a third of this unfamiliar store, because I didn’t really go to the non-food areas other than a cash register. But I am noticing the amount of stuff. I walk in the door and realize it feels like I could have a football stadium in this size of building. It took 3 overly smelly aisles before I found the item I went for. I got to the way far back and finding milk in a container that looked like a milk jug and was 2% meant sifting through 30+ feet of “milk”. I went on to find cheese for the pizza and realized that I couldn’t make out the products at the other end of the cheese section. Why do we need a 60 foot section of 6 foot tall shelves just for cheese? 1 lb., 2 lb., shredded, non-shredded, balls, string, in liquid, mozzarella, co-jack, or jalapeño…. But it wasn’t any one of these options that had me overwhelmed…. It was that you probably had 15 or 20 of each of these options.
I have heard about decision fatigue, but I really wonder how anyone can go to a store like this and get anything of value out of it. I guess I did, I bought the few things we needed, plus basil, kale, and turnip greens. By the time I made it to the door I was so tired and frustrated…. Why do I seem to be the only one dealing with this sort of issue? Everyone I know seems to go to these bigger stores….and those that don’t I probably converted to Amazon during the course of my addiction to that. It definitely makes me appreciate my small town grocery store a lot more. And it definitely makes me want to work harder on finding the things I need in alternative forms or venues for the future…. That dishwasher cleaner? I’ll have to let you know, but when I took the shelfy thing out to put it in the bottom of the dishwasher I realized there was all sorts of crap on the filters…. I still ran the Lemi-shine, but I cleaned the filters first and it will definitely be getting added to my zone cleaning in the future…. my guess is that it will be problem solved, chemical free.
Am I alone on being overwhelmed at these gigantic stores?. Tips or advice? Know where to get Scott ultra soft other than Amazon? Let me know in the comments below.
Do you ever have those moments when you realize that you have been saying something happened 5 years ago for the last 5 years? Once upon a time, back in the day, sometime after I got rid of the dryer I was in a threaded conversation about laundry products, and I mentioned that I had quit using dryer sheets. The conversation went on, and people were mainly talking about all of the newfangled stuff they use on their clothes to make them smell this way or that, the stuff they use to dispense said smelly stuff or stuff to get rid of this grime or that stain. I lost track of the thread for a few days, and then someone commented on my comment. She said she had quit using detergent… say what? She said that she lets the water do the work. Huh. Really? How does that work? And she explained that the movement of the clothes by the agitator or around the drum in a front-loader basically works most of the dirt and stuff out of your clothes. She went on to tell me that she quit having mood swings, her husband did too. Headaches and other things that could be described as symptoms if you ever thought to put them all together just vanished after a few weeks.
By this point I was having dizzy spells quite regularly and hadn’t had much luck getting anything done about them. This had to be several years ago now, as it has been two since I was diagnosed with Vertigo again… and you know, this kind woman that happened to live in the next large city over helped more than any of the doctor’s have been able to. So anyway, I figured what could it hurt. I gave it a whirl and left my bucket of laundry detergent next to the washer. I could always go back to it if I needed to, right?
So the first week I washed the clothes. I still used my vinegar for fabric softener, and I figured it would kind of disinfect them if need be (I really don’t think I use enough for this purpose, but I still tell myself this anyway). I didn’t really notice a difference. I hadn’t been using much soap anyway because I had decreased the amount until it left little to no lint on the lint filter of the dryer. On a side note, if you are pulling out a bunch of lint with every load, use less detergent. It is essentially excess detergent and small fibers of your clothes that are being beaten out of your clothes as they tumble around in the dryer. Anyway, the next week they looked a bit dingy, and since we still had more clothes that hadn’t been washed the third week was the same. Now keep in mind we don’t own white clothes. This is more related to hard water than anything, but I do have a softener, so it shouldn’t really be a problem. The next week I noticed something happen. The clothes all of a sudden didn’t look dingy anymore. Every time I wind up dropping that line in a comment to someone I do a mental check of the clothes too… they are still not dingy. In fact, we no longer have stains much. .
So what about the other stuff? Well, I’ll tell ya. My dizzy spells dropped from every day to 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off. I quit having as many mood swings. My kids stopped having as many mood swings. And headaches. And did I mention mood swings? I never really thought about my kids as having them a whole lot. But they do. Saturdays are their detox days at this point. They come home and most of the time immediately change clothes. I really can’t handle the fragrance, so this means we can get laundry done and get it out of the house…. although I haven’t done as well at this since I started working Saturdays. I might have to work on that. Ideally I would wash those clothes separately so they don’t get the smell on everything else…. they do their laundry and reduce the fabric softener and stuff over there, but those clothes will still make the rest of the next 2 loads smell. So anyway, maybe it is just me, but it is nice to have less of the teenage moodiness… it didn’t keep it all from coming, but it is definitely less than what I have when they have been with all of the chemicals for a week. And yes, in case you were wondering, I try to avoid going anywhere on Saturdays so I don’t have to deal with it too. lol.
Wishing you less stains and maybe a few extra bucks in your wallet,
~Going Green Mom
P.S. I did eventually give away the rest of the detergent to someone that didn’t like the idea of not using any. :/ Maybe someday she will be ready.
Strawberries spend most of June in season where I am, and straggle to some degree on ever-bearing plants for a while longer. Growing up at our house strawberry shortcake was a special treat every summer. What I have found out since I had kids of my own is that it is a tradition that goes back at least 3 generations (or 4 depending how you count).
When my Grandma was growing up it was a meal her family had when they were picking the berries from the garden. I wish I had that many plants. She continued it with her kids, and Mom continued the tradition as well even though we bought the berries from one of the fruit stands along the road. And despite protests from their dad’s side of the family, I do the same with my kids.
Mom always seemed to have some recipes that she didn’t have to look up. Since she passed we have tracked some down. She always used to tell me — “it is just a basic biscuit recipe, just throw in a few Tablespoons of sugar.” As I’ve told you before I am not the best cook in the world, and obviously don’t have it memorized, so I thought I would share.
2 cups flour
2 T. sugar
1T. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1/3 cup fat
2/3 cup liquid (milk)
Set oven at 450 degrees F. Sift flour once. Measure. Add salt and baking powder; stir well and sift together. Cut fat into dry ingredients until it is the size of rice kernels. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add milk and stir vigorously with wooden spoon until blended or until dough follows the spoon. Lightly flour countertop using about 1 T. flour. Form dough into a ball and knead lightly with fingertips about 10-15 times. Roll to about ½ inch in thickness. Dip cutter into flour. Cut and place on unoiled baking sheet. Bake until golden brown (about 12 to 15 minutes). Full recipe makes 16 to 18 small biscuits.
— Today I made a few modifications as I am now gluten free. I used a mix of brown and white rice flour (literally as I found stashes of flours I tossed the contents of the bags in my bucket and stirred, so it might also have some other flours, but I will work on standardizing in the future). I also substituted honey for the sugar, added an egg, and then had to add about a quarter cup of flour. They came out a decent texture, but a bit dryer than I really like.
In our world strawberry shortcake is a full meal, complete with lots of fresh berries (cut up and add a little sugar to draw the juice out), shortcake, vanilla ice cream, and milk or berry juice over the top of the whole bowl. It has all of the wonderful taste to match the best meals in the world, and the textures always amaze me as it all just sort of melts in your mouth. Hmmmm, I might just have to try this with peaches when they are in season too…..
When the kids were smaller, and before I had heard the term “sparking joy”, I used to have piles and piles of laundry because we had too many clothes and a ton of other stuff in the house. I guess you could say that my house tends to follow the state of my mind. One day I was super behind on laundry and climbing over Mt. Washmore I got really frustrated. I had turned the dryer on for the 3rd time and I figured they would probably still be damp when it got done… but then what was I supposed to do?
We live in a trailer park. We aren’t allowed to have clotheslines outside. I didn’t really feel like I had time to hang dry clothes anyway. But of course I have damp clothes and a dryer that isn’t working. So I decided to figure out places to stick clothes hung up when they got done so they would actually get dry. I really don’t remember how or where or what I used that time, but I do know that I ordered a retractable clothesline. I just didn’t have the cash to go buy another dryer. I had been through so many washers, dishwashers, and the like that I just didn’t want to get another appliance I didn’t feel like I could afford. So what is a Mama with two little kids and a mountain of clothes to do? Well, I tested it out. I found that it dried clothes in less time than the dryer had been! Granted it was dry and hot inside because I had fans going and it was the middle of summer, but I was amazed. I have had piles a few times since then…. usually accompanied by illness or poison sumac issues, but not very often.
That clothesline gave way from where it was anchored a year or two later (I might not be the best at stud finding). I still didn’t get a dryer though. I got some more hangers. I added a tension rod in the bathroom, and actually started hanging the clothes up on hangers. This worked amazing! So the hangers let me hang more clothes in a smaller space since the linear amount was reduced to slightly more than the size of the hanger. Space them about 2″ apart and you are good to go. You have air flow, and do you know what my kids did after a bit? “Can we leave our shirts hung up Mom?” It was actually about a year later I imagine, and they are used to hanging everything at their Dad’s. This frustrated me. Why does it have to be like it is at his house? We’ve always folded our shirts here. But I was taking time to fold all of their clothes after they dried. And did I mention we hung the clothes on hangers to dry in the first place? Huh… but we don’t have enough hangers….. Enter the first culling of the clothes. My daughter let go of so much, and still had way to many. And my son let go of none… and had plenty, probably enough for if he lived here full time. So she had some go into hiding, and they each had a set amount of hangers. And within 2 months she had worked through all of the hidden piles by letting go of things she didn’t want anymore. She has since sorted from more of a KonMari aspect and is at a very tight capsule wardrobe. I think she has 5 or 6 t-shirts and just as many hoodies— mostly Pokemon costume hoodies. 🙂 She is totally inspiring my move toward a uniform, but I will deal with my closet in a different post.
So we got rid of the dryer. Got rid of the pile because when you dry 3 loads at a time and plan ahead to have things dry when you need them you also tend to have time to fold and put them away. We got rid of a lot of the folding as well. And last but definitely not least, we got rid of dryer sheets. Dryer sheets are full of chemicals that do a number on our bodies, on our dryers, and on our clothes. I didn’t notice a ton of difference in my body with this, but I did notice some changes in our clothes. We started using vinegar as a fabric softener in the washing machine fabric softener compartment, so our clothes are still fairly soft and static just really isn’t an issue when you don’t add heat and rub your clothes together.
So what did we gain? We gained space— from the walkway where we had the piles, the place we had the dryer, dresser drawers where we had clothes shoved, and from the passing on of clothes we no longer wanted. We gained a bit of patience from the process of waiting for clothes to dry so we can wear them. We gained a little money from the energy we saved, and from buying 1 less item for maintaining the household.
I know it seems crazy to question such a basic thing, but sometimes when something breaks it can truly be a blessing. Join me next week for the second part of my journey when I learned how to let the water do the work.
A few years ago it was recommended by multiple people (in the medical professions) to go “Paleo”…. All of them knew I was struggling with food sensitivities and other health issues. Of course all of these things are made worse by my weight (which is too much, and has been going up since I got pregnant with my daughter… almost 13 years ago now). The one that took time to explain the suggestion said that because the major things that would be irritating my gut (which is likely an issue) would be gluten and dairy, so if I switched it would cover those). Unfortunately the wonderful messages sent from one person are received by another, and I didn’t hear, remember, or understand some important parts.
I had heard about the 80/20 rule and applied it to this whole “Paleo” idea. Since I wasn’t feeling great about the idea of jumping into something that sounded so restrictive I figured I could do it gradually and pick up parts of it and work toward 80% of the time. And since I started reading about meal ideas in this realm 80/20 sounded like a reasonable option. I could still have everything I wanted, and then I could eat salads and meat and vegetables the rest of the time. So I started working toward gluten free, because no milk sounded like torture. I actually got pretty good about eating gluten free most days…. and then I would go out to eat. Or be strapped for time or not have the flour that was required in the recipes. So 1 meal here and 1 meal there would be okay because that went to my 20%. Or maybe everything else was fine except the salad dressing… and that can’t be much, right?
Then last fall I started reading Wheat Belly Total Health. I really don’t remember anything other than if you eat gluten it undoes the last week of work you put in. And he really doesn’t like the gluten free replacements either because some of the grains used actually have worse reactions as far as blood sugar spikes than wheat. At about this time I also had a consult with a functional medicine doctor (one of the people that had suggested paleo in the first place), and I asked her if this was actually true, and she said yes! So I had to make a choice. Do I want to do this? Do I want to give up on it? And so I decided to give it a try. And decided I needed a plan first and looked at my current situation.
I usually took a smoothie to work for breakfast- already gluten free, and on the rare occasion I wanted cereal I could get Rice Chex or GF Cheerios.
Lunch was often made from leftovers and this was fine since that would be gluten free, but if I didn’t have leftovers or forgot them it would be local fast food places or the gas station. None of these places actually have gluten free lunch options. Even if the website said they did, the minute I used that phrase they would refuse service. Item #1 to figure out a plan for.
For suppers I went through the stuff that we had started eating since I started this part of my health journey. We found we love things like Pad Thai, something we call Mash, chicken or pork chops with a veggie and rice or potatoes for sides, and occasionally things like crustless pizza. Oh, and we can’t forget Chuck Wagon Chow.
My goal here was to find at least 3-4 options for supper on my kid weeks, and then I would batch cook twice on non-kid weeks. Once Sunday night when my leftovers were running out, and it also got my work lunches ready for the week. Then Monday night I would cook the chicken or pork option that I didn’t cook Sunday night. This worked well while I was at that job.
This plan led me to start looking at different meal plans on YouTube and Pinterest for new ideas. I had my basics, and that was good, but without new ideas if you are eating something 4 or 5 meals in a row or days in a row it gets old pretty fast if you aren’t rotating. But a week plan was enough to get started.
So how well did it work out?
The first couple of weeks I felt super yucky (which anyone telling you to go GF should warn you about), but then I started feeling better. Like a lot better. I had actually been putting on a lot of weight, and ballooned up to 310 over the first 6 weeks of being completely gluten free. This is about 15 to 20 pounds above where I had been floating for the previous year or so. And honestly, this was pretty normal for the other stuff in my life right then because I had started trying to lose weight and get healthy. This seems to be a pretty normal reaction for my body, and starting from about the time my daughter was 6 months old til now, I add around 10-15 pounds every time I decide I am going to lose weight. Anyway, I decided I was happy where I was at since I felt so much better and have steadily been losing weight ever since (By December when I started in the kitchen I was down to 305, and when I weighed this morning I was at 280). But there was no way I would have survived even a day in the kitchen before going gluten free… I had barely survived supper prep at home!
Starting a new job did change my routine quite a bit. I actually have options available in the employee dining room that are gluten free and I can eat for free, so I do choose to eat there, and am eating a lot more salad. I have since quit eating pork (99% of the time), and am working towards a kosher way of eating as well.