everyday is earth day

i realize the official earth day was last week but i still wanted to write about my efforts and thoughts on becoming more eco-conscious. "going green" is constantly on my mind. i'm all over the place with my emotions, though :: enthusiasm for what i can do to help the planet, guilt about over-consumption, discouragement for not doing enough, and wonder at how much there is to learn. it is overwhelming, but i'm determined not to let that stop me from doing what i can to minimize any negative effects my existence on this earth can have.

just so i start off on a positive note, here are some things we do in our household ::

  • recycle ... almost obsessively.
  • wash our clothes with cold water (except for the towels and sheets, which get washed in hot water).
  • compost + grasscycle.
  • change our light bulbs to CFLs.
  • turn down the thermostat.
  • keep lights off as long as possible and turn them off when they're not necessary.
  • when the wallet allows it i try to buy organic + local produce.
  • donating unused/unwanted items to friends and charity.
  • gradually going paperless for bills + statements (i have to admit i'm a little bit paranoid about not having a paper trail of my finances).
  • carry around reusable shopping bags (i also reuse produce bags numerous times).
  • drive a prius ... actually, rupert drives the prius.
  • hang clothes out to dry when it's warm (but i only have one clothes drying rack and ian's basketball hoop so there's a limit to how much i can put out at one time).
  • during the summer we grow a few vegetables and herbs ... and now rupert can use some of my very own compost to keep the plants healthy.
  • instead of giving gifts we've been donating to the recipients' (or our) favorite causes.
  • check out books from the library instead of buying them.

like most people, i recycle because it's simple and it makes me feel good. but something i read on treehugger made me realize i'm going about this all wrong :: reduce, reuse, recycle is listed in order of importance, which means i'm focusing on (and sitting on my high horse about) the least important part of household conservation.

there's more i should be doing instead of relying on recycling to be the easiest and best thing i can do at home. in fact, i should be striving to reduce the amount of regular garbage and recycling that leaves my house. that means i need to create less waste in general, and to achieve that i should be consuming less of everything.

so, here are things i plan to do to reduce my intake of resources and to reuse items i already have ::

  • after i get through my stash of sponges, start using the kids' old washclothes to wash the dishes that don't go in the dishwasher.
  • figure out how to use baking soda + vinegar for my cleaning needs.
  • sew up some cloth napkins and stop using paper napkins.
  • reduce the number of paper towels i use by switching to rags for clean-ups (i already use dishcloths for drying), and only purchasing paper towels made from recycled paper.
  • stop buying so many individually wrapped/packed snacks + drinks.
  • replace plastic reusable containers with glass ones.
  • be much more careful about my water usage.
  • switch from liquid body soap to bar soap (to cut down on plastic containers).
  • walk more to our local stores.
  • finally buy a water bottle for rupert (like mine) so he'll stop asking me to buy bottled water. do you know how guilty i felt buying a case of water at costco on earth day of all days?!
  • get a clothesline put up in the backyard.
  • sign up for renewable energy sources.
  • reduce the packaging on the tagE*blankEs i sell.
  • learn more about recycling properly.
  • visit second-hand and vintage shops instead of buying brand new all the time.
  • no more magazine subscriptions.

most importantly, i have to stop buying so much stuff [i.e., junk]. i really have very little need for more things but i keep buying. it's awful and wasteful and just plain bad. the clutter around our house is causing me stress, too. i look around and i'm fed up with living amidst so many unnecessary objects. i tried to follow the rule "one object in, one object out" but that hasn't worked at all.

in order to make a drastic change in lifestyle and consumption mentality, i'm participating in the buy nothing challenge from crunchy chicken's blog, albeit a month late. it's going to be a real challenge, especially since we'll be traveling to milwaukee mid-month to attend rupert's brother's medical school graduation (that means not buying souvenirs and figuring out an alternative to purchasing a graduation gift). going cold turkey is what i need, though, in order to see the absolute waste of money, time, space, and mental energy caused by unnecessary shopping.

one area in particular has been haunting me :: my scrapbooking hobby. i've been in love with paper since i was a little girl and i don't foresee that changing in my lifetime. my stash of beautiful decorative papers is probably making my house a fire hazard, and yet, i have no intention of getting rid of any of it. i could easily switch to digital scrapbooking, but i'm resisting that change because i like the tactile nature of paper scrapbook layouts. if i'm not going to give up scrapbooking then i need to stop buying so much paper and use it instead of admiring it in it's 12"x12" glory. so, you heard read it here first folks -- no more buying scrapbooking supplies!

and, looking to the future, some things i wish i could do ::

  • reuse grey water.
  • get my own hybrid car.
  • install solar panels on the roof.
  • buy energy star appliances when our current appliances go kaput.
  • plant a proper, year-round garden ... and have rupert take care of it (i have a brown thumb).

hmm ... too many of those things require me to buy something. i should probably think of a different kind of future.

i would love to hear what you do in your homes + lives to be more eco-conscious. are there green books/websites/documentaries that you recommend? did anything i wrote above sound ludicrous or wrong? this is one issue i would love to get some feedback on.


contrary to previous posts, this is not a food blog

i've been short on family news and long on recipes, i know. food is constantly on my mind and i'm enjoying the cooking. what can i say? it's my current obsession and, not being a multi-tasker, i can't seem to get anything else done.


but there are scrapbook layouts that need to be completed and creative juices that need to be percolated and flowed (yes, i'm pretty sure the past tense of "flow" is "flowed"). i have quite a few layouts and mini-albums that are near completion; it's frustrating to see them almost done and to know that i lack the few extra drops of creativity (and time) needed to complete them.

i have to remember that each layout doesn't have to be a masterpiece (not that they ever are) and i don't need everything to be perfectly laid out or perfectly embellished. just finish the darn thing, for pete's sake! tell the story, slap the picture down, use a few pretty/cute/cool things and be done with it already. yeesh!

my hope is that i will have a few more layouts to share in the coming weeks.


what i made for dinner :: potato, carrot, and zucchini kugel


for passover this year i contributed the kugel to our big family seder at my in-laws'. i knew i wanted to try it out when i saw the recipe in the april issue of bon appetit because i really enjoy kugel but i'd only had more of the sweet noodle-y kugels in the past.

this one is loaded with potatoes and vegetables, and it comes together pretty easily (although you will spend a bit of time peeling and chopping). it makes way more than eight servings; besides the red baking dish, it also made a panful of kugel in a 13x9 pyrex. because of the whipped eggs in the recipe it comes out quite light, and takes on the flavor of whatever meat dish you're serving (we were having lamb).

if it weren't for a burn on the roof of my mouth i think i would've been able to better critique this dish. i *think* it was too salty and perhaps a bit too raw onion-y. a recipe reviewer mentioned she would try sauteing the onions first, which may mild out the flavors better. also, instead of all of the onions, it might be worth it to up the amount of zucchini and carrots because those flavors were basically non-existent.

all in all a recipe worth tinkering with ... but next year i may try the sweeter noodle kugel i love so much.


what i made for dinner :: tofu burgers + sesame brown rice salad with shredded chicken and peanuts

tofu burger + sesame brown rice salad with chicken and peanuts
we've had a heat wave in our parts for the last week. luckily, i found a whole grain salad article in the june 2007 issue of cooking light that would help to combat the heat :: the sesame brown rice salad with shredded chicken and peanuts recipe sounded refreshing and filling. it also allowed me to use some of the left over stuff in the fridge. (kind of a sidenote, but i am trying harder not to waste food; i used to let ingredients for one dish go to waste because i didn't know how to use it for another dish. i'm finding that with more practice i can reuse the same ingredients in different ways in short spans of time without getting bored of the food. and, that is a very good thing.) i also added sliced red pepper to this for a pop of color and more crunch. you could probably even add some nappa cabbage to this as well.

you need to make a lot of dressing for this (twice as much as is called for), otherwise it's too bland. obviously, upping the oil content decreases the healthiness of the recipe so you'll have to choose :: flavor or low-cal. however, i have an idea i intend to try next time -- marinating the veggies in the dressing for awhile in the fridge. another piece of advice, don't pour the dressing over the rice if you don't intend to eat it right away. the rice absorbs the dressing quickly and you'll have to add more right before serving.

the main dish was tofu burger patties, a staple around here. it's not vegetarian; tofu is an additional filler to ground meat (i used ground chicken this time but i've used a ground beef + pork combo as well). this is another dish where i can sneak in more veggies than ian is usually willing to eat. tonight's version had shiitake mushrooms, onions, red peppers, carrots, and snap peas in it. additional ingredients :: egg (for binding), ginger, garlic, sesame oil, shoyu, sesame seeds, and ground pepper (i don't add salt because we use tonkatsu sauce on top).


what i made for dinner :: crispy noodle cake with barbecued pork

crispy noodle cake with barbecued pork
the other day i talked about my love for fatty meat. but my true love is noodles. if i see a noodle recipe i almost always want to try it.

i found this old (march 2004) bon appetit noodle article and found a few recipes that sounded good. the only one i've tried so far is the crispy noodle cake with barbecued pork. i found it to be pretty good and filling, despite the fact i overcooked the veggies a bit. try not to saute the veggies too long if you like a little bite to your carrots and peas (i used snap peas instead of snow peas). also, the recipe says to season with salt and pepper after the noodles and vegetables are combined. don't; it's got plenty of savory flavor without the additional salt.

this recipe is good because you could use a wide variety of vegetables (always something i'm looking for so the kids can get their daily dose of veggies). next time i will probably add more bean sprouts, red peppers, and some kind of mushroom.

with stuff i had left over in the fridge, i also made an egg drop soup with chicken and bok choy. i'm finding that the more i cook on a regular basis, the easier ideas come to mind about what to make even without a recipe. i have to say, my knife skills are getting better too.


what i made for dinner :: cabernet-braised beef short ribs

red wine-braised beef short rib with broccoflower steak
i'm a sucker for a piece of good fatty meat (where do you think i got that layer of fat around my belly from?). meat benefits from some fat, flavor-wise and texture-wise ... don't you think? if you agree, then the next recipe might be for you :: cabernet-braised beef short ribs (from the march 2008 issue of cooking light).

although the recipe is simple you do need about four hours to prepare (active time is only about half an hour, at most). i didn't use cabernet since i had an open bottle of pinot noir but it worked out fine. rupert was my assistant for step 4; with his help i didn't make much of a mess and we managed to limit the amount of fat that went into the sauce.

because you discard the vegetables that cook with the meat, i made a side-dish of broccoflower "steak," a simplified version of this cauliflower steak recipe. super yummy. i guess you could braise or roast some extra carrots, celery, and onion and pour the sauce over them.

the israeli couscous turned out better this time, i think because i used a richer chicken stock (which i made yesterday) instead of the usual packaged chicken stock from TJ's. it also went really well with the meat and sauce. i definitely recommend making accompaniments that are not heavily seasoned and can take on the flavor of the short ribs.

i feel like i'll go to hell for this

rupert noticed a single wasp flying around the birdhouse on top of our deck rafters. he could just barely see the start of a wasp's nest inside the birdhouse. probably not a good thing to allow a wasp to make herself at home near the kids' play area outside. so i told rupert to knock the birdhouse down and throw it away. when the wasp flew away to do whatever it is a wasp does, rupert acted as my hitman and "took care of the situation."

a few minutes later, from inside the house, we saw the wasp return and fly around the rafters. and fly around and around the same area. occasionally it would stop on the wood beam. but then it would fly around where its nest should've been. i could imagine it thinking to itself, "well, i'm sure i left it here somewhere," the way some people wander around the same area of a parking lot looking for their car.

even after close to an hour, as we left to eat dinner at my parents', we could see it looking for its nest. it was rather sad, actually, and i felt bad about it. hopefully it found a better place to nest, away from mean people like me.


what i made for dinner :: asian chicken salad with snap peas and bok choy

ground coriander + cilantro flatbread and asian chicken salad w/ snap peas + bok choy
this one is a keeper, but i probably won't make it again until it's hot outside. for a salad it takes some time to prepare (just poaching the chicken took 30 minutes) but you can make everything in advance and throw it all together in the evening for a really refreshing salad. the supermarket i was at today did not have baby bok choy, so i bought regular bok choy. since it's not as tender, i ended up poaching the bok choy for a short period of time (letting the stems poach directly in the liquid and keeping the leaf part out of the liquid).

actually, i had two hits today :: i also made ground coriander and cilantro flatbreads from the same issue of bon appetit (may 2008). they don't bake in the oven; they're panfried in olive oil (3 minutes each side). because of the baking soda and baking power they puff up thicker than you'd expect but they cook through in 6 minutes. the picture in the magazine shows "flat"bread but mine almost looked like crabcakes; i flattened out the second batch of dough more but they still puffed up pretty high. they're good though! (i didn't make the raita or the coriander oil to go with the flatbread but it's still tasty.)

(and, just so ian had something to eat, i made honey-mustard-sesame chicken legs for him. also yummy, but this is an old stand-by recipe.)


what i made for dinner :: caramelized leeks with roasted salmon fillets

caramelized leeks w/ roasted salmon fillets

salmon is one of the easiest main courses i prepare; it's pretty hard to screw up, it's quick, and both the kids like it. despite the positives, i do get a little bored with the pink stuff after awhile. a new recipe to the rescue!

in the march issue of cooking light there was an article about leeks, a vegetable i'm pretty fond of. and just the other day hubert keller described how to julienne leeks during an episode of his show (while he was cooking beef, lamb and pork baeckeoffe). let me tell you, the technique works great and i could've julienned leeks till the cows came home. [the technique :: wash and trim the leek of the green part and the root end; cut the leek to the length you want the julienne to be; stand the leek on one end; slice down from the top, with the tip of the knife reaching to the center of the leek; "unfurl" the leek and lay it flat (it should be a stack of rectangular leek leaves); julienne to your heart's content]

anyway, i digress. caramelizing the leeks takes a bit of time (20 minutes), but it's well worth it. the leeks were so sweet and gave the salmon a little oomph (taste and texture-wise). the recipe says the salmon fillets roast in 8 minutes. mine did not; in fact, it took three times as long. you'd think that since i cook salmon fairly regularly i'd know by now how long it takes to cook a piece of fish. my fillets were a bit larger than 6 ounces so that may have been part of the reason it took so long. i now know to throw the salmon in the oven at the same time as i start sauteeing the leeks. then it should all come together at the same time.

couscous and a green salad accompanied the meal.


what i made for dinner :: curry + rice

curry rice w/ eggplant, ground pork, chickpeas + shimeji mushrooms

we have a tradition on the first monday of the month :: i make japanese-style curry+rice. the reason the tradition started is because i have pta meetings on the first monday of each school month. i needed something quick to make so i can scarf down my food and run out the door after rupert got home from work.

for awhile our standard curry was chicken with onions, carrots, and potatoes. sometimes i used beef, and i even tried seafood curry (not very well-liked by anyone). one day i randomly threw in shimeji mushrooms, which led me to become a bit more adventurous with my ingredients. lately, the parents' favorite is eggplant curry with ground pork, shimeji, and chickpeas. it's really quite good with a nice balance of textures and flavors. maya likes it too, but i still make a smaller batch of the chicken curry for ian.


what i made for dinner :: risotto with italian sausage, caramelized onions, and bitter greens

risotto with sausage, caramelized onions, and bitter greens

you know what's nice? a sunday evening when ian's at a playdate and maya's taking an extra-long nap. that means i can make a non-kid-friendly dinner. tonight's menu :: risotto with italian sausage, caramelized onions, and bitter greens from the march 2008 issue of cooking light + salad.

if you have 20-minutes to spare to keep stirring the risotto then this is a great recipe. i really like arugula (the bitter greens in the recipe) and it gives the dish a nice flavor and bite (and some color). i didn't add any salt to the recipe and only used 2 teaspoons of parmesan (rupert added more to his own dish), and i thought it was fine. i used a smoked turkey and chicken sausage instead of the italian sausage and it was still good.

i will definitely make this again, especially if the kids aren't around.


what i made for dinner :: slow cooked carnitas + roasted tomatillo salsa

slow-cooked carnitas salad w/ roasted tomatillo salsa

i haven't posted about dinner in awhile but that doesn't mean i haven't been cooking. mind you, i haven't been making dinner every night, but i do cook. earlier this week i whipped up an impromptu pot roast that came out pretty well with minimal effort.

i was a good little girl this week and actually went through the supermarket circulars to see what was on sale and checked my list of recipes i want to try out. success -- a match! slow cooked carnitas with roatsed tomatillo salsa from the april 2008 issue of bon appetit.

this recipe is super easy because it requires very few ingredients and cooks in the slow cooker for 6 hours, so it's very hands-off. i did make some modifications to both the carnitas and salsa.

carnitas :: instead of 2 teaspoons of salt i used 1 teaspoon, and that was plenty. i also added some garlic powder, ground cumin and ground coriander. because of my "diet," i decided to put some carnitas and salsa on a salad instead of consuming it in tacos as the rest of the family did. i totally enjoyed it and loved that the salad required no dressing. (i used organic mixed greens, tomatoes, red pepper, and avocado.)

salsa :: i'd never used tomatillos before but this salsa is incredibly simple and really quite good; a perfect way to use a vegetable for the first time. rupert liked it more than the carnitas and wants me to make more. i followed the recipe closely, but i also roasted a clove of garlic. actually, i might add more garlic next time for that extra blast of flavor.

the recipe is part of bon appetit's "family style" column -- recipes that are supposed to be easy, kid-friendly, and also provide leftovers. the leftovers recipe using the carnitas is for cubanos, cuban sandwiches. i'm tempted to try the sandwich but rupert is thinking of putting the carnitas into quesadillas. either way, i betcha it'll be good.


29 months.

disgruntled much?
maya @ 29 months :: april 4, 2008
  • she is finally -- finally! -- starting to use more japanese words. and she definitely understands that there are two ways of saying things. for example, she will ask me to draw her a "wani" and then repeat "ow-ee-gatow." (and by "ask" i mean she brings me her magnadoodle and says "wani" while pointing with the magnet-pen.) but she still does not speak very clearly; her enunciation is really quite poor, which is starting to worry me a bit.
  • the movie-of-the-month is "mononoke hime (princess mononoke)," which she calls "shishi" for inoshishi (boar). her favorite line? "sare!" (leave!)
  • she really relates to the "curious george goes to the hospital" dvd rupert bought for her recently. it must be because she often has a stomach ache. [warning :: the second story on this dvd, "mouse soup" is bizarre!]
  • everytime we go to a birthday party she thinks it's her birthday. or, if she gets a present for whatever reason she thinks it's for her birthday. and she knows cake and candles come with any mention of birthday.
  • she talks to her little friends (and me!) like she talks to my mother-in-law's dog :: "stop!" "stay!"
  • she likes to look at my scrapbook layouts. she asks me to pull down the "pick-cas" (pictures) from the bookshelf and flips through the layouts, often mistaking baby pictures of ian for herself.
  • we're able to get her to unchi (poopy) on the toilet exclusively. this is helpful since her poops are so huge that they are unpleasant to clean up after they've been deposited in a diaper. she's also getting better about telling us she has to go #1 so we've started getting her to pee on the toilet at least once a day. but i haven't had the inclination to actually start "potty training."
  • it's not very rie, but i am going to have to start using time-outs more often.
  • she's getting attached to my workout buddy, P (who also happens to be ian's best friend's mom).
  • sticks her plastic stethoscope to her mouth by sucking in.
  • enjoys talking on the phone :: she's always pretended on her toy phone but she got a taste of the real thing while rupert was out of town and now she always wants to talk on the phone when it rings.
  • loves bandaids ... then again, what kid doesn't?
  • gives loooooong, slobbery, full-on-the-lips kisses
  • she sings this crazy song she made up over and over again. what i can make out sounds like, "i'm a boy." and because she is her parents' daughter, when she starts warbling ian reaches for anything and everything that will cover his ears.
  • when rupert and i embrace she comes running and wedges herself between us, yelling, "no! no! no!" as if to say, "break it up, people!" just to bug her we hug often and hard. ;)
  • likes to use the pre-k/kinder computer at the library.