the bravest moms

My friend Cindy Hosea (see her terrific photos at www.upstateparent.com) journeyed to Iraq in late 2010 with several Gold Star Moms. The group met with Iraqi moms who had also lost their children in their country’s fight for freedom from tyranny. Cindy’s photos are featured in the video below. The moms (on both sides) are braver than I can imagine.

grow your own oyster mushrooms

Giveaway in the post below – scroll down for Yuletide pleasure…

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The boy’s study of fungi in biology happened to coincide with a dearth of decent mushrooms in my local store. I figured homeschooling was the perfect excuse to order a kit from Back to the Roots, something I’ve wanted to try for a while.

Man, oh man, these things are tasty. Mushrooms are a little like snakes to me. I am perfectly happy to interact with them as long as a genuine expert can assure me they aren’t poisonous. I don’t trust myself to identify either of them, so until we grew these, I’d never had a truly fresh ‘shroom.

BTTR kits grow pearl oyster mushrooms on a substrate of recycled coffee grounds. Super green stuff, here. And it’s all pretty easy. (Don’t follow my instructions! Be sure to read and follow the steps in the kit.)

We sliced open our bag of yuck (no smell, just unattractive) and soaked the bag in clean water for 24 hours.

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(It  helps to weight your bag down with Fiesta bowls. Maybe that’s just me.)

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Mist your bag two or three times a day and wait ever so patiently.

About two weeks later…

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Mushrooms as big as your head! (More or less.)

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We sautéed these with onion in olive oil and served them over spaghetti squash. Oh, so tasty! We then resoaked the bag and started the process again – our second flush of growth (from the same side) was a little smaller, but just as yummy. Those were eaten in a burrito, with leftovers tossed in homemade veggie soup the next day.

We are currently awaiting another crop from the other side of the bag.

These are a lot of fun for homeschooling (all ages) and make a terrific green Christmas gift. They are available online (I ordered mine from Abe’s Market) and I have since found them at my local Whole Foods. Yum!

produce co-op redux

Winners!

Christmas Lodge DVD:

Math games:

trish writes:
No. 6 — November 10th, 2011 at 8:41 am

I would love to win this. we do a lot with dice to help with adding and numbers.

 

After using a conventional co-op for a bit, we tried a local organic produce co-op.

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The food was over-the-top wonderful, including fresh baby salad greens, grapes and more.

Note to self: DIY allergy testing with eggplant (or anything) is a bad idea. I believe I have confirmed this newly acquired allergy and lived to tell the tale. It’s sad when a vegetarian can’t have eggplant, especially the yummy Asian ones used in curry.

In any event, the food was great. The price is a consideration, though I will use this, especially in winter. The pickings are pretty slim then elsewhere for local stuff, unless you want to eat kale every day. This particular co-op includes produce from a hydroponic farm, so they have local, organic tomatoes and such, even in winter. (There were some items in our basket that I could not have gotten at Whole Foods or Earth Fare at any price.)

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Hidden amongst the other goodies there are parsnips and leeks. I had never cooked or eaten parsnips before this and they were quite good. I used this recipe and it was a simple, wonderful dish. Even the boy liked it. I used the remaining leeks in a basic quiche, which was also a hit.

in a little town

Don’t forget to scroll down for giveaways…

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We had a fun day at the South Carolina State Museum recently. I get a bit obsessive over miniatures and these are part of a large display. (Oh, the irony.)

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Can’t you imagine yourself there?

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Or as one of Doolittle’s Raiders?

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trying a produce co-op

Free stuff below…

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We’ve been trying a produce co-op for the past few months. I have friends out west who have been using one with great success, but this is a fairly new thing in our area of the country. These photos are from a September basket. As you can see, the food is plentiful. 

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It has been an interesting experiment, having someone else dictate what’s on the menu for the week. I do like that aspect of it and it has certainly challenged me to try new things with meal planning. We are taking a break currently because this particular co-op isn’t able to offer an organic option right now and we are trying to focus on eating organic and local produce as much as possible.  (We tried an organic co-op last week. More to come on that…) If you usually buy conventional produce at the grocery store, this is a terrific option. Essentially, the food comes from the same folks who supply our local stores, but at a significantly reduced costs. (I believe most produce co-ops work that way.) I can’t say that I never buy conventional produce, but I try to limit it and certainly not buy the “dirty dozen,” so I needed to make a switch until some other options are available.

Have you tried a co-op? If so, did it change your meal planning?

magic beans

(Scroll down for giveaways.)

We eat a ton of dried beans here, especially in the winter. I cook all kinds – black-eyed peas, limas, black, red, pinto, kidney. Beans, along with rice and cornbread or tortillas, make a meal that vegetarians and carnivores can appreciate.

Here in the southern United States, beans are often cooked with ham or (**shudder**) fatback as seasoning. (I would link to a wiki explaining what fatback is, but trust me, the name says it all.) That’s totally unnecessary, even with cheapo grocery store beans. A little olive oil, onion, sea salt and freshly ground pepper is plenty. Some chopped cilantro on top is gilding the lily.

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I ordered some Rancho Gordo beans a few weeks ago. When have I ever eaten an heirloom anything and not found it to be far superior to the hybridized shadow of the original we find on store shelves? Never, of course. So far, we’ve only tried the black calypso beans. I am so impressed. I cooked them in the crockpot with just salt and a dash of olive oil in an effort to see if there really would be a flavor difference. There’s just no comparison. I am not sure I’ve ever even had real beans before this. We ate these simply, with homemade cornbread. Delicious.

Equally delicious are the company’s efforts to work with farms and farm cooperatives, helping them to thrive and also to maintain the lineage of these foods eaten by our ancestors. I know these aren’t local to me, but I believe this is a good company. Plus, I bought some locally grown dried beans last year. It didn’t have a happy ending. The Rancho Gordo folks know what they are doing. Though their beans are pricier than those at the grocery store, the difference is amazing and beans are still an extremely healthy and inexpensive food.

It’s a rainy, cold, miserable day here. Perfect for a warm pot of beans.

(Rancho Gordo doesn’t know me. I just wanted to share this find.)

yo, ho, yo, ho, a writer’s life for me

I am really ready for a trip to Walt Disney World. I will point that out ad nauseum, sorry. My husband and I watched “Benny and Joon” again recently. If you haven’t seen it, go watch right now. I’ll wait. Seeing a young Johnny Depp reminded me that I need to hop in a boat, feel the cool (air-conditioned) air in my face and the hear the eerie call of “Dead men tell no tales. Dead men tell no tales.”

But I can’t go right now. There are words to write, a boy to teach and a house to sell. (Yes, our house is still on the market. Want to buy it?)

One of the “rules” of blogging is that you shouldn’t post big blocks of text with no photos, so here’s a gratuitous photo before the endless text. Enjoy.

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What? That isn’t self-explanatory? OK, I was going to post photos of our freezer pickles, but we ate them all before they ever made it to the freezer. Oh my. Do give this recipe a try.

Here are a few words for your reading pleasure. Your links, comments and general support of these sites and publications are much appreciated. Really.

  • Lots of stuff in Upstate Parent magazine, as usual. The web site is all shiny and new, however, with a link to the full, flip-through magazine.
  • For those in the Midlands of South Carolina, please peruse Palmetto Parent. (We are studying literary devices in our homeschool. We are masters of alliteration.)
  • I also have a story now and again in Charleston’s Lowcountry Parent. You can head over there this month to read about teaching your children manners, a subject near and dear to my heart.
  • And since I grew up in Florence, South Carolina, I have been most honored to reconnect with the old home folks, doing a few stories here and there for the Greater Pee Dee Business Journal. I am so proud to see Florence’s revitalization efforts really taking hold. Florence, and cities around the world, are looking to our very own Greenville, South Carolina as a example of how to do downtown right. If you build it, they will come and they will spend money and your downtown will grow.
  • Which reminds me… I am also helping with Destination Downtown. If you are visiting our fair city, please click through to find out what’s happening. It’s all good stuff.
  • And one final read, which I hesitate to post because it might be for subscribers only – my apologies if that’s the case. (Someone let me know, maybe?) I was able to write a few really enjoyable (for me) stories for the 100th anniversary of the Tribune-Times. The paper was owned by Robert Quillen, a really talented whip of a writer, who could spin tales on par with Mark Twain. I had the pleasure of visiting with Quillen’s granddaughter and sifting through some of his typewritten columns written in the 1940s. It warmed this history major’s heart, for sure. Quillen was really quite a character, with a good heart and a feisty wit. I would have enjoyed chatting with him over a cup of coffee.

TOMORROW: Free stuff!

newvember

Aaaaand we’re back…

I certainly didn’t plan to be away that long, but in return for your patience, I have some fun giveaways coming up.

It has been crazy busy around here. I will do a few catch up posts in the near future, but for now…

The girl went to college. I have a college student. Yes, I was just in college, thanks. (Yes, she is a Gamecock and we are indeed number nine in the BCS. Just sayin’.)

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In a sad turn of events, we also said goodbye to our sweet Bud dog. For those who hit this site looking for information on canine vestibular disease, Bud relapsed (or more accurately, had a recurrence) of vestibular disease almost two years after his first attack. We firmly believe this round was due to a tumor (cranial of some sort, but we didn’t x-ray or do an MRI) and I really don’t think it was directly connected to the first incident. I put that out there because I still want to encourage those facing this with their pets to give them every reasonable chance to recover. Bud had two good years following the first incident, but at 15 1/2, it was too much to ask him to do again. He is greatly, greatly missed.

I was going to post a photo, but found this sweet video instead. In his later years, Bud was almost deaf and we had to touch him to wake him up. He was dreaming here, of chipmunks, no doubt.

Good boy.

how to freeze blueberries

After you’ve done something a few or 20 times, you forget that you didn’t always know how to do it. Make sense?

Here’s how we freeze our blueberries every year. They keep beautifully and can actually save your sanity come January. Or so I hear.

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First, a note about picking: We get our berries from a wonderful, close-to-organic, berry farm owned by an incredibly knowledgeable man. Before his blueberry farm retirement project, he worked for our local land grant university as a farm troubleshooter. He has a PhD in agricultural (something that I can’t remember right now). In any event, his advice is to taste a berry before picking – that goes for each bush. You’d be surprised what a difference it makes. Some bushes look ripe, but need a few more days to sweeten.

Now, back to freezing: I don’t wash our berries, but I do sort them carefully. Take a few minutes to remove any stems.

Stems = not good in oatmeal.

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Place the berries in your freezer container of choice and that’s it. When you are ready to use them, take out as many as you need and rinse under cool water.

just add basil

I have the nicest friends – the kind of friends who say, “My basil is out of control. Please take some!”

Yes, please.

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If you don’t use fresh basil, I urge you to give it a try. It’s terrific on pizza, in pasta, on a sandwich or salad. I may or may not have picked leaves and eaten them as is.

But I never grow basil this abundantly. In fact, I don’t think I have ever possessed this much basil at once. No worries, though. I made pistou and froze it for summer loveliness to enjoy in a couple of months when the world turns brown.

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