Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ok, I have to admit I feel a little embarrassed to come back to this blog after neglecting it for so long. I started it fully intending to post every single day, and, well...

Anyway, the past few months have been a whirlwind of job hunting, job starting, wedding prep and planning, gardening, preserving, learning and stressing. The brief rundown:

  • Wedding in less than two weeks. GAH. I'm like a kid at Christmas.
  • In the very early stages of looking into home ownership. Yikes.
  • My garden was basically ravaged by deer.
  • Fortunately my grandmother, aunt & uncle had great success with the HUGE garden on their property, and have been sharing the wealth.
  • Dad and I have taken bushel after bushel of tomatoes from said garden and made gallons of tomato sauce, which was then frozen or canned. Home preserving is awesome. Checked canning off my "to-learn" list.
  • Had a couple of disappointing experiences with breadmaking, and gave it a rest for a while. I get frustrated easily. Just threw together some no-knead dough tonight, hopefully this batch turns out ok and I get back into baking regularly.
  • Started work at a bridal gown store. It's... a job. But I really need to make more money, or get a second part-time job (ugh). I'm desperate to get my credit card debt paid off.
  • 2009 = craziest, most eventful year of my life. This is one for the books.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Massive photo update part four!

DOGGIES! Nuff said. :)

Massive photo update part three!

CRITTERS WHO EAT MY PLANTS! The deer have all but destroyed the sunflowers. Every time they valiantly sprout new leaves from their pathetic stubs, the deer come along and strip them bare again. They also sampled my yellow squash plants next to the sunflowers, although they didn't seem interested enough to eat much. I need to get some pictures of the deer, there are several regular customers who frequent my sunflower buffet and aren't particularly afraid of humans. 

Now these guys... these guys are AWESOME. I've never seen them before, but there were four of them hanging out on one of my dill plants. I left them alone, because they afforded me some really great pictures and I felt like they were probably butterfly caterpillars. I did a little research and feel pretty certain they're black swallowtails. Exciting!

They were all just hanging out,

except this guy, who was going to TOWN on these dill flowers! It was a moment of pure nerdy joy to watch him happily munching away.

Massive photo update part two!

GARDEN! So much activity in the garden lately. First... SOMETHING is killing my tomatoes. According to several websites I've been reading, it's either early blight or verticillium wilt, likely triggered by the weeks of record-setting rainfall we had earlier this summer. I can't figure out which, but neither have a good prognosis. The remaining fruits are still edible but the disease will likely kill the plants soon. I sprayed them with an organic anti-fungal spray containing copper, hoping to salvage them, so we'll see.

In far more cheerful news, my watermelons and lone surviving cantaloup plant are thriving. I planted them out by the driveway because there was simply no more room in the garden, and the sunflowers we'd planted there before had either been dug up before sprouting or, more recently, chewed to shreds by deer (see next blog entry for photo evidence). 

Daisy meandering.

My dad bought a few disease-resistant tomato seedlings that were on clearance at the local garden store, though at this point they were less seedlings than half-grown plants (one has a tomato already). I pulled up the peas and their little trellis, as they were starting to dry up and die, and planted the new tomatoes in their place. The garlic is long gone, after I realized how late I'd planted them I pulled them up rather than have them waste space, and put a horseradish plant down (mostly for fun, I have no idea how to grow or harvest horseradish). The eggplant are huge and already have one or two fruits each. The beans will probably be done soon, and I'll probably leave that space to put down another row or two of broccoli in August. I'm already planning out next year's garden in my head, making adjustments and trying new plants.

Massive photo update part one!

I've been unusually inclined to spend time in the kitchen lately. I think I've been inspired by the abundance of fresh yummies coming out of the garden and the farmers markets lately. The whole general concept of a more simple, frugal, self-sustaining lifestyle has been on my mind for a long time now, and I've been trying to make changes here and there to move in that direction. So my most recent endeavor involves buying less pre-made, packaged food, and instead making what I can from scratch. In my last post I mentioned the unsuccessful ricotta experiment, and the moderately successful no-knead bread... I haven't given the ricotta another go, but...

I gave a new bread recipe a try and made two tasty loaves,

made another no-knead loaf which turned out beautifully,

and made fresh, delicious, homegrown SALSA!

Chips and salsa are easily my favorite snack, and I buy a jar of Tostitos salsa probably once a week. They cost around 3 or 4 bucks, and I always thought they were tasty until I mixed up some homemade. This stuff blows store-bought salsa out of the water, and that's not because I'm a wizard in the kitchen. It's incredibly simple to make; the reason it tastes so freaking good is just because the ingredients are FRESH, homegrown and natural! I've made 4 batches so far and we've blown through several bags of chips (oh yeah, next projects involves homemade tortilla chips).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Well hello blog, nice to see you again.

Yesterday I was feeling rather optimistic and took on two kitchen projects that I've been wanting to try for a while. I decided to try my hand at making ricotta cheese and no-knead, whole grain bread. 

Now, food-related projects tend to go badly for me when they involve a recipe. I'm pretty awful at following written directions, because of my ADD and general impatience. But it's become very important to me to start making more of my own food, particularly expensive and frequently purchased items like cheese and bread. Eventually my goal is to have a little homestead with my own chickens and goats, and maybe even a miniature cow, for eggs and milk. But that's another blog entry.


The ricotta recipe I used was supposed to yield about a cup of cheese. I wound up with more like a tablespoon. Having read on several different websites that this was by far the easiest cheese, that it was a joy and pleasure to make, and that basically a monkey could do it... well, it was a bit discouraging to see the results. I figured there were several places where I could have gone wrong. First, I used 2% milk instead of whole. I only did this because one website said it was fine to substitute, but who knows. Second, I scalded the milk on the bottom of the saucepan (in spite of my frequent stirring). I'm not sure if this would really affect the end product or not. Finally, and I think most likely, I don't think I waited for the milk in the saucepan to come to a full simmer before adding the lemon juice. I saw the bubbles start, and promptly dumped the juice in. When it didn't coagulate immediately like the recipe said it would, I had a feeling I'd jumped the gun. 
I got enough to mix in to a little bowl of blueberries, at least. Oh, and I can't believe how freakin' hard it was to get this stuff out of the damn cheesecloth! Maybe because the curds were too watery, maybe because I squeezed too hard when trying to get the last of the water out, but my goodness that was a frustrating episode. Practice makes perfect I suppose, but it's frustrating to be unsuccessful when you practice on expensive organic ingredients. 
On the plus side, I got a nice amount of whey which I used to make breakfast smoothies. Delish.

I fared far better with this project. Behold, my ugly, yet tasty loaf o' whole grain bread:

It didn't rise quite as nicely as I'd hoped, but for a first attempt it turned out decently. The bottom got a bit burned, but it still tastes pretty damn good. I had a moment of panic when somehow, a piece of saran wrap somehow got stuck to the dutch oven and wound up on the 500 degree oven rack. I'm not exactly good at thinking on my feet and I had no idea how I would get this gooey, stringy plastic out of a hot oven, and I envisioned the plastic gluing itself to the oven floor and the burning smell permeating everything that was cooked from then on. Fortunately I was able to pull almost all of it out with some tongs, and there was a slight smell of melted plastic but it didn't permeate anything and the bread turned out fine. WHEW. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A week ago I applied for a consolidation of debts loan. Today I was denied. No idea why, but I'm told I'll get a letter of explanation. 

This probably isn't a huge setback, but it sure feels like one. I'm discouraged and even more stressed. I knew when I quit the Census Bureau that it would be hard to find a job that let me keep up with my bills, but it's been much worse than I anticipated. I've had the part-time weekend thing at Petco for about six weeks I think, and the money sucks. I've applied to at least 50 places by now. I've eaten all my delusions of staying true to what I wanted in a job, because I'm desperate. I can't shake off this guilt that I've ruined things for Kenny and I. How will we ever get a house when I'm unable to save and I'm wrecking my credit? How will we pay for our wedding? 

Today sucks.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tonight I harvested the first batch of swiss chard, cooked it up, and then fainted from sheer joy. No, but it was really fucking delicious. I sauteed it in a cast iron skillet with garlic and olive oil, then once it wilted I sprinkled parmesan cheese on top and stuck it under the broiler to brown. I don't cook often, and when I do it's usually something very simple or, like this dish, one that I've seen my dad make a million times. Let me tell you, it's 100% true that nothing tastes better than food you grew yourself. That was easily one of the most satisfying dishes I've ever eaten.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

News video from the BBC (and can I just mention how much I love the BBC for reporting the news without constantly injecting the reporter/anchor's personal opinion into the story, like American news stations) on the violent protests in Tehran over the election results. As they say in the broadcast, protests like this have been unheard of for the last 30+ years in a country where the population prefers to "keep their heads down." Hopefully this marks a turning point and the beginning of the end for religious dictatorship in Iran.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My mom's Etsy store is finally online! I need to make a banner and pretty up the page, but for now at least we have a few products up. MANY more to come, so stay tuned! The Wratty Wren.

In the garden, all sorts of activity.  A few days ago, we opened up the compost bin and shoveled out the first batch of compost, and spread it over the garden. The plants definitely seemed to appreciate the nutritional boost. The swiss chard is gorgeous, probably going to cook some up in the next few days. The tomato plants have nearly doubled in size, and look great aside from a little fungus on the leaves which my dad wants to treat with a neem oil spray. One of the heirloom tomato plants has a single green tomato, the pea plants each have one or two adorable little pea pods, and the bush beans all have tons of pretty little purple flowers. Unfortunately the deer moseyed into my garden the other night and munched down a couple of bean plants... they must've been rather unappetizing however, because the majority of the plant was left alone. Only the top leaves of two or three plants were eaten. We set up a motion-sensing sprinkler that will theoretically go off when the deer approach and scare them away. 

I was supposed to interview for a second part-time job at a kennel/dog rescue today. I even spoke to the lady this morning, asking for the address. It sounded like she was in the car, and she asked if she could call me back in a few minutes. She never called back, and maybe it's for the best. I don't know the address but I know the city, and I have to cross the Bay Bridge which scares the crap out of me. 

Guess I'll go plant the rest of my seeds instead. Squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, and cucumbers. Summery goodness!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The first signs of yummies to come: a little white flower on one of the pea vines, and a tiny green tomato on one of the tomato plants (I can't remember the name of this variety off the top of my head... black something. Black prince? A variety that is supposed to produce early in the season and thrive even in wet, cool conditions.). 

Today I harvested the last of the romaine. Some unknown critter was dispatching my romaine (and only the romaine, no other plants) in the most bizarre way... at the base of the plants, it looked as though they had simply been clipped off with shears, and the plants simply toppled over. The weirdest part was that none of the plants were actually EATEN. Not even nibbled on. Aside from that oddity, the romaine did fairly well. However, I doubt I'll grow it or the arugula again next year. We just don't eat it enough. The patch of garden that was dedicated to lettuce will be home to six ichiban eggplant seedlings as of tomorrow.

For a little 10x10 backyard garden, which I planted without a clue as to my soil type or acidity level or what plants would do well in said soil types or acidity levels... it's coming along damn nicely. Hope it continues.

Monday, June 1, 2009

As promised... pictures! 

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Starting tomorrow, this blog will have more pictures, because I found my camera battery charger. Who doesn't love more pictures? 

A week ago our nearly one year old dachshund mix, Fry, decided that snacking on a pack of sugarless gum was an excellent idea. Thank goodness I caught him in the act, and thank goodness I'd read an article about dogs and sugarless gum MONTHS ago, because this brand of gum uses Xylitol as a sugar substitute. According to what I'd read before, and have read since, even small amounts of Xylitol can cause seizures and collapse, even liver failure and death, in dogs within 30 minutes of ingestion. Being the non-crisis-handling person that I am, I started to panic. This was late Sunday afternoon and when I called the closest vet and explained what happened, they said there was only one vet on staff and she couldn't see Fry anytime soon. She suggested we take him to the emergency vet clinic, because Fry needed to have vomiting induced before he digested any more of the gum. 
We're lucky enough to only live ten minutes from the 24-hour emergency vet clinic, and I was ready to put him in the car and rush him up there, when my dad asked if I'd looked online to find any way to induce vomiting. I stopped in my tracks, because it hadn't even occurred to me to attempt treating Fry myself. In normal circumstances I like to read up on home remedies for myself or my dogs before going to the doctor or vet, but my brain was in panic mode and I hadn't thought of anything but having the emergency vet treat him. I did a Google search as fast as possible, hoping that I wasn't wasting precious minutes. Within seconds I'd found several sites with multiple ways listed, and the quickest, easiest one simply instructed me to feed him two teaspoons of 3% hydrogen peroxide (one teaspoon per pound of body weight). Two teaspoons and 30 seconds later, and up came the minty fresh contents of Fry's gut. An hour later, he was running and playing, and I was utterly relieved to have a healthy puppy and no vet bill. I would have taken him to the vet no matter how much it cost, but let's face it, emergency vet visits are NOT cheap, and my bank account has dwindled to spare change while I await my first measly paycheck. I would've had to put it on one of the credit cards I'm trying so hard to pay down. Well, crisis averted!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I found out I was pregnant on a Tuesday. I told all my friends and family, and started to get ready for parenthood. The very next Tuesday, I miscarried.

Needless to say it's been an incredibly emotional couple of weeks, and I felt particularly unmotivated to blog about any of it. I still don't. Maybe next week.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

So, yep. Pregnant. Five-ish weeks. I've run the gamut of emotions from terrified to elated. In fact the mood swings are one of only a few symptoms I've had. Some cramping and half a day of upset stomach, but no drastic morning sickness, no headaches, no breast soreness, and no "sense" of being pregnant. If I hadn't had the blood test to confirm it, I'd still be questioning. 

The timing could be better. It could be worse. I'll be about 6 months pregnant on my wedding day, which honestly wouldn't bother me except that my mom put hours and hours of time, effort, and love into my beautiful wedding dress, and now it's most likely unwearable. Kenny won't get to see me in it, and that hurts. I've cried and apologized to both of them, and of course they both have been wonderful, but I can see my mom trying to hide some disappointment. She talked today about selling it and making a new one, and I almost started crying again. I know she made that dress thinking of me the whole time, and she was going to be so proud to see me wear it on my wedding day. It's my dress. It seems almost silly to fixate on this one thing, and I'm not sure why it's affecting me so intensely. 

That said, I'm not throwing myself a continuous pity party here. Now that the nerve-wracking moments of telling the parents are over, I'm letting myself get excited about the planning and the prospect of being a mom. I've been reading websites and articles nonstop, and even strolling through the baby aisles at Target. Kenny has been fantastic, from the point where I first started to wonder "am I?" to the confirmation to sharing the news and starting to plan. I've learned on him for support and he's held me up unfailingly, and we've become closer than ever. I'm reassured that together we'll not only make it through challenges, but we will thrive. 

I got a part-time job, which takes the edge off my worry. It's not enough, but it's better than nothing. It'll hold me over.

Right now I'm feeling like everything will be ok.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dear Internet World,

I'm going to be a mom. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

The forecast for this week: I get a job. I had a phone interview today for a, administrative assistant position, and while I swore I'd never do another admin job after my last experience, I think this promises to be different. For starters, I can bring my dogs to work (!!!!). I can work from home for at least a few hours a week. And it's part time, 20 hours a week, which I'm sure will be easier to handle than 8 hours a day of monotonous filing and faxing. They said they loved my resume and would be calling to set up a second interview later in the week.


Tomorrow at 11 I have an interview to be a dog washer at Petco. Likely low pay and physically challenging work, but I'd work with dogs again! It's another part time job. I think I'd enjoy doing both. I feel confident I'll get hired at one or the other, if not both. Finally landing a job will be a huge weight off my shoulders. 

In garden news, I had no idea how fast bush beans grow. I mean, in two days since their little green stems started to surface, they have grown taller than anything in that garden but the onions. The broccoli plants are still tiny, fragile seedlings, and the basil has JUST barely peeked out of the soil. It's fun to see how differently things grow. 

In other news, I finally cracked open the "Organizing for Dummies" book I bought online six months ago. One chapter in, I couldn't stay focused enough to continue. A few days ago I started my self-prescribed ADD treatment of daily B-complex and magnesium supplements... they may take a while to kick in.  

Monday, May 4, 2009

Quitting my job has been mightily stressful, but I can't say I haven't enjoyed the vast amounts of free time. I decided before I even quit that I would stay busy and productive working on all my personal projects, and I can proudly say that I've done just that. The garden obviously has been my pet project, but there's also been the wedding planning, starting and maintaining my blog, getting moved and settled in to our basement apartment, establishing an Etsy store with my mom (still in the planning stages), and then there's the continual job hunt. Today commenced the latest and greatest: The Get In Shape and Lose the Pooch Project.

Let me start by saying I feel fortunate to have made it to quarterlife and never worried about my weight. I'm still not worried about my weight. I'm worried about my health, my lack of physical strength and stamina, and the little gathering of chub in my midsection that has come to be known affectionately as "the pooch." Well, I have a semi-legitimate reason to be worried about the pooch... I have a wedding dress I'll need to fit into! I'd be lying if I said my main reason for this undertaking was to improve my overall health, although that IS extremely important to me. Vanity was the real kicker. I have a belly for the first time in my life and it's slightly appalling to me. 

Anywho, I woke up and STAYED up at 7 a.m., and did 30 minutes of a kundalini yoga DVD with my mom. My mom and I then worked until the early afternoon reorganizing the unfinished side of the basement, and bringing things down from the garage. Not exactly an aerobic workout, but we were continually moving, walking, and carrying, certainly burning some calories. I took a break to eat some lunch and take the dogs on a short walk. My food intake really didn't change from a typical day, either in what I ate or how much of it. 

I'm not measuring myself or weighing myself regularly, because I don't want this to turn into a regimen or obsession. I'll know I've achieved my goal when I no longer feel like I have to unbutton my jeans to feel comfortable when I sit.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

This is a beautiful quote attributed to the 14th Dalai Lama. 

Everyday, think as you wake up, "today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

an open letter to my potential employers

An open letter to my potential employers:

Good day. I am currently on the market for a job. Certainly times are tough for us all, particularly job seekers. However, I am not content to continue with my previous trend of jumping from one boring, unsatisfying job to the next. Therefore, rather than continue try to shape myself into the person that my job requires, I am instead knocking aside the corporate-speak and presenting you with a list of MY requirements for my perfect job. Could this be considered pretentious in these uncertain economic times? Possibly. Will I have to compromise on my ideals and take whatever I can get, just to get by? It seems likely. But I present this letter in the hopes that I will no longer have to choose between unemployment and 40-hour-per-week misery. Without futher ado, I present to you this list in lieu of a resume.

1. I am not "naturally organized" or "detail-oriented." I can't stay organized to save my life. I have untreated ADD. I forget where I set the pen that I was using 30 seconds ago. I generally think of the big picture first and worry about the details later. I need a job that isn't about the details or the organization.

2. I am not "naturally energetic," nor do I "thrive in a fast-paced environment." I am slow to wake up in the mornings. I can't stand on my feet for 7.5 hours a day. On the flip side of the coin, sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day will drain me mentally and physically. I stress out easily and have moderately high anxiety. I need to work at a steady, slow tempo.

3. I am not a "people person." In a world that rewards extroverts, I am utterly introverted. Allow me to clarify... I like people. I'm not shy. That's not what it means to be an introvert. The best analogy I've read on these personality types describes extroverts as being batteries that are RECHARGED by being around other people, and introverts as batteries that are DRAINED by being around other people. I don't find other people "draining" in that negative sense of the word, but it absolutely TAKES energy and effort from me to interact with others. My batteries are charged by being alone. 

4. I am not a "team player." I hated group projects in middle school, high school, and college, and I hate them now. I HAVE to work independently. If I need help, I will rarely ask for it, because I want to figure it out on my own. As a side note, if the "team leader" tries to micromanage me, I will go insane.

5. I am not "motivated" or "driven." In other words, I don't give a flying shit about climbing the corporate ladder. I am not in a race with my coworkers. I am not in competition with them. I will gladly accept a raise, but as long as I'm already making living wages, I will not work my ass off to make a few thousand dollars extra per year. 

6. I am not ever going to finish a project, paper, or assignment if I am uninterested in it. If my job bores me, it will be done half-assed or not at all. I have untreated ADD and will jump from one unfinished project to the next, or jump into some other random distraction. I have to have variety in my daily, even hourly work. If the assignment does interest me, I will have it done on time and close to perfect. 

7. I have not completed my college degree. However, I can learn anything, and I can learn it fast. I couldn't stay up late writing college papers, or doing homework, or settle on a major (so many awesome majors! how do I pick?!). But give me a quasi-intelligent trainer, or preferably a fully intelligent mentor, and give me hands-on training. I have a memory like an elephant, and I'm clever and intuitive to boot.

8. I am not going to stay with your company if your ultimate goal is simply to make a profit. I don't think that makes you bad or wrong, but I HAVE to be able to see a greater purpose in my job than simply coming to work, collecting a paycheck, and helping someone else make more money than I do. I see the big picture (refer to statement 1), and the big picture needs to include working towards the betterment of the earth, animals, people, or all of the above. 

In summary, I need a job where I can work independently, creatively, and at a moderate pace. I need a job where I can switch up my daily routine, and I need a job where I don't constantly worry about details. I need a job that pays me living wages, no less and no more (unless you WANT to pay me more, that's fine and dandy.) Most essentially, I need an interesting job that I can be PASSIONATE about. I need a job that exists because someone loved an abandoned pet, or a hungry child, or a warming planet. I need a job that exists because someone thought that wildlife shouldn't lose their forest to encroaching humans, or that people shouldn't lose their lives to unnecessary wars. I need a job that allows me to contribute more than just my spare time to making the earth a better place for everything on it.

Thank you for your consideration.

It's good to have a humbling moment every now and again.

What happens when you enthusiastically spray down your lettuce plants with homemade, eco-friendly insect repellant, then walk off smug and satisfied that you killed those stupid aphids and didn't use chemical pesticides in the process?

You forget that vinegar is acidic and start burning the crap out of the leaves until your mother fortunately happens to notice and rinses your plants off with the garden hose.

My lovely little lettuce bunches, all bright and green, are now nice and browned around the edges. I initially berated myself over this blunder, but at the request of my future husband I've been working on rolling with the punches instead of freaking out whenever something unexpected happens. Besides, the plants didn't even die. So no big deal. Lesson learned.

Yesterday we planted more onions since the first batch has grown so nicely, and two rows of green beans. Today goes the cucumbers, peas, two kinds of basil, dill, and cantaloupe. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good news in the garden: my garlic did NOT die after all! Every single bulb revived and is growing splendidly. 

As I strolled out this afternoon to check everything over, I noticed quite a few little specks of dirt on my romaine leaves. I bent down to take a closer look and realized the dirt specks were moving... they were dozens of tiny little black bugs! And they were ALL OVER my romaine, arugula, and swiss chard. I'm reasonably sure they're aphids. Whatever they are, they did NOT like the vinegar/water mix I sprayed on them. My dad keeps a diluted vinegar mixture in a spray bottle for surface cleaning, and I was certain that I'd read somewhere that vinegar can often be used as an insect repellant. So I spritzed down the plants and those little bugs hopped off en masse in the blink of an eye. I told my dad about it and he remarked that he'd heard of a bug repellant recipe of soap, vinegar, and red pepper. The soap apparently makes it adhere to the plants better. So that's my next project, stay tuned. 

Monday, April 27, 2009

I am slightly obsessed with reading labels. It's part of my larger obsession with being an educated consumer. I believe you need to know what is in your food and the products you buy. You need to know if what you're buying really is what the manufacturer wants you to think it is. This is especially important now that it's considered cool to be eco-friendly, because so many companies are hyping up their "green" products which really aren't green at all, or the companies themselves are still involved in destructive practices that harm the earth, animals, and people. For example, in the grocery store the other day I saw that Perdue had recently changed the labeling on their chicken parts to say "All Natural, Raised Without Antibiotics or Hormones." The uneducated consumer would likely take a glance at that package and assume these chickens were "organic" or healthier in some way than the "old" Perdue chickens. First of all, unlike for the term "organic," there are no federal rules or limitations in place on the use of the term "all natural." In this case, "all natural" doesn't mean shit. It means that the chicken parts came from a bird, which makes them "natural." Next, take a look at the teeny, tiny fine print at the bottom of the package. It states that federal law prohibits the use of antibiotics or hormones in chickens. Antibiotics and hormones were never the issue to begin with. The issues with Perdue chickens include squalid, inhumane living conditions and slaughtering practices, feed made from ground up bits of OTHER CHICKENS, and the massive amounts of agricultural pollution generated from the factory farming of chickens (and other livestock). In this case, look for chicken meat that has a label stating the meat is organic, the chickens were raised with access to fresh water, fed a vegetarian diet, had room to roam and access to the outdoors, and were humanely slaughtered. Yes, it takes a little bit more effort to be an educated consumer. Research what you're buying before you buy it. You can sacrifice a little convenience for knowledge. Knowledge is power.

We are still a capitalist society and we vote with our wallets, so don't vote for companies that make misleading and deceptive claims, or fill their products with chemical garbage, or use tons of unnecessary packaging.

Read a little bit more here, and all over the internet.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I had good intentions to keep up my once-a-day blogging. But moving is a good excuse for a long break, right? 

Happy Earth Day!

The garden is slowly coming along, minus the garlic which just flat out died after the copious amounts of rain that turned everything to mud soup. The onions and chard are growing phenomenally. The arugula and romaine are growing steadily. The chives, well... they don't seem to be growing, but they're not dying either. This weekend we plant the eggplant and tomatoes! And I decided that I'm going to plant broccoli in August and try for a fall crop. I've heard that broccoli is a more challenging veggie to grow, but if it fails I'm only out 2 bucks for seeds, and if it works I'll be thrilled.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I got a temp job... a very, very temp job. I'm working at a 2-day wine festival in a couple weeks, which should be fun and put a little money in my pocket. 

This morning's update brought to you by ottercam. Watch and love.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I feel pretty satisfied with my accomplishments during my first week of unemployment. The past two days have been spent painting what will be our bedroom and living room as of next week. My parents graciously offered to let me and Kenny move in with them and save money for a house of our own. This is absolutely the best possible scenario for us right now, in terms of paying down our debt and saving a substantial amount for a down payment. I feel pretty lucky to be able to do this. 

I've been applying for jobs, only one or two of which I'm genuinely interested in. That one is a veterinary assistant job at the vet hospital less than 5 minutes from my parents' house. 

I did my taxes, e-filed both federal and state last night. My first though upon finishing was that I should have waited until AFTER tax time to quit, because I ended up with a pitiful $27 federal refund, and I owed the state $56, plus the cost of the tax software. 

I'm making my first visit of the year to the county Farmer's Market this weekend. Buying local food as much as possible has become a main priority in my grocery shopping. Local AND organic is even better. My moral dilemma comes from wondering if, for example, its better to buy that organic box of strawberries that was grown all the way in California, or the conventionally grown box that came from a field a few miles away. The first batch was grown without pesticides, hopefully with sustainable growing practices, but had to be shipped across the country, which uses energy and contributes to pollution. The second batch put pesticides on the fruit and into the ground, but used far less energy getting from the plant to my kitchen. 
Usually I try to strike a nice balance by purchasing a mix of local foods and organic foods, buying locally grown organics whenever possible. I've done most of the grocery shopping since Kenny and I have lived together and I've become more interested than ever before in how my food is grown and where it comes from. That's why I was inspired and excited to start a vegetable garden at my mom's house this year... you don't find food more local than what's grown in your own backyard.

Tomorrow... more painting, maybe the dog park for an hour or so, and hopefully planting the blueberry bushes if the ground isn't too soggy from two days of steady rain.  

Monday, April 13, 2009

The romaine and arugula, growing nicely.

The onions are sprouting!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

I need to carry a camera around with me like I used to. I wanted to take pictures of the garden yesterday because the onions and the swiss chard were both sprouting. The arugula, romaine and chives are thriving, but the garlic seems to be a lost cause. My mom planted 4 blueberry bushes out back by the treeline so they can have part shade. Next up to plant are the blackberry bushes, then in a couple weeks we have the tomatos, peppers, eggplant, strawberries, basil, cucumbers, watermelon and squash.

Mom's also planting TONS of extra flowers in her flower gardens... zinnias, lavender, and gerbera daisies. The hope is that Kenny and I can use almost exclusively homegrown flowers for our wedding, or at least supplement what we have to buy. Flower arrangements are expensive, and the flowers are usually grown with large amounts of pesticides, shipped in from across the country or internationally because they're out of season or not locally grown, and then... thrown in the trash after the wedding. No bueno for our budget-conscious, eco-friendly wedding. The homegrown flowers are just one aspect of the kind of wedding (and lifestyle) we're trying to have... more on that tomorrow. I haven't been up this late in close to a year, and I'm getting a little delirious. Ah, unemployment!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

What a deliciously sleepy morning. Steady rain outside, sipping my coffee in bed with the pups snuggled next to me. 

I do have a to-do list for the day; job hunting being at the top of the list. I quit my last job because I hated it. I hated it with a passion, and it caused me so much stress and anxiety that my health started to suffer. I'm not sorry I left (yet), but I'm worried about the same thing happening. I'm worried that I may never find a job I love that also pays me living wages. I've toyed with the idea of going back to school, but I've never done well with school and it usually ends up being a waste of money. I was diagnosed with ADD a few years ago and unfortunately the medications I've tried have such powerful side effects that I can't stand to take them, so school remains incredibly difficult for me. 

UPDATE, 2:07 PM: Speaking of ADD... I stopped halfway through writing this entry and applied for 3 jobs online, walked the dogs, and packed a box of stuff for moving. I would love to find a natural remedy that doesn't have the type of side effects you get with Adderall, Concerta, or the other prescription drugs. I haven't done any extensive research, but much of what I've read about alternative therapy has concerned diet... eat more magnesium and vitamin B6, no phosphates or refined sugars. While I think this might be effective for some, I doubt it would be so for me. I've had ADD since high school, and my diet has changed drastically in those years (vegetarian to vegan back to vegetarian and finally to omnivore, all with varying amounts of healthy, well-balanced food) but my ADD has not changed at all, at least to my perception.

So this goes on my list of stuff to accomplish while jobless.

  • Find a job
  • Pack for the move
  • Maintain blog
  • Set up Etsy store with Mom
  • Research alternative therapies for ADD

Friday, April 10, 2009

Months ago my friend told me about and it's been the single best and most time-consuming internet tool I've ever used. I've literally spent hours browsing websites and finding blogs, crafts, articles, and art that I probably would never have come across otherwise. I'm obsessed with learning and almost everything interests me, the problem is that I'd rather read about 90 different subjects than pick one and focus on it. StumbleUpon, therefore, becomes my addiction.

I'm working to get myself out of that habit and become more hands-on. I've read a lot about money management and debt reduction lately as I embark on the quest to eliminate my $14,000 of credit card debt. That's a thoroghly embarassing number, and I hate admitting it. I could lay the blame on many different people and events for that accumulation of debt, including myself, but I'm trying to keep a forward-moving mindset and focus on just getting rid of it rather than complaining about it. I've been reading about the most effective ways to pay down credit cards, now I just have to start applying them. I have to actually MAKE a budget instead of reading about how to make budgets.

All this budgeting and debt-reduction is about to get complicated as I've just quit my nice, secure, living-wages, cushy office job... where I happened to be miserable. I don't have another job lined up. I knew it was a big risk, and I admit I've been feeling anxious about the loss of income. But I'm on the hunt and I think I'll be able to find something closer to home (I was commuting for a total of almost 2 hours a day).

It's my last day here and one of my coworkers gave me a Werthers candy because she felt bad that no one gave me a going away party. Aww.