Water Worries

The thunder and lightning rolled in around 2am last night.  The booming rumbles of thunder shook the house and startled me awake.  The flashes of lightning filled the sky with a blue haze.  On and on it went for over an hour.  7:30 am and it’s back.  The thunder, the lightning, the rain.  Then back again at 9…and 10…  I love thunderstorms.  No, really, I do.  The thunderous booms, the bright streaks of light, the ting-ting-ting of the pouring rain on the roof – it’s exciting and beautiful, wrapped in one package.  But today?  I’m not such a fan.  Today, the storm decided to play quite a nasty trick on us.  I’m thinking the storm plotted like this: “Ha ha ha”, he thought, “May 29th?  Sounds like a day of trickery to me!  What can I do… Aha!  Water…they can stand to be dirty, stinky, messy kids for a day or two, right? I can’t wait to see how this one plays out!” 

Yeah, not so funny Mr. Lightning.  Not so funny at all.  The pile of meat stained dishes from last night?  Sitting on the counter, unable to be washed.  The heaping pile of clothes that need washing?  No way, not happening today.  The toilets that need flushing?  Guess we’ll be taking our bathroom business elsewhere (though Brandon G. suggests we all just stick our bums out the window… ’cause, you know, the neighbors will really appreciate that view). 

No running water really is a tedious event.  Until today, I never realized how often I turned on the faucet – brushing teeth, washing hands, cooking, filling the Keurig, watering plants, drinking, and the list goes on. 

So, with today’s shortage of water (and the 88 degree temps and high humidity), I’m going to hold off on baking.  We may or may not be having fennel garlic roasted chicken breast with rosemary and thyme roasted fingerlings tonight… be ready for that update in the near future.  

Stay safe in the storms!

 

Adding “Sustainable” to Our Biographies

We’re still in the process of moving.  Life’s hectic.  Our “stuff” is everywhere – the car, the condo, the boxes, the bags, the bedroom – just everywhere.  What does that mean for you?  1) Limited posts as I try to unpack, organize, clean, and complete hw assignments.  2) No photos.  I have my camera.  I do not have my camera charger.  Dead cameras don’t take great pictures.  3) No Wednesday Wines this week once again.  Wine costs money.  Money I have not.  So wine I do not have.

But wait! Before you wander off, sad and depressed with my lack of photos, posts, and wine updates, you might be interested in learning about some major changes we’re making to our living arrangements.

Dustin and I have made the decision to move in with our dear friend Brittney and her fantastic boyfriend, Spenser (he’s my cousin, too!).  Now, if any of you know Brittney, you know that she LOVES being in the kitchen.  She has many wonderful cooking plans and makes delicious, hearty meals.  We recently discussed how we both have grandiose plans that are never carried out.  We blame this on our living situations – it’s so hard to make big meals and fabulous desserts when you’re a family of 2.  But the tides are turning.  No longer are we 2 families of 2, but a family of 4 (and 5 actually, since Brittney’s brother lives with her as well)!  What does this mean??

Cooking! Lots and lots of cooking.  We have ideas up the wazoo, and they’reactually going to happen.  Here is a list of ideas we’ve recently talked about:

  1. Healthy, hearty meals, every night of the week.  We’re talking Braised Whole Chicken w/ Stuffing and Pureed Vegetable Sauce, served with Sauteed Garlic Asparagus and Herb Potato Gnocchi; Roasted Halibut w/ Potatoes, Lemon, and Thyme served atop a bed of greens; Grilled Porter-soaked Short Ribs w/ a Maple-Rosemary Glaze served with a Quinoa and Brown Rice blend and Sauteed Green Beans w/ almonds.
  2. Creating a sustainable household.  What does that mean?  Limiting our use of electricity, hanging laundry out to dry, leaving the lights off during the day; using mason jars to store our goods and bringing our own bags and jars to the grocery store; growing our own vegetables; purchasing locally raised, grass fed beef and free-range chicken, cage-free eggs from local farmers, and crops we can’t grow from farmer’s markets.  These are the things we can easily do to limit our impact on the environment, so we’re going to make the effort to actually do them.  You should do your part too!
  3. Growing our own produce and herbs- tomatoes, potatoes, corn, lettuce, carrots, onions, radishes, strawberries, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, basil, thyme, and rosemary.
  4. Making our own foods that could easily be store bought – tomato sauce, salsa, pesto, corn tortillas, bread, cookies, cereals, soups, and stock.  These lists are certainly not all-inclusive.
  5. Limiting our trash.  Have you ever heard of trash free living?  Check it out.  While we know going completely trash-free is nearly impossible, we do want to limit the number of trash bags that we fill.  You might be wondering how one goes about decreasing the amount of trash produced.  Here’s what we’re thinking of doing:
  • Buying bulk foods- not BJ’s kind of bulk, rather co-op bulk… almonds, cashews, peanuts, granola, oats, flours, baking soda/powder, beans, pastas, etc.  You can purchase the amount you need, rather than buying two, three, or four boxes/bags/cans of needed items.
  • Using our own mason jars to collect the bulk items.  Many of the natural food stores around will tare jars and bags that you bring in so that they may be used to transport dry goods back to your home.  This eliminates the plastic bags used to purchase items from bulk bins, as well as the plastic, cardboard, metals, and resins used to package canned and bagged goods on the shelf.
  • Bringing our own cloth bags to the store – many grocery stores even give you bag discounts if you bring your own.  3 cents off per bag is an easy way to save a few pennies here and there.
  • Bringing reusable coffee mugs to the coffee shop – this could be gas stations, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, Bruegger’s, the grocery store.  Think about it: one cup of coffee / day at the gas station on the way to work means approximately 250 cups, lids, and straws (if applicable) thrown out every year on your behalf.  With a reusable mug?  Zero cups, lids, and maybe 250 straws.  Eliminating the straws? Zero cups, zero lids, zero straws = zero waste.  Yes, you will still have your sugar packet scraps if you use them.  But! The packets are paper and can be recycled.  Don’t just throw them in the trash! Recycle them!
  • Going without – do we really need soda?  Absolutely not.  If we do, we don’t need 12 aluminum filled cans of the stuff, that’s for sure.  Maybe we want a root beer float.  Sounds delicious.  We’ll go out and purchase some good old-fashioned, glass-bottled IBC or some locally brewed Vermont Root Beer.  These beverages are packed in glass bottles that can be recycled or reused as flower vases or craft projects, with labels made of paper that can be recycled.  There are some goods that we may just go without.  Oreo cookies packaged in plastic trays wrapped in more plastic?  We’ll pass.  We may just go without Doritos and Lays.  Is this really a big deal? Nope.  Think about how many calories and preservatives you’re protecting yourself from.
  • Shopping at farmer’s markets.  You can purchase so many great items from these events – fruits, vegetables, meats, soaps, baked goods, honey, syrup, greeting cards, crafts and the list goes on.   Why not support your local honey maker, rather than the guy from Illinois whose bottle was shipped across the country to arrive in your local store, and then your kitchen.  Chances are, the individual selling the honey at the market is the beekeeper herself.  So not only do you know that the honey was produced just down the road, you can actually speak to the woman who collected it, packaged it and who is now selling it to you.
  • Composting.  We will soon begin collecting our food scraps (except meat – you don’t want to be composting rotting meat) and then composting them in a bin in the backyard.  With a charcoal filter compost pail for the kitchen, the stink stays in the bucket and not the air.

Of course there are things we’ll keep on doing, even though we probably shouldn’t.  I really enjoy the convenience of K-Cups.  But talk about wasteful! Nothing is recyclable… not the plastic, not the foil film.  I do hope that soon Green Mountain will change their production ways.  The Vue cups are already one step ahead, with a part recyclable cup.  I only just purchased my Keurig, though, and can not yet afford a new Vue Machine.  Please GMCR, make K-cups more environmentally friendly very soon!

On the topic of sustainability, there’s one more thing I’d like to throw out there that I just got wind of: Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging program.  Amazon is working with manufacturers to eliminate the additional packaging that comes with products… think all the plastic ties holding the item to the cardboard and the impossible to open plastic casing – gone!  Well, Amazon’s helping make that happen.  Not only does this eliminate the frustration customers experience trying to get into the packages, but also eliminates the additional materials used to get the items from the factory to you.  Neat!

Earth’s resources are limited and we’re doing our part to help make them last longer.  My goal for you: try to take one of these ideas – any one, it’s up to you – and implement it into your life.  Maybe you’ll use a reusable mug once a week.  Maybe you’ll stick bags in your car to use at the grocery store when you remember them. Any step in a sustainable direction is a good step forward.

Winnie-the-Pooh and Maple too!

As a little kid, I LOVED Winnie-the-Pooh and all his friends, especially Eeyore.  In fact, I still love them. Today, I’m sharing Pooh with you because he’s a cheerful guy.  On a gloomy, drizzly, gray day, I felt everyone could use a spark of cheer.  If it’s sunny where you’re at, I hope Pooh can still bring a smile to you.  As I sit here wrapped in a sleeping bag, coffee in hand, he certainly got a giggle out of me.

Now that you’re smiling and we’re on a happier note, I want to apologize for my lack of entries last week.  What a hectic week – homework, graduation, parties, chores, house-hunting, and the list goes on.  I was a caffeine-filled, crazy woman, running around with my head cut off.  I had so many post ideas, and even started typing on several occasions, only to be drawn away by the hands of time.  So forgive me if today my post is sporadic, chaotic, and just plain all over the place.  There are so many things I want to say crammed into my head and they’re all coming out in one big mess.

For starters, I really want to talk with you about maple syrup.  Vermonters pride themselves on the sweet treat just as they pride themselves of the mighty maples responsible for bearing the delicacy. If you’ve never experienced real Vermont-made maple syrup, shame on you. The “Vermont Maid” stuff in the grocery store? No way. That stuff does not even compare to the real deal. Trust me, you’ve gotta try the real stuff. As a student, funds are minimal, so real syrup rarely makes its way into the house. This year, however, we hit the jackpot.

This year, my brother worked at a sugaring operation and sent me a mason jar full of sweet, amber goodness. Thank you god.

But wait!

My grandma then gifted me a bottle of Peterson’s Maple Syrup, a family-run operation that just so happens to be operated by my uncle and his sons.

But there’s more!

I then got a box in the mail filled with maple candies. Woo wee!

I keep telling myself as I pour the syrup into cookies and onto sandwiches and over waffles to use it sparingly. Yeah, right. I can thank my Grampa C. for the candy. Before that package I hadn’t had a maple sugar candy in years, not since the last time I was at The Big E. Boy was it tasty. As soon as the sugar hit your tongue, it melted away back into that pure maple syrup. Who’d have thought that a little tree sap, heat and time could make something so spectacular. Genius.

Talk of my Grampa C. brings up another point of interest.  We have exchanged letters (yes, actual snail-mail, hand-written letters) since I started college. Recently, however, our letters have become more frequent. I love the unexpected letter in the mail. I enjoy writing down my day to day life – what’s new, what’s old, where I plan to be in the future – those sorts of things. It seems every week I’m getting a letter from him – yellow lined paper, folded in three, placed inside a hand decorated envelope.  Soon enough, I’m placing a stamp on my own decorated envelope filled with the stories of my previous week to send back.  Pen pals are totally worth the effort.

My assignment for you: get yourself a pen pal.  Take out that pen, find yourself some paper, and write to a friend you’ve lost contact with, an aunt you rarely see, a lonely grandparent, or maybe just a note to yourself, one to tuck away for the future. 

I swear you’ll feel refreshed.  You’ll totally make someone’s day when they open up the mailbox to find that unexpected letter.

Go ahead.

Start writing.

 

Buon San Valentino!

It’s here again.  The day flower shops and chocolatiers await anxiously each year.  The day millions of happy couples cherish.  The same day millions of singletons dread.  The largest commercialized day of love that exists… Valentine’s Day.

I generally spend Valentine’s day at home, with my someone special, indulging in a gourmet, homemade meal.  Tonight, however, we’re giving in to society.  I’m being treated to a tasty (I hope!) dinner at The Farmhouse Tap and Grill, a restaurant we’ve been dying to check out in Burlington.  Then we’re headed to the movies to see the new Tom hanks film.  Due to the high prices of theater tickets and our low incomes, we rarely see movies while they’re still at the theater.  Thank to DealChicken’s “2 movies, 2 popcorns, 2 sodas for $20” deal, we’re finally going to get there!  (For those of you that do not subscribe to DealChicken, JumpOnIt or Groupon, I highly suggest it.  I’ve found some fantastic deals).

Dustin and Emily

I’ve been pretty busy in the kitchen since my last post – cranberry orange pancakes, old-fashioned doughnuts, beef and broccoli, baked doughnuts, daube provencal, three-layer mousse cake, hint-of-orange brownies, cashew chicken, and dry-fried beef.  As soon I get the pictures figured out, I’ll share these delectable edibles with you!

I do have to share with you right now, however, the wonderful event that took place at our home on Sunday.  Dustin turned 23 Sunday, and to celebrate, I offered to cook up whatever he desired.  He asked for a Daube Provencal, a French stew made with beef, olives, mushrooms, red wine, and tomatoes.  I invited some of our friends over to help celebrate.  I’ve been wanting to host a fancy dinner party for… forever.  I’ve always wanted to, and now that I have, I want to do it again.  And again.  And again.  I spend all of Sunday cooking up a storm.  The kitchen was a disaster.  A complete chaotic fiasco.  I used nearly every dish in the house.  All the cutting boards were strewn about.  Food littered the counters.  Dishes were piled high in the sink.  Craziness.  Thank goodness Dustin wasn’t home to witness the process.  He’d have freaked. (For those of you that don’t know the kid, the kitchen’s gotta be spotless before he attempts to cook in it.  We’re talking OCD clean.  Aaaand, he keeps it that way, the ENTIRE time he’s in the kitchen.  Me?  I start off clean… End of story).

So, Daube Provencal – porchini muschrooms, nicoise olives (frickin expensive!), an entire bottle of cabernet, tomatoes, chuck-eye beef, anchovies, carrots, onions, thyme – different, but delicious.  We picked up some tasty bread from Red Hen Bakery (Middlesex, VT) to accompany the dish.  A total success.

The stew made the house smell fabulous.  The second you stepped through the door you were greeted with the scent of greatness. While the stew was, well, stewing, I set up a lovely table for six.  I had so much fun.  Candles in wine bottles, folded napkins, plates and bowls and silverware, water-jugs made from beer growlers, wine glasses, water glasses – the works.  I was elated, to say the least.  My day got even better when the Triple-layer chocolate mousse cake I crafted set perfectly.  I mean p.e.r.f.e.c.t.  I was literally jumping around the kitchen with a big grin on my face.  Boy do I wish I had video of that.  Talk about a happy girl.  That was me.

I have had so many bad cake experiences.  Last year’s birthday cake for Dustin was a disaster.  It tasted fine, but looked like a pile of crap. Piles of crap don’t appeal to many.  I worked so hard to make this cake special.  I watched the oven like a hawk, beat the egg-white until I was sure soft peaks were really soft peaks, kept things refrigerated when they weren’t in use.  Anything I could do to enhance the quality of the cake, I did.  And?  It paid off.  The cake was rich, with only a few tough souls able to eat an entire piece.  But oh boy was it good.  Pictures will follow.  Maybe tomorrow.  If I’m feeling technically adventurous.

Be on the lookout for pics of the birthday bash!

 Sayonara!

Just Another Day…

Hola!

I spent the morning at the little auto body shop up the road, just to find out my car is un-inspectable. Lovely.  Shell out another $400 for exhaust parts you say?  No problem.  Oh, right, and you probably want that money for the failed inspection too.  Yeah, sure.  Let me just check in with that money tree in my back yard.  You can tell I’m thrilled with the result.

But! There is a bright side.  While sitting in the waiting room, I discovered a recipe for cranberry orange pancakes.  The picture was to die for.  I will most certainly be trying those (and sharing with you the results) in the very near future.

I also was able to take some time to study the photos of plated food in the magazines in the waiting room.  I’ve been taking lots of pictures lately of the food and drinks I’ve enjoyed, but I can never get the pictures to look like the ones other people take, the ones that make you go, “Oh. My. God. I need that.”  That’s what I’m striving for and I’m hoping soon I might get the hang it.  We’ll see.

Oh, and to continue our journey right up the scale of brightness, my phone should be here by the end of the week!  I’ve never realized how unnecessary my phone really is.  I do enjoy not having it around to rely on.  At the same time, though, I’m learning how much it sucks to not have a phone in general, whether it be cellular or that old fashioned kind.  You can’t call the repair guys when you need to make an appointment for your car.  You can’t put your own personal number on job applications.  You can’t just pick up the phone to say hi to your Grandma or your sister when you feel like it.  I’m glad I’ve gone without it for the past month, but I want it back.  Please come back to me!

It’s certainly been interesting living without the comfort of a phone, car and money.  I’m not going to lie; I don’t like it.  It does encourage creativity, resourcefulness and exercise, though – all wonderful things for your mind and body.

Now it’s on to the remainder of my afternoon.  I think I’ll try to figure out this WordPress thing some more – try to figure out how to make my blog awesome.

 

Thanks for following!

 

 

Hidden Sweet Treats

Buon guorno!

So I’m scrounging through the pantry looking for any morsel of food to indulge in, and what do I find?

A Tootsie Pop!

And not just any Tootsie Pop, a blue one.  Tootsie Pops hide themselves all over this place, taking up all the little nooks and crannies of the cupboards, the closets, bedroom, and what have you.  It’s not that I don’t like them.  Unless we’re talking about the orange ones.  And definitely if we’re talking about the brown ones.  Did you know they actually sell whole packs of JUST the brown pops?!  My god, what are people thinking?

Back to the blue pops (the good ones).  I indulged.  When my sweet tooth gets feisty, I mainly go for the god of all desserts: heavenly, luscious dark chocolate. That’s why the pops are stashed all about.  They always take back seat to the mighty dark goddess.  But not today.  I forgot how amazing Tootsie Pops can be.  I highly recommend them (and if you’re unfortunate enough to possess taste buds that actually make the repulsive flavors of the orange and brown enjoyable, let me know, and I’ll gladly send those atrocities your way).

After dying my tongue a nice deep blue, I ventured online to type in my consumptions for the day on livestrong.com.  Well, I added one measley Tootsie Pop to my afternoon snacks and guess what… those suckers have 60 calories each! Holy Moly.  There goes my sweet treat for the day.

Or not…

Tonight, I happened to find a Tupperware container stashed away containing my favorite Europeans: Ghiradelli and Lindt.  Boy oh boy.  You can’t find the X of the “X marks the spot” without digging up and enjoying that treasure.  So what did I do?  I indulged.  Again.

Twice in one day.  I’ve gotta sleep that off.

Alla prossima!

Ciao!

Ciao a tutti!

My very own blog – how exciting!  With a little spare time on my hands, I recently decided I was going to hunt out some good sources for keeping up with food trends –something I’m pretty interested in.  This search took me far into the land of blogging, with journal after journal after journal filled with great food information. These diary-like entries were not only filled with valuable information, but entertaining too!  After looking in more depth at this blogging business, I quickly decided that rambling about some aspect of my life on a weekly basis was too appealing to reject.  So here I am, chattering on about the intriguing intricacies of my day to day.

Before I get carried away, let me introduce myself:  Tootsaroni.  That’s me. (But feel free to call me Toots).  I’m currently living my life in an itty-bitty town amid the stunning Green Mountains.  I love this place.  The people are amazing, the beer’s fantastic, and the scenery’s gorgeous.  I read. I write.  I clean. I eat. I exercise. That’s basically my routine.  When I’m feeling overly adventurous, I whip up a batch of deliciousness.  I’m a student, nose stuck in the books, trying to figure out where it is I want to end up.  Along the journey I’m trying to pick up some new hobbies and return to some old.  So here I am, checking one more item on my list.

Yesterday was one of those “feeling adventurous” kinds of days.  After sleeping-in well beyond the hours of a typical Saturday sleep-in, I suppose I was just filled to the brim with energy.  I dusted, washed, folded, vacuumed, and studied. After hours of that nonsense, you’d think I’d want to plop my bum on the couch.  Not me. No sir.  I wanted some kitchen time.

It’s important that you know cookies are not my specialty.  I really enjoy making cookies.  I make them all the freaking time.  I should be Mrs. Freihofer…but I am not.  My cookies are just never quite right.  Too flat, too floury, too cakey, too crunchy.  What am I doing wrong?  Then last night happened.  I made AMAZING cookies.  They just melted away in your mouth.  I rarely eat the cookies I make.  I leave them for the boys of the house.  But not last night.  “C is for cookies, and cookies are for me.”  That’s how I was feeling last night.  That’s how unbelievably good those cookies were.  They still are, actually.  I’m just no longer playing the Cookie Monster today.  That’s a job for someone else.

Tonight’s kitchen time is going to be a little less adventurous.  Spaghetti and Meatballs.  My favorite…  *rolls eyes*.  I’m really not a fan.  Something about spaghetti – it’s just so… flimsy.  So dull.  I want excitement on my plate.  I want colors and variety.  On occasion it makes a wonderful meal.  Every week?  Not so much, but tonight is spaghetti night, so I’m giving in to the noodles.  I’m sure I’ll survive.

Now it’s back to books.  I’m hoping to make a jump-start on next week’s assignments.  We’ll see how that goes.

Arrivederci!