Friday, October 21, 2011

Domesticity and Spirituality.

"Country Morning"-(c) 2009 Jennifer L. Moore

While I don't intend to get into the nitty-gritty of my own religious beliefs here, I do like to discuss spirituality in general.  An online acquaintance of mine currently has a series going on bringing our spirituality and our mundane tasks into closer alignment--harmony, even.

I thought the below would be an interesting exercise. I hope that, in reading this post, you will agree.

1. What is happening in your family or home that is going well?

We have two incomes, so most of our basic needs are met.  The house is very tranquil and neat.  Our pets are happy, loved, and well cared for.  We have a pretty abundant garden, considering its small size.  My boyfriend and I communicate very well and are on the same page on most matters, yet we each still have a life of our own and don't inhibit one another in any way.  Our families are, for the most part, healthy, and we keep in close touch with them.  We have a small number of very close friends.  We eat good, nourishing food for most meals.  We are pretty happy, overall.  We are in good health.  We have health insurance, and I have dental insurance.  We have very little debt, and what we have is what I call carefully considered debt.  We both really like our house.

2. What is going on in your family or home that needs improvement?

There is always stress for one reason or another.  Though we do have enough money to meet our basic needs, there are things like clothing and home repair and household goods that we need, but can't quite afford to get.  (We make do.)  Our communication, while good, is not perfect.  We continue to have a couple of frustrating issues with communication.  Some of our cats have health and behavioral problems.  I don't take enough down time, so I am tired a lot.  My parents, being elderly, are having some issues, and I find I am unable to go and visit them as often as I would like.  I hate my job, but have had no luck in finding another one.  (I have been looking for a very long time.)  His family lives a lot farther away than we would both like.  We don't like living in a neighborhood with an HOA.  There are a number of physical issues with the house, which we can't afford to fix, and our housing authority (it's like we have a double HOA where we live) has a long, expensive, and onerous process for fixing certain issues, which keeps the repairs further out of our reach.

3. What is your ideal family and home situation?

Though we don't have any children and don't plan to, it would be nice to have two or three additional bedrooms, maybe even a basement.  It would sit on at least three acres, and our nearest neighbors would be about half a mile away--close enough that we can get to know them, but far enough that all parties have their desired level of privacy.  We would have a little more than "just enough" money.  We would have a burgeoning garden and a few additional animals (but not more than we could handle.)  I've always wanted a couple of goats as pets.  It would be off the grid.  It would have no carpeting, plenty of windows, and one or two fireplaces and a wood stove.  It would be near a natural body of water, so that we could haul water.  It would be on a well.  We would both be able to work out of our home. He would have a fully functioning music studio, and I'd have a full art studio, big enough to accommodate any medium in which I want to work. It would have an outdoor fireplace/fire pit in addition to the one(s) in the house.  It would have abundant wildlife and native plant species.  It would be within one hour of a small to major city.  It would be located in an area that fosters Progressive culture.  There would be a space for meditation, prayer, etc.  There would be enough space to accommodate groups of our friends and associates, maybe even for workshops and collaborative artistic sessions.

4. Take that ideal situation and break it down into goals.

-I will keep trying to put money into my savings, even if it's just a few dollars at a time.
-I will continue looking for a job that is a better fit for me.
-I will discuss our needed house repairs with my boyfriend, so that we can prioritize them and start to accomplish them.
-I/we will work to make our house as appealing as we can, so that when I decide to sell it, I might actually make money on it, rather than lose money.
-I/we will continue to learn about homesteading and start putting into practice those things we can where we live now.

Since this ideal home is a long-term goal, this is really all I can do now to make this happen. Right now, staying near my parents is my priority.  This type of place would be kind of out in the sticks. While I could work toward buying such a place nearer to where they live (they live in the country,) the culture there is not quite a fit for me.

5. What mundane efforts are you making or do you plan to make to achieve these goals?

I have been looking for a new job for several years now.  I have also been regularly putting money into my savings account, though from time to time, an emergency comes up, and the size of the account fluctuates.  I have contacted my housing authority about some of the needed repairs.  I have the paperwork I need for them. We just need to start shopping for the items we need.  My boyfriend has been doing some work on the house, but realistically, we are the type of people who are better off hiring people to do major remodeling, no matter how much we actually may want to do them ourselves.  We are also already keeping a veggie and herb garden.  It provides about one third of our needed food during the growing season, but I'm sure we could cover more of our needs if we really put our minds to it.  We both read a lot about homesteading, though, and we discuss the kinds of things we'd like to do when we have more land and less rules to have to follow.  I will not be ready to sell my house for at least five years, if not more, but we are doing things as and when we can, so that it will go more smoothly.  (And hopefully the market will be better!)

6. What do you believe makes domestic activity spiritual?

As a homeowner who does not see her house and property as an investment, I find that the homes in which I have lived have become living, breathing entities in their own right.  They very walls and floors absorb the energy brought in by the families who have lived there.  When I take care of my home, I feel like I am taking care of a family member.  My home is also a reflection of me, so it is taking self-care a step further, as well.  Our house is tranquil, because my boyfriend and I do all we can to make it so.

7. What are you doing that makes your everyday domestic activity spiritual?

When I work on different household chores, I remember how the outcomes affect me, my boyfriend, and our cats.  In getting rid of clutter and putting things away, I am giving us all room to breathe and live.  In cleaning our dishes well, I am taking care of our health. In keeping on top of cat box/laundry/toy care, I am letting the cats know that I care about them and feel they deserve to live as well as their humans do.  In paying the bills, I am turning the negative energy of a horrible day job into positive energy by keeping the electric on so we can be warm, keeping the house paid for so we have a safe place to live and so we can stay toghether, and by keeping the water and trash bill paid, I am ensuring our good health.

8. What could you be doing to make your everyday domestic activity more spiritual?

The number one thing I could do would be to make more time for housework. Right now, I'm at work all day, and my boyfriend is home all day, so he tends to do a lot. I don't have a lot of down time at home, so I do things when and as I can.  If I could set aside more time to do housework, I could lighten his burden, and I could start to reconnect with my home and to find my inner peace again.

9. Using the answers to the three previous questions about spirituality, make a list of your spiritual goals regarding your domestic activity.

-I will get my schedule better organized and prioritize better, so that I can spend more time on domestic activities.
-I will get a planner, so that I can write out routines and goals from week to week.
-I will look at my schedule and see if there are activities and committments of which I can let go.
-I will spend some time meditating each day.
-I will remember that the things I don't like about my life at this time are transient, and that things will get better.
-I will spend some time each day--aside from the meditation--connecting with the soul of my home and will listen to what it tells me.

Sources: Zen and the Art of Housekeeping by Lauren Cassel Brownell, The Emotional House by Dawn Ritchie and Kathryn L. Robyn

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Crafting for Animals Guild on Artfire: SEEING THE BIGGER PICTURE

This is an article I wrote for one of my artisan guilds about my personal experiences as a rescuer trying to work with my local shelter. I hope people will find it helpful.

Crafting for Animals Guild on Artfire: SEEING THE BIGGER PICTURE…………….by Jen of JenniferL...: This was a hard blog post for me to write. I actually conceived of it last winter, and I've been rolling the idea around in my head this w...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

End of summer update: Vacations, upcoming topics, and just...stuff!

We recently returned from one of our yearly trips to Massachusetts, and I've been sort of tired ever since; however, I did bring back a story to share!

First off, there was a mistake in my last garden update post. I mistakenly identified a photo in this post as being collards. In fact, it's another photo of the chard. (That plant is still with us!) The collards are a bit to the right. I must have been in too much of a hurry when taking the photos. How embarrassing! Both the collards and the chard plants are huge! We will have all of the greens we need for a long time to come!

I don't have time for a full-length update right now, but I wanted to share a list of upcoming topics I'll be covering over the weeks ahead:

-Going with the flow. We had a situation occur on our trip home from MA that was very frustrating; however, since there was nothing we could do, we (eventually) calmed down and rolled with it. We did not get hit by Tropical Storm Irene, but we did encounter it and were stuck an extra day on our return trip. In this post, I'll be talking about how I have learned to just roll with the bumps in life. It's been a long learning process for me, and I still struggle with it.

-Rags. That's right. I want to talk about the lowly, dirty, under appreciated rag. People waste far too much paper, and too much virgin forest is lost to the paper goods industry. By using rags, we have cut down on both our trash output and the amount of paper goods we buy.

-Persephone. You might recall in my late summer Garden Update that I made reference to the quartz stone in my garden. I said she has stories, and I'd like to share a couple. I'd also like to use this post as an opportunity to talk about why inanimate objects can take on a life of their own and why it's not silly.

-My boyfriend's ingenuity in helping his mother with her own garden. He found a solution right in the woods on her property and constructed trellis for her. We have gotten word it even held up to Irene!

That's all for now. I hope that you will come back to read these posts I'll be making. We all know I'm slow at updating, but they are coming, I promise!

For now, enjoy what little bit is left of the Summer, and think about how you are preparing for the approaching Winter.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A story of some of the Dogs in my Life

I wrote a story celebrating the various dogs I've had in my life over the years. Surf on over and take a look:

Etsy For Animals: Dog Memoirs

I'm a cat lady by circumstance, not by choice. I love all animals, and to be honest, if I had the room and the resources, I'd have fewer cats and more of a variety of animals. I've been tempted to take on all kinds of pets, but it just wouldn't work out right now.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gossip and Venting Hurt. They Don't Help.

I want to take a few minutes this afternoon to talk about another aspect of simplifying:  Simplifying our thoughts and speech.  Without getting into specifics, I want to share that I am going through a very rough time in one aspect of my life at the moment.  This part of my life has been a source of intense pain for many, many years.  I have been trying to resolve it, but so far have not had much luck.  I've picked up some helpful tips along the way, and I largely am accepting What Is and giving thanks for my blessings.  (Gift horses, and all that.)  The fact remains that this situation eats away at me daily and has diminished the quality of my life.  It's very frustrating, and I'm having a hard time not becoming bitter about it, but I'm plugging away at resolving the issue.

Needless to say, there have been times when I've needed to vent, and vent I did!  Oh, boy!  All someone had to do was mention the problem, and I'd be off like a rocket, just spewing venom and barbs. For a while, it was nice to get out with friends and just let fly.  Sure, a little venting is good. You get that angst out of your system, and then you move on, hopefully with more focus on the tasks before you.  Unfortunately, I got caught up in the rush of sharing my negative feelings for a while with anyone who would listen. After a while, though, I found that this venting did not actually help me much at all.  It made me feel worse

Once I figured this out, I made a firm decision to focus on what is positive in my life right now and in particular on what I am doing to try and solve my current problem.  I immediately felt better, and my whole attitude around this issue shifted.  It's still a horrible situation, and I still want to change it, but what has happened is that I am less stressed out, I have more energy, and I am accomplishing more.  This does not mean that I don't still vent once in a while--I definitely do!

Recently, I found out that an acquaintance is in a very similar situation. We have a mutual friend to whom this person also talks. It would be very easy for me and the friend to get together and discuss X's situation, but I don't.  Why?  For one thing, it's rude.  X has not given us permission to discuss their situation.  Also, as I am a believer in the idea that thoughts are things and that we have real power to effect outcomes for ourselves and others in life, I feel that to discuss X when X is not around could possibly compromise X's outcomes.  It's not my job or the mutual friend's job to fix X's situation any more than it is to fix each other's.  Instead, I make myself available to X, and if the three of us are together and X wants to talk (and I about my situation,) then I remain open. I have also expressed to X that if they need to talk, I am here for them.

The truth of the matter is that I really hate gossip, and I really try not to involve myself in it. Does it happen?  Sure, but once I become aware, I tend to step back from it and not participate.  Am I nosey or curious about others?  Sure I am, but I prefer to let others come to me and share in their due time and as they want.  It's more important to me that I be available to help the people I care about than it is to know what's going on with everyone all the time.

I guess I wanted to share this, partially because things are very intense right now for both X and myself, and I relate to them really strongly regarding this issue.  It's tempting to vent and discuss the situation, but I am trying to help X, and I have also shared my strategy of shifting focus to solving problems and ideal outcomes, rather than spending so much time venting.

Please keep your fingers crossed for me.  I've been working hard for several years to overcome my issue, and I'm not giving up now!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Adventures of a Thrifty Mama on a Trailer Park Homestead: You Want Me to Get Rid of My Garden By WHEN?--an E...

Adventures of a Thrifty Mama on a Trailer Park Homestead: You Want Me to Get Rid of My Garden By WHEN?--an E...: " As my followers on Twitter and Facebook already know, I received a notice this morning to 'please remove garden & restore grass area' ..."

This is wrong! It has got to stop! People need to have the right to grow their own food. Prices are going up, and incomes are stagnating or declining. Each family deserves the right to cultivate food on its own property.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Late Summer Garden Update.

I just wanted to share a late summer update on our garden.  We've learned a lot in the past year, and the garden is now completely different from what we did last year.

We no longer have a yard.  My boyfriend has dug up the yard and made it a walking garden--a series of beds with only stepping stones for us to use to access the HVAC unit, the fence, the compost and rain buckets, and the clotheslines.  We no longer have the yard to use as a work space.  Since our yard is tiny, we want to maximize our use of the space. 

I admit it currently looks a little wild and out of order, because things are growing at different paces, and he moves things around a lot, as we learn more about what likes growing where.  We are also allowing some plants to go to seed, so that we can continue growing our favorites.

Here is a photo tour of our garden as it looks right now. Some of the pictures are a little blurry, because I took them in low light.  I'm not a fan of using flash, so some of these are not my best.  Regardless of how it all looks, our little garden is one of my favorite places.  When I am stressed, I like to go and sit outside and just soak it all up!

 This nifty little plant is kohlrabi.  I tasted this for the first time just a couple of years ago, and it's yummy.  It looks like an alien or like someone took a tennis ball and stuck some leaves into it, but trust me:  It's good eating!  It tastes kind of like a cross between broccoli stems and radish, or like a very sweet radish with no bite.  The greens are also edible and taste a lot like broccoli greens.

I cut them up and eat them raw as a finger food most often, but we also steam them.  I have not tried any recipes with it yet, but I intend to.

Cherry tomatoes.  This plant and the (I think) one other cherry tomato we have have been producing really well for us this year.  The tomatoes--both the cherries and the larger varieties--have a healthy, thick skin and are sweet but very full-bodied in flavor.  I think they taste even better than they did last year!

 This is one of our Swiss chard plants.  We had a couple that bolted, so we are down to just a few chard plants, but they are producing well (without bolting.)  These are really hearty plants, and they are so pretty!

Collards.  This thing is like a palm plant!  the leaves are HUGE!  It only takes one or two of the (fronds) leaves to make a meal for the two of us.  I believe this plant is in its second year.  It lived right through the winter.  Lucky us!

 Peppers.  We have three pepper plants.  One of them is more than two years old and is still producing!  I don't remember which one.  I think it's the baby bell, pictured here in the background.  The chilies are HOT!

We have not used the baby bells in the background yet.  I remember them being very tasty last year, though.

Parsley.  The parsley is taking over and has just about become a "weed" in our yard, along with the sage. I'm not sure yet what we are going to do about it.  We use a lot of parsley in our cooking and in salads (I love the stuff,) but we definitely have more than we can use, and I don't want to get it out of control!  As always, I defer to the resident gardener.

Radish.  They have not done that well this year, and I don't think he was happy with them last year.  For my part, I think they are fine.  The greens have been good, and though not all of the roots have developed into good radishes, we have had some decent ones this year.  Last year, we had more than we knew what to do with.  He says he wants to try a different variety next year.

It's been very hot this year, and he thinks they may not be happy with the soil;  however, I read something today that makes me think it has to do with their neighbors, the kohlrabi.  I was reading about companion planting.  Apparently, radishes and kohlrabi don't grow well together.  I may suggest we simply distance their beds better next year.  I definitely want to keep growing them, because I love them, and so do my parents.

Tomatoes.  Sadly, these have been claimed by my boyfriend for  a dish he wants to make this week, so I will have to wait a bit longer to have my favorite tomato sandwiches!
Sage.  It's exploding, along with the parsley and wild carrot.  Like the parsley, we use a lot of it;  however, two shrubs are more than we can handle.  I have a dry bundle in the house that I'm using for bath salts, and he has another drying as I write this.

It is my intention to learn to make smudging wands, which will use a lot of it up, so I think for now, we will continue to let it grow.  Sage is a sacred herb, so having it around makes me feel positive.  Our only issue is space.

A view of the garden.  The white rock is Persephone.  It's a chunk of quartz an old friend found in a park in Virginia and then passed on to me.  Why?  Because I asked for it.  Aren't friends great?   Persephone has stories, but I will save them for another time.   For the most part, it acts as a focal piece.

 Another view of the garden.  The ghosting effect is from a streetlight. 

Another garden view.  Clockwise from the bottom left:  Dandelion, beets, stack of tires serving as our potato box, chard.  In the center is one of the stepping stones.

We are giving up on potatoes.  Whether because of the heat this year or the stack of tires being too narrow (or too toxic) for the potatoes, to say we have had a poor yield this year would be a severe understatement.  The stack of tires will instead house our mulch heap.

My boyfriend commented today that, rather than give up on the radishes, he wants to try a different variety next year, so we'll see.

Not pictured here is our mint.  We still have a good bit.  There are two large pots of it on our fence, and we have some drying in the house.  It's great as a tea or as a fresh sprig in a glass of iced tea.

That's a tour of our garden as it stands now.  I hope you've enjoyed it!  My next post, to be written over the next week or so, is going to be a lot less "pretty," so just soak up the loveliness!

Monday, July 25, 2011

(never home)maker: Baked Flatbread with Sweet Onions, Collards, and Brie

I just found this recipe-(never home)maker: Baked Flatbread with Sweet Onions, Collards, and Brie-and it looks really good! I think I will try it soon.

We will substitute a vegan cheese in place of the brie, however.

Surf on over and check out this fantastic blog!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Celebrating Animal Freedom Day

Tomorrow, I will be celebrating Animal Freedom Day . Animal Freedom Day is a day of showing our appreciation for animals by not consuming animal products. Since my boyfriend and I are vegans, this is our way of life every day; however, Animal Freedom Day asks everyone to honor animals in this way, just for one weekend.

Though I normally don't push my veganism on others, I think it is always a good idea to take time out to stop and think about where our food comes from. The choices we make every day, both in our food and in other areas of life, have a huge impact on the rest of the planet. I don't have to see the conequences of my actions to know they exist. Perhaps taking some time to think about this will give people some new insight.

Happy Animal Freedom Day!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Quiet Holidays.

Here at the Little Stone House, we don't make a huge, big deal of holidays.  Any holidays.  We observe, and we get together with our families sometimes, but generally speaking, those days are just like weekend days to us. They are for sleeping in, for getting things done that have had to wait, maybe for venturing out to do something fun we've put off.

If I feel inclined, I might spend a little time praying or meditating or journaling about something relevant to the holiday in question, but for the most part, the day is ours.

When I was younger, the thrill of deciding where the best Fourth of July show would be and fighting the crowds to find just the right spot with my friends was something I looked forward to each year.  This year, however, not so much.  Over time, my home town--a really great spot for fireworks! They put on a wonderful show!--has become more and more crowded in general, and now on the Fourth or around the time of the County Fair, you can barely move or breathe in town.  It's horrible and has sucked the fun right out of these events.   When I lived in my previous home, we were close enough to walk, so it was still pretty fun.  Now, we're just a bit out of reach for that.

This Fourth of July, my boyfriend and I spent the weekend working on our house and on various projects. On Monday the Fourth, we went hiking and stream wading in a nearby state park.  It was wonderful, and it was for a good cause.  The friend with whom we went out is preparing to do a nature walk and presentation on aquatic life for some local homeschool children.  We were helping him test out his equipment and scope out the best and most accessible spots for capturing water critters.  It was a hot day, but not too unpleasant.  The water felt amazing.   I got home exhausted but very relaxed and happy and spent a wonderful evening chilling with my boyfriend, the cats, and a favorite TV show.

We didn't have to fight any crowds, endure excessive, loud noises, or navigate around any obnoxious drunks. Now to me, that is freedom!  

Did I miss the fireworks? Sure I did, but this was not my last opportunity to see them.  :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Blog post by a colleague on cat massage.

I was just going through my email, and I came across this great, little post about cat massage. If you are a cat owner who wants to do a little something extra for your cat, this is worth checking out.

The writer is a member of one of the Street Teams with whom I am involved on Etsy, but I did not post this in order to promote my business or anyone else's. I posted this, because this sort of thing is right in line with what I'm trying to do at The Little Stone House. I want my cats' lives to be just as simple and content as mine and my boyfriend's.

I'd also like to note that I've been interested in learning Tellington Touch for a very long time (since my teen years!) but have never followed through. Maybe I will, one day...


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Easy Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup-Tastes like the real thing!

(Sorry--I don't have a photo!)  We all know that nothing makes you feel better than a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup, heavy with vegetables and thick noodles.  I have stumbled upon--strictly through experimentation--a recipe that I feel is very close to the real thing.  The beautiful part is that this recipe is vegan!

I like thick, thick noodles, so I use lasagna noodles.  I just break them up into the water, rather than cooking them whole.  I have not found "egg noodles" or the wider noodles that are vegan--they all seem to have egg in them.  I could make my own, vegan version, but with the full time job, I just don't have time for that.  (Making pasta is definitely something I would like to learn how to do, though!)  I use whole wheat pasta for this.  It adds substance and is higher in protein, fiber, and other nutrients than "white" pasta.

Before I cook the pasta, I cut up a shallot, half an onion, and 2-3 cloves of garlic. (It really depends on how I feel at the time.)  Saute them--in margarine, not oil--until the shallot and onion are transparent, and try not to brown the garlic.  Using margarine adds some robustness or heaviness to the broth.

I use bullion, because we have found that to be an economical, low-pollution (recyclable packaging and less of it) option for broth, but any vegetable broth will do.  Instead of simply heating up water for the pasta, I start with the broth.  (6-8 cups. Again, it depends on how I'm feeling at the time. In winter, a thicker soup is nice, so less broth. In summer, a lighter soup is often better.) I don't remove the sauteed garlic and such from the pot.  I simply add the water and bullion cube (or the broth, if you use pre-made broth) to the pot.  The vegetables will permeate the broth with their flavor this way, and it dirties less dishes.  Bring the broth to a boil for the noodles.

While the broth is heating up, I get my vegetables ready.  The staples for this (for me, anyway) are celery, carrot, and onion.  I use 2-3 stalks of celery, greens and all, 2-3 carrots, greens and all, and I tend to dig through the fridge for whatever leftover veggies we have.  This allows me to clean up the fridge and reduces waste.  What are you going to do with half a tomato and 3 mushrooms, for example?  Chop the veggies, and separate the greens from their respective vegetables.  You will add those toward the end.

Now, here's the important part (for me.)  What I have found through my experimentation is that the meat substitute that adds the closest flavor to actual chicken is Gardein Chick'n Filets.  They are spiced just right, and the mouth feel is very, very close to actual chicken.  When I pull them out to cube them for the soup, I pour the juice from the packages into the broth.  Works like a charm.  (I really think you will be amazed if you try this.)  I have made this soup in the past with store bought seitan, but that's usually not seasoned.  It's good, but it's not quite the same.  (You will find I don't do an excessive amount of cooking with tofu--it's not my favorite.)  You can get Gardein products in most natural foods markets.  I can't recall at the moment whether they are available yet in conventional grocery stores.  You can find out from their website.  (I am not in any way affiliated with Gardein!  I'm just sharing a product that works for me.)

I guess you don't have to wait for the noodles to soften before adding everything, but I do. I want to make sure the noodles cook all the way through but don't get mushy.  I usually add everything else when they are al dente.  That way, they will stand up to the longer cooking time.  Hold back the greens and the "chicken."

Lower the heat, once you've added the veggies and simmer the soup for 30-60 minutes.  This is an area where you just have to go with your intuition or check the veggies for softness.   I usually check and stir the soup after 15 minutes and then again every 15 minutes until it feels about right.  After this period, add your greens (chop them) and the "chicken."  

You can add your herbs and spices now, too, or you can wait until about 10 minutes before you are finished cooking it.  I usually add mine then.  I usually only use black pepper, red pepper flakes, salt (You will need to add salt,) and sometimes sage fresh from my garden.  I might chop up a few leaves or pick smaller ones and put them in whole.  Other possibilities are oregano, basil, dill, tarragon, rosemary, thyme--anything, really, depending on what kind of a flavor you want.  There are no set measurements.  Sorry.  Everything here is about using your intuition and/or your sense of taste to figure out what is right.  You do want to be careful with the red pepper flakes, though!

Once you lower the heat, simmer the soup for 15 minutes and check it every 15 minutes until it seems or tastes ready.  You do want to give everything time to cook all the way through. There's nothing quite like enjoying a nice, hot meal only to come across something that's cold in the middle!

Serve with bread or a salad, and voila!

I cannot make any healing claims about my soup, but it sure as heck is tasty, and it comforts me.  This soup will likely feed you for a few days--it makes a very big pot--so be prepared to either reduce the recipe or portion it out for freezing.  Better yet, invite some loved ones over to enjoy it with you!  That's my favorite way to eat it.  ;)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Easy Sprouted Quinoa Salad (Sweet)

My boyfriend, with my blessing (not that he needs it,)  has started to experiment with sprouting.  (I have always loved sprouts, by the way!)  This recipe--more of a guideline, really--is for a super-easy, sweet sprouted quinoa fruit salad.

First, you need sprouted quinoa.  For a serving, I use 1/3-1/2 cup of the sprouts.

I then add pepitas (pumpkin seeds,) sunflower seeds, raisins, a splash of maple syrup, and a splash of rice or apple cider vinegar.  The servings are small, so it would be good as an addition to a light lunch or dinner.  I had it for breakfast this morning!

That's pretty much it.  You can substitute any nuts, seeds, or berries you want and experiment with your vinegars and sweeteners, but I found this combination tastes really good.

Sprouting is easy, gives you a nice protein boost, and sprouts are very versatile.  I especially like them on sandwiches.  We have them stored in a plastic food container in our fridge.  It's probably best to add a layer of something absorbent to the bottom of your container in order to make them last longer, but it's best to use them up quickly.


Victory for Dairy Consumers in Ohio!

Court Supports Truth in Labeling for GE Foods - Real Food - MOTHER EARTH NEWS

This is wonderful news!

It is very, very important that consumers have a clear choice when making food purchasing decisions. Most people can't grow their own food, which leaves them at the mercy of our food industry, which, in my opinion, is more harmful to consumers than not.

This is a huge victory, and I hope to see this type of ruling spread to other states.

WTG, Ohio!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Family Life.

It is not my intention to get super-personal on this blog, but in order to appreciate what we do at the Little Stone House, I feel I do need to share a few things.  Now, when I mention "my boyfriend and I," I'm speaking only of things I know to be true.  I don't normally speak for my boyfriend.  The fact of the matter is, we think a lot alike.  There are plenty of couples who are different enough to balance one another.  We support one another, because we have so much in common.

Our family consists of the two of us, the cats, both sets of parents and siblings, and our closest friends. (In our house, close friends are family.)   When I refer to "the family" or "a family member," it could refer to any of those individuals.  We have no children, and I have no plans to become a mother. I have simply never wanted to go down that road in life.  I devote the same energy I would as a mother to my family and to the cats.  I try to be good to people and do good things for them.

I work full time, and he works from home.  Due to this dynamic, he handles a lot of the household affairs.  I pitch in when I am home (weekends, days off, vacations.)  I'm grateful that he is willing to do this, because otherwise, my life would be very chaotic!  I handle the majority of the cat care, vetting, arranging pet sitting when we travel, etc.  It works out well.  Neither of us is afraid to ask the other for help when it's needed.  The house is in good shape, and I don't believe anyone feels overwhelmed.  (Well, OK. Sometimes, I do, but that's my own fault:  I have a bad habit of trying to do too much!)  The average day when both of us are home tends to be pretty fluid and relaxed.  We get a lot done, but I find that neither of us feels stressed. It's a nice way to live.

About twice a month, we visit my parents, who live about 45 minutes away.  Even though that could easily be done in a day, we stay overnight in order to avoid exhaustion and stress. Besides, a major reason we go is to help them with their house.  This setup allows us the time we need to relax and get things done.  His family is up in New England, so quite a ways away. We try to visit them twice a year (we never fly,)  and they try and come and visit us once a year or so. Those visits also tend to be pretty relaxed, and I always enjoy visiting with everyone.  We see our closest friends once or twice a month, but we are frequently in touch with them online or by phone.  We make sure everyone knows they are thought of.  I find that, for me, this is pretty good. I'm an introvert, so I tend to need a lot of down time.  Of course, we each do things independently of one another as well--that's just healthy.

He's the big cook and gardener, so he does most of that, though I try and cook 2-3 times a week, so that it doesn't all fall on him. I like to cook, but again--with the full time job, I tend to be very tired when I get home in the evenings.  If one of us feels sick, the other steps in.  No one is forced to do something if they don't feel they can, and no one has a "to-do" list, other than the personal ones we may keep for ourselves.  There are no "your chores" or "my chores."  We just do.

The majority of the time, we both like to stick close to home and work in our studio.  About once a month, we meet up with a group of friends for dinner and socializing.  We both like to entertain, so now that the downstairs has been remodeled, we are trying to plan a couple of parties.  Even those won't be huge, elaborate affairs, though.

There was a time when I wanted to be into everything and just had to go out all the time, spend money, and buy things.  I realize now that that was more of an escape for me than anything else.  I was unhappy for a very long time.  Now, I'm happy, and my home is a very comforting place to be, so I am happy to spend time there.

The Little Stone House.

I have run and deleted 2 green/simple living blogs, and this is my third attempt.  I tend to get overloaded and pare things down, but I found that after I deleted the last one, I missed writing about this stuff.  I hope to be better organized and more regular in my postings here, and I hope that my readers will enjoy what I write.  I'm not a pro or an expert, but I like to share with others what my boyfriend and I are doing to simplify our lives.  (Maybe the third time will be a charm!)

The Little Stone House is actually a brick townhouse in a suburb of Maryland. (I hate siding!  It's ugly, and I don't feel like it's a sustainable component.  Blech!)  I was lucky to get an end unit, so we have a little, corner lot--less than 1/2 acre.  The floors downstairs are porcelain tile.  After we had the floors done, I told my boyfriend, "Now I live in the little, stone house I've always wanted!"  I was half-joking, of course, but it really does have a "Little, stone house" kind of feel to it now.

We are not homesteaders, but we are trying to learn to be independent. There are times when we come close.  During a good growing season (for us, that's mid-Spring or so well into late Autumn,) we yield probably a third of the food we need from our tiny lot.  He does the gardening, I document it and try to learn as much as I can.

We want to be off the grid, but due to the nature of our location, we are not able to really do that. When I said in my profile that we minimize our use and use the greenest technology we can, what I meant by that is that, though we can't convert and go off the grid, we make the best use we can of existing technology.  We would both like nothing more than to go completely solar, but our neighborhood rules don't really allow for it yet.  To their credit, they are working toward that, but we're not there yet.  We also just cannot afford to do any retrofitting right now.  The tile floors are a recent upgrade, and they will help our energy use considerably, I think.  The house is already much cooler at a higher temperature than when we had the carpeting. 

We are also both learning how to be more efficient.  We are in the process of replacing all of our light bulbs (previously compact fluorescent bulbs) with LED bulbs.  The bulbs are pretty expensive, but I believe the savings we will see will be significant.  I also recently learned that CF bulbs are not necessarily the clean light source we once thought they were.  It used to be that you had to take precautions if you broke one and you couldn't simply put them in the trash.  Now, it appears they are bad for you, overall.  We are using up our old incandescents while we stock up on the LEDs (1-2 at a time,) and I have taken all of the old CF bulbs to our county's toxic waste collection site.  From a cost and waste-hating stance, that was hard for me, but I think it was the right thing to do.

When I am going to be away from my computer or laptop for more than a couple of hours, I turn them off.  I don't put them to sleep, I power them down. Sometimes, I only turn my computer on once all day.  I don't leave chargers plugged in if my machines are not charging.  I don't leave lights on in any room if I'm going to be gone for more than 5 minutes.  At night, we use LED nightlights.  For a while, we were using solar lanterns, but the process of putting them out in the morning and then hauling them in at night proved to be too much.  Plus, our yard is no longer able to be used in the ways we used to.  (I'll get to that in another post.)  We are finding things that work for us, within our current budget, and we are experimenting. 

The next step for us will be to replace our front door. It is not weather-efficient, and it is not in good shape, either.  Replacing the flooring did make the gap under the door smaller, but it just needs to go.  I'm in the process of saving up to do that now, and I hope to apply to my home corporation in a few months for that replacement.

We recycle, catch rain water, compost, and make copious use of Freecycle, thrift stores, and the various charities that come and pick up unwanted items. We try never to throw out something that may still have some life in it, and we also pick things up from the curbside that we can use (as long as the items are clean and dry and we actually have a use for them.)  It's sickening to me how much people throw out.  We shop with reusable bags, and I also recycle all plastic bags that are large enough by using them as trash can liners and to clean out our cat boxes.  Even cat food bags get reused as trash bags.  Nothing goes in the trash if it does not have to.  Our neighborhood has 2 trash pickups a week, and we put our trash out at the curb maybe twice a month.  That's with 8 cats in the house!  If our county won't recycle something, we try to find a way to reuse it ourselves.

We don't shop retail, unless we absolutely have to.  (Groceries, hardware, etc. is a different story, of course.)  If we can get it from Freecycle, friends, a 2nd hand store, or find it, we do.  I very rarely even buy books or movies any more.  The resources are out there to find virtually anything you want without having to buy from The Big Guys.  When our floors were done, we went with a locally-owned, family business, which is located right across the street from us.  One of the work crew owns a restaurant, which we will patronize eventually.  We refer our friends to local businesses when we are aware of them.

It's not easy, and we are not perfect.  We have a car, because our families live fairly distantly and are not easily accessible by public transportation, but we are fortunate that it is an efficient one.  We combine errands, and if we don't have to go anywhere, we don't.  If we do need to run an errand, we first see if we can walk to take care of it.  I do a lot of my errands on the way home from my job.  We also need the car to transport the cats back and forth to the vet, etc.  Like with everything else, we streamline our use.

We don't have TV service, and we don't go to the movies.  We use Netflix, which allows us to pick and choose what we want to see.  Most advertising gives me a headache, and I'm not interested in most of what people are selling.  Pitch to me once, that's my philosophy.  We also still use our public libraries.  I adore my local library!  I have been able to get many of the books I've needed there over the years, and for a while when we didn't have Netflix, we got all of our movies there.  I don't watch the news, and I don't listen to it on the radio. I scan the headlines and read only what I feel a need to read.  I don't feel our media works in the public interest any more.  I feel their job is to sell airtime/ad space/papers/etc.  Let me rephrase that:  I don't believe the media is allowed do work in the public interest any more.  Everything is corporate-owned now, and neither my boyfriend nor I want any part of that.

Ah, yes. The cats.  You will be hearing a good deal about our cats and other animals on this blog, as well.  We live with 8 rescued cats, and I am trying to simplify and make their lives pleasant along with ours.  When I took them in, I made a commitment to take care of them. There are so many unwanted pets out there right now.  When a person takes on an animal, it should be for life.  These cats get everything they need, and I am also in the process of moving them to grain-free food, which is what they should be eating.  We are almost there, I'm happy to say. 

I have noted that we are vegans.  Cats are decidedly not, and I don't believe in forcing them to conform to a vegan diet.  (There are people out there who do this, and I really don't approve.)  It does pose somewhat of a dilemma for me, but my cats were in my life before I became a vegan.  I just try to make the most humane and sustainable choices for them that I can when it comes to their food.  If I did not work a full time job, I would probably start making their food myself, so that I could source the meat directly from humane farmers.  There are only so many hours in the day, though!  It's a compromise that I choose to make. I guess that is the best way to put it.  I love animals, so I can't imagine not having any in my life.  There are other measures I am starting to take with them, too, to minimize their impact on the planet.  I won't get into all of that here. This post is already very long.

So, while we are not an actual homestead, and we are stuck on the grid for now, we have found ways to draw the world in to us and minimize the harm that we do. We both spend a lot of our time creating our art and in my case, preparing and selling vintage items/antiques.  We watch a show or a movie at meal times, and the rest of the day (when I am home,) we pursue our own interests.  We spend time outdoors. We read.  We cook most of our food from scratch.  We maintain contact with the people in our lives who are most important.  We reach out to neighbors when there is a need.  I really feel like we are at a point where we are minimizing the "junk" in our lives and are living the best lives we can.  There is always more we can do, but this is where we are now.

Thank you for reading.