Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mizuna, Pack Choy and Green Garlic

So... rather than post yet another laundry list of all the fruits and veggies I got in my CSA box, let's just get to the good stuff.  Lately I have received several items that drove me to the internet in a semi-panic because I JUST DIDN'T KNOW WHAT THEY WERE!  (But isn't that what makes this whole CSA adventure fun?  Trying new things?  Remember those sunchokes, for example?)

Ever heard of mizuna?  Green garlic?  Pack choy?  Not me.  But I got a bundle, a bunch and a head, respectively, in my Happy Box.  Aren't they pretty?

So, here is what I learned:

Monday, April 28, 2014

3 Things I Know about Staying Healthy

My doctor told me not too long ago that I'm scandalously healthy for my age.  That was her word -- scandalously.  And my OB/GYN told me I am absolutely not to discuss my menopause experience with any of her other patients lest they, too, expect it to be easy, breezy, cotton candy and daisies.  (I promise that's the last time I'm bringing up menopause in this post.)

On the other hand, about 25 years ago, after my third (or was it fourth?  I forget...) serious bout of pneumonia, my doctor at that time told me that I could no longer afford to catch a cold.  Not even sniffles.  Forget about it.  Too risky.

Are you kidding me?  What do I do, put myself in a bubble?  Don a hazmat suit every time I want to hug my kids?  Well, actually, I figured out that a few very easy precautions can be surprisingly effective at warding off common contagious diseases.  For some people that is a big deal.  For others who have more important things to worry about than a little thing like a cold, come over here and let Granny give you a smack!  And then read on...

GrandDad Fabuloso and I went on a luxurious river cruise last year.  At the gangway onto the ship, and at each entrance to the dining area, there were permanently bolted-down, industrial-sized dispensers of hand sanitizer,  and every passenger was expected to use that sanitizer every time they embarked and every time they entered the area where food was served.  They actually posted crew members at the dispensers to remind people to do it.  Why?  River ships are small, enclosed environments -- floating Petri dishes, if you will.  And over time, our hosts had learned that this one, simple precaution was effective in preventing the spread of contagious disease among passengers and crew.  Interesting.  However...

I don't know about you, but my skin is much too sensitive for such harsh treatment all the time.  In my own home, I simply wash my hands frequently with soap and hot water.  I set small bars of luxurious, moisturizing soaps in beautiful dishes, and pretty bottles of hand lotion next to every sink in the house, and I use them.  Maybe 50 times a day.  Every time I pet the cat.  Every time I blow my nose.  Every time I clean up something dirty.  Every time I touch food -- before and after.  Every time I enter the house from outside.  Before I eat.  Before I hold a child.  Definitely after I hold a child!  Etc.  (Now if only I could get everyone in the house to do the same.  Because every time I grip the handrail that goes downstairs to the play room... Yuck!)

I read about a guy who was very susceptible to colds and influenza.  Every year, despite flu shots and other high-tech precautions, he was constantly getting sick, missing work, suffering miserably.  He experimented with one small change that turned out to be very, very effective:  At the bank, at the restaurant, at the grocery store, whenever someone asked for his signature and offered him a pen, he simply used his own instead.  With that one change alone, he stopped getting sick.  If you think about how many people that server waits on or that cashier checks out, it makes sense that you don't want to use that pen!  (They probably wish they didn't have to touch it, either.)

Being a granny is liberating in a number of ways.  One of them is that people just expect you to carry a big old purse and have all kinds of things at the ready.  Sanitizing wipes is one of my favorite things to carry in my granny purse.  You can buy small packs of wipes that dispense, reseal and fit neatly into your purse's zippered compartment for handy use in all kinds of filthy places.  Of course I use them in public restrooms, but there are even dirtier places that we all frequently occupy.  According to a university study sponsored by Clorox, the greatest number of germs are usually found on playground equipment.  (You aren't surprised, are you?)  The next dirtiest location is the handrest on any type of public seating.  And after that, the dirtiest thing you can touch is a grocery store cart!

In samples gathered from the handles and child seats of grocery carts in four different regions of the U.S., researchers identified human saliva, mucus, urine, feces, and bloody juices from raw meat.  Ever heard of E. coli, staphylococcus and salmonella?  They are lurking in the very spot where you set your bag of bread.  So the next time you are in the grocery store, pick up a pack of santizing wipes.  Pick them up first and swab down your cart before you pick up anything else!

With all that being said, I am aware that we can't sanitize the world.  Nor do we want to because we all need some amount of exposure to build up our immune systems.  But your kids will contact plenty of germs from playing with dirt and petting the dog and hugging their friends.  (And you will contact plenty of germs from hugging them!)  These suggestions, as simple and low-tech as they may be, are very effective at limiting exposure to the nastiest of nasties.  And that alone can make a huge difference in maintaining your good health.  I'm pretty sure about that.

Monday, April 21, 2014

3 Things I Know About Raising Children

If you've been reading here long, you know that part of my schtick is pretending that I know all there is to know about everything.  That I am, in fact, Granny The Great and All-Knowing (and Fabulosa!)

It's simply not true.  I don't know everything about everything.  I humbly admit that I am only completely positive and 100% right about several things!  Well...  at least I'm pretty sure about several things.  So, listen to Granny, children.  She figured out a bunch of stuff the hard way so you don't have to.

Here is an example of a battle worth winning:  "Fasten that seatbelt, kiddo, or we're not going."  In this situation, there are only two acceptable outcomes:  either the kid complies, or you drag him out of the car and back into the house without further discussion.  Backing down is not an acceptable outcome -- and not only for the safety factor in this example --  because any time you engage your child in battle and let her win, it puts your parental authority in jeopardy.  So I don't care how anxious you are to get to the store/restaurant/emergency room or how tired you are of arguing.  When it matters you must demonstrate that you mean business.  Swiftly and decisively.  Accept no refusal, no negotiation, no argument.  Period.

Here is an example of what shouldn't be a battle to begin with:  "You have a bookcase, sweetie, so why are you stacking all your books on the floor?  You like it that way?  Well, I think they look much nicer in the bookcase, but okay ..."  Kids should be allowed some preferences because that tells them that what they think matters.  Kids should be allowed to try kooky things so they can learn how the world works.  So when something doesn't really matter, loosen up a little.  Choose your battles.

Don't joke, exaggerate or spew empty threats lest you end up teaching your kids not to believe you.  In time they may become accustomed to rejecting whatever you say.  

For instance, never tell a kid something like, "Touch that again, and I will break your fingers!"  You know you wouldn't really break your kid's fingers, but to the child who hears that, only one of two things can be true:
  1. Mommy is a monster who might break my fingers.  Or...
  2. Mommy is a liar.
Which of these do you prefer?  Of course you said neither!  I knew you would, but you do see my point.

Any time you feel yourself on the verge of issuing some kind of ultimatum, stop, take a deep breath, and ask yourself what you are actually willing to do about the situation, because once you proclaim it, you are stuck with it.  The good news is, when you follow through consistently and fairly, your child learns a couple of valuable lessons:

  1. Mommy means what she says.  And...
  2. My actions and decisions have consequences.

My generation really screwed up.

In every generation leading up to mine, mothers and fathers worked and sacrificed so their children would have better lives.  So their children would be safer and healthier, so they would have a better education and more choices, in essence so they would be better.

My generation worked and sacrificed so our children would have better.  Nicer clothes, better cars, nifty gadgets, tons of activities, more entertainment, and less requirement to work and sacrifice for themselves.  In the process we cheated our children.  Maybe even crippled their spirits.

Look, I don't cherish my memories of the hardships I endured as a kid or my struggles as a striving young adult -- but those things made me strong.  So, yes, cherish and protect your children.  Yes, help them achieve their dreams.  But, no, don't hand them everything they want on the proverbial silver platter because

  1. We tend not to appreciate what we don't have to work for.  Think about the literal meaning of "taking for granted."  
  2. Anyone who has too much is grateful for nothing.  I have yet to meet a happy ingrate.  Don't cultivate ingratitude in your kids.

You may disagree with anything I've said here, but I think we can agree that raising a child is the most worthy endeavor any of us is likely to pursue.  It's also the most satisfying and joyful.  I'm pretty sure about that.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I Call Them Fruitons

As is often the case, I came up with an idea for something new by trying to do something else.  In this case, I was looking for a way to use several pounds of over-ripe bananas from my weekly CSA deliveries.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What's blooming on April 15

Winter doesn't give up easily here in Ohio.  Just when it seems Spring is finally here, 
you wake up to this...

When, oh when, will this snow ever leave?  
(It sure is pretty, though.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Feline Love Potion Recipe

In 1993 my mother-in-law sat at her trusty old Underwood typewriter and documented a collection of heirloom family recipes.  The purpose of this rough-bound, ramshackle collection, which became universally known as "The Family Cookbook," was (she hoped) to` instruct a new generation of wives and would-be cooks in the making of such family favorites as the chocolate cake that Aunt Babe made from mayonnaise during World War II and the cookie recipe that the author herself wheedled out of a baker friend from the Michigan State University test kitchen sometime around 1950 when her husband was teaching there.  (And which I modified only slightly for this recipe.)  It was as much memoir as instruction manual.

 Last year, on the twentieth anniversary of the original, her granddaughter published a revised edition -- a slick, illustrated version with not only Grammy's iconic recipe collection, but contributions from other family members.  Yes, even from those hopeless daughters-in-law of hers who had somehow -- miraculously -- become good mothers and good cooks in their own right.  A lot can happen in twenty years.

Then there was my daughter Kate, representing the newest generation of mothers... let's just say she has much yet to learn.  So when asked to contribute to the new cookbook, she obliged with one submission to the "For the Pets" section.  I have reproduced it here verbatim.

Feline Love Potion

When I was in grade school, living with my parents in our little house on Waterloo Street, we had two cats: Ginger, a chubby, orange-striped tabby and Malcolm, a big, sturdy black cat with a white "bow tie."  

In May of 2000 there was a very bad storm -- torrential rain, flash flooding, damaging wind, lightning strikes, the works!  We were lucky that the storm didn't do any damage to our home, but we had one unexpected consequence to deal with:  a tiny, feral kitten literally washed up in our yard.  He was much too young to be separated from his mother, but we took him in and hoped for the best.

At first it didn't seem that Cal (as we optimistic fools named him) would survive.  He was tiny and traumatized.  He had trouble eating and couldn't seem to stay warm.  In the middle of one miserable night, when it seemed his life might slip away by morning, my mother crept out of bed, determined to find something, ANYTHING, that would help this poor kitten live to see another day.  She warmed up a little homemade chicken broth and rubbed it on his mouth... and hooray!  The little guy seemed to perk up a bit.  He even lapped a little more out of a dish and then curled up on our VCR (his favorite warm spot) and went to sleep.

Over the next few days, with first more chicken broth and then real cat food, Cal gained strength and began to thrive.  He became quite playful and mischievous, and we finally dared to love him.  Only one thing marred our happiness with this scrappy, funny new kitten:  Ginger and Malcolm DESPISED him!  They would hiss at poor, unlucky Cal and cuff him without mercy.  We worried that we had saved this small creature only to condemn him to a life of constant bullying and abuse by his feline "siblings."

But mother had another idea.  One day she took some reserved "juice" from a can of tuna and rubbed it on Cal's little head.  Then we all waited to see what would happen.  It turned out that tuna juice was something those big cats of ours couldn't resist.  They were compelled to lick the delicious fishyness right off of Cal, and what started as licking soon became grooming and finally became acceptance.  Ginger, Mal and Cal have been buddies from that day on!

Sometimes the simplest things make all the difference.

I couldn't agree more.      

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fun with ORB

One of my favorite bloggers is Nancy at Artsy Chicks Rule.  I follow her on Bloglovin and Pinterest because she has so many creative decorating diy ideas and instructive before-and-after posts.  Not long ago Nancy blogged about all the things in her home she has updated using "oil-rubbed bronze," a.k.a. ORB spray paint.  It was pretty impressive.  And it gave me an idea....

I decided to go to the local thrift store and pick up as many items as I could find within a $20 budget to experiment with ORB spray paint.  And just to be ornery, I tried finding test objects that would take this experiment to the very limits of hideousness.

I think I succeeded.

I used the no-mess "paint in a box" method that so many pinners recommend.  (I suppose I could have used a bigger box.)

It was easy.  I spray-painted each item (sometimes several at a time) inside the box, waited for the paint to dry, then rotated and repeated.  The paint dries quickly, so I was able to get most things completely covered within a few hours.

This was fun, and the results were surprisingly good...

Here are the "after" shots of my crazy collection.

You may have already seen what I did with the brass candle holder on a previous post.  If not, check it out.  

The scratched-up silver collage frame turned out nicely.

 And here are all the rest:

Now I get it.  People love oil-rubbed bronze spray paint for a reason:  it can make ANYTHING look good!

Well... almost anything.

Come on.   

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

#1 Time-saving Tip for Busy Moms

How dare I presume to speak for every busy mom?  What qualifies me to advise so definitely and ultimately?  Here's how and what for and why:  I have experienced this mommy thing from both sides.

I have been a "working" mom trying to balance professional and family responsibilities. That was hard because I never had enough time to do everything that needed doing.  Many times I was forced to bow out just when I would have loved to be more involved.  I envied the moms who got to do all the stuff I was missing.

I have been a "stay at home" mom. That was hard because suddenly I found that I was the one managing all the stuff other people were too busy to handle.  Yeah, sometimes it was fun, but it was always work!  Often, instead of asking, people would just assume that I could make myself available for whatever, whenever.

That's why I get really annoyed when moms in one camp criticize the moms in the other.
"Oh, she's just not willing to give up the money and the luxuries to be at home with her kids where she belongs!"  Right... the luxury of paying the electric bill.
"I do everything she does AND my job!  What does she do with the other 8 or 10 hours a day?"  She does about 900 little things that you weren't available for and never knew about... and that no one ever notices unless they aren't done.
ALL MOMS WORK HARD.  And they don't have the luxury of time to waste.  They have cradles to rock and realms to rule, and who has time to find the missing scissors?  Which brings me to the best advice I have to share:


It sounds simplistic, I know.  But try to estimate how many hours of your life you have spent looking for your phone or your car keys or that bill that's due today or your kid's other shoe or ______________.     (Fill in the blank.  Many, many, many times.)  Now imagine what you might better have done with all that time.

Everyone knows the saying, "a place for everything and everything in its place."  But though I consider myself to be organizationally gifted, I have yet to achieve that particular nirvana.  I can, however, suggest a trick for getting started:

The next time you lose something you use all the time, 
take note of the first place you went looking for it. 

Once you have found it, 

And then continue to put it back in that same place the next time and the next time and the next time until it becomes a habit.  Wherever you first imagined you would find that thing is obviously its natural place.  So put it there.  And keep it there.  And never lose it again.

I know what you are thinking, "Sure, that works for me, but what about everyone else around here?"  I sympathize.  I live in a household where the majority of inhabitants are allergic to putting things away.  Be it a hammer, a roll of tape, a drinking glass, a shovel, the salt and pepper shakers, the dog's leash... whatever you can possibly imagine, they use it and then drop it like it's a mic and they're Kanye (or whoever.)  You can spend your life returning these items to their proper place, only to find that, when YOU need them, they have once again migrated behind the couch or under the car or into someone's coat pocket.  To date I have found only one effective way to combat this:


Do you know why I can always find "the good screwdriver?"  It's because I bought two, and one of them is mine, mine, mine!  Along the same line, I have my own private stash of batteries, notepads, Sharpies, Scotch tape, duct tape, and a variety of glues.  I have my own scissors, hammer, screwdriver, pliers, wire cutter and tape measure in my own secret, little toolbox.  This may seem shockingly selfish, but don't judge me until you have compiled a full list of every place you went looking for batteries the last time the smoke detector started beeping.

There is far more to be said on this subject, but let me finish for now with this little gem of advice:

The next time your husband complains he can't find something, 
ask him where he looked for it.


Truly I say unto you, you will find it there every time!

Monday, April 7, 2014

What's Blooming - April 7

Here in the Ohio Miami Valley, it's chilly and rainy, but at long last ...

Wegerzyn Garden Metropark, Dayton, Ohio

April 7


Pansies in containers

Aside from the daffodils planted last Autumn...

...and the pansies freshly placed in their containers... 


...you can see vinca peeping out from beneath the detritus of winter...

Dwarf Iris "Pixie"

...and dwarf irises like this variety called "Pixie"...


... and camassia...

Because winter was so harsh and cold, the hellebores are late bloomers this year...

Hellebore "Apricot Blush"

...be they demure "Apricot Blush"...

Hellebore "Black Diamond"

...or  dramatic "Black Diamond."

HALLELUJAH!  The world is reborn!

Friday, April 4, 2014

I'm Joining the Party!

Ultimate Blog Party 2014

I'm joining the Ulitimate Blog Party 2014 sponsored by 5 minutes for Mom.

I'm Nan, a.k.a. Granny Fabulosa.  I'm a former financial analyst turned full-time granny.  (Yes, as a matter of fact, Granny IS a full-time job.  If you do it right. ;) )

My #1 project is participating in a Community Supported Agriculture program and utilizing 100% of the sometimes crazy but always wonderful, fresh, seasonal, local, and organic produce that is delivered weekly to my door.

The weird knobby things are sunchokes. Click here to see what I did with them.

I also love cooking...


and painting furniture... 

fixing up thrift store finds...

and travelling...

And so much more!  Join me!

Happy Box Week 3

Okay if you're counting, you may be wondering why this isn't Week 5....

                   This is why ----->

Granny went on a little vacation in Honolulu and had a wonderful time.

Where are we travelling next?  Most likely it will be Disney World with all the kids and grandkids later this year, but I will post more about that as plans unfold.

Now back to real life!

Green Onions
a Grapefruit


Honestly!  I somehow managed to accumulate over 4 pounds of these babies, so to meet my goal of 100% utilization of my CSA produce, I had to cook sunchokes like it's my job!  (Okay, it actually is my job.)  

Check out my post on Sunchokes Three Ways.  They really are quite delicious.

And there are more challenges ahead:  

I have an unusually large amount of bananas that I am going to have to use.  Like right now.

The green onions are starting to accumulate, too.

Also, what do you do with a grapefruit when every member of the family despises them?  I'll tell you what you do:  you make vinegar.  Check out my post on Citrus-infused Vinegars.

Until next time my lovelies, aloha!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chesapeake Baked Cod

I mostly love to cook, but sometimes it can be a drag.  There.  I said it.  I used to know what to do about that:   Don't feel like cooking?  Frozen lasagna it is.  Forgot to go shopping?  Grab a box of "Helper" from the pantry and make do.  REALLY don't feel like botheringing?  Let's get a pizza or a bucket of chicken.

Well, I don't have those options any more because I made the commitment over a year ago to eliminate processed foods from my family's diet.  That means no cans, no boxes, no jars, no pre-assembled anything.  If I don't know what's in it, we don't eat it.  And the only way to know what's in it is to make it yourself.

It has been an adjustment.  Early on, I felt like I spent 72% of my life either chopping, cooking or cleaning up after all that chopping and cooking!  But it's not so bad any more.  Partly I have gotten used to the new way of doing things.  Partly I have found new and better strategies for putting a healthy meal on the table when I'm more in the mood to hit the "good old" burger drive-through.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Homemade Ranch Seasoning

In a previous post I talked about making roasted sunchokes and carrots with a Ranch seasoning.

Sunchokes Three Ways

One of the fun things about participating in a CSA program is discovering things you never knew existed... in massive quantities!  For instance...

These babies are sunchokes.  Also known as Jerusalem artichokes, which is a curious name for them, as they are neither artichokes nor from Jerusalem.  In fact, they are the tubers from a type of sunflower, and they were first cultivated by native North Americans, long before Europeans arrived on the continent.  You are starting to like them already, aren't you?  Good!  But let's not stop there.  Here are more things to like about them:

  • They contain a good amount of protein, no fat, and surprisingly little starch.
  • They have a mildly sweet flavor from fructose, so they are a better choice for people with type 2 diabetes than grains or other starchy vegetables.
  • They are a good source of many important nutrients, including potassium, iron, fiber, niacin, thiamine, phosphorus and copper.  Not to mention loads of fiber!
  • They are a great plant to place in your garden:  easy to grow and super pretty!
  • Finally...