Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No Tomatoes in the Fridge: Produce Storage Guide

      We've all been through one of those sad moments; finding that once beautiful bunch of greens, those plump perfect blueberries, now more of a brown stew in the back of the crisper.  Fridge clean out days can sometimes feel like tossing money down the drain (or to the chickens in my case).

      A 2002 University of Arizona study found that the average US family throws away 470 pounds of food a year - roughly 14% of all food brough into the home!  What a tremendous waste!

      There are a lot of things you can do to avoid having your perishables perish.  Making meal plans, taking leftovers in lunches (both grown ups and kids!), learning to perserve, and proper produce storage.  Look for future posts on using meal plans to avoid food waste and on quick and easy methods to perserve foods.  Today, I'm going to run over some very handy, and often little known, food storage facts.

      With just a little bit of thought into where and how you're storing your various produce items, you can drastically increase their life expectancy.  How do you store your produce right now?  If you're like most US Americans, you throw all your fruit in one drawer in the fridge and all your veggies in another.  Sometimes they're in bags from the store, sometimes they're not.  The bananas might hang on a hook or sit near the cereal.  Some fruit might go in a bowl, apples, bananas, maybe some grapes or other fruits, all together on the table. 

      Did you know that there are some items that should not be stored together because they will go bad faster?  Apples, bananas, and pears all together in a fruit bowl?  Only if you want black bananas and mealy pears.

      Tomatoes in the fridge?  Not if you want that fresh tomato flavor.  The same goes for peppers.

      And that big bowl/bin/basket of onions and potatoes?  Bad idea.  The potatoes absorb the onions' moisture and cause them to go bad faster.

      Then there's ethylene.  Ethylene is a gas produced by ripening produce, which can, in turn, ripen or speed decay in other produce.  Have an underripe plum?  Put it in a paper bag with a ripe banana.  The ethylene given off by the banana will quickly ripen the plum.  This is also the reason that avacadoes and tomatoes can be ripened just by sitting in a paper bag - they are both big gas producers.  It is also why you don't want to put high ethylene fruit like apples, bananas, and stone fruit together in a bowl - especially with lower ethylene or already ripe fruits.

      Now, all of this can seem like kind of a firehose.  Who really has the time or the space in their brain to remember specific storage instructions for every different produce item you might store throughout the year?  I sure as heck don't.  That's why I've put together this handly little chart of what goes in the fridge, what doesn't, and low ethylene foods that should be stored away from high ethylene foods.


For more information on produce storage, check out:
Farm Fresh to You - excellent list of produce with detailed storage instructions.
Cornell Food Storage Factsheet
Vegetarian Times Article

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Attachment Parenting and The Continuum Concept



     I'd like to say that, having a degree in Antropology that I try to keep up on, or being the vigorous homebirth advocate that I am, or reading as much as I do, I already knew about this book.  But I would be lying. 

      I "heard of it" from an attachment parenting Ryan Gosling meme on Pinterest.

      I find the Ryan Gosling things really amusing even though (*gasp*) don't really know who Ryan Gosling is or why people attach all these grin-worthy feminist and AP taglines to his (admittedly super hot) pictures.

      Anyway, I can't find that particular Gosling pic now, but it was something along the lines of the one above, but involved tea and The Continuum Concept, and I thought, "how have I never heard of an attachment parenting book well known enough to show up here?"  And I immediately Googled it.  And I had ordered the book in the space of an hour (sadly, it was not available in ebook format so I had to wait for it to be delivered).

       As soon as it arrived, I excitedly dug in.  And I was not disappointed.  At first.  Then I was.  Then my faith was restored.  Only to be dashed again - but once again resurrected ...  And so on.

      In short, I'm up and down on this book.

      The basic precept, the concept I totally and completely get behind, is honoring and abiding by the instinctive needs of an infant.  The essentially equates to an "in arms" phase for the first 6 - 8 months of the baby's life during which the child's ancient and inherent need to be carried and touched is respected.  The baby is carried around with the caregiver most of the time and also sleeps next to her/his mother.  Once the child starts becoming mobile, the child is allowed to explore and progress at their own pace - neither restricted nor pressured.

       The overarching focus of this all being trust in the instincts of the child.  This makes perfect sense to me, as I believe that many adults in our culture feel out of touch with their parenting instincts - hence the rampant reliance on parenting books and gurus.  I think a much better answer than the book of the moment is to look to the child who, by virtue of their developmental state and lack of awareness of the pulls of the culture, is much more in tune with their own insticts.

      Babies know what they need.  They need protection (touch) of a caregiver.  They need food when they are hungry (not at arbitrarily scheduled times), they need to be clean and at an acceptable temperature.  They know when they are ready to creep, crawl, and pull up, it it would never occur to them to question the timing of this.  So rather than waste time worrying about what some book or guru says, the wisest place to lay your trust is with ancient and nearly perfect instincts of your child.

      That concept, what I feel to be at the very base of The Continuum Concept, I truly and thoroughly believe.  Indeed, I believed it even before I discovered this book.  If you need convincing, there are some passages in this book that will completely tear at your heart and SHOW you what it feels like to be a child deprived of your basest need for near constant contact.

      That is, if you don't get sidetracked by the other stuff in this book.  The Continuum Concept was first published in the '70's, and that comes through in the book.  The author, Jean Liedloff, references psychology doctrines that have long since been largely abandoned.  She makes some statements about homosexuality that made me reach into the book and shake someone.  Her style of writing can get a little hauty and overthought at times.

      Essentially, at every point where she is talking about babies, I'm pretty much on board, but when she tried to translate those concepts to adults, I think she failed.  As far as I know, Ms. Liedloff was/is not a trained as a psychologist, sociologist, or anthropologist.  That doesn't mean her work isn't still impactful and insightful, but the great flaws in her attempts to translate her revelations about infant care to the pains of adult life bear witness to a certain lack of - roundedness.

       Ms. Liedloff's inspiration for the book came from spending a cumulative 2 1/2 years among the Yaquana tribe in the Amazon river basin.  She was astounded by the difference between the children and babies of these tribes and the behaviour of infants and children in our own culture.  The children in these "primitive" cultures were calm, quiet, content, and had an inherent confidence and happiness that she had never before witnessed. 

     Ms. Liedloff credited, quite rightly, I believe, these peaceful, happy traits in the children to the "primal" methods of care observed by the Yaquana - a complete in-arms phase where babies are in near constant contact with their cargivers, moving around, observing, always safe, but not coddled.  They are protected and touched without being the center of attention.  As they begin to move about on their own, they are given unrestricted and undoting freedom coupled with an unerring availability of the caregiver should the child feel the desire.

      There are points when she took it a little far (in my opinion).  She related stories of watching babies crawl around near deep pits and play with knives and fire as examples of trusting a toddler's inherent instincts toward self protection.  She posits that children hurting themselves is basically a self-fulfilling prophesy put forth by the parents with statement like "you'll cut yourself."

       I am torn on this concept.  On the one hand, I see the benefit in allowing a child a wide lattitude of freedom, avoiding undermining the child's responsibility for self protection with overbearing watchfulness.  Especially that - letting the child feel that the child is resonsible for her/his own safety so as to maximize awareness of risks.  BUT I do not think that justifies allowing small children to enter into inherently dangerous situations like playing with knives or being unwatched.  I also think that Ms. Liedloff failed to take into account some of the differences in culture (like kidnappers and dangers that children never see adults deal with, so do not understand how to avoid).

      The author also took the concept of the "Noble Savage" a little too far, striving to classify any exception to her notion as something caused by encounters with other cultures.  I do feel that there is MUCH to be learned from cultures and individuals who exist in a manner that might be called more in line with our evolutionary path - or something more sensical and eloquent, but basically less distorted by globalization, mass media, self-help books, and a culture of second guessing.  However, I think it is not only misguided and self disparaging, but also very disrespectful of these other cultures to speak of them as if their way of life is primitive or solely creditable to their isolation from our culture.

      For all it's flaws, I think this work - the portions of it dealing with the Continuum and the in-arms phase - gains much from continuing revelations and discoveries about child rearing and the needs of babies.  Ms. Liedloff's understandings of the importance of contact, in-arms involvement, lack of pressure on very young children to develop at a particular pace or in a particular manner, and responsiveness to a baby's cues are all strongly and continually born out by studies in skin-to-skin contact, after birth interaction, breastfeeding, bedsharing (by mothers not using alcohol or drugs), infant development, and a myriad of other topics.

     In that way, this book fit in perfectly with the growing body of wisdom supporting "natural" or "attachment" parenting.

      I could go on at length about many of the concepts and intricicies of this book, both the ones I liked, and the ones I didn't, but I feel I have gone on enough.  I do not recommend this book as highly as I might some others, but I DO recommend it for soon to be parents and anyone interested in child development and natural or attachment parenting.  Take some parts with a grain of salt and the knowledge that this book was written in a different time, but pay very particular attention to the author's skillful and stirring description of the young lives of babies.

     The long and short of it is this:  Trust in the unpolluted instincts of babies.

      For more information, including excerpts from the book and many other articles and interviews by the author, visit the Continuum Concept website.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mother's Day Goes Green

            Punky was already staking out my room when Flintstone and I emerged [last] Sunday morning.  I was a little surprised considering the fact that she had kept MacGyver up past when I went to bed completing some sort of Mother's Day surprise for me, and because my unsnoozable alarm clock Flintstone usually sees to it that I am up 1 1/2 to 2 hours before the non lactating members of the household on weekends.

      Waiting for me, there was a vase of roses made entirely out of construction paper and a card.  The card had a woman posing in front of an Earth statue as though she were holding the Earth and inside Punky wrote, "I love you mom.  You're the best and the Earth thanks you for it."  Totally cute.  She had also made me a breakfast of fruit, toast, and cereal.

      MacGyver emerged a few minutes later, and we sat and chatted and drank tea until I went back to the bedroom to get Flintstone's and my clothes together for church.  When I came back out, there was one heck of a spread waiting for me!

       It wasn't actually arranged like this, Punky and MacGyver had each set up their separate collections of gifts on the table, but I didn't get a chance to take a picture of them because Punky was much too excited about me opening them.

       Organic, Fair Trade teas and fancy coffees, adorable stackable coffee mugs, all sorts of chocolate/carmel/nut/fruit ethical treats and goodies, an adorable new Equal Exchange apron (so I get fewer of my ethical eating projects on me), and the topper, new cast iron cookware!  We have been talking about making the switch to cast iron for a long time now, but I've been holding back, waffling about buying it peice by peice or is one big set (which would be very expensive).  MacGyver got me one very large skillet and two small individual size pans.  I've used them a few times now, and I LOVE them.

      I'm sure there will be a post forthcoming soon on the benefits and care of cast iron cookware.

      In addition to store purchased goodies, Punky wrote me three illustrated poems and tied them up scroll style, painted a large painting of our whole family as owls (and Flintstone as a small brown blob, ha), and a book she made in school.  Every page of the book was meticulously colored, and on each page was a question or statement about mothers and all the childrens' answers.  By far my favorite page had the heading, "My mother is as beautiful as..."  Every child in Punky's class except 2 either answered "a flower" or a kind of flower ("a rose" for example).  One child wrote "a horse," which I found wildly amusing.  Punky wrote "Hermione from Harry Potter."

      She is so sweet and creative.  And not only that, but after I told this story to some friends at church, one of them paused, looking at me, and said, "You really do look like Emma Watson."  He probably needs glasses, but I was nevertheless flattered. 

      Punky also got me these super adorable magnets:
             After I was done giddily examining my loot the amazingly thoughtful and moving gifts from my family, we headed off to church.

      The Mother's Day service was amazingly moving, and featured performances by Rebecca Folsom.  Just like the week before, when we got into the sanctuary, Flintstone picked himself out a Hymnal and a seat, climbed into the seat, placed the open Hymnal on his lap, and listened intently.  He was completely enraptured by Rebecca's first song, and I think he was a little shocked by the applause at the end:



     I know people don't like videos on blogs, but the video above is only a few seconds long, and I think it's hilarious.  And there are many more where that came from, including three with Flintstone's fake laugh that he does whenever the congregation laughs.

     After church, we were supposed to go out on a litter cleaning excursion in one of the local rivers, but it was postponed due to rain.  Instead, we went to a bookstore, and I drooled over books I want to read and mourned not having time to just live in a library.

      When we got home, MacGyver and Punky made me an amazing dinner of Massaman Chickpeas over Mango Sticky Rice with Roast veggies.  And a molten chocolate cake for dessert.  Sooo yummy.  Have you seen my post about flavored Chickpeas yet? 

      For some reason the picture of the chickpeas won't load.  Suppose I'll have to add a different post later.

      All in all, it was an amazing Mother's Day.  I have such a wonderful, loving, quirky, family and so very many wonderful mothers in my life (my own mother vehemently refuses to accept Mother's Day gifts from us and cussed at me when I brought it up).

       And who wouldn't love Mother's Day with little monsters as cute as this:
After enjoying a bowl of daddy's homemade, healthy crockpot baked beans from scratch.
Oh, ya' know, just brushin' my teeth...


  
Whether you're a mother yourself, a mother of furbabies, trying to become a mother, or have wonderful mother(s) in your life, I hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day this year.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I'm Still Here

      This isn't a real post.  It is really just a quick check in.  Last week was an amazing week, but one that left little time for blogging.  There was Mother's Day, work fiascos, resume writing, and then I jetted off to an American Bar Association conference, making it home just in time for back-to-back social engagements and a really amazing pagan ritual.  There are many posts in the works, but there are also 75 emails waiting to be answered.  I promise I'll be back with some content soon.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Odds and Ends: Outstripping Me

      Here are some random updates on what's going on with us now, since things are - as always - on the move:

THE JOB HUNT
      I have accepted the fact that I'm going to have to write about 6 million different resum├ęs for all the different jobs and types of jobs I will be applying for.  And I really need to get a move on on this, but it is soooo daunting, and really hard to fit in amidst - you know - work and life and stuff.  Erg.
     
      On the bright side, I seem to have established some good connections at one of the Federal Bureaus for which I would really like to work.  Not telling you which one just yet ;-)

      I also have a lot of potential good connections lining up in one of the geographical areas to which we would really like to move.  Keeping that one under wraps for now, too.

      If you happen to know any attorneys or professors in the Midwest (or anywhere) who might be up for helping a [soon to be] newly liberated Marine with a passion for helping people and animals, please, please let me know.  Seriously, I need to network.

ACTIVISM
      MacGyver is seriously putting me to shame in the activism department lately.  Actually,  he's given up pretty much every free second (and many that aren't free ;-)) to a few major projects he is coordinating, including a huge local sustainability program.  Expect to see a lot more about that as it comes together - because guess who he nominated to be the head contributing editor for the blog for the project?

      In all my spare time.

      Really, I'm flattered.  MacGyver had a strong distaste for blogging before we got married, though he has slowly come around.  He rarely, if ever, visits my blog, so it's nice to know he has some respect for the quality work product I put up here.   *ahem*

      I would love to go into detail about how big this project is, how many amazing organizations are on board, and the big impact it has the potential to make here locally (not to mention the potential for expansion), but it is still in it's infancy, so I'll just have to be happy fantasizing about it with him.

      The biggest challenge will be having the whole thing completed and ready to hand over to the city in time for us to leave on our next great adventure.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE: Kids
      With the new blog, I am shifting away from the personal.  That said, I don't think I'll ever shift away 100%; that's just my writing style.  So expect personal notes every once in a while.

      MacGyver and I have brilliant, amazing, beautiful children.

       Punky not only got straight A's and made the honor roll again, she got all "high A's" meaning she is at the top of the percentile graph for every subject.  The kid is more and more like me every day ;-)

This is seriously how he falls asleep almost every night.  When he's ready to pass out, he will pick up one of his books and put it over his face.  SOOO cute.
       Flintstone is also brilliant.  He's still talking up a storm and picking up new words at an astounding rate.  And while he has not learned any "bad" words because we almost never use bad words in our house, he does say "wine," "beer," and "boob," and he knows exactly what he's talking about when he says it.
I don't retouch photos, but I feel like this one could be even more perfect with just a touch of something done to the color.

       He is working hard to be find his place in the family.  He helps unload the dishwasher every night; he sweeps, he mops, he washes windows.  He hates his high chair because he wants to sit at the table (and does) like the rest of us.  It is so freaking adorable to watch him emulate us.  Last Sunday at church, he didn't want to sit on my lap.  He didn't want to sit on MacGyver's lap.  He picked up a Hymnal, climbed up in a chair in front of me, opened up the Hymnal, and proceeded to intently listen to the welcome and annoucements.  He sat quietly like this for a number of minutes - quite the feat for my wild 19 month old monkey.

      It was so freaking cute that I suspect he is the only person in the whole congregation who actually listened to the announcements because everyone else was gushing over him.  My little man.
       He also loves to work in the gardens.  His favorite thing in the world (next to chasing the chickens) is to go out to the garden and pick peas pods and stuff them into his mouth:

No, he did not touch the scissors. 
       I can't believe his transformation from baby to little boy.  It is amazing.  Every day it takes my breath away.

      I can't wait to have another.  We planned to right after my surgery, which was supposed to take place at the end of April.  I was SO mad when it got pushed forward a couple months.  Now my surgery will be some time later this summer.  Which makes me question whether I will be too close to getting out of the Marines and changing careers to have another baby.  I am so frustrated.  I have permanent baby fever.  I know there's no perfect time, but I also know that some times are not right for having a baby, and while discrimination based on pregnancy is illegal, showing up for job interviews looking like a full tin of Jiffy Pop probably isn't wise.

      We shall see.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE: Marriage
      MacGyver and I have always had a happy marriage.  I suppose that kind of goes without saying.  But for some reason for the last few months we have been over the top, delirously happy.  I don't know what it is.  I thought we were happy before, and now suddenly it's as though our happiness has tripled.  I don't know what it is, but I like it.

      And it has gotten me thinking about our 5 year celebration (not that I haven't been thinking about it pretty much always since our wedding ;-)).  We have wanted for a long time to do a big Re-wedding sort of thing for our 5 year anniversary, which is next summer - you know right around when we move and stuff, ha.

      There is a long backstory about our first wedding being financially strapped and rained out and all sorts of stuff, but since I don't have the pictures handy, I'll save it for a different post.  There are a few short videos from the day here - including when the rain started (seconds before I was supposed to walk out - a funny video if you listen to Boo in the background, and one of the ceremony complete with LOUD rain).

      Anyway, MacGyver and I have decided (shockingly) to do a sustainability themed Anniversary Party.  Originally, it was going to be a whole re-wedding event, but I now think an anniversary party is more appropriate.  We will still do a little ceremonial bit, a vow renewal and a handfasting since we didn't handfast at the first ceremony.  I'm still going to wear my dress.  There will still be cake.  But it will be an anniversary party with a sustainability theme.  And over the next year you can expect to see 6,500 pins on Pinterest to that effect. 

      Right now, I'm just restraining myself from sending out the first planning emails until after our fourth anniversary this August.

ON A BLOGGING NOTE
      There is so much I need to do for this little blog.  I really want to give it a complete makeover.  I need to make a new header sort of like the one I had for Cheap Wine and Cookies.  I need to make a new button.  I need to make a half way decent watermark for my pics.

       I have niether the time, talent, nor inclination to do any of it, though.  If you know anyone who might want to mess around with my little blog for free (or for , say, a batch of humane spinach brownies or something), hook me up. 

      I have big plans for this little blog, but they are way at the bottom of my super long list right now.

Have a Sustainable, Ethical Weekend!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Every Last Drop

      One of the big focuses in our home for the last couple years has been on reducing the amount of waste (namely trash) we produce.  We've always been avid recyclers, but even that system has it's issues, so we also try to buy products with little or no packaging or reusable packaging, and use re-usable bags, cups, dishes, water bottles, etc instead of disposable.  We've also come up with a variety of uses for our organic matter waste (read: kitchen scraps), of which we have quite a lot since we eat tons of veggies.

      We get every last drop of nutrients and use out of every thing.  We compost, we regrow, we feed it to the chickens (which is actually part of the composting process, but that's a different post), and now, we make broth:

       I read about this recently on another blog (was it yours?  I tried to link to the post, but it failed, let me know and I'll happily credit you) and it was one of those forehead smacking moments.  I figured it had to be pretty easy to make your own broth, and as it turned out, there was just one minor, super obvious step I was missing.

      This is a great way to get even more nutrition and added value out of your veggies, and it can even speed your composting along a little.  Plus, if you use even half as much veggie broth as we do, it's a huge money saver.

      The first step (the obvious step that somehow just never occurred to me) is to freeze all your random veggie odds and ends.  Everything that gets piled up beside the cutting board when you're making dinner (except anything you're going to regrow) - mushroom stumps, carrot greens, onion peels, veggie ends, herb twigs - pretty much anything, even if it's a little dirty - it's going to get boiled and strained anyway.  Um, but not fruit.  Unless you want fruity broth.  Which would be interesting ...  Hmmm... 

       You just keep adding stuff to the freezer container(s) until you have roughly enough to loosely fill your crockpot or whatever pot you want to make the broth in.

       Then, when you have a spare 5 minutes (seriously, it takes no time at all), you just toss it all into the slowcooker with as much water as you can fit, leaving a little room for it all to simmer.  Add a touch of salt (you really don't need much, but a little will help the simmering and flavor-releasing process), and turn it on high overnight (all day, 6-8 hours, whatever works for you and your slowcooker).


       This can also be done by boiling everything in a pot on the stove, you'll just have to watch it a little closer.

       The next day (or after whatever time period you've settled on), you simply strain and squeeze.  I put a cheesecloth "sock" over the top of this bowl, dumped the whole crockpot in, then lifted out the sock and squeezed out every last drop of goodness.

If you ask me, that is one tasty looking shade of brown.

       And when it's all strained, pour it into some handy re-used jars and freeze or refridgerate, depending on when you intend to use it.
      I got two and a half full jars of broth to freeze, plus a cup or two I used immediately, from one crockpot of veggie leftovers.  So I basically made more broth than I would typically get in one $3 - $4.00 container of broth at the store for FREE, and I got more use out of the veggies we had grown/purchased, AND I still got to compost the leftovers after making the broth!  With almost no time or effort at all.  Rock.

       One last word of advice:  watch out for sand.  I throw everything into my freezer container, like I said, including parts that might be a little dirty like mushroom stumps.  This isn't a problem since everything gets boiled, but remember when you're pouring the broth into jars to do so slowly so that any sediment remains settled at the bottom and doesn't go into your jars.

      And an additional effortless tip for eating more ethically:  Switching out veggie broth for meat broths is imperceptible in most recipes but is lower fat, lower sodium, higher nutrition, and is one less dime in the pocket of the sick, inhumane factory farms.

      If you want to get really fancy with it, you can also be more specific about the veggies you use for this - for instance, you could make an amazing all-mushroom broth.

      Please let me know if you try this!
     

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Easy Switch

      One of my biggest goals with this blog, something I tried with Cheap Wine and Cookies but didn't really pull off, is to present a lot of small steps to a more sustainable, healthy lifestyle.  While the transitions that we have made in our home may sometimes seem large and sweeping, and while our goals are ultimately not those of the mainstream, every little change in every single life helps.  And most of the changes we have made have been done is small steps.  So I will try, as often as possible, to offer strategies and tips for small steps that anyone can take to move themselves toward a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

       The step I'm posting today is one I've posted about before.  It's so simple and small, that people don't think much of it, but the impact can be truly huge.  This simple little step is to switch the meat out of your meals - especially if you get your meat straight from the grocery store. 

      NOW, before you give me that glazed over look - this is NOT just another vegetarian rant.  YES, I feel very strongly about both the disgusting treatment of meat animals in our culture as well as the sickening health effects of the amounts of meat our culture consumes and the crap that's in it, but that's not the point of this post.  If you want a little more information on the meat issue, please look here, here, and here.

       There are a million reasons to substitute meat out of a meal once in a while - from the Ethical issues listed above, to cost, to just needing a change of pace.  Over the last year or so, I've become pretty adept at switching out meat in various ways (and I'm not talking about just replacing it with fake meat, though if I'm feeling time pressed, that works, too).  Today, I want to share a very simple, cost effective, easy, and cheap way to sub meat:

      Flavored Chickpeas!


      The beauty of this idea is in it's versatility.  To be cliche' about it - the possibilities are endless.

      You start with chickpeas - lately we've been making the switch to dried beans of all kinds to avoid the chemicals and waste issues associated with cans, but canned chickpeas, which are much easier to find, work fine).  Either soak and prep dried or open, drain, and rinse the canned peas.

     Then you just toss them in the sausepan with a bit of watever flavor you want - see more on this in the recipe below.  The other night, we had BBQ chickpea salads instead of having BBQ chicken salad.

      To make the BBQ chickpeas, I just put the chickpeas, about 1/4 cup BBQ sauce (one with no high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils), and about 1/4 cup of pineapple juice to the pan and mixed it all around.  I could just as easily used water or broth to thin the sauce, but I was in a pineapple kinda mood.

     Either way, you're going to want whatever you're using as a marinade to have a consistancy thinner than BBQ sauce but thicker than water (ideally - really, you can do whatever you want).

      Then I just simmered the chickpeas in the sauce, stirring occassionally, until the sauce had reduced, thickened, and been mostly absorbed by and coated the chickpeas. 



      In the meantime, I prepped the salad from the plentiful greens out of our back garden.  Soooo pretty.

      Then I just scooped the chickpeas onto the salads and BAM:

 

      Beautiful and super delicious meal.  Healthier, easier, cheaper, and more humane than meat. 

      MacGyver had to kick his up a notch by making his own dressing, sauteeing some pineapple in a little BBQ sauce and juice.  MacGyver likes to one up me.


      Other sauce ideas for the chickpeas:

Mexican
      They make an AWESOME addition to tacos, burritoes, and the like.  Just simmer them in taco seasoning (cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, pepper, cayenne pepper, optional salt, and maybe a bit of cilantro or oregano) like you would taco meat.  OR simmer them in salsa.  OR simmer them in both!  So easy and delicious!  I've made these a few times.

Curry
      Whatever your favorite curry sauce is, whether it comes in a jar or whether you make it from scratch, simmer the chickpeas in that for an amazing curry dish.  Sooo good.  Better than tofu, in my opinion.  You can also make the sause yourself with curry powerder or paste and coconut milk or water.

Dessert
      Ok, so this one isn't a meat replacement, but it's super yummy.  Sautee up the chickpeas with some apples, cinnamon, allspice and/or nutmeg, molasses and/or brown sugar, and some vegan butter (recently we've been using Smart Balance) for a super yummy dessert that's more nutritious and less fattening dessert.  AMAZING over vanilla gelato or HUMANE ice cream like Organic Valley.

Teryaki
      Simmer in thinned out teryaki sauce, use in stir frys, wraps, or salads.

Italian Herbs
      Choice italian herbs (rosemary, oregano, garlic, whatever you want), in some water, simmer, yummy.  You can also make nomeat balls out of these!

The possibilities go on and on.  Any ideas you can offer that I haven't thought of here?

For more recipes like this one, please check out my Recipes page!

Warpath

     I started drafting two really great posts today [ahem, yesterday when I wrote this] about little things you can do to implement a bit of sustainability into your life, but neither of them are finished because work - and a raging headache - got in the way.  One benefit to this:  I got a really great reminder today of just why I'm not completely ready to give up law.

      Yes, I want a sustainable farm.  Yes, I want to work fewer hours.  But I am going to keep working because I need to and because I'm good at it.  This morning, after a few hours of administrative headaches and child support cases that made me cross-eyed, I went home to have lunch with MacGyver and whine a little about how ready I am to be done with my job.

      When I got back to work, I had a client walk in with no appointment, but someone was trying to repossess his car, so I took him anyway.  I figured it would be a standard "Did you miss your payments?"  "Can you make your payments?"  "Ok, either return the car or start paying for it."  Then I call the company and do a little talking about my client's situation and ensure provisions of the Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act, or SCRA, are being observed.

     Turns out this was something of an error on the part of my client who thought autopay was happening but it wasn't.  Did my client fail to diligently track his finances?  Probably.  But he wasn't a 19 year old who bought a $30,000 sports car he couldn't afford and thought the Marine Corps would protect him from having to pay for it (I've had that client, too).

      I called the company to figure things out.  And the fun began.  I won't say what the company was, but I will say that it is a major corporation - we're talking multi-billion dollar entity.  You have heard of this company.  It would be like me saying I had this conversation with Nike.

      So I called.  There were two topics I needed to address:  First, getting my client's account paid up to date and fixing the autopay fiasco.  Second was making sure the provisions of the SCRA were being observed by this Corp, because I suspected they were not.  And I was right.

      In a speakerphone conference, with my client present the whole time, we spoke to a customer service rep and established my client's willingness and ability to pay.  She then transfered us the person responsible for the repossession order.  We again established my client's willingness and ability to pay, explaining the misunderstanding.  Then I told her that to ensure that the provisions of the SCRA were being adhered to, I would like a copy of the court order enabling the reposession. 

      Then a little bit of hell broke loose. 

      She said the SCRA didn't apply.  I told her, extremely politely (because, believe it or not, I am all sugar on the phone with these people - at least in the beginning), that she was mistaken.  I knew where the error was coming from; I've run into it with countless entities and individuals.  The SCRA has been updated quite a bit in the last few years, and yet most businesses and people are only aware of one or two provisions - and those are usually the older provisions.

      This woman was hung up on § 527.  She kept insisting that the SCRA didn't apply because of random factors that only have to do with § 527.  Granted, she had no idea what section she was talking about - I'm pretty sure she wouldn't be able to figure out what she was talking about if I printed out the statue and handed her a highlighted copy with commentary.  The problem was that this corporation was blatantly violating § 537 of the SCRA.

      But this woman wasn't having any of it.  I am a military attorney.  She is a customer service rep.  Not to be too self agrandizing, but I'm pretty damn sure I know this law better than she does.  Actually, I'm 100% sure after talking to her for about 3 minutes.

      Meanwhile, the enlisted Marine in my office is loosing his mind listening to this woman be blatantly, outrageously rude to me.  In the Marine Corps, very few people would ever be rude to a Captain.  At least, they never have been to me.  There is some respect that is just expected.  So this woman's attitude and disrespect were making him crazy.

       I stated, calmly, that I felt she was mistaken and I would like to speak to the legal department.  And she said "no."  Just straight up refused.  I asked her to confirm that she was actually refusing to transfer my client to the legal department, at which point she told me there wasn't one.

       I could have laughed out loud if I weren't so ready to reach through the phone and throttle her.

      I remained calm (maddeningly calm, given how crazy worked up the customer service rep became).  I explained the law to her.  Again.  I asked to be transfered to someone who might be able to speak about the policies of the Corporation.  She refused more.  She became increasingly biligerant.  At one point she said, "This call is NOT going any further than me, and I'm not going to talk to you."

      But she knew she couldn't hang up on me, and she eventually figured out that I wasn't backing down, and that she was getting herself into deeper trouble by the minute.

      She transfered me.  Within minutes, a message was taken to be given to the Vice President of the company who was apparently unavailable at the time.  I expect a call back from that Corp's legal team today.  And if they don't call?  They are screwed.  The are clearly operating outside of Federal law, and they have clearly been caught.

      Oh, and did I mention that the too-big-for-her-britches customer service rep also refused to tell my client what address was on file for him with the company?  As did the rep she transfered us to after she spoke with her.  There's a lot more to that, and I'll just say FISHY.

      What makes the whole thing even crazier is that I just wanted to make the Corp aware of the law because it is aparent they were not.  I wasn't trying to get any special treatment for my client.  It was a valid debt, and I told him he had to pay it.  He even made payment arrangements on the phone.  This woman was that crazy worked up because I wanted to inform the legal department that they were violating federal law so they could fix themselves BEFORE they get tied up in a law suit like United States v. B.C. Enterprises, Inc. ("Aristocrat") that was just handed down by the Eastern District of Virginia.







      In the end, I won.  And the letters going out today are going to make that willfully ignorant and unhelpful woman's life rather unhappy - if only for a day or two.  And if I don't hear back from the big Corp?  I've already made arrangements for the case to be heard by the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board - meaning they could be blacklisted by the military.  I also know of a few civilian attornies who would be more than happy to take this Corp to court.  After all, the U.S. v B. C. Enterprises case pulled a nice $75,000.00 sum.  I'm pretty sure the next one will be bigger.

      After finishing up with the client, I walked out into the lobby.  I realized that even though I was upset with the company, my headache was gone and I felt like I had really done something today.  THIS is why I love consumer law and public interest law.  I love the win for the little guy. 

      I also enjoyed retelling the phone conversation to the Jr. attorney I'm mentoring right now.  I had him rolling with the ridiculousness of the situation.  Who knew I could do such a bang up impression of a southern ghetto ignorant [woman]?

      So yes, I want the sustainable farm and that is our mission.  But no, I am not leaving the law.  And this is why.
Because I can't resist a meme with no rules!  Stop by and see Shawn and IA.

Stacy

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Dream

      For a little background on this, please check out Cheap Wine and Cookies, my former blog.  Over there you'll find details on the three years that brought us to this point.

       In about a year, I expect to leave the Marine Corps.  We will be moving.  These things are both moderately certain.  Everything else is a little up in the air:

Ideally:
       We want to (probably) sell the house we have now, and purchase a piece of property with some more acrage to it.  Right now we're looking at anything from 3 - 150 acres.  We're looking for something with some forest and some open area for gardening and pasturing livestock.  We want something with a body of water on it - be it a stream, river, lake, or pond. 

       I'd like it to already have a home and maybe even an outbuilding or two on it that we can improve on.  MacGyver is all about building a fully sustainable earth home from the ground up.  We'll see.

      Our intention is to start out trying to grow enough food to support our family.  Once we know what we're doing, we want to turn the whole operation into a teaching farm.  I might also market my teas.  MacGyver might also expand on his green home consulting.  But the main goal is to have our own little humane, chemical free, self sufficient haven.

      Am I quitting my job?  Are we going off grid?  No and No.  Not yet, at least.  While a major part of leaving the Marines is to be able to spend more time at home with my children and to devote more time to causes I care about, I still love being a lawyer, and I still think that I have a lot of potential to help people that way.  Plus, if I'm not forced to leave the house, I can get a little hermit-y ;-)

       I'm looking for jobs all over.  I'm looking mainly for work with various non-profits or with the government.  I'm also considering becoming a college professor for a state funded school.  Perhaps I'll have the opportunity to do both.

      Where I find a job will ultimately determine a lot about our dream.  We want to move back to within 10 hours (read: a one day - or night - drive) of my parents.  This might not happen.  We'll see.  I'm looking all over and will have to do some weighing of a lot of factors when it comes to jobs.  Or not.  If, you know, I only get one job offer.  Or none.  Then it's three more years in cammies.

      At least once a week, MacGyver and I sit together with our tea while the kids and dogs wreak utter chaos all around us and discuss the latest in green technology, green homes, and Ethical Eating.  We talk about all the things we can't wait to do and how we're going to make it work.  We discuss livestock and gardening, cooking and preserving, the where and the how.  We talk about making a difference here before we leave.  Mostly, we dream.

      It may not all happen.  Heck, maybe most of it won't happen.  That remains to be seen.  But today, it's our dream, and starting now, we're pursuing it.

      Join us, won't you?