Pumpkin Bread, heck yeah!

Today Mr Tristan and I made pumpkin bread.  We picked this recipe at random and then doctored it up.  We used lard instead of shortening to protect our families against partially hydrogenated oils (ugghh). Plus lard, believe it or not, has some positive health benefits such as a high vitamin D content.  Also we omitted the nuts and replaced them with…chocolate chips!! I didn’t even know you could do that. When Tristan suggested it I was like YES obviously pumpkin bread needs some chocolate chips to make it even more delicious! Also we used fresh pumpkin, baked in the oven, then pureed with fresh raw ginger.  The ginger was subtle  but added some extra spice. This is our first attempt at locating and perfecting the chosen pumpkin bread recipe. For those of you who don’t know me personally, I am on a serious quest to collect an arsenal of recipes to represent important baked goods categories before Oly gets to a certain expectant age, such as sugar cookies, banana bread and the like. Which reminds me, I have recently filled the chocolate chip cookie spot. I will share the winning recipe soon when I make them again and photo document the process. Anyways regarding the pumpkin bread: it has a wonderfully moist texture, but the flavor is not what I’m going for. Don’t get me wrong it was awesome, the pumpkin, chocolate and ginger works well together. But I’m looking for a dark spicy heavy pumpkin bread that you can literally wring oily pumpkin sauce out of when squeezed.  This was  lighter in flavor and color.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

This soup is soo delicious. This recipe comes from Mediterranean: Food of the Sun, a book by Jacqueline Clark and Joanna Farrow.

I used lots of  fresh ginger in my version and, true to form, I upped the garlic to four cloves. This will be the perfect thing to make when one of us gets sick.  Also I served my soup with a spoon of honey because mine was so gingery it was bitter. A little sweet and it was perfect.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup (serves 4)
2-pound pumpkin, peeled and seeds removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 3/4 cups vegetable stock
freshly ground black pepper
cilantro leaves, to garnish
4 tablespoons plain yogurt, to serve

1. Cut the peeled pumpkin into chunks.  Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the sliced leeks and garlic.  Cook gently over low heat until the vegetables are softened.
2.  Stir in the ginger and cumin and cook, stirring, for another minute.  Add the pumpkin and the vegetable stock and season with freshly ground black pepper.
3.  Bring the soup to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender.
Process in batches, if necessary, in a blender or food processor.
4.  Warm the soup through again, being careful not to bring to a boiling point, and serve in warmed individual bowls, with a swirl of yogurt.  Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Carmen’s eliminate foods one at a time until I feel better diet:

First food: alcohol. While not technically a food, I feel it needs to be the first to go when you are doing anything healing for the body. So there it goes… Actually I have been somewhat of a wino the last few weeks due to the stress of waiting for our loan to go through. There have been a number of hiccups with that process, meanwhile our notice to move out of our rental is official so if this falls through we are basically homeless. I justify drinking a glass or three of wine after the kiddo goes to sleep with the fact that I have not resumed smoking, in fact I’m far from it.

Ode to Metro

Will and Oly party at the aquarium

Will and Oly party at the aquarium

The bus has been many things to me over the years. From a young girl for whom the school bus meant an eight mile trek, mostly up hill. This would have been fine but I was ALWAYS late causing me to have to run the entire way. As a teenager the city bus offered a kind of freedom, though I only ever made it as far as the mall. Recently I started riding the bus to work to save money on gas and to avoid the inevitable tickets that accompany downtown parking. Plus bus fare is less than four bucks round trip versus the $18.75 you would pay for street parking. That alone would be worth the sacrifice of riding the bus; leaving my house a lot earlier and having a slightly longer ride home. The truth is, I just keep thinking how NICE this is. Sure I still run around like a crazy person to get ready in the morning, but once I am on that bus I just…Relax! Usually I have a book and a warm mug of coffee, and if not I just get to spend twenty minutes alone with my thoughts, a rare event in the life of the mom working or not. And I’m always on time! Planning my trip is easy. Metro transit has a fantastic website that plans your trip. All you do is enter your address and when you want to leave or arrive and it’ll find the best route and time. If your address isn’t recognized, try the nearest cross streets.

Also kids love the bus. Maybe not for everyday and probably not for going to school, but riding the city bus for a kid is a total adventure. Especially for boys, I mean, you know its just a big TRUCK right? So next time you’re heading to the zoo or to a game, try the trip planner

Fun and Good Service to the Environment.

A wonderful thing happened today. I was brainstorming ideas that I would like share to with the Verity Moms of Seattle when I remembered one of my favorite books. “The Green Parent”, published by a local eco conscious company called Kedzie Press, is a veritable encyclopedia of ideas and tricks to green living. It’s information is straightforward and well organized, making it a very efficient handbook. Though maybe the best part is that this book teaches you ways to get your kids involved in green living.  Included in “The Green Parent” are interviews with various parents and community members who share how they are trying to live green on a budget. Also the author candidly reveals where to save money and where to spend it for greater impact and long term savings. Many of the ideas are commonplace like turning lights off and tips for recycling, but I also learned a lot of new concepts, like using white vinegar to kill weeds and as fabric softener.  In fact I like to use white vinegar to clean my whole house. I get a huge jug of vinegar and mix it with water to clean the floors the walls the sinks and cabinets. My gallon jug lasts forever. I reserve a very serious bottle of anti-mildew cleaner for the corners of the shower and bathroom ceiling but everything else gets vinegared. I love that my house smells clean in an old fashioned way. I think a vigorously cleaned house with a mild cleanser can even yield a healthier immune system. If we aren’t exposed to the harmless bacterias every day then our bodies are not ready to fight off the big germs that carry colds and flu. (Of course this only applies to normal healthy immune systems) I would love to hear what my readers think on this topic. A lot of the new natural cleaners smell so wonderful and have excellent cleaning power but they tend to be very pricey. “The Green Parent” teaches you to make your own detergents and cleaners. The author is honest and tells you when to buy commercial products such as phosphate free laundry detergent. She says they are much more efficient than we can mix up at home. Anyways, the exciting news is that “The Green Parent” has a totally awesome website. They’ve expanded from the ideas in the book and now have an entire online world of fun and good service to the environment.

Oly on a plane to Chicago

Oly on a plane to Chicago

Lowering expectations: fast fingernail polish, surface cleaning, and other tricks for a higher yield of fun.

When I made my application videoIMG_0606 we shot a series of photos while I painted my nails.  I then turned the photos into a high speed sequence.  Of course I came up with this scene as a joke because what mom sits down to paint her nails before going to the store, right? Usually painting my nails includes two coats, and once upon a time I would apply a top coat but in the video I only did one for visual purposes. For a few days I had lovely painted nails and after the first few minutes, I forgot completely that they were unfinished. Well, Yesterday I was in desperate need of a pick me up. After working so hard this weekend at my job, finishing up my Verity Mom Application, and fighting a cold, I was beat. But momma doesn’t stop, so I looked for a way to get out of my funk. When it became past time to get groceries, I rallied by dressing up Oly and I. While I found us cute outfits and jewelry IT came to me. I quickly cleaned off my old polish and applied one coat of a new shade. You could totally see through it.  I knew it would only last a few days, but I felt fancy! I sashayed out to my car, cracking up the baby with my bouncing, full of new energy and insight. In the car I reflected that sometimes lowering your standards can bring unexpected results. Often it implies something negative, why bother doing something if you don’t intend to do it right? This is what kept me up ALL NIGHT before Oly’s first birthday, when unforeseen events prevented me from finishing my dozens of cupcakes on time. (However in that case I have to say it was worth it. We all need cupcakes.)

Recently I’ve found this revelation also applies to housecleaning. Before I had Oly my approach to housecleaning was to wait until the house is filthy, then clean it really well in one day. I was never very successful with cleaning as you go. In the infant stage my house was very clean, because she slept so much. As soon as those eyes closed I vacuumed and scrubbed. Enter, my toddler, who was evidently hiding inside my infant waiting to spring out as from a birthday cake. When she arrived in my life my clean house left. I didn’t understand. In the past it took weeks to dirty a house. Now mere hours could turn a pristine living room into a wasteland. Also consider we live in a 700 foot house with one bedroom. By we I mean two adults, (one 6+ feet tall) one baby, two dogs, and all of the spiders and moths in Seattle. That is until we move next month ( pause here for more jumping up and down). The point is I had to completely relearn how to clean a house. I spent a lot of time wondering how my mom kept our house so clean growing up. So back to doing things right, I’ve always thought if you don’t have time to clean all the way, wait until you do.  Now if I apply that principal, we would all end up in the hospital from tripping over everything. One great thing about a tiny house is you can clean the whole thing really fast if you don’t think too much.

Money, Money, Money For Me!

I’ve just discovered another awesome reason to join Verity Credit Union regardless of the outcome of this job searchIMG_0531-1. I have been at my current credit union for a few years now.  I just love the credit union mindset in general. Its so nice to feel like your bank is working for you rather than against you. My credit union is somewhere in the middle as far as interest rates go. Basically, Verity Credit Union is blowing them out of the water with their Cartwheel Checking at 3.05%. So there’s one great reason. Though what I am talking about is Mint.com. This is a free financial planning site that ties your accounts together and gives you countless applications to make your money work for you. It sounds like they can really streamline your financial life by making all your budgeting tools and bill paying in the same place. It simply links up any and all accounts you want it to. I learned about this site through redtricycle.com the interweb newsletter to let mom’s know about kid friendly activities around Seattle. I am fairly inexperienced with money but I have proven in recent years to be an excellent saver and a decent budgeter, and I know that just saving your pennies isn’t enough. You have to manage the money you do have and store it in banks that will give you tools to help you grow. Well my credit union does not sync up to this site and Verity does. I am super excited to try it out and see what it can do for me. Of course I have to wait until the purchase of our new house is complete in a few weeks because I am not about to give the bank any reason for delays. As soon as we’re clear of that hurdle Verity, I’m coming to you!