East of Weedin'

Just another AreaVoices site

   Jan 23

Waste not

For Christmas I received a tumbling composter. While I have a pile at home for yard waste, I’m terrible about bringing kitchen waste down there. So I asked for something small I can put on my deck.

I’m pretty stoked to put it into use; however, it’s presently frozen to the garage floor. We had one warm day and the water from the under carriages of our vehicles melted and froze the box and part of the contraption to the floor. I’m really hoping we get another warm day here soon so I can get it out of there.

Nonetheless, I hope the composter will help our family reduce our landfill bound output. After writing a story on a high school that changed it’s refuse practices, I’ve been set on the idea. We eat a lot of fruits and vegetables so I think it should have an impact.

I just have to get everyone in my house on board, which will be the harder task. I think my husband will be the hardest to convince because he generally wants to do the simplest task available. Even with the composter on the deck, I have a feeling getting him to open the door will take some convincing. (He’ll read that as nagging)

Writing about composting makes me a bit blue as spring is still a ways off. Winter takes too long.

To occupy my mind, I’ve been reading as much as time allows. My in-laws gave me the Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore. I love Moore’s humor and he really is a true word smith. Serpent of Venice has been a fun, quick read and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a bit of bawdy humor.


   Dec 04

Books, books, books

Minnesota Public Radio’s Daily Circuit recently held a show dedicated to books. It was a fantastic hour of radio. You can listen to the conversation here.

The featured guests were Ron Charles, Book World editor for the Washington Post and Rebecca Joines Schinsky, Director of content and community for Riot New Media Group. Callers also offered up suggestions for the year’s best books throughout the show.

In listening to the show, I added at least a dozen books to my must-read list. I brought my list to the library and it would seem others may have done the same because a number of the titles I wanted to check out were gone. Still, I was able to get  Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott. In the book Abbott, a historian, shares the tales of women who served in battle and in intelligence roles during the Civil War.

Recently, I’ve been reading the Harry Potter books so it’s nice to wade into something more adult. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed reading about the wizard boy wonder but I needed something a little more mature.

In addition, I downloaded Un-Jobbing: The Adult Liberation Handbook. Recent changes in my professional life have made me reassess what my future should be.  It’s an interesting book and has provided some insight on ways to simplify.

Any titles you want to share?

   Nov 06

Ready for spring

Every fall I intend to till my garden, so that when those early warm spring days come around I can capitalize on them. However, I have never acted on my intention until this past week.

Last weekend, I spread compost over my garden and then I tilled. I also planted 100 tulip bulbs. I tell you what, I am excited for next spring.

Unfortunately, we have to live through winter first. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting an El Nino so hopefully the winter weather will be more mild than the last few have been.

In the meanwhile, I have a large stack of books I plan to tackle while the weather sucks. On my list is Malcolm Gladwell’s Goliath, World War Z by Max Brooks and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling.



   Sep 17

School lunch part 2

Our daughter started kindergarten the day after Labor Day. We sent her with a packed lunch but also put money in her account so that she could try hot lunch if she wanted to or frankly for the days that we just don’t have time to pack one.

So far, she’s been good about helping pack her own lunch in the evenings. Based on the recommendation of 100 Days of Real Food, I have her pack two veggies or fruits, a grain and then something else.

Her lunches often consist of cut up veggies such as carrots, pepper slices or broccoli. She takes a piece of fruit too. Recently she’s been on a banana kick.

As for the grain part, she’s brought peanut butter sandwiches, popcorn, homemade muffins and whole wheat crackers. This past weekend, I purchased a Thermos that will fit in her lunch bag so she can take warm food such as soup or macaroni and cheese. Lastly, she’s been taking a cheese stick or yogurt most days.

School is a brand new endeavor for her and so the first couple weeks were overwhelming for her. The first few days she didn’t eat much, so her teacher put her at the slow eaters table. Apparently every year there are a group of kindergartners who need some encouragement to get their food down in the allotted 25 minutes.

Overall, I think she’s made the transition pretty well and she seems happy bringing lunches with her. For now I think we’ll stick to it.

If you need ideas for school lunches 100 Days of Real Food is a treasure trove. She has a ton of creative ideas and the site is worth your time.

   Sep 03

A return on investment

A few years ago, I planted raspberry bushes on the south side of my garden. When I bought the bushes I asked the sales guy if four would be enough. He snorted and said I would have more raspberries than I could handle.

I thought his reaction seemed a bit haughty and unnecessary. He was right,  though. Through July the bushes produced more than a pint a day. And recently, the bushes started bearing a second round of fruit equaling the first. It’s amazing.

If I were to buy that many raspberries I would have spent hundreds of dollars. I purchased the four bushes for $17 a piece which they have returned many times over in the last couple years.

When I purchased the bushes, I didn’t really have money on my mind. Raspberries bushes just seemed like a fun addition to my garden. With three little berry eating machines, though, the bushes have saved us a lot of money.

We mostly eat them raw but with this second batch I plan to make some freezer jam. We go through a lot of jelly in our house so it seems like the thing to do.

An All Recipes devotee, I plan to follow these Freezer Jam instructions. Eat well, friends!



   Aug 21

Lunch battles

My husband and I are having trouble deciding how to feed our daughter at school. He thinks we should make her eat school lunch and I think we should pack her lunch.

His argument is that having her eat school prepared meals will force her to try new foods. He thinks the peer pressure of other students will encourage her to eat whatever they are serving that day.

My arguments is she won’t eat all day, will waste food and come home ravenous. She’s stubborn and skipping a meal doesn’t faze her.

I wouldn’t describe my daughter as a picky eater. She eats a wide variety of foods and can usually be talked into trying new things. However, she doesn’t care for pizza or sandwiches, two of the lunch menu mainstays.

I also think we have the opportunity to teach her some responsibility here. She’s old enough to help pack her own lunch. I think we could make a nightly routine out of it and make her an active participant in feeding herself.

My husband  thinks I’ve lost my damned mind and we will end up having to do it.

Lastly, as I’ve stated in my previous post, starting school will be a big change for her, and I think food she’s familiar with will help provide some comfort during the day.

What do your kids eat at lunch? Let me know your thoughts.


   Aug 13

Starting fresh

I want to apologize for the hiatus from this site. Transitioning to being a family of five turned out to be more than I anticipated and a blog was one more thing on a long list. However, I do want to continue with it and will be more consistent from here on out.

This summer has gone by in the blink of an eye. We’ve done our best to make it a great summer. Our days have been filled with swimming, sun, t-ball, frogs, gardens and more. Not to sound corny but it’s really been a storybook summer for us.It seems like it just started, though, and now it’s nearly over.

I am really not ready for August to end. My oldest will enter kindergarten the day after Labor Day and the thought brings a lump to my throat.

We’ve been fortunate in that we didn’t have to put our children in daycare. We’ve had her home and gotten to witness every milestone, discovery and learning moment.

Frankly, it’s hard to let that go. While of course we will still be there, it won’t be quite the same. She’ll be part of a world, that we are not. The day she walks through those doors, we will say goodbye to the first five years of her life and hello to a whole different world.

That’s the reality of being a parent and I’m excited for all the opportunities that are about to open up to her, but; it’s still difficult.

To get us ready, her mentally and me emotionally, we checked out a few books about going to kindergarten from the library. Most of them are kind of silly but reading about kindergarten has stoked her excitement which calms my fears.

The two books we have most enjoyed are Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come by Nancy Carlson and The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.



   Sep 27

Eating during a time of chaos

Since our baby was born in June, our diets have not been all that great. Managing three kids is different than two, especially when one of them is pretty demanding. Nearly four months out though, I’ve decided as a family we needed to get back on track. So yesterday our dinner came entirely from the farmer’s market.

There is some junk at the market but most of the products are healthy. I bought apples, carrots, brussel sprouts, red bell peppers and a couple of grass-fed sirloin steaks. As suppers go it was an easy one. I threw some olive oil and salt and pepper on the brussel sprouts and roasted them. My husband grilled the steaks and I  put out sliced peppers as a pre-dinner snack. Everyone ate without complaint. It was awesome.

With all the chaos of having a new baby, we had started eating more packaged food, thinking that it was the easier route. But last night’s meal was just as simple and a whole lot more healthful. Going forward I need to remind myself that healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact my kids seem prefer the simple.

Speaking of simple, I have a ton of tomatoes and I was looking for a new way to use them. I ran across a recipe for a tomato and mozzarella quesadillas. I simply threw some mozzerella on a tortilla with some sliced tomatoes and a little basil and grilled it. It was pretty tasty.


   Sep 12

A snake, a frog and a hysterical dog

I came home to quite the scene on Monday afternoon. My dog, Molly, was barking and  jutting back and forth at something in the grass. Despite the fact that my hands were full, I decided to see what she was harassing. I wasn’t prepared for what I came upon. Just around the corner of our house was a snake, with the bottom half of a frog sticking out of its mouth.

I hate snakes so seeing it immediately gave me the creeps. Molly kept lunging at the snake. Amazingly the snake would lunge back freaking out the dog and myself. I started shrieking. I’m not sure why but it was a lot to take in.

My husband, who didn’t realize I had arrived home, came charging out of the house thinking I was being killed or something. It took him a moment to take in what was going on. Seeing their opportunity to escape the house, my four-year-old and three-year old ran out of the  house to join the chaotic scene.

We all stood in the yard for a moment watching the poor snake try to defend itself. Then we offered suggestions on what to do. My son wanted to pick up the snake and take it in the house. His suggestion was quickly vetoed. My daughter wanted to hit it with a stick. I thought that a more reasonable suggestion but not necessary.

In the end we decided it would be better to put the dog inside and leave it alone. A little calmer, I saw a teaching moment in the whole thing so we watched as the snake enveloped the rest of the frog. It was interesting to see the frog’s body disappeared into the snakes mouth. And then to watch the frog shaped lump move down the snake’s body.

Both my kids have told the story of the frog/snake fiasco to everyone we’ve come in contact with over the last few days. While it still gives me shivers thinking about it, I’m sort of glad it happened.

With all that being said, I owe my readers an apology. With the new baby, this summer got away from me. My garden consisted of onions, lettuce and tomatoes. At least it was something. A few weeks ago I tried tabbouleh and fell in love. Traditionally the dish is made with wheat bulgur but I’ve been making it with quinoa. Enjoy.


1 cup cooked quinoa

3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 cucumbers

3 Green onions, chopped

Three garlic cloves minced

1 cup fresh parsley

1/3 cup fresh mint leaves

½ cup lemon juice

4 tablespoons olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together and then refrigerate for at least two hours. Toss again before serving.  Serve with pita bread.


   Jun 06

Slow but getting there

A cold wet spring and being nine months pregnant have taken their toll on my gardening progress. However, slowly and with some help things are starting to take shape.

The raspberry bushes I planted last year look great. My daughter asks every day when we’ll have berries and I have to tell her to be patient. Patience isn’t something she’s embracing though. We’ve also gotten cabbage, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots and peas in the ground.  If there is a dry day this weekend, I plan to plant zuchinni, summer squash, pumpkins and peppers as well.

When we’ve had the chance to get into the garden, it’s been a lot of fun. The kids are a lot more aware this year and have enjoyed helping. My kids are 3 and 4.  I have to remind my 3-year-old not to step on the plants but even he seems to understand that the little sprouts will produce food for us.

I guess I have PBS to thank for that. Several of the shows my kids watch have gardening episodes that have aired recently. Both kids have been more willing to try different vegetables because of a song Daniel Tiger sings. I’m not sure how long the trend will last but for right now I’m grateful and taking advantage.

The kids have also really enjoyed digging up worms and checking out various insects and beetles.  The bathwater is muddy at the end of some of our days but hopefully they’ve learned a thing or two from our adventures. I’m thankful that my kids and I can share this.

Baby #3 is due today. I’m really hoping he comes soon. In anticipation of his arrival and because I have copious amounts of mint, I decided to share a Mojito recipe from the Food Network website. As soon as I can I plan to enjoy one, I hope you will too!

Mojito recipe

6 ounces light rum
12 mint sprigs, or spearmint, 8 roughly broken apart
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons sugar
Club soda
4 slices lime
Place ice in beverage shaker then add in the rum, 8 broken up mint sprigs, lime juice and sugar. Shake well and serve over ice in a high ball glass. Top off each glass with a splash of club soda.

Garnish each with a slice of lime and a sprig of mint.