Greif and Remembrance...

A couple years ago I was watching a little boy over night while his parents went on a trip. After waking up completely fine, he unexpectedly and suddenly died. He was 2 1/2 years old. And although it's been years since - Andrew would be in Kindergarten now - the grief, the remembrance. It all is still fresh. To this day I hear his mother's cries. Pure sorrow to the depths of the soul. That’ll never leave me.

When I first heard of the school shooting last Friday, it hit me hard just like everyone. So little. So innocent. So excited about their day just beginning at school! Along with everyone, I’ve been grief stricken ever since. Everyone has been hurting since the news. Even family members all the way in Australia have called to see that everyone was okay here in America. They saw it on the news. They were saddened and worried too.

Life. Death. It comes to us all. But when it does, none of us knows. So we live our lives to the fullest and hold on tight to those we love, as we never know when it will be time to say good-bye. And no matter when we have to do so, it hurts. We cry. We ask why? And it’s okay to ask why. Even more okay to not like any answers you hear…

But what do we do after the sobbing subsides and our hearts start to wonder? Wonder what more can we do to help those that are in the worst pain imaginable - those who’ve lost a child. We are there with them in their grief as much as we can be. We think of them. Pray for them. Hold them close. But what more can we do?

Last night, I felt the need to do something for those little lives lost up in Connecticut. But what? I already know I can’t go back in time to fix the unexpected. The unexplainable. The unimaginable…

I told my children last night that we’d do something as a family to help remember. And it helped them feel some control. Some relief. They’ve practiced “lock down” drills at school this week and have heard varied reports from classmates on what happened at that school in Connecticut. They’re scared and worried too. Although, I COULD NOT bribe them with anything the Monday after to keep them home. They wanted to go to school. See their friends. See their teachers. So I let them go. And cried buckets after they were inside, as I’m sure so many others were.

Nothing like this will ever make sense. Nothing we can do will ever be able to undo it. Nothing can take away the pain from the loss their families and friends feel.

But there is something that we can do. I had an idea last night and was excited to be able to do something in remembrance of those little lives and the adults who died trying to save them. But the more I thought about it, I didn’t want to keep it to myself. What if others want to do something to help too?

So I wrote a poem that I’ll post soon. I hope that by doing this – 20 Little Luminaries – it’ll help ease some of our grief and aid in the remembrance of those who were lost.

I'm a Liar and a Theif... True Confessions of a Half A** Blogger

I’ll admit it! I stink at blogging now. I really do. I used to have a following – most of my regular readers located in New Zealand for some reason – but I was consistent! I posted every week…and had something worthwhile to share!

But now…

Do you know what I was doing for the past fifteen minutes? I was reading through old posts that I could pass as new posts. You know how it’s done (if you’re a half-ass blogger like me). You just change the publication date and boom! You have a new post (that you honestly wrote 3 years ago, but who’s asking?...)

I don’t know how it happened…no, scratch that. I do know how it happened. I started getting too intense with my novel. Don’t get me wrong – that’s good, even great! Seeing that I’d like to publish it and move on to my next project at some point in my life (soon), setting aside time for serious writing is important. Necessary!

But what about the blog? The blog that I set up and posted to with such love and determination? What happened to needing to “write every day” so that I could work on my craft of writing?

Well…maybe… it did just that. Maybe it did for my writing what I set it out to do: it gave me a medium to write daily and work on my craft.

Of course, writing a blog is totally different than writing a novel. The same type of writing style doesn’t work for both. However, just the act of writing is exactly what you need to practice to be a good writer, no matter what medium you’re after.

So, what do I do about my half-assedness now?... Do I ditch my blog? …ouch, that hurts. I don’t want to ditch it. I actually love looking back and seeing how my writing has progressed (regressed) and progressed again. I love the posts I’ve written. Some readers have even enjoyed reading them, which is a huge boost to a closet writer.

Readers. Writing. Blogging. Novels. I do paint (have owned and operated a decorative painting business at one time)… And dance (was on my way to Broadway a while back)… and cook (although, don’t listen to what the fire department says about that)…

But words….

How they flow on a page – or a screen. Now that’s the life for me. Heck, my favorite pal is a Thesaurus!

So I guess that answers my question. I’ll just have to continue on blogging. Even if only in a limited capacity since, I’m still trying like the dickens to get my novel edited! I have my first 25 pages solidified, so that’s one step in the right way. Have to rewrite my ending, so that’s two steps back… but all in good time.

Nothing worthwhile is ever quick, easy, or to the point.


Food Snobbery on a Budget...

this post also appears at "Cooking Green with Lia Jean"

Hi, my name is Lia Jean Green bean-eating-machine Mack, and I'm a food snob.

I blame my parents for having us live in Italy for three years while I was growing up. Every Friday morning, the town we lived in held an open air market - mercato - where you could purchase anything and everything fresh.

Fresh fish from the sea, fresh artichokes picked that morning, homemade pastas that took two seconds to cook...and eat ;) Oh, and let's not forget the cheese wagon. Every Wednesday at the same exact time, a man pulling a cart of cheese wheeled down our street singing, "formaggio... mozzarelli... provelone..."

Now that's a real cheese wagon :)

So I got mega used to eating whole fresh foods...and fell in LOVE! There is no beating the taste of a ripe red tomato mixed with fresh basil, straight from the garden. I think that's why everything tastes so much better in Italy. Everything is fresh and local. So what if I couldn't drink the water or that the heat and electricity went off daily at 3pm because someone had to go home for siesta. I was in food heaven!!!

And then we moved back to the States - God love America - where there is a grocery store open daily on almost every corner. Only thing, most of the food available here comes in a box. Or a plastic bag. Or worse! And it's not fresh. It's not even local!

Oh, the horror!!!

Well, fast forward to 2010. I'm married to super conservation man and together we are raising two amazing little greenies. I've been a stay at home mom for six years and have not one thing in my life to complain about. Nothing, that is, except my food budget. It's tight. Living on one income in a very expensive part of the country and being able to buy good whole food that is fresh, organic, and local is difficult to say the least. But it's doable. And for a while there I was doing pretty good.

For the last two years, however, I've been feeling the pinch. Food prices continue to rise, utilities are still going up, and summer is coming, which can only mean one more thing will be getting more expensive. Gas. Just in time for everyone to want to get out and have fun after being frozen all winter. So nice of them...

Yet, I still want to be able to feed my family well, but wanting to buy and eat only organic, local, fresh foods can be quite costly. I know of one local mom who spent over 15K last year in food alone because they ONLY eat local, organic, fresh meats, cheeses, fruit, vegs, ect.... That's a lot of money.

Of course I could easily manage to buy all sorts of shit food (pardon my language) with my food budget. I could feed my family from the box and dollar menu and have money left over! But I'm a food snob, remember? I cannot eat that stuff. Ingredients I can't pronounce? Food that doesn't even look or taste anything like food? Packaged, frozen, processed, freeze dried disgustingness???

Oh no. Not me, baby. Not after eating REAL food. It's just not possible.

Plus, I don't want my kids eating shit - crap - either. We are what we eat. When we eat crap, we feel like crap and therefore act like crap. And I'm not interested in taking care of kids who act up all the time and get sick all the time because they are being fed crappy food.

So, having very little wiggle room in the budget, but wanting only the best (what mom doesn't?), I've learned how to get most everything we need (aka: I want) on the budget we have. It's fun being a food snob. You just have to find a way to do it when you don't have endless amounts of the green stuff lying around. Below are some of the things I do to get what I want, thus enabling me to eat really yummy good for me food all the time

I don't do all my shopping in one place.
Some things at my main grocery store are too expensive, yet elsewhere they aren't. Took me a while to scout out all the good deals, but now I know that by going to three separate stores on a rotation, I can come home with a lot more of what I want for less $.

I garden.
I grow tomatoes and herbs and carrots and potatoes and all sorts of yumminess :) By doing so, I control what goes in and on my food. The kids have their own garden plots too, and we spend a good deal of time with our beloved Mother Earth to keep it going. After the cost of seeds, what we reap is free. FREE! Best price ever :)

I go to Farmer's Markets.
And stock up. What I find for good deals, I buy bunches of and freeze what we're not eating that week. Frozen blueberries, frozen green beans, frozen anything. Tastes great when picked and stored at peek season. Nothing better than pulling out veggies in the dead of winter that you bought fresh and know where they came from. Tastes great.

I buy in bulk.
When I can, I save up and buy staples in bulk. Flour, sugar, pasta, rice... This year I'm buying 1/4th of a bison and a neighbor of ours who likes to hunt is getting us a deer. Who knows how long this supply of meat will last, especially since we only eat meat two to three times a week. (Meat is pricey) This, of course, will happen after I find an inexpensive deep freezer on Craigslist (anyone have one they don't want?)

I do without.
Yes, you heard it. We don't buy pop (soda). The kids drink juice once a day and that's it. Instead we drink water, H2O, aqua get the picture. Same thing with junk food. Since we don't eat it, we don't buy it, thus we save big bucks. And if it's not on sale and it's not in the budget, oh well. Better luck next time, right?

I stretch it.
I can make five meals out of one chicken. And that doesn't include the amount of chicken stock I make and use from the bones. So I might spend a little more buying an organic chicken - or A LOT more buying an organic local chicken - but I'll make that dollar stretch as much as possible. With a little ingenuity, you can think of ways to make anything stretch more than one meal.

Of course, all of this takes time, energy, and knowledge, something that most of us are hard pressed to find. But it CAN be done if you put in the work. The biggest benefit from all of this? You won't have to compromise. I don't. Just know that there will be times when you can't get the big ticket items, but that's fine. You don't have to have exactly what you want ALL the time, do you? My goal is to have good for us food only, and don't concern myself with specifics.

Everyone can be a food snob on a budget. All you have to do is learn to go with the flow, enjoy what's in season, and make the most of what you've got.


Baby food...doesn't have to be PUREE

When you think of baby food, a few words come to mind, bland, dull colored, puree, mush, all around YUCK! As my 6 month daughter is venturing into the world of food I have realized how many options there are. First, let me start by saying that I had already decided that I would be making my own baby food. For a few reasons, first and foremost because I want to be able to expose my daughter to a variety of different flavors, textures, colors, fruits and vegetables. If I was to buy her food at the store I would be limited in what I could expose her to, if I make it myself the sky is the limit, well actually the produce section at the grocery store but you get the idea.

I want to be able to control what goes into her food, if I make it myself I know EXACTLY what went into her food and I could add things like leeks, basil, vanilla bean, nutmeg...of course not yet she has to get introduced slowly but the options are limitless. I can make kale for her, how many times have you seen kale on the baby food aisle at the grocery store? The future for her and her palate are as big as my imagination.

I think the biggest revelation I have had is that baby food doesn't have to be PUREE. Of course I'm not saying that I can just cut up and apple and gave it to my daughter. What I'm saying is that we start our babies off on food that is a consistency that unless you're eating pudding everyday for the rest of your life isn't a natural consistency. Not that pudding everyday would be a bad thing, but I think one of the greatest things about food (other than the taste) is the different textures everything has in your mouth. How a pear feels when you bite into it compared to an apple, of course you can tell an apple from a pear by the taste of it, but if they both had the exact same flavor you would still be able to distinguish the two by texture.

Anella's first food was avocado, I was really excited to start with avocado because when I feed it to her it will be the exact same texture as when I eat it myself. After avocado, we moved onto peas, now we had a rainy weekend and I decided to puree some peas and freeze them for her. So we heated up the puree fed it to her and she enjoyed it. At dinner that night my husband and I had peas as well, and I realized that if I just pop them out of their little shell she would be able to eat the small pieces that were left. And so it goes, pea after pea. I placed them very carefully on her highchair table and she would slowly pick it up, look at it and stick it in her mouth. Once she got it in her mouth she would make a "chewing" motion and it would be gone. And so it goes, pea after pea. Every once in a while I'd take a peek into her toothless mouth to make sure she wasn't storing them all for later, but after much searching I found that her mouth was empty and she was just enjoying her new ability to feed herself. So this got me to thinking. baby food doesn't have to be puree, and why should it be!