Monthly Archives: May 2007

Isn’t it ironic…

Don’t cha think?

Ironic that I go into the Dr’s office yesterday because she wants to check my BP and cholesterol figures, as she likes to do every so often, because they trend higher than normal most of the time.

Only this time my cholesterol numbers were down 30 points from last time, to the affect that they are now below the “bad” line.  It’s ironic I think that this would happen when I decided to give up all the “good” fats and only eat the “bad” fats.  After she told me the results I started to chuckle and told her this exact thing.  She didn’t seem exactly happy that I was doing that, but didn’t really say anything. 

Isn’t it ironic?

My BP is trending lower too.  I’m guessing this is all a result of the changes in my diet.  If anything I’m exercising less than ever (unless you count all the outside garden work and such) so the only other factor has to be the diet.

Strange how eating naturally and not by what is recommended on the food pyramid is better for you (well, me at least).

I was mentally prepared for the fight of a lifetime to stay off the cholesterol meds this time around, but it didn’t end up being necessary.  That was kind of nice.



Things, they are a growing

Man, weekends are so great. I love that busy, tired, exhausted feeling of doing a ton of physical work and feeling a sense of accomplishment when it’s all finished. We had guests for the weekend too so fun was had and a ton of work got done. You just can’t beat that.

My brother came back from Korea on Saturday and it was great to see him again (even if I did have to drive to Chicago and back to get him) and hear all the hilarious stories about his year abroad. He has a hurt neck right now (bulging disc or something. I can’t remember what it’s called) which on a positive side, causes his appetite to be almost normal so we can almost keep him fed while he’s at our house. Of course, it also offered him an easy excuse to get out all the work around the house.

We were able to paint our upstairs, which you might remember was in the process of being dry walled. The color choices made by the head designer (my wife) came out very nicely, and it’s quite appealing if I do say so myself. There was enough painting help that I was able to avoid the work up there, which was even better. There is still a lot to finish up with the room, but it’s starting to look like a room finally.

I spent a ton of time outside working in the yard. Earlier in the week we had planted a little oak tree my mother in law obtained on Arbor Day. (Free is my favorsnipshot_e4150456wpws.jpgite!) I planted it slightly under a maple tree for some protection from the sun, but also in the drip line so that excess water would come to it to help it grow. Mother nature had other plans though as a storm on Saturday tore down half the maple tree. Amazingly it tore down the back half of the tree (house side) and all the limbs fell around the baby tree. So the boys and I got busy Saturday morning cutting it up for disposal. (Really it was mostly me, but they had fun playing “bear in a cave” in the fallen limbs.) We’re lucky that our city picks up yard waste if we put it in the yard containers each week. Since this is maple wood I can’t smoke it in my smoker, so I have little use for the wood, which is too bad. But now the tree looks pretty sick. And I guess the little oak tree will get more sta70664.jpgsun than I originally intended, but I’ll keep an eye on it.

In other outside news, I decided to break out the weed eater. I only do this about every 4-6 weeks to edge the grasses when they get just way out of hand. Most of the time I use my hedge clippers on the edges but sometimes you just need to get it trimmed down low. I also planted five more tomato plants, cut down some peonies, weeded some garden space (but not the one that really, really needs it), cut some lettuce to eat, and planted the pole beans and hung the trellis for them to climb. The corn hasn’t sprouted yet so I’m a little worried it might need to be replanted. But the green beans, potatoes, carrots and such are going gangbusters.

My fava bean’s flowers have all turned black. Is this normal? Anyone know? Two of my just planted blueberry bushes appear to have died. I’m anxiously waiting for our shipment this week of trees and bushes from Edible Landscaping to get them in the ground. This is one time I can say I’m ready before things needed to be planted.

I am also waiting for my pollinator garden to appear. I tossed out a ton of seeds in the front flower bed this spring after the last frost date and they should be coming along soon. Bee balm and lavender and poppies and a ton of other perennials along with some strategically placed sunflowers. I’m hoping that this arrangement will allow them to come back each summer and bring color and attract pollinators with no effort from me. I like no effort gardening.

I was able to clean out the garage. There doesn’t seem to be anything more satisfying when it’s completed than cleaning out the garage. We can’t park a car in there (we could possibly park a scooter in there) but I can now at least from one side to the other in both directions. A nice improvement. Someone down the street was tossing out a little tikes slide so we scavenged that and now we have a water slide for the pool. Very nice.

And I cooked up a few pretty good meals out of the deal.  A good weekend all around.

sta70662.jpgThe boy’s are ahead of the curve. They have a car that runs on alternative fuels. It’s human powered and also grass powered.


Gotta respect

I don’t care who you are, you gotta respect JoePa when he does things like this.

Where’s the beef?

It’s hard to do anything to reduce your footprint on the earth if you don’t spend some serious time reflecting on your personal habits.  From cleaning supplies to transportation needs to filling your food needs a serious look at your consumption can lead to a large impact on the world with a few changes.  Lately I’ve been looking at my family’s meat intake.  Over the past year we’ve fully made the switch to locally raised meat products, but my analysis is still showing that we are eating more than we need to.

snipshot_e47svcp1v42.jpg It’s a hard thing to change, this affinity for meat.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that I like a good steak as much as the next person (or possibly even more), and I personally have no compunction about eating meat, as long as it’s sourced from a local humane source.  But I do know that you can still eat too much of it, and even when it’s raised humanely, eating meat still has a large impact on the world.  The question is what to do about it.

I live in the Midwest.  In the middle of corn and bean monoculture.  Where raising hogs is big business. This meat country.  Any kind of meat.  Meat is the centerpiece of every meal.  When I was growing up practically every meal contained a meat, some type of potato and another side dish.  That’s just how everyone eats here, and that’s how my mom cooked.  (Probably to deal with some picky kids because my brother and I were very picky growing up, but that’s how it is everywhere)

The question is how do I break out of it?  It’s a tough shell to break out of.  I’ve grown up cooking a certain way, and changing the way I cook is quite difficult.  The few times I’ve cooked without using meat as the main item, or at all, it’s been quite liberating.  In fact, I kind of like the challenge of it.  It’s easy to cook with meat in the meal.  I guess it would be like asking someone who is Asian to cook up a Midwestern meal.  They would find it challenging, but could probably adapt.  I’m essentially doing the same thing.  I’m trying to forget my Midwestern roots and learn more Asian types of dishes where meat isn’t the centerpiece of the meal. 

But these meals I’ve cooked have always felt like something was missing.  Maybe it’s because I’ve got it ingrained in my head that a meal should consist of a meat centerpiece.  When I see my kids eat they don’t really care if the meal has meat in it or not (although they do routinely complain about having stir fry AGAIN) so it appears that this feeling I have must be something that has been learned by me over time.  I don’t notice that I have this feeling when we have a pasta meal without meat, perhaps because I grew up with pasta meals on occasion without meat in them?  I’ve noticed more lately that when we eat a meal it isn’t the meat that I go back for when I get seconds.  Maybe that’s something my body is telling me subconsciously?

I don’t really know where I’m going with this whole thing.  I’m just kind of talking and thinking through my fingers.  Maybe some of you have dealt with these same types of things?  Could you offer any insight?  It seems difficult to take the final step to stop cooking meat with meals mostly because I’m not really sure how to cook without it.  That seems like kind of a lame reason, but it’s mostly true.  It could be as simple as just not cooking it, but still having all the same side dishes.  That seems kind of boring.

I don’t know.  It’s a hard thing for me to figure out.  I guess I’m trying to reduce how much meat we eat, without feeling deprived after we eat, but still keep meat in our diet to ensure we get all the necessary nutrition.  I guess I’m blabbing on here trying to figure out how to reduce it further.  It seems like I’ve taken the easy steps but these next few seem to be a little larger and I’m more unsure about it.  

Weekend update

snipshot_e45xrws656c.jpgMy mint plants really took off after I brought them home from the garden center so I plucked a few leaves this past weekend to enjoy some mint based dishes.  I made a Mint-Lemon chicken dish which was really pretty tasty.  The recipe says to put it over white rice, which is fine, except the dish doesn’t make enough sauce to really flavor up the rice much.  But we really liked the flavor of the chicken.  I wouldn’t recommend you put it over white rice though.

Also, while I was using the mint I decided that a few Mojitos were in order.  And we really enjoyed those.  I had to tweak the recipe a little to make it work for us, but here is a link to where I started.  Here is where I ended up:

5-6 mint leaves rolled between your fingers and added to a blender.  (I found spearmint to be the most flavorful)

8-10 ozs club soda

4 ozs Rum

Juice from 2 limes

About 1/4 cup simple syrup of sugar and water.  (I didn’t measure this, just dumped it.)

Add a little ice to chill and pulse the blender.

Strain through a strainer and pour over ice.


These were very good and certainly move to my list of top 5 favorite drinks.  At first I found the rum to be overpowering but by adding more lime juice and mint leaves I was able to mask the taste of it. 

Also, since we were visiting Cuba, Sunday afternoon I cooked up a pot of Cuban black beansfollowing this recipe.  Saying the beans are good would really be unfair to all things that are good.  They are flat out amazing.  I added some smoked sausage about halfway through the cooking to add a little smoky flavor.  I replaced the bell peppers with jalapeños because I don’t really care for bell peppers, and I wanted some heat.  It turned out just right.  A little spicy and a little sweet.  My version turned out damn hot.  I put in 1.5 peppers.  Next time I’ll just use a half and see how that tastes.  Dang.  It does smell so incredible though.  I don’t recommend sautéing the jalapeños.  The fumes will almost kill you.  And the beans needed more water as they dried out quite a bit while cooking.  I cut the recipe in half because it’s almost impossible for me to eat a whole bean recipe by myself (it’s just the little guy and I eating beans in this house) without really being sick of beans when I’m done.  The recipe says to put this over white rice, and there was just enough sauce to make it really flavor up the rice. 

In other news, I made it to the Farmer’s Market in Iowa City this weekend and I’m in love.  That market is soooo much better than the ones I go to here in Cedar Rapids.  Can someone please provide me a justification to drive 30 minutes to the market each Saturday?  If I did that I would only need to hit one market instead of two or three.  Plus, this market has organic producers (the CR markets don’t, or they don’t advertise it if they do) and the IC market is across the street from the Co-op so I could shop there at the same time and be done with my shopping by 9 AM on  Saturday morning.  I don’t currently shop at the co-op because I don’t want to drive down there just for that, but if I’m going to the market too…

I’ve been a busy boy

Lately I’ve had quite a bit of stuff published up at Groovy Green.  Here are a few links.

Book review

Interesting stories.

Local recipe week 2

Eco Friendly hangers. 

Way awesome challenge going on. 


Too much to do, too much to say

One big problem I have right now is that I keep wanting to do too much too fast.  I want to plant fruit trees and bushes at my house right now, today, because I know they will take years to come in well enough to start providing for us.  Money for them?  Time to care for them?  Who knows.

I want to plant a large shade tree in the front yard because I want there to be shade on the house and it needs to be done now, because I want the shade now, but most of all, I want the shade in the near future when I can’t afford to use the A/C at my house for the week or two we use it.  The longer I wait to plant the longer it will take to come in.

I want to have a huge garden space now because I want to provide as much of my own food as I can, but gardens are a lot of work when you are first building them.  And I have to mesh aesthetics with functionality to keep from even more scornful looks from my neighbors (and very understanding wife).  Not to getting enough material to generate enough compost.  And it seems like I can never get enough space.  There is plenty of area available on my little lot, I just need to use it better or something. 

I want to build fruit guilds around the few trees I am planting, but when?

For some reason I feel this sense of urgency because I want to do all these things now, but I don’t know where that is coming from.  I need to understand that nature takes time.  My impatience is nothing to nature.  I have to pick out something that I want to focus on each year and get better at that.  I can’t try to do too much or I’ll feel overwhelmed, which is how I feel a lot of the time.

But if I do that then what do I do about other stuff?  There is so much I want to do that I can’t put some of it off indefinitely.  I have to plant trees so that they will start producing in the next 5 years or so, but how much effort will I waste keeping them alive if I don’t build guilds around them for a few years? You know what I mean?  I hate wasting time and effort.  It’s not in my nature.  But then I know that I can’t focus on the guilds and neglect the gardens, because those take more of your immediate time, and will produce more now, and are critical to learning for the future.  And I have to do all this before the weather gets hot because then I wilt and I won’t be able to work outside for the better part of 8 or 9 hours like I did on Saturday.

And there are a couple chunks of city owned land a house down that would be perfect for a little in town orchard.  But how could I possibly add that to my already full plate?  Not to mention in the next few years my kids will be getting involved in some activities.  And I still have to mow the stupid lawn.  God I hate grass.

We try to live a slow life, but lately it sure doesn’t seem like it’s slow.  I’m not sure how I’m supposed to get it all done.  Gaa!!