Saturday, April 30, 2011

We Went Outside!

As discussed previously, to participate in the Children & Nature Network's Let's G.O. (Get Outside)! month, we attended the Spring Festival at the Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach.

There were two maypoles, one for little kidlets and one for older kidlets. But there were some older women who were sort of running the maypole activity that were REALLY serious about them doing it correctly. They kept stopping the music and the kids and trying to explain things. At first I thought it was just misguided attempts to control the chaos inherent in children. Then I settled on the more entertaining notion that these women were in fact witches and NEEDED these maypoles to be wrapped correctly for their own purposes, entertaining children was just a ruse.
In the center of this picture, the less shiny black things that look like leaves are actually a mourning cloak butterfly. The Wee Bairn and I joined a guided tour to the Monarch Waystation inside the Shipley Nature Center. The guide was awesome. He was great at spotting and identifying butterflies. He also was my kind of crotchety old retired teacher. He was all crabby about invasive species and "sanitary" landfills. I bet when he watches Jurassic Park he roots for the dinosaurs. I'd invite him on all of my nature hikes if I could.
Also on our tour we learned what those little white fluff balls that float around this time of year are: the seeds of black willow trees and mule fat.

Yup, a plant called "mule fat." We also learned about insect galls. Which led to this parenting moment observed:

10-year-old-ish daughter upon taking a DIGITAL picture of an insect gall: I got a great picture!
Mom to 10-year-old-ish daughter: Stop! I don't want pictures of ugly things. Why do you take pictures of ugly things? Stop taking pictures of that.

We learned that duck weed, an example of which is perched on the tip of our guide's finger, is the smallest flowering plant.
We also spotted a female hummingbird on the trail.
At the end of the tour we stopped by the Vermiculture Center to learn about worms. Here they're showing us a worm egg.
Watching over us as we learned about worms was a tree swallow sitting in its nesting box.

We also learned about the Nature Scene Investigator program run by Get Outdoors! OC (again with the exclamation points). We might have to look into this for B!ome Tour 20!!!

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

CSA Basket . . . Lost Count

I'm showing off my roses with the CSA basket to make up for skipping enough basket posts that I've lost count. We're definitely into the spring quarter, so we've officially been getting baskets for a year now. This week's CSA basket contained: Romaine, Red Leaf Lettuce, Turnips, Radishes, Cauliflower, Leeks, Carrots, Beets, Chard, Fennel, Avocado, Snow Peas, Cabbage, Strawberries! Navel Oranges, Tangerines, Celery, Parsley, and Cilantro. I traded in the fennel and cabbage for more carrots and oranges. The Wee Bairn LOVES oranges.

I used the red leaf lettuce and snow peas in an Asian chicken salad for dinner.
So, if you don't already know, we have extremely limited backyard space. We compost, but we can fill up that little compost bin pretty quickly especially on CSA Basket Day. When I can on CSA Basket Day, I like to trim off all the greens I'm not going to use, like from the tops of carrots and radishes, and give them to Bridget for her donkey Boo Boo, pictured above on the right. I believe the horse helping Boo Boo with the composting is Yogi.
Bridget's chickens get in on the composting as well. Which makes me feel better about stealing so many of their eggs.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Let's Get Outside!

The Children & Nature Network is making April Let's G.O. (Get Outside)! month.

The goal of Let’s G.O.! events is to bring together intergenerational groups of people to get outside together to be active, have fun and connect with nature.
The nearest event to us is a Spring Festival at the Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach. It's coming up this Saturday, April 30th, from 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

The Children & Nature Network is chaired by Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. I heard about this book long before the wee bairn was a glimmer in my eye and immediately filed it under things to be neurotic about once a parent. Neurosis or no, there's a lot of evidence to support the idea that children's health benefits from contact with the outdoors and nature (here's a PDF full of them).

Then I started following The Boy's Almanac, a blog by "two mothers constantly striving to maintain a wild, self-sufficient childhood for our boys and wanting to revive the old school methods of practical scouting, bypassing the modern organization and its discriminating baggage." I like that mission statement. And they're not sexist, they just don't have girls. The blog follows their adventures as they undertake the projects in The American Boy's Handy Book: What to Do and How to Do It, Centennial Edition. A bit advanced for a 16-month-old, but I'm thinking longer term.

In the shorter term, we've been contemplating a series of kidlet-centric adventures this summer with easy hikes for jogging strollers within an hour or so of Fullerton with the goal of introducing the wee bairn to as many different biomes as possible. Our friend Sarah Gilman even found us a book to help us on our way: Habitats Alive!

I wonder if all of these exclamation points get kids into nature more than book and event titles without exclamation points would. Get ready for B!ome Tour 20!!!

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Monday, April 25, 2011


I celebrated Earth Day by recycling my deceased Brother printer and buying a Lexmark Prevail Pro705 printer/scanner/copier/faxer. My goal: paperlessness. I have read the User Manual (in PDF format on my computer screen . . . paperlessness here I come!) from virtual cover to virtual cover. Now I'm checking out the suggestions in the comments to two posts over at AskMeFi:

I didn't even know what documents I am supposed to be keeping and which ones I can get rid of until I read this piece over at Consumer Reports. Please post comments here with any tips, tricks, advice, suggestions, comments, concerns, et cetera.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

We Changed!

The Wee Bairn and I are now World Record holders. Well, I haven't heard if it's official or not, but we did participate in The Great Cloth Diaper Change at No Sugar Added this morning. The mom that entered before us had bicycled there with her tiny tot in the smallest little baby seat ever. There were so many parents wearing their babies and nursing their babies and just generally being as granola crunchy as you can be with babies. Made me feel better about the universe. It was PACKED! I'm guessing that was the case all over as I received a text from Terri in Durham, NC, around 9 a.m. our time that read "so.many.BABIES!"
Here we have the record breaking diaper. The Wee Bairn was a little unsure when I put her down, but then she turned to her right and saw a little 4-month-old baby girl and she turned to her left and saw a little 6-week-old baby boy and looked at me, smiled, and said, "Baby!"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Great Cloth Diaper Change

Perusing my usual parenting blogs, I came across a post at Inhabitots about The Great Cloth Diaper Change on April 23, 2011. Basically, combine Earth Day, parenting, and the Guinness World Records, and you get the idea to change more wee bairns into a cloth diaper at the same time than ever before.

Whether you're part of the gDiaper Mommy Militia or simply a fan of GroVia (formerly GroBaby), FuzziBunz, bumGenius, or good ol' prefolds, please participate. Let's show folks that cloth diapers are a real option for today’s families. If you are all out of babies needing diapers or otherwise unable to participate directly, please consider supporting the Real Diaper Association, a non-profit organization that advocates for cloth diapering.

We'll be participating at our current favorite granola crunchy baby store: No Sugar Added in Claremont. FYI, we'll be changing from a GroBaby into an organic unbleached prefold with an organic Imse Vimse cover with a Snappi closure, which is my current most favored diapering solution. Let's save the planet one nappy at a time!

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Monday, April 04, 2011

March's Au Lait du Mois: Panir (Paneer)

Yes, yes, I know it's April. But I started the panir . . . O.K. I didn't even start the panir until April 1st. But I thought about it and bought all the ingredients in March. So it still counts as March's Au Lait du Mois.

Panir is super easy and requires no esoteric cheese making supplies (if you substitute any clean, smooth cloth for the butter muslin, which you could if you were butter muslin-less). So if you're contemplating the idea of cheese but you don't want to make any investment, start with panir. I don't even think you need a thermometer considering both Rebecca and I didn't follow the temperature guidelines in the recipe and still had successful panir. Just wait until the curds really start separating from the whey and glomming together and you're ready for the next step.

I didn't use raw milk this time. Instead I used organic creamline milk, which has been pasteurized but not homogenized. I picked up half a gallon at Trader Joe's.

I tried the whey lemonade as suggested in the booklet from the Gourmet Home Dairy Kit. Maybe if I had clearer whey it would have been more "refreshing." As it was, there was sort of a creamy background to the whey lemonade that did not really appeal to me. But it's certainly worth a try.

I made the curried panir potato rounds following the recipe in Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses by Ricki Carrol. An almost identical recipe appears in the booklet that comes with the Gourmet Home Dairy Kit. I made a smaller spice-free version for the wee bairn. She dug 'em. She also dug the panir straight. I served the curried panir potato rounds with Thai Yellow Curry Sauce from Trader Joe's as a dip. They were a big hit.

The directions for panir in Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses by Ricki Carrol are pretty different from the directions in the booklet that comes with the Gourmet Home Dairy Kit. Not sure which one was published first. I followed the pamphlet's directions, so that's what I adapted below.

Panir adapted from Ricki Carroll's Gourmet Home Dairy Kit

  • 1/2 gal. milk

  • juice from 2 lemons

  • salt to taste

  • 3 qt. pot with lid

  • Dairy Thermometer

  • Slotted spoon

  • sieve

  • bowl

  • butter muslin

  • Pour the milk into a 3 qt. pot and affix the thermometer in a readable position.

  • Stir in the lemon juice.

  • Heat the milk and lemon juice over medium heat and stir constantly until the curds separate from the whey. Ricki says this happens between 165 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Rebecca said it happened around 120 degrees and was overcooked by 165. My curd was as separated from the whey as it was going to get at about 145. I let it get up to 165 just to see if anything magical would happen and it didn't. So the best advice is keep an eye on the whey. Mine never got as clear as it did with the fromage blanc, but it was definitely more transparent than skim milk.

  • Take the pot off the heat, cover with the lid, and let set for 15 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, set a sieve over a bowl and line the sieve with butter muslin.

  • Pour the contents of the pot into the muslin-lined sieve.

  • Tie the four corners of the butter muslin together and hang it over the sink to drip. In the booklet that comes with the Gourmet Home Dairy Kit, it suggests that this might take about an hour. In the Ricki's book Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses, the recipe suggests hanging the cheese for 2 to 3 hours. As a busy, sleepless Mom, I hung mine for about 12 hours.

  • If you're storing the cheese, you can put it in an airtight container in the fridge for about two weeks.

Curried Panir Potato Rounds adapted from Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses by Ricki Carrol
  • 6 medium potatoes, cooked, peeled, and mashed

  • 1 t salt

  • 1/4 t ground turmeric

  • 1 lb. frozen peas, thawed and mashed

  • 6 T lemon juice

  • 1/2 t sugar

  • 1/2 t salt (I know, I've got 1 t salt listed above . . . but trust me on this)

  • 2 C (1 lb.) panir, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 3/4 C water

  • 3/4 C flour

  • 1 C fine dry unseasoned bread crumbs

  • 1/2 t curry powder

  • 1/2 T chopped fresh cilantro

  • 1/2 t cumin powder

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the potatoes, 1 t salt, and the turmeric. Cook over medium heat in a large, nonstick skillet, stirring often, for about 4 minutes. Remove to a bowl and reserve.

  • In the same skillet over medium heat, cook the peas, lemon juice, 1/2 t salt, and the sugar, stirring often, for about 4 minutes. The juice from the pea mixture does a good job of loosening up any potato stuck to the bottom of the pan from the previous step. I think this helps make the pea mixture more sticky which is important later on. Remove from heat.

  • Place a scoop of the potato mixture in the palm of your hand and flatten it into a 3- or 4-inch-diameter circle that is 1/2 inch thick. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture to make 12 to 14 rounds.

  • Put a panir cube in the center of each round. Fold the potato mixture over it. Roll until sealed and rounded. Press firmly to eliminate air pockets.

  • Press the pea mixture around each of the potato rounds.

  • Whisk together the water and flour to make a smooth, thick paste. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow pan. Roll the balls in the flour paste, then in the bread crumbs. Set each panir potato round on a baking sheet lined with a non-stick mat or parchment paper.

  • Bake for 14 minutes. Rotate the sheets halfway through.

  • Cut the cooked panir rounds in half. Spoon curry powder around them. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and cumin powder.

Previous Au Lait du Mois:

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Friday, April 01, 2011




I should have been grading, but this was more fun.