Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Did you know that if left to itself, basil will continue to grow to produce flowers?

They are very pretty flowers, and this is where the basil grows its new seeds so that a wild basil plant could continue growing new basil the next year.

It also means that that particular stem will no longer produce the basil leaves that are used in so many recipes. If you want your basil plant to continue producing leaves for you to use, you have to prune it, regularly.


(by the way, these are not my pictures, but borrowed from other photobucket people)

The definition of pruning is:
prune 2 (prn)
v. pruned, prun·ing, prunes
1. To cut off or remove dead or living parts or branches of (a plant, for example) to improve shape or growth.
2. To remove or cut out as superfluous.
3. To reduce: prune a budget.
To remove what is superfluous or undesirable.

I say all this as an introduction to what I have had to experience over this summer and I think into the school year. When I moved from 2nd grade to 4th grade, I also changed coordinators (makes sense, since they are only in charge of that grade level).

For the last 4 years, my coordinators (there were a few different ones in that time) were mostly laid back, and gave mostly broad lesson plans, with lots of room for personal interpretation. Our walls were our own choice, and sometimes specific lessons were a suggestion, not a direction.

My 4th grade coordinator is different. She is still very sweet, loving, caring and wants the best for us. But she was trained to have unity within the grade level, and interprets it to mean each assignment is the same in any classroom. Basically, she should be able to walk into any of our classrooms at a given time and see very little difference between them. Teaching style differs of course, but projects/crafts/assignments etc. should all be the same. With this, there are certain things that are going to be on the walls.

This is really hard for me, because I like to make changes and do things differently. Even within second grade, I frequently changed what I did from year to year, just to mix it up. I took it very hard learning how this next year is going to be... until I thought about my basil plant.

The basil flowers are beautiful, and they smell great. It is what the plant does naturally, and really cannot be considered a bad thing... unless you want the plant to continue growing.

If you want the plant to continue growing and producing, you have to cut off the tops. Applying this to my life, if I want to grow as a person, and as a Christian, some pruning is necessary. In this case, it is pruning my need to be different.

Like the flowers, its not a bad thing, and it is completely natural... but not the most useful thing for a plant that needs to keep growing.

I do want to keep growing, and while I was fortunate to have a coordinator previously that "allowed me to flower," this coordinator's forcing me to grow is ultimately going to make me a better person.

I do want to add that she is totally open to hearing my ideas... however instead of telling the grade level my ideas, and then doing what I want, it is a situation where I can give my suggestion and then either all of us will do it, or none will. Next year, as a more seasoned 4th grade teacher, I think I will be given more leeway... but perhaps not.

My point is... I am growing this year by not having the freedom I used to have, and I have found a place of acceptance with it.

To cut off or remove dead or living parts or branches of (a plant, for example) to improve shape or growth.

Two different things I want to point out on this definition- first that pruning doesn't mean just cutting off dead, unproductive parts of the plant. Like with the basil (and me) it can sometimes be removing good parts too. The second thing is the purpose of it. I truly believe that this situation in my life exists to help shape and grow me. If I didn't think that, I could easily get frustrated, want to quit/find other job, or just grumble and gripe over this change. But the comparison to pruning helps me because I feel like there is a purpose to it, its not randomly hacking at my life to make it worse, it is systematically taking away negative parts of my character, like my pride.

In addition, the Bible talks a lot about unity. It frequently talks about how great it is for Christians to be united, and how harmful it is to have arguments between each other. And I was reminded that nothing I might have done differently in my classroom really matters. If I did my craft instead of the 4th grade craft... would it make a different to them as an adult... no way! If my walls had a different project up, would they even remember next year? No. As long as I teach them effectively, they will learn. Whether its with my ideas or 4th grade ideas... they will get through this grade, and quite frankly, will remember some of it as adults... but probably not much lol. So... in the big picture, its much better to get along with the other 4th grade teachers, who I will hopefully get to be with for a few years, than it is for me to push through my own ideas and create disharmony within our grade level.

But I do ask that you keep me in prayer, as it is definitely not my natural inclination, and my peace might be harder to keep as the year goes on. :-)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

CSA 15 and Nancy


This week brought two new items that we haven't received before in our box- broccoli and red peppers! We like both vegetables, so this is a good thing. Everything else is normal, oranges (including some that we traded our arugula this week for), grapefruit, limes, tomatoes, green beans, lettuce and sprouts.

We should have traded the sprouts... actually we should have traded last week's sprouts too. Blake enjoys sprouts... but not radish sprouts. The problem is, you can't tell by looking at them, you have to taste them. We don't want to taste the sprouts if we end up trading them, but we don't want to get rid of the sprouts that he likes either by thinking they are the bad kind lol. So... our worms get fed. :-)

In addition to the box, our garden is still doing well (its just not as photogenic as it used to be... so I don't currently have pictures of it), and I have to figure out how to use a bunch of tomatoes, some more peppers (lots of spicy ones, and some sweet) and lots of eggplant! Our eggplant was so slow, and keeping up with our demands... but now we have 9 growing!!! Ack! It looks like they will be ready all around the same time too. We are thinking we will need to make some dishes just to freeze/ jar them and use them later. So I'm looking into it.


In other news, I attended Blake's grandfather's wife's memorial this weekend. His grandmother passed away early on in our dating (7-8 years ago) . Shortly after that he married this sweet lady, Nancy, who recently passed away. She was precious to all of us. More than that, her memorial impacted everyone who attended it. She was one of those extraordinary people who is ALWAYS nice, loving and thoughtful to those around her. In all the time I knew her, I never saw her mad, or frustrated or even grumpy!

I left feeling like I want to leave that kind of a legacy behind me, I want to be the kind of person who everyone remembers as always nice. I'm so far from there right now... but its a goal, and I know others left feeling the same desire to be more like her.

There were other things about her memorial that touched me too, like the fact that she requested that she not have any flowers on her grave, but have other people come to know Jesus instead. She had an alter call at her memorial, and some people accepted Christ at it too! She was still making an impact on people's lives, even after she left!

My last memories of her are super precious to me. Previous to her, I was never really around a dying person. I had relatives die... but the last time I saw them, they were still more or less normal, talking, etc. When Blake and I got there, she was still conscious, but her eyes were mostly closed, and she couldn't talk anymore. I felt really awkward around her, and I didn't know what to say or do. My mother in law was really good with her, still talking to her, while also giving Blake's grandfather support and reassurance etc. But then Lori was thinking out loud that she wished she could sing better, because Nancy loved singing, and listening to worship, and knew that it would be something she enjoyed. (Apparently hearing is the last thing to go). She remembered that I like to sing, and asked if I would feel comfortable doing it. I was happy to have the chance to do something more than stand around awkwardly.

I was really nervous at first, but I opened up a hymn book, and found some that I knew, and started singing to her. Then, which I will always remember, Nancy joined me the best she could... her mouth started moving as I sang, like she was mouthing the words with me. I was holding her hand as I sang the hymns, and her fingers moved now and then, showing me that she knew I was there. Blake's grandfather noticed after I finished a song, and confirmed what I had thought I saw, and said "She was singing with you." Adding more significance to the event was the memory I had had prior to this that she and I had talked about how I enjoyed to sing and she said that we should sing together sometime. I am so thankful that I got to do it before she went to be with the Lord.

During the service, her granddaughter (with an amazing voice) sang a worship song. Part of the way through, she started to lose it, and had to catch herself from starting to cry. This did me in. I was crying off and on during the beginning of it (the first time was when I saw Blake's grandfather start to cry), but when this happened, my last memories of Nancy combined with her family's grief really made me lose it, and I had a really hard time pulling myself back together after that.

I am thankful though of the hope of heaven. I truly believe that everyone who is a Christian is going to heaven someday, and I will see them again. So losing loved ones who are saved is sad for us... but not for them. I am nervous about losing family members who don't believe though. And the worst thing is, that they don't have hope either. If dying is just the end and nothing comes afterward, then how can you find peace as your life comes to an end? One of my grandmothers is unsaved... and she doesn't want to talk about death, at all. Nancy accepted it so much that she helped plan her memorial, she told her children and her grandchildren what she would want there, and her biggest hope and request is that others would be saved through it.

Its an incredible contrast to me. The biggest thing that I don't understand is simply about logic. If Christians are right, and there is a heaven for believers, and you don't believe, its bad news for you when you die. If Christians are wrong, and those who believe that life ends forever when you die are right, its still better for us because we go towards death peacefully and hopefully! It goes without saying that I think I believe the truth (or else why would I believe it), but I don't see what there is to gain by believing that nothing happens after you die. You live a life fearful of death, and then when your loved ones die you are wrecked with grief because you think you will never get to see them again, AND if Christians are right, you don't get to experience heaven! If you believe, you live a life of hope, you have hope when loved ones die, and if we are right, you get to go to heaven someday! Good deal all around!

There is nothing to lose! Honestly, I understand more those who follow other religions. Believing that there is something after you die, no matter what it is, makes a lot more sense to me than believing there is nothing. For the simple reason that you can't know, you can't be sure either way, I will fully admit that I have not died yet, so I could be wrong. But I believe. ( What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see. Hebrew 11:1 NLT) But that also means that if you believe that life ends forever when you take your last breath, you are believing and having faith in something too, and it is worse for you, because if ANY religion that believes in the afterlife is right, then you made an eternal mistake.

I'm okay with the chance of being wrong. If, for some reason, all us Christians are wrong (and Muslims, and Buddists etc.) and all that happens when I die is that my body decomposes and becomes part of the ground, I will still go on following Jesus for my lifetime. Why? For the hope, for the peace, for the motivation to do the right thing, for the purpose it gives me, for the reason for existing.

I didn't mean for this to become a religious post, but I treat this blog as the closest thing to a journal, and I am currently just putting my thoughts out there. The thoughts that I want to say all the time, but am usually too afraid to say in case someone thinks ill of me. Which is sad. I think part of the reason I am bold enough to do this is because of Nancy's memorial (look at her still impacting lives!).

The fact is, whether you live to be 5 or 100, everyone dies sometime. We don't know when it will be. If you don't like to think about death... maybe you should. Because you don't know that tomorrow you won't get into a fatal car accident, or get cancer or be caught by a stray bullet that was intended for someone else. We have no idea. Maybe you don't like to think about religion. But like it or not, you believe something. You are currently living your life with the expectation that after you die _____________. You make choices based on that assumption. And if your assumption is that nothing happens, then you might want to rethink it. Because if you're right, and I'm wrong, I'm still in good shape. If I'm right and you're wrong, your future isn't bright. Really... what do you have to lose? Go to a church, read a Bible, talk to some believers, see what we're about.

Blake doesn't like to start watching movies, but my regular ploy is that he can stay for just the first 10 minutes, and then if he doesn't like it, he can leave. He almost always stays, because he gets hooked. That's what I suggest with Christianity. Try it... you might just get hooked :-)

Friday, August 20, 2010

CSA 14

Urg.... having issues with uploading to photoshop today, not sure why. Anyways.... this picture is from the blogger upload, sorry if its small.

Okay, so this week is much of the normal, but we are pleased with it.

Lots of citrus again, oranges, grapefruit, and limes.

We got dill this week which was exciting, as well as apples.

A few somewhat typical ones are zucchini, lettuce, and green beans.

We got tomatoes again, which is really good because our tomato crop has declined recently. We are still getting them, but just not that often, and we love them, so more is better.

We got sprouts and what I think is arugula... not sure... if you identify it as another green... let me know :-)

Decisions made on the meat box-
We decided that we might decide to support the farm by every so often doing a box, but in general we are not going to do the protein boxes. We did however like cooking the whole chicken (I did it in the crockpot), and it was tasty in pasta, salads, and sandwiches during the week, so I am probably going to be looking at the whole chicken prices at Sprouts and seeing if that's a good way to go. I used the rest of the chicken (once we got the meat off) to make chicken stock, and we froze a bunch of it.

I made my own cheese with the goat's milk, and it turned out pretty good! I think I let it drain too long, because it is somewhat hard, so I microwave it before I eat it to soften it a bit. Otherwise though... it was great!

We are going to cook the second kind of beef we got from the farm this week in carne asada. I am excited about that! The other beef was good, but was hard to eat around between the bone and the tendon/cartilage/fat stuff.

We are still glad we tried it, but we knew all along that it wasn't the best choice financially, but if it was extra tasty and such a great thing to have, we were willing to make that sacrifice, but instead our plan is to get the organic/free range chicken and beef from Sprouts, preferably when it goes on sale.

Our top two biggest concerns were how it arrived (little ice pack, cardboard box, big mess, some broken eggs) and how little food it was for the price. It was everything it advertised it was... but it was a small chicken... and small eggs. Big beef... but overall, not enough to last 3 weeks... like I said, all we have left after the first week is the second kind of beef we were given... otherwise, it only lasted a week, and its way too much money for every week.

Oh well.

You never know till you try. :-D

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Meat CSA and CSA 14

We got our first meat box today... and it might be our last :(

The website never specified exactly how it was kept cold till it arrived, but I was spoiled by the images of Omaha Steaks presentation in my head (in a Styrofoam box with dry ice). I assumed that being beef, chicken and milk, it would be very cold in the transport process. The box was cardboard... and the meat was kept cold by two icepacks (6 by 4 inch icepacks if I had to guess). Probably fine... but a bit scary.

The chicken was on the small side, but I had been prepared for that by reading how they artificially plump the chicken many times in the supermarket. But I wasn't prepared for how small the eggs were... or that a few of them were broken in transport.

I, thankfully, did not deal with getting the beef out of the bag, Blake did, but he described how it was a very red mess all over the counter. I am not even sure what cuts of beef we got (I plan on trying to find it online). There are two small, thick chunks with a big bone in them, and one rectangular block looking piece. Its a lot of beef, but who knows how to cook it.

Anyways... overall, it was disappointing. I guess I shouldn't have expected as much as I did out of the small farm, but I did.

We aren't sure what to do quite yet... but the fact is that with this small of a chicken, it won't last 3 weeks, we don't know exactly what to do with the beef, we are nervous about the cooling method for transport, and it doesn't even pencil out financially.

If we buy the same stuff at the store, its bigger, and we know what cuts we are getting, and we can decide how much to buy each week, and keep our costs down that way. Price per pound might be similar... but paying even the same amount for meat that has been transported with questionable methods, that we don't even know what we're getting?

Eh... like I said, disappointing experiment.

We were hoping that the CSA box made up for it.


It was okay... but we needed a stellar box to get us out of our disappointment with the meat, and this box wasn't it.

First off, we didn't see a trade box this week. It might have been a bag of grapefruit near the boxes, but it might not, so we didn't trade anything. If there had been the regular trade box, we would have gotten rid of the basil and the radishes... but there wasn't... so we have them still.

I liked the radishes best as hashbrowns, so that's what they will become, and the basil will be put to work in a pesto (combined with some of our own).

We got lettuce, lime, avocados, tomatoes and cilantro, which will go into a taco salad.

We got more oranges and grapefruit, which are great, and will be thoroughly enjoyed.

We got two bags of sprouts, a bunch of little cucumbers, and two zucchini.

Nothing bad (well... there are radishes...but otherwise...) but nothing that really got us saying oh, wow, yay, look at what we got! (like a new fruit or kale or something would have done).

I suppose life is full of disappointments. Could be worse. I guess the biggest thing with the meat box is that we had decided to buy it even though it cost a bit more, because it sounded so much better, but discovered that it really wasn't worth the extra money.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

CSA 13


Wow... citrus explosion this week! Their trees must be doing well lol!

As you can see from the picture, this week has a tremendous amount of citrus... but this is a good thing!

No less than 6 grapefruit, and 9 oranges, plus 3 limes (joining some of last week's limes in the cupboard). But I must say that this is definitely better than the weeks that we had so little citrus we had to split one each night instead of getting one of our own, and infinitely better than the weeks that we were bummed because there was no oranges or grapefruits.

To be fair, the box originally had one less orange, and included basil and rosemary. We traded the herbs for an orange without knowing just how many we already had. It was probably still a good decision, although Blake now thinks that we should have gotten beets instead of an orange.

We are also pretty excited about the beets. Before the CSA boxes began, I cannot recall ever eating a beet...or even being offered one. I had heard about these vegetables, but never in a good way... but Blake and I really enjoy them as long as we let them steam enough. Last time I got impatient and took them out before they were done, and the slightly hard parts were not so tasty. I am going back to our first recipe with them this week and glazing them in a orange honey sauce.

We got green beans... although we already had a bunch from our own garden and my parent's garden, and Blake said that we will need to eat them with every meal lol! I will see what I can do, but worst case scenario is that I freeze some of them for another time.

Also in the box, two heads of lettuce, a bunch of green onions, sprouts, yellow squash and an avocado.

Even though its summer, I am planning on making a soup this week with the squash and the green beans. I am also planning on having a citrus salad with salmon one night, and making orange chicken another night... those citrus will be put to good use!

Great box week!

Monday, August 2, 2010

CSA - Meat

As a result of Food Inc, we decided to make a few changes to our food.

One is that we strive for more organic food in our basket at the store, including many more products than just our produce.

Secondly, we now make sure our eggs are both cage free and organic.

But third, we decided to join another CSA. This one is for meat.

It is from a farm called Rainbow ranch. After you become a member (small yearly fee) you can buy things like their protein basket on a weekly basis. The best part is that we are not locked into a certain amount of baskets that we have to get, we are planning on playing it by ear on how fast the food goes.

A weekly basket (first one on its way, we'll get it sometime next week) includes:
1 Fresh Whole Chicken. 1 Quart Fresh Raw Goats Milk. 1 Dozen Fresh Eggs. (may be chicken, turkey game bird eggs or mixed) 3.0 lbs - 5.0 lbs pastured, grass fed, organic beef (farm choice) different cuts each week. (freshly frozen, vacuum packed, wrapped and labeled direct from my butcher)

The tricky thing about this pack is that we will probably go through the eggs in a week, the chicken in two weeks, and the beef in three. lol. The goat's milk is completely new for us, and I have lots of ideas for it ranging from simply making it into cheese or fudge, to as exciting as making our own soap/shampoo from it.

Right now, for cost reasons, our goal is to stretch it to the three weeks. For the record, we are knowingly spending more a month for groceries because of these changes. It took us a lot of debating before deciding to do this for that reason. But, the movie pointed out that many people decided to not eat ethnically just because of the cost increase... and we would be hypocrites to say that we want the chicken and beef that is treated right... but not when it costs extra.

So... we are supporting a local(ish) farm that does it right. Our beef is 100% from start to finish grass fed, pastured and grazed on virgin clean pasture.

Here's what the website says about their chicken:

"Growing all natural, organically grown, free range, grass-fed heritage poultry since 1991, in a humane, sanitary, stress free, cage free, safe and clean environment; and our care and husbandry is second to none.

Our heritage poultry, range in the warm sun and fresh breeze. They live as nature intended. Scratching and pecking on nature's best grasses, native weeds, wild flowers, fresh vegetables, fruits, dried seeds, alfalfa, clover and natural vegetation with an abundant supply of fresh, clean water. You won't find a cleaner feeding system anywhere! Our effective eco-system practices are environmentally friendly and ecologically safe, which assures a strong foundation to continue building on a productive self sustainable living system. NO Medications-NO Hormones - NO Steroids - NO Antibiotics - NO Additives - NO Pesticides - NO Herbicides - NO Animal-By-Products - NO Arsenicals - NO G.M.O.'s - and NO Artificial Grow Lights."

I love hearing this stuff!!!

This is not to say that this program doesn't have some cons/ more difficult parts

1- It is a whole chicken. So I either have to roast/slow cooker cook the whole thing, and then save the parts, or Blake will have to butcher it so we can freeze the parts. There is a silver lining though, and that's that I am going to make my own chicken stock from the parts we don't eat.

2- We don't choose our beef cuts. This is both good and bad. I like the forced variety, and it will have us experiment with cuts we don't normally eat, but it also means that there will be beef portions that we will have to figure out what to do with. It could be any of these:
T-bone steak, Sirloin Steak, Sirloin Tip Roast (Tri-Tip, Front or back) , Boneless Swiss Steak, Rump Roast, Rib Steak (AKA: Cowboy Steak), 7-Bone Roast, Boneless Shoulder, Short Ribs, Chuck Steak, Stew Meat, Ground Beef.

3- It comes with goat's milk. We have never had goat's milk... but its definitely not our regular non-fat lol, so we will have to figure out what to do with it. Like I said above, I have plans, just not sure exactly what yet.

Anyways... we are both excited to be taking this additional step towards green living. I'll update more when we get it.