Monday, March 30, 2009

Compost Q and A

After I got some questions from my most recent composting post, I thought I would just answer some of the questions in another post. I thought I would also post some of the old questions from my older posts.

Karen said: How often do you turn yours?

I turn the compost when ever I think about it. In the hot weather maybe every few days. Other times of the year, when ever I think about it. I do tend to cover up the kitchen scraps with dirt (turn it) to keep ants away.

Elle J said: Couple naive questions perhaps: Does it have a lid? How do you get wild critters from not digging/eating/messing in the bin and spreading it across your yard (we're raccoon country, or even birds for that matter)??

Well, those are not bad questions. Glad you asked. You can make or use a lid. I haven't but you can. If you are concerned about animals it wouldn't be a terrible idea. Some people use trash cans for their compos and that would have a lid. I have also seen tarps or an old carpet laid on top. I haven't had issues with animals. Make sure and not put meat scraps in there and that will help with animals (rats or coons or birds). Also, turning it and covering the kitchen scraps would help with that too.

Permission to mother said: Could I do this with a garbage can? Do you need worms?

Actually she posted this question back with my original post on composting (in fact, I posted that post for PTM). The garbage can does work. Either cut the bottom off or have lots of whole in the can. You don't need worms, you can buy or acquire red wigglers (a worm that eats composting HERE). When we were scooping the compost pile into our new bin, we found quiet a few worms. It is a good sign to see bugs like that in your compost. Nice healthy compost.

Susan said: Does it smell though?

To be honest, I have never noticed my compost bin smelling. And I am pretty sensitive to odors.

Rachael said: How about telling us what kinds of things CAN'T go in the pile? e.g. why no sauces?

Here are some things that should NOT go into the compost pile. Meats, fats, oils, dairy (other than egg shells), bones, dog/cat poo (but bunny litter and chicken manure is OK). You can compost sticks and branches but it takes a LONG time to decompose, so I tend to not include them. A big long list of what you can compost is HERE. As for no sauces, they are going to contain oils and cooked foods can tend to invite animals.

Hope that helps. Feel free to leave other ideas of things you like to compost that I have failed to mention. Hope this inspires and informs you. =)

new compost bin

Wanted to share our how to's on making the compost bin last week. This was at the top of the LONG list of things that needed to be done around here. Again...if you don't compost, it is much easier than you think. It doesn't smell. It really isn't gross. It is a great way to cut down on how much trash you throw away. can make your own beautiful dirt. So, let me encourage you once again to consider composting. HERE is my old compost pile and the post about it. HERE is a post of a thriving compost pile and a good list of what goes in it. HERE is a post of our beautiful dirt.

Since we are in a new home and our neighborhood has some "rules" about things looking nice, we wanted our compost bin to look pretty good. The supplies were pretty cheap (less than $20) and it only took about an hour to make. Chuck hasn't built a wood work shop, so this was made on the driveway.

First we picked a spot that was going to get lots of sun. I also wanted it close to the door for easy access. You can see on the right of the picture the brown pile of dirt and scraps. That is where we were just throwing our compost until we had a bin. To get our pile started, we asked our neighbors for their heard that right. Our neighbors were planting some trees a few weeks back and I could tell they were going to throw their dirt out, so...we offered to take it off their hands.Then Chuck took some time planning what he was going to build. I had googled some ideas and showed him what I was thinking. I like to have at least 2 bins side by side. You can use one and let the other one sit and decompose.
Chuck used fence board to make the bin. They are really inexpensive and about the right size. 3 boards to make each side.Easy enough to put the 2 x 4 in the corners. Ours is on a slight hill so one end is taller than the other. The bin is roughly 6 feet long and 3 feet deep.

Here you can see that there is a small divider in the middle to keep the 2 sides separate.
We placed the bin (right on the ground - no bottom or lining) a little to the left of the temporary pile. Chuck was sweet enough to move the dirt for me.
Every area we have lived has such different soil. We have had very rocky soil, sandy soil and now the soil seems to have some clay in it. At first this dirt was almost impossible to get the shovel in (really hard and compacted). After adding the scraps from the kitchen, it has softened up a bit.
One of my requests was to have our pile near the hose. I like to add some water to our compost to keep it moist.I wanted to start with a before picture to compare once our compost starts working. As I have stated before, you need a combination of brown and green compost. Yard clippings, shredded paper, kitchen scarps, dryer lint, coffee grounds, tea bags, bunny litter, leaves...the list goes on and on. We tend to keep a bowl on the counter when meals are being prepared and then I pitch it into the compost bin each day (or after the meal if it is full). At least now I don't have to feel guilty for tossing a banana peel in the trash, I have a place to put it.

A big thanks to Chuck for the wonderful new compost bin. Nothing says I love you like building me a bin to hold my trash. =) What a good guy.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Getting organized - getting started

With the fun of moving into a new home I have gotten the opportunity to get organized. I come by it naturally (my mom takes it to a whole new level). I have always enjoyed keeping my stuff tidy (well, maybe not as a kid). I like our things to have a place. It is easier for the kids to help put stuff away if our stuff has a place. As we were unpacking all of our boxes and deciding where our things would go, I thought this would be the best time to organize. We did not have time to sort when we were packing up so this was the next best thing.

Our school room was the first priority. We needed to get our area set up so we could get back to schooling. I have a bit of a problem when it comes to picking up boxes of crayons in the fall when they are 10 cents or those pencil boxes when they are half a buck. But I have learned to resist and instead, organize our own things, rather than buy more.

Let me just say...I am not even close to having it ALL organized. I am just beginning, but that is at least a place to start. Here is my "how to" when I organize.

First I sort. I dump it all out and sort it in to groups. Pencils, crayons, pens, markers, scissors, and such. This is a great time to include the kids. Grouping like items together.Then I find containers. Anything from those pencil boxes to magazine holders to shoe boxes. My containers aren't all matchy matchy. Wish they were, but I have collected over the years. I am all about reusing what I have, way to be green.

In the process of this, I put one of the kids on "testing pens and markers". Why store stuff that doesn't work anymore. Make sure and keep a box or bag handy to toss the junk.

Next comes labeling the containers. My newest favorite toy is my $20 label maker from Target. In the past, I have made labels with card stock or post its (what ever works). I find labeling it makes a HUGE difference. That way Daddy or baby sitter or friends who are there to play know where things go when it is time to clean up.

More organizing to come. We have done the medicine cabinet and the girls toys and closets and the pony holders and clips. They turned out pretty good. Maybe some of it was just for an excuse to use the new label maker...but maybe not. =)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Tale of the Turkey Tetrazzini

OK friends, I am sorry I didn't take a picture of this meal. It did turn out great. I will make it again and then add the picture if I think of it. I got a new recipe book at Christmas (I bought it for myself at a scholastic book fair). And everything in that book looks fantastic. I really wanted to try the turkey tetrazzini but I didn't have any turkey. At the store (late one night this week) I found a fresh turkey breast on sale (that needed to be cooked by the next day) and snagged it. Got up early, made the turkey breast and took all the meat off. I boiled down the "bird" to make stock and got some more meat off for soup (that is now frozen for another time). I froze about half of the breast meat for anther meal, and took the rest to make the turkey tetrazzini. Being the homeschooling mom that I am, I took this as an opportunity to show the girls that math really is needed. I told them that the turkey was about $12 (I rounded up) and if I made 3 meals out of it, how much was each meal going to cost. Tally quickly figured out $4 each. And then I said, what if I didn't boil it down and make soup, I would have only gotten 2 meals out of it. The she figured out $6 for each meal. I also took this as a chance to show them that nothing creepy was going into this dish. Basically turkey, noodles, sauce and cheese. I think they are more likely to eat "new" foods if I show them it is all safe.

All that to is the version of the recipe that we made the other night (with my tweaks to it).

1 - 2 1/2 cups of cooked turkey (or chicken) diced
1 T minced dried onions
1/4 t tabasco
1/4 t marjoram
1 (10 oz) can cream chicken soup
1 (13 oz) can evaporated milk
1 (8 oz) package spaghetti -
broken and cooked according to package
4 0z cheddar cheese
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Combine the turkey, onions, tabasco, marjoram, soup and milk and mix well. Divide the cooked noodles into 3 parts. Cover bottom of 9 x 13 greased dish with 1/2 of the noodles. Then add half of the turkey mixture. Then add half the cheddar cheese. Repeat - noodles, turkey mix, cheese, then we added the parmesan cheese. We covered ours with foil so the noodles wouldn't dry out. Cooked between 30-45 min. at 400. (I might have done 350 because I think my oven is a little hot). Let it stand for 10 before serving.

I served mine with cesar salad and green beans. I seriously had to step away from this meal...yummy...or I would have finished the turkey tetrazzini right out of the dish.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I am really trying to make healthy foods

After living in a temporary home for 3 months and feeling like I couldn't really make much for my family...I have a renewed vision for feeding my family. Not to mention making snacky meals while Chuck was living in another state and I only had to make dinner for the girls and I. I needed the boost, for I have been in a bit of food slump for awhile. I feel like I make the same 10-15 meals and I am getting a bit tired of it. This year one of my goals was to have half of our meal be fruits and veggies. I have spent some of my free (which, let's be honest - I don't really have free time right now) time pouring over recipe books (one of my favorite things to read) and I am making a menu and working off of that for my shopping and meals. I thought by putting it out there it might make me feel a little accountable for it.

I tried a new recipe for roasted veggies. I got the recipe from another blog (HERE). I didn't use exactly the veggies that it called for, but when I was shopping that week, half of my carriage at the store was full of produce.
Here it is before I roasted it. I am loving this stoneware. Everything turns out great in it.
I made this with a few other new recipes that night. I will post later about the whole wheat french bread (yum).

Last night I made turkey tetrazzini (another new recipe) and we all loved it. If I hadn't had company over for dinner I would have taken a picture of that too. =)

So, I will try and post some recipes that I have tried and liked. Maybe I can inspire someone else out there who is in a food slump. Any fantastic healthy recipes that you have I would love for you to share. Bring it on, inspire me. =)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Our little get three

I had every intention of getting this post done last Thursday and happens. Somehow it is always like that. I got distracted by friends and projects and "to do" lists and having people over for dinner and schooling and just gets in the way of my agenda. In fact that is a whole different post, trying to have a good attitude of taking care of everyone elses agenda and letting my agenda slip quietly by unnoticed.

Getting back to the post at hand...our second day at the Disney parks, we all agreed to do Animal Kingdom. Chuck and Tally took off right away to get over to Everest and get their fast passes for that. This was going to be their first time on it. They both LOVED it and they were able to get on it twice in the morning before the lines were too long.While they were doing that Tissy and I visited some characters and took some really cute pictures.

Then we enjoyed some rides over at Dinoland USA (the small kids area with rides).
Here we are on the Primevil Whirl. This was the only ride that was longer than the sign said. It said the wait was for 10 min. but we waited about 20. Once was all I needed on this one, kind of jerky and old fashion.This park has some great shows. The Nemo show and the Lion King show are both great. Of course the highlight of the park is the safari. It is neat how they change the natural landscape of Florida to look like Africa. It sure makes me want to visit the real thing.

It is neat the this park is like a combo of an amusement park and a zoo. We really enjoyed the animals this time. Didn't focus too much on the rides, but enjoyed it for what it is.

Here are Chuck and Tissy on the safari ride. Again...does this girl take a bad picture?
Kind of an odd picture for the blog...I know...but Tally is such a lover of animals and creation and nature...she loved this sign. We took a bird field guide and tried to identify some birds out at Rafiki's Planet Watch. While we were out there we learned about the Kids Discovery Club at Animal Kingdom. If you are out for those places on the map (marked with a red K) where your kids can do a hands on activity. While at the stations, they can get a book and fill it with stamps at the special stations. If they complete the book, they can turn it in for a little prize. This turned out to be a highlight for our girls. It was kind of like a treasure hunt (almost like letterboxing with getting the stamps in the book). I thought it was worth finding the stations and doing the activities (they were all nature related - almost like a nature center).The animals really were amazing and in such beautiful habitats. Not sad and sorry looking concrete cages like old zoos, but seemed to be nature inspired.
Last time were were there, we didn't spend enough time out at Rifiki's Planet watch. They have a lot to explore and check out. If you are local, check out the program they have for kids who want to learn to work with animals. Here we are riding the train. I love how Disney goes all out with the themes. This train looks like some thing from Out of Africa.

Another treat for us...the simplistic petting zoo. We had more fun brushing the goats and sheep. Simple pleasures.

We really had a great day and a great time as a family. It was a wonderful get away and a true escape from reality...isn't that what vacation should be?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Our little get two

Our favorite Disney park is Magic Kingdom. Every time we go that is what we love the most. It is the classic Disney place and has the most little rides for the kids. And it has that magical feel with the castle and all. We have been to Disney when the lines were SO long and it was SO hot, this felt just right. Short lines and fantastic weather.

We often talk about our favorite rides and the Mickey's Phil Harmagic comes up a lot. Such a fun little show, and you have to love the 3-D glasses.
We hopped on the train as soon as we got in the park and hit frontier land so we could ride Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road first before the lines got busy...we were on and off a few times before the crowds showed up. Then off to fantasy land to get our fast passes for Pooh' s honey pot ride (The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh). When we were kids, that ride was where Mister Toad's Wild Ride used to be but Pooh Bear took over that spot in 1998.We are all too big to fit in one tea cup now...our legs are too long. Tissy often likes to ride with me, I tend not to spin the cup.
One of the reasons of this trip was for Tristen's birthday. Could she be any more cute? Yep...that is our 9 year old.
We have this tradition of eating at the place next to Small World (I think that started with you Shaleen). We try and get a place by the window and the girls wave to all the boats going past. I have also learned at Disney to just eat "clean up" on the food. The kids never finish and it is less expensive to eat their left overs and munch off of Chuck's meal. We always have a backpack full of granola bars and crackers and snacks for the rest of the day.

We also love Goofy's Barn Stormers roller coaster. It is such a short ride, but a good beginning for introducing roller coasters to kids. Here Chuck and Tissy are at the top just getting ready to go down.We don't tend to wait in line to see the characters. Mickey is the only one that we wait for. Tissy and I usually do this while Chuck and Tally are on Space Mountain. We have learned the fastest way to see Mickey is to go through Mickey's house and wait in the judges tent (where you get to watch cartoons in the shade) to see him. This time Minnie was with him.

Here we are waiting in line for Cinderella's carousel, another mellow ride. Waiting in line is a great place for people watching.
Back over to frontier land and we spent some time on Tom Sawyer Island. It is a fun place to explore around. The river boat is right behind usHere we are trying really hard to get us all in. I think we all look happy here. =)Enjoying the tree house. As much as we enjoy Disney, the girls aren't really familiar with a lot of the stories and movies. But we enjoy it anyway.

This was Tristen's first time on Splash Mountain. She tends to be pretty scared of the unknown, but she LOVED this ride. And we all got soaked. Good thing it was the end of the day and we were almost done.

Walking out at the end...if you look closely you can see how wet we are.

Our only mistake of the day...not taking a picture in front of the castle when we looked the end we were pretty wet and haggard. But we had a great day.