Thursday, April 30, 2009

When I saw this adorable little dress at the thrift store with tags attached and selling for only 50 pence (75 cents), I couldn't resist.  It will probably be seasonally off and totally impractical (with buttons up the back), but oh, so cute!

I'm thinking... white, long-sleeved onesie with a little cardigan and leggings should give it more range seasonally.  If all else fails, I can always send it with my mom to Indonesia where it would be a lot more practical on their little, hot children. =)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It is that day of the week again - Wednesday.  Today I have tackled getting my nooks and crannies cleaned out and organized.  I am sharing my Before and After pictures and trying not to be too embarrassed about the "Befores" and hoping my "Afters" won't revert back too soon. 




This is not the final look that I am going for.  Someday when my poor husband actually gets paid for all the work he's doing, I want to buy a cabinetted computer desk where I can hide away all our office supplies.

I also:

1. FINALLY oiled my squeaky bedroom door
2. Got up-to-date on our personal expenses spreadsheet (we keep our receipts and track our spending in an Excel document).
3. Ran some letters to the postbox (the only way to mail here besides the post office)
4. Wrote my "No Procrastination Wednesday" post..... Phew!

Monday, April 27, 2009

This week there are a lot of web links for my meals because I am trying to use what is in my pantry.  I love that you can search by ingredients on


Same old; same old (though I'm not always boring - I DID make date-filled cinnamon rolls and homemade vanilla yogurt with fresh raspberries last week - but only because I am, very often, quite boring.) 


Monday - Slow Cooker Escalloped Chicken with Parsley Potatoes and Vegetables

Tuesday - Beef Barley Lentil Soup with left-over Cornbread

Wednesday - Spinach, Red Lentil and Bean Curry over Rice

Thursday - Lemon Cream Pasta with Chicken with Steamed Vegetables
Friday - Mexican Lasagna 

Saturday - Baked Potato Bar

Sunday - Vegetable and Egg Fried Rice

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I'm sorry it has taken me a while to get to the end of this book and write about it. It seems like every time I tried to read more I kept falling asleep - not because it was boring, I'm just pregnant. But, I am happy to say that I did complete the book and hopefully I can summarize the last 140+ pages in one posting. If you have missed the previous posts, you can catch up here: Introduction; Corn & Cow; Complex Foods, Consumers & Chicken Nuggets; Industrial Organic; and Polyface Farm.

Pollan's final challenge for himself is to make a meal entirely of things he has either grown, hunted or foraged. He spends a while talking about the evolution of our bodies and the earth and how it all links together. I found it amazing to know more details about how fearfully and wonderfully we have been created. We humans have such a capacity to use what the world offers as sustenance. From the structure of our jaws and teeth to the enzymes in our stomachs, we have been made to enjoy the bounties of the earth.

What we don't have that most animals do, is an natural instinct for what we can and can't eat. This is the "Omnivore's Dilemma". We have had to learn through trial and error what is edible and what isn't, how to extract nourishment from foods and how to avoid being sickened by them. Just as hundreds of years ago people might have been hesitant to eat a mushroom, not knowing what the outcome would be, in our own, new way we have this same dilemma in our modern grocery stores as we scan labels and ingredients trying to decide what we should put into our bodies.

Another focus that Pollan discusses and I found interesting was the lack of a deep-rooted culinary culture in America and how that has influenced our society. He compared us to France who eat quite fatty, unhealthy foods. However, the culture that surrounds the meal allows for them to be much healthier - meals are slow with small portions; people don't snack as much and rarely do they eat alone. This culture has lasted for generations. America on the other hand is such a hodge-podge of foods and cultures, that we have no basic culinary traditions to revert to. This, he deduces, leads us to be much more susceptible to food fads, dieting fads and such that swing us back and forth on the pendulum of what is "healthy" and "not healthy."

Pollan also takes some time to wrestle with the ethics of eating animals. I don't want to get into it all, but he comes to the conclusion that animal raising, slaughtering and eating must be done in a humane way.  However, if it is avoided altogether, it will affect the balance of the food chains and in the end, have very adverse affects on those animals we are trying to 'save'.

The majority of this last section is devoted to explaining how Pollan learns to gather his own meal. Where and how to hunt and kill a wild pig. Where to find mushrooms. How to forage for free fruit right within his community (in California). Even attempting to extract his own salt from old salt flats. You'll have to read the book if you want to know more about his adventures and the knowledge he gained from them.

In the end, Pollan sits down with those who have helped him on this foraging experience to what he determines is the perfect meal - one that has worn no bar codes, is entirely local and seasonal, and where he knows the source of every dish on the table and the story to go along with it. He makes it clear that this type of eating is not realistic, but the point he is trying to make is that we need to be in touch with what our food actually IS and WHERE it comes from.

French Cafe courtesy of

Friday, April 24, 2009

To see other "Cool Internet Freebies" please see my previous post.

Spotify is basically a combination of iTunes and radio.  You can look up an album, song or artist and then listen to the entire playlist that pulls up.  It is legal and so far FREE (though my husband says that it is still in beta form, and the "free" might change after they see how well it markets.)  For the time being though, I have been enjoying listening to musical artists and soundtracks just like I would on our iTunes with very rare commercial breaks.. and did I mention FREE??  Obviously they don't play some of the more obscure musicians or albums, but I've been quite impressed with their extensive selection.  I think we've listened to every version of "The Wheels on the Bus" that are out there during the course of my son's obsession.  

To my friends in media-regulated countries, I'm afraid you will have to forgo this freebie.  I've been told it is not offered there.  Sorry.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Here are a few photos to show the progress of our plants.  Parsley on the left and tomatoes on the right.

Ooh.. I just love watching plants sprout and grow.

Cheering them on.

We've actually transplanted some out into our backyard to see how they do.  Apparently it snowed here last year at this time, but we've been having wonderful, warm days for a while now, so I hope all chances of frost are over.

What has been really fun is being able to give some of our extra plants away to people on Freecycle (see previous post).  I've had 2 men come by to pick up my extra tomatoes and parsley.  Having been on the receiving end of people's generosity, it is fun to be able to give a little as well.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Over at my cousin's blog, she's put out an invitation to join her in trying to use Wednesdays to tackle those projects that are so easy to procrastinate on.  Since procrastination is a definite weakness of mine, I've found this to be very helpful and I wanted to pass the invitation on.

Since I'm posting at the end of the day, it will give you a week to think about it and work on a To-Do list.  Actually, I've found it so motivating, that I've been more energized all week to not procrastinate and get things checked off my To Do list (or is it that I've been getting more sleep and enjoying beautiful spring days?)  Thanks, Anna!

Here was my simple list for today in order of importance:

1. Clean fridge
2. Send over-due emails/messages to three friends
3. Finish hemming dining room curtains and making tie-backs
4. Write a post about "No Procrastination Wednesdays"

Thankfully, everything got done and while there are many more things to do, taking time to enjoy this rare, sunny weather is remaining a high priority.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I have run into this fantastic bread recipe on several blogs.  It has become popular with the release of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day.  The authors have their own website where they post all sorts of delicious looking breads using this very basic method.

Here is the base recipe:

Artisan Bread
3 cups luke-warm water
1 1/2 Tbsp yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
6 1/2 cups white flour

Mix the first three ingredients together.

Add the flour. (The dough will be tacky still.)

Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 2 hours.

At this point you can throw it in your fridge for up to two weeks.  The dough will continue to work becoming more sourdough-like.

Or you can shape it into whatever type bread you want to serve: loaf, rolls, braid, etc...

I typically make this with half-wheat, half-white.  Sometimes I make the whole recipe and set half aside.  Other times I just make half the recipe for my little family.

Sprinkle flour on the dough as it is quite sticky and cut off as much as you need.  Gently shape into a loaf and place on a greased (or cornmeal-ed) baking sheet.  Let rise for 40 minutes or till double, cut a slash across the top with a sharp knife and bake in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until well-browned.

Super easy!

Now, there are all sorts of additional tricks you can do to make your bread more crusty.  The basics being: hot oven and steam.  You can go to Lynn's Kitchen Adventures for more instruction about how to do that.  There are also several videos out there to show you exactly what do to.

*  *  *  *  *

Today, I wanted to make Brotchen - a hard-crust, German dinner roll. 
 According to the Artisan people, I just needed to make the regular recipe and brush the rolls with egg white before baking.  Here they are in all their unequal-sized splendor.

But... I don’t have a picture of the final result because right when I am supposed to be putting the bread in the oven, I get a long-distance phone call which takes 15 mintues and leaves me feeling somewhat discouraged. Then I rush into the kitchen to turn on the oven for my over-risen rolls and madly start preparing dinner. 

Meanwhile, my son is doing everything he can to hinder me. After making it clear that the water in the sink is off-limits today, he proceeds to pull the water pitcher off the counter, flooding the floor. I’m mopping and trying to keep him out of the mess at the same time. In the process, I spill some of the egg white for basting my rolls all over the counter – another mess to clean.  

I’m frustrated and grumpy knowing that the rolls won’t turn out, dinner is going to be late, my family will probably hate what is on the menu anyways, my kid is too much underfoot and most of all, my husband is peacefully sitting upstairs, oblivious to all the fuming and stewing going on in the kitchen.  Does he not know how annoyed I am? (No)  Shouldn’t he sense my mood – we are supposed to be “one”, right? (Uh.. I don’t think it works that way - at least not 3 rooms away.)  How can he be so inconsiderate to let me slave away down here while I'm sure he is doing nothing important. (Irrational assumptions.)

All the negative energy must have made its ways upstairs (or perhaps the sounds of sniveling?) because my knight in shining armor DID come down to see if I needed help and took a little boy off my hands.  Now what was it that I so upset about exactly?  How much easier it would have been if I just had asked for help in the very beginning rather than testing my husband’s love in an exam he didn’t even know about (yet somehow managed to pass with flying colors). 

Dinner ended up being just so-so.. the bread had all stuck together rather than being individual rolls, but eh… it’s just a meal and not worth destroying our family harmony over, right? 

So…. Let’s just pretend that these were my beautiful dinner rolls okay?

This bread recipe really is cool and very easy to make.  
Don't let my bad day keep you from trying it out.

Have fun!

Brotchen picture courtesy of the Artisan Bread people.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I didn't post a menu plan last week because the week before had enough unexpected dinner changes that I was able to carry most of my plans on to this past week.  But, now my pantry is running low and it is time to plan again so that I can be ready for shopping tomorrow.


Same old; same old  (Except now we have instituted my husband's childhood tradition of having Nutella for Sunday breakfast.  I LOVE that Europeans find it perfectly acceptable to eat chocolate for breakfast!)


Monday - Spaghetti on left-over noodles and fried polentta with Vegetables

Tuesday - Chicken soup with My Favorite Rolls (I have GOT to post a recipe of these!)

Wednesday - Red Beans and Rice? (Depending on the price of Polish Sausage)

Thursday - Oven-fried Fish with Oven-baked Potato Wedges and Brussels Sprouts

Friday - Calzones

Saturday - Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Sunday - Egg Sandwiches

Thursday, April 16, 2009

When my parents first moved into the tribal area where they now work, there was no established village.  Our closest neighbors were the shaman priest and his family who lived up the mountain.  His children were some of my first playmates and I probably met his son, Ndolu, when I was around 2-3 years old.  

I wish I had one of his first pictures to show you.  If it weren't for the loincloth he was wearing, he would have looked like a girl with long, wild hair.  Dad hired him to do basic yard work, teaching him throughout the years how to work with electricity, solar panels, generators, water systems, etc...  He became like a son to my parents and a brother to us kids.  Through the course of time and Bible teaching, he came to know and love the Lord.  He was one of the few unmarried male believers in the young church and he fell in love with a godly young woman.  It wasn't an easy road for them.  His father opposed the marriage because his older brother was already married to her older sister.  He didn't want to, yet again, give bride price to this other clan, making their families even more connected.  I remember the young couple having agonized conversations with my parents about what to do.  It is extremely common for couples to just run away and get married elsewhere to avoid these problems, but my father and mother encouraged them to honor their parents.  If I'm not mistaken, Ndolu waited seven years before his father gave him permission to marry!  Mom and I made a huge wedding cake to celebrate their union.  

Ndolu changed his name to Petrus (meaning 'Peter' which has the same meaning as his tribal name - "A Rock").  He and his wife attended the New Tribes Mission national Bible school and missionary training then returned to minister in the tribe.  His main focus was evangelizing another village and leading people to the Lord there.  He also reluctantly took on the job of village chief when no one else stepped up to the roll.

Petrus holding a paper with signatures petitioning the church to send an evangelist to a new village across the island.  He felt deeply burdened by their need of the Lord.

For the past couple of years, Petrus has been suffering from a chronic kidney condition.  He has continued his ministry despite much pain and finally he had a chance to return to the city and get his condition checked by doctors.  He left his pregnant wife and four children for a few weeks to see if he could get medical help.  Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be much the doctors could do for him and a couple of weeks ago, he headed back home on a boat with another man from the tribe.

In the course of the dark night, their boat was hit by a large, passenger boat causing it to tip precariously.  The boat righted itself, though seriously damaged, but Petrus was missing.  We don't know if he jumped over in fear of the boat capsizing or if he was knocked off, but after several days of searching, he was not found.   It seems that he was called HOME.

This is such a "Why God??" situation.  His wife is due to give birth any day now, he has a family dependent on him, a thriving ministry, a whole life ahead of him and yet from this freak accident, he is gone.  It is so hard to understand, but a verse that I stumbled across a few days after the search was called off comforted me:

Precious in the sight of the LORD 
       is the death of his saints.
Psalm 116:15

It reminded me that God's perspective is so different from mine.  While I look at life as the span between birth and death, God's view is not as narrow.  God sees His saints' death as precious because through the blood of Christ, they can now enter His presence and know Him fully as He desires to be knows. This time on earth is a mere blip and I believe we won't truly experience LIFE until we die and enter the presence of our Lord.  Petrus is more ALIVE now than he ever was.  Of course we grieve with his loved ones.  As a body we feel each other's pain of loss and we are called to comfort one another, but what peace and joy we can have in remembering that Jesus is welcoming His precious child Home - and some day we will join Petrus there, rejoicing in the Lord.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We are fortunate to have about seven "charity shops" (thrift stores) in our immediate area.  These are a bit different than the large stores with everything imaginable that I enjoy frequenting in the states.  They mostly focus on clothing and books with only a few offering small furniture or electronics.  There are not many toys and most kitchen items are more of the collectible-type rather than useful.  So, imagine my surprise and joy to find these bargains.

Moseying around with my dear aunt and cousin on Saturday took me to a store I don't often check and there before me was a Brother sewing machine for ₤10 ($15).  I snatched it up!  I'm so excited to try it out (after I get a hold of some oil for it).  I have curtains to hem, a couch to cover... and so many more possibilities.  After semi-complaining on a previous post about having to leave behind my sewing machine in China, this comes as such an undeserved blessing from the Lord.

Then, today as I was racing to get my son to the Rhyme, Rattle and Roll session at our local library, I passed by our favorite thrift store.  Sitting there was quite a nice looking stroller.  I glanced at the price and thought: well... if it's still there when I get back, I'll buy it.  I need something for when our baby is born and I've been dreading trying to figure out the best product to buy without spending too much money. I spent most of my time at the library wondering if I made a mistake by not buying it right away (that thrift store has a very fast turn-over rate).  An hour later I headed back expecting to be disappointed, but there it was, calling my name. I examined it (with help from a sweet older couple who seemed excited for me),and everything looked like it was in good working order.  It is a neutral gray and includes a winter sack, a reversible handle (so that you can see the baby while you are pushing), a fairly big basket below and it folds up quite nicely. Come to find out, it is a very good quality brand that runs between ₤200-250 ($300-350) and I bought it for ₤15 ($22) -  marked down from ₤30!!  I've been praising God all afternoon! 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I ended Lent on Good Friday (a couple days early because I mistakenly started it a bit early and it was my husband's birthday as well as our Passover celebration.) See previous post.

One thing I found interesting in this 40ish days was the number of times when I was taking care of a sick and fussy child or dealing with a disappointment that I just wanted to turn to chocolate for "comfort". I wondered why - what does this tell me about myself? Some might talk about the natural "high" that chocolate can give and how I subconsciously desire it when I'm feeling down. Perhaps in all the giving, giving, giving that motherhood requires, I consider it as something just for ME. Maybe I looked to it to take my mind off the frustration of the moment. Maybe I really am addicted!? =) Whatever the case, it was eye-opening for me to consider what I turn to when I am feeling low. Very often, rather than turning to the Source of joy and contentment, I try to conciliate myself with second-rate choices. This verse comes to mind:
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
What a blessing that we have a Savior who understands us... even to our most subtle desires for self-gratification or self-pity. My challenge for us all to think about is this: What/who do you turn to when you are feeling low? Food? Coffee? Music? Escaping into a book or a movie? Your spouse or best friend? In and of themselves none of these are wrong, but there is a fine line between finding these avenues as comforting and looking at them as our source of comfort. The next time that you hit a point in life where you are saying, "This stinks! I need....(chocolate, a vacation, a good cry...)" try to remember to take your troubles first to God. He "gets" it and He's told us to give all our cares to Him because He cares for us.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

One of my son's favorite things to do is "help" me rinse dishes.  He's allowed to handle all plastics, silverware and unbreakables while I do the glass/ceremic/sharp things.    I believe that children should be an active part of housework as they are able, so I like that he is learning the process of dishwashing - trying to get the bubbles off of the dishes, putting the silverware in the right compartment, etc... It can be both amusing and exasperating. It also requires a lot of disaster control and constant decision making.  Is it okay for him try to drink the rinse water with a spoon?  Should I let him keep trying to pour water in the silverware compartment with his cups when I know it will soon end up all over the floor?  Should a cheese grater be strummed with a fork?  It keeps me on my toes (because if I stood flat-footed, my entire sock would be soaked with spilled water.)

He might need a little more work with the stacking techniques, though I think he did a good job on the cups - efficient, just not productive. 

Monday, April 6, 2009

To catch up with what we have been learning from The Omnivore's Dilemma, click on these links: Introduction; Corn & Cow; Complex Foods, Consumers & Chicken Nuggets; Industrial Organic.

After leaving the "Big Organic" farms, Pollan next lives and works five days on a family-run, fully-sustainable farm in Virginia called Polyface Farm. If you read no other part of this book, I think you would gain much from reading about this farm. It appealed to a deep part of me as a natural and beautiful way that man is supposed to subdue and rule the earth without destroying it in the process. You can check out Polyface Farms at their website, or for those of my family who are lucky enough to live close to them - you can even show up at the farm just to look around and see how things are done. They firmly believe that integrity of product relies on being fully transparent to their customers.

Monday - Grass

Joel Salatin neither calls himself an animal farmer nor a vegetable farmer. He is a grass farmer, recognizing that animals and vegetables come and go, but their quality is only as strong as the quality of the land they graze upon. His practice is described as Management Intensive Grazing (MiG). It requires an intimate knowledge of grasses and their life cycles and a willingness to move animals daily to maintain the health of the fields. If the grass if grazed too soon, it will die off; if it is grazed too late, the grass will be woody and unappealing to animals. There is so much fascinating information given about farming, but what is taking place on his farm is a balance of grazing, fertilizing and rest that allows for optimum nourishment for the animals and the land. They are improving, not harming the soil. Adding to the world, not diminishing it.

Tuesday - Animals

Once again there is a wealth of knowledge packed in to this section and another example of the interrelationship of nature, animals and man. The cows are rotated throughout the fields based on the cycle of the grass, then following the cows come chickens. These chickens sanitize the fields by picking all the larvae and parasites out of the cows' manure at the same time, adding their own nitrogen-rich wastes to the fields. The chickens will help remove potential diseases and reduce flies while themselves turning into high-protein meat. What is also amazing about this system is its efficiency. On 100 acres of grass (with 450 acres of trees), Salatin produces 30,000 dozen eggs, 10,000 broilers, 800 stewing hens, 25,000 pounds each of beef and pork, 1,000 turkeys and 500 rabbits (not to mention corn, hay, vegetables and fruit). He refuses to accelerate or expand production because he said the land could not handle it and the quality would decrease.

Wednesday - Slaughter

While Salatin is not allowed to process his own beef and pork by government regulations, he is allowed to kill his own chickens. He complains that just as we are allowed the freedom of liberty and speech, we should also be allowed the "Freedom of Food" - to get it where and how we want it and not merely what is dictated by a government. The USDA has set regulations on what slaughterhouses or "processing facilities" should be like - the type of walls, screened windows, etc... They don't know what to make of Salatin and his open-air processing house which only has a roof. However, this gives it a level of cleanliness that other places don't have. Ironically and frighteningly, the USDA is NOT authorized to set the levels of pathogens (salmonella, listeria, etc...) allowed in foods, though Salatin challenges them to test his chickens and compare how much healthier they are to those raised in feedlots.

On this day, Pollan works alongside the farm hands and a few neighbors to take the broilers from living creatures to plucked, gutted and ready for cooking. The process is quick, sanitary and humane. Even as they are finishing up, people are arriving to pick up their fresh, pre-ordered chickens.

Thursday - Market

Most of Polyface Farms' clientele live within a 1/2 day's drive as it is Salatin's policy to only sell locally. He works by "relationship marketing", predominately relying on word of mouth and his good reputation. His primary means of selling his products are through the farm's store, Farmers' Markets, Metropolitan Buying Clubs, and to local restaurants. The buying clubs were interesting to me because some of them are as far as my hometown in Virginia Beach. These are groups of people who will put together an order, sharing the cost of shipping and divvying it up once it arrives. The Internet has helped tremendously the cause of small farms. Salatin explains that supermarket food systems depends on our not knowing where our food comes from. If we could see into a corporate slaughterhouse the way we can observe his operation, we perhaps would choose to never eat meat again. Strangely, we are willing to pay extra for high-quality products, but when it comes to what we put into our bodies, we seem to be ambivalent or unwilling to pay a greater cost. Another sacrifice that we need to be willing to make for the sake of healthier eating is to return to eating seasonally - especially regarding pastured animals.

Friday - The Meal

Pollan leaves the farm with two chickens, a dozen eggs and freshly picked corn. He also picks up some locally grown rocket for his salad and some Virginia-produced wine. In attempt to keep the spirit of eating locally, he decides to make a meal for friends of his in Charlottesville. He takes some time to explain how he grills the chicken and corn and the beauty and ease of the eggs in making a chocolate soufflé. The meal is raved over. He tries to explain it by saying that the chicken tastes like chicken should taste - likewise the corn and other ingredients. We've come so far away from naturally produced foods that we eat with a memory of what they were. We've lost the pleasure and satisfaction of eating the "real thing".

Pollan also takes some time to explain the role of Omega-6 and Omega-3 in our diets. I might devote a post just to this topic because it was very eye-opening for me. It makes complete sense that we are physically affected by not only what we eat, but what our food eats as well. This corn-fed industry that we live in is throwing off the important balance of omegas in our bodies, possibly contributing to obesity, diabetes, depression, autism, mental disorders... all our modern health problems that were so rare in ancient societies. More and more research is coming out on this topic and will hopefully affect what we chose to put into our bodies.

If I am able to renew the book at the library tomorrow, then hopefully we can find out what Pollan learns in his attempt to forage and grow his own food.
At my recent check up with the midwife, she pointed out that my iron levels are borderline too low.  In hopes of avoiding taking iron supplements (which have uncomfortable side effects), I am trying to incorporate a lot of iron rich foods into my diet.  Iron is found in red meats, legumes, green vegetables, etc... but to improve how your body can absorb it, it is best to eat iron-rich foods with foods containing vitamin C.  So: (Iron foods; Vitamin C)


Whole wheat breads, dried fruits, eggs, bran cereal and oranges or Orange Juice


Typically sandwiches (whole wheat bread; tomatoes) or leftovers
Snacking on pumpkin seeds (a high iron source)

Friday - Passover Seder (and birthday party for my man)

Sunday - Easter Lunch


Monday - Tacos (ground beef, kidney beans; tomato salsa)

Tuesday - Oven-grilled Mackerel with Dabu-dabu (tomato relish), Brussels Sprouts & Mushrooms over Rice (seafood; Brussels sprouts and tomatoes)

Wednesday - Broccoli Chicken Delight (chicken; broccoli)

Thursday - Wendy's Quick Pasta and Lentils (lentils; tomatoes

Friday - Egg & Cheese Sandwiches (eggs)

Saturday - Hamburgers with Baked Potato Fries (beef; tomatoes)

Sunday - Reubens (corned beef; sauerkraut)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

To catch up with this book summary, please click on the following: Introduction, Part 1a, Part 1b.

We can all see that "organic" has become a huge trend around the world with almost every grocery item offered in organic form. Seeing what a mass market and lucrative business selling organic can be, Pollan questions whether the word "organic" has stayed true to it's original ideal or is it just a lie to get more profit. To answer these questions, Pollan visits both large, corporate organic farms as well as the smaller "sustainable" family farms. Today I will share his finds about the first group.

"Big Organic" - Industrial Organic

While we would like to think that all our organic foods come from small, family-run farms, the truth is that most organic in grocery markets come from large corporations. Their marketing strategy is key in instilling peaceful, healthy images of bounding sheep and waving grasses. Organic sells a story with their food in name ("Earthbound"), from their picturesque packaging and descriptive labels ("free-range", "grass-fed", "fair-trade"). But what do these words all actually mean in practice? Is "organic" better?

Pollan finds these questions hard to answer since there are many different philosophies and practices within the organic world. However, he takes time to explain the development of organic farming from the alternative, hippie lifestyle of the '70s to the trendy, mass market phenomenon that it has become. A few years ago, the government finally set a standard that organic foods are to hold to, but this standard includes a level of permissible synthetics and additives. Some farmers feel like it is a farce and there is a desire to find a new word to describe their philosophy of organic farming - "beyond organic", "sustainable", etc.

In the big farms (which are often just a part of conventional mega-farms), things are run pretty much the same way non-organic farms are except the input is different. Vegetables and fruit have natural fertilizers, animals are fed organic foods. If you look closely, you might be disturbed at how much these operations mirror their conventional counterparts.  For example, we might read that chickens or their eggs are "free-range", but what that means legally is they are required to have "access to outdoors". Most of them are living in warehouses with a door that is locked until their last 2 weeks of life. Then farmers cross their fingers and hope the chickens won't venture forth and pick up diseases before they are ready to be killed. Organic milk often comes from feedlot cows fed an organic diet - not our image of freely-grazing Jerseys.

Pollan spent some time observing what it takes to get organic salad vegetables on our table. While it may be an "organic" process, it is certainly not a natural one. Soil is tilled repeatedly to kill weeds (and releasing it of many important nutrients), fertilizer is shipped in to compensate, and crop rotation is minimal. Huge amounts of energy are spent after harvesting to clean the vegetables, keep them at the right temperatures and ship them to our local grocery markets. Organic? Perhaps. Natural or sustainable, it is not.

Organic Meal
Like his McDonald's test, Pollan ends this segment by cooking a homemade meal of roasted chicken and vegetables, a spring salad mix, steamed asparagus and organic ice cream topped with blue berries. He contemplated what the same meal would be like using conventional ingredients and concluded with these questions: Was it healthier? Probably, from lack of pesticides and chemicals; however, it might not necessarily be more nutritious depending on the freshness of the ingredients and the quality of the soil they were grown in. Did it taste better? Maybe, but again, that depends on freshness and the distance the food travelled. Typically organic vegetables do taste better because they take longer to grow, building thicker cell walls. Definitely the chicken was tastier compared to it's non-organic counterpart. Was it better for the environment? Farmers? Public health? Taxpayers? All, yes. Was a better in terms of fossil fuel usage? Definitely not!

Pollan ends by saying that you can't help seeing that "Industrial Organic" is a contradiction. While what they do is better than conventional farming, it is not possible to run things on such large scales, covering such vast distances and hold true to the philosophy of "organic" as people imagine it to be. 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

“Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; 
for consider what great things He has done for you." 
1 Samuel 12:24

Since coming to England, I've found myself struggling often with contentment.  It has hit me on so many levels.  Wishing we had what we needed to be able to invite people over.  Wishing my husband had a job so that I could buy what I wanted.  Wishing my son would get over this clingy phase.  Wishing we would all stop getting sick.  Wishing I knew what my niche was in this community and feeling the lack of a personal ministry here.  

Moving, getting settled, making friends and adjusting to a new place all take time and many moments of being in limbo. I've found myself chafing under it at times.  God has been working on my heart to remember to be thankful.  He has given us so, so much - above and beyond what we imagined - and my ungrateful discontentment is ugly, sinful and an insult to Him.

I read this verse yesterday and it was a blessing to me.  No matter what I have or don't have, where I am or what is going on in my life, I am to fear God, serve Him with all my heart and keep in my thoughts the great things He has done for me.  It has nothing to do with life's circumstances.  It IS life.  If I truly do live this way, I find my mindset and heart attitude being changed and conforming to His.