Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today's Biking Update

We biked to Bible Study today (4 miles round trip), and I began musing about what it would be like to take a biking trip to somewhere with Mane. I mean, to actually go camping or vacationing someplace. There are lots of near and far suburbs, many along the river or near lakes. I figure that Mane could, potentially, bike about 12 miles in a day right now, maybe more, but we have to think about making it back home, too. By next summer, I assume she'll have more speed and endurance. I wonder if she could make it to 20 miles in a day.

I found a very cool looking website called Cyclopath that helps you find bike routes if you know where you want to go. It took some searching, but I actually found the link to Cyclopath on the Metro Transit website. Helpful people. It looks like it would be roughly 28 miles to the Baker Park Reserve Campground, which is park of the Three Rivers Park District . I can dream right? Nearly 30 miles is an awfully long ride.

Rice & Beans

Tonight we'll be having rice & refried beans with all the fixings!

Put two cups of rice in a pot with 8 cups of liquid. I typically use a mix of homemade chicken broth & water OR I use Pacific brand tomato and red pepper soup with water.

Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring frequently!

Place 2 cups of dry pinto or black beans in the crockpot and fill the rest of the pot with water. Set the crockpot on high for 3 hours, until beans are splitting open.

Burn an onion in a pan with oil (corn or olive). Remove the burned onion and allow the oil to cool some. Pour the [drained] beans into the pan & mash with a potato masher. Add water to desired consistency. Add about 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of salt according to taste.

Eat rice and beans with tortillas, avocado, lettuce, salsa, tomato, jalepeno, Mexican Farmer cheese, table cream or sour cream, and whatever other fixings you happen to enjoy!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Borscht & Bread

As a favor to some of my gluten free friends, I've decided to include dinner recipes in my blog whenever I'm making something I haven't posted about already. This means there will be lots of recipes to begin with, and then they'll taper off after a while!

So, tonight, because autumn has arrived, and we have a craving for stew, I'm making beet soup, known to the Russians as borscht. I make this in the crockpot, and I make no claims that it is authentically Russian.

Beet Soup
Place in the crockpot:
1.5 pounds beef stew meat
4 - 5 diced medium potatoes
4 - 5 diced beets
1/2 head of cabbage
1 medium sauted onion
1 cup of water
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (Braggs & Heinz are both gluten free)
1 T brown sugar
some dollops of butter over the top

Cook on high until the meat is brown - about 2 hours.
Cook on low for about another 4 hours until the vegetables are soft.

Serve with sour cream and gluten free bread!

Gluten Free Bread
Wisk together wet ingredients:
1 1/2 cups water
3 eggs
1 t. vinegar (Heinz is gluten free)
3 T oil (I used olive oil.)

In a separate bowl mix:
3 1/4 cups brown rice flour
3 T sugar (I use sucanat.)
1 1/2 t. xanthan gum (This stuff is expensive, but most recipes call for very little, and it's what makes gluten free foods stick together.)
1 1/2 t. salt
1 packet of Red Star active dry yeast

Pour wet and dry ingredients into bread machine according to bread machine instructions. I always do wet on the bottom & dry on the top, but different machines have different instructions. I use the 2 lb light loaf setting, but some machines actually have a gluten free setting, and I'm sure that would be faster. Gluten free bread does not need to rise twice like regular bread, but I don't have any other options on my machine.

Check the bread in the first 5-6 minutes. It should look like thick cake batter. If it's very sticky, add water by tablespoons. I find that how much water I need differs from season to season here in MN.

Let it cool entirely, and then store it in a gallon sized bag. It's easier to slice after it's been in the bag for a few hours because the little bit of condensation softens the crust.


A Bike Named Martha

As much fun as it was, I've decided that I don't really need or want a separate blog about biking. So, I've moved all the contents from A Bike Named Martha to this blog, The Midnight Cafe. If you want to read posts about biking, you can scroll down the left sidebar and click on "biking." I am totally in love with the title "A Bike Named Martha," though, so I'm keeping the space there. I just might change my mind at some point, and I want to know that Martha is still waiting for me. ;)

You can still read about our homeschooling journey at Peregrin House, as homeschooling really does need its own separate blog.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Compost & Trash

I know you're all waiting with bated breath to hear about No Impact Man, but I find that I'm not particularly inspired to write about it....not because it wasn't inspiring, but because I want you to go see it for yourself. If you're in Minneapolis, it opens at the Lagoon Theater on October 2nd. If you're elsewhere, you'll have to check the website: No Impact Man. If you're looking for inspiration without seeing the film, you could check out Colin Beaven's blog. It's listed in my sidebar as "No Impact Man."

Suffice it to say that I did leave the theater with some of the inspiration I was looking for, and I'll be blogging about the changes we're making here at our house as they happen. Right now I'm looking into the best means of composting our kitchen scraps. I'm looking into vermicompost, which is, essentially, using red worms to quickly turn kitchen scraps back into earth OR a regular backyard compost bin. For Minneapolis (and the surrounding area) Eureka Recycling is an excellent resource for learning how to follow the green mantra, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." They have an upcoming workshop on "The End of Waste," as well as workshops on both types of composting and turning trash into art.

One thought that I took away from the film was this: Sometimes we waste a lot of time and energy trying to figure out which is the lesser of two evils (think paper or plastic?) when really we can avoid the whole conflict by going without either. Sometimes it's not a question of whether or not we can live without something; it's a matter of just going without and seeing what happens. We in America think there are an awful lot of things we can't live without, but when it really comes right down to it, if we gave those things up, we'd find a way to survive. I think sometimes what makes us most unwilling to change is being different, being afraid of what other people will say, being worried about having guests over or turning our children into freaks. I've often said that I wonder how we'd all live if we weren't so afraid. This is just another area that begs that question. And then what if a few of us made some changes and then others followed suit and then we all lived differently together?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 31 - Bicycle Blog

Biked to Bible Study this morning and then to the park before returning home. I think that still puts us at about 4 miles today. Not much else to say.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 30 - Bicycle Blog

2 miles today - to the clinic and to Target. I really, really didn't want to bike, and the car was staring me in the face. Mane was whining and fussing about leaving the house, and I almost offered to drive the car if it would make her feel better when she said, "Can we at least take our bikes?" To which I replied, "Of course, that was the plan all along." ;)

We spent a long and tiring weekend making trips to the hospital to see my uncle. He's fine now. The story is long and doesn't belong in this blog. In any case, we drove/rode in cars a ridiculous number of times to ridiculously close places because we were doing the hospital thing. I did, however, convince my aunt that 4 blocks is not really that far to walk for lunch. We walked the 4 blocks there and back, and I felt I had at least done something for the planet.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 26 - Bicycle Blog

No Impact Man was fantastic, totally worth seeing! We took the bus there to go see it....made sense, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No Impact Man

Mane & I (and possibly the rest of the family) are going to see No Impact Man at the Walker Art Center this evening, and I am SO EXCITED. As Mane was reciting Psalm 23 to me this afternoon, I was thinking of how full of the natural world that Psalm is:

The Lord is my shepherd
I shall not be in want
He makes me lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside quiet waters
He restores my soul

Truly, what restores our souls like a walk beside quiet waters? The poet Psalmist knew the way that green growth and clear water speak to the human soul. It's circular, I think, the way that these things restore us and turn our hearts to God and the way that God leads us to these things in order to be restored. They are the tangible bits of God in the universe, our way to see glimmers of God's personality and desires for us.

I've found that this biking experiment has been restorative for me in a similar way. In the city, biking doesn't really bring one closer to nature...or, at least, not any more than it brings one closer to asphalt and concrete. But it frees us to live in closer relationship to the world around us, and it does reduce our negative impact on the natural world that God created. God created us to be relational beings, as God is also a trinity, constantly in relationship. Rushing around (car or no car) is not conducive to relationships, with each other or with the natural world. I feel significantly less rushed since making an intentional effort to drive less. I think it has something to do with planning only what we actually have time for and leaving plans more open-ended to give time to get there and back. I don't think driving less is the only way to learn that lesson, but it was the way for me to learn it right now. And it restores my soul...

Biking is a baby step for me, a very do-able way to live more gently, to slow down, to take care of the world that God made for our enjoyment, delight, and restoration. No Impact Man tells a more extreme story, long strides, lots of sacrifice. I'm looking forward to being challenged. Mane has already asked for us to begin composting our food waste, something I've been too lazy to explore. I'd like to instill in her a love for creation, along with a love for the Creator, and I'm going to let her youth and belief that nothing is impossible challenge me, too. A restoration challenge...for me and for creation.

Day 24 - Bicycle Blog

Biked to Bible Study this morning (4 miles round trip). It was chilly when we started out, and we were glad. It's been unseasonably warm lately and very sunny. We were glad for the clouds and the chill. We had the new experience of hearing the leaves crunch under our bike tires, and I could smell fall in the air.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day 23 - Bicycle Blog

No biking today, but we walked to the hardware store (4 blocks & back again), and we took the bus to our the park where our homeschool group meets (about 8.5 miles). It was another half mile walk from the bus stop to actually get to the park. Surprise of the day? The 1/2 mile walk received no complaints from Mane, though it was quite warm and we were out in the sun. She was busy observing the bugs & flowers!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur

I am stunned by the stories of redemption I have stumbled upon in the last few weeks, as Mane and I have been reading about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur...the Jewish New Year and the Day of Cleansing. Perhaps these glimmers of redemption are always around me, but I don't notice them unless it's on my mind. I wonder how much I miss by just not paying attention and being many droplets of redemption glimmer while I'm to busy trying to be perfect. Ironic, isn't it?

Mane and I embarked on a study of Jewish or Biblical Holidays as part of our homeschooling curriculum this year. My interest has been piqued by some mothers on the message board where I find some on-line support, advice & encouragement. I picked up a booked called The Family Treasury of Jewish Holidays from a thrift store, and then I was ready to embark on a journey to learn about the Biblical Holidays, the holidays that God designed to fill our lives with celebration, contemplation, joy, and introspection. These are the holidays that God created to mark our calendars and walk us through the year. It seems important, as Christian people, to at least know what they're about.

In our readings about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we have encountered the Jewish idea of sin, which is simply, "missing the mark," and the idea that the New Year is a time to reflect on the things we've done right and wrong in the last year, the things we'd like to change, the things we need forgiveness for and the things we need to forgive. There is not a feeling of guilt or shame associated with this time, but a feeling of how valuable our mistakes are because they spur growth and help us seek and encounter God in our lives.

I cannot begin to tell you how fresh and beautiful this message feels. Jewish tradition is that the pieces of the stone tablets that were broken when Moses threw them down in anger were to be kept in the Ark of the Covenant because the mistake was holy, too. Can you believe it? Holy mistakes?! Mane struggles, as I do, with admitting and moving past mistakes. It's hard to be a perfectionist. Hard to be the child of a perfectionist. Hard to be the grandchild and great-grandchild of a perfectionist. It is both humbling and agonizing to see my own tendencies repeated in my child, and I am praying for freedom for both of us as we learn to re-frame mistakes as holy, as moments to learn and to encounter God.

Two friends of mine wrote beautiful blog posts this week about the redemption of their mistakes, even unintentional ones. Something Good From Something Bad is a story by a journalist-turned-full-time-mom friend of mine. Rewriting My Name is by the ever-popular Heather of the EO. ;) They have said it so well. I hardly need to restate what has already been said.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day 20 - Bicycle Blog

Last week Thursday, Mane & I biked to the co-op. It was a bit of a disastrous day & I didn't want to talk about it. Mane was in a snit all morning about not wanting to wear sandals and not being able to find socks. It took us forever to get out the door. ...and when I walked out the door the car was sitting there staring at me, pleading to be driven. I knew this day would come when I would need to exercise a bit more will power to not get into the car. This is where I envy Mr. & Mrs. Bicycle because they don't have an option. Not having an option makes choosing to bike a lot easier. Either you go somewhere or you stay home. Anyway, I looked at the car, gritted my teeth and turned away. We would bike to the co-op. It didn't get any better just because I exercised a bit of willpower, though. Mane needed to stop every half a block to fix her hair and her helmet and her clothes and to scratch mosquito bites...or just to whine and tell me that Daddy didn't go this way when he took her to the co-op. I desperately wanted to scream and yell and cry, but I didn't. I prayed silently for patience to make it through the day and kept going. I was quiet. I must admit I wasn't very encouraging, but at least I didn't say anything mean.

In the afternoon Vespera asked me to drive her to class because she had more than she could carry on her bike or on the bus. So, I drove her to class & used the fact that I was already in the car to justify driving to the library. The library trip was actually pretty good. Mane was relatively happy, and I found all the things I was looking for to do a new homeschool unit next week. THEN we went to use the automated pay machine to pay for parking. The machine couldn't read my ticket and insisted that I owed $6,763.00. I had to call the parking attendant, who doesn't take credit cards & has to have exact change in cash (because everything is automated & he didn't have any change). I had to go back in the library to use the ATM to get cash. Then I had to go to the coffee shop to break the larger bills to get change for parking. They wouldn't break a bill uless I bought something. So, I got Mane some string cheese to make her stop whining, and we went back to the parking ramp. Everything was fine after that, but we swore never to drive to the library again.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Day 16 - Bicycle Blog

We biked to Target again today. Mane made it all the way to the top of the bridge over Hiawatha without stopping! This is a first. She's getting stronger every day!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Mane's Bedroom MakeOver

The dolly clothes & the dress-up clothes we driving me bananas. So, I strung up a little clothesline for them under the loft. We've had the shoe organizer for a long time to keep track of stuffed animals.

Mane, of course, is happiest with the fabric I hung up to make a little curtain around her bed.

Clean dresser for once!!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Day 12 - Bicycle Blog

We biked 1.5 miles today to the library and back. I sure am glad Mango taught Mane her left and right because it makes telling her where to turn a WHOLE lot easier. A bonus: I have now learned left & right, as well. ;)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

I'm making things up...

Yesterday when I posted about Winter, I was feeling so positive, like I was ready to tackle something...


And by the end of the day I was crying to Mango, "I have a Master's Degree and my life's goal is to have all the laundry done." Yep, you heard me. I was crying about laundry.

Well, not really.

I was whining about how hard it is to feel like I actually ever DO anything because everything I do needs to be done again - grocery shopping, dinner, laundry, mopping, washing the bathroom mirror. And the other things I do are so hard to see - the books I read to Mane, the time spent teaching math and reading, bike rides to keep us both strong and healthy (and to save the planet while we're at it). And those things look far too much like FUN. So, I feel like I should be working harder. I should be DOing something. I should be able to stay on top of the bills and advertise for my childbirth classes and generally make life perfect and peaceful for everybody in my house.

And if life is not perfect and peaceful for everyone in my house, I shouldn't be blogging or reading books for fun or posting on a message board.


It really makes no sense does it? If I run myself into the ground getting everything done then I'll be...well...smushed into the ground. Which kind of negates whatever it was I was trying to do, right? Still, it gets so hard to fight that feeling sometimes.

So, this post is to remind me (and all the other mothers reading here) that we are doing something. The fruit of my work isn't as tangible as other work, but it flowers quietly in things like the attachment I share with my children. And just because what I do can't be SEEN well from the outside doesn't mean I'm not DOing anything. And it doesn't mean I can't be tired. Or need a little time to do something just for me.

There. I needed a pep talk.

Day 11 - Bicycle Blog

We biked to the park today! 4 miles round trip. We saw Mr. Bicycle on the Greenway. I felt so proud. He was excited to see us, and it was smiles and "hello's!" all around.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Day 10 - Bicycle Blog

A trip to Target adds 2 more miles to our mile log this week! It sure was a good feeling to pass our parked car on our way out. Mango has ridden his bike to work several times in the last few weeks, and Vespera has been taking the bus to the University. Poor sad little parked car...and I don't feel a bit sorry for it.

Where did this come from?

I surprised even myself the other day by saying that I am looking forward to Winter. Yes, indeed. Winter with a capital "W" because that's what Winter is in Minnesota. I don't know why I said it, but I found myself believing it to be true.

I didn't always hate Winter, but Winter and I have certainly seen some tough times. Last year, though, my family went out skiing/snowboarding and sledding. We bundled up and went OUT in the Winter. I know I'm repeating myself, but Mr. Bicycle said that he always hated Winter until he got out into it. Now he loves it. There is something that happens inside of us when we choose to experience let it be what it is and simply face it.

I guess maybe this is just another lesson for me in letting go, in not having to be so in control all the time. I cannot control my children, my husband, immigration, or Winter. So, I'd better just get down to the business of releasing those things from my grip. I can do what I can do and nothing more.

I can do nothing less, either. It's my job and responsibility to take care of those things as much as I can and THEN let them go. What does taking care of Winter mean? For me, it means taking care of myself in Winter - vitamins, exercise, sunshine, OUTings (both with friends and OUTside). And it means trying to focus on the things I love about Winter (don't ask me to love immigration, though, ok?).

What do I love about Winter? I absolutely love it that we finally live in a house with a fireplace! I love reading a book by the fire, reading aloud to Mane by the fire, visiting with friends, playing games, and writing blogs by the fire! I love bulky cable knit sweaters, the denim quilt that I made, snowmen, sledding, skiing, snow angels, clear skies, bright stars, and not having to mow the grass. Even as the darkness drives me crazy, I like the way it pulls us in, pulls us closer together around the lights and the warmth in our home.

I have a friend who visited her sister in Sweden last year in the Winter. In January in Sweden it gets dark around 3pm. My friend said that the Swedish people try to embrace the darkness. They try to rest once it's dark and not turn on a bunch of electric light. They sometimes light candles to keep the evening quiet and soft until they're ready to sleep.

I cannot promise that I'll feel this way in January, but right now I'm practicing being open to what Winter brings. I am absolutely familiar with Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder. So, I'm not trying to say that changing my mindset will change everything or that it will change anything for anyone other than myself. Just knowing myself, though, this is a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Day 9 - Bicycle Blog

We walked a little over half a mile to the light rail station to go to the library today. I wasn't feeling like braving the downtown traffic with Mane again. Mane tried to make a case for taking our bikes on the light rail with us, but it sounded like too much hassle to me. We'll have to actually try it sometime to see how much hassle it actually is. If we can take our bikes on the light rail without too much trouble that will significantly increase our mobility.

In the afternoon we biked to the grocery store for some quick necessities and a Go To card for Vespera. That's about 2 miles round trip. Mane whined about getting out the door but talked all the way home about what a great day it was for biking! Earlier in the day she had been whining about the walk (instead of biking) to the light rail, and then commented all the way along the walk about the things you can notice when you're walking that you don't notice on a bike. She's as changeable as the weather on Lake Superior. Cold and windy one second, warm and sunny the next.