Wednesday, July 30, 2008

All Clear

Today my mummy got the results from her blood tests and CAT Scan....

100% clear!

100% cancer free!!

Everything is right with the world today.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Local Food

Now this is what I call eating (or drinking) locally!

Hubby and I toured this local vineyard and sampled lots of different wines just to make sure we bought the best varieties. Tough work, but I was willing to make the effort.

Much more fun than beet greens and swiss chard. Don't you think?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What A Long Strange Trip It's Been

After years of taking long weekend vacation trips (if we were lucky), the family packed-up our bags and headed out for an entire five days of vacation! Our destination was Vermont and our plans were open.

Just crossing over that state line made my heart beat slow.

The trip started with a visit to our old college friend's house in central Vermont. I first met Alicia the day before the first day of classes in college. We were both running to a placement test for elementary education students. Me with my granola bar in hand and Alicia with her flannel shirt.

We immediately hit it off and proceeded to have almost every class together for four years. (How did we ever pass chem/physics?) Alicia and I were even placed together for student teaching. We were lucky to have taught at the same elementary school...across the hall from each other..both in the third grade.

Long story short, Alicia married her college sweetheart Josh. She slowly morphed from a Jersey girl into a quilt making, food growing, Subaru driving, fifteen pairs of skis owning Vermonter.

Alica even introduced me to Hubby (my college sweetheart) during a political science class. They lived in the same residence hall and met because of how very social they both were. At Hubby's and my first meeting I thought that Hubby's earring was cute (barf now!) and so was he (still is).

The family spent our first day in Vermont playing with little Ben, catching-up and reminiscing about old times. Alicia and Josh live in the "suburbs" as they call it simply because they have cable TV and share a road with neighbors. I would call it the woods, but hey I can hear my neighbors making dinner. What do I know?
After spending the night we continued on to Burlington, Vermont and Lake Champlain.
Let me tell you how happily surprised I was as we first arrived in town. Street signs reminded drivers not to idle, as it is bad for the air quality. Recycling bins lined the busy streets. Bike riders and bike trails were everywhere. Restaurants touted the fact that their food was all from local growers, cows and bakers. Used bookstores and thrifts shops were more prevalent than chain stores. What a change from the fast-food driven, car driving, trash loving area that I like to call Connecticut.
Was this Gruppie heaven?

The family even spent a day on beautiful Lake Champlain.
(Hubby doesn't want me to blog about Lake Champlain because he is afraid of others finding out about it's unspoiled beauty. In respect of Hubby I won't tell you about how sparking clean the lake was. I will not mention how calm and warm the water was. I will not tell you about the restaurant that filled an old boat with beach sand and put it next to their lake-front restaurant to keep the kids busy while Mom and Dad drank local beer. I will keep my lips closed.)

I will tell you about a few of the yummy touristy destinations we encountered. First, we toured the Ben and Jerry's factory. The tour included amazing free samples (strawberry cheesecake is to die for) and we of course had to buy more ice cream at the end of the tour.

Hubby as Ben Gruppie as Jerry

Next, we toured Lake Champlain Chocolates. Not so much toured as stood in front of a glass window and watched the chocolate makers as if they were fish. (FYI, if you knock on the glass they wave back) That tour also came with lots of freebies and we, of course, purchased more chocolates afterward.

Finally, the family debated weather or not we should do the Cabot cheese tour. Ultimately, we decided that our stomachs could take no more.

My experience with Vermont was almost like I had visited another country. The locals are so proud of what is made in Vermont that they don't have to go to great lengths to use and consume Vermont products. From the smallest dive diner to the fancy-smanshy of restaurants, the food was made in Vermont. From the toy store to the art gallery. All Vermont. Why? Maybe it's because Burlington is a college town. Maybe it's because they are relatively isolated from other cities. Maybe it's the resourceful Yankee in their DNA. I don't know. Whatever the reason Vermonters seem like an environmentally friendly, low-consuming, locally focuses bunch of people.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Chicken Pot Pie

Diane over at dk Mommy Spot is running a healthy recipe contest. Diane is a green girlie who knows a ton about natural cures, foods and healthy living. She also hosts lots of amazing give aways....not that I have personally ever won anything....yet!

Diane has asked for healthy recipe submissions. She is posting them on her blog and will be giving away a wonderful prize to the winner of the yummyest recipe. Fingers crossed.

I submitted the one and only recipe that I have ever created myself that doesn't contain copious amounts of sugar. The recipe started with one that my friend Kim used to cook a chicken pot pie for me when Little Guy was born. I tweaked the recipe to make life easier for me. What could be better than cooking once and getting two meals?

This chicken pot pie is the meal that I make for my sick or elderly neighbors. My friends who have had babies have also received this pie. It is nice to be able to cook for a friend and yourself at the same time.
Disclaimer: Not my actual pie. Mine look more...homemade.

You should know that my family loves this recipe so much that we have our own chicken pot pie recipe song. Sing it to the tune of Jimmy Crack Corn.

"Chicken pot pie and I don't care.
Chicken pot pie and I don't care.
Chicken pot pie and I don't carrreee
It's yummy anyway!"

So, we aren't the most musically inclined bunch. But, we sure do know how to eat. Enjoy!

Chicken Pot Pie for Two Nights
Gruppie Girl

1 package of antibiotic boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Shredded
1 16 ounce package of organic frozen, mixed veggies
4 pie crusts
2/3 cup organic butter
2/3 cup chopped organic onion
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 large 30 ounce box of organic chicken broth
½ teaspoon pepper
1 cup organic milk

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line two pie pans with pie crust.

2. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Odd onion, cook and stir 2 minutes or until tender. Add flour, salt and pepper. Stir until well blended. Gradually stir in milk and broth, cooking and stirring until bubbly and thickened.

3. Add cooked chicken and uncooked veggies; mix well. Spoon mixture into the crust-lined pie pans. Top with second crusts; seal edges and flute. Cut slits in several places in top crust.

4. Bake the first pie at 425 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown, covering the edge of crust with strips of foil during the last 15 to 20 minutes of baking. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Wrap and freeze the second chicken pot pie. Should freeze well for a month.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Buy This Book!

My good friend, neighbor and drinking buddy Ruth Cullen has just written a new book....and it's GREEN!
This book began as an assignment from Ruth's publishing company and grew into a lifestyle for her entire family. A few of Ruth's new green habits have been noticeable to all of us neighborhood girls. The mini van was traded in for a more fuel efficient vehicle, cloth shopping bags on the front seat of her new little car, a metal coffee mug in the cup holder and her kids haven't been bathed all summer. What a savings!

The Little Green Handbook is just that, a little handbook. The book is easy enough to slide into your locally made purse or your organic denim jeans pocket. Each page of the book contains one of 145 simple steps to save the planet. The steps give ideas for change and many even contain website links.

The Handbook is different from other green books because it isn't preachy or overwhelming. Like I'm really going to dig my own well and then spend a bazillion dollars to get off of the grid. I need tips that I can really use. A few of my favorite tips include:

*Reversing your ceiling fans to follow the seasons
*Use cloth diapers...don't contain harmful chemicals, don't pollute the water supply, and looked so very cute on my babies bottoms
*Try natural remedies...Who knew that tea and rosemary repels fleas from pets?
*An entire green office section
*Use a rainbarell...I LOVE my rainbarell
*Give green gifts...spread the word

Speaking of green gifts, this book would be a great present to give to a friend who is thinking about greening their lives. I'm planning on giving it to my parents. My father is going a little more green every day, yet the format will make it a perfect read for a person who is dyslexic.

The Little Green Handbook will be in stores and online starting August 15th.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Look Mum, I Grew it Myself

I admit that I am easily amused. My potted veggies have been a big source of amusement lately.
Those boring little seedlings have grown into actual vegetables. No magic, no hard work, no extra praying. As a suburban girl, this concept is completely wondrous.

Hot peppers, green beans and teeny tiny cucumbers. Oh my!

Cute little green beans
(The family will be feasting on all 13 of those beans tonight...Remind me to plant more than 2 seedlings next year.)

Happy little green pepper
(Excuse the blurry photo. Note to Hubby~ Add camera to my Christmas list.

Portugal Hot Peppers
(I can't believe how well these are growing!)

Teeny-weeny cuccumber

(You may have to squint to see it)

Friday, July 11, 2008

In Season Cooking

Challenges are good in life. They help you grow, change, blahhh, blahhh, blahhh. I'm sure you've head that line before.

The last four weeks of receiving shares from my local CSA have been a challenge for me. Most of the foods in my weekly share have been complete strangers to me. Like Google the names to match the vegetable strangers. Still, the guilt from possibly wasting these local, organically grown veggies has driven me to step-up my cooking.

Here are a couple of the recipes from Wild Carrot Farm that the entire family has loved.

General Tao’s Stir Fry with Bok Choi

1 pound extra-firm tofu
¾ c. cornstarch
1-2 T peanut oil (I used olive oil and substituted peanut butter)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
3 chopped green onions
1 T minced ginger
2 T minced garlic
2.3 c. chicken or vegetable stock
2 T soy sauce
4 T sugar
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1 T white vinegar
1 head bok choi (thinly chopped)

Press water out of tofu and cut into 1” cubes. Place tofu in a mixing bowl with cornstarch and toss to coat tofu completely. Watch out that the cornstarch doesn’t clump at the bottom of the bowl. Heat peanut oil in pan and fry tofu until golden. Drain tofu and set aside.

Heat olive oil in pan on medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and sauté until garlic begins to turn golden. About 1 minute. Be careful not to burn garlic. Add vegetable stock, soy sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes and vinegar. Add green onions, bok choi and tofu and cook about 4 minute.

Serve immediately over rice. Super yummy!!

Garlic Scapes Pesto

1/8 pound garlic scapes
¼ c. olive oil
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Chop scapes into ¼” sections. Blend scapes with olive oil (a food processor works best…trust me…I had a blender disaster). Remove from food processor and add parmesan cheese.

Use on bread, pasta, potatoes or as a dip.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

If You're Fond of Sand Dunes and Salty Air....

Last weekend I moved my flat butt all the way from the local lake over to the beach on Cape Cod. Whew! Tough move on my part.
Jen (a loyal reader and beach chatter) and Gruppie

I am no stranger to the beaches of Cape Cod. As a kid I spent my summers in a cottage near West Dennis beach. My mummy, brother and myself would "beach it" all week long while my dad came down on the weekends. In my teenage and college years the beach became less about swimming and more about looking good and socializing. Life has come 180 degrees and now I'm spending my time watching my own kids prune in the ocean.

This weekend Hubby, the kids and me took the now longer (3 hour) trip to the cottage for the long Fourth of July weekend. Lots have stayed the same about my little sandy road while lots more have changed.

My parents are now the old timers on the street. When I was a kids my parents were the young ones. The street is now filled with kids. When I was a kid I only had my baby brother to play with. The cottages used to be bare bones and now they are decked out with cable TV and washing machines.

As for the same, the "street people" still all hang out together for barbecues with baked beans and cole slaw. Everyone still ventures to my dad's shed to visit his kegarator. No one comes over until my mummy's shade is raised. Still the same.

Here's to another summer doing lots of the same and different!

Neighborhood Children's 4th of July parade.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Oh The Letters!

Every time I uncover an environmental injustice I like to fire off a friendly letter. A letter here. A letter there. The letters are now being fired-off weekly. My fingers are tired...

I have written to Horizon Organics about their use of #5 plastic to package their cream cheese. Not recyclable. Not the safest choice. Horizon Organics wrote back. The answer was canned and was probably not heard as a suggestion to anyone with power in the company.

In the spirit of Fake Plastic Fish and her quest to have Brita recycle their filters in the US just like they do in the EU, I emailed Kenmore asking how I should recycle their water filters. I was told to make a service appointment to "fix my problem.

The fresh little Gruppie in me did call to make a service appointment. I asked to have a repair person come into my home to tell me how to recycle my filter. That went over like a load of bricks.

My latest writing campaign has been more locally focused. Recycling and properly disposing of waste can be tough to adhere to in my little town. Case in point, having to drive thirty minutes total just to recycle a phonebook.

Now, I do realize that my town officials have more important things on their mind than phone books...taxes, safety, budgets, marathon town meetings. But phone books are the only tip of the iceberg. While the town has certainly made improvements to benefit the earth recently, I would love to see them go further.

My first written response from a town official was very brief and he completely dismissed me. Serious downer. Since that first response, the rest of the emails have been very different. The officials have been very receptive and have wanted more information about what other issues I saw. The latest person to reply stated that he would like to talk further about starting a committee and included a phone number. Score!

Hubby joked with me that when I finally get in front of these people in charge I may surprise them a bit. Most people who meet me in real life are expecting a woman with a greying ponytail and Berks. Watch out world. Us smokin' hot gruppies will keep you guessing.