Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blogging break

I'll be on a blogging break for the next three weeks due to a huge project at work. But, don't forget to first sign up for our second seed giveaway. The contest ends Sunday, and a winner will be drawn sometime next week.

Wishing you well!
Robbie @ Going Green Mama

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Another seed giveaway and a winner

As promised, we have a second seed giveaway from Nature's Crossroads this week. We'll be picking one person to get a free seed kit. Last year, we tried out the Fairy Garden Kit (which my daughter loves - and still carries around the tin with last season's leftovers inside!), but Nature's Crossroads has everything from heirloom tomato seed-saving kits to a Southern favorites collection that my okra-craving boy would love to get his hands on.

To enter, leave a comment with your name and a way for us to reach you (blog link, link to Google profile and e-mail, etc.)

You can get additional entries by:

(1) Tweeting it - leave your Twitter handle
(2) Subscribe to Going Green Mama in your reader
(3) Blog about the giveaway

Entries must be posted by 11:59 p.m. Feb. 28. One winner will be randomly selected by our in-house, impartial judge (our kindergartener).

And the winner from our first giveaway is Janice (#8)!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Not too late

You can give a lot of excuses why you don't have guests over. Perhaps the house is a mess. The children are out of sorts. It's a bad time at work.

But some day, we will all run out of time.

This week, a good friend of mine found out her father has pancreatic cancer. Untreated the average life is 12 weeks. He's looking at options for extending his life with the most quality he can. Instead of worrying about their kids' gym meets or spelling tests, they're trying to cram a lifetime of memories until the time his treatment begins.

Today, I'm staring at my house. Laundry baskets scattered in the living room. Papers on the kitchen table. Toy room, well, being used well. A couple coming from my church tommorrow for marriage preparation. Work incredibly stressful, with our big project next week. And my daughter having had a rough week at school, having made a few bad choices in the way she reacted to situations.

So I make the call. And invite my parents up for the night. Because we're not too busy, or too messy, or too frazzled. We need to make our memories now, before we wish we had.

Budget gardening: Getting started

Today on the Green Phone Booth, I'm offering a few tips on how to get your garden started on a small budget.

Friday, February 18, 2011

One Winter Market Down in Indy

Disappointed to learn on their Facebook page that the Indy Winter's Eve Market that was taking place Thursday evenings downtown has shut down due to lack of traffic.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two weeks...

Two weeks. No TV. No friends. No playdates. And no cooking.


It's the perfect storm with not-so-perfect timing: A major project for my employer lights up in a week and a half's time, which means communications preparations on my end, lots of odd hours and evening calls at just the time I need to settle the kids down for bed.


Unfortunately we have to do what we can to impart on our daughter that while standing up for our friends is a good thing, the methods she's chosen are questionable. And so, in a sense, we're all in deep with her.

We've done a week-long sabatical from TV before, but two weeks will be tough. I'm praying for good weather. And maybe a glass or two of wine for mom...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Friday yet?

It's been a little quiet on the blog this week. Here's why:

1. We're prepping for a major project at work that affects thousands of employees. And guess who's in the mix.

2. We've been spending more time outdoors, as the weather has boomeranged from the single digits to 50-some degrees! Lots of time splashing in slush and stomping in snow, all while wearing our light jackets!

Don't forget to sign up for our seed giveaway from Nature's Crossroads. It ends tonight at 11:59 p.m.

Wishing you a wonderful week,
Robbie @ Going Green Mama

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Seed giveaway

Itching to start gardening? Here's something to take your mind off these brutal temperatures:

We're partnering up with Nature's Crossroads, an Indiana-based seed company, for two giveaways this winter. They focus on organic and locally adapted seeds, as well as some heirloom varieties.

This year, they've expanded beyond the usual tomatoes, lettuces and herbs and are offering more than 200 new varieties, including a number of hot pepper varieties and new Japanese squashes, turnips and greens.

This week, you can enter to win five packets of your choice of their new varieties.

To enter, leave a comment with your name and a way for us to reach you (blog link, link to Google profile and e-mail, etc.)

You can get additional copies by:
(1) Tweeting it - leave your Twitter handle
(2) Subscribe to Going Green Mama in your reader
(3) Blog about the giveaway

Entries must be posted by Wednesday, 11:59 p.m. One winner will be randomly selected by our in-house, impartial judge (our kindergartener).

Look for our second giveaway next week! Good luck, and happy gardening!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Heirloom gardening on a budget

In not-so-sunny Indiana, we're still about two months away from our first planting of the year, but I'm tempted by the catalogs and their promises of colorful heirlooms for my garden.

Sure, gardening can be expensive. The set-up costs of starting a raised bed, of building up bad dirt, of overbuying expensive seeds. But it also can be a great investment: in your health, in your relationships with your kids (mine are digging in the dirt anyway), in the environment.

I'm partial in that we use organic practices in our garden, and we prefer to try heirloom varieties over other types of seeds. Granted, that sounds like a recipe for expensive. It doesn't have to be.

To put aside any worries, here are six tips for heirloom gardening on a budget.

1. Price shop. Heirloom doesn't have to be expensive. In one catalog, I've found prices ranging from $1.75 a packet (much what you'd pay at a garden shop) to more than $4, depending on the variety. If you're not partial to a particular type, you can try heirlooms relatively inexpensively.

2. Watch your costs. In Four-Season Harvest, Eliot Coleman recommends not buying more than two or three types of a particular produce. Most of us have small garden plots, so buy accordingly. Also, consider splitting seeds and shipping costs with another gardener.

3. Save your seeds. True, entire books have been devoted to this subject, but seed saving doesn't have to be complicated. For example, I've left bean seeds to dry on my counter to be used later in the season or the following spring.

4. Let your plants re-seed. OK, this tip is more out of laziness than anything. After accidentally seeing some lettuce bolt one summer, I let it go to seed out of curiousity. I had to do nothing to have new lettuce the following year!

5. Buy local when you can. While the price is often comparable, you'll benefit by growing plants that are more accustomed to your climate and soil.

6. Extend your seasons. Seed goes bad after a few years, so why not make the most of it? Check your area extension's garden calendar to see how long you can plant a particular plant. You could easily get a second or third batch of carrots, radishes or cool-season vegetables just by doing another planting. Extended-season gardening is something I'm relatively new at, but I love reaping the rewards!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

More snow on the menu

Snow is once again on the forecast for Indianapolis, and I'm grateful the temperatures this time are warm enough to send the kids outdoors!

But I'm sure they'll want to enjoy a winter treat as well.

I found a few interesting recipes that you can make with fresh snow! We may be trying this for an afternoon snack today:

On second thought, maybe I don't want to sugar them up again...

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Last night, I shared with my kindergartener, who's very concerned about Haiti, a story about an area church trying to put in a water-filtration system in Haiti that would serve 5,000 or so people. The cost? A mere $5,000. What a simple price tag on life: $1per person to prevent cholera.

I asked her what we could do to help.

Her solution? She is giving up her Thursdays buying lunch at school habit, and we'll share that savings with the church. (Proactively.) I trust she'll stick it out.

Evolution of a gardener girl

From windowsill pots to full-blown, three-season vegetable gardens and edible landscaping, and back to windowsill pots again. But what I've learned most about gardening this last decade or so is there's a lot to be learned.

Check out today's post on the Green Phone Booth: Evolution of a gardener girl.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Celebrating Chinese New Year

Homemade Chinese food is a luxury in our home. I learned long ago how to make the "real" thing, but the time element for making it - my favorite dish takes more than two hours to make - means that it's hardly a staple in my home.

But the new year is a reason to celebrate. On Sunday, we marked an early begining to the Chinese New Year (which is Thursday this year) with a couple of small activities in our home.

Of course, it centered around the meal, and while it wasn't three courses of fun (mom, after all, is still dealing with bronchitis), it was a success. For dinner, we splurged and made homemade Chinese dumplings, a great way to use some of the leftovers in our produce bin. This was an idealistic project, given the number of steps and potential for kitchen disasters (raw ground chicken, raw egg, shredding, frying...) but overall was met with success. I got about a dozen dumplings assembled before hearing my husband's desperate yells upstairs, which meant I had to switch The rest of the filling was tossed with some Ramen noodles for the kids. Hardly authentic Chinese, but the meal was surprisingly a success with the family, and the flavors were repeat-able.

We also made Chinese lanterns, an activity that I'm sure has been a staple for kindergarteners for generations, but it was an easy (and controlled) way for my 3-year-old to practice cutting with scissors. It's a simple way to get a second life out of school projects and other drawings too!

My kindergartener, of course, went for the avant garde-look with hers. Blame it on her 5-year-old creativity, "which is taking stuff and doing new things with it," she says.

The weekend was rounded out with an accidental reading of a Thomas the Train story centered around the Chinese New Year's dragon coming to town and scaring another train. This of course eliminated our other activity: crafting a Chinese New Year dragon from toilet paper rolls and paper towels, which I found on Sadly, if Percy was bothered by a dragon, my 3 year old would be too. Maybe next year.

Have a little more time - or more enthusiastic kitchen helpers - on your hands? Check out these recipes to celebrate your new year:

Ice Storm, Day 2

I consider myself more fortunate than a coworker of mine, who lost power last night during the second round of our ice storm. Other than power going out and the house going black briefly, we're still safe, warm and huddled inside as of 6:30 a.m.!

Right now, we're fortunate in that our biggest worry has been comforting our daughter, who misses kindergarten and her teacher terribly. I guess we can still have wacky clothes day around our home!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Donut Day - Celebrating day 1 of the Ice Storm of 2011

Day 1 of the great ice storm of 2011, and the powdered sugar is flying.

Yes, ice storms mean we eat donuts, per 3-year-old rationale.

Yesterday morning, my son decided that if there was an ice storm, he'd get donuts for breakfast. I'm not sure what prompted it, but soon he was announcing this - repeatedly - to his sister.

And last night, a quarter-inch of ice fell. This morning, glancing at the icy windows, my son reminded me: It's donut time.

So we drug out a cookbook, did a little tweaking and set to work. Within minutes the kids were dusted nose to knee in flour and powdered sugar. Messy? Sure. Worth it? Absolutely. And thankfully, we cleaned up any messes before round 2 hits late this afternoon!

Bear-Bear's Beignets
2 3/4 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. milk
1/3 c. water
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
32 oz. vegetable oil, for frying
powdered sugar

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, mix milk, water, egg and vanilla, then add to the dry ingredients.

Heat oil in saucepan until 325 degrees. Drop the dough in balls, three to four at a time, until fried. Transfer to paper towels to cool. Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!

Recipes for a Chinese New Year

If there's one thing that makes me blow my budget or my great intentions on a workday, it's when a coworker tucks her head around the corner and whispers a word: Chinese.

I'm a sucker for great Chinese food. I love the flavors, the vegetables, the soups. Just about everything.

And it's ever better when you get the real thing.

Now, I'm not talking about the Great China Buffet by any means. And I'm not talking about take-out. I'm talking about real, authentic Chinese food -- not the breaded, heavy on the meat, Americanized kind.

And, given that we're ringing in the new year in a few days, it's time to rethink our celebrations. Sure, you can get take out, but then you're doomed to use those annoying little waxed boxes with the funny handles that may or may not survive the ride home - but will land in a landfill for ages to come.

Instead, we're having a quick lesson in how to make authentic Chinese dishes from home. It's surprisingly easy, and it's a fun activity for a few friends over for dinner or an afternoon with the family.

One of the easiest - and laziest dishes - I know of to make is what we've come to call "Chicken in a Pot." Taken from an old Chinese cookbook I'd acquired after it was ruined in our flood-damaged apartment, this is a simple dish that doesn't require a lot of time.

Chicken in a Pot
Take a 3.5-4 pound chicken and rub with a tablespoon of salt. Put it in a large pot (we use a stockpot), cover with water and bring to a boil.Add fresh ginger (the original recipe calls for 6 slices but you can adjust) and 6 whole green onions. Cover tightly, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave covered tightly for one hour.Remove the chicken and cut into bite-sized pieces. Serve with dipping sauce. (See below) The liquid can be used as a start for making stock.

To make the dipping sauce:
Mix 4 tablespoons green onions, 2 tsp. ginger and 2 tsp. salt. Heat a wok until it's hot, and add 2 tablespoons peanut oil. When it's hot, add the green onion mix and mix well. Remove from heat.

Basic White Rice
I'm not sure how white rice became "the" staple for Chinese food, but so many people struggle with it.

Here's the thing: You don't need a rice cooker. After burning through a rice cooker a year for a decade, my husband learned how to make rice without one and has never gone back.

2 cups water
1 cup long grain white rice

Boil water over high heat. Add the rice and stir. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and keep covered. Let rest for 5 minutes. Remove cover and fluff with a fork. Serve immediately or keep warm.

And if it's sticky? You're fine! Sticky rice is OK!

Stir-Fried Mushrooms
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil in a wok until it is hot and slightly smoking. Toss in 1 tsp. salt, 2 tablespoons chopped garlic and 1 tsp. ginger and stirfry for 1 minute.

Add 1 pound sliced mushrooms and stirfry 2 minutes. Pour in 2 tsp. sherry, 2 tsp. soy sauce and 1 tsp. sugar. Stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add 2 tsp. sesame oil just before serving.

Looking for other recipes to try? Here are some tried-and-true ones that our family enjoys:
Chinese Chicken Soup
Vegetable Low Mein

Originally published at the Green Phone Booth, February 2010