Modern Families and the Label of Homemaker

I give you The Families Project, from Betty Crocker.

This hit me hard.  As a queer woman, as a person who spends a lot of time in a multiple adult household, and as a person who does care a lot about food, family, home and heart.  The word ‘homemaker’ is a loaded one, and does bring images of women in the 1950’s, strange casseroles and perfectionism.  That Betty Crocker (and so in a way, it’s parent company, General Mills), a company whose name itself represents that gendered stereotype coming out and saying no is kind of awesome.

Don’t rain on the parade and point out it’s all marketing.  It is.  But it’s awesome it’s forward looking marketing, not encouraging women back into the kitchen on some false nostalgia trip or idea of what we ‘should’ be.  Anyway, Betty Crocker has had progressive moments, like the Betty Crocker’s New Boys and Girls Cookbook from 1965.

If you scroll through the slides on the website, one title says “But what we really want isn’t to be old-fashioned, it’s to be together.”  This is so incredibly true!  Families may look different than 50 and 60 years ago, but the heart of it all is the same.  It isn’t just a queer thing –  single folks, single parent households, blended families, multi-racial families, multi-generational families, adoption, how we distribute work (home and career) across those families.  The diversity in what a family looks like is a great thing!  And i have no desire to go back to a time when, because of my gender, I was expected to ignore my own needs and wants to follow social norms.

That said, i also love taking care of my home, cooking, baking, organizing and caring for my family – biological, by marriage and by choice.  That a company is encouraging that passion in a way that respects families of all sorts is touching.

The attempt to change update the word homemaker is also wonderful.  Why can’t homemaker be  another label, after all, i am not always engineering, but it’s a word I use to describe myself.  Because i am not a full-time homemaker does not mean I am not the person responsible for making our house a home!  So thanks Betty Crocker, for encouraging me to take on a new label, homemaker, because i do help turn our little house into a real home, for my husband and our families of birth and choice.

 

Busy night

One of the areas where things are disorganized and play havoc on my daily life is the kitchen. I have the intention to cook healthy dinners for my husband and i, but then i get a migraine, he stays at work too late or decides that vegetables are not really food. And the next day is a date with friends, or I’m home alone. No sense in making ‘real’ food for just me! The night after that, well, I was tired. And then it was girls night. And 2 weeks later the chicken has gone uneaten, i’ve wasted that money (plus the money on higher priced prepared foods) and likely ate food that was not particularly healthy.

With a CSA this actually is even harder. I get veggies that are unfamiliar, even on my second year with this farm, and not a lot of control about it. I don’t want to be wasteful, but i admit to having fed the compost full bunches of radishes and chard due to my own negligence.

BTW, i feel i ought to give the compost, or at least the bin, a name. Hmmm.

Last night i had a little temper tantrum.

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This week’s CSA share – squash, zucchini, garlic, pickling cucumbers, plums, tomatos, beets, eggplant, and a bag of yellow and green beans.

This week’s CSA share had been quite impressive.  We’re in full harvest season here in CT, with a lot of veggies ready to go.  Last week was the second week in a row we had 6 ears of corn (some of which became chowder).  I’d let the summer squash linger over the last few weeks in the fridge.  And that eggplant?  It’s the size of the toaster.  OK, slight exaggeration, but still huge.

The fridge was still full of last week’s foodies, including a GIANT amount of basil.  I couldn’t even count the stalks to be honest, that bag was bigger than the toaster.  I’d had it.

First up, i made pesto.  With my itsy bitsy food processor and pine nuts from the freezer, garlic i had bought last week for the occasion and remnants of cheese i found hiding in the cheese/meat drawer.  This took about 2 hours because tiny food processor and lots of basil.  I ended up with two sandwich bags and one small jar full.  I obsessed, wiping the counter and tools off regularly, afraid if i slowed down or didn’t follow the rules things would take off and become disasters.

Next was dealing with the 6 ears of corn.  That was actually easy – boil, cool and chop off the cob to put into baggies.  Last year almost all our corn ended up frozen and used later on.  It was nice to be able to just grab a little for a recipe.  We don’t often eat corn alone, but i like to throw it into dishes.  Next i did the same with three giant bags of beans.  Fair Weather Acres‘ thing is beans, so we get a lot of them!  Again, not hard, but all the chopping and such was tiring!  I hope i can use the beans similarly to the corn.  Last year i pickled a lot of my beans only to find out i was the only one who liked them.

Then came the pickles.  I wanted to try a new recipe this year and happened to get my large mason jars in the mail, so that’s what we went with.  I’ve got some work to do with them, but they’ve been started at least.

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Cucumbers pickling, pesto made, bags of beans and corn for the freezer.

But still!  I wasn’t done!  There was the squash, zucchini and eggplant to go!

I grated the squash and zucchini to make fritters, although i forgot to squish the water out, so they are not as delicious as last time i made them.  Still, they freeze well and make great lunch food.  I also fried the eggplant, so i can make eggplant parm-ish for lunches or dinner.  I’m excited to try it with the Melville Cheese i picked up at the farmers market.

This all took about 5 hours of non-stop work.  I was multi-tasking, which i’m trying to avoid, but when i realized how deep i was there was just no turning back.  While this happened I also cleaned out the fridge, including purging a lot of junk food we just weren’t going to eat.  I feel as if i made it a little easier to grab something healthy and saved a lot of my CSA veg.  It was a LOT of work, and today i’m paying for it with a sore throat and feeling sluggish, but I am still so happy with myself.  I got rid of clutter, used what i had and created a lot of yummy things!  The best part? I didn’t buy any additional ingredients.  In fact, i used a bunch of things up!  So go me!

 

July SeaChange Program

For the month of July I’ve been participating, quietly, in the SeaChange program, which is a part of the ZenHabits website.  The July module was on getting organized, and focused on organizing time, electronic space and physical space.  

There was a plan to follow, with specific components each week.  Each task was small but loosely defined enough so that folks with a wide range of experience could participate.  I appreciated that it was a very holistic approach rather than focusing on a room or specific niche of life.  

I wanted to participate this month in particular because I needed some motivation to stay with the habits i’ve been building, and even refine them a bit.  I want to write more about my current system, what is and isn’t working, but that’s for another time.  My hope was that spending the $10 for access to the program and an outside plan might provide the discipline to cement things.  

It did, and more.  

At the start of the month, i loaded the big items into Remember the Milk, my preferred tool for task management.  Tasks like “Process Inbox” were easy to check each day.  Others were check-ins and questions like “Are my in-boxes working?”, which would prompt me to think about it before just assuming.  I also created a project notebook in Evernote, which is how i store most of my electronic information.  I wanted to make sure if i did get off track, i had a way to come back to it.  I also made sure I saved a shortcut to the SeaChange website directly onto my browser bookmarks bar, so i’d see it daily.  

The first week was a lot of me confirming my tools – Actions go to RTM, reference material and longform ideas go to Evernote.  If i’m on the go it’s my Field Notes notebook (which deserve their own post on how awesome these notebooks are).  Email is a major inbox, which i need to keep clutter free or it’s a distraction.  My physical inbox at work is often neglected because it’s just out of eye-sight.  Overall, i had an idea of how to process incoming information.

Week 2 meant i started taking a quick review of my task list (RTM) first thing in the morning.  I had been waiting until i was in the office to do this, and sometimes it meant missing pre-work items.  There was a focus for me on making sure things were put away as soon as was appropriate, and also working on an end of day review, to make sure nothing was forgotten (mostly by making sure the red number on the RTM phone app was cleared).

Week 3 we started to look at physical items.  I started a daily ‘sweep’ of the house, looking for out of place items and putting them away.  I also tackled a small area of kitchen cabinets where our lunch supplies, mason jars and tupperwhere lived… mostly in piles.  Using some fabric storage bins that mess has been tamed.  It’s encouraged me to declutter some (hey, next month’s module!) although it’s still not entirely habit.  If there is something that sometimes gets pushed off, it’s this.  

During Week 3, Duncan also helped me pick out a Chromebook.  I didn’t have a laptop, and so i often procrastinated on tasks that involved a computer.  My office at home is lovely, but with the very hot weather it is sticky, and writing long emails on the phone is difficult, so i’d wait until i could slack at work.  Not the best plan.  The Chromebook is making me more efficient and reducing stress.  

Week 4 was a lot of review and continue.  Things have been busy on the weekends, but i’m forcing myself to make sure the weekly review happens.  It’s become a really important part of my week.  Taking the time to look forward and back daily is keeping my frustration down and helping me feel more in control.  Things are getting done.

Side effects of this month?  I’ve decided to make mornings A Thing.  Previously mornings meant wash up, take care of the cat, grab breakfast/lunch (or not) and run out the door.  Most of my review was happening at work.  I’ve decided to get up earlier and have relaxed mornings where i am more productive.  Washing up and kitty care still are there, but so is emptying the dishwasher, making a (healthy) breakfast and lunch, processing my inbox and doing my daily review.   I am attempting to get back to Morning Pages (3 pages of long hand, stream of consciousness writing each day) and start meditating for 2 minutes.  

Areas to improve? I need to not always phone in my evening reviews.  I should consider doing a two minute mind sweep in the evening to clear stuff up and let me rest.  I need to continue with the discipline and make sure my hand-written notes are properly processed.  

Going forward, i’ve cleaned up some of the RTM tasks to be more useful long-term.  Hopefully addressing many of these things on a daily and/or weekly basis will make the habits stick.

I think August’s module on decluttering will make a great next step.  I’m excited to continue on!

Foodie Pen Pals & stuffs

So I failed at Foodie Pen Pals this month – i forgot to do pictures!  My awesome pen pal, Rachelle, doesn’t have a blog, but she did go to a nearby preparedness store and bought me two mixes – one for cookies and one for a flourless cake.  Sadly, i haven’t been able to make either!  The cookies are a ginger snap i think, which i want to save for a special occasion, because i know Duncan will eat them all right away!  The cake is flourless, but i’m not sure if that really means gluten free, so i can’t make it for an occasion when Michelle will be joining us.  Still – yummm cake!

She also sent two applesauce/fruit pouches.  Confession time: I love applesauce and it’s variants, and i know those packs are for little kids, but ummm, yeah.  They are handy for when i am in the field and want something fast and easy to eat.  I wouldn’t buy them for myself necessarily, but yay treats!  She also included two candies, which are also being saved for treats.  They are the long straw shaped candies, but i forget the name.  I associate them with trips to Mystic Seaport and Old Sturbridge Village.

Other goodies included a Boysenberry syrup and nail polish!  I’m dying to make some pancakes on Sunday morning and try it on that, although i’ll bet it’ll be good over vanilla ice cream too.  And while i often can’t wear nail polish because of work (nitrile gloves and tools don’t get along with good manicures), it’s totally the type i wear when i can!  So yay!  Thank you Rachelle!

I somehow managed to not take pictures this month.  I fail at that.  Sorry all.  Here are some pictures of other things i’ve been doing instead.

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Monday was Aimee’s birthday.  She’s 7 months pregnant now, and really starting to show.  I can’t wait to meet my newest niece in the fall!  Although Aimee is the real baker in our crazy family it didn’t seem fair she should make her own cake, and i had a few hours to flex because of working on Saturdays, so i made her a cake.

As i mentioned, Michelle can’t have gluten, so cakes are always a little bit of a challenge.  When Aimee and i use box mixes, we find the surface stays a little tacky, and frosting is super difficult (yes, those crazy cakes i’ve posted before?  All GF!).  We usually end up making a normal buttercream frosting and then warming it up in the microwave to give it a more runny consistency, but yeeesh, it’s a pain.

I used this recipe, which is a GF modification of the Hershey’s Perfect Chocolate Cake recipe and TADA! WAY better surface for frosting!

Some notes though: Do not think hot water is OK, it needs to be boiling or things don’t mix right.  Things will be runny and wet, that’s ok.  Also, the flour ratio has you make more flour than you need.  You can use some for coating the pans, but you’ll still have more than enough, so make it in an airtight container, shake it up and you’ll have some (but not enough) for another cake in the future.  I think i want to try to mix all the dry ingredients into some mason jars and then have my own “mix” ready to go for future cake making.  I’d also like to try the flour ratio for a vanilla (or other flavor) cake.

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I’ve also been back on the healthy bandwagon.  This was my breakfast and lunch yesterday.  A smoothie with spinach, mango, banana and orange juice for breakfast.  That’s a Cuppow on the mason jar, which means i can toss my fruits/veggies into the jar, blend with my immersion blender and screw the top on and enjoy!  Super simple and easy, right?

The lunch is a salad of carrot, cucumber and tomato from the Fair Weather Acres CSA, some balsamic dressing and a portion of the Fiery Seeds in my latest Graze box.    The plum is also from the CSA.  I also made a turkey & cheese wrap to add a little healthy protein in there.

The container is a laptop lunchbox.  I used to have two a few years ago (which let me pack ahead multiple days) along with a few different container sets, but they did eventually get destroyed/gross/lost.

I love the idea of the PlanetBox because it’s metal, not plastic, but my Rover just wasn’t the right size for a lot of my meals.  I often got frustrated with the fact i’d need to use two compartments to store an apple, and it wasn’t as easy to clean as you might think.  I’ll look into getting a Launch at some point, but right now the  Laptop Lunchbox makes sense because of it’s versatility.

I can do different size containers for days i have different types of meals, and things feel more waterproof.  I did splurge and buy myself a tote and Lifefactory waterbottle to make life a little easier as well.  I didn’t previously have a tote, and found it’s not always natural to carry the box flat, so sometimes things got very rattled.   This particular tote has a compartment for the box on the bottom and a spacious upper area, so i can throw a yogurt or other items in if i want more food or drink.  The waterbottle is glass with a covering that makes it easier to hold and less likely to break.  My family has some and they love them, so i was happy to get one myself.  I’ve been making lazy iced tea in it.

There is actually a lot going on lately, and i am still stuck on where i want to go with this blog, but i know letting it sit idle probably isn’t the best plan.  And phoning it in with pictures of veggies is ok, but not the full direction i want to go.  Things to think on for certain.

And now it’s time for some details about Foodie Penpals.  In case you’re a new reader, here’s a reminder of what the program is all about:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US, Canadian & European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 

If you’re from the US or Canada and are in participating for August, please CLICK HERE (www.theleangreenbean.com/foodie-penpals/) to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions. 

You must submit your information by August 4th as pairings will be emailed on August 5th!

*If you’re from Europe, please CLICK HERE (www.thisisrocksalt.com/foodie-penpals/) to signup.

CSA day! And farmers market!

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Happy birthday America cupcakes

Aimee and I made cupcakes for the Fourth of July after fireworks last night and a parade this morning. They are vanilla with strawberries inside and a strawberry cream cheese frosting. Sadly it’s so hot the frosting is really soft. They taste awesome though!

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Black bean brownies

Aimee and I made black bean brownies in her vitamix to go with get CSA veg stir fry.

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They were ok. Next time more chocolate and more vanilla and salt. The boys wouldn’t even try them but so it goes.

CSA day!

Squash, beets, tomatoes, kohlrabi, peas, beans and scallions!

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June Foodie Penpals!

This month my foodie pen pal was Jen, and it was her first go. Trust me when i say you want her next month. It’s clear she put a ton of effort into this box and it was totally awesome. Like i squee’d outloud as i opened it. Here’s why (no, the cat was not included!):

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  • Gingersnaps – These are so tasty, i love how thin they are and have such a great texture. I’ve been having them in my lunches almost every day.
  • Ginger licorice – This has changed my life. I saw the package and assumed they’d be little chunks of something weird, but no! These are like the size of my pinky except wider and AMAZING. Soft and chewy and really gingery. I am rationing them because i need to find out where i can get more.
  • Pumpkin and Apple butter – i haven’t opened these yet, but am super excited to try them both! I love fruit butters, so i’m sure they will be awesome.
  • Garlic peas – i want to like dried peas, honest, but just can’t seem to get behind them. My husband has been enjoying them with lunch though! I think it’s the garlic that does it.
  • Pineapple Chips – Another YUM! I loved dried fruits, and have recently gotten some dried pineapple through Naturebox, but this is way better! They are crispier and just as sweet. I think i want to eat them with yogurt. Or bake something? Ah, so good, too many options!
  • Mix – I’ve been working outdoors in 90 degree temps the last two weeks, which has meant no salads for lunches (really no lunches!) but that’s my plan for this. I love these sorts of mixes, and all the ingredients are tasty, so i’m sure i’ll love it!
  • Awesome recipe cards – These made my day, they totally go with my kitchen and my personal style. Maybe i’ll be good and start sharing recipes for future FPP’s too!

She was also kind enough to email me the shipping info, so i could obsessively see where it was track it. I really appreciated her efforts and THANK YOU JEN!

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And now it’s time for some details about Foodie Penpals. In case you’re a new reader, here’s a reminder of what the program is all about:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
-Foodie Penplas is open to US, Canadian & European residents. Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa.

If you’re from the US or Canada and are in participating for July, please CLICK HERE (www.theleangreenbean.com/foodie-penpals/) to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.

You must submit your information by July 4th as pairings will be emailed on July 5th!

*If you’re from Europe, please CLICK HERE (www.thisisrocksalt.com/foodie-penpals/) to signup.

The Lean Green Bean

Farmers market!

Rolls, sausage, hummus and cupcakes this week!

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