Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spaghetti With Loveballs

On Sunday I gathered some of my local food purchases and several thousand cans of tomatoes and endeavored to make my Big Nonnie's spaghetti sauce with meatballs. As you might imagine, this dish is one that I grew up eating every time we visited Nonnie or she visited us. It wasn't until she and Grampa came to visit us here in Oklahoma this past spring that I realized what a huge chore it was to put on the extravaganza of the sauce, but man is it appreciated. As I cooked it this first time by myself (and yes, I had to call Nonnie to ask several questions as I went), I realized that one thing I'll never be able to replicate exactly is the feeling of family I get when I eat it. I'm sure every family has some dish like this; you can taste a lazy afternoon, hanging out with cousins, getting underfoot trying to take a taste, aunts and uncles laughing and talking, and culminating in a meal where we're all crammed around the kitchen table, extra chairs brought in from the bedrooms, and you know you're growing up when you want to linger afterwards at the table to talk with the adults instead of making a beeline for the living room and the library of Disney movies that Nonnie has on hand.

The best I can hope to do is cook it with as much love as I know it was cooked for me in the past, and hope that my own little family can taste it.

As for the actual ingredients, here goes:

Meatballs (makes about 30)
8 slices dry bread
2lbs ground beef
4 eggs
1c grated parmesan cheese
2t salt
1/4c parsley
2 cloves minced garlic
Dash pepper

 Soak bread in water for two or three minutes, then squeeze out moisture.  Combine bread with beef and rest of ingredients.  (You do this with your bare hands, wearing all of your jewelry. This is how Nonnie always did it and it's an art form.) Form small balls.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake balls at 350 degrees for only 20 minutes. They will finish cooking in the sauce.

Spaghetti Sauce (makes 4qts)
½ medium onion (~1 1/2c)
Olive oil (enough to coat pan ~ 1/3c)
2 cloves minced garlic
2 #2 ½ cans (7c) tomatoes
4 6oz cans (2 2/3c) tomato paste
2c water (use the water to “wash” the tomato cans)
2T sugar
1T salt
1/2t pepper
1T crushed oregano
 2 bay leaves

Cook onion and garlic in hot oil till tender but not brown.  Sir in the next eight ingredients (you're going to need a big pot).  Simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.  Remove bay leaves.  Add meat balls.  Continue cooking on low for another 2 hours.

What is missing from this original recipe are the following notes that were passed to me orally, and really, the dish isn't the same without them:
*Braise 2 bone-in pork chops (I used pork neck bones) and add to sauce with the meatballs.
*Add several Italian pork sausages (mostly cooked) to the sauce. 
*Add several hard-boiled eggs (peeled) to the sauce if you are serving that day. (If you haven't had spaghetti with hard-boiled eggs simmered in the sauce, YOU SHOULD.)
*Remove all meat and eggs prior to storing extra sauce (it freezes beautifully).

Be sure to have plenty of fresh Parmesan cheese on hand to dump liberally over the spaghetti, and enjoy as often as possible with good company. We recently fixed this dish at the One Acre Homestead across the street using a camp stove during the big ice storm, and then ate it by candlelight. It might have been the way we sort of improvised and gathered around the table together after a long, crazy day that really made it taste just right.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lettuce Have Peas!

I woke up this morning to see that the ground was YET AGAIN covered with a layer of snow. I know that readers on the East Coast think I'm being ridiculous when I complain about the snow, but we live in SOUTHERN OKLAHOMA! In little over 3 months from now, the temperatures will be climbing close to 100 degrees. That means that we gardeners have precious few weeks--days!--in which to grow cold weather crops in the spring. With all the precipitation we've received, things just aren't looking good for sowing.


However, by 11am, most of the snow had melted because the sun finally decided to make an appearance (nice of you to join us, mister!) and my grumpy mood had improved. I decided to take a few minutes to lay down some fresh compost in areas where the winds and rain (and dogs) had uncovered pea seeds. I was rewarded with a few of these little guys:


Peas! There are just a handful of these poking up, and only on the one row that we were able to keep covered with plastic during the ice storm last month. But my spirit is renewed, I will not give up. Come ON spring! 

P.S. I'm working on the post about Nonnie's spaghetti sauce with meatballs for tomorrow. Get excited, this may be the best recipe I post all year. ;) 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mutt Monday: Doldrums

We've reached the period in winter when it feels like spring will NEVER come, and we should just resign ourselves to mud and cold winds and call the whole thing off.

The dogs have the right idea. They spend approximately 40 hours per day sleeping. As we know, Boston's default position is the following:


Yes, she enjoys a little tv in the evenings. Especially when it's frigid outside--this dog can hold her pee until May if she has to.


In an attempt to curry favor with his older hostess, BD has been going for "the Boston" too.


"See? I can lie on my back and be calm, too! Can't we come inside and watch tv? We promise all of this dead grass sticking to our backs will only enhance your carpet."

I'm not buying it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hooray for Local Food!


This beautiful bounty is my first order purchased from the Oklahoma Food Coop, which I've recently joined. It includes farm fresh eggs, grass-fed ground beef, grass-fed Italian pork sausages, bulk pork neck bones (awesome for saucemaking), super-healthy yogurt cheese, local organic honey, fresh organic radicchio, and a beautiful 25lb pail of local, organic whole wheat flour. I also ordered 36 strawberry, 26 tomato, and 20 pepper LIVE PLANTS, but those we won't pick up until March or April. 

As you may remember from my post about the movie "Food, Inc." I was pretty grossed out by the things I learned about the food industry in this country and started investigating other options for feeding my family. The Oklahoma Food Coop delivers in my area, and connects dozens of organic and certified naturally grown producers in our state, many of whom practice the humane techniques for growing livestock discussed in the movie. I already prefer to batch cook meals to save time, and so with a little extra planning, I could buy fresh, local, HEALTHY ingredients, spend a day cooking, and then be good to go for the month and know exactly what was in the food I fed to my family. 

This resolution also coincides with the March Challenge posted on Not Dabbling in Normal in which readers are being encouraged to try to avoid commercially processed foods for the entire month. For many of us, that will more likely mean cutting out as much as we can. I've already taken steps to make more basic staple foods from scratch, like our bread, and I'm planning to tackle pasta next month. With the meats pictured above, I plan to make a large batch of marinara sauce (from my grandmother's recipe) and meatballs. The sauce will be used for spaghetti, pizza, and lasagna that I'll be making next month. The wheat and honey will be used for our daily bread, which I make about twice a week. Once we start harvesting greens, dinner salads will be a big staple, too. I whipped this up last night:

Chicken salad with the local radicchio and hard-boiled eggs, and a homemade honey mustard vinaigrette. The chicken, while not locally raised, WAS humanely raised cage-free organically and I bought it at WALMART of all places, for the same price as the commercial stuff.  

Check out Local for sources of local foods in YOUR area, and give responsible eating a try. Supporting local business, eating more nutritious, better-tasting foods, being good to the environment...what's not to like?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hedging My Bets

I'm thinking of changing the name of this blog to "Overdoing It" and it's only FEBRUARY, people.

We've had 2 days of sun in a row and third promised in tomorrow's forecast, which of course has me climbing the walls and finding every excuse to go outside. I pulled back the plastic tarps on the rows of peas we planted before the ice storm, and there's not much going on over there. A few sprouts here and there, but also some duds. It's still a mud pit, too.

So I decided to go on a wintersowing spree. Well, not so much decided as just couldn't stop. I planted another jug of Red Malabar spinach and then started a jug each of Little Gem, Flame, and Gotte Jeaune D'Or lettuces. Since my cauliflower seedlings have been doing so well, I decided to pot up 4 more soda bottle greenhouses to add to the windowsills. Then Joe and I went outside to play around in the sunshine and the next thing I know, I'm planting a flat each of dwarf phlox and snapdragons. There's something wrong with me. My kitchen table is nearly completely covered with a variety of flats and plastic containers and I don't own grow lights, people! For now the sun and 2 CFL lamps are doing the job, but I think as the temps continue to rise, some of the bottle greenhouses will be kicked outside.

You thought I was done? You thought wrong. By the time evening rolled around, things were looking a little drier in the veggie garden, so I pulled up the plastic sheeting altogether. Then I got the itch.

I blame the Farmer's Almanac online gardening calendar for my itch. Today's entry says: "16th-17th. Plant Peppers, Sweet Corn, Tomatoes, And Other Above Ground Crops In Southern Florida,
California, And Texas. Extra Good For Cucumbers, Peas, Cantaloupes, And Other Vine Crops. Set Strawberry Plants."

That word--peas--called out to me. How could I let this extra good day go by without getting some more in the ground, especially knowing that the ice storm killed who knows how many, and that my dogs probably took care of a good number themselves. Besides, this time around I was armed with my newly-ordered legume inoculant to mix into the soil. So, I went ahead and planted another row of early peas and a half row of Oregon Sugar Pods II. Then I emptied what was left in the packet of early peas on the rows that I'd already planted, and lightly mixed in some inoculant, just for good measure. Am I overseeding the peas? Probably. Will I thin them out later? Probably not. The prospect of a huge stash of frozen peas is much too tempting.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Taters & Onions

Even though the ground outside right now is practically impossible to even walk on because of the mud, I'm still plowing forward (get it...) with gardening plans. Today I "wintersowed" two spinach varieties and planted a flat of 3 kinds of herbs--lavender, cinnamon basil, and oregano--to join the other stuff growing in my makeshift sunroom, aka the kitchen table.

This past weekend we took a trip to our local farm supply store to check out the seed potatoes and onion sets. This is a dangerous time of year for me because it's hard to be around seeds and plants and not want to bring them home, regardless of the price or current weather conditions.

In all, we ended up with almost 16lbs of seed potatoes. The varieties I chose were Yukon Gold, Red LaSoda, Kennebec White, All Blue, and a few Norland Reds.


I'm keeping them in an old apple crate in the garage. There is another layer of potatoes under this one--at this point in the planting game I have no idea how much is too much or too little. I know what we've planned on paper, but it's hard to tell if we are vastly overcompensating for our ridiculously small yields last year (due to not planting enough). I do know that in this family, some roasted potatoes, onions, summer squash, and a little bit of meat go a long way in the summer dinner department. Which is why I may have gone overboard in the onion department, too:

I've never planted onions of any variety before, and although my research tells me that we should be planting intermediate-to-short day varieties in our area, I couldn't determine what varieties were being sold at the farm store. So, I just purchased and hoped for the best. 220 bulbs ought to do it, right? Plus 12 experimental shallot bulbs...the chef wannabe in me couldn't resist grabbing these. Now if only the ground would dry out a bit so I can get cracking!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mutt Monday: The Cleaning Crew

Where there is a baby in a highchair, there is a cleaning crew of mutts waiting like moat monsters beneath it to devour the castoffs. And where there is a 1-year-old's birthday, there is airborne cake.

These dogs are probably the most efficient vaccuums I've ever seen. I keep trying to convince Bill to let me get a Roomba, but he keeps pointing out that as long as the floor is soiled with food, we don't need one.

*Note, BD is still with us, though he was out having a romp while the girls remained vigilantly by the door. They know what it means when we take the baby's shirt off to eat...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dear Joe: Year 1

Dear Joe,

I can only imagine what tiny, multipurpose device you may be reading this on in the future, but I know that your dad and I didn't pay for it.

That's not a good way to start this. Let's try again.

The past 12 months have gone by faster than any single year of my life. I think before you were born, time lumbered along in no big hurry to get anywhere. I waited what seemed like forever for you. Long before I was pregnant with you, even before I imagined how you'd have your father's nose and ears, I couldn't wait to meet you. My first born. I used to dream about you and could almost remember what your face looked like when I woke up.

When we found out you were on the way, I felt like I'd known you forever. There were things I will probably always regret about your birth that I had no control over. I admit that because even though things didn't turn out the way I planned and I wasn't awake the moment you were born and your father couldn't be in the room, you did just fine on your own. I learned on your birthday to have faith in you.

I'm so proud of both of us for getting through the tense first weeks of nursing and sticking with it for a full 12 months. I have you to thank for helping me achieve the greatest physical challenge of my life, and your future siblings have you to thank as well for making sure they'll have a chance, too. But don't think for a minute that I won't bring up the pain when you're in need of a good guilt trip one day, mister.

This year you've flown across the country four times--8 plane rides with countless layovers--and you're gearing up for more in your second year. You've been visited by your Gramma & Oppa, MaWat, Aunt Pookie & Uncle Sean, Aunt Andra & Cousin Grace, Aunt Diane & Uncle Ben, and Nonnie & Great-Grampa here in Oklahoma. You bring a smile to everyone's face because of your bright eyes and dimples, so much so that I have to fight off old men in the grocery store who want to hold you. You're a healthy kid, too--this past year there was a swine flu epidemic that you didn't catch (thank goodness) and you were never colicky or sensitive to anything.

Well, that's not true. You are the lightest sleeper I've ever met (where do you get that from?!?) and your father and I have employed all kinds of soothing white noise fans and gentle music to try to keep you asleep. You wage epic battles to keep from going to sleep if you think there is fun to be had by staying awake. I hope this is something you grow out of next year.

Speaking of growing, you grew 8 teeth in your first year. You eat like a bottomless pit, though lately you've taken an interest in feeding the dogs from your highchair or slowly tossing bits of food onto the floor to see if I'll notice and stop you. You're very much into playing games these days--how many CDs can you pull out of the case before we stop you, how many buttons on the keyboard can you push before we stop you, how long before I make you stop chewing on my cell phone. I've gone through 3 cell phones in your first year, by the way. It's hard to be mad though, because your face lights up at the end of the day when it's time to call Daddy at his office and you can hear his voice in your ear.

We took thousands of pictures of you and recorded dozens of videos to send to our family and friends back East. It's not easy being so far away from them, but you make Oklahoma much less lonely. I hope we can keep up with the picture and video taking, but if we don't, it's because we're too busy having fun with you to stop and grab a camera. I hope you remember those times without needing a picture or video.

Just like I didn't really understand love before I met your father, I didn't really understand joy or fear before this last year with you. I see so much of myself in you now--something I didn't expect at all--and it makes me want to be better for you. You've turned me into a full-fledged tree-hugging green monster because I want the world to be a better place for you.

You've accomplished so much in your first year, and I'm looking forward to the ride we have ahead of us in Year Two. I'm not just proud of you, I'm inspired by you and I hope one day you'll understand that when I set boundaries for you, it is because I respect you.

I love you, Bubba.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Retail Rant/Rave: Target Bathrooms

Given that I am now a proud member of the navel-gazing blogosphere, I've decided to start airing my opinions (however irrelevant and based on whichever side of the bed I woke up on that day) about various retailers that I've encountered while trying to live up to the ideals I've mentioned here. Because we all can't live off of our homesteads (especially my apartment-dwelling hipster friends), we do occasionally have to transact in the commercial marketplace. I'm hoping these posts will lead to discussions of what we as consumers should demand of the marketplace in order for us to be able to participate in business we believe in.


Today's Rant: Target Bathrooms

From the Target line of "Dude Diaper Bags"

Now, anyone who knows me is painfully aware of my passionate LOVE for the Red Bullseye. I go into that store at 11am, and I'm one of the last ones they are kicking out with their pushbrooms at night. I buy everything from Target: clothes, accessories, food, furniture, baby toys, movies...I'm pretty much a Target merch magpie. In fact, I will make the hour+ drive (can you believe there isn't a Target closer than that?!? I know, boggles the mind) with glee in my heart. My friend Ben once said that women like his wife (my BF, who is a perfectly sensible person) completely forget how to drive when they are on their way to Target because they get so excited to shop there. I'm not a great driver to begin with, but I will gladly accept this stereotype, because it's kinda true.

My particular rant with Target, however, has to do with a recent visit we made with the whole family--Joe, Bill, and I. After an hour in the car, diaper changes needed to be made. Now parents out there reading this will acknowledge the frustrating tendency of commercial properties to only locate changing tables in the women's bathrooms, which not only puts the burden of diapering on the mother, it completely alienates guys who are shopping alone with their children. Target, and an increasing number of properties, have started adding "Family Restrooms" to their buildings, which is usually a single-toilet restroom with one sink and a changing table, but with an open-gender pass for either parent to bring their kids, also of either gender, into the restroom together. The downside to these restrooms is that they need to be cleaned/stocked more frequently because there is only one stall/sink.

On the day in question, the family restroom at our Target was locked. We knocked, got no response, waited for a few minutes, and Bill offered to just take Joe into the men's room to change him. I'm a very lucky woman because my husband fully participates in the public gauntlet of running errands with a baby, including changing diapers. Well, guess what. No changing tables in the men's room. Really Target? You couldn't have ordered one more table when you were getting the other two for the women's and family restroom? It would have been a minor annoyance quickly forgotten, but as I was coming out of the restroom with a freshly diapered baby, I noticed there was a single dad with a VERY new baby doing the knock-and-wait routine outside of the family restroom. He was clearly by himself, avec diaper bag, and looking a little desperate. I immediately went into Mama Bear mode and tracked down an employee to tell her that the family restroom was locked and she blinked at me and asked if I'd knocked to see if someone was in there. By the time I could wrestle up someone to come and change out the toilet paper (the reason it was locked--no one felt like doing it), the poor dad had given up and taken his baby out in the January cold to change him in the car. It left me wondering how many other dads had been sent to the cold car that day in pursuit of a place to tend to their infants while the door had been locked.

Now, for a retail chain that will happily market a wide range of products to this demographic--the diaper-changing dad (the above pictured bags are 2 of 12 different designs in the "Dude Diaper Bag" line)--why can't they pony up the cost of a changing table in the men's room? With the modern American family coming in so many different configurations, it seems a little incredible that such a typically in-touch retailer would completely alienate potentially HALF of their parental customers from safely and comfortably caring for their diapered children. Believe me, I'm not griping because I want more places where I know I can get out of changing a diaper by pawning Joe off on Bill. I'm thinking about fathers like the young guy with the tiny baby strapped to his chest in a Bjorn, diaper bag on his shoulder, feeling helpless because a major retailer was essentially telling him that the needs of his child were not as important because he was a man.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Guest Series: The SHED! Part 2

The latest installment of our guest series, written by my local handyman and hubs extraordinaire, Bill. If you're a construction junkie, you'll enjoy this piece; if not, enjoy the pretty pictures. Note the last few shots were taken after dark because I'm a slave driver and often force my poor, henpecked hubby to work late hours.

Standard pre-assembled buildings are made to be put straight on the ground or on dry stack cinderblocks. But, because I was going bigger I thought it would be good to put in a real foundation.

The foundation of our building is what is known as a “pier and beam” style foundation. The concrete foundation is not continuous, but made up of piers. Wood beams sit on the piers and carry the weight of the building. I know right, a “pier and beam” foundation made out of piers and beams. Who comes up with the names for this stuff…

The reason I had for doing this is pretty simple. The ground here in southwest Oklahoma stinks. It is clay and it is hard. The first six to eight inches are easy enough, but after that it is like chiseling though stone. I learned this lesson the hard way when I installed our split rail fence the first summer we moved here. There is no way that I could dig a 1½ feet deep by 2 feet wide trench 75 feet long by hand in any reasonable amount of time and there was no way I could justify the several hundred dollars to rent a backhoe for a weekend. So piers it was and piers it is.

There are six piers; each is 2’ x 2’ at a depth of 18”. All of the "formwork" is salvaged lumber from old shipping pallets. The main bit of the piers of course are concrete, but concrete is only good in compression, which is to say, bearing weight straight down on top of it. However, it is too rigid to have a lot of strength in tension, which is to say force being exerted side to side, or differentially, or really in any way that is not evenly distributed along the "north-south" axis. So, that is why we are adding just a little bit of rebar to our piers. Each pier base has a mat of three pieces of #3 rebar in each direction and each pier column has a column of rebar inside of it. Somewhere in the past I had a manual rebar radius tool (bending tool), but it seems to have been displaced in one of our moves, so rather than using circular pieces of rebar in the columns and tying them together vertically (best practice) I used several vertical pieces and tied them together using a triangle structure (acceptable).It is important to remember when cutting and placing it that the rebar needs a minimum of 1½” distance between it and any surface of the concrete.

But I am jumping ahead of myself just a little. Before you can build columns--really before you can dig holes--you need to set the corners, pull string lines and square everything off. I don’t have a good picture or description of this process. It helps greatly if you have an optical transit when you are doing it; however, a transit requires two people. (yes a laser transit only requires one person, but it won’t calculate angles for you, so there). I simply picked a corner and set a point, then continued to set the next two opposite points. I pulled string and checked for square, then continued. It is a bit clumsy and definitely not as accurate as it could be, but, as I reminded myself frequently throughout this process, I am not building the Taj Mahal or the space shuttle. The following picture shows the string lines back in place as we are checking the elevation for all of the columns

Of course you want everything to be level, but if it’s off a little at this point, you can correct it once you start the flooring. In any event, columns were all in place, rebar is in place, tied off and everything is braced appropriately. Time for concrete!

I mixed the concrete by hand in a wheelbarrow. I strongly considered renting a mixer, in fact at one point I did rent one, but never got to use it and took it back. The problem I have had in the past with using an electric mixer is that I tend to add too much water and then the concrete is weaker and takes much longer to set up. Each pier took about five of the 80 lbs bags.

So that, in a nutshell, is the “piers.” Next time the “beams!”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Seedling Update

I'm really glad I decided to winter sow seeds this year, if nothing else than the fact that the indoor seedlings were protected from the freezing temps of my unheated house last week. I'm shocked by the success of the cauliflower seedlings, pictured above on the morning of the 3rd day after sowing. I guess my makeshift growing station did the trick! Here is the same seedling later that evening:

So chipper! I have three other plants just like this one that are plugging right much so that they are actually getting a bit too big for their britches and are falling over. I am reluctant to call this legginess yet because I only pressed the seeds into the surface of the soil hoping they would receive as much light as possible, so their roots are super shallow.

I read somewhere that brassicas benefit from deeply transplanting, and like tomatoes, if you bury the stem, it will produce more roots. So yesterday I opened up the soda bottle greenhouses and tucked in a few spoonfuls of warm, moist soil around the little seedlings to prop them up. 

Much better. They rewarded me today by waving out nice, full true leaves to catch some rays (the first sunny day in a while--we all needed it).  I braved Monday's snow shower to peek in on the broccoli seedlings outside in their milk jugs, and despite being frozen to the table they are sitting on, I was greeted with many of these little faces:


This little guy wasn't even close to being one of the biggest. There are about 2-3 seedlings in each jug, and I'm hoping they will be ready for transplanting in early March. It's incredible how warm it stays inside the jugs, despite overcast, wet, freezing weather. I should remember that for the next power outage!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Icethon 2010: The Casualties

So many things fell victim to our week-long power outage besides my sanity, personal hygiene, and ability to make money.

*Almost all of my kitchen herb pots are kaput thanks to no sun and indoor temps in the 30s. Thankfully, all of the winter sown plants survived despite the freezing temps.

*My carpets may not be saved with a professional cleaning. Three big dogs+nervous stomachs+being inside all day and night+short, but extremely muddy trips outside=brown, nasty carpets.

*The big beautiful freezer in the garage that was loaded with fruits and veggies became an indoor compost bin. This included several avocados that I bought on sale and froze the day before the storm, the last of my beloved peppers and cauliflower from our own garden, and months worth of saved frozen bananas for smoothies and bread. I managed to save most of the meat by throwing it outside locked in my pressure cooker. The stuff we lost literally filled a wagon:

*Nursing mamas will understand that even though I only lost 2 frozen pouches of breast milk, it is such a painful thing to throw that liquid gold away.

*Our bank account is seriously hurting. Three nights in a hotel and the cost of dining out for the better part of a week stings as it is, but the additional costs of a generator, a heater, and fuel just adds insult to injury. You better believe I'm saving all receipts, including the grocery bill to replace what was lost in the freezer, for my 2010 taxes. We are very fortunate. There are many families out there who weren't able to a) find a hotel with vacancies within driving distance, b) find a generator or means to heat their home (or single room in their homes) due to widespread shortages, or c) couldn't afford such luxuries even if they were available. My employers and clients were gracious and understanding enough to let me have extra time to complete my pending assignments, but there were many in our area whose places of employment were closed and they just didn't get paid. As I said, we were very fortunate.

Lesson learned:

*We will always have a propane heater, 10 1-lb bottles of propane, 2 full 20-lb bottles of propane for the grill, 2 5-gallon cans of gas for the generator, and a GENERATOR. We also splurged on some big flashlights and LED camping lamps, and I grabbed an entire sack full of Hot Hands hand and toe warmers in case our thermostat dips below 50 degrees again. (Bill wants me to add oil lamps to the list.)

*I probably should have baked 2 loaves of bread instead of one, and moved all of the freezer foods into one freezer before we lost power, or immediately after. I wouldn't have lost so much food if we'd been able to find a generator sooner (didn't get ours until Day 5), but in the future the freezer will be the priority for generator power. I also could have frozen jugs of water to keep in the fridge after we lost power, too.

*I was proud of myself that I'd managed to wash and dry a load of cloth diapers before the power went out, but in retrospect I should have added underwear and socks to the priority list, too. We ended up buying both during the week.

*Threats of water shortages came towards the end of the week-long saga, and the power came back on at the water company before it became a crisis. Regardless, it's probably not a bad idea to fill the tubs and all available pots, pitchers, and buckets not just for drinking water, but for flushing toilets and washing, too.

*Always have a favorite movie or tv show downloaded to a rechargeable device. In our case, I downloaded "Finding Nemo" to my laptop because Joe could watch that movie 24 hours a day. It was extremely necessary to keep him occupied and not interested in wandering around the house because of all the new dangers that had been introduced (full bathtubs, propane heaters, candles, sub-freezing bedrooms). I usually don't like for him to veg out in front of the TV too much, but this week was beyond an exception.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mutt Monday: The Saga Continues

So, as many of you know, we sent BD home with a friend on the Wednesday night before the big ice storm. She lives about three miles from us and has another brown lab that she thought BD could be a companion to.

Well, on Thursday morning, as I was running around trying to do as much as possible before we lost power, this is what I saw as I passed by my back door:


Yes, this crazy dog walked 3 miles in an ice storm to come back to his lady love. Have I mentioned that all parties are fixed? 
Anyway, there wasn't much we could do since everyone was scrambling for heat and generators, so we let him hang out for an extra week. None of the dogs really knew what to do with the thick layer of ice that covered the ground, but once it started to snow, they got down to business.

The kung fu fighting made them thirsty.

The dogs then spent the better part of the entire week stuck inside in the living room, since it appears that there are neighbors who are not fans of BD traipsing up to them expecting to be pet. Apparently the local animal control has received complaints, so we're trying to keep him contained until we can get him adopted. 

In the meantime, more doggie goodness:

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Iceathon 2010: The Storm

I've owed you this post for a few days now, but I've been running around enjoying hot water and lights that turn on at whim! Imagine!

The basic story is that last Thursday, our region of Oklahoma was the epicenter of an icestorm like this area has never seen before. We lost power almost immediately.

The views of the day made me feel like we'd landed on another planet.

This is not the rocky terrain of Pluto, it is our front lawn. Each blade was coated in an inch of ice. It made things really interesting for the dogs to try to do their doggie business.


The ice on the front of our house was so thick and heavy that our front walk is now littered with chips of stone that fell off as it melted. 
Those are some hardcore icicles. 

This is the new apple tree in the backyard. All of the trees were bowing low to the ground, and I spent the day running outside every  30 minutes or so trying to knock as much ice off of the tops of the trees as I could to keep them from snapping. I was not successful with the newest peach tree, which snapped with only 3 low-lying branches left on the trunk. 

My older peach tree, which I planted while pregnant in 2008, had me waging hand-to-hand war. 

As you can see in the pic, one branch on the right was already snapped and the branches on the left were dangerously close to breaking all day. I fought long and hard to save this tree. Everytime I started hacking at the ice, it was as if I was trying to free a flesh-and-blood friend. Something about the way I nursed this tree through it's first hot summer (all while swimming in ever-increasing pregnancy hormones) has me emotionally bonded to it forever. Happily, it did the best out of all of the trees.

After our first night in our literally freezing house, we spent a wonderfully warm day across the street with our neighbors at the One Acre Homestead, as I mentioned in the previous post. We trekked back and forth several times to stockpile our supplies. Here I am making a toilet paper run:


I'm planning a post about  how to prepare for such an event, having now lived through one, but in the meantime, here is some good advice. As I write this, many of my friends and family on the East Coast are snowed in with 2+feet of snow. While some are losing power, I'm fairly confident they won't have to go 7 days without it. Infrastructure for handling messy winter weather is something I sorely miss about the midatlantic region.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Life in Limbo

Hello friends! Those of you who have seen my Facebook statuses and Twitter updates know that we were hit with MAY-JAH weather last Thursday. I'm talking thick thick ice on every surface, which of course included power lines. We are STILL without power almost a week later. We spent the first 2 nights roughing it in our freezing house and visiting with our friends across the street at the One Acre Homestead. It was actually fun to pool our collective resources (gas fireplace, camp stove, toilet paper, thawing freezer foods, wine) and watch our kids playing. Unfortunately, eventually everyone had to shower, so we broke camp and headed for shelter in Texas for a few days. The news reported that  the hotels in nearby Wichita Falls, TX were occupied with about 80% Oklahoma residents, with no vacancies. All retail outlets reported shortages of generators, camping gear, and fuel. We finally found some for ourselves and are back at home (where I'm learning ALL KINDS of survival skills that I'll blog about in future posts).

We've taken many pictures of our adventures that I will be sure to share with you as soon as Bill is finished using our camera. He is helping to head up the clean up efforts at Ft. Sill. In the meantime, check out this post at One Acre Homestead for some amazing ice pictures from our neighborhood, and our now infamous candlelit spaghetti dinner. Cross your fingers that we get power back before Joe's first birthday!