Friday, January 16, 2009

Thrift Tip:

Even thrift stores have sales!

The key to taking advantage of these sales here in Marion (and probably other small towns as well) is to make regular visits. I try to make a thrift store trip once a week during my regular grocery shopping excursion. Will I miss some sales this way? Certainly, but I'm okay with that because I'm shopping when I need something, not just for the sake of shopping. If you're an eBayer or just enjoy looking for deals, you'll want to stop by a couple more times in the week.

The sales for my local stores are posted inconspicuously on the interior entrance doors of the building, for example, "All purses 25% off." There are almost always sales right before the holidays as well, just like any other retail outfit. I've called all the thrift stores I know of here in Marion to ask if they had periodicals or newsletters or any other form of notifying customers of their promotionals, but I got a "no" from all of them. The lady I talked to at Goodwill, in fact, insisted that they do not run sales because of their "everyday low pricing," but I happen to know that isn't true. Instead, I'll keep stopping by and pay attention to the postings.

If you're in a large city, you may be able to find sales postings for your local thrift stores online because these stores have more sales competition, but even many of these large retailers have no outside promotional postings.

Keep your eyes open!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Love...

Neighborhood kids who will shovel a pregnant woman's walkway for free. A blessing indeed!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Out in the Cold

Snow on Echinacea seed heads

There are only 69 days between now and my due date. I'm hard at work during the day feathering my nest and shouting out frustration at how slowly things are going. Why can't I decide on curtains for the bedroom? We need double doors on our closet for real efficiency! How am I ever going to fit two girls into one room, let alone three!?

My nights, on the other hand, are spent in fierce debate with The Husband over where, when, and how to have this baby. Not exactly what I'd planned to be doing at this point, but it needs to be done. I'm doing my best to keep a positive attitude and an open heart, knowing that regardless of the details, this baby will be born and will be loved. And I will recover. Slowly or quickly, I will recover.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Seed Catalogs

Nothing excites a gardener's passions quite like seed catalogs. I think I've actually trembled a bit when pulling the first catalog of the season from the mailbox. This season, the first to arrive was Pinetree Garden Seeds, which arrived well before December. When I first started gardening, I requested every seed catalog I came across. That equates to... a hell of a lot of catalogs and a hell of a lot of waste. I quickly found that I needed to slim down my selection, not just to prevent the waste that comes from having stacks of glossy paper sitting around, but also in order to help keep my seed buying habit on budget and narrow my selection choices. Who can decide what to buy with 50 catalogs full of seeds, plants, and merchandise to choose from? Not me. The fruit and nut tree catalogs were apparently my attempt at masochism because I just don't have room for a large variety of trees. The flower catalogs were pretty to look at, but most of the flowers that I was interested in were edible, dye, or medicinal flowers that I could find in other catalogs, so they were a bit redundant.

After gardening for a couple of years and refining my garden plans, I now receive only four seed catalogs in the mail:

Pinetree Garden Seeds-- They often have choices for plants that I can't find elsewhere.

Seed Savers Exchange-- An amazing source of heirloom seeds for vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Their organization is on an incredibly important mission, and it's so vital for gardeners to support their work.

Bountiful Gardens-- Founded by John Jeavons who wrote the wonderful How to Grow More Vegetables book. Bountiful Gardens is a non-profit that helps to support Ecology Action, teaching people around the world how to feed themselves using sustainable (and often culturally important) methods. Their publications are extraordinary, and they have a pretty good selection of medicinal herbs.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds-- Again, they are a rich source of heirloom seeds with a gorgeous catalog. I've been on the fence about this one for a couple years, debating whether or not to stop getting this catalog, but it's just so dang perdy!

In addition to these catalogs, I also frequent Horizon Herbs online catalog. I don't get their paper version because I usually know exactly what I want with herbs and it's usually the variety closest to the wild herb.

I'm still looking for a great local (non-Monsanto based) seed source, so if anyone has any suggestions I'm open to them! Don't forget that trading seeds with other local gardeners is always a fulfilling and informative way to vary your seed selection.

What is your favorite source of seeds and what made you choose them?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Yummy Broccoli Soup

Yes, I'm the worst food photographer ever. I promise to work on it if I'm going to keep posting food pictures.

Anyway, I promised my lovely readers that I would post a good recipe from my ventures into Rachael Ray menu planning land, and here is my favorite so far: broccoli soup. I actually made this recipe in early December when the weather here was still mild and broccoli was still readily available. Some of you with greenhouses or in warmer climes may still be able to make this with fresh from the garden veggies, but I'll have to wait until the spring broccoli crop comes in. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! I didn't make many changes to the original recipe really, but I like a potatoier soup (how's that for making up new words?), and I didn't have any shredded Swiss on hand so I had to adjust things a bit.

Broccoli Soup (adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray)-- 4 adult servings

  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 large onion chopped

  • salt and pepper

  • 4 small yellow-fleshed potatoes, finely chopped (I didn't peel my potatoes, though the original recipe calls for it)

  • 1 bunch broccoli, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

  • 3 1/2 cups water

  • In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook until softened and transluscent, stirring often. Add the chopped potatoes and 3 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Next, add the broccoli, cover, and cook just until the broccoli is tender, about 7 minutes. Remove half of the soup to a blender and puree; recombine with the other half. Stir in the shredded cheese and then the cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

    All in all, it took me about an hour to prepare this soup. Not bad at all. I garnished the kids' bowls with extra shredded cheese and served it with crusty bread (not the "Ham-and-Swiss Toasts" included in the Every Day menu plan because I have an extreme dislike of mayonaisse). Next time, I may puree the portions for the 5-year-olds completely. They are a bit put off by broccoli. The 2-year-old was no problem though, and she happily dipped her bread in and chowed down. I had a much larger bowl than I should have for dinner and an equally large bowl the next day for lunch. The next time I prepare this soup, I think I'll double the recipe and see how well it freezes.