Scrap Paper Saves Money and the Environment

More than 20 years ago, inspired by Earth Day 1990 and by one of my high school teachers handing out a huge amount of paper printed only on one side that was useless after a single day’s activity, I designated a bin on my desk for scrap paper: full sheets of paper with one blank side that could be used for a new purpose.

I have been saving and using scrap paper ever since.  I use it to write notes to myself, to do arithmetic and make little charts related to my work as the data manager of a research study, to plan my family’s meals, to write my weekly to-do list, to copy recipes off the Internet for our recipe binder (Why fire up the laser printer–only to find that the page prints in a weird format in too-small type on several sheets of paper–when I could hand-write the recipe in the exact format I prefer?), to write down directions from Google Maps in my own words (which helps me understand and remember them so that I can spend less time glancing away from the road), to take minutes for my church vestry, to sketch the architectural ideas I still have from time to time. Read more…

Cranberry Bread Without Sugar?

This is not a recipe. It is a story of a recipe that does taste very different if you forget to put in the sugar, but the result is still edible!

I have made the Cranberry Orange Bread from the 1968 Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook (snag this one if you see it in a yard sale!) many times. I’ve often made it with just 1/2 cup of sugar instead of 3/4, but I never left out all the sugar before! It was an accident. And I had made three loaves. And I served some to a guest before I had tried any myself. Ack!

But he liked it. Daniel also liked it but noticed it tasted different. Only six-year-old Nicholas did not like it enough to eat it, and it took him a few bites to decide. I knew after my first bite what had happened . . . but the answer was obvious: If it’s not sweet enough for you, put some honey on it. Easy and delicious!

We were eating it for dessert, so we did want it to be sweet. In other bread roles–like a sandwich or a side dish for chili–unsweetened cranberry orange bread may be just the thing. Cranberries get a lot sweeter when baked, and between the orange peel and orange juice there’s orangey sweetness too. I substitute whole-wheat flour for half the white flour in the recipe, which makes a substantial bread.

You know, I guess there is a recipe I developed from this experience:

Cranberry Bread Yogurt Sundae

Place a slab of warm cranberry orange bread without sugar in a shallow dish. Butter it. Spread honey on it. Put a scoop of plain yogurt next to it or on top of it. Eat with a spoon.

Yum! It works for me! I have not done the math, though, to find out if there is more sugar per serving in a layer of honey than there would be in a serving of the bread made with sugar . . . but if you bake it unsweetened, at least you are aware of how much sweetness you’re adding and can adjust it.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering: The big bag of cranberries currently being sold at Costco for $5 contains just over 11 cups, once they are sliced.  I like to slice them all at once using my food processor (phenomenally less tedious than slicing each cranberry by hand!!) and freeze whatever I’m not going to use immediately in 3-cup or 4-cup batches for future bouts of cranberry bread.  In this case, I put the extra fraction of a cup in a glass jar in the refrigerator to be used in my next batch of cooked fruit.

Four Weeks of Pesco-Vegetarian Dinners (early autumn)

A pesco-vegetarian is someone who eats no meat except fish.  That’s what we do when we’re at home and most of the time when we eat in other places.

Last week I explained my family’s approach to menu planning, which is that I write the menu and do the weekend cooking, while Daniel cooks weeknight dinners following my instructions.  Here is our menu from one sheet of paper=four recent weeks.  I hope it gives you some new ideas! Read more…

Earth-friendly Nosebleed Care

My six-year-old son, who is slowly learning to be more independent during the night, recently told me in the morning that he had had a nosebleed in the middle of the night.  I changed his pillowcase–our linen closet is in the master bedroom, so he couldn’t have done that without waking us–but he had taken care of the blood from the part of the nosebleed after it woke him.

Nicholas established years ago that when he has a nosebleed (he’s prone to minor ones), he covers his nose with one of the cloth wipes we used with his cloth diapers when he was a baby.  They still are stashed in a cupboard next to his bed.  The flannel side is soft and smooth against his nose, while the terry layer is very absorbent.  Read more…

Explaining Addiction to a Young Child

You might think that addiction is a topic that wouldn’t come up until children are in late elementary school, going through whatever passes for drug education in their school.  You might be right.  Then again, your child might ask questions at a much earlier age after noticing that someone you know or a television character seems unable to quit using something that has obvious negative effects.  That’s what happened with my child. Read more…

Money Management and Consequences for a First Grader

Nicholas has been getting an allowance since he turned five years old, almost two years ago.  He does not get the “$1 per year of age, per week” recommended by many parenting magazines–that’s crazy!  I use the method my father taught me of dividing the money into Spend, Save, and Share categories:  Nicholas gets 50 cents to Spend on anything he wants, 25 cents to Save toward the occasional big purchase, and 10 cents to Share in the collection plate at church or other charitable causes.  That’s not a lot of money, but it’s supplemented by occasional gifts from relatives–and often, several weeks go by when Nicholas doesn’t feel like buying anything.

We realize, though, that such a tiny income does not cover many of the special things life has to offer a first grader.  His school sells ice cream every other Friday (with profits going to the PTO), and I routinely give him the dollar for that in addition to his allowance.  When a flyer came home announcing the school book fair, I agreed to put some money toward that, knowing that a single brand-new paperback would cost at least his whole month’s income. Read more…

Words my three-year-old made up

Nicholas is six-and-a-half now, but I just found a post I made to a discussion board three years ago, answering the question, “Has your child invented any words?”  I’m glad to see it again because I had forgotten 3 out of 5 of these!

Pretendstructions.  Read more…

Meal Planning When I’m Not the Cook

For a few years now, I’ve been seeing lots of blog posts about the advantages of meal planning, i.e. figuring out what you are going to eat days or weeks in advance so you can make optimal use of your groceries and get meals on the table on time.  Fine, sounds good, but everyone writing about this was a full-time homemaker.  In my family, both parents had full-time jobs, and although Daniel was working at home and willing to stick something in the oven an hour before I got home with the kid, he wasn’t willing to knock off work early to do elaborate food preparation.  Normally, when I got home we decided what we were going to eat and which one of us was going to make it, and then we’d eat dinner whenever it was ready.  Read more…

An Unexpected Find in the Thrift Store

Recently, I bought at Goodwill two anthologies of Calvin and Hobbes, a comic strip I enjoy reading to my six-year-old son. When we started reading the second one, Weirdos from Another Planet, we were surprised to find the following note written in metallic gold pen inside the front cover:

Dear Corey,
It was really fun getting to know you. We’ll really miss you here. Have fun in your new home. Sorry I shot you. It was an accident. I thought I was out of ammo. See ya later maybe.
Your pal,
Ted R.

Maybe, indeed. I bet Corey dumped the book at Goodwill and never hung out with Ted R. again.

Then again, maybe Corey treasured the book for a decade before he passed it on. We will never know. I love the sense of mystery!

Traffic Safety for Little Kids

We live on a quiet street, but just around the block is the main street of our neighborhood, which has lots of traffic, parallel parking along both sides, and lots of intersections where right turns on red are allowed.  Only some of the intersections have traffic lights and walk signals.  There are lots of useful places within walking distance, and the sidewalks are wide, but crossing the street can be risky.  A lot of drivers seem to think the traffic laws don’t apply to them!

When Nicholas began walking, I saw that he already knew (from being carried by a walking parent) to pause on the curb and look around before stepping into the street.  That was very helpful, but it didn’t mean he actually knew how to cross the street safely alone.  By thinking out loud, I taught him what we look for when we pause on the curb and how we decide when it’s safe to walk.  But informed decision-making ability isn’t the only thing you need to be safe. Read more…

Cauliflower leaves are edible!

Our CSA farm does not trim the outer leaves off a head of cauliflower because they help to keep the white part of the cauliflower clean until you’re ready to eat it.  The farm newsletter had mentioned from time to time that these leaves are edible, too, and we’d tried substituting them for kale in a few dishes, but our main impression was that they were tougher and less tasty than kale.

On Saturday I made roasted vegetables: cauliflower, potatoes, and green peppers.  Now, I’ve read all over the place how other people’s children just adore vegetables of all sorts when they are roasted, but my six-year-old Nicholas has steadfastly refused to eat any roasted vegetable except potatoes and the golden turnips we get about once a year from the CSA.  I’ve even tried showing him someone’s blog with photos of enthusiastic children yumming down the roasted cauliflower, to no avail. Read more…

My grandmother got a few things done.

My paternal grandmother would be 100 years old today, if she were still alive.  She died in July 1991, when I was 18.  Her name was Janette, so we grandchildren called her Janmother.

Janmother was an outstanding high school student but never went to college.  She married just after turning 20, and at times she helped my grandfather with his work, but primarily she was a homemaker.

My dad and I were able to spend the final week of Janmother’s life staying in her house and visiting her in the hospital.  The last time I heard her speak coherently, she said, “I’ll never cook another meal.” Read more…

Walking to School

Happy Walk to School Day!  My son and I walked to his school this morning, and his father will walk him home this afternoon.  He’s in first grade.  Sometime during his years at this K-8 school, he’ll begin walking by himself, but for now I am enjoying the walk and the time with him.  We live slightly less than half a mile (five-and-a-half blocks) from the school, a distance we can walk in 10-15 minutes in just about any weather.

Being in a walkable neighborhood was a major consideration when we bought our home, two years before Nicholas was born.  (Use Walkscore to check out the walkability of different addresses!)  Walking to a good public school was only part of it: grocery store, library, post office, our church, restaurants, many other businesses, and playgrounds all are within a mile of our home, and all the streets have sidewalks.  We also live near a city bus stop, and Nicholas and I commuted together by public transit every day while he was attending a preschool near my office.  But being able to walk the whole way to school is even nicer!  (After taking him to school, I walk another six blocks to the bus stop and go to work.) Read more…