Sphagnum Moss Diapers

This is a guest post from storyteller Doug Elliott, whose free e-newsletter offers occasional stories like this one. Doug’s storytelling DVD, and his books about nature for children and adults, would make great holiday gifts!

Sphagnum moss sure is an amazing plant! I’ve been hanging out in some wetlands lately, and with our son Todd attaining his 20th birthday, and a bunch of my friends having babies, I couldn’t help but reminisce about this old rolling stone’s moss gathering activities a couple of decades ago.

Camper’s Pampers

I just couldn’t get it out of my head!

Ever since I had seen the article in that old National Geographic Magazine about the Cree Indians, I hadn’t been able to get that picture out of my head. It showed a young Cree mom diapering her baby with sphagnum moss. sphagnum moss

Wow! What a concept! I knew sphagnum moss well. I had seen it many times in my wanderings in wetland areas in various parts of the country. I had marveled at its pale green color and its soft, absorbent, spongy texture. I had picked it up by the handful and marveled at how much water I could squeeze out of it. One time I did a test with a bunch of dry sphagnum and a sensitive scale. I found out that it would hold 12 times its own weight in water. Read more…

Multiple Shopping Lists: Key to Grocery-Shopping Sanity!

My grocery-shopping strategy attempts to maximize the quality of food we get for our money, and one key tactic is shopping at multiple stores. Since I have limited time and don’t like to waste gasoline, I want to make sure that in each shopping trip I get all the things we need that are best-priced or best-quality at that store, but I don’t want to be stocking up on stuff “just in case we need it” only to find that we already have several of those in the pantry. Over the years, Daniel and I have worked out a system that makes it easy to keep track of our grocery purchasing plans.

We keep a separate shopping list for each store. The moment we open up the last package of a staple food, use up something we’d like to have more of as soon as possible, are notified of a sale, or think of a food we haven’t had in a while and would like, we write it on the appropriate list. Any coupons for that store (or for a specific product on that list) are stored with the list. I keep an eye on the lists and decide when it’s time to visit a particular store, and then I take that list and coupons and put them in the outer pocket of one of the cloth tote bags I am taking to the store.

It’s easy for me to remember which store is the best place to get a particular thing, because I am the primary grocery shopper and have a great memory. Daniel isn’t so good at this, but a large proportion of our foods give him clues by being store-brand products or in reusable containers labeled for refilling with bulk foods at the East End Food Co-op. Other things, though, he would sometimes write on the wrong list or, worse, decide that when I was around he would tell me what we needed so I could write it on the correct list–and then he might forget. Recently, he thought of a solution: Read more of this post

Pumpkin Burritos

It may seem somewhat obvious that, if you can make Butternut Squash Burritos from the same recipe as Sweet Potato Burritos, you could also make Pumpkin Burritos.  But if you’re among the many people desperately searching the Internet this month for new and different ways to serve the remains of your jack o’lantern, it might not occur to you to search for squash or sweet potato recipes as well, or you might be nervous about modifying those recipes to use pumpkin.

Daniel made Pumpkin Burritos for us last night, so we can assure you that this recipe works!  To convert our pumpkin into pumpkin puree, we used these instructions as a guide, but we were not starting with a small pie pumpkin like they recommend; our son had begged for a big pumpkin to decorate our porch this Halloween, and I bought one that must have weighed 25 pounds before we scooped it out.  After being carved and displayed for two weeks, it was a bit moldy on the inside, but I couldn’t help seeing it as $7 worth of food–and I suspected it would make a lot more pumpkin puree than the 3 cans we could buy for $7.50.  I sliced the pumpkin into wedges with a cleaver, then used a paring knife to cut off all surfaces that had been exposed to the air; there were only a few spots where I had to dig deeper to remove yuckiness.  Daniel baked it in the oven as directed–microwaving would have been more complicated because we had so much pumpkin it would have had to be in 3 or 4 batches in the microwave.  We got about 11 cups of finished puree, and it tastes fine, at least as good as the canned stuff.

For each burrito, you will need: Read more…

You do not know what you are asking.

This fall, our church has launched a new Bible study session, on Sundays between the two church services, to discuss the portion of the Gospel that will be read in church that day.  As Episcopalians, we follow a lectionary that tells us which scriptures to read each day, and this fall the Gospel readings for Sundays have been sequential passages from Mark, so each week we’re getting the next part of that story.

I’ve read the Gospel of Mark all the way through several times, but this time I’ve been especially struck by all the places where Jesus says or demonstrates that the way to get what we need is to ask.  Several people are healed because they asked Jesus to help them.  Jesus asks the disciples to hand over their few fishes and loaves of bread, gives thanks for them, and manages to feed thousands of people.  When the disciples are afraid to ask Jesus what he means by what he’s said, they don’t learn anything.  Jesus says that anyone who calls upon his name (asks to borrow his power) to drive out demons is doing the right thing, even if that person isn’t a recognized disciple.  He says that people who come to him like little children seeking his blessing will receive it.

Over and over, I’m hearing, “Just ask!  You can have whatever you need.  All you have to do is ask!”  I tend to have trouble asking for what I need, and this includes asking God–I often realize that I have been praying for help accepting the situation as it is and doing what I think I’ll have to do, instead of for what I really wish would happen, because I guess I think that’s more humble or polite or something.  This often makes life really difficult for me and leads to my resenting people for failing to do what I hoped they would do, though I never asked them to do it.  I’m working on it!  This Bible study and the discussions we’ve been having–when other people talk about things they’ve asked for and how it worked out–have been helping me a lot.

But a couple of weeks ago, nobody showed up for Bible study except for my seven-year-old Nicholas and me.  Nicholas had attended all the previous sessions, and sometimes when we talked afterward I could tell he’d been listening pretty closely, but he’d never participated much.  This time I was determined to get him involved.  Read more…

Four Weeks of Pesco-Vegetarian Dinners (late autumn)

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Here is what we made for dinner (and a few lunches) the past four weeks, using many vegetables and mushrooms from our community-supported agriculture share in a farm here in Pennsylvania.  I hope it gives you some new ideas for meals based around the local foods of the season!

I plan our menu a few days ahead, based mainly on what we already have in the house from the farm and from stocking up at sales.

Week One:

  • Sunday:
    • Lunch: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and apples.
    • Dinner: Seven-year-old Nicholas and I ate pizza at his friend’s birthday party.  Daniel had leftovers.
  • Monday: We celebrated an excellent parent-teacher conference with dinner at Curry on Murray, a newish Thai restaurant in our neighborhood.  Everything was delicious!  It’s a bit more expensive than we’d like, so this will be a special occasion restaurant for us.
  • Tuesday: Honey-Apricot Tofu, Salty String Beans, and rice.  This is one of Nicholas’s favorite meals lately.
  • Wednesday: Daniel made a Brown Rice Salad for the church potluck; I planned it thinking he would use onion, red pepper, and carrot from the farm.  However, when he cut open the red pepper he found that it was moldy!  He called me at work, and I picked up another pepper at the grocery store on my way home, and he diced it and mixed it into the salad which had been marinating all afternoon. Read more…

The Horror From Beyond Time

I meant to post this on Halloween, but perhaps–just as our neighborhood’s Halloween celebration was postponed until Saturday (due to rain)–you are willing to extend the Halloween season by a few days and read this creepy short story, carefully honed over several years by the man I love, who really ought to write more often.

The Horror From Beyond Time