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On Good Intentions May 9, 2013

Posted by Toy Lady in Musings, Rochester.
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No, this isn’t going to be a mea culpa or a load of excuses about where I’ve been lately.  I’ve been busy, I’ve been tired, and I’ve been blowing my nose a lot.  Not much to talk about there, is there?

However, I did read an article the other day that made me stop and think about whether I’d pay more to support a local business.

Like most people these days, we generally try to be as budget-conscious (read: frugal) (re-read:  cheap) as we can, although, again, like many people, we each have our, well, shall we say indulgences?

Currently, my biggest indulgence seems to be sock yarn.  For every Christmas gift project I buy yarn for, I seem to be buying enough extra, “undesignated” yarn for at least a couple of pairs of socks. 

So naturally, when the question was posed, I did stop and think – quite a bit.  In this age of big-box stores and internet sales, it’s often almost impossible to get the “best price” locally anymore, unless you count the Walmart down the street as “local business,” though I don’t think anyone really does, do they?

I do realize that I’m fortunate to have access to our great Public Market – where farmers and other vendors gather year-round.  Ah, but the key there is “vendors” – they’re not all local farmers!

Um, obviously not, if I can manage to bring home artichokes and citrus, huh? 

But many of the vendors are local farmers, and in a number of cases, I’ve made a deliberate choice to support the small businesses – but not in all cases.

I’m not going to pay $4.00 a  dozen for “organic free range” eggs, when regular old eggs are half that at the supermarket.  However, I’m happy to pay an extra $.50 for DIFFERENT eggs that are cage- and antibiotic-free.

I just can’t see paying $10 a pound for homegrown beef at this point, though it’s under serious consideration once the freezers are emptied.

Asparagus – last week, I paid DOUBLE for asparagus that had been picked locally the day before in preference to the stuff that had been picked who-knows-when and shipped in from Mexico.

Okay, so the food thing is easy – locavore, fossil fuels, blah blah blah.

But there’s a little more to it, isn’t there?  What about stuff that’s not made, grown, produced, whatever, locally?

Say. . . what about that sock yarn that I’ve been so in love with lately?  There are not a lot of superwash sheep grazing around the greater Rochester area, let me tell you!

So what about that?  Things we need (let’s just agree that we need sock yarn, okay?) but must be imported from SOMEWHERE, in SOME manner.

I’ll be honest – THIS is where where I really had to do some honest soul-searching – when it came to my sock habit.  How sad is that?

Sure, I could probably hunt out some old lady who spins yarn from her own homegrown sheep – I guess.  And quite possibly, not RIDICULOUSLY far away.  There are both Amish and Mennonite communities within a couple of hours of here.  I’m probably not gonna do that, though.

Then there are local yarn shops – there are two that are easily (the most minor of detours) on my way home.  And the people there are SO nice.  SO helpful.  But MAN, the yarn is expensive.  And truly, the selection, well, they can’t stock everything, can they?  And apparently socks aren’t even the only thing people knit!   But I am reasonably confident that, if I ever had a question on anything I was doing, there would be someone here, in one of those shops,who could help me out.

There is, of course, the Big Box option – and, even worse, the online Big Box – what an individual store may or may not stock, I can certainly get from their online versions, if I wanted to.

This is my dilemma – shopping at the local shop is the most expensive, cost-wise, but it also provides the best service, AND it does the most to support my community.  But WOW, it can be expensive.  

Shopping at the Big Box, while the product may be a bit (or a lot) cheaper,  customer service is virtually non-existent, AND any profits will end up far, far from here.

BUT that Big Box does, at least, employ my neighbors.    Hmmmm. . .

While those aren’t the ONLY two options, they’re certainly the most local ones.  There’s also the online mom-and-pop shops – stores that do mail-order that are, in fact, local yarn shops, just not local HERE.  But their profits stay in their community, rather than going into the corporate pockets of some multi-national conglomerate.

What’s a gal to do?

What about you?  Do you prefer to shop locally, even if it means spending a little more, or would you rather save the money?

Stormageddon October 31, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in Not about Food, random stuff, Rochester.
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It’s been a weird day around here.

We here in upstate New York have suffered the remnants of Hurricane Sandy and lived to tell the tale.

All of the local schools were closed today – they made that decision last night.  Kind of a “just in case” thing, I guess.

It appears that none of the houses across the street from us has power – we’re all good, though.

I was walking the dog this morning and heard what sounded like a lawnmower running.  I was pretty sure it wasn’t a lawnmower because (a) it was not even 5 AM, (b) it was dark, and (c) it was raining.

I’ve never once seen anyone mowing a lawn under those conditions.  So I presumed it was a generator – and I looked closer and saw that there was no sign of any light in any of the houses on that street – except for the house with the lawnmower-generator sound.  Huh.

(Peeps walked by the same house on their afternoon walk and confirmed that yes, there was a generator running in the driveway.)

We walked a couple more blocks, then headed home – and we had to walk in the street at one point.  There was half a tree blocking the sidewalk.

I headed for work, and everything was in place there, but several people we deal with regularly are based in Manhattan.

From what I’ve seen on the news, New York City is underwater – or at least the parts that aren’t on fire, anyway.  Most of lower Manhattan – the financial district – the area I deal with – is flooded.

One guy is working from home – he’s fine.  He provided me with his cell number yesterday.

One guy took the train into the city (or should that be The City?) yesterday, then the trains stopped running.  He’s there until probably Wednesday.  I hope. That was the plan, anyway.

Emails to that firm have been bounced back to me – evidently the servers are down.  That can NOT be good, though hopefully they’ve planned for that eventuality.   I’m sure they’re fine – that’s just the kind of guys they are.

I haven’t heard from Peeps’s friends in New Jersey – they may have evacuated, since their neighborhood tends to flood if someone leaves the bathtub running too long.  I’m sure they’re just busy keeping their old dog (and themselves) calm.

So.

Were you in the path of The Storm?  How did you weather it?

(Heh.)

If not, what was the coverage like for the rest of the country?  Were there semi-hourly updates?  Discussions of “100-year floods?”  What have you heard?

What’s in Your Market Basket? September 27, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food, random stuff, Rochester.
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Long-time readers are well aware of my love for the Rochester Public Market.    We’re so fortunate to have such a well-established, varied year-round venue – not everyone is so blessed, I know.

I’ve got to admit, though, that I think fall is probably one of my favorite times to shop the market (along with with spring, summer and winter, I guess!) – I love when we’re in full harvest season!  And I’ve been visiting the market for long enough now that I know who my favorite vendors are, so it’s almost like visiting friends and giving them money!

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And while we’re generally pretty structured about planning meals during the week, I usually like to see what’s going on – and what I’ve picked up at the market – and do more of a seat-of-my-pants sort of dinner on weekends, which is definitely what we did this weekend.

I started with a few slices of bacon – Peeps-cured bacon, of course, using pork belly from the meat guy at the market.  He’s very nice – I also buy bags of dog bones from him, and sometimes we stop and chat about our Jarly and his St. Bernard.

Anyway, we chopped that bacon and started browning it.

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When the bacon was browned, I added a chopped onion, bought from one of the older gentlemen at the market – I can always count on him for fresh (not last year’s!), reasonable sized onions – I HATE peeling and chopping a bunch of little tiny onions!  And they were cheap too -  I bought a ten-pound bag for $3!

I also added garlic – nothing but garlic from the garlic guys at this time of year!  They’re only around for a couple of months – they usually set up a stall in late August, and they’re sold out of garlic by about the beginning of October.  These guys have the biggest, most beautiful garlic I think I’ve ever seen!  I buy a pound or so (yes, a pound!) of garlic every time I see them, in the hopes that it’ll last as long as possible into the winter.

That’s also the garlic  we plant in the fall – I’m willing to sacrifice one bulb of my precious garlic – knowing that’ll mean I’ll be able harvest it just a little earlier , and thus, enjoy second-generation Garlic Guy garlic sooner!

PhotobucketAfter we added a half cup or so of rice (random, supermarket rice), I then added a bunch of something new – field peas.

I’ve never had field peas before, but, of course, I’m always up for trying new stuff!  Honestly, if I’d ever given it much thought (which I haven’t), I’d have assumed “field peas” were something like “field corn,” that is, a crop grown as feed for cattle, and not for people to eat!

I picked these up from the Bean Guy – first, because I do want to try new things, and second, because I wanted to find out when I can expect to start seeing his dried beans!  You wouldn’t think there’d be much of a difference between packaged dry beans and “fresh” dried beans, but believe me, there sure is!

The Bean Guy said to prepare them “just like black-eyed peas” only not to soak them because they’re fresh  – which didn’t help me a lot, since I’ve only cooked black-eyed peas once!

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After I added a partial jar of chicken stock (again, random, storebought chicken, but market veggies did go into the stock!), I added half a jar of tomato sauce.

You got it – the tomato sauce was made from tomatoes I picked up from the tomato-and-corn guy.  He’s always got the best prices on tomatoes for canning – they’re “roma” tomatoes – much less juicy than what you’d slice for a BLT, which is perfect for canning (and saucing!).  I think he should also have some nice winter squash later on, which I’m looking forward to, as well!

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I let everything simmer, partially covered, until the beans were tender (about 45 minutes) and the rice was done.

Then we cut the corn off a couple of ears and stirred that in, simmering until that was just hot, but still a little crunchy.

I love love love buying corn from the Back-of-the-Truck Guy!  As soon as corn season starts, he’s out there, and he is SUCH a salesman!  After corn season, he’ll be back, too, with sweet potatoes (last year I bought a bag that, when I got home, weighed 20 pounds).  There’s just something, I don’t know, farm-stand-like to be buying veggies off the back of a truck, you know?

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And that was pretty much it – I seasoned to taste (of course!) and, once all the veggies were done and well blended, well, we served it.

While it wasn’t earth-shattering, it was warm and filling and tasty – it was, basically, a vegetable stew.  And, like any other stew, it’s much better reheated – I’ve actually been enjoying a bowl for breakfast the past couple of days!

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Peeps found it a little bland (he likes to spice things up), and I had just the thing for him – a little dab of our homemade sriracha – made from market peppers and garlic, of course!

Monday Musings: 06.25.2012 Edition June 25, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in Garden, meal plan monday, Musings, random stuff, Rochester.
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I have got MAD crazy lavender going on in my herb garden and I have GOT to get it cut down!

I’m not even exactly sure why I planted it, other than “because I could” – I have no idea what to do with it all.

Right now, I’m thinking about a grapefruit and lavender sorbet.

Maybe some lavender shortbread, because that’s EXACTLY what I need – cookies made out of butter, flour, and more butter.  Maybe I’ll have to rethink that one. . .

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Gosh, we’ve had some hot weather around here!  It’s been near or over 90 degrees most of the week, and, to be honest, nobody likes that.

Granted, the house is air-conditioned, which is good, but it’s still been pretty miserable out there, and, of course, Peeps spends his days cozied up to a bread oven, which CAN’T be pleasant.  And the dog – the poor puppy, with his thick black fur – he’s been just beyond uncomfortable outside, so we’ve been trying to get him to the beach at least once during the week.

Us and, it seems, every other dog-owner, boater, jet-ski rider, and baby-mama in the county.  Seriously, you could not shake a wet dog at the lake without hitting SOMEONE in the afternoons.  (Heh – it’s pretty funny, too, when he shakes on people!)

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So we hauled out the wading pool we bought shortly after Jar came home.  We’d gotten it with the intention of bathing him, but he was having no part of that, so it got stored in the shed and, basically, forgotten.

While I’d like to see him actually get into the pool to cool off, right now, he’s treating it as the World’s Second Largest Outside Water Dish – we haven’t managed to break him of drinking out of Lake Ontario!

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Apparently the weather is getting to a lot of people around here.  I’m sure you’ve heard by now about the miserable little beasts on the school bus who tormented their bus monitor to tears – and the world-wide outpouring of anger and disgust for the little monsters, as well as sympathy for the woman.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit that Greece is the town I live in – and the Greece School District is the one The Boy attended (though not that particular school).

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Truly, though, upstate New York, including Greece, is a great place to live, and there are plenty of wonderful people here.

Except maybe this guy.  He apparently hit our neighbor’s car, tried to take off, and got caught.  Drunk.  And with, apparently, “a little weed” in his truck.  So. . . the Greece Police brought the K9 unit out for a little look-see, erm, smell.

Idiot.

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Let’s talk about something more pleasant, okay?

Like, oh, how about the garden!  Hey, did you see I’ve got TOMATOES?  Woo hoo!  And not just any old tomatoes, either.  Almost all of the plants are starting to set fruit, including my beloved Jet Stars.  Those truly are the best tomatoes I’ve found so far.

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And my beans are doing quite well – I’ve even got some buds there – and we know what that means -in another couple of weeks, I’ll have more beans than I know what to do with!   Right now, I’ve got a row of purple beans (I know, they turn green when they’re cooked, but who says I have to cook them?) and a row of an old standby – Provider.  I just planted another row of Providers – those should come in around mid- July, I think.

Beans all summer – yay!

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Oh, and looky at my kale!   It’s about time to thin it, I think – the little plants are starting to get a bit crowded, but they’re big enough so that just maybe I’ll be able to do something with the ones I pull.  The curly little leaves are so tender and nice, I may just make a salad out of them!

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Now that the weather has finally cooled off a bit, we’ve been able to open up some windows and get some fresh air in the house!

And, of course, play the “I want to go out no I want to come in no you come out here with me” game with The Jar.

Boy, that’s fun.

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  I’ve got a slightly busy week ahead – two kind of late days at work, and Peeps’s uncle will be coming through town Thursday, which means we’ll need something we can mostly do ahead of time, but we still want to feed him and his wife – into the ground, if we can!

Monday - I’ve got a small package of collard greens in the fridge, and this Linguine Frittata with Greens looked good.  It’s a nice, healthy meatless meal, plus we’ve got everything we need on hand, so it’s like bonus points!

Tuesday - We’ve got one last package of brisket in the freezer from last fall, and, since Peeps really shouldn’t smoke any more until we use up what we’ve got, well, we’re using up what we’ve got.  And he’s got a whole fresh brisket sitting in the fridge planning to be cured and/or smoked next week.  Cutting it a little close there, wouldn’t you say?

Wednesday - At this point, Wednesday is promising to be picture-perfect – not too hot, clear skies – wonderful for grilling Orange-Tarragon Chicken. Besides, the tarragon is going to take over if I don’t start cutting that back too!

Thursday - This is the day Peeps’s uncle and aunt will be visiting, so of COURSE we want to make something they’ll love.  Aunt Cathy has some food allergies, so have to be careful.  Fortunately, Peeps’s favorite carnitas doesn’t have anything on the “bad” list, so we’re good.  The best part is that almost all of the work can be done ahead – including cooking it.  Then, at dinnertime, the meat should be reheated in no more time than it’ll take to set the table.  Nice, huh?

Friday - We always look forward to pizza night - and especially when there might be some leftover carnitas to top a pie. . .

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Monday Musings: 05.21.2012 Edition May 21, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in Food, Home, meal plan monday, random stuff, Rochester.
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And here it is, the end of another weekend – a weekend that included not one, but two trips to the public market!

First exciting thing – local asparagus!  I know I could have gotten plenty of asparagus (and cheaper) for the past month or so (longer, actually), but really, besides the whole doing-business-with-my-neighbors thing, it just tastes better when it was picked the day before and has only traveled a few miles, you know? I prefer to wait for the real stuff, myself.

And the second exciting thing – I picked up a lovely 3-pound slab of pork belly.  And you know what that means – BACON!

The smoker is coming out for Memorial Day weekend!

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And the second trip to the Public Market this weekend was for Flower  Days at the Market – after all, Rochester is nicknamed “The Flower City.”

Flower City Days is when I always buy the plants I need for the garden – the entire place is PACKED with vendors and customers, and every year, I come home with lots of plants, plenty of other stuff, and wishing I’d had  more cash to buy garden ornaments or signs or a hand-carved bench, or organic local horse fertilizer, or, well, any number of awesomely wonderful things available for the lawn and garden.

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Finally, my herb garden is pretty set – with the exception of a couple of annuals (rosemary is, sadly, not usually perennial here, parsley is a biennial, can’t live without fresh basil in season, and I still need some  MARJORAM!), I really don’t need any more perennial plants.

Though I couldn’t resist a couple of new mints – I’ve got the grapefruit mint I put in last year, and I got some peppermint (duh!) and some apple mint.

I just hope I don’t live to regret all that mint. . .

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We also couldn’t resist some hanging flowers.

I know that I should pick up a few potted plants, transplant them into the hanging baskets, and I could have  my own, custom, hanging plants.

But then I see them all hanging there, and they’re so pretty, I can’t help it.

Plus, I had tomatoes to plant this weekend.

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However, I do plan to put together some window boxes, probably next weekend.

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The Jar had his first trip to the beach this weekend – it was THAT nice!

Oh, he was such a good boy – he stayed mostly on-leash, since we’re still working on his recall skills.

Of course, he had to go into the water – he was SO EXCITED to chase that tennis ball!

But we had to keep it short, though – only about half an hour of actual swimming and frolicking.  It wouldn’t do for him to over-do it his first time out this year, now would it?

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Oops.

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There’s an area in the back yard behind the garage that’s kind of damp and shady and cool.

Every year, the only thing that grows there are lilies of the valley.  I’ve always loved them – they’re so pretty, aren’t they?

And stubborn too – they just keep coming back, even with Jar running back there trying to catch squirrels (which he never manages to do).

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Our neighbors have this neat vine that grows up over their stockade fence – I have no idea what it is, but it has the coolest purple-ish-blue hangy flowers.

And I just googled “purple hanging flower” and found out it’s wisteria.

Google is cool, huh?

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Kitty had her doctor’s appointment this past week – it was her annual check-up, not anything wrong or anything.

All is well with her – she’s down almost another two pounds – her current weight is now 10.6 pounds (2 years ago, she was just over 20!).  The vet says she’s at a healthy weight, so she can stop trying to diet.

Her teeth look good, and she’s flea-free (I should hope so!), and we just have to drop off a fresh “sample” next week.

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Several years ago, Peeps got me into Star Trek (mostly The Next Generation).

I know, you’re shocked, right?

One scene that’s always ticked me was this one where Worf tries prune juice for the first time:

Now I, being a  fan of prune juice (and prunes in general, for that matter), love the idea of the big, strong Klingon ordering his prune juice several times over the course of the next several years.

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So when Woot offered this shirt a couple of weeks ago, I knew it had to be mine.
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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.   I don’t know what the week will bring, schedule-wise, but I know that the week before a long weekend tends to bring unexpected work things.  And we’re looking forward to a somewhat unsettled week weather-wise, at least until later on, so . . . we’re playing it safe.  Mostly.

Monday - Clearing out the smoked stuff, getting ready for summer – we’ve got one last package of pastrami, and I picked up a loaf of good rye bread at the market.  Boy Peeps’s homemade pastrami is good!  We’ve got lots of leftover  mac salad, too, and a green salad would go nicely, too.

Tuesday - We had a quart of Meaty Beans in the freezer that’s got to get used – while it’s not exactly seasonal, I’ll eat these pretty much any time, especially since they’re already cooked!  I didn’t see any respectable greens at the market this week, so . . . we’ll figure out something for a vegetable, because we are NOT having just meat and beans.

Wednesday - We’ve got a surplus of eggs in the fridge – first they were on sale, and then, the past two weeks, I’ve had coupons for a free dozen eggs at the supermarket, so, well, we’ve got eggs.  And we haven’t made Spanish tortilla in SO SO long. . . only we’re going to use homemade Mexican chorizo.  We’re crazy like that.

Thursday - We’ve been trying very hard to enjoy at least one meatless (or mostly meatless) meal a week – and while you’d think Wednesday’s tortilla would qualify, we’re also going to try Fine Cooking‘s Grilled Chickpea Burgers – we have everything for them in the pantry but the pitas (and the cilantro, but we don’t care for cilantro anyway), and I suspect, what with the smoker coming out next weekend, we’re may have a meat-heavy weekend, so . . .

Friday - It doesn’t look like we’re going to have much in the way of leftovers, so pizza night will likely be pretty old school – definitely some cheese, and maybe a bit of pepperoni for me.     (By the way, the leftover everything-bagel pork tenderloin was fantastic on last week’s pizza.)

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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