October 26, 2009

Christmas, Kindles, Citrus Honey Butter and Such!

Very exciting! After I wrote about the possibility of libraries someday lending Kindles, I discovered that one here in Maine - in Camden - already does this! Hopefully, this will be yet another instance of "As Maine goes, so goes the nation!"

I got a MOST unusual book order the other day, a person in Sofia, Bulgaria ordering The Frugal Family's Kitchen Book. I sent him an email asking how on earth he'd become aware of the book, and if I hear back I'll certainly share what he says with you. Speaking of The Frugal Family's Kitchen Book, it's time to order for Christmas gift-gifing. You can use Pay Pal here, order through Amazon.com or send your order to Cranberry Knoll Publishers LLC, P. O. Box 1317, Yarmouth Maine 04096.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! Order now and you can get a free honey cookbook! The honey recipe book I mentioned a few weeks ago is now available HERE - Recipes for Your Honeys, an e-book. There are over two dozen recipes using honey for all kinds of dishes from meats and veggies to desserts. Lots of tidbits and interesting info too.

Cost is $2.99 and of course you can use PayPal to buy just Recipes for Your Honeys.

OR order The Frugal Family's Kitchen Book and you will be able to download Recipes for Your Honeys e-book FREE. Be sure to include your email address with your order. Click on the Buy Now button in the right column.

The Frugal Family's Kitchen BookThe Frugal Family Kitchen Book is $14.95 with FREE shipping and handling (in the continental U.S.). Please add 5% ME sales tax for books shipped to addresses in Maine. PayPal adds the $.75 sales tax to all orders.

I may have given you this honey recipe from the new book before but it's especially good on the pumpkin bread you'll be undoubtedly be making after Halloween! Or try it on the fat-free, sugar-free date muffins from an earlier posting.

Citrus Honey Butter

Combine 1/2 c honey, 1/4 c softened butter and any single or combination of 1/2 tsp each grated orange, lemon and lime peel. Use fresh or refrigerate. Flavors blend and intensify as it sets. Wonderful on waffles and pancakes too.

And now I've got to finish planting the garlic for next year as well as putting in the new lavender and catnip plants I was given yesterday. WHEN will this garden work end, I ask you!!


October 8, 2009

Harvesting Our First Soybean Crop

soybean, edamame


mushroom cap

Plus, a recipe for shrimp-stuffed portobella caps

This fall I harvested our first soybean crop; I can't imagine WHY it's taken me so long to grow them! Although I could have cooked them in the pods in salted water to just eat out-of-hand, I shelled them instead.

Then I simmered the beans - aka edamame - for about 20 minutes, dried them very lightly coated with some olive oil and roasted them at 350 for about 30 minutes. Sprinkled with sea salt and then tried to keep from eating them all at once! I will definitely grow much more next year as, like most bean, they grew easily and produced well.

Now, on to the the shrimp recipe. WARNING: If recipes that don't give exact ingredient amounts drive you nuts, turn back now!

Shrimp-stuffed Portobella Mushroom Caps

4 large portobella caps
1 can cream of shrimp soup
a whole lot of shrimp - I probably used 1/2 to 3/4 of a bag of frozen ones
Old Bay seasoning

Most cookbooks tell you not to wash mushrooms before using, just to tap to rid of any dirt. I usually wash them anyway, then remove the stems carefully, leaving all the gills. Grease a small baking pan and set caps upside down.

Thaw shrimp, remove shells if need be. Now, take some onion, maybe a half a big one, and some celery, maybe two ribs, add to the shrimp and chop. Set aside.

Cut up some leftover bread into small cubes, add to the shrimp, onion and celery and add all but a couple of TBSP of the soup, 1/2 c water, and a liberal sprinkle of Old Bay. Mush this all together to mix well. Top the mushroom caps generously, then mix the remaining soup with a smidge of water, maybe a splash of sherry and pour over the stuffed mushrooms.

I baked at 350 for almost 30 minutes so the mushrooms were nice and meaty and the stuffing had a nice crisp crust. Even filling the caps fully, I had a little stuffing leftover, and it was beyond delicious the next day made into a patty and pan-seared. YUM!

We've been pressing cider... we'll talk about that next time, plus our sweet potato harvest.


October 1, 2009

Books fall open, you fall in...

Books fall open, you fall in...
David McCord

Like so many of you, I am a voracious reader, and also like so many of you, I passionately support my local library. The past few years have seen some interesting changes, shifts in what - and how - America reads. Right now, with money still tight (no matter who proclaims this recession over), libraries are enjoying a resurgence of patonage. But, what will happen when the economy truly picks up? Will sales of "real" books rebound? Will the price of Kindles fall, and that kind of "book" capture more and more readers? No matter how libraries, books and Kindles continue to find and strengthen their niches, our reading life certainlyIS changing.

I've recently finished a delightful book called Little Heathens, recommended to me by my fellow "little heathen" from our teen years in Marblehead MA. It's a memoir set in Iowa during the Great Depression. Interestingly, I found it in the history, not biography, section of our library, but then it IS a remarkably detailed picture of a time and a place worth visiting.

Now, my son-in-law Shaun swears that I've never met a book I didn't like. Not true! Of course I can't imagine life without reading, but books themselves... ahhh, the smell, the bindings, the deckled-edge pages, the varying fonts, the sense of the person who lifeblood is inked on those pages....

And, so, I do love libraries too. I'm endlessly grateful to Mr. Carnegie, his vision and his initial support of that great egalitarian project, the everytown public library. I live in a small town, I don't think we've topped 10,000 in population yet, but we have what I consider a first-class library.

As in so many small towns across the country, our Merrill Memorial Library is housed in an old building, ours one of considerable grandeur and space. In addition to the truly eclectic book collection, there are many varied magazines, videos, and audio books plus, an incredible, multi-faceted children's program. I could not live without the garden, craft, travel and cookbooks available FREE right downtown.

There are art exhibits, evening author programs, poetry workshops, knitting and quilting groups that meet at MML, all of these well beyond the scope of Mr. Carnegie's original vision. But, this place, this heart of the community, like so much of our western civilization, all began around books.

And then there are Kindles. A number of my adult children have Kindles, the amazing reading device from Amazon.com. It IS stunning! In its size, features, capabilities, and yes, just plain practicality. For someone like me who loves to read in bed at night... well, those Harry Potter tomes can be hard to hold up, you know! And, yes, I do have a reading pyramid that I love.
The size of a slim 5x8" picture frame, a Kindle feels lighter than that picture frame with its glass. And, while I'm certainly not here to sell Kindles, I can see what it could mean to many readers. While our library has a small selection of large-print books, with the Kindle you can adjust the size of the font you're reading. As America ages, what a gift that may be.

If you travel a lot or it isn't easy to get to the library often, the accessibility of thousands upon thousands of titles, magazines, even blogs, downloadable in something like 60 seconds, is mind-boggling. And the Kindle can store something like 1,500 books for your perusal. Part of me really, really wants one, while another part of me feels disloyal at the mere thought.

Do you think there will come a time when our libraries have Kindles to borrow just as we do those audio books? Maybe we could rent Kindles from the library to take on vacations. I know our libary has been reporting increased circulation numbers in recent months, and while that may reflect this economic downturn, it is a hopeful sign that America's small towns are still reading!

Books, no matter how you access those written words, are an incredibly rich part of our daily life, and this country's library's are one of our richest small-town AND big-city resources. While a Kindle can offer the access, it will never replace the sense of community that our libraries often provide. Have you thanked a librarian today??

I'm currently hooked on Scandanvian and Icelandic mysteries... please let me know what you're reading these days!


September 23, 2009

Vegans, Vegetarians, Flexitarians, and Freeatarians. Oh, my!

Although I like to think of myself as a vegetarian, I do still eat some seafood which I guess makes me a flexitarian. Flexitarians generally eat no flesh, but once in a while do eat seafood, poultry or red meat. There are a stunning number of labels these days for describing our eating habits and styles. Where for centuries of our country's history, we strove for "three squares," now we graze, nosh, aim for six minis a day, and eat many, many meals "on the go."

When I first became interested in vegetarianism a very long time ago, the World Vegetarian Congress defined thirteen levels of vegetarianism ranging from vegans who use no milk, eggs, honey or any product, including clothing, dervied from the animal kingdon to Jain (Indian) vegetarians who avoid foods that grow below the ground.

Most people today who follow a flesh-free way of eating are ovo-lacto vegetarians, keeping eggs and dairy products as part of their diets. Of course meat is generally considered as a protein source, but it's an expensive one, especially in terms of our earth's limitied arable land.

While all the labels certainly can get confusing, the basic idea of limiting our intake of what's called pass-through protein makes great earth-savvy sense. Consider the idea JUST from an economic viewpoint... The acreage it takes to fatten a beef critter would feed so many more people in this world if planted in various protein-rich grains and legumes. (I'm sure you can see where the label "pass-through protein" comes from.) Actually, Americans HAVE been reducing their meat-eating in the recent past especially since this economic downturn began.

And remember, I'm just asking you to consider this from a personal and global economic perspective, not even factoring in health, ethical, or other individual considerations.

Okay, so what's a freeatarian, you ask? I was at a wedding recently where a table of us were discussing the whole range of vegetarian approaches, when one 20-something said that he's a freeatarian. HUH? "Yup, if it's free, I eat it!"


September 10, 2009

Freezing a Summer Fruit Salad

One of my favorite cookbooks, one I've often mentioned here, is Make-A-Mix Cookery, an invaluable guide to making your own money- and time-saving mixes. Basic Bisquick-type mix, cookie, cake, bread mixes. Meat seasoning mixes, and so, so much more. One recipe in that book has always interested me, but I'd never tried it until last weekend.

It's called Marie's Fruit Cocktail Mix, a combination of green grapes, peaches, melons and blueberries in a lemon- and orange-flavored simple syrup. I hadn't tried it because I couldn't imagine how this mix would freeze and not be all mushy when thawed.

Of course I didn't quite follow the recipe as given... I cut the sugar in the syrup and used less melon than called for. I have a container of the finished product thawing on the counter right now, but this I can tell you: It looked terrific and tasted w-a-y wicked good as a fresh fruit salad. We had company for supper the night I made it, and they raved over the samples I served with molasses crinkle cookies.

Frozen Fruit Cocktail Mix

1/2 watermelon, cut in bite-size pieces
1 crenshaw melon, cut in bite-size pieces
1 cantaloup, cut in bite-size pieces
lots of green grapes
lots of blueberries
peaches to taste, cut in bite-size pieces

You'll need a B-I-G bowl for mixing all this fruit.

Mix together and bring to a boil, stirring well:

3 cups sugar
2 qts. water


1 6 oz can EACH, frozen orange juice and frozen lemonade.

Pour, hot, over fruit, gently mix, pack into freezer containers, leaving 1/2" head room. The orginal recipe said to pack the fruit then cover with the hot syrup, but I wanted to be sure the fruit was well-coated with the syrup to prevent any browning.

Okay, I've just gotten into the almost-thawed fruit...everything's kept its color perfectly, the watermelon, cantaloup and crenshaw have all kept both their texture and individual flavors, and
the blueberries, peaches and grapes are yummy too.

Most definitely, this recipe is a money-saving winner for winter!


August 28, 2009

A Wax Bean Winter

It was 44.2 degrees out when I got up this morning at 5:30. August 28...44.2 degrees! As I took puppy Gracie out for her walkabout, I could see the peppers in the garden shivering, while the summer squash and cucumbers were huddled together under curled leaves. This has not been a kind summer for garden - or gardeners - here on the coast of Maine and in many other parts of the country.

It will be a wax beans winter for us since that's the one thing that has produced bountifully this year. But what does this almost-over growing season mean for most of us for the coming winter? The usual routine... higher prices for foods from fruits and veggies to grain products to meat (because of the high cost of feed). Can you do anything about it? YUP, you can.

While there are still farmer's markets open and even some pick-your-own operations will be open well into the fall, stock up on whatever you can. We'll buy corn to freeze since we lost all three plantings. We'll have some tomatoes to can and there are a couple of dozen quarts left from last year. Potatoes, carrots and beets have done reasonably well, while the onions will be small.

If you don't have a garden or access to fresh produce to preserve, it's discouraging. But if you start thinking about it now, one of the best things you can do - if you have the storage space - is to start buying extra cans/frozen pacgages of those veggies you know you'll need... peas, green beans, corn, beets, etc....to stock the larder. And consider new recipes, reducing portion sizes and eliminating some of those items from your grocery list such as drinks, snacks and pre-packaged lunch products. BUT, start now.

It may be a soup, stew and wax bean winter, but you can still be well-fed AND frugal!


August 17, 2009

The Buzzzzzz on Beekeeping for Beginners

Suzanne from The Herb Farm in Annisquam MA asked about becoming a beekeeper. It's a great idea, harnessing all those industrious little nectar-gathering bees to provide you with pollination, honey, and beeswax. But for the total neophyte, it's not the easiest or cheapest hobby to start. Now, do I have bee hives? Nope! I've always wanted some and we have a good location for one or two, but Bert's allergic, so that's that.

FIRST, before you even go further in thinking about becoming a beekeeper, you MUST spend a day or two with an experienced apiarist. In addition to learning what equipment you'll need for yourself and the bees, you need to actually experience being around an active hive, and you need to see firsthand - not just read about - what it takes to manage a healthy colony. It would be ideal if you could visit a apiary now, later in the fall, in mid-winter and then early spring before you order your own equipment and bees. I can't stress enough how important this visit to a working apiary is BEFORE you invest in your own beekeeping.

Before we even glance at the equipment needed, consider, too, that keeping a healthy bee colony is not always something you can control. Bees are subject to a number of challenges, as the recent past has shown. Two or three years ago, mites wiped out many a hive in New England. Happily, we've noticed a full rebound in bees in our fruit trees and bushes and flower beds this year. But, just be aware...

I've heard estimates of $250 to $1,000 to set up your first hive or two. And a beginner certainly shouldn't consider undertaking any more hives than that. You might be able to get some equipment secondhand, but take some care there as you certainly don't want to take any chance on compromised equipment. I've found the website for New England Beekeeping Supplies, Etc. absolutely invaluable. The following link will take you right to their page that helps you estimate your first year costs for setting up a couple of hives. New England Beekeeping Supplies, Inc.

Your state university's Cooperative Extension Service also has much helpful information, and of course, your local library probably has books on this subject too.

You'll need gear to protect yourself even if you do believe that bee stings are good for treating arthritis, etc. There are helmets, hats, veils, those long leather gloves and full protective suits, all of which adds up. You can buy a beekeeping starter set for well under two hundred dollars, and plans to guide you in building your own hives are easy to come by. So you can get started inexpensively if you work at it.

Now what about getting the bees themselves? Well, you don't just go down to your local seed-/feed store and pick up a hive's worth!! Most northeastern suppliers get their bees from the south or mid-west, although I do believe there's one apiary with their own stock in MA. Bee packages are usually under $100, while a sturdy queen may be $25 or so.

I hope this gives you a cursory idea of what's involved, even though I haven't talked about setting up and populating the hives, dealing with swarms, etc. The sweeetest end product, the honey, varies hugely from hive to hive and indeed, all over the world, depending on whether those bees are feasting on Maine blueberry blossoms, Scottish heather, or Australian eucalyptus!

My daughter Heather's father-in-law, Don of VT and sister-in-law Lee, of NH both keep bees, and their honeys are great! In fact, several years ago, I put together a little honey information and recipe booklet for Don called Recipes for My Honeys. If there's enough interest in it, I'll print off some more... what do you think? There are about 30 pages and recipes including breads, cookies, cheesecake, veggie and main dish recipes? What would be a fair price?? Help me decide whether to make this available??
And, thanks for your help!! Mary

July 30, 2009

Gracie, all tired out after her garden chores
Thanks, Heather, for the picture!

Gardening with Grace
Plus, a recipe for Blueberry-Lemon Bread/Cake

Yes, we did name our new puppy Grace Belle, and she IS a huge help in the garden... sort of! But this summer's garden has required a different kind of grace. Here on the coast of Maine, unrelenting rain, fog, mist, drizzle and just plain humidity, plus cool temperatures and little sun, have tested even the most patient and persistent gardeners.

Some thing of course are thriving in this micro-climate, but many things are not, especially those plants that like it hot such as peppers. We've planted - and lost- three batches of corn seed, and can only hope now that farmers farther inland from us will have abundant crops. But it isn't as though they haven't had a cool, damp summer too. So far, many of Maine's early hay cuttings, a crop essential for winter feed, have been devastated.

I've always stressed that one of the best ways to save on your grocery spending is to grow and preserve your own produce. Or, at least buy at your local farmer's market or even pick-your-own to can or freeze. That's a little tougher this year. But it is still going to mean better eating and more savings this coming winter.

One bumper crop for us this year is blueberries. The raspberries are doing well too, but they mold very quickly in the damp and must be picked quickly when it's relatively dry. No such problem with the blueberries. Plus, I'm sure you've read aoubt the fabulous anti-oxidant benefits (among other things) of blueberries.

We have a dozen or so high-bush blues of at least five different varieties. They are also planted near wild berries so the cross-pollination yields really favorful, large fruit. With no preparation needed to freeze them (just put in containers or plastic bags) , frozen blueberries don't lose shape or get mushy, and they can be used to make so, so many wonderful things including juice, plain or blended with lemonade, apple, or cranberry. I make a four-berry juice from straw-, rasp-, black- and blueberries with only minimal honey sweetening needed.

Yesterday I came across a recipe for a blueberry-lemon bread/cake. As this is one of my absolutely favorite flavor combinations, I went right down and picked fresh blueberries to try it. You make the batter, which incorporates finely grated lemon peel, then top with a mixture of 'berries, a little sugar and more lemon peel. The batter rises up over the topping, and the result is delectable!

Blueberry-Lemon Bread/Cake
Beat all together
1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c shortening
2/3 c milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel

Pour into a greased 8x8" pan and top with this mixture

1 cup fresh blueberries
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp grated lemon peel
Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until browned and springy. YUM!

I suppose we need to look at back-to-school spending, but it's hard to face classes starting again after so little summer! Ya' know??


July 15, 2009

Save Money by Making your Own Milk from Nuts

by Guest Author Kathryn Vercillo

The price of milk seems to be climbing rapidly. Non-dairy alternatives like soy milk have always been expensive and now cow milk costs are high as well. Most of us use milk daily in everything from coffee and cereal to baked goods and casseroles. You can reduce your grocery expenses by cutting back on your milk intake. Alternatively, you can start making your own milk to save money. The least expensive type of milk to make is nut milk.

Almond Milk

Almost milk is a terrific substitute for cow’s milk. The nutty taste goes especially well in coffee but it can be used to replace milk in cereal or in any recipe that doesn’t require your milk to be too creamy. The really great thing about it is that it’s easy to make. Here’s the recipe that I use:

Soak one cup of raw unsalted almonds overnight.

Combine almonds with four cups of water in a blender. I usually do this in two parts (half a cup almonds with two cups water, blend and repeat).

Place cheesecloth over pitcher and pour through the cheesecloth. This catches the pulpy part of the almonds. (You can use coffee filters instead of cheesecloth to strain the milk). Add a sweetener to taste. I add a little bit of vanilla extract and a few spoons of honey to my almond milk because I think the natural taste is a bit bitter. Other people add maple syrup or blended fruit.

This makes about a half pitcher of milk. From two cups of almonds, I can get a full pitcher at a price that’s a lot lower than buying a gallon of milk from the store!

Making your Milk Thicker

One of the biggest complaints that people have about nut milk is that it’s not as thick and creamy as regular milk is. You can make yours thicker by adding a banana to the blender when you mix your milk. Alternatively, you can add half of a small potato or sweet potato to the blender to create thicker milk.

Using Other Nuts

You can use this same basic recipe to make milk from other nuts as well. Brazil nuts make really good milk although these are pricey in most areas. Walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios and macadamia nuts can all be used as well. Some people prefer to use a mixture of nuts. When doing so, you can even add seeds (sunflower, flax and pumpkin are good choices). This is a great way to use up some of the leftover snacks in the house!

Guest post by Kathryn Vercillo. Kathryn is a writer for Promotional Codes which gives away saving codes online, and also publishes a money-saving blog.

July 8, 2009

Hello Again...

Well, THAT retirement didn't last long, did it? Now don't laugh, but I had a message from God, and it's always best NOT to ignore those!

Several readers got in touch to say they'd miss the blog, which of course was nice. I have no idea how many folks - if anyone -reads my writings here Then, Jenna Russell from the Boston Globe got in touch and we did a lengthy phone interview earlier this afternoon. She seemed so disappointed that her first reading of my blog was intended to be my last post!

So, now, I'm like, all totally fired up again! Stay tuned!!


July 7, 2009


and Goodbye!

First, let me introduce the newest member of our family, Grace Belle. She's a 10-week-old rescue puppy from Arkansas who came into our lives on Sunday. She is an absolute doll, although our three cats have yet to discover that.

That's the "Hello."

The "Goodbye" is that I have decided to put my blog writing aside for a while, quite possibly for good. Life is just too, too busy, and you know, I just don't feel as though I have anything more to say. There are so, so many folks now on the frugal bandwagon that I know you'll be able to find all the advice you need for thrifty and healthy living, sure savings, and smart spending.

We on the coast of Maine are having a non-summer so far and that is difficult, both for the gardens and for us humans. It's hard to believe it's July when we've had so little sun and even less warmth.
Our first planting of corn rotted and I'm not sure the second planting is doing any better; it certainly hasn't broken ground yet. And while this cool, damp weather does favors some things, it's not a friend to the peppers, tomatoes and other warm-weather crops. So far, the strawberries have produced, although somewhat scantily, while the coming blueberry crop looks to be huge.

This coming weekend is the start of our annual Gram and Gramp Camp which ends the following weekend with the famous Yarmouth Clam Festival. I haven't gotten out hiking at all, and starting the Maine section of the Appalachian Trail was a major goal for this summer and fall. Then there's all the flower work, the reading, the knitting, and most of all, the invaluable time spent with friends. There just aren't enough hours in the day!

And so, I thank you for visiting this blog, for being part of my life and letting me be a part of yours. I'll miss you especially, Alice!

Best, Mary

March 27, 2009

Freezer frenzy

Tips on buying a freezer, and how to best use it at home
By Amy Hoak, MarketWatch, March 26, 2009

"Don't assume that investing in a freezer will automatically save you bundles, however. Once you bring it home, remember why you got it -- to ultimately save money -- and follow these tips from Webber for sticking to your plan:"

Click here for complete coverage

March 10, 2009

The Frugal Family Kitchen Book

On SALE now

Just in time for Mother's Day, those bridal showers, summer weddings and so many other spring gift-giving occasions, The Frugal Family Kitchen Book is now on sale for only $10 a copy, post paid!

My Kitchen Book offers valuable nutrition information, time management help, and meal planning guidance as well as plenty of tasty and inexpensive recipes. With tips on setting up the first-time kitchen, reading labels and shopping the various supermarket sections, the spiral bound Kitchen Book is ideal for the experienced shopper as well as the beginner cook. It's perfect for those who are college-bound or for anyone going out on their own.

The FFKB sells for $14.95 at http://www.amazon.com/ , where you can check out the contents, read excerpts, reviews and such. Our publisher's price of $10 (post paid!), is a bargain and I'd be glad to inscribe any books you order.

In addition, further discounts are available on volume orders (over 100 copies). The Kitchen Book makes a great promotional give-away and can also be used for successful fundraising.

Send your order with a check or money order to Cranberry Knoll Publishers, P. O. Box 1317, Yarmouth, Maine 04096.

Questions?? Feel free to email me at marywebb@maine.rr.com

February 11, 2009

Growing in our

Kitchen Garden:


Fun and easy to grow, sprouts provide good nutritional value at a more-than-reasonable cost. Perfect for greening mid-winter salads and sandwiches.

Why grow sprouts? They are incredibly rich in nutrients, cheap, quick, and easy to grow (no sun, no soil needed) right in your kitchen (great project for the kids), sprouts are low in calories, and they are very versatile. In salads and sandwiches of course but also in breads, stir fry and many other Asian recipes. Broccoli sprouts offer dynamite nutrition while radish sprouts add real zing, and onion, cabbage and pea sprouts are terrific in stir fry. Caveat: Just as with any food, don't go overboard on sprouts. It is possible to eat too much of these good things leading to possible nutritional deficiencies, but honestly, I think you'd have to be totally nuts to consume the amounts that could case this effect.

What kind of sprouts to grow?? I think you'll be surprised at what's available for spouting seeds, far beyond the alfalfa, mung, radish and broccoli that may come right to mind. You can certainly find a good selection of sprouting seeds at your local health food store, but I buy most of my seeds including those for sprouting from Pinetree Garden Seeds in New Gloucester Maine. I would caution you not to use just any old garden seed to sprout to be sure you avoid treated seed. Pinetree offers 16 individual seeds and mixes for sprouting. Their salad, sandwich, stir fry and munching mixes are excellent. I would caution you not to use just any old garden seed for sprouting to avoid the possiblility of using treated seed.

How to grow sprouts. Couldn't be easier! When I first started I used quart canning jars with cheesecloth over the top held on by an elastic band. You can buy three different mesh-size plastic lids to use with canning jars for various size sprouting seeds, and you can also use stackable tray sprouters which I use for growing large amounts of mung beans.

To grow sprouts, start small! A TBSP of alfalfa seed may yield a cup to a cup and a half of sprouts! Rinse seeds in a strainer or colander - some seed such as that alfalfa is tiny - picking out any that look off-color, etc. Put the rinsed seeds is a nice clean jar (I use 1-quart wide-mouth jars), cover the seeds with a few inches of warmish water and let set on countertop overnight. Little bits of chaff and such will float to the top, easy to remove.

Next, drain the seeds thoroughly then rinse them with cool water, swishing well. Drain again, set jar on its side and jiggle somewhat to spread out the seeds, put in a dark cupboard, and there they grow! Rinse and drain daily and start enjoying your greens in just a few days for some varieties, 4-5 days for some of the larger ones.

I like to keep several kinds growing on a rotating basis... YUM!

We've been blessed this winter to have a number of deer who visit us daily to partake of the apples we're delighted to share with them.

I just love seeing them!

February 4, 2009



Wiitm and Wiitm Fitness are registered trademarks of Nintendo of America. I've tried to be careful about putting the tm symbol in but it doesn't work in some places such as the title and labels.

Did you get a new Wiitm for Christmas, it's all installed, and you're comfortable using it? Great fun, isn't it! The bowling and boxing are big in our household, but this past week, I've taken the fun to a whole new level with Wiitm Fitness. The folks who came up with this program are absolutely geniuses!

I can try to describe this fitness program, but you really, really have to try it just once to totally understand how awesome it is. First off, let me confess that I've tried going to gyms and it's just not me. I don't like driving, especially in our Maine winters, then I really just don't like being there, although I certainly fell in love with their elipitical machines. We do have a treadmill at home and of course plenty of hand weights.

So obviously the first appeal of Wiitm is using it right in front of the tv, never leaving home and wearing whatever I feel like. The system consists of your Wiitm basic box, hand control, a balance board, a CD, and from there on, with the explicit directions and pictures, it could not possibly be simpler WITHOUT ever seeming simplisitic.

There's a body test you can do or skip. I wanted it as a baseline, or maybe I was just feeling masochistic. It told me my weight (a little over), BMI (only a couple of points too high) , Wiitm Fitness age (this one hurt), and then assessed my balance, something I knew would need work. Yup, I do.

This feels like a very individualized program, and I especially like it keeping track of the time I spend in the Fitness Plaza and the stamp I put on the calendar after each day's visit. I've LOVED seeing my weight and BMI nudge downward, no matter how slightly each few days.

Now when I started, I had visions of the same old-same old exercise routines, but what a stunner when I found out how much just plain fun this program is! There are four areas to work in - yoga, strength, aerobic, and balance training. I headed straight to the balance area.

First, I got to try being a soccer goalie trying to head off balls kicked at me. HA! Then a ski slalom making the gates (or NOT!) just by leaning my body on the balance board. Then on to the ski jump (a favorite), next a devilish "game" where you use body motions to try to get balls through holes on a tilt table.

The tightrope walk was a real challenge as you have to "jump" over a machine coming toward you in the middle of the crossing. Each of these "games" is separate so you can do the ones you want, each is only a few tries and then you can move on or retry the one you're doing a few more times. You get scores and see yourself improve on the spot.

In the aerobics area, I love the hula hoop, something I've never been good at in real life but which I can do pretty well here, even with people tossing more hoops at me as I twirl on that balance board. There's a 3-minute, well-paced run, which turns out to be one of my strengths.

Because I already work with weights every other day, I haven't been to the strength training area yet, but I visited the yoga center and I was impressed. I've gone to yoga classes on and off for years and this "instructor" (I chose a female trainer) with her very clear modeling of the poses...well, this is as well done as any class I've ever had.

No! NO, honestly, I am not a paid Wiitm promoter! The myriad uses for this program with a wide variety of users should be obvious. While it's being used in some rehab settings already, most anyone could benefit from it, certainly the elderly who could often benefit from the balance and other targeted activities, without leaving home, and in whatever little pieces can be managed.

Although I'm only at the beginner level for just about every activity, I see - and feel - progress. I reallly feel as though I've given you the most cursory overview of this fitness program, but I hope it'll inspire you to consider whether it might fit your fitness needs in a way you'd actually consistently use. I'll let you know how it goes, but so far, it's been all fun and games!

January 20, 2009

2009 - An

a Challenge

We're well into this new year and although I'm not much for making resolutions, I have decided to do something this year that will certainly be an adventure, and it will certainly challenge me.
I'm going to hike the 281 miles of the Maine section of the Appalachian Trail, a trek that will include the Hundred Mile Wilderness, seven peaks over 4,000' (as well as thirteen others over 3,000') and will end at Mt. Katahdin. Am I totally nuts?

I've always been a walker and loved the outdoors but have never done much real hiking. Then this fall my daughter Heather loaned me a book she'd been given, It's Always Up - Memories of the Appalachian Trail by the Mountain Marching Mamas. The MMM are a group of older women who have long gotten together to hike for a week or two every year. In bits and pieces they ended up hiking the entire AT.

As dumb as it sounds, it had never occurred to me that I could hike the Trail a little at a time and not necessarily in sequence. WOW!

Years ago my daughter Hannah had given me a a guide to the Maine section of the AT complete with seven detailed topographic and profile maps and every other bit of helpful information I'd need to start this adventure. This all seems... fated.

Ahhh, but the challenge... I'm in my mid 60's, somewhat overweight, and somewhat limited in endurance. Time to start training! A minimum of 30 minutes a day on the treadmill with increasing incline, hand-weight work three days a week and yoga two days a week. Then more snowshoeing, XC skiing and just plain winter hiking. I think I can, I think I can.

I'm seven weeks into this program and feel good about the progress. Using the treadmill's not a big deal, and I'm up to using a set of 6, 7, and 8 pound weights for that work. I'm planning to get up to using 8, 10, and 12 pounders and then increasing the repetitions more. Yesterday Bert and I snowshoed for a little over an hour and a half. PHEW!

And so, in the spring I'll start with more serious day hikes, then overnights before I start on the AT itself. I've got to get used to carrying a fairly weighty backpack something I've never done before.

The last piece of this whole undertaking is by far the most important part. Because I don't plan to hike alone, family and friends will join me for various pieces of this "walk in the woods." Bert will be my most constant trail companion of course, but I'm way wicked excited to share this adventure and challenge with so many other favorite folks.

And so, no New Year's resolutions, but maybe just maybe, I'll end up losing weight, getting in shape, absorbing great beauty and finding real peace anyway!