Tuesday, November 20, 2012

20 Days of Nothing New

Sitting down to a feast of Thanksgiving goodness at church Sunday, I had opportunity to talk with my friend Mary about my Nothing New adventure.  She was shocked to hear that I had actually included food in the "no shopping" ban.  "Yeah, use up everything in the pantry," she said.  "I should do that," she said.

I didn't tell Mary that I was certainly not going to use up everything in the pantry this November.  As the photo here shows, I still have enough jello and tuna fish to see me through the Zombie apocalypse.  And that 24-roll shrink wrap package of toilet paper I bought Halloween night?  Haven't opened it yet.  My pantry is a little overstocked ...

I was raised in a family with four kids and I raised four kids myself, so my understanding of "normal" when it comes to filling pantry shelves is a little skewed.  It may take more than one month of exploring the word "ENOUGH" before I really start to understand the concept ....

Monday, November 19, 2012

Church Chicks Are Hot

Today at Edison Middle School the Central High School band came to perform in an all church assembly.  Luke nabbed a front row seat where he was waved at repeatedly by a couple very attractive high school girls.  One of the drum majors, who took her turn conducting the high school band, seemed particularly attentive to the 8th grader.  After the performance she gave him long and enthusiastic hugs.

Edison Middle Schoolers:  "Luke, is that your sister?"
Luke:  "No, just a friend."
Edison Middle Schoolers:  "Right.  Just a friend."
Luke:  "Seriously, we're just friends."
Edison Middle Schoolers:  "Right.  You just have a friend who happens to be super hot."
Luke:  "She goes to my church."
Edison Middle Schoolers:  "Lucky."

Church Youth Group.  Where the hot chicks are.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Nothing New

Yes it's true, there's been nothing new.  Actually I feel a little bit guilty about how easy this has been.  When I decided the night of Halloween that I would commit to buying absolutely nothing for the whole month of November (except gas for my car and paying my bills) I thought it would be harder than this.  Luke and I have a tradition of going to Sonic at the end of every school day before I drop him off at home and return to work.  That was swapped out for hot chocolate at home .... which truthfully, has been better.  We had a habit of eating drive-thru some nights when I had evening meetings and felt lazy, or running to Dos Reales after a meeting for a cheap date.  With a well-stocked pantry and fridge, fixing something at home has not been a hardship.  When Luke is with his dad, they eat out, and I have had at least 2 work meetings each week which included a meal.  So .... this is really TOO EASY so far!

I will give myself a big pat on the back for the ONE place it feels like I am sacrificing. With a pop machine steps away from my office door, I usually buy 2-5 cans of Diet Coke per day. I know, I know, it's TERRIBLE for me.  This November I am drinking water and making tea in the church parlor and doing just fine.  So far so good.  I am just really, really glad that the church machine has never carried Diet Dr. Pepper.  That might have been a game changer ....

Nothing New November, day 12.  Bring it on.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Begone, Green Alien Menace!

About those green tomatoes. . .

I came home late Sunday afternoon to pinched alien faces still glaring at me like a mob of recriminating ne'er do wells -- judging ME for lack of action.  All they had done for the last week was sit on the counter letting their skin start to sag, while I was BUSY! True, I plucked them from a comfortable life in the garden with no real plan in mind, but put-out by their obvious disdain of me I remembered a cartoon Luke showed me in the midst of Matthew's juicing craze and in idea started to dawn.

For the full juicer humor piece, click here.

To avoid the gaze of all those green faces I went upstairs to my bedroom with laptop in hand to create a cooking plan. For good measure I took a corkscrew and the best bottle of chianti classico in the kitchen.  After pulling out the cork from the bottle I remembered that I had not factored in wine consumption as I filled my grocery cart on All Hallows Eve.  Crap.  Sinking to the bed with full glass in hand I contemplated a Thanksgiving Day with no wine.  I should definitely invite Jesus over that day.

Having recently piled 5 blankets on my bed to compensate for the decision to keep the thermostat at 54 degrees throughout Nothing New November, a change out of church clothes led quickly to my laptop settled on a pile of blankets, wine glass on bedside table, and Kris dreaming of green tomato soup, green tomato au gratin, green tomato bread, green tomato jam ...

After waking up a few hours later (I don't adjust well to time change Sundays), I snapped the laptop shut and pulled up the 3 recipes I wanted on my phone.  Back in the kitchen fortified with a second glass of chianti and the determination to rid my kitchen of the alien menace I pulled out the Magic Bullet contraption Luke convinced me to buy for $15 at a garage sale this summer.  Within minutes I had this:
Then this:

and finally this:
Emboldened by the knowledge of how quickly a green tomato becomes something else entirely, I created for dinner a Green Tomato Au Gratin with Italian seasonings, breadcrumbs and Italian cheeses.  It turns out tomatoes in Italian cooking don't have to be red at all!  It was delicious, evidences by the fact that I ate a quarter of the pan ...

The Apple Cinnamon Cake (anyone trying to get a 13 year old to eat more vegetables knows you don't use the name of the secret ingredient), Apple and Raisin Bread, and AuGratin were all a hit.  And stored away in my freezer the rest of the tomato puree awaits another baking day this winter!!

Saturday, November 3, 2012


In my part of the world early November is a time of harvest.  Everywhere I drive the evidence remains of farmers completing the chore of bringing in the sheaves.  No, it's not the quaint nostalgic picture of twine-bound stalks of corn or woven baskets filled with seed heads.  Harvest time here is a matter of massive machinery on the roads and lights on well after dark both at the machine shed and out in the fields.  Grain is being brought to grain elevators in small communities all around Champaign County this week.  At the same time many crops are simply tilled under due to drought and hail damage which did them in.  There is an uncertainty inherent in the lives of those who measure time against an anticipated day of harvest.

My growing season was much more modest by comparison.  Two 4' x 8' raised beds housed a small assortment of herbs and vegetables this year.  It was fun to eat fresh lettuce, cut broccoli, pluck peppers and to pull leaves of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme from the garden to spice up what I came to call "Scarborough Fair Chicken."  Thank you Simon and Garfunkel.  By far, though, my most plentiful crop was tomatoes.  Through the summer they were red and vine-ripened in abundance.  With the threat of frost it was finally time last week to harvest the remaining green tomatoes and pull up the plants.  So I did.

Now what?

The point of Nothing New November is to live in contentment with the abundance at my fingertips.  As this counter overflowing with green tomatoes begins to look to me like a sea of pinched alien faces glaring in judgment over my indecisiveness, it has become clear I must soon take action.  I have read articles about Eastern Europeans' enthrallment with green tomatoes and now have an assortment of recipes at my fingertips.  But what to do?  Sweet breads?  Savory butters?  What to do?

Stay tuned ...

No, No, No November

That's ENOUGH!!  

As mother to four children, if I had a nickel for every time I have sternly reprimanded one of mine with the above phrase, well ..... I would have a lot of nickels.

That's enough ...

handfuls of candy
toilet paper sheets
Lucky Charms

                                                                               ... the list goes on.   

Of course, I have a not infrequent need myself to be told when enough is enough.  And my mother is far away and much too busy with her own life to hover around monitoring mine.  That leaves it up to me. So this month I'm telling myself firmly that enough is enough. Enter Nothing New November.

Three years ago my son Matthew joined others in the fun of No-Shave November. For an entire month he did not shave, not even to trim a little here and there.  For a young twenty something year old, the boy can grow a gnarly beard in 30 days. Shaving it off bit by bit and sporting silly styles December 1 just added to the fun.  

This November Matt is taking an equally joyful but much more ambitious approach to the month with Nutritious November, exploiting the benefits of his newly acquired juicer to rev up his vitamin intake.   Feeling really inspired, he went on to devise a whole year full of fun monthly commitments which you can read about here on his sister's blog. (She's really impressed.)

My first attempt to do something special in the month of November was last year when I participated in No Dr. Pepper November --  30 days of abstaining from carbonated beverages. Talk about needing to hear "That's ENOUGH!!" I have a serious problem with consuming WAY too much Diet Dr. Pepper.

Inspired by Matt's excitement in challenging himself this year I am taking my No Dr. Pepper November experiment from last year several steps further in 2012.  Nothing New November.  On All Hallow's Eve I made sure the house was well stocked with canned goods, toilet paper, lotion, Lucky Charms and maple syrup as I made my last shopping run until December 1.  For a full month I am committed to buying nothing except gasoline for the van and paying my monthly bills. For the record, I didn't buy a single can of pop and came home to no Diet Dr. Pepper in the house, so this is already day 3 of No Dr. Pepper November.

I will admit my shopping cart on October 31 was a little ridiculous and may have raised some eyebrows, not to mention more than one woman the age of my mother who looked at me as I stood in line, clearly wanting to say, "Now that's ENOUGH!!!"

Enough Already?