Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Salt, Cooking, and a long treatise about Time

I love to cook because I love to eat. I love food that is fresh and flavorful, and the canned/packaged/prepared stuff just doesn't cut it. Call me spoiled.

I grew up with a stay-at-home mom who cooked nearly every day. Our one-income family of four didn't have the funds to eat out very often, so eating out was for special occasions. I probably took for granted the wonderful meals that Mom prepared day in and day out.

Photo from stock.xchng

I recently heard a statistic that Americans consume on average more than twice the daily recommended amount of sodium. The maximum should be 2300 mg a day, which is about a teaspoon, but 1500 mg is better. The majority of that sodium comes from prepared foods. (Is it bad that a maximum of a teaspoon of salt a day seems like an impossibly small amount?)

Sometimes I think my lifestyle is a bit boring and it feels as though I'm not living up to my potential, but from another perspective, I am fortunate. I have time to go home and make lunch every day.  I have time to cook decent meals every evening, even if they aren't always exotic and complicated.

Many, many other people do not have time for that. They regularly eat prepared foods from grocery stores or restaurants because they have to, yet there are aisles of cookbooks promising meals that are Easy, Fast, Delicious! and plenty of cooking shows on TV, and cooking programs available for Wii and DS, etc, etc. But how often are meals really cooked at home? There seems to be a disconnect between our desired lifestyles and our actual ones. I know a lady that orders food from Schwan's, and that's pretty much the only "cooking" she does. Ever. That makes me feel a bit sad.

Cooking on a regular basis is still new and fun for me, but I don't always want to spend my free time cooking. I'm guessing it will only get easier to shove cooking to the back burner.

But see, I don't want that to happen. I don't want to feel like I don't have time for things like cooking.

Maybe that's not a cooking philosophy. Maybe it's a time philosophy.

I never want to be so busy, so weighted down by obligations, that I don't even have time to think about cooking, or reading, or taking a slow evening walk with Andy and the dog.

Right now we don't have kids, or stressful jobs, or meetings for organizations, or any of the other things that demand precious minutes from the day. I used to be concerned when people asked me what I did in my free time, and I had to respond, "Nothing, really."

It's true. I do whatever I want to do, which is usually nothing exciting. I cook. I watch movies. I play with the dog. My lifestyle doesn't lend itself to exciting stories told to family and friends. It used to make me feel boring.

But when it comes down to it, that's ok, because I know what I don't want: stress. I have been stressed to the point of nervous breakdown and panic attacks. I am prone to stressing about insignificant things.

While having this free time may not be much of a choice right now, I suspect that one day it will be. I'll have to say No to things that I'll feel obligated to say Yes to, so that I can come home and cook, and do nothing and be boring. And it might be difficult, but for reasons beyond sodium, it will be necessary.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

S is for Seedlings

I am determined to grow some herbs and vegetables, so a couple weekends ago I started some seeds. I am very optimistic about their chances this season. I am more knowledgeable than I was a year ago, and I can say with confidence that the Great Plant Massacre won't happen again.

Also this year, I'm getting involved in a CSA share program (Community Supported Agriculture). There are a number of farms around here that do it. Basically, a local farm delivers a certain share of its produce every week or every other week. It feels kind of expensive, because you do have to pay up front, but when I calculate it, it's not really much more than I would be spending at the grocery store. Plus, I get local farm-fresh produce from the end of April until November. There is more information about CSA programs here.

Any of you Chattanoogans interested in getting involved, check out the Rise N Shine Farm out of Calhoun. They'll be delivering to Greenlife Grocery, as well as a few other places in the area. And they're needing more people to sign up in order to meet their operating expenses. This is my first time trying a CSA program, so I can't speak from experience, but I'm really excited about it.

The Makeover: Chair Edition

Guess what I did this week? I finally reupholstered a chair!

I expected it would be a lot of work, and believe me, it was. It was my first chair -- my first upholstery, ever -- and it's got some glaring flaws if you know where to look. But I know most people won't notice. 

I've spent the past couple days gazing happily at the chair while nursing my sore arm (using a staple gun is a real workout). 

The fabric is by Jessica Jones, and it was on sale for $6.98 a yard (Remember me talking about the price of that beautiful Mod Green Pod fabric?). I spent a long time searching the internet and my local fabric store, filtering through swatches and samples looking for the perfect design. It had to match, it had to be a fun pattern but not too in-your-face, it had to match the feel and style of the chair, and it had to be affordable. That's not easy to find, and even when the fabric is in your hands, it's hard to tell if it will be a success ON the chair. 

But I am very happy with the results.

One more chair to go...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Books: The cover matters


I have seen these clothbound books before, but I didn't know who had designed them until just today (thanks, Robbie!). Her name is Coralie Bickford-Smith, and you can see her website here, which features her many beautiful designs.

The magic of these books is that even though I haven't read Crime and Punishment, and even though it always seemed so intimidating, you can bet I would read it if I had this copy.

I also have a special place in my heart for Gothic horror novels, so I want to collect all of these, in addition to the clothbounds.

All of these books are, I think, limited editions, and some of them are going to be hard to find. And collecting them will set me back a pretty big chunk of money. But I can dream anyway -- dream of collecting gorgeous bookcovers, as well as the novels inside them. I love a good classic, and I am an advocate for judging books by their covers. Art is important, and these books are art both inside and out.

Thank you, Coralie, for making classic books deliciously readable.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The State of the Living Room

So far, here is what it looks like -- with the new couch!

Now, it may not be the skinniest of couches, but it's not the fattest either. I'd call this Average Couch, gotten for a very average price (or probably below average -- it was on sale, and we're poor). After looking at many, many furniture stores in town, we finally found this at the last place we looked (isn't that how it always goes?). For now, it's the right couch at the right price. Maybe someday I'll be able to shop at Room & Board...

To the left of the couch you can see a chair skeleton. Here's the other one:

It's a bit sad in my living room at the moment. 

But on the bright side, here's a pillow that I made (albeit a few days before Design*Sponge's wonderful tutorial on making zippered throw pillows came out, so it doesn't have a zipper). It's the green one.

And for your viewing pleasure, here's Andy and Miles hanging out on the new couch. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

This is probably going to be a future project

I love this alphabet art from Room & Board. I love it a lot.

Room & Board probably won't be happy to hear this, but give me a couple of hours and I could make this myself (for less than $200, which is pretty much a fortune to me).

Given that I CAN make this, it follows that I probably will, knowing me.

I totally have gray hairs

At 24. Ugh.