August 26, 2011

Trailer Park'd: Lansing Food Truck

A few weeks ago, we made a trip to Lansing to visit Impression 5, a children's museum, and to take in a Lansing Lugnuts game. I figured we should take advantage of the day to get in some great local food. Purely by accident, I ran across Trailer Park'd a day or two before we left and my work was done!

Trailer Park'd is a food truck that serves delicious local food. My husband had the pork belly sandwich, my son had the burger (which was on the most wonderful focaccia) and I had the tacos. Everything was great! From the smell of the smoker working as you approach to the lunch counter that is draped off the pick-up truck, this is an experience everyone should have!

You can find their menu and schedule on their website and their Facebook page.

August 24, 2011

Rethinking the CSA

For those that are unfamiliar, CSA is "community supported agriculture". Basically, you buy a "share" of a farm and get boxes of veggies in return. There are also herd share programs for meat and milk, and I'm sure there are other incarnations as well. It's a great idea and I was excited to join this summer. I'm having second thoughts now, however.

For $400 we got a 1/2 share at a local, organic farm. Every week, for about 20 weeks, I go pick up a box of fresh, organic veggies. At the time, I thought it was a great deal. I figured that $20 a week was about what I spent at the farmer's markets in the area and so this would simply replace that expenditure. Here's where I run into issues.

First, the money I spent at the farmer's market wasn't just on veggies. I also bought fruit, eggs, grass-fed beef, veggie plants for my garden, mushrooms, local grain and even my favorite Creo Chips. None of those are included in my CSA box.

Second, there is no choice about what you receive. Sometimes that means you discover a great new veggie but, most of the time, it means your family get stuck trying to do something with a veggie that no one in the family likes very much.  My CSA does have a swap bowl, but generally I find myself loading it up with nothing in it to swap back to myself. This week I put lettuce and green peppers into the swap bowl which had nothing in it to swap. And while I'm excited for the onion I received, I use more than one onion in a week of cooking. I keep reading updates about all the wonderful veggies the Tuesday pick-ups are getting (okra, eggplant, etc) while, on Thursdays, I pick up a box with even more yellow squash.

Lastly, it comes every week whether you need it or not. Sure you can donate it or give it away, but the fact is, some weeks veggies go to waste because we're gone for a day or two.

Next summer, I think I'm going to go back to my weekly farmer's market trips. I can get whatever I need in whatever quantity I want. If I need something on Tuesday I can get it at one of the markets that are open on a non-weekend day.  At the farmer's market, I will get more for my money and it will be exactly what I want. I would also like to be able to invest some of that money in the humane, organic, healthy meat that is available at the market.

All-in-all, I love the concept of the CSA and I think that it's probably perfect for some families, just not mine.

August 22, 2011

Sacrifices, Splurges, Compromises: Part 1

For those that don't know my whole story, here we go. Until June of 2007, I was working as a scientist in research and development at a major pharmaceutical company. I was making good money, my husband and I had been married a couple years and we had just had our first son. Then they shut down my facility. It was completely unexpected and led to some serious soul-searching. We decided that relocating didn't make sense. My husband is a teacher and was happy in his district. Starting over somewhere else didn't appeal to him and the only option for me to stay in my field (or to enter my dream field-marine biology) was a pretty significant move. So, we decided that I would stay home and take advantage of the retraining allowance that was part of my severance by getting my Master's degree. A few years later I had my degree and our second son. All seemed to be going well. This is where the cuts to my husband's salary come in. Starting next month, we're looking at living on $500 less per month. We're already pretty low-key, frugal people, so where are those cuts going to get made?

First off, let me admit that we both made some dumb financial decisions when we were younger and stupider. We freely admit to our mistakes. Mine are taken care of, thanks to the above-mentioned severance, but we still have some other debts, including student loans that we're dealing with. If we didn't, the cuts would be much less painful. But, it is what it is and we have to deal with it.

So what are the sacrifices and compromises we're making? Cooking at home is now more than a nice idea-it's a necessity. Dinners and lunches out are being reserved for our newly designated "Family Weekend". More on Family Weekend in another post, but basically, one weekend a month is reserved for family and that's the weekend that we may splurge on some eating out.

Another sacrifice is my Artfire store. I was paying for the Pro level store. I've downgraded to Basic, which makes sense anyway. The amount of time needed to keep the store updated and promoted was more than I wanted to spend and, honestly, cut into the time I was spending creating things to put into the store. I love Artfire and highly recommend getting the Pro level store if you're an artisan with a strong online following, but it's not right for me at the moment.

I've been getting a couple projects underway, and while I don't think of them in the "sacrifice" category, it will take some changes to get them going. I have become an Independent Wine Consultant, which allows me to make a little extra money by going to people's houses and hosting wine tastings for them. It's been fun and has already paid for itself in the short time since I've joined. I'm also starting Smarty Party, LLC which is a science-based children's party concept. I'm hoping that, between the two, I can make up most of our income loss and maybe even end up with a little extra.

These changes are just the beginning. As we get used to our new normal there will be more. That's why this is Part 1. I also realize that, compared to so many others, we are extremely lucky. I'm not complaining about a relatively small loss of income when others have lost so much more. I'm just trying to share what we're doing to compensate, in the hopes that someone might be helped in their own situation.

August 4, 2011

A Tale of Two Cabbages

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. So, what do you do when your CSA gives you cabbages? I'm the only one in my family who eats coleslaw and I've been reading all about the benefits of fermented foods, so I began thinking...

First, I found this recipe from Mother Earth News and then I found this recipe from Some chopping, salting and mashing happened and now I have these two jars hanging out happily on my counter. The one on the left will be sauerkraut and the one on the right will be kimchi (a spicy Korean condiment).

Fermenting is a traditional way of keeping food before canning and refrigeration and some believe that fermented foods aid in digestion. I don't know about the digestion part, but this is a super easy way to preserve food and I know that the products will be yummy. So, I'm counting this one as a success. A few more days and I'll be able to sample the goods and see how I did. Give them a try-I think you'll be happy with how easy they are to make and how much better they are than store bought.

August 2, 2011


Our trip to Boston at the end of July was a great success! You may have heard that some pretty big stuff went down in Boston at one time. No, not the Red Sox winning the World Series. I'm talking bigger and longer ago. Our first day in town we checked out the Freedom Trail. You can tour it from the perspective of the American Revolution or the Civil War. We mostly stuck with the American Revolution sites. While I walked the breast cancer 3-day my boys went to the children's museum (which was a huge hit!) and Boston Common and the Public Gardens (for $2.75 the Swan Boats are a must!). All in all it was a great little trip and I would love to go back when I don't have a 60 mile walk to do in the middle!

Pennies on top of Paul Revere's Grave (he was a coppersmith, too)

Sam Adams grave. He did more than brew beer!

My oldest at the Bunker Hill Monument

The USS Constitution-the oldest, commissioned warship still afloat
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