Thursday, December 31, 2009

Slow Food

Do you enjoy wine tastings, cooking classes, dinner parties, harvesting local produce or eating delicious food? If so you'll want to continue reading and become a member of Slow Food!

I was introduced to Slow Food while I was in high school. It was a Slow Food cooking class that gave me the connection to go to Italy for an internship. Slow Food has over 100,000 members in 132 countries.

So, what is Slow Food?

"Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people's dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it taste and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. To do that, Slow Food brings together pleasure and responsibility, and makes them inseparable."

"Slow Food is an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment."

USA Today puts it simply, "Slow Food aims to be everything fast food is not."

Slow Food USA's Vision: "Food is a common language and universal right. Slow Food USA envisions a world in which all people can eat food that is good for them, good for the people who grow and good for the planet."

Slow Food USA's Mission: "Slow Food USA seeks to create dramatic and lasting change in the food system. We reconnect Americans with the people, traditions, plants, animals, fertile soils and waters that produce our food. We seek to inspire a transformation in food policy, production practices and market forces so that they ensure quality, sustainability and pleasure in the food we eat."

You can go online to find a convivium near you. I have enjoyed going to numerous events through Kansas City's convivium. For information on upcoming events in Kansas City visit the website or Facebook page. The Kansas City convivium even takes a trip to Italy every year!

While I was in Italy for my internship I really fell in love with their way of life, it's so much... well, slower. Everyday it's essential to take a nap after lunch, businesses even close for this time of siesta! Dinner was never eaten before 8 o'clock and there would be days were we would still be sitting at the dinner table at 11:30 pm. It was a wonderful time of savoring your food and the company you are sharing it with.

Many Americans when they eat just scarf down there food like there going to win an award for being the fastest eater. Whenever I'm sitting down for a meal with others I'm usually the last one to finish. I prefer to savor each bite. Someone took time to grow and prepare the meal, as should we take time to find pleasure in all the flavors and textures.

Another benefit of slowing down when you eat is something many Americans battle... weight loss. If you shovel your food in too quickly for your stomach to communicate with your brain that it's full, you'll likely end up over eating.

A sunflower field in Tuscany.

A herd of sheep being watched by a Shepard (you can see him standing near the tree line on the left).

It doesn't get any fresher than straight from the barrel!

...Ok, so I wasn't really drinking it.

At your next meal make an attempt to slow down and enjoy the food and the conversation!

Flower Gardening in Kansas City

While growing up I learned a lot about gardening from my mom. We have many fond memories of gardening together. In 2003, our gardens that we spent much of our time in each summer went GLOSSY! They were published in a book by Craig Nienaber, called Flower Gardening in Kansas City: Secrets and tips from the area's best gardener's.

Inside, you will find our gardens on pages 172 - 179.

Clematis growing over an arbor in front of the house, with a view of the front and circle gardens.

Clematis: a beautiful climbing perennial.

Favorite plants of my mom's include: Acanthus mollis (Bears Breeches) and Ligularia.

My mom (Julie) and I in front of our orchard garden.

Daylily: While each flower only last one day, each clump blooms for several weeks.

My mom's gardening tips:
  • Use a variety of foliage, especially in perennial gardens.
  • Try mixing herbs and vegetable in with your flowers.
  • Mulch your gardens with up to 2 inches of cotton-burr mulch in the spring to keep weeds down, and in the late fall to insulate your plants.
  • Water first-year perennials more often.
  • Don't be afraid to cut back perennials after they bloom, they may rebloom for you!
  • When dividing your perennials trade them with friends. This gives your garden a special touch and saves you money.
  • Start new gardens by digging your plants into the lawn and surrounding them with 6-8 layers of newspaper topped with compost. The paper will kill the grass without the need for chemicals and it will later decompose.
  • Use plants with high drought resistance in areas that get more than five hours of sun, and water them at least every other day (preferably in early morning).

Delphinium (Larkspur): blooms from late spring to late summer.

One of our shade gardens:

What kind of gardens do you have... sun, shade, water, vegetable, herb, perennial, annual?

What are your favorite flowers?

Do you have any gardening tips of your own?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

After Christmas Sales

Still in the Christmas mood? Nearly every store has an after Christmas sale in which items are marked down around 50% or more. Whether it's clothing, electronics, home decor... retailers want to get rid of their seasonal items or excess inventory, which means savings for you! I know, just when you thought you were done shopping, right? Well, it might be hard to be thinking about Christmas 2010 already but now is the perfect time to buy Christmas decorations for your future Christmas' and perhaps even some gifts for next year!

I'm looking forward to pulling my new items out next holiday season for Christmas displays and craft projects!

Target: 50% off Christmas items

Small glass ornaments (30): originally $2.50, now $1.25
Medium glass ornaments (15): originally $6.00, now $3.00
Large glass ornaments (9): originally $5.99, now $2.99

Hobby Lobby: 50% off Christmas items

Silver ball wreath picks (5): originally $12.35, now $6.18

Are you an after-Christmas-shopper, or more of a black-Friday-shopper, or both?

Do you try to plan ahead to save some moo-lah?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Finishing the Basement: Window Replacement

Fortunately, when we purchased our home many of the windows had already been replaced. All except for the sun room, which we replaced last year, and of course the basement.

Reasons to consider replacing your windows:
  • Save money by lowering your heating & cooling cost
  • Feel good knowing you're being more "green"
  • Make your living environment more comfortable
  • Reduce the amount of maintenance your homes requires
  • Increase your homes resale value
  • Add beauty to the interior & exterior of your home
  • For 2009 & 2010 get 30% of the cost back in the form of a tax credit for up to $1,500!

The original, single pane, inefficient window:

As you can see, it was very old, dingy and rusty!

  • When ordering your new window, consider the width of your new frame, add 1/4'' for each side and use that as your window measurement. Also decide if you want the window to have grids. I personally think they add quaintness to the window.
  • Remove window by simply lifting it out of the slots
  • Remove metal frame by using a crowbar to pry it at center of the top and bottom
  • Chisel any excess concrete
  • Frame around opening using pressure treated wood, a hammer drill and concrete screws
  • Screw window into frame
(If you are using a replacement window you will need to drill holes in it for mounting. If you are using a new construction window it will come with a lip around it that already has screw holes.)

Old window frame:

Ready to frame and put in new window!

After framing and mounting the window, use caulk and spray foam to seal any cracks.

Our new, double pane, Low-E & argon window:

Once the window was complete we finished framing the wall around the window, which makes us officially done with the framing on the exterior walls!

As you can see, this window is much more bright, quaint and efficient!

Now for a recap on our basement window replacement...





What have you done or would you like to do to make your home more energy efficient?

Have you or do you plan on replacing any windows in your home?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas at Iron Horse Ranch

One of our many Christmas gatherings was at my parent's house, Iron Horse Ranch, which also used to be an old train depot. I grew up there from the time I was in fifth grade to the time I left for college. They are a 45 minute drive South from where we live and I love going to visit! During it's train depot days their home was located in Wellsville, Kansas. After being moved 30 miles it is now nestled in the middle of 80 secluded acres. It's the perfect place to go when we need a little get-a-away. And each time I visit I'm always inspired by my mom's creative decorating ideas.

With their 12-foot ceilings this large Christmas tree looks stunning.

For a filler around the base of the plant my mom used whole pecans in their shells from a local pecan farmer.

All her greenery is real that she clipped from the trees in their nearby woods. It not only looks lovely, it also smells lovely!

In place of bobeches my mom used small wreaths to catch any dripping candle wax.

To give her garland a more realistic and dramatic appearance my mom tucked in real clippings of greens.

The faux snow my mom uses looks more realistic then others I've seen. It's made from a faux snow powder that you just add water to.

For this teared server my mom glued candle stick holders to the bottom of plates and simply stacked them to display her Christmas treats.

Cyclamen are great flowers to have indoors during the holiday season.

It will bloom from the months of December to April. As the flower stalks and leaves die off they should be removed by giving them a sharp tug, they will then be replace by new growth. The corm of the plant will go into dormancy sometime after April. At that time, gradually reduce the water and keep plant in a cool, darker place. After letting the corm dry out plant it in a shady area of your garden in the spring with half the corm above the soil surface. New leaves will begin to grow in late July or August, when this happens transplant it into a pot using a rich sandy soil and leave it outdoors. In the early fall you can then bring it indoors and place it in a window.

Nothing adds a fresh look and amazing fragrance like paperwhites.

Plant your paperwhites in stones and water and you will have blooms within about 2-3 weeks. Since paperwhites have long stems and are top heavy you will need to tie some twine or ribbon around them for support. Or once the roots begin growing and the green shoots reach 1-2 inches pour off existing water and replace it with water mixture that is 4-6 percent alcohol and continue using this solution for future watering. When paperwhites are grown in this solution they only grow 1/3 to 1/2 their normal height yet the flowers remain the same size and they last just as long!

Do you get decorating ideas and inspiration when you go to the homes of your friends and family for Christmas celebrations?

What is your favorite Christmas decor?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Light the Night

Looking for something fun and inexpensive to do with your family during the holiday season? Something we do every year is take a family drive in the evening around some of our favorite neighborhoods listening to Christmas music and glazing at Christmas light displays.

My favorite Christmas light colors are solid white, and white & red together.

I love when lights are strung through the trees across numerous lawns, and these stars really add a creative touch.

Do you have any family tradition you do during the holidays?

What are your favorite Christmas light colors?

What do you use besides lights to decorate the outside of your home for Christmas: wreaths, garland, reindeer lawn ornaments...?

Share the details of your favorite Christmas display.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Casa Caponetti

During my time in Italy I interned and stayed at Casa Caponetti. It consist of a bed & breakfast, cooking school and organic olive tree farm. Their olive oil is the best I've ever tasted! You can purchase cans of it online or if you live in the Kansas City area you can find it at Jasper's Marco Polo Restaurant. The Caponetti family also sells organic preserves they make from their gardens.

One of my jobs during the intership was to clear the ground area around the base of the olive trees and trim the inner branches to get ready for harvest. I really would have loved to have been there to help with the harvest. My stay in Italy was May through July and olives are harvested in November or December. To harvest the olives they place nets on the ground around the trees and scrape the olives with rakes into the nets.

I planted and maintained two large gardens containing zucchini, melanzane (eggplants), carciofi (artichokes), cetrioli (cucumbers), pomodori (tomatoes), fagiolini (green beans), insalate (lettuce), angurie (watermelons)...

In Italy everything is used or eaten when in season. That's why everything taste so fresh and delicious! While I was there I got to harvest or make preserves with fragole (strawberries), plums, carciofi (artichokes), insalate (lettuce), arugula, walnuts...

These are the women I worked with in the kitchen. None of them spoke a word of English which helped me learn more Italian!

This is the Caponetti's kitchen where they teach cooking classes and prepare wonderful meals for their guest.

I was given the pleasure of meeting journalist & author, Andreas English, whom accompanies the Pope in his travels. He saved me numerous times from working in the summer heat by taking me swimming and boating at Lago di Bolsena!

Lago di Bolsena is the largest volcanic lake in Europe. And because of it's volcanic origins the lake has black sand. It also has two islands, Bisentina and Martana. Andreas and I swam around the entire island of Bisentina!

Lago di Bolsena / Bisentina Island

What kind of accommodation do you prefer while traveling: hotel, B&B, staying with friends or family?

Do you seek local and organic foods?

Have you ever taken a cooking class or have an interest in taking one?

Have you traveled to any interesting places or met any interesting people during your travels?