Happy New Year–Get Your Garden On!

Well, 2013 has been one crazy ass year. Many wonderful highlights and several struggles, but all-in-all a good year. Like many of you, I’m hoping to make 2014 an even better year. I have several goals for the new year and here they are:

  • Finish reading at least one book a month. I used to read all the time–now I mostly nod off by 8:30. So, I will try to actually finish books.
  • Run at least one road race each month of 2014. January 1 is our first race of the year, so at least we are starting off right!
  • Find better work/life balance. I struggled with this in 2013 and I’m not sure how exactly I’ll make it work in 2014, but I’m trying.
  • Publish my children’s book about chickens.

I thought I would end 2013 with a wonderful video of two ladies from different parts of the world who have found the nurturing, nourishing aspects of urban farming. Watch the video, toast the new year, and get your garden going!

 

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Week 36 Budget and Menu

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We have apples!!!

Are you noticing differences in what you find at the farmers markets this week? We actually have pumpkins AND watermelons out at the same time. Talk about seasonal confusion! I’m not quite ready for pumpkins yet–I’m still holding on to the last vestiges of summer! Our fall tomatoes are even better than the summer crop, now that our torrential rains have stopped, and we still have corn, squash, zucchini and lots of peppers. I’ve been freezing and canning food for winter–still not where I would like to be on that, but it’ll do.

What about you??? Do you put up some of your summer bounty for the off season? What is your favorite summer food to enjoy in the winter? For me, it is definitely tomatoes and our homemade roasted tomato sauce. Winter tomatoes are so sad and tasteless.

Did you know you can freeze tomatoes and cherry tomatoes whole??? Just pop them into freezer bags. When you thaw them, the skins will slip right off like magic! You can’t use them in salads, but they are wonderful roasted or chopped and added to chili, soup, and pasta.

Our budget this week is good–we have some carryover food from last week. Due to a family emergency, we never had our Labor Day cookout, so we are carrying our local, organic steaks to this week. We also had some chicken thighs left over from last week and froze those, so that is helping as well!

I became the owner of 30 lbs. of peaches this week. Not just any kind of peaches–canning peaches. You know what that means. It means “process immediately”. So…Wednesday night became peach processing night! On the plus side, I have 10 jars of peach jam and 8 quarts of chopped peaches in the freezer. And, I’ve learned to work on my timing 🙂

Budget [$97.07]

  • The Produce Box (smoked cheddar, garlic, chipotle-lime goat cheese, grapes, zucchini, squash, peaches, apples, corn, watermelon, potatoes, onions): $41.25
  • Trader Joes (organic rice, organic black beans, whole organic chicken, yogurt, cinnamon, cherry juice, almond milk, organic sugar, frozen fruit): $40.82
  • Hilltop Organics (okra): $3.00
  • Kimbap (kimchi): $6.00
  • Mitchell Family Pantry (jam, barbecue sauce): $6.00

This Weeks Menu

  • Wednesday–Grilled steaks, field peas, stewed okra and tomatoes
  • Thursday–Kimchi fried rice with egg
  • Friday–Zucchini tart, leftover vegetables
  • Saturday–BBQ chicken pizza with corn, black beans and smoked cheddar
  • Sunday–Roast chicken, new potatoes, sautéed squash and zucchini
  • Monday–Chicken and chipotle-lime goat cheese quesadillas
  • Tuesday–Stuffed sweet potatoes with apple and smoked cheddar

Have a healthy and delicious week!

Quality of Life and Health–Two Points of Comparison

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While on vacation in Paris last week, we stayed in an apartment rather than a hotel, which gave us a different perspective on what it feels like to really live in urban Paris. The differences between urban Paris and the quasi-urban town where I work in North Carolina are astounding. I thought I’d share them with you because they really point to the fact that our obesity problem is one that includes food, but is much larger than the issue of food itself. Sometimes, being in a new environment can help you see your usual environment in a whole new light. Here are some thoughts on how the supporting infrastructure for healthy food and transportation are wildly different between Paris and the city where I work, Raleigh.

Food Access

While Paris is mostly a concrete jungle, Parisians have ample access to fresh fruit, vegetables and freshly prepared foods day and night. Although we saw a Subway restaurant on our street, there were no other fast food restaurants in our neighborhood (yes, there are McDonalds, but mostly in the high tourist areas). Even the little grocery around the corner had a higher percentage of fresh food and very little processed, packaged food (and no malt liquor). On our street, the Rue Vavin, we had the following within in a one block radius of our apartment:

  • 12 cafes and restaurants, most of which offered outdoor seating

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  • 1 primeur or fresh fruit and vegetable shop

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  • 1 boulangerie or bread baker

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  • 1 boucherie or butcher

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  • 1 patisserie or pastry shop
  • 1 sandwicherie or carry-out sandwich shop

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  • 1 general grocery
  • 1 wine shop
  • 1 flower shop

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  • 1 fromagerie or cheese shop
  • 1 pharmacy
  • 2 subway stops
  • 4 bus stops

I work on a main street in “downtown” Raleigh, where within a one block radius of my office I have:

  • 6 restaurants, one of which offers outdoor seating; none open after 4:00 pm and only two are open on Saturdays
  • 1 pharmacy (which does not sell any fresh food)
  • No access to fresh fruits or vegetables or groceries
  • 2 bus stops

Actually, no where in downtown Raleigh is there access to groceries or fresh fruit and vegetables. While we do have a seasonal farmers market on Wednesdays, it is only from 10-1 and runs April to October. The State Farmer’s Market is not within walking distance and as far as I can tell, no city bus runs directly from downtown to the market.

Navigation

Most people in Paris walk, ride the subway or take a bicycle/scooter where they need to go. There are very few cars because (like most large urban areas) there is no parking and driving in the city seems more of a nuisance than a convenience. All around the city, there are bike racks where you can deposit a few Euro and rent a city bike for a while. You just return it to one of the racks when you are done. We saw many people running errands on these bikes, so they seem to be in good use (see the rack on the left of this photo?).

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Even children walk or ride their razor scooters to their local schools–I never once saw a school bus (even field trips were conducted via the metro and walking rather than by bus). In the mornings, I often saw small groups of elementary and middle school age children lining up at the local boulangerie (bread baker) or fruit vendor to get a snack on their way to school. In the afternoon, young people walked home, met friends in the plaza on our street and generally seemed to be happy and relaxed kids. My child was a bit jealous that French schools start later (9ish) and finish later (4ish) than American schools, which means children can walk while it is light outside instead of getting up and waiting for a bus in the dark. We saw parents all over the place walking children to school or strolling them to child care in the morning.

Here in NC, almost no one walks to school because it is almost impossible. There are very few areas around schools with good sidewalks and traffic areas (and specifically drivers) are not pedestrian friendly. In France if you hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk, you go to jail. In North Carolina, you get a ticket. Hmmm.

I saw no overweight children outside of tourists and no overweight French adults. I didn’t hear any children whining or complaining that they were too tired to walk or needed to sit down. It was amazing. I’m sure Paris has its share of problems, too, but it is an active, thriving city with a wonderful energy and clearly a commitment to serve the people who live and work downtown. That visit really opened my eyes to what a city can be if it focuses on ensuring people can live healthy within it.

Raleigh likes to think itself an up-and-coming city. But a look at a real city shows that this little kid on the block has a long, loooooong way to go before it is really grown up and ready for prime time. I hope it can get a bit closer by encouraging more actual downtown living, boosting meaningful public transportation and offering people who live and work downtown with the amenities people need to stay downtown. Building luxury apartments isn’t enough to make a town into a city, especially if you stop thinking about the residents as people and only think of them as property owners. Who never walk. And only eat in restaurants. And don’t have children.

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