Friday, March 14, 2014

40 bags in 40 days- Decluttering for Lent!

Have you heard of this challenge? 40 bags in 40 days is a project where you tackle a different area of your home every day during Lent (Sundays are a day off) and get rid of stuff you don't use. The idea is to fill a bag of unnecessary stuff everyday but as pointed out in the details, the size or type of container isn't the focus, it's more of an incentive to deal with the unneeded stuff we acquire one bit at a time. That's good because there are no garbage bags in my house since we stopped buying them a few years ago but I'm sure I have enough reusable bags to take care of 40 days worth. Maybe sorting out those bags is the first place I should start!

Not being particularly religious, I don't normally participate in any type of Lenten ritual but this is one I can get behind. Since Lent started over a week ago I'll be a bit late but I had actually been working on this on my own recently so the timing is perfect. The website has tips on areas to focus on (like email accounts and pinterest boards if you run out of stuff in the house) and suggestions to keep you motivated. There are even some forms you can print out to list the areas you'd like to attack, keep track of what you've finished and how many bags you've managed to get rid of. I don't think I'll need that but I'll try to post updates here to keep myself honest.

I have a few areas that really need work- our landlord recently decided to paint the hall for us and it was a bit of a shock to realize how much had accumulated in that space when we had to move it all out. It's become a pile of chaos in the livingroom and I've been procrastinating in dealing with it because there's a lot to sort out and I want to get rid of a lot instead of putting it all back. So that is definitely on the list.

Today however I am focused on  the top of the refrigerator and the spice rack. I keep a lot of dried herbs and spices and have used many different containers over the years, most of which I hang onto. There's a particular rack of decorative jars on top of the fridge that have out lived their usefulness and I need to part with it. A few of the jars are missing and none of them sealed that well to begin with. Not to mention that the top of the fridge is less than ideal conditions for herb preservation. So all of the tired herbs are headed for the green bin, and the remaining spices are being re-jarred in more practical containers that will fit in the proper spice shelf which also got reorganized. The old jars and rack will be cleaned up and donated to a thrift shop.

Early spring is a good time to deal with all of this clutter, before the nice weather arrives and I won't want to be indoors! I think the biggest challenge for me won't be filling 40 bags, it will be finding places and time to find new homes for the bags once they are full!

My properly organized spice rack!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Not So Guilty Pleasures

I fell off the local food wagon today. I went to the nearby grocery chain to stock up on pantry staples and there were fresh green things from far away warm places, calling my name and luring me with their crisp leaves and stems full of chlorophyll. Normally I can walk by the displays of  non seasonal fruit and and veg without too much yearning but this winter has killed me. So cold for so long, endless days of snow and ice; even the extra hours of daylight aren't doing much except making me more restless. Suddenly it felt like the only thing that would make me feel better was the taste of dandelion greens from Texas, oriental eggplants grown in California and asparagus from Mexico. I should feel guilty but really, all I feel is hungry!

Last week I was fortunate enough to escape winter briefly as I attended a music conference in Kansas City MO. While not summer weather by any stretch, it was miles better than here, with temps reaching 15 C on one of the days I was there and the rest of the week it was well above freezing. It was lovely to be outside wearing a light jacket or sweater, no gloves or boots or hats to be seen. I even managed a brief but chilly swim in the heated outdoor pool! But I think it also tricked my body into thinking it was spring because I cannot be content to be warm and cozy any longer. I cannot face any more hearty soups or stews. I swear I will burst into tears if I have to look at another carrot or roasted root vegetable! When I found myself scowling at the sprout jar this morning, I knew it was over.

The body knows what it needs and mine was screaming for bitter greens which the frozen tundra outside my door will not be able to provide for a long while yet. It's still 20 long days until spring officially begins and I'm not holding my breath that the weather's going to cooperate by then either. Sometime in the next week or so I will start some seedlings for this year's garden and maybe some greens for quick eating but until then I will be feeding my cravings with imports. I needed dandelion greens stat and my favourite recipe is for dandelion greens and goat cheese pasta .

1 bunch dandelion greens washed well and chopped
2 strips of bacon cut in small pieces
1 onion, minced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tbsp goat cheese
1 lemon- for zest and 1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups cooked pasta- I like linguine or fettuccine but any kind works
Parmesan cheese- optional

Cook and drain pasta as directed, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Sauté bacon and onions until onions are soft, add garlic and dandelion greens and stir until greens are wilted. Use a zester or small grater to add about a tsp of lemon zest or to taste- I like mine lemony! Add a tsp of fresh lemon juice and goat cheese and stir until greens are well coated; add pasta water a little at a time until it makes a  creamy sauce. Toss with pasta and serve with parmesan cheese.

On the theme of eating local, FarmGal is running her March Pantry Challenge again this year but as much as I'd love to join her, I'm afraid we'd starve this year. Until my doomed trip to the grocery store, our pantry was empty except for a few jars of pickles, and  I could see all the way to the back of the freezer but for a few containers of currants and one sandwich bag each of frozen beans and peppers. I don't know if we consumed more or I preserved less but it's an awfully good thing we don't have to live off of stored food this winter. I might have to have closer look at how much I put down this year.

I wrote this post last week and never got it posted- the cold I brought back from KC turned nasty and I ended up with pneumonia. Some good healthy food (and some expensive antibiotics, boo) have helped me bounce back quickly and I'm so glad I listened to my cravings!

Here's a nice meme I found floating round the internet that sums up my feelings exactly- she even looks like me!