Admiral Ackbar comments on supermarket variety

There’s some great granola and pasta available at the Farmers Market.  We’ve had basil tagliatelle, ricotta gnocchi, and tomato fettucine.  Last week we had a divine maple granola.  So this morning, we trotted off to the market in the happy expectation of more of the same.  And you know what?  We didn’t get any of it. The “granola guy” had ginger granola and peanut butter granola; the ladies were selling spinach fettucine and lemon chive pasta.

But this turns out, strangely, to be to our advantage.  I think the constant availability of the same products at the grocery store,  week in and week out, is a trap.  (Thank you, Admiral Ackbar) We never try funky Dragon Tongue beans because we can always get plain green beans.  If we’re out of cereal, Special K and Cheerios are always there on the shelf, comfortably familiar. The same kinds of tea, cheese, apples, sausage, and lettuce are always waiting for us.

To be fair, our local supermarkets are pretty good.  Rochester is home to the Wegmans chain of stores–if you don’t have them in your area, I’m so sorry.  (When someone in my family makes a shopping list, it often says “Wegmans” at the top, instead of “Groceries.”)  And my little town market is clean, friendly, convenient, and well-stocked.  But it’s so easy to buy the same old things at the store, because they always have the same old things. I know, we could buy Hubbard squash, or yellow pear tomatoes, or any of  thousand other things, at the store.  But somehow, we never do.

At the Farmers Market, though, they weren’t selling plain white potatoes today.  So my younger daughter bought some huge Yukon golds for mashed potatoes.  They aren’t selling little plastic bags of baby-cut carrots, so my older daughter picked up a gorgeous bunch of organic beauties.  We snuck handfuls of peanut butter granola in the car, and planned a marvelous meal of spinach fettucine.

Next week, it’ll all be different.  That’s a good thing.


Local food happy dance

Zucchini picture courtesy of MorgueFile

Zucchini picture courtesy of MorgueFile

In high summer, serving a nearly 100% upstate NY meal was pretty easy.

Easy, that is, provided I shopped at Farmers Markets and farmstands instead of at the grocery store.  I will say that my little local grocery store has begun to carry quite a few organic brands, and has made an effort to carry some local produce.  Last summer, I asked an employee at our wonderful Rochester supermarket chain, Wegmans, how I could identify local produce sold in the store, and he could find only corn and cherry tomatoes for me.  Which is a start, but the paucity of the offerings seemed silly, considering that local farms were brimful of summer squash, herbs, new potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and so on.

But I have discovered two wonderful Farmers Markets near me.  The Rush Farmers Market, on Thursday afternoons, usually has 5-8 vendors with booths set up.  I’ve purchased lovely fruit & veggies, baked goods, and flowers.  The berries and peaches this week were wonderful.  The Brighton Farmers Market is a much larger affair, offering fruit & veggies, organic landscape plants, herbs & herbal preparations (courtesy of Honeoye Falls’ own Lavender Moon,) honey, granola, baked goods, cheese, and pasture-fed poultry and meat.   There are often musicians playing, and there’s a porta-potty!  (This is VERY important when visiting right after breakfast, or if you intend to sample the fair trade coffee.)

Tonight’s dinner featured these local foods:

  • ham
  • sauteed zucchini, green beans, garlic, onion, and pattypan squash
  • oven-roasted potatoes
  • blueberries & peaches

The zucchini & green beans were from my own garden.  The ham was from Aberdeen Hill Farms, which offers meat from pasture-fed animals.  (This is what my family calls “happy” ham.)  The only non-local ingredients were salt, pepper, and olive oil.   And it wall all YUM!

Garden update

I decided to become a more serious gardener & a better manager of my home this year.  (All plans were derailed when my school district’s library department actually got a site visit for the NSLMPY award (which we won…go, Bulldogs!) and I discoverd the joys of Twitter.  Excuses, excuses.)  But now that’s it’s summer, I have time to revisit those plans.

Our garden is a manageable size for a family with two adults working full time and two teenagers with many interests & activities.  We have four raised beds this year, and a 10 x 15 foot area in the middle of the lawn turned over to pumpkins and six hand-me-down heirloom tomato plants.  The raised beds make weeding much easier, though I will admit that last year the lovely warm wood of the sides of the bed attracted hornets, which nested under the veggies and seriously deterred me from weeding.

I’ve already started a list of “things I will do better next year.”

  • I will NOT plant 3 cilantro plants, because it takes over the bed.
  • I will plant the dill somewhere else in the yard, because it’s huuuuuge!
  • 4 eggplant plants is too many for a house in which I am the only really enthusiastic eggplant eater.
  • Walnut trees + tomatoes = wilt.  I had no idea why our tomatoes always seem to give up the ghost about the first week in August, and now I know.  I will have to consider the solution–maybe growing all my tomatoes in containers, instead of in the ground?
  • I will not go completely insane when ordering seeds from Seed Savers.  (But all the pictures are so PRETTY!  Picking just one kind of bean can’t be done; it’s like eating only one potato chip.)
  • I will keep weeding.

On the “home manager” front, I really want to  make sure I don’t waste food.  I read a marvelous book just recently called What the World Eats, by writer Faith D’Alusio and photographer Peter Menzel.  They share the revolting statistic that families in the US waste about 14% of the food we buy.  One of my goals this year is wasting less, by composting, buying what we’ll eat right away, and making sure leftovers are eaten.

Good goals.  Now let’s see if I can do it!

When Worlds Collide

Isn’t that a dramatic title?

Here’s what I wrote on my professional blog, Otter of Fate, this morning.

Image by chantelle1113 on

Image by chantelle1113 on

“This is one of those mornings where two of my favorite things, stories and crafting, came together. I have a professional blog, where I write about tools and projects for teacher-librarians, and a craft blog, where I write about the sewing or knitting or whatever projects have been refreshing my soul. This morning a post on The Crafty Crow reminded me that there’s plenty of literature for young kids that almost effortlessly suggests where young readers should go when the story is over: straight to the art supplies.

The book featured in the Crafty Crow this morning was An Awesome Book, by Dallas Clayton. It’s all about the power of dreams. Click on the link and take a look at the story and illustrations. This would be a lovely book to pair with a biography on Martin Luther King, Jr. Younger kids would be jazzed about drawing a picture about a dream that could change the world: save the polar bears! end pollution! Older kids, who have learned how impossible the dream of ending segregation seemed at the time of King’s immortal speech, would understand even better the poignant message of the book.”

I’ve written more about using art to meet learning standards on my professional blog.  Drop by for a visit!

My first Instructable!

I’m very proud of myself!  I just made a set of fabric-covered barrettes with a matching fabric hairband, and took a few photos while I was working.  I just made my first Instructable! Take a look!


A cute giveaway from an Etsy shop was featured on the Crafty Crow today.   The Etsy Shop, Starbugaloo Designs, features baby items made from recycled / refurbished / reused materials.  Wonderful!  There’s also a giveaway of books from Usborne–a great non-fiction children’s publisher.  Do take a peek at the Crafty Crow if you haven’t visited before.  I get lots of great art ideas for my students and my own family there.

I’m very, very tempted to take the plunge and open an Etsy shop of my own.  I have so many ideas (though so little time..) for things I could make, and I love the whole idea of Etsy.  My daughters received beautiful jewelry last year from an Etsy seller (whose name escapes my memory) and I’ve seen some fabulously beautiful things in a colleague’s shop, too.  I’d love to be a part of that community…

Skirt refashion

Second refashion of the month!  Recycling old clothes is like putting money in the bank.

I took an old cotton flannel skirt, and cut off the top 10 inches or so.  I ironed out all the pleats that made me feel as if I were wearing my old Bishop Kearney HS uniform skirt, and ended up with a big loop of fabric.

I added two darts to the back, so that the skirt fit my waist better.  Then I folded over the front, kilt-style, added a buttonhole and button, and stuck in an old kilt pin from the ’70’s (can you say “pack rat?”)  I’ve already worn it to work, where everyone laughed at my kilt pin and asked me where my knee socks were…