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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A very delayed conclusion....

The Lent Experiment is officially over, and the budget is back to "normal" which can vary from week to week. We almost never needed our whole $2.00/day (except the youngest), and we all managed to get lots of good (organic) veggies, fruits, meats and grains during this experiment. The top of the blog says that the experiment changed our lives, so if you care to find out how, here it is:


Because most of the world lives completely on or less than $2.00/day and we couldn't possibly manage that little with our mortgage, bills, etc. we not only cut our food bill to $2.00/day per person, but we also stopped buying things. Sound easy? It's really not. Well, not at first.

We initially committed to not buying anything outside of food during Lent, and again did not allow ourselves the reprieve on Sundays (you can do a lot of shopping damage in one day!) Now, for someone who is addicted to SALE signs and to whom CLEARANCE tags make her mouth water - February and March are rotten times to not buy anything. I would tell myself, this is just for a short time, I can spend myself into oblivion when Lent is over.

It only took a few weeks of not spending money to realize how much I liked it. Our van needed WAY less gas each week, our family had lots of time to spend together (wrangling kids at a mall does NOT count as family time), and there was never any Wal-Mart blues (you buy too much crap and you feel elated for all of 15 minutes and it fades). What I really liked about not buying STUFF to make me happy was that I had to look to relationships for happiness instead. I began to feel like the consumerism circle had been a nasty trap that I didn't know I was caught in.

During this time, we also looked into how things are made. Everything from cotton for our clothing to plastic for the kids toys. Besides the slavery involved in so many of our products, the chemicals and waste involved are enough to turn anyone's stomach. This not buying stuff seemed to be a pretty good way to live.... I knew there would be no spending spree at the end of Lent.

Concessions. Do we make them? Sometimes, regrettably. Part of our new life included using our yard to grow food and teach the kids about where REAL food comes from. I refuse to water my grass, but sometimes your veggies need a sprinkle - and we didn't have a hose. We looked for a used hose, but ended up having to purchase one that was new. We decided to buy an expensive hose we hopefully wouldn't have to replace and add to the waste cycle - but it was still something new. This was our first post-Lent purchase and I still remember how hard it was for us.

The bottom line is, we are a privileged society. Even our poorest are better off than most in other parts of the world. We complain about the cost of gas, cell phone bills, entertainment costs, etc. not realizing that everything outside of food and shelter is a luxury (and EVEN those are luxurious for us). We are humans, not consumers. If someone is hurting we need to help. One person giving up cable to move those funds to a third world country may not seem like much, but last year alone North America spent 150 BILLION on entertainment. That's an average of $100.00/month per family. For some families, $100.00/month might seem like a fortune and to some it may be pocket change you spend at a sale and hardly notice. The point is to give until you notice it! Your generosity should match your prosperity. You may hate Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie as much as you hate Satan himself, but they give an entire third of their income to charity. You may think that you could do that too if you only made millions upon millions each year., but when is enough enough? To a starving family, we ARE millionaires. If we all wake up to the reality outside of what we're told is important, we might take bigger steps to escape our roles as consumers and to move into our responsibilities as humans.

This may seem preachy, or rant-like, but the more I consider others the happier I am. The more my family considers other, the better they are. I see a world trapped in debt, the consumer cycle, and self-absorbed insanity - and I'm happily digging my way out of that world into a world that makes sense. Do I think you should dig with me? Heck yes.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Peeps

Peeps
















Easter is coming and I decided to give home-made Peeps a try. My hubby really likes these disgusting candies, and it's almost 100% sugar so you know kids like it too.

There is no way to find Organic or Fair Trade colored sugar, so I made my own. I know food coloring is pure evil to the health puritans, BUT as far as compromises go, I can list the ingredients I put in home made Peeps on one hand and couldn't say the same for any other candies that are popular this time of year.
















How to Color Sugar


Put desired amount of sugar into ziploc bag. 1 cup is enough if you're making the Peep recipe. Lay the bag flat on your countertop with the sugar collected at the bottom. Put a few drops of coloring on the bag, not directly into the sugar. Close the bag and shimmy/shake/rub the sugar all around until the color is evenly distributed. Sound easy? It is.


Peeps, a la Martha Stewart


1 unflavored gelatin (2 1/2 teaspoons)

1/3 cup cold water, for gelatin, plus 1/4 cup for syrup

1 cup sugar



1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/3 cup cold water. Allow gelatin to soften, about 5 minutes.

2. In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water and sugar, and stir over medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring, and place a candy thermometer into sugar water; wipe sides of pan with a wet brush if sugar crystals have splattered up. Boil sugar until temperature reaches the soft-ball stage (238F). Remove syrup from heat; add to softened gelatin. Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, hand-stir the mixture a few minutes to cool; place bowl on the mixer stand. Beat on medium high with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form and the marshmallow mixture holds shape, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Transfer marshmallow mixture to a large (14-inch) pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch tip, and use immediately.


* My Notes on the lovely Martha's recipe: Soft-ball technically begins at 230F, which is when I take my candy off the stove. You don't want to overcook the candy or you'll end up with a blob of hard candy in the middle of a pool of gelatin. Not pretty. I don't have piping bags, so as much as it pains me to throw something out, I use a large zip-loc type bag and once it's filled with mallow cut the tip off the bottom. Don't over cut. You can always make the hole bigger, but you can't shrink it! *


For piping instructions, visit:


http://www.marthastewart.com/how-to/sugar-coated-marshmallow-bunnies-andchicks#slide_0


Learn from my mistakes!

- Pipe quickly. The texture of the mallow will start to change and get harder to shape after a while. It's best if you have a tray with sugar waiting and pipe all of your little creatures at once.

- Check your thermometer. I've emphasized the importance of this before - but a few degrees makes a big difference with candy. You can check your thermometer in boiling water - if it reads 100 when it's boiling, it's good - if not, adjust accordingly.

- I found it tricky to make any decent shapes. Adding eyes with royal icing (the joy of baking has a good recipe) may have helped, but I figured people were going to eat these no matter what they looked like. If you want to bring these to a party or something, maybe double the batch so you have lots of practice peeps.