Saturday, October 24, 2009

Noah's Thrifty Duds and Shopping Mindfully

The official reason for this post is to show you how you can get cute clothes for your kids...and still be super thrifty. But, honestly, I just wanted to share these fun photos of my silly boy. ; )
The sweater he's wearing cost a single buck at our Childcare Co-op's Clothing Sale. It's a Children's Place label. 

The corduroy pants were also a buck. They're Polo. Not that I care about labels myself.

It's been easy to dress Noah for free or cheap...and still have him look like a sharp-dressed, handsome lil' devil. Since we moved to NY, we have received hand-me-downs from other LeBlanc boys. Free stuff!! That's been awesome. Also, since we've been involved with the Co-op, we've been able to smartly shop for clothes, due to the huge clothes sales that occur twice a year. Nearly free stuff!
It's a win-win-win-win situation to buy second-hand, gently used clothes for Noah.
1) We save a bunch o' moolah.
2) I don't have anxiety about Noah very rapidly outgrowing his barely worn clothes. (Stop growing up so fast!) And if he gets somthing dirty or stained, as little boys do, no only cost a dollar...or less.
3) We aren't buying new stuff...meaning we aren't buying into all of the wasteful packaging, not supporting the shipping of these clothes from China or wherever, not contributing to the environmental/psychological/social harm caused by our system of constantly buying new junk!      
4) It's a fun adventure for me. I have such a feeling of satisfaction when I find something awesome for free or cheap. It makes me feel smart.
I must admit, my broke-ness was originally the motivation for my frugality. I used to addictively shop the sales racks at the mall. I would drive to the 24 hour Wal-Mart in the middle of the night to ease my jonesing for something shiny and new. And oh, Target, my love, how I've adored you and your 50% off, and your $1 junk isle.
I have the credit card debt to prove my lust for stuff. The materialism junkie.
Now, however, I TRY to be mindful of what I purchase. How does it effect the world I live in? Can I do without? Can I borrow? Can I get it for free or cheap? How can I be savvy about this? How can I support my values and ideals, instead of just following trends like a useless zombie? Dawn of the Dead does take place in a MALL, you know.
I am a work in progress. I'm still learning ways to BE.  
I have yet to try out  or ...but I will soon and let you know!
Anyone else have any frugal epiphanies to share? I'd love to hear about it! ; ) 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This Morning's Drive

This Morning's Drive

Sometimes the beauty here stops me in my tracks
The trees are raining a delicate yellow spray of tiny lacy leaves
As I take my son to school
He is quiet and watchful as we drive through
this feathery 'car-wash'

Surprisingly, the geese remain, even in October
Grazing beside a pond
Red trees reflect across the water
Their hearts, a fire, bleeding out into the ripples

I see this in just glimpses driving by
A woman on the sidewalk pushing a stroller
She wears a halo of sunshine
Now I've witnessed an apparition

The synchronicity of two cars changing lanes at exactly the same moment
One on the left, one on the right, merging to the center before me
Perfectly timed to the chords and melody on the radio
A dance performed for me alone

I want to pull over and applaud this day, to thank someone
I want to kiss someone's holy blessed momma! ; )

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

30's are the new 20's...or f u Advanced Maternal Age!

Boy am I glad last week is OVER!
My birthdays always seem to cause an unreasonable amount of stress and I get a bit melancholy. I say the stress and depression are unreasonable because I have so many things to celebrate, to be thankful for. I have a good life. I am lucky.
But still...this nagging persists. It tells me that I have to do more, buy more, be more, write more, have more kids...The feeling is akin to a prolonged panic attack. This sudden realization that time is marching on. The realization that I can't follow every path, accomplish every goal, because one day this will all...STOP.
It's sad. What makes me the saddest is knowing that someday I will be seperated from Noah and Michael. How ridiculous am I? It's birthday time, time for jubilant bliss, streamers and cake, toasting to my Life. And my mind wanders over to visit with Death and Seperation. What a party pooper. 
So, I turned 35 on Sunday. Big deal, right? I don't feel old. I enjoy good health. I shake my butt off 3 times a week at Zumba. I eat a mostly meatless/ heavy on the veggies diet. I laugh a lot. I sleep well. I don't smoke (except for the occassional crack...but who doesn't do that?). I drink in moderation unless I happen to be around my roll girl Melissa, who brings out the PARTY in me. But she's in FL and I'm in NY, so I drink in moderation! Yep, I'm the picture of health.
But 35 suddenly means that I am classified by a term that I never heard of before this week.
No, I'm not a  "Cougar".
Suddenly I am classified in medical terms as someone who has reached:
What???! I am trying to conceive, but my eggs are declining in quantity and quality! Miscarriages are more common! If I do become pregnant, it will be considered an 'at-risk' risk of birth defects!
I put exclamation points after each of these sentences to illustrate the intensity that I was feeling all week leading up to turning 35, leading up to ADVANCED MATERNAL AGE.
My birthdays usually cause me to reflect on my mortality, but this birthday dealt a particularly hard blow with the realization that I may not be able to produce LIFE much longer.
When I spoke to my father on the phone Sunday, he was quick to tell me that the 30's are the new 20's...which would mean he's in his new 40's. But men don't have to worry in quite the same way...sperm are fresh and new everytime they are released. Women are born with all of their eggs, and the eggs age right along with you. Me and my 35 year old eggs.

To top it all off, bits and pieces of  Eliot's "Prufrock" kept entering my mind all week:
"I grow old...I grow old...I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled..."
"I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, and in short, I was afraid..."
"That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all."
The torture! The agony! The pretentiousness!
But if you know me at all, you know that I don't stay down for long. I feel better already now that 35 is here. I will find a way, somehow, to live with my ADVANCED MATERNAL AGE. Or maybe I should reject the label altogether? That's right, I DO 'dare disturb the universe.' I DO 'dare to eat a peach.'



Monday, October 19, 2009

Meatless Mondays: Week 1

I'm very excited to present to you the first installment of 
Meatless Monday!
Now, what exactly is Meatless Monday?
According to the website: -
~It's a non-profit initiative in association with the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with the goal to reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.~
I HAVE JOINED THE MONDAY MOVEMENT, and will henceforth share recipes and other meatless tidbits.
I had trouble choosing which of my favorite meatless recipes to share with you. There are so many yummy goodies that I've been trying out from the Moosewood Cookbook (which I adore). However, some of the ingredients aren't readily available, or they might seem a bit too vegetarian. I'll share exotic Zuccanoes, Ratatouille, Curries, Chana Masala, future Meatless Monday posts. But for now I'll show you my favorite good ol' standby. I want to ease you into the meatless idea gently, dear reader. So, I will start with something delicious, yet simple, with ingredients you have actually heard of and aren't afraid to try.
Without further ado...

Cheap and Easy & Healthful and Quick Black Bean Tacos

1/4 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon oil or margarine
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained -if you rinse your beans, they will be less gassy...or rather, YOU will be less gassy
1 can diced tomatoes with chilies....OR 1/2 cup salsa + 1/4 cup water
1/2 package of Taco Seasoning mix OR the following spices:
(1/2 tablespoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon salt,
   1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon pepper)
8 hard or soft tortillas, warmed
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
1 large ripe avocado, peeled and diced (optional)
1/4 cup sliced black olives (optional)
1/2 cup shredded lettuce
In a skillet, saute onion and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in beans, tomatoes or salsa, and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 5 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Fill taco with as much bean mixture as you like. Top with cheese, avocado, olives, and lettuce. 

This feeds our family of 3 very happily. Noah and Michael even have a song:
"Black Bean- Black Bean- Black Bean- BLACK...
Gimme dem Black Beans-Black Beans- BLACK!"
We usually have a few beans left over...which I smash with a fork and use as a dip for tortilla chips.
Cheap: Black Beans- less than a buck a can...even cheaper if you use dried beans...
Easy: You just throw a few things in a pan, stir once...
Healthy: Black Beans are high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants
Quick: Oh goodness! This takes about 5 minutes to prep, 5 minutes to simmer!

Don't worry, you won't suddenly turn into a hippy just because you lay off meat for a day. Well, maybe you will, I don't know. But what's so wrong with that?! ; ) 
Try out this recipe with an extra-large Margarita, and let me know what you think. 
I hope you enjoy!  

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Global Warming: Get Your Damn Hands Off My Pinot, Wildflowers, and Guacamole!

Did you realize that if we don't get a grip on this Climate Change thing, we are going to have to wave "Bye Bye" to many things we hold so dear!
I know you might be thinking, go crunch your granola somewhere else. But, wait, listen, I'm not going to pull out a chart and get all Al Gore on you...There are some truly awesome things that make LIFE sweet that are in terrible danger. If you visit this site,,

you can see for yourself 100 or so effects of Global Warming. It's terrifying- no more French wine...British wine instead! Mon Dieu, indeed! No more delicate Pinot's from Oregon, no more salmon, lobster, guacamole! I don't want to just spread fear here but, really, Cannabalistic Polar Bears and no more Christmas Trees! More dreaded mosquitos. Oh yeah, and the OCEANS ARE TURNING TO ACID!!! Not the fun kind of acid either. Maybe you would like to live in the world of Cormac McCarthy's The Road? Nope. Not me,either. Unless Viggo's, not even then!

Worst of all for some, this whole Global Warming thing could cause a Global Great Depression...kind of hits me where it hurts, in my already empty wallet! Ughh!
So if you want to do some small part to SAVE THE GUACAMOLE, you can visit Scientific American's 10 Solutions for Climate Change:

Little things can make a big difference and they are totally do-able: like try walking when you can, consume less junk, try a Meatless Monday ( Bonus- you can improve your health while improving the world! If you have a 'voluptuous' body, like me...saving the whales has a double meaning in your life too. ; )

As an aside, I'll be posting my ideas for doing some delicious meatless meals...every Monday from now on...stay tuned!

We don't really want to end up Mad on a Gray do we? I prefer the sea Blue or Green.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Say Hey I Love You

We dance to this song sometimes in my Zumba class. I know it's poppy-ness doesn't really fit with my dark and jaded image. But the song is sweet and always makes me smile. The video is full of sun and good times. I thought this was Wyclef until I looked it up on YouTube. Hooray for the kisses and the kids and the drummers and the old folks and the capoeira dancers and the booty dancers in this video. Shake it if you got it!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Attack of the Killer Pumpkins!

Run for your lives!!
The pumpkins are everywhere. According to the nice hairdo lady who was trimming off my gnarly dead-ends on Friday, we've had an outstanding pumpkin crop here in the 'cuse. I had no idea. She said that all the rain over the summer resulted in this huge pumpkin infestation. So many pumpkins here...fleshy orange monstrosities... have been shipped down the road to less-rainier Buffalo, Albany.
Today Noah, Michael, and I had lunch at Moe's, and then ventured forth on our Annual Pumpkin Hunt. It is such a tradition with us that we have done this 2 years in a row! ; )
We like to go to this creepy little farm near's called Frienhoff's or Heffenstien's, or something like that. And it's a little strange. You are greeted at the road by scarecrows with jack-o-lantern heads...who have been impaled! There is a freaky corn maze with more creatures with various favorite is a zombie-ish monster wearing a shirt that says "Taxpayer"... getting all Libertarian in the corn maze, cute.
Here's Michael and Noah and some spooky spectres. Can you see the red and yellow leaves behind them? It is gorgeous around here this time of year. I have no explanation for their facial expressions.

While exploring the corn maze, much to Noah's delight, Michael walks ahead of Noah and I, hides in the stalks, and then hops out all "Buu-ha-ha! and Boogity-Boogity!" Noah loves a good scare.

And then there are the killer pumpkins. You get to load up a little red flyer for 15 bucks...or just buy them individually. Here's my lil' punkin':

At first, we just picked 3 pumpkins: a cute baby one for Noah, a medium round one for Mad, and a giant daddy for our Big Daddy. And we drove off happily with our pumpkin score. But then I suggested to that we could have gotten a whole wagonful...and that way we could be The Great Pumpkin Fairies, and deliver bright spots of delicious ORANGE-NESS (almost like being the harbringers of Fall itself) to our neighbors and to Michael's mom. Michael and Noah liked that we turned around and got our 15 bucks worth.
I don't know if Noah is picking his nose in this picture or not.

I love October! As we were driving slowly towards Skaneateles today so that we could stare at the changing Autumn leaves, I heard Garrison Keillor say on the radio (in character as Guy Noire),
"October is heartbreaking...and that proves you have a heart..."
I'm paraphrasing here. Go, yourself, and listen to The Prairie Home Companion on a crisp, sun-shiney Sunday afternoon... and let something out there break your heart just a little.
I have some Great Pumpkin Fairy work to do....
Happy Pumpkin Hunting to you!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Two Poems Inspired by The Song of Everlasting Sorrow (pages 13-18)

I've been reading The Song of Everlasting Sorrow for my book club. It is extremely dense and rich with language. I had to put the book down twice to jot down little poems inspired by the tone of the book and her intense, vivid, word-choice. Here is the result:

A Thunderously Noisy Melancholy

I write poetry in the fall, winter, and spring
The summer- too alive, too many adventures to experience
A ripening joy drops fruit and flowers

Autumn arrives with a hue of memory, old loss
Remembrances of withering hope and aching sorrow
Orange afternoons

Death's pallor- pressed against winter cheeks
By the time the snow starts flying
Lonely ambition is buried under drifts

Spring returns like a lover's tender kiss
The heart looks around with shining eyes- see a silver flash
Of lightening- fragile life, hatching

Easier to Part than Join (The Non-Loss of Virginity)

The Young Lady's Bedchamber
She didn't invite him into her own room
With pictures of laughing friends
Instead, the spare room- generic, adult, king-sized bed
Hungry secret thumping under the cover of night
Revealing a sunken-chest, sweetly treasured
Because it was his, hidden
She stammers, stutters
There would be no way to explain away
Her intact heart, wild and timid
Not cradled by this one
A moth spinning away from the flame

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Final Green Tomato Harvest

These little babies are the last of our 2009 Green Tomato Harvest.
We did not intend to have a Green Tomato Harvest...but with this year's weather conditions, and the Tomato Blight...we got tomatoes that would not ripen.
And we were lucky to have them. And thankful for them. We made the best of our Summer of Green Tomatoes by making tons of Green Tomato Salsa (also using chives from our garden).
I meant to fry up some green tomatoes, because I am from the South, after all. But I never got around to it.
I think I will make one last batch of salsa with these little babies, freeze it, and take it out in February or March when we are knee-deep in snow...and craving shoots of life, sprouts of green-ness, spicy heat on our tongues!

A Record of Recent Foolery

If you know me at all, you know I have many flaws. And I make plenty o' mistakes.
I try to look at it all- LIFE- as a 'learn as you go' experience.
I try not to be too critical of myself (and others) when mishaps occur.
With that said, if you really want to learn from your mistakes, it's helpful to keep a Record of Foolery. You can name it something else if you want (List of Losing, FAIL!, Sometimes I Suck, Here's What I Did get the picture). It's a sort-of self-confessional.
 I learned to do this during my first year teaching high school english. If a lesson didn't quite work out right, or a behavior issue wasn't handled as well as it could have been, I reflected on it. I recorded what I thought the mistakes were, and what I could do differently in the future. And I said a little Serenity Prayer too...because so many things about teaching and LIFE are way beyond our control.
Well, just for laughs today, and because it's healthy to humble myself...I will make my Record of Foolery public. Here's something stupid I did:
A few days ago, I found a heart-shaped cake pan for 50 cents at the thrift store. I saw it and thought, "Hmm...I love my husband and son...why am I not making them cakes or cookie bars or quiches in the shape of a heart?! If I buy this pan and bake them cakes...then they will truly know how much love I feel for them!"
I found a "from scratch" recipe for chocolate cake online. I have never made cake "from scratch" before, but I am willing and eager to become a domestic goddess...and "from scratch" cake will only help to prove to my husband and son how much I love them. Noah's only 3, but he has such discerning tastes. ; )
Now, as if that line of logic wasn't foolish enough, here's where I went oh so wrong...
The recipe called for Self-Rising Flour. I looked at my bag of flour, All Purpose Flour, and said, "Good Enough!" I often do that with recipes...just substitute a hard to find ingredient for whatever I have. While that can have some awesome results (that I get to take praise for), this time it wasn't pretty!

Not sure if you can tell, but the cake has the thickness of a pancake. Oh! So that's why the recipe called for Self-Rising the flour would rise, by itself! Michael and Noah tried my Baked Chocolate Pancake, and I think they might have barfed a little when I wasn't looking. Definately retching noises were heard. I don't think this squishy, flat, ultra-concentrated, cocoa-flavored pancake conveyed the message of love I wanted to send. 
What important lessons have I learned?

1) Obviously, use Self-Rising or Cake Flour, dummy!
2) Confidence in the kitchen is one thing, but I have to remember that I have much to learn about so many things...including flour.

I feel much better now, having owned up. If you should happen to try out your own Record of Foolery, or if you already do something similar, I'd love to hear about it. You are absolutely not required to be as self-depreciating as I am, of course. ; )

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Erie Canal Hike with Noah

Lucky I am. I have Noah to go on adventures with me!
 Beautiful day today, and we hit the trails at the Erie Canal park in Camillus.

Noah next to the canal with requisite stick to jab the air. All boys do this thing with sticks, don't they?

While on the Clinton Ditch Trail, (not reffering to Bill or Hillary, presumably), we encountered an enchanted mushroom village. Surely fairies reside there, so we treaded lightly!

We selected large yellow and red leaves, tossed them into the water, and watched for a long time while they drifted off towards Buffalo.

My favorite find of the day was left behind by a chipmunk.
Cracks and hollow nuts shells... boats for Thumbelina and a friend.

Leaves are changing already. This tree, adorned with a ruby garland.
Happy Trails to you! ; )

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Namaste Beads

My journey into Craftiness continues!
 Here I am, modeling a pair of earings that I made All By Myself yesterday.
It should have been easy. I took apart a couple of old bracelets, used their beads, and wired it all together with my handy dandy jewelry tool (tiny, round-tipped plier things). Should have been simple. Yet, I quickly discovered why beaders/beadists/beadophiles(?) need those sticky little pads to rest their beads on. My beads were rolling all over the floor and the cats were chasing them and Noah was chasing the cats.
It was chaos, really.
I learn as I go with most things in life.
Can you see them better in this picture?
Perhaps I should have taken off the sunglasses.
These earrings have four small green beads, and a bigger turquoise bead in the middle.
There is a story to that goes with the turquoise beads. When Michael and I still lived in Gainesville and were going to school at UF, we were just starting to get into Eastern Religions and Yoga. We visited a Buddhist church/temple to hear a monk speak about Love and the Buddha. It may have been a Valentine's Day event. My friend Sandra may have gone with us. I'm not sure. I do remember enjoying the presentation he gave. But more than that, I remember admiring the architecture of the church. Beautiful wooden beams jutting towards the sky. An entire windowed-wall overlooking a path leading to a lush, mossy, green forest. Serene.
Anyways, the monk, and his entourage were hawking their wares afterwards. I remember being shocked when I saw their fold-out table in the foyer with necklaces and bracelets and semi-spiritual books for sale. I was under the impression that monks were minimalistic, that they were above and beyond the Material World. And I was disappointed in the monk. I may have clicked my tongue or shook my head disapprovingly. Then I felt guilty for being such a judgmental I had to BUY SOMETHING (to assuage the guilt, of course). I bought a bracelet with turquoise beads...hand-crafted by materialistic monks.
The End.
Namaste! ; )

Days of Rain and Books

I knew these days were coming. Days of rain followed by more rain, and then days of rain some more. It has cooled off here in the 'cuse, pssh... as if it ever warmed up. High of 59 yesterday, gray and wet. But I knew this was coming, so I had many adventures over the summer (see my Summer of Parks post). Now I exercise my patience. The clock ticks more slowly. I can't run around anymore, nature dictates:
I must rest.
It is time for doing what I love best- curling up on the couch, or in the comfy pink chair upstairs...with a book in one hand and a cup of something steamy in the other.
Get your fuzzy slippers on. Recline, baby!
May I recommend something to read for you? I like to read a short story or poetry while Noah naps. And novels in bed at night. You could check one of these out, and let me know what you think:

1) Runaway by Alice Munro...Short stories...her insights into human relationships impress me. Her writing seems so natural, flows, makes it seem like it would be easy to pick up a pen a write a book of short stories. But no, it's not.
2) Good Poems for Hard Times compiled by Garrison is what it says it is...good poems for hard times...and it's accessible poetry.
3) No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July...short stories...some twisted sex stuff here but a light shines through somehow. I don't know what I mean by that. This book made me feel a bit sick...but I am still compelled by it.
4) White Tiger by Aravind Adiga...novel...capitalism runs amok in India...very interesting narrator...if you're poor like me, or grew up in poverty, you may over-identify with the main character...and then be disturbed that you do...or maybe not, maybe that's just me. Best novel I've read all year!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Big Butt Bomb

The following (harrowing) cautionary tale serves to illustrate why the LeBlanc's need to live in a home with at least TWO BATHROOMS:
Late last night as I was getting out of the shower, tired, cranky, ready to curl up in bed with Margaret Atwood's new beloved husband, Michael, wandered in the bathroom and dropped the Big Butt Bomb on me. I'll see if I can recall the precise wording here:
Michael: Ha Ha, Hey Dona, I just remembered the first time I saw you naked. I was shocked by how big your butt is.
Madona (covering herself with extra-large towel): What?! Are you trying to be mean?! What!?
Michael(quickly back-pedaling): No, no, I just remembered that I wasn't prepared for you to have such a big ol' ghetto booty. I don't know why I couldn't tell with your clothes on.
Mad: I don't know why either. It's not 'ghetto!'
Mike: You call it 'ghetto', why can't I?
Mad(gritting teeth): Because.
Mike: I was glad when I saw how big it was. It just meant I was getting more bang for my buck!
Mad: didn't pay any bucks...

At this point in the story, Michael leaves the bathroom so that his marriage doesn' flushed.
Gentlemen, please, take my advice, don't use the words 'big' and 'butt' in the same sentence when referring to your lady. It doesn't matter if you like big butts (who doesn't?). It doesn't matter if your lady refers to her own butt as ghetto (which must be politically incorrect). And it certainly doesn't matter if it's the Gosh Honest Truth!
Fortunately, not only do I have a big butt, I also have a big heart...and I forgive my darling dear for his infraction (he'll pay somehow).
The LeBlancs need two bathrooms for privacy issues, obviously. But also because the current loo has been overtaken by squirty pirates and squeaky ducks.

Noah and Michael can share, and I will have my own lady room with undisturbed bubble baths, long luxurious lotion slathering, and fresh, sweet-smelling air to breathe. I can dream.
If you want to donate any monies to the Build Madona a Queenly Throne Room Fund...please do so right away. ; )

Gray Sea

Gray Sea