Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day


     Earth day is every day, for us anyway. We take great pains to recycle, cut down waste, and live as organically as possible. We don't do this because we're trying to prove anything. We do it because it matters, to us and everyone. If you're waiting for "the other guy" to care about your environment for you, you'll be waiting a long time.

     Take charge of your life and how you live in your world. Use today as a spring board. Start something you've been meaning to start. Start making laundry soap, log on and sign up for Garbage  to Garden composting, start planning out your garden and then just roll with it.

I promise it will make you feel empowered, it will make you feel like a contributing member of our world and it will make you feel good!

Good Luck!

Simple City Sam

Saturday, April 20, 2013


     It's not terribly fragrant, but ever since I was small, living in the Caribbean, it has been one of my favorite flowers. It is simple in appearance, yet complex in structure, beautiful, yet rugged. It is also one of a few 13-letter words in the English language, I think that's pretty cool. All in all, I'm very happy to have so much of it around!

Simple City Sam

Thursday, April 18, 2013


     I am here, at my brother's beautiful home, in complete quiet, watching the sky gently fade from it's deep darkness to a beautiful soft brightness. The melodies of various birds are beginning to fill the air along with a gentle breeze. It's only 5:30 am but I've been up for hours now. No, it's not jet lag. I'm a mom for crying out loud- the only species other than cats that can fall asleep instantly, anywhere, anytime, in almost any position. It's because we're all anxiously waiting to hear if we'll get to meet our newest family member soon.

     I'm trying to be patient, but as many of you know that's not my strong suit. So, I'm trying to do something that is my strong suit: keeping things simple and maybe bringing in a little unexpected happiness. Let's be real new parents are on cloud nine so my "little happiness" will go un-notice...or at least I sort of hope so.

     I've been puttering around all morning. I've taken out the trash, washed the dishes, and counters, taken the dogs out, made some tea, planned a few dinners, made a grocery list...blogged. Anything to keep myself busy. I am doing this because their house is a mess? Absolutely not, in fact it is far from it. The home is tidy, clean, and shows a family with respect for themselves and their neighbors lives here. Rather, I need something to occupy my time.

     I mean really, how many of you are moms or dads? Was taking out the trash or washing a few straggling dishes top of your "to do" list? It sure wasn't on mine when my babies were brand new! Those were the things that would actually put more pressure on me. Why couldn't I maintain my home as I had been? Why did I somehow not even notice that the dog was "crossing his legs" in a plea for piddling? Because I had a bigger mission, a more engulfing mission. I was a new mom. It didn't mean I was neglecting my other responsibilities (or pets) I just meant I was trying to be the best mom I could be, and that's a hell of a learning curve you've got to fight there!

     So I will continue to putter, and I will make a few dinners when they get home, and usher friends and neighbors away politely and nonchalantly when I see the new parents getting overwhelmed but are too warm and wonderful to ask for space. Heck, I'm even going to explore this beautiful island pseudo-solo (I do know and love my sis-in-law's family too) whether they ask for space or not.

     That's part of the happy, simple plan. Make it easy for them without them even knowing it. I don't want to add to their new stress levels by making them feel like I thought their home was unkempt, or they somehow were in dire need of me. They are more than capable to handle all of it, but that would defeat the whole purpose. Believe it or not sometimes anonymity in kindness can be even more rewarding!

Wish them luck, and I'll keep you posted!

Simple City Sam

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Local Eats

     My favorite part of traveling is food! Ok, that's my favorite part of any place. But, seriously I love trying local favorites and something new. Brother and his beautiful wife brought me to Shiro's, on Oahu. They make, what he related to me-the novice- as really fancy ramen. It was accurate but didn't really give this meal  justice. There were over 100 menu items and over 50 sai min noodles combinations. I went with veggie with hot and spicy broth and it was freaking amazing! I brought more of it home than I ate and I left stuffed! Perfectly cooked noodles, tofu, tomato egg, mushrooms, cabbage and more in a deliciously delicate broth. I NEED this at home.

I can see why it is one of their favorite places, as well as a Hawaiian institution!

Simple City Sam

Monday, April 15, 2013

Getting Through Security

At this point we all know to wear easily removed shoes and have our IDs in hand. But now that "carry on" bags about as big as a 12 year old, security can still be a pain. Here's a tip. Keep 2 small plastic containers. One for the jewelry you're taking with you. The other empty, for you to put your personal items in prior to the security line. Be proactive! Also keep all your liquids (all 3 oz each) in a clear Ziploc bag. They all need to he inspected this way now, so cut them off at the pass and save yourself some time.

No mess, no hassle.

Simple City Sam

Friday, April 12, 2013

Strawberry Syrup, Simple

     Organic strawberries were on sale this week so I took advantage. I could tell they weren't all going to make it too long. I wanted to do something different than just freezing them, which is what I would normally do, so I opted for a fresh simple syrup...sort of. Simple syrups (often found in cocktails) are made with equal parts sugar and water. It is heated on a stove to a boil until all sugar is dissolved. Then it cools and can be used in a variety of ways. They are also very easy to infuse, as you can toss in just about anything during the boiling/dissolving period.

     I went for more of a "sweated" strawberry sauce. It involves far less effort, if possible. Halve the strawberries.

     This is quite easy when you have someone ever-eager to practice her knife skills.

     I know child labor is "illegal" and "unfair" but in this house I'm all for it. 
     Add half a cup of sugar, raw sugar ill work too it will just take longer to break down.
     Gently mix together.
     She's got good form!
     Go ahead, I dare you not to steal one.
     Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. As the added sugar and the natural sugars in the berries begin to break down the plastic wrap will keep all of the goodness locked in and the strawberries will essentially sweat themselves.
     Ours actually sat for close to 48 hours before we used it. We poured it over homemade banana "ice cream", pumpkin bread pudding, and I added some to a cocktail (or two).
     So yummy! The berries were juicy and soft and the syrup was perfect!
It's hard to go wrong with strawberries and sugar.
Simple City Sam

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pineapple Currently In Progress

      We heard about being able to plant your own pineapple just from the crown of a whole pineapple. I checked it out online (go here for the best info I've found) and sure enough, "they" say it can be done. So I decide it would be a great experiment for the girls. This is a long haul process and won't actually fruit for another two years, even if we do it right, according to my research.
     Pop the top (the crown) off the pineapple. Cut and store the pineapple as you would with any of your prepped produce.
     Remove some of the leaves from the stem; go about an inch up before you stop.

     Skewer that baby and put it in a small cup with water. A lot of the pieces I read about this process suggested using toothpicks in the sides of the pineapple to support it. I have no idea how that would work, those pineapple crowns are rugged! We used corn on the cob picks and they worked like a charm! Freshen and/or change the water regularly and keep in direct sunlight.
     After about two weeks we had some great roots starting to show.
     We let it go for a total of about 3 weeks and then planted it on one of the first beautifully sunny days we had all season. It's always better to plant, even if in a pot, outdoors. It can just be so messy especially if children are involved...and mine always are.
     A nice sized pot with proper drainage is needed. We will end up re-potting further down the line but it's still important for it to have plenty of room now. 
     Gently plant up to the leaves and, again, keep in direct sunlight. As always, many hands make light work.
     Water weekly for about the next 2 years is what I've read. So we will go from here. Wish us luck and I'll keep you posted periodically. I'm also going to try for a visit to a pineapple field while visiting Hawai'i, maybe I can get some inspiration for the journey. I'll let you know how that goes too!
Until then, we'll just continue with our pineapple currently in progress.
Simple City Sam

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hawai'i, Part 1

     A pile of my brother's baby things my mom has been saving for him, a homemade baby blanket (made by my daughter, my mom, and yours truly), a cute sun hat, a giant police car puzzle, a borrowed book for the plane and a new swim suit... 
     There may be a few things left to pack, but I feel like I've nailed it! I leave in 10 days and am so excited! Now my sister-in-law just needs to have the baby...Auntie Sam is ready for snuggles.
Stay tuned for more simplicity posts about traveling and the trip (and new babies)!
Simple City Sam

Thursday, April 4, 2013

One Pot Spaghetti & Meatballs

      So, meatballs are one of those items that I really love to have in the deep freeze. When there is a special on ground beef at the Farmer's Market we always stock up. I make some into meatballs and freeze them right away. They are ideal for a quick, inexpensive meal or for vamping up leftovers. I like to consider it my take on my mom's infamous "911 Meatballs"...a stashed bag of frozen meatballs that could be pulled at a moments notice and feed a hungry Italian mob. My young cousin coined the name and it stuck.
     As with any recipe I urge you to change it, even if slightly, to accommodate your own unique tastes, that's what cooking is all about.
1 lb ground beef (can use pork or other ground meat sub if preferred)
up to 3/4 cup bread crumbs (seasoned or not)
1 egg
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped onion (almost minced really)
seasoning of can make them spicy or traditional or any flavor at all. I usually stick to salt, pepper, oregano, maybe some rosemary or sage. We keep it basic knowing they are for future meals and we can jazz up sauces easier than trying to accommodate uniquely flavored meatballs later down the line.
Combine beef, 1/4 cup bread crumbs, garlic, onions and egg. Use your hands, I guarantee they are the best tool you have! Slowly add more bread crumbs, mixing as you go. Stop when you get to a "doughy" consistency. You want the ingredients to be activated and bind together. Grab a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) and roll by hand into balls. Tip: If the mixture sticks to your hands just wet your palms with water.
Place on a baking sheet and lightly drizzle with oil. Bake in a 350 deg F preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool. Store and freeze.
When you are ready to use them pull the container from the freezer and let thaw.
     Place desired number of meatballs into a pot then add your sauce, this way you don't splatter yourself adding meatballs to sauce. Cook on medium until meatballs are warm throughout, roughly 15-20 minutes. I like to set it on low and let it come up to temp slowly so I can multitask and forget about it for a little while.
     Now I like to use this to jazz up leftover spaghetti that had no sauce (a common occurrence in our house...I always make extra pasta). So at this point I just add the leftover spaghetti to the pot and let it cook a little longer.
 If you didn't have leftover pasta it would be very easy to boil spaghetti in the pot first and then reserve the spaghetti to the side in the colander thus resuming use of the one pot. And for you sticklers out there, no, I'm not counting the colander as a "pot", so there.
         It's not always pretty in the pot but it is always so delicious!
     Minimal clean up and happy kiddos make me love this meal to the utmost. Of course cost savings and supreme ease don't hurt either.
Mangia, Mangia!
Simple City Sam 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Traveling Tales

      As I've mentioned before, we love the Children's Museum and Theatre of Maine. It is my go to location when we want to kill a few hours, and the kids request going there all the time. I'm only too happy to oblige seeing as we are members (thanks GG for the amazing Christmas gift!) which means our admission is covered. I HIGHLY recommend membership! A family membership is $95 for the year for unlimited admission, access on member only days, and discounts on events and shows. The exhibits focus on local communities and business. In addition they put up a handful of theatre productions each season and offer countless other activities throughout the year (like the Egg Hunt).
     We have also recently discovered their "Traveling Tales" program. This program allows you to "borrow" an activity back pack for 10 days. Each pack (there were 8 to choose from I believe, though some were already "checked out") has a specified theme, identified by a laminated card on the pack. Some recent themes included current Muslim holidays, dinosaurs, local food discovery, etc.
     For us the dinosaur back pack was a clear choice!
     The pack contained a fun new book to read, 12 plastic dinos, 6 stuffed "puppet" dinos, and a set of activity instructions. All of the activities involved an element of imagination and play.
     Some were more challenging than others. We didn't even attempt the homemade plaster and "Dino Dig" activity for our age group...but believe me, we will do that in the future on our own! 
     We did most of the other activities, including our own puppet show spun off from the book included, dino rhyming games, and ice cream dino eggs, to name a few! Of course there was a ton time spent just playing with the dinos - a toy I've come to realize is lacking in our house.
     Those ice cream dino eggs were a big hit though! We shaped ice cream into rough eggs and let them re-freeze. Then we rolled them in sprinkles and let them re-freeze again. Voila! Delicious dino eggs!! 
     The girls were so excited! This desert treat lasted several days and was all they could talk about for as long too!
Another successful adventure from the Children's Museum!
Simple City Sam

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Weekend

     We had an amazing weekend! Fun was had by all. We celebrated with friends and family, ate a ton of food, and I didn't buy a single gift. I know, the nerve of me! Again trying to teach my kids through action that spending time is better than spending money.
     Friday night Grammy came over for a sleep over. This is easily one of the girls' favorite things. There's no way to stop a Grammy from buying gift, but Mom is great and sticks to new clothes and maybe a movie! Of course the rest of the night is dinner and watching said movie. The girls got to stay up late and Grammy camped out in their room. They couldn't have been happier.
     Saturday was the Egg Hunt at the Children's Museum and Theater of Maine. They opened the door an hour early and hid 750 eggs! We asked the girls to find as many as they could but to only keep 10. That way they shared with their friends, spent time really looking for eggs, and didn't come home with a ridiculous amount of junk and candy.
     Playing was more fun than finding eggs most of the time!
     They still came away with a  satisfying haul. Because we're members of the Museum (a gift we received at Christmas) the whole thing cost us $12.
     Sunday morning was full of smiles and giggles and "Mommy, take our picture!" requests.
     I saved egg decorating for Sunday morning to have something to buy time before heading to our Auntie's for brunch.
We went for "crackled" eggs. Crack the shells of the hard boiled eggs, soak them in water and food coloring and then peel the shell off.
     We brought them to Auntie's house to have something to occupy their time while the grown ups visited.
     They were cool, and would have definitely been darker if we'd let them soak longer, but that wasn't the point.
     Of course they were spoiled there as well. Mimi treated them with presents too, also thankfully sticking to new outfits.
     All in all the weekend was, "super awesome". I'll take that!
It was also a simple weekend of celebration and happiness, which is what I'm always looking for!
Simple City Sam