The Natural Pantry--a look at their new store

I had to make a run to the city today and pick up our beef order, while I was there I decided to stop in to the Natural Pantry in their new location on 36th and C. Uh wow, it's beautiful inside and out. 
If you remember the old old Natural Pantry on Dimond (yes spell check there is NO a in Dimond blvd. thanks though) it was cramped, crowded and full of everything that made you want to spend a lot of time digging around for who knows what. Their old location, in a defunct Safeway on Old Seward, was not a pleasant shopping experience for me, it didn't flow well and it felt decrepit. It was still cramped and crowded with odd spaces that just felt weird to me. But whatever I guess it was a stop gap to this new store. 
Their new location built specifically for them is gorgeous. 

And so much space inside, I could really spend a lot longer here poking around, finding new products and spending quite a bit of money. They have it all from, seriously here folks, the Great Wall of Chocolate, to bulk foods, to housewares, dairy, pre made deli style foods to chips and snack bars and on and on and on. 
 E V E R Y T H I N G 

This was my second stop in the new store and I was honestly disappointed. What I had assumed were just odd "we've moved into our new space" issues, still persist. Such as there's a huge rolling cart full of half filled bags for the bulk department just sitting there blocking the ned of the aisle, the turn around into the next aisle and products was opened and sitting out like 50 pound bags of oats poorly put away. Now surely it can't be that on both single days I was in the store this cart was out so someone could fill the bulk bins, they looked full(ish) to me and there was no employee in sight who was earnestly putting away bulk items and rolling that huge cart out of the way. Around the corner in their bulk bag and food storage aisle was an absolute wreck, the last time I was there, nothing was priced and things seemed just stuffed into shelves, it took 20 minutes to get a price on one single 2 gallon bucket. This time it was worse, much worse, shipping boxes were ripped open and left empty and lying about, huge carts of product were just filling the aisle as if to say 'yeah we have stuff but in no way are we interested in selling it.' And this mess went on and on for the entire store, the house wares section was darn near impassable and if someone did manage to wedge themselves in, there was no room to go down that aisle too because you had to force the other person to keep moving towards an almost dead end with a narrow opening to squeeze through. 

The only section that seemed to be busy, clean and actually running right was the hot deli food section. A lot of folks were getting boxes of hot lunches to go, many were ordering foods and in general it seemed to be the only area of the store in good working order. Every other department had a 'don't shop here' feel to it with their crowded, dirty, unkempt, unfriendly and somewhat hostile unavailability of products and lack of employees, you could hardly shop them, even if you wanted to. 

I loved the old old crowded Natural Pantry with it's hippie dudes and granola girls, it felt like it was perfect, a nice mix of incense, organic flax meal and dried blueberries with some high as kite customers giggling over yogurt choices but with this huge new store I guess I expect more. I guess I wanted it to grow up with to go along with it's beautiful grown up new store. I expect a store that runs smoothly, has a room to put and KEEP back stock in and employees who are in attendance. You know that Whole Foods is coming for Anchorage, right? 

Will Natural Pantry sink or swim when that happens? I guess the answer is up to them, they have the loyal fan base, we WANT to shop there, but they need to learn that it's really hard to drop a couple of hundred bucks if I can't even get down the aisles. And sooner or later I'll just quit trying. 
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Let's Give Books This Year

Every year we give books as gifts, I like to think it's a great way to support a writer doing what they're supposed to be doing, writing books. If you live near a great local bookstore go shop there on Saturday and SUPPORT small local businesses. It's where we buy books whenever we can, we support them and in turn they support our community by providing us with a flourishing business downtown, an interesting store to pop into on a walk, book donations when needed for fundraising, it's a mutually beneficial relationship. When we walk into Fireside Books, our local book store, they always greet us by name, they let us browse and they also know when to step in and help us out. I heartily suggest you find a local bookstore to buy the books I'm about to recommend but if you don't have a local bookstore then by all means feel free to click the links in this post and order them via Amazon. These are all affiliate links and if you buy any of the books I earn a few pennies. But truly buy local please, support the small businesses who are supporting your communities. 

How to Cook Everything Fast Mark Bittman--Oh my goodness I want this book! I had the pleasure of browsing through this book and wow, it's just a dream book. It's specifically designed to get people cooking quickly by lining out the work according to what needs to be done next, not setting out everything prepped and ready to cook. So you can start one part, turn prepare the next bit while the first bit cooks and so on, SO HANDY. It's truly about efficiency and the recipes look amazing. 

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan--If you have anyone, boys or girls, on your gift list in the 8-12 set, who struggles with reading or has been labeled ADHD or Dyslexic or any other label these books are the perfect gift. Our son, 10 at the time, believed he couldn't read, it was frustrating because he's highly intelligent but thought he was dumb because reading didn't click for him. The fist chapter has the hero Percy feeling utterly defeated because "words swim in front of him", and our son felt like he had a kindred spirit in Percy. We started reading the books out loud to our sons and in the end our boy who "couldn't" read was reading them out loud to us and finishing the books before we did. He KNOWS he can read and is so very proud of it, he reads everything now. Great engaging stories!

The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Igguldon and Hal Igulldon--Put down the video game, take yourself outdoors and have some good old fashioned fun. Don't know how? No problem this book will show you step by step how to tie knots, catch fish and build a treehouse. We own and love this book and it's been the impetus for many many adventures and I hope it keeps on inspiring our boys as they grow older. 

The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J.Buchanan and Miriam Pesckowitz--I feel a bit silly listing it here because I only ever browsed through it on library duty in the school library, but I feel compelled to add it to this list, if only to say "Girls get off your phones and go play!" Well there I said it! This book is full of everything fun and daring for girls to do from building a campfire, to basketball to learning about palm reading. While looking through it I realized with a pang I wanted a girl, not enough to have another baby but still! I guess I'll wait for grand babies. 

What If? by Randall Munroe--Answering the most absurd hypothetical questions, anyone with a nine year old needs this book. We get random odd questions from our nine year old like if there was a fire on the moon how much would it weigh? I struggle to answer these questions without becoming frustrated and cranky, this book takes the absurd and gives them answers. I LOVE IT.

Zen Habits Handbook For Life by Leo Babauta--Do you read Zen Habits the blog by Leo Babauta? It's so calming, so, well I guess, Zen. No judgement, no harsh words just calm observations moving towards a better life, Zen Habits is just amazing. This is the perfect book for anyone caught up in life doing too much and not realizing how tangled up they are.

On the Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis--Food memoirs? I LOVE THEM and this was the best one I've read in a long time. It's full of little recipes, snippets of life in France, remodeling old homes, cookbook writing and loving the people around you even if they're hostile. Seriously a good sweet read that you won't want to put down.

French Farmhouse Cookbook by Susan Herrmann Loomis--The book being written in the book above. I read On the Rue Tatin first and it was only after I read it that realized I had gotten this book. I have enjoyed many hours browsing this cook book, lots of extra bits besides the recipes. 

The McGunnegal Chronicles books 1-3 by Ben Anderson--full disclosure they are a sponsor of this blog but we love these books, in fact we bought the books and read most of them BEFORE they became a sponsor on the blog--If you're looking to give the gift of high adventure to boys AND girls in the 8-16 range these books are what you've been looking for. A mirror that leads to other lands, goblins, leprechauns, kids, giants, Atlantis are all part of the amazing journey of the McGunnegals. I've read thousands of hours out loud to kids and these books are right up there with the best of the best.

Again I say support your local small bookstore but if you don't have one well then feel free to click through on these links and buy a few books.

Happy Reading!

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Thrifter Share and the Streetbank Challenge

A place to share your thrifted finds, whether you plan to keep, it sell it or give it, share it here first.

We're all thrifters here, we all buy the things we love, some we keep, some we sell, some of it we give as gifts, and some of it is stuff we shouldn't have picked up in the first place. It's inevitable really when you live the thrifting lifestyle that you'll end up with things you don't want or need. In the best of times those things get given back to thrift stores, then you have what happens to me, I like it enough to imagine it has some useful life with me. I pile stuff up, thinking someday I'll get it organized and put away nice and neat. I get used to seeing those things, they fit in after a while, and it's only until I start digging around that I realize that EW I have too much stuff. 

It seems I'm not alone, I know I'm not alone, a great many of us have too much stuff, even when it's bought second hand it's still costing us money and space and mental clutter. So the solution is two fold get rid of stuff and drastically reduce the amount of stuff being bought, new or used. Finding homes for items brought into the house is a great way to judge IF I need something, where will it live? What will I give up to have this? If the answers are I don't know and nothing well whatever I see that I love can't come home with me. 

But the stuff piling up at home, some of it is good and useful stuff, someone somewhere can use it! Enter Streetbank, they are a site that links up folks who have stuff with folks who need stuff. You can GIVE it to someone in need or LOAN it. You register with Streetbank, find local people by entering your address, access the lists of who needs what and boom you're actually benefiting people who truly have a need. They're not a lot of members in Alaska yet, well I signed up but no one else from here has signed up yet, but hopefully SOON there will be network of people recycling their unneeded items to people who need them. SO if you're local SIGN UP, so I can give you stuff, or borrow stuff from you! I have a wood chipper I only need some of the time and a three pot crock pot buffet system, both are listed to be loaned out. So sign up and put your extras to work??

But why post this on a thrifter share post? Because we buy stuff and sometimes we don't need it or can't sell or may need it occasionally, so why not share it?? And more importantly to invite you to join in on their Advent Challenge: Give Away One thing A Day Until Christmas. I'm in! In fact I'm SO IN that I'm starting tomorrow AND I wrangled my family into joining too! So as a family we'll be giving away an item everyday until Christmas Eve, although that donation will probably be dropped off the day before so it can be useful to someone. I plan to keep of list of the items we're donating and quite possibly I will snap photos too. I'll be sharing the list here of course just to keep myself honest and on top of it. Will you join in? I hope so!  And of course because there isn't anyone else up here using Streetbank YET I'll be leaving my items at the local thrift stores, several of them to spread the goodies around!

Now you may think I didn't get out thrifting this week and you'd be wrong, wrong, wrong but you'll have to come back NEXT week to find out what I bought. And I have sent out the email to the group of thrifters who want to host a Vintage Christmas Blog Hop with me, hope to hear back form you all. And if you want to be one of the hosts it's EASY (if I can do it you can do it! and I can walk you through it) and it's not too late! 
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Everything Butter

A recipe for Everything Butter, like an everything bagel but it doesn't explode when you bite into it and you can eat it on everything. 

The best/worst part of an everything bagel? The massive crazy amount of seeds and spice piled on it, it's what makes it an everything bagel and at the same time completely impossible to eat neatly. The taste of all the little bits of flavor working together make it quite a delectable bagel, the absolute explosion of seeds, dried garlic and minced onion that cover you, and anything you happen to be standing next to or above, makes for an annoying eating situation. Ever eat one while wearing a scarf? You've got to take it off and shake that thing out afterwards. And I think we're all in agreement that you should never eat one in your car or you'll be cleaning everything out of everywhere. Seriously tasty, seriously annoying. 

Enter Everything Butter.

Everything Butter brings all the toasty, tasty goodness of an everything bagel to any tidy piece of toast, with nary a flying seedy mess in sight. And that grumpy fit one child had over the last everything bagel being eaten will never, ever happen again, suddenly Everything Butter makes everything taste like an Everything Bagel. 

Everything Butter is packed with the best of everything bagels: sesame seeds, dried minced garlic, dried minced onion, dill seeds, caraway seeds, poppy seeds and pinch of salt. Use it to top potatoes, dinner rolls, cooked vegetables, squash and even grilled meats. And it's easy to make, you only need to plan ahead so the flavor has time to mature, one day is good, two is better. And use it up within a week. I think you could make this and give it for a present too, it really is that tasty. 

Everything Butter

1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 TBPS dill seeds
1 TBSP dried minced onion
1 TBSP poppy seeds
2 tsp dried minced garlic
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp of salt, optional 
1/2 cup of room temperature salted butter

using a heavy skillet over medium/low heat toast the sesame seeds
you don't need oil just pour them in the pan and set over the heat
give the pan a shake every few minutes while you gather up the rest of the ingredients
once they begin to brown add the rest of the ingredients except the butter and salt
continue toasting over low heat until the mixture is fragrant and most of the sesame seeds are various shades of brown 
once they get to this stage it's time to let them cool, honestly this is as hard as it gets, trying not to nibble the seeds mix while they cool
put the butter in a mixing bowl and give it an initial mix
once the seeds are cooled take a TBSP of the mix and set it aside
add the rest of the mix and the salt if using to the butter and gently use the mixer to incorporate them into the butter
once the seeds are mixed in and no pure yellow butter remains you're done mixing, you may need to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice before this happens
when you're done scrape the butter out onto a piece of plastic wrap and form it into a rough stick of butter, or a disk shape
wrap it in plastic wrap or wax paper and chill for 20 minutes
then take it out, unwrap it, roll it in the extra seeds to cover the outside
rewrap in fresh wax paper or plastic wrap
chill for two days for best flavor although it is ready to use right away

Ok I need a piece of toast, how about you??
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Through the Cat Door

We have two normal size cats and one mega sized dog, somehow the cats are more work than one dog. How can this be? I mean the dog is big and she lays around the house about 98% of the time, and when I say she lays around the house I mean she really lays around the house, ba-da-bump! Thank you thank you I'll be here all week. Anyway 2 cats weighing 8 pounds each make more trouble than one very large dog. 

Something crashes over in the middle of the night? Cats. Something is running up and down the stairs and waking everyone up? Cats. Someone is pushing open bedroom doors and bothering kids? Cats. Someone barfed? Cats. Someone left something dead on the doorstep? Cats. Someone brought in something not quite dead and played with it in front of company? Cats. Someone doesn't have a full  food bowl and yowls because the bottom is showing? Cats. The dog sleeps, eats, does her business and occasionally runs through the flock of chickens just to see if they're paying attention. She also scares the grunt out of people who tarry at the end of our driveway, in fact now that I mention no one seems to stroll by anymore. Hmm wonder if this face has anything to do with that?

But this post isn't about the dog, it's about the cats, and their nighttime habits. Both were rescues, unwanted if you will, and we welcomed them into our home as kittens. One came from the pound and one was smuggled in by our oldest son after he took her away from some kids who were hurting her at a party. We keep livestock so cats seem like a good idea, and really they are, I'm sure we'd have a huge vermin problem if we didn't have cats. 

One draw back to these cats is their personal night time style, one loves to be in at night but refuses to come in until the lights go off and then she absolutely insists on getting in. She will hang off window sills, check every door to see if she can squeeze in. She will hang spread eagle over the window of the room you are in if she thinks it will get her in. When you do open the door she refuses to come in and lingers as if the outdoors is so much more alluring than a safe warm house. Shut her out and it's back to terrorizing windows and door's weather strips, shredding anything that attempts to keep her out. 

The other charm boat waits unit two in the morning and then strolls out of wherever she's been snoozing and yowls long and loud to go out. It never stops until she's out. And I am here to tell you that even if you promise yourself "this time I'm going to be strong and not get up and let her out" once the yowling starts it will never end until she gets out. 

I got the brilliant idea to get a cat door. I buy one and it sits unused for months until we figure out how to install the dang thing, we have steel doors but ground level basement windows, somehow we'll make it work. It's finally installed and the cats have finally figured it out, which actually takes a lot longer than you would think. "Oh you want me to use that to go outside rather than chewing my way in through this heavy steel exterior door?" It's pure bliss not to have a cat stuck outside attempting to break and enter the residence, and the other cat can go out and nary a yowl do we hear. 

One week of awesome peace in our house. 

One week. 

And then they start to show up. Dead things. In the house. Voles, rotund mice-ish like animals with short tails. Shrews, scrawny mice-ish animals with long noses. And a very suspicious real mouse looking animal. All dead. All left strategically for us to find in our early morning routines. By the dog dish, lucky dog! On the rug by the washer. And in our mudroom. I believe we're up to 17 at this point and it's been six days. When we installed this cat door I was worried about what else might make itself welcome in our house, I never thought it would be something the brought in through the cat door. 

I'm just going to go ahead and assume they're thank you gifts because the cats love their new door so much. BUT I personally think it's STILL completely worth it because I never have to deal with a cat who wants to be on the other side of the door. If I have to pick up a few dead things every morning in exchange for a full nights sleep, I can live with that. 

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Meal Plan Time

When it gets closer to a "food holiday" I feel like I need a meal plan, more than any other time of the year. Except if we're broke then I think that's the ultimate time for a meal plan. But food centric holidays, when the food is wedged in the fridge like a master tetris player stacked the blocks just right for maximum drop, come in a close second or maybe even an equal tie. For us I guess I'm talking mainly about Thanksgiving, Christmas and probably Fourth of July too, days when we're having specific food made for a gathering of friends or family.

The Scenario:

Thanksgiving. Any Year. Anytown USA.

You do the shopping, get everything home, put it all away and feel like an olympic athlete who completed a grueling 4 hour workout complete with screaming children who don't belong to you and grocery bags that fail while holding a 20 pound turkey.  You're getting ready for company coming over, oh you know just doing those insane tasks like cleaning THAT closet that never gets used 'but just might get used so I better straighten it out', you're 2 hours into a 15 minute spot clean, suddenly one of your children, that one that's always hungry groans out a "what's for dinner?" Your head spins, eyes cross, you see red but then, then your eyes come to rest on that scribbled slip of a meal plan and you see "crispy baked burritos" and the night is saved. You set the hungry one to starting dinner, the other child can set the table while you finish whatever crazy task you set for yourself and life is good. Disaster averted, children being helpful, things getting done, life is good. 

 Lives have been saved by this scribbled meal plan. 

So I'm writing this now and going oh yeah I need a meal plan, not some vague I think I'll do _____ or ______ but a real meal plan so what I make on Monday doesn't actually use something I need for Thursday because if there is one place I never want to be is the grocery store, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, in a small town. There's no way I want to use up a special ingredient just because I didn't have a plan, so a plan I must have. And while I'm planning I'll add in those things I need to make beforehand so not only are we not eating any of the specialty items but I'm actually making a plan to get major food prep done too. 

Friday-pizza night, fresh veggies, green salad 

Saturday-pierogies, homemade second attempt post coming soon-(get out your stretch pants!)--retrieve turkey from the freezer and set to thawing

Sunday-Roast-probably actually a pot roast which will give us dinner Monday as well, roasted fall vegetables, green salad--make pie crusts, flatten and freeze for pie making 

Monday-Beef vegetable soup with rice OR Beef Shepherds Pie, green salad, roasted green beans--bake pumpkin roll

Tuesday-Crispy Baked Burritos, Mexi Tots(!!!), salad with salsa--make cheese sauce, make mashed potatoes

Wednesday-Pesto Glazed Salmon, rice, steamed veggies, green salad--roast cabbage, make pies

Thursday-Turkey and so much food! pie, pie, pie, pie, pie, pie, pie, pie, pie, pie, pie, pie, pie, pie,  





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