Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In My Kitchen: CSA Box from Double Oak Farm

I mentioned last week in my post about the Slow Food Garden at White River State Park that my family is participating in a CSA box subscription this summer.

What's a CSA box? CSA stands for community supported agriculture, and when you subscribe to a CSA program, you're supporting local farms by purchasing the fruits, veggies, herbs, etc., that they grow. It's sort of like showing up at the farmer's market each week, but letting someone else choose what you're buying.

Here in Columbus, Indiana, we're fortunate to have a local grocer (another way to each local!) called Double Oak Farm. This relatively new shop is organizing the CSA program we've subscribed to, and they get their produce from a variety of farms around southern Indiana. I chose to only purchase a 1/2 box, which is plenty for our family. Each Wednesday, I fill a bag and discover what tasty goodies we'll be enjoying. The folks at Double Oak write a cute blog where they suggest recipes or ideas as to what to do with all these fruits and veggies. But I've had lots of fun researching and experimenting on my own.

Last week, I realized I had two weeks worth of red potatoes (roughly two quarts) sitting on the counter. I thought they might make a great potato salad base, so I researched some recipes. And who can pass up a potato salad recipe from Paula Deen, the Queen of Southern cooking (and all things mayo). Shockingly, this is a rather light recipe. We really enjoyed it and found that it was even better the next day. I'm sure I'll make it again as it would be a great cookout pitch-in side dish.

On the sweeter side of things, the arrow and I have both fallen in love with smoothies for lunch each day. I just toss whatever fruit came in the box that week, add a banana, some ice, water, and a container of Greek yogurt and blend it up. Lately I've been adding some pureed baby food like carrots and squash to get some extra veggies in the arrow, and he doesn't even notice. It makes a great lunch for both of us, and I only have to make one thing. Plus, it's constantly changing. Last week, we had blackberry smoothies. This week, it's peaches. Mmmm...

I believe the cost breakdown of getting a 1/2 box each week is about $15 (I paid up front and so my math might be a little fuzzy). I've hardly had to buy any fruits or veggies beyond what comes in our box since we joined, so my family definitely comes out ahead financially. The CSA program at Double Oak is full this year, but if you live near or around Columbus, consider joining next year. Or just stop by their store or booth at the Saturday Farmer's Market and support their efforts.

If You Visit:
Double Oak Farms
1120 Washington Street, Columbus, Indiana
Open 8-7 Monday-Friday, 8-5 Saturday and 1-5 Sunday.
Insider Tip: If you live nearby, definitely "like" Double Oak Farm on Facebook. They are really active on Facebook and are constantly running sales or placing special orders (like fresh seafood). That's how I learned about the CSA program back in March.

This post is a part of Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust and Lipstick. This week, we're wandering the fertile fields of southern Indiana without leaving the house!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hiking at T.C. Steele State Historic Site

Our family experienced an exciting right of passage last weekend: our first hike without the backpack carrier. We had a sense from a previous long walk in the woods at Sodalis Nature Park a few weeks ago that the arrow was ready to hit the trail on his own two feet and we decided to test our theory at T.C. Steele State Historic Site in Brown County, Indiana. I wrote about our morning there for Visit Indiana last week.

Brown County has long been a favorite place for us to hike as a family (I've written about past hiking trips to Brown County State Park here). But the home of famous impressionist painter T.C. Steele was an even better location for the arrow's first "real" hiking experience. It featured flatter and shorter trails that were much easier for him to tackle. And yet because it's deep within the Hoosier National Forest, it's a beautiful spot.

We hit two of the trails: Wildflower Trail and the Trail of Silences. Each about 3/4 of a mile, there was some areas of steep incline and a few spots with challenging terrain, but he could either manage it himself or hitch a ride on dad's shoulders when it got too tough.

I loved watching him more deeply connect with nature. He could touch the leaves and pick up rocks. Can't do that while on dad's back.

I'll always love that carrier and I think baby wearing is great for traveling parents. It made hiking possible for our family back in his pre- and early-walking days. (And we'll use it again soon enough!) But it's nice to be free of that this summer.

Next week, I'll share some of our other favorite finds from the historic site.

If You Visit:
T.C. Steele State Historic Site
4220 T.C. Steele Rd., Nashville, Indiana
The site is open year round. Tours are available Tuesday-Saturday from 9 to 5 and Sundays from 1 to 5. Cost of a tour is $3.50 for adults and $2 for kids 12 and under.
Insider Tip: If you choose not to take a tour, visiting the site is free and you are welcome to roam the grounds. You can pick up a map/brochure outside the office building. We visited on a Sunday morning before they "really" open and were greeted warmly by staff. Plus, we had the place all to ourselves!

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Slow Food Garden at White River State Park

Slow food is all the rage these days, from crowded farmer's markets to restaurant menus that change weekly according to seasonal ingredients. While you're just as likely to see me in the McDonalds drive-thru for an Egg McMuffin (Baby Arrow's craving du jour), I'm dabbling a bit in the slow food trend myself this summer. More to come on that.

So I was quite interested in the newly established Slow Food Garden at White River State Park (I've mentioned that I was a part of a recent press trip to more thoroughly explore the park). This is the first project of an organization called Growing Places Indy, whose mission is to "cultivate the 'culture' of food and urban agriculture in the Indianapolis marketplace." Like I said, I'm no saint when it comes to food choices, but I applaud their efforts to get all of us thinking about what we put in our bodies. And its prominent location in a very public and popular Indianapolis park will do just that.

The project's leader, Laura Henderson, explained to us the garden's organization. It's divided into five large planted beds, which symbolize the 5 ways to eat local:
  • farmer's markets
  • gardening
  • restaurants that buy locally-produced food
  • CSA boxes
  • food cooperatives/neighborhood grocers.
A client that represents each of these "ways" has or will purchase the produce grown in that particular bed. For example, the bed representing farmer's markets is providing fruits, veggies and herbs that will be sold at the Wednesday Farmer's Market at nearby City Market. The beds are labeled so if you visit when staff are not there tending to the garden, you'll still know what's what. It's a beautiful spot to walk around in the already gorgeous setting of the White River State Park. Many of the varieties selected to be grown here were chosen because they are an heirloom, rare or endangered breed that organizers want to help preserve. (Who would have thought plants could go instinct?) My only critique of this great green space is that I wish the plants had been labeled so I knew what was growing.

I particularly like it's backdrop against the towering Indianapolis skyline. My picture doesn't really do it justice. Fruits and veggies really do grow just about anywhere. (Except my yard, apparently.) That's why the next time I'm in downtown Indy with the arrow, we'll definitely swing by to pay this garden a visit. Kudos to White River State Park for dedicating some prime real estate to this cause. I'm guessing that many a family who visits this summer will have similar conversations about food.

Next week, I'll be sharing my family's experience with our CSA box this summer, and a recipe or two. Don't know what a CSA box is? I guess you'll have to come back next Wednesday!

If You Visit:
Slow Food Garden
Located within the White River State Park (corner of West and Washington Streets), just between the Indiana State Museum and the Eiteljorg Museum.
Free of charge.
Insider Tip: There's a workshop held each Wednesday evening in the summer from 4-6 p.m. You can volunteer in the garden, or just ask questions and hear from a variety of experts who are often on-hand.

This post is a part of Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust and Lipstick.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lemons in our Lemonade

Since I am always writing about the fun things we've done and what a perfectly amazing time we've had at XYZ place, I think I'm long overdue for a "get real" post. The truth is, not all our outings or travel experiences go as planned and some are downright failures. Any family traveler will probably tell you the same. A few things have reminded me of that lately, and I thought I'd share how we made the best of it.

The Day of the Flat Tire
It was Good Friday, and school was in session but my husband had a rare weekday off. Off we headed for Wonderlab, a children's science lab in nearby Bloomington, Indiana. I've heard great things about Wonderlab and was excited to visit. Plus, Bloomington itself is a great college town (home of Indiana University), and I wanted to go someplace hip and cool for lunch. As we pulled out of the gas station a few miles from home, we instantly knew something was wrong. I had run over a razor at the gas station and my tire was completely shredded. This turned into a 2-hour process of trying to change it ourselves and eventually crying uncle and calling a tow truck. All in the pouring rain.

The bright side? We managed to pull the car into the parking lot of a big hotel here in town, and the arrow spent the entire time running around the lobby, indoor pool, banquet center and arcade. (Many, many thanks to the Holiday Inn here in Columbus for their very kind hospitality that day!) He kept calling the hotel a museum because he thought it was just our planned adventure for the day (ah, the innocence of two-year-olds!) While we waited on the tow truck, we treated ourselves to the fancy hotel breakfast (muddy clothes and all) and laughed about our fate. And, now I have material for a post on "What To Do When You Get a Flat Tire." As my husband said, only a blogger whips out the camera when the tire goes flat.

Eating the fancy yogurt parfait at the Holiday Inn.
The Camping Trip That Never Was
A few weeks ago we had planned a fun camping trip at Spring Mill State Park in southern Indiana. We've never been to this state park and it has so much to offer. Alas, first trimester misery intervened, and we canceled our plans.

The bright side? We got a lot of long overdue yard work done at home that weekend. Which has freed us up to have more guilt-free fun on subsequent weekends now that I'm feeling better. And our neighbors probably appreciated the improved curb appeal. Plus, if you have to cancel a vacation due to illness, pregnancy is a good cause.

The Swanky Press Trip Cut Short
Occasionally I get invited on short media or press trips organized by CVBs or attractions around Indiana because of my little gig with Visit Indiana (I write regular posts for the state's tourism blog, the Indiana Insider). I really enjoy these experiences (not just for the free fun, I swear) because I've met some great fellow travel writers and tourism folks that have really helped me learn this craft a little better. So I try to say yes whenever possible, even though it usually means scrambling around to arrange childcare for the arrow while I'm away (a shout-out to all the arrow's grandparents for being so supportive and flexible!)

This past week, I had planned to spend two days touring White River State Park, a really unique urban park in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. While I've visited some of the attractions in the past, on this trip we would be participating in museum tours led by staff, new experiences like a Segway ride, and a night in the swanky new J.W. Marriott hotel, which borders the park.

A view of the Indiana State Museum from the balcony
of the Eilteljorg Museum at White River State Park
Sounds great, right? It certainly was, until the arrow got very sick very quickly back at his grandparents' house. I literally ran out of Victory Field during the start of an Indianapolis Indians game to get to him as quickly as I could. He's fine now, but was pretty sick for about 24 hours and I missed most of the trip.

The bright side? I wasn't very far from my parents' house and was able to get to my little guy in a matter of minutes. Also, I did get to participate for most of the first day of the tour, so I have plenty of material to write about and share with you. Like the amazing garden they've planted at White River State Park, which I'll post about on Wednesday. So stay tuned.

And the best part of all? All these wonderful locations are an hour or two from home. Meaning they can remain on my to-see list for 2011.

What travel hiccups have you experienced? How did you find the bright side?

This post is a part of Mondays are for Dreaming at the Mother of All Trips. I'm dreaming of a rescheduled visit to Wonderlab, a weekend under the stars at Spring Mill State Park, and a Segway ride around White River State Park!

Friday, June 17, 2011

His future is so bright...

When dining al fresco in Florida, it's best to do as the Floridians do.

Wear shades. Even if you have to swipe them from your mom.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sodalis Nature Park

Two weeks ago, we met my sister's family (which includes my two other favorite arrows) and let them run wild exploring Sodalis Nature Park in suburban Indianapolis (Hendricks County, specifically). I described our visit and the park's features at the Indiana Insider last week. It's a great spot for hiking with kids, as the trails are flat and easy.

 I actually love that there are no playgrounds or basketball courts. Just kids freely roaming and enjoying Mother Nature's bounty.

Next time, we'll pack a picnic and share a meal in the shady picnic area. And dress the kids to splash in the creek. They'll love that!

Although I think they had a pretty good time, don't you?

If You Visit:
Sodalis Nature Park
7700 S. Co. Road 975 E., Plainfield, Indiana
Open dawn to dusk daily.
Free admission.
Insider Tip: The trails can get muddy if it has rained a lot, so dress accordingly or plan a visit during a dry period. There are port-o-potties near the parking lot.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Two Arrows Are Better Than One

Have you noticed things have been a little quiet around here lately? Well, that doesn't mean we didn't have exciting things going on...

But that excitement caused me to have to slow down a little bit. And being on the computer makes me nauseaus (actually, everything makes me nauseaus). For the most part, my laptop has sat on the coffee table collecting dust, instead of pumping out posts from its usual perch on my lap. And no doubt, I have temporarily given up on my In My Kitchen series (just opening the fridge typically sends me into a downward spiral). But I'm slowly getting back to full strength. Which is good, because...

There's another arrow on the way. Expected to make his or her debut in early December.

The arrow is shocked to learn he is not,
 in fact, the center of the universe.
We'll be back to writing about fun things we've been up to (and posting cute pictures of Big Brother Arrow, naturally). Just wanted to let you know why my belly might be getting bigger and bigger in some of those pictures as summer fades to fall.

PS: Currently accepting any and all tips on traveling with TWO kids!

This post is a part of Mondays are for Dreaming at The Mother of All Trips. I'm dreaming of feeling a little more energetic and enjoying one last summer full of adventure as a mom of one.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Indy 500 Wrap-Up

I promise I'll take a break from posting about my love for the Indy 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after today. (But if you didn't get enough, you'll find posts here and here.) Needless to say, it was a great weekend in Indianapolis, full of lots of excitement as the outcome came down to not just the last lap, but the very last turn! My husband even came home from the race with a little cash in his pocket (and a sun-burned face) because he drew lucky winner Dan Wheldon in his pool. Speaking of pool, the arrow swam all on his own with swimmies at his grandparents on race day. I was too busy squeeling with glee and enjoying the freedom of my own two arms to take any pictures, so you'll just have to trust me.

Two weeks ago, my mom kindly watched the arrow so that my dad and I could have a day at the track for the Fast Friday practice. It's the last practice before qualification weekend, so all the cars were out trying to pick up lots of speed. It was fun to watch, and as always, I loved wandering around this beautiful venue. This being the 100th anniversary of the race, it was particularly striking to reflect on its profound history. Here are a few of my favorite photos.

The pagoda from the infield.

 This giant column shows qualifying order and track position during the race

The fancy new cars that they'll race next year.

Next year, I hope to have the arrow join in us for a day at the track!

This post is a part of Things I Love Thursday at Diaper Diaries and Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.