Friday, April 26, 2013

Screen Free Week

With this beautiful weather, it's the perfect time to unplug!  Doesn't it sound liberating?  A whole week without screens?  We will be doing it here!  Only official business will drag us to our screens, and other than that, we will be playing, reading, eating, and generally having a great time!  See you in a week!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pardon our Construction!

We are doing a little site re-design over the next couple of days!  Looking forward to some more great posts.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Everyday Ways We Care for the Earth

I enjoy a closeness to the earth and feel happy when I treat it respectfully. In fact, I think I'm at my best when out of doors.

One of the first things God told Adam and Eve was to take good care of the earth. I believe that instruction is still in force (and in our culture of convenience, it's harder to do!). I am glad for society's increased focus on caring for this important part of our collective stewardship.

My heart's long-term goal is sustainability. Though there are many changes I can't make right now (driving an eco-friendly car, using solar panels, owning my own jersey cow, etc.), I am constantly looking for little things I can learn to do. Here are some simple things we do at our house to make a small difference (many of these things are also easier on the body and the pocketbook!).

Eggshells ground
for compost
  • Grow some of our own food. When we give to the earth, she gives back. I try to give the children a chance to help in the garden, even though it can be risky business. One day when I have a little more space, I think it would be fun to give each child his/her very own grow box to nurture.
  • Compost! When I've stopped adding to my composter, I throw my kitchen scraps behind a little bush in the front yard. Eventually something beautiful will grow there. :)
  • Cloth diaper. Here's how we do it.
  • Use our Sun Oven. All you need is direct sunlight.
  • We try to support "green" companies (especially in purchasing items for children).
  • Favor farmers who grow their animals sustainably and use organic methods.
  • When we go out walking or to the park (or anywhere outdoors), we carry along a little bucket or two to pick up trash.
Sometimes you come home with a prize,
like this old abandoned baseball Sammy found.

  • Bring cloth shopping bags to the store.
  • I reuse produce bags, jars, rubber bands, twisty ties, aluminum foil, anything plastic.
  • Reuse other people's stuff (yard sales, Craigslist, hand-me-downs, etc...).
  • Repurpose clothing and other items instead of buying something new. What do they say? "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."  
  • We always try to fix something ourselves before having it repaired or replaced.
  • Use a water filtration system (as opposed to buying plastic jugs) and stainless steel water bottles.
  • Buy paper products made of 100% recycled material (80% post-consumer).
  • We tend to use washcloths and kitchen towels in place of paper towels. I generally have a towel for drying hands, another for drying dishes, and another for cleaning spills/wiping the floor. Each gets demoted in turn.

  • Turn out the lights and unplug when we're not using an appliance or device. Even if the power is off, electricity is still flowing if it's plugged in.
  • Use high-efficiency light bulbs.
  • Hang dry. It adds about 10 minutes to laundry time, but I feel good about it when I do it. The dryer is a huge energy sucker.
  • Use blinds, drapes, windows, and doors to moderate temperatures. The A/C and heater are never our go-tos.
  • Support local businesses and farmers (to avoid shipping food and products from across the world). When we have a choice, we buy products made in the states.
  • Shower minimally. If I don't need to wash my hair, I turn the shower on a trickle, wash the important parts, and I'm outta there. Weaning my hair off shampoo started saving me quite a lot of water.
  • My boys probably only bathe once a week. Otherwise, we just wash hands, faces, hands, and other parts as necessary.
  • Spot clean clothes to avoid over-laundering.
  • Plan errands consciously to reduce emissions as well as conserve gas and oil.

  • We chose an eco-friendly paint when we recently repainted the bunk beds, crib, and upcycled a garden box into a sandbox.
  • For general household cleaning, we use baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds, Charlie's Soap, and Biokleen Bac-Out. Anything you let run down a drain will end up somewhere in the earth.
  • For the same reason, I also use gentle laundry cleaners, currently favoring Charlie's Soap, Naturoli Soap Nuts, and occasionally Oxygen Bleach. In place of fabric softeners and dryer sheets, I use wool dryer balls (when we don't hang dry).
  • We also use safe body products (two separate links there). Since I wrote that latter post, I've fallen in love with Earthpaste for toothpaste. I never knew what clean teeth felt like until I used it. :)
  • Avoid plastic. It is not all recyclable, and some of it will just end up in the ocean. Plus, even if it's BPA and phthalate-free, you really never know what else might be lurking. Along these lines:
    • I make most everything myself, including condiments, which saves me from buying more plastic.
    • To buy produce packed in plastic boxes seems like such a waste to me.
    • For food storage on a small scale, we use glass exclusively.
    • Use compostable trash liners in the kitchen garbage.
    • Once we do have plastic, I basically reuse it to death!

Wherever possible, we buy organic, which has many benefits for the earth. Among other things, organic methods sustain nutrient-rich soil, do not cause chemical contamination, and maintain better balance in the ecosystem. Up until several decades ago, everybody ate organic, right? It was the only way.

I love the earth. I'm sad about the many pollutants and toxins (here and here, for example) that plague both the earth and our bodies, and though I know that one day the earth will be cleansed and purified, I want to do everything I can to make a difference in the meantime. While it's true that my children will inherit the earth as I leave it, they will also inherit my love and respect for it. I think that's more important.

Happy Earth Day 2013! Let's celebrate it every day of the year.

What are some of the simple things you do to take care of the earth every day?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Well, it Ain't Pretty

I feel like I've spent way too much time sorting little tiny shorts/shirts/socks/shoes/underwear/jackets/hats/etc around in storage bins.  Every time a child grows or the seasons change (so... about once a month), I felt like I was somehow getting out all my bins, and sorting and re-sorting.

And, I'm happy to say: I finally found a solution that works really well for me!  I mentioned a while ago that I was going to share it here, but I hesitated for a long time because, well, it ain't pretty.  So if you're looking for the prettiest solution, you've come to the wrong place.  If you want something really easy and functional, read on!
Thank you, Vanna.
I found these awesome storage bags at the Dollar Tree.
They also come in XL and L.  I always buy XXL when it's available.

Here is why I use them (starting with the most awesome reason of all):

  • No more finding a place for clothes every time they need to be put away!  Leave the label inside and tuck it in my closet when it's not in use; it doesn't take any space!
  • They're cheap
  • Easy to label
  • Easy to see what's inside
  • When filled, they only take up as much space as the clothes
  • They're more air-tight than storage bins
  • Easy to stock up on so I don't have to go re-invent storage solutions every time my kids grow
If you wanted to pretty them up, I'm sure you could find some nice printable labels.  I have a big attic to toss things in when I'm all done, buy you could easily put these inside storage bins if you need something stackable.  Or if you have closet space, they have a handle you could hang them by!
Thanks, Vanny.
XXL, XL, L sized bags
As for our clothes when they're in use, as soon as my kiddos are three, they are responsible for putting all their clothes away after use.  The shirts are hung, and the pants are folded and put into drawers.  They put their underwear and socks away after they are washed.  They take their dirty laundry downstairs.  I hang the clean clothes up after they're washed.  Maybe when he's five, my oldest will do that too.

Clothes hung where my kids can hang them themselves.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Gardening 2.0

Last year, I planted a tiny garden, and was so happy with the results!  I did no research, I just planted a few things and was endlessly proud of every harvested cucumber and tomato.  This year, we're doing a major overhaul of our yard, and I'm putting in raised beds.
My yard right before we took out all that brush. This way you'll be super impressed when I post "after" pictures.
I know it's a little late to be starting, but that's how it is.  You can see I have a bit of work to do!  I've been doing my homework this time, and I have found quite a cheap way to build the beds.  I'll post a tutorial if it works out. I will be loosely following square foot gardening.

I'm buying seeds at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

I also found this awesome (and free!) website to help plan my garden.  I am very excited.  You will definitely be seeing the progress.
One thing I haven't found is a really great place online that lists what plants grow the best near me in the DC area.  Anyone have a recommendation?

I did find that a local university gives free gardening classes throughout the year; I'll definitely be taking advantage of some of those!

What's your favorite seed catalogue?  What other online gardening resources do you recommend? I'm just getting started, and I take all the help I can get!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

100 Ways to Be Kind to Your Child

I saw this lovely list the other day and thought you might enjoy it too.  It comes from Alissa at Creative With Kids.  She includes a free printable at the link if you would like a hard copy.

100 Ways to be Kind to your Child
Tell to your child:
1. I love you.
2. I love you no matter what.
3. I love you even when you are angry at me.
4. I love you even when I am angry with you.
5. I love you when you are far way.  My love for you can reach you wherever you are.
6. If I could pick any 4 year old (5 year old, 6 year old…) in the whole wide world, I’d pick you.
7. I love you to the moon and then around the stars and back again.
8. Thank you.
9. I enjoyed playing with you today.
10. My favorite part of the day was when I was with you and we _______.

Tell them:
11. The story of their birth or adoption.
12. About how you cuddled them when they were a baby.
13. The story of their name.
14. A story about yourself when you were their age.
15. The story of how their grandparents met.
16. What your favorite color is.
17. That sometimes you struggle too.
18. That when you’re holding hands and you give three squeezes, it’s a secret code that means, “I love you”.
19. What the plan is.
20. What you’re doing right now.
21. Freeze Tag
22. Uno
23. Crazy 8s
24. Gin Rummy
25. Memory
26. Go Fish
27. I Spy- especially when you’re tired of driving and feel snappish
28. Catch
29. To catch their kiss and put it on your cheek.
30. That their tickle tank is empty and you have to fill it.
31. That their high five is so powerful it nearly knocks you over.
32. That you are super ticklish.
33. That you are explorers in the amazing world of your own backyard.
34. That it’s party day!

35. To get enough sleep.
36. To drink enough water.
37. To eat decent food.
38. Dressing in a way that makes you feel confident and comfortable.
39. Calling a friend the next time you feel like you are about to lose it with the kids.
40. Giving a gentle touch to show approval, rather than saying something.
41. Dancing in the kitchen.
42. To get your kids to bop to the music with you in the car.
43. Showing your kids that you can do a somersault or handstand or a cartwheel.
44. Keeping the sigh to yourself.  Just jump in and help clean up.
45. Using a kind voice, even if you have to fake it.
46. A book of silly poems.
47. A book and then act it out. (Like “I’m going on a Bear Hunt”)
48. Your favorite childhood book to them.
49. When the afternoon is starting to go astray.
50. Outside under a tree.
51. In the library kids corner.
52. The comic book they love that you’re not so hot on.
53. About age appropriate behavior so you can keep your expectations realistic.
54. To your child in the car.
55. To that Lego description, and think how important it is to your child.
56. For that question that indicates your child really needs your input.
57. One second longer than you think you have patience for.
58. For the feelings behind your child’s words.
59. Why do you think that happens?
60. What do you think would happen if______?
61. How shall we find out?
62. What are you thinking about?
63. What was your favorite part of the day?
64. What do you think this tastes like?
65. Your child how to do something instead of banning them from it.
66. How to whistle with a blade of grass.
67. How to shuffle cards- make a bridge if you can!
68. How to cut food.
69. How to fold laundry.
70. How to look up information when you don’t know the answer.
71. Affection to your spouse.
72. That taking care of yourself is important.
Take Time:
73. To watch construction sites.
74. To look at the birds.
75. To allow your child to help you dump ingredients in the bowl.
76. To walk places together.
77. To dig in the dirt together.
78. To do a task at your child’s pace.
79. To just sit with you child while they play.
80. That your child is capable.
81. That you are the right parent for your child.
82. That you are enough.
83. That you can do what is right for your family.
Delight your child:
84. Clean your child’s room as a surprise.
85. Put chocolate chips in the pancakes.
86. Put a love note in their lunch.
87. Make their snack into a smile face shape.
88. Make sounds effects while you help them do something.
89. Sit on the floor with them to play.
Let Go:
90. Of the guilt.
91. Of how you thought it was going to be.
92. Of your need to be right.
93. A kind look.
94. A smile when your child walks into the room.
95. A kind touch back when your child touches you.
96. The chance to connect before you correct so that your child can actually hear your words.
97. Your child a chance to work out their frustrations before helping them.
98. A bath when the day feels long.
99. A hug.

100. You get to choose the next one!  What is your favorite way to be kind to your child?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Eat Your Kidney

The little farm where I get my milk, pastured meat (including beef liver, and heart), and corn/soy free eggs from pastured chickens, has started selling beef kidney! I was so pleased to find this! Kidney is an excellent source for myriad minerals, including copper and zinc. I have been reading a lot about these two minerals specifically lately, and have found what I believe to be two of the sources of problems I have in pregnancy.

Perhaps I'll write a post about that sometime. In the mean time, the following is a sample of what we had for dinner tonight, kidney included.

Beef Kidney Sausage with Fennel and Mashed Potatoes with Creamy Mushroom and (mock) Wine Reduction

Beef Kidney Sausage:

1 beef kidney
1 lb ground pastured beef
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup sprouted spelt flour
1 tsp. sage
1/4 tsp. rosemary
pinch basil powdered (you can powder dried herbs by taking a pinch in your fingers, and with hard pressure, rubbing your fingers together.)
sea salt
cracked pepper

2 tblsp butter
2 tblsp olive oil


Soak one kidney for 1 1/2-2  hours in a bowl with 1/4 cup vinegar, and enough water to just cover the kidney.

At some point durring this soaking process mix the flour with the herbs, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

When the soaking is finished, cut the flesh away from the fat in the center of the kidney. Apparently this fat is very valuable, I personally have never used it. (If anyone experiments with this, let me know!!) Toss the kidney into the blender to grind. Mix ground kidney with ground beef, and 1 tsp sea salt. Form into patties of what ever size you'd like, and dredge the patties in the herbed flour.

In a skillet heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Cook the sausage patties on medium, or even lower heat. Slower cooking at lower heat makes the meat more digestible.


Creamy Mushroom and (mock) Wine Reduction:

2 cups sliced mushrooms (Any mushrooms will do, but different mushrooms will vary recipe flavor. I used crimini.)
1 onion, diced
2 tblsp butter
3/4 cup cream
1/4 balsamic vinegar (this is the mock part)
4 cups chicken, or beef stock
4 tblsp sprouted spelt flour
salt and pepper to taste


In skillet (I use skillets for EVERYTHING) caramelize onions with the butter over medium low heat (this will take a few minutes, but is well worth it!) Add mushrooms, turn heat up to medium, after about 5 minutes cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender. Add cream, and stir well. Add vinegar, and stir well. Salt and pepper this mixture. Allow to boil, then add 3 cups stock. Bring to boil, then reduce heat, and allow to simmer until the volume has reduced by a quarter, or more. Mix the flour with the additional stock, up the heat of the mixture, add stock flour slur to the simmering sauce. Allow to simmer, this will thicken the sauce.


Cube and boil as many potatoes as you need to feed whomever you are feeding. Boil these until they are tender. Strain, and mash with butter and milk, or chicken or beef stock, to desired consistency.

I forgot to take a "before" picture... sorry! It looked a lot nicer before we got to it. Promise.