Friday, May 31, 2013

DIY 3' x 6' Raised Square Foot Garden

A little late in season, I finally completed my first raised bed!  Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to make the other two.

I used left over Fence Pickets from our new fence.  They're great to use because they're already pressure treated, and they're only @ $1.64 ea.  I used two for each long side, and one (halved) for each short side, so six total.  I then screwed exterior screws into pine stakes (@ $3.49 for a 12 pack).  The only catch is that it's tough to find 1" screws, so you have to double up on the pine stakes if you don't want to get a little poked while happily tending your beautiful garden.

I screwed the fence pickets just to the stakes, not to each other.  That way they can be easily replaced.  I put the stakes every two feet.  If you are doing it this way, put each side into the ground before screwing the corners together.  It's a lot easier to pound it into the ground that way.
Then you can line the bottom of the bed with cardboard or newspaper.  That prevents the weeds from coming up into your bed.  The plants will die and the cardboard will disintegrate.  If you use newspaper, make sure the ink is not colored.  Black newspaper ink is soy based.
To section off the feet, I just tied twine tied around nails.
Then fill your bed!

Oh--bad news for you if you (like me) thought dirt was cheap.  Filling the bed was way more expensive than building it.  Just remember--it's an investment!  You mostly just have to fill it one time with all the right stuff, and then add compost every year (I'm experimenting with composting now--I'll let you know how it goes!).

I'm doing square foot gardening, so I used "Mel's Mix," which is

  • 1/3 vermiculite
  • 1/3 peat moss
  • 1/3 compost 
Peat moss isn't a renewable resource, so I used coco peat, or beats peat, which does the same thing and works just as well or better, while being completely renewable!

I would recommend looking at craigslist or calling local farms to get compost.  Their organic compost will be lots cheaper and lots better than what you can get at a hardware or garden store.  

Just make sure you water soon enough!
A few of my five color silverbeets didn't make the transition *sniff*
Live and learn.
If building a raised bed seems overwhelming, or you're not ready to do all the landscaping required to figuring this out, it's totally fine to dig up two feet of your grass and just stick some starts in the ground.  It's not too late!  It worked for me last year.  What have you got to lose?

Happy gardening!
ps apricots on goat cheese on crackers are delicious.

Monday, May 27, 2013

No Whey? No Way!

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider
Who sat down beside her,
And frightened Miss Muffet away!

Curds and whey? Though I chanted this rhyme throughout my childhood, I never really knew what those words meant until just a few years ago. If you let fresh milk sit out on the counter for a few days, you'll see it separate into two parts: solid curds and liquid whey. Traditionally, milk was typically consumed cultured, as it soured quickly for lack of refrigeration (it did not spoil, just soured). Since many people don't drink milk raw anymore, it's more likely that you know whey as the liquid that appears atop your yogurt. Ever wonder what that was? Now you know. :)

Though sometimes considered a by-product of cheese-making, this powerhouse protein maintains an impressive list of credentials. To name a few:

Whey is handy to have lingering in the real foods kitchen for many reasons:
  • Soaking grain overnight (as in these pancakes, this orange cake, these sloppy lentils). Soaking in this way helps predigest the grain and free up nutrients for absorption. When soaking grain, the general rule is to add one tablespoon acid medium, such as whey, to each cup of liquid in the soak. For example, I could soak 1 cup of 9-grain cereal overnight in 2 cups of water and 2 T. whey. In the morning I would add more water and cook. (Some people rinse the grain in between.)
  • Lacto-fermenting, as in these zingy ginger carrots, these zippy fermented drinks, this zesty salsa, or this homemade mayonnaise. I might add that you can ferment without whey, though it adds probiotics, acts as an inoculant, and speeds up the process. It has been used this way in some traditional dairying cultures.
  • Adding to a smoothie for a probiotic protein boost.
  • Here are a whole bunch more ideas! Hope you get as excited as I did reading over them. :)

So now down to business. Whey is so easy to come by, right in your own kitchen! Honestly, the best part about it is the delicious cream cheese you get on the other side of the drip-cloth (I've only ever used raw milk, so I can't speak for the yogurt variety). Here's a little how-to:

Raw milk (could also use buttermilk or piima milk) or high-quality plain yogurt

If using yogurt, no preparation necessary. If you are using raw milk, let it sit out on your counter until the milk solids (curds) just start to separate from the yellowish whey (the sooner you catch the separation, the creamier your end cream cheese will be). Depending on the freshness of the milk, this can take anywhere from 1-4 days.

1)  Set a strainer in a large bowl, and line with a clean kitchen towel. Pour the separated milk or yogurt over the cloth. From experience, I've learned that cheesecloth is too thin, even quadrupled over itself. Tea towels are perfect, as long as you don't use a red one before it's been thoroughly and repeatedly washed (also learned by experience). ;)

2)  Cover and let sit for several hours. There's the cream cheese on top.

There's the whey beneath.

3) When the dripping has slowed considerably, tie up the towel with the solids inside (no squeezing necessary!), and rig it up so it can continue to drip a while longer. I usually do something tricky, like hang the bag from a long spoon and balance it over a deep pot.

4) When the dripping stops completely, it's done!

The cream cheese will last several weeks in the fridge and the whey several months. I've only had my whey go bad once, and it smelled clearly moldy. When it's fresh, it doesn't smell like much of anything.

"Whey, which contains the milk sugar and most of the minerals of the milk, is an excellent food... and could, with profit to the health, be more often used in this country."
John and Leah Widtsoe

"Whey is such a good helper in your kitchen. It has a lot of minerals. One tablespoon of whey in a little water will help digestion. It is a remedy that will keep your muscles young. It will keep your joints movable and ligaments elastic. When age wants to bend your back, take whey. . . . With stomach ailments, take one tablespoon whey three times daily, this will feed the stomach glands and they will work well again."
Hanna Kroeger

"Using cheese whey as a beverage in human nutrition, especially for therapeutic purposes, can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. Hippocrates, in 460 BC, prescribed whey for an assortment of human ailments. In the Middle Ages, whey was recommended by many doctors for varied diseases; and by the mid 19th century, whey cures reached a high point with the establishment of over 400 whey houses in Western Europe. As late as the 1940s, in spas in Central Europe, dyspepsia, uremia, arthritis, gout, liver diseases, anemia and even tuberculosis were treated with the ingestion of up to 1500 grams of whey per day."
V.H. Holsinger

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Stewardship of Our Family's Electronics

"Meredith, there's this solid state hard drive that I really need that's on sale right now for $180.  These things never go on sale."

"Why do you need a solid state hard drive?  Your laptop is already pretty fast."

"Oh, it will make such a difference!  Just imagine... a computer that boots up in 6 seconds, and only takes 1/2 a second to open Photoshop..."

"So you want to spend $200 to save yourself three seconds every time you open an application?"

"But it will increase the value of my computer too!  You know I'll make it worth it when I sell."

"You're right, I know you will."

"Now what can we sell right now so I can buy this..."

Anyone who saw the inflow and outflow of our family's electronics would think we were severely indulgent.  Probably they would think we spend a ton of money on computers, cameras, tablets, etc., and knowing how quickly electronics depreciate, they would probably assume we lose a lot of money via our electronics


Actually, most of the time we make a profit.

I am going to describe the way we operate, knowing that many people might not be quite as technologically savvy as my husband, and also acknowledging that there are people who will be happy with the same device for ten years.  But at the end I'll list three principles that everyone should be able to apply in order to conserve family resources when it comes to electronics!

It's pretty simple.  We buy things when they are on sale, sell things while they can still get a good price, and almost always do those two steps at the same time so that we have ready cash.  Cameron watches deal websites continuously which does give him an itch to buy things he otherwise might not "need" --- rarely --- but mostly tips us off when something we are going to need down the road anyway is available now at a really good price.  So we sell and we buy.

Here are some examples of transactions during our married life:

  • We built our first computer together (it was a rite of initiation --- if I was going to be Cameron's wife, I had to know how to build a computer) back in 2011.  All parts cost us $550.  Recently we realized I need something portable so I can work when the baby is sleeping.  Cam started watching for great deals on laptops, found a great one 50% off within 24 hours, and posted a Craigslist ad for our homemade desktop.  We sold it for $600. 
This is it.  I miss it.
  • Cam found a great deal on an Asus Transformer (tablet + keyboard), for $350.  We decided to sell my Macbook laptop before it lost all its value, which we did on Craigslist for $400.  
  • A year later we sold the Asus Transformer, because I wasn't needing it enough, even though I still used it every once in a while.  (My parents had given me an iPad mini, and I still had my home desktop and my work desktop).  Sold for $300.
  • We knew that we would want to upgrade our camera eventually, and Cam saw a great deal online for a new T3i Canon, and a free laser printer to go along.  We bought all of it for $400, then sold our old T1i still in great condition for $400.  We sold the printer for a $100 profit.
  • Two times, Cameron has bought something just to sell it, when he saw a great deal.  We bought a new Asus Transformer and sold it for a $100 profit.  He bought two laptops his work was liquidating for $300 each, and sold them for $650-$800 each.

Everything counted, we've actually earned $440 by buying and selling smart.  (CORRECTION: by Cameron's being smart.)  Even if you exclude the lucky break on company laptops, we haven't lost more than $100 on major electronics since we got married.

Some principles to help your family conserve $$$ on electronics
If it applies to you, apply it!

  • Don't let anything gather dust: it you don't use it every day, analyze whether you should sell it
  • If you know you are going to want to upgrade eventually, watch for deals NOW.  When you see one, go for it.  Sell the item you are replacing before it depreciates too much.
  • Take care of your electronics: they sell for more when they are still pretty and in good working condition!

Computers, tablets, phones, cameras, and other electronics don't have to be a drain on your family's precious resources.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Living Room: Before & After

Over the winter, we changed a lot in our living room and entry way.  We wanted a space that was functional for playing, reading, and visiting, peaceful, fun for kids, and looked nice, all without spending too much money.  We kept it to $200.

Most of the changes we made were just moving around furniture we already had, changing wall art, and painting the walls.  With minor purchases, we were able to make big changes to our space to make it more beautiful and functional. While looking for ideas for our space, it seemed most of the online examples were of really large spaces that weren't practical for a home with young children.  Many spaces also seemed impersonal and trendy. I hope that there's something useful here for a few people.

I don't know about you, but when I start a project, it's not generally a cleanly-planned-carried-neatly-out-all-at-once type of event.  With me, it's more of "I know we're already late going to bed, but can you please help me move some furniture?" type of thing.  Andrew, the wonderful documenter that he is, often asks if we can pause for pictures, but when I get going I can't stop.  So, sorry for the lack of normal looking "before" pictures.  (My wide angle lens is sick in bed, so we'll just have to make due.)

We swapped out our hide-a-bed couch for one that was in our study that fit the space much better.  We ditched the grey carpet for our study carpet, too.  We traded in our table for an ottoman for a few reasons. The table always looked cluttered and messy, and it really took up a lot of space.  The ottoman takes up less space, but has more storage (extra blankets), and it also allows for more carpet play space so the kids can spread out and roll around a little more in this prime romp room.  We identified the ottoman we wanted, and knew that, because it's IKEA, before too long it would appear on craigslist, where we found it for half price (we keep our eyes out in IKEA's as-is for a better cover). The sconces are a great way to add to the light, and make that space more of a reading/window seat.
The small side table houses Evelyn's toys in the basket, magformers in the drawer, and puzzles down below. It's very functional!

One awkward thing about our living room space was that there was no real entry way, so the minute you opened the door, you were kind of in our living room.  We moved our hide-a-bed there, put a shoe bench and rug to create a legitimate entry way.
 There's also a secret spot for my keys and purse. Andrew's commuting bike gear is hiding underneath.
Before (when the house was for sale)
All children's books, with the basket containing library books.
I hope some of this was useful to you!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Walgreens Cycle

I know I promised an alignment post... but I didn't quite have time to throw that one together this week!  Instead, here are some quick thoughts about Walgreens.

We went to our local Walgreens a couple weeks ago to get some passport photos.  (Note that Walgreens does serve some useful purpose.  I have also used it in the past to purchase a basal thermometer for charting purposes, or to make nice big prints of photos).  While I was there I snapped the following pics:

A sampling of the sugary drinks and candies they stock in abundance.

Unstable GMO oils, anyone?

One of the many rows of candy + other sugary/oily/starchy ideas.

Wait... what's that in the background?

Oh yeah... behind all the chocolate bars, power drinks, and oily crackers, Walgreens is primarily a pharmacy.

And one last photo on the way out of the store...

Does anyone else see an endless cycle of poor health here?

Let's talk true prevention... via a toxin-free, nutrient-dense lifestyle.  If you want to avoid that pharmacy, avoid everything on the way there.

Arm yourself with vegetables!!!

Note: This is a comment on a problem in our society as a whole --- myself and my family often included.  I just picked on Walgreens because I happened to be there when I had the idea.  Pharmacies serve wonderful, crucial purposes in many peoples' lives (including mine sometimes).  And I too may sometimes partake of the "fun foods" offered there.  In this post I wanted to capture the visual irony that is reflective of the larger problem: eating low-nutrient, highly-processed and preserved foods takes a toll on health, which in turn leads us to turn to medicine that might not be necessary with appropriate preventative dietary measures.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Appealing Peels

For many fruits and vegetables, the peels or skins have a very high concentration of nutrients, sometimes even higher than the fruits or vegetables themselves!  Plus, it's food you grew or paid for!  Eating peels sometimes takes a little getting used to, but now I generally prefer to eat many of these peels.

Carrot peels- contain the highest concentration of nutrients.  Scrub carrots and eat whole or sliced to take advantage of all the carotene and other antioxidants.
Potato skins- are loaded with fiber, vitamin K, potassium, copper and iron.
Apple skins- Are rich in vitamins A and C. Nearly half of an apple's vitamin C content lies beneath its skin.
Orange peels- contains more than four times as much fiber as the fruit inside, and more tangeretin and nobiletin—flavonoids with anticancer, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Use that zest!
Banana peels- This is the one I haven't yet tried.  Anyone tried this one?  Apparently, they have a lot of fiber and potassium as well.  I guess you can cook them.  If you've tried it, let me know!
Onion skins- Simmer in a stock to get more flavor, as well as antioxidants.
Cucumber skins- have high amounts of dietary fiber.
Eggplant skins- are packed with the phytonutrient nasunin.
Kiwi skins- when eaten, can triple the fiber intake!  They also have a lot of vitamin C. They take a little getting used to, but I really like the extra zip!
Mango skins- have good fiber. Some people are alergic to them.  i usually eat some, but not all of the peel. There are more studies being done on the health benefits, see here and here.

Any fruits or vegetables you don't peel that I missed, or ways you recommend preparing them?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Mothers

All my life, my thoughts about the future hinged on my wedding day.  That was going to be the turning point, the moment when everything changed and I would become someone else.  It's not that I wanted to be anyone else, I just felt that must be part of getting married.  I thought a lot about what I was going to do before getting married, but my thoughts about what would happen in the years afterward were rather hazy.

Imagine my surprise when, the day after getting married, I realized that I was exactly the same.  I stayed the same in the following months.  Soon I realized that although it was wonderful to be able to spend so much time with the man of my dreams, getting married hadn't really changed me at all.

Then I had a baby, and whammo!  There was the big transformation I had been expecting.  I was BORN the day my son was born, and became so many things that I love that I am.  (Am I allowed to say that?)  And I'm still becoming so many things that I would love to be.

Who gave birth to me that day?  The following women, and dozens of others (if only you all had longer attention spans): My mother, my grandmothers, my sisters, and my bounty of beautiful aunts.  They had been nourishing me in their spiritual, intellectual wombs all my life.  And now that I am born, a mother, they continue to nurture and teach me.

I have chosen one attribute (alas, only one!) for each of my mothers, which I associate with her personally, and which I hope to incorporate into my parenting.  All of these attributes together define good mothering in my mind.

My mother Jan
I have had more than one friend, from junior high onward, exclaim that they never met a more cheerful person than my mother.  What greater gift could she have given her children than her constant cheerfulness?

My sister Nonie
Always certain that if someone else can do it, so can she.  Not cocky about it, just believing!

My sister Melissa
Simple love
My first experiences with her included awe at the quiet, meaningful compliments she constantly issued to the people who surrounded her.

My sister Ariel
You don't have to follow this blog very long to know what I mean.  Give her a task, and it is as good as done.

My sister Abby
No question, you and she will have a good time together.  Ever since her very tiniest years, she has been a joyful spirit.

My sister Kate
She knows why she is doing what she does.  And if she doesn't, she makes sure to find out.

My sister Julia
She allows herself to be exhuberant about the things that might only mildly excite someone else of similar interests.  I see this as a quality of humility.

My sister Amanda
And I mean the best kind of humor ... one that doesn't try to draw the spotlight to itself, but that comments honestly on the matters at hand with a light heart.

My grandma Nonie
It doesn't really matter what the topic is, you feel she is genuinely interested in everything you have to say.

My grandma Evelyn
Remembering old times with fondness, and reminding others of them, is an essential motherly quality which I might not have recognized without her help.

My aunt Ramona
She is an organizer of thousands, a teacher of perhaps as many, and whether she is scaling Mount Kilamanjaro or conducting a music group, you feel confident in her footsteps.

My aunt Tamara
Every birthday, every year growing up, I and all my many siblings received a card.  She always knows what is going on in my life, though we have been long separated.

My aunt Pat
Is that a word?  It is her word.  She is unafraid of survival in the wilderness --- on the contrary, she has skills to transform the wilderness into a warm and welcoming home.

My aunt Mary
She is always the first to acknowledge a kind or generous act, and taught me to do the same.

My aunt Julie
Even though her children are all grown and gone, she has been a pillar in her active twin grandsons' lives by watching them several times a week while their parents work.  She has learned resilience, which is what it takes never to say, "I'm done."

My aunt Sarah
Back when we were what she called "teenie-boppers," she sought our company and made us glad she was with us.  She knows how to reach the young people in her life, and that will always keep her young in my eyes.

My aunt Lisa
Her home is a western oasis of down-home decor, all of it envisioned and completed by herself.  Oh, if only I were the daughter who will inherit her delicately painted kitchen table.

My aunt Martha
Always watching out for all, evidenced by how many people from everywhere seem to know her.  She has reached from here to China with her love and back again.

My aunt Barbara
She abandoned me young, moving some of my closest cousins out of state.  But she took her new home town by storm, and infused her spirit of entrepreneurship and enthusiasm in all her children.  She stays up really late to chat and have fun (which I think is related to her spirit of adventure).

My aunt Chris
She has a wonderful presence.  I sense security and unselfish love whenever I am with her.  The friendship I observe between her children is a testament to her steady mothering.

My aunt Cynthia
Once intimidated by how much she seemed to know and all she had accomplished, I now revel in my association with this witty, intelligent, well-rounded friend.

My aunt Georgia
Healing hands
Literally, because she is a massage therapist, I have experienced her healing handiwork.  But her hands touch so many who never enter her practice.  She seeks out the needy, and is unafraid of digging her hands into the muddy, fruitful soil of service.

My aunt Liz
She has incomparably beautiful eyes, cheekbones, and lips.  But I have a hunch that they derive their prettiness from her effusive love and her unfailing smile.

My aunt Jana
Once we got home from a performance, and her daughter informed her rather frantically that she had left her violin downtown.  I expected to hear, "What?!"  But instead heard, "Oh okay, well we'll drive back down and get it," in the most gentle and accepting voice.  What a safe place she provides for those she mentors.

My aunt Jeanna
Bright eyes
I always have felt that this is one of the greatest gifts to have, and my does she have it.  When I picture her, I always picture a twinkle in her eyes.  Oh, the importance of being bright-eyed!

I want to be a cheerful, confident, loving, industrious, smiling, purposeful, passionate, light-hearted, engaging, mindful, charismatic, thoughtful, pioneering, grateful, resilient, youthful, artistic, helpful, adventurous, steady, accomplished, healing, beautiful, gentle, bright-eyed mother.

And I don't want it despairingly, but hopefully, because of the examples of these women, who bore me into motherhood.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Confetti Quinoa Tabbouleh

This is one of my very favorite recipes.  If you haven't experimented with quinoa yet, this is the recipe to try!  My little boys and I love this tabbouleh, and can eat a whole bowl by ourselves in one sitting.  I'm really excited for summertime when I have almost all of these ingredients growing in my garden!  This recipe comes from a family friend, Cynthia Wand.

Confetti Quinoa Tabbouleh


1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1⁄2 inch cubes
6 green onions, with tops, finely chopped
1 medium unwaxed cucumber, cut into 1⁄2 inch cubes
1 small orange or yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1⁄2 cup finely chopped mint


1⁄3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1⁄3 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper


Put the quinoa in a fine mesh, wire strainer and thoroughly rinse with hot water to remove possible bitterness. In a medium pan, bring water and quinoa to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender and the water is absorbed, 10-12 minutes. Transfer the quinoa to a bowl and cool completely.

Add tomatoes, onions, cucumber, pepper, parsley, and mint into the quinoa. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients, pour over quinoa and toss lightly but well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. You may need to adjust seasonings if prepared more than 2 hours ahead.

Delicious served straight, or on top of baby greens, or use as a filling in a whole grain pita with goat feta on top and some “raw” greek, black olives, which you can find at Good Earth.

All Rights Reserved 2010 © Living The HeartLife LLC Cynthia Wand

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Birthday Musings and Orange Cake

I turned 31 on Sunday.  Here's how I feel:

Hitting 30 last year was a little bittersweet, requiring some mental adjustment, but turning 31 feels like a confident and welcome step forward.

As I pondered life on my birthday, I decided that a birthday is the best time to review one's achievements, to refresh perspective, and make goals for the future.  It seems a more personal, more meaningful time for this tradition than New Year's Day.  Does anyone have a birthday tradition like this?

Birthdays are fun.  I always love my birthday.  This year I felt a new kind of feeling in connection with the day.  Rather than being wholly excited by the attention I was receiving, I felt an abundance of love toward the people who make life sweet.  I wanted those people to feel special.  It was a sudden feeling, so other than expressing love verbally and sharing my cake, I did a poor job of it.  In the future, I think I might look for ways I can honor the people who fill my life with joy.  Doesn't that seem like a great way to celebrate a birthday?

Before I have another, you will have yours, and if you're looking for a delicious, enzyme-active cake to try, here's one I've fallen in love with.  Be sure to start a couple days in advance.

Orange Cake*
Serves 12-18

2 1/2 cups freshly ground and sifted spelt, kamut, or whole wheat flour
1 cup piima cream or creme fraiche (if you don't have cultured cream, just use another cup yogurt)
1 cup whole plain yoghurt
1/2 cup water
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups Rapadura
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated rind of 2 oranges and 2 lemons
1 cup crispy pecans, finely chopped (previously soaked and dried)
juice of 2 oranges and 2 lemons
1/4 cup whey
1/2 cup raw honey
1/4 cup brandy or dry sherry (optional)

This delicious cake incorporates the principles of both lacto-fermentation and enzyme nutrition. The flour is soaked in cultured cream and yoghurt and, after cooking, the cake is soaked for another day or so in a mixture of orange juice, lemon juice, raw honey, whey and brandy or sherry. This imparts enzymes to the cake along with flavor and moistness (it is SO moist!).

Mix flour with yoghurt, cultured cream and water. Cover and leave in a warm place for 12 to 24 hours. Cream butter with Rapadura and eggs. Beat in baking soda, salt, vanilla and grated rind. Gradually incorporate the soaked flour and fold in the nuts. Pour batter into a well-buttered and floured fluted bundt pan or angel food cake pan. Bake at 300 degrees (use your Sun Oven!) for 1 1/2 hours or more, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool. Place lemon juice, orange juice, honey, whey and optional sherry or brandy in a container and set in simmering water until honey is dissolved (don't let it get hot). Slowly pour this mixture over the cake until the liquid is absorbed. Cover with a towel and leave at room temperature for 1 to 2 days. To serve, loosen sides with a knife. Turn over onto a serving plate and tap pan until cake falls out.  (Best served with raw vanilla ice cream.)

*From Nourishing Traditions, p. 567 (italics are mine)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sit if you must. Then Squat. Stand. Swing. Sommersault. Stretch. Squat again.

We are selling our couches.

We are selling our chairs.

Well, okay, we are keeping a few folding chairs in the closet, for when guests visit who would prefer to "be seated."  We are also keeping one rocking armchair for grandma visits.

But we are selling the rest!  We are going to be an on-foot- or on-floor family, at least for a while as an experiment.  Here is why.  Everyone knows that in our culture we sit WAY too much.  "Sitting is the new smoking."  We get up in the morning and sit down for breakfast.  Then we go sit in our cars for our commutes or errands.  Then we sit at our office desks, or school desks, or we sit in waiting rooms or conference rooms. (Here is a short TED talk on holding "walking meetings.")  We sit in the car back home, then sit at our computers for awhile, and sit at the dinner table.  Maybe we sit on the couches and chat with our families, or read story books, or watch a movie.  We sit on the toilet.  Then we sit at our computers some more.  Then we go to bed.

We figure that we end up sitting in so many places, the one place we can ensure not too much sitting happens is home: the only place we are in charge.

Sitting isn't bad... in great moderation.  But holding any one position for too long causes problems for our bodies.  It limits our strength, flexibility, and causes excessive loading on certain muscles and joints, and insufficient loading on others.  These in term lead to more serious problems like back pain or pelvic floor disorder (to name a few I have personally suffered). Sitting too much can also complicate the natural birth process.  Then of course there are the unburned calories... We try to make up for all of our sitting with daily exercise, but there is NO SUBSTITUTE for constant, natural movement throughout the day.  (Here is a great post about why, in the long run, an hour of daily exercise is a short-term fix for a sedentary lifestyle, and may be harmful in the end...particularly if that exercise is on a treadmill.)

Whatever your thoughts on the exercise culture, no one can deny that 1) we sit too much and 2) constant movement is ideal.

So we are selling our couches.  We are sawing the legs off our dining room table, and sitting Japanese-style on pillows at meals.  (Still working out how we are going to manage this with little kids, but it's not stopping us.  We'll find a solution).


Okay, so let's envision the Nelson family future.  I get home from work and want to cuddle up with the little guy and read a story before dinner.  Wait... no couch!  We hit the floor, where there are some comfy rugs and cushions... that force us into different positions than we could find in the car, or at office meetings, or church.  We sit cross-legged.  But that isn't comfortable very long, so we change to lying on our tummies for awhile.  Then we roll over on our backs and hold the book above us.  Then maybe we kneel awhile.  Now we've read three story books, and we've been engaging our muscles in the meantime... maybe we've even been facilitating different cerebral responses to the ideas in the stories by changing positions as we read.

It is not good to be in any position too long.  Anthropology professor Gordon Hewes created this chart in 1955 to illustrate all of the "resting positions" he had encountered in his study of traditional cultures.

See how many options there are?!  How many of these do we use on a weekly basis?  On a daily basis?  Here is the post where I found the above chart, about how changing position often is a great idea. (Another good post on chairs and our society).

Standing too much isn't good either.  When I teach my classes, I never sit, and I rarely stand.  I pace around the room, or when I need to stay in one spot, I sway side to side (I just noticed that I do this --- might be the mama effect).  My husband just created this standing work station for himself at home: a fantastic idea for any of us at home or at work.

He takes little breaks from standing by doing chores here or there around the house, or by sitting at a stool for small intervals.  (I haven't seen him sitting at his computer once in the last week!  And he's on the computer a fair amount.)

By the way, for his standing work station he repurposed some of the wood from this jungle gym he built for Peter.

Read this for inspiration to get your kids hanging, swinging, and climbing!

If you have been clicking on the links, you may have noticed that I read a lot of Katy Bowman's blog.  If you start reading it, you won't stop either.  My next post will explain why I am now an alignment junkie, and it's going to get personal. 

One final idea: sitting definitely is used as a way to keep people orderly and attentive during class and during meetings.  Think how many hours our kids sit at school!  Maybe we, as parents, can get creative about ways to keep an orderly classroom while not requiring that kids sit in chairs for hours on end.  Maybe in our Sunday School classes we can make it acceptable to sit on the floor, or stand in the back.

Let's get off our chairs and get moving!

Anyone want to buy my couches?