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Before I Forget Potato Soup

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Posted on : 3:27 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

Here's my dairy-free, heart-warming soup recipe of the day, made with things I happened to have around.


4 cups of organic chicken broth (I used one of those tetra-packs of broth, 946 ml)
3-5 locally grown potatoes 
1 cup organic soymilk (or other fairly non-sweet alternative milk)
7 or so fresh mushrooms
1/2 of one large white onion
salt and pepper to taste

Chop up the potatoes pretty small, little 1/2 inch pieces.  Dice the onions and mushrooms fairly small as well.  Mix it all together in a pot, bring to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer for about 30 minutes.  You'll have to stir it now and then, and keep the lid on to keep the moisture in.  I mushed up most of the potatoes with a big spoon while it simmered, but there were still some good potato chunks in it.  Serve piping hot.

Alternatively, you could puree' the potatoes.  Also, because it has no dairy it has a very starchy, grainy texture and it's not very creamy at all.  Adding a teeny bit of margarine (non-hydrogenated) fixes that a little bit.  

Book Meme and Why the Switch to Unschooling

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Posted on : 12:29 PM | By : Nic | In :

"Don't feel that you need to complete every exercise if the child understands the concept."


I'm stealing this from Mon at Holistic Mama - it's a meme where you grab the nearest book, and find page 56 and copy down the fifth sentence.  The sentence above is from The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer.  It's a book about classical homeschooling, and Autumn is using it as a drawing table, which I find quite hilarious and ironic.

My mom had a pretty awesome homeschool style when I was younger, very hands on and also very focused on writing and reading, which may explain my love of writing and reading.  It was, at the same time, very traditional, time intensive, and exhausting.  The daily schedule consisted of Bible reading during breakfast, Saxon math, grammar studies, latin roots, memorizing geography, reading assigned literature, art studies, and many, many essays.  It was rigorous and I remember quite a bit...

But...

What this type of homeschooling did was give me the tools to study, and after the 4 hours of morning education, I would go off and do my own homeschooling for the rest of the day.  I created rock and insect collections, labeling them with the Latin names, made nature journals, wrote music on the piano, read more books, delved into archeology, astronomy and physics, researched first aid and survival, and because I was struggling in math - studied more math textbooks.  Of my own free will.

Despite this, when my kids were very little I failed to realize that my independent study was the stuff I remember - the other stuff sparked interests, but I can't really remember anything I learned from textbooks (with the exception of some of the grammar and latin roots study which I think helped me - but I had an interest so maybe it doesn't count).  I had lots of plans and I was ready to do the rigorous method I was familiar with, especially since when a child is young they don't really think of things to do that seem... educational.

The Well Trained Mind is a great book, and really it should be used as a resource list if a child has an interest and wants to really delve deeply into a topic.  I think a textbook has it's place if your child wants to - if they are interested, they will learn it.  But I no longer have an agenda, or a schedule because when I look back at my homeschool journal, we do way more interesting things when they are free to learn what they want.  It's more fun, and less like work.  

The truth is that once you've created an example for your children, they will mimic you.  I am constantly writing, reading books, and doing projects and my children now do the same, except that the great thing is that that they are old enough to create their own and I love watching how insanely creative they can be - and how much they are learning.  I suppose I need to do another unschooling portfolio. :)

A Quick Guide to My Favorite Season

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Posted on : 10:26 AM | By : Nic | In : , ,


And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. - Dr. Seuss

We always start our Christmas season on December 1st.  It's when we start decorating, planning gifts and making plans because we love the Christmas season. But, it's not the buying stuff and presents.  We love decorating the house with lights and evergreens, and we love finding things to do such as Christmas walks at local gardens, caroling, parades, apple cider and games.  Here's a quick guide to celebrating Christmas the opposite of the way that companies want you to. 


1. Check out the website Buy Nothing Christmas, which has tons of resources and also has a PDF guide as to why and how.

2. Read How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and the Christmas story from Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  

3.  Put out a nativity set that is child-friendly.  Even if you are not religious, use the nativity as a happy and beautiful Christmas myth just as you would Santa Claus.  You could even make your own out of paper mache or felt (like those little gnomes people make).  Look on Etsy for handmade ones or be creative.  To make felt people, simply get some wooden peg-people, wool felt in a variety of colors, embroidery floss, glue (a hot glue gun would work well), and perhaps some wire or other materials for accessories.   Some simple instructions are at Squirrel Acorns. That blog has a variety of crafts that are awesome.

4.  Let your family know that you don't want stuff for Christmas.  The way we are doing this is to create a nice family newsletter at the very beginning of December, hopefully before they've gone shopping.  Tell them that you love them and their love is enough.  :)  Tell them some appropriate substitutions.

5.  Create Christmas traditions.  Besides the decorating tradition, we also play games.  On Christmas eve we have usually had a white elephant gift exchange.  The limit is $5 and it has to be the funniest thing you could find.  This is the one time we support strange Chinese products from the dollar store.  Last year we found something called Swinging Baby Toy.  It was a horrifying plastic handle with a swinging knob on the end and poorly translated instructions on how much the baby would enjoy swinging it around.  We also eat appetizers and play board games until late at night so we sleep in Christmas day.  On Christmas day one person wears the Santa hat and we look in stockings first, slowly, and then hand out the presents one at a time to keep the pace appreciative. 

6.  Gifts have always been a part of Yule and Christmas, and it's a fun thing to do.  Consumerism hasn't always been a part of it and is quite different.  There are a few items we are buying the girls that can't be handmade - for example Playmobile, books and art supplies.  But 3-4 quality gifts each is enough.  Don't be afraid of used items - I may also find some more dress-up at the thrift stores to give as a group gift to the girls, and I'm asking family for used baby clothes rather than one brand new item that he/she will wear once.

7.  Give people opportunities to turn off their television.  The same ideas that apply for TV Turn Off week also apply to Christmas.  Give certificates, services, adventures, books, crafts - things that replace TV-time.  

8.  Most importantly, give to your community and to the world.  Donate to the food bank, World Vision, the Red Cross - whoever you support.  Our goal is to equal our donations to our gift giving to ourselves and family.  Because it's not fair if we play favorites - isn't the world our family too?


The Sounds of Silence

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Posted on : 10:03 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon God they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning,
In the words that it was forming.
And the signs said, the words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls.
And whisperd in the sounds of silence.

- Simon & Garfunkel

Ok that quote really doesn't have much to do with what I am talking about but I love me a little Paul and Art so I had to throw it in.  I also don't have much time to write as today is my father-in-law's wedding and we're all in it so it's a little crazy. 

I make lots of mistakes as a parent, especially as a parent who feels constantly at odds with a child that doesn't react to things the way that most people do.  Her behavior is right for her, just unexpected.  One thing that I have learned, but can hardly ever remember to practice effectively, is that silence is better.  

Before we ever ran into The Continuum Concept we took parenting classes to do things positively and listened to everyone's advice and tried it all.  Nothing works.  I'm not sure that these strategies even work with children that are so-called 'normal', but with Annie she would actively seek out punishments, logical consequences, time-outs.  It's like a game to her, and she is more persistent than we are because she's willing and able to repeat something we saw as negative and live with the results over 100 times in the course of a day if that meant winning the game.   When she was younger communication was a big dilemma, since her vocabulary was so developed but she really wasn't emotionally developed to tell us how she felt.  And being a baby that really felt uncomfortable with touch and being held, and very little eye contact, made it next to impossible.  It was a guessing game.

The thing that does work, is silence.  If I need her to do something for me, I don't ask her to do it, I just tell her.  Once.  If it's not that important, I'll ask, only once.  If I really need her to do it, and she just won't, I don't nag or yell.  I just take her and help her go through the motions without reaction and without talking about it.  If it wasn't important and she just refuses, I ignore it.  

That's the way that works best, but because I'm human I forget many times and get frustrated and irritated and take it personally if things aren't within my control.  The truth is, it shows respect to her and demands respect for myself when I just take the lead and can accept her behavior without judging.  But silence is truly the key - if I can just keep my mouth shut, despite myself, it's like Annie is a different person.  She makes those choices, more often than not. And I am calm and I think, "Why do I get so frustrated?"  It feels silly to have such personal feelings over such silly things like picking up toys or helping with her little sister.

Forget Supernanny, lol.  Just zip your mouth. :)

The Best Buy-Nothing Day Celebration Ever

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Posted on : 9:54 PM | By : Nic | In : , ,

So how did you celebrate Buy Nothing Day?  I dutifully stayed home and bought nothing, just worked on a wedding reception dance playlist for my father-in-law's wedding (how many 80's hits can I find? lol).  My husband, on the other hand, had to go to work and they decided to celebrate their last day of training by going out to lunch.  


They decided to go to a place in downtown Nanaimo called The Thirsty Camel.  They make excellent Middle Eastern food featuring locally grown free-range chicken, fair trade coffee, many vegetarian options and other delights of my heart.  John, who always orders a burger no matter where he is, ordered a falafel, which he has never had before, and loved it.  This is a big deal because when I make things with chickpeas he's not always super thrilled, so it must be good.

The beautiful part of this story is that they were celebrating Buy Nothing Day too.  ALL the food was free, in exchange for anything you had to trade besides money.  His buddy from work ordered first, and happened to have a $10 gift certificate for the mall.  Then John's turn came, and he couldn't think of anything.

"We'll take anything," they said, "It can be a poem even, or a flower."

"I do have something that is special to me," he replied, "It's not worth much, but it's special to me."

"What is it?  We would love it."

He pulled his Aero bar from his pocket, which he had been saving all day, and handed it to them.  

"I will give you my Aero bar, but I just want you to know how special it is to me."

They gladly took it and gave him a free, healthy meal.  Then John's other buddy went, and he didn't have anything, but he said, "Hang on, I'll be right back."  He ran back to work, and brought back a lovely wooden case full of harmonicas.  He happens to be a very good harmonica player and entertained the whole restaurant for his meal (evidently he takes his harmonicas everywhere).

This story absolutely made my day.  I wish more people had been able to experience this kind of day, rather than what I read about later in the paper about a Long Island man dying in Wal-Mart stampedes and crowds so greedy for a good deal they can't even stop to see if someone was ok.  

So...my husband also told them that his wife would write about The Thirsty Camel on her very busy website, and I am!  If you're ever in Nanaimo, go there - they are awesome. :)

How to Make Any Wrap in the Universe

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Posted on : 5:09 PM | By : Nic | In :

A wrap is like the ultimate sandwich. I love sandwiches, so it's no wonder that I love wraps. I don't believe in one recipe, but rather a mixture of ingredients to choose from for any number of tantalizing, healthy variations. Here's the basic process:

The Shell:
Use a tortilla or a large lettuce leaf.  A soft flour tortilla can be folded to be picked up like a burrito.  I suppose you could use a corn tortilla for a Mexican style wrap (technically, an Enchilada).


The Moisture: 
Without the wet stuff the rest of the wrap can be a bit dry.  Mayo, avocado, salad dressing, cream cheese (if you must eat dairy), and Asian sauces like sesame, tahini, soy and teriyaki all work well.  If you are using a paste like avocado, spread it on the inside of the shell where the filling will be.  If you are using a more liquid ingredient like salad dressing, use it when you heat up the filling. 

The Meat: 
This is theoretical meat.  This could be tofu (marinated is better), crab, shrimp, sandwich meat, leftover turkey, frozen chicken, even a chopped up veggie burger.  It's whatever is going to be the main substance of the wrap.  Pretty much the only wrap that is good cold is the one with the sandwich meat.  The others need to be heated up.

The Filler: 
Spinach, arugula, broccoli, sprouts, lettuce, mushrooms, green onions, bulb onions, boiled eggs, chilies, tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, cucumber, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts... you get the picture.  If doing a cold wrap then it's basically like making a sandwich.  If you are doing a hot wrap, heat up your frying pan with a little (real) olive oil, cook up the meat and when it is done throw in the filler with a little bit of your sauce.  The pan should be hot and you don't cook it too long - just enough for the veggies to wilt a little.  Some good spices are a little chili flakes, garlic, and basil.  Add a little sea salt and pepper too.

It's All Presentation: 
When it's done cooking, turn off the stove but leave the pan on the burner.  Throw your pile of tortillas on top of the pan so they heat up and get warm while you get the plates out.  Start assembling - spread the paste on the tortilla if you choose, put in the filler and to contrast with the hot flavors sometimes I'll throw some fresh tomatoes inside as well.  Wrap them up, and you can add avocado slices, sprouts, diced tomatoes and onions on top as a garnish if you like.

Voila!  Be creative with this super easy, one pan, 30 minute dish. :)

It's That Time of Year Again! Buy Nothing!

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Posted on : 2:24 PM | By : Nic | In : ,


November 28, 2008 is officially Buy Nothing Day!  Stay home people!  Spend no money!  


You Got Rick-Rolled America!

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Posted on : 1:08 PM | By : Nic | In :

Face Experiment...

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Posted on : 10:23 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

Today Annie and I are going to grab a few ingredients we have around the house and see if they moisturize and cleanse our skin.  We're going to experiment with apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, olive oil and other things in making something that will both moisturize, and help heal rash and acne.  We've found a couple of recipes:



1/2 c water
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon tea tree oil


OR


2 teaspoons of lemon juice
2 teaspoons of honey
7 oz of water

You simply store in a glass jar and apply daily.  They need to be rinsed off when you're done.   Annie still has that ring of irritated skin around her mouth from the lip-licking tic so hopefully it does the trick (I'll probably have to use the top one so it doesn't taste so good, lol).

I was using cocoa butter that I had bought for my stretch marked belly, but I bought stuff that listed the butter as the second ingredient, and failed to notice the perfumes and other things listed at the end because I was in a hurry.  Natural doesn't mean natural.... and of course we're all allergic.  So back to the old-fashioned stuff.

A Very Happy, Puritanical Thanksgiving Everyone!

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Posted on : 10:17 AM | By : Nic | In : ,


I love posting on Thanksgiving, simply because of my passion for history, and I have a bit of time because Autumn is on her computer time and Annie is cleaning the bathtub.  Thanksgiving in Canada was last month, and while the food is the same, the icons are not.  There isn't the Macy's parade, and the Pilgrims with the buckled hats.  It's pretty much about the food.


I find it interesting what a lasting effect those Puritans had on America.  About half of Americans believe that they are descended from the handful of pilgrims on the Mayflower (whether or not they are is another question).  They were pretty hardy, even though half of them died the first winter, and they managed to make friends with the natives, who felt really sorry for them and brought enough to help make a meal of thanksgiving.  I think people tend to forget that America was basically founded by a group of heretics and religious extremists.  They were dissenting against the state religion, which was illegal to do, and fled to the Netherlands because of the persecution:
But after these things they could not long continue in any peaceable condition, but were hunted & persecuted on every side, so as their former afflictions were but as flea-bitings in comparison of these which now came upon them. For some were taken & clapt up in prison, others had their houses besett & watcht night and day, & hardly escaped their hands; and ye most were faine to flie & leave their howses & habitations, and the means of their livelehood. - William Bradford
After living in the Netherlands (isn't Amsterdam great for acceptance of everything) for quite a while, they realized their group would face extinction as their children became more and more Dutch.  Options for relocations included Guiana and Virginia in the New World, where there already were existing successful settlements.  They opted for Virginia, but not too close to the other settlements so that they wouldn't end up in the same situation again.  

Now I have to pause and say how interesting it is - if this were in the paper today, the headline would read, 'Extremist Cult Takes Members to Isolated Wilderness - Half Die!'

There originally were going to be two ships, but the first ship kept having leakage and other issues and finally they scrapped it and stuck with just the Mayflower.  It later turned out that the crew of the first ship was deliberately sabotaging the voyage because they simply didn't want to go.  When they got to Virginia the people were already hungry and immediately scavenged what they found from some existing structures (still being lived in by some scared natives) and probably would have starved right then if they hadn't.

Not all the pilgrims were Puritans.  But the Plymouth colony wanted to establish itself as a kind of utopian community, a lamp to the world of righteous and pure living.  It was an extremely strict life.  Like all early American communities, women were treated as the 'weaker vessels' and any independence by children was seen as a manifestation of sin.  The Bible served as the sole legal document of the community, and church attendance was mandatory - all social deviations or crimes were punished by the church rather than the civil law.  Despite that, women could make contracts and sit on juries, which was unheard of during that time.  

It is a little ironic that they inspired such a big and money-making holiday, since they believed in a communal economy and their religious beliefs banned holidays.  No Christmas, no games, no plays and theater, no spring maypoles.  A holiday that now centers around family love and tradition was founded by people who believed too much affection towards their children would make them failures as parents and any tradition not listed in the Bible was evil.

Sometimes I wonder how much Puritanism still exists, and it seems like quite a lot.  They had a huge influence on America, and their legacy will probably last for a few hundred more years.  They were strong, they were unorthodox, and they had so many rules they couldn't even follow them all themselves.  

You know what I'm thankful for?  That I can celebrate Thanksgiving without anyone telling me how to do it. :)  And despite my disrespect for the misguided beliefs of the Puritans, I certainly respect that they may be the most successful intentional community, EVER.  It didn't stay communal (they never do), but it certainly grew into something bigger.

My Take on GFCF

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Posted on : 8:47 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

I've read lots of information on the GCFC GFCF (Gluten Free Casein Free) diet, both for and against. If you're not familiar with this, many autistic parents believe that eliminated gluten (in form of breads or grain products containing gluten), and casein (in the form of dairy protein) improves the behavior of their child. As yet, I am unable to find any convincing proof of why this would be. It doesn't mean it isn't true, it could just mean it hasn't been proven. We've eliminated dairy (if you look through my diet category you can see the posts), and it has improved her behavior. Rather than literally climbing the walls, she's much more calm and has less explosive crying episodes. 


I have a bit of a scientific mind, and now having two children who have basically the same genes, pretty much the same AP/Continuum Concept parenting, the same diet, but vastly different behavior, I've been observing as much as possible (objectively, hopefully).  Here's what I know:

1. Annie has many more allergies.  The first allergy we noticed was baby wipes.  We quickly switched to more natural wipes, and being new parents didn't realize all the options, but we knew that she couldn't handle fragrances or lotions or even dryer sheets.  Everyone can get a skin irritation but for her it was seriously noticeable in the form of a rash.

2. Genetically, allergies, ADD and obsessive compulsive behaviors seem to occur in both sides of her gene pool.

3.  When Annie eats any dairy, about 2-12 hours later she will have a reaction in the form of hyperactivity, being more emotional and on a roller coaster that lasts for hours.  Angry outbursts and tears as she's unable to handle situations characterize the situation.  She's now learned to recognize this tendency and avoids dairy of her own choosing, and I'm just hoping that realizing it will be one step closer to being able understand her emotions.  

4.  Wheat doesn't seem to make as much of a difference as dairy, but being wheat-free for a whole day does seem to keep her calmer.  

5. Sugar, food colorings and artificial ingredients are just as detrimental as dairy.  I got her some chewable Omega-3 things that were supposed to be like Starburst candies, but without the sugar.  They had no noticeable effect, even though additional Omega-3's are supposed to help her focus and stay calm, and I theorize it's because of the orange food coloring and artificial flavors.

When I say that she is more calm, let me tell you an example of today.  I, being the CC mom that I am, allow a little bit of junk food into the house, one treat every two weeks that they can have if they ask and they've eaten some other real food during the day.  I do this so they can limit themselves to a certain extent, and to always have balance (that's my key word, lol), and so when they are adults they won't binge on what they didn't have.  They dipped into Dad's bag of Doritos after breakfast, and by the afternoon Annie had opened the blinds, and was hanging onto the window sill with her toes and making herself fall into a folding chair.  She was trying to climb the wall as high as possible and fall headfirst while laughing hysterically, which would be ok if it wasn't self-destructive and damaging to what was around her (a computer and a bookcase).  I put them in the bathtub to help her reconcile some of her tactile sensitivity issues that were manifesting themselves, where she proceeded to shove her sister to the end of the tub because she had to have her legs straight.  So I took her out and decided to try to give her physical attention like hugging but she couldn't handle it.

Without dairy, this doesn't happen.  My take?  What works, works, even without the proof.


EDIT: lol, did anyone notice my dyslexic mistake in labeling it GCFC? It should be G F C F lol.

What's in My Garbage

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Posted on : 9:31 AM | By : Nic | In :

Annie over at Sensible Living did a nice post posing the question what's in your garbage and how you keep it to a minimum.

With six of us in the house I think we do pretty well as far as it comes to garbage, especially considering that two of the people in the house aren't super conscious as to what they are buying. We make two medium garbage bags of trash a week, and recycle a heck of a lot of other stuff, and compost food (although I still have to retrieve the compost bucket after chucking it behind the bin in disgust - maybe the rain has cleansed it).

I think in our own house (which it will be in a few months) we'd make about one medium bag of trash a week. I would also have less recycling because I like to save glass jars and I would have more room to put them somewhere. We also don't use plastic bags or plastic wrap. Instead I wrap up freezer items in wax paper or aluminum foil. Because I'll be getting our veggies delivered in a box in February or so, I also won't have as much packaging either.

The plastic packaging dilemma is one I've been puzzling with for a while. There are certain organic products that are packaged in corn plastic that is biodegradable, but it's still bad to me since a food product was used to produce packaging. If I can I get stuff in a glass jar I will because I simply reuse for herbal things and storing tiny items like buttons, or as food storage for leftovers in the fridge. One thing that really peeves me is that natural beauty or cleaning products often still come in plastic packaging - you'd think natural would mean the packaging too. I think the only solution to that at this point is to make your own. I think my next experiment will be soapnuts, a nut grown in India that you can use for laundry and shampoo (Google it and see). It comes in a cloth bag - no plastic! :)

I wish I could comment on Annie's blog but for some reason lately I can't post on any Wordpress blogs. Hmmm...

You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch - and You're Stupid Olive Oil!

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Posted on : 4:53 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

So I was talking to my sister the other day and she's very wary of foods and their health, like us, and she told me that my Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil probably isn't olive oil.  She said if I put it in the fridge it would harden if it was the real deal.  I thought, 'Well, if it looks like olive and it smells like olive... it must be olive, right?'  


I popped a bit of it in the fridge overnight.  Nothing.  Stayed perfectly liquid and I poured it directly into my frying pan to saute some exotic mushrooms.  So at which point was I wrong?  

Unfortunately, I was wrong when I bought the oil.  The truth is, according to CBC, labeling laws haven't really caught up with the olive oil industry.  Many, many companies are using cheaper filler oils like canola to sell a lower-cost product.  If you ignore the fraud and mislabeling, is this really a big deal, healthwise?  There is a pretty big difference between the two - canola has a higher proportion of polyunsatured fats and much less antioxidant properties.  When you buy extra virgin olive oil, you are supposed to be getting the first olive pressing, without any heat to destroy the health properties.  To summarize, I was purchasing a product specifically for these particular health benefits, and they diluted it with something that does the exact opposite.  Canola may be a not-unhealthy oil, but itis not found in nature.  CANOLA stands for Canadian Oil Low Acid, a variety of rapeseed bred in the 70's.  And you know me... if it's not found in nature, I pretty much stay away from it as much as I can. Canola simply doesn't have the same properties.

And now I'm mildly irritated because I have to take back some of what I said about Costco.  The brand I bought is Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin in the glass bottle that's supposed to come from Italy.  It's supposed to be highly recommended for flavor, lol.  And yes, olive oil is really supposed to harden in the fridge.  So Costco basically sold me a mislabeled item.  

What to do?  Well I'm going to finish off the bottle and then by that time I'll have moved and I can really start using Spud and I won't be buying the cheap stuff anymore.  Frugality is a tricky business because it's a difficult balance between quality and quantity.  You can only be so cheap before you start risking heart attacks.  I want to be frugal in other ways but I certainly don't want to be forced to be frugal with our food.  You get what you pay for.


Unaffected and Perfectly Merry

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Posted on : 12:05 PM | By : Nic | In :



I just joined the Evolved Homeschoolers site, a place for non-traditional homeschooling parents to voice off on a supposedly bi-monthly topics that are unrelated to homeschooling.  Many of the bloggers are unschoolers and all come from a very wide variety of religious or non-religious beliefs.  The topic for November/December is how the recent votes to ban gay marriage fit with my holiday traditions and ideas of family.


As an expatriate American in Canada and with no interest in ever returning, I watched with interest during the election and the side drama of gay marriage votes, but in a kind of objective, curious way as if I was observing several herds of sheep.  There seemed to be an intense fear of same-sex marriage, as if allowing gay couples to marry would contaminate all marriages and make all children gay.  One side seemed very angry and full of hatred, and the other side seemed very nonjudgemental but simply stated their case.   I think much of the hatred and fear comes from not knowing what would happen if gay marriage was legalized.  

The answer?  Absolutely nothing.  I live in a country where same-sex marriage is legal, and it effects my life in no way at all.  The only possible effect might be the availability of organic foods and some great restaurants sourcing local food have gotten more common, lol.  I know several acquaintances who live in committed same-sex marriages, and it's pretty much the same as every one else.  

I don't pretend to understand being gay.  But if some of my family were I really wouldn't care.  I would care more if they felt uncomfortable showing up for holidays, or even if I had a close friend that felt like they couldn't come to Christmas dinner. 

I feel most comfortable in a regular, old nuclear family.  Some people feel most comfortable in some other kind of family.  What concerns me about the people working against this so actively is that many of them come from a religious tradition that stressed alternative forms of marriage very strongly, even saying that a regular monogamous relationship wasn't enough for the full blessings of God.  Hypocrisy is much more dangerous than two people who simply want to live in a committed relationship.  

Have my children been exposed to gay marriage?  Yep.  Did it make them more gay?  No.  Would I care if one of my daughters showed up for Christmas one year and said, "Here's my new girlfriend..."  Yes I would care, in the same way that I would care if they brought home a boy I didn't know.  It would be an adjustment, I have to admit.  But why should same-sex couples go through the same fight as homeschooling, in which many, many parents have struggled and fought against unjust laws that infringe upon their rights to a lifestyle that many find 'dangerous' or 'dysfunctional'?  

Here's a Christmas toast to some families in this world who don't effect me at all, may they live in peace like everyone else.

Why You Should Save Heirloom Seeds

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Posted on : 12:03 PM | By : Nic | In : ,


I got sent this by my father-in-law, and it is worth looking at. There are a few big organizations involved in a project that I had already heard about, but I never realized who these organizations were:


Monsanto: the leading producer of genetically engineered seeds, develops bovine growth hormone and is criticized for a wealth of other things.

Syngenta: a biotechnology and genomic research company that specializes in crop protection, which means pesticides, and also sells seeds.

DuPont - Pioneer Hi-Bred: the world's second largest chemical company, the Pioneer division of Dupont is the leading provider of advanced plant genetics (i.e. genetically modified seeds).

These are in cahoots with the Rockefeller and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations (both of which have questionable motives), in building the Svalbard International Seed Vault, located in Norway.  The reason I never realized the above corporations were involved is because they are huge donors under an umbrella organization called The Global Crop Diversity Trust.  Some of the companies in the trust are shipping their seeds to the seedbank, so this isn't just a bank of original seed stock, but also of GMO seeds.  The stated mission of the vault is to provide a backup in case of accidental loss of diversity.  There are over 1400 crop diversity collections in the world, but these are frequently in danger of wars, natural disaster, funding cuts and accidents.  This is also not a public storage room, but rather acts like a safety deposit box.  The company deposits seeds and no one except the depositor can access them.

So, the article my father-in-law sent me pointed out a few big issues.  Supposing you ignore all the crazy history in the article about Nazis and the Rockefeller conspiracies (of which there are many), the fact remains that the above companies are distributing seeds all over the world which are genetically modified, and are protecting regular seeds far away where no one can get them.  If you ignore the health problems that are caused by eating genetically modified foods, this is a huge sustainability issue.  GMO seeds cannot reproduce themselves.  You are not legally allowed to save the seeds from these patented varieties, and they are now able to program the seed to die before it can reproduce.  This means you would have purchase the seeds every year.

Would companies willing to do that have a problem with controlling the supply of non-GMO seeds so that all you could buy was their patented varieties?  Absolutely not.  What we have is a situation in which a few companies want to have the raw seed material for their own use stored away in a vault, and then they want to distribute their hybrid varieties to the rest of us, effectively controlling the world's food supply.  

I'm not sure about you, but I honesty don't want my food coming from DuPont.  I really don't want self-serving corporations controlling the world's food supply, and I really don't want to be forced to eat GMO foods simply because the real thing is stored away in a vault somewhere.

Here's what you can do.  First of all, I keep telling people to have a backyard garden.  When you buy the seeds, search for heirloom or heritage seeds.  These are non-hybrid varieties that you can save the seeds for.  Many are still available from many companies, so just Google it or go down to your garden store and ask.  The other thing to do is belong to a seed share organization, such as Seed Savers Exchange, or  Seeds of Diversity. Save those seeds!


Kitchen People

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Posted on : 11:45 AM | By : Nic | In :

When I was a kid, my parents were house-hunting and we went to look at a neat old bungalow in the city.  She had a very nice Great Dane, and at the end of the house tour we all conglomerated in the kitchen.  She looked at us and said, "You people are kitchen people!"  My parents looked at each other like, 'What the heck does that mean?',  but I knew what she was saying.  Out of all the rooms of the house, we had naturally just stopped in the kitchen because that was more comfortable to us.  Many people would have ended up in the living room on the couch or even out on the front porch.  Perhaps we would have stopped in the backyard.  But no, we stood around the kitchen.  


I found this blog today called Passive Aggressive Notes that has little tidbits, like this one, about people living in shared spaces.  It's funny to me that people who live together are so in each other's space that they have to resort to the notes.  In our shared kitchen the only note I have ever written is, "Please don't put the Calphalon pots in the dishwasher! Thanks! :)"  People clean up so well that my anodized pots were getting put in the dishwasher and the detergent messes with the special surface (if you're not familiar with anodized cookware, it's a great way to cook healthy and not use toxic teflon pots).  

We have all become so unendingly respectful of the shared kitchen space that everyone has become a rare cook.  We're eating a great deal of raw foods like wraps, and hardly bake anything.  I made bread a couple of times but it infringed upon the group kitchen time so much that I felt like I should just wait until I moved.  

But, that being said, I don't think we'll ever live alone again.  I posted before how I was looking forward to not having anyone else in the house finally, but as it turns out John's brother and his girlfriend might live with us, and I might have family come stay with us for a while too.  Which means that we have never lived in a building alone, ever.  I get tired of it, but it really is the natural way to live because we seem to always fall into it.  The kitchen seems to be source of trouble for people who share, but I suppose raw foods are healthy anyway. :)

Games Requiring Nothing But Imagination

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Posted on : 11:35 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

We got our first letter from Ghana the other day.  Our little World Vision girl wrote us a letter and drew us a picture of some kind of vegetable.  She described her favorite game as ampe, a game for girls that involves jumping and clapping.  We looked it up on YouTube and found this:



Of course we had to try it, and it was fun!  Although I had trouble jumping because of the pregnant weight, lol.  

I've posted before about not having too many toys, and one way we do this is to collect games that don't require anything (which is really collecting knowledge).  I have a book called Kate Greenway's Book of Games, which is reprint of some simple games from the past century.  I can't figure out where else to get this book since I love it and I would recommend it, but I found it at a thrift store and it seems to be out of print.  The internet is also a great resource.

Christmas Nix Pix: Books That Changed My Life

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Posted on : 12:43 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

Here's a list of books, in no particular order, that I read at some point and they totally changed my perspective on the world.   These are the heavy-hitters in my life, the ones that I don't necessarily own but I might quote them or refer to them as old friends a little too often.  If you're looking for a meaningful Christmas present, consider a life-changing book.  

Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish is about a busy woman who goes to live with the Amish for a while to learn how to slow down and simplify.  When I was a young I would have jumped up and joined the Amish at the first opportunity (and maybe there's still a little bit of fantasy about that, lol).  I was obsessed with the Amish like she was and maybe this gave me some perspective as well.

Little House Series had a huge influence on me.  This was the first thing that got me interested in simple living and homesteading and after I read them (again and again) I felt very alone because the internet didn't really exist at that time.  I was young and had a big imagination and these books lit a fire in me that never went away.

Little Women really resonated with me when I first read it around 12 years old, and I've read it many times since then.  What it did was connect me with history in a way that hadn't happened before since I felt I had very much in common with the main character, Jo.  This book had an indirect influence in getting me interested in alternative religions (which is surprising since it is full of trite moral lessons), as I began researching the Alcott's and then their circle of Transcendentalist friends like Emerson and Thoreau.

Creating True Peace: Ending Violence in Yourself, Your Family, Your Community, and the World had more impact on me than any other spiritual book I had read.  I re-read it now and then to kind of keep myself on track, because I often lose sight of peace as my ultimate goal.

The Continuum Concept: Allowing Human Nature to Work Successfully, I only wish this was one of the ones I had read as a teenager.  What frustrates me is that I had heard of it in passing but only as a psychology book, not as something you could apply to your life.  I didn't read it until both girls were born, which is something I try to counteract every day. 

The Tao of Pooh was the second book I read after reading the Tao Te Ching for the first time.  Not only is this the best book on Taoism, it does what Don't Sweat the Small Stuff should do.  I just wish I could remember all of these lessons all the time. 

Heart & Hands was the first book on midwifery that I had read.  The beautiful photos captivated by 13-year-old mind and prepared me to watch the birth of my brother.  

Honorable Mentions:

One book that I can't find out what it was for the life of me, but also indirectly influenced me in a big way was by a Liberal Quaker who discussed spirituality in a kind of lazy, philosophical autobiography.  I don't remember anything else except that he used Don Quixote as his personal scriptures, and it blew my mind since I had never considered using a work of fiction as the guidebook for my life.  Now having gotten a little older I've realized that most things people think are fact are really fiction, and the power of a good myth is infinite.  I wish I could find that book again!

One-Straw Revolution: Introduction to Natural Farming by Masanobu Fukuoka.  I read this about the same time as the book above, and it changed my perspective on life in general. I got it from the library and this is the one book that I regret not stealing because it is out of print and unavailable.  

Thanks!

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Posted on : 11:46 AM | By : Nic | In :


Hey Mon, thanks for the award!  This is my first blog award, ever. :)  And what could be better than an award with the word 'Uber' in it?  Now it's my turn to nominate, and it was a tough decision.  I am very careful what I put in my Blog Reading list (over on the right), as I only recommend what I really read every day.  But I want to spotlight two blogs that get a little less recognition than they should, and they are both adventurers.


Laura Jane is someone that my husband went to school with, here on the island.  She left her family and friends to move to the exact opposite side of Canada, Prince Edward Island, where they are living on 60 acres with a 100 year old farmhouse they are restoring.  As of recently they just got their woodstove in just before the first snow. I am so jealous!  lol  I don't think John has ever commented on her blog once but Laura Jane and Cameron are awesome.

This lady moved to Japan simply for the fun of it because her son wanted to study manga art.  She studied kimono-dyeing, and embroidery techniques and now makes beautiful kimonos in Kyoto.  I love her profiles of artists and the descriptions of daily life in the real Japan.  

Congratulations people!  The rules of the award are as follows:

Put the award logo on your blog or post (right click on award, save as).
Nominate at least 1 blog that you consider to be Uber Amazing!
Let them know that they have received this Uber Amazing award by commenting on their blog.
Share the love and link to this post and to the person you received your award from.

Have fun!

We're Going to What???!!!

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Posted on : 10:54 PM | By : Nic | In :

I had a conversation with Annie today about diapers.  When we lived in an apartment and didn't have our own washer/dryer, we used disposables with Autumn and as soon as she could walk we let her run naked at home.  All other babies that she has ever seen have used disposables as well.  But this time around, we'll have our own washer/dryer and I can finally use cloth, hallelujah.  


Annie: "Mom!  We need to buy some diapers for the baby!"

Me: "Well, sweetheart, this time we're using cloth diapers."

Annie: "What do you mean?"

Me: "Well, when you change the baby's diaper, you'll take the cloth out and if its poopy you swish it around in the toilet to clean off some, and then you put it in the laundry and wash it."

Annie: "You're joking."

Me: "I'm serious.  We clean the poop off and use it again."

Annie: "No you're not.  That's just not true."

Me: "When your uncle was born I did the same thing for him because he was my brother ... changed his diaper and cleaned it in the toilet and then washed it in the laundry."

Annie: "NO!"

lol, she was so shocked, like who would do that?  She'll be six when the baby is born, and old enough to remember, so at least I've done my job educating her on the right way to diaper despite my previous imperfections.  I'm still wondering about elimination communication too, and probably the girls will be able to help me.  I think explaining that to Annie would be even more shocking, lol.

An Important Message about Canadian Food

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Posted on : 12:54 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

About an hour ago someone left a comment on my Leftovers post that I wanted to address more fully.  I posted a reply very quickly in a kind of knee-jerk reaction to someone who made a Blogger user simply to post a criticism that was completely unfounded.  First of all, I understand the assumption that because I bought from Costco I must eat bad food.  And second, I appreciate the concern.  


But, I live in Canada, and Costco is a completely different place than it is in the States.  I know, because I've been to both.  First of all, Tyson chicken is pretty much the devil.  They recently said that because they inject chickens with antibiotics before they hatch, they are raised without antibiotics.  Come on, who are you fooling?  They are raised unethically and with hormones to boot.  

I need to eat meat because I'm pregnant and I find it impossible to be vegetarian when I'm pregnant.  I just crave too much protein.  But I can't always afford to buy locally grown organic chicken (although I do sometimes have a supply from family).  Fortunately, Canada is this wonderful place that has banned growth hormones in chicken, and if you buy high quality Lilydale chicken, they are grain fed and free range in a barn.  Yes, they use antibiotics (which many even small growers use) to prevent disease, but they are tested before slaughter to ensure that there are none in the chicken when they reach your table. On the whole, a much more responsible situation, and because it is available in bulk at Costco, much less packaging.  It's a compromise I can live with.

Our Costco here on the island also carries an organic alternative to almost every food product.  I get my organic soymilk, pasta, sauces, salad greens, oils, etc.  Even breads and other prepared foods.  On top of that, they even carry many products that have been grown locally, by farms here on the island and on the mainland.  Everything has a label on it about where it came from so you can make those choices yourself.

I take my food choices very seriously. I also have a very strict budget, several children, and little time.  I can't afford to buy everything locally and organic, which makes me sad.  But everything I buy has been grown responsibly, about 30-50% of it is organic, and much of it came from within 300 miles.  It has less packaging because it is in bulk, too. 

What I take issue with is that there are those who are so judgmental of people's food choices, that they actually alienate people to the point that they make things worse.  It is much more important that everyone make some changes to their diet, than for a few elite to be eating perfectly.  

And now, I have to get ready to go to Costco today. lol ;)

Look Me in the Eye!

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Posted on : 11:28 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

I have one child that hates eye contact, and one child that demands eye contact.  My eye-contact avoiding child (can you guess which one that is?) will not look you in the eye willingly if you are talking one on one with her.  The exception is if she's really distracted by something she's excited about and she'll look at your face, but even then I'm not sure if that's eye contact because I rarely feel like I've made an eye connection with her.  This has been tricky for me to develop with her because it's one more thing I have to constantly remember to try to do (along with helping break self-destructive habits and keeping her busy and all the other things a mother has to take care of during the day).  


The other child won't talk to me unless I've made eye contact with her.  In her little 3-year-old voice she will demand, "Look me in the eyes!  LOOK ME IN THE EYES!"  It doesn't matter if I am talking to her when doing something else, or if I've already answered the question, or if I am looking in her eyes through the bathroom mirror, like we sometimes do when we're getting ready to go somewhere.  At first I wondered if this was a control issue, since the older child will pull tricks to get me to stop the things I am doing in any way possible.  But, I think she just needs the eye contact to feel understood.  

I grew up in a family that wasn't that big on eye contact, for a variety of reasons.  I enjoy making eye contact, but it's something I don't think about unless I'm looking in my husband's eyes.  Now that I have such a contrast in the girls I have become so much more aware of my own bad eye contact habits.  Because eye contact is one of the most important communication tools (and since supposedly up to 93% of our communication is nonverbal), being intuitive towards my children and communicating effectively with them depends on it.  I'm not sure if that is always true... when they were babies they both found close eye contact too intense and looked away, finding more pleasure in physical comforts like holding and nursing.  But there came a point when they reached out to me and enjoyed seeing my facial expressions and reactions, eye contact included.  

One thing I think I have a bad habit of doing, and it must be a universal phenomenon that I learned from my family and we see it in the media (the stereotypical mom in some children's shows and movies) all the time, is unconscious conversation because we're too busy with a task.  When someone comes up to talk to me and I'm doing something, it takes me a minute to bring my brain around to paying attention to the speaker.  Because of this I tend to go, "Uh huh...uh huh" on automatic.  It's frustrating, and I hate when people do it to me, and yet it's a bad habit that I have too.  I want to learn to immediately pay attention to a person who is talking to me, and make eye contact with them, because they are more important than my meaningless task.

At the same time, I have children who ask me the same question over and over and who also sometimes make loud shrieking sounds if they don't like the answer, that I tune out.  It has taken a while for me to understand that I need to meet their needs before they have to verbalize to me over and over what they need, but balance that out with not being child-centered.  We have been spending lots of time breaking their bad habits too - I don't have to jump like a servant when they call, especially if they can do it themselves.  Eye contact makes this a heck of a lot easier.


Little Ways to Really Slow Down

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Posted on : 3:32 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

I was noticing today some of the little things that have happened in the last while that have made us slow down.  


First of all, we got rid of most of our clocks and watches.  We get our time on the computer or the cell phone, but we eat when we're hungry and we sleep when we're tired.  When we do have to wake up at a certain time, the cell phone has an alarm that takes care of it.  But without convenient access to a clock we've become much less concerned with a daily schedule.

There is reading material in the bathroom.  I've noticed that people in the family are taking a lot longer in the bathroom, and bringing books in there with them. This is a funny way to slow down, but it is much healthier to take your time in the bathroom, and it means the we're not in such a hurry.  It's almost like a mini-break, lol.

We plan errands for one day of the week.  Not only does this cut down on travel and gas, but we hardly spend any time on these tasks because it's just more efficient.  We also don't impulse shop.

My home isn't super, duper clean.  Ok, it's pretty clean.  Every day the girls and I meander around in the morning and do tasks, make the beds, clean up the clutter.  Our dishwasher is broken so I do dishes once a day, I do some laundry, whatever needs to be done.  The bathroom is done once a week.  It's interesting because we live with a bachelor who accepts a certain level of mess, and an extremely neat person who can't stand any, and balancing that dynamic between us all where it converges in the kitchen (especially the huge recycling pile).  But I think we find a good balance where I am not cleaning constantly and yet we have a clean home.

We spend more time in bed.  We read in bed, take our laptops into bed, sleep in more when we can, and talk in bed.  Maybe if we had a bigger sofa we would do that all there, but I think the family bed has become a central point in our home.  

Those are the few things that occurred to me today, and I'm sure there's more but that was off the top of my head. 

The Ultimate Leftovers

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Posted on : 10:59 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

I was just so proud of myself that I couldn't stand it... I think I hit a record with my leftovers.  When we eat leftovers, it never comes back as the same thing, and I make it a game to see how far I can stretch a meal.  


I got a huge thing of chicken breasts from Costco, and I baked them all at once, chopped them up and packed them into meal-sized packs to put into the freezer.  This is way more efficient than freezing it raw.  

This chicken was put into pasta sauce that was leftover from previous pasta and had been in the freezer for about a month.  I also added mushrooms, spinach and frozen broccolli. The pasta noodles were from a big bag of organic whole wheat noodles, also from Costco.  So that was dinner the first night.

The next day, I had a bit of noodles left, and a bit of sauce.  So I mixed a bit ranch dressing (I didn't have mayo or it would have been dairy-free), some avocado from the last one I had that was getting a bit overripe, a little salsa, and added some chili powder and more garlic to the sauce.  I had a bag of organic blue corn chips, and I opened a huge can of red beans and made a layered casserole - chips, sauce, beans, chips, sauce.  The rest of the beans I froze into two batches for another day.  I baked it in the oven at 425 for about 20 minutes, long enough to make rice in the pot the sauce had been.  This made the rice slightly red and tomato-flavored.  

Then the next day I had some leftover casserole and rice, which we ate for lunch.  

Then the next day, I just had leftover rice, and the leftover noodles from the pasta.  I made rice patties with the rice which we ate with some salsa (these didn't taste that great to me, but I think it was a pregnant thing), and I turned the noodles into pasta salad with a bit of organic virgin olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, mushrooms, some sandwich ham, and diced tomatoes.  

Then today I will finally finish off the pasta salad for lunch, and for dinner I'm going to get out another pack of frozen, cooked, sliced chicken. :)


I LIke Lists... Can You Tell?

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Posted on : 9:10 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

Here's a 5 Things meme, simply because I practice writing every day and this is a way to de-stress at the end of the day.  I got it from The Parody.  I've changed it a bit, customized it just a tad.


What Kind of Bag I'm Toting: It's cotton, it's got leaves on it, and it's from Freecycle!

5 Things That are In It
Handkerchief
Wallet
Extra underwear for Autumn
Old mints
Pens

What Kind of Wallet Is in There: A gift from John, a nice leather Levi Strauss thing that I won't have to replace until I'm 80.  It's like a man wallet, but girlier because it's thicker.

5 Things That Are In It
Canadian permanent residence card
Costco card
Expired Fabricland membership card
Midwife business card
Totally free Canadian medical care card that has saved my life for free

5 Things In My Room
Stack of bedtime reading books
Pile of orphan socks waiting for their long-lost match
The oil painting I did that only my family sees
Open box for throwing in keepsakes like cards and letters and tickets to activities
Mineral makeup bag out of reach of girls who sneak around at night

5 Things I've Always Wanted to Do 
Swim with dolphins
Adopt a child (or two)
Travel to Europe, Brazil and other places
Learn to ride horses
Learn to play guitar

5 Things I'm Into Right Now
Knitting
Watercolor painting
Discovering new easy hikes for a pregnant woman
Finding new blogs to read
Thinking of ways to decorate my home in sustainable ways

Raising Game Birds

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Posted on : 10:11 AM | By : Nic | In :

One thing I really want to get into after we move is raise some game birds, probably pheasants or quail.  Unlike chickens, they aren't classified as a farm animal and they are much smaller and quieter so much more tolerable in the city.  But, they are similar to chickens in how they are raised.  The best website for info on this is on City Farmer, and it seems like quite a straightforward process that requires very little space.   


They are a little more delicate than chickens and seem susceptible to weather and disease.  The website above recommends medicated turkey starter as chick feed, but it is inaccurate in saying that unmedicated turkey starter doesn't exist.  Because of the growing popularity of organic meat, you can get organic turkey crumb for about $30 for a 50 pound bag.  Once they are grown they need to be put into covered pens.  I hate the thought of the tiny cages so more of a tiny bird run that could be moved around would be more of my style.

You need more birds than you would with chickens.  It takes one quail to feed one person, and one pheasant to feed two people if you were to roast them.  I suppose if you were cutting up the meat and putting it into other stuff you could stretch that further.  A pair of pheasants needs an 18x8" pen, perhaps slightly smaller if you are providing enough protein since they are a little prone to cannibalism.  But with the pen that size you really couldn't have too many birds -  two birds need 12 square feet, and if you used 60 square feet you could have 10 birds.

That size could also be portable and I could move them around the garden to grab pests.  

Nerdy Parties

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Posted on : 4:54 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

In a previous post I mentioned that one of our hobbies is 'nerdy parties', and a commenter wanted to know what this means, lol.   Nerdy parties I have had:


Costume party - for a birthday party, but still a little nerdy for a teenager, lol.  I was a hippie clown.  This means a clown with long braids and a tie-dye shirt which is what I wore anyway except that I painted my face. 

Monty Python Halloween party - one of my friends had his birthday on Halloween, and the tradition was to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail and eat candy.  This sounds boring but when this is super late at night and you fill in extra time playing games, this is hilarious.  Hasn't happened so much since having children.

Rock Band party - used to have Rock Band parties when we had a PS3.  If you haven't played this, there is a guitar, drums and microphone and three people play together and try to get the most points.  

Marathon movie parties - I've been to several Star Wars and Star Trek marathon parties.  The key with these is to have virgin margaritas and tons of chips.

Swing dance parties - I love swing dancing and I used to get together with a group of people who practiced once a week and then would go out late for banana splits.  We never actually had a dance - it was more of a party than seriousness.

Video scavenger hunts - have done several of these, one involving getting kicked out of Wal-Mart and one that requiring microwaving popcorn in a stranger's home.  The key to winning?  Poor people are more helpful...wealthy neighborhoods will slam a door in your face.

Paper games party - we call games that use just paper and a pencil 'paper games'.  Our favorite is the Name Game.  Each person picks a name and secretly writes it on a piece of paper which is put into a hat and mixed up.  These are then read one at a time by everyone one time and put away.  You have to then remember what was read, and guess who wrote them.  If you guess right, that person is on your team and you go again.  We mixed this up into a better game by creating The Grossest Thing You Can Write on Paper Without Throwing Up or Using a Profanity game. We have a few others that are probably equally good but this has topped them all.

Board games party - most of the time when we have people over, we never just sit around and 'talk'.  It's either a movie or a board game night.  Our top games are Cranium and Settlers of Catan, but The Farming Game, Pick Two, Monopoly and Risk all fill the bill. 

We are living in a small place but will soon be living in a little bit bigger place with more opportunity for having people over. My wish list of more nerdy parties:

More costume parties... because there's nothing more fun than a bunch of people dressing up crazy and playing games, lol.

I really want to have a luau in the middle of winter.  Or even more nerdy, make it a Survivor luau and play games that lead up to a tribal council.  Who will get kicked out of the party? lol

We love watching Lost and we've always tried to find more people to come watch it with us with our sweet surround sound, lol.  The party is really about who has the best theory, but we really need more people to get in on this.  

I'd also like to have an around the world dinner, and try foods from all over the world.  I love trying new things and foreign foods and this just seems like fun to me. 

I want to host my own Brazilian churrasco party.  I need to get a good barbecue first, but it would be fun to have some good food, good friends and some good samba music on a lazy summer afternoon.  

So there you have it... any more good ideas?  :)

Super Realistic Sustainable Future

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Posted on : 6:57 PM | By : Nic | In :

I've been reading lots on alternative energy technologies that have been reaching implementation stages, like wave and current generators and better solar power.  One thing that concerns me is that no one has thought of a realistic, simple solution to the consumption of energy (and other resources), and the production of safe food.  Energy is just one part of a sustainable future.


Consumption, unfortunately, just has to slow down.  I'm not convinced its merely overpopulation that's the cause (although there are some areas that are overpopulated), but just an over-consumption of resources.  Realistically, people are going to keep buying stuff, and it's going to take a long time before we're not using petroleum for stuff.  It's also true that as of now, most stuff isn't recycled and it ends up in a landfill.  So how do we realistically create a sustainable future while working around these issues?  It's not going to come from government regulation, but rather everyday choices that we make.  Want to create a truly sustainable world?  Follow these consumption guidelines:

1. Eliminate the disposable attitude.  Everything seems to be disposable and 'convenient', and especially, plastic.  Imagine a world without plastic or disposable paper, and live in it.  

2. Live in a small, insulated house.  You may think that because you bought fluorescent bulbs and an energy-saving appliance, you've done it.  But the truth is in the square footage.  Living in a small house or even better, an apartment, does more for your ecological footprint than most other things.

3. Work from home, or live very close to your work.  The commute to work is the ridiculous reason gas consumption is so high.  If you can bike to work, you've made a huge step.  Besides, if you drive to work, aren't you paying to go...to work?

4.  Support local business.  It's very fun to buy at the mall and big-box stores, but a sustainable future won't have a place for them unless they shrink the damage done by them and the cheap products they sell.  

5.  The money given to failing, bloated corporations in US bailout could have eliminated extreme poverty.  There are 2.8 billion living on less than $2 a day - each one could have been given $250.  Look in any World Vision or Heifer catalog and see what that can get for a family or village and you will be astonished.  People tend to think that impoverished people are somehow to blame for their condition, but the truth is that where you are born pretty much determines your destiny.  Our economy is built on the backs of these impoverished people, so give them money to better their condition.

What will these things do?  If you live by your work, in a tiny house, and support local business, and help to eliminate poverty, and everyone else does too, then you will be living in a world with small, close-knit, healthy (because people will be walking and biking) communities with very little trash because nothing is disposable.

Readily-available, safe food is the other important issue.  Unfortunately, organic, non-hybrid and and non-GM foods are not readily or cheaply available.  Sometimes they appear cheap and easy to get, but these are usually grown in China or Mexico and are too-often found to be contaminated.  Without a safe food supply, we are not only obviously poisoning ourselves, we are losing vital plant varieties that could save us through any potential food-loss problems such as droughts, hardier pests, and disease.  Here's the goals:

1.  Build up community, backyard, and patio gardens.  The more organic food that you and your community grow yourself, the better off you'll be.  In fact, I believe that this is the future of farming, since agricultural land is quickly being lost.  Get rid of your lawn and your ornamentals and fill every square inch with something edible, and when you run out, put in containers.

2.  Support local farmers.  Sometimes this is hard to do, because of the cost and time it involves on the part of the consumer.  However, food services like Spud and CSA's or the wave of the future, when safe, local, organic food is delivered to your door.  

3.  Change your diet.  This is up there with square footage and gas mileage in the ecological footprint impact.  Not everyone can be a vegetarian (or wants to), but just not supporting the cattle industry can make a huge difference.  It also makes you more self-sufficient in being able to eat more out of your own garden.

What are these things going to do?  Not only will it make you healthier, imagine a community where everyone had a big vegetable garden, and possibly a large, central community garden.  Communities would be greener, closer, and free of pesticides.  Combine that with the things above and you pretty much have a sustainable community.  Everyone does it, and you have a sustainable country.  Multiply that and you have a sustainable world.  It's so simple, and yet so difficult, isn't it?

The Latest Tic

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Posted on : 11:19 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

The latest tic that we are experiencing here with Annie is lip-licking.  For those not familiar with a tic, it is 'usually defined as a brief, repetitive, purposeless, nonrhythmic, involuntary movement or sound. Tics that produce movement are called "motor tics," while tics that produce sound are called "vocal tics" or "phonic tics."'  (from a tourette's site)


The lip-licking is not any more annoying than any of the other tics - she simply licks her lips to the point that there is a red, raw spot all around her mouth.  Then it gets itchy and she scratches which makes it worse.  It sort of looks like she has a food allergy, but it's not.  

These tics are tricky, and are the one thing that could possibly get her a diagnosis (since they are so common with Asperger's).  Her first tic was when she was first learning to talk around 9 months - every word or short phrase ended with an extremely high-pitched squeak.  It's a sound I can't even imitate.  It was as if she had learned English from someone who spoke Chinese or one of those languages where the tone of the voice changes the meaning of the word.  We had to quickly become experts on breaking bad habits gently, because it was an ear-splitting sound.  We created a game where we always talked with a deep voice, and when she said something we would remind her to use it.  It got her to listen to her own voice and it gradually changed over time.  It took constant vigilance in reminding her though.  

She also chewed her thumb.  Even though I breastfed on demand, and gave her constant attention, she always sucked and chewed her fingers.  I always felt really bad about it because I believe that thumb-sucking is a sign of not enough breastfeeding or attachment.  But as she got older and I had another baby, I realized she sucked her fingers out of a compulsive habit.  And, she wasn't actually sucking her fingers, she was chewing on them.  We had to sew a mitten on her sleeve when she was about 1.5 because at night she would chew the thumb until it was raw and bleeding.  Now even though she's 5, her fingers are still in her mouth and she's a nail-biter.  That has got to be the hardest thing to help her stop, as she has the biggest attachment to it.  

A tic can be an involuntary whole-body movement too, and I think she has this as well.  She has an incredibly difficult time sitting.  Unless she is sitting in someone's lap and has that physical anchor of another body, she has to be standing, jumping, running back and forth, stomping... sometimes this gets overwhelming and it turns aggressive, into kicking and shoving.  These tics can only be redirected into some more constructive or creative activity, especially outside or in the tub.  

Why doesn't she have a diagnosis yet?  Well...we did get help from the public health people for her senstivity issues, but getting a medical diagnosis is a whole other ball game.  We have worked so hard with her that a little girl that couldn't play with other children or get herself dressed because she would scream now functions pretty normally. She loves to play with other kids, although a bit shy, and now she can get herself dressed by herself while screaming, rather than us having to coach her through it, lol.  She screams with frustration and it takes her a very long time, but at least she can do it on her own.  Because she is functional, and because we appear to be coping with it very well, we've been passed off as complainers or having inadequate parenting skills.  At least family now recognize her behavior as definitely autistic, and since we don't want her on medication unless she later fell into depression (which can happen with Asperger's), for now we are ok.  

Tics are interesting though.  I wish we knew more about the human brain.  Why do these suddenly appear, and why do my gentle reminders and games help break these habits? 

EDIT: After writing this morning, I read this post on Holistic Mama and it confirmed for me exactly how I feel, and perhaps why a diagnosis isn't that important to me at this point.  Thanks Mon! 

The Things That Make You Simple

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Posted on : 10:57 AM | By : Nic | In :

I was just reading a post (and the subsequent forum thread) over at Simple Makes, that posed the question - are people really living simply, or basically just gave up and can't do any better?  The forum had some good posts, and interesting insight.  I definitely believe it's the first choice, just because we've been in more situations where we've been doing too well financially for our own good.  Sometimes the choice to live simply has been conscious, and there have been times it's been forced upon us, but not unwillingly.  I don't think that simple living folks don't want to make money - quite the contrary.  I think they are more financially sound and sometimes make more money than the rest.  Like us, they try to work at jobs that are fulfilling, and they stay out of debt.


But I think everyone has some criteria for themselves in the pursuit of simple living.  Some of them are pretty universal, and some are not.  Here's my family's list of simple living... not rules, which implies some kind of dogma, but rather truths that make us truly happy.  That's it - Simple Living Truths:

1. No television.  We watch tv shows that we download, and we watch lots of movies.  But we get our news from independent sources and we don't see any commercials.

2. Avoiding fast food.  I admit, we love to eat out.  For all the tv we don't watch, we certainly supplement it with a nice dinner at a good restaurant.  Fast food only happens in a pinch.  But we enjoy good food and the work that goes into it.  There's nothing wrong in spending money - miserliness is really bad too, lol.

3. Not too many things.  We like things - don't get me wrong.  Pretending we don't need 'stuff' is like saying we don't really need soap.  There are necessities and comforts of life, and they can be enjoyed without guilt when you are not shopping for the sake of shopping, and when those items were bought debt-free and with the environment in mind.

4. Not keeping up with the Joneses.  Those Joneses!  They are so competitive, aren't they?  If you see your neighbor's big tv, it's hard not to say, "Wow, that would be fun to have for our Planet Earth movies!"  And it sure would be.  The trick is not to do it because they have it, but because it would be fun and you can really afford it, and it benefits your family.  

5. Working at what we love.  John and I both now have our dream jobs.  We are not quitters, but we've never stuck around at something we hate unless we've absolutely had to.  We've never worked fast food, and we've taken big risks to do what we love.  I am lucky to be able to be home with my kids and write, and he's lucky to be the manager of an awesome store that sells his favorite thing - Apple products.  But is it luck?  Or is it not being satisfied with mediocre?

6.  Environmentally conscious.  Everything we do has the environment in mind. We live very comfortably, but we keep that footprint small.  We'd rather spend more on something to make sure it's better ecologically.  We don't go crazy about it, but the small differences add up to a big difference.

7.  We deal with family differently.  We don't send ridiculous obligatory cards that get thrown away, and we don't buy lots of presents.  We tell them not to get us presents.  Instead, we email, we iChat, and we take trips to visit people. If they must buy the kids something, it has to be a book or an addition to the Playmobile collection, lol.  We would rather they donate to charity instead though.

8.  We have lots of hobbies.  We love to see new places and travel, with the kids.  We do tons of crafts, we play lots of board games, we love to have nerdy parties, we collect books and we have fun decorating our home, lol.  There are tons of ongoing projects happening constantly.

9.  Stay out of debt.  We've got no debt, and that means no credit cards.  In the even that we want to buy some real estate, we will be possibly getting a car loan to build that credit rating up some more, but cars and property are the only things we're willing to get in debt for.  We have no credit card, and we don't miss it.  

I think many people would disagree with some of our attitudes towards life and things because they really link frugalness with living simply.  Frugal means getting what you need, wearing things out, not being wasteful.  We do all that!  But maybe it's the Brazilian half of me that says not to worry so much, enjoy the little things in life, and have fun.  :)


'Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,
'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.

Baby Sling Contests

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Posted on : 10:11 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

I just want to point out that you can win a really nice baby sling from Nonny & Boo, simply leave a link to your site on this blog post at Adventures in Babywearing, and you could win! 


You could also win an Ergo baby carrier at Northwest Mom Finds just by leaving a comment there.  Wow!



It's also International Babywearing Week!  I don't have many photos of me wearing my babies since I was often behind the camera, but here's me at the Vancouver Aquarium with Autumn.  This is a Snugli that could go on the back or on the front, facing in or out.  It was pretty good since my kids often didn't like the laying-down position of a regular sling.  My polar fleece sling is still my favorite though.  I have a goofy smile in this photo, like I just discovered that candy exists.  It is a very good aquarium, lol. (I also don't know who the person is behind me... whoever you are, sorry for posting your photo publicly :P)


Quote of the Day

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Posted on : 11:40 AM | By : Nic | In :

Got no check books, got no banks. Still I'd like to express my thanks - I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night. ~ Irving Berlin

THIS is NOT a Toy!

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Posted on : 2:25 PM | By : Nic | In :


One thing that struck me as I was going through European toys is that you will never find a German child playing with one of those crazy, noisy, beeping, cheap plastic monstrosities that we call toys.  German toys are quiet, simple, accurate copies of things from the world around us.  Children love to play that they are adults doing grown-up things... isn't that what play is all about?

Christmas Nix Pix Part 4: German Toys

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Posted on : 7:52 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

We make exceptions in our natural/handmade toy rule for German toys.  As a rule, German toys are better in every way.  They are made of safer, higher-quality materials, and they universally more educational or simply more likely to be 'thinking' toys.  While some German toys are plastic, they also have a huge variety and natural wooden toys because of the tremendous influence of Waldorf education (which, of course, is German).


Some little-known facts about German children:
1. They don't get cake for birthdays.  They have a wooden birthday ring with candles.
2.  German kids get to play with anatomically-correct dolls.
3.  Fresh air that comes in from the outside is considered toxic and kids are protected from it.
4.  German children NEVER go barefoot.  It is considered very unhealthy.
5.  They always have a hot, cooked lunch.  Always.
6.  There are quiet laws that kids from playgrounds between 1pm and 3pm.
7.  Germans are so good at saving water.  The average European uses 200 liters per day - Germans only 120.
8.  16 year olds can drink in Germany.  

Here's my favorite German toys (in no particular order):

2. Ravensburger
 
 3. Holztiger


5. Kathe Kruse