My friend Steph sent over this great article about the cost-effectiveness of making things from scratch vs. buying them. The verdict? From scratch, naturally. But it was still fun to read and to have some numbers to back up my intuition. The whole article is worth a read, but here's the summation:
And with that, I'm off to make some whole wheat banana bread!
Yesterday Sam picked me a flower. Well, that may be a liberal interpretation, perhaps it went more like, he likes to pull leaves and flowers off all the garden plants and just happened to pull off a lovely tulip, which I rescued and put in a vase. Although it did give me a glimpse of how sweet it will be when he can draw me pictures and pick bouquets. I remember running inside with sticky bunches of dandelions clutched in my fat little hands as a kid. My mom would display them prominently on the table or in the kitchen window sills. It's amazing how the intent with which a gift is given can elevate even the humblest gift to exquisite treasure. Kind of gives you some perspective about gift-giving culture in general...
I love to watch Sam interact with his world. He loves anything furry and anything green, always asking to be lifted up so he can examine the branches and leaves of a tree closer. He loves flowers and often points things out that I miss; the ubiquitous pansy that lines early spring city gardens has become part of the background to me. But he points excitedly at each exuberant yellow center, stoically braving those first chilly spring days. I'm relearning to notice and appreciate daily, small miracles.
My mother-in-law, who eats nearly a 100% raw diet, showed me how to make almond milk when they were visiting us in Maine. It turns out to be quite a simple process. I make it once or twice a week now. It's so much richer and creamier than the stuff you buy at the store, and of course, still has all it's good enzymes because it's raw. And somehow, things you make yourself just taste that much more delicious!
Strain through nut milk bag (you can make one out of organza).
Jonell Francis and Hippocrates would get along just fine, I think. She spoke at last weekend's conference about her amazing journey of healing through food. For the last five or so years I've been off and on with raw food. But when I'm on I feel so fabulous! While I have trouble sticking to any one way of eating 100%, there are certain constants. I know that eliminating some things (meat, sugar, dairy) and replacing them with others (nuts, fruit smoothies, natural sweeteners etc.) always improves the way I feel. Lately I've been feeling sort of sluggish; we ran out of fresh spinach and I'm missing my morning boost. I think tomorrow will find me in the produce aisle, stocking up on goodies for green smoothies (check out my post at DesignMom) and fresh juice. It doesn't take much to get back on track and this sunny, summer weather has me feeling optimistic!
I happen to have completely lucked out when it comes to having the world's greatest husband. Among his myriad talents (chicken coop building, gardening, foot massaging, love letter writing etc.) he also happens to be a fabulous illustrator. I would brag about his accolades, but he'd be embarrassed. Instead, I will direct you to his website. He's currently designing furniture and absolutely loves it. But, he still finds time to do things like design lovely headers for his wife's website. He has a promised a new one for each season and maybe some extras in between!
He also did an illustration for our wedding announcement in lieu of the traditional photo.
The conference last weekend was wonderful. One of my favorite parts was simply being in a room full of like-minded women. I saw so many babies snuggled up in slings and moms nursing their little ones. It was so lovely to be in this environment; there was a tangible feeling of support and camaraderie.
One of my favorite speakers was Vernie Demille. She runs an organization called MiniAg that helps families become more self-reliant by turning their backyards into mini-farms. She spoke on gardening with little children; I couldn't help but smile, listening to her charming ideas and uplifting perspective.
She first spoke about how we can let go of so many of the stressful things about gardening (weeds, bugs, weather, failed crops etc.) when we think of gardening as a partnership with God. Just look at the big picture (and don't get frustrated when beetles eat all your potato plants), and forgive everything that's beyond our control. Sounds like a pretty relaxing and enjoyable approach to me. I've noticed that when I regularly spend time in the garden, the feeling of being centered and grounded follows me into other areas of my life.
All of the talk about bettering ourselves through gardening was indeed uplifting and inspiring, however, I have to admit, the part I got really excited about was when she started talking about pole bean tipis!Vernie had all sorts of delightful ideas for making gardening magical for your kids. Her main point was, make it somewhere they want to be! Her ideas for child-friendly gardens ranged from bean tipis to growing unusually shaped, colored and sized veggies (like purple carrots and yard long beans) to pizza gardens, grape tunnels and sunflower houses. I don't know about you, but I want a sunflower house of my very own too!
images via here
I realize it may seem a bit early to be reading up on educational theory, but I figure the more I learn now, the better off Sam will be later. And from what I read in this book, if learning is treated as a part of every day life, there really is no beginning or end to schooling.
Here's an excerpt from the book:
When I was a kid my mom and I got involved with starting a private school modeled after the Sudbury School in Massachusetts, which is basically an unschooling school. I never ended up attending, choosing instead to remain in public school with my friends. But I did retain a healthy curiosity about how and why we educate the way we do, which eventually led to a second degree in education and a brief stint teaching at an alternative school.
I like to think that all of this has prepared somewhat me to facilitate my own children's learning. It's a bold move, taking on the responsibility for your child's education when we have traditionally outsourced the task.
But suppose for a moment that children are capable of ravenously seeking out and absorbing information on their own, with a little guidance and direction from Mom and Dad. The authors assert that if left to their own devices, children never lose their inate curiosity. I was encouraged and inspired by these thoughts. Like so many things that we fear must be left in the more capable hands of the "experts" we can potentially provide a much richer, more satisfying, challenging and successful educational venture, tailored to each child's needs and free from the confines of the traditional model.
The book goes into much more depth and answers many of the common questions; "How do you know they're learning?" "What about socialization?" "What about math?" "How do they apply for college without a transcript?" It also gives plenty of stories shared by real moms, dads and kids who unschool. If anything, it's an interesting, voyeuristic peek into a completely different way of learning.
There is nothing like the vibrantly alive, energizing, electric green of new, spring leaves. Sam seems particularly enamored with them, asking me to pick him up so he can examine the new buds and unfurling leaves on our baby fruit trees more closely. I wonder if he doesn't really remember green leaves from last season (being only a few months old) and thus, the formerly naked and barren limbs arrayed in their spring finest is quite the surprise for him.
When I was a kid I could tell you when the very first pussy willows emerged in the ravine behind the house and point to exactly where the first crab apple blossom opened. Now, it seems the entire tree is in bloom before I even have a chance to take it in. I'm looking forward to Sam sharing his unique perspective and helping me to slow down and notice things again.
Sam, an avid nurser, has slept in our bed next to me for most of his first year. We attempted the crib thing, but found it counter-intuitive and more of a hassle than simply letting him sleep curled up next to mom. He still wakes once or twice a night to roll over for a midnight snack, but this is much less intrusive to me than walking into the next room, fully roused from my slumber to feed him while sitting up and wide awake. And the extra snuggling time is well worth waking up to the occasional tiny foot slung across my face.
However, at some point he will need to, and will want to, transition to his own bed. He's already been establishing his own space in our bed. So, we got him a twin mattress and put it on the floor of his room with some blankets and plenty of pillows. When I was a kid it seemed we never had enough pillows. Whenever I had a friend stay the night we'd always raid my brother's bed or take a throw pillow off the couch and put it in a pillow case. I somehow equated plentiful pillows with wealth and luxury. We may not have either of the latter, but I've made sure there are always pillows to spare.
And so, Sam now takes his naps in his own baby bear bed and often starts out the night there, crawling in to our bed in the next room some time during the night and generally waking up there. Our mattress has also been temporarily moved to the floor to accommodate his rudimentary locomotive skills. It's not stylish, but it works for us.
I've had this quilt since college. Someone left it at a swim meet where I was lifeguarding. I've always wondered about the story behind the hand sewn stitches.
Aaron and Annette rolled up with their station wagon full of bees. We were only one of many stops that day. You know how when you get a bee in your car you kind of freak out and pull over to shoo it out the window? Yeah, they don't really worry about that. Each of seven boxes held about 6,000 bees plus tons of loose bees just buzzing about the car.
This is what 6,000 bees in a box looks like.
The queen is in her own special box, which is plugged with a piece of candy. They put the queen box in with the workers and by the time they've freed her by eating through the candy they're all used to each other's scent and are one big, happy royal family.
This was the craziest part. They just shook the bees right into the hive. When they don't have their own hive or queen to protect they're relatively calm. The interesting thing is that they're thousands of individual creatures acting as one. They seem to have some sort of collective consciousness.
While the bees acclimated to their new home there was a lot of buzzing and flying around the yard, hundreds of bees, in fact. But I found it oddly soothing to be in the midst of this swarm of bees. They weren't aggressive and their humming was rather peaceful.
Our yard is somewhat of a bird smorgasbord due to how generous Sam is with the chicken feed. Yesterday we were visited by a family of four hungry quail. Quail and magpies are two birds I didn't see while growing up in Maine and consequently I'm utterly charmed by both of them. Magpies seem so exotic with their long, sweeping tail feathers and high contrast coloring. And who doesn't completely melt when they see a family of quail, top knots bobbing, all marching in a row? I was so happy to see our guests and hope they come back soon. I sprinkled some extra bird food just in case.
I've been anticipating the hot summer months not just for the usual reasons, but because I can finally let Sam run around diaperless! He's been using the potty with a certain degere of regularity since he was about two months old. Though I was never dedicated enough to have him completely diaper free. However, it did mean I washed significantly less diapers and we haven't had to deal with acclimating him to the potty. He's really good about it and knows exactly what to do.
Now that it's so warm out, Sam spends 90% of his waking hours outside and I just let him go commando. We have a little potty out there, although it gets used less than I'd like. In the house, however, we're a bit more strict and he's generally really good about holding it until I put him on the potty. And luckily all our floors are wood or stone, so mistakes are no big thing. I've got my fingers crossed that we emerge from the summer completely potty trained!
Nellie, our Plymouth Barred Rock, gave us a scare recently when she disappeared. I was in the den, at the back of the house, when Rockefeller (the brown Araucana) looked in the back door and began peeping at me frantically. I went outside to see what was the matter. I couldn't find Nellie anywhere and Rockefeller was beside herself. Those two are inseparable; they're never more than a few feet away from each other. Nellie's the dark patch under the plant in the photo below.
We went around to the neighbor's houses and left "missing chicken" notes on the doors where people weren't home. I was hopeful that she hadn't been eaten because there were no loose feathers or other signs of a struggle, but I wasn't terribly optimistic. She's only a couple months old.
As Sam's bedtime was nearing and the dark was falling I was feeling less and less optimistic and more and more sad that we had lost one of our chickens. As a last ditch effort I decided to put Rockefeller back outside, but in her covered box, in the hopes that her incessant, woeful peeping (she hadn't stopped since 2:00 when Nellie went missing) might help Nellie find her way back if she was still alive.
Several times I thought I heard Nellie peeping, but each time I went to check it was only Rockefeller. Then I thought I heard a call and answer pattern of peeping. I thought, surely I'll just be disappointed again, but I went to check anyway. And I distinctly heard Rockefeller calling and an answering peep from behind the recycling bin! I went and scooped Nellie up and reunited her with an overjoyed Rockefeller. They slept nestled snug in each other's feathers all night long.
Look for us on Wasatch Garden's Tour de Coops at the end of June!
This past weekend we had family and friends over to celebrate Sam's first year. I love filling the house with conversation and good food. Many of Clay's siblings and cousins live close by. With so many people it feels like a party every time we get together. Growing up with only one brother, I always envied the softball-team sized families of my best friend and other families at church. I made two pots of soup (broccoli almond and spicy African peanut) and several loaves of bread. I'm still enamored with the Reinhart book and have been churning out loaves like a corner bakery. I couldn't bring myself to make a real cake for Sam; having had little to no sugar up to this point it probably would've put him into a coma. So, I made whole wheat cinnamon rolls sweetened with honey (Reinhart again) and drizzled them with a honey and cream cheese icing. The thing I really liked about them was that I ate two and didn't feel muddle-headed and foggy like I usually do after eating sweet party food. I decided to sew some bunting that could be reused for future parties (I'm thinking 4th of July, right?). However, once I was at the sewing machine, having sewn straight through both of Sam's naps, I looked at the pile of unsewn triangles that seemed, like something out of a bad fairytale, to never shrink no matter how many I sewed. I finally called it good enough and cut the rope about halfway through. The rest will have to wait until some rainy day to finish.
When I was a kid the hot lunch at school often came with anadama bread. It must be a New England thing because no one around here seems to have heard of it. It's sweet and moist with molasses and cornmeal. I used to love it when the days I got hot lunch (strangely, I thought of hot lunch as a "treat") coincided with anadama bread days. While the other kids pulled faces and pushed their bread to the side, I silently savored mine.
I was so excited to find a recipe for this childhood delicacy in Peter Reinhart's book. I put the biga and the soaker out to work their slow-fermentation magic last night and this afternoon I put it all together. This recipe is heartier than the version I remember from hot lunches past. But the complexity of the whole grains suits my adult palate and sensibilities.
I still love the meditative qualities of bread making. I love the process, how it can't be rushed, the tactile way you have to involve yourself in it wholeheartedly, flour up to your elbows. And, of course, I love the warm butter, honey and toothsome bread aspect of it as well.
I am so over the moon about this conference! Of course LDS moms should be at the forefront of natural family living! It's so exciting to see a convergence of these two worlds. The conference is all day this Saturday, the 25th, which also happens to be my birthday; what a lovely gift! Some of the topics will be about nurturing ourselves as mothers, gardening with little children, healing tips and tricks for moms, Christ-centered birth, attachment parenting and the connection between diet and health. I will definitely be there the whole day. It's being organized by Celestia Shumway who is also putting the finishing touches on her book about mothering and the tree of life. You can go for part of the conference or even pick and choose which lecturers you'd like to hear.
Annette and Aaron of Hansen Hives came over today to drop off our new beehive. Sam and I watched eagerly as they unloaded each piece and assembled the hive in a back corner of our little yard. Annette explained the purpose of each part as she put it together.
Our two baby chicks have been named, which means that they are officially not eating chickens. The brown one is Rockefeller and the black one is Nellie. Rockefeller is an Araucana and will lay greenish-blue eggs. Nellie is a Plymouth Barred Rock and will lay lovely, brown speckled eggs. Sam is completely enamored with them and spends hours a day watching them in their box. I have a feeling they'll be closer to pets than farm animals, with all the love and attention they get from Sam. I've noticed they're less skittish around him. I think they're used to him already. It's interesting to me how humans are born with a natural affinity for animals and the outdoors. Caring for animals seems to be written in our genes. It warms my heart to see how happy the baby chicks make Sam.
Clay started some seeds (all free from the swap!) a few weeks ago and tonight they were ready to transplant! There's something so exciting about the awaking of a seed. It makes be believe that spring really is on its way. We started a few herbs (basil and cilantro) and some decorative kale. The seedlings got new homes in old rice milk boxes. Then we planted some tomatoes and peppers in special trays we got. I think I'm most excited about the tomatoes; he planted some really neat heirloom ones: Purple Cherokee, Potato Loaf, and Black from Tula.
Clay went to the shop Friday night and picked up the project he'd been working on so it would be installed (more or less) for me to see the morning of Valentine's Day. Originally there had been this strange window-type hole in the wall between the kitchen and the den. Clay, gifted furniture designer that he is, made a beautiful curio cabinet to go in the space and it looks so cool! It's going to house the Thompson Natural History Museum a.k.a. Cool Things We Find on Walks (like birds' nests, cool rocks, pretty flowers etc.). So far it just holds the scarab beetles I got him for his last birthday, but we'll add more treasures as we find them.
Every time I walk by the cabinet I'm reminded A) of how lucky I am to be married to such a talented guy, and B) how much that same guy adores me. I love Valentine's Day.
For Valentines' Day I made Clay some truffles from a recipe in this fancy raw food cook book. I've never actually used the cookbook, the recipes just seemed too fancy and time-consuming. But if you can't be extravagant with your time and go all out on Valentine's Day, when can you? The flavors are really uncommon, but ended up going together well. There were four kinds:
Almond coconut filling with lemon zest on the outside, tahini and orange zest filling rolled in five spice powder, and walnut honey filling with Indian spice mix on the outside. For some reason the recipes made way more than I expected, so we also have a bit of extravagance tucked away in the freezer for a drab day in need of some chocolate and spice.
We went to this wonderful seed swap on Saturday. It was so great to see so many people gathered together exchanging resources. I couldn't believe people were just giving away seeds for free! Everyone brought seeds they had saved from previous seasons or leftover packets of seeds. There were some amazing heirloom varieties that gardeners had meticulously harvested, dried and saved. I hear there's a whole art to it. Put that on my list of cool things to learn! We shared some of the mystery seeds some friends sent us from Korea and came home with a whole garden-full of exciting seeds to try. We can't wait to start some seedlings and get our garden going!
I was going through some boxes of stuff I had stored at my parents' (there comes a time in every girl's life where she must move her shoe boxes of mementos from her parents' attic to her own...) and found bunches of old letters from when I was a kid. I had letters from all over; a penpal in California, my friend Melissa when she took trips to Florida, my best friend Katie who only lived four miles away but it seemed so far, a girl we helped put through school in Nepal, cousins in Sweden.
Today my mom was telling me about a letter she was writing to my Uncle Jim, a nice, friendly letter about the little mundane things of life, the kind of letter that is so lovely to hold in your hands and read. I wish I got more handwritten letters. I suppose sending some of my own might help that happen.