Monday, February 27, 2012
The picture above - compliments of my husband's recent trip to LA.
This lotion because, well, I live in the North and lotion is almost equal to water in its importance this time of year.
Both of these books [this and this] have now found themselves on my "must read" list.
This soup with this socca bread using freshly ground garbanzo beans [yup, you can grind them yourself!].
This granola [I added a couple small handfuls of flax seeds half way through baking and have found I need to reduce the baking temperature] with these Just Organic Cherries and homemade cashew or pumpkin seed milk.
This breakfast and berry smoothies and this smoothie.
These raw protein bars [I used sunflower seeds in place of hemp seeds / powder and carob in place of cacao - my toddler loves these as a special treat!].
Rooibos coconut tea from here with a touch of honey and a crackling fire.
Found this while out and about - a fool proof plant, great air purifier, and something green to make me smile a midst all this brown and sometimes white!
These socca cakes with mustard [I used kale in lieu of spinach and it worked great].
This water bottle - the true work horse of my day.
Raw garlic: to cure anything.
And last, but definitely not least, the fresh organic Californian oranges, avocados, and lemons that my husband brought me from California - what a treat after giving up the ones that have traveled without my husband!
Labels: THIS AND THAT.
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Recently I've been struck down by either pregnancy-induced nausea, vomiting, and fatigue or the flu - I haven't quite figured out which [ironic that carrying life can be confused with an infectious disease]. Regardless, I haven't spent much time in the kitchen and have instead relied on canned applesauce, plain rice cakes, and the homemade soups that fill my freezer. Well, that and the unbelievable unselfishness and strength of my husband who is not only the breadwinner of the family but has now taken on the title of Mr. Mom. Throw in my fabulous friend who lives next door and things are taken care of around here.
All this being said, I have had plenty of time to think in between cursing the porcelain throne [or the plastic blue bucket that has taken up residence bed-side]. Actually for the last few weeks the idea of boundaries has really been on my mind. Not boundaries in the sense of rules, regulations, or something imposed on the masses by others more powerful than those masses. These type of boundaries make many of us either shake in rage or want to move to a private island somewhere.
The type of boundaries I am referring to are self-imposed, ones born of love and respect. I have been thinking a lot about the way I raise my daughter. I give her limits, guidelines, a path with fencing so to say because I love her and want to keep her physically safe as well as grow her compassion for people and respect for the world around her. My dream is that she will grow up to cherish life's simple pleasures. That she'll be able to find joy in the small things so that she doesn't become bored with all things.
The irony of all these efforts is that somewhere along the line my boundaries for her won't be sufficient anymore. I'm beginning to realize that as we grow into adults many of us loose the boundaries that we were given throughout our childhood. Of course we live within legal, moral, and spiritual guidelines and those demanded by pregnancy, disease, food allergies, and other similar limitations but some of the simple boundaries taught by our parents are quickly forgotten when we taste freedom. Call it adolescent rebellion, ignorance, or boredom but we can easily loose our values when the sky is the limit [which actually isn't true anymore since "we've" been to the moon].
America is notorious for this - unlimited pleasure and freedom. "Don't fence me in" our battle cry. Don't get me wrong, our freedom has been heroically fought for by many brave men and women and I am so grateful to them. But have we abused the same freedoms many have paid, and pay, for with their lives?
This has led me to contemplate boundaries in my own life, specifically food choices. Local eating has really become important to me over the years but even so I still rely on many products from other states and, in some cases, countries. It seems that "exotics" have ceased to be exotic. Maybe this is because many local products have become inedible for me [wheat, dairy, soy, corn]. Maybe it's because I haven't adequately trusted in the idea of partnering local and healthy eating [can a predominately vegetarian health nut live without avocados?]. Or maybe it's because I haven't had any boundaries in place forcing me to ask the tough questions, make educated decisions, and out of my comfort zone [especially on winter-y Saturday mornings].
Unfortunately, and you can choose to believe this or not, the world we live in is not invincible. Decisions made over the last century have had their toll on our earth and things are changing. I'm beginning to wonder if I don't begin to live in my own self-imposed boundaries will I be forced to live in ones imposed by our earth? The bigger question for me is - am I willing to make a few, and lets be honest minimal, sacrifices now so that my daughter's biggest question is also "can I live without avocados?" rather than "can I live without clean water, unpolluted soil, or clear air?" - we of course all know the answer to both of those questions. It's the reason the Colorado River no longer reaches the ocean and why Georgians underwent panic when Lake Lanier's water levels dropped dangerously low a few years ago. We pipe in water from non-renewable aquifers 300 miles away to hydrate our southwestern states. Sustainable? You be the judge.
I recently read that if every US citizen intentionally ate just one meal a week composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil each week. Now I realize that I can't make every US citizen change but I can change. I can choose to reduce my oil consumption and maybe, just maybe, change a piece of the world in the process.
So I'm wrestling with the idea of choosing a few non-negotiable [well, at least at this point] non-local food items and ditching the rest. Bananas and avocados, I'm sorry but you will have to be reserved for holiday celebrations. Oranges, I'll see you in my stocking Christmas morning. Olive oil, well you're sticking around because let's face it, there's no good substitute and I don't see olive groves growing in my backyard anytime soon.
I ponder, as I peruse the remaining contents my pantry and refrigerator, do I eat these things because I crave them or because they are available? What would happen if my life became free of some of these non-local, gas intensive crops? Would I begin to see and crave more local fare?
Right now these questions will have to remain unanswered for me but I can at least take a step. Ridding my life of a few products and maybe a bit of pollution and petroleum reliance may be a bit painful at first [oh, guacamole...] but I think it might just be worth it.
Besides, asparagus season is just around the corner and then those fence lines won't seem as intrusive anymore.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Of course there are dark sides to every holiday - the incessant waste of paper in the form of cheesy cards [Seriously, who comes up with these? Some are like bad commercials!], flowers [okay, red roses] that put on who knows how many miles and chemicals to reach us in untouched fasion, spouses / significant others who use avoidance of this holiday as an excuse to not recognize the one they claim to love [a kiss won't give you away people!], an insane consumption of processed, chemical and color-laden, barely real chocolate [and then the stomach ache and guilt that come with it]. I get it.
But I also see the beauty to this holiday - the creative expressions of love [like post-its placed strategically throughout the house], hand-picked / hand-assembled bouquets given the day before just to keep it a surprise, candle-lit dinners, kisses and more kisses. If you refrain from depending on Hallmark and Russell Stover to show how much you care, this wonderful day of joy and love can be pretty, well, wonderful.
Have you ever seen an eighty-year-old couple walking through a park or down the street holding hands and deep in conversation. This to me is hope in flesh. Ask them what it is that has kept them together all these years and they will mostly likely use one word - commitment. In a world addicted to immediate gratification and avoidance of all things difficult, it's no wonder these couples catch our eyes and seem so unique and special. Commitment is becoming a lost art in this country. Unconditional love, endangered. Love isn't solely based on sentimental feelings, passion, and romance although these are all important in the bigger picture of this great word and should be celebrated [like on days like today]. Real love, the life-long, grow old together kind, is intimately connected to waking up each morning and deciding to love the person next to you. It's choosing, through bad and good and really bad and unbearable, to keep your word.
My husband is a great example of this. Good or bad [some days both], he married a red-head full of passion, fight, a firm belief she is always right, and an inability to admit defeat - a tough combination on the best of days. Add pregnancy to the mix and the combination becomes lethal. Yet each morning he wakes me with a kiss, chooses to ignore my inbred moodiness and spunk [or will compliment it to make me feel better], and chooses to love me through the worst of myself. He shows me promise, commitment, unconditional love - essentially who God is - each day. Love is beautiful. It washes over sins, makes people appear better than they are, and gives us the ability to become the best of ourselves and belief that we can.
So, here is to a holiday built around the celebration of love. May you find special ways to show the people you care about how much they mean to you. May this day be a reminder for the rest of the year to do the same. May you look in the mirror and realize how beautiful you are without make-up, without trying to be someone else - just you. You are beautiful. And may you know that there is a God who created you long ago, who spent time making you uniquely you, and who loves you more than you will ever know. May you experience this in tangible, visible expressions and be ready and willing to accept these gifts of unconditional love.
Happy Valentine's Day everyone.
So, Russel Stover and Mr. Cadbury - step aside for there's a new kid in town. And this up-n'-comin hotshot comes without the toxic baggage [ie. preservatives, refined sugars, additives, coloring] that you so deceptively hide - like a beauty with a terrible personality and zero compassion. This is the real deal, inside and out.
For the fudgy, chocolate base visit My New Roots. I used almond butter in lieu of cashew butter [it's what I had in the house] but any nut or seed butter will do.
1 1/2 c. finely ground unsweetened coconut [you can use either the flakes or shredded - grind them using a spice or coffee grinder]
creamed honey [creamed is important, it is not the regular honey]
pinch of sea salt
1 - 2 tbsp. pure water
In a medium size glass mixing bowl, combine ground coconut, creamed honey [start with a small amount and keep adding until a good consistency and flavor is achieved], and sea salt. Mix, starting with a low speed and working up, until well combined. Small balls might form. If this happens add a bit of water, beginning with the smallest amount. It should be just creamy but still thick.
With the coconut topping, they will be reminiscent of a Mounds bar [minus the artificially induced aftertaste]. Without, it will rival the best of chocolates.
Friday, February 3, 2012
Garden planning time that is. At about the time an itch arises within me to pull out one of my favorite books and commence in its annual reading, an urge to plan our garden also ensues. The book happens to be Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and, by divine fate or good sense, is a very passionate, gripping story about her family's choice to eat locally and grow or raise everything else [including heritage turkeys]. It aligns perfectly with garden planning time and adds giddiness to my existing excitement. Combine that with a cup of tea, scone, and a napping baby and, well, bliss.
If you are new to gardening or dappling in an interest, take a breath and remember this: planning your garden is the best part. Why? The planning involves creativity, design, passion, and an excuse to peruse countless seed catalogues and get lost in the names like Purple De Milpa, Moon and Stars, Small Shining Light, Feher Ozon Paprika, and Federle. It also gives you a chance to daydream about warm days filled with sunshine and blossoms, running through sprinklers [yes I still do that!, green grass under bare feet, and afternoons that stretch lazily on into the evening. But the best part of planning? It happens in late January or early February meaning the heavy-lifting and manual labor required for gardening won't happen for a few months! You get all of the dreamy benefits and avoid their cost in backaches and blisters - cha-ching!
Planning a garden in advance if important for a few reasons. First, it gives you documentation from year to year, recalling what was planted and where. When your memory inevitably fails ["What did I grow again? Was it in this bed or this one?"] a plan comes to the rescue. It also ensures that you are rotating your crops properly. This helps protect your garden against pathogens, bug / disease blights, and repeated garden epidemics. Crop rotation ensures a break where needed [ex. planting cover crop after an intensive plant year], boosts soil health, and gives you the opportunity to focus on companion planting prior to getting seed and plants in the ground. Finally [with no less importance], it gives you a bit of peace-of-mind when planting time comes around. You no longer have to stand in the middle of dirt and think, "now where the heck are these going to go?!".
[A FEW PLANNING TIPS]
1] If this is your first attempt at gardening, keep it simple. Choose a few varieties of plants that you already consume a lot of and are excited about and begin there. Read and research about how to grow those particular varieties [especially in your zone - if you live in Michigan, don't go trying to plant a banana tree]. Know what pests and diseases are more likely to make an appearance and how to organically prevent them. Prevention, knowing what to do prior to having to do it, is key in a healthy garden.
2] Map out, to scale, what you will grow and divide your garden space into "zones" so that rotation becomes a bit easier. If you have a smaller space, you can space each plant or seed properly on the plan, ensuring that you purchase the correct amount of seeds / plants. Doing this also gives you a good idea of how many plants will fit in each area. As each season rolls around, you will become more familiar with how much space each variety needs.
3] Look into creating raised beds - they are fabulous! Even raising the ground level into mounds, or "beds", by a few inches of dirt will help.
4] Try to think futuristic-ally in your plan. Think about what you want for this year but also about what you may want for years to come. This can help guide your plan. You can actually plan out three or four years in advance, using proper plant rotation methods.
5] Have fun and let your creative juices fly! Work both horizontally and vertically [using trellises, cages, fences, etc.] Don't put yourself in a box!
6] Order your seeds early to beat the rush and ensure that you'll get them in time to start seeds indoors. A lot of popular varieties sell out quickly! As you are ordering your seeds, set out a schedule [counting back from the planting date] so you know when to start planting indoors the seeds that require it.
In our garden, we specifically purchase organic and / or heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds have not been modified allowing the plant to preserve its natural, God-given traits [like the ability to withstand pests and diseases]. It allows natural selection to remain at work giving the strongest seeds the advantage which in turn gives you the best producing plant. Everyone wins!
Over the last few years, I have found some seed companies that have become my "go-to". They have a history of producing well, may be local [depending on the company], and have good customer service and are quick to ship out your order.
Annie's Heirloom Seeds
Seed Saver's Exchange
Abundant Life Seeds
These are the books that sustain my garden lifeline. They are my constant spring - fall companions and are the go-to's whenever any issues arise. These resources are also great in helping with planning your garden.
If you live in an area that restricts the size of your garden [ie. in cities or tightly packed neighborhoods], start with this book, Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces.
The Vegetable Gardener's Bible
The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Disease and Pest Control
Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening
Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening
The Holistic Orchard
Organic Gardening Magazine
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle [Although not really designed to be a garden guide, it is very informative in a completely entertaining way which is why I recommend it here as well.]