autumn days

Friday, December 28, 2012

Chore Day

Life seems to always be a balance for us, a constant teetering between rest and activity, quiet time and social time, free play and schedules.  With my beloved partner working to provide for us each day of the week, it is nice for my two children and I to have a routine within our days.  The three of us have turned Saturday into Chore Day (a carryover from my childhood).  My children now spend Chore Day playing their way through dusting, shaking rugs and blankets, sweeping, and mopping.  While they tackle those tasks, I take on dishes, laundry, putting away endless piles, cutting nails, cleaning ears, washing hair, watering plants, and organizing.  (Each time the kids help with laundry or dishes, they drop a bead into their Family Date jar.)  After we complete our chores, we head outside to ride bikes and splash in puddles.  To balance out Chore Day, Sunday has now become our Play Day.  Along with Movie Night, Game Night, Library Day, Playgroup Day, and Nature Garden Day, we are enjoying the balance these two new rituals provide within our week. 

What are your sacred weekly rituals?  How do you make chores fun?

splashing and laughing and riding

Thursday, December 20, 2012

First Sewing Project

Hannah has been asking for her own sewing project for a while now.  For years, actually.  Santa even brought her a little sewing kit last year that went unused.  I am full of excuses for why this project took so long: a sewing machine that needs professional help, a small boy at my side day and night, and easier tasks to accomplish first.  Hannah's wish finally came true with the help of my mom.  She listened to my daughter's desires and helped her come up with a project plan.

On this special day, Grandma arrived for a visit, brought her sewing machine, we pulled out various supplies, and I put Liam down for a nap.  At the end of their sacred time together, Grandma followed Hannah's lead to make a detailed little purse for her cousin's upcoming birthday.  What a sweet generous daughter I have.  I am also thankful for my mother making this very first sewing project possible.  It really does take a community to raise a child and I am thankful to have the extra helpful hands.  This holiday season I hope my mother gives us nothing other than her time, her love, and her beautiful seamstress hands.  That is more than enough to fill our hearts.

a gift from the heart

Game Night

At this particular time in our society, when our safety feels quite violated and our hearts are ripped open, it soothes our souls to hunker down for a good old fashioned game night!  We plan game night each week, though it happens once or twice a month around here.  Life is busy, so it is nice to take the time to sit down together for some quality time.

After dinner on our appointed night, each child chooses a game for us to play and we jump right in.  Two year old Liam likes to organize small pieces while five year old Hannah likes to follow her own rules for intricate games.  Between these two, we flexibly bend to play games and enjoy quality time together.  For a twist, we enjoy movie night each month (or three).  We cook up some popcorn and sit down for a half hour of Mr. Rogers (my choice, Elmo (Liam's choice), or Dora (Hannah's choice).  On this cold rainy day, we three are soothing souls by sitting down this afternoon for our own little game day.  Twister, anyone?

How do you make family time sacred?

all tied up in knots with Twister on game night

We love puzzles!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

fresh grains & oils

As I work through my pile of articles to read, I finally made my way to an Oregonian article from March 20 on food rancidity.  This food storage information led me into deeper conversations within my community about the storage and use of oils.

This is what I got out of the article.

  • Rancid foods are "carcinogenic, pro-inflammatory and very toxic... [and] widespread in the food chain."
  • Rancid foods can be past their expiration dates or have a grassy paint-like odor.
  • Keep whole grains and oils fresh in the freezer or refrigerator.
  • Buy grains and oils in smaller quantities and consume them within a few months.
  • Buy products that contain oils and fats in smaller quantities.
  • Store most cooking oils in a cool, dark cabinet away from the stove.
  • Refrigerate polyunsaturated oils, especially fish, nut, and flax seed oils.
  • Keep all flax in the freezer or refrigerator (learned at Bob's Red Mill).

Advice from my Bob's Red Mill friend:
"We always recommend to keep our products in air tight containers in the fridge or freezer (either works) as that way you can use them about 7-8 months past the sell by date.  The sell by date is the expiration date and should be stamped on the side of the bag near the top of the bag.  There are also some large storage containers at our store and you can buy oxygen absorber packets that let you store the grains for years and years.  Most grains and flours have a shelf life of two years, with products that have natural oils like the Flaxseed Meal having a shelf life of one year.  I just keep them in the fridge at home and they seem to do well.  If baking with them, it is best to let them come to room temperature before baking."

Advice from my naturopathic doctor:

  • Oils that are safely heated are coconut and olive.
  • Butter should be served by melting it atop warm foods, such as toast or steamed vegetables.
  • Butter becomes carcinogenic when microwaved.
  • The structure of oil changes when heated. (healthiest to least healthy: room temperature, oven, stove top, microwave)
  • She also provides her children with a blend of coconut and almond milks instead of cow's milk.

What have I changed since learning this?
I've tossed expired goods, such as old oils, sauerkraut, mustard, ketchup, horseradish, and maple syrup.  I also put flax and quinoa into my refrigerator and make sure I consume my grains without the specific time.  Now when I need to make a meal, I try to use supplies I know are pushing the limits of freshness, such as that wilting lettuce or that last shake of turmeric.  I look through my cupboards to make sure I am using my entire inventory before I make another bulk grocery trip.  And when I begin making a recipe and realize I am missing something, it is in my nature to throw in something similar that I have on hand.  A little creativity makes a dish unique and flavorful.

I also plan ahead and pull out butter to warm up on the counter before baking projects.  Then I don't have to microwave butter (thus changing its composition) for baking.  A small pat of butter sits out awaiting my breakfast toast.  Instead of frying my vegetables in butter, now I put a pat of butter atop my lightly steamed vegetables.  It is so simple and delicious.

It is intimidating to learn about the health of food preparation and storage, though with each thing I learn (and those things I choose to keep in my pocket of knowledge), I feeling more confident and thoughtful and grateful in regards to the fresh foods I feed my family.

What would you like to share about food storage and use in your home?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Entertaining A Homeschool Toddler

We've had some challenges finding time to focus on kindergarten studies while keeping a two-year old entertained.  Talking with friends about their ideas, we've found some creative ways to keep the little one entertained while the older child enjoys themed studies as well as daily learning tasks.  We now have a cupboard for little Liam's homeschool activities.  I have another cupboard full of his activities that I rotate when he needs something new.  Now when we have homeschool time, he heads for his cupboards, just like his big sister, pulls out an activity, and takes a seat at our kitchen table.  His favorites are poof balls in egg cartons, scrabble tiles, legos, and tinker toys.  It is so much easier to homeschool my two children when the smallest is included in his own special way.

How do simply entertain your toddler?

pipe cleaners in a sieve

writing in her daily journal

gluing artwork and string onto a CD

play dough

singing while cutting with Mama's scissors

sounding out words for her Santa letter

daily math work in Math-U-See curriculum

cutting strips on a tray

embracing mealtimes

The last couple months many of my unhealthy patterns and feelings have been coming to the surface and asking to be set free.  One example is when I noticed I didn't enjoy mealtimes with my family; they noticed as well.  I spent mealtimes focused on all the work I put into each meal, how I wasn't being thanked, and how the four of us were only eating together for a few minutes before my husband got up to wash dishes.  

After journaling and meditating on this topic, I found I was holding onto my patterns from childhood.  It turns out my childhood memories include many dark areas.  My childhood dinners were a time for me to be corrected, disciplined, to sit straight and quiet, to eat two portions of the things I said I didn't like, to say I liked what I didn't, to be awoken in the middle of the night to finish my meal.  Things got a lot easier once my family began sitting in front of the television to eat, the focus was off each other and onto some boxing match, kung fu, or western.

Now in my current home with my charming husband and beautiful children, we have made some changes and created our own rituals to embrace each other at mealtimes.  We now sit down all together and say a blessing (borrowed from Mindy and her Seven Times the Sun book), light a candle, and talk about our days.  We each talk about two things that we enjoyed, one thing we didn't enjoy, one thing we learned, and one thing we hope for in the coming day.  When we are done with this, my husband is free to wash all the dishes he likes.  Sometimes we even bring meeting ideas to the table, such as last night's focus on which charities to donate to this year.  I am so thankful now for this sacred time together to share our thoughts and feelings and ideas and reflections with one another. 

How do you make your shared meals special?

Earth who gives to us this food,
Sun who makes it ripe and good,
Dearest Earth and dearest Sun,
We give thanks for all you've done.

Thank you, world, for happy hearts,
For rain and sunny weather.
Thank you for the food we eat
And that we are together.

Blessings on this meal and peace upon the earth.

our own place mats decorated with magazine clippings

Liam's place mat

Hannah's choices

my place mat

the place mat Liam made for Papa (no manly sports in our kids' magazines)

Albeke Farms

My dear friend Holly picked the most delicious Concord grapes last year from Albeke Farms, so we headed out to pick our own this year.  We three had such a fun morning picking grapes, basking in the sunlight, and picking out our favorite pumpkins.  We ate all we could and then passed the rest on to friends.  Our freezer has enough of our own homegrown grapes from last year, and Concords have seeds, so we didn't freeze any.  Perhaps next year we'll get to Albeke Farms before the end of the season and will have enough for homemade grape juice!  It's on the calendar, so we're planning for just that.  

What do you do with your grapes? 

picking some, eating some

a glorious pumpkin

my babes with their babes

the picture that says it all

"You're grape!" baskets for a couple friends