31 December 2009

Last Post for this decade


It's hard to believe that 10 years ago today, I was with friends, celebrating New Years Eve and wondering if all computers would crash when the clock struck midnight. Silliness.

Now, I'm looking at my daughter (who will be 20 months old on January 9th) and wondering where the last year went. I am blessed to have her - and my husband - in my life.

Today I made up a list of goals for 2010. I'm not sharing them, since they're fairly personal, but I think it's important to set goals for oneself. Whether you actually MEET them is another thing, but at least you have something to strive towards, right?

As I look into the future, I can only hope that this coming year (and decade) brings health, happiness, love, and friendship for everyone.

Happy New Year!

28 December 2009

LOVE the Telehealth commercial

I don't know about you, but I love that the Ontario Telehealth commercial discussing levels of medical care available (doctor, walk-in clinic, urgent care, and emergency room) features an obviously gay married couple as their last example. "Jeffrey and Michael flipped their car..."-the spot features two men, arms round each other. The man on the left side has a visible left hand on his partner's shoulder, and on his ring finger is a wedding band.

Awesomeness.

18 December 2009

"Tis the Season

A week until Christmas. We don't celebrate Christmas in the "Jesus was born in a manger this day" kind of way, but a "spend time with family and friends" way. My mom has always been the type to put up the Christmas tree the weekend after Halloween, and musical dancing stuffed things in the weeks following. Stockings go up the week before Christmas (empty of course). They went up today. With a new one for Harley, of course. All the pets get a stocking-they get a toy and usually a treat.

This year is going to be scaled way back in the gift department. Ben's new job (yes, he got the one he interviewed for) hasn't paid him his first cheque yet, and of course since he filed his EI saying he was employed, he doesn't get any more EI cheques. Go figure. So we're outta luck for Christmas.

Having said that, I did get Delilah a few things, a month or two ago. We bought her barely anything last year, but she got lots of stuff from other people. This year, she'll be getting 3 gifts from us, 4 if I find her a book tomorrow. We don't see the point in giving her tons of things, and nothing will be from Santa. We have our own traditions and will be making some up as we go along. One we started last year (her first Yule/Christmas) is a tree ornament. It is given to her on Yule (and I think we will add a book to that tradition) and will be added to our tree. When she is old enough to have her own tree, we will give her a box filled with all the ornaments given to her over the years.

This year I learned about the Christmas Tree Spider tradition. Taken from the Etsy shop article:
The Christmas Spider Legend
A long time ago in Germany, while a mother was busily cleaning house in preparation for Christmas, the spiders that usually stayed in the living room corner fled upstairs to the attic to escape from her broom. From the attic they could hear all the excitement from the living room as decorations were being made for when Santa was to come on Christmas Eve and bring gifts for the children. Frantic to see the decorated tree, the spiders slowly crept downstairs for a view. Oh, what a beautiful tree! In their excitement, they scurried up the trunk and out along each branch. They were filled with happiness as they climbed all through the tree to see the glittering beauty. But alas! By the time they were through climbing all over the tree, it was completely shrouded in their dusty-gray spiderweb. When Santa came, he smiled as he saw how happy the spiders were. However, He knew how heart-broken the mother would be if she saw the tree covered with the dusty webs. So He reached out and touched the webs, blessing them and turning them to silver and gold. Thus, the custom to have a spider ornament amongst all other decorations with tinsel of gold and silver on the Christmas tree was born.
Pretty cool, huh? We got her an awesome handmade Spider Ornament from Etsy. That's gonna be hard to beat.

I'm curious as to what people's opinions are on the whole Santa myth. I mean, I like the sentiment of a magical elf who embodies the meaning of Christmas and all that, but....really? Why tell your kids lies? Why not give them the best presents and claim credit for it? Why not continue the trusting relationship you try to foster from the beginning, rather than have to explain to them why you LIED for years?

People look at us funny when we say we "don't do Santa". And they say, "but what will you tell her when all the other kids are talking about Santa? And when you see Santa in the mall, and the Santa Claus parade-you took her to that!!!" It's pretty amusing, actually. It's not like we're going to pretend that the Santa Claus myth doesn't exist...we're just not going to tell her that he's REAL, and that he's coming down the chimney on Christmas Eve to leave great toys under the tree for her. Instead, we'll tell her that there are people all over the world who tell their children that Santa is real, and that she shouldn't argue with anyone about his existence. It's a lot like religious myths, actually. Strange, that.


07 December 2009

Keeping Busy

Well, it appears winter weather has decided to arrive. Strange, to have a November with practically no snow! The flakes are just drifting down here, slowly but steadily. Apparently we have a storm watch for Tuesday night. Woohoo!

Things have been busy on the workfront. I've had several commissions for handcrafted items (wristwarmers, berets, scarves, and keychains, etc). Those are all finished for now but I'm looking to get a few more before Christmas-so if you need a unique stocking stuffer or small gift idea, contact me.

Thursday, I have an estimate for a housecleaning job. It's in London, which will suck for winter driving, but I am looking to get one or two locally as well, for some extra cash. Ben's business is doing REALLY well lately and it's improving all the time. In addition to that, he is currently at an interview for a parts/service position at a newer dealership. Fingers crossed! **Edited to add: Ben came home and less than an hour later, got the call-he starts Wednesday morning!

My training has been going well. I'm amazed at how quickly my body became used to running again. The first few runs, I had to walk several times. But now, I generally run the entire way and walk only to cool down. That's on the 2.5km runs. I haven't done any longer runs yet, as I'm easing my way into it. I've been running 3 times a week. I had to skip yesterday, because I walked downtown on Saturday for my Mom (to the liquor store for a Bailey's special 40 oz with mug) and got a HUGE blister on my left heel-from the Doc's I've had SINCE I WAS 14!!! I couldn't believe it! By the time I got home, it had broken and was oozing sebum. Not pleasant. So now I'm letting it heal a bit more before I go running. I should be able to go tomorrow. I've also been doing pushups and situps after my runs. A friend has a home gym and has said I can use it whenever I want-it's just the issue of me getting over there to do it!

I have an information meeting scheduled with the OPP on December 15th. I'll find out then what is required of me for application, and to see what's what. I'm nervous, but looking forward to getting there and meeting the recruiter.

29 November 2009

Trolls

So. I haven't been on the blog lately, and hadn't realized that I have my very own troll who has nothing better to do than to read and presume to know something about my life-and then pass judgement.
This person obviously isn't aware that her identity is readily available (as if I didn't know who it was already) to anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of internet and computer technology.

This blog is written for family members and friends, and for people with similar interests in health, craft, or lifestyle. It's not for negative judgemental assholes who have such pitiful and pathetic lives that they need to trash talk other people.

So-if your only intent is to come here and judge me or my family, then you can screw right off. I am doing what is best for my daughter and my family at this point in our lives. My decisions and actions are of no concern of yours, and perhaps you should concentrate on your own messed up family life instead of mine.


Oh, and comments are now on moderation.

22 November 2009

Simple Crochet Wristwarmers


I searched for a couple days online trying to find a simple and easy crochet pattern for wristwarmers. I didn't end up finding one for worsted weight that I liked, so I took the pattern from "Family of Mittens" by Lionbrand and chopped and experimented and finally made it so that I liked it. These wristwarmers will fit a small to medium sized hand. In any case, here is the pattern. Please excuse my terrible pattern-writing skills, as this is my first one.

I used a 5.5 mm hook. I crochet quite tightly, so if you may have to alter your hook size. The upside is that it only takes an hour or so to make each one. These warmers are NOT done in the round.

CUFF
Leaving a 10" tail for sewing, ch 20.
SC in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch across. 19 sts. TURN

RIBBING
Ch 1, sc in back loop of each sc across; turn.
Repeat 23 more rows. On last row, DO NOT TURN.

PALM
Working across top (long side) of ribbing, sc 21 stitches evenly spaced across (picking up anywhere you can); turn.
CH 1, sc in each sc across and increase by working 2 sc into each of 6 stitches evenly spaced; turn. There should be 27 stitches.
CH 1, sc in each st, turn.
Repeat for 7 more rows.

FINISH
This lacy edge is optional, you could do any type of edging you wanted, of course. Another nice one is the scallop ch1, (5 HDC in next st, skip one) repeat across.

CH 1, (CH 4, skip 1 stitch, sc in next) repeat to end.

Fold in half length-wise, and sew up from bottom ribbing, leaving space for thumb-approx 1.5-2 rows up from beginning of ribbing. Leave 3.5-4 rows unsewn to accommodate thumb.

I also finished the wrist end with sc.

The pair shown was completed as a gift for a friend, made from Patons Classic 100% wool. Each warmer weighs approx .65 oz.



08 September 2009

Life Update

Summer is almost over and many things have changed around here. We lost our raw milk source and that was disappointing to say the least. I refuse to go back to regular store milk so made effort to find the next best thing and was able to find, at Quartermasters in Wortley Village, organic, whole milk that is unhomogenized. That's awesome! The brand is called Harmony. The cows are pastured and treated humanely and fed natural foods. The milk is pasteurized at the lowest legal temperature, which is nice-no Ultra High Temperature pasteurization here! They also do not routinely use antibiotics or growth hormones.

Besides the milk issue, we have some HUGE changes going on around here. It has been a flurry of activity for the last few weeks. The last week of August, we were searching for a lodger to help us cover bills. Then, we had someone agree to move in for the 1st of September, then the next day he called and told us he couldn't move. Then I was told I was losing a client due to her giving the job to her sister-in-law, and I had just lost my other full-time weekly client due to terminal illness. Things were NOT looking good. On top of that, Ben got notice that he was being laid off as of October 3rd. Not good at all.

Considering the fact we had used what savings we had last time he was laid off for 4 months, and couldn't survive the wait period for EI, never mind the fact that EI won't pay our expenses, I figured drastic action was required. I asked my Mom if her and Dad would consider allowing us to move in there to get us back on our feet. This was on September 1st. Keep that in mind.

She texted me back, saying she would talk to Dad and was on her way to pick him up. I emailed Ben and told him I had asked Mom if we could move in. A little while later, Mom texted me and told me to call her. On the phone, she said we could move in. That meant I had to get my notice in to Sifton PRONTO! I emailed Ben, who understood this was our only option, and typed up a letter of notice for Sifton. I immediately took it over to the Berkshire Club to hand in. The lady at the desk felt it necessary to admonish me for waiting to give it to her until the 1st; apparently I should have done it the day before. Luckily there are 31 days in October, else we would have been stuck here until Nov 30 instead of October 31. And I'm not sure how we would have paid October's rent!

We immediately realized we were going to have to get rid of EVERYTHING. We will not be taking any furniture aside from our bedroom set, Ben's big TV, and the kitchen set. Everything else is being sold or donated. Even our decorations, half my clothes, and all other unnecessary items will be gone. We started purging the stuff from the basement and I have gotten my stored stuff down to 1 box of Christmas decorations (not getting rid of that!), 1 box of Halloween decorations, 1 box of keepsake items (baby book, Ty's ashes, photos, etc), 2 boxes of reference books, and then my craft stuff. All of my other books are being sold or donated. I posted 3 lists of books on my Facebook in the Notes section and had some response but other than that, I will put the books out in a yard sale next week, and whatever doesn't sell will go to the used bookstores for credit. Anything they don't take will go to Valu Village.

The same goes for clothes. A new consignment shop just opened in the plaza down the street so that's where most of my clothes will go. I have a lot of suits and such, and I don't really need them anymore. I will keep one suit but the rest will go. I also have dresses and other items that I don't wear anymore that are just taking up space. All of Delilah's old clothes will go to Once Upon a Child or be donated.

The "donation" pile downstairs is huge, and keeps getting bigger every day. It feels good, to go thru boxes I've had for years and years and realize that I just don't NEED this stuff. There's no way I'm moving all that crap again! There is some space for storage at my parents', in the spare room or the basement, but why bother? I am in a competition with myself to get rid of as much stuff as I can. I know how much crap we have, considering we just moved in here last Feb 29th. And I know we said we wouldn't move again until it was to our own house, but things happen. At least we'll be starting fresh in a year or two. I didn't realize it, but Ben felt a lot of the stuff here was "mine", not "ours". Which is odd, considering I got rid of a lot of stuff when I moved from Guelph to Ingersoll last time!

The sad news about the move is that we have to get rid of Harley. We are heartbroken but my parents won't consider allowing him to come with us. I tried to convince them, since D loves him so much, but they won't budge. I will be meeting with a family in the next few days who are considering taking him. They live on a farm, have a 7 year old son and an 8 month old puppy and horses. The mother is always home, and they take the dogs with them when they go out. It sounds like the perfect place for him. He needs the space to run, and I think another dog will help him with his anxiety.

The other day I told Ben that it will be a long time before I consider getting another pet. Every single other animal I've had, I've had to get rid of in one way or another. Felix stayed with my parents when I moved to Guelph (and hates me now). Maddox ran away (or was killed, haven't figured that out yet) when she was left with housemates. Birdie had to go to a new (loving) home when Tyler was insistent on killing her, and Tyler had to be put down just last February. And now Harley.

Aside from the Harley situation, I am excited to start this new aspect of our lives. I think it will allow us to change and grow and go in a new direction. One year will allow us to become debt-free, and another year will have us saving for a down payment.

28 August 2009

MMMM kombucha

Kombucha experiment #2 is a success! We have a good, healthy SCOBY going (about 1/4" thick), forming on the top of the tea. The mother is below it, kind of perpendicular. I am doing a continuous fermentation rather than starting a new batch each time. I think tomorrow I will separate off on of the babies and throw it in a jar with some of the kombucha and some fresh tea/sugar mixture and keep it on the counter, just in case something happens to the big batch. I wouldn't want to lose my kombucha now!

I have done 2 re-batches so far, about every 3 days. I pour off 1.5 litres or so, and put in fresh tea. The kombucha goes straight into a mason jar into the fridge, and when it's chilled we drink a couple ounces at a time. Our bodies are still getting used to it so we don't want to overdo it.

I like the flavour. I was a little scared it would be gross, but it is really good! It still tastes like tea, kind of, but with a little zing to it. Almost apple juicy, almost vinegary, but in a good way. Yum.

Careers and Destiny

Way back in another life, I was a police officer. That news may surprise some people. But it is true.

A couple neighbours recently found out I was a cop in another life and have taken it upon themselves to convince me that I should go back to it. At first I was resistant. There's only so much rejection a person can take, ya know? I left Guelph under a cloud-accused of doing things I hadn't done...messy.

In any case, 5 years have gone by. I still miss the job, the duty, the obligation...the politics part still ticks me off, but I think I can manage that part better. I miss the other parts enough that I think I could balance out the undesirable part...

I have initiated contact with a few people I used to work with. I hope to get a couple letters of recommendation from former co-workers and approach London's HR person. Wish me luck!

16 August 2009

Kombucha Experiment #2

My first kombucha failed-it developed mold around Day 4. I waited a week to ensure that what I was seeing was indeed mold, and it was.

A friend gave me another, fresher SCOBY and I made up a new batch of sweetened tea yesterday (Aug 15). I used 3 (2-cup) teabags and a cup of sugar in 3 L of water. I cleaned out the sun tea jar and set the 2nd batch to sit on the counter. I'm not covering it up this time, since it's not really in direct sunlight anyway.

I will check it in 4 or 5 days. Hopefully this one takes!

07 August 2009

A Weight Loss Update, and How to Make "Soda"

First, the update on my weight loss. Sorry to anyone not interested, just skip down to the soda recipe!

It's been two and a half weeks since we started on this "real food" path, and I've lost 6 pounds. What have I been doing? Well, for one, I WASN'T exercising, which I find odd. It's just been too rainy, or too busy, so I've done practically no walking/running
(up until yesterday).

The things I have been doing with regularity is:
~eating soaked/fermented oatmeal every morning (1/2 cup dried oats soaked in a mixture of water and whey or water and yogurt, in pot with lid on stove overnight), rinsed in morning and heated with a bit of water, milk, cinnamon, and honey or maple syrup, with raisins or bits of apple in it. D eats this too (but not raisins);
~eating scrambled eggs daily (usually with cheese, or cream cheese, or labneh, as well as fresh cilantro or dill) and a piece of homemade toast with butter or natural peanut butter
~drinking whole milk (cream has not been removed), fresh from a cow - at least one cup daily, plus use in cooking

Note the trend? I've been eating MORE fat from animal sources but I'm losing weight. Huh. On the other hand, I haven't been eating as much garbage as I used to. I pay attention to labels and try to avoid processed foods. I haven't killed my chocolate addiction yet, or my love for ice cream, but something has to give. I am coveting a hand-cranked ice cream machine but we'll see....

Now. On to the recipe for "soda":
I ran across a recipe for homemade gingerale online (as well as amazing info on cheese and other things-thanks to David B. Fankhauser, Ph.D, and used it with great success, then tinkered with it to find a less-sweet option. Then I tried the same basic recipe with lemon instead of ginger, and am quite pleased with the outcome. One of my major addictions is soda, and I'd rather drink something I've made, even if it has sugar in it, over the HFCS crap you buy at the store. In any case, here is the modified recipe for a nice, light-tasting soda that is reminiscent of club soda, but better (as you could drink it WITHOUT alcohol in it):

~3/4 c sugar (the yeast need sugar-I don't think anything else would work)
~about 1-2 tbsp lemon juice (you could do lime, too, or vanilla for cream soda, or grated ginger...)
~1/4 tsp yeast
~water to fill (filtered is best)

Using a clean plastic 2L bottle (apparently it's a risk to use glass as the pressure could make it explode - I will experiment with a glass gallon jug and valve system), pour in the sugar and then the yeast using a funnel. Swirl the bottle around to mix the yeast into the sugar, then add the lemon or lime juice. Fill the bottle to within an inch of the neck with water, and cap tightly. Tilt the bottle several times until the sugar is dissolved, then place on the counter. Let sit for 24-48 hours (could be finished before this depending on how warm your place is-make sure you check), until you can't squeeze the sides of the bottle. Let it sit for a couple hours more, then refrigerate for several hours/overnight for complete chilling. Enjoy!

**it is possible to let it go for too long on your counter and risk having the bottle explode from the expanding gasses. Try to avoid this. Messy.

04 August 2009

I Made Labneh!

Labneh is a traditional Middle-Eastern soft cheese made from straining yoghurt. It is very similar in taste and consistency to cream cheese.

Yesterday, I placed a cheesecloth into a strainer and dumped a tub of plain natural (no sugar added, no flavours, etc) yogurt into it. Apparently I should have added salt before this step but no matter, I added salt to the finished product.

Next I gathered the corners of the cheesecloth and brought them together and hung the small sack from the kitchen faucet over top of a 4 cup glass measuring cup to catch the whey. A couple hours later I remembered that the yogurt I was using was pasteurized, and should be refrigerated, so I transferred the sack to hang over a pitcher using a wooden spoon to hold it.

This afternoon I checked on the sack and it felt of the proper consistency so I carefully removed it from the cheesecloth. It looked like a big white ball of cream cheese! I transferred it to a bowl and mixed in about half a teaspoon or so of kosher sea salt. I'll store the labneh in a cream cheese container, since it made just a little less than 250 mL. Perfect.

The taste is pretty similar to cream cheese, if not a little more sour tasting. It's less sour than the plain yogurt taste, I think, and not offensive at all, especially with the salt added. I tried some spread over PC Organic Multi-Seed Stoned Wheat Crackers. Yum.

I can foresee this replacing our commercial cream cheese. It has an excellent, creamy consistency, a smooth taste, and will go with everything that cream cheese or sour cream partners does. I picture it over baked potatoes, on bagels and crackers, or the base for dips and spreads. Right now I'm imagining it served with roasted red peppers and olives.

The best part is, I know how to make yogurt. I can make that myself, and in turn, make labneh from the yogurt. And then the remaining whey I will use for soaking grains and such, and for replacing the liquid in breads and baking. Cheese and milk products RULE!

On a side note, I have found an Ontario source for rennet tablets and liquid, so I'll be ordering some of that. I plan on making Feta, so I won't have to buy THAT anymore, either. Eventually I'd love to learn to make cheddar and other forms of cheese so I'm excited to get started.

03 August 2009

Health Update

Many people who actually know me will know that I had a bout with extremely high blood pressure at the end of my pregnancy and for months afterward (the high BP is what caused my transfer to hospital to give birth). It got high enough after I had D that my midwife worried about stroke. I was forced to go onto blood pressure medication for about 2 months after having Delilah just to control it, and even then, it was high normal. I was weaned off of the meds but continued to monitor myself.

I hadn't tested my numbers in the last month or so. Today while grocery shopping I realized that the No Frills has a blood pressure machine, so I sat down in the chair...and wondered. First reading was 129/78. I figured, "huh, I've been walking around pushing a cart for the last 20 minutes, and this here sheet says to wait 5 minutes while sitting quietly before taking a reading" so...I tested again. Result: 117/78. Awesome.

I don't think my blood pressure has been this low in YEARS. I always struggled with it, even before I got pregnant. It got to the point where my doctor threatened to take me off my birth control pills.

I wonder...could the lowered blood pressure be related to the milk?? I'm still dropping weight and haven't really changed anything other than drinking the real milk. Maybe my blood pressure has gone down BECAUSE I've lost weight. But no, that doesn't really make sense either, because my BP was high before when I weighed under 145. hmmmm.

02 August 2009

Kombucha Update: Day 3



My kombucha is coming along nicely. Above are pictures: the baby SCOBY is forming on top of the tea (if you look closely you can see the mother SCOBY sort of suspended sideways just below the baby) and a view of how my kombucha sits on the counter with it's cover. I've been calling the jar "the Arab"...

Some might think that I have mold forming on the surface; this is, in fact, NOT mold, it is the baby forming.

When I place my nose close to the top of the jar, I can smell a winy-sweet smell, like when you make wine. This tells me the kombucha is doing well and has started to ferment. Yay!

In 3 more days I will test the flavour. I have posted ads on the freecycle and such groups asking for some empty Grolsch bottles so I can do a secondary fermentation, with ginger, lemon, and other flavourings.

I have had people ask me for babies so they can start their own. I will have to wait a while before the SCOBY will be sturdy enough to separate. I will be doing the continuous brew method, so I will allow the SCOBY to get up to an inch thick before dividing it (unless it appears it wants to divide).

01 August 2009

Weight Loss-The Easy Way

Some of you may have noticed I have a weight loss ticker up there at the top centre of my blog. It says I've lost 8 lbs so far. And before you go thinking I'm talking about baby weight, I'm not-I dropped that about 3 weeks after I had D. Go ahead, hate me if you want.

No, the weight I need to lose is from BEFORE I got pregnant. I was fat when I got married. Okay, maybe not fat compared to some people's standards, but I was fat for ME. I hit a major depression when I jumped on the scales 3 weeks after our wedding and saw it read...172 pounds. At just over 5 and a half feet, that's crazy. Especially since my ideal weight is about 135. That's almost 40 pounds over, for those who feel they need a number. Ouch.

After I had D, I went down to about 168, and have gone down somewhat steadily, then plateaued around 160. Still waaay too high. So when a couple friends and I decided to enter into a weight loss challenge, I figured I'd have no problems, and all that. Yeah, right. I lost a pound, I gained it back, etc. This went on for 2 months. Then I started on the Real Food path. Yep, here I go, talking about Real Food again.

In any case, since that day about a week and a half ago, I have lost 4 pounds. 4 pounds, and all I've done is started drinking real milk (whole milk, with all the cream still in it), eating yogurt I made from the real milk, and trying to eat healthier foods. I eat a LOT of chickpeas, lots of fruits and veggies, and a little meat. Usually 3 oz or less a day. (That's more because we can't afford more, but whatever.) Does it strike you as odd that I've begun eating MORE fat and am losing weight? Huh.

I try to avoid foods that have HFCS, inordinate amounts of sugar, vegetable oils, and other processed crap. About the only processed foods I've eaten in the last few days are organic stoned wheat crackers (and not that many) and packaged gravy (ew, I know, terrible stuff).

I feel pretty good. You can really tell by looking at my face that I have lost weight. I like that my clothes are fitting better, I've put clothes on that I haven't worn in years, and am looking forward to trying on more of my "skinny" clothes. I have drawers and a box full of clothes that were/are too small for me. I have gotten RID of boxes of clothes that I thought would never fit again! I think I donated all of my skinniest clothes, with the idea that I would never fit into them again. But lately, I've started to believe that it might be possible for me to get back down to my ideal weight yet again.

I don't think that I'll ever be as skinny as I was once-at one point, at the end of college and right before I started working as a police officer, I was a very skinny 127 pounds. That is far too thin, for me, as I tend to be muscular and fit. My hipbones stick out really far when I get below 135, and anything below 133 is crazy. My body likes being about 135-that is, if I get moderate amounts of exercise and eat properly.

I will start walking regularly again - we haven't been, in about a week, because of our schedule, the rain, and other reasons. I would love to start running again. I really miss it. My only problem is finding the time. I am loathe to give up my sleep in the mornings, but it might be the only way I can get out. Even if I went for short runs, that would help. Weight training at the gym would be a huge help also, especially in getting my metabolism going again. I miss my muscles. And I think my husband does too.

I am looking forward to getting out and about, getting the dog some extra exercise, and enjoying the rest of the summer. Can you believe it's the first of August??? I will be 32 in 25 days, and I'd like to weigh less than 150 pounds. That would be nice. I'd say I'd like to weigh less than 140 pounds, but that would be pushing it. I'll be realistic.

31 July 2009

Ah, Kombucha!


At this moment in time, I have 2.5 L of real milk in my fridge, and about 1/4 L clabbering on the stove with which I will make cream cheese. We decided we prefer to drink whole milk for the flavour (quite impressive considering I used to refuse to drink anything with more fat than 1%! Delilah is drinking it and enjoying it as well. We slowly integrated it from pasteurized goat's milk to 100% whole milk. She also enjoys the yogurt I made last week.

I started a jug of Kombucha going last night with a friend's SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), using 4 orange pekoe tea bags, a pomegranate green tea bag, and 3 L of water plus a cup of sugar. This is my first attempt at kombucha, so we'll see how it turns out. I put it all into a sun tea jar (with spigot) and covered it with a tea towel and elastic band to keep bugs, dust, and anything else airborne out of it. In 6-8 days I'll check it for flavour and if I can find pH test strips, will check the pH.

For those who have never heard of Kombucha before, basically it's a fermented beverage made from tea and a SCOBY. The yeast in the SCOBY (which theoretically floats on top of the liquid in the jar) consumes the sugar and turns the tea into a healthy, delicious, naturally carbonated fermented beverage. The benefits are twofold, in my opinion: I get the nutrients from the drink, and I get to satisfy my soda addiction (I hope). We'll see.

According to Seeds of Health,
As the Kombucha culture digests the sugar it produces a range of organic acids like glucuronic acid, gluconic acid, lactic acid, acetic acid, butyric acid, malic acid and usnic acid; vitamins, particularly B vitamins and vitamin C; as well as amino acids, enzymes. And of course there are all the benefits of the probiotic microorganisms themselves. The Kombucha culture is a biochemical powerhouse in your kitchen.

and
Many health claims are made for kombucha but there is less research on the benefits of kombucha than there is on fermented milk products. It has certainly been shown to have similar antibiotic, antiviral and anti fungal properties in lab tests. In rats it’s been shown to protect against stress and improve liver function. There is a lot of experiential evidence from people who have been using kombucha over many years. Many of the benefits reported include improvements in energy levels, metabolic disorders, allergies, cancer, digestive problems, candidiasis, hypertension, HIV, chronic fatigue and arthritis. It ‘s also used externally for skin problems and as a hair wash among other things.


There are many supposed benefits to drinking the tea. From reversal of cancer, to treating skin issues, to reversing the signs of aging...the list is endless. There are internet sites full of testimonials. Here is one of them.

I am impatient to start drinking this, I can't wait to see what happens. I plan on starting small (half an ounce to an ounce a day, increasing by a half ounce per week) to avoid any violent cleansing side effects (nausea, cold symptoms, skin eruptions, etc). I am told this is also a good idea when breastfeeding, as I don't want my liver to do a purge and dump a bunch of toxins into my blood and breastmilk. Once I have my body accustomed to small amounts I will gradually increase the "dosage".

I don't know if Ben will drink it, but I'm sure he will try it. I will let forward him my research, we will discuss it, and he will make his decision. This is how we do practically everything-I discover something I want to try/do, and let him make his decision based on information.

I just hope it doesn't taste funny.

This is a Fight Back Fridays post. A little late, but whatever.

**image from http://www.skrewtips.com/img/300px-kombucha_jar.jpg

24 July 2009

Our Journey Down the Real Food Path

Have you ever had one of those AHA! moments? One where you realize that EVERYTHING you've previously thought about a subject was wrong, incomplete, based on faulty or invalid information, or just plain stupid? I had one of those just recently.

It all started when I toyed with the idea of drinking raw milk. I'm not sure WHERE I first heard that it was good for me, I think Dr Mercola was one of the people who inspired this decision. In any case, I have a friend who knew someone who was a potential source for raw milk and we followed that chain, which resulted in a raw milk source.

When I found out we were able to get some, regularly, I got cold feet - I did a LOT of researching, to make sure that it was safe. It shows you how much you are brainwashed into thinking that "but that's the way it's done" is right. "Pasteurize your milk? Of course! Raw milk is unsafe and you'll die of kidney failure!" Riiiight.

In any case, I found the argument for raw milk pretty convincing. Doctors, farmers, dentists, regular people, a whole bunch of people are out there and willing to talk about raw milk and why you should drink it-and conversely, why you shouldn't drink pasteurized!

I picked up our first installment of milk earlier this week, in a glass 1 gallon jug. It sat in my fridge until the next day, when I sterilized 4 1L mason jars and poured it off into them. There was a little left over in the big container, but that didn't last long.

At that point, I still hadn't tried it (because I'm chicken), so I took a sip-manna! It was delicious. As mentioned in my previous post, I had reservations at first (that brainwashing showing itself) but no more. I DID start small, with a quarter cup serving, so my guts could get used to all the good bacteria and such. I do eat yogurt almost daily, but even with that I could definitely tell a difference. (Sorry if that's TMI!)

I tried spooning off the cream from two of the jars, but that didn't work well, so I procured a sun tea jar/aka glass spigot jar (thanks Food Renegade for the idea!) and got most of it off that way. Then that night, I made butter in my blender. I didn't get as much as I thought I would, but that could be because I had more milk in there than I thought. Better luck next time!

In the course of all this reveling in fresh milk, I was researching. And looking up directions for making butter, yogurt, etcetera. And through THAT research, I learned something. There is a whole Real Food movement out there, a world I didn't even know existed. I mean, sure, eat local, eat organic, eat farm fresh eggs (which we do). But...pasture fed? I had never considered it before! Organic isn't enough?!? Stunning! Now I've started learning about all of this, it makes so much SENSE! Why didn't I think about this/hear about this before?

Another example of Real Food: sprouting or soaking grains/seeds/nuts before you eat them. Who does this? No one I know. But now we do. Last night, I soaked our rolled oats in milk in a pot on the stove (I didn't have any yogurt yet-tonight they are soaking in milk with some yogurt in it). Why? To neutralize a component that makes the oats less bioavailable than they should be. (This makes sense when a grain, seed, or nut's purpose is to propogate, and it can't do that if it's being digested and destroyed in a bird or animal).

Need another example? No processed crap. No white flour or sugar (ok, I was already moving towards that). Pastured, humanely-raised beef, pork, and chicken. Farm-fresh eggs from free-range chickens. Butter or cold-pressed olive oil or coconut oil, not vegetable oil. Most remarkable: ANIMAL FAT IS GOOD FOR YOU. Revolutionary.

I can't write any more now, I'm overwhelmed. I can't believe that I'm turning 32 in a month and I just learned all this. I have so much to make up for!

Raw Milk, and the Making of Yogurt

I've taken a step into the abyss in the last few days - since we got our first batch of fresh milk. From here on out, I will refer to the milk we drink as REAL milk, as opposed to the store-bought, pus-laden, antibiotic and hormone filled garbage we used to drink. Okay, enough ranting-on with the post.

It is not illegal to drink real milk (aka raw, fresh, or unpasteurized). It is highly recommended that you inspect the cows and farm from which you will be obtaining the milk, to ensure the animals and location are clean and healthy. For obvious reasons.

I must admit, I was a little, well, SCARED, at first. I was hesitant about what it would taste like (I formerly used to drink skim milk from the store-BLECH), I was scared it would be thick and gross, I was scared I would die (ok, not really, but I had fallen into the whole "believe everything the government tells you about stuff" conspiracy regarding pasteurization). I actually waited a day, while the milk sat in the fridge, to gather my courage and take a sip.

It was DELICIOUS. Smooth and creamy, and a little sweet. It tasted NOTHING like store-bought. The milk I tasted first was whole milk, so it was as it came from the cow (when you let it sit, cream rises to the top-just shake it before you pour a glass, to mix it all together). This is the highest fat option. You could also strain off the cream, to use in coffee, to make butter, or cheese. The remainder is milk, a little less sweet. The third option is when making butter from your cream, the liquid that remains after the butter separates is buttermilk. This has even less fat than the milk.

Ever since getting the milk, I've been thinking about what to make with it. We had the equivalent of 4.5 mason jars (almost 5 litres!) so I made butter a couple of nights ago (already eaten, on bread and popcorn), and I have frozen 2 small containers of buttermilk for use in baking and cooking. After skimming the cream off of 2 jars, I have 2 jars of milk (one in the freezer) and we've drank half of one. That left us with 2 jars of whole milk. We are drinking one and the other, I made into yogurt. Yes, yogurt.

Today I perused a bunch of different sites and decided to follow one that seemed the most straight-forward, but didn't add in a bunch of stuff like she did. Here's what I used:

~one 1L mason jar of whole milk, shaken to incorporate cream
~one large saucepan
~1/4 cup yogurt starter (I used Western brand Plain Natural 2% Yogurt)
~candy thermometer
~sink half-full of cold water
~whisk
~1 1/2 L wide-mouth mason jar
~oven pre-heated to 150F, with oven light on

Make sure all pieces of equipment are VERY clean, with no soap residue.

Add milk to saucepan and on low-med heat, bring temperature up slowly to 180F. You don't need to stir. Watch the temperature carefully, you don't want it to get too hot. I chose this temperature as it supposedly provides a thicker consistency.

Remove from heat and place pot into sink filled with cold water and whisk as the temperature drops to 110-115F. Make sure you keep the thermometer in the milk, and watch carefully, as this happens fairly quickly.

Add the yogurt starter in and whisk until smooth.

Remove from the water and pour the milk/starter mixture into your clean 1.5 L jar and place into the oven.

Turn the oven OFF but leave the oven light on - this will maintain the inside temperature at 100F, which is optimal for developing the yogurt.

Now wait. 4-10 hours is average. Do NOT open the door before 4 hours is up.

Some time after 4 hours (I waited almost 6), carefully open the oven door and look at the yogurt. If it is creamy and thickened (yes, you can use a clean spoon), then it's ready and you can take it out, cover it, and place it into the fridge. If it's NOT, you will have to bring the oven heat up a bit (just turn your oven back on up to the lowest temp it'll go, usually 150F) for a minute or to, then turn it off again and leave the door shut! Leave it for another couple hours.

I ended up leaving mine in for closer to 8 hours. It looked a little runny straight out of the oven, but not too bad. I haven't tasted it yet, as it was still warm - I am about to give it a taste test in a few minutes. If it is still runny after cooling, I will strain a bit of the whey (the liquid) and reserve it for fermenting purposes and for soaking grains, seeds, and nuts before eating.

Remember to keep a little of your first batch aside as starter for next time, OR keep using your store-bought yogurt.

You can add in sweetener like maple syrup or honey, plus jam, fruit, vanilla, anything you like.


***for those people who think it's stupid to drink real milk, that it's unsafe - think about this: it's legal in 28 states to sell raw milk for human consumption. Add in the states where it's legally sold for animal consumption, then you have 33 out of the 50 states where it's absolutely legal. Plus all the states where people get around the law by buying "cow shares"-if you own a cow, you can drink it's milk - and you have a LOT of people drinking raw milk. Plus all the farmers' families, people from other countries, and Canada. That's a LOT of people drinking raw milk, and you don't hear about mass deaths.

People have been drinking raw milk for thousands of years. It's unsafe farming practices (overcrowding, hormone treatments, and misuse of antibiotics), like industrial milk farming that create milk that needs to be pasteurized.

For other ideas on how to eat properly and well, with Real Food, check out Fight Back Fridays, over on Food Renegade.

23 July 2009

Clean Your Plate July!

My Recipe for July's Clean Your Plate Recipe Challenge is my favourite curry recipe so far. It involves full-fat coconut milk, organic, free-range chicken, curry powder, and your own favourite picks of in-season vegetables. My husband and I eat this served over a bed of organic medium or long grain brown rice, but you can serve it however you like (I have JUST started into this Real Food thing so be nice!). My husband and I are living on a frugal grocery budget, so I make one chicken breast serve both of us.

In any case, let's get started. This recipe will provide 4 small servings or 3 large ones.

Coconut Chicken Curry

Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2-3 tbsp of medium or spicy yellow curry powder (or however much you need to coat your chicken pieces)
olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 clove garlic (more or less, to taste)
red and green peppers (half of each)-chopped in 1/4 inch chunks
any other in-season vegetables (zucchini, cauliflower, snap peas), chopped
1/4 c homemade chicken stock

Directions:

Place curry powder into a bowl and toss cubed chicken in spice, making sure all pieces are thoroughly covered. Meanwhile, in a cast iron skillet, heat olive oil. Add in onion, ginger, and garlic and cook over low heat until softened.

THIS PART IS VERY IMPORTANT to ensure the curry flavour gets locked in to the chicken: remove onion, garlic, and ginger to a small bowl and add more oil to the pan, if necessary. Turn up the heat and add your curry-coated chicken pieces to the pan and quickly sear the chicken on all sides. **You are NOT cooking the chicken through at this stage, just searing it.

Add the onion, garlic and ginger back to the pan, add 1 can of full-fat coconut milk and 1/4 cup chicken broth (this part is optional, as it gives a depth to the flavour, but if you leave it out you get a more coconut-y taste!) and all your other vegetables.

Keep heat on medium until the mixture starts to simmer, then reduce heat and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Serve over your choice of rice, quinoa, or pasta.

Delicious!

***EDITED TO ADD: if you would like some heat to your curry, feel free to add dried hot red pepper flakes when you add in the coconut milk. I usually add a tablespoon, and that makes it pretty hot.

12 July 2009

When Children Get Hurt

Thursday evening, Ben went off to fly and so I took Harley and Delilah for a walk. I decided to stop in and pick up Sean, Ben's nephew so that he could go with us to the dog park and then the playground. He was nattering away, like usual, as we walked along on the sidewalk, when suddenly, BAM! The stroller stopped! I looked down, and Delilah's left foot was caught on the tire, and her leg was twisted up and around. She was in the rear-facing position, and there is no footrest or fender on the back wheel.

She looked at me with this awful face and started screaming. I had to actually lift her foot and put it back where it should be. As she continued crying, I gently felt the ankle joint and foot and shin for movement where there should be none, and tried to see if I could get a flinch or anything. I looked for immediate swelling and bruising, but didn't see any. She kept pulling her foot away so it was hard, and I didn't want to hurt her more than necessary.

She stopped crying within 3 or 4 minutes, and I didn't see any OBVIOUS signs of a fracture, so I decided to continue on to the park and keep assessing. She fell asleep within 5 minutes and slept the entire time we were at the dog park. She woke up when we got to the playground but was content to stay in the stroller. Sean played for about 10 minutes, then we left for home.

Once Delilah and Harley and I got home (shortly after 8 PM), I took her out of the stroller and attempted to set her on the floor on her feet. She immediately fell onto the floor. That's when I was sure she needed to get checked out. I had to send a friend to the airfield to find Ben to send him home and waited for him.

We got to Victoria Hospital and man, was it packed. Even the kid's emergency room waiting area was full. After about 2 hours we finally saw a doctor who felt her leg and ankle and foot. He couldn't feel any fractures, but once he saw that D wouldn't walk, he ordered x-rays. He felt that, since her bones are so young (and therefore soft), there was a greenstick fracture instead of a complete break through the bone. Which would explain why he couldn't feel a fracture.

The x-rays didn't show any breaks, but the doc still thought there might be, since some won't show on x-rays until 48 hours later for some reason. So he sent us home and told us that if there was no improvement within 48 hours, to come back. We finally got out of the hospital around 1:00 AM. The doctor had told us to give her tylenol or ibuprofin, but of course, D was fast asleep within 5 minutes of leaving the hospital. We managed to get her inside and upstairs without waking her.

The next morning, she still wouldn't walk on it, but didn't seem to be in any pain when she was sitting. Both Ben and I felt that it would be foolhardy to give her pain medication since we didn't want her walking on it-and if Tylenol made her feel better she might try and overdo it. We showed her how to crawl again, and about midmorning, she finally figured it out that she could get around, saving herself a lot of frustration.

The next day, Saturday, D was walking around a little bit in the evening so we felt there was enough improvement that she didn't need to go back for x-rays. Since then, she has used it more and more, but is still crawling on occasion. She'll forget that it's sore and try to do something that is a little too much for it and will whimper a bit and look sad.

It's such a relief that she's healing, and without a cast. It was a terrible feeling, knowing she was injured and in pain and there wasn't much I could do about it.

08 July 2009

It's a Walk in the Park

Cable has been off for what, a week now? Two? I haven't missed it. Once or twice, in the evenings I forget and wonder what's on, but I'm not upset when I realize we don't have anything to watch on tv. Admittedly, it is possible for us to watch stuff online, and we have hooked the laptop up to the television to watch a movie or two (Wolverine last week, Night in the Museum this week). Other than the possibility of us going over our download limit, it's not a bad deal.

One upside of us turning our cable off has been the inordinate amount of time I have on my hands. Who knew? TV was eating my day! Ack! These days, I get a hell of a lot more housework done, and Delilah, Harley and I go on daily walks that average an hour in duration. That's a lot more calories burned than sitting on your duff watching the boob tube.

Today we walked to the Civic Gardens entrance at Wonderland and Springbank (right on the corner) and cut thru the park to the paths. Then we walked all the way along the river past Storybook Gardens and kept going until we reached Byron Baseline by the bridge. The road loops back around and goes back through Springbank Park past a splash pad/wading pool and playground for the kiddies. That will be awesome when Delilah is older! Then we came out exactly where we went in and came home. All told it took us just about 2 hours, with a few water breaks.

I haven't been able to find an actual map of the paths with scale distance that is clear enough to understand-the London City one is terrible. I'd like to know how far we went today. It feels like about 6 km but what do I know?

The paths are great. There are some that are paved and some are crushed stone. There are trees all along the way-willow trees, evergreens, maple trees, and oaks. I am sure there are many more different types as well. There are flowers and plants, ivy and ground cover, wild raspberries, daisies, and more with which I am unfamiliar. There are cyclists and joggers, in-line skaters, people with regular strollers and running strollers. There are people with dogs and babies and older kids.

We have had a couple run-ins with the local wildlife, too. Monday we walked up to the backside of Storybook where the little duck pond is. There was a family of geese on the pedestrian side of the fence - the mom and dad plus 3 goslings. The dad didn't take too kindly to Harley and started hissing and chased us. We ran away. Then, today, there was a big swan by the banks of the river by the dam and it wasn't too friendly either. We avoid the big birds, now.

I'm looking forward to exploring more of the paths, in all directions. Apparently you can get from Springbank Park to downtown London using the path system!

29 June 2009

Fitness Challenge Update

Today was the cut off date for the weight loss challenge I entered into with some friends. In speaking with the other original participant, we decided to extend the challenge to the end of August. We both felt that we hadn't worked as hard as we could have and wish to continue.

I haven't yet told the other participant (I'm sure she'll find out if she reads this today). I think she'll be happy for the extension.

As for weight loss, I gave up measuring myself on a weekly basis because it seemed to discourage me. I haven't seen that much of a loss, but I AM able to wear a lot of things that I couldn't before, so I must be losing.

The biggest difference has come in the last month or so, when I started cleaning my weekly house. It's not a LOT of exercise, but it got me off my butt one day a week, and made me feel good about doing something. Then Amanda gave me a stroller to try (then buy) last weekend and since Monday, Delilah and Harley and I have gone for a walk every day. Sometimes we go for two.

Originally we would walk to the dog park and back, but last week when it got SO hot, it was just too hot for Harley to walk there then play then walk home again. So I decided that we would just walk in the park. It's quite nice, with beautiful paved paths that meander along the river, in and out of shade. There are benches along the way, and bathrooms in case you need them. There are always other people out on the trails: walking, biking, rollerblading, and running. Most of them are friendly and I've even struck up a conversation or two with random strangers (usually over their dog or baby).

Now that we have the stroller, it's easier for me to get out and exercise. I think next time we go I will take my rollerblades and once we get to the park, try them on for size. That's the nice thing about the stroller, it's one of those jogging 3-wheeled ones with a hand brake. It rocks. Thanks Amanda!

26 June 2009

I'm a Bad Blogger

I admit it. I don't post as often as I should, considering there are people who check in daily to see if I've written anything new. I apologize. I will try harder.

That being said, I have to announce that we are officially cable TV-free, as of today. I was a little scared at first. Tomorrow will be the first day in a very long time with the tv off.

When I lived with my parents I watched tv very very rarely. IF there was one show a week that I watched, that was a lot. Then I hit college and watched even less. The only thing I really watched was Survivor (season 1, maybe season 2), and I think that was in the summer. I watched that with Peg and had fun counting the strikes against people.

After I moved to Guelph, I lived with Denny and never watched TV. I don't even know if he had cable. I watched a few movies there but that was it. Then I moved to a basement apartment across town and it was furnished, including satellite tv. I rarely watched there, except for hockey once or twice. Then I moved AGAIN (I know, I've moved a LOT in the last 10 years!), and we had tv with satellite just to watch hockey. I don't remember really watching much tv there. Then I moved out on my own again and had tv briefly. Back to my parents, but didn't watch much, then to Windsor, where I didn't even own a tv set. I did discover Grey's Anatomy and downloaded every episode in Season One and most of Season Two. Back to London, into the House From Fight Club where everything we watched was downloaded or otherwise obtained.

Then I met Ben. Ben, with the ginormous television and multi-package cable. Oh, the hated cable.

I must say, I became addicted. I would sit down to watch one thing and get sucked into a few hours of brain-draining crap. It became worse when I had Delilah. TV doesn't require you have hands free, like reading. It's hard to hold an infant and read at the same time.

A few months ago, we cut down to basic cable in order to reduce our monthly costs. We noticed a big difference in the beginning, and I'm sure I missed a few things. We quikly adapted to having only channels 1 through 28. Then we (ok, I) decided that I really don't need cable at all. For what you pay for, basic cable sucks. You don't get very much.

Ben was concerned that we would lose our deal on high speed internet and therefore not actually save any money by divorcing cable. But I insisted, and he ended up sweet-talking a good internet deal from Rogers. We get to keep our internet at the same rate as if we have a cable-internet package. So that's good. I couldn't live without internet. Really. Ok, maybe i could LIVE, but I wouldn't be very happy.

I'm a little hesitant about how my days are going to go when it is like a furnace outside and am stuck in here with nothing to do - I guess my house is gonna get a whole lot cleaner!

I'll keep you posted.

04 June 2009

World Oceans Day

***thanks to OceanHealth.Org for the image!
This upcoming Monday, June 8, 2009, is World Oceans Day. It is a day recognized by the United Nations, for the first time this year! Here is some info, taken from The Ocean Project Website:

The concept of a "World Ocean Day" was first proposed in 1992 by the Government of Canada at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The Ocean Project has been working closely with the World Ocean Network for the last six years to promote and coordinate World Ocean Day events and activities with aquariums, zoos, museums, conservation organizations and agencies, universities, schools, and businesses. Each year an increasing number of countries and organizations have been marking June 8th as opportunity to celebrate our world ocean and our personal connection to the sea.

But you say you don't live near an ocean, so it doesn't matter to ME-WRONG! The world's oceans affect all of us. Your actions CAN help. Your biggest contribution to our oceans' health is to reduce your plastic use, reduce your consumption (of everything), reuse things that you can, and recycle everything that can't be reused. Compost your kitchen scraps! They make better soil than garbage! See previous posts on how to become more environmentally friendly.

Here are some ideas on how to celebrate/recognize World Oceans Day (also taken from The Ocean Project website):

Beginning this year we can all start to associate the color blue with World Oceans Day. This event has been unofficially celebrated for more than a dozen years but this year marks the inaugural World Oceans Day, officially recognized by United Nations resolution as June 8th each year.

One easy thing that all Partners and supporters can do is to wear blue in honor of the ocean. Many already do as part of their uniform, but we encourage all ZAM [zoos, aquariums and museums] staff and docents as well as those working at NGOs, agencies, and universities and schools, to help spread the blue.

We also suggest that you not only wear blue, but let people know why: tell people two things they likely don't know about our ocean and how they can help.

Connecting ocean health with climate change and healthy seafood are two issue opportunities for ZAMs and others to begin to more effectively engage the public in caring more and doing more for our shared ocean.

Our recent research shows...people want this info from ZAMs, and people want to be part of the solutions and believe their individual actions can help. Let's take advantage of that huge opportunity and, together, we can bring about some really positive change!

Two examples of what you could share with your visitors and the public:
  • Our ocean is in trouble, with climate change already linked to the killing of coral reefs, and destructive fishing practices causing a dramatic decline in many types of the fish we depend on for food.
  • There are important, easy actions each of us can take to help. Calculating our carbon footprints and looking for ways to reduce our role in climate change is a great step. Likewise, we can choose seafood that is abundant in supply and fished or farmed without harm to the ocean. ZAMs might want to consider, for instance:

01 June 2009

Homemade Composter


I finally got my composter made. Not that it was a lot of work, but actually getting to the store by myself (so I'd have room in the car for the can) to get the garbage can took a bit longer than expected. I picked up a Rubbermaid Toughneck garbage can. It cost under $15 from Home Depot.

Tonight I pressed Ben into service and had him drill evenly spaced 1/4" holes all over it - the lid, the bottom, and all around the sides, for good air flow, drainage, and to let a little rain water in. After it was all drilled, I took it out back and layered some organic potting soil into the bottom, followed by kitchen scraps collected over the last few days, and then put some dried leaves on top. Luckily I didn't get a chance to rake the leaves up last fall before snow covered them, so they are all still there for me to use as my "brown" item! I plan on getting another (cheap) garbage can in which to store the dried leaves, and then each time I add a layer of kitchen scraps I will throw a handful of the leaves on top. This does two things: it keeps the proper ratio of "green" to "brown" in the compost bin, and keeps down the smell.

For those not familiar with compost rules, there are two types of compostable materials, green and brown. There should be an equal amount (by weight) of browns and greens.

"Green" items are nitrogen-rich materials:
~kitchen scraps such as vegetables and fruit scraps, paper towels, coffee grinds and filters, crushed egg shells
~yard waste
~grass clippings

"Brown" items are carbon-rich materials and include:
~shredded newspaper and paper
~finely ground sawdust
~dried leaves
~bread, pasta and rice
~shredded egg cartons and cardboard

Things that are NOT compostable include:
~diseased plants
~oils or fats (butter, peanut butter, cooking oil, etc)
~meat and animal bones
~pet waste or litter
~ash, sawdust, or shavings from painted or chemically-treated wood

Here is some info about composting rules, taken from the City of London's website on composting:

  1. Locate the composting bin in an area with good drainage and one that is accessible year round (partial shade is preferred).
  2. Loosen the soil over the area on which you are going to place your backyard composter. This will allow soil organisms (insects and worms) to move up the pile.
  3. Put down a thick layer (4 cm/10 in) of browns, such as dry leaves or shredded paper.
  4. Add a layer of greens, such as kitchen scraps, garden trimmings or grass clippings and spread evenly (6 cm/2 in).
  5. Cover green material with browns (10 cm/4 in). This reduces fruit flies and odours. A layer of soil or compost will work in place of the browns. Soil and compost has the added benefit of supplying "starter" micro-organisms to accelerate the process.
  6. Continue to alternate layers of green & brown until your compost bin is full. Tip!! Save some bags of dry leaves every fall.
  7. Turning: When the backyard composter is full, mix and add air to the pile by turning with a garden fork or turning tool. Alternatively, lift compost bin off pile and place in a new location. Fork material back into bin, mixing it well.
  8. Monitor moisture: it should be like a wrung out sponge - damp but not soaking. Add water if pile is dry. If too wet, add some browns.
  9. Continue to mix the pile every 10-14 days. Note: Pile may heat up and shrink after being turned.
  10. After 3-4 turnings, the compost should be ready. It should be crumbly, moist, dark coloured and have an earthy smell. Allow this material to mature for a couple of months before using.

During the winter months, continue with Steps 4 and 5 (save fall leaves for step 5). Click here for more details on winter composting.

Controlled and speedy decomposition is all about balance. If your compost pile is too full of browns, then your pile will be slow to decompose. On the other hand, if the pile is too full of greens, it will turn slimy and smell bad. The goal is to have roughly equal amounts, by weight, of browns and greens.


I encourage EVERYONE to have a composter. Reduce the garbage that goes to the dump, decrease greenhouse emissions from the breakdown of compostable materials (they need oxygen to compost, and the dump doesn't give them that-hence they produce methane), and create wonderful, rich, dark compost for your gardens and lawn! You will find that you will reduce your garbage output by up to 75% if you compost diligently!!!

27 May 2009

Update on Earth-Friendly Maid Service

Hi Everyone.
Thanks for being patient with my lackadaisical posting these last few months. It seems I get into a writing fever for a bit and post almost daily (or multiple times in one day), then I trickle off into nothingness for a few weeks. I apologize and hope everyone can understand that life happens.

Having said that, I'd like to give everyone an update on the cleaning business. Earth-Friendly Maid Service officially has 2 clients; one weekly client and one bi-weekly. I've done two separate one-time cleans and have a bid in for another (which I am hoping will become a regular client). I also have a potential two more estimates to do for relatives of my weekly client. If they both sign up for regular cleans, my weekly client will earn $40 in gift certificates to be used however she wants. Not bad, for simply passing on my name and number, huh?

Anyway, I'm pretty excited. The client I just signed up with today (ok, more like a verbal agreement at this point), saw the car magnets while out and about. Talk about cheap advertising! I am also advertising on Facebook, in a trial period for a week. I set my budget low so it doesn't get too exorbitant, but I'm hoping that I get SOMETHING out of it. If I do, I'll increase my budget for that venue. Apparently there are over 266,000 people in the London area (within 50 miles of London) who use Facebook. Obviously not all of those people will be target clients, but word of mouth has its uses.

My goal is to get one or two more weekly or bi-weekly clients, which I will clean, then I plan on looking into getting employees. I'm sure there is a lot involved with that (taxes, CPP, EI, etc) and I am not really looking forward to that, but I'd like to grow this business into something that, eventually, I can run from home. I'd like to eventually do NONE of the cleaning, and simply run the business. I realize that will take time, effort, and patience, but I am hoping that people will help me out and pass the word! Tell everyone you know about your friend who is starting up a business and needs support! In addition, I will be starting interviews for a part-time employee.

Requirements for an applicant:
-trustworthy;
-clean criminal record check (yes I will be checking, are you surprised?);
-attention to detail;
-experience with housecleaning preferred, although it is not a requirement;
-access to vehicle;
-flexible schedule;
-willingness to learn new methods of 'earth-friendly' cleaning methods (ENJO, natural cleaners,e tc);
-desire to reduce our impact on our environment by eliminating disposable cleaning products and toxic cleaners; and
-reliable.

I am sure there are other requirements but these are ones I think of immediately. Please pass on the website address to anyone who may need (or knows someone who needs) a maid service. In addition, pass on the word that I will be hiring, and looking for one (and another, eventually) good person to help me represent my company.

Check out the website! I will be updating it soon (tomorrow, likely), with another interesting and informative blog post.

www.earthfriendlymaidservice.ca

13 May 2009

Quilt Giveaway

I want to win this quilt for Delilah so badly I can taste it. Seriously. I can't believe, it, because it's pink and girly, but OMG it's gorgeous!

Check it out here. Or click on the Win This Quilt button on the right sidebar.

I love it!

Challenge: Show Us Your (Plastic) Trash!

Over on Fake Plastic Fish, Beth has thrown down the challenge gauntlet and is urging us to take part! Go on over and sign up for the challenge! It should be interesting to see how much plastic you accumulate in a week. Her rules are below (clipped directly from her site, thanks Beth!)

Post a note on my blog letting me know you're doing it, and any links to your blog. Then go to Fake Plastic Fish (at the link shown above) and do the same! Thanks!


"THE RULES:


1) Collect all of your own plastic waste for a minimum of one week. (Longer is okay, too, but try to separate out the weeks' collections.) What qualifies as yours? Anything that benefits you. So, if your housemate or significant other brings home a tub of yogurt that you both share, the tub goes in your tally. But if you hate yogurt, never touch the stuff, and wouldn't have bought it for yourself in a million years, it's not your responsibility. What about stuff for your kids? I'll leave that up to you. Whatever you decide, just be consistent about collecting it. Personally, I'd be very interested to see how much plastic waste is generated by babies, since I don't have children myself.

2) Try to live the way you normally would. It doesn't help to artificially reduce your plastic consumption for the sake of a one-week tally if you will go back to living with more plastic afterward. Think of this exercise as a scientific experiment. Nothing more.

3) At the end of the week, take a photo of your stash and list out the items. You might also want to include details about what things are recyclable in your community or not.

4) Guilt is not encouraged. Nor are comparisons with other people whom you perceive to be doing "worse" or "better" than you in terms of plastic waste. This exercise is for purely educational purposes. Guilt doesn't help.

5) After tallying your plastic waste, try answering the following questions:
  • What items could I easily replace with plastic-free or less plastic alternatives?

  • What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic-free alternative doesn't exist?

  • How many of these items are from "convenience" foods that could be made from scratch with less packaging but might take more time to prepare?

  • What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?

  • What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?

  • What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?

  • What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
6) Guilt is unnecessary.

7) Send your photo, tally, and answers to questions to beth[at]fakeplasticfish[dot]com along with as much personal info as you feel comfortable sharing: Geographical location, gender, housemate/relationship status, work status (at home or away from home), children living with you, etc. These factors might influence the amount of plastic waste you generate and would be interesting to know, but are completely up to you of course.

8) If you have your own blog, feel free to post your tally, etc. there as well. And let me know the URL so I can link to you.

9) There is no time limit for doing this exercise. I would love to publish a series of "Show Us Your (Plastic) Trash" posts over several weeks or even months, depending on the response.

10) Guilt will only get in the way of understanding. It's not needed for this challenge.

11) Seriously.

Who's in?"

09 May 2009

Happy Birthday Delilah!


Happy First Birthday, my happy, beautiful girl!

08 May 2009

Shirt Dress Sew-Along


Ok. So I followed a tutorial I found online to make a toddler dress out of a dress shirt. I used one of my old dress shirts and found the length was perfect-I wouldn't have to hem the bottom! I traced one of D's current dresses and followed the tutorial from Made. Over on Presser Foot they are doing a sew along this month using the tutorial.

Anyway. Above picture is of the final product. This is what happens when you forget to add seam allowances when tracing an existing piece of clothing. The dress fit her fine except it was too narrow through the shoulders. This fabric had no give-I had to cut it off of her!

Now I know for next time. I am going to the thrift store for some more shirts.

30 April 2009

One Year Later










Time sure does fly, doesn't it?

Last year at this time I was huge, uncomfortable, and off work early due to minor complications with the pregnancy. I was hoping for an early birth, since I was terrified of going over and being induced. I always said I felt I would go early but expected to be late. I was right, and "Fred" was born on May 9, 2008 at 11:11 AM. "Fred" became Delilah as soon as Daddy announced "It's a girl!" and chased her off into the back room to watch them weigh her and check her lungs.

To be honest, during my whole pregnancy I was terrified of the thought of labour and birth. I made the biggest mistake in my life when I went to those childbirth classes. I didn't learn anything, but I sure did get some bad visuals. Seriously-I know how babies come out. I don't need to see it. Those images did more to freak me out and put me in a bad headspace than everything combined.

Anyhow, moving on...

This last year has been amazing, with some really hard parts as well as the most amazing, love-filled, joyous moments. It doesn't matter what's going on, how frustrated or tired or whatever I'm feeling, when Delilah looks at me and smiles, or comes up and gives me a hug, it all goes away. My heart fills up with the most agonizing love I've ever felt in my life.

It's hard to believe that my baby is almost a year old. She's walking, using American Sign Language, and has a few spoken words (mum, da, dog, hot). She has 8 teeth with a couple more trying to make it through, and weighs just over 20 pounds. Her feet are just over 4 inches long, which make them a little small for her age (size 4), and is wearing 12-18 shirts for the arm length while she can still wear 6-12 month pants. She rouses in the middle of the night lately and turns sideways, kicking or karate chopping one or both of us. Ben gets more sleep than I. She has slept every night of her life with me and her dad, except during nights when he chose to sleep on the couch (translation: fell asleep while watching tv and refused to come to bed) or when he was out of town visiting friends.

D has a friend, A, who is only 3 days older than D. Happy Early Birthday A! It's been interesting to see how the two of them develop compared to each other. It was hilarious when they grew the same teeth in the same order: the bottom two central incisors, followed by the upper 4 (central incisors plus lateral incisors), followed by the bottom left lateral incisor, followed by the bottom right lateral incisor...how strange is that?

Delilah loves our new dog Harley. She loves to pet (hit, pull hair, poke, bash with various toys) and lay down with him on his bed. She also loves to kiss him and be kissed by him, much to my chagrin-I think it's disgusting, but what can you do? Remove the dog's tongue? Anyway, we're so fortunate to have found a dog who not only LIKES kids, but is so tolerant that he just lays there when Delilah is abusing him. We tell him every day how good he is!

Now that Delilah is really starting to play and enjoy toys, I'm starting to get excited about the upcoming years when we can play dress up, do art activities, and much more. I know you're not supposed to rush things, but I am really looking forward to all the activities we'll do together. At the same time, I wish things would slow down, that time could stop, just for a while, so we could better enjoy this moment in time. I already miss holding an infant, and sometimes regret that we aren't having any more, but I think about all the reasons we only want one: extra attention D will get because she's an only, we'll have more money to do more fun stuff, and we'll never have divided attention or "favourites". D will always be OUR girl, our one and only baby. I guess I'll just live vicariously through other people when they have babies.

With my recent resignation from my full-time, secure position, I am scared sometimes about my decision, especially in this economy. I read an article today on how, sometimes, your job actually costs you just about as much as you make, so living without it isn't actually as hard as you'd think. Consider this:
Usually, parents find out that the cost of working is quite close to what they make. To see if this might fit you, consider the following. If both parents are working, there are always extra expenses. Take your lowest income. Then, subtract the amount you spend in gas to travel to that job. Also subtract how much you spend on drinks, meals at and to or from your job. If you pay for daycare or an after school program, subtract that amount from your income. Now consider the amount of money that you spend on clothing or shoes for that job. Next, start paying attention to the amount of money that you spend on items that you really don’t need and items out of guilt for the time you miss with your children. Now, consider how much less you might spend on food if you were making less prepackaged, on the go, and convenience foods. Most generally, when all is said and done, parents find that extra income is nearly spent just in maintaining that job. (quote from here)


When I think about it THAT way, I consider the cost of transportation (either bus or car), lunch costs, coffee costs, soda pop, all the unnecessary expenditure at Shoppers Drug Mart (nearby), unnecessary takeout lunch purchases, etc. Add in the cost of daycare (anywhere from $30 a day to $800 a month) and the benefits of working seem to pale in comparison. Plus, I consider the BIGGEST cost, my time. I wouldn't be able to see Delilah grow up, she'd be practically raised by someone else, and my heart would break every time I left her in someone else's care. It's TOTALLY not worth it.

18 April 2009

VistaPrint


I recently ordered 500 business cards, customized t-shirts, and car door magnets for advertising my company. The cost for all that, before taxes and shipping, was under $55. Can you believe it? A certain company I sell candles for charges $49.95 for 500 business cards ALONE.

The company I ordered from, VistaPrint, is offering to my friends a discounted first purchase. If you click on the banner, it will take you to the page where a special discount code will be entered for your purchase. They sell everything from stationary like letterheads, notepads, websites, and much more.

Check out Vista Print today!

17 April 2009

Check Out My Website!

Hi everyone!

I have been toiling over the creation of an all-new website for Earth-Friendly Maid Service. There you will find recipes for natural cleaning products, discussion boards, and info about my company. The site is still under construction, so please be patient.

Thanks!

Click HERE to go to the website.

If the link doesn't work, try cutting and pasting into your browser:
www.earthfriendlymaidservice.wordpress.com

16 April 2009

Too Late To Change My Mind

I have resigned from my position at work. Given all the circumstances and the issue of childcare and everything that goes with it, we decided it was best if I stayed home with Delilah. It seems foolish (at best) in this economy to give up a good paying, good job, but I don't feel I have any other option. I never wanted to go back, but towards the end it appeared Ben was going to be out of work still, so I had resigned myself to going back at least part time for the first month or so. Then the very DAY that I was at work, a lady from Hully Gully called and said they needed Ben there. (Hully Gully is owned by same family as Ultimate Suzuki.)

I was actually, literally, IN my boss's office when I got the message to call Ben. Thinking something was wrong, I called him back and that's when he told me he was going back to work. Gah. I had just told my boss I was coming back. Too bad you can't rewind your day, just a bit.

In any case, I need income and I've decided to start an all-natural, environmentally responsible cleaning company. It will be called Earth-Friendly Maid Service. I'm looking for some business - tell your friends-if they mention my blog I'll give them a discount off their first clean.

Reduce the toxins in your home-hire Earth-Friendly Maid Service today!

15 April 2009

Nestle Pure Life Water Commercial

Has anyone else seen this commercial? It's laughable. Everything they say is true: they talk about how kids don't swim in pools of high fructose corn syrup, how they don't play in sugar, etc. They talk about artificial colours and flavours, too. It gets your attention, until you realize what the ad is for: bottled water!!!


Um.

Does anyone wonder why companies sell stuff? It's not because they want to improve the world, it's not because they think that their product is better for the public. It's because they make MONEY!!!! Especially big companies like Nestle. Bottled water is a multi-million dollar industry.

The worst part of this is that tap water is better for your pocketbook and the environment. There are safeguards and regulations in place regarding tap water-it's there to protect us. There are fewer regulations regarding bottled water, and it is much more likely to contain feces. Google that, if you don't believe me. Worse, companies like Coca Cola and Pepsi take tap water and run it through filters and then bottle it. That works out to 40% of all bottled water - it's just glorified tap water anyway!

On the side of the environment: it is estimated that 88% of Americans don't recycle their water bottles, they throw them out. That works out to 40 million water bottles A DAY. I don't have numbers for Canadian water bottles but numbers (the 88% part) are likely similar. Nevermind the fact that the bottles are made of plastic that usually isn't made from recycled materials.

Health-wise, we should all know that plastic leaches chemicals. "They" say that BPA (Bisphenol-A) is the dangerous plastic, and that plastics now are safe and don't leach....BUT...didn't they say that about BPA? For years they've used plastics in food storage for adults and babies and assumed it was safe, only to find out that it isn't. What a surprise.

To close, I'd like to implore people: don't fall prey to advertising. Don't buy plastic water bottles at up to 10,000 times the cost of tap water. Instead, invest in a stainless steel water bottle, or a mason jar with tight fitting lid. Carry it with you, and refill it from the tap. People may look at you funny when you hand a mason jar to them to fill, but hey, maybe it will make them think!

My Weightloss Progress