Saturday, February 28, 2009

This week's food: Farmer's Market, local shops and quick grocery store trip

Saturday is my favourite day of the week. Steve and I have a weekly date morning where we go to the Farmer's Market and then out to the best cafe in...well - maybe in the whole world. :) We also do short errands on Saturday mornings if we have them, such as going to the thrift store or other quick stops.

Today, we went to the market, out for coffee and then to the natural food store and my favourite baking supply shop. Later on, we dropped by the grocery store.

Here is our haul from the Farmer's Market:

  • a large bag of gala apples
  • a large bag of pears
  • organic broccoli (This isn't local, but sometimes in the winter we are desperate. I like that this is actually a local farm which supplements their income in the winter by bringing in a bit of high-quality organic produce.)
  • an organic avocado (ditto to above)
  • 1/2 lb black forest ham
  • some honey-garlic sausages
  • 3 kg. pail of delicious raw honey
Our next stop was the natural foods store:

  • 3 containers of half & half cream for coffee - I like this kind because the ingredients are: (get ready, now...) cream, milk. (Here are the ingredients in the cream we used to get from the grocery store: milk, cream, sodium citrate, sodium phosphate, carrageenan)
  • 1 container of sour cream - Guess what's in this? Just cream, bacterial culture. It is actually real cultured sour cream, not something that has been chemically 'soured'.
  • a nice big bottle of cod liver oil capsules - this is the only supplement we take on any regular basis. I particularly like it in the winter when we are indoors a lot and aren't eating as wide a variety of foods as we are in the summer. I like it because it is a food supplement, not a faked up one.
Then, we stopped by my favourite baking supply store. It was a somewhat unsuccessful trip, as I was in need of some wheat berries and they didn't have any large bags. I need to remember to call ahead next time. I did put some on order, though.

  • large package of yeast
  • unsulfured banana chips
  • unsulfured and unsweetened dried pineapple
  • unsulfured dried cranberries
  • brown sugar
Lastly, we dropped by the grocery store that has cheap butter. We go through a lot of butter in our family. I don't mind grocery store butter too much, though I would prefer if they didn't colour it and if the cows were treated better. Nevertheless, with the amount our family uses, I can't be spending $8/lb on organic butter. At least in Canada rBGH is banned. Because I stock up, I always get strange looks and usually someone asks me if I am doing a lot of baking. "Well, yes, actually...I always do a lot of baking."

  • 10 lbs butter
  • I possibly bought some chocolate easter eggs, too, but I can't take a picture of them because someone ate them on the way home.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This week's food: Farm and Co-op Order

I thought it might be fun to chronicle the foods our family buys for a week. This doesn't reflect what we actually eat for a week, since I stock up when I shop and we also eat lots of food that I have canned or frozen.

So...without further ado, our first stop is Whole Circle Farm, where I picked up a few things from the farm store as well as our natural foods co-op order. We order from Ontario Natural Foods Co-operative once a month. I have been a member of an ONFC buying club for about 14 years, now. My orders vary widely so that some months I get lots of staples, like dried beans and bulk grains. Sometimes, like this month, there are more convenience foods such as crackers and pastas. (I always order Steve and I a nice chocolate-y treat, too.) While our philosophy is to eat whole foods, we aren't perfect and we do what we can to try to buy fairly high quality when we do get non-whole foods.

I think one important thing in our view of food is that while we eat convenience foods sometimes, like crackers and pasta, we don't convince ourselves that these are as nutritious as whole foods. It is simply not possible to outsmart God. Only He knows why he put foods together the way He did and we can't begin to be smart enough to take them apart, rearrange them and expect to get them better than (or even as good as) He did.

What was in my order this month?
  • a 25 lb bag of long-grain brown rice
  • 4 boxes of nut/rice crackers
  • mango-passionfruit herbal tea
  • ginger-peach herbal tea
  • two packages of firm tofu
  • a small block of raw milk parmesan cheese
  • a small block of goat's milk feta
  • a 1 kg. bag of millet
  • a bag of ginger snaps
  • a jar of mayonnaise (I like this one because although the oil is still canola, which I am not big on, at least it is expeller-pressed)
  • 2 boxes of kamut/quinoa pasta
  • 2 boxes of parsley-garlic pasta
  • a yummy bar of milk chocolate - fair trade -- just trying to help out...not because I love chocolate or anything. ;)
Also at the farm, we picked up:

  • 4 dozen eggs
  • a package of ground beef
  • some pepperoni for pizza night on Friday
I thought you might also enjoy this picture, taken by my oldest daughter, of the happy chickens at Whole Circle. I think it is hilarious how Johann and Maggie, the farmers, use a school bus for a chicken house!! Johann just moves the bus when he wants the chickens to have fresh pasture.

Photo Courtesy of Brianne G.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Adorable and Easy Knitting Project

I recently participated in a terrific swap on Ravelry in which participants swapped sock yarn, a Cookie A sock pattern and other goodies. I had a great time putting my package together and I received a very generous package in exchange. One of the things included was a skein of one of the most beautiful handspun yarns I've ever seen. Here is a picture:

Nice, hey?

I've been trying to decide what to do with it and today, I cast on a very cool and very easy project. Calorimetry is an online freebie pattern from Knitty for a hat-substitute that will work well when you are wearing your hair up in a ponytail or a big barrette. I estimate the entire project took me about 1 1/2 hours of knitting time. It was a breeze. This would be a great project for adults or young knitters. Please watch the size, as a lot of knitters have complained that it is a bit loose. I used 108 stitches for mine and I like the fit. You can really use just about any stitch count that is a multiple of 8.

Sorry this is cutting off on the side. You can click the picture to see the whole thing.

As always, I'd love to hear if you make one!!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Simply pathetic

I learned the word pathetic when I was in grade 5 and my friend, Maureen, learned it - and used it - very often. We were in the gifted class together, so we found, errrrr...odd ways to amuse ourselves.

In case you don't actually know the word, pathetic, I thought I would give you a picture which defines it quite well. Here is baby guy in a photo taken a few days ago. Sigh.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Funny food is normal food

These two carrots are best-buds.

I just love the treasures we find in our bi-weekly CSA share. (During the summer, we collect a share every week.) The farm where we get our CSA is both organic and bio-dynamic. This means we get real-looking food, as opposed to perfect, uniform produce. As an adult, used to regular grocery-store food, it has taken me awhile to appreciate the beauty and 'realness' of food that is not factory-farmed. Our children, however, raised on just such food seem to think the more interesting our food looks, the better! When the kids come along to pick up our weekly share, they delight in searching out the carrots with 4 ends or the squash that is bent back around on itself.

The above picture is one very cool finding from this week. We weren't there to pick up the share this week, so my mom chose out these two carrots, who are obviously very closely connected, knowing our children delight in just this type of thing. I decided to have them finish out their life in the same soup. Oddly enough, the one carrot was just hugging the other one. They came apart fairly easily.

I encourage you, particularly this summer when the fresh, local foods start to be more prolific, to find the joy in 'oddball' fruits and veggies that have been selected and grown for their nutritional value and their taste, as opposed to their ability to travel well and be uniform. It is funny that we have come to associate these latter qualities with 'goodness', while the actual value disappears from our food.

Well, I'm off to eat some split pea soup with fresh bread!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Communicating with Boys

I am reading an excellent book right now called, That's My Son: How moms can influence boys to become men of character by Rick Johnson. I am finding it to be both readable and enlightening. The author communicates in a very real way that I find to be helpful in understanding my sons and my husband. I highly recommend it to anyone with boys. Even if you don't have boys, the book is terrific for helping you understand the males in your life and to help your daughters do the same.

A particular chapter that I enjoyed was the one on communicating with boys. In order to be really inspired (to make it your own!) you will definitely need the context of the author's original words and his personal anecdotes. However, I would like to share a few of his tips with you.

  1. Be Brief - Don't give lectures. Rather, just take 1-2 sentences to make your point. (This is a real struggle for me and for many of our children. The gift of brevity has not been bestowed upon us!)
  2. Tell a story, particularly one based on personal experience, to illustrate your point.
  3. Ask for a response. If there is none, ask for a story. "Did anything like that ever happen to you?"
  4. Listen for key words in what your son says. Usually, they will centre around primary emotions -- words such as afraid, hurt, Wow!
  5. Use the key words you hear to lead into further communication. "What were you afraid of?"
  6. Be comfortable with silences. Boys often need time to think and process.
  7. For deep conversations, do something physical while you talk. Shooting hoops or going for a walk are a couple of ideas. Many males dread, and feel intimidated by, conversations that involve sitting down with long times of direct eye contact. I remember Sally Clarkson saying that her boys often open up the most when she is scratching their backs. When they are not feeling threatened, it is much easier for them to share.
  8. Let the boy have the last word whenever possible. Sadly, men get used to being overrun by females who, in general, have superior verbal communication skills. It isn't that women are truly right more often, but many times they can make more persuasive arguements and end up leaving the men in their lives apologizing when they aren't really wrong to begin with. In the case of discussions with your son, let him leave the conversation feeling like he is a respected member of the family team.
  9. Expect to have to bring it up again. Often boys don't 'get it' the first time around.
One more thing that was helpful to me in my relationship with the men in my life was the author's sharing of the concepts of love and respect. He said that men value respect so much that for many of them, it is more important than being loved. Contrast that to the way the average woman feels! Showing our husbands and our sons that we are proud of them, and making sure to never hit below the belt will go a long way to helping them communicate with us.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Easy and Yummy Breakfast

I am really missing blogging! The truth is that we have been sick constantly for several weeks. It is never anything horrible, but just constanly one person after another with some kind of low-grade sickness. I couldn't believe it when another child woke me up in the middle of the night last night with the sickies. I think it is due to my bragging that our family is almost never sick (which is true).

Anyway, many of us are at least semi-well and I was feeling inspired to serve something different for breakfast. I baked bread yesterday, so we had lots of that to work with. Being too lazy to make French Toast, I decided on a French Toast Strata. I made this up, being inspired from another recipe.

French Toast Strata
makes a full 9 x 13" pan (serves 8, I would say)

1 loaf good whole wheat bread (stale is just fine)
2 c. milk (please use whole milk in your homes - un-homogenized would be preferable)
8 eggs, slightly beaten
1 T. cinnamon
1/8 t. salt
A couple of handfuls of chopped nuts (I used walnuts, but almonds, pecans, or hazelnuts would be tasty, too)
2 apples, sliced (I admit that I peeled mine this time)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 x 13" pan. Cube bread and put half of the cubes into the pan. Sprinkle with the sliced apples and chopped nuts. Top with remaining bread cubes. Combine eggs, milk, salt and cinnamon and drizzle slowly over bread, trying to cover all the cubes. Take the fork you used to mix the eggs/milk and squish down the cubes a little to soak up some more of the liquid. Place in oven for about 35 mins. Serve with maple syrup.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Nursing Strike Update

Well, after a loooooooooooooong three days, my baby guy is finally nursing again! I consulted with various friends, my naturopath and my chiropractor and we determined that he was both teething (molars) and clogged up from the sicknesses that have visited our home recently. His ears were pretty good, though one was a smidge inflamed, but not infected. Our naturopath recommended:
  • a homeopathic remedy for lymphatic drainage, four times a day
  • massaging his neck and upper shoulders to aid drainage
  • gently pulling his ears out away from his body a bit and moving them around to help his ears drain well
  • chiropractic adjustment
  • applying 'Respiratory Rub' to his chest and feet before bed, covering his feet with socks and his body with a couple of cozy layers
  • breastmilk to his eye (he has pink-eye) four or more times a day
Last night, as he was fussing around, I tried expressing some milk into his mouth and he got the best look on his face, as if he was saying, "Heeeeeeey...I remember that great stuff!" and he actually nursed for about 30 seconds with only a few bites. I couldn't get him to nurse again that night, but this morning, I repeated what I did last night and he had a great nurse. He seems to be back on track. Thank-you, Lord! I missed my little breast friend.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Guess what I'm not doing?

Nursing. :(

My 10 month old is officially on a nursing strike. He has not successfully nursed since he went to sleep last night. He chose to fuss and flip about on the bed on top of Steve and I last night instead of nursing the entire night. Anytime I try to nurse him, he bites. Ouch. He has actually been on the verge of a strike since about Sunday morning, but it has become a full-blown refusal to nurse at this point. I think it started because he has a cold and it was difficult for him to both breathe and nurse. Being the smart little fellow he is, he chose 'breathe'.

About mid-morning, I realized that all I was thinking about were breasts. If you have been a nursing mom whose baby has suddenly not nursed for a long period of time, you will know what I mean! As a result, I determined that I needed to get a breast pump - and fast. Fortunately, one of my dear friends has a pump belonging to another dear friend, which she agreed to loan to me. Although I am not an experienced pumper, I managed to 'download' 6 oz. pretty quick! Now, at least I can think about blogging about breasts.

Editing to add a picture of what my 'breast-friend' and I are doing to maintain our snuggly closeness during this little phase. :)

Later on, we will try nursing in the bathtub.

Have any of you had a baby on a nursing strike? What did you do to get them through it?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Dyeing, Spinning and Knitting!

I'm hopelessly cheap...errrr, I mean frugal. However, I do love beautiful sock yarn. If you aren't a sock knitter, you probably can't understand why anyone would pay $20 plus for a skein of hand-dyed sock yarn that will make one pair of socks when you could just go out and buy a whole finished pair of socks for a couple of bucks. Well, I can only say that if you knitted socks, you would understand.

I knit fairly quickly, so I am always on the lookout for good deals. Recently, I schemed up the idea to spin and dye my own sock yarn. There were two hurdles to overcome here. First of all, I wasn't aware you could purchase superwash fibre with nylon to spin. (This is the kind of yarn I like for my socks because it is washable and durable.) Second, I didn't actually have any clue how to spin.

I came across The Black Lamb and a super-amazing deal on mill-ends roving that was superwash with nylon! I was thrilled and ordered some right away. It actually arrived the next day! Woo hoo! Hurdle number one solved.

Hurdle number two, the part about my not knowing how to spin, was to be solved at my mom's. My mom is an accomplished spinner, having spun the fleece from their own sheep and made sweaters and lots of other wonderful handmade items for years. Although my first spinning lesson went well, it was evident that I was not going to be whipping up skeins and skeins of sock yarn in the next short while. So, my mom saved me. :) She spun up some of the roving into lovely yarn without my even asking. Thanks, Mom!

I decided that the first pair should go to my mom, seeing as she did so much work. I started a pattern called, Betty Cable Socks. (This is a Ravelry download, so you must be a member there to get it.) It does have errors, so I wouldn't run out and download it if you are not at least a little experienced in sock knitting. If you are, you should be able to easily spot the errors and correct them. I am also not sure about the effect of reversing the cables as I go up the leg. You can see the 'loops' in the picture, near the working ends of the socks.

Well, I'm off to homeschool skating with the kids. It is a beautiful, sunny day outside, as it was yesterday. It is such a good feeling when you know Spring will be arriving in the near future. :)

Friday, February 6, 2009

The cheaper the better?

Photo courtesy of avlxyz

It is not easy to live on one income these days, particularly with a large family. I am continually aware of the cost of gas, of sources for inexpensive clothing (the thrift store and hand-me-downs are my best friends!), of ways to save on electricity and the necessities of life. When searching for money-saving tips, I often come across articles on cutting the grocery budget. Sometimes, these articles are fabulous, offering great tips on eating real food and preparing it from scratch. However, I do come across lots of them that just don't sit really well with me. Sometimes, I find the authors seem almost hooked on the idea of getting the cheapest 'food' (and I use that term loosely) no matter what.

In our family, I try to cook as economically as possible, but the bottom line is not how cheaply we can eat. It is how healthy we can eat. It is about the nutritive value of what we put into our mouths, not the price tag. There are lots of foods with high nutritive value and a low price tag. Dried beans are a good example. There are also lots of foods with a high price tag and low nutritive value. A good portion of what you find in the average grocery store is a good example of that.

I took out a cookbook from the library a couple of days ago, called Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook by Jamie Oliver. I had heard he was a kindred spirit in terms of his love for real food and I was not disappointed. As I browsed through the chapters, I was struck by some of his comments on meat, which I would like to share with you. I think these apply to all food, but for some reason, especially so to meat.

Jamie shares that it is amazing how people are so aware of quality and value in the products they purchase. They know which brands are important to them and will often pay a hefty price for just the right one. He asks the reader to imagine he has just gone to the pub and asked for a particular brand of beer. If the pub doesn't have it, he will ask for a second favourite. If they don't have that, he will probably never return. He will certainly not say, 'What is the absolute cheapest beer you have?' Jamie adds, "When kids go to buy running shoes, they don't say to Mom, 'Any pair will do, the cheaper the better,' they are totally specific: Adidas, Nike - the ones with the blue stripes, the tag on the back, whatever."

The story is completely different when it comes to meat (and most other food, too.) Most people don't care where it "comes from, how it's been fed, looked after, slaughtered or butchered." Isn't that the truth? I would say that in our culture, people care almost exclusively about cost. I think most people believe that the nutrients and quality of the food they eat will remain the same no matter how cheap it gets. Sadly, that is far from the truth. In order to lower the price, corners must be cut. In the case of meat, this happens when animals are fed as cheaply as possible and housed as cheaply as possible. The result of an animal eating improperly is that the resulting meat will suffer in terms of quality and nutritive value. Remember, "You are what you eat?" There is an excellent article on one of the nutritive differences, specifically omega 3/6 ratio, between grass-fed animals and standard grocery store fare on Dr. Mercola's site. I really encourage you to have a look at it. (It is not at all difficult to understand, in case you are concerned about that!)

I remember last year at Christmas time, a local department store proudly displayed on the sign outside their store, "Shrimp Rings: 2/$3". Ugh.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nightweaning in our Attachment Parenting Family

Photo Courtesy of My Aim is True

Nursing a little baby in the still of night can be magical. The whole house is quiet. Your husband is asleep. It is just the two of you. The moonlight drapes over your sweet, chubby baby as he snuggles beside you in your big, warm bed. Bliss.

When thinking of nightweaning, please keep in mind that night nursing is partly a habit, yes, but it is not a bad habit like smoking. You cannot simply prune a nursing away until they are all gone. (I never understood that advice, because who knows how many times I nurse at night, anyway?!) It is a completely adaptive behaviour with benefits for the child and the mom. Please don't take this post as my suggestion that everyone should nightwean at any particular age. If you are happy with night nursing your older baby or child, that's great. :)

However, I choose to nightwean my babies somewhere between 12-18 months for two reasons. First of all, my fertility works in such a way that night nursing is a sure thing that I will not conceive again. Secondly, by 12-18 months, I believe our babies are capable of learning to go the night without needing food and not nursing during the night helps me get a better night's sleep.

I would like to share with you the way that we go about nightweaning in our family. Having nightweaned 5 children so far, I have learned a few things that work well for us. These might not be the same in your family situation, of course.
  • Children who have unlimited/almost unlimited access to the breast are very unlikely to give up night nursing on their own. I don't mean they will never give it up, but it will probably not happen on its own in the first couple of years.
  • Children who no longer nurse at night may or may not immediately start sleeping through the night, but nightweaning (once completed) has never made my sleep worse. The only exception is getting to sleep. Prolactin knocks me out like nothing else. :)
  • In our family, children 2 1/2 years and up seem to give up night nursing very easily. At this age, explanations, preparation and alternatives work well.
  • For younger children (12-18 months is when I wean these days), cold turkey seems to be the most gentle and quickest way to go because it is not confusing to the child.
  • Night weaning a child before 2 1/2 years may require a lot of parental resolve. It might not be too pretty.
Our first two children were nightweaned later, at ages 3 (that's years old) and 2 1/2 years. This was my method:
  1. During the day, explain nightweaning in whatever terms your child will understand. You may choose to say we won't be having nee nee until the sun is up or until Daddy gets up for work or whatever you decide. Also, explain what the child can do when he wakes, such as have a drink of water (show the sippy cup as a visual reminder), hold hands, etc.
  2. Repeat step 2 several times during the day.
  3. If you are nursing to sleep, you will probably want to continue for now, but you are the mom, so whatever you think will work is great.
  4. When the child wakes, simply follow through on what you decided on for alternatives. (I should interject that some families like to have mom sleep elsewhere and dad take over. We haven't done that, but several friends have and find it works very well.)
If this is something you have decided you really want, stick to your guns and don't give in in the heat of the moment. Don't convince yourself that your child is hungry, or else you are likely to try to give him a snack (or a nurse). The idea is to try to help the child sleep, not to wake him up. Most children in our culture are not nursing during the night. I am not saying this is the golden standard. I am just saying that they are sleeping all night and not eating -- and not starving. Thirst is another issue, though. Lots of adults need a drink of water during the night, so it makes sense that a child might, too. Offering a sippy cup of water, I think, is an important element.

For our children ages 12-18 months, I do something similar:
  1. Decide ahead of time if this is something you really want as opposed to something you just want to try. If you really want this, you will need to be very clear, purposeful and guilt-free in your own mind because your child will probably cry a fair bit. While this doesn't seem ideal to me, I believe it is a small sacrifice our children make for me and for our family. I sacrifice lots for my children and I don't think this is a huge deal. When I think of the fit our 10 month old has when I take him off the stairs and put up the baby gate - for his own safety - I realize that just because a child cries does not mean they are indicating a need. Little babies wants and needs are the same, but this does not apply to older babies and children.
  2. Try to get a good night's sleep the night before you start nightweaning. I know you are doing this because you want to sleep better, but do whatever you can. Go to bed early, have a nap or whatever you need to do. Going into this exhausted will not be beneficial.
  3. I really don't see much point in explaining things ahead of time to a child of this age. I know children understand a lot more than we give them credit for, but this age is pretty little. Children this age live in the moment, so I don't believe they can really understand the concept of what will happen later that night.
  4. Assemble supplies: sippy cup with water, a special soft toy (if your child has one -- most attachment parented kids don't), your loving arms and lots of resolve.
  5. Ahead of time, pick a time you won't nurse before. You may choose to go until 5:30am or you might choose to go for 3am, which is a very common 'awake' time for babies everywhere. I think expecting a child to go from 7pm-7am without nursing on the first night is a bit much. I generally go for 5:30am. Whatever you decide, make sure you decide ahead of time. We want as little 'deciding' happening in the heat of the moment as possible.
  6. Nurse to sleep as usual, if that is what you do.
  7. When your baby wakes up, don't jump in at the very first fuss. I think I often wake my children up by pouncing on them as soon as I hear them stir. Give them a minute to see if their fussing is going to escalate into a cry or just fade out.
  8. If he is crying, try cuddling first. Keep the end in mind. We want the child to learn to sleep through the night without waking, so we are working from the alternative that is least disturbing to their sleep to the ones that may have them more awake, if needed. So, don't haul them out of bed and try the sippy cup first. And, certainly don't try changing a diaper on the first fuss!
  9. It is okay for them to be crying in your arms. It is very unlikely that you will be able to avoid their crying -- and there may be lots of it. If you really want this, take the attitude that you are going to do your best to help them through this hurdle. I find that, depending on the child, cold turkey can involve insane amounts of crying the first night, a fair bit the next night, but it is smoother sailing from there. After a week, our babies are often sleeping through the night or at least not needing a whole lot of hands-on parenting.
Our youngest is 10 months old, so I will be referring to this post in a few months. I'm not sure when I will be able to be bothered...maybe in the summer??

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pomatomus Socks...All Done!

There is one good thing about being sick. Unless I had a terrible, hand-crushing incident, I'd still be able to knit. :) I managed to finish my Pomatomus Socks. They were a challenging knit and I am really happy that I tried them. They didn't end up being nearly as hard as I thought they might be.

Bitten by the Bug

...the flu bug, that is! I will spare you a photo.

We are very rarely sick, so everything kind of shuts down when we end up with an illness. (My 10 year old son, with the immune system of steel, of course is not sick at all.) I think we are on the mend, but I wanted to apologize for not posting in the last few days. I do have a post on night-weaning drafted out which I will post in the next day or two. I also have a cool knitting project to show you when I can get a picture up.

I hope everyone is making lots of whole wheat bread! I gave six of my loaves to my sister on the weekend so I need to use my new mixer again. Darn. ;)