Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy Food


There's something wonderfully fulfilling about making pretty food. Maybe it's because I haven't been as crafty as I like to be in other areas of my life lately that I'm taking such an interest in creating attractive food pairings.

Whatever the reason, this salad which was originally going to be veggie roll ups, was divine. Delicious. Scrumptious. Anyway, you get the idea, it was pretty tasty.

I started with bib lettuce then added avocado, carrot ribbons and marinated portobello mushrooms and onions. On top is a scoop of "Not Tuna Pate" from my favorite (and only) raw recipe book, "Raw Food Made Easy." Even if you aren't interested in eating raw foods, this is a fantastic un-cook book filled with easy to make and tasty dishes. I haven't tried anything in there that I haven't liked. Even my carnivore husband enjoyed this salad!

Walking in a winter wonderland

Yesterday, it snowed. And snowed. And then it snowed some more. It was so beautiful, the heavy, sticky snow perfect for making snowpeople and snowballs. I didn't do either of those things, but I did take the little guy out for a jaunt around the yard.

Though the snow changed our plans for the day, I still enjoyed it. Everyone needs a snowday now and then.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Aftermath

Photo courtesy of Windows XP

Christmas is over, the tree is down, decorations are put away. Most of the holiday parties are done--time to take stock.

I wasn't sure going into last week what to do about healthy eating. Yes, it's important and makes me feel good, but I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings or miss out on annual holiday treats. Somehow I don't think gingerbread cookies would taste the same in July. On the other hand, I didn't want to overindulge and spend the week after Christmas feeling yucky. I decided to wing it.

Here's what I did:

  • Made fresh juice two mornings for breakfast with my "new" juicer that my friend Karen gave me. (She's soooo sweet--and so was the juice!)
  • Walked and did video workouts when walking wasn't possible most days.
  • Told myself to let things slide, to relax, and to enjoy myself.
  • Made a raw "cheesecake" to share at my Mom and Dad's holiday dinner. (I give it 3 stars out of 5.)

Here's what I didn't do:

  • I didn't stick to eating gluten and dairy-free. But . . .
  • I didn't eat any "white" desserts like pie, cookies, candy, etc.
  • I didn't have a stress-free holiday, but wasn't really expecting to anyway.

Even though I avoided white sugar (which was almost as hard as I expected), I'm still feeling the after effects of the gluten and dairy. My digestion is all messed up but more annoying is my mood--I feel foggy, sleepy, a little irritable and sad. Some of that may be just the holiday let down, but some I believe is directly related to my food choices. Especially since I started feeling like this before Christmas, but post Taco Bell and one holiday meal.

What about you? How was your holiday eating and how important are annual holiday foods to you?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Magic

It's hard to believe there are only 4 days until Christmas. Wow--where has the time gone? I'm usually a holiday fanatic--decorating, baking, and partaking in other "Christmas-y ventures." Not so this year. Part of this has to do with having an eight-month old who still isn't sleeping through the night consistently. Part of it is recognizing that a lot of those things--excessive shopping and buying, baking sweets and overeating, and planning so many "essential" holiday activities that I feel overwhelmed--aren't really good for me. I usually arrive at New Year's day feeling broke, bloated, and depleted. Oh, and I usually have a cold because of all the holiday sugar and the messed up sleep schedule.

The holidays can be magical if we don't get caught up in trying to make them perfect. My motto this holiday season is "Try to relax and enjoy." Note the "try to." For a recovering neurotic, I recognize that this will be a challenge!

Remember, eat good foods, take care of yourself, and spread some love this holiday season. I wish you and all of your families peace.

Raw Cereal

Here it is! This is one of my favorite breakfast foods, raw cereal. At first I was like, "Huh? Raw cereal? Sounds gross." It's anything but. If you like fruit and nuts you'll LOVE this. Plus it's fast to put together and sticks with you for hours after you eat it, giving you plenty of energy in the meantime.

Here's the recipe that I use which was roughly adapted from one I found online. You can use other ingredients that you have on hand--play with it and make it personal to your own tastes.

Raw Cereal

Quarter then slice one banana into a bowl.
Add one apple (I've had it both grated and chopped--either way is tasty but grating it tends to make the cereal a lot more wet)
Toss on a small handful of chopped almonds or walnuts
Add a small handful of sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds
Add raisins or chopped dates to the top
Sprinkle a generous helping of shredded coconut on top if you desire.
Drizzle with 1 tsp. of raw honey, dust with cinnamon.
Splash a small amount of almond or other nut milk on top.

Tah-Dah! All done and ready to eat.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Hi everyone! Sorry to be incognito--it's been a busy month (or two). A few people have asked me how the elimination diet and attempts at healthy eating are going so I thought I'd post a little update.

I've been feeling great! I notice a big difference between days when I have a lot of fresh veggies and fruits and days when I don't. Even when eating gluten/wheat-free, which I've been doing for a couple of months now, I find it's still really easy to fall into the "carb trap." There are so many breads, bakery items, pretzels, chips, etc. , that are gluten-free that it's very tempting to reach for those instead of healthier options. And they're so easy! Who wants to juggle raw food while running out the door with a baby and six bags of accompanying baby gear in hand? I tell myself this but then think, "How hard is it to grab an apple or banana for the road?" Ummm, not really too hard, actually.

I'm finding that eating healthier is really more about mindset than anything else. If you sit around thinking about all the food you "can't" eat, you will be depressed. Trust me. Changing your eating habits is HARD. Especially in the beginning when you are trying to make the healthy changes and seeing little results. It takes time to feel better. It takes time to increase your energy. BUT I would highly recommend that you start with little changes that will have the most impact. For instance, cut out all white sugar. Or have a green smoothie in the a.m., if possible. It totally changes my day when I do. I feel more energy, less cravings, and just generally more upbeat. On the other hand, if I start my day with eggs and gluten-free pancakes and lots of maple syrup I feel sluggish. Which is okay, sometimes. I'm definitely not saying you shouldn't ever indulge--but if you're indulging every day like I was (sugar really ISN'T its own food group!) then there's a problem.

Social issues are maybe the hardest to deal with, especially when you're around family. And with the holidays coming up most of us will deal with this. "Have some of my homemade pecan sandies, dear. What do you mean you can't eat them? They're good for you--now eat up!" Okay, I'm exaggerating a little here, but I'm sure most of us deal with food pushers. I admit I AM a food pusher sometimes. Everyone handles family/food situations differently. I don't want to offend anyone and for a long, loooong time I let that be my guiding principle. "What will so-and-so think if I don't eat what she offers me?" You know what? Half the time the person offering the food to you is just being polite. She could care less if you eat it or not. And sometimes people tie their own guilt up with offering you food. They might feel better if you eat some of the "bad" food they've been eating--it's like a party! But will you feel better?

If it's something I really, really want I'll eat it. Like Thanksgiving--I didn't have any dessert but did have a couple of my sister's delicious homemade rolls. Yum. I try not to let other people pressure me into eating stuff, especially if it's something I don't really even like. There are a lot of polite ways to say no, but the most effective way I've found is to say "No thanks. Maybe later." At first I went on and on about all my weird food sensitivities and explained why I couldn't have such-and-such a food. Now I just say, "No thanks. Maybe later." I feel a lot less like a little old lady and spare the person a half-hour lecture on my food sensitives. Better for everyone!

I'm hoping to post some delicious healthy recipes here soon. I'm addicted to this raw "cereal" which is yummy, fast, and healthy. I'll get it up here as soon as I have a chance to photograph it, promise.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Aspiring Raw Foodie

I struck gold at the Salvation Army yesterday. Being more involved with raw foods lately, I've been wondering how "uncooks" get their foods perfectly sliced and grated. I came across this great 6-in-1 tool yesterday and snapped it up. I'm not usually a kitchen gadget kind of girl, but this will really save me time preparing yummy raw food meals.

I also made a delicious key-lime pie yesterday. It's raw, so that means dairy-free, sweetened only with raw honey, and full of good and healthy ingredients. Oh, and it tastes fantastic, too--rich, creamy sweet and delicious! If you're interested in raw foods but feel overwhelmed, I'd highly recommend "Raw Food Made Easy," by Jennifer Cornbleet. It's really basic and she give some great information and simple recipes. Plus, it's where the pie recipe came from, so you can make your very own!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Do something nice today

If you hate bull "fighting," the cruel act of slowly killing a bull by piercing him with knives and spears over many excruciating minutes, please take a moment and sign the bullfighting petition found here.

Woooh! I feel good....I knew that I would, now...I feel fine....

Yippee for healthy foods!

As I posted recently, I'm becoming more and more interested in healthy, healing foods. I've been struggling for several months now with some really yucky postpartum mood stuff--feeling anxious and nervous, having repetitive thoughts, feeling down and sad. Months ago, I told myself that there was some sort of nutritional deficiency going on but how do you pin point something like that? On top of all the mood stuff, I've been exhausted with little to no energy, feeling irritable and edgy all at the same time.

I've tried a lot of different things to help me, but so far I'm seeing the greatest impact through changes in my diet. Here's what I've done so far:
  • Eliminated white sugar

  • Eliminated white flour

  • Eliminated caffeine

  • Started eating more fruits and veggies

  • Started taking Omega 3's, Vitamin D and Calcium

  • Started taking time for myself

  • Started spending time doing fun things every week

  • Started an elimination diet--no dairy or gluten for 3-6 weeks

I began the elimination diet on Sunday of this week. It might be awhile before I see results, but I swear (and maybe this is just the placebo effect) that I've had more energy in the past couple of days. I highly recommend reading, the Ultramind Solution. This is the same great book I just posted about. I wish everyone would read it! I think it's full of important information. I'm also learning that Dr. Hyman isn't the first to make this mind/body connection as far as nutrition is concerned. Now, I'm excited to read "The Maker's Diet" and "Quantum Wellness" which a friend recently recommended to me. If you know of others, please share the titles with me.

No, I'm still not 100 percent myself yet. I have days when I feel down and blue, or tired. But overall I'm noticing a HUGE decrease in these feelings. I feel excited about life again, and all that there is to still accomplish! I feel happy and motivated most of the time, and hopeful that things will continue to get better and better. My jeans are a little looser, and my nearly constant cravings for sweets are nearly gone.

I hope that others will share their own nutritional healing stories. I'd love to hear more about them.

To healthy living...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Whole Foods Challenge

Feeling tired? Sluggish? Irritable? Anxious? Depressed? Hyper? Low energy? Short attention span?

I've been feeling a lot of these things lately, off and on and I've decided to do something about it. I believe in the power of a healthy diet and what it can do to change the way you feel. Lately though, I've been so busy and stressed that I've been eating a lot of things that don't make me feel good. Don't get me wrong, they taste great and feel good when I bite into them, but they leave me feeling bad later. And not in a guilty, oh-I-shouldn't-have-eaten-that-because-of-the-calories sort of way. More of a yuck-I-feel-gross-and-now-exhausted-and-irritable sort of way.

So, I'm trying a one week whole foods challenge. I am also going to be incorporating as much raw foods as I can. Starting Saturday, 9/12 I will:

1) Not eat white foods (not potatoes, silly!)--no white sugars or flours, no white rice, no refined white stuff.

2) Eat lots of fresh veggies and fruits.

3) Increase healthy proteins (nuts, beans, fresh tofu).

4) Increase healthy fats (avocado, walnuts, wild-caught fish, etc.)

5) Continue to exercise.

6) Schedule time for fun and alone time.

I'm also "reading" (audio book) a good book on the subject, called the UltraMind Solution. It sounds sort of quacky, but it's really quite good. I got my copy at audible.com. You can also find the paper version online or at your local booksellers.

Do you want to join me on a healthy food challenge? If so, post your comment below and tell me what you're going to plan for your own challenge.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Falling off the green bandwagon?

Have you ever fallen off the green bandwagon? Like a smoker returning to her pack of cigarettes, I'm embarrassed to say that I've let things slide around here in the last month or so. Between dealing with some postpartum anxiety issues, a summer vacation, drumming up (and completing) articles for work, taking care of a nearly 5-month old and trying to find a few minutes a day for myself, I've been feeling a little overwhelmed.

Actually, a lot overwhelmed.

I made a list at the end of July of all the things I felt I *should* be doing every day-or so around here (not including my freelance work). Guess how many things were on that list? 45. And then I thought of a few more a day later. That's just too, too much. It's no wonder I've been having anxiety issues and I determined after creating that list that some things were going to have to go.

Composting, while wonderful and important, was one of them. I've also put a hiatus on cloth diapering which was really hard for me to give up. We're using disposable Seventh Generation diapers--better than regular disposables I guess, but I still feel guilty every week when we toss them into the grocery cart. I've stopped cooking every night and instead we've had leftovers or things "nearly" prepared from boxes (but no mac-n-cheese from the blue box...yet!). I've also stopped working during my son's nap time and instead use the time to read, write (personal), or take a nap myself. This has been completely, utterly wonderful and made a huge difference in how I feel throughout the day. I didn't realize how depleted and frantic I was feeling until I stopped for a half hour and sat in quiet. Bliss.

Which brings up another point--alone time. While I have a wonderful mom and super-sweet sister who each watch the baby for 4 hours a week (two mornings total), they were watching him here in my house which was not working well for me. Though it was convenient for me and I was grateful that they were willing to drive here AND take care of the little PeaPod for FREE, I needed some time away from him. And sitting in the next room while he wailed and laughed alternately and wondering what he was doing and if Mom/Sis needed anything while trying to work wasn't, well, working.

Instead, I now bring him to their houses for care. Huge difference. I can fully concentrate and not feel pulled in two directions. My lovely sister also offered (insistently) that I let her take her nephew for another hour each week so that I could do something ALL ALONE. As an introvert, it's hard to describe how important time alone is to me. It's like air--I need it badly.

While all of the changes I've made around the house are supposed to be temporary (just until the first of September) there are some that I'm letting go for a little longer. My son has pretty much outgrown his cloth diapers now, so I need to decide if we go up to larger sizes or stick with what we're doing. I'll probably start composting again. I will not give up his nap times for work unless it's absolutely, positively necessary. I will keep journaling.

And good grief, I have got to start eating healthier.

I went into rebellion mode after the baby came. "I've been eating healthfully for 9.5 months," I was thinking. "Now I'm going to eat whatever I want." Well, I do still try to eat healthfully but it's been a definite struggle lately. I have 8 pounds of pre-baby weight to lose, which I'm not too worried about. It will come off when it's ready. What I am worried about is my health. I feel tired a lot, even though the little PeaPod is almost sleeping through the night. I feel bloated and crave sugar CONSTANTLY. I keep thinking that there is some nutritional deficiency--Protein? Greens? Fruit? I don't know but I've also been having digestive issues.

So yesterday I spent a little time online on one of my favorite health food websites, Happy Foody. This site is AWESOME and a "visit with Sara" always seems to get me motivated. Right now she's doing a green smoothie challenge--one month long. I'm trying for one week at this point and we'll see where it goes from there.

I also tried this recipe for Raw Chocolate Macaroons that she posted on her site--Oh my. Delicious and totally, completely satisfied my sweet tooth.

I'm so, so interested in a raw foods diet. Part of me is horrified to think of life without bread, but another part of me recognizes how great I feel when I eat lots and lots of fruits and veggies, things that always seem pushed out the way when tastier and less healthy options are available.

So, dear readers--onward and upward. I hope I'm better about posting on here as I do like to write on this blog and love the comments you post, but at this point I can't promise anything too intensive. I won't forget about it completely, though my posts might be more sporadic than I'd like. Please, bear with me.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

In a land of plenty

It's easy to forget we live in the land of plenty. Even during this economic downturn, most of us have much, much more than people in other countries even dream of having. Running water, electricity, a vehicle or two, the ability to cool or heat our homes with the touch of a button or the turn of a dial, food in the cupboards.

I've been thinking a lot about the food issue. I like to buy organic foods as much as possible, but sometimes choose conventional products because of the cost. "Well," I sigh to myself, "It must be nice to be able to buy all organic foods at the natural foods market, but I guess I'll have to make do with this."

The thing I need to remember, as I'm dumping spoiled leftovers into the compost (which I hate doing, by the way), is that I have much, much more than many others I share the planet with. Most of us don't have to hunt for food in garbage dumps or cans to survive. People I know don't worry if that last chunk of bread they have will last another two days and feed the hungry bellies of their family.

Feed my Starving Children is an organization which I recently learned about. They provide simple meals to starving children around the world. A meal through FMSC for six children costs $1.00 to produce and 94 percent of all donations go directly to food costs. They also offer hands-on volunteer opportunities if you live in the areas where the food is combined and shipped (see their website for details).

Friday, July 24, 2009

Books, books, books

I love books. I love the way they smell, I love holding them and feeling their weight in my palms. I love the excitement I feel when I open a book that had to be set down abruptly (which happens a lot these days), ready to dive back into a great story or learn some new information.

Right now I'm reading a great book called, "Made From Scratch". It's by twenty-something author, Jenna Woginrich. The book inspires everyday, ordinary folks who've always secretly (or maybe not-so-secretly) wanted to have a homestead of their own. With chapters on things like raising chickens, becoming a beekeeper, raising fiber animals, making one's own clothes, and playing mountain music, the author offers lots of helpful tips and advice for getting started.

Though you probably won't find this book yet on Paperback Swap or Abe Books, these are great sites to find free (Paperback Swap) or inexpensive books. I've traded quite a lot of books, both hard and soft cover on Paperback Swap and have saved a lot of money in the process.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Eat Well--Anywhere

In Mary Jane's Farm (June/July) I came across this interesting link to the Eat Well Guide. The guide assists you in finding fresh, local foods in whatever community you're visiting. Visit the website for a free online directory. The guide includes, "farmers' markets, CSA programs, partner organizations, water-conscious ratings, and vegetarian eateries."

Just in time for summer travels!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Inspired for change

What kind of changes have you experienced lately? Loss of a job? Relationship challenges? Financial adjustments? Or maybe positive changes like beginning to eat healthier and taking care of your body with movement. Have you left a bad work situation to strike it out on your own? Met someone you feel is "the one"?

Change is hard for most of us, but harder for some than others. I believe I'm one of the "others". I resist most change, unless it's my idea and I'm really passionate and excited about it. Right now I'm looking at a possible change in my career. I know that I'm meant to be a writer, but after spending the past few months floundering, I'm taking a good hard look at what I'm supposed to be writing.

I just came across this website, Girls for a Change, which is inspiring. Social change is something that I'm passionate about and I commend the women and girls who are part of this inspiring organization.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Authentically green

Being green is now a verb. When I was growing up it meant being looked at as different and even weird. "You eat toe fu? What the heck is that?!" My lunch bag packed with sprouts and homemade wheat bread made kids around me at school gag. My mother taught me how to clean and smoosh cans the right way so that they could be recycled. Back then there were strict requirements on how recycling was to arrive at the transfer station. She made most of our clothes, we grew huge gardens which she would dry/freeze/can for winter. I even remember us grinding our own grains for bread. We were thrifty--going out to eat was a big treat.
Now being green is cool and trendy. Everyone wants to jump on the green bandwagon, especially businesses. It's made me pause, more than once, in my own business, EcoMedia LLC and wonder, "Am I doing this for the wrong reason?" I don't want to become someone who uses greenwashing tactics to get ahead in the business world.
But where do we draw the line? Is it wrong to help businesses promote the things they are doing to become more environmentally-friendly? How do we determine if a company is truly trying to help the environment or just trying to put on a "green front" to help their own pocket?

Monday, June 29, 2009

What keeps your green-self inspired?

I was so excited to learn that Hobby Farms magazine is starting this new mag, Urban Farm. As a farmgirl whose acreage is a little closer to a large city lot than a rural country farm, I'm truly psyched to see the first issue when it comes out in August.
Reading the preview of Urban Farm in the current edition of Hobby Farms magazine got me all tingly. It also reminded me what an important role magazines play in keeping me inspired. In my younger years, these magazines consisted of thick fashion and home decorating magazines. Then I realized how crappy reading these made me feel--I always felt like I did after waking up from one of those dreams where you are so thirsty and you keep drinking and drinking and never feeling like your thirst is quenched.
Now though, I find magazines like Mother Earth News, Grit, Countryside, Mary Jane's Farm, Back Home, and a few others keep me motivated and inspired to try to live greener and do more for myself and my family.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Social Networking--Green Media?

Are you tweeting? Have you friended someone lately? Are you LinkedIn?

Social Networking. For some it's a fun, interesting way to stay connected to friends, family, and clients. For others it's a nightmare.

Regardless of how you feel personally about social networking, I believe it's here to stay in the business world.

Social networking is a pretty green way to market your business. No need for direct mailings and no traveling door to door to meet sales clients. No need to copy hundreds of pages of information about yourself and your business when you want to show potential customers your products or services--just direct them to your Web site, blog, Facebook or LinkedIn page.

But does social media help or hurt relationships in the long run? A friend once told me that social networking is sort of "pre-networking". It makes going to those scary mixers a little less intimidating. My sister was telling me last night that social networking helps her to feel more connected to our extended family members. It gives us a way to catch up with each other when we get together for those relatively infrequent family gatherings. When you generally see people twice a year, it provides some connection to cousins and aunts and uncles, and a way to start a conversation.

But is there a point when a good ole' fashioned phone call or visit on the front steps is seen as too much work when you can easily IM someone or direct a tweet to them online? Where do we draw the line between social networking and hermitism? Isn't there something to be said for the connection between people that needs to be seen face-to-face, or at least heard telephone to telephone?

What do you think? Is social networking a great tool to stay connected, or a hindrance on personal and professional relationships?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Paper or Cloth?

With the recent addition of a baby to our household, there have been certain things that we've let slide in the environmental arena. No, we haven't stopped recycling or started using paper towels exclusively again, but we do run our small dishwasher more than usual and our washing machine, too.
One thing I've always planned on doing when I had a baby, was to use cloth diapers. Statistics estimate that over 27 billion disposable diapers are thrown away in the United States alone. An article in Countryside Magazine this month by Dennis Evers, states that "Over 50 pounds of petroleum products, 300 pounds of wood and 20 pounds of chlorine are needed to produce disposable diapers for one baby each year."
We've struck a balance between cloth and disposable in our house, but I feel slightly guilty that I use the disposable at all. I know many women who are all-cloth diaper users and don't seem to have a problem with it. I like to use disposable at night and sometimes for longer day trips when I'm not sure how readily available a changing table or clean surface will be. However, for us right now this is a good balance. I really like the diapers from Seventh Generation--rarely a leak and they are chlorine-free. They also seem thinner somehow than other disposables which we received as gifts, so they transport really well.
In addition to cloth diapers, I had planned to use cloth diaper wipes exclusively. While I got some great ones from Green Mountain Diapers, I hadn't had time to make the diaper wipe spray until today. Here's a quick recipe I found online for some:
2 Tbl. olive oil
2 Tbl. baby wash (organic if possible)
2 Cups of cold water
Add all to spray bottle and shake before each use.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Frugal Smugal

There was a time in my life when being frugal was a laughing matter. I used to babysit in my younger years, only to buy clothes, jewelry and makeup. I was a well-dressed teen and early 20-something with a very skinny bank account.

After reading the eye opening book, "Your Money or Your Life," I slowly changed my spendy ways and became something I thought I never would be.

A saver.

But slowly over time, spendthriftiness drifted back into my life. "It's so much easier to buy X," I would tell myself. "I'll never find another deal like this!"

And while my current budget doesn't allow for many extraneous purchases, that doesn't cut down on the "wants". It doesn't help to live in a culture which equates financial purchases with success.

Do you have family members or friends who seem to "have it all"? Trips all over the globe, in ground swimming pools and Jacuzzis, the latest model cars, new golf clubs and a clothes budget that would feed your family for a year? Spending time with these people can leave you with a feeling that whatever you have, isn't enough. Even if just that morning you were feeling oh-so grateful for your dishwasher and closet full of clothes, an afternoon spent with the Jones family can leave you feeling empty. "If only I had that," you muse. "Then I'd really be happy."

The truth is, if we got that we'd find something new to want within 24 hours. And let's remember that many of the things we see others enjoying are often things that they don't even own, but are purchased on credit. Who wants a big, fat credit card bill or bank loan hanging over their head?

One of my favorite places to visit when I'm in need of a little dose of financial reality, is The Simple Dollar. I've linked to one page in particular (Frugality) which has a great bunch of articles on the topic.

Now, enjoy your day and all the things that money can't buy: Love, family, peace, friendship, sunshine, green grass, laughter, health . . .

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

One plus in a downturned economy

I know the economy is bad. I know that a lot of really, really hard times have fallen on people who don't deserve it. A lot of people are losing their jobs. Some are losing their homes. And everyone I know is wishing and hoping that the economy will turn around soon. As a freelance copywriter and journalist, I'm wishing it too.

But there are a few upsides to the situation. One is that more and more people are staying home. Vacations closer to home, less meals out, more entertaining in the backyard. "Why is that a good thing?" you might ask. One, it means that less gas is being used which is good for the environment. Two, community is important and when people stay home more, they are able to become more a part of their community. This "stay at home" trend also reminds me of the time when my parents were young--a time when families spent more time together and weren't running off in 12 different directions every night of the week.

There is also a growing trend in bartering for goods among friends and family, rather than buying things outright. In the latest edition of Mary Jane's Farm (a great magazine) there is a short article on this topic. This is really good news for the environment! Trading goods means that less new things will end up in the landfill.

If you're interested in bartering or trading goods, check out Craigslist, Freecycle, Swap Tree, Swap Thing, and other bartering sites (try a search under Google for more ideas). Or try setting up an informal bartering/swapping system in your own family or community. It's amazing the great things that you can find for yourself and find new homes for if you get a little creative. If you're into travel, you might want to check out Home Exchange, where you can swap houses with someone in another area of the country or the world. A home exchange, whether here in the US or abroad, will make a very memorable summer vacation.

Healthily Ever After

*Photo courtesy of Windows

I'm re-reading an excellent book, Feeling Light. I love, love, love it. This is the second time I've read it, but I think I will keep it around for quite a long time for reference. It's one of the only weight loss type books that I would recommend to anyone. It incorporates a whole range of things to do to keep your body healthy, strong, and fit--both mind, body and spirit.

As I've mentioned before, I don't believe in diets. Of course a lot of people lose weight on a diet. But what happens when the diet ends? The weight, and usually even a bit more, comes right back on.

Feeling Light is a holistic approach to losing weight and being healthy. One of the most important pieces of the "plan" if you want to call it that, is this piece of advice: Don't worry about all you can't have, think of all you can. In the book, the authors are speaking to the fact that often people think that eating healthfully is some sort of punishment. "Oh, I'll never be able to have cookies and ice cream again!" Instead of thinking this way, the authors suggest that someone look at the 101 different types of produce that's available to them and all the ways that they could prepare and enjoy it. (And by the way, I would never, ever subscribe to the notion that cookies and ice cream are completely forbidden. Just that they're best eaten in moderation.)

This type of thinking can easily be transferred to other areas of our lives. What if, for instance, instead of thinking of all the things we can't afford, we thought of all the great things we already have? What if we spent a little time thinking about the parts of our job we loved, instead of the one or two aspects that are annoying? Instead of thinking about all that is wrong with our lives, what if we looked at the ways we could make it better?

Attitude is such a huge factor in our perception of the world around us. And you don't have to be a Pollyanna to see that a more positive attitude really can make a difference.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Busy, busy, busy

I'm so busy. Swamped. Completely stressed. Can't keep up. I'm totally, completely at my limit.

Have you heard one of more of these statements lately from a friend, co-worker, or even the person in front of you in line at the grocery store? Or is it you who has uttered one of these phrases?

It seems we Americans like to drive ourselves to our limit. AND tell everyone within earshot how absolutely, completely, totally productive we are at all times. After all, isn't that what life is all about? Doing as much as you can, as fast as you can until you completely burn out? Only lazy people take time to leisurely read a book. Sit in a hammock and enjoy a glass of lemonade. Listen to the spring peepers. Play catch with their child in the backyard. The rest of us have WORK to do, thank you very much.

Still, how productive can we really be? No one is "on" 24/7. And thank goodness as it's really not a healthy way to live.

Sometimes trying to cram everything in really makes us less productive. Tell me if this sounds at all familiar:

Sit down to pay bills. Calculator--where is it? Locate calculator. Pen is out of ink. Find new pen. Where are the stamps? Uh-oh, the little pea pod is waking up. Need bottle. No clean bottles? Argh! Wash a bottle and fill it up. Heat it. Too hot. The pea pod is turning red and waving angry fists! Bottle ready, feed the little guy. Ooops, spit up on my shirt. The dog needs to go out but can't put the baby down. Put wet burp cloth on pile of bills. Argh. Oh no, dog peed on the carpet. Phone ringing. Can't answer. Might be work-related and the little pea pod is screeching because he does NOT think he has any burps to share. Message on the answering machine--was work. Make note to call back later. Cats chasing each other and knock over the vase of flowers on the table. What were they doing on the table?! Baby is wet. Change baby's diaper. Little pea pod smiles. Cute! Where's the camera? Phone rings again. Husband with question. Laundry is done washing. Quick get it into the dryer or on the line before forget it in the washer again and it spends a day and a half stuck there! Uh-oh, what's that smell? Crap, forgot that I was heating lunch up on the stove. Scalded pan. Baby has lost his pacifier. Find pacifier and realize how many cobwebs are living under the radiator. Good grief~I'm exhausted. Now where did I put that calculator?

The situation might be different for you, but we've all had those days/weeks/months. That feeling like you just can't catch your breath. The sense of wanting "just had five more minutes" to focus unhurried on something.

While we live in a crazy, busy world, it doesn't become any less so by trying to cram 14 things into a half hour time slot. In fact, research shows that "multi-tasking" is actually less efficient than doing things more slowly but taking your time with each one.

Yes, you have a lot to do. Yes, everything feels like it needs to be done now. But it really, truly doesn't. (I tell myself this about five times an hour.) Advice columns in magazines will tell you silly things like, "ask for help--you're spouse/mother/brother/roommate will be happy to help you if only they know what you need." Well, depending on your situation you could ask until you're blue in the face! While there is certainly nothing wrong with asking for help, there's a simpler solution.

Ready? Here it is:


Or at the very least, do it less perfectly. (Perfectionists out there, brace yourselves.) Yes, the bathroom has to be cleaned. But do you need to scrub the floor on your hands and knees? Clean the linen closet every week? Dust behind the toilet? Let something go and see if you don't feel a little, tiny bit more relaxed. And really, isn't it the perfect time of year to relax and let go a little bit?

Exciting News!

Wow, I just found out that A Chick with a Conscience is officially part of the Guideposts blog network! Yaaay!!!

Be sure to check the network out for other great blogs to follow.

(I'm biased but be sure to check out "The Writer's Dog" under the Inspirational Connections--Peggy is a good friend of mine.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Alternative Gift Giving

Ahhh, spring. Time for enjoying all the beautiful green-ness around us, smelling the roses, and shopping for the 18 celebrations coming up.

Weddings. Baby and bridal showers. Graduations. Is there no end to the parties and festivities this time of year? And in times when more and more of us are watching every penny, all these celebrations and life-changing events can cause a pretty heavy toll on the ol' wallet.

So what's a kind hearted, generous person supposed to do?

First, don't panic. There are LOADS of great gifts available for every occasion, sometimes in the least likely of places. Check yard sales, Goodwill, craig's list, freecycle, the Salvation Army, and your own gift closet (more about this one later) for some great presents. You'd be surprised how many new and still in the package items you'll find in these places.

Are you crafty? Like to bake? Enjoy cleaning (just checking to make sure you're still awake!). Why not offer up your services as your gift? I can tell you honestly that having babysitting help, home cooked meals, and a clean house when I got home from the hospital after having my son last month were the best gifts I received.

If you are the person being honored with a celebration, why not give it a green spin? Check out the Alternative Gift Registry--it's a very cool, very green alternative to a traditional gift registry.

Most of all, be creative. I bet you can think of a gazillion things to make, bake, or buy (frugally) that will make the gift recipient very happy.

Monday, April 27, 2009


*Photo courtesy of Windows

Where has the time gone? A new baby has a way of eating up time, and a lot of it. Of course, spending long moments staring at a miracle that has been growing inside of you for nine months (and one week!) takes up quite a lot of time as well.

My husband and I welcomed our son into the world earlier this month and as new parents we've certainly experienced an eye opening transition into the world of parenthood. And I do mean eye opening quite literally! This weekend is the first time we've gotten any decent sleep as the little peanut has started to eat a bit more and so sleeps more than an hour or two at a time.

I certainly haven't been as eco-friendly as I was in my pre-baby days. I've been using a lot of the disposable diapers that people gave us before baby's birth--something I wanted to do for only the first two weeks as we transitioned into life as a new family. However, I find myself finishing week three with no cloth diapers in sight! Actually, I do have a couple on hand and am determined to try using them this week. We're doing fairly well otherwise--glass baby bottles and organic formula (not as eco-friendly as breastfeeding but that didn't work out), lots of clean gently used clothes donated from tons of generous people, second hand bouncy seats, a swing, and a playpen for when the little guy gets bigger. I've been using the dryer more than the laundry line though, and my cooking has been not quite as "from scratch" as usual. But these are things I'm willing to live with for now. It's a huge transition and the lack of sleep has really been getting to me (I cannot remember ANYTHING unless I write it down in BIG LETTERS and post it somewhere obvious).

This weekend my husband and I got the soil into our raised beds and I planted the first of my garden veggies--Swiss chard, beets and carrots. I'm hoping to make it to the local organic farmstand today for some other seeds--peas in particular need to go in soon. And my organic potatoes have sprouted so those will be going in the ground ASAP.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cheap versus Responsible

As a self-professed cheapskate, I sometimes struggle to find a balance between being budget-friendly and being a responsible consumer.

I think this is an issue for a lot of people, and here's why.

Everyone likes to get a good deal. That's why coupons, sales and discounts are so popular. Stores realize this and offer things like frequent buyer programs, loyalty bonuses for customers and free gifts or discounts to keep consumers coming back.

I used to be the queen of discount shopping--if there was a good deal to be had, I could find it. I used coupons for groceries and only shopped at the double coupon places. I could find cute clothes and accessories at discount places and always had new outfits to wear because they were so CHEAP!

But several years ago, after starting to try to live more simply and frugally, I realized that buying things that are inexpensive isn't always the way to go. Cheap clothes wear out fast and more importantly I learned WHY they are so cheap in the first place (does the term 'slave labor' ring any bells?). Coupons that I had used weren't useful for me anymore once we started to shop for organic and local foods more, and traditional foods less. And all those sales on beauty products and accessories didn't do me much good, as I tried not to buy a lot of things I didn't really need, just for a "pick me up".

Still, even though I've heard other tightwads explain how it makes much more sense to buy really good quality clothes and not replace them for years, I couldn't get on that bandwagon either because:

A) I'm too cheap to spend the money on really good quality stuff and
B) My tastes change way too frequently to invest in things--I get bored often and want something new and different to spark my creativity.

So what's a tightwad to do?

My solution has pretty much been this: Shop at thrift or resale stores. You can find great quality merchandise at these places without breaking your budget. AND it's the ultimate form of recycling. I will often bring bags of clothes to the resale or thrift shop, and then do a little browsing while I'm there. Find a Goodwill in your area and check it out even if you're convinced you don't like used stuff. The one closest to me has TONS of brand new items, everything from nice bed sheet sets to new towels and cleaning products.

This doesn't solve all my problems of course. There are still things like fair trade chocolate to consider which is especially hard around holidays like Easter and Christmas. Still, I'm hopeful. It looks like Cadbury, the makers of the infamous Cadbury Creme Eggs (one of my favorites!) will be changing to Fair Trade.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Gratefulness List

Here's a list of 10 things I'm especially grateful for today, in no particular order.

1) Sunshine!
2) Fresh baked bread
3) Plenty of writing work to keep me busy
4) Dinner out with my sister and husband last night
5) The three lazy pets in the living room
6) Summer vacations (must be inspired by the sunshine!)
7) New books and magazines to read
8) Clean clothes and a load to put out on the line
9) Freedom
10) Good audio books for long drives

And here is a cool Web site, dedicated to gratefulness.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What can we do?

Sometimes, I find out just how small my world really is.

I recently hosted a fundraiser for an anti-sex trafficking/tourism organization called Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. This is the fourth or fifth year that I've held a fundraiser to support an organization working in this field. It's something that I feel very passionately about--the amazing thing to me, is how passionate others feel about it once they learn some of the horrors that these women and children go through. Kidnapping. Gang rape. Beatings. Starvation. Servicing 30 or more men a day. NO ONE should have to live like that! No one should be imprisoned and raped and beaten and abused. These are human beings, not pieces of equipment or merchandise.
It's estimated that between one and two million women and children are trafficked around the globe. Human trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal market growing. Children as young as six years old are sold to brothels in some parts of the world. PBS has a film about sex trafficking--I saw part of this a few years ago. Here's a link to the documentary clip.
And it's not just happening in countries far away. Read this ABC News story--incredible. I cannot believe that this type of thing happens right here in the United States.

I have been working for some time with an organization called Shared Hope International. In fact, a story about it's founder, Linda Smith, is what first opened my eyes to the sex trafficking industry. I knew that I had to do something. I'm not someone who can just read something that totally blows my mind, alters my view of the world, makes me sick with anger, and then dismiss it and move on.

I started by selling hats at church a few weeks before Easter Sunday. I called the project "Hats for Hope" and donated all the money I raised to Shared Hope International. The next few years, with the help of some very kind and helpful volunteers, I ran a Victorian Tea to raise money and awareness for the cause. The teas were successful but a lot of time and energy went into them.

This year, I tried something different. A Music Matinee combined local musical talent with refreshments in a beautiful art gallery. My mother set up a table with all the pamphlets and brochures that I'd sent away for, to help educate others about the organizations out there doing great work.

I would call the Music Matinee a success, and once again, couldn't have done it without the help of my family and the awesome, professional musicians who donated their time and talents. Mark Sustic played (as shown above), along with Carol A. Jones, Lisa Judge, and Rebecca Padula.

Yesterday though, as I started reading through the book, "From Congress to the Brothel," I realized that one event a year, while a nice start, isn't going to cut it. This work is something that I feel incredibly passionate about. I'm now in the process of seeing how I can help on a more regular basis. Reading the stories of those women and children, the first hand accounts of what they have gone through is simultaneously eye-opening and heart breaking.

So I'm in the process now of waiting. Waiting to find out what it is I can do to help. Waiting to find out if this is something I need to do on my own (Set up a separate Web site or blog about sex trafficking? Start a nonprofit creating something to sell which can donate money to this cause? Create more community events? Stage art exhibits where all the art created is around the topic of sex trafficking and sex slavery?) or whether I am meant to partner with one of the organizations working on this problem already.

I'm not sure where I'll end up, but I know that everything I learn about this subject, everyone I tell about this subject, helps to draw it out of the shadows and into the light. I believe that is the first step in exposing something too awful to imagine--first bring it into the light. Let the sex traffickers, the pimps, the "johns" (men who "buy" these women and children) be seen for what they really are. Bring their despicable, disgusting, loathsome actions out into the light for everyone to see what and who they really are. And let that same light be shone over the women and children who are hidden away, so that they can escape from the shame, humiliation, and degradation and start new lives for themselves.

What can we do about a problem that seems so overwhelmingly huge?

We can start. We can do one thing and see where it leads. And then, we can do another.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An un-diet revolution

I have been thinking about food a lot lately--or rather, my relationship with food. During my pregnancy, I've had to change my eating habits. I've been a lot more conscious about what I'm eating; trying to eat more protein, less sugar, more fruits and veggies, less "white" stuff. While all these changes have been positive, there is part of me that misses being able to eat what I want.

And the cravings? Out of control! I have had cravings in the past but nothing like this--it feels like PMS cravings every day. All someone has to do is mention the word "chocolate" or "ice cream" and it's all I can think about.

Luckily, I've been pretty moderate in my weight gain throughout my pregnancy. I can see how easy it would be to just say, "Oh forget it!" and gobble down any old thing, but I try hard not to do this. I grew up with a weight problem and I certainly know first hand how very, very hard it is to lose weight.

All of this brings me to a point (don't worry, I DO have a point!). It reminds me about the importance of non-dieting. Several years ago, after many, many failed attempts to get "control" of my weight, and fluctuating between losing and gaining over and over again, I decided that I'd had it. I read a book by Geneen Roth, started eating whatever I wanted whenever I was really hungry, and began to live in a whole new way.

That's not to say that my weight and body issues were cleared up overnight, but I see the reading of that first book as the beginning of a different way of life.

It seems that everywhere I go, every group of women I talk with, all have the same feelings about food. They feel out of control. Or they are very much in control, to the point where it takes over their whole life. Working out for several hours a day and obsessing about calories is just as unhealthy in my opinion, as being overweight.

Where does this obsession with food and our bodies come from? The media definitely plays a role. So did our parents and other family members during our formative years.

A few organizations are determined to put an end to the dieting obsession. Read about the organization Overcoming Overeating here. Find out more about learning to eat more intuitively here. I also came across this interesting looking book here.

Un-dieting or non-dieting should be explored much more in our American culture. Living isn't about deprivation or extravagance, but a fine balance between the two. And the freedom one can enjoy when not controlled by thoughts around food and appearance are just the tip of the ice burg.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Little happy surprises

Last week I had a surprise in the chicken coop. A very pleasant, very pretty BLUE surprise! Though the lighting in this photo doesn't show the true shade of the blue egg (nearest my fingers) it is so beautiful that I hesitate to eat it.

When my sister, mother, and I got chicks last spring, I ended up taking a little Arucana with a crossed beak. I was worried about her and thought that she might do better in my small flock than in my Mom's larger one. Her beak is so crossed and so pointed that it surprises our visitors that she can eat at all. Actually, it surprises me too when I watch her managing the food dish.

Her name is "Chipmunk" (or Chippy) because when she was a chick she had the exact markings of one. I never expected her to lay eggs, I just hoped that she would stay alive. My mothers Arucana's started laying months ago, so I had pretty much given up hope that Chippy would ever produce any eggs. But lo and behold--last Friday I found this gorgeous, full-sized, blue egg in the nest! I was smiling from ear to ear as I left the coop and had to take a photo in case it was some weird fluke. But no, she's laid two more since then!

I love happy little surprises like this.

I also think there is a message here. Don't give up. Don't ever assume that just because something "shouldn't" be or it might be too difficult or impossible to imagine, that it's not "logical," that it will never come to fruition. You never, ever know what kind of supposedly impossible things might happen.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gotta love it

I just came across this great article on frugality and tightwadding on Yahoo news of all places. I couldn't help chuckling at the writer's slightly mystified sounding reference to making one's own laundry detergent--we've been doing this for almost a year now and love it.

Here's the link to the article. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Grateful for generosity

While this may look like a photo from the inside of a baby store, it's actually just some of the wonderful presents we received at a surprise baby shower given to us by our church family this weekend! We got so many great things, most of which wouldn't even fit in the photo. Clothes, toys, bibs, more clothes, a nursery lamp, snowsuit and much, much more. I was completely blown away. I had no idea that they were having a shower for us, even after our pastor asked us to come up front.

On top of all the wonderful things we received at the shower, a friend also gave us her daughter's barely used crib and bassinet. Another friend gave me a huge bag of maternity clothes and another filled with baby clothes AND a gigantic box of newborn diapers. Wow. I feel so loved!

What was even cooler about the shower and the other gifts that have been given to us, is that for the most part they are all gently used. I LOVE the idea of re-using things, especially baby clothes which are generally grown out of so quickly that they don't even have time to become faded or pilled. It's the ultimate form of recycling. I look around the nursery and see all these wonderful new-to-us things and know that these are items which will be kept out of the landfill.

Of course, not EVERYTHING is gently used. The above organic cotton sleep sets were given to us by an aunt and uncle and the adorable yellow knit set is something I've had for years, hoping I'd someday have a cute little baby to tuck into it.
Generosity just blows me away. And happy surprises are so much fun!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Inspiration and Motivation

This is the coolest thing ever. A solar shower that was just a few steps away an awesome yurt we stayed in on a trip to Maine a couple of summers ago. If you've never taken a solar shower, you've got to try it. It's like skinny dipping . . . for the more modest of us.

Building a solar shower in my backyard is on my "homestead dream list". Imagine a nice cool rinse in the outdoor shower after a hot afternoon spent fighting weeds?

There are a ton of other things on my list too, including building cold frames, expanding my flock of hens, planting blueberry and raspberry bushes, landscaping the front yard, expanding the vegetable garden, starting a strawberry bed, planting fruit and nut trees, raising angora or dairy goats, and much more.

Baby steps. Baby steps.

This is a hard time of the year for northern homesteaders, gardeners, and everyone else whose fingers are itching to smell fresh, green grass and feel the sun on their backs. I made a pact with myself that this year I wouldn't crack open a single seed catalog or start mapping out my garden expansion plans until March. I made it. (Barely!)

Of course, this hasn't stopped me from inhaling every magazine article I can find on homesteading, living off the grid, and "putting food by" (canning or drying for the next winter season.) Some of my favorite days are when my new Mother Earth News magazine appears in the mailbox. I also love my new subscription to Grit magazine (keep an eye out for a few of my upcoming articles in future issues of Grit!). On top of these two favorites are Mary Jane's Farm, Countryside, Hobby Farm and the new Hobby Farm Home which I just learned about.

And that's just the magazines! Then there are all the Web sites, blogs and online forums. Not to mention the great books I've found at the library and received for Christmas and birthday gifts. The inspiration is endless.

What are some of your favorite homesteading or do-it-yourself resources? Where do you find inspiration?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Healthy Pregnancy

Being pregnant is sort of like climbing a mountain. You think you're prepared--Pregnancy books? Check. Many words of wisdom from everyone who has ever been pregnant or knows someone who has been pregnant? Check. Lots of water? Check. Exercise? Check. Healthy diet? Hmmmm . . .

There is SO much information out there about healthy diets and pregnancy, and much of it is conflicting. Some people believe that a meat-less diet is a no-no during pregnancy, others believe that vegan or raw food diets are the way to go. Protein--how much do you really need? Are you getting all the essential vitamins and nutrients your baby needs? Don't eat foods like eggs, sushi, or other dishes that might be dangerous to eat raw or undercooked. How much weight is okay to gain (some sources indicate less than 20 pounds, some say up to 35 or 40).

So, here you are, on this journey weighed down with this huge pack of information and on top of all these things running through your mind, your hormones are a little wacky, making you cry during a commercial your un-pregnant self would have found eye-rollingly stupid, and your body is doing strange and wacky things.

I'm now nearing my last month of pregnancy and though I'm no expert, here are some things I've learned and would like to pass on:

1) Do NOT read too much pregnancy info, whether in books, online or in magazines. Do NOT listen to all the advice everyone gives you. Be selective, do some research on the things that you are most interested/worried about, make a decision and let it go.

2) Eat healthy foods and don't stress out about counting every gram of protein or carbs. On the other hand, don't be so "free" with your diet that you are gaining gobs of weight and feeling like crap. Remember, what came on, must get off at some point. Moderation, moderation. (NOTE: Sometimes, no matter how healthfully you eat, you will gain more weight than you thought possible in a one week period. Try not to let it get you down.)

3) Remember that babies are hearty little creatures. As long as they have milk, clean, warm clothes, a place to sleep and your love, they will most likely be very content. You really do not need a whole slew of baby toys, matching bedding, an entire set of new nursery furniture or most of the other stuff that is advertised to new parents. Keep it simple.

4) Your body really can change so much that you don't recognize it anymore. Often when I catch a glimpse of myself (still!) in the mirror, my first thought is, "whose stomach is that?"

5) Ignore everyone who feels the need to comment on your body. Constantly. As though you weren't standing right there.

I'm really lucky that my pregnancy has been pretty easy. I'm very happy with my pregnancy overall and I'm so looking forward to meeting my new son or daughter!

Here are some great Web sites that I often visit for inspiration, both during my "normal" life and during my pregnancy. They will definitely make you want to put down the Taco Bell burrito and make a fruit smoothie!

Oh my Blog! a raw/vegan mama's journey to remain a raw food eating vegan during her pregnancy is really inspirational. And of course, Happy Foody is still one of my favorites, though not specific to pregnancy or babies. Also, check out We Like it Raw for inspirational stories and some great recipes. The notorious Vegan Lunchbox has a GREAT treasure trove of archived posts on the most creative lunches I've ever seen. Plus check out the adorable lunch kits in her most recent post--CUTE!

Making Music for Change

I'm so excited to tell everyone about a cool event that I will be hosting on Sunday March 8th, from 1-3:30 p.m. at the STAART Gallery in St. Albans. If you haven't been to the gallery, you have to check it out--it's beautifully set up and the artists whose work is showcased there is just spectacular.
For the past several years I have been holding an annual Victorian Tea to raise money for organizations working to end sex trafficking around the world. This is a cause that is near and dear to my heart, and though it might seem like a very different cause than the environment (which is obviously very important to me!) I find them similar on many levels. Both involve abuse on silent parties who are often unable to speak for themselves. Both are atrocious. Both make me very angry. Of course, I do not place human suffering below say a polluted river. Sex trafficking is my very worst nightmare and to realize that between 1-2 million women and children (some as young as five!) are trafficked every year around the world is heartbreaking.
The Music Matinee will be a fun way to bring community members together to learn more about the sex trafficking industry and also enjoy some foot stomping, blood warming good music by local musicians, Carol A. Jones, Lisa Judge, Rebecca Padula, and others.
No need to RSVP, just show up at the gallery and bring your family and friends. No charge, donations are greatly appreciated.
Oh, and did I mention the free refreshments?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What do You Worship?

Sometimes I spend more time worrying and wondering and fretting than I should. I have a very hard time letting things "just be".

I just read a great passage this morning from Weekly Wisdom. I'll share it here:

"Everyone worships. Some people worship money, possessions, popularity, prosperity, or other people. They may not sing worship songs to their bank account, but by the way they live they worship (i.e. give value to) their money."

Amen to that.

It made me stop and realize how often I worship things. A constant mental struggle with money and bills is a form of worship. So is forever wondering what others think of you. Checking your bank account or 401K several times a day could be considered worship. Spending large chunks of time focusing on things like food, sex, alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes are all forms of worship.

I think the way people look at religion can be worship in itself. I made the artwork above several years ago because I feel like many Christians get caught up in the "act" of worship. But to me, God is not about statues and stained glass and pretty Sunday clothes and candles and money. And the fact that so many of us have let these things become the focus of our religious experience is scary.

Let's remember where worship belongs, and where it doesn't.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

NOFA How I Love Thee...

The Northeast Organic Farmers Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) is such an incredible organization. I just learned about them maybe a year ago and since that time have found so much great information about organic farming, farmers' markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), local food sources, classes, workshops, and more educational opportunities, all listed on their Web site.

This weekend is the annual Winter Conference and I'm SO excited to attend! I've been looking forward to it for months. My sister, Faith ,and my friend Renee and I are going together. The photo above is a shot from last year's conference which I attended with my Mom. Picture a long day of friendly, happy people, learning new things about gardening, farming, beekeeping, soap making, herbs, foraging, livestock care and more, combined with a great (mostly local food) potluck, and sprinkled with a resource area chock full of freebies and business displays and you've pretty much got the winter conference.


This year I'm determined however, not to fall into the impatient, "I wish it was spring RIGHT NOW so I can start these outdoor repair and garden projects!" trap. I am trying to truly enjoy the winter months--no bugs, no sunburn, no sticky humidity, and lots of fresh, brisk air and fluffy snow. Spring will get here soon enough, and while winter is a great time to work on plans for next year's garden and read up on homesteading and other interesting things, I don't want to rush any of the seasons.

But of course, being around all those farmers and gardeners and being inspired by the cool workshops and resources will be challenging. Here's to my attempts to stay focused!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Making Changes

How do you make changes? Do you make them gradually, over a long period of time? Do you make them hastily and then fight with everything you've got to make them stick? How much information do you gather before you attempt to make a change? Do you do careful research or are you more a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type person?

I am someone who has a hard time making a decision, but once I've made up my mind that's usually the end of it. I don't like loose ends and "maybes". I like to know what to expect and what the final outcome might logically be for decisions that I make.

Expecting a baby has brought with it a whole slew of new decisions to be made. Some were, for me, no brainers. As someone who is passionate about recycling as much as possible and trying to waste as little as I can, I certainly didn't rush out to create a huge baby registry at some overpriced store. I'm not interested in stockpiling the nursery full of a bunch of stuff we'll probably never need. Yes, it took me months to create an alternative gift registry, and yes I've probably forgotten to include things that we will end up needing. But by putting time and thought into our registry, it will result in a more eco-friendly option for us.

Other things to consider when planning for a baby have ranged from minor, like which type of prefold cotton diaper do I want to use versus more involved, like will I choose to breastfeed? There are so many decisions to make.

One thing that I've learned is that while doing research on a subject is good, it can also paralyze you. Sometimes you need to shut out all the voices, advice, and information and be still. Think about what you truly want to do and why. And then choose to do that, no matter what others think and say about your decision.

My husband and I decided we'd rather have a big summer outdoor "eco-friendly, meet-the-baby" party, instead of a traditional baby shower. Some people don't seem to like the idea, others do. But instead of worrying about pleasing everyone (a habit that's very hard to break), I've decided to let go and just enjoy the parts of my decision that feel good and right to me.

How about you? What are some areas of your life in which you find it challenging to make a decision? And once you've made one, do you stick with it no matter what, or do you tend to change your mind?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Working in a Winter Wonderland

This morning I woke up to snow. A lot of snow. I think the storm that hit yesterday brought about eight inches to our area.
First, I cleared out the dog pen and around the table where the bird feeders are. Then I had breakfast and got ready for the day. Fully bundled up, I headed out to clear a path to the barn so I could feed and water the chickens. It was so beautiful out. The sun was shining and it made all the snow sparkle and shine. After I took care of the chickens, I thought "Hey, I might as well clear around my car." So I did that.
Then my neighbor came to clear my path to the mailbox (how sweet!). He told me he didn't think I would be able to get out of the driveway and offered to come clear the end of it once he finished his morning coffee. How many people have neighbors who are so nice? I thanked him profusely, and then started clearing the top of the driveway, working my way down. I took it slow--didn't want to pull anything in my back or hurt the baby.
As I worked I was reminded how much I love to be outside, moving and doing something productive. All I could hear was the birds and the rhythmic "swish" of my shovel as I tossed the snow to the side of the driveway. The sun was warm on my face, the sky was blue. I remembered in my old job how I would long for time away from my desk and the ringing phone. I wanted to go outside whenever I pleased. And now that I'm able to, I certainly don't take it for granted.
I got so caught up in my chore that I ended up finishing the whole driveway myself, before my neighbor came back outside!
What's funny to me, is that even though I love to work outdoors, there is always this resistance to the thought beforehand. If someone had said, "Boy, you need to get out there and clear the driveway," I would have been totally disgruntled and resistant. But because I went out thinking I'd just "do a little", it ended up being a real treat.
I came in with rosy cheeks, clean lungs, and a much more positive attitude.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Going Local

Localvore (also called locavore) eating is gaining popularity. If you aren't familiar with the term, it basically means eating foods grown as close to you, normally within 100 miles, as often as possible. There have been a lot of books written on the subject. One I would HIGHLY recommend is Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" Excellent book and very informative without being preachy.

I have to admit that eating locally is not something I do very well. In fact, my friend Renee recently mentioned in an email the importance of eating locally, and how if we continue to choose cheap foods from other countries, our own farmers will eventually be put out of business. Well, that got my attention. Though I try to buy organic foods at the grocery store, make food from scratch as much as possible, and frequent the local farmer's market in the summer, I do these things more for health than any else's well being.

I am especially guilty of this in the cold weather months. I LOVE tropical fruit in winter--bananas, mangoes, pineapple, dried papaya--love it, love it, love it. In fact, I'd have to say that it's what I eat most of, after the organic apples which are grown heaven knows where.

Strawberries, grapes, cherries, blueberries--the list goes on and on. And that's just the fruit! So, my friend's observation has really gotten me thinking. How could I incorporate more local foods into my diet, especially in the cold winter months? Is it really hopeless? Am I destined to a fate of dried local apple slices and potatoes for months on end?

I interviewed a wonderful woman named Robin a few months ago for an article I was working on. Robin heads up the Mad River Localvores here in Vermont. She is completely, utterly dedicated to this movement and shared with me that she and her husband are complete and total localvores, other than the spices that they cook with which come from non-local sources. When I asked how she survived the winters without lettuce, grapes and other warm weather produce, she told me that it's just something you get accustomed to. She said my reaction is typical (which made me feel only slightly better) and that it's really just about making different choices. Over time, it becomes second nature. As an added benefit, when you do get local foods like peas, greens and asparagus, you tend to appreciate them a lot more.

Maybe it's time to borrow "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" again from the library. It's definitely time to think about how I can grow, buy, and preserve more local foods for next year's cold winter months.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Intution or No?

Do you believe in intuition? Fate? Faith?

For much of my life I have relied on my faith to get me to where I was going. Most times when I have a big (or even a small) decision to make, I pray about it and go where I feel led. This has been true even in times when I felt really removed from my faith and as though God was the farthest away from me. I've used my faith when contemplating big things like job changes, moves, and reducing my debt, and for making small decisions like how best to reach out to someone, what healthy things I could include in my life to make it better, and how to solve everyday problems.

I have always believed that if doors were closed to you and you had to really struggle to pry one open, it wasn't meant to be opened by you, at least not at that time. Doors should be opened for you, or be open already for you to walk through--if you are indeed on the right path.

Recently I read that this might be the wrong way to look at things. I'm sporadically reading a good book, Jesus, Life Coach, by Laurie Beth Jones who is a life coach herself. In the book she reminds readers that Moses had to approach Pharaoh more than once before Pharaoh agreed to let the Israelites go. What if, asks the author, Moses had just tried once and then said, "Oh well, I tried. See you later Israelites!" (Paraphrased)

Hmmmm, an interesting concept.

So, now it's made me wonder if I'm wrong to question if things don't go smoothly right away. Am I still on the right path when doors aren't opening? Do open doors indicate the right path or just a path? Should one keep pressing on even though they feel like they are treading water more than swimming somewhere?

What do you think about intuition, faith or fate? Do you trust it? Or do you prefer to make your decisions in another way?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Enjoy Today

Today I'm going to accept what I can't change, trust that things will turn out okay, and be happy where I am.

I woke up feeling not-so-great--tired, scratchy throat, stuffy nose. Worst of all was that my mind immediately went to my bank account. Not a good sign first thing in the morning.

No matter how often I think that I've "let go" of worrying about finances, where the money is going to come from, will it be enough, where will I get more work, it seems to creep back up on me. If I can't learn to accept that this is part of a freelancing lifestyle, I think I'd better head back out to the working-for-someone-else world. And that is something that I never want to do again.

Instead, I'm going to make an conscious effort to let go of the things I can't control like where or when the next check is coming, if I'm really getting a cold, if I'll freeze to death going to feed the chickens this morning (it's below zero again--brrrr!), if the pets will adjust to the new baby okay, etc., and focus on all that I have right now that is good.

Wonderful family
Money in the bank
Supportive friends
A warm house
Fuzzy pets
Plenty of food in the cupboards
Great books and mags waiting to be read
A little bit of land
Warm, dry clothes
A heater and blanket while I work
A great church
Artistic creations

So today if you're feeling anything like me, try to just take a few big, deep breaths and exhale all the worry swirling around in your head. We're bound to free up some creative energy for something much more important.