Sunday, 30 June 2013

Summer Bucket List

Summer officially began on the 21st of June, but now that school is officially over for all, it feels like summer has arrived! The rainy wet coast June is finally transforming into hot summer days. Even though I have parenting responsibilities, my two months off (as a teacher I get July and August off) feel like a return to the golden days of my childhood, with no worries or timetables. My girls will be going to swimming lessons and perhaps a few other little activities, but largely our summer is a blank slate. I am looking forward to waking up each day and deciding if I will spend the day in Mama's Do Nothing Chair, or embark upon a grand adventure. Of course I have some organizing projects to do around the home, some crafts and other projects, but my summer bucket list is full of outdoor activities and adventures. Time to get some vitamin D, fresh air and connect with nature!

My Summer Bucket List:

  • Pick berries at a local farm: We have many local farms with U-Pick options and my girls always enjoy doing this. The local strawberry season will be over soon but we can choose raspberries, blueberries, or the roadside wild blackberries. 
  • Visit our favourite local beaches: Our favourite spontaneous trip is to bike ride to Garry Point and play at one of the small reclaimed land beaches, but for more adventure Centennial Beach is a winner, with many warm tide pools to explore.
  • Go back to the UBC Botanical Garden Greenheart Canopy Walkway: We went for the first time last summer and we said that we would go back with more time to explore the rest of the garden. However, the highlight really is the suspended tree bridges. Last year we went around the circuit three times.
  • Hike on the trails around the Capilano Suspension Bridge: When we visited, for the first time last December for their festival of lights, we received a free year membership with our admission, so I am looking forward to exploring in the daytime and going on little hikes with my girls.
  • Go on regular bike rides around our community: Now that the weather is warmer I am determined to get out on our bikes more for daily trips. We have local shops and activities that are within a short bike ride and I intend on engaging my kids more with this. 
  • Go swimming at outdoor pools: We have two local outdoor pools and a lovely one close by in a neighbouring community. Being outdoors helps to minimize the impact of breathing in harmful chemicals like chlorine. 
  • Prepare my garden for winter gardening: Now that my summer garden is in full swing I don't have much to do besides watering and weeding, and harvesting all that delicious zero mile diet food! I can't believe that in a few short weeks I need to start prepping and sowing seeds for a fall and winter garden. 
  • Enjoy going on Fraser River dyke walks: We have mile after mile of gorgeous paths along the mouth of the Fraser River, where we see herons, bald eagles, hawks, snakes, and sometimes even owls and coyotes. 
  • Visit the Reifel Bird Sanctuary: We love spending a day exploring the different trails, identifying as many different birds as we can, feeding the ducks and having a picnic there. 
  • Have backyard campfires: We recently added a covered fire pit in our backyard to roast marshmallows. Due to a variety of reasons, we may not go camping this summer so having a campfire (the best part of camping) will help me feel like I am not missing out as much.
  • Have a daytime backyard campout and possibly a nighttime campout: We like to set up a little tent in the backyard for our girls to play camping, and I may sleep outside with them one night. I have fond memories of doing this from my childhood and I hope to pass on the tradition. I very much enjoy actual camping at a campsite, but it is still up in the air if we'll make it this year.
    Manning Park camping last summer. My littlest did not take
    well to camping and we had to leave early. Maybe we can try again.
  • Visit the Terra Nova Sharing Farm and their special events: I love the local festivals and the community events at the Sharing Farm. We have attended the hugely successful Garlic Festival in the past, but the Raptor Festival will be a new one for us. 
    The cob oven and chickens at The Sharing Farm. Last year we
    participated in their CSA. There are lovely community gardens too
  • Go on a ferry trip to one of the Gulf Islands or Sunshine Coast: There's nothing more West Coast than a ferry trip to one of the Islands. If we're lucky we may spot an Orca pod swimming nearby.
    Two ferries passing each other in the Gulf of Georgia.
  • Go on a transit tour: It is one of our family's annual adventures to take a local bus, Sky Train and Sea Bus from our home, through the airport and downtown to Lonsdale Quay to have a meal, go window shopping and play. We feel like tourists in our own city! I realize that we can do this from a place of privilege (being able to afford a family vehicle for regular trips) and that we should endeavour do take public transit more frequently.
  • Visit the Steveston Farmer's and Artisan's Market every other Sunday: Our local community has a bi-weekly farmer's market that is a real highlight for us. Fresh lemonade, local organic produce, local artists and goods, music, and yummy treats abound.

But before I start crossing some of these off my bucket list, I need a little bit of relaxing in the Mama Do Nothing Chair. Ahhh.

Friday, 28 June 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Amanda Soule at SouleMama.  
"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments."

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Baking Soda Love

I love baking soda. Along with my other love,  vinegar, and a little bit of elbow grease, it has so many uses around the home.

With so many harmful ingredients in commercial cleaners it is hard to know who to trust and what to buy. I'm not a chemist and I don't have time to research ingredients before I go shopping. I like the simplicity of baking soda. I also appreciate that baking soda is reasonable and now that I use baking soda for so many jobs I buy it in bulk, bringing the cost down even more. 

Ten Ways To Use Baking Soda:

  1. Shampoo: I use baking soda, with water, to wash my hair (No 'Poo)
  2. Air Freshener: I put a container of baking soda in key areas of the home (near the garbage, kitty litter, and in the bathroom). When I notice the smells return I change the baking soda. I saw a great idea on Pinterest that I am trying - put baking soda and a few drops of essential oil of choice (I am using rosemary) into a glass jar. Punch a few holes in the lid and shake it whenever you need to freshen up an area. So far I am pleased with how it works.
  3. Microwave Oven Cleaner: after loosening the food around the microwave by heating water in a bowl, I make the baking soda and water paste and scrub anything left. This has the added benefit of eliminating nasty microwave odours.
  4. Stove Cleaner: I have a glass cooktop and a lot of food gets stuck on the surface. First I soak the surface with a wet cloth to moisten the debris. Then I scrub the surface with a paste of baking soda and water and wipe clean. Sometimes I have to repeat the steps if the food is particularly caked. 
  5. Bathtub and Shower Cleaner: I spray with water, then sprinkle the area with baking soda, rub the soap build up, then rinse with water. For particularly dirty areas I spray a vinegar and water mixture onto the baking soda, letting that oh so fun science experiment do it's job bubbling away at the grime. 
  6. Wall Mark Remover: my home is no stranger to wall art created by my three year old and in the past I used numerous magic erasers to get rid of the marks. While I find they get rid of the marks, I go through them quickly. Baking soda / water paste gets rid of the marks just as well, with significantly less cost. 
  7. In the bath: shake a desired amount of baking soda into a warm bath and climb in (don't forget a book or magazine!). I like soaking with it to leave my skin feeling soft. Sometimes I add a bit of Epsom salts to help with detoxing (especially when I feel myself getting sick).
  8. Shoe deodorizer: sprinkle some baking soda in smelly shoes and leave overnight. Before you wear them shake out the baking soda.
  9. Carpet deodorizer: we have had our fair share of stomach bugs since having kids, and despite my best efforts to avoid accidents, smells in my carpet are inevitable. Sprinkle baking soda on the area if wet, or make a baking soda / water paste and gently rub into the area if dry. Let sit then vacuum.
  10. Skin exfoliant: use a baking soda / water paste and gently rub face in circular motions. Follow up with witch hazel toner. 

Monday, 24 June 2013

Organic Garden Pest Control

Hop on over to The Green Phone Booth to read how I deal with ants, aphids and caterpillars that plague my garden.

Cabbage moth caterpillars and aphids...grrr!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Late Spring Garden

It is late spring and we are getting closer to the longest day of the year. My garden is coming along nicely and we are now able to enjoy the fruits of my labour with delicious, local, organic meals. Last night we had boiled potatoes and salad that included salad lettuce, deer tongue lettuce, quinoa greens, chives, parsley, celery, peas and garlic scapes, all from my garden. So delicious, and even more so because I grew them all myself.

I doubled my garden space this year with two more raised beds and I love how I can grow so many different kinds of vegetables this year, including many new ones to me. 

In my first bed I planted beets that I started from seed inside in early spring down the middle. I am hoping that the beets are finished before the squash (zucchini, saucer squash and pumpkin) take over. Very soon I will be putting tomato cages around the zucchini to help contain them and give more space to everything that I have squished in here. 
Beets down the middle, saucer squash, zucchini
and pumpkin around the outside

I planted garlic last autumn. Originally there were five rows of five to six garlic cloves each, but as can be seen, much of the garlic either did not come up or died shortly after. However, the garlic in the far right of the photo, which is from The Terra Nova Sharing Farm here in my community, has all come up and is thriving. I am starting to think that this is due to landrace gardening, in which the most successful seeds from a prior harvest are the most successful in subsequent gardens because they are best suited to a particular growing area. The bulbs that were not successful were all organic but I do not know where they came from. When most of the garlic failed I had lots of space to plant carrots, kale and onions, which in retrospect is a good thing because I was sad that I wouldn't have room in my other beds for these plants. 
garlic, kale, several kinds of carrots, onions

Here is the Sharing Farm garlic close up. There are still some scapes left that I plan on using by the end of this week.
Garlic - can you see the curly scapes?
I made basil pesto with my scapes (and supplemented with some from a local farm) and my own sweet basil. Amazingly delicious! A little pesto goes a long way, however, so I am going to freeze the leftovers in ice cube trays and use in small amounts as needed.
basil scape pesto
My cucumbers did not do well last year so I am trying growing up with a trellis. So far so good, as I have lots of flowers and even some tiny cukes. I started this bed with a variety of greens to harvest while I wait for the cukes to fill in. On either side of the cukes is mustard greens, and so far this is the winner for my husband and myself. It sautés quickly, which brings out the slight mustard flavour. Behind the cukes are salad lettuce, deer tongue lettuce and arugula. 
Cucumbers, mustard, lettuce, deer's tongue,
arugula, more beets, quinoa
Here is one of the many dinners we've had lately with sautéed mustard greens. This time I did them with garlic scapes and balsamic vinegar.

The quinoa is my other favourite. I need to thin them out, but in the meantime I'm enjoying the young greens. Very tasty. It's fascinating watching them grow as most people are used to seeing the seeds but have never seen what the plant looks like. 
Quinoa in the background, chives, lavender and
my daughter's baby tree in the foreground.
Around my beds I have many plants in containers, including strawberries, more greens, thyme, parsley, celery, lavender and rosemary.
My favourite herb - rosemary.
In my last bed I have peas (snow peas, snap peas), beans (dragon and green beans), chard, Brussels sprouts (which will eventually take over in the fall), and potatoes. The peas are coming in like crazy, which pleases my girls who enjoy picking them for a quick snack when they play outside.
Snow peas and snap peas in behind.
Despite growing too much chard last year and finding out my family isn't especially fond of it, I am growing a few plants again this year. I like having chard for sauces and stews.
My potatoes are huge! We harvested our first of the potatoes for dinner last night and my goodness they were so sweet. I hope they last with the way we like potatoes in the summer.
These potatoes are full and tall! 
Of course I had to grow Brussels sprouts again. I like having them freshly harvested for our family Thanksgiving and if there are any left, for Christmas dinner as well. I think cabbage moth caterpillars are eating mine again so I need to deal with them soon. I forgot to cover them with my garden cloth to prevent this so I am going to try sprinkling them with a mixture of baking soda and flour (supposed to kill the caterpillars when they ingest it).
My Brussels sprouts - not looking so good.
Next up I am going to be reseeding several greens to continue my supply through the summer, and transplant my tomato babies into larger pots. I started them quite late this year as we went on a spring break vacation so they are still small and needing lots of TLC. 

I look forward to seeing how this year's garden develops through the growing season!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Healthy Eating With Kids: Ideal vs. Real

Welcome to the June 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting in Theory vs. in Reality
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants are sharing how their ideas and methods of parenting have changed.
Before having kids my husband and I would talk about the way we wanted to parent our children. I had definite ideas about our values and the kind of family life we wanted. We were ready to change our life for our kids and we were going to embrace it whole-heartedly. I wanted to live by natural parenting ideals such as extended breast feeding, bedsharing and cloth diapering. My children would be exposed to a wide variety of organic whole foods because fussy eaters were created, not born. We didn't want to over schedule our lives so that our kids could spend hours exploring, creating and yes, getting bored. We wanted them to make mistakes and learn naturally from them. My children were also not going to watch television until well out of the toddler years.

As a teacher I also believed that some structure and boundaries were important. We would have family meals together every night. My children would participate in the family by helping with daily jobs around the house. There would be natural consquences and they would understand that they were responsible for their actions. 

While I have been able to realize many of my parenting ideals, there is one key area (besides no tv) in which I failed miserably - healthy eating. 

My oldest enjoying a homemade organic meal I made for her.
I was determined to feed my children only the healthiest organic food and I spent hours reading about and making food for my oldest daughter. I felt frustrated because she didn't show any interest in solid food until about nine months old, which seemed late to me. Little did I realize that she would be my earliest eater. My second and third daughters were much later in starting solids. My middle daughter would not eat anything at all until 12 or 13 months old. My third daughter was really late, as in nothing, not even a little mouthful, until 18 months old (and she was very small - 3rd %ile on the WHO breastfed growth charts, so major momma anxiety). Looking back, I wish I had known more about child-led weaning (child-led introduction of foods) and let them take the lead. I supposed I did end up letting them take the lead but being more informed about it would have cut down on my stress levels. 

So I am living proof that fussy eaters are definitely born, and this simple fact has caused me a great deal of angst. The reality that I only had control over what foods I put in front of my children, not what they would eat, was devastating. With my first daughter I had rules about what she could and couldn't eat. With my younger two I was begging them to eat anything. I put foods in front of them that would have made pre-child me gasp. I remember begin ecstatic that one of them would eat a potato chip. One of them found an old chocolate egg in the couch? Hooray! She ate something without crying!
Funny how they never argue about eating treats like ice cream.
Mealtimes have been pure torture, even worse sometimes than bedtime (which were a special hell all on their own, of which pre-child me would be so judgemental). All of us sitting down to a pleasant meal together? How about being happy if my husband or I could eat a warm meal without children running around the table, playing with toys while eating, yelling or crying? Bribery and threats became part of our mealtime routine. "I won't be a short order cook," became, "please just tell me what you'll eat and I'll make it for you." Oh yes, pre-child me is giving me the side-eye right now.

So now I am having to undo all the horrible bad habits that we developed, such as actually eating at mealtime. My youngest was so fussy for so long that we would chase her around with snacks all day long to get her to eat. Now she expects food on demand and won't wait for even five minutes for a meal. She gets in the car or waits for a sister at an activity and thinks it means snack time, probably more out of boredom now. She is getting better at trying new foods but my middle daughter is absolutely opposed to trying anything new.

My oldest helping chop garlic scapes from our garden.
I know all the things I should be doing and I have read many blogs and books on ways to get kids to eat healthier. I have been to a paediatrician and dietician and have read all the literature they gave me. I have tried almost everything, with varying degrees of success, and I have certainly had advice bestowed upon me by anyone and everyone. Cue the judginess of other people and their perfect child/grandchild/friend who ate homemade organic sprouted heritage grain flatbread with bean spread and any vegetable because they were cut up into bite-sized pieces and served in muffin tins. If only I had introduced them to food this way they wouldn't be fussy. Or on the other end of the spectrum, if we  had just relaxed about the whole thing and put anything in front of them, like hamburgers, french fries and pop then they wouldn't be so fussy.

Now that my youngest is getting older I have more time to cook healthy whole food meals again. I am trying to include them in growing our own food and cooking so that they will be willing to try them, but it is very hard. For example, one daughter loves chicken noodle soup, which until recently has meant processed food. Now I am making my own soup stock and noodles, but she has been unwilling to eat it because it doesn't taste like the overly salty canned soup with MSG.
My girls like to be included in our Wednesday night  healthy pizza making ritual.
Slowly, though, I am making inroads and having success getting my kids to eat whole food meals and non-processed food. My oldest likes homemade sushi and kale chips, will use my homemade almond milk on her cereal, will eat quinoa and is open to trying new foods from around the world. It's just going to take (much) more time and patience with my other daughters.

I just wish pre-child me knew that I'm not a failure as a mother because I have fussy eaters. It just means that my daughters are individuals and I need to treat them as little people with needs and preferences, not vessels for my parenting ideals.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • My little gastronomes — "I'll never cook a separate meal for my children," Maud at Awfully Chipper vowed before she had children; but things didn't turn out quite as she'd imagined.
  • Know Better, Do Better. Except When I Don't. — Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy was able to settle in her parenting choices before her children arrived, but that doesn't mean she always lives up to them.
  • Judgments Made Before Motherhood — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks back on her views of parents she came in contact with before she became a mother and how much her worldview of parenting has changed!
  • A Bend in The Road — Lyndsay at ourfeministplayschool writes about how her visions of homeschooling her son during the elementary school years have changed drastically in the last year - because HE wants to go to school.
  • I Wish Children Came with Instruction Manuals — While Dionna at Code Name: Mama loves reading about parenting, she's not found any one book that counts as an instruction manual. Every child is different, every family is different, every dynamic is different. No single parenting method or style is the be-all end-all. Still, wouldn't it be nice if parenting were like troubleshooting?
  • The Mistakes I've Made — Kate at Here Now Brown Cow laments the choices she made with her first child and explains how ditching her preconceived ideas on parenting is helping her to grow a happy family.
  • I Only Expected to Love... — Kellie at Our Mindful Life went into parenting expecting to not have all the answers. It turns out, she was right!
  • They See Me Wearin', They Hatin' — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different contemplates putting her babywearing aspirations into practice, and discussed how she deals with "babywearing haters."
  • Parenting Human BeingsErika Gebhardt lists her parenting "mistakes," and the one concept that has revolutionized her parenting.
  • Doing it right: what I knew before I had kids... — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud, guest posting at Natural Parents Network realises that the number one game in town, when it comes to parenting, is judgement about doing it right. But "doing it right" looks different to everybody.
  • A synopsis of our reality as first time parents — Amanda at My Life in a Nut Shell summarizes the struggles she went through to get pregnant, and how her daughter's high needs paved the way for her and her husband to become natural parents.
  • Theory to Reality? — Jorje compares her original pre-kid ideas (some from her own childhood) to her personal parenting realities on
  • The Princess Paradigm — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen had planned to raise her daughter in a sparkly, princess-free home, but in turn has found herself embracing the glitz.
  • Healthy Eating With Kids: Ideal vs. Real — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs had definite ideas about what healthy eating was going to look like in her family before she had kids. Little did she realize that her kids would have something to say about it.
  • How to deal with unwanted parenting advice — Tat at Mum in Search thought that dealing with unwanted parenting advice would be a breeze. It turned out to be one of her biggest challenges as a new mum.
  • How I trained my 43 month old in 89 days! — Becky at Old New Legacy used to mock sticker charts, until they became her best friend in the process of potty training.
  • My Double Life: Scheduling with Twins — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot was banging her head against the wall trying to keep up with the plan she made during pregnancy, until she let her babies lead the way.
  • Parenting in the land of compromise — As a holistic health geek trying to take care of her health issues naturally, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama regrets that her needs sometimes get in the way of her children's needs.
  • Practice Makes Good, Not Perfect — Rachael at The Variegated Life comes to see that through practice, she just might already be the parent she wants to be.
  • 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering: How to Free Yourself and Your Family — Sheila Pai at A Living Family shares in theory (blog) and reality (video) how she frees herself from 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering that can damage the connection, peace and love she seeks to nurture in her relationships with family and others.
  • 5 Things I Thought MY Children Would Never Do — Luschka at Diary of a First Child largely laughs at herself and her previous misconceptions about things her children would or wouldn't do, or be allowed to do.
  • Policing politeness — Lauren at Hobo Mama rethinks a conviction she had about modeling vs. teaching her children about courtesy.
  • The Before and The After: Learning about Parenting — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work reminisces about the perspective she held as a young adult working with children (and parents) . . . before she became a mother.
  • Parenting Beliefs: Becoming the Parent You Want to Be — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how we can make a mindful decision to become the parent we want to be. Decisions we make affect who we will become.
  • The Great Breastfeeding Debacle — In Lisa at The Squishable Baby's mind, breastfeeding would be easy.
  • What my daughter taught me about being a parentMrs Green asks, "Is it ever ok to lock your child in their bedroom?"
  • Sensory Box Fail! — Megan at The Boho Mama discovers that thoughtful sensory activities can sometimes lead to pasta in your bra and beans up your nose.
  • Montessori and My Children – Theory vs. Reality — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares her experiences with Montessori parenting and describes the results she sees in her now-adult children.
  • I Like The Mother I Am Now More Than The Mother I Intended To Be — Darcel at The Mahogany Way thought she would just give her kids the look and they would immediately fall in line.
  • How I Ended Up Like My Tiger Mom With Peaceful Parenting — Theek at The Laotian Commotion somehow ended up like her Tiger Mom, even though she purposely tried for the complete opposite as a peaceful parent.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Introducing Queen Composter

I am very excited that I have been asked to join the community of like-minded bloggers over at The Green Phone Booth.

Click here and read my introductory post! Then check out the other talented bloggers.