Friday, 18 April 2014

{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."

Cheapskate Composting

If you are curious about composting but are limited by the size of your outdoor space and don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy rotating composting bins, I encourage you to get started now. There is so much plant material available to start you off on your composting journey with the spring garden clean up. Next year you can have your own nutrient rich soil to add to your garden or containers.

I live in a suburban area with limited lot sizes. There isn’t a great deal of space for expansive gardens and the virtually free compost piles. But I also know the benefits of composting. It is possible to make compost in a limited space on a limited budget.

It is the time of year for me to add good quality, nutrient rich organic material to my raised beds. With the wet weather that we get in the pacific northwest, essential nutrients can be washed away. While I do add some commercial fertilizer (mushroom and fish manure) to my soil, I like to add as much of my homemade compost to my garden. Not only am I saving money, I know exactly what has gone into my bins. 

Look at the gorgeous colour!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Kid Friendly Kale Chips

If someone had told me a couple of years ago that I would be able to get all three of my daughters to eat kale, no, beg to eat kale, I would have given you the side eye and said you were pulling my leg. My younger two daughters can be quite fussy and it has been hard to find a variety of healthy foods that they are willing to eat.

I have read numerous books and websites about how to encourage fussy eaters to try new foods, and one suggestion that always stood out for me was to grow food with your children. The idea is that if they are involved in the whole process of producing their own food, they will be more willing to eat the food. I have grown a kitchen garden in my backyard for three years now, on top of previously growing in containers. While I would not say that the change has been immediate, I think that the general environment of being around growing food, watching it grow, learning about the insects in the garden, and sampling what we have has overall contributed to my girls willingly trying something new. They enjoy picking spinach, chives and snap peas for a quick snack while they play in the summer.

One of my favourite vegetables to grow is kale. It is a perennial plant that we grow as an annual, so it can survive winter here on the west coast and come back to life quickly. I am growing two different varieties of kale at the moment, and both of them have begun to grow again with the warmer temperatures of early spring.

I love how water beads on the kale leaves.

It has taken a couple of summers of making kale chips, but now all my girls enjoy eating it. In fact, because I wasn't able to harvest a large amount from my garden today and therefore only made a small batch for their snack, they were begging me to go out to the garden to get more kale. They finished the bowl I made for them in less than five minutes.

Just harvested and ready to make into kale chips.

I think what kids like about kale chips, much like popcorn, is the seasoning. Basic salt is of course tasty, but I have begun to mix it up with different seasoned salt. My favourite seasoning is an organic chipotle  garlic salt that we picked up at a summer farmer's market.

Another trick to getting kids to enjoy kale chips it to make sure that each leaf is properly coated in oil. When it is too dry (not enough oil) it can be hard to swallow. When I toss the leaves with oil I gently rub each leaf with my fingers and thumb.

My last piece of advice is to reassure reluctant kids that if they don't like it after trying it they will not have to eat anymore. My middle daughter is easily turned off by food that looks unusual and she did not like the look of the baked kale when she first set her eyes on it. She only had a few bites the first time she tried it, but to her credit (and this is huge) she continued to have a few bites each time we made it, and now she loves it. I never forced her to eat it, and in fact she refused to try it for some time after I started making it. It helped her to hear her other sisters rave about how much they loved it.


  • fresh, raw kale
  • oil of choice (I use olive oil)
  • salt or seasoning of choice 

* I don't measure the amounts. Experiment and see what works.


  • Preheat the oven to about 400 F. I use stoneware and like to put it in the oven as it is heating to ensure the chips are crispy. When I have not done this the kale remains soggy. If a conventional baking sheet is used this is unnecessary.

  • Thoroughly wash and dry the kale (if the kale is wet the oil does not adhere well, resulting in dry kale chips).
I like to use a salad spinner to dry the leaves, but if
necessary, pat with a dish cloth. 

  • Rip the kale off the thick inner stalk and into pieces slightly larger than bite sized (the kale shrinks when baking).
Left over kale stalks ready for the compost.

  • Toss the kale with oil, as much as is needed to coat all pieces. Be sure to gently rub each piece to completely coat with oil.

  • Sprinkle seasoning and toss.
  • Spread evenly on a baking sheet. Be sure to not layer too thickly or the kale will not crisp properly. If needed, do two batches to ensure the kale crisps. 
  • Check frequently. Once the kale appears slightly browned, it may be necessary to turn the layers. Because I preheat the pan I now do not have to do this.
  • Take the kale chips out of the oven when desired crispness and browning has occurred. Don't overdo it or it will taste burnt. In my oven, with the stoneware, I leave it to cook for approximately 10-15 minutes. 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Sowing the Seeds of Passions

Welcome to the April 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Pastimes 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 have shared stories and wisdom about family pastimes. ***

My husband and I have shared interests, such as music, movies, debating and great conversations, but we also have our individual passions. He is a true gamer and can get lost for hours in an engaging board or video game. My passions are anything crafty and garden related, and I’m happiest when I’ve made or grown something with my own hands. Not surprisingly, each of us was exposed to our passions in childhood with our families. 

Sometimes my husband wishes I was more willing to play a game with him, and I do on occasion because I know it makes him happy to spend time with me this way, and I always have fun when we do. But I would rather sit down beside him and knit something while he plays a game. Luckily he has found a group of people who share his love of games and he is able to spend time with them on a weekly basis. I also know that not only will he never join me in a crafty evening, but I probably wouldn’t want him to do so. And the garden is definitely my territory.

A crafty afternoon with my girls.

Now that my daughters are getting older and are exercising choice in how they spend their time, it is interesting to see how their interests are developing. Of course my husband and I would like our children to enjoy activities we like, but we want them to enjoy what they do rather than please us.

Luckily our girls are a morph of each of us. They love spending time with their dad playing board games, and my husband has started teaching our seven and nine year old how to play DC Comics Deck Building Game, his favourite at the moment. Recently I walked in on my four and seven year old playing Catan Junior, all on their own. It made me proud to know that there is a part of him in them, and he will have fellow gamers in the family in the future.

Playing Catan Junior, a great game.

Having three girls, I always assumed that they would enjoy crafting as much as I do. They love making a huge mess with scissors, glue, sparkles, felts, material and yarn. When they see me get out supplies they join me, ask questions and watch what I do. I have to save scraps and pieces for them to play with, and I have had to learn how to let go and allow them to use materials in their own creative way (it’s hard for a perfectionist). I have also learned that some things don’t stick right away, and I may just be planting seeds that will grow later when they are older. I have rediscovered a love of knitting, and two years ago I gave my girls their own needles and yarn. They have been slow to take it up, although my seven year old likes knitting a row or two every so often.

My little knittin' kitten. 

As for gardening, my girls like being outside with me, and are thrilled I have given them their own space in the garden to grow what they want. They love making observations about the different plant stages and insects they see. They are less enthusiastic about the daily and weekly care of the garden, but again, I must trust that I am planting seeds for their future interests.

My girls delight in the harvest as much as I do.

In the same way that I have been shaped by my crafty mother and green thumb grandmother, I know that my girls have been exposed to pastimes that may develop over their lives. Some will stick, others may develop later in life or not at all, but they are being shaped by us nonetheless.

Have your interests been shaped by your upbringing and family time from childhood?

*** 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:
  • 8 Reasons to Go Camping with Your Kids — The weather is warmer, and it is time to think about taking a break. As you plan your family vacation, Mandy of Living Peacefully with Children, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, explains why you should consider hitting the trails with your kids.
  • Crafty Cohorts — Kellie at Our Mindful Life enjoys crafting with her kids, and the skills they are learning.
  • 10 Hobbies For Families With Young Children — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama knows that finding hobbies families can do together (with young children in tow) isn't always the easiest of feats. She has compiled a list of 10 family friendly hobbies that children of all ages can enjoy and that won't break the bank!
  • Helping Himawari — Sophelia's family at Sophelia's Adventures in Japan share a passion for helping when a dog is abandoned at the nearby elementary school.
  • The 'Art' of Having FunMarija Smits shares some thoughts on family art and fun.
  • How we made our own Family Day — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares how her family celebrates the best day of the week, a chance for connection and adventure and endless possibilities: Family Day!
  • Our Family Hobby — Survivor talks about how animal husbandry has become her family's favorite hobby at Surviving Mexico Adventures and Disasters.
  • Sowing the Seeds of Passions — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs wonders if her interests, and her husband's, will shape her children's passions as they mature.
  • Harry Potter Potions Party — One of the best activities Dionna at Code Name: Mama has ever done with her family has been a Harry Potter Potions Party. She is sharing the resources she used to create their potion recipes, the ingredients and tools they experimented with, and the recipes themselves. Feel free to use and adapt for your own budding wizards and witches!
  • Pastimes Have Passed Me By — Kati at The Best Things takes a new perspective on projects that never get done.
  • Food as a cultural experience for preschoolers — Nathalie at Kampuchea Crossings finds that food is a good way to engage her preschoolers on a journey of cultural discovery.
  • 10 Reasons I Love Thrifting With My ChildrenThat Mama Gretchen has always enjoyed shopping, but with a growing family she's become more frugal and thus, her little ones are now in tow on her thrift store adventures.
  • Pastime with Family vs Family Pastime — You can share lots of pastimes with your family, but Jorje of Momma Jorje discovered a family pastime was much more pleasant for sharing.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Spring Cleaning in the Garden

I took advantage of a sunny, warm afternoon this week to finally get started on my garden for the year. I have been avoiding getting out there partly due to the weather, but also because I have been overwhelmed by the task before me (and partly because I'm a little bit lazy). 

How can I resist a macro ladybug shot? 

My youngest, our little monster, joined me and "helped." It would have probably been easier without her input, but I'm trying to encourage my girls and have them feel like they are a part of what we grow and eat.

Pulling the wheelbarrow around for me is her job.

Despite initial trepidation, she liked getting dirty
shaking the soil off the weed roots.

It was much needed, both for the garden and me. The weeds had taken over where I didn't mulch in the fall and it was a big job. The fresh air and natural vitamin D after a long winter with lots of sickness was wonderful.

Our magnolia tree, which blooms three to five times a year.

My favourite spring flower, bleeding hearts.

I cleaned out all the raised beds except for the kale, which is beginning to bolt. I can't decide whether to let it go to seed and save the seeds or take them out to make way for new plants and freeze the kale. Then I started to clean up the back of the yard where I grow raspberries and flowers. There is still much to do but I am holding off because my amazing neighbour is going to patch up our dilapidated back fence until we can afford to replace it. Then I cut the lawn, which was not fun (push mower for the first cutting of the season = hard work).

Over the next couple of weeks I hope to add more soil and compost to the raised beds, clean out the pots, then plant some spring veggies.

I removed the mulch from the garlic bed. Looking good!

Still pretty rough looking - can you see the big hole in
the fence in the right corner? I hope to plant wild flowers
this year for low maintenance and to encourage pollinators.

Next up, get some seedlings started indoors!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Coming Out of the Darkness

Lately I have been feeling a bit down about my efforts (and struggles) to live a more eco conscious life. For each change I have tried to make into habit, I see five more behaviours that are questionable, or down right “bad” from a green point of view. Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite, preaching ways to be kinder on the Earth.

Then I read the news and feel even more depressed. In Canada it appears our government is at war with scientists who study global climate change and the environmental impact of development. Oil pipelines might be pushed through without thorough study. Closer to home, my provincial government is trying push through changes to parks and agricultural land to open them up to economic development. Never mind the images in the news of dangerous pollution in Asia from uninhibited industrial growth.

It is easy to get down about making a difference for the environment. Green Bean recently shared her thoughts about keeping hope alive in the face of pessimism

I was beginning to think that perhaps it doesn’t really matter if I use a plastic shopping bag on the rare occasion I forget to bring cloth bags, if I drive a minivan, or if I buy something with a huge carbon footprint because, well, I just want it. Reusable energy is too expensive to implement for the average homeowner, and I’m tired of wearing extra layers to keep warm in my own home. I’m tired of worrying about the ingredients in my food, the packaging it comes in, and how and where it was grown. I look around me and I don’t see other worrying about this. It’s all doom and gloom anyway, isn’t it? The climate change deniers are winning, aren’t they?

Continue reading at The Green Phone Booth>>>

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."