Monday, June 30, 2008

Learning to Crochet, and the Mom & Baby Sale

I've been wanting to learn how to crochet for some time now. I've dabbled in it here and there, but never really completed a project. (Half-finished dishcloths, anyone?). But last week while we were at the library, I found a beginner crochet book that had some really cute patterns in it. It had an iPod case, which I thought I could modify and make into a case for my Palm Pilot (which I desperately needed!). So I used some scrap yarn that I had, and made this:

It's not perfect, but I'm pleased with how it turned out. :) It fits my Palm Pilot nice and snug!

In other news, the Mom & Baby sale went wonderfully this week-end! I paid $15.00 for a table (the proceeds went to support the Mom & Baby clinic at the hospital). I didn't realize it was such a popular event! There was HUGE line up outside, and when the doors opened everyone came charging in. I sold pretty much everything in the first half hour. I also decided at the last minute to sew some cloth pads and nursing pads to bring with me. I sold all 4 sets of nursing pads, and one cloth pad - which was more than I expected. I think I got a few odd looks about the cloth pads, but one person was genuinely interested, and was asking lots of questions. The lady who ended up buying one was buying it for her incontinent 90-year old mother - but still. :) When all was said and done, we made about $230.00, which wasn't bad for a couple hours work.

Apparently they hold these about every 3 months, which I think is fantastic. It's a great way to connect moms-to-be who are in need of baby items with moms who are looking to part with baby stuff. The lady who runs the event asked me if I'd be interested in coming to the next one and doing craft items. :) So of course I said yes! I'll make up a lot more nursing pads, some menstrual pads, some cloth diapers, and maybe some bibs and things like that. I have 3 months to sew some stuff up. I'm quite excited!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Global Warming News

One of my favourite new websites to visit is called Path to Freedom. I love this website, because it really exemplifies my ultimate dream - to be entirely self-sufficient. There was a blog post on there this morning that was rather alarming. You can read it here:

It links to this article:

Basically the gist of it is that NASA is calling for drastic action in order to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The earth can only sustain this level of destruction for a couple more decades before we face mass extinction. A couple of DECADES. That's twenty years, folks. And this is coming from NASA. This is not some quack making wacky predictions.

I normally don't like to blog about doomsday-type topics, because I don't want to scare people away. I prefer to approach things in the most positive light possible, mostly because I think people are more likely to change for positive benefits, rather than to avoid negative ones. But we have all had our heads stuck in the sand for too long. The reality is that if we don't start making DRASTIC changes, we are going to self-destruct. And soon. Between global warming, and the Oil Crash, life as we know it is going to change. So we can go on pretending that everything will be fine, and that the Government will be there to protect us, but the reality is that we need to take mass action on a grass-roots level. We all need to take personal resposibility in order to avert this crisis. For the crisis IS looming. It is not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.

Self-sufficient living was once a pipe dream of mine. I would fantasize about living in a home where we would be off the grid; producing our own heat and energy, growing and preserving our own food, spinning our own yarn... well, you get the idea. :) But I'm beginning to think that this should be less of a fantasy, and more of a reality. Getting back to basics, living off the land, and otherwise living sustainably. What once was a pipe dream, I'm now beginning to think may be necessary for survival in the very near future. And oddly, in spite of being aware of all of this, rather than being afraid, I find myself excited. :) I think the world will be a much better place if we were forced to return to this type of life. To stomp out the rat race. To collaborate and share resources with friends and family. To work for ourselves, on our own homesteads, rather than working for others, to earn money, to buy stuff. By being self-sufficient, you cut out the middleman. You are not dependent on an employer. You are dependent on only yourself. Money would be almost entirely unnecessary. If you needed something that you didn't have, or couldn't produce yourself, you could barter. It will bring us closer to our neighbours. It will humble us. It will force us to return to a life of simplicity.

So I don't know about you, but I find myself wanting to prepare. I'm reading everything I can that pertains to self-sufficiency. Path to Freedom is a great place to start. I'm also re-reading a lot of my Harrowsmith Country magazines, and am on the lookout for books about sustainable living. Like everything else, it's about babysteps. I feel like we've already been taking small steps towards self-sufficiency, so it's just a matter of continuing along this path.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on self-sufficiency, and what kinds of things you are doing to prepare.

Edited to add: Here is an inspirational video by Path to Freedom, called Homegrown Revolution.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Okay, so the more I'm learning about Attachment Parenting, the more I have to hold myself back from going through my entire house and getting rid of all of the kids' toys. (Don't worry, my husband won't let me). I'm realizing that most of what we have is screaming consumerism at my children. And it's all plastic. Ick.

For those of you who have made a conscious choice about what toys you allow in your home, can you offer me any pointers? Right now I'm leaning towards natural, wooden, non-toxic, organic, t.v. character-free toys. So what do we do with all the ones we already have? My husband refuses to let me get rid of them until we replace them. I'd love to start making our own toys. :) Maybe we could start making some, and then gradually get rid of the old stuff?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Attachment Parenting

It amazes me that when you choose to live an on-purpose life, all of the wonderful things you will learn on your journey.

I've heard of the term "Attachment Parenting" here and there, but never really bothered to look into it and see what it was. I thought it was some extreme, child-led type parenting, and didn't think I was really interested. But the term kept coming up over and over again, particularly whenever I would be reading things on natural family living. So I decided to do a little investigating.

I found a website called Attachment Parenting International, which seems to be a wonderful resource about all things related to Attachment Parenting (AP).

According to this website, the 8 Principles of Attachment Parenting are as follows:

1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

2. Feed with Love and Respect

3. Respond with Sensitivity

4. Use Nurturing Touch

5. Engage in Nighttime Parenting

6. Provide Consistent and Loving Care

7. Practice Positive Discipline

8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

If you actually go on the website, it gives much more detail on these 8 principals. Also, from what I've read, parents who practice AP are generally (although not exclusively) pro-breastfeeding, pro-co-sleeping, pro-baby wearing, and often cloth diaper. From what I understand, this style of parenting is about promoting attachment to people (preferably the mother and/or father) over things. This means not giving mother substitutes, like pacifiers, sookie blankets, etc., but rather giving yourself to your child. They are also very much anti-cry-it-out. And most importantly, they encourage you to listen to your instincts, and do what you feel is right.

Reading about this parenting style has been a mixed blessing for me. Although I'm drawn to it because I feel I already practice much of it, it also makes me sad. I've realized that, in some ways, I've given in to what society expects, and not listened to my instincts.

We did co-sleep with both of our kids for about the first 4 months. With my first baby, I was reluctant to tell anyone, for fear of what they might think. Then our pediatrician told us it was time to let her "cry it out" so that she would sleep on her own. And so that's what we did. After one long, painful week of letting her cry (scream) in her crib, she eventually learned to sleep on her own. We followed suit with the second baby, knowing it worked so well with the first. It took the same amount of time, about a week, and worked like a charm. Our little man has been sleeping on his own ever since. I now realize how much this totally went against my instincts - it was gut-wrenching, to say the least. My oldest child had pretty extreme colic for the first 6 months (which we found out by about 4 months was due to GER - Gastro Esophogeal Reflux), so she basically didn't sleep for the first 6 months of her life - we were desperate, exhausted, and willing to try anything. I am grateful that now my children sleep through the night on their own, but I wonder now if perhaps there was a better way to go about it.

I wish I had done more research, and had a more natural childbirth. I did the hospital birth with an epidural. If I had it to do again, I would LOVE to have a midwife and a home birth.

I wish I had not bought all of the baby gear. My kids had pretty much every gadget - a swing, a jumperoo, a playpen (which we only used for sleeping while we were traveling - but co-sleeping would have eliminated this need), a couple of different seats. I wish I had gotten nothing but a sling. I got sucked into the Wal Mart baby department and thought I needed it all. In reality, I needed none of it.

Both of my kids have sookie blankets. They sleep with them. It breaks my heart now to realize that the reason they are so attached to those blankets is because they use them as a substitute for me.

We don't really engage in nighttime parenting. If our oldest stumbles into our room in the middle of the night, we usually just take her back to bed. Now I just want to bring her into bed with us and snuggle her in between us. If the baby wakes up crying we just wait it out to see if he goes back to sleep. Now I want to go and get him and bring him into our bed.

I wish our children were never exposed to toys and marketing. We have way more toys than any child needs. What they really want to play with is us. Now they think they need all this stuff that they already have, and I would like to get rid of all of it. And turn off the tv while I'm at it.

On the positive side, there are many things that we do that do follow this approach. We decided that it was of utmost importance that I stay at home to raise our children. Having someone else raise them was not an option - I was willing to do whatever it would take in order to do that. We practice extended breastfeeding. Not intentionally - I just decided I would nurse him as long as he wanted to nurse. He's now 19 months old, and not showing any signs that he wants to quit. :) I don't broadcast it (because most people think it's weird), but if someone asks, I will proudly tell them. I believe we do use gentle discipline. At first I found myself giving into society's pressures to give our kids time-outs, and criticize their behaviour. But it never felt right to me, so I found myself hugging my kids when they were having a meltdown, because I was sure that they were feeling sad about something and just wanted me to love them. I plan to do much more of this now. I also try to prevent meltdowns instead of having to discipline them, by trying to avoid the situation that might lead to the meltdown. Signing has played a huge role in this. Whenever possible I try to forsee problems before they occur, and intervene before it becomes a problem.

Anyway, I am really just beginning to learn about this wonderful parenting style. I bought The Baby Book, by Dr. Sears, who is, apparently, the Godfather of Attachment Parenting. It was the ONLY book I could find in our area that even touched on AP. Not even our library had anything. So I plan to read through this book and learn all that I can. Although my kids are 19 months and 3 1/2 years, I don't think it's ever too late to start listening to your instincts.

Do any of you practice Attachment Parenting? I would love for you to share what you know, or point me in the direction of some good resources.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cool new blogroll

Just a quick post to say that Blogger has added a cool new blog feature - an active blogroll. If you scroll down a little, you'll see it on the left-hand side. Rather than just the usual links, it actually shows the title of the most recent post, and how recently it was updated. Very cool! Now when I want to see if my favourite blogs have been updated, I just have to check my list, rather than visit each one.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why it's a good idea to get a head start on supper, always have a Plan B, and to ONLY make one new recipe per week. :)

As I mentioned in my last Menu-Plan Monday post, I limit myself to one new recipe per week. This is partly because there's no need to torture my family any more than necessary with my "experiments". :) And also because, from time to time, said "experiment" is not edible, and thus gets fed only to the compost bin. This is not only a huge waste of money, but more importantly time, which I don't have enough of as it is, and is a surefire way to make me cranky. >:(

Yesterday I had lentil dahl planned. Normally I use brown lentils, and it always turns out perfectly. For some reason, I decided to mess with perfection, and use the pretty red lentils I had in my pantry. I ended up with a huge pot of red sloppy mush. I think mush is even too generous of a word. It was more like soup. But nothing you would want to eat. I'm sure my compost bin was appreciative. Lucky for me, I had some veggie burgers in the freezer. I popped them in the toaster oven and they were ready by the time my husband arrived home. Crisis averted. :)

Fast forward to today. I didn't end up making my chick pea burgers on Saturday, as planned... but I had already cooked the chick peas, and their time in the fridge was running out. So I thought, today is the day. I will make the chick pea burgers so I don't waste any more food. It was a brand new recipe, and I didn't read it very closely. I was zipping along, dumping things into the food processor... and then read the next part of the recipe. Breadcrumbs. No problem, there are some in the cupboard, I remember making them. Well, apparently, I used them all up. There were like 3 crumbs left. Nowhere near the cup and a half I needed. Lucky for me, I started supper about an hour earlier than usual, so I thought great, I have plenty of time! I'll just make some! So here it is, 4:44 pm, and I am still waiting for my frozen bread heels to thaw and dry out in the oven. They've been in there for over an hour. I just poked at them, and they are still as soft as can be. And thanks to yesterday, we are fresh out of veggie burgers, and there is no Plan B.

What is the moral of my story?

Never, EVER try something new twice in one week.
ALWAYS have a plan B.
ALWAYS start supper way earlier than you think you need to!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Preparing for what's next

Something I've been working on lately is always looking ahead to the next step, to see what I can do to make my life easier. For example, when I'm cleaning up the kitchen after supper, I get the coffee pot ready to go for the next day. At night, when I'm putting my jammies on (usually at around 7:30 pm!), I lay my clothes out for the morning. When I get the baby up from his afternoon nap, I lay out his bath stuff. When I empty the dishwasher in the morning, I immediately put soap in the dispenser and close it. (This is also a great trick for figuring out whether the dishes are clean or dirty - at my house, if there's soap in the dispenser, the dishes are dirty!). When I'm preparing tonight's supper, I'll look to see if there's anything I can do to get a head start on tomorrow night's supper. If we have an outing planned for the next day, I'll pack the diaper bag and place it by the front door.

Doing these little things throughout the day helps me in two ways.

One, it makes my life a teensy bit easier. If I'm feeling particularly frazzled, it helps immensely to know that those little things are already done. Sometimes it feels like I have a little elf around the house... I feel like saying "oh, yaay!" when I realize that something I need to do is already done, at least partly. It's also provides a great time buffer. Similar to having an emergency fund in case of a financial crisis, planning ahead helps us to prepare for a time crisis. If something comes up during the day that demands my time, it gives me a little freedom to know that a lot of what I have to do is already done.

And two, it keeps me motivated. When I open my eyes in the morning and see my clothes laid out, and smell the coffee brewing, it's SO much easier to drag my butt out of bed. When I know the diaper bag is already packed and ready to go, I'm less likely to back out of whatever I had planned for the day. It's about setting myself up for success, and making it harder to fail.

So now, whenever I'm in the midst of doing something, I try to always ask myself "what's next?", and then go ahead and get ready for it.

What kinds of things do you do to plan for what's next? I'd love to hear your ideas!

For other Works-for-Me ideas, visit

Accountability Post

I just finished my 15 minutes in the basement. :) I set the timer on the kitchen stove, and headed down and went to work. Two things astound me about this.

1). How much you can ACTUALLY accomplish in just 15 minutes if you just GET OFF YOUR BUTT AND DO IT (that was directed at me!!), and

2). How fast 15 minutes goes by.

Added a Feed...

For those of you who are a little more technologically advanced than I am (that would be most of you!!), I've added a feed to my blog. To be honest, I know very little about it - so feel free to offer any advice!

I put the link just over on the left, under my visitor stats, if you'd like to subscribe!

Thanks. :)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Menu-Plan Monday

Wow, is it Monday already?
I've actually been a little hesitant to post my weekly meal plans lately, because, well, they're a little predictable! I guess for me that's a good thing, because it keeps my life simple (just the way I like it!), but could be a bit boring for you. :)

Normally our weekly menu goes something like this: Saturday - a burger and a vegetable (either salad, steamed veggies, or homemade fries), Sunday is soup day, Monday is stir-fry day, Wednesdays I normally do some kind of baked casserole of sorts, and Fridays are always pizza day (either homemade, or occasionally we pick one up, depending on what kind of a Friday it's been!). So that only leaves Tuesday and Thursday for me to figure out. And I limit myself to one new recipe a week. That way I only have to tax my brain once a week, the rest of the time I can cook on auto-pilot (which is good, when you have a 3-year old and an 18-month old tearing the place apart and talking your ear off while you're trying to make supper!). I make things interesting by making different salad dressings, different stir-fry sauces, or different types of rice. Otherwise, it's all the same. :)

So now you know my secret. Boring is easy. That's how I like it.

On that note, here is my predictable menu for the week:

Saturday: Veggie Chick 'n burgers & salad

Sunday: Alphabet tomato soup & biscuits

Monday: Veggie stir-fry on brown rice with peanut sauce

Tuesday: Red lentil dahl on rice

Wednesday: Shepherd's Pie

Thursday: Broccoli shells on rice

Friday: Pizza

For more exciting menu plans, visit!

The basement, revisited.

So I mentioned awhile ago that I was going to tackle the basement. I've been telling myself that babysteps are better than no steps, so if I just go down and do 15 minutes a day, then I'll be taking steps toward my goal of having a tidy basement. Well I kept putting it off and putting it off. On Saturday night, my husband was out for the evening, my kids were sleeping, and I was bored - so I decided to take the plunge! I spent a good 2-3 hours down there, and made a really, really good dent! What I realized is that a LOT of it was garbage (I know, I'm trying not to create any more garbage, but this was already down there, and I need to get it OUT OF MY HOUSE). A ton of it was recyclable - lots and lots of boxes, and plastic packing stuff. And the vast majority of what was left can be sold or donated. Very little of it is actually anything we actually need to keep - the exception being seasonal stuff, like Christmas decorations, which I'm going to move up to the attic where it's a little drier, and there are less spiders. :) I turned one side of the room into a yard sale area - I had some shelving and a couple of tables in there, so that's where I'm going to start storing all of the stuff that will be going in our yard sale. That will make decluttering the rest of the house easier as well, because I know that the stuff I no longer want or need actually has a place to go.

I've listed a few bigger items on Kijiji, mostly baby items, that I'm hoping will sell. Otherwise I'll either save them for the yard sale, or else participate in the annual "Mom and Baby Sale", where you can purchase a table and set up and sell your baby stuff. I've been listing books on Amazon as I come across them. There are still a ton of CDs down there that my husband will have to deal with - they're his CDs, and he needs to deal with them (he's a little attached to his music!).

Overall, I feel really, really good about the progress I've made. I think I can manage my 15 minutes a day goal now that I'm off to a running start. At least I have some direction, which I didn't have before, and I'm sure contributed to why I was procrastinating about going down there. (Not to mention it's cold and creepy). :)

I'm sad to say I didn't take any before pictures...perhaps it's just as well, the few of you who do come and read my blog might get scared off! But I'll be sure and take some "after" pictures to celebrate my successes. :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Say no to junk mail!!

Part of our effort to reduce our impact on our planet involves reducing the amount of mail we receive. Some time ago, I registered with the Canadian Marketing Association's opt-out list, which greatly reduced the amount of addressed junk mail we received (credit card offers, catalogues, etc.). However, it seemed like every day we were still getting at least one piece of un-addressed junk mail in our mail box. I didn't think there was anything I could do about it, until just now!

I've just discovered something called the Red Dot Campaign, which is a campagin to reduce the amount of junk mail being delivered in Canada. Their purpose is to raise awareness of Canada Post's Consumer Choice Program. You can order a sticker for your mailbox (for $1.00, plus S&H), that says "No Junk Mail Please!", or you can simply write your own sign, and tape it to your mailbox. Either way, Canada Post is committed to respecting your wishes, and not delivering unsolicited junk mail! Yaaay! Score one for Canada Post!

I just finished making my sign, and now I'm going to sit back and enjoy not having to take stuff out of my mail box and put it directly into a recycling bag (which is normally what I do!).

A nice side-effect of this is that it's another step towards simplifying my life. Less things coming into my home that I need to deal with. Less blue bags to buy. Less money spent. :)

Signing with Baby

I thought of this post while I was putting my 18-month old to bed last night, and he signed "I love you". I thought to myself, I wonder how many other 18-month olds are able to tell their parents that they love them?? My guess is, not many.

I grew up with a mother who was Deaf, and we communicated using sign language. In fact, I was signing fluently before I could speak. So it seemed natural when I had my own children that I would sign with them as well. I started signing with both of my children almost immediately after they were born. By the time they were between 10 and 12 months old, they were both signing back.

Some of the signs my son uses regularly are:

Banana (his favourite!)
I love you
All done
Bear (his bear blanket that he takes to bed with him)
Milk (he uses both fists when he wants breast milk, and one fist when he wants "banana milk" - a smoothie I make him out of bananas and soy milk)
Work (as in - Daddy's going to work)
Out (when he wants out of his high chair)

I'm sure there are lots more, but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it is to be able to communicate with my children before they are able to speak. I see first-hand how much it reduces their frustration levels, when they can simply tell me what they want or need. Tantrums are almost non-existant. Imagine how it would feel to not be able to communicate! I'd be frustrated too! I find it particularly helpful during the time period between one and two years of age when they have lots to say, but are not yet able to form thoughts into words.

When we're signing, we sign and speak at the same time, which I find also facilitates actual speech. Lots of times I wouldn't be able to understand what my kids were trying to say, but because they accompanied the word with the sign, I was quickly able to decipher their speech, and reinforce the word they were trying to say.

I've had many moms tell me they didn't want to sign with their children, because they thought it would delay speech. In my own experience, the exact opposite has been true - my 3-year old has a full, rich vocabulary. In fact, she had a speech-language assessment a few months ago (since my mother is Deaf, my children have precautionary hearing screenings), and the pathologist, astounded, told me her language skills were at least that of a five-year old. Also, if you look at the research that has been done, studies show that children who signed as infants have a far greater vocabulary by the time they reach school age.

And although I think it's great that research supports my decision to sign with my babies, for me it's just about being able to communicate with them. That's all the support I need. :)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Menu-Plan Monday

Well in light of my newfound food knowledge, I'm incorporating some new recipes into my menu this week. Some of them are old standbys, but incorporating healthier versions of ingredients (using whole wheat flour, making my own salad dressings, pizza sauce, using organic ingredients, etc.).

- Veggie chick 'n burgers & salad (with fresh, organic greens from the farmers market!), homemade Italian dressing

Sunday - Potato Soup & biscuits

Monday - Veggie stir-fry on rice

Tuesday - "Neat" loaf, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli

Wednesday - Veggie chili & porridge bread

Thursday - East Indian Chickpeas on brown basmati rice

Friday - Homemade pizza

I'll let you know how they turn out! If there's anything in particular you'd like a recipe for, let me know and I'd be happy to post it.

Visit for more great menu plans!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Cooking classes!

Last week I attended a couple of really great cooking classes, put on by Run for Awareness. They're an organization that promotes healthy eating and living. The first one I attended was called How to Stock a Healthy Pantry. It was phenomenal! It was 3 hours packed full of more information that I could possibly take in. I was scribbling notes like crazy. All of the classes were based on a vegan diet, which was wonderful, since I'm hoping to move my family in that direction. Even if we don't become completely vegan, I would like to minimize the amount of animal products we use, and eat vegan meals as much as possible. They talked about the importance of various oils in your diet, choosing organic whenever possible, varying your grains, using different types of beans and legumes, sprouting grains, beans and seeds, how to convert a regular recipe to a healthy alternative, the list goes on and on. They talked about vegan diets being the best choice, because it means we are getting our nutrients directly from the source - plants. When we eat animals, or animal products, we are getting it from a secondary source - the animals eat the plants, we eat the animals, and vicariously get whatever nutrients they have. But our bodies do not absorb those nutrients as readily, and the environmental impact of eating higher up on the food chain is huge.

Even though it was a LOT of information, and they barely skimmed the surface, I am more determined than ever to make the healthiest choices possible for my family. It reinforced my belief that choosing organic is the best way to go. I've always struggled with the extra cost of organic, but I have come to realize that we can't put a price on our health. Our children's bodies are so tiny, I can't imagine the effect of years of ingesting pesticides would have on them. I learned that white sugar contains lead. Yes, lead. And that aspartame causes brain lesions. And that most of the packaged, processed stuff that most of us would call food, is not food at all. It has been so over-processed that it actually more closely resembles chemicals, and our bodies treat it as such.

But more importantly, I learned there is a whole world of wonderful, nutritious food out there! I was fascinated listening to all of the benefits that each food has to offer. I fully believe that we all have the ability to make ourselves well just by being more aware of what we are putting into our bodies. It made me want to have a closer relationship with my food. I want to grow it myself. I want to make things from scratch. I want my children to know what they are putting into their bodies, and why. I don't just want to tell them to eat their broccoli, I want them to help plant it, water it, care for it, and bring it to the table. I want them to know why we eat broccoli, and to share with them all of the wonderful benefits it has to offer.

Although I have SO much to learn, I feel as though a whole new world has been opened up to me, and I am going to take this opportunity to embrace it, and learn as much as I can. I feel that it is not only a priviledge, but a responsibility as a parent. I owe it to my children to make the healthiest choices possible on their behalf.

I look forward to sharing with you as I learn on this journey, and I hope you will share with me as well! I am definitely feeling my way through this, so I would love to hear about any information that any of you has to offer.