Food preservation feels so right

As I mentioned earlier, the fam and I headed out to a local you-pick farm along with my sister and some friends this weekend to, as I so delicately put it on my Facebook profile, pick a crap-ton of vegetables. :)

The kids enjoyed the hayride, picking veggies, playing with their friends and eating fresh corn on the cob on the hayride as we made our way to our next vegetable stop.
Julian on the hayride 9/20/08 Ava having some fresh corn on the hayride 9/20/08 Julian munching on some corn on the hayride 9/20/08

We walked away with quite a bit of food – potatoes, carrots, onions, eggplant, green beans, sweet corn, tomatoes, basil, peppers, okra, cabbage and kohlrabi (which I didn’t even know what it was until Julie identified it) – though not nearly as much as some people on our hayride (cough, cough Melissa).

Here is our bounty:
The veggies we picked at the farm 9/20/08 Ava with the veggies 9/20/08

Not bad for $30, eh? It certainly made for a busy rest of the weekend.

On Saturday night, I blanched 25 ears of corn, then cut the kernels off 20 of them and had two bags full to freeze. Ava and Jody snapped all of our green beans in preparation for them to be frozen the following day. And I prepped a box full of potatoes for Jody to carry down to the basement.
Me gathering potatoes while Ava gets to work snapping beans 9/20/08 Ava, the green bean snapper extraordinare! 9/20/08

On Sunday, I blanched and froze two bags worth of green beans. I also made three quarts of spaghetti sauce, two of which I canned (but the whole thing was such a comedy of errors, I’m off canning for a week or so while I recover), and one of which I used for our dinner that night (along with fresh eggplant from the farm and corn on the cob). I also strung up around 10 onions (in old pantyhose) in the basement.

As I’ve been preparing, over the past month or so, what has definitely been the most food preservation I’ve ever done, it feels like such an accomplishment. I love knowing that I have bags of veggies, sauces, broths, etc. in the freezer that I did myself. I love seeing my cans of jam and sauce as well and knowing that I did that too. And knowing where pretty much all of those fruits and veggies came from since we picked them! It’s empowering to know that if push came to shove I don’t have to rely upon the grocery stores to feed my family. Yes, I’ll still be buying a lot of my food from the grocery store this winter, but knowing I have some reserves here at home is a good feeling. It just feels right. :)

A wee bit bigger

I picked a couple of carrots from my garden yesterday to see if there really was anything connected to the leafy green bits that have erupted out of the earth. Here is what I found:
Baby carrots from our garden
I’m thinking they still have a bit longer to go. No? I mean, they are supposed to get bigger than my thumb nail, right? Nevertheless, the kids enjoyed the two itty-bitty baby carrots. :)

I’m hoping the carrots we’ll be picking today (along with a slew of other vegetables – potatoes, onions, butternut squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and more) will be just a wee bit bigger. ;) We’re meeting up with some other families from our attachment parenting group and my sister at a local farm to pick veggies. The last time we went picking veggies at this farm I was 34 weeks pregnant with Julian. (We didn’t make it last year because the wind was awful on the day we were supposed to go.) My how time flies.

Anyone have any tips on storing veggies without a root cellar (like my friend Julie is building) for several months? Guess I’ll be doing some research this weekend along with cleaning my house since my in-laws are arriving in from Oklahoma on Monday. Oh, and there’s a Sustainable Living Fair and the play Birth happening this weekend in Fort Collins. Wish I could go to both, but I’m not sure there will be enough hours in the weekend for all of that! I swear autumn is always so much more busy for me than summer ever is.

The value of family dinners and giving our children presence

What if there was one thing you could do to lessen the likelihood that your child would get involved with smoking, drinking or doing drugs; lessen his/her chance of developing obesity; and help him/her do better in school? What if that thing was as simple as having regular family dinners together?

Sept. 22 is Family DayMonday, Sept. 22, marks the 8th annual Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children – “a national movement to inform parents that the parental engagement fostered during frequent family dinners is an effective tool to help keep America’s kids substance free.”

From 2003 to 2008 research by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University has consistently found that “compared to children who have frequent family dinners (five or more per week), children who have infrequent family dinners (less than three per week) are two and a half times likelier to have used marijuana and tobacco and one and a half times likelier to have drunk alcohol.”

At Family Guide: Keeping Youth Mentally Healthy and Drug Free, they also believe in the importance of family mealtimes. Jeanie Lerche Davis of WebMD agrees that family dinners are important and lists 10 Benefits of Family Dinners, including “kids are less likely to become overweight or obese” and “school grades will be better,” as well as 10 Tips for Organizing Family Dinners.

Pretty impressive for just eating a meal together, right? I think most people would agree that it’s not simply the act of eating together, but of engaging in conversation – in talking to your children and listening to them talk to you – that really what makes the difference. Dinner just happens to be that one time of day that busy families might have an opportunity to sit down and spend a few minutes with each other.

Some of CASA’s secrets to having successful family dinners include:

  • start the pattern of eating dinner together while children are young
  • turn off the TV and avoid taking phone calls during dinner time
  • encourage kids to get involved in meal planning and preparation
  • discuss what happened during everyone’s day
  • keep it positive and make sure everyone gets a chance to speak.

Gina from A Wrestling Addicted Mommy’s Blog recalls that growing up, she and her family used to have dinner and talk about their day, but admits now with her own family, this is something they are lacking. She also points out a recent survey from Mom Central that said 98% of the mom’s polled think that children do benefit from eating meals at the table with the families, but only 61% of families actually do this every day.

The blogger at All Rileyed Up also recalls family dinners while she was growing up (complete with grace before meals, grace after meals, and on Sunday, the whole rosary) says, “Family dinners are much harder to pull off these days, now that I’m the one running the family, partly because Husband’s work schedule is erratic and partly because I am a lazy bum. … For a while, it wasn’t a big deal to me, but now that the kids are getting older, I feel a need to give them something to remember, a time the whole family can count on being together.”

I find it fairly easy to have dinner with my family every night, but that’s because a) (thankfully) my husband is able to get home from work at a decent hour and b) my children are still young and not involved in after-school programs, sports, nor do they have homework or jobs to go to. I imagine it will prove to get more and more challenging as my kids get older, but I think it is something worth striving for and we will do the best that we can.

Do you have regular family dinners with your child(ren)? If so, will you make an effort to continue that throughout the teenage years? If not, will you make it a priority on Sept. 22 and/or consider trying to do it more often?

October is AP MonthAlong the same lines and in keeping with the spirit of spending family time together, Attachment Parenting International has declared October Attachment Parenting Month, where the theme is “Giving Our Children Presence.” Partnering with Attachment Parenting International to celebrate and promote Attachment Parenting Month are AskDrSears.com, Mothering magazine, and Infant Massage USA.

Julie, an API leader who blogs at ChezArtz, explains that the theme “focuses on the benefits of spending quality time with our children, especially in the run up to the very consumer-oriented holiday season. Although all children love toys, it is our presence, not presents, that they truly crave.”

Scylla at Law and Motherhood notes some of the ways she tries to keep her family connected like not having a DVD player in her car and bringing her children into the kitchen to help with cooking, but also admits its not always easy to remain present in their lives. She asks her readers, “how you give your presence to your children, when you are too worn out to be present for anyone else?” After all, we as parents all find ourselves in those situations, sometimes on a regular basis.

API Speaks, the blog of Attachment Parenting International, will be holding a blog carnival focusing on “giving our children presence,” complete with giveaways, during the month of October.

While I know not everyone agrees with attachment parenting being the best fit for their family, I think we can all agree that giving our children our presence is an invaluable gift and something so important especially in today’s world. As October approaches, I will be considering how I might be more present in my children’s lives and I encourage you to do the same. It’s often the little things – taking a few minutes to read a book, build a blanket fort, go for a walk together, have dinner together while you talk and especially listen – that mean the world to a child.

You can learn more about AP Month, including events that will be taking place around the country, at Attachment Parenting Month.

What will you do to give your child(ren) your presence in October?

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Cross-posted on BlogHer

Picking and preserving local produce

Over the past month, I’ve been a on a major (at least for me) food preservation kick. I’ve made and canned two kinds of jam, made peach ice cream (to. die. for.), dehydrated strawberries and apples, made and froze batches of salsa and spaghetti sauce, as well as blanched and froze several pounds of green beans. The majority of that was done with local food that I either grew myself, picked myself or bought at a local farm. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been very rewarding and fun (and, I admit it, a little bit addictive). ;)

You can read more about my latest forays into picking, eating and preserving local fruits and veggies over at 5 Minutes for Going Green today and find out where you can go near you to do the same!

The truth is often stranger than fiction

Just a few frightening strange odds and ends from around the world:

  • Baby formula in China tainted with melamine has resulted in the death of two children and more than 1,200 others have fallen ill with hundreds hospitalized. Melamine is a trimer of cyanamide.

    Melamine has also been found in yogurt in China.

    All the more reason I’m glad I was/am able to breastfeed my children and know exactly what they were ingesting. PhDinParenting feels similarly. Makes me think I should buy my own cow though, like my sister-in-law and family have done. If only we had the land for it (and chickens, ‘cuz by golly, I still want me some chickens).

  • Dr. Phil apparently wants to make a mockery of home birth and is asking for negative home birth stories. The home birth community, rightly so in my opinion, has been in an uproar over this.From Dr. Phil’s site:
    DO YOU REGRET HAVING A HOME BIRTH?

    Did you have a child at your home?

    Did you want to have a soothing experience where you were in control and could bond with your child?

    Did it not go the way you planned?

    Do you regret having a home birth?

    Do you regret using a midwife instead of going to a hospital?

    Did you have your second child the traditional way in a hospital?

    If you or someone you know regrets having a home birth please tell us your story below.

    Be sure to be specific and include details!

    A response from the home birth community: Many of us are instead using this form to a) tell our horrible hospital stories, b) tell our great home birth stories, or c) just plain let Dr. Phil and his staff how bad we think this show concept is.

    Based on the number of emails I’ve received about this, I figure everyone under the sun is probably aware of it by now, but just in case that’s not the case, I’m passing it on. I still need to weigh in over there myself.

  • The Corn Refiners Association has created several ads about high fructose corn syrup – watch them here – to prove that it’s “natural” and “OK in moderation.” I don’t know what your take on HFCS is (I’m against it), but if you check your labels, you’ll find it in just about everything. (Have you seen King Corn yet? Check it out.) Jody was shocked to come home with a loaf of bread the other day only to discover that it, too, had HFCS in it! For the record, the bread we usually buy from Costco does not have it.

    Anyway, there’s a great article over on BlogHer debunking the ads and sharing more information. And at 5 Minutes for Going Green, Beth writes that HFCS is the “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” and brings up the environmental concerns as well.

What do you think about all of this? Kind of a lot to digest in one post, eh?