Harvest time and the great outdoors

I think it should be an unwritten rule that at harvest time crunchy and/or green bloggers get a free pass from blogging because they are spending all of their time in the kitchen baking, canning, freezing, and otherwise preserving all of the yummy foods they’ve grown or purchased (hopefully locally) for the winter.

I’m sorry my blog is suffering lately, but the family and I have been a bit preoccupied doing things like this:


Climbing apple trees at Roger’s Grove


Picking and eating apples


Getting organic food from the co-op


Canning applesauce and dilly beans!


Taking a tractor ride to pick oodles of strawberries at Berry Patch Farms


Exploring the great outdoors at Boulder Creek


Trying to decide what I’m going to do with 60 pounds of Colorado peaches, pears and nectarines! (I still haven’t figured it all out!)


Visiting a honey harvest at Sandstone Ranch

OK, so I haven’t been completely locked in the kitchen. ;) We’ve also been spending quite a bit of time out in nature. The weather’s been gorgeous and its hard to stay indoors. Plus, the kids have so much fun exploring and honestly, I do too. :)

How’s your harvest season going this year? What are you putting up for the winter?

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Settling into our new home

Seeing how its been almost four weeks since my last post, I thought I’d post a little update to say we are all moved into our new house. Yes, even the two storage units we filled while staging our old house have been emptied! I can’t say that everything has found its place here yet, but its all here in our new house (or at the very least, in the garage).

We’ve actually made quite a bit of progress in the three weeks since we’ve been here. I’ve unpacked the kitchen (definitely a necessity), and even hung several pictures on the walls — though am nowhere near being done with that. I’ve also moved a few of my potted plants — zucchini and watermelon — into the garden (which was full of grass and weeds nearly up to our knees until Jody mowed and rototilled it — several times). And this week I even started landscaping the front yard which has been quite the project. I thought the soil at our last house was bad, but its even worse here. All. Clay. All. The. Time. So digging in clay mixed with a ton of river rock has proven to be quite the challenge for me, but I’m making it my bitch headway and hope to have it mostly completed tomorrow. Jody’s been getting his workbench set up in the garage and working on organizing the remaining boxes in the garage. We have quite a bit of storage space here. We just need to figure out what is going where and move it to its appropriate place.

In addition to hosting my mom in the new house who was visiting from Michigan for two weeks, we also hosted our first party here. It wasn’t a housewarming party as you may suspect (that’s still to come), but a belated sixth birthday party for Ava. She turned six back in June, but I really wanted to wait until we moved and had more space (and less to stress about) to have her party. I’m so glad I did! The party — which was a Pancakes and Pajamas theme (stolen borrowed from Crazy Bloggin’ Canuck Amber) — was great! There was plenty of space for the kids to play in the backyard and it never felt cramped in the house or outside. In addition to dressing in PJs and having a pancake bar (with lots of toppings), we incorporated other letter “P” things into the party like a Princess Pinata, Painting little flower Pots, a Penny dig in the sandbox, and my sister read “If You Give A Pig A Pancake” to the kids before we ate the pancakes. It was a lot of fun.

Its kind of amazing how much life we’ve lived here in the three short weeks since we moved in. I think about all of the times we’ve already played baseball in the backyard, when we tried to watch the fireworks from the back deck in the pouring rain, arranging the furniture, rearranging the furniture, rearranging the furniture again(!), all of the love the swing set has received from the kids, all of the meals eaten in this kitchen, etc. and it feels like we’ve been here a lot longer than we have. I think that’s a good sign. It means we’ve fit right into this house. This house feels right for us and I know we will make many, many more memories in it.

Addiction, choice and serenity

It’s a new year and a new decade, so I figure why not jump in with both feet and tackle a heavy, possibly even taboo, topic? :P Sometimes ya gotta strike while the iron is hot. And right now? It’s smoking hot.

I mentioned the word addiction to my 5 1/2 year old daughter Ava the other day. I can’t remember exactly what I was saying at the time (probably grumbling about my husband Jody and World of Warcraft), but I wondered later if using that word with her was the “right” thing to do (not to mention that I was grousing about her dad – a whole other issue).

Ya see, addictions have been a part of my life since I was born. In one way or another I’ve been exposed to them throughout my entire life. If I wasn’t around someone who had an addiction, I had one myself.

My addictions have varied over the years, but I just recently discovered how far back my propensity toward addictive behavior goes, think a little older than Ava’s age. And now here I sit nearly 30 years later, on my computer (another addiction), typing about it. Ironic, huh?

Jody and I were talking a couple nights ago about the excessive computer use in our household and he said something like, “I wonder what our lives would be like if we didn’t have the computers?” And the first thing out of my mouth was, “That would make a great blog!” :P So then we joked that I’d have to write my blog entries in a notebook – old-school style – and then take a picture of the page and post it on the ‘net, presumably all from my iPhone since computers would be out of the picture. (Though I’m not sure how I could justify having an iPhone if I was swearing off computers, but anyway…) We got a good laugh out of it, but seriously, my life revolves so much around computers.

I’ve been feeling kind of depressed about my computer usage lately too. It’s not that way when I’m writing and actually feeling productive, but it’s when I sit here for a stupid amount of time and walk away not having accomplished anything and not having made any real connections with anyone other than “liking” someone’s status on Facebook or commenting on a random Tweet or two. I’ve started feeling like I’m being sucked into an abyss and I’m not sure how I’m going to get out of it. It’s not having a blog that sucks me in. The blogging, the writing, the researching, and reading thought-provoking/entertaining posts, etc., is all of the stuff I enjoy. The things I’m proud of. It’s the mindless drivel that’s been sucking the life force out of me. The hitting refresh waiting for someone to say something. Waiting for someone to talk to me. Waiting for anything. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

And the irony (there’s that word again) is that Jody and I are trying to work on our marriage. In the evenings, at least, I have another adult here in the house (Jody) who I could be interacting with. We could be speaking to each other instead of interacting with the “internetz.” Yet we both feel this pull to the internet. After all, as we talked about at our couple’s therapy session yesterday, it’s because of the internet that he and I met in the first place. Here’s that word once again. This time say it with me – irony!

I digress. The point is I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching the past several weeks and discovering a lot about myself. Some of those things make me proud of myself, while others make me feel pretty craptastic.

Life is all about choices. I want to make smarter choices, not only because I think the future of my marriage depends on it, but I believe my children’s futures depend on it too. (Oh and there’s also that pesky thing known at my happiness – another thing I’m still learning about.)

That brings me back to talking about addiction with Ava. There’s a history of addiction on my side of the family and some tendencies on Jody’s side as well. However, I want the cycle to end with Jody and me. I don’t want my children to have to carry it on (in whatever form they may) as they get older.

Right now I know that I need to find the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, but I also need to find the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. By changing what I can – what I actually have control over right now, which is only me, myself and I – I have hope for the future. My future. My family’s future. I can’t change the past, but I can change the present. And I’m going to work on it one. day. at. a. time.

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How will I know?

This past month I went digging around underneath my bathroom sink searching for something I haven’t needed in a long time. A pregnancy test. Although it was not something I was planning, I had this feeling deep down that I could be pregnant and knew that technically it was a possibility. Was I hopeful that I was pregnant? Was I worried? Was I scared? Definitely a little bit of all three.

As I waited for the line(s) on the test* to appear and my future to be revealed, my mind raced with possibilities. I imagined another home birth. I imagined Ava as a proud big sister again and Julian as a big brother for the first time and my heart swelled. I imagined another baby to love and nurture. I wondered how the baby would change the dynamics of our family. I pictured many sleepless nights and years more of cloth diapers. I thought about my health – both physical and mental – and wondered how I would do with another pregnancy. I thought about what my new psychiatrist recently said to me about the importance of finding time for myself and not taking on anything new right now. I wondered if my anxiety would get worse if I was pregnant and if I would need to go off my medication or increase my dose. I thought about how we plan to put our house on the market in the spring and all that we need to do in preparation. And I thought about how my life seems pretty darn great (and full) right now with just my two amazing kiddos.

The pregnancy tests (yes, I found more than one under my bathroom sink) were all negative and, low and behold, my cycle started. The future, for now, has been revealed. I am not pregnant. I will repeat, I am NOT pregnant. See?

I’m a little bit disappointed, but I also feel peaceful about it.

All of this got me wondering, how do you know when your family is complete? I don’t really know. I have thought about the “v” word – vasectomy – and have mixed feelings about it. I know it is technically reversible, but it seems so final and we’d likely only go that route when we are totally sure we’re done. Am I ready to close that door just yet? I don’t think so. I could still see us with one more, just not right now.

For now I think we’ll be a little more careful. At this point in time I don’t think a pregnancy would be the best thing for me, for us. That’s not to say I’m ruling out having another baby in the future, but for right now, as I continue to focus on my mental health and on my marriage, I think we’ll stick with these two wonderful kiddos we already have. And we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.

* I think it’s kind of funny that all of the pregnancy tests under my sink were actually expired, so who knows how accurate they were. But I got my period so there’s no question anymore anyway. :P

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Like. Dislike*. Love.

I dislike that I resort to putting my daughter in front of the TV whenever I’m trying to get my son down for a nap.

I dislike being around smokers when I have my kids in tow.

I dislike muddy paw prints in my house.

I dislike that I haven’t been the blogger that I want to be lately.

I like the smell of autumn.

I like the sound of a gentle rain.

I love seeing and hearing my kids laugh hysterically at each other.

I dislike it when I yell at my kids.

I love growing food in my backyard.

I dislike that my backyard doesn’t get enough sun to have a big garden.

I like that my backyard has so much shade I don’t have to worry about my kids getting sunburned.

I love the looks on my kids’ faces when they discover something for the first time.

I like the feeling of sand between my toes.

I like that now (after more than 11 years) I have a bike to ride again.

I dislike that sometimes marriage seems like so much work.

I dislike not having the answers to all of my questions.

I love living in Colorado.

I love Michigan (my home state), but only in the summer and fall.

I love that my sister and I have such a close relationship.

I dislike that talking to my parents isn’t easy.

I like that my parents and I are slowly but surely working on our relationships.

I like that I know how to make my kids laugh.

I like educating others.

I like writing.

I dislike that I don’t always feel motivated to write.

I dislike blatant consumerism.

I love watching my kids play.

I dislike early mornings.

I love to sleep.

I love that I’ve been able to breastfeed both of my kids.

I dislike ignorance.

I dislike that sometimes I am ignorant.

*I dislike the word hate, which is why I used “dislike” instead of it.

I love that my husband believes in parenting the same way that I do.

I love that my husband is a wonderful father.

I dislike my cluttered house.

I dislike addiction.

I love feeling like I’ve made a difference.

I love that I have a supportive group of friends.

I dislike that there’s so much suffering in the world.

I love that my children willingly eat so many foods that I was never exposed to until I was an adult.

I like that I’m allowing myself to feel for the first time in a while.

I dislike the way that those feelings sometimes make me feel.

I dislike fear.

I love that I’m learning to overcome my fears.

And I love that my kids make everything that seems difficult, or even impossible, worth the effort.

This feels rather meme-like, so I invite you to feel free to do this on your own blog if you feel so inclined. I found it to be a very enlightening, fun, and educational exercise. It’s especially interesting to see how many likes, dislikes and loves you come up with at the end. If you do this on your blog and want to link back to me, I’d appreciate it, but please don’t feel obligated. :)

How to dye Easter eggs naturally – a tutorial

So you want to dye your Easter eggs naturally – without chemicals and artificial colors? While it takes longer than the commercial egg dye kits you buy at the store, dyeing your eggs with natural foods is better for you and your child(ren)’s health, produces much more interesting colors and is, quite arguably, more fun!

Why dye with natural colors instead of artificial?
According to Organic.org, “Many food colorings contain color additives such as Red No. 3 and Yellow No. 5, which, according to a 1983 study by the FDA, were found to cause tumors (Red No. 3) and hives (Yellow No. 5).” I wrote about the drawbacks of artificial colors a while back if you’d like to read more on the topic.

It is more time-consuming than using a store-bought conventional egg dye kit (and I highly recommend preparing the egg dye baths a few hours before you plan to dye the eggs with the kiddos), but it is healthier for your kids and the environment. “Dyeing eggs the natural way gives you the opportunity to spend more time with your family, teaching kids to use alternative project methods that are healthier for them and the environment.” I think it will be a lot of fun and a great family project.

To get started you will need:

  • Hard boiled eggs (preferably white eggs since they take on the dyes better than brown eggs)
  • Ingredients to make your dyes, which I will discuss in more detail below – As a guideline, use up to 4 cups for vegetable solids and 3–4 tablespoons for spices per quart. Mash up fruits.
  • White vinegar (2 Tablespoons for every quart of water)
  • Several pots and bowls
  • Optional: stickers, rubber bands, and crayons for decorating the eggs and making interesting patterns
  • Egg cartons for drying the dyed eggs

Natural egg dyes can be made from a variety of ingredients. Here’s a list of what I used last year along with comments on the colors that resulted.

RED

  • 3 cans of beets in cranberry juice (instead of water) – produced a dark reddish hue

PINK

  • Frozen cherries – made a very light pink

RED-ORANGE

  • 3 tablespoons of chili powder produced a nice reddish-orange color

YELLOW

  • 3 Tablespoons of tumeric produced a great yellow

GREEN

  • A mix of spinach leaves, canned blueberries and their juice and a few tablespoons of tumeric produced a gorgeous earthy green color – I think it would work without the spinach leaves, but I happened to have some that were wilting so I threw them in.

BLUE

  • 3/4 of a head of red cabbage (chopped) made a beautiful blue

GREY BLUE

  • 2 cans of blueberries and their juice made a grey-blueish color

GREY

  • Frozen cherries mixed with blueberries yielded a grey color (not the purple I was going for).

Instructions:
Last year I found a couple great web site with tips on “Natural Easter Egg Dyes” and Natural Dye from Organic.org. The natural dyes come from spices like paprika, tumeric and cumin; vegetables like spinach and red cabbage; fruit juices and even coffee. All of your dye ingredients can (and should) be composted after you are done.

On Organic.org, there is a boil method (which produces darker results) and a cold-dip method, which is suggested for children or if you plan to eat the eggs, which is the method we used last year.

The two methods are:

Method 1—Hot
Place eggs in a single layer in a large, nonaluminum pan. Add the dyeing ingredient of your choice—it’s best not to mix until you are comfortable with experimenting. Cover the eggs and other dyeing “agent(s)” with one inch of water. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar per quart to help the color adhere to the egg, and bring to a boil. Next, simmer for 20–30 minutes or until the desired shade is achieved. If you cook the eggs longer than 15 minutes, they will become rather tough.

Method 2—Cold
The cold method is the same as the hot method with the following exception. Once ingredients have simmered 20–30 minutes (depending on desired shade), lift or strain the ingredients out of the water and allow the water to cool to room temperature though you may wish to try keeping the ingredients in the colored water to give the egg more texture as the dye will become concentrated in areas where the vegetable touches the egg. Submerge the eggs until the desired color is achieved. You may keep the eggs in the solution overnight as long as it is refrigerated.

The longer the egg stays in the dye, hot or cold, the deeper the hue will be. Using vinegar will also help the color deepen.

Definitely feel free to experiment and try out other foods and spices. For me, that was a big part of what made it so much fun, trying out different things to see what colors would come from them. For example, the dye from the spinach, tumeric, blueberry mix looked orange or brown, but the eggs came out green! And the red cabbage dye was purpley-pink, but the eggs came out blue. It was like a fun science experiment that the whole family could get involved in. Happy egg coloring! :)

Pictures:
The process of making the dyes:

The egg dyes on the stovetop Beets in cranberry juice
Red cabbage Tumeric

And the results:

Red and pink eggsYellow and orange eggs
Green eggsBlue eggs

Links to other people’s natural egg dyeing results:

If you dye your eggs naturally and blog about it, please leave me your link and I’ll add it to the list. :)

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