Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I Wanted a Picture of It...

But I'll just have to describe it. I'm sure it'll come across.

I'm cooking a top round as part of tonight's meal. I only needed a bit of beef broth, but had an entire quart of broth that I had made for tomorrow's meal. It was in the fridge, so the fat had floated to the top and I had a nice, thick fat cap. I've cracked fat caps and tried to pour out some liquid before and it's been a miserable failure. Today I decided to cut in a triangle shape on each side, just a little one, like a church key in a can of juice, and hold in the fat cap while pouring out the broth.


Then I had to go wipe a three-year-old butt, and while I was washing my hands he went out and explored the fat cap--before I could get a picture of it! Guess I'll just have to update this post with a picture the next time I do it, because I will do it again.  I'll even do it with my homemade coconut milk.  Mmmm...  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sincere and Credible

Welcome to the January 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Authenticity This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about authenticity through character, emotions, and establishing authentic communication with their children. We hope you enjoy this month's posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Honesty. ***  

I'm new to blogging and newer to blog Carnivals. This particular topic intrigued me because while I consider myself authentic, I never really thought about what that means for parenting. In my personal life, while on one hand what you see is the real me, on the other hand I don't show everything, fearing some judgment and negative repercussions from even my closest of friends for sharing my deep down goodies. I don't pretend things I don't believe, I don't display traits that aren't mine, but I don't show or say everything. It's like holding back of all my truth rather than lying--but I'm just splitting hairs here.

 So what does this mean for me in my parenting? I mean, I'm parenting...I'm doing it my way... I have no idea. I looked up 'authenticity' in the dictionary to help inspire me, and there were three main categories of definitions: being genuine (this has to do with things, so I'm disregarding it), sincerity (for people) and having credibility (in speech). So, again, what does that mean to me regarding parenting? We'll start with sincerity. This takes me directly to what I mentioned in the first paragraph. I am sincere in my words and my actions towards my kids, however I do not hold back. I'm full-blown me, in all of my love, all of my opinions, ideas, emotions, actions, everything. I fear no repercussions, negativity, judgment. When I'm happy and goofy, I'm all the way happy and goofy, I don't hold back, I sing songs about poop, I dance funny little dances...and when I'm angry, I own my anger, I raise my voice, I say what I'm angry about, and I use any and all of the tools in my toolbox to calm myself down and best my best 'me'. I also provide them a space in which they can emote safely, without fear of negativity or punishment from me. I tell them all my crazy ideas, I impart my wisdom (ha!) from experience and trial and error, I try new things. So I'm really much more sincere in my parenting than I am in my day to day.

 On to credibility. I get a lot of flak from my partner about this one. I wasn't raised exactly like I'm raising my kids. I had an incredible childhood, but it lacked emotional depth and it did involve some shaming and blaming, so those are the areas I'm working on most as a parent. I read A LOT--and my partner doesn't like this. He doesn't have experience in his life with gentle discipline or positive parenting, but he also doesn't have lofty goals of doing it differently than his parents did. He'd like to take it a day at a time with no parenting tools, even though he's the first of his friends to have children, doesn't remember his childhood much, and first touched a baby when he touched our first child. I, on the other hand, want the research that shows how detrimental it is for a child to cry alone, to be spanked, to be shamed, blamed, rewarded, punished, and in general treated in a way I don't want to be treated. I want the research that illustrates all of that AND the tools to help me in case I find myself in a situation where I feel violent toward the tiny humans that I have chosen to share my house with. So I read, I ask my friends for advice, I listen, I watch, and I learn, learn, learn. I only have three kids, and they're very young, so I don't really feel I have credibility in the practical applications of what I've learned, but I'm comfortable in my discerning, I'm happy in my parenting, I have amazing kids, and that, to me, is all the credibility I need to continue parenting the way I have been with the foundation I've built. So does that make me an authentic parent? I think so. Now...I think it's time to start applying all of that to my personal life. APBC - Authentic ParentingVisit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next month's Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!   Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: (This list will be live and updated by afternoon January 25 with all the carnival links.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Refreshing Cultured Root Cellar Beverage

Welcome to the Festival of Food Carnival. In celebration of autumn and Halloween, we're sharing recipe ideas for healthy treats, or anything you would enjoy this time of year. Hosted by Diary of a First Child and Hybrid Rasta Mama, you're welcome to join us next time, or if you have a previously published recipe you'd like to share, add it to the linky below.

My favorite recipe for health is particularly significant for me at this time of year. I consider it a wonderfully healthful drink any time of the year, but after the sweets of the holidays and hearing about detoxes here and cleanses there, I know my daily drink of beet kvass is just the tonic I need to keep me on the healthy side and to remind me to stay away from those leftover sweet treats and the lingering longing for them...

Beet kvass.  A few years ago I'd never even heard of it. Now it's an almost daily part of life. I got the recipe from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, originally heard about it from Sarah's instructional video at The Healthy Home Economist.  I peel and then chop one large beet, two medium-sized ones or three small ones into roughly inch-by-inch cubes.  I put them in a quart-sized glass jar with 3/4 of a tablespoon of sea salt (this is less than the recipe calls for, but I prefer it a little less salty), 1/8 cup of whey (strained from soured raw milk) and then fill the jar almost to the top with filtered water, leaving an inch or so of space.  After letting it sit covered on my counter for a few days (living in the Pacific Northwest makes all of my culturing and fermenting take quite a bit longer) I've got a slightly effervescent beverage I love to drink first thing in the morning.  After it's cultured, it should be stored in the refrigerator.  The same beets can be used again with more whey, salt and filtered water for a second round.

This time of year, traditionally, was acknowledged as a time of scarcity.  Beets are a root vegetable that keep well in root cellars and cool, dry places, and would still be available with proper storage.  Drinking beet kvass in winter, and every morning (just a couple ounces), reminds my body that eating used to be season-dependent, whereas now it's become grocery store-dependent.  I know, intellectually, that this drink is mildly detoxifying, which is why it's considered a safe daily tonic rather than a drink that's part of a more rigorous cleanse.  Throughout the rest of the day, I remember having had my couple of ounces of kvass in the morning, and that's sometimes enough to keep me from reaching for a cookie or a second helping of a meal that tasted good but for which I'm no longer hungry.  It's a daily reminder that I started off on a good note and I should really take the time throughout the rest of the day to put that same, positive energy into my body, my being, my day.

Knowing I'm making my own drink out of a seasonally available vegetable helps me feel connected to the land, to the farmers who provide those not-so-sexy root goodies, to my ideals of of eating as locally and as intentionally as I can.  My partner does not share these goals and my kids don't really like the drink very much, so it's just a little thing I make for myself, that I do for myself, and I really enjoy the making of it, what it means to me, and really, mostly, the flavor of it.  It's such a beautiful color, so deep.  Here are a couple of photos in which I try to capture its depth.  If only I could share the flavor with you.  :)

*********** Please take a moment to visit the blogs of our other Festival of Food participants. The links in this list will be live by the end of the day, as participants are all in different time zones.
Stay connected! Be sure to "Like" the Festival of Food Carnival Facebook page.

Caring for the Cast Iron

I've gotten into a good groove in how I care for my cast iron, and I just wanted to share it.  One thing I do is cook  foods in it that help cure it.  I make ghee in it, I sometimes make bacon in it, stuff like that.  After I'm done cooking in it, I wipe it down with a wet 100% cotton washcloth (cotton won't melt), water only, right after I'm done cooking (I try to serve immediately when cooking out of the cast iron.)  If it requires more than that, then I put water in it and let it sit on the hot burner.  After the meal I empty it, and go over it with a wet washcloth.  It's best when I can take care of it before eating because the burner is still hot, and I can just put it back on after oiling it.

So to oil it, I keep a cheese cloth with oil on it wadded up in a small-ish magnetic containers.  I got mine at Ikea, I've seen them in many places.  Mine has a see-through lid--that's not important at all.

Here I have pictured paper towel because I'm out of cheesecloth.  

The container fits nicely on the end of the stove, and sticks on because it's magnetic.  

I use sunflower oil, but I also really like ghee and coconut oil for curing.  I give it a good wipe down, even a little on the rim and a bit on the outside of the pan.  Then I put it back on the hot burner or turn the burner on to low and let it sit for a while, maybe thirty minutes, maybe less.  I really like the woodstove method.  It doesn't burn up electricity, and I can let it sit curing for longer.  This is obviously not an option during the summer, but our summers are short.  

I just set it right on top after oiling it.  I leave the pot holder on it anytime it's hot, just as a reminder.  I've burned myself a couple of time, and it's no fun, but not a big deal with honey...honey.  :)  Notice the difference in color between the part we cook in and the handle.  The handle is not cured.  The little pan on the trivet on the right just has water in it to act as a humidifier--I have to refill it once a day, it works beautifully, but has nothing to do with the cast iron.

If I'm going to be using the oven, then I wipe the pan down real quick with the oily cheesecloth, pop the pan in the oven (no pot holder), turn on the oven to preheat, and set the timer for 7 minutes.  That way I don't forget about it and burn the oil, but it gives it another chance to cure.  

It took us a little while to get into this groove.  There were a few times we burnt food onto the pot and had to clean it with steel wool.  That takes off a lot of the good stuff, too, though, so then it's like starting from scratch.  Once I found oils I liked (not canola, not olive) it went a lot more smoothly.  

I hope this has helped.  I read a lot of tips before starting to cure mine, but it still took some trial and error.  I like re-usable things, so when I started oiling the pan from the cheesecloth in that little container on the stove, that bit went much faster.  When it gets dry, I just oil the pan and sop it up with the cheesecloth again.  I hope you're enjoying your pan as much as I am mine, and if you have any tips or comments, please share.  Good day!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Snowperson Activity

Yesterday I grew a brain and decided to photocopy one of the activities I made for the kids so I can let them do it again without going through the work of drawing it again!!

So here it is.

I made three copies, we all made snow people together.  We used watered-down tempera paint and a sponge for the snow.  Rainbow cut the circles out herself.

Four holes for pipe cleaner arms and scarf.

Cloud wanted pink snow...of course.  :)

Googly eyes, buttons in the middle, and a drawn on mouth.  

This was so much fun.  I cut Cloud's circles and accessories, but he did the rest by himself.  Rainbow loves how they're blowing in the wind.  She asked me to make a snowman for Dragon.  So they can meet.  And be friends.  My pleasure, love.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Traveling with Children

You've probably all played the license plate game or the ABC game.  I have, countless times.  I don't recall ever getting bored with them.  I DO recall being able to read.  My family does a lot of traveling by car.  We visit relatives in New Mexico at least twice a year.  We drive, during the winter months, through Los Angeles so that we don't have to deal with the Moab weather, and we visit friends and family there and near there.  We do as much night driving as we can, but obviously it's not possible only to drive at night.  Since Rainbow is four (and not yet reading because I want her to develop that skill at her own pace) and the others are younger, I've had to search for other ways to entertain them.  I refuse to use any digital devices (like DVD players or digital game consoles), though I hold no judgment for those who do use them.  I remember driving from Michigan to Mexico happily as a child without them, though, and I know my kids, partner and I can do the same.  Since the kids don't read yet, though, the license plate game and ABC game are not nearly as fun.  So I've come up with a list of things that have really helped us over the years.  If you have more ideas, leave a comment.  I'd love to read what you have to say.

The Trip Clip  This is a new one for us.  I was looking, initially, for a customizable shopping list, and found one here.  Exploring the site I found it's mostly activities for being out and about.  Several versions of Bingo, VW Bug counting by color (boxes can be colored in, no writing or reading skills necessary), a packing list, driving directions and many other activities were available for printing that were age appropriate and fun!  So we bought five activities and have used them all and plan to buy more as the kids get older.

Photo album with pictures of people you're going to visit or that your kids will meet for the first time.  This is great, because kids can flip through, talk about memories, and ask for your memories.  You can tell stories about people they've never met before, and those stories can be used as ice breakers for kids who are hesitant to make new acquaintances.

Board you can draw on with water, like H2-Whoa.  This thing is awesome.  It's got four little drawing utensils that you fill with water, and two sides to draw on, so when one side is drying, the other is available.  When one little utensil runs out of water, there are three more!  The drawings don't last long, but the fun does.  Ah, the ephemeral nature of art...

Magnadoodle  Ours has lasted and lasted and lasted.  After four years it has a small dent which prevents that area from taking the doodle, but it still erases easily enough for the littles to do it themselves, and they still have a blast with it.

Finger puppets  I don't love finger puppets.  Or even puppets.  But these little things don't take up much space and they're GREAT for when you just have a little bit of time left, you really don't want to stop, no one has to pee, no one is particularly hungry.  If you don't want to act anything out with the puppets, you can just put some music on and have the puppets dance silly dances to the music, bonk into each other on your fingers while they're dancing.  On that same note, you can make stuffed animals dance silly little dances, and that's pretty amusing, too.

New snacks  I try to find at least one kind of snack each time that the kids haven't had before...or haven't had in a long time.  My rule for the car concerning food is that it has to be able to be vacuumed up and water only unless it's a strictly supervised treat like a milkshake.  I'm a control freak about this.

Tiny notebooks  Isn't anything tiny kinda cool?  If you can find tiny markers or pens or something to accompany these, even better.  My kids can go through a tiny 80 page notebook in about two sittings.

Mess-free markers  They really don't make a mess.  It's the paper that makes the color.  Pretty neat, even though you have to buy the special paper.  The special paper is exactly what makes it just for traveling (great for car AND grandma's house) and keeps it novel.

I Spy and Searching Books  This trip I realized I need to keep it simple.  When the book is too complicated and detailed, then all I get are a lot of requests to find it, find it, find it!

Night light stuffed animal  We got, for this last trip (which included as much night driving as we could fit in) a light-up stuffed animal.  We now LOVE this turtle that makes soft colors of stars on the ceiling when a button is pressed.  Rainbow was able to reach it for Dragon and keep it going.  It turns off after a while, so when Dragon would wake up and it'd be really dark, she could reach over and turn it on and he'd calm down and be in a state of wonder almost immediately.  There are three color options to mix it up a bit, and all of the kids love everything about this little guy.

Magazines  I have a couple of different subscriptions to magazines I know my kids like, but I don't let them read them as they come in.  I save them, put them in a baggie, and then bust them out for trips.  All new, all wonderful.

"No laughing, and no having fun!"   This is one of my favorite games for anytime, and it works like a charm in the car, too.  It's kind of like saying the word 'poop'--it just works.  I like to remind the kids, after we start this game and the mood is up, that we're in the car in order to get someplace they want to be, and that helps a lot, too.

Magnetic dressing doll  My kids like these so much I'm going to invest in another one before our next trip (that makes this sound expensive, and they are NOT).  It's a hinged tin container with magnetic clothes that fit on people.  There are many, many variations, and a search on Amazon.com showed there are a bunch of different concepts like building airplanes and robots, which really excites me.  I can really only get into dressing girls for so long... "Yeah, what an interesting outfit, honey.  How about you put another one together?"

Lacing boards  There are so many different versions of these that can be bought, like animals or shapes, and they're pretty easy to make, too.  Get some heavy cardstock, make an outline of a picture, leave it blank, color it in, or have your kids color it in!  Then punch around the outside and use a shoelace for the string.  They store nicely in baggies and they don't take up much space.

Map  When in a document protector, dry erase markers or crayons can be used to trace the route.  The maps could be of the entire trip, like you'd see on a google map with directions put in.  It could be of just one state at a time.  It could be much more detailed.  My kids end up tracing rivers and mountain ranges and putting grassy areas in deserts and all sorts of stuff.  This one can be messy, so it's best (for us, at least) when they're calm, well-fed, and not fussy.  When they're feeling a little crazy, we give them laminated maps to look at and play with.

Help look for exits or gas stations  Although neither child reads, they now recognize symbols and they can match numbers and letters.  So if they really want to get out and run around, I'll pick a rest stop that's about 20 miles away and ask for their help looking for the blue signs, for the exit number, for the restroom symbol.  Both big kids love to help with stuff like this.  I guess it's a kind of backseat driving.  It's fun.

Scratch off books  These can be messy, especially if your child is more prone to scratching off every bit of the black surface than actually drawing.  But most of it goes into the carseat and it can be vacuumed out.  We've had the same two books for a couple of years.  Each car trip the kids like to go back over old drawings and elaborate on them.  It still amazes me.  Most of the black is gone, however, so we'll be getting a couple more of these soon, too.

My Quiet Book  These are nice for restaurants and times when your child is in a new situation where they should be quiet.  I don't like putting my kids in places where they have to be quiet because they're children.  I really try to make 'yes' environments for them, but sometimes they just need to be quiet.  For instance, this last trip to New Mexico included going to Christmas Eve Mass.  The in-laws' church is very different from the one we attend, and my kids usually go to nursery and to the youth program at our church, so they're not sitting in the service having to be...quiet.  I was chiding myself as I stood at the back of the church holding Dragon while Rainbow and Cloud tried to figure out the best ways to climb over and around and under the pews, jumping on the kneeling bench and all in all being the normal kids they are.  They did calm down when everyone got silent, but I was nervous in the beginning, wishing I had remembered the Quiet Book.

Car yoga  Rainbow loves doing yoga, and the last couple of trips I challenged her to try to figure out ways she could stretch her body and calm her mind while still in the carseat.  She did Cat on Her Back/Cow on Her Back, Butterfly, Reach for the Sky, and made up some fun, goofy ones, like Paint the Windows and Reach for the Lights (the lights on the ceiling of our car have switches the kids love to play with when they're not buckled in, so they get really giggly trying to reach them from their carseats.)

Scented pillow  Before we left on our trip, we were gathering our toys and books and activities that we'd be taking with us, and I found a scent pillow we had made for the fall season.  We'd sewn three sides of a rectangle shape for a pillow, stuffed it with some old t-shirt bits in which we had rolled up some whole cloves, allspice berries and green cardamon pods, we finished sewing it up, then smashed it in order to release more scent.  We use the pillows when we need a little change.  We took the pillows with us, but I forgot about them and we intend to make some more for the next trip that are seasonally appropriate.  We'll be using lavender and other things we come across at farmer's markets and fairs.

I hope these are helpful to you.  A fun car trip is REALLY fun.  A bad one... well, makes you wonder if you'll ever want to get in the car again.  Better to keep the option of car tips in the future wide open.  :)