Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Number one is environment. It comes before rhythm, before nourishing meals, before snuggling, singing, and stories. In Enki, environment is a warp thread on the web. For me, right now, I prefer the analogy of the womb.
Before we were ready to create life, the environment had to be prepared. For most of us, that is our homes. They need to be welcoming, nurturing, warm...not necessarily perfectly clean and organized, but liveable. For me personally, things need to be fairly well decluttered and in their places. I function better when I am not looking at visual chaos (okay, I also function better in the absence of aural chaos...I don't do chaos very well). I don't need bare surfaces, but I like things simple and not cluttered. My kitchen needs to be clean.
There are homes you walk into and you just feel the warmth. The style may not be yours, but you feel welcome. I love a home where you can curl up on the couch. I love eating spaces that are small and intimate, and obviously used. I love a big bed that the whole family can pile into. I love warm colors, golden wood floors, and candles that actually get burned. I love front porches and open doors, and garages in the back.
When my environment is sustaining me, I can move on to other things, such as rhythm and health. I'm not sure if one has higher priority than the other; health is necessary to sustain rhythm, rhythm is necessary to sustain health. I suppose though, that health follows close on the heels on environment (and really, it is all interwoven...how can I create the environment if I don't have health?).
At its very core, health is simple. Physical health requires good nourishment, moderate exercise, clean air and water, sunshine, and rest. We approach nutrition with whole foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, and fish. The more simple I make it, the easier it gets. Some people are going to eat beef, chicken, and/or pork. Some will be vegan or vegetarian. I believe that the focus on whole plants foods is what contributes to health, not whether or not one eats meat. Someone who eats steak, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit is probably going to be healthier than a vegan who lives on French fries and soy ice cream. Not that people can't eat those things...just that for us nutrition is a big part of physical health. I don't want to accept diabetes, stroke, or heart attacks as part of aging. I want to do what I can to prevent the preventable cancers.
Our family needs to be active, and for the most part that needs to be uncontrived exercise. Walking and riding bikes are the cornerstones of our fitness. I've spent my time working out at the gym and it isn't for me. I like exercise that takes me somewhere, especially exercise in sunshine, fresh air, and nature. I like activity that has purpose, such as riding to the grocery store or walking to the post office.
Emotional health is something that has been harder for me to find and sustain. At the core, I need close relationships as well as more casual friendships. I need community, which I finally found in my homeschooling group. I need time to pursue things that make me happy and fulfilled, such as reading (head), crafts (hands), and singing or other artistic pursuits (heart). These are the same things that keep my husband and children emotionally healthy as well.
Spiritual health is individual to each person. I think the important thing is to be content with whatever beliefs you have, and to question them if need be so that you can know they are yours and not something you believe because that's what you were taught.
Rhythm ties together health and environment. It is the container that holds our lives. When I was a child our year moved through familiar patterns of ordinary days intermixed with birthdays and holidays. Children naturally look ahead to the next festival without losing the here and now.
Not only do we have an annual rhythm of festivals (be they holidays, birthdays, observances, etc.), we also have seasonal rhythms. As a child I was attuned to the seasons, however, as an adult I got on the treadmill and lost that seasonality. With a full time job I didn't have time to savor the seasons. Central heat and air conditioning, as well as an air-conditioned car, meant it didn't matter if it was 40 degrees or 110 degrees outside. The ability to purchase melons and tomatoes year round also dulled my perception of the seasons. It was only after I had children and slowed down that the seasons gained importance once again. The long nights of December, which used to bother me because I had to drive home in the dark, instead become a time for candles and fires, homemade soups, and fresh-baked bread. The long days of summer give us more time for outdoor activities as well as our beloved summer music series. Spring sends us searching for nestlings and tadpoles. Autumn brings falling leaves and pumpkins, the harvest moon, and basketball.
There is a monthly rhythm as we observe the moon, and then the weekly rhythm of the days. Park on one day, the farmer's market on another, weekdays and weekends. Nights that we have certain meals, a Friday family night, the weekly BMX race. These little things anchor us in time. Even household tasks weave into the weekly rhythm: laundry days, baking days, cleaning days.
Each day is a container itself, filled with waking and sleeping, eating, playing and resting, laughing, loving, and learning. Our lives are not merely chaos; they are an empty musical staff, waiting for us to make the music. Each day is different, yet they all contain similar motifs, half notes and whole notes, staccato and legato, measures of rest. We read, we have focused learning times, we sing, we move, we cook, we clean, we play, we rest. There are hurts to soothe, a dog to quiet, a floor to mop. There are friends to talk with, errands to run, hats to be knitted. We pour all of these things into the container of our days.
Sometimes it really helps to sit back, observe, and discover the foundations of your life. I did the Enki family web exercise months back, and pulling out my web just a moment ago (after writing this entry) I see that what I identified in theory is what works for us when we stop trying to do and just live. Family and Community are our outer ring, our threads are health, rhythm, nature, travel, learning, music, environment, and relationship.
I have said it before:
Wisdom, Vitality, and Compassion are my birthright.
They are the core of all humanity, in all times and in all places.
They may be clouded over, or tarnished, but the brilliance is there,
Unchanged, to be discovered again and again.
May I constantly seek these things in myself,
that I might find them in everyone.
Monday, October 30, 2006
There were many possibilities. We considered picking up a used child's trailer and converting it for cargo use (cursing ourselves for having sold our trailer several years ago). We could have built a trailer, but since we have no woodworking skills and no pile of scrap wood it seemed an expensive choice (both in time and money). We looked at several designs and manufacturers of trailers online, and for awhile this Amish trailer was my frontrunner choice.
In the end, however, we saw a Burley at a bike store in Dana Point. I hitched it to a Townie and gave it a test ride (empty, of course). I liked it, Papa liked it, the boys loved it (no logic there...they can't pull it). This was June, not exactly prime trailer towing weather in the inland valleys of Southern California. We decided to wait.
We are firm believers in purchasing from brick and mortar bicycle stores. Papa called our local bike guru and he quoted a decent price on the trailer. We were still waiting, but we wanted to know what kind of price would be reasonable. In August we were back in Dana Point, and we thought about giving that bike store our business, as theirs was the store where we had actually had a chance to see the Nomad. Their price, however, was $30 higher for a trailer that had been sitting in the window for months. The cover was even slightly sun-faded. They claimed to have no wiggle room.
Well, that was fine. I preferred to get it from our local bike store; local being a relative term as there are two stores within walking distance and yet our preferred store is 13 miles away. I would love to give my business to a store that is in our town, if we could get fantastic service. Here's an example: we were shopping for full-face helmets for the boys. The two closest stores vaguely pointed in the direction of the helmets they had and that was it. At Don's, Scott took the time to explain the different helmets to us, and to measure the boys' heads and then order the sizes they needed. When the helmets arrived Scott made sure that they did indeed fit properly.
We've learned over the years that you can't just go to any local bike store. They have to want to sell you a bike, even if it is a $300 bike and not a $3000 bike. Someone needs to make sure that the bike fits well. I bought a bike 12 years ago from the closest bike shop, and even after many attempts to retrofit it the bike is too small for me. Sure, it was a $600 bike to start with, but to us that is a lot of money, and we easily spent another $200 upgrading the stem, seatpost, etc. But a bike that is too small hurts; no wonder I ended up disliking mountain biking. The bike has been borrowed by many people over the years, and now sits waiting for my oldest son to grow into it. I am convinced that if I had purchased that first mountain bike from a store like Don's Bike Shop they would have taken the time to fit me right. I know this, because earlier this year I decided to get a comfort bike, and they had me try several even though I was pretty sure I wanted a Townie. Still, with their help I was able to realize that a coaster brake wasn't something I wanted, although I thought I did.
Anyway, back to the trailer. We ordered it from Don's. Unfortunately, I am off my bike until the end of the year, so Papa and the boys took the trailer out on a trial run yesterday morning. They took the trailer to Trader Joes (and Von's) and managed to bring back everything on my list with room to spare.
A bicycle trailer opens up the possibilities of cycling for more than leisure and quick errands. Car errands become bike errands, and the car can stay parked. We use less oil and we get exercise.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Our fishmonger doesn't catch the fish himself, but he does head out to the fish markets each morning at dawn to get the day's freshest catch. He only sells fresh fish, not previously defrosted frozen fish masking as "fresh" fish.
It is a local trip, easily walked or biked. We were on foot and they sent us home with a Ziploc of ice to keep the fish cold for the 20 minute walk.
Lately I've decided that fabulously fresh food is worth the price. I'd rather cut back other places. And if you figure that after our trip to the bike store this evening (my trailer arrived!) we probably would have gone out to dinner but instead came home to have our super fresh fish, well, we saved money, because I can guarantee you that faced with leftovers or pasta we would have gone out.
We had it for dinner, and it was good!
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Not about Enki, no. The philosophy is amazing and multiculturally it moves into a place that isn't a "multicultural method"...it is a way of life. Developmentally it meets the children right where they need it. To me, it is the premiere holistic education curriculum.
I did jump into Enki with both feet, with almost zero planning time. I was up each night planning the next day; choosing stories, reading guides, etc. It was right, it was what we needed to do. Educationally my children were served well. As a family, however, something wasn't quite right.
It was as though we had laid an Enki mask over ourselves, thinking that doing it would make it real. I mean this as no criticism of Enki Education, but even adapted for homeschoolers it can be too rigid; it is not a criticism of Enki because I don't think Enki means it to be rigid. But still, you have to hit certain points throughout the day. You are encouraged not to go out much. Sometimes the suggestions are pretty strong "shoulds".
Over time we did make Enki a part of our lives, more than just a mask. But it wasn't by lighting candles and singing developmentally appropriate seasonal songs. The biggest change has been how I see people, and how that affects everything I do with my children. The concept that wisdom, vitality, and compassion belong to all of us has changed me profoundly. Not only because I acknowledge those things in other people (both now and in all times and places), but because I acknowledge them in myself!
Now that I have spent some time working with the Enki philosophy, and also have a couple of years of homeschooling under my belt, I am seeing things more clearly. Certainly my experience with the Holistic Family and Enki Experience groups has also influenced me. I see that there is this desperate desire to do things right. I see people who are afraid to tweak even the littlest things. How many people try to set up their days exactly like the Pretend family? How many people are afraid that they won't do the watercolor painting right?
We can't parent out of fear, and we can't educate our children out of fear. Heck, we can't live if we are afraid of everything. We need to find our wisdom. It's there, perhaps hidden, but always present.
Certainly, there is a point where you veer off so far from Enki philosophy that you are no longer following the blueprint. However, I do see that there is room within it to make Enki a living, breathing part of your family.
Now that we are on break I am able to sit back and observe who we really are. I can clearly identify that we don't want to limit ourselves to one social outing once a week. I can tell you right now that I don't want to be held so firmly to a rhythm that we can't be flexible and join friends for tea and a romp in the park.
Away from Enki academics, we are far more relaxed, easy-going family. We can pick up and do a spur-of-the-moment "field trip" whenever we want. We can get together with friends. We have far more time to read aloud.
Okay, so that sounds a bit like unschooling. I'm not bashing Enki - I love Enki! The break has just given me a different perspective. I don't want to recreate school at home, not even an Enki school. It is highly unlikely that we'll start our main lesson at 9 a.m. everyday. I'm not going to devote the hours of 8-2 to educational pursuits.
This is still unformed; I still have plenty of time to think. My goal is to take this wonderful philosophy, the materials, the methods, and make them uniquely ours.
Monday, October 23, 2006
I too attempt to wash a load of laundry every day. Sometimes I mix lights and darks, but most of the time I just alternate; darks one day, lights the next, and so on. I do need to get my first load of the day washed early so I can hang it; summer is gone and drying on the line takes a lot longer. I do have a dryer for back up.
Sometimes I do need to wash more than one load a day; in that case I use the dryer and I do try to make sure that the washing machine is empty before I go to bed (although the dryer may still be running). Papa will almost always help me fold a quick load of laundry before he heads to work.
I was reading a book that claimed that daily laundry rarely works because is it so easy to get behind. I supose that could be true. Once a week washing worked well for us before we had children, and twice a week worked for a time when they were younger. But I find that you have to own a lot more clothes to make less frequent washing work.
We do get behind at times, and we catch it up and start over. No one says we have to be perfect.
Another rule that works for us in terms of laundry is the "make the bed when you get out of it rule". As long as that is done I have a smooth surface to fold clothes on, so I get right to it instead of setting the basket aside until the bed is made. I'll admit right here that I don't always get the bed made early (as there are often sleeping people in it when I get out of bed); when that happens I fold in the living room.
We have other rules that serve us well. We always do the dishes after each meal and snack. Dishes are not allowed to pile up in or next to the sink. If it goes in the dishwasher, put it there. If it needs to be handwashed, wash it. Children who are too young to place things in the dishwasher can still bring their plates from the table. We have a little verse we say to remind them if they accidentally leave their plates at the table:
(Child's name), (Child's Name), strong and able
please clear your plate away from the table
To make this rule work you have to start each day with an empty dishwasher, so the other rule is that the dishwasher gets run every night, even if it isn't quite full (when you cook all your meals everyday it usually is quite full). We run ours in the middle of the night and then unload it in the morning. One thing we do if it isn't completely full is toss our stove grates in there for a good cleaning.
I am often amazed that other people don't follow the rule of doing the dishes as they are dirtied. I've been around enough to know that everyone has their own level of comfort when it comes to such things, and that there is no single right way to do anything. But if you're having a hard time keeping the kitchen under control I suggest giving the dishes rule a try.
Of course, when the dishes are done it is far easier to grab a rag and wipe the counters and kitchen table. My kitchen is often my tidiest room, even though I cook in it daily, or perhaps because I cook in it daily.
I'll think about this some more; for now I have a load of laundry to hang!
Last night we had:
Alaskan Halibut (caught by our neighbor)
Oven-roasted cremini mushrooms
Apple Crisp (from scratch!)
Papa really liked that we had dessert, and suggested that the weekly Sunday supper might keep us on track with out healthy eating the rest of the week. I didn't see anything particularly unhealthy in last night's supper, but I understand what he means. I think he was talking more about planning for the meal, working on it together, and enjoying the fact that it is so much better than eating out.
Before we had children we often made elaborate, gourmet vegetarian meals on the weekends. It's easier when you have time, and when you don't have a 6YO complaining about spinach, walnuts, and feta cheese wrapped in filo dough.
The big hitch in the Sunday supper plan is actually staying home on Sundays so we can make the meal. We run around a lot! I'd like to institute a plan to stay home on Sundays, saving our fun activities and/or errands for Saturdays.
My kind of Sunday goes like this:
Wake up early, snuggle for a few minutes
Pack picnic breakfast
Ride bikes to the park
Have picnic, then boys play while Papa and I sip tea
Read the newspaper
Spend some time reading or doing handwork
BMX Racing (cool months only)
Come home and make supper
Bedtime for boys
My goal is to have this one relaxed day a week. I put BMX in there because the adult idea of a relaxing day around here usually translates to a "boring" day for the kids. Also, we'd like to race twice a week without having to race two evenings.
Next Sunday? I'm thinking of a macadamia and parsley encrusted wild salmon, with mashed root vegetables, a green veggie, a gourmet salad, and for dessert, an apple pie (if I can perfect gluten free vegan pie crust by then).
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
In reality, I prefer a full apron, and my daily apron is a no-nonsense bib apron in a heavy leaf-printed twill. I have another full apron made from a vintage pattern with retro design fabrics, but I feel kind of silly when I wear it.
I wear my apron a lot! I wear it when I am cooking, which is everyday, and also when I clean. My neighbors are used to seeing me out in my apron. In the mornings I even wear my apron over my jammies (which is definitely not something a 1950's housewife would do).
Many years ago I ordered some the apron vests that you see advertised in the back of women's magazines. The concept is great, but the ones I ordered were made of a really thin cotton/poly that wrinkled no matter what. Well, it isn't very likely that I am going to iron my apron, so out they went! I guess I shouldn't say never...I'm thinking of giving the gingham a quick pressing.
I also have a clothespin apron. It was made by a friend at AmityMama.
Speaking of aprons, has anyone read Ma Dear's Aprons? We just love it! We're lucky enough to have a hardcover copy.
We are going to list most of my rubber stamps on eBay this weekend. The tough thing is figuring out how to list them; do I go with one huge lot, or separate things so the lots are more affordable? Do I list Stampin' Up! sets as one lot? What about the various PSX (Personal Stamp Exchange) stamps that are worth quite a bit individually? I have to think about it and do more research.
Today's homekeeping goals:
Tidy and declutter in office
Pick up Rx
Mop floors (when boys are at BMX)
Keep clean rooms in house tidy!
Finally, I am going to pull out a few handwork projects to do in the evenings. The cream wool scarf is already started. I'm going to start Thomas' knit hat (loom) once he falls asleep tonight. I'm also going to create a little project bag with cotton yarn so I can whip up dish cloths whenever I have a few spare minutes. I need to go through the yarn and decided what it wants to be; I have a lovely green vintage French wool that should be put to use, as well as the softest cream alpaca. I've been saving that for when I learn to knit. In the box (I just took a peek) there is also a pound of organic cologrown cotton chenille yarn, and a variety of wools and wool-blends.
Oh yeah, a couple of years ago I picked up a vintage Loomette, and I would love to do a project with it!
We ordered a family box again this week. I had wanted to alternate with the gourmet box, but decided to play it safe while I am getting back into the groove of cooking every night.
The box contained:
2 Fuji apples
1 red Bartlett pear
1 D'anjou pear
4 lovely bananas
7 large plums
1 large Haas avocado
2 large brown onions
1 small head garlic
1 head Romaine (not baby, not huge)
1 head red oak lettuce
1 large bag mesclun
2 pounds green beans
2 pounds zucchini
2-3 pounds cooking potatoes
1 pound broccoli
1 bunch carrots (no tops)
1 bunch baby green onions (the thinnest I have ever seen, but definitely not chives)
1 small bunch parsley
6 medium tomatoes
1 English cucumber
1 pound cremini mushrooms
So, no grapes, and no cauliflower. I'm not very disappointed about the cauliflower, as lately I get a bad stomach ache every time I eat it.
We are overflowing with carrots! I either need to juice some of them, make carrot soup, or find some new and delicious way to make them so the boys will gobble them down. I'm thinking that this week I'll mash them with some garnet yams. J-Baby might try them based on the texture.
I still have some zucchini and green beans from last week. I'm going to make zucchini bread/muffins for certain, plus use them as a side dish. I think I'll make Mollie Katzen's Cream of Fresh Green Bean Soup from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest (the old version), veganized and doctored up a little. I'd like to do it with my VitaMix, which is currently headed back home after a visit to the VitaMix hospital.
I'm thinking I will fill in with leeks, spinach, baking potatoes, more mushrooms, and perhaps another cooking green, plus lots more fruit). Tentative meals planned include:
Potato-leek soup with savory zucchini cornbread muffins
Halibut (neighbor brought from Alaska), baked potatoes, roasted mushrooms, sauted shredded zucchini (probably for our Sunday dinner...does anyone else still make a special meal on Sundays?)
Tilapia, quinoa, broccoli, cucumber salad
Bean tacos, cabbage salad
Pinto-quinoa loaf, mashed carrots, broccoli (broccoli being the only green vegetable J-Baby will eat at the moment...why does he have to be allergic to green beans?)
Indian potatoes and peas, rice, cucumber salad
We have a lot of parsley, so I am going to make some basic parsley pesto and freeze it in cubes to add to soups later.
I am bound and determined to take the boys up for apples this week, preferably Friday so we can do U-pick. We need enough for eating, plus applesauce. I'm also going to make applesauce muffins. The boys love making applesauce, but it is pretty expensive to make applesauce out of organic apple vs. just buying jarred organic applesauce. Of course, it is much, much more delicious made at home!
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Instead I am writing. Thinking too, but if you look closely I've spilled a lot of those thoughts into the blog today.
I really regret deleting last year's blog. I did it in a fit of "why am I typing to strangers when no one comments and I should spend my life living instead of typing?" angst. It was a great blog, entitled Simplicity in the Suburbs, about living, frugality, vegan cooking, sustainability, health, happiness, etc.
Anyway, I'm thinking about what I need to do in the next 3 weeks. I have some specific homemaking goals:
Clean and organize office
Declutter and deep clean bedroom
General decluttering throughout house
My brain has also moved into holiday mode. My goals are to give as many handmade gifts as possible, and to stay within a set budget. We always go over budget; we don't go into debt, but we spend the extra December cash flow on gifts. We have 18 gifts to give, in additon to immediate family (me, Papa, Boys).
These are the ideas I came up with several months ago. Time is short now so I won't get to all of them.
Crocheted dish cloths (easy)
Crochet-topped kitchen towels (I really want to make some of these for my mom)
Woven potholders (I have everything I need)
Scarves (have one in progress)
Knit hats (T-Guy picked out his yarns ages ago, and I have enough for a few more)
Beeswax candles (rolled) (I definitely want to do this with the boys)
Home made food items:
Homemade toiletry items:
Soap (have everything we need for melt and pour)
Any gifts we give that aren't homemade will be consumable. In general we ty to give consumable items to the older adults who just don't need any more stuff.
On the homeschool front, I'm working on an article for the state homeschooling newsletter. Okay, I'm not working on it...but I'm jotting down ideas and thinking about it. It's going to be about holistic homeschooling...I figure we need all the exposure we can get.
I'm also going to volunteer as a local contact for the state group. I already answer questions informally and try to help people with the homeschooling choices. All this means is that my name will be listed as a contact. I am planning to attend and volunteer at the CHN conference next summer.
I try to keep things going with the local support group. So far mom's night out has been a moderate success. The group isn't growing; I think we've become a bit too specialized, as all of the families that attend regularly practice attachment parenting. I think new families can be put off by hearing that the children aren't all vaccinated, or by seeing a 2YO nurse in public. Of course, I am fine with it, and I would rather be small and true than large but unauthentic. What I mean by that is that I don't want people to not talk about AP and NFL topics just to appeal to a wider audience.
The Roots & Shoots group just isn't happening. I need to get more organized. At this point it might have to wait until January. I did schedule a hike, but no one was able to attend except my family.
But yes, I do other things. I read. I do laundry. I keep things tidy. In the cooler months I do handwork (mostly crochet and loom knitting). We go for walks. This morning I cleaned the front bathroom really well (baseboards, etc.). Last night I baked gluten free vegan banana muffins...oh wait, that's cooking.
Cooking, however, is the main task of my day after homeschooling (which we're on break from right now). I could say that I could most everything from scratch because of the multiple food allergies we are dealing with (egg, dairy, soy, citrus, gluten, and a host of others), but the truth is that I cooked from scratch before. Maybe it is an offshoot of 11 years as a vegetarian/vegan, and 6 more eating a mostly vegan diet with occasional fish and egg consumption. Perhaps it stems from visits to restaurants such as Cafe Flora in Seattle, Greens in San Francisco, Madeleine Bistro in Tarzana, Native Foods...I do love to make the kind of meals you'd order at a great vegetarian restaurant.
Cooking has become supremely easy for me. At some point you do it often enough that you learn the chemistry of cooking. You learn about combining flavors, about carmelizing, about blanching, dicing, emulsifying. Cooking makes sense. Recipes are still fun, but not necessary for simple cooking. In fact, you learn to look at recipes, break them down, and change them to suit your preferences.
I'm not going to win a cook of the year award. I've found that the "superb cook" title usually goes to people who make a lot of fancy recipes and who use dairy products liberally. Honestly though, it takes more skill to cook without butter, cream, and cheese. You have to find other ways to carry the flavors. For me, making a tender, flavorful gluten free vegan muffin will be a success. Almost anyone can mix together wheat flour, eggs, sugar, spices to make a muffin...try to do it without the wheat flour and eggs! I love the challenge of making a good korma without cream, or "cream of" soup without milk. I can make tacos and tostadas that are so good that people forget that they don't have meat and cheese in/on them.
Okay, I'm tooting my own horn. Truthfully, I don't need to...Papa tells me daily how much he likes my cooking. Someday I hope my boys will appreciate the time I took preparing their meals, not only so that they would be nutritious but also so they would taste good.
It turned out so good! So far our favorite frittatas have been the ones made with some sort of mushrooms and cooking greens. I was especially happy to use food that I thought would have to be tossed.
For those of you just joining us, I order boxes of produce from Diamond Organics. It is more expensive than searching out organic produce here at home, but the quality and freshness is hard to beat (local organics from the farmer's market are best). The same ideas would work for CSA boxes or even eating out of your garden.
I love sticky notes. I am sure I posted about it on one of my blogs at some point. Anyway, after I inventory the box I get out my sticky notes and plan some meals. At the top I write the name of the dish (ie. vegetable curry, roasted mushrooms, etc.) and under that I write the ingredients. I use the sticky notes so I can move around the meals and change my mind easily (vs. making a meal plan on a sheet of paper) and so I can take the sticky notes into the kitchen with me and stick them to the refrigerator.
We have a basic meal plan that we follow. Fore breakfast the adults have fruit or fruit smoothies while the children usually have hot cereal. For lunch the adults have big green salads, accompanied by a yummy soup or a simple frittata. The children have all sorts of things: bean tostadas, corn tortillas roll-ups (peanut butter or salmon salad), sandwiches on gluten-free bread, etc. Dinners are based on vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fish.
Box cooking is not for the half-hearted chef; the boxes I order are big (Gourmet Greens and Veggies or the Family Box) and we have to eat vegetables as a main part of our diet everyday to use it all up. If you want a box and you're not sure about how much you'll eat I would suggest ordering the Original sampler, a smaller box with some fruit. Or split a bigger box with a friend! Anyway, it is hard to use the box fully if you eat out a lot, or if you get sick or just plain tired of cooking on a regular basis. The plus side is, if you are eating from a box each week you are probably eating a healthy diet!
Now, sometimes the entire meal comes from the box (such as roasted vegetables), but a lot of times you need to add just a little. If you want to keep it really simple all you need for seasoning is a good olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, coarse salt, and black pepper. To complement the vegetables it is nice to have a whole grain; I use a rice cooker for brown rice, or more often, quinoa. Keep the extras in your fridge for quick meals. We also eat beans made in the pressure cooker. Pinto beans are the favorite around here, but there are also all sorts of specialty and heirloom beans available. Cook some chickpeas (garbanzo beans) to add to your curries and to make hummus for raw veggies. Try rattlesnake beans in a greens dish (they are great with spinach!). If you don't want to make beans at home buy them canned - it's okay, really! Do try to get them unsalted or at least rinse the liquid off of them really well before using them. It is far better for you to eat canned beans than to not eat beans at all. I always keep canned beans on hand for emergency meals.
You can get really fancy following recipes, and it can be fun, but day in day out if you want to cook with a box and not devote your life to the kitchen you need to know some basic cooking methods. One of my favorites is oven-roasting. I use a 5 quart Le Creuset buffet casserole as my main cooking vessel, both in the oven and on the stove for sautes and curries (if your family is large you may want to go with the Bouillabaisse or perhaps the 13.25 quart round oven). To oven roast you toss your veggies with olive oil, salt, and pepper and put them in a hot oven (400-425) until they are done. You can roast with or without the lid; I usually use the lid for the first 30 minutes but I don't for roasted mushrooms. I roast slow cooking vegetables for about 30 minutes and then add quicker cooking vegetables. Super quick greens like spinach can be added for the last 5 minutes. Add fresh soft herbs at the end; they will lose their flavor if roasted the entire time (but rosemary will hold up just fine).
Stove top cooking is similar, but takes a bit more of your time. Still, any vegetable will do well with this method. Heat your pan, add olive oil, then add garlic, shallots, onions, etc. plus salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes, add slower cooking veggies, cook some more, then add quick cooking veggies and any precooked ingredients (cooked beans, leftover potato, etc.). Finish by adding quick cooking greens and herbs. Eat as is, or add a sauce (cashew cream sauce is divine, as are lovely wine sauces...if you eat dairy feel free to add real butter and cream).
For the boys I often steam vegetables. It's easy and they prefer them this way. In a perfect world they would eat whatever I make, and love it too, but in reality I would rather they eat steamed broccoli than refuse to eat broccoli sauted with garlic and onions. When I make curry I always keep some veggies aside and steam them for the boys.
By Tuesday I start figuring out what we need to use before the next box arrives. Often I make a soup. Sometimes, like today, I will make curried vegetables, and then tomorrow I will either make a vegetable stock, or I will juice the leftover veggies and use the juice in soup. Both methods work fine.
Yesterday we were planning to walk over to give her some papers. I thought to myself "Hmmm...would the boxes fit in the boys' wagon?" The answer was actually "No", but I then realized that I could use the hand cart. The 3 file boxes stacked nicely, and they weren't all that heavy (I was decluttering some of my cake baking paraphenalia and she is a baker).
Easy! A small car trip avoided, another use for the hand cart discovered. It was a nice walk, too.
Friday, October 13, 2006
I'm glad we homeschool! I can't imagine sending him to public/private school with his food allergies . So far we know he reacts to:
He may or may not react to dairy; he has never had enough for us to know. Since T-Guy is allergic to dairy it is best to just keep it out of the house. Soy and gluten often cross react with casein anyway.
T-Guy and I are also food allergic. Unfortunately for T-Guy and Papa, I think we need to take the kitchen/house gluten free. It is too hard to have separate containers of Earth Balance, separate toasters, etc.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Actually, I was writing to a friend and I mentioned that I wasn't even sure that planning everything 100% makes sense in the home learning environment. Afterall, one benefit of learning at home is the ability to tailor everything to your child(ren)'s individual needs. How can I know now which religious sage will resonate best with the boys in July? So I am planning in broad strokes. It is easier to plan the math, and to choose which culture we will immerse ourselves in each session. I will have to gather resources, but I don't see much point in rushing now to plan songs and crafts when it is possible that the Enki grade 2 materials will be ready by the time I need them. So really, I am relaxing about it all. I know where I want to go and I have a basic map.
Here are my basics so far:
I'm planning 5 sessions of 7 weeks each; 3 weeks for L.A./Humanities and 3 weeks for Math with a 1 week break between sessions. The break is flexible; if we're nearing burnout we'll use it as a break, if we need more time for math we'll use it for math.
Week 1: African/American Trickster Tale
Weeks 2 and 3: African/American Sage (MLK Jr.?)
Weeks 4 through 6: Reawaken Four Processes, Introduce Fact Families
Week 1: Trickster Tale
Weeks 2 and 3: John Muir
Weeks 4 through 6: Reawaken Fact Families
2 Week Vacation to Yosemite and California Coast
Week 1: Native American Trickster Tale
Weeks 2 and 3: Stalking Wolf
Weeks 4-6: Introduce Place Value
Week 1: Israeli Trickster Tale
Weeks 2 and 3: Hebrew Sage
Weeks 4-6: Reawaken Place Value
Week 1: Mexican/Aztec Trickster Tale
Weeks 2 and 3: Benito Juarez
Weeks 4 through 6: Expand Place Value
Mexican Independence Day Celebration at Olvera Street
We'll actually ease into our "school year" starting in December, with holiday stories, songs, and crafts. This will be our time for word family review and expansion. I haven't decided if it will be a full L.A./Humanities block with a European trickster tale and a Christian sage, however I am leaning that way.
Another friend is planning by the seasons. This makes a lot of sense as well. In grade 2 the focus is more on cultures, but the process is the same. I may work on planning each 2 month session as it comes around.
This week has been much like the "vacation at home" study Beth mention, except that we have gone several places. Many things, such as BMX and park day, are part of our rhythm and it would not be integrative to eliminate them. All in all, I've been making a lot of observations, especially about the times when the boys seems to need more contraction.
I'm working on our environment; we've been decluttering and deep cleaning. My goal is to get the house to a place where it doesn't take so much time to maintain it. My observation on that is that old houses are never clean, no matter how hard you try. Sometimes I really just want to rent a dumpster and toss out half of what we own. I don't want to worry about whether is has value or if a friend might want it. I just want to let it go.
My focus is also returning to the Foundation Guides. I realize that even though I have read most of the guides three times now I am still such a neophyte when it comes to the Enki philosophy.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
We are a one car family. We've had two cars in the past, but haven't needed two cars since I stopped working outisde of the home. In addition to owning only one vehicle, we are attempting to live a car lite lifestyle. DH bikes to work. We walk as many errands as we can; to the library, the post office, the pharmacy, the grocery store, the farmer's market, the credit union, the dentist, etc.
We're adding a bike trailer so we can expand our car lite lifestyle. The boys and I will be able to bike to our weekly homeschool support group, lunch and chairs secured in/on the trailer. We'll be able to do the same for many other city events. The HFS will be within our reach without a car.
To do this we have to be an active family, with strong, fit children. These boys can easily bike 12 miles, and can walk 5 or more. They can do it because we've never thought that they couldn't; the walking started between the age of 2 or 3, with short 1 mile walks at first.
This isn't an all-or-nothing situation. We still have a vehicle, and still use it. We have family in the area, and many things that we want to do in the mountains and desert. We've just made the choice to use the car less, to think about when and why we use it, and to not use it if we don't have to.
We have a plan. Our box arrives Wednesday, we inventory it and plan some basic meals. Wednesday nights I cook the most fragile of the produce. Thursday evenings we walk to the farmer's market; this time of year we are able to buy organic heirloom tomatoes. We have one organic grower that we buy pastured eggs from, along with any seasonal fruit that she has. The stone fruit is on the way out. Once winter hits most of the growers will only have citrus, but a few will have persimmons and pomegranates.
The reason for this timing is so that we don't buy anything we won't eat. If I didn't get the box until Friday I might duplicate what they send me. I also learned that Tuesdays and Wednesdays seem to be the best days for the boxes, especially Wednesday. A Wednesday box generally has produce that was picked Monday, packaged and shipped on Tuesday.
After the farmer's market we continue our walk to the grocery store shopping center, which has a supermarket and Trader Joes. We buy any specialty items on our list, such as nuts, dried fruit, olives, wine, wild salmon, etc. We also buy sundry items such as toilet paper and laundry detergent. We haul this all home in a Deluxe Wonder Wheeler, the cart that makes walking and shopping a real possibility ( and is also fantastic for the beach!). We recently ordered a Burley Nomad and will happily use that with our bikes for other errands and trips, but the farmer's market will remain a walking trip.
I order some of our basic pantry foods from Bob's Red Mill. Right now I buy 25 pound bags of quinoa, cornmeal, rolled oats, and gluten-free all-purpose flour. I wish they sold organic pinto beans, but they don't.
We've now cut back our trips to the HFS to once a month or so, stocking up on organic pinto beans, organic maple syrup, organic cold pressed oils, mochi, brown rice (we eat more quinoa than rice, which is why I don't buy it in 25 pound bags), specialty beans, etc. This has been a car trip, but DH plans to start doing it on his bike with the trailer, and soon I hope to be up to the ride as well (about 11 miles round trip, with a huge hill).
Luckily, two of our supermarkets (both the chain store and the local store) have begun stocking organic produce. We usually walk to the local market over the weekend for more bananas and anything else we need.
In the meantime, I order awesome boxes from Diamond Organics. Since I am in California anyway I don't feel too badly. We do have several health/grocery stores around, including one that is close enough to go to regularly, however I can't count of the freshness of the produce. I can't tell you how many times I have gone in with broccoli on my list, only to find it yellowed and limp. That wouldn't be a problem, if the green beans weren't also limp, the zucchini bruised, the Brussels sprouts spongy. I'm not sure that it is worth spending extra on organic produce that isn't even as fresh as the non-organic stuff at the regular grocery store.
We got Diamond boxes pretty regularly last winter/early spring. I knew I could count on the quality, and that any problems would be fixed immediately. However, in an effort to scale back our spending we gave up the box and tried to buy organic locally, with the aforementioned results. So I could either trek all over the regional area in search of acceptable organic produce, hitting multiple stores and spending inordinate amounts of time, or I could pony up the money for Diamond box and let FedEx deposit a big box of produce on my doorstep each Wednesday morning (delivery days are not set, there is no committment, heck, you could use UPS). The problem with my "local" organic produce is that it is rarely local, even if I drive to find it.
(For the record, there is no CSA in my area. If I lived in San Juan Capistrano, like my in-laws, I could have a huge, gorgeous basket of local organic produce for only $35 a week. Many other areas of Southern California are similarly served by CSAs; here in the desert it is hard to grow such an abundance of fruits and vegetables.)
So we are back to the box. Last week I ordered a Gourmet Greens and Veggies sampler, which was our standard box last spring. Mid-September I had ordered the original sampler, which has more basic vegetables, but also includes fruit. This week I ordered the family box, which is like the original box but with more produce.
Here's the inventory:
3 white onions
1 head garlic
4 large Russet potatoes
1 large bunch carrots, with tops
1 large bunch Italian parsley
1 English cucumber
1 large Haas avocado
2 lbs. zucchini
2 lbs. green beans
1 small head cauliflower
1 bunch green onions
1 lb. cremini mushrooms
2 lbs. tomatoes
1 head butter lettuce
1 head red leaf lettuce
6 heads baby romaine
1 large bag mesclun salad mix
1 bunch bananas
1.5 lbs. champagne grapes (absolutely delicious!)
Like I said, it's a basic family box. Last week in the greens box we had more specialty items, such as frisee, raddichio, an artichoke, shallots, baby turnips, baby beets, etc. However, the greens box comes with tons of greens (not only the salad greens, but also kale, chard, dandelion, spinach, mustard greens, etc.) and while we love greens we find that we don't want to eat the same meals week in and week out. So we're trying alternating the box, which also gets us some basics.
(BTW, the gourmet greens and veggies box was amazing last spring, with pencil thin asparagus, baby artichokes, fingerling potatoes, striped baby beets, etc.)
Now I have a house full of produce! We still have a few things left from last week's box:
a huge red bell pepper
a red onion
a bunch of red kale
2 small yams
Amazingly, I still have to supplement what comes in the box. Papa and T-Guy eat more tomatoes than came this week, and we definitely eat more fruit, especially apples and bananas. This time of year we can drive a short distance for organic apples, but the rest of it comes during our other marketing.
I'll start a new post on cooking from the box (sometimes I really wish I hadn't deleted my Simplicity in the Suburbs blog, in which I document our early boxes).
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
For years I thought it an odd coincidence that my teeth would hurt when I had a bladder infection. I figured the immune system is connected and I was having problems fighting bacteria in all areas of my body. Since the mouth always has bacteria I didn't consider something more systemic.
Really, though, I now think it is systemic yeast. I'm not just playing with the idea and trying to find other answers. Everything else seems to be related - even the mysterious allergies that come and go.
But how do I convince a doctor that I think I have a systemic candida infection, including in my jaw? I don't have tons of money to pour into this. Heck, even within the mainstream medical system I can't get a doctor to culture my urine for a fungal infection.
So, 4 weeks pre-surgery I am contemplating a yeast diet. I know I am going to hate going through the yeast die-off because things will be worse, but I have to get better. I have to take control; I do not want to be a person who is constantly focused on how unwell I feel. I do believe that people can take charge of their health and do a lot without the assistance of a medical doctor.
After talking with a couple of friends, I think I'm going to try Candex, a good probiotic (Healthy Trinity Dairy Free), GSE, and the Level 2 candida diet from Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook. The diet is going to be tough, especially for someone like me who almost always has fresh fruit, fresh fruit juices, or fruit smoothies for breakfast.
What is the worst thing that could happen? It might not work.
I've been fighting insomnia for 10 years now. With medication, I have been winning the battle, as long as we tweaked things here and there. There are good periods and bad periods.
Sleep seems to be the key to my mood. If I don't get enough I will fall apart. Too much and I lack energy and have a low mood. It's a delicate balance.
Lately, I have been trying to get off all Western medications. I successfully stopped taking Benadryl and acetaminophen, and have been working on ibuprofen. I discontinued birth control pills. I recently weaned off the medication I was using as a booster to my sleeping pill.
I had been sleeping rather well. Last night seemed to be a good night to stop the sleeping pill. I took melatonin and got in bed so I could relax. 20 minutes later I was getting anxious and my bladder pain was ramping up. I decided that this was not the best time to stop the sleeping pill (especially since I had only been off the booster for 2 days).
Melatonin is new for me; I've never tried it. For whatever reason, I keep waking last night. My bladder hurt; I don't think that is new, but somehow I wasn't asleep deeply enough to be unaware of the pain. By 4:45 a.m. I was awake in a way that reminded me of the darkest nights of my insomnia, when I would wake at 3 a.m. and simply not be able to regain sleep.
We did go on a rather vigorous walk that ended about 2.5 hours before I tried to sleep. I also tossed in a last minute hot bath because my hands and feet had gotten chilled and I couldn't get warm. The bath is usually a good thing.
Oh well, I had mananged 6 hours of fitful, broken sleep. I decided that getting up made more sense than staying in bed frustrated. So today I have to find a way to stay awake; napping is almost never a good idea for me. I have to be gentle with myself and my children.
I'm really wishing I had some miso soup right now....
Monday, October 9, 2006
Fall arrived, as best she does in Southern California. The days are topping out around 80 degrees, and the evenings and mornings are cool. We put the comforter on the bed, and actually had to close some windows the other night. It's confusing weather; we need long pants and sweatjackets in the morning, but by midafternoon we're ready for sandals and short sleeves.
Saturday we finally got to experience the bounty of fall. Oh, we had a teaser Friday when we went to Oak Glen for apples, but Saturday we drove up the mountain and hiked to the Aspen Grove and then along Fish Creek. It was gorgeous, and I was fully reminded of why I thought autumn would be our best outdoor season. In winter it is cold and there might be snow on the trail, in spring it is humid and buggy, and in summer it is just too hot. But fall, well fall is perfect. The aspens were golden and quaking. Although the forest is mostly pine and fir, we did get glimpses of other fall colors.
Fall is pretty nice down here in the valley as well. The days are warm, but not too hot. It's cold enough to need a jacket when we walk at night, or to light a fire. J-Baby delights in the Halloween decorations we see everywhere, and his delight is contagious. The first winter squash arrive at the farmer's market, along with pomegranates and persimmons. There is fresh cider at the local market, and apples just up the hill.
It's my favorite time of year. I love buying lots of pumpkins and scattering them around the house. Our fall nature table was up a week early! As much as I look forward to the return of evening light each spring, in the fall I love the way the days grow shorter, coming to the time where we eat dinner in candlelit darkness. In the last weeks of fall we light the candles as soon as it gets dark and sing while we wait for Papa to come home from work (at least, we do on the nights that supper is prepared and doesn't require a lot of last minute preparation).
Perhaps, for most of you, summer truly is your best outdoor season. For anyone else, I encourage to break out of the box and truly consider which season would be best for your break.
Thursday, October 5, 2006
We can force it, but I don't know if that is best. Still, we really want to ride in the mornings with Papa.
Another thing - both boys are showing the stress of our rhythm breaking down (the basics are there, but there are long stretches of unplanned time) as well as the chaos in the house. So I will work on rhythm, environment, and health.
Wednesday, October 4, 2006
Tuesday, October 3, 2006
One of the toughest things for me is where to place my daily bath. If taken at night I am nice and clean in my pajamas and sheets. The warm bath is relaxing, and the gradual cool down of my body is conducive to sleep. The morning goes more smoothly because all I need to do is dress and take care of a few short personal hygiene tasks.
It seems like a no brainer, right? Wrong. The nightly bath takes away from partner time, which is essential to the well being of the family. Also, if morning movement is vigorous (a long brisk walk or a bike ride) then a bath is needed afterward. Finally, morning bathing eliminates the need to blow dry my hair on all but the coldest and dampest days. This should be a small concern overall; however, I am finding it difficult to keep the length healthy with frequent blow-drying.
I've tried scheduling the bath for early evening, but it rarely happens.
For now, we've decided that morning movement/exercise is imperative, so once again the bath is moving to morning.
An ideal day:
6:15 Wake and snuggle
6:30 Breakfast and clothing
7:00 Bike ride
8:00 Daily chores (while Papa showers)
8:45 My bath (boys have free play from about 8:15-9:45)
10:00 Morning Lesson (incorporating a short movement circle with SI activity, the main lesson, and perhaps recorder or foreign language)
11:30 Lunch preparation
12:00 Lunch and clean up, play time with Papa
12:45 Quiet time
1:45 Room clean up
2:15 Practice time
3-ish Projects or family activities
3:45 Free play/computer time
4:45 Dinner preparation
5:15 Settling-in time
6:00 Clean up (boys clean room)
6:15 Family time (including reading to boys, games, snack, etc.)
7:45 Boys in bed/quick tidy
8:00 Partner time
10:45 Lights out for parents
All times are approximate...it is more about the flow than the time.