Eating Healthy On A Budget

Shopping for healthier food choices for your family while staying within your food budget is something everyone can do. Not only is it better for your body and long term health, you can make delicious meals that everyone will love and you will be teaching your children from a young age what good food choices look like.

Here are some very basic tips to help get you started:

1. Planning out your meals for a whole week will save you time and money. Having a list of ingredients for your meals is a good tool to utilize when grocery shopping. Sticking to the list is essential for your budget. See if you can find coupons to go with your items on the list. Look online at your grocery store’s coupons.

2. Avoid pre-packaged, processed foods – not only are these more expensive, they are usually higher in sodium, fat and chemicals and low in nutrients. Home cooking is not only healthier, it’s also cheaper. Eating real foods give you more bang for your buck as they have much higher nutritional content and fill you up.

3. Buying in bulk can save you a lot of money. You can purchase assorted grains, beans, pastas, dried fruits, nuts, flours and even spices in the bulk isle of the grocery store. You can choose any amount that you want and bulk food sections give a lower price per quantity ratio while saving on excess packaging. Places like Costco and Sam’s Club also offer even bigger bulk buys on many items you may use.

4. To save the most money, make meat more of an accent in your meal instead of the focal point. Animal and fish protein is the most expensive part of your budget and if you can make some meatless meals each week and reduce the portion sizes of it in other meals, you will save lots of money on your grocery bill. Beans, peas, lentils, eggs, dairy and nuts are all high in protein and there is also protein found in fruit, veggies and whole grains, too.

5. When buying fruits and vegetables, try to buy locally grown foods when in season for more savings. When local produce is abundant and cheap, you can stock up and freeze for winter eating. Fresh fruit makes a great snack and buying by the pre-packed bag instead of individually is less expensive. Frozen fruits and vegetables can often be less expensive when fresh and local is not in season, plus they are picked at the height of ripeness and flash frozen so the flavor and nutrients are preserved.

6. Condiments add flavor and interest to your dishes and makes preparing different types of ethnic meals quick and easy to do. Keep a selection of dried herbs, spices, curry powder, marinades, vinegars, tomato and soy sauces, as well as stock cubes or powders in your pantry.

7. Use the internet – If you have ingredients you want to use up and are not sure what to do with them, type the ingredient names into a search engine along with the word ‘recipe’ and you will get many great recipe ideas.

8. Use your crock pot – One pot meals generally save on prep time and cleanup and often make great leftovers for future meals during the week. Use small amounts of less expensive cuts of meats for the crock pot (or go meatless) and add extra vegetables and beans to bulk up the dish, add more nutrition and stretch the meal further.

9. Cut down on the amount of snacks you buy. Make some with your kids instead! Kids love to bake and you can incorporate healthier ingredients into the treats so they will have more nutritional value but still taste great. Also, eating fruit as a snack is quick and easy and so good for you!

10. Time saver: If short on time to cook often, pick a day or evening to prep ingredients with your family for the meals that week and store in the fridge. Cook enough whole grain to serve with several different meals that week. You could also cook several casserole type dishes all in one day and freeze for future meals. Also, see #8.

October 19th, 2010 -- Posted in food, food storage, gardening, green living, Health, make it yourself, nutrition, parenting | 1 Comment »

A Whirlwind 2010 So Far

Yes, it’s been a few months since I’ve blogged because so much has happened here at Casa de Nature Deva. We’ve had chicken issues to deal with in our tiny flock of 4. We became foster parents in February. We’ve been really sick! Even me! And we’ve been working on more home renovating projects, this time it’s the removal of the redwood deck and installation of a new patio and making plans for a front yard garden including raised beds.  We have been getting our main garden going, too and succession planted all winter in the greenhouse. And then there are the school projects – I am the chairperson of the new garden being planned and built at my son’s elementary school.  And of course, working at our real jobs, too.

So yeah, we’ve been busy.

I’m sure out of all that you thought, “Foster parents – when did that happen?” Our son, now 6, really, really wanted a sibling to live here and we felt that our best option to help out in our community at the same time would be to go the foster care route.  We went through the training and home inspections, background checks, etc all of last year and we finally became certified as a foster/adopt home in October, ’09.   We received a call on February 3rd of this year about an emergency placement of a little 22 month old boy who was dealing with neglect, speech delay and failure-to-thrive issues and those were some of the main things we thought we could help out the best with so we agreed and he’s been living with us ever since. For the most part it’s been great but he came to us sick with the RSV virus which is really tough on little kids and I caught it (or some other virus) from him due to being coughed on, lack of sleep/new stress and was sick for a good 2 months myself! Very unusual for me but we all got sick to some extent after he was placed with us.

The good news is that even though the little guy was dealing with illness and being underweight, he ate like a champ, was mostly happy, teethed 4 new teeth, grew in shoe size and height and because he had to go to his pediatrician so many times due to illness, we were able to keep good track of his weight gain and in 3.5 months of living with us, he’s gained 4 lbs! He’s finally getting better now. Sometimes when you are eating very little and what you did eat was crap, your body will purge out the bad stuff so I think his body has been doing that since he’s been thriving in all other ways at the same time. Good nutrition helps correct so many things!

My son is thrilled to have another boy here to play with, we got them bunk beds for their room and they are behaving just like brothers do – sometimes great, sometimes not so much. But you can tell they love each other. We hope we can adopt him but only time will tell, it’s all up to his bio-mom now.

Even though our lives were turned upside down and so quickly since this was an emergency placement I can see the good it’s had on this little boy.  It’s just like when you give birth and the whole family has to deal with the growing pains – this is similar to that except in our case, the “baby” is 2 and came in with his own experiences that we all had to adapt to. Even with just my short 3.5 months of doing this, I can see how fostering a child who is desperately in need of help is so important to do and how my family’s positive impact on his life will stay with him even if he’s returned to his mom. And the way the rules are changing here in my county, even if he’s returned home, we can still visit with him and help him/them if his mom agrees to that. A child can never get too much love and it really does take a village to help raise one!

May 20th, 2010 -- Posted in Fost/Adopt, parenting, society | 3 Comments »

My Resolution

I’m pretty slow to start the new year with my resolutions for change. It seems that each year, I am completely burnt out after the growing/harvest/preserving season then jumping right into the holiday season that by the time the new year begins, I only desire to sit and do nothing (ok, I want to chat on Twitter or take naps). And cook yummy food from all that I’ve put up!

I’ve been reading about what several others have been saying their resolutions are and for me, the only major things I need to change in my life this year is to get more exercise and more sleep! I have no problems eating what’s in my pantry as one big challenge I’ve seen people participate in. In fact, I try to live this way year round and am nervous we are going through our canned tomato and sauce supply way faster than I thought we would and I am trying to make the home-canned supply last til next summer! I’m sure it won’t at this rate.

I don’t need to challenge myself to do a 3 week jumpstart your diet challenge which is another big one I’ve seen written about to detox your body on a plant based diet. I eat a plant based diet and occasionally the very nutritious eggs from my own backyard chickens so this is a way of life for me, too. I also like to wait until springtime to do a liver cleanse, it’s too cold for me in the winter to do cleanses like that.

No, what I need to do (and began doing this past week) is something I saw written up on the Huffington Post called “Sleep Challenge 2010 – Women, It’s Time To Sleep Your Way To The Top, Literally.”  Once I read that article, I knew I had to do it. I was resistant at first, I like going to bed between 12-1 am and sleeping in a bit in the morning but with an almost 6 year old boy as my daily alarm clock, I rarely get to sleep past 7 or 7:30 and that’s late for him. So I was getting around 6 or 6.5 hours of sleep each night. I have been dragging and some days, I’ve only gotten about 5.5 hours at night and that puts me over the cranky edge so I can’t function the way I want and need to.

I realize I have to get a minimum of 7 hours of solid sleep at night and preferably 8 hours of sleep every night to feel well. My son sleeps through the night for the past few years and even in his own room now. The only time he wakes us up at night is if he’s sick or had a bad dream. After suffering through several years of extreme sleep deprivation because of him, I should want to go to bed early and get 8+ hours of sleep every night! Why my resistance I wondered? I realized it’s because it’s “me time” for several hours in the evening. After we eat a family dinner, my husband does the bedtime routine with our son then has his guitar playing hour (or more) every night and I clean up and have things I catch up on, books I am reading or tv shows on Tivo to watch! I wind up waiting for my husband to watch certain shows with me and we seem to go to bed too late because of this. He always says he does better on 6 or 6.5 hours of sleep and if he sleeps longer than that, he’s dragging. I’m the other way around so I don’t believe him! Who can function well on 6 or 6.5 hours of sleep every night? Not me!

He is sort of doing this sleep challenge with me because consistent, solid sleep is so beneficial for your body in so many ways and he’s recovering from several weeks of some funky virus invading his body and doing strange things to him. Solid sleep also helps to prevent getting run-down and sick in the first place. Your immune system works better, you have more energy, you look younger and your mental state is in a much better place, too. There’s also evidence that not getting enough sleep makes you gain or retain weight and sufficient sleep helps you lose it!  There really is not one downside to getting your “beauty sleep.” It is quite a challenge for me to get up to the 8 hour mark. I’m working on cutting back on my evening activities and getting more things done during the day.

This past week I’ve been aiming for 7-7.5 hours of sleep each night (by counting backwards from my 7 a.m. wake up time) and I feel good but still tired and dragging at some point in my day. Clearly a sign I need more sleep! Who knew? This week, I (and possibly Michael) will be trying for 8 whole, glorious hours of uninterrupted sleep each and every night. If I can do this, I will feel like superwoman and will be able to really increase my workouts and pretty much revolutionize my world! I like the info in this update from Arianna Huffington about what happened to her after finally getting those 8 hours of sleep each night.

I encourage anyone reading this to give this sleep challenge a try. Lawd knows we all need it!

January 12th, 2010 -- Posted in exercise, feminism, Health, Home, Mel, news, special events | 1 Comment »

Crafty, Inexpensive Gift Ideas For A Homemade Holiday

Here is my post from last year about all of the wonderful, creative gifts you can make for the holidays. Crafty, inexpensive and filled with love :)

I have received so many responses from very creative mamas to my recent query about ideas for homemade or low budget gifts (mostly for children) for the holidays. With the economy being the way it is, this topic seems to be one that is on many people’s minds. I’ve divided the many ideas given to me into different categories. I hope there is something here you will find to make and give to your loved ones this holiday season.

Food Gifts:

Make your own peanut brittle, fudge, holiday cookies or another tasty treat and present it in a pretty tin or on a plate you’ve decorated that will also be part of the gift. If you are giving this gift to another from your child, have the child help make it as well as decorate the container – photo tins were suggested a few times, too.

The hot cocoa or brownie kit is another idea for either kids or adults. You can make “hot cocoa cones” by layering the separate dry ingredients in a cone shaped piece of cellophane or a clear frosting bag or in a mason jar and tie it with a pretty ribbon and add an instruction card on how to prepare the mix. Chocolate dipped spoons are another easy gift idea you can add with the hot cocoa cones. If it’s a cookie mix, you can include some cookie cutters. Caramel or kettle popcorn is another fun food gift to make.

If you are a gardener, giving away some homemade canned items from your garden is always appreciated. You can make different jams, salsa, tomato sauce, pickles, dilly beans, pickled beets, grape juice, etc. Whatever you have a lot of just remember to can more of it at the time to give out as gifts. You can even prepare a whole basket of assorted pint or quart sized jars of items that you have made. You can do the same with dehydrated items like fruit leather, apple or banana slices, dried herb mixes, herbal tea blends, spice rubs or jerky.

For Sewing/Knitting/Crocheted Gifts:

If you are a sewer/knitter/crocheter, you have a world of possibilities of things to make! Many suggestions given in this category included crocheting pot holders or dishcloths to go along with the food gifts, sewing fleece blankets or even fringing all of the edges on two pieces of fleece and tying them together for a 2 sided blanket – no sewing there, sewing aprons for kids to wear in their play kitchen – one mama said to use terrycloth material for the kid’s apron. If you are a good seamstress, sewing doll clothes, sun hats, dresses and all the other cute items that your child likes will save you tons of money if you do it yourself.

Knitted or crocheted hats, scarves, mittens, and knitted afgans are so appreciated in the cold weather. To be extra green and frugal, you can get some wool sweaters from the thrift store and unravel them and re-use the wool for your new knitted creations.

Felt:

Felt items are also another inexpensive, crafty and fun gift to make. You can make play food by cutting out the desired shapes and sewing two pieces together and stuff with batting or wool and sew closed or you can leave it single-sided cut to the shape of what you want and since felt sticks to itself, it will stick to a felt storyboard or you can make a felt pizza with toppings, a birthday cake with candles or a felt Christmas tree with ornaments. You can also make easy finger or hand puppets, picture frames and little bags too. Crayon rolls are popular with kids as well. There really are so many fun ideas for things to make with felt and it’s easy to use and dirt cheap!

Jewelry:

Make beaded jewelry – it’s fun and very creative. Go support your local bead shop, take a class or buy a how-to book, pick out beads that you like, a few basic tools, some wire and clasps and you can make inexpensive yet pretty jewelry, bookmarks, hair accessories, window shade pulls, light catchers, the list goes on and on. My step-mother-in-law is really into this and now works with more semi-precious stones and silver combos and she makes some really beautiful gifts. This photo is of some of her work that I received as a gift.

Photo Gifts:

This also is a pretty popular gift. All of those photos we take of our kids, dogs, vacations can be made into photo books, calendars, mouse pads, mugs, pillows, etc. We can also take actual photos and decorate the outside of tin boxes with them and fill the box with yummy treats, too. Kids love to see pictures of themselves so this is popular with them as well as the grandparents. It seems grandparents can never have enough pictures of the grandkids and making the calendars or other photo gifts are pretty easy, inexpensive and much appreciated.

Other Craft Items:

Make your own homemade playdough which is safe and non-toxic and you can even color it with different food coloring. Store it in little containers, tins or even glass baby food jars that you’ve saved. Simple cookie cutters can go along with the playdough for a fun and inexpensive gift.

You can make homemade soy candles in empty jars – using baby food jars again or jam sized canning jars work well, too.

Don’t forget about cardboard boxes! There is just so much you can do with them. We have in just about a couple hours’ time made our son a playhouse and a train car that he can sit in. Now I hear there is talk of a space ship happening soon. You can make the large stacking blocks like the kind that are sold that look like bricks as well as a play kitchen, too. Cardboard boxes, a sturdy knife, duct tape and paint (optional) are all it takes. We have even made him impromptu costumes – wings, a helmet out of a cardboard bucket and a shield we painted as part of his Halloween costume, too. There are so many, many things you can do with cardboard. You can find lots of ideas and instructions on this site.

Wooden Crafts:

Since my husband has a small wood shop and makes unique furniture, last year he decided to make our son a play kitchen for Christmas and a play workbench for his birthday. Both required time but the cost of the materials was pretty inexpensive. He purchased a large sheet of plywood for each project that had a really nice facing on it, some small door hinges, some plexiglas for the oven and microwave door windows and a dowel rod for door handles. He used an older bath faucet he had and a steel bowl for the kitchen sink and faucet. Both the kitchen and workbench were finished with a non-toxic oil and both came out really beautifully and are heirloom quality pieces so we can pass these down to our grandkids. The actual cost of the play kitchen came out to less than $30 with everything – except labor! The workbench was even cheaper.

Easier projects to make with wood are wooden building blocks, a simple pull toy, different geometric shaped puzzle pieces called tanagrams, different wooden puzzles, doll cradles, and wooden memory game squares that you paint the matching pictures on. There are many websites with instructions on how to do all of this and I really like this site.

Gift Baskets:

You can take many different little things that fit into a theme and put them all together in a box or basket for a person or family to enjoy. Several mamas said they were making movie baskets for a whole family – a dvd, different kinds of popcorn and chocolate all packaged in a pretty basket with cellophane or shrink wrap. Pick a theme and go with it.

Stores:

If you don’t want to make much (or anything) but still want to save money on gifts, shopping the thrift stores, garage sales, Craigslist, Freecycle, eBay, Dollar stores and the dollar bins at Target for all inexpensive new or used items in good condition is a great way to get toys and things at a fraction of the price or free (Freecycle). And most children don’t know the difference and wouldn’t care anyway if they did. If it works, they are happy!

New items at greatly reduced prices are sold at many closeout stores such as Marshalls, Big Lots, Ross, TJ Maxx and Tuesday Morning among others. You may have to sweep through these types of stores periodically and keep your eyes peeled for the quality items you want. I’ve found some amazing deals this way including new German wooden toys (which are normally very expensive), nice puzzles and books for my son. It’s fun, too once you get the hang of it.

Wrapping Paper:

It’s fun to unwrap presents but we don’t have to use the commercial wrapping paper which is hard to recycle in many locations. What to do? – make your own!! There are so many options for this. If you get a Sunday paper, save the comic section each week and use that, buy a roll of butcher paper or brown craft paper or visit your town’s local newspaper and ask for their left over end of the rolls (it’s free) and have your kids draw or stamp all over it. Or buy some inexpensive play silks – a gift in themselves which can be dyed any color – and wrap the toy in that, too.

All of these “wrapping” papers listed can be easily recycled and can be a fun craft activity for you and the kids to do together. If you don’t want to do any of the above, try to purchase the wrapping paper that was made with recycled paper instead.

I hope this list has helped you find some new, creative and inexpensive gift ideas for this holiday season. There definitely are many resourceful and creative people out there and I thank each and every one of you for contributing your amazing, thrifty gift ideas! If you have other creative ideas not mentioned here, feel free to leave them in the comments section. I love hearing about other fun gifts to make.

Happy Holidays!!

photo credits: orderonline, kathy marie perez, the library of congress, lil miss maya, nature deva, family fun, nature deva, nature deva

December 7th, 2009 -- Posted in food, food storage, green living, holidays, make it yourself, parenting | 4 Comments »

The Vegan Diet Gets Put To The Test On TV!

I love hearing about tv shows promoting really healthful and beneficial information that can truly help people. And very economically and fast, too. Dr. Oz is a doctor who does just that. He’s explained to people about alternative medicine, yoga, nutrition – especially from plants – what a standard American diet does to our bodies, how our organs look when we die from different diseases, etc. Now he has his own show and he put a meat-lovin’ cowboy, Rocco, on a 28 day vegan diet to reverse his bad heart disease and diabetes. No meds were involved, just plant based foods and exercise. Rocco decided to follow the program for the month because his only other option would be to do nothing and die relatively soon from having 97% plaque build up in his arteries. He’s a 53 yr old man walking around with the heart of an 85 yr old!

Well, the results in just 28 days are astounding! You have to see this follow up clip of Rocco’s results:

See? We don’t need to be drugged up and spending a fortune on prescription meds that barely keep the health problems in check and that would have to be taken for the rest of our lives (not to mention the scary side effects that come with the drugs) when a simple, earth-friendly and very economical change in diet coupled with some exercise (Rocco walks) can do the same thing and do it permanently. This way of eating REVERSES these diseases over time!

Go Rocco! Go Plants!

November 9th, 2009 -- Posted in food, green living, Health, nutrition, videos | 2 Comments »

To Grandmother’s Homestead We Go

We went to visit my Mother-In-Law & Step-Father-In-Law on their 13 acre homestead in Sonoma County, CA in June of this year. It’s a really special place – there are large Redwood trees in the wooded parts of their land and there is also a big creek running through the property. In the middle of it all is their passive solar hand-built house and several large growing areas for their various veggie gardens, vineyard and greenhouse for my MIL’s lavender growing business. The views are beautiful and you can see large vineyards for miles around.

My MIL spins her own wool on her spinning wheel, has a loom to weave it on and showed my son, Leif how to card the fibers and then to spin it on the wheel. He thought this was great fun.

We did many special things while we were there and since my son likes art projects, I thought it would be interesting for him when we took hikes around the property to collect cool looking items we found in nature to build some fairy houses on the banks of the creek. He loved that idea since we have read a few books about this. I think by the end of our trip, he built 5 fairy houses and we took many pictures of them all.

My husband and I took a day off to be by ourselves to celebrate his birthday and go to some wineries for wine tasting and to see some sights around Sonoma County. One place we went to is an exact reproduction of a 12th century castle just outside of Calistoga called Castello di Amorosa. It was awesome! Such amazing detail work with actual artifacts from salvaged castles – including the stones of the castle – were shipped over from Europe to build it.

Since our son was hanging out with his Grandma and Papa all day on the homestead, they had some fun projects lined up for him, too. My Mother-In-Law knew in advance that we were taking a day to ourselves so she gathered items from local thrift stores to build a “scarecrow boy” the size of Leif. He LOVED this! When it was done, they staked it right in the middle of a new garden bed.

He did a special building project with his Papa, too. My son requested to build and paint “a sculpture.” So my FIL gathered some scrap wood from his workshop and found some paints and Leif said he wanted to build a tree. The two of them laid out the design and then my FIL nailed it together and Leif very carefully painted it green and brown. He decided before we left to give it to his Grandma to hang in her greenhouse “so she could remember him!”

Later that day, they had to gather up some firewood to stack outside their house and my son had a great time helping to load up the pick up truck from the various wood piles in the woods and then help unloading and stacking the split logs by the house.  They would have gone swimming in the creek but it was a little too cool to do that so they built another fairy house instead.  He had a great day alone with his grandparents and we had fun drinking wine, going out to dinner and seeing the sights alone, too.

Café Gratitude opened a restaurant in their town a few months earlier and I was ecstatic to be able to finally go in person! I had purchased their cookbook last year and I think they craft some of the greatest raw food recipes. We ate there 3 different times! Michael and I went to dinner there after our day out alone and saw local musicians play while eating. Such a perfect ending to a perfect day!

On my husband’s actual birthday, we helped my MIL work in her booth at the local farmer’s market. She sells lavender plants of all different sizes and varieties. She cultivates 38 varieties now and is always testing out new kinds to see how well they will do in her area before she will grow and sell them. There is even a white lavender variety named “Melissa” that she grows & sells.  And out of all the herbs I work with, lavender happens to be my favorite. I even had some sprigs of it in my wedding bouquet.

We had a family birthday dinner that night back at the homestead with relatives that live in their area. We drank lots of great wine and I learned so much more about the art of crafting wine this trip since my FIL has been making his own wine for decades. Michael’s Step-Brother-In-Law gave him a bottle of his own homegrown, locally pressed extra virgin olive oil. It is SO GOOD!! I wish we could grow our own olive tree orchard where we live! We learned more about this process, too.

We visited Bodega Bay and played by the ocean (which is always cold and breezy), went to Armstrong Woods State Park which is an amazing place to hike around the giant Sequoias (can you see me in the tree photo below?).  We also visited “Train Town” in Sonoma which was so fun for Leif.

It’s so nice to spend quality time with family and get a fun vacation out of it, too!

October 20th, 2009 -- Posted in Leif, Mel, Michael, parenting, photos, special events, Travel, travel/vacations | 3 Comments »

Blog Action Day ’09 – Climate Change

Today is Blog Action Day where thousands of bloggers all over the world write about today’s very important topic – Climate Change. I’ve been a big proponent over the years of people being aware of what I’ve always called “Earth Changes” which now is referred to as “Climate Change” but they are both one and the same thing. It’s one of the major reasons I relocated – I had so many dreams telling me I have to move it was hard to ignore them after a while.

I am a professional psychic/medium (as well as other specialties) and I have been guided to learn to live my life in as self-sustainable a way as possible and have lived this way in both a rural setting and a suburban setting for the past 15 years. I’ve been an astral traveling dreamer at night my whole life and I can remember back in the‘80s having the start of my earth change dreams where I could fully recall them and wondered why I was being shown this and what was it all about? It was like fitting pieces of a puzzle together and I started tracking strange weather info in the news. Then in the early ‘90s I came across different Native American prophecies that foretold of a great time of change and upheaval starting to happen on our planet: “Turtle Island will pull into her shell” is what the Hopi have said regarding the USA (Turtle Island). They are the keepers of this ancient and very accurate prophecy. According to them, we have passed “The point of no return.”

One of my recurring dreams I’ve had over the years in my astral travels regarding earth changes is being in New York City (I am a native NYer) and looking out of an office building window down at the street below and seeing the buses driving through water that came up to their headlights. I say to a co-worker, “Why is there so much water in the streets?” and she tells me that there has been water rising around here for some time now. She obviously has gotten used to it and says, “Let’s go check out this new club after work” and I think she’s crazy and feel that we must evacuate ASAP. I get this feeling of urgency and my co-workers think I’m the strange one and go on with their life and adapting to the rising waters around them.

There have been times over the past 15 years where friends will email me photos of massive flooding going on in NY, tunnels being closed, cars submerged (my own mother’s car went under water in a parking lot from flood water). But then it all eventually returns to normal and people seem to forget until the next time. I keep watching the events escalate – a tornado touching down in Brooklyn? I don’t recall any tornadoes in the metro NY area when I was growing up!

I had a very vivid astral travel dream just a few months ago of being in Antarctica and watching a major ice shelf collapse and then all of this water came rushing out with such force. I got so upset over this and kept saying in the dream, “No more sea level rising” and heard back, “This is the way it’s going to be, due to the actions humans are taking.” Two days later, I heard on the news about a huge ice shelf collapsing in Antarctica which scientists said was unexpected and they were surprised about it.

My son, now 5.5 years old, has had some pretty interesting earth change dreams of his own already – he has given us pretty detailed descriptions (in 5 year old terms/descriptions) of being inside a volcano and it was going to erupt. He had a series of these dreams every night for about a week then they stopped. Less than a week later, there were a few volcanoes that erupted in the “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific Ocean.

From what I’ve been seeing both psychically and tracking in the news all of these years is that climate change is REAL and events are happening at an alarmingly fast pace – faster than the scientists have even predicted and mostly due to the choices and actions we humans have taken. I think by now it’s pretty impossible to ignore the increase in frequency of major traumatic climate change events like earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, rains/flooding/mudslides, extreme droughts/fires. It doesn’t mean the end of the world is coming but it does mean MAJOR CHANGE for millions, maybe billions of people many of whom will have to start over from scratch in a new location or, will cycle off the planet during a major weather event.

So what can we do? We all have to learn new skills (and yes, some you won’t like but learn them anyway), learn to adapt mentally and physically and find locations you resonate with and feel in your gut are safe areas to live/raise your family and to build community in. We all have to work together. And respect the Earth, herself. She’s going through a lot!

We who are aware of what’s going on must step up and DO SOMETHING to help both our fellow humans AND the animals that are so affected by climate change.  There is still some time left to change the laws to end the abusive practices corporations are doing to the planet. Let your voices be heard by your governments! Let’s hope all countries join together to make radical shifts now to law and policy so there will be some semblance of a nice planet left for our kids to live on. As I see it, if we don’t make the changes NOW, our children are going to have to deal with MUCH worse!

October 15th, 2009 -- Posted in activism, government, green living, news, political, society, special events, sustainability | No Comments »

How Time Flies

I feel like such a lucky person – I am living the life I want (even though it’s not necessarily in the location I envisioned) and I am supported 100% by my partner.  It’s been seven years now living back in suburbia and still every October (which is the anniversary of us buying this “temporary” home we’re in) I am still amazed that I’m here and liking it! Granted, if we didn’t have a child, I’m sure we would have moved on already but I feel all things happen for a reason and we were strongly guided to buy this home over and over again when we were searching for a new place to live in the valley.

The main thing about why we bought this house is that it mostly fit my certain criteria I had in my mind for moving off of a self-sustainable compound high up in the mountains: we live next to a source of water (a creek that originates near where we just moved from) which is next to a bike path so I don’t have to use my car if I don’t want to and I can always get water (that I would filter) easily if something were to happen to city water; I have 2 fireplaces in my home and while I don’t think they are as good as a big wood burning stove like I was used to, they are very good in case the heat doesn’t go on for some reason or to just warm up the room we are in. We are across the street from a big park, 3 playgrounds & a public kid’s pool which is great for playing with my son and my dog (and happens to be where my son plays his soccer games); our yard was big enough for us to put in a large (and now even larger) fenced in garden area and a greenhouse as well as various other garden beds, 4 chickens & a movable coop, 2 huge compost bins area, a full cord of dry wood neatly stacked and a large shed. It also happens to be right across from an elementary school that is really great and the easiest commute I’ve ever had to do twice a day, 5 days a week! We also really didn’t want an HOA telling us what we can/cannot do (even a clothesline is illegal in many HOA’s). My husband also really wanted big trees which are all over my neighborhood and we have an amazing view out our window of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains and even the Continental Divide. And so far, I’ve been able to easily do both my healing work and my herbal products crafting out of designated rooms for them both in my home.

Even though originally I hated the idea of living in suburbia again after being off the grid with our own photovoltaic system, amazingly pure water source (which I now buy & have delivered every month), clean air and lots of land, I made sure we could still live as self-sufficient even on a quarter acre as we were used to on 35 acres. We could successfully grow lots more of our own food, too since we came down 4,000’ in elevation. Such a major bonus for us aspiring farmers!

Another great thing is that we live close to others who have much more land with their own little farms so I can bike over and buy fresh produce, eggs, etc if ever we needed that. We are pretty close to our town’s ever growing farmer’s market, too and have biked there several times this past summer using the bike path. We live close enough to major roadways to easily commute for various job locations, events, the airport and close enough for a quick drive up into the same mountains we moved down from. We are very close to shopping, too which really came in handy when my son was a fussy baby.

So as I re-evaluate our situation once again this October, I see how we made the right choice for buying our home that is almost completely renovated now. We just completed a kitchen renovation that is really rocking my world. I’ve put it to the test this harvest season and I’m in love. While it’s not as huge a kitchen as I have dreamed about, it really is very efficient, well-organized and PRETTY for getting the job done. Six years ago we installed a tankless hot water heater, whole house humidifier, whole house air filter and we buy 100% of our electricity from a wind farm (through our power company) and installed double paned windows all over our home. Its energy efficient and warm/cool as it should be. We also divert our roof water run off to the various garden beds and now that rainwater collection is legal here, we will set up some barrels for that, too. Who knows, now that we know we’ll be here several more years, maybe we’ll do photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, too.

One day in the future we will move onto our own few acres again into an alternative home we design/build but until that time comes, this place is really suiting all of my family’s needs so well. We have made our carbon footprint as small as it can be for living in suburbia. We also try to eat as much vegan food as possible – especially homegrown – and buy our dry goods in bulk through my co-op. I’m really working on introducing my son to more plant based meals now that he’s not as hyper-picky anymore and I’m so proud of my hubby for changing his diet so much! It’s better for our health, the environment and our wallets! We make very little trash since we compost and recycle the majority of everything we use. I love that!

I truly am a lucky person and am so grateful for my great life!

October 13th, 2009 -- Posted in gardening, green living, Home, sustainability | 1 Comment »

Harvest Time

I love the summer so much because I enjoy growing things in the garden and being outside in nature as much as I can. This was our first full year with our expanded garden space as well as the additional garden beds added all around our house and using our greenhouse in warm weather. And chickens! Who lay eggs! It’s been an amazingly fun summer for me because of all of this! I don’t know if others would think it’s so fun, it does require quite a bit of work to upkeep a large organic garden and some livestock even if they are a small backyard flock. But this type of lifestyle resonates with me and I work hard for its success.

Now we are officially in autumn with the bulk of the harvest coming in and preparing & planting the garden beds for fall/winter gardening under the hoop house and inside the greenhouse. It’s a joint effort, both my husband and I have a shared vision for all of this, we secretly want to be full time farmers because we enjoy it so much. Real farming is such hard work, though! I feel part of the homesteader lifestyle even living here in the ‘burbs once again since my mindset is always about self-sustainability.  I have learned so many skills to enable me to be self-reliant these past 15 years living this way.

I’ve been doing all methods of food preservation throughout the season and especially my most favorite method of all – canning. Some people find canning tedious but I still totally love it – both water bath and pressure canning. Looking at my various shelves filled with jars of produce picked at the peak of freshness ready to be eaten especially on a cold winter evening fills me with a sense of security, really. I know what’s in my food, who prepared it and the fact that it’s there means we won’t starve if ever there was a catastrophe of some kind. Most importantly, it reminds me that I’m self-reliant – one of the most important traits of a true homesteader.

I’ve been freezing and dehydrating lots of produce and prepared dishes, too so I have both a packed upright freezer as well as jars of dried herbs, fruit leather, dried fruit and powdered dried veggies (to add to soup or other dishes for flavor and nutrition) in jars on my shelves or vacuum sealed and stored in closed bins in my basement “root cellar” – a cold, concrete closet in my basement.

I try to process the produce as the season progresses, making lactofermented pickles & sauerkraut as we harvest it (or get some great deals on organic produce from local farmers), making a vinegar dill pickle and dilly beans (that requires no canning), bread & butter pickles, harvesting root crops to store in the “root cellar”, dehydrating some of the many greens we grow to powder them, drying herbs (always dry everything at low temps to preserve the most nutrients), freezing chopped fresh herbs with water in ice cube trays (and store cubes in freezer bags), freezing fruit,  juicing veggies and fruits and freezing in ice cube trays for use in smoothies. By mid-October, we  make cinnamon applesauce which is great to use in vegan baked goods. We also make pear sauce (but not for baking).

I especially love to make and can tons of tomato sauce – so much so that for our 10 year anniversary this past summer solstice, we got ourselves a ginormous pressure canner that can fit 14 quart jars at one time! Now that’s a lot of sauce done in one shot! A huge improvement over our little pressure cooker/canner that could only hold 3 quart jars at a time! Besides canning tomatoes either as sauce or as whole, peeled ones, we make & can jam throughout the season as the fruit comes in (I made lots of very low sugar plum, blueberry & peach jams since PB&J is my son’s favorite sandwich now), we can tomato salsa, tomatillo salsa, fruit salsa (just made some great peach salsa!), canned veggies like beets (some are pickled, too), carrots, hot peppers, etc. I can go on, there are so many ways we preserve the bounty and I look forward to doing it every single year!

Living this way is not only very inexpensive over a 12 month period but it puts me so in touch with the lifecycle of the plants, the Earth, the seasons, the feeling that everything is connected from the stars to the bugs. I’m part of the cycle, too and I can feel it in the high vibration of the food I eat whether it’s fresh and raw or preserved at the peak of freshness for future eating. It does require a lot of planning and effort during the growing season but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

September 30th, 2009 -- Posted in food, food storage, gardening, green living, Health, make it yourself, nature, nutrition, sustainability | 3 Comments »

The Cancer Project

After hearing about the recent passing of actor Patrick Swayze from pancreatic cancer, I wanted to pass along this link to a great website called The Cancer Project. It has lots of clinical research info on the disease but it mainly focuses on the details about how a correct diet can help you to prevent cancer in the first place. There is also really great info for all the survivors to follow to never have it re-occur in your life again.

I know first hand about the insidiousness of pancreatic cancer since I watched helplessly as my father suffered and died from it within 4 months of being diagnosed. I was 22 at the time and it really rocked my world. When he first got sick, I was living on the other side of the planet on a kibbutz in Israel having a great time. I came home to be with him and researched as much as I could about cancer and the nutrition connection since I had just graduated from college with a degree in nutrition. This was before the convenience of the internet so I relied on textbooks, alternative health magazines, the library and talking with various doctors like I was a reporter.  No one really had the answers I was looking for.

The only book in print on the subject of cancer at the time was a recent book by Dr. Bernie Siegel called “Love, Medicine and Miracles.” It explained the mind/body connection and visualizing cancer cells being destroyed as well as the concept that “Love Heals.” Such a wise doctor he is!

I think the power of the mind over the body is second to none but when people are in a deep state of fear and wondering if they will live, it is difficult to keep the focus needed to apply these techniques. My father and I both read the book and he applied the techniques only to have various doctors at the time shoot down the idea when he mentioned that he was visualizing his cancer cells being eaten by Pac Man (remember that video game?).  I can’t tell you what choice words I had for the docs (and others) who made him doubt what he was doing! So frustrating!

I would have LOVED a site like the Cancer Project (or a publication since this was pre-internet) so he could have looked at cold, hard facts and real techniques to apply to help himself heal along with using visualization. Sadly, there is no real recovery from this particular glandular cancer still to this day.

The key here, then, is PREVENTION.  For pancreatic cancer in particular, the major studies that have come out on this disease show that smoking cigarettes, alcohol consumption, having diabetes, eating red meat – especially cooked well done (the way my Dad liked it), eating cow dairy products, obesity and even some genetic factors all greatly enhance your chances of developing this disease. Cruciferous veggies such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts as well as other fruits and veggies consumed daily help to greatly decrease your chances of developing pancreatic cancer.

Daily consumption of fruits and vegetables has been shown to lower risks of developing all types of cancer. It really boils down to simple facts when you read the studies: diet, exercise, your stress level, your daily thoughts, words and actions all add up to how likely you will be to develop a disease like this.

I for one am grateful for the info. Now I know what to avoid and what to expand in my daily life to stay happy and healthy and never suffer the same terrible fate my father, Patrick Swayze and many others did.

September 22nd, 2009 -- Posted in food, Health, nutrition | No Comments »