Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Over The River...

After all the excitement of Halloween and all the Halloween movies and songs and poems,  before all the Christmas decorations, movies and songs,  there is a little know holiday of Thanksgiving.  It borrows most of it's decorations from the generic "Fall" category with the exception of adding Turkeys and cornucopias.  It only recently got a big movie--Charlie Brown being the only one prior.  It only has one song I can think of--Over The River and Through The Woods, which I believe is actually based on a poem by the same name.  I'm very loyal to Thanksgiving, not allowing myself to listen to Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving and not putting up any Christmas decorations until Thanksgiving is over.  I feel it deserves that kind of respect, being that it is it's own holiday.  Maybe it's because my birthday is so close to Valentine's day and I understand how being connected, if only by proximity, to a bigger holiday kind of overshadows you.  So tomorrow is the big day.  In years past I've made the big meal and hosted at my house.  It was fun and made it seem a little more eventful than just driving to someone else's house, eating, then going home.  This year we're driving to Cleveland to Uncle Rob and Uncle Steve's new house for Thanksgiving.  I'm taking my traditional pumpkin pie made from a fresh pumpkin, which is a good thing to bring in the car on a longish trip.  We're all excited to see  the new place so it makes this Thanksgiving a little extra special.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Baby O Designs

I went to a Quarter Auction this weekend to benefit my kids' school.  It was a lot of fun and I got out of the house--always a plus.  The best part was I found this great new business-Baby O Designs.  The owner had a table at the auction, and her son, the "O" of baby O, was there as well.  I know him from Ellie's class and when I went over to say hi to him I was absorbed with his Mom's products.  She makes all kinds of unique items for babies, toddlers and kids.  Her website has examples of things she makes, but she'll also do custom products.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Vegetarianism: A How-To Guide

Vince's preschool teacher was asking him if he ate meat (I'm assuming it was in reference to the Thanksgiving Feast they're planning for next week.)   She knows that I don't eat meat and I was so impressed that she thought to ask him if he did.  He does, but isn't really sure about it.  He's always asking, "Is this animal?" when I make steak for Evan and he gives Vince some.  He gets mad sometimes and tells me to stop making animal.  I'm not really sure how to approach this with him.  With Caden, I opted for the shock method--explaining exactly where the food came from and the process it goes through to get to your plate.  He quit eating meat for a few months in Kindergarten, but decided to  it wasn't for him.  It was the pepperoni that did him in.  Anyway, I started talking to Vince's teacher, Stephanie, about meat.  She said her family doesn't eat much meat anymore, just chicken.  She said they've discussed becoming vegetarians but are worried about--can you guess??---protein.  I was impressed that she was concerned about the soy content in "fake" meats which is a good thing to worry about--when you eat a lot of it.  So, I've decided to talk about how to transition to a vegetarian diet--again.  I know lots of people like the idea and would like to try it, but don't really know HOW.  I also know people who would like to incorporate MORE meat into their diets, but are limited by the number of meals in a day. Steak just doesn't lend itself to a snack.  So here goes:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My Brain's A Mess--Focus

I've been horrible about blogging lately.  It's on my to do list every day, and it just seems to get pushed to the bottom.  I feel like when I do blog it's kind of random and not very green, which is, after all, the whole point of writing the blog.  So in the midst of thinking about this move and renovating the new house and functioning on a day to day basis with my four kids, I'm having a hard time keeping a little place in my mind to stay focused on my greening mission.  When I get overwhelmed, I do two things.  First, I follow the directions on my wall.  Pause, relax, breathe.  Then I quote my mother's adage that she always said to me when I was younger, "One thing done and that done well, is a very good thing as many can tell."  So since I'm losing my focus on living a greener life (I DID almost buy the book Raising Goats on my last trip to Lowe's.  Now THAT's living green!) I'm going to pick one thing, and do that well.  I always focus on food and cleaning so I'm going to pick something a little different this time.  Since it's Thanksgiving, the time of year for being thankful for what we have, I thought I'd keep that in mind when trying to be greener.  Reduce, REUSE, Recycle.  I'm going to look at reusing in our home.  Now comes the list.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Snow Day!

It started last night.  I could see the flakes floating down in the glow of the street light outside my house.    This morning it covered the ground, blanketed the rooftops and defined all the tree branches with a white outline.  The first snow of the season.  I love it so much!  There's something so magical about the first snowfall.  It's like and old friend you haven't seen in months.  Of course by the time spring rolls around you're exceedingly sick of that old friend, but in November there's nothing like big fluffy flakes, soup for dinner and a cup of tea (or a Gingerbread Latte because by the time the snow falls I'm sick of Pumpkin Spice!).

Vince has already been outside.  Being the little brother, he's never without a hand-me-down winter coat and boots so he was all ready to play in the snow--except for the snow pants.  Not sure what happened to Caden's old pair, but since he's a GIANT he was able to wear Ellie's.  Let me tell you--my kid was looking GOOD in his orange coat, pink snow pants and red boots!  Olivia was content to stay inside, which is good since she doesn't go out unless I go out and as much as I love the first snow, I love to watch it from inside, not outside.  Jack was my wild card.  He was born in March in Alabama, then came to Ohio at the end of April so I was pretty sure he'd never seen snow before.  With his short coat I was afraid he'd hate it, but I was so WRONG!  He ran like a wild man out there!  Around and around the yard, leaping and bouncing.  It made my morning (and Olivia's too- she LOVES "Jack-Jack") to watch my little boys having so much fun in the snow.

The best part about this first hit of cold is that I get to use my new furnace.  It still smells a little new, like the first time you turn it on after it's been off for awhile.  I'm excited to see how my gas bills change  this winter with the newer, more efficient furnace.  Of course, we won't be finishing the winter here at this house, but that will be interesting too, since our new house is a different kind of heating altogether--steam.  I've heard that steam is the most efficient heat and I'm excited to see if that's true.

So if you're in my neighborhood, enjoy the snow, if you're in LA, for example ( :) Cecilie!) You'll have to make do with a picture.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Recipe Friday: Pumpkin Seeds

I thought for SURE I had posted this before, but I don't think I have.  I think one of my favorite fall foods is pumpkin.  I LOVE roasted squash and pumpkin seeds are SO GOOD!  It's such a pain to clean all the pumpkin goop off of them, but they're so yummy it's worth the work.  I think they almost taste BETTER because they ARE so much work.  I never remember how to roast them so every year I have to look it up.  It's really easy, but that oven temp stumps me every time!  So here it is, in case you're also searching for that same recipe.  And once you get the seeds out, roast the pumpkin and puree it--you're halfway to pumpkin pie--my SECOND favorite fall food!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Life Moves Pretty Fast...

If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.  Ahh, truer words were never spoken, Ferris Bueller!  And life has been moving SUPER fast at our house!  Just when I had given up the house hunt and started planning an trip to Disney World that we'll never take, a house found us.  So, hoping that it works for more than houses, I'm officially announcing I'm done looking for jeans that fit and socks that Ellie will wear.  Anyway, back to the house.  It's going to be a big move.  We're not going far, but out of our current school district (anyone looking for a 3 bedroom ranch in Plain, let me know!)  and a very different KIND of house.  We're all very excited, but also a little sad.  This is the only house the kids have known and it's a very foreign concept for Vince.  He's not really sure about the whole thing.  He was asking if the movers were going to take our whole house over to the new place.  Caden doesn't like the new house because it doesn't have anything in it.  Ellie wants a bedroom because it's purple.  I've tried to explain to them that it will look VERY different (we're doing a LOT of work to it before we move in.) when we live in it, but I don't think they understand.  I get that.  It's hard for me to picture us there too now.

So the green part of it all is that I get to try my hand at greening our moving process.  I'm excited by this challenge.  I've been getting worse and worse about living a green life.  I've slide back to eating less and less organic food, primarily to cut grocery costs, and I've started to alternate between my green cleaning products (still using that vinegar and baking soda though) also to cut costs.  So this will be a good opportunity for me to use all that info I have floating around in my head about off-gassing, carpets, paints, new furniture (hopefully we don't have too get much of THAT!) and all the other building dust and grime that will be coming into our house as we prepare it for the Big Move.  Not to mention the cleaners that will undoubtedly be needed to get it tidied up.  I love vinegar and baking soda, but some jobs call for more.  There's a great book that I read a long time ago, about greener cleaning.  It has how to clean EVERYTHING using greener methods.  Our new house had TONS of mahogany in it and I need to find a good, non-toxic way to keep it looking good.  Ahh!  It's overwhelming just thinking about it!  But the good news is that The Big Move is a few months away still. I like that I have time to plan-slowly.  It takes me time to adjust to change this big.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Recipe Friday: Coconut Rice

In honor of Family Fun Night last night, which was at the kids' school and had a Hawaiian theme, today's recipe is Coconut Rice, from The Bride And Groom: First and Forever Cookbook.  I love it and so did Olivia.  Ellie gave it a thumbs up, but didn't eat a ton.  Evan's not a huge fan, but he doesn't really like sweets too much either, so I don't really hold his opinion too highly.  Anyone that says, "No thanks."  when offered dessert can't be trusted.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Warm Paws

I was at the library today, being green and borrowing books an DVDs instead of buying them.  While I was there a poster caught my eye and I thought it would be something good to share.  I'm a dog person.  This is a well established fact.  So when I see that my neighbors have a dog tied outside ALL THE TIME.  It concerns me.  And the kids.  Every time we walk by that house on our nightly walk they ask about the dog.  They can't seem to wrap their minds around keeping the dog outside.  I noticed yesterday that our neighbors have made a shoddy lean-to for the dog--not going to do much good as the  weather gets colder.  So when I saw this flyer, it made me think about my poor neighbor dog.  It's a program called Warm Paws Dog House Building.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Kale Chips: A Big Win!

Monday was Vegetable Day for Vince's preschool, where every child brings in a veggie to share.  I knew that there would be carrots, celery, bell peppers, all the "normal" veggies. I thought I'd send in some Kale chips for the kids to try.  So out to the garden I went, cut a few leaves of kale, rinsed them, tore them into bite sized pieces, put them on a baking sheet, sprayed with olive oil and sprinkled on some Seasoned Salt.  I baked them fro about 7 minutes at 350 and poof!  Veggie Day taken care of for Vince, and bonus lunch veggie to pack for Ellie.  I told you I've been giving my friend Stacy tastes of the healthy, vegetarian foods I cook as a "Fear Factor" kind of taste test.  Since I was sending some for Ellie, I sent her a quick text to let her know to try them.  And what do you know?!?!  Not only did they go over pretty well in preschool (so I heard) but I got a text back from Stacy that they were yummy.  YUMMY!  Not "ok", "or "edible" or "not entirely disgusting".  YUMMY.  So, since they were such a hit yesterday, I thought I'd blog, yet again, about how great kale is for you.  I have it growing outside and I go on kicks where I eat a ton of it.  I always feel great, but then I slowly stop and go awhile without my daily kale.  So this is a way to remind myself how important eating this leafy green is.  It's truly a "super food."

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Scary Seven

You've heard of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen.  Now there's the Scary Seven.  And just in time for Halloween!  I got an email from Healthy Child Healthy World about seven ingredients to watch out for as you're shopping.  It was in relation to school lunches, but these guys are in EVERYTHING.  You can go to the website for an elaborated description of each, but here's the basic list.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Recipe Friday: Baked Vegetable Rice

I blogged this recipe in July 2011, but after I made if for dinner last night and watched Vince eat all of his, then scavenge what was left off of everyone else's plate I thought it was worth a repost.  I've taken it quite a few times to pot lucks and it generally goes over really well.  It's a great way to get rice and lentils as well as veggies and even greens--a great all in one meal.  Vince agrees.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Suddenly My Mums Don't Seem So Cool

My mom sent me this link yesterday.  I'm always blogging about my gardening, but this is AMAZING!    The link I'm posting is to her blog, but if you scroll down you can check out the pictures.  They're from The Montreal Mosiaculture Exhibition.  They're sculptures made out of plants.  Some of them are 20 feet tall!  All of them are amazing!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Green Halloween

I've blogged about this before, but since it's seasonal, I thought I'd mention it again.  It's the Green Halloween movement.  As you might think from the name, it's a movement to green the Halloween holiday.  From their website, here are some of their ideas to green your Halloween:

25 Green Halloweentips
Halloween is meant to be enjoyed, but somewhere in between ―planning‖ and ―cleanup,‖ many parents find themselves feeling overwhelmed. It might seem that attempting to consider the Earth while planning a great ghoulish party is just too much work and way too expensive. Some fear it might even zap the fun right out of the day. But creating an eco-savvy Halloween doesn‘t have to be scary, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg when you follow these pointers:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Kicking Up Leaves

As we were taking our nightly family walk--now complete with a lighted leash, 3 kids with headlamps and a glowing flashlight--I could hear the "crunch, crunch" of the leaves.  I turned to my left and little Ellie is scuffing along-kicking up leaves.  Then it was in my head.  So I'll share it with you, so that the next time you're outside and hear the "crunch, crunch" you can enjoy it too.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Home Is...

Home.  It's not a place.  It's a thing.  I'm finally beginning to realize that.  We've been looking at houses recently.  Our current house is a little too small.  It only has 3 bedrooms and we have 6 people.  We love to have family to our house, but we don't have a dining room to entertain.  Our play room is seeping into the family room.  You saw the basement pictures last week.  We're starting to outgrow this house. So we were looking at new houses.  Some had more bedrooms, some had more bathrooms, some had more living space, some had LESS living space.  I tried to picture our family living in each of these houses, but not a single one was HOME.  Home is something you can't really BUY.  I can buy another house.  A bigger house.  A better house.  But I can't buy another HOME.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Recipe Friday: HoneyCrisp Apples

I blogged about these guys before, but I just wanted to remind you about Honey Crisp apples.  They are THE BEST!  So sweet, great texture we love them!  I could give you ways to cook them, but they're so good just alone that I didn't want to do that.  So I'm going to do a variation of my favorite magazine, Vegetarian Times, monthly feature One Food Five Ways and give you five ways to enjoy this awesome fall treat.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Inner Harvest--AKA LIST MAKING!!!!

OK, I'm almost done with the Celebrating Fall list.  Exciting and sad at the same time.  I DO love to cross things off of a list... So, 1-4 are done and 6-10 are done.  That leaves #5 Make A List Of Your Inner Harvest and #11 Honor Your Ancestors.  So today, I'm going to make a list of my inner harvest-a cheesy way to say list your achievements and experiences from the past year.  The goal is to help you appreciate and restore gratitude for what you have and what you've done.  This is hard for me.  I don't focus on the positive well.  If you asked for a list of how I needed to improve, I keep that in my back pocket.  But a list of things I've done well--I don't really think about that too much.  So I guess this is a good exercise for me.  I'd like to come up with 10, but I think 5 is a little more realistic.  SO, here's my list of 5 things I did well in the past year.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Apple Orchard

Doing the maze all by herself
I think I mentioned that we went to the apple orchard, but I never actually blogged about the whole trip.     October is always so busy, that I like to get the fall season started with an apple orchard trip in September.  This is, of course, not the best time for apples, as a lot of them aren't ready until October or November, but it's warm enough and there are enough varieties to still make it a fun day.  We went to Arrowhead Orchard again this year.  We went last year and it was during their 50th Anniversary celebration.  Miss Olivia was wearing her apple hat and got her picture in the paper.  This year we weren't celebrities, but we had more fun (no rain this year!)  I like Arrowhead for a few reasons, first, it's much closer than Beckwith's Orchard, which we went to for a few years.  Second, it's become much more "touristy" and has a corn maze, train ride, hay bale mountain and play area as well as a hay ride thorough the apple orchard to see the orchard, bee hives and stops at the pumpkin patch where the kids can pick a pumpkin.  I also like them because they supply Plain Local Schools (our school district) with apples for their lunch and breakfast programs.  It's cool to see exactly where you food comes from before it ends up on your tray--beside other items that are more processed.  I like supporting a farm that supports local produce in my kids' school.
Ellie and Vince on the train ride (it went through the corn maze)

Caden won't admit it, but he had fun.  Ellie and Vince WILL admit it, they had fun.  And even Olivia had a good time.  She did the kiddie hay bale maze all by herself!  I think the only one that didn't have fun was poor Nana--we made her pay for everything!  (Despite that, Nana had fun.  She ended up with cider--how can THAT not be fun?!?!)
Olivia, Caden and I on the hayride--beautiful blue September sky

I love going to the apple orchard.  It's such a great FALL activity.  I like being outside with the kids, unplugged from all devices, and watching them play.  
The boys.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Being Creative

Yesterday I said I was going to blog about Being Creative--another item on my Celebrating Autumn list.  I know that was I did doesn't actually count as creativity- some would argue it's the opposite- but it's crafty and doing a craft was on the list.  Making something (like my applesauce from Friday) was also on the list so I figure I covered this one on a few levels.  As I mentioned before, I went to Target and got a few activities to do with the kids.  I bought each big kid a foam craft to do and a packet of luminaries.  When they got home from school I showed them what I got and Ellie was on it faster than you can say Boo (or Whoo or Eek, depending on which craft you want to talk about.)  I had to force Caden to do his, but I think he kind of had fun.  Vince liked his too.  Ellie was by far the most enthusiastic, but that was to be expected.  She did the luminaries almost totally alone, Vince may have been allowed to do one.  They were all really easy kits, just

Monday, October 7, 2013

Turning My Home Into A Haven

I'm having so much fun doing all the items that I found on the "How To Celebrate the Autumn Equinox" page that I found!  Of the 11 items, I've done 7 already.  This weekend I completed #9 Turn Your Home Into A Haven.  When I first read this one, I immediately thought of two areas of my house in which this could apply.  First, my downstairs bathroom.  We have done nothing with it since we moved in.  We rarely use it, but now we're starting to send the boys downstairs to shower at night.  So, I thought it might be fun to decorate it.  I don't want to do much, just a few things on the walls, a new bath mat and some fresh towels.  The other option was to clean the unfinished side of our basement.  That's where I do laundry and where we store all of our decorations, kitchen appliances that we don't use regularly (the griddle) and all kinds of other stuff that never found a home anywhere else.  It was cleaned out the summer we lost Meg and got the laundry chute, but that was before Olivia was born.  It was overdue. It was beyond messy.  Let's just say you couldn't walk from one end to the other in a straight line.  Of the two I was all set to do the bathroom.  That one was fun.  I got to go shopping and get some cute things and be a little creative with making the boring bathroom into a boys bathroom.  Then we looked at a house.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Recipe Friday: Applesauce

Last weekend we went to the apple orchard and I got TONS of apples.  I'm finally getting around to making applesauce (and apple pie is soon to come).  I thought it would be a great recipe to share because it's so easy, and it's a great fall activity.  So here are the basics:


Apple Cider

Peel, core and slice the apples.  This is a cinch if you have an apple peeler/corer/slicer like this one.  I

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Getting Crafty

One of the things on my "Celebrate Fall To Do List" is to craft fall.  I got an email from The Honest Company and they had a link to their Pinterest page.  SUCH CUTE ideas!  Check it out!  I think I'm going to pick one to do on Halloween.  I always feel like Halloween is a bust.  Canton does trick or treat the Sunday afternoon before Halloween (Lame, Canton.  Really Lame.)  So the actual day is really pretty blah.  Usually the kids have school and it's just another

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The PSA Post

I intended to do this post Monday, but time got away from me--imagine that!  It's just a quick Public Service Announcement on two things.  One green and one not quite so green, but still a little relevant.  First, I got an email from AEP about replacing your "energy-hog" refrigerator  or freezer.  There're offering a $60 bonus to replace with a more energy efficient one.  Here's the actual email:

October is an ideal time to learn about saving energy during the nation's Energy Awareness Month. But this year, AEP Ohio is offering something extra when you recycle your old refrigerator or freezer - a special $60 incentive.
Starting October 1st and lasting through December 24th, AEP Ohio has raised the incentive from the normal $50 to $60 for customers who sign up to have their outdated, energy-wasting refrigerators or freezers picked up and hauled to a recycling plant.
If the temporary increase isn't enough, recycling refrigerators and freezers alone creates many benefits such as saving $150 a year on electrical costs, and keeping CO2 from the environment. 
Signing up is just a click away!

The second PSA isn't really for the public.  It's for Penelope.  I tweeted about her yesterday, but I want to put her on here as well because I really want

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's October First!

It's finally here!  I've been thinking about it all day, and I think October first is my favorite day of the year.  It's better than a birthday, better than Christmas or Easter, better than the first day of summer.  It's all about beginnings, not like Christmas, which I always feel is kind of a let-down because there's so much prep and anticipation that when it's here, it always just feels like it's slipping away.  Easter's a bust because the best part is over minutes after we wake up.  But October first means fall, decorations, and the beginning of Halloween.  (October first is WAY better than Halloween.  Halloween is just usually the day I can't wait to be over so I can take the decorations down because I'm sick of them after a month.)  So I'm all decorated, (well, mostly.  I ran out of tape so I still have a few little things to put up) and the kids are all excited.  Hazel visited us this morning (The older kids INSIST it's Mom, but she continues to try to deny it.)
Everyone in their October First Outfits. Caden says he doesn't smile that much.

Olivia's October First Outfit

The Classy Corner.  My sister made me the Halloween sign this year.  Thanks  Jen!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Recipe Friday: 3 Bean Chili

You may not know this, but Tuesday is a very special holiday.  Tuesday is October First and it is the OFFICIAL start of the Halloween season.  On October first you may begin putting up your Halloween decorations and wearing your Halloween clothes (if you have decorations up, you need to get them down ASAP and if you don't have a Halloween outfit you need to really get on that this weekend.)  This is the legacy my mother has left me.  We used to be the only Halloween crazies when I grew up, but now everyone is catching on to the fact that Halloween is The Best.  If there's one dish that says Halloween to me, it's chili.  This is because my mom always made chili when we went trick or treating.  My grandparents would come over.  My grandpa and my step-dad would sit in the driveway and pass out candy to the 100+ kids that came over.  My mom and my grandma would be inside doing "mom stuff" and we would go trick or treating.  When we came home we would always have a warm bowl of chili waiting for us.  So, in continuing with the tradition, every October first I make chili.  Now that I don't eat meat it's become a little more of a challenge, but I found this recipe from Dr. Sears and it's pretty good!  It's not mom's but some traditions can use a little tweaking.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Quick Post: Finger Foods

I'm having a hectic day today so just a quick thought for today.  I read at that you could coat finger foods that are a "gross" texture (bananas, peaches, plums, etc) with wheat germ.  I did this for Olivia and it was AWESOME!  Not only is it much cleaner (easier for them to pick up and less dropping and smashing) but it's also a bonus serving of whole grains!  I LOVE this!  I tried it myself to see how it changed the taste of the food and

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Get Into the Garden

Garden of weeden
As I continue on my path of fall celebration I'm tackling #10 Get Into Your Garden.  Sunday is typically my gardening day.  I weed, harvest and freeze any tomatoes or green beans that we're not going to be able to eat right away.  This past Sunday I ripped out a lot from the garden that's done producing leaving not a whole lot left except an eggplant plant, a few pepper plants, a fading tomato plant that still had a few green guys on it and of course, the kale.  My raised bed is a hot mess with weeds and dead plants.  I'm going to work on tilling it under and working in some compost.  I'm planning to pretty much just leave my other garden and have Evan put some mulched leaves on it when he starts mowing them.  I'm also going to make mental notes (actually I'll probably make another blog on that) about what I want to plant again next year and what I want to forget about.  Right now I can say I'm done with the watermelon and cantaloupe.  Two years of baseball sized
watermelons tells me

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Celebrating Fall

Yesterday I found 11 ways to celebrate fall and decided to try to do as many as I can to fully enjoy and appreciate my favorite season.  So, today,  while doing #8 on the list (Seek to improve your health) on the elliptical at the Y while Vince is at swimming,  I decided to work on #7 Contemplate.  I'm supposed to think about the ways I've neglected my inner growth over the past year and how to fix it.  I feel like I really HAVE neglected my inner growth over the year, especially this summer.  I felt like this summer I was  constantly in survival mode with all the kids home and getting Jack.  Now that the kids are back in school and Vince has started preschool and is back at his Y activities,

Monday, September 23, 2013

OFFICIALLY Officially Fall

Welcome Fall!  The kids are back in school.  The weather is turning colder.  We went to Yankee Peddler.  Pumpkin Spice Late is back at Starbucks.  All of these things mean that it's fall, but it's not OFFICIALLY fall until the Autumnal Equinox.  For those of you that don't know, the Autumnal Equinox is the day in the earth's revolution when my mother and her "friends" dress in black hats and dance around a fire in the forest. Also when the sun is in line with the Earth's equator and the days and nights are equal in length.  

If you noticed, a few nights ago we had a beautiful full moon.  It was the Harvest Moon, so named because, "Before artificial lighting, farmers took advantage of the full moon's light to harvest their crops. In late summer and early autumn, many crops ripen all at once, making lots of work for farmers who had to stay in the fields after sundown to harvest all the goods. Such moonlight became essential to their harvest, and the Harvest Moon emerged, according to NASA."

I've said before, I love autumn.  I'm not sure what it is about the cooler weather and the changing leaves, but it's easily my favorite season.  Evan loves it too, but for different reasons.  (Football).  I love Halloween, of course, but just the whole fall season, hearty soups and stews, winter squash dishes, baked breads and warm cider (cold cider too for that matter!) makes me was to celebrate fall, simply just as a season.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Recipe Friday: Baked Ziti

Evan's not a huge fan of meatless dishes.  Even spaghetti he thinks should have meatballs or meat sauce.  He's also not a huge fan of things that are home-made and "should" be store bought (bread, tomato sauce, NATURAL PEANUT BUTTER).  So when he sampled this dish right out of the oven and exclaimed, "It's GOOD!", tasted more, and said, "No, it's really good!"  I knew I had to share this recipe.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bonus recipe: ricotta veggie dip

I had two great recipes that I tried this week and I wanted to share them both.  They're both from the Weelicious book-- can you guess what I used for menu planning this week?  Today I'll give you the snack and tomorrow the entree.  This dip was SUPER good.  We used pita chips but you could use veggies as well.  Vince was a huge fan!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Four Years!

Happy Birthday to my little guy, who's actually not so little anymore!  Four Years Old Today!  He's only marginally excited.  He was excited to open his presents, and show them to his friends at school, but other than that, birthdays are still a little too abstract.  I think the fact that his birthday party is this weekend and today is his actual birthday is a little confusing.  I know it always really messed the other kids up.  But he's pleased today.  I wished him a happy birthday and he wished me a happy birthday too.  I had forgotten about that.  So we went over the proper social norm for the "Happy Birthday" exchange and we practiced it once before I sent him into his classroom.  "Happy Birthday, Vince."  "Hap--Thank you!"  I'm hoping he'll remember the rest of the day.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

This Year It Was For The Kids

Ever since I moved back to Canton in 2006, my mom and I have gone to the Yankee Peddler Festival in Canal Fulton.  I know I blogged about it last year, likening it to how it would have been greener to live in Colonial times, but this year I'm just basically doing an ad.  My mom and I used to go and look at all the exhibitors booths, looking for Christmas presents, hoping to find a unique, hand-crafted gift for those on our list that wouldn't like something from a toy store.  We'd slowly walk from booth to book admiring, and let's be honest, rolling our eyes, at what each vendor had to offer.  My mom says that it's not truly fall until we've gone to Yankee Peddler.  I agree.  It really feels like the beginning of fall and all the fun that comes with it.  However, this year, it was for the kids.
Ellie and Vince couldn't WAIT to go!  Olivia was mildly amused, as usual, and Caden backed out at the last minutes, which worked well for Evan that used him to help with yard work (bet Caden was kicking himself when he was picking up dog poop!).  They are finally old enough to remember last year.  So this year we went to Yankee Peddler, not to admire craftsman, not to experience a Colonial village, not to walk around in the woods and experience the first tiny bit of fall in northeast Ohio.  No, this year we went to Yankee Peddler to get faces painted, American Girl doll clothes, lemonades and most importantly, see the butterfly house and get a chrysalis.  We DID happen to look at a few exhibitors booths.  I went to my Olfactory Patch and got an oil to refresh the potpourri I bought last year, Mom got to look at rag rugs and dried flowers and of course the kids went crazy in the candle tent.  Like, it was a toy store crazy.  It was kind of weird and a little alarming that they both were grabbing at the glass jars faster than I could help them.  (I have to admit, the beer candle really did smell like beer!)
It was a different kind of YP trip than in years past.  But it was ok.  Mom and I both enjoyed watching THEM enjoy YP.  We've seen all the booths, and pretty much know what they have to offer, we've kind of exhausted the gift ideas, but it WAS fun to see how much fun the kids had watching the Redcoats fire the muskets, or stopping to watch the street magician and the puppet show.  On one of our MANY visits to the port-a-potties I realized there's a difference between doing things FOR the kids and WITH the kids.  In the past, we've gone to YP WITH the kids.  This year we went FOR them.  Next year, I'm sure, too.  As we were leaving, giant bag of kettle corn in hand, a gust of wind blew the leaves from an overhanging tree.  "It's raining leaves!"  Ellie yelled, as she ran ahead, with outstretched arms and twirled around in circles as the leaves rained down around her.  Yep, it's officially fall.
Mardi Gras Ellie
Watching the puppet show
With a butterfly at the butterfly house--notice the face paint on his shirt.
In the stockade.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ending on a Positive

If you live in the plain Township area you really should come sit in my neighborhood around 7:00 pm, or as we call it family walk time.  It's really quite a specitcal.  There's Caden, running way ahead of us, Ellie wandering out into the middle of the road while she's playing with some little stick or lead she's found along he way, Vince lagging behind carrying an action figure and whining that his legs are tired or he wants to go down "his" hill.  There's Evan walking Jack, the whole reason for our walks, and me pushing Olivia, who may it may not be awake, in the stroller.  That's the visual.  What you hear is constant corrections from Evan and I. "Caden, slow down and wait for us!"  "Ellie, get out of the middle of the road!"  "Vince, come on.  We're GOING to go down your hill."  Repeat for the duration of the walk.  When we get home it's even more craziness while we try to get all the kids showered and in bed and wrangle a wild puppy who's trying to get into everything.  There's a lot of yelling and nagging.  Evan and I yell and nag as well.  It's unpleasant.  I don't like it and I've started following Gandhi's advice "Be the change you want to see in the world" (Which, while googling, I found he may never have really said.).  So I'm going to change our bedtime routine.  I'm going to do it

Friday, September 13, 2013

Recipe Friday: Sauerkraut

As I said, I'm back to the YMCA.  Back to the Y means back to exercise, but also back to reading.  I'm embarrassed to admit, but I'm still working on Michael Pollan's book Cooked.  I read so much at the beginning of the year that for awhile I was thinking about trying to read 100 books in a year...and I think I could have done it if I'd kept up at that pace, but then Olivia started to nurse less and my reading time decreased.  Yes, I'm blaming my toddler for my lack of reading.  Mother of the year.  ANYWAY, I'm on the "Earth" section of his book where he talks about cultures.  I really recommend the book, I've found it to be really interesting.  I'm loving this section on microbes.  (Did I really type that?!?)  It's a big part of our food and our culture, but we don't really talk about it.  We're so afraid of bugs and try to kill everything off, that we don't think about the good bugs.  Yogurts are currently

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Triclosan Article

I got this from Evan yesterday.  Every once in awhile he does something that makes me think he doesn't totally think I'm a crazy hippie.  This is an article about how Proctor and Gamble is going to remove the harmful antibacterial chemical Triclosan from some of their products. They plan to phase it out of their products by 2014 but as of now there is no plan to remove it from Colgate Total toothpaste.  Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical that

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

H.U.M.A.N. Vending Machines

I started back at the YMCA yesterday.  It feels like forever since I've been there!  Vince is back in swimming and Art Gym Swim class so every Tuesday and Thursday I'm back to working out.  I'm excited!  While I was there, I noticed that they've changed their vending machines.  They now have H.U.M.A.N (Helping Unite Mankind and Nutrition) healthy vending machines.  Not only are the items in the machine healthy (no candy bars) they also donate 10% of their profits to charities that

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Welcome Home

I want to blog about the beach again.  I want to actually BE at the beach again.   But I'm not.  I'm home.  Yesterday was Vince's first day of pre-school and because it is a cooperative school, I was the parent helper for the day.  I love being in the classroom and getting to know the kids.  I just generally like being around them because I think they're funny. Vince's teacher was introducing me to the class and she said Vince's last name.  "If that's Vince's last name his mom is Mrs..."  I looked at his best friend, Blake, and said, "Come on Blake!  You know this!" and one of the other kids yells out "Mrs. Youknowthis!!!"

He was excited about school, just not about his brother using him as an armrest.
Again, he was excited, just refused to do a normal smile!
To balance out the fun we also come home to a leaking hot water tank and a broken washer. Yesterday comprised of a lot of waiting for "guys" to come.  Thanks to my dad, we now have a new hot water tank and we're in the process of searching for a new washer.  I do a lot of laundry and really beat up my washer (as proven by the short life of the last one) so I need something that's heavy duty, large capacity, and of course green.  Most washers are energy star now, so it's not going to be that hard to choose a green one, but I still want to do some research and see what my best options are.  I went to Lehman's last night to look at some REAL green washers and I found a great $20 option--a washboard!  There were also some others that were MUCH more expensive, including a $900 one that I really looked at because it was about the same cost as a traditional washer.  Not the same.  I was trying to figure out why these were a better option when I realized they all had one thing in common--no electricity.  Ah, Amish.  I hate to admit it, but I think that's a little TOO green for me.  I'd LOVE to say that I jumped at the wash tub and the wringer, but I didn't.  I looked at the pile of laundry I brought home from vacation and thought otherwise.  Guess today will include a trip to Lowe's! Welcome back from vacation!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Back from the Beach

Last week we went to the Outer Banks.  I was going to blog about it, but realized it probably wasn't a good idea to announce on the web that I was going to be leaving my house unoccupied for a week when I've posted so much about where I live.  I blogged in my head a lot while I was there, but of course I've forgotten most of what that was.  So I'm just blogging about nature today.  My last morning at the beach I got up in time to see the sun rise over the ocean.  I don't really think I'm a

Friday, August 30, 2013

Recipe Friday: Rice "Pudding"

A few weeks ago I started a challenge to try to get myself to eat a more plant-based diet.  I started making a pot of rice and keeping it in the refrigerator so it was readily available for me to eat.  I did pretty well for a few weeks.  It was really convenient for Olivia since she eats such a small portion that it's not practical to make her a serving at each meal.  She loves rice and I'm glad she's eating it, but it's SO messy!  She gets it everywhere!  I've tried to roll it into balls (using a short grained rice) but she just crumbles them when she picks it up.  So for lunch the other day I thought about making a congee for her.  I added some rice milk to a few tablespoons of rice and put it in the microwave.  It didn't thicken like I had hoped

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Planet Box Lunch Box

Yet another post inspired by Weelicious!  This time it's a lunch box that I first heard about on the Weelicious site.  As I said, she posts her kid's lunches and she uses these lunch boxes.  They're not only green, but they're just more functional than a traditional lunch box.  I Googled Planet Box and found out that Pottery Barn Kids sells them now.  This should also be an indicator that they're not super cheap, but I think they'd be worth it if you have a kid that packs a lot.  The thing that's so cool about these lunch boxes is that they're

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mom Talk

I spend a lot of time with moms.  Almost all of my friends are moms.  I've noticed something about being a mom.  We talk about our kids.  A lot.  It's always weird for me when I find myself in a situation with strangers who aren't moms.  (Like the two weddings I went to last spring with Evan where I didn't know anyone.)  It's this odd sensation for me of not being what I am,

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Peggy O'Mara's New Site

A long time ago when I first started blogging, I posted about Mothering Magazine and how upset I was that they were going digital.  I LOVED that magazine! It's the reason I decided to give cloth diapering a try and was always really a great inspiration to keep living

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dragon fruit

I know I've been talking about Weelicious a lot, but this is only KIND of about that.  I follow Catherine McCord (the Weelicious lady) on Instagram and everyday she posts a picture of her kid's lunch.  A few weeks ago she had some dragon fruit in there and some people were commenting on it.  She, of course, got it at her farmer's market.  For some reason, the Canton farmer's market doesn't carry dragon fruit, and I just kind of wrote it off as an exotic California thing I'll probably never see.  Then I saw it at the Raisin Rack!  It was marked down, which leads me to believe that it didn't sell well and I probably won't find it there again, but I was so excited I bought it.  It wasn't until I got home that I realized I had just purchased a $5 piece of fruit that may not go over well and may go directly into the trash.
Dragon Fruit held by the Dragon Child
I had it for a few days before I was brave enough to cut the thing open and serve it for dinner.  I Googled how to cut it open and it was really a no-brainer.  You cut it in half and scoop our the flesh.  The weird thing was that on Instagram the fruit was pink and online it was white.  Luckily ours was pink too, which I thought would entice Ellie to try it.  It doesn't provide much fruit, but it gave each person a nice little taste.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Recipe Friday:Cold Sesame Soba Noodles

I LOVE this recipe!  It was really fast to make and it was just as good as leftovers as it was when I made it.  Great for lunches and as suggested by Catherine McCord (author of Weelicious the book, where I got this recipe!) a good idea for a potluck.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cry It Out

There are a million different parenting styles.  I've read quite a few books, pulled what I like best from each and tried them.  Of my 4 kids, all 4 have and are parented a little differently.  I know people that swear by BabyWise and do that with all their kids, or sear by Attachment Parenting and do THAT with all their kids,  but I'm kind of a hodge-podge, which is sometimes my downfall, I think.

I brought Olivia home from the hospital at midnight.  I was exhausted from labor and one night in the hospital and I had to have the other three kids up and dressed for the Hall Of Fame (aka Donut) parade the next morning at 7.  Instead of doing the fight to get Olivia to sleep in her pack and play I just put her in bed with me and nursed her to sleep.  And so it began. I knew what I was getting into when I did it, so I'm 100% at fault, but

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Just a Spoonful

The big kids got on the bus the morning and I can feel my blood pressure going down by the hour.  I forgot how much slower the pace is with only two kids and a napping puppy.  I was able to make myself lunch and actually sit down and eat it.  Slowly.  Then clean up lunch before 3 in the afternoon.
Olivia's lunch: Brown Rice, Green Beans from our garden, black beans with peppers, salsa and spices, butternut squash and kale, cabbage, rice, sesame saute.
I often send a text to my Standard American Diet-eating friend telling her what I'm eating as a joke.  She usually is kind of grossed out, not because she's trying to eat like I do.  The other day I asked if she wanted me to save her a bit of the dinner I made and she said yes, but

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Last Day of Vacation

I got a Google reminder today that the first day of school is tomorrow.  Thanks Google, I would have let that one slip by me if you hadn't reminded me.  It's not like I've been counting down the days for weeks.  Tomorrow it the day.  Last night we went to Meet the Teacher night, or as I like to call it, How Many People Can You Fit in a Room Without A/C.  My kids are both in blended classes this year, which I'm really excited about.  They are too.  I don't think they really get WHAT the blended class is, but I'm excited so they are too.  Ellie has Caden's old first grade teacher, so

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cesar's Way

Jack in his graduation cap when he graduated from puppy class.
I'm a dog person.  I realized just how much of a dog person I am when Evan and I were out walking with the kids and we would exchange glances and smiles and comments every time a dog passed.  Normal people react that way to babies.  Not us.  We're dog people.

I was blogging across devices and lost most of my post.  I don't have it in my to retype the whole thing so now you're just going to get the basics of the original post.  I read Cesar Milan's book, Cesar's Way. Good read.  Changed the way I think about dogs as pets.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Recipe Friday: Napa Cabbage Salad

This weekend I'm going to Columbus for a reunion of sorts.  My college roommate is going to be in town from LA and some of our sorority sisters are getting together.  A lot of these girls I haven't seen in 12 years!  We're having a cookout and each person is supposed to bring a dish to share.  Since I'm driving from Canton the night before, my options are limited.  Since my roommate is the one that gave me this recipe (It's  actually from her mom.  She forwarded me the email her mom sent her, I cut it out and put it in my recipe box.) I thought it appropriate to

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Turbo Post

Super fast post today!  Summer is winding down and I'm squeezing in every last bit of fun I can make my kids have.  Monday we DID end up going to Beech Creek Butterfly House!  LOVED IT!  All the kids had fun, which is very rare.  Caden even said he had fun, which is even more rare--

Friday, August 9, 2013

Recipe Friday: "Meatball" Subs

Last week we had "meatball" and meatball subs for dinner.  I've done this before, buying pre made meatballs and meatless balls, but this time I made both from scratch.  I hear the meatballs were good and I can attest that the meatless balls were good.  I froze the leftovers and will toss them in with the sauce next time we have pasta.  The meatballs were a Turkey Pesto recipe from Weelicious.  The recipe calls for traditional basil pesto, but I had some of that sun-dried tomato pesto left from when we did our pasta bar last week so I

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Beech Creek Butterfly Garden

As I said yesterday, the summer is quickly drawing to a close.  Even thought it doesn't seem like there are a lot of things my kids still want to do this summer, I do.  One of those things is to go to the butterfly house at Beech Creek Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve.  We went last year and it was a nice little trip.  It's in Alliance, so it's just long enough of a drive for us to be a little special, but not far enough to be "far".  It was very kid-friendly and even Caden, who would never admit it,

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sara Snow and an Avocado Shake

Just a quick post today.  My mom told me about Sara Snow and I thought I'd share her website with you.  I saw Sara on Jon and Kate Plus Eight a few years ago so I was familiar with her a little bit, but I was just checking out her website and found a few good links to

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How Do You Lose an Entire Season?

I feel like Rip Van Winkle. Except for the part about getting a lot of sleep.  I far from get a lot of sleep.  But nonetheless, I feel like I blinked and missed summer.  Remember all the things I talked about doing over the summer back in May?  I was going to go on all these hikes.  I was planning on spending lots of time at the pool.  We were going to go boating at the lake once a week.  I was going to practice school work with the kids every day to keep them in "school mode".  I did none of those things.  And summer's

Monday, August 5, 2013

Hybrid Diaper Review: gdiapers

I love cloth diapers.  Have I mentioned this before?    I love how I have so much less trash.  I love how I know what they're made of and I can feel confident knowing that my baby doesn't have mystery chemicals pressed up against his/her skin 24/7.  I love how cute they are!   I love trying different brands and styles.  I encourage every new mom to cloth diaper.  I've found it to be very rewarding.  I always feel like I might be messing up in other areas, but I really feel GOOD

Friday, August 2, 2013

Recipe Friday: Birthday Cake!

Last year at this time I was in labor.  I was really frustrated because I was supposed to be induced at 7 am, I thought for SURE my kids would be able to come and see the baby by lunch time, but Miss Olivia had other plans.  A year later that kid is STILL holding a grudge that we forced her out of the womb before she was good and ready and she wants to be in my arms at all times, day and night.  Yet another reason I'm mad I agreed to be induced.  So today I have a one year old and tomorrow I'm having a small first birthday party for our families at our house.

I decided to go with an Olivia theme (Ian Falconer's Olivia the pig) and I found super cute Olivia cupcakes on  Yesterday I baked the cupcakes, today I'm going to make the

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Post In Photos

Awhile back I said I was going to add more photos to my blog.  I have been negligent in that and I apologize.  I'm going to make up for it today.  

I blogged about my garden a lot awhile ago but I wanted to do an update.  So here it is, in pictures.
The kale is going crazy, with little help from me.  I need to remember to harvest it more frequently next summer so it doesn't get so wild.

The lettuce is salad ready.
The peas are done.  We had about two good weeks of harvest from them.  Next year I'm doing sugar snap instead of snow and the ones I had to shell.
The cucumbers did great but they look like they're winding down too.
Peppers are doing well, jalapeƱo, mild banana, and bells. 

I planted two Roma tomato plants and had no idea they grew and produced so much!! They came with a stake but it wasn't nearly enough.  I put a cafe around them but it was already too late.  Next year I'll know!  I don't like tomatoes but I'm peeling, dicing and freezing them to use in soups and chili all fall and winter.
The watermelon is doing really well!  There are lots of little guys growing but well have to see how many make it to he table.  Last year the kids were so excited they picked them too soon. 
Cantaloupe is doing really well too!  Last year we had two really good ones.  
Our first year with eggplant is going well!
 A few weeks ago I had more green beans than I knew what to do with (I froze them) but last week the crop was much smaller so I think we might be nearing the end of these as well.

I transplanted this sweet potato plant from the garden because it was too shaded.  This container is way too small but I'm hoping we get at least something small that Olivia can eat
Not really my garden but Ellie picked a flower mix seed packet and planted it in this container. 

My raised bed isn't doing so well.  I have a few butternut squash, but no pumpkins, spaghetti squash, zucchini or acorn squash.  The corn was infested with earwigs so we don't get to eat that and the habaneros are getting a slow start.
I did get get one crook neck squash.
 And he butternut.
At lead the corn looked good on the stalk as long as you do y want to eat it! 
Done gardening.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Challenge #1: Eat a Pot of Rice

Last night I tried the Sweet And Sour Eggplant (see last post) and it was pretty good! As I was putting it in my dish, I realized I really should have served it over rice.  Which made me think, I really should be eating more rice.  This comes, in part, from reading The Kind Life by Alicia Silverstone.  I skipped all the first chapters and jumped right to the middle part that talks about how to eat a more vegan diet.  I've always thought I'd like to be a vegan, but lacked the motivation and will power to do it.  Now that Olivia is starting to stop eating purees, I've been faced with the question of how to feed her.  I know that a vegan diet is best, but

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Diet

A friend of mine said she wanted to live at my house for a week to eat like I do.  Kind of like a cleanse.   We then discussed the options of calling "my" cleanse by my first name or my last name.  We decided that using my first name would probably be preferable to using my last since my last name *might* give the wrong impression about what one would be expected to eat. This got me thinking about what I eat.  I'm always thinking about what I eat and trying to eat better--who isn't?  I got Alicia Silverstone's book, The Kind Diet, at the library again and I'm trying to reread it to help inspire me again.  It's harder to read now that Olivia is starting to wean herself.  I used to be able to read for at least half and hour when I nursed her, now as soon as I pick up a book, she wants to check it out too.  Apparently someone else is also reexamining how she eats...

I'm also in the process of planning a menu for our vacation in September.  Clearly I'm excited.  I'll be cooking for the 6 of us, plus my brothers in law and my mother and father in law.  In an attempt to please the masses, I'm going to try to cook "normal"

Monday, July 29, 2013


Wow!  It's been a long time since I blogged!  I've thought about blogging, it's been on my to do list, but I haven't had a great topic or the time to really sit down.  I'm starting to think that getting a puppy right now wasn't such a great idea...

Yesterday I watched part of a movie that I thought was worth mentioning on here.  I would have watched the whole movie, but I was doing laundry and I had to go to a birthday party, but what I saw was very eye-opening.  It was a documentary film called Gasland.  Evan and I saw the filmmaker on a talk show and thought it looked like an

Monday, July 15, 2013

Natural Japanese Beetle Killer

Sunday is my garden day.  Yesterday I worked in my garden a LOT, but not weeding, like I usually do, harvesting!  I jammed my garden full of plants this year.  Last year I felt I had too much wasted space, you know, for actually being able to walk in the garden and get to the plants.  So this year I took care of that problem.  Now I can't walk in the garden, the peas are growing over the pepper plants, I can't even see what I've got growing in there and weed control is futile because I can't get in there to weed.  So I learned my lesson.  No being greedy next year.  Make paths.  So...harvesting.  I got SO MAY green beans!  I did a Google search and found how to freeze fresh beans and filled a gallon ziploc-with beans left over to eat fresh this week!  I'm going to have beans galore by the end of the summer!

As I was out digging in my garden to find my plants, I found something else that I didn't like.  A plastic softball.  Oh, and Japanese Beetles.  Not many, they're not a problem--yet.  I want to take care of it before it becomes a problem.  But I don't want to spray any toxic chemicals on my organic garden.  So what's an organic, kid and pet-safe way to kill Japanese Beetles?  I remember the bags that my grandma and my mom used to put out.  We used to dare each other as kids to squeeze the bag.  It was so gross!  If you read no farther, hear this--DON'T USE THE BAG!  It attracts and traps Japanese Beetles, but it attracts way more than would normally be in your garden, causing more harm than good.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Recipe Friday: Tofu Triangles and Asian Dipping Sauce

I found this recipe in a book I think I've mentioned before, the Whole Family Cookbook.  I've made it twice and I think I can say its my new favorite.  I've pressed tofu before, but the way this recipe instructs really works! The dipping sauce would be good with chicken too so this is a great recipe for a vegetarian/ omnivore family like mine.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Grizzly Ridge: Coming July 20th

Next week the Akron Zoo will open it's newest exhibit: Grizzly Ridge.  As you may have guessed from past posts, I'm a big fan of the Akron Zoo.  It's close, it's small and it's got great programs for kids.    Since we almost qualify for a group discount when out whole family goes to the zoo, it's more economical for us to get the zoo membership.  With that membership it the zoo newsletter, ZooTales.  This issue's focus was on Grizzly Ridge, but not just about the animals that will be featured (they have a really cool back-story on each animal that will be there.  (Sorry, Evan, none were found on dead litter mates.)) but also about the design of the exhibit itself.  The Akron zoo is working to make Grizzly Ridge LEED certified (like their other exhibit building, Komodo Kingdom.)  LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and it is a "distinction given to projects and buildings that exhibit the highest standards of sustainability and energy efficiency" according to ZooTales.  How will they do that?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Chop Chop Magazine

I could have sworn I'd posted about this before, but I did a search on my blog and it didn't turn up, so sorry if I'm repeating myself.  If this were a video blog you'd understand why I *might* not be on top of things all the time.

So Chop Chop magazine.  I heard about it on Twitter from Michael Pollan's tweet.  It's a healthy eating magazine targeted at kids.  I promptly forgot about it.  When I was at the library and noticed that they had copies to check out I was super excited!  I wasn't disappointed!  I was, however, surprised

Monday, July 8, 2013

Shut Up!

Those two little words changed my summer.  Let me back up.  My oldest child has a Minecraft addiction.   He plays Minecraft on the computer, while watching a YouTube video of someone else playing Minecraft on the iPad.  He talks about nothing but Minecraft and wears his two Minecraft shirts almost continuously.  Obsession.  Really unhealthy.  This weekend I came downstairs and found him crying in front of the computer because someone killed him when he was wearing his diamond armor.  (Not sure about what this means, but I think it's really hard to find diamonds and therefore probably took him a really long time to find enough to make the armor?)  That same day we were all going to run errands.  Evan called down for Caden to stop playing because we were leaving and Caden yelled, "Shut Up!" to him.  Of course, Evan apologized and told Caden he could keep playing his game.  No, wait, I got that wrong.  Evan got mad.  Not out-of-control-rage like I get, but Evan-mad.  Long story short, Caden is no longer allowed to play any devices (after much discussion game consoles are now included under the term, "device" at our house.)  until the end of the summer.  Minecraft is deleted from our computer and his iPod as well as the iPad.  He's going cold turkey.

I know this sounds stupid, but I was afraid to do anything this drastic, even though I knew he needed a device intervention.  I really thought it would be like denying a heroine addict his daily fix.  But it's not.  And I'm so much happier.  It's a change in him like when he started taking his "Focus Pill."  He's interacting with the other kids.  He's doing imaginative play.  He's helping housebreak Jack- a little.  He talks to me.  He's talking about Minecraft still, but I'm hoping "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" won't apply here.  I'm hoping for "Out of sight, out of mind."  He's unplugged.  I'm mad at myself for letting it get so out of hand that he's at a loss of what to do without his devices.  It's just became such a way of life for him.  I'm glad Evan took the giant leap and cut him off.  Way to unplug him Evan!  Being greener and a good parent all in one!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Some Big Energy Changes At Our House

When I talk about conserving energy, I'm usually thinking on a small scale.  I unplug the toaster when I'm not using it.  I line dry most of my clothes.  I wash our clothes on cold whenever possible.  I do the short cycle on the dishwasher and let the dishes air dry over night.  This, my friends, is not the case with the latest development at our house.  We're getting a new furnace and air conditioner and clothes dryer!  The biggest energy consumers in a home!

I've been getting these letters from AEP about how our home compares to our neighbors.  We, of course, seem to be using way more energy than anyone else in our neighborhood.  I attributed it to the fact that there are 6 of us in here and most of the other homes have only one or two.  Of course we're going to use more energy!  But I think it's more about the fact that our furnace remembers when JFK was shot and our air conditioner has a Nixon campaign sticker on it.  I'm saying they're old.  So we're modernizing.  And with that modernization will come efficiency.  Our new heating/cooling system will be 95% efficient.  The repair man suspects we're functioning on a 65% efficient system now.  I'm excited to see the change in my electric bill, which will be the only real way I can tell the difference (well, that and the house will finally cool off like it's supposed to!)

After the Christine Challenge I started in the winter, I'm starting to wonder if it would have made such a big difference in my electric bill had I not been using the dryer that Evan and I got for free when we signed a two year lease with our 2001.  I'm going to continue to line dry (I'd like to do it outside if it would ever stop raining!!!)  but when I DO put clothes in the dryer (like my towels) I feel better knowing that I'll be using a more efficient machine.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Puppies and Death: Full and Empty

I tried to blog last week.  I composed many blogs in my head as I was doing other things, but when I sat down to actually write, I couldn't do it.  Writing it made it too real and too sad.  Abby's dead.
I'd say she was a good dog, but she wasn't.  She was rotten.  And we loved her for it.  When we came home the first thing she'd do was look for something to pick up.  She'd stand at the door with something in her mouth and wait to us to yell at her.  Once we did her tail would wag and she'd drop it.  Bad dog. But a good bad dog.  She was an old girl and when she threw up 10 times in one night, Evan took her to the vet.  She said Abby was in the process of dying.  She lost 5 pounds in a week and was losing her fur in chunks.  I knew she was dying for a long time, I just didn't want to admit it.  I tried to pass it off as her arthritis or her thyroid problem, which were both signs she was getting old, but I didn't want to see it.  In the end, Evan was the one who was with her when she died.  I am so grateful to him for sparing me the pain, but I also grieve for him because I was with Brodie and it was horrible.

We knew Abby was nearing the end and we thought we should think about getting a puppy while we still had an older dog to show the new one the ropes.  Well, looking at puppies quickly turned into applying to multiple rescues to actually get a puppy.  Unfortunately, we never got the overlap that we wanted.  Abby died the day before we went to the rescue to get Jack.
Evan and I both felt very guilty about getting Jack so soon after losing Abby, but Jack was never intended to be a replacement for Abby.  No one could ever replace her.  The thing that I love about Jack is that he's nothing like Abby.  He's Jack.  If anything, I see Brodie in him.  His puppiness brings back memories of a puppy Abby and Brodie.  Back when they were our only kids and we were first married.  It's funny having something from this life, the one where we've been married for 10 years and have 4 kids, overlap with our old life, where we were just starting out, just the two of us-and our dogs.

But enough about my tears and reminiscing!  We got Jack from Save A Mom Pregnant Dog Rescue in East Sparta, Ohio.  It's a fantastic rescue!  She only takes in pregnant or new mom dogs.  Jack is from Trixie's litter.  Trixie had already been adopted when we went to meet Jack, but we got to see some of his littermates.  We knew that we wanted to get a puppy, but not a PUPPY so Jack was a good age, 3.5 months (he was born on St Patrick's Day).  There were a few other litters there to choose from, but Denise, who runs the rescue, was able to tell us which dogs she thought we be a good fit for our family.  She led us in the right direction with Jack.  He has enough puppy in him to keep up with the kids, but he's really a pretty shy and calm guy.  We had him two full days before we even heard him bark.  He's only 14 lbs and Denise and the vet both think he'll only get to be about 30.
The only bad thing about her rescue is that unlike other rescues where they're all living in foster care, when you go to pick out your dog, you have to leave many more behind.  The day after losing Abby, it was very hard to walk away from the Rotty mom she had there.  Luckily, the Rott pups were only 4 days old so we weren't tempted to get an Abby look alike, although there was a litter of boxers, but they weren't ready to go yet and as you can imagine, my kids were ready to take their dog home NOW!  So Jack it was (I was actually kind of surprised that all of them agreed on the same pup!)  I'm still thinking about that Rotti and her pups and one of the other dogs that she had there, but housebreaking Jack and making sure he's not chewing things he's not supposed to is keeping my mind pretty occupied-thank goodness!  Check out SAM's Petfinder page to see all of the adoptable dogs. (Jack is still on there under Trixie's Boys.)
I feel good about getting a rescue dog, but I also feel good about getting a dog from this rescue.  We got Brodie from the Franklin County Animal Shelter (the dog pound) and I always felt like he was a true rescue.  Abby was from a rescue group, but she was one of the only litters they had and I felt like I wasn't really rescuing her because I know that puppies go fast.  Jack, on the other hand, came all the way from Alabama (and yes, I do hear a little southern drawl in his bark).  His mom was pulled from a high kill shelter by a good samaritan who thought she could find a local rescue to take the pregnant dog.  No one would.  So she kept the mom until she had the pups, thinking that someone would take them.  They wouldn't.  So she drove 10 hours in her new Mustang to meet Denise, who WOULD take them.  And that's the story of how a little dog, who's pregnant mother was about to be euthanized made his way to Canton, Ohio to be sleeping in the corner to the left of my table while I blog, exhausted from the 5 minutes he spent attacking a scrub brush, distracting me from the big, empty space on my right that used to be where Abby slept when I was at the table.  Full and empty.