A naturally beautiful rainbow of colors

For the second year in a row, I made our Easter egg dyes out of foods and spices. This year’s dyes were made from the following ingredients:

Pink – canned beets
Orange – chili powder
Yellow – tumeric
Green – spinach with tumeric and purple cabbage mixed in
Blue – purple cabbage

I have to say I’m quite pleased with how they turned out. 🙂 Yes, it was another year of mommy having more fun dyeing the eggs than the kids. But the kids had a great time finding the eggs (over and over again) in our Easter egg hunt, so it all evened out. 😉

Here’s my best shot for this week – a rainbow of eggs:
2009's batch of naturally-dyed Easter eggs

Want to know how I did it? Check out my tutorial on dyeing Easter eggs naturally.

I’m also fond of this picture, which isn’t my usual style, but I liked the motion blur of the kids off to find more Easter eggs while daddy paused to recall exactly where he hid them all. This so perfectly represents life in our home on most days.

The kids look for more eggs, while daddy ponders where he hid them all.

For more Best Shot Monday pics, visit Mother May I.

When it comes to germs, are you a pacifist or warmonger?

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably figured out that I’m a live and let live kinda girl – a pacifist if you will. For the most part that philosophy carries over to germs too. I don’t obsessive-compulsively clean my house (ha! far from it.). I don’t carry around antibacterial hand sanitizer. I don’t worry about my kids washing their hands after playing outside. I don’t balk about them being around another kid with the sniffles. I don’t buy antibacterial soap (although it’s almost impossible to find one that’s not these days!), nor do I own a bottle of Lysol. I figure it’s good for their immune systems to be challenged (in moderation) on a regular basis so that they build up immunities and their bodies learn how to fight infection. Heck, even the New York Times agrees A Little Dirt is Good for You (a very interesting read by the way).

Photo courtesy of hoyasmeg
Photo courtesy of hoyasmeg

For the most part, we live pretty healthy lives. Sure we get a cold every now and then, but true knock-you-on-your-butt-kind-of-illnesses are pretty rare in this house. That is until a couple of weeks ago.

A little over two weeks ago Ava started out with a cough, congestion and runny nose and a few days later the rest of us followed suit. Runny, stuffy noses, coughs, and the phlegm, oh, the phlegm! I ended up having to go to the doctor because the mucus I was trying to cough up was so thick it was lodging in my throat and I was having serious difficulty breathing. (How’s that for anxiety producing?! Like I needed help in that regard.) I started taking a prescribed drug to help thin up my mucus and began drinking a whole lot more water. I also took some homeopathic and herbal remedies (Cold Care, Kick-Ass Immune Activator, and Lymph Mover, just to name a few), as well as gave some to the kids (Elderberry Syrup, Cough Control, Sinus Relief). Jody (who’s not as concerned about treating himself using natural remedies) started on his own regimen of OTC (over the counter) meds. We also cut dairy out of our diets, were taking our vitamins and probiotics, drinking tons of tea and water as well as some fruit and veggie smoothies and kombucha, and even trying hot toddies (Jody and I, not the kids). Nobody was showing signs of getting better. There’s nothing like waking up day after day expecting to feel some improvement, like you are finally on the road to recovery, and then realizing you feel just as crappy and worn down as the day before. It gets old.

Finally, after two weeks of coughing and a runny nose, Ava is mostly recovered. Jody, Julian and I however are still fighting it and, on top of the crud, Jody and Julian developed the stomach flu today. (!!!) Nothing like getting hit when you’re down, eh? Ugh. But Ava’s recovery gives me hope that the other three of us will, at some point, hopefully in the next few days (pretty please??), recover from it too (and also reassures me that it’s likely a viral infection – which is what my doctor suspected – and not bacterial so antibiotics would be useless at this point).

This is, by far, the worst and longest we’ve all been sick at the same time and, seeing how many of my friends and their kids, both locally and elsewhere in the country, are suffering from illnesses lately as well, makes me wonder what the heck is going on? Could these be some type of superbugs or at least new viruses unlike any we’ve seen before? Is my lackadaisical attitude towards germs now biting me in the butt? Should I be arming myself with Lysol and spraying my house into a toxic-smelling box of germ-killing goodness? Of course that goes against everything I just said and would definitely contribute to the whole superbug phenomenon. Is there a fine line – a balance between the two?

How do you handle germs in your house? Are you a pacifist or a warmonger? And when the ickies do infiltrate your home, what methods do you use to get them out and everyone healthy again? I’m not reaching for the Lysol yet, but the longer this goes on, the more tempted I get.

The fabulous organic food co-op

About five months ago, after receiving interest and encouragement from others, a friend of mine decided to pursue starting up a small organic food co-op (or food cooperative). Because she owns a business, she fulfilled whatever qualifications are necessary for ordering food at wholesale prices. We just have a minimum dollar amount for each order (which is not hard to fulfill at all).

There are about 10 of us in the co-op and while it would be cool to open it up to others, it’s confusing enough just trying to figure out who’s splitting what with who with only 10 people involved. 😉 Of course because we are ordering in bulk and generally nobody wants 50 lbs of onions or oranges themselves, we have to decide who wants how much of each item. It’s not really that bad, but it can get a little hairy at times and is time consuming for the friend of mine who heads this up.

In December, we placed our first order and have been periodically placing orders about once every two to three weeks. It’s an awesome way for us to get great quality organic food at good prices and I’m so thankful to my friend for coordinating this and receiving shipment of all of the food at her house for us. Oh, another perk is that we are able to choose to buy our food from local growers too (when available) and buying in bulk reduces packaging.

We usually each chip in $5 and my friend uses it to buy extra produce for the local food bank. This week we forgot and instead all brought some nonperishable foods and/or donated some of the food we ordered. It makes me feel good to be able to do this, especially now that more and more people are losing their jobs and having to get help to make ends meet or feed themselves/their families.

This week for my family I ordered 2 dozen eggs (which will last a couple weeks), 10 lbs. of onions (that should last quite a while), 8 lbs. of rolled oats (which will come in handy with all of the PB granola squares I’ve been making lately), 18 navel oranges, 2 lbs. of baby bok choy (which I’ve never made before), 4 lbs. of cucumbers, and 2 bunches of broccoli – everything was organic – for $35.

Box of co-op produce My big helper with the onions

I was so happy to get home with all of my food tonight because after the great cleaning out of the fridge before the Food Waste Reduction Challenge and in anticipation of my co-op order this week, my fridge had been looking pretty bare. Plus we ate our last orange (Julian’s current favorite fruit) yesterday so it was good to replenish our stock.

Anyway, I mention all of this because an organic food co-op might be a viable option for some of you and your friends. All it takes is a few phone calls. Let me know if you have any specific questions and I’ll see if I can get answers for you.

Laughter prevails – WW

I’ve been going through some crazy health stuff over the past week (I’m OK, but more on that later). There have been many times I’ve wanted to cry and sometimes I did, but whenever I need a smile or a laugh, I can always look to these two. They never let me down.

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Wii had a Merry Old iTime

The last five days have been pretty spectacular. For starters, Jody had them all off of work so we got a lot of family Slaving away in the kitchen making apple crisp 12/25/08time in and then a lot of productive house cleaning/fixing up in as well. My parents (who were here from MI) and sister were here for Christmas day. I cooked another turkey (nearly 20 lb.’er – but this time got all of the giblets out BEFORE I cooked it – Woot!) and they supplied all of the side dishes. I also made a chocolate cream pie and an apple crisp for dessert. Everything was quite tasty.

For a year when the economy has been in the crapper and talk of recession, recession, depression(?) is everywhere, we enjoyed a very plentiful Christmas present-wise and I’m very thankful for all that we have been blessed with – health, family, friends, job security, a home, etc. We might not be in our dream home, but we have a roof over our head (and although it doesn’t look that way from the pic below, clothes on our backs) and, despite my whining, that really does mean a lot.

Playin’ w/ new toys in the buff 12/25/08 Ava says, “I did,” to Grandma’s question, “Who painted this bird house?” 12/25/08 Aunt Carrie reads a new Fancy Nancy book to Ava 12/25/08

Bed head, a zit, and my sexy new iPhone!I had suspicions that Jody was getting me an iPhone for Christmas, but when I unwrapped the box and saw Google on it, I thought he was either giving me his new G1 phone that he’d just been given by Google for his Christmas bonus or he’d bought me my own. I opened the box and there was the G1. I tried to act not totally crushed happy, but I was bummed it wasn’t an iPhone. Jody told me the battery was underneath it in the box, but when I went to get it out I saw … a sexy, sleek, shiny new iPhone underneath! Squeeee!!! 🙂 Then he asked me for the iPhone and when gave it back to me and there was Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up.” He rick-rolled me – twice, but I got my Precious iPhone so who cares! ;P

Ava and I running with the Wii Fit 12/28/08Jody also got us a family Christmas present of the Wii Fit and I have to say I am really digging it. I’ve been on it for the past three days and, while that’s not much, I haven’t tired of it yet. There’s quite a bit to it to keep it interesting and I’m looking forward to getting a regular exercise routine into my life. My body has been hinting at me that I should get in better shape so hopefully this will help me take better care of myself.

The kids and the kitchen 12/25/08The kids got a ton of books this year, a handmade wooden farm set, as well as a wooden retro play kitchen (from Costco Santa) that Jody Santa was up until 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve assembling. As for me Mrs. Claus, I she was only up until 2 a.m. wrapping presents on Christmas Eve. Whew! I also dyed about 10 new play silks that we used for wrapping “paper.” They turned out beautifully and make great toys in and of themselves.

They also got a slew of stuff from both sets of grandparents which were opened on Christmas eve – mostly books, clothes, art supplies and a few large (ahem) plastic toys – a firetruck and Easy Bake Oven.

Two days after Christmas and a full month after it had been put up, the Christmas tree and all of it’s decorations were taken down. I needed my living room back and to get the new toys into new homes. The disorganization was weighing heavily on me (AKA stressing me out!).

Two little helpers ate some of the tree decorations before they made their way outside for the birds. The cranberries I’d strung up went out for the birds but haven’t been touched yet. What the heck, birds? Not good enough for ya? 😛

Christmas tree popcorn eater AKA Ava 12/27/08 Julian, the big fish at the end of the popcorn string 12/27/08

After much cleaning (thank you, Jody) and some rearranging, I was very happy with the results of the livingroom overhaul.

Clean living room Another angle of clean living room

My plan for the next week (Jody has another several days off for New Year’s) is to continue cleaning, rearranging and organizing the house – one room at a time. I’ve been overwhelmed with clutter and disorganization for so long, but holding out with the hope that we’ll move into a bigger house and it would all magically disappear then. I’ve realized, however, that we will likely be in this house a while longer and, in an effort to make our time here more pleasant and manageable (and to save my waning sanity), it would behoove me to do whatever I need to do to make organization a priority.

I worked on the dining room a bit today and little by little, it will all get done. 🙂 I can do this!

Hope you and yours had a happy, healthy holiday and a happy return to normalcy too – as normal as life gets.

Note: If the quality of some of the pictures posted here seems lacking, that’s because it is but only because they were taken with my iPhone. 😉

Together at last – (not so) Wordless Wednesday

I’ve been wanting to get some new pictures of Ava and Julian together for a while. With Christmas right around the corner, I got my act together, cleared everything out of my dining room, transformed into a makeshift studio, and took these shots last week. When I sent them in to Costco to have them printed (not my usual printer, but an acceptable substitute especially when running short on time and cash), I didn’t expect a follow up phone call from a Costco employee asking if they were taken by a professional. I stumbled a bit before answering, “I took them.” She asked again, “You are the photographer?” And I said, “yes.” The employee said I’d have to sign a release when I came in to pick them up verifying that I took the pictures. Now I know I’m not the first person they’ve called like this and that they are only doing their job to protect copyrights, but I was flattered. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like a professional photographer and it was a nice reminder that maybe I could go back to photography again someday – if and when I’m ready. Thank you, Costco. 😉

This one has replaced a nearly 2-year-old picture of them on our living room wall.

Ava and Julian 12/15/08

And this one accompanied many of our Christmas cards because I just love their expressions. I won’t tell you what I had to do to get such belly laughs, but I will say I was acting pretty silly.

Ava and Julian 12/15/08

Sorry for the lack of content around here these past several weeks. I’m hoping that with the new year will come new motivation to blog and I will get back into the swing of things again.

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Bowled over – BSM

This weekend, thanks to my sister’s suggestion, the whole family went bowling. It was the first time for Ava and Julian (if you don’t count the Wii). 😉

Ava was happy to do it all by herself and, with the help of the bumpers in the gutters, bowled a pretty good game. (And yes, I think the tutu helped her game. *wink*)

Julian had a little extra help with the bowling ball stand (they didn’t have those when I was a kid) and bumpers and, of course, the moral support of his whole family. hee, hee.

We all had a lot of fun, so much that Ava said “we should go bowling every day” and asked if she could live there. 🙂
The family bowlers The fancy bowler (AKA Ava) The fancy bowler strikes a pose

The whole family gets Julian set up The littlest bowler finally cracks a smile The kids with Grandpa and Grandma

Here’s my Best Shot (Ava and I cheering for Julian’s spare!) taken by my sister Carrie, though I’m also quite fond of the picture of the one above – of all of us getting Julian set up to bowl. 🙂
Mommy and Ava cheer for Julian’s spare!

What fun did you have this past week? Be sure and check out the other Best Shots.

A homemade Christmas tree (and BSM)

After writing my holiday eco-friendly crafts post, I got this insane great idea that it’d be lots of fun to make all of the decorations for our Christmas tree this year.  I was hoping to involve the kids in the crafting, but my first two attempts – with popcorn garland and cranberry garland – were not as successful as I hoped. Turns out that popcorn is fairly hard to put a needle through and I didn’t want to risk Ava poking the heck out of herself, so she and Julian ate popcorn while I threaded it. The cranberries were a little harder than I would’ve liked too so I did those myself while the kids ate them and then spat them out because they are, of course, very tart. 😉

I also made the star on the top of our tree by cutting it out of a pie tin (super sharp edges) and gluing it to a piece of black paper.

Finally this morning, I decided on a project we could work on together (at least Ava and I could and Julian could help out later) – salt dough ornaments!

Here’s the recipe that I used.

Salt Dough Ornaments

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water
Optional: 1 tablespoon any type of oil (to make it easier to work with – thanks to Brighid for the tip)

I didn’t have enough sea salt, so I used my kosher salt (after grinding it up in the food processor a bit). It worked just as well. I think table salt is probably what they have in mind for this recipe though. 

Mix salt and flour. Add in half the water, then gradually add the remaining water. Knead until the dough is smooth, this can take up to 10 minutes.

I divided up my dough into different segments and used food coloring on some of it. 

For flat dough ornaments roll out the dough (to about 1/4 inch thickness) on baking paper, wax paper, or directly on a cookie sheet. Use cookie cutters, cut-out templates, or just use your hands.

Add details to the ornaments with a toothpick and knife.

Don’t forget to use a straw to make a hole so you can hang the ornament. (I forgot to do this on two of mine. Oops!)

Baking: Time varies based on thickness of ornament
Temperature: 325°F.
Time: 20 minutes or until dry – They should be hard to the touch, but not brown.

After they are done baking and cooling, you can paint, add glitter, spray with a clear finish, etc. We chose not to do this and let me tell you why I’m glad we didn’t.
a) because Julian decided to start tasting several of the ornaments
b) because a few, invariably, got dropped or stepped on and broke, but because they don’t have any extra stuff on them, I can just throw them into the composter. 🙂

Finally, add ribbon, yard, string, twine, etc. and your ornaments are ready to hang on the tree or give as gifts.

And now, the pictures…

Ava hard at work 12/14/08 Decorating candy cane ornaments 12/14/08 Ornaments ready to go into the oven  12/14/08

Putting yarn in our ornaments  12/14/08 Finished ornaments  12/14/08  Ava showing Julian how to hang ornaments  12/14/08

A tree on a tree  12/14/08 My little candy cane 12/14/08 Julian gets the hang of it fast  12/14/08

Ava’s happy tree 12/14/08  Last-minute rearranging before bed 12/14/08 Our homemade-decorated tree  12/14/08

I don’t know if we’ll stick with just the homemade decorations on the tree – I think we may add a handful of ornaments we’ve collected over the years – but I will say that despite the extra work involved, I really enjoy the organic-feel and personality that our tree has this year. It’s been a lot of fun. 🙂

My choice for Best Shot Monday is the one of Ava and Julian together putting the ornament on the tree (2nd row, 3rd picture). Ava was being so sweet and helpful to her little brother. It just makes me smile. You can see more Best Shots over here.

Snowy day

Today was our first official snowy day of the season (with more than a dusting of snow I mean) and since the kids finally have new boots (that fit!), they were able to go out and play in it. I don’t mind the snow much myself (I rather enjoy shoveling. Shhh. Don’t tell Jody that.), but the 23 degrees for a high is a little too cold for my comfort. Not theirs though. They didn’t mind at all. 🙂

Ava and Julian out in the snow 12/4/08 Peek-a-boo, Julian 12/4/08

FYI: my blog was down for several hours last night and into the morning and, as a result of several restores, there may be some “Hello, World!” posts showing up in your feed reader today.  Please disregard them. I’m going to be switching hosts in the near future (bye-bye BlueHost). Don’t want to have to deal with what I went through this morning ever again.