Ideal vs. Real: Food Edition

Hi!

I’m looking at another “Ideal vs Real” situation that happens a lot in our house, every day in fact. Probably in yours, too. At least, I hope so. :)

Food.

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Delicious chicken and black bean chili over rice

You know how it is trendy and hip these days to only buy organic, locally- sourced foods that are free-range and GMO free and soy free and probably gluten free?

Well.

My blog IS called “Live Simple Natural” for a reason, so I’m not going to bash on any of those choices. I agree that food should be as chemical and preservative free and locally sourced as it can be, if at all possible. Food can be healing, or harmful, depending on the choices you make. But at the same time I have to confess; in reality I don’t always follow my ideal rules for choosing and buying food.

My Ideal:
~Organic (or grown without the use of pesticides or chemicals even though it may not be “certified organic”)

~Fresh and/or local

~Free-range (for eggs and meat)

~Grass-fed or pasture raised (for meat)

~Soy and High Fructose Corn Syrup- free

*Side note- I heard the FDA is now re-labeling HFCS as “fructose” to try and sneak it into foods still- just a head’s up. Not sure if it’s true, but I wouldn’t be surprised. They had relabeled it as “corn sugar” before that.*

~Low sugar. NOT fake substituted sugars like Splenda or Sweet n Low, but stuff that doesn’t have a lot of sugar in it to begin with.

~Also, no food colorings. (red 40 and yellow lake, I’m looking at you!)
Now, these are not bad guidelines. Obviously I want our food to be as natural and healthy as possible, because the less processed a food is, the more nutrients it has and the more healing it is for our bodies. But there are those ‘every once in a while’ times where I throw caution to the wind, for various reasons. So I’m gonna get real and confess my food crimes, ya’ll.

Real:
~We ate lunch at Arby’s over the weekend and had (gasp!) POP. (aka soda, aka coke, aka root beer)
HFCS  and caramel food coloring all up in here! And I have to admit, it was delicious. Terrible for you, but delicious. I sucked my Mug root beer down and savored every last foamy drop. I may have even let Olivia have a sip of foam. And she loved it too. She’s probably messed up forever now.

~I don’t buy organic everything. It’s too darn expensive! We try to stick to organic meat and dairy. We buy local eggs. I only buy organic fruits like peaches, berries, apples, tomatoes and veggies like lettuce and zucchini. But avocadoes, bananas and oranges, asparagus and potatoes? Conventional, unless the organic ones are on sale. Like, really on sale.

~Sometimes, if something has soy leithecin (or however you spell that) in it, and I really want to eat it (like chips or crackers or something like that) I still eat it, even though soy is one of the most genetically modified crops in the US. And also even though it messes with your estrogen levels.

~I bought vitamin C that has food coloring in it. I couldn’t find one that didn’t have any in it! Oh, the humanity!

~We eat ice cream with corn syrup solids in it. And it is super yummy.

~Sometimes we buy frozen pizza for dinner.

I figure if we eat really healthily for about 80% of the time, its okay to go all out and eat those bad foods every once in a while. Because really, if you have a diet that doesn’t have a little bit of indulgence, you’re not going to stick to it for a long time. It’s gotta be a lifestyle that you can stick with, right? I also don’t want my kids to be so deprived of a food that they over-compensate and eat way too much of it later in life. Balance is key.

So in a nutshell; I have ideals that I don’t live by. I bet you do too. But I think its better to have ideals and at least sometimes live by them than not have any at all and throw caution to the wind. There are so many levels I could go on with that thought right now…but we’ll stick with food-wise here.
So, mama (or dad or whoever) :
if you have food ideals and don’t always live up to them, it’s okay. You are human, you can’t be perfect.
(This is coming from an ex-perfectionist- I know how it is!)

Just do the best you can at that time and have grace for yourself and others.

Because food is about nourishment and family, and community and sharing life together, not calories or sugar content or GMO vs non GMO.

Focus on the whole picture, not the details. :)

Herbal Remedy:Plantain Oil For Irritated Skin

Today we’re talking one of my favorite herbal remedies for any kind of skin irritation: Plantain. Or Plantago Major, scientifically. It’s not the banana-ish kind of tropical fruit at the grocery store; (which was what I thought at first.) Plantain an herb that has been used for centuries to soothe and heal skin irritations, burns, cuts, rashes, anything that hurts on your skin. I heard about it a few years ago from a dear friend who is into herbal remedies and am so glad she told me about it! Plantain is not hard to find. You should be able to get it for free because most likely; you have it growing in your back yard. If not, it’s probably growing on the side of the road, or in your friend’s back yard. It’s known as a weed in most circles, yet it has such strong healing properties it should be a well known herbal super star! There are actually several  different kinds of plantain plants: one with broad leaves that kind of look like spinach and one with longer pointy skinny leaves, as well as a rough edged one. We’ll focus on the broad-leaved and skinny-leaved variety here.  The leaves are tough, with smooth edges and have kind of stringy veins running down through them. The flower of the skinny leaved variety is on a long stem with a fuzzy oval-shaped middle that gets tiny white flowers ringed around the middle. The broad-leaved variety  has long- stemmed seedpods that grow out of the center of the leaves. The broad-leaved kind seems to grow more in shady areas and the skinny leaved kind seems to grow more in the sun, from what I’ve observed.

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Above is the broad-leaved variety, below; the narrow- leafed.

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Look familiar? I make plantain oil out of the leaves, but if you had beeswax you could also make a salve or if you know how, even a lotion. Maybe I’ll try that sometime, but for now, the oil works great. Here’s how you make Plantain Oil: Find some plantain and pick the leaves. You can usually find them from spring to late fall. By wintertime they are mostly dead, but they come back again next spring. A handful of leaves will make a whole jar of oil. This would make a great gift for your crunchy mama friends- a little goes a long way too! :) Wash and dry the leaves- you want them completely dry. It is a good idea to set them out in the sun for a day or two, or stick them in the dehydrator or on your kitchen windowsill to get some of the moisture out  because if there is a lot of moisture on the leaves, they will mold. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Once your leaves are dry, put them in a pint size jar or a recycled salsa jar you have hiding in your cupboard and fill the jar with olive oil, pushing the leaves down so that they are completely covered in the oil. Make sure they’re completely covered- you don’t want to go to get out your plantain oil and find that it’s moldy. That happened to me the first time I made it and I was SO disappointed! Put the lid on, label it so you know what it is a month from now and stick it in a cupboard to steep for at least 3 weeks. I usually just leave a batch in the cupboard and forget about it- the last batch I made steeped for over a year and is fine. The olive oil preserves the leaves. You can take a bit out and put it in a smaller bottle and remove the leaves when it’s done steeping. When you need the oil for an owie, just take a small amount (like a few drops) and rub it on the affected area a few times a day. It is safe to use on babies, kids, grown ups, even animals. We once had a kitten that had gotten attacked by something and had a huge bite mark on her neck. Between using peroxide to disinfect it and putting plantain oil on it, the wound healed up very nicely. Plantain oil is my go-to remedy for when anyone in my family (or anyone that I know that isn’t weirded out by natural remedies) gets hurt. It stops the swelling and itching of bug bites and nettle stings, soothes burns (including sunburn!)  and helps heal scrapes and cuts, acne, rashes, hemorrhoids, chapping of lips or hands. If pretty much anything is wrong with your skin, most likely plantain oil can help it. It works great for diaper rash too! Olivia had these open sores on her bottom (ouch!) and I tried Burt’s Bees diaper cream and powder and they helped them not get worse, but didn’t make them better. Then I used plantain oil and within a few days the sores were all healed up. I haven’t ever had an instance where anyone reacted to it negatively, but of course I  am not a doctor and these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA so don’t sue me if plantain oil doesn’t work for you. ;) So, if you want to try it out, go plantain hunting! Its really fun to show your kids what it looks like, then have them hunt around the yard for it. Chances are, if you live anywhere that has grass and weeds, you’ll find some. Have you ever used plantain oil? I’d love to hear about it! :)

Wildcrafting

Eating Seasonally: Summer’s Bounty and a CSA Update

Hi!
Summertime is winding down here in the Pacific Northwest; the days are starting to get shorter and the mornings and evenings have a bit of crisp chilliness to them. 
Its raining today, which is welcomed! It seems like we’ve had a pretty dry summer and its nice to see rain. I know the plants appreciate it too.
Interestingly enough, my 4 year old daughter Ellie is out playing in the kiddie pool even though its raining. She sure loves the water!

We didn’t do a garden this year,but decided instead to participate in a CSA with a local organic farm. With baby Olivia joining our family in March I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get any seeds in the ground or take good care of them. I’m so glad we made it a priority to still have fresh vegetables every week!
Its been so much fun trying new veggies and learning to eat things that I NEVER would have tried otherwise.

Here are a few new veggies that we’ve eaten:

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Hakurei salad turnips. I had never even had turnips before, let alone put them in a salad! I absolutely love these turnips! They are crisp and fresh and sweet and seriously I can just bite into them and eat them like an apple. They’re that good. If we plant veggies next year, these will be one of the must-haves.

Beets. I’ve had pickled beets before and they weren’t my fave, so I was kind of scared to try fresh beets and had no idea how to cook them. It turns out, they are good peeled and sliced in salad, they add a really nice flavor to stir-fry (although they turn everything pink!) and are also yummy roasted with other root veggies.

Asian Greens.  This includes bok choy, pak choy (they’re two completely different things- pak choy is smaller), and this other really good one that I can’t remember the name of. They add such a nice flavor to stir-fries and soups! And of course they are good in salad too. 

Rainbow Chard. I was nervous about being able to find ways to eat this one as well, because I’d tried steamed chard before and hated it. But its super yummy in stir fry (see a theme? we have stir fry at least once a week now and love it!) and also good in salad. The lovely bright colored leaves and stalks are so pretty! 

Of course we have gotten all of the “normal” veggies that are usually front and center at the grocery store- carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes, green beans, peas, spinach, kale, lettuce, basil, parsley, dill and many more. 
I’ve even been able to put up a few baggies of extra green beans and peas that we couldn’t eat, as well as some chard and kale for fall and winter soups. If you’re thinking of participating in Consumer Supported Agriculture, I definitely recommend it! Our CSA ends at the end of September and I’m already kind of sad that its almost over. If we can afford it I’d love to do it again next year, I really enjoy getting a nice big bag of delicious surprises every week. 

Honestly, there hasn’t been a vegetable that we’ve gotten and not liked. There are definitely favorites that we each have, but overall every single vegetable has been super fresh, flavorful and delicious.  

My grandpa has been giving us zucchini and cucumbers and potatoes and squash and corn from his garden as well, so my mom and I have been putting those up, blanching and freezing and making pickles and zucchini bread. 

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Lemon Cucumber Refrigerator Pickles

Now the apples and prunes are getting ripe and the blackberries are just finishing up- which means jam and pie and applesauce and maybe cider. Eating with the seasons has such a lovely rhythm to it. I love it!

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What do you think about eating seasonally? Have you tried it? Did you like it, or would you rather just go to the grocery store and get what you want year round? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

 

Summer Favorites

I was thinking this morning about all the things I love about summer and thought I’d share with you. Not that any of these are groundbreaking or anything, but I enjoy them immensely and there are just certain things about summer that you don’t have the rest of the year. 

So, here we go!

Sunshine!

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Duh. Here in the Pacific Northwest, this isn’t always a given even in the summertime, so I’m super thankful when the sun peeks its face out! The weather has been great lately and we’ve been really enjoying it. Which leads me to the second thing…

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I mean, who doesn’t love the beach? Since we live on an Island, the beach is well, surrounding us and we can walk down to it from our house. Spending an afternoon with my toes in the sand and listening to the waves softly lap on the shore while gazing across the water to the mountains is pretty close to paradise. 

 

Fresh Fruit 

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I love fruit. I also love that so much of it is locally available around here. Peaches (not super local but from the same state anyway), cherries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, plums…and non-local but so good I buy it more than I should- WATERMELON!!! I love watermelon. SO much.

 

Picnics in the Backyard

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It’s just so sweet to sit in the soft grass in the shade and leisurely munch on fruit and veggies and salads and other yummy things while having unforgettable conversations with my kiddos. 

 

Flowers!

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I guess this isn’t exclusively a summer thing, but I love all the flowers that show their colorful faces all throughout the summer. We have zinnias growing outside our back door and they always are so cheery and bright, even on a cloudy day they bring beautiful color to the world.

 

Being Barefoot

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I really hate wearing shoes. And socks too…barefoot is just so much better! Except on cold fall and winter days of course, which is why I’m glad it’s summer. So what if your feet get dirty? They also wash well. ;)

 

I know there are several more things that are good about summer, but those are my top favorites. What are yours? 

Yogurt Parfait in a Mason Jar- An Easy, On-The-Go Breakfast

Our family took a camping trip over the weekend and we left pretty early in the morning, before breakfast.

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Sunrise over the water- gorgeous!

In order to avoid the unhealthy regrettable decision to just grab a quick breakfast at McDonald’s,(which is, sadly our usual fall-back on road trips- even thought I loathe the place, it’s usually the easiest thing to grab and go.) I decided to be proactive this time and make something for us to eat on the way that was easy to transport, would sustain us for a while and was healthy. Plus it didn’t cost us any extra money. And we weren’t eating icky chemicals and supporting a business I loathe. Anyway, before I rant…

Yogurt Parfaits!

In a Mason jar!!

It was perfect for holding the yogurt without spilling. And it looks pretty!

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We ate breakfast on the ferry ride across the water, as the sun was shining its beautiful way through the window.

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The kids didn’t finish all of theirs at once, so I just put the lid right back on and we saved it for later. I’m definitely doing yogurt parfaits again next time we go on a road trip or just have to be out of the house before we eat breakfast, it worked so well!!

So, if you wanted to make your own yogurt parfait, what would you put in it?
Yogurt, of course! I used my homemade yogurt, which is super yummy and doesn’t have anything extra in it. Just plain goodness.

Maple syrup or organic cane sugar- because the homemade yogurt is unsweetened. If you have sweetened yogurt, skip this step if you want

Organic Strawberries, cut up nicely

A mixture of rolled oats, flaxseeds and chia seeds

If you are bringing this with you on the go, be sure to wait to add the oats and seeds until you are ready to eat it, or you’ll get a gooey, weird consistency of yogurt/oatmeal as the oats absorb the moisture from the yogurt.

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You could also add nuts, jam, other fresh fruit or whatever you think would be yummy-this is just what I had in the house.

Stir it all up and enjoy!!

Yum. :)

A Painted Piano

I mentioned on Facebook a few weeks ago that we were given a piano.

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Well….we painted it!

It was a pretty piano to begin with, however both my hubby and I have always thought that painted pianos just look super cool and we wanted a nice bright color pop in our living room.

Enter the paint.

We chose Pratt &Lambert’s No VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paint from our local Sebo’s Do It Center. VOC’s are the elements in the paint that stink and give you a headache if you don’t have proper ventilation when painting. You know, the poisonous stuff. Don’t want none of that in my house, especially with a new baby. It was a little more expensive, but definitely worth it.

I LOVE this color!! It’s so bright and fun and cheery. It’s called “Delightful Aqua” and it is in fact, delightful.

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First, the kids and hubby sanded the piano a little. It didn’t have very much of a finish on it, so we just did a light sanding with fine grained paper.

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Then, the painting began!

Ethan got bored painting pretty quickly, but Ellie just loved it. She has a super artistic personality and really enjoys painting of any kind.

 

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We taped off the keys and the pedals and the kids weren’t allowed to do around them at all- they had to stick to painting the sides and front of the piano.

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It took two coats of paint to get it mostly covered- we did leave a few spots where the wood is peeking through just a tiny bit, for character. I would like to give it a sealing coat of wax or finish of some kind to make sure the paint doesn’t get scraped off easily and we still need to get it tuned, but it makes a very nice addition to our living room.

 

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I love it!!!

We also still need to paint the piano bench- by the time we were done with the piano it was too late at night to start on the bench, we needed our sleep! There’s still a lot of paint left too, so  you just may see it appear on some other things in the future..who knows?

Have you ever painted a piano? Would you if you had one? Or are you a piano purist? I’d love to hear from you!

Ideal vs. Real: Home Edition

Hey all,

I thought I’d start writing about the ideal vs. reality a bit- kind of going along with my dreaming or discontent post.
Today’s subject is more light-hearted though-

Home.

Home should be a refuge, a place to unwind, a relaxing atmosphere. It also is a place to be yourself- the good, the bad and the ugly. A place of acceptance, a place of (hopefully) unconditional love.

A place that gets messier than ever imaginable. A place that I wish was clean for longer than 12 seconds. :)

Ideal:

This is what my house sometimes looks like:

For 12 seconds. If the kids are watching a movie, maybe it stays like this for an hour. Or if we are not home, it stays like this longer. You know, till we get home.  ;)

 

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Real:

This. This is what it usually looks like.

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You get a sneak peek of the piano here…we were painting it. But other than the painting mess that is not normally there, the rest is quite common.

Three kids ages 6 and under, lots of cooking stuff from scratch/artistic endeavors/crafty inspiration/imagination based play/homeschooling will do this to your house. Every single day.

Sometimes there are an excess of library books strewn everywhere across the floor as well.

Or a fort built in the living room with about 1,000 stuffed animal dollies “camping” in and around it.

Or fossils and fossil tools spread out everywhere for paleontology study.

This is what our kitchen looks like every evening.

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The moments where it is clean are few and far between but you know what?

It is home.

And it is wonderfully, beautifully messy and lived in and happy and loved.

The mess is completely worth it because it means I can spend time with these guys:

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To be here to see their growth and failures and firsts and kiss their hurts and feed them and make sure they learn about God’s love and our sinfulness and life’s responsibilities is worth a messy house. And for those moments where the house is clean, I just savor them and look forward to the next time. :)

 

 

 

Dreaming…or Discontentment?

Today I’m going to share a few dreams of mine.

Not nighttime while-you-are-asleep-dreams. Those are too weird. ;)

Like the one I had once where Star Wars Storm Troopers attacked my house and there were bombs dropping that bounced like super balls….yeah. Weird.

Not those.

Maybe instead of dreams they are more like goals…things I want to do and hope to be able to but am not sure if I can. So yeah. Dreams.

Probably one of my biggest dreams is to have a little farm.

A cute old house, a barn, a few cows and pigs and maybe sheep. I’d love room to have a nice big garden, a root cellar, a spring house (instead of a fridge). Space for the kids to run and play and get lost in the wonder of being outside.  A place for our chickens to sleep and a nice yard for them to scratch around in.

 

Our chickens are loving being able to eat all the new plants coming up!

Our chickens are loving being able to eat all the new plants coming up!

I want the farm to need a little fixing up, some love to get it back into shape. I don’t want a clean, new house and fancy barn. I want old, rustic, something with history and character. I’d like a place we can put our fingerprint on and make just how we want it and not be afraid of messing up with mud or dirt or if something gets colored on the walls. I like the satisfaction that comes with hard work, with knowing we made something better than it was, with our own hands.

Road Trip: Finished!

This is a farm we passed somewhere in Iowa, on our trip from Tennessee to Washington.. I took the picture from the car, hence the blurry foreground.

 

Sometimes, I want these things so badly it almost hurts. So badly my eyes fill with tears when I think about it.

Then I wonder…

Why do I want these things?

So that we can produce most of our own food and not rely on the ever-increasing dangerous industrial food system.

Because I want our children to learn the skills it takes to run a small farm, and the responsibility that comes with such hard work.

Because I like having little animal friends that follow me around everywhere.

Because I really enjoy getting my hands in the dirt and cultivating it and watching plants grow.

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A black bean sprout from our garden last year.

So we can have a place that our kids and grand-kids can come back to when they are grown and gather there and cultivate new memories.

So we can teach others about gardening and homesteading, and how to be more healthy and sustainable.

 

When I think of these things I wonder…

Am I being discontent with what God has given me?

I have a lovely sweet amazing husband, three amazing children and countless other blessings! We do have chickens living at my parent’s property and fresh eggs. We joined a CSA to get fresh organic vegetables. I have a nicer house to live in than we’ve ever had before and a great church family and my parents and two brothers and sister close by.

Am I being discontent with where I am right now?  

In a neighborhood with round-up saturated green lawns all around me and soil that is polluted beyond use for a veggie garden…yet literally a million dollar view of the mountains and ocean, and a beach that we can walk to! And a deck where I could container garden if I made the effort.

I wonder…

Did He put these desires for a farm in my heart or did I? 

Am I just being idealistic and trying to escape reality?

I don’t know.

 

I do know this, though: When my desire for a sweet little farm is greater than my desire for what God has for me, for our family-

Then I am being discontent. 

Then, I am making it an idol instead of a dream.

Then, I am in sin.

Because no matter where life takes me, my greatest desire should always be for God.

For what He has for me, and who he wants to make me into.

“For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

And the smaller details of life are insignificant compared to the all-surpassing joy and freedom of knowing Christ.

Because He is my peace.

He is my Home.

He is my life.

No matter where I end up, or what God brings me through, that is enough. He is enough.

If I get my idyllic farm someday full of hard work and the sacrifices that come with it, that would be amazing. If I don’t, I’ll get over it eventually. In the meanwhile, I try to be hopeful and stay content with where I am.  And when I fail, there’s God’s grace that can cover any sin, if I just ask Him. :)

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