Last night we had a delicious grilled chicken salad made with lettuce from our own garden, mixed with mandarin orange slices, almonds, and sliced grilled chicken. It was delicious, and all the more so because the lettuce was home grown.
We’ve been munching on little carrots as I thin them out, marvelling over the height of the radishes, waiting expectantly for our tomatoes to ripen, and checking on our growing zucchinis every day. Our cucumber plants are flowering and our peas are coming along nicely as well. Of everything we planted, only the spinach never came up.
If only our spring hadn’t been so cold! We didn’t plant anything until early June, so some things will only just be ready to harvest by the time we move out. I told my parents to expect a great deal of vegetables when I go! We’re looking forward to the much longer growing season in Vancouver. Unfortunately we won’t have the beautiful large garden that we dug up this summer, but we’ll plant what we can in the vegetable boxes around the back of our new place.
Definitely carrots. Mmm, garden-fresh carrots. I have fond memories of eating them straight from my childhood friend’s parents’ garden. Actually, that seems disgusting in hindsight – but ah well, a little dirt’s good for the immune system, right?
This has been such a great undertaking for us this year. From the hard work of digging the plot, to the gratitude of having someone offer to till it for us with their tractor (and the boy’s excitement of getting to watch it happen), to planting the seeds, watering them, watching those first sprouts grow, pulling out weeds, all the way up to now, finally eating the fruits (well, vegetables) of our labour. It has been so neat to see it through the eyes of our son, all that excitement and learning. I’m looking forward to seeing what next year brings.
Rain, blessed rain. I never thought the day would come when I would say such a thing.
As I’ve said, we dug a garden from scratch this year (with the permission of our landlords, of course – they had room to spare on the four acres of land). We weeded, had a very nice man till it for us, and planted it full of all sorts of vegetables – carrots, peas, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, spinach, and a few jalapeno pepper plants just for fun.
Then it came time to water it.
For the life of us, we could not find a faucet on the outside of the house to connect the hose to. So, while we waited for our landlords to tell us where it was, we hauled watering cans of water from the house to the garden – 9 trips each evening.
Well, they got back to us. No faucet. Beautiful house…but no faucet.
We’ve had a rainy few days and so far have a few more rainy ones forecasted. For the first time ever, my sore arms and pregnant belly are grateful for the rain, as every shower saves me nine trips of lugging a heavy watering can to the garden.
Ah, but how sweet the rewards will be – homegrown vegetables…and nicely toned arms.
I have decided that this year will be the year that I learn to love fall.
I’ve never been terribly fond of it before. It’s cold and wet and chilly. The fresh berries are gone. The trees lose their leaves. Winter starts looming.
(Oh, how I detest winter.)
But no. This year I will enjoy fall. And so far I have. It was helped along by my growing interest in food and sustainability. What grows in what season? What should I look for? What are the local farmers selling now? What new in-season foods can I add to our menu? What new recipes can I try?
Last week it was apple butter and apple sauce. Nothing fancy, but I’ve never made either before so it was exciting enough for me. Tonight it was roasted butternut squash. That stuff is delicious!
I’ve also been enjoying apple cider this month. This intrigues me, as I’ve always hated apple juice. To be perfectly honest, it looks and smells like pee. Which makes me think it tastes like pee. But apple cider? YUM.
Fall also means the return of the pumpkin hat! Oh pumpkin hat, how I adore thee. (Though not nearly as much as I adore the little boy whose head you sit upon.)
Fall means carpets of leaves to wade through in the wooded area behind our house.
Why have I never properly appreciated this place before? It’s beautiful. Our own secret land to explore…
…or just to admire as we sit and contemplate.
So I’ve decided – fall isn’t so bad after all.
Perhaps next year I can work on appreciating winter too.
Peel and quarter 10 apples and place in large pot.
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/4 cups apple juice
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Admire your spice rack for the umpteenth time.
Heat all ingredients to boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Mash apples. Simmer uncovered for 1 hour more, stirring occasionally.
Cool for 2 hours and store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks (alternatively, freeze or can it). Serve with the most amazing biscuits ever. Make a mental note to thank your MIL for that Betty Crocker cookbook.
Peel and quarter 4 apples and place in crock pot.
You’ll notice mine are unpeeled. Big mistake. I’d read that they were easier to peel after they had been cooked. Again – big mistake. It didn’t even give my applesauce the nice “rosy glow” I had been promised. Next time, I peel my apples before cooking them.
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
Cover and cook on High for 2 hours or until apples are tender. Stir/mash/puree to desired consistency.
Store in fridge (or can it).
I’m beginning to love fall.
Next up – making pumpkin bread with that cute little pie pumpkin. Assuming I don’t change my mind and decide to make pumpkin butter instead. Or pumpkin pie. Or pumpkin cookies.
Oh, the decisions.
Spring? What spring? It went straight from winter to summer here in about a week. I’m not complaining! The boy and I have been going for long walks and playing in the park – well, to be more accurate, we’ve been sitting in the park. My beautiful little non-walker has issues with touching both the grass and the sand which he has yet to get over. I guess I should count my blessings – in time I’m sure I’ll wish he would stay in one spot for even a few seconds!
Anyway, this warm weather has finally brought the return of yet another wonderful summer event – the organic farmers’ market.
Granted, ours is a year-round market, but unfortunately I’ve been car-less this winter (my husband takes our car to work on Saturdays) and just couldn’t convince myself to make the cold trip by bus. So I slightly shame-facedly started shopping at our local grocery store again, still buying organic and avoiding processed foods whenever possible.
Did our grocery bill ever jump! Apparently I am an impulse shopper and am not safe anywhere that offers more than the farmers’ market does. What’s that, lemon meringue pie? Why, don’t mind if I do! Brownies? Toss ‘em in! Sugar-filled juices and iced tea? Heck yes!
Well, today I decided that it’s warm now, I have no excuse not to take the bus to the farmer’s market each Saturday. I kinda-sorta-justalittlebit hoped it would rain, but alas, it’s another beautiful day.
After making a mad dash to the ATM to pick up cash, we caught the first bus, my son cuddled on my front in a mei tai and my denim bag loaded with plastic bags. We got off one stop too late, ending up on the wrong side of the road…and missed our transfer by a few incredibly irritating seconds.
We walked part of the way, then sat at a bus stop and waited so as not to miss the next bus too. Finally we made it to the nearest intersection and walked the rest of the way, stopping on a patch of gorgeously green grass to move the boy from my front to my back.
First stop, the fish the lady. She remembered us! She commented on how big the boy is now, then sold us our usual salmon. We worked our way through the market – raw crackers for munching, sprouts for wraps and fake sushi, kale for green smoothies, apples, potatoes, and soup – then went to get the rest of the meat (yes, we’re still very happy meat-eaters, and my husband just reminded me the other day that he fully intends to stay that way).
The beef man and lady remembered us! We picked up a few different cuts of beef along with the obligatory whole wheat cinnamon bun.
The chicken man remembered us! We picked up chicken breast and pork chops.
I felt so loved.
And I forgot what a great atmosphere the farmers’ market is! Everyone offering to help you with this or with that, grinning at your kid instead of giving you a weird look for wearing him, smiling and talking cheerfully – and all sorts of guilt-free deliciousness just waiting to be snatched up!
After downing a glass of delicious green juice, we headed back to wait for the bus. All in all, a very successful trip and for about half the price we’d been spending at the grocery store all winter. Going by bus turned out to be no problem at all – looks like we’ll be resuming our weekly trip to the farmers’ market. Ah, summer. How I love thee.
I found the most delicious soup recently.
I randomly noticed Baxters soups at a trip to our grocery store. The butternut squash and red pepper soup jumped out at me and quickly made its way into the cart. It just looked so good – and, to top it off, I actually recognized all of the ingredients in the ingredient list. No garbage, just food.
Well, the boy and I shared this delicious soup for lunch one day and had to grab another can next time we were out. This time we tried the winter squash and carrot soup.
I was all set to eat it for lunch the next day. I opened the can. I tried to get the lid out. And then I tried some more. And some more.
The lid finally came out.
Along with half the can of soup.
Head to toe, I was covered in orange winter squash and carrot soup. The kitchen looked as though a pumpkin had exploded. The stove was covered. The floor was covered. By some miracle, though, the little man crouching on the floor beside me was completely soup-free. I was glad he was the only witness to my new orange wardrobe.
But there was still half a can of this delicious veggie goodness, so into the pot it went while I cleaned up myself and the kitchen. When it was ready, I plunked the little man into his highchair and greedily sat down to enjoy what was left, along with some toast. It was as delicious as the first can was.
Ah, and if only that could be the end of the story. But no, there’s more. As I went to brush the toast crumbs into the empty bowl, my sweet darling perfect innocent little son kicked the bowl right out of my hands. Sadly, the bowl did not survive the fall.
As I cleaned up the second big mess of the night, I had to ask myself: As delicious as that soup was, was it really worth all this trouble??
(Oh, who am I kidding. You know I’ll be tossing another can into my cart next time I’m out.)
So I’ve been working on improving our eating – and shopping – habits for a while now. I had been buying nearly all of our food from a local organic farmer’s market, but unfortunately when the deep winter hit I just couldn’t keep it up anymore. Back to the supermarket (and, consequently, higher food bills) for us. Le sigh. I still tried to buy as much organic and unprocessed food as I could. I was thrilled when our supermarket started stocking “free from” meat, which claims to be raised without antibiotics, etc etc. I can’t say I have a huge amount of faith in it, but it’s an improvement nonetheless.
I’ve been reading as much as I can on nutrition in the meantime. I am amazed at the power of a simple change in diet to completely turn around one’s life, particularly in children. So much of what is currently labeled as attention deficit disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, learning disorders, and just plain misbehaviour could be entirely “cured” by a few changes in the way the child eats. It’s sad to think how many children are put on medications instead.
One excellent book I’ve read recently is Grub (they have a website here), which really drove home for me the importance of not only eating organic and whole, but also local. As such, I’ve been scouring the local farmers’ webpages looking for a steady source of meat, dairy, eggs and produce. I’ve been considering Community Supported Agriculture, but I’m not entirely convinced as that would only get us through the 17 week harvest season, leaving us with 35 other weeks during which we would have to find another supplier. I would prefer to find one or two farms and buy from them year-round.
Eating local would also mean eating more of what’s in season and less of what is not. Up here in frozen Canada, that’s not so much fun. I’ve been having long, drawn-out fantasies of moving to California and having an abundance of great produce “in season” year-round. But for now I live in Canada, not California, so the winter months will require a fair bit more creativity.
My priority right now is eating whole foods, mostly organic, and, when possible, buying local.
Aside from whole, organic, and local, I’ve also been working on eating more raw foods. I’m not (right now) interested in going 100% raw – I’m not even interested in becoming vegetarian or vegan – but I know that adding more raw foods is definitely a step in the right direction. And so I’ve started having a “green smoothie” for breakfast or lunch each day. My current favourite is (roughly) a cup of frozen sliced strawberries, one and a half bananas (my son gets the leftover half), a big handful of spinach leaves, and a half cup of water. Delicious.
Frozen blueberries with banana and spinach is also good.
And, just for fun, last night’s dinner – crock pot carrots, potatoes and chicken. Yum.
Where did November go?? I can’t believe it’s already December. So much to do! My husband and son and I leave for the holidays in less than two weeks (one week with his family; one week with mine).
This will be our son’s first Christmas. He’ll be just over eight months old, that age where the wrapping and the boxes will be the most exciting presents he gets. We’re trying – as in all other areas of our life – to keep things simple in terms of Christmas. I admit there is a part of me that wants to splurge on Christmas presents for the sweet little boy, but even that part of me drops its jaw in shock at long lists of (mostly large noisy plastic) toys that seem to be the norm.
I think that we’ve decided that each of our children will receive three gifts in recognition of the three gifts given by the magi. I’ve read about one form where Gold = fun gift or something of value/something the child really wants, Frankinsence = gift of spiritual significance, and Myrrh = item for body. I like the idea both because it keeps Christmas at a reasonable size and because it allows for deeper discussion of the magi and Jesus.
Because the in-laws requested a Christmas list for their first grandchild, we sent a letter to both families giving suggestions. We did ask that plastic toys and toys made in China be avoided if possible, along with movies as we do not allow our son to watch them (we don’t even have a TV ourselves; if we want to watch a movie, we rent a DVD and watch it on the computer). Instead, we suggested board books (in English or French), clothes 12 months +, wood toys, cloth toys, wool diaper covers, homemade taggie blankets, or, if all else fails, RESP contributions.
From us he will get a mirror, a stackable toy, a shape sorter, and some stocking stuffers (the latter only because my parents have insisted that we put a stocking out for “Santa” to fill while we’re at their place, even though we don’t intend to have Santa be a part of Christmas in our house). The stocking stuffers will mainly consist of food, which I know will only cause more negative comments from them (in addition to the “look on a map and see how big China is!” that was their response to our Christmas list) because in their eyes, “baby food” comes in a jar from the grocery store. We haven’t given our son any rice cereal or jarred baby food. He just joins in with us. He currently feeds himself Cheerios, avocado, carrots, cantaloupe, honey dew melon, sweet potatoes, dry whole grain toast, oatmeal, applesauce, and other random types of food that we’ve offered him over the past month or so. He eats as much or as little as he wants, and all in addition to breastmilk rather than in place of it.
My son and I went away to a women’s retreat put on by our church this weekend (nursing mothers welcome – it was an opportunity I wasn’t going to pass up!). He’s such a happy and good natured little boy (I like to flatter myself and pretend it’s all do to my phenomenal mothering skills) and he just loved spending the whole weekend in the centre of attention. One mother there, upon observing me trying to sneakily clasp my nursing bra back up, said how great it was that I was still breastfeeding my son. She said her youngest was five years old before they weaned. In a culture where I get asked more often when I’m going to wean, it was truly a blessing to hear “good for you for still breastfeeding!” instead.
The other day I picked up a spray bottle from the Dollar Store, mixed together 1 cup water and 1 cup vinegar, and cleaned my bathroom.
It’s not much, but it’s a start. When I was done, I was able to go pick up my son without worrying about my hands being covered in chemicals. The house didn’t smell like harsh cleaners. I wasn’t worried about what my family was inhaling.
I’ve also been faithfully going to the organic farmers market every Saturday to pick up meat and produce for the week.
This week marked a milestone – it was the first week that I didn’t need to make a second trip to the grocery store to pick up additional groceries that I couldn’t get at the farmers market.
When I first started buying more organic and less processed foods, it seemed horribly expensive at first. But now that we’ve been doing it for about a month, I find that I’m actually spending less on groceries. I think mainly this is due to less trips to the grocery store, where all sorts of extra foods always mysteriously make their way into the shopping cart. Now, if I have to go, I go only to pick up a few very specific things. Our meals seem more well-rounded and definitely healthier now.
My fridge and freezer are satisfyingly full. We have fish, chicken, and beef. We have potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers. We have strawberries, blackberries, blueberries. We have eggs, cheese, and orange juice. (We also have milk, but it is admittingly not organic. I just can’t bring myself to pay the same amount for 1L of organic milk as I would normally pay for 4L or non-organic milk. I just can’t.)
What more could we need?
Tonight I’m making a salmon and fruit salad. Grilled salmon served on top of lettuce, cucumbers, strawberries, mandarine orange slices and a sprinkle of blueberries. Perfect for a gloriously warm Labour Day weekend.
Last night I made banana bread. Yum.
The night before, we had soft tacos for dinner. We made our own soft taco shells. They tasted so good, much better than store bought ones.
So that’s our progress so far. They may just be baby steps, but they’re still steps forward.