Food. Where to start? The movie Food, Inc. is a good place. Jeff and I are involved in a discussion group about the politics and issues behind our food system. In a nutshell, the regular food that is sold at the grocery store (the meat, produce, dairy aisle and the packaged foods) are not only bad for our bodies (pesticides and fertilizers get into our bodies), they are bad for the planet and not so great for the food itself - the repeated use of fertilizers and overfarming strips the soil of nutrients, and food that is grown now has far fewer nutrients than food grown before World War 2. The solution? Organic food, preferably food grown on small organic farms, is better for the Earth, the soil, and our bodies. For starters, the nutrient level is significantly higher. And there are so many more reasons to make the choice.

The big questions, now that we're learning all of this, are, "Why is it so hard to eat local, organic food? Why isn't it sold in the grocery store like conventional food? Why is it so much more expensive?" The answers are complex, but they boil down to the fact that our federal government pays enormous sums of money to farmers who grow food that is bad for us. A few mega-corporations grow all of the meat Americans eat, and what they produce and how they produce it is not what they like us to think.

Sometimes I get lost and frustrated when I think about all of this. Who cares that Jeff and I are making the decisions we make, and that we sit in the church basement every other week and discuss these issues with other people? What more can we do? What is already being done? Today I put together a nice, big list of organizations that are working for change. And I found some other goodies too, which I'll share with you.

Have you heard of this site - MarketMaker? You can find local (New York) food by searching their database. So, for instance, if you want some local beans, meat or wheat, you can search and find a supplier.

The Center for Food Safety site has loads of info about current topics and ways to take action, as well as recent legal victories.

Here are a few blogs that focus on local, organic eating:

Green Fork Blog - News and links to many organic food blogs

Times Union Eat Local

Jill U Adams – eating locally in Albany Sustainable Food

I hope you enjoy these sites! We are feeling that this journey into food awareness is bigger and more powerful than ourselves, and everytime we learn something new, other pieces of the puzzle fall into place. It's a wonderful family learning adventure.

Swimming lessons, Farmer's Market, puzzle-building, Christmas decorating, soup-making, story time, dinner.

Our Saturdays have such a wonderful, comforting rhythm to them.

Today I put up the simplest outdoor Christmas decorations of my adult life. It took about 10 minutes to string lights on six little shrubs and presto!... I was done. I told Jeff that I'm simplifying as much as possible, because some of the things I'm doing this December sure as heck aren't going to be simple. Better find the simplicity where I can.

What won't be simple? My gifts for others. I'm making as much as I can by hand, which is time consuming and labor intensive but very, very satisfying. It means I have to direct my energy away from certain tasks to have enough creativity and drive left to finish my projects. Wish me luck.

Thanksgiving with Family

Thanksgiving at my sister's home. I have two sisters, and they couldn't be more different. I love them both. I used to think they were at opposite ends of the spectrum and I was somewhere in between both of them, but as I get older, I see that I'm sometimes looking at both of them standing at the same end and I'm all the way over... here. Maybe we're in a triangle, not a line. How's that for an explanation of the geometry of sibling-hood?

Our annual Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt was a lot of fun this year. The older kids did a great job of "helping" the younger ones to find the hidden clues. All of the kids got a small prize at the end of the hunt.

Have I said it today? I just love my kids! Look at them, holding each other while they listen intently for the next clue. They love each other. So, so much.

Sometimes things are calm and quiet...

...but usually when Aunt Jennifer is around, she can be found hugging, kissing, squishing or tickling one of my children, as she is here. And the sight of her kids hopping up high isn't too unusual.

We got home this afternoon and bid farwell to Jeff, who is at a Phish concert. The girls and I made cupcakes to round out our Thanksiving holiday feast. Mmmmmm!

Edited to add:

Seeing my sisters and my mother made me think about my relationships with them and our upbringing. My parents never defined their parenting style, and probably never thought too much about it, but if I had to put a name to some of it, I would call it "unparenting." They believed that if they gave us love and support and freedom, we would eventually discover our talents and strengths. I'm still learning about their approach, even in adulthood. At the Thanksgiving table I talked about how I've become much more "in the moment" since I've had children, more trusting of my instincts and my gut feelings. My mother calls this a "feeling" personality type, and the opposite would be a "thinking" type. Some people are combinations of both, and some lean more to one than the other. It's essentially the difference between making decisions with your head or your heart/gut. For a long time I thought I was a thinker, and my younger sister thought so too. But I'm not that way anymore. At the table we talked about things that are important to me - things I now do or think about because my heart tells me it's the right thing to do. Food supply, the environment, education... I have big questions and big doubts about the way those topics are approached. Even though I try to live by my convictions, it's easy to doubt myself when my questions and my answers aren't all that popular or easy. If I could ignore my instincts and just go with the flow, life might be easier for me.

But then I heard my mother tell me that she always knew I was a "feeler" and not a "thinker," since the moment I was born. She's always known, and has waited to see me get to this point, where I know too. She's not surprised that I'm asking some big questions. She's not surprised that I want to live life based on my convictions, no matter how crazy I might seem. And suddenly it seems easier to be on this path, knowing that someone who knows me so well is happy to finally see me here.

Giving Thanks

We made this Thanksgiving Tree and for the past few days, we've been talking about things we're all thankful for. 'A' and I started listing our things and found that our lists overlapped completely, so she decided that she was thankful for all of the same things I'm thankful for. This year, that's okay. The day will come when she will be enough of her own person, with independent thoughts and hopes and dreams, and she will have her own things to be thankful for. I know she won't always want to think like me, and I look forward to meeting the person she becomes. I'm thankful for our lives together, for the future that waits for us, and for the closeness that we have today.

pet rocks

Today we went to the State Park to make some pet rocks. There are two naturalists at the park who lead activities a few times a month and they always do a great job. They're young and are committed to teaching children about nature by being creative. This time, they had the rocks and the felt, scissors, and glue ready for the kids; another time, we explored the tall grass and made bug masks; another time, we explored the stream and the kids were given a bucket of dirty water and a few tools and told to make the water clean. I like the activities because there's not too much adult instruction. The children can pretty much do what they think they should be doing.

Sometimes the activities are described as homeschool activities, and other times they are not, but I am finding that all activities pretty much attract the homeschool crowd. It's nice to be in their company, because there's no talk of things that we aren't involved in, like going to school, but there is talk about creativity and learning. A bonus is that the other kids are all so nice.

And let's face it. Jeff and I are only getting less and less mainstream as time goes on, so it's nice to spend some time around other people who aren't exactly mainstream either.

Speaking of mainstream, Erma decided to act like a regular cat today by chasing one of the turkey rocks around the living room. Go Erma! You can get it!

No gymnastics class this week because of Thanksgiving, but I'm sure the girls will have an informal class on Thursday anyway, given by their cousin Nanette. Nanette is an amazing gymnast and hopefully she'll take some time to show the girls some moves and wow us all!

Have a great day. If I can get dinner started soon, I may have time to get outside and iron down some plastic bags before the sun sets. See this tutorial for info about how to do it yourself and if you do try it, do it outside, where there is a lot of natural ventilation!

Acorn place cards

The happy creativity bug has hit our home. I'm going with it! My sister is hosting Thanksgiving and I agreed to bring the place cards. I have all these acorns outside, and although I could leave all of them for the squirrels, I just didn't feel like it. I used my hot glue gun to attach the acorns to the piece of cardstock and it magically makes the paper stand up, making a very sturdy place card. Perfect for an autumn table! The best part is, the cardstock was already decorated with these leaves, and I simply used marker to write in our names, and then used yellow, orange, red and brown watercolor paint to give it some color and depth.

Jeff will be very happy when he sees these, because they were simple to make and now they're DONE!

Little does he know, I have a whole list of crafty things to work on in December. He likes the end result, but gets a little stressed out watching my creative process. It can be a little, um, disorganized sometimes. I don't always know where I'm headed, but confident I'll end up with something I'm proud of. Kind of like life, right?

creativity at our house

We're in creative mode here lately. Here is a map 'A' drew of her bedroom. You can see, clockwise, from the top:
Dresser (see the drawer pulls?)
Her bed with a window to the left of it
and in the middle is a ladybug.

I love the legs on the dresser and the bed!

Her artwork is so dear to me, I save and date everything she produces. It's all so... creative!

This bag I made yesterday by fusing together a few shopping bags into a very sturdy fabric and I reused the Walmart logo to make a new word. I had asked around for some shopping bags and I got so many of these Walmart bags! It's kind of a pain to get the lettering just right because the heat of the iron melts the plastic layers and shrinks them in weird ways, but I do like the message.

Someone is going to get this bag as a gift... I just don't know who yet.

Christmas is coming early this year - the girls decided to pile up "presents" under this houseplant and pretend it's a Christmas tree. 'A' even tried to balance her baby on top as the angel.

Setting the scene is only one part of the play. The whole thing involves a rather dramatic performance where one of them pretends to be a parent and the other is the child on Christmas morning, and they act out a gift exchange.

I love watching them make up these games!

Sometimes they decide to decorate themselves, like when they colored their faces with green magic marker. Neither girl would let me photograph her, and I feel as though I stole these photos from 'H'. Did I?

Today we went to the library (the Saratoga Library this time) and the Children's Museum to have a little fun. Back to why I love, love, love having them at home with me and not in preschool this year: (well, there are actually several reasons, but here is one) we can go out at "odd hours" and enjoy the space with fewer children. Fewer children means that my kids actually interact with the other children instead of shutting down and getting lost in the crowd. Today I found out that the Children's Museum seems to clear out just before noon, and after that, it's all ours.

The girls played with puppets at the museum and loved them, which makes me so happy because I want to make 'A' some puppets and a puppet theater for Christmas. I think she'll love it. She is so darn creative! She reminds me a lot of my older sister, which in this instance is a good thing. Sometimes (like when she's bossy), it isn't so great.

Jeff and I have our "food" discussion group tonight and I'll leave you with a paragraph from a reading by Bill McKibben that I just loved. It sums up everything:

"The deepest problem that local food efforts face, however, is that we’ve gotten used to paying so little for food. It may be expensive in terms of how much oil it requires, and how much greenhouse gas it pours into the atmosphere, and how much tax subsidy it receives, and how much damage it does to local communities, and how many migrant workers it maims, and how much sewage it piles up, and how many miles of highway it requires—but boy, when you pull your cart up to the register, it’s pretty cheap.”

it doesn't get better than today

It doesn't get better than it was today. Today was one of my dream days. It was so simple, really. I cleaned and organized a bunch of stuff - sounds like fun, right? The things I worked on though have been on my mental "list" for some time now, and it felt so good to get them done! While I worked, I was able to play and interact with 'A' and 'H', something that felt so good because sometimes it's hard to clean and play at the same time.

As far as time spent with the girls went, I can't tell you how smooth and easy it was today. It was like a dream, with each moment unfolding so nicely and happily. There was no whining, no crying, no yelling (from either them or me). For the whole day. Even when they went upstairs together and were quiet for a while, they weren't repainting the furniture or cutting up the curtains, or any of those things you might think two little kids are capable of when they're quiet for a long stetch. I called up and asked what they were doing and was told by 'A' that they were each reading their own books. Reading!

I thought about what factors might have contributed to our blissful moods today, and I can't pinpoint it. I do think the fact that we didn't go anywhere today or have any timelines to follow was part of it. Those darn clocks always have a way of interfering with our smooth, happy routine, and the days when I don't have to look at them always seem to be the best.

Tonight I go to bed with a nicely organized craft closet; a sparkling clean bathroom; drawers full of clean, folded laundry; two happy, beloved children; and a squeaky clean conscience, knowing I did some great parenting today. What more could a mom ask for?

today is going so much better!

Today is much better, thank you. In between story time at the library and a trip to the store, we have been playing, playing, playing. During our Quiet Alone Time, 'H' got into 'A's lip gloss stash and came down to show me how wonderful she looked. 'A' thought it was so funny that she made up her face, too.

We're having another beautiful week, weather-wise. Nothing beats running around the yard in just our sweaters. No coats. No mittens. No hats. We'll be thinking of these days in just a short time!

I saw a children's book at the library about a pilgrim woman named Goody O'Grumpity who baked a cake full of wonderful spices such as ginger, cloves, cinnamon and allspice. It got me thinking about making molasses crinkles today with the girls. I checked out the book and we read it while we mixed the cookie dough. They always enjoy cooking with me, learning about new ingredients, smelling spices, helping me measure and stir, and of course, when it comes to cookies, they love to taste the dough. And since we don't cook with eggs, I am more than happy to give them a guilt-free taste!

'H' did a great job of rolling her cookie dough into balls and dipping each one in the sugar. She's a natural with her hands. 'A's cookies came out a little lumpy, but all were delicious!

This is the recipe I use for Molasses Crinkles. It comes from my mother, and the original recipe calls for vegetable shortening and eggs instead of Earth Balance margarine and ground flaxseeds. Shortening is pretty gross, and pretty bad for our bodies, so I don't use it, but if you want to know the truth, the cookies do taste great when it's used. Ahhh.... I do love those 1970's memories...

Mom's Molasses Crinkles

Blend together:
3/4 cup of some solid fat product: shortening, butter, margarine, etc.
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg (or a flaxseed & water equivalent)
1/4. cup molasses

2 1/4 cups flour or enough to make the dough stiff enough to roll into balls without sticking to your hands (I found I need almost 3 cups with the Earth Balance margarine)
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

Chill the dough for an hour, then roll small balls and dip them in granulated sugar. I've seen recipes that swear by confectioner's sugar for this step, but I tried it last year and was completely disappointed. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until just cracked on top. If you let the cookies brown, they will cool into hard little pucks, so watch the cooking time. Store in an air tight container to keep them soft. And enjoy!

Living for tomorrow

So, today was one of those days where I said, "Thank goodness there will be a tomorrow, and we can just do this day all over again, and hopefully get more things right!" Not that it was horrible, or that I was horrible, or that the girls were horrible, but I have to say, I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Jeff's parents were visiting for a few days and left early this morning, before the girls and I awoke. 'A' and 'H' were sad that they didn't get up early enough to see their grandma and grandpa before they left. Actually, they were up early enough this morning, if you count numerous wake ups between 2 and 4 am. But they weren't up at the magical hour of 6 am when they might have all crossed paths. By the time we woke up for real, their grandparents were gone.

I had to take my car to the shop to have a tire repaired today and I had some work to do for a client, and I had a little Christmas plan arranging to do with my sisters and parents today, and all of that administrative stuff just got us all in a bit of a tizzy. After lunch I breathed a big sigh of relief and vowed to do nothing but play with the girls. So far, so good. We were back on track. We headed outside to enjoy the beautiful weather (and left from the front door, not the back door, because Grace left a dismembered mouse out there for Jeff, her favorite owner).

As it turns out, we're hosting some of the family Christmas festivities this year and I said to the girls, "we'll have to think about how to decorate the house for the holidays this year," to which 'A' said, "I'll gather some things from nature!" I tell you, in that very moment, I knew that my work was done. Any child who believes that decorating for an occasion means bringing in gifts from nature is a child of mine, one I am wholeheartedly proud of.

And then, because today was one of those days I want to do over, she promptly brought her bucket of treasures, complete with a huge pile of dirt, inside and emptied it on the kitchen table. It was really not what I had in mind, or could mentally handle, especially since her sister had knocked over a plant a few moments earlier and spilled cups of soil all over the carpet. Have I mentioned that I have an aversion to messes, especially ones that come one after another and are unexpected? I said, "I'm not going to yell," more as a way of telling myself to please not go ballistic on these kids, and the looks on their faces were nothing but amusement. But today was a day I want to do over, and there was no way for me to communicate about right and wrong in that situation. Or communicate at all. I did everything I could to protect us all and that meant letting that teaching moment pass us right by.

I got up the table dirt. The carpet dirt has decided to stay stuck in the fibers until the carpet cleaning guy comes over.

Tonight I could have used some time to enjoy my family, but I had to rush out to a few UU meetings, and I came back home after they had gone to bed. I miss them. I really do.

Tomorrow is another day, right? A new day.

About Me

My name is Jillian. I started this blog as a way to experiment with my camera and it's a become a nice little spot where I enjoy spending time. I'm a mother to 6 and 4 year old daughters, wife to a cool computer guy, and mama to a cuddly cat. We enjoy eating local, organic food; managing several food allergies; homeschooling with love; spending time in nature; and we love to take time each day to be creative. You can also find me over at From Scratch Club from time to time. Welcome!