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Archive for January, 2008

The past two days of Simple Abundance have been about Order and Harmony. These are two things I hold very dear. There is an order to everything in nature- like the song, “To everything, there is a season”. It starts with your own breath- breathing in, breathing out. Heartbeat. If you’re a woman, cycles- fullness, emptying. Fecundity, barrenness. There is an order to the days- morning, afternoon, night- breathing in, breathing out. Waldorf emphasizes this order to the day, recognizing that children are more deeply connected to these rhythms than adults are, and need this to feel safe and connected. Built into the day are breathing in times- times where we contract, move inward, rest- and breathing out times, times of expansion, activity, outward motion. When these happen at regular intervals, we have harmony- the kind of day where it all seems to just flow, effortlessly. (Why does it take so much EFFORT to have that feeling???)- our weeks too, have rhythm- breathing out, work, errands; breathing in, recreation, sabbath. And the year, the very Earth herself, has rhythm- spring, out, growth- winter, in, hibernation. These cycles are natural, and wondrous.

I’m always striving to live more in harmony with nature’s cycles, and trying to find my own balance. It’s frustrating to me to have to work so hard at it- to me, these things should be as natural as breathing- and I believe that they once were- but slowly, slowly in trickled our innovations- electric light, automatic appliances, cars… and we forgot in our convenience how much happier we were with the appointed times. So, for me, it’s hard. I try to eat with the seasons, but that requires that I learn knowledge that should be instinctive- what foods are in season when- I try to have form to our days, but outside schedules dictate. But I do feel that I am coming closer to what should be instinctive all the time.

Here is what our daily schedule looks like (keep in mind, it’s a work in progress, constantly changing)

OUT: Wake up, breakfast, morning chores

IN: Circle time

OUT: Free play/chores

IN: Lunch

OUT: Walk, swing, outside play (or art on rainy days)

IN: Stories/Nap

OUT: more chores

IN: Family time/dinner

IN: Bedtime routine

Our weeks have order too:

Monday-Thurs: chores, errands, playdates- OUT

Fri-Sun: Sabbath, rest, play- IN

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Garden Planning

I LOVE planning gardens! Planning one is full of so much potential, and there are no weeds (I like weeds anyway, I’m talking about the weeds that you can’t eat), no bugs coming to eat your plants, no slow growing because there isn’t enough sunshine plants, none of that. It’s all lush and perfect in your mind.

This year, my garden area is north- facing. It gets a tiny bit (maybe 2-3 hours?) of partial sun in the morning, and that’s about it. I’ve also noticed that it’s very moist clay soil- there isn’t any grass out there, just some weeds and mud- so, very hard for anything to grow. I tried to think of places in nature that things would be like that, and I think it’s similar to wooded bogs or moist woodland. I searched and searched for shade plants- plants that tend to grow in shaded forests, and near wetlands. I’m a very practical planter- I like to grow things for their usefulness, rather than their beauty (though many useful plants are also beautiful- with notable exceptions, like peonies- my garden style runs heavily on the cottage mish-mash side- offends The poor Boy’s sensibilities -straight rows, no weeds- he’s done very well to adjusting when I shout, “No! Don’t pull that up! It’s purslane! It’s going in our salad next week!” 🙂 )

Anyway, I digress. It’s very hard finding practical plants that grow well in so much shade. But I have found a few that I think might do well. So here are the ones I’m getting,a nd I hope they like it here!

Meadowsweet- grows well in shade and moist conditions

Sweet Woodruff- ground cover, good in the shade

Feverfew- useful herb, grows well in shade

Columbine- woodland flower, useful plant

Comfrey- the reasoning is if it’s invasive in sunny spots, it might grow noninvasively in shady spots

Anise Hyssop? I’ve got to research this one- I have it on one of my many lists, and I can’t remember anything about it, other than I saw hyssop last year, and the bees and butterflies were veritably SWARMING around it! I want something that draws those wonderful insects to my garden! 🙂

Mondarda

Bleeding Heart (need to research those more too)

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Gratitiude

I have gotten to the part where SBB asks you to start a gratitude journal. I take time very frequently to be grateful for simple things, but I decided to go along with her, and start one. I may do this on paper, or I may do it here, I haven’t decided. But I thought I’d share my last 48 hours of gratitude with you.

1. cuddling and nursing in bed when you have nowhere to go

2. warm fires (and let me just add the whole sensory experience of a fire- the heat, the smell of the smoke, the crackling, the closeness as it draws people in toward it, watching the embers blink out one by one in the darkness)

3. sparkling clean sinks

4. winter sun and sky

5. fleece jammies

6. deep, dark, velvet chocolate

7. gluten free crackers

8. a washing machine (IN the apt!!!)

9. naps

10. sunshine

11. SNOW!

12. candlelight

13. a child’s laugh

14. hand crocheted/knitted blankets

In the words of Emily from “Our Town”: “Oh, earth,you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you.”

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What do I need?

Today (Ok, 4 days ago, I’m very behind) SBB asks what you really NEED to survive.

I need The Boy and Fairy Girl- without them, I have no reason. I need food, air, and water. (I sound like a plant! :)) Real, nourishing food, fresh air, and clean water. Sunshine- without it, I’d get very depressed. I need shelter- a place that’s warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. Clothing, for similar reasons. (Though, clothing almost becomes a want rather than a need, in summer- too bad it’s illegal to be naked. *sigh*) I need sleep. I need nature- animals and things that are green. Without them, it would be a bleak place. I need books, and time to think. To be alone, to grow. I need family, connection to my past. I need girlfriends- reflections of different aspects of myself, challenging one another, supporting and comforting one another. I need beauty- art, music.

That’s all I can think of. Could I pare down this list, even? Yes, but to be my best, this is what I need. What do you need?

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I’ve been wanting to do a bit more organized stuff with Fairy Girl- so I recently started doing “Circle Time” with her.

Circle time consists of one or two circle games (Like Ring Around the Rosy), and a couple songs, fingerplays, and a story.

This week was our first full week doing one. We do the same ones all week, because at her age, she really needs the repetition to get it. (I do too, actually, since a lot of these I don’t have internalized or memorized.)

This weeks theme was bears- mostly out of convenience, but also it’s fairly timely as January is a great time to talk about hibernation.

So this past week, our circle time has looked like this:

Ring Around the Rosy (many many times of this, as Fairy Girl LOVES it)

Then the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, played out with three of her teddy bears and a doll (who is actually brunette)

and two rhymes

Bears Bears Everywhere

and Teddy Bear Teddy Bear

We usually end with a song that I just happen to like very much:

Happiness runs in a circular motion

Like a little boat sailing on the sea

Everybody is a part of everything anyway

You can be happy just let yourself be. 🙂

This coming week’s theme is owls. Fairy Girl just learned the ASL sign for owl, and she’s noticing owls now, so I thought it was good.

Circle time is loosely planned like this:

Game: We may continue with Ring Around the Rosy, or start Sally Go Round the Sun

Fingerplay: Open Shut Them (Hands- it doesn’t have anything to do with Owls, but that’s ok)

And this one, that I found tonight.

An owl sat alone on the branch of a tree,
(Use arm as branch; raise thumb for owl)
And she was as quiet as quiet could be.
‘Twas night and her eyes were wide open like this;
(Circle eyes with fingers and look around)
She looked all around; not a thing did she miss.
Some little birds perched on the branch of the tree,
(Fingers of other hand fly on tree)
And sat there as quiet as quiet could be.
The solemn old owl said “Whoo-whoo-whoo,”
And up jumped the birds and away they flew.
(Wave hand away, fluttering fingers behind back)
The story was REALLY hard for this theme. I tried to find a good fable, fairy tale, or myth related to owls- I found a few Aesop’s Fables, but nothing appropriate for a two year old. So, I’m going to get 5 books out from the library, and just read one a day (which goes against my repetition “rule”, but oh well).

Song: A Wise Old Owl (From Lavender’s Blue- Naturally You Can Sing)

I also found a cute owl craft to do, and I intend to knit/crochet an owl for her this week too. I can’t wait to share this with our Tuesday playdate!

It seems very involved, but Circle Time only takes up about 10 minutes of our day.

I think next week we’ll do wolves, because this months full moon is the Wolf Moon. And perhaps snow after that, but I really want it to be SNOWY out when I do the snow theme! Ahem- anytime, Mother Nature.

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It wasn’t a new years resolution, but it coincided with the new year. A clarity.

I’ve always known that sugar is bad for you. I’ve even known why- blood sugar spikes, crashes, obesity, blah, blah. But, sugar is REALLY bad for you! It’s E-VILLE. I recently read through Sears’ book on family nutrition, and he outlined why sugar is so bad really well. So, I’m going to repeat them.

First of all, and perhaps most seriously, sugar suppresses your immune response. I honestly don’t know exactly what that means, other than, “makes it easier for you to get sick”. A quick google search on “immune response” tells me that I need to get a biology textbook. 🙂 My guess is that it inhibits in a few ways- one, being to depress your body’s antibodies, and secondarily it leeches vitamins and minerals from your body- so that’s two ways to weaken your body’s defenses.

Second, as I mentioned, sugar causes your body’s blood sugar to spike and crash, causing irritability, the shakes, and all the other things that can happen with low blood sugar- your energy is low- personally, I’ve found my energy stays low- I don’t have periods of high energy when I consume sugar. Because of this, it also promotes cravings. I also personally believe that sugar is an addictive substance, like alcohol or nicotine, and promotes cravings in other ways than just through sugar crashes. I haven’t looked to see if this is scientifically verified, but if you’re reading my blog for scientific information, then you’re reading the wrong blog. 🙂 I go much more by intuition than science. (That could be another whole post!)

Sugar also promotes obesity, diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. Seeing as I’m obese, insulin resistant (pre diabetic), and have had three cavities in the past year, I think it’s safe to say I’d benefit from cutting down on the sugar.

I also really don’t want Fairy Girl to have sugar problems- I read that children are born attracted to the taste of sweet, (after all, breastmilk is sweet- and so I don’t see this as a pathology) and I also felt it was really unfair for me to have sugar when Fairy Girl couldn’t, so I’d give her tiny bits of whatever I had- however, she is now a sugar seeking missile. And I know I”m responsible for that. So, I’m going to do for myself what’s best for both of us- no more added sugar.

And when I say cutting down, I mean *really* cutting down- previous to this new dietary development, I didn’t have white sugar in the house. I used Sucanat in baking, or honey, or maple syrup. But, in reality, these things are all sugar too- honey is primarily fructose, so it doesn’t produce as quick of a blood sugar spike and crash, but too much of it still affects your body like sugar does. Same for all the sweet things. Sucanat actually IS sugar cane- unrefined, with all vitamins intact, but sugar nonetheless.

So anyway, we have gotten rid of all the white sugar, and while I can’t bear to throw out the bag of sucanat (it’s expensive!), it’s not going to be used for a while. I’ve stopped adding honey to my peanut butter and apple snack. (But I kept the cinnamon, which actually helps balance your blood sugars! Yay for cinnamon!) I’ve read the labels on all our products, and the cereal, crackers, and dried fruit have no added sugar (who thinks it’s a good idea to add HFCS AND sugar to dried blueberries??? Tell me!), but my morning gluten free bagels do. Oops. Don’t worry, there’s only one left.

I AM keeping the honey and maple syrup in our house, mostly for The Boy, who isn’t so keen on avoiding all sugar. But except for lunch, he eats what I cook and shop for, so he’s cutting down too, unless he’s buying candy at work or something. I’m doing ok. I find my cravings are the worst in the evenings, after dinner- I’ve been taming them with high quality chocolate. 88% cacao, and local. Oh, yum. After reading “Real Food“, I consider chocolate a health food! 🙂

But that doesn’t mean our mouths are devoid of the sweet taste- in fact, I knew this would never work if we didn’t have something to curb our cravings with- so, in addition to eating often enough to prevent low blood sugar, and eating lots of protein and fat at each meal, I have fresh and dried fruit, a friend gave me some natural pineapple juice, which I actually find too sweet to drink straight- I need to cut it with water-, we have dates, which I intend to turn into coconut date balls, and stevia– this stevia is my lifesaver- now, there is evidence that stevia can cause temporary infertility if you use large amounts of it, so I think it’s best used within a low sugar context, but it’s intensely sweet, but doesn’t affect your blood sugar AT ALL- and it can really help with a sweet craving- I make lemonade out of it, or add it to plain yogurt with a touch of vanilla to make vanilla yogurt (a favorite of Fairy Girl). I’d like to learn to bake with the herb, but I haven’t really done much experimenting there yet- I’m still experimenting with all these new gluten free flours. These really help when you need a sweet taste, without the sugar spike.

The other thing that’s really a lifesaver for me, is this book I got for free several years ago, “Sweet and Sugarfree“- I got it with good intentions, but gave up on going sugarfree that time- but I kept the book, thank goodness, and I plan on making a cake for Fairy Girl’s upcoming birthday out of it. It’s a vanilla carob cake sweetened with banana. It has sugar free carob icing in the back to go with it. (Banana again-though I bet you could also make a good sugar free carrot cake with cream cheese frosting sweetened with stevia.)

This book is great, because it’s given me a way to continue to celebrate in a way that I like to without feeling deprived- now, on Christmas, we’re still going to have all the cookies, but maybe give more of them away. And ask my mother as nicely as I can to not love us so much! 🙂 (She loves by offering sweets- and you wonder why I have a sugar problem? My mother has the worst sweet tooth of anyone I know!) I believe that as long as we balance our diets with being sugar free as much as we can most of the time, then cookies at Christmas won’t be such a big deal- and the other thing is that you can get used to less sugar, and the sweeter things in our society’s palate will become cloying, and you won’t want to eat them anyway.

I will let you know how our sugar free cake is received by the people at our party.

Edit: I read the reviews of my book at Amazon, and got scared- so I made the cake today, exactly as the recipe called for- except for the carob- I used cocoa powder instead. The cake itself was fluffy, but virtually completely devoid of sweet. Which honestly, I don’t mind- it didn’t taste bad, it just wasn’t all that sweet. So I made the icing to put on top, and THEN it was sweet- really good. 🙂 I plan on tinkering with the recipe a bit though,- instead of milk, adding vanilla yogurt, and maybe toying with the icing too. I will post the recipe if it ends up being something super. And once I get it down with no sugar, I plan to make it gluten free- but one thing at a time! 🙂

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Bunny and a baby

This is the knitted bunny I made for Fairy Girl’s birthday. The pattern is here.

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Today was a good day- the kind of day you wish you could have every day (or maybe you do?) where things just flow. Fairy Girl took an early nap, and when she woke up, we ate lunch, and went on a walk- we swung on the swings, and meandered all over- we found forget-me-nots! I guess since they were in a patch of sunlight, they thought spring had come early. Fairy Girl wanted to take her dolly Elizabeth (I named her, she was mine when I was little) on a walk, but I ended up carrying her most of the time. But Elizabeth got muddy, so when we came inside, I decided it would be fun to give Elizabeth a bath. So I got a bowl of water as a bathtub for dolly, and gave Fairy Girl a washcloth, and let her get to it. She entertained herself for a good 15 minutes that way. Then we moved to the playroom where she played dress up while I worked on another birthday present of hers- a doll bed made out of a clementine crate. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be lucky to have it done in time for her birthday, let alone anything ELSE I planned to make for her. But, that’s ok. She’ll get them all eventually.

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