Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Food Frolic! Jerk Chicken Veggie Soup

This one is a favorite of mine and if the jerk seasoning wasn't so hot, I would eat it for every meal!  For the girls, I omit the jerk seasoning and tone down the spicy peppers. This is a great wintertime soup and with all it's peppers and garlic, it's a great immunity boost!

Jerk Chicken Veggie Soup
16 oz organic vegetable stock
2 cans diced tomatoes with onion
½ can diced tomatoes with chilies
1 small can tomato paste with garlic
1 tbsp. diced garlic
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. cayenne powder
1 green pepper diced
1 red pepper diced
10 red potatoes diced
3 organic, free range chicken breasts
Rasta Rub seasoning
Organic shredded cheddar cheese
Blue corn tortilla chips or rolls
(I try to buy organic when possible for all the ingredients)

1. Almost puree the diced tomatoes, garlic, and 1/3 of the diced green & red peppers in a food processor.
2. Add the tomato/pepper mixture to crock pot, adding: the tomato paste, chili powder, cayenne powder, remaining peppers and diced red potatoes. Mix well.
3. Stir in vegetable broth to desired consistency.
You may not need all 16 oz.
4. Cut chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes. Coat with Rasta Rub (or any jerk seasoning). Toss in frying pan with a little oil until thoroughly cooked. Dice and add to crock pot.
5. Cook on high 5 hours or until potatoes are done.
6. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and serve with tortilla chips/rolls. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

One Pint ~ Three Lives ~ One Hour of My Time

A creative way to practice the three R's!

Did you know that donating a pint of blood can save up to 3 lives? Yes, one hour of your time can give THREE other fellow humans a lifetime of hours that they otherwise might not have.  The whole thing takes about an hour and the actual donation takes only about 15 minutes.  I did it 4 years ago for my father-in-law when he had surgery for cancer.  I swore that I would continue to donate and I never did again.  I had all good intentions about finding a drive and with the usual busyness of life, I always forgot.

Two weeks ago a letter came home in my daughter's school folder.  Her school was hosting a blood drive in honor of a fellow classmate who died of a rare blood disorder called ITP.  A sweet little girl, who had an unknown platelet disorder that the doctors caught too late.  It's a heartbreaking story that crosses my mind time to time when I look at my own very healthy, very alive little girls.  The Red Cross calls it a "Pint Size Hero" drive. The kids are supposed to get at least one adult to sign up in their stead to donate blood.  They in turn become Pint Size Heros and get some cool prize.  Perfect opportunity! I went online and signed up. 
The Red Cross website lists all the drives in the area in one place, so it's easy to find a blood drive to fit your schedule. 

So last night my daughter got to be a Pint Size Hero. And I got to be one, too.  Last night I gave a mother back her child, a parent back, a husband, wife, sister, brother, friend back to their loved ones. Last night I got to be a miracle maker and it cost me nothing.

An hour of my time, a pound off my scale, and I received a lesson in gratitude. Because last night while my blood filled the donation bag, I sat there with my daughter and thanked the universe a thousand times over that my family and I were on the giving end of the blood donation.  I was grateful for the chance to express my thanks in such a simple and profound way.  And you can bet that I will no longer let excuses get in the way of my being able to give this gift as often as I can.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday Words of Wisdom 1.27.10

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos into order, confusion into clarity.
It turns problems into gifts, failures into success,
the unexpected into perfect timing,
and mistakes into important events.
Gratitude makes sense of our past,
brings peace for today
and creates a vision for tomorrow."
                                                                               ~Melodie Beattie

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Saving the World One Tree at a Time

The non-recycler in our house says to me whenever I dig paper out of the garbage,"there you go, saving the world one tree at a time." And I always answer with, "if we added up all the people saving the world one tree at a time, imagine how many trees we would save!"

So it pleases me to watch the girls not even think twice about putting their paper scraps, empty cracker boxes, and miscellaneous other papers straight into the paper recycle bin.  It is just second nature to them to do so!

Before we moved, we lived in a community that "got" recycling and heavily promoted it.  They recycled plastics 1-7, glass, cans, aluminum, all papers, cardboards, paperboard and all curbside.  The community we live in is trying to get there.  But for now only glass, metals, plastics 1&2, and newpaper is curbside.  I can sneak in my 3-7 plastics to work, and put them in the recycle bin there.  But my papers I have to take to the drop-off facility at the other end of our town.  This has become quite the outing for the girls. They love tossing the papers and boxes and cardboard into the containers and seeing who can through the farthest!

Just think!
"You use paper and paperboard products every day, from newspapers to food packaging to office paper. In fact, paper and paperboard products make up the largest portion of the municipal solid waste stream in the United States and as a result,

So in the spirit of proving that ONE person CAN make a difference, see the below pictures. 
One person at a time, filled these containers with waste paper.
And just think - each container is a container load of waste being kept out of a landfill.

Happy Recycling!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Getting Crafty! - Grab Bags Galore

My oldest is a collector of all things small. This past weekend, she turned in a gift card for some more small baubles. When we got home and opened the packages, I realized that these little go-go's and mighty beans needed a happy home. She has dozens of trinket boxes that house all kinds of treasures, but nothing that allows her to carry them from place to place.
So we hauled out the tote of fabric scraps and decided to make our own grab bags. She was quite pleased that we were able to craft something new and usable out of something old. The pouch can be made bigger at the top, but this was the perfect size for her and made it difficult for the little items to spill out. So here goes!

Reversible Grab Bags
Materials needed:
2 - scraps of fabric - at least 20"x8" - different patterns
2 - 12" lengths of ribbon
velcro strips - self-stick, approx. 2 1/2 inches long

1) Start with 2 pieces of fabric cut into the same dimensions.
2) Lay the fabrics right sides together and pin.
3) Using a 1/4 inch seam, sew the two sides together. Make sure to leave a 2 inch opening, so that you can turn the fabrics right side out.
4) Turn the fabrics right side out, sew the small opening closed.
5) Press the seams flat.
6) About 3 inches from the top (where the neck of the pouch funnels) sew the middle of the ribbon to the fabric. Both ribbons should mirror each other on the same piece of fabric (one on each side).
7) Fold material in half, with fold at the bottom of the bag. Keep the ribbons hanging out of the top so that you don't sew it into the side seams.
8) Sew both sides together. Your bag is almost done!
9) Stick the strips of velcro inside the opening to the bag.
10) Tie the ribbon around the bag's neck. You are done! Hooray!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday Words of Wisdom 1.19.10

"If a child is to keep alive an inborn sense of wonder
without any such gift from the fairies,
she needs the companionship of one adult who can share it,
rediscovering with her the joy, excitement,
and mystery of the world we live in."
                                                                             ~Rachel Carson

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Food Frolic! Breakfast Biscuits

One of the things we've been doing at home, is taking our favorite store bought foods and making them from scratch. My oldest likes to compare the ingredients in the store bought to the ones in our recipe. For example, canned biscuits have some 20 ingredients, from scratch only 7. She is amazed at how much better it tastes and takes pride in creating healthy-for-you foods. It makes for fun Saturday mornings and is something I look forward to each week.
So, our first recipe of this blog will be for breakfast biscuits. If I tweak too far from what the girls are used to, they won't eat it, hence the butter stays. During the week, my youngest will eat breakfast, but my oldest doesn't like to eat that early, so these are great for before school.

Breakfast Biscuits
1 1/4 cups organic unbleached flour
3/4 cup organic whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon rice protein powder (can be omitted)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup organic butter (we like Horizon)
3/4 cup organic milk (we like Horizon or Organic Valley)

~Pre-heat over to 450 degrees~
1) Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.
2) Cut butter into chunks and use a fork to blend until crumbly.
3) Add the milk and stir until dough forms.
4) Knead dough until smooth (5-10 times).
Tip ~ the less handled, the better.
5) Two choices here: roll the dough out and cut into 3 inch circles
or drop by tablespoonful onto a cookie sheet.
6) Bake for 10-14 minutes on a cookie sheet in the preheated oven,
until golden on the bottom. 
The less time baked, the softer the biscuit.

This recipe is really versatile!
Switch it up by adding cheese or garlic or your own herbs.
Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday Words of Wisdom

"To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; To find the best in others; To leave the world a little bit better, whether by healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life had breathed easier because you have lived, This is to have succeeded."
                                                               ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Letting go (slowly)

I'm a notorious saver.  I save things that I think the girls will enjoy having as adults to remember things from their childhood.  I save things that I think we might need later, or might fit again later, or might be good-for-something later.  For the past year, my resolution has been to "let go" of most of these things, to clean out the clutter and give up things I no longer use. To reduce and recycle these things I no longer need.

In doing this, I have come to realize why I hold onto so much and I think it stems from being adopted. I was adopted straight from the hospital into my waiting adoptive parents arms.  It was a closed adoption, so the only info I had was a misspelled last name on a document a secretary from the lawyers office should have retyped.  I grew up with no past, no ethnic history, no so-called roots of my own blood.  I had vowed in my teenage years that "when I have kids" I would have things to give them, that gave them a sense of familial history.

So I had three experiences this past year that were the catalyst to my letting go of all these physical memories that I was holding onto.

The First:
My husband's best friend of 20+ years was killed on his motorcycle. Devasting. (Not his fault and he was wearing a helmet.)  So to really shorten a very long story, we ended up moving into his house.  It's a top school district, beautiful woodsy suburb, right on the lake and my home town.  We had to pack up our house of 10 years and move from a 2 story to a ranch.  I couldn't believe the things we had collected along the many years and vowed that it would stay in the garage until I could sort through what was staying and what was going.  I am proud to say that we now have use of our 3 car garage.  And Easter Seals has us on speed dial!

The second:
About midway through my de-cluttering, I got in touch with an old friend.  We were hanging out on the patio and doing some catching up since high school. She told me a story about how she & her husband did some missionary work before they had kids.  They sold or gave away most of their things and left the USA with just their hiking packs on their backs.  That's it.  I was blown away.  And I decided that I wanted that kind of freedom from possessions for myself.  I began anew and started cleaning again with a vengeance.

The third:
And yet another story on a blog I read, of a girl who managed to reduce her belongings to a couple of totes.  In one of her posts, she spoke of letting go of attachments to the past, to the future and it really spoke to me.  So now I ask myself, "if I let go of this item, will I lose the memory?" And most of the time, the answer is, "no."  So with renewed vigor, I've been attacking the memory boxes in the basement.  I want space in my house and space to create.  I want clear counter tops and empty shelves.  I want to be able to pack my belongings in a handful of totes and know that I have all I need tucked away in my heart .

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Our Top 5 Ways to Save Water

As we found ourselves in a snowglobe sort of snowfall this past week, I found a really cool site on snowflakes. The big fat, fluffy kind that you can catch on your tongue and see on your coat.

During this period of incessant snowfall, the weather man was warning kids not to eat the snow as it most likely was laden with chemicals and other pollutants. How sad is that? But it opened up a discussion for the girls & I on ways we can save water around our house and ways that our water use can have less of an impact on our environment.

So here's what we came up with and I think it's a pretty good, pretty doable start to the year.

1) "Save water, shower with a friend." My dad had this shirt when I was growing up and I loved it.  So shorter showers and shallower baths - and not daily!

2) Use organic soap/shampoos/washes/detergents.  Anything that's going down the drain should be free of chemicals and pollutants.

3) Use a rainbarrel.  We bought one at the end of summer and will be installing it come spring.  Our "secret" garden behind the garage is far away from any hose.  We are putting the barrel there to use to water our flowers and veggies. (hopefully the mama deer will leave us some this year!)

4) Ban the Bottle, plastic that is!  3 of the 4 people in our household don't buy bottled water.  It is our goal to get the 4th to abandon his water bottle addiction.  Even with a fresh pitcher of filtered tap water, he will go for the bottle.  I console myself with the fact that at least he recycles them.

5)  Make more gardens in our yard with native plants, so that there is less watering of the lawn. Dad likes his grass green, green, green in the summertime!

And here's 95 more ways to conserve water.  Cheers!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Water Water Everywhere

Our household resolution this year is all about water conservation.  Since we live so close the lake and many small streams and rivers, we see what happens to them when we aren't recycling and aren't being diligent about what goes down our drains.

To kick off our resolution, we donated to Katie Spotz's  We are going to follow Katie's journey as she rows solo across the Atlantic in an attempt to bring awareness to the cause. Amazing!My girls have now provided clean and safe drinking water to one person for their entire life.  And hopefully throughout the year we will be able to continue to raise money to help the clean water campaign.

So raise your canteen and toast the New Year with us as we start our water saving journey today!