What I’m Into: October 2014

October leaves

playing in leaves

October garden

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can’t even begin to talk about October without first making this important PSA: if you are experiencing any kind of back trouble, whether related to pregnancy or anything else, consider chiropractic care. Even if you don’t have insurance and will have to pay for it out of pocket. Even if you’re broke.

I mentioned last month that I was suffering from debilitating back pain related to my pregnancy. Seriously, you guys: I could hardly move. Getting out of bed and climbing down the stairs in the morning pretty much wiped me out for the day. I couldn’t get groceries, couldn’t cook . . . couldn’t do any of the daily household tasks that needed to be done. I was miserable and helpless so the whole family was miserable and hopeless. And we were ordering in dinner every night, which we totally can’t afford. I was panicking, because I didn’t know how I could possibly deliver a baby in a few months when already in this much pain.

So we decided it could hardly cost us more to go see a chiropractor. We sucked it up and I used my piddly savings from my blog’s ad revenue to see if my sister’s chiropractor could help me.

The first couple of weeks didn’t seem to help much, though my chiropractor seemed able to pinpoint exactly which vertebrae and joints were giving me trouble. I was feeling discouraged. Three $30 appointments a week were draining the bank account pretty fast. I stuck to it, though, and soon I started to feel better.

And now, four weeks later, I’m as good as new! I literally feel no more pain whatsoever. I can walk with my daughter to the park, climb stairs without thinking about it, and I’m on my feet most of the day again without trouble. The only reason I remember I’m carrying 30-odd extra pounds is because I get out of breath if I move too quickly.

So all that is to say: I’m so glad we went ahead and saw a chiropractor! Totally worth it. I am a firm believer now. My quality of life is improved a hundredfold, and we don’t have to order in crappy food every night.

Okay, moving on!

Books

During my last pregnancy, I probably read at least two books a month on pregnancy, birth, or infant care for the duration of my pregnancy. So that was, like, eighteen books. Plus a ton of internet reading. This time around, aside from some refreshers on pregnancy nutrition, I hadn’t read a thing.

I’m due next month (late November), so I thought I’d re-read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (Ina May Gaskin) — the book that sealed the deal on home birth for me last time. (Oh yeah, if you didn’t already know — I’m planning on another midwife-attended home birth this time around. I sometimes forget that people give birth anywhere else. Hoping for a water birth!) It’s just so comforting and inspiring. My anxiety about this birth has decreased since re-reading it. I believe my body can do it. I was made for this. Thanks, Ina May!

I also decided to try out The Nesting Place (Myquillyn Smith), just because everyone on the internet is going crazy over it. I had to wait months to get it from the library, it’s in such high demand. Turns out the timing is just wrong for me right now. With a new baby coming, interior design just isn’t on the forefront of my mind. And I felt like the opening chapters were just . . . stating really obvious things? But the latter chapters are more interesting, and the photos inspiring . . . I’m suddenly inspired to make some textured wreaths and sunburst mirrors for our house. In between gathering birth supplies and attending midwife appointments and freezing meals, of course.

Children’s Books

flora and the flamingo

We happened upon Flora and the Flamingo (Molly Idle, 2013) at the library recently. What a stunning find! It’s another gorgeously-illustrated wordless book with a unique twist — it has interactive flaps to help tell the story about a little girl learning to dance with a graceful flamingo. The artist is a former DreamWorks animator and you can totally tell.

It is, however, a very delicate book, what with all the white space and manipulable flaps; at three, Lydia is a little young to be trusted with it completely unsupervised. I’ve kept it on a high shelf and only allowed her to look at it when she asks. I would recommend it for slightly older children — maybe four or five. Little girls (especially aspiring ballerinas) will love this beautiful, charming book.

Little Oink

Back in March, I shared our love for the books Little Pea and Little Hoot. I remembered that there was a third one in the series out there somewhere, and I requested it through inter-library loan.

Little Oink (Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace) is just as funny and cute as the first two. This time, it’s about a neat little pig who likes to keep his room tidy, but his parents tell him he has to mess it up before he can go play. The illustrations are lovely and just as chuckle-inducing as the text. Ben and I enjoy this book as much as Lydia does.

Television

We started watching Veronica Mars (from 2004) on Netflix last month and weren’t crazy-impressed. It seemed a little cheesy and relied too heavily on narration in those first few episodes. But Leigh Kramer insisted we keep going, so we watched a few more episodes.

I’m so glad we did! We LOVE this show! We watched an episode almost every night until we finished season one. Spectacular! A very intriguing plot and wonderfully complex and interesting characters. There’s scandal and murder and intrigue but it’s not dark and gory like many shows these days. There’s witty banter and familial love and high school drama in there, too. Thanks for the push, Leigh!

Movies

We watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on Netflix this month. Overall, we really enjoyed it. It’s funny and weird and has a happy ending. You get to see beautiful landscapes and it will make you want to travel the world and go on adventures.

With the Munchkin

One of the most fun things we did this month was just walk around the neighbourhood collecting leaves for crafts. Okay, so I was more into it than she was; but she ended up liking holding the basket. And it was good to get out of the house.

Beach sand play dough

I made this sand play dough for her, which she loves. I just had coarse commercial sand on hand — not beautiful, fine, Florida beach sand like in the original tutorial — but it still gives it a really neat texture and weight, and is fun with sea shells.sharpies on foil

Another fun and easy fall-back activity that Lydia loves is coloured Sharpies on aluminum foil. The foil makes the colours glow, and just offers a slightly different experience.

marker holder made with plaster of paris. Keep markers off the floor and capped!

And lastly, I made her this plaster marker holder, with instructions from The Artful Parent (Jean Van’t Hul). Like most kids, Lydia loves colouring with markers, but she always left the markers and caps scattered all over the floor. This was both irritating and it quickly ruined the markers. With this pretty new holder, she is much more likely to put her markers back where they belong. No mess, no drying out. WIN.

Linking up with Leigh Kramer!

*This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!*

5 Reasons I Choose to Spend More Money on Groceries

5 Reasons I Choose to Spend More Money on Groceries

On the whole, our family probably spends less money on food than many North American families do, since I’m able to cook most things from scratch (mayonnaise, granola, yogurt, bread, etc), we grow some of our own food, and we almost never eat out.

But I spend quite a bit more money on certain items than a lot of families (especially other lower-income families) do. And I do this voluntarily. Often, when deciding between two products, I’ll actually go with the more expensive one, which makes some folks gasp.

“Ten dollars for four liters of milk?!” [That’s about a gallon for you Americans.]

“Seven dollars for a little baggie of salt?!”

“Three dollars for a chocolate bar?!”

Yup, I’ve heard them all. They can’t believe I’d willingly spend double to triple the amount on what seems, to them, to be essentially the same product.

Why?

There are a number of reasons I do this, which I will outline below.

But I first wanted to explain that for me, the way I spend money is an expression of my theology. It’s one of the ways I “do ministry.”

Most Christians believe strongly in the importance of giving money to the poor. Most Evangelicals accept the idea that at least ten percent of one’s income should go towards Kingdom-building endeavors.

This isn’t so different. The way I choose to buy my groceries is my attempt to help feed and clothe the poor, as Jesus commands, in a way that may be as effective as – possibly even more effective than – donating money in the traditional sense. I am choosing to spend a portion of my earnings on bettering the lives of other humans and non-human animals.

Moreover, I try to keep in mind that we North Americans still only spend a tiny fraction of our incomes on food compared to people of other nations.  While Americans, on average, spend only 6-10% of their incomes on food, Algerians, for example, spend almost 44% of their incomes on food (source). I don’t think it’s unreasonable, then, to be willing to spend a little extra to ensure that my food is ethically acquired.

Here are some reasons why I choose to spend more money on groceries.

1. I don’t think I’m actually spending more in the long run.

I believe it’s actually more economical to invest in high-quality (whole, local, organic) food, because it results in improved health for me and my family. That means less money we have to spend on drugs, dentistry, vitamin supplements, and the like. (As Canadians, we don’t personally pay for doctor and hospital visits, but we reduce the amount of taxpayer money that has to be spent on our health problems). As 11-year-old Birke Baehr puts it, “We can either pay the farmer or we can pay the hospital.” I choose to pay the farmer.

We also save money because quality food fills you up better and longer. A hard-boiled free-range egg and a banana will go a lot further and give me a lot more energy than a coffee and donut, which will just leave me needing to refuel again soon (not to mention make me feel like crap and make me work less effectively). When my food is nutrient-dense, I require a lot less of it.roadside stand

2. When it comes to animal products, I often pay more to ensure they’ve been raised humanely.

When I can, I try to buy meat, eggs, and milk from animals that have lived their lives on the pasture, not in cramped, dirty cages or stalls. (When they’re not available, I try to avoid these foods altogether. We eat a lot of beans around here).

I believe that God cares deeply for his animals and He grieves to see them treated cruelly. I don’t want to participate in the brutality characteristic of factory farms.

It costs a lot more to raise animals on an open farm, so I have to be willing to pay more if I want to see animals treated well.

3. When it comes to things like sugar, cocoa, and tomatoes – foods that are frequently produced using slave labour, or bought at unfair prices – I choose to pay a premium for fair-trade certification, to ensure that farmers and harvesters have been paid a fair price.

A lot of what we buy is so cheap in North America because people were exploited in the process of getting it here.

As I mentioned above, we North Americans spend way less on food than people all over the world. The reason is because we’re practically stealing it from those people.

If we wealthy suburbanites were all willing to pay a little more for our food, we could help ensure that farmers get paid what their crops are worth.

4. I buy organic not only for our own health, but also to ensure the land remains healthy for future generations, and so workers don’t have to be exposed to harmful chemicals.

Pesticides are dangerous for everyone involved, not just us consumers. And they’re damaging our soil, water and air. Again, I’m willing to pay more money for food that is safely and sustainably grown and so no one has to suffer.

5. I sometimes pay more for local produce.

Last June, in a weird twist of logic, I discovered in the grocery store that the strawberries grown here in Ontario cost more than the ones shipped in from California — that is, from the opposite coast of a different country! For the few weeks that strawberries were in season, I faithfully picked up a pint of Ontario strawberries and paid the extra dollar for the ones that didn’t take gallons of fossil fuels to get to me. This was just a small way I felt I could help reduce pollution.

So these are just a few reasons that spending more money on groceries is part of my peculiar lifestyle.

Am I forgetting anything?

How about you? What factors influence the way you shop?

*An earlier version of this post appeared April 10, 2012.*

Images courtesy of Anca Mosoiu and Sharon Drummond.

Healthy Vanilla Pumpkin Smoothie

healthy vanilla pumpkin smoothie

I fell in love with pumpkin last year when I bought a couple of beautiful heirloom pumpkins for decoration. The elegant Rouge Vif d’Etampes and the whimsical grey Jarrehdale pumpkin looked amazing on my front porch throughout the fall. I took them inside when it started to freeze; and finally in December, when they’d enjoyed much admiration for their stunning appearance, I hacked them up, roasted them, and pureed them.

Prior to then, I didn’t have much experience baking with pumpkin and the commercial pumpkin products I’d tried hadn’t impressed me all that much. Now I found myself with an abundance of puree on my hands and I started to experiment.

Turned out I LOVED me some pumpkin. And those lovely decorative pumpkins ended up having sweeter, thicker, and smoother flesh than the traditional pie pumpkins I’d tried earlier. I used the puree mostly in muffins, breads, and risotto; but I loved it all so much I was eager to try it in different recipes as well. Pumpkin ice cream? Pumpkin cheesecake?!

This year I planted the seeds of those two pumpkins and ended up with a whole pile of their handsome offspring. Now it’s pumpkin every day!

One of my favourite creations so far is this pumpkin smoothie. I love it as a mid-afternoon snack. It was inspired by a recipe I saw on Pinterest from The Pioneer Woman, but that recipe called for canned pie filling and vanilla yogurt. Since I make my own pumpkin puree and yogurt, I knew I needed to deconstruct that recipe. Plus, I was pretty sure her recipe had more sugar and additives than I wanted. I was looking for a healthier, more frugal option. And so this smoothie was born. (If you are the kind of person who buys vanilla yogurt and canned pie filling, by all means, go ahead and try Pioneer Woman’s recipe).

It’s delicious and nutritious! The pumpkin provides lots of nutrients, like beta-carotene (an antioxidant), vitamin C, and potassium. The yogurt provides beneficial probiotics. We’ve got healthy fats, protein, and fiber going on here, making it good and filling. I sweeten mine with maple syrup — no refined sugars over here!

I personally find that the tang from the yogurt pairs perfectly with the pumpkin and the spice. The vanilla makes it extra-luxurious. And maple tastes great in every beverage, in my opinion.

Before you try this recipe, you have to freeze your pumpkin puree in ice cube trays. (Like, the night before.) That helps make it creamy. And if you don’t have your own pumpkin spice blend, I have a recipe for that at the bottom.

Healthy Vanilla Pumpkin Smoothie Recipe

Serves 1

  • 3 cubes frozen pumpkin puree (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (cow’s milk or coconut milk are both delectable)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice (recipe below)
  • 2-3 Tbsp maple syrup (I’m happy with 2; some might prefer sweeter)
  • sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)

Blend everything together in a blender (I use my Magic Bullet). Make sure to do it good and long to make sure all the pumpkin gets blended in. Pour into a glass and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired. Enjoy!

And if you need it:

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Recipe

  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice

Blend together and store in a sealed container.  It’s ready to join in on your pumpkin adventures!