Friday, 1 June 2012

Welcome June Rain!

We also welcome the first day of June today!  June is one of my favourite months, coming second to September (Harvest Time!).  We enjoy the balmy mornings and warm afternoons without the intense heat that comes during the middle of July. 

Today is dark and rainy, but we do not mind at all.  I actually had to use the flash on my camera to take today's pictures...
After many months of waiting for a good rainfall, we are pleased to see that the day has finally come.  The rain is pouring down and quenching the thirst of all the newly planted seedlings in our gardens. 

Because the soil is completely parched, our main concern is that the majority of the precipitation that we receive today will end up running off as opposed to being absorbed into the soil. 
***I am praying for a thunderstorm this afternoon which will provide nitrogen (from the lightning) to "green" everything up!

Strawberry Plants


Wilke Reflection of the Week
***Each week, our family takes time to pause, reflect and appreciate a special moment in our lives.  We would like to share this reflection with you.

                                                    "Beating the Heat"

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Brown Tap Water Today

Brown tap water has always been a turn off for me, as I am certain that it is for most other people.

We had a slight rainfall this morning which seemed to have resulted in brown tap water in our home around lunch time.  It has been such an usually dry Spring season with our area having received less than 1/3 of our usual rainfall amounts.  Everything is dry in Ontario.  Forest Fires have been raging, lawns have a burnt look and the dust has been flying with even the slightest gust of wind.

Growing up, we lived in a small town located in a valley.  Every Spring, we would have brown tap water, some days worse than others - we called it "Farm Run-Off".  I remember how my Mother used to panic because she couldn't use the household water.  This always amazed me because we encountered the same situation every year yet she was never prepared - even though we all knew that it was inevitable.

Today, I immediately called some of my neighbours and advised them that they may potentially experience brown tap water.  We weren't sure if it was due to "run-off" from the rain or perhaps a broken pipe.  I then ran downstairs to my cold room and grabbed a bottle of water from our storage supply. 

Interestingly enough, we were prepared and didn't panic.  Most families do not have a back up water supply and would be rendered helpless in a situation like we experienced today.  Likely, they would run to the local grocery store and spend their hard earned dollars on bottled water to get them through this "mini crisis".  Well, what happened if our entire neighbourhood was unable to use tap water?  The local grocery store would run out of stock very quickly and then what?  Something to think about for sure...

Here is a simple guideline that we follow regarding Nature's Most Valuable Resource:

Firstly, as a family, we have learned that it is important to keep a backup supply of water for unexpected situations.  Our general rule is 1 litre (1000 ml) per person for 30 days = 30 litres.  If you have a family of 4, then you would require 120 litres.  This is the absolute minimum amount that we use as we need to ensure that we have the storage space.  If you have more space, then store as much water as you can.  For us, this water is designated for drinking and cooking. 

Secondly, we always save our bath and laundry water so we always have grey water readily available for flushing toilets.

Thirdly, we stop using our 45 gallon rain barrels once they get down to 1/3 full.  This provides us with a security net of water that we can use for washing/bathing should our tap water fail. 

If you are "saving water" it is important to ensure that you are using food grade plastic, stainless steel or glass containers.  Your water storage supply should be replaced every 90 days to ensure proper hygienic and sanitary conditions. 
***In the case of disaster, you need to be prepared for the fact that it can take up to 2 weeks before you and your family might have access to clean drinking water!

Curbside Find - Terracotta Trio

I was excited about this find and just in time for our Spring Planting.  I found a set of 3 Terracotta Pots with a peeling paint job right in our own neighbourhood.  It didn't matter because the pots themselves were free of any cracks or chips.  I haven't even repainted them as I found them to be rustic looking.  They have found a new home on our back deck and I planted my favourite Lavender seeds in them.  Perfect just the way they are!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Foraging Garlic Mustard

One of my wonderful neighbours brought me a salad last week.  It contained Garlic Mustard, Dandelion Greens, Cherry Tomatoes and Apple Slices.  It was a beautiful salad complimented with an outstanding dressing of Rice Vinegar and Udo Oil (  Gorgeous, Healthy and Reviving are words that come to mind when describing this salad and wonderful act of kindness from my neighbour.

I was interested in hearing further about the Garlic Mustard Plant.  This plant was first used as a culinary herb dating back to the year 1868.  It has a wonderfully pleasant garlic taste which becomes apparent approximately 5 - 10 seconds after first munching on the leaves.  It is a very invasive plant and has been outlawed in some states in the U.S.  It's supposed to have a slightly bitter taste, but we love it so much we don't even notice! 

Just 2 weeks ago, I was weeding and did not realize that I was removing copious amounts of Garlic Mustard from a corner of our backyard.  I could not believe that what I thought was a weed was actually beneficial food for us!  This plant spreads quickly each year, however we have it on the opposite side of our garden in order to keep it under control.  Because of the underlying hint of garlic, it naturally repels insects and fungus.  It is very easy to recognize.  If you are not sure, just rub the leaves between your fingers and wait for that great garlic scent.

Garlic Mustard is high in Vitamin A and C.  It can be used on cuts and minor abrasions, the same way you would use regular garlic.

You can also use it to make a fantastic Garlic Pesto, or add to salads, stir fry's, soups, casseroles, omelets or wherever your heart desires!  We have started adding this to dishes where we would normally use garlic or onion for extra flavour and vitamins.

If you are a person who retains fluid easily (like myself!), Garlic Mustard contains diuretic properties which should minimize fluid retention naturally - without paying the cost of a prescription or having any undesirable side effects.

In my search, I have found a wonderful and easy recipe for Garlic Mustard Pesto:

3 packed cups of garlic mustard
½ to 1 cup walnuts (or other nut of your choice)
1 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 cup Parmesan cheese or Romano cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Combine garlic mustard, garlic, and walnuts in a food processor.
  2. Slowly add olive oil until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Add cheese and process briefly.
  4. Taste and add salt or pepper if desired.
  5. Serve over pasta or spread on crackers or sandwiches.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Plastic Bags? No Way!

Whether you want to preserve all of the goodness from your garden or save those leftovers, what is the first thing you reach for?  Is it the Plastic Wrap or the Ziplock type bags?

Always remember that "when you buy plastic, you are buying future garbage".  Plastic does not break down easily.  It will break and wear out, but the pieces will continue to exist.  It will develop an unusual "sticky" feeling when it starts to break down and makes a terrific black smoke if melted or burned. 

Why pay hard earned dollars for anything that is destined to end up in the trash?  Whether is it a day, a week or months from now - this is money down the drain.  Might as well throw it out the window. 

The prices for Oil and Energy are rising and you might find yourself wondering where your paycheck is going lately.  Now is the time to sit down and start to evaluate where you would like to spend those dollars.  The biggest savings begins at home.  All of the little things will amount to a bigger dollar amount if you take a closer look.  Why pay for what you don't have to?
Our family does not like to spend additional money on special packaging in order to preserve our foods for the refridgerator or freezer.  We save our plastic containers from yogurt, margerine and cream cheese, etc.  Sure you can't see what's in them, but a nice label made out of masking tape and a pen works well for us. 

Plastic Grocery Bags?  A thing of the past.  We use reusable cloth grocery bags.  They cost about $1.00 which can be a slight investment if you need several of these.  You do have options:  Your local thrift store will sell them for $0.25, or you can fashion an old t-shirt by cutting off the sleeves for handles and sewing up the bottom - easy peasy!

We save on not having to spend money on fancy bags or labels and have extra money to spend on more food!  Completely Fool Proof!

Reducing Paper Products in Your Home

It never ceases to amaze me as to how much people are willing to pay for things like Paper Towel, Toilet Paper, Tissues, Napkins, Plates and Cups...

Interestingly enough, Kleenex and Papertowels didn't even exist before the year 1925.  How did people cope with those runny noses and messy kitchen spills?  The answer is simple: Cloth.

It's easy to lose track of the fact that many major Companies are offering products that are almost impossible to resist - especially if "convenience" is going to make life easier.  These Companies claim to have a "hold" on civilization, trying to lure us into thinking that we would not be able to live without their products - they make a lot of money from this marketing concept.

It is interesting to note that upscale restaurants have linen tablecloths, linen napkins and warm towels in the restrooms.  Why does this feel luxurious to so many individuals when it should be a part of our daily routine at home?

In our home, we try to minimize the use of all paper products.  To us, paying for paper products is like throwing money into our trash bins.  We use cloth whenever we can - and feel like we never have to do without.  The best part?  We never feel that sense of "panic" because we have run out of paper products because cloth is easily washed, dried and ready to use!

Here are some examples:
Papertowels - We use 100% Cotton Terry Cloths
Paper Napkins -  We use Linen Napkins
Tissues/Kleenex - We use 100% cotton hankies/bandanas
Toilet Paper - Cloth Wipes
Paper Plates/Cups - We use Stoneware and Mason Jars

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Curbside Find - Flying Machine

Wow, this is a fantastic find!  In the package, never opened and ready to fly!  It doesn't get much better than this.
Our family doesn't have any use for this, however I am certain that a child would love to spend a windy afternoon flying this colourful and wondrous kite around their local park.
Left at the curbside for us to salvage, we have posted this on our local classified ads and have already had a couple of inquiries!

Today's Appreciation: Fresh Baked Bread

I bake all our family's Bread and Buns from scratch.  I have been doing this for over a year and a half and would likely choke on a piece of "store bought bread" because of the change in taste. 

We have adjusted to our homemade baked food to the point that it is now difficult to even look at the bread aisle in our local grocery store.  This goes for cakes, muffins and pastries as well.  Interestingly enough, while at a neighbour's home, I opened up a package of store bought bread and it took my breath away.  It smelled like a cross between vinegar and formaldehyde. 

I was prompted to write this post after meeting with a neighbour this morning who wanted to make her own homemade bread, however, had difficulties kneading dough for any period of time.  While speaking with her, I remembered an older Bread Machine that I had in my garage.  Today, I gifted the machine to her and walked her through how to use the machine on the dough cycle - this would do the kneading quite nicely.

I look forward to hearing of her breadmaking adventures as her skills evolve - I get excited about this kind of stuff.  Plus, it makes me feel good to help someone else learn new sustainable skills.

I do have to admit that breadmaking is somewhat of a skill.  In the beginning, I remember baking loaves that could have been used only by a brick layer, however I was determined and it has paid off.  I have also mastered the art of making Sourdough Bread which I will be describing shortly in one of my posts.  There are a lot of tricks with making sourdough that you won't always find online - it's all trial and error.

Here's a super easy recipe that we use for our Daily Bread.  You can make it either by hand or by using a Bread Maker.  We like to bake our bread at a lower temperature if baking in the oven as it helps to ensure that our bread is cooked all the way through and is golden - without burning the outer crust.

White Bread Recipe (1 lb loaf)

1 cup of lukewarm water
1 tbsp. oil (butter or margerine will also do)
2 cups of white flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. traditional yeast
1 tsp. salt

For Bread Machines: 
Put all of the ingredients in breadmaker in the order given.  Set machine for "light" and 1 or 1 1/2 pound loaf.

By Hand:
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in water.  Add remaining ingredients and knead for 10 minutes.  Place dough into a large and lightly oiled bowl.  Turn the dough to ensure that it is lightly coated in oil.  Place a teatowel over the bowl and let rise for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.  Punch down, then form into a loaf and place into a lightly greased loaf pan.  Cover again with a tea towel and let rise for another hour. 
Bake for 20 - 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Voila!  Don't forget the butter!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Sock Monkey Wine Bottle Cover

I have made so many stuffed Sock Monkeys for the children in our lives that I feel I have "Mastered the Art".

One of my girlfriends who is one of the most creative, innovative and endearing of all has asked me to design  a couple of Sock Monkey Wine Bottle Covers for her upcoming Wine Tasting Event. 
The main reason for the wine bottle covers would be to "hide" the types of wines that the tasters would be sampling.  Plus, who can resist anything that is "Sock Monkey!"

I went online and found that a typical Sock Monkey Wine Bottle Cover is sold for approximately $10.00 US and it looks like someone sewed 2 buttons on a sock and slipped it over a wine bottle.  Our Family is all about quality and I felt that adding "ears" would kick things up a notch!

I then took it upon myself to design my own version and have to admit that I am very pleased with the results.  I can't wait to hear what the Party Guests think of my latest creation!
My daughter kept me company in my design room this evening.  She counted and sorted buttons for the "eyes".  When she wakes up in the morning, my lucky girl gets to give each cover its own personal name!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Curbside Find - Garden Hose

This is the first of many new posts celebrating useful items found on the curbside that are destined for the trash.
Today I found a wonderful Yardworks garden hose in excellent working condition and it was right around the corner from our home!
I was so excited, I could hardly contain myself knowing that these retail for over $30.00 (CAN). 

Our previous one was so full of kinks and knots that I eventually cut it to make a siphon for our rain barrel.  I have since purchased a manual pump siphon to extract the water from our rainbarrel - but hadn't replaced the garden hose. 

Here's the proud pic of my curbside find!

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Nickleback - "When We Stand Together"

Nickleback: "When We Stand Together"
I have heard this song playing on our local radio station over the last couple of weeks and finally stopped to listen to the words yesterday. 

I was so moved by this song that I just had to see what the Video was all about.  You can watch the video here:   (copy and paste this link into your browser).

Just listen to the words, "We Must Stand Together...hand in hand forever...that's when we all win."  The video pictures everything from war, to poverty and even the war on hunger.  There is a picture of people carrying sacks and gathering items in a Waste Management Site...this is survival for many living in Third World Countries.  I have read previously, that in one location, there are as many as 700 people living in this type of environment - they do not have jobs or income and are desperate.

Did you know that there are countries so stricken with poverty that many residents live at the "Dump?"  They all run to the coming garbage trucks so that they can be the first to eat the best discarded food or salvage aluminum cans to sell for money?

"I have always said that there is strength in numbers.  If we stand together, we will survive and achieve. "

Both the Beat and the Words of this song are so incredibly powerful and the pictures in the video are moving...if you find yourself going through difficult times, this song is an eye opener!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Time to Start Planning the Seedlings

This coming weekend, we are planning a trip to our local Hardware Store.  They have an abundance of heirloom and organic seed varieties for planting.

We are planning to do something different this year for our gardens.  I am planning on digging out the Perennial Plants from the front flower garden and filling it with herbs.  We have been looking at planting the flowering herbs such as Calendula, Echinacea and Lavender for the front beds - maybe add some varieties of Basil.  Our Oregano and Mint are well established in the beds at the back of the house so I am happy to leave them where they are.  The front of the house has that gorgeous sun from the South and everything seems to thrive with little maintenance.

I purchased balcony planters last Fall when they went on sale and am planning to see actually how many vegetables that I can grow on my back deck this year - aka Container Planting.  This is a first for us, but we have many hours of sun hitting on the deck which should provide an abundance of produce that we can preserve through the winter months of 2012/2013. 

Homemade Cloth Baby Wipes

These wipes are so easy to make and super easy to use!
Last year I found an Ad in our local Newspaper and found a woman who was selling $1000.00 worth of fabric for just $50.00!  I so scored!
I ended up with an abundance of fabric types.  Flannel, wool, rayon, cotton, broadcloth, nylon and fleece.  It's going to take me a long time to get through this fabric, but I am trying very hard to put it to good use.

One of the uses I found with the Flannel fabric was to make Homemade Cloth Baby Wipes.  Not only does this save on the cost of buying baby wipes for those small backsides, it also saves on toilet paper!

I cut fabric into 5 inch x 7 inch rectangles (lots of them!) then set out to make my concoction and put these wipes into action. 

Recipe for Homemade Cloth Baby Wipes:

1.  Place clean cloth wipes into a good sized plastic container with a lid (I used the regular baby wipe containers, these suited us perfectly).

2.  Boil 1 1/2 cups of water - remove from heat

3.  Add 1 tablespoon of Baby's body wash or baby shampoo

4.  Add 1 tablespoon of Baby Lotion
Mix together well and pour over wipes in container and let cool.  Cover with lid and voila! 

"My daughter prefers these wipes over toilet paper and has become accustomed to this method, it doesn't even phase her."

***We keep a big pail with a lid in our bathrooms that contains water, baking soda and bleach.  Once you use the wipes, place in this bucket to soak and when it gets full, you just rinse out the wipes, wash them and start over again.  I can't even begin to think about how much money we save on paper products using this method.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Children Learn What They Live

As a child growing up, I remember my Mother hung this verse on the wall in our Home.  I didn't understand it then, but fully appreciate it now.

As Parents, we get caught up with the Schooling, Sports and Dance Lessons, but forget about this Poem that originated many years Dorothy Law Nolte and Rachel Harris:

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with
ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with
shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with
encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with
praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with
fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with
kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

When You Raise a Child, You Are Raising a Future Parent!

I love the title of this Blog...and it's because we all know that it is true.  When you raise a child, you are raising a future parent.  More likely, you are raising a parent for your very own grandchildren! 

I am introducing a Parenting Series in my Blog because I am first and foremost, a Mother.  Secondly, I have such wonderful readers that I hope that many of you will be able to take some of this with you and apply it in your own life when you feel like pulling your hair out! (hey, get those grey ones first!). 

"I remember my life before children, but the funny thing is, I can't believe that my daughter wasn't in my life until just a mere 4 years ago - funny how it works that way, isn't it?"

As far as our family is concerned, children are the most beautiful and amazing beings that Mother Nature has ever created.  They will try your nerves, yet touch your heart in the same passing minute.  They have the ability to leave us speechless at times, put Picasso to shame and entertain the elderly all within a day's work!

Sometimes, when I am speaking to my own daughter, I feel like I sound like my own Mother who was an Elementary School Teacher and loved Children.  She was an amazing crafter and could sew or crochet like nobody's business!  My mother has long since passed away, but I know that her values and traditions have been impressed upon me since my own birth.

As Parents we have to be mindful that we always approach our children in a gentle and loving manner.  It is very difficult to do this when your child is "acting out" or having a "temper tantrum".  Remember that these are stages that are necessary for normal child development. 

It's hard to remember in the "heat of the meltdown" that this is a temporary situation, but you need to get those earplugs and go with the flow!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Surviving Tough Economical Times - Get to Work!

We've all endured tough times and are certain to endure more within our lifetimes.
When we encounter a painful life encounter such as a job loss, our first instinct is to go into hiding - like under a rock!

You may ask yourself; "How am I going to survive?  How can I meet my financial obligations?"  As painful as it may sound, going back to the basics is a good place to start.  You are now presented with the perfect opportunity to make lifestyle changes - for the rest of your life!

One of the first places that we can start to recover from difficult financial circumstances is within our own homes (even if you have had to move to a new place of residence!).  You own the power to survive within your own hands!

First things first;
I left my career a couple of years ago to be with my family.  Oh, I certainly wasn't a Superhero about it, my decision came after many months of tears and bargaining.  I loved the money, but so missed my family time.  I can say now, while looking back that it was the best decision I have ever made...I knew that we would have to change the way we lived, but find that we have more quality as opposed to quantity.  A decision that I do not or ever will regret.

Here are some things that we do in order to make our own continuous journey possible:
  1. Yearly Garage Sales - Outgrown clothing items, belongings we haven't used for a period of 1 year, home accessories, seedlings and baked goods - this nets enough money for my daughter's summer wardrobe.
  2. Cut the Cable - Oh, this was a toughy, but it wasn't a necessity.  We cancelled our cable television.  Our local library has so many movies for children and adults - free rental!
  3. Cancel Your Home Phone Provider - this was so easy!  We have Magic Jack, and pay only $19.95/year for unlimited North American calling, call waiting and voicemail.  We pay an extra $10.00 for a Canadian phone number within our own area code.  We never get a phone bill!
  4. Sell Your Car - This was the hardest of all!  Just think, you don't have to pay for gas, insurance, maintenance or car payments.  Want to commute?  Remember, this article is about changing the way you live - find a job closer to home & on the bus route.  The bonus?  More Family Time!
  5. Grow Your Own:  Vegetables and Fruits or whatever you can.  Don't have a lot of space?  Well, neither do we, so we maximize the space that we have.  Go online and invest some time researching about square foot or small space planting.  You won't be disappointed or hungry come Summer's end.
  6. Preserving:  This is the time to preserve all that hard work!  Remember, the weekends that you spend canning, dehydrating and freezing will get you through a hard Winter.  I learned everything Online simply by Researching information and it has paid off.
  7. Learn to Sew:  Unfortunately some say that sewing is becoming a bit of a lost tradition.  I can honestly say that I know several men who sew and make things like Yoga Bags and repair their own clothing.  If you know how to sew, you can offer your services to your neighbours and do their alterations, make items to sell (for cash!), and gifts for everyone...Hello!  Make Extra Money!  Okay, I want to type so much that this subject is the highlight of my next blog - make sure you don't miss out!
  8. Bake Bread:  Bake your own bread!  I have a fabulous recipe for sourdough bread that has all of my neighbours drooling!  I make extra money by selling my bread to my neighbours.  I will even trade my bread for farm fresh eggs - there you go, trading = survival!
  9. Thrift Shopping:  Years ago, I felt ashamed to be caught in a Thrift Store.  I feel shame that I have to admit I felt ashamed.  Say that 3 times fast!
    My daughter and I have a favourite Thrift Store that we frequent every Saturday and always find some sort of treasure.  I am always excited to find toys, clothing, craft supplies, kitchen or household goods in supreme condition for barely the price of a song.  This helps me deal with my former "shopaholic tendencies" because we get great deals.
  10.  Make Due or Do Without!: Socks have a hole?  Mend them!  Also stock up on Duct Tape from your local Dollar Store.  A little duct tape really goes a long way.  You can do easy and quick home repairs with this good stuff.  Fix cracked flower pots, toys, etc. with this.  Latest fashions are Duct Tape Dresses!  A little creativity goes a long way.
  11. Remember That When You Buy Plastic, You are buying future garbage:  This is the best one ever!  I read this in one of my Self Sustaining Books from our library.   Unless it is Tupperware that is guaranteed for life, you are setting yourself up.  You can't burn plastic for warmth when you need it, nor is it even good for you...our family always focuses on selecting items made of wood, steel or glass  because they will last.  Plastic is destined to crack over time - Oh, and makes a terrible black smoke if you burn it!
  12. Flush with Grey Water:  We always have water saved in our bathtub.  We flush our toilets with this water and it saves us about $70.00 a month which we put towards our grocery bill.  Simple and so easy you can start this tomorrow morning -try it, you will be surprised at the savings!
  13. Conserve Hydro:  We invested money in energy saving light bulbs.  They pay for themselves within the first month and then some.
  14. Dry Clothes on a Rack:  Did you know that your dryer is the biggest energy hog in the house?  You can hang your clothes on a homemade line made of rope or put them on hangers if you don't have a clothes drying rack.   We used our Air Miles and got a terrific Stainless Steel version for Free! Our energy savings very month?  Unbelievable!

    ***We also try to make and sell whatever we can.  Our Local Community has a "Market Place" where you can sell homemade wares in exchange for bartering tokens.  Offer yourself to your neighbours who may need help moving, shovelling snow, gardening, shopping, etc.  You will be able to barter for goods in exchange for your services.  ***If you want to survive during Tough Economical Times, you need to put your first foot forward and offer what you can in order to receive!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Super Bowl - Our Way

Super Bowl Sunday was yesterday...
It's the day that so many Canadians look forward to - even though this is a U.S. Event, many "Canucks" are excited about a party - any kind of party, really.

We couldn't watch the game because we don't have Cable Television and only rent movies from our local library because they are free of charge.  We have a dry loop Internet connection that is slower than "molasses in January" - but it really doesn't matter on the month, it is still super slow if I want to download or stream anything. 

We are really trying to take a step back and focus on our family and simplify our life as much as possible. 
This year I wanted to see if I could ignore all of the excitement and focus on our family for the day.  I felt a compulsion to check the score during the game (okay, I admit to checking once or twice).

So how did our family spend Super Bowl Sunday?

Well, we enjoyed a walk in all the glorious sunshine over to our local Community Centre during the afternoon hours.  We watched a movie for a minimal fee of $3.00 (which our neighbour generously paid for) amongst our many neighbours and friends.

Afterwards, we came home and made a tremendous dish of nachos with all the trimmings and watched some children's movies together as a family unit.
I had a big "Super Bowl" of nachos and sour cream and a wonderful day filled with memories. 
Our family scored a point towards having another special day to together!

As each day passes, I can more easily decipher between quantity and quality.  I mean, we all know that the Super Bowl Game is going to happen every year.  However, we can never guarantee the future of our own lives. 

It was truly a glorious day for all of us - except the Patriots.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Coyotes Walking Our Streets

They're here.....

They are a cousin to the Wolf, really don't have any natural predators except Man,  prey on small animals and are roaming our streets. Coyotes.

We live in a wonderful neighbourhood in our City.  We are surrounded by green space which provides us with great parks for our children and pets to play. 

Unfortunately, there's a pack of Coyotes that have also settled into this area as well.

Since November 2011, there have been sightings of an injured Coyote seen in our area.  Most concerning is that this particular Coyote was seen in our local school yard which edges along a forest. 
In the past week, our neighbours have counted as many as 8 animals in the pack and have heard the Coyotes howling and yelping every evening during a "take down" of a small animal.

Several days ago, my close neighbour spotted a Coyote running down our street and cutting through a nearby park and walkway around 8:00 p.m.
While I was out walking yesterday (which is also Garbage Pick-Up Day), I had to navigate past the remnants of a small animal laying on the sidewalk a few doors down from where we live.  This isn't the first time I have had to do this over the past week.

Males can weigh in around 40 lbs, females slightly less.  Our Golden Retriever is 85 pounds - but hardly a match for a hungry Coyote, so we keep a close eye on him when he goes outdoors.

Although they are mostly nocturnal, they are becoming more brazen and have been seen during the daytime hours.  Litters are born in Spring and Fall and can be anywhere from 1 to 19 pups.  Average litter is about 6 pups.  There will obviously be quite a few more in our neighbourhood over the coming months unless they are removed. 

I have read that increases in the Coyote Population run in 10 year cycles.  Looks like this year is destined to be the "Year of the Coyote".  Great...

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Exposed To Over 300 Chemicals Before Breakfast?

I am still on a bit of a rant after yesterday's post.  I read, talk and write a lot but I also remember a lot. 
I remember reading an unbelievable fact many years ago and have never forgotten it.

Picture this:
The alarm clock goes off in the morning.  A woman gets out of bed, has a shower, brushes her teeth and gets dressed for her workday.  Nothing unusual right?

Let me paint a different picture using the same scenario:
The same alarm clock goes off in the morning.  A woman gets out of bed and has a shower using soap, shampoo, conditioner and shaving gel.  She then brushes her teeth with toothpaste and rinses with mouthwash.  She gets dressed for her workday (clothes washed in regular detergent and  fabric softener).  She applies her deodorant, make up, hair products and perfume.  A daily routine like this one is laced with an abundance of toxic chemicals.

"Before a woman even gets a chance to eat her breakfast, she has already exposed herself to a minimum of over 300 chemicals just getting ready in the morning."

***Many women are hooked on the fact that if something smells great and works well, then they aren't necessarily interested in reading the "ingredient list". 

There are so many "creepy" chemicals out there that many of us don't even think about it anymore.  We have become desensitized as the consumer market is flooded with new products; each one claiming to be better than the others. 

We try and make our own toothpaste, deodorant and soap.  I have yet to find a homemade toothpaste that is kind to my tastebuds - I am determined to keep experimenting!
If we can't make it, we have to buy it.  We look for those products containing natural ingredients only as we are exposed to plenty of invisible chemicals in our outdoor environment.

After reading this post, I am certain that many of you just may find yourself thinking in the shower tomorrow morning...

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Food Under Fire - The Dangers of the Foods We Consume

Oh my word!  I could not wait to dive into this post!

Our local newspaper,  ran an article yesterday about a recall of Neilson Trutaste 2% Milk (4L bags) because they may contain "cleaning fluid".  The article stated that the milk would not smell or taste spoiled, but whoever consumed this tainted milk may feel nausea, upset stomach or vomiting. we all know that our foods are tested by each Company's Quality Assurance Department, but why were test results not back before this batch of product was put into distribution for the safety of the general public?

If that wasn't enough of a scare, I found a new article this evening about the infamous Hamburger-Making Giant, McDonald's who is discontinuing the use of their "Pink Slime", aka ammonium hydroxide.  This "crazy" chemical was being used to convert fatty cutoffs into beef fillers for their hamburgers..Nice... cow parts that are not fit for human consumption were being altered in order to fit into our hamburgers..How appetizing.  Doesn't it make you want to go and stand in line for a juicy burger this evening? 

Oh yes, and need I mention that Johnson & Johnson is going to phase out cancer causing chemicals in their baby lotions and shampoos over the coming months?  Let's give our heads a shake!!!!  Phasing out?  How did that ever get approved in the first place?

I had mentioned in a previous post that the Media and our Society have instilled a fear that prevents us from wanting to talk to strangers because they may be "dangerous". 
Well, why are we so trusting of products from Major Corporations?  Oh I know, I know (waving my hand wildy), because "our Government" is looking out for us!  Right!  What about our Children?  The future of our Generation?  My neighbour down the street would have an absolute "hay day" with this one!

I don't mean to sound cynical, however I am amazed at the consumers who will buy just about any type of food on the shelf because it is for sale - so it must be good for them.  I only ever see a minimum of 1 in about 100 people ever stopping to read the ingredients on a shelf label.

I can understand why so many of us are heading towards a Self-Sustaining, Home Grown Life-Style. It has taken a lot of us too many years to wake up and realize what is actually happening within our own food system. 

Hey, I've got a good one for you.  If our Canadian Government asked you to jump off McDonald's Golden Arches because it was safe, would you do it?

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Cocka-Doodle-Doo! Will Just Any Egg Do?

Here's a Homeschool lesson for you...
What's the Difference Between Brown Eggs and White Eggs?

Some people are stuck on the idea that Brown Eggs are better for you than White Eggs. 
Our family is more concerned about how the living conditions of the Hens and the food that they eat.
Remember the old saying "Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover"?  Well this saying certainly applies to the colour of an egg shell.

Here are some facts:

Brown Hens lay Brown Eggs

White Hens lay White Eggs

We buy Farm Fresh Eggs - (and they just happen to have white shells) where the Hens are free range and eat a variety of grains.  I simply cannot even think of eating an egg from a Hen that was fed a product called "Egg Maker", or was confined to a teeny tiny amount of space.

Our eggs cost us $4.00 a flat which hold 30 eggs and works out to be $1.60/dozen.  Go to the grocery store and a dozen eggs will cost you at least $2.55 - and that's a cheap dozen!

I have got to tell you that the yolks on those Farm eggs are darker in colour, fluff up better when cooked and have a sweeter taste to them.  Once you get hooked on those eggs, you will not be able to bring yourself to pull a carton off the grocery store shelf again! 

***Ideally, we would love to have our own hens, however a new city by-law was passed a couple of years ago and prevents us from doing this. 
Since I am not into upsetting the applecart and don't want to end up in Jail eating grocery store eggs, Farm Fresh eggs suit our family just perfectly!

Flour Power! What's the Difference Anyway?

As a daily Bread Baker, I buy a lot of Flour. Our family goes through about 10 kg/22 pounds of flour every 3 weeks.  I don't just bake bread, I make fruit loaves, muffins, tortillas, pie shells and cakes.  I also have to feed my sourdough starter on a frequent basis - every 5 hours!

We don't have any Gluten Allergies in our family and therefore choose to go with good old regular flour as opposed to using the more expensive Spelt/Rice/Potato flours.

When I first started making bread, I found myself at the grocery store wondering what the difference was between "Bleached" and "Unbleached" Flour.  I looked around and found a mature customer who appeared to be of retirement age and expected an Expert Opinion on the subject.  The lady did not know the difference between the two types of Flour!  I was somewhat surprised at this and decided to buy the "Unbleached Flour because it sounded safer.

I immediately went home and after unpacking my groceries, searched the Internet to find out more information. 

***It turns out that "Bleached" flour is just the way it sounds.  Chlorine based chemicals are used to bleach the flour to make whiter bread, cookies, pastries, etc. Why?  Because some people prefer the whitest of whites...Imagine!  Bleach with my Bread???  No Thank You!!!

"Unbleached" Flour has not been subjected to Chlorine and is the best and safest choice for those of us who would like to limit our exposure to chemicals.

I have heard from many people who prefer to use whole wheat flour and pasta because they find that there is a higher nutritional value - this is correct.  However, whole wheat flour and pasta are more expensive so prepare to keep your wallet open at the cash register.  Whole wheat flour contains the Bran and the Germ and will spoil much faster than good old white flour.

Good old white flour has been through a process in which the Bran and Wheat Germ have been removed. 
We have found an easy and inexpensive way to add nutrition to our flour.  We buy bags of Natural Bran and Wheat Germ for just over $1.00 a bag.  We just add about 1 tablespoon of each/per cup of white flour and there you go, instant nutrition at a fraction of the cost.

***It is important to note that Wheat Germ and Natural Bran should be kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator in order to preserve freshness.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Stocking Up on Grocery Items - Sales Are Based Upon Rotations!

I once read somewhere that Grocery Store Sales have a 6-week rotation - in other words, if something is on sale now, you can pretty much bet your bottom dollar that it will be on sale again within the next six weeks.

I can honestly admit that I have not actually sat down and graphed out items to see whether or not this is actually the case, but it is something that indeed interests me and is on my "to do list", for interests sake really...we find that if a particular item is not on sale at a certain Grocery Chain, you should be able to find something similar at another one at any time.
Having said that, if you trust that sales occur on a rotational basis, You will be less apt to go into "Panic Mode" and buy more than you absolutely need for your home.  Many people spend way too much money on sale items.  They forget about all of those canned goods collecting dust at the back of the pantry that are edging their way past the expiry date; resulting in waste.

***If you are planning for the Holidays or a special party, chances are that you are going to have some advance notice, at least a 4-6 week period.  Start watching those Grocery Flyers.  You can stock up on canned or dry goods, freezer items and certain dairy products like cheese in those weeks leading up to your special event.  The savings will be amazing if you do it this way.

I am planning a Valentine's Tea Party for my daughter and we are watching for sale items which will help determine our menu.  Simple and Super Smart!

Now, since many people go overboard whenever something goes on sale. Find comfort knowing that there is a rotation to those flyers.  There is a smart way to shop for grocery sale items that I will outline and help you to save your sanity and your money!

First things first:  Interior Designers love to decorate in 1s, 3s, 5s and 7s.  It's definitely an oddity that keeps things interesting without looking too paired or staged.
***It is important to use this same principle when buying grocery sale items without going over the deep end.
As we are a small family, we are more apt to buy these items in 1s and 3s.  For larger families, you would want to buy on a 5s and 7s basis.  Don't buy any more than that because there will be a sale again at just the time you need to replenish your stock.

We tend to buy 3 of each sale item that is $0.99 or cheaper and will buy 1 item that is $5.00 or more in cost.

Here is a simple outline of the sale items and the numbers that our family will buy:
Flour - 1 (we consider this to be a high ticket item)
Cooking Oil  - 1 (another high ticket item)
Rice - 1
Toilet Paper - 1 (we use cloth wipes and save toilet paper for our guests)
Fresh Fruit & Vegetables - 1 individual or 1 pound of each (other varieties will be on sale next week)
Canned tomatoes - 3
Peanut Butter - 3 (we love peanut butter)
Pasta - 3
Canned Fruit - 3
Apple Juice - 3
Tuna - 5 (this is one of the exceptions because we eat a lot of it)
Salmon - 3 (more expensive than Tuna)
Frozen Vegetables - 1 (we prefer fresh)
Margarine - 3
Butter - 3 (buy it when the price is low, low low.  You can freeze butter!)
Sugar - 3 (does not go on sale often)

Since we make our own bread, rolls and tortillas, I don't even bother checking the prices.  We buy our eggs from a local farm, make our own yogurt and drink powdered milk.  Powdered milk hardly ever goes on sale from what I've seen.

If you find that you've stocked up on an item and you see it on sale again in a couple of weeks, don't fret because if you don't need it, you can use the extra money towards a different sale item.  After a period of time, you will find that you start spending less and less on your grocery bill because you won't need as much.  Super Savings!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Always Eat Carefully

I published a blog months ago outlining a "3 Month Food Supply".  Everyone should have a "Reservoir" of Food set aside for 90 rainy days or so...

We have taken stock of our Food Inventory (spending $5.00 a week - for many weeks to achieve this goal).  Our current approximate Food Storage would now equal 2-3 months of sustainable food, should the unfortunate need arise).

Our Grandmother always baked Fresh Bread for us daily.  She had so many vegetables and preserves to offer that my Grandfather would often attempt to intervene by saying "Amelia, you are going to make them sick!" 

What he meant was that when she stuffed us so full of her fantastic good home cooking, he couldn't believe our tummies could handle another bite!  He was the Principal of the School and she was the Homemaker.  By goodness, she stepped up to the plate!

One time, while in my late teens, I asked my Grandmother how she was able to save money yet go on many luxurious vacations.  She told me to "always eat carefully".   She didn't elaborate, however those words resonate in my ears today.

In our Home, we praise all food. 

Every day is a surprise for my beloved Daughter Ava because the first thing she asks is "What are we having for Breakfast", then snack, then lunch, then afternoon snack, then dinner etc...Our mealtimes are our main source of entertainment.

I am pleased, because when I was a child, I was more concerned about what was happening inside our home as opposed to what actually took place beyond the front door!  Sheltered?  Yes I was, and this has shaped me as a person!

Do I Want It, or Do I Need It?

I am amazed at all of the household items that we have been gifted from our wonderful Neighbours and Friends

Our family has been gifted so many things over the past year; here is a list of some of the numerous items:

Bread Maker
Mountain Bike
Compost Container
Antique Sewing Machine (circa 1959)
Picture Frames
Patio Storage Box
Plant Pots
Grain Mill (yahoo!  I have been waiting for one of these!)
Mason Jars
Food from Neighbours who are moving,
32-inch televison for our Rec Room
Portable DVD Player
Rice Cooker
Used Denim for Sewing
Holiday Tins
***And none of the above items cost us a cent!

We have a terrific circle of Friends and Family who are always on the "lookout" for things that people are giving away. 

I have always known that older Appliances have the strongest goes back to the saying "They Don't Make Things Like They Used To"...

I have always been in "awe" regarding the items that people throw to the curb because they bought it on a whim, maybe used it once or twice and then were anxious to get rid of it. 

I am going back to my recent post about "Love Thy Neighbour".  Your neighbourhood is chock-full of unwanted items and treasures that others have long been awaiting for. 

It seems senseless to buy anything other than your regular groceries these days because anything else you need for your home can be found just by asking your Neighbours, Friends and Family.  Many people are happy to rid their homes of unused items as opposed to taking the time to sell on free websites or holding garage sales. 

I can safely state that 100% of people have at least one thing that they don't need or want that can benefit someone else.  Hey, even a pair of socks can go a long way - make a scarf, hat or bedwarmer! 
Oh yes, even sewing scraps make great stuffing for projects!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Love Thy Neighbour

One of the Ten Commandments...

In decades past, neighbours were viewed as extended family members.  Through hard times, families bonded together and shared what they could in order to survive those times.  Strength in numbers...

Unfortunately, there are many people who have lived in their own neighbourhood for years yet barely know their neighbours except to say "Hello" or chat briefly about the weather. 

Society has created such an unhealthy level of "Fear" that people are afraid to go beyond anything else other than their daily business.  Yes, we need to be mindful that dangers exist, however, who would you go to if you had an emergency or needed help while you were at home?  There are far more Guardian Angels out there than Dangerous Strangers.  Does one "bad egg" ruin the entire dozen?  Does one bad apple ruin the entire bushel?  I should think not.

We all need our neighbours. 

In order to survive and thrive, we feel that it is important to get to know them and be available to help out whenever we can regardless of the circumstances.  This is the foundation for our bartering, sharing and trading system that helps us to survive.  We support them and they support us.  It is our valuable network of resources should our current times change. 

We are none too familiar with the Blackout that occurred in North America on August 14, 2003.  Many things came to a standstill.  There were so many people who simply did not know what to do.  Many were unprepared and were without access to fuel, money, groceries, internet, cable or hydro.  Those who didn't know their neighbours sat quietly in the dark waiting for the lights to come on. 

On the flip side, families and neighbours who knew each other threw BBQ parties and had a lot of fun. 

I wish I had known my neighbours better on August 14, 2003, because at the time, I was one of those who sat in the dark...

Soup's On! Use Up Those Leftovers!

A New Year brings to us many Inspirations, Thoughts and Ideas...

Through my many readings, I have found that soup was an absolute Staple during the "Great Depression".  A huge kettle or pot was hung over the fire and provided whatever nutrition could be acquired during those dark and uncertain times.  It provided some relief to continuous rumbling bellies.

Soup was easy because it was made with whatever little food was on hand and could be stretched with water.  I have read that the actual recipe for true "Depression Soup" consisted of one part Ketchup to two parts water.  This is true, but so hard to believe how people actually survived.

Many people could not afford meat and therefore foraged for weeds such as dandelions, milkweed and cattails.  My grandmother who was born in 1916 will not eat anything containing Apples to this day, claiming that she ate too many during those hard times. 

My latest Idea has been inspired through the empathy that I feel for those suffering hard times.  We do a tremendous amount of cooking and baking in our household and leftovers are a given.  We also boil meat bones and freeze the broth for later use.

***We now have a plan that is being implemented for the cold winter months that will keep us nourished while using up those leftovers once and for all:
  • On Sunday evenings, I soak either beans, peas or lentils in water.  I also take a container of broth out of our deep freeze for thawing.
  • I get up early on Monday mornings (because we have a smart meter and the price gets scary at 7:00 a.m.), I simmer the beans, peas or lentils for 1 hour.
  • I get out the crock pot and pour in the broth along with the simmered beans, peas or lentils.
  • I then throw in a chopped onion, fresh garlic, carrots and celery while including dried herbs and seasoning that were preserved from our summer garden.
  • Let this simmer on low heat throughout the day.
  • As the week progresses, add your daily leftovers to the "soup". 
  • We eat the soup for Dinner each day with fresh baked bread or rolls.

Each day changes the flavour of the soup.  If I boil vegetables (broccoli is a good one), I save the water and add it to the soup for more broth.  Dump in those leftover potatoes, rice, pasta, tomatoes and anything else you can think of.  You may prefer to add salt and pepper to taste.

I bake bread or buns nearly every day, so we always have a wonderful accompaniment to our meals!
The result is a Hearty, Healthy and Happy Meal...dinner is always ready and is so much better for you than those Take-Out chains!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Woman Lives Without Money

I found this article on my Internet Homepage this morning and couldn't believe how someone lives without money in today's day and age.  I was fascinated to read how this particular 69 year old Grandmother has lived without money for 16 years. 

Heidemarie Schwermer is highly intelligent; having been a former teacher and Psychotherapist and initially tried living without money for one year as an experiment to see if it could be done.  She swaps and trades things in order to obtain the neccessities of daily life.  Incredible! 

You might ask yourself, how is this possible?  Well, it certainly inspires our Family to take a closer look at some of the changes we can make within our own lives in order to bring us closer to our goal of a Self-Sustaining Lifestyle...

Read about Heidemarie Schwermer:

Monday, 9 January 2012

Beat Bacteria With Half an Onion!

Once again, my lovely sister, Aunty Jenny is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to fighting illness naturally!  We really appreciate it!
She spoke to a Pharmacist last week who recommended a great little trick to help fight Bacterial Infections stemming from viruses.

My wonderful neighbour has also shared the same idea and it appears to be very effective...Thanks C!

I have read that Onions are terrific Antioxidants and have been used for centuries as natural healing agents.  Simple and cheap to buy, these round guys pack a lot of "bang for the buck".  The smellier the onion, the stronger it is.  As far as I am concerned, the stronger onion will do a better job when put to work.
So I have dug into my arsenal (which happens to be my refrigerator) of food weapons and have been bringing out the "big guns"; onions and garlic.

***Simply cut a raw onion in half, then set it (cut side up) into a ceramic or glass dish on your bedside table at night.  The onion will get to work and absorb the bacteria that is floating around in the air while you exhale.

You will need to dispose of the onion the next morning, do not use it for cooking as it will be laden with pesky bacteria.  Each night, use a fresh onion half until you are well on your way to recovery!  Voila!

Daily "Keep Healthy" Remedy

I can't believe it was 3 months ago today since I wrote my last entry! 

Our household has been very busy during the months and weeks leading up to the Holidays.  Between baking Caramel Popcorn, Sewing Gifts and the many Baked Goodies, I have had my hands full!

I have been prompted to write this specific blog entry because there has been quite the "cold and flu" virus circulating.  It seems to last for weeks, sometimes resulting in complications such as ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia.  As we live close to nature, we have been using many homemade remedies to try and stave off further complications of this virus.

Our family has been "Garlic Loading" by using copious amounts of garlic in our foods.  Garlic is the most powerful of all herbs because it contains many properties such as being antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, antiparasitic - you name it!  It has even been proven to prevent cancer cells from occurring and reproducing.

We are about to start an amazing and highly recommended daily remedy that costs only pennies a day.  This remedy helps by boosting the Immune System and is especially important during times of illness.

Here is a fantastic recipe for Daily "Keep Healthy" Remedy that you can make in the comfort of your own home:

1 Cup of Unpasteurized Organic Honey
1 Cup of Raw Unpasteurized Organic Apple Cider Vineger with the Mother (we use the Bragg Brand)
8 Cloves of Garlic (organic is preferred)

  • Blend all of the above ingredients in a blender until smooth. 
  • Pour into a glass Mason Jar and keep refrigerated.
  • Take 2 teaspoons of this mixture each morning for overall wellness and good health
***In the future, we do hope to make our own Apple Cider Vinegar, however it takes time to ferment and we needed it right away and were gifted a bottle from my lovely sister, Aunty Jenny.

It is important to note that if your symptoms do not improve or seem to worsen, it may neccessitate a trip to a physician for further evaluation.