Gifts in the waiting

421. Cedar dancing whenever he hears music or a beat of any kind (or even when he doesn’t!).

422. Cedar walking around the living room, pulling his little stuffed horse behind him.

423. Cuddling on the couch with my little boy and both enjoying looking at the new copy of National Geographic.

424. Contractions petering out on the day that Aaron had to be away all day.

425. Tri-tip, black bean and cheddar burritos.

426. My lilies-of-the-valley getting buds.

427. Pink tulips in a mason jar…a surprise from my sweet husband.

428. A beautiful evening’s walk.

429. The ever-changing colours of clouds at sunset.

430. Soaking in a hot bath to help with some of the pregnancy aches and pains.

431. A chocolate malt…made by my sweetheart…brought to me in the bathtub.

432. Aaron taking Cedar to work outside with him so I could rest.

433. Cedar learning how to do thumbs up and doing it often throughout dinner.

434. The simplicity of spaghetti with home-canned sauce…so thankful my guys love such an easy meal.

435. The little post-dinner bread-thief, stealing the last bit of bread off the table while Mommy wasn’t looking.

436. The Magic Cabin catalog – and how much Cedar loves looking at it.

437. Hearing about a friend’s 35-minute labour and birth.

438. Sleeping in a bit because Aaron got up with Cedar.

439. Smoked paprika.

440. Hearing my husband speak at a local gathering of believers.

441. Singing “See, What a Morning”.

442. Good conversations.

443. My amazing husband who holds his wife while she’s crying for absolutely no reason (other than hormones!).

444. Cedar saying “All done, Dad” of his own accord.

445. A rainy Resurrection morning.

446. My wonderful husband making an Easter breakfast of muffins and smoothies (and cleaning the kitchen afterward).

447. Listening to Cedar and Aaron play and talk in the living room while I laid down and timed contractions.

448. Learning to trust the Father’s perfect timing when the contractions petered out yet again.

449. A delicious Easter meal with my in-laws and friends.

450. Egg-bopping.

451. Chocolate-dipped strawberries and whipped cream.

452. Clean bedding.

453. Egg salad.

454. Sprouted toast smothered in butter.

455. The myriad shades of green proclaiming the coming of spring.

In preparation for the summer’s bounty

The summer after we were married, I invented a dish that we refer to by the incredibly descriptive and original name of “orzo salad”.  I don’t remember the inspiration for it, but it was an immediate hit with Aaron and pretty much anyone else who tried it.  It quickly became a summer staple and last summer we discovered how much more incredible it is made with fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes (as is pretty much anything that you put just-picked tomatoes in).  After having such an abundance of delicious tomatoes, we got pretty spoiled and now rarely ever buy tomatoes from the store because they don’t even begin to compare.  As such, I hadn’t made orzo salad since the end of gardening season, but I got a sudden craving for it a couple days ago…and caved and bought tomatoes for it.  It kind of satisfied the craving, but definitely wasn’t the same so it certainly whet my appetite for what’s to come this summer…

Orzo Salad

Place a couple of frozen chicken breasts in a baking dish and sprinkle generously with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Place in a 400 degree oven (I don’t usually preheat it) and bake until done, usually about an hour.  While the chicken is baking, cook a package of orzo until done.  Drain and pour into a large bowl (you want the orzo to only fill about a half of it since you’ll be adding more ingredients that increase the size of the salad and trying to mix it all together…and you don’t want orzo all over the place.  Trust me on this one…).  Pour a good amount of olive oil and lots of balsamic vinegar over the orzo and mix until well-coated.  Season liberally with salt, pepper, lots of garlic powder, dried oregano, dried basil and dried parsley (I’m sure this would be great with fresh herbs too, but I have yet to try it.  To me, using dried adds a milder herb flavour which I like in this dish).  Dice as many tomatoes as you want and mix in.  When the chicken is done baking, cut into bite-size pieces and add.  (At this point you need to decide whether or not you plan on serving the salad warm or chilled. Aaron prefers it warm so that’s what I usually do if we’re having it as a dinner or something.  However, if I’m planning on taking it somewhere, I usually chill it.)  If chilling, place bowl in the refrigerator for several hours.  Grate a good amount of mozzarella cheese, add and mix well.  Sometimes after it sits awhile, the orzo will absorb all the oil and vinegar and end up being kind of dry.  If that’s the case, just mix in some more before serving.  Enjoy!

Joining the party

The Peaceful Housewife

Up until a couple days ago, I never heard of the The Peaceful Housewife blog, but then several of my bloggy friends started joining in on her Natural Parenting Blog Party.  It looked like fun…so I decided to join too (though a little late)!  There were several questions to answer for the first day…a kind of “getting to know” you bit…and even though it’s not the first day anymore, I figured I would answer them anyway…

1. How many children do you have, and how old are they?

Currently I have one son, Cedar, who is 16 months old, and another little one due to be born any day now!

2. Do you have a partner, or are you a single parent?

I have an amazing husband, Aaron, of just over two years…he’s a great daddy too.

3. What are your “hot button” parenting issues?

If there’s anything that I’ve learned so far in my relatively brief time as a parent, it’s that hardly any parenting issues are as cut-and-dried as I used to think. So many things factor into decisions parents make and I don’t think that everyone has to parent the same way that I do.  That said, my biggest “hot button” issue would be when parents don’t really think about or question the ways that they parent, but instead just go with whatever everyone else is doing, accepting blindly what the medical establishment says, etc.  Just because something is popular and everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it the best decision for your child and your family.

As for specific issues, I’m a very passionate person and therefore there are a lot “issues” that I feel passionately about.  In the natural parenting realm, some of these would be breastfeeding, natural and/or home birth, vaccines, babywearing, cloth diapering and feeding your child real food.

4. Have you made any parenting choices that you didn’t think you would make before you were a parent, i.e. cloth diapering a child when you had previously thought it was disgusting?

Before Cedar was born, Aaron and I had quite a few discussions about how we would parent and I thought that I would be a lot stricter than I am now.  God is slowly teaching the delicate balance between grace and discipline.

I also had never considered tandem nursing (I don’t think I even knew what it was a couple years ago), but now that’s the plan once our new little one gets here!

5. Is there one book or person in particular that’s heavily influenced your parenting choices?

Not one person or book specifically.  My parents, obviously…I often call my mom when I’m unsure of how to handle a situation or to find out what she thinks about an issue.  Different books have influenced different parts of my parenting: Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck greatly influenced the way I view nutrition during pregnancy, nursing and the toddler years…it’s one that I think every mother should read!

6. If you had to describe each of your children using only one word, what word would you use?

Cedar: strong (in every aspect – personality, will, physically)

7. Is there one parenting decision you regret more than other and wish you could change?

So far there hasn’t been any specific parenting decisions that we regret, but we haven’t been parents that long.  Because he was four weeks early, after he was born (at home), Cedar spent four days in the NICU, and I wish we could be have held him more, etc. during that time, but it wasn’t really our decision then, circumstances dictated it.  As such, I try not to regret that since I know that the Lord is working all that together for good and He has and will continue to redeem that lost time.

8. Is there an area of your parenting that you wish you were better at?

I wish I was better at spending more specific one-on-one time with Cedar, doing something he enjoys.  I’ve been making an effort to try and do that specifically, but I could always do better.

9. Is there one particular food or type of food that you could eat every day?

Dark chocolate, or garlic, or butter…oh wait, I do usually eat those every day.

10. Vanilla ice cream or chocolate?

Definitely chocolate…preferably dark chocolate…preferably Trader Joe’s Ultra Chocolate ice cream (or Green & Black’s).

11. What’s your guilty pleasure?

Potato chips (natural ones though!).

12. If you could be part of any television show, what show would it be?

I don’t really watch TV, but I have seen several episodes of Iron Chef America and that’s always looked like a fun show to be a part of.

Gifts while learning patience and trust

391. Sharing a box of doctored-up (added lots of butter, asiago cheese and garlic powder) Annie’s Mac and Cheese with Cedar.

392. Having some other trusted midwives available to take over when my midwife had to suddenly stop working.

393. Stocking up on food for when the new baby comes.

394. Cedar’s delight with his new ball.

395. A nice evening after a very hard day.

396. Cedar, “The Condiment King” – if there’s any possible edible substance available to put on top of his food, or dip his food into, he will.

397. Finding a pretty nursing bra.

398. Cedar finally attempting to take some unassisted steps.

399. Andrew Peterson on shuffle.

400. Finally being in the “safe zone” for this pregnancy.

401. Trader Joe’s Pomegranate Green Tea.

402. A quiet breakfast with my husband while Cedar slept in.

403. Getting some deep cleaning done.

404. Answering e-mails.

405. Finally getting to have brussel sprouts again after Trader Joe’s couldn’t get them in for several months.

406. Morning cuddles.

407. Lying on the sunny grass with Aaron while Cedar explored nearby.

408. How Cedar does his own “Extreme Crawling Theme Music”.

409. Homemade pizza night with Aaron’s family.

410. Learning patience and trust in the Father through waiting for our baby to be born.

411. Orzo salad…tasting like summer.

412. Days of perfect weather.

413. Little boy shorts overalls.

414. A wonderfully caring husband who makes me rest.

415. Anticipating our Human Planet DVDs.

416. Going out for burgers on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

417. Sharing a chocolate malt with my guys.

418. A good night’s sleep.

419. My little boy having a much better day (attitude-wise) than the day before.

420. Knowing my husband is very happy with a decision I made, but wasn’t very sure about.

Gifts

361. Plaid little boy shorts.

362. An afternoon spent with good friends, talking mommy stuff.

363. Being at friend’s house and not at a store, etc., when I locked the keys in the car and had to wait two hours for Aaron to come with the spare set.

364. How Cedar loves holding my hand.

365. Trader Joe’s Chocolate Dilemma cheesecake.

366. Energy in spite of being up many times a night with my poor teething guy.

367. How sometimes all that is needed to go back to sleep is a drink of water and a Mommy snuggle.

368. Whiskey for teething.

369. A good report on a friend’s coming little one.

370. Cedar rubbing his head when reading the “peach fuzzy hair” part of his Fruit book.

371. A little boy sleeping mostly through the night after several very wakeful nights.

372. Lunch out with my mother-in-law.

373. Cedar wanting his fish taco folded/rolled like everyone else’s and then eating the whole thing that way.

374. Nursing giggles.

375. Louisiana Chicken Pasta…loved by both my men.

376. Checking off a myriad of little things on my “do before the baby gets here” list.

377. Making a balm for Cedar’s eczema (that, so far, has worked really well!).

378. Cedar, when seeing me get the jar of brown (because of the blackstrap molasses in it) water kefir out of the fridge, getting so excited and handing me his cup.

379. Chocolate peanut butter oatmeal no-bake bars.

380. The power staying on in spite of another snowstorm.

381. An amazing husband who made a delicious dinner AND cleaned up afterward.

382. Cedar mimicking Aaron howling like a wolf.

383. Watching Peter Rollins videos with my sweetheart.

384. A good talk with one of my sister-in-laws.

385. Sitting on a swinging bench in the local nursery with Cedar while Aaron got stuff for the garden.

386. Barked pathways in the garden.

387. A nap.

388. New diaper ointment for Cedar.

389. Lessons from my Father on trusting and loving.

390. Nesting.

 

Natural cleaning…without vinegar!

Especially on blogs focused on natural living, a popular topic is natural cleaning…i.e. cleaning without the use of toxic (and expensive!) chemicals.  Many people don’t realize just what are in the substances that they regularly spray, wash and scrub their homes with.  And even when you rinse or wipe most of the cleaner off, some will inevitably get left behind and your whole family is exposed to these chemicals.  There a myriad of articles and blog posts you can find on the different toxic chemicals found in common household cleaners, so I won’t go into it here, but suffice to say, this is not stuff you want in your house, or around your children.  But don’t despair…there are many natural and safe alternatives to the common chemical household cleaners, and most of them can be made right at home with minimal ingredients or effort.

In my late teen years, I had a job doing weekly house-cleaning for several young families that we knew.  Depending on the mother’s preference, I would do or help with whatever cleaning projects were priority, be it weekly maintenance cleaning or deep-cleaning a certain area of the house.  I remember coming home from these jobs and just feeling dirty…not necessarily from the dirt and grime I had helped to remove that day, but from the cleaning products!   Regularly experiencing that renewed my desire to make sure to use natural cleaning products whenever I had my own home.

However, after I got married and I was so joyously setting up my first home, I came across a little piece of information that threw me for a bit of a loop: my husband hates the smell of vinegar.  Hmmm…generally that’s not a big deal, but vinegar is one of the most common natural cleaning agents and is in many “recipes” for natural cleaners.  And yes, I know that the smell eventually dissipates as it dries, but I wanted to be able to use my cleaners around my husband and not have him hate the smell (the same reason I don’t use it in my hair anymore…but that’s another post!).  Fortunately, after some experimenting, it wasn’t that hard to find another natural alternative.

In transitioning to natural cleaners, many people are unsure of where to start, so I’ll share what has worked for me in the last couple years.  A little disclaimer though: I’m very much a minimalist, and this definitely applies to my cleaning supplies as well.  I’ve seen natural cleaning blog posts with many different recipes for specific floor cleaners, sink cleaners, counter sprays, etc.  If people want that many different cleaners floating around their house, that’s totally their call, but that’s not for me.  My one bottle of homemade all-purpose cleaner does many different jobs and if I feel I need to “tailor” the cleaning to a specific issue, I do that while I’m cleaning, adding whatever ingredients I need.

That being said, my natural cleaning “arsenal” includes:

Dr. Bronner’s unscented pure castile soap
Baking soda (I buy the big bag at Costco since I use it so much)
Essential oils
A natural dish soap
A Scotch-Brite pad (making sure to delegate one for cleaning so it doesn’t get confused with the one used for dishes!)
Rags

Other than laundry soap (BioKleen Laundry Powder for normal laundry, Nellie’s Laundry Soda for diapers, and oxygen bleach to add to whites), the one cleaner that I do buy is BioKleen Bac-Out.  It’s all natural and I can identify everything on the ingredient list so I feel fine about having it in my home.  It’s amazing stuff!  Because it contains live enzymes, it dissolves left-on gunk really well…which is why Cedar’s high-chair gets wiped down with it regularly.  I mostly use it as a spot-cleaner for laundry though, and I have yet to find something that works better on sap and resin.

My all-purpose cleaner is very basic and, as the name indicates, I use it for pretty much everything: cleaning bathrooms, wiping up messy spills (i.e. ones that require more than just plain water), doing “wet dusting” (I usually just dust with my lambswool duster), etc.  In a large spray bottle I combine a good-sized squirt of Dr. Bronner’s (you don’t want too much or else the cleaner will be too sudsy when you try to wipe it off stuff…remember that Dr. Bronner’s is very concentrated), about ten or so drops of lemon essential oil, and then fill the rest up with water.  The essential oil isn’t absolutely necessary, but it adds disenfecting power to the cleaner which is great for cleaning bathrooms.

(August 2012 update: I changed the recipe for the my all-purpose cleaner to make it even more germ-killing.  Find the new recipe here!)

As stated earlier, my all-purpose cleaner is the only thing that I pre-combine.  For scrubbing sinks and the tub/shower, I spray the surface with the cleaner, and then sprinkle it with a generous amount of baking soda…and scrub away with my Scotch-Brite pad.  Sometimes our kitchen sink can get discoloured and when that happens, I usually scrub the baking soda with some left-over lemon rinds and then follow that with the Scotch-Brite pad.

For mopping my floors, I have a microfiber mop which cleans using only water.  However, for disinfecting and also just to make things smell good, I often add several drops of some kind of essential oil (most commonly lemon, orange and/or clove) to the water I’m using.

And that’s about it!  If I forgot some major type of cleaning, chances are I just use soap and/or baking soda on it.  I love cleaning naturally…so much safer for my family and so simple as well.

So very many gifts…

321. Electric kettles.

322. Watching Cedar play for so long with Aaron’s chess pieces.

323. His delight at making them stand up all by himself.

324. A thrown-together stir-fry that turned out amazing!

325. A productive morning, followed by a lazy afternoon.

326. A good long chat with one of my best friends.

327. Garlic rolls.

328. The knowledge that, despite complications, our new little one is and always will be in the Father’s hands.

329. Little boy gum boots.

330. How Cedar has become the “bug police”.

331. The sound of frogs in the cool air.

332. Lying on the trampoline, snuggled with my husband, watching the stars.

333. A lunch of fried rice and kiwis.

334. Going on a short walk by myself while Cedar napped and Aaron worked outside.

335. Sunshine and bird song.

336. Discovering little grape hyacinths along the roadside.

337. A midwife appointment that went really well.

338. Sharing a fruit and veggie Jamba Juice with my darling.

339. Making baklava.

340. Cedar’s delight with swings.

341. Finishing up all the YLCF drafts that I wanted to have done before the baby comes.

342. Cedar “helping” Aaron in his shop.

343. Frozen pizza for lunch.

344. The smell of freshly cut grass.

345. How Cedar handles the bumps, bruises and black eyes of being a boy so well.

346. The knowledge that I’m going to give birth before the really hot weather sets in.

347. Lavender oil for bug bites.

348. The freshness of spring.

349. A big fleece blanket doubling as a not-too-bulky body pillow to help with pregnancy aches.

350. Passing the point of how far along I was with Cedar when he was born.

351. Roasted garlic, eaten on its own with a little olive oil and salt.

352. While reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and drinking pregnancy tea.

353. Morel mushrooms.

354. How my collection of dried rose bouquets keeps growing.

355. How hot (!) my husband looks in his reading glasses.

356. Finally selling the cloth diapers that I don’t use anymore.

357. Knowing, before 4 PM, what I’m going to make for supper…and having the meat defrosting before then.

358. Hanging laundry outside.

359. Garden plans.

360. Talking cloth diapers with a close friend…and understanding each other.