Thankfulness…

Dahlias
I'm so thankful for…

such a loving and patient husband, who is driving to work to serve our family so faithfully…  the darling baby crawling around on the floor behind me, as he says "Mama, mama"… the sweet little girl who loves to bless me, and is putting butter on a bun to bring to me… this wonderful family that God is knitting together…

the warmth of the heater we recently bought, on such a chilly morning… the mountain view from my dining room window… the comfort of a hot cup of decaf coffee with a bit of leftover whipped cream for indulgence's sake… a ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds and spilling into the room where I type, with that sort of warm, caramel glow that can't help but make you smile in delight…

a fridge bursting full of more food than I know what to do with… the bounty of harvest time- apples, pumpkins, corn, zucchini, potatoes, squash and carrots… a garden that is still producing…

so many opportunities this summer to put away food for the winter… a newly organized freezer brimming full with peaches and berries and beef and chicken… a well-stocked pantry, full of oh-so-nourishing foods to feed my family… rows of canning jars filled with good things (applesauce, tomatoes, raspberries and blackberry jam)…

a large, beautiful house to rent, so well suited to our family's needs and so perfect for having others over… a fantastic backyard (did I mention it has a garden? :)… a safe and quiet cul-de-sac…

a steady income, incredible provision from our Father… a car in the driveway… closets full of clothes… a house full of furniture… the mattresses we were offered yesterday for our bunk beds…

a blog I love to write for… incredible readers who encourage me so much… so many amazing opportunities available to me, as I stay home and care for  my family…

good friends… so many dear, sweet, generous friends who love us so well and whom we are privileged to be able to love in return… fellowship… fun times… laughter… encouragement… support…

much family, both far and near, but always dear to us…  family that is faithful, generous, and kind… grandparents and great-grandparents who love to spoil and delight in my children

a strong church, with even stronger doctrine… pastors who serve so well and teach so diligently… worship that draws my heart to the Savior, with words that bring me back to the Gospel and the reason that I worship…

a husband who is healthy once again… more than one year cancer-free… such undeserved favor and blessing from God…

a beautiful Savior…  who knows the depths of my sinfulness, and still mercifully chose to give Himself up so that I can know His grace… a God who never stops changing me… who never stops loving me… who is a solid Rock beneath my feet, when all else gives way… who blesses me so undeservedly…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving-centerpiece
 

For those who may have been wondering where I was yesterday, I was celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving! This is the picture of my table centerpiece, which I unfortunately didn't think to take a picture of until after dinner, instead of when the table was first set and looking beautiful with cloth napkins, etc. I also didn't take any pictures of the spread of food, or of any people, because I was so concerned about just getting the food done and ready for everyone to eat, then I somewhat collapsed at the table as I happily ate the rewards of my labors!

It was my first year making such a large spread, for ourselves and three other families. I was cooking and baking and cleaning all day, to have guests over to celebrate with us, and I definitely celebrated when the cooking was finished! I have such a new admiration for mothers and grandmothers everywhere. :)

Thanksgiving-table-of-goodies

My menu included:
a large roast chicken as well as a roast beef (yes, turkey is traditional here, but I was working with what I had in the freezer)
gravy
garlic mashed potatoes
baked squash
baked sweet potatoes
carrots with butter and dill
stuffing (no white bread, though!)
homemade spelt buns
apple pie
two pumpkin pies (made with these:)

My-first-pumpkins

My very first pumpkins from my garden! They're New England Sugar Pie Pumpkins, and they made such a nice pie. I used these directions to make my puree, and it worked so well.

I'm hoping to post about what I'm thankful for later today, but for the moment, I'm thankful for my husband who works so hard to provide for us, and I'm going to show that thankfulness by making him a lunch!

Maybe this will give some of you a bit of inspiration to start thinking about your own Thanksgiving coming up in November! What do you usually serve? How does your family celebrate Thanksgiving? To the Canadians out there, how did you celebrate yesterday?

Living Simple Saturdays- From Clutter to Clarity

 

Lss-graphic-small

Cluttertoclarity
Beginning this week, I'm excited to take a closer look at a book that I've been working my way through the past month or two, From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out. Though I read much of it while on vacation and haven't yet been able to put a lot of the principles into action in my life, I've begun to reread it with the goal of examining some of these areas in my life, step by step.

If you've read or are reading the book, feel free to work through it along with me (though I won't cover every single thing, only those that feel the most relevant to me). If you're not reading it, I hope that you will still follow along, as the principles are excellent whether you've read the whole thing or not.

This week, I just wanted to take a look at the opening chapter, where the author gives us a new definition of clutter:

From now on, think of clutter as any possession, habit, thought pattern, attitude, or activity that 1) you don't need or use anymore, 2) doesn't fit or work for you like it used to, or 3) doesn't add value and meaning to your life as it once did.

This definition surprised me. I've always viewed clutter as physical, tangible things. An overflowing closet. A garage full of junk. A kitchen cupboard with tupperware bottoms and lids that don't match. Extra "stuff" that I just don't really need, but am hanging on to anyways.

Bringing the concept of clutter into the realm of attitudes, habits, activities and as she goes on to talk about, our hearts and our relationship with Jesus, was a new idea for me. I think, though, that's she's right. There are so many elements of how I think about things, how I function in day-to-day life, in the activities I crowd my schedule with, and even in the sin that I let entangle me, that clutter up my life, so to speak. I'm eager to examine them further, and see which things I can do away with, to free me up to spend more time and energy on those things that really matter.

Have you ever thought about clutter in this way? What do you think of this definition? What does clutter mean to you?

________________________________________________________________________

Living Simply Saturdays
are an opportunity to share what is bringing more simplicity and
purposefulness to your own life, and to glean from the lives of others.

To join in, post your contribution on your blog, then come back
here and add your link below. Please make sure that you link to the
specific post, and not to the homepage of your blog, and make sure that
you include in your post a link back to this post. Thanks so much!

If you don't have a blog, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section!

Nutritional Foundations- Making the best of the regular grocery store, Part 5

As promised, here is the continuation of yesterday's discussion of how to purchase meat, poultry and eggs from a conventional grocery store, and make the best choices possible:

Brown eggs
Eggs

Egg Beaters or any similar egg replacement: Avoid! These are basically egg whites, with some coloring and spices. Don't buy the lie that egg yolks are to be avoided. This is where the bulk of the nutrients are found in the egg! Instead, we should be looking for whole eggs with rich, dark yellow yolks, bursting with goodness!

A step above regular: Omega-3 eggs (more nutrients than regular eggs, but still kept in confinement and fed things they shouldn't be eating, like soy products)

Better: Free-range/ Cage-free/ Free-run (they get some outdoor time, so their diet includes some grass foraging and insects, though they still receive other feed which is not organic and are likely still confined much of the time)

Even Better: Organic Free-range (the above pluses, and no pesticide's in their food)

Best: Straight from the farm of a farmer you trust or the backyard of someone who raises them well. Just take a drive in the country, and you'll likely see many signs in driveways saying "Eggs for sale". Check out the living conditions, ask how they're fed. I know this isn't a grocery store option, but I just had to mention it. :)

Black and white cow
Meat

Look for brands that advertise: pastured or grass fed, no animal by-products, no hormones, no antibiotics, organic feed, etc. The more of these items that are indicated, the better!

Here is a helpful website I found, called US Natural Beef. This site lists 18 different beef brands, that claim to be "natural". To find out exactly what this means, you need to visit the website of each brand and fish around a little. I've researched two of these brands to give you a bit of an idea of what they're about.

For example:

Creekstone Farms- Their natural brand of beef (they have a conventional line as well) boasts the following protocols:

  • No Antibiotics – EVER!
  • No Added Hormones – EVER!
  • No Growth Promoting Drugs – EVER!
  • No Artificial Ingredients – EVER!
  • 100% Vegetarian Diet
  • Sourced Verified to Ranch of Birth
  • Humane Animal Handling Practices

To find out where their products are carried, you can check out this link, and see which stores in your state have Creekstone beef. I check out Washington, and this beef can be found at Haggen stores, which is a regular grocery store.

Certified Angus Beef Natural Brand- This is also distinct from their conventional brand. Their website claims that in raising this beef, there are:

Never any antibiotics. Producers ensure antibiotics are never used.

Never any hormones. Cattle are never given hormones to enhance performance or growth.

Never anything but all-natural feeds. Cattle enjoy a vegetarian diet of only top-quality grains, forages and essential nutrients – just as nature intended.

To find a store, visit this link. Make sure you look for the "Natural" brand icon, to know that the particular store you have found actually carries the natural, not just conventional brand.

These are just two examples, but there were many more on the US Natural Beef site. It may take a bit of researching and looking around, but chances are you can discover a more natural brand that is carried by one of the stores that you shop at or have access to! Though grass-fed beef from a local farmer would be the ideal, this can be a great way to compromise and do the best you can with what's available to you!

Hen
Poultry

Sadly, I could not find any sites that listed poultry brands together, so it's a bit of a tougher area to really dig through. You're looking for the same types of words that I mentioned above, under Meat (no antibiotics or hormones, grass-fed, no animal by-products, etc.) Here are a few brands I did find on the web:

Smart Chicken- from what I can tell, this is a step above conventional chicken. Not a really big step, but even a small step in the right direction is a good thing! It seems as though this chicken may be available at some major retailers, but you'll need to call to find one in your area.

Petaluma Poultry- this brand carries both free-range and organic poultry, but is most likely carried at co-ops and health-food style stores. I would check their retail index, though, just to be sure.

Shelton- Same as Petaluma. Looks good, but not carried at most major retailers, unfortunately.

Since I had a hard time finding sites that offered what I was looking for (and I spent a looong time looking, which I'm sure you don't really want to do!), here's what I would recommend doing. Next time you go shopping, bring a pen and paper to the store with you, and write down all of the brands that are available to you.

Take this to your computer, and look up each brand to see if they have a website. If they are more conscientious about how they raise their poultry, they will talk about it, as they do at Smart Chicken. If they are not, and it's completely conventional, they will talk about quality and safety in vague terms and mention nothing about how their meat is raised- for an example of this, see the Lilydale site.

Hot dogs on grill
Beyond chicken breasts and ground beef…

Let me quickly address a few specific types of meat that you might be wondering about, in addition to the basic cuts.

Sandwich meats:

Quite frankly, I would recommend not purchasing any sandwich meats at all. All deli meats like this contain preservatives, specifically sodium nitrite (which is carcinogenic). In addition, they often have corn syrup, colorings, smoke flavorings, MSG (which is linked to neurological damage), hydrolyzed proteins (which is actually a way to hide MSG in a product) and other chemical preservatives. The only sandwich meat our family eats is from a local, natural deli that doesn't use these preservatives or other ingredients (I can tell, because the meat doesn't last long in my fridge and doesn't have the strong flavor of other sandwich meats). Learn to read the ingredients, and you will see that unfortunately, there isn't much in the deli section of the store that doesn't include these sorry ingredients.

What to use instead: Cooked, sliced chicken breast or leftover turkey is perfect for sandwiches or in wraps. Another great option is cutting thin slices when you make roast beef. We also like to make salmon or chicken salad, using either canned salmon or chopped up chicken, a bit of mayo, seasonings, perhaps onions or celery. Fried eggs are actually quite good in sandwiches. Any other ideas?

Other deli meats:

Hot dogs, sausages, bacon, pizza meat, pepperoni sticks, etc. Sadly, it is all full of the ingredients I mentioned above under sandwich meats, including sodium nitrite (seriously, in everything. I can't think of an example of anything that doesn't have it). Not to mention, much of it is made of undesirable animals parts, ground up so that you have no idea what you are eating. Not particularly appetizing, is it?

What to use instead: On our pizzas, we use chopped up chicken or ground meats. For sausages, we have been able to find some more natural brands, without the preservatives and MSG. A few grocery stores are beginning to carry them, and Costco is one great place to find them (I like their natural chicken sausages a lot). There are even many recipes for making your own sausage or pepperoni (note- avoid the Morton Tenderquick salt, as it has nitrites. Use sea salt instead). If you do still want to buy these meats, make sure to read the ingredients, and stay away from the above mentioned items. Seriously, I would just avoid things like hot dogs and pepperoni. If you absolutely must, choose 100% beef hot dogs with the shortest ingredient list, and keep that and the bacon really, really minimal. Please.

Ultimately, the best choices that we can make at the local grocery store include simple, basic cuts of meat. As always, the main conclusion is to go back to whole foods, that have not been processed, altered or packaged. Food that are as close to the way that they are found in nature. These are the foods that will nourish you and your family!

Any more questions about buying meat at the store? Do you have any brand preferences or great finds to share with us? What are your thoughts on all of this?

Nutritional Foundations- Making the best of the regular grocery store, Part 4

Chickens
For those new to this series, we're looking at how to do the best you can nutritionally, when a conventional store is what you've got to work with. We're in the midst of a tour of the store, and so far we've worked our way through produce and seafood, and dairy.

Today, we jump into the topic of purchasing meat, poultry and eggs…

Here are a few reasons to be concerned about what's being sold at your regular grocery store:

  • Grass fed is preferable for meat, and foraging on grass and insects for poultry, however most animals are cooped up in buildings and not given any access to pasture at all, let alone the ability to freely roam and forage.
  • Often antibiotics are given to the animals, for infections that develop in too-tight living conditions (cooped up tightly, usually without naturally light or access to pasture, next to animals that are ill, beaks cut off so they don't eat their neighbors, etc.)
  • Some have been given hormones, to force them to grow faster or produce more than they normally would
  • All are fed with feed that is sub par (eating things that are not ideal foods for them, such as grain for cattle, rather than hay, silage and root vegetables when fresh grass is not available), often genetically modified (such as corn and soy) and pesticide laced

All in all, it's enough to make you want to seriously reconsider purchasing from the regular store, eating animal products raised in unknown (and often downright terrible) conditions.

I've even more recently seen advertising that makes the packaging look more natural, or using the word "natural" in their brand name or calling it "natural chicken breasts". Unfortunately, this doesn't mean a thing, as there are no true standards for what equals "natural" food. When it comes to meat and poultry, it simply means that there are no artificial colorings, flavorings or preservatives in your chicken breast or roast (well goodness, I would sure hope there aren't!), and has nothing to do with how the meat was produced.

As well, many packages have been touting lovely brown images of grains, promoting this image that anything containing a grain might be healthy. Unfortunately, grain fed animals are NOT the ideal, and just because the package looks "natural" doesn't mean that what's inside it really is. Companies pay big bucks for marketing companies to help them compete in today's market, where more and more consumer are demanding naturally raised foods. As I mentioned above, we want our animals to be raised on pasture, foraging on grass. In the winter, cattle (for example) should be consuming hay (dried grass) and/or silage (fermented grass) or root vegetables. Not grains!

To give you a bit of food for thought, considering reading these articles to go more in depth on the subject:

Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Products

Splendor from the Grass

Now that I've told you what you don't want, you may be wondering…

How do I actually find good quality meat to serve my family?

We are most definitely going to get to this question in a few weeks, when I give you as many good resources for finding high quality food sources as I possibly can (and I'm going to ask for your help, by having you share all of your own resources with the rest of us!). Personally, I do not buy it from the regular grocery store, so I am going to help you find out where you can locate a source of good animal products near you!

Is it ever okay to eat this regular meat?

If it is all that you can get, then yes, but less often than you might otherwise. That is simplifying it quite a bit, but that is my basic thought on the subject. If you cannot get better quality meats and poultry, I don't think that you need to take them out of your diet entirely, as I don't really care to promote a vegetarian diet. High quality or not, I don't believe that animal products are to be avoided, as they contain many essential nutrients, including an excellent source of protein. However, they are not nearly as beneficial to you when poorly raised, and when consumed too much, can actually be detrimental to your health, which is why I would caution you to eat less if that is your only option.

In my next post, I'm going to look at a few different brands of meat and poultry, and help you to compare their quality, so that when faced with the meat options at your local store, you can make the best choices possible. You may notice I don't include pork- that's because I don't think that it is a wise choice, nutritionally speaking (if you really want to know why, ask me and I'll post about it sometime- it's far too big for this post!).

What compromises can be made?

Back when we had a whole lot less money in our grocery
budget, I purchased as much good quality animal protein as I could
afford to buy (which wasn't a lot). After that, we went vegetarian (probably 3-5 nights a
week). I stretched what I had through careful meal planning, and
learned how to make complex, interesting and filling vegetarian dishes, with lots of whole grains, beans and legumes, and some dairy and fish. We ate yogurt and high quality eggs with breakfast whenever we could. And that was that. Though we eat much more meat and poultry these days, as our budget allows, I think that our previous diet was very reasonable and we did well with it.

I have also since learned (through Nourishing Traditions) that consuming homemade bone broth (beef, poultry or fish broths) are excellent for diets that are lower in good quality animal protein. They have a protein sparing effect that helps our bodies to make the best use of whatever animal protein we do eat. Adding broths a couple times a week, particularly to vegetarian meals, is an excellent way to get around not having as much meat or poultry.

Another great compromise is to eat meats other than beef, chicken and turkey. Lamb is generally of high quality (not always, but most of the time) no matter where it is found, so that is often a great alternative. As well, if you can find game (buffalo, bison, moose, deer, etc.) these also tend to be good quality, so buy and eat freely! Wild birds, such as wild duck or pheasant, are another option, if you're able to find them.

So, which choices are better than others when I'm in the store and I still want to buy something?

Let me answer that on Friday, with some specifics of what to look for in, brands, websites, etc. I want to get even more practical on this topic and give you some tools to use in this area!

Girls are maturing earlier and earlier

Smiling little girl
Though I've known for quite some time that the ages for girls (as well as boys) to hit puberty have been getting younger and younger, I was actually shocked to read this today (hat tip for the link):

A new report by the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society
(LWPES), a nationwide network of physicians headquartered in Stanford,
California, suggests that it is normal for white girls as young as 7
and black girls as young as 6 to start developing breasts. This
conclusion was based on a study of 17,000 girls between the ages of 3
and 12 conducted by the Pediatric Research in Office Settings (PROS)
network of 1,500 pediatricians nationwide.

"This study is significant because it gives us a marker for when
parents should be concerned about physical development that is truly
too early and may be a sign of a hormonal imbalance," says Paul
Boepple, M.D., associate professor of pediatric endocrinology at
Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and at Harvard Medical School.
"It also gives parents a heads-up that they need to talk about the
physical and emotional changes of puberty with kids possibly as young
as age 5."

Read entire article here.

When I read this, there are two words that stood out to me: normal (as in, it's considered normal by physicians) and may (as in, it may be a sign of hormonal imbalance). That a 7 year old girl going through puberty could be considered normal absolutely blows my mind, and I have to really struggle against sarcasm when I hear that maybe, just maybe it could be that something is off hormonally.

The scary thing is that this is an old study (1997), and I would bet money on it that the situation has not improved in the past ten years.

Allow me to state the obvious by saying it is just wrong for little girls to be going through puberty! Clearly, something has gone seriously awry and we need to really, truly consider what is going on here.

The article goes on to suggest that the culprit could be insecticides in food, which break down and cause estrogenic activity in these young girls (yup, sounds very logical to me). Another plausible suggestion is the epidemic of childhood obesity. They are finding that those girls that are overweight are going through puberty earlier than those who are thin, and this would also make sense to me as estrogen is stored in fat cells (thus, those with more fat cells would have a higher concentration of estrogen in their bodies).

I would also add to the pot that the hormone treatments being doled out to the chickens and cows that make their way into the grocery store and onto our plates have a role to play, as does the often hormone-laced dairy from cows that are being forced to produce so much extra milk that they burn out in a matter of years (it's exhausting, pumping out milk day after day, year after year- us nursing moms would know!).

So, what says you, dear readers? Are you concerned about this? Care to speculate on what you think might be the cause of it? Have concerns in this area caused you to rethink or alter the foods that you serve your children?

Introducing: Naturally Knocked Up

Whenever I come across a new blog with a concept that I just really love and think will serve my readers, I want to let you know about it. I've "known" (you know, through our blogs) Donielle for quite a while now through her other blog, Raising Peanuts. She began this second blog, Naturally Knocked Up just in the last couple of months and I was instantly sold on it. I asked Donielle if I could interview her to give you more of an idea of what she and her blog are all about!


1) What was the inspiration for your new blog, Naturally Knocked Up?

My
own infertility really has been the inspiration behind my blog. We
waited for our firstborn little boy (now 2) and waited even longer for
baby #2 (due in April!). Although, I guess you could say my babies have
been my true inspiration since my story does have a happy ending.
Everything I do now is for my family, and if I can write about just one
thing that helps another woman in her own struggles, to help her with
her own dreams of family, well…. that's the goal of this blog.

2) Who is your blog geared towards? What types of women do you hope to attract to it?
I
would like this blog to be geared not only towards those who have
struggled with infertility, but those who are thinking about starting a
family. It's also for woman who are interested in a more natural
approach when it comes to overall health and reproduction. Most of my
posts do show how nutrition effects fertility, but the overall message
I hope to convey is that a persons health depends solely on how we
nourish our bodies.

I honestly feel there is becoming an epidemic among young women who are
unable to conceive or carry a baby to term. I want women to know that
there is a way to correct infertility by treating the cause, not just
the symptoms.

3) What types of changes have you made in your own life, as a result of your studies and research in this area?
I
made the changes slowly over a period of a few months, but looking back
at what I ate prior to changing my diet, it does look quite drastic.
We've switched to raw goat milk, and I buy little to no processed foods
and make most everything from home including all my bread products and
even butter. I eat very little refined sugar and try and stick with
only natural sweeteners like honey. I have also banned low-fat products
from my home in place of full fat, nourishing ones.

I have also changed how I clean my home and do my laundry, using
only non toxic or homemade products. I use only natural products on my
face and skin, although I have a ways to go switching all the way to
all natural hygiene products. (I still haven't been able to give up my
shampoo and conditioner!) For me it's a constant slow change while
moving to a more natural life style.

4) Which changes do you think have made the biggest difference for you personally?
I
noticed the biggest changes in my health when I stopped buying
processed foods and consuming so much refined sugar. Within just a
couple months, I started to ovulate again (I have pcos and have an
issue with this), my migraines disappeared, and my eczema cleared up.

5) What most excites you about your blog?
I love the
fact that I've been able to meet so many women who have gone through
the same struggles I've gone through. And I love being able to share
what I've learned in hopes of helping someone else. I've put in hours
and hours researching nutrition and fertility and really wanted one
place where women could find the answers they may be looking for.

6) If you could share one thing about your own journey, what would it be?
The
one the I have had to learn (and relearn!) while going through
infertility, is that even above nutrition, above anything I can do, I
must give myself over to the Lords will. It's such a struggle for me to
try and take control of my own life, my own body, but I must remember
that it is not mine, it belongs to Him. I've had to humble myself at
His feet when I tried to take it back. I've had to learn to rely on the
Lord for comfort when things just didn't go my way, and when the
longing seemed to  strong. I've learned patience, when I wanted a baby
yesterday. And most of all, I've learned that God does always answer my prayers, sometimes it's just not how I expected.

7) What topics can we expect to read about over the next weeks and months?
I
plan on covering Nutrition (based on the Nourishing Traditions style,
as well as biblical nutrition), Natural Living (including many topics
that are considered green and eco-friendly), Recipes,Natural Family Planning, Simple changes to make for better health,
plenty of book reviews, Matters of the heart when it comes to
infertility, and different fertility boosters.

8) Anything else you'd like to share with us?
I truly think nutrition is key to a well functioning body. If any part
of our system is not working quite right, it's because we aren't eating
the things our body needs. Or eating too much of what it doesn't need!

That being said, I absolutely do not judge those who have chosen to
seek medical help or look down on them in any way. Just like with birth
control, we are all called by God differently. As long as we truly feel
God's leading, and not our own selfish nature, there can be many roads
to conception.

But, nutrition also helps substantially when going through
any particular treatment, which is why I would always stress nutrition
first. :-)

Attention Vancouverites- Baby Purity Conference!

Hey all you locals (local to me, that is)!

A dear friend passed on a newspaper article to me yesterday, about a great conference that's happening in Vancouver, BC at the end of this month, and I thought some of you may be interested.

Baby purity banner
 

It's called the Baby Purity Mother's Conference, and it's happening Saturday, Oct. 25 from 9am to 5pm. For more information on it and to buy tickets ($38 which includes a nice lunch), check out this link.

Here's a quote taken from the website:

Do you feel confused and overwhelmed by all the allergies in our
children, the debate between organic versus non-organic and the
frequent green living conversations?

As a mother, I certainly
have and thought it would be great if all this information could be
condensed to help mothers understand how these issues affect her
family. Hence, the reason for the Baby Purity Mother’s Conference. Come
to this one day event, have a great lunch in downtown Vancouver and
listen to experts discussing first foods for your baby, safe household
products and good nutrition for your entire family.

They have some great speakers, including a local Naturopath, as well as speakers from Healthy Child, Healthy World and Environmental Working Group. There will be booths with lots of different products to learn about, and also some Q&A sessions and panel discussions. I'm not sure exactly how in depth it will go, but I'm sure that I will learn something useful, and be encouraged in some of the things that I am doing for my family.

For anyone that plans on going, I will definitely be there and would love to connect with you at the conference! Please send me an email at keeperofthehome (at) canada (dot) com to tell me you'll be there!

Our trip to Arizona, Part 3

This is the last installment of our Arizona pics (Part 1 and 2 here)…

Day 6: Our last big day of sightseeing, we went back to the Sedona area to see some ancient ruins and heritage sites. First, though, we stopped in town for some gelato and to purchase fudge for a special someone.

Wall-drawings-vbarv1

Next, we made our way over to V-Bar-V, where we literally saw the writing on the wall (ancient petroglyphs and pictographs).

Dwellings-above-montezuma-well

Now we're over at Montezuma Well, which is a very large sinkhole (looks
like a small lake), that used to serve as a major water source for the
ancient peoples. See what looks like a little house with a door opening? These are stone dwellings, literally above the well.
If you could see the whole thing, you would be able to see that these
cliffs go straight down, more than 100 ft, right into the well. Can you
imagine living up there?

Kids-in-firehats

We encountered some very friendly fireman, who bestowed hats upon my children. Too fun!

Ryan-in-front-of-montezuma-castle

Ryan in front of Montezuma Castle, which literally is an ancient castle
built into the cliff walls. It is huge and amazing, to just stare up at
and imagine how they came up with building it. Why on earth do we have
this notion that people who lived long ago were less intelligent than
we are? This is some pretty fine engineering and building, if you ask
me, especially since it's mostly still standing 1000 years later.

Day 7: Our last day in the Flagstaff area, we pack up at the hostel,
and say goodbye to the lovely older couple we had become friends with
(he is an Anglican minister in England), with whom we had a wonderful dinner the night before.

Abbie-in-front-of-flowers-and-red-cliffs

Early in my motherhood, I once read "What is a picture of a beautiful autumn tree without a child standing under it?" It stuck with me and I've felt the same way as I look back on many of the photos I take during a vacation. My favorites always include my favorite people. This is taken with the backdrop of the red rocks near Sedona, at a national heritage site called Palatki, which has ancient pueblo ruins.

House-ruin-at-pontoki

Just inside the entrance of the ruins, at the base of the red cliffs.

Ryan-and-kids-in-pontoli-ruins

The largest room in the ruins. Doesn't Caden look thrilled to be there? :)

At this point, we had planned on visiting a little artsy town called Jerome up in the hills, but we ran out of time and out of steam. We hit road work and had a bit of a time crunch, and so we decided to just head straight down to Scottsdale, where we had a dinner date with the recipient of the fudge…

Me-and-lylah

My delightful friend, Lylah and her wonderful husband, Michael. Lylah and I had never met, but had connected through our blogs about a year ago. It was so kind of them to invite us over, and especially after a week of making simple food in the hostel, the feast that Lylah spoiled us with was absolutely incredible!

Us-with-lylah-and-michael

We had such a good time of fellowship and had endless interesting things to talk about. What a blessing! Straight after, we drove to the Crowne Plaza, the deal of a hotel I scored on Priceline.com. What luxury, after a hostel!

Day 8: We took it very easy. We had been planning to see Phoenix a bit, but we were just worn out and even I (the one who always wants to see, see, see) was a bit done. We slept in, lounged around in our hotel room, bought breakfast from a local Target (because it turned out the continental breakfast here was incredible… if you want to pay $13 each!), and then went swimming at the hotel pool. In the afternoon, we found a cheap theatre and went out to see a movie.

Steph-eats-baja-fresh

We finished off with dinner at my absolute favorite restaurant in the USA- Baja Fresh! I just love Mexican food (authentic or not), and their food is soooo much better than any other fast-food style restaurant, and their salsa bar is just the best. Mmmm…

Day 9: After packing up at the hotel, we headed into one of the downtown areas of Phoenix (by accident), as our GPS led us to the nearest Baja Fresh (again) for our last lunch (isn't my hubby sweet?). We realized how much time we had to kill, so we drove around to look for a park or something, and stumbled upon a large Mexican market. We ate in the car, then walked around inside for an hour. I wish our camera hadn't been packed, as it was such a fun experience! We even saw a cow's head (seriously, an entire one, without the skin, but with the eyes) in the deli section. We passed on that one, and ate a Churro instead.

And then, we flew back to Seattle, and arrived on a cool, drizzly night. Good-bye Arizona sunshine and heat, hello Seattle grey and rain (and then we went North, on up to Vancouver grey and rain)!

As I'm sure you've gathered, we had a wonderful time. We were able to spend so much time bonding as a family and just enjoying one another, and Arizona was such a great place to visit. God blessed us with many sweet times of fellowship and refreshment, with each other, with friends we met along the way, while visiting a church, etc. We're so grateful that we were able to go on this vacation, and as with any good vacation, we were so glad to be home sweet home once again!

A sign of what’s to come?

So, I walked into my dining room last Thursday to discover this:

Caden-table1

Yes, that is my darling 16 month old son, who made his way up onto the table all by himself. He climbed up one of the chairs, right up onto the table and I discovered him standing up on it, but he got back down when he saw me. He was having a grand old time. Just like the time he attempted to climb up these shelves when he was 12 mths old.

Caden-table2

This little man is turning out to be quite the climber, far more than his sister ever was. It makes me think of the time that his Daddy, at 5 years old, did a Winnie-the-Pooh and climbed up a very tall tree with a fistful of balloons on strings, hoping to make his way down with his balloon "parachute". Instead, he ended up with a broken arm when the balloons got tangled 1/3 of the way up.

Caden-table3

Tell me, all you mothers of boys, is this just a sign of things to come? Should I prepare myself now? What other kinds of adventurousness do I have to look forward to?