Happy Halloween!

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 31

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along you can find all of my posts here.

Phew!  I made it!  {31 Days} of Back to Basics!  It was a really fun series for me.  More for me to re-visit my choices and changes that I have made over the past several years.  Thank you for joining me!!

I think that I realized this month that compromise is OK, and I am incredibly lucky to be able to make certain choices for my family.  I have to remember that not everyone has that same ability.  Not everyone will want to make these same choices, and that is OK too!  Some would probably run as fast as they could if I started talking about them.  However, the choices are mine, and they make me happy :-)

I am not entirely sure where I am going to go from here for the rest of the year blog wise.  I liked writing about one topic for an entire month, but it was a huge task.  Now I am already looking ahead to the very busy holiday season.  Exciting times ahead!

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 30

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along you can find all of my posts here.

I will let you in on something – I am a little strange.  OK, maybe a lot strange!  I make a lot of odd choices when it comes to life.  First it was local food, cloth diapers & wipes, making laundry soap – choices that most people do not think about; choices that may cause friction when you talk about them.

I think over the past several years local food has become more main stream.  I remember after first watching Food Inc. I wanted everyone I knew to also watch it.  My brother didn’t want to.  Not because he didn’t agree with the message of the documentary (as told by me), but because once your eyes are open to something it is hard to go back.

In those early days of changing to local food for my family, I told everyone I saw what I was doing and why.  I could not figure out what I didn’t have a long line of people totally agreeing with everything that I said!  This stuff was serious, and so important to me!  Honestly, I think they mainly tuned me out and smiled politely, I might come on a bit strong at times J

It is hard when you are extremely passionate about something and your friends and family are not.  For a long time, my husband thought I was crazy with all the local food changes.  He could have cared less if the hamburger he was eating came from next door, or from 100 cows in the Midwest – he just wanted to eat the hamburger.  Actually, I’m not sure he totally agrees with my philosophy on these changes now, but he goes along with it because he has seen that it is a healthy choice for our children.

So what do you do with those that don’t agree with you?  Agree to disagree.  I would love to come up with something more profound, but that is it.  You, individually, have to make your own choices, and you are only responsible for those choices.  You can still voice your opinions, but if people don’t make your changes, it is OK. 

A lot of the changes that I am making to get “Back to Basics” are incredibly personal ones.  It is difficult when people view you differently because of those choices, or want to judge you for making compromises on choices you defend so vehemently.  No one is perfect.

I think a lot of the changes and judgments can be compared to political beliefs.  Sometimes you wonder what in the world the other side is thinking, but you have to remember that every person has different life experiences that lead to their beliefs and choices.

How do you deal with people who don’t agree with your choices?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 29

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along you can find all of my posts here.

For all the changes that I want to get back to, there must be something said for making compromises.  I would not be in a place to get “Back to Basics” if I had not made compromises.

Does that mean compromises are bad?  Absolutely not!  There is something to be said for convenience and progress, definitely.

I often think about the “Pioneer” days in America’s history.  The people that were looking for land and a fresh start, they wanted the ability to do what they could to make life better for themselves and their family.

I have said before that the “Frontier House” series that was on PBS back in 2002 is one of my favorite shows.  In the opening credits the narrator says something that always stands out to me, “often romanticized.”  I think that often times we think about all the things we “want” or fee like we “need” to change, but it often is not realistic.

I have to remember that I live in a different world than those pioneers.  While I absolutely admire them, I also realize that I am lucky enough to be able to make the choices I make.  I love to make homemade bread, but if I don’t have a chance to make it, it is ok to buy it!

It seems like such a small compromise, one most would not even think about.  Most people buy their bread now, but isn’t it nice that I can make the choice?  I cannot feel bad about making compromises when I feel like I need to.  I make my own laundry soap, but for some reason, come Christmas time, I am out buying commercial laundry detergent because it is one less thing to think about.

That is what I think about compromises.  You make the ones you specifically need to make for you and your family.  It does not matter what everyone else is doing if it is working for you.  Can you still feel guilty about it?  Yes, you can.  But, you probably shouldn’t.

Do you feel bad about making certain compromises when it comes to changes you have made for the health and well-being of your family?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 28

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along you can find all of my posts here.

Over the past month I have talked a lot about baby steps.  Back to Basics has been about me getting back to what is important for me and my family.  When you are implementing new lifestyle choices, small changes seem to work the best.

However, there are times when baby steps will not work.  Sometimes you have so many changes that you want to make, that a slow and methodical change strategy may never get you to your end result.

Perhaps you made a lot of these changes, like me, previously, but you have gotten away from them recently for whatever reason.  In this case, I would say you probably could just jump right back into what you had been doing.  These are changes that you made already.  It will not shock your family, or you to make them again.

Some changes you want to see immediate results from.  Take de-cluttering for instance.  It would be nice to go through your house a little bit at a time and get rid of things a little at a time.  But, if you are like most families, you will most likely also be bringing new items into your house.  So if you are bringing stuff in as fast as you are getting rid of stuff, you probably will not see a huge change.  Now, if you give yourself a time line and tear through your house, you will see the result right off – and this may cause you to not bring new items back into your home.

It can be painful at first but I think the majority of the time, after that initial pain you are happier with the change.  This is obviously assuming that you have considered the pros and cons of your choice.

One change that I have been considering for some time but have not been able to totally jump into is the limiting of technology usage.  I am a technology junkie.  I honestly love my gadgets, I love tv, I love the internet.  Clearly I have issues!  I am thinking of implementing technology “fast” days though.  I would like to say that I will limit my usage to certain times during the day, and I do for the most part.  However, it is very easy to make exceptions with those types of parameters.  “The kids are playing well, I will check Feedly” which then turns into an hour of mindless surfing and not accomplishing much else!  This would be a case, for me, to jump in and go for it.

Is there a change in your life that you want to jump right into instead of making smaller changes along the way?  What is stopping you?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 27 - Sunday Quotes

Live simply that others might simply live.
~Elizabeth Ann Seton

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 26

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along youcan find all of my posts here.

There are a lot of “simple living” books out there.  And a lot of them are really amazing resources to have in your home.  The reminder to live intentionally, to follow your values even if they are different than others, it is all very important!  They can be an incredible encouragement, especially if you are making new changes in your life (or trying to get back to changes you had previously made!).

The first book that I love is Organized Simplicity.  It is not just about getting rid of clutter (although that is a large part of this book), it also has a large section in really figuring out what your family’s mission statement is.  Once you are able to put together your family mission statement, you then have something to easily weigh decisions against.  We first did a family mission statement back at the beginning of 2012, and it was a huge step forward for us I believe.  It is good to remind myself of what is important, and why we are making the decisions we are making.

The next book that I recommend is Simple Prosperity.  Now, this book is a lot more liberal than I am, but I think the message is the right one.  We have a lot of choices every day, and we should be thankful for them.  But, there are still a lot of people that do not have those choices.  It has some amazing insight into our consumption in this country, and what we can do to live a little lighter.

The last book is a book for mamas.  Since my babes are one of the biggest reasons for the changes that I make, it only makes sense to include it here.  A good reminder for what is important.  Steady Days.

I am always looking for new books, do you have any recommendations?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 25 - what i am eating

What I am eating is a link up for recipes and other food related posts.  Since this month I am concentrating on getting Back to Basics and since I am writing about local eating this month, I thought it only fitting to include local food!  Feel free to link up any recipes or food related posts below, they do not need to be all local!

Everyone thinks of summer as when the abundance of food is available from the garden.  There definitely is truth to that.  However, I often feel like fall is the real abundance.  Your cupboards and freezer are filling up with your preserving efforts, and all of the fall vegetables are able to be harvested.  Last week I talked about the abundance of apples that we have.  And this week I am going to talk about another fall favorite, pumpkins.

I absolutely love pumpkin.  Everything from pumpkin pie and pumpkin muffins, to curried roasted pumpkin soup.  I think that my favorite thing to make with pumpkins does not actually use the pumpkin, but the seeds.  I love roasted pumpkin seeds, and they are a great nutritious snack.  So don't throw away your pumpkin seeds when you are carving pumpkins, roast them!

There are a million different ways to season pumpkin seeds, but my favorite is the classic sea salt variety.  Clean all the goo off of your pumpkin seeds and pat them dry with a towel.  Then in a bowl add a little bit of coconut oil and some sea salt, then place in a roasting pan in a 325 degree oven until they are browned ~25 minutes, and make sure to stir them up about halfway through.  Some other delicious ways are adding curry powder, garlic powder, or even a little cinnamon and honey.  You can also throw them in when making homemade granola.  Yum!

I actually roast all seeds from the winter squash and pumpkins that I cook.  They are always a delicious snack.

You may notice that I don't have a picture this week...well that would be because we ate them before I got a picture...next time I will have to roast more pumpkin seeds...or be faster with the camera!

Do you roast the seeds from your pumpkins?  What is your favorite way to prepare them?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 24

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along youcan find all of my posts here.

Simple living is a natural partner in any “back to basics” journey.  Now, I am not saying that the lifestyle that I am attempting to live is simple, but there are definitely some strategies to make life a little bit easier when making any type of green living change.

The first strategy would be to reduce the amount of clutter in your life.  The less clutter in your home and in your life, the less you need to clean and organize.  Overall, it is probably one of the best strategies in the world for getting back to basics.  You want the freedom to make the changes without too much of a consequence. 

Another really important step for my family is to reduce the commitments we have outside the home.  And no other time has that been apparent to me than this fall, when we have had commitments just about every evening…every week.  It started out easy enough, soccer practice once a week and a game on the weekend.  Then we added some other commitments at church, and then there were other kid activities that we were doing, and then we were so busy, even our weekends were no longer relaxing.  I am sure some people thrive while being so busy.  Me, not so much! 

Reducing the time commitment in areas of our lives that are not as important to us frees up time to do the things that are important to us. 

The simplicity movement definitely can help in this area.  The less stuff we have, the less we have to take care of, the more time we have to hang laundry outside J

Do you have any simple living tips?  Do you follow a minimalist mindset?  What do you do about all of the commitments you have?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 23

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along youcan find all of my posts here.

I have talked a lot this month about what I am doing to get back to basics, but I have not talked a lot about why.

When I started this journey it was because of being pregnant with my first child.  I am pretty sure that my life did a 180 degree turn at that point.  What had been important to me before no longer seemed important, and the things that I could care less about all of a sudden were at the forefront of my mind.  I think that would be what a lot of parents say though, you just think of life differently.

After my oldest was born, I realized that working was not going to work out for me anymore; I had no desire to be away from my daughter, and was willing to risk the financial consequences.  I certainly didn’t start out my maternity leave expecting to quit my job, but that was the reality at the end of 12 weeks.  All of a sudden we needed to make a lot of changes quickly in order to get our finances in order.  Cooking food from scratch, making my own laundry soap and cleaning products, turning from paper to cloth; these were all changes I could immediately make to help keep our monthly costs down.  These were the initial reasons.

As I moved along in my journey to more self-sufficiency and greener living, I started to think more about the environmental impact our choices make.  I knew that it was better for the environment, and for my kids, if we threw away less trash.  I knew that buying food that traveled such a long distance, and was not actually in season was not good for anyone.  Every day that fresh food travels, it loses nutritional value.  Not to mention the possibility of contamination; which is evident with all the recalls that we seem to encounter now.

I was probably the least environmentally aware person when I started all of these changes, making them purely for financial reasons, or the amount of chemicals found in products.  As I educated myself, I knew that there were a lot of environmental benefits for the changes that I was making, and I started to really feel that it was my responsibility to do it.  As a Christian, I was given the task to be a good steward to God’s creation, and I started to ask myself whether what I was doing was being a good steward, or if I was doing what was easy for me.  It was kind of a hard pill to swallow realizing that maybe I wasn’t the most responsible with regards to our resources.

It is still a struggle.  This was a big reason for me deciding to write about “back to basics” for these 31 days.  I wanted to remind myself why I was doing what I was doing, and how it is benefiting us, no matter how time consuming or difficult or against the mainstream it may be.  Will I be able to make every change and be completely perfect?  Absolutely not!  And if I thought that I could, I would be lying to myself.  Instead, I pick the changes that are easiest for me and my family to implement, and start there.

What makes you want to change aspects of your life?  Do you like change?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 22

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along youcan find all of my posts here.

I have talked about a lot of changes when it comes to getting “back to basics;” in our home, with our food, the way we clean.  I am sure you have been thinking to yourself, “man that must take an awful lot of time!”  And I am here to let you know that it does take time. 

When we first started making all of these changes, we were a family of two.  And let me tell you, when it was just the two of us, it was a heck of a lot easier.  But, then we added in some littles to the mix, and it got a lot more complicated.

I think that after a while you get used to the amount of time you are doing certain things.  I do a lot of laundry because I have two kids and a husband that seems to go through an awful lot of clothes; a couple more loads of rags and towels does not seem to add too much time, but then again, I am used to it at this point.

If you are just getting started, I would definitely recommend making baby steps.  If you try to do it all at once, you will be completely overwhelmed and will stop everything.  The first change was making my own laundry soap, relatively easy change to make considering I only had to make laundry soap once every couple of months.  The second change was replacing one meal each week with all local ingredients, and that was only during the summer.  As you move through these changes they will get easier and easier, and adding one more thing will not seem like that big of a deal.

There will always be seasons where these changes will be more difficult, and that is why you should make one small change at a time.

What one change would you like to make?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 21

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along youcan find all of my posts here.

When I was pregnant with my oldest, my husband and I made the decision to cloth diaper.  OK, we can be honest here; Matt had nothing to do with that decision.  In fact, he had never changed a diaper before our daughter was born.  So why not use cloth?  He knew nothing else to compare it to!  We are out of the diaper stage at this point, both of my children, thankfully, being potty trained.  However, starting with the cloth diapers made us decide to use cloth with other aspects of our home.

I found that we were spending an exorbitant amount of money on paper towels.  It seemed like we used them for everything, especially drying our hands, even though we had kitchen towels clean and available.  I tried hiding the paper towels so we would only use them for big messes, but it was too much of a habit to just grab them whenever we needed them.

I decided to stop buying the paper towels.  At that point in time we were looking for all the cost savings we could find since I stopped working to stay home with my daughter.  I picked up some wash clothes from Target for $1 and cut up some old shirts, and we just started using rags for everything.  Now, we do not have any dogs or cats that we need to clean up after, so I feel pretty comfortable using rags for all of our messes.

It was a bit of an adjustment at first, but now it is second nature, and we often forget to get disposable napkins or paper towels when we have parties or guests come over.  I would like to sew some nicer napkins to use for more formal occasions (like Thanksgiving and Christmas), but I have not quite gotten to that yet.

Do you use cloth instead of paper?  Is it something you would consider for your family?

Linking up with Clever Chicks

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 20 - Sunday Quotes

People love chopping wood.  In this activity one immediately sees results.
~Albert Einstein

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 19

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along youcan find all of my posts here.

When I think about gardening, I think a lot about books.  Books have been extremely instrumental in my ability to garden.  And for a lot of people that are far removed from their food (ie parents that did not have a garden), they do not know the first steps that you need to take.

The first book that I would recommend, especially if you are just starting out with gardening, is SquareFoot GardeningThis book covers all the basics.  It has spacing requirements (for square foot gardening of course), how to build the boxes, the combination of soil for the boxes, and even a section on vertical gardening.  I think that even experienced gardeners can get some great information from this book. 

The other book that I absolutely love, which is geared more towards overall self-sufficiency is TheBackyard HomesteadThis book is especially good for people that have a little bit of space, but not acres and acres to roam about.  Essentially this book tells you how to produce all the food you need on a quarter of an acre.  It is a book that I go through every year, and there are some important sections on gardening as well as animal care.

I think that if you are afraid of gardening, or are questioning whether getting chickens is the right step, books are the best place to start.  I know that before each step of our homesteading journey, I have found books to help me out. 

Do you have a favorite gardening or homesteading resource you would like to share?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 18 - what i am eating

What I am eating is a link up for recipes and other food related posts.  Since this month I am concentrating on getting Back to Basics and since I am writing about local eating this month, I thought it only fitting to include local food!  Feel free to link up any recipes or food related posts below, they do not need to be all local!

This week I am going to talk about apples again.  This month of what i am eating has been all about the fall foods that are around us right now.  For me, those would be pumpkins and apples.  We do love apples around here, and having them fresh from the tree is amazing.  However, we also like to preserve them.  And one of the easiest ways to preserve them is to make them into jelly.  Not to mention the kids love peanut butter (not local!) and jelly.

It is relatively easy to make jams and jellies.  You do not even need to can them, there are a lot of freezer jam recipes available, and they are delicious!  In fact, my favorite strawberry jam growing up was freezer jam that my mom made every year.  I do use a water bath canner, mainly because I do not have enough freezer space to keep everything frozen.

Incredibly simple; cut apples into chunks and put in a big pot of water.  Simmer away and then pour everything into cheese cloth to drain the juice overnight.  If you leave the skins on your apples, it will give a lovely pink color to your jelly – which I love.  Then all you need to do is follow the directions for your pectin and making jelly.  There is a way to not use pectin with apples, because it naturally has pectin, but I have not tried that method.  I think I get too nervous to mess it up and lose a lot of food.  You do what you are used to!

I would love for you to share what you are eating this week below!

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 17

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along you can find all of my posts here.

Yesterday I shared my recipe for homemade laundry soap.  However, washing is not the only part of cleaning your clothes.  There is also the drying that is very important!  Around the same time I started making my own laundry soap, I stopped using dryer sheets.  The main reasons were all of the ones listed in this article.  I had not found an alternative that made sense for me.  That was before I found http://woolzies.com/.

Woolzies Dryer Balls naturally soften your clothes and they also reduce the drying time by 25%.  And most important to me, eliminate wrinkles and reduce static.

I absolutely love these!  They are 100% pure New Zealand wool, so I know there are no harmful chemicals.  I was not entirely sure what to expect, but from the first load that went through my dryer I was sold.  Reducing the amount of time the laundry takes to dry is a huge bonus for me.  I sometimes feel like I am doing laundry all day long, and a lot of that time is waiting for the clothes to dry. 

Reducing static is also a big plus in my book.  During the winter, our home is so dry.  We constantly pull clothes out of the dryer in static clumps.  Anything that will help get rid of the shock value from our clothes is good!

All you need to do is throw the 6 dryer balls into your dryer, and then dry your clothes as normal.  They make a muffled sound while being tossed about, but honestly, I cannot hear it over the craziness going on in the rest of my home!

Now for the great part for you all!  Woolzies has generously offered one of my readers a package of 6 Woolzies Dryer Balls.  Please just leave a comment below!

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 16

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along you can find all of my posts here.

One of the first “Back to Basics” changes that I made was making my own laundry soap.  I think it is an extremely easy change to make.  I make laundry soap once every couple of months, and it is definitely not difficult to make.  This is my basic recipe:

2 cups Borax
2 cups washing soda
2 cups baking soda
2 bars grated fels naptha soap - or - pure castile soap (like Dr. Bronners)

I have been using this laundry soap since the fall of 2006, and I have to say that it is a huge cost savings to us.  There are times when I do not feel like making the laundry soap, and I fall back on commercial detergent, and I am always shocked at how much money I am spending for the detergent rather than just making my own.

You might need a little more attention to stains, but for the most part, I think that this works just as well as the commercial detergents, and it is much gentler on your clothes, and your skin.

Do you make your own laundry soap?  Do you have a favorite “natural” laundry detergent?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 15

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along you can find all of my posts here.

If you are interested in eating locally, you will have to think about winter at some point.  Unless of course you live in a tropical area, in which case I am totally jealous!  There is a lot of planning that goes into eating locally during the winter here in the north east.  We have to preserve food in the spring/summer/fall growing seasons in order to have that available in the winter.   There are some vegetables that do not need to be preserved, like the root vegetables, but then you still need a place to store those. 

There are a couple of ways that we plan for the winter and still continuing to eat locally.  The first was to find a farmers’ market in our area that runs all year long.  When we first started on the local food path, we did not have a farmers’ market in our town.  Now we do, so we are very lucky, and in the minority.  What we were able to find in the beginning, was a winter CSA (community supported agriculture) share. 

There are some things that I know we eat a lot of throughout the winter, and I try and preserve those when I can.  The first is tomatoes.  We use crushed tomatoes in chili and soups and tomato sauce for pasta and pizza, so I spend a lot of time canning tomatoes in the late summer.  We also will always want to have jams and jellies, so I try to plan ahead and can what I am able to.

If you are a meat eater, the fall is the best time of year to get and freeze local meat for the winter.  If you have access to a cow share, or a pig share in the summer, you can get all of your meat for the year in the fall and stick it in the deep freezer.  If you are not a meat eater, I would recommend looking for local beans and grains.  Buying in bulk is always the way to go because it is cheaper in the long run.

Obviously, the easiest way to eat local in the winter is to find a place that sells all local food, and shop there.  But, since not everyone has that opportunity, storing what you can so you can at least make one meal each week using all local ingredients is a great start.

For us, in the winter, we eat a lot of soups, stews, and chili.  Easy meals for local eating, and also extremely warm and comforting when it is cold outside!

Do you eat local in the winter?  Do you have any tips of how to continue eating local in the winter?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 14

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along you can find all of my posts here.

Menu planning is something that is a huge help in the day to day living for any family.  It helps to keep you on a budget, and also helps you to not waste food.  When you are committed to eating a local diet, it is a little more difficult to menu plan.  Most people would make a menu, and then make a grocery list, with shopping being the last step.  With eating local food it is different in that you need to really see what is available first before you make a menu plan.

Typically for me, menu planning does not happen until after I get to the farmers’ market.  I want to see what is the best quality before I make a plan.  I do not like to have a plan just to find out that x, y, and z are not available that day.  I think that having different “themes” for each day makes it a little easier.  You could do this like Italian one night, Mexican the next, or you can get a little more specific with soup night, potato night etc.  Winter is a little easier because a large majority of the local foods are already in our home, and I mainly have to look in the cupboards to see what is available.

I have said several times before that I eat a lot of soups and stews in the winter.  Some of the typical meals that we will eat during the week are chili, roasted chicken, vegetable soup using homemade stock from the roasted chicken, baked or mashed potato bar, pasta with sauce (bonus if it is homemade pasta using our chicken eggs and homemade sauce), and pizza.  Then we typically will have leftovers for lunch.  It ends up being a lot of the same dishes over and over again, but by changing the seasoning we have different flavors and it does not get boring.

Eating locally lets you get incredibly comfortable in the kitchen.  After a while you know what you can substitute for a dish and have it still turn into a delicious meal.  It also gives you a chance to be creative in the kitchen.  You will learn what is in season when, and what you most likely will be able to find each week.

If you are not comfortable in the kitchen, I would recommend replacing one ingredient with something you can find local for one meal each week.  Eventually you will see how the ingredients you are using each week will work together, and you can put together an entirely local meal!

Do you menu plan and keep a mainly local diet?  How do you do it?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 13 - Sunday Quotes

Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet the one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying.  The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.
~Elise Boulding

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 12

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along,  you can find all of my posts here.

There are a few books that I turn to year after year when thinking about keeping the chemicals out of my cleaning products.  While having the internet is a great resource, I think it is nice to have some of these resources available to flip through.  You never know what might jump out at you when you are going through a book again and again – as I often do!

The first suggestion is a little book called Make Your Place: Affordable &Sustainable Nesting SkillsI got this book when it first came out in late 2008, and it was my first real introduction to homemade cleaning products.  It has a lot more information in it than just cleaning products though.  There are a lot more sections in it than just the cleaning products though.  There are sections on gardening, health and first aid, as well as non-toxic body care.  It really is a great resource.

Another great cleaning resource is Salt, Lemons, Vinegar, and Baking SodaEach ingredient is broken down in this book by a brief history, how it works, and then where you can use each ingredient: kitchen, laundry, personal, household, outdoor, pets, and kid activities. 

Finally Toxic Beauty is a book that concentrates on the chemicals that are found in your personal hygiene products.  This book is a real eye-opener, and you may not want to read it if you are not ready to change the way you take care of your body.  Or perhaps you should read it if you are not quite ready to make the change!  It will probably push you over the edge.

In addition to Toxic Beauty, another great resource for checking on the status of chemicals in your favorite beauty products is to check them out on EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics DatabaseI like to check all products here, even the ones that are supposed to be “green.” 

Do you have any favorite resources for green cleaning or personal hygiene?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 11 - what i am eating

What I am eating is a link up for recipes and other food related posts.  Since this month I am concentrating on getting Back to Basics and since I am writing about local eating this month, I thought it only fitting to include local food!  Feel free to link up any recipes or food related posts below, they do not need to be all local!

Fall to me means a lot of things, but one of the biggest is apple picking season.  My family loves apples, I mean really loves apples.  The kids will eat apples all day long if I let them (and I often do!).  But, I also use apple picking season to do a lot of preserving for the winter.  This includes apple jelly and apple butter, but also applesauce.

Applesauce is one of those very home-y foods to me.  Not to mention it makes the house smell amazing while it is cooking!  Also, it is incredibly easy to make.  Add some chopped up apples and a little water into a pan, and simmer until the apples break down.  Some people like to mill it so it is super smooth.  I just crush it with a potato masher.  Easy and delicious!  When I can applesauce I don't add any sugar or cinnamon to it.  I just can it as is.  But, when I make it to have fresh from the stove, I definitely add some cinnamon and a little honey to sweeten it just a bit.

Obviously cinnamon is not local to my little part of the world, but I am fully in support of spices, so it is on my list of non-local ingredients I will use.

Do you make your own applesauce?  What is your preferred way of eating it?

Please link up your food related posts and recipes below!

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 10

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along,  you can find all of my posts here.

Yesterday I talked about chemicals in our cleaning products.  But, if I don’t use a commercial cleaner, what do I use?  Well, I am glad you asked!  The main things that I use to clean are white vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and baking soda.  Imagine; all things that can be found in your kitchen, I use to clean my house.

I think a lot of people associate the smell of bleach and other cleaning agents as being “clean.”  I know that my husband certainly does – he is not a fan of the vinegar smell.  Unfortunately, a lot of those smells are the result of phthalates in the cleaning products.  Those phthalates have been widely acknowledged as endocrine disrupters.  Endocrine disrupters interfere with the hormone system in mammals.  These endocrine disrupters can cause birth defects as well as developmental disorders and even cancerous tumors. 

Now, instead of smelling those chemicals, we can change our thinking in what smells clean.  I know a lot of people will say that the smell of vinegar is not attractive when cleaning your house.  But, if it does the same job, wouldn’t you rather your house smell like salad for a bit rather than the alternative?

I think that the main issue is that people do not view things as clean if you are not using a commercial cleaner.  And perhaps it is not as clean.  But, I think that sometimes we feel we need to live in a sanitized environment, and that is not the case.  Obviously we want our homes to be clean, but to have them sterile is not realistic, and not healthy.  People should be aware of all the superbugs that are out there now, which are a direct result of trying to keep everything so sanitized.  Antibacterial cleaning agents, instead of killing all germs, have left some to become more resilient.

When I clean my kitchen, I like to use lemons.  Cleaning in the bathroom we mainly use baking soda, salt and vinegar.  The salt works wonderfully to scrub off soap scum or to polish up the sink.  And I think that every time I decide to clean the bathroom by sprinkling baking soda everywhere and then spraying distilled white vinegar to get that fun bubbling chemical reaction, my kids run in and want to help.  I also have a basic all purpose spray cleaner that I use – and you can find that recipe here.

And some other resources:

Cleaning with lemon juice
Cleaning with vinegar

What do you use to clean your house?  Have you thought about changing from commercial cleaners?  

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 9

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along,  you can find all of my posts here.

I have been spending a lot of time talking about local food the past several days.  But, my topic is not just local food.  It is Back to Basics.  But, I think that local food was really the catalyst in my journey for Back to Basics.  Once I started reading more about local food, the state of our agricultural system in the country, the issues that have come of it; I started to realize that there were other areas of our family life that would need to change as well.

It is amazing how many chemicals are out there in the world now.  Not that all chemicals are bad, but the way many are used can be a huge detriment to our health.  Learning about BPA in cans was a big wake up call to me.  The fact that BPA had been used for years without anyone objectively looking at the dangers is scary.  Then it comes out that BPA is in plastics, plastics that people have used for a long time without realizing the health effects.  That BPA was used in baby bottles, storage containers, water bottles, not to mention canned goods. 

I think when I became pregnant all of the different chemicals involved in our food, cleaning products, hygiene products; it all came to a head.  I did not want to damage my baby before she was even born.  Hearing that a lot of these chemicals are now found in umbilical cord blood, when the babies have not even been in the world to begin with, I was concerned to say the least.

It was then that I started researching what chemicals were in cleaning products and our hygiene products.  Obviously when we clean our bathroom, we know that we are using dangerous chemicals.  The warnings are all over the label, don’t let it touch your skin, don’t touch your face with it, don’t breathe it in; so many issues!

I have never been a huge fan of the smell of cleaning products, they give me a headache.  I remember during my first pregnancy my husband didn’t want me to be around the smell of the cleaning products – it was a great thought, my husband always doing the cleaning because he didn’t want me or the kids around the smell.  Of course, I knew that if the kids and I should not smell these products, my husband should not either.  That was when I started to look for ways to make my own cleaning products.

When I think of Back to Basics, I think of how our grandparents, or great-grandparents may have done things way back when.  What did they use to clean?  What did they eat?  This helps to guide me as to what I want to do.

Have you thought about the chemicals in your cleaning products?  When the information about BPA came out, were you upset not knowing this chemical was present in our food and baby bottles without our knowledge?

Pumpkin Masters Feature and giveaway!

Fall to me always screams pumpkins.  When I was younger, we had family friends that grew pumpkins in their back field and then sold them for decorating and carving.  It was always fun to go and pick out which pumpkin we would want to bring home and *attempt* to carve.  This month I have been talking about getting "Back to Basics," and what better way to get back to basics than if we are spending time together as a family carving pumpkins?

I recently had the opportunity to test out the Pumpkin Masters carving kit.  This was probably the best case scenario for me and pumpkin carving.  I am not the greatest when it comes to coming up with a design for a pumpkin, and even though my kids absolutely love the experience, we don't always end up with the prettiest pumpkins!

This kit came with everything that we needed.  There were templates that we could tape onto the pumpkin to then carve out.  Precisely what a carving challenged person needed!  The tools that came with the carving kit were easy to use.  The children's kit was perfect for my five year old to use, and I felt much more comfortable with her using the children's carving tools rather than a kitchen knife (I would not let her attempt using a kitchen knife!).  The kids especially enjoyed scraping out all the seeds and goo from the inside of the pumpkin and feeding it to the chickens.  

In fact, my husband proclaimed the scrapers to be the best invention ever and we should consider keeping them in the kitchen for when we need to clean seeds out of our winter squash and pie pumpkins!

Pumpkin Masters is available at your local grocery, drug, or craft store, and nationally at Target and Walmart

Pumpkin Masters is currently running a carving contest, and you can find out all the details here.  There are 6 prizes - including $5000 for the best pumpkin!

Pumpkin Masters has offered one reader of Townsend House a pumpkin carving kit!  All you need to do is leave a comment below.  I will close the comments on October 18th and select a winner.  The perfect family activity to do right before Halloween!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 8

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along,  you can find all of my posts here.

Why should we buy local? 

Good question!  Before I heard about a local food movement, I really never thought about where my food comes from, or anything that I bought actually.  When we look at the “from farm to plate” statistic of an average 1500 miles, I think that it shows a great deal on the economy.  Most of our food comes from “away,” and that means that our money is going to companies that buy and transport this food.  When you buy food grown by farmers in your area, you are keeping that money in your local economy.  Buying directly from the farmer takes out the middle man and this allows the farmer to get a fair price for the food that they grow.

In regards to food, I honestly believe it is safer to buy local.  You are buying directly from a farmer, which means you know the practices the farmer has used.  Not to mention your food has not gone through several different stages of handling.  I’m not sure I can think of a time when buying local food has caused some recall of foods due to potential bacteria issues; at least, not in my local food economy.

Buying local should not be limited to local food though.  When you buy from small business as opposed to big box stores, you are keeping more money in your community.  There is a great article that talks about how buying local boosts your local economy – you can find that here.  When the economy on a large scale is still suffering, it makes sense to throw your support to local businesses.  Keeping your local community going is definitely important because it will help to push the larger economy forward.

There is the argument of cost of product.  It is an interesting one for sure.  I know that I can go and get a whole lot of cheap stuff from Target, but that is just the problem!  I can get a whole lot of cheap stuff from Target.  When I know that I need one thing, and instead of going to a store downtown and buying something of better quality, I go to a big box store, but that one thing (which I will probably need to replace in a year) and also buy x, y, and z because they are visible and I think, “I could use that!”  It may be helping the bottom line of another store, but it certainly doesn’t help my bottom line.

Do you try to buy local?  Is it something you don’t think a lot about?  Is it easier to go to a big box store to get what you need?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 7

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along,  you can find all of my posts here.

This past week I have been talking a lot about local food.  What local food is, some encouraging books to keep us motivated on that journey.  But, where do you find local food

Back when we started our local food journey, I had no clue where to look for local food.  We did not have a farmers’ market at that time, and the co-op was not in existence.  Sure, I knew that the local grocery store would carry local apples, and some local produce in the height of summer, but for the most part, if we did not grow it, I did not know where to find it.

That was the first step though, to know what I could grow myself.  Now, I know that I don’t have a huge amount of space, but I am still able to accomplish a lot in my small space.  This past summer we ate out of our garden every day.  I planted a lot of lettuce, and although my friend the woodchuck decided to have a bit of a snack one day, for the most part we were able to get a salad every day from the garden.  I also was able to grow pie pumpkins and some winter squash varieties.  And of course the tomatoes that are very dear to me.  But, what if you don’t have a big garden?  Or maybe you do but still need to find sources for other foods?

That is when I found this great resource online called Local Harvest .  You go onto this website, plug in your location, and you get an entire list of resources available to you.  It can be CSA’s, farmers’ market, co-ops.  It really is an amazing little tool.  When I first started looking, I realized that within 20 miles of my house I could find just about all I could think of food wise.  The most important thing it connected me to, however, was my CSA farms.

Another place to find local food?  Foraging.  This is not something I have done much of, mainly because I do not have a lot of knowledge into what is safe and what is not.  But, there is a family semi close by whom have spent a lot of time foraging for what is around them, and I think it is a great idea.  They are actually writing a book about foraging right now and it is something I am looking forward to reading.

Have you had trouble finding local food in your area?  Do you have other suggestions on where to find local food?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 6 - Sunday Quotes

The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn't simple.
~Doris Janzen Longacre

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 5

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along,  you can find all of my posts here.

There are two books that have really encouraged me with our local eating journey.  The first is the book Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet. It is about a couple who decide to eat only what is available in a 100 mile radius of their home for an entire year.  Can you imagine?  Think about if you couldn't just run to the grocery store to get bananas (unless perhaps you live close to a banana tree!).  Having to totally rely on what is available locally, and to really plan for that.  I will talk more about meal planning (or not) and local eating soon.

Another book that was really monumental in the life my family strives for is Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Lifewhich is about a family’s journey to spend one year only sourcing food they grow themselves or can buy in their neighborhood.  That book especially appeals to me now because I have a family.  There is something easy about only having to cook for yourself, or perhaps a spouse, but when you add kids into the mix it becomes a whole other ball game.

And finally, a book/documentary combo.  That would be No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process.  He has both a book and a documentary.  I think that it is pretty incredible to set out trying to have absolutely no impact on the environment, and I am not sure how realistic that is.  But, I do like his message of reducing your usage of pretty much everything.  I think the fact that he is doing it in NYC may be easier in some ways than others.  I certainly can’t imagine living in the country and having no access to a car.  The fact that they ate what was available in their immediate area was great though.

These books are incredible reads, and I definitely recommend them.  In fact, I find myself re-reading them year after year because they are so encouraging.  There is something nice about reading someone else’s journey when it is a journey you want to be on yourself.  And that is a major reason why I keep writing in this space.  I hope that others are able to relate to my journey, and maybe get some encouragement.

Do you have a favorite book that follows the journey of another person whose values closely resemble your own?

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 4 - what i am eating

What I am eating is a link up for recipes and other food related posts.  Since this month I am concentrating on getting Back to Basics and I was writing about local food yesterday, I thought it would be fitting for me to share an all local meal.

I remember when I first started blogging about local food and all that we were growing at our own home.  One of my readers (now one of my very good bloggy friends!) said that she did not realize we could grow so much in Maine.  It is kind of funny to think that I can find just about anything that I would need to eat in the state though!

My contribution this week is somewhat of a classic meal, shepherd’s pie.  I browned the ground beef (local, grass-fed), then I sautéed some fresh corn in the fat from the ground beef.  And of course the mashed potatoes, add a little local (or homemade!) butter and milk and you have a great dish, totally local.  

If you have a recipe or food related post you would like to share, please link up below!  It doesn’t need to be an all local dish.  However, I would love to see some all local meals here today as well!

Linking up at Making Monday

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 3

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along you can find all of my posts here.

If you are interested in eating local food, the best place to start really is at your own home.  This does not mean that you have to farm several acres of land and have all the animals, although if you have the space and want to do it, go for it!

Growing your own can be a lot of different things.  If you have a brown thumb, maybe you should start with some herbs in a sunny window.  Granted, it will not be a huge intake of food, but herbs are a delicious addition to any meal, and they are easy to grow no matter where you are.   

If you have a bit more space, but are still nervous about starting your own garden, I would definitely recommend earth boxes.  All you need to do is buy some good quality soil and the earth box which comes with the amendments you need for the soil, and then you plant some vegetables.  Of course at this point in the year, at least here in Maine, planting is not happening.  But, it is never too early to start planning for next year!  The first seed catalogs start coming out at the end of December.

If you are still concerned about taking care of plants, maybe you could try animals instead.  There are a lot of different animals people keep in small spaces.  You can keep chickens for eggs or meat, rabbits for meat, and even miniature goats – which are around the same size as a medium dog.  Bantam chickens and quail are both small and many people in smaller homes and apartments keep them.

But if you have a lot of space, I definitely recommend digging up your yard and starting to grow food in the square foot garden method.  It does not take a lot of space to get a large amount of food.  And if you are able to eat a lot of out your own yard, local eating becomes a lot easier.

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 2

This month I am participating in the nester's {31 Days} challenge.  My topic for the month is Back to Basics.  If you would like to follow along,  you can find all of my posts here.

I started thinking about local food way back in the spring of 2007.  My husband and I were finally moving into the house we bought at the end of 2006, and I was determined to have a garden.  My mom had a garden when I was growing up, and I always thought that I would have a big garden like her.  Of course, that first summer, we did not have time to get the yard prepared for a garden, so instead we used containers, and it was a great year – sometimes I think it was my best gardening year ever!

That summer I found a local blogger that had started a challenge called “One Local Summer.”  Essentially it was to make one meal each week from all local ingredients.  It was at that moment that I started to wonder what exactly “local eating” was.

Do you know that the ingredients from your dinner travel an average of 1500 miles from farm to plate?

When I first heard that statistic it made me stop dead in my tracks.  Why?  Well because I live in Maine, and most of the food that I see in the grocery store comes from California, and that is a bit more than 1500 miles, about twice as far actually.

I started to do a lot of research into what exactly local food was.  What I found out was that it varies…a lot.  There are some people that treat 100 miles as their local food shed.  There are others that take into account their entire state.  Once I started digging into resources, I found out that Maine has a large local food movement.  You would not think so considering our short growing season, but surprisingly we can grow a lot of different foods!

I was on my way, and haven’t stopped since!  Each year I find more sources of delicious food in this great state of mine, and I am thankful that I have so much available to me.  As the seasons change, I also find myself being drawn to the different “in season” vegetables.  Come fall, the root veggies are all the rage in my home.  But, once spring is here, all we want is lettuce and spring salads.  Summer is the season of abundance, and winter means all the stored veggies that we put up in the summer and fall, and it is also when we start to rely on meat a bit more in our home.

What does local food mean to you?  Have you thought recently about where your food comes from?