Saturday, December 14, 2013

Enjoy Your Food #myheartdayresolution

I'm not ashamed. (Okay, maybe a little) I have lost maybe 10 pounds (and gained it back and lost it again) since I decided back in February to lose... 30? In my defense, I have since been diagnosed with some weird thyroid disease that can't decide it it's overactive or under (Hashimoto's), among other things. So, weight loss is going to be a challenge. But I have learned more about myself than the fact that my hormones are completely out of whack. This weight loss journey, as unsuccessful as it may have been so far, has taught me many things about me, my relationship to my body and my relationship to food.

"Enjoy your food" is one of the best pieces of advice I've ever been given in relation to dieting, and one of the hardest for me to follow. It's not that I don't like food, I love it. I love growing it, smelling it, preparing it and eating it. But to truly enjoy my food, I would have to slow down. I would have to find myself in the moment, taste each bite, feel the texture, experience the aroma, truly enjoy it.

I have a really hard time doing just one thing at a time. When my Sunshine is in the bathtub, I'm either cleaning the bathroom, reading a book or knitting. When I'm watching Hulu I'm either cleaning the living room, knitting, writing or snacking (or a combination of the above). (Right now, Once Upon a Time is on Hulu in another Window) And when I'm eating, if there isn't anyone there to have a rousing conversation with, I'm usually writing or researching. I have to force myself to join my Sunshine when he has his meals during the day. I would much rather have my lunch in front of the computer. When I eat I don't think about the food. I think about all the other stuff I'm doing and the food is just one more distraction.

I know that my tendency for distracted eating leads to a tendency for over eating. The truth is, my fat doesn't come from eating crap anymore. Well, not most of it. My fat comes from me scarfing down food while doing other things, barely chewing, barely noticing I'm eating, not noticing I'm feeling full. And then eating more, because that other thing I was doing while eating is still happening and so I just need to fill my plate again and again until I'm finished with this article. Or that show is over. Or the person I'm talking to decides they're done eating.

Taking the time to be in the moment is something I have worked hard to cultivate. It's not in my nature. I do a Yoga video every morning to focus myself on myself. I take time to read and play with my little boy and force myself to do nothing else at least once a day. It's hard. I mean, it's fun. But it's hard.

Eating mindfully, enjoying my food, is a habit that has been difficult for me to cultivate because eating isn't special. It is a thing that I do 3-5 times a day every day and have done all my life. It's just a thing. Like brushing my teeth. And... well I just have a hard time doing anything that can be done while doing something else without doing something else.

Now that I've totally psychoanalyzed this issue, I'm making it a goal for the month. I may have to begin by increasing the importance of my meals, maybe dressing them up, lighting some candles, saying grace - every time, not just at dinner. This will help instill the "specialness" of my meals and encourage me to focus on them and truly enjoy them. And here is a chart that I found online to help me out

Monday, December 2, 2013

Good Prepper Habits

Having gone through another power outage, I have identified some habits I would like to cultivate to support my emergency prepping goals. Without further ado, here they are. Any thoughts you have on the subject are welcome as well.

1. Shop for the long haul
Now that my nearest grocery store isn't very near at all, and we've gone down to one car in order to better afford our little bit of paradise, I am trying to minimize my shopping trips as much as possible. I do this by making a menu for the month and a shopping list to match. This isn't easy. It takes more than one cart and way too long. I hate shopping. But when I shop for a month at a time, guess what! I have a month of supplies in my house. And it makes it easier to budget too.

2. Do Your Chores
Nothing's more frustrating than putting off doing the dishes till tomorrow only to discover that you have no power (and therefore no water) the next morning. Just do it. Yea, I have a heck of a time with this one.

3. Get Ready for Tomorrow Today
When you wake up in the morning and there's no power, it's nice to know that your pitcher is already full of filtered water, your clothes are laid out in the usual spot, the diaper bag is already ready to go, your lunch is packed and you've already had your shower. There's enough to panic about without worrying about the stuff you could've handled last night.

4. A Place for Everything
Put everything away as soon as you're done with it. That way, when the power goes out, you at least know what direction to grope blindly in.

5. Keep Your Tank Full
I learned during the great East Coast blackout a few years ago that you can't get gas when there's no power. When the rest of my family hightailed it up North to Grandma's house, I was stranded with an empty gas tank. Now that we live far away from the nearest gas station it's even more important. If I could just get my husband on this bandwagon.

In a power outage, your fully fueled car is your transportation if you need to evacuate. It has a radio so you can get news. And you can use it to charge your cellphone and other devices.

6. Keep it Charged
Keeping your cellphone and other devices fully charged makes it so much easier to use them when charging is no longer an option. Plugging them into the charger every night is a good habit to get into.

7. Be Redundant
So this last power outage I had to call 411 to get the number of the electric company because I had the number stored on my computer. I get electronic billing, so the invoice with the phone numbers was, yes, also stored on the computer. Which doesn't work when the power's out. I also couldn't call my clients to reschedule for the same reason. I like to keep my contacts on the cloud, though. That way I can access them anywhere that has WiFi. Keeping your important information in more than one place can be helpful. So is having more than one first aid kit, in more than one place. Lots of flashlights, in multiple locations. Lots of smoke alarms & carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers throughout the house and lots of different ways to escape.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

You Can't Eat Anything These Days

My little Sunshine is having some tummy trouble, so I thought I'd cut out his dairy products and gluten for a few days to give his digestive system a break. I'm not planning on putting him on The Diet, I just want to reduce the load for a few days. While gluten is relatively easy for the short term since I make most of my meals from scratch, the kid really really likes milk. So I thought I'd get a milk substitute for him and after some deliberation I decided coconut milk would be the least processed option. Frustration then ensued.

First, I had to find the "unsweetened" coconut milk. Not the "No sugar added" because that is full of mystery sweet. I finally found it and lo, it is full of supplements. I am not sure why this bothers me, but it does. Why can't I just have coconut milk? Anyway, I brought it home and he likes it fine.

So after a long, frustrating, venture to the store with only five items on my list, I came home and poured myself a bowl of cereal and topped it with "real" milk. In my house, cereal is snack food. We rarely eat it for breakfast. I keep it on hand for no power emergencies, teenage snack attacks and moments when I am in desperate need of comfort food. Like after trips to a store that should have it's own zip code. But comfort was not to be had. I made a mistake. I read the ingredients.

Corn Flakes. Simple right? Not likely. The ingredients are corn, 6 different kinds of sugar, a whole bunch of vitamin and mineral supplements and then - BHA added to packaging. *sigh* This is why I cook from scratch. This is why I moved out to the country to start a 1 acre mini farm. Because nothing is sacred.

In this state of mind, my eyes fell upon a comforting statement "Made with non-GMO ingredients". Well that's good. At least I got something right. But did I? Because that statement doesn't say "Made without GMOs" or "Made with non-GMO" corn. They could be talking about one of the many varieties of sugar or one of the vitamin supplements.

When I was in the grocery store buying this box of cereal, my little Sunshine pointed to another box of cereal and made his excited "I want that" noise. The box was bright and full of colors and marshmellows. I told him "Oh no kiddo, you will never convince me to buy that kind of cereal". And an elderly woman shopping nearby heard the exchange and said "Good for you!" And I admit I felt somewhat smug. But really. How smug can I be? Is a cereal full of marshmallows that much worse than a "plain" "wholesome" cereal full of hidden sugar and weird shit? Might as well eat the marshmallows (if I liked marshmallows).

OK, so I know that cereal is like the most processed of processed food and I only buy it to please the teenager. I can't complain too much. But there is other stuff. If it's not the ingredients in the food itself, it's the way its grown or the packaging. Even someone who does most of their own home cooking, like myself, buys meat in plastic packages, frozen food in plastic bags and even canned food. I use a lot of canned tomatoes. I recently read an article (that I can't find again to reference) talking about the buildup of toxins from linings in cans of tomatoes. And another about a study linking said package-lining preservative chemicals to pre-term births. Of course I can't find that one either.

The danger in plastic-wrapped food can be somewhat mitigated by the fact that we don't own a microwave, so we never microwave anything in plastic. All of the plastic wrapped food is removed from the plastic before heating and often even before defrosting. And if I go to the butcher for my meat, instead of the meat aisle in the grocery store, I get better meat, often for a better price, wrapped in paper instead of plastic. But cans? If cans aren't safe what's a girl to do?

I realize that said articles were probably sensationalist nonsense written by people with no understanding of the scientific method who scanned a summary of a journal article and picked out the most shocking bits. I am brilliant at tearing out the pseudo-scientific nonsense in articles about things that don't strike terror into my heart personally.

Now my husband thinks I'm silly. He assures me that we are much less chemical-soaked than the average American and most people aren't suffering terribly. And he's probably right. Anyway, by the end of next year, at least a portion of our canned tomatoes, pickles, etc. will be from our own garden and thus free of whatever the scary chemical of the day is.

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Favorite Small Appliances

So I have been without a stove for nearly two months. I have a stove now, a fancy electric thing that I am having a bit of trouble getting used to. Works great, lots of nifty features. I miss my gas stove. But that has nothing to do with this post. This post is about the small appliances that I used while I was waiting in stove limbo. And now that I have had a stove for a couple weeks, the ones I still use are really telling. So, without further ado, here's my list.

The Electric Frying Pan - I love this thing. It is so much easier to use than a pan on the stove. I remember thinking "who needs an electric frying pan when you have stove?" And so I don't actually own the thing. I certainly needed it when I didn't have a stove and now that I have one, I still prefer to use the electric frying pan. It always heats evenly and cleanup is a breeze. What do I make in it? Stir fry, omelettes, hash browns, peirogies, sausages & peppers, fried rice, pancakes, you name it. I used this thing every day when I didn't have a stove and now I have to return it to my mother, from whom it was borrowed (she only uses it at the annual Memorial Day family fish fry.) And I am sad. When I buy one for myself, I will be looking for one without the suspicious coating, but I don't expect I'll have much luck.

The Aroma Steamer - Another thing I figured I'd have no use for that I used almost every day when I didn't have a stove and continue to use daily even though I have one. In the morning you can throw in a handful of oatmeal, some raisins and dried apples and enough water to cover, sprinkle on some cinnamon, set it to steam for 10 minutes and you've got breakfast. You can make any kind of rice or quinoa pilaf in the thing as well as steaming veggies or fish or chicken in the top basket for a complete meal. I also use it to make chili and other soups. You can toss it all in in the morning and schedule it to be ready when you need it. And it cleans up super easy. This also has suspicious coating and that frustrates me a bit because there's not much stickiness that goes into this anyway.

The Crock Pot - The crock pot has always been a favorite tool, but not one I use every day. It is my favorite way to cook beans which might later be turned into hummus or added to chili or a rice or quinoa pilaf. It is also one of my favorite ways to process apples. Just cut them up, add sugar and cinnamon, cook it on low overnight and you have apple butter. Yum. Turn it up to high in the morning and plop on your favorite biscuit recipe, cover and cook another 20 minutes and you have apple cobbler (sort of). Very yummy. Of course it's also useful for potroast and pulled pork- neither of which I make very often. I actually have two different sized Crock Pots and a West Bend slow cooker. The 3 quart Crock Pot gets regular use as a bean cooker, the other two get used much less often.

The George Foreman Grill - I did not use this daily, but I used it often enough for it to make the list. I like it for grilling chicken breasts and I also made salmon in it once.

The Toaster Oven - Mostly I used the toaster oven to bake potatoes and roast beets. I also used it to make cheesy garlic bread out of some sub buns that had gone stale once. It is not big enough to take more than 1 sub bun or 3 potatoes or beets at a time and certainly not big enough to bake a batch of bread in. I am glad I had it, but I didn't use it every day.

Honorable mention must go to my food dehydrator which is hardly a necessary tool in the kitchen but made the abundance my apple tree produced this year into manageable bits, easily tossed into the steamer or crock pot to be used in whatever recipe I wish. (Especially helpful since pies and canning were not an option.) Next year I am going to use it to dry peppers, onions, blueberries and more into nifty bits that can simply be tossed in and simmered.

During my stove-free cooking foray I did not find a good solution for pasta. My pasta maker went un-used entirely because I didn't have any way of cooking pasta. My mother did lend me a hot pot which might have worked, but would have required me to work in several small batches. I didn't try this. I did try using her deep fryer to boil pasta but I couldn't get the taste of old oil out of it and the resulting pasta was pretty gross. It may have worked if it had been brand new. As I have never personally deep fried anything, the deep fryer didn't get used at all after that.

Aside from pasta and fresh baked bread, we did not go without when we went without the stove. And since I have been trying to cut carbs, this worked out perfectly for me. (The boys, not so much.) In reality, I could have gone without a stove indefinitely. If it had come down to buying an appliance (we got our new stove for free from a guy who was moving and didn't need it of I still wouldn't have one), I would have spent the money on a dishwasher before the stove as my cooking needs were pretty much met without it.

That being said, most of these small appliances, with the exception of the toaster oven and the Crock Pot, have suspicious non-stick chemical coatings. The West Bend items are the most suspicious-looking. I feel much safer cooking with my trusty Lodge cast iron pans and for that I need a stove and an oven. Or a fire pit - but I don't have time for that.

You'll notice that there is no microwave on here. I don't have one and haven't in a long time. I use the steamer or the toaster oven for reheating leftovers. I thought I'd get a new microwave eventually when the old one went out in a blaze of sparks and flashing lights but I haven't missed it so I don't think I'll bother. Besides, my husband is convinced it turns food into carcinogens.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


The last few years of my life have brought about some pretty dramatic changes. When my husband and I discovered that we were expecting another child, we decided to do everything we could to give him the sort of childhood I always wished I could have given my older children: a stay at home mother dedicated to his care and early education and fresh, home grown, homemade food and plenty of fresh air to grow on. So, I left my full time job shortly before my son was born and now only work on the weekends and we made the move North from suburban Detroit to a much more rural area. 

Obviously, the subtitle of my blog, A Diary of a Suburban Kitchen Witch, is no longer appropriate. I'm thinking "Homesteading Hearth Witch" instead. 

Just a few years ago I was the mother of teenagers. I had two dogs. I lived in the suburbs with my delightful husband. We had two cars and a tiny house and a postage-stamp sized yard. My husband and I both worked full time. While were weren't wealthy by any means, we had enough cash to occasionally dine out, have date nights, go to the movies, have annual memberships to the local museum and zoo and go on vacation annually. 

Now we have a bigger house, a big yard, one car, one job (and a quarter) and no extra money for fun stuff. I'm a little worried about how Yule is going to turn out. Somehow I thought I'd have extra time when I left my day job. I thought I'd make all my Yuletide gifts. I thought I would write more, maybe finally write that book I've been thinking about since I was 8. This was naive. It hasn't turned out that way at all. All of my time is spent keeping the house together and preventing my extremely active little Sunshine from injuring himself, incurring the wrath of the cat, or burning down the house. (Wow I can't wait for preschool next year.)

My plan to supplement our income by growing the majority of our food is put on hold until next spring since we didn't manage to get possession of the house we put an offer on in May until the middle of September. Painful tendinitis in my arm has made swinging a hammer, turning a screw, raking and shoveling agony. So my chicken coop goes unbuilt, my beds go unturned. I. Am. So. Frustrated. I can't help it, I'm a Gemini.

Do not for a minute thing that all this complaining means I'm unhappy. When is a Gemini happy when she doesn't have something to complain about? Something to change, to fix, to fantasize about making better?

This too will pass. This time next year I will have hens giving me eggs, lovely greens sitting in a coldframe, a cellar full of root veggies and jars of tomatoes and sauces and this blog will be full of my journey. I know that I am not the only one going through this. I know a lot of folks out there who grew up in the suburbs or cities who are trying to make a more natural life for their families close to the land. And I know its an adjustment. I know because I read their blogs to find out how they do stuff I am trying to figure out how to do.

Historically, I have tried in my writing to be as generic and impersonal as possible but, you know, this is pointless in a blog. I can do impersonal at the Witchipedia. Here and at Sacred Hearth it's personal. After all, this blog claims to be a diary. Yet I sometimes refrain from writing things because they are too personal, why do folks want to hear about that? I am not so interesting. But why not? After all, who else am I going to talk to stuck in the house with a baby out in the middle of nowhere?

So, changes have happened and changes are coming. And I am going to try to write more. It's good for me. And maybe, as I struggle to be a homesteader and a writer and a stay at home mom and homemaker extraordinaire and all that stuff I always wanted to be, you will find something to help you out with your own struggles. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

V is for Vulva #paganblogproject

So here is one of my biggest pet peeves...

People referring to the vulva as a vagina. I am NOT annoyed by people calling it various slang terms for it as much as vagina because those other folks KNOW they aren't calling it what it is. But folks who call it a vagina think they're doing it right and get annoyed when you tell them otherwise. People who think they're doing it right always get annoyed when you tell them otherwise. People who know they aren't, don't, though they might roll their eyes at you and mock you.

The vagina is a hole. It is where the penis goes in and the baby (and menses in absence of said baby) comes out. The whole thing, labia, clitoris and all, is a vulva. And this is important because when we are talking about pleasure, you're missing a whole lot when you are just talking about the vagina. Also, girls especially need to understand that there is more to their womanhood than just a hole for things to go in and come out of.

And, you know, I think that's all I have to say about that. After all, I haven't set this blog to adult content...

So if you want to know more...
(note: As of my creating this post these pages are safe for work.)

What does this have to do with Kitchen Witchery, Sacred Homemaking, Paganism? I don't freaking know. But I know it relates somehow.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables #myheartdayresolution

It's not that I've fallen off the Heart Day Resolution wagon. It's more like the wagon flipped and rolled over me. I moved, you see, and it kinda sucked. I mean, the house is awesome and the new town is very cool and I've got a nice big yard to practice edible landscaping in next year, but we've been trying to move since May. We promised to be out by August, school started the beginning of September and we didn't close on the house until the end of September. So the last few months have been alot of time in the car, sleeping in campgrounds and on floors and lots of fast food and other junk. Yea, it kinda sucked. Then after we moved in there was problems with the electricity and then the internet and we still don't have heat (space heaters, our electric bill will be catastrophic) or a stove (the steamer, crock pot and electric frying pan are feeding us fine for now) so my diet hasn't been the best, but now that the dust is settling I'm back in the groove. I think.

For this installment I resolve to eat more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are lower in calories and fats (but not sugar) than grains and meats, loaded with anti-oxidants and other lovely nutrients and fiber which helps you feel full. Raw fruits and veggies absorb more slowly than cooked and keep you full even longer. Most importantly, the more fruits and veggies I eat, the less space there is for chips and bread, which are my biggest diet issues, unless there are chocolate covered pretzels around, but luckily, they're rare.

Here are some tools from my veggie-eating toolbox:

Door to Door Organics
Door to Door Organics is a service that delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to my home every week (or every two weeks). I have this box of stuff I have to eat or it will be wasted. So I eat it. It's also gorgeous stuff and if it's not, they credit your account with no hassel. I love them!
(If you're interested, I can send you an invite and you'll get 50% off your first order and I think I get a prize too. So just shoot me an email with your email if you want.)

Farmer's Market
The thing about the farmer's market is that I have to get off my butt and go there, but I really enjoy it while I'm there. Also unfortunately the prices tend to be pretty high and there tends to be just as much pie and artisan bread as fresh, delicious veggies and fruits. At farmer's market prices, you better believe that stuff isn't going to go to waste.

My Local CSA
Okay, so I don't belong to a CSA anymore, but I used to and it was pretty cool. Unfortunately, it ceased to exist after I was a member for only two years and there were no other options where I was. I am in a new location and will be looking into my CSA options for spring, though it'll probably be temporary as I hope to grow most of my food on my new property. What is a CSA, you ask? CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Basically you, the community, pay a membership fee to a farm and then you get a share of the crop as it happens through the year. The one I used to belong to offered a discounted "work" membership and my coworkers and I each got one and we would go by after work a couple days a week to weed & such. Great fun and good exercise. I don't think most CSAs run like that though. They can be pricey and there is an element of risk involved. But again, you bring home that bushel of veggies, you gotta eat em. To find a CSA near you, check out Local Harvest's CSA page.

My Garden
I don't have a garden yet. But I will. I am hoping that the majority of my food will come from my garden over the next few years. Next year my garden will probably contribute minimally to my diet, but thereafter I hope it will be a major contributor. When it's just easier to run outside to grab a bunch of veggies than it is to run to town for a burger and fries, the veggies just might win.

Habits to develop to eat more fruits and vegetables:

Start each meal with a salad:
This is hard for me, but it doesn't have to be. Salad is so easy. It's just some lettuce and chopped up variables in a bowl, right? You can buy it almost ready made. But it is hard for me and this is something I will have to work on.

Fruit and Veggies for breakfast
It's not a big deal to add some chopped spinach, peppers, onions and tomatoes to your scrambled eggs in the morning, and it's quite tasty. I also enjoy mashed carrots or sweet potatoes added to my pancake mix. And of course there's potato pancakes with applesauce. Yum. And of course oatmeal gets walnuts, raisins and apples.

Prepare a plate of crudites 
I love veggie platters and I consider them a must have at any get-together. But why wait for company? If I keep a platter of cut up vegetables; broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, snap peas, asparagus spears, cherry tomatoes and maybe some pickles and olives for flair with a bowl of delicious homemade hummus or ranch dip ready for snacking at all times, believe me, I will snack. And it'll be good for me. In fact, if I have this ready to go, I will choose it over more fattening options like a sandwich or a cookie every time a snack attack hits. Each time I prepare a plate, it last me for about three days before I have to make fresh dip and chop veggies again. If you don't have the time, you can pick up pre-chopped veggies and pre-made dip and if you're really pressed for time and can afford it, you can pick up a crudite platter all ready to go at most grocery stores with a deli.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Power Outage Prep #prepping

We moved into our new home two weeks ago and our first weekend in the house we had the privelege of experiencing a power outage, quite unprepared. Everyone we spoke to at the electric company told us something different, but I think what happened was that they scheduled the turn off for the previous owners after our turn on date and so turned us off thinking they were turning them off and when we called to say "Hey!" they tried to turn us back on and broke us on Friday and couldn't get a repair crew out till Monday. So we got to spend our first weekend in the house with no heat, no lights and no water because all of these things run on electricity. And of course we couldn't find any of our flashlights or camping gear because we were moving and it was dark. Oi.

So what did I learn from this experience?

1. Our well is useless without power.
The purchase of 3 2-1/2 gallon jugs of water kept us hydrated through the weekend, but we had to travel for bathing and eating. Those three jugs, now emptied, will be filled with tap water for emergency flushing and washing and four more fresh, sealed jugs will be stored in the basement for emergency drinking. They aren't in the basement yet because the repair men have only just vacated. The power outage slowed them down too.

2. Getting a generator isn't just a simple trip to the hardware store.
Oh no, we tried. And we were thoroughly confused. And there was nobody around to ask. Customer service simply doesn't exist anymore. Of course we would normally go online and look at reviews, but without electricity this was not an option. This weekend (payday is Friday) we will be buying a generator or an emergency battery to use for the well pump and/or furnace (which has an electric ignition) and I will post reviews as soon as I've had the opportunity to experiment. If you have any recommendations, pass them along!

3. My emergency food stash was largely useless.
It wasn't useless when we lived in a house with a gas stove, but this house is rigged for electric. Rice and beans do no one any good if they can't be boiled. We did eat a lot of cereal and fruit. My emergency stock will consist mostly of canned food from now on. The dry goods are still good for different types of emergencies, like money emergencies, but when you can't boil water you need something you can eat out of hand or cook up on the grill.

4. The lower level is as awesome in the cold as it is in the heat.
A major selling point for this house was the sub-level family room where we can retreat from the stifling summer heat without using the AC. I suspected that it would be just as handy in the winter and was proven right when we had our first hard frost while without electricity. The temperature downstairs barely dropped while the upstairs rooms were only bearable while snuggling.

5. The electric company sucks.
Since we don't get to choose our electric company and can't simply take our business elsewhere I guess it's no surprise that we couldn't get any decent service and nobody gave a shit that my children had to sleep three nights in an unheated house with no water because they screwed up. Apparently their repair crews don't work on weekends. This is really important information that I wish I had had before I moved in. I would have moved in with a generator.

In summary; our power outage prep list-
A generator and/or emergency battery
About a dozen flashlights, one to be placed in the top of each closet and the top drawer of each dresser for handy access
Several cans of veggies, fruit, beans
Nuts, granola bars & cereal
4 2-1/2 gallon jugs of purified water for cooking and drinking + several additional jugs of questionable tap water for washing and flushing
Several cartons of shelf stable milk/soy milk/coconut milk

Anything to add?

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Money Cushion

The Cash Cushion

I would like to have a cushion of 3 months. While I've seen statistics that say the average period of unemployment is nine months, I have never been unemployed that long and neither has my husband. Three months seems about right, especially since my husband can collect unemployment if he loses his current job. His previous job treated him as in independent contractor and so when he was laid off, he was not eligible for unemployment. I am an independent contractor myself and not eligible for unemployment, but my income is also extremely variable and unreliable and very very small, especially compared to my expenses. I'm not going to bother including it in my calculations, because I don't include it in my budget. And the chances of us both becoming unemployed at the same time is pretty slim.

Long term goal - 3 months income in savings
1 year goal - 1 month income in savings
Monthly savings goal, about 8.5% of income

Of course this safety net of cash does not just prepare us for a loss of income. It can be used for many emergencies.

  • If we have to evacuate due to fire or another emergency, it can pay for a hotel and food.
  • If our belongings are destroyed by fire, it can pay for replacements while we wait for the insurance company to do what it does.
  • If something breaks and needs to be repaired immediately, we will be able to address it immediately without relying on credit or imposing on our friends.

If there's a black out, we might not be able to get our money from the bank. ATMs might not function, credit card machines might not work. We're going to need to store actual cash somewhere. Not all of our savings, but at least enough to fill up a tank of gas, buy some groceries and maybe pay for a night in a hotel. I don't like the idea of keeping large quantities of money in the house.

Can we actually afford to put aside 8.5% of every paycheck? As it stands right now, we spend each paycheck as soon as we get it. We are going to have to be diligent and budget. It does seem that we always manage to find a little extra money for the extras. We're just going to have to make this an extra.

The Credit Cushion

Paying off or paying down our credit card will give us an additional cushion in case of emergencies. Paying it off will eliminate a bill, making it easier for us to save money and meet our other obligations. Also, it will improve our credit so if we do have to take out a loan in the future, say for a nice big car with room for the whole family and MrRabbit's musical equipment all at the same time, we won't have a problem.

In order to pay off the credit card in a year, I will have to pay about 10% per month. That is not going to happen. I simply can't afford it if I want to save. So I will pay about 5%, which is about twice the current minimum payment, I think I can handle that. That will have the card paid off in two years. I'll take it. In the meantime, if I use the card to buy something online, I will increase the next check I send by double the cost of the order.

Emergency Prep for:
Unemployment, emergency repairs to home or automobile, other emergency expenses, evacuation

Next Month: The Stuff Cushion

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Reduce Stress #myheartdayresolution

In my weight loss journey I have made a number of unpleasant discoveries about my health. For example, my cholesterol is sky high. I also have depression and anxiety. Though it may not seem like it at first glance, these two things are related and they're both related to my obesity. The uniting factor in all of these is cortisol, the stress hormone.

I am no stranger to cortisol or the "fight or flight" adrenalin rush that it triggers. I am an animal handler by trade, after all, and animals attack. When a dog tries to attack me, I feel that rush like a laser through my chest. The world slows down and my thoughts start to come in a whir. "Okay, step to the side, grab the scruff, where's his teeth, where's my hand, have I got a good grip? he's heavy but I'm strong, where's the owner, let's get him out of here, okay good she's got the leash on him I can let go now...". And then out loud "Wow, did you see what happened there? Let's discuss that and use it as a learning opportunity."

But sometimes, much more often, the laser through my chest happens when there is no emergency. Then my brain is whirring and there's no direction for it to go in. All it can say is "what if he thinks, what if she thinks, what if this doesn't work out, what if something's going on you don't know about".  And there's no where for it to go, so it just keeps whirring and spinning, and the lazer keeps shooting me in the chest and my chest gets tighter, and my brain spins faster and then I have an anxiety attack, or I simply shut down and go to bed or, as my son refers to it I STOP and sink into a depression and lay in bed with my brain spinning lazily about saying "There's nothing you can do anyway, might as well just let it happen, ride it out, who cares anyway, we're all going to die, might as well let it come, you can't help, can't even keep the house clean, if they cared about you they would know, you wouldn't have to tell them, why bother, they're all using you, why write, why talk, I don't have anything worthwhile to say, nothing's original, nothing's interesting, might as well stay in bed." and then my body starts cooperating with my brain and becomes achy and miserable so I really am sick in bed.

Meanwhile all that cortisol floating around in my system without an actual emergency to respond to is getting bored and entertaining itself in all sorts of ways. Excess cortisol causes insulin resistance, also known as pre-diabetes, which can cause you to lay down abdominal fat, which is linked to production of excess cholesterol  and increased risk of stroke, heart attack and metabolic syndrom. It impairs thyroid function, which can cause you to hang on to weight. Cortisol depresses the immune system. It reduces bone and muscle formation, causing osteoporosis over a long period of time. It interferes with memory retrieval and increases blood pressure.

Okay, so I think I have made my case for the stress-cortosol-obesity link. The question is, what to do about it. I can't stop stress from happening and I really only have limited control when it comes to my body's natural response to it

Well, I did some research and formulated a plan. Here is the practical part of this post.

Dawn's Plan for Reducing Stress

There it is again, exercise. Exercise helps "burn off" cortisol and relieve stress. I try to do Yoga every morning. I found a Youtube page I like so I can practice with free videos. ( Do Yoga with Me) and I'm thinking of starting to do the Belly Dance workouts at (just trying to find time when nobody's around to mock me). My little Sunshine and I take walks every afternoon when we start to get on each others' nerves and then at night, after Sunshine is fed, bathed and in his jammies, my husband and I push him around the neighborhood in the stroller. This is a great wind down and gives my husband and I a chance to discuss the day.

Stress interferes with sleep and when you don't get enough sleep you have a harder time dealing with stress. It's a vicious cycle. I am an insomniac. When I get involved with writing something, I don't like to stop to sleep. And when I do go to sleep I end up waking up in the middle of the night with my mind racing. Most of my anxiety attacks happen at night. Enter, The Honest Guys, another Youtube channel I just love. Their guided sleep meditations really do the trick. (And their Middle Earth themed meditations are alot of fun too). They take the edge off an anxiety attack and help me drift off to sleep. I still must be super strict about making myself go to sleep at 10pm every night so that I can get a solid 8 hours before I wake up at 6:30am if I want to do Yoga, have a shower and start on my daily chores before Mr. Sunshine wakes up.

Make a List
I find making lists of everything I need to do and keeping track of everything on a family calendar to be very helpful in reducing my stress throughout the day. One tool I use for this can be found at I use this calendar, to-do list, grocery shopping list and menu planner tool to keep myself on track. I even record my dog training appointments on it as I can take it with me on my Kindle and update my calendar right from my clients' homes. My husband has access to the same calendar and carries his Kindle with him too so when he gets a gig, he just puts it on the calendar and the next time I look at it, there it is. No more double booking. And since I keep my Kindle in my purse, I never forget a shopping list anymore either.

Meditation is key to reducing stress, but it's not easy for everyone and it can be hard to find time for it. I used to take a nap when my Sunshine napped, now I do a one hour meditation and spend the other hour and a half checking things off my to do list. Since I am sleeping better, the nap isn't necessary and I feel like the meditation refreshes me better without leaving me groggy and fuzzy. If I have trouble meditating on my own, I do one of the great guided meditations from The Honest Guys or LilianEden.

Play is a great stress reliever and it releases good healthy hormones that make you stronger instead of those bad stress hormones that mess you all up. So I try to take some time to play every day. Several times a day I spend some time roughhousing with the baby, building with blocks or looking at a book together. This is my job at that time. Not cleaning or cooking or writing, playing with the baby. I also try to take some time to play with the older kids. Mabinogi is an online game we all enjoy together (look me up, I'm Mourningbird). Sometimes I have to play by myself and for that I have found What is it? It's a game, and a self-healing and productivity tool. It makes doing what you gotta do fun. It was created by a video game designer and... well, you have to check it out for yourself. And if you do, please be my ally! It's more fun to play with others.

Creating crafts also releases good hormones. I like knitting but I haven't the time lately. I am seriously going to get back into it. Soon. I also want to set up a sewing room and a craft workshop in my new house, whenever I get my new house. Crafting isn't something I've been doing enough to relieve my stress, but it does relieve stress when I do it.

I am interested to hear what other people do to relieve stress and if they have tips and viewpoints about using the methods I described here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A New Resolution

So paying off all of my debt in the next year is not realistic. Maybe next year. This year I have to buy appliances, do radon mitigation, fix the oil tank and heater, fix the sump pump, redo the deck, take down the really scary and dangerous looking fence around my yard and replace it with a fence that will actually keep things in instead of just punishing anyone who walks over it with tetanus... That is assuming this deal ever goes through, and I did say I was going to blog about that, didn't I? I am planning on doing that without using anymore credit, but paying off what I already have just isn't likely.

BUT, paying down (or off) my credit card can be a part of the NEW, much more practical Hearth resolution I have chosen.  (Drumroll please)

Be Prepared

Yes, I am going to start prepping. As I look at all these websites and TV shows about prepping I think "Those people are nuts" Why would you spend a whole bunch of money on all sorts of stuff to survive a nuclear attack or a zombie apocalypse? I just want to survive the next major black out.

So I got to thinking. What is practical to prep for? What emergencies are my family most likely to face?

So here's my brainstorm:
(In no particular order)

  • Power outage due to storms, whatever that was last time the whole Eastern seaboard went out and equipment failure
  • Loss of heat due to equipment failure or power outage
  • Loss of water due to a main break, plumbing issues, etc.
  • Illness or injury
  • Loss of income due to unemployment, illness or injury
  • Fire. Gods forbid.
  • Extreme weather, confining us to the home and limiting our ability to get to resources. 
  • Extreme weather or other condition requiring us to evacuate, limiting our access to the home for some time.
  • Extreme weather or other condition causing serious damage to the house requiring immediate repair for the safety of the family and to prevent further damage to the house. Broken windows, leaks, torn off siding or roof shingles.
  • Loss of transportation due to vehicle damage or malfunction.
  • Being the target of criminal activity in the home, in the car, or out and about in the world
  • Being charged with criminal activity or faced with a lawsuit

There we have 12 items I can review over the next 12 months. Assuming I keep on task here. The way the summer's been going... Well, I need to get back to some sort of normalcy around here.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My Hearth Day Resolution #hearthdayresolution

My hearth is so hectic right now that I am having a very hard time deciding what my Hearth goal will be for this year. On one hand, moving into a new house, I can think of a million possibilities. However, we don't actually have that house yet and it seems like making major plans associated with it might invite even more bad luck, so my goal is going to have to be something I can do wherever my hearth happens to be.

After much thought, I've decided to reduce my debt. This seems rather daunting as I take on the biggest debt I will ever take on in my life, and as I take on the rather expensive responsibilities of homeownership, but I feel that this is a long-term action that will benefit my family immensely.

Specifically, I have identified 3 debts to eliminate entirely in the next year.

$2,000 to the hospital for an emergency room visit
$3,500 credit card debt
$4,200 car loan

These are actually not a big deal. If I continue to make the minimum payments on these, I can be done with them in a few years. However, if I pay them off this year, I will save money in interest, and have an extra $315 per month to put toward my mortgage and student loan debt, or to spend on things like gardening supplies, lumber, and livestock to increase our self-sufficiency, which is my ultimate goal.

According to my math, in order to pay off all of these debts in 1 year, I am going to have to come up with about $800 per month.

Can I do it?

Well yea, sure I can. I just have to figure out how.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fighting My Demons

For the past several months I have been submerged in a whirlwind of anxiety, depression and OCD.  I have been trying to buy a house. Not just any house. THE HOUSE. The only house I want. I want to live, and raise babies, and love on grandbabies and die in this house. But enough about the house. I will post about that another time.

I do not handle stress well. I never have and I sure haven't started recently. Stress makes me physically ill in so many ways. Gastrointestinal distress, flu-like body aches, migraines and it lowers my immune system so catch whatever bug's going around. The thing is, while I have gone to many doctors for these symptoms, nobody has once suggested to me that they are stress-related. Which is somewhat weird.

But as you may know if you've been reading along, I have been trying to lose weight. So every time I go to the doctor for some ache or pain I am mentioning, "Oh and I've been really trying to lose weight and I haven't been having any luck." and they say "What are you doing?" and I say "I cut out all fast food and simple carbs including all sweets, bread and white rice and I started walking daily." and they say "Well I think it's possible you're taking in more calories than you think, are you keeping a journal?" and I say "Well yea, but I don't have it with me..." And that is where it ends.

And then one day my doctor wasn't available and I was sent to another doctor and she looked at my record and she said "You have been coming in with the same complaints for years." and I said "Yes I have. And don't forget that I haven't lost a pound despite making major lifestyle changes over the course of several months." So she sent me to an endocrinologist. Finally, something. But no. Nothing.

She sat me down and gave me a stern talking to. She told me that she thinks I have mental illness, Depression and Anxiety are real illnesses and nothing to be ashamed of and highly treatable if I'll let her try. She said that all of my symptoms may be related to depression and anxiety and if I get them under control I may lose the aches and pains and stomach aches, my immunity may improve and I may lose the weight.

So I said okay. And she gave me Celexa. It wasn't her first choice, but my insurance does not cover such things.

First week on Celexa every symptom I have ever had hit me all at once. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. I was so miserable. I could barely move. Aches, pains, anxiety attacks, heart burn, nausea, it was all there, piled on all at once. And all the time I felt, this is my journey. I am fighting the demon. I KNEW it was right. I was going underground, submerging myself in my pain so that I could emerge clean on the other side. It was like a mighty purge. Like some Shamanic journey. She said if I could just hold on two weeks I would feel so much better, and something inside me tells me she is absolutely right. This goes against everything I have ever believed about drug therapy for mental health issues. But I believe this is my answer.

It's only been 10 days. I feel better. I still feel a bit like crap, but so much better than say three days ago. Last night the anxiety that kept me from sleeping lasted only a few hours instead of all night. As soon as my husband got home from his gig and took my hand, I drifted right off. I am taking my pill in the morning instead of the evening now, so we'll see how that changes things.

I think this whole process would be easier if I didn't have the added stress of buying the house right now. If I had someone to help me out around the house, with the baby and everything. If my husband came home at night instead of going to rehearsals and gigs, but it's summer, wedding and festival season, and I did marry a musician. This is probably the worst possible time for me to do something like this. But when is it a good time to fight your demons?

Yes, I am fighting. I feel like I am fighting to come out of a cocoon. To shed all the crap so I can finally be the person I know I am instead of the person I'm afraid I'm not.

So, if you've been wondering where I am and why I've been a total blogging slacker, now you know. Am I back? Well, I hope so. But I think I am going to go out on a limb and allow myself to write more personally. Like this.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Mornings

I love Sunday mornings. I don't know why exactly, but I do.

Usually I wake up to the sound of my husband making coffee (it can be quite loud) and, if school is in session, my teenager slamming the door and pounding down the porch steps to go meet the bus (he's not angry, he's just like that). As I stagger into the kitchen, my darling husband presents me with coffee, made just the way he likes it (milk with lots of sugar). And I drink it, gratefully as I start breakfast. Then he gets the little one changed and dressed and plops him in the high chair and we all have breakfast together before he goes to work. And I wish he didn't have to go. Then it's just me and my Sunshine till Jet gets home from school. Mr Rabbit gets home from work just in time to give Sunshine a bath and read him a bedtime story. That is, assuming he doesn't have a gig or a rehearsal.

Sundays are completely different and I like them so much better. On Sunday mornings my teenage son and husband go to work at 6am and return at noon. So my very small son and I wake up at our usual time to a silent, empty house. We lay in our respective beds for a few minutes calling out to each other. He says "Mumine!" I say "Sunshine!" he says "Hi" I say "Good morning!" he says "A baga ble nama mumum da ba goo fa bade bum" I say "Oh really?" and then sometime he says "NiNi" and goes back to sleep for a half hour or so, and so do I. Or he says "Down?" and I come get him.

Eventually we get out of bed, I change him and we head to the kitchen. The coffee is made, it just needs to be reheated. I plop him in his high chair with an appetizer of Cheerios and a cup of milk and then I prepare my coffee just the way I like it (Soy milk, no sugar) and proceed to scramble us some eggs which we eat together. After this, I shove all the kitchen furniture into one corner so he has a big wooden floor to roll his balls on while I undergo the Sunday morning cleaning ritual. I strip his high chair of its cover, collect all the hand towels and stray dish cloths I can find and wash them, take all the small appliances off the counters and wash them and clean out the fridge. This inspires me to cook something.

When Jet and Mr Rabbit come home a little after noon, I have some lunch started and some sort of meat ready for the old man to grill (or he picks some up on the way home).  I hate it when he grills. He disappears from the house and spends hours out back communing with his grill and his beer and returns with some poor charred animal that would have tasted so much better broiled, baked, roasted, stir fried or even steamed. Meanwhile, the rest of us have already eaten all the sides and salads I've prepared to go with it because we were hungry and couldn't wait the requisite 3 or more hours.Grilling is my husband's Sunday entertainment. It has nothing to do with feeding us. But I don't complain because it could be worse and he cleans up after himself and he always eats my baking disasters with a smile.

Sunday morning bliss, has come to an end.

After lunch, I'm off to work. I will be home in time for dinner and to get my Sunshine ready for his daddy to put him to bed.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lay off the Fast Food #earthdayresolution

Don't you love it when you can kill two birds with one stone? Here I've identified my fast food addiction as a giant source of garbage in my life and what do you know, it's probably a huge source of my hugeness as well. So while I kick my fast food habit for my Earth Day resolution project, it'll be serving the Heart Day resolution as well. Go me!

Seriously, I am disgusted with myself. My car is full of cups, bags and wrappers. Every time I take on a passenger, I have to spend 10 minutes rummaging through my car with a garbage bag to make room for them. It's disgusting and embarrassing. While at least 80% of the garbage in my car is fast food garbage, an article from the Triple Pundit says that Fast Food Garbage Makes up 50% of Street (and Pacific Gyre) Litter. Now that's alarming.

In my defense, I spend an awful lot of time in my car. I am driving to and from clients houses, dropping off kids at daycare, theatre and friends houses on the way there and back, doctors appointments, bank, pharmacy, you name it. It is not unusual for me to put 600 miles on my car in a week. Which means that quite often when I'm in my car hunger strikes and when it does it's the easiest thing in the world to swing into a drive through and grab something. And I know where all of them are. Yes, I will plan my route to make sure I pass a Wendy's or MacDonald's. (Burger King has nothing I want to drink, so I don't go there.) I hate going South because there's a big fast food dry zone there for a few miles and I have to do a big loop to get my fix. Sometimes I'm just thirsty and go for an iced tea and pick up a snack while I'm at it. Yes. It's bad. And my car and my body are both full of garbage because of it.

What to do about this mess? Well, there are a few aspects to it. Part of it is just habit. I often found myself thinking "Oh I'll just pick up something on the way". That habit needed to go away. I needed to start eating something before I left or taking something with me and that required planning.  Meal planning and lunch packing from my Heart Day resolution (lose weight) project help with this. Also, bringing a water bottle with me at all times and keeping snacks in my bag are helpful. I am carrying a larger purse these days.

The other aspect of my fast food habit was addiction. Yes, it's an addiction. I would feel tired and headachey and then swing by Wendy's and be all sorted out. To really break through the cravings, I decided to gross myself out by reading some books and watching some documentaries on the evils of fast food. Also, I told everyone I know that I am quitting fast food so that they would harass me if I screwed up. When I quite smoking years ago, this helped quite a bit.

I've decided to reward myself by getting my car detailed after I've been fast food free for one month.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review: Composing Magic: How to Create Magical Spells, Rituals, Blessings, Chants, and Prayers

I'm reviewing Composing Magic for April's Read-a-Long at the Witchipedia.

Honestly, I approached this book with a bit of skepticism. I am a writer after all and I don't remember ever being taught to write. That's not to say I'm any good at it. I wouldn't know, not having earned. So, in my mind, writing is something you either can do or you can't, not something you can learn. Of course you have to practice, but practice is something you have to enjoy doing or that doesn't work either. Despite the fact that my husband insists this isn't true, I feel the same way about music; Something I have never been good at and never enjoyed trying to learn.

And after all of that prologue I don't have much to say about this book except that it is very good. I enjoyed it. It explained the more technical aspects of artistic writing without getting too, well, technical. As someone with some experience writing, I don't like being talked down to and this book didn't talk down at all. The writing style is conversational, but not too casual and very easy to follow. The exercises following each section are very interesting. I read through the book without doing the exercises as time is not on my side these days, but I do plan to go through and do the exercises later, and that's saying a lot.

I particularly enjoyed the section about storytelling in ritual which is such a beautiful addition and the explanation of invocations, evocations and devocations which are so often misused. There is a section about correspondences that I really wish she had just left out. She over simplified them while over complicating the entire subject by adding them. Ick.

That being said, this good book and I highly recommend this book for anyone who ever performs rituals, even if you only perform those written by someone else. It will help you polish your performance, clarify your intent and understand what all the bits are about and when something doesn't work, when the words and rhythm aren't stirring your cauldron, so to speak, how to fix it.

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Earth Day Resolution first Check-in #earthdayresolution

My first Earth Day Resolution check-in is today! Earth Day. Happy Earth Day everyone!

My Earth Day Resolution is to reduce the amount of garbage that my household produces and the first problem area I have found is fast food. I can't believe the amount of garbage fast food produces. So, my goal this month is to lay off the fast food.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Earth Day Dedication Ceremony #earthdayresolution

I begin by cleaning and consecrating my altar and decorating it with symbols of Gaia.I would love to have a
 Millennial Gaia Statue, but I cannot afford one at this time. (Perhaps I will reward myself with one after I have saved a ton of money by only buying reusable things for a whole year!) Instead I will use a dish of earth with a votive candle in the center.
I will also have handy a piece of paper on which my resolution is written: "I resolve for the remainder of the year 2013 to purchase no disposable items and to work to eliminate the use of disposable items at home and at work."

I begin in the usual way, doing my usual opening ceremony. Then I will continue by lighting my Gaia candle and reading the Homeric Hymn to Gaia:

I sing of well-founded Earth, mother of all, eldest of all beings. She feeds all creatures that are in the world, all that go upon the goodly land, and all that are in the paths of the seas, and all that fly: all these are fed of her store. Through you, O queen, men are blessed in their children and blessed in their harvests, and to you it belongs to give means of life to mortal men and to take it away. Happy is the man whom you delight to honor! He has all things abundantly: his fruitful land is laden with corn, his pastures are covered with cattle, and his house is filled with good things. Such men rule orderly in their cities of fair women: great riches and wealth follow them: their sons exult with ever-fresh delight, and their daughters in flower-laden bands play and skip merrily over the soft flowers of the field. Thus is it with those whom you honor O holy goddess, bountiful spirit.
I leave off the last bit because I didn't write this so I shouldn't ask for blessings for writing it. Instead I present the offering I have. My piece of paper with my resolution on it, which I read out loud and place under the bowl of earth.

Then I close the ceremony in the usual way.
(Everyone has their own way of opening and closing a ceremony, so I won't go into details. If you are super curious, you can see it in my online Book of Shadows at

Saturday, April 20, 2013

My Earth Day Resolution #earthdayresolution

This Earth Day I resolve to reduce the amount of garbage I produce.

Steps to achieving this goal-
  • Identify all items that I throw away after using throughout my home and for my business.
  • Identify reusable alternatives to these disposable items.
  • Identify any negative outcomes that may occur as a result of this change and brainstorm ways to mitigate the negatives.
  • Purchase or make reusable items to replace disposable items.
  • Begin using these items, teach family members how to use them.
Now that I have identified my goal and the steps to achieving it I am ready to go. On Earth Day I will perform a ceremony of dedication to the Earth and state my resolution to Her and it will begin. On the 22nd of each month I will check in with an article about some disposable item or other I have replaced with a reusable item. This will keep me honest and on track.

So, are you in? Please post a comment with either your goals and steps or a link back to your blog article where you have listed your goals and steps.

I will post my Earth Day Resolution Dedication Ceremony in just a moment so that you can use it too if you like.

Monday, April 15, 2013

What's Your Earth Day Resolution? #earthdayresolution

Earth Day is on its way and as honoring the Earth is a major part of my Tradition, it seems to me that Earth Day is a holiday I should be celebrating. So, I have resolved that this year and every year hereafter I will be making an Earth Day Resolution; a commitment to make a change in my habits that will result in lowering my footprint on the Earth. I haven't decided what it will be yet, but I have lots of options and I am going to blog about my journey as I make my habit change.

Here are just a few options I have brainstormed. Feel free to comment with your ideas.

1. Resolve to eat more sustainably. Organic and local foods, less meat, more homemade/less pre-made, etc. maybe plant a garden?

2. Resolve to walk more and drive less. Considering that I work out of my car this might not be practical for me, but I can certainly walk to the grocery store and farmers' market...

3. Go disposable free. I did cloth diapers last year, what other ways can I eliminate disposables in my life? Thinking about things I throw away - paper towels, maxi pads, coffee filters, napkins... um toilet paper?

4. Reduce, reuse, recycle - Recycling isn't easy in my neck of the woods. Where I used to live there was recycling pickup days, but here there isn't. That doesn't mean recycling is impossible, just that it's not easy, so I've been lazy. I'll need to do some research into how to recycle things on my own. Plus I will need to think about reducing packaging and how I will reuse the things I buy.

5. Improve my home's energy efficiency - I like to think I'm pretty frugal about the power I use in my home, but I'm sure there are ways I can improve.

I'm sure there are more and I'm looking forward to seeing your ideas too.

Each month I will focus on creating one new habit toward my ultimate goal (yet to be decided) and I will have a blog check in on the 22nd. I am going to combine magical and mundane actions, techniques, as that's the most effective way to do things. I would absolutely love it if other bloggers would join me on this project! As Pagans, especially those who are well settled in, some of us may be looking for a new spiritual challenge and a way to manifest our reverence for the Earth in concrete ways and I think this is one way to do it. I am really excited about this project. I'm glad I thought of it. Wow. I'm pretty smart. Of course I'm not the first person to think of this. Visit to see a corporate angle on this idea.

Anyhow, holler if you're in and we'll do this together!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Menu Planning #myheartdayresolution

Menu planning is easy, it's even fun. It's sticking to the plan that's hard. But I'm muddling through and it's been good for us. Family dinner almost every night, on time, almost. And no more wandering aimlessly through the grocery store. Not that that isn't fun...

Advantages to Menu Planning

Menu planning saves money
When you do your grocery shopping according to a menu, you will by more of what you need and less of what you don't. When you wander around the store, uninspired, you buy all kinds of weird stuff you don't need. You also might save money on gas with fewer unplanned trips to the grocery store as well as the savings you get by not resorting to the late night party store.

Planning your meals improves nutrition
When you plan your meals ahead of time, you are more likely to eat those things you planned to eat like veggies and lean proteins, and less likely to eat unplanned things, like donuts and hamburgers. Unless donuts and hamburgers are your thing. You're also more likely to plan complete meals and have everything on hand to prepare complete meals.

Planning meals cuts back on waste
You only buy what you need, so you throw away less. No more moldy cheese, questionable cold cuts or freezer-burned salmon.

Menu planning saves time
Yes, it takes a bit to look over your sales fliers and check out what's going on in your cupboards, but a few minutes once a week saves you time day to day with fewer emergency food runs and less time fiddling around in the afternoon trying to figure out what you're going to make for dinner.

Planning your meals promotes family dinners
Family dinners are important. They develop healthy eating habits in your children, encourage communication among family members and reduce stress. And of course they are traditions that bind the generations together.

Menu Planning Resources

I highly recommend, as it has great menu planning resources coupled with a family calendar. It also allows you to store your recipes and copy recipes from other websites, as well as providing recipe suggestions of their own. After you fill your calendar up with recipes, you can tell it to automatically create a shopping list for you. Then you just check it against what you have on hand and voila! all that's left is a shopping trip.

Now, I find this difficult to use because of my cantankerous printer. I have to print everything out. However, those people who have those nifty little devices like tablets can download the ap and have everything they need right there, without having to print out anything.

A pen and paper method that is much more feasible for my technically challenged self is the Magnetic What to Eat Pad. Goes write up on the fridge, easy peasy. Or print out one of these Menu Planning Worksheets.

My Menu Planning Process

1. I made a list of all of my recipes, asking my family for input as to their favorites. I listed all the ingredients in these. (I am inspired by this to create a cook book to gift my children with as they move out.) This goes right in my Book of Shadows since homemaking is a major part of my path.

2. I created for myself a weekly guideline for which meals to prepare on which days. On Monday it's vegetarian (not just meatless as we're not really meat people anyway, we're cheese and egg people) and Friday is fish. Since food is delivered on Thursday, Wednesday night is leftover night, to get rid of last weeks extras and make room for the new stuff.

3. Each week, I take a quick glance at my grocery store's website, which has an electronic version of the sales circular and I check to see what will be arriving in my Door to Door Organics box that week and select appropriate recipes from my list for each day, keeping in mind how quickly some of my delivered veggies will begin to wilt.

4. I make a grocery list based on what I have and what I need.

5. I go shopping.

Some Problems With the Process (and Possible Solutions)

People eating my stuff!
Oh yea, these boys, they eat anything and everything. Half a can of pasta sauce to make pita pizzas. Half a bag of pita bread. Giant handfuls of walnuts. Then when it's time for me to cook, I've got half of what I need!
Possible solutions
1. Put snack stuff in a special section in the fridge. You're allowed to eat from here, no where else.
2. Divide up food for meals and store them conspicuously so they know what's off limits.
3. Maybe a combination of both?

Schedule Changes, Screws Everything Up
So when the unexpected happens or I'm feeling like absolute crap, things don't get cooked when they're supposed to get cooked. The whole system goes haywire and things end up wasted.
Possible Solutions
1. When I have to skip a day, cook twice and freeze the extra the next day.
2. Get other people to cook on bad days.
3. Schedule in unplanned days.

Last Month's Goal - Get Active
My goal to be more active is coming along. I am making a point of taking the baby on an outing every day that I am home with him. It's really necessary because I am weaning him so I can go on some necessary medications and it's much easier to distract him from wanting to nurse when we'er out and about so that's an additional motivation. On nice days we go to the park, on not so nice days, we go to the museum. I bought a museum membership so it's easier. I am also making use of the Wii Fit and Xbox 360 games that involve movement. The baby especially enjoys Xbox Party. Getting to the gym, not so easy. I also do some active kids videos with him. Like Bo on the Go, but I'm not excited about that, so I hope to come up with something better soon. I am pleased with my progress this month.
Activity this week: Walking: 2 at the park, 2 at the museum, 2 with dogs Dancing: 0 Baby Video: 2 Yoga: 2 Fitness Center: 0

Weight: 185.1
BMI calculation: 30.85
Waist measurement: 39
Hip Measurement: 44
Waist to Hip Ratio: .89

MyFitnessPal - Free Weight Loss Tools

Next Month's Goal/Habit: Packing a Lunch

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review of Pagan Generation; A Young Person's Guide to Paganism

This review is part of the Read Along with the Witchipedia event for March 2013

Pagan Generation: A Young Person's Guide to Paganism by Luthaneal Adams is a guide for young Pagan seekers new to Paganism who have not yet found their path. It offers guidance for navigating the Pagan community and an overview of several Pagan paths including Kemetic Paganism, Hellenismos, Druidry, Heathenry and, of course, Wicca. The overviews are pretty good, though they are very British in focus and the magical community in the US are quite different from that in Europe. For instance, the Druidry section had me quite confused, as I have spent some time with Druids myself, until I realized he was talking about the British Druidic organizations, about which I am unfamiliar. He did mention American Druidry in passing and provided contact information for both British and American Druid organizations. I don't fault him for this since if I were writing about Druidry, my writing would most certainly be skewed toward the American version. There are other mildly confusing Britishisms in there too. He keeps telling you to bring a torch. I know he means a flashlight, but I keep imagining teenagers running through the woods with flaming sticks and thinking what a bad idea that is. Again, I can't fault him for this as he's only speaking his native language.

There were some other problems that made me say "hmmm". While most of the book seemed well-written in simple, conversational style, there were whole sections that were grammatical nightmares. It was as if the editor skipped a few pages here and there. This wasn't as annoying as the fact that the "general" information was very skewed toward Wicca. This just annoys me because that is my biggest pet peeve. Every time anyone "generalizes" about Paganism it's skewed toward Wicca... so I it's probably actually a point in this book's favor since it's reflects the way things are.

That all being said, this is a good book that fills a niche that I think really needed filling. I learned something from reading it about Pagan paths I'm not overly familiar with and I have been around a block or two. I would definitely recommend this book to a young person, or any person, who is new to and exploring the Pagan community. This book is useful even if you aren't looking for a new path because it offers information about the various paths within the community and if you're going to be social at all, it is very helpful to know a bit about the other folks as well.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Get Moving #myheartdayresolution

My very first goal for my Heart Day Resolution project is probably the hardest so I thought I'd get it out of the way early. Unfortunately, I wasn't entirely successful. Now is the time to re-commit!

First, I would like to identify some obstacles I have run into while pursuing this goal:

1. I am the primary caregiver for a one year old. My husband is gone 12 hours a day five day a week at his day job plus rehearsals and gigs (he's a musician). I don't trust a lot of people to watch my son. And I don't have a lot of people to choose from as it is.
2. I haven't got a lot of discretionary money so joining a health club is out of the question.
3. It's freezing cold outside!
4. I am lazy.
5. I would rather be writing or knitting.
6. For the majority of this month, I have been down to one car because my husband's car has been broken. It is fixed now.
7. Work has been out of control. Today is my first day off in 6 days and the last one I will have for the forseeable future. Although I will be training dogs at home instead of out two days a week starting next week. So that's almost like having a day off. But not really.

I need to find activities I can do with my son that won't require me to take him out into the cold
I also need to figure out where I can squeeze in some solo activities.

Here are the solutions I came up with.

1. The Mall! Okay, so I'm broke and I can't shop at the mall but I can take the baby there in the stroller and walk around for an hour! When the weather gets nice, I'll go to the park instead.
     I haven't been able to do this yet, due to car issues, but I will be trying this in the mornings when I work evenings and my days off.

2. The Museum! I got my husband a family membership to the museum for his birthday (It was an Amazon Local deal). We spent an afternoon at the museum on Saturday after I taught a class and then took a class (I felt very accomplished on Saturday!). This is a great way to spend time with the family and once the membership card arrives in the mail (I hope there are two, we do't share these things well), my little Sunshine and I can visit the museum just the two of us. When the weather improves, we plan to get a zoo membership as well.

3. Work out at the community center at night. Our community has a fitness center which is free for residents of our town. They are open till 9pm. My husband gets home at 7:45pm. If I have dinner on the table, myself already fed and the baby in the high chair when he walks in the door, I can dash out and have a real workout for 30 to 45 minutes before they close.
   I have not managed this yet. We are spending our evenings making sure mom gets her car back. Now that the car is back, I may be able to pull this  off once in awhile. The only problem is, at 8pm, I do not feel like working out at all.

4. Exercise videos. These make me feel self-conscious. But I have found that Baby Einstein's Baby's First Moves is something the baby and I can do together and while it's not a workout per se, it is active.
   We've done this a few times. It's fun.

5. Dancing. I used to go dancing at the bar once a week and at drum circles once a month before the baby came. It's time to get out of the house again.
   I haven't done this yet. I am not sure how much I really want to.

6. Yoga. I know how to do Yoga. I don't need a class or a video. I have even created a daily devotional to Eos incorporating Yoga. My daily devotions have been neglected too long.
  I have no excuses for not doing this. I am just ridiculously lazy!

I have also slacked off quite a bit on my journaling. But I've picked it back up. On the other hand, the fact that I am so busy with work means that I'm more active by default - although the majority of my work time is spent in my car.

The biggest hurdle is to get over my laziness and my rather-be-doing-something else-ness. To help with this I have created a schedule to try to fit everything in. Every morning I wake up at 6am and do my morning devotions. I  write for an hour till the baby wakes up and then feed him breakfast and do the Baby's First Moves video together. We leave at 10am no matter what. If I don't have clients that day, if we don't have any errands to run, we go to the mall and walk for an hour, then come home. Lunch at noon followed by a nap then I write (assuming I'm not out training dogs). Snack at 4pm then we get dinner started. Daddy is home at 7:45 (if he doesn't have a gig or rehearsal and I don't have to drop off or pick up a dog) and I dash out to the fitness center for a workout. Back at 9:15 in time for storytime and tuck in. Knit for an hour then to bed.

On Friday or Saturday night instead of the fitness center I will go out dancing (if daddy doesn't have a gig)! Yay!

Monthly Goal Check In
Days Exercised
This Week: Yoga:  Fitness Center:   Walking: 1  Video:  Baby Video: 1 Dancing:

Weight: 195.3
BMI calculation: 32.54
Waist measurement: 39.5
Hip Measurement: 43
Waist to Hip Ratio: .90

Next Month's Habit: Menu Planning

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Weight Loss Tools

Monday, March 4, 2013

I Am a Creature of Air

So my goals of late have been focused on my body and that's a good thing. My body is a much neglected part of my life. I have been thinking about why that is and why it's so difficult for me to focus on improving it and then I realized that it's mostly because I don't give a shit about it. I just don't think about it much.

This morning I was getting ready for my day. I washed and moisturized and brushed my hair and put it up. I didn't do any of these things because I wanted to. And I didn't do any of them because they give me particular pleasure. I do these things every day because I have to, and I am rather annoyed that I have to. You see, I wash so as not to offend anyone with my stink. I moisturize because if I don't then when I train dogs it won't be damaged as easily when they scratch or mouth me. I brush my hair so I can get it in the ponytail which it must be in or it falls in my face when I bend down to handle a dog- and annoys the hell out of me. I only have hair because my husband reacts with horror whenever I suggest that I want to shave it all off.

My body is nothing much to me. It is a vessel to move me from one mental experience to another. After writing my article about elements on Friday and thinking about how annoying my body is, I realized that I am suffering from a severe lack of the Earth element. It is no wonder that I crave carbs like I do. It's no wonder exercise is abhorrent to me. I am a mental creature. A creature of air. I haven't always been this way, at least not to this extreme. But now here I am.

The first thing I realize I'm going to have to do to rectify this situation is to get a little self-discipline. Honestly, this is not an easy thing for a creature of air to do. I'm going to have to get creative.

I am also going to have to focus a little more on my balance. The excess Air element I carry probably has something to do with the high anxiety state I've found myself in for the past few months. There was a time when my mental health issue was depression. Meditation will help me here. I need to establish a daily routine of elemental balance meditation. We're back then to that self-discipline.

Another thing I'm going to have to do is spend some time enjoying my skin. There are things I have in the past enjoyed in my skin. Sex, something I don't do often enough since the baby was born. Dancing, I can't remember the last time I went dancing. Gardening, well, I'll have to wait for spring for that. Houseplants aren't even an option since the cat and the baby are united against all houseplants. Baking, I have been avoiding baking because it results in things that make one chubby...

I will have to give this more thought.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Falling Off the Wagon

So I haven't journaled in days and I haven't managed to do anything resembling physical activity. Ever. I have lots of excuses. Helping my grandma pack up her house (sad job). Sick baby. My husband's car broke. It's freaking cold out. Is there more? Probably. I am completely off kilter. I need to take some time to refocus on my goals. Maybe add in some incentives. More to come.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Journal It #myheartdayresolution

I am a big fan of journaling. I encourage my clients to use journals as a tool to help them change their dog's behavior, especially during housebreaking and I used journaling to help establish a sleeping and eating schedule for my little one, so I was right on board with the suggestion of many weight loss sites to begin my journey with journaling.

According to an article on WebMD (which apparently first came from Good Housekeeping) entitled The Single Best Way to Lose Weight, journaling is the single best way to lose weight. According to the article, most folks have no idea how much they eat and if you make it a rule that you write it all down, you tend to eat less and lose weight by default. Wouldn't that be awesome? (Well I can tell you right now I didn't lose anything this week.)

Now originally I was thinking I'd just journal for the month and then do my monthly check-in, but it's really a waste of time. When I tell my clients to journal it's for a week or two, never a whole month. The idea is to identify patterns of behavior, triggers, habits you're not aware of and to target them and I feel that after a week I have really gained all I'm going to from just journaling.  So, here's what I've found.

Diet Journaling Tools

The first tool I tried was a handy diet journal at but I had some trouble adding foods because I am a home cook. So I needed a way to record my own recipes and determine their nutritional content. You can record additional foods in the WebMd journal, but you have to know their nutritional content first. I was excited to see that has this feature, but it doesn't work. Very disappointing! But I was able to find what I was looking for at However, from what I can see you have to share in order to save your recipes and I don't feel like sharing so I can't save. Bummer. But I can save the nutritional information from recipes on the WebMD site so I guess it's okay...

All of this got to be rather cumbersome, so I looked for something that had more of what I wanted and that's when I found which seems to be the best of both worlds and it has an app for a smartphone, which I can't use. It also links you Facebook which I might play with a bit. Best of all, I can share or not, whatever I feel like doing. And, it has tickers:

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Weight Loss Tools

While journaling online is handy and a little bit fun, it's not practical when you spend half your life in the car so I needed something I could take along with me. Some solutions have smartphone apps which would be awesome if I had a smartphone or my husband's Kindle Fire, but I only have my little old Kindle Keyboard and I rather like it. I have an app on my Kindle called Notepad which suits my needs just fine although I did look for a journaling app and couldn't find one. Someone who knows about apps should take note of that. I want a journaling app for my Kindle keyboard, mkay? I know probably nobody is making new apps for the Kindle Keyboard.

My Discoveries

When I tell my clients to begin by journaling, the idea is to discover their dog's natural patterns as well as to identify triggers for unacceptable behavior and habits that may need to be broken or adjusted to reach the goal. So that was really the goal for this journaling project. So here is what I found.

1. I actually have a lot of good eating habits.
  • I don't get a lot of calories from beverages. Aside from my morning cup of coffee, I drink only water and skim milk. 
  • I always eat breakfast. (I frankly don't understand how anybody can function without it.) And my breakfasts tend to be pretty healthy. Usually oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon and pecans OR a scrambled omelette with veggies and feta cheese and a banana. Occasionally I have pancakes, but we're talking once a month at the most. I have found by analyzing my recipes, however, that my breakfasts aren't the healthiest and have adapted my recipes accordingly.
  • I am disgusted by super-sweet things. When I do have a sweet tooth, it can usually be satisfied by a few semi-sweet chocolate chips or a piece of dried fruit.
2. When I don't eat on time, I tend to overeat or eat all the wrong things when I finally get the opportunity to eat.
3. The "junk food" I eat is usually of the fatty and salty variety. I love gravy, french fries, fried chicken, chips, the fatty bits on meat, cheese.
4. Most of my eating of all the wrong things tends to happen when I'm on the road.
5. I also eat when I'm stressed.
6. I will eat as long as I am at the table and I eat a lot faster than my husband and infant son. (My older son scarfs down his meal and bails. He doesn't stick around for the conversation.)
7. I will continue eating as long as there is food within reach, even if I am not hungry.
8. I get almost no exercise. I do the occasional "how to walk your dog on a leash" lesson, but these only last about 30 minutes maybe once a week and I do as much standing around shouting orders while they walk as I do walking myself. Other than that, my exercise consists of pushing a cart around the grocery store for an hour once or twice a week.
9. I drink a lot of water.

All in all I think the journaling project was useful and enlightening and I will continue journaling for the duration of my weight loss project in order to keep track of my progress.

Days journaled this week: 5

Weight: 196.5
BMI calculation: 32.76
Waist measurement: 42.0
Hip Measurement: 45.5
Waist to Hip Ratio: .93
(WTF! Not the early success I'd hoped for. Oh well.)

Next week's goal/habit: Get active

Some other interesting links I've found: