Happy bellies for vibrant lives
Dianne

Lessons from the Garden

When we were house shopping last year, we compromised on a short list of requirements. High up on this list, we needed a good area to have a garden, and we certainly found that in our new home. The gardening area was already in place, just needing some fence repair, total weeding, and general TLC. We jumped in full force, and when May hit, planted seeds of every vegetable we could want. Tremendous dreams of filling our bellies, freezer and even canning the excess or sharing with our neighbors. Ha! There were some major learning curves, environmental factors and plain old bad luck that stood in our way. In the end, we ate from our garden. Rarely. Very rarely. But learned some valuable lessons to take into next year and try it all again. 

1. Don't let perfection be the enemy of good (which seems to be my mantra more often than not these days. Especially with a toddler running/tornado-ing around). There are lots of things I wish I'd done differently.  But there simply wasn't enough time and if I had waited for those,  I wouldn't have plants in the ground right now.  Work with what you have. Do the best you can. See what happens. We coudln't this year, but next year we'd like create some raised beds which will be a lot of work up front, but may save on some weeding and hopefully increase production. 

2. Guidelines are just that.  Guides. Some plants that probably weren't meant to thrive are doing ok. You'll never know until you try it in your garden. Read the book, do some research, then throw it away and experiment! I had no idea if my kale would come up from seed.  I though I planted it a little too late.  But I tried it because,  why not? And it grew! (...but then something ate it which leads me to #3...)

3. Up the ante on pest control. We almost got through the whole summer without pests. Until something ate all the brussel sprouts. And when we didn't figure out how to keep him out quick enough, he ate all the kale and collard greens. We have to secure the fence just a little better next year.

4. Gardening is a lot of work up front. Planning where each crop will go and potentially companion planting. Prepping the soil. Planting some of those tiny seeds is tedious.  Weeding is even more tedious.  Be ready to work. 

5. Not everything should be started indoors. I tried starting most of my seedlings indoors and many of them didn't make it or transfer well. In fact,  zucchini, carrots and many others just prefer to be started from seed in the ground. 

6. Don't be intimidated.  Every plant is a learning experience. If it didn't work out this year,  try again next year.  While the tomatoes grew great, I've learned that they need much sturdier cages next year. Almost all of them fell over.

7. I'm guessing fertilizer would have been a good idea. 

8. Learn some organic disease control. I seem to have an issue with white mildew on the squash leaves. I checked into this book and it suggested using a baking soda solution. Safe, cheap and effective!  

9. Its never too late. There are crops that like summer,  there are crops that like spring or fall.  If you missed the summer window,  plant some fall crops. I'm getting ready to plant some more kale and lettuce soon.

10. Make it a family affair. My daughter really loved being a part of the garden. Her attention span was definitely shorter than I wanted many days (which may be a lesson in doing just a little bit each day). But watching her harvest and break open pea pods was so fulfilling. 

11. It's incredibly rewarding. It's already insanely amazing to watch what has popped up, observe how it acts once its sprouted, and finally watch it bear fruit. A gift from above for sure. 

 

 

Are you gardening this year?


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Dianne

Navigating those summer BBQs

Summer is here! The warm weather is sure to bring lots of social events and summer BBQs. But if you’re also watching what you are eating, how do you navigate these events?

 

1.      Decide which camp you are in

Are you currently eating for a specific goal? Do you have a health concern? Or a weight loss goal? If so, you may want to continue your eating style at the party. If you have less concern, give yourself a break and enjoy the food and company.

2.      Eat whole foods

Choosing foods in their whole form are a sure bet that you are skipping the extra preservatives and chemicals in processed foods. Unprocessed meats and whole fruits and vegetables are generally great choices.

3.      Bring a dish to pass

If you bring a delicious healthy dish, you can surely chow down on this! A salad, quinoa with veggies or a cabbage slaw are great choices. Check on the recipes on my website for more inspiration.

4.      Eat ahead of time

Have a snack before you leave the house or drink a smoothie on the way in order to curb your hunger. This way you won’t be ravenous when you walk into the party and you’ll likely be able to make better choices.

5.      Be mindful of what you are eating

Before you take your first bite, stop, take a breath and connect with the food you are about to eat. Just because you are in a social setting doesn’t mean you should eat mindlessly.

6.      If you enjoy alcohol, skip the sugary mixers

Depending on the party, alcohol may be flowing. If you decide to partake, choose non-sugary beverages. Seltzer water and real fruit will probably be your best choices. 

7.      Enjoy the experience

Accept the choices that you make and have fun in the whole experience. Enjoy your company. It’s not all about the food. In fact, it’s hardly about the food. It’s about sharing the experience with friends and loved ones.  

Bonus: Sunscreen!

And by the way, if you are enjoying the sun, skip the chemicals, but don’t skip the sunscreen. Your body will have a tough time processing harsh chemical sunscreen on top of indulging in some extra foods and beverages. I choose a physical sunscreen like Badger, ThinkBaby or Beautycounter.  


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Dianne

Natural Laundry Routine

When I started on my journey towards a natural, unprocessed life about 4 years ago, one of the first things I changed was my laundry routine. (Some of my fermentation students know that making yogurt was another change I made early on, but that's a story for another time!) Changing laundry detergents seemed like an approachable swap to make. It was a minimal impact change and I didn't need to add anything. 

Although choosing where to start was rather arbitrary for me at the time, the important thing is to start to make changes that minimize the toxic load on your body. There are varying amount of toxins in your laundry and other household and personal care products. The crazy thing is, contrary to what you may believe, this industry is not regulated and formulations can change at any time without notice. Ingredient lists don't even appear on many of these items. I don't know about you, but I want to know what is going in, on and around my body. There are many toxins we can't avoid, but we have the power to choose what happens in our own home. Similarly to my feelings on food, I choose to use the most natural products and avoid chemicals where I can. Because we all know there are times when we can't avoid them, so I want my body to be able to process those efficiently when they creep in. 

Why would I bother? Well, the chemicals in laundry detergent that give laundry its signature smell are actually toxic hormone distrupters. Many contain carcinogens - that's right - cancer causing agents right there in your laundry detergent! The perfumes are also a huge contributor to asthma problems. This industry isn't required to list its ingredients on the bottle, so the average consumer wouldn't even know. 

Additionally, making your own will be cheaper than buying store-bought detergent and is very quick and easy to make.

With all that information, I did a little research and stumbled across some laundry detergent recipes. I'll share the recipes that I've tested, tweaked and used in my house for many years. 

*If you don't have the time to do this on your own, message me to make some up for you!

Washing Detergent - combine and use 1 tbsp per load:

 

Fabric Softener

In the rinse cycle add 1/2 cup of white vinegar. [I'm linking to this so you know what I'm talking about, but vinegar should be really cheap at your supermarket. Like $3/gallon. I want to show you the products I use, but don't necessarily price check the links I've added, so be sure to do that before you buy. ] I put this in a fabric softener dispenser ball, but you could also put it right in your fabric softener dispenser if you have one. 

For the same reasons, I also swapped out my dryer sheets. Now I use wool dryer balls. I will say, especially in the winter, there can still be some static cling. But I've found my best bet is to use dry natural fabrics this way separate from synthetic fibers. Synthetics, especially performance athletic wear, really hold static for some reason and I've really not had great luck with those.

 

Stain Removal

I've got a really great natural spray that's super easy to put together. It's toddler approved and even gets out blueberry stains! This is tried and true! (Just test your fabric to ensure its colorsafe first)

Combine in a spray bottle:

 

Now, there are still times when I need to use store-bought detergent. Washing cloth diapers is definitely one of those times. The stuff I use is approved by Thirsties brand diapers, my favorite. And sometimes, washing food-filled toddler clothes and bibs also requires the store-bought stuff. In these cases my favorite these days is Planet Laundry Detergent. I get it for a great price on Thrive Market. I've also heard that plain old Tide is a cloth diaper tried and true, but I haven't used it for myself yet. 

Would you make your own laundry detergent? Let me know if it works for your family!

 


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Dianne

Bone Broth

The nourishing broth made from simmering meat bones and vegetables in water is the delicious food called Bone Broth. It is a traditional way creating a base for soups, cooking liquid for rice or grains, a base for gravies or a lovely drink all on its own. This has really taken off in the health industry recently, and with good reason. It helps to boost the immune system, heal the gut, enhance detoxification and improve joint health. Bone broth contains collagen, which is known to support hair, skin, nails and joints.  It’s also high in minerals and electrolytes and is packed with 19 amino acids.

If you can’t make your own bone broth or if you’re traveling, there are some great options for premade boxed bone broths. Not all are made equal so if they seem cheap, they are very likely not made in the proper traditional way. I keep Kettle & Fire Chicken Bone Broth and Epic Turkey Cranberry Sage Bone Broth in the pantry for times that I don’t have homemade broth on hand.

But remember bone broth is pretty easy and inexpensive to make at home, so give it a shot and make some today! It also freezes nicely, so you can make big batches and have it available in the freezer for when you’re ready to use it.

The recipe is simple:

Ingredients:

-    Meat bones *see below on choosing bones and vegetables

-    Vegetables or Veggie scraps *see below on choosing bones and vegetables

-    6-8 quarts of water (depending on the size of your pot)

Directions:

·        Combine your meat bones and vegetables/veggie scraps in a 6-8 quart stock pot, crock pot or instapot

·        Cover with filtered water (the Berkey is my fav!), leaving 1-2 inches at the top.

·        Add Salt (I like Real Salt because of the consistent mineral levels in this product)

·        Add a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar (this helps to extract the minerals)

·        Cook time for Chicken is 12-24 hours / Cook time for Beef is 24-48 hours

·        Simmer on the Stove top, in an electric Slow Cooker or in an Instant Pot (adjust cook time per manufacturer's directions)

·        [[I often dip into the broth as its cooking and drink down a mug-full or two on its own.]]

·        After the broth has slightly cooled, strain into a large bowl. Let cool. Discard the used bones and vegetables. Portion into mason jars or freezer-safe containers.

·        It will last in the fridge for about 5 days. Freezer for a few months.

 

How to choose your bones:

Option 1 – Roast a whole chicken. Eat the meat, save the bones. Drop the entire remains into the pot with vegetables and water and you are done.  If you are a newbie, this is the place to start. You could even use a rotisserie chicken that you get pre-cooked from the store. I’ve seen some recipes using two carcasses in the same amount of water, but I find that broth way too strong. Perhaps there are greater health benefits this way, but personally, I think one is just fine.

Option 2 – Save bones from meat you eat. I have a few zip top bags in my freezer for beef, pork, and chicken bones. When we eat a bone-in cut, like a pork chop or short rib for example, I’ll save the bones in the bag. When the bag is starting to get full, it’s time to make broth!

Option 3 – Purchase bones from your local butcher or farmer’s market. Many times the suppliers are looking to get rid of bones or sell at a low price. Although with the popularity of bone broth, the prices are starting to rise. If you want to make some broth and don’t want to wait to accumulate the bones, this is a good option. But, since these bones are essentially *raw* (unlike the bones that we’d talked about previously that had been pre-cooked), they should be roasted in the oven for an hour or two before making your broth. Pro-tip: Drop them in boiling water for a minute before roasting.

A note on quality: Make sure your meat is organic and ethically raised. A farmer’s market or local farm is ideal for obtaining the healthiest meat. And remember healthy meat = healthy bones = healthy broth.

Vegetables: While you can use an onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 carrots and 2 stalks of celery, I prefer to use vegetable scraps. When I’m cutting my vegetables for other meals, I save all the scraps in another zip top bag in the freezer. The scraps have just as much flavor and this way you don’t have to waste veggies you’d otherwise eat! So keep your onion and garlic peels, carrot tops and celery leaves for broth! You can also add in any other herbs, vegetables or scraps you may have.

  

How to use Bone Broth:

-        Base for soup or stew

-        Whisk an egg into 1 cup of broth for an egg drop soup (my go-to easy breakfast)

-        Add to roux (flour + fat) to make a gravy

-        Use in place of water when making rice or beans

-        Drink it right out of a mug. Especially if you are feeling sick or trying to heal a gut issue.

How do you use your bone broth?


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Dianne

New Year Intentions

Well, here it is: I guess you can’t go into the New Year without thinking about resolutions. But honestly, I’ve never been a fan of making resolutions. Listing a bunch of intangible demands is a recipe for failure. I’m not a glutton for punishment (anymore), so I’ve decided to release this demand of myself.

 

This doesn’t mean I’m against goal setting. Done right, setting goals (at any arbitrary date during the year) are key to success and creating what you want in life. I’ve used SMART goals very successfully in my business. I won’t bore you with those details, so if you don’t know about goal setting with SMART goals, Prof. Google can give plenty of advice on that one.

 

I’ve also heard some of my mentors introduce a concept of working with a different goal each month. For example, in January, drink a green juice every day. Then in February, do 20 minutes of yoga each day. Each month would be different. Each month could be completely separate or you could build on the previous month.

 

But for me, as a new momma (with my head bobbing just slightly above water), all of that seems way too overwhelming. Last year I decided that I wanted a middle ground. Not to forego the tradition altogether, but also not to set crushing resolutions. And what came to me was to set a word of intention. As a family, we chose one word that was meaningful to us, and then every decision we made came back to that word.

 

In 2017, our word of intention was

S I M P L I F Y

 

Previous to that I felt unorganized, cluttered and confused. So we streamlined processes in the house, released some chaos, let go of some possessions, prepped some meals in advance, and all-in-all simplified our way of living. We went on to use this to decide on buying a house. Not one that was huge and would clutter our minds with a ton of debt: Just a modest home that really fit our intention.

 

We plan to do the same in 2018, using the next few days to really focus on what we what 2018 to reveal.

 

What will your word for 2018 be?

 

XOXO ~ Dianne


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