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Category Archives: New Skills

Big March Post #3: A New Place for FOOD!

It’s the last day of March and the last of the three big announcement posts promised for this month! This one continues our theme of “new:” first a new bed, then a new baby, and now… a new blog!

The new blog is a place where I can post all about food, like how we continue to deal with our changed diet due to food sensitivities, new recipes that I’m perfecting, ingredients we’re watching out for, our meal plans, and our weekly lunch wrap-up posts will move there in early April. We’re of course focusing on eating happily without dairy, eggs, wheat, nuts… basically all of the top 8 most common allergens.

The new site is NourishingRainbows.com, and for more on the name and what the site is all about, follow that link! It’s been up for about a week now and there are several new recipes up and a big post dedicated to an awesome potential Easter dinner, complete with dessert.

Here are some examples of current and future posts…

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As for 9 Years Later, this blog isn’t shutting down. I still plan on posting about the 9-year goal to self-sustainability, although the posts may be quite sporadic. I’m doing a lot of gardening this year so watch for posts on that as the season heats up (haha, see what I did there?). Thanks for hanging in with 9YL and be sure to check out the new NourishingRainbows.com!!

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30 Days of Yoga, short resolution update

Kiddo1 and I started doing this 30 Days of Yoga challenge, hosted by yogawithadriene.com. We missed a few days because I had (and am still fighting) this horrible cold, but we’re catching up again and we really love it!

It took about a week for Kiddo1 to get into it, but now he says he really likes it. It is a great series and Adriene is a wonderful teacher. I think the series is set up for people who have at least a little yoga experience – having the background knowledge I have about some things has been helpful so I’ve been able to talk Kiddo1 through some poses in a little more detail than he gets from the video alone. But Adriene keeps every day interesting and new so we’re not at all getting bored. One day she’s all about abs, the next we’re focusing on relaxation. I hope that when we’re done with the 30 days we might go back and do the whole series again! I don’t see it getting repetitive at all, since every day is different.

I don’t have much too much else to write about it, but I wanted to put it on here in conjunction with my daily walk resolution. We fell off the walking wagon with school starting up – a couple days a week Kiddo1 doesn’t get home until after dark (since the sun sets at 5 and he has an after-school activity until then) but we have been biking home from school on those days so I feel like that is a suitable replacement for our short walks. My cold really didn’t help keep us going either, but we are determined to not let little set-backs keep us from getting back out there and moving!

We’re going to visit family this month so our next challenge is making sure that we do our yoga and take our walk every day, while we navigate all the family time. Hopefully we will have a reprive every day so we can take care of ourselves (it is more difficult than it sounds!).

Resolution, Set: Go!

Even though a spent a good amount of time brainstorming this year’s goals, my actual resolution totally came out of left field… literally. It came from the field to the left of our house, which actually has a couple of baseball diamonds on it so this metaphor works in a number of ways.

We went for a family walk to our neighboring field on New Year’s Day and it hit me – why not try to do this every day? It sounds so simple, but I know that some days will be a struggle to strap on some shoes and get out there. Especially when it is rainy, or cold, or I’m just not feeling like leaving the house.

I’ve been working from home for over a year now and while I love the flexibility and being able to see my kids so much more (Mr. Handsome stays at home during the day with Baby2 so I can focus), it is also awfully isolating and I find I can go days without going outside if I’m not careful.

So making a resolution to make a conscious effort to get out there makes a lot of sense. And let’s face it, we all know I’ll be striving to grow a better garden and work on my financial health anyway. I can’t leave those things alone, I love striving for improvement (or at least looking for ways to improve!)\. Making those things a resolution kind of makes the whole thing more complicated than it needs to be.

Here’s to a simple resolution, one that I’m sure will return much more than I can fathom at present. Happy New Year!

Brainstorming 2015’s Resolution

Creating a New Year’s Resolution is one of my favorite things to do, even though I’ve never really carried out my resolutions until this year when I fought back against GMOs, toxic foods, and industrial-type farmed foods coming into my house. This year was so successfully that I’m finding myself getting really carried away with my thoughts for 2015. There’s SO MUCH I want to do to better our lives and keep on our track to self-sufficiency. I thought it might be fun to brain-dump potential goals here so I can sort them out and settle on just one or two big things. It’s so much better for me to focus than to overwhelm myself with trying to accomplish too much!

Here are some of my thoughts…

  1. Financial Health is a big one. There are so, so many things that could go into it. We could figure out ways to reduce our bills, like reducing our garbage pick-ups to once a month. But that involves making less waste, which could be a year-long goal all by itself. And of course there’s simply creating a budget and getting used to it, which could also take a year and would be a great resolution (we recently purchased the You Need a Budget software and I’d like to write about it as soon as we get it really set up). I’m lacking clear focus with this resolution, so I feel like it could easily overwhelm me. Still, it’s very important that we address some of the sub-goals I’ve thought up.
  2. Oral health is something on my mind a lot too. Having just finished the book Cure Tooth Decay, oral health is at the forefront of my mind right now. And if I was really sneaky, I could still fit this under financial health (healthier teeth = less visits to the dentist = lower healthcare costs) but even oral health in itself could have a lot of sub-resolutions. I’ll write about this more in my book review, but the book recommends both diet and hygiene changes that would be great focuses for 2015. And they’re just outside the norm that I feel it would be a more challenging resolution than growing more food. But on another level it doesn’t feel like… enough.
  3. Growing more food. According to my self-sustaining goal phases, this is to be my focus for 2015. There’s a whole bunch of sub-resolutions that could come into play here as well, but I think it’d be easier to break them up into smaller monthly goals (planning in January, starting seeds in Feb, adding to our garden infras     tructure in March, planting outside in April, etc). Accomplishing something each month would be a great motivator, too. I could totally fit this in with financial health (growing our food saves money!) but then I run into the problem of overwhelming myself again. I only stray from making this my official resolution because I know it’s something I’m going to do anyway and I’d almost like for my resolution to be less… predictable? Less of something that I know I’ll already do. Something that will challenge me.
  4. Then I get distracted by the idea of smaller monthly goals and want to do a whole bunch of smaller things: find out how to recycle more things, practice meditation, start reading before bed inside of watching tv, way less screen time in general, institue a family-wide bedtime routine (where we all brush our teeth and everything at about the same time in the evening, even if we don’t go to bed afterward, because there are things we should be doing at night that we rush through because we’re tired and just want to go to bed. Case in point, to continue my tangent: Mr. Handsome got me an oral irrigator for Christmas which I’m so excited about because it’s one of the things I want to try from Cure Tooth Decay, but I haven’t used it yet and yes that was a week ago! But every night I go to get it started and I’m too sleepy to want to really figure it out so I go to bed. Bad!). I know that if I had smaller goals I’d stay interested, feel accomplished, and get to work on a variety of things. It’d be hard picking goals for later in the year though, because I’d want to get to them now!

So as I look over this list I don’t know which one to pick. I think that due to the success of this year’s resolution I have put too much stock in coming up with a good one for 2015.  I just want to learn as much in 2015 about something as I did with food this year! I’ll keep thinking about it tonight – I’ll have plenty of time since we’re staying up late!

Happy New Year!

Year in Review

It’s almost 2015! Lately my mind has been on coming up with a great resolution for next year. BUT, as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. We still have a day or two left of this year and as excited as I am about the possibilities for all the improvements that 2015 can bring, I think I need to pause for a moment and reflect on the accomplishments of 2014.

At the beginning of 2014, I set my resolution to remove all the GMOs from my house. The idea wasn’t to search and distroy within my pantry but rather do a slow replacement of offending items as they ran out. A nice, easy transition.

Things started to snowball around the middle of the year, though, and before I knew it I was learning not just about modified foods but about pesticides, chemical additives, industrialized food, etc. That transitioned into learning about grains and why they aren’t fulfilling my family’s nutritional needs. From there we did food allergy testing on our son to see if we could nail down some persistent digestive issues… and we discovered the need to keep out wheat as well as spelt, diary, eggs, and peanuts. And more research has led me to try to restrict certain other foods, like nightshades (potatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes).

This year has been a big learning experience with food. And we’ve come a long way as a family with our diet. We started the year very grain- and dairy-heavy: lots of cereal, lots of cheese, lots of baggies of processed snacks and a whole pantry of dinner “helpers” in a box and processed convenience foods. Now we still have a couple snack foods that we buy but we’ve switched to buying brands with more quality ingredients. We read labels on everything now and we try to make foods rather than buy them.

Speaking of making foods, now we cook all our meals at home, three times a day (I work from home which helps with this tremendously). We went from going out to eat at least once or twice a week to family meals out maybe twice in the last few months (it’s easy to stop eating out when you’re avoiding just about everything on the menu!). This has been really great on our pocketbook and it’s really easy to avoid the “no” foods by just not being around them. But we’ve had to learn to cook everything!

I wasn’t too much of a cook before this year. I could make a mean boxed mac n’cheese. I could bake chicken and stuff too, but cooking a whole chicken or making a vegetable without a cheese topping really wasn’t my thing. This year I have learned so much about cooking and baking. I can make several meals without recipes now and I have lots of resources for finding things to eat when I get stuck. I meal plan every week – no more winging it like I used to! I know how to properly use and care for my cast iron pans (that I had but only used a handful of times before this year – now I use them at least once, sometimes two or three times a day!). I’ve totally changed how and where we shop for food so that we can buy from local farms and outside the industrialized food system.

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My latest meal planning tool – the list of foods we can eat!

 

I’ve learned that a lot of the food out there today is just plain not food. I’ve learned that I want to participate in a better food system, and if I really want to bring about change then I must be conscious of how each one of my food dollars is spent. We buy from local farms because organic is good for us, but we also buy that way because we’re supporting a way of growing food that is sustainable on every level: good to the Earth, good to the animals, good to the workers, good to the neighbors, good for the community, on and on and on. Yes it is more expensive but what is the true cost of the alternative? The cost of food is not just what I see on my receipt!! It’s in how the workers are paid so they can contribute to a healthy economy, it’s how the animals are treated so they are healthy and strong (cause if they’re not healthy my meat isn’t going to be too healthy eaither), it’s in the way we treat the Earth so we have fertile soil and clean air to keep growing healthy food, it’s in the LACK of government subsidies that decive customers with food prices that are unsustainably cheap. That cheap food is costing us much more than the tax dollars we spend on the subsidies. In my opinion, it is not sustainable or responsible to turn a blind eye to what we buy.

Out of everything, the biggest thing I learned and my family learned is just general awareness of food: what’s in it, where it comes from, who makes it, why it’s good for us or not, where we can buy it, etc. This year of discovery has completely changed everything about food for us and I’m so glad we opened this can of worms and started making these changes!

Goal Update – New Phases

There have been so many things on my mind lately it has been hard to post! As soon as I settle on one topic I’m distracted by another.

I deal with distraction by making lists, so I’ve decided to update my Goal Phases page (tab at the top of this screen). I started the page to try to organize all the things I want to learn as part of my self-sustaining goal.

Now the list on the page is helping me to focus on just a few areas at a time. Lately I’ve been thinking about all the things I want to learn and I’ve gotten a little overwhelmed! But if I step back and recall that I’ve set a nine-year timeline, then I can break up my time into segments and feel a little more relaxed.

I’ve realized that this whole year I’ve spent most of my time learning about foods that the best for my family’s health and how to cook those foods. So that is my official focus for 2014… which I do realize is almost over. But I’ve learned so much about food this year so it’s okay that I’m just now applying the label. I’ve been focusing on this goal already without even realizing it!

So by the end of this year, just 6 or 7 weeks away, I hope to know enough about food that I can cook whatever we manage to bring home without too much stress. I’ve learned to cook a lot of things this year: I’ve learned the difference between cooking convensional beef vs grass-fed, I’ve learned how to cook a variety of winter squash (never had cooked a squash before this year!), I’ve learned how to chop an onion, how to properly hold a chef’s knife, substitutes for wheat flour and eggs, how to use a pressure cooker, how to cook in cast iron, how to lacto ferment vegetables, and way more than I ever thought I’d need to learn!

Cooking isn’t just proper use of ingredients and equipment. It’s also meal planning and shopping. So by the end of the year I’d like to have my planning and shopping systems in place well enough that I don’t have to think about them as much as I do now. Right now I spend about two hours planning meals and snacks for the week. I can’ keep spending that much time on it so I keep tweaking my planning system. I’m still using my meal planning template – that is actually working really well for me still. Coming up with ideas for what to eat is always the most difficult, so I’m working on a sort of “map” to give me fresh ideas each week. It has themed days, lists of healthy foods, and other things to trigger my brain and make planning fast. When it is more complete I promise to share it!

We spend a good amount of time on shopping for foods, too. We spend so much time partly because my planning isn’t 100% yet so every few days I realize we’re out of something and we have to go replenish supplies. I’m getting really close to only shopping once a week, but not quite there yet.

Part of planning better shopping is having a really good handle on what we actually use each week/month. So I’m working on tracking our consumption habits so I can better prepare for how much of something we’ll need to get. It’d be so much better to get say… granola only once a month and get it at a discount because we ordered five pounds.

So lots of cooking and food-related work still to do this year! But I feel like we’ve come a long way! We are WAY less reliant on standard consumer fare in order to get ourselves fed and that really is the goal here isn’t it! As long as we have ingredients and some tools, we can make ourselves a good dinner.

Once the year is over though, it’s not like I’ve totally mastered cooking. Like many life skills it requires lots of practice and a thirst for knowledge in order to keep skills sharp. So I’ll still be reading cookbooks and perusing the internet for cooking smarts in 2015 and beyond. But, I’ll try to make it less of an obsession.

In 2015 I’ll attempt to move on to a new obsession, which is to grow a lot more of the food we eat. We had a decent first year of gardening in 2014, but we need to step it up a lot in order to call ourselves self-sufficient.

For the future phases beyond next year, see the new page at the top of this screen. I will update it often!

Choosing a Bulb for DIY Soft Light

Last week I built this soft light and I posted a tutorial about it a couple days ago. I’ve loved playing around with my new light, but I have to admit something has been missing. I felt like a had built a solid light box, but the quality of light I was getting was not exciting.

Observe: a photo of bananas with my original LED light bulb and homemade reflector…

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In the soft light tutorial I followed from The Tip Toe Fairy, a 100w bulb is suggested so that’s what I bought. But I didn’t think at all about the degrees Kelvin of the light bulb, which control the color of light that the bulb provides.

This first light bulb, while bright enough and even Earth-friendly enough, it was 2500k on the light spectrum and that’s just too yellow. It didn’t look much different than having the kitchen lights on, except for having a more direct light source.

I tried a few different reflectors and extra lights, but it was a lot more work than I want to put into the average shot and it still wasn’t making the light any less warm.

The next light I got was totally over-compensating for the warm light mistake. I figured I’d go with a totally opposite light bulb – CFL this time (cause I couldn’t afford any more LEDs!) and 6500k. Let’s just say I didn’t do any research on proper degrees Kelvin for simulating daylight…

The next pictures I took turned out like this:

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Super blue! Like I said, the total opposite of the warm light – this one was too cool. It was hard to get a picture that didn’t have a brightness “haze,” like this one:

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It wasn’t the soft daylight I was going for. Plus the bulb I got took a minute to warm up and buzzed pretty loud.

Finally I got smart and did a little research. Daylight is 5500k, so I needed to tone down my degrees Kelvin a little bit more.

I got one last night bulb, here are the specs:

  • CFL (if I had only bought one bulb instead of three, I would have sprung for LED)
  • 100w equivilant (23w for a CFL)
  • 5000-5500k (I could only find a 5000k bulb but I think it’s fine)

Now my pictures are better. First the bananas, for comparison (although I’m not at all in love with this photo!).

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And a few of my favorite photos I’ve posted on Instagram:

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This one I took with actual daylight, so you can see how similar the quality of light is. Pretty close huh? The above two pictures were taken with just my soft light and reflector but this one was taken with just the curtains pulled back. It was lunch so I actually had some light coming through the kitchen. Breakfast and dinner are just about totally dark this time of year!

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Not bad huh? It’s an improvement to me at least, so I’m happy. Next I’d like to dust off my Nikon D40 and learn to use it well instead of taking pictures with my phone all the time. The phone is just so easy and fast! I have a feeling that might involve a little more than just shopping for a bulb though. I hope to share my knowledge soon!