Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I'm kind of a snob.

I am.

I believe in eating from scratch. I believe in buying local. Organic when necessary (and it's not always).

I've mentioned before that this has been a long, evolving road for me. A journey that began just about 7 years ago.

We don't always eat healthy. Our meals are not always the perfect picture of nutrition. When I make bread, it's white flour bread. We have homemade pizza nights often. It's not unusual to have chips in our pantry.

I try to follow a 90/10 rule at home. If you eat well 90% of the time, I won't worry about the other 10%. Especially when I have a semi-resistant husband and two children who have all sorts of outside influences on their diets and 'wants'. You drink water and milk at home, and I won't start twitching when you grab a soda at Nana's house. It's a treat. You eat vegetables with lunch and dinner and I won't hyperventilate over your cereal in the morning (which is mostly limited to bran and oat cereals anyway, but they're still nutritional jokes).

I've been re-evaluating my own diet. Too many processed carbs. Too much sugar.

I'll be the first to admit that at home, scratch cooking isn't always healthy. But I will always maintain that it's way, way better than what you'll buy in the store, processed.

Anyway. I get annoyed, borderline angry  even, when I read articles or hear people say that healthy eating cost too much. That buying fresh foods is not affordable or realistic. I have to laugh at some of the meal plans people put together when they are doing foodstamp experiments and trying to eat healthy. Part of what bothers me - is then that notion gets passed down and around and it's just taken as fact that it's just not possible for people on small budgets. That healthy eating is for the rich.

Look. I know it takes practice. It's taken me 7 years to get where I am, and I'm still learning. I know it takes dedication. But I am of people saying it can't be done. Yes, it can.

We survive, every month, on a below poverty level - foodstamp level type budget. Our budget varies between about 250-400 a month for a family of 4 (with a 6'4 husband and 2 growing young boys). And following my 90/10 rule, I'd say 90% of what we buy is local and/or organic and non-processed.

Now, I understand that I'm pretty lucky. We have several great grocery stores. Before we moved they were within 10 minutes of each other and my home, now it's about a 20-30 minute one way drive (and yes, I'm fortunate to have a car to drive there). I also realize I am very lucky to have a fantastic year round farmers market, with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, local/organic/grass-fed meats and dairy. I realize how fortunate I am, and that in some areas buying healthy is more expensive and harder to obtain.

But I still believe it can be done. And I'll tell you all about it until you want to hit me. I can get preachy. But it's because I'm so damn passionate about it. I don't mean to preach, I mean to be helpful and encouraging. No one, ever should have to settle for sub-standard food. No matter what their income level is.

Now, if you're just not interested in changing - you just don't care about these things - then that's fine. What pisses  me off, is when people laugh at the notion of  living this kind of lifestyle (as unreasonable). Or insist it can't be done. Or when they say they can't. Because they can.

And here's where I become a snob:

"I don't have time". Make time. That's an excuse and a poor one at that. I work 10-12 hour days. I'm not even home for dinner 4 nights a week. Yet almost every single night, I have a home-cooked meal on the table for my family. Get a slow-cooker. Make ahead. Use your freezer properly. If you have time to use the computer, watch tv, take your kids to 5 different sports/classes - you have time to cook from scratch. You just don't want to. Because you aren't willing to give up something else to make the time for it.

"It's too expensive" If you're buying organic junk food, maybe. How much is a bag of potato chips? 2.50? How much is a bag of potatoes? I can get them on sale (non-organic) for 1.99 for 5 lbs. Organic might cost 4.99 for 5 lbs. I wonder how many chips you can make from 5 lbs of potatoes? Probably a lot more than what you buy off the shelf.  Shannon Hayes (who I'll be posting on later this week) addresses the expense argument in her new book "The Farmer and the Grill". I may pay slightly more for the meat I buy at the farmers market, but I know that my food dollars are being used wisely. They are supporting local economy. They are refusing to buy from factory farms and big corporations, they say "I don't support these practices". The meats I buy are healthier. They are naturally leaner and contain more vitamins than conventional meat. Yeah, I think they are worth the extra cost. My family is worth the extra couple of dollars. If you find it to be too much - adjust your diet. Eat less meat. Simple.

So, yeah. I'm a snob. I can't stand the excuses people make to defend their unwillingness to invest in their health and their families health and well-being.

If you don't have a good grocery store near by, start petitioning for one. Get your neighborhood involved, make it known you want and need a store in your area.  Don't have a local farmers market? Are you sure? Check out Local Harvest to see what's available in your area. Even check Craigslist. Still no luck? Start a community garden. Or if you have even the tiniest backyard or balcony, start your own garden.

Start small. You don't need to overhaul your diet and your habits overnight. Start by buying off the dirty dozen. Start by buying one product local/organic. I started with ground beef only, since it was so cheap. Now 95% of the meat I buy is from a local farmer. What about local/organic eggs? An extra dollar a week.

Not used to cooking from scratch? Again, start small. Make meatballs. Make extra and put some in your freezer. You don't need to start off making cheese your first week cooking from scratch (or hell - ever!).

Don't have time? Look into Once-a-Month cooking, or big batch cooking. I've never had a lot of luck with this, but it works for a lot of people. You spend one day making and freezing your meals for a month (or week, or 2 weeks). Or, when you do cook - just make extra and throw it in your freezer for the nights the kids have sports and your home late from work. You don't have to rely on take-out, just your own freezer or fridge.

There are so many ways, so many resources, so much information out there. I simply can't stand hearing "I can't", "I don't have time", "It's too expensive". What I'm really hearing is: "I won't".

“Those who say it can't be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.”

                                                                                                  ~James Arthur Baldwin

Monday, April 26, 2010

30 Days to a Food Revolution

ame across this just now - and it's starting today! 30 Days to a Food Revolution

I've been making quite a few changes to my diet over the last few weeks, and actually stumbled across that site while researching other things.

I know I'll be paying attention and following along, and wanted to share here too!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go 'round and 'round

Still feeling quiet. I have a half dozen half started posts, and there will likely be a flurry of posts coming in the next few days. But right now, I can't seem to find the words to finish any of them.

I'm working some overtime, but we still got quite a bit done this week.

I've been working 12 hour shifts the last two days, which has thrown me off slightly - but on Friday, finally - I felt balanced again.

The Husband was working on the play-set. The kids were helping him or playing army in the woods. I was washing and putting away the winter coats, cleaning up around the edge of the woods, hanging clothes on the newly built clothes line. While I was carrying brush down the hill towards the fire pit I felt it. Bliss. It was such an ordinary day. Outside work, chores. A normal, plain day. But there it was. Rhythm. It had worked itself out, and suddenly we all seemed to be back in stride.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weeks Review

I know, I've been neglecting this blog a bit lately. My real life is often mirrored here. Some days or weeks I have so much to say - so many ideas, inspirations every where and I'm busy making, doing, moving. And other weeks I withdraw a bit. I spend more time reading and moving in different ways - like washing and folding and cleaning and painting.

Writing this blog has made those rhythms in my life very clear (to me). Sure, sometimes I'm quiet here because I'm busy but those times are usually followed by a burst of thoughts and ideas and pictures and things.

This week or so I've been quiet because I've been cleaning out clothing and books. Catching up on laundry. Reading and reading more. Napping. Being sick (again?!). I'm trying something new with my diet. I've been planning and reflecting. Weeks like this are a strange sort of meditation for me. I've even scaled way back on baking and cooking in general. Sometimes I get frustrated when I have these natural slow downs, but I'm starting realize that they're needed. My body and my mind know what they need to do, and I need to just trust and flow with it. I don't have to be doing a zillion things at once.

We met our across the street neighbor this past weekend. I've been eying his house for a while. I knew already that he was an older Italian man who called every woman "pretty lady" and he had animals and grew a lot of food. He came over the other afternoon and we got talking for quite a while. He's 75, but looks much, much younger. He's lived here for over 40 years but still has a very thick accent and broken English. We got to see his land. Little gardens spread out everywhere. He picked some asparagus, I've never had it fresh picked and raw. It was delicious! He gave me some garlic greens fresh out of the ground to bring home. He has sheep and chickens and peacocks and turkeys and a giant pig and 2 beautiful steer. He called them, and they came right up to us! (on the other side of a small wire fence). It was absolutely amazing.

He offered us use of almost all his farm equipment, should we need it. We showed him our small garden and he said something along the lines of people need to learn to garden from other people - it needs to be passed down and shown. When he was showing us his turkeys (he has two) he told us he used to have 10, but he gave them away for Thanksgiving last year. He said (again I'm paraphrasing - he was difficult to understand) that when you have too much you should never waste anything, you should always give it to people who don't have enough. When showing us his animals (which are pasture raised and supplemented with grain) he kept telling us how they need to eat well, so he can eat well. That if you eat well, and keep moving you'll live a long, long time.

Then, he also made a couple of pretty racist comments. Being raised in a totally different time from him - where comments like that are shocking and wrong, I wasn't sure how to respond. So I just didn't. He didn't say it meanly, if that makes sense. Just as regular conversation. It was so strange. And the fact is, that's how he was raised. He was from a generation where that was normal. We were segregated. Talk like that was not shocking. It disappointed me a little. Here's this guy who was so friendly and did all these things I admire and then he's flat out racist. Strange, strange.

This is about 3 weeks ago, so they're much bigger now!

Most of my seeds are doing well. I think I over watered some and didn't move them to bigger pots soon enough 'cause I lost a couple - but overall they're looking good. We still have a few more weeks before the danger of frost is past (in the 30's last night and tonight) but I hope to have the garden ready to go in the next week or so. My garden looks especially little after visiting our neighbors! But of course, he built up his land over 40 years - not all at once. Small steps.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Just what I needed

This morning, while reading  Earth Mama's blog, she made mention of a quote she had read on another blog, which led me to Old Recipe for a New World and to the quote:

When sitting, just sit.

When eating, just eat.

When walking, just walk.

When talking, just talk.

When listening, just listen.

When looking, just look.

When touching, just touch.

When thinking, just think.

When playing, just play.

And enjoy the feeling of each moment and each day.

 ~ Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

 Oh my. How glad I am that I came across these words this morning. 

As you could probably tell from yesterdays post, I'm feeling a bit mixed up.

hello, sunshine

I've been on a journey to find balance, serenity, mindfulness in my life. And sometimes I feel like I'm really balancing it all. I'm walking along with my head held high, sure of my footing. I feel peaceful and happy and balanced.
And then all it takes is something small, to make my lose my footing and I waver or fall. 

I wonder if I'll ever get into a rhythm where I feel balanced most days, instead of the other way around. I hope so. I'm working towards it. And words like those above, goodness - they help. Deep breath, begin again.

"Breathe it all in slow, breathe all your doubts away"
                                                                                  ~ u-melt, question matters

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Someone wrote me a love letter, and I read it today. It was extremely flattering and had me blushing like crazy behind my computer. It was beautiful, and meant a lot coming from the person who wrote it. Thank you so very much!

I saw and read this letter minutes after I finished a conversation that had my blood boiling. That conversation was also about me (sort of) but not nearly as nice!

The Husband I have friends who just had baby. Long story short, we've helped them in every way we could in preparation for the baby.

Apparently, they have been angry at us for a little while (maybe a week or two) because they think we judge them. I won't go into the details of their private life, but the truth is: yes. Yes, we have judged a few decisions they have made. Personally, I have kept my mouth shut on certain things and on others, I responded as delicately as possible. There's no need to debate over things with a new mother.

The fact is, that even though I do judge some things - I know full well that it is not my life. It is not my family. It is not my baby. It is not up to me.

So yes, they have made several decisions that I would not have made. One that I cringed at. Not because I think they are bad parents, or bad people - otherwise I wouldn't be friends with them.

And I understand it's upsetting to have someone judge something you do. I don't like to be judged. But if you are confident in your choices, then it shouldn't matter what I think about them. Because it doesn't. Like I said, it's none of my business. All it is, is a disagreement on how we would do things.

I know, I went on and on about SAHM's and being judged and here I am now - judging. I think partly, it's human nature (I hope - I'm not a total bitch am I?!) but also - what is so wrong with gently disagreeing with someone?!

What gets me, about these friends being upset - is not that they are upset but that they didn't tell us. They festered on it. And I usually take great care to say things as gently as possible. My husband is blunt. I am not. And in this case I was extraordinarily sensitive to the fact that she just had a baby and that the wrong words would come across as hurtful, even if they weren't meant to be. I'm not totally callous and heartless!

Once upon a time - I didn't judge anyone. I just didn't. I could care less what other people were doing. The older I get, the more judgmental I get. I don't know why.

I think it was myspace debate groups. And, I just don't like tip-toeing around people anymore.

Like, I don't understand why people who have children with high functioning autism or ADD will put their kids on a million drugs, or invest the time and effort into behavioral therapy but refuse to look at altering their child's diet. Now, I know. I've never been there. I've never had to live daily life with a child with special needs. I've never had the phone calls from school. But there's proof that a diet modification can alleviate (not cure!) symptoms in many of these kids. So why do people refuse to try it? Why, why, why?

See? Judgmental.

And I've done my share of things to be judged about. I've done some stupid things.

But again, does it really matter what I think? Not at all. I may think certain things, I may judge certain things - but I know at the end of the day, people are just doing what they can to get by. Life ain't always easy and I can't judge anyone for trying - for doing what they think is best (regardless of what I think is best).

So, I don't know. What are your thoughts on 'judging' and is it really even that as much as disagreeing? I have no idea.

PS  - I just found this quote on another blog and it feels quite fitting:

“A conversation is interesting to me when people are being genuine, when they’re more concerned with sharing difficult truths than with showing off… we’re all in the same boat. mysterious flesh-and-blood creatures, radiant and broken – and of course the boat is sinking, but there’s still time to share a story or two as the night comes on.” ~ Sy Safransky. The Sun Magazine

Edit: Ok, this was on my mind all last night and I woke up with it on my mind. As far as my friends that I used as the example, things are getting worked out. But I had planned on writing a post like this even before all that. I was going to add a ton of edits to this this morning - I was going to save this as a draft and come back to it later when it was less personal. I was going to make all sorts of changes and explain it better. But I'm going to leave it, because as imperfect as this post is - it's what was on my mind. I'm going to try not to over-explain myself like usual (but for more info read the comments!) :D
Anyway, before all this my original post was going to be about how I've gotten more judgmental as I've gotten older. I know I have. I don't know why. But the thing is, I rarely judge people. I judge (or have opinions on!!) actions. And unless the action goes against my idea of morals (like, I don't know, rape or something) or there are many, many actions that in turn become who that person is - then it doesn't matter.  Like breastfeeding, birthing, abortion, nutrition, spanking etc . . . etc . . . yes - I have strong opinions on all of those things. Yes I may raise my eyebrows or feel a certain way regarding some of those actions. But that doesn't mean that I judge the whole person based on that action. Does that make sense? And (like mentioned in the comments) is that judgmental at all? Or just difference of opinion?
I'm going to stop over-explaining myself now. I feel like I need to a lot, because apparently people take the things I say in a different way then I mean them on a fairly regular basis. So either people around me are too sensitive, or I suck at expressing myself. Maybe both.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

year in review

A year ago today, I started blogging. I planned for a give-away today to celebrate (ok, I didn't really plan for it or there would be one, but I thought about it!) but in typical Crystal fashion, I didn't get it together in time. I hope to still have one by the end of the month, so keep an eye out!

So a year ago, I opened up blogger and started typing. I didn't know what the heck the blog was for then, and I don't now either. It's still a mix of random-ness from my life, but I've been having fun doing it. It's nice to be able to connect with like-minded people. It's nice to throw some ideas and thoughts out there to bounce around.

In the past year I've made a lot of goals and promises to myself. I've totally failed at most of them:

The Sustainable Challenge - fail.

One Pretty Thing - fail.

Getting involved in Syracuse First - fail.

Recipe of the week - fail.

Household organizer - fail.

Kitchen challenge - total fail.

So, really. Is it a huge surprise that I was unprepared with a give-away?

But, one of my very first posts was on wanting to live more intentionally. And I think I've done well with that. It's ongoing, it probably always will be. But having this blog, and my 365 blog has really, really helped me slow down and pay attention to all the little moments that make up my days. I've made it a point through out the year to come back to that idea, of living with more intention.

In the last year, in addition to all those failures, I've also had some accomplishments!

We moved, into our forever house!

I've made bread, successfully!

I've been learning to make cheese!

I finally canned!

And of course, there were the every day joys: hiking, weekending.

side note: I've added some tabs to the left side pane, I've got to rework my tags, but it should be easier to navigate through older posts now, if your interested

Thank you, for coming along on this journey with me. In the next year I hope to concentrate on actually accomplishing my goals! I'm already well on my way (green living goals and 30 before I'm 30)!

And now, some favorite pictures from the last year (man, I loved going through those old posts and reliving the last year! Some of these are blurry, I don't know if it's because I saved from blogger then re-uploaded?)

April 09 hiking

 May 09

 June 09, fathers day

July 09, Ithaca NY

Summer 09

Summer 09

Summer 09, home

Fall 09 apple picking

August 09, 10 dollar beers.

Halloween 09

Fall 09, Albany

December 09

December 09, first Christmas home.

February '10

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.  ~From the television show The Wonder Years

Looking forward to another year of rambling on about nonsense, learning, growing, living and learning - with you!


Monday, April 5, 2010

What a six year old sees.

Saturday, Colin asked if he could use my camera to take some pictures. I was pretty impressed with what he came back with. These are from around the yard and woods (it was once upon a time a farm, and we have a lot of 'junk')

It's fascinating to see what caught his eye (many things that I've taken pictures of before!) And, really, these pictures are pretty good!

His "weapons" rack.

Old chimney bricks. I've been trying to come up with some good uses for these. All I've got so far is to use them as planters.

A little further back in the woods, he was really exploring for these pictures!

Old stone (I think a barn) foundation

She-who-poops-in-shower now hangs outside with us sometimes.

I think this one is really neat.

The photographer.

I think someone should own his own camera soon, wouldn't you agree?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

It was a beautiful and warm weekend, we didn't have a chance to do our eggs till last night.

It's Sunday, so that means I work 12 hours - even on Easter. We got up and hunted for eggs and had breakfast together. Then the boys brought me leftover Easter dinner at work (which has become tradition).

Happy Easter!