Saturday, June 21, 2014

Chicken Day

The following pictures depict a fun day at the chicken farm.

Well, it was fun for us. Not so much for the chickens.

Look away if you do not want a biology lesson on the innards of a chicken.
Look away if you do not like to see chickens being "processed."

Continue through these pictures if your curiosity is piqued.



This poor chicken had no idea what was ahead of her.

She was placed head-down in this bag, with her head poking through the bottom. Mr. Farmer slit her throat and let her bleed out. We were fascinated.

Once she had bled out, we dipped her in scalding water for about 45 seconds. This made it much easier to pull the feathers off.

The feathers came off really easily.

Mrs. Farmer took out all the entrails and showed us what was what.

The heart is on the left. The lungs are bright red, on the right. Gizzard at the top, liver in the middle on the left, and so on.

She thought the feet were pretty cool.

Chicken Number Two. Now that we've seen the process, we'll get our hands dirty.

Giving her a hint of what's to come, I guess.

He can do this!

It was such a cool experience! We are grateful to have such great friends who were willing to let us invade their farm to watch this whole process. The kids had a blast watching the whole thing and getting their hands dirty. And now we know a little more clearly what it takes to put a chicken on our table.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

For the Weary Mom, Part 2

(This is meant to encourage those who are discouraged, not to discourage those who want their children to master necessary skills. Learning and growing is incredibly important, but when we are feeling down, it's good to remind ourselves of the greater good we are instilling into our children.)

(You can read more words to the Weary Mom here.)

A friend of mine was feeling down yesterday as she struggled to get one of her children to learn something that's being taught at school. It got me thinking about what we tend to focus on as parents and teachers.


Which is more important...

Being able to read a book or being able to love others?

Knowing how to tie your shoes or knowing how to hold the door for the person behind you?

Knowing you can count by 3s or knowing you can count on the people around you?

Holding in the tears when a silly little thing gets you down or being able to pour out tears when compassion moves you?

Picking up a math book to learn the next step or picking up a friend when she's fallen down?

Time spent at a desk or time spent with family and friends?

Playing that piano piece perfectly or playing What Time is it Mr. Wolf with all your cousins?

Pleasing your teacher or pleasing God?


I'm sure I could go on, but you get the idea. We have the world around us telling us what should be important, from the moment our child enters this world to well past the moment they leave our homes. Instead of worrying about what they haven't yet mastered (after all, who by worrying can add a day to his life?) it's good to remind ourselves of the things that really matter to us in this brief, temporal life.

So keep at it, weary Moms and Dads! In those moments when you feel inadequate, remember that you are the Mom or Dad that God put in this child's life, and you are there for a reason. Don't beat yourself up for what you haven't yet taught your child. Remind yourself of the good you've done, and the learning that *has* been accomplished, and use that as fuel to keep you going.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Unintentional Weight Loss

As I've already written, our family is trying to make better food choices. I read in Skinny Chicks Eat Real Food about the different processes that are involved in the manufacturing of packaged foods and I was totally turned off of breakfast cereal. Aside from being full of sugar (which I already knew and had resigned myself to), the manufacturing process actually strips the cereal of any nutritional value that was left (or added, by way of supplement). So we are eating the equivalent of sugary cardboard when we eat our Honey Nut Cheerios.

Well, no longer! I knew we needed more fibre and I knew that breakfast cereal wasn't the healthiest option, so it was pretty easy to switch to Loaded Oatmeal for breakfast. Since mid-May we have been eating oatmeal for breakfast. For every serving, I cook 1/2 cup rolled oats with 1 Tbsp ground flax seed, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and 1 cup water over the stove. I usually add a handful of frozen blueberries for each serving as well. Sometimes we add maple syrup. Sometimes we don't.

With our better breakfast choices, we've noticed changes... The kids have fewer tummy aches (thank you fibre!), we're all nice and regular (thank you fibre!), and my hubby and I have actually lost weight! Weight loss was not our main goal. We really just wanted to be eating foods closer to what our bodies were designed to use. We wanted to let our bodies work properly so we could have better overall health. Like a car that works well when it's been tuned up or a computer that runs quicker when it's been defragmented and cleaned up, our bodies can heal and hold off diseases better when we're letting our systems work efficiently.

A few days ago, my husband commented that he was five pounds down from the high end of his weight spectrum. (We all fluctuate in our weight, and he noticed he was consistently on the low end recently.) I told him it was likely due to all the renovations and extra exercise he's been getting. (I mean, come on... When you eat three scoops of ice cream as a bed time snack every night, you're not really going to lose weight, right?)

Getting dressed one morning recently, he told me that he had to use a hole on his belt loop that he hadn't used in many years.

This morning he told that he was down another five pounds.

He has dropped ten pounds without trying. We aren't eating refined white flour or sugar as much as before, but we also aren't counting calories or doing big workouts. We eat good, healthy food that has gone through minimal factory processing when we're hungry.

I haven't gone down ten pounds like he has, but I am lower on the scale than I have been in about three years. Again, it's not about the weight. It's about being healthier. But, I think the scale is telling us that our body is finally feeling free to get rid of some of the extra bulk that we didn't really need.

As one friend has told me, we don't even realize how awful we feel until our bodies finally start to feel better consistently. I'm curious to hear from others... Have you made any simple, easy changes to your eating habits that have made a noticeable difference in how you feel or how your body operates?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Mounds of Stuff!

Ah, summer... School's out, work is done, and it's time for the beach, right?

Well, maybe not.

We planned this little renovation project where we kind of, sort of, tore out the entire kitchen (including one of the walls) and the flooring and are putting in a brand new kitchen.

It's a good thing we like eating out!

Anyway, with long hours going into a renovation and school being out here at our house, my kids are going stir-crazy. (Their friends are still in school, so they count down the hours until 3:30 when kids start showing up at the neighbourhood park.) I'm finding myself way busier than in the last few months.

Add to that a little impromptu editing (watch for the updated edition of my friend's book to come out... I edited it!) and some big-time preparation for a week of Family Camp (preparing four days of lessons, picking music, getting campfire talks ready for the little kids, and putting together crafts and devotions for the cabin of girls I'm bunking with)... Well, it seems I just haven't made time to share things on here!

You wouldn't believe the number of times I've composed posts for this blog in my head. Just today I was sweeping up some drywall crumbs from the patio before dinner (so we could eat on that same patio) and wrote an entire post in my head about these delicious cookies we've been enjoying lately.

And, well, I guess that stuff up there that you just read is my way of getting to the point that I really do want to write these days. I just haven't made time.

Anyway, my daughter wrote recently about our new attitude towards food. I am making a great effort to avoid highly refined food products. White sugar and white flour have barely been used in this house since we got back from our mid-May vacation. We're enjoying many more veggies and fruits and I'm looking at new desserts for when we're hit with the sweet tooth.

(The one thing we haven't totally given up is ice cream. It sure was a nice treat for our last day of school on May 30!)

So where was I? Right, eating less processed foods.

I found this lovely recipe for something called Paleo Disappearing Mounds Cookies. Don't get thrown off by the "Paleo" part. I'm not much into one diet or another, I just like Mounds bars. So when I heard that these cookies were better for me than other cookies, I wanted to give them a try.

I've made them four times now and am ready to share my slightly-altered but better-for-you version. (Bear in mind that you can adjust this recipe all you like. It won't bother me. You can even use all the sugary stuff that you have in your house. I'm not eating them; you are.) This recipe has no sugar. And it has no processed sweetener. It is totally, naturally sweetened.

Wanda's Mounds Bar Cookies

1 egg
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup natural, unsweetened peanut butter 
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
3 Tbsp cocoa
1/2 cup pureed dates*
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 F (or 335 F, if using a convection oven.)

Mix all ingredients well. Spoon 1 Tbsp of dough at a time onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. Roll and flatten slightly with a fork or spoon or hammer or anvil or the palm of your hand or some other flattening agent.

Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes. If you make these bigger, cook them longer.

At 1 Tbsp a piece, this recipe makes about 24 cookies.

I made this recipe with 1/2 cup of unrefined, organic sugar today. My husband enjoyed the cookies that he ate. Then I made them with pureed dates (which was super-easy to make - I'll fill you in after these messages) and my husband said he liked them better. If you recall, this is the husband who HATES dates.

*So, to make the pureed dates/date paste, just take a handful of dates, maybe 3/4 cup, add 1 Tbsp of water, and spin them through a food processor. If you want to make more at once, add more water. It's pretty simple. And sweet.

There you have it! A guilt-free treat for the Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Sugar-Free people in your life. (You can make them vegan by substituting for the egg with 1 Tbsp ground flax seed and 3 Tbsp water.)

There's no need to sacrifice on taste when you can make these!