Who Are We? A Poem for May 1st

I wrote this–fast and easily–copied sometimes word for word from my notes from a non-violent protest class led by lifelong activist Marv Davidov who was a guest professor at Carleton College my sophomore year in the spring of 1997. This particular day he was just retelling stories about life as an activist, mainly during the early days in the South during the civil rights protests.  This past February Marv passed away in Minnesota from a long struggle with cancer.  Though I haven’t seen or spoken to him since that class more than a decade ago, his story and life made a huge impression on me and I have thought of him often in the years since, particularly as we’ve followed and become involved in the rising Occupy movement. I am proud to have known him and thank him for the inspiration.

Marv Davidov photo credit: Media Mike Hazard


Who are we?

we sit down at the lunchcounter
we get on the bus
we cross the line into the white side
we walk at our own pace
we burn our sacred draftcards

we let them know shotguns are not our style

we sing songs of peace and freedom
we bang pots and pans of protection
we insist on no more violence
we go to the capital and stay late
we stand out in the cold

we put our bodies on the line

we don’t know what will happen
we are spiritual, moral and subversive
we live our deepest beliefs in public
we act upon thoughts
we turn research into day to day action

we demand the truth be known

we are yelled at and spit upon
we are prodded brutally like cattle
we are dragged off in handcuffs
we have cigarette burns on our necks
we eat grits in prison.

we have life transforming experiences

we feel the warmth of blessed human solidarity
we keep coming back
we are everywhere
we are the people

we live it up!


By Kristin Hutchinson

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Menu Plan Monday & Dairy-Free Tortilla Casserole Recipe

Oh, how I love my Plan To Eat menu planning software!  For the first time ever I went in and saved weeks of menu plans so now if I am feeling lazy I can just grab a pre-planned one. Filled out the next three weeks that way with some plans from a month or two ago.  Love that!  I will still probably edit it based on what we have in the pantry or what I feel like but I love having a rough plan when for when I am feeling uninspired about filling out a weekly plan.

 Linking up with Menu Plan Monday at I’m an Organizing Junkie


Monday:  Roasted Carrots and Juicy Pork Chops, rice pilaf, green salad

Tuesday: Slow Cooker Turkey Chili, sautéed kale, cornbread

Wednesday: Split Pea Soup (also in the crock pot, perhaps vegetarian), dairy-free whole wheat biscuits, broccoli and/or green salad

Thursday: Leftover Buffet!

Friday: Slow-Cooker Chicken with bacon, mushrooms and onions,  honey whole wheat rolls, roasted beets

Saturday: Kristin’s Dairy Free Tortilla Casserole (using leftover chicken from Friday) – recipe below!

Sunday: Easter dinner!  Not sure what we are doing this day.  If it’s just our family, we may forgo fancy and have Emma’s idea of BLTs!

Kristin’s Awesome Tortilla Casserole (Dairy-free!)

This recipe could easily be made vegetarian/vegan by eliminating the meat. Any type of sausage would work, too — I used a sweet potato maple breakfast sausage and it was great but regular italian, apple chicken, or ground sausage would also be great. As would leftover shredded chicken! I didn’t add any spicy peppers but I am sure that would be a great addition to the filling.

***These amounts are from my head, I haven’t run through the measurements officially to check, so particularly with the rue sauce, adjustments may need to be made!

Source: My Head

Course: Main Course

Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 30 min

Total Time: 60 min

Serves: 6


  • 12 or more corn tortillas
  • 1 can black beans (or equivalent prepared/frozen)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small onion (or half a large)
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 2-4 sausage links (or shredded chicken, ground sausage or turkey, etc)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 t chili powder
  • 2 t cumin
  • 1 t Salt or more to taste
  • 4 T dairy free margarine or butter, olive oil, or a combo
  • 4 T flour
  • 2 cups (or more) almond milk (or cow, soy, rice, etc)
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 t nutmeg or more to taste
  • 1/2 t ground pepper or to taste
  • 1-2 T fresh or dried herbs (I used marjoram)


  1. Lightly spray/grease a 9″ square pan or equivalent, preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a large pan on medium high heat, saute onion for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and sausage & cook for a few more minutes, then add corn, herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Saute until meat is almost cooked through, add tomatoes and black beans (if beans are already cooked as mine were — from the freezer — feel free to stir them in after removing from heat). Simmer until flavors meld and meat is cooked through. Remove from heat and transfer to a different bowl if desired (I used the same pan for my rue).
  3. Next, make a rue. Heat margarine (or other oil) over medium heat until melted, add flour and wisk. Cook while stirring consistantly for 2-3 minutes until mixture starts to brown. Add nutritional yeast and milk and whisk until smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 3-5 minutes; sauce should thicken after a few minutes — add more milk if needed, then remove from heat.
  4. Assemble casserole. Put down a small amount of filling in the bottom of pan to help with sticking, Then spread a layer of tortillas — I put one down, then tore two in half to avoid lots of overlap. Next add layer of filling, and layer of sauce. Add another layer of tortillas, then filling, sauce, and repeat until you have a total of 4 tortilla layers. I like to reserve a bit of filling and a good layer of sauce for the top, so that the top is covered with sauce so the tortillas don’t burn or crisp.
  5. Put in oven and bake for 25-35 minutes, until bubbly and/or slightly browned on top. Enjoy!

View recipe at plantoeat.com


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Dinner with the Relatives

We had dinner last weekend with the uncle and aunties.  We are super lucky to have Lonnie’s sister and brother and their respective partners living just blocks away from us.  Charlie and Marie are recently home from a year and a half in Paris, where they were both working and attending school —  Charlie chefing’ it up at Le Cordon Bleu.  While they were (understandably!) sad to leave Paris, we–and our stomachs–are glad to have them home again!

As soon as we arrived Elsie and Delia got to help Auntie Em with some gluten-free cornbread.  They LOVE helping in the kitchen and I don’t do it enough around here.

It’s been a long time since they’ve spent time with Uncle Charlie so it’s a treat to hang out with him.

Elsie and Daddy cuddles.

Paige’s awesome ribs are ready.  Oh yeah! So good!

Dinner.  Ribs, cornbread, potato salad, chopped salad

Marie & Charlie, chillin’ after a busy day of cooking.


This particular night we were celebrating food, family, and Paige’s birthday.  The girls were very much into the candles and singing, of course!

There were two cakes, one that was chocolate with cream cheese frosting (that the kids gravitated to, not surprisingly) and then a second that was both dairy AND gluten free that Chef Charlie whipped up.  I can’t really do justice to it in terms of naming and describing it, but it was a traditional French cake with a custardy middle with strawberry and some kind of awesome hibiscus syrup drizzled on top.  Oh my!

After dinner we got to check out the inside of the piano, which was pretty fascinating!  And then we enticed Marie into playing a little tune.  Emma LOOOOOVED the “spinning song”.  Or was it the twirling song?  Fun, either way!

What a great night!  We came home stuffed full of awesome food and good times.  Thanks Emily & Paige, Charlie & Marie!

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The Best Of DIY from the Natural Parents Network Volunteers

Happy to part of another the Natural Parents Network volunteer link-up.  The Volunteers at NPN  (who write, edit, moderate, update and more) are fantastic bloggers with tons of great info to share — I love seeing what they are up to.  This time I am linking up my recent bread machine recipe post.  Hope you find something interesting as you poke around!

It’s that time again! You might remember the great post in December 2011 that highlighted the Natural Parents Network Volunteer’s most popular or favorite posts from the year. Well, we are back and this time we are bringing you a collection of posts that focus on Do It Yourself projects, How To’s, Tutorials, Recipes, and anything related to a step by step guide or informational how-to.

There are a lot of really wonderful posts here and I hope that this serves as an excellent resource that you can pass on to your friends! Enjoy!


Momma Jorje: a slightly crunchy mommaHow to Help a New Breastfeeding Mom.” This post provides some tips on helping a new mom while she is learning to Breastfeed. You can also find Boobie Time Blog on Facebook and Twitter.

Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro shares “How I Make Cloth Wipes.” This post details how Amanda made all of her cloth wipes. You can also find Let’s Take the Metro on Facebook.

Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy shares “Lessons in a Picture Book.” A Lesson plan for pancakes and how to make your own butter! You can also find True Confessions of a Real Mommy on Facebook and Twitter.

Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction shares “Tips for Road Tripping with a Toddler.” A long car trip with a young child can be a great way to make some wonderful memories if you are prepared to meet the challenges. You can also find Monkey Butt Junction on Facebook and Twitter. 

Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares “Maple Cinnamon Swirl Bread.” This recipe tutorial shows you how to make a sweet whole wheat bread with beautiful cinnamon swirls in each slice. You can also find Farmer’s Daughter on Facebook and Twitter.

Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares “How To Consume Coconut Oil Plus Coconut Oil Candy Recipes.” This post provides some tips on how to get your daily dose of coconut oil down the hatch. It also provides some very tasty recipes for coconut oil candy! You can also find Hybrid Rasta Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Alicia at Lactation Narration gives some ideas for how to accomplish Partial Weaning for moms who would like to cut down on nursing without completely weaning. You can also find Lactation Narration on Facebook and Twitter.

Cynthia at The Hippie Housewife shares “A Learning-Rich Environment.” This post provides a number of suggestions for creating a learning-rich environment and incorporating learning into everyday life, with a particular focus on the preschool age. You can also find The Hippie Housewife on Facebook, Pinterest, and Google +.

BecomingCrunchyKelly at Becoming Crunchy shares “Kale Chips = Awesome! This post shares a super easy recipe for making a super easy (and surprisingly tasty) snack from one of the most healthful greens around. You can also find Becoming Crunchy on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes shares “How to Move to California.” A silly how-to she wrote while she and her then fiance were driving to their new home. You can also find Shannon on Pinterest, Flickr, and Google +.

Gretchen at That Mama Gretchen shares a recipe for “Homemade Fruit Leather.” It’s easier than you ever thought and the perfect snack for you and your family. You can also find That Mama Gretchen on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Julia at A Little Bit of All of It shares “How I Cloth Diaper (Part 1).” This post details the way Julia has cloth diapered her daughter along with the products she uses. You can also find A Little Bit of All of It on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Joella at Fine and Fair shares “Our First Sensory Bins.” In this post, she shares how she made a “Scoop, Measure, and Pour” themed sensory bin, as well as an “In the Garden” themed bin. She also shares some tips for making your own sensory bins! Fine and Fair can be found on Facebook and Twitter. 

Visit Code Name: MamaFor all of you breastfeeding mamas, Dionna at Code Name: Mama has the ultimate DIY experience with the main ingredient being your breastmilk! 58 Medical, Costmetic, and Other Alternative Uses for Breastmilk includes a cradle cap remedy, an anti-itch salve, weaning jewelry, lotion, and more. You can also find Dionna on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings offers several ideas for “Keeping a Toddler Happily Busy on a Long Flight.” The list includes handmade felt activities, among many other things. You can also find Melissa on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Shannon at The Artful Mama shares “Preparing Toddlers for Birth.” This post features MamAmor dolls and shows some alternative ways to talk to toddlers about pregnancy and birth. You can also find The Artful Mama on Facebook and Twitter.

Kym at Our Crazy Corner of the World shares her “Family Binder DIY.” This post shows how to put together a family binder, to help organize cleaning, meal planning, shopping and budgeting all in one convenient location!

I Thought I Knew Mama: A window into the adventures of stay at home mamahood, natural parenting, & green and healthy livingCharise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares “5 Green Living, Spring Cleaning Tips.” This post provides easy ways to keep the toxins out of your home and to freshen up your home for spring. You can also find I Thought I Knew Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares “Daily Bread: My Favorite Whole Grain Bread Machine Recipe.” This recipe is easy, highly adaptable, and a great starting point for creating your own daily (or almost daily!) homemade bread. You can also find Intrepid Murmurings on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.

Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shares “10 Tips for Toddler Carseat Woes.” Check out these ideas of dealing with toddler carseat issues without resorting to punishments. You can also find Living Peacefully with Children on Facebook.

Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares “DIY Mom’s Night In.” A somewhat humorous solution, this post provides exhausted Mamas the recipe for the perfect way to recharge!

Stacy at Sweet Sky shares “Ways to Bring More Mindfulness Into Your Days.” This post provides tips and tricks to bring yourself back to the present moment, so you can be the parent you want to be. You can also find Stacy on Facebook.

AnktangleAmy at Anktangle shows us how to make your own popsicle stick puzzles, a fun and simple “busy bag” activity for toddlers and preschool aged children. You can also find Amy on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Hobo Mama: A Natural Parenting BlogLauren at Hobo Mama shares “How to sew a mei tai baby carrier.” The mei tai is Lauren and Sam’s favorite carrier for baby Alrik: as comfortable and simple as it is beautiful. You can also find Hobo Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Visit African Babies Don't CryChristine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares “How to Make Rainbow Coloured Rice (Without Alcohol) for a Toddler Sensory Bin.” This post provides a step by step tutorial for making vibrantly coloured rainbow rice for sensory play, includes a printable PDF. You can also find African Babies Don’t Cry on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.

Luschka of Diary of a First Child shares “How To Send A Hug In An Envelope.” This post is a creative way to send more than just the standard card to love ones. It literally is a hug in an envelope! You can also find Diary of a First Child on Facebook, and Twitter.

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Organize It: Our Kid Hair Accessory Storage Solution

I have three girls under the age of 6.  We have a LOT of hair accessories — mainly barrettes, rubber bands and headbands — that they use every day to keep their long hair out of their eyes (and food!).  Emma has been growing out her bangs so barrettes are a MUST for her.  For years we crammed these hair things into drawers or containers sitting on the countertop, but we were endlessly searching for matches, they would spill on the floor, onto the counter, fall in the sink.  Oh, I was SO sick of hair things!

One day I was in a nearby bed and bath store and saw my solution. It was this hanging jewelry organizer (the Real Simple Hanging Jewelry Organizer), and I knew it was meant for me.  It was actually pretty thrilling to set it up!  After it was done I kept going into the bathroom to admire it.  Wowzers, what a difference!

Instant organization. Some in rainbow order!

We are lucky to have ample towel rods in our bathroom, one on a full size door to a storage closet.  This was the one I commandeered for the hair things (it used to just have bathrobes on it).   There are two sides to this organizer, with a bottom section that comes of for travel (that only has pockets on one side).  I use the side with the most pockets facing out, with headbands, barrettes and rubberbands.  LOVE LOVE LOVE that the pockets are clear so you can see what is in each pocket.  Barrettes we just clip over the edge of the pocket, I don’t even snap them closed as they seem secure enough.

Close up of the top half: headbands, barrettes, rubberbands

The barrettes are organized by type and/or color.  The littlest ones are up top, fancy ones come next, then the regular size ones in matches in rainbow order (roughly!). Then a few more random ones near the end.  Rubberbands are in rainbow order too.

We hang the organizer on a towel rod on the door of the bathroom closet

The bottom half on the front side has specialty rubberbands, various odds and ends, one pocket full of those itty bitty plastic clipping barrettes, and a couple pockets dedicated to “lost” unmatched barrettes (I try to keep the main ones matched near the top, as my kids often want to have two of the same).

Back side of the organizer, for lesser used things

On the back there are hair ribbons in matched sets, those wire/plastic headbands, scrunchies, and a bandana or two.  Mainly the bigger stuff, or lesser used accessories.  You can swing it out to flip it without taking it off the rod, or you can take the whole thing off to flip it.  The girls often just turn it halfway to grab what they want.

My only complaints about this organizer (which is really minor, I seriously love it) is that the large pockets at the bottom have stretched out under the weight of the barrettes clipped to the edge (not an intended usage, I’m sure).  Also, up at the top the fabric gaps out when it’s fully loaded (which is just a appearance issue).  I’m sure I could sew or tack both of these down or attach velcro to keep them from gapping if I cared enough.

Our bathroom is SUCH a better place since this organizer came into action!!!  The girls pick their own hair things out every day, but still don’t put things back in all that often (ha!). Someday we’ll work on that!  We have a collection place on the counter next to the sink and I tend to stick them back in when I’m brushing my teeth at night.  I searched quite awhile for a solution to this issue and it feels great to have it under control!

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Creamy Chicken & Mushrooms (Dairy-Free and Delicious!)

This is a super easy weeknight staple that I threw together last night in about 25 minutes.  We served it over polenta, but it works equally well with pasta or rice.  Serve with a steamed veggie (we had glazed carrots) or quick salad and you’ve got a  complete meal!  I love creamy things that are dairy-free — what a treat!

Creamy Chicken & Mushrooms (Dairy-Free!)

  • 1lb pack boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I get organic multipacks to keep in our freezer from Costco)
  • 3 (ish) cups sliced mushrooms
  • one onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2-3 T fresh or dried herbs (I used fresh rosemary and dried tarragon)
  • one can coconut milk (I used Trader Joes “light” — our pantry staple)
  • 4 Tablespoons (ish) flour
  • 4 tablespoons (ish) olive oil
  • extra liquid for extending the sauce — water, milk of your choice, or chicken broth (I used about 3/4 cup)
  • salt, pepper to taste

Add 2T oil to a large pan (I use cast iron) over medium high heat until oil is hot.  Add onion and garlic and saute for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add mushrooms, salt, pepper and herbs.  Continue cooking until onions are translucent and mushrooms have released some liquid.  Keep pan fairly hot so extra liquid cooks off to allow for browning.  Add chicken and continue stirring occasionally, flipping when brown.  Once chicken is almost cooked through, sprinkle flour in the pan and stir to coat. Add additional oil if needed to form the rue.  Cook flour mixture for 2-3 minutes until it starts to brown, then add coconut milk and stir well.  Get sauce up to temperature and add more liquid (broth, extra milk) if needed to get sauce to the consistency you desire.  Turn heat down to a low, cover, and gently simmer chicken and mushrooms in the sauce, stirring occasionally, for 5 or more minutes to help finish off the cooking and allow flavors to meld.

Serve over polenta, rice, pasta or bread.  Biscuits woud be great too!  In fact, this is pretty much my same recipe for dairy-free biscuits and gravy, using ground turkey/pork sausage instead of the chicken!

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Daily Bread: My Favorite Whole Grain Bread Machine Recipe

With a family of 5, all of whom love carbs, we go through a lot of bread.  Like half a loaf per meal, sometimes!  And at the store, the healthy breads that also taste good can really add up!  I think the combination of cost savings, convenience (making bread with a bread machine IS easier than keeping us stocked with store-bought bread, believe it or not!) and the great taste of homemade bread keeps our machine in heavy use week in and week out.

Whole Grain Daily Bread, 5 minutes prep, ready in as little as 2.5 hours!

After our first bread machine broke (after much use), we upgraded to a pretty fancy one that had great reviews.  I like that it has two paddles and that the loaf shape is a bit more like a normal loaf. My machine has a delay timer (woohoo!) so at least half the time I load it up at night and program it to have the bread warm and ready when we get up in the morning.  Pretty great! We eat bread machine bread all the time plain, toasted, and for sandwiches.

I started out following recipes from either the booklet that came with our machine or this great bread machine book, which I still use occasionally.  But over time I’ve developed my own recipe that is highly adaptable and usually turns out pretty delicious.

First off, if you are a stick to the recipe kind of person, this is the very basic recipe from the bread machine booklet that I initially based mine off of.  I liked this one because it was not 100% whole wheat — while that is definitely a healthy option and there are good recipes out there for that, we like the texture of our homemade bread better when it’s mixed with a little white.

Italian Wheat Bread (from the Zojirushi recipe booklet)

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 2/3 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp basil (I never put this in!!!)
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast, or 3 tsp rapid rise (if you have a “quick” cycle)

Put all ingredients in the bread machine in the order suggested by your machine, and run on the “whole wheat” setting.  Our machine makes 2 lb loaves, for those of you that have adjustable loaf sizes.

Following the next photo is my recipe.  There are ranges for some measurements because I honestly do not measure exactly (except for the yeast and salt!) and tend to adjust wet and dry roughly depending on what I am using (if I add more whole wheat/whole grains or extra ingredients, I add more wet stuff like water/fat/honey/egg and add some gluten accordingly, etc).  For the flour I really change it up each time — sometimes it’s all white whole wheat, often it’s half bread flour or all-purpose flour, half whole wheat or a whole grain blend (either store bought or me just combining a bunch of different whole grain flours to add up to the correct “total” amount).  I never go 100% whole wheat or whole grain with this recipe (other than the “white whole wheat”), though it may work fine!  I like to add potato flakes and dry milk powder (we use rice milk powder since we are dairy-free) which I think helps with moisture in the cooked loaf (it still dries out after a few days in the breadbox, though it rarely sticks around that long!).

Ingredients for my bread, and the bread machine!

Kristin’s Whole Grain Daily Bread

  • 1  3/4 cup water
  • 2-3 T dairy-free margarine, olive oil or coconut oil (butter would of course work too!)
  • 2-4 T honey (sometimes a combo of honey & molasses or all molasses)
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats (sometimes regular, sometimes quick-cook), rolled quinoa (recently discovered at Bob’s Red Mill in Portland),  7 grain cereal or cornmeal (put in with boiling water to help soften)
  • 4 1/2 cups flour (anywhere from 1/3 white, 2/3 whole wheat to 2/3 white, 1/3 whole wheat.  Sometimes 100% white whole wheat!)
  • 2 Tbsp gluten, if you are not using at least half bread flour or all purpose flour.
  • 1/4-1/3 cup potato flakes (instant potatoes)
  • 2 Tablespoons dry rice milk powder
  • 2 teaspoons bread machine or regular yeast (or 3 teaspoons instant yeast if using the quick cycle option)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Optional ingredients to add (choose one or two of these, probably not all at the same time!):   1/4 cup ground flax meal, 1 mashed banana or 1/2 cup applesauce/squash/pumpkin puree, 1 egg, coconut or almond milk instead of  the water/dry milk powder,  2T orange juice concentrate in the water, 1/4-1/3 cup raisins or seeds of your choice, added during the “additions” beep (on my machine).

Put all ingredients in your pan in the order your machine recommends.  I put wet ingredients in first, along with any grains that benefit from soaking (flax, cornmeal, oatmeal, etc), then flour and other dry ingredients, with salt in one corner and yeast in a well at the very top.  If you are doing the time delay for overnight baking my book says you should not use egg, milk power or potato flakes, but I do the latter two up on top of the flour where it won’t get wet and we haven’t died yet!

Ingredients in, ready to go

You will find when you go “off recipe” a fair bit you may need to check in during the mixing/kneading stage to see how wet the dough is — once you’ve made bread a few times you’ll know how it needs to look, and can add a few tablespoons of water or flour if it needs it.  The list of ingredients here may look daunting at first, but when you are mostly eyeballing it, it goes really fast — I can get this assembled and started in less than 5 minutes.  I store most of my bread ingredients in canisters in the cupboard directly above the bread machine, so it’s a quick and easy prep and clean up.

Let me know if you try it, and how it works in your machine! If at first you don’t like the result, keep trying and tweaking, you will find the “sweet spot” for your machine and then it will all be easy….and delicious!  Pass the jam, please!

Our Whole Grain Daily Bread. Yum!

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Thoughts on Parenting Twins


Welcome to the March 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With Special Needs

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how we parent despite and because of challenges thrown our way. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


This month’s topic for the Carnival of Natural Parenting is Special Needs, and more loosely, special circumstances or situations relating to parenting. While I do not have children with special needs, I do feel like I can speak to the unique challenges of raising twins, and dealing with parenting circumstances which are unexpected and overwhelming at times.

So cute. So exhausting! So very little sleep...

1. First off!  While it can feel selfish or downright ungrateful in the light of people struggling with various parenting issues (infertility, special needs, loss) or when faced with the loads of friends, relatives and perfect strangers who offer up how MUCH they hoped for or dreamed of having twins, allow yourself a chance to mourn the loss of the “normal” pregnancy/parenting journey you envisioned. While twins is indeed an amazing blessing and experience, it is also life-changing and (particularly in the first year or three) overwhelming and sometimes NOT at all what you had dreamed of or planned for. You have a right to those feelings of resentment, frustration or sadness that you are facing a different, more difficult situation than you expected. I certainly had them! But I promise they were, indeed, temporary. And while I think it’s important not to wallow in the negative stuff, acknowledging the validity of these thoughts and feelings is a part moving into a more accepting, peaceful, enthusiastic and joyful place.

Just dumping more stuff, Ma! Carry on!

2. Lower that parenting bar, pronto! Perhaps some people will disagree with me on this but I think that my setting the expectations LOW for how that first year or two was going to go with twins/3 young kids helped me a ton. I expected very VERY little sleep, I expected difficult and non-stop feedings, I expected everything would feel hard and that I would rarely be able to get out of my jammies, let alone the house, with three needy small children in tow. I expected a fair bit of crying (on all our parts!), more TV watching than I’d prefer, and less-than-stellar parenting on my part. That I wouldn’t be able to keep up with laundry or dishes or cooking or other housework for quite awhile. I gave myself a pass on a lot of things, frankly, and I think that is a-ok. That doesn’t mean I didn’t strive for it (I do think that is important, too!), but I also didn’t expect to somehow juggle and manage it all with grace and ease (haha!). You just cannot do it all when you have twins (or even if you don’t!) and when you internalize this you will have a much shorter fall than if you’d set yourself way high up there with all those “supermom” ideals! A fabulous upside is that it feels SOOOOOOO great when you actually DO accomplish more than you thought or planned for!

Crying happens. Messes happen. But we will all be okay.

3. Seek out others who “get it” and have “been there”. Even if it’s really hard to make the effort and you don’t want to step out of your comfort zone, try! I think this is so important. It is just so easy to look at others around you (who don’t have twins/kids with special needs/are not single parents/whatever your difficult issue may be) and feel poorly about how you are doing, how much harder or less smoothly things are going for you, all the things that “they” can do that you — for the moment at least — can not. Look for online parenting support groups, boards or forums, blogs or twitter “tweeps” as well as real life folks in your area (participating with my local twins club has been a hugely positive experience) to meet up with face to face.  Meeting people in person if you can is really critical, in my opinion!  Commiserating with parents going through a similar experience or situation or coming from a similar parenting philosophy or background can make ALL the difference, and can really boost the mood and ego. Parenting can be so very isolating, and you have to be intentional about setting up the social and emotional support that you need now, and down the line as things change.

Feeding twins? It really can help to talk to some other twin mamas & papas

4. Look for the beauty and joy in those simple, everyday moments, each and every day. I know it sounds like a cliche but there is merit to it! Celebrate the small stuff, like when your house is momentarily quiet enough to hear the birds or the ferry horn. When you actually sit down and get to enjoy a few sips of your tea while it’s still hot. When you doze off for awhile with your children, when the sun shines in or the rain pounds while you are cozy inside, when your children are — for the moment — playing peacefully or delight in some little, beautiful thing that you never would have looked at otherwise. Savor it all for a few moments, caught in the wonder of it all, and know that this is the important stuff, right here right now.

Savor this moment. Right now!



Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 13 with all the carnival links.)

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Our Bean Teepee (part two)

Last spring I posted about the creation of our bean teepee, which was a lot of fun to build and set up.  Then, the late spring and summer got busy and I never posted updates on how it looked as it grew!  So for those of you starting to plan for this spring and summer’s garden (woohoo!) here is the long awaited update.  We had a great time with the teepee and can’t wait to get it started again this year!

For a refresher, here are some pictures of set up.  We started the structure on Easter Day, just getting the poles up.

On May 1st, we planted!  Pole beans and fragrant sweet pea seedlings (for picking flowers, not a veggie).  We tried to intersperse them so the peas would fill in first and later the beans would take over.  After the plants were in we spread wood chips to keep the weeds down.  We also placed stumps and rocks for makeshift tables or chairs, and laid a few handmade stepping stones at the front.

Here is the teepee on June 26th.  It felt like it was taking a looong time for the beans and peas to grow!  We don’t get a lot of sun or heat in early to mid summer in Seattle!  In the bottom right in front of the teepee is a fennel plant, and behind that a camomile, both starting to take off.  Marigolds lined the pathway approaching it.  Sometime around here you can see we wrapped string horizontally around the teepee to help the vines cling and spread to cover.

This was taken on July 4th.  Grow grow grow! Sweet peas are starting to bloom!

The following pictures are from July 31st. What a difference a month makes! The sweet peas were winding down (we had a TON for awhile, fun for the girls to pick!) and the beans were growing very full.  The girls really did not play in it as much as I had hoped — I realized I needed to “set up” some play in there in order to entice them in and get it going, which worked when I remembered.  I will definitely try to do this more this year!  I am thinking more snack times, tea parties (perhaps in conjunction with our mud pie kitchen) and more doll/fairy/animal play?

The following pics are from the left side where there is a tree and some squash, and the right of the teepee where we had pumpkin back by the fence and in the foreground, an awesome and abundant camomile plant.  We still have a bit of dried camomile blossoms for tea from that one!

Harvest came around mid-August and lasted about a month, or maybe a bit longer.  Lonnie thinks we got about 40 lbs, from 8-10 plants. We mostly ate them fresh though we canned one large batch too! This last picture is the only one I could find from fall — September 29th. I think the bean harvest was winding down or totally finished at this point, the fennel was big and going to seed, and as you can see, we had a chicken coop in progress right next to it!  Woohoo!

Another post about the chicken coop project coming soon — it’s finally almost done and we are getting ready for spring chicks!

Have you had luck with a living playhouse or teepee?  What did you grow?  Any ideas for us for this year?  The sweet pea and bean combo worked well, but we are open to new ideas too!  

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Menu Plan Monday: Vegan Lasagna, Pulled Pork, Kale…

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted menu plans!  I’ve been so-so on meal planning in general these last few months — though I ADORE my meal planning software, Plan To Eat, which allows me to import recipes from all over the web as well as add my own, and then drag and drop them into the weekly/monthly planner (for full disclosure, I do get a commission/discount if you sign up by clicking on the link over there in my sidebar—>).  So I’d say 75% of the time I do get to meal planning (well, dinners anyway), but  taking the extra effort to post them here is often more than I am up for.   But here I am this week, and it’s still Monday even!  Yahoo!

Monday:  Bean, veggie & grain soup (using the Bob’s Red Mill Vegi Soup Mix as a base, and adding chicken broth, fennel, onions, sweet potato, celery, garlic, ginger and curry powder), pumpkin/zucchini bread (from the freezer), whole wheat pasta, and asparagus.  The soup is soooooo good, can’t wait to eat!

Tuesday: Vegan lasagna (similar to this, but with some additions/substitutions), green salad or waldorf salad.  Taking one to my cousin and her awesome family today, as well.  Their recent commitment to eating vegan to help fight cancer is very inspiring!  Check out our group Pinterest board “Dairy-free, Vegetarian, Vegan” of healthy recipes here!

Wednesday: Balsamic honey pulled pork sliders (from the slow cooker) on whole wheat buns, broccoli, applesauce

Thursday:   Pizza night at our fave local pizza place, Proletariat Pizza!  While we are there we’ll definitely  check out the Occupy Seattle photography show (part of White Center art walk, woohoo!)

Friday: Leftover buffet.  Oh yeah.  How about an unholy mix of vegan lasagna and pulled pork?  Haha.

Saturday:  Grownup dinner out!  We are headed to see Keller!!!!!

Sunday:  Quinoa & black beans (maybe with some shrimp? Yum yum!) with corn, tomato, avocado, steamed or sautéed kale (from the garden, yes, still, we have year round kale!).

Kale, early March of last year

Kale this January -- we ate this very kale last night for dinner, and it was tender and delicious!

Linking up with Menu Plan Monday over at I’m an Organizing Junkie.

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