"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Wildcrafting is the term used for gathering roots, herbs, or other plants from the wild. Today, these feet wildcrafted:
If you live in Kansas, you can probably guess.

And if you guessed mulberries, you are right!

It takes a long time to gather wild mulberries. And let's face it: they are not that tasty, even though they are gorgeous:
They are, however, like all berries, chock-full of antioxidants and other wonderful things not yet discovered by modern science. I wasn't really REALLY sure mulberries were edible till I lived in a convent in college where the sisters would lay sheets under the mulberry trees and gather the freshly fallen berries morning and night, then make pie and jam. Unfortunately, both those delicious uses for fresh mulberries destroy a lot of the nutrition in them. I always prefer freezing to heating produce to save it for future months.

We gathered a scant quart, washed them REALLY well, then spread them on a cookie sheet to freeze. This makes it so the berries freeze individually, and you can later grab as few as you need- to keep your green smoothie from tasting too mulberry-ish.

Only 2 cups made it to the freezer to be used by small scoops in our green smoothies.
Despite tasting like wild, unsweet blackberries, it's really fun to eat things you gather yourself!

Isaiah composed a poem/ chant/ song while we worked:

The Mulberry Tree
by Isaiah Armendariz
There is a mulberry tree;
It gives lots of mulberrieeeees.
The tall ones for the birds;
The medium ones for me,
The ones that fall down, down, down-
Food for the flies!

Sounds way better when he sings it. And he wants to go back to the mulberry grove tomorrow.

Relaxing with puzzles after all that hot mulberry gathering:

"His house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking, best, or a pleasant mixture of them all."
-J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Monday, May 30, 2011

And by the way...

He has slept three night in a row.

"A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book."
~Irish Proverb

Sunday, May 29, 2011

In a Summer Kitchen

When I first came across the concept of 'eating with the seasons," I was fascinated. But confused. As the years go by, though, it makes more and more sense. Living in the Midwest, without air conditioning or very good heating, even, for 4 years has taught me a lot about it. More than I ever learned from a book, anyway. A summer kitchen is very, very different from a winter kitchen. Or at least, it is in my house.

Late spring/ early summer, in addition to late fall, makes living in Kansas worth it. The heat and humidity have not yet grown blistering and suffocating, but there’s not a bit of chill in the air. There’s a whole new set of rules in the kitchen. Mostly they revolve around being in there as little as possible! A few posts back I promised recipes which, with the final *real* change in weather, I realized today may not be made again till late October.

A winter day might see us camped out in the kitchen, simmering a soup all day and making bread or muffins by the score, reading books at the table over endless cups of hot tea- punctuated by mugs of ‘raw’ hot cocoa. Casseroles, soups, hot foods of all sorts, maybe a sugarless apple pie with cashew cream to boot.

But in a summer kitchen? No way. A summer kitchen looks like this
And this.

Hot meals don’t happen very often! (But Monday is still pasta night and Tuesday lunch is still “pizza.”) We still serve summer meals beautifully. A simple meal still needs a beautiful presentation. Shoot, pb&j with carrots on the best china is a typical July set-up around here!

Snacks are very important when the weather gets warm. We are outdoors hours out of every day and kids get HUNGRY in the sun. So here is a week’s worth of summer snacks guaranteed to keep up with sprinklers, star-gazing, nature walking, and general back yard capering.

Big kettle of popcorn popped on the stove in coconut oil and sea salt:

GORP (Good Old-Fashioned Raisins and Peanuts):
Pretty self-explanatory!

Orange flowers- a favorite around here:

Yogurt sundaes:
Also self-explanatory, but if you just have to know what all is on that coconut yogurt… walnuts, blueberries, hemp seeds, flax, chia seeds, and a drizzle of raw honey.

Nuts in a bowl. Ya, really exciting:

Rice cakes with peanut butter or hummus, decorated with raisins:

Endless bananas. Really. We go through 10 lbs per week. Thursdays you can get bananas 18 cents a pound here.

And the “duh” snack,
more fresh fruits and vegetable just waiting to be snuck and scarfed directly from the fridge.

Ok, that's our week in snacks. Very different from our week in snacks in say, Late January. You'll just have to come back later for all those oven-ish goody recipes!

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
~Margaret Atwood

Friday, May 27, 2011

Food for Thought Friday

It's so much fun this time of year to walk down the street in our bustling neighborhood and look at the gardens. Everywhere beauty is abounding, and it is so much fun to look with little people who want- as badly as I do!- to know the name of EVERYTHING!!!

But Lord help me, because I am just too tired to come up with anything clever to say about all these glorious growing things. Too tired to cook anything except eggs and raw fruit- O wait. That last bit isn't even cooking, now, is it? So praise the Lord for a time of year when eating healthy doesn't even require cooking! And pray that a small person named John Paul will sleep. A little bit. Tonight.

He's worth it, isn't he?
"Only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair."
~W.B. Yeats

JUST KIDDING, JOHN PAUL! I love you for so much more than that! But your yellow hair is precious.

Enough rambling. Here is some Food for Thought:

"It seems as if ever there was a time when the virtue of simplicity was desperately needed, it's in our own fast-paced, consumer-oriented, information-overloaded era. But Francis had good reason to believe his own day needed a big dose of simple living.

“Living during a time when money was rapidly replacing barter as the primary medium of exchange, Francis saw huge socio-economic barriers between the haves and the have-nots. The carnality of his age seemed to overwhelm everything including the church, which was one of the most powerful banking institutions of the Middle Ages. “All, from the highest to the lowest, allow themselves to be led by avarice,” wrote Pope Innocent III, protesting his age’s rising tide of greed. He wasn’t complaining about small-scale capitalists like Francis’s father; instead he was condemning the greed of the clergy!

“Francis spent the first 24 years of his life in luxury and indulgence. But he spent the next 21 in austere, self-imposed poverty, the result of his life-changing encounter with the living Christ and his no-holds-barred commitment to following the example of Jesus, whose earthly life was a model of simple living, from his birth in a dingy stable to his Crucifixion on a common criminal’s cross.

“As Francis reflected on the life and words of Jesus, he was confronted time and time again with Christ’s simple lifestyle, his warnings about the dangers of money, and his commandments to his followers to sell all they owned and give the profits to the poor.

“In Francis’s own time, this radical Jesus wasn’t the subject of many Sunday sermons. But as he studied… Francis was inspired by the many lessons on simplicity, including this one, from the Sermon on the Mount:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”

“But Francis and his followers didn’t view simplicity as a specialized discipline for monks or other unusual individuals seeking advanced degrees in enlightenment. Instead they saw it as a garden from which all other spiritual virtues grow, and as a prerequisite to our being both fully human and fully spiritual.

“Like the branches of an unpruned tree, our attachment to possessions and wealth often chokes our lives, enslaves our souls, and hinders both human community and union with God. Francis prescribed simplicity as an antidote to our often unquenchable yearning for more and ever more.”

-The Lessons of St. Francis, by John Michael Talbot
Ireland, is that you? Nope. It's the rolling hills of Kansas.

"Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, "Grow! Grow! Grow!"
-The Talmud

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Strange Graces

Life is so strange. How can it be fair for tragedy to narrowly escape this one, to land full force on that one? It's a question that has plagued humankind for millenia. And while for Christians, there is an Answer, it still can leave a dead weight in the pit of your stomach.
Sunday afternoon we were driving from Lawrence to Kansas City. Just as I was drifting off to sleep, I noticed some amazing clouds on the horizon. No longer sleepy, I became consumed with capturing them before they blew on.
'What the heck are they?' I chattered to Ed as we drove, 'Thunderheads? Cumulonimbus? What? I've never seen clouds so gorgeous, not even in Kansas.'
What I was seeing was the super-cell.
That destroyed Joplin, Missourri.
And I was sitting there,
oblivious, from a distance,
taking pictures and admiring the terrible beauty of Mother Nature on the warpath.

A grace, to miss total destruction by a mile or two. A grace for me. And yet, a grace for all.

God doesn't will (cause) evil or destruction. But He does allow it.

When we got to the hotel, the pictures were already all over the televisions in the lobby. Chilling. But it seemed very far away. I'm happy I had no idea we had just driven by that storm, or my joy at being with my family would have been quite dampened by the realization.

Last night as I uploaded these photos, though, Ed put 2 and 2 together for me, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Not that anyone escapes storms.

Not really.

Eight and a half years ago I was in a serious car accident, with a 15% survival rate. So, life changing, in a single moment, is not something foreign to me. Modern medicine saved my lifew and destroyed my health in one fell swoop. Everyone has storms. It is so easy to look at other storms and think that someone else's storms are easier, harder, better, worse.

Here is a story I read as a teenager that I've remembered and mused over many, many times since I read it 15 years ago. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:

The Sorrow Tree
by Brian Cavanaugh, T.O.R., The Sower's Seeds

"So it was that when the Hasidic (Jewish) pilgrims vied for those among them who had endured the most suffering, who was most entitled to complain, the Zaddock told them the story of the Sorrow Tree. On the Day of Judgment, each person will be allowed to hang one's unhappiness and sufferings on a brach of the great Tree of Sorrows. After all have found a limb from which their miseries may dangle, they may all walk slowly around the tree. Each person is to search for a set of sufferings that he or she would prefer to those he or she has hung on the tree.

"In the end, each one freely chooses to reclaim his or her own assortment of sorrows rather than those of another. Each person leaves the Tree of Sorrows wiser that when he or she arrived."

"Rainbows apologize for angry skies."
~Sylvia Voirol

I've been inspired by Small Steps Together over at Real Learning
(sorry, I can't get the link to work this week!).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Avocado... Shampoo??? Yup!

We don't have houseguests very often, so the past week has been a real treat for us. Thanks Grandma, John, Vanessa, and Kayly for your visit. We had a lot of fun!

All the activity prevents me from running as tight a ship as usual in the kitchen... but Saturday we had time to whip up a special lunch. First, we made some impromptu shish-kebabs with random things from the fridge:

Later, I used the pits to make my father-in-law's secret Mexican recipe avocado shampoo. Rumored to thicken hair, restore body, and make hair shine like a thousand suns. Rumored, I said!

Anyway, these skewers were a hit with young and old alike, were quick and easy to prepare, and looked rather beautiful, too. We cubed a couple pork chops, chopped some green peppers, mushrooms, and potatos. (Chunks of tomato would have been a good addition.) We tossed all that with olive oil and a bit of salt. Then we grilled them up. You could also broil the kebabs if you don't have a grill. Which we did not for 6 years. (Thanks, Laura and Rodrick!)

I've been craving some serious guacamole for days, so we smooshed up a big bowlful. I couldn't keep people out of it long enought o take a good picture, even. Our guac is usually just mashed avocado, but today we added diced tomato, lemon juice, homemade salsa, and a dash of Real Salt.

Well, after the feast I washed those avocado pits really well and left them on the counter for a few days. My shampoo supply has been running low and that's the perfect time to make Avocado Shampoo. I gave out this recipe several months ago on a discussion forum and it has been getting rave reviews from hundreds of moms with all types of hair.

Here's the crazy-easy recipe:

Grate 3 avocado pits. (If you walk away from your shredded pits at this point and return in 20 minutes, they turn bright orange-red, which is weird and cool. In this picture, I left the shreds, came back and finished later so there's a little patch of white shreds in there. Pretty.)

Cover with about 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Let cool. Strain into a jar.
Combine a few ounces of shampoo
with 3-4 cups avacado water and shake. Voila. Avocado shampoo. The general consensus is that no conditioner is needed with this moisturizing stuff.

The shampoo will be pretty runny, but should still lather. Sometimes, for reasons I still can't figure out, the stuff will really gel well. But I can't get it to do so consistently. Even if it is thin, it will still work. So don't fret over consistency.

Please do leave a comment if you try this and like it. Or hate it, I guess!

"Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."
~Kahlil Gibran

Monday, May 23, 2011

Recipes for a Peaceful Night

Speaking of sleep...

Here are a few of the "recipes" we use at BreadwithHoney to wind down our days. Our schedule is always changing and we may not go to bed at the same time two nights in a row. We sleep and eat around daddy's schedule which makes any scedule virtually impossible.

But our bedtime rituals and our morning routines are the cues our family uses to ease the transition more or less smoothly- and yes, sometimes it is *less* smoothly- from sleep to day and day to sleep.

Since nothing soothes like warm water, the bath is a nightly ritual, right after the bedtime snack, of course. Sometimes bubbles (California Baby makes excellent bubble baths), sometimes and herbal soak (dried roses, lavender, and calendula in a muslin square, make a quart of strong tea and add to the tub), or our go-to lavender baby bath salts.

I prefer the lavender baby bath salts because the salt really aids the body in detoxification and the scent of lavender is a very powerful soother for jangled nerves- in child or mother!

The recipe is really too simple:
1 box of baking soda
1 box of sea salt* (just refill the box)
10 drops of high-quality lavender essential oil

Combine in your container of choice and shake well to distribute the oil. Use about 1/4c per bath. Double or triple if your child seems to be coming down with a touch of anything.
*PLEASE note: Under no circumstances should you use regular table salt in your child's bath salts. Ever. Table salt contains nasty chemical additives which will soak right into your child's system when his or her pores open up in a warm bath!
Of course the javelina needs a taste first.

Usually bath will be followed by teeth brushing and stories, then prayers and lights out. In reality, fights sometimes break out over whose book is first or even which side of the bed is *mine!!!*. When the hour is late and tired tantrums erupt, as they occasionally will, I like to whip out the Rescue Remedy Spray.

One nice thing about this spray is that it stretches the rather expensive homeopathic remedy that it calls for. This makes it a very economical way to use Rescue Remedy.

Rescue Spray
4 drops Bach Rescue Remedy
2 ounces distilled or boiled and cooled water
2 ounces vodka or brandy

Combine in a brown or dark blue glass spray bottle and shake well before each and every use. Spray 2 sprays on the tongue, on the forearm (rub in), in the hair, or even on the sheets or just in the air.
I used this spray earlier today when my daughter and neice pulled some shelves over on themselves in the shed. No one was hurt but they were, um, feeding off each other's panic and the situation was really escalating by the time I got to them! This spray really helps calm irrational freak-outs. (Again, in child OR parent!)

And finally, two recipes for mother. Great for those nights when you can't sleep or you just need help relaxing. The first is a recipe for Sleepy Tea. Those pathetic little teabags of "sleepytime" tea from the grocery, or even the health food, store? Don't bother. Trot on over to a health food store, i.e. a REAL food store, and gather the ingredients for this REALLY sleepy tea!

Sleepy Tea
In a dark or stainless steel jar, combine:
1 part valerian
1 part nettle
1 part raspberry leaves
1 part stevia herb (or add a pinch of extract after brewing)
3 parts cinnamon chips

To brew, place 1 teaspoon per cup in your vessel of choice, then add a hefty dash of pumpkin pie spice on top (this is optional, but it makes the tea go from ok to out-of-this-world delish) and add the boiling water. Steep, COVERED TIGHTLY, for 8 minutes up to 1 hour.

Drink. You've had enough when your body begins to feel just a touch "rubbery". You've had too much if you feel, um, drunk. Don't drink a quart of this tea before driving or using a buzz saw.

You can give a sleepless, cranky child*** over the age of 2 or so a teaspoon of this tea diluted in something else, or straight under the tongue.

(*** Please remember that when you choose to use any herbal formula, it is the herbalist's rule of thumb to check THREE sources before administering any preparation. Especially to a child. See any reputable herbal manual for how to perform a patch test on a child. I recommend .)
You can cut out the nettle and raspberry in a pinch, if need be. Oh, and a squeeze of lemon is nice, too.

The next recipe for mother is a calming perfume. I have never been able to wear store-bought perfumes. I've been unscented for years. Last Christmas, though, Ed went to the real-food store and sniffed every essential oil they had. He brought home plain 'ole vanilla. I didn't want to smell like a cookie... but I took the hint and figured out the (super-simple) way to make perfume.

Simple Scent
In a dark brown or blue spray bottle, combine:
2 oz. distilled or boiled and cooled water
3 oz. vodka
10 drops vanilla
10 drops essential oil of your choice (I used lavender and 1 drop geranium)
Shake well and before each use.

Lavender makes for a really relaxing perfume, so it is always my favorite.

"There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson