Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Natural Cleaning Products and How I Accidentally Ate Laundry Soap

 ***Don't forget, we still have one active giveaway HERE. There will be two winners for this one, and the contest ends June 1st at 5pm!!!***

A friend of mine asked me to write a post about natural cleaning and natural and chemical/poison free cleaning products, and I'm happy to do so. In fact, I'm shocked I haven't thought to do it before.  There are many reasons to stick to natural and chemical/poison free cleaning products, whether or not you have a child. In fact, I made the switch to natural cleaning products long before Aias was even a thought. Why would you want to breathe in and possibly ingest chemicals when you don't have to; especially when your primary goal is to have things clean so you don't get sick!  For a while I was using about 90% natural chemicals (a little Windex here and there), but then I switched to 100% natural products when I got my pets.  For a while I had birds and rabbits, and both of those animals are very sensitive to any variety of air pollutant, including the remnants of whatever you may be cleaning with.  When I got my dog Max there came there concern of him ingesting some sort of chemical by licking food off the floor or what not.  It's just easier to know that you don't have any toxins in your home, that way in the rare event that your pet or child accesses it, you know there won't be a trip to the ER or worse.

One way of cleaning naturally is to purchase products that are non-toxic.  Some brands that I've used in the past are Greenworks, Seventh Generation,  Bio-Vert and Nature Clean (check specific products for whether or not they are toxic).  These products definitely do the job and are convenient if you don't want to take the time to make your own cleaning products.  The downside of them is that they cost more money, of course, using more toxic products could have a much biggest cost to your health or to the health of your child or pet.

If you want to use natural products but you don't want to make them from scratch, I strongly suggest buying a bottle of Castile Soap.  My two favorite brands of Castile Soap are Dr. Bronner's, Mountain Sky, and Kiss My Face.  What is Castile Soap?
"Castile soap is a soap made with fat of purely vegetable origin, rather than animal fats such as tallow. This type of soap has historically been highly prized and viewed as a high quality soap which is gentle on the skin and useful for a range of other applications. Many stores sell castile soap, and this soap is a specialty of several regions in Europe, where it is made with various traditional ingredients. It is also possible to purchase a castile soap base for the purpose of blending your own soaps. - http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-castile-soap.htm"
Basically Castile soap is a soap you can use for just about anything, all you need to do is mix it with water.  The Mountain Sky website has a great list of water to soap ratios for various uses.  For a while I was using Castile soap for absolutely everything from washing my body to washing my floors.  The only downside of this is that after a while you may get sick of everything smelling the same. If you go the Castile soap route, I suggest you buy the smaller bottles unless you are 100% certain you want everything in your home and life to smell a certain way for a very long time. 

If you want to get even more hardcore and take the time to just make your products, all you need are ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice.  There are recipes everywhere detailing specific "cleaning recipes" but I especially like the ones listed here.

Another tip: if you want to clean your floors without using only water, check out these steam mops!

Oh and by the way, it's not just kids and pets that can accidentally swallow cleaning products; check this personal journal entry from a couple of years ago from when I accidentally ate our laundry soap even when our laundry room was completely outside of our dwelling!

Ok, here is how I swallowed the laundry detergent. This was a long time in the making, really.

When I moved in here, Morgan and I happened to have the same black measuring cup sets. We kept one in the drawer in the kitchen and the other under the sink. We use this laundry detergent called VIP and it doesn't come with a scoop, so I brought the 1/8 cup down to the laundry room to scoop the laundry soap. By the same token, we happen to use the other 1/8 cup scoop to scoop powdered milk, which is the only kind of milk we use because we only use it for coffee and cooking (I know, it's like we are 80).

Anyhow, the laundry soap apparently ran out on Friday so Morgan brought it upstairs, threw the bag out, and left the scoop next to the sink so it could be washed (I don't know why it would even need washing but whatever). When I went to put powdered milk in my coffee, I saw the scoop, and it had like 2 tablespoons of soap in it, but it honestly looks exactly like powdered milk so I put that AND another scoop into my coffee. The coffee tasted weird, but not gross, and it was a brand new blend anyway so I just thought it was weird coffee.

Then Morgan came downstairs and was like "uh, you didn't use that did you" and I was like duh I did, wasn't it for powdered milk, and he explained the whole thing.

I looked at the back of the laundry soap and it just said "If swallowed drink a whole glass of water. If irritation persists, call your doctor."

The end.
Irritation did not persist.  So yes, it's much better to just not have poisonous chemicals in your home, period.  Luckily VIP is a pretty natural-ish brand and I didn't get sick from consuming it.  Probably not my most shining moment ever. 

Now go forth and clean your homes, and rest assured no one will get poisoned as a result!





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Monday, May 30, 2011

And the Winner Is...

 ***Don't forget, we still have one active giveaway HERE. There will be two winners for this one, and the contest ends June 1st at 5pm!!!***

Thanks so much for your participation in our second giveaway, I really appreciate! Thank you so much everyone, seriously! My apologies that the results are a little late, I totally spaced on this.

The winning number is:

Congratulations!



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5 Reasons Why We Love Curious George

Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics strict stance on not exposing kids under two to television, we've buckled. Now let me sit and justify myself for a few minutes ;)  We don't get cable, mostly because we'd be temped to watch it, but also because we don't want to expose Aias to extraneous advertising. We know we can't protect him from all of it, but at least we can attempt to limit it. I guess in many areas they don't allow commercials during children's programming anyhow, but like I said above, if we had cable we would watch it.  To prevent our own temptation we just don't have it. What we do have is Netflix. I know, it's probably not much better, but there was a free trial so I gave it a whirl and it's worth it if only for the selection of documentaries they have. Netflix also has a bunch of children's programs, and among the options is Curious George. After 8pm it's sit down and be quiet time around here, so we turn off the lights and sit with Aias on the couch to snuggle and watch a few shows or read a few books. For a while we were watching Go Diego Go (much to my chagrin) but then I witnessed a little boy BEGGING for a "Rescue Pack" at the toy store so I pulled the plug on Diego. One evening when Morgan was watching Aias alone, he stumbled upon Curious George. Back when Morgan and I were kids, we loved reading and watching Curious George. However, Curious George has had a makeover since those times. Normally I can't stand when they modernize shows I watched as a kid, but this show is amazing. Here's are 5 reasons why we love it:

1. Curious George is a 23 minute show comprised of two episodes. One of the episodes takes place in the country, and one of the episodes takes place in the city. Zero episodes take place in the suburbs. I'm happy to finally see a kid's show that shows a family living in an apartment and doesn't equate it to poverty. The suburbs are fine, but Aias will likely never live in the suburbs. I'm glad there's a show that depicts this as being ok.

2. The Man with the Yellow Hat basically represents everything I want to be as a parent. He's patient, he doesn't get upset over George's misunderstandings, he carefully explains things to George, and he never raises his voice. Sometimes George will do something really annoying and you can see the Man with the Yellow Hat is annoyed for just one second from the look on his face, but he takes a minute to collect his thoughts and then treats George with respect in regard to the situation at hand.

3. Instead of pushing a product for kids to buy Curious George pushes ideas and concepts that may be interesting to kids. Ideas and concepts that the creators of the show don't stand to make a dime on. For example, magnets, planting, sailing, museums, sharing, etc.

4. Curious George teaches me what it must feel like to be a young toddler or child learning about their world. Here's an example: in one episode, Curious George learns that squirrels hide their food in the ground so they can go back and eat it later. George decides that this is a great idea so he goes into the fridge and cabinets of his home, takes out all the food, and buries it in the yard. The Man with the Yellow Hat returns home and explains to George that human food shouldn't be buried. He also explains that the food squirrels hide in the ground is sometimes forgotten and it grows into trees. He specifically shows how an acorn grows into an oak tree. George thinks he understands, and thinks of things around the house he can plant in the ground and fantasizes over what types of things these items will grow into. Of course, when the Man with the yellow had returns to find this, he re-explains to George that it's only seeds and nuts that grow. Lesson learned.

5. Curious George has the cutest imagination and it's shown through animated thought bubbles. They are seriously adorable and hilarious. Some of them are shown here, but I do think they are much better animated. Our favorite is when George imagines all the fun things he would do it he were to babysit his neighbors bunnies, like read them books and play cards with them all.

Those are only a few of the reasons we love this goofy show.  If you have a kid you should definitely check it out; maybe even if you don't!





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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Brunch: Grilled Asparagus, Portabello Mushrooms and Polenta

I'm sure it will be raining when this gets posted (I schedule these posts in advance), but I thought maybe I could entice the sun by posting a recipe that requires sunshine and a grill! By now you all know of my goal to bring some of Miranda Crane's recipes from the somewhat dormant Livejournal Community arty_chokes back to life.  Here is another recipe from arty_chokes, Miranda's grilled asparagus, portabello mushrooms and polenta.  Whether you are looking for a delicious Sunday Brunch recipe or a recipe for any time, this one is a sure bet.  Don't forget to pay a visit Miranda's Flickr, where she posts gorgeous pictures of her delicious meals complete with the recipes.

So without further delay I present to you:

Miranda Crane's Grilled Asparagus, Portabello Mushrooms and Polenta

Ingredients:
Portabello Mushrooms
Polenta
Asparagus
Salt/Pepper/Seasonings
(onion and garlic powder)
Olive Oil

Tools:
Grill
Flipper
Pam Spray

Rub the portabellos with olive oil and sprinkle with onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How We Almost Accidentally Cooked Aias in Our MEC Bike Trailer (That We Still Love)

The theme of the day seems to be my parenting shortcomings, so here's another parent fail for you.  This entry is in no way intended to insult the MEC Bike Trailer or any other bike trailer for that matter, it's just a tiny public service notice so that no one actually does cook their kid in a bike trailer on a hot day.  I definitely don't think the MEC Bike Trailer is inherently dangerous. 

Last weekend we took a bike ride around the city, starting at our apartment and biking along the seawall, and stopping at Granville Island and Kits beach along the way. It was a pretty awesome day.  Morgan always has the bike trailer on the back of his bike and I always bike solo.  The day was sunny and warm, but it definitely wasn't what I would call hot.  We had Aias dressed in thin pants and a thin shirt and of course he was wearing his bike helmet.  The MEC Bike Trailer has a double layered flap across the top that creates a barrier between the child and anything that may fly into the carrier while you ride, be it dirt, water or what have you.  The top flap is made of plastic and the flap under it is a screen of sorts.  There's a little note on it that says to always have this flap down regardless of weather, and I guess Morgan and I interpreted it as us having BOTH flaps down.  It wasn't a hot day, like I said, and we were honestly a little nervous that Aias would get too cold from all the wind generated from the bikes going so fast.  We opted to put both flaps down.  After getting Aias settled in his carrier, we went merrily on our way.

About halfway to Granville Island, I looked in at Aias and he looked like he needed his head readjusted. We pulled over to the side of the path and lifted up the flaps.  A bunch of hot air flowed out and we looked at Aias sleeping peacefully in a veritable pool of sweat.  We roused him and took him out, removed his helmet and got him some air. We were really shocked at how hot it was getting in there.  It didn't seem like it could get that hot, but we had basically trapped Aias in a moving greenhouse.  I nursed him to hydrate him, we folded up the plastic flap leaving only the screen down, and off we went. When we got to the beach Aias was fine and the inside of the trailer wasn't very hot at all, in fact, it was just right.

I often read stories of people's dogs and kids dying from overheating in cars, and I always think I'd be "way too smart" to ever "let" that happen.  The truth is, no one is impervious to such an accident.  If you have a trailer or any device that seals your kid inside, try to remember about the greenhouse effect!

Aias happily playing at the beach not even knowing that he narrowly escaped death just 30 minutes before!


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Lessons I Accidentally Taught My Child

Childhood is all about learning, and as parents, there are tons of lessons we're supposed to teach.  Every once in a while I feel so hopeless and down on myself because it seems as though I'm the wrong person to be doing this job- it feels like Aias has learned so little from me.  When I get in moods like this, I simply remind myself of all the things I've successfully taught Aias, without even trying! 

Lesson I Intended to Teach: "Share" means "Share"
Lesson I Accidentally Taught: "Share" means "Give Whatever You Have to Aias"
I like to think this is my friend's fault for having such an awesome kid.  You see, Aias spends a lot of time with his little friend Elliot who is the same age as him.  Elliot happens to be a bit of an expert at sharing, Aias on the other hand, is not.  There are quite a few toys of Aias's that go completely ignored unless Elliot is here. You see if Elliot wants to play with something, it must be great, so of course Aias has to have it.  When an argument takes place over a toy, I always ask the boys to share.  When I do this, Elliot happily gives the toy to Aias.  Over time this has taught Aias that sharing means to give whatever you have to him.

What do you mean "share?"
Lesson I Intended to Teach:  "Say please if you want something"
Lesson I Accidentally Taught: "Saying please gets you whatever you want, no matter what it is"
I was warned about this one.  The method Aias uses to ask for something is basically to hold out his arm and grunt, which is a whole other faulty lesson altogether, but I digress.  After a while of Aias making clear requests, I decided to start teaching him to say please when he makes a request.  It took a few weeks of being consistent but eventually he would say it, but he'd only say it after I told him he couldn't have something.  Then after saying please and being told no, he was more angry than ever.  I'm sorry, but no amount of "pleases" are going to result in me allowing him to play with electrical sockets.

I want THAT!
Lesson I Intended to Teach: Saying "uh-oh" if something drops on the floor
Lesson I Accidentally Taught: If you throw things on the floor your parents will say "uh-oh"
Ok this one is sort of cheating, we never really wanted to focus all that hard on saying "uh-oh."  What happened was that we had been saying it, and one day he said it too and we thought it was hilarious.  Of course, after a while he would just throw the same thing on to the floor OVER and OVER again because he thought it was fun to say uh-oh.  Even after we tried to un-teach this by just not saying uh-oh, he still thought it was pretty funny for him to be the one who says it.

Lesson I Intended to Teach: We love you and will always respond to your needs.
Lesson I Accidentally Taught:  We love you and all you need to do is cry to get some attention.
Now, I don't regret this one because I truly believe that if your child is crying you need to attend to their needs. Sometimes the need isn't something specific like food or water or a diaper change, but something as basic as being cuddled or being paid attention to.  The part of this I don't value so much is the on-cue whining Aias will demonstrate if I am not looking at him or if I'm doing something he wants to do.  Of course, I don't want to hear him cry, so I give in, and it further reinforces the lesson.  I'm working on this by not reacting to outright tantrums, but I have a feeling it will take a while to undo, if it can ever be undone at all.

Lesson I Intended to Teach: If you are doing something "wrong" we will praise you if you correct it.
Lesson I Accidentally Taught:  It's fun to do something wrong, then correct it, then get praised, then repeat it over and over and over again.
The best example of this is in the bathtub.  If Aias stands up in the bathtub we ask him to please sit on his bum.  When he does it, we clap and tell him that he did a great thing.  Of course, this only prompts him to stand up again, sit down again, and get praised again.  Over. And Over. And Over.

These are only a few unintended lessons I've taught my child.  I am obviously in the process of un-teaching them, but that's a work in progress. At least I know I'm capable of teaching him a thing or two, right?





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Friday, May 27, 2011

How to Fool Your Toddler (Or Yourself!) Into Thinking You Are Eating Crackers

Well ok, I guess these are crackers, but not the typical variety.  I love carbs in any form, particularly in the form of chips or crackers. Aias feels exactly the same way. Of course much like most parents, we don't like to stuff him with empty calories or piles of carbs if we can help it. An excellent solution to this is raw food crackers. These crackers are made of dehydrated and pressed raw ingredients so you get all the nutrients of fresh veggies but in the form of a satisfying cracker. I swear to you, they are delicious. I've seen a few recipes online that describe how to make them, but it looks like a huge pain in the neck. We buy ours from Organic Lives* near Science World.  It costs $5.50 for a package of 10 (they are large) so they aren't for everyday, but it's nice to know he's getting some nutrients.  Especially on days like today when he had yam fries for lunch. Another Organic Lives toddler and adult favorite around here are the Sesame Onion Gaufrettes.

Eating laying down and in bed, A+ parenting.

Nice!

Because the macro function on my camera is so darn fun.
*This isn't a sponsored post or anything, we are just posting it of our own free will and because we are becoming Organic Lives fanpeople.  Of course, if you are Organic Lives and want to give us freebies, we will never say no to such a thing ;)




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You Deserve to Be Happy

I'm happy to introduce Guest Blogger Darlena Cunha of Tales of an Unlikely Parent.  Darlena is one of the smartest and most interesting women I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. She also happens to be a mom to twin girls.  Darlena has titled this entry "You Deserve to Be Happy."  I know you'll love it as much as I did!

Look around you. What do you see? I see a fairly clean living room, a cluttered shelf, a bare dining room table with the cloth off (it’s in the wash), and two toddlers rolling around on the ground, pretending they are at the park, which is where we were this morning. I see an empty steam-cleaner that I haven’t yet put away. A Leap Frog table with a toy guitar balanced precariously on top of it and two book shelves, filled with literary fiction I’ll probably never get the chance to read.


Listen, now. What do you hear? I hear the dishwasher, the washing machine and the dryer, all going. I hear a door shutting on one of the twins as the other laughs rather maniacally. (Oops, I had to take a momentary break there, as I heard the one shut in ask for my help. I let her out.) Now one of them is asking me over and over if I’m happy or if I’m sad. (I swear to you, I didn’t just make that up for this post!)

But it is exactly what this post is about. Am I happy, or am I sad? The truth is, I have no idea.

Being a stay at home mom is simultaneously the most gratifying and the least gratifying job I’ve ever had. There’s something very fulfilling about watching your children grow underneath your nose, being there for their every development—egotistically thinking you had something to do with the good, and naively thinking you had nothing to do with the bad. My kids love me fervently, and while every child loves his or her parents just as much as mine do me, I’m confronted with it almost 24 hours a day. I’m very lucky.

Still, I look around me, and in the minute-by-minute of my life, I am more often than not frustrated, disheveled and helpless. It would appear as if I’m sad. Or at least ridiculously stressed out.

I mean, the work is never done. By the time you finish the laundry, another load is ready. If you empty the dishwasher, there are more dishes to put in. You clean off the counter top? Within seconds the bottles, and jars, and cereal, and paper towels accumulate. You wash your carpets only to have a child spill bubbles all over it less than five minutes later (true story, happened yesterday). In fact, right now, as I’m allowing my kids to explore the house and play imaginative games while I write this piece, one of my twins is generously salting the table I just washed. I’m sure once she pops that baby in the oven, it will be perfectly seasoned. The other has somehow tangled her blanket inextricably around her toy lawn mower.



With this never-ending cycle of work, how can I be happy? The answer is: easily. I need to remember to change my perspective. Sure, right now I’m in the midst of tidying the very same house I just tidied yesterday, clearly to no effect, but earlier today we went to the park and played for two hours. After that we went to the Waffle House and had a late breakfast/early lunch. Then it was naptime, and I got some writing done.

That’s not a half-bad day, is it? Actually, when I was working outside the home, it would have been paramount to paradise. If someone had told me, “hey, in a year, all you’ll have to do is try to keep your house clean and play with your kids,” I would have said, “sign me up!”


Now, half the time I look around me wishing I were in an office somewhere. Why? I work from home, pulling in outside income on my own time schedule. I answer to no one…except my babies. I can get up and eat a cookie—a cookie that I had the free time to make—whenever I want without a boss breathing down my neck about productivity. I really am living (a modified) dream right now, and I can’t bring myself to remember to appreciate it. I feel like I’m wasting precious time. I’m lost in this house, in these kids, in this life. But I’m wrong.

You see, being a stay at home mom is like deadline work without the deadline. Yes, I have to do the laundry, but if it doesn’t get finished today, I can do it tomorrow. Yes, the sink always fills back up, but I can empty it when I feel like it. These things are important to me, but not as important as going to the playground or taking my kids swimming or playing with them as they slowly learn to count and read. I have to remember that. This life, as permanent as it seems to me now—as endless and monotonous and frustrating as it can be at times—is fleeting. It will be over in a flash, and I will be working again, going around in the same circles I am now, only for a stranger’s bottom line, not for my children’s future.

If stay at home moms can take a few moments each day and recenter themselves, redefine their lives as they live them moment by moment, they may find they are better equipped to enjoy the very precious gift that has either been given them or foisted upon them. For whether or not we asked for this, it is still a gift. Not everyone gets to see this special slice of life. If we could focus on that, instead of on the mopping, perhaps when our children ask us if we’re happy or sad, we won’t have to think about it as hard.

Darlena Cunha is a former television news producer who now stays at home with her toddler twin girls. She writes about their daily adventures and just about everything else at Tales of an Unlikely Mother.





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Thursday, May 26, 2011

For the Love of Farms and Local Food, Right Here in British Columbia

I don't need to get into all the reasons why it's better to eat locally because that's a simple Google away.  While I'll admit we don't eat as much local food as we probably should, we do give it a serious effort.  It doesn't take much more than a trip to the grocery store to lead someone into believing that it's virtually impossible to eat locally, after all, it certainly seems like all of our produce comes from somewhere far away.  Last weekend we took a trip to the Van Dusen Botanical Garden and on our way out I spotted a complimentary copy of the Fraser Valley Farm Fresh Reference Guide and I'm super happy I did.  This guide lists off many local farms in the area, what products are produced, and contact information for all the farms.  What really struck me from reading the guide was how many awesome products come from right here in British Columbia!  In case you are wondering what products are produced locally in British Columbia, here's a list of just some of them!

Apples Apricots Artichokes
Beans Beef Beeswax
Beets Blackberries Blueberries
Boysenberries Bread Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts Butter Cabbage
Cauliflower Carrots Celery
Cheese Cherries Chestnuts
Chicken Cider Corn
Cranberries Cucumbers Currants
Dairy Eggplant Eggs
Flour Fruit Pies Garlic
Goat Milk Gourds Grapes
Hay Hazelnuts Holly
Honey Kale Lamb
Leeks Lettuce Melons
Onions Parsnips Peaches
Pears Peas Peppers
Plums Pork Potatoes
Pumpkins Radicchio Radishes
Raspberries Rhubarb Salad Greens
Sauerkraut Shallots Spinach
Squash Strawberries Sunflowers
Swiss Chard Tomatoes Tomatillos
Trout Turkey Vinegar
Walnuts Yogurt Zucchini

I'm fairly certain I could eat pretty well even if I ate only the foods listed above, and it doesn't even cover everything produced in our area.  This guide is pretty amazing, but it's not comprehensive by any means because it only lists the farms that are a part of the Fraser Valley Farm Direct Marketing Association.  Even so, there are over 100 farms in the guide, and many more that aren't even listed.  Right off the top of my head I can tell it's left out many farms I love in Richmond, including Richmond Country Farms which is my all time favorite.  It also leaves out Maplewood Farm in North Vancouver (which by the way, is having a festival this Sunday May 29th).  It's kind of a bummer that these farms are left out, but mostly good news because it means we have tons and tons of farms in our area. 

This summer it's one of our goals to take Aias berry picking; no one eats berries like our two foot tall bottomless berry pit.  I strongly encourage locals to get out and do the same, whether you have a kid or not.  As Maplewood Farm says, farms are only for kids from 0 to 110.   If you can't make it to the farm, head over to one of the Vancouver Farmer's Markets that appear at various locations throughout the city over the course of the summer. Even better, sign up to volunteer!  No matter what you do, make sure you try some local food, somehow, someway!  You won't regret it.




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Dueling Agendas? Accessibility Vs. The Environment and Why My Newspapers are Evil

A few weeks ago I attended my favorite consumer trade show, EPIC. The first exhibit I saw when I walked through the door was a Vancouver Sun booth where they were offering three free weeks of newspaper delivery. Of course, it also granted me access to the "paper free" copy of the newspaper on the Internet. My first thought was how absurd this was; how on earth is it environmentally sound to be printing a bunch of newspapers? After all, isn't that what the Internet is for? My second thought was how I wanted to do some paper mache on our mini domes, so I signed right up! I had forgotten about it until today when my first issue arrived, and Morgan was immediately horrified that we were now in possession of a newspaper. Oh, our shameful carbon footprint.

I sat around this afternoon and I thought about my newspapers. Were they really so evil?  Do I have tree blood (sap?) on my hands now for being in possession of one?  Jumping back and forth in my mind between crucifying myself for getting three weeks of newspapers and playing devil's advocate, a funny memory from my University years resurfaced.  The star of this particular memory is one of my good friends to this day. She would be horrified that I even remember this moment so I won't mention her name. We were both members of our University LGTB Centre and during this time the centre had been talking a lot about how we could reduce our impact on the environment. My friend, who I had really only just met at this point because she had just began her undergrad, suggested that we deactivate the automatic entry door so that we could reduce electricity use. She meant no harm in this suggestion, of course. I am 100% positive the issue of accessibility had just not occurred to her, and honestly, why would it have? Oftentimes unless you know someone with an accessibility issue or have an accessibility issue yourself, it doesn't even occur to you that the world may not be as accessible to everyone as it is to you. In short, it's just outside most people's frame of reference. Of course, a few people chimed in and explained that we needed to have the automatic entry door in full working order for people who were in wheelchairs, etc. My friend was embarrassed and she immediately apologized and took back the suggestion.

Aias plays with the newspaper.  I'm sure he's wondering where the screen is.
Reflecting back on this memory makes me smile because I know my friend meant no ill will, but at the same time, it makes me think of several instances in the real world where accessibility measures have been cut back due to the growing trend of "greening" the world and protecting the environment. So of course, given my newspaper experience the first thing that comes to mind is the growing trend of newspapers, catalogs, and magazines going "paper free." I understand the primary benefit of going paper free- you save a lot of trees this way. In addition to saving trees, you reduce the amount of paper waste and the amount of materials that need to be recycled (recycling uses lots of energy). The driving force behind going "paper free" is saving the trees, and the catalyst for going "paper free" is the Internet. Another added benefit is that it costs less money to post material online than it does to print and mail it. The idea is that technology is so widespread that people should be able to read their newspapers, catalogs, and magazines at their computers. This is fantastic for people like myself, because I have a computer, access to the Internet in my home, and I have no issues with staring at the screen. However, this is terrible news for someone who doesn't have a computer, or Internet access, or someone who has a physical inability to stare at a computer screen. There are also people who are computer illiterate or just have no interest in making a computer a part of their lives. Should these people be unable to access news and culture just because they aren't consumers of the Internet? I feel as though we've collectively decided as a planet that there are just so few exceptions to the rule in this situation, that people who aren't able to go along with the "paper free" philosophy are expendable because saving the environment for future generations is a more important endeavor. At the same time, how would you feel if you or someone in your family was one of those "expendable people?" Most of us aren't one of those expendable people and don't know anyone who is, but believe me, they are out there.

I don't want to get into a whole list of instances where accessibility is asked to take a backseat to the environment, because I feel like this entry could potentially get longer than anyone would be willing to read. However, I'd like to share a theory as to why I think this may happen in the first place. Accessibility is important and it's an issue that's not going away, but it's not really a profitable industry. Sure there are wheelchair companies and companies that make modifications to existing structures to make them more accessible, but compared to the amount of companies out there with the goal of selling "green" products to people, they are few and far between. Every time I open my computer (or my newspaper) there is someone trying to sell the idea of being "green" to me. Being "green" is an easy sell; providing accessibility is a lot less glamorous and self serving. Needless to say, very few are trying to sell accessibility. It may not mean much to your daily life, but to those who need it, it means the world. 

I have to admit, Morgan's solution to addressing the issue of accessibility in the paper situation is a pretty good one.  He believes that instead of continuing to kill trees and print documents, we should work as a society on making technology more accessible to those who can't currently access it.  Surely it would cost society less money and less trees to simply get everyone up to the same level by allowing for progress and access to accessibility measures.  I agree with this; at the same time, sometimes it's nice to sit on the toilet and hold a newspaper (the laptop balancing can be a bit much) and I also find doctor's offices insufferable without magazines, however, I digress.  Now I realize I don't apply here, as I said above, I'm all over the Internet.  I guess Morgan's initial horror with me is still valid.  After my three weeks are up, I'll stop getting the newspaper.  I'll make paper mache domes out of the papers we have and I'll recycle what we don't use.  I'll keep fighting the good fight to be green,  but at the same time, I'll try not leave anyone behind in the process.

By the way, Morgan thinks this whole post is a huge stretch, but I think it's interesting to think outside the box every once in a while so poo poo to him ;)


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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hump Day Afternoon Delight: Pesto Gnocchi with Artichoke Hearts

It's raining and dreary out here, so today the Hump Day Afternoon Delight is delicious comfort food.  I love that this recipe includes instructions on making your own homemade gnocchi; it's so easy I can't believe I have ever purchased it!  

 Once again (you know this spiel if you are a regular around here) today's recipe comes from one of the most amazing and creative people ever, Miranda Crane.  Back in 2008 Miranda created my favorite Livejournal Community ever, arty_chokes, which is a community for step-by-step vegetarian recipes.  The community has sadly been dormant for quite some time, but both Miranda and myself are hoping it will make a comeback with a little bit of pimping.  With Miranda's permission, over the next few weeks I'm going to feature some of her personal top recipes from arty_chokes here at Aias Dot Ca.   If you have a Livejournal, please check the community out and participate in raising it from the dead! Additionally, if you love this recipe and you love pictures of tasty food, please check out Miranda's Flickr where she posts images of her food as well as the recipes!

So without further delay I present to you:

 Pesto Gnocchi with Artichoke Hearts

ingredients:
gnocchi:
5-6 med potatoes
1-1 1/2 c. flour
t salt

pesto:
bunch of fresh basil (aprox 2 T)
1 or 2 clove of garlic
3 T olive oil
1 T grated parmesan cheese
s + p to taste
1 T pine nuts

You'll also need marinated artichoke hearts to toss on top!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Sound of Canucks Fans: As Heard from Kingsway and Broadway After The Big Win

Hockey is far too stressful for me to watch, so many close calls!  Conveniently enough, we just find out who won after all is said and done by opening our condo window. On nights like this, that wasn't even really necessary.

This video below is more for the sound since the images aren't that interesting, but yeah, this is what it sounded like at Kingsway and Broadway after the Canucks won tonight. It's still going on and I took this video about 10 minutes ago, which was already about 20 minutes after it started.

I truly hope they with the Stanley Cup.  If they don't, I have a feeling cars will be rolling- and I'm not speaking figuratively!  It's nice that people can come together over a common interest like this. 

 Go Canuck's Go!  







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More Surprise Internet Money, $42 This Time!

Well, this was a pleasant surprise.  Morgan brought up the mail during his lunch break and inside was this check from Dealfind for $42:


I bleeped out a lot of the stuff on the check because I wasn't sure what things were more privacy related, so I just erred on the side of caution. At any rate, you get the idea!   I got the $42 from Dealfind by posting once on Facebook about a maid cleaning service they had a deal on one day.  Thanks to my Facebook friends for making these purchases, I also purchased 2 myself! I really like how this is an actual check to take to the bank, not just Paypal!  Hurry up and sign up for Dealfind using my referral link and start saving on purchases and making some money as well!


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The Big Coming Out of the Closet Post, and Families Respect Families is Born!

About 6 months ago I casually mentioned the name of my former partner in my private blog.  It wasn't a  sexually explicit remark, of course, just a mention that we were hanging out that weekend or something to that nature.  For many people, this would probably be no big deal, right? Well, in this case, my former partner happens to be a woman.  As a result of this mention, I lost two readers.  I contacted these readers to ask what was up since we had been following each others blogs for quite some time.  Over the course of nearly a year I had gotten to know these people quite well, and them myself, and suddenly they were completely disinterested in knowing me at all.  Much to my surprise, each of them independently let me know that they loved reading about my life, they loved Aias, and most of all they really liked me; they just didn't feel comfortable being friends with someone who had led a lifestyle like mine.  To this day I'm not really sure what they meant by that; my lifestyle is really no different from anyone else's.  In fact, those readers couldn't even detect the slightest difference in my lifestyle until I made mention of my former partner. As you can probably tell from reading this blog, I'm pretty average.  This is hardly erotic material. 

Because I am currently in a heterosexual relationship, I guess I've been reaping the benefits of invisibility.  People see Morgan and I on the street holding hands and they likely assume we are just a typical heterosexual couple and I am just a typical heterosexual woman.  They read about our lives and they don't detect the slightest amount of difference.  I guess in a way, I've been allowing this to happen.  Actually, this blog paints the picture of heteronormativity in many ways. There's nothing on here that says I'm queer identified (bisexual if you want, whatever makes you comfortable).  There's also nothing on here that says I'm for or against queer families or families that aren't nuclear.  I feel like it's time for that to change. I think it's time for me to come out of the e-closet. 

The loss of these friendships stung, but not for long.  I quickly realized that while it hurts to lose a friend, I'm better off not having people like that in my life. More importantly, Aias is better off.  Since making this blog public over the course of the past few weeks, I've been doing lots of blog hopping and checking out other people's blogs.  Every time I follow a new blog or another blogger follows me, I feel the slightest bit of concern that I'll get close to another person just for them to find out about my sexuality and drop me like a bad habit.  I searched around for GLBTQ family friendly blogs, and couldn't find many.  Worst of all, I found myself looking at people's blogs and trying to "guess" if they would be "ok" with me or not.  It was then that I decided to create a badge that people could put on their blogs to let their readers know that they are ok with all variations of family, no matter what labels society has for them. 

And so Families Respecting Families is born.


I strongly encourage bloggers to put this badge on their site to assure their readers that their page is a safe space for difference.  Putting the badge on your site does not mean you are GLBTQ, in fact, this is about so much more than just sexuality.  This is about all the differences a family can have, and how we should celebrate these differences instead of opposing them.  Adding the Families Respecting Families badge simply means you realize that all families are important regardless of the race, religious beliefs, colour, gender identity, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, sex, sexual orientation, or family status of the people that make up a given family.  I want everyone who reads my blog to know that my family respects other families, regardless of the labels society has for them. All families deserve respect, especially from other families. When it comes right down to it, we're really not so different.

Please check out the Families Respecting Families page here:

http://www.aias.ca/p/families-respecting-families.html

You can also get there by clicking the image above.  If you feel it in your heart that you can support this idea, please place the badge on your blog and encourage your friends to do so as well. 

I admit that in posting this, I am concerned about losing followers on this blog.  I'm concerned about a company Google-ing my name, finding this, and deciding they don't want to hire me because of my sexual orientation.  I'm concerned that I am putting myself out there in a way that makes me vulnerable in ways I can't even think of.  The fact is, I am who I am, and that's ok, and the same goes for you.  Whoever you are, however your family looks from the outside or the inside, it's ok.  In fact, it's more than ok. It's fantastic. If there is anyone who doesn't want to know you because you or your family are different, I can promise you it's their loss. 






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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Brunch: Fresh and Healthy Blueberry Pancakes

By now you all know of my goal to bring some of Miranda Crane's recipes from the somewhat dormant Livejournal Community arty_chokes back to life.  Here is another recipe from arty_chokes, Miranda's fresh and healthy blueberry pancakes.  Whether you are looking for a delicious Sunday Brunch recipe or a recipe for any time, this one is a sure bet.  Don't forget to pay a visit Miranda's Flickr, where she posts gorgeous pictures of her delicious meals complete with the recipes.

So without further delay I present to you:

Miranda Crane's Fresh and Healthy Blueberry Pancakes


Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup wheat germ
3 T raw sugar
2 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
2 eggs
1 T oil
1 lemon
1 3/4 cup soy milk
1 t vanilla
1 cup ish of frozen or fresh blueberries thawed

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Story of How I Earned My Most Recent $40, and How Maybe You Can Too!

I've been working hard on my wording for this entry since I feel like no matter what I say, it will sound like I'm being sponsored to promote one of those Internet "get rich quick" scams. I promise I'm not, and this isn't one of those. You won't get rich quickly or slowly by participating in this, but it's kind of fun if you have a little time on your hands each day. Moreover, I'm not being sponsored or thanked or compensated in any way to post this, I'm just posting it because I think it's pretty neat.

For years and years I've ignored any claims that people have made on any website or via email when they talk about getting money from the Internet. Obviously it's Internet 101 to know that 99% of the time these claims are false so I've learned to just ignore them. However, back in the fall of 2009 I got both curious and bored, so I decided to Google "paid survey sites that actually work," and I stumbled upon a page (that I now can't find) and on this page was a list of sites that supposedly were legit. At the top of this list was a site called Hotspex.  There were quite a few testimonials from people claiming the site was fantastic, so I decided to check it out.


What appealed to me right from the start was that the site was very clear on how you were compensated for your participation. Ultimately what sold the site to me was their relationship with points.com, which is a reputable site and most importantly, meant I could trade my "BUX" from Hotspex for Starbucks cards. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I love Starbucks, and I especially love free Starbucks, so I decided to try my luck at Hotspex.


Family Friendly Kitchen Table Gardening

Gardening: I crave it. I long for it. I pine for it. Sticking my hands deep into the earth, dropping in seeds and watching them grow each day, it sounds like such a simple pleasure. Alas, we literally do not own or have access to a single inch of outdoor space in or around our rented 800 square foot Vancouver condo. We don't have a deck, we don't have space in a public garden, and we don't even have windows that could accommodate a window box. This is the time of year that all my friends start posting pictures of their beautiful gardens in their blogs and on their Facebooks, and I stare on in envy. Every time I express my desire to garden, a handful of people welcome me to their gardens to do all their gardening for them, how generous... but seriously, there's nothing quite like your own personal garden.  

A few months ago I decided I was going to do something about this craving of mine. I went to Home Depot and purchased one of those little Jiffy Seed Starter Greenhouse kits for $10 or so, and came home and happily planted 10 tiny pots each of parsley, cilantro, thyme, basil, and oregano.  Actually, the process took a bit longer than that.  First I came home and researched every little detail about how to do this; from the temperature of the water I should water them with to how deep they should be planted.  When I soaked the Jiffy pellets, I spent four days waiting for them to get to the perfect saturation (perfectionist much?).  I finally got brave enough to commit to planting the seeds and within a few days of planting, they began to grow.  I can't even begin to describe my excitement.  Each day I talked to my plants with Aias as we put exactly 1 tablespoon of water into each pot.  After a few weeks, the seedlings really wanted more light than I could give them.  Once again the shape of the apartment became a roadblock.  The fact is that if I put anything in front of our giant windows, Aias or the dog would have had their way with them and this wouldn't have been a good thing for the plants or for my little ones.


Morgan could see I was upset about the inevitable fate of my herbs, which didn't stand a change without proper sunlight, so he dug out an old fish tank of his and presented it to me.  He had used the same tank to grow plants years ago, so he had the proper lights and everything.  I was so grateful and excited!  The only question was where we would put this gigantic apparatus in our teeny tiny apartment?  It couldn't go on the floor or anywhere where it could potentially land on Aias, so we were a little short on ideas.   The answer we came up with: right smack in the middle of our kitchen table.  While most families probably have a vase of flowers or a lazy susan on the centre of their table, we have a huge fish tank full of plants.


Pre-Rapture Blog Hopping and a Picture of Sand Fries

We had an amazing day today, so if the world actually does end tomorrow, I can honestly say I spent my last full day pretty well! I'll write all about it tomorrow or on Sunday, but for now, here are some blog hops to check out. I also added a blog roll to the sidebar and listed my favorite blogs.  I'm going to go through again tonight and add some more as long as Aias stays asleep.

I'll also post one photo from today of Aias eating french fries on the beach... the fries are absolutely covered in sand.  I guess if you don't have a lot of teeth, sand is no big deal.  Blech.  Oh well, more immunities for him I suppose!


Friday, May 20, 2011

A Kitschy Trip to the Japanese "Dollar Store": And a VERY Fun Training Chopstick Giveaway!

This entry is going to end with an awesome Kitschy Starter Chopstick Giveaway, so if that's what you are here for, feel free to scroll on down!  I hope you'll still enjoy the pictures and entry as well, of course ;)

For those of you who may not know, Vancouver is a dream come true if you love all things Asian; anime, manga, sushi, dim sum, you name it and Vancouver has it.  I moved to Canada in 2003 and having had virtually no prior exposure to Asian culture, every Asian mall or area of the city left me eager for more; I honestly couldn't get enough!  When I wasn't taking the bus to Asian strip malls, I was taking trip after trip to T & T, the local Asian supermarket chain, and buying the most random things.  Everything seemed so magical and full of novelty to me, it was like taking a mini vacation every day.  Within the first 6 months of living here I had completely burned myself out on noodles; T&T literally has an two entire aisles of asian noodles.  Ramen lovers, eat your heart out, seriously.  During that time I also acquired way more Hello Kitty themed items than a grown adult could ever need.  In all the years I've lived here, I've slowly learned to control myself in Asian malls and supermarkets, but every once in a while I pop in to check out the goodies.  Yesterday I did just this, and of course, I took my camera along.  I managed to control myself and only bought two things, which I am going to give away to two lucky readers!  Keep reading for the pictures and to enter a giveaway where you can win your very own Training Chopsticks!

The entry to Yoko Yaya 123.  I'm not sure why it's called 1-2-3, since it has items from like $1 up to $100, but whatever. I guess Yoko Yaya 1-2-3-4-5-6...  is just too long a name!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Empowering Girls: Our Responsibility as Parents and People, Whether You Have A Girl Or Not!

This week's Guest Blogger, Lola Tsai, author of “For My Girls” and founder of SpiritRising, is near and dear to me.  Lola is both an amazing friend and an outstanding advocate and activist for girls everywhere.  You may be wondering why I'd ask someone to come to a blog about a little boy, and write about how to make the world better for little girls, but the answer is simple.  Before I had even thought of having a child, I was at the gym one morning where I witnessed a moment I'll never forget. An older woman and a younger pregnant woman stood near me in the dressing room and the older woman asked the pregnant woman what she was having, a boy or a girl.  When the woman answered that she was having a girl, the older woman said "That's too bad. Maybe you'll have a boy next time."  It sounds so outrageous, right? Well, when I was pregnant with Aias, many people asked me that same question, and when I said I was having a boy, they were jubilant.  Everyone told me how hard girls are, how I won't have to deal with the sexist clothes and toys, etc.  The truth is, parents of boys have a tough burden on their hands too.  For every parent of a little girl who has to teach their daughter that they don't need to look a certain way, there is a parent of a boy who needs to teach their son that they also shouldn't hold women to that false standard.  For every parent of a little girl who has to teach their daughter that women have value and are equal to men, there is a parent of a boy who needs to teach their son the same.  I can imagine nothing worse for Aias than letting him grow up as anything but a feminist.  I want him to grow up in a world where girls are given a fighting chance.  People like Lola Tsai are doing everything in their power to make this happen, and I hope you will do the same.

Enough of my rambling!  I present to you a piece from the amazing Lola Tsai!

Illustration by Julie Tervo Dexter
My Dad had always wanted a boy, but we ended up with three girls, me being the oldest. He wanted a son so badly that his nickname for me when I was young was a boy’s name, and I had the ugliest boy’s haircut until I was halfway into high school. Even though not life-or-death detrimental, it’s had a huge impact on me as I grow older, trying to make sense of who I am as a woman. To this day, feeling and embodying being feminine is something I have to consciously work at, and is still learning everyday. As we raise a new generation of girls and make efforts to re-teach our world that wholeness and power is both masculine AND feminine, what does it really mean to “empower girls”, and most importantly, HOW do we do this on a daily basis?

First, I think it requires us to take a close and in-depth look at what we currently believe about girls. Certain concepts are so engrained in us that we might be the biggest advocates for girls empowerment but still unconsciously say or do things that degrade what it means to be a girl or feminine. “Crying is for girls” or “you run like a girl” are common things we say and hear that naturally reinforce that being a girl is weak and not a winner. Taking the time to slow down and observe what we say will be a powerful first step to examine what we believe about girlhood. We can only start to change what we are aware of, and this change starts with us.

Next, let us re-think what it means to be POWERFUL…after all, to “empower” is to bring out the power within. True power is authentic, whole, and serves on the highest level. In daily life, this translates into reaffirming our girls that their power and beauty lies in their spirit, their whole range of intelligences, and their ability to love the world.

• Power and beauty in spirit – Teach our girls that what’s truly powerful is not temporary or destructible. A beautiful dress or a nice body can be great temporarily, but what happens if they are destroyed or gone? True beauty and power lies in what never goes away: in what we say, in our actions, in our spirit, and in our intentions, despite what we wear or what our bodies look like.

• Wholeness of intelligence – Strengthen in our girls the whole range of intelligences that exist in all human beings, both masculine and feminine, logical and emotional, rational and intuitive. There is no such thing that science or sports are only for boys or that girls should be the only ones learning how to cook. The most powerful and efficient is when we utilize all aspects of our brain and being. We need to encourage our girls to grow in all areas of inner thinking and outer skills, to practice listening to their inner guidance and then actualize that wisdom by expressing it outward through actions.

• Ability to love – Perhaps the most powerful and the most magnetic is to remind our girls that, in alignment with what it means to be a girl, is the essence to choose, to lead, and to create what is LOVING for the world. Teach our girls to respect themselves and others. Teach our girls to nurture themselves and others. Teach our girls to affirm themselves and others. Teach our girls to love themselves and others. Therefore, teaching our girls that what we do to ourselves, we do to the world and vice versa. So to empower the world, we girls must first empower ourselves.

Thank you to all those who remind our girls to go within themselves, to find the power that is already there. Now we practice voicing it, amplifying it, showing it, magnifying it…in boldly loving ways.

Copyright 2010 Lola Tsai

Lola Tsai is the author of “For My Girls” and founder of SpiritRising, an empowerment company that teaches and coaches people how to live with love and spirit. She started the “Empowerment Girls. Change the World.” blog to promote her passion for raising girls’ potential around the world and her life mission is to inspire purpose, passion, and dreams towards positive world change. Lola loves children, enjoys spending time with her friends, reading, writing, walking and running along Kits beach, and traveling. 

The “For My Girls” book was inspired late one night to fulfill a dream: the dream that all girls around the world would hear and hold more empowering words in their hands.  Through this simple poem, we hope to encourage grown-ups everywhere to share more empowering words with the girls in their lives, and ultimately create a net of empowered girls worldwide.



Visit our blog: www.empowergirlschangetheworld.com   

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/formygirls


The "For My Girls" book and calendar project aims to spread power and inspiration to girls around the world through its simple words and images of strength, power, love and magnificence within the heart of every girl. Order your copies here: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/lolatsaiatgmaildotcom



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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hump Day Afternoon Delight: Two Fruity Salads to Toss!

When you are finished here, don't forget to sign up for our second giveaway; a free copy of Company's Coming Rush Hour Recipes! You have until 5pm on May 25th to enter!


No more cakes for you!  Just kidding about that, but seriously, today we aren't doing a cake recipe.  It's hot today and I didn't want to post something that required anyone to turn an oven on.  Once again (you know this spiel if you are a regular around here) today's recipe comes from one of the most amazing and creative people ever, Miranda Crane.  Back in 2008 Miranda created my favorite Livejournal Community ever, arty_chokes, which is a community for step-by-step vegetarian recipes.  The community has sadly been dormant for quite some time, but both Miranda and myself are hoping it will make a comeback with a little bit of pimping.  With Miranda's permission, over the next few weeks I'm going to feature some of her personal top recipes from arty_chokes here at Aias Dot Ca.   If you have a Livejournal, please check the community out and participate in raising it from the dead! Additionally, if you love this recipe and you love pictures of tasty food, please check out Miranda's Flickr where she posts images of her food as well as the recipes!

So without further delay I present to you:

Two Fruity Salads

Salad Number One: Strawberry Almond Salad
Ingredients for salad:

fresh spinach
green leaf lettuce
fresh strawberries
sliced almonds

Ingredients for dressing:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
1 tsp of whole grain mustard or german mustard
just over 1 tsp of honey


Add 1 tsp of mustard to 2 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of vinegar

Add honey
whisk, set aside

wash spinach, lettuce and strawberries, chop/rip up
and you're done!
Salad Number One: Strawberry Almond Salad

Ingredients:
fresh rasberries + blueberries
lettuce
rasberry vinegrette
sunflower seeds
vinigrette




Add it all together and you get...





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