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    Homemade Dill Pickles Recipe (c/o Uncle Spencer)



    3 large cucumbers
    2 cups of water
    1 cup of white vinegar
    ½ bunch of fresh dill, chopped
    ½ head of garlic, chopped
    3 Tbs salt

    Cut cucumbers (skin-on) into spears or slices. Place in a large sealable bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for 2 – 3 days. Enjoy!

    The kids & I only just made these today, so they still have 1.5 – 2.5 days left to marinate, but man oh man, they smell so good already, and look so FRESH, I just had to share the recipe! Note: I only had mini cukes available, so I halved the recipe (hence the small bowl in the photo). 

    Posted: Aug 29 2009, 21:39 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Natural Living | Recipes

    Playing Games - Simple is Fun!

    I spent a quite a bit of time rearranging & reorganizing my childrens’ play area yesterday. In the process, I realized that my children have, in their combined not quite 5 years, managed to amass a LOT of toys.  The reason for the reorganization was my intent to move towards a more Montessori approach at home, to more closely follow what they encounter at school (more to come on this, in a future post), which will facilitate more independent choosing of work (play).  Perhaps put more simply: to make sure they can see & reach everything they do want to play with; and to get rid of things that don’t get played with.


    The process of slimming down the toy area got me thinking about how the simplest things usually make the best toys. For example, today, we spent the better part of an hour with handmade-by-grandpa blocks, a dozen matchbox cars, and a handful of various miniature animals & little people gotten at a garage sale.  We built block roads with block traffic lights that underwent matchbox traffic jams and road construction, and a block & mini animal zoo with a little people picnic area & monorail. Go, imagination!


    In straightening, I realized that some of the most-used toys we have also happen to be the least-expensive, and most-versatile toys (aside from books or arts & crafts – but those are different animals altogether): blocks, Legos (easily purchased used), matchbox cars, and decks of cards.  I discovered several underused decks of cards at the bottom of a box, and it brought back good memories. As a kid, we loved card games. My mom would teach us the rules, give us a deck, and we’d all play for hours. As an adult, Adam & I have played with our friends throughout the years – everyone knows how to play at least ONE card game, right?


    This all got me thinking about how with one simple deck of 52 cards, you can really do so much: Go Fish, Memory, Crazy 8s, Old Maid, War, Rummy, Solitaire, Hearts, Poker, Back Alley (Bloopers), and the list goes on…   not to mention 52 card pick-up (haha), 3 card monte, magic tricks, or building houses out of cards. 


    Since cards are so inexpensive, versatile, and ubiquitous, it really makes me wonder why these decks have been buried at the bottom of a bin, instead of front & center on our toy shelf!  So, I’ve decided to brush up on my kids’ card game skills with a deck of cards, and start playing more often with the children. My favorite card game has to be one called Bloopers (which, as a complete aside, I looked up online is most closely related to a game called Back Alley Bridge [traced back to WWII].  Here’s an outline of the rules & variations, if you’re interested – GREAT game: Back Alley), and I want my children to develop their own favorite card games.  Its a great skill to have, to be able to pull out a deck of cards, in whatever situation you’re in, and start playing with someone – cards can transcend age, gender, language… and teach turn taking, patience, forethought, strategy, and non-violent competition (alright, Rounders aside).


    I’ve always brought along a deck of cards whenever we travel, but I’ve now decided to start carrying a deck of cards in my purse for everyday boring & quiet-situation use (i.e. waiting rooms, brother sleeping in car).  Here’s the deck I’ve chosen for the kids, because once you’re finished whatever card game you’re playing, the pictures open up fun discussions & imagination play: Animals of the World 


    So what are your favorite card games? I’d love to hear – please leave a comment.  Thanks for reading!


    Posted: Aug 26 2009, 10:28 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    Kel's Vegan (or not) Chocolate Chip Cookies

    (Makes about 15 - 18 small cookies; so adjust up as necessary)

    4 Tbs of butter (or substitute coconut oil, margarine, etc. & voila, vegan cookies!), softened

    1/4 + 1/8 cup of dark brown sugar

    1 tsp vanilla

    1/4 cup apple butter (could use applesauce too, but the spice is nice)

    1/2 cup + 2 Tbs of white whole wheat flour

    1/4 tsp baking soda

    1/8 tsp salt (use only if not using salted margarine)

    1/2 cup ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips


    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

    Beat butter & brown sugar together until creamy. Add vanilla & apple butter, beat some more.

    Add flour, baking soda, salt, and mix until all ingredients are blended.

    Stir in chocolate chips.

    Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet (I recommend using parchment paper!)

    Bake for 10 - 12 minutes & serve warm.


    I've been tweaking this recipe for a few months & finally decided to write it down.  I think its reached the point of ultra-deliciousness, but I'm always open to suggestions.  So, if you make these, please comment & let me know what worked, or what you'd do differently!

    Bon appetit!


    Posted: Aug 23 2009, 23:45 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Natural Living | Recipes

    SeriousPuzzles.com Melissa & Doug Wood Puzzle Maze Giveaway!

    Laughing UPDATE!  Congratulations to our lucky winner April @MagicDandelions! Thank you everyone for your interest & please visit again in the future for more giveaways!

    I thought I’d start off the weekend right by giving away a brand-new, right off the shelf copy of one of our kids’ favorite puzzles; the Geometric Shapes Maze By Melissa & Doug. You can check out the puzzle maze, right here on our SeriousPuzzles.com site:

    A great educational wooden puzzle; it reinforces basic color & shape recognition (shape names are printed on the puzzle), as well as developing fine motor, patience, independent work, sequence, and matching skills.  Our daughter’s favorite way to use this is to challenge me to mix it up the “most” and see how fast she can “unmix” it. A great time, all around! 

    Melissa & Doug puzzles are crafted by hand using non-toxic paints, and meet or exceed all U.S. toy testing standards.


    Would you like a copy of this fantastic puzzle maze?




    Here’s how to get one:






    Please visit SeriousPuzzles.com.  Leave a comment on this blog; tell me one thing you learned about us or which puzzle you really loved on our site!

    EXTRA ENTRIES: (Don’t forget to leave a comment for every extra entry you complete!)


    1.  Sign Up For the Serious Shops Newsletter  (please send us a separate email to info@seriousshops.com letting us know you signed up)

    2.  Tell me a product from one of our Serious Shops that you would like to see as a giveaway in the future.

    3.  Follow Serious Shops on Twitter

    4.  Follow me on Twitter & Tweet this giveaway (you can do this once a day!)


    Giveaway is open to US Residents only. Contest will end on August 31st at 12am EST. Winner will be chosen at random and will be announced here on http://www.seriousshops.com/blogs/ & emailed directly. Winner has 72 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

    Posted: Aug 21 2009, 15:30 by kelly | Comments (18) RSS comment feed |
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    The Secret. And a bit of a birth story.

    “The secret is that you are already a completely whole, perfect person.” – from The Secret by Mavis Karn


    In 2004, while in my 9th month of pregnancy with my persistently frank breech daughter, I was in a chiropractor’s office, waiting to be seen.  I couldn’t believe I was there, but there I was. Up until that point, I’d tried everything under the sun to encourage my daughter to turn around: elephant walking on hands & feet, standing on my head, doing somersaults under water, putting cold peas on her “head”, playing music to & having Adam talk to her “butt”, shining a flashlight from the top of my belly down to the bottom, doing shoulder stands for entire lengths movies, visualizing optimal fetal position, moxibustion, praying, begging, hoping, and wishing she’d turn, even 2 failed external cephalic version attempts (don’t try this, ladies, trust me – its horrible). I’d done everything except seeing a chiropractor. In my 38 weeks, I was beyond the time that I was told she’d even have a chance of turning on her own, and with a heavy heart, I’d even consented to seeing an OB at my last midwife appointment, and scheduling a c-section. I felt defeated. We'd planned a natural birth.  We'd done everything right.  But things just weren't going as planned.  So, feeling I had nothing to lose, I decided to call this chiropractor.  I’d read something about the Webster Technique but, I’d never in my life been to a chiropractor. I didn’t really know what they did, and had this feeling that it wasn’t “real” medicine (just so you know where I was coming from 5 years ago), so I’d just been all around hesitant to see one.  Yet, I tried moxibustion – a smoldering herbal stick millimeters from my little toe while standing on a block – go figure.  Anyhow, the week before the section was scheduled, I looked online for a chiropractor in my area (which, at the time, was extremely rural) who also happened to be certified in the Webster technique, who would also accept a patient who was about to have a baby any day now, and lo & behold, I found one right away, and she told me to come right in. So there I sat, in a state of doubt, disbelief, and nervousness.  Couldn’t believe I was there, didn’t believe it would work, and worried about what she’d do to me. As I was obsessively mulling my thoughts, I looked up, and there was a yellow poster on the wall:  THE SECRET By MAVIS KARN it read. 

    I read on:

    …I have a secret to tell you.  Nobody meant to keep it from you… it’s just that it’s been one of those things that’s so obvious that people couldn’t see it… like looking all over for the key that you have in your hand….


    Intriguing, right? Anyhow, I read the whole thing through, waiting there. And reread it. And as I read, I felt a lightening of my heart. That maybe everything really was going to turn out okay.  


    I was called back to the exam room, and over the next hour (it seemed) the doctor talked to me, listened to me, educated me a bit about chiropractic, and eventually performed the Webster Technique.  She told me of other patients she’d had who experienced immediate turning of their babies, some whose babies turned soon afterwards, some who took a few visits, some who didn’t. When my visit was over, I thought to myself, at least I can now go into my C-section in three days knowing for certain that I’d done everything I could do.


    And as I was leaving the office, the poster caught my eye again, and again I read:

    … The secret is that you are already a completely whole, perfect person.  You are not damaged goods, you are not incomplete, you are not flawed, you are not unfinished…


    I asked the receptionist if she knew where I could get a copy – which she didn’t, though she offered to send me a copy (which I remember not really believing she would). 


    As I climbed back in my car & headed home, I remember feeling my daughter move around.  A lot. And if you know what it’s like in those last weeks, there’s not much moving going on anymore.  Movement that does occur is more contained, crowded, confined.  But let me tell you, she was MOVING on that trip. And moving all evening long.  And all night long. 


    Two days later, the evening before my scheduled C-section, I went to my OB’s office for a final check of position.  Lo & behold, my daughter was HEADS DOWN.  She actually was so excited for me, she told me she’d put her knives back in the closet & go away & I can have my midwives back (yes, she did actually say this, ask Adam)!


    My daughter ended up being born only 2 days shy of her “due date”, 31 laboring hours after my water broke.  I made it mostly naturally & then later medicated (and let me tell you oh doubters, it IS possible for an epidural NOT to work, and for the needle to cause MORE pain than a contraction) to 10 cm, and had pushed, and pushed…  But she was posterior for my entire labor (OW!) and was presenting her forehead to the world.  My midwife said she could feel her eyebrows with every push, but just couldn’t get a good hold of her. Vacuum was out of the question due to position, and forceps were not used in the hospital where I delivered. So she was delivered via C-section after all. The doctor actually got the vacuum out during the section because my daughter was so completely stuck in my pelvis (though in the end, it wasn’t used, thankfully).


    The birth of my daughter was the most amazing, scary, and incredible experience of my life.  She was so perfect & just how I'd dreamt how she'd look.  But I’d say my transition from pregnancy to parenthood wasn't exactly a smooth ride. She was born with ABO incompatibility (basically, she was allergic to my blood; Dr's were stymied & no one seemed to know exactly what was happening).  My milk didn’t come in for several days, we were in the hospital for a week, and the C-section made just sitting up hard work. But with the help of a wonderful lactation nurse (she's definitely gaining points in her karma bank), I was able to work out a system to keep my daughter & her incubator in our room, wake her every 2 hrs (extremely jaundiced babies have a hard time waking & latching, and need around the clock light therapy in addition to timed waking to feed in order to move the bilirubin out of their systems so as to avoid a transfusion or other serious complications), nurse her with the help of an SNS filled with formula & whatever miniscule amounts of colostrum I could produce (liquid gold, I tell you.  Even 10 drops was worth celebrating.  I recall the joy I’d feel each day being able to put just a bit more of my milk in the SNS, and just a bit less of the formula in), put her back in to the isolette, hook myself up to the pump, and perhaps catch a couple moments of rest before the next waking.


    Needless to say, were we ever so happy to be given the green light to go home at the end of that week!  But getting off of formula & the SNS over the next couple weeks, and getting on to nursing certainly wasn’t a party.  I spent HOURS in my rocking chair.  Literally hours. Reading & rereading Dr. Sears. And my dear baby was colicky as well. And wouldn’t lay down without waking (What is a crib used for, again?  I really don’t know, though at the time we thought that's where babies were supposed to sleep - silly parents!). So if I wasn’t marathon nursing, I was walking, and bouncing, and shushing, and singing, and doing every possible thing one could do to soothe a screaming baby.  It wasn’t pretty.  I don’t remember much very clearly in those early days.  Except that I didn’t sleep. At all. Until I figured out how to nurse side-lying, and cosleep.


    One day I remember sitting in my chair, feeling more than a bit sorry for myself & how my life had changed so much & how hard it was being a new mom, and thinking I should go get the mail, but not willing to move, because, oh thank all that is good & holy, the baby was ASLEEP, and she did have ultra Mommy is moving radar. But this day I risked it, and there, in the mail… Well, that receptionist, she DID actually send me a copy of “The Secret”!  And that simple poster did SO MUCH GOOD for me in those early weeks of physically recovering from a C-section, emotionally recovering from not getting the natural birth I’d planned on, learning to breastfeed without an SNS (and without family or support - we lived hundreds of miles away from our families, and in the middle of the woods), and adjusting to life as a mother of this amazing little person, no longer just a woman & wife who can do whatever she wants whenever she wants, but a MOTHER (this deserves all caps) of someone who depends completely on me and doesn’t care one lick about my routines or desires (nor should she).  It was an amazing, difficult, and not always happy or smooth transition. But reading that poster always managed to bring me back to what was important in life: my beautiful daughter & my wonderful husband.  Brought me back to the realization that I had the ability to change my thinking; to feel good instead of bad, to appreciate all that was amazing about our new journey into parenthood instead of lamenting over what life used to be like or how I thought my birth could have gone. I realized that I was, and am, every moment, in control of choosing to feel positive & grateful over negative & unappreciative. I wish I knew Mavis so I could thank her.


    I still have that photocopy hanging on my desk to this day. I’m writing it word for word here because I truly think it’s worth sharing (forgive any typos, please – they are entirely my fault).  Thanks for reading & hope you enjoy:


    Dear Kids (and former kids),

    I have a secret to tell you. Nobody meant to keep it from you... It’s just that it’s been one of those things that’s so obvious that people couldn’t see it... like looking all over for the key that you have in your hand.


    The secret is that you are already a completely whole, perfect person. You are not damaged goods, you are not incomplete, you are not flawed, you are not unfinished, you do not need remodeling, fixing, polishing, or major rehabilitation. You already have everything you need to live a wonderful life. You have common sense, wisdom, genius, creativity, humor, self-esteem... you are pure potential... you are missing nothing.


    The only thing that can keep you from enjoying all that you already are is a thought. One thought. Your thought. Not someone else’s thought. Your thought... Whatever you are thinking at the moment that feels more important to think than feeling grateful, alive, content, joyful, optimistic, loving, and at peace.... that’s the only think that’s between you and happiness.


    And guess who’s in charge of your thinking... guess who gets to decide where your attention goes... guess who gets to write, produce, direct, and star in the moment you’re in the middle of ... you. Just you. Not your past (stored thoughts), not the future (did you notice that it never, ever, shows up?), not your parents (they all think their own thoughts), not your friends (ditto), or school or television, or situations or circumstances or anything else. Just you.


    Thinking is an awesome capability. Like any capability it can be used either as a tool or as a weapon against ourselves and others. And just like with any other tool, we can tell whether we’re using it for or against ourselves by how it feels. When we think against ourselves or others, we get in trouble. When we don’t, we usually say out of trouble.




    So,… please remember that your thoughts are not always telling you the truth. When we’re in low moods, feeling down, our thoughts are not to be trusted… Our IQ’s drop. When our thoughts pass we lighten up, our thinking is once again creative, positive… our IQ’s go up. The only way you can feel badly about yourself and your life is if you think badly about them… it’s up to you, every single minute you’re alive. It’s always up to you! This is the best, most liberating secret I ever learned, and I want you to know it too.


    With Love,


    (1999, Mavis L. Karn)