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    Sunday Spark: Spring is Nearly Here!

    …And then my heart with pleasure fills,
    And dances with the Daffodils.

    ~William Wordsworth (from the poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud)

    (Our daffodils are starting to come up!)

     The sun was out today - fabulously bright and filling us with energy (and vitamin D)!  Though it’s only February, we’ve been blessed with beautiful weather in the 40’s & 50’s – and, if you believe the weather report, it is expected to continue over the next week!

    (Planting pansies - oh, the glorious cooperation!)

    Not being one to let a moment pass, we took advantage of the beauty of the day to get outside and enjoy the pre-Spring loveliness. The air was cool and crisp, scented with the rich earthiness of melting snow, and leant itself perfectly to spending our afternoon outside planting, digging, and climbing trees.

    (My daughter found her first earthworm of the season)

    We cleared out old leaves and sticks, potted some pansies, sprinkled organic fertilizer over our perennial beds and put down mulch. How I love getting back into the garden! Then, while I was watering, the children then dug holes in the mulch (Yay! Mud!) and climbed our little tree (thank you Mr. Flowering Dogwood for being so tolerant of little scrambling hands and feet). 

    (My son, enjoying his first tree-climb)

    I basked in the warmth of the sun, soaking up the energy of the earth and the thoroughly enjoying the squeals of pleasure of my children – so happy to be outside. 

    (Is there anything better than digging in the dirt?)

    It was a truly wonderful day. Here’s to a joyful week!   

    Posted: Feb 27 2011, 23:32 by kelly | Comments (4) RSS comment feed |
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    Spring Garden Update

    It's hard to believe, but we're already entering late Spring! So, I thought it would be a good time to update what’s blooming in my sunny & shady perennial gardens since my last gardening post!  The view in my gardens change nearly every day – I love it! Gardening is so peaceful... the connection with the earth... I really can feel the positive vibrations from the plants - it uplifts me!


    So back down to earth.  A few of the photos below are of flowers newly planted this Spring (sweet william, stratheden, scabiosa, & yarrow), so they may be blooming out of turn.  I’ll have to wait until next year to see where they fall in the blooming cycle – I usually end up moving things after a year or so depending on height and bloom time.


    So here’s what’s in bloom right now (courtesy of my iPhone)!

    First, the sunny garden:

    Cranesbill with Stratheden (one of my favorite spots in the sun garden)


    Sweet William


    Coral Bells (these grew so TALL this year!)

    Yarrow (with Phlox not yet in bloom, behind)


    Next, the shady garden: 




    Lamium (this is a super-quick spreader... I wouldn't mind if it took over most of the shade garden - so pretty!)


    So, what's growing in YOUR garden? I'd love to know!

    Posted: May 25 2010, 16:14 by kelly | Comments (2) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Gardening | Outdoors | Seasons

    Our First Garden

    What better way to start off Spring Break than getting out in the sun, turning over the dirt, and planting a garden?  I’ve always wanted to plant & tend a garden with the children.  Gardening has so many benefits – it teaches patience, caring for the earth, attention to detail, nurturing, and helps boost spirits!  Gardening is therapeutic for me. Who doesn’t just feel better outside in the sun, earth in their toes, the sound of wind through the trees? I just can’t be grumpy out in my flower beds; and I’ve found, neither can my children.


    Over the years, my children have helped me create and tend our perennial flower beds, but, due to our locale, never yet have attempted a vegetable/fruit garden.  This is due to the fact that we live in a condo which hires a landscaping company that sprays the common areas regularly with pesticides and fertilizers (Grrrrrr…).  That being the unfortunate case, I’m really not comfortable with planting anything edible here, due to the potential run-off from the grass area.  However, out beyond our backyard and the heavily-treated common area, right at the edge of the woods, there’s a perfectly sunny spot – just right for planting non-edibles! 


    First, we had to clear a space out there.  So… out we went with rakes, shovels, and my new gardening best friend, the hound dog and spent the better part of two hours pulling weeds, cutting vines, raking and tilling.  The vegetation, dead leaves, roots, and downed branches that reside on the edge of the woods made clearing a daunting task, but we hung in there (my children are gardening naturals, I tell you). 


    Two hours, and two very dirty kids (yes, they did actually lie down in the dirt) later, we had our very first garden!  I was able to scavenge 4 pieces of lumber from the woods (don’t even get me started on people dumping trash in the woods), to surround our space, and felt quite satisfied with the results!   My 5-year old tells me we need a sign that says, “Welcome to my Garden”, and I agree. 

    Next, after a lunch break and much-needed shower, came the seeds.  Now, a couple of years ago, my daughter & I tried to plant some sunflower seeds out on the edge of the woods, and they were immediately dug up & eaten by the local squirrels.  So, this year, we decided to try using a seed starter and let our seeds germinate indoors first, and then transplant out to the garden.  We bought an “eco-friendly”
    seed starter kit made from biodegradable plant material. It was super-easy to put together and plant with the kids.  We chose some easy-to-grow non-edibles: pumpkins and three varieties of sunflowers.  My 2-year old enjoyed watering the pellets, and my 5-year old loved being in charge of labeling the rows.  We finished the seed starting part in about an hour, and added it to our nature table Now we just have to wait for the seeds to germinate & tiny plants to grow! We’re all excited to watch the magic of nature! Once the plants are strong enough & big enough, we’ll move them outside to the garden, and make tending our pumpkins and sunflowers part of our daily summer routine.

    Please share your gardening with kids experiences!  I'd love to know which crops work best for you; and how you help your children learn to enjoy gardening!

    Posted: Apr 05 2010, 17:50 by kelly | Comments (2) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Gardening | Outdoors

    Dalylight Saving Time

    So here we are once again, “Springing forward” with our clocks, and wreaking havoc with our circadian rhythms.  In my personal experience, children respond the least well to DST, or, perhaps it’s that we adults don’t like to take things slowly, and wish kids could just “get” the concept of moving the clocks means going to bed/getting up earlier.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could gradually ease into DST – say, moving each day back by 8 minutes and 57 seconds for the week preceding?  Okay, maybe not.  

    But as it is, I find the Spring forward part of the time changes particularly difficult: Bam! Wake up earlier! Slam! Go to bed earlier! No one really responds well.  I find myself wandering around in a haze in the mornings for a week or so, and unable to fall asleep in the evening.  For the children, nap, bedtime, and waketime become so much more dramatic.


    After a particularly irritable day yesterday (granted, it has been raining here for the last three days), I decided to research a bit, to find out the reasons behind Daylight Saving Time. Really, I guess I was looking for someone to blame. 


    Anyhow, the idea of Summer Time/Daylight Saving Time was first introduced by George Vernon Hudson in 1895. I’d imagine he’s no longer alive for me to give a piece of my mind. Harumph. It was first implemented during World War in an effort to conserve coal for war production (the theory being that by taking advantage of the greater hours of daylight in the Spring & Summer for work, less coal would be burned in the evenings, as people would be sleeping).  In 2007, due to the passing of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, four extra weeks were added to extend Daylight Saving Time - extending our previously observed DST of 1st Sunday in April – Last Sunday in October to where it stands now: The second Sunday in March – the first Sunday in November. Again, in an effort to further reduce energy consumption. While that theory of energy saving by DST still holds today, it doesn’t seem to be an open & shut case.  Wikipedia indicates that “recent research is limited and reports contradictory results” linking actual energy reduction to DST implementation.  Also that, “several studies have suggested DST increases motor fuel consumption”.


    Now, don’t get me wrong. Of course I appreciate the extra “daytime” as the days naturally lengthen; it helps us wake with the sun, spend more time in the sun during the day, and thereby increase our ability to produce all-important Vitamin D, and improve our mood and health overall.  And certainly, if there are energy savings to be had by through the implementation of DST, then I’m all for its continuation. Yet, I wish there were a more gradual transition, particularly for the children.  Because when it comes right down to it, it’s just not easy explaining to a 2-year old, who “isn’t tired yet”, that they need to go to bed an hour earlier than they are used to because we moved the clocks forward in order that we may help reduce our country’s energy consumption by 1%. Yeah. On these first few evenings after the time change, I’m temped to go the way of Hawaii (and parts of Arizona), and not observe Daylight Saving Time at all.

    Posted: Mar 15 2010, 11:56 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Seasons | Sleep

    Staying Healthy through the Winter

    With cold weather fast approaching, and the children back in school, the thoughts of staying healthy, avoiding the dreaded flu, and keeping our immune systems at their highest level have been forefront in my mind!
    So I’ve been mulling over all the things we’ve done in the past, the things we are planning to do this year, and have been soliciting ideas from my irl, facebook, & twitter friends. All this adds up to a pretty darned good list, if I do say so myself. Though, I’m sure there are plenty more things I could do better! Here it is (not really in any order other than how they came to my mind):
    (and this photo isn't me - just looked like how I'd like to feel all year 'round!)
    Fresh Air & Sunshine – Getting outside every day, even when it’s really cold, if just for a few minutes, is so important. Not only do our bodies need the sunlight so they can make vitamin D (which is VITAL to staying healthy – please read what Dr. Mercola has to say about vitamin D & sun exposure – it may change your perspective on the sun; it did mine!), but we also need fresh air to clear out our lungs from being cooped up indoors all winter day. Most of our indoor air contains pollutants – carpet fibers, paint offgassing, cleaning products, etc. So, in addition to getting outside, periodically opening the windows throughout the winter to get some “new” air in, I recommend switching all cleaning products used indoors to natural products – castille soap, vinegar, baking soda, and tea tree oil for example, or safer chemical cleaners – like 7th Generation.

    Fruits, veggies, and berries – particularly berries
    - We try to eat organic as much as possible to avoid chemical exposure, and to boost antioxidants (organic produce has been found to have higher levels of antioxidants than conventional food)! We also are fortunate to have a juicer – and try to use it often in the winter to get the most out of our veggies in particular. I believe that food is better for you when it is raw & unpasturized; though the thought of raw veggies isn’t that appealing to most – particularly kids, so juicing makes eating your veggies easy! It also helps cut down on the amt. of food wasted – when your strawberries start to get soft, or your apples bruised, for example, I just throw them in the juicer – and no one’s the wiser – but they sure still taste great! When we can’t get to the juicer, or don’t have fresh fruits/veggies on hand, the next best thing we’ve found is
    Nuriche LiVE. And we like it so much, that we decided to start selling it!
    It’s a super-easy way to make sure we’re still getting the benefits of fresh fruits + probiotics… and it tastes good too.

    - Water, of course, is important to keep everything working in our bodies & I always feel it just flushes out the toxins… the more water you take in, the more bad stuff it takes out. We have a water filter, and I’m trying to wean myself off of bottled spring water. However, while rated highly “clean”, our township water is fluoridated, so its been a mental battle for me to switch completely off of bottled spring. But I am trying! For my birthday, my good friend got for me 5 reusable BPA-free plastic water bottles: one for each day of the work week. And I plan to get the children each a
    Kleen Kanteen
    for Christmas. So this should help!

    Washing Hands
    – We use herbal antibacterial soap by
    at our sinks, and just regular old olive oil soap in the bath. We wash before meals, after going outside, and after getting back from school/work. When we’re in the car, and can’t get to a sink, my favorite antibacterial spray is Burt’s Bees Aloe & Witch Hazel Hand Sanitizer. I don’t consider myself too much of a germaphobe, and don’t chase the kids around with antibacterial spray (oh wait, maybe I do), but these two things are free from toxic chemicals like triclosan & SLS, so I feel comfortable using them.

    – Okay. I’ll admit, I do not exercise enough. Or, well, at all. Sometimes we’ll get on an exercise kick where we’ll get on our running machine & elliptical every evening once the kids are in bed but we’ve never been able to get into a real routine! The kids, on the otherhand, always get plenty of exercise – of course, they always have boundless energy too. :) Its so important to long-term health, and its important for the children to see US placing a priority on exercise. This is something we ALL need to work on.

    – Aside from the healthy foods, getting outside, and drinking lots of fluids, we also supplement our diets with the following things; most vigilantly in the Winter:
    • Probiotic – I use Jarro brand because its what I started with when my youngest was an infant & had thrush. Comes chewable for the kids, capsulated for me, and powdered which I use to mix into smoothies, sprinkle on oatmeal, etc.
    • Elderberry concentrate – we take this daily because it is so tasty, easy to mix into the kid’s water, and packed full of natural nutrients! Additionally, it has been shown to have anti-viral properties.
    • Garlic – Adam & I take garlic in capsule form, and we make homemade garlicky hummus & soups for ourselves & the kids.
    • Echinacea – We all take this two weeks on, two weeks off throughout cold season
    • Astragalus – We all take this daily throughout cold season
    • Vitamin C – We all take this daily in the form of chewable tablets, but also unpasteurized orange juice. We boost our daily intake during cold season.
    • Vitamin D – we get out in the sun every day when its possible, but even when it is, we all also take vitamin D – in the form of cod liver oil for us, and Carlsons Baby D drops for the kids. With all I’ve been reading about vitamin D lately, I’m even considering starting to regularly visit a tanning salon in the winter months. Yes, crazy, right? And I’ve never in my life tanned, and do use California Baby sunscreen in the middle of summer when we're going to be out all day in the sun, yet the more I read, the more I’m convinced vitamin D deficiencies are the link to so many health problems… and that dramatically increasing vitamin D would be the link to much better health!

    – We try to visit the chiropractor once a month. Its been a while because our favorite chiropractor has relocated to a not-so-convenient location, but we really need to go back, particularly through the winter! I believe that having our bodies aligned improves circulation, posture, and communication of the brain with the body. Basically, if our body is comfortable it can heal itself. So I’m working on finding a new chiropractor.

    - With young children I know this can be a tough one. And even WITHOUT young children, with so much to do in the evenings - internet, movies, games, blogging, reading, cleaning, working... well, getting enough sleep is just not easy. But as adults we're supposed to get 8 hours of sleep per night. EIGHT! Even with both of our children now finally "sleeping through the night", I often find myself averaging closer to 5 or 6 hours per night during the week, rather than 8 (when's the last time I got 8?!). But our bodies do much of thier healing while we're sleeping. So its another thing, like exercise, that really needs focus.

    Air Purifier
    – We've always slept with a HEPA air purifier at night. Mostly for that lovely white noise sound which is so helpful in keeping little ones asleep. But also because it removes any allergenic or irritating particles in the air while we're sleeping - and we do spend a large portion of our day in one place - our bedroom - so best to make the air we're breathing (and rebreathing) as clean as possible.

    Flu shots – I think I’m back on the fence with this one. Last year, we all got the flu shot. I had to switch doctors in order to make sure everyone got the mercury-free dose, and no, we didn’t get the flu last year. But we never got the flu any other year either, and had never gotten the flu vaccine. This year, I’ll have to special order the mercury-free one (Sanofi Pasteur makes the pre-filled vials this year) – my doctor is willing to write a script for it – because neither of the practices we visit received the themerisol-free version this year. Which is another topic for another day. So, I’m still not sure about it, or the H1N1 vaccine. I’m considering getting it for myself, but since my understanding is that they haven’t produced a mercury-free version, I just don’t know that I can feel comfortable giving this to the kids. Particularly in light of my understanding of H1N1 as not being that severe in most cases of healthy children who contract it. And because I believe that things like the flu are probably GOOD for your body in the long run, because they make your immune system stronger over time, where as vaccines only boost your immunities for a brief window. But really, I’m still just not sure.
    **Update: We've decided a definitive NO on both the seasonal flu shot & the H1N1 vaccine this year; opting instead for more vigilant adherance to the above vitamin & sleep & exercise regimens to boost our immune systems naturally!**
    In spite of all of this prevention (flu shot or no), we still do get sick. So, we take:

    Umcka – It works so well (and is all natural)… it’s eerie. Of course, it could just be power of suggestion. But even still…. You start taking it 4 – 5 times per day, AS SOON AS you start feeling even a little bit ill. And then for 2 days after you’re well. I am convinced it has reduced the length of my colds, and made them easier to weather. I give it to the kids as well (just at half/quarter dose). It IS expensive, but when you’re in the midst of a cold/flu, you do what you can to feel better. And this really does help me feel better.
    Elderberry Concentrate - Yes, I listed this above. However, when we do get sick, we take this 4x per day (1 tsp at a time for adults, 1/2 tsp at a time for kids) because of its antiviral properties.

    What I don't yet do, but would like to do:

    Find an ayurvedic doctor for all of us. Its difficult finding a regular old doctor here in Southern NJ that is even willing to honor requests like special order vaccines or understands the value of extended breastfeeding, let alone being able to find a more holistic practice. I've been looking, and am still looking. I hate feeling like we're settling for second best (or third, or...) when it comes to health practitioner, but my inquiries IRL & online for a more holistic doc in this area have so far been fruitless. I'm certainly open to referrals! I think a less traditional-medicine doctor who looks at the whole person, not just treats the symptoms, would be really beneficial to us all.
    So that’s it (just a couple things, right?)! I encourage you to add to the list anything you do that isn’t mentioned, or to tell me what I’m doing doesn’t work! I’m open to new ideas, and to improving what we already do. Here’s to a healthy Winter ahead!
    Posted: Oct 11 2009, 15:32 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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