Chicken & Bacon Shish Kabobs

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We had a fun time hosting a neighborhood BBQ at our home on Sunday evening. We served these delicious shish kabobs and I just had to pass on the recipe to you all. They include marinated chicken chunks wrapped in bacon and barbaqued on the grill. You can skip the marinade if desired. We recommend a naturally fermented soy sauce (learn more here) and add more vegetables (cherry tomatoes, green & red peppers, yellow onions). They were awesome! Try the recipe here. We use apple smoked nitrate free bacon from Trader Joes’s, which is fabulous! We also picked up the fresh vegetables (green peppers, onions, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes at our local farmer’s market. This was a fun company meal!

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Healthy Appetizers: Bruschetta

IMG_6274I love making fresh bruschetta as a delightful appetizer during the summer months when fresh tomatoes and basil are coming off the vines. This is traditional bruschetta with a marinating twist. We served this while having a neighborhood BBQ party at our home on Sunday and everyone loved it! Enjoy!

4-5 tomatoes, roma is preferred
2-3 Tablespoons fresh basil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 red or yellow onion, chopped (red onion is best!)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt & pepper to taste
Serve alone or on bread of your choice – We love serving it on baguettes that have been lightly pre-toasted in the oven with olive oil brushed on them. You could also use flatbread or french bread.

In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients above and allow to marinate for several hours, preferably overnight. If using baguettes, thinly slice baguette bread and brush with olive oil. Toast in the oven at 425 degrees for 5 minutes or so. Remove bread from oven when it is slightly firm to touch. Scoop a spoonful of the marinated bruschetta on each slice of bread. Return to oven and allow to broil for another 5-8 minutes, until warm. Top with additional parmesan, if desired. Enjoy!

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The Fruitfulness of Reading

booksThis is a speech I wrote in high school that I stumbled upon the other day and wanted to share it with you all. It is rather lengthy, but I was and continue to be passionate about challenging people to read. ;) Encouraging reading in our home is one way to pursue simple and fruitful lifestyles. Why not designate one night a week to be a family reading night? Turn off the distractions, and have every one cuddle up in your favorite spot with a good book and enjoy!

Several decades ago, an American paper manufacturing company ran a series of ads in the major magazines, and each one had the same caption: “Send us a man who reads!” This generation is greatly lacking in the area of reading…we have satisfied our leisure time with numerous hours opposite of the television, lounging with a newspaper in hand, consumed in front of a computer screen, or simply wasting precious time in carefree thought and mindless wandering. We have stripped ourselves of a blessed pleasure that lies within our grasp. Young and old alike have abandoned the age old practice of reading, and it is affecting our intelligence, our character, and the attitude in which we live this life. God’s given each of us a beautiful mind and we control what enters in. Let’s put our minds to better use!

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Simplifying Your Memorabilia

flowerKate asked: I was wondering if you had any tips for those of us who are struggling w/hoarding?  Not trash hoarding or anything, but I have an OVER abundance of stuff from childhood, that I just haven’t parted with.  I guess it’s psychological, so many memories attached to these things, and I don’t want to get rid of this stuff. Right now, all this “stuff” is in a closet, but still seems to find a way to make an entrance in a bedroom.

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Scriptural Encouragement for Preparing & Giving Birth

Our son Titus shortly after his birth

Our son Titus shortly after his birth

Although my newest addition is already five months old, I know there are plenty of new babies in the oven ready to be welcomed into the world. I wanted to share the passages of Scripture, quotes and encouragement that sustained me through my natural delivery. It is not an easy task to give birth to a child, nor is it something we can do on our own strength. I believe the Word supplies us with much needed sustaining grace to enable a mother to proceed through labor and delivery. My encouragement for all you mom-to-be’s is to take a few hours or a day off in preparation for your new arrival to prepare your heart for labor. I have done this prior to both my deliveries and it has been amazingly beneficial. Just go to a coffee shop, sit by a river, lake or stream, and meditate upon the Word. Write out your fears and pray through each one. Ask the Lord to prepare your heart. He is so faithful to do so! I pray these truths would be an encouragement and blessing to all you expectant mothers!

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Potty Training Tips & Tricks

I received several requests for any tips I might have to share on potty training. As we have successfully completed our first two weeks at potty training, I have definitely learned a lot! I read several books in the process of preparing to do this, but the best tips I found were from those who had gone before me – my mom especially. I remember the days when she trained my two younger twin siblings. She allowed them to run around on the deck and grass for several days half naked and then would just spray them off with the hose when they missed the potty chair. It worked splendidly.

Expose them well - Start by purchasing a potty chair a few months before you are ready to start training and simply begin talking about it. Allow them to sit down on it and talk about going potty and making the sounds “pss”. We found the books on potty training for kids to be fun and helpful, such as The Potty Book for Girls & Big Girls Use the Potty (of course they have companion ones for boys). We started reading these awhile back. If you can get them around others that are learning to use the potty as well that is very helpful.

Supplies:
Child’s potty - having her own special potty definitely was far less intimidating for my daughter than sitting on the toilet. Maybe it’s just a girl thing, but she was afraid of the toilet but didn’t mind using her potty chair. We chose the Bjorn Potty Chair because it seemed like it would be effective and comfortable for both girls and boys.
Panties/underwear – Big girl/boy underwear seems to be most effective in training as they can really experience the wetness. Cloth training pants or pull-ups are just like a diaper so it is hard to distinguish a difference. This was my mom’s advice which I am glad I followed – saved me money too! We do use cloth diapers or pull-ups for bedtime, naps and when we are out and about to prevent accidents, until they got the basics down.
Small treats- M&Ms, gummy bears, etc
Small stool – Karis loved being a big girl and having a special stool with which she could turn the bathroom light on and off and wash her hands. She can do it all with this cute little stool as it is light and easy for her to move around.
Transitional potty seat - this is helpful but not essential. Good to keep in the car when you are out. The Primo 4 in 1 seems like a nice option here to help you simplify.
Juice, milk or special drinks – these are useful when you are trying to just get them going frequently. Keep them drinking a lot and you have more opportunities to practice on the potty.

Tips:

- Start by selecting a time when you can just take a good week and focus on training. Don’t try to squeeze it in within other big events. Pull back and enjoy your little one. It really can be a fun time to build your relationship as your read lots of stories and praise and encourage them alot!

- Allow your little one to run around naked from the waist down for the first few weeks. If you can keep them outside then it is even better (thus I recommend training in the summer). We had a little kiddy pool set up on our back deck and we just spend a few days hanging out there playing in the water. For the first day, we just sat on the potty the entire day (for the most part) and read stories or let her play with my i-pod. It helped her just get the feeling of going.

- I found that she normally needed to go every 45 minutes to an hour, so I would just regularly in this time frame say it was “time to use the potty”, and most of the time she would go. If she went, we would cheer her on and reward her with a little treat. This definitely encouraged her to keep it up.

- Stay close to home for the first week or so. My first mistake was to leave the house for the day just 3 days into training. She did not want anything to do with the potty when she was distracted with playing with others. She also was scared of the toilet and did not want to try it.

- Bring your potty chair or transitional trainer with you when you go out – for the first while it is definitely very helpful to carry the tools with you. This would have helpful in that previous example if we had brought the seat she was most comfortable with at this stage.

Those are my thoughts!

UPDATE: Karis was completely potty trained (including nights!) in five weeks time. I was blown away. I definitely think that it is extremely helpful to potty train in the summer when she was able to go naked outside on our deck. Also, avoiding any form of training pants was also key. She wore big girl panties from the start. I cannot emphasize enough how this really worked for us! I also think waiting till she was 26 months also was a huge plus. I read one study that showed a higher success rate at the 26 month age and it worked for us. As far as night time training goes, after we got fully trained during the day, we just let her go to bed with her panties at night. We made sure to use the potty before bed. She wet the bed one or two nights and then she got the idea to get up if she needed to go. It worked!

Titus (6/2011): Titus is now 27 months and my goal was to get him fully potty trained before baby #3 arrives in August! We started with a full day of outside play on a sunny day with the potty while being naked, drinking lots of fluids, playing in the pool, reading books together, and giving a special treat every time he went on the potty. Again, we used real big boy underwear and not pull-ups (Thomas the Train underwear have been a huge hit!) He freaked out at first when he went on himself and was very hesitant towards the idea of sitting on the potty. I thought for sure he wasn’t ready yet, but really felt I needed to persevere for a few more days before making the final call.

My husband starting encouraging me to give him a little more space and stop nagging him so much about sitting on the potty (as I was asking him every 30 minutes if not sooner). I stepped back a bit and didn’t ask so frequently (maybe once an hour), but rather encouraged him to sit down when sister, myself, or daddy sat down on the toilet. He seemed to really like the idea of going together. Imagine my surprise, after a few days into it, he really started getting independent. He wanted to do it on his own. Everything from sitting on the potty, to dumping into the toilet. He started going on his own without even telling me. There has been a lot of laughter and fun in the process! I just have been amazed that by giving him a little space, gentle reminders, rewards, and going together, has really inspired him to take it on. He is only wearing diapers at night time now (after a week into it). It seems the age factor of 26-27 months has been hugely beneficial for both my kids in making this an easy transition. And boys are not harder than girls in my experience. If anything, Titus has been easier!

Obviously every child is different, so give yourself grace for the journey, but these tips have been successful with both my little ones, so I thought I’d pass it on!

Do you have any additional tips or recommendations to share?

Further Resources:

Toilet Training in Less Than A Day – this book explains the process of the intentional focusing on toilet training for a day by drinking plenty of liquids and offering a reward. I found two or three days of this was hugely helpful in launching well into potty training. Very helpful!

Potty Train Your Child in One DayAnother book very similar to the above!

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Superfoods: The Superior Powerhouses of Well-balanced Nutrition

Picture 2Once again, I am fascinated through my study of herbology to see glimpses of God’s provision for our health and well-being in His created world. Superfoods are whole foods that are naturally concentrated with important nutrients. These are God’s created vitamin and mineral supplements and far superior to the supplemental industry. Though most supplements, in the same manner as drugs, can definitely be usual at times, they are extremely expensive and are made from unnatural substances.

Here are a few superfoods that you may want to consider adding to your diet..

Spirulina: The Protein Powerhouse

spirulinaSpirulina is a blue-green algae that grows on freshwater ponds. Spirulina is 55-70 percent protein by weight and considered my many to be the greatest plant source of usable protein and is rich in B vitamins and gammalinolenic acid (GLA). Spirulina does have a strong flavor and can be purchased in capsule or powder form. The powder form will be better in quality and economy, but capsule is a good option to avoid the taste. It is one of the most expensive superfoods but the benefits far outweigh the cost. Recommended dosage is 6-10 tablets or 2 Tablespoon powder daily.

Seaweed: The Mineral Supplement

Seaweeds are the richest plant source of minerals, providing 10-20 times the minerals in land-based plants. They contain a more well-balanced and broader spectrum of minerals necessary for the body than any other organism. They are used to promote longevity, prevent disease, and boost a healthy metabolism to those courageous enough to consume them. Many seaweeds can be used on different dishes such as salads, soups, Asian dishes and salad dressings. The easiest to come by and disquise is kelp powder and can be added to smoothies, oatmeal and other dishes without much flavor varience. Other seasweeds include: kiziki, arme and dulse.

Bee Pollen: The Energizer

Bee Pollen is an incredible concentrated powerhouse of nearly all known nutrients that imparts energy to the nervous system. It is a complete protein, containing all 22 amino acids, and has a higher concentration of the eight amino acids essential to human health than most other forms of protein. It contains high levels of 27 minerals, enzymes, and coenzymes; vitamins B1, B2, and B6; niacin, pantothenic acid, and folic acid; vitamin C; and the fat-soluable vitamins A and E. Recommended dosage is 1-2 teaspoons per day. Use in moderation as 1 teaspoon represents 4.8 billion grains of pollen! Works well to combine in blended drinks.

Shitake Mushrooms: Immune-System Defenders

shitakeShitake mushroom contains lentinan, a polysaccharide complex that has been shown to possess significant immune-enhancing properties. It contains active agents that form the first line of defense against viral infections and other illnesses. Try adding it in your meals several times a week. Shitake mushroom can be easily grown (see how they can grow in logs) but is also available in dried whole or powder form through Mountain Rose Herbs. Don’t go for the ones available in your supermarket as they are not the best quality but many health food stores may carry fresh varieties that are excellent chopped up on top of salads or included in soups.

Nutritional Yeast

Often called brewer’s yeast, nutritional yeast is a superior source of protein and includes all of the essential amino acids. It is 50 percent protein and is one of the best sources of the entire B-vitamin complex, excluding B12. Nutritional yeast is also an excellent source of many minerals and trace minerals. Yeast comes in powder, flakes and tablets. Best to comsume in its raw state. Powder form is very potent in flavor whereas the flakes dissolve more easily and taste better. Tablets are expensive and the least effective. I personally have not been able to enjoy this yeast yet, but I do add it to my children’s breakfast cereals without any complaint. ;)

SEEDS

flaxseedsFlaxseed: The Heart Healer

Flaxseed is one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, which is important for keeping the arteries clean, the heart functioning, and the immune system in good health. Recommended dosage is 1 Tablespoon daily. Flax will improve your immune system and is also beneficial for healthy skin and hair. Flaxseed can easily be made into an hearty egg substitute as well. Flax seed is also available in an oil form, but is more expensive and must be stored in the refrigerator to prevent it from getting rancid. We love adding flax and chia seeds to our oatmeal and smoothies. Easily grinds up into a fine powder with a coffee grinder.

For some cautions in regards to flaxseeds consumption, visit Kimi’s post titled Flax Seed and Oil.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds is considered by many to be the new ‘superfood’, due to being high in easily digestible protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, soluble fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and are a digestive, disinfectant, febrifuge and ophthalmic. According to Mountain Rose Herbs,

“They are currently being used for their nutritional and medicinal properties, endurance for athletes, for suppressing the appetite, weight loss, leveling blood sugar, and for aiding intestinal regularity. ”

Hemp Seeds

For further reading on the benefits of hemp, check out my Hemp milk article.

OTHER SUPPLEMENTS

Fermented Cod Liver Oil

According to Weston A Price Foundation,

“Cod liver oil supplements are a must for women and their male partners, to be taken for several months before conception, and for women during pregnancy. Growing children will also benefit greatly from a small daily dose. Cod liver oil is also rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docasahexaenoic acid (DHA). The body makes these fatty acids from omega-3 linolenic acid. EPA is as an important link in the chain of fatty acids that ultimately results in prostaglandins, localized tissue hormones while DHA is very important for the proper function of the brain and nervous system.”

Green Pastures offered the new fermented version of Cod liver oil, which is being shown to be far superior to standard brands on the market. It has been processed without heating through the traditional way of allowing it to sit and ferment, thus retaining all the nutrients. Other facts about the Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil:

  • Fermented CLO is easier to digest than regular CLO
  • Absorption is increased and the nutrients are easier to assimilate
  • Contains 2 1/2 times more Vitamins A & D and uses no heat during production therefore retaining the precious enzymes, vitamins and other nutrients
  • Fished from pristine waters off the Alaskan Aleutian Islands to ensure purity

I am eager to try the Chocolate Cream version! We should all enjoy that without any problems…;)

Coconut Oil

According to by Bruce Fife:

- Protects against heart disease, cancer & diabetes
- Acts as an antioxidant in its resistance to attack by free radicals,
protecting against degenerative diseases, in general.
- Protects from a range of infectious diseases. Fife lists 28 infectious
and degenerative disease conditions that coconut oil can help to relieve,
reduce or prevent.

We consume coconut oil regularly in smoothies, in baked goods, and for most of our sauteing and cooking needs.

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The majority of these supplements can be purchased in small quantities or bulk form through Azure Standard or Mountain Rose Herbs.

References: The information above on spirulina, seaweed, bee pollen, shitake mushrooms was provided through Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. All the information above is for educational purposes only.

Further Reading:

Choose Superfoods Over Supplements - by Nourishing Days
The Power of Maca - Kimi @ Nourishing Gourmet shares some of the health benefits of consuming maca as a superfood.
Hemp Seed: Nutritional Value and Thoughts – Kimi shares her findings on the value of hemp.
Cod Liver Oil Series - by Kelly at the Kitchen Kop – helpful review of fermented cod liver oil.

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Follow me on Twitter!

Imagine this…I actually joined the world of Tweeters! You can follow me on Twitter and get a closer glimpse into life at the Edmonds home in addition to a few tips on natural homemaking along the way. You can find me @passionatehome.

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Winners of the Soap Nuts Extreme 18X!

Congrats to the following winners of the Soap Nuts Liquid Extreme 18X detergent! Enjoy your samples!

  1. April milkshakefor2@
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If you were not selected as a winner, you can still purchase a sample of this product here.

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Container Gardening: My Favorite Resources

My herb garden: basil, sage, thyme & chamomile

My herb garden: basil, sage, thyme & chamomile

I have been enthralled in the world of container gardening. I am in my second year of gardening, trying to put to good use the limited space I have right now on my back patio deck. I have had failures and successes…but it definitely requires some perseverance and patience. Gardening is such a rewarding experience. Being out in nature, digging in the dirt, watering, and seeing food growing for our nourishment is delightful. I also love watering the garden with my little Karis. She loves helping me pour the watering can into the pots. What a fun way to get her involved in valuing the production of our own food. I wanted to share a few pictures of my garden to date with a few resources I have found very helpful this year.

Topsy Turvy Tomato Plant

Topsy Turvy Tomato Plant

Hanging Tomatoes - So far I am delighted to see the success of my Topsy Turvy hanging tomato plant. It is growing an abundance of cherry tomatoes right now. I can’t wait to enjoy them! My tips: water daily as it is quickly evaporates compared to a potted plant. Cut the bottom off a plastic milk jug and puncture small holes in it. Place in the top of the turvy to allow for slow drainage when watering. Keep in full sun. Use water retaining granules.

What else is in my garden this year? Several varieties of lettuce, a herb garden, stevia, cucumber, and three varieties of pepper plants.

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Cucumber & Pepper Plants

Why I love container gardening?

1. You rarely have to deal with various pests. In my experience, I have not had a single bug problem to deal with.
2. You rarely have to do any weeding!
3. Your crops are nicely contained and will not take over. Since some crops can easily dominate your fields, container gardening is nicely self-contained. The crops can only grow as big as the container you supply them for their abode.

A few books that I have found extremely beneficial for container gardening:

The Bountiful Container – this resource is the definitive guide on container gardening. It gives detailed instructions on how to grow all varieties of vegetables and flowers in containers. It lacks good pictures or very clear planting instructions, but offers ongoing tips for successful gardening in pots.

Organic Crops in Pots - this book is awesome! It provides you with easy step by step pictorial instructions on how to plant many different varieties of vegetables in containers. It details what are the best crops to grow in pots with beautiful pictures. This is the best book I have found for beginners that guides you through the potting process so simply. I also love how the author supplies you with creative container ideas. You don’t have to invest in expensive containers. Find old wine barrels, washtubs, baskets, olive oil metal jars, metal buckets, and even canvas bags to do your planting.

Your Backyard Herb Garden: A Gardener’s Guide to Growing Over 50 Herbs Plus How to Use Them in Cooking, Crafts, Companion Planting and More by Miranda Smith – a very helpful guide for growing herbs! This book describes growing herbs both in the ground or containers. I love the helpful pictures and specific details for growing over 50 herbs and their nutritional and culinary benefits. Also includes details on preparing herbal vinegars and teas for health and healing. Love this book!

For more ideas and tips for gardening in small spaces, visit here.

Do you have a container garden? What tips do you have to share?

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