The Yummiest Salad You’ll Ever Eat

by Tiffany in Book Reviews

This is the yummiest salad you’ll ever eat or a close second or third. I swear it is sooooo very good. Since I got the recipe from a cookbook I am not going to reprint it but it essentially contains avocados, marinated artichoke hearts (Trader Joe’s), Palm Hearts (Trader Joe’s), Roma tomatoes, prosciutto, black olives, cilantro, lemon juice, and a vinaigrette using white balsamic vinegar. It is heavenly!!!

The recipe hails from one of my fave cookbooks: Cooking With Trader Joe’s Cookbook: Pack a Lunch! I like all the Trader Joe’s cookbooks in this series because I am also a fan of the store.

I like flipping through the pages and seeing a recipe that incorporates those all too familiar products that I pass by when in the store. I see the steamed/peeled baby beets in the store all the time. Well this cookbook has a recipe for a Beet and Goat Cheese Smoothie using those beets. My hubby likes to get the Almond Butter and Roasted Flaxseed and this book has a scrumptious recipe for Zucchini and Chocolate Milkshake using the nut butter. It takes me outside the box and makes me try new things. Plus the food is yummy. I highly recommend picking up this book and the entire series if you are a Trader Joe’s shopper.


An Oldie but Goodie – Drying Racks

by Tiffany in A Green Home

All summer long (and now well into the Fall) I have been using the power of wind and solar to dry a large portion of my clothes and bath towels thanks to a classic drying rack. I love the fact that I have saved pennies by not using my energy hog clothes dryer but I also just get such joy out of seeing clothes and towels blowing in the wind outside. Maybe my view of clothes on the line is a bit romantic but I always loved my summers at Grandmas’s farm, helping my mom putting clothing and bed sheets on the line to dry. It’s right up there with shucking fresh corn and tossing the husks over the fence so the horses could eat them. It just seems to epitomize the homestead lifestyle and return a little of that charm to our modern world.

I rent currently and don’t have much room to put a permanent clothes line so for two years it was all the dryer all the time and I felt bad about that. Then I saw a rave review about Homestead Drying Racks and after contacting them I received one for review. I ADORE it. It makes laundry go so much faster, taking probably two loads a day out of my dryer and using wind/solar power to dry them.  I also find that it does not adversely effect my stinky bath towels action plan. The towels don’t actually need to be sterilized in a hot dryer…the sun (and the tea tree oil I use in the wash) works just as well. Clothes and towels are a bit on the crunchy side but I don’t mind that at all.

I cannot comment on the ease of putting it together, or not, because hubby did that but I think it only took him about 30 minutes. Our younger kiddos were over the moon thinking it was some sort of climbing toy for them. Ha! It is sturdy but not THAT sturdy. I like that I can fold it flatish and lay it against a wall so that it is out of the way when need be and I like that it is pretty light because I transfer it from kitchen to back porch when I want to use it. In the winter we may use it in the basement for drying clothing but more than likely it will stay in the kitchen and be used for hanging winter clothes and wool that have gotten wet from snow play. They can drip dry on the rack, conveniently positioned next to the heat register, and dry in a non-carpeted area. Perhaps they will actually be dry when the kids go out again only an hour or two later and I won’t have to listen to gripes about how awful it is to squeeze into wet snowsuits.

We have a pretty tiny porch so this rack is perfect for our needs. I think I have it down to a science as far as number of clothes/towels I can fit on it. This is the “Pioneer” rack from Homestead Drying Racks. They also have a “Homesteader” size which is much bigger but I was afraid it would not fit on our porch.

The “Peddler” size is perfect for indoor drying in small spaces like apartments or RVs and they even have an old fashioned hand ringer for ringing out wet clothing. From what I have experienced their racks are very high quality and it has been so useful and will no doubt continue to be throughout the year.

It is also perfect for my Vibram Fiver Fingers and Fila Skeletoes barefoot shoes. They need to be washed fairly often (CrossFit yo!) and cannot be dried lest they fall apart so I just wash them with the towels and then dry them on the rack, easy peasy.

If you are in the market for a drying rack or have ever thought about giving one a try please check out Homestead Drying Racks.

Also another fun tidbit…they have a free homestead magazine you can download as well. It is very well put together and very informative. Love it!


A Zip Lining Adventure in Ohio

by Tiffany in Enjoying Nature

TGIF! The kids and I are off to enjoy some last minute fun before school starts AND celebrate a 12th birthday. But I would be remiss if I didn’t share what I did last weekend…which was one of those rare kid-free weekends.

Hubby and I went to ZipZone Tours a new place for columbus zip lining. I had no idea that we could even go zip lining in the heart of the city. Not that it would have mattered though. If you asked me two weeks ago if I would ever consider zip lining a fun weekend activity I would have laughed…and then changed the subject. I am afraid of heights and things that go fast. Roller coasters and I do not mix. I absolutely hate that butterfly, stomach dropping to your toes feeling. HATE it.

So how did I end up zipping through the tree tops on a steel cable? Well, another local blogger was kind enough to ask if I wanted to participate in a free tour for digital influencers. I quickly decided that if someone was going to hand the opportunity to me on a sliver platter I should at least try it. My husband was also excited to give it a whirl. Okay…GULP.

The day of the tour we arrived a bit early to sign a long waiver (gulp again) and along with four others in our tour group we got all our gear on. It was a lengthy process to put all that gear on and get if fitted just right. After we were geared up and ready to go we took a short hike into the woods and then climbed some stairs and sky canopies to get to the first zipping platform. On the way we learned about the history of the company, the owners, and the land hosting the zip lines. It was also interesting to hear about how green something like this is. You are well above the forest so you are not disturbing the land during your travels and only two trees had to be cut down to make room for the lines. This was all carefully planned and designed to have minimal impact on the environment. Zip liners want a beautiful place to zip right? It only makes sense that they want the area around the lines to stay pristine and beautiful. Once you get over the initial terror you DO want to look at the views. Trees, waterfalls, creeks…love.

Before my first zip I was shaking quite badly. I wanted to turn around and go right back down actually but I made myself give it a try and was pleasantly surprised. You don’t feel as though you are in a free fall or something. It feels more like you are on a fast ski lift. The views were also gorgeous. I wish I could say that I was a cool cucumber by the 5th zip but that is just not me. I cannot go backwards down the line, hang off the edge of the platform, or let go of the handlebars (like my husband) and feel safe but I did enjoy the experience quite a bit. I really want to go again and take my 12 year old. I know he would love it.

Many thanks to ZipZone tours for hosting us for the afternoon and to Alaina for the invite. It was a blast and I will remember it always. I would say I checked this off my bucket list but zip lining never made it to the list. What a nice surprise!


Why We Have Chosen Public School

by Tiffany in Children, Homeschool


More and more frequently I get comments on this blog or on Facebook about how I should be homeschooling. Many are well meaning. They think homeschool rocks and they want me to experience this bliss myself. A handful are a tad condescending. I do understand that many parents concerned with self sufficiency, natural learning and living, homesteading, minimalism, etc do opt to homeschool. I do not.

Here are some of the reasons why:

1. I do not want to spend every waking moment with my kids. Yeah I said it and yes I will OWN it. I have always been an attached parent. I became a work at home mom and built my own business so that I could be the primary caregiver for my kids. I breastfed on demand, tandem nursed, co-slept with all my babes, washed their nappies by hand, wore them in slings and carriers, and generally devoted myself to their care in their younger years. They never experienced daycare (aside from my oldest), nannies, or babysitters. I almost never spent an evening away from them or a day even since I was pretty much single parenting for 6ish years while my hubby had an over-the-road job. This took a toll on me and my marriage and I am now taking a look at other parenting philosophies that don’t put so much stress on mom to be all for her children, all the time. I may still sleep with a six year old wrapped around me at night like a pretzel but I also make sure that my husband and I are having our needs met for child-free time. Having our kids in public school creates a window of time for the adults, especially since my husband works second shift. I enjoy the time. I need the time.

2. I want my kids to be exposed to lots of different ideas and concepts, not just those I personally teach and endorse. On one hand I may tell you that I will happily “brainwash” my kids when it comes to my ideas about equality, sustainability, and some aspects of politics. I want them to believe what I believe. I am not going to be all militant if they choose to believe something else but I have no problems with my opinion being the one they hear most on some matters. On the other hand I don’t want them to take my word for it. I want them to be exposed to many different ideas and opinions so they can make up their own mind. I am agnostic for instance but I rarely talk about that at home because I want them to make up their own minds. I even sent one of my kids to a Christian preschool so that they would have exposure to religion that I am not willing to provide. My youngest would likely have gone to the same school if he had not required early intervention.

Many, many parents who homeschool (especially deeply religious families) homeschool to insulate their kids and keep them from being exposed to thoughts and ideas that conflict with what they are teaching at home. I want no part of that. This is not to say that I will not try to dissuade them from opinions and behavior that I strongly disagree with but how can we truly discuss things if they have no frame of reference?

3. I want my kids to experience lots of diversity. Homeschool groups often tend to have many of the same kind of kids and families in them. If you are homeschooling solo then trips to the zoo or the science museum do not qualify as exposure to diversity. In our local public schools there are kids of many different races and religions. There are kids with two parent families, single parent families, and families with parents of the same sex. There are children with special needs and handicaps. My oldest son’s school even has classrooms with varied age groups all lumped together so that he might be sitting next to an 11th grader and an 8th grader. It is important for my kids to see that not everyone looks, acts, and thinks like they do and that this should be accepted and celebrated.

4. We tried homeschool and it was not for us. I actually DID homeschool for 1.5 years of my oldest son’s school career and it was in reaction to issues he was having at public school. I feel that overall it was a big mistake. He has Asperger’s and ODD and was unwilling to do any sort of school at home. Unschooling, which we also tried, was no help either. When I took him to a public school to be tested when he should have been entering 4th grade I was shocked by the results and by how far behind he was. I had to admit to myself that not only did I not enjoy homeschooling, I am just not cut out for it AND my son did not respond well to his mom also being his teacher. The stuff that any teacher could get away with requesting or requiring was cruel and unusual punishment coming from mom. Also, I am not a patient person. I have to admit that my personality limits my effectiveness as a home educator.

But to those that DO homeschool…I salute you and very often over the years I have wished that I could be you.

5. We require interventions (aka care provided to improve a situation). Hubby and I have two autistic boys and this puts them several steps behind their peers academically and socially. With special assistance I have seen my oldest son catch up to and even surpass his peers, depending upon the subject. Instead of being distracted by all the kids in a classroom full of 30 kids, he is now in a classroom with only 3 others. He gets one on one instruction in areas where he needs it.

My youngest child is now entering Kindergarten after three years of public preschool and is still nowhere near ready for it. He is going to seriously struggle with the academics and he is going to need lots of resources and help that I would have difficulty providing for him on my own. I am amazed every day by what public school can do for special needs children. Admittedly it can be like pulling teeth to get them to acknowledge that there ARE special needs but once you do establish what you need to, it is a gift that keeps on giving. Need a private car service to transport your kid to school because he cannot handle the stimulation of all the kids on a bus? No problem. Need a classroom with only 2-3 other kids in it? No problem. Need a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech therapist (or perhaps all three)? No problem. We pay more taxes in our current district than anywhere else we have lived but how can I complain?

6. Public schooling won’t improve unless caring, motivated parents are there to encourage change. I have often accused public schooling of being cookie cutter education and I have my fair share of complaints (despite what I just said above). I get pretty mad when I think teachers are being inflexible and unreasonable. I get hoppin mad when one of my kids is afraid to voice their opinion to a teacher or administrator about something that concerns them because they feel they will be punished for dissent. I have concerns when too many of the songs in chorus are about Jesus since schools are supposed to honor a separation of church and state. I think they need to relax when it comes to homework and stop being so laid back about bullying. I have concerns. You have concerns. We can’t do anything about those concerns if we pull our kids out of that environment and school them at home. Who will fight for the kids and parents who don’t have that option?

When I pulled my oldest child out of public school I was essentially giving up. I felt they were doing wrong by him and I could not get them to change. Who benefited when I gave up? No one. My son slipped further behind because homeschooling was not a good fit for us and the school got to wipe their hands clean of him and his issues. I did them a favor. That all changed when I was introduced by chance to a lawyer and special education advocate. She heard my son’s experience and jumped at the chance to do right by him. If I had chosen to return him to his old school she would have helped to force them to acknowledge his special needs and then accommodate them as required by law. Instead I chose to put him in a school created especially for children with special needs.

Now I am starting this process all over again with my six year old. This time I am determined to be the advocate my child needs and the parent who works for change from the inside.

7. You can still have an active role in educating your child even if they ARE in public school. Public schooling does not mean lazy parenting. Well, it can mean that but it doesn’t have to. If your child is struggling to learn because their teacher is not willing or able to adapt lessons to their learning style then get creative and work on these issues at home. Help them with gaps. Have fun with “unschooling” nights and weekends by playing educational board games or taking them to museums. You can expose to them all sorts of wonderful opportunities and experiences. You are not limited just because they go to public school.

Have them complete their homework with you. Volunteer at their school and become informed of the issues and see what they are learning. Join the PTA. Get to know their teachers so well they are practically on speed dial. And I don’t mean come to them with bad stuff (ie complaints) all the time…build a positive relationship. Don’t feel as though you need to relinquish control of your child’s education…think of yourself as a partner in their education. Everyone wins.

8. Private schools are flippin expensive! They are not an option for us but even if they were I am not so sure we would utilize them. My limited experience with private schools left me feeling that they were just as likely to provide cookie cutter education. At the religious school where my daughter went there was entirely too much shaming going on as well. Not so much a fan of that. If we did private schooling it would likely be Montessori or similar.

So, time for you to weigh in. Agree or disagree. What have you chosen for your family?

choosing public school


Pan Fried Pork Loin/Chops and Mashed Sweet Potatoes

by Tiffany in Recipes

Mmmm…comfort food. This is what I made for dinner a couple nights ago and it was delicious. I am no food photographer though so if my pictures fail to convey how yummy it was just take my word for it…or make it yourself. ;) It’s easy and quick (about 20 minutes).

The Chops/Loin: I used pork loin because that is what I had on hand. Typically I would use pork chops. To make I just dredged the pork in coconut flour and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and Herbs de Provence from Mountain Rose Herbs. I cooked them on a cast iron skillet along with a healthy amount of coconut oil AND grass fed butter. I had to cover mine because the pork was so thick but if you use thinner cuts and an open skillet you will get a great sear.

For the Mashed Sweet Potatoes I just peeled, chopped, and boiled for about 10 minutes (until soft) in a Dutch Oven. After straining the water I returned them to the oven and added cinnamon, 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup pure organic maple syrup, and a Tablespoon organic raw honey, mixing thoroughly with a hand mixer. It was so tasty that my hubby made the exact same meal for breakfast the next morning, using leftover sweet potatoes. It’s not fancy but it is oh so comforting…

What are you making for dinner?