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Thursday, December 18, 2014

When Your Husband Learns What 'Crunchy' Means.

Crunchy.

A word with a couple definitions.

Up until a few month ago John thought 'crunchy' was an adjective used to describe tortilla chips and and his work jeans after wearing them for too long between washes.


The homestud, however, was quick to learn that 'crunchy' is also a way of life. In fact, Urban Dictionary has a pretty solid definition:


I think the kicker for John - you know, the thing that really solidified that we are crunchy folk - was when I was digging for a few quart mason jars before a trip to the food co-op. When he realized I wanted to put our bulk granola (of all things…) and popcorn in a reusable jar instead of a plastic produce sack, it dawned on him.

Once it clicked, he was able to rattle off a bunch of our crunchy practices and beliefs:

  1. We make our own cleaning supplies and laundry soap, and haven't purchased dryer sheets in years
  2. We have 6 raised garden beds, a bit of edible landscaping, and backyard chickens. Nearly every meal on our table features a dish or ingredient produced in our backyard. 
  3. We harvest rainwater for our gardens in our fourteen rain barrels that John made me for Valentine's Day a few years back. Because who wants to pay for treated city water, which is damaging to plants anyway? 
  4. We like celebrating with friends and family, where fellowship and food are the focus. Especially when the food is homegrown and/or homemade. 
  5. Before throwing anything out, we look for a new way to breathe new life into that item. 
  6. We recycle and compost more of our 'waste', rather than taking it to the landfill. We have a cute compost bucket by our door for food scraps that will go to the chickens or the compost bin. Our large recycle bin sits just outside the back door for easy disposal of our recyclables.
  7. We barter. Eggs for honey trade with the garbage man? Sure! Eggs for chocolate barter with the owner of our local chocolate shop? You bet! Neighbor man wants to trade deer meat for eggs? Let's do it! Bartering is a lost action, and something we're totally into. 
  8. We share with neighbors and spread the word about urban farming and sustainable living at every chance. Initially, people think we're a little crazy (something I secretly enjoy…), but more often than not, we make new friendships. 

Now, not everything in our bubble adheres to that aforementioned 'crunchy' definition. We're not vegetarian or vegan, but we consider ourselves crunchy because we're sustainably-minded. I like Urban Dictionary's second, more brief definition better:



And that, my friends, is a simple definition that we can all appreciate.



What makes you crunchy? Leave a comment!


AMAZON DISCLOSURE: The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for bloggers and sites to earn advertising fees by promoting and linking to Amazon properties. Rest assured that I only link to products that I use, recommend, or covet :) Clicking on or purchasing something I have recommended from Amazon does NOT increase or impact your cost in any way.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mostly Homemade Mondays - Week 111 + URBAN HOMESTEAD MEAL PLAN!

In this week's meal plan, you'll find some items are bolded, which indicates a homegrown or local item from our urban homestead. Of course, there will be a few repeats throughout the week since we try to eat in-season.

Note: Lunches are always leftovers, and we rarely have dessert. On weekends, we usually have some sort of brunch featuring eggs from the ladies instead of a leftover lunch. Dinners are listed below: 
  • Monday - Peach-glazed pork chop on the grill with roasted sweet taters
  • Tuesday - Chicken stir fry with peppers, onions, mushrooms over top of brown rice
  • Wednesday - Chili (made with home canned tomatoes) in the slow cooker and crackers
  • Thursday - Monthly dinner out with teacher friends
  • Friday - Loaded baked potatoes, with leftover chili, cheese, sour cream, bacon, and other stuff. 
  • Saturday - Cheese ravioli with butter herb sauce
  • Sunday - Simplify, Live, Love's beef stroganoff (but reduced to serve only 2 people)
Anyway, on to the party:



Mostly Homemade Mondays is a series for people that are on a journey to better living, via healthier eating and a more natural lifestyle. We realize that there are different paths that we all take to get to that place, and this bloghop celebrates that. Whether you’re a seasoned raw foodist who has banned all things unnatural, or a rookie who is starting out by cutting out junk food, we’d love to hear from you! Link up with your favorite recipes, projects, crafts, or rants and raves.

The Hosts:


Homemade Mondays will open every Monday. You have until Thursday to make your submissions. We will share our favorite posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Link up. Use the submission form below to add your blog posts to our gallery below. You can add as many links as you’d like, as long as they’re on topic. 
  • What’s eligible? Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice. We’re pretty open.
  • Tell us about yourselves. Leave a comment telling us a little about your site and what you’ve shared. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good way to stand out.
  • Link back. Share the love by adding a link back to this party with your readers so they can see all of these great ideas as well.
  • Follow our Pinterest board. Remember to check out our Mostly Homemade Mondays Pinterest board where we're pinning some of our favorite posts from the week.
Here was our favorite post from last week: 


A special thanks to Raia's Recipes for linking up Cinnamon Apple Scones to Mostly Homemade Mondays! Feel free to grab this "I've Been Featured" button and share the great news with your readers, family, and friends: 
<a href="http://s1333.photobucket.com/user/TheSustainableCouple/media/TSCIWasFeaturedButton_zps18158259.jpg.html" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1333.photobucket.com/albums/w637/TheSustainableCouple/TSCIWasFeaturedButton_zps18158259.jpg" border="0" alt="I Was Featured button for MHM photo TSCIWasFeaturedButton_zps18158259.jpg"/></a>



AMAZON DISCLOSURE: The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for bloggers and sites to earn advertising fees by promoting and linking to Amazon properties. Rest assured that I only link to products that I use, recommend, or covet :) Clicking on or purchasing something I have recommended from Amazon does NOT increase or impact your cost in any way.




Friday, December 12, 2014

How to Save & Plan for Half a Hog.

As I look into my freezer, I see a variety of foods - unprocessed 'ingredients', actually - waiting to be transformed into a made-from-scratch meal. These 'ingredients' include a variety of vegetables and herbs from my garden, frozen cheese and butter bought in bulk, a few ice cream novelties, and lots and lots of meat.

Why so much meat? We just picked up a half a hog from the locker. The comfort of a full deep freezer is almost an unmatched feeling. You know the feeling, I'm sure.

Like you, we have a "budget" that includes bulk food purchases like beef and pork. We figured we'd need to save about $5 a week for a year to offset the cost of half a hog. To save for a quarter of a cow, we'd need to save almost $10 a week for a year. However, beef prices are very high right now, which means we will be conserving the little beef we do have left and will make the most out of the pork we just processed.

Our recent half-hog order included:
  • Bacon (1 lb pkg)
  • Smoked sausage links
  • Smoked jalapeƱo cheddar brats (4 per pkg)
  • Ground pork (1 lb pkg)
  • Pork loin (feed 2-3 people)
  • Smoked Ham Steaks (1 per pkg)
  • Fresh roast(s)
  • Ribs
And for all that, we spent $152.46 at the locker, plus $100 for the actual hog. So, for about $250 we filled our deep freezer with pork. 


Here's how we make our so 'cheaply' for our pork, which we will make stretch about 9 to 12 months:

We know our farmer!

It helps that this farmer is my father, and he's been raising hogs for over 30 years. We don't necessarily pay market value for our hog, which helps. We paid $100 for our half. Sometimes, if we have a birthday or special occasion near, we'll ask for pork or beef as our present. Practical and delicious :) 

We go to a small-town locker who has affordable prices and does decent work. 

We know the owners, and we trust them. 

We are very careful about our processing. 

Take a look at the receipt above. You'll see the actual slaughter and butcher of the hog was $75. The rest of our ticket was special handling and processing of the hog. You see that we got roasts, ribs, and loins, but those things don't appear on our ticket. Those items fall under the general butchering of our hog. The items you see listed above - bacon, brats, smoked ham steaks, etc. - require extra care from the butcher, like smoking and seasoning. Those items have an additional cost. The first time we ever processed a hog, we went 'hog wild' (pun intended) and got about 4 varieties of brats and speciality items. The bill was much higher because of all the special processing. After a few years of tweaking our over, we finally have a standard ticket that we keep on hand at the locker.

We have at least one meatless meal each week. At least. 

We share our pork and beef with my mother and father in law. This is why a half a hog might not last us a year like other couples. It's important to be mindful of the animal that sacrificed its life to feed us, and to be mindful of not wasting anything. By eating a meatless meal at least once a week, we are conserving more ecological resources (do a little research on the carbon footprint made by a cow or pig…) and are making our pork stretch a little further.

How do you save for purchasing beef or pork in bulk? Any tips? Leave a comment!

AMAZON DISCLOSURE: The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for bloggers and sites to earn advertising fees by promoting and linking to Amazon properties. Rest assured that I only link to products that I use, recommend, or covet :) Clicking on or purchasing something I have recommended from Amazon does NOT increase or impact your cost in any way.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Essential Oils Series: Emotional Balance

Thanks for following along on our Essential Oils series. If you want to read the other posts in the series, here are the links:

What Oils Are & How to Use Them
Calming, Anti-Anxiety Blends
Healthy Skin

I've already shared the oils that I use for calming my anxious mind, but today I want to be a little more broad and share some of the oils we have found helpful for emotional balance. To make it easier, I'll split this post into oils we like best for three different reasons: Stress Relief, Uplifting, Mental Focus. 


Monday, December 8, 2014

Mostly Homemade Mondays - Week 110 + URBAN HOMESTEAD MEAL PLAN!

In this week's meal plan, you'll find some items are bolded, which indicates a homegrown or local item from our urban homestead. Of course, there will be a few repeats throughout the week since we try to eat in-season.

Note: Lunches are always leftovers, and we rarely have dessert. On weekends, we usually have some sort of brunch featuring eggs from the ladies instead of a leftover lunch. Dinners are listed below: 
  • Monday - Elliott Homestead Apricot Chicken and rice (we didn't make this last week)
  • Tuesday - slow cooker chicken noodle soup
  • Wednesday - Homemade frozen pizza with a side salad
  • Thursday - Porterhouse steak with a side salad and homemade bread
  • Friday - Turkey tenderloin with peas and a side salad
  • Saturday - Panera copycat broccoli cheddar soup
  • Sunday - Dinner with the in-laws
Anyway, on to the party:



Mostly Homemade Mondays is a series for people that are on a journey to better living, via healthier eating and a more natural lifestyle. We realize that there are different paths that we all take to get to that place, and this bloghop celebrates that. Whether you’re a seasoned raw foodist who has banned all things unnatural, or a rookie who is starting out by cutting out junk food, we’d love to hear from you! Link up with your favorite recipes, projects, crafts, or rants and raves.

The Hosts:


Homemade Mondays will open every Monday. You have until Thursday to make your submissions. We will share our favorite posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Link up. Use the submission form below to add your blog posts to our gallery below. You can add as many links as you’d like, as long as they’re on topic. 
  • What’s eligible? Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice. We’re pretty open.
  • Tell us about yourselves. Leave a comment telling us a little about your site and what you’ve shared. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good way to stand out.
  • Link back. Share the love by adding a link back to this party with your readers so they can see all of these great ideas as well.
  • Follow our Pinterest board. Remember to check out our Mostly Homemade Mondays Pinterest board where we're pinning some of our favorite posts from the week.
Here was our favorite post from last week: 


A special thanks to Grow, Pray, Build for linking up Part 1: Saving on Groceries to Mostly Homemade Mondays! Feel free to grab this "I've Been Featured" button and share the great news with your readers, family, and friends: 
<a href="http://s1333.photobucket.com/user/TheSustainableCouple/media/TSCIWasFeaturedButton_zps18158259.jpg.html" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1333.photobucket.com/albums/w637/TheSustainableCouple/TSCIWasFeaturedButton_zps18158259.jpg" border="0" alt="I Was Featured button for MHM photo TSCIWasFeaturedButton_zps18158259.jpg"/></a>



AMAZON DISCLOSURE: The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for bloggers and sites to earn advertising fees by promoting and linking to Amazon properties. Rest assured that I only link to products that I use, recommend, or covet :) Clicking on or purchasing something I have recommended from Amazon does NOT increase or impact your cost in any way.





Sunday, December 7, 2014

CR's New Pi Co-Op Offers Local, Sustainable, Ethically-Conscious Food Shopping.

Is it possible to fall in love with a grocery store? 

This is a real question, people. I'm not playing around. 

New Pioneer Food Co-op is just the place that John and I have been waiting for in the Cedar Rapids area, and for many reasons. With the ribbon cutting and soft opening set for Wednesday at 10 a.m., we'll get to shop there very soon. 

Eeeek! 

I'm so glad Allie from New Pi Eats invited us out. Today we were part of a small group of press that were allowed 30 minutes in the store all to ourselves for questions with the staff and experts, samples, and exploration.  New Pi member-owners (i.e. - members of the co-op) joined us shortly thereafter to really amp up the experience. 

The thing John and I are most looking forward to is having one place where we don't have to 'think' while grocery shopping. "We do the Label-Reading for you" is an informal motto of New Pi. 


This means we don't have to feel like we're experts on every toxic ingredient that might be in our food. There are so many items on the shelves and in the cases to browse, but things we won't find anywhere in New Pioneer are: 
  • Artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Trans-fats or HFCS
  • Animal-tested products
  • Added growth hormones, antibiotics, nitrates, or chemical additives in poultry, meat, seafood, or dairy
  • Non-sustainable seafood
Seriously. 

How awesome is that? Think of how much stress and time New Pi is saving us when it comes to making healthy, socially-conscious food choices. 

But the member benefits are pretty awesome, too. (Go here to read about the member-owner benefits!) We just couldn't justify a membership at the other two New Pi locations, since they were about 40 minutes from our home. 



This location is a short 15 minute drive across town, and will carry a variety bulk goods, cool beers and liquor for John, and other locally made and grown products from our area. We're already eager to head back on Wednesday for the soft opening to complete our member-owner form.


The physical environment of New Pioneer is also something we look forward to while shopping. The layout of the store is quaint and comfortable. It's almost like we're shopping at an indoor farmer's market.


I am also really looking forward to their cheese, meat, and dairy offerings from the region. In fact, the deli and bakery source their ingredients from over 30 local producers, use local, cage-free eggs, organic and locally-grown flour, and organic, fair-trade, non-GMO sugar.


We do a lot of our own baking and cooking from scratch, but a few times a month we head to our local grocery store deli down the street for dinner. If we don't have time to cook for ourselves, having the chefs at New Pi do it for us is the next best thing. (That means no more MSG headaches when getting takeout from the grocery deli down the street! Yeah!)


Lastly, New Pioneer Co-op is a store after our own hearts. The deli uses compostable utensils and deli containers, they have composting programs to divert the store's waste, and the locally-produced products they sell ensure less greenhouse gas emissions. 

Is it possible for a grocery store to steal your heart?

Why yes. Yes it is. 

Are you an Eastern Iowa resident? Are you pumped for New Pioneer's Cedar Rapids location? If you're not from the area, tell me about your favorite food co-op or grocery store. Leave a comment!

AMAZON DISCLOSURE: The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for bloggers and sites to earn advertising fees by promoting and linking to Amazon properties. Rest assured that I only link to products that I use, recommend, or covet :) Clicking on or purchasing something I have recommended from Amazon does NOT increase or impact your cost in any way.

Essential Oils Series: Healthy Bodies & Healthy Homes

Thanks for following along on our Essential Oils series. If you want to read the other posts in the series, here are the links:

What Oils Are & How to Use Them
Calming, Anti-Anxiety Blends
Healthy Skin

Today, we're going to switch gears a bit and talk about some oils that John and I use to make our bodies and home healthier. Remember, I'm not a doctor - not a health professional of any kind. I am simply sharing the oils we use and the methods we've had success with. What works for us might not work for you, although we hope it does :)


First, if you do to our Healthy Skin post, you'll find several oils that we use ON our bodies. Here are some oils we use IN our bodies. That's right, some oils that we, as beginners, ingest.

Lemon

Not only does one drop in a glass of cool water really perk up my mood, but lemon is said to boost the body's natural defense system. Really though, I just like the taste of lemon water.

Carrot Seed, Fennel, Ginger

Lets be real. We all get tummy troubles. For me, it's usually after eating greasy bar food (too often than I'd like to admit). These three oils are interchangeably awesome for easing my tummy troubles and supporting good digestion. I like carrot seed and fennel best. In fact, fennel has some other awesome uses that I'll share later in this series.

Other Oils to Cook With: 

These are some oils you can cook with, just like the herb form. Remember, essential oils are the most concentrated form of the herb, so oftentimes one or two drops while cooking will be plenty.

Black Pepper
Rosemary
Oregano
Dill
Basil
Coriander

Oils to Make Cleaning Supplies

This might be the cardinal sin for Young Living, but my one of my favorite places to get recipes for cleaning supplies is Aura Cacia's Green Cleaning page. Here I find the recipes for my cleaning supplies, like window cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, furniture polish, and more.



There are two blends from Young Living that I LOVE, and are an essential part of my cleaning routine to maintain a healthy home. I can only get these blends from Young Living, and they are invaluable.

Purification

A few drops in my homemade laundry soap, and I have a double-close of cleanliness as well as a fresh scent. I also diffuse this in my kitchen after cooking a strong-smelling meal. After our basement flooded, I put several drops of Purification and Thieves on our furnace filter. I also diffused Purification in the basement once a day for a week to cut the musty smell.

Thieves

This is our power oil for fighting illness. A few drops on the bottom of my feet when I had a head cold this fall (and diffusing it in our bedroom a night) was just what I needed to take the edge off the cold. I also make a general cleaner out of Thieves for the bathroom and kitchen. And, like I said, Thieves helped us clean out our basement after it flooded. No moldy basement for this girl!

Ready to get oily? 
Well, first I'd recommend learning more about the Young Living Wholesale Membership. If you're going to invest in some oils, you might as well get them at the wholesale price (24% off retail!). To set up your wholesale account, all you need to do is:

1. Go here to enter in your informationEnter this Sponsor/Enroller ID number1880846
2. Choose a starter kit. (When I started, I bought the Premium Starter Kit and am SO happy I did!)
3. Optional: Sign up for Essential Rewards, which is a monthly auto-ship program. This is totally optional, and you can choose to sign up for the monthly auto-ship later, if you want.
4. Once you enter your payment for your starter kit, you're set! Just sit back and relax until your kit is delivered.

If a wholesale account isn't for you, and you just want to order a few oils to get started, just go here to set up your retail account, then feel free to browse the products. Just be sure to enter in this ID number when you set up your retail account: 1880846


AMAZON DISCLOSURE: The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for bloggers and sites to earn advertising fees by promoting and linking to Amazon properties. Rest assured that I only link to products that I use, recommend, or covet :) Clicking on or purchasing something I have recommended from Amazon does NOT increase or impact your cost in any way.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Essential Oils Series: Healthy Skin

Back in my teaching days - this makes me sound old, really it was about 4 years ago - I had the chance to observe some of my colleagues in action. The idea was that we would observe their practice and seek out strategies and tips for improving our own. I happened to observe my science teacher friend (Hey, Jessica!), and while I got a wealth of ideas for my language arts classroom, I came away with an interesting fact: A persons skin is their largest organ, and it's the only organ located on the 'outside' of the body.

Jessica went on to teach her Biology class about the different organs in a body and their purposes; each playing an essential role in our survival. However, she always came back to the skin. It seems natural, right, that we would take special care of our skin? It's our largest organ, on display for the world to see, vulnerable to the elements.

Today I have a few of my favorite skincare oils to share with you. These oils are a little more pricy than those sweet-smelling citrus oils that I am diffusing in our home, however, each of these oils are recommended for healthy skin.


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