Back to school must haves - SHOES!!! with KidsShoes.com #shopkidsshoes #shoeuswhatyougot

We are officially half way through summer! It's time to start thinking about back-to-school. Getting things your children need along the way makes for a less stressful experience than rushing out at the last minute.

Of all the school necessities, I find shoes to be the most troubling. My children are always growing/wearing out of shoes and I haven't enjoyed the selection at our local stores. We usually end up settling for a pair that's "good enough" and end up with a bunch of problems all year - from improper fit, durability, or a lack of versatility.

This year, we planned ahead and I was able to snag some really groovy shoes for my daughter (who is heading off to middle school this year!!)

 These shoes were ordered from KidsShoes.com and she absolutely loves them! They had a great selection of stylish shoes! My daughter is into style and she will not wear just any shoe. She was thrilled with how stylish these shoes were - and they were comfortable.

KidsShoes.com has a great way to make sure the shoes are going to fit! You take a photo of your child's foot near a credit card and because credit cards are all a standard size - they can make an accurate gauge of your child's shoe size. Easy and smart!!

They also have shoes for boys - and they update their styles regularly. Check them out to see if you can find shoes for your little ones this season - without the hassle of running around the shoe store.







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The Secret Life of Fat - Book Review

What is Fat? Do you even know? What happens to fat when you lose weight? Where does it go? What does it all mean? Most people realize that excess fat makes them look "unappealing" but they don't understand what fat really is or why we have it in the first place. They may not understand why they have excess fat and what to do about it - or what NOT to do about it.

When the book "The Secret Life of Fat" arrived at my door, I couldn't wait to dive into it. It's written by Sylvia Tara who holds a PhD in Biochemistry. As many of you may know, my degree is also in biochemistry and human metabolism has been a life long passion.

So I eagerly awaited a chance to sit down and read this book. I tore into it over the holiday weekend and couldn't put it down. Well, I couldn't put down the first half of the book. It was loaded with information on fat research. Some of it new, some of it old.  I loved it, but I also started to fall out with the author over many of the studies. She's a great author - easy to read and very conversational, but I got the sense that she is like most American scientists - willing to take things at face value and not really discovering much in the process.

We are all guilty of this. We believe what we read in our textbooks. We believe our professors and anyone with a title. We let them interpret the data for us and take their findings as truth. If the goal was to present the information as it stands, then the book did a good job. It brought up interesting studies and facts about fat as an organ in an easily digestible format, but it mostly grazed the surface of information and didn't really dive into alternative ideas.

I still enjoyed reading that first half. Then we got into the "what to do about fat." This was maybe the last few chapters, not really the last half but with references taking up the rear it felt "half-ish" while reading.

This part was irritating. Maybe it shouldn't have even been included, but I'm sure every person reading the first part of the book would have wanted "a solution" at the end. The truth is - there is "no solution." Illness and Wellness are both multi-factorial. Plus, everyone of us is individual and different rules apply to different people. Some of the main universal truths were glossed over - probably in an attempt not to ruffle any feathers. Most of the advice was eat less, move more. Not exactly cutting edge. It is part of the truth truth but it's not even the biggest piece of the puzzle.


Want a few bigger pieces of the puzzle? 
  • Do not eat processed food - especially fortified grains, brominated grains, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and seed oils (soy, canola, cottonseed, safflower, corn, etc.) Avoid things that are "shelf-stable." Real food rots and needs to be eaten quickly or kept cold/frozen.
  • Do not eat meat if you are unwilling to eat skin/bone broths/fat/organs/gristle - it messes up your amino acid balance and your ca/p ratio
  • Get out in the sun every freaking day. Do not wear sunglasses. Do not wear sunscreen. 
  • Get off your screens at night - this includes tv, phones, and even lights! You need a break about 2 hours before you sleep so your body can cycle your hormones properly at night
  • Never diet/starve. 
  • Do not eat after dinner, but eat breakfast right away in the morning. This is important for hormone cycling and adrenal stress!
  • Do not take any supplements - they are unnecessary if you eat a varied diet (and are not a vegan!) and they can mess things up!
  • Move your body often - you do not need to "exercise" but you do need to move. And if you want to maintain your strength and body composition you will want to resistance train - it can be body weight only movements.
  • Buy organic for the "dirty dozen" because they are sprayed with F/Cl/Br pesticides that mess with your thyroid gland
  • Drink fluoride free water (or if you can't - eat a few prunes every day to chelate out the F and seafood at least once a week to increase your Se/I)
  • Drink unsoftened water for Ca/Mg balance
  • Eat less "meat" - specifically pork and chicken
  • Eat something from the ocean once per week - and not battered in brominated enriched flour and fried in seed oils!
  • Get regular massages - or DIY with a foam roller.
  • Have fun and try to learn something new every day. The body and the mind are connected - and they both need to be healthy for optimum health.
  • Eat fewer raw leafy greens. Cook those babies! 
  • Eat real food 
  • Drink less water. Drink when you are thirsty - not because you think you need x number of liters per day.
  • Get rid of stress! If you have sadness, feel it and then release it. If it's anything else, let it go. It's not worth it! You are only here for a little while. Things get f'd up. It sucks, but move on.
  • Don't "snack" unless you absolutely must. Ideally, your body would have 3-4 hours between meals for proper digestion.
  • Do not give up. Keep searching until you find the truth! 
  • If you have an actual endocrine disorder - then seek help!
The above list should be every helpful in improving hormone balance and overall health - yes, with some fat loss if that's what your body needs. Beyond that, the book was great at opening up a few different directions to what may cause some of the increases in obesity and gets your mind thinking about other directions to search for answers.


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Think Jerky Review


We spend our weekends roughing it off-grid - we have been cleaning up and rebuilding a 40 acre farm for the last 8 months. (Our Farm Blog can be found here.)

It's hard work and the one thing you really miss when you are off grid is good food. Food storage is pretty mediocre without electricity and cooking is limited.

Sandwiches are pretty common (and pretty boring!) All other choices are either super basic (think plain veggies or fruit) or massively processed and unhealthy.

So when a few packages of Think Jerky found their way to my home, I took them with me to the farm.

What is Think Jerky? Food that makes you stop and think before you eat. Made from animals that lived a life they were supposed to live - on pasture, free to roam, no hormones etc. The ingredients are pretty good too - no soybean oils, nitrates, or other gunk.
Food should taste good and be as unadulterated as possible!
Being a basic gal - the classic was my favorite flavor. Second - I'd go for the ginger orange. These are flavors I would not have created myself, but they were fun and and tasty.

I appreciate companies that do things the RIGHT way. I just hope they stay that way and don't get bought out by the giant monsters. Until then, I'll buy these again and will be looking for them on my next shopping trip.



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Malachy McCourt Death Need not be Fatal - Book Review


Imagine the stares I received at the pool this summer as I read Death Need Not be Fatal while my children swam. I blame the cover. Seriously - a curiously happy old man lying in a coffin - and the words death. But hey, that's how I roll. Weird books, weird habits, weird life.

Just by looking at the book, I had no idea what it would be about. Death is a broad subject. After the first few pages, it was clear that the book was written by an old guy - the guy on the cover! I instantly wondered why someone would write a book in their 80s/90s then just as instantly realized "why not?"

Life is not just about making/spending money. It's actually about the doing. Doing things, creating, experiencing. That's what life is really about - and that's what you'll find in this book. A history of the author's "doings." Plus the author's views on death and a few of the times the death of others have changed his story.

The book is frank and I believe every word to be true - even after reading about the author's celebrity and political associates!  Aside from the celebrity interactions, I found much in common with the author: almost as if our childhood stories were one in the same. I have no idea my actual heritage, but after reading this book, I'm fairly certain my spirit is Irish.

Life is not just about making/spending money. It's actually about the doing.

Malachy's story is interesting, sad, and redeeming. It's sad in a "that's life" sort of way. There was fame and fortune, poverty and loss, sickness and health. In short - he lived. I am glad to have read his story and I will remember parts of it for a long time. I've also been inspired to finally see the movie Angela's Ashes.  In case you didn't know (as I didn't!) Malachy was actually a tv star and brother of the author who wrote Angela's Ashes. I had no idea because I don't follow celebrity glop and even though I remember seeing advertisements for Angela's Ashes - I thought it was about the holocaust and since I am filled up on sadness from that era, I skipped it.

The author has experienced a lot of death in his life. As we age, we all start to accumulate a death roster. Every time is different, yet the same. This is a good book to explore that topic - life and death, living and dying. I would recommend it to anyone.


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Can you really improve poor sandy soil with Comfrey

Before we purchased our farm, I read almost every book on permaculture designs and soil improvement techniques. That knowledge would come in handy when it came time to improve our poor sandy soil.

The farm had been continuously cropped for 136 years. There is no topsoil - just sand. Many, many feet of sand. Like a beach. We started out planting trees and even though we mulched and had a rainy spring, the ground was still dry and hard. The trees suffered.

Fortunately, I came across a woman selling perennial plants and when I went to check out her plants, I spied a rare type of comfrey. It had blue flowers and grew well in our climate, so I bought a few plants from her. Then I planted them - and they wilted and flopped on the ground.

Checking in with Dr. Google, I learned that comfrey is one of a few plants that grows easily from root pieces. Meaning - every chunk of root should grow a new plant. So those floppy plants should regenerate from the roots below the surface.

Walking through the woods, I came across a stand of the pink flowered comfrey. I dug out 3 plants and cut the roots into 58 pieces. These were planted all around our farm. Since our soil is so dry, I planted them along the forest edges (as they were originally found) and near our wetlands - so they could suck up the nutrients from that fertile area.

Why did I do all of this? Well - Comfrey is a hardy plant that put out a lot of vegetative growth. It can have deep roots that will draw up micronutrients from below the surface. In many climates, it can be cut 3-4 times per season and used as a fresh mulch to add nutrients to soils - or can be made into a compost tea.

Hopefully, a great percentage of those 58 roots will create plants. I will cut them down once they are nice and tall and use those leaves to mulch around our trees and garden plants. They will break down, providing nutrients and organic material. If they multiply, that's even more free mulch! But will it work?

Time will tell!!! We may see sprouts coming up from the roots this summer yet. I just planted them on 6/17/17 - (yes, you can even plant the roots in the summer and they are supposed to survive!)

As they pop up, I will update this article and keep it updated as I use the comfrey leaves to improve our sandy soil. We have a large garden space, so it is going to take a lot of leaves - and a lot of years, but it should be self sustaining in the long run. Fingers crossed!


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Hiking Essential - Plan it right

Let’s face it, everybody loves hiking, well they love the idea of going into to the woods to get away, but most people don’t actually go hiking. It is always on the want-to-do list but never quite reaches the finish line. The truth is there is a lot of preparation  that can go into a hike, whether it’s day hiking or longer sessions of thru-hiking, and people usually put off getting prepared and getting out in nature.

What Do You Need for a Hike

First thing you need for a hike is to get prepared. Walking everyday, starting at 15 minutes and increasing the length of the walk by five to ten minutes incrementally is the best way to build up the cardiovascular reserves necessary for long hikes. Slowly start adding weight to the walk, get used to your backpack, and break in those new hiking boots. Starting off cold can lead to a terrible time with constant needs to rest, blisters and sores all over your feet, and pain in your knees and back from not getting adjusted to the weight of the pack.

The Essential Gear

When it comes to hiking, there is an essential list of gear that is necessary for all hikes. Creating a list of what you will need and checking it twice is a good habit to get into before hiking.  Start with a good pair of hiking boots. They don’t have to be expensive but comfortable. The less seams a boot has, the more waterproof it will be. The importance of having good socks can make a difference by the end of a hiking day. Getting the best cold weather socks helps no matter where you hike takes you.  If it is a day hike, then a small pack will be fine, but for longer hikes through different climates, getting a pack with a frame to haul all your stuff is a good investment.

Being Safe, Being Comfortable

Make sure the clothes you bring along fit the weather and are comfortable. Hiking is not about looking good, but about maintaining safety and comfort while enjoying time spent outdoors. If the hike ends up being miserable because your boots have rubbed your calves raw, your legs are chafed because of your pants are rubbing too much, and your shoulders are raw from your pack straps, it is all because of not getting prepared for the hike and not understanding the most important part of the adventure.

Hiking is about fun and introspection. Prepare right and a long hike is a wonderful experience that keeps calling for those who listen.








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Life is Crap Tshirt Review


Since I live in the great North and our weather alternates between tolerable and freezing, I'm always wearing layers. One of my favorite things to do is wear cool t-shirts that start conversations. My favorite is my "fight club" shirt, but this new Life is Crap shirt is pretty awesome. You can find this shirt here: http://www.lifeiscrap.com/logo-bird-poop-t-shirt - it comes in womens and mens.

The women's shirts are more fitted - but true to size. My picture is not doing the shirt justice. It's a cute and comfy top. I was quite "uncute" on the day of the photo because I was off to the farm that morning and my children are horrible at taking pictures. I had to wear 4 layers that day (42 F at the end of May - seriously??) and I spent the day in the rain. Oh the joys of farm ownership....

This shirt is hilarious but for me it's extra special. The reason? Birds have pooped on me 3 times. I was once telling this to a relative and she mentioned that birds had also pooped on her 3 times. After we stopped talking, a bird pooped on her. That's 4 times for her. This kind of crap happens. Life is crazy. Life is crap. It's fun to celebrate it and wear crazy shirts.

Best of luck to you all!

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The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs Book - Review & thoughts on the moral implications for raising and eating animals

When The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs arrived on my doorstep, my son couldn't stop smiling. He took it as a sign that we would be getting pigs soon....

I saw it as an opportunity to learn more about raising pigs before we jump into animal husbandry. It turns out, we were both wrong.

It turns out, the book is an appeal to get the rest of humanity to understand why treating animals with dignity and respect is important - with a twist of Biblical influence.


In fact, the book begins with a testament of Joel's faith. I almost stopped reading the book immediately, because I wanted to read about pigs, not "religion." Thankfully, I stuck it out and read the entire book.

The book has been on my counter, in my cabin, in my car, behind the couch.... I have taken it with me and read little bits here and there. And a lot of people have commented. The title is intriguing to most people. And the people that know me assume I'm reading it to learn about pigs.

The gist of the book is this: God created everything and everything is important to God. Harming animals IS harming God. How can someone who calls themselves a Christian, turn a blind eye (or even actively participate) in the harm and abuse of animals? They wouldn't right? BUT - every day, Christians eat at McDonalds. Every day, Christians buy meat at the store without ever thinking about where it came from, how the animal was treated, what it was fed....

Every day, millions of Christians participate in the global economy. Buying stuff that doesn't matter, and throwing it away just as quickly. Millions of Christians contribute to the pollution of our oceans, the enslavement of underpaid workers, and much, much, more. And they don't care!

I have had this debate with many of my Christian friends and family for years. It is the biggest hypocrisy! The truth is - most "Christians" are Christians in name only. They want to go to the church events and belong. They want to write a check to "save the children" but not participate. Do you know how many centuries people have been saving the poor children in Africa? At least 3.

I read a lot of fantastic old literature. Last year I read a great homemaker guide (great off-grid cooking advice!) written in 1720. The author told about how she put aside money each week to send to the children starving in Africa. Their church was also creating a fund to help them get clean water. Almost 300 years ago!!!! Why hasn't this problem been solved by now??

Because people just want to send out their money and put it out of their mind (and because lots of people MAKE money off the "poor children" in Africa or Haiti.)

It's the same with animal care. Nobody wants to go into the chicken sheds or the CAFOs and see what really happens. To see would be horrific and an admission of reality. To see would mean you can't just buy the meat at the store and walk away happy. It would mean you couldn't just irreverently toss your excess food in the trash.  It would mean your whole "AMERICAN" existence would have to be questioned!

I commend Joel for putting this out there. It's truth! I share his frustration and I am hopeful that because he included some Biblical rationale, maybe people will listen to him. They have not listened to me. In fact, I came to the horrible conclusion that most people do not want to see reality. They want their bread and circuses - and nothing else. You can't save someone who doesn't want to be saved...

On that note - let me briefly recommend the book as a heartfelt plea to our better selves. You will be better off, having read it.

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A Farm Update

It's been 6 months since we bought the farm, and it's been a wild adventure so far!!! We've been so busy at the farm that almost all of our other activities have fallen by the way side. So I am finally providing an update on on some of our progress.

First - what have we been doing for the last 6 months!??!?! Well...it was winter...so we did what any rational people would do. We rushed to plant trees, clean up 30 years of farm debris, and we planned.

I'm happy to report that we have cleaned up almost all of the trash. Over 5 trailers of metal were scrapped. Countless nails were picked up (in the thousands!!) Scrap wood, dead trees, and miscellaneous trash was burned. We only have one large pile of scrap wood and brush to burn. It's too large to burn in the summer, so we'll be saving it for winter when there is less risk to the surrounding areas. But otherwise - the garbage has been cleaned up. What a relief!

Here's a look at some of the work:

We mulched all the trees we planted last November. That's 77 plus 25 we planted this spring. A mix of wild fruit trees, maples, firs, and spruce. You can see our spiffy new trailer in the background.
The semi truck mulch pile is dwindling. I hope to have enough for the orchard.... In the background, you can see the well and water storage tank. We hope to fill the tank with rain water and from the well - then use gravity to feed the orchard trees which will be just below them on the hill. All the little mounds are pumpkin seeds. They should take over the space until we can plant the orchard - this fall - once a fence is put in....

Speaking of orchard - here is the plan for the space. Plums, cherries, apples, pears, blueberries, honeyberries, strawberries, raspberries, currants, grapes, asparagus, herbs, and more!

We bought an old work trailer and went to work fixing it up. Here is the before:


And here are a few "afters"
 We gutted the floors, painted them and laid down new floor boards and carpeting. We painted the ceiling, fixed the loose walls, foamed to keep out mice, and installed a solar electric system. We have electricity and lights.
Having a place to sleep makes working so much easier!!

We rented bobcats to do some heavy earth work.
There were hills to flatten, trails to make, and rocks to move.



These were so helpful in building a trail to the lake and for leveling the ground for our shed - made from a shipping container. This was another project that required a semi....

 
 I planted wild fruit trees along the edge of this little lake to restore "the view." It will be years before they fill in, but they should be gorgeous.


We got started on building a shooting lane, but we have lots more to build. This is the next project planned. 



We also have been working on hard on the honeybee plans and the native prairie planting. The native prairie (all 10.6 acres) will be planted at the end of May. We are excited to see it take shape!  I am working on getting supplies for the honeybees and the actual bees should move in spring 2018.

We have plans to plane the pasture and plant large shade trees (for our future cattle) and the fence should go in sometime this summer - with the orchard to follow in the fall.  There is also the business of thinning the pine forest.... Trees are heavy y'all!

We have been busy...and exhausted. We have seen more wildlife and walked more than at anytime in our lives. It's been a lot of hard work. And there is more to come. It's an exciting journey and we are very lucky to have this experience.


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Laundry Paste - A review of my experience #tangie


Recently, I've been frustrated with the way big corporations our poisoning us. Let me count the ways - industrial pollution, harmful chemicals in our food, franken food products, harmful chemicals in our household products....and so much more.

I am so sick of it! I refuse to buy from brands that intentionally harm us with this garbage! So I was happy to give this Laundry paste a try.

https://www.amazon.com/Organic-Laundry-Detergent-Biodegradeable-Eco-Friendly/dp/B0190UEC22/ref=sr_1_1_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1470285155&sr=8-1&keywords=tangie

It's inexpensive to use and ship because it comes in a solid bar.
It didn't have a weird smell and did a good job cleaning. I did find it akward to use. I saved an old laundry detergent bottle and mixed/kept the solution in that bottle, but it didn't always dissolve well. I probably should have grated the soap first. The look was unappetizing (it looks like poo) but it did a great job and if I could get myself to grate the bar first, I think it would be a great option. I am considering buying it again.

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#tangie

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