Monday, July 27, 2015

Family Camp 2015

A quick word about something close to my heart - fundraising for cancer research.

This past week my family and I took off for the Great White North and attended DVM Bible Camp in the Canadian Okanagan. My husband's family has been attending this camp since the very beginning, 49 years ago, and it's been a wonderful tradition that gets us together and replenish our souls and faith together.

DVM Bible Camp was started by my husband's great uncle and his son. The land was homesteaded upon for several years (the main lodge was built in 1924) and in the 1960's it was bought by the family. It was ranched upon and later converted as a campground and the owners invited the local church to come out in the summer for "family camp." My husband's mother grew up going to this camp every year, subsequently taking her family and children throughout their lives too. This was the third time that I've attended.

The camp runs rich with family history. Each time I've gone up there I discover a memory of a family member who had been there years before. A quilt, displayed on the wall. Photo albums filled with pictures of my husband as an awkward teen (so great!). The best yet - the welcoming arms of distant in-laws so treat me like a cousin, even though we may have not met or seen each other in several years.

Walking through this camp for a week makes me think of what a time capsule it is. It's about 15 miles from the nearest town, and 40 miles until you can get some wifi. It wasn't until fairly recently that they harnessed the hydro-electric power that they can gain from the creek flowing through the property that gives the lodge consistent lighting and hot showers for everyone. Chapel and classes are held in the old lean to that was the cattle stable when it was a working ranch. There are several other original buildings on the property that were clearly hand chopped log houses. Each year that I've visited I sneak a Laura Ingalls Wilder book from their library and dive myself into the pioneer days with this view above my book.

Each day has two chapels (worship and a message) and there is a morning class. Throughout the day there are different family activities available; from "killer" croquet to gold panning, agate hunting, a ropes course or swimming in the lake. The best part is that you just let your kids run free. This is an age where disconnecting is sometimes harder for children than the adults, where many haven't ever truly experienced what it's like to play outside and imagine for yourself what to do. Heading out to camp every year is a a reprieve for all of us.

Oh - and you betcha that I cloth diapered for a whole week while camping!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Farm to Table Farmers Market is OPEN in Monroe!

Friends - I am 88% to my goal of fundraising $500 to benefit cancer research for Jimmy Fund Walk and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Read more about why this event is important to me and please consider making a donation - no matter how small!

I'm a fan of buying local and supporting the "small town" feel. Being connected to my community is a great feeling - knowing your neighbor, waving at a friend in the grocery store. I love it! I never had that in the town that I grew up in for 18 years, and yet there is something special about Monroe, WA that changed all of that in less than three years for me.

This week was the grand opening of the Farm to Table Farmers Market! The location was perfect; right under the iconic Carnation smoke stack that visitors and residents see when they pass through town.

Lots of great vendors were there -
Kenzie's Pendants - handmade wire wrapped jewelry  // Whackadoodles & Wanderlust - repurposing old spoons into jewelry
Tons of great food options too - a veteran run taco truck, wood fired pizza, a beer & wine garden AND frozen yogurt.

I was excited to see the variety of what our locals brought in. There was definite pride in craftsmanship from each of the vendors and I loved getting to meet some of them personally.

Farm to Table Farmers Market 

501 E. Main Street
Monroe WA

Wednesdays 3-7 during the summer

My Summer Check List with a Strider Bike Review and Giveaway!

Friends - I am 88% to my goal of fundraising $500 to benefit cancer research for Jimmy Fund Walk and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Read more about why this event is important to me and please consider making a donation - no matter how small!

I love sharing reviews and giveaways via blog hops and this month I'm participating in the
 Keeping Cool in the Sun Giveaway Hop hosted by Lindsey Blogs and Viva Veltoro.
I'm joining a group of bloggers that are sharing awesome products that help keep you cool in the sun. After reading my review, scroll to the bottom and find the other participating blogs and don't miss the amazing Grand Prize from our Hosts - a Step2 WonderBall Fun House!


Do you have a summer check off list? Now that we are out of the infant stage with Ruby, I am looking forward to getting to do more activities that get both girls active and enjoying the warm weather. I can't believe that it's the middle of July already! I remember like 2 weeks ago feeling "wow, how can it be June? But clearly it was already mid-June...I digress. So without further adieu, here's my summer check list.

1. Gather fresh local produce whenever we can.
We've already gotten a huge amount of strawberries and blueberries stored in the freezer! I love u-pick farms and our area boasts a ton of organic or no-spray family owned farms. This week our town is having our first farmer market grand opening and I am really looking forward to seeing it! It's very important to me to have a connection with where my food comes from and I want my daughters to see it too. I want them to see those imperfect plums with blemishes that are just as yummy (heck, usually MORE yummy!) than those perfect ones at the store. Seeing fruit that comes straight from the grower and that hasn't gone through the homogenized sorting process from the grocer is a big part of that.
2. Go camping.
This summer we are experimenting with GLAMping in our 'new to us' tent trailer. It was a really cheap find on craigslist last summer and is very rough around the edges, but it sure beats sleeping on an air mattress with 2 adults and 2 kids. Oh and the dog. It just keeps everything contained so much better than a tent does. But just to make sure y'all know that I am legit; I did grow up camping in a tent so I know what I'm leaving behind. ;)

3. Watch a movie under the stars.
Our town sets up kid movie nights at our local park on Fridays in August, which was a lot of fun last year. This year I've got plans to host our own movie night under the starts for the family too! It'll be a fun night of s'mores, cousin time and sleeping outside (in a tent!).

4. Teach Penny how to ride a bike.
Finding a bike, of any kind, for Penny to ride has been really difficult. She has a 13.5" inseam, and not too many bicycles fit her. We've gone through a ton of different trikes and balance bikes but none seemed to fit her. Then we finally got our hands on a Strider Bike!

Strider Bike has always been "the name" that stuck out in my head for balance bikes. The inventor designed these bikes to solve the problem that I've had this whole time - children's bikes just tend to be too heavy, cumbersome and complicated.

Strider Bikes are "balance bikes," which means the child builds confidence in learning how to ride a bike by balancing with their feet on the ground rather than learning how to balance and pedal at the same time.  Strider Bikes remove the drivetrain and let the kid build their confidence by first walking with their feet and then graduating to gliding. Once they have the balance part down they will be more comfortable learning how to pedal.

We had the opportunity to try out the Strider 12 Sport. Penny chose it in blue because she wanted it to be an "Elsa Bike." From the time of opening the package to getting her on the bike was less than 10 minutes. Wanna know why? Because you don't need any tools for assembly and adjustment on this bike! Woo hoo!

The Strider 12 Sport uses quick release clamps on the seat and handle bars. This made it very easy to make quick adjustments when Penny was first starting out and I was trying to find the right height for her to be comfortable using the bike. The tires are made from an EVA polymer and will never go flat and are light weight.

In the evenings we've been enjoying walking on the walking path that goes behind our house. It's been the perfect place for Penny to gain confidence with her Strider because we don't have to worry about her getting too close to the road. The path is paved and mostly flat and just a short walk away from a playground - so when she needs a mental break from the bike, we just pop over to the playground and then encourage her to ride the bike home again.

It's take a few tries to get her to become comfortable with the bike, but slowly and surely she is starting to take longer strides and I bet before the end of the summer she'll be gliding like a pro.

One of my favorite parts about the quick release clamps for adjustment is that it makes it so easy to share this bike between siblings. Miss Ruby, who is a whopping 16 months old, wants to be just like her 3 year old sister. So if Penny gets a ride on the bike, you bet Ruby thinks she is getting one too! I guess you're never too young, right? ;)

Enter to win your own Strider 12 Sport (MSRP $119) in the giveaway widget below!

Disclosure: I received product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. So Easy Being Green, Viva Veltoro, and the Keeping Cool in the Sun participating bloggers are not responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill prize obligations.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Spray Painting Lawn Furniture and relaxing with Palm Breeze!

Summer is here! And so is the heat...which is an awesome and really not awesome thing.

It's really awesome because in Western Washington most of the year is spent waiting for the glorious sun to come out. And then it becomes not so awesome when temperatures get above 75 degrees (my personal comfort level) and you don't have A/C in the house. But then it turns right back to awesome because my backyard is (cue falsetto voice) awesome!! Well, it's on it's way to being pretty awesome. My goal has been to create a comfortable entertaining space where adults can enjoy a meal and each other's company while keeping the kids in view.

To get a kick start on this dream-backyard-oasis
 I've been collecting lawn furniture and children's toys to make our backyard a place where we want to spend time in the afternoons and evenings.

A few months ago I was gifted a set of three quality plastic Adirondack chairs from my local Buy Nothing group. They were spray painted white a season or so ago and I decided that I'd like to try my hand at refreshing them a little bit.  I've seen tons of tutorials on how to spray paint plastic lawn furniture and figured it can't be to hard.

So I grabbed my materials:
2 cans of spray paint per chair (I chose purple, dark blue and light blue)

scrub brush
Soft Scrub cleaning solution
course sandpaper

This is a project that I did over the course of a week during nap times. It was perfect because most of the steps were short but required some wait time between them. 

First I cleaned the chairs as well as I could, using a hard bristled scrubber and Soft Scrub. This scrubbed some of the white paint off. I took a break and waited for it to dry.

Then I took some course sandpaper and tried to sand off (or at least scuff) the old spray paint layer. I didn't go through the trouble of sanding all of the spray paint off, but tried to thin it out at the very least. I washed it again and allowed it to dry.

When I was ready to paint I made my workspace in the gravel in our back driveway (away from everything) so that I wouldn't have to worry about overspray. Following the instructions on the can I started spraying a very light coat onto the chair, moving it around as I needed to. As the coats dried I added more layers to create a solid look. This was over the course of several days due to drying time between the layers. It took about one and a half spray paint cans per chair to get the coverage that I wanted. 

And then they were done! A celebratory drink upon my new chairs was in order.

Palm Breeze (in Ruby Red Citrus) has been my go-to drink this summer. It reminds me of a certain soda that is blood orange flavored, except that Palm Breeze is a flavored malt beverage (FMB). Which basically means it’s an alcoholic drink made with a malt base, kind of like beer. Can I just tell you about the serious yum factor of this stuff?! I've made sure that our fridge is stocked with a case of it at all times this summer. It's been the perfect drink to cool off in the backyard with. I was so pleasantly surprised because I was expecting an overly sugary drink like most other flavored malt beverages are. Nope! I enjoyed it just like my favorite blood orange soda (responsibly, of course). 

Keep an eye on the blog for more summer-time backyard oasis posts...I've still got a few more up my sleeve!

How do you relax in your backyard?

Disclosure: I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls 
and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Monday, July 6, 2015

I'm signed up to fight cancer with Jimmy Fund Walk!

I participated in an Ambassador Activation on behalf of Influence Central for the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation. 

This year has been 8 years since my dad passed away from cancer.

My dad was diagnosed with gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST)(cancer) in 1999. At the time, his oncologist had no clue what this even was, much less even begin to know how to treat it. We lived in a small town and he was referred to oncologist after oncologist. He tried chemo but hated the effects. He had a 13 year old daughter and a 7 year old son who were begging him to come play, after all. He wasn't given very good odds because of the rarity of his disease. Thankfully, this didn't stop him.

My dad wasn't the kind of guy to sit back and just let this happen. He started looking into medical trials and over the years was matched up with trials in Philadelphia, Boston (at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) and Santa Monica. He underwent several new-fangled surgeries (like being injected with a chemical that 'lit up' his cancer cells, very futuristic at the time) and at one point was traveling for treatment a cycle that sent him from Seattle to Boston on a rotation of once every 4 weeks, twice a month and then back to once every 4 weeks. Imagine the toll it takes on a healthy person to fly that often; and then imagine how a cancer patient feels.

Through his perseverance in trying to find a cure my dad lived with his disease for 9 years. I only know of one other person who has surpassed that time. My dad's battle is the symbolism behind my tattoo. During his travels for cancer treatment he took it as an opportunity to see parts of the country that he normally wouldn't have seen; and took my brother and I on several of those trips.

He couldn't have gotten to where he did without the help of others. As a state worker he was gifted vacation hours by his co-workers so that he can travel for his treatments. When he was in Boston he stayed with a family that made their upper floor available for cancer patients who came to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. He connected with Angel Flights, where pilots volunteer their time and plane to fly medical patients where they need to go; in my dad's case from Seattle to Santa Monica.

In the last 8 years I've long considered how, or if, I ever would want to participate in any cancer fundraising events.  There are a lot to choose from but none had really spoken to me in the way that Jimmy Walk Fund has. The care that my dad received at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute was cutting edge and probably more importantly...compassionate. Following his passing I actually got several phone calls and emails from his nurses and the receptionists at the cancer center who knew him and had stories to share with me. My dad always said that the people who he met at the cancer center were angels. They realized how important their role is in his journey and they took it seriously. They recognized that these patients are people with families. 

Photo credit to John Deputy
The Jimmy Walk Fund  has raised more than $100 million since 1989 to support Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's lifesaving mission to conquer all forms of cancer in children and adults. The Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana-Farber is one of the world's premier pediatric cancer centers. The fundraiser goes to support research and care for both adult and child cancer patients. The walk takes place in Boston, but you can sign up to walk along 4 different routes or virtually (like I am). My goal is to raise $500 to fund further ground breaking research and patient care at Dana-Farber, just like my dad received.  You can help me reach my goal by donating on my personal fundraising page and if you have a story like mine, you can sign up to walk too! Virtual walkers are free, but if you are in the Boston area and want to physically walk on September 27 - use the discount code BLOG to get $5 off your registration.

Photo credit to John Deputy

Join me in my journey and help me reach my $500 goal! 
Please share this facebook post 
with anyone that you think will be interested!

Camping While Cloth Diapering

When parents consider the pros and cons of cloth diapering, they go through different scenarios where they envision it being difficult – typically travel. It’s a break from the routine, might be difficult to find a suitable place to wash the diapers, and then there’s also the transportation issue. Sure, it’s easy to temporarily switch to ‘sposies for a short period of time, but cloth diapering is totally versatile and not difficult to accomplish outside of the home.  
We exclusively cloth diaper with the exception of travel via plane. Camping with cloth, on the other hand, I've got down pat. We've gone camping about half a dozen times with cloth from a weekend to a week at a time. In the coming week we will be camping for a week at my husband's family church camp in the Okanagan region of British Columbia. It's a very remote area (as in, drive at least 45 minutes to get to the closest wifi location) and whenever we visit I like to imagine what it would be like to live like a pioneer. 
 Along the way I’ve found a few tips on how to make it workable.
  • Cut down prep time at camp and keep it all in one place. If you use pockets, stuff your diapers at home. Then bring the diapers, wipes, detergent and wetbags in their own container (like a big duffel bag, rubbermaid or even a laundry basket). I have a big travel bag that I’ve dubbed “The Fluff Bag.”
  • Engineer a “camp washer” or take a look at this gal’s DIY bucket washer video.
  • Pack clothes line and clothes pins. That’ll be pretty important to dry them effectively!
  • When in a pinch, use your travel wet bag as a portable washing machine. Genius! Planet Wise tweeted this idea – and I couldn’t agree more!

When we camped for the full week we utilized the camp washer with the instructions from the video above. We boiled water and tried to replicate our wash cycle at home as best we could. Are the diapers going to be as clean as they are at home? Likely not. You can bring disposables just in case. Plus, you definitely get street cred for washing your cloth diapers like a pioneer!
Some notes:
  • Prefolds always wash and dry quickly. If you don’t normally use them, but have some stashed away (we primarily used prefolds when Penny was a newborn), bring them back out for camping.
  • Remember to adjust your detergent use based on you’ll be using less water.
  • Check out Dirty Diaper Laundry's annual Flats Challenge to get some ideas on how to wash diapers by hand. It's a good idea to know how to wash cloth diapers by hand in case of an emergency! 
Have you camped with cloth diapers before? 
What tips would you add? 
If you haven't, what concerns do you have?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lime Cilantro Chicken Tacos

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Thanks Foster Farms for sponsoring today's post! 
Quality meat is important to me, so I am excited to share this recipe using delicious organic chicken.

Summertime has hit and I've moved the majority of my cooking from the stove to the grill. We don't have AC so the inside temperatures get into the low 90's and there's no way that I'm turning on the stove to cook! Thankfully we have a decent grill on our back porch and my goal for creating a backyard oasis is in full swing, so dinners in the backyard are where you'll find us 6 out 7 evenings!

Today I'm going to share one of my time honored recipes with you - one that I started tooling around with when I was first married and now I've got it down pat. It's a combination of my two favorite dinner flavors - lime and cilantro!

  • 2 fresh chicken breasts (I used Foster Farms Simply Raised, read below why)
  • 1/2 cup of lime juice
  • 2 T cumin
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • one fresh avocado
  • one bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 10-15 corn tortillas

1. Combine the 1/2 cup of lime juice, 2 tablespoons of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in bowl. Add the fresh Foster Farms chicken to the juice and allow it to marinade for 30 min to overnight. 

2. I like to prepare mine on the grill, but you can also pan fry if you prefer. Cook until the juices run clear. 

3. Chop the chicken into small bite size pieces and set aside in a serving bowl.
4. Slice the avocado, wash and chop the cilantro and set aside in serving bowls.
5. Warm up the corn tortillas, nobody likes stiff tortillas! (Here's how)
6. Serve up! 

If you've followed along on The Pierogie Mama for a while, you'll know that I keep a small flock of backyard chickens for eggs. I've always been intentional about the food that I source for my family - but it's very a fine balance between cost, quality and sustainability. I try to eat seasonally and limit our greater world impact by buying in bulk. It's not easy and it doesn't always work out that way, but I know that doing my best is better than nothing! Having been a chicken mama for over a year, I've gotten a much better appreciation for these animals and am very mindful to teach my daughters that the eggs on their plate for breakfast didn't magically appear from thin air; and neither do any of the other ingredients that we are blessed to share at our table. My thought process isn't unique; in a recent study 85% of Millennial parents indicated that their criteria for buying meat and poultry has changed over the last several years, 42% cited having a child as the primary reason.  When I buy any kind of meat I prioritize on buying organic or antibiotic free. I also want to rest assured that the animal was treated with respect during it's life and prepared for my table with dignity. That's why I chose Foster Farms Simply Raised for this meal. Simply Raised poultry never has any antibiotics, the chickens are fed an entirely vegetarian diet and are American Humane Certified. When the time of butcher comes, the meat is minimally processed without any additives, preservatives, steroids or hormones. It's also good to know that Simply Raised Foster Farms chickens are locally grown in the Pacific Northwest, so I'm not having to pay for transport time between the farm and the grocery store where I buy it. When it comes to store bought affordable chicken, you can't beat Foster Farms!

Leave a comment below telling me what kind of side you'd choose to go along with these tacos - I'm always drawing a blank! And let me know if you've also tried Foster Farms chicken.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Foster Farms. All opinions expressed were my own.


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