Raising Our Kids TV-Free

Go ahead, roll your eyes.  Say what you like.  But we are raising our kids without a TV.
Did you know that greater than 99% of Americans have a TV in their house?  That 66% of Americans have 3 or more TVs in their house?  And that the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV a day which adds up to two months (24 hours a day) a year?  What does this have to do with the price of tea in China?  A lot, actually.
The average American youth spends 900 hours a year in school.  And 1500 hours a year watching TV.  By the time a child finishes elementary school they have seen 8000 murders, and by the time they are 18 they have seen 200 000 acts of violence.  The number of Americans surveyed who believe that violence on TV can trigger violence in real life: 79%.  Now can we understand why people riot for no reason?  Why kids join gangs?  Why vandalism occurs?
The average American, by the time he reaches age 65, has seen two million 30 second commercials.  The percentage of people who think that ads aimed at children are too materialistic: 92%.  Now can we understand why we have overflowing landfills, trash-filled oceans and massive, cement-block shopping centres?

Fast food is the number one ranked commercial aimed at kids.  Now can we understand why obesity and diabetes are running rampant amongst our children?  Why teens choose fries in the cafeteria instead of vegetables?

There have been over 4000 studies done on the effect TV has on children.  A parent spends on average 3.5 minutes a week in meaningful conversation with their child.   Children watch TV 1680 minutes a week.  53% of 4-6 year olds choose to watch TV over spending time with their father.  Now can we understand ADHD?  Childhood health problems?  Psychological problems?  Motivational problems?
Television-watching promotes racial, ethical, sexual, and body image stereotypes.  75% of American women think they are too fat.  Now can we understand anorexia, bulimia, OCD, depression and anxiety?

The statistics mean that it is time for a change.  The majority of parents agree that there is a problem with TV content and hours watched.  I don’t see a whole lot being done about it.  What are YOU going to do to protect your kids’ childhood innocence?

My oldest child is 8.  We have never had a TV in our house.  We don’t watch movies either.  The kids play with toys, read books and play outside.  Coming up with things for them to do on rainy days is more challenging than turning on the TV but much more rewarding.  Obviously it’s a lot harder to remove a TV from the house than to have never had one before.  If you are interested, try some baby steps:
  1. Limit the time watching TV per day.  Set a timer.
  2. When you are done with the TV turn it off
  3. Don’t allow children under 2 to watch TV at all.
  4. Watch only movies instead of TV.  (Eliminates advertising and allows for parental previews).
  5. Lead by example
  6. Join Parents Television Council

And this article doesn’t even touch computers and games…

Interesting links for further reading:

1 Hour Of TV Can Shorten Life by 22 Minutes
Watching TV is Bad For Children
Children’s Computer and Television Time Linked To Psychological Problems
Turn Off Your TV

August: A Garden of Splendor and Promise.

August is a busy, productive month.  Harvesting the fruit and vegetables is in full swing.  Take a moment to stop and absorb the beauty of it all.  I spent a few minutes today taking some pictures of the garden.  Sit back and enjoy the view!

The flowers in August are simply stunning.  Most of these are perennials since I don’t have a lot of time to spend growing annuals.  From left to right, a very fragrant phlox, an intricate lavatera, some sunshiny rudbeckia and lace-capped hydrangea.
Not to be outdone, the vegetable garden is in full beauty now too.  Check out these flowering vegetables.
Above, dainty, white flowers grace the potato plants.  A pea bloom displays its own delicate beauty. Bean blossoms promise beans into September!  And lastly, a huge squash blossom invites a honeybee in for pollination. 
Now the flowers aren’t the only beautiful things in the garden.  The growing vegetables and fruit are gorgeous and tempting in their own way.  Green tomatoes give a promise of great things to come!  Tiny pickling cucumbers are ripening in the garden.  The change from green to purple in the corn silk indicates corn will be ready soon. 

A plump pea pod awaits picking.    Lush edamame plants are beginning to form soy beans, green pumpkins will be brilliant in a few months and purple beets add color to the garden.  Thick green onion tops, rainbow chard, and flowering tomato plants add color and fullness.   
Juicy blackberries, ripe blueberries, and green grapes provide a rich intensity and a heady fragrance on a hot summer day.  Green ever-bearing raspberries indicate more fruit in the fall.
So while you are busy gathering, preparing and preserving your garden’s bounty, stop a minute and see the beauty your garden has, at every different stage.  Notice the butterflies and bees pollinating your garden.  Take a moment to study the tiny creatures you find there.  A garden creates endless work, but a lot of joy, and stunning beauty.

And then there is wild blackberry home-made ice cream.

The quietest time in the house is not nap time.  It’s not when the kids aren’t home.  It’s when we are all eating ice cream.  My usually chatterbox kids are absolutely silent, except for the lip-smacking sounds of ice cream being enjoyed.  Thoroughly.  A few years back we were terribly disappointed when the “all natural” Breyers vanilla ice cream became double-churned and  “natural vanilla” with a bunch of additives including Poly Sorbate 80.  We wrote to them to complain and were told that everyone prefers the double churned style but the double churning process could not be done in an all natural way.  We were given a handful of coupons for the ice cream.  We handed the coupons over to someone else and never bought Breyers again.  Our little protest against changing a perfect product to something less desirable (to us, anyway).  We still bought ice cream in general, and enjoyed it.  It has always annoyed me though to read ice cream ingredients and find things like:
Modified Milk Ingredients, Glucose, Mono And Diglycerides, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Cellulose Gum, Guar Gum, Colour, Polysorbate 80, Carrageenan, Glucose-Fructose
What are modified milk ingredients anyway?  How about Mono and Diglycerides?  (Click and find out)  We all know “colour” isn’t natural, and as for polysorbate 80… yikes.  Glucose-fructose is deceptive but it is the same thing as High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).   Coconut oil is good for you.  Hydrogenated coconut oil isn’t.  There are so many man-made ingredients in store-bought ice cream that don’t need to be there.  Some are preservatives, some are thickeners, some make it melt slower, some are for color, and some are for flavour.

For Father’s Day this year, I copied my sister-in-law and bought my husband an ice-cream maker.  So far I have made fresh strawberry, blueberry, blackberry chocolate chip mint, and vanilla ice cream.  The ingredients?  (For the fruit ice cream) Fresh organic fruit, fresh lemon juice, whipping cream, organic milk, cane sugar, and vanilla extract.  All natural, as organic as you want it, no preservatives or coloring, and flavor-FULL!!! 

My favorite so far is the wild blackberry ice cream.  I followed the basic vanilla ice cream recipe that came with the machine not altering anything except for the addition of the blackberries:  I soaked a cup of blackberries in 3 Tbsp of lemon juice and 1/2 cup of sugar for an hour.  Then I cooked them in a pot for about 5 minutes, or until they mashed into a dark purple juice.  I strained the juice into the ice cream mixture.  What a treat!!!   The ice cream was naturally pink from the blackberry juice, was made from fresh, wild blackberries picked that morning, and a fantastic, mild blackberry flavour.  Served over fresh blackberries, this makes perhaps the best summer dessert ever!

Our ice cream maker is a Cuisinart Classic Frozen Yogurt – Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker.  It is bpa-free and makes 1.4L of delicious, all natural ice cream.  It comes with a recipe book and is easy to make.  The mixing of the ice cream takes 20 minutes, and then you can either eat it as soft ice cream, or pour it into a container and place in the freezer for 3 hours to make hard ice cream.  I paid about $60 for it.

The cons of home-made ice cream:

  • It takes about 3.5 hours to complete if you want hard ice cream
  • It melts faster compared to store-bought ice cream
  • It doesn’t last very long in the freezer compared to store-bought ice cream

The pros

  • It is all natural
  • it doesn’t contain added ingredients that aren’t necessary (unless you want bionic ice cream that doesn’t melt, that is a fluorescent color or that lasts forever in the freezer).
  • You can make it with organic ingredients if you choose
  • You can add whatever you want to it!

The cons aren’t cons to me since I avoid bionic food products.  I love to make home-made ice cream.  I love knowing what is in the ice cream, and I love the superior flavour.  The contented silence of ice cream being eaten is complete to me now.  I know their treat is a safe one, and I value that above all.  (Oh, OK, and the silence…)

Fresh Summer Fruit Smoothies

Our lazy summer has meant less trips to the grocery store, and more meals of garden vegetables and fresh-picked fruit.  Muscle-In-The-Arm (AKA my husband) is a commercial fisherman and has been out most of the summer fishing.  So without a serious schedule this summer the kids and I have been enjoying impromptu meals and snacks, usually filled with whatever is available.  With a freezer full of chicken from our latest harvest, fresh, wild salmon at hand and a garden full of potatoes, lettuce, chard and more coming soon, we don’t have to look very far for food.  Last night we had whole wheat pancakes topped with fresh BC-grown peaches and our own blueberries, and farm-fresh eggs (laid that day by our own hens). 
Today the kids wanted a smoothie.  My 8 year old son had just picked and frozen about 5 cups of blueberries and wild blackberries, and so we created a fantastic, healthy mid-summer snack.  The frozen berries gave the smoothie a frosty effect  It was thoroughly enjoyed, as you will see.
Mid-Summer Smoothie
  • 2 c frozen (or fresh) blueberries and/or blackberries
  • 1 c plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • Milk for desired thickness
Add first 4 ingredients to blender.  Blend until smooth.  If it is too thick add milk to get desired thickness.  Sit outside, put your feet up, and enjoy your frosty, purple smoothie. 
  • Add honey to sweeten if necessary
  • You can use frozen bananas and fresh (not frozen) berries
  • Goes nicely with toast and peanut butter!
A little satisfaction from a simple, tasty treat goes a long way! 

Homemade Dill Pickles

My pickling cucumber plants didn’t take off this year due to an unseasonably cool, damp spring and summer.  I may get a few off of them in the next few weeks and I will preserve them as they come, but they won’t give me as many as I was hoping for.  I picked up 10lb of unsprayed pickling cucumbers at a farmer’s market a few days ago and they were gorgeous!  Clean, firm, green and obviously just picked.  I bought them along with some dillweed and my Saturday evening was booked!  Pickling cucumbers is not as labour-intensive as preserving fruit.  No peeling, chopping, or blanching.  And if you have your own plants, you can preserve them as you pick, one jar a day or less, if necessary.  Make sure you read through the recipe first, and have the right amount of ingredients on hand.  Beats running back and forth to the store several times as I did last night…
To make your pickles, you need:
  • Canner
  • Rubber gloves
  • Large pot (for making brine)
  • Small pot (for preparing lids)
  • 10 canning jars (quart size)
  • 10 lids and rings
  • 10lb pickling cucumbers
  • 10 cups white vinegar
  • 10 cups water
  • 10 Tbsp. Coarse Salt (not table salt)
  • 10 heads of fresh (or previously frozen) dillweed
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • Pour all cucumbers into a clean sink filled with cool water
  • Scrub with a soft brush, rinse and drain
  • Prepare lids as directed on package
  • Sterilize and prepare jars by placing in cold oven, heat to 200F.
  • Bring vinegar, water and salt to a boil in large pot (this is your brine).
  • Wearing rubber gloves, remove one hot jar from the oven.  Put one clove of garlic, one head of dill and a bit of the stalk including some of the hairy, green dill bits.   Place pickles in jar.  Arrange in jar to get as many in as possible without squishing them.  Don’t go past an inch below the top of the jar.  Fill jar to 1 inch from top of jar with hot brine. Wipe lip of jar with clean cloth to remove any salt water.  Place hot lid on jar, screw on ring, and set aside.  Repeat until your pickles are used up.
  • Place jars in canner and cover with water.  Put on lid and bring to a boil, boiling for 10 minutes.  
  • Remove using canning tongs or rubber gloves.
  • Let sit to cool.  You will hear the lovely popping sound as your lids seal.  
  • Arrange on a shelf so everyone can enjoy your beautiful, tasty works of art! 
That’s it!  Pickling is easy, quick and rewarding.  A few things to note though: 
  • Let your pickles “pickle” for a good 30 days.  They won’t taste like pickles until then!
  • Your garlic may turn bluish but that’s ok.  It’s the vinegar making it change color.
  • Keep left over brine in your fridge if you are going to do more pickles.
  • If you are collecting cucumbers from your own plant, wash them as you pick them, let them dry, and store in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week while you add to the bag. When you have enough to make a jar, do it! 
  • Don’t use table salt
  • Don’t use regular cucumbers.  They will go mushy.  Pickling cucumbers are firmer. 
There isn’t a whole lot to making pickles.  Once you’ve done it you’ll wonder why you haven’t been doing it all along.  It’s a rewarding experience and you can take pride in your beautiful green jars of pickles.  Summer’s bounty, one jar at a time, year round. 

We Live In A Paper Cup World

One little thing, the disposable coffee cup.  58 billion coffee cups are thrown away in the USA annually.  That’s 58000000000 cups.  20 million trees were cut down to make those cups.  12 billion gallons of water were used.  What for?  Convenience.  We don’t need disposable coffee cups.  We use them because they are convenient. 

How about getting a stainless steel reusable coffee mug and remembering to take it with you?  How about not letting yourself buy a coffee if you forget? 

Some coffee shops offer a discount for providing your own cup.  Starbucks claims to offer 10 cents less on a cup of coffee if you have your own mug.  This is an easy one.  Coffee to go?  I’ll take an non-disposable world, please.