29 July 2017

Everyday Organics with the Kroger Co

Our local flavor of the Kroger Company is called Fred Meyer, and they've been one of the main stores I've shopped at since I was a kid. The Kroger Co. recently started a program called the MyMagazine Sharing Network, where participants who "qualify for missions" can receive free samples in exchange for sharing about the products. Free food is always helpful to our grocery budget, so I was quick to sign up! We just received the box for my first mission, "Organics Everyday." So here's what we tried, and what we thought of it!

In the box were individual-sized bags of Garden of Eatin' ranch and nacho chips, a full-sized bag of organic Tostitos, and a can of Bush's organic chickpeas. There were also coupons for free items that wouldn't have shipped well, like drinks.

We portioned out the Garden of Eatin' chips over several lunches. "So, healthy Doritos?" Matt laughed when he saw them, and yes, that's pretty much what they are; my kids have never had Doritos, though—any chips at all are a rare treat in our house—so I can't say whether they would have preferred one over the other, but they did enjoy these. Little Bear and Kit both liked the ranch version, and Kit enjoyed the nacho ones. Baby deemed the nacho ones non-offensive as well, which was a pleasant surprise, because lately I've had trouble finding anything to eat that doesn't make me feel sick.

The Tostitos taste like Tostitos... They're fine; like I said, we don't usually eat chips, so it's been a bit of a conundrum figuring out what to do with them all. I'm hoping that the baby is up for some fresh salsa, because I'm planning to run by the farmers market this afternoon and see if anyone has tomatoes. That sounds like a good accompaniment for tortilla chips!

The kids love helping me make hummus, and helping me eat it, but they run and hide in the other room when I turn on the food processor. One of these days, I'll manage to convince Little Bear that it's not that loud; he would have more fun helping in the kitchen, I know, if he wasn't scared of the noise it makes. We made up a quick batch of hummus with the chickpeas we received, and everyone has been enjoying it with raw veggies.

One thing that frustrates me greatly is how most brands that sell canned goods use BPA in the linings of their cans. When was the last time you saw a plastic container intended for food prep or storage that didn't say "BPA-free" on it? "BPA-free" is practically synonymous, in public perception at least, with "safe for use with food/drink." But how many brands of canned goods do you see the BPA-free label on? Hunt's, the tomato company, is one. I think I saw it recently on some Del Monte fruits, too. But most beans, vegetables, and canned meats, even organic varieties, are still being packed and subjected to high heat/pressure in cans lined with BPA. 

So when we got organic chickpeas in a can that didn't say BPA-free, I called the customer service line for Bush's to ask about it. And it turns out that they are now using cans with BPA-free linings for all of their beans! The lady I spoke with wasn't sure why they don't advertise the fact, but assured me that there was no BPA. I'm so glad! I try to use dried beans in my cooking anyway, but I usually keep a few cans of pre-cooked beans around for just-in-case times, and up until this point the only BPA-free beans I'd found are a bit more expensive and are only stocked by stores that are inconvenient for us to shop at. And I grew up eating Bush's baked beans, and have not yet managed to find a recipe for homemade baked beans that we like better.

There were coupons for a couple of types of teas and a soda? Carbonated lemonade? I'm not sure. I couldn't find them at the store, but honestly, they're not things we would buy anyway. That's true of almost everything we received, other than the chickpeas, though the kids were excited about the chips. But the "most appreciated item in the box" award goes to a sheaf of coupons for free/discounted items from Horizon Organics, which among other things sells half gallons of milk. I wish I could say that I tasted a difference between conventional and organic milk, but baby didn't like the granola I poured it over yesterday, so the best I can tell you is that it's good milk. At the rate we use milk, given that the baby isn't currently letting me make/eat yogurt (why, child?!?) and doesn't love granola, I shouldn't need to buy milk again until mid-August, at least!

If the Kroger Company was trying to use the "Organics Everyday" mission to encourage people to eat healthy or to show off the healthful options they offer, I think they missed the mark a little with their selection of samples; the chickpeas and milk are great, but everything else... organic junk food is still junk food, you know? But they do offer a lot of other healthy and organic options in their stores, and I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to learn about the Bush's cans, and grateful to not have to pay for milk for a while! 

28 July 2017

Little ones

We've been seeing a lot of babies lately:

This cow and calf moose hung around the yard eating willows for a couple of days.

Here are two of the seven young ruffed grouse that have been strutting around our woods and yard. I have never seen seven grouse all together before!

I haven't been able to get a good photo of more than one at a time yet, but we have at least three juvenile American kestrels hanging out on our roof, deck, and treetops as they learn to fly. The kids and I have had a blast watching the kestrels' nesting box this summer, and now that the babies are out and flapping around, it seems like we're always running to a window to see them.

And... we're expecting a new little one of our own in the spring! Kit and Little Bear are so excited about their new sibling; they change their minds several times a day on whether they think they're getting a baby brother or sister. We'll see!

14 July 2017


When you suddenly remember, at 9:42 pm, that you were supposed to bake hamburger buns tonight... it's time to find something quicker-but-still-productive to do instead. Or go to sleep, I suppose, if I were being sensible. 

How about a kid-update? I thought about doing one on Kit's birthday, and halfway between her birthday and Little Bear's birthday, and on his birthday, but somehow it seems like I'm always too busy. How busy am I? I tried to start using Facebook again, and I could never find time to check it and gave up again. Summer. Kids. Something. There's always something else to be doing.

Kids! So Little Bear recently turned 5, and a few weeks before that Kit turned 2. They keep us on our toes! Kit copies everything Little Bear does, and wants to play with him constantly. He's generally very happy to play with her, too: they are always building forts, dishing up pretend meals, running around outside together... Now that he's reading, Kit is hearing many more stories per day than when I was the only reader! Today, they played and he read to her for a solid hour and a half while I ran on the elliptical, showered, and made supper. Each time I stuck my head in to check on them, they were having a blast and didn't need anything from me. (Days don't usually work like that! But it sure was helpful today.)

Both kids are signed up for our library's summer reading program, and more often than not, Little Bear's weekly tally of books read is over 100! He discovered the nonfiction section at the beginning of the summer, and now, in addition to 8-10 fiction books, we come home from the library with two or three nonfiction kids' books on some random subject each week. 

Little Bear at 5:
Favorite book/series - Frog and Toad
Favorite show - The Pioneer Woman (Food Network)
Favorite song - For All The Saints
Favorite game - Hi Ho Cherry-O
Favorite color - "I can change my favorite color whenever I want to!"
Favorite food - salad
Favorite outdoor activity - riding his bike
Never stops... moving. Even when he's reading, his toes are usually tapping.

Little Bear is a great help. He takes care of loading/unloading the washer and dryer, helps with the dishwasher, sets the table and fills water glasses, and so many other things. Sometimes he can get stubborn, especially if he already has an idea in his head of how something is going to happen or what he's going to do and we tell him it needs to happen differently, but we're working with him on that. He loves to help in the kitchen, and knows where most of the commonly-used ingredients are and how to measure, whisk, etc, so he's actually able to be substantially helpful with a lot of recipes. He takes such good care of Kit, and definitely sees her as his best friend and playmate. And he's constantly surprising me: this afternoon, he grabbed a broom to help me sweep out the garage, and made a comment about how he "wish[es] we had a chore chart for me and Kit." Um, okay! I can do that. :-) He has just discovered Legos, and very much enjoys sitting down with a pile of bricks and either following the instruction booklet or else coming up with his own design.

Kit at 2:
Favorite book/series - Maisy
Favorite show - n/a
Favorite song - How Far I'll Go (Moana)
Favorite game - Chutes and Ladders
Favorite color - yellow and purple
Favorite food - watermelon
Favorite outdoor activity - sidewalk chalk
Never stops... talking! Seriously, her vocabulary is comparable to Little Bear's, and she uses it constantly.

At least once a week, Kit will come up to me with shiny-eyed excitement and say, "I have a great idea! Let's make a fox den!" She loves building blanket-chair-pillow forts with Little Bear, typically "fox dens." With refrigerators that basically double the size of the "den," because where else would she put the teapot and cupcakes and other toy food? She tries to do everything Little Bear does, occasionally frustrating him when she neeeeds to be up on that step stool that he's already standing on so that she can help with the job he's already doing. She likes to help me dry and put away silverware from the dishwasher, and if I don't catch her in time, she'll start unloading plates and trying to pass those up to me as well. She likes the Disney princesses, though she hasn't actually seen any of the movies; we like the versions of Disney princess songs that Evynne and Peter Hollens have done on YouTube, so that's how she learned about them. 

The kids and I spend a lot of days at home, and I'm grateful for that as I see how close they are, how they go out of their way to do things together. I feel so blessed to have these two; they each bring so much joy to our family!