Raised from Scratch

growing up outside the box: alternatives to processed food and television

Time To Begin Again December 28, 2013

Filed under: Rants — annalope @ 2:40 am
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Well…I suppose it’s time to begin again. With 6 yellow notepads full of recipes and my camera’s 16 GB memory card completely full, I’m self-imposing a pause in production so some of what I’ve been doing can be shared with YOU.  And, by the way, THANK YOU for being here despite my 8 month absence from the blog. It seems I need these long term breaks from time to time. Not great for anchoring an audience, I know, but establishing a following was never my intent. I just wanted to share with whoever could benefit from my work. There are beautifully creative capabilities within all of us, and when I began this site a few years ago I know I was struggling to recognize my own and to find a way to share my talents with others. While spending two years in Chicago from 2011 to 2013 I was so focused on raising my little girl and helping my husband thrive in grad school that I neglected my own creative urges, and my spirit really suffered. So I closed the computer, tried to allow cooking to be compulsively fun again, looked for ways to heal and carry on. I moved to Portland, Oregon and spent most of my days outside exploring, in awe of my surroundings, photographing the natural beauty that existed beyond my home walls. I felt like I was slowly breaking out of a concrete full-body mold that had formed around me one day/one drop at a time over the course of my two year stay in Chicago. So slow I didn’t really know what was wrong or why I felt so low sometimes. Walking through redwood forests and happily soaking in Pacific Northwest rain showers brought my spirit back to life. Chicago is amazing in so many ways, but I was ready to leave it behind by March, when I coincidentally stopped feeling inclined to blog.

Fast forward. I’m living the last few days of 2013 fully loving my life again, believing in myself again, feeling empowered to share more art/create more art and propel myself to even happier places. Oregon is outrageously wonderful. It took me 30 years and 9 states to make it my home, and I am so incredibly content to finally be within its borders, surrounded by mountains and verdant forests. So here’s a sampling of my recent photography from the past six months. I hope you’ll understand why I’ve had trouble keeping the camera focused on food.

fern macro

hillside of tree roots

brown slug

oceanside beach

Silver falls state park

tree recliner

early morning fog over lake

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The Princess Dilemma September 24, 2012

I love role playing – really truly love it. Part of me has always longed for a life in musical theater (thanks most likely to watching The Sound of Music a bazillion times as a kid), and struggling to some extent with self acceptance and social anxiety throughout my life, role playing allows me a chance to let go of whoever I think I am or want to become and just exist. With lines already written for me, the tone of my voice and mood determined by character, it can be a welcome reprieve from playing mom, responsible for the physical, mental and emotional well-being of two people all day long. Playing werewolf entails no responsibilities beyond growling and pursuing my next victim. So easy. And yes, she loves when I play werewolf.

 

Life as a toddler has got to be just downright wretched at times, and I’m sure role playing serves as a vital tool for relaxation, just as it does for me, in addition to helping kids learn about the world and how we all fit together.

 

Enter the princess dilemma. I am staunchly anti princess for a variety of reasons. Other characters encourage children to be adventurous, chivalrous, and compassionate, to explore super powers, to conquer the world or save it from an evil tyrant, to think twice about stealing porridge from unsuspecting bears…all good lessons. But what does a princess teach them? She teaches them to obsess about their bodies, their clothes, material wealth, and of course, to wait for prince charming so their lives will be magically transformed into a constant state of bliss. Happily ever after is a lie, a completely unfair expectation that sets our little girls up to be disappointed and unprepared for the alternative, which of course is, simply, life. And life is awesome. Life is magical and wondrous, it’s depressing and painful, it’s ecstasy and misery all jumbled together and it’s worth living. Even without the castle and crown. Even homely and overweight. Even if prince charming never comes or existed in the first place or if he turns out to be a she. The typical princess story doesn’t offer anything of value for me, and so for nearly three years I was successful at avoiding all princess books, movies and discussion with my little girl. Random people on the street would walk by saying “What a little princess” and though I might smile politely and resist rolling my eyes until they’d passed us, I would not acknowledge the label or agree with their comment and I certainly never explained to my daughter what they were suggesting. I knew I’d have to deal with princesses eventually, but I felt avoiding the princess mentality so prevalent in our culture today was imperative to raising a strong, emotionally healthy girl.

 

One month before my daughter’s third birthday, the inevitable happened. Ella learned what a princess is and became mildly interested in playing one, which sent me panicking, scrambling to find princess books that downplayed beauty and marriage. I wanted to make it clear that the typical storybook princess, being a slave to fashion who’s banned from running through mud puddles, leaving the house with unbrushed hair, or dashing into the woods to examine rotting logs, spider webs, and animal tracks whenever her adventurous heart feels drawn to do so, should be pitied rather than envied and imitated! These are sentiments I felt sure my daughter would back me up on. But despite my reminding her of the harsh realities of royalty, this was a role that called to her and needed to be explored, just as the role of dragon, basilisk, gelfling, and fairy had, and I forced myself to play along with a smile while hoping the fascination would soon be exhausted. What I needed was a princess book with a feminism message post haste. (Why oh why didn’t I already have one waiting in my closet??!!)

 

The Paper Bag Princess comes to my aid the next day – a classic at this point, being in print over 25 years, though I’d never heard of it before starting my search. Author Robert Munsch writes a very straightforward story of a princess with fancy clothes and enormous castle, betrothed to the dashing prince Ronald…you know, the usual baggage every storybook princess is laden with…only to have it all destroyed by a big green dragon by page 2. So far, so good I think. Finally, here’s a book written to allow the princess the opportunity of heroinism, for by page 3 she’s chasing after the destructive dragon wearing nothing but a filthy paper bag and misshapen crown. It doesn’t take long for princess Elizabeth to outsmart the dragon so she may rescue poor useless prince Ronald, held captive in the dragon’s lair, but when she opens the cave door to save her betrothed he reveals the trouble with royalty, thanklessly dismissing his heroine because she smells bad and looks like hell. “Come back when you are dressed like a real princess” he snarls. I see his skinny finger poised accusingly at princess Elizabeth, piercing her with shame and feelings of inadequacy, and I hope she beats him unconscious with his stupid tennis racket which never leaves his hand, and seals him in the cave for the dragon to make roast Ronald for dinner. Whether she does or not isn’t explicitly written, but our heroine does tell prince Ronald that despite his pretty appearance he is nothing but a bum and she won’t be marrying him after all. Into the sunset Elizabeth dances, arms outstretched, in her paper bag, sans crown…just a girl who now values herself instead of her possessions or status, and knows freedom because of it. Well done Munsch, and thank you. Playing Paper Bag Princess really is fun, and allows me to indulge in the fascination without feeling my morals compromised.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other nontraditional princess books that surfaced in my quest, but I have yet to read:

The Princess and the Dragon by Audrey Wood

Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole

Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle

Sleeping Ugly by Diane Stanley

Not all Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen

 

Goldfish Rant January 10, 2012

Filed under: Healthy Snacks,Rants — annalope @ 8:42 pm
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Ready for a brave confession?

I am anti-goldfish.

Everywhere children are present, seemingly every play date my daughter and I attend, every picnic, every diaper bag, these little munchable monsters are invading, and I sometimes feel pretty helpless to stop their plans of taste bud domination.

Over-reacting you say? Those cute smiley fish are a processed food containing 10% of an adult’s daily suggested sodium intake in one serving. They are low in sugar, offer some protein and are free of preservatives last I checked, so it’s true there are plenty of things on the market that would be worse for our kids. But just because something is acceptable doesn’t make it ideal, and there are so many alternative snacks to offer our children to help them expand, rather than limit, their scope of foods that register on the happy mouth radar. Fresh fruit, smoothies, mini sandwiches, cooked sushi, hummus, quiche bites, tortilla pinwheels…let’s make it a goal to get more creative when it comes to offering snacks!

A mom reminded me at a play date today (where my daughter kept asking for more and more goldfish) that kids want what other kids eat. Every parent knows this is pretty much a guarantee — your child will try to steal whatever the other kids are eating around him. It made me realize that one of the reasons Ella, 27 months old, is not a picky eater is because she rarely eats communally with other children outside of snack time. At home and at restaurants she eats what we eat and we order off the adult menu for her. I don’t want to deprive her (okay, I DO want to deprive her of junk-food), and I do let her have a few handfuls of goldfish when they are around, but I do it grudgingly. Don’t get me wrong — I  do willingly and happily offer my daughter treats on a fairly regular basis. She went trick-or-treating this year and tasted a lollipop for the first time (the rest of the candy never made it out of their wrappers and she never missed it). She grew accustomed to little nibbles of homemade fudge or cookies on a nearly daily basis at Christmas time. We order pizza from time to time (pizza in Chicago is not to be missed after all), and I love how excited my daughter gets sharing a cup of gelato with me using those dainty little spoons.

The real point of this rant is not just that goldfish are lacking in nutrition to make it a suitable daily snack; it’s that we parents are missing an opportunity to serve nutritious foods to our children in the company of their peers. Play dates are the perfect time for them to form positive attitudes toward healthy snacks and to learn to accept variety in their diets! Serving the same cracker day after day after day suggests to a child that it’s okay to want salty junk food all the time, and that it’s not unreasonable to expect the exact same food every time they’re hungry. If we put extra effort and forethought into what we are buying and preparing for those malleable taste buds when foods are first being introduced, chances are we’ll save ourselves a lot of arguments as the toddler becomes a potentially picky eater.

My heart sinks just a little every time I enter a house and see the ubiquitous goldfish bowl. The damn fish just stare up at me with that knowing, triumphant smile. “Go ahead,” they say, “try to explain to your toddler that a happy, brightly colored fish that delivers crunchy bliss should be passed up for the hummus”. It might be a losing battle, but I’m not done fighting it yet.