New Urban Habitat

Simple, healthy, and sustainable city living
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Hopeful Weekend Links
April 8, 2010 by newurbanhabitat

Beginner’s Guide to Seasonal Eating — Delicious Living Magazine

Idle Pastime: In Off Hours, Truckers Pick Up Stitching – Wall Street Journal

Meet the Radical Homemakers — YES! Magazine

The Ceremony of Making Bread — Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op

Cycling Provides a Break for Some With Parkinson’s — New York Times

Chance of a Lifetime — Utne Reader

Posted in New Urban Habitat, Simple Living | Tagged Hopeful Weekend Links, Simple Living | Leave a Comment »
April 7, 2010 by newurbanhabitat
Last week, I told you the story of our rainy days in the color red. Well, the sun finally came out. It feels only fitting to tell you about it in the color yellow.

I hope the sun’s shining wherever you are too.

Posted in Family life, Nature | Tagged Family life, Nature, Spring, Sunshine | 4 Comments »
7 Cheap Ways to Spend a Weekend Afternoon
April 6, 2010 by newurbanhabitat

1. Visit a new neighborhood.

Get on a random bus and see where you end up. Or bike to a neighborhood you’ve always wanted to explore. Once you’re there, just wander around.

2. Grab your camera and go for a walk.

Decide beforehand what you want to snap photos of – flowers, tree branches against the sky, the color purple. You might be surprised at how differently you look at everything, even on a familiar walk.

3. Discover a new food.

Visit the produce section of your grocery store or your farmer’s market and find a fruit or vegetable you’ve never eaten. Then find a recipe for it. Last week, we tried yucca-root quesadillas. (They were good, but a little bland. Next time we’re going to spice them up a little more.)

4. People watch.

Go to a bustling part of town and just sit or wander around and enjoy the spectacle of your fellow townsfolk. My favorite people-watching spots: the college campus, the library, and just about any coffee shop.

5. Visit open houses.

Check the real estate listings in the newspaper and on Craigslist and visit some open houses. Pretend you’re picking out some new digs, or just find out how other folks live.

6. Find a free event.

Go to a lecture. Attend a book reading. Go on a group nature walk. Or take your kids to a story time or free play.

7. Watch a sporting event.

Go to a little league game or a high school sporting event. Bring a picnic. Root for a team. Cheer.

What’s your favorite cheap way to spend a weekend afternoon?

Posted in Simple Living | Tagged Exploring, Saving Money, Simple Living | 7 Comments »
Simplify Your Medicine Cabinet
April 6, 2010 by newurbanhabitat

So maybe you read this post and simplified your personal care? Now how about your medicine cabinet?

The other day I realized that I haven’t taken any kind of medication in three years, because I was pregnant and then breastfeeding. I’ve had a few mild illnesses during that time. But I was able to treat all of them with simple home remedies.

I like treatments that are safe, effective, and require ingredients that most of us already have in or around our homes. (Of course, this probably goes without saying, but it’s usually wise to talk to a health care provider about more serious ailments or symptoms that don’t improve with home care.)

Here are a few of my favorite simple remedies:

Sore Throat or Gums

Mix a cup of warm water with a teaspoon of salt, and gargle and swish it around your mouth
Mix 3/4 cup warm water with 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide and gargle and swish it around your mouth.
Nasal or Chest Congestion

Use a Neti Pot. Never heard of one? You can find out where to get one and how to use it here.
Do an herbal steam. Boil a large pot of water with a handful of Eucalyptus, Thyme, or Rosemary Leaf, or all three. Pour the water into a bowl, and put it on a table. Sit with your face about a foot away from the water and drape a towel over your head. Relax and breathe for about 10 to 15 minutes.
The Common Cold or Influenza

Drink Hot Ginger Garlic Lemonade.
Take Elderberry Syrup.
Go out in the sun, if possible. (If it’s not sunny, you might try taking a Vitamin D supplement. You can read more about the connection between Vitamin D and colds and flu here.)

Sip on Ginger Root Tea.
Sip on Peppermint Tea.
Stimulate the acupressure point on the inside of your wrist. You can learn how to do that here.
Bug Bites or Bee Stings

Make a poultice of Plantain Leaf. (Plantain is a common weed that’s probably growing in your lawn or somewhere nearby. You can find out more about it and how to identify it here.)
Apply Aloe Vera Gel.
Muscle Aches or Joint Pain

Apply St. John’s Wort Oil.
Apply Arnica Oil. (Both St. John’s Wort Oil and Arnica Oil can be found in the health and beauty section of most health food stores, often in combination.)
Cook with Turmeric

Mix Turmeric with Honey and apply to outbreak overnight (will temporarily stain the skin yellow).
Cook with Turmeric.
Drink Dandelion Leaf or Root Tea .

Give baby a cup of Catnip Tea.
Let baby chew on a frozen carrot or refrigerated apple.
I’ve always been fascinated by the ways we can stay healthy and treat everyday illnesses at home, and I’ve collected a number of references on herbs and other remedies over the years. A few of my favorites are:

Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child by Zand, Walton, and Rountree
Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal.
Folk Remedies That Work by Joan and Lydia Wilen
What’s your favorite home remedy?

Posted in Health, Herbs | Tagged Alternative Medicine, Botanical Medicine, Health, Home Remedies, Medicinal Herbs | 6 Comments »
Hen Diaries: Tales from a fledgling fowl keeper (Update)
March 31, 2010 by newurbanhabitat

Maybe you’re wondering why you haven’t heard about our hens for awhile? Well, they peck and scratch, lay eggs, file into their house at night … it’s not the makings of breaking journalism.

But these girls will be in for a big surprise soon. They’re going to get a chicken run of their very own! That means they won’t be able to devour my vegetable garden like they did last year, and it will also save our porch from their profuse droppings. (Seriously, chickens poop a lot, which is great for heating up the compost pile, but not so great for enjoying a nice meal out on the patio.)

I’m not sure the hens are as thrilled about the news as I am.

But they’ll still have plenty of room to roam in their run, and we plan to let them out occasionally to explore the yard.

If you’ve been following along with the Hen Diaries from the beginning, you may remember that I knew nothing about rearing chickens when we brought those four little peeping fluff-balls home from the feed store. That wasn’t entirely an accident. I can get a tad carried away with researching things, so I decided that the only way to make room in my life for chickens was to not spend hours combing through the Backyard Chickens Message Board or reading tomes on chicken-keeping. Instead I’d just jump into the experience, ask my chicken-keeping neighbors for help, and refer to said Message Board and books as needed. And that’s worked out just fine.

But recently I was glancing through The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan and came to the part about chicken-keeping. Her explanation of “Lazy Layers” caught my eye. Madigan says you can tell if you have a lazy layer, because she probably has a smaller comb and wattle, and of course, doesn’t lay as many eggs as your other hens.

Hmmm, that sounds a lot like Gertrude…

What does Madigan suggest you do with these low egg producers? “You can improve your flock’s overall laying average by culling and slaughtering the lazy layers,” she writes.

Oh my. Well, I suppose if my neighbor can turn his yard into a duck sanctuary, we can keep one slightly lower- producing hen around. Besides if we ship any of the hens off to the chicken farm, it might be Charlotte. She’s started pecking our legs, just when we least suspect it.

New to the Hen Diaries? Read Weeks One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six & Seven, Eight, Nine, & Ten, Eleven – Nineteen, Our First Egg!, and Twenty – Twenty-nine.

Posted in Backyard Chickens | Tagged Ba, Backyard Chickens, Brooding chicks, Chickens | 6 Comments »
March Showers
March 29, 2010 by newurbanhabitat
Remember how last month I was bragging about all of our nice weather and our early spring blossoms. Well, this week we’re getting torrents of rain to make up for it. Our backyard looks like a wading pool.

Honestly, I’m not complaining. I was feeling rather overwhelmed with garden and house projects, so the return of winter, with its slower pace and excuses to bake bread and curl up and read books is just what I needed. Of course, my son has other ideas about how we should spend these rainy days.

Here’s the story of our last few days, told in the color red…

And did I mention this? There’s been a whole lot of this going on:

This post is for Steady Mom’s Thirty Minute Blog Challenge.

Posted in Household, Nature | Tagged Family life, Nature, Rain, Seasons, Spring, Winter | 11 Comments »
And the winner of the giveaway is…..
March 29, 2010 by newurbanhabitat

She said: My favorite cookbook is Vegan Homestyle by Kay Hansen.

Congratulations, Wendy! I hope you get as much use out of your copy of Feeding the Whole Family as I do.

Thank you to everyone else who participated in the giveaway, and thanks for sharing your favorite cookbook. It was fun learning about some new ones.

If you’re dying to get your hands on Feeding the Whole Family, but didn’t win the giveaway, check out Cookus Interruptus, Cynthia Lair’s website. It’s a great resource, with lots of her amazing recipes, as well as menus, funny videos, and her blog.

My family had a nice spring break vacation, with some traveling, some spring cleaning, a few projects – including a fenced yard for the chickens – and a little bit of resting too.

Unfortunately we came down with colds this weekend. So we’re taking it easy around here, sipping on Hot Ginger Garlic Lemonade and spoonfuls of elderberry syrup while rain floods down outside.

I hope you’re enjoying your Monday.

Posted in Household, New Urban Habitat | Tagged Cynthia Lair, Feeding the Whole Family, Giveaway | Leave a Comment »
A Spring Giveaway!
March 21, 2010 by newurbanhabitat

I’ll be away this week, so what better time for a giveaway?

If I had to own just one cookbook, it would be Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair. Many of Lair’s recipes are staples in my house – Whole Grain Bread, Kasha and Eggs, Mexican Bean and Corn Casserole, Sweet Squash Corn Muffins, Yakisoba, Black Bean Tostados, Split Pea Soup with Fresh Peas and Potatoes, Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons and so many more.

Lair includes information for feeding babies and tips for raising healthy eaters. But this is a great cookbook whether you have kids are not. The recipes are easy to make, healthy, and incredibly flavorful.

Lair writes in the introduction:

Sitting down together and sharing food has enormous power. This ritual is an essential element in the spiritual glue that holds us together as families and communities. Learning to prepare and eat simple, whole foods that the earth naturally provides can transform lives.

This cookbook has definitely transformed my life and my family’s meals. And I would like to give away a copy of Feeding the Whole Family to one of you.

To enter:

Leave me a comment and tell me: What’s your favorite cookbook?
Double your chance of winning by:

Subscribing to New Urban Habitat. (And leave a comment telling me about it.)
Triple your chance of winning by:

Mentioning the giveaway in your blog. (And leave a comment telling me about it.)
Quadruple your chance of winning by:

Tweeting about the giveaway on Twitter. (And leave a comment telling me about it.)
Make sure you leave me your correct email address. The giveaway will close on Friday, March 26 at 6 p.m. (Pacific time). I’ll randomly choose and notify a winner by email on Saturday, March 28. The winner should reply to my email and provide me with a mailing address by Tuesday, March 30 . (If I don’t hear from the winner by then, I’ll choose a new winner from the entries next Wednesday.)

Good luck!

– Comments closed. Winner will be announced soon.-

Posted in Health, New Urban Habitat, Whole foods cooking | Tagged Cooking from scratch, Cynthia Lair, Feeding the Whole Family, Giveaway, Whole foods cooking | 31 Comments »
Last Day of Winter
March 19, 2010 by newurbanhabitat

Tomorrow is the spring equinox. You can find ways to celebrate here.

I’ll be traveling next week, so I won’t be blogging. But I have a little giveaway planned while I’m away, so check back on Monday for the details!

Happy first day of spring!

Posted in Family life, Nature | Tagged Celebrations, First Day of Spring, Seasonal celebrations, Seasons, Spring Equinox | 2 Comments »
Just One Small Change
March 16, 2010 by newurbanhabitat

Photo Credit: Matthew Hull
When I was writing my New Year’s Resolutions series, I went on the lookout for simple and inexpensive ways we might live better in 2010. And it struck me how much we might be able to improve our lives by making just one small change.

For instance what if someone committed to a daily walk? That alone could bring better health, relaxation, improved sleep, connection with neighbors, and more quality time with family. And if the walk replaced a car trip, it could even save some money. Every small change I thought of had a similar snowball effect.

Recently I heard an interview with William Wittman, a life coach in Seattle. He talked about an easy daily exercise that he recommends to his clients and insists he’s seen it bring huge changes to people’s lives. He calls it “Owl Ears and Owl Eyes”. The idea is to go outside first thing in the morning, stand still, and look up, down, and side to side without moving your head while listening closely to the sounds around you, first the loud ones, then the quieter ones.

Wittman says that by connecting with nature like this first thing in the morning, we connect with what’s meaningful in the world. And by focusing on looking and listening, we can’t help but quiet our mental chatter and relax. He says he’s seen this one small change motivate people to get healthy, find fulfilling work, reach out to friends, and on and on.

I think Wittman might be on to something. Awhile ago my neighbor put down black plastic over the garden in his backyard, which attracted ducks – sometimes sixty of them at a time. And now each night the ducks circle over our neighborhood in groups of four or five, flying lower and lower until they’re just overhead. (I wrote about it before here; my neighbor has since built a pond for the ducks.)

I’ve been shocked at how much this random, natural (and free) event has improved my family’s quality of life. Most nights we go outside to watch the ducks, and we chat with our neighbors, connect with nature, and enjoy each other’s company. Just one small change really has added up to so much more.

(This post is for Steady Mom’s Thirty Minute Blog Challenge.)

What do you think? Has one small change ever made a big difference in your life?

Posted in Nature, Simple Living | Tagged Happiness, Meditation, New Year’s, Relaxation,