Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Nephew!

Announcing my nephew!

Giovanni Zaccai Torres was born at
7:18pm on Friday November 5th, 2010. He weighed 6 lbs. 10 oz and
was 18 1/2 " long

This is a big deal for my side of the family! He's the first boy!

I was blessed to have been at his birth. I was able to serve my sister as doula throughout her labor at the hospital. It was a beautiful natural labor. She is an amazing mamma!

These are my girls' hands feeling his sweet softness as they met him for the first time. Rosie is holding him in this photo. She is especially enamored of him. She has been wishing for a baby boy in the family. She is so wonderful with babies and really prides herself on her baby holding skills!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Plan B

Rich and I have been collaborating with the Beerhorst family on an Artprize entry this year! It has been an exciting opportunity to put on public display some of the practices we have been learning and exploring in our lives over the past few years. Here is the link to the artist Bio on the Artprize website.

Our Artprize 2010 will be an out door installation that will simulate a post peak oil world where electricity is only intermittent and almost everything used to keep daily life humming along has been... made out of preexisting products and materials. A combination of very old technologies with what can be patched together out of the rubble of what has been made before, fallen apart and left behind.It's exploring the idea that Plan A which we are currently living is very much taken for granted, but it's not as stable and secure as we all want to believe. We need to think about having a Plan B should this current infrastructure fail us.

My involvement in this project is around food security and learning to feed ourselves with out relying on massive amounts of resources to grow and ship food all over the world. We have built a beautiful outdoor kitchen (once again I find myself cooking outdoors!) that is fully functional, with Rocket stoves, a solar oven, an Ice box, displays of preserved foods and containers of growing lettuce and tomatoes!

Rich's composting toilet outhouse that we used on the farm last summer has been beautified and is also on display!

On opening day of Artprize, we had a procession with the Wonderwagon from the SE side of town all the way over to the Plan B venue on the shore of the Grand River. The kids rode in the wagon all the way and we were accompanied by drumming and chanting and banjo playing!

Artprize is a new event for Grand Rapids, and I can't believe the excitement and traffic thru downtown it has generated. If you are nearby, or can make a trip to GR it would be well worth it. There is so much to see and do! We'd be happy to provide some hospitality while your here!

There is daily family entertainment at the Plan B stage and live music every evening. Visit the Plan B facebook page or the blog to
learn more about the schedule of events. If you are registered to vote, please consider voting for us! We are currently in the top 100, out of nearly 1700 entries!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Art Show

I have been invited to show some of my recent photographs in an art show at Destination 1111 next weekend. I will be hanging some of my hipstamatic prints. If your in town, come out and see!
Here is a link to the woman's blog who is putting the show together. She has a nice write up on each of the artists.

Artist Statement:
I am a wife and momma to three beautiful little girls. I have worked as a photographer for over 10 years and I am also a professional Doula and Midwifery apprentice, which is a whole lot to juggle and I am always working at maintaining some kind of balance. Our family is living back in the city after an adventure living on a farm together last summer, learning to live more sustainably and interconnected to our local food supply. This year we are growing food in our neighborhood community garden and have been visiting local farms to pick fruit and most of my recent artistic work is based around these activities. I am learning and practicing old techniques of food preservation. Because as a mom, my hands are always full, I have taken to often photographing my life with my iphone as it is always in my pocket. I made these photographs with a vintage camera application that mimics photographs from toy cameras from an earlier era. I apprietiate the irony of using such a modern technological tool to create images that explore old ideas and practices that my generation has become so disconnected from.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Daisy's First Day of School!!

Daisy started school! The Montessori school in our neighborhood where Rosie has been attending for the last 3 years, starts preschool at 3 years old. The classes are multi- age rooms so 3 year olds, four year olds, and kindergardeners all learn together. Daisy started school 2 weeks ago and she Rosie is going into kindergarten. Daisy is in Rosie's class and feels so special going to school with her big sister. Rosie feels very proud to take her under her wing and show her the ropes. It's nice because Daisy only goes 2 days a week, so Daisy can get used to things and Rosie still has plenty of space. Next year Rosie will move up to a 1st, 2nd, 3rd grade room and Daisy will have the class all to herself.

Daisy was so excited the morning that school started! She ran to get in line and followed Rosie with a huge grin on her face and clapping! She never would have looked back if Rich hadn't yelled goodbye to her. She turned and waved goodbye excitedly! When I picked her up at noon, she didn't even want to come home. I asked Rosie how she did at school and she said with a little smirk on her face, "She just sat at the snack table and ate snack the whole time!"

She's got some work to do learning about line theory and keeping her shoes on, but so far she loves school!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Gluten Free baked goods for Sale!!

It's legal to sell baked goods made in a home kitchen! So I am going to give it a whirl.

Here's an article about the new law.

Here's what I will be making this week:

Peanut butter or chocolate chip cookies $.75each
Peach pie (pick up Sunday only) $15
Peach Cobbler $10
Zucchini bread $4
Banana bread $5
Zucchini brownies $5 a pan
whole chocolate cake $15
chocolate cupcakes $.75 each


Let me know today if your interested in ordering anything to be picked up either Saturday or Sunday this week. Spread the word to anyone you know who eats gluten free. If it goes well at home, I might work on getting a permanent spot at the market for next season.

Feel free to leave a message here or call me: (616) 318-1825

Monday, July 26, 2010

Learning about Food Preservation

We are on a journey of finding a new way of eating, a way that is healthier not only for us, but for the local economy, our neighbors, and the planet. I just finished this book, it has provided me with a whole new sense of importance about this journey and a whole new set of tools for how to live in a more sustainable, healthy way. It was a really great read and I will be checking out her other books next.

and here's a poem I came across tonight that I thought was a sweet summary of what's so wonderful about preserving food:

When I go to see my grandma I gain a lot of weight

With her dear hands she gives me plate after plate.

She cans the pickles, sweet & dill

She cans the songs of the whippoorwill

And the morning dew and the evening moon

‘N’ I really got to go see her pretty soon

‘Cause these canned goods I buy at the store

Ain’t got the summer in them anymore.

-Greg Brown, Canned Goods

Monday, June 28, 2010

Picking Cherries!

We picked Cherries at Wells Orchards last week. 49 pounds!

It was a beautiful day in the orchard with friends! The kids had fun and were very helpful! This is Lily with her detective hat on!

Daisy ate A LOT of cherries!

Rosie in her bonnet.

We packed a picnic and had lunch under the cherry trees!

Emilie and Rich picked most of those 49 pounds I think!

We spent the rest of the weekend washing and sorting cherries. I was worried that 49 pounds was too much, but we made short work of it! Emilie spent most of the week making cherry sauces and jams and canning. I froze 2 large freezers bags, made cherry sauce and dehydrated some. I also shared quite a few pounds with friends.

We have also been eating lots or rhubarb while it's been in season too. Kinda sad to see it go. I've got a few jars of sauce in the pantry for this winter.

We're looking forward to Blueberries and raspberries!
What's your favorite fresh local food?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Picking Strawberries

A big family goal this year is to buy or pick and preserve as much local food as we can as it comes into season. So far we've been eating lots and lots of asparagus and rhubarb from the farmers market and we have been really falling in love with simple fresh eating!

Last weekend we picked organic strawberries together at Carmody Farms in Marne. We had a great time and came home with three flats of beautiful berries. They are smaller, but don't even compare to the pesticide laden huge ones that come from the grocery store. I will never buy those awful things again!

The girls had fun. They were great helpers for about the first hour, but got board and ended up playing in the lane on a picnic blanket with a few other kids who had tired of picking with their families.

thankfully as they showed us which row to pick, they gave instructions to eat as many berries as you want! The kids took full advantage, especially Daisy!

I spent the rest of the weekend in the kitchen with their sweet smell, washing and cutting their tops off.

Sunday morning we ate homemade waffles with strawberry sauce.

We froze most of them and I made two batches of strawberry jam.

I also canned some rhubarb sauce. It was very easy- just cook it down with a 1/4 cup of water and 3/4 of a cup of sugar. Oh, it's so amazing. I have heard we should try it on pork chops, but I know it's also going to be great on ice cream!

The thing I love the most about this journey, is realizing that these things are not as difficult as I imagine them to be, and they are also much more rewarding than I expected. Give it a try, I think you'll be surprised!

Friday, June 11, 2010

hatching chicks

On a recent trip to visit the farm, the girls all scurried out of the van immediately upon our arrival and ran with their friends to the barn to collect eggs. It's their favorite job on the farm and they came back with a huge bucket of eggs. They put them in cartons and put them in the fridge. A bit later, I caught up with Rosie and her pockets were bulging and she was cradling something in the front of her shirt. She backed away from me defensively when I approached her and I saw that she had half a dozen eggs. I said, "Rosie we need to put those in the refridgerator, they are going to get broken." She looked at me with wide eyes and exclaimed, "But Mommy, these ones are not food!!!" I didn't really know how to respond, but I convinced her to at least put them in a carton and we set them aside and brainstormed how to handle the delicate situation. Jenna suggested we bring home the incubator and hatch them. The chickens on the farm free range with a couple of roosters so they were fertile eggs. Being the brave Momma that I am, I figured we'd give it a try. It'd be a good educational experience, right?

So we brought 15 eggs home. The first thing we learned was that the eggs don't start to develope until they have the right temperature of 102 degrees. So in the meantime they can be stored at room temperature on their sides. We did a little research and made up this calendar with the guidelines of how incubate the eggs, to hang by the incubator.

The incubation period was 21 days and since we didn't have the luxury of a self turning incubator, we (mom) had to turn the eggs a half turn, 3 times per day. We marked one side with an * and the other side with a number, 1-15 so we could keep track of the turning.

Exactly 21 days later, the hatching began! we just saw a little piping on most of the eggs (I guess that's what you call the little cracks they make with their egg tooth) I had started spraying the eggs with water a few days earlier to keep the shells moist, and when I sprayed them that morning, I jumped with surprise when I heard them peep in response from inside their shells! I called the girls downstairs and they sat next to the incubator in silence listening for the tiny little peeps! It was Memorial Day, so it was perfect, nobody had to go to school or work and we had no plans, so we just hung out and watched the eggs all day!

Lily made a book and sat at the kitchen table taking notes and documenting the whole process. She recorded which chicks hatched, what number they were and what color egg they came out of.

She awarded the first little chick to make his way out of it's egg with a blue ribbon:

It was so amazing to watch how hard they had to work to get out. They were so weak when they first hatched, it was hard to believe they would make it.

But they fluffed up in no time and began pecking around.

Thanks to Rosie the egg collector (as she signed her name on a gift carton of food eggs for grandma) these eggs were not food, they are little chicks and she got to be a part of the whole process!

There were 5 eggs that didn't ever begin to hatch. One of which was a full grown chick. One chick made significant progress pecking thru the shell and died sometime during the process. There was one poor little chick with deformed legs who didn't make it and another that never seemed to grow and died within a few days. The girls handled it very well. We had tried to prepare them for this reality from the beginning, another very hard, but valuable life lesson. I think we would have done much better if we had a self turning incubator and could have kept the temperature more constant. It seemed to fluctuate a lot and that can cause a lot of problems as the embryos develop.

In the end we have 7 healthy chicks who are growing sooo fast! We'll ship the roosters back to farmer Brian. If all goes well, we hope to keep a few hens in the backyard. The motion to change the city ordinance to allow chickens goes before the city this month and we're hoping and praying it gets approved.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Radical Homemaker: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture

I can't do this book and the subject matter any justice by trying to explain it to you, you just have to read it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Your Invited

In case you didn't know, I am now a trained professional doula. I am working with families as both a photographer and a labor assistant. My passion is to equip and educate families to make the best choices for themselves to have an empowering and beautiful birth experience.

Here are a couple of upcoming local events. Please pass the info on to anyone you know who might be interested!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

our fave restaurants

Eating out can be sooooo frustrating when you have a food allergy. (*Please note, I understand that celiac is not an allergy, but I use the term because it's the one that everybody seems to get, and for the benefit of those here who are gluten free for other reasons) Even if the restaurant has something you could eat sometimes it's impossible to find out for sure because the staff is not educated on the issue. I get so upset when we encounter people in the food industry who lack the knowledge needed to answer our questions about the menu. I continually meet people who honestly don't even understand what wheat is! If you don't believe me, here is an example:

One time in a burger place I ordered my youngest daughter a burger without the bun, the waitress looked at me confused so I told her that my daughter couldn't have wheat. She replied, "Oh, we don't have wheat buns, we only have white buns." No joke.

Our worst experiences have taken place while traveling. It's so hard to go someplace your not familiar with. For a very long time after going gluten free, we didn't eat out at all. We still don't eat out as often as we used to, but it is so nice to be able to go out to eat sometimes, especially in social situations and on special occasions.

Here's a list of the places we frequent because they have gluten free options and are knowledgeable about it. Click on the name to visit their website.

Noodles - They really only have one gluten free entree, Pad Thai, but it's Lily's fave dish. I think some of the soups and definitely the salads are gluten free. They have great allergy info both in the store and on their website and when you order you tell them 'gluten allergy aware' and they will flag the order so that it is prepared separately from any gluten ingredients. Get a punch card, every 10th meal is free and be sure to sign up for their email list. They will send you a coupon for FREE noodles from time to time.

Qdoba- They actually have a lot of gluten free options. My kids love the gumbo soup. You can get any of the burritos 'naked' and have chips instead of the flour tortilla. If you go, make sure you get their loyalty card because every 8th entree is FREE! They also send good coupons to your email.

Marie Catrib's- What a great local place! They always have the best gluten free options, including gluten free bread for the sandwiches! They have both rye and white. The first time Rich went there and ordered a sandwich on Rye, he panicked after the first bite because it tasted sooooo good he couldn't believe it was gluten free and assumed they had made a mistake. The waitress reassured him it was gf and he enjoyed every bite! They also make really good hummus!

Brick Road Pizza - has gluten free Pizza! It's good and we love the atmosphere of the place but think it's quite pricey. But can you place a value on pizza night? Our eating habits have changed a lot over the years, and we don't crave pizza very often, but everybody deserves a pizza party from time to time!

Palace of India- Oh, soooo yummy. We have come to love Indian food, especially after discovering that the breading on the vegetable pekora is not wheat flour, but chickpea flour! Mmmmmm, fried califlower! Our favorite dish is the curry chicken.

I just bought a bunch of coupons for Brick Road, Palace of India and a few other local places at They are having an 80% off sale till tomorrow, so hurry over there to buy yours! It makes eating out a whole lot more affordable! If you miss this sale, become their fan on Facebook to find out when they go on sale again!

One place we don't eat: APPLEBEES! and we learned that the hard way. I don't think I have ever had good service there and they are not very gluten free friendly. The last time we went there (we were traveling and didn't have a lot of options), poor Daisy had to sit sadly coveting me and Rosie's (glutenous) food, waiting for her dinner because they brought her food on a bun even after a lengthy conversation with the waitress about wheat and the fact that she couldn't have it. She obviously had no understanding of what your basic foods are made out of cause while ordering, AFTER I explained, she offered us pasta! Really. I just think if your gonna work in the food industry you should be required to have a basic knowledge of food. Maybe I'm asking too much.

Flour Mix Update

I want to share again how I make my gluten free flour mix that I use for most of my general baking because I have developed a new system that is much cheaper and easier than buying flours at a health food store. These days I shop at ethnic markets.

On this journey of learning to eat gluten free in a culture that seems to think wheat is the only grain that exists we have learned that most other cultures in the world use a lot of other grains. We have always loved ethnic food. These days we eat a lot more of it and we have grown to love our local ethnic grocery stores.

For only about $1 a bag, I buy the flours for the flour mix at either the Wei Wei palace on Division Ave. near 44th St. or at Adong Asian Market also on Division near 36th st.

To make a batch of the flour mix, combine 3 16 oz bags of White Rice Flour

three 12 0z bags of Potato Starch

and 1/2 the bag of tapioca starch

stir the flours together well and store in an airtight container.

I usually mix up a double batch and it fills my BIG yellow tuperware container that I keep in the pantry and a smaller canister that I keep out on the counter.

I also buy sweet rice flour (glutinous, but don't worry, it contains no gluten) to use in cookies. Using 1/4 or maybe even less sweet rice flour of the total required flour amount for a cookie recipes makes them a little chewier. Don't use too much cause then it makes things very sticky.

We have also been shopping at the Indian market and expierimenting with Chic Pea flour. It makes the BEST batter for fried cauliflower by the way!

Hope this helps! Let me know what you bake and how it works for you!