Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dealing with death

I'd like to pretend as if I could just continue posting as if nothing is going on in my life right now, but I can't. The last week has been a horrible one and I can't not talk about it.

Last Tuesday I found out that my Dad had a heart attack while driving home. He hit the car in front of him and the other driver called 911 when he saw my Dad. The EMTs had to break the window to get him out before they could administer CPR.

To make a very long story short, he is in a coma. It took too long for them to get to him and start CPR and he has lost all of his upper brain function. Last night they took out the ventilator and he is breathing on his own. There is no hope that he will wake up. It is only a matter of time before he passes.

Right now, he'd normally be reading this post. He and I didn't always agree on the things I write about and when he saw something he disagreed with he always let me know. It was good to get a different perspective from someone on the other side of the aisle, just to keep that in mind when I approach an issue.

We had a lot in common too, the pictures in this post are of his beloved banana plants and the orchids he doted on in his San Diego backyard. He also took loving care of a family of hummingbirds that lived among his tropical oasis.

You can see more of his plants, hummingbirds and backyard in this video I did on Backyard Tropical Fruit Trees from two years ago. He coached me on many of the details I shared regarding the banana plants. It was also the last time I saw him.

We've had a complicated relationship over the years, one that got substantially better since I had kids. He was always great about making sure he didn't forget about their birthdays and Christmas and made sure he got them exactly what they wanted, which meant a lot to me. I didn't tell him often enough and I hope he knew that.

He will be severely missed. I love you Dad.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Non-Toxic Avenger: book review on Skruben

Anne, the mastermind behind Seattle Sundries soaps, has a book review up on her blog of my book, The Non-Toxic Avenger: What you don't know can hurt you. We did a little book to soap barter a week or so ago and, while she's been enjoying my book, I've been enjoying a little Sasquatchin' in the shower. Don't tell my husband.

In any case, go check out the book review. It's got a great perspective coming from your "average" consumer (i.e. not a nutball like me), and you can also find out how my book "will simultaneously educate, motivate and scare the wrinkle-resistant pants off of you".

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Spatchcocking the turkey

Okay, so we aren't truly spatchcocking our turkey for Thanksgiving this year. I just can't help myself and must use this term. And, while we are "removing the backbone and sternum of the bird and flattening it out before cooking", we are really just, more or less, parting it out for brining, searing and braising. Just not so much on the flattening bit.

The last few years we haven't gotten around to ordering a local heritage turkey but have still managed to get an organic, heritage free-range turkey through our local co-op. The bird is not local, but it's close enough. And, I'm more interested in supporting a farm that raises heritage turkeys - that is, birds that can still procreate on their own - and then grow them with sustainability in mind.

What method of turkey cooking are you doing this year? That is, if you do turkey? Are you opting for a heritage breed?

Image courtesy of Martha Stewart Living.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chopping down the hood

Last Tuesday, I was working from home. Or, rather, trying to work from home. Our neighbor down the street was having a giant tree removed from their front yard, which caused a considerable amount of noise from all the sawing and ground shattering that was going on.

From the looks of it, it appeared to be an old growth tree that was extremely tall. I can understand why they were having it removed. It occupied a great deal of their front yard as well as blocking the light to their house as well as the neighbor's. Additionally, I'm sure the size of the tree added to the dangers of limb damage since we live in a pretty windy area of Seattle.

I was sad to see it go - it was a beautiful pine tree and the landscape looks totally different now. I could gauge the weather based on how much swaying was going on with that tree. And, now I can see far too much of that aqua colored home than before. I prefer to be looking at that huge tree.

The tree service that cut it down left quite a bit of it in our neighbor's driveway, most of the pieces being cross sections of the trunk. Yesterday, Emma and I wandered over to take a closer look and count the tree rings. I was completely surprised to see that there were only 56 rings on this tree. I figured it to be much older, but it makes sense that it was planted when the homes around here were built. Our house was built in 1956 and I believe the homes on the street behind us weren't built much earlier.

Anyway, I hope our neighbors get plenty of benefit from the warmth in wood this giant tree now provides them. We've got several oversized trees on this street that I'm sure will meet a similar fate in years to come.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Behavior Intervention Plan general goals

I've spent a little too much time this last week talking with the school, the principal and the special educators and the teachers. This week we met to nail down a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) to help deal with some of the behavioral issues my son has been having at school, most directly related to his anxiety, OCD and avoidance of difficult tasks/situations.

Anyway, I wrote up ten goals that I wanted to make sure were addressed in the BIP. Primarily, I wanted my son to have a positive behavior support plan that provides him an environment where he can achieve.

When I met with the general ed teachers and special ed teachers yesterday, one of them stated how much she really liked what I scoped out and printed it out for use for all her students' BIP planning. I know few of my regular readers have any need for this, but I thought I'd share it for those of you out on the Interwebs who need similar guidance.

The goals of the Behavior Intervention Plan are that it:

1. is proactive rather than reactive
2. addresses and outlines the root causes of the student's behavior, focusing on the interpersonal and environmental triggers (attention seeking, avoidance, anxiety provoking, difficult tasks)
3. minimizes the above triggers
4. identifies adaptive skills for each type of trigger - how to coach student on how to behave differently with concrete examples; breaking problem tasks down into smaller, more manageable "chunks"
5. teaches adaptive skills so when student does encounter a trigger he knows what to do
6. reinforces the adaptive skills throughout the day before he encounters a trigger
7. looks at the effectiveness of consequences imposed - do they meet the goals laid out above? does it review the event and how he could have behaved differently?
8. instills trust in adults at school and provides a safe environment for him and others
9. provides a system for earning points as motivator for appropriate behavior / making good choices and one that also rewards for changing "unexpected" behavior to "expected" behavior
10. provides a streamlined method of communication of points earned to parents for extrinsic reward

I'll be back to regular posting here once things settle down on the homefront.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Plucked and pecked

Poor Chloe. The other day I noticed that Sara, the big blonde pushy Orpington, was pecking at her bald spots (from molting), making her bleed. The little vampire seemed to be enjoying the taste of blood. I spent hours reading up on what to do if the behavior continued, since I know that chickens will potentially just peck each other to death if left unattended.


Fortunately, Chloe is smarter than Sara and was spending most of her time up in the coop, away from Sara, who spends most of her time in the run during the day. I made sure everyone had plenty of food and water in both areas and that kept them apart long enough.

I checked on Chloe the next day and didn't see the bloody spots and noticed her new feathers were coming in nicely and were providing protection. I looked her over to make sure no new bloody spots had appeared. When I looked yesterday her new feathers were sprouting like mad - she looks like she's covered in long quills. Long and poky enough to keep Sara's beak out. Damn vampire chicken.

Have any of you experienced this problem with chicken cannibalism? What did you do?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book review by Tiffany of Nature Moms

Tiffany just posted a review of my book, The Non-Toxic Avenger. It gives a straightforward look at what it's all about, including some criticisms as well. But it will give you a good idea of what to expect.

It's always nerve wracking reading reviews and this is one of the first coming in. I look forward to the rest, both good and bad!

Here's a snippet:
"What makes all of it infinitely more interesting is that you are not reading a dry list of factoids. The information is shared much the same way a friend would tell you about what she discovered when she researched this and that and what it meant to their lives and health. I especially loved that she got household items tested with an XRF gun. A necklace she frequently wore tested way over the federal limit for lead, as did a charm on a bracelet her daughter wore. A PC laptop charger tested high for bromine levels but a Mac charger tested with no detectable levels. A small sampling of items tested raised a lot or red flags and made her wonder about other things in her home. It just goes to show that all those government regulations can end up meaning diddly squat in the end."
Click on the graphic to check out the rest of the review!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Non-Toxic Avenger book winner

I'm very excited to announce the winner of my book, The Non-Toxic Avenger: What you don't know can hurt you, which will be available in stores at end of November 2011 from New Society Publishers. I've already given a way a few copies to friends and family so I can't wait to hear from the lucky winner who is...

Kristijoy!

Congratulations! Email your contact information to crunchychickenblog@gmail.com and I will mail the signed copy of the book out to you directly!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Plucked chicken aka molting

Chloe is molting. Even though she's the youngest chicken (about 18 months old, which is prime molting time), the older two have managed to escape a full-blown feather explosion like she's experiencing. I wish I could get some better pictures for you, but suffice it to say, she looks an absolute mess.

Here you can somewhat see her neck. It looks like it's been through the wringer:


And, here you can see her missing feathers. Paco has been enjoying them as a backyard snack:


She's stopped producing eggs during this whole procedure, although I think she's still spending a bunch of time up in the nesting box. Poor girl.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Homeschooling versus Unschooling

Henry has been having more and more problems at school and we are really at our wits end with what to do to accommodate him. His school is too. I usually get a call from school 2 - 4 times a week letting me know something has gone badly. I'm not sure if modifications for his behavioral issues will suffice for much longer. Our other option is to transfer him to a school with a dedicated classroom for kids with special needs. Without getting into too many details, the idea of homeschooling has come up yet again.

When my son was born, I was enthralled with the idea of homeschooling. I read a ton of books about the benefits of homeschooling, the different methodologies, the issues and the like. I loved the concept of a classical education and the idea that content could be catered to a child's interests and focus. Needless to say, I was more interested in secular homeschooling and I was happy to see a lot of support in our area for that (groups and the like), including support programs in our public schools for homeschoolers.

All that said, our children go to public school. It all came down to a few things: personality and loss of income. However, we are lucky in that our public elementary school uses some of the curriculum that I would use at home - Saxon and Singapore Math and Junior Great Books for reading. They are able to provide an environment that I certainly couldn't do on my own, as well as services they need. At least, so far.

But, one thing I never could wrap my brain around was the concept of unschooling. Basically, unschooling is centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including child directed play, game play and social interaction rather than through a more traditional school curriculum. All of this is facilitated by adults.

I really like the theory behind unschooling, but I don't believe that children would learn everything that I personally think is important to be able to make certain life choices later. In other words, it doesn't provide them with the toolset to do certain things as an adult. I wouldn't want to restrict my children's ability to do anything they wanted to do later in life and that's what unschooling appears to do from my perspective. And, before any panties get twisted, I'm referring mainly to later career choices in math and hard sciences or anything that requires a significant foundation of knowledge.

What do you think of unschooling? For those unschoolers out there, why did you choose unschooling instead of more "traditional" homeschooling?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Non-Toxic Avenger book giveaway

I got a box delivered yesterday full of copies of my book, The Non-Toxic Avenger: What you don't know can hurt you, which won't be available until end of November 2011 from New Society Publishers and I thought to myself, why not do a book giveaway now before it's released? I'm always doing book giveaways, so why not my own? So, I've decided to do the first (I'm sure of several) book giveaway for a signed copy of my new book!

Ze Book Description!
"Most of us turn a blind eye to the startling array of chemicals lurking in everything from shampoo to baby bottles to the money in our wallets, choosing to believe that government agencies ensure the safety of the products we wear, use, ingest, and breathe in daily. Yet the standards for product safety in North America lag far behind those of other countries. We frequently hear that a substance we've relied on for years turns out to have serious effects on our health, the environment, or both.

After coming to terms with the fact that the autism and cancer which had impacted her family were most likely the result of environmental toxins, author Deanna Duke undertook a mission to dramatically reduce her family's chemical exposure. She committed to drastically reducing the levels of all known chemicals in both her home and work environments, using the help of body burden testing to see what effect, if any, she was able to have on the level of toxins in her body.

Follow Deanna's journey as she uncovers how insidious and invasive environmental toxins are. Learn about your day-to-day chemical exposure, the implications for your health, and what you can do about it. And find out whether the author's quest is mission impossible, or whether she is ultimately able to improve her family's health by taking steps towards leading a chemical-free life."

Ze Rules!
If you are interested in entering the random drawing for my book, please add your name to the comments of this post. You get bonus points for liking the Crunchy Chicken on Facebook. Just let me know if you're a fan of the page in your comments.

You have until midnight PST next Tuesday, November 8th, to enter. And, now for the legal mumbo jumbo: This giveaway is open to U.S. residents, 18+ only. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Winner will be selected Wednesday, November 9th and will have 7 days to respond.

Ze Book Excerpts!
And, just to whet your whistle, here are some excerpts from the book/blogs that I've posted over the past year:

Good luck!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Start Freezin' Yer Buns!

Ok, a lot of you on the East Coast have been freezing yer buns already, and even over here on the usually balmy West Coast I woke this morning to 38 degrees for my walk with Paco. For those of you on the Facebook page, we've been discussing temperatures and other issues for a few weeks now, but today "officially" starts the challenge. So, if you've been slacking, it's time to start thinking about keeping your thermostat lower.

It's not too late to sign up and pledge what temperatures you plan on keeping your thermostat at this year (day and night). Just head on over to the pledge post and let us know!

If you missed the last couple of blog posts on the challenge, here are some links:

*How to Acclimate to Cooler Indoor Temperatures
*Cold Indoor Temperatures and Condensation
*Freezing Friends Round-Up

If you want to stay on top of the latest conversation on who's freezing what, join the Facebook Page:

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