Friday, November 30, 2012

A Unexpected Lesson

Undoubtedly thinking something sarcastic.
Have you ever taught yourself an unintended lesson?  Had a realization that hits you like a brick wall?  Those that know me, even marginally, know that I tend to be a bit of a "wise-woman" and often use sarcasm to make light of serious things.  As November began, I observed many of my Facebook friends participating in the "30 Days of Thankful" movement.  It struck me as an ironic thing for anyone to do, because shouldn't we always be thankful for all that we have?  It certainly is useful to take time to reflect and remember all we have to be thankful for and I definitely do not knock it, nor those that participated, but the wise-woman in me awoke and I was compelled to participate in my own unique and sarcastic way. 

I decided to give the daily post my own spin, to be a little different, and, rather than post each day about things I am thankful for, post about things that I am less than thankful for - that "s" word that reflects what a vacuum does.  Much to the amusement of my friends, I began my journey with a post about realizing you were out of toilet paper and then, further realizing, it was, in fact, YOU, who failed to replace the roll.  The first few days were fairly easy to find topic fodder - but as the days wore on, it grew more difficult.  One would think it would be easy to find at least one thing to "complain" about each day, but it really wasn't.

As the days wore on, I found myself thinking more and more of the little things in life for which I was thankful, rather than random things that vacuum.  Some days, I wasn't able to post my "Day xx of ..." post at the beginning of the day, simply because I could not think of something to say.  As the realization hit me that my little sarcastic project was actually making me appreciate the positive things in my life MORE than I already did, I began to wonder, "Are those participating in 30 Days of Thankful finding it easy to post what they are thankful for each day, or are they struggling because they are examining it so closely?"

In any event - lesson learned - once again, from my own sarcasm and desire to be unique - and not a lesson I was expecting.  I am now more thankful, and humbled, than ever when I think of all that I have, both material and immaterial, and how very rich my life is and has been with experiences.  Even the experiences that were wholly unpleasant - because I learned from them.  If you participated in 30 Days, did you wind up feeling genuinely thankful or did you struggle to think of things you wanted to post about? 

Going forward, I have realized that even on the worst of days, there is ALWAYS something - many things, actually, for which to be thankful.  There's nothing quite like the profound impact of teaching yourself an unexpected lesson.

Jennifer Bacile, Tallahassee Rep.,, 850-228-3800

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Female Bodies & All Its Perfection!

This month, many of us have been focusing on gratitude for all that is in our lives..  It reminds us of all that we take for granted and how many blessings we have in our lives.  Unfortunately, the only other time I think we reflect this way is when something tragic happens around us.  Then somehow, we are forced to look at what we have and be thankful for it.  Even if it is only for an intentional month, it has been uplifting to hear or read people's posts on Facebook.

I've recently been reflecting on the gift of my life in this world and my amazing, perfect human body. And I don't mean that in an arrogant way!  During every pregnancy (all four), I have been completely amazed and in awe of my body.  In that sense, I am especially grateful that I am a woman and get to experience the miracle of growing life within me, birthing a baby, and then nourishing it through breastmilk.  I am amazed that beyond the effort trying to compensate for being extraordinarily tired during parts of the pregnancy and the efforts to take care of my physical health, I am completely out of control of this process.

Some might argue that the birthing process is also effort but in my experience, I was better off when I stopped trying to be in control and simply let my body do what it is designed to do.  Sure it was painful and challenging but my body knew exactly how to implant, grow, and expel the baby.  Even when I had my miscarriage, my body worked perfectly on its own.

Beyond all my exclusive female parts, it astounds me that my body is actually sitting here in front of the computer even typing words with my fingers.  All the while, my heart is pumping blood through my body, blinking, breathing, maintaining a sitting posture, and using all the rest of its senses-all automatically!  When I'm sick or have hurt myself, it fights off the bacteria and heals itself.  If I had to put in all this effort with thought, I can honestly say that I would not have survived.

I definitely take my life for granted almost every second of the day.  But right now, with this growing and healthy baby inside me, I am grateful that I have been able to give it life and have my body grow it for me.


Jen Starks, Owner

Friday, November 23, 2012

Save Your Turkey Bones-Homemade Turkey Soup!

If you hosted Thanksgiving this year or visited a home that doesn't use their turkey bones, you have just received an extra bonus of lots of turkey soup or stock to keep your family warm throughout the cold seasons.  Are you ready for a super easy, extremely delicious, and nourishing post-thanksgiving meal?

This soup has been traditionally prepared in my family since I was a child, except now I use a little better ingredients.  As you will see, the ingredients and quantities are flexible, as you cannot go wrong! If you don't have time or energy to make this the day right after Thanksgiving, you can simply freeze the bones and wait until you are ready.  So easy!

Homemade Turkey Soup


Turkey bones
1 onion quartered (or leftover frozen scraps of veggies)
water (enough to fill your largest pot)
1 Tbs of vinegar (I use ACV)-optional
Leftover uncooked veggies (or frozen veggies)-use whatever you'd like to have in your soup
noodles or rice (adjust to amount to your liking or can be omitted)
sea salt


After I have stripped my Thanksgiving turkey of all the meat I can pull off, I put the turkey in the largest pot I have (or half of the turkey this year, since the bird was so big).  Next, I pull out my frozen scraps of veggies that I add to progressively with different meals (onion peels, carrot ends, mushroom bottoms, celery ends).  Sometimes I throw in some fresh herbs I have leftover in the fridge as well (parsley, oregano, rosemary, etc). I fill the pot up about 75% to the top and bring it all to a boil. Finally, I add a little vinegar which pulls out more nutrients from the bones of the turkey. Once boiling, I turn it to a low simmer and cook for as many hours as I want (minimum of 4 hours).  This time, I did this the night before and let it simmer all night long and into the morning.

Once you are done making stock, you strain all the bones and veggies out of the pot.  I put a mesh sieve directly into the pot and then put the remains in another bowl to use again for stock.  Once the stock is all cleared out, add any leftover veggies or frozen veggies you want.  This year, I added big chunks of carrots, corn and peas (nothing fancy).  I boiled it again until the carrots were softened.  Next, add either your noodles or rice into the pot.  Once cooked, throw in some leftover turkey (I use the dryer pieces of meat) and add salt to your taste.  Voila!

Later, you can reboil those bones over and over again using the same technique.  After your stock is made, you can freeze the stock in muffin tins and put them in a freezer bag for later recipes.  Stock can be expensive in the stores and this way, you know exactly how healthy it is!

I also like to make this for any family that is still staying with us.  This way, I don't have to worry about spending more money on a meal and it feeds a ton of people.  Depending on how big your pot is, ours would feed about 12 or more people.

Here's to good health,

Jen Starks, Owner 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Black Friday & Lessons in Simplicity

This post is particularly geared for those of you who are attempting to live a more simple life.  It's often challenging to work on a simple life around the holidays, while the rest of the world goes into a spending frenzy.

Ahh, the madness of Black Friday/Cyber Monday!!!  I must admit, last year I participated in Black Friday.  In previous years, I had avoided it like the plague, imagining elbows being thrown over some great "deal" and the air permeating greedy and desperation.  In an effort to avoid some of this, I shopped later in the morning and fortunately I don't pay attention to what's "hot" for the year.  My plan was to first make a list, then look at the sales online, then pick a couple stores I thought would have some items on my list on sale.

Honestly, the best part was that my husband was happy to watch the kids for half of the day while I was able to shop in peace...alone.  In addition, I enjoyed coming home to report that I had purchased many items off my list.  My favorite "score"  was my daughter's ice skates that she "had to have" at something like 30% off.

This year, I won't be participating and I'm not sure I will again. I'm absolutely not judging anyone who is going out this year.  I actually feel like some of my stereotypes about shoppers that day and all the hype has dissipated a bit, and now don't feel like I'm really missing out on anything. Good luck!

I am, however, intentionally avoiding these days to shop. I find two primary pitfalls of this whole "Black Friday/Cyber Monday" events.  First of all, I think we are often tempted to buy things just because they are such a good deal. I'm familiar with that initial feeling of that deal.  But do we really NEED this product?  By purchasing something you wouldn't have normally purchased, even if it is a good deal, you might end up spending more money overall. In addition, you have gained more possessions to clutter your home.  From a simplicity standpoint, making impulse purchases like these cloud our spiritual well-being.  Instead, we should be looking to purchase items intentionally for their usefulness or beauty in mind.  If you think back to impulse purchases you've made in the past, have you honestly used these items regularly?  Have any of these items been gathering dust in your cabinets, basements, or been sold off cheap in a yard sale? Maybe some have been winners, some not. How many broke after being used only a few times? My point is to try to encourage you to think ahead of what you really need and steer away from those impulse items.

My second issue is about how this "holiday" tends to corrupt our culture overall.  Do you think that supporting these box stores like Walmart who have these rock bottom prices, mandating that their employees come in on Thanksgiving, are really contributing to the better good?  When you are choosing to support businesses like this on these holidays, in encourages them to continue to do this.  In fact, next year they want to make more profit and will come up with a strategy to do so.  In the meantime, the small businesses who choose to stay home and be with family, who absolutely can't compete with those prices, and who value fair wages are the big losers.

What happens when we choose the box stores?  The Walmarts stick around (or abandon cities when they aren't making enough profit), and the small businesses close up shop.  Then those business owners whom you love to visit and know who you by your name (and love your precious little baby you are holding while shopping) will be something you remember that used to be around.  "Oh I loved that store."  "Oh the owner, Mary, was so sweet and friendly."  Can you think of some small businesses or boutiques you used to enjoy going inside?

Here's a scenario:  The box store's bakery is probably a couple dollars cheaper, tastes pretty good, and is open 24 hrs. It's an easy purchase, especially if you are shopping for other items in their store. Let me ask you this- Do you feel different when you walk inside your local bakery shop, breathe in the wonderful smells, and actually see the owner of that business greeting you with a smile on their face?  I know I do.  I sometimes walk out feeling a million dollars when I know I am supporting a specific person in my community who has put love into what they are producing and appreciates my business.

Have you also started to notice that the media and these big stores with huge marketing dollars are adding on days for shop in their store?  Now we have extended hours in the middle of the night and you now can come on Thursday, the actual day we have traditionally stayed home to give thanks with our family.  Those family members and friends of yours who work in retail might not be joining your family dinner soon, and might not be able to just relax and spend time with family.  What's next?  Is this going to become a week long event?  I've had a hard enough time going into stores with Christmas music playing and all the fall decorations taken down.  I was even in a store the day after Halloween and they were pushing Christmas already.  Sheesh!

Final thoughts on simplicity and the upcoming holiday (I know this has been lengthy!).  Please consider less "toys" and "stuff" for your kiddos this holiday. If you have fewer, high-quality items and also trying to pick ones that you know your kids will play with over and over again, this will make your holiday experience richer for your kids and you.  Your wallet (and budget) won't even know the difference.


Jen Starks, Owner

Monday, November 5, 2012

Appreciating Nature

Gratitude.  Defined by Merriam Webster as “the state of being grateful; thankfulness”.  November, the month of Thanksgiving, is a month that sets many adrift, thinking of all the things for which they are thankful.  Most will mention the basic things, if you will, although certainly important; family, friends, a roof overhead, a paycheck, food on the table.

We are all guilty of taking for granted the very things for which we should be eternally grateful – the things that are just "always there" - the air we breathe; the shade provided by a tall, willowy tree; rain, nourishing the parched earth as it gives new life, revitalizing a wilting plant; the crunch of leaves and the soft cushion of pine needles underfoot, the thunk of a pine cone, bouncing off of your roof; the warmth of the sun, filtering through the trees or glaring brightly on a cloudless day; thunder, as it rolls through the air, followed by the sharp crack of a lightning bolt; the absolute silence -that which simply cannot be described to those that have never experienced it- of snow, softly falling, creating a blanket of undisturbed white on the frozen ground; the equally indescribable smell of the ocean - so distinctive that you know you are near without consulting your map or seeing the water. Nature.  Something we all enjoy in various ways, even those of us who are ‘not outdoor people’. 

When was the last time you remembered to just stand, be still and absorb the nature around you? Even if you live in the city, there is still nature to be found – a little bird, hopping around a park bench, scavenging crumbs; beautiful trees, flowers, shrubs; a cool breeze that freshens the city air.  Take a minute, the next time you head out your front door to run an errand, to put a bill in the mailbox, to dash your child to the school bus.  Take a moment and stop.  Be still. Breathe. Observe.  Really LOOK.  Appreciate.

Nature is the most precious of our resources, the most under-appreciated – the most overlooked thing that we should be most thankful for.  Without it, we would not survive.  I challenge you – connect with nature.  Encourage your children to do the same.  During the next rain storm, dash outside and play in a puddle together.  Sidewalk paint – with mud.  Make a snowman, throw snowballs, make snow angels.  Enjoy the warmth of the sun.  Spread out an old blanket and cloud gaze.  “Build” something with sticks and stones.  Sit quietly and watch the birds and squirrels; feed them the ‘butt’ from your bread loaf that is only ever consumed out of desperation, when you are flat out of bread.  If you have to cut down a tree, let it lay in your yard.  Let it become a balance beam, a bunker, a school bus - whatever your child can imagine it to be.  As it deteriorates, sure, it will attract bugs.  Observe the bugs.  Watch the Woodpeckers that may come to visit. 

If you reside in an apartment, visit a park.  Find a nature center or preserve; visit a State Park, create your own little outdoor space – just go.  Get out – meet nature, introduce it to your children.  We teach them to appreciate and respect nature by our actions when we cloth diaper, recycle, reduce, and reuse – but also take an active role and show them how YOU respect and enjoy nature – and allow them to find their own way to do the same, from the simplest aspect to the most complicated aspect.  Create a little garden together, even if it’s only a small, potted flower or plant.  Show them how to water it and care for it and appreciate its beauty and the subtle, almost miniscule changes it will undergo.  Show them how to nurture our natural resources, in the hopes that they will always be there for our future generations.

Most of all, use this challenge as a way to create memories.  Some of the best memories I have are of simple things – playing in a giant sand pile, so large that it seemed as if a mountain had been dumped into our backyard.  “Parachuting” my sister’s doll onto the porch roof, by fashioning a bandanna into a parachute and tying it to the doll with yarn (well, I wasn’t about to test it out on MINE – I did, however, learn a lesson about wind direction), laying on my back in the grass, imagining shapes in the clouds; sledding down a steep hill with snow spraying up into my face, snowball fights and snow fort building with my siblings; playing "bat and ball" with my dad, hitting that plastic softball sized ball with my big red bat and laughing as my dad pretended to dive for the ball, rolling across the grass; playing at the edge of the water for hours on end, making sandcastles and stacking pretty pebbles; watching the sun sparkle on the water, as if it contained thousands of diamonds.

As an adult, many of my fondest, most peaceful memories involve nature – a gorgeously canopied trail through the woods, blanketed with long–leaf pine needles, with birds, squirrels and armadillos foraging along the bramble to either side of the path – the stillness of the water as I run around the lake – cranes standing and silently observing - a loud splash - one which I choose not to let my mind wonder if I startled a gator back into its watery home; a sudden rustle in the undergrowth, causing sudden gooseflesh to erupt, as my mind is sure it's a snake.

Get outdoors – part of saving our environment is learning to enjoy it and to see the “unseen” – you can't help preserve it if you’ve never noticed it.  Accept this challenge - shatter your own expectations.

Friday, November 2, 2012

In the Beginning- Our Vision & You!

Today is the first day of this month when I'm sitting down to really contemplate the ways in which I'm truly grateful to have Ecological Babies in my life.  And it absolutely couldn't have become what it is today without customers I've met over the 4 years who support our mission and choose to support a local resource.

When I was pregnant, there weren't options locally where I could attend a workshop, talk to a cloth diapering friend, or have a private consultation where I could learn what I needed to know to get started with cloth diapers.  I couldn't recall bumping into any babies out in the community with fluffy bums because it wasn't common yet in Tallahassee.  Overwhelmed yet committed to the idea, I scoured the internet to learn about cloth diapers.  Instead of finding relief and feelings of empowerment (Yes, I can do this!), I was left with nightmares and even more confusion.

After my daughter was born 5 years ago, I knew I wanted to stay home with her full-time but would need a way to add some income and get out in the community.  (My local priest has coined me the "extrovert of all extroverts" -connecting to people feeds me spiritually.) The idea of Ecological Babies came to me when my daughter was young.  I wanted to be that live contact who could walk people through the process of getting started with cloth diapers.  In addition, I wanted to do something that promoted values important to me like social justice, simplicity, spirituality, and community.

Ecological Babies was a way to do this.  I am able to investigate companies I want to support and ask questions about their ethical choices.  I test out and decide which brands are quality and provide fair wages to their workers. I am able to educate out in the community at no charge as a way to promote environmental justice keeping thousands and thousands of disposable diapers out of the landfill.  Babies are healthier and more comfortable.  Families are saving thousands of dollars, meeting other like-minded families, and making more sustainable choices.  I love all of it!

Admittedly, it has been discouraging to learn about companies in China who are using current prototypes of American-made diapers, not testing their materials for lead, not providing fair working conditions, and producing a cheaper product to sell here.  Their skewed currency allows them to sell their diapers at a price American companies could never afford.  And I'm just so grateful for those in our community who are still choosing to vote with their wallet and support Ecological Babies.  Thank you for supporting us and also allowing us to support you!

There is not much more fulfilling to me than being able to be a part of my children's lives, while operating a business I believe is providing change for the good and allowing more families to make more sustainable choices in their lives.


Jen Starks, Owner