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An Open Letter to Azure Standard(or A Reason to Come out of Retirement)

I started this blog a few years back and life got in the way. Since then, so many things have happened and so much has changed. I am no longer a desert dweller (I miss it!) and I have four children now (I had two when I started this blog). I have since entered my 40’s (what a fantastic time of life!)

Recently I was contacted by a company as their customer regarding the county they are in, Sherman County Oregon, threatening chemical means (their email to me mentions Round Up) to rid them of noxious weeds thereby causing them to lose their organic certification. I have been a customer of Azure Standard for some time now. The reaction among other passionately organic bloggers was swift. I admit my initial reaction was shock and dismay. But more so, I am concerned about the long reaching effects of this action and a negative precedent being set against other organic growers across this country who are working so hard to provide consumers with a product we can be confident in using and people we can stand behind.

In an age of rampant green washing I am wary of being manipulated and so, over the weekend I set out to seek facts. It is clear from what I’ve seen on social media that there is some local passionate backlash against this company. Having grown up in a small rural area myself I had to wonder just what dynamics were at play here. As a Christian, I wondered about some of the owners responses (on a personal level).

Ultimately, after many passionate conversations with my closest friend, she suggested that it was time to come out of retirement and post an open letter to Azure Standard regarding my concerns and seeking reasonable answers. So here I am. And here is my open email to Azure Standard. I am hopeful that they can provide a clearer, fact based picture for all of us Azure Standard customers who have enjoyed doing business with them.

Dear Azure Standard and David Stelzer, CEO:
You recently emailed me as a customer regarding the potential action of Sherman County, Oregon regarding chemical means on your operation at Ecclesia to address what they call noxious weeds and you refer to as “mustard or canola like” weeds. I have watched your videos and read a good amount of the court documents as I have found them in the Facebook feed regarding this situation on your Facebook page. As a responsible consumer I’d like to be able to support your cause. Can you provide documentation regarding what actions you have taken over what time period to prevent this culminating in a county directed action against your operation to your customers?  A timeline and factual list of your actions addressing this situation would be enormously helpful in allowing your customers to confidently stand behind you. The information you’ve sent out, to date, does not give me, as a customer, much to stand on. Does Azure Standard have legal representation to help prevent this? Has a legal injunction been sought? What reasonable and responsible measures have you taken as an organic grower? Please understand I grew up in a small community with local organic farming and currently live in an area where organic farming is still establishing itself and growing. I am deeply concerned about the outcome of this case as it could have long reaching effects on organic growers elsewhere in terms of precedent as well as on Azure Standard. Thank you for your time and for addressing this matter.

Ms. Practicality, concerned organic consumer


Where in the World? Following My Nose Home Again

Where in the World? Following My Nose Home Again

It’s one of those things-good intentions. I had my good intentions all sorted out, organized and packed for our trip.  I was far ahead of my thinking game having drafted some posts and jotted ideas for posting while on our little vacation. Then my boys and I set off on our little road trip with my mom on board (Mr. Rice and Beans is holding down the home front and thankfully doing a mighty fine job of it! We wish he were with us but there’s that crazy breadwinner thing he does so he kissed us happily and waved us on our way). We decided to wind on down the road a little and visit some family my boys and I hadn’t seen in a while and get out of the desert heat for a bit. I’d planned on continuing to blog for the most part, but my best intentions have been waylaid by the reality of being away from the regular daily grind (Imagine that!) I found myself wondering what kinds of Rice and Beans Life thoughts I could share when my mind and heart are off wandering at will and I’m chasing my boys and playing and having a good old time. This is when I remembered that I’d recently run across an interesting post by Gretchen Rubin on her blog for The Happiness Project. She’d recently posted about her current passion for scent. She’s enamored of perfumes and cultivating good smells and she wondered if that were a worthy thing to be enamored of. Some commenters didn’t really think so but I did.

You see, the sense of smell is a funny thing. It can take me back to a pinpoint moment in time instantaneously. The aroma of bacon and of rice and beans puts me in my grandma’s kitchen faster than just about anything else. This scent will  bring upon me a sudden longing for the sweet, soft Louisiana drawl of the woman who engulfed me in her love. And though I will never have that earthly experience again, those smells can make me lean my head to the side and close my eyes and be in her lap or holding her hand or snuggled up beside her in all the ways I loved so dearly and make me miss her so much yet bring me such deep and true happiness for having had those moments in my life. The sense of smell can be that strong.

As we travelled along down the highway, my boys and my mom and me, we passed fields and orchards and plenty of cows. My oldest wanted to know what the heck that smell was and wrinkled his nose up when we told him “cows.” We drove through cities that I had lived in when I was a younger woman and I purposefully inhaled when I got out of the car when we stopped for a short break. I found it remarkable to be transported by the smell of landscaping and asphalt, smog and heat with a hint of ocean wetness in the background. It was summer in that city, sweet yet undeniably urban. I smiled. I was 18 again. As we travelled on toward my hometown I knew I would soon open the window to smells of my childhood. When I opened my car door outside my parents house in the town I grew up in I was ten years old for an instant, riding my bike down an old country road. The smell of earth and orchard, heat and sage, cut grass and something undefinable yet peculiarly home had my heart hurtling back in time. Smell does this to me.

I don’t know if other people have this experience necessarily or if it’s just the “dog nose” I was left with from giving birth to two rambunctious boys. Maybe it’s that I have left so many homes behind and been too many places so I notice it more, the simple scent of a place. But my sense of smell carries me. It connects me and transports me to times and places long gone by. It takes me vividly down a path that, when I close my eyes in that moment, is much like watching a movie of the life I once lived. It’s remarkable. It brings me a sweet sadness and a happy gratefulness for those times and for the fact that I can, in this way, have them back, however briefly.  Just a whiff and I’m riding on the breath of my past. I wonder if my boys will be so lucky and I wonder what smells will carry them. That is the power of scent. It is simple. Rice and beans kind of simple. Take you home again kind of simple. It makes me infinitely happy. And anything that brings infinite happiness is worth sharing.

So how about you? Does smell take you back in an instant? Or is it another of your senses? Does it stop you in your tracks? Does it tug at your heart?  Share your thoughts or the smells that carry you back in the Comments.

As a side note know that I’m still around. I’ll be posting a little irregularly for the rest of this month as we follow our bliss a little bit, but September should find me back to my regular posting schedule again. 

Inspiration Thursdays: Well, What Do You Know? 10 Inspiring Quotes on Learning

Because Thursday’s child has far to go…

I am a homeschool mom and a perpetual student of life. I think, had I the resources to go along with my inclination, I would have been one of those strange birds that found themselves permanently glued to a university because I love learning. Luckily I have found that life, itself, in all of its’ intricate and extraordinary glory, is just as much a school campus as anywhere. While I feel I learned much while gaining an education in a formal setting, I’ve learned equally as much from life itself (mostly for free, save for the occasional “stupid tax” I’ve paid). In fact, plenty of the smartest people I know never had a formal education. Instead they had a curious mind and a love of learning. An education is a wonderful and valuable thing and I’m grateful for mine. But whether formally educated or not, it is important to have continual curiosity, along with an open mind and heart, to learn. Part of what my blog has been about is how much I have learned while facing some of the more challenging parts of my life and how I’ve managed to make lemons into some of the sweetest lemonade and how I’ve come to be a Rice and Beans kind of girl. I’m still learning to do this. It’s a continual work in progress. In the process of sharing my learning with you all, I am gifted in return with learning from you as readers when you email or comment. I am grateful. I love the conversation this blog allows us all to have. I find joy in how much we can learn from each other. Lifelong learning is part of what keeps us young, interested, and fascinated.  I love the fact that I will run out long before all there is to learn runs out. I have no excuse to ever be bored when there is something more to learn-and because I am infinitely curious I am fairly certain I will have plenty to keep me occupied. So today, I am inspired to celebrate learning by sharing these wonderful quotes. I hope they inspire you to  keep learning all along the way. Have a wonderful Thursday all!

1.“It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning.”~ Claude Bernard

2. “Life is a learning experience, only if you learn.” ~Yogi Berra

3. “Learning is not a spectator sport.” ~D. Blocher

4. “Man’s mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr

5. “If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.” ~ Mark Twain

6. “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” ~ Henry Ford

7. “I am still learning.” ~ Michelangelo

8. “I don’t love studying. I hate studying. I like learning. Learning is beautiful.” ~ Natalie Portman

9. “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” ~ Louisa May Alcott

10. “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

All Comments are Worthy:

Which is your favorite? Do you have your own  favorite quote or saying about learning not listed? Please share!

Frugal Project Update #2-A Little Better, A Little Worse, And Still Learning

It’s been more than two weeks since I shared a Frugal Project Update. It’s time again to share how I’m doing with some of my frugal projects and approaches. So here goes:

The Paper Towel Project:

  • We made it 2.5 weeks on one roll of paper towels!  How did we do that?! We are getting better at not using paper towels unless we absolutely have too. I’m really proud of my husband and kids for getting on board with this project. Paper products are expensive and I’m really glad we’ve cut our budget so deeply. We just started our 3rd roll of paper towels and since it’s the beginning of August-that means we used 2 rolls of paper towels for all of July. Amazing! I didn’t think it could happen but it has! Looks like our paper towel weaning is working. Next step: making it a full 3 weeks on one roll!

My Household Notebook:

My household notebook has fallen by the wayside a little. I have it. I’m using it. Sort of. Mostly I use the calendar. I really need to get back to working with this more. I know it’s going to make a difference. I just need to keep prioritizing my use of it until it’s a better habit (I’m beginning to wonder if I have a short attention span!). Again, like the FlyLady recommended, it’s a slow going project and constantly in development. What I’m using most right now is the calendar. I’m still scribbling to do lists on scraps of paper. Not so effective. Sad but true. It’s on my “get better at it” list. I spent time making it look great-I will use it. I will!

My ongoing challenge that I’m struggling with: 

  • Meal Planning: I’m still working on the fine art of meal planning. I like ‘spur of the moment’ a little more than I realized and this is not effective in meal planning. However, I am good at keeping simple and flexible staple items in my house and that helps me keep our grocery budget on track. As we gear up for our homeschool year though, this is becoming more important as a time saver for us so it’s still an evolution for me-more for my time budget than my grocery budget.
  • Our cloth diapers: Success! We skipped trying the RLR I’d talked about in the last update in favor of trying a different bar soap in our homemade laundry soap recipe. Dr. Bronner’s is a clear winner over the Ivory bar I’d been using. I’m thinking it was less a mineral deposit issue and more that the soap not rinsing completely out of the diapers (clean rinsing is very important in cloth diapers!). I’m a big fan of Dr. Bronner’s soap anyway and I like the lavendar scent. It’s subtle and my little guys bottom seems to be just fine with it! We’re sticking with cloth and very happy about it.

New challenges for our Rice and Beans Life Frugality:

  • I’ve jumped on board the Food Waste Friday wagon from The Frugal Girl’s call out. I’m excited about how this is keeping me on my toes and minimizing our food waste.
  • Adjusting our prepaid cell phone needs. My husband needs more minutes than we’d previously needed for him so we are working on finding the right balance for his phone. I’ll keep you posted!
  • A friend recommended using cloth napkins to continue our quest to minimize our dependence on paper products in the kitchen. I’m trying to decide if it will be less expensive to make them or buy them. I’m wishing I had an overlock machine just now to make this decision a no-brainer. But I don’t. And buying one just to make napkins definitely wouldn’t be budget friendly (though maybe it would get me sewing more again!). I’m still exploring the best approach for us on this one!
So that’s where we are this week with our Rice and Beans Life and the challenge of staying frugal minded.
Comment Worthy-let’s discuss it further:
What are you doing well with and what’s getting the best of you in your walk with frugality?

Is Being Busy Slowing You Down? Tips on How to Keep Life From Getting in the Way.

Is Being Busy Slowing You Down? Tips on How to Keep Life From Getting in the Way.

Back at the end of May when my husband and I decided that he would take on extra overtime over the summer, we sat down and looked over our budget and our remaining debt. We made a plan and made projections on a nice little spreadsheet. It looked like we were going to end up finally hitting the debt free mark by the end of September. We were excited, though we knew it was going to be incredibly hard work.

Fast forward several weeks. We are now heading into August. Summer has blown by us as we’ve done our best to hold onto our hats and not be blown away by the constant work and busy-ness (when he’s gone I’m full-time Mom. Getting it all done means up at 6am and falling into bed near midnight). We’ve definitely been burning the candle at both ends. We’ve struggled and staggered a few times from the sheer lack of time together and time off (he was gone to another city a good portion of the time and he generally works 12-14 hour days due to what he does for a living). The hardest and busiest parts are mostly behind us. I was reminded during this time of ramped up responsibility and work of an important rule:

If you aren’t careful being busy can actually slow you down!

Having the opportunity to get ahead a little faster has been fantastic, though at times overwhelming. As we’ve found in the past, being too busy can definitely make you feel like you’re trying to walk the narrow path while wearing swimming goggles while not having had enough sleep or coffee. You swerve and trip a lot more and this slows down your progress. Even when you have a map. There’s a fine line between being productively busy and so busy we start doing expensive, convenience oriented things that really get in the way of the direction we’ve been heading. You have to find the balance. If you don’t, being too busy will simply slow you down.

So what can you do to keep from letting being too busy slow YOU down?

Here are the things that have helped me to stay on track:

  • Make a plan and put it on paper (or in your computer or in your smartphone if you need to-but don’t let it just float around in your head).
  • Stay organized: Stick to a routine. Make a short highly prioritized list and stick to it. For me-I have a 5 item rule when I’m super busy. If I don’t stick to the top five items that must get done that day my list can be 20 line-items long and it’s overwhelming.
  • Plan in some breathing room once a week and let that be your steam valve for the pressure. Plan a simple dinner that produces minimal mess: sandwiches, leftovers, or, if you really need to-inexpensive take out. Knowing a good weekly break is in the works helps you keep working through the tougher days.
  • Think of being really busy like marathon training: there are days for your long runs and short runs. But if you run long every day you will ultimately injure yourself.
  • Prioritize getting enough rest and staying healthy. If you have a good foundation under you every day, you can do quality work.
  • Remember that multi tasking is overrated. It’s often not more productive than focusing on one important thing at a time.
  • Give yourself a finite amount of time to get something done so you don’t procrastinate important stuff.
  • Use the rewards system: If you hate dealing with a particular task (the budget and bills for instance), plan to give yourself a treat when you get it done. Something small but very satisfying (Chocolate is good! ) can work wonders.
  • Take time out to laugh with the people you love daily. It helps the tough stuff melt away.
  • Pat your own back when you get through your list every day. Rinse. Repeat.
  • If there is no end in sight to being busy, find small end points and calendar them. If you have a time marker on the calendar to break up a busy life-it helps! One of the best lessons I learned during military deployments was to break that long year of separation from my husband into 3 month chunks. On my calendar I had something great to look forward to quarterly. Sometimes it was something as simple as a visit with my mom or going to a fun even with a friend. Having those marks on the calendar helped break up the long tedium into manageable chunks.
Having tricks up your sleeve and a few rules for yourself to get through the busiest parts of  life can help you stay on top and not get sucked under by the pressure. Don’t let being too busy slow you down!

Do you have a tip that helps you get through your busiest times? I’d love to add it to the list in the Comments!

Is being to busy slowing you down?

Stop Throwing it Out: Onboard the ‘Food Waste Friday’ Wagon-It’s Keeping Me On My Toes!

I love the blog The Frugal GirlIt’s a regular inspiration to me. I subscribe to this blog and it’s listed in my blogroll because I love what she does over there. She has a great regular Friday series called Food Waste Fridays. The point is to see where you’re throwing money away by letting something go bad in your refrigerator. You might be surprised to realize how much food you are tossing out on a regular basis. I know I was! And I’m pretty frugal to begin with. Food waste costs money. If you aren’t careful it can cost a lot of money over time. It has brought me to a new level of awareness on how to prevent losses by making sure I use food before it goes bad. The Frugal Girl has a call-out on her blog for other’s to jump on board with Food Waste awareness and I think it’s a truly worthy one so I’ve jumped on board. This is week 2 for joining in Food Waste Friday.

So how did I do this week?

This week I actually did fairly well. I wasn’t so sure how I was going to do. My refrigerator seemed awfully full at the beginning of our week. I went on a bit of a shopping bender for fresh produce last time I went grocery shopping. There is little that makes me happier than a fridge well stocked with plenty of fresh options. I love my fruits and veggies (yes, I’m kind of granola-healthy about my food and a little nerdy about it). I have to say I was pretty surprised by the results this week. Knowing I have this post coming that calls out my successes and failures, I find I’m staying more on top of it and making regular mental notes of what needs to be used or preserved so we don’t lose it. Thank you Frugal Girl for your blog call-out! It’s keeping me on my toes and saving me dollars!

My successes:

  • My trip to the Farmer’s Market a while back found me buying some amazing fresh sage. Unfortunately fresh sage doesn’t last forever and I am still trying to find recipes to incorporate it into some of our meals. The sage was still managing to look decent but I figured it was time to figure out how to preserve this bounty of fresh sage. I found that it’s super easy to freeze sage, that it won’t need to be thawed to use it, and it will stay fresher tasting than if I dried it. So into the freezer it went. According to several websites it should last several months this way and I’m hoping it will get me to Thanksgiving because I use plenty of sage for my Thanksgiving recipes. I’m also looking forward to making one of my absolute favorite dishes: Brussels Sprouts with Browned Butter and Sage. YUM. Fresh-frozen sage should make this dish that much better!
  • I managed to save some more strawberries that were starting to look a little less pleasing and washed and added them the bag of strawberries already in the freezer. I’m getting quite a nice bagful this way. I always seem to have strawberries on hand for smoothies now. And I’m sure if I felt the whim I could whip up some strawberry sauce for ice cream or to top a waffle with. Always good to have some frozen strawberries around! As a side note to this I found that my berries are looking poorly a little faster and getting moldy more quickly as we are now heading into the end of summer and nearing the end of berry season . My friend send me this great tip from FoodLush blog to help berries last longer and keep them from getting moldy. I’ll be trying this one out. I thought it was too good a tip not to share here!
  • I had nearly a dozen eggs that were getting close the the use by date. We made peanut butter cookies and had a French Toast Breakfast dinner one night. That did the trick! Not one egg tossed out!

My failures: 

  • That sage. I didn’t manage to save it all. Some of the leaves were pitiful and beyond redemption. But I did save most of it so this one falls into both categories this week.
  • Half of a baked potato no one managed to eat. I had planned to cut this up for lunch for my toddler the day after I made baked potatoes but I clearly forgot. Then it got pushed to the back of the fridge. It’s too dried out to even imagine salvaging this.
  • A biscuit from Cracker Barrel that came home from eating dinner out when we went to town last week. It was a treat to go. My son loves it. I figured the biscuit would make a good breakfast addition for someone. Apparently not. It is now rock hard. And still greasy. So ick. It goes.

Going forward:

I need to really keep an eye on what is getting pushed to the back of the refrigerator. It’s “no mans land” back there. Once something finds it’s way to the back that shouldn’t be there, it’s usually beyond all hope. It doesn’t often get found till I’m cleaning out the fridge. My goal this week is to be vigilant about what is getting pushed to the back.

Comment Worthy:

So how about you? How aware of your food waste were you this week? Did you have any successes?

My Food Waste Friday Failures for week 2

Food Waste Friday-week 2: My successes. Save it by freezing it!

Inspiration Thursdays: Faith Keeps You Moving and Helps You Hold On (10 Quotes to Keep the Faith)

Because Thursday’s child has far to go…

Back when we had a feeling that my husband was going to endure a period of unemployment as we transitioned from military life back to the civilian world, we began to prepare like squirrels putting acorns away for a long winter. As the time neared for him to take that final step back into the civilian world, we were far more frightened about the future than we had anticipated being. We had a million ‘what if’s’ running through our heads. We’d prepared but things weren’t going quite as we’d hoped. Our already tight belts were about to get tighter. We went over five months without seeing anything more than a small check from the unemployment office. (It’s a good thing we like rice and beans like we do because we sure did eat a lot of them!) What we held onto through that difficult and uncertain time was our faith. We had faith in what we were doing and in why. We had faith that it was going to be ok. And we held very tightly to our faith in God.

We’re on the eve of more changes in our lives and I find myself considering faith and how it sustains me. It is easy to have faith on mountain tops and harder to have faith in the valleys. But it’s important to keep on having faith. When the world is beating on you and you are tired and scared faith is what helps you through it.

Today I’m sharing a few quotes on faith. I went looking for them to be inspired and encouraged. I hope these quotes help to strengthen your resolve, as well, to have faith in the path you are on-whether it’s to simplify your life or to continue a new direction you’ve taken, or maybe it’s focusing more on the things that matter most or continuing to work hard kicking debt to the curb. Whatever it is you face today, I hope for you to have faith that your challenges will help you grow and that you will get through it. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Take heart. Have faith.

1. “Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith.” — St Francis of Assisi

2. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  –Hebrews 11:1(NIV)

3. “Faith is like radar that sees through the fog.”  ~Corrie Ten Boom, Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor, Tramp for the Lord

4. “A better world shall emerge based on faith and understanding.” –General Douglas MacArthur

5. “The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.” –Henry David Thoreau

6. “Fear knocked at the door.  Faith answered.  And lo, no one was there.” –Author Unknown

7. “Faith begins where Reason sinks exhausted.” –Albert Pike

8. “Faith makes things possible, not easy.”  –Author Unknown

9. “Fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow.” — Philip Gulley

10. “Faith is believing that the outcome will be what it should be, no matter what it is.”  –Colette Baron-Reid

All Comments are Worthy:

Do you have a favorite quote or saying on faith? Add it to my list in the comments!

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