The Half-Crunchy Mama

Trying to live a natural life with balance

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The Half-Crunchy Mama got a little crunchier

Unless you have a uterus, you might want to pass on reading this post. There will be a little TMI about the female body, so I will not be offended if you leave now. If you have female parts, especially if you currently menstruate every month, I’ve got some good stuff to share so I hope that you continue on. And if you don’t fit that bill and continue reading anyway because you have a spouse or daughter or lady friend that you care about and you want to be informed, I applaud you.

Almost four months ago, I purchased my first menstrual cup. Yes, saying those last two words together made me feel a little uncomfortable at first (and they still do sometimes), but that is not all my fault. It’s the way I was brought up in the world of disposable feminine products that have been the norm for my nearly four decades on this earth, and long before that. And then there’s the fabulous marketing that goes along with these products to influence and help us make decisions about what to buy.

A what?

After digging around a little, I learned that menstrual cups are not new. In fact, they have been around since at least the 1930s(1). I found this post that includes research showing a similar concept was used in the 1860s!(2)  If you are at all like me, you should be a little curious as to why it seems like we have only just started hearing about them? My answer: Big Business. Think of all the money that these manufacturers are able to allocate to their advertising. You can’t watch a show on the television or flip through a magazine (I’m not the only one still doing these things, right?) without having tampon or maxipad ads thrown at you. They even cater to young girls now with their packaging and naming. In 2010 and 2011, women in North America stocked up on $3 billion worth of feminine hygiene products(3). So their heavy marketing obviously works in their favor, but I think that’s because the alternatives have been kept hidden away from us. I’m here to tell you all about it.

Why I made the switch

This is a completely under-regulated industry. Since the FDA sees feminine products like pads and tampons as medical devices, there is no mandatory testing of the safety of these products and no laws to enforce companies to disclose their ingredients. This makes it almost impossible for us to know what is in our feminine products and to be educated enough to avoid chemicals of concern that are found in them.

Made from cotton and rayon, tampons (my preferred choice for the last 20+ years) are bleached with chlorine compounds that leave behind highly toxic dioxins, as well as pesticide residue from using non-organic cotton. Sure, I once thought I could just switch to organic cotton tampons that were not overly processed, but on month when I have a heavy cycle, I can go through a good box and a half of tampons. It’s not that easy to just run out to the store and get more as not everyone carries Natracare and Seventh Generation tampons and pads. (I’m including links to purchase both brands from Amazon (Natracare and Seventh Generation) in case the cup idea is too much for you, but you are interested in switching to healthier feminine products.) For some scientific information about the chemicals I (we) have been literally shoving into our bodies every month, has a fantastic piece for you to read, called Chem Fatale Report.

Toxic feminine products

Graphic courtesy of

Why I love it

So why did it take me so long to write about this if I’m so happy? I wanted to give it a good test. The first month, I was kind of learning the ropes. Inserting and removing take a little bit of trial and error. If you go with the bell-shaped cup like the DivaCup that I chose, folding method two is the one that has worked best for me. And my trick to share with you is that I found that if I set on the edge of the bed or something after the initial insertion, my body actually slides it into position even better than I can. It feels crazy weird, but I learned that my muscles are much more relaxed when sitting than while standing or squatting, and I can feel my body actually guide/slide/whatever the cup into the perfect position.

I also wanted to wait until I gave it a good test with all the types of exercise I do on a weekly basis. I was a little gun-shy about using it through my entire cycle that first month, getting frustrated sometimes when I couldn’t get the fit right and giving up to use a tampon. I can report now that I will never look back as last month’s trial solidified that I never need to use tampons again. I do a considerable amount of weight lifting, including a variety of squats, and not one complaint from me about leakage or falling out (as actually happened to me with a tampon in a Power Box/Tae Bo class one time). I have ran with it. I have done yoga and stretching with it. I have done Zumba with it. The only thing left to test it with is swimming and I can’t wait!! The pool opens next month and then I’ll be going to the beach in June. I am beyond excited at the prospect of not having to go straight to the restroom after getting out of the water in order to take the tampon out. Not to mention making sure that the string isn’t hanging outside my suit. There are no worries with this cup thing. Not a single one.

More reasons I’m in love:

  • I have been inserting it before my period actually starts, on the day it’s expected to begin. No more surprises while out!
  • It’s so reliable that there are no more trips running to the bathroom for frequent changes or to check for leaks. The cup can be left in for 8-10 hours at a time (and up to 12), depending on how heavy the flow is. I actually almost forget about it!
  • It’s made of medical-grade silicone and is latex free which is very important to me as I’m allergic to latex.
  • Tampons offer just eight hours before TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) becomes a possibility. With menstrual cups, you can go up to 12 hours in between emptying and it’s not really sitting there next to your skin; it’s in the cup. Also, if your tampon has even a slightly higher absorbency than your actual flow, you risk shredding. Tiny bits of cotton can cause small cuts in your vaginal walls—a perfect breeding ground for the bacteria causing TSS.
  • I don’t have to worry if I have any spares in my purse or car. One and done!
  • I’m learning even more about my cycle and my body. I’m always up for that.
  • **TMI/education alert** As the DivaCup site mentions, “Menstrual flow only begins to develop an odor when it is exposed to air. As The DivaCup is worn internally, your days of worrying about period odor are over. Menstrual fluid on tampons and pads is exposed to air which creates odor throughout the day.”(4) Which also means that the bathroom smells better, too, as there are no more used tampons sitting in the lidded garbage can. (Sorry for the extra information on this last bullet that you didn’t want.)
  • It saves money (see below), and who doesn’t like to save some green?

Let’s talk about money

My hormone and cycle history could be a post all its own, but let’s just start with when my cycle returned six months after weaning my daughter, the most recent history as she will be four this summer. It has been pretty whacky, sometimes light and others very, very heavy. Some months I would go through almost two boxes of tampons, one of regular and one of super. I always felt like they filled up quick or weren’t as absorbent as they used to be, and maybe they just were not fitting me well anymore. Maybe my body had changed, or maybe the products have changed. I will admit that I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist, especially when it comes to the government, big pharma, and big business, and the more I started thinking about it, the more I started thinking that maybe, just maybe, they are making these things less absorbent so you go through more of them every month? Seems like a good business tactic to me. (Moving along now…)

Then came my first cycle that I only used the cup. Um, why did I need to use so many tampons each month? Seriously…when emptying the cup after 12 hours, I would look and see that it was almost never filled. So tell me why did I have to change my tampons every 4-6 hours, 3 when it was a heavy day? We really don’t lose that much blood during the course of our cycle. I have seen proof of this from my own body with my own eyes. The cup can hold about an ounce of fluid and the average woman releases about 1-2 ounces throughout the whole cycle. Only one time have I seen the cup close to full, but that was also a day that I cramped a lot. (And I swear your period completely changes after giving birth.) Most of the time, it’s only about 1/4-1/2 full. Again, why did I have to spend so much money on tampons every month and use so many? What a mystery.

I picked up my DivaCup for around $20 though a buying group I belong to from Facebook. Basically, my savings in what I would have spent on tampons the past three months has paid for the cup already. And this thing is good for at least another 9 months before replacing it as they are good for a year, longer if you take good care of it. I really, REALLY encourage you to read through all of these First Questions as I think you might start to see the potential here.

Final thought

If you have been having hormone/endochrine disruption and have tried everything from diet changes to herbals and supplements, you just might want to give the cup a try. Or at least make the switch away from all the brands that we came to know and “love” as we grew into women. I feel that our bodies are becoming more and more sensitive to the chemicals we used to be able to tolerate on a daily basis. Just a few years ago, we weren’t bombarded with toxin exposure from everything to carpets and drapes to food and toiletries. Perhaps our bodies just can’t take any more and just one small change that we can make to reduce our toxic exposure can help heal us a little. Baby steps.

And because I enjoy a good Buzzfeed link:







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How I became a Catholic again

Like the majority of the kids in the part of the northeast that I grew up in, I was raised as a Catholic. It seemed you were pretty much either Catholic or Jewish. Because of this, most of the kids that went to public school together also attended the same CCD classes and belonged to the same church. If you lived in my hometown, it was highly probable that your family belonged to St. Patrick’s Catholic church. Unless, of course, you were Jewish. I think we had a few other denominations of Christian churches around, but I can’t really remember any. Where I grew up, spring break always seemed to fall on the week before Easter to include Good Friday, what I personally consider the holiest of days. I’m not sure if things are still this way, and it may or may not have been to accommodate Holy Week. (I am curious about this now.)

The old stone church - St. Patrick's Parish, Yorktown Heights, NY

The old stone church – St. Patrick’s Parish, Yorktown Heights, NY

I’m embarrassed to admit that I still don’t really know much about the differences between the other Christian religions. In fact, I probably know more about Judaism and the religions of cultures different from mine (which I studied while in college) than what separates the Catholics from other Christian sects. One of my best friends growing up was Jewish and I never thought twice about prayers or meals or their traditions. I have been very close with a family that practices Kosher traditions and their faith has always played a big part in their lives. I have seen what a strong family they are; a strong marriage, fantastic children, and a truly loving family. I believe this has a lot to do with the sharing of their faith as a family. We both believe in the Old Testament, it’s just latter part of the Christian bible that separates the two religions (I know there are other things, but I’m simplifying it). We are both steeped in traditions, one of the things I love most about my own religion as I am generally a traditional person.

Saying that one was raised Catholic, generally means you attended CCD (now called PSR) which is basically Sunday school, you were forced to go to mass on Sunday mornings, and maybe you even attended Catholic school instead of public. You at least attended mass until you completed the sacrament of Confirmation. After that took place, it seemed that many parents backed off on the Sunday morning ritual (including my own) as social lives, SAT stuff, and college applications started to fill your weekends.

By the time I went to college, my outlook on religion (and the world) had gone through a lot of changes, yet I still picked a small, private college that had deep roots in religion, Manhattanville College. It’s not in Manhattan. (That sentence is for my fellow alumni.) I chose that school for a long list of reasons, but religion wasn’t really one of them. Well, not exactly. I loved the diversity of the student body and I ended up taking lots of courses on various religions from around the world. I have always been curious about the customs, foods, and people that are different from me. Perhaps I was also doing some subconscious soul searching.

I spent the next 9-10 years drifting farther and farther from the church. I became what are referred to as “Easter-Christmas Catholics,” attending mass on those two holidays and a few others interspersed here and there throughout the year. Those attendances were usually because I was visiting my grandmother upstate or she was at my mom’s, so I would always attend. She was a very faithful woman that loved her church, and that deep faith can also be found in my mother. It seems that now the legacy is living on through me.

I had a crazy-fast romance with The Russian; meeting the last day of June in 2003, getting engaged that September, married that November (by a judge the first time), and moving south to Georgia the following January. What a six months that was! For someone that is not very good at making decisions that had never lived more than 30 minutes from my childhood town, I still laugh sometimes at that time of my life. Moving south was the best decision I have ever made, but it also marks the beginning of some of the toughest times of my life.

When we moved, The Russian couldn’t work as we were waiting for the government to do what they had to do with his status. The financial responsibilities fell on me. I had spent the previous 5-6 post-college years in NY teaching preschool and pre-K, supplementing with a ridiculous amount of babysitting on the side. Did I mention that we moved here without any jobs? We had an apartment that was paid for and that was it. So I looked for work. Anywhere. I ended up with three jobs in order to support us, and we still needed help occasionally from family. I worked Monday through Thursday for a naturopathic doctor, Fridays for two to three families at a time to watch all their kids at once, and then on Saturdays and Sundays I worked at a flight school (where I still work on Saturdays because it’s awesome and I love it). Yes, I held down three jobs and worked seven days a week to support us. I always do what needs to be done. This ended up costing me some of my health which is how I began my journey in the natural world, but it also brought me back to the church.

This was such a dark time for me, not my darkest ever, but I was exhausted, struggling with a new marriage in a new place with no money and no friends. My friends have always been my family, sometimes more than my family to me, and I cried. A lot. I was so homesick. I wanted my mom. I wanted my friends. I wanted to be back in New York. But I continued on, thanks to the strength that I found when I went back to my faith.

It was February 25, 2004. Ash Wednesday. That was the day I realized that I was not alone. I did have something to turn to. I had my faith, and at that moment, I began my journey back to the church. I googled Catholic churches in the area where I was working and found one that had a mass I could make to get ashes during my lunch. It was strange to walk into a church I had never been to, alone, unsure of the way things flow for communion, and I didn’t know anyone. Then the priest at the altar completely surprised me. He was young…as in, he seemed to be around my age. And during the homily, he spoke to us instead of talking at us. He didn’t stay behind the pulpit. Instead, he walked around the front and up the aisles a bit, making eye contact and smiling. This was so strange to me and I felt so welcome and calm that I almost cried right then and there. I knew I had found what I needed. I was glad that I listened to the voice in my head that told me to seek out mass that Ash Wednesday. It was the start of something big for me.

I continued to go to church there, becoming a registered parishioner and attending mass nearly every week even though it was 20+ minutes from where I was living. There aren’t a lot of Catholic churches down here as we are in Baptist land, and I didn’t do much looking around after finding Father Bryan. I knew this was where I was meant to be. He was a contemporary, even relating his homilies to things like Star Wars. He was the best priest I had ever encountered and I know God wanted me to meet him for this purpose. I needed to see that the church is changing, albeit slowly, but it is capable of change. And I was getting drawn in because of what I was now experiencing.

In 2005, we got married. Again. I needed, and wanted, to receive the sacrament of marriage. I wanted to share our love and celebrate with all the other people in my life that didn’t join us for our very small (8 other people) first marriage and celebration. It was planned back in New York at my mom’s church as it was easier to ask a few people to fly up there than to ask everyone up there to fly down here. It wasn’t a full mass. I was the only one to receive communion, my sacrament of marriage, and that was all that I needed. It was so important to me that The Russian gladly obliged to marry a second time, this time in the Catholic church.

October 15, 2005 - St. John the Evangelist, White Plains, NY

October 15, 2005 – St. John the Evangelist, White Plains, NY

Then in 2006, The Russian joined the Army. I had changed jobs and started to feel like this particular church was no longer a good match for me. Long story short, some other priest started with politics from the pulpit and I nearly walked out – some people did – so I knew I had to find a new church. I go to mass for my personal relationship with God, my own spirituality, not for that junk. I don’t have to agree with all the things that the church pushes forth, I have my own mind (most die-hards would call me a “cafeteria Catholic”), and my going to church is about me and my spirit, nothing more. So I found another church that was close to my flight school job that had a Saturday Vigil mass. I started going to and in the first few weeks, who do I end up seeing there?? Father Bryan! I knew that again this was where I was to be. I registered at Saint Catherine’s and have been a member since. This is where I really started to grow and realize why I was back for good.

When The Russian deployed, it was tough. I had amazing friends and a great support system by this point (2009-2010), but there were still many times that I would cry for no reason. That was a hard time in my life, despite the appearance I put up going out to distract myself. I had to in order to stay sane. I decided it was time for me to start getting involved in my church community as he wasn’t home and I had too much free time. I noticed in the bulletin that they needed Catechists, the people that teach PSR/Sunday School/whatever you want to call it. I was missing teaching and thought this would be a great place for me to start. So I signed up. I was given 3rd graders my first year and I taught on Wednesday afternoons. As I taught that first year, my assistant in the room was full of compliments. There were times when the kids would ask me tough questions and I swear that I had no idea where I got the answers from. Her and I would look at each other sometimes and make “Wow” faces as she knew that I had never taught religion before. It was the Holy Spirit coming through me. What else could it be?


Grandma Tish and Gram – Two of the strongest women that I have ever known

During his deployment, I also lost both of my grandmothers within two weeks of each other. I honestly feel like I would have been lost during that time without my faith, without believing some of the foundational pieces of my religion in order to make sense of it all. And let go. My dad’s mom left us first and my mom’s mom was still hanging on even though she should have already left to meet her maker. Both of these women were close for many years, so I asked Grandma Tish to tell Gram that it was okay to leave, that it was time to go. A few days later, she did. When I went to Gram’s service back in NY, I had another reason to be thankful for the church. The priest had actually known my grandmother very well and it was an amazing eulogy. He was full of words that gave me comfort and I started to feel proud that I am continuing her legacy through our faith. I am not as involved as she was or my mother is, but I’m sure I will be as I get older. When I would visit Gram in North Carolina at the place she ended up spending the last years of her life, I always took her to church. It became our thing and I think even when it got more difficult for her to remember my name or who I was at first glance, she was happy to see me because she knew I would take her to church. I miss her, but I feel connected to her every single time I’m at mass. Faith.

Gram and mom in NC - 2009

Gram and mom in NC – 2009

Growing up, we are put in religious education classes and dragged to church (what it feels like to a kid) on Sunday mornings. Looking back, I feel that I missed so much of what was taught. My heart wasn’t there, it was just an obligation that I had. I didn’t get it, not like I do now. To be able to share with children really deepened and strengthened my faith and understanding in ways I couldn’t have imagined. The following year, I signed up again and got the perfect class for me – Kindergarten. I LOVED that class. I had the best time teaching them and have many incredible moments where again, I have no idea where the words came from. Sometimes it felt like an out-of-body experience. I got pregnant that October and haven’t been able to go back to teach PSR since then, but I will once Sugar Bee is old enough to attend. And I can’t wait.

Teaching wasn’t the only reason I that I understand why I was led back to the church. It was also for my daughter. She has the strangest affinity, and I say strange in a positive and endearing way, for Jesus. Let me be specific here, it’s Baby Jesus. Everything relating to Christ is referred to as Baby Jesus with Sugar Bee, and I absolutely love it. She often went to mass with me up until the age of two when it started to get more challenging. Since the age of one, she has been attending “school” at local Baptist churches. I know that her love for the Christian religion is not a sole credit to me as I don’t take her as often as I would like these days, but she has gone several times during this Lenten season, and for this I thank these churches. I have never thought twice about the fact that she’s not in a preschool at a Catholic church. We are all Christians and they are teaching her more that I had ever hoped for her at this age. She gets upset if I pick her up early and she misses bible time. That makes me beam with pride and my heart swell. I am eternally grateful to them for instilling what I am not sure I would have been able to as her mom. What a blessing.

We sing Christmas songs. All. Year. Long. I can’t complain and it’s not every night this year because I have been resisting rocking my sweet babe to bed every night, something that I would do the rest of my life if she would let me. Her favorite song in the entire world is Little Drummer Boy, which happens to be in my top 5. Since this past Christmas, she likes to sing it to me at bedtime. How could I refuse?

One of the most incredible conversations that continues to happen between me and Sugar Bee is when we pass a funeral. There are several large cemetery and memorial parks around our house and the first time she noticed a funeral, she had questions. I explained it as simply as I could, that someone had died and those people were all gathered there to say goodbye. This little child said, “That’s so sad, mama,” but her mood changed when I told her that it was okay because that person was going to meet Jesus. She was so content with my explanation, but still said that it was sad. Now whenever we pass another funeral or we stop for a funeral procession as they do in the south, she talks about how that person is going to meet, of course, Baby Jesus, and that it’s still sad, but good. And I find myself smiling every time.


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

We baptized Sugar Bee in my church when she was three months old. There were rumors of The Russian leaving again for an extended period of time and we decided to just do it. As I said before, she attended mass quite often as a little one. We took a break from when she turned two until around three, but she wants to go to church with me. How can I refuse that?

She is still learning the ropes at communion time, and I have to share a few of the things that she has done. (crap, this is a LONG post!) Before making first communion, both for non-Catholics attending mass or for the littles that walk up to receive a blessing, it is customary to walk up with your arms crossed, placing your hands on your shoulders. The first time she started to “get” what was going on, she got upset on the way back to the pew. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, “I didn’t do a good job because I didn’t get any.” She almost started to cry, and I almost started to laugh. I squeezed her tight and reminded her about her cousin’s First Communion and she was content for the moment. A few months ago when the deacon went to bless her, she tried to grab the whole cup of communion out of his hands. He and I looked at each other and chuckled. She wasn’t amused. Then two weeks ago, the person giving her the blessing raised their hand above her head and she gave them a high-five. That time, we both laughed out loud. Last week during Palm Sunday mass, I glanced down while I was kneeling and praying before receiving communion and there she was, kneeling along side of me, hands clasped and her eyes closed. I found the hugest grin sweep across my face and I thought I was going to burst with pride. This is why I found my way back to the church. To nurture this child, not only with her mind and her body, but also her soul.

Sugar Bee with us and her godparents - October 2011

Sugar Bee with us and her godparents – October 2011

I look around my church when I am at mass and I feel sad. I feel somewhat alone in my generation. There are not that many young families at the masses that I regularly attend, granted that I usually attend Saturday Vigil or Sunday evening ones, but most people are around my mom’s age and older. Who will be there to keep our church going? What has happened to my generation? To get slightly political, I blame the media. Christians, and most often the Catholics, are made fun of and treated poorly for their beliefs. Not to say that they are perfect and don’t deserve some scrutiny at times, but what group of people is perfect? There is no perfect religion or group of people. Christians are being persecuted in the Middle East, just for being Christians, and no one is talking about it in this country. Christians represent the largest population in the world, yet the media in this country is all but silent about these atrocities.  These “tolerant” people in government and the media are quick to bash Catholics and Christians, showing very little support. Yes, the Catholic church might be the richest in the world, but we are also among the largest donators and charity supporters, incredible humanitarians, and strong missionaries. I probably should evangelize, but I don’t. (Insert Catholic guilt.) If people ask me anything, I will share, but I personally don’t care what people believe. To each their own. I am only responsible for my own soul. Church as an institution isn’t for everyone. I happen to get something out of it. Actually, I get a lot out of attending, but I don’t judge anyone for not being a practicing member of whatever faith. Just believe in something.

Catholics are moving forward and have a Pope now that is trying to show the world that we are capable of change. Don’t let a few judgmental Christians  or other negatively painted stories that you hear about in the news decide if you want to be part of the church or not. I promise that you are not being told all the good being done.

This was a long and flip-floppy post. Anxious to get it out before Easter Sunday, I probably should have spent more time reorganizing, but there it all is. Thanks for visiting and have a blessed Easter and Passover!

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Dyeing Easter eggs naturally

Being half-crunchy, I really wanted to try my hand at dyeing eggs with the colors that Mother Nature has given us. This was my first attempt and I am not totally discouraged, but it was a learning experience.

I usually buy eggs from local farms, and sometimes get them for free from a family friend who knows someone with lots of chickens that lay more eggs than they can eat. They look better. They taste so different than “regular” eggs. And I’m supporting local farmers. We all win. The problem is, you will hardly ever get a white egg. Sometimes they are pale brown, yellow, or greenish blue, but it’s extremely rare (as in never) that I get a white one. I am going to have to google why that is, but I want to get this finished first. I will get back to you on that one. I think this all would have gone better if I had regular white eggs from the store, but too late now.

I did a little digging around and found two great posts, one from green child and another from Better Homes and Gardens. I have a video saved somewhere that I need to dig up where this woman did an amazing job making her own dyes to use in place of food coloring for baking that I’m sure would be awesome for this, but if I recall correctly, it was a lot more work than I have time for. My trial was simple and fast to start. It was the waiting that took a long, long time.

I started off deciding on four colors, and chose them based on what seemed to have the least amount of work involved. I already knew tumeric would be great, and if you ever cook with it, you know why. It stains everything and my poor clear plastic measuring spoon that I was dumb enough to leave in the bowl too long didn’t even get clean from the dishwasher. Oh well. At least that color works. I decided to go with a grey/purple/blue color, a pinkish red, a yellow, and a burnt orange.

Dyeing Easter eggs naturally | The Half-Crunchy MamaHere’s what I did with them on Sunday night when I started:

Grey/purple/blue color: 1 cup frozen blueberries and 1 cup water, brought to room temperature, and then removed the berries

Yellow: 2 Tbsp of ground tumeric, mixed with 1 cup boiling water, then added 2 tsp of white vinegar

Pinkish red: Two cooked beets (I should have used raw, but I went with what I had as this was a last-minute thought) in 4 cups boiling water, mixed with 2 Tbsp vinegar; I also added some beet juice, both pickled and from the container of cooked beets, removing the beets before adding the eggs

Burnt orange: 2 Tbsp of paprika (I used smoked as that’s what I mostly cook with) in 1 cup boiling water, then added 2 tsp white vinegar

When everything was room temperature, including the eggs, I dropped them all in. And waited. I did this in the evening, finally getting them in around 9 0’clock. I put them out in my garage fridge and waited until morning. I was all excited…and then slightly disappointed.Dyeing Easter eggs naturally | The Half-Crunchy MamaMonday morning, I took them out and took a look. There wasn’t all that much difference in color. I could see a faint tint and it had already been 12 HOURS! So I dropped them all back in after giving everything a good stir. Back to the fridge they went. And I waited some more. In fact, I waited another 24 hours and took them out Tuesday morning. Probably didn’t make much of a difference to leave them in longer, but some places did get darker. This will have to do. Easter is on Sunday.

Dyeing Easter eggs naturally | The Half-Crunchy MamaSugar Bee hasn’t had dyed eggs before and this is the first Easter that we will be doing the whole creepy Easter-Bunny-came-and-hid-your-eggs-now-go-find-them-and-I-hope-I-remember-where-I-put-them-in-case-she-can’t-find-them-all thing. Last year was her first real Easter basket, filled with way more toys and stuff than candy and crap. Yeah, what a shocker. I’m that mom. I own it.Dyeing Easter eggs naturally | The Half-Crunchy MamaI know that I read somewhere about shining them up a little with olive oil, or maybe I’m making that up, but that’s what I did and it actually did enhance the colors a little more, making them a little deeper.Dyeing Easter eggs naturally | The Half-Crunchy MamaAll in all, I’m pleased with my first attempt. I wish I had started experimenting sooner, but I will mess around more next year!


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Sorry for the delay, but ALASKA

_MG_6228I can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted something here. I have slowly been getting back into things over on my Facebook page and am always off and on in my Instagram, but I have all these drafts over here and I hate that I’m not setting the time aside to blog. I love being here. I need to make it a priority. I have lots to share in the next few weeks and several are near completion, so I will get on it! As you can imagine, I’ve been digging out from everything that was waiting for me upon my return. But I’m back.

My new thing is telling everyone that they must visit Alaska at least one time before they leave this world. You can smell the air. And not in a bad way. What I mean is that you can smell how clean and clear it is, how fresh and untainted it is. There were times on my trip that I would find myself just breathing outside. I really want to move there for at least a year. It was incredible and I knocked quite a few things off of my bucket list while I was there.

Let’s start with the easiest achievement. I traveled on a plane. By myself. This was the first time that I was alone on an airplane since before I was pregnant. I didn’t know what to do with myself, but I figured it out.11046958_10155217460905702_1975831873833235422_n

I was glad that I was alone since I had a really tight connection through Seattle on my way to Anchorage from Atlanta. I never would have made it with my kid in tow. So I relaxed on that next flight, celebrating that I had made it. And I11044580_10155218875930702_2567016866001074199_n was sitting with two older ladies that were like a window into my future. We all had a few drinks and we kind of ended up being the rowdy row. One of them had lived in Anchorage for 10 or 12 years, so she had some tips for me. It was a great flight and I was so excited to land in Alaska!

My friend that I went to go visit used to live with me when my husband was deployed. We refer to each other as “Roomie” and he will always be one of the special people in my life, no matter how far away or how much time passes between visits. He is just a fabulous guy.11034315_10155223375955702_1143090522943030490_nThe first full day, we drove south to Seward. It was so beautiful on the way and we made a few stops along AK Rt 1.1510916_10155223345230702_3431509717389946341_nWe stopped at Portage Lake before hoping to get to Portage Glacier.10502132_10155223356705702_1999595310476229891_nThis was the most amazing tasting ice I have ever had.    11025169_10155223365895702_8033610531559637536_nSadly, this was the closest I was able to get to a glacier. Despite the ridiculously warm weather (it was in the 40s my first two days there), they still had the roads closed for potential weather. But, hey, I got to see one with my own eyes. That’s good enough for me.11042979_10155223372440702_339457247663590573_nThen we made it to Seward and the rain started. There isn’t much to do there and a lot of stuff was still closed from the winter, but it was still pretty. Like everywhere I went.1484680_10155223383480702_6842683517311909751_nOn the way back to Anchorage, the fog rolled in…but I don’t think this is called fog. It was a fascinating phenomenon to watch and I got some incredible pictures. This was one of them from Bird Creek at Chugach State Park.10676289_10155223402080702_2488829901741415707_n The next day, I tooled around the city of Anchorage with the other friend I was visiting, the reason the Roomie ended up in Alaska. She’s really cool and they are a great couple, and do nothing but make me laugh. She took me to a mall where loads of native people had come into the city to sell their goods. As I planned this trip to also hit up the Last Great Race on Earth, I was able to see and participate in some of the Fur Rondy events, including visiting the craft fair. I bought some lovely jewelery that I already forgot what it was made from, but it’s awesome. We went to the Ulu factory and we went to the museum. Loads of fun there, especially in the children’s part, the Imaginarium Discovery Center.11046845_10155233001915702_8264408043249360349_oThe next day was the start of the Iditarod. There were close to 80 teams for this year’s race and we watched close to 70 of them leave the ceremonial start line, breaking only to use the bathroom._MG_6279 I loved walking around before the start, watching the handlers prep the dogs. _MG_6276

Contrary to the belief of people that protest this stuff, these dogs are well cared for and loved, and I saw it with my own eyes. The dogs reciprocate a lot of affection and are so excited to do their work. It was an experience of a lifetime and definitely one I am glad that I did._MG_6361

So many bios that the emcee shared about the mushers included variations of the words, “they came to Alaska for (something) and never left.” After my trip, I completely understand. I can’t wait to go back and it will be harder to leave next time. I missed my family, but I also realized how much I had missed mountains. And the air. I will never be able to shut up about the air in Alaska._MG_6375

Te people watching was beyond compare. It’s called the Fur Rondy, short for Fur Rendezvous, so people come out in their furs and some take pictures with strangers because they can get a little outrageous. I knew about the fur part, so I brought my Russian-themed, fake fur hat that I ended up getting quite a few compliments on. 11043150_10155233000175702_6963228631859298064_nSo after the ceremonial start was over, we went to grab some of the BEST street food that I have ever had. And I lived in NY, so for me to compare to NYC street food…it was sooooo good. Of course it was made even better because it was reindeer sausage. The second or third time that I had already eaten it by this point 😉10405428_10155232087780702_4998649763109298057_nAfter gobbling our street food, we went to go register for the Reindeer Run, well, the lady and I did. Yes, we ran with actual reindeer. It’s like the running of the bulls, but no one dies. It was only for a few blocks and we did it with two of her friends. Fun stuff and something that I would never get another chance to do anywhere else. And we dressed up for it, too.11052457_10155232481095702_2427653817788113938_nThat same day (night), I knocked off the biggest item on my bucket list. We set off around 1:30 in the morning or so to try and catch the Northern Lights. It turns out that they actually have a fairly accurate forecasting system in place. We trekked out to the top of a mountain and stood in the cold night (2 a.m. until about 3 or so) to watch. I was so happy. And I wasn’t cold. I had purchased the perfect stuff for this trip, in addition to having items left over from my skiing days. Here are a few of the many that we took that night (morning) at Eagle Point in Eagle River._MG_6450







(I have to mention that on the morning that I left, we were headed to the airport at 4:45 a.m. to get my 6 a.m. flight when Mother Nature gave me the BEST sendoff. I happened to look out the window while along the highway, and there they were. The Northern Lights. In all their green and glorious glory, fingers trailing up overhead. I almost cried and we had no camera. And I was late, so we couldn’t stop. This is not a usual sighting for Anchorage, and definitely not where we were. Mother Nature really didn’t need to do that for me…I’m already wanting to move there…but what an incredible treat that was!)

We mostly rested the next day, although I did make it out for a run while they went to the gym. Yes, I ran to Starbucks to get my coffee. That was a cold walk back as I was so sweaty under my layers and couldn’t run with hot coffee. Dumbo, over here. The day after, it was decided that he’d take me to Talkeetna. Amazingly on the drive up, you could actually see Mt. McKinley. This is apparently not something that happens all that often as it is usually clouded over. I thanked Mother Nature. Aside from there being almost no snow for my trip, she was able to share much greater things with me. _MG_6510Talkeetna is a cute and very little town, but it has its own brewery…yes, please. And thank you. They have a few good brews going on at Denali Brewing Company. While in Talkeetna, I HAD to take advantage of being where I was and get up in the air, see the mountains and rivers as the birds do. So I contacted a flight school and booked an intro flight. Best $100 I ever spent, and it was actually paid for with a gift card that two of my good friends had given me for my birthday the week before.11040932_10155241697695702_1761203162429453358_n

_MG_6533(1)So I got to fly in a Champ for the first time. And I LOVE taildraggers. _MG_6540The views were incredible. God’s country.11009093_10155241750490702_38163050562302536_n

11025735_10155241754520702_8671623477808908643_nAfter my awesome flight, I wanted to see a little more of Talkeetna and take in some more nature. We ventured down to where three major rivers meet; the Chulitna, the Susitna, and the Talkeetna. And they were frozen, so I got to walk on a river. Who gets to do that? And Denali is in the background._MG_6559What a gorgeous mountain. What a beautiful state. I could get lost for months just exploring. I want to be back there._MG_6560No matter where we went, I was in love. So much beauty in every direction you turn. I could easily make this my home. Just have to convince The Russian. We’d be closer to Russia 😀_MG_6594There was one more thing that I had left on my wish list for this trip and on my last night there, it was looking like I wasn’t going to get to cross it off. And then I spotted her. A city moose. It still counts as seeing a moose. Check. 11043191_10155245290660702_1227605675494463874_nI hated to leave. I usually get a little melancholy when packing to head home, but this felt different. I think it was a combination of things. This was the first time that I had left my family for more than a weekend, a whole eight days. (And it was incredible, not just for sleeping in and getting 10.5 hours of undisturbed sleep the first night, but the experiences.) I miss seeing my friend whenever I want. I miss having time to myself in this life that I have that is way too busy. I think it’s also partly because I could feel the pull of this place. It was strong and I will not forget about it. Someday, I hope. _MG_6599Thank you, Roomie, my dear friend. You and your lady helped me have what I feel was a trip of a lifetime. I am grateful for your hospitality and generosity, and for helping me to knock a bunch of things off my bucket list before I turn 40. I owe you.


Flying to Alaska on miles =  $11.20

Crashing with friends = Free

Falling in love with Alaska = Priceless