Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Cookbook

I found a vegan family cookbook advertised in one of my vegetarian magazines. I thought I'd check it out, but the library didn't have it so I just started browsing and reserving vegetarian cookbook...16 books later (and a crying daughter because the 3 books I asked her to carry out to the car were "Too HEAVY! They're FALLING!!! I'm DROPPING them!!!!") I may have actually found ONE that will have a few good things for my family. It's called Better than Peanut Butter &
Jelly by Marty Mattare and Wendy Muldawer. As you would expect, it's focused on kids food. There's even a section for toddlers! It has "normal" vegetarian food and if you're thinking about trying to go vegetarian or even just cutting back on the amount of meat you eat, I recommend checking it out (but not from the North Canton Public Library since I have that copy!) It has a good intro that talks about healthy eating and basic nutrition for kids. It also has a basic list of pantry and fridge items that you'll need (may cookbooks have this, but I never really seem to find them helpful...I guess others do though!) I found a few things I'm going to try this week...hopefully they taste as good as they sound on paper!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Guilty Conscious

Last night I went to the grocery store to buy "supplies" for our little trip to Sesame Place (I'm still trying to find water shoes so if anyone has any suggestions...). Despite my post yesterday about Sesame Place going green, I'm now realizing that this is not going to be a green trip for us. I've decided to not do cloth while we're gone. I'm going to use Seventh Generation diapers and wipes, both of which are
  • Free of Chlorine Processing
  • Free of Fragrances & Latex
  • Free of Petroleum Based Lotions
  • Hypoallergenic
These are what I consider to be the best of the worst. I feel a little guilty about not using cloth since it's not THAT long of a trip, but then I think about a dirty diaper that will be sitting in a hot car from Sunday until Tuesday...and my skin starts to crawl. I also bought snacks for the car, and while I made a conscious effort to not get prepackaged snacks with a lot of excess packaging, I did get some. However, I did take the extra time to read all the packages to make sure that I didn't get anything with HFCS! So at least I feel good about that! I tried my best to get natural and organic products and I'm taking a bag of apples to snack on (that counts for SOMETHING, right?).
Eating on the road is generally a problem for us as well. Not only are restaurants hard to manage with 3 little kids, there aren't always a lot of good vegetarian options. I don't really care...I can make do, but with my little guy not eating meat, it's hard. Most kids' menu options are basically junk. It's so frustrating since all I'm trying to do is feed my kids something that's reasonably healthy--is that REALLY so much to ask for a place that specializes in providing food?? We'll have to see how this little trip goes. In August, we're taking a longer trip to the Outer Banks. This will REALLY be a long car ride and will DEFINITELY need meals on the go. So I guess our Sesame Place getaway is kind of a trial run.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sunny Days

We're planning a trip to Sesame Place over the 4th of July. I was buying my daughter shoes on Friday when I overheard someone say they were going. I saw the Jon and Kate episode when they took their kids and it looked cool. So I checked it out. It IS cool! So since my husband took the 5th off, I thought it might be fun to go over the 4th, plus they have fireworks! This is new to me. I don't plan vacations. We don't take vacations in less my in-laws are taking us with them. And I don't do things on a whim. My college roommate used to tease me about my research. She said she never met anyone who did so much research before they bought something as simple as foundation. So I'm a little stressed, but also really excited. I've been asking around and I have yet to hear anyone say anything but this is the best vacation they've ever taken with their kids. I was worried that my 6 year old might be too old and think it was "babyish" but he heard the words "water slides" and he's out in the car now with his seat belt on, ready to go! So why is this relevant to a blog about being green?? (Umm, did you read yesterday's post...skunks? I clearly go off-topic!) I've actually been reading every inch of Sesame Place's website and when I found a link that said "Going Green" of course I clicked on it! How cool! They're not doing a TON, but it's still great that they're not only making a conscious effort to be green, but they're also advertising it, which to me means that there are enough people out there who CARE! So what are they doing, you ask?!
  • Sesame Place was designated Groundwater Guardian Green Site for 2009.
  • Sesame Place’s Culinary Department provides napkins that are made from 100% recycled fiber, are 100% bleach free and utilize biodegradable vegetable based inks. Seafood that has been certified sustainable by either the MSC or ACC. Rainforest Alliance approved coffee. Soda cups that, while not biodegradable, meet the ASTM standard for compostability.
  • The landscaping at Sesame Place uses composting and a technique called Lasagna Gardening; layers of wet newspapers, soil and organic material make rich beds for plants.
  • In addition to flowers and plants, more recycling containers for park guests are growing up all over the park. Even though Oscar loves trash, Sesame Place loves to recycle; bottles, cans and paper bins are visible throughout the park, making it easy for everyone to pitch in.
I love the landscaping thing! So now that I feel I have a "green" getaway, I can soon as I get water shoes for the whole family, but snacks for the 8 hr trip there, pack for 5...

Monday, June 27, 2011

And Then There's THAT...

So a few posts ago I was carrying on about my milk dilemma. After writing that blog, I started to rethink my store-brand organic milk purchase and decided to go with the local milk. This milk comes in a bottle, which is a $1.50 deposit when you buy the milk. I, of course, left the bottle on the counter when I went to the store today. I exclaimed this as I was turning off the car in the parking lot and my back seat passenger asked me why we have to bring the bottle back. As I explained to him how it was better for the planted to recycle (something he knows) and how this was BETTER than recycling since we re actually reusing the bottles so there's less pollution and energy use from manufacturing (eyes glaze over...) so we went inside. I'm feeling pretty good about my milk selection choice as I put two bottles in the cart. I load up the car and drive home. When we get in the garage I push the buttons for the automatic doors (LOVE this feature!) and I hear of the bottle had fallen over and was leaning against the door when it opened. I now have shattered glass and milk in my 80 degree garage. All of a sudden those store-brand organic milks in the cardboard cartons don't look so bad...and now I'm out $1.50 plus the milk.

So my milk incident is on the heels of my favorite summer activity...deskunking a dog. EVERY !@#%$@ SUMMER!! STAY OUT OF MY YARD SKUNKS! That's why I have a 6 ft privacy fence!!! Now my dog is going to stink for a month! I put this in my blog not so much because I want to complain (although, clearly I do LOVE to do that!) but because this is a great example of a time when I truly believe that the make-your-own version is not better! If you are a dog owner, please do yourself a favor and buy some Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover. This is the third summer of skunking at our house. My oldest dog is 10. We made it 7 years without an incident and when we were finally skunked I didn't really know what to do. So I did the home remedy, 2 tsp dish soap, 1/4 c baking soda (I KNOW my clean all product failed me this time!!!) and 1 qt hydrogen peroxide. I used this for first two skunkings. It doesn't work. This time I had Nature's Miracle on hand and he's SIGNIFICANTLY less stinky! This is my PSA for the day. Because you never know when skunks may strike!! (Also, sorry to all those who will have to be in contact with me for the next few days. I'll have a slight skunky aroma-it permeates my house.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's Green!

My mom found a wonder-product! It's a Gleen cleaning cloth. It cleans everything with only water and leaves a streak-free shine! And it's green! Or is it? I'm very skeptical of products that are jumping on the "green" bandwagon. I agree, this is a great product and I feel good about using it since it's a reusable cloth and it's advertised as chemical free. It saves me vinegar on my windows so it's also a little cheaper than my old method of vinegar, squeegee and rag. But is it REALLY green? I'll admit that I got a little burned with Chorox's GreenWorks products. I really thought they were green, and I guess they're better than the traditional, but they still contain quite a few toxic ingredients that I don't want in my house. So now I'm sure to REALLY look into products that claim to be green before I buy them. So I checked out the website (I liked it the second sentence.) It looks to be a pretty green product, but I can't help noticing that it's a white cloth, which leads me to believe it's been treated with bleach during the manufacturing process, which I generally try to avoid. It also does not state what the cloth is made from it's just a new microfiber material...whatever that is! I like it though. I'm using it, I'm obviously recommending it, but it just bothers me that it's marketed as a "green" product, when it all actuality, I'm sure there are a LOT of was that it could be more green. Not containing cleaning chemicals doesn't automatically make it "green" in my mind!

Oh! And I almost forgot the fun fact! In the U.S., we eat more than 1,000,000 animals an hour!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Too Much Information!

Last summer I read Alicia Silverstone's book The Kind Diet. It was packed with lots of good research and facts about a plant-based diet and her history with various kinds of diets, ultimately settling on a vegan diet. She also talked a little about the macrobiotic diet, but I was so overwhelmed with the concept of trying to go vegan that I didn't really bother to look into the whole macrobiotic thing. She had a few recipes in the back...I didn't really find any to be that spectacular. I agree with her reasoning for veganism. It is a much kinder diet, not only for the animals, but also for the planet and our bodies. Reading the book made me think "I should do that! I've already cut out meat, I can do other animal products!" But as I started to try to go vegan, I ran into a roadblock that I hadn't anticipated. First, I should probably also mention how reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan changed they way I think about food. I try to live by his Food Rules (a gift I gave my dad for Father's Day since I really feel it's so important!). ANYWAY, the basic idea Pollan states is to eat food. Going vegan involved eating a lot of things that aren't food, like "fake" meats, "fake" cheeses, butters, milks etc. So I was a little confused. I like the idea of a vegan diet, but I was also concerned about the amount of "fake" food that I would need to incorporate into my family's diet in order to have a healthy vegan diet. Milk is the best example. I often think of milk as a symbol for all of my natural eating frustrations. First, there's traditional milk. That's the stuff I can get anywhere. It's from cows that are corn-fed, and given antibiotics and hormones. This is easy...I don't want my kids to drink this. Next there's organic milk. This I can find most places and I know that there the cows have eaten a pesticide free diet and have not been treated with growth hormones or antibiotics. There is also local milk from grass fed cows. This is not certified organic, but it's local therefore it's carbon footprint is probably a lot less than some of the organic milks that I'm getting that come from California. There's also raw milk, which I have never tried but have researched quite a bit. Raw milk means that it's unpasturized. The high temp of the pasteurization process destroys some of the "goodness" of the milk. This is similar to the rule about not heating breast milk in the microwave--it kills the antibodies. Of course the whole reason to pasteurize it to kill all the creepy crawlies (yes, this is the medical term!) so I'm not totally sure I'm on board with raw milk. Not to mention that you can't buy raw milk on OH. You have to buy the rights to a cow so that you "own" the cow and then you're free to get the milk in it's raw form. (I know this random bit of info because another mom was looking into getting raw milk.) Then there's soy milk. I actually can find this quite a few places too. There's organic and non organic. The non-organic may be made from GMO (genetically modified organism) soybeans. There's much debate on the dangers of soy and I know that soy is an estrogen mimic that can mess with my endocrine system, but I also know that it's totally plant based. So there it all is. Which am I supposed to choose? Can you see why I get disillusioned?!?!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The First Day of Summer

I'm always thrown for a loop when the first day of summer rolls around. It's almost July, the kids have been out of school for weeks...and it's only just NOW summer? At least I feel better since all the things I have planned to do this summer are stalled, which means since today is really the start of summer, I'm not REALLY behind, right? All that good-intentioned home-schooling I was going to do, the chore chart, my's all not really where I pictured it to be by now. I'm still reading with my oldest, but the actual "home school" time I wanted to take each day with the big kids just really isn't happening as regularly as I had hoped. My plan was to work with them while the little guy(s) sleep, but I'm finding that that time is much better suited for them to play outside while I do inside things blog. I guess it's really not a bad thing that I'm sending my kids outside to play instead of making them sit inside and do "school work". I read an article recently about doing school work in the summer (apparently some districts actually send summer work home and quiz the kids the first day back!) They argue that worksheets aren't necessarily the best answer to working with your kids over the summer. The author (Elizabeth Shaw from Kiwi) suggests doing muti-dimensional projects over the summer with your kids...well DUH! Why didn't I think of that?!?! I remember my mom doing worksheets with us and I guess I just kind of thought that's what I should do! So that's going to be my new task. Finding a topic that interests my kids and creating a project around that that we can work on and incorporate various areas of learning. As for the chore chart--that just needs a little more motivation on BOTH of our parts!

I realize that many of my posts are mostly for parents of young children, which I know not everyone has, so I thought I should add something else. I'm going to try to start adding a "fun fact" each post. My first fun fact is about diet and it's from Jillian Michael's book Mastering Your Metabolism.
"For each can of diet soft drink consumed each day, a person's risk of obesity goes up 41%"!!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Green Revolution

Yesterday we went to the William McKinley Monument and Museum. It's one of my kids' favorite places to go and since we're members we go quite a bit and I don't feel bad about the whole trip lasting half an hour or less! Friday was the opening of a new exhibit in the Keller Gallery- Green Revolution. I was really excited to check it out and I was pretty impressed! There were quite a few donations made to create the exhibit. It's a Smithosonian Traveling Exhibit and fitting with it's green theme, the whole exhibit was transmitted online! They had donations from Lehman's like a composting toilet, convection wood burning grill (super cool!) deck chairs from recycled milk jugs, blue jean insulation for was really interesting! Being that most of it was on loan, and nothing was shipped, there was quite a bit of information that needed to be read. I was really surprised to read that from 1940-1945 Victory Gardens provided 40% of American's veggies! That's AWESOME! My family would starve if we had to live on what my garden produces--3 strawberries for 5 people really isn't sustainable! If you're in the Canton area, I suggest checking it out!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Selfishly Green

I'm going green for selfish reasons. The cloth diapers and the natural cleaning products (baking soda and vinegar, not the manufactured brands!) are cheaper than the traditional alternative. The organic foods, natural personal care products, house plants to purify the air-those all benefit my health and the health of my family. But each time I read about someone doing something that's green because it's better for the planet, I feel a little guilty. I need to do this too. I stopped eating meat because I thought it was better for me and my little in-utero guy, but the fact is, eating a planted-based diet is way better for the planet as well. A University of Chicago study found that the typical U.S. diet produces almost 1.5 more tons of CO2 per year than a strictly vegetarian diet, mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels during food production. So there, I'm doing something good for the Earth too!

In the spirit of being less selfishly green I joined Slow Food USA today. I stumbled across this group last fall when I was working on a lesson plan for a workshop I was doing to renew my teaching license. I signed up to email State Representative about getting healthier foods into our schools and they've been sending me emails to join ever since. I usually skim them and then delete, but since I'm trying to be less selfishly green, I thought I'd better step up. So I paid my $25 and joined. And I feel good about it. I've done my little part to help others with similar beliefs speak for me on a national scale. The last email I got from them was about how they were fighting a bill that would make it illegal to take pictures of farms. From their website: "Slow Food USA is a national non-profit that believes everyone has the right to good, clean, and fair food. With over 200,000 supporters, 24,000 members and 225 chapters nationwide, Slow Food USA advocates for food and farming policy that is good for the public, good for farmers and workers, and good for the planet. Through hundreds of volunteer-led local projects, national advocacy campaigns, trainings and education, Slow Food USA seeks to transform our food and farming system through the power of everyday people." How can you not agree with that?!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More Baby Stuff

My old college roommate is going to have her first baby in August (yeah!!). I'm so excited for her because I know she's going to be a great mom. She's been asking me questions here and there along her pregnancy so I've been thinking about baby stuff lately. I'm also watching my cousin's son a few days a week so I have a baby in my house as well.

There is no question in my mind that I've gotten greener in my child rearing as I've had more kids. My poor oldest! At least I ate a balanced diet when I was pregnant with him. That's about the best I did. Of course I nursed all my kids, again, longer with each additional child. My oldest got 8 months which is still fantastic, but compared to the other two, I feel he was cheated. My second child I nursed until she was 13 months and made all of her baby food, which was totally organic until she was almost 9 months old. My youngest was my greenest baby. In fact, when I was pregnant with him, I found a book called, Raising Baby Green by Dr Greene. It fueled my quest to be greener in my life and so I became a vegetarian while I was pregnant with my third to protect him from the toxins in meat. I ate a balanced diet, so much so that I had a checklist that I tallied every day to make sure I was eating enough servings of each food group (I followed the Pregnancy Diet in What to Expect When You're Expecting...about the only valuable thing in that book, in my opinion!) I found all natural lotions, soaps, shampoos, house cleaners, anything I could think of to keep toxins out of my home and my body so that they were not passed to my little guy during the most important time of his development. He, of course, is STILL nursing (we're working on weaning...he's not a fan), wears exclusively cloth diapers, had home-made organic baby food, does not eat meat (except for the occasional dog and cat food!), and was delivered without pain medication and was my old baby that I feel comfortable saying I "wore". I used a front carrier with my first, a wrap with my second, but my third got the sling. I LOVE the sling! It is the one baby item that I would say I couldn't have done without (I used to say it was the diaper genie...don't need that anymore!), I could take him anywhere (and I did) and do everything (including load 40 lb bags of dog food and softner salt into the grocery cart) while keeping him close to me. I had people comment on my sling all the time. How they wished they had something like that when their kids were little, where did I get it, I wish I had one of those...I used it with my cousin's son too and STILL love it for not my my kind-of-baby, but also my little toddler, who can now ASK to go in the sling. He loves being up near everyone and being part of the action. I love that he's bound to me and can't run away and get into things, but I still have my hands free! SO, I HIGHLY recommend the sling for not only newborns, but toddlers as well. Actually, I had my daughter, who was 3 last summer, in it at our family reunion. It was a little much for my back, but she thought it was the coolest thing ever! If you know someone that's interested in a sling, or you're looking for a baby gift, I have two slings, the one I used with the newborns (mine and my cousin's) is a Sling EZ. The one I bought when my youngest was 15 months old was a HotSling. I got a new one because it was on sale, I needed another Christmas gift for him, and it didn't require any adjustment, which was good for him at 15 mos, not so good for using with my cousin's little guy when I started watching him when he was 4 weeks old. I much prefer the SlingEZ for the little ones because it can be adjusted to keep them more secure. I still can use it with my toddler and he still likes it, its just a matter of which one I grab first.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Eat Your Rainbow!

I decided my oldest is ready to start having some chores around the house. Since I was raised by a a former teacher, we had charts and cards for everything. So I went to the store and bought a Chore Chart. It was pre-made, which I didn't really like, but it turned out to be a good thing (no Martha Stewart reference intended.) It was divided into 4 groups with lines below for me to be more detailed: Taking Care of Myself, Taking Care of My Room, Helping Around the House and Other Things I Need to Do. So I'm kind of locked into dividing my chores up into these groups. Helping around the house was easy since that's kind of what I was thinking when I got the idea for the chart. Other Things weren't hard either, Rat Care, "school work", etc. Taking Care of my Room was a little odd, since that seems to me pretty much just picking up toys, but this post really is mostly about the Taking Care of Myself part. I put shower and brush teeth, but then I decided to REALLY put some things that he should do to take care of himself. First, he needs to drink water. I'm always worried about the lack of fluids that kid consumes so in order to get his sticker for this one, he needs to drink a glass of water. Not the 8 that are recommended, but it's a start. Second, he needs to exercise. Most days this is something that he does anyway, but I want him to be aware that this is something important that he needs to make an effort to do each day. Lastly, he needs to eat a rainbow. This is something I found last summer when I was reading a lot of Dr Sears's books. He suggests telling kids that they need to eat a rainbow each day to have a healthy diet. So I've been working for the last year teaching my kids about "grow food" (which was FANTASTIC for going to the farm where we got our CSA veggies!) and healthy eating. So this summer my kids are going to be sure to eat at LEAST one Red, Orange, Yellow, Dark Green, Blue or purple food a day. Of course this is going to be mostly my responsibility to make sure these foods are available, but it's important to me to make sure my kids understand what it is to be a healthy eater and make good food choices now and for the rest of their lives. So now that all 3 of them are home with me all day and I'm going to the grocery store with my entourage I'm going to have them help me find foods that fit into these categories. Being that it's summer, we'll have lots to choose from. I really hope this goes well and my kids take an interest. Especially my daughter. If it were up to her, she'd eat cereal all day long!

Monday, June 13, 2011

They Like Me! They Really, Really Like Me!

My mother got me a subscription to Kiwi magazine for Christmas. Being that it's June, I had pretty much given up on ever getting an issue, but the other day one appeared in the mail. I LOVE IT! It's a little less extreme than my former love, Mothering, and it has a way more articles about pets than I would expect (this issue actually had an article in it about throwing a Pet Party!) but I really enjoyed it! I found something in it that ask peaked my's a program(?) that they sponsor (?) called Green Moms Meet. It's a group of local mom's that get together to discuss natural parenting, healthy living, and other green topics. How perfect is THAT for me?!?!? So I grabbed the iPad and tried to find a group in the Canton area. Turns out...that's not quite how it works. There wasn't any kind of database for finding local groups, it was more just kind of a suggestion for something you can start in your area. At first I was disappointed...they I thought, "I can do that!!" So I am. I applied to be a Mom Ambassador and as a today...I was approved! Woo Hoo! The Kiwi website has lots of "training" on being an Ambassador, but basically, the perk is that I can sign up for samples that I can then share with my mom group in return for providing feedback to the company. Which ALSO sounds fun! So now the only thing I need to do is start the group! SO CALLING ALL MOM'S THAT ARE INTERESTED IN GREEN LIVING IN THE CANTON AREA!!!!! The way they want me to run the group (and I'll do this for the first few meetings and see if it works well for our group) is to pick an article or topic from their website to have as a discussion topic for the meeting (I'm planning on meeting once a month). Everyone is supposed to read the article and discuss it at the meeting. If we have samples to try, we'll do that at the meeting as well. This of course is the "official" agenda of the meeting. The most important thing will be to meet with other moms (and kids too!) who are also questing to raise a greener family!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Home Schooling

One of the topics that I have come across many times in my natural parenting reading is home schooling. Being a trained teacher, I'm not a big fan of home schooling. Besides the standard socialization argument, I also realize that teaching a child requires training. Having worked with parents who are home schooling through the digital academy I work with, I know that not everyone has that training. (I will say that's one of the things I like best about digital schools, there's a trained teacher working with all students and overseeing coursework.) You don't ever hear about anyone home dentisting (OK, well there was that one segment on the Daily Show, but that guy was NUTS!) So I guess my point is, it's not as easy as it looks. BUT, schools only are in session for 9 months out of the year, which leaves 3 months for my kids to backslide. And I've decided I'm not going to let that happen! So I'm home schooling this summer. We started a little today (I'm already behind!) and I was surprised how little effort my daughter put into it. She goes to a cooperative preschool, so I'm in the classroom with her every few weeks and I know for a fact that at school she puts forth WAY more effort. But I'm mom. And we're at home. Another home schooling road block! My son did better. We're working in Raz-Kids that his Kindergarten teacher set up. It's going well, but I don't feel that he's comprehensive literacy instruction, plus we're not hitting any math. So I'll have to supplement. Looks like I'll be heading out to the Wise Owl for some materials and ideas. Now it's starting to become a little more clear to me why all these natural parenting magazines touch on this topic so much. Teaching is my "thing". I know how to teach an entering first grader to read, I've done it 40 times before, but it's hard when I'm also trying to get the house work done, run errands, and take care of three other kids. I think this will be a good opportunity for me to try to open my mind to a different way of thinking about school--although I'm still pretty biased and I'm 100% sure my son will be going to first grade next year--and NOT at our dining room table!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Replacement for Mothering Magazine?

Today I got a sample magazine in the mail since my beloved Mothering magazine decided to go web-based. It's Natural Life and I'm really excited to check it out. I was so upset when I got the notice that Mothering was no longer going to be in print. It was the only magazine that I subscribed to and I looked forward to reading it each month. It was oddly predictive of what I was going through...cloth diapering, Mothering had an article. Anger Issues... Mothering had an article. Potty training, well, you get the picture. I also found it motivating to keep striving to continue to do the natural living practices I was currently using as well as improve by adopting something else that was mentioned in the magazine. They always seemed to have someone who was the extreme, like the family living in a bus with no running water. I'm striving to be ultra-green, but even that's beyond where I want to be!

So I'm hoping that Natural Life can fill the void that Mothering left. So far it looks good. The three cover articles are "Living Green With Toddlers" (sounds PERFECT for me!), "Home Birth Triumph" (A topic I'm intrigued by. If you haven't checked out the movie The Business of Being Born look it up--I found it fascinating!), and lastly "Accidental Beekeeping" (oddly enough, I LOVE bees). We may have a winner!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

High Fructose Corn Syrup

It's in EVERYTHING! Absolutely every book I've read warns against the dangers of HFCS so I'm doing my best to avoid it. Clearly we don't drink pop--that's a no-brainer. It's almost pure HFCS, but when I realized it was in many BREADS I really started reading labels. I am almost always amazed to find where this stuff turns up! A1 (my oldest's favorite dip for broccoli!) has it, ketchup, vegetable soup, cereal, the list goes on and on! I'm doing my best to find where it's hiding and replace that item with something that does not contain HFCS, but there's not always a good replacement. For example, A1. I have yet to find a replacement for that without HFCS. So it's a toss up give it to my big guy so he eats the broccoli or don't, and he eats a carrot EVERY day. I've chosen to go ahead with the A1 and continue my search for a HFCS alternative. As for the bread, I was TOTALLY shocked the first time I learned most breads contain HFCS! Even those from the grocery store bakery had it listed among the first few ingredients! So I started doing what I did with my kid's baby food---I made my own. Now I can't take credit for this recipe, though I wish I could because it's SUPER good!- since it was given to me by a fellow mom from my daughter's dance class (she even grinds her own grain!). I made this exclusively for a few months, but now I'm back to buying non-HFCS bread (although I'm still not totally comfortable with everything in the ingredient list- what exactly is cultured corn solids?!?!) since I was met with some resistance here at home (NOT from the kids!). But every once in awhile I make a loaf. I doesn't require a bread machine, but I think it would be pretty tough to make without a mixer, although I'm sure it can be done. I've followed this recipe exactly, and it's fantastic, soft, healthy bread, but I've also added other grains, like flax and oat flour and even rolled oats and it has still turned out great! Let me know your thoughts if you try it yourself!

Whole Wheat Bread
Makes 4 loaves (I always just cut the recipe in half because I only have 2 loaf pans!)

7 C whole wheat flour
2/3 C gluten flour
2 1/2T yeast
5 C hot water
2T salt
2/3 C oil (I used light olive oil)
2/3 C honey
2 1/2 T lemon juice (this is the secret ingredient to make the dough soft without extra dough enhancers)
5 C whole wheat flour

Mix the first 3 ingredients. Add water and mix 1 minute. Let rest 10 minutes. Add salt, oil, honey and lemon juice. Beat 1 minute. Add last 5 cups of flour 1 cup at a time. Beat 6-10 minutes (I usually only do 6 since it's about all my mixer can handle!) Preheat oven for 1 minute and turn off. Divide into loaves and place in oiled loaf pans. Let rise for 10-15 minutes. Turn oven to 350 and bake for 30 minutes.

I'm not really sure about that 1 minute of preheating since it's so long before you actually put the dough in the oven, but I always do it anyway.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Making Baby Food

Along with questions about cloth diapering, I get lots of questions about making baby food. I thought a blog post about it might be a good idea to I can just direct people to my blog on the next inquiry I get. So here it goes.

Making baby food is SUPER easy! I didn't do it with my first, but my second and third RARELY had jarred baby food. It's really not very hard, it doesn't really take up too much time, and you don't have to worry about storing all those jars of baby food! I think the thing I liked best about it though was the flexibility. I could control the consistency of the food as well as the TYPE of food. I was able to mix different flavors that you can't find in a jar. I really had a lot of fun actually cooking for my little ones. I know a lot of people cite the cost as being one of the biggest benefits, but when I sat down and did a little math, it wasn't all that cheaper to make the food--that said, I did use all organic food for my kids when I made baby food.

With #2 I didn't have a food processor so I just used a blender, which worked, but was a lot more work than the food processor. If I had know how much easier it was I would have gotten a food processor with #2. I did have one with my last and it was WAY faster and the food was much smoother. BIG plus. I know they sell those all-in-ones that seam and puree babyfood, but I never thought those would work too well in the long run. The biggest reason being, if I'm going to make baby food, I want to do it in bulk, not in small amounts like those machines do.

I used fresh produce whenever I could find it, but when I couldn't, I used frozen. Wholesome Baby Food is the BEST site for directions on how to make EVERYTHING from rice cereal (did this with my last, but not my daughter) to dried fruit to WHEN it's ok to introduce certain foods. Another thing I liked about it was just the ideas I got from it. I never thought about avocado as a good baby food or making sure that I bought unsulphered apricots. I won't give directions here about how to cook the foods since that site does such a great job.

As far as storage goes, I always used ice cube trays. Each cube equals one ounce which is GREAT so you know how much your child is eating. I also bought some silicone trays by Beabe which are meant specifically for baby food storage. They were great as the kids were a little older and eating more than a few ounces at each meal.

So I would just cook the food, puree it to the consistency that my kids needed at the time, then freeze it in an ice cube tray. I'd then put them in freezer bags and store them in the freezer. The only take a few seconds to defrost in the microwave, but I would also plan each meal the night before sometimes and put them in the fridge to defrost overnight. I used them when I traveled as well, depending on how long I was going to be gone, I would either defrost them or leave them frozen so they could defrost while I was out and about.

I would generally take an hour or two at a time and make a lot of food. I would sometimes make one thing when I was making dinner too, like steaming peas while I was boiling water for spaghetti night. It didn't really take me too long, especially in the early months when they didn't eat a whole lot and a tray if food would last a lot longer.

Making my own baby food just seemed so much safer to me. I didn't have to worry about preservatives or additives in the food I was feeding my kids. I still feel guilty for feeding my oldest so much jarred junk. I even fed him Gerber Meat Sticks, which now I wouldn't let my kids touch with a 10 foot pole. I really struggled with the transition away from pureed baby food to finger foods to "real" food with him. It was so much easier with the other two because I was able to determine the texture of what I was feeding.

Good Luck!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Greening my summer housework

So now that the weather is warmer I have to stop being lazy and get my clothes outside to . My new HE washer really does a great job spinning the water out so I'm excited to see how much faster they dry compared to last year. Last year I had two collapsible drying racks that I would bring in when it rained or when I wasn't using them. If it was too windy they would blow over...blah blah blah... I need to try something different this year. This will have to be my new research project!

Another way I save money and try to be greener is by using cloth napkins. I actually MADE most of the napkins we use, which was surprisingly easy and fun. I took the kids to Jo-Ann's and let the each pick out a fabric that they liked. We ended up with pirates and pink butterflies. I also bought some green gingham and some tan cotton. I'm not real adept with he swing machine so it was great practice for me. I was surprised how easily they cleaned up--none of them are really stained. It's also one less item to buy at the store!

After I posted yesterday about houseplants I decided to get my son's kindergarten teachers plants as gifts. I let him pick. They got Venus Fly Traps, which I think is a fitting gift from a 6-year-old boy. While were at the store I also bought a rescue plant--a sad looking snake plant that was on sale for $3--and my biggest purchase--a money tree! I went to get a weeping fig, since I had done all my research and knew how to care for it, how much light it needed, where to put it, and that it's one of the best for purifying the air, but when I got there, no weeping figs. So I went with the Money Tree because it said resilient on the tag. Hopefully it's true. I bought a pretty blue and red glazed pot and re-potted it last night. It's such a great addition to our living room! It looks way better than the pack and play that it replace. Who would have thought? Hopefully it thrives!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

House Plants--The Natural Air Purifier

When I started reading books about keeping a greener house, I came across information about the benefits of keeping house plants. I've tried my hand at house plants before--it didn't end well for the plants. But I thought I'd do some research and really give it a shot this time. I got a lot of books from the library, but the one I liked best, and now own, is Complete Guide to Houseplants by Miracle-Gro. It really explained everything very clearly, and has a great glossary of kinds of house plants. I was looking for two things, a good air purifier and one that was hardy--enter the Snake Plant a.k.a. Mother-In-Law's Tongue. It's not the most beautiful plant, but I've managed to keep two of them alive for two years, and that's saying something.

Why do I want a house plant, you ask? According to my Miracle-Gro book,

"According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study, houseplants are a first line of defense against indoor air pollution. Research shows that plants filter chemical toxins from the air, creating a healthier environment. ...Researchers at the National Space Technology Lab found that houseplants reduced pollutants, particularly nitrogen and formaldehyde... A single spider plant in an enclosed chamber filled with formaldehyde removed 85 percent of the pollutant in a day. All it takes is one potted plant per 100 square feet to clean the air in an average home or office."

Considering your carpet, furniture, paint, just about EVERYTHING, is releasing toxins into your air, I was super excited to learn that plants could help me green my house, AND look pretty! I don't know about you, but I saw The Happening, and I'm doing my best to be nice to plants! (Considering that movie bombed at the box office, I think I actually might be the only one who saw it!)