Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Reader's Tip!

Today I am going to share a tip that Andrea sent my way. It is precisely the kind of tip I love - one that is simple to carry out and that saves time in the long run. Let's face it. When we decide to "be healthy" we are deciding to put more work into planning and preparing our family's meals. Some of this is a necessary part of serving our families real food, but we all love tips and shortcuts where possible. Here is what Andrea says helped her in preparing healthy foods for her one year old:

"Just thought I'd pass on an idea to you that I tried this weekend and will do again. My youngest is almost one and is eating finger foods. It takes so much time to stand there and cut up all his food into tiny pieces. So this past Saturday, I made mini "freezer" meals for him. I cut up meats (turkey, ham, chicken, meatballs), veggies (baked sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots, eggplant), fruit (steamed apples, watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, peaches) and cheese. I put 1/2 cup serving sizes in a snack sized bag and sorted them into plastic shoe box size boxes in the freezer. I did about 75 bags, it was a lot of chopping that day, but this is saving me so much time! All I have to do is pull out the baggies the night before for the next day and we're ready to go. If I forget to get them out I can quickly thaw them in warm water or the microwave. Thought you might be able to use that with your next little one or some of you readers. ~Andrea"
Andrea also sent me two dessert recipes that I wanted to pass along:

Chocolate Date Balls
1/4 c. dates (or 4-5 dates)
1/4 c. slivered almonds
1/4 c. walnuts
1/4 c. pecans
2 TBL flax seed
2 TBL organic cocoa
maple syrup

Blend first 5 ingredients in blender or food processor, add enough maple syrup until it sticks together. Form balls, then roll in coconut and sucanat that has been ground in the coffee grinder.

Chocolate Cherry Tart (This second recipe is in video form -- so helpful to see it made!)

If any of you other dear readers have helpful tips that make being healthy easier for you, please share them! I would love to pass them along since we are all looking for effective ways to get this job done.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Meal Rotation Charts?!?

Whew! After being gone for two out-of-state trips in the last two weeks, I am very pleased to be home for a stretch. We have four "normal" weeks ahead of us... well, that "normal" is relative to summer, of course. The laundry is done and mostly put away. I have planned meals for the week and pulled meat from the freezer. I have grocery shopped and put away that food. And, for once in the month of June, I actually feel on top of things. Too bad there are only two days left this month!

For the most part, I am feeling okay. I definitely notice I am pregnant, which is unlike my last pregnancy when each day was full speed ahead. I usually have three or four really good days, but then something will set me back and I will have a few days of feeling nauseous and fatigued. I think some of it has to do with over-exertion. With the traveling, some of it may have to do with dehydration. And, some of it is simply food not agreeing with me.

I have planned more meat into this week's menu, hoping that the extra protein will be a good source of sustained energy. I have started exercising again! And my biggest challenge is drinking enough water. Were any of you really interested in these minor details?

Well... I had a hankering for brownies today. Since I wanted to do something special in the kitchen with my girls today, I pulled out a brownie recipe given to me several years ago. It is quite healthy, as far as brownies go. It uses a small amount of whole grain, rapadura, chocolate baking squares, etc... all whole, real foods. So, my plan is to make that special treat for my family this afternoon.

BUT... in the process of digging up this recipe, I found a chart I made for a Monthly Meal Rotation in 2004. I remember at the time feeling very overwhelmed by coming up with new, healthy meals every week. So, I took a suggestion from my husband and wrote out our favorite 20 meals. The idea was that we would have the same meals each month, so I wouldn't have to keep planning everything new each week. At that point, I was already doing leftovers on Saturdays (so I wouldn't have to cook that day) and we were eating our usual Sunday evening meal.

After listing our favorite 20 meals, I organized them into 5-day weeks. Each week contained some meals that would have leftovers, two vegetarian meals, one fish meal, and meat on the remaining two nights. I didn't list out side dishes because we mostly ate salads and whatever other vegetables were in season and reasonably-priced at the grocery store. I also had alternate meals listed out... just in case, you know.

Talk about a blast from the past! It was really fun to see some of the meals that we enjoyed so much. My question is, what happened? Why am I not still serving them? There was a Jamaican Black Bean Pot... and Salmon Patties... when was the last time I made those?

Would making a Meal Rotation help you in your meal planning? Back in 2004, it was really worth my time and thought to create this useful tool. And, as I recall, grocery shopping was quite simple as well, since I kept the lists of items I would need for each week. Do any of you already use a similar meal plan? If so, I would love to hear about it!

Off to grab some more water,

Thursday, June 25, 2009

How Usable Is Your Kitchen?

When I first got married, I kept a variety of very nice looking and "handy" appliances accessible on my kitchen counters. A spice rack, a mug rack, and I can't even remember what else. My kitchen was fabulously convenient... or so I thought. I mistakenly assumed that having everything at my fingertips was the best way to go.

Somewhere down the road - it may have been from Sally Fallon's suggestion in her book Nourishing Traditions, or it may have been gleaned from a subscription to Martha Stewart Living - I decided to revamp my whole kitchen space. The goal was clean, free counter space. My hunch was that an uncluttered kitchen would welcome me back for each meal prep time.

And you know what? It really makes a difference. Since serving healthy food to our families will require some kitchen time, having a joyful kitchen experience is ever-so-helpful. Coming into a kitchen that is clean and clutter-free is so much more enjoyable than a kitchen that lacks clear, clean counter space.

I have my mixer and my blender out because I use them so frequently. Besides those two appliances, I have my others stored nearby on a baker's rack. They are still easily reached, but my counters are clear. After each meal I wash the dishes and wipe down the counters. This way, the next inevitable cooking experience will start off on the right foot.

I do speak from experience here... experience in the joy of a clean kitchen and in the drudgery of a messy counter space. In fact, I am blogging at my kitchen bar facing the breakfast dishes. And I know that starting in on lunch will go so much better if I go ahead and wash the dishes and blender before I move on to the next thing.

What does your kitchen counter look like? Are there things you can store away so that you have a more welcoming workspace?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Raw Food Diets

I have recently been asked my opinion concerning the current popularity of "raw food" diets. These are diets which include about 90% raw foods, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and a few cold-pressed oils. The remaining 10% of the diet is comprised of a few cooked vegan foods, such as brown rice, potatoes, steamed vegetables or possibly a sprouted grain. No meat, no eggs, no fish, no dairy, no white flour or white sugar, no refined oils, and no soy.

For a bit of personal background here, we followed one such diet for about a year and a half towards the beginning of our marriage. During this time, I delivered my first child. We faithfully drank fresh Carrot Juice and consumed Barley Green. We drank lots of other homemade fruit and vegetable juices. We ate extremely large and varied salads for lunch and for supper. And we tried our best to enliven the fare by employing recipes from a giant raw foods cookbook. We did find a few "desserts" too!

By eating huge quantities of energy giving food, we kept our activity levels high. We were rarely lethargic, as far as I can remember. However, we did have to eat frequently in order to maintain this energy. Our jaws were easily fatigued from all of the chewing. It took us an hour just to chew up our lunch salads! All that said, we were slim, trim and active, eating nothing that would cause digestive sluggishness.

However, during that time, I had great difficulty in consuming enough protein. I tried fervently to combine enough raw foods to support the growing life in me. And I actually remember eating nuts while I exercised just so that I wouldn't get too famished during the exertion. After all my efforts, I delivered a full-term, five-and-a-half-pound baby girl.

At the same time, my husband contracted mononucleosis. We thought that all the mega vitamins we were getting through all our juicing and our impeccable eating habits would have strengthened his immune system. But, looking back, I can see that he also had a greater need for protein so that he could build cells -- everything from muscle cells to immune system cells. Without protein, our bodies can not use all of the other nutrients.

After Rainbow blessed us with her arrival, I experienced a very long, very intense post-partum depression. I read about all sorts of other women who endured the same thing. However, the more I read, the more I realized that my body was crying out for some fats and some proteins in order to properly regulate my changing hormones.

The final straw came when I took my 15-pound-one-year-old to her well baby checkup. The doctor diagnosed her with Failure To Thrive and recommended that I begin to give her some animal products, such as yogurt, milk, butter, fish and chicken. At that point, all three of us began to include some raw dairy products, some fish oil and some eggs in our diet. We have slowly added pastured meat products and more oils.

I believe that this expanded diet has benefited my growing children, my hard working husband, and my own child-bearing self greatly. Of course, we left out white flour, white sugar and other processed foods as far as we have been able. I have never experienced another post-partum depression and each of my children has maintained normal growth expectancies.

All that history laid out, I'll give a few conclusions... or, opinions to conclude:

  • First, I do think that a raw food diet serves an excellent purpose for someone who is fighting a major disease or even cancer. Such a diet fuels the body with lots of antioxidants and keeps toxins at a very minimum. It also allows the digestive system to move quickly and thus leave important energy for the immune system to work diligently.
  • Second, from my experience, it seems that women in child bearing years, young children and active men have a need for protein and fats that is very difficult to meet with a nearly all raw, vegan diet.
  • Third, I must say that being a raw-food-vegan enabled us to purge our diet of so many harmful processed foods. Our bodies were completely cleansed.
  • Last, the year and a half on this diet left its legacy on our lives. We live in true appreciation of raw foods and we continue to eat as many foods as possible the way God intended for us to eat them.
I hope my experience might be helpful to some of you who are weighing out the balances. I do see so much merit in what the raw food ministers say. Yet, I also see how valuable some cooked animal products can be, especially for the people in my family. Incidentally, the whole time we ate on this particular diet, my nagging question was, "If we are still supposed to be eating a Garden of Eden diet, why did Jesus feed his disciples fish and bread?"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Thought About Fruit

You know how it can be coming home to empty cabinets. So, my husband made a quick run to the grocery store last night to help me jump start the week. He brought home the coupons that automatically print out with each receipt. I always take a look at these, even though they are mostly for items that we don't use.

This time, one particular coupon really caught my attention. It was for a new drink that contained juicy bits of fruit. This food novelty is advertised as the "new way to eat fruit." I looked it up online, just out of curiosity. After looking it over, I don't really have a problem with the product. It is a 100% juice blend, and it doesn't contain any unwanted ingredients.

It's just the slogan that tripped up my mind. Since when do we need a new way to eat fruit? Is there something wrong with the old way? In its natural, fresh state, fruit contains many phytochemicals, enzymes and other micro-nutrients that are destroyed with processing. Did we need to find a new way? Is there a need for something more convenient than biting into an apple or peeling a clementine or popping some grapes into our mouths? I guess you don't have to wash a product that comes in a bottle.

Like I said, I don't have any objections to this particular product. I'm just sayin'... why do we need "new fangled foods?" In our family, my challenge is to serve as much food the way God made it as possible. In doing so, we consume a wide spectrum of nutrients that have not even been labeled yet. And, we get them in the precise balance that our bodies require them.

Start a Whole Food Revolution in your family! Eat fresh, whole, raw foods as much as possible. And save the new product coupon for when you are traveling and don't have the luxury of washing your fruit. After all, not all of us have sinks in our vehicles :-)

I have much on my mind to blog about, if I can find the time to sit at the computer with all of our summertime projects and activities. I hope to write my thoughts about "raw food diets," my thoughts for a healthy pregnancy, some ideas for healthy desserts, and a supper recipe... thanks for staying tuned!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Do I Believe in Supplementation?

Good question. Very good question. Yes and No. I believe that in our modern world, we do need to supplement our diets in order to provide our bodies with enough nutrients to be well. (For my elaboration on that topic, see my "Wondering Where To Start" links at the top left of this page.)

However, I do not believe in synthetic supplementation. Buying man-made versions of vitamins and minerals can be toxic. It is actually more harmful to our bodies than not supplementing at all.

And I do not believe in out-of-balance supplements. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Our bodies thrive on balance, not extremes. Everything in moderation... even supplements. Looking to nature, each food has a balance of macro and micro nutrients - even traces of things we haven't isolated yet. Each supports the others. Nutritional science is actually quite an awesome study! To take supplements in unnatural combinations can cause our bodies to rob itself of necessary nutrients in order to deal with the supplements we take.

And I do not believe in impure supplementation. There are too many companies out there who take advantage of the lack of supplement regulation. Instead of creating their own standards for purity, they market products that are full of lead, fungicides or other dramatically harmful impurities. If a supplement does not have guaranteed purity, if a company does not make their manufacturing practices a public concern, LEAVE that product on the shelf... no matter how much of a good deal you think it is. (For my previous post of Lead In Supplements, read here.)

But, I do believe in high quality supplements. I actually think it is better to take 1/2 the dosage of a bioavailable, balanced, natural supplement than to take mega doses of synthetic, impure or indigestible vitamins. And, I know from experience that expensive does not equal high-quality.

So you have probably picked up on the fact that the only vitamins I recommend are Shaklee vitamins. Yes, I am an independent distributor, but selling vitamins is not my calling in life. However, I do recommend them because I have been singularly impressed by Shaklee's standards for purity and by the evidence of their performance.

I mention this all today, because I am working on a post with my tips for a healthy pregnancy (sort of like my thoughts on infertility)... and I will inevitably mention Shaklee products again. I wanted to offer a formal explanation. It is because I know that not all supplements are beneficial. And because I know that Shaklee supplements are beneficial.

I will be back to my regular posting on Monday. Have a great weekend and thanks for listening!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Salad Dressing Solved

Okay, so we all know that salad dressings can be a salad's demise. We can build a super healthy salad with all the freshest ingredients... and then smother it with a high-fat salad dressing, laden with highly processed oils and mega preservatives. Do you wonder how it can last that long on the shelf?

But are the low-fat varieties a good choice? Unfortunately, they are also full of highly-processed oils and the same mega preservatives. They may have less fat, but they don't have any beneficial nutrition. The oils in them will still harm our bodies. And yet our bodies need the right oils for healthy skin, hair and hormones. As a bonus, these healthy oils actually help our bodies to use the abundant nutrients found in salad vegetables.

You can find some Extra Virgin Olive Oil based dressings in the nutrition section of larger grocery stores and at health food stores. But, unless you find these on sale with coupons, frequent salad eaters will carve a big hole in their grocery budgets.

Here is the good news: you can make a healthy, tasty salad dressing with just a few pantry items. And the better news: it's quick and easy! Switching to a healthier salad dressing is a simple change that will really make a difference. This is my old standby recipe for a salad that serves four adults (or two adults, two big appetite kids and two small appetite kids).

Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette:

In the bowl you plan on using to toss your salad in, whisk together

  • 1 tsp. brown mustard, which will help to emulsify the vinegar and oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • a dash of salt and a dash of pepper
Then, slowly whisk in 1/4 c. of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Voila! I load my greens and veggies on top and then toss it all right in the same bowl. Less mess makes me happy.

You can try all sorts of variations for this recipe.
  • Using half EVOO and half sesame or walnut oil will give this a nuttier flavor.
  • Adding some freshly chopped herbs will give it some extra complexity.
  • Adding a minced garlic clove or two will give it some punch.
  • Trading out the balsamic vinegar for red wine vinegar will change the entire aroma and mood.
  • Or, substituting lemon or lime juice for the vinegar gives a fruitier flavor.
You can also double or triple this recipe to keep it on hand in the fridge if that suits your family better. Mix the dressing in a separate lidded container, and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. Just remember to pull the dressing out as you are making the salad so that the oil comes to room temperature. (Olive oil will harden in the fridge.) Shake well before dressing your salad.

For my salad tips, read this previous post.

For more Works For Me Wednesday tips, visit www.WeAreThatFamily.com.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Taco Salad -- A Hearty and Fresh Summer Meal

One of our very favorite summer meals is Taco Salad. We often serve this meal when we have company as well, since it can be individually constructed according to personal preferences. It is fresh, but still hearty. This is one of my wonderful husband's very favorites.

There are several ways to make a taco salad, but here is how we do it:

I start by browning a pound of grass-fed beef. Usually I add in half of a diced onion. Once the meat is fully cooked, I stir in

  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
Next, I mix in some beans. Usually I have some soaked and cooked dried beans on hand, but this last time, I used canned beans that I found on sale at my local Kroger. Everyone in our family likes beans, but these could be layered separately if there needed to be a choice.

While the meat is cooking, I wash and dry my lettuce, then chop vegetables and avocados.

To build our salads, we start with non-GMO corn chips. We layer on lettuce, then beef and bean mixture. This photo is my husband's salad with tomotoes, avocados and cheese. These are what I consider the Taco Salad Essentials. We often add on diced colored peppers, sliced olives and green onions. For something new, try jicama as well!

I am the only one in our clan who adds salsa, and none of us add extra dressing. But, here is a tip from my mom for those of you who like a creamy dressing on your taco salad. This one is low fat and healthy too! My mom mixes plain yogurt with her salsa and uses this as a tangy, creamy dressing. She actually uses it on all her salads, but it would go especially well with taco salad. (Thanks, mom!)

For more recipe ideas today, check out Balancing Beauty and Bedlam and Blessed With Grace.

Monday, June 15, 2009


I have been asked to share what I know about infertility. I've been turning the questions over in my mind for about a month. This is such a tender subject. I know that most women who are enduring the trial of infertility are doing absolutely everything they know to do. If you are such a woman reading this blog, my earnest prayer is that God would bless you with conception and a healthy pregnancy.

I share these thoughts just in case there is something you haven't tried yet... just in case one of these thoughts is eye-opening. Yet I post them knowing that in all probability, you have read and tried most of these ideas.

  • First, I would like to mention that not all vitamins are created equal. I know from experience that some vitamins are expensive and ineffective. If you are experiencing infertility, your body is in need of substantial nourishment. I would suggest trying these vitamins since I know that they are tested specifically for purity, efficacy and performance. You would not be wasting your money. You could be confident that you were providing your body with everything that it needed to regain health and balance. This product pack includes the Vitamin E, Selenium, Zinc, B Complex, and Vitamin C that are known to support a healthy female reproductive system.

  • Second, protein is essential in the production of balanced, healthy hormones. If you are not already supplementing your diet with a bioavailable, complete protein, I would suggest adding this protein. It is the only soy protein I would recommend.

  • Third, heavy metal toxicity can sometimes interfere with hormone production and prevent conception. You might want to consider a hair analysis test to determine if you have any alarming levels of heavy metals.

  • Fourth, environmental toxins can have the same detrimental effect on hormone regulation and production. Switch to safe cleaning and laundry products, BPA-free or glass food storage containers, non-teflon cookware, and wear clothing that does not need to be dry cleaned. There are many more changes that can be made in this area. For further information, I recommend the book Green Goes With Everything: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Cleaner Planet by Sloan Barnett.

  • Use non-toxic personal care products. Check the toxicity levels of the hair, skin and cosmetic products you currently use here. Then, check the list for products do not contain harmful chemicals.

  • Avoid all Genetically Modified Foods. While these are still legal in the United States, they have been shown to cause infertility in numerous animal studies. As I mentioned before, there have, for some unknown reason, been no published human studies on these questionable "foods." My previous post on GMO foods has a link to a very useful non-GMO shopping guide.

  • Avoid all hydrogenated fats, trans fats, fried foods and most fast food. All of these fats are detrimental to hormone regulation. Instead, replace them with natural, healthy fats that support the female reproductive system. Women do need fat in their diets!

  • Avoid dairy products with estrogens, antibiotics and growth hormones. In fact, it would be preferable to eat only organic foods and thereby avoid all other food chemicals as well.

  • Take a close look at medications and over the counter drugs. Some of them have side effects like infertility or lowered female hormone production.

  • Consider taking an pure Omega Three Fatty Acid supplement that includes a wide spectrum of beneficial fatty acids.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. And, as I mentioned at the outset, most women trying to conceive are very thorough in investigating possible nutritional factors. I humbly offer this list in hopes that it may be a benefit to someone. Keep hoping. God is able.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Kitchen Bloopers

I am starting a new label today! I am thinking that sharing my kitchen bloopers will help all of us keep perspective. It will help us see that pursuing health is an adventure that has to be enjoyed if we are going to persevere. Would it help you to hear about the disasters we experience here in our kitchen? Would it give you a refreshing take on "being healthy?"

Well, our most recent fiasco took place yesterday afternoon. But let me back up first. Two weeks ago I took my children to play at a friend's house. She served me homemade honey lemonade and it put a stop to my queasiness for the entire afternoon. I had heard that sour things can soothe morning sickness, but this was my first experience with it. Since that beautiful day, I have been craving limeade.

Actually, I have been craving Cherry Limeade. You know, like the kind from Sonic. That was not an option, so I decided the kids and I would make our own. I bought a bag of limes and we got started. We did everything right... starting with rolling the limes on the counter to release all the juices.

I even boiled a cup of water to melt my honey so that it would be fully incorporated into the limeade.

As this was cooling, I squeezed. And I squeezed. And I squeezed. Getting all the juice out was a long process considering the simple tool I was using.

We mixed the lime, honey syrup mixture and fresh cold water. Then, for the final touch, I added 3/4 tsp. of natural cherry flavoring. I had this on hand from some cakes and muffins I made in the past. Sounds delicious, huh?

WELL, I did not consider that the natural cherry flavor was in an oil solution. This is fine for baking, but it DID NOT mix with the limeade. Not at all. Instead we had an oily film over the top of the limeade. And when we drank some of our fantastically refreshing treat, we got an oily upper lip. Like I said, Fiasco. Can you see the oily layer? Can you see it on the side of the glass behind the lime?

We couldn't waste all those wonderful limes or all that pricey raw honey. And I certainly didn't want to waste the time it took to squeeze all those limes!!! So, we got inventive. We let all the oil drift back up to the surface and we soaked it off the top with paper towels. The towels took with them all but the faintest hint of cherry. But at least we saved the limeade!

If you want to try this treat at home, here's what I used sans cherry flavoring:
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of raw honey, depending on how tart you like it
  • juice from 10-12 limes
  • fresh, cold water to fill your pitcher up to 2 quarts
Hope yours works out better than mine!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why I'm Thankful For My Hair

I know this seems like an odd topic for a post. But, let me tell you, I'm thankful for my hair. It can get rather frizzy. And a surprising amount of grey is sprouting. But I know how it feels to look in the mirror and have the horrifying thought that I may not have hair in a few months.

Four years ago my hair had gotten so thin that my ponytail was the thickness of a pencil. I kept it long so that I could wrap it around the crown of my head to cover up some especially thin areas. Seriously, I looked in the mirror and thought, "If I keep losing my hair at this rate, I won't have any in a few months." It fell out in such quantities that it looked like a rat on the shower floor each time I washed my hair. Sorry for the awful mental picture. It was awful!

I was at a total loss. I was following all the health advice and taking all the right vitamins. Or so I thought. You can read more about what changed here. But, the point of this brief blog post is to say that I am truly thankful for my hair. It's not glamorous, but it is there... and lots of it!

By the way, in case you were wondering, I don't pluck out my grey hair. I am pleased to keep every strand... even the grey, which grows mostly along my hairline in the front so you can't see it in this snapshot.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Stopping the Sting

I was just walking out the door to take some photos of my beautiful back yard lilies. A wasp that had recently made his home near the door stung me on my side and then attached himself to my middle finger. It was quite a sting since my husband and I struggled to get him and his stinger out.

I immediately took ledum palustre, a homeopathic remedy for insect bites. I think it really helped a lot. I have childhood memories of stings swelling like golf balls and baseballs. This time around it was like I had a marble on my knuckle. All in all, I didn't think it was that bad. I had remembered worse.

But then, a few days later, Spiderman walked out the same door. A wasp of the same family stung him on the back of his neck. (Don't worry, super husband has "removed" them all!) Again, I immediately pulled out the ledum palustre. But I wanted to do something more for my son...

I had been reading about Plaintain for insect stings and had noticed that we had a patch growing in our backyard. But my husband had just mowed that morning. I didn't know if I could find it again. Thus began my frantic search for the herb. I did locate it! And I pulled a few half mower-chopped leaves off. All the books say to chew up the leaves. The dessicating releases the active ingredients, I guess. Good thing my husband doesn't use chemicals on our yard!

So I chewed the leaves for about a minute and then spit the pulpy, slimy green stuff out. I placed it on Spiderman's neck. He looked like swamp man as it dripped down. I left it there for about 15 minutes, during which he said it felt better. Better? Mine stung for hours!!!

After cleaning up his neck, I took a look at the sting. Unbelievably, the swelling that had begun as I was searching for Plantain disappeared. I wouldn't have believed he had been stung except for the red dot where the stinger had gone into his skin. I will definitely use this remedy again!

Do you have Plantain growing nearby you? Here is my plantain plant after we let it grow up some more. It's not a really pretty picture... after all, this is just a weed. My photo is of long leaf Plantain. You might have broad leaf Plantain in your yard. You'll notice that both weeds (herbs) have long prominent veins in each leaf. These veins almost look like stripes of the same color. The leaves are also a bit furry. Last, coming up the right-middle of the photo, notice the shoots that grow up with a green, cone-like flower on the top. Look for those three things: long, prominent veins, peach fuzz, and green, cone-like "flowers."

And, just for fun... and because the plantain is so ugly... here are my back yard lilies:

For more Works For Me Wednesday posts, visit http://www.wearethatfamily.com/.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Safe, Healthy Cosmetics

I want to address another question today. Summer, who redesigned my blog, asks "about [EWG's] online cosmetics database... how reliable it is, how the rating system works, what research it is based on etc."

For those of you who haven't heard of this database, I'll mention just a little about it first. This is from their site: "Skin Deep is a safety guide to cosmetics and personal care products brought to you by researchers at the Environmental Working Group. Skin Deep pairs ingredients in more than 41,000 products against 50 definitive toxicity and regulatory databases, making it the largest integrated data resource of its kind. Why did a small nonprofit take on such a big project? Because the FDA doesn't require companies to test their own products for safety."

It's really simple. You go to the database and search a product or a brand or an ingredient. Then you get a scored result for how hazardous the product, company or ingredient is. Here are the results for the new baby products we've been using. You'll see that on a scale of 0-10, they receive scores of 1 and 2. Then, if you click on an individual product, you'll see a list of all ingredients and an explanation of how safe each ingredient is. You'll also see the health hazards associated with each ingredient. It's pretty thorough. You'll also see a link to products that have lower scores... useful, huh?

Here is another example. It's the Loreal Springing Curls Mousse that I used for several years. Yikes. It gets a 10! Scary stuff! I wonder if I'm still carrying around some of those chemicals.

In my opinion, EWG and their resources always keep the highest of highest standards. If there is any question about an ingredient's safety, any question at all, it is considered potentially hazardous. So, depending on how much of a purist you are, you may settle for something that gets a low score rather than searching for a zero. But the zeros do exist and they can be found on the database as well.

Here are the specifics on how each product is scored. I consider EWG's database to be very reliable... meticulously driven by volumes of research. If you are at all concerned about your or your children's body burden, I encourage you to spend a little time on this site. It is packed with helpful articles that can guide you as you select products for your family.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Your Questions Answered... Tea and Coffee

I have gotten a little behind on answering your questions. Really, I have gotten behind in my emailing and everything else too! I am starting my list today, so if you have submitted a question, my answer is coming. Thanks for your patience!

The first question I want to look at today is from Kristilea. She writes: "I've had a lot of conflicting information about tea. I know it can't replace water, but in moderation, can decaffeinated tea be an okay addition? I am just not a water person and I make myself drink as much a day as possible, but sometimes I just need something else. Living in Georgia, of course sweet tea is on the menu. But I have slowly gotten myself used to unsweetened decaffeinated tea and I'm hoping I can continue to enjoy it. What do you think? Can you enlighten me on what you know about it?!"

First, the short answer. Consuming a little bit of tea here and there, white or black or green, is not harmful if it is sweetened with honey or another natural sweetener. It provides helpful antioxidants and can be a "safer" pick-me-up. Moderation is the key. My recommendation is that you never drink it to replace adequate water consumption AND that you brush your teeth after you drink tea to prevent acid erosion.

Now for a bit more technical information. Black tea contains tannins. There is mixed information about tannins. Some sources say that these substances can help prevent cancer. Some say they cause it. Hmmm. It's hard to say who is right on that count. But, there is agreement that excessive consumption of tannin containing beverages may block iron assimilation and therefore cause anemia. Moderation is the key, I think.

Second, tea contains theobromine, a substance related to caffeine. Both of these substances stimulate the adrenal glands, which in turn cause the liver to release sugar into the blood stream, giving you an energy lift. The problem with repeating this chain of events is that our blood sugar regulating mechanisms can easily wear out. This causes low blood sugar, dizziness, insomnia, depression, allergies, chronic fatigue, and on and on. Excessive theobromine or caffeine consumption is a bad thing. Moderation is the key, I think.

As long as we are on this topic, I would like to address the coffee question. The multiple questions I hear on this subject go like this: "I have to have my coffee! Is there any way to be healthier about it?"

Giving up coffee entirely is the healthiest choice. However, if that will never come to pass in your life, you can switch to a healthy coffee... not a coffee substitute that doesn't really pass for coffee, but a real coffee that is better for you.

What is the problem with coffee? Well, first the acid content of a daily cup can wreak havoc on our digestive systems. While our stomach is by design an acidic place, adding more acid to our systems can throw off the delicate balance. Second, as I discussed above, the caffeine content can pose problems.

I drink NutriCafe in moderation. This coffee is made from a low-acid bean so that it does not cause stomach burn. It also comes from a low-caffeine bean so that it has about 1/2 the caffeine as other coffees. In addition, it is infused with botanical extracts (that you can't taste) to give it more health giving properties. And, I think it tastes very good!

And the Winner is...

Okay. I may seem really old school, but I have been writing every entry on a piece of paper and letting my kids draw the winner out of a big bowl. This time around I used a "truly random" number generator. Fun, huh? The kids didn't think it was as fun, but it is probably the best use of my time ; )

And now for the important part... The winner of the Stonyfield Farm YoBaby giveaway is... Lady Jen of Joy Ever After! I KNOW you will love this yogurt!

Thank you to everyone who entered this giveaway... hope there's another good one soon!

Friday, June 5, 2009

The News.

I apologize for my unplanned absence yesterday. You see, I decided it was the Annual Reorganize the School Cabinet and Bookshelves Day. Once a year, I like to take everything out, pull the furniture away from the wall, vacuum and dust thoroughly, remove the accumulated pencil and crayon marks, file the past year's school work, and create a refreshingly orderly room in which I can plan the next school year.

So, once I got started yesterday, there was no stopping! Well, I did have to take a few intermissions BUT I was driven. And things are mostly put back together today. I would post a picture of the end results, but I can't figure how my homeschooling organization fits into a health blog... except to explain my temporary disappearance.

Besides organizing... I seem to have caught the bug because I redid the pantry this morning too... I have another newsy tidbit to share with you. I am expecting our fifth child! Yep. I am close to the end of my first trimester.

How have I been feeling? Hmmm. I am thankful to be functional. I know that there are many women who are completely offset by extreme nausea in their first trimesters, and sometimes throughout the whole pregnancy. With my pregnancies, I have varying degrees of "morning sickness" all throughout the day until about week 12. This time around is no different.

There are a few very specific things I have noticed really help ease the queasiness. First, I must faithfully take a B Vitamin soon after I wake up, with a protein-type snack. Doing so solves a lot of problems before they start! I take a sustained release B Complex (part of this product pack) that supplies my body with more B vitamins every hour. This is so much better than just taking a large amount all at once. I can tell a big difference when I haven't taken it! And a big difference from when I used to take a different B Vitamin.

I also have stopped exercising. That sounds so contrary to normal health advice. I will get back to my normal exercise routines in my second trimester! With my first two pregnancies, I had to stop exercising in my first trimester in order not to lose too much weight. With my next three (this one included) I have had to stop so that my blood sugar doesn't drop too low. I have found that if I exercise, I can not regain my blood sugar stability -- even for a few days. It leaves me shaky, dizzy and nauseated. So, it helps me to take it easy in the first 12 weeks... not that I can totally slow down with four other children to run after!

I do sip peppermint and ginger teas. And I do occasionally use a Stomach Soothing Complex for a greater burst of these helpful herbs. Other than that, my best strategy is to eat small snacks throughout the day.

Cravings? This is laughable... with Rainbow, I craved cheese. We were vegans at the time, so the occasional cheese was a major treat! With Spiderman I craved hamburgers. I thought about them way too often. But, after one Wendy's burger, I was done with that! With Witzy, I don't remember a craving. With Tickle and this baby, I crave chicken fingers... hello Chick-fil-a! It's a good thing we don't live very close to a Chick-fil-a so that I have to eat healthy food instead. But, I do have plans to go with a friend next Tuesday. (Can't Wait!)

Because pregnancy is at the front of my mind, I plan on posting some of my thoughts on healthy pregnancies over the next few months. This blog isn't going to turn into a pregnancy blog, but I think expanding that topic would be helpful. I'll still keep up with my regular health posts, tips and recipes, so thanks for coming back to read... where would I be without readers!

And, here's a question for you: The question I hear most from pregnant women is "what do you do for morning sickness?" I would love for you to comment with your thoughts on the topic. What do you do to ease nausea? Do you have healthy ideas or remedies that you can share? Thanks for your comments!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Calling All Moms Of Littles -- Giveaway Post

I pass up many more giveaways than I publish. Keeping high standards for my blog is of maximum importance to me. You can be sure that I will not promote any product that I wouldn't use myself. I guess that's why I only publish giveaways from time to time. BUT... today I am very pleased to announce this giveaway!

Stonyfield Farm, a company I have long trusted for their organic whole milk yogurt products, is introducing a new YoBaby yogurt for your littles. It is their 10th birthday this year and they are reformulating YoBaby to include vitamin D and zinc, both known to boost immunity and promote the development of strong bones and teeth.

My three favorite things about Stonyfield are that I don't have to worry about any GM foods or GM beet sugar, I don't have to worry about any bovine growth hormones, and Stonyfield supports local dairy farmers. My kids think their yogurt is a real treat too... especially the Banilla Yogurt (it's banana and vanilla -- totally ingenious).

This giveaway includes a lidded YoBaby bowl, an organic YoBaby bib, and a bundle of five coupons for FREE Yobaby Yogurt packs.

To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment. That's all you have to do! You can enter once a day until Sunday, June 7th at 11:59:59 pm. At that point, I will close the giveaway and select a winner at random. The winner will be announced on my blog and notified via email on Monday. Thanks for entering!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hang On For The Ride

Adventure: Hiking by Dermot Conlan
"Embrace exploration and seek your adventure."
I mentioned in my post yesterday that being healthy is an adventure. Today I would like to expand that thought.

I have noticed a very weighty truth in my life. My children are directly affected by my attitude. Have you seen the same in your family? If I am excited about reading a new book, they eagerly clamor onto the couch to find out what it is about. If I am excited about a new recipe I'm trying, they dig into it with gusto.

Yet, if I grumble as I wash lettuce again, or if I freak out as I find a worm on the farm fresh kale, they are equally swayed by my attitude. Lettuce and kale just don't seem as appetizing to them if I've prepared them with a murmuring spirit or an outraged cry of "why do we have to keep eating organic when the conventional kale would never come with a worm!?!"

Let's just face the facts.

Fact number one: As moms we can make or break the atmosphere in our home. This applies to all areas, but think about how it extends to your family's health.

What child won't willingly try the new granola cookies you've set aside time to cheerfully make together? Even if the child is new to less-sweet-treats, if they were made with love and joy she will think positively about them.

Fact number two: Making health changes can require extra effort, time and planning for us moms. When we are in the learning curve, there is a constant flow of new information to process, of new ideas to try, of mistakes to make. Think of it as an adventure. In an adventure, each new exciting turn is a chance to learn and to grow. Embrace the journey, and remember that the most important part is enjoying the scenery as you go!

Fact number three: Children love adventures, and they like to learn when learning is adventuresome. Taking your kids along on your health adventure will give them an appreciation of your efforts, an excitement for being healthy, and the tools they need to make their own health decisions wisely.

So, like I said yesterday: Smile at your kids and enjoy the ride. This health adventure has the potential to bring unity, meaningful work, and joy into your family relationships.

Photocredit: Allposters.com

What's Cooking -- June

I've been keeping a running list of our family's weekday meals, and I archive the list under this "What's Cooking" topic. It may help to give you healthy menu ideas... and it may help to jumpstart my creativity when it seems we are stuck in a supper rut. Have you been there before?

It's the first of the month and so I'm starting a new post for June meals. If you don't read the "What's Cooking" Corner on my blog each day, you can check this post for our June supper menus. Or, you can read the archives from past months here.

June 30th:
So last night's grilling didn't work out. There was a very deliberate wasp. Need I say more.

I'm trying again tonight with some Ribeye Steaks that came with our part of the cow. I have never done this type of meat due to budgetary constraints, but I'm hoping for the best.

I will also stir fry what is left of my produce box and serve it with rice.

June 29th:
YAY! I'm back in the swing of things :-) I found some healthy chicken for a really good price, so tonight I am going to attempt to grill it. I am not a grill master. We'll see.

I'll also be tossing a huge dark green salad and serving garlic bread on the side. Real food! I'm so excited!

Tomorrow, I'll have to catch up on yogurt, bread and granola -- three of our family staples.

Like last week, this summer week is going to be another break from routine. Because of traveling and other events, we will not be eating our regular family meal every night.

Instead, I will be pulling together items left from my produce box and pantry ingredients for some quick meals and some travel-able meals. Who knows what I will come up with -- or if it will taste good!

Next week, I will return to my normal cooking habits. And, I will post my supper plans too. In the interim, check out my "What's Cooking?" archives.

June 12th:
It has just been the kids and I for supper the past few nights. So, instead of cooking something new, we have been having leftovers. They thought the Mega Stir Fry would never end!But tonight, he will be here with us again! So we are going to have Taco Salad, one of his all-time-favs.

June 9th:
Tonight I am going to make a mega stir fry. I will use onions, garlic, colored peppers, daikon, carrots, and purplish kale. That should make for a rainbow presentation! I'll serve it with rice and some baked white fish.

I bought an abundance of colored peppers in bulk the other day. I also have way too many onions from the last few produce boxes. So today I am going to dice these all up and freeze them for future stir frys.

I also intend on baking 6 loaves of bread and making Power Bars this morning... interruptions allowing.

June 8th:
Tonight it's my turn to pick up our produce boxes. I trade off with some other great moms in my neighborhood. So, I'll either pick up some fresh burritos from a moderately healthy restaurant in town... or I'll serve leftovers.

I took a Broccoli Almond Salad and a Cilantro Lime Pasta Salad with tri-colored peppers to a church pot-luck yesterday... so we have both of those plus some leftovers from last week to finish off. Exciting, huh?

June 5th:
Catching Up:On Wednesday, I had to make a very rushed supper. We used whole wheat pasta from the pantry to make a pasta and meat sauce meal.

On Thursday, I used the last third of our roast to make a saucy meat with rice dish... inventing as I went, but it turned out very tasty. We were totally out of anything green from our produce box - for some reason we went through it remarkably quick this time around - so we had peas.

Tonight, I know that we do not want meat! We normally space our meat meals out, but after four nights in a row, we are ready for something lighter. I have everything I need to make a Red Bean and Rice Salad with Lime Dressing. Sounds fitting... and I'll double it so that I can take it to a Sunday Pot Luck too.

June 2nd:
The roast we ate last night was delicious. It was so full of flavor! I am going to make the leftovers into two meals this week. Tonight, I am going to make a main-dish cold beef salad with greens, ripe tomaotes, peas and a feta cheese dressing.

We have leftover potatoes from last night, a side dish that will make my littles very happy (and full!).

June 1st:
I have had a Roast in the crock pot all day. We love roast beef. And this time, we are especially excited since this roast is from our Grass-Fed cow. It smells so good! I had some fresh herbs from our organic produce box, and they seem to be adding a lot of aroma (and hopefully flavor too).

For sides, we are going to do potatoes and kale and some sliced raw veggies and tomatoes as well.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Taking A Look At Genetically Modified Foods

Did you know that on May 19th, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) urged doctors to educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid GM foods? Further, they called for doctors to provide educational materials concerning GM foods and the corresponding health risks. Read all about it here.

Did you know that GM foods are banned in Europe? Yet in the 1990s, when scientists from the FDA warned about the potential problems of GM foods and insisted on more rigorous testing, our government decided to promote biotechnology instead.

Did you know that not a single human clinical trial on the effects of GM foods has been published? Yet the resounding evidence from animal testing shows that GM foods can cause infertility, immune dysfunction, allergies, accelerated aging, changes in major organs and gastrointestinal difficulties... just to list a few.

You've heard me stress the importance of non-GMO foods before. I am for real serious about keeping my family away from these hazardous foods. I know that there seems to be so many health steps to take. I do know that this all can be overwhelming, especially if you are just starting to learn about health. But, this is one of the most important health issues today.

Here are three simple things you can do.

1. Educate yourself: I have a very informative, synopsis-type article that I would be glad to email you. If you have ten minutes to read this information, send an email to ae at healthbeginswithmom.com. (You have to use @ instead of the word "at".) Just put "GMO" in the subject line and I will reply with the article. Or, even better, read this book: Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating.

2. Download the Non-GMO Shopping Guide here. This is a bit of good news. There are a handful foods that are the biggest culprits. If you only buy "non-GMO" or "organic" corn, soybeans, canola and cottonseed you will be making big strides. But keep in mind, that means all corn and soybean products... like corn syrup or soybean oil... which we shouldn't be eating anyway. Steering clear of canola and cottonseed oils, which are highly processed, would be a great health benefit whether they are non-GMO or not.

3. Don't stress. Do your best to bring home non-GMO foods by purchasing organic foods as much as possible. Our children depend on our example in healthy living. If they see us fretting, they will give up on health and say it is just not worth it. But, if they see determination mingled with excitement from their mom, they will decide this is all a great big adventure... which it is. Smile at them and enjoy the ride : )