Tuesday, June 29, 2010

There is no good title for this post. Really.

I have thought about this post for the last two weeks. And I still couldn't come up with a decent title. So, there it is.

This is my last post on Health Begins With Mom. At least for my foreseeable future. I have really enjoyed writing this blog, and I hope that you have been inspired by it... Inspired to be the voice of support, the source of joyful energy in your home. I hope I have encouraged you to embrace your nurturing role as mom... and to do your very best in keeping your loved ones healthy... to give it your all... and to give yourself grace when you can't do it all.

It's not that blogging is time-consuming. It is possible for me to order my day so that I have thirty minutes to an hour of computer time while my children "rest."

It is that blogging is thought-consuming. I find that I'm frequently thinking of the next post, of a series I am working on, of recipes I'd like to share, of photos that I need to snap while I'm cooking. I am privileged to have had the extra thinking time to blog over the last year and a half. But now, I need to direct those extra thoughts elsewhere.

I am not going to close up Health Begins With Mom though.

First, I would like all of these posts to still benefit others. So I am keeping all of this information (and these recipes) available for you and for those who will stumble upon this blog in time to come.

Second, I would like the option to come back to blogging at Health Begins With Mom if things work out that way in the future. It would be great to just pick up where I left off. Interestingly, this is my 300th post. So, I would pick up at 301...

I am still continuing as an Independent Shaklee Distributor and as a woman eager to serve other women -- so please continue to email me. I would love to hear your story. And I will still do my best to answer your questions.

For your health,

Friday, June 11, 2010

Announcing the Winner, a Reading List, and a Video

"Thank you" to each of you who participated in my recent Ultima Replenisher giveaway! The winner, by random selection, is ..... pinecone304. I will be sending you an email with prize details. If for some reason, you don't receive the email, contact me at ae @ healthbeginswithmom.com (without the spaces).

And we're off... our family is headed to the beach. I debated republishing some of my favorite posts while I'm away. I'm really still debating. But I think instead of reposting, I'll just make a list of suggested reading... I don't really know why these posts jumped out to me, but here they are:

Also, here is a great video on getting rid of unhealthy toxins in our homes. Hope you enjoy it!

Have a great week!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Salmon Cakes

So we've been eating a lot of Mexican food lately. (My husband pointed this out to me earlier this week.) You see, we have been entertaining a lot of company. And I always fix the same thing when we have people over for a meal. Yep, you read that right. I prepare the same meal every time -- lunch or supper. I like to keep things doable. My husband and I do not want to look back on our lives with young children and see that we neglected hospitality... so we keep things simple and doable.

I plan a big Taco Salad, buffet-style, for nights we have company. That way, each person can select what they want and leave what they don't want aside. Everyone seems to manage a full plate! I always cook a few pounds of beef and season it with my homemade blend of seasonings. I want there to be plenty for everyone. But we always tend to have some leftovers too.

That's where the "lot of Mexican food" comes in. The day after company, we often have tacos or quesidillas with the leftover meat. And when there is a double amount of leftover meat, we make taco pizza (use salsa for the sauce, then the taco meat, then cheddar cheese). So if we have company twice in one week and we have leftovers a few times for each... that's a week of Mexican meals.

All that is to say, we felt very refreshed by this meal the other night:

Baked Salmon Cakes with Rice and Garden Salad

I'm sure you know how to make rice and a green salad...  but here is how I made these tasty, fresh salmon patties: 

  • 1/2 red onion

  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper

  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

  • 3 - 6 oz. cans boneless, skinless salmon (I wrote about safe seafood here.)

  • 1 cup whole grain bread crumbs

  • 2 Tbsp. plain yogurt or kefir

  • 2 farm fresh eggs

  • 1 tsp. organic zested lemon peel

  • 1 Tbsp. brown mustard

  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

  • 1/2 bunch of chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
Saute' the onions and peppers until soft in a large skillet. Take off the heat and mix in the rest of the ingredients. Form into 12 patties. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes (until nicely browned) in a 400 degree oven.

For your health, 

This is the last day to enter my current giveaway. Click here for entry details.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Saving Money? Is it Possible?

It seems that the number one health question I am asked these days goes something like "How can I feed my family healthy food without breaking the bank?!?"

When I started Health Begins With Mom a year and a half ago, the number one question was "How can I boost my child's immune system against all the crazy pathogens out there?!?"

But now, for sure, I hear moms asking about frugality.

A while ago I shared my hints for eating healthy on a budget. (Check out my first list of hints here, then read my series on "The Affordability of Eating Healthy" under this label.) Using these strategies, I keep a good budget. But with my growing family, and their growing appetites, I am always on the lookout for new ways to save money -- without compromising our food choices.

For a while now, I have been frequently reading Money Saving Mom and Southern Savers. When I see coupons or deals that fit with my health goals, I take advantage of them. But is there any more I could save with couponing if I put more time into it? That is the question, dear reader. And I intend to find out.

I have a friend that leads couponing workshops. While I am admittedly a bit skeptical, I am planning on attending one of her workshops with an open mind. Maybe there is something I am missing. And we always need to be learning... so, here's to an open mind!

If I learn any strategies that would help you out -- without bringing home junk -- I will be very pleased to share them.

What about you? Do you have any frugal hints for healthy-moms-on-a-budget? Please share!

PS Don't forget to enter my current giveaway for Ultima Replenisher, all-natural electrolyte beverages. Click this link to enter.

Friday, June 4, 2010

In Which Amy Ellen Shares Where We've Been and What We've Been Drinking, plus a giveaway!

So, did you have a good Mother's Day? Can you believe it has been that long since I posted last? I can hardly even remember my Mother's Day. I don't want to say that we've been busy... everyone is busy. Really, it's just that life is full. There isn't one big thing claiming all our attention; we are just seven people living very full lives. So, where have we been?

  • There was the annual Strawberry Picking.
  • There was the day-long Church Picnic.
  • There was the trip to the zoo, in incredible Atlanta heat.
  • There have been plenty of weeds to pull, and other assorted yard jobs, in the incredible GA heat.
  • There have been a few trips to the pool.
  • And there have been various social engagements, parties and gatherings... most involving outdoor activities in the incredible heat and humidity.
  • (And, of course, there is a great deal to do indoors as well, but that doesn't really fit in with what I'm going to say next.)
Earlier in the Spring, the kind people at Ultima Replenisher contacted me to see if I was interested in some of their Sports Beverages for review and giveaway. My first question was: "What's in them?" After I was satisfied with their natural ingredient list, I said: "Sure, I'll give them a try!" Little did I know how much we would benefit from them...

Because we get really thirsty working and playing under the hot, hot sun!
The line of Ultima beverages claims to be "the only 100% natural, non-GMO, gluten free, sugar free, dye free electrolyte beverage on the market." Electrolytes for Health Conscious People. They are sweetened with stevia, which, in my opinion, is a pretty good natural sweetener when used in moderation

I was given Kids! Ultima Replenisher, which is a pediatric electrolyte formula, as well as a sampling of the flavors available for adults: Orange, Grape, Lemonade and Wild Raspberry.

The children love their Raspberry flavor. It keeps them going (or maybe anything would since they're kids and all, but at least I don't have to worry about dehydration as they keep going).

My husband also enjoys it while doing his extra sweaty jobs in the yard. It keeps him going (or maybe he is so determined that he would keep going anyway, but at least he doesn't get that infamous after-yard-work-dehydration-headache). Replenishing lost electrolytes is good. Especially when you can do that without sugar or other artificial ingredients.

There is plenty of heat left this summer... Would you like to win some Kids! Ultima Replenisher and a sampling of the regular Ultima flavors as well? Enter to win by leaving a comment on this post telling me about your favorite summertime outdoor activity. I will randomly select a winner on Friday, June 11th at noon EST, right before we take the last of our Ultima on a much-anticipated beach trip.

Since there is little to no routine in my summer-life, I'll be posting sporadically... but more often than in the past few weeks. Happy Summer,

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Got any big plans for this Mother's Day? I actually don't know at this point if I do or not. But, I've done a lot of thinking about Mother's Day in years past. Can I share with you my thoughts?

For many mothers, this Sunday will come and go with little to no distinction from any other Sunday. It can feel very discouraging to have a holiday set apart for you go unnoticed. (Although, prior to the 1900s women did not even celebrate Mother's Day; they were completely content, unaware they were missing anything... because they weren't.) No matter if your Mother's Day will feel full or empty, I want to encourage you...

Even if no one notices the passion and diligence with which you nurture your loved ones...
Even if your children do not realize the investment you are making in them...
Even if you grow tired, doing the same tasks over and over again...
Even if no one else around you knows it's hard work!
Or, even if you are duly thanked and appreciated...

Take joy in your mothering. Treasure in your heart the thought that you are accomplishing something monumentally worthwhile. Be glad for all the little things you are able to do for your dear ones, the everyday moments you are able to spend with your family. Shower them with love. Joyfully!

We all feel bolstered by affirmation. We feel validated when someone celebrates us. But I'd like to encourage you to take joy in what you do everyday.

When your days are long and you still have to prepare supper...
When you spend abundant time preparing food only to have to clean up again...
When you sacrifice what you would prefer to do in order to carefully plan nutritious food for your family...

In all these daily efforts, take joy. That is an odd combination of words... but there is joy in daily serving your family. Take it!

Health begins with mom. In the majority of families, I think it really does. It begins with mom's hard work and commitment. What we do is wonderfully meaningful. And there is deep joy in cherishing that thought.

Mother's Day will come and go... fully celebrated or not. But come the following Monday, approach your "duties" with joy. Joy in knowing that you are bestowing long term blessings upon your family.

 Happy Mother's Day to you,

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Yummy Taco Chicken plus Five Ways to Serve It

When I was recovering after the arrival of Superman right around the New Year, several friends brought our family supper. It was an unbelievable blessing. One friend (Thanks, Christie!) brought us fresh chicken tacos complete with avocados and whole grain tortillas from Whole Foods. The chicken she brought was shredded and seasoned with a recipe she found on Food Renegade. Our family loved it so much, I looked up the recipe and added it to my repertoire...

Only, as you well expected, I tweaked it a bit . :-) I never have onion powder on hand. And my chicken seemed dry if I didn't use some stock with the seasonings. So this is what I did...

I started by cooking a pastured chicken all day in a crock pot. I only added a cup of water and generous sprinklings of salt and pepper. (Sorry this is the only photo of the process! By the time I got home to finish the meal, I was desperately behind. There was not time to document in pictures.)


After cooking all day, I put the chicken to cool on a cutting board. Then I strained the cooking juices and let the fat rise to the top. After skimming most of the fat, I poured the liquid into a large skillet and set it on medium heat. I added the following (see Food Renegade for the original spices):

•1 Tbsp. Chili Powder
•1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
•1/8 - 1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper 
•1/4 tsp. Dried Oregano
•1/2 tsp. Paprika
•1 1/2 tsp. Ground Cumin
•1 tsp. Sea Salt
•1/2 tsp. Black Pepper

I stirred up the seasoning and chicken stock until well blended, then let it simmer. While it was simmering, I pulled the chicken off the bones and added it to the skillet. With each addition I stirred to blend the seasonings into the meat. After all the meat was in the skillet with the seasonings, I used two forks to pull apart any clumps. I left it to simmer until most of the liquid was reduced.

And there you have it. Terrifically spiced Chicken Taco Meat.

We have used it for:
  1. Chicken Taco Salad... oh so perfect for these warm GA spring days!
  2. Chicken Enchiladas... I usually make my own enchilada sauce, but this time around I just used some tomato soup that I made way too spicy for the kids. It worked perfect as enchilada sauce!
  3. Chicken Quesidillas... using Sprouted Wheat tortillas and Cheddar Cheese
  4. Chicken Burritos... wrapping up the chicken with sauteed onions, peppers and cheese
  5. And, last but probably the best, Southwestern Chicken Noodle Soup... this was a last minute invention because second grade math lessons ate up my afternoon yesterday.

 (The soup was steaming when I snapped this picture, so the stock looks blurry... sorry again!)

This soup was so delicious. My husband even ate thirds! It's quite simple... Throw all of this in a large soup pot:

  • 2 quarts chicken stock (or a combination of water and stock)
  • 2 cans of petite diced tomatoes with the juice
  • 1 can of drained and rinsed kidney beans (it would be best if you had soaked and cooked these properly, but I made do with canned)
  • 1 cup of frozen corn
  • 1/2 of a chicken cooked in the taco seasonings above
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • A few generous dashes of Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 bunch of kale or chard, finely chopped (or, if your children are not used to greens, less)

Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add about 8 ounces of whole grain pasta and continue to simmer until tender. Serve with a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese.

I hope you enjoy these recipes!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Winners!

Thanks to all my readers who entered the two giveaways on Health Begins With Mom last week! I really appreciate y'all. According to random.org, the winners are...

Jonesey wins the Glasslock Storage Container Set from CSN stores! And, I might add, she won with her comment to tell me that she posted the giveaway on her blog... so it really paid to go for the second entry.

Renee (reneecordle@...) wins the Safe Home Value Pack from EcoSmart!

I will notify each winner by email. If for some reason you do not receive my email, please email me for prize instructions. (ae @ healthbeginswithmom . com)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Earth Fare Couponing

I don't usually post about couponing. I have found some great healthy coupons out there, but there are so many blogs dedicated to coupon savings, I prefer to leave the topic alone... mostly. (I did post a great link to healthy coupons a while ago here.)

All that being said, I am going to post about coupons today... because Earth Fare has just released a whole lot of coupons on their website. If you live near an Earth Fare, take a moment to peruse the list and see if they offer coupons for items you normally buy.

While you're there, I encourage you to sign up for their email list (at the bottom of this page). I did this a few weeks ago and have been really impressed by the generous coupon they send out each week. A while ago it was a free pineapple! And last week it was 20% off of your entire bulk food purchase. I used it to save big on organic popcorn, sucanat, rice, dates, almonds and organic corn meal. It was well worth subscribing!

For other ways to make eating healthy affordable, read my "On the Affordability of Eating Healthy" series here. There are five parts....

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Making Yogurt in a Crockpot

We eat a lot of yogurt. The active cultures in yogurt and kefir are a boon to good health. Aiding in digestion and utilization of nutrients, strengthening the immune system, keeping candida and other unwanted pathogens at bay, even contributing to healthy skin... yogurt should be a staple of every good diet.

Have you found that yogurt can be pricey? Especially if you want to buy organic! Especially for a big family...

I have been making our yogurt since grad school days. Since good quality milk is much cheaper than yogurt, I have found that making yogurt at home keeps our grocery budget from skyrocketing. In times past, I made a quart of yogurt at a time. Then, I upped it to two quarts. Now, with six yogurt eaters in the family, we can easily eat a quart a day! I was getting weary of making yogurt over and over again...

So I decided I would try to make a gallon at a time. I thought using my crockpot would be the best solution for this large volume. I found that using a crock pot to make yogurt can't be more simple!

In my experimentation, I started with the how-to on Nourishing Days. (Read the detailed steps here.) However the instructions there are for making only two quarts... which may be exactly the volume you need to make for your family. If so, visit Nourishing Days for the exact timing for each step. But, if you are like me and need to make a gallon... here's how I tweaked the timing to make the process work for me.

Like I said, it's really simple. But times do matter because temperatures matter with yogurt. You may want to follow the timing laid out below, but use a thermometer to double check temperatures... just to be sure. Crock pots may vary in their performance, so using a thermometer the first time may prevent failure.

  • Pour one gallon of milk in a crock pot set on low.
  • Leave for 5 hours and 45 minutes. At that point, the milk should be 180 degrees.
  • Turn the crock pot off, unplug it. Let cool for 4 hours. At that point, the milk should be 110-115 degrees.
  • Ladle out about three cups of the warm milk into a bowl. Gently wisk in one cup of plain yogurt (either from a previous batch or from store-bought yogurt if this is your first time). Then gently wisk this four cup mixture back into the whole batch of milk.
  • Wrap the crock pot in two heavy towels to keep in warmth, and leave it alone to culture for 8-12 hours. (Less time equals less tart, more time yields more tart.)
  • Move the lidded crock pot crock to the refrigerator and let set for about 8 hours. During this time, it will thicken, or what I call "set".
  • At that point, you can stir up the yogurt and transfer to quart glass jars for storage.
  • You may want to add some maple syrup to one quart for sweetened yogurt. Or some all-fruit preserves for flavored yogurt. Or, you can just keep it plain for use in smoothies and other recipes.
Not difficult at all, right? It does take about 24 hours, but none of the steps require much work.

One note: I used non-homogenized milk, which I won't do again. Because the milk sits still for so long while heating, the cream separated to the top. In the end, there were some tiny lumps of creaminess. It didn't affect the flavor or the usability (especially since most of our yogurt is for smoothies), but I plan on skimming the cream off next time.

Reminder: Just one day left to enter my two current Giveaways! They each close at midnight tomorrow (4/30). Please follow these links to enter... comments on this post will not be included as entries.

For your health,

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Personal Review: Skecher's Shape Ups

Do you see the ads for Skecher's Shape Ups and wonder if they really work? I'll tell you my experience.

But first I must note that this is totally my personal review, my own opinion. Skecher's in no measure has compensated me for this review of their shoes. In fact, they don't even know I exist.

I saw the ads. I was curious. I saw more ads. I even went online and watched their five minute infomercial (which you can see on this page if you scroll down). I put them on my short Christmas Wish List: Shape Ups or money to buy Shape Ups.

Superman was born two days after Christmas, so even though I got some money to purchase my Shape Ups, I didn't get around to it until about 6 weeks postpartum. At that point, I was really eager to try them out... just to see what wonders they would work on my out-of-shape-self. Because of Superman's transverse position and the trouble that caused my hips, it had been four months since I exercised last!

I ended up ordering a pair off Ebay... gotta love discounts! And when they came I eagerly laced them up. At that point, six weeks postpartum with a very slow recovery, it was my tendency to walk and stand hunched over. My fifth pregnancy and the cesarean left my abdominal muscles weak, to say the least. It was just hard to stand up tall. Do you know what I mean?

I wasn't ready for full blown exercise at that point, but the Shape Ups really helped my posture. I wore them around the house and as I was working in the kitchen. And I really noticed how they caused me to stand straight and tall. Correspondingly, they worked on tightening my core muscles... which is just what I needed.

The shoes came with a DVD of two workouts. The fifteen minute workout was great for getting used to the shoes and doing some easy-to-moderate strengthening exercises. I couldn't do much more than that when I first started back into an exercise routine. I have also tried the thirty minute workout a few times. It is a true workout... I was sore the first time for sure!

I don't think I noticed a big difference in muscle strength and tone until I started wearing them on my morning exercise walks. We walk at a brisk pace and there are a few big hills on our route. It is a good workout even in regular shoes. But with my Shape Ups on I really, really observed (and felt!) how different they were then my regular sneakers. They truly give a good workout! And, since I only have 30 minutes to walk, I need every step to count. 

So the ads say that Shape Ups "tone your muscles, promote healthy weight loss, and make it easy to get in shape!" I would have to agree that they tone muscles.I've seen my legs and backside shape up. And I would add that they improve posture. Even though I don't wear my Shape Ups all day, my posture is improved throughout the day. 

I would recommend Shape Ups... I think they really are different than regular sneakers... just like the ads say. What do you think? Have you tried Shape Ups? If so, how do you exercise in them? Do you like them?  

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Castle Birthday Cake - Icing Woes - And Giveaway Reminders

Well. The cake was delicious. It wasn't one of my best presentations. (I'm sure you could make it look a lot better.) But it tasted good. Witzy was pleased. Minus the icing. Here's the cake and the story.

I used the Super Moist Oatmeal Chocolate Cake using soaked grains. (Recipe here.) That was the good part. I doubled the recipe and baked two 8x8 squares and seven cupcakes. The cake assembly was simple. Layer the two squares. Stack three cupcakes at the front for the front tower. Stack two cupcakes at each back corner for the back towers.

Then came the icing woes. I wanted the icing to be healthy -- whole foods, natural sweeteners. I had tweaked a cream cheese icing recipe from Nourishing Traditions for my son's coonskin cap birthday cake. But this time around, I needed a lighter color. So, I searched online and found a recipe using just honey and cream cheese. I mixed it up and gave Witzy a taste. She politely told me she didn't like it.

So, I had to make a few changes. I added some vanilla and some stevia, because it was the only natural sweetener I had on hand that wouldn't add color or bulk. That improved the taste 100%, but it still wasn't excellent... consider where we started. I began to spread it on the cake. ARG! I wasn't going to have enough for the whole cake! And, then I looked at the clock and realized I was quickly running out of time!

I had planned on adding Blueberry Juice to part of the icing to make a pretty lavender. Witzy told me she wanted purple decorations on her Castle Cake. But that wasn't going to happen since I barely had enough icing for the front of the castle. (The back of the cake is bare!) I wasn't going to have any purple for trimming up the edges. It was looking sloppy, and time was running out! (Did I mention that the day of her birthday celebration was one of the worst of the year... fiasco after fiasco.)

I had to delegate the job of cutting out the cones, flags and grass to Rainbow. I also asked her to make doors and windows since I wasn't going to have purple icing for that either. She was cheerful about helping. I was tempted to ruin her gladness when things didn't come out perfect. But I restrained myself. I reminded myself that her memory of helping with the birthday cake would be a treasure... unless I made her feel bad because it wasn't as good as if I had done it. Children before cakes, right.

When the cake was complete, I was quite flustered. It didn't look at all as I had planned and the icing was just mediocre. I was nearly an hour late starting supper. Witzy and Spiderman had been playing outside. When Witzy came in for some water and saw her cake on the table, she said, "Oh Mamsie, that is the prettiest birthday castle cake I have ever seen. Thank you so much for making it for me!" Which made everything better.

Like I said, I am sure you could make this cake look better. But in the end, it made for a perfect birthday celebration. Witzy was so pleased. And Rainbow was so excited that she got to make the paper additions.


Have you entered to win my two current Giveaways? If not, please follow these links to do so... comments on this post will not be included as entries.


And one more thing... Are you having trouble loading Health Begins With Mom? Is it slow to come up on your browser? For some reason, something is slowing it down... any thoughts? I can't figure out the trouble. I need some technical help!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day -- Glass Storage Container Giveaway!!!

How many of you all would like to get rid of your toxic plastic food storage containers and replace them with GLASS? This is going to be a great giveaway...

First, a big thank you to CSN Stores for providing this giveaway! Most of their 200+ web stores have a special "Eco-Friendly" tab. What does that mean for you? Well, you can very easily look through just the children's furniture, bedding, baby cribs, mattresses, cookware, etc that are safe for your health and the environment. I think that is a great shopping feature for health-minded consumers!

Do you remember my post from a year ago about why plastic is a hazard to our health? To be extremely concise, but hopefully not over-simplify the issue, dangerous chemicals leach from plastic storage containers into our food, which can cause endocrine disruption and cancer. The leaching into our food increases when we heat food in plastic containers. (Read my previous post for more info.)

Many of you have mentioned that you would like to make a kitchen overhaul and change completely over to glass storage containers. But that would take a big set of glass containers! Good news... CSN stores is generously giving away a BIG glass food storage container set to one of my readers (and sending me one as well). Here it is:

Kinetic Go Green Glasslock Assorted 8-Piece Food Storage Container Set

"Keep you and your family safe from plastic leaching chemicals; replace your old worn out food storage containers with Glasslock!"

This is a set of 8 tempered glass storage containers with silicone-sealed lids that create air and liquid tight seals... a $65 value!

In order to be entered in this giveaway, please leave a comment on this post. That's all you have to do for your first entry.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway and link to this giveaway post. Then come back to leave a second comment telling me you've done so.

For a third entry, tweet the link to this giveaway. Then come back to leave a third comment telling me you've done so.

This giveaway is open to US Residents. The giveaway will close at midnight on April 30th. At that time I will randomly select a winner and notify by email.

Happy Earth Day,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

EcoSmart Giveaway, Natural Bug Killer, and What Happened to our Wasps

Last year I had several readers write to ask me what I do for bug spray, bug repellent or home insect treatments. I had a few limited ideas (some I emailed, some I posted here), but I have recently discovered a really great solution -- or should I say, it found me. But let me back up to the first of spring...

With the earliest signs of warm days, my children were ready for picnic lunches. My parents gave us patio furniture for a recent Christmas gift, so we were all very eager for outdoor lunch breaks.

However, the earliest signs of warms days also got the wasps buzzing around our patio. Last year they made homes in our siding and around our back door. (You remember the wasp stings?!?) We tried a few non-toxic methods of killing the wasps, but none eliminated them for good. My husband even tried regular old wasp killer, but they came back.

So, when EcoSmart emailed me to ask if I was interested in a review and giveaway of their Natural Bug Spray, I jumped at the opportunity. Like you all, I really wanted to find a good solution to our insect problems.

The kind folks at EcoSmart sent me their Safe Home Value Bundle, which includes Flying Insect Killer, Ant and Roach Killer, Home Pest Control and Insect Repellent. When the box arrived, the first thing I noticed was the delicious smell! Yep, that's right... these products smell good! Instead of toxic ingredients, these products contain organic plant oils such as cinnamon, peppermint, sesame and rosemary.

The next question was, would these yummy smelling products actually work. I took the can of Flying Insect Killer out to my back patio. Armed and ready. And waited for the wasps. I saw one fly out of the siding, so I aimed and shot. He floundered and died. Great! But, what about the rest of them in the nest?

I waited. No more came out. Then I saw one around the roofing. But the spray wouldn't reach all the way up there (one drawback). After waiting for a while longer, I decided I couldn't just keep waiting. So I sprayed all around where we see them come in and out and just hoped for the best. That was three weeks ago. And we haven't seen a wasp there since. Is that just a coincidence? Or are we holding serious natural powers in our hands?

I know many of you are looking for safe pest control for the home. So would you like to win this same Safe Home Value Bundle? If so, leave a comment here and tell me why you want this bundle of non-toxic, kid- and pet-friendly products. Simply by leaving your comment, you'll be entered in the giveaway.

I usually like to keep an even playing-field so that everyone has an equal chance of winning (i.e. not giving extra entries to new followers... when faithful long-time readers don't have that chance). However, I really want EcoSmart to get a lot of good exposure with this giveaway...

So, I will be giving an extra entry to those who tweet the giveaway link or blog about this giveaway. If you do either of those, please come back to leave a separate comment saying so for each. If you leave a comment, tweet the giveaway link and post about the giveaway on your blog, you will have three entries. Make sense? There are three possible chances this time.

This giveaway is open to all US residents (except Alaska and Hawaii) and will remain open until midnight on Friday, April 30th. Once closed, I will randomly select a winner and notify by email.

For your health,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Earth Day and Your Health

Thursday is Earth Day. There is a point I'd like to drive home... totally separate from all the debate about Global Warming and saving the Polar Bears.

What harms the planet is destructive to our bodies as well. You will find that when you take steps to limit harmful environmental exposure for your family, you are, at the same time, being green. A good steward of our bodies is a good steward of this beautiful world.

Have you ever heard of Body Burden? If not, I encourage you to read the series I wrote on 10 Simple Steps to Reduce Body Burden. Those 10 steps are a great start in being a good steward, of your health and, secondarily, your environment. In fact, taking even a few of those steps would be a definite move in the right direction. (Click here to see the series... you'll want to scroll to the bottom of the page and start with the video, working your way up through the ten steps. I've kept things simple, so don't worry... it's not that much reading!)

My Body Burden discussion stemmed from reading Sloan Barnett's book: Green Goes With Everything: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Greener Planet. Last year I personally gave away a copy of the book. This year...

I have two fantastic giveaways sponsored by EcoSmart and CSN Stores. Both of the wonderful product packs I'll be giving away will enable you to reduce your Body Burden. I'll be posting one giveaway tomorrow and one on Thursday... I'm really looking forward to it! Hosting giveaways is a thrill for me because I love to send that email telling a reader they've won...

See you tomorrow,

Monday, April 19, 2010

Avoiding Burnout

This post is a result of several conversations I've had over the last few weeks. Conversations about soaking nuts, about following certain diets and cleanses, about how to help your children get on board with healthy eating, and about comparing ourselves to what other people are doing. I have heard many women say it is just too hard... that no one can do it all... and, is it even worth trying if I can't do as much as Supermom on the next blog?

I've been thinking about what our family does health-wise (for particulars, read this past post)... and why we do it the way we do. I'll step out on a limb here today and share my thoughts with you.

Health Matters. Life is such a gift. Each day is a wide-open opportunity to do something big. Being a good steward of our health, our life-ness, is very important. I mean, why not be fueled-up and strong for accomplishing great things... us as moms AND our husbands and children. Let's live big, bold lives!

But, realistically speaking, can we eat everything healthy all of the time? Maybe if you are superwoman. Or maybe if your family is still very young. Let me explain...

We used to eat 100% healthy all the time. It was hard work. Very hard work. I only had two children and was not yet homeschooling. I prepared everything from scratch, soaked all our grains and legumes, even our nuts, made lacto-fermented foods, and the list goes on. But I saw two things happening.

First, we were causing some minor divisions between ourselves and family and friends. You see,
some people just didn't feel like they could prepare food "good enough" to have us over. And some people felt belittled by our health-fanaticism, even though I don't think we ever pushed our thoughts on others. (We're actually very introverted people and avoid conflict like the Black Plague... or H1N1.)

Second, I was starting to really burn out. All that time in the kitchen. Always thinking days and weeks ahead in order to have everything prepared. And, I was about to deliver my third baby. Homeschooling was really picking up with Rainbow... and soon Spiderman would follow. There was less time in my day for food. Have you ever experienced burnout? Both with the thoughts of all that has to be done and with future thoughts of everything just getting busier?

Those two issues were big on my mind. But so was health. Wellness was still a major priority for our growing family. I wanted to give my children every bit of the gift of health as possible. I had to bring some reconciliation to the mental discord... how could I balance it all?

Fast forward... we now eat a very bold 95% perfect. And I still consider us very healthy. Everything we eat at home is on target with our health principles. (Eat what God made. Eat it as close to how God made it as possible. Everything in moderation.) But we do leave the house. And there are times I cannot take all the food we need with us.

There are times that we have to let our ideals go a bit. Like, for example, at a basketball banquet where the menu is pizza and cake. If we were fanatics we wouldn't go. But a basketball banquet is a monumental event for a young boy! Or, if we were extremely fanatical, we would go and take our own food! I can't imagine how that would make my children feel...

So, we attend and allow our children to eat two pieces of pizza and a piece of cake. (And serve a big Greek salad before we leave as an appetizer to fill a good portion of their tummies!) We teach moderation. That it is okay to have an occasional small-to-medium portion of otherwise unfavored foods. However, we do not use a basketball banquet as an excuse to load up a plate of desserts or drink massive quantities of soda pop.

Same thing with our weekly church pot luck. We simply do not make a big deal of the food. Our children know that they are only allowed one small dessert. And we have seen them make very wise choices about their food selections. (I get food for my younger girls.) In doing so, we are teaching some very valuable life lessons. As soon as you have liberty, you don't just let all your self-control and wisdom fly out the window. I seen my children exercise good personal decision making skills. That gives me hope for the future.

We have decided to not let our food choices create social divisions. Honestly, I don't think the small percentage of less-than-nutritious food is going to ruin our vitality. For the vast majority of the time, we eat nutrient dense foods. We also take high quality supplements. The occasional unhealthy compromise won't be our demise. However, inability to be temperate might. Children (and parents) need to have enough strength to exercise moderation.

And about the burnout... I realized somewhere around the time Witzy was a baby that I simply couldn't do everything. (I still try.) I needed to cut myself some slack. And it was much better to have a happy mommy than to have a mommy who stressed over every meal. So, we eat as best as we can with the time and money resources we have. And that is that. No fretting over what we can't do.

I would like to encourage you... whether you are new to the health game, whether you are a long time health nut (respectfully said), whether you are still searching through diet options... but especially you mom's with growing families... Do your best. But don't stress over the rest. (Have I told you how much damage stress can do?)

For your health, for the long-haul,

Friday, April 16, 2010

What Am I Doing This Afternoon?

  • Researching Adrenal Fatigue -- Hmmm... there is a lot to think about here before I share my thoughts...
  • Soaking up some Vitamin D -- gotta love a warm spring afternoon!
  • Thinking about my 11th Wedding Anniversary tomorrow -- and what special meal I will prepare to celebrate it -- any healthy suggestions?
  • Also thinking about meal plans for next week -- I'll have to grocery shop before breakfast tomorrow morning since the day will be too full.
  • Looking up how to make a gallon of yogurt in a crock pot on a warm setting -- if this works, I'll post a how-to.
  • Planning for my Witzy's fifth birthday next week -- she wants a Castle with a Princess Cake -- I'll take pictures and post a healthy icing idea after the party.
  • Realizing that being out in the sunshine left me quite thirsty -- I love water these days... love the refreshing coolness. I should go get a drink.
  • Realizing that being out in the sun might have left my lips burned... haven't had that happen in a while!
Here is a photo of some early morning bird watching from last year at this time. The kids and I spend lots of time outside in the spring time... birdwatching, flower gazing, insect searching, picnicking... we even do part of school outside!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend! Enjoy the sun (and don't forget the SPF lip balm!),

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The other day (week!) I read this post on Preschoolers and Peace. In the post, Kendra says that she always has an answer for the "What can I have for a snack?" question. The answer always is:
  • What is in the Snack Jar
  • Fruit
  • Almonds
  • Cheese Sticks

Her post got me thinking. Isn't it so much easier to have an answer already? I mean, the kids are going to ask!

A while ago, I bought 18 pounds (if I remember the weight correctly) of California Raw Almonds at about $4 per pound. I am totally wishing I bought more! At the time, 18 pounds seemed like a lot to me. But, we use them in power bars, in granola, in several other baking recipes and...

almonds are the answer to the ever-present snack question.

It is so easy to let the children get their own snack. And, cleaning up after almonds is a cinch... well, unless they get to giggling while chewing them and you have the almond drool of a two year old to deal with...

For the past six weeks (or so) my children have been very pleased with a small bowl of almonds every afternoon. Talk about a simple snack time! I've been letting the little girls count out 17, 19, 21 (any such number) into little bowls for the counting practise. When they ask, I let them add in some organic raisins, sesame sticks or some other little something. But usually, they are content with a handful of almonds.

So far, this has been the perfect snack to hold them over until suppertime. Perfect in protein, fat and carbohydrates. Perfect for sustaining energy and nourishing growing bodies.

Almonds are so nutritiously packed -- they are a one of a kind snack for kids and adults alike. Just a handful of almonds contains a healthy dose of protein, fiber, Vitamin E, Calcium, Riboflavin, Niacin, Potassium, Zinc, Folate, Manganese and Magnesium, Copper and Phosphorus. They also contain a wide spectrum of phytochemicals which protect against heart disease and cancer.

If kids are going to snack, it makes sense to make their snack nourishing. As long as I can get almonds at a good price, they are the answer to the snack question in our house.

Off to help Witzy get the almonds ready... today we eat them in the car on the way to Ballet. Did I mention how great of a car snack almonds are?

Photocredit: Maria Li

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Best Healthy Birthday Cake EVER -- Using Soaked Grains

Wow. This. Is. Good. Cake. If you at all strive for "healthy" in your birthday celebrations, you'll want to give this cake a try. I made this cake for my husband's birthday two weekends ago. It was so delicious, I decided to give it a second try at a mother/daughter tea I was hosting the next weekend.

We thoroughly enjoyed it both times. I would even serve this cake to company -- even to guests who aren't necessarily used to whole foods. Honestly, I feel if I don't put another post up on this blog, I'll still have made my contribution to society with this recipe. (Well, maybe I do have higher ambitions than just inventing a chocolate cake recipe.) I'm just saying it was good cake and I think you'll enjoy it too!

Before I post the recipe, let me make a few comments about this cake, which I will call Super Moist Oatmeal Chocolate Cake.

  • This cake is super moist, like it's got pudding in the mix.
  • When we ate this cake for my husband's birthday, my kids and I all decided we wanted the same cake for our birthdays. Which means, I will make some variations on it as the year progresses. And, I will have to address the next issue... making a healthy icing for using on children's decorated cakes.
  • This cake does have oats in it. Which is a little un-normal for cakes. It tastes absolutely delicious. Just expect some texture from the oats. But, like I said, it is super moist, which is the important part of the texture... like rich velvet... It doesn't even really need ice cream on the side.
  • The cake tastes even better the next day. So, you might want to consider making it a day ahead of your event.
  • This cake uses all whole, unfractionated, unadulaterated, natural food ingredients.
  • Also, I wanted to use soaked grains because whole grains are difficult to digest and contain some enzyme inhibitors. Soaking grains for 12-24 hours using yogurt, kefir or lemon juice will neutralize the phytates, making the grain more digestible and the nutrients more available.
  • I baked this cake first in a 9x13 pan and second in a bundt pan. I think it turned out better as a sheet cake. The top was very soft and yummy, and it didn't even need icing. But, with a bundt pan, once it is flipped onto a plate, the top becomes the outside edge.

So, here's the recipe:

Super Moist Oatmeal Chocolate Cake

  • 1 c. rolled oats
  • 1 3/4 c. boiled water
  • 1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp. plain yogurt (or kefir)
  • 1/2 c. butter or coconut oil (I used one each time and both worked.)
  • 2 c. Sucanat or Rapadura
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. chocolate chips (I used naturally sweetened, organic chocolate chips.)
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts, optional (I used this for the birthday cake, but not the tea cake.)

First, boil the 1 3/4 cups of water. Pour it over 1 cup of oats, and stir to combine. Let stand for 30 minutes to cool.

(It needs to be below 115 degrees so that it won't kill the active cultures in the yogurt. It took 30 minutes to reach about 105 degrees. I don't think it is necessary to always use a thermometer since it just has to be within a range. 30 minutes should get you between 105 and 115 every time.)

After 30 minutes, add in the 1 3/4 cups of flour and the 2 Tbsp. plain yogurt. Stir well to combine. It should look like this:

Cover loosely and leave at room temperature overnight.

When you are ready to make the cake, melt 1/2 cup of butter or coconut oil in a saucepan. Add the 2 cups of natural sweetener. And 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder. Then stir in the 2 eggs and mix well.

In a mixer, beat the soaked grains on medium high speed for about 2 minutes, scraping the sides a few times as you go. While the batter is beating, add the baking soda and salt. It will look like a very wet bread dough when you start. And the beating will soften it up, breaking most of the gluten strands.

Pour in the oil, sweetener and egg mixture and beat again at medium-high speed for another 2 minutes. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into a 9x13 pan (or a bundt pan). If you are using walnuts, sprinkle them on the top of the batter. I only put them on half since some of my family prefers their cakes without nuts.

Bake at 350 degrees. For the 9x13 pan, it took 40 minutes to bake. For the bundt cake I made, it took 55 minutes before it tested done with a toothpick. Like I said above, I think it worked better in the sheet pan, but the presentation was better as a bundt cake.

So there you have it! In our opinion, it is by far the best "healthy" cake we have ever tasted AND it rivals most unhealthy chocolate cakes as well. I think most people you serve it to would not even guess you used whole grains! As you can see, it rose really nicely, which made a moist, light whole grain cake.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!
Please remember that my original recipes are copyrighted. It takes a good deal of planning, effort and creativity to develop a new recipe. If you share my recipe with others, please share the Health Begins With Mom link and properly credit the source. If you want to copy the text and pictures, you must ask for permission first. I appreciate that!

For more healthy recipes, check out Tuesday Twister here.
For your health,

Friday, April 2, 2010

My Holiday Menu

Serving Roasted Lamb has become our family tradition for our Resurrection Sunday meal together. After all, we are celebrating the "Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world," "a lamb without blemish and without spot" whose blood was spilt on our behalf.

This coming Sunday, I am preparing our traditional Roasted Leg of Lamb. Along with it I am serving
  • Herb Roasted New Potatoes,
  • Green Beans, which I just steam and toss with Coconut Oil, Salt and Pepper,
  • Warm Whole Wheat Rolls with Butter,
  • and a Tomato, Cucumber, Feta Cheese Salad.
  • For Dessert, I will serve the leftovers of my husband's birthday cake. (His birthday is the day before so there is no need to make a second dessert.)

Speaking of my husband and his birthday cake... He is not one to use his birthday as an excuse to eat a small portion of refined foods. (Unlike me, who is already anticipating my annual slice of chocolate cheesecake coming this June!) No, my dear husband much prefers a "healthy" cake. And, he is very willing for me to try something new... very willing to risk a flop of a birthday cake in the pursuit of better health.

So, I have something entirely new cooking up in my mind! I am really excited about this cake. I have fallen asleep at night making the recipe better in my thoughts. I don't have a name for it yet, but I am starting with soaked grains. If it is a winner, I will post the recipe with pictures. Let's hope it is as good at I imagine it will be! If not, my sweet man will still love me for my efforts. I am so blessed!!!

Enjoy your holiday,

Monday, March 29, 2010

Be a Supplement Skeptic

Did you all read the recent news about Fish Oil products being tainted with PCBs -- even when the label claimed the products were tested, pure and safe? This is just one more expose' in a long line of supplement crimes. Lead in children's vitamins. Fungicides in Ginseng products. Pesticides in Alfalfa tablets. The alarming levels of toxins found in supplements manufactured in China. And the list goes on.

On March 2nd, an environmental consumers group, Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation, sued fish oil supplement merchants for covering up the fact that their products contained toxic levels of PCBs. This took place in California, which requires a warning label anytime a product contains toxic ingredients.

Who did they sue? Omega Protein, the world's largest producer of fish oil products. They manufacture products for Twinlab, GNC, Rite Aid, CVS, Now Health Group, Pharmavite and Solgar.

So far, Mateel has only tested 10 Fish Oil supplements and has found toxic levels of PCBs in all of them. They plan to continue testing products and adding companies to the lawsuit as they discover who is marketing contaminated fish oil supplements.

Now, this is the thing that really stuns me. Either Omega Protein didn't test their products and still labeled them as pure. OR, they did test them and labeled them as pure anyway. Either way, this is another evidence that the supplement industry is not to be trusted.

You see, as consumers take daily doses of contaminated products, toxin levels build until serious problems arise. And supplement users usually take supplements trusting they will do their bodies good and not harm.

I encourage you to be a supplement skeptic. It is tempting to just pick up your supplements when you see them on sale at your local grocer or drug store. But that is simply not safe. You can not trust labels.

I've seen way too many news stories like this one -- where supplements companies truly endanger our health in the name of good health.

Only buy from a trusted source. One that can prove their rigorous quality control, that openly invites the public to check out their manufacturing processes, that tests their products so that they can guarantee their purity and effectiveness. A company that gives a 100% money back guarantee on every product.

I have posted before that Shaklee is my supplement company of choice. Read (here) to see how they passed my three critical questions for all consumers to ask supplement companies. If you're really interested in finding good supplements, I encourage you to read through all the posts under my supplement topic. You can also check out my Shaklee website for what makes Shaklee unique.

For your health,

Note: I have posted before about why I am a Shaklee Independent Distributor. Click here to read that post.

Friday, March 26, 2010

This Isn't a Real Post

I halfway composed a post entitled "Be a Supplement Skeptic" earlier this week. Yesterday was the day to complete it. But my laptop died (again... I have strong opinions about a certain brand now). I didn't have the time to finish it on the dinosaur computer we keep just for emergencies. Really, it took thirty-five minutes just to load my email!

So, today was the day to complete it. But as I sat down at the dinosaur, Tickle, who was supposed to be napping, started a horrendous coughing fit. The other children ran to get me, fearing for her life. It turns out she got out of bed to get her barrettes off her dresser. Then ate one. Then gagged until she got it up. With oranges and cheese that were not quite digested.

Why do I share this with you today? Well, first, you'll have to excuse me from a real post today. Cleaning up the mess took most of my computer time. And the dinosaur is taking the rest.

Second, lest you think I am one of those moms who has it all together - who has nice, orderly days homeschooling perfectly behaved and attentive children - I give you a real story. Life is messy sometimes. Even in my home.

And, I just remembered I forgot to thaw out beef for our Pakistani Kima tonight. I have to go put some in a sink of cold water before I completely forget again.

Happy weekend! and hopefully the real post will be finished on Monday,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Giveaway Winner, Important Co-op Information, and More Random Thoughts That Don't Fit in Another Post

I love bullets. Do you? They keep random thoughts so orderly... Here goes:

  • First, the winner of TrueLemon's World Water Day giveaway is Christie. (If you do not get my email with instructions, please email me: ae @ healthbeginswithmom.com.) Thank you to each reader who left a thoughtful comment about what we can do to help make clean water available around the world. I encourage each of you to take a look a the comments and jump into the action.

  • Next, I have had so many of you comment that you would like to be involved in whole food co-ops in order to make healthy foods more affordable. Well, I just ran across this website. Check it out to see if there are any groups near you!

  • Do you remember a while ago when I told you about my friend with the eleven year old Wendy's hamburger? Well, Fox News tells of a similar experiment with a Happy Meal. It never spoiled, which breaks my Food Selection Rule of Thumb. Read the story (here).

  • Three of my children caught a cold this past weekend. What do I do for them in order to speed their recovery? Read this former post.

  • Also, this time around I used a product called Xlear with Tickle. (The product was a generous sample sent to me for review by GS Schwartz & Co.) Her runny nose only lasted two days, while Spiderman and Witzy are still hanging on to theirs (fourth and third day, respectively). Could the difference be the Xlear? It is hard to say for sure, but I will be trying the product again next time I encounter a cold... let's hope that it's a while down the road.

  • Anyway, the product is worth checking out. Xlear is an "all-natural nasal spray with Xylitol, a healthy alternative to over the counter products and overused antibiotics." The bottle of nasal drops seems like it would last forever... and it only costs $6.99. You just give a few drops twice a day to clear the sinuses. The active ingredient is Xylitol, which is a natural sweetener found in plants and fruits. The Xylitol soothes and moisturizes nasal passages and rinses away bacteria, pollutants and allergens. Supposedly, it is a good preventative measure, although I have not used it that way. It seems logical though that rinsing the nasal passages clear daily would prevent most illness.

Have a great Wednesday!