Things I love

That’s It bars

That's It - so delicious, so simple.

That’s It – so delicious, so simple.

These delicious and simple bars are made with just fruit. So the apple + mango, which my son loves, is just apple and mango. That’s it!

Honest Company products

The Honest Company

The Honest Company

The Honest Company, founded by actress Jessica Alba, sells products that are environmentally sensitive and non-toxic. They offer bundle deals for diapers and home care products. Our order comes once a month with six packs of diapers – with cute designs – and four packs of wipes. We often get the home essentials bundle as well and this comes with five or more products of your choosing. I love the bath and body wash for kids. We also use the dish soap, laudry detergent, and multi-purpose cleaner. You can be happy knowing these products are safe for your family, your pets, and your home. It’s a great service.

The increased availability of organic fruit and vegetable squeeze pouches

Organic fruit and veggie pouches

Organic fruit and veggie pouches

Have you noticed the huge amount of new fruit and vegetable pounches at the grocery store? They are everywhere and I love it! We started giving these to Droolface when he was about 2 years old. At the time, you could only find them in the baby aisle, and not every store carried them. Now I see them outside the baby aisle, in the canned fruit aisle, and yesterday, in the produce section. I am so glad these are gaining in popularity. It is so great to be able to give your kids organic fruit and vegetables in an easy-to-use and somewhat less-messy package when out of the house. Often, if I know Droolface is going to be having an unhealthy meal – French fries for example – I will make sure to give him one of these pouches first. We call them squishies in my house, but call them whatever you like, it is a fun and easy way to get those veggies into your kids!

What do you ban in your home?

The topic of banning certain television shows came up today and I wondered what shows people might ban.

Do you ban television in your home?

When Droolface was a young toddler, one of the first television program we introduced him to was the Gigglebellies. We had a DVD of several of the songs, which, if you aren’t familiar with them, are very bright and vibrant and sing-songy. Shortly after he started watching them, he would have severe meltdowns – full-on toddler tantrums – when the program was over. We had to ban it to save bedtime.

We’ve gradually allowed more television into his day and it has been OK. I hesitate to say it is working because he still has severe tantrums sometimes. He is currently in love with Super Why on PBS. This show may be the next to be banned because he has lost it several times when we have had to stop watching.

We recently had to ban movies in general because every time he watched a movie he peed in his chair. Something about men and television being all-consuming … but I digress.

Television is great for brining in parts of the outside world into our home. It is a great way to find new ideas, for example, but in other ways it also brings in behavior problems. For example, children who never previously told a parent to stop talking, suddenly find that language because of a television show. Kids emulate the shows they see and it’s not always a great thing.

They can also become seriously attached to the show or the characters in the show, making it nearly impossible to get them to enjoy other activities, like, I don’t know, fresh air or going to the bathroom!

So I want to hear from you – have you banned any television shows or programs?

This. Today.

I need to write this today. I need to get it out. Maybe by writing it, I can get it out of my head where it has been squatting for a few days now, even though I served it eviction notices.

The path we choose

Sometimes, we make a decision. We decide to go down a path. We don’t know what the path will hold. We hope we made the decision, but we just may never know.

Other times, we know we are choosing the right path, but the universe may not reinforce it.

And still other times, we are pretty sure we chose the right path, and the universe totally reinforces it.

This is the third situation. When the universe waits some time after you chose the path, then slaps you in the face with an exact picture of what would have likely happened if you had not chosen that path.

It’s scary. It’s so scary that it has been bumping around my brain for days.

It’s on the news here. I saw what could have been my face on the news, splattered across news feeds on my friends’ social media pages, and across the pages of newspapers.

That face could have been mine. Thank God it wasn’t.

Thank God it wasn’t my children who are seeing their mom’s face in those pages and feeds. Thank God they are being exposed to the awful, hurtful, so terribly disturbing comments that are filling the pages under the news article. How horrifying. How vomit-inducing.

Oh, how that could have been me.

I totally empathize with the woman who is in the place that I might have been. I feel for her children. I cry for her family. I pray for all of them. She chose that path. I know she did. I had nothing to do with her choice. I made a different choice – hopefully a better choice. Right now, I am positive it was the better choice. But, maybe she didn’t have that choice.

Maybe that poor woman who everyone is degrading all over the news media right now didn’t luck out. She didn’t find the right path. Maybe she needs help. Maybe the reason she is splayed out for all the world to see is so that finally someone will help her. Please help her so that both she and her children can grow from this and find the right path.

It is so easy to hang someone out to dry – to tell them they deserve to be in jail. But we don’t know their story. We don’t know their struggle.

This woman was a friend of mine. I went one way. She went another.

Let’s suck it up.

Thumbs_down_smiley2Let’s suck it up.

Confession time: A month or so ago I was all gung-ho on the buying less, spending less, minimalist philosophy. Well I suck at it. I’m just putting it out there. We all suck at something. I suck at this. I suck at being organized about waiting to spend the money when we have the money. I suck about not just impulse buying something that I know my kid will love. I suck about avoiding those cute, fun things that are close to check-outs. I suck about putting things off because I love instant gratification.

What do you suck at?

Let’s talk about breastfeeding

Snuggling with my newborn Birdy.

Snuggling with my newborn Birdy.

Let’s talk about breastfeeding.

It is one of the most natural things in the world. The images we are flooded with as new moms are beautiful. A graceful and elegant mom in bed, draped by her infant and both looking happily into each other’s eyes.

It’s a beautiful thing.

I love breastfeeding. I love how it provides all the essential nutrients for my child. I love the bonding. I love the snuggles. I love that it is free.

With my first, Droolface, I did not have the beautiful experience. He had a hard time latching on. It was a constant struggle. He would only nurse in a certain position and of course it was the most uncomfortable position for me. I had a sore back for nearly a year. I breastfed Droolface for nearly seven months.

With Birdy, it was the beautiful experience that you see in all those advertisements. She latched on perfectly, ate well and was content. For about a week. By the end of her first month, she was not satisfied by what I could produce. She was a hungry girl. She was always on the breast. She lived there. She camped out. She would not budge.

It wasn’t so bad, until I had to go back to work.

Like many moms, I am a full-time worker bee.

So out came the pump. I pumped over lunch and tried to get another break in there somewhere to pump. I pumped in closets, bathrooms, cold computer rooms and in a co-worker’s office. I was walked in on, disturbed and annoyed.

Like many workplaces, mine does not have a designated pumping area. And, I don’t have a door on my workstation. Or walls.
We started supplementing. I kept pumping. And pumping.

And then one night while I was in tears because all I did when I got home was breastfeed or pump, I made a decision. I would have to cut back. I couldn’t keep up. It was for my own wellbeing. But it wasn’t just for my sanity and wellbeing. It was for my kids also.

Who wants a mom who is constantly attached to a machine and constantly at her wit’s end that she won’t be able to provide vital nutrients for her babies?

Who wants a mom who is frenetically looking for an outlet to plug in so she can pump?

While I am a huge breastfeeding supporter, I also chose to stop breastfeeding my daughter at 3 months. It was the best decision for me and for my family.

Now, I am a much happier mommy. I am also there for them. I come home from work and can play with them and snuggle and go outside and dig for worms.
I don’t need to be attached to anything … except to them. And, it is really better that way.
Moms have all kinds of hard choices to make – but we should make these choices based on what is best for ourselves and our children.

What do you think?

The Great Deodorant Challenge

It’s time to put the money where the mouth is – my mouth in this case. I call myself an environmentalist and am constantly reducing the toxins in our home, but it wasn’t until recently that I discovered the best tool a non-toxic mommy can have – the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database.

This list includes many, many products that are common in our homes – shampoo, makeup, deodorant, paper products, soap, baby wipes, and much more. It gives each product a rating based on its toxicity and its effect on the human body and the environment. You want products that come back with a green rating, which is 0-2; 3-7 is a moderate risk for toxicity; 8 and higher is high risk (i.e. products you want to avoid).

I highly recommend going to Skin Deep and looking up the products you currently use to learn about the risks. Then, search around for similar products with better ratings.

I understand that these less toxic products may not be household names; they may even be hard to find at your regular store. But, trust me, your family and the environment will thank you in the long run because you will be protecting your health and the natural world around us. In addition, online shopping can be just as easy as running to the store – you can save a lot of money by using Amazon Prime and either signing up for Pantry boxes or for Subscribe and Save. And, two-day shipping makes it nearly as fast as just running to the store.

As a side note, did you know they are finding ingredients from our everyday bath products in fish and animals? See – link here and here.

Back to the topic at hand: Finding a better deodorant.

My husband has used Speed Stick for years – find out what the EWG thinks about it here

It has a high toxicity rating and according to EWG an increased risk for bioaccumulation, which means it can build up in your body.

So we tried about eight low-toxin deodorants. Here is what we thought.

Overall, the non-toxic deodorants tend to be liquid or roll-on. I am used to a powder-based deodorant so I wasn’t in love with the wet feeling of the roll-ons. My husband is used to a gel deodorant, so he didn’t mind the wet feeling. I felt like I had to keep my arms raised until it dried, which can be hard when you are wrangling a 3-year-old into his school clothes. We both tried all of the kinds and have some thoughts.

My husband’s favorites were the Kiss My Face Liquid Rock Sport Roll-On and the Kiss My Face Green Tea Cucumber Gel stick. Both had light scents so he didn’t smell too much like a cucumber and both worked well to keep him smelling good all day.

Neither of us liked the Miessence Tahitian Roll-On. He didn’t like the vanilla smell (neither did I) and I didn’t feel like it worked all day. We were both indifferent to the Crystal Essence Lavender Roll-On. It smelled OK and worked OK, but wasn’t great.

I absolutely did not like the Ava Anderson Deodorant. The main ingredient is a form of cocoa and I thought it just smelled awful. It was also hard to apply because it was pasty and didn’t rub on well.

My favorite and the one I will continue using is the Ban Unscented Antiperspirant. It kept me dry all day. It is powder-based, so it was more similar to what I was used to, and I liked that it was unscented.

In the end, I would recommend trying some non-toxic brands to see which you prefer. The EWG Skin Deep database has plenty of recommendations and most can be purchased via Amazon at reasonable costs.

Here are our overall ratings:

deo challenge

Enjoying summer’s bounty

I don’t know about you, but our garden is producing vegetables by the truckload. I am now overcome with zucchini, squash, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. It can be hard to use every single vegetable, but it is my personal challenge to make this happen!

This weekend, I made two loaves of zucchini-peach bread, which used up one zucchini and two peaches I had kicking around. We also had tomato and cucumber sandwiches for lunch and pasta Parmesan with zucchini and tomatoes for dinner. For Sunday lunch, I made a Mexican lasagna ahead so it just needed to be baked and topped with tomatoes. Dinner included a Baked Zucchini Gratin and Quick Pickled Cucumbers.

Enjoying the summer’s bounty is also a great opportunity to add meat-free meals to your cooking repertoire. Here are some of the recipes I made this weekend:

This quick Mexican Lasagna was delicious and filling!

This quick Mexican Lasagna was delicious and filling!

Quick Mexican Lasagna

You Will Need:

Large Pie Dish
6 tortillas (I used flour, but corn or gluten-free would also work)
Refried beans
Whole beans (black, pinto or cannellini all work well – 1 can)
Can of Mexicorn
Can of Diced Tomatoes with chiles
Shredded Cheese (taco cheese, cheddar or monterey jack is fine)
1/2 cup cream cheese (I used leftover whipped cream cheese, but any kind should be fine)

Instruction:
1. Drain beans, corn and most of the liquid from the diced tomatoes with chiles.
2. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients except tortillas and cheese. Make sure it is well incorporated.
3. Put 1/3 of the bean mixture in the bottom of the pie plate.
4. Top with three tortillas to cover as much as possible.
5. Layer in half of the remaining bean mixture.
6. Top with three more tortillas to cover bean mixture.
7. Add remaining bean mixture and top with shredded cheese.

At this point, you can refrigerate the Mexican lasagna until you are ready to use it. When you are ready, pop it into a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and lasagna is heated through. Top with homegrown tomatoes and anything else you might like such as black olives or sour cream. Enjoy!

Baked Zucchini Gratin

Zucchini is abundant in the summer; try some new recipes to enjoy it!

Zucchini is abundant in the summer; try some new recipes to enjoy it!

The world is full of new zucchini recipes, especially during the summer. I whipped this up for our Sunday dinner and it was delicious!

You Will Need:

Baking dish (mine was 9.5 x 11, but any size should work)
1-2 zucchinis depending on size
Half stick butter (could also use olive or coconut oil)
Melting cheese (I used Monterey Jack)
Parmesan cheese
Bread crumbs

Instructions:
1. Slice the zucchini thinly. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In large skillet, melt butter and add sliced zucchini. Toss to coat with butter, add salt and pepper. Cook about 2-3 minutes.
3. Pour zucchini into baking dish.
4. Top with shredded Parmesan and shredded melting cheese.
5. Top with shaking of bread crumbs.
6. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes or until it is bubbling and browned on top.

Serve warm and enjoy!

What are your favorite summer vegetable recipes?

Just a little taste…

Enjoy these green chicken enchiladas for a weekday quick-fix.

Enjoy these green chicken enchiladas for a weekday quick-fix.

Hummus and black beans are two of my go-to ingredients for a quick and filling fix.

Hummus and black beans are two of my go-to ingredients for a quick and filling fix.

I’m back! I’ve been busy since the last time we spoke. I started a Masters program and we went on vacation, so there hasn’t been much time for blogging. But I wanted to stop in for a quick chat today.

So how is everyone?

Here in coastal Delaware, the weather has been amazing. Huge thunderstorms and then gorgeous beach-perfect weather. My family headed up to Long Island last week to soak in the sun and enjoy the beautiful waters of the Long Island Sound. It was a great trip and no one killed anyone! The kids were superstars and Mommy and Daddy managed to keep our wits about us in the face of an energetic 3-year-old and a giggly infant.

Now back to our regular routine, I am determined to get back to healthy eating. Food on vacation is generally sub-par, meaning we eat more fries and pies than we should! But, we still have a busy schedule and need some quick fixes that are also filling and healthy.

Here are a few quick bites that are my go-to recipes when I am trying to eat healthier.

Toss Together Wrap

You Will Need:

* tortilla (flour, corn or gluten-free)
* black beans (leftovers work great)
* hummus
* tomatoes or leftover homemade salsa with onions, garlic and cilantro
* avocado, mashed

Spread all of the ingredients over your tortilla, roll up and enjoy! The hummus and beans will fill you up!

Green Chicken Quick Dinner Enchiladas

You Will Need:

* Chicken (frozen thighs or breasts work)
* Slow Cooker or Crockpot
* Green Enchilada sauce (tomatillos, garlic, onion, green or red tomatoes, green chiles, jalapeno or dash hot sauce, water, and simmer on stove until it turns into a sauce. You can blend it up to make it less chunky)

Place frozen or thawed chicken in slow cooker with sauce to just cover. Cook on low for eight hours or high for four hours until chicken is cooked through. This can all be happening while you are at work.

Then when you get home, preheat the oven to 350, take the chicken out of the slow cooker and chop up. Create an assembly line with the following items:

* Tortillas (use medium or burrito size)
* Prepared chicken
* Jarred or homemade salsa
* Cheese (can be taco cheese or just mozzarella – I use whatever I have in the fridge)
* Black beans

In a pan on the stove, boil a few ladles of the sauce from the slow cooker. Then ladle into the bottom of a large flat baking dish. Assemble the enchiladas – with the tortilla flat in your hand, put a couple spoons of chicken, beans, salsa and then top with shredded cheese. Place in the baking dish. Fill the dish with your enchiladas and top with the remaining sauce and more cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Pair with a green salad and some sour cream for a delicious and nutritious meal.

What are your favorite quick meals?

The downfalls of sugary drinks

Is sugar sidetracking your weight loss?

Is sugar sidetracking your weight loss?

Summer is a time for fun and picnics and parties, but it can also be a hazard for our health and diets!

I came to this realization after I stepped on the scale this morning expecting to see at least a pound or two less. Instead, I saw an extra pound! So, I started thinking about why I would have gained instead of lost during a weekend filled with lots of exercise and activity. It comes down to sugary drinks.

All weekend, instead of sipping water like I usually do, I was enjoying sweetened iced tea, lemonade and coffee with added sweetener. All of these beverages adds up to too many calories!

While indulging in some sweetness isn’t a bad thing at all and I certainly don’t recommend giving up our treats, extra sugar can mean extra pounds for both ourselves and our children. I admit that I am guilty of giving my son a packaged fruit drink every now and then. It might be more in the summer because we are often outside playing and the boxed drink is easier and faster.

But, we should all be wary of sweetened drinks, even if they are fruit based. I certainly don’t want to be adding on pounds during swimsuit season!

Read more about the problems of too much sugar here.

Also try: A Smoothie To End All Sugar Cravings by Mind Body Green. Yum!

Ingredients
• 1 cup frozen blueberries
• 1/2 cup fresh spinach
• 2 cups coconut water
• 1 tbsp chia seeds
• 1 tbsp bee pollen
• 1 tbsp hemp protein powder
• 1 tbsp cacao
• handful of ice

Directions – Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender.

Fitness Friday: Summer detox and chia pudding

Chia pudding - yum!

Chia pudding – yum!

I recently read an article about a woman who had cancer and used a detox diet, along with whole foods and exercise to beat her illness … twice.

Polly Noble won her battles, and she now hosts a website and blog, where she writes about ways to go on a healthy diet.

UPDATE: Polly Noble passed away in May 2014 after discovering her cancer had spread. See a tribute here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2626537/Heartbroken-Katherine-Jenkins-pays-touching-tribute-best-friend-Polly-Noble-lost-battle-cancer.html

First things first – detox your body.

I admit, I have done detoxes in the past. While often very strict, I found I had more energy and felt healthier afterward. I also felt more committed to eating healthy food.

Right now, I am feeling very guilty writing to you all about doing a detox, because I know I am having pizza for dinner. But, even in a world where pizza is as much a necessity as toilet paper, the average person can do a detox.

It’s just a matter of deciding to do it and carrying it out. A great time to detox would be before or after the holidays – which, if you didn’t know, are right around the corner.

The before-holiday detox could mean less splurging on high fat foods – but you better get on it, since most detoxes last a week or more.

The after-holiday detox is my plan. After the holidays, I often feel guilty and bloated. It’s the perfect time to get back to basics and prepare your body to shed those pounds in January.

Here are a few tips on creating your own detox program. First cut out all the over-processed foods in your life – this does include pizza, and cheeseburgers and hot dogs and fruitcake. Try to eat whole, natural foods. The more raw food, the better.

1 – The No. 1 rule of detox is to drink lots of water. Water helps flush out all the crud and keeps you hydrated so your body’s metabolism can keep going.

2 – Start a juicing routine. I personally have a juicer that I rarely use. Instead I opt for a basic blender to make smoothies each morning. But, if you have one of those fancy, high-powered juicers or Vitamix machines, pull it out and wipe off the dust because it’s time to juice.

Polly says to go green because adding more greens to your diet, whether eating or juicing them, will help to alkalise your body, send much needed nutrients to your cells for cleansing, repair and regeneration, and not to mention replenish those all important red blood cells.

3 – Use more herbs. Detox diets often offer simple recipes in an effort to keep fats out of our diet. To spice up those meals, add a variety of herbs. Try coriander, rosemary, thyme or oregano. I swear by oregano because it also helps boost the immune system. Polly suggests watercress or parsley because they help cleanse the liver.

4 – Exercise. During your detox, it is important to walk or exercise every day. And, I am not talking about walking to your mailbox; I am talking about an aerobic walk – make it at least a mile.

5 – Practice deep breathing. Polly says according to the ‘Tao of Breathing’ up to 70 percent of our body’s waste products are eliminated via our lungs and the rest through the urine, skin and feces. So when we shallow breathe, less oxygen is available to our cells which slows down the flow of blood carrying waste from the kidneys and lungs.

6 – Add more fiber. I recently purchased a blend of flax and Chia seeds, which I add into our morning smoothies to give the family a hit of fiber. Chia seeds are the new lovechild of the whole-foods industry because they keep people feeling full longer, balance blood sugar, add healthy omega-3s, keep you feeling energized and they can be added to so many recipes without anyone being the wiser. Also, if soaked, they turn into a gel that can be made into some delicious pudding treats.

Recipe Alert!
Chia pudding with fruit

You Will Need:

1/2 cup cashews

1 cup water

3/4 cup berries, such as raspberries, strawberries or blueberries (fresh or frozen are both fine)

3 tablespoons of honey (or agave nectar)

1 tablespoon raw cacao powder

1 vanilla bean (or 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract)

4 tablespoons of chia seeds (Reserve – do not put them in the blender!! Add at end)

Instructions:

1. Throw everything in the blender EXCEPT THE CHIA SEEDS!

2. Blend in a high-speed blender ’til very very well blended. You can’t really overblend this, so feel free to go nuts.

3. Place the chia seeds in a large bowl. Slowly pour the blender concoction over the chia seeds, and stir very well.

4. Stir – Probably take the bowl with you in front of the TV and stir for 10 minutes or so. The purpose of all this stirring is to help the chia seeds declump and plump up. Remember, the chia seeds are like tapioca and they will expand in size. Try not to eat too much of the pudding now. Just take a few tiny spoonfulls and that’s it!! Don’t eat the whole bowl in front of the TV because it gets even better once it’s been refrigerated for an hour or two!

5. Refrigerate – Once everything is nicely stirred and there are no clumps, cover and refrigerate for an hour or two. The purpose of doing this is to let the chia seeds plump up over time. You could probably let this chia seed fruit pudding sit on the counter for the same amount of time rather than refrigerate it.

Source: The Rawtarian
There are tons of other tips and meal plans out there for a detox diet, so find the one that works best for you!