Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Food for thought....

Did you ever wonder about the flavor of your natural foods?  For example, milk, orange juice, cheese, butter?  If you think about every time you've eaten or drank your favorite brand, did the flavor ever change?  We reach for our favorite brand of orange juice because we have found the flavor that suits us best.  But if you were to taste your favorite commercial foods or drinks, that were packaged for you a year ago and one that was packaged today you would notice that they taste exactly the same.

This may not take you by surprise or even bother you at first as that flavor is what endeared you to that brand in the first place.  But do foods naturally taste the same day after day after day?  The answer is no.  Any fruit picked yesterday will have a different sugar content than one picked tomorrow or the next day.  Milk, butter, cheeses change flavor based on what the cow is eating through out the year.  Even eggs can have subtle changes due to a chicken's diet (unfortunately in the chicken arena, commercially raised chickens diet never do change, so "factory eggs" likely do never change their flavor or color).

It almost seems ridiculous that I personally had not thought this concept through much earlier.  As a young child I remember being blessed with raw milk, we ate a lot of our own garden raised vegetables, and we produced fresh apple cider three months out of the year for sale.  I've known from a very young age that the cider produced early in the season has a very different flavor from that later in the season and that no two batches of cider were ever identical in flavor or color.  If that's the case with a simple glass of apple cider, why wouldn't it be the same for orange juice, grape juice, milk, cheeses, and any other natural product.

Unfortunately the answer lies in chemicals.  The large commercial companies know that their customers want a certain texture, a certain flavor and have found a way to make sure that every bottle of your favorite orange juice remains true to that particular bottle you opened on the day you fell in love with it.  Below I've posted some links with information and sources regarding the "amazing" journey our "natural" orange juice takes from an orange tree to your glass.

I haven't researched milk, and other similar products yet, but I'm quite certain the findings will be similar.  Though I do know for a fact that the raw milk, butter, yogurt, and cheeses that we buy from our farmer certainly do change from month to month, sometimes from week to week, all based on what the cows have been eating, where they have been pastured, etc....  And a shameless plug for our fresh pressed apple cider as an example of what a more natural process should look like:  you will never find an identical batch of our juice, similar maybe, as we've found certain blends of apple varieties make yummier juice then others, but never identical.  Our juice is pressed, filtered enough to remove any stray apple chunks, pumped cold through a (state mandated) computer controled uv light that targets e.coli and bad bacteria (enzymes, yeasts, and most good bacteria are not effected as our uv processed cider will "turn" just as quickly as the unprocessed cider), and then bottled into jugs and kept chilled in a cooler until bought by our customers.  Our cider will not last more than a week without beginning to turn and ferment (unless you purchase our preserved label, which uses the same exact process above, the only difference is it has potassium sorbate added prior to bottling.)  Personally we love freezing our favorite batch of the season to enjoy all through the winter, and if we're lucky and have pressed enough, through part of the summer.  A fond memory of mine was watching my Grandfather taste each batch of cider throughout the cider pressing months, looking for "the one" he wanted to fill his cider freezer with for the year.  Then every summer as he would be splitting wood for the year to come he'd have a half gallon of his cider thawing on a stump nearby so that as the day grew warm it would thaw and he'd enjoy "fresh cider" as he worked.

Next time you reach for something "natural", think about how much processing that "natural" food has gone through.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Nurturing a healthy lifestyle....

Just wanted to share one of our experiences from the last couple months and hope it's an encouragement to others.  We have two boys, ages 5 1/2 and 7.  They take turns being "the picky eater" and "the eat everything in site child".  There unfortunately was a time when I would have been "glad" to have them eat a pop tart (at least organic) just so they would eat something.  Over the past year we have made more and better decisions and commitments to our health which has resulted in a wonderful thing happening to our boys that I just noticed when we made a trip to an unfamiliar grocery story and I had to wander to find what I needed.

We usually only shop the produce section, the natural/organic section if we need flours and such, and the toilet paper aisle.  This particular day I was looking for olive oil in a strange store and we ended up down the cereal aisle.  I didn't think anything of it until my oldest made a dramatic display of wishing and longing and wanting choco-crunch or something, which of course had the younger suddenly wishing and begging as well.  We quietly and quickly had a chat about why we don't eat those foods and on we went (I did notice a slight longing look over the oldest's shoulder as we walked away).  Around the corner we came upon a display of gatoraid to which the boys began jumping up and down, "We need gatoraid! We haven't had it in FOREVER!"  Again, I quickly explained why we don't have gatoraid.  This time their response made me giggle, "Well then Mama, you need to make us some good gatoraid!"  This response must be based on us frequently finding healthier options or us making a healthy, real food equivalent to the processed food or treat they are wishing for.

Then, just today, my dear hubby took the boys for a few last minute school supplies.  Now, my boys are ALL about Angry Birds-these things seem to be in every facet of our lives: toys, sheets, pillows, stuffies, towels, legos, lunch containers, drawings, stickers, stories, and likely their dreams.  This said, they saw Angry Birds candy of some sort and asked Daddy if they could PLLLLLEASE each get one.  He thought about it, he picked up the candy, he read the ingredients, and then told the boys a few of the things in the candy.  He could have explained to them  that Titanium Dioxide is in the candy and that it is listed as a possible carcinogen, but instead my husband simply said, "Boys, there is metal in this candy, we don't want to eat that."  I wish I was there to see their response, because they suddenly had no desire for the candy and were wondering why anyone would put metal in candy.

So many times I have heard parents complain or resign themselves to the fact that their child will not eat healthy.  We are the parents, we put the boxed mac and cheese in the shopping cart, we swipe the card at the checkout for the chemical/sugar laden cereals, we don't put the candy and soda back on the shelf and tell them "no, this is not healthy for us."  We the parents are responsible for what our children eat and drink.  When our children whine and complain because they want to walk in the street instead of holding our hand on the sidewalk we certainly don't allow them simply because they complain.  When our children beg to use the Chef's knife when helping with dinner we don't simply hand it over because they begged and pleaded.  As parents it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and in turn teach our children both in action and through educating them what is truly nutritious, healthy, and the best for them.

Children are smart, they are quick learners, and they follow our examples much faster than our verbal directions.  I encourage you to start taking steps, if you haven't already, to making healthy, nutritious, wise decisions for you, your child, and your entire family's health.  Your future self, your children, and your grandchildren will thank you for it!

Vege & Fruit Smile

Friday, July 26, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Yes!  Chocolate Chip Cookies!  On our journey to health we have discovered chocolate chip cookies.  This recipe by Healy Real Food Vegetarian is simply DELISH and, dare I say, "healthy"!   :)

Grain-free Chocolate Chip Cookies: 12-16 cookies

1 cup almond flour (if you want to make your own she tells you how here, so easy!) 

1/3 cup coconut flour 
3/4 cup coconut sugar (we don't have any coconut sugar and have been using sucanat with good results.  Going to start using less and see how they turn out as well.)
1/2 cup coconut oil (melted)
1/4 tsp salt (we use Pink Himalayan salt)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
2 pastured eggs
3/4 cup chocolate chips  (our choice for chocolate)

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
Combine all ingredients, except for the chocolate chips, in mixer and mix well.
Carefully add and fold in the chocolate chips with a spoon.
Using a small scoop(we use this scoop) place dough on cookie sheet (we use stones)
Bake 10-15 minutes.  (Our cookies tended to be too soft at 10 minutes)
Also delicious, adding a few handful of organic walnuts to the dough - yummy crunch! 
We have been baking gluten free for eight years and have tried dozens of recipes and these cookies are seriously delicious, soft, one of the best recipes we have ever tried, and did I mention yummy!?  To see her original post and plenty of other wonderful grain free recipes pop over to Healy Real Food Vegetarian.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

It's a Journey!

Our daily journey towards complete health is just that, a journey-full of ups and downs, twists and turns, detours, road blocks, accidents, changed routes, and delightful side trips.  As I've said before we have always been in a state of flux, up and down, about our health, where we think we should be regarding our health, and even what we feel "being healthy" really means.   Two weeks ago it was suggested to my husband that he begin a strict diet to combat Adrenal Fatigue following a month of fighting with sleeplessness, inability to eat, function, or sleep well.

This "diet" wasn't crazy, it wasn't even weird, it was simply.....real.  So, at our wits end for how to deal with my hubby's declining health we took on this new "diet" and two weeks ago we began to eat more like GOD intended, or created us to eat.  We have a long way to go in getting this "right", but WOW the changes that have occurred in just a couple short weeks!

*Our family as a whole is sleeping better (once we convince the boys that it is indeed time to rest and they do NOT need another drink of water) and waking up refreshed in the morning.

*Our kitchen has NEVER seen so much activity.

*Our energy levels are rising and we are able to take on our days as opposed to our days draining us by mid afternoon.

*Dearest hubby of mine has gone from being a Mt. Dew/ Mellow Yellow junkie to being soda free.

*I have traded my 20 year daily organic black coffee habit for water and Teeccino.  (Here's a few reasons why we have chosen to quit the caffeine habit cold turkey.)

*Our littles are learning to truly appreciate a wide variety of good healthy foods.

*We are truly enjoying the delightful findings we glean from our garden everyday for our meals. (As well as storing up the extras for winter time use.)

*That evil scale in the bathroom, that is always reading a higher number than I want it's steadily getting closer to the numbers I want to see.  Ten pounds closer in just two weeks!

All these wonderful, healthy, delightful changes have come about simply by making wise, good, food decisions.  Our breakfasts consist of either an omelet of some sort or grain free pancakes and a drink of water or homemade lemonade or orange juice.  Lunches and Suppers include a meat (grass fed beef, free range chickens, or wild fish) and an assortment of fresh or frozen veggies along with a drink of water or homemade lemonade.  Snacks throughout our day include fresh fruits, raw nuts (no peanuts), and occasionally a grain free cookie.

I've mentioned what we DO eat first because that's what is truly important and really quite simply.  By making the commitment and decision to only eat real, whole foods, we are cutting out any processed, fake foods that effect our bodies negatively.  My husband is completely gluten intolerant and our whole family has been "mostly gluten free" for a year now and we have only seen minimal changes in our health and well being from our "change in diet".  But there is a reason for that, "gluten free" has become a big business, a popular fad and/or lifestyle and many, MANY companies have jumped in the gluten free pool.  This has made it very easy to eat the same exact processed foods that are available to those who are gluten tolerant.  Granted, quite often the quality of the gluten free foods may be slightly superior to the name brands, as many gluten free companies tend to carry organic and/or gmo free certifications.  But in the end, processed food is still processed food and every processing step creates a food that is further and further away from what your body recognizes and can utilize.    

By cutting out ALL processed foods, all soy products, all vegetable oils (we use coconut oil, olive oil, and raw butter), all grains, all processed sugars, and sparingly using potatoes, corn, and other starchy veggies we are transforming our family's health and are thrilled with the complete results!  This is truly a lifestyle, and a journey that is making serious changes to our family's life and future.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Long ago, as a young fifth grader in a small private school I have recollections of churning butter one afternoon as a school project of some sort.  I vaguely remember it, lots of cranking on a handle connected to a glass jar.  Seems the project was "supposed" to provide butter for a school dinner that night-I'm pretty sure there were sticks of butter on the tables for the dinner. ;)

When we found and started buying whole raw milk I was excited to be able to buy a nice quart of fresh whole, raw cream.  At first my goal was to simply make homemade whipped cream (which I've done for years using "heavy cream" from the grocery).  As I looked at the quart jug of cream I decided we really didn't need THAT much whipped cream and the boys and I decided we should make some homemade butter!  How hard could it be? :)    So, after much research across the internet, I settled on The Healthy Home Economist as my model for making our own butter here at home.  (She also has a ton of wonderful information, tutorials, etc... on her blog for healthy homes and family).

Her video is very well done and it really is as easy as she portrays in her video.  The boys and I enjoyed making the butter-though they did get a little bored as the kitchenaid whirred away, maybe next time I'll have them churn it by hand. ;)
My two little butter churning helpers

Watching the Kitchenaid make short work of the process

Little H really wanted to see what all the excitement was about
(yes, it is perfectly normal for her to have one sock on and one sock off :p ).

Taking a peek to see how the cream is firming up

Turning yellow and really separating the fats out

Ready to scrape it out into the muslim and give it a squeeze

Our finished product, a delicious bowl of fresh churned, home made butter!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Independence: Take yourself out of their equation.

Just this morning I was letting my mind muddle over the crazy stats and scary truths of modern medicine and it finally hit me, We don't have to be a part of their equation.  It struck me as ironic as I thought about our goals to not be a statistic of modern medicine, we are coming up on our great country's celebration of its own Independence this week.

Our journey towards health began about eight years ago.  I had just had a very early miscarriage and was on a quest to be healthier.  My almost 90 year old grandmother was thrilled to have a compatriot along for the health ride and someone to help her find information and resources on the "inTOREnet", as she referred to the internet.  Grandmother was the healthiest person I knew and she was determined to find her way through all the swirling health and nature claims screaming from every corner and aisle at the grocery.  So off we went, buying only steel cut oatmeal, using the wholest of the whole grain breads.  Grandmother loved to forage for her greens and was the best gardener I have ever known, growing every vegetable she ever wanted.  Me?  At that point I hardly had a drop of gardening blood flowing through me, so I did my best to feed my husband and I mostly organic foods from the grocery and to refrain from processed foods as much as possible.

Then my husband began to get sick, often.  Bronchitis, Pneumonia, horrid, horrid coughing spells.  At a friend's suggestion we went to a "natural leaning doctor" and was asked to give a gluten free diet a try and see if he was gluten intolerant.  Bingo, a gluten free diet and things improved.  Looking back we laugh now that in my quest for health I was filling him with all kinds of whole grains that would aggravate his gut.  Unfortunately simply cutting gluten out of his diet did not "fix" everything.  He still struggled with endless coughing at night, ended up in the hospital a few times with desperately low oxygen levels, pneumonia, and multiple asthma scares and was put on a preventative asthma regime.

We kept researching true health, we added two sweet boys to our family, and went up and down in regards to our extent of healthy living.  Then almost two years ago my husband informed me that I was pregnant.  Well, THAT wasn't supposed to happen. ;)  Regardless, we accepted our extra little blessing and along with it, the mothering instinct in me to be healthier again.  Throughout my pregnancy, our awesome midwife encouraged me to research the Paleo lifestyle, which I did and was very intrigued and interested in the science and information Wolfe presented. Then at 37 weeks exactly, at a routine prenatal visit my blood pressure sky rocketed, and my midwife asked to observe me overnight.  Pre-eclampsia? Me?  I had never had high blood pressure in my life.  This resulted in an induction and our wee little 4 lb 14 oz baby girl came quickly 3 weeks early.

As we adjusted to being a family of five, my brain was in rebellion, horrified that my health was amiss and I started researching and looking to find answers.  Along with a goal to get my health back in line and to keep my husband out of the hospital with asthma and lung related issues, we wanted our little girl to have the best, healthiest, cleanest start to life.  Enter a pediatrics office that simply did not agree with our wishes and desires for our baby girl or our growing boys, and our desire for true health began to burn even more and we began our walk away from modern medicine, well baby visits, and non-critical care.

We have been blessed to have found amazing support in facebook groups, local health coaches, friends, and a tremendous chiropractic office that concentrates on healing our family's entire bodies as opposed to the modern, pharmaceutical mayhem that is today's medical profession.  As I look back over the last eight years and the ups and downs and round and rounds of what we have perceived as "healthy" or wise choices and I sway from outright laughing at myself to crying as I remember some crazy ideas I followed as well as medical or health choices that I wish we could undo.

But in the here and now, the reality is, that our health is ours.  Ours to take care of.  Ours to decide to care for wisely.  From the foods we put IN our bodies, to the products we use ON our bodies, and what we allow to be done TO our bodies-the decisions are ours, as are the rewards or consequences--INDEPENDENCE.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cloth Diaper Update...

We have to fold and stuff all of these mama?!

Do we still love cloth diapering?  We give it a resounding YES!  We made it through the newborn black yucky diapers.  We cruised through the easy diapers of an exclusively breastfed little girl.  And now we’re sticking it out through the introduction of solids to our little girl’s diet.  It’s not always easy, sometimes I near the end of our diaper stash and think, “Ugh, time to wash the diapers again.”  But honestly, not once have I thought of going back, of buying a cheater box of disposables, or wishing I hadn’t been so crazy to have started this journey.
Some updates on the diapers we chose.  Because our wee girl started her CD journey at a mere four and a half pounds the Kissaluvs fit her quite perfectly, as did the Thirsties for quite a few months.   Hannah was about 6 months old (approx 12 lbs) when the Kissaluvs became unusable for overnights as she would wet right through them and would be soggy through the entire diaper.  The Thirsties did well for overnights until just recently (around 9 or 10 months (15 lbs)).  At about 8 months or so we had to kiss the Kissaluvs goodbye altogether as they just weren’t very productive in the absorption department anymore, even with frequent daytime changes. 

The Thirsties are still more than adequate for daytime use as well as our One Size Bum Genius that we use for morning, noon, and night.  At first I loved the Velcro straps on the Bum Genius as it gave the opportunity for infinite adjustments to fit our wee bitty girl, but now that she is bigger and the snaps fit her just fine, I’ve found that I like the durability and non-“everything sticks to Velcro” benefits of the snaps.  I am also noticing that I will likely need to give some reinforcement stitching to our Velcro tabs.

Our CD journey so far as taken us through four Kissaluvs, half a dozen Thirsties, half a dozen Thirsties covers, nine Bum Genius one size, four G Diapers (we use these as backups and/or when traveling as we can swap out the liners without swapping out the entire diaper), and a pile of pre-folds  (that I use infrequently).  We do plan on acquiring another half dozen or so of Bum Genius diapers to carry us through the rest of our journey as we’ve had to stop using the Kissaluvs.  

As for laundering, I do diaper laundry about every other day.  Occasionally, if we’ve been super busy (err, lazy) and I haven’t done laundry on time, I end up using pre-folds with a Snappi and a Thirsties cover.  As for the “old fashioned” pre-fold diapers, they are quite easy to use, especially with the Snappi strap as opposed to pins, but my hubby would not be on board with cloth diapering if we were using pre-folds exclusively.   He has actually been great about cloth diapering and I’m so thankful that he agreed to give it a go and is now fully on board.  He especially likes the fact that we haven’t had to buy diapers in 9 months! 

To date, our CD costs, including the flannel I bought to make re-usable wipes, and a few creams and washes, has come to approximately $300.00.  We are projecting another $50-$100 to procure a few more Bum Genius diapers in the next month or two in order to alleviate the frequency of diaper laundering.   Eventually our growing little princess with outgrow the Thirsties diapers, but with the Bum Genius diapers we will be set to take her straight through potty training. 

Cost wise, cloth diapering is definitely a win as we will be spending much less than $500.00 to diaper one child regardless of what age she potty trains.  Even with the time spent and cost of laundering, cloth diapering does not come close to the thousands of dollars (depending on brand of diapers and length of time until baby is potty trained) that disposable diapers and wipes cost.   In regards to the cost on the environment and the products we want/don’t want on our baby’s bottom it’s a no-brainer as to the benefits of cloth. (What's in your diapers?)