Thursday, April 26, 2012

National Infertility Awareness Week

In honor of NIAW (Apr 22-28), Circle + Bloom is offering 35% off of their programs and a free fertility e-book. Sorry I'm late on notifying you all of this discount–we were on vacation for the last week, but this is an excellent deal for the next two days.

C+B has programs for fertility, TTCing, pregnancy, stress, IVF, depression, labor/delivery, sexuality, women's health, sleep, PCOS, and energy. Check them out through the links below!

Click here to visit Circle and Bloom.

Click here to read about my experience with Circle + Bloom. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Budgeting Template

After writing this post, it was requested that I share our budgeting spreadsheet templates, so I created blank templates, which can be accessed through Google docs at the following links:
Monthly Budget Template
Charitable Donations Template
Please feel free to share these links and use the templates as you'd like. Here are a few quick instructions:

Monthly budget: You fill in your individual monthly budget in Line C1. Enter each purchase in a new row, and the new remaining budget will appear in column D. If you have a credit, make sure you enter the value in Column C as a negative number. It sounds complicated, but it really isn't.

Charitable Donations: Enter your annual charity budget in C1. Enter each donation as a separate line, and the remaining budget will appear in column D.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Crafty Family: Hooked Rug

My newest blog segment will be featuring crafts made by family members. We have so many talented folks in our family, and I am excited to show off some fabulous projects that they have made.

Up first is a rug made by hand by my mama. Not only does she create beautiful handmade rugs, but they are made from upcycled wool clothing! She scours thrift stores in search of 100% wool garments, rips the seams apart, sometimes dyes them new colors, cuts the fabric into thin strips, and hooks the strips through canvas to create beautiful rugs. It is pretty cool that she is able to turn 80's shoulder-pad suits into these beautiful and functional works of art! She started rug hooking a few years back and has made dozens of rugs already. Her house is adorned with some, she has given many as gifts, and has even donated some to be sold at auctions for charities.


She made this one for Penny before she was born, and it now sits proudly in Penny's room. She loves to point out the animals that she knows and say their sounds. My mom also made a Noah's ark rug for Penny's cousin and is working on a huge four-season tree one for our kitchen. Here are a few detail shots:



In the close-ups, you can really see the individual wool strips that make up the larger images. And here is what the back looks like in case you are curious:

She also made this one for us a few years back. It is super, super thick and feels like walking on pillows. It is a more primitive technique called "proddy" in which thick strips are used instead of the thinner ones.


If you're interested in learning more about rug hooking, here are a few links:
Rug Hooking on Wikipedia
Hungry Hook Primitives Tutorial
Rug Hookers Network Tutorials
Jeanne Sullivan Design Tutorial
Rug Hooking 101

Friday, April 20, 2012

Real Diaper Week: Day 5

Happy Real Diaper Week, people! The great cloth diaper change will happen TOMORROW, April 21st, in which we will attempt to break the Guinness Book record for the largest simultaneous cloth diaper change. Check to see if there is an event being hosted in your area (chances are good!) and join in the fun. Leading up to the big event this week, many bloggers are following the themes posted at the link above. Today's theme is Real Simple Real Diapers Reuse, and the blog hop at the Eco Chic is interpreting that as traveling with cloth.

Today I'm going to talk a bit about my favorite ways to travel while still using cloth diapers, but first I will list some of my credentials in this area:
  • my kid was on over 25 flights during her first year of life (I lost track after that, but I know it's more)
  • we moved halfway across the country when my daughter was 4 months old
  • during our move, we were in and out of hotels and without our "household goods" (that's what they call the stuff in the moving van) for about a month
  • we have immediate family in 7 states and have visited 6 of them with Penny
  • we have traveled by plane, train, and automobile with the baby in tow
Here are all of the ways I can think of to diaper on the go, and we have tried all of them:
  • use a diaper service at your destination
  • pack diapers and launder them where you're staying
  • pack diapers and use a laundromat
  • pack diapers and hand wash them
  • pack enough diapers to use them and bring them home dirty
  • use disposables 
Yes, I admit to using disposables while traveling. Once. I will never do it again. I couldn't handle that disposable diaper smell. I don't really want to bash disposables here, so I will just say that it is not for me. Even with the convenience factor considered, in my opinion, there are far better options. My preferred method of cloth diapering while traveling varies depending on the situation. Here are my recommendations:

1. Use a diaper service at your destination. This option is perfect for when you're staying with family/friends and are shy about asking to wash dipes in their laundry machines or when you're staying somewhere without laundry facilities. I bring my own covers and small wet bags (the ones that go in the diaper bag), and the diaper service provides the prefolds and the large wet bag. I've done this twice now, and it really simplifies everything. Nothing extra to pack or cart home. All the convenience of sposies with all of the clean, healthy, fresh, green benefits of cloth. It usually costs under $20 for a week (depending on how many dipes you need), which is probably what you'd spend on a pack of sposies, and diaper services are almost everywhere these days.

2. Pack diapers and wash them at your destination. This is perfect if you're staying in a rental, timeshare, or condo with a washer & dryer, or if you're staying with family members who are supportive of cloth. Remember to pack your own detergent, and it's probably a good idea to do a load of towels or other clothes with your detergent in the washer first–just to clear out any remaining buildup/residue. If there's no washer on site, you can take your dipes to a laundromat or wash them by hand (although I do think using a service is better than washing by hand). I did both of these while we were moving and staying in hotels. If you ask at the front desk of your hotel, they are usually helpful about directing you to the closest laundry facilities. Often times, there are even laundry facilities on site that you can use.

3. Pack enough diapers and bring them home dirty. This is really only practical for very short trips, but if you're headed out for just a night or two, this is totally an option. Although, I always wonder what would happen if TSA had to hand-search a bag of dirty diapers. Talk about a dirty job.

When packing diapers for travel, I prefer to bring either flats, prefolds, or a Flip/Grovia AI2 type system with inserts/covers. Pockets and AIOs don't pack well in my opinion, as they take up so much space. Also, it's a good idea to throw any dirty diapers in the wash right before you leave so that they aren't sitting dirty the whole time you're gone. If you want to completely avoid sposies, you'll always need at least a couple cloth dipes for the day of travel there and back, even if you are using a service at your destination.

Happy travels, folks! Where are you headed on your next vacation?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Real Diaper Week Day 4: Cloth Diaper in Daycare

Happy Real Diaper Week, people! The great cloth diaper change will happen this Saturday, April 21st, in which we will attempt to break the Guinness Book record for the largest simultaneous cloth diaper change. Check to see if there is an event being hosted in your area (chances are good!) and join in the fun. Leading up to the big event this week, many bloggers are following the themes posted at the link above. Today's theme is real simple real diapers for babies, and the blog hop at the Eco Chic is interpreting that as health benefits, cloth diapers in hospitals, or cloth diapers in day cares. Today, I'm sharing a post from my archives (4/11/11) about cloth diapers and daycare. Enjoy!

The topic of daycare diapering has come up a few times lately, so I wanted to address this subject. First of all, the Real Diaper Association has a page dedicated to Daycare Cloth Diapering. This is a great resource for parents who want to find a cloth diaper-friendly daycare or convince their current daycare to accept cloth diapers. It sounds like the reasons that daycares may be against cloth diapering are the same reasons that families may not be using cloth diapers: mainly lack of education on the subject and lack of exposure to cloth diapers.

There are some daycare facilities out there who gladly accept cloth diapers–the RDA has a list available. If you are already using a daycare that is not on the list, have a conversation with the people running your facility. Show them what cloth diapers look like these days. Show them how everything will work. Once they get all of the relevant information, they will realize that using cloth diapers will not be all that different from what they're already doing. They will also experience fewer (i.e. no) blowouts, which means they will spend less time changing your baby into clean clothes! They will have less trash to deal with, and your baby will be potty trained at age 2 and a half, so your daycare will have a YEAR of fewer diaper changes for your child! It may also save them money if they are accustomed to providing diapers. If they are still hesitant, perhaps you can convince them to try it out for a few weeks. Remember, your daycare consists of people who work for you! You are paying them to provide a service to you.

If your baby goes to daycare and you see that as a hangup to switching to cloth, here are some ideas as to how cloth diapering will work at daycare:

  • You may have better luck convincing daycare to use cloth if you choose all-in-one or pocket-style diapers (see Cloth Diapering 101) with velcro ("hook & loop) closures. These will be the closest to using disposables in terms of how the diaper change will go. 
  • You could also consider hybrid diapers with disposable inserts as a transition tool. Once they get used to the hybrid diapers, switching out the sposie inserts for cloth ones will just be a small step.
  • Purchase several wet bags. Each day, you will send a wet bag and several clean diapers to daycare. If you're using pocket-style, make sure the pockets are pre-stuffed and ready to go on your baby. The caregivers will drop the dirty diapers into the wet bag after a diaper change. When you get home, you can dump the contents of the wet bag into your diaper pail and throw the used wet bag in your pail as well. An exception to this would be if there is a poopy diaper in the wet bag. In this case, you'd pull that one out separately and deal with the poop (see the Poo Page). If you're using poo liners, you may be able to convince your daycare providers to dispose of the liner and poo before putting the dirty diaper into your wet bag to make it a little easier on you when you get home.

If daycare is the only reason you aren't switching, you could do part-time cloth diapering and still save yourself a bundle (as well as reap all of the other benefits of using cloth). Cloth diaper on the weekends and at night for a few weeks and see how it goes. After giving yourself a trial period, you will probably come to love cloth diapers and realize that it really isn't that different from using disposables. That may be the motivation you need to convince daycare to accept them and go full-time. Even if you don't go full-time, part-time cloth diapering is still better than no cloth diapering!

Anyone have first-hand experience with cloth diapers and daycare?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Real Diaper Week Days 2&3

Happy Real Diaper Week, people! The great cloth diaper change will happen this Saturday, April 21st, in which we will attempt to break the Guinness Book record for the largest simultaneous cloth diaper change. Check to see if there is an event being hosted in your area (chances are good!) and join in the fun. Leading up to the big event this week, many bloggers are following the themes posted at the link above. 

I know I missed Day 2–sometimes I just can't blog every day. I'm a mom, ya know. Things come up. Yesterday's theme was real simple real diapers waste reduction, and today's is cost savings. The blog hop at the Eco Chic focused on environmental benefits yesterday and cost savings today. I did address some cost savings information on Monday by telling you how you can cloth diaper for free, so go read that. I was going to share some fun facts about the environmental and cost benefits to cloth today, but honestly, I think this information is already presented incredibly well by the Real Diaper Association. Why re-invent the wheel? So please follow this link, and read all about the benefits of cloth. I know most people don't follow links in blogs, but just do it this once. Go read it. It'll only take a couple minutes and will prove very enlightening. I can't copy the facts over here because they're copyrighted, so you've got to click.

I will tell you a couple of things just to pique your curiosity.
  • Dioxin is the number one most toxic of all cancer-causing chemicals. Dioxin is found in disposable diapers. That's right–we put this chemical right up against our newborn babies' most sensitive areas. It is illegal in most other countries, but here in the USA, there aren't any restrictions on its usage.
  • It takes over twice as much water to manufacture disposable diapers as it does to wash cloth ones.
  • Regardless of what type of diaper is being used, feces is supposed to go in the toilet. Over 99% of disposable diaper users do not follow this rule, which leads to contamination of groundwater and outbreaks of e coli. There's a reason we don't poop in the trash can.
  • Kids go through 5,000 diaper changes in the first 20 months of life (at 8 changes/day avg). Here is what 5,000 diapers looks like. You could at least double this for the typical usage of the average American baby, as potty training is rarely completed by 40 months.




Monday, April 16, 2012

Real Diaper Week Day 1: Cloth Diaper FOR FREE

Happy Real Diaper Week, people! The great cloth diaper change will happen this Saturday, April 21st, in which we will attempt to break the Guinness Book record for the largest simultaneous cloth diaper change. Check to see if there is an event being hosted in your area (chances are good!) and join in the fun. Leading up to the big event this week, many bloggers are following the themes posted at the link above. Today's theme is real simple real diaper outreach, and the blog hop at the Eco Chic is interpreting that as cloth diapering 101. I already have my CD 101 information linked on my home page, so feel free to go read that.

In the spirit of today's theme, I'm going to present a very doable (in my opinion) and specific plan for how to "switch over" to cloth, no matter what stage of diapering you are in, without spending an extra dime. Please note that this plan is put together based on prices and what's available right now, today. I'm using my favorite and local cloth diaper stores and services as my references, but check your local resources, as many CD stores and services also offer these diapers. You can also get really great deals on used cloth diapers. Check craigslist, ebay, diaper swappers, and your local baby consignment shop. Many CD retailers also sell used diapers on consignment. In Omaha, one of our local CD stores always has consignment diapers on hand, and there is also a huge used diaper sale twice/year put on by the other CD store. There might be something similar in your community, but if you aren't wanting to wait for these sales, here's some information to guide you and help you right now.

Ok, so according to RDA, the average monthly budget for disposable diapers is $66. For this example, I'm going to assume that you can put up one month's diaper budget up front. I'm also assuming a baby who is at least 7 pounds. So at the beginning of the month, instead of buying sposies, here's your shopping list:
3 Econobum covers ($9 ea) ................$27
24 used osocozy prefolds ($6 per 6) ...$24
1 Kissa's Pail Liner..............................$15
Total.....................................................$66

Use the padfold for your prefolds (as shown). You absolutely cannot go wrong with this setup. The pad fold with covers is about as easy as cloth diapering gets. You basically just fold the diaper in thirds so that it's a long rectangle, but here's a tutorial. I like to keep them padfolded in my diaper drawer so that I can just grab a clean one and lay it in the cover. At night, just use two or three padfolded diapers. Cotton prefolds are very forgiving with laundry routines, so you have a high chance of success with these in that respect also. They can be bleached occasionally without problems and can be dried on high heat without showing much wear. As for covers, just wipe the inside with a wipe between diaper changes and use the same cover all day. You only need to wash it if it gets really dirty where isn't really clean after a quick wipe down. If you'll be away from home while diapering, keep a plastic bag in your diaper bag to store your dirty dipes until you get home.

With this plan, here's your frequency of washing based on baby's age or number of diaper changes/day:
0-3 mos– every 2 days (12 diapers/day)
3-6 mos– every 3 days (8 diapers/day)
6-24 mos– every 4 days (6 diapers/day)
24 mos & up (potty training)– every 5-6 days (up to 4-5 diapers/day) FYI 90-95% of cloth diapered kids are potty trained at age 2 and a half.
Adjust accordingly as to how many diapers your child goes through. Regardless of what type of diaper a child is in, diapers should be changed every 3-4 hours. The more frequent changes at younger ages are usually due to more frequent bowel movements at those ages.

The second month, you would be spending another $66 if you were still using sposies, but now you won't have to buy diapers at all! You may wish to pick up a few more things to make life a little easier. Here's my optional shopping list for month 2:

1 Kissa's Pail Liner..................$15
2 small Kushies wet bags......................$11.50
3 Econobum covers ($9 ea) ....$27
1 yard fleece fabric..................$5
Total ........................................$53.50

Look at that–under budget! I feel like I'm on a reality show! No, honestly, I can't think of another thing you'd need, so you'll be saving money after the first month. The small wet bags are to keep in your diaper bag to store soiled diapers while away from home. When you get home, toss the dirty diapers in your diaper pail and rinse out the wet bag, wipe it clean, or toss it in with your dirty dipes if it really needs washing. Since you have two, you'll always have a clean one. The extra pail liner is so that you always have one clean while yours is in the wash. The fleece fabric can made into stay-dry liners as described in this post.

I would also recommend changing your laundry detergent to Charlie's Soap whenever your old stuff runs out. It's very economical (especially when purchased in bulk), very green, free of anything that could cause problems for sensitive skin, and won't cause buildup in your diapers. Use it for all of your laundry. More on laundry here.

The third month, you can really start saving. Save for new, fancier diapers if you want to. Although, most of the CDing moms I know just use prefolds and covers and love them. Or save for rising gas prices, organic food, a family vacation, college tuition, a new boat. Whatever you want, folks! And when your kid turns two and a half and is using the toilet, sit back, kick your feet up, and have a glass of wine. And toast to all those poor saps who didn't take this advice and are still changing diapers and, quite literally, throwing money away!

Please share this post with any parents you know who are using disposable diapers, and maybe they will be inspired to make the switch.


Photobucket


The links are just examples to show you what you can find. Econobum covers are the best deal I've found for a one-size cover (which means it will fit from 7-40 pounds). The store linked for the covers is Cotton Babies, based in St. Louis and the company who makes Econobum (along with lots of other popular CD brands), and they always have free shipping. They also have a money back guarantee on everything, so you can feel free to try anything and send it back for a refund if you don't like it. How cool is that? The used prefolds are from my local diaper service, but I'm sure you can find used prefolds at lots and lots of places. Check with your local diaper service. Even new, they are only about $2 each for really high quality ones. You can get lower quality new ones for the same price as high quality used ones. As for the wet bags/pail liner, the Kissa's pail liner and Kushies wet bag are the ones I have and are the best prices I was able to find. I think the Bummi's large would also work as a pail liner, and I think it's only $11, but I can't find it in stock anywhere right now. You can always find fleece remnants for super cheap at Jo-Ann or other fabric stores, so you can probably find that for even less.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Recipes

I've been posting lots of vegan recipes and links over on my Facebook page. I am sort of obsessed with Post Punk Kitchen and am amazed at how creative and awesome every recipe there is. I especially love that she uses things like lentils and brown rice to create healthy, filling, meat-alternatives rather than always using soy or wheat. Everything I've tried has tasted great, so I'll just tell you about the difficulty levels and time. Here's what we have made from there so far and my thoughts:

Tamale Shepherd's pie: medium difficulty, medium time-wise
Snobby Joes: easy, quick. I think there is something wrong with our chili powder because these were so spicy we could barely eat them. We made them again and skipped the chili powder and they were awesome. Maybe taste before adding the chili powder?
Pesto: medium, quick (we doubled the noodles and used the recommended amount of sauce, and that was perfect for us)
Beet burgers: medium, medium. This recipe also works as a healthy, homemade meat substitute if you want to make a "meat" sauce for pasta or something
Tofu balls: medium, quick. We could taste the peanut butter, so we might make a substitute for that if we made these again, but I love that they give the illusion of meatballs.
Sunflower mac: medium, medium. 
Curry Udon: easy, medium
Curry Fries: easy, medium

If you're looking for a quick and easy weeknight meal, try the snobby joes. If you have more time and want to get a little fancy, go for the tamale shepherd's pie. Those were my favorites so far.

Also, I think I may have to get a Vita-Mix. I have been using the food processor so much that I think it would be worth it. It's what all the vegans are doing. Right?

Finally, a friend of mine started a blog to share her kid-friendly vegan recipes. Check her out at Food Therapy for Five. This cookbook is also great with lots of seasonal vegan recipes, although I feel like a lot of the recipes in that book feel more like side dishes to me than entrees. That seems to be the biggest challenge, one which PPK (above) has really mastered.

I would love to hear from you and get input on your favorite recipes and sources for vegan cooking. Join the conversation over at FB or post in the comments here. Also, is anyone interested in a cook-along? Something like choosing a recipe that we will all make on the same night?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sunshine Clutch

I joined in on the sew-along at See Kate Sew, and here's my sunshine clutch!

Wanna know the best part? Other than the ruffle, this clutch is 100% upcycled! The "i love you" fabric was part of an old t-shirt I used to wear, and the white linen came from a pair of my hubby's shorts that are now too big. The ruffle was just a scrap from my bin, so I didn't have to buy a thing for this project. I just love breathing new life into old things and finding ways to reuse.


Open...and cute little details make this so fun.



In fact, I like the inside so much that I might even like this better inside-out!


I guess that is part of the beauty of this design that Kate came up with.


What do you think? Love on the inside, or love on the outside?


Go check out the other sunshine clutches and maybe even make your own! (It's not hard–I promise.)


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Nursery Cam

Oh my goodness–this is cool! I had heard that you could use a surveillance camera as a video monitor/nursery camera awhile back, but I didn't act on it then. We recently took the side rail off of Penny's bed, and I decided it would be nice to see what's going on in her room, so we decided to try this. There are tons of cameras you can buy, but we bought this one:



A new model just came out, so the price of this one dropped a bit. The new model is $110, and as of this writing, the older model is $80. This one works wirelessly, so it doesn't need to be plugged into your router (just for initial setup), and it has night vision, which is pretty essential for a nursery camera. If you want to look through more options (there are some less expensive), here are some more cameras. My husband had a feeling that it would be tricky to install, but it actually wasn't at all. It came with clear instructions and an installation CD. Once it was working, we each installed this app called "IP Cam Viewer" and now we are able to view our nursery camera from our iphones! So freaking cool. Here's the view from the nursery cam (and Penny's new bed setup):
I woke up during the night briefly and glanced over Josh's way and there was a bright light near his side of the bed. I was like "what are you doing?" Then I realized he was watching the video monitor on his phone! I think he spent half the night checking in on Penny. Also, when I was putting her to bed, he kept texting me saying "I see you." Maybe a little creepy, but still pretty darned cool!

If you have any trouble with installation, this link has lots of information, but I really didn't think it was hard. There's also an android app for you non-applers. People, in case I didn't mention this yet, this shit is cool.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Reader Q&A: Food

I've gotten some great questions since my food plan post, and I wanted to answer them here.

1. Theresa asks: This is very interesting and I appreciate you sharing your journey. I was curious if you wouldn't mind talking a bit about what choices you have made for Penny regarding her liquid intake? I'm an exclusively BF mama of a 10 month old and my supply is starting to dry up. (I'm doing all I can to keep it going!)But I'm starting to research what other drinks to offer her when I can't offer BM exclusively. We'd like to avoid cow's milk and will talk with our Pediatrician about some options. But I was curious what direction you took. Thanks!

First, kudos to you for breastfeeding your little one! I am still breastfeeding Penny 4-6 times/day, but just after her first birthday, we started to offer almond milk with dinner and sometimes other meals. We have also offered coconut milk, but she seems to prefer the almond. We discussed it with our pediatrician before introducing any other milks, and our pediatrician said that any alternative milks would be fine as long as they were fortified with Vitamin D. Our pediatrician is fantastic, she's had children with allergies, and she's IBCLC as well. Amazing! I would gladly offer rice milk, or flax milk, or any other varieties (except probably not soy just because I think there are less controversial choices). There are so many choices! I always choose the unsweetened plain or unsweetened vanilla. Penny drinks it or water. I think at this age, it's easy to introduce these things because she doesn't have a palate for cow's milk or sweetened things, not having really had them. As far as cow's milk goes, I don't really think there is any reason that kids have to drink it. Up to 60% of the world's population cannot tolerate cow's milk, and it's believed that being able to tolerate it is an abnormality, not the other way around. Even organic cow's milk is often powered and then reconstituted. It travels far. There are so many hormones given to these cows, and it's suspected as a cause of early menstruation in young girls. I have heard cases of preschoolers showing signs of puberty, which stops after taking away conventional cow's milk. Cow's milk is also hugely inflammatory. Anyone who is suffering from ear infections, congestion, allergies, or sinus infections should try eliminating cow's milk. I also just think it's a little weird for adults to drink the breast milk of another species. How did this start? And why is it a food group? That being said, I have heard moms swear by raw milk from local farms, and I really can't speak to that, but it's something to look into if you're really against any of the other milks.
As far as other dairy products go, although I am avoiding them completely, we are allowing Penny to eat cheese, butter, and (plain, unsweetened) yogurt on occasion. It's hard to find enough variety of foods for a toddler to eat, and since Penny isn't showing any signs of intolerance to dairy or problems with ear infections/congestion, a few dairy products here and there don't seem to be doing much harm. We don't give her these things every day, and when she does eat them, we choose local, grass-fed, organic, and just give small quantities. That kid does love cheese! And from what I've read about cheese and yogurt, they are not quite as rough on the body as pure cow's milk. Sorry for the super long reply, but I hope this answers your question!

2. Maggie asks: I think it's great that you're so committed to a healthy lifestyle! It seems that you've changed your mind pretty drastically since you started the blog (from gluten free to vegan to your current plan). How are you determining plans that are best for you? I also applaud your efforts to stay sugar free!!! While I am not sugar free, I try to minimize refined sugar for my kids. I'm fine with them having it with friends, special occasions, etc though. I'm wondering why you feel it's such a problem to have it occasionally? I haven't seen much of an issue with occasionally indulging and would be curious why you feel so strongly about it.

Hi Maggie, thanks! Haha, I know it is a little comical reading about what I am eating and trying to keep up with all of these decisions! I think the journey started when I began to cut out processed foods, and I think that's a really great place for anyone to start. When I went gluten-free, it was on the advice of a naturopathic doctor (ND) who was trying to help me regulate my menstrual cycles so that I could have a baby. More on that here. I was completely desperate and willing to try just about anything, so I followed all of her instructions completely and didn't do a ton of research on my own. And, look, it worked! I was regulated within a month and pregnant within 5 months of working with her. But at that time, I also started taking thyroid medication. Now I'm at the point where I want to go a step further and get off of that medication, and I'm basing my decisions more on evidence-based sources (not that that decision wasn't evidence-based by my naturopath–it just wasn't shared with me if it was). I think the gluten-free diet was recommended to me because it is anti-inflammatory in nature, but what I've learned since is that it really depends on what's being eaten instead. There are so many gluten-free convenience foods now that are still inflammatory. I don't think I have a true gluten intolerance, as when I started eating gluten again a few months ago, I showed no ill effects. Going vegan was a gut-instinct after reading about the risks to health, environment, and animal welfare of the SAD diet (standard American diet), and the plan I most recently wrote about was just a slight tweaking of veganism to fit my unique body and dietary needs. It takes the anti-inflammatory diet to a new level for me. I came to this diet through talking with my doctor, who is trained in Chinese medicine and acupuncture. I've also had extensive blood work done. I've read lots of books, talked with others who have been vegetarian and vegan for years. I'm also trying to listen to my body and make changes in a way that will be sustainable for me. So, bottom line: I make decisions based on medical advice, paying attention to my body/how I feel when eating certain foods, bloodwork results, research, reading books, and listening to the stories/experiences of others.

As for sugar, it just keeps coming up as a theme in so many things that I read. My ND had me quit sugar when I was TTCing. There's a lot about sugar in Alicia Silverstone's book. It's hugely inflammatory and number one on the list of top 10 inflammatory foods to avoid. There's absolutely nothing nourishing in it, and isn't the point of food to be nourishing? It's a plant that is completely stripped of everything good and it wreaks havoc on the body, especially the liver. I also know about its addictive nature, at least for me. When I eat sugar, I crave more, and my whole life I've had a "sweet tooth". When I eat lots of sugar, naturally sweet things like maple syrup and fruit don't satisfy me. The other problem with it is that it's usually paired with other things that aren't good for me, like white flour, additives, food coloring, etc. Since it keeps popping up in so many things I read, I've taken it as a sign that I need to quit it, or at least try to quit it, especially since I am in a hard-core stage, trying to cure my disease. I don't claim to be perfect or above temptation. And I am hoping that once I get my disease in check, I might be able to indulge occasionally, like you said. I do think it's a slippery slope, though, so I need to be careful.

I'm also not saying that I'll never ever let Penny have sugar. It's not really an issue right now because she isn't asking for it, and the parents of her friends respect my wanting to keep her away from it. I certainly don't see any reason to give her sugar now if she'll be satisfied by a raspberry or a grape. As she gets older, we will deal with it and figure it out, but I'm sure she'll have an occasional indulgence as well, especially because I don't want to turn it into a battleground. I'm assuming your kids are older, so it's a whole different beast at that point. I love, love, love these posts by the Nourishing Gourmet on this subject, so check them out:
Part 2

Thanks for your questions!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Nutrition Plan Update

Since writing this post about veganism, I have continued to research, learn, and discuss food, sustainability, health, and wellness through nutrition. I am so incredibly grateful to all of you who reached out to me in support and those of you who shared information with me, recipes, and your own experiences. I am so blessed to have so many friends and readers with such a wealth of knowledge and experience. After ruminating on nutrition from many angles (including advice from my medical practitioner), I've developed a plan for myself and wanted to update you all here. I'm going to lean into veganism without going full on vegan. Vegan-ish I suppose. Here are the factors contributing to this plan (in addition to those discussed in my previous post: health, environment, animal cruelty/torture, world hunger, and deceit by big businesses):

1. My disease. First and foremost, I have to be concerned with my own health. I have an autoimmune disease (Hashimoto's hypothyroidism), and I have lots of hope that I can heal my body and cure this disease using nutrition. I've explored this a little bit in the past, but I am recommitting to finding a natural cure and am going to be as aggressive as I can be. I'm taking a small dose of thyroid medication now (have been since Jan 2010), and I really don't want to be taking it for the rest of my life. My thyroid problems contributed to my difficulty getting pregnant (more on that history here), so I want to find a way to support my thyroid naturally and move away from taking medication, without jeopardizing my ability to get pregnant again. Phew, what a challenge! At the same time, I have lots of good things happening with my health, and I don't want to jeopardize the things that are going well. I get bloodwork done every year to check cholesterol, triglycerides, and whatever else is standard, and my bloodwork for that is always really, really great. I am hoping to balance out the things that aren't working well in my body while still maintaining the things that are working.

2. Life stage. As a breastfeeding mom and someone who wants to have more children, I need to take care to ensure that my caloric needs are met and that my body is healthy, nourished, and full of all of the important vitamins and nutrients it needs during pregnancy and breastfeeding. I know this is completely obnoxious, and I apologize in advance for this comment, but it's somewhat challenging to keep my weight within the healthy range for my height while breastfeeding. I feel like I eat all day long, and the numbers on the scale keep dropping. I'm borderline under weight, so I really do need to be concerned with this. Sorry, I know. But maybe this is a good advertisement for breastfeeding!

3. My obsessive perfectionist personality. I definitely have a perfectionist personality, so I have a huge tendency to obsess. If I decided to go completely vegan, I would be neurotic about every single morsel and leave no room for exceptions. Some people can probably label themselves vegan and then cut themselves some slack. For me, if I label myself such, I would feel like a failure if I strayed at all, and I would also feel a huge responsibility to other vegans to maintain that diet, regardless of what my body was telling me.

4. Soy. I have never really eaten much soy. Yes, I know soy is a hidden food, so of course I eat some soy, but I've never really eaten soy products–like soymilk, tofu, soy hotdogs. Whatever. Most of what I read about soy is just confusing. Yes, there are lots of evidence-based studies that conclude that people who eat soy are generally healthier than people who don't, and I rely heavily on actual research in these things, but I still have a bit of hesitation when it comes to soy. Especially because my body isn't used it. Also, most US soy is GMO and loaded with pesticides. I'm not going to completely avoid soy, but I will limit it to a couple of times/week and make sure that the soy I consume is organic, non-GMO, and from good sources as much as possible.

5. Processed foods/ fake meat. Since reading In Defense of Food in 2009, I have been on a whole, unprocessed, natural foods "kick", trying my best to avoid processed foods as much as possible. I have not been perfect in this respect, still occasionally relying on convenience foods, but always reading ingredients, mostly shopping at Whole Foods/Trader Joe's, and doing my best. There are many, many meat alternative products made from soy and/or wheat that can be found in specialty grocery stores, and it is tempting when going vegan to just substitute them for meat in the dishes I'm used to making, but my gut is telling me that that is not the way to go, at least for me, my body, and my beliefs about food.

6. Supporting the farmers who are doing well. There are some awesome family farmers out there who really make a strong effort to be sustainable and raise their animals in a humane way. I want to support these people so that they can continue to offer quality and humane animal products in their communities. I have a HUGE disclaimer here that it still comes down to reducing consumption of animal products in order to make a real difference. In order to raise animals in a sustainable and humane way, it requires lots of land and time. The reason CAFOs exist is because we demand more meat than can be raised in a sustainable way.

7. Fish. I read in Veganist that it takes 5 pounds of wild fish to raise 1 pound of farmed fish. WTH?! I have also read a lot about the fishing industry and how we are basically stripping the oceans, and some countries have been lying for years about the numbers of fish they are taking from the oceans. I will not eat farmed fish, but I will eat certain wild caught fish. The Marine Stewardship Council certifies certain fish as sustainably caught. Follow that link to learn more and to find stores and restaurants near you that carry certified sustainable fish. Also, look for this seal when making purchases:
Yes, sustainable fish is more expensive, but I think it's worth it, especially since cutting out so many animal foods will dramatically reduce our grocery bill anyway.

OK, so what does all of this mean? What exactly am I eating? I'm following a hybrid of veganism, whole foods, and an anti-inflammatory diet. The anti-inflammatory diet is supposed to help with an auto-immune disease. This is sort of what the anti-gluten was supposed to do for me, but I'm learning that there is so much more to it than cutting out gluten, and that, really, a gluten-free diet could still be very inflammatory depending on what you're eating instead. I really love Dr. Weil's anti-inflammatory diet with this great visual pyramid.
C'mon, anything that says I can have up to 2 glasses of red wine a day sounds like a pretty darned good plan to me! I also used the information at this link to figure out what is super important to avoid. Thanks to Simple Homemade for introducing me to these sites! So I'm basically following this pyramid with a few modifications:
1. Soy– limiting to 1-3 times/week, and trying to choose organic, non-GMO as much as possible
2. Fish– staying on the low end of the recommendation here (1-2/week)
3. On the "other sources of protein" section, I will only have meat or eggs if they are from a local sustainable farm. No dairy for me.
4. Healthy sweets– no refined sugar at all. I will have some sweets if I've made them myself using maple syrup or something like that. I gave up sweets for Lent, so I've sort of been able to detox myself from my sugar addiction during the last month plus. It's a good place to be starting from for this goal. If you don't know about the refined sugar addiction that plagues pretty much everyone in the US, do some reading on this subject.
5. My grains will be as whole as possible. I will make every effort to eat the grains themselves, cooked from whole. I will allow for some things made from flour, like bread, but I will choose the most whole-grain, hearty varieties as possible. Same with pasta. I will eat gluten, but only in whole grain form. I really think that whole grain barley or hearty wheat bread is better than gluten-free cinnamon buns made with processed ingredients and refined flours.
6. not so much into the Asian mushrooms. I'm just not a big fan, and it doesn't say you have to eat them, so I'm skipping those.
7. When I do eat animal foods, they will be strictly from local, sustainable, humane sources. No more Costco meat or eggs. Whole Foods or farmers market only.
8. No dairy at all. Dairy is hugely inflammatory, exacerbates/causes allergies, and it saddens me to think of those poor lil baby/mama cow duos being separated. If there's one thing I can be super strict on, this is it.

Considering that just a month or so ago, I was eating meat or fish pretty much every day, this is a huge change for me!

In order to be organized about this, I'm cooking/eating vegan during the week (from scratch) and then allowing for a little fish and animal products from local/sustainable sources on the weekends. When dining out, I will eat vegan (or do my best). We don't actually dine out very often, and when we do, we try to support restaurants whose missions are focused on sustainability and local cuisine. But, if I do slip up on any of these goals, or I find myself in a difficult situation with limited choices, I will do the best I can. I will also try my best to be forgiving and carry on. I'm using this app called "FoodTracker". It's basically a food group checklist for $1.99, and you can add your own food groups and customize how many servings you want from each. I didn't want to be writing down everything I eat, but I did want to generally track foods in a quick way, so this works for me.

I hate to call this a "diet" because of all of the connotations of that word, so this is my eating plan, my nutrition goals, and I'm hoping to have this be sustainable. All this being said, I will do my best to really listen to my body, and if I feel that my health is suffering in some way, I will reevaluate rather than stubbornly stick to this plan. I've been doing this for a couple weeks now, with this particular plan for the last week or so, and already I'm seeing some good things with my thyroid, so I'm optimistic! Stay tuned for more thyroid-specific stuff and some of my favorite new sources for recipes. I never dreamed I could eat so well as a (weekday) vegan! Yum. And please keep sharing your favorite recipes with me. The CBM facebook page is a great place to continue the conversation.

Have a happy and healthy Easter weekend, folks!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Easter bonnet and other ruffled sewing


Gigi (my mom) sent Penny a sweet Easter dress, but she was afraid a bonnet wouldn't ship well. My grandmother always sent me a new dress for Easter, and I loved tearing open the box and twirling around in whatever frilly, girlie frock arrived, so I definitely think buying dresses is a grandmotherly tradition. But what Easter dress is complete without a bonnet? Really. Rather than buy one, I searched the world wide web (and Pinterest) to see what I could make. I became smitten with this adorable ruffled bonnet at The Cottage Home. Simple. Ruffled. Sweet. Adjustable. All of the things I look for in a springtime sewing project. I used a pink fabric that's been sitting in my stash for awhile and a cream bedsheet for the ruffle. You could totally make this reversible by using a contrasting color for the lining, but I used pink for both sides. This was a great tutorial, but if I made another one, here's what I would change:
1) I would make the strips for the ties wider OR press them right-sides out before sewing and just topstitch from the right side. It was super difficult to turn them after sewing such narrow strips.
2) I would use the extra-wide single-fold bias tape. It didn't specify, so maybe that is what the tutorial had in mind, but I used the regular width, and I think it would have been near impossible to guide my ribbon through the bias tape space in the back after sewing. I laid the ribbon in the slot and then sewed the bias tape on, but even that was tricky.
I love that this bonnet is adjustable by opening or closing the back ribbon. Maybe Penny will be able to wear it for another Easter or two. Here are a few more photos:






She could be Little Bo Peep in that last one!

Another Penny project I finished recently is this cute little softball dress. Josh and I had signed up for a softball team last fall, and all of the games were super late at night, so I didn't go to a single one. I hated to get rid of the t-shirt after never wearing it, so I turned it into a cute little dress for the girl. Sadly, I didn't get a "before" picture, but it was one of those 3/4 sleeved baseball tees. I took the sleeves off, took the sides in, and used the sleeves to make little flutter sleeves and a ruffle for the hem.
This was super easy, super fast, and looks so cute! She will have to be the team mascot if we play again.





 
LOVE this one!!


If you're in the mood for more ruffles, Kate is celebrating Ruffles 2012 over at See Kate Sew, so go get your fix there!

On an unrelated note, I am running out of photo storage space, so I'll be deleting some older photos. I will still post lots of photos, but then I will pare down to just a couple highlights as the posts get older. Sorry if anything gets lost in the shuffle. Let me know if you find any major holes if you're looking through the archives.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Month in Review: March 2012

A few blogs I follow do a month-in-review segment at the end of each month, and I love that. Sometimes I miss a post or am new to reading a blog, and I love to see a quick post that summarizes what's been going on there lately, so I'm adopting this idea here at CBM. Here's my first one.

March in Nebraska has been absolutely gorgeous! I cannot believe how warm and spring-y it is here, and I am soaking up every second of it! In like a lamb and out like a lamb basically. Love it! In March, I posted THREE tutorials! I showed you how to make your own diaper inserts:

How to add a zipper up the back of your kid's sweatshirt for easy dressing:

And how to make these super easy, adorable, and green reusable snack bags:


I also had some "pinspiration" and made a few things from others' tutorials (all three as gifts actually)!

The See Kate Sew Chevron clutch

 These pretty bookmarks

and this super fun fish bowl matching game

I also unveiled my new sewing room.



 I took a few more steps along my green journey by making homemade deodorant and canned beans.

I shared my new favorite appliance,

my family's budgeting system, my Life List, some cloth diaper laundry tips, and a new segment for the Speech & Language corner. Lastly, I discussed some issues close to my heart: the sympto-thermal method of birth control and some information on the impact of the animal food industries on our planet and our lives, including my review of the China Study. Stay tuned for an update on my nutrition/food plan later in the week.

Phew! What a busy month. Hope you all had a great March and are enjoying April.