Friday, December 31, 2010


Preservatives are needed in products to prolong shelf-life and taste. They also prevent botulism, mold, and bacteria, which protects us from illness. Unfortunately, preservatives can also cause cancers, hyperactivity, nervous system damage, and other problems. Many studies give massive amounts of preservatives in animal studies, and preservatives are typically only found in small amount in commercial products. However, I feel it safe to say that we do not know how much it takes to cause damage. How much is safe?

Sodium Benozate—can cause damage in the cell mitochondria, leading to neurodegenerative diseases. It has been linked to hyperactivity as well. Use of nitrates is highly restricted in some countries.

Sodium nitrate—has been linked to pancreatic and lung cancers, according to a study done by the US National Toxicology Program. Sodium nitrate used as a curing agent in many packaged meats.

Propyl gallate—can cause prostate inflammation and tumors of the thyroid, brain, and pancrease. It is used as a stabilizer in packaged meats, dried milk, candy, potato chips, and baked goods. It is also found in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Potassium bromate—has been found to cause cancerous kidney and thyroid tumors in rats. It has been banned in Britain and Canada as a carcinogen. It is often used by bread companies to strengthen the bread dough.

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Sulphur dioxide and sulfites—destroy vitamin B1, are linked to hyperactivity, and can cause severe reactions such as in asthmatics. Sulfites often cause headache, and have caused at least 12 known deaths. Sulphur dioxide is derived from coal tar. It is found in alcoholic, fruit, and soft drinks, as well as dried fruits and vegetables. Almost all wines contain sulfites.

BHA and BHT—have characteristics making them carcinogenic and can cause tumors. Adverse reactions are common. BHT is banned in Japan, Romania, Sweden, and Australia. BHA is banned in Japan, too. Both are derived from petroleum. These are considered two of the most dangerous preservatives. They are used in fats and oils so they are found in snacks, cereals, instant spuds, soft drinks, and margarine.

Sodium citrate—can cause bladder tumors in very large amounts. It is used in meat and baby food and personal care products.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Coconut oil frosting recipe

For Caitlin's birthday, I made her a cake. Yes, I let her have real cake. Yes, it was the first time I think she had dessert. Babysteps, remember? When trying to find a recipe for more "natural" frostings, I wondered if there was a recipe using coconut oil as the base. I knew I did not want to use Crisco, splenda, or even some of the "healthy" alternatives like agave nectar. I wanted basic ingredients, healthy as possible, but tasty. I stumbled across this amazing recipe for frosting. The only downside is that it makes a very small quantity but I kept adding powdered sugar until I had a good consistency and amount.

Here is the recipe from My Petite Chefs:

¼ cup organic, virgin, unprocessed coconut oil (I like Nutiva)

16 oz powdered sugar

½ cup cocoa powder (I substituted more sugar because I needed white frosting)

1 tsp vanilla extract (I used very non-organic clear vanilla extract again so it was white)

¼ cup cream (added 1-2 TBS at a time)
Cream coconut oil. Add powdered sugar and/or cocoa powder to coconut oil. Slowly add cream to coconut oil mixture.

Happy Birthday, little man!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Vitamin D

We need at least 30 ng/mL of vitamin D to have sufficient levels for bone health. Levels between 20 and 29 ng/mL signal an insufficiency; levels below 20, a deficiency. According to an analysis of government data of kids ages 1 to 21, about 7.6 million are D deficient and another 51 million have insufficient levels. At least 10 percent of U.S. adults are D deficient, too, according to a recent study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (Other studies put the number as high as 75 percent)…Earlier this year, researchers in Japan reported that schoolchildren taking a daily supplement of 1200 IU of vitamin D reduced their rate of influenza by almost half…Cancer may be vitamin D-sensitive, too.
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Salmon, cooked 3.5 oz 360 IU

Sardines, canned 250 IU

Shitake mushrooms, 4 mushrooms 249 IU

Tuna, canned in oil 200 IU

D-fortified cheese, 3 oz 180 IU

Fortified milk, 8 oz 100 IU

Fortified orange juice 100 IU

The benefits of vitamin D are not widely disputed. However, the feasibility of getting enough vitamin D is controversial. Sun-activated vitamin D lasts twice as long. However, we’re approaching colder temperatures and less sunlight for the next several months. Many experts do not advocate beneficial sun exposure. As we have mentioned before, there are not many foods that contain large amounts of vitamin D. Our family has just recently started supplementing with vitamin D drops. The D3 form is the more active form and more effective at raising blood levels that D2.  My favorite drops are Carlson brand drops.  The only ingredient is Vitamin D3 and coconut oil.  They make an adult and baby version.  One bottle is a year's supply, and they are absolutely tasteless.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Product Review: Boon Duck

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Bath toys are one of those things that annoy me so much that I pretend it really does not annoy me because if I was honest with myself it would drive me crazy! Can/do kids get sick from sticking bath toys in their mouth or drinking the bath water?? Probably. One of my babysteps is to replace all of their bath toys with easy to clean, hard to mildew toys. So for their birthdays and Christmas stockings I have been slowly adding better bath toys, and I plan to throw out most of their current, likely mildew infested toys.
One of the big hits has been Caitlin’s Boon Duck: Jane. Kai is also getting a Boon Duck in his stocking. These ducks are great because they do not fill up with water. Yes, that takes the fun out of squirting water, but I do not have to worry about them squirting the yucky water in their mouths. Both kids just have a crazy affinity for swimming around with the duck head in their mouths. These ducks float upright, have cool designs, and are very easy to clean. You don’t want to know how I clean them. The word has Ble**h in it.
I am also putting the Boon net in Caitlin's stocking. Now, on to figuring out how to keep them from plain out drinking the bath water…

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gluten-free diets are becoming more and more popular and not just for people with celiac disease. Gluten is a protein found in the seeds of certain plants, mostly grains. It gives kneaded dough its elasticity, allows leavening, and contributes to the breads chewiness.  However, in people with celiac disease, gluten can damage the lining of he small intestions.  It affects the absorbtion of foods and can cause severe GI distress, weight loss, diarrhea, and anemia.  Going gluten-free may also have a benefit in a number of other conditions, everything from autism to rheumatoid arthritis to diabetes.  Several leading health experts are recommending gluten-free alternatives for everyone.  Giving up gluten does tend to cut out a lot of junk food, decrease sugar and fat intake, and remove over-processed starches from your diet.  Unless you have celiac disease, you don't have to worry about little things like soy sauce but if you avoid major red flags in the gluten-free diet you may feel better.  Some proponents of the gluten-free diet do advise cutting out all sources of gluten for 30 days and say that any gluten can last for up to 2 weeks in your body.  I think the jury is still out but I am interested to learn more about this topic.

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Gluten-containing grains and products to be avoided:

o Barley

o Bulgar

o Cereal binding

o Couscous

o Graham flour

o Kamut

o Malt and malt extract, flavoring, syrup

o Oat bran

o Oats

o Rye

o Semolina

o Spelt

o What and what bran, germ, starch

Common foods containing gluten:

o Breads

o Rolls

o Biscuits

o Croissants

o Doughnuts

o Flour tortillas

o Chicken nuggets

o Croutons

o Breaded fish

o Hamburger buns

o Waffles

o Bagels

o Ice cream cones

o Pastas

o Fried vegetables

o Graham crackers

o Crackers

o Pita bread

o Pretzels

o Corn bread

o French fries

o Toast

o Stuffing

o Cereals

o Pizza

o Cookies

o Pies

o Cakes

o Pastries

o Cupcakes

Foods with Hidden Gluten:

o Alcohol products made from grains

o Lunch meats, cold cuts

o Hot dogs

o Hamburgers

o Frozen dinners

o Soy sauce

o Pickles

o Salad dressings

o Canned baked beans

o Conventional yogurt

o Non-dairy creamer

o Syrups

o Root beer

o Gum

o Instant coffee

Key nutrients commonly found to be deficient in those with gluten sensitivities:

o Vitamin B12

o Folic acid

o Iron

o Calcium

o Vitamin D

o Riboflavin

o Thiamin

o Niacin

o Vitamin B6

o Fiber

Grains Allowed in a Gluten-free diet:

o Amaranth

o Arrowroot

o Bean flours

o Buckwheat

o Corn

o Millet

o Nut flours

o Potato

o Quinoa

o Rice

o Soy

o Sorghum

o Tapioca

Monday, December 20, 2010

Three steps forward, one step back

I thought about titling this "Shh! Don't Tell" but I realize that would generate some rumors flying about me being pregnant or something (I am Not!). I do have a dirty little secret. I stopped using baking soda and apple cider vinegar on my hair. "You lasted THIS long??" "Thank goodness, you have some common sense." I am sure that is what some of you are thinking.

Baking soda and apple cider vinegar are actually supposed to be very mild ingredients to use on your hair to get away from needing to shampoo every day (stripping natural oil from your hair) and from the chemicals (some possible carcinogenic) in shampoo especially. I do a lot of reading of other natural/health-centered blogs, and this is actually pretty common among those "treehuggers" as my husband's manager now refers to me. I am probably one of the least tree-hugging people I know, but I would like to avoid unnecessary, harm, and possibly dangerous chemicals.

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Well, the baking soda and vinegar just was not cutting it. I did it long enough to get through any adjustment phase, and my hair still was very different. It works for a LOT of people (even Lee did notice much of a difference) but it depends a lot on hair type and texture. I decided to go back to an organic brand of shampoo that was not crazy expensive but did not have most of the chemicals I was trying to avoid. I tried Kiss My Face the Whenever line. Giovanni was also on sale so I stocked up on it too. Both of these are fairly safe. Kiss My Face scores a 3 on the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database . It has one ingredient (cocamidopropyl betaine) that scores a 5, and the majority score 0-1. Giovanni scores 2-5.
I love that I have probably spent a total of $8 on hair products in the last 8 months between Lee and myself. I hate that it made my hair feel so rough. I absolutely love the way my new shampoo made my hair feel. It was instant bliss to which only another woman can relate. I hate that it cost $8, just for the shampoo (Lee WILL flip when he reads this). I love that taking babysteps sometimes mean that you still take steps forward even if you have to backstep for a moment.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas ornaments

My friend, Raegan, gave me a great idea for a craft idea for kids. Guess what?! The ingredients are all natural and can be entirely organic. I would say they are non-toxic but I suppose if you ingested several of them, a cup of cinnamon could be toxic. I did not buy organic cinnamon and organic applesauce, but there was no funky “Crayola” or “Playdough” smell. My friend did give me a really good safety tip. Start slow with the cinnamon. Her daughter apparently had a sensitivity to cinnamon and Kai’s hands were a bit red in places where the dough had been sitting in his skin for awhile. Cinnamon is an herb with potent uses so it would be prudent to either test it in a small spot or wash hands quickly.

Here’s the idea:

Mix 1 cup applesauce with 1 cup cinnamon. Mix into a paste and roll out to desired thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut ornament shapes. Use a straw to poke holes in each ornament for stringing. Bake at 225 degrees for 1 hour or let air dry for 3-4 days.

It was a little tricky transferring the “dough” to a cookie sheet. I finally discovered that it worked best to press down on the cookie cutter while sliding a spatula under it, and then sliding the cookie cutter off the spatula onto the cookie sheet. I also forgot to spray the aluminum foil so I was very carefully peeling it off the back of the ornaments. The ornaments were still a little soft after 1 hour of baking but I did not want to over do it so I flipped them over on my stove to finish air drying. One or two were too thin and cracked but the rest of them look beautiful and smell amazing!! I also added some nutmeg and clove powder to the mix. This was a perfect activity for little hands!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Format change

This is your chance to impact this blog!  Take a second to let me know what you like, dislike, or want to hear about.  I am going to be spreading the posts out over the Holidays and changing the format slightly.  I would love to hear your ideas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Eating Organic

I was asked to write a guest post about eating organic for one of my favorite mommy blogs. Valerie is one of the wisest moms I know. Child rearing comes so naturally to her so she has written a blog based on a book called Babywise. She recently asked if I would contribute a post on some of the babysteps we have taken. Here is an excerpt:

I did not grow up eating organic. I especially did not eat organic or sometimes even relatively healthy particularly in the early years of my marriage. There were many nights we just ate a box of angel hair pasta buttered with Country Crock. Sometimes it was burritos with canned refried beans. Oh, the memories!

It really was not until after I had my second child that I truly started paying more attention to what we were eating. Even with my son, my first child, I thought we ate pretty healthy. While I was pregnant with my daughter, I kept hearing more and more about a book called the Makers Diet. I actually heard about it from two good friends in a Babywise group on BabyCenter. It was written by Jordan Rubin, and it focuses on eating whole foods, organic if possible, in the best form possible. What intrigued me the most was the results my friends saw after changing their ways of life (it is much more than a diet!). One friend was relieved of her migraines and lost weight even though it was not planned, and her husband regained his sense of smell and was cured of insomnia. The other friend was cured of severe, unrelenting, disabling GI distress. I too struggled with severe chronic insomnia so I was captivated.

Check out Val’s blog to read the entire post:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Makers Diet: Grass-fed beef

Grass-fed organic beef is not always affordable for our family. I am really trying to incorporate it as much as I can but often it is only organic ground beef that I buy. Jordan Rubin is a huge proponent of grass fed organic beef as are many health experts. My ultimate goal is to eat primarily organic meat but it will be awhile before we get there. A 2009 study between the USDA and researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina (Go TIGERS!) found many reasons that grass-fed beef is better than grain-fed. Here is their analysis:

o Lower in fat

o Higher in beta-carotene

o Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)

o Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin

o Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium

o Higher in total omega-3s

o A healthier ratio of omega-6s to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 to 4.84)

o Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter

o Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA)

o Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Know Your Ingredients #14

Salt, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, sugar, monosodium glutamate, dehydrated onion, maltodextrin, dextrin (with beef extract and partially hydrogenated soybean oil), caramel color, autolyzed yeast, corn oil, dry malt syrup, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, natural flavoring, not more than 2% silicon dioxide added as an anticaking agent

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Babysteps: Cutting out more sugar

This is going to break my heart, and possibly the hearts of those that love me the most.  I have a very soft spot in my heart for Peeps and candy corn…and dark chocolate.  Now we all know dark chocolate is healthy for you so there’s no way I am giving it up, but I have to take another step.  This is not a babystep…this is a HUGE step.  I still cannot even believe that I am doing this…giving up my candy corn and peeps.  Not just peeps, but stale, chewy, yummy peeps.  No more chicks, bunnies, orange peeps, pink peeps.  To everyone that sends me peeps and candy corn for my birthday…and Easter…and Christmas—you have to stop. 

My  new goals is to cut out close to 90% of my processed sugar and candy intake, and the peeps and candy corn not only put me in a sugar slump but put me about 110% over my goal.  The week before Halloween is when I started this…NOT good timing…
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Makers Diet: Fermented beverages

Jordan Rubin writes a lot about fermented foods and beverages in his books. To be honest, I do not completely understand the fermentation process and all of the advantages. I still have a lot to learn. What I do know is that fermentation is a method of preservation and it helps enzymes and nutrients to be released and absorbed. I cannot say that I am completely sold on many of the food recipes, but I actually enjoy two fermented beverages. Kombucha and kefir.

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Kombucha is basically black tea, sugar, and a “mother” culture or mushroom. The culture is a blend of bacteria and yeast that ferments with the tea and sugar. The end result is full of probiotics and B vitamins. It is very fizzy and has a slightly sour but sweet taste. There are several well-known brands and even recipes to brew your own. If you find yourself at a nearby health food store, try a bottle and see what you think. It is supposed to have many more health benefits than I have named here.

Kefir is a fermented milk drink made from kefir grains (mixture of bacteria, yeast, proteins, fats, and sugars) in any kind of milk—cow, goat, coconut. It can be easily made at home with kefir grains starter kits. It is widely available at most health food stores and costs about the same as goats milk and slightly more expensive than organic whole milk. Kefir contains a ton of probiotics as well as folic acid. Many people who are lactose intolerant are able to drink kefir without any side effects. Kefir is like a slightly sour, drinkable yogurt. There are many flavored varieties but check the sugar content.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Know Your Ingredients #13

Tomotoes with tomato puree, cooked macaroni product, tomotoes, tomato puree, dry curd cottage cheese, onions, beef, mushrooms, low-mositure parti-skim mozzarella cheese, corn syrup, modified cornstarch, barlic, tomato paste, enriched wheat flour, parmesan cheese, salt, spices, Romano cheese (made from cow's milk), hydrolyzed vegetable protein and autolyzed yeast extract, corn oil, sugar, xanthan gum, dehydrated onions, erythorbic acid, caramel coloring, dried beef stock, natural flavorings

Friday, December 3, 2010

Product Review: Ladder Hill Update

Ladder Hill Tinkle Time Trainer Update: So the designer remade two of the trainers with a bamboo velour on the inside. It is definitely much more absorbent than the cuddle fleece that was previously used. It is much softer, and it seems to absorb all over inside of spots.

I still prefer to stuff the trainers that have snaps vs. pullup style, and we have not had leaks yet with either style. We have not used these heavily since we have a decent rotation going. The only other recommendation I would make is to sew a stitch all the way down the insert to keep it from bunching at the end. The doublers tend to bunch/curl on the outside as well, but I’m really not sure how to prevent that.

Our leaks seem to have decreased, but we are also using 3 inserts in almost every trainer. Kai is starting to wake up dry more and more often so that is a good thing!

Overall: 8—I would say that I am pretty happy with these. They don’t seem to be leaking quite as much as when we first started using them, but two have different fabric now. We are also adding an extra doubler. I really appreciate the help from the designer. I feel better about recommending trainers with the new bamboo velour.