Monday, February 28, 2011

Jane is crawling!

Jane is now 11 months and just started crawling! We're pretty excited about her mobility, but I'm also a little nervous because not everything in our house is baby proofed. I'm most nervous about our set of 12 stairs. Annabelle fell down them twice when she was a baby. I thought she was going to die or at least have a broken arm. She was fine, thankfully. But I do not want that to happen again, ever. The baby gate doesn't fit well at the top of the stairs so I'll most likely push the couch up close to block it until we teach her to go down herself, backward. The biggest challenge will be getting her siblings to remember to push the couch back when they go up and down the stairs. Or maybe I'll just have her wear Annabelle's monkey backpack when she's on the ground crawling and I'll loop it around the foot of the table or a couch. Hmmm, not a bad idea.

Annabelle keeps laying down in front of Jane while she's crawling and Jane just crawls right over and on top of her head. It's pretty hilarious. We can already see some fun things in Jane's (baby number four) personality :). Here are a couple short clips the kids and I took of Jane crawling around.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Coconut Bliss

Awhile back I mentioned how much I like Coconut Bliss, which is a non-dairy, no-refined sugar, type of ice cream. You can find it in health food stores but it's pretty pricey. I've been experimenting with the ingredients listed on the Coconut Bliss container and I've come up with a recipe that tastes very similar! I don't have an ice cream maker so this recipe is done mixing all the ingredients in a blender and then freezing them in ice cube trays. When I'm ready to have some, I pull a tray out of the freezer, let it stand for about 10 minutes and then serve it up in a bowl-I usually will just eat a couple of cubes at a time. It's so yummy and easy! Here's my recipe:

Elisa's Coconut Bliss
1- 13.66 oz can coconut milk (almost 2 c if you're making your own; get the unsweetened, no preservative brand)
1/2 c agave
1/4 c dried shredded coconut(unsweetened, found in health food stores or Winco), or 1/2 c coconut meat (I use more coconut meat than dried shredded just because I always have so much left over meat with how often I make pink smoothies)
1/4 tsp coconut extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Mix together in blender until smooth. Pour in two ice cube trays(a little less). Allow to freeze for a couple of hours. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bed head, clothes, tredmill

Upon rolling out of bed, Elisabeth's hair was just too awesome this morning for me to ignore. I took a picture of it. She wasn't as amused as I was.

Becca came to visit last week for a few days. Unfortunately, I forgot about my camera while she was here. We had a nice time and made some yummy, healthy foods together (she's getting into whole foods as well). Since about junior high, Becca and I have been very similar in shape and size which has it's advantages, like sharing clothes, and I'm sure my mom would agree, it's disadvantages when fighting over clothes-You know, 'Take it off! That's mine and I didn't say you could borrow it!' Becca left me with a bag of clothes she didn't want anymore(she cleans out her closet about once a year which I love because it means new clothes for me!). Becca has a lot better taste in clothing than I do so this yearly cleaning-out-the-closet tradition of hers, is very helpful to me.
We've recently started something in my ward(local church group) called, 'Gots and Wants'. This idea came from my mother's ward. Each month or week, we list things people have got that they want to give away for free, and things that people are in need of. Last week I saw a tredmill on the 'gots' list. After doing a little compromising with Scott(he was a little worried about not having enough room, so I took all the measurements of where I would want to put it and measurements of the tredmill to see if we'd have enough walking space) we were able to get it and fit it in downstairs next to the elliptical machine. I love it! I love to exercise, I love exercising in my home because of my life situation right now(several young ones at home with me all day means I'm too tired at night and in the early morning to go to the gym, I don't really want to pay for a membership anyway and little kids have and spread lots of germs and you can't bring sick kids to the gym).

I love to go outside and exercise when I can, but that usually only happens on Saturdays during the months of March through September. And that's not enough. I like being able to switch up exercises and with these machines and my Billy Blanks dvds, I think I will be happy forever. Another part of our compromise was that I actually had to use it often (which I know I will because I exercise daily) and that I won't acquire anything more for awhile(probably a really long while) because half of our family room has turned into a gym, which I don't mind, but we don't want it to take over the entire family room either.

Vicky, if you're reading, thanks for the tredmill!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

This is why I blog

My 4th blog book has arrived(a few weeks ago)!!! I am so excited to have a hard copy in my hands, to show my kids and our family.

I added scrapbook-type pages to our blog book this year. Not to every page, but about half. It costs the same, but it also takes a little more time to do it this way. I like it.

Health Journey Part 2

Much of this post will sound familiar and that's because I'm redoing it. We should all get a second chance, right?

When I first wrote this post, it was very different. But I know now that I wrote it while I was still sick, and in the middle of the night, and I'm not sure I was thinking completely straight. After re-reading one of my posts, I didn't like the way it sounded, or the feeling that came across. So I'm changing the post up a bit and am going to rename this post: Health Journey Part 2. Since I referred to Doctrine and Covenants in the Health Journey post a couple of times, I thought it a good idea to type some of it in here. (Now this part is going to be a repeat for those of you who already read this)

The Lord is in charge. He gave us this earth and all the things on it. He tells us:
"All wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man-
Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving....
Flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air...for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly.
All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life...
All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine..." D&C 89:10-16

Most people who read and follow the Word of Wisdom, follow the 'do nots' but they don't always follow the 'do's. I truly believe the promise that is written at the end of the Word of Wisdom(which I will include at the end). I believe that we will receive this promise when we are not only following the things in the Word of Wisdom that we're not supposed to do (we're not to drink coffee and habit forming/addictive substances-which is clarified in the church handbook- alcohol, consume tobacco), but also when we are following the words that I have copied above; the things that are good for us, plants and grains etc., that Heavenly Father has provided for us so that we shall, "receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures. And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint." Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-20 (Bold italics added by myself)

I have experienced these blessings. I have prayed. I have exercised faith and followed the counsel in these scriptures and then seen the blessings in health and wisdom that follow. I know I can do more, and I will continuously try. I am grateful to be blessed with a normally healthy body, and I think when we are struck with an illness, it helps us to more fully recognize that blessing. I am so grateful the Lord has given us this guide and I know that if we follow it, we can receive the blessings he has listed above.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sinus infection

I have a sinus infection. It was awful earlier this morning and into the afternoon. It's a little better now after taking a hot, steamy shower and eating a garlic clove(I eat about 1/3 of it whenever I'm beginning to feel some intense pressure in my forehead area-your spouse will keep their distance if you do this. Biting into, chewing and swallowing a piece of raw garlic is not an easy thing to do. But it's worth it). I also rinsed with my netti pot, completely cut out sugar and dairy for now, I'm taking extra vitamin C and drinking lots of fluids. I also recently bought an herb called Goldenseal and some diluted Colloidal Silver which I'm taking occasionally, but I'm not really sure how effective they are. The other things I listed provide a lot of instant relief.

Every year we've lived in Utah, I've gotten a sinus infection, which makes sense because the climate is so dang dry. I get them from colds-gone-worse and also from allergies. They feel awful: headache, low grade fever, my head feels really heavy, my ears sound all stuffed up, and I get so, so tired. I slept for a long time today before I figured out I figured out I had a sinus infection. I was then able to do a little research on things I could do to alleviate the pain and discomfort and did that.

I've also just read up on how to prevent sinus infections. I thought this information was really good so I'll share it here. If any of you struggle with sinus infections, read on. If you don't, just skip down to the next part that's not in Italics.

1.stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. This can help to keep plenty of moisture within your body and to ease the drainage of mucous that's commonly associated with sinus infections.
2.Use an electric humidifier to moisten the air in your home. Breathing dry air can add to the pain and discomfort of sinus infections. Your sinuses will be able to drain more completely when the air is full of moisture.
3.Attach electrostatic filters to your air conditioning vents. These specially designed filters can prevent allergens from being circulated throughout your home.
4.Avoid chemicals or environmental elements that can irritate your sinuses. Stay away from pollen or cigarette smoke. Avoid cleaning chemicals that can aggravate the inner linings of your sinuses.
5.Limit your alcohol intake. Even modest amounts of alcohol can cause swelling within the sinus membranes. Once these tender linings have been inflamed, you'll be much more susceptible to sinus infections.
6.Treat any symptoms of the common cold as soon as possible. One illness can quickly lead to another. Drink plenty of fluids, eat chicken soup and spend plenty of time relaxing in bed to keep a common cold from developing into a sinus infection.
7. Travel by car when possible to limit your time on airplanes. The pressure changes in an airplane's ascent and descent can cause pain within your sinuses and can lead to the clogging of the Eustachian tubes that connect your ears to the pharynx. Use inhalers or decongestant nasal sprays when you must fly.
8.Stay out of the pool. Chlorine and other chemicals found in pools can cause harm to your sinuses and contribute to infections.
9.Limit your dairy intake. While delicious and nutritious, dairy products can thicken mucous within your sinuses and create drainage problems. In turn, this can contribute to headaches and sinus pressure.
10.Give yourself regular steam treatments to help break up sinus congestion. For extra healing power, try infusing some herbal remedies, such as eucalyptus, peppermint or garlic, into your treatment plan.
11.Try to avoid exposing yourself to extreme climates. Exceptionally hot or cold weather can irritate the sinuses, leading to the development of sinus infections. Sudden temperature changes are especially harmful.

My kids all have some congestion right now too, and a couple of them have fevers. This week was not a good one, health wise, in our home. There were a couple different kinds of Valentine sugar cookies, treats from Elisabeth's class(I threw most of it away but some of it was eaten before I intervened), Annabelle's birthday cake, and we had pizza three times this week- 2 were homemade, but still, that's a lot of cheese which means a lot of mucus and if you're starting to get a cold, the mucus gets really bad, which is what happened to us. Normally we never have pizza more than once in a week but here's the reason for all the pizza this week: 1)Annabelle requested pizza for her birthday, 2) we got the papa murphy's heart-shaped pizza on valentine's(tradition) and 3)we had pizza on flat bread one day with my BYU roomies; something we had planned for awhile. Now that the prevention part has completely gone out the window, Scott and I have gotten serious and are doing everything in our power to help the kids get better fast: Warm home-made vegetable soups, no dairy, no sugar, lots of water etc. I'm pretty sure Annabelle has an ear infection because yesterday when she laid down for her nap, after about 15 minutes she woke up crying complaining that her ear was really hurting. She also had a little fever. I found some ear drops in my cupboard and administered that, along with some children's Tylenol. Later we did the drops again, but since then, she hasn't complained, and she has slept a couple of times without any problems. Her fever is gone, thank goodness. I'm going to hold off on going to the doctor unless I can't help with the pain. I really don't want to do antibiotics. Charlie had so many doses of antibiotics as a baby, increasingly stronger doses that didn't much of any good and he almost had to get tubes in his ears. So, if we can possibly avoid that scenario, and avoid antibiotics that kill not only the bad, but the good also, I think we all would feel better. I found this quote on Wikipedia when I looked up 'antibiotics'.
The first rule of antibiotics is try not to use them, and the second rule is try not to use too many of them.
—Paul L. Marino, The ICU Book

Having sick kids is not fun. Especially when all four of them are sick. And when I'm sick. But Scott has been wonderful and Becca helped a lot too when she was here. Jane is the only child who hasn't gotten a fever. Our kids always seem to get sick around Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's and their birthdays, unfortunately...all very sugar/sweet oriented holidays. This was the first year Charlie wasn't really sick on his birthday. Each one of us only had one small piece of cake on Annabelle's birthday and then we gave the rest away. But with Valentine's being a couple days earlier, it was still too much. I need to figure out what to do in the future to prevent this from happening- from having us all get sick from weakened and slowed immune systems(sugar dramatically slows the immune system). If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lady Bug Cakes

This was the first time I used a spray on food color. I bought red. It worked pretty well and I was grateful I didn't need to buy and use an entire bottle of no-taste red food coloring. Like I mentioned in Annabelle's birthday post, I made the ladybugs using a few different pans I had on hand. The big lady bug was made with one of the halves of the ball cake pan, and the head was a mini bundt pan. The little lady bug used a mini bundt pan for the body and a cupcake for the head. Everything is in buttercream accept for the pipe cleaner antennae.

And a picture of the lady bug cake along with the inspiring lady bug pillow pet. I know the pillow pet has a skin-colored face, but I think it looks a little weird so I stuck with the all black face.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Happy 3rd Birthday Annabelle!

Annabelle's birthday went as follows:
630am- Annabelle woke up me and Scott and climbed into bed with us (we'd asked her the night before to stay in her room until 7am...we figured she'd be excited for her birthday, so we basically set yourselves up for failure)
632am- Annabelle begs to open a gift. We ask her to wait for her siblings.
640am-continues begging. Begging is about to turn into tears. We(scott and I) hate to start her birthday off in tears so we relent and allow her to open one gift to bring back into our bedroom and play with. She is satisfied.
645am- Scott jumps into the shower. Annabelle continues to play with her Cinderella doll.
650am- Elisabeth walks in and says she's looking for Annabelle(Elisabeth is usually in charge of keeping Annabelle in their bedroom until 7am). Elisabeth jumps on the bed and plays dolls with Annabelle.
7am- we go into the kitchen for breakfast. Annabelle has previously requested granola with almond milk. Perfect! We have that every day so it's always on hand and easy. Thank you Annabelle. Once Charlie is up she opens her other gifts. Elisabeth and Dad go to school and work.
8-noon Charlie takes a nap because he has a fever, Jane is still sleeping (she's usually up between 6-7am so this is nice), Annabelle and I go downstairs and she watches Barbie in Swan Lake while I exercise on the elliptical machine. Once Swan Lake is finished I do some laundry and cleaning while Annabelle plays with her new doll. Jane continues to sleep and I'm getting a little worried so I check on her at 10am to make sure she's still breathing. She is. She doesn't wake up until 11:20! I'm hoping she's not coming down with what Charlie has. She feels fine when she wakes up and seems to be well.
12:40-1:50 pick up Becca from the airport
When we got home, Charlie went back to sleep and the rest of us ate lunch. We all ate different things. Annabelle wanted peanut butter with crackers, a banana and salsa and chips. Jane and I shared a hot pink smoothie and Becca had a lentil burrito(leftovers from our dinner the night before). Becca brought a couple of barbies for Annabelle from Grandparents and from herself, so Annabelle was very entertained for the remainder of the day. She requested pizza for dinner so I pulled out a whole wheat dough I had made and froze several weeks before. Thank you again, Annabelle. This is the easiest birthday I've done in a long time.

Charlie continued to sleep in his room until it was time to sing happy birthday. I'm hoping Charlie gets over his fever soon and that it doesn't get passed through the whole family. But it's looking like Elisabeth is starting to show signs of illness(not talkative at dinner, quiet, low energy, nothing seems to taste good...accept for the cake which is to come, of course). I'm sure the cake she had today and all the candy from school yesterday is making things that much worse.

Annabelle has a lady bug pillow pet and requested a lady bug birthday cake. It was really quite simple and the decorating part didn't take very long at all. I used half of the ball cake pan, 2 mini bundt pans and a cupcake to make the shapes of the 2 ladybugs. More pictures to come on a separate post.

Here are a few things about Annabelle at age 3:
*She is very independent.
*She can and will dress and undress herself.
*She can and will go to the bathroom all by herself without any help.
*She enjoys playing make believe games, like house and dolls, by herself.
*She likes to eat a lot of different foods, but she doesn't really like bread- no sandwiches, no rolls.
*She knows many of her letters, sounds and numbers.
*She loves to point out where Mississippi, North Carolina, Utah and Washington are on our table map.
*She is wonderful at singing and dancing.
*She loves to watch any and all barbie movies.
*She loves to go to church, and she LOVES her church teacher. She talks about her throughout the week and loves to be near her.
*She is very feisty. Some of her favorite phrases are, "you are rude!" and "I'm not your best friend anymore!" Usually this is said to Charlie, but both Scott and I have also been the unfortunate recipients of these phrases.
*She loves to look at books and have books read to her.
*She loves when it's her turn to pick the scripture picture for our evening Scripture study time.
*Annabelle is sweet, easy to please, happy, and so fun to listen to. And she's dang cute! Her big blues eyes are beautiful and just looking at them makes you want to smile.
We love you Annabelle!

Valentine's Day

I really like Valentine's Day. We don't do a lot for Valentine's Day, but the few things we do I love.

The thing I love the most about Valentine's Day is that it's the one day a year I get a sweet love letter from Scott. Not just a nice note with a couple of sentences, but an actual love letter. I LOVE it. Scott knows this is very, very important to me (because I tell him a couple of weeks leading up to the special day, every year. He probably doesn't need the reminder, but I just want to be sure) and he is always so good about doing it. I also love our exchange of love letters to the rest of the family. I write one for Scott and the kids, and he writes one for each child, and once the kids are old enough, they write notes to us and to each other. Scott and I try to mention specific things we love about each individual, especially pertaining to that year. For example, with Elisabeth I'd say something like, 'I love listening to you play the piano,' and then I'd give a few more details about that. Once they have read their cards, I collect them and put them in a safe spot. If they want a copy for now, I make copies for them that they can keep.

Here are the kids sitting down before breakfast, their love letters resting on their plates:
I have all of our love letters from over the years in a box under my bed and one day, once they're older(probably during their senior year of high school), I'll put them into a book for each child. On Valentine's evening, once the kids are in bed, Scott and I like to re-read past love letters we've written to each other. Elisabeth's love letter addressed to me this Valentine's made me laugh. Here it is for you to read, you can click to enlarge it(if you ask me, it reads more like a threat than a love note :)):

We also try to do fun things for meals. For breakfast we had pink, heart-shaped pancakes and a special Valentine's smoothie.
Here is the recipe for the smoothie.

Heart Smoothie

1 cup vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 small ripe banana
1/2 cup ice cubes
1 1/4 cups mixed frozen berries (raspberries, marionberries, blueberries)
3-4 frozen strawberries
2 Tbsp agave or maple syrup

strawberries to garnish
Directions: Add to blender in order listed and blend. Add more milk if too thick. Add more ice/fruit if too thin. Can garnish with fresh stawberry.

For dinner we had a heart-shaped pizza with sparkling cranberry juice(100% juice). Scott brought home sugar cookies for everyone. They were leftover from a work lunch. They were so beautifully decorated. No one actually finished their sugar cookie which was fine with me.

One of the things I don't like about Valentine's is all the candy that comes home from school with the Valentine's cards. Elisabeth came home with tons of candy (mostly fun dip...I hate fun dip. Messy and pure sugar!). Her backpack had blue sugar all along the bottom and on her homework. I had each child pick one candy to save for a future date and the rest we threw away.
Happy Love Day!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Smoothie Girl Interview Pt. 2

An interview with Robyn Openshaw, the Green Smoothie Girl. Watch it, it's pretty interesting.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Health journey

In pregnancy books or online articles, you'll read that healthy weight gain for an average-weight woman during those nine months is about 25-35 lbs. If you're underweight, 28-40lbs, and if you're overweight more like 15-25 lbs. If you're having twins a healthy weight gain is between 35-45 lbs. I'm average weight yet I surpassed in pounds all those categories, even the twin pregnancy recommendations! I gained 50 lbs in my last pregnancy, and the other three pregnancies weren't too far off. I know there are others out there(like my sisters) who gain even more than I do. I guess we're just above average :). No, it's really not something to boast about. Yet I find it very strange because I exercised at least 5 days a week throughout all my pregnancies and I didn't eat terribly unhealthy(but quite a bit worse than I do now), though I suppose I liked to have sweets, but who doesn't!? Here I am around 8 1/2 months pregnant with Jane.

After I had Elisabeth and Charles, all the weight came off within the first several months. I was going to BYU when I had Elisabeth and we lived in an apartment across the street from parks and a shopping mall when I had Charlie, which means I did a lot of walking. I also owned a double stroller and used it often. When I had Annabelle I still exercised 5 days a week, but I didn't do as much walking because I'd need a triple stroller, which I didn't have, and walking with three kids in tow was no longer peaceful and pleasant. I lost most of the weight after Annabelle but never got off the last ten pounds before I got pregnant with Jane. Like I mentioned, I gained 50 lbs with Jane which was on top of the ten I never lost after Annabelle. By the end of this last pregnancy, I looked... well... big. I was very determined to get the weight off once she was out. I figured since I exercised every day after I had Annabelle and didn't lose all the weight, exercising alone wouldn't quite cut it -unless I exercised for at least 2 hours a day which, really, who has time for that? Not me. I can get in an hour most days of the week, though a couple of days a week I do around 30 minutes because that's all I've got time for.

I figured I'd also need to start caring about what we ate. This wasn't the only reason I wanted to have us start eating better. Besides weight loss, here are the other reasons for our switch to more whole foods:

1. The influence of my mom- Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year. They later found out it was Neuro endocrine cancer. She didn't want to do chemotherapy and instead went a more natural route. Besides herbal supplements and some acupuncture, she switched to a raw foods diet for awhile. For those of you not familiar with raw foods, it's basically uncooked(or dehydrated at a temperature lower than 115 degrees) foods from seeds, nuts and plants. And that's it. Since then, she has added in some cooked foods like soup, brown rice, steamed veggies, etc. Her cancer growth seems to have stopped for the time being and we're hoping it does forever. She's feeling well and leading a very normal life. She has done a lot of research on healthy foods and natural medicines and she sends me all sorts of information which I've been soaking up.

2. The influence of Scott's mom- Scott's mom has suffered from kidney stones for years. Over the past year or two she's made some changes to her diet and has seen a big improvement in her health. She too has shared information on different healthy eating habits and I've been a grateful and interested recipient, soaking up all this information.

The influence of these wonderful women has started me along my own health journey. I've been reading and researching anything I can possibly get my hands on. Many books and magazine articles have some information I like and some information that to me, doesn't make sense and which I generally end up disregarding. As I read new information, I continuously go back to the Doctrine and Covenants, section 89 to see if the new health information fits with that sacred book of scripture. I've read that section so many times now that when I hear or read something new dealing with health, I'll know almost immediately if it's something that is worth while. I'll either leave with a good feeling, a feeling of, "this makes complete sense and it goes along with everything I know to be true and it feels good", or a feeling of, "Oh. Really? Hum. I don't know about that. It doesn't make sense. It doesn't seem right." We are SO blessed to have the scriptures. And the revelations were so far ahead of their time, it's amazing to me and another testament of their validity.

3. A desire to get rid of the large bumps on my legs- ever since junior high or round about, I've had a weird thing going on with my legs. I'll get these large, red bumps on them that won't go away. It's not like a rash, I only get a couple. They're generally the size of a quarter, but raised and red in color and are sensitive to the touch. They seemed to appear if I got hit, just like a bruise, but they weren't bruises. The first one came after I was playing soccer without wearing shin guards (smart, I know). I remember getting several while working as a hostess in a restaurant. We would put chairs up in the evening, and down in the mornings and I would occasionally hit myself in the shin with one of the wood chairs as it went up or down. It would hurt a lot. And then jumping around on them (high school cheerleading) only made them worse.

I went to doctors and therapists and no one seemed to know what was going on. They tried different exercises and therapies but nothing seemed to take. Finally my mom decided to take me to her Chinese herbalist. He looked me over and told me the blood down there was bad, I had bad circulation and that in order for this to really get better, I was going to have to lay off of sweets and fried foods, and he may have mentioned more food/diet changes but if he did I didn't catch it because I thought he was crazy for saying food was going to heal me. Food just seems too easy, too simple of a solution. Like Naaman and Elisha from the Bible, right? Or Moses and looking to the serpent to live? Not exactly the same because those were miraculous healings, but I think you get the picture: too simple to be true. Anyway, back to my story. I was supposed to eliminate sweets and fried foods as a high schooler? Yeah right. I ate out with friends several times a week at McDonalds and other fast food joints. (No wonder I was a little overweight in high school). I'll mention the results from our healthy eating later in the post.

Now, back to the present. After reading information given to me from our mom's and then doing more reading on my own, I realized that the herbalist was spot on. Our health honestly and truly comes down to breakfast, lunch and dinner. Exercise too of course, but they go hand in hand. Think about it this way: three times a day (more like 6 for our family), you are putting something into your body. Did you catch that? You are putting something INTO your body. Of course it will affect your health! I am reading a good book right now called The China Study. It's non fiction, based on research and data and very fascinating. I'm sure I'll do an entire post on it once I finish the book. The author, Colin Campbell(who has done some amazing things in the world of food/health/science) is basically telling us that eating healthy(which means lots of whole foods, 5% animal protein diet and no more) can and will reverse all sorts of health problems, including those that are genetic: cancer, Alzheimers, diabetes, obesity etc. Try to get a copy from your local library.

So, what changes did we make? Well, let me start off first by saying we've been taking baby steps. One of the first things we did was change natural peanut butter for processed peanut butter. My kids have peanut butter and honey for lunch fairly often so I thought this would be a good first step. I'm not going to lie, my kids didn't like it in the beginning. But I would sneak it in when they weren't watching and sometimes they didn't notice, and couldn't taste a big difference. Once we ran out of the processed stuff I just stopped buying it and they have all adjusted since. I also stopped buying things like pre-packaged peanut butter crackers, fish crackers, or other snacks that contain a lot of sugar or other ingredients that I can't pronounce. We started eating more produce, doing green smoothies, eating raw almonds for snacks, making our own homemade granola for breakfast, switching whole wheat flour for white flour in our baking recipes, using natural sweeteners instead of refined or chemical sweeteners, using pure maple syrup rather than the really sugary stuff(check the ingredients on your syrup. If it's not pure maple syrup, most likely the first two ingredients are corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. Sweet). It's been quite the journey, we've learned a lot, but it feels good. And it's been an enjoyable journey.

I know some people don't want to eat healthy foods because they think it's too expensive. But there are a few things you should know. If you're cutting down on meat, that will cut down some on your budget. If you're eating more oats and grinding your own wheat and eating beans and other grains and legumes, those food items are really pretty cheap. In fact a bowl of oatmeal with frozen fruit added to sweeten it and a little milk would only cost you about 20 cents. And that's an entire meal! Some other tips to saving money is to have a garden. Grow what you eat. Get an extra freezer (something we're going to do this year) and freeze what you grow so you can enjoy it all year. Even things like spinach and kale and beets freeze fine if you're just going to put them in your blender for a green smoothie. You wouldn't be able to make a salad out of frozen greens, but smoothies are great! Also, when you're eating healthy (especially if you follow the 5% animal protein guideline which will include dairy because we all know cows milk is mucus forming, right? Drink lots of milk and have lots of dairy if you want to have colds, congestion, ear infections etc) you won't have to go to the doctor as often, less ear infections and antibiotics which will also save you money. Anyway, it's just something to think about.

It probably is a little more expensive when you eat out or when you buy healthy pre-made snacks...we don't do a lot of either of those. You should try and do most things from scratch if you want to save money. We make our own granola bars and granola, almond milk, wheat flour, and I've just started making my own plain yogurt( yogurt isn't included in the animal protein because of the way it's cultured. It has a good bacteria and even those who are lactose intolerant seem to do fine with yogurt. The lactose in the milk precursor is converted into lactic acid by the bacterial culture).

Natural sweeteners are more expensive than refined ones, so use less and try to do less baking. When you need to sweeten something like oatmeal, granola or a smoothie, you could sweeten it with fruit or other natural sweeteners like honey, agave, stevia or Sucanat. It'll be a bit of an adjustment, but if me and my sweet tooth can do it, you can do it, too!

I know there are people out there who think they are perfectly healthy and don't need to stop eating Big Macs and fries and all that other stuff. But the truth is, even those who smoke or drink alcohol don't develop lung cancer and heart disease right away. It's not until they've been doing it for years and years and years. Same with those who eat a lot of meat. They won't have high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes until they've been eating that way for some time and then it's too late.

Since incorporating more whole foods(and continuing to exercise, of course)I'm pleased to announce that not only have I lost 57 lbs since Jane was born 10 months ago(back down to pre-Annabelle weight!) but my bumps seemed to have vanished.

Wow, this was quite the post. I didn't start out knowing this post was going to be so long. But I think I'm done now. Thanks for reading.

Here are a couple of pictures from the end of my pregnancy with Jane and then a couple from a couple of months ago and then this past month.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

After school snack

I make green smoothies every day. I've been doing this for the past 8-9 months. Even though they are called green smoothies, they are not always the color green; depending on the berries you add, sometimes they're purple or brown. They're called green smoothies because they have leafy greens inside-I usually use spinach and kale or chard. Today I put in beet greens that I had left over from making my Hot Pink Breakfast Smoothie. When I make our blender full of smoothie, I drink a couple of tall glasses and then I put the rest in jars for the family. Each person has their own jar with their name on it(Scott sometimes takes his to work). When Elisabeth gets home from school, her smoothie is waiting for her in the fridge and she has it as part of her after school snack. I only fill the kids jars about half full right now. They all like them pretty well so it works out nicely.

Top three reasons I love green smoothies:
1. We're healthier-we have had zero sick visits this year...not counting Annabelle's foot fracture and dislocated elbow, of course :). No colds, no ear infections, very few runny noses and a few of us got a 24 hour bug this year, but that was it. This is amazing for our family. It really is. Just a couple of years ago I remember telling friends that one of us always had something, even if that something was a runny nose. Now it's not so common!!! Also, along with being healthy, greens clean out your insides which many of us(meaning Americans) need to have done because of all the processed and junk food we eat.

2. More energy! The greens and fruits that go inside these smoothies provide SO many vitamins and minerals. It's no wonder we don't get very sick anymore. Instead of feeding the germs/illness in our bodies with sugar(which really, really slows down your immune system), we're making the white blood cells stronger so they can fight things off quicker. I feel so good most of the time and I'm no longer exhausted by 4pm, watching the clock during that last hour before Scott gets home. When I have energy the house is cleaner, meals are better prepared, I can think with more clarity and I'm happier which makes the whole family happier. :)

3. Weight loss. I say this for a couple of reasons. One, when you have more energy you can do more and you want to do more. I exercise every day, though that's not really a change for me; but either way, you have the energy to move around more. Two, and this has been the biggest help for me is that when you add drinking 32 oz of something to your day, something else has got to go because this will fill you up(don't forget that spinach along with many of the other greens, provide quite a bit of protein...Popeye ate spinach for a reason). It could be a breakfast or lunch replacement or a replacement for your snacks during the day. Also, all the fruits inside the smoothie leave you feeling very satisfied. Sometimes I'll save a little green smoothie for myself and drink it after dinner because it really helps to curb a sweet tooth....and we all know I have a sweet tooth; just look in my recipe section and back to old blogs to see for yourself :). And I'm not saying that I don't still have sweets, but a whole lot less often and the sweets we make in our house, we make with more natural sweeteners.

Drinking the green smoothie makes you feel good. Just like exercising makes you feel good. I personally think that when you feel good about yourself, it's easier to make good choices. When I exercise, I don't feel like eating junk food soon after. And the same is true the other way around. When you put junk in your body or when you are lazy, isn't it just that much easier to continue doing those things and to be down on yourself? Anyhow, these are a few of the reasons why we drink green smoothies daily.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Monthly, whole foods get together

As previously mentioned, this past month I attended a green smoothie class with one of my roommates from college. We each bought one of Robyn Openshaw's cook books, but we choose different ones so we could share recipes. Later we talked with another one of our roommates who lives in the area and is also into health foods (and who is a lot more knowledgeable than me) and we decided we'd like to meet together once a month and make recipes using whole foods and share them with one another. This way we'll get to see each other monthly, the kids can play, we'll each make a healthy, yummy recipe and so we'll get to try lots of new recipes for our families. We had our first get together last month. This is what we had: Black bean quinoa burgers, sweet potato fries, donuts, hot pink breakfast smoothie, chips(multigrain from Costco) and salsa.
The burgers were yummy. Elisabeth nearly finished two of them! All the food was really good! We had such a nice time. It's nice having friends with similar interests with whom you can share and gain information from(and who don't think you're crazy for cooking healthy foods :)). I'm excited for our next whole foods get together!
Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 1/2 c cooked black beans
1 c cooked quinoa
2 c fresh whole-grain bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
optional: hot sauce such as tabasco (to taste)

Saute onions, garlic and peppers until softened. Add turmeric, cumin, and ketchup and cook fro 1 more minute to release the spices. In high-powered blender or food processor, blend onion mixture, beans and quinoa until well blended. Transfer to bowl and mix in bread crumbs, salt, and pepper and optional hot sauce.

Heat coconut or olive oil and drop mixture by 1/4 c balls, flattening them on the skillet. Fry until crispy on both sides. Serve on whole-grain bread or bun with lettuce or sprouts, tomato, and avocado.
Tip: you can freeze these patties in freezer bags for a last-minute lunch

Robyn's Donuts
2 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c flax seeds, finely ground (you can purchase already ground)
3/4 c Sucanat(unrefined cane sugar)
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c milk (almond or rice, if you prefer)
1 tsp sea salt
2 eggs (organic and free-range), beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter, melted
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon

blend together with a spoon in a small, shallow bowl:
1/2 c raw honey
1/4 c fresh squeezed orange juice
2 tsp hot water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray donut pan with oil. Mix dry ingredients. Add melted butter, eggs, milk and vanilla and beat until well blended. Fill each donut hole two-thirds full. Bake 8 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool, then remove donuts from pan and dip into glaze. Optionally decorate with raw nuts or coconut.

Wipe pan clean with a cloth, then repeat the process.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hot Pink Breakfast Smoothie

This is a recipe I got from one of Robyn Openshaw’s recipe books(she’s the Green Smoothie Girl) and very lightly adapted. It’s called the ‘Hot Pink Breakfast Smoothie’. It has coconut liquid, beets, dates, carrot, cashews, flax oil, vanilla and frozen strawberries. I like to drink it for lunch. Charlie(age 5), Annabelle(3) and Jane(1) all really like it too! In my opinion, it’s best to start on whole and healthy foods when the kids are young. They take to it much easier and with excitement that way. Elisabeth, though still young, is not as young as the others and she is a little more challenging when it comes to eating some of the “fun” things I make. Some of the whole foods or recipes we have, she has to try over and over and over again before she develops a taste for it. It’s not impossible to have older kids develop a taste for healthy foods, just a little harder. Scott thought this smoothie was okay, but he says he likes cashews plain (so do I), so he’d rather eat them that way and leave the things like kale and beets to be pureed and hidden in the smoothies :) .

Just in case you’re not sure what chopped dates or a young coconut look like, here ya go(chopped dates are in a clear plastic bag off to the right. I buy them in bulk at health food stores or Winco):

I cut up a beet and use half of a small one or 1/3 of a large beet in this recipe. You can store the other pieces in the fridge in a ziploc bag for several days, or you can freeze it for months. You can either use a fresh young coconut or you can open a can of coconut water. Just be sure there isn’t any other added ingredients if you’re using something that has been canned.

To open the young coconut, take off the wrapper, place it on it’s side on a cutting board. Steady it with a hand near the pointy end and with a sawing motion and a large knife, cut off the flat end, about an inch or two thick(there’s an indent on that flat end all around the diameter, which you can follow.).
I then take a screwdriver, put it in the eye of the coconut(you’ll see a white circle once you cut of the flat end and it’s a little softer) and then tap it with your hammer until it makes a hole. I also make another small hold somewhere else close by as an air hole to allow the water to come out faster.

Drain your coconut water directly into your blender or you can put it in a jar if you’re going to use it later.

Once you have your coconut liquid in your blender(about 1 1/2 c), add in your large carrot, washed and cut into thirds, your beet, dates, vanilla and your cashews. Blend it all together for about 2 minutes in a high power blender(may work in another blender, but will probably need it to run longer). Add in your frozen strawberries and any of the optional ingredients. I like to put in soaked flax seeds or kefir. Blend it again on high until it’s smooth, about 2 minutes more. It’s ready to serve! This makes about 32 oz.

Hot Pink Breakfast Smoothie- very lightly adapted from Robyn Openshaw(green smoothie girl)
makes about 32 oz
1 1/2 c coconut liquid (from a young or Thai coconut; can also use canned or boxed coconut juice just read the ingredients and be sure the only ingredient is coconut water/juice and/or with it’s pulp)
1 large carrot, washed & cut into 3 pieces
1/4 of a medium beet, raw and peeled (you can freeze these for later use in smoothies)
1/4 c cashews
1/4 c chopped dates
2 tsp vanilla
14 large frozen strawberries
optional: 1-2 Tbsp soaked flax seed or flax oil, protein powder, kefir or yogurt
Place the ingredients, in order listed, into your high power blender leaving out the strawberries and optional ingredients. Blend for two minutes. Add the strawberries and optional ingredients and blend on high until smooth, about another 2 minutes.
* Once you’ve taken the water out of your coconut, don’t throw the rest of the coconut away. Instead, open it(I have my 6 year old son take it out back onto the patio and smash it a few times just by throwing it to the concrete as hard as he can), scoop out the coconut meat, rinse it and use it in other recipes. You can even freeze the coconut meat to use for later. I like to freeze mine and make Butter Pecan Ice Cream which I’ll post on here soon. If you’re going to freeze it, make sure you measure your meat in a measuring cup and then mark and label your bags with how much meat is inside.