Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Good Bye May, Blather, Blather?!?

Oh May, May has come and now is almost gone.

My garden beds have been receiving the bulk of my attention these days. My girls have turned into wonderful gardeners as well, pulling weeds, identifying herbs, planning garden bed spacing, digging holes, adding compost, sowing seeds, and most importantly watering. This week, we shall commence all the garden fun with installation of a drip system in our raised garden bed! Even my husband was in on the action when he took down a large limb that was blocking sunshine from our precious garden space, the loud roars of a chainsaw wailed through the neighborhood on a quiet Monday. On a related note, I have been fighting, with the help of hydrocortisone cream, some serious leg rash that was a result of getting right in the thick of a weed infested flowerbed in my front yard. Itch, itch, sigh...

If all goes as planted, we shall enjoy chard, spinach, heirloom lettuce, 5 varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, green chilis, herbs (cilantro, parsley, basil, oregano, lavender), zucchini, and green beans. If you are on instagram, I'm using #Dgarden2011 to visually record my garden's process, so find the hashtag and enjoy.

Related Randomness:
School is out and our summer is not even close to penciled in. I like it that way, we have plenty of time for spur of the moment adventures, some camping, and lots of lounging. I'll be checking back in on this brilliant idea, say the first week of July, and I am sure the post will be titled "What Was I Thinking".

I'm still keeping up with My Fitness Pal, but took the weekend off. I've decided recording every morsel of food that enters my body is a bit too tedious for my taste, so I will tow the line Monday-Friday and relax the other days. The changes I have been making are paying off and I am even running a little bit. I amazed myself the other evening when I was on my typical walking route and decided about 15 minutes into it that I should run. So I ran. That was awesome. Things are changing and it excites me.

I've got a few posts brewing in my head, but having one of those delicate balance moments. Trying to capture the right words to say with out my feelings being too much. Most on the front burner right now, relationships, of course. I watch my daughter struggle with some friendships and have fabulous moments with the same friends, all within the course of one morning. I just want to tell her the lessons she's learning now she'll take through life with her, as things don't really seem to change in that regard when you are an adult. Sigh.

Goals for June, focus, blog, water garden, enjoy the moment, embrace the change.

Comments, closed. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Last Bento of The School Year!

I find it hard to believe, but this morning I packed the last bento for my second grader, soon to be third grader. Amazing!

(taken w/ iPhone)

Applegate Farms baked ham, tillamook medium cheddar, whole wheat organic tortilla
baby carrots
vegetable sticks
Annie's granola bar in nibble size pieces
and a very special last day home made brownie!

Summer shall be hit or miss, but I may share what the girls are eating in general! 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Wheel Squeak, Water Swoosh, Sword Clank, Hum... Can't Escape The Noises

Believe it or not, we are on the cusp of six months in our home and I still haven't grown accustomed to some of the noises our place makes. I am completely embarrassed to admit the other day I was sitting on the couch and jumped up to look out the window because I thought I heard the garage door open. For a moment my mind led me to believe my husband was surprising me and calling it a day mid-afternoon. Turns out, what I heard was the washing machine. Maybe that's some insight as to how much laundry I've been doing lately.

And tonight...

The dishwasher is boldly swishing away,
the air purifier is white noisily keeping my girls in a gentle lull,
sword fighting is piercing from the family room (movie),
crashes of ice falling from the maker into it's bin in the freezer,
our hamster is doing her aerobic work out on that darn squeaky wheel.

I wonder at what hour comes the peace and quiet?

Comments, closed.

Friday, May 20, 2011

My Food Diary: Staring Into That Mirror I Always Walk Past...

On Monday I downloaded the app for my iPhone called My Fitness Pal. It's also a website, in case you are interested in starting a journal of the foods you eat, with the added bonus of nutritional information built in. While I use the word, DIET, with much hesitation using MFP is like being on a diet. For the most part I feel like I eat very healthy, but I have some lingering pounds that I would like to be rid of. I don't exercise consistently, which is also another problem.

Recording every thing you eat and staring boldly at the numbers of a tablespoon of almond butter, a teaspoon of olive oil, 15 tortilla chips, 3oz of spinach, or a banana has really opened my eyes to how I eat. I'm only one week into this program and I will eat driven by the simple notion of is that something I want to contribute to my daily caloric totals? For me it's powerful, but I'm not quite sure how to gauge how long this novelty will last, is it a phase or a commitment for life? Of course I want it to be the latter, but my drive will ultimately tell.

Beyond facing a very stark reflection of struggling with carrying extra weight, the food diary has influenced me in positive ways. Take for example today, I rode my bicycle to drop off forms to the school's office and then over to the library to pick up my books that were on hold, instead of driving. They are both in the neighborhood and although riding my bicycle should be the norm, I most easily hop in my car. After dinner on Tuesday we took a family bicycle ride on a street that dead ends into a pretty steep hill climb. Typically after dinner, I enjoy a little peace and quiet while J takes the girls outside to play. Now I am excited to add aerobic activity into my MFP journal.

I have to tell myself it's the little things that will add up. It's the bicycle ride to the school, the power walk post dinner, it's skipping a food chuck full of calories/fat in favor of a food that will fuel my body's needs better. For now MFP is the little boost I need to pick up some momentum, concrete numbers are positive reinforcement. I have a habit of telling myself my jeans are tight because they were dried in the dryer instead of line dried. I have a habit of not looking in the mirror at myself when I am not fully clothed. Before I didn't want to see, but now I am looking at myself straight on in more than one regard. I am ready to love what I see.


Bento For a Four Year Old Preschooler

(photo taken with iPhone)

I feel very fortunate that there are no peanut restrictions at my daughter's preschool. I understand how incredibly serious nut allergies are, but the school believes in teaching the children how to handle real world situations (which includes foods you may be allergic to). There is one child with a nut allergy, but he doesn't go to lunch and isn't in my daughter's class, if he was I am sure I would refrain from sending nuts in her bento. 

Organic edamame, raspberries, cheese sandwich, and some peanuts. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Screen Time Alternative: Invite Your Children Into The Kitchen

We've all referred to the hours after school as the "witching hour". You know those couple of hours that endless drag on, Monday through Friday. The kids are starving, but we don't want to feed them too much so we don't ruin their dinner. There is homework to complete, uniforms to launder for the next day's practice, and dinner to prepare! Typically my girls start to bicker right when I am in the middle of preparing dinner. I can almost time when my oldest will open the pantry door in search of a granola bar, it's about 15 minutes before dinner is on the table. If I could hire a mother's helper, it would be from 3-5:30 during the week. Instead I allow the girls to watch television, just so I can get through dinner preparation.

Until a couple of weeks ago.

I'm not sure if it's reverse psychology for me or them, but I started inviting my girls into the kitchen during dinner prep. We turn off the television, I get out the knives and vegetables that need to be prepared and tell them to have at it. I allow my 7 year old to cut with a regular kitchen knife, but give my 4 year old a child-safe knife (it's very much in the vein of pumpkin carving knives, it has teeth, but is not sharp). We laugh and chat a lot, they easily open up about their day during this time. I find it's easy for me to focus on the dinner prep that they aren't quite ready for, but will soon be able to handle just from my modeling. I keep an eye on them and am quick to offer up advice to Sj, who is getting to be very proficient in the kitchen. It's also been proven that children who actively participate in food preparation and shopping are more eager to try new foods. If you have a picky eater, make certain to invite them to help you!

We haven't quite moved the kids into the kitchen into a daily ritual, but it is a couple of times a week. I enjoy instilling a passion for cooking in them, skills they will bring with them through out their life.

Bruschetta prepared by the girls! 

Sandwich Again? Lunch Meat Alternatives

(photo taken with iPhone)

Tri-colored pasta with a little balsamic vinaigrette, vintage cheddar, ham, raspberries, blackberries, and some rice crackers. No bread, no problem. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Celestial Seasonings' Gen Mai Cha Saves The Afternoon! Plus, A Giveaway...

I try my best to not get down about the weather, I mean I live in Colorado a place that boasts over 300 days of sunshine a year. But lately it's been colder than average and rainy, with even a few snow storms mixed in for good measure (yes in MAY, sigh). In an attempt to wash away the Winter feeling Spring days, I've been making sure I don't miss tea at 4pm daily. I will admit I drink tea through out the day, but having tea in the late afternoon gives me the little boost I need for the dinner into evening hours. Bonus, green tea is full of antioxidants, which is why I prefer green tea.

I seem to go through phases with my tea selections. Sometimes it's a cup of plain black tea, pure green tea, or maybe a fruity green tea. Lately, I've been enthralled with Celestial Seasonings new Gen Mai Cha tea. I was first turned onto Gen Mai Cha at a Japanese restaurant about 15 years ago and have always kept a box in my pantry ever since. Gen Mai Cha is green tea with toasted rice, Celestial adds Matcha to their blend as well. I never knew the history of Gen Mai Cha, but it's known as the 'People's Tea' because in post-war Japan green tea was scarce, so farmers added toasted rice to stretch the tea. I have always just loved the unique flavor the toasted rice brings to the green tea, it's a very natural compliment.

I have to admit, Celestial Seasonings' version of this traditional Japanese tea is just perfect. I would have a hard time picking out this Boulder produced tea from one produced in Japan. If you love green tea, but are in search of a tea experience out of the ordinary, I would definitely suggest trying Gen Mai Cha. From the moment you open the box to pull out a tea bag and smell the green tea with toasted rice undertones, you just know you're in for a treat.

In case you weren't aware Sleepytime Bear is very tech savvy. Sleeptime Bear/Celestial Seasonings can be found on Facebook and Twitter. I must admit, I do adore the Sleepytime Bear. I love keeping up with all of his funny antics around Boulder. Ps, he even has an iPad, I'm totally jealous.

Now, the fun part!

My friends at Celestial Seasonings have graciously offered up 160 cups of tea to one reader of Eat Play Love! The winner, chosen at random, will receive direct from the company 8 boxes of Celestial Seasonings tea, which will include Sleepytime Original, Cinnamon Apple Spice, Tangerine Orange Zinger, and Ginseng Energy!

How to Enter:

1. Leave as many comments as you wish on this post telling me what your favorite Celestial Seasonings Tea is (if you have more than one, leave more than one comment). Come back multiple days, in case your preference has changed over night. Yeah, no entry limit!

2. Giveaway closes on Friday May 20, 10pm Mountain Standard Time.

3. I will choose a winner via random.org

4. If you comment as "anonymous" please just make sure to leave a valid email in your comment so I can contact you, if you win!

5. Contest open to United States and Canada only. (yeah, Canadian friends)

6. Tea will be directly shipped from Celestial Seasonings, so I will provide them with your name and shipping address.

Easy enough, now share with me your favorite tea!

Disclosure: Celestial Seasonings provided me with the Gen Ma Chai as well as other products for this giveaway and also during a visit I made to their facility for a tour. As always, the content of my blog posts are original and my straight forward opinion. 

UPDATE ,  The winner is comment #10!!!

KDV said...

I love the Honey Vanilla Chamomile in the evening and the cinnamon apple is yummy too.

Do I serve Treats In Bentos?

(Photo taken with my iPhone)

Yes, I'm guilty. Sometimes I give in and add a special treat in my daughters' bentos. It's maybe once a week and when a treat is unexpected, that makes it even better. They know it's not a regular thing, so they better eat a good lunch first before enjoying it. 

Strawberries, clementine, Applegate pepperoni, whole wheat tortilla & vintage cheddar quesadilla, and an organic chocolate sandwich cookie. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Science With Girl Scouts, Is It A Lesson or Is it a Craft? It's Both, Thanks to Steve Spangler!

Some of you may be surprised to learn that I am a Girl Scout Troop Leader. I volunteered to take on the position after a group of girls showed interest in forming a troop (Sj included) in the Fall. When I was a child, I spent only a year in Girl Scouts as a Brownie, so my experience with the organization in general was very limited. I didn't let my inexperience stop me, I just went for it. Luckily for me the girls are very eager to learn and always happily jumped right into whatever activity I had planned. In many ways it was great to be working with a group of children again, even sweeter that it wasn't over 30 students, which I was accustomed to when I was teaching full time.

Of course, the first association I make with Girl Scouts is to cookies, but moving past that I generally assumed the activities I would plan would be very crafty. As it turns out, I've done a lot of science based activities with my Troop so they could earn a Science Try-It badge. I was given the opportunity to partner with Steve Spangler Science and try out a few of their science kits with my girls.

The kits we tried were the UV Beads and Sun Paper

The UV Beads look just like regular pony beads, but they are special (and magic as a few girls exclaimed) they cost $6.99 for a bag of 250. We spent one entire meeting just working with the UV Beads, it was such a great learning experience. The beads are sensitive to Ultra Violet light, they look plain white when you have them inside, but step outside and they turn bright colors such as blue, red, yellow, and green. It's so cool! 

Beyond the fun of creating bracelets with the beads, we also did many experiments. It was amazing to give the girls a visual cue (the beads turning color when exposed) for something like UV light, which of course we know our eyes do not interpret from regular sun's rays. The lessons were endless, we slathered some beads in old sunblock, new sunblock, and just regular lotion to see if they would change color when exposed. We put the beads behind the lenses of sunglasses and on the other side of a window to see if the glass would block UV light or let it pass through. The girls couldn't wait to try the beads inside plastic containers or behind the tinted glass windows in their parent's car. 

Through the simple use of these special pony beads the girls took away the importance of wearing sunscreen even on a cloudy day (turns out there were intermittent clouds which I loved to help instill that we are still exposed to UV through clouds). It was so nice to solidify a concept that otherwise is very intangible to them. Brilliant Steve Spangler! 

The next activity we did was prints on sun sensitive paper, which costs $6.99 for a pack of 15 sheets. It was fun to create "sun art" with objects we found in nature. We just simply thumb tacked the paper to a piece of cardboard, so it wouldn't blow away in the wind, placed the objects on the paper, left them there for 2 minutes to expose, soaked the paper in a bowl of water for a minute, and voile- a print appeared! 

The best part of these kits to me was the learning that happened organically. My Troop was just thrilled with the craft activity on hand, but it turned out they were soaking in all the important scientific information. I had 3 parents contact me about our bead activity alone, their daughter's were so enthralled with the UV beads! 

Yeah for girls and science! I've already bookmarked my Steve Spangler Science catalog for activities I am going to purchase to do with my children this summer. By the way, in case you didn't click on the links to the products below the photo, I just want to let you know they all have super cool videos on the webpage demonstrating the product! The girls and I just hang out watching all the Steve Spangler videos. 

Steve Spangler also has an "Experiment of the Week" that arrives via email, you can sign up for the mailing here

Disclaimer: The science kits were donated to me by Steve Spangler Science. The writing of this post was driven purely by the excitement of actively engaging children in new and fun ways! As always, with all posts written at Eat Play Love, all ideas and content are original and written by me. A huge thank you to Steve Spangler Science for the opportunity. 


Fruit Kabobs, Always a Hit!

(Photo taken with my iPhone)

I'm not quite sure what makes fruit so much more appealing when it's on a little bamboo skewer, but my girls have yet to tire of fruit kabobs. They love them, so I love them. 

Fruit, grapes, strawberries, melon, pineapple
Carrot sticks
Robert's BBQ Booty
PB&Almond butter, cut into a flower w/cookie cutter

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lunch in Minutes: Cucumber Avocado Roll

We made rolls for dinner last night, so I was sure to save enough sushi rice to make Sj a roll for her lunch today. I don't make the roll the night before because the nori can get soggy and in turn very chewy, which to me presents a bit of a danger for the kids to eat.

Cucumber, avocado, sushi rice w/a side of Brocco Shoots.
Organic strawberries, mango.
Joyful Rabbit contains gluten free, gmo free Tamari.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

No Mother of The Year Awards here, thanks to a Rocky Mountain Wood Tick

I've been somewhat superstitious about writing this story. I had to wait until we were through the potential "window for disease to appear" before I could comfortably share what happened. I will eagerly admit now, the guilt that came flooding through my body was almost stifling. Many lessons were learned from this one incident.

A couple of weeks ago my daughter's class went hiking on a local trail. It was a follow up to a hike they did in the Fall to compare and contrast the changes in the ecosystem from Autumn to Spring. Sometime that evening Sj told me she felt a weird bump in her head behind her ear. In a rather dismissive way, I asked her where it was and did a quick look through and a feel with my hand in her hair where she complained. We talked through it, abruptly I will admit, and I didn't see anything of concern. I didn't feel a bump, but also didn't think much of it. At the time my husband was on an extended business trip, I was trying to clean up after dinner, and my patience was probably half of what it normally is. I hate saying those things, but it was the truth.

In other words? That was truly a sucky moment for me as a mother, I would learn the following day.


The next day after school, Sj once again mentioned this bump she felt in her head. This time I was much more thorough and tried to figure out what in the world she was talking about. As I was combing through her very thick hair with a fine tooth comb, searching her scalp to get to the bottom of this "bump" I saw a dark spot. My initial reaction was a scab, which would've been strange, but definitely not the first time she scraped or cut her head that would ultimately lead to a scab. Then what first appeared to me as a scab, actually had legs. LEGS THAT WERE MOVING.

It's a TICK.

Amazingly my daughter did not freak out or start crying. She simply asked if I could show it to her in a mirror. I walked telephone in one hand calling our Pediatrician's office, her hair up in my other hand, to the mirror. I pulled out the hand mirror so I could angle it, just like a hairdresser does, she could see it. I had to talk her through what exactly it meant to have a tick stuck to her scalp while speaking with the nurse as to how to best remove the little bugger!

The nurse recommended taking a very soapy cottonball to it and holding it there for 30 minutes. The ideal would be the tick would just simply back out when I took the cottonball from her scalp. If not, call her back. Of course the tick did not back out. I freaked out, thoughts of disease and particularly Lyme's Disease came flooding through my mind. I'm from upstate New York and Lyme's Disease is rampant there. The nurse suggested using tweezers now to remove it, but that little sucker was in there good. I was scared and couldn't get it out on my own.

Ticks are one of those parasites that you hear so many stories about. Things like the head can get stuck in there and continue to feed indefinitely. They can burrow under the skin, my thoughts left no scenario uncovered. Of course googling ticks is not a good idea. In an effort to be comforted by family members, they told me things like, well the tick has to be attached for 24 hours before the spread of disease. The thing WAS attached for 24 hours, if I had only listened to her yesterday. Guilt, more guilt came rushing in.

Off to the Doctor's office we raced to get there before the office closed. Of course now it was about 40 minutes before closing and we live a good 25 minutes away, with after work traffic.

All the while a Rocky Mountain Wood Tick is feeding on my daughter.

When we arrived at the Doctor's office, every nurse, receptionist, and Doctor wanted to see the tick attached to Sj's scalp. It's not very common to see ticks in Colorado and our Doctor even mentioned she didn't think it was really a tick when she glanced over her appointment sheet. We proved her wrong, it indeed was a Rocky Mountain Wood Tick. The Doctor successfully removed the tick, head and all. I wanted to video tape the removal, but I wasn't quite sure how it was going to go for Sj, so I refrained. She did awesome, didn't cry, and there was a bit of a tugging match with some skin pulled away in the process. She plopped the bugger in a jar and sent us home with it. 24 hours later and that damn thing was still alive in the jar, so out of sheer necessity to see it dead, I put it in the freezer. That did the trick. We had to hold onto the tick in case it needed to be tested for disease. The good news, there are NO originating cases of Lyme's Disease in Colorado, there are more common tick fevers, but still they are rare.

We are now through the window of time that disease would normally present itself and she has developed absolutely no reaction or symptoms from her tick exposure. Thank you universe!!! This mama has learned a lesson, no matter how busy, distracted, or tired I am, I will always listen to my children's concerns. ALWAYS.

Of course I had to document this moment, another tale for the scrapbook?


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tuesday Tips: I'm Sorry But Your Dryer Sheets Are....Toxic!

In the mid-90's I started to phase out traditional cleaners in our home. Following the birth of our first daughter a decade later, I became super sensitive to what cleaners I would allow. Sj developed eczema very early on and typically such reactions are allergy based. My instinct as a mother was to tow the line and rid our home of the last few traditional cleaners that we relied on.

Truth, I had a very hard time letting go of conventional dryer sheets. My favorite brand, which was used through out my entire childhood, rhymed with flounce. There was no escaping the wafting fragrance that brought me back to my youth every time I opened the dryer. I connected clothing being cleaner with that particular smell. I always tried to convince myself that the fragrance was not too strong, especially when I would have to open my car window as I drove home from Tar-jay with my box of dryer sheets in the back (the things reeked in a tight space like my car). I brushed off the fact that people used them to repel insects successfully. I tried to forget about the warning to avoid extended skin exposure. I mean how many chemicals can really be left on the clothes from a little square of fabric softener?

When trying to do some research as to what exactly is in that bright orange box I was ready to wean my family off of, I found it was difficult to determine what exactly a dryer sheet is made up of. Proctor and Gamble does have a Material Safety Sheet, but honestly it's as vague as an electric bill. Enter the problem with proprietary formulas. One can not seek out the complete list of ingredients in a box of fabric softener sheets because the company is protected by law. If you think about it, you won't find ingredients on the MAJORITY of traditional cleaners because the companies are not forced to disclose what's in them. We are at the mercy of a law put into effect back in the 70's, protecting corporations over American consumers. Although, you will find companies like Seventh Generation and alternatives do in fact openly list their ingredients. Why? They don't have anything to hide.

So what is being hidden in that proprietary formula?

After hunting around, I found a few websites that list ingredients in my old stand by dryer sheets. With out even looking, I know for a fact that synthetic fragrances contain Phthalates. Studies have shown direct links to Phthalate concentrations in the body and ADHD, obesity, insulin resistance, and many other disorders even linked to reproductive organs. Or a simple explanation, phthalates are toxic to our bodies, when they are in many products in our home, we can have a much greater exposure than expected, it's not just dryer sheets. Other chemicals that come up when searching for the ingredients in dryer sheets are benzyl acetate, ethanol, acetate, camphor, chloroform, and pentane (to name a few). These chemicals have been directly linked to headaches, loss of muscle coordination, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, organ damage, allergic reactions, impair respiratory function (and asthma), and cancer. Many of them come with the caveat of "avoid prolonged exposure to skin or inhalation" which is the exact opposite of what happens with the use of a dryer sheet. It's all about the direct contact and inhalation.

That's why they had to go.

Alternatives? The natural brands, the ones that don't hide ingredients make dryer sheets. Honestly, I just gave them up all together. My mother in law has been kind enough to supply me with Lavender dryer sachets from Trader Joe's, they are like a little bean bag full of lavender, no other ingredients. That takes care of my desire for freshly scented sheets and towels.

What do I use daily as an alternative, dryer balls. My mom purchased them for me and I use them faithfully. They don't always take out static cling (grrr, my nemesis) but they do soften the clothes a bit. I believe they do anyway. I've let go of that, clothes need to reek of perfume to feel clean notion. I haven't looked back!

I guess my urgency to write this post is to get people to reflect on all the little things we use through out our day that may not have a huge impact on our health or our home environment when looked at solo, but rather what is the cumulative effect of all these products we are bombarding our bodies with daily?

Essential Oils are the alternative to synthetic fragrances, so just look over a product list. Think about the baby wash you use, do they list the ingredients? If not, I'd raise a weary eye. We have used California Baby products since Sj's birth, faithfully. They list ingredients, including essential oils, NOT fragrance.

Want to check out the ingredients in your favorite cleaning product? Try this list, all referring back to the original manufacturer of the products. You may be surprised what the company will and won't disclose.
Cleaning Product Ingredients Link

Disclosure: Tuesday Tips are small things I like to share that I do in my home to live greener. This post is not driven by any payment or product inclusion by a company. I do love Seventh Generation and California Baby, I admit that openly all the time.