Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On Food and Health

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Recently, I attempted to begin the process of looking up various nutritional information to continue my efforts to become more healthy.  As an American, with unprecedented access to a wealth of information and resources, and as a medical professional, who had some training on how to evaluate health information, I thought I was looking at a fairly simple process.  WRONG.  I dug deep into Mayo Clinic publications, materials on Medscape, Cleveland Clinic brochures...without much success.  I searched the interwebz - and pulled up a ridiculous amount of information published by bloggers who didn't appear to be educated at all, but certainly had numerous opinions on what was the right way to eat, and what eating with health in mind meant.  Since the actual medical research on the subject was so scarce and when available apparently contradictory, and the loud opinions from the peanut gallery were so plentiful, I found myself wondering what, exactly, was going on?

While sharing my annoyance with this situation with my sister-in-law, Katie, she directed me to a book (and let me borrow it!  Thanks, Katie!).  This book is called In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.  It was apparently very popular when it was published in 2008.  Michael Pollan is not a nutritionist, nor a scientist, and he's not a blogger either - he's a journalist.  At this point, being failed by the scientists, and the bloggers, why not try out a journalist?  I knocked this book out in the span of not quite 2 nap times and a dance class, so it's an easy read and it won't take you long.  I would HIGHLY recommend it!

In this book, the author goes into detail about how and why Americans are so darn confused about food.  Turns out I'm not the only one.  What we've been advised to do by the FDA and scientists, which now forms the Western Diet, have not only turned out to be ineffective in improving health, but appear to have actually hindered the health of Americans.  This doesn't surprise me.  As a result, we grasp at fad diets and try to make sense of all of the latest nutritional claims on "food."  Pollan discusses a concept known as "nutritionalism" which is basically how the food we eat has been framed for our understanding on the parts it is composed of, not on the whole.  This is my experience.  The biggest problem with this is that it takes the authority on food and what is good to eat away from the culture, from history, and from mom, and hands it squarely to the scientists.  From a macro level, food is either a fat, protein, or carbohydrate.  Sound familiar?  On a mirco level, there are nutrients in food, things like potassium, sodium, and so on.  Some are framed as good, some as bad.  Some bad framing you've probably all heard of is that fat is bad!  It's bad!!!  Well, turns out it's not bad.  Actually, the fat replacement that found it's way into what is likely all of your homes growing up, margarine, is worse than the real food it replaced.  The problem is that scientists are trying to understand the inordinately complex structure and function of food by breaking it down into what they can see - which it turns out isn't even close to all that's going on, doesn't help us understand what we eat, and has led to the creation of pseudo-foods, things that pretend to be food, have the nutritional value of food, but still, are not food - just because you can take something apart, doesn't mean you can put it back together.

This book has really helped me to reorient my thinking on food.  Food is not bad.  None of it.  Carbs are not the devil.  Saturated fat isn't going to give me an instant heart attack and should not be replaced by fake food manufactured to get my money without care or concern for my health.  I'm going to try very hard to remove these macro labels from my vocabulary.  Food, real food, is simply what it is.  What I should continue to do, is what I've been working toward for several years - no processed "food."  Grow my own garden, cook from scratch, work for it.  If I need cream of crap soup, I can make my own, thank you very much, I don't need to have every other chemical ever invented in there with it.  I need to do more local shopping, that's for sure.  I need to invest the time and resources into making this happen.  It's hard, but it's worth it.  There will be a great deal of skepticism given to food "science," and even more given to anybody who decides to formulate an opinion about the best way to eat from that science, as it is an emerging and very difficult field, that despite popular belief, has no IDEA what is going on right now.

No specific advice is given on types of foods to eat - general guidelines are provided for what to avoid, fake foods and food products, and what to eat - food.  Real, actual, food.  The punch line: "Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Name That Plant

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Does anybody have any idea what this plant is called?  I'm pretty sure I put it there, but I have no clue what it is.  I have a bad habit of planting orphan clearance plants with no tags or random bulbs and then forgetting I did it.  I didn't do anything last year, so it would have been planted almost 2 years ago, though it didn't come up last year.  Any guesses?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Houston, we have lift off!

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Well...4 mobile children!  I think we need a few more gates.

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's the small things

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Nothing makes Daniel happier than finding a pair of shoes on the ground.  He is constantly trying to get my blue flip flops, but when he can't have those, any other shoe will do.  Since he's mostly beyond the phase of sticking everything in his mouth, I say go for it.  Whatever makes you happy (thus quiet) especially when mommy is sick!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Watch Week

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Sophia's dance studio holds "watch week" twice a year.  The instructor sets up chairs around the edge of the room and all of the parents sit and watch the entire class.  It's fun to match up some of what I see them doing through the glass door with what she's telling them to do.  Eli came with me, though I think he regretted it - an hour is a long time to sit and watch other kids have fun!

Sophia has improved quite a bit just since September.  Her balance is good and she can do all of the steps and follow directions to complete the dance.

What I love most about watching her in class is that this is really where Sophia shines.  She loves to dance, and she really applies herself and tries hard the entire lesson.  It's wonderful to see.  She may not end up being an amazing dancer, but these lessons are good for her in many ways and I'm glad she's taking them and loving them.  

Her recital is June 9th, not June 1st.  I apologize for telling everybody the wrong date!  If you want to come, let me know - I can apparently bring as many guests as I'd like!  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mommy Progress

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I know I'm not the only mom who's ever worried about her children!  I'm particularly paranoid about my kids when they are outside, or when they ask to go to the neighbor's to play.  As we've adjusted to this neighborhood (we've been here almost 2 years!) I'm starting to loosen up a little.  A *little*.

Right now, the sliding door to the back yard is open.  I am inside the house.  My boys are outside.  All of my boys!  And I'm not anxious about it.  I often walk up to the screen and spot check them, and if it gets too quiet I know Isaac is up to something, so I walk out, but otherwise, I'm hands off.  Of course, part of this equation is that Eli is a very responsible and observant kid, and if somebody even got near the fence or opened the gate he'd be yelling for me.  That helps.

Here's what I see when I look out:

Daniel LOVES to be outside.  From the minute he was home after delivery he has preferred to be out.  We walked him up and down the sidewalk when he was an infant late into October to calm him down.  He is very happy with this turn of the weather!  Isaac and Eli are on worm rescue back there, saving them from the sandbox and digging holes for them to relocate in the yard.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Best Salad Dressing EVER

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I'm always trying to figure out ways to cut out calories and increase my consumption of healthier foods.  Salad is a difficult - there's no disputing the nutritional benefits of salad, or most of the things that go on it.  With the exception of the salad dressing, which is very calorie dense.

Here's a recipe for you all.  There are two great things about this recipe.  It tastes AMAZING.  I want to eat it with a spoon - I won't, I just want too.  The thing that might be even better is that it only has 40 calories for 2 tablespoons.  I'm not sure if any of you have been looking at the nutritional information on salad dressing lately, but it will cost you quite a few calories.  Our old favorite around here, Hidden Valley Ranch, costs 140 calories for 2 tablespoons!

Parmesan-Peppercorn Dressing

makes about 2 cups

1/2 cup of buttermilk (actual buttermilk, not the vinegar in milk "substitution"!!!)
1/2 cup of light Hellman's Mayonnaise
1/2 cup of lowfat sour cream
1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of water
2 Tbsp of lemon juice
2 tsp of Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp of freshly ground pepper
1 tsp of garlic powder
1/2 tsp of salt

Place all of the ingredients into a bowl and use your stick blender to blend them until smooth.  Or put them into your blender and blitz until smooth.  

40 calories for a 2 tablespoon serving

Modified from Cook's Illustrated.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


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In this house, unless you are Chris, the minute you enter, you strip off your shoes and socks and go barefoot - or you put on a flimsy pair of flip flops to provide a bit of protection from the rouge Lego that's out to cause you pain.  I've never liked wearing shoes.  Recently, shoes have been causing me pain.  I went through 4 pairs of shoes during nursing school trying to find a pair I could stand in for 10 hours at clinical.  I didn't have much success.

A friend of mine (Holla, Dee!) has been talking to me recently about the benefits of not wearing shoes.  I finally cornered her this week and had a good conversation where I could pick her brain about how this works and what it means.  She has done plenty of research, and directed me toward some good articles.  Here's one, if you're interested: You Walk Wrong.  This author makes some great, logical points about the use of shoes.  

As I started thinking about it, I realized a few things.  First, I have acknowledged the existence of this "barefoot" movement - I've seen people walking around in those weird finger shoes, and yes, I've thought they were a little off.  My brother had a pair on one time, I don't even think I brought up how odd they looked.  Second, a lot of this makes sense.  Many people on the earth don't wear shoes, and for lots of different reasons.  I don't really like shoes - they are linked to PAIN for me, no matter what kind.  And I'm not a buyer of ridiculous amounts of shoes, so I'm not having to battle ending an affair by discontinuing shoes.  Third, ballet dancers don't wear shoes.  Not point dancers, those shoes are crazy.  Regular ballet dancers wear a tiny slip of leather under their feet.  It provides absolutely no support.  Yet these dancers are some of the strongest humans - it's certainly not attributable to their shoes!  They clearly have strong feet, ankles, knees, hips...etc.  Oddly enough, that thought process is what convinced me more than anything to give this crazy thing a try.

The main problem is that the outside is gross.  Not as gross as 3 kid socks stuck in your washer for who knows how long, but close.  There are various kinds of "shoes" available to deal with this.  Shoes that don't function like normal shoes with giant piles of padding and heel cushion and air bubble technology.  Shoes that simply protect your feet, and allow you as best as possible, when it's not possible, to be barefoot.  

Frankly, I think these shoes are hideous.  I look like a hobbit.  Hobbits are cool, don't get me wrong, but those feet are not.  

My first test run was to jump on the treadmill and try these out.  I didn't walk long, but while I was walking, nothing weird happened - no searing pain in the balls of my feet.  What did happen is that I had a lot better balance, and I felt like my toes were actually useful for the first time ever in a pair of "shoes."  And I didn't have to worry about damaging myself if I scuffed or had some other weird treadmill accident.  

I'm going to work on getting used to these, so expect to see my crazy blue toe feet soon.  I have big hopes for these, especially to help with exercising and getting the rest of that weight off!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Handy Woman + Myth Buster

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Around here, I'm sort of the handy woman.  Chris can fix a lot of things (like an exploding toilet, for example) but since I'm the one who's here all of the time, it makes sense for me to deal with some of the issues.  Since I'm so cheap, there's no WAY I'm calling somebody unless I've exhausted all possible resources to fix a problem myself.

Our Whirlpool Duet washer started giving an error code F21.  Fun times.  After some research online, I figured out it was a problem with the stupid thing was not draining.  We do a RIDICULOUS amount of laundry in this house, so an out of commission washer isn't an option, even for a few days.  We tried to just unplug it to reset it, as that did work last time we had an error code, but no luck this time.  There's a great site that houses a ton of user contributed fixes for things called FixYa.  I found some great advice there.

So here's the myth: your DRYER is eating your socks.  It's a myth.  I've always heard that the dryer eats socks, that's why you get less out than you put in.  We have an unimaginable number of socks in this house, so I never even notice when one or two go missing.  Maybe I should take some lessons from the OR and count all of my stuff going in and coming out.  The truth: your WASHER is eating your socks.  Yes, it's true.  Those socks never get a chance to get eaten by the dryer, because the washer drain catches them first.  I never knew there was a way socks could get sucked through the drum into the drain, but it's possible.

Here's the inside of my washer, and what came out, for the visual people and anybody who's trying to do this job yourself and searching for an image - it's super easy - unplug!, remove the three screws on the very bottom (you need that weird star shaped attachment for a screwdriver), pull off the panel, unscrew the drain filter, retrieve the NASTIEST socks you've ever seen in your life, put it all back.  10 minutes, tops.  Oh yeah, get your shop vac ready people, this job involves a copious amount of water.

The circle is the union of the drain where the water comes
down from the drum (black, thick tube behind) and then
out to the right through that white tube.  That's where the
socks get stuck!!!
Three nasty, slimy, gross kid socks, which appear to belong
to Isaac, all clumped up in that trap preventing water from
getting past, and the white drain filter that unscrews from
the circle.
Sorry if this grosses some of you out, I wanted Chris to see this and he's at work.  ha!  So use that awesome web site if something breaks, you can do it!  :)

Now I need a way to keep kid socks under control while they wash so I don't have to ever do this gross job again.  Ideas?  I think they sell some kind of mesh laundry type bags...I need to check.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Longer Out than In!

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Happy 9 months to my sweet little boy, Daniel!  

Daniel is taking his time with things - he's a rolling terror, but so far hasn't figured out how to crawl.  This is probably a huge blessing, for all of us, especially those of us who leave precious drawings out on the floor.  Daniel loves to try to eat art work.  He's as happy as can be, and a huge blessing to our family!  


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We had a great Easter weekend!  We started off with coloring eggs.  I discovered that using gel frosting colors makes the eggs very vibrant - goodbye liquid food coloring!

Our friend Lucas came over to color eggs with us!
Eli LOVES this activity!  
The kids went to an Easter egg hunt at our church on Saturday.  Isaac only found 2 eggs!  He was pretty sad.  The other kids shared with him, so it didn't end tragically.

On Sunday, after celebrating at church, we were off to Gramma's house to visit with all of Chris' sisters and families, and his mom and grandma!  It such a good (and crazy) time to get all of the kids together - there were 9 kids present, the oldest being Eli, the youngest only a few months old!

Isaac, with Gramma, meeting his newest
cousin Kenzie.  She is adorable! 
Sophia, in her beautiful Easter dress.
It was a great weekend!  We were able to celebrate Jesus, and his resurrection, with our children.  God gives amazing blessings.  How was your Easter?  I hope and pray everyone was filled with the peace and truth of what Jesus did for us on this, the greatest day in history!