Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sharing My Life's Details

Last night while I lay in bed with Sophie who was refusing to sleep unless she was attached to my breast, I read through my entire blog list on my iTouch (did I mention how much I love my iTouch?). I mean what else was I to do while Sophie nursed in her sleep and I was stuck to the bed at 8:30pm? I came across one blog post entitled 100 Things About Me and it was a simple post listing ...well, I think you can figure that out! lol

Anyways, I've been struggling with blogging lately. I've been posting lots of recipes, but I don't want this to be a cooking blog. I created this blog so I'd have something to look back on years from now or something my kids and I could reflect back on. And I wanted to share my life (as boring as it is much of the time!) with others who share my same values and such. But life has been complicated and I haven't felt like sharing much of it lately. I'd like to get back into that. Yes, life is crazy and I'm struggling with it right now but you know what? It is what it is and I want to remember all of this in the years to come: the good, the bad and the ugly! I don't post much about Ally, my oldest, and I know some of you wonder about that (same with on facebook) but she's at a tender age where she's not comfortable about me blogging or talking about her so I respect that. Of course, I get in the occasional post when it's her birthday or if I have a great pic of her!
So I hope to post more about my personal life and all that comes with it. And I'll start that with a 100 Things About Me post next!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Eggs 101

Does anyone else get confused when looking at the many different varieties in chicken eggs? I used to think eggs were eggs and your only choice was between brown and white. But now there's free range, free run, added omegas, veggie fed, organic, etc.. (and this is just from one company!). In my quest to buy the most ethical eggs, this is what I found for store bought chicken eggs:

Free Range: These are the happiest chickens (imo) as they get to roam around a pasture.
Free Run: While these chickens aren't kept in a cage (most egg laying chickens are), they are still kept in a barn and do not have access to roaming a pasture.
Veggie Fed: Just that... the chickens are fed an all vegetarian diet, no animal by-products.
Organic: Chickens are fed an all organic feed, no hormones, no pesticides and no antibiotics. Organically raised chickens are usually packed less tightly than those given antibiotics but this doesn't mean that they are free range. Most are but check your labels!
Omega 3 eggs: Basically, the chickens are fed lots of flax in their feed which then produces a small amount of omega 3s in the eggs.
White eggs vs. Brown eggs: Chickens with white feathers and ear lobes produce white eggs and chickens with red feathers and ear lobes produce brown eggs. There is no difference in taste or nutirition values but for some reason I always choose brown.

However, the average laying hen is caged up 24 hours per day and lives a horrific life. To learn more about the abuse laying hens go through go to Farm Sanctuary. Also, I've recommended it before but seriously watching Food, Inc. changed my life and how I eat.

The best eggs you can buy are local small farmed eggs. Not only are they the most ethical, they are also the best tasting.

The Best Carrot Cake Ever (and it's gf too!)!

I made my first ever gluten-free cake. After spending what felt like hours looking for the perfect cake, I decided on a carrot cake by Glutenfreegoddess. It was honestly the BEST carrot cake I've ever had. You know how carrot cakes are often either too dry or way too oily? Well, this was perfect: moist but not oily. And the cream cheese icing was so yummy on top! You'll notice in the recipe it calls for Pamela's Ultimate Baking and Pancake Mix which at first disappointed me because I wanted to stay away from mixes. But check out the ingredients, it's a really nice blend of flours and leaveners. I found a recipe online duplicated Pamela's Mix so I'll give that a try next to see if it compares as Pamela's is a bit pricey ($10 for small bag).

Carrot Cake Recipe with Coconut
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup demerara sugar
1/3 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbls honey or agave
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 cups Pamela's Ultimate Baking and Pancake Mix
3/4 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots (about 4)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan and line with parchment paper. (I used a bundt cake pan)
In a mixing bowl beat the eggs, oil and demerara sugar and beat till smooth. Beat in the yogurt, vanilla, honey, cinnamon and spice, then add baking mix. Add in the coconut, carrots, raisins and nuts; stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
Pour batter into pan and bake at 350F for 40-45 mintues. Cool on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Icing:

4 oz. softened cream cheese
2 tbls softened unsalted butter
1-2 tsp vanilla extract, to taste
3 cups powdered sugar
juice from a lime (or she suggests any citrus)

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese, then add vanilla. Add in the powdered sugar a cup at a time. Add lime juice and beat till smooth. Ice cake and enjoy!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

GF Minestrone Soup

Parker was feeling pretty sick this past week with a high fever. And along with his high fevers were febrile seizures which I just hate. Even though they're harmless, they're still not pleasant to see in your 2 year old. He spent 3 days not eating very much at all (he ate a buckwheat waffle and half a pair one day) until the late afternoon of Day 4 when he was asking for soup. I decided on Minestrone Soup but the kind I always used to make had wheat pasta in it. So I decided to a veggie and bean only minestrone and serve it over brown rice. Topped with some parmesan cheese and it was good!

GF Minestone Soup
  • 1 can diced organic tomatoes
  • 1 large leek, sliced white and light green parts only
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrotrs, chopped
  • 2 celery, chopped
  • 1 potato, cubed
  • 1 small zuchinni, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup green beans, chopped
  • 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch of spinach, chopped (I use frozen spinach patties by Europe's Best when I don't have fresh on hand)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oregano
  • 8 cups water
Add all veggies and seasonings to pot and bring to a boil. Turn down heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes. Add in beans and let simmer 10 more minutes. Ladle over a bowl of hot cooked brown rice and top with some parmesan cheese.

Sophie is 4 months old!

I just can't believe that she's 4 months old already, time has been going by so fast!

New skills:
~ Sophie rolls over both ways now. Back to front is still easier for her though.
~ She knows her name. If we say her name she'll look for the person saying it.
~ Usually wakes once per night.
~ She has a tooth that's been poking up and down for about a week now. I can feel it but not quite see it.
~ Sophie has started to have full belly laughs. Of course she only does this for daddy though!
~ She can sit with support.
~ She pushes up with her arms when on her tummy.
~ Sophie has just started discovering her feet.
~ She loves to hold and mouth toys. Her favourite is a playsilk that I've tied into a ring.
~ We've put her in an excersaucer a few times. She likes to spend a few minutes in it while we're out in the garden.
~ I've been noticing lately that she naps better upstairs in my room than downstairs. She's a very light sleeper and will often only nap about 20 minutes at a time downstairs. But I'm not sure I'm ready for her to sleep upstairs and plus I can't quite figure out how to get her to nap upstairs when Parker's awake.

I'm sure there's more but as usual, I can't seem to think of them all right now! :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What we've been eating lately...

So with starting a GF diet for Parker, cooking and baking around here has changed big time. You don't realize just how many things have wheat in them until you really look for it.
I've never been one for using mixes or convenience foods but I admit that I've used them more than once this past week or so. I don't know why but I feel intimidated at the thought of doing my own GF friendly baking. There's all sorts of flours that I've never used. I started to branch out last year and tried spelt, aramanth and several others but wheat was still the predominant flour in my recipes. And then there's adding xanthan to breads and muffins that I just have no clue about. Plus it doesn't help that building up a GF friendly pantry for baking from scratch is pricey. So until I have a decent array of flours and I'm less intimidated by it all, yes I will be using mixes!
One mix I quite like is Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Pancake Mix. The pancakes when piping hot are delicious. Like way better than plain boring wheat flour and they're more filling. Parker loved them, he ate 2 1/2 to himself which is 1/2 more than I ate! I bought the mix at Save-on-Foods here in town which actually has a decent GF foods section.

For breakfasts we've been having:

Breakfast Smoothie:
Blend together 1/2 banana, 1/2 cup milk, 1 tlbs cocoa powder, 1 tsp honey, 1 tlbs hemp hearts, several ice cubes, 1 tbls peanut butter, 1 tsp probiotic powder, either some spinach or a half scoop of greens plus.

Poached Eggs on a bed of Spinach:
Wilt some spinach in a tsp of olive oil with a crushed garlic clove and some red pepper flakes. Top with a poached egg and serve with GF bread.

Parker's 2 year Check-up

Parker had his two year doctor's appointment yesterday and I was eager to discuss my suspected gluten intolerance with our family doctor. I worried all week how I was going to word it just right so my doctor wouldn't just shake his head at me like he tends to do. He's not the most supportive doctor, or at least he hasn't been when I switched my maternity care to a midwife when I was pregnant with Sophie. Methinks he was a tand offended.

I wrote all of my concerns for Parker so I could bring it with me. I tend to get flustered and forget everything I want to discuss. My concerns and possible symptoms were:
~ reflux up until around 1 year
~ delayed in speech development
~ Mucousy, acidic BMs up to 6 times per day
~ Often undigested foods in BMs
~ VERY fussy, cries a lot
~ Poor sleeping
~ Gassy
~ Horrid, open sores and welts kind of diaper rashes.
~ seems to have an intolerance to citrus as it will worsen his symptoms after eating.

Now imagine my surprise when my doctor agreed with me that it was most likely an inolerance to gluten!! He offered to have him tested for Celiac but I decided not to as it's a blood test and I don't want to put him through that. Instead we agreed to stick with a GF diet and check back with the doctor in 6 months. He said that sometimes it could also be an allergy to dairy but since our GF diet seems to be showing improvments already to stick with this. He also said that often a child will outgrow a sensitivity so we'll see.

So  YAY that all went well... until my doctor started talking about his poor sleeping and crying. I wasn't so much looking for solutions to his nightime wakings as it doesn't really bother me, I just thought it was important for him to know and I've heard that it can sometiems be related to Celiac disease. He offered suggestons but then about the crying, he threw his hands up and said that Parker looked happy and healthy so he didn't know what to say. I was starting to get frustrated because this is what he said when I brought him in at 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, etc etc about his constant crying. Seriously my poor little man has spent the first year of his life crying and while it's not as often as before it's still abnormal, imo. All my doctor kept saying all those months was that he's healthy and maybe I was just overwhelmed and that caring for a baby was harder than I expected. Ummm.... I have been working with children and babies for 10 years and Parker is my second child. I think I knew exactly what to expect from caring for a newborn and baby. And yesterday he was starting to say the same thing, that because he looked healthy and happy (in the 10 minutes we were in his office he determined that since Parker wasn't crying then that he was a happy child who doesn't cry anymore than other toddlers!!) he didn't know what to say. I could feel myself getting angry and wasn't ready to argue with my doctor so I got up and told him I was leaving. I was at the door when I turned around, crying at this point, and just let all my frustrations with the care my family has been recieving from him in the past two years and how insulted I was by how he handled my concerns over my child's crying.
He apologized and gave me a referral to see Parker's old paediatrician again whom I really like. So hopefully he can give us some answers.
In the meantime, we're sticking with our GF diet and looking for a new family doctor!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Going Gluten Free.

A facebook friend posted a link to the Gluten Free Challenge and I happened to be bored that day so I clicked on her link and had a read through. I was very interested when I read some of the symptoms of gluten intollerance in children and Parker fit several of them.

Since Parker was born, he's always had very mucousy, frequent BMs and horrid diaper rashes. He would poop up to 6 times a day and it would be (tmi warning!) very loose and sometimes even frothy and even if we changed him as soon as he had gone, his poor bum would be so red and irritated, sometimes welts and blisters would be left behind. Parker also has been a very spirited child, always irritable and has always been a bit behind in reaching his milestones (but not enough to warrant therapy of any sort). My dr wasn't concerned: he blamed it on teething, too much fruit, extended breastfeeding, and because even though Parker was slow to meet his milestones he did eventually meet them.

So after reading into Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease, my husband and I decided to go gluten free with him for a month and see if we noticed a difference. And my goodness... it's only been 5 days and already we noticed a HUGE difference!! He's only having one or two normal bms a day as opposed to up to 6 loose and acidic bms a day which has made him less irritable because his little bum isn't burnt raw constantly.

Yesterday was a slip up day though... we went hiking with my SIL and I didn't think we'd be gone for too long so I only packed him a snack and she didn't know we were going gluten free so she packed a pb/banana/honey sandwhich for him. He didn't eat the bread but we gave him the bananas from it and then later on that day I gave him a few of my potato chips not thinking there'd be gluten in there (I later read there was). So today his BMs were loose (not like before though) and his little bum was a bit red. I will definitely be more vigilant from now on, it's hard though as we're learning as we go along.

He has his 2 year check up on Monday and I'll mention this to his doctor and see what he has to say about it all.

Being that I love to cook, it's actually been fun looking up new recipes to try out! The other night I made mushroom soup from Gluten Free Girl which was yummy but cost waaaayyyy too much money to make (we're talking $35 for a pot of soup which is too much imo). She has some other recipes that I've tried and am eager to try as well. Last night we had quinoa salad with smoked salmon which was delicious!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Busy Weekend!

This weekend was a busy one for us: On Sunday we celebrated Mother's Day, my birthday and Parker's birthday with extended family. Dave's family came over for a late lunch, some cake and some celebration. We had a nice time, Parker just loves all the attention he gets when family comes over!
I decorated my first cake ever which was SOOOO hard, too sweet but super cute! I used a very yummy choclate cake (SO moist even three days later!) (from a blog who's recipes I"ve been drooling over and using for a few weeks now.) but the icing from the Wilton website was too sweet but I wasn't comfortable using a different recipe as I've never piped icing before and wasn't sure what else might work.

For my birthday I was given some money to buy something for myself and I decided to spruce up our yard. When we moved in last August the yard was disgusting, truly truly horrible looking. The people that lived here before neglected it so it was full of weeds, moss and general grossness. So we've slowly been doing our best to pretty it up little by little. We've been picking out the weeds so there's actual grass that's growing (still not perfect but useable!), put in a sandbox and a playhouse for Parky and put in a garden box which I'm very excited about!  We've got one long garden box along our fence and have another one that we're going to take apart and rebuild into two smaller boxes for cucumbers, zucchini, etc. Plus we have several pepper, tomatoe, strawberry, raspberry, mint and catnip plants growing in containers.

My adirondak chair that I'm in the process of painting purple:
My garden box with medicinal herbs, culinary herbs, garlic, shallots, brocolli and lettuces:

Parker's little sandbox area. We're hoping to find some cheap or free lattice to hide the under the deck part and then run more clematis along it:

It's soapnut love all over again!

I posted already about using soapnuts for your laundry and mentioned that I was wanting to try using the liquid for general cleaning, etc. Well... on Saturday after losing the muslin bag ful of nuts three times in my wash I was getting frustrated with using them. I crave simplicity and these were not proving to be as simple as I first thought with having to shake and turn out each article of clothing from the washer looking for the muslin bag of soapnuts before putting it in the dryer.
So before I was going to decide if I was going to give up on soapnuts, I thought I'd give the liquid a shot. And I'm glad I did. :) I'm back in love with soapnuts and maybe even a little more now. I boiled about 12-14 new soapnuts in 6 cups of water for about 30 minutes then added enough water to bring it back up to 4 cups worth of liquid. I left in the soapnuts but you can take them out if you like. Also, don't be afraid of the tea coloured liquid, it will NOT stain your clothing! :) For an extra boost and to add some scent, I added a few drops (I accidently used too many of TTO) of tea tree oil and lavender essential oils.
For laundry (including cloth), I add in 3 tablespoons (which is how much the oxyclean scoop holds, so I just use an old one to measure it out).
I also added 3tlbs to my bottle of general cleaner and it works SO much better! I just didn't add the essential oils since the soapnut liquid already has some in there. I tried it on my very dirty patio windows and it works fantastic, works great on floors too.
All in all, I"m very happy with the results. I'd like to play around with some scents as I've been checking out the Rockin' Green laundry detergent website and they've come up with some yummy scents that I was thinking of trying.

ETA: A friend of mine just reminded me (thanks Shona!!) that this doesn't keep that long. I've been using the jar for 4 days now stored in my cupboard for 4 days now and it's still perfectly fine but this won't keep for too long. If you weren't a family of 5 who cloth diapers two children and uses this as your main cleaner (lol!) then I'd store it in the fridge or even better, freeze it in ice cube trays and pop up to 3 in the washing machine. If you're using cold water, I'd let the cubes melt first! :)

ETA (May 14, 2010): I made my second batch of soapnut liquid today and have learned something: This stuff loves to boil over furiously! Last time I made it, I used a big stockpot but this time I used a medium sized pot which boiled over all over the place. It's fine to use a medium sized pot, just watch it until it comes to a boil and turn to a simmer right away.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Pacific Ocean: meet Sophie Maddelyn!

One of our favourite beaches to visit on the island is Rathtrevor Beach. The beach is great for exploring tide pools, building sandcastles, swimming (esp when the tide comes in over hot sand) and lounging. There's also a very family friendly campground which even though it's only 1/2 hour from home, I really enjoy going there.
Last Friday the weather was gorgeous, much like today, so I decided to pack the littles up and head for the beach for Sophie's first ocean visit!

Sophie touches the Pacific Ocean for the first time:
Parker finds a seashell:

Momma and Sophie relaxing while Parker explores the tide pools:

The views are just stunning from the beach:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Breastfeeding Ignorance

When Sophie was born, I joined a moms meet up group hoping to meet other moms in my city, get us out of the house and for Parker to meet some other little friends. The first meet up I went to was great: We went on a toddler style hike and I met two other moms with children as close in age as my two. And out of the 5 of us, 3 are/have breastfed past 1 year.  I was happy.
Then the second meetup I went to was specifically for babies (plus older siblings) at a mom's house. I was thinking it would be nice and relaxing but it was nothing like I hoped for. The mom who hosted swore constantly (I'm talking F-bombs), smacked her kid and the two hours we were there she only held her baby for 5 minutes. Ugh....not what I was looking for at all!
I thought I'd give it one more shot so today I went to another mom/baby playdate. The host was great, she even cloth diapered (yay!) and there was another mom that I liked too but the same mom who hosted last time was there along with another mom I hadn't met. Within 5 minutes of being there the two moms started bashing breastfeeding and were upset that the nutritionist at the health unit where baby group is held was recommending exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months and then breastfeeding up until 2 (me, I'm THRILLED that our healthcare system is doing this!!). They were upset because they felt it wasn't fair to the formula feeding moms and breastfeeding is talked about at the hospital so it shouldn't be brought up at baby groups (!!). This whole time I'm biting my tongue and seconds away from taking my kids and leaving but then the one mom goes on to say how gross it is to breastfeed past 6 months let alone two years! That's when I mentioned the WHO recommendation of breastfeeding for 2 years and beyond. The mom tells me that is for women in third world countries who don't have enough food and breastfeeding is all they have (sigh) and that breastfeeding that long will turn their child into a social outcast. I flat out said that's not true... and told them I still breastfed Parker (2) and had no intentions of stopping anytime soon. That he was in control of when he decided to be done breastfeeding, whether that be tomorrow or several years from now. Well, didn't that just shut them up! Of course, they didn't say much to me after that but that's okay I was busy loving up the babies and talking to the two moms who had a clue!
Anyhoo... all this got me thinking of how educated women view and understand breastfeeding. I was really shocked that people felt and thought this way. The one mom honestly thought that the only reason the WHO recommended breastfeeding until 2 and beyond was so that children in third world countries wouldn't starve to death.
So while I don't plan on going back to another meet up, I thought I'd do up a post on breastfeeding resources so that you all (because I have so many readers, ha!) could educate yourselves and others.

There are so many great resources out there with fantastic breastfeeding information. Why is there still so much ignorance about breastfeeding out there?!

Birthday Dinner

Oh, how I love birthday dinners! In our family, the birthday boy/girl gets to choose what's for dinner. Ally usually chooses something like hotdogs or pizza (although this year she just wanted chocolate cake) and Parker isn't really old enough to decide what he wants. So I decided to go with tacos since he enjoys those and his birthday falls on Cinco de Mayo.
Normally I just buy the tortillas but thought I'd try making them homemade. And man, was it worth it! First off, it's SO easy to make once you find the masa flour (in Nanaimo, the only place I could find it was Walmart but later a friend told me that you can get it at Taj Mahal spices on Bowen) and secondly, it tastes SO much better.

Here's a picture of the masa flour (do not use cornmeal!):
All you need to do is add some water (2 cups masa, 1 1/4 cup water) and mix until it forms a dough:

Roll it into 16 balls:

Next, place ball of dough in between two thick pieces of plastic (I cut up a ziplock bag) and either use a tortilla press or use a heavy pan to squish the dough into a thin circle. You can use a rolling pin to thin the dough out if needed:

Peel dough from the plastic and cook in a dry skillet over medium to med/high heat for 45 seconds each side. Stack tortillas and cover while cooking the rest:

How easy was that?!

Normally I make cake for birthdays but there's a new cupcake shop in town called A Wee Cupcakery that I've been dying to try.  It was yummy and the woman who worked there was really kind to us. The only thing I wished was that the cupcakes were boxed better because they were a little smooshed up when I opened it. We each chose a different flavour: Mexican Chocolate, Pink Lemonade, Triple Trouble and Coconut Vanilla. All to die for but I think the best weas the Coconut Vanilla.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Parker!

My wild little man is two today.

And what a great inquisitive two year old he is!
Such a passionate spirited little guy.

And a definite love of my life.