[Real Food Friday] Link Love: Kale! + Homemade Girl Scout Cookie Recipes

Since it’s Friday (and I’ve already posted once today…who am I?)  I just wanted to share two fantastic links for your enjoyment.

100 Days of Real Food – I’ve already geeked out on here and even more on Facebook about my love for 100 Days of Real Food.  Finding Lisa Leake’s blog a few years ago was a huge turning point for our diet.  I wrote a little bit about that here  and have more in queue about our transition.  But for today, I’ll share a link that I certainly appreciate: 5 Ways to Easily Eat Kale.  I often hear friends say that they have no idea how to implement this incredible super-food into their diet.  We primarily use kale in our daily smoothies but earlier this week I used it in place of spinach for a veggie lasagna.  Delish!  I think we’ll try the eggs recipe tomorrow morning…

Eating Rules – I found Andrew Wilder and his blog through 100 Days and I really like his approach.  He has three simple rules:   1) when you eat grains, only eat 100% Whole-Wheat grains 2) don’t eat high fructose corn syrup and 3) don’t eat hydrogenated oils, trans fats, or anything that’s been deep-fried.  So simple yet so not simple.  But the love this week is for his most recent post, Why I Don’t Buy Girl Scout Cookies and how the beloved treats break all three rules.  I admit, I’ve enjoyed a couple of cookies when offered here and there but we haven’t personally bought them in two years.  There are other reasons to consider not buying GSC (this blog doesn’t go there) but ultimately, they’re packed with gross stuff.  This weekend I’m finally going to try out a few Pinterest-sourced recipes for homemade Caramel Delights and all natural  Thin Mints.  (If I were super disciplined I’d try this one for Whole-Wheat, Honey, and Agave Samoas…we shall see!)

Have a beautiful weekend!  xoxo

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[Top Ten Tuesday] Favorite Baby Items: 4-12 Months

Is it terrible that I can barely recall this time?  I mean…it wasn’t that long ago but I am struggling to remember our concerns were, what Harry used, and what we preferred.  Initially the memories are fuzzy because you’re sleep deprived, nursing all hours of the night, and just trying to maintain some composure.  Then you realize it’s fuzzy because it’s happening so…stinkin’…fast.

A lot of the same favorite items from 0-1 month and 1-3 months stayed at the top of our list as the months continued.  The Ergo and Moby continued to be worth every little penny.  Cloth Diapers are a way of life around these parts.  We sent Coconut Oil to Harry’s new school in the place of traditional diaper cream.  And the one about Zero Expectations?  That’s not going anywhere.  The following items emerged as the year ticked on and, whether a singular item made the list or a theme emerged, these are in no particular order:

Maclaren  Umbrella Stroller – Now of course you don’t need a Maclaren stroller specifically.  We just happen to love ours a whole lot.  We debated strollers for a long time – “test driving” just about every kind you can imagine.  And as we got closer to our Chicago trip last October, we had to pull the trigger.  An umbrella stroller just made sense – it needed to break down quickly and easily, be light enough to walk around/travel with, and durable enough to withstand a lot of city walking.   Maclaren is generally a great quality stroller and I geeked out over the shoulder strap for ease of carry when it’s closed.  Throw in the fact that we scored a great deal on the floor model that we could still use a BBB coupon with…sold.

Toys/Jumperoo/Walker  – Several of the toys mentioned in the 1-3 Month Post were still toys that H loved.  Our favorite trick was to rotate through toys, hide some for a while, and then he’d flip out when he found them again.  Not books, though.  Books are always available and never in shortage.  Three of his very favorites to read through together and on his own: My Big Animal Book,  Spanish Words, and, to my heart’s delight The Very Hungry Caterpillar (surprise surprise, he loves the food). Some of the new toys we introduced at this time we kept appropriate for his developmental stage.  The Rainforest Jumperoo he inherited from his cousins was a massive hit until he was about 9 months old.  When “cruising” officially started, he wanted nothing to do with stationery activity.  His sweet friend Lucy lent him her Melissa and Doug Chomp & Clack Alligator walker and he is still in love with this guy.  He also grew more interested  in tactile toys – standouts being the B Squeeze Blocks  and good ole Stacking Rings.  The other favorite toys are the somewhat obvious balloons and the bouncy balls from the wire cages at WalMart (you don’t really need a link for those, do you?).

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Legwarmers – H’s Aunt Steph likes to make fun of his love for legwarmers.  Okay, my love for legwarmers and Matt’s inability to stop me from putting them on our son.  But the truth is that when H got more and more active, these were more than just aesthetically pleasing.   They became the best way to keep increasingly active legs warm, and change diapers as “the flip” came into play.  You know what I mean…the flip that makes diaper
changing and dressing babes SO MUCH more difficult.  With these I don’t need to go through the extra steps of pulling up pants on a babe who just saw the remote control across the room and wants nothing to do with me.  A onesie + legwarmers is my absolute favorite combo (when it’s too cold for just a cloth diaper).  They became our go-to for around the house lounging.  Okay, maybe some errands, too.

Lovey…and a backup! – I referenced this in the last Top Ten favorites as an afterthought.  Well afterthought no more…this kid is in LOVE with his bunny, Stinky.  Why the name Stinky?  Because he chews on the ears until they’re hard and crusty and smell to high heaven.   But he also walks around dragging him by an ear or arm, Stinky trailing behind him like Michael Darling and his teddy bear in Peter Pan.  It’s absolutely precious.   Some kids never take to stuffed animals but I think most little persons find comfort in something – a pacifier or blanket – and my advice as soon as you identify that object is to STOCK UP.  Stinky was getting some wear and when he lived up to his name, we’d take him from H for a day to wash and let him air dry.  When I wised up to the idea of a backup, I discovered he was discontinued and sold out.  Not cool, Jellycat.  I placed orders on random online boutiques, three times getting an email that they were out of stock and unable to fulfill my order.  FINALLY one came in the mail and with how excited I was, you’d think the bunny was my lovey.  Now we rotate them and never let Harry see that more than one exists.

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Music TableI mentioned several toys earlier but this one deserves to stand alone.  You may recall that Matt and I are anti-battery operated toys.  We’re not total grinches – we just prefer constructive toys that don’t play the same songs over and over or randomly start talking in the middle of the night (it happens…and it’s creepy).  We love BOOKS and activities that incite the imagination.  But this toy is our big exception.  You can choose different options (so it’s not always the same sounds or theme) and H was playing with it as soon as hand-eye coordination strengthened.  And it’s what kickstarted his dancing…and we love his dancing.  Do the same songs, phrases, and noises still get stuck in our head?  Of course, but his little bouncing bottom makes it all worth it.

Bath Tub / Toys – Harry always enjoyed bath time   After he fought with RSV at 4 weeks old, he even loved the warm showers we’d take with him to help him breathe clearly.  But since the time he could sit up baths have become something super special.  This boy LOVES his Primo bathtub, to the point where he refuses to take baths in a plain tub when we travel.  He’s comfortable in this one and it has been great at every stage of growth.  With toys, we’ve kept it fairly simple but H is certainly never bored – we pour water from the ducks, write out messages for Daddy, and give kisses to the fishes…to name a few activities.  Afterward we pile them all into his organizer (okay that’s mommy’s favorite part).

Sunscreen + Swim Float – Once H hit 6 months, we had a lot of pool time and we’re pumped for this year.  The basic supplies were swim trunks, a long-sleeved SPF shirt, a sun hat with a brim, this really awesome pool float (witha detachable shade!) and, of course, sunscreen.  There is a whole post or two’s worth on how we’re beginning to evaluate our skin care.  We’ve long evaluated our diet and since moving to a Real Food diet, we hit the slippery slope of scrutinizing every single thing we digest and chew.   Then H came along and we started looking at skin care products more closely.  His skin is just so perfect and beautiful, I didn’t want to put nasty chemicals on it.  I’ll refrain from the long list of things we avoid…but you learned last time that we’re obsessed with Coconut Oil.  One of the things it definitely doesn’t do is protect him from the sun.  Our latest discovery is from our awesome friend Sarah’s newest adventure into the world of Arbonne.  Basically, I trust their products on account of their high standards (WAY higher than the FDAs) and I’m pumped about their sunscreen for H.  (Yes, it’s pricey…but knowing and supporting an Arbonne consultant has benefits.  Let me know if you want to ask her questions about it!)  More than anything, I recommend reading up on ingredients to avoid and checking out your sunscreen options.

Video Camera – We dropped the ball here.  We caught some good moments on iPhone camera and more than enough pictures but given how often Matt and I watch old videos and sigh, we wish we’d taken more footage.  If you don’t have a video camera or if you’re like me and your iPhone’s memory is always filling up with pictures, I recommend a Flip Cam.  That’s our new plan.

Cooking Supplies –  Here’s the motherload of this list that demands a post of its’ own soon.  Starting at 6 months, Baby Food became our obsession and object of focus.  Where to start, what to try, and so…many…opinions.  The most amazing thing is realizing how incredibly personal this topic (just like nursing) can be for other mommies.  Here’s my disclaimer – every parent does what they genuinely believe to be best for their child…this I trust.  Some parents like to talk about other parents’ decisions in a judge-y or flippant tone.  There’s just no room for this.  We all need to support each other as we work to make good decisions for our babes with what means and capacity we have.  With that being said,  we chose to not use boxed cereals or oatmeal and make all of H’s food at home…Real Food diet from day one.  H doesn’t eat anything that we wouldn’t eat ourselves (minus Puffs…those are necessary for on-the-go).  It’s also one extra way that my full-time working self can love on H and feel solid about what he’s eating when I’m not around.  That’s only 3 days a week but time apart from him never gets easier.  So we get to pour a lil bit of love into his food and a bonus result is the fact that at this rate he eats almost everything we do (except white sugar…because apparently we’re “mean parents”).  To prevent this post from being any longer, here are the basic tools we already had on hand to get started: Jelly Roll Pan (for roasting veggies), Steamer Basket to use with pots (fast and easy way to soften veggies), Blender/Smart Stick/Food Processor to puree softened veggies and fruit (the Smart Stick is seriously awesome for convenience and easy clean up),  Ice Cube Tray and/or Freezer Storage Containers to store food after bulk prep.

Eating Supplies – The quick and dirty rundown: Snack Cup for his puffs and eye-hand coordination practice, Sippy Cup (used primarily for his daily smoothie), Favorite Animal Plates (he loves getting to the bottom and seeing the animals…clapping is typically involved), plenty of Spoons (because  they double as toys and always seem to go missing), Thermos Food Jar (for food on-the-go or warm lunch at school), and reusable snack bags (for his waffles and chopped fruit).  But our very favorite, for wherever we are: POCKET BIB.  Once Harry was sitting up, this thing got way more comfortable and also became the only bib he couldn’t rip off.  The pocket catches food and it’s super easy to clean off.  We also tried the Summer brand but Baby Bjorn is much more durable.

Some honorable mentions – our pack n’ play (Chicco…a wee bit heavy but couldn’t travel without it) and our jogging stroller (Joovy Zoom 360…another category we “test drove” at nausea).  We really do try to keep it simple and minimal.  We had a Bumbo and it was nice (especially with the tray) but didn’t stand out over time.  After seeing how quickly H grew out of things and transitioned into new phases…our focus remained on essentials and things with long-term value, like legwarmers!

[Mommyhood Monday] The Story of Harry, Part II

It’s not Monday, it’s Tuesday.  Busted. Grace please?

In Part I of Harry’s Story, I left off at the part where I met Matt and was quickly swooned by his acceptance of fertility question marks and his willingness to journey through God’s plan with me.

Matt and I met Christmas 2006, began dating in 2007 and grew serious later that year.  We were engaged in March of 2008 and married in February of 2009.  It was shortly after our engagement that I began taking my temperature every morning and following the charting procedures for Natural Family Planning (NFP).  Now some people assume that our decision to use NFP* was based on me being Catholic and that we entertained no other option.  Others assume we wanted babies from the start.  But the truth is that we weighed several other options and did not want to get pregnant right away.  NFP was simply the only choice we could personally move forward with clear eyes and full hearts (can’t lose, right?).

*If you want to know more about our decision to use NFP, I am happy to share.

The factors that led to our decision to delay pregnancy were the same of most newlywed couples.  After a long-distance engagement, we wanted a bit of time together.  Matt was in the thick of grad school and we were living in Vancouver, Canada for at least a couple of years.

Now I could get into the next part with great detail but I’ll keep it a little close to the cuff.  Basically, we had a very early pregnancy “scare” (that word is important) that had us all in a fuss.  “We’re not ready!  We have a timeline!  How could God do this!?”

It was that last part that stopped us in our tracks.   I mean, did you guys read Part I of this story where I had to tell Matt that I might not be able to have babies?  How far we had strayed!  Me, with my incredible perspective and questionable fertility, had allowed myself to get so wrapped up in a timeline that, for even a quick moment, I “feared” pregnancy.

We weren’t pregnant.  And though our planned timeline was safe our hearts were softened to the idea.  We continued to postpone pregnancy for the next few months.   Then I was offered a job…my dream job involving international travel and event planning and career growth to the max.  They requested that we stay in Vancouver for at least 3 years and after plenty of conversation, we agreed to those terms.  I was THISCLOSE to signing the dotted line when I casually asked about “family growth”.  Though an employer cannot legally state a preference it was said, in no uncertain terms, that they preferred for those 3 years to be uninterrupted.

So now I was staring my PCOS in the face.  If you recall from Part I, the clock works against you with PCOS and delaying another 3 years meant that 1) the timeline was being forced by us and 2) the fertility window would keep closing.  So I rescinded my verbal agreement and told them that they would be better suited finding someone else.  They pressed for more explanation and finally I told them that I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t get pregnant for three years.  They weren’t too happy and I’ll never forget the tone of their voice when they said, and I quote, “you are turning down a great opportunity because you want to be a mommy someday?”  Well, when you put it that way…yep.

So then, with perspective again refreshed, we began actually trying.  Six months into trying, a laughable amount of time compared to so many couples, I began to speak with a doctor about it.  He chuckled, told us to try for six more months and then we’d run tests.

In the first six months I read Dr. Marilyn Shannon’s book, “Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition.”  We received a copy in our NFP course and let me just say that if I am ever lucky enough to meet Dr. Shannon, she won’t be ready for the amount of love and giddiness I will exude. This is what got me to examine our diet and our supplements.  We cut out high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, and most processed foods.  I began taking a prenatal and we kept in shape.  We felt great but still weren’t pregnant.  So we ran the tests.

Our results showed two strikes.  Not just one for my PCOS, but one for Matt as well.  Two strikes and a less than 3% chance of ever getting pregnant.  I got a second opinion and the results were confirmed.

This time our perspective didn’t fail us.  We were tired, a bit beat down, and emotionally drained but we knew that this wasn’t a battle for us to fight.  Our hearts had been preparing for this for years.  We made the decision to move back to Texas and take a break.  No more charting, no more counting days and taking temperature.  Fertility treatments were not an option.  We just wanted to surround ourselves with family and friends back home and start to save for adoption.

So we moved back to Texas.  I was in a bit of a “mourning state” so I turned down a job, took a sabbatical, and worked for my sister as a nanny to my two nephews.

I know this is a lot of back story and that is definitely why it’s not entitled, “Harry’s BIRTH Story”.  But my intention here was also to document our journey.  Perhaps it also sheds a little bit of light on why I am Mom-arazzi with our babe…I am in a constant state of wonder that this little miracle is actually ours.  That and he’s really cute and fun.

Next Monday, Part III.  If it makes you feel better, I will commit to there only being IV parts.  Call it the “Lost” treatment…the light at the end of the storytelling tunnel is near!

Peace and Blessings friends.

[Mommyhood Monday] Real Food Origins

And so it is.

I’m a new mommy.  My precious man turned 6 months old this past Friday and every bit of my heart is devoted to him.  I’ve been working on his story and I’ll tell it through my Monday posting but, for now, a little insight to us.

Somewhere, in the early stages of our fertility journey, I read the book “Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition” by Dr. Marilyn Shannon. We received this book as part of our NFP (Natural Family Planning…ask me if you’re curious) training course and after seeing that it had advice for women with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome…me), I devoured it. This book changed our lives.  If ever you experience fertility struggles, or if you care about the food that goes into your body, I cannot recommend this enough.  For the ladies – her nutrition and supplement advice for everything from cramps to severe PMS to PCOS are natural (important to me) and proven effective.  We took Dr. Shannon’s advice and dietary changes to heart and began reading ingredients, cutting out processed foods, aspartame and I (eek!) gave up caffeine.  More significantly, after we were told that we would not be able to conceive and as we started to save for adoption, Matt took her advice for men.   Though we attribute Harry as an absolute miracle from God, we also know that we were pregnant within 2 months.

In the last several months, we’ve slowly made the journey closer and closer to a Real Food diet.  Dr. Shannon stresses the importance of whole, unrefined foods and for the most part, this is what we’ve done.  We are very conscientious of making good decisions with our food, spending our money on things that are good for us and our bodies.  Then I came across Lisa Leake’s Blog, “100 Days of Real Food” and I lost hours, days, weekends in all of her information, challenges and recipes.  She has a great breakdown of what a “Real Food” diet looks like and even has top lists for your pantry, freezer, fridge, appliances, etc.  Since then I’ve been readings books and blogs and starting transitioning our pantry and fridge to a total commitment.

Where’s the Mommyhood Monday in this?

Harry’s starting solids soon.  We’ve been so blessed to exclusively breastfeed him for the first 6 months…I’m ecstatic and proud and have been reading/researching up a storm.  Every kid is different but with Harry’s daddy having a slew of allergies as a babe (he was practically a bubble kid…poor guy!), I’m thrilled he’s gotten all the nutrients and antibodies.  After the American Academy of Pediatrics released their reaffirmation of exclusive BF, I was determined (with the support of his pediatrician, of course).

His 6 month check is tomorrow and I have all my questions written down, I have the apples purchased (to make Smitten Kitchen’s First Applesauce) and the oats on standby for oatmeal.  I’m so excited to explore this new stage with Harry – where we get to share new flavors with him and witness him falling in love with food (and dislike with some…we’re not naive).  I’m prepared for the mess and for the work it takes and how we get to love him through the food we make.  Warning: I’m sure there will be some insights, discoveries and frustrations along the way.   If you have any to share, please do!

In case you can’t already tell, I have a tendency to make things a bit romantic.  Including, yes, baby food (okay…even cloth diapers).  I guess when you’re told at 19 that you will likely face infertility struggles, and then you do, you don’t take a single little thing for granted.  But that’s another story.

Blessings.