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Category Archives: Going Green

Extending Christmas: For the Birds

We had a real Christmas tree this year. We debated much about what was most “green,” and I read several accounts that said a real tree, when recycled after use, is still “greener” than artificial options. Something many people don’t consider is the amount of energy that goes into producing and transporting (usually overseas) artificial trees. Added to that, most people only keep artificial trees for 5-6 years (average), which means the used trees simply end in landfills. Christmas tree farms plant a new tree for the one you cut, and, natural trees can be recycled into mulch when you’re finished. Most of all, we simply love the experience of making a day, as a family, to go out and choose a tree on a farm.

This year, we found another way to extend the life of our tree. Jenna was very upset to see the tree go, but my allergies were flaring up, and we suspected the tree (mold? pine?). In an effort to compromise, I suggested that we set the tree outside the French doors on our patio. Then, inspiration hit, and I suggested that we decorate the tree for the birds with peanut butter and birdseed ornaments. Jenna was sold.

Here’s how our project went:

First, we tied dental floss (any string/yarn would work) through the holes in Saltine crackers to make a loop. (We also decorated one cardboard toilet paper tube that we poked a hole in for hanging. I preferred the crackers because the whole ornament was edible.)

Second, I pulsed chunky peanut butter in my food processor with a little sesame oil to make it thinner and easier to dip. Those lucky critters got some organic peanut butter (Yikes! $$) because that’s all I had on hand. We poured the peanut butter in a glass for dipping.

Next, we dipped the crackers. We pushed them down in with a spoon and sometimes scooped the peanut butter up over the crackers to cover completely. We laid them out on wax paper to wait for the next step.

Then, we dredged the peanut butter crackers through the birdseed. We pushed the seeds in, to make sure they were stuck more securely. This was an EXCELLENT sensory exercise for Jenna, who did NOT like the way the peanut butter and seeds felt on her hands. She wanted to get them done to hang on the tree, so she stuck with it.

The finished product waiting on wax paper.

Next, we strung popcorn on dental floss. This was good fine motor therapy for Jenna, but she didn’t do it long. My needle-phobic girl (too many bad blood work experiences) was too terrified of the threading needle. Especially after this happened to Mommy’s thumb:

Finally, we decorated the tree:

Ta-Da!!

Now, to sit back and wait for the birds to come.  ……..

By that evening, our guests arrived.

They didn’t have wings, but they were still fun to watch. Within a day, we had six at a time climbing all over the tree and trying to pull the popcorn strings out! Within three days, the tree was bare. That’s OK! We can do it all over again. Christmas can last as long as the tree does. Then we’ll recycle it to mulch.

Next year, we’re considering finding a tree at a nursery that we can decorate for a couple weeks and then move outside for planting.

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Lentils: Another Homemade Blended Formula Recipe

Lentils and Peasphoto by photobunny

As a vegetarian, I’ve known about the wonders of lentils for a while. Not only are they delicious (especially in a soup or stew), but they also provide a powerhouse of nutrition high in protein, calorie dense and balanced out with a healthy dose of carbs. Armed with this knowledge, I decided to try a recipe for Jenna’s homemade formula using lentils. Here’s what I came up with:

  • 1 c. Bob’s Red Mill Vegi Soup Mix  (green & yellow split peas, barley, lentils & vegi pasta)
  • 1/4 c. quinoa
  • 2 T raw honey (No children under age 1 should consume honey!)
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 T ginger (read this, too)
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 4 c. coconut milk
  • 1 c. goat’s milk kefir and here
  • 1 c. powdered goat’s milk
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 2 T Udo’s 3-6-9 oil (read here for benefits)
  • 2 T Hemp butter
  • 1 c applesauce
  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 c. chopped spinach (dark, leafy greens are an often overlooked source of protein)
  • 3 T kelp powder read this also (especially for it’s iodine, iron & selenium)
  • 6 brazil nuts (for selenium)
  • 1 c. water

All my ingredients are organic from our local co-op.

Preparation is easy. I simmer the soup mix & quinoa in the 4 cups of coconut milk. While that’s simmering, I add all other ingredients to my Vita Mix blender and blend well. I add the mixture from the stove, blend very well (sometimes adding more water to achieve the desired consistency to pass through the feeding pump tubing) and pour into storage jars.

Nutritional info:

  • 2651 calories (30 cal/oz)
  • 112 grams of fat  (38% of total calories)
  • 90 grams of protein (14% of total calories)
  • 344 grams of carbohydrates (51% of total calories)

Good to know when making these calculations:

  • Fats have 9 calories per gram
  • Proteins & carbs have 4 calories per gram

I’d like to get the protein percentage a little higher and will probably do so by using more of the lentil soup mix the next time. BUT, even though the percentage of protein for the overall mixture is not as high as I’d like, I calculated what she consumes in a day and found that she’s still getting the 18 g/day recommended for her age and weight.

Happy cooking! Happy feeding!

 
 

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Green Art, Office & School Supplies

I recently had the opportunity to review art supplies from O’Bon. O’Bon carries a variety of eco-friendly art, office and school supplies, and when they asked me what I’d like to review, I decided on the colored pencils pictured above since Jenna loves art so much. They generously included the notebook pictured above as well. That photo doesn’t do it justice, either, because those kiwis look incredibly like the real thing when you see the notebook in person.

At O’Bon’s website they explain their goals:

“To give the consumer a a better choice. A selection of products that look better than what you find on any shelf. A collection of lines that are environmentally-friendly so you can make this world a better place through purchasing for your needs. A standard of quality that is top-notch and ideally suited for your high expectations.”

I have to say that I was immediately impressed with the quality of the products we received. The paper in the notebook contains bright white pages made from white sugarcane paper, that comes from recycled sugarcane pulp. It doesn’t look at all like the typical brown textured look of the recycled paper I’m used to. With a touch of humor, the back of the journal states: Trans fats (0%), Cholesterol (0%), Carbohydrates (0%), Rainforest fiber (0%). Hehe! The cover is recycled cardstock that is printed with soy inks, and, as I mentioned, the colors are absolutely vibrant.

The pencils are made from recycled newspapers that they claim last 2-3 times longer than standard wood pencils. They’re non-toxic and well protected so the colored wax core doesn’t break as easily, and they sharpen easily. We received the Wildlife Series set, that includes 12 colored pencils printed with animal patterns. Jenna was fascinated by this feature, and we even talked a little bit about each animal represented. The set includes: Turtle (light green), Zebra (black), Parrot (red), Alligator (dark green), Leopard (yellow), Tiger (orange), Snake (light brown), Bear (dark brown), Kingfisher (dark blue), Starfish (pink), Hummingbird (light blue), Marine Fish (purple). Jenna’s favorites were Kingfisher Blue and Tiger Orange. The pencils were smooth to write and color with and Jenna didn’t have any trouble sharpening them. Here’s a photo journal or our test session:

Sharpening….

“Wow! Look at that! It worked!” She was fascinated by the newspaper print that you could see once you sharpened them.

Testing…….

Kingfisher Blue in motion! (Psssst! Check out that pincher grip! We’re working on it….)

All in all, we were thrilled with the products and their quality, and I’m pretty happy about their reasonable pricing and the fact that they plant a tree with every purchase! Besides the products we reviewed here, O’Bon also carries art (graphite) pencils, pocket journals, binders, folders, and “regular” pencils. Perfect for keeping the kiddos on summer vacation occupied and marvelous for stocking up for back-to-school in the fall, which will be here again before you know it!

This was not a paid review. I was sent the notebook and the pencils at no charge to review & keep, but the opinions expressed are honest & solely my own.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Going Green, Jenna, Product Reviews

 

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Natural Deodorant Redux

homemade deodorantphoto by lorigami

Time to update my findings on my search for a natural deodorant! I’m sure you’ve been in suspense since I left you hanging at the last post.

After researching online, I found that it looked like it was pretty rare to have an allergy to cornstarch or coconut. BUT, apparently, many people with sensitive skin don’t tolerate baking soda. Who knew?? With this knowledge, I decided to try the previous recipe with half the amount of baking soda. Here’s the adjusted recipe that I’ve been using for 4 days now:

  • 5-6 Tbsp Coconut oil
  • 1/8 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch (I added more cornstarch for a thicker consistency since I decreased the soda)

The best news? Absolutely NO rash. Yay! I still love the soft coconut scent, and I haven’t noticed any stinkiness. I do feel a little more wetness, but I haven’t noticed any wetness or residue on my clothes. It seems like more cornstarch would combat the wetness, but maybe the soda helps even more with this. Our bodies need to sweat, so I don’t mind a bit of wetness as long as I don’t stink and can avoid the aluminum and synthetic chemicals in commercial deodorants. If the baking soda doesn’t bother your skin, you might stick with the recipe in my first post for the best effectiveness, but if you have sensitive skin or develop a rash with the first recipe, I can assure you that this one works wonderfully.  I’ll be sticking with this one for now and will update again when summer hits with all its stifling humidity. That will be the REAL test.

To address a couple issues that came up after my last post:

  • Coconut oil solidifies at temperatures of 60°(F) or less. For easier mixing, you can warm it to an oil in a pan of hot water or briefly in the microwave
  • During the summer (or for readers in hot climates), you may want to refrigerate your mixture to keep it the thickness you desire.
  • I use unrefined, virgin, organic coconut oil from our local co-op. You can find it online at Tropical Traditions.
 
4 Comments

Posted by on February 23, 2011 in Going Green, Health, Recipes

 

Make Your Own Natural Deodorant

homemade deodorantphoto by lorigami

Alternate titles considered: “Going Native” or “To Stink or Not to Stink”

Hehe!

In all seriousness, I truly AM making an effort to go a little more native in areas dealing with purchasing/consuming synthetic chemicals. I’m guessing true natives didn’t worry too much about deodorant at all, so I’m not quite going all the way. BUT, I’ve started making my own foaming soap that I use for dishes, hand washing, showering, bathing, shampoo, and even general cleaning! I’ve even started making my own laundry detergent. I hope to post on both of those products at another time.  I’m making these changes in an effort to limit the number of synthetic and potentially toxic chemicals that I’m not only absorbing through my skin, but also adding to the environment and the world’s water system.  {Side note: The key, active ingredient in commercial antiperspirant/deodorants, for example (along with many other synthetic chemicals), is aluminum. We’re rubbing it into our skin and the sensitive lymph tissue frighteningly near our breasts. Yikes!} I’m also making a concerted effort to minimize the amount of waste I produce (especially plastic), and hand soap dispensers, laundry detergent bottles, and deodorant containers are items I was frequently discarding with very little thought. Ugh. Shame on me. Finally, I’m pretty happy that those changes also tie in to a pretty significant savings in the area of our checkbook. You can’t beat that!

Today, I made the switch to homemade, natural deodorant. I held off on this step longer than the others for one fairly obvious reason. I don’t want to stink. I’ve tried MANY natural deodorant alternatives over the years, and I’ve just never been impressed. I always felt like I ended up with at least slight body odor (if not SERIOUS BODY ODOR) that was often mixed with a weird herb-y smell. Eww. Just…..Eww. Since having a baby and a hysterectomy, I swear that body odor creeps up on me faster than it used to, so this is a serious concern. If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a researcher at heart. I’ve read all kinds of recipes for natural deodorant as well as a plethora of reviews. I finally found this one that many people swore by who had gone through many years of trying other natural alternatives and feeling frustrated.  Here’s the recipe:

5-6 Tbsp Coconut oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch

That’s it! I’m not sure it could get any easier! When mixed, it has a pasty, gel-like texture like what you see pictured above. I simply spread it on with my fingertips the same way I would any lotion. If you want to add a scent, you can add a drop or two of the essential oil of your choice, or even a squeeze of lime! I’ve considered a drop of tea tree oil due to it’s antibacterial qualities (bacteria are what create the stink) but am slightly concerned that it might be too drying. I didn’t add any scent to this batch, and the coconut oil has a very soft, unobtrusive scent of its own.

I’m giving it a seven day test and will update this post each day with my general level of activity, how sweaty I felt & how stinky I got. Hehe! I’ll end with my overall satisfaction with the switch and let you know if I plan to stick with it or not. If you want to join in, please leave a note in the comments and let me know what YOU decide!

Here’s the post where I originally found the recipe. Fingers crossed for no stinking!

  • Day 1: Moderate activity (vacuuming, light exercise, yoga, & usual Mommy stuff). No stink! Didn’t feel sweaty! Like the slightly coconutty scent.
  • Day2: Big test = no shower today. DID re-apply deodorant in the a.m. Ran errands & got very hot in winter coat, due to spring thaw in progress. Worried about stink. Guess what? NO STINK! Color me impressed.
  • Day 3: VERY active day. Laundry, therapy w/J (I do steps & squats, too!), yoga, exercise bike, cooking, & errands. NO. STINK.
  • Day 4: Good news & bad. Good news: still no stink, I LOVE the soft coconut scent, no residue/oils on clothes (commercial deodorant is MUCH worse), and I really think it works. Bad news: I developed a rash today. Ugh. I am TOTALLY bummed. I love everything about this stuff. Except the rash. I’m guessing that it’s a reaction to the cornstarch, so I’m going to abort this test and make another batch. I’ll substitute arrowroot powder from our co-op for the cornstarch and see if it makes a difference. Hoping to get some arrowroot powder to have a new batch mixed tomorrow or Saturday. Will do a new post & a new 7-day test from there. Sorry to leave you hanging!

Update: Have been doing some research and am learning that allergies to any of these ingredients are VERY RARE. Hmmmm. So why do I have a red rash?? I think I’m going to delay my next batch a bit longer and do some skin testing with each individual product to see if it causes redness. My other thought is that my rash is possibly heat/moisture related. Since there is no antiperspirant involved, I’m sure there’s some sweating going on, and the coconut oil itself kind of creates a perpetually moist environment. If that’s the problem, I’m not sure how to solve it. Will research more, do some testing, and keep you posted.

Update #2: Everything I’m reading seems to be pointing to the baking soda as the rash culprit. Who knew?! Apparently, sodium bicarbonate can be irritating to sensitive skin. I think I’m going to try cutting the baking soda in half and see what happens. If the rash is from moisture, & possibly fungal realted (Eww!), tea tree oil might help, but essential oils can be irritating, too, so I think I might try the soda solution first.

 

 
8 Comments

Posted by on February 15, 2011 in Going Green, Health, Recipes

 

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My New Favorite Coffee

Found this coffee at our local co-op and I love it!  It’s a blend of light and dark roasted fair trade, organic, shade grown coffee from Bolivia & Mexico, and, like the label says, it’s rich, smooth and chocolatey.  The artwork on the bag cracks me up.  If you can’t see it, there’s a quote from Mark Twain that says:

Get a bicycle; You will not regret it if you live.

Ha!  The coffee is perfect in my french press (coarse ground) and tastes absolutely heavenly.  If this roast doesn’t sound like your style, you can find many different blends and roasts at the company’s website.

One of the things I love most is the fact that their coffees are not only organic, but also fair trade and shade grown.  That combination isn’t easy to find.  I love the transparency the company offers to see their contracts with the growers, how they work, and where every cent of the dollars you spend actually goes (this part is printed on the bag!).

What fair trade coffee means:

  • It comes from democratically controlled grower cooperatives, not single owner estates
  • Contract information, including price paid to growers, is made available to anyone
  • Growers commit to sustainable agricultural practices and roasters commit to minimizing their impact on the world
  • Growers and roasters commit to long term relationships
  • Growers have a voice in determining the price per pound and this price never drops below a certain level

If you’re not buying this coffee, I encourage you to consider looking for other fair trade, organic coffees.  Just this one choice can make a difference in the world.

Just Coffee is located in Madison, WI.  If you live there, the bag says it’s “bike delivered in Madison.”  I’m not sure if that’s to all local buyers or just stores and cafes, but it’s pretty cool, no matter what.

*Disclaimer: Again, no reimbursement of any kind for this review (although I’m willing to work something out if Just Coffee’s reading…).  Just another one of my favorite things that I wanted to share with you.

 

Homemade Blenderized Formula for G-Tube

*Update: I just got a call from our dietician from the GI team telling me she reviewed my recipe and Jenna’s stats over the last month and was thoroughly impressed.  She said my nutritional content almost EXACTLY matches what she was getting with Boost 1.5 and that Jenna’s doing great.  I swear the GI team totally thought I wouldn’t be able to do this, that Jenna would lose weight and that we’d be back on formula within a month.  I love surprising them. 🙂

We decided to make a big switch in Jenna’s feeding routine.  We’re moving toward all organic, homemade blenderized feeds instead of pre-packaged formula.  We did NOT make this decision lightly.  I did a ton of reading and researching, and we, of course, talked to our GI specialist and nutritional team.  There is no doubt that this change requires much more time, attention and diligence on my part.  I would have loved to do this long ago, but, quite frankly, I know without a doubt that I wouldn’t have been able to manage it well earlier in Jenna’s care.  Her weight issues were very serious, and added to her other medical concerns and requirements, I don’t think I would have had enough time or energy to focus on this as required.  I’m telling you this to make sure that you understand that I’m not in ANY WAY saying that this is what everyone should do.  Every situation is different, and only you and your medical team can determine what’s best for your family and your kiddo at this point in your journey.

Our main reasons for deciding to make the switch were based on health and environmental concerns.  We’re hoping it also equates into some financial savings.  Health wise, we wanted to get away from her pre-packaged formulas that were primarily corn and soy based, due to our concerns with heavy pesticide use and genetically modified crops.  (Watching the movie King Corn served as somewhat of a catalyst here).  Additionally, the health benefits of whole, organic foods over pre-packaged, processed foods are pretty much undisputed.  There are some theories supporting the idea that using whole, “real” foods also encourages eating behavior and helps the child transition from tube feeds to oral.  As the food is prepared, the child smells and sees the food and can even help with the preparation.  As the child digests the whole, blended foods, they burp and experience the tastes and flavors of the foods, increasing curiosity in a variety of foods (a little gross – I know – but that’s the way it is).  We’re willing to give it a try!

Our environmental concerns largely centered on the phenomenal amount of waste we were producing daily with formula boxes and feeding bags.  Once we make a complete switch, we will only require a few 60 mL syringes and extension tubes for bolus feedings and administering medicine.  We’re fairly certain that even with buying all organic ingredients, we’ll see significant cost savings by eliminating these costly supplies.  Formula and feeding bags alone cost approximately $2400/month!!  Eeeep!  Finally, making this switch will enable us to move away from reliance on a feeding pump (and the electricity it uses) and the need to take it with us everywhere along with its backpack.

In preparing for this change, two of the first things I did were to purchase a book called Homemade Blended Formula Handbook (HBFH), and a Vitamix blender (pictured above).  The cookbook is an invaluable resource full of nutritional information/requirements & recipes, and I cannot say enough good things about my Vitamix blender!!  I did a LOT of searching, and that book is the only one like it that I could find out there.  If you know of any others, please let me know!  Our GI specialist didn’t even know of any others available.

Through the Oley Foundation, I learned that special pricing is sometimes available for those requiring a Vitamix blender for medical reasons such as primary feeding.  I contacted Frank at the Vitamix corporation, and he was a joy to work with.  As soon as we provided a doctor”s statement of medical necessity to him, he got the ball rolling.  His service was quick and professional.  We received a significant discount on a refurbished unit that includes a full 7-year warranty and a wonderful book of recipes and usage tips.

Once we were set up for action and our GI team approved our switch, I started putting together a base recipe using existing ideas in the HBFH and organic ingredients that I knew I would have access to.  Here’s the base recipe that I came up with: *

2 cups chicken broth (I use free range/low sodium)

1 cup sprouted quinoa

1 T olive oil

ginger

cinnamon

1/2 cup applesauce

4 T almond butter

1/2 cup powdered goat’s milk

1 cup goat’s milk kefir (see link for benefits)

1 T hemp butter (see link for benefits)

1 large egg hard boiled (Again – free range)

1 large banana

1 T Udo’s 3-6-9 Oil (Click here for benefits/why)

1.5 cups water (or more – depending on desired thickness)

Cook quinoa according to package directions with chicken broth (instead of water), olive oil, ginger, and cinnamon.  Ginger aids and soothes the digestive track and decreases inflammation (see the highlighted link for more information).  I use fresh when I have it, and dried/ground if not.  Cinnamon is a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium, boosts the immune system, may help decrease inflammation & joint pain, and has antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-parasitic and antiseptic properties (see the highlighted link above, or try this one for more information)!!  Wow!  I’m generous with both the ginger and cinnamon- add what you’d like.

While the quinoa is cooking, I add all the other ingredients to the VitaMix.

When the quinoa is done cooking, I simply pour it into the VitaMix with all the other ingredients and blend!  Start to finish, the entire process takes me about 20 minutes.

This recipe yields approximately nine 150mL servings.  Each serving has:

206 calories

11 g fat

7.3 g protein

I find all of the ingredients at our local co-op.  If you don’t have this wonderful luxury, try health food stores or online shopping.  Many of them can probably be found at a standard grocery store.

We flush her extension tube with 30mL water before starting and 30-60mL when finished.  We also supplement with Poly-Vi-Sol and D-Vi-Sol daily, and recently added Miralax to help with bowel regularity.

When I first made this, I used cow’s milk (powdered and whole) and Jenna complained of a tummy ache after every feed.  I switched to goat’s milk and she hasn’t complained since.  If your kiddo tolerates cow’s milk, that would obviously be easier to find.  Now that I’ve determined that Jenna tolerates this formula with no problems, I plan to use it as a “base” and tweak it by adding other ingredients or flavors.  I’ve already tried adding blueberries to the mix, and the possibilities are endless.  I’m thinking spinach, kale, pears, strawberries, beans, broccoli, etc.

You could substitute the water with fortified soy milk, almond milk, etc. to add more calories/protein/fat, but you need to make sure that your child is getting enough additional water throughout the day to meet their hydration requirements.

When we started this switchover process, Jenna was receiving three pump feedings – one in the morning, one during her nap, and one (the largest) overnight.  Our first step was to replace just the morning feeding.  We carefully watched for any signs of discomfort or allergic reaction.  Due the timing of the holiday season when we started, we ended up prolonging this stage for almost a month.  We then switched both of her daytime feedings to homemade, blended foods.  We’ve been doing this for almost two weeks now.  During this process, Jenna maintained her weight with no vomiting.  She hasn’t gained weight yet, but that always takes her some time.  It’s also notable that for two and a half weeks, she had a respiratory virus, and she’s previously always LOST weight when she is sick in any way.  Maintaining her weight throughout her sickness is a wonderful sign.

For the formula feeds that we’re still giving her (now, only overnight), we switched to an organic formula option, called PediaSmart.  PediaSmart is free of lactose, gluten and corn and contains no genetically modified ingredients.  Jenna made this transition with no problems.  Once we’ve made the transition to all homemade, blended foods (hopefully with no overnight feedings), we still plan to keep some of the organic formula on hand for times when homemade, blended feeds are inconvenient or impossible, such as when we travel and refrigeration isn’t available, or in case of power outage.

I’ll keep you posted with our progress, any new recipes I find that work, and hopefully, more precise calculations of our cost savings.

Please let me know in the comments if you have additional ideas, experiences, or your own recipes or sources!  I always love hearing from you.

Other resources for blenderized formula, tube feeding, and pediatric nutrition:

Ainsley Rae

Praying for Parker

Gaining & Growing

Lucy’s Real Food for the Tube

Oley Foundation Discussion Forum

Contemporary Nutrition Support Practice: A Clinical Guide

Handbook of Pediatric Nutrition

*As always, this information is not intended to replace you doctor’s recommendations.  I’m simply sharing our own experiences.  Always check with your doctor before making any changes with diet or scheduled feedings.