“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” –Thoreau

18 December 2013

Hands Off. Even Little Hands.

Recently, Soraya Chemaly wrote an article for The Huffington Post about why it isn't okay to 'steal kisses.' It was a response to the news that a 6-year-old boy in Colorado was suspended for kissing his classmate on the cheek.

I really don't have much to add to Chemaly's essay. I think it's brilliant. Probably because I agree.

"The boy kissed his classmate on the hand. He'd previously been disciplined for kissing her on the cheek and 'rough housing' too... roughly. After this last incident, the school suspended him. He is endearing and he's 6 and as so many are fond of pointing out 'boys will be boys.' But, the girl he kissed without permission is also probably endearing, also 6 and not interested in his touching her. The hard and unpleasant part, for many, is the idea that her right not to be involved in his working through learning self-control is legitimate."

The emphasis is mine. It's a complicated way to put this.

How about:

The boy has to learn to respect other people's boundaries.
It isn't the girl's responsibility to help him learn it.


Of course, all kids touch each other. They touch everything. So perhaps the impulse to touch isn't a problem--it's natural. But there are plenty of things we naturally do that we have to learn to control. The larger issue is that we have to make sure that we teach our children that 1) you shouldn't touch someone else's body without their permission and 2) you have a right to say "no" when someone touches you, and to insist that it is respected.

This little girl has a right to decide who touches her, and how. We all have this right from childhood. More than any other idea, this philosophy is influencing my parenting. I want Fiona to know that her body is her own; even I, as her mother, don't have the right to tell her what to do with it. I can guide her, I can set boundaries for safety, but ultimately she is autonomous. The goal is to teach her about respect--respect for her own body, her own self-worth, as much as for others. That is a very difficult thing to teach a little girl growing up in the United States of America today.

I hope you read the article.
I hope it makes you think.
I hope you have an excellent day.

26 November 2013

More Than Beautiful

Much as I love it, Pinterest is a field of feminist landmines. Mostly because of complete crap like this:

When women really want to hurt each other, they take aim at appearance. We say the offending woman is too fat or too skinny or too tan or too pale or too tall or too short. If we can't make a blanket statement, we pick on specifics-- a larger-than-average nose, a smaller-than-average bust.

Why? What do we gain by doing this?

Women are so competitive. When a woman (from the United States, anyway) walks into a room, she immediately assesses her "rank" in relation to the other women present. "Am I as pretty? As smart? Are my clothes on par with the crowd?" We are trained to think this way as children. It's very sad.

And is the woman in the picture above even fit? Or did she win the genetic lottery? We can't tell because we don't know her. We're meant to aspire to be like someone we know nothing about. And why can't we see her face? Doesn't her face matter more than her stomach?

Celebrities perpetuate the skinny-is-healthy myth, while simultaneously proclaiming their love of "curves." I hate that word. What does it mean? It has been used to describe everything from a size two woman with a round bum to a plus-sized woman with large breasts. And everything in between. And it's just another way to draw battle lines.

There's no reason for this. It's hurtful. You're as much of a woman when you wear a size zero as you are when you wear an extra-extra large. You are worth the same. You are equally valuable. There is nothing good or virtuous about being built skinny, or strong, or voluptuous, or petite. It's just a body. No matter how pretty or plain, it is not a fair reflection of your soul.

And then, of course, there are things like this:

Is this really what we want to say? Is this what women are?

I don't know why, as women, we see things like this and proclaim our approval. We can do better. We are so much more. Pinterest has become a giant, virtual lunchroom where women can Pin their way into the "cool crowd" by putting down their own gender. If you don't like someone, be honest about why. Adults don't need to resort to name-calling. Geez, if we can't learn to be positive and supportive of other women then we can't expect men to support and respect us. It seems so obvious.

Photo by Barbara Helgason
Bodies are only vessels. Support each other! Respect each other! That's how we move forward as a gender, and maximize our own potential. Side by side.

14 October 2013

What We Eat


My breakfast was two pieces of toast with peanut butter and honey. For lunch, I had a grilled tomato-and-cheese sandwich, which was tasty and quick. I was in a hurry to get to the library to work while Casey took Fiona to a hobby expo. I took an apple with me and ate it when I got hungry.

For dinner, we eat leftovers in the form of simple taco salads--a big bowl of lettuce with tomato, cheddar cheese, and reheated taco meat. I fried up some strips of corn tortillas to top it off. I added olive oil and lime juice. We each added a little dressing. I also made us green (or, in this case, purple) smoothies using banana, coconut milk, almond milk, blueberries, strawberries, and spinach.

Purple smoothie! Yum!


Breakfast was bread and butter, with tea. My stomach wasn't feeling so hot. As usual, Casey did not eat breakfast. For lunch, I made a green smoothie with almond milk, spinach, strawberries, and banana. Casey ate some leftover pasta.

For dinner, I made us tuna melts. They're the only warm tuna dish that Casey likes. I really love tuna melts with sharp cheddar cheese, and it's a relatively gentle meal for my tender tummy. Casey also ate a green salad, but I just ate the sandwich.

Toasted bread is a must.


I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast. I did not eat lunch because I worked through it at the library. No snacks either so I was very hungry! When I got home, I had a small serving of leftover pasta.

For dinner, I put together an egg bake with potato, sausage and cheddar cheese.

Note the proportion of veggies to meat/egg.

I included the recipe for this dish in the comments of a previous post. The sausage tasted good, but I like it just as well with deli ham. We ate it with salad, and this was my portion. Casey ate a second piece of the egg bake.


Peanut butter toast for breakfast. My lunch was a chocolate-banana smoothie (banana, almond milk, spinach, peanut butter, and a little dark cocoa powder). I ate an apple with cheese slices mid-afternoon, and that was enough until dinner.

We made shepherd's pie for dinner. Shepherd's (or "cottage") pie is an Irish dish. If you've never eaten it before, it's fairly simple; I made mine with ground beef and frozen mixed vegetables, as well as a quarter of an onion and some minced garlic. It is topped with mashed potatoes and then browned in the oven. A cast iron skillet is awesome for this, but you could cook the elements on the stove and then transfer them to a baking dish.

One of Casey's favorite meals.


For breakfast, I had an apple and a piece of bread with butter. My stomach wasn't feeling too hot, probably because I had a cold. At lunch, I was pretty hungry. I ate leftover shepherd's pie and a small salad. 

We eat leftovers for dinner, as we often do. I had shepherd's pie (twice in one day, because I was sick and it sounded edible) and Casey ate the last of the pasta with a big salad.


Breakfast on Thursday was typical--a little toast with peanut butter and jam. I felt pretty good again, so it must have been a 24-hour flu. I had leftover egg bake for lunch, and snacked on baby carrots and corn chips.

Casey was out of town for work on Thursday night. I made myself a meal that he would never eat:

Sounds weird, tastes great!

I call this "corn salad," and that is basically all it is. I cook some corn and mixed it up with a little mayo, lime juice, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper. Then I put it on a bed of lettuce, coated in a cilantro-lime vinaigrette, and topped it with lots of (0% lactose) cheddar cheese and fresh cilantro. It tastes a lot like Mexican corn, and the oils and fats help me digest the lettuce. I think it's yummy!


We ate dinner out with my Aunt Kevin, who was in town visiting! Lucky us!


We hung out around the house so Aunt Kevin could have maximum baby-cuddling time. I made scones for our late breakfast, and queso with chips for a late-afternoon snack.

Casey and I made hamburgers for dinner. I prepped everything and he handled the grilling.

I think this is the best food-photo I've ever taken.

I mixed garlic and onion into the patties, as well as the spices we like. Each burger was a third of a pound. Casey and I each ate two, and Kevin ate one. We served them with lettuce, tomato, mayo, ketchup, and mustard. I had cheese on mine as well.


I cooked up breakfast in the morning--eggs and bacon. We didn't really eat lunch--just ice cream (or frozen yogurt, in my case) from Oberweis! We also stopped for coffee and a snack at Sugar Fixe. Kevin, Fae, and I tooled around downtown Oak Park, and we met up with Casey before we went to dinner. We were thrilled to celebrate with honorary-Auntie Kel, who ran the Chicago marathon on Sunday!
Hurray Auntie Kella!

In summary, we ate out for dinner twice this week--once more than usual--because we were celebrating! Our groceries would have allowed us to cook in. It probably came out even, though, because we were feeding one extra adult all week while my aunt visited. It was a great week, and hopefully these meal ideas are helpful to you. Enjoy!

04 October 2013

Affording Good Food (the follow-up)

I've received some questions about my last two-part essay on eating and Crohn's Disease. I decided to address them in a little follow-up here.

1) How do you afford meat on this budget?

Answer: We eat less of it. There's no way around that. I've written about this before. If you want to spend less money on groceries, the quickest way to do it is to cut your meat consumption. Don't misunderstand me-- we still eat meat every day. I find it's easiest to 1) eat a meatless dinner, usually pasta or an egg dish, at least once a week and 2) use less meat in my recipes. Shepherd's pie doesn't need two pounds of ground meat, even though the recipe calls for it. It will still taste good with one pound. Or even half a pound. Bulk it up with more vegetables. My rule of thumb is to cut the meat the recipe calls for in half, and supplement with veggies if necessary.

2) What kind of bread/peanut butter/dairy products/snacks do you buy?

Answer: Huh. I sure got a lot of these! I have an easy rule of thumb for purchasing boxed, bagged, and canned foods: Look at the list of ingredients. Can you pronounce all of the words? Do you know what each ingredient looks like in its raw form? If you can, and you do, then buy. If not, don't. I also look for a few trigger words: "unsweetened" (good), "artificial" (bad), and "for freshness" (debatable). I do the best I can. The bread I buy is supplied to my grocery store by a local bakery; no commercial brand I've found can pass my two ingredient tests. If I want tortillas or hamburger buns, I have to compromise. So don't drive yourself crazy.

3) What do you think about this?:

A Letter to the TEDx Community on TEDx and Bad Science

Answer: The stance TED has taken on this, and on GMOs specifically, bothers me only because it seems so pointed. I agree that TED has an obligation to make sure its presentations are well-researched and presented by someone with authority on the topic. I, too, have noticed that increasing numbers of TEDx presenters don't seem to be experts in their field. I don't choose to watch them. I think it makes sense for TED to keep their standards high. But their choice to single out presentations about GMOs, alternative healing, and food-as-medicine is not good. TED seems to have acknowledged this and corrected their error.

4) What's a green smoothie? Why do you drink them?

Answer: I did post a link for this in the last post, but here's a brief run-down: I eat green smoothies because they make fruits and greens easier for me to digest. And because they taste good. Green smoothies are made from any combination of berries, fruit, and natural sweeteners that you find pleasing, along with leafy greens. Sometimes I use kale, sometimes chard, sometimes spinach. Whatever is affordable in an organic variety at the time. A big handful of greens is sufficient, and doesn't negatively affect the taste. I freeze the greens to preserve them. I love adding frozen cut-up bananas. You can add yogurt, almond milk, or coconut milk to give it a creamy texture. Coconut milk is my favorite. Sometimes I need to add water to thin or ice cubes to freeze it more. I've never tried milk, but you certainly could. Here is a nice list of recipes but really, you can make it up as you go.

5) Can you post the meals you get out of this shopping trip?

Answer: Yes. Although it seems weird, because I'm not one of those people who take pictures of their food. But I will photograph my dinners this week and next, to satisfy your curiosity. I will let you know what I ate for breakfast, lunch, and snacks but I won't bother photographing it. I'll also update with any additional groceries I might pick up.

Two nights ago, we had beef tacos. The meat had onion and bell pepper in it, as well as spices, and we ate it with lettuce, tomato, guacamole, cilantro, and sharp cheddar cheese. I ate it on corn tortillas, and Casey chose flour. Casey also had some tortillas chips with guacamole on the side. This is one of our most common dinners, and we love it.

This was a serving. We had two servings of meat leftover.

Yesterday, I had two slices of bread with peanut butter and honey for breakfast. I made a salad for lunch with lettuce, tomato, guacamole, cilantro, cheddar cheese, and some leftover taco meat. I broke up tortilla chips and added them to the salad as well. My snacks included handfuls of granola, snack mix (cranberries, nuts, and white chocolate chips), and tortilla chips.

Last night:

One serving of pasta. We had at least three servings leftover.

We ate pasta, green peas, mushrooms, and fresh spinach in homemade alfredo sauce. If you learn to make your own sauces, you'll cut a lot of chemicals and additives from your diet. The sauce included butter, flour, chicken stock, half-and-half, cream cheese, salt and pepper. We topped it with parmesan cheese and basil. This was a meatless meal, and it was very satisfying.

I encourage you to keep questioning. You can ask me, of course, but you can also research for yourself. Talk to your doctor. Read what's available online and in your library. The more you question what you eat and why, the easier it will be to make positive changes.

Food is fuel, and it's also self-love.
Love your food, love your body. Good luck.

03 October 2013

Affording Good Food

This is the second part of my advice on eating well with Crohn's Disease. Although it applies to everyone, regardless of whether you eat a restricted diet or not. I'm going to talk about how I keep our food costs low without sacrificing our morals or our health. It was challenging in the beginning, but it's gotten easier over time.

Our dinner last night.

We spend roughly $50 per week on groceries. Sometimes it's a little more--usually if I'm stocking up on a good deal--and sometimes a little less. Once in a while, I do have to load up on staples like flour and rice, and that can cost more. We don't include alcohol in this amount when we're budgeting because only Casey drinks it and it has no nutritional value. It qualifies as a recreational expense.

This amount covers breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the two of us. We eat out once a week or so together and Casey often eats lunch with clients at work. Even if we didn't do those things, we could eat every meal for the entire week on that amount.

To put it in prospective, the average person on food stamps receives $4.50 per day to spend. That's $0.93 more than we're spending to eat whole, healthy foods. Of course, it's not a one-to-one comparison because many people on food stamps don't have neighborhood access to a grocery store, don't have the knowledge (or the fully-stocked spice cabinet) necessary to make whole foods taste good, and don't have the time to cook from scratch because they're working multiple jobs. Just because a person can afford to eat well doesn't mean they can. So I'll share what I know about budgeting, but I realize that it isn't the only factor at play.

Our secret to eating on a limited budget is meal planning. A lot of people have just tuned me out because I used the word "planning." I get it; it's pretty intimidating when you're getting started. But I really believe in it. When you find a system that works for you, it becomes second-nature.

So. Here's what I started with this week:

Empty fridge.

That big glass bowl is full of fresh chicken stock.

Totally out of smoothie ingredients. Sad.

This is slightly emptier than normal. We were out of town for half the week, so we have not purchased groceries in about 13 days. Casey's parents sent us home with tomatoes, apples, bell peppers, and ground beef from their family farm. Those tubes in the freezer are all ground beef, and I cut up and froze most of the peppers as well.

My version of meal planning starts by selecting five dinners for the week. I assume that I won't want to cook for two nights a week, so we'll eat leftovers or eat out. I pick those meals from my collection of recipes; we have four of our favorite meals, and I often try one that is new. I take those recipes and check to see what I have in the cupboards. I create a shopping list with only the ingredients I need to make those meals. Then I add to that list anything we're out of that we use every day--milk, lettuce, bread, and so on. I don't repurchase an item until it is gone; if I plan to make a frittata, and I have 10 eggs in the fridge, I don't buy more eggs until next shopping trip. I know I'll be totally out but that's okay, because I had what I needed for the week.

So. If we're not going to load up on extras, what do we do instead? We shop smart.

Our grocery trip yield. Cats not included.

I believe in voting with my wallet, and I'm pretty brand-loyal. This flies in the face of all other budgeting suggestions I've read. We're fairly picky about the brands we use--Casey's finickiness is dictated by taste and mine by a three-pronged desire to treat animals humanely, respect the planet, and limit our consumption of additives. These things do not always align. We have figured out a way to meet in the middle.

The haul, unpacked.

I always start with fruits and vegetables. I buy just what we need for my recipes, salads and snacks. Because I care about consuming chemicals, I pay attention to the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. We buy berries and grapes, in season, and apples the rest of the time. We always have carrots and frozen corn. I often buy bananas, cut them up, and freeze them for smoothies. I stock up on berries, fresh or frozen, when I can find them at the right price. I pick a well-priced green (spinach in this case) and freeze it for smoothies. My last bunch of greens lasted almost six months. Green smoothies are one way I can get nutrients when I'm in a Crohn's Disease flare-up.

Part of what makes this work is to be flexible about the protein you use. Chicken thighs are cheaper than breasts, and ground pork is often cheaper than beef. I regularly use pork in tacos and pasta sauce. And if we can't afford pork, I make black beans tacos instead. We eat eggs at dinner in frittatas. Sausage is often on sale, and is so flavorful that you can use less in your recipes. I only buy ground beef and bacon (without added nitrates or nitrites) on sale, so we purchase those very rarely. I do make organic or free-range meat and eggs a priority, but there are times when we just can't afford it. When that happens, I try to buy local.

(Sidenote: We have access to free beef through Casey's family farm, which is wonderful. However, even without that meat we could still get enough meat on this budget.)

Once in a while I buy a whole chicken and roast it. The meat will feed us for two days, and I use the bones to make chicken stock. Once it's made, I freeze it in ice cube trays and store it a gallon freezer bag. It lasts a long time (six months or so), unless I make a big pot of soup out of it. I make turkey stock out of our Thanksgiving bird as well. I haven't tried to make beef stock, yet. I want to. But I don't bother with vegetable stock because the organic versions aren't that expensive, and I rarely use it.

I don't make everything from scratch. Not even close. There are a few foods I never bother making myself. These include pizza and pie dough (unless it's a special occasion), bread, and yogurt. I used to make my own yogurt, and if I had a yogurt maker I still would. I make some of our sauces (ketchup, pasta sauce) but not others (peanut butter, dressing, barbecue). We eat a lot of rice and potatoes with our meals, and we like tortillas. I used to make my own granola and snack mixes but found it wasn't actually cheaper, once I ran the numbers.

Sometimes homemade does cost you more.

But you don't need to buy lots of different kinds of products, either. We used to buy both creamy and chunky peanut butter because Casey and I didn't like the same kind. That's nuts! It's just peanut butter! You really don't need a box of each family member's preferred cereal cluttering up your life. Pick one kind, and everyone can choose to eat it or make toast instead. If it's really a point of contention, then rotate what you buy so everyone gets their favorite at some point during the month.


free-range or organic meats -- these hardly ever drop below my target price, but when they do I buy as much as I can store

coffee -- if coffee beans drop below $4.00 per pound, I buy four or five pounds at once

almond milk -- when I find my brand for less than $3.00, I buy three or four cartons because it keeps

canned goods -- if I can find these for less than half of their usual price, I buy three cans or so

canned organic soups -- I can find these for $1.00 or less on the clearance racks, and I buy up to six

frozen veggies -- or veggies that freeze well (organic, if I can find them) under $1.50 for 16oz.

fruit and berries -- fresh or frozen, any time they're under $3.00 for 12oz.

almonds -- I buy several pounds, if I can find them shelled under $5.00 per pound

snack bars and granola -- if I can get a brand like Annie's for the same price as Quakers, I buy several boxes

Important to note, though:

Stocking up isn't that important to me. It's not worth blowing my budget for the whole month in one trip, even though I'm sometimes tempted. I can't store the excess, for one thing, and who knows whether circumstances might change? What I mean is... What if I develop an intolerance to, say, walnuts, and we've stocked up on five pounds of them? What if Casey tries the soup I bought and hates it? If you're tempted to buy an extra four boxes of granola bars, might I suggest putting the cost of those extra bars into your savings account? Make a conscious choice to save instead of spend.

You can't save money by spending it.
No matter how good the deal is.

This style of shopping helps us prevent waste. At the end of the week, my fridge and cupboards are pretty bare. A lot of people I know never run out of anything; they've restocked before it's actually gone. I used to do that, too. I bought two cartons of almond milk every week because if I bought one, it'd run out on day six. I always had two in the fridge. But I had a lightbulb moment about this kind of consumerism:

Why was I taking so much more than we need?
What gave me the right?

Okay, yes, it sounds a bit philosophical for the dairy aisle. But we're so accustomed to excess in the United States. We are used to having so much food in our kitchens that we couldn't possibly eat it before it goes bad. We're used to extra bedrooms and closets full of shoes and three-car garages. And I'm not saying it's bad to want those things. But maybe it is bad to think we need them.

This is part of the reason I don't believe in extreme couponing. According to the store staff, we have a couple extreme couponers in my neighborhood. When I find that my local shelves have been cleared of products I buy every week, just because they're on sale, it really aggravates me. Using a coupon is great! But how can one family need twenty cartons of almond milk? Are they even lactose-intolerant? They buy up everything like it's a game they can win, and that sucks. It's rude. It implies that other people's needs matter less than your own, that we're competing for resources instead of sharing them.

And you do not have to do it to eat well on a limited budget.

Ah, yes. The full fridge.

I got my peanut butter, Casey got his salsa.

Frozen berries make me smile.

None of the planning will work, though, if you go off the rails once you get to the store. If I go in to buy jasmine rice, I have to avoid being tempted by something easier like Uncle Ben's or Zatarain's. It's okay to get those things, but they'll cost you more and you must plan for them. I never add anything to my shopping list; occasionally, I do remove something, if the price of avocados or chicken breast just isn't reasonable that week. I'll have to reorganize my meals a bit when I get home, but it always works out fine.

$100.54 for two weeks worth of groceries and beer.

Plan your meals. Make a list. Respect the list.

It takes practice to plan meals, and it takes time to adjust to an empty pantry. It can be disconcerting at first--"What if there's a natural disaster? Won't we starve?" Probably not. But if you're worried about it, then create a disaster-preparedness station and only restock it when necessary. You don't need to throw away food every week. You don't need to "stock up." Learn to live with less.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? I'm all ears.

Eat well, friends.

"We may find in the long run that tinned food is a deadlier weapon than the machine-gun."  -  George Orwell

18 September 2013

Eating with Crohn's Disease

This is part one of a two-part essay. Part two (Affording Good Food) is coming later this week.

Look, guys, I'm not a doctor. I haven't even had Crohn's Disease as long as a lot of people, since I developed it as an adult. But what I am is an obsessive researcher. And I've been doubling down on research since I've begun breastfeeding my daughter in the middle of a flare. That's why this post is so long. I always listen to my doctors, but I don't take my doctor's word as gospel. I read the news reports and the medical journal articles and wack-a-doo naturalist websites. If I'm going to confront something like this, something which affects my health and future happiness, I'm going to do it with as much information as I can. Information is power. That's why I'm sharing some of mine with you.

Let's get started.

According to WebMD, any of these foods might trigger the symptoms of Crohn's disease:
  • alcohol (mixed drinks, beer, wine)
  • butter, mayonnaise, margarine, oils
  • carbonated beverages
  • coffee, tea, chocolate
  • corn husks
  • dairy products (if lactose intolerant)
  • fried foods
  • foods high in fiber
  • gas-producing foods (lentils, beans, legumes, cabbage, broccoli, onions)
  • nuts and seeds
  • raw fruits
  • raw vegetables
  • red meat and pork
  • spicy foods
  • whole grains and bran
I challenge you to name a food not on that list. Although, to their credit, they did say might. Chocolate, tea, and coffee don't trigger anything for me if I consume them in moderation. I have no trouble with butter or oils. Raw fruits, veggies, and whole grains can be balanced out with healthy fats to help them digest easier. I saute all of my onions and cook all my beans very soft. Broccoli, uncooked cabbage, and high-lactose dairy products are out, though. I don't drink alcohol or carbonated beverages. Fatty foods go down easier than anything else, unfortunately, but they also cause diarrhea. I mostly avoid them.

Foods Crohnies (and everyone else) should be eating include:
  • almond milk -- high in protein, calcium, and vitamins D and E but low in fat and cholesterol (although commercial varieties might also be high in carbohydrates, so look for unsweetened)
  • eggs -- easily digested protein; poach them to avoid additional fats
  • oatmeal -- tons of soluble fiber but best eaten when you're not in a flair
  • olive oil -- normalizes blood clotting and benefits blood sugar control
  • vegetable soup -- roast the veggies, because they retain their nutrients better than boiled, and puree smooth
  • salmon -- high in omega-3 and easily digestible, although most fatty fish is good
  • tropical fruits -- vitamin-rich, easy to digest, and papaya even helps the body digest protein
  • poultry -- stick to white meat so it's low in fat and easy to digest
  • avocado -- full of good fats, vitamins, potassium, and soluble fiber... pretty much the perfect food
  • butter lettuce -- the greens of choice for Crohnies
  • bell peppers -- roast them, and remove the skins when in a flare
  • rice -- not much nutritional value but always easy to digest
  • nut butters -- choose smooth varieties, not chunky, and it's a good source of protein and fat
  • coconut oil -- helps the body absorb magnesium and calcium, eases heartburn and bowel movements
  • low-lactose dairy products -- if you cut out dairy altogether, you'll develop an intolerance so stick with dairy below 2% lactose (check this list for reference)
I eat all of these things regularly (although salmon ends up on my plate less than I'd like!), and I often combine them with foods which are healthy but difficult to digest. For example: I drink my black tea with almond milk. My green smoothies usually include banana and low-fat Greek yogurt, and sometimes avocado, and I puree them really smooth. I like risotto, so I can get some protein from chicken stock, some nutrients from added veggies, and some calcium from butter and parmesan cheese. I eat my salads with at least two healthy fats on them-- usually poached eggs, avocado, olive oil, or tuna-- to help me digest the raw veggies. I also salt my salads to provide my body with enough sodium. I often include low-sugar dry cranberries, which provide antioxidants and help prevent urinary tract infections. Bonus: My salads are absolutely delicious!

Let's talk protein for a second:

A lot of people with Crohn's avoid protein because it's hard to digest. I totally get that... when I'm in the middle of a flare-up, the last thing I want to eat is a big, rare steak. But protein is really, really important. It's what helps our body heal, and that's what we need to be doing.

My gastroenterologist says the protein sources that are easiest to digest are eggs, well-cooked fish, and skinless chicken breast. I've found that good-quality, natural lunch meats (like these) go down pretty easily as well. I slice them into strips for my salads. I do eat bacon and mild sausage, which don't bother me but seem to be triggers for other people. And when I'm not in a flare, I eat a lot of beef. When I'm flaring, though, I eat it sparingly because it definitely causes me pain.

So protein. Eat it. Eat meat (or a substantial serving of high-protein plant food) at one meal a day, every day. As I've discussed before, don't gorge yourself on it. You're not a lion. But don't skip just because your sick and it's easier.

Okay. Now some of you will have noticed that I haven't mentioned gluten-free products yet. That's because gluten-free products taste gross. I'm sorry, I know I'm generalizing, and I wish it weren't so. But I've tried E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. and none of it was worth the money. The best thing out there is Rice Chex cereal, people. That's just sad. If you have Celiac Disease, or you are a Crohnie who knows for sure that gluten aggravates your symptoms, you have my sincere sympathies. I'm not minimizing your struggle. But as for me? I can eat limited gluten with no repercussions. I stick to low-gluten foods, for the most part--corn tortillas, sourdough bread, and the like--but I require that they taste good and contain no weird chemicals. If my universal eating philosophy could be summed up in one sentence it would be this one:

I'd rather eat a little of something that tastes good than a lot of something mediocre.

Actually, I guess it can be summed up in one sentence. Huh. Seems this long post was all for naught!

Part the second, coming at you soon.

Eat well, friends. Bless you.

09 September 2013

How We Cloth Diaper

Fiona has been battling diaper rash since she was born. She inherited her mother's super-sensitive skin. This makes cloth diapering particularly difficult because they don't wick away moisture they way disposable diapers do. But disposables actually make her rash worse--we aren't sure why. The only disposables that have worked for us at all are Pampers Sensitive. At $0.33 per diaper, around $14 per week, they are definitely for occasional use only. Also, they leak! Why do disposable diapers leak so much?

We use Oso-Cozy Cotton Prefolds inside Thirsties Duo-Wrap Diaper Covers. We have added Bummis Fleece Diaper Liners in every diaper to help keep moisture off her skin and protect the diapers from diaper rash cream. We also use flannel cloth wipes, which we spray with a solution of water and a few drops each of tea tree oil and calendula extract.


We change Fae every two to three hours during the day. She wears Cotton Babies Stay-Dry Diaper Doublers in her prefolds at night, which gets her through without a change. Is this system working? Mostly yes. We've only had a couple leaks, and they were the result of user-error (as in, putting her diaper cover on too loosely) or leaving her nighttime diaper on too long. The diapers are easy to care for and Fae seems comfortable enough, aside from the rash. But the rash is a real problem and not easy to fix. We started by using Boudreaux's Butt Paste on her bum at every diaper change.

This worked on her rash but wreaked havoc on her diapers. It isn't cloth diaper safe, so I had to strip the diapers of residue at every wash. Also, it seems like a pretty heavy-duty solution for everyday use. Should she really have Zinc Oxide on her bum 24/7?

We switched to Grandma El's Diaper Rash Cream.

It is safe for her diapers (no stripping!) and it works to prevent her rash, but it is expensive. One tub lasts a month, at $14.99 a tub. It also wouldn't heal an existing rash. I didn't like that it included Petroleum and Salicylic Acid--it seemed unnecessary to me. So I searched for yet another solution.

And, as often happens for me, I decided to make my own. Most of the barrier creams I was looking at were made of ingredients I already had at home; I've made my own body lotion for about a year now. I added calendula extract because it is anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and soothes irritation. The anti-fungal component is important because it helps prevent yeast rash.

This is working remarkably well so far. It took about a week for her skin to clear up. It seemed to be acclimating to the new cream. After it did, though, she has stayed rash-free for longer than any other cream we've tried. It's also really cheap to make.

If you want to try the diaper cream, I've included the recipe below. A word of caution: As with any new skin product, you should test a little of this on your baby's skin first, to be sure he or she isn't allergic.

As far as our washing routine goes:

Our apartment building's machine doesn't work well at all. I can tell that it leaves soap residue behind in our clothes. Not enough to cause the diapers to repel water, but enough to give Fiona and I heat rash. I always get it when it's too warm and there's detergent residue on my skin. Apparently, Fae does too. It's normal for a public washer to get build up from all the different soaps from different tenants. I've never had one do such a poor job rinsing, though. And that makes washing diapers a bigger pain than it needs to be.

We use Biokleen Bac-Out, which is an eco-friendly cleanser, in the first cold soak.

It combats ammonia odor and stains. I use it for lots of different cleaning tasks. Every three days, I dump the whole wet bag full of dirty diapers in the tub and fill it with cold water. They soak for an hour or more. I wring them out and take them to the laundry room, where I run them on the hottest setting with my homemade laundry soap. The prefolds, liners, and wet bag go in the dryer. The covers usually air dry. Every once in a while, I add a second hot wash with no soap, just to clear out any residue. I also scrub the tub afterwards. This isn't difficult, and would be even easier if we weren't paying for laundry by the load. Then I could do my cold-soak in the washing machine.

Verdict? The benefits of cloth diapering are more than worth the learning curve. There are easier ways to do it than ours, although you probably can't do it cheaper. We paid less than $250 for our diapers, which will last until she is about a year old. Factoring in the cost of washing twice a week, and the upfront costs (including wipes and wet bags), this comes to under $10 per week--$4 per week cheaper than disposable diapers, not including disposable wipes and trash bags. Plus, we aren't putting 2200 non-biodegradable diapers a year into the landfill.


3 cups of washing soda
3 cups of borax
3 cups of Oxiclean
1 lb. box of baking soda
1 bar of Fels-Naptha soap

Grate the bar of soap into flakes. Mix together all five ingredients. Store in an airtight container.

Use 2 tablespoons for each regular-sized load. More for heavily soiled loads, less for delicates.

This will last over a month. If I could store a larger container in the laundry room, I would.


1/2 cup ivory shea butter*
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tbsp. beeswax pellets (or grated from a solid bar)
2 tbsp. vegetable glycerin
10-20 drops calendula extract

Melt together the shea butter, coconut oil, and beeswax. I have a glass jar dedicated to this purpose, which I put in a pot of water on the stove. I then heat the water to a low boil and let everything melt. You can melt everything in a pot, but it's a bit difficult to get clean afterwards.

Remove from the heat and add in the vegetable glycerin. Use an electric mixer to beat the oil until it turns into a thick cream. This takes a long time. I have a stand mixer, and I just let it run for 5-10 minutes, depending on how hot and humid it is in my house. Eventually, it always gets there.

Scoop it out and store in an airtight container at room temperature. It's shelf-stable for months. The beeswax in it will react to temperature, becoming more solid at cooler temps, but it will melt again once it's on your baby's skin. So don't freak out if it gets a bit grainy.

Spread it all over your baby's private parts. This is a barrier cream, so you must put on enough to form a good barrier. Put on extra at night.

*A note on shea butter: Only white or ivory shea butter is real shea butter. The "yellow" or "gold" varieties are actually African butter, which comes from a totally different tree. They are both very good for your hair and skin, but the African butter smells much stronger and can stain white clothing.

28 May 2013

One Month into Motherhood

As of today, I've been a Mom for one month. I've had lots of questions from lots of different people about the last four weeks-- what has worked for us, what hasn't, and how everything is going.

Here are a few items and ideas that have been indispensable for us.



Lactation consultants are very fond of saying "if you're doing it right, it won't hurt." I'm just going to tell you, straight-up: This is a lie. As far as I can tell, breastfeeding hurts most women in one way or another. Either the baby doesn't latch properly, which you may not be able to fix right away, or your nipples are flat and/or inverted. Your skin might be sensitive, and your nipples might chap or crack. It's not that it hurts everyone... just most people. Fiona latched properly from the beginning but my skin was sensitive and my nipples were flat. I thought I was a failing her. It was terrible.

We've been using silicone nipple guards and it has made solely breastfeeding Fiona possible for me.

There's lots of debate about the guards, most of which seems pretty outdated. They used to be made of rubber and caused some women's milk supply to dwindle. Nowadays, they're made of ultra-thin silicone. I have no problem whatsoever with supply--although I certainly would have if I'd kept trying and failing to feed her without them! Many women don't want to be reliant on the guards (what if you lose them?) but I don't mind. Fae eats well and I have no pain. Carrying around a silicone nipple seems like a good trade, especially since I have to carry around all kinds of things anyway!

I'm also a fan of lanolin to keep my skin from chapping.

It works beautifully.


I didn't think we'd need many receiving blankets.

They seemed kind of silly since we have a sleep sack for her to sleep in. But Fiona uses at least one or two daily, and they go straight into the wash at the end of the day. We currently have eight of them, which is the bare minimum to suit our needs.

Burp cloths are stupidly expensive for something that's going to be used to clean up vomit. We picked up inexpensive bar mop towels instead.

We use at least two every day. Buy accordingly depending on how often you do laundry. They need to be absorbent, of course, and it would be better if they're soft. Ours aren't that soft so when I get more, I'll get a different kind. They do the job, though, and they're cheap.


I mean, I guess they might not be if you have a real weak stomach. There is a certain icky factor. However, it's going to be icky regardless of whether you use cloth or disposables. Poop is poop is poop. We're cloth diapering in an apartment building with a coin-operated washer and dryer; it would be stupid-easy if we had our own machine. We use cotton prefolds with a Snappi and Thirsties Duo Wrap diaper covers.

A pre-rinse in very cold water has proven to be very important. Since our machine won't do it, I soak them myself in the bathtub and swish them around a lot. And yes, I then scrub the tub down to disinfect it. But I did that regularly anyway so it isn't a hardship. Then I dump them in the machine on the hottest setting with my homemade laundry soap and bleach alternative. Easy peasy. The diapers go in the dryer and the covers air-dry. It adds two extra laundry loads a week to my routine.

We also use cloth wipes.

Might as well, when we're already washing the diapers. We wet down the wipes with water in a spray bottle. I add a tiny bit (not even a full drop) of tea tree oil to the bottle of water; it's a natural antiseptic but you have to be very careful with it. It can cause irritation. She has developed a little diaper rash recently. We're treating it with pure coconut oil and it's working well.

When Fae starts eating solid foods (in about five months), I'll probably invest in a diaper sprayer and some reusable liners to cut down on staining. I don't really care about stains-- they are diapers, after all-- but Casey doesn't like them. If the stains get too bad, we can always dry them in the sun. That fades pretty much any stain very quickly.


All those lovely pregnancy hormones that gave you that "glow"? Yeah, those are gone now. Post-pregnancy, I've been dealing with acne, hair loss, sweating, and dry skin. I have bags under my eyes and crazy eyebrows. There isn't much time to take care of myself. Showers feel like a bit of a luxury. My hair is usually a mess. I have to remind myself to put on deoderant.

Also, TMI warning: You leak a lot of stuff after birth. Breast milk leaks, for starters, and you'll have heavy uterine bleeding. This means heavy duty menstrual pads (the overnight kind) and disposable nursing pads.

I also have reusable nursing pads, which I thought I'd like to use at night, but it turns out that I leak through them. No problem if I remember to change them at her 3am feeding but I don't always remember. I end up having to wear two at a time on each side. Many women have incontinence issues for a while after birth. I did, for a few days. If you have an episiotomy, which I did not, you might need to take laxatives. You might need them even if you don't. So there's that to deal with too.

Basically, you're not so cute for a while. And everyone wants to take pictures of you. All the time. Ugh.


Newborns want to be held pretty much constantly. Unless you are really good at doing everything one-handed, you'll need a way to carry your baby around. We have an inexpensive structured baby carrier.

It works very well. We did try the wrap and sling style carriers in the store, and Fiona hated them. She threw an incredible fit. It seemed like she was very uncomfortable and did not feel secure. She loves her structured carrier, though. She hangs out in it all day long, perfectly happily.

Sidenote: This is Casey's number one favorite baby-care item.


This is sometimes called "family bed" or "bed-sharing." It's pretty simple: co-sleeping involves letting your infant sleep in the same bed with his or her parents. Dr. Sears has a great explanation of the practice, along with the risks and benefits.

We never intended to co-sleep with Fiona. Her crib is in our room so I knew I'd be able to hear her if she woke during the night. This has not worked out well. If she falls completely, unmistakeably asleep then she might--might--sleep in her crib for three to four hours in between feedings. But usually she will not. She absolutely hates the big, empty expanse of her crib at night. Infants have no sense of person permanence. Dr. Sears explains it this way:

"Many babies need help going back to sleep because of a developmental quirk called object or person permanence. When something or someone is out of sight, it is out of mind. Most babies less than a year old do not have the ability to think of mother as existing somewhere else. When babies awaken alone in a crib, they become frightened and often unable to resettle back into deep sleep. Because of this separation anxiety, they learn that sleep is a fearful state to remain in (not one of our goals of nighttime parenting)."

Fae will sleep beautifully at night in bed with us. She feeds between eleven and twelve o'clock, then goes to sleep next to me until I wake her just enough to change her diaper and feed her at three or four in the morning. She rarely fusses at that time and goes back to sleep until seven o'clock. Casey doesn't even wake up for her feeding at three, so he usually sleeps straight through the night

Obviously, we don't let her sleep with a big loose pillow up against her head like that. She sleeps on my side of the bed without pillows or blankets, just a sheet pulled up no higher than her waist. To add extra safety, we have some foam bumpers under the fitted sheet along the edge of the mattress. She usually sleeps on her side facing me.

If we try any other method, it fails miserably. She can spiral out of control rapidly when her schedule is disrupted, crying almost continuously from eleven to three. It's definitely colic, but it really does seem that the colic is controllable if we stick to this schedule. Yes, we could probably get her adjusted to her crib in a few weeks if we allowed her to "cry it out" a bit. But we live in an apartment building, and we're not a-holes so we're not going to subject our neighbors to that for no reason.

You may wonder why we did not get a co-sleeper.

Initially, we had no idea we'd want one. As I said, this wasn't our plan. They are expensive and take up additional floor space. Also, I don't think it would solve Fiona's particular problem. She wants to be up against me, snuggled up close enough to touch me and feel my breath. A co-sleeper would leave her too far away to do any good as far as soothing herself back to sleep; I'd still have to wake up to comfort her. I'm sure these are good solutions for some babies but not for us.

I'm not recommending anything, one way or another. I'm just suggesting you consider that co-sleeping could happen to you.


I hope that helps someone! We're doing well and thankful for all the help we've received thus far. We are so blessed.

24 April 2013

Preparing for Peanut

After turning in my fourth homework packet for graduate school, I'm playing the baby-waiting game. I am usually a pretty patient person but I am so uncomfortable. Seriously. I am never, not ever comfortable. I sleep badly and can't nap. Basically: I'm ready for Peanut to make her debut!

In the meantime, I'm trying my best to stay busy. I've already stocked up on my homemade cleaning products--laundry soap, bleach alternative, and all of my other household cleaners. I've mixed up some of my personal care products, too, although I probably need to make some more body lotion because I'm running low. I've been sorting and organizing like crazy; Casey and I have been moving things around in his office quite a bit. Basically, I'm in a mad nesting frenzy. It's a bit out of hand.

The biggest preparatory project is more... gastronomical. I know that in some places (small towns FTW) people bring new parents food for the first week as a way to make life easier. That's a lovely tradition. We live pretty far from most of our friends and family, though, and aren't planning on receiving this kind of assistance. I know neither Casey nor I will want to cook meals in the beginning. I've been preparing and freezing foods that I think will sound good to us.

Our parents and siblings will be here, in shifts, for the first month after the birth. I know they're all happy to cook for us but I can, at least, relieve some of that work. We won't be going out to eat and I'd like to avoid fast food as much as possible while I begin breastfeeding. With the exception of Wendy's hamburgers. Because those are awesome. Here are a few of the foods I'm freezing:

1) Pasta sauce. I made one big pot and froze it into three individual freezer bags. Each portion serves four people. I don't have a recipe for this because I make it so often, and it is so easy.

2)  Soup. I have one two-person serving of Chicken Noodle left over from earlier this month, and I whipped up a pot of Corn, Bacon, and Potato Chowder, which yielded one meal for us and two four-person freezer bags. These recipes are pretty close to mine although I always tweak recipes as I'm cooking. We do have a few canned soups in the cupboard. I also prepped and froze some more homemade chicken stock, since we were running a little low.

3) Sandwich meats. These include Taco Meat, Barbecue Pulled Chicken, and Sloppy Joes. I used ground turkey for the tacos and ground pork for the sloppy joes because we're low on the ground beef we get from Casey's family farm. The Pioneer Woman has a great recipe for sloppy joes. I don't use a recipe or seasoning packets for taco meat because, again, I make it so often. The pulled chicken is simply dredged in Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet 'n' Spicy Sauce (which is just too good not to use). I have one four-person bag of each.

4) Chicken dinners. I'm preparing Cilantro Lime Chicken with Corn and Black Beans, Chicken Pocket Pies, and Sweet Mustard Chicken (which the recipe calls "World's Best Chicken"). I'm only making one four-person bag of the cilantro lime chicken because it uses chicken breast, which is more expensive. I'm making two bags of sweet mustard chicken since it's made with cheaper chicken thighs. The pocket pies can be made with canned or rotisserie chicken, although I'm using poached chicken breasts. I put the cooking instructions on the outside of the freezer bag so anyone can use them.

5) Smoothies. I've made up lots of two-person servings of Green Smoothies. I make tropical, berry, and green apple varieties. All the bags contain some chopped kale, parsley, and leafy celery tops, plus frozen banana slices. The tropical smoothies have extra banana and frozen pineapple added to them. The berry smoothies have strawberries and blueberries. The green apple smoothies have one and a half chopped apples. When we make them, we'll add honey or stevia, water, and ice. I also add Greek yogurt and spoonful or two of Benefiber, but Casey doesn't always like that.

6) Junk food. Okay, but at least it's not fast food! I'm freezing some hotdogs and precooked bacon. I am picky about our bacon and hot dogs; they have to be uncured, without nitrates or nitrites (because that stuff is poison). I just cook the bacon until it's not quite done, then cool it down to room temperature and lay out the slices on parchment paper to freeze it. When you want a piece, it's easy to reheat in the microwave or on the stove. The hotdogs are a personal thing. I love them. I make my own Ketchup and Comeback Sauce. We've also stocked up on granola bars, crackers, and fruit-and-nut mix. We should probably stock up on cookies, too. Let's be real.

Critical thesis turned in, nursery completed, 3 centimeters dilated, and 80% effaced. I'm feeling pretty accomplished right now. I'm going to be posting again soon, once I have a sense of where my graduate school semester is headed. Well, provided that happens before Peanut's arrival. We'll see!

Hope everyone is having a gorgeous Spring so far.