Tag Archives: healthy-living

I’ve been eating it my whole life and I’m OK!

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VegetablesOver the past few months I have written a few posts (like this one) in which I discuss the importance of eating real food.

These posts have each been met by one or more people saying, “I’ve been eating this way my whole life and I’m OK.  I think you are making too big of a deal about it.”

Let me begin by saying, I understand where you are coming from!  I have only given “real” food any serious thought at all in the past year or so and, even with strong feelings about it, I often cave in to things like frozen pizza, fast food and lunch meat because they are cheap and easy and… let’s face it… awesomely delicious.

Go ahead, real foodies.  Tell me your cauliflower patty is JUST as tasty as a Big Mac.  I don’t believe you.

Anyway… I digress…

The point is, I understand.

Further, I would like to say that if you were raised on a steady diet of Poptarts and Bar S hotdogs (you know who you are) and you now make an earnest effort to add some canned peas to your pasta I applaud you!  All progress is good progress!

And I recognize that it is virtually impossible to live in our modern society without ingesting SOMETHING that SOMEONE says is “toxic.”  For example, I switched from a popular brand of canned beans to Meijer brand organic canned beans and was feeling pretty proud of myself until someone pointed out that canned goods almost universally contain BPA. Well… again, all progress is good progress. I can only do so much.

So, now that I’ve said all that, please allow me to say this:

Unless you are under the age of 20, you have NOT been “eating this way your whole life.”

American food has changed DRASTICALLY in the past generation!

In the past 50 years, the nutrient and mineral content in our food has decreased drastically.  Selective breeding, genetic modification and poor treatment of the soil itself means that we have larger food, that is more carbohydrate-intense but lacking in protein, amino acids and as many as 6 key nutrients.  (Click here for more)

In the past 2 generations, mercury levels in seafood have doubled.  (Click here for more)

The first GMO (genetically modified organism) food (a tomato) was marketed to the public in 1994 – a mere 18 years ago.  They were touted as the perfect solution… plants would yield a higher production, bigger fruit, and be more resistant to drought and disease.  The problem is that some research shows that the human body does not recognize these new creations as food.  The result is damage to the kidneys and liver and digestive tract, poor metabolism of the nutrients, and more.  Worse, some studies show that the effects of GMOs are cumulative through generations (see picture, below).  If that is the case, we don’t know what it is doing to our children and their children because the first generation of people who have eaten GM foods their whole lives are only just beginning to have children of their own.   None of this even touches on what happens when the animals we eat are fed GMOs.  If they are affected on a very basic, cellular level, and then we eat that “tainted” meat (eggs, milk, etc), how does it affect us?  (Click here for more)  The fact is that there simply has not been enough research done on GMO foods to know if they are safe.  Maybe they are fine.  But there is a good chance that they are not.  For that reason dozens of countries have partial or total bans on the use of GMOs or they require companies to label their products if they have been modified.  The US has no such restrictions or requirements because it would be too expensive for the food manufacturers.  Don’t even get me started on the politics of THAT!   Currently, up to 85 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as are 91 percent of soybeans and 88 percent of cotton (cottonseed oil is often used in food products). It has been estimated that upwards of 70 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients.

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Since the 1950s the use of antibiotics in farm animals has skyrocketed.  The result?  We now have “super bacteria” that are resistant to antibiotic treatment.  This means that now, when we get sick, it is MUCH harder to treat than it was 50 years ago because the drugs we have are no longer effective.  (click here for more)

In 1993 rGBH was introduced to milk-producing cows in order to produce more milk from each animal.  This hormone has been linked directly to an increased risk for breast, prostate and other cancers in humans.  Again, the children who were raised drinking this milk are only beginning to reach adulthood.  The effects of this drug on the animals that provided their food will only begin to show up in the next 10-20 years.  By then, a whole new generation will have been affected.  (click here fore more)

A cow, treated with rGBH, now infected with mastitis.

A cow, treated with rGBH, now infected with mastitis.

I could go on and on telling about new additives, drugs, science, etc that have been introduced in relatively recent times.

There is another side of all this, as well.

What do all of these “advanced” farming practices do to our planet?

They result in massive soil erosion  the pollution of ground water, the disruption of local ecosystems and more.  In turn, that results in the need for MORE chemicals, genetic modification, etc which results in more problems, and so on.  (click here for more)

And where are we, as a society,  in terms of health?

Life expectancy in Americans is actually decreasing. Children born now can expect to die at a younger age than their parents and grandparents.  (more)

In 1958 1.5 million people were diagnosed with diabetes.  In 2010  there were nearly 19 million people being treated for the disease. (more)

In 1962 about 13% of the population was considered obese.  Today those numbers are fast approaching the 50% mark. (more)

Liver, thyroid, breast, testicle  cancers (all mentioned above as being connected to pesticides and GMOs) and more have increased steadily since 1992. (more)

Rates of autism have increased by an astonishing 78% in the past 10 years. (more)

Mental disorders are on the rise among young people. (more)

The number of women struggling to get pregnant and maintain their pregnancies rose  40% between 1982 and 2002. (more)

Is it coincidence that, in the same time period that we have altered our food in nearly every conceivable way we have watched our population’s incidence of health issues rise exponentially?

The solution (or at least progress toward the solution) lies in organics.

Organic food, by legal definition can not contain any GMOs, artificial chemicals or preservatives, hormones or antibiotics.  Organic food goes through minimal processing.  (There are exceptions, but the rules generally follow those guidelines.)  And if a farmer wants to label his food “organic” he must farm in a way that gives back to the earth as much as he takes out.

Some researchers have tried to say that organic food is no more nutritious than “conventional” food but this article from US News explains very clearly the fallacy of the famous study in question.

When all is said and done, I again have to say that any nutritious food (fruits, veggies, lean meats, eggs, milk, etc) is better than none.  I know that, for some people, the luxury of spending even a few extra dollars each month is just not possible.  I get that.

But for many, we are making a conscious choice to save money on food so that we can spend it on the latest technology or the nicest name brand clothes or…. so so many other things.

If there is even a CHANCE that all of those health concerns can be minimized for your family by simply purchasing one brand of apples instead of another, isn’t it worth a little sacrifice?

It is time for all of us to open our eyes and be aware of what the food industry is pushing on us because, if you are an adult, the fact of the matter is you have NOT been eating like this your whole life and, chances are you are NOT OK.  Chances are you are suffering from cancer or diabetes or digestive issues or attention problems or arthritis or migraine headaches or sleep disorders or fibromyalgia or some combination of the dozens of diseases linked to “frankenfoods.”

One last thing:  one person said that they had no issue with the pesticide and GMO companies because they provide jobs and contribute to the economy.  In response, I have to ask, how much has the exponential increase in sickness cost our nation?  Where will our economy be when the resources of our land have been plundered to the point that the very ground under our feet becomes toxic?  What job is worth stealing years of healthy living from the current generation of young people?

I’ll climb off my soapbox now.  Thanks for reading today’s hippie rant.  Here’s to a tomorrow full of healthy nutritious food!

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort? 

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email or Facebook to get all the updates. 

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

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My Plan to Avoid Dentists Forever

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toothI’m sure there are zillions of good dentists out there.

No doubt those dedicated men and women truly have a heart to help us all on the road for better health and they long for a world full of straight, white smiles.

Still, I don’t go.

It’s not really a fear… more like…. revulsion.  I hate the idea of someone putting their hands in my mouth.  I shudder at the very idea of the sound of the metal pick scraping against my teeth.  I cringe at the memory of the smell of the drill, as it bores into my body.

Ugh!

I’m getting the shivers just thinking about it!

Here’s the truth that I don’t admit too often.  I hope you don’t judge me too harshly.

The last time I was at the dentist I was a junior in high school.  That appointment was my third in a year.

A few weeks ago I turned 36.

Those three dentist appointments are the only three I’ve ever had.

As of my last appointment I’d never had a cavity.  I’m pretty sure that, in the intervening years, I’ve only had one.

I have one molar that, about 8 years ago, began to hurt terribly.  It was bad.  I was getting to the point where I really couldn’t even bear to eat.  And then, while slurping up some spaghetti at my mother-in-law’s house and trying to chew it with my front teeth I bit down on something hard.  I spit out most of my bad tooth.

The pain was totally gone!

Problem solved.  Dentist avoided.

The piece that remains has never bothered me.

My teeth are crooked and rather stained, due to my serious coffee addiction, but they are strong and healthy and I don’t want anyone going in there, poking around with pointy metal objects and power tools.  They might mess something up!

I think that, for the most part, my strong teeth are just good luck.  My genetic cookie just crumbled that way.  I brush but that’s about it.  I can’t say that I have any magic secret.  But…

I have believed for years that teeth can heal.

I didn’t have any logical reason except that I figured if bones can heal, teeth should be able to as well.  As it turns out, I’m not crazy!

My awesome chiropractor posted this article from the Healthy Home Economist on Facebook today that is all about curing cavities with a healthy diet.

I love when science backs up my random beliefs!  I believe I may be willing to give up sugar (sometimes) forever (for a while) and even drink green smoothies (occasionally) if it means that I never have to go to the dentist again and I get to keep my original teeth well into my old age.

A fair trade, I say.

That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it!

Hippies in the Drive Thru

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Look at that happy contentment on her face. Burgers do that for me, too. MMMmmmm.

Of the 154 of you who have graciously clicked the “follow” button on my blog (BTW – thank you.  You’ll never know how absurdly happy it makes me when I log on and see that little orange plus sign in the corner that means there’s a new follower.) I’m guessing about 150 of you never read my original post

The original is important because it explains the “lazy” in LazyHippieMama.

You see, “lazy” isn’t about the desire to lay on the couch all day, watching Netflix and eating bonbons.  Although that does sound lovely, come to think of it.  “Lazy” is about not having the energy or motivation to raise my own grass-fed dairy cows in order to get reasonably priced healthy, organic, raw milk.  Lazy means that eco-friendly needs to be approximately as convenient (and similarly priced) as the other stuff.

I’ve been blogging for about 5 months now, and I’ve learned that the goal of being a good hippie whilst remaining lazy is possible. 

Sort of.

Sometimes.

A great deal of it comes down to awareness. 

For example, if there are two packages of butter available, for approximately the same price and one is in a plastic tub and the other is in a recycled cardboard tub, choose the 2nd. 

If, despite your best efforts, you end up with a plastic butter tub, don’t throw it away!  Save it.  Find a use for it.  If you simply can’t find anything to do with it, don’t throw it away!  Offer it on freecycle.org or, at the very least, recycle it.

That’s not so very difficult, right?

I’ve come to learn that my friendly neighborhood Meijer store offers a fabulous selection of organic and natural products at about the same price as the “other” stuff.  So I make the choice to shop there as much as possible.

I’ve done a great deal of trading this summer… home-made biodegradable laundry soap and deodorant in exchange for organic produce from the gardens of my neighbors.

So far so good, right?

But here’s where it all falls apart in the Hippie Household…

We are fast-food freaks. 

The whole family lights up with joy at the sight of greasy french fries in a little paper cup.

Even the baby.

But, oh….. the guilt!

What is in those fries?!? 

Were the potatoes grown in a bed of green ooze in a laboratory built on a sacred burial ground?

Was that paper cup made from the last remaining 1,000 year old tree, providing shelter to a tiny village in the Amazon? 

Will my children grow up to slur their speech and have a perpetual twitch under their left eye because we let them drink pasteurized chocolate milk through a PLASTIC straw?

Well….    a tad bit of research has made me feel a teeny bit better. 

I’ve learned that, again, awareness is a major factor in being kind to our dear planet.

I have to start with Chipotle.  I’ve never eaten there.  But I will!

Nearly EVERY site I went to had nothing but good things to say about Chipotle.  Apparently, they go out of their way to use organic beans, natural meats, hormone-free chicken and other “real” foods.  They also use biodegradable tableware and incorporate many environmentally friendly options into their buildings. 

There’s no guilt, eating at Chipotle!

Well… there are lots of beans on the menu, so you may produce some methane, which is a greenhouse gas, but… you know…. magical fruit and all that.

The second most mentioned place did not come as a big surprise to me. 

Subway offers some very nice choices including whole-grain breads and several tasty vegetarian options.  (Also, no beans.  hehehe.) 

They also offer the choice to decline the plastic bag that holds all your food, meaning that everything is packaged in 100% recycled paper.  Well done, Subway! 

Starbucks does pretty well.  They let you use your own cup, which is huge.  They also offer fair trade products and organics.  Of course, we’re not talking about a $.50 cup of coffee here, but still… if you’re in a rush (or just being lazy) feel free to enjoy your Starbucks relatively guilt free. 

Then I learned something that put a twinkle in my Christmas star…. a bow on my pretty present… an extra pretty sugar flower on my lovely frosted cake….

MCDONALD’S IS ECO-FRIENDLY!

Knock me over with a feather and call me stunned.

OK.  The food quality (in terms of being natural) can be abysmal.  Although… their artisan salads, all white meat chicken and some of their breakfast offerings are showing that they’re making an effort to move beyond the days of pink slime.

But McDonald’s gets high rankings (2 out of 4 leaves) from greenopia.com for filing a federal sustainability report, excellent building design (sorry, funnygurl.  I know how you feel about their new buildings), and good recycling practices. 

Compare McDonald’s to the rankings received by Arbys, Burger King, Dominos, Dunkin Donuts, Jack-in-the-Box, Pizza Hut, Sonic, Taco Bell and Wendy’s and McD’s comes out head and shoulders above.  It would seem that poor Ronald gets a bad rap!

MMmmm.   I love McDonald’s!

Honors for “trying hard” go to KFC.  In the past, they’ve offered very unhealthy food, wrapped in plastic and foam and served in baby seal skin bags. 

OK.  I made that last part up.  They weren’t quite THAT bad. But bad enough.

HOWEVER, KFC is making a great effort to reduce their use of styrofoam considerably and is the first fast-food chain to look into using reusable packaging for their food (based on the concept of the reusable shopping bags, made from recycled plastic shopping bags).

Five Guys gets kudos for using fresh potatoes to make fresh french fries, meaning there are no chemicals involved and also no processing or freezing so energy costs are reduced.  This isn’t even comparable to Wendy’s “natural cut” fries where the only part of nature involved seems to be the fact that they did actually come from a real potato at some point in their history.

BK is the only drive-thru place I found that offers a veggie burger.  That said, not a single site I came across had very nice things to say about their veggie burger except, “it seems healthier than a Whopper.”  Hmmm… not terribly inspiring.  I don’t think I’ll be dashing out for that any time soon.

So, you see, there are some choices out there that, while perhaps not perfect (except maybe Chipotle…. hmmm… tacos for lunch does sound good), are better than others. 

Something to keep an eye out for:  2 former McDonald’s executives and Oprah’s personal chef are opening up “LYFE Kitchen” in the coming months.  This will be a fast food chain specifically designed to be kind to the environment and offer healthy, non-fried, foods with lots of vegan, gluten free and dairy free choices, all under 600 calories.  Critics are going nuts over the taste and quality of these foods.

No big surprise, their first store will be in California, but they have big plans for expansion, and they could potentially change the whole industry! 

In the meantime, support those places that are making an effort and be aware…

Don’t take more napkins (straws, ketchup packets, etc) than you need.

Ask them to skip some of the packaging if possible.

Recycle what you can.

Everybody doing a little will mean a lot in the long run!

 

Good News For Sleepy People

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A happy hippie coffee mug if ever there was one!  I think I must find this and buy it!

So… it’s like this.

I’ve been tired.

I’m not talking about a 2pm slump.

I’m talking about the kind of tired where I’ve dozed off doing my business in the bathroom.  At least I haven’t done my business while dozing off elsewhere!  There is always a silver lining.

I started to explain exactly WHY I’m so tired (it’s not health-related, I promise), but then realized that you probably have better things to do with your day than read 1,000 words about how busy my summers are.

I’ll sum up:

Summers are lots of fun.  We get to have a lot of great family time.  I have the privilege to serve my community in wonderful, enjoyable ways.

Add all that fun and community to a 14-month-old who refuses to sleep and you are left with one Sleepy Hippie Mama.

The only reason I haven’t collapsed in a gooey heap of Hippie?

Coffee.

Lots and lots of coffee.

Pot after pot of the good stuff.

Oh, my dear friend, coffee.  You are truly one of the top 20 best things on Earth.  When God invented you, He was having an especially wonderful day.  You are fragrant and tasty and hot…. but sometimes cold and frothy.  Oh, how versatile you are!

But is coffee good or bad for a Hippie looking to be healthful and mindful of the Earth?

Well…  I have heard some conflicting reports.

I’ve shared once before that, because of coffee, I may live forever.

I have also heard that it will give me high cholesterol and destroy the rainforest.

Being a coffee-guzzling Hippie, I thought I’d look into the facts and share them with you.

It turns out that coffee has a lot of health BENEFITS including lowering the chance of diabetes, kidney stones and gall bladder problems.  It’s also good for the prostate, though, being a woman and all,  I’ve never especially worried about my prostate.

Some research has shown that coffee can negatively affect the condition of the arteries and heart muscle but here’s the thing…

Coffee has something called diterpenes – cafestol and kahweol.  These are, apparently, bad.  BUT… they are very nearly completely filtered out if you use a good quality, unbleached,  paper filter.  Ever get a cup of coffee that looks greasy?  That greasy stuff is what’s bad for you.

Also, a light or medium roast is better, as dark-roasting kills all of the good antioxidants that coffee gives you.

I found a few great articles about the health pros and cons of coffee, here and here.

I also learned that coffee can be bad for the environment.

Traditionally, coffee was grown in small, shady patches.  It was then discovered that greater profit could be made by razing huge stretches of native vegetation, planting coffee in the sun, and then dousing it with huge amounts of chemicals.

That’s about as bad for the environment as you can get.

BUT…

Due to an increased public awareness of this practice, and a realization that the rain forest is our friend, many growers are returning to traditional practices.  If you read the label on your coffee and look for terms like, “Organic,” “Chemical-free,” “Fair-trade,” or “Local Co-Op,” you will find a product that is not only friendlier to the earth, but friendlier to the often-impoverished local economies where coffee is grown.  You can learn lots of details about coffee and its impact on the environment here.

All of that is interesting and good to know, right?

But here is the best thing!

It’s wonderful news!

It should be on every news report in the world!

There are studies that show that coffee reduces the risk of suicide!

I know exactly why that is.

It’s because when you’ve been up until midnight, after a 14 hour day on your feet,  making sure that an event goes off without a hitch, and your baby wanted to play from 3am-5am, and your alarm goes off at 6:30 so you can start all over again….

your good friend, coffee, is there for you…. clearing away the cobwebs and helping you lift yourself into an upright position.

(Coffee Powered Mom, I know you know what I’m talking about!)

I didn’t find any articles about coffee being linked to homicide prevention, but I bet if someone did the research the results would be very favorable.

So, drink that fabulous Dunkin’ Donuts Blend (my personal favorite and, also a Fair-Trade product!) and be healthy and guilt-free, dear readers.

Ahhh… coffee.  I think I’ll go refill my smiley Santa mug right now.

Get your hippie on, dear readers!  It’s gonna be a wonderful week, full of happy surprises in the midst of the busy-ness.  I’ll see you back here in a day or so.

***Coming someday in the future (maybe):  an article on addiction and the benefits of moderation.  But I’m not quite ready to let go of my cup and write that one yet.

Would You Like a Little Bleach With Your Chicken?

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Mmmm. Doesn’t that look lovely? Wouldn’t you like to drizzle a little Clorox over the top of it?

I was clicking through some headlines today and saw one by a favorite blogger of mine, Putting Down Roots.  In the post, she mentions that poultry in the USA must be dipped in bleach before it is sold in supermarkets.

Surely I read that wrong.  Bleach?!

I did a little research and, sadly, it’s true.  I’m not talking about nasty, processed “Pink Slime.”  I’m talking about that lovely “healthy” boneless skinless chicken breast you just bought at Kroger.  It’s been dipped in bleach.  The stuff that will kill you if you drink it.

This is not necessarily the choice of the farmers or the meat packers or the markets.  The federal government requires it.  There are many other ways to keep poultry free from bacteria including NOT mass producing or soaking in electrolyzed water.  We don’t use those methods.  We bathe our meat in chlorine.  Only farmers selling to individuals, not markets, are exempt from this particularly disgusting regulation.

It turns out there are warnings all over the internet in which European and Asian citizens are telling each other to be wary of poultry from America as it’s been “contaminated” by bleach.

I’m officially convinced.  I’ll be finding a local farmer to buy my poultry from from now on.  I will be able to see where the animals lived and I will know how fresh the meat is and I can be fairly sure that it hasn’t been soaked in the same stuff that burns through the fibers in my clothes if I use it too often.  If I was allowed by city ordinance I’d buy some chickens and just raise them myself!

Buying local makes more sense every single day!

A Serious Question, Another Week of Veggies, And No Green Slime

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Argh! Salad!

“I do not understand my own actions, for I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… I can will what it right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”

OK, read it again if you must.  I realize it sounds like something from the 3 stooges but it’s actually from the Bible.  The apostle Paul wrote it in his letter to the Romans.  I know exactly what he means.  Don’t we all?  We want to exercise, but we watch TV instead.  We want to eat well but we buy that bag of chips anyway.  We mean to stop procrastinating, but we wait until tomorrow to start.  Why do we do that?

I felt SO GOOD after my week of veganism.  I had more energy than I had had in just about forever.  I felt stronger and thinner. My skin looked better. I was proud of myself.  But I slipped back into all my old habits of processed food and Big Macs anyway.

I was telling my Handsome Hippie Hubby this and he said, “I feel the same way! I want to eat well, but I just don’t.  And then I hate the way I look and feel.”

Why do we do that?!

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Well!  There is an easy enough solution to this problem, we agreed.  We will go on another “veggie fast.”  Except this time I’m keeping cheese.  I will keep it to a minimum, but I just missed cheese too much to go without it again.  We are not putting a time limit on it this time, except to say, “at least one week.”

So this morning is off to a great start.  Arrowhead Mills makes a puffed rice cereal that is just that: puffed rice.  Nothing else.  It is like mildly crunchy air.  But if you add a big handful of fresh mixed berries and some soy milk it’s not so bad at all.

I also gnoshed on a piece of spelt toast. Yesterday I discovered that Meijer now sells their own line of organic whole grain breads (score another point on the “you rock!” board for Meijer).  Here’s what I have to say about that….   These breads cost about $.75 a loaf more than the Meijer brand wheat or white sandwich bread.  That puts them at about the same cost as any other brand of “regular” bread.  But that single piece of spelt bread probably weighed as much as half a loaf of the white stuff.  It was very filling, and it was so flavorful!  I frequently eat 2 sandwiches at a time because I don’t feel full.  I’m not sure I could finish a single one if I used this stuff! If you do the math that way, I’d eat half as much so it would actually cost less.  I love things that cost less!

I’ll be heading to all my favorite foodie sites this week, and if any of you have suggestions PLEASE feel free to share!  I feel a little better equipped going in this time than I did last, but still… one can only eat so many bowls of tofu scramble and lentil soup.

Oh… and, about the green slime.  I confess.  I’m probably going to skip it.  It’s healthy and filling and easy to make but… well… yeah.  Perhaps I’ll enjoy a lovely fruit smoothie.  Without spinach.

What I’m really getting at, with this whole post is this:

I know that some of you run every day.  Or you nearly always eat healthy.  Or you clean off your kitchen counters every night no matter how tired you are.  Or you always fold the laundry the minute it is dry.

Tell me, how do you keep that kind of motivation?  I can do it for a little while.  But eventually I take a day off.  And then one day turns to two.  And then a week and a month and so on.  How do you look into an eternity of no bacon and not just throw in the towel?  I mean, we all have the little voice in our head that says, “You know, you shouldn’t eat that.”  But what actually spurs you to listen to it?  Day after day after day…..

How do you get yourself to do the things you want to do and not do the things you don’t want to do which is what most of us do even though we want to do the right thing?

Ha!  Paul’s got nothin’ on me when it comes to tongue twisters!

Nasty Vile Horrible Blood Sucking Fiends and How To Avoid Them

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Death to mosquitoes!

Why can’t mosquitos suck fat instead of blood?

Why didn’t Noah swat the two mosquitoes?

People who claim they don’t let the little things get to them have never been closed in a room with a single mosquito.

No one is feeling any love for the mosquito.  I know I’m not.  They are foul, nasty, vile, annoying, horrible, germ infested, hideous little creatures.  (I’m working on not holding back my true feelings) I have no idea why a loving God would create such a beast.  My best explanation is that they must have escaped from the bowels of Hell to torment us.  I really really hate mosquitoes.

My hatred began when I was a teen.  I got the world’s most awesome job as a camp councilor.  Odd… I was so excited to do it back then, for barely minimum wage.  20 years later/older I’m not sure you could pay me enough.  Huh. Go figure.  But I digress.

That was the summer that I learned that I could, as can most anyone, handle a bite or two.  Or five.  Or ten.  But somewhere after that my body reached a threshold past which no more nasty mosquito venom would be tolerated.  Each bite swelled to horrific proportions.  A single bite could cover my entire calf or half my face.  They were swollen and rock hard.  Lovely. Just the look every 16-year-old girl is striving for.  And then, a few bites later, a rash of tiny purple spots broke out all over me.  Oh… that was pretty.  Some Benadryl helped get things under control and I learned to soak in DEET before heading out doors.  Or falling asleep.  Or walking to breakfast.  Just so you know… if you are at a camp in the woods, surrounded by lakes, in a place that gets rain at least once a week and has an average temperature of 85 degrees there is NO escaping the tiny little freaks.  Or the mosquitoes either.

Fast forward 15 years or so.  I was living in the desert.  It only rained one month out of the year and then only for an hour or so each day.  There was one tree in my neighborhood and the only water was in the heavily chlorinated swimming pool.  We had killer bees and fire ants and scorpions, but there wasn’t a mosquito in sight.  Well, there was ONE mosquito, apparently.  I’m guessing it came into the neighborhood trapped in the luggage of some unsuspecting tourist.  And it bit my two-year-old daughter and gave her West Nile Virus. They are from the bowels of Hell… I’m telling you!  Thanks to God and her extraordinary doctor she was fine.  Eventually.  After the worst weeks of my life.  I wouldn’t wish West Nile on my worst enemy.  Well… maybe…. no.  Not even on her.

So trust me when I say that I understand the need for a great bug repellent.

But, if you have read anything I’ve ever written you know that I’m not a big fan of people dousing themselves in harsh chemicals.  I think even less of soaking a child in them.  And DEET (the most common active ingredient in insect repellent) is definitely harsh.  Proven side effects (as in: disclosed on the side of the package) include shortness of breath, muscle spasms, headache, memory loss, and brain damage.  The Environmental Protection Agency says that this only occurs if you are exposed to a huge quantity OR small quantities repeatedly over time.  Like… maybe just a little bit every evening, every summer of your life?  Hmmm…..

So, what’s a mom to do?

Well…   here are some tips, some thoughts from others, and a surprising recommendation from the United States Center For Disease Control.

First of all, understand that there are, approximately, four hundred and sixty two thousand, six hundred and three jazillion different types of mosquitoes.  And each type is a little different.  They are attracted to different scents at different times of day, etc. Further, there are some people who are genetically predisposed to be more attractive to these horrid insects.  Yes. It’s true.  If it seems like you bear a mosquito curse, you are probably one of these folks.  The other group that is in for a hard time is pregnant woman.  The heady cocktail of an increased volume of blood in the body, increased propensity to sweat, and raging hormones is, apparently, like a mosquito buffet.  If you are one of the cursed, the milder measures below aren’t going to do much for you. Skip to the part about sprays.

First, as with all things, the foods you eat, have an effect.  Salt and potassium are attractants.  So, you may want to avoid salty foods if you’re camping out.  I can’t, in good conscience, tell you to avoid potassium since it’s found in pretty much all the healthiest fruits and veggies, but maybe you could steer clear of super-potassium foods like bananas and acorn squash if you are going to be outdoors a lot.  Beer is also a huge attractor. In 2011, French researchers discovered that people who have beer in their system are 15% more likely to be bitten.  Marijuana smokers are also more likely to be bitten.  They probably don’t care about it as much as the rest of us. But, in the interest of full disclosure, I felt I should mention it.

On the other hand, garlic, sage, rosemary and thyme (Wait… isn’t there a song like that?) all repel mosquitoes.  This is true if you eat them, but also if you make a tea and rinse your skin with it OR if you burn the herbs over a campfire or grill.

The clothes you wear also matter.  Mosquitoes are drawn to dark colors.  I don’t know why.  But, whatever the reason, here’s another incentive to where lighter shades: dark colors are hot and miserable in the summer so you’re more likely to sweat and sweat ALSO attracts mosquitoes.

And the time of day matters.  Mosquitoes are out in the highest concentrations at sunrise and sunset.  Keep in mind, though, that this is a generalization.  There are a few that love the heat of day and a few that will buzz about all night long.  Whining,  In that horrible high-pitched drone.  Ugh.  Demon spawn.

So….

Here is the surprising thing I found.

The #1 most effective mosquito repellant, as recommended by the CDC (at least in 2002, it was the most recent report I could find) is…. wait for it…. dum-da-da-dah!  ALL NATURAL!!!!!    That’s right!  Repel brand, lemon eucalyptus repellent is the single most effective product on the market.  As you may have guessed, the active ingredients are lemon juice and eucalyptus.  It gives nearly twice the protection than Off Skintastic for Kids.  I know!  I was shocked too!

So why is there any other product on the market?  Well… apparently it’s fairly stinky.

OK.  So… the #2 most effective mosquito repellant, as recommended by the CDC IS ALSO ALL NATURAL!!!!   I know! Knock me over with a feather!  Bite Blocker is made from geranium, soybean and coconut oils and retails for around $10 a bottle.

And, as far as I can find, there is no one online complaining about the smell.

Please keep in mind that some herbal products, particularly rosemary oil, can be dangerous for pregnant women.  Always play it safe and have products okay-ed by your doctor or midwife before using them!

I feel I should be honest.  I started my research on this with the idea that a natural home-made product could suffice for everyday situations but that, if you are a camp councilor, perhaps DEET is called for on occasion.  And perhaps it is.  I know NOTHING about fleas and ticks and other horrible blood sucking parasites that feed on hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts who spend their “leisure” time schlepping through the murky dark woods.  I hope to never find out.  BUT… assuming that, for the most part, you are trying to protect your precious skin – and that of your family – during an evening at the park or outside BBQ… it really doesn’t seem there is any need to ever soak yourself in brain-cell-killing chemicals again.  Unless they come in a glass with salt on the rim.  But that is a post for another day.

It is a gorgeous summer day!  Go slap on some eucalyptus juice and enjoy it!

On Green Slime and Other Things I Ate Last Week

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Thursday night we grilled portabella mushrooms, green peppers, onions and pineapple and had a little picnic outside. Very yummy!

Today my 7 days of veganism/sort-of Ezekial diet/anti-processed-food made-up detox diet are up.  You all were a big help to me!  I never would have gotten through my week without you.  Thank you!

I often tell Handsome Hippie Hubby that I’m going to the store for “staples.”  This means, in our house, bread (usually whatever store-brand wheat bread that is on sale), eggs, milk, cheese, pasta and ground beef (or sometimes chicken).  From these ingredents I can build almost anything!  I’m not Wolfgang Puck, but I can put together a decent meal.  I’m pretty good at tacos and enchiladas, fried chicken, sloppy joes, burgers, spaghetti, and home-made mac and cheese.

Know that about me and then drop me in a wheat-free, vegan world.  After a day of eating salad I sent out a Plea For Help.  I needed some real FOOD, you know?  I simply didn’t know what to eat or how to prepare it.  Boy, did I get answers!  There was a great response in the comments, on Facebook, and in person.

Several people recommended “green shakes,” or “green smoothies.”  There are a lot of recipes out there, but the basic idea is 1/2 (or a little less, depending who you ask) spinach or other green leafy veggie and 1/2 fruit with a splash of water or almond milk.  On drinking green slime I have to say…. it’s not that bad.  I probably wouldn’t be lying around watching TV and thinking, “Golly, you know what sounds good?  A spinach smoothie!”  But the fruit made it sweet and it was very filling and I felt good about so many healthy foods going into my body.

I explored the world of tofu (pretty good!), and vegan chili (eh.  It was OK.).  I ate a lot of mushrooms.  I think it’s because the texture gave my food some substance that was “meaty.”  Strawberries are in season right now so they are cheap and exceptionally sweet.  I must have eaten 4 pounds of them.  The only bread I had was on Thursday when we grilled portabella mushroom “burgers.”

I visited two sites, almost daily, to get ideas:

http://blog.canadianparents.com/veggiemama/

http://beccasgreenkitchen.wordpress.com/

Overall, I have to call the week a great success.  I would recommend 7 days of this randomly created “detox” diet to anyone who’s just feeling bloated and bogged down.  I was warned that I would feel worse before I felt better but I really didn’t.  By day 2 I had noticeably more energy and the random achyness and ill feeling I’d been experiencing started to ease.  I slept more soundly and woke up feeling more refreshed.  The week didn’t have anything to do with appearance or weight loss.  I just wanted to give my body a rest from all the chemicals and processed junk that I tend to gravitate toward.  That said… I lost 9 pounds!  In seven days!  (And, truth be told, I cheated on the last day and had a hotdog).  Granted, I’m guessing a large portion of that was because less sodium = less water.  But, still!

In a stroke of synchronicity this article was Freshly Pressed over the weekend.  The author started off where I was a week ago and ended up a whole-foods evangelist of sorts.  I wish I could say I had that level of enthusiasm and perseverance.  But I’m a sucker for a Pizza Hut ad.  I enjoyed the foods I ate this week very much.  But I also found that it was a lot of work to eat healthy.  21 meals a week + snacks need to be washed and sliced and cooked (as opposed to opened and thawed). All that prep dirtied a lot of dishes.  I ended up going to the market 3 times (I usually go 2-3 times a month) because veggies don’t have much of a shelf life.  I think the expense probably comes out about the same since organics cost more than “regular” produce but less than meat.*

I don’t want to lose the great, healthy feeling I have right now.

I don’t want to find the 9 lbs I lost.

But I miss meat and cheese and ice cream.  Oh, my dear friend, ice cream.

So I’m thinking maybe this doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing proposition in my life.  Just like using “one less” napkin can help save the planet, perhaps eating from my new menu just some of the time, can be a step in the right direction.  I’m thinking I could probably commit to 4 days a week.  That means I’ll be eating well (and so will my family) more often than not.  Who knows, I may grow as a person and find, someday, that I no longer mind the shopping and washing and slicing and cooking so much.  Maybe, when my body gets used to green slime and tofu I’ll no longer have such a taste for pepperoni and cheese.

After all, life is a journey, right?  See you along the path!

* A little P.S. – When I lived in Tucson, every corner market had a lovely selection of organic produce and free-range meat.  In Michigan… not so much.  My local market has a few items but they are really more of a convenience store than a super market.  Wal-Mart had virtually nothing.  And their regular produce was horrible.  One more reason for me to never go in there.  Kroger had a lot of great healthy choices and they were very nicely organized and easy to find.  And really really really expensive.  Some of their organics were 3 and 4 times the cost of the “regular” items.  MEIJER, however, wins 4 gold stars in my book.  Their organics and vegetarian choices are a little hard to find.  They are not really in their own section and they are not really mixed in completely so you have to go searching in seemingly random places.  But, if you can find them, the selection is impressive and the prices are very competitive.  Plus, since they are a Michigan-based company I could feel good about keeping my dollars (relatively) local.