Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Living Organically: Clean House Questions

I’m going to take a crack at answering your questions. First, I got out my Home Safe Home book. For those of you who ran directly to the library in great excitement to check it out, you immediately discovered that Virginia Dadd isn’t the author—it’s Debra Lynn Dadd. Sorry about that. Maybe Virginia is Debra’s sister. Or cousin or something.

So moving through the questions. . .

Bridget asked about a “clean” smell. Well, I wouldn’t describe vinegar as a clean smell. In fact, it’s pretty smelly when you’re actually using it. The boys always run in and smell it and then run out. Bu the thing is that it dissipates really quickly and there’s no smell at all. I know we all grew up with those “clean” smells and my personal favorite is Murphy’s Oil soap, but I think that some of the “clean” smells aren’t necessarily the healthiest. In fact, not too long ago I read something specifically about pine scented cleaning stuff like PineSol and how toxic it is. So I’m wondering now, should clean smell like anything? I don’t know the answer to that.

As for the baking soda, it’s not abrasive at all. I used it on my lovely sink in Ohio and there was nary a scratch mark. In fact, before I switched to baking soda, I was using a “soft scrub” type of product. I actually thought it had done something to the finish in the sink. The baking soda was tons better than anything else.

Leeann asked about using vinegar on granite. I did a search on this and got really mixed results. Some people said, “Yes, I use it, no problem.” Other people said, “No way, don’t do it.” I’d check with the people who installed your counter and see what they say. I’m totally jealous that you have granite counters.

As for the Melaleuca laundry detergent, yes, it does work for front loading machines, no problem. And the scent is really no scent at all. It’s unscented so I’m not sure what I’m smelling! Clean clothes? What a novel idea! But no, we don’t have any reaction or rashes or anything.

Ann, for cleaning your wood floors, here’s what it says in the book Clean & Green:

All purpose floor cleaner—1 cup vinegar to one pail of water. Wash the floor as you normally would.

How’s that for vague? I read somewhere else to use a one to four ratio of vinegar to water.

There’s also a floor disinfectant “recipe”:
½ cup Borax, 2 gallons hot water. Pour Borax into bottom of bucket. Add water. Stir to dissolve. Proceed as usual.

And I’m glad you had such good luck with baking soda in your sink!

Sheila wrote about vinegar for sunburn—I never in a million years would have thought of that. In fact, vinegar seems like it would sting. But I’m definitely going to try it because one thing is certain: I will at some point remember to put sunscreen on everyone but myself. And it will be sooner rather than later. Although it’s supposed to snow tonight so the urgency isn’t imminent.

Cindy, from everything I’ve read, vinegar is actually a disinfectant. It took me awhile to get behind the concept that I wasn’t using something officially labeled “antibacterial,” but I found and read an article that in the U.S., Heinz can’t label its vinegar as antibacterial without registering it as pesticide. And I’m guessing if they did that, their sales of “pesticide labeled vinegar” would fall off dramatically. Apparently here in the U.S. you can’t have it both ways.

In Home Safe Home, it talks about how a lot of essential oils have antibacterial properties. Cinnamon is apparently one of the most potent! But here’s what it says about vinegar: “Vinegar can also be used as a disinfectant. She (the author) recommends straight vinegar for cleaning the toilet rim—spray it on and wipe it off.”

Slicker, I’ll e-mail you directly with Melaleuca info. You don’t actually need someone near you—the company ships straight to your door.

Sweeney, way to go! You’re on your way. Next step—bread baking! Ha! And I will write about personal care items next.

Oh my word. It’s 10pm and I haven’t done my work yet.

See you next time for Living Organically: A Chemical Free Body. Wait, that makes me sound like a recovering drug user. I’ll think of a better title before then.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Living Organically, Part Four: Clean House

I can sum up my "recipe" for cleaning without chemicals in one picture:

Truly, that's it. I sat down and tried to think of everything I use to clean, and this was it. It's simple and it's cheap. I'm sure I don't need to run down the whole list of why you should stear clear of cleaning products with chemicals. I cringe to think of all of the crap we inhaled prior to changing. Personally, I've decided that anything that's marked as poisonous isn't something I want to be breathing. Plus, it's better for the environment.

When Marci arranged for the cleaning service for us after Finn was diagnosed, I noticed that they cleaned with vinegar. I was intrigued. How could vinegar clean? Little did I know. White vinegar can do about everything. I buy it in those huge plastic bottles at Costco. I think that big bottle is less than $3. It might even be less than $2. I also buy the big bags of baking soda at Costco. They're in the mid $4 range. The big box of Borax is from WalMart for under $4. You can get smaller boxes at the grocery store, but they're way more expensive.

Here's a rundown of what I clean and how:

Toilets--The bowl. Flush. After the bowl has filled again, sprinkle the Borax around. You can let it sit for awhile or go ahead and scrub. For the rim, seat and other parts of the toilet, I use straight white vinegar. I just spray it on and wipe. Also, because sponges gross me out, I use Costo's paper towels, which you can actually scrub and scour with because they're so strong. I know this environmentally horrible because I'm using so much paper towel. I just hope I'm making up for it by using environmentally conscious products. Does it work like that?

Sinks, shower trays, bathtubs, stuff like that--I sprinkle in some baking soda and then add a little water which makes a paste. Scrub. The end. Seriously, when we built our house in Ohio, I had chosen this amazing gourmet kitchen sink. I loved that sink, and I still miss it. At any rate, it was a light color and it would stain. For years I tried a zillion different types of cleansers. And they got the stains out, kinda sorta. But because I am anal retentive, I was never really satisfied. Then I switched to baking soda and that was that. It didn't even require much more scrubbing. It was like some sort of crazy miracle.

The baking soda "paste" is also great for hard water marks. We use it on the glass of our shower and it takes it right off. And believe me, you ain't seen hard water until you get your water from mountain runoff. It's like rock deposits. So trust me, this works.

Mirrors--Straight vinegar in a spray bottle. I use paper towels, but there are die hards who swear by cleaning mirrors with vinegar and newspaper for a streak-free shine, but all that newsprint on my hands grosses me out.

Wood floors--Diluted white vinegar and water. But check with your flooring manufacturer on this one. It's what we were told in our last house when we had a new wood floor, but I don't want to ruin anyone's floor.

Countertops--straight white vinegar. Stovetop--straight white vinegar. Spill chicken juice on the counter? Straight white vinegar. Hangover remedy? Straight white vinegar. OK, I'm kidding on that one, but white vinegar is to me as Windex was to the dad in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." I just can't think of a single thing I don't use it for.

Laundry--The boys and I all have really sensitive skin, so we've used natural laundry detergent for years. But last summer I switched to Melaleuca and I love it. It takes just one ounce to wash a full load. I'm a huge, huge fan. I don't always recommend brands on the blog, but when there's something I really, really like, I'll let you know. Anyway, I use the Melaleuca liquid detergent and also the fabric softener, BUT I don't put the fabric softener in the wash. Nope, here's what I do: To the wash I put a one ounce pump of the detergent, about a half cup of baking soda (I could probably stop this because the Melaleuca is that good, but I got in the habit of using it when I used a different natural detergent that didn't get things as clean as Meleleuca does and I just haven't stopped), and then I fill a Downy Ball with white vinegar and throw it in there. The white vinegar is a natural fabric softener. Bizarre, I know. But I still then take an old washcloth and spray it 5 or so times with the Melaleuca fabric softener. It's just so dry here I feel like we need the extra static control. Plus I love the way it smells.

There are tons of other things you can do around the house and not use chemicals. You can use vinegar for weed control in your yard, toothpaste to clean your silver (if you own a silver service like my mother who used to make me clean it), or unclog your drains with baking soda and vinegar. Speaking of drains, that's possibly my favorite "green" cleaning thing to do.

Drains--To keep your drains running smoothly and smell fresh (because have you ever noticed how nasty your drain gets?), pour one cup of baking soda down. Then pour in vinegar. Voila--you've got your basic 7th grade science class volcano on your hands. Add vinegar until it stops bubbling. Or you can keep putting baking soda and vinegar in there and watching it for fun to see what roils out of there, like I do. When all the bubbling is done though, pour boiling water down there. Ahhh, fresh, clean drains.

I learned all of this info from either my sisters (of course) or two different books that I really like: Home Safe Home by Virginia Dadd or Clean and Green, whose author I don't remember and am too lazy to walk downstairs to see who it is.

So that's it! Use up what chemicals you've got and then go out and get yourself some vats of vinegar and baking soda. It's tons cheaper and your lungs will thank you for it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


4:00pm MST
OK, my profile is going to look weird for awhile. I started a different blog for a PTA project (improving the school lunch program) and I didn't realize I should have started a new account. And of course, I didn't want to talk about my hair on the healthy food blog. So I changed it, and it changed both. Should have seen that coming. So just ignore calls to sign the guestbook to improve school lunches in Eagle County Schools!

Fixed it! Just ignore me! I have no idea what I'm doing. It stinks to be so technically inept.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

No Evidence of Disease!

I swear I'll be back later this week with more Living Organically, because I just know you're pineing away for that information, but I'm swamped with work deadlines.

However, I did want to share that we got Finn's bone marrow test results today--No Evidence of Disease. And that, as you can imagine, is very, very good news!

Friday, April 18, 2008


1,463 days after Finn's port was put in, it was taken out.

We're home. No complications, no problems, just one hungry kid whose surgery was delayed an extra hour (an eternity). He also had a final bone marrow aspirate done. We'll get the results from that next week.

We are very, very grateful. And tired.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Finding True Love

Me: "I want you to know that I love you. No matter what I've said before to the contrary, I do love you. You fulfill me as a woman. I feel whole again because of you. Thank you for that."

Produce Guy at City Market: "Um, OK."

Me: "It's not just that you have totally remodeled the store, but I do love that. It's that you actually have organic cucumbers that aren't rotting on the shelf. You carry red AND green kale, and that makes me want to weep. And the young coconuts? When I saw them, I was verklempt. I don't know if I can put it into words how I'm feeling."

Produce Guy at City Market: "Um, OK."

Me: "I will pine for Whole Foods no more! Your updated produce department filled with fresh, organic veggies; the new meat and seafood counter; the wider array of organic grocery items!" {GASP} "I even saw kefir in the dairy section!" {Sob}. . ."Any chance you'll add a bulk food section?"

Produce Guy at City Market: "Let's not get carried away here, lady."

Tonight I was nearly giddy at the grocery store, practically skipping through the aisles with my cart. Our local grocery store, City Market, which is owned by Kroger, used to be an embarassment of a store. Our limited selection of organic produce was limp and lifeless. We had no meat counter. The selection of organic items was pretty limited. I was sad. I tried not to shop there and I pretty much had to drive to Glenwood Springs if I wanted specific organic items. But no more! As of today, our newly remodeled store is fully stocked and ready to go. I went for the 2-for-1 organic strawberry special, and I stayed--browsing, humming and smiling at all those I could annoy around me.

When I returned home a mere one hour later, the following had occurred:

Yep, more than two new inches of snow fell in one single hour.

All told, we've got about 4 1/2 new inches of snow. Vail Pass is allegedly closed. Should make for an interesting trip to Denver tomorrow.

Finn's surgery is schedule for 12:30pm MST on Friday. He was annoyed when he heard he wouldn't get to eat breakfast at the hotel on Friday morning. When Declan expressed concern about Finn hurting during the surgery, Finn said, "Don't worry Declan. They're going to give me knock out medicine and I won't feel a thing." He is concerned, however, with how quickly he will be allowed to eat chicken nuggets after the fact. Let's all hope it's soon.

I'll update when we get home Friday evening.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I've Been Tagged

Leeann tagged me for a meme. Heck, I don't know what meme is, but it looks like fun and this is apparently how it works:

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player tags 5 people and posts their name, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

The Questions and My Answers. . .
What I was doing 10 years ago:
If my memory serves me correctly, which is probably doesn't, we were saving money like crazy (because we didn't have kids and you can actually do that when you don't have kids) to build a house. It was The Year of Travel. During a 12-month span, we went to New York City (business/pleasure), the Grand Canyon (a pleasure trip if you define pleasure as riding a mule into the canyon), England--twice!, and Hawaii (business/pleasure). Then we moved into our house in August of '98. I miss you Charlene. ..

Five Snacks I enjoy:
In a perfect, non weight-gaining world. . .
1. Mumfords potato chips and Grandma Moffitt's cream cheese onion dip
2. Tortilla chips and con queso dip
3. Sour cream cake doughnuts from Krispy Kreme
4. Calamari--fried!
5. Graeter's ice cream--butter pecan, cinnamon, peanut butter chip

In the real world. . .
1. Popcorn
2. Fruit
3. Cereal
4. Trail mix with raw, unsalted nuts. . .sigh
5. Yogurt or kefir

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
1. Retire right this second
2. Completely pay for the kids' college now
3. Donate generously
4. Give tons of money to my family
5. Build a ranch and have horses, chickens, goats, maybe cows, and raise bees and I'd ride around on the range on my trusty steed

Five jobs that I have had:
1. Cashier at Drug Emporium
2. Concession stand at the pool
3. Lifeguard
4. Office worker at the pool
5. Babysitter

Three of my habits:
1. Staying up too late
2. I must have popcorn when I watch a movie
3. Flossing my teeth

Five places I have lived:
1. Columbus, Ohio
2. Orlando, Florida
3. Cincinnati, Ohio
4. Oxford, Ohio
5. Eagle, Colorado

Five People I Want to Get to Know Better:
(A nice way of saying TAG!) But don't feel obligated, ladies (I realize I only read one man's blog)! If you've got the time and inclination, great. If not, no problem!

1. 1dreamr
2. utahsweeney
3. mountain mama
4. skywalkerbeth
5. Good-Dees

And if anyone wants to reveal to me what a meme is in the world of blogging, please do.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Living Organically: FAQ

So finally I'm back with some answers to your questions you posted (like I'm some sort of authority of something). Again, I apologize that I never answered some of these before. My ISP is still spamming all comments from the blog so I don't know what the heck to do!

Anyway, my answers/thoughts:

Amber wanted to know where I purchased raw foods in Ohio and how did I find the raw milk co-op we joined.

I bought "raw" food at a combination of places, but by far the best was through the food co-op I belonged to. Basically, these was this woman who lived in Clintonville and she had organized a buying club through United Natural Foods. United supplies tons of grocery stores, organic and conventional, all over the U.S. You can join an existing club or form your own. I was fortunate enough to be able to join one that was already in existence. Each buying club is run differently. Mary, the woman who started ours, didn't charge a fee, which was nice. We were able to buy from United's entire product line typically at a huge savings over places like Whole Foods or Wild Oats. I would notice that sometimes the stores were cheaper--for example cereal tends to be a loss leader in the stores. They sell it really cheap to get you in there and buy other stuff. So once I experimented and realized what I should buy where, it got easier. There was definitely a learning curve. You can contact United directly and they'll tell you if there are buying clubs in your area. That's how I found Mary.

So that's what I did for grocery items. For produce, I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture Group) that was based north of Delaware, where we lived in Ohio. Ours was called Jumping Spider. And from late April to October, we got more organic produce than we could use. In fact, we split a share with our neighbors and it was still a lot to consumer. Charlene, remember all that kale?!?!? If only I'd known then what I know now! You can look for CSAs in your area on www.localharvest.org (for some reason I can't get that link to be active--sorry).

I found the dairy farmer through the CSA. It's all interconnected! Our farmer was based outside Mount Vernon and I had to drive to get it, but it was worth it. I drove up every four weeks and the kids loved it, especially when the calves were being born. I got my own milk directly out of the milk tank--talk about fresh! Out here, the farmer delivers it to our town and we leave our coolers out for him. But in Ohio, I went to get it. I have to say, as glad as I am that we do have the raw milk here, I thought our milk in Ohio was better. I can't quite put my finger on why, but it stayed fresher longer and it just had an amazing taste. If anyone is interested in the raw milk in Ohio, e-mail me directly at nrooney@centurytel.net. I think I'd have to get permission from the farmer to give out his name. Raw milk distribution, sadly, is a very sensitive issue and the farmers have to be really careful to do everything by the book.

Kim wanted to know about the oat groats that I eat. Kim, I do soak them overnight (with a few almonds), but they don't absorb all the water. There's still water in the bowl the next morning. I just drain and rinse them, THEN I pour on the raw milk and top with raisins and cranberries. . .and maybe a little raw agave or maple syrup. My sisters and I were giggling over the fact that we feel like horses when we eat this. It's very chewy. I prefer them this way, but my sisters like them ground up in the Vita Mix with fruit. It's more like oatmeal. But cold.

As for my dehydrator, I ended up getting the 9-tray Excalibur. I remember when I was shopping for both the Bosch mixer and later the dehydrator and I would think, "hmmm, I could buy the smaller versions for much less." Then Erin would remind me that my small boys would one day be big boys with big appetites and I might regret having the smaller capacity machines. Heck, they're only 8 and 5 now and I already see that she was completely right. Rock on, Erin. The thing I love about the Excalibur dehydrator is that I can put odd shaped things in there. I can leave trays out and put bowls of stuff in there (that's how I make kefir). I'm not restricted to making flat things. Love that dehydrator. Did I talk about the cookies I made in there? Delish. Erin's kids ate them for breakfast, which is a-ok because they were just soaked oat groats, maple syrup, and then all sorts of fruit. I ate the "dough" in excess. . .

Anonymous asked if eating raw was expensive. The answer is yes. . .and no. It depends on what raw "philosophy" you end up following. If you're like Frederic Patenaude, who describes himself as a frugavore, I think eating raw is cheap. He just eats fruits and veggies and some seeds. If you follow some of the others who incorporate more nuts into their diets, that's where it gets expensive. Because I don't belong to a food co-op out here (United has restrictions on buying clubs here because it's such a small community and they don't want to tick off their grocery stores) I don't have a good source for raw nuts that doesn't cost a fortune. So does that help? Frugavore seems to equal a cheaper way to eat raw. I can get seeds pretty cheaply through Vitamin Cottage or Whole Foods when I have access to it. . .like last weekend when I was in Park City. Had to make a pilgrammage to Whole Foods. I only spent $68 which was some sort of record.

Makesmesmile asked if we can trust if things are organic. Good question because there have been stories out there that talk about how farms aren't following organic practices even though their products are stamped as organic. There have also been stories that all organics aren't created equal. For example, once Horizon started mass producing and was selling through Wal-Mart, stories circulated that some of their farms weren't following protocol. Unfortunately, sometimes Horizon is the only brand available to me here in a small town. So I buy it and hope for the best. As for specifics about meat, which was what you specifically asked and I've rambled on about dairy, I haven't heard about certain brands being better or worse. I used to get pork from our butcher in Ohio, but I have yet to see organic pork here. I can almost always now get beef, chicken, and bison, which is actually really good.

Laurie S. did I answer all of your questions about organic milk vs. raw milk? I still need to e-mail you about Swiminc!

1dreamer you made me laugh with your floaters comment, but so here's where I have a question for you. I've heard the same thing about floating poop. But why did Dr. Oz say it should float? I've never picked up that tidbit so if you've got that particular scoop. . .about poop. . .let me know.

Bridget I think $2.99 for 2 lbs. of flax seeds seems pretty good. Unless you're someplace where you can truly buy in bulk, I don't know that you'll get down below $1/lb. I think I paid over $1/lb. last week at Whole Foods in Park City so it doesn't seem out of line. I do usually grind my flax seeds because they're easier for your body to use. You might notice that if you eat them whole they usually come out that way. Supposedly that's why the Vita Mix blender is so good--it breaks things that your teeth can't actually break down so that your body can then use the nutrients. My seed bread recipe has some ground flax seeds and some whole flax seeds. I like grinding the seeds in a coffee grinder and sprinkling them on my kefir (or you could sprinkle it on yogurt). I really like the nutty flavor. I can't remember if I wrote about how you can subsitute flax seeds for eggs--this is what vegans do. Grind up one tablespoon of flax seeds and then pour 3 tablespoons of water on them and stir. As the water gets absorbed into the ground up flax seeds, they get an egg-y texture. So that one to three ratio acts as one egg. Great in cookies and different breads (like banana bread). I also put the flax seeds in my smoothies.

You can also make flax seed crackers, but the recipes I've seen call for doing it with whole flax seeds. I tried it once and thought it was pretty nasty. I thought it felt like I was crunching tiny cockroaches. The whole flax seeds just kind of gross me out. I think they look like fleas. That's why I'm a fan of grinding them. Don't let my flax seeds/insects comparisons turn you off of flax--it's so good for you. I'll look through my raw food books and see what other things they do with flax.

If I missed a question, let me know. Next time I was going to talk about cleaning without chemicals, which is probably the cheapest thing ever. Good news! Something about living organically that's cheap! You may never hear those words again.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Well, that one slipped by me!

Wow, did anyone notice that I posted on April 7, but didn't even remember that it was Finn's diagnosis date? That's whacked, man. I had thought about it last week, and then it sort of came and went with no apparent angst from me. In fact, I was skiing and didn't think about it all day. Four years and six states ago. We've traveled a lot of ground since then--literally and figuratively.

What's on my mind these days is that Finn's port removal surgery is scheduled for a week from tomorrow (Friday). Next Thursday he'll have his last IViG infusion and then on Friday they'll take the port out and do a final bone marrow aspirate.

I'm not really sure how to feel about the port going away. It's the end, of course, of something that began almost exactly four years ago. It's the end of worrying when he gets a fever. It's the end of EMLA and Tegaderm. It's the end of a foreign body in his body. It's the end of a very long chapter.

But because I am a worrier and tend to focus on the negative instead of the positive, I am having total anxiety over the surgery. Of course, any parent would feel this way so it's not like I'm unique in that regard. The problem is, I keep dwelling on a little boy who died right after Finn was diagnosed. He died when he threw a clot after his port removal surgery. And that is what is freaking me out. I know it's routine, but I have to tell you, I have really, really worked myself into a state about the surgery. Apparently though, I'm not in enough of a state to not eat a dozen cookies today. I don't know what kind of situation I'd have to be in before that happened. Meteor hitting the Earth maybe?

So if you've got a spare minute or so over the coming week, if you could send a prayer, a good thought, a smoke signal, or whatever it is you do in your corner of the world, for Finn, I'd appreciate it. It always makes me feel a little better when I know you're out there with us.

Speaking of which, I thought no one loved me anymore because I didn't get any comments on my Poop Post. I figured I'd finally gone too far in my discussions. Because let's face it, do people really want to talk about poop? BUT, you were actually posting comments and my ISP was putting them all in my spam folder! So when I finally found all of the comments, from various postings, I realized people have actually been posting questions. So my next post will be a Q&A on all of your questions. At least I'll try to answer them. In between mouthfuls of cookie.

Monday, April 7, 2008

This is OK for one more week. . .

. . .and just because the mountain is still open. After that, Mother Nature better move on to bigger and better things.

Tara and I drove to Park City last Thursday and spent the weekend with Erin et. al., skiing, eating, laughing, eating, watching movies, eating. I'm fully expecting that my ski pants will be a little snug if I end up going skiing today. But then again, what's new?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Living Organically, Part Three: A Gut Feeling

First, thank you to those who have indicated that you want more info. I was sort of wondering if I was just yammering on aimlessly and you guys were humoring me. It’s exciting to me that people are interested. I’m still learning, too, so if you start researching and read good stuff, let me know. I’ll keep going, but I’ll try to keep the posts shorter.

Second, Marci, I ate half an avocado today and thought of you.

Third, a response to Laurie and her comment. There’s nothing wrong with organic milk—at least as far as I know! It’s what we drink if we run out of raw milk before the farmer delivers again and I’d say it’s definitely preferable to drinking conventional milk. The difference between raw milk and the organic milk you buy in a store is that the raw milk hasn’t been pasteurized (heated). The milk we drink is organic, but it’s also raw—not pasteurized. Supposedly raw milk still has all of the good enzymes your body needs to actually assimilate and use the nutrients in it. (And I’ll be e-mailing you to get all of the Swiminc Scoop!)

Also, being raw doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t eat meat. I haven’t achieved 100% raw anyway and I don’t know if I ever will. Basically I eat breakfast and lunch raw. So am I to 50% raw? I think I might be.

I’m not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination and I don’t know if I’ll become one or not. I really like all things fishy. I could probably give up all meat except seafood. That would be a huge sacrifice for me. There are so many different levels of raw. Carol Alt, who has a new book called “The Raw 50” which I really like, talks about how she is not a vegetarian and eats all sorts of raw meat. Other than sushi, I don’t eat raw meat because it kind of freaks me out. But go Carol, if that’s your bag. There are raw vegetarians who obviously don’t eat meat. Then there are raw food vegans who eat raw, don’t eat meat and also don’t eat any animal products at all such as eggs, milk, honey, etc. Frederic Patenaude, who is pretty radical, labels himself as a frugavore. He eats mostly greens and fruits and doesn’t even really suggest that you eat nuts or oils and he only advocates the occasional avocado. That’s hard core, man.

The whole concept of greens is new-ish to me. I’ve been reading “Green for Life” by Victoria Boutenko and it’s pretty interesting. She and her family have a Web site, www.rawfamily.com, that I’ve spent some time exploring. From what I’ve read, greens are hugely important—think chlorophyll, photosynthesis and oxygen—to our bodies. Eating more raw foods and then reading about the importance of greens has really changed how I look at what veggies we’re eating. I need to work on getting the boys (and myself) to eat more greens. I’m not exactly sure how I will accomplish this and it’s an ongoing mission because potatoes and corn go down big here. The general consensus is that we can’t even physically consume the amounts of fruits and veggies in a day that we actually need. Grinding them up and drinking them smoothie style so it’s more easily used by your body is apparently one way to go.

I love my JuicePlus smoothies that I wrote about in the last post and I throw greens in there, but I also tried Victoria Boutenko’s idea of a quart of green smoothie a day. I had some, um, intestinal issues and I stopped, but I want to try it again and see what happens.

I read somewhere that the ideal ratio of things in a green smoothie is 60% fruit and 40% greens. Looking at that again I realize I probably had those reversed. Might be the source of my discomfort.

The first green smoothie I ever made was:

Appkale Smoothie

4 whole apples
1/2 whole lemon, juiced
4 to 5 leaves of kale
1/2 to 1 cup water

PREPARATION: Juice lemon and add to water. Core apples and blend with water at high speed. Add kale. Blend. Enjoy.

I was pleasantly surprised at my first attempt at a green smoothie. I have to say that I probably didn’t do four apples—that seemed like a lot. But apple and kale is a nice combo. If you use kale, take out the big rib down the center and just use the leafy part. The stem thingy can make your smoothie stringy. Nasty.

One thing I wonder about is why in the world has it taken me so long to figure all of this out? I mean, I was in my 20s before I realized that portion control was important no matter what you eat. Duh.

And now, even after I’ve been hearing for years about fiber, I’m just now getting the fact that, hmmmm, I need to eat more fiber. Apparently I need to be hit over the head with a brick. Or fiber.

All of our health comes from our gut. There’s good stuff and bad stuff in our gut and when we eat well, and then poop well, we improve or health from the gut on out. A gross note: there is probably food in our intestines from years and years ago. When we don’t eat enough fiber to sweep out our intestines, plaque forms and causes all sorts of health problems. Have you ever read about how all of those stars in Hollywood go for colonics and stuff? At first I was grossed out by that, but now I’m intrigued. On the show You Are What You Eat, the nutritionist sends the people on the show for a colonic as a matter of course. Personally, I think the whole world should be taking acidophilus to put the good stuff back in their gut. But we also need to be sweeping ourselves out with the food we eat instead of mucking things up with gunky white bread and other processed food. Which I say to you after consuming most of the contents of the kids’ Easter baskets before I sat down to write this. Feet of clay, remember?

So where do we get fiber? Fruits and veggies. Also, my personal fave, flaxseeds. I put them in everything—ground up in smoothies, ground up in yogurt or kefir, in the seed bread I eat. . .basically I try to eat about 3 tablespoons a day plus one tablespoon of flax seed oil in one of my meals. You can even bake with flax seeds by substituting them for eggs. Put one tablespoon of flax seeds in a coffee grinder. When ground, put them in a bowl with three tablespoons of water and let it become a gelatinous mass. Voila—you can substitute that for one egg. It’s great in cookies and banana nut bread—things you don’t mind giving a nutty flavor to.

Again, not to give too much information, but regular (in the bowl sense) was not a word I would have ever used to describe myself. In fact, it seemed like a lot of women are this way. I used to be so jealous of Eamonn. At a certain time every day, he’d apparently get the call and saunter off to the bathroom. I could set my watch by him. I thought that sounded so nice instead of waiting around for days. . .but now that’s me, too, and it’s a wonderful thing. Again this is getting gross, but your poop and your tongue are really indicators of your inner health. Your tongue can tell you all sorts of things about vitamins and minerals you might be deficient in (a totally grammatically incorrect sentence). And apparently, according to Gillian on You Are What You Eat, if you don’t have enough fiber, your poop won’t have a nice “sausage” shape. Your goal is apparently a nice sausage shape. Gross. Maybe I can become a vegetarian.

So, to sum up: It’s all in your gut. Eat more fiber and get yourself cleaned out. If you’re curious, google the words “colon cleanse” and see what you get. Very interesting! Try to ensure you have good bacteria in your gut. And don’t eat Activia to get good stuff in your gut—it’s full of high fructose corn syrup. Go for acidophilus instead.

Tomorrow Tara and I are off to visit Erin for the weekend. A sister weekend! OK, so it’s a sister weekend with Erin’s four kids and also Dave and his friend, but I’ll take it!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Living Organically, Part Two: The Road to Raw

Raw food? What the???? Before 2005, I don’t know that I had ever heard about raw food, other than the obvious—eating raw fruits and vegetables. Or maybe I’d heard about it and laughed at it. I mean, what kind of idiot eats like that? Why would you? But when we were in Colorado in August ’05, Tara had a book about raw food and I started reading it. I found it strangely intriguing. The book, Living Cuisine: The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods by Renee Loux Underkoffler, was really interesting. In addition to being a “cookbook” (because really, can a book about raw food be a cookbook?) it had tons of info about why raw food is so good for you.

I read Renee’s book and then I just kept on reading. Again, like our move to organics, my sisters were the leaders of this movement and I continue to rely on them for tons of info. We all research stuff and e-mail it around to each other. We’re geeky like that.

There’s so much information floating around in the world about health and nutrition—it’s so easy to become overwhelmed. And when I heard about raw food, I nearly went over the edge. It just seemed like one other thing that I had to worry about in life and from what I was reading, raw food seemed kind of complicated. Basically, when I hear about something new in terms of health or nutrition, I try to think, “Does that make sense to me?” And as overwhelmed as I felt by raw food, it made sense. So I kept reading and I dipped my toe in the pool a little bit.

The concept behind raw food—and I encourage you to read and research on your own because I’m basically telling you my distilled version of what I’ve read and I’m by no means an authority—is that food is alive. . .until we cook the life out of it. And that makes sense to me. Fruits and vegetables, it’s scientifically known, as well as things like grains, nuts and seeds, have living enzymes in them and this is where we get the nutrients. So when we cook all of these living enzymes, it makes sense to me that we’re killing the very enzymes that are most beneficial to us and there’s nothing really left in there for our bodies. I know I couldn’t survive in a 350 degree oven, it makes sense to me that food’s delicate enzymes won’t survive either. Basically I’ve begun subscribing to the concept that if it’s cooked, it’s nutritionally dead.

Around this time, we started drinking raw milk. This freaks a lot of people out. “Raw” in terms of milk means it hasn’t been pasteurized or homogenized—it’s straight from the cow. And boy, is it good. In most states, including Ohio and Colorado, it’s illegal to buy raw milk unless you are part of a raw milk co-op, which we were in Ohio and are again in Colorado. Basically you buy a share of a cow that allows you a certain amount of milk per month. It was cheaper than organic store milk in Ohio, but it’s nearly twice the price here. So why would we do this? Because the government, specifically the FDA and the various state departments of agriculture, would like to make it so that no one can buy raw milk at all. That ticks me off. You have to know a little bit about the history of milk pasteurization (which means milk has been heated to a certain temperature to kill the bacteria in it) and how we’ve evolved in milk production to understand why the FDA acts the way it does in terms of milk.

The short version is that in the “old days,” think the era of when Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, the book that talked about the meat packing industry and basically put all sorts of regulations in place in terms of that industry. The dairy industry was pretty much like that—horrible, dirty dairies where there were no sorts of controls or anything and people got sick and died. So it was discovered that if the milk was heated, it killed the bad stuff. And there was a lot of bad stuff back then. So I’m not saying that pasteurization was never necessary—it was, back then. But things changed, dairies improved and practices got better. When we pasteurize milk to kill the “bad” stuff, we also kill the good stuff, the stuff that helps our bodies actually digest milk. There are theories that say the reason there is so much lactose intolerance and so many people with milk allergies now is because the pasteurized milk is basically indigestible. That makes sense to me.

So am I afraid of drinking milk with bacteria in it? Aren’t we afraid of e-coli or salmonella? Not any more so than I am of drinking grocery store milk. Because a normal human body can handle it. We didn’t give it to Finn until he was finished with chemo, because if there was any bad bacteria in there, he didn’t have a normal immune system at the time. His oncologist gave raw milk the thumbs up after a few months though, so now Finn drinks it, too, and has had absolutely no problems.

There’s tons of raw milk info out there—pro and con. One of the sites I used for research is the Weston Price Foundation: www.realmilk.org.

A few important things about raw milk though:
1. Even if it were legal, I wouldn’t buy raw milk from just anybody.
2. I interviewed our dairy farmers (in Ohio and here) at length, asking about their procedures for milking, use of antibiotics, type of feed (grass fed cows are what you want), care of animals, etc..
3. I asked to see their bacteria reports. Interestingly, their levels of bacteria were well below what the FDA requires for PASTURIZED milk.

So it’s important to know who you’re buying from, what their policies and procedures are and you have to have a level of trust with them. They know the FDA and state agencies are just waiting for the dairy farmers to screw up, so they are really, really careful. Have I mentioned that I love raw milk? Most people of my parents’ generation, who grew up drinking raw milk, never understand what the raw milk flap is about. To them, it’s just milk and they never got sick drinking it.

Frankly, I’m more worried about the commercial food supply, like drinking water (here in Colorado there was just an incident of a town with something bad in their water supply like salmonella or something), spinach (remember the e-coli contamination last year?) and a million other situations of food coming through the “safe” food chains. Just because the FDA says it’s safe, it’s obviously not true, so I feel quite safe “taking my chance” with raw milk.

Moving right along. . .

For years, I didn’t realize that I was on a path to raw foods in terms of kitchen appliances. I have always loved cooking and trying new foods and recipes, which will make my Mom roll her eyes because I was a picky eater as a kid. In ’04 I started grinding my own wheat and making my own bread (dead bread!). I still do that. Then, because of my love for all things kitchen gadget-y, I just kept on collecting until Eamonn said he was going to have to build an addition on the house to hold all of my crap. I bought a yogurt maker and started making my own raw yogurt.

“Raw” by the way means not heating things above a certain temperature. That temperature varies by what “cookbook” you’re reading. I’ve read everything from 95 degrees to 110 degrees. I try to be at 104 or below just to be safe. The goal is to leave as many of the enzymes living as possible. And pretty much everything we buy commercially, other than fruits and veggies has been cooked. Yogurt? Cooked. Cereal? Cooked. Bread? Cooked. Peanut butter? Cooked. Nuts in general? Cooked. You name it, unless it says “raw,” it’s cooked, cooked, cooked, cooked. Even, as I rambled on about above, milk is cooked.

Anyway, after reading more and more raw books, I realized I wanted a dehydrator. I wanted to make my own cereal, fruit leathers, cookies, etc., and all of the other things I’d been reading about in these raw books. Each year I’d take the money my Mom gave me for my birthday and put it toward an appliance—that’s how most of my kitchen gadgetry was acquired. One cool thing, when I was shopping for a dehydrator, I actually e-mailed Renee Underkoffler. She e-mailed me back herself with a recommendation which I thought was so cool. My brush with a famous person.

My most recent purchase about a year and a half ago, was a VitaMix blender—the super horse of the blender world. It’s what they use in restaurants and bars. The theory behind a VitaMix is that it can break down seeds and stuff to a microlevel that your body can use more readily. I just think it’s nice because the seeds from all sorts of berries and also flax seeds get ground up—you don’t have to grind flax seeds separately—and the kids never know these things are in there. Spinach and flax seeds in a smoothie? They have no idea.

So what do I eat?
From summer ’05 to January ’08, I really ate very few raw things. I love this cereal made from buckwheat groats (I know, what in the world is a groat? You get to know these things when you start reading these books.) that are soaked overnight and then drained. Then you add things like orange juice, raw almond butter, raw honey (meaning straight out of the hive), cinnamon and nutmeg, mix it all together and then dehydrate it until it’s crispy. Dehydrating is a very un-instant gratification event. Today I made some cookies. . .that won’t be ready until tomorrow evening. This is a big let down for the boys, but they’re getting used to it.

So for the past 2 ½ years, I’ve been doing some raw eating and pretty simple things. No real raw meals or anything. And then I met Karen, a massage therapist, who was a raw foodist. And she really got me more into the whole raw thing. She told me, and I’d read this but never really acted upon it, that even by incorporating a few raw foods into our diets, we could see huge changes. She told me about a Web site, www.fredericpatenaude.com, that finally gave me the kick in the pants I needed. This guy is really pretty radical and actually kind of annoying and he’s pretty much a frugavore (fruits and veggies only), but I signed up for one of his over the top, in your face, raw foods newsletters, but there was tons of good info there. And he was holding a raw foods challenge where he asked people to set 3 goals for themselves during this 21-day challenge. So I signed up, what the heck, it was free, and it was what I needed.

My goals were:
1. Eat at least two raw meals a day (I settled on breakfast and lunch and my goal was to not eat anything cooked until 3pm—or until dinner if I could do it).
2. Exercise 30 min/day at least 5x/week (I was actually already doing more exercise than this anyway, but I had to have an exercise goal).
3. Go to bed by 11pm each night (which if you see by the time this is posted, was the hardest of the three goals for me—I’m a night owl).

Frederic had a forum set up where we could register and exchange info, ideas and support with other challenge participants. The whole thing was really cool and I have to say, I did really well. Other than goal #3, which I hit sometimes, but it was hard for me because I work at night most of the time, I did it! And the results showed me that there’s something to this whole raw food thing.

Some of the stuff I ate included:

My raw buckwheat granola. I also just soaked and then dried buckwheat groats plain. It’s like grape nuts, which I love. I’d put fruit on the top of either of these and raw milk. Buckwheat is a very alkaline grain and is absorbed very slowly so it sticks with you (BTW, alkalinity is very important to our bodies—more important to be alkaline vs. acid. Cancer, for example, can’t grow or thrive in an alkaline environment, which is why you hear about so many people going on “green” diets to try and cure their cancer. I’ll write more about that in another post).

I also like a cultured milk drink called kefir. You can buy your own or make it. I’ve done both. I mix kefir with ground flax seeds, which I love and crave now, fruit, and a little raw agave nectar or raw honey. Had that this morning in fact, and I’ll probably have it again tomorrow.

I also made “pancakes” from ground flax seeds, water and agave syrup, and then topped it with blueberry puree.

One of my favorite things is to soak oat groats and almonds over night, then top them with raisins, dried cranberries, and maybe some banana slices, and raw milk and a little maple syrup (not technically raw because all maple syrup has to be cooked, but the raw foodists love it anyway) or agave. Yum. Cleans you out like crazy, too. I’m feeling very good about my colon these days. That might be too much information.


Sometimes I’ll eat tons of salads. Then I get sick of them and move on to something else for awhile. Right now I can’t get enough of a Greek style salad I keep making.

This winter, I’d eat one of the above breakfasts, then go ski and get home about 2:15pm. I’d whip up a smoothie and guzzle it down before I had to pick Declan up. My fave smoothies have: 8 oz. organic soy milk (make sure it’s organic or else it will be genetically modified, which I don’t know if there’s anything wrong with genetically modified food yet, but there aren’t really any studies and I don’t want to grow a third arm and then have them tell me they’ve decided genetically modified food isn’t good for me), a scoop of Juice Plus smoothie powder, 1 tbls. Flax seed oil, 3 tbl. Flax seeds, a handful of spinach or some other greens like kale or parsley or romaine, and a cup or more of whatever fruit I’ve got around. My current craving is for blueberries and peaches, but I just ran out of my stash of peaches frozen from last summer so I need to re-evaluate. Oh my word—it’s so good, and filling. Eamonn loves these and so do the boys. Sometimes.

Other lunch stuff—I make a bread in the dehydrator that is made from ground flax seeds, whole flax seeds, black sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, garlic, onion, and I think some water. I’m too lazy to get up and get the book to see what all is actually in there. So this bread dries out in a few hours and then I layer it with spicy mustard, and every veggie in the house—red onion, spinach or other greens, sprouts, tomato, cucumber, peppers, avocado, maybe some raw cheese if I’ve splurged and have some. Oh. My. Word. I love it. I have tons of seeds stuck in my teeth after I eat it, but I love it. I just have to make sure I floss before I go out anywhere.

I’ve tried some cold soups made in the VitaMix, but I’m not really a fan of those.


During the raw food challenge, I did great about eating a huge salad and a small portion of whatever cooked food I made for Eamonn and the boys. I’ve not done well since the challenge ended though and have eaten more cooked food, which is weak, I know. There’s something about cooked food which seems to trigger an overeating response in me, so I’ve learned my lesson and I need to get back on the raw food bandwagon. But I definitely feel like I need to be more prepared to eat raw because other than fruits and veggies, you can’t always just grab something and be assured of staying raw.


There are tons and they’re so good. I have cookies dehydrating right now and I can’t wait to see how they are because the “dough” was so good I kept eating it—soaked oat groats, maple syrup, vanilla, and all sorts of dried fruits and a grated apple and some chopped banana. The recipe was one of those, “just throw in what sounds good to you” things and so I did. At least I didn’t feel guilty about eating the dough like usual.

I’ve made raw carob fudge which was awesome, and a raw apple pie, which was good but had way too much cinnamon. Sometimes I just eat Medjool dates, which are addictive.

There are tons, tons, tons more things to eat raw, these are just the things I started with and really enjoyed. Every once in awhile I add something else to my repertoire. It’s a process.

The Results

During the raw food challenge, I dropped about 5 pounds in 21 days, which was amazing for me because I have NEVER lost weight on my own before. However, as soon as the challenge was over, I went back to eating popcorn twice a week and, call me crazy, but that’s probably a problem. Also, I can’t lay off the avocados. I love them. And anything like that in excess is going to pack on the pounds. The avocados will make Marci laugh. When we were in grad school we used to go to the Bagel and Deli in Oxford and she’d get a turkey bagel with avocado. I thought that was so gross. Now I’d eat them all day if I could.

But beyond the weight loss, there were a lot of other changes. Right before Finn got sick, I was at a really good weight. I ate well, exercised, and I slept as much as a person with young children can. I was in a good place. Then the stress of Finn’s cancer, hospital food, no energy, no will to exercise, plus no time, etc., etc., etc., I swear I aged about 10 years in those first 10 months. No lie. I looked like crap. My body ached all the time like I had just worked out. My skin was bad, I had major PMS, and my thyroid problems cropped up—remember The Goiter? Ugh. Plus, I craved salt like you wouldn’t believe. I mean, it was what I thought was a really abnormal thing. I just wanted salt all the time. I needed a salt lick. And overwhelming fatigue. Fatigue so bad I felt like I couldn’t get out of bed, but of course, I did, because that’s what you do.

So during the raw food challenge, nothing really changed except for my food. I was already pretty good about exercise, but unfortunately, I didn’t stick to the bedtime goal. I certainly didn’t drink enough water—that’s one of my huge weaknesses and I really need to work on that. But after the challenge ended, I kept going on my raw food goals, and at about six weeks into eating raw, I realized a lot of things had changed about the way I felt. The biggest thing was probably that my body had stopped aching. I talked to a nutritionist about it (more about that in another post) and she said my body probably had so much inflammation but with all of the raw fruits and veggies, I had calmed the inflammation. Also, my PMS went from raging for about a week prior, to really just one day of aggravation. My skin didn’t have huge breakouts either. Maybe just one little blemish. The overwhelming fatigue is gone. And my desire to pour the contents of the salt shaker directly in my mouth has gone. Yes, I will always be a savory snack lover, but I don’t feel that I need to compulsively eat salt, and that’s how bad it had gotten. The goiter is still there, but stable. I’m on a mission to see if I keep eating well, will the goiter go away?

Oh my word. This post is even longer than the last one. I’ll stop now. If you have any questions, let me know. I hope this isn’t getting boring. I think one of the next things I’ll talk about is the Standard American Diet and our need for more fiber and how to get it, and everything that’s backed up in our bodies right now that makes us unhealthy. It all starts with the gut. So basically we’re going to be talking about poop. Nice. Rush right back for that one.