Delicious Roasted Broccoli Leaves

Real Food FridayMeatless MondayHearth & Soul Hop
The past few years have taught us what Earthlings really want to know, and we are pleased to be spreading the word that cauliflower leaves are edible!  In that spirit, we’d like to tell you that broccoli leaves are edible, too, and explain a slightly easier method of preparation.

Our local organic CSA farm has had a good crop of broccoli this year, and they give it to us with leaves intact.  Fresh broccoli sold in supermarkets often has had its leaves trimmed, at least the larger ones.  What do you suppose happens to them?  I hope they don’t just get thrown away, because broccoli leaves are highly nutritious, with a slightly different nutrient profile than broccoli florets or stalks.  They’re particularly high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that our bodies convert into Vitamin A.  I wasn’t able to find a nutrient analysis for cooked broccoli leaves, but a one-ounce serving of raw leaves contains 43% of the Daily Value of Vitamin C, 5% of folate, 3% of potassium and manganese, and some Omega-3 fatty acids–and less than 8 calories!

Broccoli leaves could be substituted for spinach or kale in many raw or cooked recipes.  When we cut up broccoli from our farm to steam as a side dish or use in High-Protein Pasta Salad or Broccoli Casserole, we typically include the leaves, but we think they don’t taste as good in those contexts as the other parts of the broccoli do.  Roasted leaves, though, are an addictive snack food or yummy side dish!  They have the crispy crunch of thin potato chips and a tasty, toasty flavor that is quite different from the flavor of steamed broccoli. Read more of this post

Why My Toddler Doesn’t Watch Sesame Street

I remember, when I was 3 or 4 years old, sitting in front of the television watching the test pattern waiting for my local public television station to begin its broadcast day.  I liked the pretty colored stripes.  Finally they would disappear, the station information would be displayed along with a drawing of a scissor-tailed flycatcher (the state bird), and an authoritative voice would announce, “This is OETA.  Public television for all of Oklahoma.”  Then I would hear that cheerful song about sweeping the clouds away and going where the air is sweet, and for the next hour my television would show me a wonderful world in which fuzzy monsters and real people of all colors live side-by-side in a place where you can find a friend just by stepping out of the house.

My daughter Lydia is 18 months old and has never seen an episode of “Sesame Street”.  Why do I deprive her of this experience I loved so much??  There are two reasons.

One is that children under 2 years old should not watch any television at all.  The American Academy of Pediatrics still says this and has updated its statement to include the use of computers and tablets–no screen-time for toddlers.  I know, a lot of my parenting peers think this is simply impossible.  I agree that it’s impossible to avoid any screen exposure at all, in a world where electronic screens are incorporated into many public places and most adults are constantly poking some kind of PocketFox.  (Just yesterday, I was in a hospital elevator with a wall-mounted screen relentlessly playing hospital publicity videos!)  Still, it’s worth the effort to save our babies’ eyes and hearts and brains by keeping them away from the screens as much as we can and certainly not encouraging them to watch TV.  I’ve explained how we kept our first child off the screens until he was 2 and phased it in carefully after that.

Everybody told me it would be harder with the second child.  Yes, it is, because her big brother loves to play computer games, and our computer is in the living room.  It’s true that Lydia sometimes toddles over to watch what he is doing, so she’s probably had more total screen-time than he had by this age.  But when we rearranged before she was born, we placed our L-shaped computer desk such that the screen is turned 45 degrees toward the wall, instead of facing the center of the room; that makes it less eye-catching.  Our television set faces the couch, but we hardly ever watch it when Lydia’s awake.  Neither parent has a smartphone, so she’s not seeing a screen while we’re holding her.  I try to keep my iPad out of her sight; if she climbs into my lap while I’m using it, I finish up as quickly as I can.  Most importantly, we never turn on a video for her or let her play with the iPad herself.

But “Sesame Street” is so sweet and charming and a rich source of cultural references in our family and the wider society!  As I said in my previous article:

But then, when I was 7 months pregnant, an odd sound made by the elevator at work reminded me of the “Rubber Ducky” song from “Sesame Street”, and I suddenly felt devastated–how could I deprive my child of the joy of knowing Ernie and Big Bird and…and LOVABLE FURRY GROVER?!

Well, here’s what we learned when raising Nicholas: Read more of this post

What Insurance Is For

Although I’ve managed to get 5 articles posted in the past 6 weeks, I’m actually not doing all that well, and I finally decided that I owe my readers an explanation.

I was driving, with my whole family in the car, when our car was rear-ended on August 15.  Nobody else was hurt.  I didn’t notice that I was hurt until we were back in the car after exchanging insurance information with the other driver, so it must not have been that bad, right?

Oh, it could be worse.  It could be so much worse.  Riding in cars is very dangerous!  We are lucky and grateful.

But my back still hurts.  This is my 46th day of continuous pain.  Much of the time it’s quite mild, but it wears on me, makes me tired, dulls my appreciation of every good thing in life.  Then there are the times when I try to do some ordinary thing like picking up a half-gallon of milk or my 22-pound toddler, opening a heavy door, or scooting back my desk chair by pushing with my feet–or I’m not even doing anything at all–and my lower-back muscles send out blinding flashes of pain.

I thought it was just the cumulative pain that was making me so tired that I had trouble stumbling through my daily life, so distracted that I found myself wrapping up work days realizing that I’d done only two hours’ worth of work in eight hours, so irritable that I was shrieking at my ten-year-old.  I thought it was because my lower-back muscles were yanking on my upper-back muscles yanking on my neck muscles that I was having more frequent and more severe headaches.  These things are probably true, but there’s more to it than that. Read more…

Two Healthy Breakfasts for Late Summer

Tomato season is in full swing and apple season has begun here in Pennsylvania, so I’m alternating between these two delicious breakfasts!  Both are quick to prepare, with minimal dirty dishes.  They make good snacks, too.  You get plenty of vitamins and fiber from the fruit, plus protein and fat to keep you feeling full.

We planted two tomato plants in our front yard this year and had another tomato plant come up by surprise, and they’re all producing well.  We also get both tomatoes and apples from our CSA organic farm share.

Tomato Toast is simply buttered toast with nutritional yeast flakes, a nice thick layer of sliced tomato, salt, and dill.  (Cilantro instead of dill makes a different flavor, also tasty.)  If you’re really hungry, add a scrambled or fried or sliced hard-boiled egg.  An affordable gluten-free variation is a bowl of warmed-up leftover cooked rice or other grain, with butter, nutritional yeast flakes, diced tomato, salt, and dill.

Easy Fresh Apple Yogurt is simply a diced apple quickly cooked with seasonings and stirred into plain yogurt.  Sometimes I add granola or other cereal.  This morning, I made this with a pear instead (because we were given a bag of home-grown pears) and that’s good, too.  This recipe is ideal for people who get an itchy mouth or upset stomach from eating raw apples–a problem I had only while pregnant with Lydia, which is when I developed this recipe.

Enjoy the season, and check out all the great ideas at Real Food Friday and the Hearth & Soul Hop and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Works-for-Me Wednesday!

Sckoon Menstrual Cup and Cloth Pad Review

WARNING: People who are offended by graphic discussion of menstruation should go read something else.

I first tried a reusable menstrual cup in 1997 and reusable cloth menstrual pads in 2001.  Over the years, I’ve tried a number of different brands, and I’ve written about why these alternatives are better than disposable pads and tampons and lots more about how great they are, with details about how to use them.  This article is about one specific brand whose cup and pad I’ve tried in the past year.  This is my new favorite cup, and the pad is very good, too.

Sckoon is primarily an organic-cotton company.  They make lots of baby clothes and some other cotton items, including cloth menstrual pads.  Recently, they also started making a menstrual cup out of medical-grade silicone (and it comes in an organic cotton storage bag).  Their organic cotton is grown and processed in Egypt, but their menstrual cup is made in USA.  They use recycled materials in packaging.

What I haven’t been able to find out about Sckoon is how to pronounce their name.  They didn’t answer my question, choosing instead to maintain an air of mystery…so I’m going with “Skoon” unless I learn otherwise.

I have joined Sckoon’s affiliate program, so you can click here to get 10% off your order (or manually enter the discount code ER01HG) and I will earn a 10% commission! Read more of this post

All-Natural Vegetarian Non-Refrigerated Convenience Foods

This is not a sponsored post.  This is a recommendation of products I tried and liked.

Daniel and I try to make enough real, from-scratch, healthy food that I (working in an office) can take leftovers for my lunch every day and he (working at home) can get something ready to eat within a few minutes rather than spend time cooking at lunchtime.  It works out better at some times than others.  In the past year, with the additional distractions of getting our baby daughter ready to go each day, I’ve had more days when I didn’t have time to pack a lunch, couldn’t spare the attention to figure out what leftovers were available, or wasn’t able to carry a lunch because I was bringing something to work (like dish detergent) and there’s a limit to what I can carry along with Lydia and all her gear as we commute by bus!  I was grabbing Trader Joe’s meals from our freezer sometimes and eating in restaurants much more often than normal.  I like restaurants, but at $6-$9 per lunch, that gets expensive!

One day I was buying some milk for my coffee and mixed nuts for snacking at the CVS store half a block from work when I noticed a sale on foods in pouches and noticed that many of these were vegetarian foods.  I took a closer look and saw surprisingly unobjectionable ingredients.
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Read more of this post

Top 3 Veggie Burger Recipes

Daniel and I have tried dozens of varieties of veggie burgers in the past 15 years or so, since they started appearing in stores and restaurants.  We gave up meat for Lent in 2002, and since then we’ve never gone back to eating as much meat as we used to eat.  In particular, we really don’t eat hamburgers anymore, after learning that grinding meat causes any bacteria on the surface to be distributed throughout the meat and that ground beef and chicken are the meats with the highest risk of food poisoning.  But we do like to eat a tasty chunk of protein on a bun with ketchup and pickles!  We buy frozen veggie burgers sometimes, but they tend to cost around a dollar per patty, and they’re packed in plastic, and they’ve been shipped across the continent in a freezer truck, and many of them feature large amounts of genetically modified, isolated soy protein.

Here are our 3 favorite recipes for homemade veggie burgers, and then some tips on how to cook and freeze them.  All these recipes work well for making “meatballs” or nuggets instead of full-size burgers, if you prefer. Read more…

DIY Deodorant: Pros and Cons

Last September, I reblogged The Zero-Waste Chef’s post about how to make your own deodorant and hoped that having it on my own site would motivate me to try this handy do-it-yourself option.  I actually did get around to it within a few weeks…creating deodorant that then became unusable for me for months.  It wasn’t until this spring that I was able to give it a fair trial.  Now I can tell you what’s good about it and what isn’t.

DIY Deodorant ingredients

The ingredients: coconut oil, baking soda, corn starch, and essential oil. Image from The Zero Waste Chef.

The Good Things:

  • It works!!!
  • It truly was easy to make and took me just a few minutes.  Combining the ingredients was soothing and satisfying.
  • It hasn’t made grease stains or white marks on any of my clothing.
  • It’s less expensive than buying natural deodorant, which is $5-$7 in my area.  The ingredients for a baby-food jar full of DIY Deodorant, which gives approximately the same number of applications as a stick of solid deodorant, cost less than $1.  It’s hard to find even a nasty-chemical-filled deodorant for $1 these days.
  • It does not have a plastic package that will never biodegrade and is made from irreplaceable natural resources.

The Bad Things:

  • It really needs to be stored at a room temperature of approximately 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit.  Within two days after the time when I happened to make my DIY Deodorant, my house settled down to its winter temperature, which maxes out at 70 degrees on the thermostat but is a bit colder (66? 67?) up in my bedroom where I keep and use my deodorant.  The coconut oil hardened so that I had a jar of solid stuff impenetrable to my fingertips.  I considered using some kind of tool to scrape out each dose, but that would be really annoying–and given that I apply deodorant while I’m half-conscious and often stepping over a crawling baby, there was a high risk of flipping bits of this oily stuff all over the room!  I ended up deciding to leave it alone until the weather got warmer.  I live in Pennsylvania.  This deodorant was unusable for seven months.  And within a few weeks after it finally became scoopable, we had a 90-degree day when we left the drapes open so that the bedroom heated up, causing the coconut oil to become liquid so that the DIY Deodorant was unscoopable in a different way: too drippy!  (It was fine again the next day, though, and didn’t even need re-mixing.)  The Zero Waste Chef lives in central California, where the weather is more consistent, and I think that’s a big reason why this stuff works so well for her.
  • You need to wash your hands after applying it, or at least wipe them hard on something that you don’t mind grease-staining.  I’m not thrilled with adding this extra step to my morning routine.
  • If you drop a bit of the deodorant–which is easy to do because it’s crumbly–it will leave an oil spot.  Annoying.  Especially on paper items, a tiny bit of coconut oil can make a big, obvious grease stain.

Overall, I think I will keep using this stuff until it’s gone and consider making more for late-spring-through-early-fall-except-on-very-hot-days use, but for most of the year I’m going to stick with Tom’s of Maine long-lasting natural deodorant.  It works well for me, it’s easy to use, the fragrances are pleasant and not too strong, the price is acceptable with coupons and sales frequently available, and it’s sold in many stores that are convenient for me.  Daniel and I both have been using Tom’s deodorant for about ten years now.  We do not recommend Tom’s antiperspirant, and we have not liked any other brand of store-bought natural deodorant that we’ve tried.  Tom’s deodorant is available from ePantry for only $5.89; click here to learn more about ePantry and get a special deal!

If you live in a consistently warmish climate, though, DIY Deodorant may be all you need!  Give it a try!

UPDATE: Readers inform me that blending beeswax into your DIY Deodorant makes it more stable in changing temperatures, and you can even refill a twist-up deodorant container with it!  See the comments below for information and links.

Visit Works-for-Me Wednesday and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for more great tips.  Visit Real Food Friday for more things (mostly edibles!) that you can make from food ingredients.

Miracle Salve GIVEAWAY!!

UPDATE:  The winners have been announced (at the end of the article) but please read about this wonderful healing product and consider buying some for yourself.

Miracle Salve, made by Kerry’s Herbals, is a wonderful product that I’ve been using for a decade.  I now have the opportunity to share it!  Seven lucky readers will win a free jar of Miracle Salve!  Two winners will get the two-ounce jar (that’s a couple months’ supply, even if you have serious skin problems) and another five winners will get the half-ounce jar (that’s enough to get a good sense of what this green goo can do for you).

Miracle Salve is made entirely of natural plant oils and beeswax.  It truly is green–not only is it less environmentally damaging than a product made from petrochemical distillates, but it’s literally green in color, a shade similar to my Earthling’s Handbook logo.  It has no added fragrance but simply smells like its ingredients: a pleasant, herbal smell that I like a lot better than the smell of petroleum jelly. Kerry's HerbalsThis smooth, creamy salve soaks into irritated skin, soothes the stinging, and speeds healing.  It’s awesome for rashes, scrapes, and super-dry skin.  Kerry’s Herbals says it even can be used to treat corneal abrasion, which means it must be safe enough to put into your eye!  I haven’t tried that, but it’s never caused any discomfort when I apply it–unlike so many treatments that sting at first. Read more…

The Power of Purple Is Real!!!

I am putting this post in a variety of categories because it’s kind of silly but I’m kind of serious, too.  I would like to believe that in this very complicated world, my actions truly do make a difference, even in unexpected metaphysical ways.

Purple is my favorite color.  At this point in my life, I feel like I finally own enough purple clothing.  On my fortieth birthday, which in various ways did not go very well, I was wearing an all-purple outfit when Daniel and I went out to lunch and he (very uncharacteristically) spilled an entire glass of ice water on me.  When we got home, I was able to change into another all-purple outfit.  That’s the way life should be!  I am happily on my way to being that old woman in the famous poem by Jenny Joseph.

Monday, I wore a purple sweater.  This was really just because I had finally gotten around to washing this particular sweater, so now it was available again, and at this point in the year I am kind of tired of most of my sweaters, but it had been at least two weeks since I’d worn this one.

Tuesday, I wore a purple and white striped knit top.  As I took it out of the drawer, I thought, “But I just wore purple yesterday!” like I might be enjoying myself too much or something, but then I remembered that my church was hosting the East End Lenten Series supper and service that night, and purple is the color for Lent because purple is the color of sadness in church tradition.  It works all backwards with me and is one of the reasons why I like Lent.

Tuesday morning’s e-newsletter, for employees of the gargantuan “health system” where I work, encouraged us to wear purple on Wednesday to support patient safety. Read more of this post

Get Up and Eat: 3 Years of Replenishment

Today is Ash Wednesday.  Three years ago on Ash Wednesday, I wrote this article about the renewal we can experience during Lent.  I had no idea what was coming my way!

You may have heard of the idea of choosing one word as a theme for your year.  You’re supposed to place this word around your home or on a bracelet, where you’ll see it regularly and be reminded of your intention, and it will inspire you and serve as a guiding principle.  Maybe you make some collages or something based on your word, for further inspiration.  Maybe you use it like a mantra for meditation.  Some people tell stories of amazing growth that resulted from this simple choice.

It sounds like a fine idea, and in January of 2012, when several bloggers I read were writing about what word each of them chose, I found that a particular word came into my mind as a goal for my own life.  The word was replenishment.

Almost a year earlier, during my church vestry retreat, I’d thought of replenishment as the one word that best expressed what I wanted for my church: We were worn out from years of struggle, and many people had left, so we were down to a small core of mostly old-ish people working really hard to keep our parish going.  I prayed for replenishment of our individual souls and strengths to keep us working toward the replenishment of our parish with new people and new energy.  It’s working!!  Our church is growing and getting really wonderful now!

But as 2012 dawned, I realized that I could use some replenishment myself.  Not only was I working really hard on the vestry, but I was still working my way out of being a migraineur, which is a deceptively elegant word for “chronic horrible headache victim” or, at least in my case, “person with a massively fucked-up tendency to allow her brain to malfunction and get some kind of bizarre power trip out of it.”  My New Year’s resolution for 2010 had been to battle the headaches from every possible direction, and that really helped: I went from having about four headaches per week to more like two per month!  But that battle had worn me down, what with various lifestyle changes and medical appointments and facing stuff in therapy and attempting to ask for what I need, so although I was suffering less pain, I was very depleted and had this awful sense of being so busy all the time yet never getting everything done.

So: 2012, my year of replenishment!  I didn’t write the word everywhere or make a collage, but I prayed about it a lot and, when faced with choices about what to do, considered what would be the most replenishing choice.  It was going pretty well for the first couple months, and then it was time for Lent, and I decided that I would fast from the idea, “I don’t have time to get things done.”  Well, guess how that turned out? Read more…

DIY Instant Oatmeal: Ditch the Packets!

I love oatmeal.  It’s nutritious, with plenty of fiber and minerals and Vitamin B1, and has many health benefits.  It’s filling.  It can be seasoned any way you like.  Quick-cooking oats are really easy to make–I don’t even bother cooking them in a pot, just mix them with boiling water in a bowl–and very low-priced, especially in bulk at the food co-op or in a large canister at GFS Marketplace.  I have a favorite recipe for oatmeal that includes other healthy and filling ingredients like almond butter, and I also make fruit-flavored oatmeal whenever we finish up a jar of jam.

But in my workplace, I can’t store a lot of ingredients, nor do I have a nice counter space to assemble food.  I don’t want to be licking sorghum syrup and almond butter off my filing cabinet!  I do have a very nice electric kettle which provides properly boiling water (much better than a microwave) suitable for cooking oatmeal….

At times, I’ve bought instant oatmeal in single-serving packets.  They’re okay.  Some of the flavors are quite tasty, and a snack of oatmeal is very satisfying.  But seeing those plastic-lined packets piling up in my wastebasket makes me feel a little sick.  And a packet costs about 5 times as much as a serving of quick oats with embellishments.  The giant boxes of packets, with a lower price per serving and slightly less cardboard waste, inevitably are “variety packs” including at least one flavor that I don’t like as well as the others.  The less-expensive brands of flavored oatmeal usually include weird ingredients that might not be so healthy, plus a lot of sugar.  Some flavors contain dried fruit, but after being stored mixed into the oatmeal it is so dry that it isn’t very appetizing.

Now that I’m a nursing mother again, I’m especially in need of healthy snacks, and oatmeal may increase milk production–it does seem to have that effect on me.  A few months ago, Costco had a sale on Nature’s Path organic instant oatmeal with no weird ingredients…and I plowed through those 32 packets in less than 6 weeks.  Furthermore, I felt that a packet wasn’t really quite enough food for me now, so I sometimes ate two packets together.  I had to find a less wasteful option! Read more…

The Common Cold and the Common Cup: Does Communion spread germs?

I’m an Episcopalian.  In almost every service at our church, we receive Communion this way: The priest tears a morsel off of a round, flat bread and places it in the palm of your hand, and you eat it.  The chalice-bearer holds the silver cup of wine as you sip from it, then wipes the rim of the chalice with the purificator, which is just a fancy name for a cloth napkin.  There are two chalices, and in our typical service maybe 30 people drink from each one.

Why would I share a drink with 30 other people?  Isn’t that just asking for trouble?

Honestly, I’ve never worried about it much, for three reasons: Read more…

Knock Out a Cold Quickly and Naturally!

Last Wednesday, I felt like I was coming down with a cold: runny nose, itchy throat, ominous heavy feeling in the middle of my head.  The typical cold lasts 7-10 days.  Bummer.

Today is Tuesday.  I’m still having an episode of sneezing and nose-blowing every few hours, but otherwise I feel great!  I’ve been feeling pretty well since Sunday.  Even on Saturday, I got through a major grocery-shopping expedition without collapsing afterward.  So really, I was only sick for 2-3 days, and it didn’t turn into a lung or sinus infection like my colds often do.  It’s possible that this was just a weaker virus than some, but I think that my treatment of myself during this cold helped it to run its course more quickly than it might.  Here’s what I did:

Read more…

Easy Dental Health Tip for New Moms

When you’re taking care of a little baby, it can be hard to get around to doing basic things like brushing your teeth–you seem to always have your hands full, and then when you finally get a moment, you forget or you’re too tired! It’s still important to take good care of yourself, though.

One thing I have learned is that I am more likely to do something if I can reach it quickly when I get a moment to set down the baby. It feels like a big deal to go do something several rooms away or on another floor of the house. Keeping supplies near me makes me more likely to use them.

With this baby, I’m sleeping in the dining room, on a different floor from the main bathroom where I would normally brush my teeth. At first I just brought my toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste downstairs. Then I decided to give myself a new upstairs toothbrush as well. Now I can brush my teeth when I get the chance, no matter which floor of the house I happen to be on! What convenience! I wish I had thought of this with the first baby.

I keep my downstairs toothbrush in this little Corningware dish that we have. It sits on one of the shelves in the baby’s changing room, above her clothes. To brush my teeth downstairs, I pick up the dish and carry it to the kitchen sink. It’s a little easier than picking up the toothbrush and paste separately.

It works for me!  Visit Mom’s Library for more motherly wisdom.

Refreshing Herbal Iced Tea from Loose Leaves

In this hot weather, it’s important to drink plenty of water…but plain water gets boring. Soft drinks and juices are expensive and bad for your teeth, unless they are sugar-free and sweetened with weird chemicals.

Here is a calorie-free, caffeine-free drink that tastes great without any sweetener and even has health benefits!

I make herbal tea by the pitcher, using a combination of red raspberry leaves and peppermint leaves. I can buy both of these inexpensively in bulk at my local food co-op, but sometimes my mom gives me peppermint from her garden. Raspberry leaves do not taste much like the berries, just sort of leafy and mildly fruity. They are high in Vitamin C and healthy for everyone, but they are especially good for women about to give birth, postpartum, or menstruating because they help the uterus contract smoothly. I use peppermint mainly for its delicious flavor and cooling effect, but it may have health benefits, too. Both herbs are supposed to be good for digestion.

Here is my technique for making the tea: Read more…

Humidify Your Home the Cheap and Easy Way!

Our house has forced-air heat: The furnace blows warm air through the ducts and out through vents in most of the rooms.  Our vents are in the baseboards, so they push out the air horizontally at floor level.  This tip also would work with a wall vent that is just above a shelf or table, and would probably work with floor vents or a floor furnace as well.  (If you have ceiling vents or another type of heat, such as radiators, and have a humidifying tip, I’d love to hear it!  Please post a comment.)

The trouble with forced-air heat is that the air coming out of the ducts is very dry.  Most winters this has bothered me a bit, but this year it’s really getting to me!  Maybe I’m more delicate because I’m pregnant.  I have awakened at least once almost every night with my mouth completely dried out, and I often have a slight nosebleed in the morning.  Our whole family had viral bronchitis in January, and the dry air was making our coughing worse.  We needed more moisture!

We tried an electric humidifier.  I could see mist coming out of its spout some of the time, so I knew it was doing something, and it did seem to make the air slightly gentler.  But there were several things about it that bothered me: Read more…

My kid doesn’t have to wear a coat.

I’m an easily chilled sort of person. I like to feel warm and cozy, and being cold upsets me. In any given weather conditions, I’m usually wearing at least as many garments as the average person, often more.

My son Nicholas seems to feel warm most of the time. He’s often quite calm and comfortable in very cold temperatures. He has a decent sense of modesty and won’t run around undressed in public–he doesn’t even like to go shirtless–but he’ll happily wear a light jacket or no jacket, bare feet or flip-flops, one layer of short-sleeved shirt, in conditions where I think that isn’t nearly enough.

I decided a long time ago not to fight about this. I do advise him when the weather has gotten colder since the last time he was outside, or when the forecast calls for a 20-degree drop during the day. I occasionally insist that he bring along appropriate garments in case he wants them later. But I don’t force him to wear a coat, or zip it up, or keep the hood on.

Nicholas started teaching me about this a few days after he was born. Everything I had read about baby care said that your baby should wear as many layers as you are wearing yourself, plus a hat. He was born in December, so on our first day home from the hospital, I was wearing a flannel shirt over a long-sleeved thermal top over a nursing bra, jeans over cotton leggings, and three pairs of socks. It was a bit confusing to extrapolate the equivalent from his wardrobe, but I swaddled him in a flannel blanket over a long-sleeved knit jumpsuit over a T-shirt and diaper, knitted booties over socks, plus a knitted hat.

His face seemed very pink. He was grouchy.

“I think he’s hot,” said his grandmother.

Read more…

Mammograms and Monthly Cycles: A Public Service Announcement

If you are a 40-year-old woman who has never had any symptoms of breast cancer, your doctor or your health insurance company probably will nudge you to get a “baseline mammogram” or “screening mammogram” done.  This could detect any tumor that might be lurking, but most likely you won’t have a tumor and this procedure will create an image of your healthy breasts that can be kept on file to compare to later scans.  It seems that a big part of cancer detection is looking for changes in a patient’s tissues rather than waiting for something to get so weird-looking that it’s obviously abnormal.

I had a baseline mammogram earlier this month.  The nurse who did it cautioned me that I was likely to be among the approximately 10% of women who are asked to come back for additional scanning after the doctor looks at the first images, because I have “dense tissue” (this is a polite way of saying “small breasts”) which is more difficult to scan thoroughly because it doesn’t mash so nicely in the scanner.  Indeed, I got a letter telling me to call to schedule a re-mash.  It hasn’t been done yet, but I’m not worried (much) because I am one of those rare Earthlings with no family history of breast cancer.  The reason it hasn’t been done yet is an important fact about the scheduling of mammograms, which nobody bothered to tell me until I was in the hospital gown, having taken off work and skipped wearing deodorant on a hot humid day, all ready to get scanned–and they had to cancel it.

Here is what everyone involved in arranging for patients to get screening mammograms ought to be trained to say:

“We recommend that you schedule the procedure in the first two weeks of your menstrual cycle, if possible, for best results.” Read more…

Prevent the Post-Party Sugar Crash!

My eight-year-old has attended many birthday parties at a bowling alley or similar venue where guests are served pizza (with white-flour crust), chips, soda pop, frosted cake, ice cream, more soda pop, and sometimes candy too.  That’s a lot of simple carbohydrates!  It’s the kind of meal that may be enjoyable while you’re eating it but tends to make you “crash” an hour or two later.  It’s even worse without the pizza and ice cream, which at least have some protein–frosted cake and soda pop on an empty stomach is a recipe for hyperactivity followed by meltdown.

I often attend these parties, too, because these “fun center” places are out in the suburbs, far from home.  Often I end up eating some of the food, if there’s extra.

We’ve always made a point of eating a solid, healthy meal not too long before the party, so that we don’t put the junk into a completely empty stomach and don’t overeat junk because we’re hungry.  I also try to plan for a healthy meal not too long after the party so that we eat again before getting hungry.  It’s the moment when the simple carbs are burned up and you suddenly have no calories to power your body that feels so awful.  After a party is no time to run a bunch of errands on the way home, unless you bring sandwiches or stop at a healthy restaurant–you will end up snapping at each other as you drag around some store, in our experience.  I’ve also learned that drinking too much coffee before or after the party will make the sugar crash worse or at least make me more irritable about it.

After the last such party we attended, I drove Nicholas straight home–40 minutes in the car, which was extremely hot at first, along an under-construction highway, in sunlight that seemed very bright after two hours in a bowling alley, with Nicholas clamoring, “Look what I drew on my dry-erase board NOW!” every few minutes (the board was a party favor), and then stop-and-go traffic through our neighborhood because of the detour around the tunnel renovation–so when I was finally getting out of the car and Nicholas was saying, “Can I watch TV?  I only watched one half-hour today, so can I watch another half-hour now?” and I said, “Well–” and he screeched, “YOU’RE INTERRUPTING!!!”, it was hard to resist clobbering him.  As I stomped toward the house, vowing for the hundredth time never to eat supermarket-bakery frosting again, I suddenly remembered a tip I had read a long time ago but never tried: Read more…