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…

Why I Don’t Drop Acid

From the time I first learned what LSD is until just a few days ago, I had thought of it as one of the many interesting experiences Earth has to offer and put it in the category, “Things that aren’t a high priority for me to try but that I might get around to, someday, in the right circumstances, if I get bored.”  Over the years I’ve had several friends who tell me acid trips are really fun, and I’ve even hung out with people while they’re tripping, yet the idea of trying LSD myself never budged out of the “maybe someday” category.  It’s illegal, and it can be dangerous, but what really gave me pause was the idea of hallucinating, which I didn’t think I would enjoy.  I’ve experienced hallucinations from migraines, fevers, and other medical conditions, and they were scary, not entertaining.

What I recently realized is that my way-too-many experiences with the visual aura that precedes some migraines have built up expectations about that type of visual experience that would likely suck all the fun out of an acid trip for me, if they did not actually trigger a headache.  Oddly enough, this realization came out of a conversation that was aimed at explaining to me why LSD is not scary because “You’re not hallucinating things that are actually not there at all; it’s just this really cool shifting of what you see.”  This was followed by a lot of description of the experience and showing me a video clip of something that looks similar.  I was able to watch the video without flinching and to agree that it was beautifully kaleidoscopic and psychedelic and interesting.  But I also recognized that squirming movement.  I’ve seen something very much like that before, and I’ve found it fascinating, compelling, so absorbing that I will watch it and play with it (experimenting with looking at different surfaces to see what they do) and not take my medication and not tell anyone what’s happening because it’s so interesting, so powerful, so promising that I will keep watching it until I walk off the fucking cliff. Read more…

How to Wash Your Hair with Vinegar

I wrote a guest post for The Greenbacks Gal on the natural, money-saving method of washing my hair that I have been using for the past nine years! This is an updated version of my vinegar hairwashing article from a few years ago, with some new tips…and a photo of me. I decided it makes sense that people considering whether to wash their hair the way I do would want to know how my hair looks.

Washing my hair with vinegar makes it possible for me to wash less often, have silky texture and nice waves and less frizz without (usually) applying anything extra to my hair, spend less money on hair care, and avoid applying weird chemicals to my skin or rinsing them into the water supply.

To read all about it–or if you are a longtime reader who has been frustrated that there are no pictures of me anywhere on this site and you really want to know what I look like–click on over to The Greenbacks Gal!

P.S. I wrote this entire post using my friends’ wifi while on their porch waiting to find out when they are coming home. Technology may not be allowing me to reach them instantly, but it’s still pretty amazing, giving me the ability to speak to the entire world using a two-pound device I was carrying in my bookbag and some convenient invisible waves! And if I get too hungry to keep waiting, this device converts into a combination atlas and phone book that will show me exactly where to find the nearest restaurant! This is awesome. Except there are some mosquitoes here–is there an app for that yet?

Apple Cider Vinegar as Facial Toner

You may have heard the old saying, “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  I know I’ve heard it, and many clever variations on it, many times since I started using both honey and vinegar in my beauty routines!  First I started washing my hair with white vinegar, then I started washing my face with honey, and then I started using apple cider vinegar as a “toner” to control oily skin on my face.

Apple cider vinegar works at least as well as toners from the drugstore, and it costs a lot less.  Just buy a bottle at any grocery store (buy organic, if you can); pour half of it into an empty, clean bottle; and add water to dilute it to half strength.  You could use distilled or boiled water to be really careful, but because vinegar is great at killing germs you’re unlikely to have any problems from bacteria that might be in tap water–I haven’t.  Store it at room temperature.

To use the toner, soak a cotton ball or cloth wipe and rub it gently over your skin.  (I save the cotton from the tops of pill bottles to use with toner.  When I don’t have any of that, I use my cloth wipes.)  Let the vinegar dry on your skin.  The smell is intense at first but will go away in a few minutes.  I don’t think it smells any worse than commercial toners!

Apple cider vinegar reduces my oily, shiny look without making my skin too dry.  It’s very refreshing in summer when I feel sweaty.  It seems to help a little when my nose is redder than the rest of my face.  By killing bacteria on the skin, it helps to prevent blemishes.  Some days, I can see gray stuff on my cotton or cloth after applying toner, which did not come off when I washed my face with soap; I think those particles come from air pollution, and they can’t be good for my skin!

This toner also helps to calm the itching and stinging of bug bites and sunburn.  However, be careful applying it to really irritated or broken skin–it stings!

Apple cider vinegar as a facial toner works for me!  Visit Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways for more thrifty and earth-friendly tips!

Cloth Wipes for Bedroom, Bathroom, and More!

I am excited to be a contributing writer in the Green in 365 series at Live Renewed!

Check out my article on how to use cloth wipes instead of paper tissues to save trees, reduce pollution, save money, and just have a better experience in so many ways.  I mean, look, aren’t they pretty?


I’ve found that looking at a cute basket full of clean, soft cloths in assorted colors and prints makes me feel happy and cared for in a way that instant garbage just doesn’t.  It makes the small amount of extra work involved in laundering the cloths feel completely worthwhile.

Here are some links to related articles here at The Earthling’s Handbook:

Critical readers will notice that I have now posted a picture of my toilet paper on the Internet.  Not very classy, I’ll admit–but it’s for educational purposes!!

UPDATE: I received an email questioning why this post is in the Sex category, so I’ll explain a little less discreetly than I did at Live Renewed: Have you ever had an intimate moment interrupted by your lover picking shreds of toilet paper off of you?  It’s embarrassing–but hard to avoid when using a paper product that is designed to fall apart on contact with liquid on a part of your body that you can’t see!  Have you ever wished to remove sticky fluids from yourself and dabbed with a tissue which then bonded with said fluids and stuck to your skin and shredded apart, turning your postcoital languor into stressful confusion?  Those guys who grab something from the laundry pile to mop up with are actually on to something, ladies!  Cloth works better, and it does get clean in the washing machine.

Healthy Alternative to French Onion Dip for Veggies or Chips

Meatless MondayI served this dip at coffee hour last Sunday and got many questions about the ingredients and requests for the recipe, so here it is!  I actually developed this recipe for a coffee hour not long after I joined my church in 1996, when I was not as much into healthy eating as I am now–I had been planning to make the standard “stir a packet of onion soup mix into a pint of sour cream” dip, but then I found that one of my housemates had used the soup mix that I thought was in the pantry, so I had to come up with something….

This dip is healthier than one made with packaged soup mix because it’s much lower in sodium and doesn’t contain artificial flavor, artificial color, or preservatives.  The yeast adds some extra protein and B vitamins–though probably only a trace amount per serving.  UPDATE: I looked up the ingredients of America’s most popular onion soup mix and realized that it would be off-limits for people with several of the most common food sensitivities: It contains wheat, corn (probably genetically modified), soy (also probably GMO), and monosodium glutamate.  Furthermore, the soybean oil is partially hydrogenated=trans fat, and the mix also contains carcinogenic caramel coloring.  Yum yum.  I’m glad I discovered this alternative!

I usually make it with yogurt rather than sour cream because these days I eat lots of yogurt and always have it on hand.  Make sure to read the label of yogurt or sour cream; some brands contain surprising additives.  Buy organic if you can.  I like the organic yogurt from Trader Joe’s, and it’s reasonably priced.

To make a large bowl of dip, suitable for a party, you will need:

  • 2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. dried minced onion
  • 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes (Read more about them here!)
  • 1 tsp. dried dill
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • a squirt of yellow mustard (optional; I add this if the dip seems too bland)
  • dash of soy sauce, or salt to taste

Mix thoroughly at least 1 hour before serving, to give the onions time to soften.  Taste it and adjust the seasoning if desired.

For once, I served a quantity of veggies that was almost perfect to satisfy the crowd and use up most of the dip, so here’s my suggestion for a veggie tray to accompany this dip:

  • 5 enormous carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
  • 1 large cucumber, cut into sticks
  • 3 bell peppers of assorted colors, cored and cut into strips

Visit the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop for more healthy recipes!  Visit Works-for-Me Wednesday and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for more great tips!

Emergency Creamy Tomato Soup (healthier!)

Okay, it wasn’t really an emergency.  It was just that our eight-year-old Nicholas really wanted creamy tomato soup for dinner when both parents were recovering–more weakly than we’d hoped–from a stomach virus that the kid had several days earlier.  Daniel and I both were very sick Monday, a little better Tuesday, and then I went back to work yesterday but regretted it by mid-afternoon.  On the way home, I was dizzy and gurgling ominously in the lower abdomen, so instead of stopping to buy the chicken soup Daniel had requested, I went straight home, thinking I would go to the store later.  Nicholas was excited to go to the store and had decided he wanted tomato soup.  We even had a coupon for new Campbell’s 100% Natural (the existence of which makes me want to stop buying their other soups, because you see what they’re saying there?).

But I never got better enough to leave the house.  An hour past our usual dinnertime, I was still lying around moaning and had just added heartburn to my list of woes.  I didn’t even feel capable of heating up and stirring canned soup if we’d had some available.

Daniel to the rescue!  His first step was looking at a recipe for creamy tomato soup in the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook, which he describes as, “where I look when I want something classic and American.”  The recipe called for a large can of diced tomato.  What we had was homemade marinara sauce.  Since Nicholas is a fan of the creamy tomato soup at Panera Bread, which is Italian-flavored, we figured this would work.  Daniel cut the recipe in half and used it as a guideline for how to combine milk and tomatoes without curdling.  The result was this recipe: Read more…

Less Acid Spaghetti Sauce, January 20 Version

Spaghetti with marinara sauce is my favorite food.  However, tomato sauce and spices can be irritating to a stomach that’s been having that burning “acid” feeling or a tongue with inflamed taste buds at the very back.  I have been having both problems lately…but I really wanted to make a new batch of spaghetti sauce…so I tried to make a mellow one, and I used a trick I read online to reduce the acid, and it really seemed to work!  This sauce is tasty but didn’t burn my mouth or stomach at all, even though I ate a big portion and then licked the pot! :-)

This recipe must be higher in sodium than most of my homemade sauces because it contains seaweed and baking soda as well as salt.  If you are on a low-sodium diet, leave out the salt and then add salt to your portion if you think it’s necessary–you’ll probably use less that way.

Other factors influencing this batch of sauce were that we happened to have run out of oregano, somehow, without anyone putting in on a shopping list, and that we were so low on fresh garlic that I knew it wouldn’t be enough for a whole pot of sauce and decided to use granulated garlic instead.  Spaghetti sauce is very flexible about this sort of thing.

Here are the instructions/ingredients/method for approximately reproducing this batch of sauce: Read more…

Milk: What kind we buy, and why

I love saving money, yet I routinely buy half-gallon cartons of milk that cost twice as much as the cheapest milk in the supermarket!  Furthermore, two half-gallon paper cartons cost more than one gallon plastic jug, for the same amount of milk!  What am I thinking?!

Several years ago, Daniel and I decided that milk that is healthier for us and the Earth is worth more money.  The extra expense was hard to swallow at first, but the fact is that my overall thrifty shopping habits lead us to spend less on groceries than the average American family of our size, even with the expensive milk.  Also, we don’t use as much fluid milk as many American families–it’s mostly for cereal and coffee in our house, and it’s unusual (though hardly against the rules) for any of us to drink a whole glass of milk.  We get most of our calcium from yogurt and non-dairy foods.  Using less milk allows us to spend more per ounce without breaking the budget.

Here’s what milk we buy, when, where, and why: Read more…

Babies and Television

Children younger than 2 years old should not watch any television at all.  The experts have been saying this for more than a decade, yet a lot of the parents I know think this is such an absurd idea that nobody could possibly comply with it.

We did.  Almost.  We occasionally took Nicholas to restaurants where a television was playing in the background.  We occasionally turned on the Weather Channel long enough to see the forecast.  When he was 13 months old and the Steelers were in the Super Bowl, Daniel and I watched about 15 minutes of the game even though Nicholas was in the room.

But we never, ever turned on television for him to watch before he turned 2.  When we were at someone else’s house and they had the TV on, we took Nicholas out of that room if at all possible.  I estimate that in his first 2 years, he spent a grand total of about 10 hours in the presence of a turned-on television.  We have limited his screen time since then (he’s 7 now) so that he averages less than 2 hours per day of TV and computer put together.

Why?  Because I’m a developmental psychologist, and I think those experts are on to something.  Early television viewing increases obesity and decreases school engagement. Early television viewing changes the arteries in the eyes, increasing the risk of high blood pressure.  Early television viewing swamps babies with stimuli they don’t understand yet find so visually compelling that it’s hard for them to look away.  The earlier television viewing becomes part of a person’s routine, the harder it will be for them to live without it–and watching television, though it can be fun, is in most ways a waste of time.  Even educational TV programs don’t teach very young children anything.  Before becoming a mother, I read The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn (see my review here) and was determined to protect my child from television.  Daniel agreed with me.

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?!  Read more…