Archive for May, 2011

May 31, 2011

Minimalist Monday: Changing table, shmanging table

If you follow my blog, you know I have four kids, and three are three and under. When Champ was born, the oldest boy, Carl, wasn’t quite potty-trained at 32 months, so I had three little boys in diapers.

For a long time, we had a changing table downstairs AND a changing table upstairs in the oldest boys bedroom. Neither table held everything we needed, and I kept thinking it was more convenient to have one on each floor. Several months ago while I was donating and downsizing things, I decided to get rid of the downstairs changing table completely, and move a long dresser into the hallway upstairs.

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This isn’t a beautiful photograph, and it’s nothing fancy, but I tell you what…it was brilliant! Each of the top three drawers holds enough diapers/pull-ups/underwear and there’s space on top for wipes and such. I also have a drawer for extra supplies, and each boy is designated a drawer where I have outfits for the week. Super simple.

If you have more than one child in diapers, using only one changing table (or dresser) and keeping it *outside* the bedroom(s) is great…especially if your kids share rooms!

May 23, 2011

Minimalist Monday: Pajamas are Overrated

I do a load of laundry every day. I’ve cut back on the volume of clothing my kids and I have, but it’s still a work in progress.

As I was switching out the kids clothes now that warmer weather is approaching (and they are growing like weeds and need to change sizes), it dawned on me… do my boys even need pajamas?

I guess it’s easier to consider a “pajama free plan” this time of year with the temperature rising (slowly, but hey, it’s better than snow). So, for the past week, I have put the two youngest boys to bed in their onesies (yes, my two-year old wears a onesie- you try keeping a diaper on a 26-month old), and my three-year old in his nighttime pull-up (or underwear, we’re working on that) and a white undershirt. This also helps the oldest guy feel like Daddy, because that’s what Daddy sleeps in (sans pull-up, lol).

Of course, the “pajama free plan” isn’t so simple for Lizzy. During the summer, she tends to want to sleep in a t-shirt and underwear too, but that’s because we don’t have AC in our rental.  Also, last Summer, she was only seven; this summer she’s gonna be eight, and, well, that might as well be twenty-two! I have a feeling Lizzy may feel like covering up a bit more now that she’s aging.  Do little girls still wear undershirts? I remember wearing these really thin tank tops under my clothes around her age until I started wearing a training bra.  Maybe I should get her some of those.  And a few pairs of comfy cotton shorts for lounging around the house in lieu of pajamas.  Maybe. Or maybe she’ll wears pajamas because she’s the princess and occasionally gets to do things differently than her brothers because she has three brothers under three.  I’m not sure yet.

Now on to me. . .First of all, I don’t think my kids would appreciate me marching around in my underwear and a t-shirt.  Let’s just get that our there .  Second, while  I rarely sleep in pajamas, I do, however, have pajamas that I put on after my evening shower and wear until I get in bed and for a brief period in the morning before I get dressed. But WHY? I know that my day is much more productive and runs more smoothly if I get dressed immediately upon rising.  Maybe the “pajama free plan” is just what I need to force myself to get dressed first thing every morning.  Note to self: it is totally okay to get dressed and made-up hours apart.  Getting “ready” for the day doesn’t have to happen all at once! 

What about the winter, you ask? I don’t know.  I think we’ll probably do exactly what we’re trying now, but add some sweatpants and socks to the mix.  Or maybe we will need pajamas to handle the East Coast in the Winter…who knows.

The truth is, going without pajamas it isn’t just about laundry.  It’s about everyone needing to get dressed in the morning.  I think it will make us remember we have stuff to do.  The fun, messy, busy, crazy, stuff we call life.  And yes, sometimes that stuff is fun to do inside all day in our pajamas.  Now, I’m not saying we won’t have pajama days, but they will be pajama days because I’ve announced that we aren’t getting dressed for the day and are doing fun pajama day-y things, not just because we never got around to getting dressed.

I hope this works.  It’s been a week, and it’s going swimmingly. So, if we actually need pajamas one season out of the year, that’s okay.  We will have established better habits for getting ready for the day and there will be a lot less laundry for three out of four seasons.  And, I’ll get to take cute pictures of my kids sleepy-eyed wearing matching pajamas like this one.

Win-Win-Win.

May 18, 2011

Recipe: Paleo Kid’s Oatmeal Substitute

I’m calling this a recipe for kids because I don’t recommend adults even bother with using substitutes for things like Oatmeal. . .better to just eat something that is clean and Paleo. That being said, transitioning my three youngest kids to Paleo has required some fancy footwork on my part. I created this recipe for Paleo Oatmeal on the fly, and my two-year old loves it. I can’t vouch for the taste, because I haven’t tried it (I’m in the “don’t try things you may fall in love with and want to have every day” camp), but if my two-year-old will eat it, it must be okay. Please note- this recipe includes a splash of Grade B Maple Syrup. This is optional, and I realize including it makes this recipe less Paleo. During this transition, that’s okay with me.

  • 1 Egg
  • Splash of Grade B Maple Syrup (optional)
  • Sprinkle of Cinnamon (optional)
  • Scant 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1 Tablespoon Flax Meal
  • Splash of Unsweetened Coconut Milk

Combine first three ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and whisk with a fork until the egg is beaten well.  Add almond meal (just enough to make a runny batter) and flax meal and continue to stir. When well combined, microwave for 1.5 minutes at 50% power. Depending on the wattage of your microwave, you may have to play around with the power setting and the timing, but the cereal should look slightly fluffy, and the egg should be completely cooked. Using a clean fork, mash the cereal and a splash of coconut milk until it looks like kind of thick oatmeal or grits.

It may sound unpalatable, but my kid inhales it. I serve this with fresh fruit, and even still, he often asks for seconds.

Please leave feedback! I would love to know if your kid(s) like it too.

May 18, 2011

Everyday Paleo Cookbook Review: Great for Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free

I can’t remember the last time I bought a cookbook. In my minimalist journey, I have been donating cookbooks and taking iPhone pictures or scanning only the few recipes I actually like. For the most part, just about any recipe can be found online. Shockingly, I bought a cookbook last week! Since January, I have been checking in on a couple of Paleo blogs I really like on a fairly consistent basis, including (but not limited to) Everyday Paleo and Robb Wolf’s blog. When EverydayPaleo.com and GrowingupPaleo.com launched their own Paleo Talk Podcast, I started listening and heard them mention Sarah Fragoso’s new cookbook Everyday Paleo.  Sarah is a busy mother of three, so she totally “gets” how crazy my life can be.

Although the title of this post says “good for gluten-free and dairy-free,” I do realize the recipes use eggs. However, I also know (from my years as a vegan) that eggs are pretty easy to replace in many recipes. Now, obviously, the section titled eggs is one that should probably be skipped if you have an egg allergy (I can’t really think of a way to make the Egg Muffins without eggs!). However, even without the use of that section, this cookbook is still worth your money if you value your health and your time. Nothing too fancy-schmancy here; just darn good food.

I haven’t made used a ton of recipe’s just yet (we eat a lot of leftovers), but some things I’ve made and loved are:

  1. Paleo Pizza
  2. Garlic Beef Stew with Acorn Squash
  3. Paleo Meatloaf (made into meatloaf muffins)

So, why did I break my minimalist rule and buy a cookbook? This is more than a cookbook.  It’s a pep-talk and fitness guide too.  This one is a keeper!

As I continue to make recipes from Sarah’s cookbook, I’ll be sure to let you know!

May 15, 2011

Paleo Challenge Day 10: What We Ate and How I Feel

I’m ten days into my 120 Day Paleo Challenge, and since I do all the cooking, this means my family is too.  I can’t say I’m totally impressed with myself.  The first eight days were painless and easy to maintain (I think because I’ve been “paleo”-ish for a few months).  However, the ninth day ended with my husband running out to pick-up a bun-less burger and dessert from the nasty-food-joint down the street.  I’ve decided to use words associated with bad feelings in place of the real name of the restaurant, hoping this tactic reminds me how disgusting I felt almost immediately after the final bite was down the hatch.  The truth is, I really felt disgusting.  It wasn’t just the “I’m so disappointed in myself I could puke” feeling that often comes with eating food that we know is bad for us. . .I actually felt ill.  My stomach started churning and cramping up, and it didn’t really stop until mid-day today. I guess I’m glad this happened now and not weeks from now.  Not that I needed proof that food from that place is junk, but I don’t think my body will let me betray it like that again.

Here’s a list of some of the things we ate this week, with links for recipes if applicable (if you don’t see a link yet, it’s because it is my own recipe and I’ll add it soon).  I’ve also included what I fed my kids this week.  The change has been somewhat rough on them, so you’ll see more “transition foods” on their list now than I hope to see in  the weeks and months ahead.

My Paleo Meals:

Breakfast: Egg & Veggie Scrambles- Peppers, Onions, Spinach, sometimes (leftover) sausage or bacon

Lunch and Dinner:

-Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Turnips and Carrots

-Garlic Beef Stew

-Planned-Over: Garlic Beef Stew w/ Oven Roasted Grape Tomatoes and Sauteed Spinach

-Paleo Friendly DaBomba Salad (copied from my favorite local restaurant, Downtown Cafe)

-Carne Asada with Peppers and Onions

-Slow Cooker Chicken Breast w/ Baby Carrots, Celery and “Ranch” Seasoning

-Curry Stir-Fry

-Balsamic Chicken Salad

-Paleo Meatloaf with Turnips, Sweet Potato, and Carrots

Most days I ate leftovers for lunch, but some days if I had a huge breakfast, I may have had a Larabar mid-day instead of a full lunch if I wasn’t very hungry.

Kids Paleo Meals:

Breakfast:

-Chaos-Free Paleo Breakfast Cookie (super simple recipe coming soon)

-Fresh Fruit

-Cashews

Dinner:

-Slow Cooker Chicken Breast w/ Baby Carrots, Celery and “Ranch” Seasoning

-Balsamic Chicken Salad

-Paleo Meatloaf Muffins with Turnips, Sweet Potato, and Carrots

-Grilled or Baked Chicken with Raw Veggies & Fresh Fruit

-Paleo Pizza with Spinach and Feta

Kids Paleo Snacks:

-Fresh Fruit

-Raw Petite or Baby Carrots

-Cashews

-Larabars

-Barney Butter Almond Butter Travel Packets

I’m excited! My kids are already showing improvements in dietary preferences, asking more for fruit and nuts than the grain-based snacks we used to eat! In the next few days, I plan to post my recipes and update this post with links.  I’m also working on a Cookbook review for Everyday Paleo that I’ll publish this week, as well as some website improvements and additions. Stay tuned!

May 11, 2011

WTF Wednesday: Switching from Progressive to Geico

Actress Stephanie Courtney appears as "Fl...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve written about how much I like the customer service provided by Progressive Auto Insurance.  Unfortunately, I have to take back all the praise I have thrown their way.  I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say my husband had to go to the New York DMV 5 times because we couldn’t get what we needed from Progressive.  When I called, I knew more about Progressive’s computer system than the customer service supervisor I spoke with for over an hour. I got a quote from Geico shortly after the DMV fiasco, and ended up getting a better policy for less than half of what we were paying.

Even after hearing Geico commercials about customers saving a ton of money, I didn’t feel the need to switch.  In fact, I was a happy Progressive customer for more than nine years, but having cheery customer service reps doesn’t do any good if they’re incompetent.

I feel like this should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: You can get people to pay a premium only if the service you provide is top-notch.  Sorry, Progressive.  Even a friendly face like Flo won’t win us back.

May 5, 2011

Getting Serious About My Switch to Paleo: 120 Day Paleo Challenge

“If you never change your mind, why have one?” -Edward de Bono

Three years ago, in an effort to achieve optimum health, I switched to a mostly vegan diet. Unlike many people who become vegetarians or vegan, my number one goal was to get really healthy, not to “save the animals.” As cold as that may sound, I do have some issues with the way most farm animals are raised, but I’ll save that for a later post.

For almost three years, I cooked without meat and dairy. At first I was very strict, but I felt like I caught so much flack from friends and family, that I was more lax when around others. Additionally, during those three years I was pregnant twice. I found that when I went out to dinner, I was craving meat, and would eat it only from restaurants. I know it sounds weird, but while I was mostly vegan, I developed a strange aversion to preparing meat that I didn’t have previously. Maybe it was all the vegan propaganda I was reading…who knows.

Fast forward to September 2010, just shy of my three-year “veganaversary”. A couple of weeks after my 29th birthday, I ended up in the hospital. I was having chest pain, and after taking several EKG’s and comparing them, the doctor actually said “You may be having a heart attack- I can’t send you home. Oh, by the way, please take this nitroglycerin stat.” I imagine that’s really scary to hear at any age, but at barely 29 with four young kids at home, it freaked. me. out.

After two days in the hospital and several tests and follow-up visits, we still don’t know what was going on with my heart. We’ve eliminated stress, anxiety, panic attack, and heart attack, but that’s about all.

The experience made me question a lot of things (it’s how my minimalist journey started as well), but the first thing I questioned was my diet. My husband and I have a very good friend whom we really trust. He has a PHD and studied heart health, specifically the effects of diet and nutrition on the heart. Time and time again, his research showed that people who eat a diet of mainly vegetables and lean meat have the healthiest hearts.  While heart health isn’t my only goal, I am happy to report that the last few months of transitioning to the paleolithic diet (paleo diet) have meant fewer IBS symptoms, ovarian cyst flare-ups, and lessened my chronic cystitis.

Ironically, as this post sat in draft form for the last few weeks while on vacation, I had another heart scare.  Chest pain, followed by an ambulance ride, and several hours in the ER.  The only new news is a heart murmur.  Anyhow, I’m sure lots of cardiology follow-up is in my future, but suffice it to say: I’M SO DONE! It’s time to stop messing around. My health is the most important thing! My kids & husband need me!

I spent the last few months really dialing in my sleep, cutting out grains & dairy (except for Omega-3 Cage Free Eggs) and trying hard to get at least eight hours of sleep every single night… which is pretty tough with so many young children. Then, I went on vacation across the county, had an impromptu sleepover with friends and a total of eight kids, and had company in town.  All within 10 days.  As fun as exciting as all of it was, it left me running on very little sleep and drinking coffee again most days (after basically cutting it out).  For the first time in months, my usual health problems reared their ugly heads.

To sum it all up, I’ve realized something really important: my body is really sensitive.  Perhaps more sensitive than other people, perhaps not.  I just know I need to be smarter about things.  I can’t stay up really late and get too little sleep.  I can’t eat crappy food.  It’s a really slippery slope for me.  One thing begets another and then another.  I need to find a way to see friends during more reasonable (read: daytime) hours.  This means I need to plan further ahead, find a good babysitter, and force myself to go to bed at a reasonable hour.  No. Matter. What.

So, starting today, I’m embarking on a  four-month (120 day) Paleo Challenge.  I’m selecting 120 days because I’ll be 30 years old on September 5th, and I would like to have my health in check. I realize this means I will be at many a summer barbecue, being the “weirdo” that won’t eat this or that.  I am prepared to bring my own food and get laughed at- because that’s what it takes.

My Paleo Challenge isn’t just about food.  It isn’t just about the sleep or the exercise.  It’s about the synergy all of those things. I’m dong it.  My health is important.  My body needs my focus, and my family can’t handle having me out of the loop because I’ve made poor decisions.

Anyone care to join me?