Friday, June 24, 2011

Back to Work

I'm sure you've noticed that I haven't been blogging much lately. My 1-2 time per week posting schedule has sort of gone out the window this past month. It's not because I don't have anything to say, it's just that I've found myself using my time for other things lately. It's not that I don't think blogging is a worthwhile use of my time. It's more that I have such limited time right now that other things (such as chores) take priority. Cleaning the floors, for example, has become a recent priority as JC has discovered mobility. She's not quite crawling yet, but she does this sort of "froggie shuffle," where she propels herself forward on her belly (literally, on her belly), by pulling herself with her arms and pushing off with her feet together. She's actually quiet adept at it and she can get moving quite quickly. And, if I don't want her shirts and dresses looking like used Swiffer sheets, I have to stay on top of the sweeping, vacuuming and floor-washing.

More than anything, though, the recent time crunch is a result of my decision to go back to work. I didn't expect that I would go back to work early (JC is 8.5 months), let alone full-time, but here I go! On Monday, in fact! Yes, it was a tough decision, but I think it's a good one. My husband will be able to claim the rest of the parental benefits, so he can stay home with JC for the summer and still make a bit of money.

I have to admit that I was pretty excited to be offered this full-time position initially. That first day I felt pretty awesome. However, the next morning I woke up thinking about how I'd be "abandoning" JC to go back to work and I cried ... A LOT. I spent the next week crying most days, feeling like I was never going to see her again. After chatting with some friends and my mom, I started to look at the return more optimistically rather than as "impending doom." ("Impending doom" describes, to a tee, how I had been perceiving my return.)

Now I'm trying to think of it as just another activity that I'll be doing on weekdays. I'll still get up in the morning and cuddle my little bean, and nurse her and feed her breakfast and get her dressed. But, instead of being the one to put her down for her morning nap, I'll let her daddy do it, and I'll go out for the day (to work). I'm sure I'll miss her during the day when I'm not busy, but I'll be home before 5 o'clock most days, so we'll still have plenty of time in the evenings (she goes to bed ~9:30 pm). I'll miss 2-3 feeds while I'm at work, so I intend to pump so that she can take it by sippy cup or bottle.

So, why has this upcoming employment interrupted my blogging routine? Well, I guess in a way I'm nesting. I know, it makes it sound as if I'm about to go into labour again, but it makes sense that I'd be nesting again. I'm rushing around trying to tie up all the loose ends before things get really busy. My to-do list is a mile long and so it leaves little time for blogging. I hope to continue to write posts, but please forgive me if they are not as regular as they once were.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Confessions of a Doubtful Dietitian

First off, let it be known that I respect Canada's Food Guide and its creators. I know if by heart and agree with its messaging. In fact, when I reach for a snack, I do a mental tally of all of my food group servings that I've had so far in order to decide which food groups will make up my snack. Yes, I am, admittedly, a total nutrition nerd. But, you already knew that.

What I am here to confess, however, is that while I respect the food guide and use it myself, I don't think it is a great tool for the general public (gasp!). Sure, I use it as a point of conversation with clients, and I have a stack available to offer, but it is not, by any means, my flagship communication tool.

I would love to tell you why (and I will), but first I must explain what provoked this post.

Usually I like to keep opinions like this to myself. Not because I'm not comfortable with my opinion, but because I have a fear of offending other dietitians (or of making them think I'm some crackpot dietitian that doesn't have a clue). However, this morning I read a blog post by Dr. Arya Sharma about the new US food guide. Yes, he, too, blogged about the new MyPlate that I talked about just last week. However, the title of his post was: "Plate or Pyramid - Why Nobody Really Cares About Nutrition Guides." I have to admit that when I saw the subject line in my inbox, I thought "Whoa! That's a bold statement!" And it is! But then I read the post and watched the accompanying video, and all I could think was "Finally! Someone else agrees with me!"

It's not that food guides are a bad idea. They just aren't the solution to the core problem of why people don't eat healthfully. It's not that people think the foods listed in the guides are bad, it's just that the food guides don't make it any easier to eat well. Food guides are sort of akin to flossing. We all know we should floss daily, but how many people do? (Yes, some of us do, but not that many of us!) Yep, we all know we should have so many servings of this, this, and that, but how many of us ACTUALLY do?

I think one of the biggest issues with the food guides is (as Dr. Sharma notes in the video) that dietitians often don't see the design flaws of the food guides. Why? Because we're nutrition nerds! It seems logical to us to tally our servings, because that's what we're trained to do! THAT IS NOT NORMAL!!!! Lovely if it were, but it just isn't!

The solution? I wish I had it. Perhaps what we really need is to have a non-"nutrition nerd" create a "food guide," and to have some liberal dietitians proofread it. Maybe we need a food psychologist to help. I don't know, but I do know that current food guides just aren't fresh and sexy enough to get people to pay attention.

So, assuming you don't have a food guide hanging on your fridge, here's my best advice to you:
Eat fresh foods. The fresher the better; the closer to the farm, the better.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Collapse of the Food Pyramid

Yesterday the USDA unveiled their new food guide. Previously, the recommended food pattern for Americans was represented by a pyramid. However, as you'll read in the all the news articles, many found the pyramid confusing. Take a look below:

The new "food guide" is based on a plate model - something that I have used extensively in teaching healthy eating principles to clients. The idea behind the plate model is that it is less abstract, so it's easier to translate healthy eating recommendations into practice. Take a look below for the new guide, also known as "MyPlate."

A pretty simple principle, really. Load up half your plate with fruits and vegetables, then finish off with a protein source and some whole grains on the other half. Top it all off with a glass of milk or alternative, and you've got a balanced meal. Does this sound like something you do at home? I hope so, but the reality is that it's not what most people do. However, it's never too late to start.

Here are my best tips:

1) Prepare more than one type of veg if you want to make your plate half veggies. For example, cook a vegetable, such as asparagus, and then have some raw veggie sticks or salad as well.

2) Add fruit to your salads or your main meal. For example, throw some apple slices or mandarin orange segments on your salad. Raisins are fantastic when added to couscous, quinoa, or rice.

3) Put the veggies on your plate first. If you put the protein and grains on your plate first, you're unlikely to leave enough space for your veggies. Fill up half your plate with the veggies first, then go from there.

4) You've heard it from me before, but here we go again! If you're not going to have a milk or alternative as your mealtime beverage, just have water. No pop, coffee, tea, or juice at meals.

In case all this talk of the US food guide has got you wondering what Canada's Food Guide looks like these days, here's a preview (for the full guide, go to the Health Canada website):

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sweet (Smelling) Memories

For me, and for many, smells can trigger vivid memories.

Here are a few of my trigger smells:

Stetson Cologne - my dad. This smell-connection is so strong, that when I was a teenager working at Dairy Queen, a man who was wearing Stetson walked in the restaurant and my eyes immediately scanned the crowded restaurant searching for my dad. That was when I realized the smell connection.

Gain Laundry Detergent - weekends of years 2-4 of university with my roommate, Andrea. She washed her sheets religiously, at least once a week, and she always used Gain (in the bright green bottle).

Satsuma body lotion by the Body Shop - Again, this reminds me of Andrea, but it actually takes me back to first year university when we lived in residence. She would parade around in crazy bell-bottom pants with her U of G sweatshirt on, smelling like Satsuma.

Nautica cologne - not sure which scent, but it reminds me of my husband in his high school days.

Swiss Army cologne - my hubby in his university days.

Finesse shampoo & conditioner - my mom. She hasn't used it for years, but it still takes me back to being a little kid.

Sandalwood - total relaxation. I used sandalwood scented body lotion at the Rosseau Resort & Spa in the Muskokas and now when I smell it, it just makes me feel relaxed and pampered.

Say Yes to Carrots! Shampoo - being pregnant. I used it for the first time last February when we visited my brother and sister-in-law in Ottawa when we told them we were expecting JC.

Promised Land Soap by Smell the Soap - JC's birth. This was the soap we were using around the time of her birth. I LOVE the smell of that soap now!

What are your smell connections?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Going Dairy-Free - How I have gained greater respect for those with food sensitivities and allergies

Hello, again. It has certainly been a while!

Here's my short-list of excuses:

1) I actually wrote a new blog post last week, but Blogger was down when I went to publish it, so my post was LOST (AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!). So frustrating.

2) We've had carpenter ants invading part of our house, so that has resulted in JC & I fleeing the house to seek refuge at my parents' place in the country (where internet is S-L-O-W and sometimes non-existent).

3) Ultimate season is upon us, which means practices, games, tourneys, and LOTS of recap chats with my hubby. We actually finished 4/20 at Soggy Bottom a couple of weeks ago, and the team did great at TUF this past weekend (though Day 2 was rained out).

4) Soccer season is also upon us. Convening a league makes for busy times, but a good time. Sistas in Soccer starts up May 29th.

5) The weather has been BEAUTIFUL! Well, until this past weekend at least. When it's so gorgeous out, I just want to play outside. No time for sitting at my computer typing out blog posts. I'm sure you understand.


Now on to the real blog post. The one that has been written and is now being re-written, because that's how things go sometimes.

This post is a tribute to all of you out there who have food allergies, intolerances and/or sensitivities. Or just follow a very specific eating pattern.

As much as I'm a dietitian who knows and understands special diets, I still find it difficult to work around food restrictions. For example, I have a few friends with food restrictions, and when they come to visit, I often draw a blank as to what to serve them. Why? Because I get caught up in the "can't haves" rather than focusing on the "can haves."

Let's take my one friend, DA. She is intolerant to dairy, chicken, almonds, bananas, gluten, and shrimp. I know what you're thinking: "What does the woman eat????!!" See that's the thing - it sounds so restrictive, but there are still TONS of foods she can eat. She can have soy, beef, pork, turkey, legumes, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, kiwis, apples, oranges, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, salmon, tuna, ..... and the list goes on.

Lately I have been attempting to go dairy-free. Not because I think milk is gross or because I watched Food Inc. It's because little JC is about THE gassiest baby I have ever known. The burps and toots don't bother me - it's the crying from gas pain that breaks my heart. There are plenty of theories about what can cause such issues in a baby, but one of the most common ones I have read about is dairy intake by the breastfeeding mother. I don't know the science behind it (nor can I guarantee that there is any), but I am doing my best to eliminate dairy from my diet for the time being to see if it makes a different for my poor little bean.

The first week was a bit of a novelty, as I bought up some unsweetened soy milk and took the cheese off the grocery list. The second week was a little tougher, as I tired of my cheese- and yogurt-free life. However, I'm sort of in a groove with it now with only the occasional hiccup.

My poor husband longs for pizza with cheese, macaroni and cheese, lasagna with cheese, and all things cheesy. But he's being very patient with me. I don't know if it's really helping JC, but at least it makes me feel like I'm doing something to help her.

I am being careful to eat foods that are rich in calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin D, because those are the reasons I drink milk to begin with. Unsweetened soy milk is a great substitute, and I continue to eat lots of whole grains, nuts and seeds, fresh fruits and veggies, and to take a vitamin D supplement (1000 IU/d) and a pre-/postnatal multivitamin.

So what should you take away from this blabber about food restrictions:

1) It's easy, but not easy to follow a special diet.

2) It's the people around you that can make or break it for you. If you're surrounded by supportive people, it's much easier to make a change (or stick with a diet). If you're surrounded by skeptics, it's going to be a tough go.

3) SUPPORT your friends and family as they adopt special diets for health reasons. It's not always easy to do it. Your support means a lot. It's a way of showing respect.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Can it!

A few weeks ago, we were driving along a busy city street, on our way to a family reunion. I was just watching the buildings and people as we passed them by when I had a little "light bulb moment."

We had just driven past a heavyset man walking with a young boy (likely about 7 years old). The man was drinking out of a can as he walked with the child. An ordinary enough sight, but it got me thinking ...

What could that man be drinking?

Beer??!! On a Sunday, in broad daylight, walking down a city street with a child?! No, probably not.

What else could it be?

Milk? Nope - that comes in cartons.
Water? Nope - then he'd have a bottle.
Juice? No, that usually comes in a tetra or a bottle.

Must have been pop or iced tea I figure. Huh. Still not a great example for the kid.

So, here's what I realized : if a beverage comes in a can, CAN IT! ('Cause it's probably not your best option.)

And if that's not enough to make you skip the canned drinks, consider the BPA that could very well be lurking in that can. Yeah, that's right - just when you thought you were safe, having cleared your gym bag of your old Nalgenes! Now it's the cans, or at least that's what this article is saying about Coke cans ...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Veggie Garden - Year 1 - Step 1

I am SOOOOOO excited about having a vegetable garden in our backyard!!!

I just had to get that off my chest.

My mom often had a vegetable garden when I was growing up and I remember her spending time planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting. She always seemed so happy out there! Some years I would help with the beans or peas, or even help harvest some zucchini or cucumbers.

However, since moving out to go to university, I haven't really had a vegetable garden. That's why when we bought a house, I started dreaming about a vegetable garden in the backyard.

There's no plot back there yet, but my parents gave us a shovel for Christmas, so we'll be attacking the sunny corner of the backyard soon. We've ordered a cubic yard of garden soil, so that will give us a good start, too.

In March, we went to Seedy Saturday at a local church and spent about $30 on seeds. We bought seeds for growing tomatoes (full-size and cherry), beans, peas (regular and sugarsnap), zucchini, cucumbers, basil, cilantro, lettuce .... I think that's everything.

Last week, I plopped JC in her Bumbo in the driveway, hauled out a bag of gardening soil and some pots and planted the tomatoes, basil and cilantro. I gave them a good watering and placed them in our sunroom on an isolated countertop (this is key so that our kitties don't munch on the sprouts!) to get them going. Each day, my hubbie and I wander in there and examine the progress. It's so exciting to see the little shoots pop up and extend their tiny leaves! So far 9 of 13 pots have something green growing in them. (The first photo is from April 13th, the second from the 19th.)

We recently picked up a spade, a hoe, and a metal rake at a secondhand shop near our place for five bucks a piece. They will come in handy soon!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Don't go too nutty now!

We're always reading in the news about how great nuts are for you. One week they're claiming almonds are the best, the next week it's walnuts. The truth is that nuts can be very good for you.

They're a good source of protein, healthy fats, and also vitamin E. Their protein content is what helps make you feel full when you eat them, so they're great as part of a snack. Another option is to have them as your protein source in a meal (ie. nut butter on toast as part of breakfast, or nuts on a large salad as part of a lunch or supper). They're also great for taking along with you, because they don't need to be refrigerated before you eat them. This makes them a favourite of mine for long hikes, camping trips, sports tournaments, and long days at work.

Storage Tip: Keep nuts in the fridge or even the freezer to prevent the fats in the nuts from going rancid (bad).

So go a head and enjoy a healthy snack of some nuts ... but don't go TOO nutty now!

Often at parties I see a bowl or a dish sitting out with nuts in it. There's often beer nuts, salted peanuts, sometimes wasabi peanuts, chocolate-covered almonds, and so forth. But, I caution you: BEWARE OF THE NUTS. If you sit down in front of them and start munching away, it won't be long before you've gone overboard.

A client once came to see me for weight management and weight loss support. She told me about her healthy diet and about the exercise she was doing. She explained that she would often have a snack of nuts in the evening because she knew that they wouldn't affect her blood sugar and because they are a healthy snack. She said she preferred peanuts and always chose the unsalted variety. I congratulated her on these positive steps and followed up with a question about her portion size. That's when she explained that she would have about a cup (250 mL) of peanuts each night. Ding ding DING!

THAT was the problem. The portion size! Can you believe that 1 cup of peanuts packs nearly 900 calories??!! And that's the raw ones (ie. not oil-roasted). WOW!

To put it in perspective, the average adult woman in her 20s or 30s consumes ~2000 calories per day. That means that a cup of peanuts would be nearly 1/2 her daily intake of calories. No wonder she wasn't losing weight!

Here are some tips for nuts to keep you out of trouble:
  • Keep your serving size to 1/4 cup (that's ~200 calories if it's peanuts you're choosing)
  • Store nuts in the freezer or fridge to keep them tasting good
  • Choose unsalted, raw varieties whenever possible (and chocolate-free of course!)
  • If serving nuts at a party, provide a SMALL dish to help your guests to prevent overeating
  • If you can manage it, eat them one at a time so you take the time to enjoy them (otherwise 1/4 cup may seem like nothing)
  • If you're handful is over-flowing, you've got too much!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Knitting Update

At last I have finished JC's sweater!

Well, actually, I finished it almost a month ago, but I wanted to make a hat to match it and I just finished that bit recently. The sweater pattern comes with a pattern for a hat, but I wasn't sure about it, so I elected to make one of my usual hats (I've knitted ~15 of these to date). The pattern I use is designed by Susan B. Anderson and comes together really quickly and with great results. I like the style of the hat because it's forgiving. It stretches a bit, but you can also adjust the length of it by rolling or unrolling the brim.

To match JC's pink sweater, I made a pink "upside-down daisy" toque. It's so cute!!

I also recently made a similar hat in a smaller size in green for my new little step-cousin. Instead of making the daisy, I made little ears and sewed them on! So cute! I should have taken a photo ... oops!

I know a few expectant mommies right now, so I will likely be making these little hats a lot over the next few months.

Bear ears are cute ... what else should we top these little hats with? I'm open to suggestions! :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cable-free for a year

Yeah, you read it right - we've been free of cable television for a year now! In fact, we didn't even bother with bunny ears, so we've been free of all live television for a year now (in our home at least).

When we first moved in together in 2008, we lived in a small apartment and our dining table (a worn, retro-diner style one) sat in our living room, near the TV. We started out by eating our meals happily there, visiting about our days. However, after awhile we started watching part of a movie during Friday night dinners, and watching a little more the following morning while we ate breakfast. And since the couch was so close by, we would vacate the table and lounge on the couch, snacking away while we continued to watch. Dishes piled up, and little was accomplished after meals (unless you count finishing a movie). PVR exacerbated the problem. While recording shows meant we didn't watch stuff we weren't interested in, nor commercials, it meant we could catch a bit of Grey's while we ate breakfast before work, or a little Flashpoint during lunch. We began to watch TV with EVERY meal and then some. EW!

When we found out we were expecting JC, we started thinking about cutting the cable (it was satellite at the time, actually). However, we moved into a new apartment which put our table (we bought a new used one - wood this time) in the kitchen, and the TV upstairs in the loft. We decided that having the TV and the table separated by a whole floor would be enough. And it was ... at first. But then we ordered pizza one Friday night and decided to eat it while we watched a movie (on demand). And then on a Saturday morning we ate our breakfast while we watched another movie ... and, well, you get the idea.

Finally, one night, we were flipping through the "on demand" movies and tried to order one, but we kept getting a message that the program was too busy. It gave us a support number to call, so we called them. My husband spent some time arguing with the voice on the other end, repeating that if we are going to pay for a service, we expect to receive it - on demand!! We must have spent an hour trying to get the movie between trying and re-trying and calling the cable company.

That is when we knew it was time to cut the cord (or cable, rather).

(Besides, I was terrified that I would sit down on the couch with the baby, flip on the TV, and miss her childhood because I was absorbed in daytime TV.)

Once the cable was gone, we started going for walks every night. It was good exercise in general, but it gave us a chance to chat, scope out houses, and stretch my pregnant body. We were even a little more on top of dishes!

Since JC's birth, we've bought a house and moved in. The TV is FAR away from the table, and we RARELY eat lunch or dinner in front of it. Sometimes on weekends if JC is sleeping and the weather is lousy we'll eat breakfast while we watch part of a movie, but that is sure to stop once JC starts eating breakfast with us. Also, once we finish the basement, the TV will be banished from the main floor.

We still watch Grey's and a couple other shows by watching them online from the broadcasters' websites, but only occasionally, and it's FREE! We have more DVDs than I am comfortable admitting (though we do not plan to purchase anymore and may sell a good chunk of what we own), and we also borrow movies from the library for FREE!

Yes, by cutting the cable, we've saved money, upped our exercise, and most importantly, we are LIVING OUR LIVES rather than watching other people's made-up lives! And it feels GREAT!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Using cloth diapers is NOT as difficult as you might think

... or at least when you have a working washing machine!

It is entirely possible to use cloth diapers and just wash them at a laundromat - it's just more convenient when you have laundering capabilities within your home. I say this because last Friday night we put on a load of JC's dirty diapers - a very FULL load, I might add! - and our washing machine died on us. KAPUT! (Why do we do laundry on Friday nights? Because of time-of-use [TOU] hydro billing, plus we were going away for the weekend and needed some clean nappies.) Thankfully, we got through the double rinse cycle before it broke ie. just missed out on the WASH cycle. My hubbie spent the next 30 minutes ringing the very absorbent diapers out in the laundry sink and tossed them into one of our "dirty" diaper bags. We let them sit overnight in the basement, and the next morning he drove them to a local laundromat to get them clean. We brought them home to dry them (knock on wood there's nothing wrong with our dryer ... yet).

A lot of people I know that are having babies have been asking me about what we do for cloth diapering. There are many excellent resources on the internet, but here is our diaper run-down:


We bought our cloth diapers from Re-Diaper in Hamilton. They're a great resource if you have questions about cloth diapers.

We use Bummis pre-fold inserts. They're bulky and give JC a big booty, but they work really well. Super easy to clean and easy to change. They come in packs of 6. We had 4 packs, equalling 24 diapers and that worked out nicely. When JC was about 3 months we moved up in size and they should work till she's done with diapers.

Sometimes we also use Kissaluv fitted diapers as inserts. They're less bulky and are great for containing big poos. We use them when we're expecting a big poo or when we really REALLY don't want a blowout (ie. at a fancy event or something). I find them less absorbent and less breathable, but as I said, much less bulky and good for containing messes. Again, upgraded from size 0 to size 1 at around 3 months or so. We have 6 of them.

To cover our diapers we use Thirsties Duo Wraps. Bummis & Kissaluv both offer their own diaper covers, but we REALLY like the Duo Wraps and they work well with both the Bummis and Kissaluv inserts. We prefer the snaps over the velcro closures. Had to upgrade size when we upgraded the insert sizes. We have 8 of them.

For swimming, we use the AppleCheeks swim diaper. It's great - makes much more sense than disposable swim diapers. If you decide to use disposables instead of cloth diapers, at least use a reusable swim diaper. Then you don't have to worry about having garbage - it's just another swimsuit! We have 1 of them.

When JC was first born, we had to do diaper laundry every other day. Now we tend to have 2 days off between loads of diapers.

We use baby washcloths as wipes and could just as easily use cut up squares of old t-shirts. We just use a damp cloth to wipe her bum - no wipes. (They sting when they have rashes and they're kind of messy we think.) Besides, it makes bum changes garbage-free!

We've used 2 types of bum creams that are safe for cloth diapering: Purple Urchin's Baby Butt Balm and Dimplecheeks Baby Bum Bum Balm. We prefer the Purple Urchin one. Initially we only used butt balm when she had redness, but now that we're into teething we use it at EVERY diaper change to prevent rashes (they sneak up on you when they're teething!).

We use a bag to store dirty diapers till laundry time. We have three GroVia bags so that we can just toss it in with the diapers when we do the laundry. You can buy step-cans to put them in (like a garbage step can), but we just let it sit on the floor beside her change table. When we're out and about we use a PlanetWise bag because it has a compartment for wet stuff (dirties) and one for dry stuff (clean diapers). We just have one of these.

We do our diaper laundry using Claudia's Choices laundry detergent because it doesn't wreck the absorbency of the diapers. Rockin Green is a really good brand, too, especially if you have hard water. We've also used a trial pack of Tiny Bubbles and it worked out fine.

We use dryer balls without dryer sheets in the dryer. Oh! And no fabric softener. You can get wool ones that I've heard great things about, but we haven't tried them yet.

When we do laundry, we do 2 cold rinses with lots of water. Then we do a hot wash with the amount of water that is appropriate for the load size. We do an extra rinse with this load, too. Then we either hang the diapers out to dry, or we put them in the dryer on HIGH heat. We hang the Duo Wraps to dry. **Breast milk poo stains come out in the sunshine when you hang them out to dry, so that's nice :) In the above photo, you'll notice stains on the diapers on the right - those stains all came out after a day of sunning them!

Now that JC is starting on solids, we've installed a BumGenius diaper sprayer on our toilet for rinsing solids. This should probably be done if you're using formula, too. Breast milk poos can just go in the washing machine as is. We keep one of our GroVia bags beside the toilet to chuck the soggy diapers in once they've been rinsed.

Well, that's the down and dirty on our cloth diapering! If you have questions, ask away!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Say hello to friends you know ...

... and everyone you meet.

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking down the street, pushing little JC in her wicked-cool stroller, enjoying the sunshine and spring air when I noticed a couple of middle-aged (kinda sketchy-looking) guys riding towards me on their bicycles. They had grocery bags (full of groceries) balanced on their handlebars and were chatting back and forth to one another about sales on groceries. I happened to be feeling particularly cheery that day, so I said "hello" to them. They responded by saying "hello" back and commenting on what a beautiful day it was. And how did I feel afterward? EVEN BETTER!

I grew up in a very small town where you made eye contact with people you walked past on the street. If you weren't up to saying "hello" to them, you smiled at them at the very least.

When I moved to the city, it was more commonplace to completely avoid eye contact with people walking past. In fact, you just clear looked through the people as if they weren't even there! However, every once in awhile, a little old man would say "hello" to me and I would say "hello" back. It was a small act, but his "hello" would brighten my day and inspire me to say "hello" to someone else, or to be a little extra-courteous with the next person I encountered. (You know, just like how they say that smiles are contagious.)

Well, since passing those guys on the bicycles, I've made a point of saying "hi" or at least smiling at every person that I walk past on the street. My husband told me I was nuts when I told him about it and asked me if I thought it was really a safe idea.

Why wouldn't it be safe though? Do you think I'm more likely to be mugged or attacked by someone I say "hi" to or smile at? If they were going to attack me, wouldn't they do it regardless of whether I said "hi" or not? And wouldn't they be more likely to prey on people who seem less sure of themselves (ie. someone that would be scared to say 'hi')?

As non-judgmental as I strive to be, I used to avoid saying "hi" to men in particular, especially those who seemed a little rough around the edges (or "sketchy" as I described above). But is that fair? Wouldn't I be upset if males refused to say "hi" to me just because I'm a female? And wouldn't I feel lousy if people didn't say "hi" to me if I wasn't dressed up or if I was having a bad hair day? You bet I would!

So I pledge to say "hello" (or at least smile) to anyone who walks past me on the street. It feels good when I do it, and I think it makes them feel good, too. And who knows, maybe others will find it contagious, too!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Breakfast Serial Part III - Spread the Word

What do you put on your toast? Your bagel? Your English muffin?

Whether your adding margarine, butter, jam, peanut butter, chocolate hazelnut spread, or something else, the point is that you are ADDing something.

So often we forget that the things we add to our foods also count. Maybe it's the calories that count in your books, or maybe it's the sugar. Perhaps you're counting fat or even additives. The important thing to remember is that the spread COUNTS - so make it count! Make a good choice!

I hope this helps:

Margarine - if you plan to use it, go for NON-HYDROGENATED margarine. The stuff we used to get served at our grandma's at Thanksgiving was hydrogenated. It was full of trans fats which are bad news (they clog your arteries and increase your risk of stroke and heart attack). Today's non-hydrogenated varieties are much better for you because they don't have trans fats in them. On the flip-side: you may not be able to pronounce some of the ingredients in your margarine, so you be the judge as to whether you want to use it or not. However, you'll be happy to know that most of those big words are the names of added vitamins. So if you don't fear multivitamins, you don't have much of a reason to fear non-hydrogenated margarine.

Butter - good ol' fashioned super-whipped dairy fat. If you've every beat whipping cream too long, you know what I mean. (Yeah, it turns into butter - not so great on pumpkin pie ...) If you buy the salted version, you can expect the ingredients to include: cream, salt, and possibly colour. If it's the unsalted one, scratch the salt (ie. cream and maybe some colour). You'll notice that butter reports a tiny bit of trans fat in the Nutrition Facts Table (approx. 0.2 g per serving). That's because a tiny bit of trans fats is naturally-occurring in dairy cream - no need to worry.

Margarine vs. Butter - I'm often asked what people should use: margarine? or butter? My answer: use whatever you want, but don't use very much of it! If you are using enough that I will notice a difference in your cholesterol levels, you're using too much! Most often it's not a case of WHAT people are using to "butter" their bread, but more a case of HOW MUCH. Do you really need "butter" on your veggies, potatoes, bread, and everything else? My guess is no. Try ditching the "butter" for everything but toast for awhile. You'll get used to it. "But it doesn't taste as creamy and delicious without it (pouting face)!" Yeah, well, whoever said your mashed potatoes were supposed to taste like dessert? They should taste like potatoes!

Peanut Butter (or any other nut butter) - pb and its pals (almond butter, sesame, and so forth) can be a great source of protein and vitamin E on your morning toast (or other bread item). However, remember to check out the Nutrition Facts Table and the ingredients. If you're buying the typical Smooth PB variety, note the ingredients: peanuts, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt (if you're having the low-fat version, add in some corn syrup solids ... yup, you heard me!). WHOA! Didn't we just finish saying that hydrogenated oil is bad news? Well, it's in your pb! Compare to the "100% peanuts" variety of pb whose sole ingredient is .... PEANUTS!!! There's a no-brainer for ya. PS. You can get chunky or smooth natural pb and you can get it as usual, or organic. Just remember to store it in the fridge.

Jam - REMEMBER: Jam is a condiment - not a side dish. When you use jam, spread it thinly to enjoy it's flavour and sweetness. Any more than that and you might as well just grab a spoon and eat a 1/4 of the jar because that's what you're doing. But, for some reason when it's spread out on your toast over melted butter or margarine it doesn't feel like you've just eaten a good chunk of the jar. There's a good reason why the serving size listed on the Nutrition Facts Table is 1 tablespoon. That's about all you should be using! Oh, and pick the lower sugar varieties - they taste more like homemade and you haven't tasted heaven till you've had homemade jam.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread - don't want to point any fingers, but what I'm talking about rhymes with shut-shmella (anyone seen Knocked Up?). Yes, it's true that when I was pregnant with JC I didn't leave home overnight without some whole wheat bagels (didn't have any whole-grain at the time) and a jar of shut-shmella, but that doesn't mean I'm proud of it. If you want to know the truth, it's got the sugar of sugary jam, the fat of peanut butter, the additives of regular smooth peanut butter, and a measly 1 g of protein per tablespoon. Yeah, forget the shut-shmella - it's just another dessert item masquerading as a breakfast food.

Honey - Honey is liquid sugar. That is all.

Don't get me started on plastic cheese-wannabe spread or cinnamon goo that comes in a tub. You've read what I have to say about the above and it only gets worse for the fake cheese and the cinna-goo.

Bottom Line - read about what you're eating and only eat what you are comfortable with eating. If you feel guilty when you eat something, chances are it's not the best choice for your bod. If you happen to eat something that I've bashed in this blog post, make a change, but don't be ashamed. I've eaten every single thing that I have talked about here. I just don't make a regular practice of it.

What do I eat on my bagel these days? 100% peanut butter (organic when available) and a bit (seriously about a tablespoon) of organic no-sugar-added strawberry jam.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Breakfast Serial Part II - Bagels

There was a time, not long ago, when I recommended people stop eating bagels. Yep - quit 'em - cold turkey.

Why? Because, over the years, bagels have grown (just like our North American waistlines). Canada's Food Guide states a bagel weighs 90 g and that when eating said bagel, each half of it (45 g portion) constitutes a single grains serving. However, do you think you could find a bagel this size? Not easily - that's for sure!

For example, a Tim Horton's 12 grain bagel weighs in at 110 g and packs a punch of 580 g of sodium (that's more than 1/3 of what you should have in a whole day!). A multi-grain bagel from The Great Canadian Bagel weighs in similarly at 113 g with 581 g of sodium.

Thankfully, smaller bagels are hitting the grocery chains now. Dempster's offers whole grain bagels that weigh 90 g and pack only about 340 g of sodium. However, I was very pleased when I walked into our local Metro and discovered their Irresistibles Life Smart Whole Grain Bagels - they're only 60 g per bagel (just a little over 1 food guide serving per bagel) and have 240 g of sodium.* FINALLY!

The great thing about finding smaller bagels is that it makes it easier to have a balanced breakfast, because I'm not filling up on bagel.

Before, if I had a bagel for breakfast, by the time I got some peanut butter on it and had a glass of milk, I was so stuffed that I wasn't interested in anything else. (I realize I could just have half a bagel, but that's a tough compromise to make when your tummy is rumbling and you have to defrost the whole thing to split it.) Now, I can have my 60 g bagel, put some natural pb on it, a cup of milk (or soy milk) and 1/2 cup of berries or some other fruit of my choosing. BAM! 4 food groups! It keeps me full for most of the morning (even when I eat it at 8 am and then carry JC around for an hour or more, walking all over this end of the city!).

Smaller bagels are also great for those that are watching their carb intake, such as those with diabetes or who are just trying to minimize spikes in their blood sugar and insulin for well-being.

So, go ahead and have a bagel - just make it a small one and definitely whole grain. Here's a hint though - you're gonna have to get it from a grocery store rather than a fast food chain. In case you haven't noticed, the fast food industry doesn't much care for reasonable portion sizes. If you're concerned about time, remember it only takes me 5 minutes to prep my breakfast from start to finish. How long do you spend tapping on your steering wheel sitting in the drive-thru at Timmy's in the morning? Yeah .... that's what I thought.

*No disrespect to other grocery store chains and other bagels - I just happened to notice these bagels at Metro. Similar ones are likely available elsewhere.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Breakfast Serial: Part 1

What better way to start a series of breakfast posts than with breakfast cereal?

We've all been there - moseying down the cereal aisle at the grocery store, ready to pick up the usual goods. But suddenly you think "hey, that cereal's on sale and my regular isn't ... maybe I should check it out!" So, what do you do? Do you just drop it in the cart and keep walking? Or do you take a look at the Nutrition Facts table on the side panel first? Or, do you take it one step further and compare the new Nutrition Facts table to the one on your ol' faithful cereal?

I'm hoping you do one of the two latter options. And if you do, I hope you look at some of the following:

1) SODIUM - keep the salt low. Definitely shoot for less than 400 mg in a serving (the table will tell you what a "serving" is).

2) FIBRE - aim high! Try for at least 4 g of fibre per serving. Anything less, and you're missing a chance to pack some serious fibre into your day. Remember - adults need 25-38 grams per day, so get some in the A.M.

3) SUGARS - keep 'em low. Find a cereal with 8 g of sugar or less per serving if you can. Keep in mind that if there's any dried fruit (raisins or even shriveled little strawberry chunks) in the cereal, that will bump up the sugar content. If that's the case, you can allow a little more sugar - use your discretion.

4) INGREDIENTS - READ THEM!!! Too often we skip this step, thinking we've done our due diligence by pretending to read the Nutrition Facts table. The ingredients are important though! After all, don't you want to know what it is that you're eating??

Now that you're reading the ingredients, you want the first ingredient to be a whole grain. "Whole wheat" isn't good enough - they don't have to put the entire grain in there to score that title. Whole grain is where it's at (means you're getting the benefit of the germ, endosperm and bran - that's a good thing!).

If you can find something that meets all of these criteria, you've found a keeper. Even better if it packs a bit of protein to help keep you full.

But, to be honest, it can be difficult to meet all these standards, so if you're stuck, pick the ones that are most important to you and go with them. Or, give up altogether (as I have), and try something else for breakfast. I make a mean bowl of pb&j oatmeal in a hurry:

1/3 cup rolled oats (I use large flake rather than quick to get a little more fibre)
2/3 cup water
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp strawberry jam
1/2 cup strawberries
low-fat milk (skim, 1% or 2%) to taste

Dump the oats and water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir frequently until oatmeal thickens to desired consistency.
Remove from heat and stir in pb and jam.
Top with strawberries and milk.
Eat and enjoy!

Did I mention it hits all 4 food groups? Especially if you have a glass of milk on the side. YEAH!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What you see is what you get

When you come to our place, there's a good chance you'll score some yummy food. However, don't expect much in the beverage department. As I mentioned in a previous post, we don't have juice in the house, nor do we stock pop or much of anything else. When you're thirsty at our place, you get tea, water or milk.

And why is that?

It's not because I shun sugar and all things sweet. It's simply because I LOVE to eat. As a result, I like to get the bulk of my calories from food. When I am thirsty, I drink water (or tea if it's chilly and the thought of cold water makes me shiver). When I am hungry, I eat food. I realize milk doesn't fit into this scenario well, but I consider milk a food in liquid form. It's the purest way I can get it, after all. (And the soy milk is simply a milk alternative for the time being.)

Juice, on the other hand, is not in its simplest form. Fruit would be the simplest form, and that's exactly what we eat instead of drinking juice. When we eat the whole fruit, not only do we get the delicious flavour of the fruit, but also the fibre that comes as part of it. As well, the fruit itself comes with very little or no packaging that requires trashing or recycling. So not only is eating the fruit a nutritionally cleaner way of eating, but environmentally, too!

I'm not saying it's bad to drink juice. I just want you to think about why you're drinking it. (And perhaps how much - it's recommended that you only consume 1/2 cup or 125 mL or 4 oz of real fruit juice per day).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Good Friends & Granola

When you move to a new city it can be difficult to make friends (especially lasting ones with common interests). When you're a kid, it's easy to make friends in school, but as you become an adult, it becomes harder to seek out those good pals.

We've discovered that playing sports is our best outlet for finding friends with common interests. In fact, just this morning we had some friends over that we met while playing Ultimate Frisbee during our first summer in the city. Sadly, these guys have since moved away; however, we still enjoy catching up with them every few months. It's fun to learn about what's been going on in one another's lives over the past while and how much has changed!

We usually like to make some yummy food when company comes knocking, and since they were arriving around 10 am, granola seemed to fit the bill. After a great chat with the girls and a long run for the boys we sat down to some delicious homemade granola with fresh fruit and vanilla yogurt. YUM!

The granola recipe is one from Martha Stewart. This morning I didn't have enough dried cherries, so I subbed in dried cranberries. Oh, and I only use about half the brown sugar and instead drop some maple syrup in the mix. Doesn't take long to make, so go ahead and make some for tomorrow morning :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bittersweet Confusion

A couple of weeks ago I asked for people to share their nutrition questions with me and I want to thank those of you who did so. As for the rest of you ... (cue scary music) ... still feel free to ask! :)

The first question I received was a about diet products, specifically diet beverages such as diet colas (eg. Diet Coke). This is a common question and sadly, there is no simple answer at this point. What I can do is give you a brief summary of what we know, and then I can lay out a discussion about these controversial beverages. Be forewarned - I will be discussing aspartame primarily here.


Ok, let's get started:

What We Know (or at least think we know ...):
About weight gain and food addiction:
Large epidemiological studies (ones where they look at trends in a specific group of people without really interfering in their lives) have shown some evidence that people who drink diet drinks tend to gain more weight than those who don't drink them. However, the evidence is rather weak, and researchers aren't so sure that they can blame diet drinks, the sweeteners (eg. aspartame), or something else for the weight gain.

Some studies in rats (because it's easier to force a rat to eat and drink certain things than it is with people) have shown that sweetened beverages (such as diet drinks) increase appetite and food intake. This has caused some researchers to believe that sweet things make you crave more sweet things, which makes for a sort of food or sweets addiction.

About cancer:
I must confess that I didn't spend a lot of time reading up on this aspect of the sweetener debate, but here's what I have: if you consume obscene amounts of artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame), it may cause cancer. Some studies have focused on the liver and liver cancer in mice.

How much is safe?:
Health Canada states (about aspartame) that "there is no evidence to suggest that the consumption of foods containing this sweetener, according to the provisions of the Food and Drug Regulations and as part of a well-balanced diet, would pose a health hazard to consumers."

Health Canada has also given aspartame an ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake) of 40 mg per kg body weight per day. That means that a 150-pound person could have approximately 2700 mg of aspartame a day (one can of diet pop has about 200 mg of aspartame). This means that if your only source of aspartame was diet pop, you could have approximately 13 cans of diet pop a day without expecting any problems (related to the aspartame at least!). That's A LOT of diet pop.

As a dietitian, there are some questions that come to mind when I discuss sweeteners with clients.

1. Why diet?
Why are you choosing a diet drink? Is it because you want to lose weight? Because you have diabetes? Because you like the taste?

If you're trying to lose weight, it's true that diet beverages have fewer calories than the regular versions of those drinks, but there are other calorie-free beverages to choose from.

If you have diabetes, it's true that many sweeteners won't cause your blood sugar to go up, but again, there are also other options available to you.

If you choose diet drinks because you like the taste, well, I guess that makes good sense. Where else are you going to find that flavour?

2. What type of diet beverage are choosing?

Are you having Diet Coke (or Diet Pepsi or any other type of diet pop)? Is it calorie-free juice? Or calorie-reduced juice? Is it Crystal Light (or something similar)?

If you're having pop, why? Is it the carbonation you like? Is it the flavour of that type of pop?

If you're having calorie-free juice or Crystal Light, why? Are you just looking for something calorie-free with some flavour?

3. What do you eat when you have diet beverages?

Do you eat with your diet beverage? Or is your diet drink a snack of its own?

If you're eating with your diet drink, what types of food are you eating? I suspect you're not having an apple and almonds with it or a slice of whole-grain toast with natural peanut butter. Am I right? And why is that? (Hint: think about yesterday's post.)

Maybe you're having your diet pop as your drink with a meal. What other good drink options might you be snubbing in favour of the diet pop?

If the diet drink is a snack of its own, we may have a problem. Diet drinks don't offer much in the way of calories, which is why they are popular with those who want a sweet drink with few calories. Therefore, they don't make a good snack. They don't give you any nutrients that your body needs. After all, your stomach tells you its hungry because it wants to feed your body some good old fashioned nutrients, not because it wants a make-work project. Right? Better off to go for some real food.

Take Home Message:
In moderation (like anything else), diet drinks, aspartame (and the like) are probably fine. It's not likely that you'll sprout an extra head or develop cancer solely because you had a Diet Coke once a day. However, it's important to look at why you're turning to diet drinks and to decide if they're your best option. After all, our bodies are more than 50% water, not Diet Coke. Just sayin' ....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Word Associations

Time to play a game.

This is difficult to do on your own, so try reading the blue words out to someone.

Ask them to blurt out the first word that comes to mind when they hear the word you say.

If you're so inclined, send me their responses - I'd love to know what the "survey says!" (Oh, Family Feud!).

In the words of Dr. Seuss, "here's an easy game to play. Here's an easy game to play":
























Kind of fun, eh? Think about the responses though. What do they say about our society?

Again, please post responses to some or all. If you're feeling shy about them, you can email me instead (see top left for my email address).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Rain + Jazz

Last Saturday morning, as I was driving to the grocery store I discovered that jazz music makes the perfect soundtrack to a rainy morning drive. Try it - I think you'll enjoy it. 91.1 Jazz FM comes in nicely in our area.

The morning got even better when I was checking out at the grocery store and the cashier recognized me! (No one EVER remembers me!) She asked me where my cute baby girl was (we usually cruise through her checkout rocking the Chariot or the Ergo). :)

Next stop was the library. I never thought I'd find myself waiting out in the rain for the library to open on a Saturday morning, but there I was! (My, how life has changed!) I was also impressed to see that there were TEN of us waiting. A well-accessed library, I'd say!

Friday, March 4, 2011

What do people think about when it comes to nutrition?

An odd question, I know, but I am seriously asking the question.

You see, having completed 6+ years of education related to human nutrition, I no longer think about nutrition the way most people do. I see food, recipes, food advertising, and food news differently now.

Not long ago, if you asked me if having taken nutrition in school had changed the way I eat, I would have said, "No, I've always been a healthful, mindful eater." But is that the truth? Ummmm ... no - certainly not.

I, like, many a kids and teenagers of my generation drank litres and litres of Kool-Aid. I ate microwave popcorn like it was going out of style, and loved to have gigantic ice cream sundaes topped with every sugary substance I could find in the house (skip the corn syrup - not as satisfying as one might think ...). I thought nothing of eating a row of cookies after school or eating half a bag of hickory sticks. Sure, we didn't drink pop, but I ate pizza pockets for dinner at least once a week, and had dinners of egg rolls, chicken balls, and TONS of cherry and plum sauce regularly (that's right - no veg).

These days there is no juice in our house, no microwave popcorn, no sugary goodies for topping ice cream (though I still do buy ice cream in the summer), no store-bought cookies or chips. I don't buy any frozen pre-made foods, and I cringe at the thought of having a meal without vegetables - it just feels wrong to me (no judgment if you can get by without vegetables).

So have my eating habits changed? Honestly? YES. Drastically.

And that's why I'm looking for inspiration. I am trying to develop a list of interesting nutrition-related topics and I need a little help. What interests you about nutrition? What do you want to know more about? What sort of information would draw your attention? I have a list of ideas I've come up with, but I'm looking for input. So please - don't be shy and don't feel silly. List off your nutrition questions and/or interests. I would love to know what "normal" people are interested in knowing more about.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Decluttering: Step 1 (of MANY)

The first step will be to go through any magazines lying around.

Now that I have conquered the art of writing in cookbooks, I will conquer the most logical next step: ripping up magazines. (Ok, so maybe that isn't the next logical step nor the next step at all, but we'll go with it.)

I have countless home design and cooking magazines lying around our place. They are not organized in a magazine stand. They are not neatly stacked on my bedside table. No, they are not even stashed beside the toilet or strewn across the coffee table. They are packed in boxes, packed in beautiful pine chests, and laying around in other spaces where they will never be looked at. (Why do I do this??!!!)

So, the first step to de-cluttering our home will be to go through said magazines and to TEAR OUT the pages that appeal to me.

Here are the rules:

No tearing out ...

1) photos of clothes I'd never wear.
2) pictures of good-looking men (haha ... this is just here for my husband. I'd be hard-pressed to find pictures of men in the kind of magazines I have lying around. Mostly just kitchens and food here ...)
3) dessert recipes which are too decadent and/or artery-blocking for me to feel good about making
4) photos of design options that we will never have (ie. they could never work in our current home)
5) recipes which are made up primarily of ready-made store-brought products

Once pages have been torn out, recipes will be clipped and taped into my recipe scrapbook for later use. Home design inspirational photos will be sorted by room category and placed in a folder for future reference. Craft ideas will also be sorted and placed in a folder. EVERYTHING ELSE GOES IN THE RECYCLING BIN ..... no second chances or pass-throughs.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A word or two on babies and sleeping ...

I am no expert when it comes to babies, sleeping, or the two combined, but I like to think I have a brain in my head that works reasonably well.

I just have to get this off my chest because it's something that really drives me up the wall.

All people are not the same. Some people sleep long periods of time. Some people wake multiple times in the night. Some people take naps. Some don't. Some like to sleep under the covers, some like one foot sticking out. Some people crash the moment they hit the pillow. Some toss and turn for hours at a time.

What am I trying to get at? Sleeping patterns, I believe, can vary appreciably amongst different people. And as a result, so can the sleeping patterns of babies!

Do not dare to put yourself down because your baby wakes up one, two, three, eight, or ten times a night. Do not judge yourself for nursing your baby to sleep, or for "wearing" your baby to sleep. Do not feel threatened when other moms report that their child sleeps through the night if yours does not.

Babies are different. They sleep differently.

Some can be laid down in their crib when they're sleepy and will put themselves to sleep. Some require rocking to sleep and can only be laid down when they are completely "out." And still, others prefer to co-sleep all night long.

It doesn't matter how your baby or anyone else's baby sleeps. What matters is that the baby gets the sleep they need and that you do too (eventually!).

So, for the love of all that is holy, do not feel bad about your kids' sleeping patterns, and certainly do NOT give unsolicited advice to parents about their children's sleep habits.

Thank you. And thank you for putting up with my rant.

PS. This wasn't meant to be an angry post - just a shout out to the moms out there and a reminder to myself for when I'm having a weak moment :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Write in your cookbooks!

Do it. Do it now. Do it often. Dirty up those cookbooks. Scribble in them. Doodle in them. Document in them.

If you are a food lover, someone that loves cooking, or even someone who just opens a cookbook occasionally, WRITE IN YOUR COOKBOOKS.

Maybe this seems like an obvious notion to you, but it was anything but obvious to me. It wasn't until my sister-in-law told me about how much she loved reading an old annotated cookbook that I even considered scarring up my cookbooks with my chicken scratch. It's as though it were some blasphemous act to write a note in a cookbook that is your very own. The thought of writing in pen, let alone pencil, in any sort of book other than a notebook seemed like a cardinal sin. But why?

For no good reason - that's for sure!

So now I write in my cookbooks. I write in all of them. I write in them every time I make something new, and even sometimes when I make something for a second, third, or fourth time.

I always write the date - that's a good start. It's fun to look back at when you made it for the first time. I write about who I served it to and whether or not they liked it (and if I liked it). I write about any substitutions, additions, or omissions. Best of all, I write about what was going on when I made it.

They say that we have strong associations between smells and memories. Well, now I also have strong associations between foods and memories.

We had a chicken dish the night we got Mowgli. I made lemon poppyseed pound cake, oatmeal energy bars, and borscht the day before JC was born.

What do I do when it's an electronic recipe? I blog about it I guess!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Swimming Update

I wish I could say that I have mastered more of my goals that I listed off in a previous post, but you just have to take things one step at a time, right?

This may not seem like a big deal to some, but I am proud to say that I not only met my first goal, but I trumped it!

The week after I posted that I wanted to "slip in" the pool with JC, I did it. It's no big deal at all. It simply involves laying the babe down on the deck beside the pool edge (with toes toward the pool so baby does inadvertently roll into the pool!), and keeping one hand on baby's belly while you slip into the pool. Then you simply pick up the little cutie and you're off to the races. SIMPLE. NOT scary.

So how did I trump it? Well, 3 weeks ago, we were introduced to "underwater passes." This involves diving the baby into the water head first and having the instructor "catch" the baby as he/she comes up from the water. (Sort of like a little dolphin dive.) You support the baby's belly with one hand (left hand for me), and with the other arm, you support the baby's back with your forearm and support the baby's head with your palm (right arm/hand for me). Then you dive the baby into the water, head-first, and slide the baby out of the water in an upward motion, allowing the instructor to grab him/her. This one is much scarier than "slipping in," but still is NOT THAT BAD! JC didn't seem to mind a bit. In fact, it seemed easier for her than when I dunk her!

I wonder what the next swimming hurdle will be ...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

And in the fine print at the bottom it says:

If you do not want to receive these daily deals, please Unsubscribe from this mailing.

We're VERY slowly decluttering things around the house and I am so very thankful for that!

However, my inbox is a HUGE source of clutter. How huge you ask? Well, I currently have 2156 messages in my gmail. I pride myself on keeping it under 2200. I know, I know - I have high standards ... haha.

So, my current mission is to unsubscribe to newsletters etc. when I receive them rather than simply highlighting them all and deleting them.

I had been doing very well with my "unsubscriptions" until one made me stop and think yesterday. When I clicked "unsubscribe," it led me to the usual type of website where they either a) let you off easy by saying they're sorry your won't be getting there mail anymore b) ask you to enter your email address so they can remove you, or c) ask you to explain (or click checkboxes) as to why you no longer wish to receive their mail. Well, after completing the mini-survey for why I was leaving, I actually felt GUILTY about leaving. WHAT?! Yeah, that's right. I was concerned that I may have hurt some huge corporations FEELINGS by unsubscribing to their newsletters which I don't even read! How silly!

So, from this point forward, I will unsubscribe with abandon and not worry that multi-million dollar corporations will have hurt feelings because they won't be able to fill up my inbox anymore. And I won't burden myself by worrying that I am missing out on something hugely important because I no longer have a subscription to every last company and corporations' newsletters.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

the meal he requested

As I mentioned in a previous post (Yum!), I have been experimenting with some recipes from McCormick spices. This week my husband requested the Honey-Rosemary Stuffed Pork Chops accompanied by the Pear and Field Green Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette.

And so I made them.

For the pork chops, I used butterfly cut pork chops. I would have liked to purchase them from Teal's (a local pork producer), but I haven't been able to make it out to the farmer's market recently, so I made do with some seemingly trustworthy cuts from the grocery store. For the apples I used Empire because that's what I had in the fridge (in place of Granny Smith). I am sad to report that I used store-bought chicken bouillon instead of homemade (tsk tsk), but it still turned out well. The only complication was the stuffing part of things. I used ~6 toothpicks on each chop to try to keep 'em closed, but without luck. The stuffing fell out and so I pulled the toothpicks and decided not to fight the losing battle. It turned out delicious though, and because the pork didn't end up being "stuffed," I didn't feel guilty about cutting each chop in half so that we each had a REASONABLE serving of meat. (The recipe calls for 4 thick cut chops, but I used 2 butterfly-cut chops - roughly half of what they called for.) My favourite part of this recipe was toasting the almonds. They smelled DELICIOUS!!

For the salad I used red leaf lettuce because that's what I had in the fridge. I skipped toasting the walnuts because I was in a rush. I butcher the dressing because I forgot that I didn't have pomegranate juice and that we were out of ground cinnamon. It ended up being a bit of olive oil, a juice box (leftover from camping last summer!) of apple juice, a splash of sparkling wine, some busted up cinnamon sticks, some ground ginger, a bit of sugar, and a bit of salt. It was ok, but some tartness or zing would have been nice. Oh well. It did the trick. The blue cheese was delightful! It's not something we usually buy, so we savoured it and enjoyed every tasty little crumble.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Groundhog Day Snowstorm

I must say I was a little disappointed by the dreaded Groundhog Day snowstorm. Sure it snowed and the wind howled and the snow drifted, but we definitely weren't snowed in. Rick Mercer did a great little rant that I think applies to this situation.

The best thing about the heavy snowfall was the shoveling. I don't know why, but I LOVE to shovel snow. In fact, I was so eager to shovel that I bundled JC up in her snowsuit, plunked her in her carseat, tucked a blanket around her and placed her on the veranda while I shoveled for awhile. She was very patient and let me shovel our sidewalk, our 2 neighbours' sidewalks, our walkway and part of our driveway before she started to complain!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Just 'cause it's pretty ...

... doesn't mean I have to OWN it.

This is something that I NEED to get through my head!

We moved in to our new home on December 16th (2010) and I am still unpacking. I don't mean that there are a few boxes of rarely used things left to unpack. I mean that there are LOADS of boxes of rarely used things left.

What does this mean? It means we (or more likely I) have TOO MUCH stuff!

I have a horrible habit of buying things because they're pretty. I'm like a monkey attracted to shiny things! I buy note cards that are packaged in cute and pretty little boxes because I like to have them. Not because I use the box for something after I use up the note cards - nope! I do it just BECAUSE.

This also applies to clothing. I have boxes, and boxes, and BOXES of clothes I never wear, but they're too pretty to get rid of. So silly...

Then there's the difficulty of gifts. I have lots of beautiful gifts that I've been given over the years that are just that - they're beautiful (and often not all that useful). Sure I can store things in some of them, but do I NEED them? Do they add something to my life? (Other than another thing to unpack/dust/trip over?)

How did this start? Why do I (and many others) do this? I don't know, but I seem to remember having a closet FULL of empty tissue boxes. Yes, I collected empty facial tissue boxes. Why? NO IDEA. I should also mention that I collected empty sugar packages for a period of time as well.

I no longer collect anything. Nothing. Well, maybe money? (And it seems that I collect yarn, too.) But no teddy bears, elephants, giraffes, buttons, pins, thimbles, and DEFINITELY NO tissue boxes!

What do you collect (on purpose or by chance)?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Vegetable Stock

First off, what is the difference between broth and stock???

Well, Wikipedia seems to think that stock is a thin, flavourful concoction prepared by simmering raw ingredients and removing them; whereas, a broth still has some of those ingredients floating around in it. Oh, and apparently salt is not added to stocks. Sounds fair to me.

What is bouillon?? Again, I turn to Wikipedia for a quick answer:

A bouillon cube [ˈbuːjɒn kjuːb] (US) or stock cube (UK and Australia) is dehydrated broth (bouillon in French) or stock formed into a small cube about 15 mm wide. It is made by dehydrating vegetables, meat stock, a small portion of solid fat (such as hydrogenated oil), salt and seasonings and shaping them into a small cube. Dehydrated broth is also available in granular form.

Broth made from rehydrated cubes is different in taste from fresh broth because of its higher salt content and flavours changed by the boiling process.

Interesting ... and confusing ... haha. Sounds like we're all a little confused about the subtleties of broth, stock, bouillon and anything else you might call a water-based soup with no substantial chunks in it!

So why do I care about all this? Well, as I explained yesterday, I needed vegetable stock for a Moroccan Bean & Pepper Stew that I made. I didn't have a pot of vegetable stock simmering on the stove at the time (how unprepared of me!), so I resorted to using a bouillon cube. Well, rather approximately half of one dissolved in 3/4 cup boiling water. When I double-checked the instructions for rehydrating the salty little brick, I happened to look at the ingredients (I know, BAD dietitian! I should be reading the ingredients on everything right?? Oops!).

Here is what I found: table salt (SODIUM!!!), hydrogenated soy fat (TRANS FAT!!!), sugar (why?), monosodium glutamate (MSG) (SODIUM!!!), corn starch, dried vegetables 5.5% (celery, onion, carrot), spices, yeast extract, parsley leaf.

Translation: SALT (which, if over-consumed, is linked with high blood pressure and increased risk of heart and stroke), BAD FATS (which are linked with increased cholesterol and risk of heart and stroke), SUGAR, MORE SALT, some more refined carbohydrate, and a little bit of some very common vegetables.


This reminds me of a book I read this summer (wish I could remember which one!!!) that talked about how our society likes to eat sugar, fat, and salt - the more, the better. What's in bouillon cubes? SALT, FAT, SUGAR, and MORE SALT. No wonder they make such yummy soup and sauce bases!

Sadly, it seems that convenience has clearly trumped nutrition yet again. So what will I do about it? Well, I plan to make a batch of vegetable stock and freeze it in small portions so that I won't have to resort to using our little cubed friends so often. There is a handy step-by-step tutorial from that I plan to try out. Happy stocking!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I wanted to take a photo of a yummy dish we made this week, but it didn't last long enough!

I was rummaging through my basement trying to purge a bit on Monday and came across a McCormick spices recipe booklet that I picked up at a nutrition conference this year. I knew I kept it for a reason! They have some really yummy looking recipes! And lucky for you, they post them on their website, too!

Anyhow, so I was flipping through and came across this recipe for Moroccan Bean & Pepper Stew and decided to make it because I had almost all of the ingredients already in my kitchen.

We were missing the squash, so my husband was sent to get some. Sadly, there were no butternut squash available at the grocery store he went to, so we substituted acorn squash (and it was yummy!). We used a combo of green, red, orange and yellow peppers that we had left over from a quiche I made that morning (hurray for a productive morning!) We also added sweet potato because I have a hard time eating Moroccan-inspired food without those yummy orange yammies, and I tossed double the tomatoes in because I didn't bother reading that it called for 14 oz rather than the whole 28 oz can I used. OH - and on that note, make sure you buy the diced tomatoes with NO SALT ADDED. It's the same price where I shop. Also exciting: the tomatoes I bought were from Canada :) We also didn't have any fresh mint for a garnish, but I did have some dried, so I tossed it on there and it was DELICIOUS! Our version made 8 servings instead of 6, so for the last two servings we had to make more couscous.

From a nutrition standpoint this recipe is pretty good. It has 10 g of fibre per serving, which is a fair chunk (considering 21-38 grams of fibre are recommended for healthy adults). What could you do to improve it? Drop the sodium level down (as they recommend on the site). You could do this by using low sodium broth, using the NO SALT ADDED tomatoes that I suggested, and by omitting, or cutting down on the salt added. Rinsing the canned beans (garbanzo and kidney) would also help, though using dried beans would be the best solution. In fact, if you happen to make your own vegetable stock, you're really in business! See tomorrow's post for a bit on vegetable stock.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Almost deleted it

I've been putting off writing another post because I've been trying to avoid having to do it one-handed. However, I think that's the only way this is going to happen.

JC Update: teething ... definitely teething. How do I know this? No, not because she bit me, but because she's not sleeping through the night anymore, she cries a lot more, she drools without end, chews on everything, and was wiping a bloody, saliva-sodden hand all over her PJs this morning. Gross? Yeah, well, that's teething for ya.

I wasn't sure if I was going to be writing another post this week or ever. The other day I was cruising around on here and came across Minimalist Mom's post about giving up facebook (and Faith's note, too). I find her minimalist approach to things really intriguing and almost inspiring. After reading her post and the comments it gathered, I was determined that I would delete this blog as well as my facebook account. I didn't want to be wasting my time online when I should be spending it with little JC while I get to be home with her! However, a wise and understanding friend reminded me that on cold winter days when I'm lacking sleep and JC will only sleep in my arms, there's no shame in wanting to somehow be connected to the outside world. (Especially if it requires only one hand, leaving one hand to cuddle my sleeping bean.)