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Veggies! How joining a delivery service changed our meals

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Today is delivery day and I can’t wait. For about a year now, we’ve been members of Ottawa Organics, a food delivery service that focuses on organic and mostly local products. Shortly after Sophie was born I realized how hard it was to do groceries. It was the biggest deal just to get out the door, and then the meltdown would hit right after I stepped into the store! Or, if I had S in the baby carrier, I wouldn’t have much room to carry heavy bags… And one thing I really hate doing is carrying heavy stuff.

Because I was nursing, and anticipating that S would start eating solids at six months, I was also giving some serious thought to eating mostly organic foods. So I got curious about joining a veggie box service and, luckily, I met a fellow mama who recommended Ottawa Organics to me. We haven’t looked back.

Lots of veggie-box services are springing up everywhere across Canada. If you have been on the fence about joining one, I can tell you what I love about it:

  • My delivery is all organic. I love that because sometimes it’s hard to find organic produce (or it’s ridiculously expensive). Not all delivery boxes are organic. Many of them, however, focus on local produce.
  • Which brings me to my second point: the produce is local, or as local as possible depending on the season. I get the odd tomato from Mexico, but mostly everything I get in my box is grown in the Ottawa Valley or in Quebec. This is the main incentive for you to join a delivery service. Buying local doesn’t only guarantee that your produce is a lot fresher, it also means that the money you spend is directly helping out farmers and businesses in your area. It makes you think and learn a lot more about the food you eat.
  • Freshness is a huge plus here. We get our veggies every two weeks (more on that later) and it’s crazy how much longer these veggies last in the fridge compared to what we buy in the store. Think about it: The store-bought veggies sometimes have been frozen, packed, and sitting in the store for many days. With the fresh veggies, in turn, you get the shelve life at home. We’ve been eating fresh parsley for almost four weeks now and it is still intact! (It was a huge bunch). I usually have to throw away fresh herbs within about one week.
  • Variety. Since the vast majority of the produce is local, you get to with seasonal ingredients. I love the variety we get in our box. I was introduced to purple cauliflower and celeriac, two things I would have never thought of buying by myself in the store. I’m also now addicted to Boston lettuce.
  • The price is a tricky calculation. I won’t say it’s cheap, because it’s not (we pay $35 for a medium box, every two weeks). But if I think in terms of value, it’s worth it. Organic, local, delivered to my door? Yes, I love it! Plus, the produce is absolutely delicious.
  • Now, notice that we don’t get a weekly delivery. We used to, but in order to save some money we decided to switch to a bi-weekly option. We buy any other veggies we need at the store, and we don’t worry about buying organic since most of the veggies we eat come from the box.

If you’re in Ottawa, check out Ottawa Organics. They’re awesome. And I know it’s easy to find similar services across Canada. So, veggie up! I hope you’re at least curious to learn more about veggie boxes now.

Happy Halloween!

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Positive parenting: respect and understanding

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Hello and thanks for checking in!

I was very glad to see that the topic of positive parenting got lots of attention from you. As I mentioned in my first post about it, Diving into positive parenting, I have started a learning journey about this approach to parenting, hoping that it will serve as a guide for D and I as we raise our daughter.

I have been reading a lot about positive parenting and two of its most basic principles seem especially powerful to me: Respect and Understanding. Here is how I would summarize them:

  • Respect your child – Your child is a person, capable of understanding and communicating with you. Don’t try to “trick” your child (however fun this is!) into doing things. Rather, try explaining why things are done, or not done, in a certain way.

For instance: I was eating a piece of chocolate the other day, and S wanted to have some. I tried to distract her and put the whole thing in my mouth, and then she wasn’t too happy about it —obviously. So the next time I wanted to have a piece of chocolate in front of my toddler, I didn’t act all weird about it. I just held it in my hand, ate it normally, and when S approached me to get some, I told her: “I’m having a chocolate. Do you want to see it?” She looked at it and touched it. I told her, “You can taste it but this one is just for mommy, ok? This has too much sugar for you.” I let her put a small corner of the chocolate in her mouth, just enough to satisfy her curiosity. Then I ate it in front of her, and she didn’t react at all. We just kept playing normally, without making a big deal of it.

  • The second concept is understanding your child: our brains are not developed in full until we reach our early twenties. Children do what they can with the tools they have. Sometimes that means that screaming is a tool to call your attention, not an evil ploy to destroy your nervous system. Always try to see a situation from your child’s perspective, and respect that they are experiencing real emotions, even if they seem silly to you.

This one is a work in progress: Sophie is terrified of my gloves. They are red and kind of furry, so I can understand why she’s a bit apprehensive about them. It is getting very cold in Ottawa and I need to wear my gloves. More importantly, S needs to wear her mitts. But she hates them, too. She looks at their purple fuzziness with contempt and screams if I get them anywhere near her.

So I could do one thing: ignore her apprehension towards my gloves, and impose the mitts on her even if she cries. Or, I can acknowledge that S has a point in being scared of gloves. And then I will explain to her every time I can that, you know, gloves and mitts are inanimate objects that might look like crazy hairy monsters but are totally friendly and keep your fingers warm.

This morning I put on my gloves and they talked to S in a nice, funny voice. I put them on and off several times so that she could see that I control the gloves. She wasn’t too impressed but she wasn’t entirely hating them. So I call that progress. She still didn’t let me put her mitts on.

So, respect and understanding. I know I will be coming back to these two concepts as my parenting challenges become greater than chocolate and mitts!

Meanwhile, I’m reading The Whole Brain Child, a good book about positive parenting. I’ll post a review on it soon!

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Your feminine products are full of toxins

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I can’t state this any clearer: your feminine products are full of toxins. And you should know what to do about it.

The wonderful women at the American organization Women’s Voices for the Earth are preparing to launch a campaign to eliminate toxins from all feminine care products including tampons, pads, douches, wipes, and sprays. I heard about it last week and since I’ve been itching to share some information about this with you. Our health as women —and, for some of us, as mothers of young girls— is way too important for us to ignore this issue. And it is a GIANT issue.

Andrea Donsky, founder of Naturally Savvy, co-wrote the book Label Lessons: Your Guide to a Healthy Shopping Cart. As part of her research, Donsky unearthed some nasty truths about the contents of feminine care products. Below is a summarized version of her findings, which I truly find shocking.

(Edited from a feature article by Donsky written last May, which you can read here. The emphasis is mine):

  • Conventional tampons and sanitary pad companies don’t have to fully disclose their ingredients.
  • Conventional tampons are typically manufactured using a blend of synthetic rayon and cotton (…) Rayon is a cellulose fiber made from wood pulp. It has been  associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a systemic, and potentially deadly, illness caused by bacteria associated with the use of tampons.
  • Conventional tampons and sanitary pads are bleached using chlorine dioxide. Although the process is technically “chlorine-free,” it produces dioxins as a byproduct released into the environment. In 1998, the EPA outlawed a much more potent dioxin-producing bleaching process, and while the newer process significantly reduces dioxins, some experts believe it doesn’t eliminate them entirely from the end products. According to the EPA, dioxin exposure causes cancer in lab animals and poses a high risk to humans as well.
  • Conventional tampons contain pesticides. I’ve long been wary of conventional, non-organic, foods for fear of pesticide residue. All the while, conventional cotton, the most heavily sprayed crop in existence, is used in the tampons that women use each and every month.
  • Tampons and pads with odor neutralizers and other artificial fragrances are nothing short of a chemical soup laced with artificial colors, polyester, adhesives, polyethylene (PET), polypropylene, and propylene glycol (PEG), contaminants linked to hormone disruption, cancer, birth defects, dryness, and infertility.
  • Many conventional sanitary pads include latex, a potential allergen. Latex can be used to make the wings on pads more flexible, and it can be used as a binder on the surface of pads and liners, where it comes in close contact with the skin.
  • Ninety percent of conventional sanitary pads are made from crude oil plastic. The rest is made from chlorine-bleached wood pulp. By using plastic laden feminine hygiene products, we add the equivalent to 180 billion plastic bags to our waste stream.
  • Conventional tampons most probably contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). According the USDA, 94 percent of all the cotton planted in the U.S. is genetically engineered.GMOs have been linked to a host of health issues including food allergies, leaky gut syndrome, and inflammation, just to name a few. By purchasing conventional tampons you are essentially supporting GMO grown [cotton] crops.

Donsky put together quite the list, didn’t she? Now, I am not aware of any current efforts to tackle the major risks that feminine care products present to our health, either in the US or in Canada. But here are some things you can do, some of which I have tried myself:

  • Try an alternative to pads, such as the Diva Cup. You can find it in most stores. I have had one for about six years now but it hasn’t always worked for me. I know, however, many people who completely rave about it and I might just give it another try. It used to make my cramps worse but since giving birth my cramps are gone (thank you, nature!). So this could be a good incentive for me to try the cup again.  A major plus: you save a TONNE of money. Pads and tampons are so expensive.
  • Switch habits, if not brands. Natracare products are great but they are also expensive. I can’t always afford them so sometimes I go for regular brand tampons. When I do, however, I always buy the cardboard-applicator ones, to reduce my exposure to plastic. I also buy pads or liners that are fragrance free. These are not great options but I guess they are options…
  • Lastly, spread the word and get involved. Now that you know how toxic feminine care products are, talk to other women about it. If you want to help the Women’s Voices for the Earth campaign, take a quick survey to help them craft their message effectively: click here.

If you want more information, this is a pretty good article written by Dr. Mercola in which he quotes Donsky’s findings and adds some other important facts about the risks presented by feminine products: Women Beware.

I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with all this information!

Let me know your thoughts and if you have any other suggestions, please share!

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Recipe: the easiest veggie burger

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Happy Monday!

I’ve had a very productive few days in the kitchen so this week I’ll be sharing some recipes with you. I’m currently obsessed with veggie burgers, not least because I have noticed that S loves anything that comes in the form of a patty. This is really the easiest veggie burger you can make and it can have as little or as many ingredients as you want. The basics are chickpeas, brown rice and oats. You can stop your ingredients right here or add a couple more things as my recipe shows below.

I’ll tell you how to make the toddler version and the mama version at once. And a note: you don’t need a food processor for this patty. I’ve made them by crushing the chickpeas by hand or with a fork and they turned out totally fine.

The easiest chickpea burgers

1 cup cooked chickpeas (look for low sodium cans or make ahead from dry grains)
3/4 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup oats (rolled or quick oats are ok)
1/4 cup grated carrots (and/or grated zuchini, or beets)
1 Tbs walnuts or almonds
1 Tbs bread crumbs (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well mixed. Take about one fistful of the mix and put it in a bowl. Refrigerate for at least 30 mins. This will be the mix for your toddler patty.

Go back to the mix in the food processor to make your mama version. Add:

1 Tbs ketchup
1 ts mustard
A handful of chopped fresh parsley
1 garlic clove
1 ts fresh or dry thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Pulse until well mixed, transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 mins.

Preheat the oven at 350 and place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Grab the two bowls from the fridge and make your toddler patties, then work through the mama mix and make bigger burger patties. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Serve the toddler patty with a side of veggies and leftover brown rice. Serve the mama patties in a burger bun or pita, topped with avocado and veggies and a side of kettle chips.

Voila! Let me know if you try these and if you have any suggestions.

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Re-thinking education

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My friend Anna sent me this story today and I found it fascinating. It somehow relates to what I was talking about yesterday regarding positive parenting, because it talks about educating children by respecting their potential. I will be reading and re-reading this for years to come. I know it.

So grab a cup of tea. Read this fantastic article!

How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses

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Diving into positive parenting

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For the first few months of S’s life we were so immersed in the let’s-keep-this-baby-alive mode that we didn’t really approach the subject of actually raising our child. But in the past few months, as S has begun to interact with us and others, throwing little fits here and there and adorably throwing her food off the table when she’s done eating, it has become pretty clear that we need to have a discussion about how we are going to actually raise her; how we are going to give S the tools she needs to feel secure and thrive in her own way, to grow up a strong, healthy individual.

Of course, we have already set a tone and gotten used to doing things in a certain way in our family. But I don’t feel like playing by ear this whole parenting thing. Like breastfeeding, I feel that this is 80% instinct and a good 20% having an action plan based on good information. So I have really started observing others, reading, and asking myself: what kind of parents do we want to be?

From what I have gathered so far, positive parenting (or some variations of it, like mindful parenting) really resonates with me. So I’m going to start a new series on the blog called positive parenting in which I will try to figure out what this really means and whether it will work for us.

I will have to be a little academic about this, since I’m a new mom and I have no clue, really, how much of my research will turn into actual behaviour in our household. But I want to share this road with you because I know you might be asking yourself the same question and because I anticipate that this will be an ongoing conversation –And because I’ll be asking you all for advice. A lot.

To get started, I asked my friend and fellow mama Erin, the wonderful founder of The Mindful Parent, to give me a clear definition of mindful parenting. And I asked her to include an example of what it means when used in real life situations. I loved her answer and copied it in full for you below.

I hope this gets you thinking. And please do share your thoughts! I want this to be a lively discussion.

Mindful parenting is simply about being mindful of our actions and how we interact with our children and environment.
Pausing to breathe before responding (not reacting) to understand or investigate the cause of actions rather than just the action itself. It includes finding simpler ways to achieve goals that are respectful of the child and childhood process.
For example, my daughter has always been cooperative during diaper changes because we made them interesting and engaging. Rather than a mobile above her crib we installed a larger, homemade elaborate tree with birds and small mirrors above the diaper changing station. There was always something to observe and discuss.
At some point we moved and the tree was dismantled. Diaper changes were no longer as exciting and she began to protest. She would say she was “sleeping” and when that didn’t work the screeching would begin. It was the loud girlie screech that pops ear drums!
Our conversation about options started. “If you don’t want to change diapers anymore we can buy a potty”. This dialogue lasted close to two months. Included were books about potty time, trips to the bathroom with potty and even ‘help’ when we used the washroom ourselves. She would supply the toilet tissue for us and we would wash hands together. We endured the diaper difficulties for a period of time (two months) so that she would decide when it was time to switch to potty. We waited for her to be ready. We let her tell us rather than force it on her.
And she did. At diaper time one day my daughter said, “potty mommy”. “Potty time?” I asked in return. “Yes” she replied. Done! We went to the computer, logged on and ordered the potty we selected together. During  the week it took to arrive we talked endlessly about the future use of potty. We planned potty parties.
It arrived. We unpacked it. She used it immediately. No encouraging from me required. Our diaper time now is simply “change or potty?” She picks the potty. “Potty Tiiiiiime” she says.
To keep her engaged while “waiting for the pee to arrive” we stocked the shelf with her potty books and, for some strange reason, a stuffed bunny.
Mindful Moments: we listened to her cues, waited for her to arrive at her own conclusion while providing clear options, provided support material throughout the process and said yes when she was ready. Most importantly we made it fun and stayed positive. We all achieved our end goal without any negativity. We mindfully guided her to make her own choices. We are mindfully growing a mindful child….we think.

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Recipe: hummus and shredded veggies sandwich

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Good morning everyone!

I’m usually pretty good at making lunch at home or to go on the first few days of the week. Then Thursday comes and I have ran out of groceries, and ideas. So if this happens to you, too, here’s a very quick sandwich to get you through the rest of the week.

You can use it as a base for a million combinations and I guarantee you will not get bored of it. I don’t know what it is about shredding veggies that makes them taste better in sandwiches. I don’t like sliced carrots in sandwiches but somehow they become the perfect ingredient when shredded.

This is our go-to sandwich and we have it in some variation at least three times per week. A good bread will make any sandwich taste so much better. (We are addicted to the spelt-and-kamut loaf from The Wild Oat in Ottawa).

The sandwich can be kid friendly if you make the hummus yourself and go easy on the spices. I’ve added a hummus recipe below. I used to make a lot of hummus but now I mostly rely on the store bought kind. One day I will have time to make hummus again. Right?!

Hummus and shredded veggies sandwich

Sliced spelt bread
Prepared hummus, homemade or store-bought
A handful of shredded carrots
A handful of shredded beets
Crumbled goat cheese (omit the cheese if you want a vegan sandwich)
A couple of fresh spring mix leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Assemble your sandwich and enjoy! Other variations include: Shredded zucchini and/or cucumbers cut into thin, long slices. You can always substitute the hummus for avocado, too. And I love this sandwich topped with alfalfa sprouts.

Hummus

1 cup cooked chickpeas or 1 small can (rinse well before using)
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 clove of garlic
1/2 Ts. salt
1/2 Ts. Paprika
Pepper to taste

Pulse all the ingredients in a food processor or immersion blender until soft. If it’s a bit too sticky, add one teaspoon of water at a time, or a bit more oil or more lemon juice if you like. It keeps well in the fridge for about 4 days. For a kid friendly version I would put only a tiny bit of garlic, tiny bit of paprika, go easy on the lemon, and probably skip the salt and pepper.