Thursday, November 7, 2013

Super foods

Coconut oil is all the rage right now. If it's on Dr. Oz it must be a super food, am I right?

Coconut oil is being renowned as a cure all; anti-aging for skin, a miracle for the brain, and a heart healthy boost that you can even spread on toast.

Kale, not too long ago was the newest kid on the block. We found out that "one cup of chopped kale contains 33 calories and 9% of the daily value of calcium, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and a whopping 684% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus." This information is from WebMD.

 About 3 years ago I began hearing that every diet should include almonds. Almonds were named as the earth's most perfect food. Almond milk made its appearance in the dairy section adding some much needed competition to conventional cow's milk.

The way media and communication have advanced in the last 10 years certainly has contributed to the need to create a 'new' super food every 6 months or so.

Society as a whole is starving for something that will keep them young, lose weight, and ensure a long healthy life; as long as it's in a quick fix form. What isn't sexy about the headline "Coconut oil detox, lose weight fast!"

The truth is that nature has not changed. We are just getting better as scientists. We are learning that all fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds in their natural form have health benefits.

I'm sure in 6 months there will be some headline about how Bok Choy prevents colon cancer, or how you really must be adding avocado oil to your morning coffee if you want to lose weight.

As long as you're eating a diet that is colorful and diverse, you will stay ahead of all of the 'new' scientific discoveries.

Each food has a place and a purpose in our diet.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mommy wars, and content first

Most mornings I wake to yet another article from a powerful woman telling me if I can have it all.

Though I'm not sure what have it all means, I'm damn sure it's an illusion. It's a fever dream -- a unicorn living in a chocolate forest. It’s a magical place where periods and menstrual cramps don't exist.

No woman will tell you they have it all, because they know that isn't possible. 

We all struggle with guilt in some form. We work to balance the choices we’ve made and we feel pressure to work harder, look sexier, and be more fun even when we’re exhausted. But we still Facebook stalk peer into each other’s lives and assume that we are the only ones who don’t have it all. Their Instagram pics are so much better than mine! Sound familiar? 

Mommy wars

This behavior is called "mommy wars" by the those who think they’re in the know. How degrading does that sound? The stay at home mom pitted against the CEO mom and the home-school co-op mom opposite the woman who chose not to have children. Normal, sane, and successful adult women are arguing over who has more or what is holding them back. 

If any of that applies to you, stop and listen for a minute.  

I can’t pretend I have not fallen into this. 

I’ve taken the perfect picture with my kids having a Martha Stewart afternoon picking blueberries. It’s on Facebook before I leave the blueberry patch because vanity is so easy these days. Many 'likes' later I feel worthy of celebrity status. I feel like I'm doing something right.

Of course I didn’t post the picture my daughter took of me hours earlier as I was making breakfast in my robe with a face swollen because I ate too much salt the night before. Also absent was a panoramic view of the clutter in my kitchen. And thank god cameras can't pick up the dog smell coming from the living room rug that needs replacing. Why are rugs so damn expensive?

I find myself apologizing and shuffling in humiliation trying to quick cleanup when unexpected (and yes, sometimes expected) guests pop over and the dishes remain in the sink from the night before. Then there’s the stack of random kid’s clothes covering my counter and the dog hair that hasn't been vacuumed in 3 days. Ok, even that was a lie. I haven't vacuumed in a week. I apologize as if my house is usually not in this state. As if it were just cleaned the day prior and you happened to catch me on a bad day. As if at some point I gave a shit.

Web design and life

During the day I’m a front end web developer. I do 'web things'. 
For a while now the web has been moving toward flashy, picture heavy, glossy websites. They can take forever to load and there really isn't a justification to make them this way.  Reasons like hoping your website will appear 'larger than life' and to make it seem like your company cares about something bigger ring hollow.

Web clients like to add pictures of happy people so you think their website and company will make you happy. Most of my clients have seen some special banner or feature on someone else's site that they think they need even though it has nothing to do with what they are trying to serve to their visitors. 

See where I'm going with this...

Right now the web is moving toward a content first approach. This means that your first and only goal is to make sure visitors can quickly get to the exact message you are trying to convey. The content could be the one image that really defines your photography career. Content can be the snippet of data that every visitor to your site is looking for. It could be the login menu to access your bank account because do you really care about all of those multiracial, happy, smiling images that banks have on their homepage? Probably not. You only want to see if you have enough money to fill your gas tank or just put a $20 in.

Stay with me here...

This theory of content first kind of blew my mind but it’s really simple. Give your clients what they want, not what you think they want, and you’ll both be happy. 

I went a step further. 

When something makes sense to me I go deep with it. How can I apply this to my life? Why am I taking these happy my life is perfect pictures and apologizing about my house when I know damn well that’s the more honest part of my life than the 'perfect' part?

What content in my life do I care about?

I’ve decided that my sanity is my primary goal. Anything that makes me feel over stressed is not worth it.

The well-being of my kids is a close second. I did not say their 'happiness' because seeing them happy is not always the best choice for their well-being. A half gallon of ice cream, being naked outside, and dressing up the dog is what makes them happy – and that’s not always good for everyone's well-being.

I also care a lot about health. 

I love to cook and I grow our own food as much as time permits. Packing a healthy lunch for my kids is a joy. And I really enjoy eating dinner together. Deep down these things make me feel successful – like I’m doing something right. 

Where am I?

When I examine the 'content' in my life I don’t care about having a spotless home that resembles a page from the Pottery Barn catalogue. This doesn’t mean I'm going to completely throw in the towel (which is probably downstairs in the dirty laundry anyway). But I am going to stop apologizing. 

I also don't care about losing weight right now. I don't care about running a marathon or having a clean car, and designer clothes aren’t of interest to me. And I sure as hell don't care about wearing makeup everyday. 

I want to be a pleasant person for my husband and kids to live with. I want to see the world and recycle. I need to be in the garden with my chickens and breathe fresh air. I want to be balanced and enjoy life.

I'm sure later in life the 'content' will change and I’ll rearrange priorities. That’s inevitable for most of us. 

Let’s not be driven by someone else’s view of what our “content” should be. 

That’s for us to decide. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What is a vegetarian


A person who does not eat meat, and sometimes other animal products.

Seems clear enough when spelled out on paper: one who does not eat meat. So why is there so much gray area?

Interpretation of this word depends on the mouth in which it comes out of and the tone in which it is used. Trying to explain that I simply eat most meals without meat due to cost, conditions of farming, environmental impact, and personal health seems obsolete.

When you turn down the factory farmed pork loin at a summer BBQ, or make the mistake of sharing how tasty your curried potatoes were that you made for last nights dinner, you have classified yourself as a vegetarian; for better or worse.

But wait, I'll eat sustainable fish, or pastured local pork chops! I'll eat the chickens we raise, and i'll eat the 100% grass fed lamb even if they are super cute and cuddly! What am I now?

I truly am a sad, cheating, slut of a vegetarian. I feel uncomfortable, and undeserving of the title. But to be fair I always provide full disclosure: I used to not eat meat, now I eat meat when I know where it came from, and in moderation. But like a scarlet letter I still have this invisible green 'V' sewn on all of my clothes and shunned from normal food worship gatherings.

Can't we 'meat' (pun intended folks) somewhere in the middle here?

Eating a few meals a week without meat just makes you a better person; socially, economically, and personally. Your health improves, your food budget may improve, and you will be less of a strain on the environment (seriously, do you know what it takes to 'grow' meat?!).

I won't call you vegetarian if you don't call me one.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chronically medicated nation

Image Credit:  Images_Of_Money
"Any allergies?"
"Any daily pain?"
"Any problems with mood?"
"What medications are you taking currently?"

Why do I feel like I'm becoming a minority in the medical world? A basic checkup at the doctor makes me feel like some sort of super human when the doctor herself seems impressed that I don't have chronic allergies and I'm not on a daily medical regimen.

Really? I'm 30, not 90. When did being chronically medicated become the fashion? Neurosis has become a self diagnosis and somewhat of a badge of courage for getting through a day of work, being a parent, and running a household.

I know there is a pill that will wake me up, a pill that will help me focus, a pill that will relieve my stress, and a pill that will tuck me in at night. But is that a sustainable way of life?

Lately I've been consciously anti-drug, before that I was more accidentally anti-drug, and before that I was all for drugs. Interesting that you actually have to work hard to avoid taking one of those quick fix pills mentioned above, but you do.

I have decided to focus on the 'why' in life. If I'm not sleeping well - why am I not sleeping well? The quick fix would be to take an Ambien. It also feels fashionable for some reason, a way to relate to friends. The hard road is analyzing your own behavior - and no one likes to point out their own faults. Me especially.

So. A quick analysis on why I am not sleeping well would usually point to a cycle of caffeine.  If I'm not sleeping well to begin with, I'll have two coffees instead of one. That starts the cycle - the later in the day I have a coffee the later in the day my mind works overtime, and come evening shutting that off becomes difficult. A second analysis may point to the fact that I sit all day. Sitting all day at a computer is mentally tiring, but my body isn't tired, and come bedtime my body isn't ready to sleep. What could solve this? A walk at night? A bike ride? Anything that gets your body moving and using some calories. Of course insomnia could have many variables and is a real medical issue. My point here is lets leave the meds to those who really need them.

Another chronic problem I have is back pain. My doctors solution was a steady revolving prescription of Flexiril, a muscle relaxant, with an occasional script of Vicodin or Ibuprofen. But why was my back hurting? Google is amazing for asking questions like this - a tip is to avoid Web MD though, for some reason Web MD thinks everything could be cancer and tells you to see a doctor - counterproductive at the least. Again after analysis I realize I sit all day - big surprise huh? I sit at my desk, I sit in my car during my hour commute each way, I sit at home for dinner, I sit to watch tv. The disc's in my lower back are compacting from all the sitting. The quick fix? Pain killers and muscle relaxers. Sure they work - but is this a sustainable solution? I have found that something as simple as 15 minutes of Yoga stretching, 3 times a week, has literally cured my back pain. And I'm not talking about fold yourself into a box in a 100 degree room type of yoga, I'm talking about very basic stretching, in plain clothes if necessary.

Chronic headaches? Something as simple as drinking 32-64 ounces of water a day will actually 'cure' a whole list of chronic medical problems;  headaches, joint inflammation/pain, depression, anxiety, muscle cramps and spasms. And - not coincidentally - approximately 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated.

Cough? Cold? Ear infection? Respiratory infection? Most people don't know that antibiotics are ineffective against illness caused by a virus such as cold, flu, and most ear infections. Taking an antibiotic is just as effective as taking a placebo, but an antibiotic is harmful to your body and the environment when misused. Visit the Michigan Antibiotic Resistance Reduction Coalition homepage, or the CDC Get Smart page for really important information on this topic.

Just to be clear, I am not recommending self diagnosing potentially life threatening illnesses and by no means am I saying a glass of water will cure cancer. What I am saying is that before you get on a daily regimen of any medication - examine your life style. I know what it feels like to take Vicodin and Flexiril for chronic, demobilizing, back pain - and I know what it feels like to at least try to counter the environmental variables that are causing that back pain for a more natural cure. Finding ways to examine and modify your behaviors for a pain free, drug free life is very empowering and rewarding - not to mention the key to a long, healthy life.

How to care for baby chicks

Photo by: possbeth
Dare I say it is finally spring here in Michigan, and nothing makes it feel more like spring than buying some brand new baby chicks. If you're anything like me you just impulse bought a dozen chicks, they're sitting on your counter, and now you're frantically googling for some answers on what exactly you need to do to keep them alive and healthy.

People like me are also probably the reason you just impulse bought a dozen baby chicks. This year I'm really on my game about convincing co-workers, friends, and people I just met, that this is the spring they need to invest in backyard chickens, almost to the point of annoying. I find myself, regardless of topic that was brought up, circling the conversation back around to chickens and their many benefits; "Oh your Aunt is sick? I bet she would love to see you get some chickens, really would bring her back around."

I was going to write a full post on all the things to think about when buying baby chicks, but these guys are the pros, so I will leave it to them:
Here are a few tips that I have found helpful along the way:
  • Don't buy medicated feed. Purchasing 'chick starter' is encouraged because of the higher protein content, but medicated feed is not necessary in almost every case. Medicated feed is often recommended because of a disease called Coccidiosis, which usually occurs when temperatures are very warm and conditions are dirty. If you keep your chicks environment clean, wash the waterer frequently, and have sufficient space for your baby chicks, it is unlikely you will encounter any problems.
  • There is a thing called 'pasting' you should be aware of:
    Pasting occurs when droppings stick to the bird's rear end and clog the vent opening. Gently remove the wad of hardened droppings, taking care not to tear the chick's tender skin. To prevent pasting, make sure that your chicks are not getting chilled. If pasting persists, mix a small amount of cornmeal or ground-up raw oatmeal with the starter feed. 
    Read more: Diseases of Baby Chickens |
  • There will be a lot of dust. I'll say that again, there will be a lot of dust! So plan accordingly.
  • They grow really fast. Sure it seems obvious now, but the dog cage you had planned to keep 8 chicks in may only work for the first 3-4 weeks as the chicks continue to double in size. Typically chickens are ready for temperatures in low 40's (F) at night when they are around 6-8 weeks old and fully feathered. At 6-8 weeks old most breeds are almost half grown and very large compared to the tiny babies you bought. Again, plan accordingly, and slowly ween them off the heat lamp until they are used to the low temps. 
Here is another post about the best time to buy baby chicks and why:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Compost now

photo credit kirstyhall
I have taken this intense interest in composting this past year. Yes, I meant to use the word intense. Intense like it occupies 80% of my thought process throughout the day, second only to basic survival instincts like breathing and eating. And why shouldn't it? Why shouldn't I spend an entire date night with my husband trying not to let it show on my face that I'm not listening to him and instead I'm thinking of all the black gold that could be made with steady stream of food waste the lovely restaurant we are eating at produces on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.

The facts are this:
These are big numbers, but no one seems to notice the compostable elephant poop in the room. 

San Francisco is on track to become the first zero waste city with the implementation of a city wide composting mandate. 
In 2009, San Francisco became the first city in the country to require that residents and businesses alike separate from their trash compostable items, like food scraps, and recyclable goods, like paper, metals, and plastic, into separate bins.
And that has led to a big reduction in the amount of garbage headed to the landfill, according to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.
With a few modifications to how we each go through our daily lives, isn't becoming zero waste, or as close to it as possible, something we can achieve across the entire United States? And more importantly, isn't it necessary?