This is my journey in keeping my family happy and healthy.
In this day and age, what parent knows best what to do and how to care for their family?
There are so many conflicting ideas, so much wisdom, and so many paths.
It is here that I will compile information on what I have learned and the choices I am making.
Maybe my path will help others.... or not. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

My 9 Year Old Daughter Wants to Be a Vegetarian

As a family, we eat as an omnivore. Individually, we eat differently. I, myself, am mostly vegetarian, though I do eat meat when it feels right. My youngest daughter eats like I do. We also do not eat dairy. This is due to a milk allergy. My eldest daughter and my husband have been mostly die-hard meat-eaters. This is why her request/desire surprised me. Not to say I wouldn't be overjoyed at the very least! But I also wanted to make sure it was what she really wanted, and needed, at this point in her life. I'd like to say I take a balanced perspective.

One thing that may have motivated her desire to be a vegetarian, is her understanding of the treatment of animals in order to become food for the masses. To me, it is important that my family (or anyone for that matter) be aware of where their food comes from and how it is produced. That goes for vegetables, processed foods, and yes, meat. I don't want my kids growing up being disassociated from the foods they eat. I don't want them going into a store to buy their food and not understand what it takes to get it there, and all the hard work before that. I want them to be connected to their food source. I want them to be educated and make educated choices.

I felt my eldest was old enough and intelligent enough to begin to understand where her food comes from, and to make choices for herself as to how she should be eating. I mean, afterall, she will be taking care of herself eventually, and making all of her own choices eventually. So why not start now? I also use this as part of my parenting technique. If a kid understands WHY to do or not do something, and is allowed to make that choice for themselves (consequences too) then I think this teaches them to think intelligently.

I only do the best that I can as a parent. I try to lead by example. I try to give the materials and education my child needs (inside & outside the classroom). I try to provide learning tools at ripe learning moments. And then it's up to the child to go from there.

So in the case of my daughter wanting to be a vegetarian; what is right for her? I don't know. But I do know we are going to watch "Food Inc" and I am going to give her books and materials to help her make her own choices. This includes varied nutrition books, books on vegetarianism, books on whole foods nutrition & eating healthy meats and foods grown with love, books on eating closer to the source, and materials from PETA and the ethical treatment of animals. Basically everything she needs to make an intelligent choice for herself.

And of course, reminding her that if she were a vegetarian, there'd be none of her favorite foods... like bacon, ham sandwiches, etc.

I admit, I would try to steer her towards the idea of first starting with eating foods closer to the source. Eating foods that have not been processed. Eating foods that have been made with love. All of those things go into making healthier more nutritious foods. I would encourage her to start small. Like by eating meats that were, as animals, cared for lovingly and given free range to roam.

And if she still wants to be a vegetarian, then great! I'm all for teaching her how to do that in a healthy way.

I understand her desire! She'd said to me the other day, "I just don't think I can eat something I care about. I don't want to eat chicken anymore because I love them." Who can argue with that?

We do teach her that eating meat is part of survival for many species. And that if you care for and honor the animal, that this is better than how they are treated in factory-farms. But I am all for not having as much meat in the house.

I myself was raised a meat-eater. But I became I vegetarian when I lived with my father and step-mother for several years. They are die-hard vegetarians! So much so, that my step-mother said she would not marry my father if he dare ate any meat, ever again. To me, this is a bit severe. I was a vegetarian when I met my husband. And he, a die-hard meat-eater!! VERY much so! We've figured out how to blend our diets some, so that we can live together. He knows I will not cook much meat, so if he wants it, he will have to make it himself. I will cook simple meats to add to their meals, like heating sausage for example. Or I enjoy making fish at times. So, not having to cook as much meat, is fine by me.

But I am also not that selfish as to steer her choice because of my desires. I want her choice to be her own. And as I said, I will give her the tools to make an educated choice. That is all I can do.

Friday, April 29, 2011

HEALTHFUL RECIPES: Whole Wheat Honey Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

Okay, so I was in the mood for something sweet and had nothing good in the house to satiate my desires. It was up to me to make something quick!

I speedily googled "healthy cookie recipes" and found this RECIPE with which to work off of. I tweaked it a bit and came up with this:

Whole Wheat Honey Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup freshly ground whole wheat flour (I had a cup leftover in my fridge)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup raisins

Being in a rush and feeling lazy, I threw it all into the mixer at once. First I mixed it mostly that way, then I used a spoon to mix the last bits so that it would not be over-mixed, but definitely mixed. I found I had a lot of WW flour on the bottom of the bowl, so it took a bit of spoon-mixing to get it combined.

Then I used my mini cookie scoop and cookie sheet with silicone liner. Placed 12 cookies on the sheet in nice little round balls. Didn't bother flattening or anything else. Just shoved them in the oven.

I used their suggestion of 335 degrees. I didn't pre-cool (again in a rush). I'm not sure how long they cooked, but suffice to say, I looked to see that they were golden brown. :)

And Yes, they were delicious!!! Okay so the freshly ground whole wheat was a bit crunchy. I definitely need a way of grinding finer grain. But it was wonderful regardless!

And yay... I have sweets! Sweets I even feel good sharing with my 21 month old. :)

 Posted on Real Food Wednesday

Fresh & Healthy Eggs! Our relationship with our chickens...

After reading about some of the horrors of how farm-factory chickens are treated, and about how you can't even really trust Organic "Free-Range" Chickens to actually mean FREE RANGE, I realized it was time to have our own chickens and thus our own eggs.

Our first attempt at chickens; we bought 3. We lost one to some wild animal. It was terrible. I think the little chick was dragged through the bars. We learned quickly why bars are a certain size. One of the hens turned out to be a rooster, after weeks of us thinking she was just a butch hen. I guess the crowing should have given it away, but we fought for her, thinking that she was just taking over the male role. She also regularly attacked our 9 year old. So "she" had to go. At that point, "she" also developed spurs. Yep... She's a HE. So we found a nice family who wanted a rooster. We, of course, no longer wanted to be woken up in the wee hours of the morning with "her" crowing.

The 3rd hen... well, I can't remember what happened to her (I will have to ask my husband. He remembers every little detail. I unfortunately do not. He is a Virgo however.) I do know that we have 2 hens now. We did have 3 again. We'd named them "Pixie" "Emerald" and "Angel." We lost Angel. I think it was another wild animal. So now we have Pixie & Emerald.

So after over 2 years now, one of them has never laid an egg. Yes, we only have one layer. "Pixie" is our only layer. Emerald is good for poop, company, and making nice soil and compost with her scratching. Oh and eating the snails and slugs.

Have only one egg a day (or less) has never been enough to feed our family of four. So we finally gave in and recently got 5 more chicks.

 "Blondie" "Mochacchino" and "Cinnamon"

 "Mochacchino" "Speckles" "Ginger" and "Blondie"



So now we will have a dozen eggs every 2 days(ish)!

My husband has been diligently fixing op the coop and making a bigger and better run for our hens and soon-to-be hens. We have moved the coop to a prettier area and snazzed up their home. I figure happy hens make better healthier eggs, yes?

One of the things I was amazed about with Pixie's eggs was the color of the yolk!!!! It was BRIGHT orange! Like NEON ORANGE! It really showed me how much store-bought eggs are lacking in nutrients! I am so excited about having fresh eggs everyday.

 Here is an example of a store-bought "free-range" organic egg, and our REAL free-range egg.

The trick to having orange yolks is to make sure that your hens get out every day. We let them out of the coop to "free-range" the entire yard, to get sunshine, to eat bugs and other foods, and generally to enjoy themselves. Though, the girls do like to eat our dog's food too, and you can see them being chased by Thunder (our dog) as he protects his "golden" nuggets.

And in reality, hens are a joy to have around. They are silly and fun. They follow us around and want to be a part of the action. They keep our garden pest-free. They help make great compost. Their uses are endless!

Oh and here is a great article from Mother Earth News:

Meet Real Free-Range Eggs

Thursday, April 21, 2011

HEALTHFUL RECIPES: Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Artisan Bread

I have realized that I cannot rely on stores for healthy bread. So many additives, so many preservatives, is the wheat flour even fresh, are there GMO's.... so I have endeavored to make my own breads. This was a daunting task for me, as I'd never made bread before. After a few attempts, I feel much better.

I even have my own sourdough starter going. I feed it regularly and it's bubbling away happily. The other day I made a delicious Honey Whole Wheat bread, as well as a regular Sourdough. And my husband said, wouldn't in be interesting to combine the two! So that's what I did!

The basis of my Sourdough Recipe is from a great website: Sourdough Baking: The Basics by John  Ross.

From there I added and changed according to my likes......

Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Artisan Bread

2 Cups of sponge (proofed starter)
2 Cups freshly ground whole wheat flour (you can just use pre-ground WW if you don't have fresh)
1 Cup of unbleached flour (or more depending on the consistency)
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
2 Tablespoons of honey
2 Teaspoons of salt

I use a mixer with a dough hook. You could also do this by hand.

First add the starter into the mixing bowl. Then add the honey, salt and oil. Mix this thoroughly. Then begin to add 1/2 cup at a time, the rest of the flours. I start with the whole wheat, as it generally needs more fluids so it's easier to gauge.

Mix slowly until the dough is no longer sticky, but soft. Then let it sit in the bowl to rise, covered. I have let is rise for almost 4 hours before! This is a slow riser. You can also put this into a lightly warmed oven (the door should be touchable) and it will rise faster. You want it to double in size. You can check it by pressing your finger into it. If it doesn't bounce back, it's fully risen.

Then punch the dough down and form it into a freeform loaf on a silicone mat on a cookie sheet, or grease or put corn meal underneath. Let it rise again.

Once it has risen to about twice the size, put it in the oven and bake it at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes. Do not preheat the oven! The bread will get an extra oomph of rising while the oven is warming. When done, you want it to look lightly browned. Oh and John also says if you thump it with a wooden spoon, it will sound hollow! Put the bread on a cooling rack and let it cool for a while. At least that's what he says too... but I've not been able to do that myself and always end up cutting into it right away to eat a slice with butter slathered on it. :)

So there you have it! Homemade yummy healthy bread you can count on.....

Monday, April 18, 2011

Vaccinations... what parent knows what to do?

I certainly don't! I have crawled through book after book, and I still have no clue. I am frightened by the prospect of hurting my child either way. If I vaccinate, will I give my child permanent damage? Will she be one of the casualties? But what if I don't vaccinate? Will she get some terrible illness that I could have prevented? Will she make others ill if she contracts something? Is that bad? What does one do?

One book I have really enjoyed is "Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parents Guide." It seems very unbiased and really goes into detail about the diseases, the vaccinations, and thoughts on both side.

Some interesting things to consider from that book:

Are we becoming dependent on vaccinations for our immunity and do vaccinations really create immunity? The thought is that if we actually acquire the diseases, we will get lifelong immunity, and each time the disease comes around it will be lessened. What were once terrible diseases are now lessened illnesses that most healthy children seem to get over, with little medical intervention. Additionally, it seems that a huge percentage of vaccinated children still get the diseases they were vaccinated for! So are these risks really worth it? Are we really doing any good anymore? Some doctors and scientists wonder.

I'm not necessarily a black and white thinker. I'm thinking at this point that partial vaccinations may be the way to go. Some vaccinations may be important and some may just be non-essential.

My child is already almost 2. I chose not to vaccinate her until she turned 2, if even then, because I'd read repeatedly that by then their brain development is mostly done (80%) and that the chances of doing damage to your child are significantly reduced.

But my child also has a lot of allergies! And I have things in my family line that concern me. And vaccines are designed for healthy people with healthy immune systems.

Additionally... why do we give so many vaccinations!!!! We give enough for an adult-sized person, not an infant. And not an infant whose immune system is immature. All of these things worry me so much.

I will continue to ponder on all of this.... and I will continue to write about my findings. I have no answers yet... but I am searching for what is best for my child.

Here are some good links to check out in the meantime:








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