Sunday, August 24, 2014

A New Book and Self Reflection

I've been moving through books rather fast lately, likely due to having almost two weeks off of school and I picked up an old book I've started reading twice before and then abandoned.  The book is called The Overachievers by Alexandra Robbins and while it is not a difficult read, it isn't the easiest style for me.  That isn't the reason I've abandoned it twice before though, at least I don't think it is.  You see I grew up an overachiever and I still am highly competitive in work and academics.  I had a 4.0 this summer and a 105% in my accounting class.  While, having a daughter has brought on comparing her to other children, but I've vowed not to give her the same experience I had as a child.

Yes, we read to her a lot and we had instilled in her a love of books before her first birthday.  However, when other parents with similar aged children tell me all the things their child can do that mine cannot, I just ignore it.  She will get there when she is ready is a household favorite saying.  Sure your child knows all the animal sounds or babbles non-stop and you call that talking, but based on development Abby is still ahead of the curb without those things.  She counts to 4 and has been counting since around 9-12 months.  She started crawling later than other children, but started walking along things within hours of her learning to crawl.  She never says mama and refers to be as a baba, but she say's "bye, see you" and took to sign language well before she could say anything at all.  It's in her time and for now that is ok, for now she's still on par with where the doctors want her.  I don't feel the need to compare her to every other child out there, I don't want her to feel the pressure I felt as a child...not to the level I did.

I grew up spending my spare time reading and going to the local library.  I loved the neighborhood library in New Orleans best, a large two story building full of wonderful books and stories, often with elements I could not fully comprehend, but none the less loved dearly.  I'm not sure where my mother's desire to push me came from, perhaps it was so she could tell others how good of a job she was doing based on my academics.  I recall making good grades as a child, reading before kindergarten and my mother’s idea of a children’s book being a child encyclopedia.  Luckily, I was always interested in learning more.  My parents chose not to let me skip kindergarten, which was likely for the best.  

I was never allowed to have anything other than a perfect grade.  If my report came back with needs improvement I was staying up to work on things and getting up early.  When I was in third grade, my brothers were toddlers and my mother would make me do hooked on phonics lessons with them.  The youngest was still in a crib and the other was close enough in age that people often thought they were twins.  Yet, here I was trying to teach them to read and count!  I should have known then that there was a problem, but I didn't and by the time I went away to school my mother's desires for me to be an overachiever had set in.

In boarding school I was the person that stayed upstairs and studied until dark.  I was slower at my homework because I was very thorough, and honestly I wasn't in love with boarding school yet so I just wanted time to myself and you only got that if you were actively studying.  The headmaster’s daughter became a friend of mine and often when we had to highlight notes in our books she would copy me, and others would copy her.  I was so afraid of getting in trouble I would go back and highlight more things, which resulted in being told to do mine more like she does hers.  The irony of her work being my original was not lost on me, but I stayed quiet and kept my head down and promised to do better.  

I think boarding school was the start of the change for me, the point where my mother's demands for me only make A's had taken a strong hold and the realization that others will use you to get ahead was starting to manifest.  I withdrew from others, I kept to myself and I just studied all day and night.  I would try to fit in and do what everyone else did, but I was different and it became more obvious the longer I was there.  I had toys and wasn't allowed to.  Most days I would stay inside all night and study or do chores, instead of playing outside.  I would get checked out by my grandparents for the weekends and holidays and that was unheard of among other kids.  I was different, yet constantly compared to everyone else there.  My mother only wanted to hear how great we were doing, and since she wasn't actually raising us her desire for us to be performing well seemed to only grow.

When I left campus and moved back in with my mother, she had a new life and I didn't really know where to fit in there either.  She told me before picking us up that she was married now and that we were living in a new house in New Orleans and that we better be on our best behavior at all times.  Sadly, his children were never on their best behavior and none of us wanted to be in this new family.  I started home schooling until the following term, when I went to public school and became one of only five white students in the school. At boarding school there was one "colored" girl and boy, and now my new step-brother and I were two of the five non-black kids.  In boarding school I had learned about people who weren't white from American Girl books, and nothing really held true in current day.  Not only did you not say colored anymore, but you also didn't talk about the history involved and you rarely mingled together.

Based on my grades and description of the courses I was taking I was moved from the middle of 5th grade to the middle of 7th grade.  That was a nice leap, which also meant I was younger and smaller than everyone else.  Now with more to catch up on I spent all night studying and by the following year I was in every club except teen outreach (I was not 13 and that was the minimum age), I had spent my summer reading all the books and writing a new book report each month for my mother.  I doubt she even read them, I'm fairly certain she didn't and at one point said so part way through one.  The fact that I didn't get a sore butt after that almost confirms my belief.  I made student of the year, I won several medals at graduation and had money for college through a LEAP (Louisiana Engineering Advancement Program) Science Fair I had won.  I spent the summer before high school attending the University of New Orleans and excelled there, even though I was only 12.  In junior high I was known as "white girl" and at UNO I was known as the "little girl" and a "nerd" because I would go well past the requirements for an assignment in hopes that it'd be praised.  It almost never was.

For high school I had failed the entrance exam for Benjamin Franklin High School, although I'd later date a boy from here who had a similar drive to excel, which meant my mother loved him more than anyone I'd date for the rest of high school.  My mother told me that I only failed one section by a few points, and my step brother failed a different section.  "Together we have one stupid child and a smart one.  Sadly we can't just combine that two of you, so we have two stupid children instead," is what they would say to us.  I'd start high school a month and a half after turn thirteen and attend a magnet school that was geared towards more "gifted" children with foreign language options like Japanese in addition to the standard French and Spanish.  It was a school where they looked at your transcripts to see if they'd let you in.

I was so uptight by high school that I would yell at other students who would talk in chemistry because I needed to learn everything perfectly and failure was not an option.  I took an advanced geometry as a freshman, where I even made a quilt to match the pattern I had drawn up for an assignment.  I took an English course that covered classics I couldn't yet comprehend.  I joined Thespians and did Shakespearian plays that I didn't understand the language for.  I pushed myself and stayed up all night doing homework to appease my mother.  By the time I was at my third high school, due to several moves, I was starting to crack under pressure.  I was only a sophomore and we had lived in two towns and we were building a house in a third.  I showed up to school with no idea where my courses were or what they were.  I was in Algebra 2, but had not had Algebra 1.  I'd switch to the freshman math course, which infuriated my mother, but I'd do well this first year.  

I joined clubs my second year there, and tried my best to fit in.  Somewhere in my last half of high school I broke under pressure.  I was in chess club, honor choir, color guard, ecology club, the tech academy, and In Medias Res, a literary/poetry club.  I was probably in other clubs that I cannot recall, and I did the senior musical, to top it off!  I was in a ton of things and I wanted to do everything, but my grades were slipping a bit.  I was no longer a perfect A student and that was constantly a problem at home.  I nearly missed my PSAT exams because my mother required I clean the entire house before going, as a punishment for not having a perfect 4.0 or AP classes.  She also refused to take me to a concert I was supposed to perform in as a large part of my grade.  My choir instructor later wrote me a card senior year saying she never understood how much I went through until the end of the year after dealing with my mother.  She said she had a lot of respect for me after one too many phone calls from my mother about why I cannot answer my cell phone when I'm on stage.

I failed the second semester of Spanish 2 and I refused to retake the course.  Not taking two full years of foreign language would mean you couldn't go to college for free using TOPS, and I told my counselor I did not care because I was going to move nearly 1,000 miles away and never come back.  I failed a test in a political science class and I just burst out laughing.  My then boyfriend thought it was the strangest thing, because I was normally such a perfectionist.  I passed my final exam in Physics just enough to get a passing grade that would ensure I could get into an out of state college.  I failed Trig and honestly slept through so much of class that I am not sure why I wasn't kicked out.  I gave up, I was broken.  I was pressured to the point that I did well under pressure, I almost thrived under it.  However, I hated my mother so much that all I cared about was getting away.  I just needed to do enough to get away, but I was tired of putting in the time and effort to be perfect when it was never enough.

My mom was too hard on me, in every way imaginable, and I know that now. Once I left home I was disowned, until I was enrolling in a private college that was nearly as expensive as Harvard.  That was one of the worst choices I'd ever make, but that's a different story.  I had learned to strive to outdo everyone and that wasn't healthy and led to me thinking that a basic college wasn't enough.  In the end if I had stayed put I'd be done school, but over ten years later, I am still taking classes part time and constantly taking time off.  I finished this summer with a 4.0 in all of my classes and over 100% in my accounting class.  I had such a high grade that I could skip the last exam, the final project, and basically the last week and I'd still have an A. Yet I still went and did everything to see how high I could get my grade.

I read this book and see myself in these kids.  I look back at my life and think, "I was and am one of these overachievers."  Somewhere along the way I broke under the pressure or at least I started second guessing myself and hating life enough to not do it anymore.  Along with being told I had to be perfect was constant reminder that I wasn't perfect, which meant I was not good enough.  It's a really hard thing to deal with and I sadly didn't handle it well in the end.  This time I plan to finish the book and see what all I can take away from the combination of their stories and mine.  I want to find a better balance for my daughter.  We already talk about putting her in the best schools.  I want to work for the local university so that I can ensure she has affordable tuition even if she does not attend local public schools, which would get her free tuition if she does well in school. 

Free tuition would be great, but I want a back-up.  I don't want the pressure of needing to pass all of these classes to get that free tuition to break her.  I have no idea how she will handle the pressure, but I know I did great and then drowned myself after waking up to find that I didn't want to live my life anymore.  I stuck it out because I had younger siblings that I knew would have to endure what I was if I wasn't here to do it, and I'd stay just until college and then I was gone.  I don't want that life for my child.  I will push her to do well and to be active and to play a sport and instrument, but if she doesn't like something she gets to quit.  It will be her choice, and if through this book I can learn how other parents have pushed their children and what exact things it is that that hated and what was just too much, I can avoid that with her.  I am, after all, my mother's daughter and while I am nothing like her I only have my experience growing up as a guide.

Abby will read books over the summer, but instead of doing book reports each month (sometimes weekly if they were smaller books); she will just read what she wants and the schools summer reading list.  We can read them together and talk about them if she wants, that's something I never had.  If she loves to swim, I'll put her in lesson.  She can try tennis or anything else she wants.  If she loves it I'll keep it going and if she says she wants to stop then it's time for a break, and that break might be permanent. I just want the best for her, but I also want her to know that her best is enough.  That her being happy is more important than being perfect.  That is something I still struggle with today. That is something I will probably always have to remind myself of.  My best is enough; being happy is more important than being perfect.  That doesn't mean I won't strive for a 4.0 in my classes, but I hope to start adding more me time, more family time, and more living to my life.

If you were an overachiever, or still are, I recommend picking up the book.  It's written in a different format than I normally enjoy reading, but that is because it follows multiple students, and it works more like a movie with multiple main characters.  If you have children and are trying to figure out what a "tiger mom" is and if you are one or not, pick up the book.  I think it's a good way to get a perspective into the lives of teens that are pushed really hard.  That being said, so far there are some statistics in it that I feel are a kind of scare tactic.  It feels like the author is really against the current education system, of the system that was in place when the book was written.  Although it is less than 10 years ago, there have been some recent changes that I feel are large enough to change the education system as a whole.

Monday, July 28, 2014

My birthday gift comes a future review

Alright!  My birthday gift arrived and it was the compost bin I wanted from NatureMill.  After hearing everything Michael went through I am really hoping that the bin works better than his experience so far.  There will be a full review once we hook it up and use it for about a month (provided we keep it), I should at least give it a chance to make compost before I say if it's worth it or not.  What I can tell you at this point is this:

  • Customer Service is non-existent. He placed his order on an in stock item that was listed to ship in 5-7 days.  Well, after two weeks he tried to call them and got what sounded like voice mail, as in one individual not a department.  His emails were also not returned.  Finally, his card was charged after he tried to get a hold of them to cancel and the unit arrived.
  • The unit is made of some kind of foam material, which is mildly concerning to me.  It gets hot inside and I'm nervous it will melt.  The mechanics inside are stainless steel, but the rest of the inside is this foam stuff.
  • The website is not up to date.  The stainless steel version has not been available to a while and yet the images are still of that one, which is not what you get a foam textured unit.
  • Easy returns is a complete lie!  Once you use the item it cannot be returned at all.  If it breaks they send you replacement parts and you fix it yourself.
  • Not all foods can go in it.  We eat a lot of green vegetables, which cannot go in it.  I understand no corn cobs or large bones, but broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, and mustard greens?  Those are all items we eat a lot of.
  • It is a really tight fit.  The lid is hard to open and so it the bottom.  I assume this is how they avoid any smell, but I cannot currently open it without the entire unit moving or using my legs to stabilize it
  • All doors and lids seal with the foam, which may or may not break down with wear and tear.
So far I want to send it back and am really nervous Michael just spent $500 on what will not last us until winter. I offered to send it back but he said it is what I wanted so we can keep it.  I can tell he is really unhappy with the purchase so far and is nervous, as I am, that it won't turn out to be a good purchase and there is no chance of getting any money back, because the warranty only gives you replacement parts not a refund.  If the item melts there is nothing you can do, they do not allow you to mail the item back'd actually have to buy a new unit at discount, but who would want a new one after theirs died a quick death. I'm really nervous that this might backfire on me.  Here is hoping a friends high recommendation of it is true.  She loves hers, but I wonder if she has the old model that is stainless steel.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Just Another Life Update

It has been a couple weeks since my last update and I'm finally getting my life into order.  I don't mean that it is generally a mess, but I'm finding a schedule that works for me.  This week I managed to find someone to work one of my shifts that was completely outside of my availability, so now I will actually have a day off and only 7 shifts to work between my jobs!  Perhaps I will get some gardening done, but that may be hopeful thinking.

Eating Better
I am officially under 140 lbs and that is nice, especially since I wasn't trying to do anything other than eat better.  I've tried a few new cookbooks and am loving the library selection!  I also love that no one else ever seems to put holds on them and I can just renew my checkout until I'm done. I haven't found many recipes to use outright, but I have found so many that I can adjust to my needs that work well.  Of course, the beet hummus recipe I found was awful, but we think we have an idea on how to fix it next time.  All in all, though, this CSA is really helping us branch out and eat fresh, clean foods.

We have been reading books for at least 20 minutes a day, and 20 minutes minimum to Abigail. During class breaks I tend to read, during my downtime I read, before bed I read.  I'm reading a lot more now and I love it.  I am also using Hoopla Digital more.  I'm not often a fan of audio books, but it has been helpful for books about organizing or cleaning or easy reading books; I listen to it and follow along or do my chores and get a book chapter in.

Breaking Ties and Cleaning House
It's been really great to clean up  my life.  I cut ties with someone who was constantly bringing me down and causing stress, and that led me to check-out the audio book about throwing things away.  I felt so good I just wanted to keep going.  So I did! I checked out an audio book about throwing things away and it gives to goal to throw 50 things away while listening to it.  I didn't throw away 50 things, but I did keep a list and donated a lot.  I'll post it all later...Based on the rules it's less than 25 things, but I am proud of how much I cleaned out.

T.V. Time
Well, we don't have a cable provider, but I was still using Hulu and Amazon Prime a lot.  I do still use Prime to watch documentaries at times, and we still check out movies from the library, but currently on the air tv shows? I couldn't even tell you what is on, let alone what is happening.  Goodbye Hulu time suck! Goodbye long tv shows on Prime.  Don't get me wrong, I still watch some things, but I got into a show that had over 20 seasons and two seasons in I was losing interest, season 3 I was fast-forwarding through half of the episodes, and by the time I hit season 4 I skipped entire episodes and finally said I was done.  No more tv shows, not even ones that are done airing or have several seasons behind it already. It will be hard when Downtown Abbey comes on again.

Trash Time
One of my goals was to cut down on trash.  It wasn't that we make a ton, but I felt we could still do better.  So, how are we doing?  We still make trash, but we honestly probably make less than one trash bin or trash a month.  If it wasn't for food scraps like tomato tops and vegetable skins we wouldn't even need to take it to the curb as often.  My birthday is coming up and Michael said he ordered my gift.  My immediate response was "COMPOSTER!!!!" Well, after prying more and more, chances are I'm not getting a NatureMill composter, but I will get one eventually.  He currently thinks I'm insane for wanting one for my birthday more than anything.  And honestly, other than pay part of my tuition bill, the NatureMill Ultra is next on the list.  Maybe that makes me insane, but I really want one.  It would decrease our trash even that much more.  I think it might get us down to "needing" to take out the trash every other month or less.  Recycling bin, that poor thing is finally less full as we've cut back on buying things.

Another reason I want the composter is so I can turn it over in the garden.  I was drying out egg shells in the house and shaking them in a container to break them up, but after a couple containers of it and covering all my plant bases in it to avoid slugs I stopped.  It would just get gross too fast if things weren't washed enough and it was a bit of a pain.  The bin would really help with that.  Another gardening project is finishing the yard design, which is completely drawn up on graphing paper, but now the skeleton design needs a shell and some paint.  Oh...and we have some big water barrels for water storage.  Guess who said I can turn them into rain barrels this fall?!  YEAH!

So, overall it's going great.  There should be more reviews coming, more recipes, and even some reviews of recipes I found online that belong to other people and came out great!  I'll even toss in a link to the recipe, because why not share it!  Oh and vegan my ice cream adventures are really taking off and now without the banana! I start yoga and Kettle Bell next week and will have at least one day off a week from work and school for that.  So, less weight, healthier eating, less trash, less consumer culture, better life style...over all it's a win!  It's not been completely smooth sailing, but it's totally a win!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Recipe: Beet Chips

We have found that we really love these. They are slightly firm, don't stain your hands, and are a great munching snack.  They aren't flimsy or hard, it's a nice middle ground where the beet holds it's shape well, is slightly crisp, but still soft in texture. Oh and you don't need a fork!!! I recommend an apron while cooking though.

3 beets
1" fresh ginger
1/3 cup water
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup granulated cane sugar

Day 1
Use a vegetable peeler and peel the beets.
Set your mandoline to 1.5 mm or 3 mm and cut beets (or cut by hand to width of a debit card).*
Place in a bowl in the fridge uncovered overnight.  You can do this for a few hours, but overnight seems to work best to reduce the bleeding and keep them crisper.

Day 2
Take your ginger, peel it, and slice it up into at least 4 pieces.  The more pieces the more flavor it will give off, but too many pieces and it may be hard to get out of the pot later.
In a medium size pot, combine all ingredients except the beets and bring to a low boil and then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.
Once 5 minutes has passed, remove the ginger, add the beets, and return to a boil.
Boil for 3 minutes, stirring the beets so that all the beets get a chance to be coated in the vinegar mixture for a bit of time.  Do not go over 3 minutes or the beets will get too soft and won't hold their shape well.
Remove from heat and let everything cool in the pot.
Once cooled, removed beets and place in a lidded jar for storage. We use a large mason jar and have extra room. (Discard the vinegar mixture or save to use on a salad).
Store in the fridge and enjoy!

*If cutting by hand, I recommend cutting the beets in half;  place the flat side down to help stabilize them.

I have no idea how long these will hold in a fridge in a mason jar. I'm betting it's a while, but they seldom last 3 days without being completely devoured by us.  Who'd have thought this journey to being healthier and more eco-friendly would bring about a love of beets! Not us, but now we are really excited to get beets in the weekly CSA box.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Eco-Life Update

Alright, being eco is not always easy.  We have an older house with no air conditioning, and we temperature control with the two ceiling fans and windows.  If it's cool out we open the windows, blinds, and curtains, but if it's warm out we close them all during the day.  There have been a couple days where we felt the need to shower before bed, but that is often on a hot day we still had to cook on.  In other news, I'm getting better about stacking my recipes!  If I have two recipes that call for the same oven temperature I get one in the oven going and once the next one is ready I toss it in too!  I can fit two pans side by side and have two racks, so if two pans are bread they go on top and the lower can be for dried fruit or veggie chips with no problem.  It helps reduce the heat in the house.

For a couple weeks we were getting Panera bagels on Tuesday for the $7 for 13 deal.  It was nice, but in the end we would have to both eat a bagel a day!  That's a lot of carbs and calories for one item.  Instead of making full loaves, I made focaccia this week and it came out awesome!  I only make one or two loaves of bread a month right now, so we have cut back on bread a lot.  I also don't make cakes anymore at the moment.  I did make a nutella bread the other day and it was the worst idea ever.  It was tasty, but not tasty enough for the calories I consumed in the 36 hours it took to eat the entire nutella twist.

So, if we aren't eating bread what are we eating?  Well, the CSA has started and each Thursday we get more fruits and vegetables.  We paid extra for an additional full share of fruit and we split a full fruit and veggie share with someone else.  So the first week Michael came home with 6 containers of strawberries, 2 beets, 2 carrots, 2 parsnips, 3 potatoes, half a bunch of collard greens, a container of salad greens, grape tomatoes, and 2 rutabaga. I may even be forgetting something.  He came in with the ice chest full and my PinkThumb Produce Bac Sac full! (Review coming soon).  So we went out and bought a bigger ice chest with wheels and said goodbye to our styrofoam one from last year.  We made an oriental vegetable soup and tossed in the potatoes with it, had an edamame salad, beet hummus, strawberry jam, fresh fruit cups, and froze half of the strawberries. I'll I had to pick up at the local asian store was one raddish!

The next week was similar but we had turnip, rhubarb, kale, and large tomatoes instead of rutabaga and collard greens.  I made half the berries into strawberry rhubarb jam, beet carpaccio, oven candied strawberries, potato-parsnip mash, turnip chips, and we made a salad using the lettuce growing in the window.  That combined with my muesli, focaccia, otsu, and the left over beet hummus and we were set for the week.  The best part is, other than tofu we keep the items for otsu on hand all the time, it goes into the staple supply with flour, sugar, oats, noodles.  We don't have to get much at the store anymore.

If you noticed, I said we used the lettuce from our window.  That's right, we bought romaine at the store a while back for a salad and I put the base in water.  It takes about a week or two, but it does give us enough leaves to combine with the greens we get from the CSA, or roughly enough leaves for a one person salad or several sandwiches.  We also have tomatoes, basil, mint, thyme, and cayene peppers growing on the front porch.  The back yard has green and red peppers, green onions, garlic, raspberries, and regular onions. Our wild raspberries are doing well this year in the back of the back yard, but our garden raspberries are likely dead.  We put the plant in the ground after getting it as a gift, but it doesn't seem to be doing well.  Actually, I really think it is dead.  That being said, I never did research to see if I could put peppers near it, but we got 36 pepper plants from a neighbor for free and I couldn't turn that down!  We grabbed mint, thyme, and a cherry tomato plant at the farmers market and the basil plant is from Trader Joe's via my dad.

It doesn't seem like we are growing much, but it is our first year and we felt it was more important to start small and learn before taking on a ton and killing it all.  This will also lead to more reviews, as our pepper plants in the ground are being attacked by something, but the hanging ones aren't.  Growing 100% pesticide free means I get to do things like shake up egg shells and place them around the peppers to avoid slug damage.  That actually seems to be helping a bit.  My basil is looking rough now that it is outside, which I think is due to aphids and leaf spot based on how it looks and the fact that it was thriving inside! I only took it outside because Abby really wanted to play with it and I thought it'd be fine out there, better actually.  So I may have to restart that.  Oh well, live and learn.  The plant was free anyway.  Actually we spent about $5 on all our plants, so the biggest cost has been pots, planters and soil.

We are still working on killing the tv, well I am, Michael has no interest in giving up YouTube at night.  He didn't like the book I gave him to read, he says he wants to read it but hates the internal conflict narrative.  Instead of skipping over the parts of No Impact Man where he is debating his struggles with choices, he just put the book down and quit reading.  Great!  We are reading to Abby 20 minutes a day minimum, which in turn means we are also reading at night.  Michael actually passed out after reading to her last night, it was cute to see him asleep in the chair and her sitting on his lap just staring off into space as bed time approached.  I have gone through half of my magazine supply and recycled what I do not want.  Once I start my paper flowers, the others will quickly follow.

We are making the transition into e-books.  I hate to do it, but when space is an issue you don't have much choice.  Abby still gets printed books, but we are donating a lot of ours to the library's store so they can raise money by selling them and in turn we are replacing those that we like with e-books.  Some books we are keeping, you know my collection of classics, autographed copies of books, text books, art books, non-fiction and cook books, and my favorites that I've already bought 4 times but can't get via e-book (which would have been cheaper than buying a new copy every time one got ruined by rain, coffee, or children).  I guess really we are cutting down on fiction books in print.  If more of my non-fiction books were in e-book format I'd think about switching over, but for now getting down to one small book shelf will work.  I used to have multiple 6+ foot high shelves full of books!  That's cutting my collection down to 25% or less.

As you can see, things are going good.  We still have the same struggles as most families with tv time, but when it comes to the reduce, reuse, recycle part of life I think we are ahead of the game.  We are even learning to be urban gardeners and source food from local farms.  We hang clothes to dry, we have planned out the rest of the garden beds to build just before winter, and we spend a lot of time outside as a family.  It's been a really positive change in our lives.  Once I'm down to one job (two currently) or just two jobs that have more normal hours (no off at 2 am shifts), things will be even easier.  Here's to summer classes being half done, to my garden slowly showing signs of life, and to eating cleaner and not letting slight hiccups stop me from getting back on track.

Recipe: Muesli

We get our rolled oats at the local farmers market.  Unlike store bought oats they aren't steamed in advance or even rolled out, they roll them right in front of you, so the nutrients is all still there!  It's great, same price as steal cut oats at the store, and we love the flavor.  Two weeks ago they had refrigerator oatmeal as samples and a cookbook I have includes a muesli recipe, so I thought why not combine the two ideas, exchange a few ingredients with things we prefer, and switch it up a bit.  Here's my recipe:

3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup dried cranberries or craisins
1/4 teaspoon salt (two quick dashes will work)
1-1.5 tsp maple syrup
1/4 cup oat germ
Craisins or diced apples for garnish

Take all of the dry ingredients, including oat germ if using it, and mix in a bowl, tupperware, pamper chef measuring bowl, large mason jar, etc.  Shake to mix well.  Store in cool, dry place until ready to eat.  Your bowl or jar is your choice, but you will want to be sure you can get a 1/2 cup measuring scoop into it or are comfortable pouring from it.

Take 1/2 of the oat mix and combine with 1/2 cup of kiefer (if you used oat germ you may need to add up to an additional 1/4 cup kiefer or add water) and maple syrup if using it.  Mix and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour (I prefer to make it the night before and let it all mix, but in a pinch you can eat it after 1 hour).  Garnish with some diced apples or more craisins if desired.

Nutrition and Sourcing:
Info below is based on 1 tsp of maple syrup, no extra garnish, and no oat germ.  If you do not have local oats available to you and would like fresh oats, you can actually order them online for the same price we pay in person from The Grainery.  We love them, seriously!  We buy 2 bags at a time and go back every two to four weeks to get more.
Nutrition Facts
Servings 8.0
Amount Per Serving
Calories 199
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 4 g6 %
Saturated Fat 1 g6 %
Monounsaturated Fat 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 5 mg2 %
Sodium 136 mg6 %
Potassium 7 mg0 %
Total Carbohydrate 32 g11 %
Dietary Fiber 5 g20 %
Sugars 11 g
Protein 10 g19 %
Vitamin A5 %
Vitamin C2 %
Calcium16 %
Iron8 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review: Diva Cup

For those who have no idea what diva cup it, it's a reusable feminine hygene product.  So, men you might want to check out now unless you are looking into this for someone else, or just really want to know.  Anyway, it's a menstrual cup, it's silicone and you replace it every year. I've had the chance to use it several times now and I'm finally ready to give it a full review.

First, the sizing is really easy to figure out.  If you have ever had a baby you are a size two or if you haven't had a baby but are 30 or older you are a size two.  If you are under 30 and have never had a baby you are size one.  It's that easy!  So I ordered my size two and it was here in two days.  I read all the instructions and at first found it kind of awkward to insert.  I really recommend trying multiple fold methods to figure out what works best for you. For me it was folding it in half, and it made it pretty simple. I was done, on with  my day.  Or so I thought...

Well, there is a part in the instructions that says once inserted to turn it a complete turn.  I skipped that part because it was so awkward at first and I couldn't seem to get it.  Problem one is that I needed to trim my nails.  I have really long natural nails and I have to trim them every week or two because they grow so fast. I was due to trim them back down from the quarter inch they were.  Next, I needed to do the turn before it was all the way in place and it was harder to reach the stem.  After a while it was no longer an issue, but at first it wasn't easy for me to grab the end piece and turn.

Flow!  Supposedly you can wear it for up to 12 hours and it will hold just under 1 ounce.  For most women this is great, because the average full cycle flow is 1-2 ounces.  For me...not so much.  I'm one of those people who suddenly had a major change in cycle and flow triggering exams and medications to correct it.  I can lose 1-2 ounces in three to four hours.  On average I lose 4+ ounces a cycle and I get my cycle twice a month...every 15-17 days! It's insane and after a battery of exams I get to take a medication to try and fix it. That being said...I'm a rare case and once I got the timing and flow down this worked great for me!

I always thought my flow was heavy, but how do you tell when you are using disposable tampons and pads. I'd always have leaks and I'd even have leaks with overnight pads.  I will say that due to how heavy my flow is the first two days of my cycle I would wear a pad with the cup at first.  After a couple times I was able to empty and replace the cup within 30 minutes of bed and change it when I wake up and I was fine.  After the first two days my flow really lightens up so I could go to the every 12 hours for a change.  This is likely what most women get to's kind of nice.

The icky part...okay so it isn't all rainbows, butterflies and my little ponies! Emptying it was really gross at first.  Learn how to angle your hand/wrist and learn when you need to empty. Once I figure that out it was fine.  I will say that if you have a really heavy flow or do the 12 hours change thing to fill it up more, it might be best to not use a low flow toilet.  I've had times where it's so full I'd flush and there would be some residual blood and what still visible.  Since I think that leaving it like that is a fast way to make Michael turned off or sick to his stomach I just flush twice if it happens...or I put a couple squares of toilet paper down before I pull it out if I get it part way out.  Works just fine and I couldn't be happier to still be using it.  Oh and a bonus!  Ever use tampons or pads and have a smell?  There is no smell with this because the oxygen doesn't get in there to create it!

Verdict:  Get it and use it!  Once you figure it out, which only takes two cycles it's amazing!  Even if you have a heavy flow it works, just change it more often.  It can also help you determine if you have an abnormally heavy flow and give numbers to your doctor so they can help correct things.