Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thinner Thursday - Coconut

I've been reading lately about the benefits of coconut, specifically coconut oil. This article on Dr. Mercola's website was especially interesting. It cites a study done on women who took a coconut oil supplement compared to women who took a soybean oil supplement. I'm oversimplifying here, but essentially the result was that the women who took the coconut oil presented with an increased level of HDL (good cholesterol), decreased LDL/HDL ratio (I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it's good!) and here's my favourite part - reduced waist circumference/abdominal obesity. The soybean oil group ended up with higher cholesterol overall, increased LDL (bad cholesterol), decreased HDL (good cholesterol) and no inches lost. This post-baby body is saying bring on the coconut oil! The women in the study took 2 tablespoons per day (and also ate a low calorie diet and exercised). Ok so I'm not going to be eating a low calorie diet anytime soon, I'm nursing! But I am making an effort to watch what goes into my mouth and I have been walking around Beulah at least twice per week. Tuesday I did Beulah in the morning and then a nice walk out the back road with my husband in the evening. Wednesday I did Beulah again. It's hard in this hot weather, but I keep thinking of my figure and those extra 15lbs!

Back to the coconut oil. Ever tasted it? It tastes like... nothing. Oil. If you have extra-virgin it has an ever so slight coconut taste, but not enough to make it very appealing to just eat. So you can cook with it, which I have been doing, but that isn't going to bring you up to two tablespoons a day. I've made this fudge recipe a few times and it is FANTASTIC, but it still contains honey and besides, I seem to eat more of it than I really should be. So what I've been doing and very much enjoying the past few days is putting about a tablespoon of coconut oil and a tablespoon of chocolate chips in a little dish, melting them together, stirring in a couple tablespoons of unsweetened flaked coconut and popping it in the freezer to harden. This makes a lovely little chocolate treat for after lunch when the boys are napping. Now the chocolate chips - not so healthy I realize. But I justify it by the coconut oil and coconut I stir in! It tastes chocolatey though the oil kind of thins out the chocolate taste a bit, but adding in the coconut keeps the flavour good. I'm thinking I might start buying some organic dark chocolate bars and melting in one square of that a day instead of the chocolate chips just to alleviate some of the guilt.

Anyway, I recommend going and reading that article since Dr. Mercola discusses many of the other benefits of coconut oil that weren't immediately apparent in the study. It's supposed to be especially important for pregnant/nursing mothers to take, decreases your risk of heart disease, normalizes glucose levels, helps your thyroid, helps kill off the bad yeast in your body, you name it. I also use it as a moisturizer, it's the only thing I use on my skin now. It's greasy yes, but it works and I don't worry about absorbing chemicals into my skin. When Eli got a rash on his face I used coconut oil on it and it cleared right up.

So - eating a chocolate every day as a weight-loss tool? Yes please!

This post is linked up to Thinner Thursdays over at Mommy Miracles.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Skirting the Issue

(not my photo - google images)

I recently was clicking around the internet, and stumbled upon an article on a fashion blog about whether or not we, as women, should change the way we dress to please our significant other. The article contained lots of quotes from women who had written in to comment on the issue, but I was frustrated that it was a bit one-sided. Every single quotation was strongly against it. The author hadn't published a single comment from someone who thought that you should try to please your husband/boyfriend by adapting your style to their taste. Now I don't know, perhaps there weren't any to choose from, but I was really struck by the attitude of the whole thing. These women were offended at the mere suggestion that they put someone else's preferences ahead of their own. The article was full of phrases like "be yourself no matter what!" "You are the top priority!" "You should be dressing only for yourself!" "Don't change for anyone!" etc.

It raised some questions in my mind. Sure that sounds great... because it's been pounded into our heads since we were children. But really, why are we told not to "change" for anyone? Isn't that what life is all about? If nobody ever changed to accommodate someone else what kind of world would we live in? And I realize that clothing and fashion really is not a huge issue. Style is incredibly subjective, and it is a great way to express yourself. But here's my thought: if you really care about someone, enough to be in a close relationship with them, then isn't it a rather small thing just to change what you wear a little bit in order to make them happier? Obviously if he completely hated your style you probably wouldn't be in a relationship with him because he never would have been attracted to you in the first place, but let's say he just doesn't like a certain pair of shoes that you wear, or he doesn't care for it when you wear your hair a certain way - after all, he's the one you're trying to attract here.

I'm not talking about modesty here (that's a whole other issue!), just personal taste. Frankly, God has been convicting my heart slowly but surely throughout my marriage that it's really important for me to ask Cory what he likes, and then wear it, regardless of whether it's my favourite or not. There are obviously other factors at play here - it has to be reasonably modest, if we're shopping it can't be super expensive, I have to be able to take care of the kids and house comfortably while wearing it, and - yes - I do have to like it too, at least a little bit. I don't think it's fair to ask someone to wear clothes that they hate just because you like them. But who am I trying to impress here? Everybody else? Myself? Or is my husband my top priority?

This is why I have ridiculously long hair. Not because I love it, but because my husband does. He absolutely loves my long hair, and the occasional inconvenience of it is a relatively small price to pay for all the compliments he heaps on me, especially when I wear it down. Now just because he likes my hair down doesn't mean I wear it that way all the time, in fact it's more often braided or tied back than not, but I would never go chop it all off as much as I'm tempted to sometimes because it's such an easy way to make him happy. Also - this is why I am planning on wearing skirts a lot more this summer. It's funny, I've been reading a lot of blogs lately by women who feel convicted by God toward wearing skirts, as an issue of modestly and femininity. I've got to say I don't share their conviction, at least not about wearing skirts all the time. I agree that modesty and femininity are very Godly and important characteristics for every woman to try to emulate, but I don't feel that you have to wear skirts all the time in order to do that. That being said, my husband loves it when I wear skirts and dresses, especially longer ones. I probably feel prettiest wearing a well-fitting pair of jeans and a nice shirt, but my husband loves the skirts. So I've been making more of an effort to wear them, and when we went shopping on Saturday for a few clothes for me to wear this summer (I don't fit into my old summer clothes yet!) I purposely picked out skirts and dresses to try on. I found a couple of really nice things that we BOTH like.

So this summer you'll probably see me around wearing a lot more dresses and skirts. I know my husband is pleased with this development, and that makes us both happier. Now if only I can convince him to wear the shorts that I like, we'll both be content!

Growing Home

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Picnics and Planning

Isn't it always the case that we come up with all these grand ideas for what our summer will entail, then suddenly it's September and nothing got done? Well I'm determined to do better at that this summer. To seize the moment and actually DO fun things. That started yesterday - I was daydreaming about a picnic on the beach and then figured why the heck not? Why not tonight? It's a beautiful night, Victoria Beach is about 5 minutes down the road, and we're not busy. So we went!

And it was simply lovely. I made us some tuna sandwiches, some veggies and fruit and cookies, and we spent a beautiful summer evening soaking up the sun. Eli didn't remember beaches from last summer obviously, so he was pretty fascinated by the sand.
Cory helped him make sandcastles. Despite my extensive preparations, I somehow neglected to bring any toys with us. Not sure how that slipped my mind - I brought everything else in the house that is even remotely picnic-related. But hey, who needs toys when you have plastic cups! Eli had a great time scooping up water and sand and dumping it out again. He was also WAY too excited to eat, I only managed to get a couple of carrots and some blueberries into him.
Theo was his normal self - hungry! I don't know how much he weighs now but I'm sure that he's a much bigger baby than Eli was. It seems so strange to have this blond haired, hefty little boy after Eli, who was slim and had very dark hair. Anyway, as long as I kept him fed every 30 minutes or so Theo was happy to hang out on the picnic blanket. I tried dipping his feet into the river and he instantly screamed bloody murder. Eli was also much more relaxed about things like that... he probably would have shivered and squirmed but he wasn't a screamer. Theo's got more of a defined opinion about the way things should be. You can tell from his scowling little face!
All in all, it was a great evening and we will definitely be heading back to the beach again this summer. Probably not for another picnic, that was more work than I had counted on, but for swimming and sunning ourselves it's great.

In other summer plans, Cory and I are going to the drive-in this Friday! I'm so excited to go on a date with my husband, it seems like it's been forever since we've gone out just the two of us. And ok, it won't be just the two of us because Theo's coming too, but he will most likely be sleeping the majority of the time. We're going to see Mr. Popper's Penguins, which Cory is convinced I won't like since it is one of my favourite childhood books and they've got Jim Carrey playing Mr. Popper. He's probably right, I will probably just be let down, but I still want to see it! The second show is the new X-men movie, we're BOTH excited to see that.

I hear a little boy stirring in my room that will soon start screeching to be fed. I better go get him before that happens!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer Eats

Pioneer Woman recently uploaded a new post to her cooking blog about iced coffee. As soon as I saw it I couldn't wait to try it! I'm sipping on a tall glass right now and it is divine. Perfect for a hot summer's afternoon!
[Photo courtesy Pioneer Woman]

 The best part is, it doesn't have to be ridiculously unhealthy if done right. I realize that the jury's still out on coffee - a lot of people think it's not very good for you - but it's only half a cup. The other half of the cup is local raw milk, and I sweeten it with stevia. Cool, sweet and refreshing. 

Along with my iced coffee I'm also munching on some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I took the original recipe, which called for 1 1/2 cups of sugar, and instead used 1/4 cup organic sugar, 1/2 cup honey, and a bit of stevia. Use whole wheat flour instead of white and butter instead of margarine and you've got yourself a pretty healthy little cookie!

Last but not least, I made these veggie burgers for supper last night. They were to DIE for. 

Cory even said that he thought he might prefer them to regular hamburgers, they were so flavourful and delicious. Now that's high praise, coming from my meat-loving husband! I have to agree with him, these were fantastic. I pretty much followed the recipe - I didn't have shallots or spring garlic so I used green onions and regular garlic instead, didn't have a jalapeno so I just stirred in some red pepper flakes, I added an egg to help it stick together and left out the bread crumbs, because I wanted to be able to recommend it as a gluten free recipe. I don't know if the bread crumbs would have helped it stick together better, because the burgers were on the crumbly side, but we didn't mind the mess. You just had to handle them carefully! I served them on some homemade whole wheat buns I had in the freezer, and we topped them with homemade ketchup, relish, mayo, cheddar cheese, sliced tomatoes, romaine lettuce and - as a special treat - bacon. We're obviously not vegetarians! Avocado would have been perfection but I didn't have any on hand. 

I figured there was enough veggies in the burgers themselves that I didn't even bother serving anything on the side, but a small salad might be nice. Since you've already got bread in the bun and rice in the burger, potatoes on the side seemed like carb overload to me.

And those are a few things I've been cooking up since the weather got nice. If you try anything though, try those veggie burgers. Seriously yummy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thinner Thursday

Now that the baby is out it's time to shed that baby weight. Theo is only three weeks old, so I have three more weeks until I can start seriously exercising again, but that doesn't mean that I can't work on eating healthy, avoiding the junk and going for lots of walks.
This morning was the first nice day after several days of rain, so the boys and I went for a walk. I was feeling energized so instead of heading out the back road (nice and flat!) we headed around the Beulah campground. I'm not sure how long this is, I'm thinking it's about 4km, but it's got HILLS. Pushing the double stroller makes it a lot more work - Cory and I walked around last week but he pushed the stroller. I was huffing and puffing then, so I did have to stop a few times to catch my breath when I was on my own. But the good thing about walking around Beulah is that once you've started and you've gone down the hill, you have no choice but to keep going. There's no other way to get home than to climb back up! I always get to the bottom and think Why on earth did I decide to do this? but am always pleased with myself once it's done.
On Tuesday we walked out to Paisley's to pick up milk and eggs. Getting our milk and eggs from them is another good motivator to get me out to take a walk - if I don't go, Eli has no milk to drink. That's a problem! It's about 1km to their house, but it's not a difficult walk. The hardest part is lugging that huge, awkward stroller up and down the 21 stairs to our apartment! There's no room to store it at the foot of the stairs, so I have to bring it up every time. It's good though - just another reason to get me moving.

I tried something new for breakfast this morning, a recipe from Nourishing Traditions for Thin Herb Frittatas. Soooo yummy, I will definitely be making them again. Also a good excuse to use the herbs that are growing on my windowsill. I made these by whisking together in a large bowl:

4 farm fresh eggs
fresh basil
fresh parsely
fresh thyme
dried chives (fresh would obviously be better!)
2 tablespoons parmesan
2 tablespoons homemade sour cream
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

How many times can you use the word "fresh" in one recipe? Anyway, I heated my cast iron skillet, poured in some olive oil and added the egg mixture 1/4 cup at a time to create thin egg "pancakes." They were so so so yummy! I think this is going to be one of my new breakfast staples. I ate 5 of them, Eli ate one! He wasn't so keen on them, but once I put some homemade ketchup on his plate for dipping he was happy to finish it off. The kid loves ketchup. The book recommends eating these as they are, or putting them between bread and eating like a sandwich. That would be good too. Ooo, and I actually remembered to take a picture!
I have a lame point-and-shoot and pretty much ZERO photography knowledge, so I'm always embarrassed to upload photos because I know how amateur they look compared to other blogs I follow. But hey, as long as people know that I'm no photographer and have no aspirations in that direction, I guess I should make at least a little effort to illustrate my posts! My point is, these were yummy and totally delicious. I always fall back on some variation of grains for breakfast, and I really want to make more of an effort to eat less grains. Even though my whole wheat pancakes, homemade granola or yummy oatmeal are quite healthy, I know it's not good to eat too much of it. These came together even faster than pancakes, so I'll be making them again for sure.

Anyway I've rambled enough. I suppose, since this is "Thinner Thursday," I should post some stats and goals here.

Total Pregnancy Weight Gain: 35lbs
Lost so far: 20lbs
Goal 1 (pre-pregnancy weight): 135lbs
Goal 2 (wedding weight): 125lbs

I have a cheap bathroom scale so my weights are kind of guesses, but close enough. I'm linking this post over to Thinner Thursdays on Mommy Miracles. Go check it out!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Two Weeks

On Wednesday Theo turned two weeks old. Wow time rockets by with a newborn in the house! He's not really even a newborn anymore I guess. Tuesday we took him to the doctor for his first appointment, just to get weighed and measured really. He's gained over a pound since we left the hospital, and grown three centimetres! He's a big boy. Then we left the doctor's office, me lugging a carseat with Theo starting to cry and trying to keep my toddler from bolting (his new favourite thing to do), and when I got to the car I realized that I had locked the keys inside. I had put them in my purse when I turned the car off, like I always do, but then absentmindedly decided to leave my purse in the car and just carry in the diaper bag. I didn't want to carry more than I had to. Foolish. Thankfully there is a taxi service two doors down from the doctor's office that does that sort of thing, so he came and did battle with my door for a while and finally got it open. Forty dollars later, I was back in my car. That's the second time I've done that. At least this guy was pleasant and cheerful and called me "Mama," which I kind of like. Before I had kids people used to call me "dear," which I hated, but being called Mama is kind of cute. After a trip to the bank (Theo still yelling) we parked in the Tim Horton's parking lot so I could feed Eli some lunch and nurse Theo. I had forgotten Eli's sippy topped water bottle and he was thirsty, so I had to give him my water bottle. This resulted in a soaking wet, grumpy toddler, since I couldn't help him drink and nurse Theo at the same time. At any rate, we all got some food into us and then proceeded into town to pick up a few groceries and get Daddy at work.
My beloved husband is working the 5 AM shift this week. Since we live an hour from his work, this means he's getting up at 3:30 all week. It's actually working out ok for us, since I'm up half the night with Theo I'm exhausted too, so we've both been going to bed at 8. This early shift means more overtime for him though, which is good at least financially speaking. He's a champ - I don't know how he does it.
Wednesday we went to playgroup - Theo's first time. Since it was such a nice day we took the kids outside to play on the school playset. Eli is fearless on the playset, much to my chagrin. Thankfully Theo slept in the stroller so I was able to prevent my toddler from plummeting to the ground at any second. There were lots of other Moms around too, which helped as far as having extra eyes and hands to rescue children, but also meant we were constantly trying to prevent collisions between clueless toddlers. Happy, sunny chaos.
In other news, we lost power for a couple of hours last night. Not really a big deal since it was after 9:00 anyway and after bedtime, except when it came time to change Theo's diaper. I didn't have a flashlight, and of COURSE it was one of those explosive, blow-out, all over the clothes and up his back kind of poops. Ever tried cleaning runny newborn poop off a squirming, squalling infant in pitch black darkness? Not an easy task. Funny looking back on it though. The power was back on by midnight, which I was very thankful for.
Anyway, time to get supper in the oven (roasted vegetable lasagna... sans mozzarella. I don't have any and am not willing to spend $4.49 for a tiny little piece downstairs). Cory's going to be late getting home because the poor man had a flat tire on the way to work. He changed it and still made it to work only 5 minutes late, but now he has to get it replaced. Another $40. This car seems to be costing us a lot of money lately! I'm just thankful it was him driving and not me, I wouldn't have known what to do, wouldn't have had the cell phone and probably would have had two small children with me. This might have resulted in total meltdown on my part. Cory's much better about that kind of thing!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Salad Dressing

About a year ago I decided that I was going to stop buying salad dressing at the store. Have you ever read the ingredients on one of those bottles of yummy Kraft? Especially if you're buying the "lite" variety, there is a lot of unrecognizable stuff in there. Some people choose to eat their salad without any dressing, but I'm not down with that. For one thing... it doesn't taste good. And for another, a properly made dressing will not only enhance the flavour of your salad, it also helps your body digest it. All those raw veggies can be a bit hard on the digestion, but the enzymes from the dressing can really help your body get it down. Plus it's a great way to work in some raw olive oil, because I don't know about you but I don't exactly want to just drink the stuff, even though it's super good for you raw.
Despite the fact that it was over a year ago when I decided to stop buying dressings from the store, it took a while for us to use up what I had ahead, since I had a few bottles in the cupboard too. All those preservatives means it lasts a very long time! Anyway, it's finally out of the house and now whenever I make a salad I take the extra five minutes and whip up a quick dressing to go with it. I'm still experimenting with different ones, but I'm going to post my three favourites here.

Honey Mustard Salad Dressing
In a small mason jar, combine:
1 part white wine vinegar
3-4 parts olive oil
splash of flax oil (optional)
squirt of dijon mustard
spoonful of raw honey
sea salt and pepper to taste
Cover the jar and shake it all up!

Creamy Ranch Dressing
In a small bowl, combine:
1 part homemade mayonnaise
1 part homemade sour cream
thin with raw milk or buttermilk, if desired
Stir in to taste:
Worcestershire sauce
fresh parsley and/or fresh chives
minced garlic -or- Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb (my preference!)
salt and pepper
cayenne pepper if you want
Preferably let sit in the fridge for a couple hours before serving

Vanilla Poppyseed Dressing
In a small bowl, combine:
1 part homemade mayonnaise
3 parts plain yogurt
splash of real maple syrup
squirt of vanilla extract
poppy seeds

And those are my favourite dressings! Deliciously healthy. The only thing about making your own is that they really don't keep that well, a couple of days at MOST, so I generally just make enough for that night's dinner. Now that I'm used to it it's really not that much more work to whip up a quick dressing rather than reach for the bottle of GMO, processed corn products and canola oil.

One final thing: must share the link to this recipe for healthy chocolate peanut butter fudge. I made a half batch last night and it was TO DIE FOR. I've eaten almost the whole thing, and I don't even feel guilty because it's healthy! Ok I feel a little guilty because Cory's going to come home and realize that I ate it all while he was at work, but I'll just make another pan. Great way to work some coconut oil into your diet, SUPER easy to make, and sooo rich and sweet and tasty. This will become a staple in our house for sure! Since I don't have a food processor I cheated a little bit and just melted all the ingredients together in a sauce pan. You have to be careful with this because you don't want to cook the nutrients out of the coconut oil, but I used the very lowest heat setting and worked quickly. So so so good.