My spinach washing instructions

I love green smoothies. I first learned about them while I was pregnant. There was a recipe in the Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook by Cathe Olson. I think the recipe had coconut milk and some other strange ingredients, but it introduced me to the concept that you can add greens to a shake (which is what we called smoothies in our family) and you can’t taste them.

Over the years I’ve gone on and off raw diets, but green shakes have become a staple for me. Spinach is my green of choice. Store bought kale is very tough, and often adds too much bitterness to the shake-though sometimes it can be okay.

You can buy spinach in bags or boxes already washed, but you pay a premium for the convenience. Buying bundles of spinach can save you up to $5 a pound.

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When you buy your spinach, cut off the bottom tips, and pop it into a bath of cold water. When I worked at an organic farm in our van-living days, all our greens got this treatment. You filled up a rubbermaid with your bundles of kale, etc. and carried them to the end of the row to put them in the shade. Someone would come along with a vehicle and pick up the containers to take them to the wash tubs. These were huge galvanized steel containers that we filled with cold water.

The cold water perks the greens right up, even if they were limp from the heat. They were then packaged into boxes to take to the cooler and then to the stores or market.

After you wash the greens, then you have to dry them some.

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I shake out the water best I can and then put the spinach in a container with a couple of washcloths to keep the moisture from making the spinach slimy.

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I saved a spinach box from one time when there wasn’t any bundles of organic spinach. It’s very handy.

I thought I would add a accountability part to my blog. Mainly to keep myself honest rather than any benefit you will get out of reading it. Today I’ll just post what I’ve done today. Tomorrow and in the future, I’ll post everything since my last blog post.

Work done: Cut, dremeled, and sanded 6 whales, 8 fish, 5 turtles, 2 octopi, 2 sharks, and 1 mermaid. Planning to apply finish and woodburn this afternoon.

Food eaten by me: Breakfast-green shake, Lunch-salad with strawberries, grapes, and raisins plus a strawberry blueberry shake.

Food eaten by Caleb: Breakfast-4 small frozen homemade waffles with a banana, Lunch-2 freshly made banana pancakes with salad like I had plus extra strawberries

Workout: none yet, planning to run this afternoon at the gym

Amount of time spent watching videos by me: none

Feel free to use the comment section to hold yourself accountable. My goals are to exercise almost every day and eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables with very little or no refined oils, flours, and sugars. I may also add a section for shopping done seeing as how I want to save to spend a month or more sunning myself next winter.

 

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How to Exercise when you have kids

I thought I’d do a quick little post on the ways that I have come up with to exercise when you have kids. Keep in mind that I’m a single parent with no family anywhere near me.

The main place I run these days is at the gym on a treadmill. We have a YMCA-style community center that we are members of. I bring Caleb into the treadmill room with me, and he sits on the floor and plays with something while I run. This is not an option for most gyms, I’m guessing, but many gyms have free or very cheap childcare (ours has none).

-If your kids are a little older, run at a park that has a playground.

-Get your kids involved in something, and run laps around the block. This is also good for when they are asleep-you can keep checking in to make sure everything is alright.

-Do situps, pushups, lunges, squats, and other bodyweight exercises while you are “playing” with your kids.

-Run up and down the stairs.

-Buy a treadmill or other exercise machine and put it in the room your kids are most likely to be playing in. (When I’m visiting my mom this is an option, she has a treadmill.)

-Buy a mini trampoline, bouncing on one of these can give you a surprisingly good workout, of course you may have to fight your kids for it or do it while they are asleep.

-Hire a babysitter if your kid(s) are okay with that.

-Get a jogging stroller and use it.

-Have races with your kids.

-If your little one is little enough, put him on your back and go for a walk. I wore my son for walks until he was over three. It’s like wearing a weight vest, it gives you a double workout.

-If you have friends or family near by, trade babysitting with them so you have time to exercise.

-Of course if you have a spouse that doesn’t work too much, you should definitely lean on him to give you time to exercise.

Please share your tips too. If you make exercise a priority, you will find time to do it. I don’t know how I’d ever manage to get enough time in to train for a marathon, but I can get my 30 minutes a day and lately I’ve been getting an hour in. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Make Your Own Whole Wheat Tortillas

A couple of days ago, I decided to make my own tortillas. Why you ask? Well, I’m a big do-it-yourself sort of girl, but the main reason was because I am trying to avoid partially hydrogenated oils, and every brand of store bought tortillas uses shortening-at least every brand that I have found.

So I started searching the web for a good recipe, and came across this one. It didn’t have any added fats in in at all, and the reviews were generally positive, so I decided to give it a shot.

      4 cups whole wheat flour (I used mostly white whole wheat)
      1 tsp salt
      1/4 tsp baking powder
        1.5 cups boiling water

     

          Mix it all up and knead the dough for 2 minutes. Let it rest for 20 mins, and then form your tortillas.

      I’ve tried making tortillas before, with white flour, and I could never get them remotely thin enough. This time I had the bright idea to use my new pasta machine to smash them thin. It didn’t really work. They weren’t nearly wide enough, so I reverted to the rolling pin. That worked well, and these tortillas rolled out fairly thin. Thin enough to actually use them for a burrito, unlike my last attempt.

      However, I have discovered a delicious way to eat burritos: I call it an open faced burrito. Lay your tortilla down on your plate, spread guacamole and salsa on the tortilla, then top it with all your fixings. We generally use vegetarian chili or just beans, sauteed peppers and onions and corn, tomatoes, raw shredded carrots and raw broccoli chopped up small.

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      This was my second one. Hence the messy plate. I really like eating a burrito this way, because of the increase in filling to tortilla ratio. In NJ, there is this great chain of fast food restaurants, similar to Chipotle, but they make their own tortillas-Pancheros. These tortillas are the most amazing things ever-so thin and supple and delicious. Perfect for making burritos. They’ve pretty much ruined me for burritos elsewhere.

      Caleb requested some strawberries with his meal. He was sitting there staring at the roof, savoring them, completely oblivious to everything else going on. Of course once I grabbed the camera, he started clowning.

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      He has been perfect so far about eating his 2 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables every day. Some days he even eats extra.

      Yesterday I had stayed up too late the night before, and I was feeling lazy, so I didn’t think I would go running. But I had to drop off some packages anyway, and go to Lowes, so I figured I might as well go to the gym while I was out. Caleb brought a lego thing to build, and I ended up running for a little over an hour. And when I was done, I was so glad that I had. I felt great. And I hadn’t even wanted to go in the first place!

      So does anyone else make their own tortillas? Do you have a tortilla press that you like?

       

      Make Your Own Pasta

      I have been making my own lasagna noodle for a while now. I made them once to try it, and Caleb liked them so much that he insists upon them every time now. I make lasagna once every 2 months. It’s not very healthy, and it’s expensive. So I just rolled out my noodles by hand, and as a result, they were sort of thick.

      Caleb called them fat noodles, and he loved the noodles that I would cook with the extra dough. I looked at pasta machines, but was turned off by the price. So when I found a pasta machine at Goodwill a few weeks ago, I snapped it up.

      After I tried it out once with a regular white flour dough, it was time to go whole wheat. After all, if Walmart can make 100% whole wheat spaghetti, why can’t I?

      So here goes:

      The recipe:

      3 cups flour (I used white whole wheat and a small amount of regular whole wheat)
      3/4 cup water
      1 teaspoon salt

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      I start it in the food processor, because it’s really hard to get a stiff dough like that mixed by hand. You might need to add extra water if it won’t hold together when you squeeze a clump of it.

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      Then you dump it out on to the counter or cutting board and start kneading. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, that would make the kneading part easier. All the recipes say to knead for like 10 minutes. I never make it that long. Then form your dough into a ball and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.

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      Split your dough into 3 or 4 pieces and flatten them enough to feed through the rollers of your machine. No machine? Just roll it out with a rolling pin.

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      Mine usually ends up looking like this the first time through, just keeping folding it over and running it through the widest setting until it looks pretty smooth, then start thinning it out.

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      When it’s thin enough either leave it wide for lasagna or run it through the cutters for spaghetti or linguini. Some of it we ate that night, the rest I hung over night to dry.

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      I then packaged the dry stuff into zip lock bags. You can also freeze it. Of course when you cook the fresh stuff keep checking it, because it will cook faster than dry pasta. I made some butternut alfredo and broccoli to go with mine, and Caleb stuck with tomato sauce.

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      The pasta machine is super fun too. Caleb and I fight over being able to turn the crank. 🙂

       

      Exercise

      Jack LaLane, fitness guru, had a saying, “Exercise is king, nutrition is queen, put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.” I’ve noticed, in my adult life, every time I start eating more fruits and vegetables and less junk, I just feel like exercising. And every time I increase my exercise, I am hungrier for healthy food: smoothies, salads, fruit, because they are clean-burning energy foods.

      When you aren’t exercising, you forget how GOOD it feels after a workout. I barely worked out at all in the fall, and I forgot how amazing a hard, sweaty workout feels. All I remembered was the hard part of the equation.

      There are 2 tricks I use to get myself back into the habit of exercising. The first is to set a time minimum. I will be on this treadmill for 30 minutes (I hate running in the cold). The second is to realize that I am not in shape enough to run for the entire half an hour.

      If you’ve ever checked out the Couch to 5K program, that’s the trick I use to keep going. We get stuck in this mindset that we have to get out there and kill ourselves when we are first starting out OR that we should only do 5 minutes, because that is how long we can run. Five minutes is a good start when you are first laying down a habit, but when you have the habit and you are looking to increase your fitness, it’s good to exercise longer.

      So once your muscles are warm, you start running, when you feel you heart rate pounding and it’s hurting too much, walk for a while, then run some more, then walk, run, walk, and so on. By doing this you will increase your fitness surprisingly quickly.

      I never used the Couch to 5K program exactly, but I used the concept to keep myself from quitting after 7 minutes when my legs were too tired to run another step. You can use the same concept if you can’t run at all. Walk/bike/swim at a faster rate for some of the time and slow down when you get tired.

      I picked up my running habit again about a month ago. When I started running ten minutes was tough, if not impossible. Just yesterday, I ran for 30 minutes straight, then walked for 3 minutes until my heart rate came down, and then ran 27 more minutes. If you’ve never ran before in your life, you won’t advance that quickly, but you will gain fitness at an astounding rate.

      I’ve read plenty of stories about people that went from couch potato to running a marathon in a year or 2. I don’t have time to run a marathon. I only had an hour to run yesterday, because my mother was visiting and watching Caleb.

      But you don’t have to go to the gym or run, there are lots of things you can do in one place while your small children are playing. Jumping jacks, squat thrusts, burpees, squats, crunches, pushups, run up and down the stairs (great workout), and lots more I can’t think of right now.

      If you have a baby, you may never have that 30 minutes at a time, but you can do 15 minutes as soon as she falls asleep, and 5 minutes while she’s being happy not being held for once. You can strap him to your back and go for a difficult hike. Jogging strollers are always good, if you have a kid that will tolerate them (I didn’t).

      The point is you should be doing 30-60 minutes of exercise every day. You need to make it a priority. Do whatever you can to motivate yourself. If your mother is overweight and can’t run around with her grandchildren, use that as your motivation. If you are overweight and can’t run around with your kids, use that. If you want to be super fit, use that. If you want to look good in a bathing suit, use that.

      When you are moving, use whatever you can to keep moving. At the gym, I try to run everyone in the room down. The people that were there when I came into the room, better not be the same people as when I leave the room. Pick the fittest person in the room (if you are somewhat fit) and try not to stop running before she or he does.

      If you are lucky enough to be able to run away from your home, pick a place to run to. I’m going to run to the Dollar General to get a new toothbrush and run back.

      If you are tired that day, give yourself permission to slack off, go easy, but NOT to skip the workout. If you normally run, walk it. If you skip, then something else will fill that time slot, and you might get out of the habit of exercising.

      I am going to start a running/walking group this spring and summer at this park that has a walking path that goes around the playground. I want to start a movement of people moving. Mothers especially need to move, if for no other reason than to blow off steam. I’ll let you know how it goes. My start date is the second week of April.

      Tell me, what kind of exercise do you like to do? How do you motivate yourself? What are your tricks to keep up the habit?

       

      Why eat your fruits and vegetables?

      Do you or your kids get sick regularly? How many colds have you had this year? How much energy do you have? Do your children get ear infections? eczema? headaches? stomachaches? The truth is almost every one is not consuming enough nutrients in their diet to protect themselves against illness.

      Fruits and vegetables have the highest amount of nutrients per calorie of any kind of food. Fruits have the most vitamins, and vegetables have the most minerals. Study after study shows that eating a high amount of fruits and vegetables decreases cancer and heart disease incidences and increases overall health.

      Whole wheat bread and raw milk cheeses and those “healthy” crackers have not been proved to enhance your health to the same degree as fruits and vegetables. Nothing gives you the same bang for your buck as fresh fruits and vegetables. We know this, everyone knows this. Every sane diet out there stresses eating fruits and vegetables to lose weight and gain health.

      But we become complacent. We think, well it IS whole wheat bread and homemade at that! And well, at least it’s grass fed beef. I’m not out to convince anyone to become vegetarian, but regardless of whether or not you eat meat and dairy, you cannot forgo plant food. And I’m not talking about that Earth Balance butter made from 78% plant based oils(!).

      The odds are, if you are living somewhere that you can read this blog, you aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables. My son certainly wasn’t. I still don’t think he is, but it’s a start.

      The USDA food pyramid is a woefully inadequate, but even then, most people don’t eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Most people don’t even eat one.

      Since it’s hard to gain weight as a child, many people think it doesn’t matter what they eat. They usually have lots of energy even despite a poor diet. But this attitude is catching up with us. Kids are getting fatter and sicker just like their parents.

      What your children eat now will affect them for the rest of their life. Refined sugar, white flour, soda, that dried cheese powder you mix into macaroni noodles–None of that stuff belongs in our homes.

      First get rid of the junk. Then encourage fruit and vegetable consumption. And not just a piece of fruit here and there throughout the week. The most benefits are gained by eating a large portion of your calories from fruits and vegetables. Seeing my son’s chronic runny nose dry up in just a few days of eating 4 cups of fruits and vegetables a day, makes me realize how important it is to get the right nutrients. And it makes me feel bad for not doing this sooner. All those days that he was sniffing back his snot, when he could have been breathing easily.

       

      Fruit and Vegetable Challenge

      Lately, I have been dissatisfied with my son’s diet. And with my own as well. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t eating mac and cheese and cookies all day long. But there were too many sweets, and not enough fruits and vegetables. It seemed like recently he’d have toast for breakfast, toast for lunch, and mostly just the starchy portion of the dinner. With some honey-nut cheerios for snacks.

      His diet was obviously more varied than that, but his fruit and vegetable consumption was very low. He was eating lots of homemade whole wheat bread, and he did eat black beans regularly, and some fruit, but almost no vegetables, except maybe a couple at dinner time. He was also getting too much junk food, between the holidays, and then his birthday, and using his money to buy chocolate at the store, it seemed like he was eating sweets 3 or 4 times a week.

      He hardly ever gets sick, maybe once a year he’ll be a little droopy for a couple days, but he’s a healthy kid. This winter though it seems like his nose has been dripping since November. But certainly the whole of January. And it seemed to be dripping more not less as time went on.

      I believe (and research indicates) that high fruit and vegetable consumption is the foremost component of good health. Avoiding refined sugar is also high on my list. So I issued a challenge to my son.

      For the period of Lent, if you eat 2 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables every day, I will give you a sticker on a chart. For every sticker, you get 50 cents towards a new lego in your Easter basket. For the purposes of the challenge, things like cooked applesauce and tomato sauce don’t count as vegetables. Potatoes don’t count either. I’m not against potatoes (as long as they aren’t fried), but I’m not encouraging him to eat more of the healthy things he already wants to eat.

      So the challenge is to eat 2 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables. Cups are defined loosely, it’s more like a serving. 2 bananas count as 1 cup. Salad greens you would need 2 cups to get 1 serving. If they were spread out through the day, it would be a cup of fruit for breakfast and lunch and a cup of veggies for lunch and dinner.

      I am also trying to improve my diet. So that means no sugar in the house. Cut back on muffins and the butter (earth balance) I put on them. No fried tortilla chips and a limited number of baked tostitos. Generally I’ll have a green smoothie for breakfast (4 bananas, 2 cups of some other fruit, and 3-4 cups of spinach or other green), a huge salad for lunch (5-8 oz of greens, with beans or fruit on top, no dressing-I’ve never been a dressing person), and then dinner, I’ll try to have 3-4 cups of some cooked vegetable and maybe another smaller salad.

      Caleb has met my challenge every day so far (8 days). The goal I’m aiming for here is to break up his habit of rarely eating fruits and vegetables. That and to get rid of his chronic runny nose–which he did! His nose is now dry and clear for the first time in at least a month.

      So will you join me? Maybe offering a reward for healthy eating is against your parenting philosophy, it’s certainly questionable on mine. But incentives do work… But you could always issue the challenge as just a personal challenge with no reward. Or just encourage your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.

      I’ll be writing more about why we need to be eating more fresh fruits and vegetables tomorrow.

      Cheers!

      New Animals and a Ladder!

      I’ve got some new toys for you to view today. All were originally custom orders from clients. So if you are interested in something that I don’t have in my shop, just ask. You’ll be doing me a favor, because while it isn’t too difficult to come up with ideas, it is hard to follow through and force yourself to make them. It’s easier when someone is paying you to get the job done.

      Without further ado, here is the third edition of african animals.

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      It’s a little hard to see the monkey since it’s so dark, but I was really happy with how it turned out. It’s very cute. And how do you like the rope tail? That was the biggest problem I had with trying to make monkeys in the past. I couldn’t figure out how to make a monkey tail that wouldn’t be too thin and break easily. I’ve made zebras before, but I stopped selling them because I didn’t like the way their stripes turned out in the woodburning. But I think I cracked the code on zebra stripes this time, and they look mildly authentic.

      There is a crocodile with the set, that I am also offering separately with another slightly smaller croc.

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      They could also double as alligators.

      Another customer bought a dollhouse and some furniture, and requested a ladder for the dollhouse. The idea was that they would use the stairs when it was a house, and the ladder when it was the barn. Multiple use, which I LOVE.

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      Pop is fixing the siding. These new toys were a big hit with Caleb, and he requested a crocodile, a monkey, and his own ladder. Well, he probably requested all of them, but those 3 were the only ones I made for him.

      The African Animals III set is the one I am giving away to a commenter for February and March, so let me know what you think.

      I’m committing to write every day, so let me know what sort of things you want to hear about too.

       

      Every Day

      Laura won the giveaway from January! February and March will be a combined giveaway of my new African Animal Set III.

      Wow, it’s been too long since I’ve posted. Once you let a few days go by without writing a blog, it’s very easy to let a few more go by. The longer you go without writing, the harder it is to get back into the habit.

      The same goes for most other things you should be (or want to be) doing almost every day. Last spring and summer, I committed to running every day. I didn’t always make it out there every day, but I tried to go running every single day. Towards the end of the summer, I got out of the habit of going, and I never got back to it for the entirety of the fall and Christmas season.

      Lately as part of my evening routine, I vacuum the living room every night. Before I did this, I would have said vacuuming every day is excessive and unnecessary. For most people it might be, but for me, with all the dust and wood shavings I track up from the basement, it’s a necessity.

      It’s important to do it every day, because if I plan to do it a couple of times a week, which would probably be fine, it won’t get done. I’ll say, I’ll just do it tomorrow! But if I have a goal of doing it every day, then I have to do it today. I can’t wait until tomorrow. So even if you miss a day, the next day you get right back into it.

      So my new goal is to write something for you every day. Is there anything that you want to plan to do daily?

      My daily routine is like this:

      Wake up

      Wipe down sink and toilet

      Bring down dirty laundry and start it if the machine is full

      Empty dish rack

      Plan breakfast and lunch

      Work until Caleb wakes up

       

      During the day, I plan to …

      -work for at least an hour and a half in the basement

      -run or do aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes

      -write for blog

      -do Spanish (Rosetta Stone)

       

      The evening routine is…

      Clean up all the dishes and sink

      Vacuum the living room

      Sweep the kitchen and foyer and steps