The Big Green Parenting Experiment

raising a healthy family in a toxic world

bring it on 2013! my resolutions

Unbelievable. Here I am, on New Year’s Eve, wondering where 2012 went. This has been a remarkable year for my family and I and I am confident that 2013 will be even better. I am totally one of those people who is looking back, reflecting on the year and thinking of the changes that I want to make for 2013.

Yes, I make resolutions. I do believe that a new year is great motivation to make fresh starts and set goals. Some succeed, some fail. For 2013 I’m going all out and focusing on something that I have been neglecting: ME. These resolutions are important goals that I have set to help me feel like me again, more like a human. As a first time mom, I’ve been completely focused on the happiness and well being of my baby. And while I understand that this is completely normal, I also understand that my mood and energy affects hers also. By focusing a bit more on myself, I can be better for her and for my husband.

So, here they are:

1. Eat clean. (again). I feel so incredible when I am eating a totally clean diet. My biggest challenge is going to be conquering my sugar addiction. My plan is to go cold turkey and try to replace refined sugar with more fruits and clean substitutes. I plan to log what I’m eating and drinking, focusing on fresh, whole foods and plenty of water. I used to do this and I know I can. Also, contuining our crusade to rid our house of GMOs.

2. Scheduled exercise. I used to be fit. I so want to get back there. I used to weight train 4-5 times a week, run 9-10 miles 3 times a week and do yoga every day possible. My goal is to schedule 20-30 minutes of “me time” a day to do an intense workout. My body is really craving it and I know it’ll be the boost I need to gain my self confidence and energy back. I can’t wait to have that “hurts in a good way” feeling again. I am also running the Saratoga half marathon this year so I WILL be ready!

3. Work on time management. Routines work. It can be tough with a teething toddler who may or may not resist a nap and require my undivided attention. But much like she thrives on a routine, I think I will too. Allot time for housework, exercise, meditation, play, husband, blogging (of course) and rest. I would love to try and devote time to all of these things that are so important to me. All of the things that make me ME.

These are some pretty tall orders, I know. But I’ve done them all before and I CAN do them again. The better I am, the better I will be for my family and that is my motivation.

Better me = better us.

Let’s get this New Year started!

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acts of kindness: 4, 5, 6 & 7

The past week has been super hectic with Christmas and toddler. Now that the holiday is over we’re ready to get back on track sharing our acts of kindness.

kindness: act 4

On Sunday, in memory of Olivia Engel (7/18/06), we went to deliver Christmas gifts that we had collected for families in need. Unfortunately, the first family that we were scheduled to meet with never showed. I never heard from them again. From what I understand, this was a domestic violence situation and I am really, really hoping that those children had a good holiday. I’ve been wondering for days what the heck happened.

We were, however, able to meet with the second family. I was particularly excited about this one since the family lives in my [small] hometown! When we arrived I discovered that it was actually someone that I had graduated with. Clearly it has been a much different road for them than I have traveled since I graduated high school. It saddened me a bit at first, but then made me realize how fortunate I really am. And the important thing is that their daughter had a great Christmas! I received an email and a thank you on Christmas saying how much she enjoyed everything. Thanks to Olivia for making Christmas bright for another child!

kindness: act 5

Since our first family didn’t show up, I now had a pile of gifts and donations for children that weren’t going to be given. I was determined to find a home for these wonderful gifts, in honor of Josephine Gay (12/11/05). I hit the Internet with just hours before Christmas Eve. I decided to check the community board on Craigslist as one of my last efforts. I discovered a plea for help, not for herself, but for a neighbor that has had a streak of horrible luck and was unable to provide Christmas gifts for his 3 young children. I sent an email with fingers crossed and within an hour had heard back! I explained to her what we had and she was ecstatic! She was able to drive an hour on the morning of Christmas Eve to pick everything up. We were all so happy! We gave her a big warm hug and thanked her, explaining our 26 acts and that this one was for Josephine. I’ve never seen a more sincere smile. That was a truly great moment. A bunch of people pulling together for the good of others. Thank you for inspiring us to give it one last effort, Josephine!

kindness: act 6

In honor of Ana M. Marquez-Greene (04/04/06), we decided to leave Christmas cookies for our neighbors. We live pretty close together and have very different lifestyles (us: toddler that needs sleep, them: couple of rowdy teenagers with loud friends). We get along alright, but have had our disagreements. Since we made more cookies than we can should eat, we decided to surprise them with some, with a note about little Ana. Hope they enjoy them as much as I am!

kindness: act 7

This was our original act of kindness idea and we were super excited to carry it out, in memory of Dylan Hockley (03/08/06). We baked dozens and dozens of cookies on Christmas Eve and couldn’t wait to share. We made a nice big plate and brought them to our local volunteer fire department with a card expressing our gratitude. The fire fighters happened to be out on a call when we stopped so we left them by the door for them to find when they returned. Thank you, Dylan, for the inspiration to commit a generous act for such generous, selfless people.

To be continued…

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26 acts of kindness: 3

Kindness: act 3

Today we are honoring one of the wonderful teachers lost in the Sandy Hook tragedy, Rachel D’Avino (7/17/83). Schy and I baked some delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to share. Today we wrapped some up with ribbons and left them for our mail carrier, in our mailbox with the flag up. We are hoping that she will be pleasantly surprised and enjoy them while she finishes up her route. We also included a Christmas card, thanking her for her hard work and to let her know that the gesture was in honor of Rachel, one of the Sandy Hook victims. Thank you for today’s inspiration, Rachel.

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day 29: 30 days of thanks

Today I am thankful for being able to cook. I love cooking and I really wish I could do it more often. Schy is starting to take interest in what’s going on in the kitchen these days. I get so excited when I think of her helping me prepare dinner or bake cookies. I can’t wait to teach her what I have learned over the years.
I have to admit that all of those years in the restaurant business really helped. I owe most of my knowledge and confidence to experiment to some of the great chefs that I have worked with over the years. On the other hand, I also learned a lot of ‘what not to do’!
I’m thankful that I have always (for the most part) been pretty successful at concocting healthy and delicious food. It is so fascinating and fun to learn as I go and I hope my mind will always be open to learning new and interesting things in the kitchen.
Oh yeah, and this…

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avoid getting sick with one simple step. true story.

So, you don’t feel like getting sick this winter, eh? Alright, great! Neither do I. Especially when I have an active toddler to chase around. Well, you’ve come to the right place. And I have to warn you, if you haven’t ever tried this you may be skeptical. But, trust me on this. This is a tried and true way to avoid getting sick.

I have one word for you. Garlic.
Ok, here’s a picture, too.

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If you’ve been following along, you already know about my recent discovery of garlic as a natural bee sting relief. Seriously, is there anything that garlic can’t do?? This super food has unbelievable healing properties and is much easier on our systems than antibiotic medications.

Garlic is the ultimate super food. When garlic is crushed or cut, it releases a sulfur compound called Allicin, a powerful amino acid. Allicin boosts and stimulates the immune system when ingested. It is also gentle on the digestive system and does not disrupt the natural balance of bacterial flora like typical pharmaceutical antibiotics do. Not to mention that garlic is proven to have more powerful antibiotic properties than penicillin and tetracycline. Really.

So, does it work? Yes. It works. I have been taking garlic at the first sign of illness for months now. Whether I wake up with a sniffle or a slight sore throat, garlic practically stops the illness dead in its tracks. I have just started to take it preventatively. Right now I am taking one clove a day with a tall glass of water. In the past, if I woke up feeling a bit ill, I would generally take it three times a day for a couple of days to give the ol’ immune system a super boost. Worked every time.

Sound gross? It’s really not. You don’t need to chew a clove of raw garlic, although if you’d like to, by all means. Have at it. You may just want to avoid any conversation for the remainder of the day. I chop one clove into pieces that I can easily swallow, about half the size of a vitamin. They can be larger, but just remember that the edges aren’t all smooth and rounded so it may hurt a bit going down. Just swallow your garlic chunks like you would swallow pills, with a big swig of water. I try to drink a nice tall glass per clove.

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I have never experienced any stomach sensitivity afterward, but it is possible. My husband fully chewed the clove the first time he ever tried it and it bothered his stomach. When he started swallowing chunks, he didn’t have any further problems. If your stomach is on the sensitive side, you may consider taking it before or after a meal. I’ve never experienced any odor ‘side effects’ either, though that is also entirely possible. The swallowing method does seem to eliminate the strong garlic breath.

So there you have it! How to avoid getting sick in one super simple step. I will follow up after winter and fill you in on how the preventative method worked out.

What do you think? Have you tried this? And if you haven’t, would you?

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Review and GIVEAWAY: Zenoobi.com

I was very excited to be contacted by Zenoobi.com to do a review of their fabulous site and one of their products. If you’re unfamiliar, Zenoobi is an eco-friendly and organic online retailer offering merchandise that ranges from baby and kids to furniture and household items. After exploring the site I was thoroughly impressed with the variety of merchandise that they have to offer.

At first glance, the site is very well-organized and offers a perfect balance of simplicity and variety. It is extremely easy to navigate and very user-friendly. It is apparent that the website is thoughtfully designed for a pleasant shopping experience. I had a very good first impression of the site.

I loved browsing the various products that they have to offer, from adorable organic baby clothing to my personal favorite, Aden + Anais swaddle blankets! (If you don’t already own at least one of these, now is your chance! Great gift, too!) There are a variety of natural bath & body products including the Earth Mama line, unique toys and crafts and even furniture for your little one or the nursery. And if that’s not enough for you, they also offer a large selection of natural cleaning products, bedding and household items.  Zenoobi.com carries an array of reputable names such as Happy Baby organics, Mrs. Meyers cleaning products, GreenToys, thinksport and many others.

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Zenoobi.com carries a fantastic selection of items for mama’s and mama’s to be. I received a bottle of Earth Mama Angel Baby Happy Mama Spray to try out. I haven’t tried many aromatherapy type products so I was eager to give it a shot. Described as ‘bliss in a bottle’, this spray is specially formulated with a blend of oils to be uplifting during stressful times and to curb pregnancy nausea. As the mother of a toddler, I used it for the former. The fresh citrusy scent is indeed uplifting! A spritz in the air or on the wrist and it really does give a refreshing feeling of calm. I’m sure the deep breath helps too! I obviously didn’t get to test the effectiveness on nausea. I have a hunch that it would depend on the woman as we all have very different aversions during pregnancy. I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a try if I should ever find myself pregnant again. I thoroughly enjoy this ‘bliss in a bottle’ and look forward to having it handy when we get further into toddlerhood and I need burst of serenity now!

Zenoobi.com is a great site for those, like myself, who like to support eco-friendly retailers. Based on my experience thus far, I would highly recommend giving them try. If we all did our part to select environmentally responsible products and support retailers like Zenoobi, the world would be a better place!

HOW ABOUT A GIVEAWAY???

Zenoobi.com is generous enough to be offering one of my lucky readers a $20 gift code for their site! Great time to pick up one of those sweet swaddle blankets I was raving about!

You will get one entry for each of the following:

1. Like Zenoobi on facebook and leave a comment about the giveaway. Bloggers be sure to ‘like’ from your personal FB page for it to be counted.

2. Like the big green parenting experiment on facebook and leave a comment. (Again, from your personal account.) if you already like the bgpe, leave a comment saying so to receive your entry.

3. Sign up for the Zenoobi.com newsletter and mention it in one of the above comments.

All entrants will receive a gift from Zenoobi.com, so please be sure to leave your comments so I can contact you! Who couldn’t use an extra $20 towards gifts right now? I know I could!

Zenoobi.com also states that they plant a tree for every order placed! How sweet is that?!

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holiday penguin hors d’oeuvres!

Today I’d like to share a Thanksgiving staple in my family. It’s a fun little hors d’oeuvre that is perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any gathering, really. It is a real crowd pleaser and if I ever showed up at Thanksgiving dinner without them I may not get in the door!

You will need:

2 8oz. packages of cream cheese (spreadable or softened)
3-4 medium sized carrots
3-4 cans of large olives
Serving tray
Toothpicks
Piping bag (not necessary but speeds the process tremendously)

We have been making these for years so we have developed a pretty efficient system. It’s easiest if you prep everything first and then assemble the little guys.
To prep, you’ll need to slice a small wedge out of half of the olives (~2 cans). Peel and slice 2-3 carrots into ~1/8″ slices. Peel and slice 1 carrot the same, only you’ll need to cut these slices into wedges for beaks.
This is what your prepped penguin parts should look like:

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With your piping bag filled with softened cream cheese, fill the olives that you removed a sliver from. These will be your penguin bodies. Make sure you fill them enough that they are nice and plump with plenty of white showing.

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For the penguin heads you’ll take the slivered carrot beaks and stuff them into the ‘x’ of the remaining (whole) olives.
At this point take a round cookie sheet or serving dish and spread a nice layer of cream cheese over it. This will be your iceberg and hold the penguins in place… momentarily… before they’re devoured.
You are now ready to assemble your penguin army. Stick a toothpick through a penguin head, followed by a body and then a carrot slice for feet.
Tadaa! An adorable, tasty penguin.

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Stand him up on your serving iceberg and repeat until you run out of parts. Here is our finished tray of deliciousness:

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This is a seriously simple hors d’oeuvre that kids of all ages will love. We have a pseudo-brother-in-law that literally squeals with delight when the penguins arrive. (He’s in his forties, by the way.) His reaction alone makes these handsome little devils worth the effort. Next time you’re stumped on what to bring to that holiday party give these a try and see the fantastic reactions you get! Just be warned… you may be expected to bring them every year to follow. Enjoy!

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day 13: 30 days of thanks

Today I am thankful for the internet! What an unbelievably amazing source of anything and everything you never cared about! We are so lucky to have so much information at our fingertips. I remember, loooong ago, we had these giant sets of dusty books to use as references. How inefficient was that? There are so many things that have been improved thanks to our glorious internet. I’m able to share pictures, shop, look up recipes and research any current obsession in minutes. And all at the same time if I like. It’s such an incredible wealth of knowledge and I truly do not know what I would do without it. It is such a wonderful, powerful tool. I use it all day, every day and am always discovering new ways to use it. I am thankful for all of the things that the internet allows me to do and I look forward to what’s still to come.

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fresh friday: buttercup squash soup!

Autumn has arrived! Falling leaves, chilly mornings and crisp cool air…
Isn’t it just amazing how a change in the air can control your cravings? For me lately it’s been buttercup squash. We love it roasted and mashed with warm freshly roasted garlic! It just tastes like fall! There’s also apples, pumpkins and classic fall spices. And hot cider… and baked goods… and red wine… Fall sure is delicious!

For fresh Friday this week I am sharing a scrumptious fall soup recipe. To be honest, I’m not a huge soup fan. Except in the fall, when flavors such as these are at their peak.

buttercup squash soup

ingredients

  • 3 T. butter
  • 1 medium onion, coursely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, coursely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled & chopped
  • 1 large potato, cubed
  • 1 large buttercup squash, peeled, seeded & cubed
  • 4 c. stock or water
  • 1/2 c. cream

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Melt butter in a large pot. Add onions and sauté until tender. Add potatoes, carrots and jalapeño and stir to coat. Add buttercup chunks, followed by stock or water. (For this batch I used Pacific organic free range low sodium chicken stock. Just be aware of the sodium content if you choose to use a chicken or vegetable stock.)

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Bring pot to simmer for 30 minutes. Transfer in batches into blender or food processor and purée. Return to a large pot or, in this case, a crock pot. Once everything has been puréed, stir in cream and season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy hot!

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This is such a fantastically tasty soup! I can’t wait to enjoy some… tomorrow. This batch is going to a Harvest Moon Celebration that we will be attending tomorrow! I can’t wait to share it. Perfect for a crisp fall day. For maximum enjoyment, devour with some crusty bread and Octoberfest! Yum. Fall flavors at their finest!

Enjoy and happy Friday!!

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clifton park farm fest 2012

Sunday’s are always busy and go so fast. I feel like one week just ended and already we’re getting ready for the next. The weekends come and go and sometimes it just seems like all work and no play. Well, this weekend there happened to be a community farm fest event which was totally awesome! Local farms and orchards participated with family friendly events, petting zoos, tours, food, etc.

Today I just wanted to share some pictures from our outing to a local ranch which naturally raises and sells hormone free meat and poultry. It was so gratifying to roam around a real farm, talk to the farmers and see the animals in a farm setting. If you are ever able to go and visit a local, working farm, do it. It’s fun and educational for the kids and it’s great family time!

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ponies!

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billy goats! this guy was super friendly.

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baby chicks!

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all different kinds of chickens.

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dirty pig!

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more dirty pigs!

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cows! complete with a live mooooo…

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Schy had a great time! I wish that I had taken more pictures of the beautiful scenery. Maybe next year. And next year we will definitely hit the local alpaca farm!
I hope everyone enjoyed this gorgeous weekend!

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