December 29, 2010

A Little Mother's Wisdom about the Magic of Herbs to Maintain Health

Recently, I've posted a few herbal remedies our family uses to maintain or recover good health.  You can read one here.  Of course, as I moved around town during the holiday season, talking to this person and that about being sick, I found myself faced over and over with the same thing. It's not necessarily profound, but it's worth saying.

Taking time to care for our bodies is something we're not good at in our culture. Sure, we love to stay in shape, taking time to run, walk, bike, lift weights etc. But when it comes to illness that requires rest, Americans tend to just drink some caffeine and keep going.

Which leads us to one of the biggest mistakes we make when cold & flu season hits. Instead of taking a moment to slow down when we feel the first hint of funkiness (usually that stage where we wonder, "Am I getting sick or am I just tired?"), we shoot some caffeine and keep going. I've said this before but it's worth repeating.

Contrary to current popular belief, wandering around feeling like crap, trying to prove you're superman (or woman) - and likely infecting everyone you're in contact with is not 'Fighting the flu, cold, etc.' It's just giving whatever nasty bug you have more time for a big windup that will likely knock you down for the count.

This brings me to part of the blessing of using herbs and food to maintain health. In a culture where we expect to pop a pill to cure us (which doesn't work for a lot of things), using herbs (or even food) to heal what ails us requires that we stop and really listen to our bodies (and sometimes our minds/hearts) to figure out what's going on inside of us. We get sick for all kinds of reasons - but tired, stressed and overworked immune systems (and spirits) are always more vulnerable to illness. Making that cup of tea or smoothie & resting takes mere moments more than glugging some Imodium. But taking that time will build your immune system and provide real healing rather than just mask the symptoms till you're so worn out you crash.

Using herbs doesn't guarantee you'll never get sick. We do our best to create health with a reasonable diet, exercise and herbs. Sometimes, crazy schedules and kid germs just get the best of us. But, rest, herbs, exercise and good food usually means illness visits us only briefly. Which is good because I have lots to do this season, and I don't have time for that. I bet you don't either.

Fast and Gentle Remedies for the Big "D" - Part 2

Once you've passed the clear liquid stage of fighting the Big "D", you might feel like you can eat a large animal - bovine or equine. Please refrain from anything so drastic and try these instead. These are some great foods that have medicinal properties when it comes to diarrhea. 

What discussion about healthy bowels would be complete without apple? It's really true that an apple a day keeps the doc away. This fruit is amazing because it contains pectin & fiber. So, it basically balances out the bowels, no matter what the problem. Plus it's one of the few things that most kids love to eat - no matter how sick they feel. To quote my Uncle Sam, "How 'bout them apples?" 

I used to avoid dairy completely during bouts of stomach ick. But, last year, I ran across some advice from a wise woman to use it anyway because of the pro-biotic properties. True, you can just buy pro-biotics - but I used yogurt with my girls and it worked fast. They were not sick nearly as long as their friends. So, I'm a convert. Just be sure it's plain yogurt. You can always flavor it yourself with blackberry jam or some raw honey (are you getting that we love raw honey yet?) 

Blueberries are traditionally used to ease diarrhea naturally. They're great thrown into a thin smoothie - with coconut milk or yogurt and a banana.

A good source of the potassium needed to battle dehydration, bananas also provide energy and starch, which can slow things down in the downstairs department, if you know what I mean. If you've ever had a kid with constipation, you know not to give him or her more than one banana a day. Just apply that same philosophy the other direction. Now you're thinking!

Coconut milk
While I usually agree that high fat food should be avoided during a bought of diarrhea, coconut milk is the exception. Coconut milk is like magic food. Its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-microbial properties are perfect for this kind of illness. Additionally, coconut milk will replenish nutrients lost to diarrhea like potassium and electrolytes. Pretty awesome, huh? This week, I made a smoothie of coconut milk, banana, strawberries and a little raw honey. I couldn't drink very much but it really boosted my energy.  I always have a can of this in my pantry.

Brown rice
For some reason, brown rice is mild to eat when one is sick and it stops the big "D" like no other. My friend Christine of The Baker's Daughter says her mom used to make rice pudding with it. Short grain brown rice works best for this. I make the rice according to the proportions on the package and substitute coconut milk for the water. Add a little honey, vanilla or cinnamon to taste for a nourishing and palatable treat. Works great for kids who don't want to eat. You can always blend it if you like smoother textured pudding.

If you don't want to make rice pudding or don't like the texture, you can always just make regular brown rice with or without chicken broth.

Blackberry Jam
Anecdotal information says that blackberry jam might be helpful. Blackberries are nutritious and have some fiber that might slow things down a little. They taste great in yogurt or a smoothie. Just be sure your jam is mostly berries with just a little sugar - and no corn syrup. Ick.

Sourdough toast or water crackers
We are all about whole grains in this house. In fact, we usually eat Ezekiel bread - a sprouted grain toast. However, those choices are far too fibrous for a tummy recovering from ickiness, so we offer thin slices of sourdough or crackers if "real" food sounds good.

Healing smoothies - easy to digest and a great place to hide healthy ingredients that will stop that diarrhea if it's not gone yet.
1 banana
handful of rice (we started doing this recently. It works great!)
handful of frozen blueberries
handful of frozen strawberries
water to desired texture

*Alternately, you can use coconut milk to the texture you desire and throw a bit of applesauce in. In other words, just pick and choose from the food list to make a smoothie you like.

Here are the things to avoid
Caffeine - a diuretic that will wreak havoc on a system that's already taxed. Give your bowels and your adrenals a break and avoid this during illness
Oatmeal - too rough on a sore stomach.
Dairy other than yogurt
Wheat toast - too rough on a tender tummy
Anything acidic like tomato or orange juice.

As usual, I want to clarify that I'm not a doctor or herbalist and this information is not intended to diagnose or cure any diseases. It's meant for informational purposes only and I encourage you to do your research and consult with an herbalist or Naturopathic doctor for more information about herbs - especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition or if you are taking any medication. That said, the reason I love herbs is that they are usually far more gentle on our bodies than over the counter prescriptions and remind our bodies how they are supposed to work! 

December 23, 2010


i wake before the sun
fully refreshed
a unique sensation when one has small children

feeling the thrill and freedom of early morning
with no one yet awake
no one yet needing me -

pulling on my tennies and clothes
i slip out into the dark morning
moving onto the trail with a smile
for the other early birds
like me, seeking solitude

reveling in -
the way the crisp air hits my face
the smell of wet dirt that fills my nose
the vision of vibrant yellows, oranges and reds
draping the trees
creating a canopy over my head
like a secret hiding place

my lungs expand with the movement that
wakes my limbs
and sends my blood racing
i feel open, clear, happy - timeless

i notice everything around me in a way
that is not possible when i am caring for everyone else

this time is mine
and there is only me

i feel the tug of the clock
it's time to return to the rest of my life
i slip back inside and
my daughter is calling for me
needing what only i can give her

i am ready...

December 21, 2010

Happy Birthday, Destructo Girl !

Last night, I sat in my dining room, thinking of what my life was like two years ago in the months before my second daughter was born. It was a crazy time - and it produced a fun, crazy little girl without whom I cannot imagine my life now!

The Ultimate Nester
For some reason, pregnancy always pushes me into high gear. I don't just "nest", I remodel. The first time I was pregnant, I painted (the entire house) and bought new furniture etc. With my youngest, I decided I could NOT bring another baby into a bedroom covered with that nasty carpet from 1971! I envisioned my new baby crawling around on a beautiful, uncluttered, eco-friendly bamboo floor. Aaaannnndddd, we really needed to get that upstairs bathroom done while we were at it!

I tackled the bathroom with military precision. Calendar appointments with contractors were cushioned with time to spare (um, so I thought). We demo-ed the bathroom ourselves (and when I say "we", I mean - mostly Rob).
My hero!!!!

Bathroom after demo

Then, my then 2 year old daughter and I lived through weeks of dust everywhere (well, on the tarps I'd put everywhere) while I gritted my teeth through morning (Haha! ALL DAY) sickness. Everything would be done in plenty of time. And then, as is typical in a house filled with DIVAS - drama hit!

My Big Mistake
One day the contractor, who was supposed to widen the bathroom door and install the new one, called to say he wouldn't make his appointment the next day because he was stuck at a job in Northern Arizona. He offered to send a friend - NOT a contractor - to replace him. Ignoring the nagging feeling in my stomach (intuition, not pregnancy), I agreed.

The next morning, my daughter and I were downstairs when suddenly we heard shouts of horror and some pretty impressive profanity from upstairs. I leaped up those stairs - only to discover that the door guy's "friend" had sliced into the wall without checking what was behind it first and managed to cut through my a/c water pipe. Like a bad movie, water was spraying everywhere and pouring through the floor into the downstairs.

I ran to my neighbor's house to ask him how to shut it off and he raced back to my house and took over. He shut off the pipe and then barked orders at all three of the guys who were there - to clean up the mess. Thank goodness for great neighbors - and the men who cleaned up for me! Never, ever ignore your wise stomach!

The Second Big Surprise
Undeterred by the dust and the waterfall through my ceiling, I pressed on to the new flooring. (Think I'm crazy? It's HORMONES people!! Geez!) With 1 month and a half (maybe slightly less) to go, we ripped out the carpet (well, Rob did - hehehe...) and had the bamboo delivered. It was BEE-Utiful! But when the installation guys arrived, they promptly informed us that our sub-floor had dry rotted and we'd have to replace it before they could install the wood flooring. We found a contractor and after only a week's delay, we were ready to we thought.

The installation guys returned, checked the humidity levels of the bamboo and the floor but they weren't close enough yet. But, we had chosen materials they'd never before used so they were unfamiliar with it. But in the meantime, knowing I was close to delivering, they assured me they'd come every few days to check it. Weeks went by and the wood wasn't acclimating (so we thought). Later we'd discover the special wood required a special humidity monitor.

In the meantime, ALL our stuff from upstairs - furniture, dressers, clothing & linens etc - was packed into our two downstairs rooms - along with us. Just imagine. It seems unbelievable now! We slept on an air mattress (actually, we went through three) for at least 2 1/2 months. You try rolling off an air mattress in a hurry to reach the bathroom when you're nine months pregnant. Hahaha! Not a pretty sight!! Our stuff was everywhere and chaotic at its neatest. I would show you pics but I couldn't find them.

Did I mention we were planning a home birth?

Then it gets worse
Two weeks before D-day, our oldest woke with stomach flu. She slept all day, running a mild fever. We kept her hydrated and watched her closely. She slept on the couch while I rested on the air mattress. That evening, she woke up and crawled over to me to snuggle. Then, promptly emptied what little was in her stomach all over me and the mattress. Ugh. After we got her all cleaned up and changed the sheets, she fell asleep. In moments, she began having a bad dream, shouting "NO! I don't want to go with you!!!" (Yikes!) and her temp shot up rapidly - resulting in a febrile seizure. It was pretty scary. But, after several hours in the hospital, we came home exhausted and she was ok.

I finally listen...
The weekend my youngest was born, I called in reinforcements. My sister Susie came over and helped me paint the two upstairs bedrooms and bathroom (no way was I delivering in a bathroom painted an ugly color!). Once we finished painting, my intuition spoke up again. I heard - "Just straighten up. Make sure you can find everything you need for the baby." This time I listened. So, Susie helped me clean up - and I ignored everything else I'd planned to do.  (Thank you Susie!!!!)

Sure enough, when I woke the next morning, those Braxton Hicks felt different. That night, my daughter arrived - a week early - in my own bathtub. (Good thing I did that first!) We had everything we needed. The next morning we woke - on the air mattress with our newborn - to the sound of the doorbell. We'd forgotten that the floor guys were coming to check the floor again! And you know what? We were just fine - in the middle of the craziness - without a perfectly installed eco-friendly bamboo floor. You can read about our homebirth here  and why I chose homebirth here.

Thinking of those days makes me laugh. We learned so much about being together - I mean really together. We learned to be patient and content with where we were in that moment, to take deep breaths and trust that things would work out in the end. We learned to laugh at the ridiculousness of the circumstances and enjoy the process.

I think that's what we see most in our youngest - besides her ability to keep our home in a constant state of chaos. We see her laughing and enjoying every moment. From the time she wakes in the morning till she falls into bed at night, she is smiling or laughing and trying to draw us into her fun. She tells us "jokes" all the time and laughs uproariously at herself.

I love so much about her -
her laughter
her smile
her ridiculous jokes, "what does a turkey say? Bok, bok"  Huh??? 
her determination to figure things out and get where she wants to go
her sweet little phrases - "I hold you mommy"
the tiny hands she slips into mine all day
her favorite nighttime story, "Can we read Pinkali-cious, Mommy?" (well...when you say it like that!)

I even - dare I say it? - love the chaos she adds to our life and the clutter she spreads on that beautiful bamboo floor. Our lives would be so boring without it!

Happy Birthday Destructo Girl!! I love you.

December 19, 2010

my local coffee shop

dj mixing it up on the turntable
the visions of local artists lining the walls
fragrant coffee and freshly baked food scenting the air
a line stretching out the door
the energy of people - anticipating -
a cup of coffee
a freshly made pastry
a smile from the barista who remembers their names
a day full of possibility...

December 14, 2010

Fast and Gentle Remedies for the Big "D"

It's that time of year. Friends have been saying they've had some major tummy distress that produces some rather undesirable (and sometimes embarrassing) side effects. Unfortunately, I myself had a bought of food poisoning this week - the very day I was supposed to perform in Handel's Messiah. Eeeek! I needed a remedy - quick! So, although there's a certain "ick" factor to posting about something like this, I will sacrifice my dignity to share my remedy for the bigger "D" with the world. Haha!

Here's what's in my medicine cabinet to treat the dreaded diarrhea.

First of all - straight water and tummy ailments don't go well together. There's a reason why Saint Paul recommended a little wine for the stomach's sake. (No, I don't believe it was just grape juice.) Water can feel very bracing to a sore stomach. So, instead, mix up the remedies below with some gentle, weak teas - like chamomile, mint or cinnamon. All good for healing and comforting what ails you.

Secondly, use one of these Remedies and GO TO BED. Rest and you may find you don't get sick at all. Contrary to current popular belief, wandering around feeling like crap, trying to prove you're superman (or woman) - and likely infecting everyone you're in contact with is not "Fighting the flu, cold, etc." It's just giving it more time for a big windup that will likely knock you down for the count.

At the Onset of Ickiness

Charcoal Pills
These aren't supposed to work for the flu but they will help with food poisoning (since the big "D" can happen with either, they count). Activated charcoal has a vast surface area and is good at absorbing all sorts of random particles. So, it is used by emergency rooms to neutralize poisons and drugs.

That said, it will neutralize the effect of any medicine being taken with it as well, so medication should be taken separately. A relatively healthy person who doesn't have any liver or kidney problems will appreciate the fast acting benefits of charcoal. It never hurts to check with your doc about taking something like this.

Blackberry root
Blackberry root has astringent properties, which means it can knock out the big "D" pretty quickly. This year, I was prepared. I made blackberry root tincture this summer in preparation for this year's stomach flu season. For the uninitiated, a tincture is simply an extraction of the herb's medicinal properties into a base of alcohol, glycerin or vinegar. I use brandy. It also mitigates the sometimes punchy taste of this herb.

While I had tincture and drank it every hour for about 6 hours, Rosemary Gladstar, a well-known American Herbalist, also suggests making tea from the root, along with slippery elm and cinnamon. This is probably the easiest remedies for people who are newbies to herbs. Soothing and pretty tasty. This is something I use for my kids also. You can purchase blackberry root & slippery elm bark online from Mountain Rose Herbs. They offer great prices and high quality.

To make this tea, use 3 parts blackberry root to 2 parts slippery elm. Use one teaspoon in a cup of water and simmer for twenty minutes. Strain and cool - then drink 2-4 T every hour or more often as needed. You can add cinnamon bark to the mixture or sprinkle some cinnamon on the top of your drink. I usually add raw honey to whatever tea I'm making since the big "D" takes so much out of it's victims.

Blackberry Jam
If you've been blindsided by the big "D" and don't have any blackberry root, anecdotal information says that blackberry jam might still be helpful. Blackberries are nutritious and have some fiber that might slow things down a little. It tastes great in yogurt or a smoothie. Just be sure your jam is mostly berries with a little sugar - and no corn syrup. Ick.

Raspberry leaf tea 
Raspberry leaf is also in the astringent category - and thankfully, tastes more mild than the blackberry root, which makes sense since roots tend to have a stronger flavor than leaves. You can make a tea out of it like I did - and toss a few rose petals and lavender in for flavor - or just drink it straight.

To make this tea, add 1 T raspberry leaf per 8 oz boiling water. Steep covered for a few minutes and drink with a little raw honey. Always use raw - it will help your tummy feel better too.

Rosemary Tea
I just discovered rosemary as a stomach comfort the last time my husband had the stomach ick. He was actually having a hard time keeping anything down as opposed to the topic we're discussing today. I steeped a bit of rosemary in boiling water - just like tea - and he was able to drink it with a little raw honey. It is supposed to help with stomach cramps and he said it worked for him. I would not recommend rosemary for pregnant women.

Chamomile Tea
A comforting, soothing choice for sore tummies.

Mint Tea
Some people really love mint tea for tummy aches. It's not my personal favorite - but mostly because I'm not a huge fan of mint when I'm feeling seasick.

Coconut water
If you haven't had coconut water before, this is a great time to try it. Coconut is awesome. It's anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-microbial. More importantly, coconut water will replenish nutrients lost to diarrhea like potassium and electrolytes. We use coconut water and teas instead of Pedialyte in our house. My kids never would drink Pedialyte and I think it tastes nasty too.

When you're dealing with something like the big "D" that sends you running to the toilet at the most unexpected times, it's best to give your body a little rest from hard to digest foods - at least temporarily. They'll only prolong the pain a little longer. Instead, go for clear liquids like teas and broth. Chicken broth (especially homemade) is high in magnesium, calcium and other yummy nutrients that will provide nourishment to your taxed system without causing more crazy tummy distress.

Here are a few more things to avoid
Caffeine - a diuretic that will wreak havoc on a system that's already taxed. Give your bowels and your adrenals a break and avoid this during illness
Oatmeal - too rough on a sore stomach.
Dairy other than yogurt
Wheat toast - too rough on a tender tummy
Anything acidic like tomato or orange juice.

That's it for the herbal remedies we currently use.

Just a note...Blackberry root and raspberry have an astringent effect on the body - that's why they're useful for diarrhea. However, to stay hydrated, mix it up a little in the drink department. Remember tea - not soda. I remember doctors always recommending 7-up or gingerale when I was a kid. However, I recently read that carbonated beverages might not be the best option for sore tummies. Something to do with the carbonation causing more discomfort as the bubbles expand the stomach. You decide. You can still get the hydration and a bit of sweetness from honey tea - without corn syrup.

As usual, I want to clarify that I'm not a doctor or herbalist and this information is not intended to diagnose or cure any diseases. It's meant for informational purposes only and I encourage you to do your research and consult with an herbalist or Naturopathic doctor for more information about herbs - especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition or if you are taking any medication. That said, I'm not trying to scare you away from herbs but encourage you to be informed about whatever it is you are choosing to put into your body. The reason I love herbs is that they are usually far more gentle on our bodies than over the counter prescriptions and remind our bodies how they are supposed to work! 

Be healthy. 


December 10, 2010

Sage Cornmeal Biscuits

Last night we had a rather scary experience with our youngest, who fell off a chair and whacked her head hard enough to frighten me (which is actually pretty difficult). We called our doctor's office and they gave us the usual instructions to postpone bedtime for a while, watch for concussion signs and then wake her after about an hour of sleeping.

Unfortunately, the accident happened right before bed (of course) so the girls were up pretty late and Rob stayed up even later to wake our youngest at the proposed time. To make matters worse, she did not fall asleep right away but spent an hour after we put her to bed talking. Clearly, she was not hurt as badly as we thought (thank goodness!) but we were all pretty exhausted this morning.

So, we slept in really late and enjoyed a fun wake-up hour with the kids giggling and playing before breakfast. When we finally made our way downstairs to eat, I realized we were out of our favorite Ezekiel bread (sprouted wheat, protein rich), so I decided to make biscuits. They were so good, I knew I had to post the recipe. Then, I laughed because I realized one of the few recipes I've posted here is another biscuit recipe. So, just to clarify...we don't eat biscuits very often (unlike at my mom's house where we ate them weekly! Boy, were they good!). But, every once in a while, a good biscuit is just the ticket! These are awesome with eggs but they'd be just as good with soup.

I started with a recipe by Mary Kincaid that I found over at You can see it here. But, I made some adjustments to fit the way we eat, including switching to whole wheat flour and replacing the milk with yogurt. They were simply amazing - tender and full of flavor.

So, add these to your list of healthi-er, fast things you can make during the holiday season.

Sage Cornmeal Biscuits
Original Recipe Yield 10 servings
Time to prep - 10 minutes, cooking time 8-12
Preheat oven to 450 F
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Wet ingredients
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk 
Food processor - you know I'm going to suggest the food processor for recipes like this because it's so fast! But, you can use a bowl and pastry cutters (or forks/knives) instead. It'll just take longer. And I don't have time for that!


  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor or bowl. Pulse till ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Nothing is worse than biting into a biscuit and getting a mouthful of salt or baking powder!
  2. Add 1/3 c butter, cut into 1 inch cubes. Pulse until the texture contains coarse crumbs
  3. Add yogurt and milk and use a fork to just until moistened. If you use the food processor, just pulse lightly till the mixture barely holds together. This is one of those things you don't want to overmix. You're going to knead it anyway.
  4. Knead 5-6 times on a lightly floured surface. 
  5. Gently pat to desired thickness (we made big biscuits - 1" thick) and into a rectangle. This makes about 6 biscuits. If you want more, simply pat the dough thinner - 1/2-3/4" thickness and cut into more pieces.
  6. Cut the biscuits into squares (I don't have time for biscuit cutters and this way I don't have to re-roll dough, making it tough).
  7. Place about 1 1/2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet
  8. If you make the larger biscuits, they'll take longer to cook - 12-15 minutes. Smaller biscuits take 8-12. They're done when the tops are golden brown and the middle looks baked.
* This recipe includes sage, which gives it a lovely, warming flavor. If you don't have sage, other flavors that would be nice include savory, rosemary, thyme or maybe even oregano. You could also throw in 1/2 cup of dry cheese, like parmesan - into the dry ingredients - for a cheesy flavor that would work great with soup. 

December 9, 2010

"Own Ur Day"

This morning, I woke early - too early - to go hiking with one of my very best friends. In fact, I woke before my alarm because my two year old has gotten into this rather awful habit of waking at 4 am and calling, "Mommy, I want to hold you!" This morning (thankfully!), she slept in till 5 but I couldn't go back to sleep for fear I'd miss my hiking date. That said, I texted my girlfriend and said, "Sure you still want to go today?" Hahaha!! What can I say, it was cold this morning!

When 5:30 rolled around, I extricated myself from my little snuggler's arms and deposited her safely in dad's while she loudly expressed her displeasure at my leaving. Undeterred, I kissed her goodbye, bravely stepped out into the brisk morning air and promptly doubted my sanity. It was FAR too cold (and dark) to go hiking. Maybe we could get coffee instead?

At the mountain, my friend and I laughed about the thought of bailing for coffee - no way! - and charged up the path, shivering and giggling at how wimpy we were being. With the fresh, rainy smell of creosote in our nose, we settled into a rhythm and started catching up on the latest events and lessons going on  in our lives. She's always been that kind of friend to me. Sincere, encouraging, funny - and when necessary - honest. It's like a mutual therapy session!
Me - after I hiked. Sun in my eyes but feeling awesome!

When we finished hiking and said, "Goodbye!" with a big hug, I no longer doubted my sanity for kicking my butt out of bed this morning. I felt relaxed, energized and ready to start my day.

I need these kinds of mornings. Sure, I get up and walk regularly to keep my body feeling strong and my mind clear. But, sometimes, I need more. I need to make the extra time to see a friend at a ridiculously early time - to tell her she's that important to me.

I need to know I am strong enough to conquer that mountain - even when I'd rather be in bed. I need to know that I have and am an amazing friend. I need to remember who I am - and take that into my day. So that I can do what my friend Eric constantly says - "Make this day great! You decide how your day will be. Own ur day!"

I'm owning this one. Are you?

December 8, 2010

My Disney Princess

My four year old is really into princesses and romance- already. I know, it’s terrible. I blame her grandparents completely. (haha!) They bought her the first Disney movie and she’s been hooked ever since. We have Mulan, Cinderella, Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Enchanted, Shrek…you get the picture.

Most of the princesses really offend my feminist sensibilities as 1. They allow themselves to be abused by the antagonists in the story. 2. They have no other goal in life than to find a man to marry 3. They make really stupid decisions (i.e. eating an apple that a creepy old lady offers) that would kill them in real life. Thank God for good little fairies…

Unfortunately, my daughter does not share my convictions. I try to encourage her to think through the kind of man she should marry (even though she has no idea what I’m talking about). She speaks frequently of princesses and princes and loves to act out the stories.  She recently sighed. “And I will find my prince and I will kiss his lips and we’ll get marraaaaid” (her pronunciation)

I said, Your prince should be more than handsome, sweetie. He should be smart, good, gentle and kind and love you so, so much!” 

Her answer? A dramatic sigh with her hand to her head and...

"I’ll never find my prince, Mommy.”

December 7, 2010

Organic Mama Reads: Children's Book Reviews

If you have a small person in your life who needs a Christmas gift, why not consider a book? Here are some of the fun ones we have read lately.

Fannie in the Kitchen - Author Deborah Hopkinson, Illustrator Nancy Carpenter
If you're thinking that Fannie and the word kitchen sound familiar together, you're right. This is the story of Fannie Farmer - as in the Fannie Farmer cookbook. Credited by some as the inventor of the modern recipe, Fannie was among the first people to create written guidelines for cooking and baking with exact measurements. As a mother's helper in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Shaw, she teaches their young daughter Marcia how to cook by writing her a gigantic book of recipes. Of course, she's soon on her way to being a published author. Very cute book with old fashioned looking dresses and a bonus recipe for griddle cakes in the back. That's pancakes, in case you didn't know. I just like the name griddle cakes better.

The Brave Little Seamstress - Author Mary Pope Osborne, Illustrator Giselle Potter
I picked this book for nostalgia's sake because I recognized it as a take on an old Grimm's fairy tale - The Brave Little Tailor. When her shop is overrun with flies, the little seamstress smashes 7 in one blow. She is so proud of her accomplishment, she make a vest with the boast written on the back, "Seven in One Blow!" Of course, no one realizes she's talking about flies and she's soon making a name for herself across the kingdom as a kind of super-knight. What happens when she runs into the king who is intimidated by her accomplishments? Read it and find out!

Jack and Jill's Treehouse - Author Pamela Duncan Edwards, Illustrator Henry Cole
The illustrations are what drew me to this book. They are colorful and, I think, pencil drawn. The words have a rhythmic quality and follow the pattern of "There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly". Jack and Jill build a lovely little tree house with simple tools and proceed to invite their friends over to play. The story was simple enough but the pictures made it was one of my daughter's favorite books this week. She keeps telling me she wants to build a tree house and I keep explaining that a quarter-mile tall pine tree is not an ideal spot. Regardless, if you like the illustrations in this book, check out Henry Cole's site at

The Boy Who Cried Fabulous - Author Leslea Newman, Illustrator Peter Ferguson
The star of this book is a little boy who possesses a unique joie de vivre. He is so captivated by the wonder of life around him that he tends to be late to everything. His parents decide he needs to quit dawdling so they tell him he can no longer say his favorite word, "Fabulous!". He only mopes for a moment before he realizes there are plenty of other words to express his delight at the world around him. Thankfully, his parents realize how wonderful he is and pronounce him, "Fabulous!" The illustrations in this book are nostalgic and remind me of the movie, "Up." Very cute.

What a Good Big Brother - Diane Wright Landolf, Illustrator Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
Another book whose illustrations captured my attention. Big Brother Cameron's face covers the front of this book and he is darling with earnest brown eyes, wide lips and a freckled nose. He loves his new little sister and spends his time helping mom and dad change diapers and feed her. In the end, he is the first to make her laugh. This is a great book for those of you who are either getting ready to welcome a new baby into the family or might be experiencing a little jealousy over a baby whose already arrived. Nothing like reading with your toddler-preschooler to let them know they're still important after the baby arrives!

December 3, 2010

Last Minute Local Fun For This Weekend!

A couple of fun options for this weekend. Get out there and meet the great people of Phoenix!

5th Annual Crafeteria
Medlock Plaza 10 W. Camelback Rd. Phoenix, AZ
Over 40 Indie Crafters, 100% Handmade

Sweets by Urban Cookies, Tracey Dempsey, Butter & Me, press coffee, and more!

LIVE MUSIC sponsored by Stinkweeds -Nowhere Man and A Whiskey Girl
Shop local @ Halo, Stinkweeds, Red Hot Robot, Frances & Smeeks

Phoenix Holiday Craft Rave at Bragg’s Pie Factory

Braggs Pie Factory 1301 W Grand Avenue Phoenix, AZ, 85007

Saturday December 4th, 2010 from 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. What’s a craft rave? 10 hours of non-stop hands-on making action under one crafting roof!
For a cost of $5-$15, guests will learn crafts and techniques like flower tiaras by The Phoenix Fridas, shrinemaking, fashion graffiti, needle felting, screen printing, tee-shirt yarn flowers and others.Sweets, coffee and other drinks will be available too!

Central Slope Shopping Friday
8801 N Central Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85020 
Central Slope has great, locally made stocking stuffers! And, if you visit Friday, Dec 3rd from 5-10 pm, you'll get 25% off your Zaaina purchase

December 1, 2010

The Toilet Head Dinner (no - wait, it wasn't actually from the toilet. ew. maybe i should rename this post...)

Lately, things have been a little busy at our house and I keep finding myself making quick one dish meals with whatever I can find in the fridge. Yet, they're still filled with healthy ingredients and I am even more happy to say they're delicious!

Check out this one. It took me about 1/2 hour. It was the end of the week and our fridge was nearly empty. So, it was completely experimental and not gourmet - but it's a good example of eating healthy with what you have in the fridge. Thankfully, it turned out to be pretty good. And believe me, my experiments don't always. Just ask my daughter about a recent experimental black bean & couscous soup. I know, what was I thinking? Even our dog refused to eat it!

Here's what I did...

Cut 2 organic chicken thighs I had in the fridge into small slivers and tossed them in a hot wok with a little olive oil and salt. (We buy chicken thighs sometimes because they're more reasonably priced than organic chicken breasts.) While thighs have a little more fat, we only add small pieces of meat to a dish of veggies so it's still a healthy choice.

While the chicken cooked, I cut fresh green beans, two sweet potatoes and zucchini into bite sized pieces, and chopped fresh garlic and shallots. Now, I never liked sweet potatoes as a kid because we always had them at Thanksgiving in one particular recipe, smothered in marshmallows. Sweet on sweet didn't do it for me. Love them prepared in a savory way.

After I cooked the chicken fairly thoroughly, (10 minutes or so - just till it's no longer pink and a little browned), I threw in the sweet potatoes, added a little salt and let the potatoes brown a little while I smashed the garlic and cut the shallots into slivers.

Green beans and zucchini went in next and I cooked those till the green beans were done - probably another ten minutes.

I did get a little distracted at this point because my baby (not yet two), who was using the "big toilet" in the bathroom a few steps and in line of sight from the kitchen, started shouting, "I stuck! I stuck!" As I turned to find out what in the world was going on, she wandered up to me with the Elmo potty seat stuck on her head. I burst out laughing (after I said, "EEWW! Let's not put that on your head, ok?!) and washed her hands and head. So...I think it was ten minutes.  Hahaha~!

Since I got a little distracted I didn't take a final pic of the dinner but it was actually delicious. I thought I'd miss having some kind of acidic element like tomatoes but the sweetness of the potatoes was just yummy against the green beans and savory chicken. I didn't put a lot of spices in this one - salt and pepper and the nice flavor of a little olive oil.

Just a little note on the value of sweet potatoes... they're a great source of Vit A, Vit C, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and folate. How's that for a fast, healthy dinner?

sparkly, swirly stickers

yesterday, true to my clutzy self
i tripped over my two year old in a parking lot
and fell flat over on my side
on the asphalt
no holds barred

i clambered to my feet
feeling stiff and bruised
but mostly grateful
i hadn't crushed my daughter
at least not completely

it left me feeling battered today
so i found myself taking a bath
in water swirling with epsom salts
lavender oil
and sparkly heart stickers

i love being a mom...
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