Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Non-tasty Recipes : Homemade Natural Deodorant

Today's recipe is not at all tasty, but you could eat it if you really wanted to. Which is the whole point - naturally safe for your whole body - outside or in!

When I wore commercial deodorant, I never had one brand that I particularly liked. I tried every brand and every product of every brand because I just couldn't find anything that I thought worked well for me. I tend to sweat a lot in knit shirts, which of course becomes stinky. The absolute worse deodorant I ever tried was Secret with Oil of Olay. They advertise it has lotion in it - which promptly turns to liquid when it gets warm. This deodorant made me a sweaty mess even when I wasn't hot! Horrible product!

Well, anyway, after seeing my herbalist, commercial deodorant was something I wanted to cut out because it, like a lot of beauty products, contains xenoestrogens. Upon further investigation, the aluminum in deodorant has been shown to be a carcinogen linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer's. The National Cancer Institute claims that the results of studies of parabens in deodorants and antiperspirants relating to breast cancer are "inconclusive" and provide "conflicting results".* But if you think about how almost everyone these days dies of cancer .... we have to be getting it from somewhere .. we eat, breathe, bathe, and slather on so many different chemicals nowadays that it must have an effect on our bodies. These are foreign substances after all.

So, I tried three different "natural deodorants".
1) Kiss my Face Natural Enzymes - broke me out
2) Mineral Salts roll on - the roller actually started to smell like sweaty old man, making every application stinky from the onset
3) A fairly expensive mineral salts spritzer - burned like heck, though worked fine for Patrick

Eventually I gave up, and went bare. It was winter, and I was drinking chlorophyll in my water, which is a natural deodorizer. However, as it got warmer outside, I knew I needed something. So I searched for a better product.

And I found .... the easiest, simplest, most wonderful deodorant I have ever put on my skin! I remain absolutely stink free all day long, even after the gym! Patrick uses it too, and even for a man - this stuff works wonders! I can not tell you how much both Patrick and I love this stuff. It is also completely fragrance free, your underarms will smell like ... absolutely nothing!

Homemade Natural Deodorant**

5-6 Tbsp Coconut oil (solid state)
1/4 cup baking soda (the deodorizer)
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch*** (the antiperspirant)

Combine equal portions of baking soda & arrowroot powder. Then slowly add coconut oil and work it in with a spoon until it maintains the substance you desire. It should be about the same texture as the store bought kind, solid but able to be applied easily. You can either scoop this into your old dispensers or place in a small container with lid and apply with fingers with each use. I have only made one batch so far and I cut the recipe down a bit, not making quite as large of a batch. It has lasted Patrick and I about 1.5 months, and we probably have half of it still.

This goes on to skin completely transparent and does not leave nasty deodorant marks and stains on my clothes. I have also read that women love it with babies, because they don't have to worry about chemicals rubbing off on their children when they breastfeed or hold their baby.

Even if chemical deodorants and antiperspirants are totally harmless, well, this homemade deodorant works WAY better than any deodorant I have ever tried, and it cost pennies!! That's reason enough to ditch the Dove.

**Recipe found at www.passionatehomemaking.com
***I have read that cornstarch can be irritating to the skin. I do find that it is a little itchy right after I shave, so I recommend using arrowroot, but I love it even with the cornstarch.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

24 Weeks and Counting

We can't believe how much the baby has grown lately and how obvious it is to us. Not just by belly size, but I can actually feel how much the baby has grown and developed. I feel the baby move all the time now. The movement is also so much higher than it was, I've even started feeling kicks in my ribs. We had our 24 week appointment yesterday and Mary Anne was able to tell what position the baby was in; and I for the first time could even start to feel body parts. She could feel the back and the butt, and I really could too! I was shocked at how high my uterus is now. My uterus measured at exactly 24 cm, and since I have such a short torso, that was all the way up to my ribs! We even poked him (or her) a few times to watch him (or her) squirm.

We registered today! Which turns out to be an all day event. It is also extremely confusing and somewhat overwhelming. I ended up asking a mom in the store "Now why do I need a sheet saver to go over my sheet to go over my waterproof mattress pad to go over my waterproof mattress?" Baby stuff is complicated. And there is SO much of it. I think I need to rent a storage space to be able to house all our baby gear we apparently "need". But it was a ton of fun! I still don't know if I registered for the right stuff. I guess I'll find out soon enough. I also didn't register for a lot of clothing cause I assumed people like to buy that stuff anyway (hint hint!).

I can't believe it is almost May. I met a woman today that said she thought her pregnancy lasted forever. I'm the opposite. I can't believe it is going so fast, and sometimes I feel like I need to hit the brakes! So much change in such a short amount of time. We are absolutely loving it!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pelvic Pain

Some of my dear friends may have heard me talk about my "crotch pain". I have had a pain on the left side of my pubic area since the middle of my first trimester. It hurts to walk, to roll over in bed, and it especially hurts after yoga, which is what I've been doing to try to make it better - apparently it does not make it better. I asked my midwife who assured me it is my groin and not my crotch, though I insist that it is in fact my crotch. She recommended going to the chiropractor, though she didn't seem to know what it was. We even asked the OB I had a consultation with for my 20 week ultrasound. She actually said it was probably an injury I sustained because my ligaments are loose, and really has nothing to do with pregnancy. She also said to see a chiropractor. Not only do I insist that it is my crotch, but I insist it is pregnancy related.

Well, I finally got up the courage to google search "crotch pain" (I have googled groin pain during pregnancy and didn't seem to find a lot of help) and found the answer! Symphysis Pubis Disorder, or SPD. Symptoms include pain when you:
walk (yes!)
get in and out of the car (yes! yes!)
roll over in bed (oh, this is the worst)
and putting on your trousers (that simple movement of picking up my leg)

See where the symphysis pubis is? That's where it hurts.

I'm reading this information online and just thinking "Finally! An answer!" You know how that is when you finally figure out what exactly an ailment is; that alone is relieving. Well, there's really nothing that can be done. Its just one of those things. I read that one of four pregnant women suffer from SPD, and its just the pelvis relaxing and opening, which is definitely a good thing for childbirth, but when its relaxing and shifting it sort of misaligns, and this is what causes the pain, and why only some women get it. I guess only a few of us are misaligned. I'm supposed to try things like heating it, or wearing a maternity support belt (but that doesn't sound comfy).

I might go to the chiropractor and see if they can re-align me. I never did go even though that as the only advice I got from my midwife and doctor. Mainly because I hate pulling a name out of the insurance hat. You never know if you'll get a good one. I am a bit disappointed that neither my midwife or the OB knew what this was when it seems quite common on google. I have my 24 week appointment on Friday, so I'll ask/tell her about it then.

UPDATE 4/23/2010:
I did end up going to a chiropractor on Monday. It was SO much worse afterwards! It went from a little painful, to oh my gosh, I can barely walk. It was so much worse, and radiated from my pubic area all the way around my left hip socket and down my leg. Unfortunately, I was also on travel Monday afternoon through Wednesday evening, so I had to live with it. I had a 2nd appointment on Thursday. By this time, the pain had died down to about what it was before the chiro got ahold of me. Well, he did some more adjustments and said that he wished he could x-ray me to see the bones. After the adjustment yesterday it was way better! So, maybe he just had to "play around with it". Not sure, but it was so much better yesterday. I went yet again this morning, and he did a few more adjustments, so hopefully it will be even better. I hope he didn't twist me back up!

UPDATE 4/28/2010:
Well, after that magical visit last Thursday where I felt loads better, I went again on Friday and it went back to not at all better. I have now been to the chiropractor 6 times, and I feel the same, if not worse than I did before. I think I feel worse because it seems the more it is messed with the more it hurts, and it spreads. Yesterday my whole hip and hip flexor region hurt, but I think that it was just irritated, today it is back to just my pubic area. I just don't want it to keep getting worse. A friend told me it would come and go as things move and stretch as my pregnancy progresses, so I do hope it goes. Anyway, I'm discouraged because the chiro didn't seem to help. I read tons of stories online about how women found complete relief from the chiro visits, but I'm not getting it so far.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tasty Tuesday - Carrot Cake

I love carrot cake so much that we had it for our wedding cake. So when I saw Heidi's recipe for a healthy and nutritious carrot cake, I was sure I had found my perfect dessert. The dessert is perfect except for two things. One, it needs raisins. Severely. So my recipe below includes raisins. Two, I hate to say it, but it needs "real" cream cheese frosting. I appreciate Heidi's take on a healthier version of a cream cheese frosting which is just cream cheese and maple syrup, but when I make this cake again, I might splurge and go for a more traditional frosting.

This cake is quite dense, which I personally love. It is sweetened with only bananas and dates, making it sort of a banana bread carrot cake. There is really nothing unhealthy about the dish except the stick of butter, and it is a lot of carbs, but hey, its dessert. If you make it with a more traditional frosting you will be adding a lot of sugar and another 1/2 to 1 stick of butter.. but that's up to you.

Carrot Cake

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup raisins
4 ounces unsalted butter, heated until just melted
1/2 cup dried dates, seeded and finely chopped into a paste
3 ripe bananas (1 1/4 cups), mashed well
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 3 medium)
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 eggs, lightly whisked

For Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup (or to taste)
I added a tsp of vanilla extract

Or a more traditional cream cheese frosting

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9x5x3 / 8-cup loaf pan (or 8x8 cake pan) and line it with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the walnuts and set aside.
Stir the dates into the melted butter, breaking up the dates a bit, and stir in the raisins.
In a separate bowl combine the bananas and carrots. Stir in the date-butter mixture, breaking up any date clumps as you go. Whisk in the yogurt and the eggs. Add the flour mixture and stir until everything just comes together. Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake for about 50 - 60 minutes or until a toothpick tests clean in the center of the cake - it'll be less if you are using a standard cake pan. Remove from oven and let cool.
While the cake is baking, whip together the cream cheese and agave nectar. Taste. If you like your frosting sweeter adjust to your liking. When the cake has completely cooled frost the top of the cake with an offset spatula.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pet peeves

A good rant post, meant to be purely fun! The social (and medical) perceptions of pregnancy that absolutely drive me crazy:

When people say pregnancy is actually 10 months.
Pregnancy is not and has never been 10 months! People say this because they say that pregnancy is 40 weeks, and 4 weeks = a month so it must be 10 months. First of all, it is not 40 weeks, it is 38 weeks, which I guess is a whole other pet peeve. The first two weeks of pregnancy is before conception. And besides that, every month besides February has more than 4 weeks in it. Get a calendar, and literally count 40 weeks and you'll come up with 9 months and 1 week. Subtract the 2 weeks that count as being pregnant when you're not and you end up with 9 months minus 1 week. So technically, an average pregnancy is less than 9 months +/- a week or two.

Stork Parking
That's right, I think stork parking is ridiculous. Just because I'm pregnant doesn't mean I'm disabled so I don't want to be treated as such! I actually think stores should have more parking for parents with young children so they don't have to drag toddlers through busy parking lots. But all people could use a bit more exercise, including pregnant women.

The big deal about fish
Certain types of fish should be avoided during pregnancy (actually avoided always) because of high mercury levels. These are large predator fish. So unless you are a shark connoisseur, you usually don't have to worry about what fish to eat. Shark, mackerel, tilefish, swordfish... I have actually never had any of these fishes. The only fish I like that should be avoided is tuna and tuna steaks, otherwise fish is not only a go, not only healthy, but essential! Baby brain development relies on Omega-3's, so a lot of health prescribers are suggesting pregnant women take a fish oil supplement. So eat your salmon!

Soft Cheese
While I'm discussing food, every pregnancy book, website, and information sheet I have read says to avoid soft cheeses. Why? Because it could possibly maybe not be pasteurized. I'm not going to get into pasteurization, but if you get your cheese from the mega-mart I guarantee it is pasteurized. They all say on the package too. I literally stood in the cheese bin at Kroger looking at every piece of Brie they had and didn't find a single one that was unpasteurized. And goat cheese? Ultra-pasteurized!! I have heard women get totally freaked out if they accidentally eat some Brie at a party. Unless you can find specialty unpasteurized cheese from a cheese monger in a major city (even then it will be farmed and produced well and unlikely to carry bacteria), I really don't think this is something to get worked up about.

People who think being pregnant gives them the license to eat chocolate (or french fries, or ice cream)
I'm no stick in the poo. I splurge too. I love, love, love (love, love) sweets. I eat dark chocolate pretty regularly, had a piece of cake a a colleague's retirement party yesterday, and even got a small milk shake from Sonic last week. (Who can resist buy one get one free!) But its when pregnant women believe that now that they are pregnant, they get to eat like a pig that really bothers me. Pregnancy is one time in your life that it is so essential to eat well. Eating processed and fried junk food regularly results in excess weight gain, constipation, and worse things like gestational diabetes, and even worse yet, a weak unhealthy baby. This is the one time that women should be more conscientious of what goes in their bodies since it is not only their health and well being, but their baby's. So what to do about those sweet cravings? I eat small pieces of dark chocolate, and also make my own baked goods. I can make delicious cookies and cakes using all natural and unprocessed ingredients. Way better than a box of Oreos!

What are your pet peeves? Please share, I'd love some reader involvement! (and if you can't think of any relating to pregnancy, well, just give me a random pet peeve :) )

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tasty Tuesday - Homemade Granola

I just started making granola on a weekly basis to cut out boxed cereal. I love it over yogurt as a snack in the afternoon, or we just eat it straight and dry. Its delicious!

It takes about 30 minutes of baking time, but is hardly any work. The batch lasts about a week with two of us eating on it every day. Its a blank slate, and completely customizable. Add any kind of dried fruit and nuts you want, and you will have new granola every week!

Homemade Natural Granola

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup coconut oil, warmed so that it is liquid (yes, you could use canola, but I just started using coconut oil for all of my cooking that doesn't involve olive oil)
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar*
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup raisins
any other kind of nuts and fruit you want
I have also seen recipes with wheat germ, so I might start adding 1/4 cup or so.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss the oats with the cinnamon and salt. In a medium bowl, stir together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until completely combined.

Pour the honey mixture over the oats mixture and use your hands to combine them: Gather up some of the mixture in each hand and make a fist. Repeat until all of the oats are coated with the honey mixture.

Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out evenly, but leave a few clumps here and there for texture.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola.

Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the nuts/seeds over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Let cool completely before sprinkling the dried fruit over the granola. Store in an air-tight container.

The granola will not be crispy straight out of the oven, but should have a dark "cooked" color to it. If you think it could afford to cook a few more minutes to get a little darker, go right ahead. It will crisp up when it cools.

*The recipe originally calls for 1/2 c brown sugar, and I used a little less honey than the original recipe suggests. If you want yours sweeter or if you want it to "stick" together better and make bigger clumps, you might need to add more honey.

I got this recipe from The Amateur Gourmet, who got it from a cookbook. I think this recipe has been around the block!

Nutrition: Lots of Protein and Fiber, Complex Carbs, Omega-3, Omega-6, Vitamin E, Folate, Thiamin, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Manganese, and Zinc

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Book Review - Real Food

Real Food for Mother and Baby
The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby's First Foods
by Nina Planck

It has only been about seven months since I first had an appointment with my now trusted Herbalist, Linda Lucas. It wasn't until this meeting that I started to shift my basic thinking on nutrition from "diet food" to "whole food". I have always been very adamant about eating a diet in a wide variety of whole foods - fruits, vegetables, whole grains, but I also paid entirely too much attention to calories. I thought that I should only eat about 1200 calories a day. Mind you, I was working out 5 to 6 days a week. 1200 calories was entirely too little, and once I started eating only whole foods, and ditching diet foods like skim milk (that is not to say I switched to whole milk, but that I ditched milk entirely), low calorie, low sugar, low carb items like light syrup, low calorie bread, and nonfat yogurt, I actually lost weight. Just by eating more nutrient-rich foods, which I guarantee was A LOT more calories than I was consuming, I ended up losing about 10 pounds. I tell you, this wasn't my goal, it was more a by-product. My goal, was to get pregnant. I did that too - by getting rid of "junk" - what little processed food I still ate (and drank! hello Crystal Light), and all estrogen rich foods, which includes dairy and soy.

This book has nothing to do with weight-loss. It has everything to do with proper eating in a time when we are overloaded with processed foods. Planck defines "real food" as what is old and traditional. And by old, she means OLD. Not even what people ate in 1900, but what people ate in 1500. Her first chapter is a description of what constitutes real food, explaining fruits, veggies, fish, meat, and dairy. By concentrating on eating only real food, one does not need to really think about nutrition, vitamins, minerals or weight. Diet, processed, and convenience food is what is killing us. Literally. We know more about nutrition now than any other time in human history, yet our diets are worse now than any other time in human history.

Planck's book is extremely opinionated (why do I care if she doesn't like the term "sippy cup"?), and I didn't always agree with everything she had to say. For instance, in the chapter where she discusses nutrition in the first trimester, Planck suggests that if you can not eat because you are sick or nauseated, then just don't eat. Some women may throw-up so much that they are unable to keep down proper nutrients, but this doesn't mean that you can just wave off all nutrition and assume that a baby can somehow get the nutrients it needs, anyway. Not only does this not make sense (if you aren't putting nutrients in, where is the growing baby going to get it?) but my midwife and herbalist both said "Eat constantly!" which I found did help, a lot. I was more sick on an empty stomach, so I can't imagine just saying "Oh Well." to food entirely. Planck writes about how incredibly tired she was during her first trimester, and I'd have to say so, since she admits she hardly ate.

One other thing that I thought Planck should address better is that a person can not toe the line and eat real food and processed food. Real food includes butter (organic, grass-fed), whole raw milk, red meat (grass-fed only), and even ice cream. A person can not integrate these foods into a current diet unless they evaluate their entire diet. Suddenly saying "Oh, wow, butter can be good for you!" and starting to slather their white bread and crackers with butter, is not the point. This would result in weight gain, and a wide variety of health issues.

I found myself glad to be vegetarian (ok, I lie - pescetarian) because I personally can not afford "real meat". Real meat is grass-fed lamb, beef, pork, and free-range chicken. Commercial meat products come from animals that are fed an extremely poor diet of corn and soy, and are usually injected with antibiotics and hormones. I'm sure "real" meat is part of a healthy diet, but I for one, can't afford it. So I'll skip it. :)

Finally, Planck's last chapter is all about baby's first foods. She believes in feeding baby real food that you are already eating. Planck promotes exclusive breast feeding until baby can sit up on his own and starts to show interest in solid foods, which is usually around 6 months. Then she promotes giving baby small pieces of food off your own plate to let them experiment with tastes and textures. One statement Planck made that I particularly enjoyed is that if your baby is breastfed, they are already used to a wide variety of tastes and spices (Indian anyone?). It is counter intuitive to then assume that after these broad tastes, baby needs plain, bland, unseasoned food, which Americans, unsurprisingly, are one of the only cultures of people that do feed their babies special "baby food". She believes this is actually what makes picky eaters. She promotes that a baby who is able to experiment with food on his own, using his own hands and fingers allows him to be much more confident with food and making food decisions later in life. This method is also promoted as being much more parent friendly as parents do not have to take the time to make baby food, or spend the money to buy jarred food, and it is much less of a struggle at feeding time. This does make sense, and is certainly not a new theory, as this was how parents used to feed their children before Gerber got ahold of us. I'm pretty sure this is how I was fed, too since my parents grew their own food.

I have always said a general nutrition rule of thumb is to not eat anything that comes in a box or a bag. This is a virtually fool-proof way to eat only whole foods, without having to count, monitor, or think about your diet. I believe this is Planck's message, applied to parents and babies. Her book just goes into much greater detail about organic food, which ones are worth the money, which ones you can eat non-organic, and a lot about meat and dairy which probably is new information for most of today's consumers. It was a very valuable read for me, to expand my knowledge of food, and more importantly what real food is in a grocery store full of artificial foods.