Thursday, March 12, 2015

Who do you trust?

My boys were recently watching a movie with a catchy phrase that kept repeating, "Who do you trust? Who do you listen to?" I think it's an appropriate question in relationship to current events.

I want you to think about your impression of our government. Local, state, and national. How is our government doing?
Here's some areas I've been thinking about:

Education: No Child Left Behind and the Common Core. Our kids are where they should be now, right? - Don't worry. You can trust our government.

Healthcare reform: You can keep your health insurance plan. Don't worry. You can trust our government.

Foreign affairs: Trust me, you don't need to see my private emails. Don't worry. You can trust our government.

Department of Defense: Yes, there are weapons of mass destruction. Don't worry. You can trust our government.

FDA: Vioxx and Yaz are totally safe. Don't worry. You can trust our government.

I'm not here to bash our government. There are many well-intentioned, hard working people in our government. The problem is that our government is made of people. People are fallible. They make mistakes. They can't always foresee what consequences will come from their decisions. They don't always have all the information.

So what part of our government do you trust completely? What group is free of error and free from influence by lobbyists and outside interest groups? What part of our government has a clear and honest relationship with private industry? Do you trust our government enough to had over your rights to this group? To trust people to make decisions for you and your family?

This is the issue all over my newsfeed right now. People are calling on the government to enact laws to force parents to vaccinate their children. They are saying that they trust the government's decisions so much that parents should be stripped of their right to informed consent before a medical procedure is performed on their child.

So, my questions is, "Who do you trust?" Do you trust a parent, who loves their child more than life itself, to research these issues carefully and make health care decisions thoughtfully? Or do you trust the government to make a one-size-fits-all decision? (Oh, and the private industry and doctors have been legally absolved of all liability if there's a problem.)

Before you think this is only a parents' rights issue, remember the health care workers who were fired for refusing the seasonal flu shot. For a seasonal flu shot that failed to protect against most of the seasonal flus.

The CDC says you should still get your flu shot. Don't worry. You can trust our government.

If you are interested in contacting your legislators about current bills that would reduce parental rights, you can find out more information at National Vaccine Information Center.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Real Food Down the Shore

It's Wednesday, and we're heading to the shore this weekend for a week of family time, sand, and eating. In our pre-real food days, this meant pigging out on caramel corn, cotton candy, frozen custard, taffy, Mack 'n Manco pizza, and lots of homemade desserts. We always joked about how much weight we'd gain in the one week. Even early morning bike rides on the boardwalk were just an excuse for fresh donuts. 

Now that my in-laws have switched to a real food diet too, the menu at the shore is changing! Pizza and McD's nights are gone. Home-cooked meals are in. Tons of dessert options are gone. Honey-sweetened homemade treats are in. From a health perspective, these are amazing changes. From a packing and prep mommy perspective, we just added a bunch to our workload. (From my husband's perspective, he still wishes someone would make peanut butter rice krispy treats. :-)) 

 Strategies for eating real food "down the shore:" 

1. Have a plan. 

Create a meal plan for your vacation time, and don't forget to include snacks, desserts, and drinks. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. My mother in law planned simple dinners like tacos, meatloaf, pulled pork, and Barbeque chicken. Everyone else will bring sides. Our CSA begins tomorrow, so I'll bring lots of greens. 

2. Shop before-hand. 

I've haven't been very impressed with the old grocery store in Ocean City, NJ. Many items are over-priced compared to home, and I don't expect to find organic options. We stopped at Trader Joe's last night to load up on items for our trip. 

3. Bake and cook what you can before-hand.

Yesterday my boys and I made Flourless Peanut butter chip cookies, and today we made Grain-free Strawberry Streusel muffins. I also want to make some Soft and Chewy Double-Chocolate cookies. These are all going into the freezer until we leave. I'm going to measure out ingredients for our home-made waffle mix, and then we'll just have to bring the wet ingredients. I've heard that my husband's 90 year old grandma even helped to prepare some fruit crisps for the trip. My mother in law gave her some sucanat to substitute for regular sugar. 

4. Make healthier substitutes for traditional favorites.

I didn't think our homemade ice cream would transport down to the shore, but I wanted to have a healthier option for frozen treats. I decided to buy some organic strawberry lemonade, and I'll add it to our popsicle molds when we are at the shore. I also found some salt water taffy at Trader Joe's. It's made with coconut oil and is colored with vegetable extracts. 

5. Have healthy drinks available

We bring our reusable water bottles everywhere so that we aren't tempted to buy sugary drinks. I'm also going to bring some kombucha flavored with sparkling clementine juice and coconut water for beach days. 

6. Be prepared for upset tummies.

When we're really careful about what we're eating at home, I've noticed that I'm more sensitive to the artificial junk when we indulge and eat out. I'll be bringing our probiotics and my Young Living peppermint and Di-Gize essential oil blend to help with digestive issues. I found this to be a helpful article for what supplements to bring on vacation.

7. Relax and enjoy! 

My family and I will be eating home-cooked meals during the week, and we'll have our snacks and drinks from home for beach days and outings. If we decide to have ice cream on the boardwalk one night, I'm going to join in and thoroughly enjoy it. A few special treats during the week are not going to undo the benefits of our regular healthy diet. Shore time is time to make memories, and I plan to play with my family without worrying about food.

Resources for Healthy Living at the Jersey Shore and Delaware Beaches

1. Health food stores in New Jersey
3. Rainbow Earth Foods - Rehoboth Beach, DE

Friday, June 6, 2014

It's strawberry season!

After such a long, snowy winter, it's wonderful to taste fresh, ripe, red strawberries! We typically get our strawberries from local Amish farmers, but today we ended up getting a flat from Fifer Orchards in Delaware. Now strawberries are #2 on the dirty dozen list for pesticides, so I would love to always get them organic. However, I learned a few things about Fifer's strawberries to make me feel better about their conventional produce. First, they till the soil in their strawberry fields every year, so they aren't trying to use pesticides for weed management like they do in no-till farming. They also use black covering between the plants to reduce weeds. I figured I was going to use a produce wash on the strawberries as well, so we would enjoy local and seasonal food, even if it wasn't certified organic. My mother-in-law just paid $4.50 for a quart of strawberries from one farm, but we got the flat of 8 quarts for only $30. Always ask about wholesale prices!

Produce Wash

I found a pin on Pinterest for produce wash, and I wanted to give it a try. The recipe said,

"Just a few drops of Essential Oils will wash off germs and parasites. Let your produce soak in this Fruit & Vegetable Wash or spray it and let sit for 5 minutes: FRUIT & VEGETABLE WASH RECIPE In a BPA-free Spray Bottle Add: 1 cup Water 1/4 cup distilled white Vinegar 2 TB Sea Salt or 1 TB Baking Soda 5 drops of Young Living Essential Oil (Lemon, Lime, Purification or Thieves)." 

Since I had so many strawberries, I decided to use my kitchen sink. I washed the sink first, and then added 1 gallon of purified water, 4 cups of white vinegar, 16 TBL of baking soda, and about 10 drops of Young Living Lemon essential oil. After soaking, I hulled the strawberries, placed them on parchment lined cookie sheets, and I popped them in the freezer. Did you notice I may have missed a step? The directions didn't mention rinsing, but they should have! After finishing 2 quarts, I popped a strawberry in my mouth and it was gross. :-( A good rinse with water was all they needed. I pulled the cookie sheets out of the freezer, rinsed, and put them back. 

This produce wash works. Here's the amount of dirt that came off of just 2 quarts of strawberries! By soaking in vinegar, it kills mold spores on the fruit, so the fruit will last longer. 

Since I realized I needed to rinse after soaking, I changed my routine for the rest of the strawberries. Here's my recipe. 

Produce Wash Recipe for 1 quart of fruit

4 cups purified water
1 cup white vinegar
4 Tablespoons baking soda
5-10 drops of Young Living Lemon essential oil

Fill large glass bowl with ingredients and stir to combine. Add enough fruit to fill top of bowl, and soak for 5 minutes. Rinse fruit well in colander.  Repeat with rest of fruit. 

What's your favorite strawberry recipe? Here are some I want to try: 

7. Strawberry-rhubarb Omelette

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thieves "Make and Take" Party

I had hope that the weather for my March 25 party would feel spring-like. Instead, my guests ventured out in the "last (I hope!)" snow storm of this long winter. Thanks for coming! We made four thieves-inspired projects, and here's the details in case you want to try these at home. If you are curious about the Thieves blend of essential oils, you can read up on why I love it here.

1. Moisturizing Antibacterial Foaming Hand Wash

Studies are showing that the triclosan found in most conventional "antibacterial" soaps can create health problems with hormones and resistant bacteria. Here's a recipe for hand soap without the junk!

1. One 8oz or 250ml bottle with a foaming pump. You can reuse one or I found mine here. There are directions for making adorable Mason jar containers with foaming pumps, but I didn't have time to cut the lids for this party.
2. 2 Tablespoons unscented castile soap. I bought mine from Amazon.
3. 1-2 teaspoons fractionated coconut oil. I found it on Amazon.
4. 10-15 drops of Thieves essential oil blend. You can buy it from Young Living.

1. Pour the castile soap and fractionated coconut oil into the bottle.
2. Add the essential oils.
3. Fill the rest of the way with water, leaving room for the pump.
4. Screw on the top and shake gently. 

I charged $5 for the soap with my bottles, and just $3.50 if someone brought their own bottle.

2. Hand Sanitizer with Thieves Oil

Here's where I found this recipe for hand sanitizer without the nasty triclosan. 

1. 2 Tablespoons aloe vera gel. I found the gel on
2. 1 Tablespoon filtered water
3. 1/8 teaspoon Vitamin E oil. I also found this on Vitacost.
4. 5 drops of Thieves oil.
5. A 2 oz. squeeze bottle. There are great ones on Amazon for about $6, but I found cute ones in the travel section at Target.

1. Combine the aloe vera gel, vitamin E oil, and the Thieves oil. 
2. Add some water to thin it until it is thin enough to coat your hand. 

Option: One friend brought a small spray bottle, and she made the sanitizer thin enough to spray onto her kids' hands at the park.

I charged $3.50 for the hand sanitizer, and only $1.50 if they brought their own container.

3. All Purpose Thieves Cleaner

Do you know how many toxic ingredients are found in conventional cleaning products? Thieves Household Cleaner uses safe and effective essential oils to clean. 

1. 32 oz. spray bottle. I found some on Amazon. 
2. Water
3. 2 Tablespoons Thieves Household Cleaner

Fill the bottle with water to just below the "fill line." Add Thieves Cleaner and screw on top. Shake gently to mix.

I charged $5.00 for the cleaner. I would just charge $2.50 for a refill.

4. Bug Repellent Lotion Bars

Every summer we get tons of mosquitos in our backyard, and I'm hesitant to use typical bug repellents, especially on my little kids, because the DEET is poisonous. I'm excited to try these bug repellent lotion bars this year. You just rub them on your body before heading outside. I'll make sure to include a review of them later this spring. The recipe makes 6 .5-.75oz bars.  If you do get a bug bite, here's an article about an easy remedy that you can find in your kitchen.

1. 1/4 cup coconut oil. I bought my oil from Tropical Traditions.
2. 1/4 cup grated shea butter. I found it on Amazon.
3. 1/4 cup grated beeswax, firmly packed. I bought it from Amazon
4. 1/4 teaspoon Vitamin E Oil (optional). I found it at Vitacost.
5. 1/4 teaspoon Purification oil blend. You can buy it at Young Living.
6. 1/4 teaspoon Thieves oil blend. You can find it at Young Living.
7. Silicon mold - I bought a Wilson mold at Michael's with a 40% off coupon. 

1. Using a glass bowl or double boiler over a pot of boiling water, gently melt the beeswax, coconut oil, and shea butter.
2. Stir the ingredients until they melt.
3. Remove from heat. Add the essential oils and Vitamin E. 
4. Stir until blended, and then pour into a mold. 

Allow the bars to cool before removing. You can put them in the refrigerator to cool them more quickly. They can be stored for up to 6 months. Keep them in an airtight container. 

I charged $3.00 for each lotion bar. 

Next Steps: How can I get some Thieves oil?

1. You can order on Amazon or directly from Young Living for retail prices. 
2. You can sign up to be an Independent Distributor for Young Living, and you'll receive wholesale prices. The Premium Starter Kit is a great deal with a diffuser and 10 oils including Thieves. 
3. If you're interested in jumping in on my monthly order, I'll pass on my wholesale prices and cheaper shipping to you.

If you register as a retail customer or distributor with Young Living, you need a member code. My number is 1513256. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Getting ready for spring while we wait for the next snow storm

Another snow storm may be predicted for this week, but I'm dreaming about green grass and warm sunshine. Even though fresh veggies may be months away, here are some ways you can prepare now to enjoy your CSA or local farmer's market.

1. Save your plastic produce bags, fruit containers, and grocery bags. 

These bags and containers are handy when you pick up your share from a CSA. They can also extend the life of your greens when you wrap them in paper towels and put them in a bag in the refrigerator.

2. CSA and farmer's market gift ideas

-Market basket: My mother-in-law bought me a beautiful, fair-trade African market basket.
-Small cooler: I've seen cute ones on Zulily and Amazon.
-Sun hat: You don't want a sunburn while you pick cherry tomatoes.
-A good seasonal recipe book: I have Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything," but I'm sure there are many other resources with seasonal recipes.

3. Get ready to preserve summer's bounty

-Dehydrator: I have an Excalibur Dehydrator, and it's amazing what it can preserve. This year I'm going to work on blanching the spring greens and then drying them. 
-Canning supplies
-Fermenting supplies: Fermenting foods creates an amazing amount of beneficial bacteria for much less cost than probiotic supplements. I use the Pickl-It system that has an air-lock to produce an anaerobic environment. You only have to buy a few expensive Pickl-It jars, and then you can move the ferments to the less expensive Fido jars.  If you want more information about fermenting, the Intentionally Domestic blog has videos and explanations. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

CSA Selection - NFL Combine style

My husband gets the credit for the analogy between choosing your CSA (Community supported agriculture) and the NFL Combine. I enjoy cheering for the Eagles, and I understand a lot of the game, but I'd never heard of the Combine. For anyone confused by the comparison, here's a quick explanation. Every February, the top college athletes are asked to demonstrate their strength, speed, and skills before coaches and scouts. Essentially, it's a way for teams to compare players in one place before the draft. Even though the football season doesn't begin until fall, the coaches want time to plan their rosters. For those of us wanting to eat affordable, local, and seasonal foods, February is CSA sign-up time. The harvest doesn't begin until June, but the farmers need time to plan crops, quantities, and have money to buy seeds. Before you draft your vegetables for the next season, here is a comparison of your options.

The Tests: 

1. Speed Test: How much time does it take to get your food during a pick-up? 

It is really important to find a CSA that matches your schedule and availability. When we were part of  Red Hill Farm, I could spend 1-1.5 hours during a pick-up because of all the wonderful, but time-consuming, options for the u-pick portion of the share. I needed to allocate enough time each week to sample cherry tomatoes off the vine and cut a bouquet of sunflowers. We split a full share with another family, so I only had to do the pick-up every other week.  In comparison, I spent about 5 minutes during a pick-up from Red Earth Farm. All of my items were already in a box, and I just had to transfer them to my bags. I could pay extra for flowers if I wanted them, but there weren't any free u-pick items. How much time will your schedule allow this year?

2. Volume Test: How many vegetables can you eat or preserve each week?

I've grown suspicious of the descriptions from CSAs that guide your choice about a full or partial share. This past year, I read that a full share was good for a family of four or a couple that eats a lot of vegetables. Since we had four family members, I figured we should go for a full share. Oops. We were drowning in vegetables, and I felt ashamed at how much went to waste before I could cook it. This year, we will be splitting a full share with another family. Instead of 10 items every week, we will have 5. I will be able to include the 5 vegetables in our weekly meals, and with Red Earth Farm I can always order extra if I have time to preserve more. Unless you eat tons of vegetables, I would recommend splitting a share or getting a partial share. You can always buys more vegetables at a local farmer's market, but too many vegetables can lead to an over-stuffed refrigerator and waste.

3. The Green Test - Does the farm use organic or conventional methods for fertilization and pest management? 

I have been a member of three CSAs, and none of them were "Certified Organic." It is costly for a farm to apply for federal organic certification. Instead, all of the farms I joined follow organic techniques. Before signing up for a CSA, make sure you ask whether the farm uses organic or conventional methods for fertilization and pest management.

4. The Selection Test - Do you get a choice about what vegetables you receive each week? 

Red Earth Farm allows you to see a list of available vegetables each week, and you can select which ones you would like to receive. We were able to avoid some vegetables that we struggled to eat in the past, and we could plan the weekly menu in advance. Many CSAs provide the same vegetables for everyone. This leads to some surprising items in your weekly share, but it can be a fun challenge learning how to cook new foods. I definitely recommend getting a thorough recipe book like Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. The weekly surprises in our CSA box have expanded our palates and we've found new favorites that we'd never tried before.

5. The Google Images Test - Are items labeled or do you have to guess what you have through a search of Google Images? 

This question was generated by my first CSA experience. I split a share with a friend through a Maryland-based CSA. The food came in a box without labels, and we had a great time trying to figure out what we had. Alien broccoli, anyone?

I spent two seasons with Red Hill Farm, and they have a large dry erase board with a list of items for the week. They also label each basket. I discovered that the camera on my phone was helpful so that I could remember what some of the unusual items were called. The box from Red Earth Farm has a print-out of items you selected for the week.

6. The Extras Test - What other options are available? 

Sometimes a CSA will allow you to also sign up for a fruit, yogurt, egg, or cheese share. Red Hill Farm always has free u-pick items as part of the weekly share. One of my favorite memories of Red Hill was picking strawberries during a warm summer rain. Red Hill also has a winter market where members can buy fresh vegetables throughout the winter season.

Additional questions:

1. Is there a safe area for kids to play on the farm during pick-ups?
2. Is there a newsletter or other resources with ideas for recipes?
3. Are there any community parties or ways to get to know other members?
4. Are you expected to volunteer on the farm?
5. Are work shares available?
6. Is the payment due at once or can it be paid in installments?

Draft Time:

So, are you a suburban wanna-be farmer who loves getting some sun while picking raspberries or a busy mom with young kids who values speed and convenience at this stage of life? Hopefully, these tests will help you evaluate your local CSAs and draft one that meets your needs for time, budget, and refrigerator space.

Delaware County, PA CSA Options:
1. Hillside Farm, Media, PA
2. Red Earth Farm -many pick-up locations including Swarthmore, Wallingford, Media, and Philadelphia
3. Red Hill Farm, Aston, PA
4. SIW Vegetables, Chadds Ford, PA - attached to a farmer's market and has some unusual options
5. Thornbury Farm, West Chester, PA
Looking for a CSA in your area? Check for farms near you.

Are you a CSA member? What do you look for in your CSA?

photo credit: <a href="">mrxstitch</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Friday, January 17, 2014

Where can you find nutritious food when it's not in your neighborhood grocery store?

I've been on a journey towards traditional foods for the past three years, and finding healthy foods is one of the biggest hurdles I've encountered during this process. I would read about the benefits of raw milk or grass-fed beef, but then I wasn't sure where to buy them. I live in a suburb of Philadelphia, and we don't have dairy farms or chickens in our backyards. With a little investigation, I've discovered raw milk, grass-fed beef, pastured poultry and eggs, and raw honey within a 20 minute drive of my home. During a typical week, I may purchase food from 3-4 sources, so it's definitely not as convenient as one-stop shopping at the local grocery store. However, I know I'm buying fresh, healthy food, and I'm directly supporting local farmers. Here are some of my sources, and I'll continue to add more to the list as I find them.

View Our Food Map in a full screen map

Butter from grass-fed cows: 

2. Trader Joes or Wholefoods  - I buy Kerrygold butter.
3. Local health food store.
4. My local milk co-op (see raw milk section) has found a source of raw butter and raw cream. It's not always available, but I was really excited about the option.

Coconut Oil:

1. Trader Joe's or your local grocery store
2.  Tropical Traditions - also has coconut flour, coconut milk, and tomato products in glass jars instead of cans
3. Vitacost

Organic Produce:

1. CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) - We have been part of Red Hill Farm and Red Earth Farm. Red Earth Farm has delivery points throughout the Philadelphia area. 
2. Indian Orchard - A tiny, hundred-year-old family farm where you can pick peaches, blueberries, pears, and apples. It's located near Linvilla Orchard in Media, PA.
3. Farmer's Markets - Ridley Park (Thurs. 4-7pm), Swarthmore (Sat. 9:30am-1:30pm), and Media (Thurs. 3-7pm). Here's a link to information about many farmer's markets in the Philadelphia region
4. Your Family Farmer
5. Door to Door Organics
6. BJ's Wholesale and Costco often sell organic produce

Raw milk and pastured eggs: 

1. The most affordable milk I've found ($4/gallon!) is through a local milk co-op. We pick up from Green Ridge Farm in Parkesburg, PA. You can find many more farms that sell raw milk in PA at the
2. My local health food store Martindale's sells raw milk, cheese, pastured eggs, grass-fed beef, and organic produce.
3. Your Family Farmer is a group of farmers that sell raw milk, raw cheese, pastured poultry and eggs, woodland pork, and grass-fed beef. They deliver every 2 weeks to drop-off points throughout Pennsylvania.
4. When I've traveled, I've found sources of raw milk in CT, FL, and NH through the website It has a "real milk finder" with information about each state in the United States. One of our favorite vacation memories was meeting a three day old calf at a dairy farm in NH when we stopped to buy raw milk and cheese.

Pastured Chickens and Grass-fed beef:
1. Canter Hill Farm in Malvern, PA. They sell at local farmer's markets, and they sell retail in Wolff's Apple House in Media, PA.
2. Forks Farm in Orangeville, PA. They also sell at local farmer's markets, and they have a monthly drop-off in Media. There is a Facebook group you can join if you are interested in their drop-off.
3. Your Family Farmer - They have weekly drop-offs in Media, and they have weekly or bi-weekly deliveries all over the state of PA.
4. Farmer's markets - Ridley Park (Thurs. 4-7pm), Swarthmore (Sat. 9:30am-1:30pm), and Media (Thurs. 3-7pm). Here's a link to information about many farmer's markets in the Philadelphia region.

The Weston A. Price Foundation produces an annual "Shopping Guide" with 'Best, Good, and Avoid' categories for all kinds of food.  I have several copies of this guide if you would like one, and you can get more information or request one at