Sunday, March 24, 2013

Exciting news!

Hi greenies, we've got some exciting news...I'm pregnant! So little Miss Avery is going to be a big sister (if you could already tell from her proudly worn "Big Sis" shirt!). As you can see in the picture, I'm due around mid-October. Now since I throughly documented my first pregnancy, which you can find here, I intend to keep you posted on all the fun pregnancy changes that take place every two weeks. So let's get started with some of the fun details! 


As of right now, I'm about 9 weeks along...


For this pregnancy, I plan on switching up my backgrounds to keep things exciting as you watch my belly grow. Some weeks they will have significant meaning, others might just look cool. This week's background is simply the back of my house...guess you could say it's where it all began! ( :


Here's some questions I plan on answering every other week for my pregnancy update posts:

1. How big is the baby (with Avery's help)?


2. What I'm eating...
Food, food, and more food. When I'm pregnant, I seriously love food. I've been fortunate enough not to have any morning sickness or any big food turn-offs, so as of now nearly everything sounds good. Unless I just ate it, in that case, I don't really want to see it for a day or two. But then I'm right back to loving it.  

One of my top food cravings is some Mongolian BBQ from Genghis Khan Mongolian BBQ here in Kansas City, which I've blogged about before here


But, until I can make it out there, noodles in any form are fine by me. Spaghetti is one of my all time favorites!

As I said before, I love anything new right now and oranges are one of them. Now I stock up on plenty of oranges and orange juice each week at the store.



3. What's different this time around? The belly! Wow, I popped so early with this second pregnancy that we seriously started to wonder if I might be pregnant with twins. Here I am at around 9 weeks with Avery. Scroll back up to see the belly I'm rocking now, a bit different. Let's just say I was wearing maternity pants and jeans at nearly 8 weeks this time around. 

9 weeks pregnant with Avery, excited
about my "little bump."

But, we were rest assured when we had an ultrasound around 8.5 weeks and we saw only one sweet little baby in there.  Apparently some mamas just show earlier with their second baby.

Avery's little sister or brother at 8.5 weeks.

4. Best moment of the week: Telling everyone about our exciting news! With me showing so early, I was very ready to tell people so I could stop hiding my ever-growing belly. I wore a number of t-shirts and hoodies to help cover this belly at work (which I think doubled in size nearly every day after lunch). So it was nice to finally tell everyone so I can wear my normal clothes again, well sort of normal clothes again. Now I can share the news with you too as well! Hope you join me on this fun, exciting journey as our little family of three gets a little bigger!

See you in a few weeks!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How to Break Up with Your Microwave

Well greenies I have an announcement to make, I'm breaking up with my....MICROWAVE! You know that Taylor Swift song, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"?  Well that's a perfect way to describe my relationship with my microwave over the past few years. I'd go through phases where I would read how harmful the effects could be of  using the microwave on both my food and my body and so I'd swear it off (break up). Then I'd go to work or be in a pinch and find myself being back to using it (back together). Then I'd read another health recommendation to reduce microwave usage, call it quits for a day or two (break up) and then go right back to it so I could get that perfectly melted cheese on my gluten-free tortilla shell (back together).


As Taylor said, "This is so exhausting!" But this time things are different, my microwave and I are really never, ever getting back together!

Call me crazy for abandoning the one appliance that nearly everyone has in their home and that is used daily, but I love a challenge and a few months ago I made the decision that I was done with my microwave for good.

Learn how I do it in this week's video:



If you aren't ready for this in your health journey yet, don't worry about it. Bookmark this post and come back to this later. One thing that really gave me the kick in the pants to finally "end it" with my microwave is that I had just gotten a Trifield 100XE EMF Meter (which I can't wait to tell you more about in another post) for $140 off Amazon. Anyways with this meter aside from measuring EMFs, I was able to also measure the microwave/radio waves extending from it and the second I saw the measurement jump right past the "recommended safe level" I knew it was time to say goodbye for good.


When switched to the "Radio/Microwave" setting, measurements are read in milliwatts, per square centimeter or mW/cm^2 for short. And of the three lines to read on the meter, we will look at the bottom line. As recommended by the manufacturer, safe exposure is when the dial is at or below .1 mW/cm^2 , per square centimeter, as shown by the dotted red line. Once you get to the solid red line, all the way to 1 mW/cm^2  that's in the high range (aka dangerous!).

Let's see how it reads when I've turned my microwave on and am standing directly in front of it...

Just a few inches away: well above 1 mW/cm^2 
(be sure to look at the very bottom line)

About 4 feet away: still above 1 mW/cm^2 

About 8 feet away: finally getting down to more of a safe
range. Here it is around .1-.2 mW/cm^2 
I'm not sure what it is about seeing numbers like that which actually convince you to make a change, but they sure do for me. Back before I knew I had a gluten sensitivity, I went back and forth  in my efforts to go gluten-free, but when I finally got the blood test back showing I had a sensitivity to gluten, it all seemed so much more pressing and real. This is how it was for me and my microwave. When I saw those numbers, I never wanted to press the "Start" button again.

*Another tool that you could use to measure the radiation from your microwave would be something called an "RF meter"like this one, but those run about $200-400 so until I breakdown and buy one of those, I'm sticking with my Trifield Meter.

*Last, all the appliances I mention below that I use instead of my microwave, are not completely innocent, they still measure high when it comes to EMFs when standing close to them, this is why just I still walk away from these when my food is cooking. The one saving grace with these appliances is that although their EMF measurement may be high, they have emit no microwave/radio waves whatsoever.


Now combine these readings with the research from a variety of other health experts...

For example, as mentioned in the book: Wireless Radiation Rescue 2012: How To Use Cell Phone More Safely and Other Safer-Tech Solutions by Kerry Crofton, she explains:

"Microwave ovens use electromagnetic energy that vibrates 2.4 billion times per second. This energy acts on the molecules in food, particularly water molecules, causing them to vibrate rapidly. This rapid movement generates friction and thus heat. Vibration is so violent that molecules are often torn apart or distorted, thereby changing the chemical makeup of food."

This then led to me research more about the damage done to the nutrients in food when microwaved and I found a study that was published in the November 2003 issue of The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture as cited here in an article by Dr. Mercola titled, "The Hidden Hazards of Microwave Cooking":
"Broccoli "zapped" in the microwave with a little water lost up to 97 percent of its beneficial antioxidants. By comparison, steamed broccoli lost 11 percent or fewer of its antioxidants."
Losing nutrients from my food? What?! That makes me mad. I feel like I invest a lot of my health in my food, and to know that I am losing a good portion of it just because of the way I warm it up is very frustrating. Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking...any way you warm it up will lose nutrients. I agree with you that's true, but I just don't think it should be that much.

Last, in the book Zapped: Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn't Be Your Alarm Clock and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution by Ann Louise Gittleman. One of the experts in the book, Larry Gust supports the findings above when he states,

"The nutritive value of microwaved food has been destroyed by the violent vibration of the water molecules (2.4 billion Hz) in the food. I am sorry to say this, but you are better off not eating than to eat microwaved food."

So there you have it, some of the research and hard facts that I found in my journey to go microwave-free. And while there isn't a lot of research out there about the safety and long-term effects of microwaves, I'm following my gut on this one and doing what feels right...breaking up with my microwave.

Now break ups in real life are always hard, so this one will be no different. When looking ahead to a microwave-free life, here's a few tips to help with your transition...
  1. When thinking about how to re-warm up something, think about how it was originally cooked and then heat it in a similar way. Ex. Casserole in the oven: warm it up in the oven or a toaster oven. Soup cooked on the stove top: warm it up on the stove top, or with a single-burner hot plate.
  2. You will have to re-learn cooking times and temperatures. We are all so used to the microwave and how long it takes to warm up most food, so when we stop using it, it may be difficult in the beginning to know just how long and how hot to warm something up to. Is it 350 degrees, or medium high? Five minutes or fifteen minutes? My best advice is to start low and learn from there, start with a somewhat low temp and time and go from there, you might be surprised how quickly things can heat up without a microwave.
  3. Last, try to defrost frozen foods to a warmer temperature before trying to warm them up. You can do this by taking your food from the freezer and putting it in the fridge over night, or setting it at room temp for a few hours (use caution if you have any meat or dairy items so that they won't spoil). By getting foods to a warmer state, not a chunk of frozen food, they will be much easier to warm up when you're in a pinch. 

With all that in mind, it's time to meet my favorite appliances that I've come to use so much more since going microwave-free. I call them my Green Warm-Up Team:

1. Oven: Here's an obvious choice...your oven. Often located just a few feet away, if not connected to your microwave, this is one of my favorite ways to warm up food. If I have anything that was originally cooked in the oven, and I'm at home, I will often use my oven. The oven is great for things like casseroles, meatloaf (like my vegan meatloaf shown below), fries, or many other foods.

This vegan meatloaf warmed up great in the oven, just like
it was originally cooked.

350 degrees for 10 minutes or so always seem to get the
job done for me.

2. Stove top. As I said before, if it was cooked on the stove top, this is usually my go-to when it comes to re-heating my leftovers. I make a lot of soups, chills, stews, and pasta dishes so I find that this method for warming up is the most versatile and quickest. One of my tips is the utilize the lid, this will help keep the warmth in when re-heating and will speed up cooking time.

I usually set the temp for Med-Hi for about 5 minutes, with
the lid.

I will then check it, stir it, and cook it for a few more
 minutes. Then it is usually done. 
The stove top is also great for warming up tortillas (and melting cheese on them!)

I like to set one of my gluten-free tortillas on a pan, at Med-Hi,
add some Daiya (vegan) cheese, then place the lid on. I then
cook it for 3-5 minutes until the cheese is melted and
the tortilla is soft. Yum!
Now those two appliances are great when I'm at home and I have all the time in the world (or as much as Avery allows me) to warm up my food, but the thing that has held me back on my quest to live microwave-free for many years is what to do when I'm at work. In my job as a preschool teacher, I have short time for my lunch break and I don't have a full kitchen available for me to use on a daily basis. Thankfully three, simple, inexpensive appliances have come in and saved the day. Take a look at the rest of my Green Warm-Up Team at work:


3. Toaster Oven: Call me crazy, but I'd never used a toaster oven before now... I guess I never had a reason to. But there were certain things like a veggie burger, pizza slices, baked potatoes, etc. that I was kind of stumped on how I could heat them up in a way that didn't soften them completely, but left them warm and a tad crispy (like an oven would)...BAM! Enter toaster oven. I love this thing. I can't believe that something so small can work so quickly and efficiently. I use this basic, no-frills model by Rival that I got from Wal-Mart for $19! I highly recommend this appliance for anyone looking to go microwave-free. 

Perfect for warming up gluten-free, vegan pizza!

I often set the timer for 10 minutes and the temperature
for 250-350 degrees. 


4. Single-Burner Hot Plate: I've had this little gem right under my nose for many years in my classroom, but I never put two and two together until recently that I could easily use it for warming up my leftovers. I had originally bought it so I could do cooking activities with my students, but now I also use it on nearly a daily basis for re-heating my food. This model by GE cost me $17, from Wal-Mart.

Just as with the stove top that I use when I'm at home, this is a great option for things like soups, stews, burrito fillings, pasta dishes, or stir-frys. 

As with the stove-top, I again utilize the lid. Usually I will
pour in my food, put the lid on, crank it up to High, and
then check it in a about 5 minutes.

Then I give it a few stirs (like I did with this yummy
vegetable soup) and after 3-4 more minutes it's usually ready!
One word of caution with the single-burner hot plate: the whole hot plate does get hot, so use caution when cooking with it or touching it and I allow it plenty of time to cool down before storing it away for the day.

5. Toaster: Well this is an easy one that you probably already have sitting on your counter or in your cabinets.  This inexpensive appliance is obviously a great way to warm up toast, but I've gotten creative since going microwave-free and I find that it also works great with pancakes, waffles, English muffins, and even veggie burgers if I'm in a pinch. Have you ever warmed anything unconventional up in the toaster? 


Sneaky Spinach Pancakes in the toaster? Oh yes!


6. Air Popper (for Popcorn): Now that the microwave is out,  you may be wondering how in the world are you going to make popcorn? Well, those bags of microwave popcorn will no longer be of use to you...which is probably a good thing since the insides are coated with a nasty chemical called: PFOA (a known carcinogen, read more here) among other things. So what's a popcorn lover left to do? You could try an air popper! I have a Rival Electric Popcorn Maker ($20 off Amazon) and all you have to do is add some kernels, and watch it pop! One of the best things about it, besides saving money (since you get so much more bang for your buck by using whole kernels), is that you also control the ingredients. So you can control how much butter, salt, oil, etc. you want to add if any at all.

It's popcorn time!

Our freshly popped popcorn from the Air Popper topped
with Earth Balance vegan butter and garlic salt, our
favorite!

Avery's a huge popcorn fan as well
and loves to watch it pop in the air
popper!

Not ready to kick your microwave to the curb, no worries. Here's some ways you can ease in by "greening" your use:
  1. Stop using plastic containers to warm up your food, only use glass containers. Plastic tupperware and containers has been found to leach BPA into food when microwaved.
  2. Step away from the microwave when in use (as you saw from the Trifield Meter readings above)
  3. Reduce the amount of times you use the microwave, and only use it when you have to (like at work or when you don't have any other options). 
Well, there you have it! That's how my microwave and I have parted ways. Anyone else ever "broken up" with your microwave? Share your experiences below or if you have any other favorite non-microwave appliances you like to use to warm up your food!

Until then, take it away Taylor...




Recently this post was linked up to:




ecothriftyliving.com


Monday, March 4, 2013

22 Months Old

Well it's that time again, our little girl has continued to grow bigger, and bigger, and bigger (as she would say) and it's now time for her to turn 22 months old!  


"Happy Monthly Birthday to Me!"

"Let me help you with these numbers a little bit Mom."

"I think you need a little cleaning help
too."

This month has been full of fun, spunk, and personality as Avery continues to grow more, talk more, and as with every toddler...get into EVERYTHING! Let's check out her favorite things for this month:

1. Favorite thing to do: Skateboarding (or at least just wearing the pads and helmet) with her Daddy.  She loves to get all decked out in her skateboarding gear and then has Brandon do the same. The two then ride (by sitting) all around the house.


"Someone is ready to ride!"

Testing out her helmet.

"Push me over there Daddy!"


My two skateboarding loves.

Riding on her own.

Be careful! Thank goodness for that
helmet. Rest assured, this picture
makes the fall look much worse than
it actually was!

She sure loves her skateboarding time with Daddy!

But I'm not left out...one of her favorite things to do is to help me cook. We make muffins, pancakes, and all sorts of things. One of her favorite things to do is to taste all the different flours that I use, somehow the flour always ends up on her nose and mouth, then she calls you over for what she calls a "flour kisses" so that you get flour on your nose and mouth as well...lol.

Time for some "flour kisses!"


2. Favorite song: "Somebody that I Used to Know" by Gotye. Here's the version she likes...


3. Favorite book: Spot a Cat by Lucy Micklethwait. In this book a variety of art pieces are shown with hidden cats, she loves to find them!



4. Favorite food: Raw mushrooms chopped...who would have thought?!


5. Favorite thing to say: "Yes." As if we didn't have conversations enough, "yes" has made it's way in...which is a welcome change from the often used "no"! The best part is how she says it, which sounds more like: "yesh". Example: "Do you want to go see Nana Karen?" "Yesh." "Do you want to go eat at Chipotle?" "Yesh." "Do you want to take a nap?" "NO!"

Other favorites from the month:
"Hey what cha' doin' over there Daddy?"
"Be careful Mommy!
"What's Avery doing?"
"Give Jilly treat?"

Other fun highlights from this past month:

Hanging out with mom..yes, camera man
you get a wave even though she's
busy with our iPod.


I may not skateboard, but we still have fun!
Cuddle time with Jilly.
Now for a look at the goofy side of Avery...

Case #1: Dancing on her Valentine box in her PJs, holding her smoothie.

Just a little bed head dance session!

Check out my moves...
Case #2: Just a typical Saturday night with Avery...sitting in her pretend baby stroller, with sunglasses on, wearing her Hello Kitty slippers, chilling with her stuffed animal Nibbles, all while snacking on some raw mushrooms.
What a hoot!
Now although she may do a lot of things like Daddy, there are some signs of me in there too, see below...

That's my girl...doing the neti pot.
See you next month for the last monthly post before she turns two!

Recently this post was linked up to "Tuesday Baby Link Up" over at the blog Growing Slower, as well as a number of other blogs that are listed in the link above. So hop on over and check out some other fun baby posts!

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