Prep your vegetables ahead of time

While talking with a group of mommies today, I was shocked to learn that they didn’t know that they could prep their vegetables ahead of time. So of course, I thought I’d share this on the blogosphere for all the other mommies who would like to save some time, too.

In my household, we do a MAJOR farmer’s market outing about once a month. We buy enough of our staple vegetables and herbs to last us about a month. We also buy extra of whatever veggies are in season and good priced, along with fruit too.

After doing some research (of course), I found that for long term storage in your freezer  it is best if you blanch your vegetables before freezing.  I don’t blanch my vegetables, BUT I use my vegetables fairly quickly. Blanching keeps the vegetables from loosing color, changing texture and flavor. The enzymes in vegetables that makes them grow continue even when frozen. Freezing does slow down the process. For information on blanching, check out some of the  links in the references section below, or of course you could do a search on Google.

You don’t have to blanch onions, green peppers or herbs… they will last a tremendously long time. The only thing you’ll have to worry about is making sure they are in appropriate freezer containers to prevent frost bite.

I do a bit of menu planning (I’ll have to write another post about that) before I go to the market.  Then on the Sunday following the farmer’s market, we rinse and clean the veggies and herbs. Then comes the trimming, chopping, slicing and dicing of our vegetables and herbs.  I then put them in small freezer containers, usually 1-1½ cup sizes so that I don’t have to think about how much is in each.

For the herbs, after they are clean, I put them in my food processor to chop. I then scoop out 1 tbsp and put it in a slot in a ice cube tray. I use one ice cube tray per herb (I’ve mixed up enough of them in my life time to not repeat that mistake any more). I fill each cube slot with just enough water to cover the herbs. I DON’T fill it up to the top. Once the cubes are frozen, I dump them out into a container and label them appropriately.

Then when it comes time for cooking, I just grab whatever herbs and veggies I need. You don’t have to defrost the veggies. Although, beware that it does take a few extra minutes of cooking time. This method is super easy for throwing together a crockpot meal in minutes.

Some of the benefits are:

  • You don’t need to buy prepackaged frozen vegetables
  • You save money by not buying prepackaged foods
  • You can get dinner together really quickly
  • If you use your crockpot, you’ll have dinner waiting for you
  • You cut down on frozen food package waste

Vegetables and Herbs on hand in the freezer:

  • Onions, diced & sliced
  • Bell peppers, diced & sliced, mixed and some red pepper by themselves
  • Mushrooms, diced & sliced
  • Carrots, diced
  • Celery, diced
  • Thai curry mix (eggplant, onion, red pepper)
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Dill
  • Basil
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Posted in Being Green, Miscellaneous, Recipes

Staying At Home – Pro’s and Con’s – Planning Family

Staying At Home – Pro’s and Con’s – Planning Family.

I was reading the article (see link above) and was reminded of a conversation I was recently having with one of my fellow moms and I were talking about. She has decided, and rightly so I might add, to go back to work.

My mommy friend LOVES her job. She has a really cool job and I would love it, too – she’s an animator for kids movies. She’s also really good at what she does. On the other hand, as much as she loves being there for her son’s firsts, she also found herself longing for the days of being at the office, doing what she loves and having adult conversations.

I am fortunate that my particular situation allows for me to stay at home/work at home. But that’s not everybody’s situation. AND not every mom is meant to be a stay at home mom. We’re not all made the same and isn’t that a good thing?

Luckily, I surround myself with people that are open and non-judgmental, but I do come across people (in particular stay at home moms) that turn up there noses at working moms. I think its quite ridiculous.

The funny thing is, I think they need to go back to preschool and/or day care. When I was in my day care and my preschool (because my mom was a working mom), I learned that everyone is different, everyone has their own special abilities and you shouldn’t make fun of people – PERIOD! Maybe those moms come from moms who stayed at home and they missed out on all the wonderful lessons that you learn when you’re in day care.

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Cloth Diapering a crawler

Now that I’ve been cloth diapering for over a year, I feel like I’ve learned quite a bit. I made quite a few mistakes along the way and fixed some problems, too. Knowing what I know now, I know exactly what I’d buy once the baby started solid foods :

Here’s my explanation:

As soon as babies figure out that they can move, they like to move off of the changing table as quickly as possible. I know there are a few exceptions. In fact, Milan is actually not very bad when it comes to getting his diaper changed. Although for at least 1 diaper change a day, he is wiggling as hard as possible to get away. At these times, it is not very easy to put on a diaper of any kind, especially a wrap and a prefold with a diaper liner.

In order to make diaper changing as quick as possible, I put diaper liners in his Thirsties Duo Diapers (that is the majority of our stash, but I REALLY like the Bummis Pocket Diaper – it just wasn’t available at the time when we bought our stash). I stack them up open and all facing in the same direction.

I also really like the Thirsties Duo or Bummis pocket diapers because you don’t have to worry about pulling out any inserts. I didn’t mind the BumGenius diapers when Milan was only on breast milk. But let me tell you, when the solid food starts and especially when milk is introduced, it is no fun pulling out an insert from a thoroughly messy diaper. And as much as I didn’t like it, my husband hated it more! I don’t mind stuffing the Thirsties after the wash is done and dry… it only takes a moment for each diaper (snap, snap, stuff).

I can’t imagine using cloth diapers without diaper liners. Even though the poo does slide off quite easily from the pockets, it is just soooo much easier with the liner. Also, for the times when Milan gets diaper rash, I can use coconut oil (it worked the best out of the many things I tried) and just toss the liner without worrying about my pockets repelling.

The hemp inserts are indispensable for when it comes to a night time cloth diapering solution. I like the Joey-Bunz because they absorb like crazy and dry pretty quickly.

I keep a couple of covers on hand.  I use my Cloth-eez prefolds, my handmade diapers or the flats that I have on hand when I either didn’t get a chance to wash diapers or when its raining. I line dry my diapers (as well as my clothes) so sometimes they just don’t dry in time before I run out.

As for the fitteds, I like to put Milan in a fitted without a diaper cover every day or every other day. Whenever I haven’t done it in awhile, I find he gets diaper rash. And besides, babies just look so darn cute in them!

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Posted in Cloth Diapers

Potty training your infant

While at a play date at a park with my mommy group, Milan signaled to me that he wanted to go home so he could use the potty. I mentioned this to the other mothers and one of them looked at me like I was crazy. I told Milan that we weren’t going home yet, so he crawled back over to the sand box (he had crawled over to the stroller because he wanted to leave). A few moments after crawling over, he went poop.

I pointed it out to the mom and she couldn’t believe that I knew that he had to go. I didn’t know, Milan told me.

Since Milan was a little baby, he’s been using his potty. How little you ask? The first time he went potty it was over a sink in the hospital. Yes, he was only 1 day old.

Of course, I had read all about “infant potty training” and had decided to give it a try. We registered for the Fisher-Price Precious Planet Potty, Froggy Friend and got it before he was born. We’ve been putting him over his potty every day since he came home from the hospital. We put the removable bucket on the changing table. So whenever we changed Milan’s diaper, we’d put him over the bucket – at least when we remembered to. At the beginning, we’d be lucky if we caught a poop. Mostly we just caught some pee.

We’re not crazy about it. There have been some days that either I forget or we’re just so busy running around that I don’t get a chance to get Milan on the toilet. But Milan does go to the bathroom in his potty nearly every day. In fact, the days when we are at home all day, we barely have a dirty diaper – maybe about 2 or 3 pee diapers.

He’s got a pretty regular bathroom schedule. About 20 minutes after waking, we put him on the potty. 90% of the time he goes poop. Luckily, now that he’s older and he gets the idea of it, he points up in the air and grunts. That’s his signal for me. I try my best to pay attention, sometimes I don’t realize that’s what he’s telling me. When that happens, he goes in his diaper. Its really not a big deal.

I have shared my potty learning experiences with several moms in my mommy group. They have tried it and they, too, have had success. I don’t look at it as an all or nothing situation. But it is nice that at 14 months, I’m rarely changing poopy diapers.

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Silikids Silipads – Knee pads for toddlers

In the blog post about my favorite baby shower gifts, I mentioned the Silikids Silipads. We still love them! The reviews on Amazon.com don’t show that favorable, but I must whole-heartedly disagree.

It is true that sometimes they slip around. But just like a bib, socks, pacifier clip or anything else slightly removable sometimes you just need to readjust. I can’t imagine there being any product that would stay completely on crawling babies knees. Even pants move around.

With that said, these pads are awesome! My son LOVES to climb up the three flights of stairs to our apartment. Don’t worry, I stand right behind him while he’s going up… just in case. But the stairs are outside and they are made of cement and rocks. Not very comfortable for little knees. Not very good for pants either.

We’ve only used the Silikids Silipads inside on our wood floors. But today it was so hot, I didn’t want to put him in pants. So I dressed him in a cute little romper and put the pads on.  Today when Milan went to crawl up the stairs he stopped crawling, pointed at the knee pads, pointed at the stairs and then back at his knees. He was all smiley. He climbed another step, pointed at his knees and smiled. Then he took off going up the stairs like a rocket. I guess the only thing that had been keeping him from going warp speed was the discomfort. Don’t get me wrong, he was climbing the stairs very quickly before – he’s a REALLY fast crawler.

So if you have a crawler and its hot, I highly recommend these.  Also, if your baby is like mine… taking awhile before walking (thus not truly a toddler), then you’ll be thankful for these. They really help save some of the wear and tear on your toddler’s pants.

(4.5/5)

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Recycling styrofoam packing peanuts

How many of us have gotten those packing peanuts and felt too guilty to just throw them in the trash?  Well, you’re in luck. You don’t have to any more.

The Plastic Loose Fill Council has a recycling center location finder on their website.  Also, most shipping centers like the UPS Store, Mailboxes etc.  and Box Brothers will take clean packing peanuts.

Not sure if recycling your peanuts is worth it? According to a study done in 1994, over 22 million pounds of styrene (that’s what is used to make styrofoam in its virgin form) was saved from businesses reusing peanuts returned from customers.

When using the UPS website, once you find a location near you, click on the link to view the full details for the store.  Under the heading “Additional Products and Services” there should be a listing for “Packaging Peanuts Recycling.”  Some locations even show the “Packing Peanuts Recycler” logo.

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Which organic foods should you buy

By now, we should all know that buying organic food is best. But having a baby ain’t cheap. I try to balance it by buying organic foods that I know contain the most pesticides when grown commercially. Luckily, the Environmental Working Group has put out a handy shopper’s guide that you can print and keep in your purse, diaper bag or like me, in your coupon pouch.  They even developed an iPhone app for when you’re out.

I’m fortunate that I live in Los Angeles and have many good quality Farmer’s Markets available like the Santa Monica, Culver City and Hollywood ones. The majority of the fruits and veggies that we buy are organic from the markets. The food always tastes so much better. In fact, Milan is quite accustomed to the flavor of the fresh, organic foods that he often rejects the food from the grocery store… but he rarely (if ever) turns down the farmer’s market produce.

So what are the worst ones? The “Dirty Dozen” list includes:

  • Apples
  • Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Grapes (imported)
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Potatoes
  • Raspberries
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries

I think the scariest thing about this list is the fruit that is on it. I know that nearly every baby meal has at least one of these items in it. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty adamant about feeding Milan as much organic food as possible. But after I saw this list, I got a bit neurotic. I’ve relaxed a little bit now that Milan is over a year old. But I still do my best to not ever let him eat non-organic foods on the “Dirty Dozen.”

As for clean non-organic food, the following is the EWG’s list of the “Clean 15”

  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn (sweet) – This is not all corn, just sweet corn. But make sure you avoid GMO (Genetically modified) sweet corn.
  • Kiwi
  • Mangos
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet peas

The general rule of thumb that I learned a long time ago was that if you eat the skin, you want to buy organic. Therefore, I was surprised to see broccoli on the “clean” list. But it makes sense. Although broccoli and cauliflower are cruciferous vegetables, they don’t have a ton of bugs wanting to eat them so pesticides aren’t really that necessary.

I hope you found this useful.

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Posted in Feeding, Health

My Lovey Boob

Remember Linus’ blanket that he carried around every where with him? Well, that was his lovey. Want to know what Milan’s lovey is? My boobs!

I have tried to introduce a normal lovey to him since he was 3 months old. We’ve tried blankets (plush, cotton, satin edge, flannel, crocheted, etc). We’ve tried stuffed animals – safe for babies of course. But to no avail, my son only wants my boob. And its not always my boob, its sometimes (quite painfully) my nipple.

Whenever he gets tired, he wants me to pick him up. Of course, the first thing he does is thrust his tiny little hand down my shirt. He used to just need his hand down my shirt – no boob grabbing necessary. But lately, he’s become totally obsessed with grabbing at my boobs and specifically twisting my nipples.

So this morning when he woke up at 4:33 am, would not go back to sleep and kept twisting and pulling on my already sore nipples (from the lovely nibble he took earlier that night) I had enough! Thus began sleep training 102.

Sleep training 101 was hard enough. But I fear that breaking the boob habit is going to be even harder. You see, I’m so used to his hand going down my shirt that I hardly even notice half of the time. I usually only notice when one of my friends starts laughing or a stranger looks horrified. As most nursing mothers will tell you, your boobs become a little desensitized. How else could you endure the pulling, tugging and what not?

Of course, I had to do some research to see if this is just a passing phase. Most experts agree that a young baby will often find comfort under a mother’s shirt. Its actually quite normal and apparently not related to breastfeeding – many non breastfed babies do this too. I can’t find any information about whether or not this too will pass.

However, I did come across a post from another mother who is struggling with the same issue. Her son is almost 2, sleeping in his own bed and still needs his mommy’s boobies. But now he asks for them! I do not envy this mom and I do not want to be going through this in another year. We’re planning on having another baby and I can’t imagine what my boobs would feel like if Milan still uses them as his lovey.

When I look at my son, I see an emerging little boy but he still my baby. Part of me doesn’t really mind the boob obsession: he’s a baby, its innocent, he is comforted by them, etc. But then the other part of me really does mind. The part of me that emerges in the middle of the night, that looses her patience and is just plain tired of being used as a tug-toy.

This morning, I have not let him touch my boobs except his mouth while nursing. And we have had at least 2 hours (cumulatively) of crying. Will this be like the sleep training where after a few days he gets the picture? Although my head is pounding from the crying and my heart is hurting (I do feel a bit like I am depriving him of comfort) I do see a glimmer of hope… he fell asleep in my arms without his hand down my shirt.

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Quick Black Bean Curry

I desperately need to go get some groceries. Luckily, we’re going tomorrow. But tonight dinner was an on-the-fly creation that ended up quite good.

We had some dumplings/gyoza from Trader Joe’s in the freezer so we knew that that would be part of our dinner. We also had some basmati rice (we like the basmati rice because it takes much less time to cook than brown rice) so that was another part. But what to do for the rest?

As I peeked into my pantry, I noticed a can of black beans. I also remembered that I had some left over coconut milk sitting in the fridge that needed to be used… Voila – Black Bean curry.

I must admit, as it was cooking, I wasn’t quite sure about the outcome. To my surprise and definitely to my husband’s surprise, it tasted rather good. Especially with the rice. As we were eating, Milan was pointing at the beans so I gave him one. His eyes lit up and he started smacking his lips. Turns out our son LOVED the black bean curry. Thus the recipe being listed below…

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of black beans (14 oz), drained
  • ½ small onion, diced
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • ¼-½ can of coconut milk
  • 3-4 tbsp curry powder (we use Sadaf – its got a good flavor without being hot)
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro

Instructions:

Heat coconut oil in a pan. Once the oil is hot, add onions. Sautee until onions are translucent. Add beans, coconut milk and the rest of the spices to pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce and then simmer for 5-10 minutes (we only simmered it for 5 minutes tonight as we were starving and wanted to eat quickly). Enjoy!

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Friend or Foe by Melanie Green

Friend or foe?

One of my dear friends recently went through a devastating ordeal – she lost not just one best friend but several! Read about it by clicking the link above.

Posted in Miscellaneous