Saturday, May 28, 2011

Homegrown Green: Organic Produce Part 1

I wanted to share with you the recent progress on our backyard garden! I cannot fully express how absolutely excited I am about all the yummy vegetables that are sprouting up. Green beans, carrots, yellow onions, zuchini, yellow squash, Japanese and Italian eggplant, Roma, beefsteak and cherry tomatoes. My 4yo is excited too, always asking to go out check on the progress of his garden.

I am all about shortening the distance from Farm to Table and love supporting our local Farmer's Market. It is like an event in our family to go there on the weekend and peruse all the lovely fruits and veggies and feel the sense of community. We love to hear the music play, smell the kettle corn popping, and the kids enjoy sampling all the fruit on display. There is even a children's art area where they can have fun creating projects for Mommy and Daddy. Beyond produce, there is a vendor selling amazing flavors of hummus and pita chips, a local honey producer, flowers, plants, jewelry and much more. It's a small market with a lot of variety.

However, now that I have my garden, we will probably hit up the Farmer's Market less. We will definitely still go from time to time, but my purpose in creating the backyard garden was multi-fold (hungrigyrlism): Convenience. How perfect will it be when I want to make something and I just go out and pick a vegetable from my backyard? Community. I will love to share our bounty with other family members and co-workers. Quality. I will be able to safely say our veggies were not sprayed with pesticides, picked too early, ripened on a truck, etc. Eco-friendly. My distance from farm to table is about 15 feet. No fuel will be wasted transporting my veggies, and the air/environment will not be compromised by said transportation. Have I mentioned cost yet? Our initial investment of redwood boards, dirt and seeds was about $85. That is roughly about 2 visits to the Farmer's Market for us. We will see quite the  return and then some on our investment this summer. The redwood made the project a little pricier, probably 2x as much, but redwood is a heartier wood. For those of you interested in making a backyard garden, douglas fir would work just fine and cost less.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Organic Produce post, which you won't want to miss!

Do you grow any fruits or veggies at home? Any special tips you have for gardening success?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Workout Meltdown

When I am quiet about my workouts and diet, it means one of two things - 1) I am just humming along, working out and eating healthy as normal, 2) I am flying under the radar because I have fallen off the wagon.
 I feel ridiculous talking about my diet and exercise plan when people are losing everything they have, even their lives in tornadoes.  But people all over the nation are talking about who won American Idol, Arnold Schwarzenneger's love child and baby mama (still!), and of course The Bachelorette. My only drama right now is battling the urge to eat bad stuff at work to break the monotony.

I have still been running 3x per week, usually between 4 and 5 miles. My running partner is out of commission this week, and last week we were out of town. While I did manage to run a little while I was away I did not track my distance or time. And somewhere between waiting for Aunt Flo to visit (tired and crabby), going out of town (relaxing and eating) I managed to completely blow off my strength training and yoga workouts. It happens.

I'm not feeling too good about myself right now, and its dumb. I need to pull my head out. My Buddha did a face plant last weekend and has a black eye and it breaks my heart. The doctor's office told us not to worry after asking a series of questions, but we ended up taking him in anyway because he was still swollen. Now after x-rays were inconclusive we have to go in for a CT scan super early tomorrow. I can't think about anything else except my poor baby, who needs to be sedated because he wouldn't stay still for the scan when he went to the doctor. Ugh. Screw exercise.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Who's In Your Fab Five?

Thanks to Trop50 for sponsoring my writing about fabulous bloggers. This year Trop50 is granting 50 Fabulous Wishes. Click here to enter for a chance to win $1,000 to celebrate a friend with a refreshing attitude about looking and feeling fabulous!

That would be Fab Five Freddy on the right

Who do you think of when you hear the term "Fab Five?" With all the talk about the world ending lately - ahem, I'm still here, thank you very much - everyone has been posting links to Blondie song, "Rapture". It's a great song touted as the first #1 song with a rap, during which she mentions Fab Five Freddy. Apparently he  was a pretty cool dude in his day. He even hosted the first rap show on MTV, "Yo! MTV Raps."  Right now he instantly springs to mind when I think "Fab Five." Maybe others might even think of those hilarious guys from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy - the awesome gay guys who would do an ambush make over on a particular male who was desperately in need of a fashion/general overhaul. That was one of the first shows that lured me to the Bravo Network.

I miss this show!
Then of course there were the starters of the University of Michigan basketball team in 1992...

In the blogging world, it's easy for me to pick my "Fab Five". However, it was super hard to pick ONLY five.   Sometimes it's not only about the blog but the blogger behind the blog. Want to know what blogs I stalk and why? Check these out!

Karen from Time Crafted has become one of my favorite bloggers. We tweet, we are friends on Facebook, follow each other on Pinterest and we comment on each other's blogs regularly. She is just a down to earth, cool chick. When it comes to her blog, she is incredibly versatile in her posts. Sometimes, she will blog on topics that are writing prompts from various writing workshops (Mama Kat'sThe Red Dress Club) which I don't participate in so it's interesting for me to follow what they do. She also posts about the occasional crafting project, gardening, and gluten/casein-free recipes. Her blog design is simple, clean and easy to read. Just a gem of a blog here!

Jill from Glamamom has quite a cool life that I love to check out on a regular basis! Based in NYC, she blogs about the many events she attends related to motherhood, fashion, charity and good causes in general.  She has her own social media/special events production company. I love to look for pictures of the events she attends with celebrities, like her recent time spent with Kelly Ripa, who I adore! She has also met Bethenny Frankel who is one of those Bravo reality stars I just can't get enough of! I also respect Jill for her insightful comments on my posts, which are honest and truthful. Believe it or not, I love it when someone doesn't always agree with me 100%! It gets me thinking!

I also enjoy reading Our One Sweet World. I love the simple, artistic look of the blog and of course, the name which came from a Dave Matthews Band song. I love DMB! Her posts are a mix of personal, family, and poetry. Always pretty too - she can take some nice photos, which is a challenge of mine. This blog is always just a comfortable, pleasant one to stop by and visit, sort of like a cup of tea and a warm fire on a rainy day.

Stephanie in Suburbia is also one of my go-to blogs. Stephanie is real and she lays it all out there. Maybe its that I feel that we are alike in many ways. When I read her blog I feel like I am truly inside her head, and can understand and relate to her point of view. Stephanie is a city girl who settled down in the 'burbs.... a married, working mother with a daughter who's just embarked on toddlerhood. She writes about her life - random posts on just about anything: her family, her relationship, her home, fun outings, etc. Always a pleasure to "get real" in suburbia with Stephanie.

Do you know about Mrs. Q and her blog Fed Up With Lunch? She is a teacher who went underground and ate the cafeteria lunch her school served for a whole year, and blogged about it - complete with photos! Her blog has been a first-hand expose of how yucky school lunch can be. She has now branched out to other topics related to her own diet, her son's day care food, and all things related to school lunch reform. Since my oldest is just about to finish pre-K its very interesting to think about these issues that I have not yet had to deal with. I have the utmost respect for this woman! It takes a lot of dedication to write this eye-opening blog of hers!

So there you have it. My Fab Five. Who are your favorite bloggers and why? With that, I leave you with another Fab Five:

Simpler times for the Jackson Five
Don't forget to enter the 50 Fabulous Wishes contest for a chance to win $1,000 to celebrate a friend with a refreshing attitude about looking and feeling fabulous. I was selected for this Tropicana Trop50 sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do. I received compensation to use and facilitate my post.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mommy's Wine: The Controversy

I don't know many women, unless they don't drink at all, that would argue with the fact that at the end of the day a nice glass of wine is like a big hug. Some women stay at home all day, and there is not a break to be had. No matter the age of your children, there is always something: the changing of diapers, clothes, feeding - whether it be breast, solids, or regular meals - reading, entertaining, potty training, driving to school, day care, sports, music classes, homework....need I go on? Someone else relies on you to exist in their daily life. You are living for two, sometimes 3, 4 or 5. There are others, like me who work outside the home. I start my day early, work out before the sun comes up because that is the only time I can do it. I feed my kids, get them dressed, ready for school, transport to school, commute for too long, work all day, commute for too long again, feed kids dinner, bathe them, read to them, put them to bed, and COLLAPSE. I look forward to my wine after the night is winding down. Am I an alcoholic? No. I get up, I go to work, I am responsible, I take care of my family. I don't get obliterated in the presence of my children and if any emergency were to happen I am fully able to react.

There are some smart business women out there who have creatively marketed their wine brands to women, particularly frazzled mothers who, at the end of the day really look forward to that glass of wine. One is Mommy Juice. Adorable label with a typical mother juggling a million things at one time. The  wine is so aptly named because the owner's children would call their mother's wine "Mommy's juice." Is that so wrong? It's cute, and its true! Wines such as this are under fire for promoting alcoholism in stay-at-home-moms. Guess what, mothers who are going to drink wine are going to drink wine. I don't think its fair to fault brands such as Mommy Juice for marketing their wine to be a contender amongst the many wines moms could choose at the end of the day. That is called business. There are some people, men and women that have a propensity for alcoholism. You cannot blame the booze for that.

Take Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, for example, who blogged about her experiences with motherhood. She gained popularity for her posts about the not-so-glamorous side of it all. She got book deals, for titles such as "Sippy Cups are Not for Chardonnay" and "Naptime is the New Happy Hour." As the article in this months Parenting magazine details, it turns out Stefanie had a drinking problem. She would often drink several glasses of wine a night and wasn't always the best functioning parent. She had alcoholism - she was not like most women who could have a glass at the end of the night and stop. Fortunately, Stefanie recognized her problem and quit, before any major harm was done to her family. The moms who supported Mrs. Wilder-Taylor's blog and books in the beginning cannot be viewed as helpless victims who were lured into this booze-filled play-date lifestyle. I'm sure a lot of the mothers who read these books enjoyed Mrs. Wilder-Taylor's honesty, humor, and maybe didn't take every word all that seriously. Books are another form of entertainment, after all. I believe we should also have faith that these women were able to make their own decisions, and were responsible for their own actions and hopefully knew when to say when.

I was a Sociology major in college and I can go deep into the topic of how men and women in our society are viewed differently. Men's drinking is accepted, supported and lauded - this is evident in advertising, particularly for hard liquor. This goes way back...think of Mad Men and how it was fashionable in that era for powerful and successful men to drink at all hours of the day. I'm not going to bore you with all that. My point is, it just doesn't seem right to call out a particular brand of wine for pushing alcoholism in stay-at-home-moms or women in general. We are all adults here, which is why there is an age requirement to drink. Hopefully we have the sense not to get sloshed in front of our kids, and make sure we always have our faculties when they are in our care. If someone is not able to drink responsibly, don't blame the alcohol.

How do you relax at the end of a busy day, managing your house and children? How do you feel about "mommy marketed" wines? Do you think they promote alcoholism in women? 

I was not compensated for this post by Mommy Juice or Stefanie Wilder-Taylor. I mentioned their names and products for reference purposes only. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On the Chocolate Milk Fence

I have been reading about the possibility of a chocolate milk ban in schools for several months now. This ban will include other flavored milks as well. It appears as though the potential for it to happen is really gearing up. It's particularly newsworthy as the Los Angeles County school district, which is the nation's second largest, is next to consider the ban.

Doesn't that glass of chocolate milk look so good?

Sorry. It does look really good. But I'm not a school kid. I can't remember the last time I had a glass of chocolate milk. I'm an adult, and while I really don't have the best will power, I choose to refrain from chocolate milk because of fat/calories/health reasons. I'm not a growing child, and though osteoporosis is a concern for women, I don't really need to drink milk. Even on the rare occasions I have chocolate milk, I NEVER buy the pre-flavored kind, I like to mix it myself at home because I really think the kind in the carton is WAY too sweet.

Sometimes, I stop and think about how humans are the only species that actually drink milk that comes from other animals. In nature, animals drinking another animal's milk doesn't happen. Kinda makes me go...yuck. However, I was raised drinking milk. I rarely ever had chocolate milk, and grew to love and appreciate the taste of an ice-cold glass of unflavored milk. My kids are both milk drinkers. If they grow big and strong because they like it, I'm in full support of them drinking milk, even though it comes from a cow.

Buddha won't even drink chocolate milk. I am completely happy about this. Why add the sugar and fat if he's perfectly happy with drinking it plain? Monkey loves chocolate milk, and I only add a small amount of chocolate flavoring. The funny thing is, whenever he has some, something clicks in his little 4 year-old mind and suddenly he remembers chocolate milk exists. He will ask me for it for the next couple days. And I keep saying no. The answer is, in all honesty, I don't want him to have chocolate milk. He is perfectly fine with plain milk (1%) and apple and orange juice (which I still water down) as his daily beverages. He knows chocolate milk is a special treat, which he only gets once in a great while. As I sit here, I cannot remember the last time he had chocolate milk. It's been at least 4 months or so.

So, I know I've got it pretty good. I have 2 kids who love plain milk. They aren't exposed to school lunches yet, although Monkey will be going to kindergarten in the fall. Suddenly I see the concern. Will my son have the choice between plain and chocolate milk? If so, let's be honest, my kid is going to go with the flavored milk. That is no bueno. 

 Apparently some flavored milks have as much sugar as a soda, or in some cases high fructose corn syrup. Ugh, that grosses me out. And apparently, according to this article in the L.A. Times, Chocolate milk could be banned in some schools -- here's what might be lost, chocolate milk contains some sort of thickening agent which gives it that nice rich consistency, and prevents the chocolate particles from separating from the milk. And some other stuff that I have no idea what it is. The concern of those opposing the ban is that some children will only drink milk if it is flavored and that ingesting all the added sugar and God-only-knows-what else is better than their child drinking no milk at all. Sigh.

I have obviously determined having chocolate milk available to my son at his own free will on a daily basis is not an ideal situation. I don't believe chocolate milk is the root of all evil either. I think parents need to start teaching their kids healthy eating habits. I also think we do need to reform the school lunch program. I think that a lot of parents look at school lunch as easy, they don't have to worry. But they don't have any idea how bad the food is that most schools are feeding their children. Anyone interested in reading more on this subject should check out Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project which is a great blog written by a teacher who ate school lunch every day for a year and blogged about it undercover. We also need to cut down the time spent on video games and get our kids active again, play with them outside and get fresh air...get them moving. We are the best examples we can give them.

That's all broader spectrum stuff. To address the flavored milk ban specificially, I propose this. Someone needs to come up with a healthier version - maybe only offer low or non-fat, with reduced sugar, and nix the high fructose corn syrup. I am for the ban against flavored milk as it exists today as one of many changes that needs to be made, but not completely against flavored milk if there is a healthier alternative to the type of flavored milk currently offered. I do recognize that there are some kids who will only drink milk if it is flavored, and I do think they deserve to have access to milk. If there is no healthier alternative, then the school districts should ban the flavored milk but allow parents to send it to school with their child if they choose to. I don't think this ban should be about stripping people of their rights, just about promoting healthier options.

How do you feel about the chocolate milk ban? Do you think it's extreme or as one of many things wrong with what is provided to our kids in schools?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Facebook Stalking, er...Research Saved Me

I was really lucky today. Earlier this week I was on an email string with some mothers from Monkey's preschool and we were discussing buying the teachers a group end-of-year gift. Today, we were supposed to turn in our contribution when we picked up the kids. Since I work, either Chip or my Mom will pick Monkey up. I left the money on the counter and told them what it was for. Easy enough, right?

At noon I get a call from Chip, saying he picked Monkey up but didn't see an envelope or anyone collecting money. Of course he couldn't ask the teacher about it because that would blow the surprise. I definitely wanted to participate in the group gift for a couple reasons. First, it is way easier for a working mother to give a gift as a group since I don't have to actually shop and pick something out on my own. Just sayin'. Second, at this particular school where most of the mothers appear to be SAHM, and are probably more involved in school activities than I am, I feel like this is an opportunity to collaborate and join in with them. I always do my best to participate (attending all field trips, contributing food to parties, etc.) but I never have time to gather and chit-chat with the other mothers after drop off as I'm rushing off to work.

Anyway, I immediately emailed the coordinating mother, and let her know what happened. She told me it was not a problem and I could bring it on Friday as that is my work from home day and I do both drop off and pick up. Well, I panicked a little. The honest truth is that I wasn't sure who this woman was! We have had play dates with a couple kids from preschool, and some of the parents who have certain careers (fire fighter, paramedic, 911 operator) who have done class presentations for the kids are familiar to me. But simply saying "so-and-so's Mom" doesn't mean much to me as I can't even identify all the kids in Monkey's class by name. I had an inkling, but the last thing I want to do on Friday is walk up to the wrong Mom and make a total ass out of myself.

I hope you're not judging me here. I know who Monkey's friends are. His class has 4 boys and 11 girls. He plays with some of the girls, but mostly hangs out with the boys. So I'm not really familiar with most of the girls because I don't really have to be. As a working mother with a ton of things to manage on a daily and weekly basis, my goal is to take care of MY CHILD. This is advice that was given to me by one of my very dear friends who has worked full time all of her children's lives and her oldest is graduating from high school. She knows what's up.

So, having a name to work with from our e-mail exchange, I decided to see if she was on Facebook. It turns out she has a Facebook account, and while most of her profile is private, she had a profile picture. I was lucky today. Lucky "so-and-so" 's Mom is on FB, and that her photo isn't of some random waterfall, flower, horse, dog or one of her own Mother which seems to be a popular trend on FB this week.  Whew. I like this Mom already. 

p.s. I'm on a roll now. I got invited to a neighborhood playgroup and I looked up all the moms on the email string. I have totally lost it.