Tuesday, July 31, 2012

15 Months Old

So little Miss Avery just keeps growing, growing and growing some more.  Here we are at 15 months and so much has changed since she was just 12 months old...I can't believe it. The most exciting thing is her language.  The amount of words she says has just exploded this month and our once quiet house is now filled with babbles, giggles, and words like "No no", "Mommy", and "Help".  In most ways, this is good because I know exactly what she wants. But on the other side of the coin, when she doesn't want something, you will hear it...loud and clear. But I'm happy that she knows what she wants and she isn't afraid to say it.  Here she is for our 15 month photo shoot...skateboard style!

"Happy 15 months to me!"

This is the pink skateboard Brandon bought her for her birthday a few months back and usually they just go for "sitting rides" on it, but lately she's been getting more adventurous and wanting to stand on it.

And do tricks on it too!

As you can tell, her hair continues to grow and curl up a bit on the ends and we've started to notice the cutest little dimple in the middle of her chin.  She's starting to look like a little girl...no longer like my little baby! Let's see how she's changed over the past few months...

Like how she started out holding the sign, and now I'm lucky if it's even in the shot? I have a feeling this is only going to get worse, but luckily it's easy to prop up and just "sit" will I snap away at our busy little, "anti-sign" girl.
Let's see what she's into this month...

1. Favorite food: Veggie Straws are still a clear favorite!

2. Favorite word: Names! She's really gotten into knowing every one's name, and giving them nicknames too. We'll be at dinner and she'll say, "Mommy (pointing at me), Daddy (pointing at Brandon), Avery (at herself), and then she'll proceed to name our dogs too. She especially loves to name her extended family members, like her Grandmas ("Nana") and Grandpas ("Papa") and her uncles and cousins...and characters on Sesame Street ("Abby!").  Other favorite words include: "Are you?" (when she's looking for something, like "Where are you?), "Done", "No ma", (no more), "Baby", "Snack", "Mix mix mix" (when I'm making a smoothie), "Moo moo" (smoothie), "Go dog, go" (for when playing catch with dogs), and her favorite, "Milk" for when she wants to nurse.  ( :

3. Favorite book: Funny Face by Anna Walker. This is one of our favorite books to read in the car and it has really helped teach Avery all about different emotions. Check out the many "faces" of Avery below...

"Angry face"

"Sad face" (Although you can't tell, she's saying "Wah wah"
and pretending to cry)

"Stop it with the faces for a second...is this my song? I better

4. Favorite activity: swimming/splashing in her little pool. Probably not the "greenest" pool around, but until toy stores start coming up with better green alternatives, this is what I'm sticking with. Avery sure approves! It's been perfect for those nights when we don't have time to go all the way to the pool, but still give Avery a chance to play in the thing she loves most...water! With the hot days we've been having here in the Midwest, this pool has really come in handy when she's begging us to go outside. Here she is splashing away and having a great time.

She loves to slam her hands down as hard as she can and then
inspect you afterwards to see if she's gotten you wet.

Climbing in and out of the pool is way more fun than just
sitting in it, right?

Another favorite: throwing the balls out of the pool and
off the porch.

One of the highlights from this past month was a short trip to Colorado. We drove there from where we live, here in Missouri, and stayed in with my cousin and her family while we were there. Even better, my parents tagged along and drove out there too...in separate cars. Though we didn't stay long, it was a fun chance for us to get away, catch up with some extended family, and soak up the Colorado mountain air (or smoke from the fires, which we happened to see while out there). 

Avery was excited for the road trip!

Packed and ready to go! 

My parents, or "Papa and Nana"
as Avery calls them.

She did such a good job on the 11 hour drive. We made sure
to stop every two hours or so to give her a break and give
her a chance to run around. You can bet we kept the Veggie
Straws close by too.

Here we are stopping for lunch in Kansas...can you tell it was
hot there?

Checking out the corn fields with Daddy.

After a long day of driving, we arrived at my cousin's house
near Fort Collins, Colorado. Here's the cool mountain view
from their backyard. I could get used to that!

Dinner time!

Every morning, my mom, Avery, and I went for a walk around
the trails near their neighborhood.
"Flower anyone?"

While we were there, Avery and I spent
lots of time hanging out with family and
going shopping.

Brandon, on the other hand, did lots and lots of skateboarding.
The highlight of the trip: The Arvada Skate Park.

Not a bad view of the mountains either!

Avery joined him for a quick ride.

My two favorite skateboarders.

One our favorite things about the trip was all the time that
Avery got to spend with my parents, her grandparents.

Aside from seeing the sights and shopping, Avery made
sure to squeeze in a little time to be silly!

Our trip crew. Thanks Lauren for letting us stay with you guys!
We can't wait to come out and visit again. (  :

So that's what we've been up to this past month. Just crafting, cooking, traveling, and skateboarding! See you next month!
"Later dudes!"

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sneaky Spinach Pancakes

You can green your home, you can green your smoothies, but did you know you can green your pancakes? I do and they're great! As you may have read before on my blog, you there's two things I love: pancakes, and finding ways to sneak healthy foods into traditionally unhealthy foods.  So while whipping up some pancakes one day I thought, "Why not put some spinach in these yummy things?"

Well, there was no way I was going to just stir in the spinach leaves...yuck, I don't do spinach whole, it must be a sensory thing for me, I can't do it. So I grabbed my blender and threw the spinach in with the liquid ingredient (rice milk) and blended until it was smooth. I then mixed my "spinach milk" in with all the other ingredients and cooked them just like I normally do. The result? Delicious, normal, fluffy (and green) pancakes!

I can imagine what you're thinking, "Me, eat green pancakes? Yeah right." But trust me, they taste exactly the same! Just top them with your usual toppings (butter, syrup, peanut butter?) and you'll love them.

This would be a great idea for kids that are picky eaters (I can relate), to sneak some healthy foods into foods they love!

The best part of this recipe is that you can use it with any pancake recipe you like. My pancakes are gluten-free and vegan, but maybe you've got a great recipe with buttermilk, whole wheat flour, or straight up Bisquick...whatever the recipe, the spinach can work!

Here's what you do:
  • Blend 1 1/2 (or less) spinach in a blender with your main liquid ingredient in the amount called for in the recipe, which in most cases will be some form of milk or water.

After blending the spinach and creating a "spinach milk" you can now add the liquid with the rest of your pancake ingredients and cook them as you normal would.

Here's a video of me making the "Sneaky Spinach Pancakes". Make sure to watch at the end to see what Avery thinks of these crazy green pancakes!

The recipe I use in the video is my all time favorite and can be found over at The Cinnamon Quill called, "Thick and Fluffy Pancakes" that is gluten-free, vegan, and with some modifications, sugar-free as well.

"Thick and Fluffy Pancakes"
from The Cinnamon Quill
  • 1 1/4 cup rice milk
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup safflower oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup millet flour
  • 3/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I use coconut sugar)
  • 3/4 tsp. xanthan gum or guar gum (if avoiding corn)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 scant tsp. baking soda
  • tiny pinch of salt
1. Stir together wet ingredients. Whisk in dry ingredients and let stand for 3-5 minutes.
2. Measure 1/4 cup of batter onto a griddle at 280 degrees and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.
Makes 10-12 5" pancakes.

In the video I also mention how I use Maple Flavored Agave Nectar instead of syrup...here is the brand I like to get: Sohgave! which you can actually find at Wal-Mart!

My favorite syrup alternative: Maple
Agave Nectar.

So that's how I go green with my pancakes. Have you ever tried mixing spinach into your pancakes? How did it turn out? Or feel free to share what else you like to mix into your pancake batter!

This post was recently linked up to:

Friday, July 20, 2012

Green Strawberry Lemonade Smoothie

With summer heat reaching record temps here in the Midwest, one of our favorite beverages in this "green house" is lemonade. A few summers ago, we got creative with lemonade and decided to add it to a smoothie. The result? A delicious, cool summer treat. Since I am a green smoothie fan, I of course, added spinach. But Brandon still loves to keep his green-free. ( : You can make whatever variation you want with this strawberry lemonade treat.

Here's what you'll need:
  • 1/2 cup lemonade (we like Simply Lemonade)
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1-2 cups of spinach
  • 1 Tbs. chia seeds (optional for more nutritional punch)
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 4 frozen strawberries
Simply blend, sip and then enjoy the green lemonade smoothie goodness.

Want more of a play-by-play? Check out this video where Avery helps me make the "Green Strawberry Lemonade Smoothie".

Hope this smoothie helps you cool off from the heat!

Do you have any smoothie recipes where you add lemonade? Share below!

This post was recently linked up to "Healthy Vegan Fridays" which you can find any of these three blogs: Everyday Vegan Girl, Veggie Nook, and Carrie On Vegan. So get your "vegan on" and check out some of these great recipes!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How to "Green" Your Period

So I'm not literally talking about making your period green...that would be gross. Instead I'm talking about turning your period from one that accumulates lots and lots of paper and plastic waste, to one that is more environmentally friendly in how there is literally no waste! None. Zilch. Nothing. I do this with the help of an amazing reusable silicone cup called the DivaCup, which I will tell you more about below. But for now let's talk about why we would want to make the switch to a "greener" period anyways...

What's so bad about tampons?
Nowadays, tampons and pads are easy, cheap and convenient to buy at any drugstore around, and to most women, that's their only option.  The downside to tampons and pads is that they accumulate a lot of waster OVER TIME! Yeah, one week of tampons, maybe uses one box, that's nothing right? Wrong! Multiply that amount of tampons by 12, the number of months in a year, and then take that number and multiply it by 40, the average number of years a woman is fertile and "cycling" and you end up with one heck of a lot of tampons.

Here's a good visual for you of the amount of tampons the average woman uses in a year, which adds up to about 6.6 lbs of garbage and will cost you $48...

The amount of tampons the average woman uses in a year...
(source: The Keeper website)

Aside from spending a lot of money, look at all that packaging and product that you will be throwing in the trash or flushing down the toilet.  Well, if that wasn't enough to freak you out, check out how much tampon waste the average woman accumulates over 35-40 years of their "menstruating life"...enough to fill this dump truck!
The amount of tampons the average woman uses over
35-40 years.  (source: The Keeper website)

Now although we may think we are properly disposing of our tampons and pads, you can bet that some of them are ending up in our oceans, beaches, and other water sources.

Ladies, the fish are really going to love us for this one.

As if the amount of waste accumulated wasn't enough, in comes the chemicals. Most tampons get hit with chemicals right out the gate since the cotton used to create the tampons was probably heavily treated with pesticides and fertilizers when it was grown. Then to make the cotton the nice, bright white we are all familiar with it gets treated once again with chlorine, a source of dioxin, a known carcinogen. So as your inserting that comfy little tampon day after day, who knows what your vaginal walls are absorbing over time?

Yes, you could go with an organic tampon, like "Organic Cotton No Applicator Tampons" from Seventh Generation, which use organic cotton, are whitened without chemicals containing bleach, and is free of dyes or fragrances. But you would still be stuck buying, throwing out, buying, throwing out, buying, throwing out...month after month. On top of that have you ever tried inserting a tampon with no applicator? That's a fun time right there! Not!

So if tampons are wasteful and full of chemicals, what's a green girl to do? Well the answer isn't pads, which I haven't mentioned much, but are just as wasteful with their packaging, plastics, and other contents. In fact, pads contain polyethylene plastic, which causes pollution when produced.

It's time to shift our perspective to a greener source...something that is reusable.  Enter The DivaCup.

"Green-ing" My Period
While I was pregnant with Avery I heard about something called a DivaCup, which you insert similar to a tampon, empty after several hours, wash out, and then reuse again. At first it sounded a little gross, but talk about being green. No more tampons? Seriously?

A tampon alternative called The DivaCup

So once my period came back when Avery was 9 months old, I got my chance to try out the DivaCup. The upfront price seemed a bit steep, $34 at my local health food store, (only $22 on Amazon), but I saw it as an investment since I knew I could use it for several years. Granted the DivaCup company says it should only be used for one year, I've read other green bloggers say they've used them for up to five years. No matter what,  I knew it was time for a change...a green change, so I splurged and bought it.

To give you a little background about the DivaCup, it's made from non-absorbent, medical grade silicone and it is inserted just as you would a tampon. It sits low in your vagina and collects your flow. After 12 hours, you empty it, wash it, and use it again. Other features mentioned on it's website include:
  • Latex-free, BPA-free, plastic-free
  • No dyes, colors, or additives
  • Comfortable, reliable
  • Clean, convenient, easy-to-use
  • Worn for up to 12 hours at a time
After bringing the DivaCup home, I was a bit intimidated by it at first. It was kind of like learning how to put a tampon in for the first time. Because the big round opening that collects all the flow, well that's the part you put in FIRST! It took some practice and learning how to squeeze the cup to insert it (being sure not to let it pop open midway in...ouch!), but once it was in I couldn't feel a thing. I pretty much forgot about it.  When you insert it, you want to give it a little twist if possible, this will help create a suction to ensure that it will not leak.

You fold and bend the big opening of the DivaCup when
inserting it.

When it came time to take it out several hours later (you can wear it for up to 12 hours) I used some toilet paper to help me get a good grip on the tip (which I trimmed down a centimeter or two so it wouldn't be hanging out too much), and then I gave it a little cup and out it came. I was then left this small silicone cup full of period blood.  It was actually kind of cool to see the coloring and the quantity it had for that given day. I then dumped the cup contents out in the toilet, washed it with water in the sink, dried it, and inserted it again.

To get it out, I always use a little toilet paper to help me
get a good grip of the tip and with a little tug, it comes out.

This pattern continues now every day of my period each month and I love it. When it's not in use, I store my DivaCup in this cute little drawstring bag.  No trash, no mess, no fuss.
My DivaCup in waiting...

Some downsides to the Diva Cup:
  • A bit more expensive to start with, but over time it can actually save you a lot of money!
  • The learning curve to get it inserted correctly. Just like learning to insert a tampon, it takes practice to develop your own special technique for insertion...stick with it, you'll get it down in now time.
Other notes:
  • There are two sizes of the DivaCup: Size #1 is for women who haven't had any children, and Size #2 is for women who have had children. You'll want to make sure and get the size that applies to you so it doesn't end up being too big or too small.
  • There is a wash that you can buy for the DivaCup, but I haven't broke down and bought it yet, as it costs around $10 at my local health food store. I'm sure I should probably be washing with this, but in the mean time I just use a diluted mild soap and it seems to be doing the trick.
  • There are other types of reusable menstrual cups on the market like: The Keeper (which I shared the pictures of the tampon waste above), Mooncup, and Lunette, so shop around and find the one that works for you.
  • Sometimes when I'm feeling lazy and don't want to insert the DivaCup again, I'll use some cloth pads during the night when I'm sleeping to collect my flow. I've never been one to love pads, but after purchasing these pads to help with the postpartum flow I had after giving birth to Avery, I got more comfortable with them.
I use a the cloth pads shown below that I purchased online from a site called "Mommy and Me Creations" and the pads are called, "Heavenly Cloth Menstural Pads" which are actually made from organic hemp fleece. You can see more and read more about these pads in my post about "Preparing for a Homebirth". 

The cloth pads I occasionally use at night during my period.

There are all kinds of other cool cloth pads out there like: Lunapads, GladRags,  and tons of other brands you could find with a simple Google search. They come in all kinds of colors and styles so you can find ones that you like and that help you go green.

Here's a video discussion of the ways I've greened my period...

My Past View of Periods
I don't know about you, but I've come a long way in understanding and appreciating my period. Back when I first started my period at age 13, I hated it. I actually did a countdown as to how many more periods I'd have before I hit menopause. Yes, it was a large number, but it helped to know an end would be in sight...someday. That's crazy I know, but when you go from your normal "tween" life to having blood come from you know where well, it's not exactly enjoyable. 
After I got over the fact that my periods were not going away, I took on the typical mindset pushed onto women by society that periods, or "that time of the month" was a time to be dreaded, medicated, and supplied with an array of products to use day and night. Month after month, it was the same drill: by the tampons, pop the Midol, and countdown the days until the bleeding stopped...which for me was always one full week! Usually it was very light at the end, but still 7 full days, no matter what. Thank you period!

Well as the years went on and I began learning more about leading a natural lifestyle, I read two books that really changed my view of periods and gave me an "Aha!" as to how amazing my body and periods really are.

Learning about My Period

 The first book I read was Consciously Female: How to Listen to Your Body and Your Soul For a Lifetime of Healthier Living by Tracy Gaudet, which taught me that each portion of your monthly cycle comes with changes in your body, mind, and emotions. I like how the book put periods in such a positive light and I found myself relating to the various times of the cycle (menstrual phase, follicular phase, ovulatory phase, and luteal phase) and finding the good in each one. For example in the "Follicular Phase" the week after your period, you are "ripe with ideas, creative, energetic, and upbeat." On the other hand, during "Luteal Phase" that week or so before your period starts, you are more likely to retreat inwards, you'll feel more vulnerable, more contemplative, and your unconscious feelings that you've covered up for the rest of the month begin to come out.  I saw this as my excuse to go "filter-free" and share how I really felt about things in my life and make changes accordingly.

The second book I found was Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health by Toni Weschler. I came upon this book several months before Brandon and I were going to start trying to get pregnant with Avery and it really appealed to the "inner-scientist" in me. It taught me how to chart my cycle, look for predictable signs of fertility (cervical fluid, waking temperature, and cervix placement), and to use that to my advantage to either become pregnant or prevent pregnancy. So instead of seeing my period as something to be dreaded, I saw it as something to look forward to because it meant my body was healthy, "in working order", and in good shape to make a baby.

Even to this day, I continue learning more and more about my period and it fascinates me. I saw this image on the Facebook page of "Apple and Ovaries" which really gave me an "Aha!" moment. The caption that went with the picture said this:

 "In my hand are life sized replicas of a non-menstruating uterus and a menstruating uterus. Can you get over the difference in size???!!!  This is why we feel so heavy at the beginning of our bleed.... Why it can feel like our uterus is about to drop out and hit the pavement (or is that just me?). And why we need to take things slooooooow."

A non-menstruating uterus left, and a
menstruating uterus right. (source)

Pretty fascinating right? Women, I think it's safe to say that our bodies are pretty amazing and the more that we learn about them, the more we can appreciate them. In turn, I believe they pay us back with good health, happy periods, and of course the occasional baby (Love you Avery!).

So that's how I've changed my view of my period and "greened" it up a bit. How do you feel about your period? Have you ever tried a reusable menstrual cup like The DivaCup or cloth pads? How did they work for you? Share below! And cheers to having a "green" period! ( :

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