Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A random lovely memory

There I am...

As a kid, I always thought I was messy, disorganized, and scatterbrained.

It turns out - while I am a bit scatterbrained - I was really just a typical kid.  Parenting is lovely for me like that.  "Oh.  Bean is doing exactly what I did as a kid.  And it's totally developmentally appropriate.  Huh.  I wasn't so 'bad' after all!"

Anyway, I was forever being asked to clean up messes, pick up my room, etc.  (My sister always seemed so neat...was it because she was older or because she has such a different temperament?)
One day (I think I was 10 or 11), I was sent back to my room endlessly to put things away.  By both my mother and my sister!

"Brea, please go put away this laundry."

"Brea, please go  put away these toys."

This belongs in your room!  That needs to be put away!  ARRRRRRGH!

Then that night, as I was getting ready for bed, I turned around and saw boxes on the bed.  They had been there all day, and my mom and sister had been trying to get me to notice them - that's why they kept sending me back to put things away!

There was a boombox, and either a set of encyclopedias (remember those?!?  Before Wikipedia?!?) or some sort of add-on to our encyclopedia set.  These were random gifts - for no occasion whatsoever, except some fun for everyone.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

With basil from our garden.  I miss summer already!

Bean is a typical preschooler - he can be a very picky eater.  This week, his requested dinners are spaghetti and sauce, and falafel with carrots and "dip." Spaghetti and sauce has become one of our go-to meals - usually with lentils for The Beast, A-Train, and me....and a big mess for Bean.  (On a related note:  I can't be the only one who embraces and even encourages the toddler/preschooler love of nudity for particularly messy meals?)

I owe a big thanks to my friend K, who gave me the idea to add lentils.  I was struggling with how to make this meal part of our regular meatless rotation, when I had lunch at her house!

In any case, this spaghetti sauce is pretty quick (in terms of doing stuff - it can and sometimes should cook for hours) and simple using canned tomatoes (I'd rather use fresh, but my home-grown tomatoes are not always successful, and fresh tomatoes get expensive otherwise...).

This is another one of those extremely non-specific flexible recipes (i.e. no measurements!).  It is so easy and you can make up a ton of it and store it in the fridge or freezer for later.  I think it is an easy switch from store-bought.

-olive oil
-a carrot, chopped
-a stalk of celery, chopped
-1/2 to a whole onion, chopped
- a few cloves of garlic (I usually do 6 for the amount of tomatoes I use), minced
-Tomatoes (I usually use two 30oz cans diced, but you can use crushed, dice up fresh, etc.  Do check the sodium levels on the canned variety...it can be shocking, but not as shocking as a jar of store-bought tomato sauce)
- 2 or 3 bay leaves
-oregano (dry or fresh)
-fresh ground pepper
-parsley (dry or fresh)
-basil (dry or fresh)
-fresh greens, if desired - I've done kale and spinach. Add them washed and well-dried, and be very spare with them if you aren't going to have much time to cook down the sauce.

1.  In a large sauce pan (or even a stock pot), add enough olive oil to easily cover the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium heat and start adding celery, carrot, and onion as you prep them.
2.  Cook until everything is softening a bit.
3.  Mince garlic and add to pan, saute for 30 seconds and then add the tomatoes.
4.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir (I usually end up using dry herbs and being liberal with oregano and basil and a little more spare with the parsley.  If you use fresh herbs, no need to worry about chopping them - I have added whole basil leaves, as in the picture above!)
5.  Stir everything together, and then let it simmer for awhile (a couple of hours is ideal).
6.  Remove bay leaves (but don't stress if you can't find them all)
7.  Use a hand blender to puree everything
8.  Allow to simmer longer if you want a thicker sauce.
9.  Enjoy!

A couple of notes:  The sauce will certainly turn colors when you add a lot of various vegetables to it.  And it will also be quite watery if you don't have time to cook it down.  If your kids won't eat an orange sauce (once The Beast added a whollllle lot of kale and the sauce was an unappetizing brown...but it tasted good!), you should try this without the veggies pureed in.  You could leave them as chunks, but Bean actually will not eat them that way.

And I'm betting some of you have really good spaghetti sauce recipes - I would love to hear them!  I am always looking for more/better ideas to make quick healthy meals!
This is the sauce cooked down, before it is pureed.  This particular batch includes half an onion, a celery stalk, a (huge) carrot, two stems of kale (including the trimmed stalk), and dry oregano, parsley, basil, and bay leaves.  And, of course, tomatoes.

After being pureed

Over spaghetti, topped with lentils, and accompanied by dinosaur kale

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful, every day

Day 20.  Thanksgiving scarf, worn with a brooch of Mom's as well.  The colors and shapes make me think of fall, and a plentiful variety of food!

I hesitate to make holiday-related posts to my blog.  They end up feeling forced, and I think they are uninteresting.

But I have been feeling a heightened sense of gratitude over the past few months, and this seems an appropriate time to share it.

I am blown away every day by how much I have in my life.  I have been to the depths of despair, and people lifted me up and helped me dust myself off.  I come from a single-parent household turned shattered home.  I felt like a nomad in high school.  Homeless.  A squatter.  There was drama and difficulty and pain and lots of water under family bridges.  I often felt lost and like every break from school was a black hole.

And yet I now find myself surrounded by wonderful friends (both online and off!) and a wonderful family (some related by blood, some by law, and some by choice).  I am married to an incredible man - who is nothing I envisioned myself marrying, but I sure am glad I did anyway!  And I have two little boys who keep me on my toes, hold a mirror to my values and actions daily, and ensure that not only will I keep growing, but I will discover periodically that I haven't grown up as much as I thought (no, I am still confronted with the same stubbornness, temper, and resolve that I struggled with as a young child...)

Thinking about the journey of my life, and quite a bit about my mother and her role in my life, I have been feeling mostly gratitude for her.  I have felt sadness over my children not meeting her, of course.  But mostly I am so grateful that she is my mother.  (Not "was" my mother - she will always be my mother in the present tense.)  She laid a groundwork of values and self-respect and relationships. 

In reflecting on the short time she was given, I am grateful for the ways in which she set me up for life.  It is also clear to me how important I am as a mother, and that all this hard work raising young children will pay off.

So I am, today, grateful for my mother's thirteen years of guidance.  I am grateful for all the friends and family who saw me through her loss, and to every one that now sees me through motherhood without her.  I am grateful to my children for giving me a chance to heal old wounds (even if this is sometimes done by ripping them open...) and for not allowing me to become too set in my ways (in particular, Bean sure does keep my problem-solving skills sharp!).

And, I cannot lie, I am grateful for simultaneous naptimes.

P.S.  I will make another scarf-a-day post soon!  There are several more scarves to wear.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

I am no photographer, that's for sure!  And my food photography skills are especially lacking...
These. are. so. good!  An excellent and relatively healthy fall treat (you can leave out the chocolate chips to to make them less sugary and more healthy), we ate these for dessert last night!  ...and I ate one for breakfast...

They are basically my granola bar recipe with pumpkin and spices added in.  They turn out very moist - not really granola bar texture...but not cake, either.  I will definitely make them again - probably soon, because I have more pumpkin to use!  They might turn out well as cookies, but I think they'd need more of a leavening agent than the baking soda.

1/2 c. dried deglet dates
1/2 c. butter, softened (you can microwave it for 30 seconds to soften it plenty)
1c. honey (I originally was going to use 1/2 c. but the mixture looked too dry)
3/4 c. cooked pumpkin (I used fresh-cooked - make sure it is thick and not watery!)
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
4 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup flour of any sort
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
2 TBSP chia seeds
1 c. mini chocolate chips (optional)

-Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

-Butter a 9x13 pan (straight edges/corners work best)

-Process the dates in your food processor or blender.  Add to a large mixing bowl with the butter, honey, pumpkin, and spices.  Use a hand mixer to blend thoroughly.

-Add everything else but the chocolate chips and beat until well-combined.

-Stir in the chocolate chips.

-Transfer mixture to the pan.  With slightly wet fingers, firmly press the mixture into the pan.  It will be stickier than the usual granola bar batter.

-Bake for 15-20 minutes (my oven runs a little hot, so 15 minutes is plenty).

-Allow to cool for 10+ minutes (longer can be better) before cutting into bars.  I used a pastry cutter/scraper because it has a straight and fairly sharp edge.  A sharp knife would work, too.  I made 20 bars from the 9x13 pan.

-Once they're cut, refrigerate until the whole pan is cool.  Then remove the bars from the pan and store in layers, with a piece of wax paper between.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Running...with excuses.

Where's Brea?  (Yes, I really am in this picture...)

Last week I had a crappy run.  Generally, in the midst of a bad run, I focus on my self-talk (that conversation I'm having with myself in my head).  I make sure I'm giving myself permission to slow down.  Sometimes I will say to myself "this doesn't feel good.  I am not enjoying this.  I will just make it x point/time/mileage and be proud of myself for going even though I really don't want to."  Sometimes I remind myself that this could be improving my life - or even giving me an "extra" day with my kids.  That might sound scared (or scary), but for me it is motivating; it makes me feel like I have a tiny bit of control over things that I have long accepted are almost entirely out of my control.  If my kidneys fail?  No regrets.  If I have a heart attack?  Clearly nothing else I could have done.

It generally keeps me going (it helps that, for the most part, I do enjoy running or I feel better after a mile or so).

This run was different, though.  I was about 2 miles in and found myself wanting to stop.  There was no negative self-talk - it was more like a conversation with my legs ("um...we're feeling good up here...why are you suddenly trying to hang out a few feet behind the rest of me?").  I thought perhaps I was expecting too much of myself after the unexpectedly fast race I'd run a few days before.  I kept telling myself "slow down.  Just relax into an easier pace."  I said out loud (yeah, I'm that lady) "ok.  Willpower.  I can use willpower to get home running."  And I found myself walking.  I told myself I would start running at a certain point ahead, and I ran for a few paces and couldn't keep going.  My legs felt like lead.  They just refused to turn over.

It was so odd - so unlike me.  I realized that night that it was potentially due to starting an additional and  new antihypertensive (blood pressure medication).  I switched when I was taking it so it might impact me less during my run.  The next day I felt better, but I got to thinking a little more about my nephrology (kidney) appointment, which had been chaotic.

No, that's an understatement.  The doctor was running almost an hour behind, and I had arrived with both kids in tow (after a 1.5-hour drive) about 20 minutes early.  So it was over an hour between getting into the office and seeing the doctor.  Dr. K. and I were basically yelling so we could hear each other over my roaring dino-schooler and my whining toddler.  At one point they were fighting and pushing each other on the back side of the exam table, and A-Train ended up wedged under the exam table.  The doctor mostly laughed (he has four kids) and was really supportive and complimentary of my handling of it all.  But he did very much stress that I have to make sure I am taking care of myself - I have to rest, drink water, make sure I am taking my medication regularly, keep to my diet, and keep up with exercise.

As I was running and thinking about the appointment (and laughing about it in hindsight), I got to thinking about all the reasons I prioritize running and taking care of myself.

1) I feel good afterward (and often during).
2) I will do everything I can to not put my children through what I went through in losing my mother so young.
3) It likely keeps my kidneys healthier longer, so that my quality of life (not just length of life) is as good as can be for as long as possible.
4) I am really unpleasant if I go too many days without vigorous exercise - it makes me a better mother, friend, and person!

My kids.  My husband.  My mom.  My doctor's orders - my doctor has given me some form of a "take care of yourself" lecture at every appointment since Bean was born.  When I don't, stuff shows up in my labs.  (I'm going to interject here that, as a kidney patient, when you talk about "labs" you are talking about blood and urine.  So you have been warned - I am about to talk about my pee.)  For example, when A-Train was a few months old, my nephrologist admonished me for having overly-concentrated urine.  *ahem*  I was dehydrated and that is bad news for kidneys.  And if I'm not taking care of myself and my blood pressure is elevated, he wants to know if I need to de-stress or if he needs to put me on more medications (it was determined this last appointment that I needed more medication.  *sigh*  My actual lab numbers are stable or improved, though!)

Anyway, I got to thinking that these act like excuses for me to say I have to do things for myself.  I can't make the excuse "no big deal!  I'll do it tomorrow!"  Of course, every now and then I skip a run - other things take priority, or I feel like I am running myself ragged and sleep would do my body more good than an early morning run.  But I always get back to it, and I get anxious if I can't work in exercise for more than a few days.  That anxiety is, I think, coming from multiple places - I need the endorphins from exercise, I need to mentally feel like I am doing what I can for my health (so, admittedly, a place of fear), and I need that quiet time (read: away from the kids!).

In any case, I am consciously taking my training goals down a notch to account for the possibility that this medication is draining my energy (I should adjust just in time to potentially have the dose doubled.  Eh.).  I have one more 5K and then I will do cross training and maintenance runs through the winter.  I'm not aiming to best my time from my last race.  I'm not even aiming to match it.  I'm aiming to run this next race in 27-ish minutes (about a minute slower per mile than my last).  And if I can't even do that?  Oh well.  I have a pretty good excuse!

Thursday, November 17, 2011




I have a baby available to scream at you all afternoon and keep you occupied by trying to get him to take a nap he obviously needs. Comes with a kitchen empty of clean dishes but brimming with dirty ones. And also approximately 173648272 loads of laundry to do with as you wish! Throw it away for all I care!

Act now and I will throw in plenty of Legos to bruise the soles of your feet just like you always wanted!

I will sweeten the deal even further!
When not screaming, he is freakishly adorable and loves to read quietly!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Scarf-a-Day Challenge

I don't even know how many scarves are in the box from my mom's stuff, but I've decided to find out by wearing a different one every day until I've worn every single one.  I'm on Day 12 and have hardly made a dent!  Some of them are goofy - there is a Texas flag bandana, one from an Olympics (I believe 1988), and on with hot air balloons that I suspect Mom picked up in Albuquerque at the hot air balloon festival (in fact, I think I might recall it - just as I recall the giant Mr. Peanut balloon...).

I've been wearing scarves and taking pictures every day - so a happy side effect of this experiment is that there are now recent pictures of me!  (Though I feel a little silly seeing my face all over my blog.)

Anyhow, here are photos of my scarf adventures so far!

Day 1

Day 2.  Yes, same shirt as yesterday.  I only wore it for a couple hours.  (I swear.)
Day 3.  There were a few potential looks for this scarf.  This one won.

Day 4.  Gauzy beige around a ponytail.

Day 5.  Brown, and beige with blue-accented swallows.  Probably my favorite scarf so far.

Day 6.  Blue gauzy around a ponytail (in the Kowalli - have you entered to win yet?)
Day 7.  Bandana to keep my hair out of my face while we chill around the house!

Day 8.  This one was too small to go around my head, but it's very cute and cheerful.  I was given the suggestion to wear it around my wrist - will do that next time!

Day 9.  This one gave me a little trouble because it is a fairly large square and the fringe means it could be mistaken for a shrunken tablecloth (in a good way?)

Day 10.  Polka dotted scarf belt while I snuggle a sick A-Train.

Day 11.  This one also gave me some trouble.  I didn't want to fold it too much because I like the pattern, which is not really a repeating pattern.  It was waaaaay too big to go on my head, though.  It looked like I was wearing a windsock.

Day 12.  Don't Mess With Texas!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Race Report of Ridiculousness

Before the races.  Bean is wearing a skirt, Baby Legs, gloves, and a superhero mask.  And this is only the beginning of the ridiculousness!

Today I ran my first official race in over four years!  And Bean showed up to run his first race - a 1-mile Fun Run that his preschool class has been training for. 

He has been all psyched about this race - he apparently can run the whole way around their .2-mile track and he has been winning that length race at school.  The Beast and I have both been emphasizing that winning isn't the point - that I never win my races, and I don't run just to race; running, pushing yourself, and meeting your goals is the fun part.

The Beast and I were both a little concerned that Bean was going to be very upset if/when he didn't win (we expected plenty of older kids - we did not expect he would win.  We didn't even expect he would run nearly the whole thing.).  He likes to race in some of our daily activities and we have all-out meltdowns when he doesn't win (incidentally, I am demonstrating graceful winning and losing behavior, but he still just screams.  In fact, he tells me to yell and be angry when I lose!  He wants to rub it in!).

When Bean woke up yesterday morning, he said he was sick.  When we mentioned the run was the next day, he said he couldn't do it.  With a little more discussion, he agreed he would show up, and he would walk or run or maybe even be carried by his dad - but he would show up nonetheless.  In the evening, Bean and I went to pick up our t-shirts and numbers.  He seemed excited, and I was feeling a little more relaxed about it since he now did not expect to win and wasn't repeatedly saying "I'm gonna be the fastest!"

I was also highly amused that he decided he was going to pick up our race stuff wearing a skirt (part of his Halloween costume, which I still need to post about!), Baby Legs, and a Zorro-style superhero mask.  And he carried a sword made of pieces of musical instruments.  Hilarious.

This morning, we arrived just before my 5K's 8AM start time, running late after having to adjust the location of Bean's number so he wouldn't rip it off, deal with a meltdown when A-Train won the carseat race (because Bean was still fighting over what order his gloves and jacket would be put on.  Oy.), etc etc etc.

But I got there.  And I lined up.  And I kept thinking to myself "I'm never going to be able to make my 27-minute goal.  What was I thinking?  Shaving a minute off a 5K time in just 6 weeks?  Can't do it."

I smoked it.

According to my Garmin (it was not a chipped race, and I am not even sure if there was an official timer), I came in right around 24:21!!!!

My first mile (according to both my Garmin and the timer standing off to the side) was 7:38!!  I have not run a mile that fast since high school.

I. am. pumped.
  I could not settle into a slower pace because I was trying to keep up with, literally, 8-year-olds and my automatic response to a little kid in front of me seemed to be trash-talking in my head.  "I have two little kids!  I'm 13 months postpartum!  You think you're all fast and young and awesome!  OLD LADY MOTHER-OF-TWO COMING THROUGH."  And when they passed me?  "Oh uh-uh.  No way.  My legs are longer.  I know this route and there's a long hill coming up.  And I like uphills."  (Yes, I really do.  Weird habit from high school cross country - I run faster on the uphills.  The Beast thinks it's funny because it's not on purpose.)

So that's the boring part of my race report.

The exciting and truly ridiculous?  (Although, hello!  I beat my goal time by a ridiculous almost three minutes!!!!) Anyway.  Enough about me and my trash-talking competitiveness against 8-year-olds (hm.  Where is Bean getting his competitiveness from...?)

So Bean decided to wear his skirt, Baby Legs, and mask again for the race.  Already awesomely ridiculous.  Bean and The Beast lined up for the 1-mile kids' race (I was going to stay behind with A-Train) and off went the older kids, kindergarten and up.  Bean was running around and The Beast was just kind of standing there looking bemused.  I nursed A-Train and relaxed for a few minutes.

As they lined up the preschoolers, I could not see Bean or The Beast anywhere.  The preschoolers took off, and I took a picture of the small crowd wondering if I was just missing them...at least I'd have a picture of the start...even if I didn't see them at the time.

I called The Beast's cell phone.  No answer.

A minute or so later, a text message.  Bean had to poop!  ::sigh::

So a few minutes later they've returned, and we tell Bean he can just go take off and finish the race anyway.  The Beast takes him down the hill to the big balloon arch at the start/finish line and...

He tripped and fell.  Practically under the starting line of balloons.
 The Beast helped him up...
and held his hand as he limped a little ways.
And then Bean said he couldn't walk.  In fact, he insisted The Beast had to carry him to the car.

So today I PRed in a 5K.  Bean dressed up in costume, missed the start of his race, and then fell at the starting line and declared himself done - and PRed in ridiculousness.

P.S. In case you are not a geeky runner or other athlete, "PR" stands for "personal record."  Not public relations.  Though Bean was certainly doing that at super-hero caliber as well!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kowalli Review and Giveaway!

A-Train in the Ergo and Kowalli, using his all-powerful 1-year-old index finger to point to something or other...

Last year I had a 6-week-old around the time I started planning my holiday wish lists, and what I really wanted was to be able to keep up an active lifestyle into the colder months.  I was already doing crazy things like wearing The Beast's quilted flannels on my front to cover A-Train in the Ergo, and I was freezing my buns off having to take off my own coat in the grocery store parking lot so I could load up A-Train, then get him covered up.

I looked at a lot of carrier covers.  I wanted something that would allow me to keep my coat on in a parking lot situation - I can wear the Ergo over my coat, and I wanted something I could easily cover A-Train with at that point.  I wanted us both to stay warm!  But I didn't want to have to fuss with a carrier cover to get it attached or detached when I went from outdoors to wearing A-Train around the house

When I first came across the Kowalli, I was skeptical.  It was a completely different design from all the other carrier covers, which either attached to the carrier or went on the parent like a vest and then zipped the baby in.  I wasn't even 100% sure how this cover worked.  I contacted Kowalli directly and received a prompt and wonderful reply from Alizah Holstein (the owner and designer). 

Alizah explained that all you had to do to use the Kowalli was load your baby up with your jacket open (so they aren't pressed against any zippers or buttons) and put the Kowalli on over that.  You can cinch in the top and bottom with elastic drawstrings and seal in the body heat of yourself and your precious cargo.  Plus, the Kowalli has an assymetrical design that drapes to allow you to wear your baby on your front or your back.  And now, with an almost-toddler, I make the bottom into a pocket by flipping it under A-Train's feet - the cinched elastic keeps it from letting his feet dangle into the cold.  It is like being wrapped in a deluxe fleece blanket!

Snuggly Self-Portrait
I use my Kowalli frequently in cold weather.  Last year, I tucked it into his carseat as a blanket and then bundled A-Train into the grocery store in blustery weather.  I even nursed him within the Kowalli and Ergo (that was, admittedly, some hard work to get set up, especially since - have I mentioned this? - he was a crappy nurser...).  Already this fall, A-Train and I have cuddled up in the Kowalli to walk Bean to school.  He even fell asleep as a sitter snuggled him in there one morning!

Everywhere we go in the Kowalli, I get comments.  It is just so cozy-looking!  (And it feels as cozy as it looks.)  The Kowalli is made of thick, soft, durable Polar Fleece.  Almost a year - and many uses - later, and it is still snuggly soft and looks like new.  And it is so warm that I sometimes go without a jacket - the combined body heat from A-Train and me in the Kowalli is perfect for crisp fall days.  It even has a pocket on the front where you can cozy up your own hands while hugging or patting your babe. 

Obviously, I love the Kowalli and think it is a high-quality and very functional product!  The fact that it is all made in the U.S.A. is a huge bonus.  And Alizah has been a friendly and generous business owner, providing wonderful customer service.  Not only was she always prompt in her replies to questions, but once I had and loved my Kowalli I asked if she would donate one for a fundraiser - and she did!

Well, now she is also giving away a Kowalli (a $69 value) to one reader of this blog!  The giveaway officially starts at 12:01AM Eastern Standard Time (Sorry - I couldn't get Rafflecopter to change that default!)

To enter, follow the instructions on and fill out the Rafflecopter form below.  If you are new to Rafflecopter, you can watch a video here about entering giveaways that use Rafflecoper.: 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Should Food Stamps Buy Junk Food?

Once upon a time, I was adamantly nodding my head in favor of New York City's proposed ban on the purchase of sugary drinks using food stamps.  Then I read this blog entry at Racialicious and understood a little better how complex food insecurity is. 

Also, I really don't have a problem with subsidizing the people I actually know who utilize food stamps, WIC, or Medicaid.  They're all hard-working, many are students or are navigating my area's difficult job market, and none wants or plans to utilize these programs forever.  I know there are loads of stories about people abusing these programs, and perhaps in other parts of the country - or even other parts of my county - that is an issue.  But I have yet to meet anyone who just sits back and enjoys some sort of welfare lifestyle.  Do I cringe when I see a cart loaded up with entirely packaged food?  Yes.  But it doesn't matter how a person is paying for it, and I'm usually not thinking "that person is bad/wrong/stupid."  I usually think "man I wish there were better packaged options in our country..."

I'm much more bothered by corn and sugar subsidies to huge corporations than I am by food subsidies to individuals and families.  And I really cannot fault anyone for heading to a fast food restaurant in a pinch.  I do it on occasion - and the one I prefer because it has some healthier options is much more expensive, so a family stretching their dollars to the max would not have that option if it even existed within a reasonable distance of them (Subway, mentioned in the article, is a total no-go for me.  The sodium content of deli meats is absurd.).

I just listened to this article on NPR's Talk of the Nation and it crystallized for me what bothers me most about this particular debate.  Sherrie Tussler (the interviewee) says:
They can't buy alcohol, cleaning products, tobacco products, but they can buy food.  And when people sit back and think about the food industry and how we would like to think of, for instance, Cheetos or soda as food, what we should really be questioning is not which person is putting that in which grocery cart so much as why the, I guess, food producers of our nation think that it's OK to call that food.
Yes.  Why are these things considered food?  Why do we allow food-like substances to make up the bulk of our grocery options? 

I am not in agreement with Tussler that it is the "food producers" that think it is OK to call it food.  Take Campbell's low sodium soups for instance and read here - it is us consumers who are choosing the junk.  We can chalk it up to years of eating highly sweetened, salty, fatty food - now we are all addicted, perhaps.

But what is the benefit of telling people what food they are and are not allowed to buy with food stamps?  Is it really going to make a dent in our deficit or healthcare costs?  Focusing energy and resources on what people are buying when they are using food stamps seems misguided - shouldn't we be focused on what options are available to all of us?  And, of course, what programs and methods are effective for getting folks off of public assistance?

Photocredit:  sanjoy on Flickr

Monday, November 7, 2011

On monetizing this blog

I have been giving this a lot of thought lately.  Obviously anyone who blogs would be lying if they said they didn't think of making money from it.  It would be nice - I enjoy writing here, and who doesn't want to make money doing something they enjoy?!?

In fact, I should "come clean" about the fact that this blog is already very slightly monetized.

I have had a post drafted for months that I have not gotten around to finishing that simply states that my Amazon links are affiliate links.  If I understand it correctly, when you click links to Amazon and make a purchase that day I get a teeny tiny percentage of the purchase.  This was the simplest - and least bothersome - way for me to monetize the blog.  I was already linking to Amazon when I mentioned books I was reading or products I was using, so why not make a penny here and there without changing anything?

I would also like to take some advertising for companies and products I already love, but I think I need to grow my readership some more before I really try for that (but, hey, if I know and love your company or product and you are interested in advertising on Contentedly Crunchy at present, shoot me an email at contentedlycrunchy at gmail dot com and let's chat!).

I am not sure that I want to regularly do product reviews, though I am contemplating soliciting one for a product I very much want to try and that fits with the themes of this blog.  But, if I did product reviews on a regular basis, I fear I would constantly be questioning whether I like a product more because it was free, or whether I am telling myself I like it because liking it might get me more free stuff.  Obviously I have a really loud conscience and overthink everything!

I wanted to explicitly say all of this before I put up a second giveaway (I'm hoping for end of this week or beginning of next).  I am hoping these giveaways will grow my readership, which would enable me to take on a little advertising, which would justify my spending some more time writing - which would benefit me because I enjoy it.  So, if you would like to see me writing more, please participate in the giveaways and refer your friends to participate as well!

And I welcome any and all thoughts on this topic.  If you are sad or angry or glad or ambivalent to hear that I might monetize this blog (or that I already kind of have), I want to hear about it.

Photo Credit:  DonkeyHotey on Flickr

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I'm baaa-aaaack! And I have SCARVES!

I'm settling back in at home after 10 days away - the latter half of which was sans The Beast while I sorted through many of my mother's things.  It was all really wonderful, actually.  It was fun to see all these things that surrounded me as a child, and it brought back a lot of (good) memories. 

We arrived in El Paso on Sunday, and I went for a 5-mile run on Monday.  I ran through my very old neighborhood - the place where I lived until I was about 6.  Everything seemed so....small.

I remembered everything about that house and neighborhood as being bigger - I suppose because I was smaller.  The driveway looked tiny.  Didn't I used to ride a tricycle around in that driveway?  The field across the street looked smaller - I had just run around it, and that wasn't very far... 

I ran to the cul de sac at the other end of the neighborhood and stopped momentarily at the stone wall.  I spent a good deal of time in that cul de sac as a child.  Dear friends of ours had lived there - what seemed like a long walk around the corner at the time.  Those friends had moved out of the neighborhood just a bit after we had - this was "the old neighborhood" for both families.

After Mom died, my sister and I lived with those friends.  So this neighborhood has significance as part of the continuous threads in my often-fractured life.

Anyhow, I stood at that stone wall and looked into the field beyond.  Was it always this small?  I looked to my right, trying to see where I knew our old backyard was.  I tried to recall the layout of the yard...wasn't it bigger than that?

I was trying to recall all of this when the dog barking in a nearby house was let loose and started running toward me.  I took it as a sign to get going on my run again.

I ran by the old house and realized the sidewalks were unusually narrow.  How did I not recall that?  Really?  The sidewalks were always unusually small?!?

I noted that I have only a vague recollection of the layout of that house.

One item I hoped to find and did.  No bigger than a bread box!  (teehee!)
Anyhow, sorting through Mom's things was wonderful and strange.  Mostly the strange part was when I set aside several boxes for Goodwill and sent a few home with the babysitter.  I didn't expect to find such ordinary things, or things I felt no attachment to.  Like pots and pans, measuring cups, and Mom's food processor!

And then there were the antique sharp things - one was a pair of giant metal scissors.  My sister and I (on Skype) both said we didn't want them in our houses (she has three young children). 

When I saw things I remembered, I exclaimed "Oh.  My. Gosh."  Bean and A-Train were with me the first day - as we sort of took stock and came up with a rough plan of action for the following days.  I opened a few things...not knowing what I was going to find or what shape they would be in after 17 years and possibly being hastily-packed.  He started asking "what made you say 'Oh. My. Gosh?'"  And then he asked if he could have some of the candles we randomly found in a side table...  They are his treasures now; two very ordinary candles, now sitting on the shelf in his room.

And speaking of treasures, I had a blast going through my sister's things.  Like any good little sister would!  But, really, I went through them with her on Skype and we laughed about all her collections and treasures.  I realized just how normal and fantastic my 3.5-year-old is, with his treasuring of random candles, cicada shells, toothpicks, etc. 

I brought home a few of my own treasures, but have not had a chance to go through the boxes of my own things yet - next visit.  And Bean was not interested in my treasures.  He was too busy building a liopleurodon out of Duplos.

I posted the title image from this post on the Facebook page - the scarf/headband was my mother's, and I have many many more.  I'm thinking of doing a scarf-a-day challenge, trying to figure out how I want to wear/use/accessorize with all of these fabulous scarves, bandanas, and headbands. 

Anyway, stay tuned for some not-Mom-related blog entries, including another giveaway.  If you or someone you know is a baby- or toddler-wearing parent, you will want to enter this giveaway!!

And now, after one last picture of one of my finds....sleep.

Babywearing my old Cabbage Patch doll in a carrier that dangles her from my neck.  I believe this doll's name was "Nellie Iona."  Didn't Cabbage Patch dolls come with a birth certificate that informed you of their name?  "Nellie Iona" is not one I would have come up with on my own...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

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