Monday, January 30, 2012

Kitchen Business, Part Deux

he got me
Ever hear of Dr. Julie Becker?  I hadn't either, until this morning, when I heard her speak at a synagogue service.  She's the founder of Women's Health & Environmental Network, an organization that serves Southeastern PA, in trying to educate and increase awareness of the connections between our environment, our living habits and our health.

In listening to her speak (highlighting the terrible results of BPA exposure), I thought of a few more items of business that I left out on that A Change Will Do You Good post I wrote last week.  I neglected to discuss utensils, pots and pans, cleaning supplies and other kitchen-related goodies.

First off, let's just say that common sense is key (duh) to keeping a healthy kitchen.  If you are using a plastic spatula that seems to be melting and leaving bits in your eggs, it's time to add it to the landfills and switch to bamboo.  Wooden spoons and spatulas (yes, they do make flat ones) are perfect for all kinds of cooking and baking.  While it's easy to stain them with quality spices, I always feel better about using something earthy to prepare something earthy.  They are easy to come by, especially at Home Goods or Marshalls (my favorite places to shop for kitchen accessories), are pretty inexpensive, and make nice gifts.  Use metal ladles or slotted spoons for dishing out heartier foods and just stay away from plastic altogether.

a very big butterfly landed on me.
Next, we have pots and pans.  Kind of a biggie.  I feel the same way about these as I did about the melting plastic spatulas.  Thanks but no thanks.  We got some beautiful stainless steel pots and cast iron pans from our wedding, and I just stick with those.  Look for sales at Macy's or again, Home Goods, for some good deals on basic cookware.  There's been some discussion about green pans as well.  My feeling is that they won't stand up to high heat for very long, so might as well spend your money wisely and just use different oils while cooking so you don't have to do too much scrubbing.

*In the spirit of full disclosure, I will confess that we have one Calphalon pan I have not been able to part with because I get perfect over easy eggs in it.  But the minute it starts to shed on me, it's history.

see my name? I am famous.
Speaking of scrubbing, let's discuss soap.  I like Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers (honeysuckle counter spray - best scent ever), Avalon, and method.  But only the sulfate-free kind.  Bleach has been banished from our kitchen.  An unnamed (albeit well-intentioned) houseguest once cleaned the inside of a coffeepot with a bleach soak.  Um, I appreciate the desire to make it all look so pretty and unused, but I prefer my java minus the poison.  You?


I took a break from this post yesterday (read: cannot accomplish a task with a 4 year old in the vicinity) and am coming back to it this morning.  Last night, after said child was asleep, I was bitten by the Clean Out the Linen Closet Bug.  Mostly because you can't get anything out of there without 5 bottles of body goo falling on your head.  Like a rabid dog, I went hunting (for crap to toss).  And boy oh boy did I find it.

I have this guilt (tip of the iceberg) about throwing this stuff away.  And I feel like that about all of the kitchen stuff we got rid of/are storing in the basement.  We are just filling up the planet with our trash.  It feels awful, especially when I'm throwing out whole tubes of lotions and high end hair product.  But I would feel worse giving it away to someone to use on their person.  So I choose what I think is the lesser of two evils and I throw it away.  Let it become the earth's problem.  Anyone interested in starting up a planet-safe poison disposal system?

Now.  You may be wondering what these pictures have to do with health conscious kitchen utensils.  The answer?  Nothing.  My parents, husband, and I all attended the Light the Night Awards Reception last week at the Academy of Natural Sciences.  Since I'm too lazy to go take pictures of our kitchen stuff, I figured I'd add these to the mix.  Big shout out again to all of you who helped to make me a Bright Light (raised more than $1000 for LLS).  As a group, we raised over $2,500.  You do Team Mama Mia proud.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Make these Slightly Healthier Buns
Today I'm still thinking about all of these crazy food cravings I've had over the past week (read:  I want to shove warm cinnamon buns into my piehole).  I want ooey gooey comfort sweets.

I am well aware that on the healthy scale (1 being disgusto-level toxicity/10 being prima-perfecto-OCD cleanliness), these sweets (if homemade with local and organic ingredients) could be worse.  The worst thing about them is the sugar content.  Well, that and the fact that there's pretty much no nutritional value.

But sometimes food has a different value.  There are rainy-black-cloud, frosted-window days that beg for a creamy latte with a warm almond croissant for breakfast.  There are the I-just-lost-that-job-I-really-wanted days that call for thin and crispy cornmeal crust pizza with plenty of cheese. And don't forget, the I-just-got-the-worst-news-ever kind of days, when you have lost your appetite altogether.  Days like these do not call for kale chips.  I don't care who you are and how you try to dress those little green babies up, it's just not in the cards.

Day after day of pastries and pizza will of course not help in anyone's efforts to move towards a healthy (or happy) physique.  But I say, indulge here and there (sorry, Dan, I ate the last jumble cookie) for a healthy and happy mind.

Stay tuned for some upcoming posts about food:  what to eat and why.


PS.  Instead of the cinnamon buns, I made some banana nut bread with minor alterations (1/2 the sugar, 1/2 the AP flour).  Toasted with some almond butter, I think it came out pretty well.
PPS.  Check out my sweet board on Pinterest for some other crave-worthy baking ideas.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Change Will Do You Good

Prior to my diagnosis, I ate a heathy diet, worked an active job (sitting down for lunch was a treat) and thought everything was easy pickins.  Well, it was and it wasn't. 

For most cancers out there, we have still not identified a probable cause.  I have some theories on my own situation, but none with actual scientific evidence to back them up.  Doesn't really matter though, because there are times when science can't change a feeling.  Feelings of worry, concern, dread could wither up and die if relief came walking in the door.  

Anyway.  As it's been noted in the past, I am a gal who likes to have a little control over things.  When someone tells you there is cancer in your person and no one knows why, things tend to get a little kooky.  And with the stats out today about how many more people are scheduled to develop these conditions (1 in 2 men, 1 in 3 women) in our lifetime, my hunch is leaning towards something bad we're doing.

For me, that's good news.  If I was doing something wrong before, well, now I have a chance to change that.  And for all the people out there who haven't been k-nocked on their arses yet, well, perhaps you have a chance to avoid it altogether.  Whoopeee!

Making some changes in my home and in my habits made me feel good.  It gave me a sense of control in a quickly spiraling situation.  It made me an active participant in my own life instead of just a lump on a log, letting the doctors and the stupid stupid cancer be in charge.  No thank you.

I have had many people contact me over the past year to ask about what type of ________ I use.  I love to answer these messages because I feel like there are other people out there who want to pay attention now instead of waiting for an anvil to drop on their heads.  Over the next few posts, I am going to attempt to detail the types of _________ that I use now - what changes worked and what didn't.  I hope you'll find it helpful.

When all of this mayhem began 18 months ago, the first thing we did was to remove all of our plastic food storage containers from the kitchen.  In fact, to be more precise, I hopped onto and bought enough glass containers (with bpa-free lids) and dishes to take us into 2025.  Then, I emptied out the drawers and cabinets of all plastic and threw them into a cardboard box in the basement.  We dig into the box every now and then to store small animal figurines or lego sets.  As far as I'm concerned, that's all they're good for.

I replaced all of our small plastic lunch containers and sippies for Judah with stainless steel containers and SIGGies, and glass water bottles.  In my search, I found this too (and love it!), but it was too big for his little lunch box.  We have almost done away with plastic bags - at least greatly reduced our usage of them - more for waste/planet preservation purposes, than for the anti-cancer crusade.  In place of baggies, we use reusies or waste not asks or lunch skins.  Are these items a little pricey?  Yes.  Do they last?  But of course.  This is stuff you can use for a LONG time.  And when the name labels finally wash off in the dishwasher, you can use them for your own lunch.  Portion control, anyone?

I'm not going too far into the price discussion because we all agree you can't put a price on your health.  From where I stand, I would pay any amount of money (and this is coming from someone who's looking for a job right now) to have some health security.  Not a guarantee, just a little bit of security.  For me, to spend more on a glass bottle that I can use every day (got one of those LifeFactory bottles from a friend last year and have been using it ever since for my aggressive hydration) and feel good about is worth the extra five bucks.  And to be sure, that's about all it is if you price compare.

Anyway, we also ditched the plastic kiddie plates and cups in favor of glass.  Maybe if Judah had been a thrower, we'd have waited on that one, but since we were all proficient in the proper usage of cups and plates, a trip to HomeGoods resulted in some adorable little juice glasses for Judah and a trip to Ikea led to some simple glass bowls and plates - just the right size for junior portions.

Now I also use the glass plates as lids if I have to microwave something (more on the microwave later), as there is a NO PLASTIC rule about heat (no microwave, no dishwasher) in our house.

Sigh.  I think that's everything about plastic in the kitchen.  I just feel it's bad news bears.  Let's all go back to the days of my Bubbe, who still uses glass jars for everything.  She's living into her nineties and is a lymphoma survivor, too.

Good luck with your kitchenware changes.  Please comment below and share your own experiences with making a change.


PS. The song, for fun.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Life's a Happy Song

For those of you who have seen the new Muppet movie (The Muppets), you will understand that of which I speak when I refer to the glorious joy on the face of every character during the opening number, Life's a Happy Song.  As a lover of all things Muppet, of course I was thrilled to both see and share this movie (which Jason Segel, co-writer and star called, "a love letter to the Muppets") with my kid.

The past few weeks, since we took Judah to see it on Christmas day, we've been listening to the soundtrack on Spotify and Pandora.  Judah (now 4 and 1/2) can recognize Man or Muppet from the first few chords.  His passionate rendition brings me back to my childhood.  Memories of Sunday nights watching the Muppet Show (I think it was on at 7), seeing Kermit and feeling like a friend of mine was on TV.  Just pure love.

Listening to the happy song in the car this morning, it dawned on me why this catchy tune seems to weigh particularly heavy with me.  Obviously, the past few years have been rough up-and-downers, but I think the way I've responded to the everyday obstacles has been a direct reflection of my expectations.

Let me be clear, folks.  I have very high expectations for myself.  I like perfection.  I understand this isn't realistic, but "good enough" seems lame to apply to tasks that I am capable of perfecting.  This has included teaching, wedding planning, mothering, wife-ing, writing... yadda yadda.  I expect that I will do something, and do it well.  (Not that I'm competitive, but I prefer to do it best.)

And yet, the past few years have not been about reaching a state of perfection, but about just breathing through some really hard times.  Through most of my 6 chemo treatments, I remember looking forward to the last one, so we could throw this huge end of cancer party (anyone remember?).  Thing is, the end of chemo turned out not to be the end of cancer.

I'm not sure that there ever IS an end of cancer.  At least, not with our current knowledge (or lack thereof) of how cancer begins and lasts and destroys our cells.

There certainly is life after cancer.  And there are over 12 million people on the planet to prove it.

I want to be hopeful and happy and return to a state of blissful ignorance when my biggest concerns were if my hair was cooperating or if my lesson plans were ready to be collected.  Bulletin boards up to date?  Child bathed and asleep on time?  There have always been long To Do lists, as I'm sure many of you are familiar with.  And it feels so good (addictive?) to cross that s&*t off!  I love to feel productive, like I am actually a contributing member of society.

But my satisfaction now is so different from BC.  Life's not always a happy song, certainly not the happy song I thought I'd be singing at the end of treatment.  Since the worries and the physical wear and tear doesn't just disappear when the doctor tells you the results were good, cancer's always hanging about.

I don't want to paint too gloomy a picture.  Some days, thoughts about my child's life without me run rampant.  Other days, I worry that too much dairy creates a breeding ground for those nasty errant blood cells that fell asleep during lecture.  My biggest task at hand is to remember to breathe.  The money, the job, the personal fulfillment will all somehow work out for the best in the end, right?  As long as we remember to breathe.

"Life's a happy song, when there's someone by your side to sing along."


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Couldn't Stay Away

My prep team had the night off

Tonight I started back into meditation.  It had been about 6 months since last my rear graced the rather expensive cushion I purchased last year (for a class).  Since then, I've had two clean-ish scans, months of anxiety and worry, sleepless nights, chest discomfort, a racing heart, and fatigue.  Perhaps it's time to get back on it.

I made it a whole 16 minutes in silence tonight before I was bursting with ideas that I had to write down before letting them slip away (I felt a little like Jerry Seinfeld in that episode when woke up in the middle of the night with a joke idea and scribbled it illegibly on the notepad next to his bed).  I jumped up, full of vim and vigor, to run to the computer.

You see, since I made the content of Bump In The Road (the first blog) private due to a hopeful publishing project I am working on, I have felt a little creatively discombobulated.  What I didn't realize was that the blog was a safe place for me to work things out - the muddled thoughts circulating during all hours would suddenly rise to the surface, with crystal clarity for me to articulate.  Even if I had unanswerable questions, I always felt better asking them here, because what I discovered was that lots and lots of people were unanswering those same questions in their daily lives, too.

So I'm back.  We have some catching up to do - I feel like it's been ages.  I have some questions, some suggestions, from time to time a few complaints and I also like to voice my opinions.  This chapter may prove even more absurd and looney-lu than the first.

Please stick around for the woes of trying to live a healthy life after the big C has come and gone.

Feel free to read, share, comment, advise and enjoy.