A little dust MAY just be hurting you and your health

A little dust MAY just be hurting you and your health

House cleaning has never been one of my favorite jobs. In fact, I used to avoid it at all costs. Way back in my single days, I’d keep things neat but I was never fastidious about vacuuming and dusting, to say the least. I always preferred things have their place, but a little clutter didn’t bug me too much.

Fast forward to life with a husband and kids, things have had to change a little. For a long time, my tried and true ways of tidying just wasn’t cutting it. The clutter would pile up, we moved house and were still figuring out where things went, and five people can make a big mess in very little time at all. Needless to say, we felt we were always playing catch-up. When we needed to organize for guests, it was a monumental effort. As a gift, my mom got us a few visits of a housekeeping service which we stretched out and continued for a while. But every two weeks we’d be in a panic to “clean” for the cleaning people! Help?!

Big Change #1:

We finally made the decision to remodel our kitchen. This was a loooong few months, but man what a difference. We had a LOT more storage and actually loved our kitchen (instead of hating it intensely). We cook almost every meal from scratch so needless to say we spend a lot of time here. We still have more work to do when budget allows, but this has been life changing.

Reality check, not everyone can remodel their kitchen (and this was a huge investment for us) but here are a few reasons this made a huge difference:

  1. Storage: Not only did many more things have a distinct place in the house, now we weren’t stashing them in corners or burying them behind piles of towels in our closets. Moving kitchen appropriate things into the kitchen freed up space elsewhere for items that truly belonged in those various spaces. Adding a hutch, shelves, or just re-organizing your current storage solutions can give you much of the same result! We have an old dresser stuck into our dining room closet which serves as a bar (the top) and storage for linens, candles and other items.
  2. Reorganize: Taking everything out, assessing what you have and then slowly finding places for things can be time-consuming but so worth it. When a certain area is frustrating me enough, I know it’s time to tackle it in this way. I try to think about where we use it the most, where it makes the most sense to remain, and what other items it should be near or paired with. When I get really annoyed by something (the jar of dishwasher powder taking up room on my counter, for example), I think about where it makes the most sense to house that item (the drawer under the sink, with the other cleaning supplies) and dive in. I removed a few things we don’t use, moved some other things to a more appropriate place (ie. a bathroom cabinet) and now the dishwasher powder is out of sight. Win!
  3. Purge: There’s nothing like a home disrupting project to make you think about what you have but don’t need anymore! There are always things we hold on to for various reasons but try to think about when you used it last. Is it just taking up space or do you really need it?

Big Change #2:

Knowledge is everything. I’ve long suffered from seasonal allergies and the fall is often the worst time of the year for me. Our kids have similar symptoms at times so creating the right environment at home is important to us. Since we reorganized our home to an extent, we’ve been better able to keep up with the clutter and the cleaning. The kids can even pitch in fairly often which is a huge bonus.

We’ve made big changes in our diets, eliminating almost all processed sugars, vastly reducing dairy and being very selective about the grains we eat. We also spend a lot of time outside when we can, don’t over-sanitize ourselves or our home (usually natural cleaners when possible), eliminating toxins when possible (aka. plastic, single-use items, etc.). This season, we’ve been the healthiest yet as far as colds, allergies, and other common ailments. All of these changes came about because we researched, tested, retested and kept trying until we figured out what works best for our family. Typically, each fall, my husband has a huge bout of bronchitis after a few weeks of being back at work (as a teacher). The change in routines, stress, and dealing with a school building that hasn’t been used for two months takes it’s toll.  Finally, after years of combating this pattern…we finally broke it. This is an intensive process and you have to be patient with yourself as you figure things out. We’re still learning, and likely still will be long into the future.

Recently, I was listening to some podcasts about home cleaning and WHY it’s important. We already use a lot of chemical free products, eliminated a lot of plastics, use water filters, we use an air purifier, and we are very careful about the food and items we bring into the house. So I was really curious about what else I was missing. The biggest “aha” moment was about dust. I’ve always hated dusting and figured a little dust doesn’t hurt anyone. However, it turns out that a lot of the big items in your house (mattresses, carpets, furniture and even construction items used to build your home) can off-gas for quite some time. You’ve heard of low VOC paints, right? Well, it turns out that tons of items in your home give off VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Ever bought a new shower curtain and can’t shake the “new” smell for quite some time? How about a room that always smells a certain way due to the carpet or mattress? And what do those chemicals stick to the most?! DUST!

One of the best and most effective ways to eliminate those chemicals from your home is to dust, simple as that. Sooo, now you’ll likely find me dusting much more frequently. Let the record show that this fall has been my bet yet. With a little elderberry syrup and Yogi Breathe Deep tea, I’ve managed to chase off all unwanted bugs before the escalate. Fingers crossed to a healthier cold and flu season this year!

DISCLAIMER: THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. If the reader or any other per­son has a med­ical con­cern, he or she should con­sult with an appropriately-licensed physi­cian or other health care worker.

Confused about Organic Food? Truth vs. Misconceptions

Confused about Organic Food? Truth vs. Misconceptions

In recent years there’s been a huge increase in the number of organic products available. I’m as guilty as the next person for grabbing organic over conventional products, but does the label actually mean it’s better for you? When I make my food choices, I like to be informed but also spend wisely.

Produce: Organic, Local, Big Agg…

Many of us believe that organic means fewer chemicals and pesticides. As we learn more about the giant cogs that make up the agricultural industry, it’s becoming clear that this isn’t always the case. There are many chemicals that are approved for use on organic produce and large-scale farms often use them liberally. Other farms that aren’t labeled organic might be pesticide-free, yet because they use a minimal amount of non-organic chemical in very small amounts, they don’t qualify for the organic label.


Farmer’s markets and local growers are other great sources for sustainable and ethically grown produce and sometimes they can be much cheaper than store bought. Better yet, you have access to the people who actually grow the food and they have a local interest in keeping their livelihood. Most likely, they’ll have a vested interest in using as few chemicals as possible with an eye to a sustainable and healthy outcome for their customers. Talk to your local farmers and even if they’re not labeled “organic” find out what chemicals they do use and why.

The best option if you have the time and space is to grow your own food! Start small with a few pots and herbs on your windowsill, or make a little space for a raised garden bed. We’ve been amazed at how much we are able and willing to keep up with as we continually add to our garden. Our kids have taken a huge interest and as a result eat so many fruits and veggies right off the plant. It’s an amazing way to have onstructive and creative conversations about how to fuel our bodies with wholesome and nutritious food.

Keep in mind, most produce can be washed before eating which eliminates a large percentage of many pesticides before they’re consumed. However, there are a number of chemicals that are absorbed by the plants and can not be removed by washing and peeling. If you keep an eye on the Dirty Dozen list, you’ll get a sense of which items are best purchased organic when possible.

5 Ways to Choose the best Produce! 1. Visit your farmer’s markets & talk to the farmers. 2. Wash your produce. 3. Grow your own! 4. Keep an eye on the Dirty Dozen list. 5. Choose organic if it’s available and not too costly for you.

Processed Foods: Beyond the Health Claims

Organic does NOT mean healthy! Organic sugar is still added sugar and doesn’t necessarily mean a product is fair game for a healthy diet.

Let’s face it, we’re all trying to raise families and do our best to keep them happy and healthy. Many times that means choosing between a home cooked meal and pizza on the way to volleyball practice because you’ve got piles of laundry, homework to oversee and a work project that needs some finishing touches before tomorrow. We all need shortcuts, sometimes major game-changers and this is where processed and packaged foods save the day.

When deciding which options are best, take a look at the label and stick to things with legible ingredients (real food, imagine that!) and only 5-6 items. It’s also a good sign if sugar (or one of its many variants) are not listed or are near the end of the list. The first few items are the ones that appear in the highest quantity. Some day soon, added sugars will be more obvious on food lables which will make things a bit easier.

Every family has their tipping point, so find what works for you. With our tendencies for eczema, we’ve found that organic wheat products (or gluten free) have a major correlation with how our skin reacts.

The Bottom Line: Don’t be afraid to grab an apple over a stack of cookies…

If you can’t afford or can’t find organic options, don’t let that stop you!  Making an effort to eat whole foods is always a better option than grabbing something full of sugar or highly processed. Grab that apple from Starbucks or the non-organic asparagus (because it’s HALF the price) if it will ensure you get those much-needed nutrients into your family!

The food we eat can have far-reaching affects, so it’s important to take it day by day and try to listen to what our bodies are telling us. Feeling bloated after downing three slices of meat lover’s pizza? Maybe add a few greens to that plate. Still peckish after that monster salad that was mostly greens? Maybe some beans or healthy carbs or protein would help balance it out. Feeling sluggish and a bit achy? Make sure you’re drinking enough water!

Elderberry Syrup and Boosting your Immunity

Elderberry Syrup and Boosting your Immunity

Germ season just doesn’t want to end this year. Just when I finally think we’re all healthy, bam…someone starts a fever or complains of a sore throat. Adding insult to injury, we’re expecting snow again this week. Isn’t today the first day of Spring?

Over February break, we took a trip to visit family in Ireland. As we were in the thick of germ season, we were dosing up on elderberry syrup for weeks before hand. Our goal was to rid ourselves of all the colds and various ailments before we jumped on an airplane, but also to fortify ourselves for exposure to many more germs we’d encounter along the way. Routine was key, we got into the habit of taking our dose every day and managed to get healthy and stay healthy for the trip. Woohoo!

Cut to a few weeks later and the home again blues, and we have fallen off the wagon. Two out of three kids have sniffles and we have also encountered a mild stomach bug. Queue the elderberry…I’ve been making our own because it’s not cheap, and it’s a fairly quick 45 minute project. You know, when you’re sitting around with nothing better to do. Honestly, I usually manage to create a batch when I’m in the midst of another cooking project. Just set the pot on the stove to simmer and remember to check back every so often. Here‘s the recipe I’ve been using.

It’s crazy how our brains so easily jump out of the good habits as soon as the “danger” has passed. Let’s be honest, if we kept up ALL THE THINGS, we’d never have to breathe so it’s perfectly normal to drop things as they no longer seem necessary. But man, I should have known we weren’t out of the woods yet with all this cold weather.

DISCLAIMER: THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. If the reader or any other per­son has a med­ical con­cern, he or she should con­sult with an appropriately-licensed physi­cian or other health care worker.

Sticking with your commitment to healthy habits

Sticking with your commitment to healthy habits

With the start of the New Year there’s a large increase in healthy eating, which usually means more people are working on healthy habits. As a family, this is a goal we’ve been working on for some time though we still have a long way to go. Looking back over the past year, I can say that I’m really surprised at how far we’ve come.

The whole journey started after our 2nd child was born in November of 2013. We weren’t happy with our health, our energy levels or our eating habits.  With a toddler in the house that was regularly fed a very balanced diet, we were forced to realize that our own diets weren’t quite so balanced or nutritious. As our inquisitive toddler was sure to see the dichotomy here, we made a commitment to improve our own eating and exercise habits in order to set the best example possible.

Over the next few months, we made small and gradual changes that we pushed ourselves to make into healthy habits. We exercised more, took time to cook healthy meals, invested our time in learning more about how to improve our eating habits, made small changes in our home and schedules to accommodate our new goals and so on. It’s actually difficult to pinpoint what each step was because they were small and the process felt gradual and is still evolving to this day. I can vividly remember looking at a few of the sites I regularly use today (for recipes and advice) thinking, that’s way too hardcore for us. Fast forward to a few months later, and those same websites are my current staples.

Beyond food, we’ve been exercising more and took steps to make that a priority. Sure, there are days and weeks when we slip up or life gets in the way. I took almost a month off in December due to all the family gatherings and our crazy schedule. Could I have made time for it? Yes!! Did I feel as good as I have for most of last year? Nope! Lesson learned. It can be really difficult to keep something going (even when you know the results are worth it) when it requires extra work on your part. Getting up at 5:30 am is HARD! Especially when the sky is pitch black, your bed is cozy and warm, the baby was up during the night and you know you have a million other things to do later that day. Despite my laziness, I can honestly say that starting back up was no picnic at first, but now I’m back in gear and loving the benefits once again. It’s worth the extra effort to keep those healthy habits going, even on the worst days!

It’s pretty amazing how much our lives have changed in the past year. We’ve gone from having a new house, a toddler new baby and a sluggish and unhealthy lifestyle to having a toddler and a pre-schooler, much healthier habits, a new love for cooking as a family and a huge increase in energy. All those things have made us more productive in our daily lives too. We’ve taken time to pursue personal and family goals and plan for our future. It can be so frustrating at times because you feel like you’re making all of these positive changes but not really seeing any results. I’m here to tell you, the results are coming! Even now, they’re not big changes but I can definitely see how far we’ve come and can only imagine on how those changes will start to affect our lives exponentially.  It’s a work in progress and will be for some time to come. but we’re moving in the right direction.

**Be sure to contact me directly if I can answer any questions or help you pursue your goals this year.**

Teach Gratitude & Giving

Teach Gratitude & Giving

With the craze of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the deluge of Christmas decorations, advertisements and hype, it seems impossible to teach gratitude and show kids what the Season should really be all about. My goal this year is to turn the conversation around from “What do you want this Christmas?” to “How do you want to give back this Christmas?”.

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We are extremely fortunate as a family. We have a house, loving family, food in our bellies and good jobs to help pay the bills. There are many things we would like to change for the better and we have to save our pennies for those future plans, but we have everything we need….and then some. Sure, we have to pick and choose where to spend this month but we are careful not to spend beyond our means. Not only because we don’t want to be in debt but more significantly, because we want to show our children that this season isn’t about satisfying material wants. More than anything, we want our kids to understand that we should appreciate each other, all that we have and help provide for someone less fortunate than ourselves.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos of shopping and preparing for family and friends that we seem to run out of time and energy before we begin. But now, more than ever is when we want to think beyond our selves. I want our family to find joy in bringing smiles to other people’s faces, to spread happiness not as an obligation but because it teaches us something about humanity. The simple pleasure we find in giving and caring for others should fuel conversation and a willingness to keep giving back all year through

Here are some ways we plan to learn about gratitude this year:
1. Donate food and gently used clothing.
2. Pack up and donate gently used toys to a Toy Drive.
3. Participate in a “Giving Tree” from our local school.
4. Limit our Christmas list and ask for something that’s not for ourselves.
5. Have the kids participate in making gifts for family and friends.

Here are some ideas for older kids:
1. Donating your time at a Soup kitchen. Real people encourages real compassion.
2. Set a grocery budget (a less fortunate family might have) and have the kids shop for a meal. Make a list together beforehand and let them understand the compromises that will have to be made.
3. Help a local organization make Christmas baskets. Actively participate in giving back and show the spirit of giving.

What else would you add to our list?

Why is food all I think about?

Why is food all I think about?

Morning, noon and night, I think about food. Preparing food, buying food, packing food for lunches, toting food along for errands or road trips in case someone gets hungry, choosing healthy food, wondering whether or not to buy organic (at twice the price) food…it never ends.

I think of myself as a decent enough cook and my family doesn’t seem to disagree. We strive to eat healthy and keep a decent mix of fruit and vegetables in our diet. Sugar is under constant surveillance to keep it at a minimum or at the very least, opt for natural rather than processed sugars. No one in our household is on any sort of diet, we strive for healthy every day and keep a decent amount of exercise in our daily lives. Yet, all I think about is food. It’s exhausting!

So we’re embarking on a new strategy. I feel that we’ve learned a lot in the past year or so about portions, balancing our nutrition and cooking in general. I’ve enjoyed cooking so much more, especially when I have a plan of attack when it comes to meal-planning. One of the things we loved about Blue Apron was the convenience of having some order within our chaotic schedules. Not to mention recipes we’d never have tried on our own. My one main challenge is the planning, left to my own devices I end up rotating the same meals over and over. That’s no fun for anyone.

In an effort to cut back on spending (especially with the Holidays coming up, eek!) we’re trying something new. Essentially, it’s simply a meal-planning service that gives you recipes for every meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks) and a shopping list for each. You can choose to follow it or not, whatever your preference but it at least gives you a framework to work within. My one main gripe is that the shopping lists are not consolidated. If I want to shop for the week, I have to combine quantities on my own. This is no big deal for pantry staples, but for fresh ingredients it’s a bit of pain. One main plus, is if you aren’t particularly thrilled about a menu choice you can swap it for 3-4 alternatives or just choose to eat leftovers. I typically pack my own lunch for work so that’s a big bonus for me. Leftovers are also a huge bonus over Blue Apron, hopefully they will help reduce the morning chaos that usually ensues as I try to get everyone out the door.

This is week one, so I’ll be sure to report back!

 

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