Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"Yours is way better mom!" - School Lunch is elementary

Last year, my daughter asked if I would be willing to buy her some Lunchables. We talked a little about the ingredients, and nutrition, and packaging, and I offered to make her a homemade lunchable instead, and it turned into one of her favorite lunches. This summer, I decided to buy the kids some lunchables as a treat for the beach...and they were fairly underwhelmed. For one thing, my 4th grader doesn't care for marinara, and you can't get pesto in a lunchable. "Yours is way better mom!" he said. Is there anything better to hear from your pickiest eater?

When I pack lunches for my kids, my goal is (1) to make sure they have enough to eat so they're not hungry, and (2) make them healthy and appealing. When my (now) 4th grader was in kindergarten, I found a wonderful blog, 100 Days of Real Food, focused on cutting out processed foods that included wonderful pictures of ideas for lunches. He looked through them, picked a few things to try, and we went from there.

It's definitely a stretch to say that I "enjoy" packing lunches, but I love knowing that my kids are well-nourished with plenty of fresh food each day. I know parents are always looking for lunch ideas, so last year I snapped a few pictures of lunches to share.

homemade bread
PB sandwiches on homemade chia seed bread, cheddar cheese, grapes, carrot sticks

Turkey sandwich on homemade bread with salami, apples, lettuce/cucumber/pepper salad, homemade chocolate milk

Wraps (one turkey/pepperoni/cream cheese w/ lettuce on side, one turkey/cheese/lettuce), grapes, carrots, weird kid-made chocolate cookie

Leftover chicken drummie, triscuts, mozz/salami rollups, peppers, grapes

mac & cheese
Mac&Chz with peas, tomatoes, apples, Trader Joe's gingersnaps

Leftover pasta w/chicken sausage+broccoli, peppers/cucumber, cheese stick, ~1tsp mini-m&m candies

Wraps (one with lettuce "on the side"), apples, orange slices

Salami/mozz rollups, PB/berry smoothies, lettuce/pepper/apple salad, cucumber

"Camping leftovers" lunch: storebought rolls w turkey/provolone, oreos (!), grapes, cucumber, boiled/deviled egg

Four years later, we still visit the Real Food blog for inspiration, and I still buy/pack more processed items than she does. Easy lunches revolve around staples: grapes, apples and cherry tomatoes all keep well, and can be packed for snacks in reusable fabric zipper bags. Spinach wraps are a weekly item here, crackers/pretzels are used often, boiled eggs are popular, and I do pack a dessert of some kind at least once a week (thought the day varies). The Trader Joe's gingersnaps are hands-down my favorite dessert -- few ingredients, low in sugar, they keep a long time, and are delicious!

Our daily goal is "half of what we eat is fruit/veggies" and we get pretty close. I believe in baby steps, and I know we all like some oreos once in a while! (Though I also have to recommend the Trader Joe's dark chocolate version.) This year promises to offer even more health and variety, with the kids expanding their "likes" to soups and herbs over the summer. Oh, the possibilities!

"Yours is way better mom!" I just had to type that one again.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Healthy Hair & Scalp

healthy natural hair & scalp
No hair product here!
Way back in 2008 after my daughter was born, I was dismayed to see my hair gradually losing all of its body. It's pretty fine, and I'd always used a good bit of product to give it curl/body, but nothing seemed to be working. Around that time, I started hearing from people who ditched shampoo for baking soda/apple cider vinegar and found that they had better results with less/no hair products. 

I was getting desperate, with my hair getting flatter and limper by the day, so I decided to try it. I found that I loved this new method, and it was better for the environment to boot! It's EASY: take about 1 TBSP of baking soda and dissolve it in a cup of water to wash your hair, rinse well, then follow with a rinse of 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar to a cup of water (and rinse well again). Hair is naturally mildly acidic, so the vinegar rinse restores pH and smooths the hair follicle.

The only downside I found was that my scalp would occasionally get dry/itchy. I'd do a coconut oil scalp treatment (also good for ends), and that worked really well for almost six years....until I decided to let my hair grow longer. Suddenly, my hair seemed dry, and my scalp turned flaky, itchy and generally unhappy, so I headed back to the internet and found other people with the same issues.

After so many years, there was no way I was going back to commercial shampoo, so I tried several alternative recipes, and found a wonderful hair care regimen based on the aloe/glycerine recipe here.  Aloe and glycerine are both moisturizing, and left my hair looking/feeling a little greasy, but combining that with the baking soda was perfect. I haven't tested the pH or anything, but my hair looks/feels amazing! 

Old spice bottles with a shaker top open easily in the shower!
Above you can see what I have in my shower: 1 sport bottle for mixing, one bottle of apple cider vinegar, one bottle baking soda, one bottle of Aloe/glycerine hair wash (all re-used, of course!).

Healthy Hair/Scalp Wash

1 part pure aloe gel
1 part vegetable glycerine
2 parts filtered water
Essential oils -- I use tea tree, rosemary and lavender

Combine ingredients well. Add 1-2 tsp to 1 cup water + 1 TBSP baking soda (or 1 TBSP Castile soap), and apply to hair. Rinse, and repeat if necessary. Follow with an apple cider vinegar rinse if you like (rinse again with plain water to finish).

One note about this recipe: the "pure aloe gel" is NOT the green stuff in the bottle, it's actually what is inside the aloe plant. I can buy large leaves of aloe at my grocery store, but I prefer purchasing a bottle (needs to be refrigerated after opening).

I really dislike defining anything by what it isn't, and I think "no poo" sounds horrid, but I'd be doing you a disservice if I didn't mention it if you want to google for other testimonials. There are also some really great-looking recipes here, including another version of the aloe/glycerine recipe that I might try this winter.

Save money, reduce waste (re-use bottles instead of buying more), put fewer chemicals you can't pronounce on your skin....make your own healthy hair wash today! 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Reality Sink

1:30 p.m., "Lunch after morning market" sink (and kitchen). The sink is also full of herb clippings.