Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Homemade Mayo and Ketchup

I remember the first time I heard someone say she made her own mayonnaise. It had never occurred to me that people might think of making their own. To me, mayo was something you relied on some big company to make for you.

Over the last few years, we've learned how the volatile fats in vegetable oils are damaged by the processing they undergo, and we are wary about consuming them. Mayonnaise is generally made of these oils. Even mayos that boast With Olive Oil! on the front of the jar still contain another (cheaper, milder) oil as the main ingredient. For a while we bought these types of mayos and consumed them less and less until we weren't eating much at all.

As of about last summer, I jumped on the mayo makers bandwagon! We have loved the difference. Not only is it alive and raw, it's easy to make, and it's delicious (who'd have thought?)! This stuff reminds me of the mayo from Belgium, which was hands down the best I've ever eaten.

The following recipe and commentary come from Nourishing Traditions. As I generally have whey on hand, I include it in the recipe.

Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 whole egg, at room temperature [since they stay raw, use pastured eggs]
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon Dijon-type mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice [truth be told, I double and sometimes triple this ingredient]
1 tablespoon whey, optional
3/4 - 1 cup extra virgin olive oil [preferred] or expeller-pressed sunflower oil or a combination
generous pinch seat salt
Homemade mayonnaise imparts valuable enzymes, particularly lipase, to sandwiches, tuna salad, chicken salads and many other dishes and is very easy to make in a food processor. The addition of whey will help your mayonnaise last longer, adds enzymes and increases nutrient content. Use sunflower oil if you find that olive oil gives too strong a taste. Homemade mayonnaise will be slightly more liquid than store-bought versions. [The mayo I made today was as firm as any I've had from the store... maybe doubling made a difference?]
In your food processor, place egg, egg yolk, mustard, salt, lemon juice and optional whey. Process until well blended, about 30 seconds. Using the attachment that allows you to add liquids drop by drop, add olive oil and/or sunflower oil with the motor running. Taste and check seasoning. You may want to add more salt and lemon juice [do, do!]. If you have added whey, let the mayonnaise sit at room temperature, well covered, for 7 hours before refrigerating. With whey added, mayonnaise will keep several months and will become firmer with time. Without whey, mayonnaise will keep for about 2 weeks.

Now, as for homemade ketchup, I've had my radar on it for some time, as store-bought ketchup is at least a 1/4 sugar or high fructose corn syrup. This recipe, also from Nourishing Traditions, included fermented fish sauce, which daunted me from making it for a long time. I finally made my own fish sauce (*enthusiastic cheer*) a few months ago. Necessity called on me to whip up some ketchup today, and I bravely did so, hesitatingly tried it, and actually found it tasty!  Following the recipe, I will include some interesting thoughts from the author on the history of ketchup.

Makes 1 quart

3 cups canned tomato paste, preferably organic [I used 4 of those small cans]
1/4 cup whey
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1/2 cup homemade fish sauce or commercial fish sauce* [I wimped out a bit and used a little less than this]
Mix all ingredients until well blended. Place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar. The top of the ketchup should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Leave at room temperature for about 2 days before transferring to refrigerator.
Additional commentary from Sally Fallon:
Ketchup provides us with an excellent example of a condiment that was formerly fermented and therefore health promoting, but whose benefits were lost with large scale canning methods and a reliance on sugar rather than lactic acid as a preservative. 
The word "ketchup" derives from the Chinese Amoy dialect ke-tsiap or pickled fish-brine or sauce, the universal condiment of the ancient world. The English added foods like mushrooms, walnuts, cucumbers and oysters to this fermented brew; Americans added tomatoes from Mexico to make tomato ketchup. 
Writing in 1730, Dean Swift mentions ketchup as one of several fermented foods favored by the English. "And for our home-bred British cheer, Botargo (fish roe relish), catsup and cabiar (caviar)." 
Americans consume one-half billion bottles of ketchup per year. The chief ingredient of the modern version, after tomatoes, is high fructose corn syrup. A return to ancient preservation methods would transform American's favorite condiment from a health liability (produced in huge factories) to a beneficial digestive aid (produced as an artisanal product in farming communities).

*I needed to use some of my fermented fish sauce the other day, and since it smells naturally disgusting, I just didn't know if it was still good, so I had Keenan do some internet searching. We found some very amusing quips about fish sauce, including my favorites: "You make it with rotten fish. Can it get any more rotten?" and "When the big one hits, all that will be left is cockroaches and fish sauce." Needless to say, I think it keeps a long time.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Baby Time: The Bare Necessities

I'm two days away from my 38 week mark, and getting very excited for the coming of our son. With a full-time job, I haven't taken much time up until now to think about what we will need when our baby is born. I recognize that it's easy to go overboard with acquiring "things" when it comes to first baby , but literally all we have so far is a place for him to sleep (with me!), food for him to eat (me!), a couple of blankets and four little outfits from my mom.

So I wrote my mom and my mama sisters for advice. They all wrote back with great advice. Here is the email that ensued!

Readers, please respond with any of your own useful advice!

Meredith = black
Nonie = red
Ariel = blue
Mom = orange
Melissa = green

Hi mom and sisters, Hi, Meredith. Hi Merzi! ... Figuring out how to be orange - Its your Mom, HI. I love all the good advice I have read in red and blue. You have become so wise in a very short time, about everything. I just love my girls. Yay for babies!!!

I can't believe how close my due date is all of a sudden! I can hardly believe it myself.  I have been so busy at work I've hardly had a minute to think about it. Thankfully I got the flu yesterday afternoon thankfully and decided to stay home today, so I can get a few things organized. I've been trying to organize a list of things Cam and I need to get before the baby's arrival -- or shortly thereafter. Would you be so kind as to look it over and tell me what is missing, or what doesn't need to be there, or any brands you prefer? Or things that aren't mandatory but that you love to have on hand? I would add a baby monitor, one with as many channels (or whatever they're called) as possible in case you ever live in a more crowded area... less interference. We have a Fisher Price 5-channel, which has been great. If I think of anything else I'll let you know. Babies really don't need much. Sleep, food, love, warmth, and clean bottoms. Uh Huh. I agree with Nonie. Babies don't need nearly as much as people say they do. Keep it to a minimum, and only buy what you really like. I agree again!

We're starting with disposable diapers, but plan to shift to cloth once we're adjusted (do you ever adjust?) Yes, shortly. I'm pretty used to the boys by now.

Thanks! I love all of you, and your babies. Especially all your babies, Mom. Mom, I love your babies too. Love my Babies -- cant wait to meet little one coming up... I count all your babies as my babies :) So sweet!

  • Diapers (Right now I am planning on ordering a 160 count package from Amazon of Nature Babycare best brand. They are size ones, but that's because they use European sizing, so that is supposed to cover an 8-14 lb baby. But what if he is only 6 pounds or something? Doubtful. Or 15? :) Doubtful. One is the smallest size these come in. Should I get some 0s from an American company as well? Sure; sometimes they might just say "Newborn" on them. When I had baby Sammy, we loved Pampers Swaddlers above and beyond everything else, but they're a far cry from earth friendly I think. You might try Earth's Best. Go for chlorine free.) Sad story, Amazon Moms isn't accepting any new applicants right now. :( That is sad. They just implemented some new policies that are supposed to start Jan. 24. My bet is that they'll open it up again very soon. Did you sign their list? Buy one package of newborn. My babies didn't stay that size long enough to necessitate more than one package anyway. George was also out of newborn diapers very fast. I'd say after one week!

  • Baby wipes Chlorine-free, unscented, etc. etc. We split our wipes in half as we need them.

  • Clothes (What are the essentials?? I have some onesies from mom, and a pair of socks. :) Yeah, I need to get on this one.) I bet I could find some clothes for you in my stash. When are you going to have some family showers? Also, I've discovered you should never have to pay full price for clothes. I've found mom's club sales, consignment sales, second hand stores, craigslist, and other gems for clothes. They wear them such a short time. Can't ever have too many onesies. Again, I'm with Nonie. Never spend full price on baby clothes. I wish all of you sisters had the huge quantities of beautiful children's consignment shops like we have here, but you do have some options, kid to kid, etc. Get a bunch of those sleepers that are not too thick, but have long sleeves and footies. A newborn could basically live in those. What do you think- plan on 3 outfits in a 24 hour period when they're really new? I wouldn't bother with coats and things for a really new baby. Just have a hat and a few warm blankets, because they'll always be wrapped up. I love little nightgowns for newborns for a couple months. They're cozy, and he'll like changing time better. I love all of the above, as well. Wise women.

  • Blankets (Cam's mom just sent us two of his baby blankets and his favorite teddy bears. And we have a couple other blankets on hand, thanks to mom!) I want to try to make you one. You don't really need more than one or two soft, warm blankets for cold weather, and one or two thin ones for when it gets warm. I actually have to say that the more little blankets I had the better. George spit up A LOT, and a simple burp cloth was like mockery for spit ups for us! I don't mean that to sound alarming, everything worked out just fine. I just went through a lot of blankets instead of burp clothes :)

  • Car seat (Good brand??) Our newborn carrier is Graco, like a lot of people's, but you might also consider something like Britax Roundabout, which they fit comfortably in reverse-facing, then you can flip forward when they're bigger. We have one for Daniel now that I like a lot. We have graco too, which is fine. Again, check with kid-to-kid, free cycle, DI, craigslist etc. Think of what you're going to be using it for. If you're going to carry him around in it, get an infant one. If not, consider a larger one that you can turn around next year so you don't have to buy two.

  • Baby carrier (Hoping to order a Moby wrap) Nothing I've tried beats Moby for a newborn. I don't have a moby, but I like my hotsling. I also have an organic one that's the same kind of thing. Moby looks great but kind of complicated ?? Hotslings are super fast and easy if you just need a quick fix. I also LOVED using a Moby (I borrowed a friend's for George). I've heard great things about hotslings, but haven't ever used one. My older sister just mailed me her Moby, though, and I'd just bought one :) So I'll just send you our extra. 
  • Changing table (Do you have changing tables, or just use the floor?) We didn't have one for a long time. We just made a cozy little changing area on our dresser. You can change a baby anywhere. It's nice to have a place for your changing things though. We have a changing table now since someone gave us one. A changing table is a one-function piece of furniture. We also eventually outfitted a bookshelf with a big changing pad. But it might work just as well to keep diapers, wipes, and a portable changing pad in your bedside table and change him on your bed. Oh, you might want to get some pee pee tee-pee (sorry). Some babies don't need them, but they were necessary for one of mine. We don't have a changing table. 
  • Baby tub? (Seems like I can just use our bathtub and wash him with me.) Not a necessity. With you/Cam is great, also sinks, buckets, etc. (My midwife Richelle told me the other day that she recommends not washing him at all for the first three days because the vernix acts as a really good defense against bad bacteria.) I didn't have them routinely bathe Daniel when he was born, and I'm sure I didn't give him a bath for at least a week. I thought that sounded gross, but she assured me that a couple hours after the birth it will all soak in and he'll look like he's had a bath anyway. Daniel looked like a picture. You can go look at those pictures from my birth story if you want to see for yourself. Benjamin was absolutely covered in vernix, and it went right away. Babies are clean. Don't wash them too much, and you really don't need soap for a long time. I recently got rid of our baby bath, it was clunky and my boys were too big for it after one month. Line the bath or sink with towels, or take a gentle family bath. We didn't give George a bath for his first week either. I would take care after about three days or so to wash baby's face, just with water. I didn't do this for George and he got crazy baby acne! After he had his first bath his face cleared right up! Also, Some of my most favorite times with George have been mother/baby bath time! It is just so precious to be in there with such a tiny little babe. And George LOVES the water. It was just really special time for us :)

  • Breast pump and bottles (for when I go back to work) I have a Medela, which would be very handy for a working mom. Sher highly recommended having a battery-operated pump to use (I found I didn't use my old battery-operated very much, generally plugged it in when I needed it. She also recommended pumping if you feel you have extra milk in those first six weeks and freezing for later. For the first couple months your milk still has colostrum in it, which is a super healer. If you save it, you can pull it out later for a boost for baby or to put on scrapes, burns, etc.. As far a bottles go, I would make it a priority to teach your baby how to take one as soon as you can. It will make getting out with Cameron SO much easier (on baby, you guys, and a sitter). Don't wait too long or he might not go it -- just long enough that breastfeeding is easy. He is not ever going to prefer a bottle to you. Wise words as well. And a pacifier for one year can bring him needed comfort and sucking time.I had to work at it a little, putting cool water on it and giving an encouraging but gentle hold in baby's mouth, till he realized -- "hey, this is good -- I like this".And at one year -- Take it Away! :) When I was researching, Avent had the best baby bottles. There are lots of different nipple types, so try different things. 
  • Diaper bag Nice to have. Any bag works for this, really. You might wait until you have some giftcards and then go find one you like. Or wherever. This definitely can be an overrated item. Any purse big enough to hold two diapers and a few wipes is fine for a long time. I wish I hadn't caved to pressure and bought such a large diaper bag; I almost never use it. I think Nonie's is perfect :) I just use a little shouler bag I made in college. it's small and very convenient!!

  • Burp cloths I'm sure I have extras of these too. Someone gave me a couple very cute ones (brand: aden & anais). Any absorbent cloth would work. Lots of people just use those prefold cloth diapers.

  • We already have a nursing cover (*thanks Nonie* welcome) and an Arm's Reach co-sleeper, which we've adjusted to be right at my sleeping level by the bed Sounds great. I look forward to hearing how you like it. And we have coconut oil. Good. Use it on everything.  :)

Other questions:
  • How often can I expect him to need a diaper change the first little while? When he needs one. Keep in mind that he'll always go after he eats. Unfortunately, with disposables, you can wait a little longer since the disposables pull the wet away from the bottom. I hate being asked how many wet diapers he has in a day. It's impossible to say. By the way, I am a BIG fan of not changing diapers at night right from the start. Get a great diaper salve (I'll make you one), smear it on before bed, and don't change until morning. Then he won't get used to it and everyone will get a little more sleep. uh Huh - So wise. I didn't discover that trick until #2, and we've loved it. This is a tough question. Less often with disposables.
  • How often do you think he'll be needing to feed at the 3-4 week mark, when I go back to work? Depends on him. Sammy was every 3 hours. Daniel was every 2. George has been a two hour eater! And during growth spurts, sometimes a little more. If you have times where your boy just seems hungry ALL the time, don't be alarmed, it's a growth spurt. Babies are amazing, and will let you know what they need. I really only have to be away from him for 2 hours every morning, because someone will just be watching him on campus while I teach, and the rest of the time he'll be in my office with me or we'll be home. Perfect. You should be fine.
  • Any specific things you have avoided eating while nursing? I don't think so. Some say spicy foods. Or chocolate (because of the caffeine I surmise). Nothing seemed like a big deal to me. The more variety you eat, the more variety he'll eat, I've read. If you have a really gassy baby, I've heard you should give up broccoli and other gassy food. But I never had to change my diet. I hadn't completely cut all processed sugar out of my diet at the time George was born (Joe's breakfast cereal was a weakness for me fora while!) I have to say that is the only thing that I found that made George's spitting up problem worse. I could always tell if I'd eaten something with hidden sugar in it, at a restaurant or other, because the next day George would spit up at every meal. Other than completely cutting refined sugars, I never changed my diet, and George has done well.
  • Will he like me? :) Boys LOVE their mamas. I would worry more about making sure he gets plenty of bonding time with Cameron. When Abraham was born, I was amazed at how familiar he was. I looked at him, and it startled me how much I knew him. You are about to become reacquainted with one of your best friends. I'm so excited for you. Agreed!! George loves his mama! It is one of the best things in the world to experience! I have to say though, Joe is one of George's favorite people too :) It is just priceless to me to see how much he loves his dadd-o (that's what George calls him :) This is so true. I learned things from Richard's deep brown eyed gaze in his first 3 hours of life that I have relied upon ever since. It was the same with each of you and your beautiful blues. And then, Thomas taught me again. There is nothing like a newborn child to bring you familiar comfort and wisdom. Beautiful and wise words!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Spending Fast February 2012

Every year my friend Camilla does a spending fast in February.  This year I decided to join her. Andrew and I fast from something every February (electronics, sugar, etc.), and each time we do I learn three things:
  1. I eat sugar, go online, do whatever behavior more than I thought I did
  2. I was overdoing it before and I should re-assess and make guidelines for myself
  3. I am strong enough to change
I'm looking forward to learning the same thing about my spending habits.  Just like my other vices, I think I'm not one of those people who has to worry about spending too much money, or buying things I don't need.  However, when it comes to the end of the month, I'm surprised by how much I bought.  This time I'm looking forward and I'm going to only going to spend money on necessities:
  • Food (groceries only, and with a specific weekly limit)
  • Gas (with a cap on the number of times we can fill up)
  • A magnet in Zions when we go in February
That's it!  We're not spending any more money after that.  If anyone's interested in doing it with us, there's strength in numbers so this is the time to do it!  Post a comment if you want to join, or if you have any thoughts or suggestions around budgeting and saving.  And talk to your spouse before committing. :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Real Cookies

This post is for those of you craving a chocolate chip cookie, but don't think you can have one due to current restrictions. You can safely use this recipe.

For Christmas, I made my violin students "Real Cookies," comprised of completely real, beneficial ingredients. No refined anything: sugar, flour, salt, vegetable oils. No trans fats like margarine, shortening, or other partially hydrogenated vexations. Not even any caffeine. These cookies are wholesome and taste like food, rather than a processed sugar bomb (as Keenan might put it). Though they will raise your blood sugar some, they will benefit you in every other way. The kids loved them.

1 c. unsalted grass-fed butter, softened (I used Kerrygold)
1 1/3 c. rapadura or sucanat
3/4 tsp. baking soda (aluminum-free please, got mine from Azure)
1/2 tsp. sea salt (I used Redmond Real)
2  eggs (we buy farm fresh free range, hold the soy)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. sprouted wheat flour
1 package grain-sweetened carob chips** (found at Whole Foods)
Optional: throw in some ground flax seed and nutritional yeast

  1. Preheat oven to 375ยบ F.  
  2. Cream softened butter and sweetener.
  3. Beat in baking soda and sea salt.
  4. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  5. Stir in sprouted flour and optionals. You might add a bit of extra flour if the dough feels too sticky.
  6. Mix in carob chips
  7. Form small balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  8. Bake about 9 minutes or until edges are slightly brown.
  9. Cool just enough to take a bite. 
  10. Enjoy and feel good!

* My point of departure for this recipe was the Better Homes and Gardens original.
** You can find grain-sweetened chocolate chips as well.  If you go chocolate, the cookies will still be delicious, just not quite as healthy, due to the caffeine. Also, strangely, I find the grain-sweetened carob tastier than the chocolate.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Free at Last

A few months ago, my husband got a new pair of shoes. I thought he looked funny.

Well, at least he looked unusual. But as I thought more and more about it, I realized that I was the funny looking one! My, what my great great great great grandmothers would have thought about what I was wearing to work every day!
(Note: These photos all came from Google Images and are not my actual work shoes -- which are at least slightly more practical. I am just trying to make a *point*)

For weeks and weeks he tried to persuade me that I should get myself a pair just like his. He was happy, he told me. His feet were happy. He was free. He was getting stronger. I believed him, but wasn't ready to look funny. (Even though, as previously discussed, I already looked funny). I knew he was right --- after all, I'm of the opinion that we should eat whole and natural foods, that we can birth naturally as easily as any other primate, and that in general we should stay as close to the earth as possible. So what on earth am I doing in high heels?!

Then Melissa introduced me to Katy Bowman's blog. After spending literally hours, day after day, devouring everything I could about proper alignment, pelvic floor strength, natural mothering, etc. etc. etc., it was confirmed that my husband was not alone in his shoe madness. Not only that --- I understood (finally, scientifically) that heels are not just uncomfortable and impractical, they are really really bad for us. They can lead to weak pelvic floor muscles, organ prolapse, misaligned bones and muscles, and completely underused (and potentially useless) feet. Katy spends a lot of time talking about how our foot muscles and bones are meant to be as agile as our hands --- and can be --- if we don't stuff them into tight shoe boxes from day one.

So this is me now!

These are Vibram Five Finger shoes. They allow your toes to spread and flex like they were always meant to do, and offer a minimal sole that allows you to rest your weight over your heels --- exactly where it is meant to be. (They can be expensive brand new! Around $100. But my husband and I found deals online for brand new pairs with free shipping --- closer to $35, $40 dollars. If you are interested in some sites, read my comment below this post.)

Okay, okay, I still wear heels to work and church. (Never uncomfortable ones, though! I've been *above* that for a while now). But I am going to wean myself off of them by finding attractive alternatives. Well, it's a goal. I confess that being short I really like the way I look with a couple extra inches, and this is making it hard for me. But seriously, "If ye believe all these things, see that ye do them."

9/2012 Update:  I now never wear heels, even to church and especially not to work.

Read this entry from Katy for a general overview. Here is a particularly good *point* from that post: "Podiatric journals have recently become riddled with articles illustrating that for every positive degree of heel (for a point of reference, the one inch found on a man’s dress shoe creates an average angle of twelve degrees) there is a resulting angle of deformation in the lumbar spine, pelvis, knees and/or ankle. There is no footwear characteristic that jars one out of whole-body alignment faster than the positive heel. If a dress shoe creates twelve positive degrees, just think about what a stiletto can do to deform the rest of the body." Of course, barefoot is best.

A word of warning: you have been wearing normal shoes your whole life. Unless you have been spending the majority of your time barefoot already, you need to work up to running in these shoes. I have no trouble wearing them for hours at a time doing normal activities like shopping and hiking, but Katy warns that you need to be training on a variety of surfaces, particularly natural surfaces with elevation changes and rocky obstacles, before you use them for running. My husband is already running a few miles at a time in his though, and feels great.

I am happy. My body feels so much more aligned and agile already. My feet are stronger and more flexible, and free at last.

Friday, January 20, 2012

No-Screen Night

In part inspired by a podcast entitled "Alive Enough," Andrew and I decided to dub Thursdays our "No-Screen Night."  In the podcast, Krista Tippett interviews, Sherry Turkle, author of "Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other."  Sherry Turkle directs the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self.  She talks about how in her research, she has been surprised to find that children are feeling alienated from their parents because of their use of technology.  Surprising, isn't it?  Don't we usually think of children and teenagers being the ones with the technology addictions?

Before listening to this podcast, I thought that other people were the ones with the screen addictions.  I don't really do facebook, I only follow a couple of blogs, I don't spend that much time on news or other websites, so I don't really have to worry.  Right?  Oops.

Turkle emphasizes leading an "examined life" with the use of our technology.  What is it really for?  How would it be best used in my life?  She recommended setting boundaries and limitations for ourselves and our children, so we can keep our technology use to where it is useful to us, and not where it is preventing us from being truly present with those around us.

Here are some changes we have made in our family:
  • No-Screen Night every Thursday.  Computers, iPads, phones, etc. off.  No exceptions (It's been awesome!  Thursday read-a-thons are way better than whatever else we were doing).
  • One weekend night is also screenless
  • No screens at the table, if there's anyone sitting with you
  • I keep the computer off until the boys are in nap/quiet time (after lunch)
  • The boys only have 15 mins of "computer time" (or iPad) after they've had a little "school time" (which happens after nap/quiet time).
  • No phones in the car.  We're still working on this one.  But when you're all together in a confined space, it's perfect conversing time!
What has helped you in your families keep technology at bay?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Walking? Why, Yes. Yes I will.

I have started following a blog called "Katy Says". The author, Katy, a bio-mechanic, is witty and extremely knowledgeable. I found her through a friend, and I am so glad that I did.

Katy specializes in the mechanics of the female body, specifically the pregnant female body. Today I just want to share a tidbit that she wrote that has branched into a goal in my life. One that I haven't quite fulfilled to this point... But I'm sure trying!

Katy stresses in her blog the importance of using our bodies to move, and move, and move some more. She actually doesn't have any furniture in her living room -- she, her family, and guests all sit on the floor. They even eat on the floor.

This brings me to my goal: Walk 5 miles a day.

That's right folks. If you read the links attached to the words "pregnant female body" above (there is a different link for each word in that phrase, just so you know -- try them all!) you'll see that Katy actually suggests walking 6, but I'm only making it to 4-4.5 a day. So I think, for me, 5 miles a day is a more realistic goal. For now. Who knows! Maybe soon I'll squeeze out another 1.5 miles. I'll keep you posted on that.

The reason(s) Katy suggests walking so much is the importance of keeping our bodies optimally tuned for having healthy lives, and healthily bearing children. Walking is basically the perfect "exercise" for a baby-bearing woman. When we are walking properly, and often, our muscles and bone work synergisticly to relieve pain, and keep us aligned.

So here I challenge you to get up and walk more, and take your family with you. How many miles do you think you can clock a day?

P.S. I highly recommend looking into all of the link that I included in this post. Most of them are about the pregnant female body, and are super informative!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Our Favorite Children's Books

This is going to be a long post.  I love books.  I just started formulating a list of favorite children's books, authors and illustrators last night and I can't stop adding books.  I hope this list is useful to someone.  I remember being overwhelmed when I realized that my oldest and I could venture past the board books into real picture books.  I wasn't sure where to start, and I honestly wasn't thrilled with the selection of books I'd take home every week.  However, I kept searching, and now I have more than enough to go on each time I go to the library.  There are so many wonderful children's books out there!  Here are some of my favorites.  Please share your favorites in the comments!
These pictures all come from Amazon.

I guess I'll start with best books for babies.  These all keep the attention of my babies and toddlers quite well, mainly because they allow for animated readings.
PD Eastman also wrote "Are You My Mother" and other good stories
Eric Carle is an extremely prolific author/illustrator if you like his style
Author of "Good Night Moon" and "The Runaway Bunny." Both of my boys have adored this book around age 1.

This next section are my "stand alone" books.  I don't know the authors/illustrators well but I can certainly recommend these books.
This one is called "The Lion and the Mouse."  It's great for little kids because there are no words, so you just look at the picture to get the story.  Beautifully illustrated as you can see.

This provided hours of fun for my three-year-old on an airplane.   It's like an I Spy for younger kids.
Peter Brown is a young guy, and worth keeping tabs on.  He has a few books that are quite good, but this is his best. A family favorite.
Favorite Authors and Illustrators.  If you take a few of these names to the library with you, I think you won't be disappointed by what you find.

William Steig--A hilarious author who never fails to make Andrew and me laugh--though his offbeat humor may not be for everyone.  "Doctor De Soto" is a classic, but to find Steig in his element check out "The Amazing Bone."  If you like that one you'll probably like everything else he did.

If you're into this kind of humor, Peter Neumeyer and Edward Gorey came together for these two delightful and funny books.

Don and Audrey Wood are a fabulous duo.  They have written some really fun books ("The Very Hungry Bear" above is one of them).
One of Andrew and Baby Ben's very favorites.
Steven Kellog is Andrew's favorite illustrator.  You'll probably recognize some of his stuff.  Half the story is told in the pictures, which are always very entertaining--and much better than his writing.

 Jan Brett is another you'll recognize.  She has put out quite a few books too.
 Graeme Base--You can't lose with his beautiful, detailed drawings! You'll find something new every time you read, and his writing (often in poetic form) matches his illustrations!

Walter Wick did all those wonderful I Spy books.  Abe was really into them for a while.  These are more books that you can spend all day looking at the pictures.
Maurice Sendak--Best known for "Where the Wild Things Are," he has a lot more to offer.  His old fashioned and formal depictions of very sweet people and animals are very charming.
Robert McCloskey--Best known in the Marshall Family for Homer Price, he wrote lots of wonderful books about a Norman Rockwell era America.  The books are fun and witty and the pictures and characters are engaging.  He's a can't-miss author/illustrator.

 Mercer Mayer--Known best for the "Little Critter" books, he wrote and illustrated some really fun books that for some reason are not as well known.

Peter Spier--Another author/illustrator who never disappoints. 
This one has no words, and the pictures tell the story better than words could!
Dr. Seuss--I can't very well do a post about children's literature without mentioning Dr. Seuss, a man who revolutionized early reading literature.  Before him, children were basically limited to "Dick and Jane." 
Beatrix Potter--So I guess there was more to read than "Dick and Jane."  Children had Peter Rabbit.  The language is quite advanced because it is old fashioned, but it's so sweet.  And it's so nice to expose children to that kind of beautiful language.  
 Tomie De Paula--I'd recommend any of his books.   I love the simple but beautiful illustrations.
Virginia Lee Burton is the way to go, especially if you have a little boy who is into large machines on wheels.  There are a lot of really terrible kids books about trucks, cars and trains.
David Weisner--Illustrator of some very fantastic (in the traditional sense) children's books without words.  He doesn't miss as far as I've seen.

Characters to know--It is fun to go to the library wanting to read more about the same characters.  There are lots of books in each of these series.  You're probably familiar with all of these books already.

Check out other books by Arnold Lobel too. 
Other James Marshall books are fun too, but George and Martha take the cake.
 Last but not least, I'm including "Charlotte's Web" and "Winnie the Pooh" because at one or two years old you can start reading chapter books as a family. We finished all of the A.A. Milne books last year and are one chapter away from finishing "Charlotte's Web."  We painted a poster this week to keep track of all of the books we've read as a family. When we finish a long book, we throw a party!
There's a reason these have endured the test of time. They are full of wit and fun, while delving beautifully into the mind and life of a child.
Charlotte provides a wonderful example to children of sacrifice and friendship.
Well,  that took me all day long, but it was really fun! What are your favorite books to read with your kids?