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If you’re frugal like I am, you’re always looking for ways to cut costs on household bills. We want to feed our families good, healthful meals, but organic food can be costly. Starting a garden is a great way to save money, but not everyone has the space. Fortunately, you can grow many vegetables indoors. Better yet, you can regrow them from organic veggies you already bought. Regrowing vegetables is incredibly easy and a wonderful project to undertake with your children.

In this video, I’ll show you some celery, scallions and romaine lettuce I’m regrowing. Here’s how:

  1. Slice off the vegetable base.
  2. Place the base in water in a transparent container where it will get sunlight. Don’t submerge it.
  3. Change the water at least every other day.
  4. After you see significant root growth in about 3-4 weeks, transfer to soil in a pot.

Good luck growing your indoor garden!

Parents Who Didn’t Take Care Of Themselves

I am the product of two loving parents who unfortunately took better care of me than they did of themselves. My father was an amazing man whose pride poured out for me, but he got sober too late in his life . He died of cirrhosis of the liver after years of alcohol abuse at the age of 45. I was fourteen. At 32 I lost another huge part of my life. My mother passed away from complications of diabetes. Her kidneys failed. I spent most of my adult life trying to get her to take better care of herself. Even though I suspect it annoyed her, I just wanted her to be around for a long time. Anyone that knew my mom would tell you that she’d give you the last dollar in her pocket if you needed it, but I don’t think she gave herself enough love.

Hannah and Jayden are loving our family hikes.

Hannah and Jayden are loving our family hikes.

Following Someone Else’s Path

I have felt my life take a hard turn with the death of each of my parents, but I often wonder what would have happened if they had taken better care of themselves. What if they loved themselves more? What if they stopped drinking sooner or exercised and made healthier choices? Where would I be and who would I be? Maybe they would still be gone. I’ll never know, but the questions haunt me.

Making Time To Take Care Of Me

I read so many blogs about finding personal time for yourself and I’ve always thought, “yeah with three kids, one of whom is still nursing that’s NOT happening.” Then one day it hit me, the only time I have all to myself is when they are sleeping. Thankfully Sydney started sleeping through the night about two months ago so she typically goes down at 7:30 pm and sleeps till between 5:30 – 7 am. My older kids go down at 8:30 pm. So I started talking to my husband about wanting to join a gym and go after they go to bed at night. My husband was totally on board.

We researched some local gyms and even went to check out a few. Ultimately I signed up at Planet Fitness because it’s open 24 hours and at just $10 a month the price is right. My husband is also a member there. He’s been great about getting the kids to bed so that I can get there and back between 10 pm and 11 pm which is probably the time I would have just been up watching TV or doing errands anyway.

Lose It

My husband also introduced me to a free website/phone app called Lose It that lets you set a goal weight and helps you track the calorie intake that will help you reach that goal. I was very skeptical, especially since I never knew what a serving size for anything was prior to signing up. It actually turned out to be easy and I learned that I can still have pizza or cake as long as I do it in moderation and keep within my calorie limit for the day. Between this program and the gym I’m hoping to take better care of myself, not just for me, but for my family. They need me to be around for a long time and while there are no guarantees in life, I know that taking care of myself improves my odds. If it also eliminates my mommy tummy, well I won’t be sad about that.

I love the freedom of working out alone, but I also love our family hikes.

I love the freedom of working out alone, but I also love our family hikes.

Freedom In Fitness

These precious hours a week where I can get in the car alone and hit the gym give me more than better health, they give me time to myself that I NEVER had before. There is an exhilaration in that freedom that I realize has been missing in my life. I love my kids, but it feels great to be doing something for me for a change. Besides the gym, my family and I have discovered a passion for hiking. The exploring has been fun for the kids and it’s a healthy activity we can all do together.

My goal is not to be skinny or fit in a certain outfit; it’s to be healthier. I, like many moms, have been taking care of my family for so long while neglecting myself. Now, I realize that Will, Hannah, Jayden and Sydney can’t afford for me to neglect myself. Taking care of myself IS taking care of my family. I owe it to them and myself.

Photo Credit: Wings of Love Photography

Photo Credit: Wings of Love Photography

By Dr. Padma Garvey

The Season of Giving is here, during which time it is easy to get caught up in the commercialism and overindulgence. However, we can use the food we eat during the holidays to make our expressions of giving more meaningful to more people than ever before.

We have a passive relationship with food nowadays. We don’t see it grow before our eyes. We are blind to the hardships faced by those who harvest our food for us. We are unaware of how it is slaughtered. Instead it comes packaged, processed, and adulterated, laden with additives, hormones, antibiotics, and empty calories. The food we eat harms us more than we realize in subtle but real ways. By making some changes in our diets, though, individuals can ‘give’ a meaningful gift to themselves, their families, their fellow man, and to our shared earth.

Focus on prevention

As parents, we want to be healthy for our families. A plant-based diet actually helps PREVENT breast, prostate, colon, and uterine cancer, and as an added bonus, prevents heart disease and diabetes. That’s right. I am not satisfied with early detection. We need to focus on early PREVENTION. A plant-based diet provides our bodies with cancer-preventing nutrients, ones that actually turn off our bad cancer genes.

The effects our food has on our future starts in the mother’s womb. What a mother eats while pregnant can turn on and off our good and bad genes. Every meal after birth can promote health or can lay the foundation for future health problems. By providing our children with a whole foods, unprocessed, plant-based diet we can give them the meaningful gift of health and a life free of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Steps toward a plant-based diet

Land and water are precious resources. A plant-based diet allows for more equitable usage of these resources and will actually provide more nourishing food for all our fellow men. With the population of the world around 7 billion people, we all need to share these resources so that no one on earth goes hungry.

Global warming seems too big of a problem for any one of us to tackle. A plant-based diet is the most ecofriendly diet. If we all took some steps towards a plant-based diet we could impact greenhouse gas emissions more than if we all bought a Prius. We would literally be giving to our shared earth.

Try something new

It seems too good to be true that decreasing our consumption of animals and dairy could have such profound and far-reaching effects. And yet this is exactly what could happen if each and every one of us took some steps towards a plant-based diet in our lives. I encourage you to try something new this holiday season by revamping some of your holiday meals and baked goods. There are so many wonderful plant-based recipes available on the internet. I suggest starting with my stuffed mushrooms. I take it as the ultimate compliment that my Sicilian mother in-law thought they were stuffed with sausage the first time she had them. Enjoy the holidays. Make this season more meaningful than any before it by giving to yourself, your family, your fellow man, and our shared earth.

Dr. Padma Garvey is committed to providing people with honest, straight-forward, and accurate information. Visit her website for more plant-based diet tips and recipes!

We interrupt this regularly scheduled crafty blog to focus a moment on Phase 2 of my frumpy to fabulous plan. Remember my post about how to spring clean your look? Well that was Phase 1 of my plan. I decided to add Phase 2, Healthy Eating and Exercise, after my daughter caught me getting out of the shower. Her exact words were, “Mama, you’re floppy!” (She used to be my favorite).

Before kids, getting out of the house was so much easier. I could be out the door in 15 minutes or less. Now it takes an hour. The breakdown of that hour looks like this: 20 minutes discussing pants (actual topic); 10 minutes spinning in circles before putting on socks; 10 minutes answering questions about socks; 5 minutes wrestling shoes onto toddlers; 10 minutes countering complaints about having to leave the house; 3 minutes 30 seconds just to cross over the threshold to the outside world; and 1 minute 30 seconds to count every single flower on the way to the car.

All that spinning and wrestling might sound like a work out, but it sadly isn’t helping any with the aforementioned floppiness. As a mom with twins glued to my hip I don’t get much time to myself. I don’t have babysitters or money for the gym

But, with recent news of my floppiness, I went in search of what could possibly work for a mom in my situation. I found an at-home solution through Great Expectings. Christine McCracken, owner of Great Expectings, is also a nurse, a mom and fitness enthusiast. She has made it her goal to help women (and moms like me) with limited time and access to a gym get fit. (Is that a choir of angels I hear?)

We spoke over the phone for an initial consultation. I shared all my injuries and postpartum issues and she went right to work creating work outs I can do at home. Each week she emails me a daily workout schedule to complete. Each day I log my food and exercise choices at myfitnesspal (she can see what I eat- ack!). I have access to her every day via email, text or phone. It feels like having an exercise buddy cheering me on and it motivates me to stay accountable.

On the healthy eating front I have my groceries delivered each week. This saves me from the candy aisle and impulse buying (yes, I meant to buy a Kit-Kat, 2 bouncy balls and a new hammock). I try to incorporate Christine’s tips for healthy eating into my meal plan. Like drinking water and including extra veggies at each meal. Outsourcing my workout planning and having my food delivered, I’m feeling pretty fabulous already!

Readers, I think you know by now The Whatever Mom Credo is to simplify and to do “whatever it takes to get through the day.” Well, that includes fitting in exercise and time to take care of our health. This is one area it is not safe to say, “Whatever.” You don’t have to join a gym, or do what I do. Just find what works for you!

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March happens to be National Nutrition Month.  However, I did not know that when I scheduled an appointment with a nutritionist for my oldest daughter.  To be honest, I was never really concerned with Madison’s diet.  She is a good eater and tries a variety of healthy foods.  And, other than the occasional treat, we limit snacks and dessert to healthy options.  But, our pediatrician was concerned about a lack of calcium and fiber in her diet.  I wasn’t really sure where I was going wrong, so the doctor recommended we see the nutritionist.

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After speaking with the nutritionist, Madison and I walked away with some helpful tips.  Madison set some goals for herself such as drinking six glasses of water, daily.  I was surprised to learn just how much water she should be drinking, and she definitely wasn’t.  So, we fill a pitcher every morning with six cups of water and use that to fill Madison’s cup.  This way she can monitor how much she is drinking and needs to drink for herself.

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For myself, I am trying to not let my food bias interfere with my children’s diet.   Madison claims to not like milk or cheese, sticking to yogurt and milk only in her cereal.  I am not a milk or cheese fan, so I didn’t see an issue.  However, Madison has a calcium deficit that I really needed to help her work on.  The nutritionist recommended I take Madison to the store and let her pick out her own snacks, furthering her ownership in her diet.  The control freak in me freaked out, but the common sense side agreed to give it a shot.

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Adam’s FairAcre Farms is not my regular grocery store because of the distance.  However, because it is so kid friendly with the ambience of a farmer’s market, I thought it would be the best shopping experience for Madison to really take ownership of her diet.  To begin with, Adams has child sized shopping carts, and upon arrival, Madison was so excited to have her own cart.  She pushed it right over to the brightly displayed produce and began to load up her cart with all her favorites. She then even ventured out a bit and added a few different varieties of fruits and vegetables that she would not have otherwise tried if I had picked and served them myself. I’m not going to lie, we cruised passed the doughnuts, and my kids begged for one but we continued on our mission to the cheese aisle.  There, Madison surprised me by picking out Laughing Cow Swiss Cheese and Triscuits.  All this time I had been pushing Ritz and cheddar, I never would have guessed that.

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Once home, I put Madison in charge of picking her own snacks, and she chose the swiss and Triscuits.  I expected revulsion, but she devoured it and asked for more.  For dinner, I let her pick the vegetable, and she choose the broccoli she had picked out at the store, again asking for seconds.  I was blown away by how easy that was.

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I am not a fan of grocery shopping, and I’m certainly not a fan of grocery shopping with kids, often opting to shop alone in the evening after my husband gets home.  But, I now see how important it is for Madison to take ownership in her diet.  Such a small thing but it made so much difference. A goal I have set for myself is to let go a little and include my kids in the selection and even occasionally the preparation of their food.  Looks like Adam’s FairAcre Farms will be our new go to.  Have any tips that have been successful with your picky eaters?!

For more advice on kids and nutrition head over to HVP and check out the Power of Green Vegetables, by Dr. Anderson-Willis.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but in this heat wave, I can’t seem to muster up the energy to do much of anything. Well, other than swim, of course, but on the hottest days we stayed indoors.  However, the family needs to eat, and there’s no way around that.  Little ones get bored easily, so why not drum up a little cooking project that feeds hungry mouths and keeps little hands occupied?

Before we were gluten-free, my family and I made these treats fairly often.  They’re a crunchy, slightly-sweet peanut butter bar, perfect for breakfast or a snack.  As I’d blogged about years ago, they’re easy to make, freezing extras is a blessing, and offer a nice dose of protein.  However, we retired the recipe when we became gluten-free, as one of the primary ingredients is whole grain flakes.  I thought about substituting another kind of gluten-free cereal, but many are not readily available, and some, like Chex, wouldn’t offer the right texture.

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Recently, one morning my kids were begging for these again, and I spied gluten-free Rice Krispies on the pantry shelf.  Hmmm.  Perfect!  To make a single batch, combine 1/2 cup of all-natural (sugar and oil-free) peanut butter, 3 Tbsp. of honey or agave, 2/3 cup of cereal flakes (gluten-free Rice Krispies work well if you’re gluten-free), and 1/3 cup of instant powdered milk.  Place cereal in closed Ziploc bag and crush with rolling pin.  Mix ingredients in a bowl until well-blended.  Form six sticks, or one-inch balls, and wrap individually in wax paper.  Store in an airtight container, or freeze.  Kids can make these almost by themselves — let little ones roll the rolling pin over the bag, measure out ingredients, and get their hands dirty mixing and forming bars or balls.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Keep cool, and happy cooking!

Summer is a great time for quick, healthy, on-the-go meals.  I don’t know about your family, but mine loves to spend summertime poolside, out hiking or enjoying a picnic at an outdoor concert or movie.  Since many convenience foods are prepackaged, processed and not typically gluten-free, packing a gluten-free meal requires a little thinking outside of the (bread) box.

Some fun, quick, healthy on-the-go meal and snack ideas:

  • Tortilla chips with salsa, bean dip, or cheese
  • Hummus or cheese with crackers
  • A thermos of yogurt with fruit and granola to mix in
  • Gluten-free pasta tossed with fresh veggies and meat or cheese
  • Hard-boiled eggs and crackers
  • Cut-up apple, carrots or celery with nut butter
  • Salad topped with cheese, sliced egg or meat
  • Popcorn, cheese and fruit
  • Trail mix
  • Rolled deli meat, sliced cheese, tortilla chips, cut up veggies (see photo)
  • A muffin, cheese stick and fruit
  • Pepperoni, crackers and fruit
  • Diced chicken, apple and celery, drizzled lightly with ranch dressing
  • Tuna salad and crackers
  • Homemade cookies, fruit salad and cheese sticks
  • Omelet muffins and fruit

As you can see in the photo, putting together a quick, healthy, gluten-free meal is easy once you let go of the concept of a sandwich.  Pack enough of a variety for the family to enjoy, toss in a thermos of water and you’re off!

Rolled turkey, tortilla chips, sliced cheese, cucumbers, and grapes

Rolled turkey, tortilla chips, sliced cheese, cucumbers, and grapes

To share what’s new in your kitchen or find out what’s going on in ours, stop by or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy picnicking!

This was not an easy week.  For those of you who did not catch last week’s post, my family and I have recently committed to the GAPS diet to help heal damage caused by celiac disease.  The beginning of a positive shift is often the easiest, as motivation is high, the change is fresh, and the honeymoon period of improving your life for the better is exhilarating.  Once the newness wears off, challenges arise.  Whether someone has started a new exercise plan, changed eating habits, quit smoking, or any other lifestyle change, motivation and desire to stick to the goal waxes and wanes.  It’s best to set up some reinforcements and contingency plans in advance, and rely on them as needed.  Some important reinforcements are social support, information, and patience.  I have relied on a great friend who has made a very similar commitment and understands what we’re going through.  She listens to vents and complaints, and responds with suggestions and gentle nudges toward acceptance.  The internet is always a great place for any kind of support, and I’ve made a number of friends online who have also been down this road and provide insight.  Surprisingly, I’ve even made some friends whose journey resembles ours of a few months ago, and I’ve been able to provide support to those individuals.  I’ve found it motivating not only to receive support, but to give back to others and know I’m paying it forward.

Knowledge is also motivating.  Each time I feel my commitment diminishing, I spend some time reading about the many benefits of this lifestyle change.  It reminds me of the importance of prioritizing health.  I also find recipes, tips, and ideas.  Favorites we’ve enjoyed thus far:

Zucchini noodles (these can be enjoyed by most anyone)

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Peanut butter squash “brownies” (tasted just like pumpkin bread)

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(Grain-free!) Banana blueberry waffles (based loosely on this recipe)

Next up on my list are butternut squash fries, which sound similar to sweet potato fries (who doesn’t love those?) and cauliflower “rice.”  We’ve also gotten good at making bone broth.  It’s surprising easy to make, and there are many benefits to it, whether you are feeling well or looking to improve health.

Finally, patience with oneself is key.  Chalk it up to my time spent working in the substance abuse field, but any new change must be taken one day at a time.  Even my husband keeps asking, “So how long do we need to do this?” and my answer is, “Let’s take it day by day.”  I’m a plan-ahead gal down to the most minute detail, but at some point it’s essential to let go.  Planning a change that will last “forever” (or for any relatively long time period) is daunting and overwhelming.  Those who stop smoking may not be able to envision never lighting up another cigarette, but they can probably agree to withhold for the remainder of the day.   The next day will bring new opportunity and often renewed strength.  I find it best to plan out only a few days at a time, and let things fall into place.  Adjustment happens over time.  Any new habit takes two to four weeks to form, and bolstering oneself with support and knowledge will make that time less painful.

As always, I welcome hearing from anyone who has ever, or who hopes to, make a significant lifestyle change.  I’m not gonna lie… it ain’t easy… but may the payoff be a fair exchange for the sacrifices along the way.  The face of my blog is changing, and I welcome you to visit, cheer us on, share your experiences, and broaden the support we can all offer one another.

One question I get asked often is how I get my daughter to eat such healthy school lunches.  Her eating habits didn’t begin when she entered school, though, they began when we first introduced solids.  We fed them what we ate.  Nothing fancy, no “baby food” recipes; just plainer, mashed up versions of our own dinners.  I know there are lots of kids’ convenience foods out there- those made-of-air puffs, special veggie drinks, jars of “toddler” food, animal shaped chicken nuggets, and the like.  However, many “kid foods” are fried, made of refined flour, and have lots of added sugar.  I’ve had more success with serving “grown-up” foods in a palatable fashion (fruit on a stick, veggies laid out in the shape of a flower) than relying on foods marketed for kids.
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When my daughter entered school, I found a fun bento-box style lunchbox.  It gives her food a fun feel, and allows me to neatly include each food group without it “touching.”  This particular box even came it’s own stainless steel fork and spoon, lids so that wet items keep to themselves, and a mini container for dips or dressings.  Quickly, she and I were both surprised at how different her foods were from that of her friends.  While peers have asked her why she eats “green leaves” (baby spinach) and “green seeds” (edamame), I’m happy to say that she enjoys what I give her, without complaint.  While kids can go through picky phases (both of mine have) I’ve found that if you continue to offer them what you want them to eat, they’ll eat at least some of it, at least some of the time.  School lunches are no different.
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School lunches

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This school lunch is fairly basic and kid-friendly, but could easily satisfy an adult (in fact, my husband’s lunch for this day was identical, and yes, I packed that too!).  She asked for peanut butter and jelly, but it’s on a brown-rice wrap.  Soy yogurt meets her calcium needs, while grapes and sugar snap peas cover fruits and veggies.  Other days I’ve included pasta salad, leftover chicken, cheese and crackers, hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese, or rolled deli turkey.  Cucumbers, baby spinach, carrots, or red peppers can stand in for the veggies, while cut-up apple, orange, or even mango fill in as fruits.  Knowing your child and what he or she will like best is essential, but you may be surprised to see what kids will eat when they’re out of the house, and hungry.
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To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, please stop by, or become a fan on Facebook. Happy (gluten-free) cooking!

I did not eat sloppy joes growing up, and cannot imagine my mother ever having cooked or served one in her life.  Standard weeknight dinners, such as pot roast or tuna casserole, did not grace our tables, as my Italian mother is much more of an elaborate cook.  I’d seen sloppy joes in the school cafeteria, but assumed they only came out of a can.  A while back, I came across a recipe for homemade sloppy joes in Parents magazine, and it actually didn’t look half bad.  Realizing I could use ground turkey in place of beef, and sneak in my favorite veggie enhancers, I decided to give it a go.  Now, it’s one of my favorite quick dinners.

Kid-friendly sloppy joes

Sloppy Joes

Making a few changes to the original recipe, I’ve found these to be quite yummy.  For starters, I use 93% or 99% fat-free ground turkey.  Once the meat is browned, I stir in ½ cup of butternut squash and ½ cup of diced apple.  Both melt right into the mixture, and the apples give it a great crunchy texture.  Instead of green peppers, I’ve found red to be more fitting, and if I don’t have them on hand, I skip them all together.  Finally, I omit the hot sauce, although my husband sprinkles it on his once they’re served.  Piled onto a whole-grain bun with a side of steamed veggies and fresh fruit, dinner is good to go.  Finally, one favorite trick with this recipe: Make extra!  I always make it with three lbs. of ground turkey, and triple the other ingredients.  Before we eat, I divide it into three batches, freeze two batches in quart-sized freezer bags, and use one for that night.  On a busy night in the future, it’ll be a welcomed home-cooked meal to save you the time of cooking.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

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