An interview with yours truly

Jenny at Mommin’ It Up was recently interviewed by another blogger and had so much fun with it, she decided to carry it on herself. I told her I was game to play along so she sent me my own set of questions. Here they are, with, of course, my answers.

If you’d like me to interview you, leave me a comment stating you’d like to be interviewed and I’ll send you your own set of questions. :)

1) You are the Crunchy Domestic Goddess. How did you get to be so Crunchy?
While I think I always had some crunchy tendencies, they really didn’t start fully emerging until I became pregnant with Ava. At that point I started becoming more aware of the foods I was eating and how they would affect my health as well as my baby’s. I learned about organic foods for the FIRST time. I started researching natural childbirth and eventually took Hypnobirthing classes. I also learned about attachment parenting, which felt to me, like a natural way to raise my children. Over the past three years, I’ve become progressively crunchier as I’ve learned more about various things like vaccinations, homeopathy, home birth (which I had with my son), acupuncture, placentophagia, growing my own organic garden, composting, natural cleaning products, cloth diapers, baby wearing, the DivaCup (which I haven’t tried yet), and the list goes on and on. I really feel my kids were the impetus for letting my crunchiness blossom.

2) You met your husband on the internet. What was your first “face-to-face” impression of him?
Uh, my very first impression after I flew across the country to meet him was – “Oh my gosh, what have I done?” ;) Honestly, it was very awkward for the first several minutes and I started wondering if I could somehow get an earlier flight home. But after we hung out for the first hour or two, the awkwardness faded and we completely hit it off. In fact, I ended up extending my visit for a few more days because I did not want to leave him. That first meeting was almost 10 years ago now.

3) You take some amazing pictures! Do you have one or two all-time favorites you can share with us?
Aww, shucks. Thank you. :) Share one or two? You’re kidding me, right? Do you know how many photos I have on my computer?! Well, neither do I, but the point is – there are a LOT. A LOT! OK, OK. Just for you, I will try to narrow it down and find a few of my favorites. ;)

This sunset picture is definitely one of my favorites and I got it by being in the right place at the right time AND actually having my camera with me. I find it’s often hard to have everything come together like that, so I feel I lucked out.
Colorado Sunset 2005

I have tons and tons of pictures of Ava that I love, so it’s really impossible to choose a favorite, but I really like this one from when she had just turned two. She just looks so sweet and innocent. I actually had it one blown up to a 16 x 20.
Ava - age 2

Here’s one of my favorites of Julian – in a cup – from when he was 4 months old. Hard to believe he’ll be turning 1 next month!

Julian 4 mos.

4) You seem to be passionate about a variety of things – breastfeeding, attachment parenting, photography, etc. If you could only choose ONE thing to advocate for, what would it be?
Again with the choosing just one thing. You like to make this tough on me, don’t ya?
If I had to choose only ONE thing to advocate for, it would be for an overhaul of the current childbirth system in our country. I would advocate for the normalization of birth and a serious decrease in the over-medicalization that has taken over the institution.

5) Tell us, O Crunchy Domestic One, what’s your favorite non-mommy, non-blogging related thing to do for fun?
Sleep. Seriously. I miss my sleep. If not sleep, then definitely photography. :)

Now it’s your turn. If you want to be interviewed, leave me a comment including the words “Interview me.” I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions. If you don’t have a valid email address on your blog, please provide one. You will update your blog with a post containing your answers to the questions. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Chew on this

Did you know that chewing gum is made from petroleum? It is. Why do I know this? You see, Ava (age 3) has recently taken quite the interest in chewing gum. Jody and I let her have a piece and she did well with it – didn’t swallow it I mean. However, now that she’s had a taste, she wants more, more, more. You could say she’s a chain chewer. She’ll chew one piece for a minute or two, spit it out and pop another in her mouth.

This new habit made me question what all goes into chewing gum. Jody did a search on Wikipedia and found this: Chewing gum is a type of confectionery which is designed to be chewed rather than swallowed. Traditionally, it was made of chicle, a natural latex product, although for reasons of economy and quality many modern chewing gums use petroleum-based polymers instead of chicle.

Mmmm, petroleum. /gag If I don’t want my kid to ingest pesticides and growth hormones in her food, I sure as hell don’t want her gnawing on petroleum in her gum. Oy.

Of course his next search was to find a natural chewing gum alternative to crude oil, which lead him to Glee Gum. Glee Gum is all natural chewing gum made with sustainably-harvested rainforest chicle.

Glee Gum

Jody picked up three packs of Glee Gum at Vitamin Cottage and Ava has been happily chewing on chicle ever since. The only problem with chicle is that it gets stuck in your teeth much more easily than slippery old petroleum. So there have been a few occasions where I’ve had to retrieve gum from Ava’s mouth – it likes to get stuck between her teeth and gums. But I’d rather fish around in her mouth than worry about her ingesting petroleum. ;)

Which brings me to my next story. Guess what artificial colors are made from. C’mon, guess! That’s right – petroleum as well (in addition to coal tar and insects)! Thanks to Greenstylemom for sharing this bit of information and putting a damper on my recent M&M gluttony consumption.

Here’s a bit more about some of the artificial colors…

Blue No. 1 uses coal tar as one of its components. Because of the use of coal tar, many organizations and circles are speaking out and boycotting products using colors with coal tar because it is a carcinogenic in large quantities, known to cause tumors in lab rats.Blue candy

Red No. 40 can be found in sweets, drinks and condiments, medications, and cosmetics. It has caused allergic reactions in people as well as hyperactivity in children.

Yellow No. 5 or Tartazine can be found in soft drinks, instant puddings, flavored chips (Doritos, etc), cake mixes, custard powder, soups, sauces, kool-aid, ice cream, ice lollies, candy, chewing gum, marzipan, jam, jelly, marmalade, mustard, horseradish, yogurt, noodles, pickles and other pickled products, certain brands of fruit squash, fruit cordial, chips, tim tams, and many convenience foods together with glycerin, lemon and honey products.

Tartrazine, however, does produce the most common allergic react, especially among those with an aspirin intolerance and ashtma. Some research has linked Yellow No. 5 to early childhood Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and hyperactivity. It is banned in Austria and Norway.

Yellow No. 6, also known as Sunset Yellow FCF, is an orange coal tar-based food dye found in orange squash, orange jelly, marzipan, Swiss roll, apricot jam, citrus marmalade, lemon curd, fortune cookies, sweets, hot chocolate mix and packet soups, trifle mix, breadcrumbs and cheese sauce mix and soft drinks. It is the color most prominently seen in DayQuil. It is capable of causing allergic reactions such as abdominal pain, hyperactivity, hives, nasal congestion, and bronchoconstriction, as well as kidney tumours, chromosomal damage, and distaste for food.

Here’s the kicker, a number of these dyes have been banned in countries around the world because of their link to cancer, tumors, allergic reactions and hyperactivity in children, yet they are still used in foods in the good ol’ U.S.A.

Note to self for future sweet binges: Chocolate = good. Chocolate with cancer-coating artificial dye coating on it = bad.

brain-body connection Thirdly, on another related note, thanks to my friend Melissa for sharing the article: Scientists make gut-brain connection to autism. (The bolding below is mine.)

Compounds produced in the digestive system have been linked to autistic-type behaviour in laboratory settings, potentially demonstrating that what autistic children eat can alter their brain function, say scientists from the University of Western Ontario.

It’s wonderful to see a scientific study finally acknowledge what many parents have already come to realize on their own. (Jenny McCarthy was recently talking with Oprah about this with regard to her autistic son.)

Dr. Martha Herbert, assistant professor in neurology at Harvard Medical School, told CBC News that the study opens up a new way of thinking about the disorder.
Now we’re learning that the brain and body can influence each other,” she said.

Excuse my cynicism here, but NO KIDDING! This hardly seems like news to me, but I guess I should be happy that science is catching on that there IS a mind-body connection. Perhaps they will realize that this can apply to many other things as well. I’m crossing my fingers, but not holding my breath yet.

Green lunch kits for back-to-school and a contest

Updated: The winner of the bags is #41 – Jill H.! Congratulations, Jill. And thanks to everyone who entered. A new contest will be coming up next week!

“According to the New York State Department of Conservation, parents who pack a child’s lunch in disposable bags or containers generate 45 to 90 pounds of garbage every year. That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school.”

When Ava went to the farm camp this summer, I went through a lot of plastic sandwich bags (Disposable plastic baggies can take 1,000 years to decompose!) and napkins and felt that there had to be a better way to pack a lunch and cut down on the trash. I started looking around for a reusable lunch kit to use for preschool and found the Laptop Lunch Kit at Reusable Bags.

laptop lunch kit

I bought the Laptop Lunch Kit for Ava to use for her preschool lunches this year. I love that the small colorful containers allow for a variety of healthy foods to be packed, better portion control, and I won’t have to use 3 or 4 sandwich bags each time I pack her lunch. The kit includes a thermal, zippered carrying case that houses a large snap-shut tray, five reusable microwave safe food containers, a sport bottle, and a stainless steel fork and spoon. Also included is a 96-page “User’s Guide” loaded with healthy recipes and tips for reducing throwaways which I’m sure will come in very handy on those days I’m feeling less than creative about packing a lunch.

I really think this will make packing Ava’s lunches more fun for me and more fun for her to eat. And we will be doing something good for the environment.

1st bento

Here’s a picture of the first lunch I packed in her snazzy new lunch box. It wasn’t that creative (I’m still learning), but I thought it looked pretty. :) It included an almond butter and jelly sandwich (no peanut butter allowed because of another child’s allergies), mandarin oranges, cucumbers and baby carrots, Ranch dressing for dipping in the little blue container, and Annie’s whole wheat bunnies.

Ava’s preschool teacher loved the lunch box and asked where I got it. She is thinking of getting one for her mom to take with her to work. :)

Even before I heard of this study, I’d been having my concerns about chemicals from plastic leaching into the kids’ drinking water and had been on the lookout for some stainless steel cups for the kids. I came across the Klean Kanteen Sippy Cup, also sold at Reusable Bags, and decided to get one for Julian. Ava heard me talking about it to Jody and chimed in that she wanted one too, so I got one for each.

I stumbled across an online coupon code for 20% off my total from, which helped soften the blow a bit. If you are in the market for some cool lunch kits for your kids or other reusable bags, water bottles, etc., feel free to give the code – mth6cp – a try yourself. :)

Win it!
And now for the giveaway…

Reusable Bags has offered up two of their best-selling reusable bags to one lucky winner : the
Workhorse Style 1500 and the Lightweight Recycled Cotton Tote with Dual Handles, both made by ACME Bags.

Workhorse ACME bag Cotton tote ACME bag

If you’d like a chance to win the bags, please:

  1. Sign Mr. Linky below
  2. Link to this contest on your blog (or tell a friend about the contest if you don’t have a blog)
  3. Leave a comment

The deadline to enter is 10 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26. The winner will be chosen at random (using on Thursday, Sept. 27, and announced that day. Good luck! :)

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The two-hour preschool interview

Apparently you gotta interview to get into preschool these days. When I say you, I don’t mean the preschooler, I mean you – the parents. Yes, tomorrow afternoon Jody and I are scheduled for a two-hour interview with Ava’s preschool teacher – without Ava. Two hours! That’s longer than any job interview I’ve ever had.

We decided to enroll Ava in a two morning/week Waldorf-inspired in-home preschool for the fall. She craves the socialization and I think she is more than ready for it. We have a few friends who have children in this program and they just love it. We’ve visited with the teacher twice now and went to see a class in session and feel it’s a good match for us and Ava. It’s a mix of ages (2-5) and there are a maximum of six children in the “class.” I love the Waldorf emphasis on natural toys and imaginative play. I also like that it’s spiritual, but not based on any particular religion. Another plus is that it’s literally about 4 blocks from our house so easily within walking distance. :)

I’m not exactly sure what is in store for us with during the two hours tomorrow, but I do know it’s a chance for the teacher to learn more about Ava. I’m sure it will be a good thing, it just seems awfully long.

I must admit I’m a little nervous about the Waldorf stance on TV watching (Waldorf kindergartens and lower grades discourage exposure to media influences such as television, computers and recorded music, as they believe these to be harmful to cognitive development) since Ava does watch TV (PBS shows) pretty much every weekday. It’s the only way I’ve figured out to make sure she stays occupied while I put Julian down for his naps. I understand why they discourage it and, in a perfect world, I would too, but I think the phrase “everything in moderation” could apply here too. (shrug)

I guess we’ll see if mommy gets into trouble before Ava even has her first day. ;) Wish me luck.

1 bag at a time – a contest/giveaway

Vitamin Cottage reusable bag

UPDATE: The winner of the bag is Ellen L. Freeman! Congrats!

A few months ago, I was shopping at Vitamin Cottage (the only natural foods store in my city) and I noticed that, in addition to their usual canvas grocery bags for sale, they also had some new reusable bags for sale and they were only $.99 each. While I’d always wanted some of the canvas bags, I couldn’t justify the price, so instead I would just reuse my plastic bags time and time again until they wore out. However, with these new bags selling at only $.99 a pop, I could refuse no longer and bought several.

I later discovered that the bags are part of the 1 Bag at at Time project. Check out the site, it’s pretty cool.

From 1 Bag at at Time:

Each of our bags is designed:
to replace 2 paper bags or up to 4 plastic bags each time it is used.
to be used weekly for two years or more.
to replace up to 416 plastic bags over its entire lifetime.

So far, 1 Bag at a Time has sold over
600,000 reusable bags

Over the next 2 years, these bags together will save:
249.6 million plastic bags.
Enough petroleum to drive a car 17,828,572 miles.
Up to $42,432,000 in disposal costs.
That’s enough money to pay 891 full time teacher salaries!

These bags are wonderfully sturdy and durable and were so worth the cost. I use them whenever I shop at Vitamin Cottage as well as when I go to the other grocery store (Safeway). I’ve actually received several compliments on them by the checkers at Safeway. They are so impressed with how sturdy they are and how much more food you can fit into them. :) I tell them to go to Vitamin Cottage and get some for themselves. ;) Maybe I should tell them to tell their manager so that Safeway can start selling them too.

These bags are so functional I use them for more than just grocery shopping. Just today I used one for our towels, a diaper, clothes and some snacks when we went swimming with some friends at one of the city pools. They are so handy!

On one of my recent trips to Vitamin Cottage, they were giving away a free bag if you already had one or more, so I saved mine (it’s brand new and never been used) and would like to give it away to someone who can use it. It looks just like the one pictured above.

All you have to do to enter the contest is leave me a comment stating something “green” that you are doing to help make the world a better place. Please make sure you include a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. If you want to mention the contest and link to it on your blog, that would be super cool, but not required. Contest ends at midnight on Aug. 25 and the winner will be selected at random and announced later that day. Thanks! :)

Squirmy, the composting snake

A couple of months ago, after growing increasingly tired of the amount of food waste we were contributing to the landfills, I decided it was time to start composting in earnest.

We’ve had a compost bin for several years, but never really knew what we were doing with it, nor did we take the time to figure it out. So I finally asked my friend Nicole, who’s a master composter, what basic info I needed to get started, and I’ve been happily composting ever since.

our compost snake

We’ve got a little friend who’s taken a liking to our compost pile – Squirmy the snake. I’ve seen Squirmy hanging out in the bin a few times now. As long as she stays in the compost bin or the yard and not in the house, it doesn’t bother me. Although I did see Squirmy’s progeny the other day (just one lone baby snake), so it makes me wonder how many more we really have. Though with the dogs periodically in the yard, I wouldn’t think any snakes of reasonable intelligence would take up residence for very long. Right? Perhaps the compost bin is just a vacation home for Squirmy. :)

Here are some tips Nicole shared with me about composting:

  • Basically you want to have approximately 50% “green” materials (wet, fresh) and 50% “brown” (dry).
  • You can compost all sorts of things: veggie waste, yard waste, shredded paper towels, sawdust/shavings, shredded cardboard, drier lint, etc. You just throw them in the bin and the microbes do the rest. If your bin doesn’t touch the ground you’ll need to throw some soil in it so it has microbes.
  • Ideally you need to keep it as moist as a wrung out sponge. Beyond that how you tend it depends on how fast you want compost.
  • I mostly just want to divert waste from the landfill so I just toss stuff in and stir when I remember (2-4 times per year). If you want compost more frequently you can stir every 2 weeks or so. You don’t want to stir too often because the compost heats up as part of the mechanism of the bacteria that breaks to food down and the process stops if you stir it too soon and it loses heat.
  • Compost bins can attract animals (like mice and, apparently, snakes). To avoid that you can dig down a little and bury the new stuff as you add it so the animals can’t smell it.

Like Nicole, I’m primarily concerned with diverting food waste from the landfills, but not necessarily with making great compost to use often (although now that I’m getting more interested in gardening, maybe I will change my tune). I just wanted to mention that you can compost your food scraps, without actually needing the compost for anything. :)

Since I’ve started taking our food scraps (carrot peelings, egg shells, corn husks, leftovers gone bad, avocado peels, watermelon rinds, etc.) out to the compost bin, I’m amazed at how much we actually used to throw away on a regular basis. “Yard trimmings and food residuals together constitute 23 percent of the U.S. waste stream, as documented by EPA.” I’m happy to make a small dent in reducing the landfills. Imagine if everybody composted their food scraps, even part of the time? We could make a big difference. :)

For more information about composting, visit Composting – Basic Information.