Friday, November 27, 2015

My First Nutrition and Health Conference: Paleo-Primal-Price Foundation

Although I've been a member of the Weston A. Price Foundation for about 10 years (and a chapter leader for 4 years), I've never been able to attend any of the yearly WAPF conferences because of finances and having very young children. About a month ago, though, the folks from my affiliate partner Corganic invited me to attend the First Annual Conference of the Paleo-Primal-Price  Foundation, with free airfare and accommodations. Their offer took me by surprise, and I was excited to accept this invitation.

The Paleo-Primal-Price Foundation is a new organization being started by Dr. Ron Schmid, Dr. Kaayla Daniel, and David Gumpert. This new organization has the intent of bringing together the many perspectives of the real food community, including those who follow Weston Price, Primal, and Paleo diets.  One thing I found particularly exciting about this new organization is the fact that its inception is based on democratic principles, wherein the members elect the board and have a valued voice in the organization.

The People

Attending this conference was a fantastic opportunity for me to finally meet many whom I previously only "knew" through email and phone conversations, including Archie Welch and Kaayla Daniel. I also met many new people, including David Gumpert, Dr. Ron, Steve Tallent, and quite a few WAPF chapter leaders. It was amazing to see how quickly I could feel right at home with all of these new friends because of our common interests in real food and health. There were great conversations and ideas being shared about everything ranging from feeding our families to raw milk to the recent fermented cod liver oil controversy. With all of the people I met at the conference, there was a common thread of sincerity and dedication to truth which shined through and illuminated our conversations.    


The Food

Attendees at the conference were afforded three fantastic meals. My favorite dishes were:
  • pastured chicken braised in coconut oil
  • butternut squash soup made with pastured chicken broth
  • king salmon, which was the best salmon I have ever had
  • roasted parsnips and beets
  • flourless chocolate cake

Day 1

The first day of the conference was filled with interesting presentations about a variety of real food and health topics.  Given my background in implementing a Weston Price-based diet in my own family for many years and having previsouly strictly followed the GAPS Diet (which is very similar to Primal/Paleo) for over 18 months, there was not a lot of "new" information for me regarding nutrition. Nonetheless the presentations served as a nice review of information for me.

Two of the presentations, in particular, gave me some new perspectives to consider. Joan Grinzi, Executive Director of the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, presented "Gleanings: What Weston Price Really Said". It was interesting to dive deep into how Weston Price actually used cod liver oil in his nutritional therapies, and to know what he really said about cod liver oil.  Price did find that cod liver oil had superb health effects, but he also acknowledged that caution needed to be taken to ensure that too much cod liver oil was not being taken.  During Price's day, cod liver oils were generally rancid, and so Price new that taking it in large quantities could actually have negative health consequences. (I am so glad that now, because of modern technologies including natural antioxidants and nitrogen-flushing of bottles to prevent oxidation, my family can take cod liver oil that is actually fresh, raw, and not rancid.) Price also recommended that cod liver oil not be forced upon children, as their own instincts were a good guide as to how much to give them. Some more of the information Joan presented is included in this article.

I was also very interested to hear Randy Hartnell's presentation about "Seafood in Paleo/Primal/Weston Price Diets". Randy, the founder of Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics, presented very interesting information about how the consumption of abundant omega 3's (from ocean animals and plants) may have been an important factor in the evolution of the human brain. Randy also presented an excellent video about omega 3's and health, including the importance of proper omega 3/omega 6 balance. It was heartening to see the data Randy presented showing that many fisheries are becoming more sustainable; how we spend our food dollars really does make a difference!

Day 2

The first day of the conference was valuable, however I thought the second day was truly amazing. The democratic principles of the Paleo-Primal-Price Foundation were put into practice through small-group discussions whose intent was to crystallize the ideas and wisdom of all of the conference attendees. We worked diligently to review, critique, and brainstorm on the following:
  • the Mission Statement and overall purpose for the organization
  • membership rights and responsibilities, which include voting privileges and communications with the Board
  • by-laws for the new organization, which include democratic governance and transparency  
Following the small-group work, there were elections for the Board of the new foundation. I was moved by all of this, with the realization that the new Foundation really does value the input of its members and is stepping out with true dedication to democratic principles. I was gratified to be able to work so closely with such an intelligent, genuine, and passionate group of people.

My Take-Aways From the Conference

I came away from the conference with a few new goals and insights:
  • Eat more seafood: My son and I both love seafood, but since my husband and daughter are not very keen on it, I only cook seafood about once every few weeks. After hearing Randy's presentation on the importance of proper omega 3/omega 6 balance, I have the intention to incorporate more seafood into our diets. This will likely happen primarily at lunchtime, when I can try to positively influence my daughter's palate without her seeing that her father isn't wild about seafood. I'm looking forward to trying some new seafood recipes.
  • Attend more conferences: I am immensely thankful that I was given the opportunity to attend this conference. I returned home with fresh ideas and perspectives, and having made many new friends. This was the first time I have ever been away from my children for more than a few hours, and it ended up being a wonderful bonding time for my husband and children while I was gone. With all of these benefits, we will be budgeting in the future to allow me to attend more conferences such as this one.
  • Keep spreading the word about real food: Although my passion about health was sparked by learning about nutrition over 10 years ago, in the last few years my focus has shifted more towards homeopathy (which has worked better than dietary changes for healing chronic health issues in my family). Nonetheless, my family does eat a nutrient-dense diet, and I know that nutrition is a vital aspect of health. This conference has rekindled some of my old flame for sharing information about nutrient-dense diets.  

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Children's Chores and Family Work

Chores are an integral part of my homeschooling and parenting philosophy.  Over the last couple years, I have endeavored to teach my children to do more chores and make them a part of our daily lives. Through chores, my children learn:
  • that there is meaningful work for them to do which benefits our whole family,
  • the values of working hard and doing a good job in the work they do,
  • life skills which will be valuable when they have their own households as adults, and
  • that through working together as a family, we can make our home a place that we love to spend our lives in.
The process of teaching my children to do daily chores and family work also benefits me, in that:
  • I am no longer feeling overworked with the responsibility to clean the whole house on top of my other responsibilities of homeschooling, being a homeopath, cooking, writing, etc,
  • I've learned to let go of perfectionism and impatience, instead feeling gratified with the work that my children do,
  • our home is cleaner, and
  • I have more time to pursue my own interests, which keeps me balanced and happy.

How I Teach My Children Chores

Whenever it is time to teach my children a new chore, I teach them one-on-one.  I make sure to keep my own mood positive throughout the process, so that it is not a stressful experience for the child. I first demonstrate how to do the chore, then ask them to do the same. I stay with the child the first few times they do that particular chore, and give them pointers only when necessary. Staying with the child the first few times they do a specific chore allows me to make sure that I have done a good job of explaining the chore, and that I am not assigning a chore that is beyond the skill level of the child.

Once a child has reached competency on any chore, they are expected to be able to complete the chore on their own, and then they call me to check their work. If the chore has not been completed well enough, I respectfully point out the flaws and the child corrects them. If I consistently find that a specific chore is not being completed properly, I start over again with training the child how to do that particular chore.

Encouraging Positive Attitudes About Chores

With the stereotype of complaining-child-and-nagging-mom in the back of my mind, I set out to make sure that our chore experience is positive and rewarding.  I have set the following rules and guidelines to achieve this goal:
  1. No complaining about doing chores is allowed. Any complaints result in the child earning another chore.
  2. I adjust my standards for each particular chore depending on the skill level of the child, and I do not take-over or re-do the chore when they are done. This teaches the children that their work is meaningful and that their best work is good enough for Mom.
  3. After the initial training sessions for a particular chore, I do not insist that the child complete the chore my way; they are free to find a different way to do the chore if they choose to. 
  4. When possible, I make sure to choose chores for the children that would naturally be the most enjoyable for them to do. For my daughter this includes straightening and organizing, whereas for my son it includes using power tools (such as the vacuum) or dusting.
  5. When a chore is completed satisfactorily, I praise the child for their hard work and contribution to our household. This is a very important part of the process!

Why I Don't Pay My Children To Do Chores

Years ago, when my eldest was a toddler, I tried using incentives and rewards to get my daughter to do simple chores. While this seemed to work well at first, over time I found that she started expecting to be rewarded anytime she did a chore or was helpful, and that she was not learning the intrinsic value of doing chores to help our household. That experience led me to the conclusion that I would not pay or reward my children for doing chores. Instead, I teach them that doing work is part of being in our household, and that we all have responsibilities.

I do give my children ways to earn money, though. They know that anytime they want to earn money, they can pull weeds outside and earn one cent for each weed that is pulled with the root attached. They can also request to do additional household chores specifically to earn money. And, ridiculously enough, there is a bounty on killing flies and ants in the house: ten cents for a dead fly and one cent per dead ant.  


Family Work

Some of my children's chores are to be completed independently, but many of them are completed as "Family Work", where we work side-by-side. Family work is especially important when encouraging young children to do chores, but it is great with older children, too. Working together as a family helps our family feel close and connected, and allows us to share a sense of accomplishment. When approached with a positive attitude, family work can also be an excellent time to have fun together, share stories, and enjoy each other's company.

Chore Lists For My 5-Year-Old and 8-Year-Old

Currently, both children are expected to do the following chores:
  • Daily:
    • Make their own beds.
    • Take their dirty dishes to the sink.
    • Put away their own clean laundry.
    • Any chores they earn through misbehavior or poor choices.
    • Clean up their toys and any messes they make.
    • Anything else mom asks them to do such as putting dirty clothes in the washing machine, helping with cooking, sweeping under the table, taking out the trash, getting drinks for meals, etc.
  • Weekly or Bi-Weekly:
    • Help bring groceries, library books, and other items from the car.
    • Help in putting away groceries.
    • Take their bikes to the car anytime they want to bring bikes along to the park.
    • Help in packing lunches on days when we will have lunch away from home.
    • Pack their own backpacks if they want to bring books, coloring supplies, etc on an outing from the house. Also, put all of those away upon returning home.  
    • Help with trimming the grass in the summer, pulling weeds during our rainy season, and weeding our family vegetable garden.
    • Help with kombucha brewing and bottling.
Additionally, my 5-year-old son is expected to do the following chores. My son is a particularly responsible and detail-oriented young child, so he is doing more at his age than other 5-year-olds may be capable of doing.
  • Daily:
    • Put away the clean silverware from the dishwasher.
    • Work with his sister to set the table for dinner.
  • Every-Other-Day
    • Wash breakfast dishes. He is not required to do any hand-washing of plastics or to wash any more difficult items (such as pots/pans). Mom loads the dishes he washes into the dishwasher.
    • Do one of the following (whichever is in most need of cleaning): dust the entertainment stand in the living room, clean a bathroom sink, or scrub a bathroom toilet.
  • Monthly:
    • Help in Once-A-Month Cleaning Day. He is free to choose which chores to do during this time so long as he keeps working hard, and most often he chooses to be responsible for vacuuming all of the carpets and rugs in the house, cleaning windows, and cleaning toilets.
Additionally, my 8-year-old daughter is expected to do the following chores. Because she is older and more capable than her younger brother, my daughter's chores tend to be a little more difficult. 
  • Daily:
    • Put away all children's dishes from the dishwasher.
    • Work with her brother to set the table for dinner.
    • Feed and water the chickens. Collect and label eggs. (She actually does earn some money from this since she has her own egg business, but she has been responsible for taking care of our chickens since before she started her business.)
  • Every-Other-Day
    • Wash breakfast dishes and load them into the dishwasher.This includes hand-washing any plastic items and scrubbing any pots/baking dishes that need washing.
    • Clean and organize the craft/project table.
  • Monthly:
    • Help in Once-A-Month Cleaning Day. She is free to choose which chores to do during this time so long as she keeps working hard, and most often she chooses to be responsible for sweeping the front porch, cleaning bathroom sinks, and dusting/organizing the children's room, desk, and craft table.

More Resources For Teaching Chores

Want to read more about children and chores?  I have found the following resources to be helpful.

Mother Helpers: 10 Reasons Not to Step In
Practical Suggestions for Responsibilities You Can Expect Your Child to Begin at Specific Ages
A House United: Teaching Children Self-Government
Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning

Are chores an important part of your household culture? Do you have any tips to share about kids and chores?

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fundamental Differences Between Homeopathy and Conventional Medicine

Many people don't realize that homeopathy is a complete system of medicine for treating acute and chronic illnesses.  Although homeopathy is well-known in Europe and India in particular, it is generally misunderstood by most people in this country, who confuse it with herbal remedies and other natural healing modalities.  In reality, homeopathy is very different from other natural healing methods.

At its fundamental level, homeopathy is also very different from conventional medicine. It works in a completely different way, and, as anyone who has fully experienced constitutional (chronic) homeopathic treatment can attest, homeopathy has very different effects than conventional medicine does.  Rather than effecting one specific symptom as conventional medicines do, homeopathic remedies can have positive effects on many different symptoms (including mental, emotional, and physical) all at the same time. What makes homeopathy and conventional medicine so different?

Law-of-Similars vs. Law-of-Opposites

Conventional medicine operates through the Law of Opposites.  With the Law of Opposites, symptoms are treated by using medicines that have opposite qualities.  For instance, if someone is having a hard time sleeping, conventional medical treatment would be to prescribe a medicine that produces the opposite effect, which would be something that induces sleepiness. If someone is congested with too much mucous, conventional medicine would prescribe a substance that reduces mucous. This method of using opposites was originally begun by Galen, who lived from 130-200AD.

image from
On the other hand, homeopathy works through the Law of Similars, also known as Like-Cures-Like. This is "the principle that a substance which produces certain symptoms in healthy people can cure the same symptoms in the sick" [1].  The Law of Similars was originally described by Hippocrates, who lived from 460-370 BC. Samuel Hahnemann, who lived from 1755-1843, verified the Law of Similars and went on to develop the homeopathic system of medicine over the course of his lifetime. Hahnemann "clearly pointed out that material eliminations of a disease such as pus, mucus, blood, phlegm, bile, and the like, are the products of a disease and not the disease itself" [2].

When the Law of Opposites is used, as in conventional medicine, there may be "quick palliation of the symptoms for a short period but eventually the underlying disease will return after the medicine becomes less active. This return of symptoms calls for the need to use stronger doses and more frequent repetitions of the same medicine to control the disease. [2] " This is why, with conventional medicine, prescriptions for chronic diseases are often needed for extended periods of time, and sometimes even for the rest of the life of the patient, to continually suppress the symptoms of the disease.  Taking such medicines for extended periods often leads to undesirable side effects, and the underlying disease is not actually cured, but rather the symptoms are just being suppressed.

On the other hand, when the Law of Similars is used, as in homeopathy, the remedy actually stimulates the body to cure itself.  The correct remedy is the one that has been proven to produce the same symptoms from which the person suffers when given to a healthy person. So when the body responds to the stimulus of the correct remedy, the body also corrects its own imbalance. This is why, with homeopathic treatment, the amount of remedy needed is actually lessened over time, and the dosing becomes less and less frequent, until eventually no more remedy is needed at all yet the improvements remain.

Body-and-Mind-as-a-Whole vs. Body-and-Mind-as-Separate-Entities

Another fundamental difference between homeopathy and conventional medicine is in how the body and mind are viewed. In conventional medicine, the body and mind are seen as separate entities. This is based on Rene Descartes' (1596-1650) conclusion that "there is nothing included in the body that belongs to the mind, and that there is nothing related to the mind that belongs to the body... Building on the mechanistic philosophy [the followers of Descartes] began to separate the body into various parts to explain each system as a mechanical agent. The bones and muscles were explained as mechanical levers that allowed the body to move like a machine. The inner organs and various systems were seen as chemical mechanisms that digested food and eliminated waste..." [2]. Only recently has conventional medicine started to question this, but these ideas of each body part being separate and unrelated to the other parts of the body are still very firmly entrenched in our culture. This leads to the idea that, if a person has asthma, for instance, then the asthma needs to be treated (suppressed) with an asthma medication. If the same person has depression, that is seen as a completely separate symptom from the asthma, and it is treated separately from the asthma. 

In homeopathy, the mind and body are viewed as one, and the selection of the correct remedy involves evaluating each person as an individual, including the totality of their mental, emotional, and physical symptoms. Hippocrates was the first to view people from this viewpoint. "As he observed his patients he noticed that different body types reacted to the same stimuli in a different manner... He recorded a definite linkage between the physical makeup of the body and the mental temperament as well as reactions to the environment" [2]. Descartes' conclusion that the mind and body were separate entities was in direct contradiction to what Hippocrates had learned, and with the rise of the Cartesian view, the Hippocratic view was excluded and suppressed. The founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, picked back up where Hippocrates had left off.  By viewing the mind and body as a whole, the homeopath is able to select a remedy that can positively effect all areas of health in the mind and body. For instance, in a person who has asthma, migraines, social anxieties, and depression, the correct homeopathic remedy would actually stimulate the body to improve all of those.


Nano-Doses vs. Large Doses

In terms of dosing, here again homeopathy and conventional medicine are fundamentally different.  Conventional medicine "[assails] the body with large, often protracted and rapidly repeated doses of strong medicine... The long continued employment of such formulas inflicts new and, in part, ineradicable medicinal diseases [side effects] on the sick body" [3]. Samuel Hahnemann actually started his career in healing as a conventional medical doctor, but gave it up because he felt that he was often inflicting more harm than good upon his patients. To Hahnemann, the side effects and continually degenerating long-term health of his patients indicated that using strong doses of medicine was not the way to heal the sick.

After years spent as a chemist and translating medical texts, Hahnemann later went on to discover the use of very, very small doses, "so small that they exactly suffice to lift the natural malady without causing pain or debilitation. The result is that, without in the least weakening, tormenting, or torturing the patient, the natural disease is extinguished and the patient, while improving, soon grows stronger and thus is cured" [3]. The extremely small doses used in homeopathy are often pointed out by critics who insist that, with doses so small, no healing could possibly result from their usage. In reality, the small doses are one of the cornerstones of homeopathy's success. "How can we understand the action of a remedy which does not contain even one molecule of the original substance? Modern physics is just beginning to catch up with Hahnemann's vision of two centuries ago: that matter is essentially energy, that remedies based on evergy can be more powerful than those limited to mere matter, and that remedies are essentially information which can be conveyed to the body's own healing energy by their vibrational pattern imprinted onto the inert carrier substance" [1].

Hahnemann did not stumble blindly into using such small doses. He experimented in a very logical manner, using his results to guide his progression. Eventually he found that, indeed, such small doses actually had great curative powers without the negative effects that strong doses of medicines can have (such as side effects and the progressive worsening of the disease over time). Homeopathy's small doses which are so often criticized are actually an essential part of what makes homeopathy work so well.


Different Philosophies and Different Outcomes

Conventional medicine and homeopathy are fundamentally different, and their outcomes are fundamentally different as well.  When conventional medicines are used, there is temporary relief of specific localized symptoms, and often the relief is followed by a recurrence of symptoms which require even more medicine to be suppressed. This leads to a cycle of chronically degenerating health, as the body manifests the illness at progressively deeper levels of the body.  

With homeopathy, the remedies are selected based on the totality of a person's mental, emotional and physical symptoms. Such remedies are then applied with very small doses which stimulate the body to heal itself. Over time, the level of health is increased and the body is able to reach a point at which the homeopathic remedy is no longer necessary for the improvements to remain.

Have you had any experience with healing illness and chronic disease in yourself or your family? Have you tried homeopathy?

[1] De Schepper, L. (2001) Hahnemann Revisited: A Textbook of Classical Homeopathy for the Professional, Santa Fe, NM, Full of Life Publications.  
[2] Little, D. (2014) The Homeopathic Compendium Volume 1: History and Philosophy, District Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, India, Omnibus Global.
[3] Hahnemann, S. (1842, 1996) Organon of the Medical Art, as translated by Wenda O'Reilly, Palo Alto, CA, Birdcage Press.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or licensed healthcare professional. I am a homeopathic practitioner whose services are considered complementary and alternative by the state of New Mexico. The uses of homeopathic remedies described herein are provided for educational use only.  

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Daily Nap

I am an early riser. Although I never set an alarm, I generally awaken every morning between 5:30 and 6:30am. I stay busy most of the day, and indeed I am a person who thrives on staying busy. But every afternoon: I take a nap!

Daily napping started as a survival mechanism about 5 years ago in the midst of mothering an infant who slept very poorly, but now both of my kids sleep well and I usually sleep 7-8 hours per night.  Yet, I still take a nap every day. And I don't plan to ever stop. 


Benefits of Napping

Numerous studies have shown that naps have significant benefits, including increased productivity, motor skills, and mood. One study showed that "a nap improves mental performance, even after a full night's sleep" [1].

For me, taking a daily nap provides a brief respite for my busy, always-on-the-go self. As a homeschooling mother who is also working part-time from home, my time and attention are being pulled in many different directions for much of the day.  My daily nap allows me to recharge and be refreshed for the evening ahead. It gives me a calm, temporary stopping place. It is a lovely, cherished part of every day.

If I don't take a daily nap, I am more likely to be grumpy or burned-out in the evening.  Without a nap, I am less engaged with my family in the evening, and may feel like I want to be left alone. And if I my mood is poor, the mood in our whole household is negatively affected. So my daily nap actually provides a tangible benefit to my family and our home.

My Nap Routine

My nap is generally around 2:30 or 3pm each day. On rare occasions, I will shift my nap an hour or two earlier to accommodate some afternoon commitment, but for the most part I plan my napping time as a scheduled event that happens every day. Excepting the few times a year when we are away from home, I could count on one hand the number of times I have missed my daily nap in the last year.  

My nap has been such a regular part of our lives for so long now that my children just expect it every day as part of our daily Quiet Time (which I will blog about soon). My brain tends to be thinking fast all the time I am awake, so I need to do some calming activity before napping. Reading, yoga, or meditation work well for this.

Then I close the curtains partway (never all the way, or I awake feeling groggy), change into comfy clothes, and snuggle down. Most of the time I naturally wake after 10-15 minutes. Sometimes I sleep for an hour (and usually do feel a little groggy on those days). I only set an alarm if I have some commitment or appointment for after the nap, and I usually wake before the alarm anyways.

Naps Are Part of Many Cultures

Many cultures include daily napping. For instance, a siesta (or short nap in the early afternoon) is "historically common throughout the Mediterranean and Southern Europe" [2].  In "many parts of the world—including Greece, the Philippines, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Nigeria—naps are seamlessly woven into the tapestry of everyday life" [3].  Naps are often frowned upon for adults in our culture, but I think this needs to change.  Short naps are beneficial, and in my own experience, they make life run more smoothly.

Do you nap? Have you tried Power Napping?

[1] The effects of a 20-min nap before post-lunch dip, Mitsuo Hayashi PhD and Tadao, Hori PhD, 
Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, Volume 52, Issue 2, pages 203–204, April 1998

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Egg-In-a-Nest: A Favorite Breakfast!

One of our favorite breakfasts is Egg-In-a-Nest.  I rediscovered this wonderful food a few months ago
thanks to a visit from my father-in-law. Egg-In-a-Nest combines eggs and toast into one scrumptious combination.

If I serve my children fried eggs for breakfast, my daughter is likely to leave most of the yolk untouched and my son is likely to leave much of the egg white uneaten. I love that, when I make Egg-In-a-Nest for breakfast, my kids will both easily eat a whole egg.

Serves 2
  1. Carefully cut a hole in the middle of each slice of bread. This can be accomplished with a sharp knife or biscuit cutter.  Don't stress if the bread rips a bit; the egg will "glue" it back together for you later on.
  2. Butter both sides of the bread and the round pieces that were cut from the bread. 
  3. Warm a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  4. Place the two slices of bread and the two round pieces into the skillet and cook until lightly browned. Flip them all over and cook until lightly browned. Remove the round pieces from the skillet, but leave the bread-with-holes in the skillet.
  5. Add a little pat of butter into each hole in the bread.  Once it is melted, crack an egg into each hole.
  6. Allow the eggs to cook until the whites are set. It will take longer than it usually does when frying an egg, because of the bread.
  7. Once the egg whites are set, flip each piece of bread over to cook the other side of the egg. I like to melt a little more butter for each one, to make sure the eggs don't stick to the pan.
  8. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the egg white is fully cooked.
  9. Serve each Egg-In-a-Nest alongside with the round pieces. I like to add jam to the round pieces, which my children then dip in their egg yolks. Yum!

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Tips for a Road Trip with Young Children

My children and I recently went on a 9-day road trip to the Grand Canyon with my mother.  This trip involved a considerable amount of driving, since our round trip was over 1,200 miles and over 20 hours of driving time.  I had decided early in the planning for our trip that this was to be a low-tech trip: no videos or video games to occupy the children in the car, and a break from the internet, email, and Facebook for me during our trip. (I did break this rule once, on the last evening of our trip when I succumbed to the temptation to briefly get rid of the accumulated spam in my email.)

My children (who are 5 and 8 years old) have never spent more than 3 hours in the car in a day, and they typically do not nap in the car. So I wondered how they both would do with all of the driving time on our trip. I had quite a few tricks up my sleeve to ensure that our drive time would be enjoyable. In short: my children did brilliantly in the car (and on the whole trip). 

How We Made Our Road Trip a Success 

Before Our Trip
  • Anticipation and Excitement: For several months before the trip, the kids and I talked often about our trip: how much fun we would have, and how amazing it would be to be able to see the Grand Canyon, saguaro cacti, the Navajo reservation, etc. To tie our trip into our homeschooling, we also read books about the Grand Canyon, Navajo culture, and saguaro cacti. Our anticipation and excitement for the trip were high.
  • Clear Expectations and Consequences: Before our trip, I talked with my children several times about the fact that there would be lots of driving time. I emphasized that, if the children chose to complain, bicker, or otherwise make the car time un-enjoyable, then we would not be able to take such trips again in the future. 

While On Our Trip

Do you have any tips to share for road trips with children?


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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Caprese Bruschetta

As the warm season winds down, I'm making the most of the remaining fresh tomatoes and basil.
Those two flavors will be sorely missed in a few months, but for now I am still finding many ways to enjoy them.  The latest is a very simple yet elegant combination: caprese salad on toasted sourdough bread.  This caprese bruschetta is so delicious that both of my children were moaning happily when we had this for lunch last week. Caprese bruschetta comes together so quickly that it is perfect for a quick lunch.

Caprese Bruschetta
Serves 2
  1. Lightly toast the sourdough bread.  Butter the bread lightly. (I typically like to slather on the butter, but this recipe works best with just a light amount of butter.)
  2. Slice the tomato and place a couple slices on each piece of toasted, buttered bread. Place a slice of mozarella on each tomato slice.
  3. Place the bread under a broiler for a few minutes, to melt the cheese. I like to use our toaster oven for this.
  4. In the meantime, mince the basil leaves.
  5. Once the cheese is melted, remove the bread from the broiler and sprinkle the basil over top.
  6. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve and enjoy! 

What is your favorite way to enjoy basil and tomato? 


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Sunday, September 13, 2015

10 Tips on Making Read-Alouds a Success

This post is the third in my Back-to-School Series for 2015-16. 
Reading aloud to my children is an essential part of our homeschooling.  Through reading aloud:
  • I am able to introduce my children to new ideas, cultures, and places. 
  • We can immerse ourselves in other loving households, in the triumph of overcoming struggles and challenges, and in the wondrous fantasy of fairy realms.
  • Our family is able to have some of our most important discussions, leading to the foundation  of good character, integrity, responsibility, and kindness in our children.


10 Tips for Successful Read-Alouds

We read aloud the vast majority of days, and often more than once per day.  Throughout our 8+ years of reading aloud, I have learned multiple ways of ensuring that our read-aloud time is a success.

  1. Do something active BEFORE reading aloud - This very important strategy helps to ensure that the children will be able and willing to sit and listen during read-aloud time. Having physical activity before reading is especially important for high-movement children.  In our household, we will often take a walk or bike ride before reading aloud. I, myself, tend to feel best when I am active, so on days when I am feeling a little stir-crazy during reading time, I may also do gentle stretching or walking while I am reading a chapter book aloud.
  2. Do NOT make read-aloud time into a requirement - Forcing children to listen during read-aloud time is a sure way to make them resent it. Allow children the freedom to participate, or not.  But also, be willing to read fun books that are easily engaging for children, especially in the early years of reading aloud. With the right books, it is easy to capture a child's attention.
  3. Allow and encourage quiet activities during read-aloud time - When reading books with
    few or no pictures, allowing the children to engage in quiet activities can increase the amount of time they want to sit and listen.  My children are free to color, draw, work on simple sewing projects, or work on their letters to grandma (which they dictate to me beforehand, and I type and print out so they can trace the letters). In our family, I find it works best to not allow activities such as Legos, playing with cars, or playing with figurines while we read aloud, as those activities are likely to involve conversation which disrupts the reading.   
  4. Take time to pause during the reading to discuss or answer questions - Although it can sometimes go against my "get it done" mentality, taking the time to encourage discussions during our read-aloud time has proved to be one of the most important aspects in making read-aloud time valuable. Our discussions include things such as:
    • When characters make poor choices or have tough decisions to make, my children and I will talk about what they could do in similar situations. 
    • When we encounter new places in our reading, I will take the time to get out our globe or maps to show the location of the new place in relation to where we live.
    • When we read about new animals, insects, or plants, we will look them up in the encyclopedia or on the iPad so the children are better able to visualize what they are hearing about.  
  5. Don't "retire" the picture books just because the children are getting older and know how to read.  Even with a 4th grader in our home, picture books are still a wonderful asset to our read-aloud time. Picture books are very engaging, some are very funny, and they can be so very enjoyable to read together. They also give me further reading options for times when we may have just a few minutes to read and don't have enough time to dig deep into a chapter book. I find that picture books are also one of the best ways to be able to incorporate my children's own interests into our reading time (such as reading aloud picture books about vehicles for my son, or about my daughter's current animal interest). You can see our Top 25 Picture Books here.
  6. When starting to read chapter books aloud, begin with classics that have illustrations and accessible language. As a general rule, I only read aloud books that I find enjoyable, and this means I don't read aloud many of the more simplistic or formulaic modern books (such as Magic Treehouse and Rainbow Magic Fairy books). My daughter is free to read those on her own, but for read-aloud time I instead focus on classics. Not all children's classics work well for immediately engaging children's attention, though. For example, Charlotte's Web and Little House in the Big Woods are much easier to start with than Alice in Wonderland and Black Beauty. (I'll be writing a follow-up post about our favorite books for getting started in reading chapter books aloud.)
  7. Give one character in the book a special accent or voice. My children love it when I use a "special" accent or voice for one of the characters in each book.  Often, I will use my own (not-very-accurate) British accent, or give one of the young characters in a book a "baby" voice. My kids love this so much that they are very quick to bring to my attention any momentary lapses in giving a particular character a special voice.  I always see my children smiling when they hear me use the special voice. 
  8. Find a time that works for reading aloud and make it a regular part of the routine.  I find that, as a general rule, if I try to read-aloud when my children are engaged in play, they are not very interested in stopping to read. But there are lots of other times when they do like to listen to read-alouds.  Some times that work for us include reading aloud right after the children awaken in the morning, during meals/snacks, after going for a walk, and, of course, before bed.
  9. Have a rotation for who gets to choose the math/history/science read-alouds. I aim to  read-aloud books on math, science, and history every week. One thing that has helped the children be even more engaged in this reading is for them to take turns selecting our reading for each week.  For instance, recently my son has chosen to read Sir Cumference, Story of Inventions, and The Puffins are Back!; my daughter has recently chosen to read Bedtime Math, Children of the Tipi, and The New Way Things Work.
  10. Create a home atmosphere where reading is a main form of entertainment.  In our home, limiting screen time makes it possible for reading to be one of the top forms of entertainment every day of the week. In quiet moments, we naturally seek out books to enjoy singly or together.
Reading aloud has become such a treasured part of our home life. I hope these tips are helpful for those who have struggled to have successful read-alouds, or those who are just starting out with reading aloud chapter books.


Do you have any tips to share for read-aloud success? 

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Friday, September 4, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream (nutrient-dense : raw : primal : no refined sweeteners)

My son's pumpkin harvest is rolling in, and he has garnered many more pumpkins than I expected. Since it is still fairly hot here, we've been enjoying pumpkin ice cream. Creamy, spicy, and cool: this ice cream is so good!

All of the pumpkin ice cream recipes I found on the 'net involved cooking the cream, eggs and sugar to make a custard base, but I wanted our pumpkin ice cream to be raw and simple to make.  So I've relied on my old standby for sweetening ice cream, which is a combination of maple syrup and raw honey.  With plenty of spices and egg yolks, this ice cream is rich, smooth, and yummy.

This ice cream comes together quickly and easily by just mixing everything in the blender before pouring it into our ice cream maker.  You could also try this method to make ice cream without a machine.

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream
Makes about 6-7 cups of ice cream
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender. Add the honey last, and then blend it right away so the honey doesn't have a chance to harden and clump.
  2. Whir for several minutes, until well-combined.
  3. If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can follow these instructions to make ice cream without a machine.
  4. If you do have an ice cream maker, pour mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the instructions for your maker.  I use the Kitchen-Aid ice cream maker attachment, and it works great!
  5. Transfer to the fridge to freeze solid for several hours. 
  6. Scoop and enjoy! If desired, top with chopped candied ginger or crumbled Ginger-O's.
*Since the egg yolks in this recipe will be consumed raw, it is a good idea to make sure the eggs used are from a trusted source.  Salmonella is typically only an issue with unhealthy hens.  Washing the eggs before you crack them will also reduce any potential salmonella risk, since it actually comes from bacteria on the OUTSIDE of the egg shells.  

What is your favorite pumpkin recipe?

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Two Mosquito Bite Homeopathic Remedies

Since it is monsoon season here in the desert southwest, it is our rainy season, and that means the mosquitoes are out.  If we forget to apply our homemade mosquito repellent spray, it takes just a few minutes outside in the morning or evening to have numerous mosquito bites. And then the itch-fest begins.

Thankfully, we have found two homeopathic remedies that excel at taking away the itch: Apis mellifica and Ledum palustre. You may recognize these two remedies from my post earlier this year about the remedies in my purse first-aid-kit. My family uses these two mosquito remedies almost daily at this time of year.

Why Two Different Remedies?

As a system of medicine, homeopathy is different from many other modalities in that the remedies are individualized based on a person's specific symptoms.  That means, for instance, that one person's migraine may be treated with Bryonia alba, while another's is treated with Sanguinaria canadensis, while another's is treated with Iris versicolor (and there are numerous other remedies that can help with migraines as well). So there is no "one" homeopathic remedy for migraines; it really depends on the person's specific symptoms, and that is why treating a migraine with homeopathic remedies is not generally a do-it-yourself situation.

Fortunately, when it comes to first-aid, there is often a much smaller number of homeopathic remedies that are known to be effective in the vast majority of cases.  For mosquito bites, those two remedies are Apis mellifica and Ledum palustre. Within my family, my daughter's and husband's mosquito bites both respond well to Apis mellifica, whereas my son's and my own mosquito bites respond well to Ledum palustre

My Method For Treating Mosquito Bites

Rather than taking remedies for our mosquito bites internally, I find that it works well to apply the remedies externally directly on each bite. This is especially true since we have new mosquito bites almost daily, and having these remedies ready to apply topically means that both of my children can take care of their own mosquito bites as often as needed. NOTE: I do not use this method if there are mosquito bites that have been scratched to the point of broken skin.  In those instances, I would use Calendula salve instead to promote healing and reduce inflammation.

I like to use both of these remedies in 30x potency for this particular method, because the pellets can so quickly dissolve and are less likely to be affected by being left on the counter than higher potencies would be.

I make our remedy solutions as follows:
  • In a clean container with a lid, dissolve one 30x remedy pellet in 1/4 cup of filtered water. (I do NOT mix the two types of remedies in the same container; rather I make a separate solution for each one.)
  • Stir to combine.
  • Try to store away from light, heat, and strong odors (such as cooking odors or essential oils). 
  • Depending on the temperature in the house and the quality of the water used, this solution should keep for several days up to a week or so.  Alternatively, a small amount of unflavored vodka (~1.5 tsp) could be added to preserve the solution for longer periods.
To use the remedies, we do the following:
  • Dip a q-tip in the remedy solution.
  • Dab the remedy solution directly onto the mosquito bites. 
  • Shortly thereafter, the itchiness dissipates and then disappears altogether.  
  • If one of these remedies does not work, try the other one instead.


Apis Mellifica

Homeopathic Apis mellifica is made from the honeybee. In true homeopathic fashion of like-cures-like, Apis mell is one of the best remedies for treating insect stings and bites. Stings/bites that respond well to Apis mell tend to have burning pain and rosy puffiness (rather than hard, red swelling).  

Ledum Palustre

Homeopathic Ledum palustre is a great remedy for puncture wounds as well as mosquito bites.  Insect bites/stings that respond well to Ledum tend to have a white center with redness around, and may be numb or cold.

Are mosquitoes a bother where you live?  What are your favorite methods for treating those itchy bites?

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or licensed healthcare professional. I am a homeopathic practitioner whose services are considered complementary and alternative by the state of New Mexico. The uses of homeopathic remedies described herein are provided for educational use only.  

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