Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fruity Frozen Yogurt

I love using my ice cream maker.  A lot.  It's so easy to whip up a quick batch of vanilla and then add whatever flavours I like to it, especially since I tend to like flavours that aren't common in most brands (well, except Marble Slab, which costs an arm and a leg).  When I make it at home, I get the added bonus of knowing exactly what whole and natural ingredients I'm putting into my ice cream, too.

The Smiler happens to know that I like making ice cream and also has a very special talent for recognizing ice cream, regardless of what sort of container it comes in.  As of late, he's developed a rather annoying habit of asking to have ice cream for breakfast, then having a total shit fit when I inevitably deny said request.  I was venting about this very problem to my mother who said, "Oh, he's probably waking up with sore gums and wants something cold."  I was gobsmacked.  Of COURSE that was the problem.  He's been working on those two year molars like crazy (hellish beasts that they are) and obviously something cold would be nice after a long, difficult night of trying to sleep through pain.  My mom suggested I have frozen yogurt on hand to offer him instead and that sounded like a helluva good idea.

So, last night, as The Carpenter and I sat around after a very nice, early bedtime for The Smiler, I decided I would go whip up a batch of granola.  As I started getting the stuff out, it struck me that there couldn't be a better time to try my hand at a batch of frozen yogurt, as well.  I've never made it before, nor did I have a recipe, but I knew I didn't have enough straight up yogurt to make a whole quart so I figured I'd add some cream and/or milk and fruit and see what happened.

Here's what I came up with and, honestly, I wouldn't change a thing except that maybe I didn't need any sugar at all since the berries I used were fresh and very sweet:

1 650 g container iÖGO
1/2 cup 10% cream
1/4 cup 2% milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup blackberries
1 cup strawberries

Put all ingredients in your blender, blend well (I like the fruit to be basically pulverized) and pour into the ice cream maker, churn to desired thickness and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The REAL Report on Attachment Parenting

In light of the recent media buzz attachment parenting is getting, I have a few things to say (certainly more than the reporter I spoke to quoted from the long talk we had for the not-so-well-written article in my local paper).

Little remarks like, "And [sic] she breastfeeds, and will continue to do so until such time that her child opts to swap breast for sippy cup. Or maybe just a regular drinking glass." made in the article speak to the underlying misconceptions people have about what is generally called attachment parenting (AKA intuitive parenting, responsive parenting, peaceful parenting, gentle parenting and several other monikers, too, no doubt).  

I won't dwell on this point long but I want to mention that toddlers and preschoolers don't breastfeed like newborns do.  There is a slow transition where breastmilk becomes a supplement to food instead of food being a supplement to breastmilk (bonus: no worrying about gaps in nutrition for picky toddlers or sick little ones).  As this happens, nursing sessions are dropped and, organically with time (and little to no encouragement from anyone), the child cuts back to only nursing a couple or few times a day, usually for sleep or comfort (interestingly, the last nursing sessions to go for most families are the ones associated with sleep - brains grow during sleep and breastmilk is loaded with all the best stuff for this job).  The child slowly needs breastfeeding less and less, just the same way a child needs their inanimate comfort items less and less, or the way a child needs help with tasks less and less.  Even in countries where children are allowed to self wean as the norm, the children all stop eventually.  

The idea that children raised in AP homes are needy, coddled, 'ruling the roost', being done a disservice, poorly behaved or that AP parents are unstable, poorly adjusted, permissive and damaging their children (and a host of other awful things on top of that) couldn't be farther from the truth. Unfortunately, attachment parenting and permissive parenting often get lumped together into one large category and that's just plain incorrect. 

A good friend of mine and the co-leader of the local group I run for attachment minded families often says, "Attachment parenting isn't about not saying no, it's about saying no with compassion." and she is so, so right. One need only read the comments on the article linked above to see what a bad rap us gentle parents get from un/misinformed individuals. People are sure we're insane and so permissive that we're totally ruining our children. One person goes so far as to comment, "Children need to be told No [sic], often and firmly." Wow, I'd hate to be that person's kid...  And for the record, permissive parenting is something altogether different from attachment parenting.  That's why one is called attachment parenting and the other is called permissive parenting.

Being AP isn't about keeping to a set of actions that are required from some list in a book or on a website, as the media has been making it out to be. Sure, there are things which are known to assist in fostering healthy attachment, such as Attachment Parenting International's principles or Dr. Sears' Baby B's but all the focus on the actions - particularly breastfeeding, babywearing and close sleeping - is missing the bigger picture. To be AP, you don't have to do all or even most of these things, necessarily. Attachment parenting isn't about things or actions at all, it's about feelings and connection. It's about understanding and empathy. It's about the fact that children are people, too and are worthy of just as much respect, love and understanding (in my opinion much more, actually) than any adult. It's about imagining what it must be like to be a child and remembering how things made you feel when you were little. It's about remembering that children have a very smal frame of reference for life experience and hardship coupled with immature emotional processing capabilities and a very small set of coping mechanisms. It's about understanding that children look to you for guidance. It's about treating your child as an individual with specialized needs and desires, with feelings and dreams, with a strong desire to please you and not abusing your position of power in their lives. It's about setting an example for your child of the kind of person you want them to be.

I want my child(ren) to grow up to be loving, sympathetic, empathetic, generous, kind, gentle, compassionate, motivated, cooperative, easy-going, accommodating, soft-tempered, thoughtful and friendly. Since they'll be watching me and their father more closely than anyone else in their lives for cues and examples of what kind of person to be, I must deal with them and with others in my life using those virtues if I want them to do the same.

Being a gentle parent means welcoming a child as they are without pushing them to the next stage. Children are dependent because they're children, not because they need to be forced into independence.  Dependence begets independence.  It's a natural and instinctive drive in all species to become independent, it's just that humans take longer than any other species to do it.  When a child is allowed to be dependent and not pushed or prodded toward independence, this inherent drive will manifest and unfold slowly over time.  When children's dependency needs are met, they feel safe and secure to venture forth more and more independently.

What's more, no one is truly independent.  We all lean on one another for various things because the nature of our species is to be communal.  As adults, we turn to others for support in times of need and we should teach our children that seeking out support (physical, emotional, spiritual, at work, at home, with friends, etc.) is healthy, normal, effective and positive.  If people were more willing/able to say what they need, express their feelings and needs in a healthy way and ask for help, the world would be better, not worse, for it.  Emotionally connected children who know their feelings and needs are important to their parents (even when the answer is no) are better able to accept and work through disappointment and be resilient, they are better at expressing themselves in healthy ways, they are happier, they have fewer behaviour problems and they grow into empathetic, emotionally stable, well-adjusted adults.

Now, I can't speak for everyone but I can certainly speak for myself and the other 150 or so families whom I've had the pleasure of knowing that are a part of my local group. AP children stand out and it's not for the reasons the naysayers would have you believe. It's not because they're sniveling, whining, needy, bratty, poorly behaved little hellions. It's because they're cooperative, easy going, confident, loving, gentle, empathetic, expressive little individuals who are secure in themselves, their place in their families and their parents' presence and love. They deal with problems better, they have fewer huge emotional outbursts, they listen well, they aren't fearful or angry, they are open and friendly.  The parents I know don't coddle their children, nor do they let them run amok, nor do they stifle them.  They have rules and expectations, they state them clearly and follow through with their instructions.  They support their children in their (long) journey to independence, constantly encouraging them at each new step and opportunity along the way, showing them that they believe in them and will always be there, telling them that it's okay to take things at their own pace while encouraging them to keep trying, even when they don't succeed with ease.

If you're not an attachment parent already, I hope you'll consider some of these ideas and even if you don't change your parenting, maybe you won't look so harshly on mine.

I'll leave you now with some of my favourite quotes about parenting and a list of more resources (though not an exhaustive one, by any means) thereafter.

"I believe in radical acceptance, respect and equality for children. Anything else is assuming they are not yet human beings." -Sharon W. Allison  

"The first thing you have to do if you want to raise nice kids, is you have to talk to them like they are people instead of talking to them like they're property." -Frank Zappa 

"Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff." ~Catherine M. Wallace 

‎"It is the nature of the child to be dependent, and it is the nature of dependence to be outgrown. Begrudging dependency because it is not independence is like begrudging winter because it is not yet spring. Dependency blossoms into independence in its own time." Peggy O'Mara, Editor, Mothering Magazine

“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” -Buddha 

“Rewards and punishments are the lowest form of education.” -Chuang-Tzu, philosopher (4th century BCE)

"All his time the Sun never says to the Earth, "You owe Me." Look What happens with a love like that. It lights the Whole Sky." ~Hafiz

"Breastfeeding is an unsentimental metaphor for how love works, in a way. You don't decide how much and how deeply to love - you respond to the beloved, and give with joy exactly as much as they want." ~Marni Jackson

"The more the child feels attached to the mother, the more secure he is in his acceptance of himself and the rest of the world. The more love he gets, the more he is capable of giving. Attachment breeds self-control, self-esteem, empathy, and affection, all of which lead to an increasing ability to develop literacy. We don't know why, but it seems to be true. Attachment is as central to the developing child as eating and breathing." -- Robert Shaw, M.D.   

“I am struck by the fact that the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think that the same is true of human beings. We do not wish to see children precocious, making great strides in their early years like sprouts, producing a soft and perishable timber, but better if they expand slowly at first, as if contending with difficulties, and so are solidified and perfected. Such trees continue to expand with nearly equal rapidity to extreme old age." - Henry David Thoreau 

"In our family, we let our children nurse until they’re done, and the earth’s position relative to the sun does not change our philosophy." -Mayim Bialik

"Love and violence, properly speaking, are polar opposites. Love lets the other be, but with affection and concern. Violence attempts to constrain the other's freedom, to force him to act in the way we desire, but with ultimate lack of concern, with indifference to the other's own existence or destiny. We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love." -RD Laing

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Parting on the Other Side

Those of you who don't know me in person will have to trust me when I say I change my hair fairly often.  Okay, I change something pretty much every time I get a haircut if I'm honest.  People often ask why I change the colour and style so much and come up with interesting hypotheses like, because I wasn't allowed to when I was a teenager, I crave attention, I don't know who I am, want to mask myself or even if I'm trying to emulate some famous person, "Hey, are you trying to be like Pink or something?"

Maybe there's some subconscious psychological thing going on because I was only allowed to dye my hair natural colours when I was a teenager but I don't have any conscious resentment.  Though I'll likely let my kids colour their hair any colour, I can see why my parents felt natural colours only was a fair rule and don't begrudge them that rule.

Yes, I used to smoke.  For about 15 years, actually.
Smoke-free since September 19, 2009!

Do I crave attention?  Well, I don't make company listen to me sing along to Tina Turner songs and perform dance routines anymore like I did when I was a little girl but sure, I like to stand out in a crowd and be noticed.  I don't think not wanting to blend in is a bad thing, though.  I feel good when I stand out.  I feel unique and interesting and that's a nice way to feel.  I make no apologies for enjoying comments and compliments about my appearance - you shouldn't, either!  It doesn't bother me in the least when a sweet older couple on the bus asks how I get that colour in there or when a child calls out across the grocery store, "Mom!  LOOK!!  That lady has purple hair!"  In fact, I think it's adorable.   

As for knowing who I am or masking myself, I think I have a relatively good idea of who I am at this point in my life...  And masking stuff is just too time and energy consuming for my taste nowadays.  Over the years, I've become less and less concerned about pleasing everyone and more and more concerned with my own opinion of myself.  As Kurt Cobain said, "I'd rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I'm not."  My relationship with myself is ongoing, of course, so I'm sure I still have much more to learn in due time.

No, I'm not trying to be like Pink.  I didn't even know what Pink looked like until like, late 2010.  That shit's not on my radar.  This T-shirt is from Value Village.  I pulled it out of the laundry basket this morning, smelled it, tugged at the wrinkles a bit and then put it on.

Truth is, every time I change my hair, I get to look at myself in a new way.  It gives me an opportunity for life change because it's a different or new 'me' looking back in the mirror.  It motivates me to freshen my spirits and work on things I want to grow better at.  It reminds me that I am beautiful and that it's good and right to feel that way.  It reminds me that I am different, unlike anyone else and perfectly me.  And then six to eight weeks later, I can start again.

Today, I felt tired of my hair so I did something I haven't done in years - I parted it on the other side.  It felt really weird at first but through the day, I'd surprise myself when I caught a glimpse in the mirror and then not mind the look.  Soon, I kind of liked it.  Even though I didn't go for a haircut, I'm feeling that 'new car scent'-y kind of feeling right now and I'm going to roll with it.  Had a good night with The Smiler and my mom, got some supplies so I can work on my latest Waldorf doll, The Smiler's sleeping...  And I wrote a blog post!  Something I haven't done since January.  *blushes*

Anyway, my point is, if you're in a funk and want to get into the spring spirit, now's the time to do it!  Consider making just a small change in your appearance to spur you on.  Seeing a physical change can help you get past your own definitions of yourself.

Now, because I worked so hard blogging and thinking about my hair, finding a way to make haircuts into a personal development project, I get a frozen yogurt bar.  Positive Reinforcement for the win!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Dying Play Silks With Kool-Aid

A friend and I recently purchased some silk scarves from Dharma Trading Company to use as play silks for our children.  There are many places to purchase play silks from, both plain white or pre-dyed, so if you're looking to get some yourself, do your research and get something you love!

We decided to go with the Habotais because they came well recommended from another friend who has some and they were affordable.  When we opened them we were impressed with the softness and beauty of them.

We looked into dying options and decided to use Kool-Aid.  There are lots of options out there so I suggest you do your research on dyes, too, if you decide to dye at home.  The Kool-Aid appealed to us because it was cheap, readily available, offered vibrant colour choices and only needed boiled water and vinegar to use.

We used this site and this site to help determine the colours we chose.  You'll notice both sites show a noticeable difference in the shades of red but we tried to do one long play silk in a fade effect with three shades of red and the colours look almost exactly alike on the silk.

The process we used was easy enough, we boiled a large amount of water, added a cup of vinegar to it and then poured it into the bowls with the flavour crystals (I guess I should mention that you don't add the sugar to the mixture).  Stir to dissolve the crystals and then submerse the silk.  If you want a uniform colour all across the fabric, us a lot of water and crystals for each colour.  We used about 1-1.5 litres (4-6 cups) of water and three packages of crystals per two silks and our colours are strong but came out mottled and tie-dye looking.  We like the look, ourselves, it's very natural and hippy-ish, just like us!  When you place the silk into the mixture, you can literally watch the colour leave the water and enter the silk.  After only a few moments the water is clear or nearly clear.  If the vessel isn't large enough and there isn't a lot of water in it, the silk can't open up enough to get even colour absorption all over so the outer layers get more colour and the inner layers are lighter.  With a larger bowl and more water, you'll get more even results.

I recommend using a pair of tongs or other device to work with the silks in the water as the Kool-Aid will stain your hands.  Keep in mind that it can also stain other stuff, like porous rock surfaces, woods, linoleum and laminates, among others.  You'll want to put several layers of newspaper and/or some old towels over anything you don't want getting stained.  If you do get a stain on something, bleach may help get it out if you get at it quickly.

Once the colour has all or mostly left the water, remove the silks and wring them out.  It seems that once the colour has taken to the silks the colour is not as likely to transfer so your hands should be okay at that point but please, wear gloves if you have a fancy dinner date later or are getting married the next day or something. No point risking purple fingers!

Allow the silks to hang dry, making sure they're not touching or hanging in a way that drips can fall on other silks as the colour may transfer.  Once dry, you can iron them if desired (this will help set in the colour a little more, too) or just leave the wrinkled texture that results after wringing and hang drying.  Only hand wash wash them if necessary using a very mild detergent and hang to dry again.

Now, the moment you've been waiting for!  Pictures!!!  I have photos of the dying process, the drying process and the dried scarves but none of us playing with them.  That's not for lack of use, though!  It's because we were having so much fun I couldn't be bothered to stop and grab the camera!!  The Smiler absolutely LOVES these things!  He was playing peek-a-boo, wearing them as capes and hoods, pretending they were food, putting them in a pile and just sitting in the middle, kicking his legs among them and squealing with glee, putting them on the cats and the dog, on his Uncle James, hiding his toy cars under them and then saying, "Boo!" and just running around with them all bunched up in his arms.  It's adorable, quite frankly.

The colours we used, from left to right, were Kool-Aid Cherry, Kool-Aid Orange, Crystal Light Lemonade, Kool-Aid Lemon-Lime, Kool-Aid Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade and Kool-Aid Grape.  We used the Crystal Light because we couldn't find Kool-Aid Lemonade.  And when I say 'we' I mean 'my friend's husband who walked back and forth between two grocery stores late at night before being told to give up and come home by his wife and then my friend who went out after that to find another solution'.   It's also worth noting that Kool-Aid Tropical Punch has a dark turquoise package but is not blue, it's deep red.  The aforementioned husband got Tropical Punch to use for blue and the aforementioned friend had to run to two more stores today mid-dying to find the Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade.  I got to play cars with the boys while she was gone :)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Shampoo and You

I haven't shampooed my hair in nearly two years.

There.  It's out.  Now you all know my little secret - I'm 'poo free!  That's right, I don't use shampoo or conditioner at all.  Instead, I use baking soda to wash and apple cider vinegar (ACV) to condition and I am sooooo glad I made the switch!  You may think I'm crazy but I assure you, my hair is far softer, more manageable and my scalp is healthier than ever before since I made the switch.

Here's the deal: washing your hair isn't bad for you so much as the chemicals in shampoos are, specifically drying agents like SLS.  These are not just bad for your skin, they're bad for your whole body.  But, hey, they make more suds and are a really cheap filler, right?  Right.  Even most products marketed as 'natural' contain this ingredient and it's probably one of the first or second things on the list.  Anyway, I won't go into too much detail on that because I'm sure my seven readers are more than capable of researching the topic if they so choose but what I will tell you about is how to transition to 'poo free and get hair as awesome as mine.

To wash your hair, take about 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a container and mix it with about a cup of water.  Stir it up with your fingers (I do this right in the shower, myself) so the baking soda doesn't just sit at the bottom and then pour it all over your head.  Firmly massage your scalp for 1-2 minutes.  You should feel the baking soda while you're doing this.  Don't be shy to add more or to do a double wash if you don't feel clean enough.  I would like to point out that the goal here is to clean your scalp, not your hair, so don't worry about the lengths during this part of the process.  Clean scalp = clean hair but clean hair does not = clean scalp.  Rinse well and repeat if necessary.  Your hair should feel like it's been washed.  Mine actually squeaks a little as I rinse it, just like with shampoo.

My hair, right after a wash.

To condition and re-balance your hair, take about 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in a container (same one is fine) and mix it with about a cup of water.  Pour over the lengths of your hair and gently rub/squeeze it into the lengths.  Now, here is where some people differ in opinion.  Some people don't use the ACV at all while others think it's important to rebalance the pH of the hair and scalp.  Some people use straight ACV while others think it's a waste of money to use that much when a dilution is fine.  Some people leave the ACV solution on without rinsing while others rinse it out.  Some people avoid their scalp (ACV can be a little bit irritating to very sensitive skin, for example) while others just dump it on willy nilly.  I fall into the latter group on all these points.  I find my hair feels better and is more manageable when I use the ACV, I like it diluted, I rinse and I don't worry about getting it on my scalp (disclaimer: I have pretty short hair so it's nearly impossible not to get it on my scalp).

A lot of people jump at the idea to go 'poo free and I commend them but many of those same people give up quickly because they're not ready for the adjustment period.  Now, likely since birth, you've been cleaning your scalp with harsh chemical shampoos and doing it far too often, as well (think more than once or twice a week).  That harsh chemical shampoo has been sucking every last drop of healthy oil off your scalp every time you use it, for years.  Because of that, your scalp has been waaaaay overproducing oils to compensate for being dried out so often (I shudder to think about people who shampoo daily).  For most people, it will take a while for their scalp to bring its over production back to normal levels and this is what I call the adjustment period.  During this period, lasting from 0-8 weeks (most people say 2-3 weeks on average) your hair will feel greasy, it will be limp and luster-less, it will be hard to manage and you won't have much body.  I know, I know, very convincing, right?  But I promise, if you stick it out and don't get drawn back into the shampoo downward spiral, it will be worth every bandanna, pony tail and hat day you have to have.  Seriously.  It will be.

Once you go 'poo free, your hair will be healthier, softer, shinier, more manageable and sexier (yup, sexier, 9 out of ten 'poo free-ers agree).  Now, I hear some of you out there saying things like, "But *I* have really oily hair." or, "But *I* have curly hair." or, "But *I* have dandruff and need special shampoo." and the like.  I swear to you, YOU people are the ones who are most in need of going 'poo free!  Shampoo is doing that to your hair and scalp, not the lack of shampoo.  Just give it a try and I swear, you'll love it and never want to go back.  What have you got to lose, save for reputation and dignity, walking around with greasy hair for a few weeks?

You can still colour your hair, as well as blow dry and heat style.  In fact, colour seems to last a lot longer using this method.  You can still use styling products, though you'll likely have to double wash, depending on what you use.  Baking soda is actually recommended by a lot of stylists for getting rid of product build-up.  If you love scent in your hair products, add a drop or two of essential oils to your rinse! 

One more thing: I often get asked about things like frequency of washing and what to do about the hair dresser.  I do a 'no poo wash 2-3 times a week and that works for me.  Others only do it once a week and still others do it every second day or more.  The great thing about this is that you're really just cleaning the dirt off your scalp and hair and absorbing excess oil (not all oil) so you can do it as often as you feel comfortable with.  As for the hair dresser, you can either bring your own little container of baking soda for them to wash with or wash at home before you go.  

Happy washing!  

PS: I want to hear about your experiences if you decide to take the plunge!