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StreetThe presidential candidates seem to have selected their running mates long ago.  I have been waiting to hear on the news/debates where both the McCain and Obama camps stand on environmental issues. I could take a pretty good guess, but I wanted to know the facts…nothing but the facts (or as close as I could get to the facts).

What I found was a nice little summary on some of the major environmental and energy issuesfrom “Scientific American”.  It compares what each political camp has said regarding each issues addressed.

You can see the article here.

I honestly can’t wait to hear the debates on issues such as the environment, education, energy & oil, healthcare, and families and children.  I know that the economic crisis is huge but I am afraid that even if a plan/agreement is reached soon, it’s going to overshadow all other issues that effect our homes.  I can’t wait for some other issues to get some face time as well!

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Go to fullsize imageLet’s be frank, my family has poop issues.  Most of you may know this.  IBS is common among the women folk and the kids are plagued with constipation from generation to generation.  My immediate family is no different.

Constipation is horrible.  I am not talking about being a “little backed up”.  I am talking about a whole intestinal pipeline filled with weeks of non-mobil feces.  What’s a girl, mom, kid, or father to do?  Well, you always start with adding more fiber.  Which is a really easy dietary concept except when you only want the fiber and not other additives that may be combined with it.  And if you want it to taste good so your kids will eat it, forget about it.

My family was so excited when Fiber One Bars with 35% of your daily fiber hit the market.  They are so yummy and even the kids gobbled them up like candy.  It worked great for a while but one by one, sisters, cousins, mothers, fathers, and husbands all set the little bar aside.  Why you ask? (or maybe you weren’t asking, but I would love to tell you.)

Well, here’s what began happening.  Of course, the first couple bars led to being extremely gassy and flatulent.  A huge increase in fiber will do that for you.  We all persisted over time by adding more water to our diets as recommended.  After consuming the yummy bars over a period of a week or two, some began to have severe stomach cramps.  Some even missed work by either calling in sick or sitting in the workplace bathroom for lengthy periods of time.  Stomachs across the board rumbled and tumbled.  We were just a hurtin’ bunch when we consumed these particular high fiber sticks.  Things were definitely moving but not in the right way.

My sister finally brought this up at work.  She works as a medical assistant for a group practice of family doctors.  The doctors and nurses all said, “Stop eating those horrible sticks of pain.  We do not recommend that people eat that particular product.  There are too many side effects due to ingredients in them such as ethanol.”.   (Those probably aren’t their exact words, I added a little bit to make it easy to read.)

Ethanol??  ETHANOL????  Seriously…ethanol.  I used that stuff all the time as a solvent, under a fume hood in Organic Chemistry Class, and I would never think of purposely pouring it into my body in any amount.  Go ahead look at the label on a Fiber One Bar.  This is the chocolate one.  Pay attention now, it’s right after the lengthy lists of sugars and fats and before shellac.   Also note, there is more chocolate than oats in these babies.

Ingredients

Chicory Root Extract , Chocolate Chips with Confectioner Shellac , Chocolate Chips , Sugar , Chocolate Liquor , Cocoa Butter , Dextrose , Milk Fat , Soy Lecithin , Ethanol , Shellac , Hydrogenated Coconut Oil , Rolled Oats , Crisp Rice , Rice Flour , Sugar , Malt , Salt , Barley Flakes , High Maltose Corn Syrup , High Fructose Corn Syrup , Sugar , Canola Oil , Honey , Glycerin , Maltodextrin , Palm Kernel Oil , Tricalcium Phosphate , Soy Lecithin , Salt , Nonfat Milk , Peanut Oil , Cocoa Processed with Alkali , Natural Flavor , Baking Soda , Color Added , Almond Flour , Peanut Flour , Sunflower Meal , Wheat Flour , Mixed Tocopherols Added to Retain Freshness

 There it is sitting there staring at us from the second line.  At least there is more ethanol in there than the high fructose corn syrup.  It’s no wonder there are 10 grams of sugar per serving with all those sugars in there (although it’s a reasonable amount when compared to a chocolate bar).  No wonder the kids love them. 

Okay, back to ethanol.  Ethanol itself is also called “ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug, best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages and in thermometers. In common usage, it is often referred to simply as alcohol. Ethanol has widespread use as a solvent of substances intended for human contact or consumption, including scents, flavorings, colorings, and medicines. In chemistry, it is both an essential solvent and a feedstock for the synthesis of other products. It has a long history as a fuel for heat and light and also as a fuel for internal combustion engines.” (Wikipedia)

Even though is says it’s used as a solvent for substances intended for human consumption.  I am still alarmed that ethanol is listed in the top half of any ingredient list.  You could argue that it’s in a small amount but as my family experienced, there is something in those bars that doesn’t belong in our bodies.

Another additive in there to watch out for besides the numerous processed sugars and ethanol, is shellac.  Shellac is used as a glaze in the food industry. “It provides a high gloss in a really thin coating”.  You may notice this on fruits in the supermarket as well.  Have you ever wondered why those apples are so shiny?   It is made from the secretions of the Lac beetle and is often called “beetlejuice”.  And yes, this “food glaze” originates from the same shellac that when processed differently, can be used to seal furniture.  The “food grade” shellac has been known to cause allergies on contact and skin irritation.  So if your skin is easily irritated by different chemicals, scents, or additives, it makes sense that you may have some sort of allergic response to this additive.

As for the continued excess gas, that would be in part due to the first ingredient, chicory root.  Chicory root is a soluble fiber (also a sweet tasting carb) and soluble fiber cannot be broken down in the small intestine.  That fiber then moves to the large intestine where all those lovely little good bacteria work away at it producing “gas” along the way.  Be aware that I found that “chicory” (no mention of chicory root per se) is an appetite stimulant.  Maybe that’s why they are so tastey and you always feel like you can eat another.

Anyway, I thought these bars were awesome at first but I think I am going to save my money and just chew on twigs and branches for fiber.  At least I know there would be no potentially harmful or allergenic man-made materials in it.  Well, unless I got the twigs from a tree in a smog filled area or along the roadside.  I guess will be in the deep dark depths of the forest for a while digging up fiber with no additives.  In the meantime, eat these Fiber One bars instead of candy bars.  They are a better alternative, but be aware that you may have some serious intestinal issues and you are not really being super “healthy” by ingesting all that HFCS and additives.  Everything in moderation, my friends.

Some big things are happening in the family over here.  Unfortunately, I think it will lead to posts that may be bit of a “downer”.  Plus, I am not ready to share with the world what is going on at this point.  Maybe after a few days, some perspective will help improve the atmosphere over here and I can freely write again without being too “word conscious” or “reader cautious”.  Just don’t turn off those subscriptions yet!  I will be back in a few days!

Fruit of pomegranateOh, pomegranate! Oh, pomegranate!
“You are so lovely with your orb like shape and 600 seeds.
Your juice is ripe with flavor and tart.
Your fruit is edible but I am a juice girl at heart.

Served in a cocktail, a cordial or martini.
All are delicious but what I like most is you in green tea.”

Alright folks! Wasn’t that a lovely little diddy? I wrote it myself. I just thought I would mention that because you probably thought it was Yeats or Dickens and were just going to grab your “Poetry 101” book to find this beautiful piece of art. So stop what your book shelf searching, just go to your higher end local grocer or health food store and find yourself some of this tea I speak of.

I have posted before about tea here. I really try to drink a couple large mugs of green tea everyday.  And now that it’s summer, there’s no better drink than some iced green tea while sitting on the back deck.  Now, for the past year I have been hooked on one certain tea.  Pomegranate Green Tea by Yogi Teas.  So yummy!

Here’s why I like it:  Green Tea is light tasting and mixed with the tart pom, it’s so refreshing warm or cold.  Both green tea and pom are packed with antioxidants.  Pomegranate is a “superfruit” which means it’s been recognized “for it’s nutrient richness and antioxidant qualities with appealing taste”. It’s known for it’s positive effects on cardiovascular and skin health.  

Green Tea itself has been studied for some time for it’s amazing health benefits.  Some claim that green tea will slow down neurological diseases such as alzheimers and parkinsons.  More possible healthful benefits include:  improving multiple sclerosis symptoms, neutralizing free radicals in your body which will damage cell membranes, lowering triglycerides and increasing HDL cholesterol thus improving cardiovascular health, and increasing metabolism (many claims have been made that green tea assists in weight loss).  Plus as an added bonus, the L-Theanine that is present in green teas is a great natural mood enhancer and anxiety reducer.  Drink up and feel the relaxation flow through your body…Ommm…

Pair these two together and you have a health super power.  Having done an internship researching the effects of antioxidants on precancerous cells and free radicals in the body, I am always up for adding more of these powerhouses into my diet.  I have had numerous family members, both immediate and extended, suffer from different forms of cancer and heart disease.  So, I pay particular attention to foods that have these characteristics.  I am tempted to hook it up in an IV and receive large doses at once, but then I couldn’t taste it’s deliciousness. 

Now, I will tell you that I am sure that many tea manufacturers sell this combo.  However, you must buy Yogi Tea.  Not only do they have one of the best tasting green tea (have you ever had green tea that tasted “fishy”?  That is disgusting.), but on every individual tea bag is a little quote of wisdom or inspiration.  That is the best part of it all.  It’s a little warm fuzzy along with some of the best tasting tea EVER!

I love all the Altheas (Rose of Sharon) that are starting to bloom.  They are always one of my favorites.  Our first house had tons of them and they always bloom when other flowers seem to be fading.  Here’ my favorite in our backyard right now.

More Wordless Wednesday is here and here.

Go to fullsize imageAlanis had nothing on me a couple days ago!  I was driving home from work at “rush hour” (rush hour in Grand Rapids, MI is but an extra minute to get home) yesterday when I got the call.  The call from the hubby asking the ever looming question “What’s for dinner?”.  First of all, I hate that question.  I hear it everyday from someone and I just get so tired of having to be the one to figure out the answer.  Second of all, when I get a call like that on the way home, I know that my fam doesn’t really want anything homemade.  So, why don’t they just say it…”Can we get McDonalds?!”

Well, that was the question and due to a frenzied schedule, I caved.  I pulled into McDonalds, which just happens to be 2 blocks away from my house and ordered up a bunch of Happy Meals and Extra Value Meals.  As I am sitting in line waiting for the underpaid workers to hand over the 3 bags of unnutrious food and vats of soda, I find myself nodding and completely agreeing with the book on tape (cd actually) that I got from the library recently.  The line is long for the food and I become more involved with the content of the audio book, the information I am hearing is utterly fascinating.  Here’s where the irony comes in and I realize it as I am handed my food by a teenager who speaks English as a second language:  the book I am so into at the moment is Schlossers “Fast Food Nation”. 

Here’s part of Amazon’s summary: “On any given day, one out of four Americans opts for a quick and cheap meal at a fast-food restaurant, without giving either its speed or its thriftiness a second thought. Fast food is so ubiquitous that it now seems as American, and harmless, as apple pie. But the industry’s drive for consolidation, homogenization, and speed has radically transformed America’s diet, landscape, economy, and workforce, often in insidiously destructive ways”.

If you can imagine my aha! moment as I realized I was the one in line at McDonalds and I hadn’t even given it a second thought.  Something like 70% of all fast food purchases are unplanned and spontaneous.  The best part was that I was will to pay top dollar for my fast food but not willing to go put gasoline in my car that day because the price of a gallon of gas was 5 cents more than the day before. With my fuel light blaring at me, I continued to sit in line and wait for my fast food.   Maybe if I had fixed something at my house, I wouldn’t be so cheap on the necessary fuel. 

After getting through this book as well as having read “Chew on This” by the same author, I think I am going to have to boycott fast food for a while.  It’s just an easy filler.  There’s nothing to be gained health wise from it.  Plus, after I got my supersized soda, I realized they had switched back to styrofoam cups!  That was the last straw for me…literally.  How am I supposed to recycle styrofoam??  I am challenging myself to see how long I can go without getting fast food.  My kids will be so disappointed.  They almost had all the characters from the Kung Fu Panda Happy Meals.  I guess we all have to sacrifice a little in the present to gain in the future!

Go to fullsize imageToday was the final day of class at Zack and Anson’s preschool.  Zack graduates tomorrow night in a very formal 4 year old ceremony.  They will all be wearing caps and gowns, tassles…the whole bit.  I will be sure to post a pic of our grad.  The final results are not in, but I am sure he is the top of his class seeing as how Harvard has already contacted us about a full ride scholarship for 2020.  I happen to have the inside track on what Anson’s 2-3 year old class will be serenading the grads with… A rousing rendition of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “5 Little Monkeys” will be sung by 14 little babes.  A picnic will follow on Friday to celebrate this grand event.  Then it’s summer and the kids and I are going to…

Hmmmm…what next?  It’s summer and the kids and I are going to go to the beach a few times and….ahhh…then what?  Okay, so I don’t have a ton of summer plans set up for the kiddos yet.  I don’t like to set too formal of a calendar.  Summer is a time to hang loose and relax.  I am against overscheduling.  We are a bit of a group of homebodies over here.  I find the best moments with my kids are not in a car running around town (or heaven forbid a craft store) or in a crowd of people at some scheduled event (even though our city offers a zillion great things that offer other opportunities for interactions).  I like the moments where we are comfortable in our own pace, enjoying life and watching worms.  The giggles, the teachable moments, and the feeling of the family unit are priceless.

I have been trying to spend time reading the book “Last Child In the Woods.  Saving our children from nature deficit disorder.”  This book proposes that many of today’s children are “suffering” from lack of exposure to anything that is truly nature. Richard Louv provides evidence that many problems such as obesity and attention deficit disorder can be reduced if children are allowed to play in nature.  I agree!  I agree! I agree!

My childhood was spent in a smallish town by the Lake Michigan Shore. West Olive, MI, to be exact (located between Holland, MI and Grand Haven, MI).  I could take a 10 minute bike ride and be at the beach playing in the sand and waves for hours or just cooling off a minute at the end of a hot day.  Our backyard was bordered by woods of oaks and pines that blanketed rolling sand dunes.  Perfect for spending hours building forts and finding natural treasures. You couldn’t see another home if you looked straight back.  Across the street was one house and more of the same terrain.  We hopped across the gravel road to pick wild blackberries, lilacs, or pussy willows.  I tiptoed (against my mother’s wishes) through icy snowmelt waters that gathered in the gentle dune valleys.  We would walk our country block and gather wildflowers for our perfume factory which consisted of a few buckets, a hose, and sassafras stirrers. 

Like most parents, I want these fond childhood memories for my children as well.  I want them to run further than the end of the driveway without fearing for their life.  I want them to fall asleep to the rhythmic Whipoorwill and know that Spring has arrived by the chorus of the Spring Peepers (or at least know what they are).  I want them to appreciate how interconnected their own lives are with everything around them.  I want them to find the beauty hidden under an old log.  I want it all for them.  This is my challenge this summer as I enter this season for the first time feeling like they are all old enough to remember what they are experiencing.  How do I expose them to true wild nature when our yard has a concrete border?  Is a perfectly manicured park and playground nature?  Where can we go hiking in the trees instead of strolling down a paved path through planned landscaping on a regular basis?

And this is my challenge you, my dear reader:  First, read this book or at least get a handle on what the “gist of it” is.  Secondly, please share some ideas of ways to expose your kids to true nature.  I will also share with you our summer plans/activities that lend themselves to allowing nature to heal the wounds of stressed out modern life.  Let’s keep our kids balanced, happy, and awed.

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