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Archive for August, 2008

Conched-Out!

So my step-father has been talking for years about this little Bahamian restaurant in Pompano Beach, FL, Calypso. Living in Jacksonville and Seattle, it’s been a tough time actually getting around to going. However, this past Tuesday I finally made the trek, and boy was it worth it! Although its already Zagat rated, I figured I would give it a little rating of my own:

Food: Between the three of us, we were all happy with our choices. We started with conch salad and the grilled conch. Aside from conch at a sushi place and in soup, I never really ate conch. Both were awesome, especially the grilled conch. I think I would make the trip just for that. You can order it as an appetizer, a lunch, or a dinner portion. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. My stepfather had the fish and chips, my mom had the Shrimp Cutter (Bahamian for sandwich), and I ahd a bowl of conch chowder. All if the choices were great. The cutter was basically a toasted kaiser roll hollowed out and filled with butter, garilc, mushrooms, lots of cheese and a good amount of shrimp. Delish!

Decor: Cute Carribbean theme, steel drum music, but nothing too fancy. Very Casual (duh!) Personally, decor is the least thing that’s important to me, as long as its clean!

Service: Great! No complaints

Price: Luckily, I didn’t pay (Thanks Dale!), but the prices looked reasonable; $8-12 lunches. One little tip though, dinner prices are much higher and the portions aren’t much bigger, so definitely hit it up before 4.

Mangia!

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Rashes are a very strange thing. They can appear and disappear rather quickly, or they can spread. They can be liquid-filled lesions, or they can be dry and chaffing. They can itch, or they can have no feeling at all. They can be caused by food allergies, heat, humidity, harsh chemicals, fragrances, bacteria, viruses, insects, you name it! I figure that over the couse of my 28-year lifespan, I have probably had a few of them. The strange thing is though, I cannot remember a single one. I never bought any cream or lotion, never looked it up online, never stressed about it. However, as soon as Liam got a few red bumps on his back, I instantly became a rash dectective. I read and reread all of the books in the house containing rash info. I went to a dozen websites looking for clues. I narrowed down my options, experimented with a few solutions, and after a grueling seven days, finally came up with a remedy. If there was a certification of some sort, I would pass with flying colors.

So after ruling out the really bad ones (measels, chickenpox, mumps), I narrowed it down to three: prickly heat, allergies, or eczema. Since the rash didn’t seem to heal quickly, I very quickly ruled out prickly heat. So then I was left with allergies and eczema. I googled “images” of each and was somewhat deterred by the seriousness of all of the pictures that I saw. The pictures online looked really scary, and I soon realized that his rash was nowhere near as serious as many. However, the rash did seem to be spreading so I was still equally concerned.

Before I could pinpoint what exactly the rash was, I figured I needed to do what I could to at least not let it get any worse. It was a very dry rash, so I knew it needed moisture. (Some rashes are “wetter” and actually need to be dried out).  I had been putting Earth’s Best Calendula Cream on it when it first started and that didn’t seem to help. Since the aloe plant is a great moisturizer, I figured I would give that a try. In Florida, I could have run out back and cut off a leaf…not so easy in the Pacific Northwest. So I ran to the healh food store in search of some 100% aloe. Surprisingly, most of the aloe they carried ranged in the 85-99% range. You may think that 99% is probably good enough, but when I looked at the host of ingredients that made up that 1%, there was no way I was putting that on my baby. I finally found an acceptable 100% aloe at a local drug store. In fear that it may be allergies, I also started watching what I was eating.

A few days went by of religiously applying aloe, one oatmeal bath, and still no results. The one good thing though, was that the rash did not seem to be getting any worse. I also noticed that it did not seem to change or worsen when I ate highly allergenic foods (eggs, wheat, etc). One thing about allergies is that most of the time, the reaction will be worse right after eating the particular food they are allergic to (makes sense, huh?) I started ruling out allergies and focusing specifically on baby eczema. While it definitely wasn’t a severe case (no oozing lesions), his skin was patchy, dry, and red. One pattern I began to notice was that the rash seemed to get worse at night. When he woke up in the morning, it looked like it was getting better, but by the end of the day in the bath, it looked bad all over again. Hmmm… I figured I would go back to the calendula cream, but this time, I would use a different brand. I picked up some Weleda (great company!)  Baby Calendula Cream and planned to use it right after his bath. I did a little more research that afternoon, and read that hot water actually aggravates eczema. Bingo!! That totally explained why it was worse in the bath.

That night I bathed him in tepid water, applied the Weleda cream and almost immediately saw the results. The next morning he woke up and the rash had diminished substantially. By the third night, the rash was completely gone. Great SUccess!!!

I feel like I got through my first ’bout of medical issues pretty successfully. I kept him out of the doctor’s office and away from unecessary over the counter/ prescribed medicaions.  Now if I can just get through the teething!!

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To Prick or Not to Prick?

Recently, it’s been a question that crosses the mind of nearly all new parents. Should I get my child vaccinated? The answer, unfortunately, is not so straightforward or easy. I knew well before I was even pregnant that this would be a difficult topic for my husband and I, so as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I read almost everything I could find on the topic. I couldn’t imagine being unprepared when it came time to vaccinate. I started out by reading Aviva Jill Romm’s Vaccination book. Her book on natural childbirth and pregnancy had been very helpful to me throughout my pregnancy, so I figured her book on vaccines would be as well. While I thouroughly enjoyed the book and her attempt to show both risks and benefits of vaccination, she did not delve into much of the arguments that lie behind the proponents of vaccination. While I knew that I definitely saw things through her eyes more than and vaccine propontent, I wanted to hear both sides so I knew what I was up against. A friend of mine mentioned hearing about Dr. Robert Sears’ The Vaccine Book on a morning show, so I figured I would give it a shot.

The book ended up being wonderful. With over 13 years of research, he offered a well-balanced approach to the vaccine question. For each vaccine, he explained what you were vaccinating yourself from (tetanus, hepatitus, etc..), if the disease was common, if it was serious, treatable, how the vaccine was made, the ingredients, side effects, why people choose to get it, why people choose to skip it, and various alternatives. He ends each chapter with his opinion about the administration of the shot. While he ultimately decides in favor of administering all vaccinations, he deviates greatly from the AAP’s recommended vaccine schedule by delaying many shots, only administering two at a time, and suggests titters before administering boosters. He even offers a selective vaccine schedule for those parents that wish to only vaccinate against a few. 

Based on the information I read in these two books, my pro-vaccination husband, and some serious compromising, we have come out somewhere in between the two. Here’s what we’ve decided:                        

  1. Hepatitus B, which is typically administered at birth, would be delayed until much later in life. Since the only ways of transmittting the disease are from an infected mother, intravenous drug use, or sexual activity, we hope we have a LONG time before we have to worry about any of that.
  2. I would only give the baby one shot at a time. If this meant going to the doctor’s once a month, that was fine. I choose the vaccines that protected him against the most serious of the diseases within his first year of life. By the end of his first year, he will be fully vaccinated for 4 of the 11 vaccines. (Many vaccines have 3 or 4 doses).
  3. As far as aluminum goes, I alternate months with the vaccines that contain aluminum. If in March he recieved a vaccine with aluminum, in April he will get one without. I have also made sure that if there is a company that makes a vaccine without it, he gets that brand.
  4. When its time for the MMR, it will be broken up into 3 shots, seperated by a year in between each shot. 
  5. A week before and after each shot, we load up on probiotics, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A.
  6. We will not administer the flu, chicken pox, or meningococcal (I am still working on polio!)

So far, everything has gone smoothly. When I visited Wallingford Pediatrics for a meet-and-greet and I mentioned that I wanted to do an alternative schedule, they welcomed the idea. When I take Liam in for his check-up, they kindly ask (without pressure or guilt) “We’re you thinking about giving him a vaccine today?”

I know that many parents ultimately decide not to vaccinate, and I respect their decision. Some of the anti-vaccine arguments though, I don’t. I was amazed to read one argument that implied that vaccines had nothing to do with the decrease in disease. It claimed “the diseases were declining before the vaccine was administered.” While I understand that through natural selection, many people will grow immunity to diseases, I think if you ask someone in sub-Saharan Africa how natural selection has played out for them, you would get a much different story. Thousands, if not millions, would be thankful for a vaccine against meningitus. There are even several countries, like India, where polio is still a risk. I think that we are very lucky to live in a country where we as parents have a choice. We must keep in mind though that one of the reasons that we have a choice is because so many of us in the US are, in fact ,vaccinated.

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You thought I was going to say organic, huh? Anywho, I am super excited because today is my first pickup for the CSA I recently joined. What is a CSA you ask? Well, its short for Community Supported Agriculture.  It’s a great way to support your local community, get amazingly fresh produce, become more aware about the “seasonality” of fruits and veggies. Most CSA’s basically works like this:

In the Spring, you invest in a particular farm in your area. You hypothetically buy a share of the farm in return for fresh, delicious produce during the growing season. Most CSA’s have 20-22 week programs. So, for 20-22 weeks, you drive to a local pick-up location once each week and pick up your fruits and vegetables. CSA’s range in price, but most average around $30-40 per week, depending on your share. Some farms offer different size shares, some do not. While most farms require you to pay upfront, there are many that offer payment plans. While it may seem like a lot of money up front, the farmer needs to make sure that you are totally invested and do not decide to quit half way through the growing season. Makes sense.

The farm I hooked up with is Full Circle Farm, located in Carnation WA. They actually offer weekly payment plans, and you can join anytime. This worked out great for me, since I was just a little busy in the Spring with my newborn baby (hope you caught the sarcasm!). They are also year round, which is another plus. I signed up for a small box ($30) and here’s what the contents included: a pint of raspberries, 1 lb. of apricots, 1 lb. of plums, 1 head of green lettuce, 1 cucumber, 1 lb. or red potatoes, a bag of spinach, a bunch of yellow carrots, 4 nectarines, 3/4 lb. green beans, a mango, and a bunch of yellow beets. 75% of the produce was all grown at the farm, while the rest of it was grown locally with “sister” farms, I guess you could call them (except the mango). I was so excited to recieve it, I think I tried a little of everything before I put it in the fridge!

yum!

yum!

If you visit the site, you will notice that all of the produce is certified organic, which is really good to know. I haven’t had a chance to actually talk to any of the farmers yet, but next time I visit the local farmer’s market, I will be sure to hit them up with some questions. Why, you ask? Well, I have recently come upon some research, and right now I just don’t know how I feel about the whole “organic” movement.  From what I have been reading, the entire system is corrupt. When the government gets involved, that’s pretty much bound to happen I guess. I mean it’s pretty evident when you start thinking about the slew of products that carry the organic label. I am sorry, but macaroni and cheese in a box should not be “organic”. Sure, the wheat used to make the pasta could be, but powdery. yellow cheese should not.  The entire “organic” movement has been stolen from a bunch of down-to-the-earth-biodynamic farmers and become something far too processed and far to commercialized. While I think its good that its has caught on to the mass public (like myself), I find myself having conflicting opinions about the whole process. Did you know that in 2005, the Organic Stanards Board (with an outlash from many organic farmers) approved a long list (low 30’s if I remember correctly)  of synthetic ingredients that are allowed in USDA certified organic foods?? To me that’s a total contradiction!! I even read one story about a person witnessing workers stuff conventional produce into bags labeled organic.! Craziness! Anyways, I could go on for ever about all of the info I have been learning, but the bottom line is, if you want to make sure that your produce is coming from a good place, visit your local farmers markets and TALK to some farmers. Ask questions. Many of the farmers in this area aren’t USDA certified organic, but I’ve asked questions and gotten great responses as well as invitations to visit some farms. (USDA certification costs an arm and a leg by the way… a lot more than most can afford).

There are some great resources out there if you want to tap into your community’s resources. Local Harvest is one of my favorites. If you are in the Seattle area, Seattle Tilth is an excellent resource for not only CSA’s but anything under the farming sun. You can even learn how to raise chickens in your own backyard! (more on this to come) And if there isn’t a CSA in your area, farmers markets are another great way to make sure that all of your dollar goes directly to the farmer (not just 19 cents of it).

Purchasing power is the greatest power we, as consumers, have. I would even argue that it is greater than our right to vote. With your purchases, you send a strong message…more powerful than you may realize.

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When I was in middle and high school, I remember having grandiose ideas about what it would like to oneday be someone “important”. Of course back then my idea of who was important not only included world leaders and humanitarians, but also movie stars and socialites. I always wondered what it would be like to “be” one of those people; to walk around on this earth knowing that I was someone important. To grow up and be “ordinary”, well that seemed like a disease I definitely did not want to catch. That’s what society can do to us I guess… fantasize about what we could have done, or perhaps who we could have been.

Entering into my late 20’s, I never imagined just how wonderful being ordinary can be. I enjoy the simple things in life. I love being outdoors, eating wholesome food (as local as I can of course!), and spending time with family and friends. I am an aspiring vegetarian (I still eat some seafood), a conscious consumer, and have recently become passionate about food activism and natural parenting (part of the inspiration for this blog). I see how we are all connected. I understand that a small action on my part can have huge ramifications in other areas, and it is important for me foster that understanding in others.

So while my life story may not top the New York Times bestseller list, I have realized that I am actally an “important” person. I am important to my hard-working husband, my five month-old son, my friends on the east coast, my four brothers, my dog, and my loving parents. And to me,  that’s a lot, especially for being so, ya’ know….ordinary.

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