Monthly Archives: March 2011

Activism Green Living Healthy Living Toxin Alert!

Spring Cleaning and Wellness Tips in the Home

The last vestiges of winter are still hanging on – and so are colds, flus, and other illnesses. Two weeks ago, there were record numbers of kids out sick at my son’s school. Of course, even though we all know children are not known for their sanitary or careful habits, I also know the food they are eating plays a big part in all this.

I’m disappointed to see a lot of processed, packaged foods in children’s lunches at our school. Over the course of the years, our lunch committee has made concerted efforts to try to educate parents about healthier, real, and homemade alternatives for lunch meals.  I’m certainly not criticizing, I’d just love to see parents more motivated to send nourishing foods with their kids every day, especially since it has such a profound effect on their ability to stay well. But, I know habits are hard to break, so we’ll just have to keep on gently pushing things in the right direction.

Aside from eating well, there are other easy and natural things you can do around your house to keep yourself and your family well. This guest post today from Barb Schuetz from Whole and Then Some demonstrates some easy, natural things you can do in your own home to prevent illness from spreading from person-to-person. I hope these tips are helpful and easy to implement in your busy life. Thanks Barb!

Cleaning while ill is usually one of the last things on my mind, but I do try to make certain exceptions to help prevent the rest of my family catching my bug, or visa-versa. Honestly, it’s sometimes hard to remember because I haven’t really been sick for a few years. This year, however; has been downright ridiculous. I’ve been down and out with
one thing or another this whole season, I like to think that it’s a reboot to my immune system and I’ll have another few years sick free ahead of me.

These are also some good things to keep in mind when spring cleaning after a sickly winter. I want to quickly touch on one thing that bothers me: the use of chemical antibacterial petroleum products, and in excess. I do not condone this practice and I do not believe it to be a healthy one. That being said, there are other antibacterial type products one can use, while ill or in special situations and we’ll talk about those products.

Obviously, your best get-well buddy will be nutrition. Aside from real, whole, nutrient-dense foods, when you’re sick, a good-quality probiotic comes in handy and plays an important role in instances when you happen to be doing a lot of hand washing, and possibly using a lot of essential oils.

O.K., so get on with it you say. Here are some products, recipes and tips from my home to yours:

Sol-U-Guard is an amazing (and oh so wonderful smelling) cleaner made from thyme oil. I’ve gotten it from a friend that’s part of some sort of buying club but a Google shopping search turns up some leads. Here are some links :
Safety for Your Home
Melaleuca Products
RM Barry

BioKleen Bac-Out is one of my favorite not homemade products that I actually keep on hand year round. I do have dogs and it’s natural enzyme power is great for odors. It’s also great for freshening up upholstery, say, on a sick couch….. and I use it on pillows while sick- they take so long to wash and dry it just doesn’t make sense to do that umpteen times so in between changing pillow cases, I give the pillow a good spritz with Bac-Out.

Vinegar. I can’t say enough about vinegar but I’ll try to control myself. When I’m ill, I keep my toothbrush in a cup of white vinegar and then replace my toothbrush once I’m well. No sense trying to get better while putting the sickies right back in your mouth from the last time you brushed. A newly discovered vinegar love: citrus vinegar. We’ve been going through a lot of citrus this winter so the peels have been going into big jars and topped off with white vinegar and left for a couple of weeks. The results make for a fabulous wood cleaner but also a nice base for my homemade antibacterial spray and wipes. Recipes to follow.

Thieves oil is something new to me this year. It’s a revamped version of a combination of herbal oils used by thieves in the times of the bubonic plague to keep themselves plague-free. I’ve made my own to use because, well…let’s face it: frequent hand-washing gets tired and if you’re constantly blowing your nose, coughing into a tissue, etc., you can’t possibly be washing your hands as frequently as you’d need to for it to be effective. And if you did, I pity your hands. So here’s the version of an anti-bacterial product that I feel o.k. about using when I’m sick. Especially when I’m sick and visiting someone in a hospital or hanging out in a public place where a lot of sickies are very present. I feel like I should be clear though that if my immune system was in tip top function, I wouldn’t use any antibacterial, even when visiting such places:

To make my thieves oil :I added 10-15 drops of each cinnamon, clove, lemon, eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils to a reused 2oz amber bottle and topped it off with grapeseed oil (you can use any carrier oil you like, even olive). I take this everywhere with me, even throughout the house.

Surface cleaning is important when you think of everything you touch; doorknobs, faucets, light switches, phone, remote controls, refrigerator handles, milk jug/jar and other food containers, tincture bottles, steering wheel, mouse and keyboard, etc.

To make my homemade disinfectant spray I filled a spray bottle half and half with citrus vinegar and water and added 10-20 drops each of the thieves oils. I give it a good shake before I spray because the oils will float to the surface. I don’t always wipe this away, sometimes I’ll just go through at the end of the day and spray knobs, handles (don’t forget the toilet flusher!), faucets and anything else that can just be sprayed. Remotes and phones can usually tolerate a light spritz on fine mist. Otherwise I’ll use a wipe, which are also great for when you’re away from home.

To make my wipes I poured some of my spray into a baggie, added just a drop of mild dish soap and mixed it up a bit. Then I added folded paper towels and sealed up the bag.

Air quality is important to me. I’ve never cared for literally sealing up a house in winter (which is just what happens in WI). I was so thrilled once we switched to wood heat exclusivley because it allows us to stay warm AND open a window if we’d like because we can achieve a high heat that lingers. On days that it’s not bitterly cold and windy and I have to woodstove cranked, I’ll crack a window or two for some fresh air exchange. I understand this isn’t as easy for everyone. Thankfully, some are able to get air purifiers but also having a bunch of houseplants is nice.


Want more information?

My home medicine cabinet – what I use to remedy ailments

Embrace and perfect your home-keeping skills

Natural housecleaning carnival – Passionate Homemaking

Baby steps: going more natural, one cleaner at a time – Keeper of the Home

Food for thought: why is bleach bad for me?  – Kitchen Stewardship

How to clean legally (SCD) – Kat’s food blog

My home medicine cabinet – what I use to remedy ailments

Activism Green Living Healthy Living Kids & Family

Don’t Miss Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution – Season Two!

I got so jacked up when Jamie Oliver’s first season of Food Revolution was on last year. I had such high hopes for the outcome of his visit to Huntington, VA. Although he didn’t achieve his desired goal of changing the food in the schools of this city, he did make a lasting impression and changed the lives of many people who live there.

Jamie spent years in his home country of Britain changing the way schools fed their children. He has most recently been working with L.A. Unified School District – the nation’s second largest school districts – trying to revamp the school lunch program there for the second season of his show.

See clips from last season and previews here. The new season will start on Tuesday, April 12th.

Here are some of the highlights from last season in Huntington, WV: I love how Rhonda McCoy, director of Food Services, says that they don’t want to eliminate the sugary milk because kids won’t drink it without.  If you remember back to just how bird-brained this woman is, she’s the one who told Jamie one day at the school that there weren’t enough vegetables being served that day (even though he and the staff carefully prepared and weighed all the vegetables to make sure there was the recommended amount), and said to add french fries because they are considered a vegetable (fried in rancid vegetable oil…YUCCKKKHHH!).

She’s also the one who said that things weren’t working out because the kids weren’t eating the food, and that if Jamie wanted the program to continue, he would have to do “a lot  better than what he’s shown us in the first couple days.” Showing her complete aversion to a program that serves children healthy food, and the fact that she wasn’t even willing to give it time – which, with anything like this, time has to be given in order to instill good habits in children who have been used to eating junk for so many years. It’s not going to happen overnight. Jamie firmly impressed that we should give the kids what we should give them, and they’ll get used to it. Go Jamie!

My thoughts about the school lunch program

For many years I’ve been active and vocal about school lunch reform. I spent over a year in my own city spearheading an effort to change the school lunch program in my son’s district. We brought the film Two Angry Moms to our city. Then we went back to home schooling for a year and my efforts on that project stopped. Since then, even with the efforts of other parents, nothing has changed. Now my son attends a public charter school and there is no lunch program. I’m a co-chair of our lunch committee and we’ve spent our time on various measures to help the families of our school be more aware of sending healthy, nutrient-dense foods with their children for lunch. Last fall, we had two holistic health counselors come and give classes for the parents to help teach them some simple ways to prepare nutritious foods that will give their kids the support they need while growing and learning.

I see some of the obstacles to improving school lunch (besides the huge piles of government bureaucracy about funds and “standards” created by the USDA about fat content) being the fact that most of the staff in the schools are incredibly rigid about the changes Jamie wants to make. They have done things a certain way for so long, they just don’t want to make the needed changes – whether it’s because it takes to long to prepare something or it’s just something they are completely unfamiliar with how to prepare.

I have to say, cooking has always been a challenge for me. I’m still nowhere as proficient at it as I’d like to be and feel like a total novice. And yet, I prepare just about everything in our house from scratch that I possibly can. I’m certainly no master at traditional foods like fermenting or culturing vegetables or sourdough breads, and I’m not great at trying new recipes or procedures that are new to me. But I still make all our meals from scratch.

As one example, we’ve started making all our beans from scratch by soaking them at least overnight (sometimes longer) in filtered water and apple cider vinegar, and then cooking them and adding lard to make authentic, traditional refried beans. If you make large batches up at a time, you can freeze and use later. We also make all our stocks and bone broths from scratch. When I have enough raw milk,  I make my own home-made yogurt. With a little planning, practice, and preparation, anyone can do simple things like this to improve the food they eat for themselves and their families.

What can you do to improve the quality of your child’s school lunch program?

  • Get involved. Parents who make their voices heard cannot be ignored!
  • If your child attends a public school, send your child healthy lunches every day.
  • Use fresh, real ingredients and avoid processed, prepared, canned, and jarred foods. Use leftovers from last night’s dinner in a thermos or hot pack, send fresh meats, seafood, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, organ meats, whole milk yogurt, almond butter, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other whole foods
  • Go organic or sustainable, if possible.
  • Avoid processed, industrial meats, eggs, cheese, and fats like canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil (check labels). Do use traditional, healthy fats in your cooking and with your children’s meals like butter, lard, tallow, olive oil, and coconut oil.

How does healthy food support your child’s health?

Your child’s growing brain, nervous and immune systems, and whole body need nutrient-dense foods found in healthy fats and proteins to be successful in his or her future.

The USDA Food Pyramid recommends limiting calories and fats, and eat more grains. But this advice is actually counter to the foundations of health. Grains are not easily absorbed by the digestive tract, making the nutrients in these foods hard for the body to use. And, consumption of grains can actually lead to the loss of nutrients in the body (including the bones, where critical nutrients like minerals like calcium, zinc, and iron are stored).

Nutrients from fats and proteins are easily assimilated in the body and contain more of what children need for energy and growth, and foods containing fats are some of the most nutrient-dense available. Since fat is more nutrient dense and provides the necessary energy in the most efficient way, why are we not taught that these are the foods which are the most important foundational elements of our modern diets? People all over the world for thousands of years have eaten traditional fats for health and survival, and our children should too.

Vegetables are important for children, but they are seldom prepared in a way that can be most easily digested. Vegetables contain nutrients that should be accompanied by fat-soluble vitamins from animal foods for absoption, which is why serving salads with healthy fats like olive oil and vinegar or steamed vegetables with butter is so important, and makes them especially delicious.

Sign Jamie’s petition and join the revolution in your community!

Nourishing Our Children

Farm to School

Chef Ann Cooper

Fed Up With Lunch – The School Lunch Project

Chez Panisse Foundation – School Lunch Reform

This post is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival