BPA Resource

As a relatively new mom, one of the things I kept noticing on baby products (particularly when I was registering for our baby showers) was the “BPA free” label on some of the bottles and pacifiers that were in stores. I did not know much about BPA so I looked into it and decided to play it safe and only register for things that were BPA free. Turns out, baby bottles and pacifiers are not the only products with BPA that we should be worried about. Check out this interesting article on BPA and how to avoid it:

5 Steps to Avoiding BPA

Have you taken any steps to avoid having BPA in your home? We already avoid processed, canned food (for other reasons besides BPA levels) and soda (again, for other reasons not just BPA). We’ve also made sure (sometimes by calling and/or emailing companies directly) as much as we could that our daughter’s toys and eating equipment (bottles, pacifiers, spoons, dishes, etc.) are BPA, PVC, and phthalate free. We’ve only got one child. I can’t imagine the headache it would be, if we had more than one child, to make sure that everything he or she plays with or enters his or her mouth is non-toxic. At some point, we’ve got to let go and, as one reader pointed out several posts ago, understand that we live in a fallen and cursed world and trust God with the safety our children and ourselves. I’m reminded yet again of Proverbs 21:31, “The horse is prepared against the day of battle, but safety is of the Lord.” We should be prepared and equipped, but, ultimately our safety rests in hands of the Lord.

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Thoughts on Sugar

In our quest to eat wholesome, unprocessed foods, we eventually had to examine our choice of sweeteners. If you have ever walked down the baking aisle in your grocery store, you’ll notice numerous options for sweeteners. You’ll find white sugar, brown sugar, sugar in the raw, Truvia, Splenda, and the list goes on and on. Their packages make grand promises of low-calorie, no-calorie, all-natural, and some, oddly enough, sugar-free. Obviously, no sweetener is really great for you.

White sugar is clearly refined and processed (anything as white as white sugar has got to go through an insane refinement process) and my common sense concludes that if it has been refined, then it has probably been stripped of any nutrients that the original product may have contained in its raw form. Since we’ve decided to reduce the amount of processed foods from our diet, we decided that white sugar had to go. It’s been a few months now since we made that decision (we decided to get rid of our white sugar around the same time we decided to get rid of white flour).

We never used any of the other alternative sweeteners found in our mainstream grocery store. I’ve always been wary of low-fat products even before our wholesome living lifestyle switch. I suppose I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that if a product is labeled “reduced fat” then there usually has to be something else substituted in to make the product taste similar to the authentic product. So we have never had any of those sweeteners in our home and I am not going to address them here.

So, what do we use? Well, we decided to go as natural as possible. We primarily rely on raw (unprocessed) honey, local maple syrup and, for baking, Rapadura, which is an unrefined sugar. Since it is unrefined, Rapadura contains many of the minerals and vitamins found in sugar cane. We use either honey or maple syrup in our coffee in the morning. Now that I have tried it, I prefer honey or maple syrup over white sugar. It is quite delicious.

Honey and maple syrup can be substituted for sugar in baking recipes up to a point. I do not like to substitute in any more than 3/4 a cup. If the recipe calls for more than 3/4 of a cup of sugar, then I add in Rapadura to make up the difference. For instance, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, I add in 3/4 cup of honey and 1/4 cup of Rapadura. You can substitute in Rapadura for white sugar in the exact amounts if you’d prefer. Since honey (and maple syrup) are both liquids, I also reduce the baking temperature by 25 to 50 degrees depending on the recipe. Here is an example. I made chocolate chip cookies the other day and I was supposed to bake them for 8 minutes at 375 degrees, but instead I baked them for 10 minutes at 325 degrees.

Once I figure out all the substitutions and temperature changes for each of my favorite recipes, I am rewriting my recipes as “natural” versions and saving those to use so I won’t have to redo/refigure out each recipe all over again when I want to bake something. So far I’ve baked chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, chocolate zucchini bread, and blueberry muffins with great success. I have used honey or maple syrup as the sweetener (with a tad bit of Rapadura as needed) and whole wheat flour in each of those recipes.

Here is a chart that I found helpful when we were considering what types of sweeteners to use in our home:

How sugars compare

Amounts based on 100 grams

White sugar Raw brown sugar Evaporated cane juice Sucanat Rapadura Honey

Sugars

Sucrose (g) 99.6 96-97 96-100 88.3 88-91 1-6
Glucose (g) 0 0-1 0-1 n.a. 2-6 34-41
Fructose (g) 0 0-1 0-1 0.9 3-6 28-35

Minerals

Potassium (mg) 3-5 15-150 17-40 570 600-1,000 47
Magnesium (mg) 0 13-23 3-6 8.7 40-100 6
Calcium (mg) 10-15 75-95 20-40 114 80-110 5
Phosphorus (mg) 0.3 3-4 3-7 37 50-100 18

Vitamins

A (IU) 0 0 <20 <20 120-1,200 0
B1 (mg) 0 0.01 n.a. 0.007 0.023-0.1 0.003
B2 (mg) 0 0.006 n.a. 0.55 0.06-0.15 0.05
B6 (mg) 0 0.01 n.a. 0.27 0.02-0.05 0
Niacin (mg) 0 0.03 <0.5 0.7 0.03-0.19 0.1
Pantothenic (mg)

0 0.02 0.01-0.05 0.33 0.34-1.18 0

Chart courtesy of Honest Weight Food Coop (Accessed August 24, 2010 at http://www.hwfc.com/CoopScoop/Apr03/manager.html)

Living Terminal

“We’re all terminal” was one of the phrases our former pastor in Rochester used frequently. It makes you think doesn’t it? His exact  facial expression and tone of voice resound clearly in my memory.  Whenever I think of that line and I hear it echoed so clearly in my mind, it makes me pause. It makes me wonder, “Do all the things I busy myself with on a daily basis matter?”

It’s so easy for me to focus on all the little things in my day-to-day life that I miss the big picture. I miss how all those little things equate to one lifetime. One legacy. Far too often I find myself preoccupied with my to-do lists that I don’t take time to really examine what I’m doing and why I am doing it. At times I’ve found I need to take a moment and reevaluate my priorities and examine my heart and motives. I ask, “Am I tending not only to the physical health of my family, but also to their spiritual and emotional health as well?”

Lately I’ve been reminded that it is the relationships with those around us and, most importantly, our relationship with Christ that truly matters. Cultivating these relationships has a lasting impact, not only in the lives of those around us, but in our own life as well. As we invest ourselves into the lives of those around us, whether by offering a band-aid for a cut, listening ear or cup of tea, we are building a legacy.

We often don’t think of the small things we do as having any impact- yet they are like building blocks. The patience and kindness we demonstrate to our children, comfort and word fitly spoken to a friend, forgiveness freely offered to a spouse, and quiet moments we spend in prayer and mediating on the word all matter. I challenge each of us to pause and think about the blocks we are using. Are we busy with the affairs of the world- allowing the world to build and shape us in accordance to every whim and fancy or are we carefully and strategically choosing the blocks we choose to build with?

Lessons in Frugality

One of our goals as a family is to adopt at least one child. We are diligently trying to become debt free and our goal is to be completely debt free (aside from our mortgage) before we adopt.

As with many goals in life, our quest to be debt free is slow going. Living off one income, choosing to eat local and/or organic foods as much as possible, and paying of debt takes a lot of prayer and planning.

We’ve found that making products from scratch does save money in the long run, but, of course, it often requires large chunks of time- a rarity with a baby under one year old.

So, how do we do it? Well, to be perfectly honest, sometimes we just don’t have the money to buy all organic or local. We rely on our common sense and try to make wholesome choices for our family- organic or not. For instance, have you heard of the dirty dozen? It is a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that have the highest amounts of pesticides. We try to only buy the fruits and veggies that are on this list from local farmers who do not use pesticides or from the organics section in our supermarket. Similarly, there is a list of the 12 cleanest fruits and veggies. If we want to buy any of these, we usually buy them from a grocery store at the cheapest price we can find.

We try to stock up on things when they are in season. Zucchini is quite cheap right now at the farmer’s market so I bought a bunch of it and froze it for making zucchini bread in the winter.

We also ask ourselves quite frequently, “Do we really need ____?” We use cloth diapers, and we’ve switched to using cloth napkins. We also try to use cloth dish towels as much as possible in place of paper towels. If we need something, we first think about a way to either make it ourselves or come up with some other solution to avoid buying whatever it is. Here is an example: We really wanted something small in our living room to put our daughter’s toys in. Rather than buying a basket or a bin, we ended up using an old picnic basket that we found in our attic.

Often, we’ve found that if we use our imagination or don’t mind taking the extra time to make something ourselves, we are able to have what we need (or want) without spending any extra cash.

My latest money-saving idea is keeping a log of the groceries we buy and how long they last us. (This was inspired by Thomas Jefferson. He kept a log of everything relating to his home- crops, weather, food, and so forth). A lot of our products I buy online because it is cheaper than buying them from our local health food store. There are discounts for buying in bulk, so I’ve started keeping a journal of things like coconut oil, Rapadura (alternative sugar), and such so I can get an idea of how much we consume over the course of several months. My hope is that we’ll be able to buy what we need in bulk and save money that way (a side benefit is that I won’t need to go grocery shopping as frequently…). I still need to figure out how much of each item I’d need to buy in bulk for it to be worth our while.

What about you? How do you save money, but still manage to eat wholesome foods?

Valuing Silence

Have you ever noticed how much of our days are filled with some form of media or another? Even if we do not sit down in front of a television and veg, we are inundated by media. We text each other while watching television. We surf the Internet (often multiple sites at once) while we listen to music. We see billboards while we drive to buy groceries. We listen to the radio to and from work. We compulsively check our email, Facebook, and other social networking sites. The media is our constant companion.

Is this healthy? Often we fail to realize (or if we do realize it, we don’t allow it to shape our thoughts and behaviors) that the media, as a medium, exists to sell things. If not actual products, then it is conveying information and viewpoints. All of these things are often consumed by an unquestioning and unassuming audience. Why? Because if we were to think critically about all the media we expose ourselves to on a daily basis, then we wouldn’t have any energy (or time) left for the tasks that fill our day. We have grown so used to this constant companion that it is easy for us to frequently take things at face value and not question what we see, hear and read. Even if we see something we disagree with, often we just make a mental note that we disagree with it and move on, rather than engaging in thoughtful discussion or action.

Sometimes I wonder if our culture’s addiction to the media is why so many of us have problems making decisions and sticking to those decisions. We are so used to “googling” everything and/or relying on information we’ve found in the media that it is hard for us to think and ponder by ourselves. I’ve frequently found this in my own life, particularly when I’ve spent a lot of time online. I go to sit down to rest by myself and I find it difficult to sit in solitude. I don’t know what to do with silence.

One of the most thought provoking assignments I had in college was to go a week without any form of media. Many of my friends were infuriated by the assignment. Initially, I didn’t think it would be that difficult. I thought I would just have to go without the radio, which I listened to on my drive to and from school; and I would have to go without email. I soon realized that there were billboards on the main interstate I took to get to and from school. Music was always playing in stores and my daily dose of the news came from the newspaper or the Internet. All of these things had to be avoided for a week. Through this exercise, I realized how much of our time and brainpower is occupied by media. During and after this exercise, I noticed how many conversations revolve around the latest television show and often wondered if people realize they are getting really upset (substitute in any mood) by something that is imaginary.

During my week without the media, life seemed to slow down. I had time to think and ponder life, and by the end of the week it was not strange to sit down by myself in silence. I found myself seeking out the company of others for enjoyment and entertainment, rather than finding it in a movie or on a web page.

Years later, this exercise’s impact on my media consumption is still evident. We’ve made conscious decisions in our own home about what media we utilize and consume and what technology we allow in our house. Our hope is that we’ll raise children who are free and thorough thinkers and that we, as parents and individual members of society, will be the same.

High Fructose Corn Syrup Stinks!

So, if you remember one of our very first posts, you’ll recall one of our earliest wholesome living decisions was to eliminate high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) from our diet. As I go through a mental inventory of what is currently in our kitchen cabinets, I cannot think of a single thing that has HFCS in it! Hurray! Back when we decided to eliminate HFCS from our diet, several people asked us why we were doing it. We would of course ramble off our list of reasons. Mid-ramble, I would always think (to myself), “Why don’t more people know about the dangers of HFCS?” or “Are we crazy for thinking this since we are so clearly in the minority for thinking HFCS is bad for you?”. Now that most of our friends and family know we are avoiding HFCS, the question does not come up as much. But, I am sure it will come up again sometime in the future. With that in mind, I am posting a link to a recent article (hurray for mainstream media coverage on this- finally!) that does a good job of describing a few of the harmful effects of HFCS. Here’s the article:

“Cancer cells feed on fructose, study finds: Pancreatic tumor cells use fructose to divide and proliferate, U.S. researchers said on Monday in a study that challenges the common wisdom that all sugars are the same.”