“No-no” ingredients

Some time ago, I was asked this great question:

You may have covered this before, so if you did, just direct me where to go. What specifically is wrong with some of the "no-no" items (nitrates, corn syrups, MSG, etc)? I've read references to what is unhealthy in brief statements by others and yourself but I would love to read in more detail about these ingredients that seem to be in everything.
Faith

I had been planning to research and write a really detailed post, until I discovered that my Mother-in-Law had already written one!

12 Additives to Definitely Avoid

The only major item that I would add to the list is:

Juice tetra pack
Corn Syrup (High Fructose Corn Syrup)

This corn-based sweetener is used in a wide variety of baked goods, canned fruit, fruit juices, beverages, jams, gum and more. One main concern is that it's form of sugar is fructose, rather than glucose. Glucose is used by our bodies as an energy source, but fructose is is metabolized and stored as a fat more than any other sugar. Because HFCS does not stimulate insulin or leptin, which help to regulate blood sugar and signal to us that we are full and need to stop eating, it most likely contributes to overeating and weight gain.

It contains no nutrients in and of itself, so it is nothing but a drain on our bodies, which must use stored energy and nutrients to digest and assimilate it. As I mentioned, it is corn- based, and most corn is genetically-modified. As well, processed foods have gradually become more and more corn-based, increasing our intake of this sugary grain and leading to more unbalance in our diets that tend to be grain-sugar-carb heavy and lacking in vegetables and high quality protein.

Of course, the goal is to avoid as many preservatives as possible, not just the ones that we know for certain are dangerous. The easiest way to do that is to eat a simple, whole foods diet and avoiding packaged and processed foods (but you all know that already, don't you? :)

Raw milk controversy rages on

Though I'm no longer lamenting the loss of my raw milk, the issue is far from over.

Some changes have been made within our local cow share to help to protect it's ability to operate and provide us shareholder's with our milk. We can no longer pick it up from a cooler space rented from a local health food store, but instead must get it from a fellow shareholder's home, where a fridge has been added to make it a depot. The lids have changed, stating that this raw milk is "Not for Sale" and that it is the "Property of Shareholder", furthering the legality of how it is being made available.

Our province's local newspaper, The Province (well, what else would you call a provincial newspaper?), covered the story just recently and I was surprised to see their favorable take on the situation (as in, favorable and sympathetic towards those of us who want the right to have raw milk).

http://www.canada.com/theprovince/columnists/story.html?id=20071903-6dd1-4625-9e22-73dc3fe26398

Remembrance Day

Poppy field 2
 Sorry I haven't been around yet this week! I've been off the computer pretty much since Friday night, enjoying the weekend with my family. I don't know about in the States, but in Canada today is Remembrance Day. My husband worked from home on Saturday, but was able to have Sunday, Monday and today off so we've just been enjoying time together as a family.

As well, my Mom is visiting us from up north, so we had a family birthday party for her on Sunday night at our house, and she's been spending time with the kids as well. Ryan and I even had a 4 hour mid-day date yesterday while she and my Nana took the kids shopping (Abbie is now "winterized" with the cutest pink boots and deep pink pea coat and matching hat, as her birthday gifts).

Promise, I'll be back for real by Wednesday, but for now I've got one more relaxing day to spend with my family until it's back to the daily routine!

Today, I'm thankful for all who have given their lives to serve and protect our country, and preserve the freedoms that we are so fortunate to have… freedom to vote for our leaders, to practice our faith openly and without persecution, to decide how we want to raise and educate our children, to speak (and blog) freely… we are so blessed.

Let's not forget all that has been given so that we might live in such peace and prosperity. It's so easy to take it all for granted, and to grumble about big government and bad economies and schools that hold Winter (not Christmas) concerts and teach evolution (trust me, I can be good at grumbling). I think that we have no idea, though, how blessed we are to live in such a time and place and what has been sacrificed in order that we may live as we choose. Praise God!

Living Simply Saturday: Satisfaction in Him alone

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"It's just a little treat", I reasoned. "I'm exhausted all the time, I need a pick me up, and don't I deserve something nice once in a while?"

These were some of the thoughts that went through my head each time I bought myself a coffee, during a very challenging season of life about a year and a half ago,. Though I had actually completely broken my caffeine addiction prior to that time, when my husband began his chemotherapy treatments and then I gave birth to my second child only 3 weeks later, coffee began to find a regular place in my life once again. I was completely worn out, from being up all night with either a nursing baby and/or a sick husband, and then having to take care of everyone all week, in the midst of doctors appointments, chemo treatments, surgeries and the like.

Coffee felt like a way to cope. It met my need for more energy (or so I convinced myself), and felt like a way to indulge just a little when all else felt so shaky and wearisome.

A couple months into the treatments, we attended our church's big weekend conference, Celebration. One of the speakers gave a message that spoke deeply to me and brought conviction in an unexpected area. He spoke from the book of Ruth, and used the story of Naomi's family going to Moab during the famine to remind us of how we often run after things on our own strength, look for our own ways to meet our needs, and ultimately make idols of those things we run after, without looking first to God, who is able to meet all of our needs abundantly.

I realized that in something as simple and benign as depending on my coffee each day, I had actually been saying "God, I don't really believe that you're big enough to meet my need for strength and refreshment and energy. I need to take the matter into my own hands, by worshiping the almighty cup of coffee that can cover my exhaustion, rather than looking to you to ease my burdens and be my strength in the midst of my weakness."

Though this week's chapter in From Clutter to Clarity
(Ch.4 Satisfaction Guaranteed), was talking more specifically about how we can try to substitute possessions for the true satisfaction that only God can give, it immediately brought this time in my life back to mind.

She says,

"Something inside us longs to experience all that a close relationships with him (God) brings. But we often short-circuit God's plans by trying to fulfill emotional and spiritual needs in other ways. The end results is always the same: we find no genuine satisfaction until we give our hearts and spirits what they need."

One of the most poignant statements in the whole chapter (to me, anyways) was from a friend of hers, who experienced great personal loss in a very short period of time, and began to stockpile basic food, beauty and household items in a grab at some sort of security while her life felt shaken to the core. What she realized she truly needed more than anything else was a relationship with God alone- "security I couldn't buy in a store".

How many of us need to be challenged like that (I know that I still do- daily!)? To refrain from leaning on those quick fixes, those fleeting senses of fulfillment and happiness, those worldly desires that beckon so loudly, all promising satisfaction that deep inside we know they cannot provide. To run instead to the God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and oh-so-good beyond our comprehension, to find true security and satisfaction in His arms, His provision and His saving power.

"Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare." Isaiah 55:2

When I learned, that summer, to stop relying on quick fixes for my struggles and began to rely on the God who knows me and fashioned me and sustains me, I found what I needed. In those moments when all around me felt like it would give way and that I was ready to collapse out of sheer exhaustion, I would quickly close my eyes, and say "I need you so desperately. I need the strength that only You can give. I am weary and worn and have nothing left to give. You know the needs of my family. Please help me to meet them, through your grace."

You know what? He did.

And let me tell you, he did it far better than any Starbucks Venti Caramel Macchiato ever could. 

To borrow from the book, I wanted to ask two questions that I would love to hear other's answers to:

  • When have you realized that something seemingly benign was really a hindrance in disguise?
  • What are some examples of "empty calories" in your life- things that may temporarily fill you up but don't meet your deepest needs?

_______________________________________________________________

Living Simply Saturdays
are an opportunity to share what is bringing more simplicity and
purposefulness to your own life, and to glean from the lives of others.

To join in, post your contribution on your blog, then come back
here and add your link below. Please make sure that you link to the
specific post, and not to the homepage of your blog, and make sure that
you include in your post a mention of the carnival and a link back to this post.

I do check each post, and if this isn't done, I will unfortunately have
to delete your link, which I would very much prefer not to do.Thanks so
much!

If you don't have a blog, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section!

Two questions for you, ladies!

A quick thanks to those who joined in the Organic Gardening Carnival yesterday, and I wanted to let you know that if you weren't able to get something up on your blog for yesterday, you can still feel free to add your post anytime this weekend or even later. The point is to have a reference place to go back to, especially as we plan our gardens this winter and next spring! I thought I should also mention, please don't be intimidated by my calling it "organic". I know that most of us don't do our gardening perfectly organically. I'm just interested in what y'all are doing to try to grow healthy, natural food for your families, without a bunch of store-bought pesticides and fertilizers, that's all.

Ok, moving on…

Question #1

Over the last few months, my son has been having an incredibly difficult time with diaper rash. It seems that his skin is particularly sensitive to wetness, and also to the acidity of his #2 diapers when he's teething (which is pretty much every day of his life since he was 5 mths old, poor kid!). He was developing awful, raw rashes all over his diaper area, no matter what we tried (while sticking with cloth diapers). When we went to Arizona and had him in disposable for 2 weeks, the rash completely went away. A week and a half after returning to cloth, it was back in full force. After a few more weeks of watching him suffer (I mean, truly, he could barely stand to sit in his high chair, and screamed each time we changed him), we gave up and bought a box of disposables, which makes me really sad.

All that said, I've decided to work to potty train him early. I realize that it will be I who is trained, not him, most likely. With his young age, it will probably be something in between true potty training and infant potty training (elimination communication, diaper free, etc.).

What I need to know is this… where can I buy the most reasonably priced, waterproof, cloth training pants for him?

Because he's so young and we live in a rental with carpet and it's winter time, I really don't want him just running around bare bum or with just cloth underwear on. I want waterproof training pants that he can wear under his pants, and so that I won't spend my entire days (and weeks) cleaning his pants and the carpet. Thoughts? Sites to send me to? What did you use for training your little boy, other than disposable pullups or underwear?

Question #2

I mentioned earlier this week that I want to make cheese with some extra milk that I have, but realized that pretty much all cheese recipes call for rennet. I have absolutely no idea where to find rennet on short notice! I went to the grocery store last night, but didn't really even know where to start looking, and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't carry it anyways (who makes their own cheese these days, besides weirdos like me?). I know I can order it on the internet, but right now I have milk that must be used within the next couple of days.

I did find this recipe for making a "queso fresco" styled hard cheese, without rennet. Do you have any other suggestions or recipes that I could try this time, until I get myself some rennet to do it authentically? And also, where would you suggest purchasing rennet from for next time?

Thanks a million! :)

Organic Gardening Carnival!

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It's time to swap tips, share our stories and sharpen our gardening skills in what I hope will become an annual Organic Gardening Carnival!

If you're wondering what this carnival is all about, check out this post with all the details!

For those with blogs, please be sure that you link to the actual blog post and not your homepage, to make sure that the correct post is easy for readers to find. As well, please be sure to link back to the carnival on your post, and feel free to use the graphic!

For those without blogs, I'm still more than happy to put together a blog post with any of your contributions. If you'd prefer not to do that, then by all means, please share with us through the comments!

Thanks for joining in, everyone! I'm so eager to see what you have to share, and I hope that this will be a useful resource and learning tool for all of us!

Lessons from my garden

(I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I wanted to get out much of this info, if for no other reason than having a record of it myself!)

I could actually say sooo much more than this, but here's my attempt to condense my observations and things that I learned in my garden this pat year, for the Organic Gardening Carnival:

A bit of info:

Hardiness zone- 8 (Vancouver, BC area)

Size of garden- 12 ft by 28 ft, set up in somewhat raised beds

Gardening experience- This is my second year of real gardening (my first year was a 16 x 16 plot in a community garden).

Tomato-and-peppers
To mulch or not to much?

Having read the praises of mulch in many an organic gardening book, I decided to make this year an experiment and really go for it. I found alfalfa hay for free through Craigslist, and came home with plenty for the entire summer. In the end, I wasn't happy with mulching (at least, not the way that I did it) and here's why:

  1. I didn't know it then (but I do now) that most hay carries with it weed seeds. Which might explain why, despite my best efforts to mulch thoroughly, them weeds just kept coming back again and again and again. So don't use hay, if you're planning to mulch!
  2. Because I kept dealing with weeds, the mulch actually made my job far more difficult. I couldn't properly get to the weeds through the mulch, so they had a bit of a heyday at times. I would often just rip off their tops in frustration, knowing that I couldn't get to their roots.

This winter, I'm covering my grass with fallen leaves, which won't have any weed seeds (right? Please tell me I'm right!). I wanted to plant buckwheat for over the winter, but I didn't do it soon enough. My hope is that the leaves will keep it a bit warmer, and start to compost a bit so that they add more organic matter when I turn them under in the spring. They should also be easy to turn under by hand, which is important, because I now have raised beds that would be really difficult to use a tiller on.

Speaking of roto-tillers
I did use one this year, as my garden was just a big empty space that hadn't been tended to much in the last couple of years. It was weedy and tough, to say the least. I rented a tiller from Home Depot (in the springtime, at least where I live, they rent them for half price for 1/2 day rentals on Tues-Thurs). I still had to go through by hand first, to get out as many big weeds as I could, and then again after to get everything else. It was still tons of work, but I do think the tiller made my work easier. It probably also spread the weeds more, which I paid for this summer, but quite frankly, I'm not sure I would have managed to get it all done and ready to plant this year without the tiller, so I'm considering it worthwhile (but only this one time- no more tiller for my garden!).

Love it, like it, leave it (seed varieties)

Heirloom-tomatoes Loved: Black Beauty Zucchini, Marvel Striped Tomatoes, Vegetable Spaghetti Squash, New England Sugar Pie Pumpkin, Lemon Cucumber (grows quickly- great for Northern growers, and sooo tasty!), Boston Pickling Cucumber, Red Cherry Tomato Peacevine (so prolific!), Oregon Sugar Pod II, Nantes Scarlet Carrot Seeds.

Liked: Purple Top White Globe Turnip, Burt's Blood Beet Seeds, Chantenay Carrots, Mizuna Oriental Greens, Aunt Ruby's German Green Tomato, Jimmy Nardellos's Sweet Italian Frying Pepper (didn't get too eat in the end, but it looked really promising), Butternut Waltham (mine didn't do really well, though the one I got is very nice), Japanese Long Cucumber, French Summer Thyme, Oregano Vulgar, Dill Bouquet, French Breakfast Radish Seeds, Alaska Shelling Pea, Costuloto Fiorentino Tomato (big harvest, but texture was a bit mushy for me), Olga Romaine Lettuce.

Leave: Fine Verde Basil (a very strange basil- tasted ok, but didn't grow really well), Lettuce Blend (Full Circle Seeds- some varieties were great, others were really so-so)

There were a few other variety of things that I can't really comment on, such as another pepper variety (Antojii Romanian), watermelon (Sugar Baby), onions (Stuttgarter), spinach (Monstrueux De Viroflay), broccoli (De Cicco Italian) etc. because they didn't do well enough for me to have a valid opinion (through no fault of their own, but because of my summer weather, or bad planting, etc.).

Most of my seeds came from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (they are fantastic, I will definitely buy from them again next year!). The rest came from either Heirlooms Evermore, Full Circle Seeds, or a teensy local company I purchased from at a garden show.

Pollination
One thing that I will definitely do next year is plant more flowers! This year, I had 3 large sunflowers, and two patches of nasturtiums, and a couple small pots with wildflowers that never really took off. Next year, I will be filling pots with nasturtiums and marigolds and putting them all around the perimeter of my garden, and will try again to make the wildflowers much more successful.

The bee shortage was really evident to me, and so I think it's really necessary to plant many more flowers and not just to try to keep away garden pests (though that's another great reason to do so). I had many instances where lack of pollination kept my crops from doing well (specifically my cucumber and squash). I should have tried (but didn't) to hand pollinate, and will do so next year if it's more of the same.

Summer-2008 Garden Layout
This was an area with much trial and error for me. There were a few good things that I did:

  • I kept a lot of my spring veggies together, leaving nice open and sunny spaces to fill with my summer-loving plants. This also gave me an easy place to replant for the fall, as I just went back to where the spring plants were, and rearranged things a bit while the sprawling summer plants (ie. squash, pumpkin, tomatoes) stayed put well into the fall.
  • I did some peas and cucumbers along my back fence, which made for easy trellising and access, plus they didn't block the sun from other plants.
  • My squash were at the end of my garden, back by the fence. This was good, because I planted too many and they ran into the grass and along the back garden path. If they had been more in the middle, it would have really gotten in the way of things.

And a few not so good things:

  • I planted squash seedlings near some squares of onions and carrots in the early summer, not realizing how fast the squash would take over. It seriously hampered the growth of the onions and carrots, and made them very hard to harvest.
  • To get to my cucumber vines, I had to walk through (over, under, on top of, trying not to trip over, etc.) my overgrown squash, and I know I stepped on the squash vines at least a couple of times (besides, it was just a pain trying to get past it).
  • I planted all of my curcubits (squash, zucchini, cucumber) clumped together, and when one got powdery mildew, they all got it. I fought it like crazy for half the summer. Ugh.
  • I thought that my peppers and tomatoes would do nicely in the same raised bed, one along one side, one along the other side. Problem was the tomatoes took off, while the peppers (which struggle to do well this far north) didn't and ended up really getting shaded out which made them grow even slower. In the end, I didn't get a single pepper. :(
  • Parsley grows insanely- don't do as I did and plant sun-loving thyme next to it. My poor little stunted thyme plant. I'm considering taking the parsley out of the garden and potting it instead.

DSC04843
Seedlings

I started my first seedlings around mid-March (tomatoes, peppers, and a couple others), but many I didn't start until April 23 (watermelon, squash, herbs). The early ones did well, but I still don't think they were big enough to really do well in our cooler summers. I wish I had started the tomatoes and peppers a few weeks earlier, to have them hardier by planting time. When I planted them, the tomatoes were about 6 inches tall (maybe some were 8 inches?), and the peppers were about 4-5 inches (they were the slower growing of the two). Next time, I would definitely give them some protection (as in, a cloche of some sort) when putting them out, to get them off to a faster start in the garden.

My other seedlings did fine, despite the late start, except my herbs were hard to germinate. They didn't do that great, and I had a smaller herb garden than I had hoped for.

For all my seedlings, I pre-soaked the seeds them first, for at least 6 hours, before planting. I think this really helped (most of them) to germinate well and quickly. Except for those darned herbs. Hmm… Do make sure to learn from my seedling mistake, though.

I also don't think that you can be careful enough with your hardening off process, specifically when you live somewhere with less favorable (and more touchy) weather, as I do. In the midst of hardening off my tomatoes and peppers, we got hit with weeks of cool and rain, after a somewhat sunny spring. Looking back, I might have pulled them back inside for another week or two, or planted with really good garden protection (like a cloche or plastic covering).

Oh yes, and believe the books when they say to plant broccoli from seedlings, not straight into the ground! I assume the same would be true of cauliflower.

When to plant

Spring- I had my cooler weather crops in by April 27, which I think could have been earlier (I'm talking lettuce and greens, onions, peas, turnips, carrots, etc.). Next year I will probably start planting by late March or early April, to get more of a jump on the growing season. Those plants could have handled it, as our last frost date is around April 10 and most of those veggies are frost hardy. 

I got my warmer weather crops in around late May, I believe (I can't find a specific date anywhere in my notes). Early June was quite cold and rainy, and I lost quite a few seedlings (watermelon, one pepper and also some cucumber that were planted straight from seed), plus my other plants (tomato and pepper) were a bit stunted and took a while to recover. If I decide to plant them that early again, I will definitely rig up some protection. Otherwise, I will keep my little seedlings inside for longer, even if it means transplanting them into large containers before planting them.

Fall- Oh, I planted wayyy too late for a good fall harvest! I had intended to get a bunch of things out by mid-August, but it ended up being more like late August, early September. My spinach didn't arrive in the mail before our trip to Arizona, so it wasn't in the ground until late September, along with my radishes. Only the stuff that was in by early September made it at all, and even so it hasn't done too well (my lettuce isn't very big, and neither are my beets, my turnips are only so-so and one of my pea varieties is looking like it won't produce). I definitely learned that for my plants to be harvestable by Oct/Nov, they need to be put in when it's still quite hot out in August or they just won't have sufficient sun and heat to get big enough before the Fall weather really slows them down.

Compost Woes
So, if you're going to compost, don't be a lazy composter and forget to turn your pile. Or you might end up with a layer of mold on top. Ask me how I know.
I think I'll have to take off the mold layer and ditch it, then try to turn everything really well before winter fulls sets in, to have a hope of some decent compost for my spring garden.

Onion-sets
Rows? Square foot style? Or seeds scattered randomly?

I think that I have come to really appreciate the Square Foot Gardening
grid style of planting seeds and seedlings (check the website too). Rather than using your typical row, it uses a square with a grid system. So in your turnip square, you will plant 9 turnips seeds, evenly spaced out over the square, rather than one long row of turnips.
My personal experience is that the veggies have more room to grow this way, they grow bigger, and it makes better use of the space than using rows, especially for those with smaller, backyard gardens. I also find that I waste less seeds than when doing rows, and don't have to do any, or very little, thinning of plants. I don't make a real grid, like he recommends. I just eyeball it and try to plant my seeds in approximately the right place and it works great for me.

Trouble in paradise

My main issue this summer was powdery mildew. The best I was able to do with it was to cut off the affected leaves as quickly as possible, and then spray it with one of two things. The most effective way to prevent it's further spread was to use a mixture of 1 part milk to 9 parts water, and spray the leaves and stems well, every couple of days. I tried a baking soda mixture to, but found the milk more effective.

The birds just loved my corn and snapped it up before it had a chance to germinate and take root. Next year I'm going to try putting some sort of netting over the garden until the seedlings get going a bit, to keep those little birdies out!

My broccoli became a skeleton of a plant, from the caterpillars and slugs. I didn't work very hard to save it, because it seemed pointless. Next year, I'll try cutworm collars, and maybe even some netting or covering as well. I've also read that a garlic or hot pepper spray can help (not on the plants, but around them), so I'll give that a shot. I've also heard that a border of coffee grounds can help deter the slugs (and I've never had success using crushed eggshells for that purpose- though I know that some swear by it).

A few links to my previous gardening posts:

Succession planting my way to a continuous harvest

Grow, little garden, grow (cheap/free fertilizers)

The makings of a frugal garden (how I put my garden together very inexpensively)

Living with PCOS- Things to Avoid continued

Danger sign
Let's continue on with our look at things to be avoided when dealing with PCOS and it's symptoms (and I know that last time I said there were 10 in total, but I realized one of them was redundant, so I guess it's only 9 now. :)

6) Vegetarianism/ Low-Fat Diets 

There are a few really good reasons to keep up your intake of both animal products and good fat sources in order to promote a healthy reproductive system:

  • Being underweight can seriously compromise your cycle and fertility (and eating both vegetarian or low-fat can both contribute to having a BMI that is too low)
  • There is growing evidence that low-fat dairy and diets in general contribute to decreased fertility
  • Vitamin A is an incredibly important nutrient when it comes to healthy fertility and pregnancy (more on this to come), but despite all the hype about receiving it adequately through plant sources, it's most usable form is found in (you guessed it) animal products and full fat dairy! Check out this Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers, put together based on the traditional, cultural diets for women during their child-bearing years. These would be great suggestions to take to heart!
  • These diets include insufficient (but absolutely necessary) dietary components such as good cholesterol, Vitamin D and essential fatty acids (all important for reproduction). See this article for more on how diet affects women's reproductive health.

7) Conventional Tampons and Pads

Many women may have heard of more natural or reusable (cloth) products for women, but the reason is most often either for environmental concern, frugality, or comfort. What is unknown to many women is that both tampons and pads contain chemicals that are harmful to our bodies, including to our reproductive systems and also our level of fertility.

I mentioned last time that we need to be aware of environmental estrogens and do our best to avoid them, many of which are harmful chemicals found in food, beauty products and household products. So let's just add tampons and pads to the list of products containing unwanted toxins, which is particularly concerning when you consider the close and prolonged contact these products have with vulnerable parts of our body. Most (except for the natural brands) contain high levels of chlorine, from bleaching. As well, 

Chemicals in tampons include dioxin caused by bleached rayon, aluminium, alcohol, and additives which also produce dioxin. (source)

Dioxin is a particularly toxic chemical, quite possibly one of the most toxic out there, and any amount introduced to our bodies may be harmful. For a really good overview and a wealth of links on the topic, see this site. As well, there are links to reproductive and hormonal disorders specifically, such as this article on Tampons and Endometriosis, and this one on Dioxin and Male Sterility, and this EWG article which mentions the possible link between chemicals and reproductive system disruptions.. 

For more on the topic of women's products and alternatives, as well as some more links to safety and health issues, see this previous post of mine.

8) Trans Fatty Acids

I think it's safe to say that we've all heard that we should avoid trans fatty acids. So why should those with PCOS avoid them in particular? Two basic reasons:

  • They've been connected to a decrease in the response of blood cells to insulin, which is not good news for those with diabetes or any other insulin related disorder. I mentioned last time that those with PCOS struggle to balance blood sugar and maintain correct insulin levels, so eating trans fats will only exacerbate this problem. (Sources- Here, here, and here)
  • They also interfere with the conversion of omega 3 fatty acids, and can promote further deficiency of these all important fats, which most of us already struggle with as it is. As I mentioned above, EFA's are important for a healthy reproductive system, as are all good fats. (Again, you can find more about this topic deep in the midst of this detailed interview of fats expert, Mary Enig, PhD).

As trans fat labeling laws are not yet ideal yet, don't rely on the packaging to tell you whether or not they are present in a food. Look in the ingredients for the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" or even "shortening" before deciding to indulge.

9) Toxins in Food

Lastly, there is yet another area of toxic chemical exposure to examine, and that is sadly in our food. Here are a few ways that food additives, pesticides and contaminating chemicals have an effect on PCOS and hormone balance:

BPA- Found in canned foods (through the inner lining of the can). Increases insulin resistance, mimics estrogen, and is linked to recurrent miscarriages (source). Here are some tips for avoiding BPA.

MSG/Aspartame- MSG is found is the great majority of packaged foods (see this list of names it goes by), and Aspartame is in chewing gum (nearly every brand!), diet sodas and other beverages, "sugar-free" treats, some candies, and more. "What causes PCOSExcess intake of substances such as excitatory amino
acids, found in many food additives like MSG, aspartame,
glutamate, etc. that affect the pituitary regulation of
the ovary cycles
" (source). As well, MSG intake greatly reduces the success of achieving pregnancy (source).

Pesticides- Many (DDT,
vinclozolin, endosulfan, toxaphene, dieldrin, and DBCP, to name a few) have hormone-like activity (source). Pesticides in general are thought to be endocrine disrupters (disrupting the work of the thyroid gland, which governs hormones), including Monsanto's Roundup in particular (a very common pesticide). One study of 3 common farm fertilizers specifically showed endocrine/thyroid disruption. See my post on knowing what to buy organic, and also on washing your produce.

Where to go from here

Now that we've looked at some of the Don'ts of living with PCOS, I'm eager to move on to the Do's! In the upcoming weeks, I'll begin to take a look at important dietary changes and improvements to make, supplements to consider, as well as lifestyle tools that can have a positive impact.

For those who have been following this series so far, I hope that you're beginning to be excited (and not discouraged) as we look at the information that is out there. Though there is work to be done, and things to be changed, I think it is hopeful to realize that improved health is not beyond our grasp. I don't know about you, but I love to learn that there are actually things that I can do, and that I don't have to live in passive acceptance of the status quo when it comes to my health! 

Which things do you find the hardest to avoid? What do you think about these suggestions? Thoughts and/or suggestions from those who are already trying to put these things into practice?

Pumpkin canning

Phew… I think I might be done canning for the year! (Unless, of course, I decide to take advantage of borrowing a pressure canner to do up some dry beans for convenience sake, and I think I might have heard my husband mention pears this morning… oh well :)

I started out with those pumpkins on the left:

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One of the smaller pumpkins went bad before I got to it, so I was left with six, good sized pie pumpkins.

In the morning, I cut each one in half, seeded it, and baked the halves (cut side down) on cookie sheets, at 350 F for about an hour. I was shocked at how much water they released, for being a smaller variety of pumpkin! I left them for several hours to cool off, and started to work on them again just after lunch.

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This was an idea I got from Kimi’s brilliant post on cooking pumpkins for puree. I’m not sure I would have known to do this otherwise, but it made such a huge difference! I must have spent over an hour, pureeing batches of pumpkin in my food processor, and then draining the water out.

I found the best way to drain the puree was to keep flipping the pumpkin over and over (but being careful not to bang the strainer on the bowl, because then the puree leaks out). I also rolled the pumpkin around and around in the strainer, and as more of the liquid drained out, it would sort of clump together in a tighter ball. It took a lot of effort, but I really think that it was worth it, to have puree that is thick and perfect for making breads, muffins, etc.

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My original intention was to can the pumpkin using my MIL’s pressure canner. Unfortunately, I didn’t read ahead and discovered too late (after the pumpkin was already cooked) that you can’t use puree for canning, only cubes (for safety reasons). So, at the last minute, I decided to still use my jars, go ahead and make puree, and then freeze it instead.

I actually think this was far easier in the end. No messing around with the canner, and much more convenient than still having to puree cubes when I want to use a can of pumpkin.

So there you have it- the relatively painless route to delicious, spiced pumpkin bread and pies all winter long (or have you seen Kimi’s latest muffins? Mmmm…)

More kitchen tips at Tammy’s Recipes!

Calling all gardeners!

Just wanted to give a quick reminder of the Organic Gardening Carnival that is coming up this Thursday, November 6th!

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Basically, it's an opportunity to share the things that we've learned in our gardening experiences (the good and the bad) with each other, and glean from what others have to share! For more on the carnival itself, see this post.

I've already begun to sketch out what I want to say, and I'm so excited to get it all out there (for my own records) and to read what others have to say as well!

I also realized just how valuable this could be for those who are seriously thinking of gardening this coming spring (or earlier, depending on where you live) as we all face rising food and living costs in this recession. Anyone, absolutely anyone, can grow at least something, and as grocery budgets get tighter, every little bit counts!

For those with blogs, get your posts ready as the Mr. Linky will go up on Wednesday night for all the early birds.

For those without blogs, would you email me your contributions by Wednesday morning (Nov.5) and I will put them together into a post (keeperofthehome at canada dot com). If you don't make it by that morning, please, please share your thoughts with us in the comments section!

So be ready on Thursday, November 6th, to share all of your organic gardening wisdom and to reap (lol, pun not intended) the benefits of this joint effort!