Thursday, October 16, 2014

Things I Love Thursday: Mom and Dad Halloween Costumes

Halloween season is, of course, upon us, and I hope I'm not giving too much away in posting these pictures, but our Halloween has gone to the birds this year. On the workshop floor are a couple of fancy bird costumes for the kids, and I'm also busy magic-ing up a couple of simple costumes for Jules and myself to wear to the party. It's tricky finding a costume that will be festive, not take the focus away from the children, but also not scare our 6-year-old guests. There is such a thing as too far when it comes to Halloween (I have vivid memories of being scared witless by our neighbor's realistic vampire answering the door on trick-or-treat night), especially when celebrating with little ones. But I've always been so inspired by the way they throw themselves into Halloween over at Martha Stewart, and this is not the first time I've been sucked into one of her mask projects, but I think these fancy bird people might make an appearance at our party. In a non-creepy way, of course. In any case, if you, too fancy having a go at some birdie attire, here is the tutorial. I'll post our results once finished. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Welcome, Autumn

There is a sense of life beginning again in the autumn. Today is the first proper drizzly day of October, a day for Wellington boots and splodging through fallen leaves, and daydreaming.  A stack of new books on the bedside table, hot coffee, a new black pen. Reheating a pot of soup on the stove and thinking of all the adventures we'll have! 

Image via here

Friday, October 3, 2014

I Survived the Paleo 30-day Challenge and I am Here to Tell the Tale!

I am now completely, officially finished with the longest, healthiest month of my life. This September, I indulged in the Whole 30 challenge, to undo some of the sins of a month-long holiday of excess (donuts, beer, Italian beef sandwiches, the works). My goal was to eat only whole foods, no grains, dairy, legumes, booze or added sugar, and you know what? It was the hardest but healthiest month ever. I didn't take any before/after photos because to be honest, I wasn't sure I was going to make it all the way through, but on the top left is a lardy cake, roughly the shape I was in before starting the Whole 30, and on the right is a carrot, which is more or less the shape I am in now. Victory. 

Before I go into my Whole30 story, please remember this is my personal experience during my 30 day experiment and I’m not a doctor, nutritionist or trainer. As with any diet or exercise routine, it’s wise to check in with a doctor before you begin.

So, here's how it happened: I came back from a super-fun vacation in which I ate whatever the heck I wanted, did basically no exercise, and ate every sweet or bit of junk food that came my way. After dropping all my baby weight a couple of years ago, the scale had inched firmly upwards again (not all the way, but, you know, upwards), my jeans did not button, my skin was terrible, and I was not happy. So I decided to try giving myself 30 days to clean up my eating habits: out with the cheese! No desserts! No pasta, rice or baked beans! Goodbye Saturday cocktails and craft beers! Hello coconut milk in my coffee, zucchini noodles and lean grass-fed beef. It's only for 30 days, right? 

Yes, but it seemed like a long month. HOWEVER, having a clearly defined, long-enough but not too-long window was just right (for me), and knowing that I was cutting out all my favorite things not permanently helped me to stay on track, but interestingly I went without just long enough to defeat cravings. Around day 12 I was confronted with a tray of stinky French cheeses, and I was able to say, "no thanks, just an apple for me." That, my friends, is willpower. 

Notable results: 

1. Clear skin. I am not a teenager anymore, but I still suffer from acne. What's that all about? At the end of this month I can report for the first time in my life I have NO SPOTS, NO UNDEREYE CIRCLES, and an actual glow. Look! My eyes are bright and my skin looks as good as Isabelle's! Happily, my makeup routine now consists of three products, not 17.

2. Weight loss. The whole point of a Whole 30 is to eat better, not lose weight, and in fact the instructions tell you not to weigh yourself during the month, but to concentrate on eating nutrient-rich foods. However, at the end of 30 days of clean eating, I lost 15 pounds and dropped a dress size. Booyah. 

3. More energy. Yes, it's true, I juggle two small children, but now I feel like I could easily juggle a couple more. Not only that, but I'm waking up without an alarm and not falling asleep in front of The West Wing. 

4. Better moods. Because I wasn't eating sugar or refined carbs, I wasn't experiencing energy spikes and crashes throughout the day which led to severe mood swings. Now, no more crabby mommy. I know, I know! Better moods, happier kids, smilier Jules, all thanks to less rice, more kale. 

5. Inventive menu planning. I only forced the whole family to eat a paleo meal at suppertime, when we were all together, but searching for whole-food recipes opened up a whole new universe of creative cooking. We didn't have a paella, risotto or oatmeal all month, but learned to love burgers without the bun, shredded sautéed cabbage instead of spaghetti and a weird little egg and spinach pancake served with a ton of Tabasco. 

And best of all, now I'm done, so I can go back to the occasional cake and glass of wine with a totally clear conscience. But what's interesting is that I don't really want to. I can have a donut, but frankly it doesn't appeal.... Am I going to stick to the pale diet forever? No; for one thing it's too expensive, for another, I don't think it's the healthiest way for kids to eat and it's too much of a hassle to be cooking separate meals at each sitting--we are not a restaurant. BUT, I am going think long and hard about indulging so mindlessly in food that's nutrient-poor (I'm looking at you, pasta), and try to enjoy treats (booze & sugar) when they are treats, not as a regular part of my diet.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The light in September

If I were a poet, I'd write a whole collection about the light in September, which at the moment is at its golden, hazy best. The flowers in the back garden are fairly glowing in the afternoon light, the bees are buzzing around what's left of the lavender and oregano, and the sun is warming up our modest apple harvest, which should be ready for picking in another day or two. 

Oh yes, and it's also the most beautiful time of the year for playing demolition derby with a balance bike and a giant, yellow ball. Kids are weird.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Talking 'bout iGeneration

Isabelle turns six on Monday. Six! Our baby has turned into a big girl. While I'm excited about her birthday and looking forward to this new chapter in our lives, I'm also extremely nervous about what the next years will bring. In the terrific teens, Isabelle will have to make a lot of choices that never would have occurred to me, and the consequences will have implications not simply within her circle of family or friends, but within the context of our globalized, interconnected society. And let's be honest, that's a bit scary.

So I was excited to learn about a survey of 2,000 members of UK's iGeneration (kids aged 8-14 years old), commissioned by Fun Kids Radio this June, which revealed that kids of that age take more control of their lives than we (their poor, beleaguered parents) are aware of. No way? Yes way. Every week the news is full of stories of parents worrying about issues affecting their kids, but Fun Kids Radio actually asked the kids themselves what they thought about topics ranging from money to social issues to politics. 

And you know what? They think the same things we do, and it's awesome. One in ten says overly sexy pop videos make them feel uncomfortable, and a third of them think pop stars should set a better example for the kids who admire them. A third of them know they should turn off the Playstation and spend more time outside, a third don't care if toys are labeled for boys or girls, and a whopping 85 percent of them think toys should be gender neutral (yes! throw, throw, throw away those stupid pink garden tools!). And most importantly, when asked about what is important to them, kids would rather be happy, kind and have a loving family than be popular, famous or pretty. 

On the basis of finding that children as young as eight are well-informed, mindful of their behavior and have strong opinions, the report highlights how key decision makers in kids' lives should consider giving this unrepresented demographic more of a voice within society, and more autonomy when decisions concerning their future are made. 

But I'm going to put the challenge out there to kids as well: just because you are underrepresented doesn't mean you don't have a voice. Turn off the TV and talk to your parents, make them understand you have opinions about things, and that those opinions matter. Nobody is going to rock this world like you can, so let's get down to business. 

To learn more about this survey and read the full report, visit the site at Fun Kids Live.

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