Wednesday Walkthrough . . . Oxymoron: Toxic Soap?

Let's take a stroll to your bathroom and check the label on your soap dispenser.

Right now the number-one recommendation to avoid H1N1 is to wash your hands, but is it possible that you could be washing your hands with toxic soap? While the effects may not be as immediately apparent as flu symptoms, the ramifications are worth considering.

The EWG recently posted a great article about choosing a "safer soap." Some of the more outstanding talking points are as follows:

1. When choosing a soap, avoid ones containing triclocarbon, triclosan, or fragrance. Triclosan is one of the EWG's "top seven chemicals for children to avoid." (It has a negative effect on your liver, thyroid, and may cause "bacterial resistance to antibiotics." It is also hard to clear from the water, so it can spread to drinking water and other treated water sources.)
2. Anti-bacterial soaps are just as effective as regular soaps, so they are not necessary. BUT they also usually contain triclosan, which you want to avoid.
3. Hand sanitizers are semi-effective, but they do not remove dirt and dust which can have chemicals in it. If you use a hand sanitizer, it's best to choose one that is alcohol based. And watch out for those frangrances!

To read the entire article, click here.

(Photo courtesy of soapylovedeb.)


Wednesday Walkthrough . . . A Walk Through Your Past

If you were to a write a letter to your 16 year old self, what would it say? I recently read this question in a magazine, and it got me thinking. What would I say to myself before I was a high school graduate? Before I went to college? What do I wish I had known before I moved to Japan, or before I got married? What about before pregnancy? Would I advise myself to do things differently? What have I learned about life that I wish I had known earlier?

A rough draft of my letter would contain some of the following thoughts. . .

Dear Self,

If there was only one thing I could tell you that I'm learning now and wish I had learned earlier, it would be to hold on with unrelenting passion to Truth and refuse to fear. Fear is a cheap trick that has kept many, if not all, people from realizing their full potential. It's a trick that has been played for generations, and despite the fact that I should have learned from the countless people it has crippled before me, I still fell prey to its wiles. Don't do it. Fear not.

Live your life with no regrets. The only regrets I have of my past are the things that I didn't do, or the time that I wasted, the opportunities I missed, all because I was afraid. Do not fear what others will think (Hint: All of the others are dealing with their own fears; they will either respect you for standing up for what you believe in, or they will hate you for standing up for what you believe in. If they hate you, it is because they are insecure. Don't let their hate stop you from moving forward). Do not fear what others will say. Do not fear rejection. Hold unswervingly to Truth and live without fear.

When I saw the shallowness of the "fear factor," I was upset with myself for giving in to such a lame tactic. I won't say that I've conquered fear; but I see its shallowness, and I am determined to not surrender willingly to its predictable maneuvers.

There is a great life to be lived, great opportunities to be had, great people to befriend. Turn your eyes off of yourself and look ahead to the possibilities that await. Go! Live! Love! You won't regret it.

Sincerely and passionately,

Future Joy

. . . what would your letter say?


Wednesday Walkthrough . . . A Word of Encouragement

One of my goals when I started this blog was to provide a balanced perspective on maintaining a healthy lifestyle without getting stuck in a ditch of extremism in any line of thought. I believe the reason people struggle with a healthy lifestyle or quality parenting disciplines is because they get burned out in a line of thinking that's pushes so hard against the norm that they simply tire from being different. There has to be balance in everything, whether you're eating healthier, choosing whether or not to vaccinate, following a certain parenting style, choosing how much to exercise, etc.

These last few weeks have been a good reminder to me about the importance of balance. I am a type-A personality that loves to live by to-do lists and accomplish everything. I want to be super mom, super WAHM, super wife, super friend, super family member, super church member, etc. But in trying to do that, I tend to say yes to everything that fits in my schedule.

But when I say yes just because there's a time slot open on my calendar, that doesn't mean I'm being super; it just means I'm busy and setting myself up for burnout.

Being super is about balance, and it's about saying no too. I can't do everything. Well, I try to do everything (and many times I fit it all in), but that doesn't mean I should be doing everything. And even though I battle the fear that I'm not doing enough, and I dread saying no and disappointing someone; I find that after I turn down an invitation, I actually feel better and more free.

My recent personal goal is to keep play dates/meetings with friends/trips to the zoo/or anything else that requires a lot of planning ahead or other people's schedules, down to one event a week. That doesn't mean I'm not doing anything else with my little girl the rest of the week; it just means we're free to do the normal stuff like grocery shopping, exercise, housework, trips to the pediatrician, errands, etc. and not get burned out in the process.

I know, there are probably some of you who are sure that you CAN do it all. I'm not doubting your abilities. I'm just encouraging you to explore the freedom in saying no and having open slots in your schedule to just sit on the floor and color with your child--times when your to-do list doesn't loom over you because you've already taken care of the day-to-day tasks.

I dare you. Try it.


Wednesday Walkthrough . . . Fading Fruits and Ripe Squash

Tree-ripened peaches, Michigan blueberries, Bixby corn, vine-ripened tomatoes and armfuls of fresh-picked herbs are waving their final farewells as the heartier squashes and versatile apples take center stage. As my baby girl willing explores new tastes and textures on her virgin taste buds, I find it a daily challenge to avoid fall-back foods (Annie's mac and cheese or almond butter/jelly sandwiches) and find new fares for her to try. Today, I reawakened the chef inside and produced a dish that has all the flare of fall: comfort food (lasagna) and fall produce (butternut squash).

As I share my recipe with you, I'll provide hints/substitutions/suggestions along the way to guide your quest to reawaken your stove and enjoy the swell of heat in the kitchen again.

I printed this off a blog over a year ago and cannot remember the source. A deep apology to the person who deserves mounds of credit for this recipe.

(If you are using a food processor, chop the nuts before you make the fillings to save washing and drying between steps. The filling and sauce can be made ahead of time, and you don't need to precook the noodles.)


9-11 lasagna noodles, preferably whole grain*
1/2 onion, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil**
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chopped spinach, kale, chard or other dark green leafy vegetable***
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup boiling water

* Since I'm cooking for 2.5, I make two 8 x 8 pans instead of one 9 x 13 so I need at least 12 noodles if I'm making two smaller dishes.
** I used coconut oil so it wouldn't go rancid in the cooking process.
*** This is an excellent opportunity to use kale--so healthy, yet not so common in dishes.

Tofu Filling:

1 1/2 pounds firm or silken tofu
2 eggs or 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried basil*
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon back pepper

* I used fresh, and it turned out fine.


3 cups mashed, cooked butternut squash*
3/4 cup milk (dairy or nondairy)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon miso**
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (this is where all the flavor comes in!)

* I steamed chunks of butternut squash until they were super soft and a fork could easily pierce the chunks all the way through. Then I scooped out the meat and put it directly in the food processor with the other ingredients.
** This may be one of those ingredients you're not prone to keeping handy in your kitchen--unless you have Asian flare like myself :). If you're having trouble finding miso in your grocery store or if you're having trouble locating an Asian market, you can usually get the miso soup mixes from most big chain grocery stores (in the Asian aisle) and inside you will find small packets of miso. I have a feeling that if you don't add the miso, it wouldn't affect the flavor drastically.

(the butternut sauce and tofu filling)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Saute onion in olive oil until soft. Stir in garlic and greens. If greens are dry, add a little water. Cover and steam 5 minutes or until soft. Set aside.

(sauteing onions)

(steaming spinach)

Place tofu filling ingredients in food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Remove to bowl and set aside. Place sauce ingredients in food processor or blender. Puree until smooth.

Assemble lasagna as follows: Cover bottom of 9 x 13 pan with thin layer of sauce. Place a single layer of lasagna noodles in bottom of pan. Leave a little space between the noodles because they will expand when cooked. Spread half of the tofu filling over the noodles.

(after the first layer of tofu filling)

Sprinkle half of the cooked greens over tofu. Spread a third of the butternut sauce over the greens. Repeat for one more layer. Place noodle layer on top and cover with butternut sauce. Sprinkle chopped nuts evenly over squash. Pour boiling water in corners and around edges of lasagna. Cover pan with foil and bake for 35 minutes.

(cooking in the oven, as you can see, the lasagna is fairly thick and fills the pan)

Remove cover and bake 10 minutes. Allow to stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

(yummy walnuts cooked on top)

(view from the side to illustrate the depth of the lasagna)

Makes 8 tasty servings.

Note: To save time, you can buy frozen pureed squash.

Variation: Ricotta cheese can be substituted for tofu. Only use 1 egg or 1 tablespoon olive oil if using ricotta cheese.