Thursday, April 13, 2017

What Qman Says (Things I Don’t Want to Forget)

Hi, guys! Happy Friday!

What. A. Week. Holy cow, I feel like I didn’t stop moving. I ended up accomplishing quite a bit, but I’m soooo ready for a low-key evening at home tonight, complete with pajamas, toddler cuddles, and a decent amount of WINE. And then, of course, I’m going to climb into bed as soon as Qman is asleep. Clearly, I’m planning to dominate Friday night. Haha!

So, Qman has turned into quite the talkative and engaged little boy. He’s come a long way in a year, which I plan to write about in an upcoming blog post (i.e. our experience with Early Intervention), but, in the meantime, I wanted to share some of the (hilarious) things he’s said recently, mostly so we don’t forget about them. The kid doesn’t miss a thing, and he’s got quite the sense of humor, and I hope these little tidbits put a smile on your face this Friday morning!


The other night, when Mal and I were getting Quinn ready for bed, I asked him if he knew where his brain was located. He looked at me and then said “waterfall.” I immediately looked at Mal with wide eyes and replied to Quinn: “Whoa, that was deep, Qman.” (When I can’t sleep at night, I think about waterfalls as a way to calm my brain.) Mal was surprised by his response too, so he called him a “Zen Master.” We started talking a little more and then things made a bit more sense. Quinn thought I said “drain,” not “brain,” but, still, it was quite the zen moment for us.

Qman had a doctor’s appointment earlier this week, and when the nurse came to get us from the waiting room, she asked me Quinn’s date of birthday. Before I could even reply, Quinn stopped in his tracks, turned to the nurse, and said with great confidence: “June 9th.” It was so darn cute and unexpected, the nurse immediately started laughing. I did, too!

Speaking of Quinn’s birthday, Mal and I were chatting with him about his party and asked him what kinds of things he wanted to have at it. Cake? Presents? Decorations? He said yes to everything, so we started adding silly items into the mix. Carrots? Legos? Pillows? Quinn said “yes” to all of them too. So, then, of course, Mal takes things one step further and asks Quinn if he wants “dog poop” at his party, thinking he’s going to say yes to it since he’s said yes to everything else. Quinn immediately smiles and says: “Nooooooooo!” Haha! You can’t trick this kid!

The other day, Murphy was being a butthead. I can’t remember exactly what he did, but I definitely expressed my annoyance with his behavior. Quinn’s response: “Murphy’s old.” Ha! Oh, Qman. He’s always looking out for his pug brother. Murphy deserves a pass on his bad behavior because he’s old. Simple as that.

One morning, when we were leaving for school, Quinn told me that he likes to make birds happy. Then, almost immediately, he started telling me a totally different story where a guy came out of a big rock from “deep down there” and scared the bird. He was excited and talking so fast, I couldn’t really make out what he was saying. As I nodded and tried to follow along, Qman abruptly ended his story with: “He went home for dinner.” And then he walked toward the car. Apparently, that was the end of the story, so we got in the card and drove to school. The end.

Question of the Day

What funny/memorable thing has your little one said recently?

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Requiring A Deep Steep

We had such an all-American afternoon over here. Complete with kids coming in and out of the house, dyeing Easter eggs, a cookout with our neighbors, and a bath that required scrubbing off the dirt.

We are so lucky to have wonderful neighbors who have three kids about Mazen’s age, and they play together all.the.time. You know how people say that “our door is always open”? That’s how our doors are – kids come in, kids run out. It’s so nice!

I captured them surrounding our sweet mail lady, Miss Stephanie, who was probably thinking that she just wanted to do her job instead of answering 1,000 questions about mail from three little males. They are so sweet and cute though.

Meanwhile, I did mom things like unloaded the dishwasher. Here’s my method: first I tackle all the silverware. Then I take the big stuff out of the bottom (mostly plates and big bowls) and put it on the counter. Then I open the top rack (mostly glasses, mugs, small bowls, and tupperware) and put that all directly into cabinets. Then I load the dirties in. Then I close the dishwasher and put the big, clean stuff away. I do that in order of dislike to like, and preventive water drip!

Right after school I had an egg dyeing activity all set up for Mazen. He had been asking me if we could do some at home, so I surprised him. We like to keep things simple over here, so I wasn’t going to boil 10 beets to get 10 drops of natural beet juice dye. Found this kit for $1.50. (Gosh I want to use emojis SO MUCH – crying/laughing guy right here. Get with it, WordPress!)

You get what you pay for in life, and the “magic white crayon” designs didn’t do anything. But we still had a good time, and I’m pretty sure Mazen has these eggs on his night stand right now…

We joined our neighbors outside for a cookout for dinner. They grilled up veggies and sweet potatoes, veggie burgers and dogs, and bison burgers. I brought over a big salad.

The kids played. Hard. I managed to snap this picture before bath – can you see the dirt tears on his face when I said it was time to go home?!

But that’s nothing this stuff can’t take care of. My FAVORITE SMELL EVER! Passionfruit and Guava.

My day started early and it is far from over – I have one more social activity to attend! Check Instagram if you’re curious!!

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Moldy Foods: When to Toss, When to Keep

How many times have you found cucumbers or cheese in the fridge with mold? Should you just cut off the moldy area or toss? Some molds can be toxic and make you sick. Find out when it’s okay to keep it, and when to throw them away.

What’s the Deal with Mold?

Molds are fungi that are transported by air, water, or insects. Although you can see the green or blue fuzzy dots on bread, cheese, meats, fruit, and vegetables, they have branches and roots that are can be growing very deep into the food. Some molds can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems. Under the right conditions, a few molds can produce poisonous toxins that can make you sick. Although most molds prefer warm temperatures, they can easily grow in your fridge. They also love salty and sugar foods like jams and cured meats.

So which foods should you keep verses toss? You don’t want to be that person who just tosses everything in the trash, which can lead to lots of unnecessary food waste. Here’s a list of what you should keep verse toss based on the recommendations from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

Jams and Jellies: Discard

Don’t scoop out the mold and use the rest. The mold found in jams and jellies could be one that produces dangerous poisons and can be deeper than you think.

Yogurt and Sour Cream: Discard

Foods that are high in moisture can be contaminated below the visible surface. They may also have bacteria growing along with the mold that you won’t be able to see.

Hard Cheese: Keep

The mold generally can’t penetrate deep into hard cheese like cheddar and Parmesan. Cut off at least 1-inch around and below the mold spot. After cutting, then re-cover the cheese with fresh wrap.

Blue Cheese: It Depends

If the mold is not a natural part of the cheese, then it depends if it’s a soft or hard cheese. Discard soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert if the mold isn’t a part of the manufacturing process. If the mold is on a hard blue cheese like Gorgonzola and Stilton, then cut off the mold at least 1-inch around and below the mold spot. After cutting, then re-cover the cheese with fresh wrap.

Cabbage and Bell Peppers: Keep

If mold is found on hard fruit and vegetables like cabbage, bell peppers, carrots, and cabbage then cut off 1-inch around and below the mold spot. Make sure the knife doesn’t touch the mold and end up cross-contaminated into other parts of the produce.

Cucumbers and Peaches: Discard

If mold is found on soft fruit like strawberries, peaches, cucumbers, and tomatoes the food should be discarded. Because these fruits and vegetables are high in moisture, the mold can exist deep into it.

Bread: Discard

Mold can exist below the surface because it is so porous.

Luncheon Meats: Discard

With its high moisture content, mold can exist below the surface. Plus, there can also be bacteria growing too.

Minimizing Mold Growth

Mold spores can build up in your fridge and dishcloths. To help keep mold at bay:

  • When going food shopping, examine the food before you buy it.
  • Clean the inside of your fridge every few month with a 1 tablespoon baking solution mixed with a quart of water. Rinse with water and dry.
  • Keep kitchen dishcloths, sponges, and towels clean and fresh. If there is a musty smell, it probably means mold is present. Discard anything that cannot be cleaned or tossed in the laundry.
  • When serving food, keep it covered to prevent exposure from spores that may be in the air. Use plastic wrap to keep it covered when not being served.
  • Use leftovers within 3-4 days.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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A Call To Farms

I had the honor of going up to Monticello this morning to hear renowned chef and food activist Alice Waters speak in honor of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday celebration. You might know Alice as the founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project and chef and owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant in California. She was also the recipient of the 2017 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Citizen Leadership.

The celebration began with music from The United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps followed by introductions and Alice’s keynote speech. Alice stated that Thomas Jefferson “inspires me more than any other figure in American history.” I can see why – they both seek out the best-tasting food available. Jefferson grew over 40 kinds of kidney beans narrowing down until he found the one he liked the very best, and Alice shared that when Chez Panisse first opened they found that the most delicious produce was sold at organic farms nearby. She ended her talk by stating that we need another American Revolution with the Slow Food Movement. But rather than a call to arms, a “call to farms.” Brilliant!

Afterwards, there was birthday cake!!!!

But sadly the cake line was a mile long, so I wasn’t able to have a slice.

Lynsie and I soaked up the sunshine though.

Founder’s Day is such a great time to visit Monticello – all the flowers are in bloom!

So instead of cake, I had peanut butter pretzels! These things are SO addicting!! But they make the most satisfying snack!

I love it when I have a fridge full of options for lunch, and I piled a bunch of roasted veggies from last night’s dinner onto some BrightFarms greens with leftover chicken, sharp white cheddar cheese and parsley. So delicious!

I’ve been drinking water, but I have a headache coming on – I don’t think my body is used to sweating so much before breakfast!! Gotta keep chugging.

I’ve been working on posts, photos, and emails since I got home at 11 and am running out of time in my workday before picking up Mazen! Since adding Designed To Fit Nutrition and a few small side projects to my plate, I’ve been finding it’s a bit harder to fit everything in my week. I’m sure I’ll figure it out though!

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“What’s That?” Ear Health: Dietary and Lifestyle Choices that Preserve It

inline__ear_health_04.13.17Sure, they’re not exactly the sexiest body part, but it’s fair to say that life with substandard ear health would be notably less enjoyable. And as it happens, millions of Americans would be able to speak to that.

Research indicates that an estimated 1 in 5 folks have some form of hearing loss. This rate increases to 1 in 3 for age 65 and over, but some estimates put hearing loss great enough to impair communication even higher for the upper decades at around 40%. Perhaps even more alarming, close to 15% of American kids have some form of hearing loss. In teenagers, prevalence has jumped from 15% in 1994 to almost 20% in 2006. Unfortunately, that hearing difficulty will often go undiagnosed.

Hearing loss is, in fact, the third most common health condition in the country, right on the heels of arthritis and heart disease. And it’s getting worse. Between 2000 and 2015, the number of Americans with hearing loss has doubled, mirroring a worldwide increase of 44% over that same period.

But it’s not all about hearing. What about ear health? Our ears perform plenty more functions than just auditory reception. Let’s not forget that the ears are instrumental in influencing our emotions and state of mind, maintaining our sense of balance, and regulating pressure.

From what meagre stats are available on ear health, we know that close to 16,000 older Americans were killed in falls in 2005. We also know that nearly half of those deaths were balance-related. And that a whopping third of the population report vestibular symptoms (inner ear-related balance issues). Ménière’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear that causes tinnitus, vertigo and hear loss, affects an estimated 615,000 Americans. That’s enough in the way of statistics to indicate that substandard ear health has broad implications for overall health.

Noise Annoys: Let Natural Sound Abound

There’s plenty of mechanisms by which our bodies recognize stress. One such mechanism that often gets overlooked is our ears. At a very basic, primitive level, the sounds registered by our ears dramatically impact our emotions. Birdsong, in particular, and trickling water relax our minds and alleviate stress, while the neighbor’s yapping dog or traffic noise from the street rile us up. This lines up with what we know about the all-important vagus nerve, which plays an influential role in how our bodies control inflammation…and which just so happens to have a few tendrils in your ears.

Along with all the conveniences of the modern world, the Grok-friendly natural sounds of the past have slowly been replaced by anthropogenic noise. Cars, planes, trains, incessant chatter… noise constantly surrounds us, and while it may fade into the background, research shows that it’s slowly but surely contributing to chronic stress.

A 2014 literature review of the effects of noise on health noted that it disturbs sleep (duh), increases the occurrence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease, and impairs cognitive performance.

And by triggering stress and the subsequent release of adrenaline, noise can create a negative feedback loop which worsens the health of your ears. Elevated levels of adrenaline lower blood circulation in the peripheral areas of the body, one of which just so happens to be the ears. With chronic stress, the tiny hairs inside your ear canals become starved of blood and the nutrients it provides. The result is a gradual die-off of these auditory hairs, which of course can lead to permanently impaired hearing. This means that noises that might not directly damage your ears can still harm your hearing.

On the brighter side, nature is the best antidote. Getting away from the urban jungle and immersing ourselves in the sounds of nature has been shown to reduce our perception of pain. A similar therapeutic effect is highlighted by this 2003 study, which modeled the stress-buffering effect that “nearby nature” had on schoolchildren. Unsurprisingly, researchers found that “the impact of life stress was lower among children with high levels of nearby nature than among those with little nearby nature.” The science behind restorative natural sound is largely rooted in evolutionary principle. Our inherent blueprints expect the subtle “aural diet” of our ancestors rather than the bombastic range of noises we feed it today.

Hearing Loss: More to It Than Many Believe

I’ll start with the obvious: if your ears are exposed to loud noises, you may suffer from temporary hearing loss. But newish research published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that it may not be over even after the concert’s over. According to the study, “acoustic overexposures causing moderate, but completely reversible, threshold elevation leave cochlear sensory cells intact, but cause acute loss of afferent nerve terminals and delayed degeneration of the cochlear nerve.” This means that going to a one-off music concert, for example, might set in motion a degenerative process which can damage your hearing permanently. Scary stuff.

And as the research into hearing loss begins to accumulate, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that ear health is intrinsically tied into your overall health. For starters, smoking has been directly linked to hearing loss. A 2007 study found that newborns who were exposed to tobacco smoke in the womb had a significantly lower hearing sensitivity than those who weren’t. Obviously, if you’re a Primal lifer you’ve long ago washed your hands of the Marlboros, but second-hand smoke is always a risk to pregnant mothers, no matter how healthy they are. Yet another reason to distance yourself from those noxious clouds…

Another sobering fact—there’s also plenty of evidence showing that diabetes can contribute to hearing loss. Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine examined medical records from 53,461 non-diabetic patients and compared them 12,575 age-matched diabetic patients. They found that sensorineural hearing loss was more common in the diabetic patients, and that this hearing loss impact increased with elevated diabetes severity. Other studies have found much the same correlation, with some indications noting that perception of higher sound frequencies might be the first to go.

The Role of Diet for Hearing

Yes, as with everything else, what you eat (or don’t eat) affects your ear health. Apparently, restricting calories is the new big thing in the ear world. A recent Swedish study proved that rats placed on a 70% dietary restriction showed reduced age-related degenerative shrinking of their inner ear tissues. This resulted in significantly improved hearing function over non-calorie restricted littermates.

For those of us interested in less extreme measures, there are other promising dietary strategies to consider. Multiple studies have shown that a diet rich in the vitamins A, C, E and magnesium can prevent hearing loss by minimizing inflammation and increasing blood flow to the inner ear. Crucially, however, none of these vitamins or magnesium alone were effective in reducing hearing loss or sensory cell death: only when applied synergistically did they provide the protective effect (kind of like the A Team of the hearing world). Specifically, their collective effect helped to protect the ear against the negative feedback degenerative hearing damage I discussed earlier.

And there’s plenty more research where that came from. This study used sound frequency testing and a semi-quantitative questionnaire to establish what impact intakes of certain vitamins and minerals exhibited on hearing health. Vitamins A and E showed the most promise, with vitamin A correlating with a 47% lower risk of hearing loss and vitamin E a 14% lower risk. I like those odds but, again, believe that synergy matters.

The role of magnesium in hearing protection has received particular attention in the literature, and the results continue to be positive. If you’ve got hearing problems and haven’t already invested in the formidable healing powers of quality magnesium supplementation, now might be the time.

So while the rest of the world waits for the development of wondrous oral drugs that capitalize on these findings, here’s an insider’s tip: you can get a head start by simply eating wholesome, nutrient-dense foods. Nothing new there, right? Dark leafy greens for magnesium, avocados for vitamin E, liver for vitamin A, and any number of fruit and vegetables for vitamin C. A comprehensive multi can’t hurt either.

Unpacking the Mystery of Tinnitus

Then there’s tinnitus, the frustrating ringing ear condition that regularly affects an estimated 15% of Americans. As far as causes go, the list is long. In addition to noise exposure, tinnitus can develop as a result of excessive ear wax buildup, medications like aspirin and antibiotics, middle ear infections, and aging. Tinnitus occurs when hair cells in the ear’s cochlea are damaged or destroyed, meaning there are any number of pathways by which someone can develop this condition. I have a friend who’s suffered from tinnitus over the past 5 years due to multiple concussions. Ding your head enough times, and your ears may pay the price. There’s even suggestions that certain folks may be genetically predisposed to developing tinnitus, but that research isn’t conclusive.

And despite our growing knowledge of the causes of tinnitus, it’s on the rise. As the urban population grows, so, too, does the percentage of the population exposed to that anthropocentric din I highlighted earlier. Concerts are just as big and loud if not more so than they were a couple decades ago. We have more and noisier machines in our lives than ever before.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Those same hearing-protective steps I talked about earlier can also be applied to tinnitus. Concentrating on nutrient-dense foods that provide ample levels of vitamins A, C and E, and perhaps supplementing with magnesium oil, should help to prevent those hairs in your cochlea from sustaining significant damage. Continuing the diet theme, there’s preliminary evidence to suggest that zinc depletion may play a role, and that moderate to high caffeine intake per day has beneficial effect. Probably not a great idea to go crazy on the coffee, however, particularly if you’re sensitive to it.

And, not suprisingly, Inflammation is almost undoubtedly at play here as well, verified by a strong association between hypertension and tinnitus. Reducing inflammatory food intake and minimizing stress should therefore go a long way towards lowering your risk of tinnitus. Similarly, vagal nerve stimulation, which uses small electrical pulses to stimulate an anti-inflammatory feedback in the vagus, shows a lot of promise in treatment for tinnitus.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Have you or those you love experienced any of the above conditions? Are you taking any special steps to preserve your hearing and ear health? Have you heard about other medical treatments or lifestyle interventions? Have a good end to your week.


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Happy Bday TJ!

I’m live blogging today! Woooo hoo. And it’s also Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, which means there is lots going on in our small town. This whole week is the 6th annual TomTom Founders Festival where Cville comes together to celebrate food, music, art, and innovation. There are so many events going on! On Monday night we went to a community potluck at the IX park and enjoyed having dinner with lots of other Cvillians. (Deviled egg!! Sweethaus cupcake!!)

Mazen had his face painted with a big spider – “Spiderman!”

The scariest! Luckily it came off by Wednesday’s picture day.

We have had great weather all week! (Someone still decided they wanted to wear their furry winter pants out – lol!)

This morning Sarah convinced me to get up at 5:45 and head to the gym for Afterburn. I was a bit reluctant to go because the sun wasn’t up, but I never regret an early morning workout! Class was killer – super leg heavy!

Breakfast afterwards was yogurt, raspberry jam, mango, strawberries, and granola with almond butter on top.

I am headed somewhere fun this morning for a Thomas Jefferson birthday party! Stay tuned 🙂

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