Bundle of the Week – Gluten & Grain Free

by Tiffany in Book Reviews

grain free bundle

The ebook bundle of the week is right up my alley and I am fairly excited about it. The theme is gluten and grain free and it includes 5 wonderful ebooks. For only $7.40 you get the following: Against the Grain, Beyond Grain & Dairy, The Grain-Free Snacker, Best of the Grain Free Meal Plans, Gluten Free and Good for You.

If you are curious about going grain free or want to try and eat fewer grains and gluten then these books are an excellent resource. I like to download these books to my Dropbox and then read them on my tablet in the evenings. Plus I can take the books with me “virtually” if I have to go sit in a line at the DMV. I didn’t use to be a big ebook person but I am officially converted! Enjoy!


Nurturing the Soul of Your Family

by Tiffany in Book Reviews

This past weekend I had the pleasure of curling up in bed with the sun streaming through my southern facing windows and a good book to read. I chose Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. The author, Renee Peterson Trudeau previously wrote a book about self-renewal for moms and that is something I care very deeply about. I feel as though we cannot reach our full potential in life…as moms, wives, friends, philanthropists, etc unless we nurture and take care of ourselves first. This book is also very much about that but it extends to the whole family and how we can create that atmosphere of self renewal and soul nurturing for everyone in the family. The idea is to view your family as a sacred tribe…a collective of people who are together to support one another’s collective growth.

When you start to view the family dynamic in just such a way then you find that it changes the way you see things and people and it changes the way in which you react and relate to them. There are ten different ways in which we are called to awaken and change our thinking in the book. Some of them include:

Self Care – Taking care of yourself is needed before you can take care of someone else. This is why airplane disaster cards tell you to put your oxygen mask on first… you are no good to yourself, or anyone if you don’t see to your own needs first.

Healing – Many people have issues they need to work out and a past that haunts them in some way. I loved reading the chapter on this because I would have thought I had no issues from childhood that need to be sussed out but this chapter got me to thinking that maybe I do.

Unplugging – Getting rid of the disconnect we may be experiencing due to technology running our lives.

Using Nature as an Antidepressant – I think it is very important to have a relationship with nature and to find strength and renewal in the outdoors.

Spiritual Renewal – I enjoyed reading about cultivating spirituality even if you aren’t religious. Mixing and matching stuff from different faiths and cultures was even mentioned and I have long loved that idea.

Building Your Tribe – Making it your mission to find those around you (in your community, online)  that make you feel connected and loved. This is often something so lacking in modern life but we all need our tribe!

I think this book is a real gem and I can see myself reading it a couple times a year when I want to reconnect to my family and see them, and my life, through a different lens. We all get bogged down and forget the important things. It’s nice to have a reminder.

For more info on the book click the link above or visit the author’s web site. Happy reading!


Great Gardening Books for Kids

by Tiffany in Book Reviews, Gardening

This is the time of year when garden plans start to come together. You may already have seedlings growing indoors so that they will be ready for transplant when the threat of snow and frost has finally passed. You might be itching to get outside and start digging in the dirt. I know I am! It is important to me to grow at least some of my own food, even if it just keeps me in tomatoes or bell peppers all summer, that is a step towards sustainability and self sufficiency. It is important to me personally and it is important to me that I show my children by example that we can and should grow our own food. Just because I cannot do it on the scale I want to (not enough space) doesn’t mean I can’t use every bit of space that I have to show them the importance of growing their own food to the extent they can.

Kids typically love to spend time outside when they are young but as they get older nowadays and the digital world calls to them they start to enjoy that outdoors time less. It is important for parents to keep motivating them to get outside and getting them excited about gardening will help. You can start early by reading to them or providing them with books to read themselves that have gardening as the central theme. There are some really, really good ones out there! Here are a few that I like…

gardening books for kids

Our Community Garden – This books brings gardening and different ethnic communities into focus. It is all about a community garden in San Francisco where the children play among the garden beds, giant sunflowers, and compost piles right in the heart of the city. They also grow food together with other members of their community and gather together for a pot luck using local foods.

In the Garden: Who’s Been Here? – Christina and Jeremy are on a mission to gather vegetables from the garden for their evening supper. On the way they discover that they are not the only ones who have been in the garden on this day. Who else has been there??? They take a scientific journey to discover why there is a slimy trail on a leaf in the cucumber patch and some corn kernels have been pecked off the cob. Christina and Jeremy follow the clues to discover which birds, animals, and insects have been in their garden why the garden is vital to all manner of life.

The Forgiveness Garden – This book is about so much more than gardening. When a boy from one village throws a rock across the river and injures a girl on the other side, their two villages Vayam and Gamte, become mortal enemies. The villagers become consumed with getting revenge upon each other until a young girl comes up with an idea to help bring peace to all involved, a forgiveness garden. It is a parable inspired by the original Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut, Lebanon, created as a tribute to the lost lives in the fifteen-year civil war that claimed 300,000 lives. Great story and very educational!

The Curious Garden – This book is one of my personal favorites and tells the story of a little boy named Liam who lives in a very urban, factory town where little to no greenery exists. One day when he is exploring, he is run under the railroad bridge by rain and he discovers a door with stairs that goes up to the tracks. There among the broken tracks he sees a spot where a little moss and a small tree are growing and he falls in love with this tiny little garden. Liam becomes the city “gardener” and helps this little spot to grow. What happens after that is amazing…


My Paleo Update and The Whole30

by Tiffany in Book Reviews, Healthy Eating

It has been a little over a year now since I decided to eschew my vegetarian diet and go paleo. It was just before Thanksgiving when I dived into the book Wheat Belly and in fact I was reading it before and after our Thanksgiving meal at my parent’s house. I felt like every paragraph was a revelation and I couldn’t wait to begin what I felt would be a brave new life journey. I wanted to see if going paleo would help with some nagging health issues that a plant based diet was having no success with. At that point I had already tried vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic, raw, and a WAPF traditional foods diet. I didn’t try these for a few weeks and then cry about how they didn’t work out. I gave some of these a couple years, a year minimum usually.

I felt best on a raw diet or a traditional foods diet but none of them seemed to provide exactly what I was looking for. I am not even sure what I WAS looking for but I knew that I wasn’t sleeping well, I had too much visceral (belly) fat, I was hungry all the time, I had wicked cravings for junky food, and my hormones were not working as they should. After reading up on paleo it seemed to explain why I still had these nagging health issues. One month in I was hooked and now one year later I am still hooked and gung ho. I don’t think I ever quite knew what it felt like to feel good, I mean REALLY good until I dropped the grains and legumes. I didn’t even realize that I had been constantly bloated until that time either. For me that was normal…the way I felt every day. Now I know better and it is all thanks to a paleo/primal diet. I lost three pants sizes, my skin cleared up, I went all year with no ear or sinus infections (I had 2-3 each year throughout previous years), my thyroid issues improved, my energy levels skyrocketed, and I gained lots of muscle mass.

This diet experiment worked so well that is has now become my way of life. Yet at around the one year mark I had to admit that I didn’t go far enough. Instead of going full on paleo I went primal instead which allows for dairy products. I didn’t want to give up my yogurt and kefir (clarified butter is paleo and not a problem).

I also started out strictly primal and then eventually allowed myself to adopt the 80/20 rule that so many paleo/primal folks endorse….80% paleo/primal and 20% not. This became a problem for me because once I started eating that 20% I didn’t want to stop there. These foods were typically processed and/or filled with grains or added sugar. One of my 20% allowances was diet soda too and I KNEW that dose of artificial sweeteners was wreaking havoc on my hormones but this stuff was ADDICTING. Giving myself that 20% break did me no favors. I was a crack addict who felt that I could sneak in a hit now and then and be okay since it wasn’t an every day thing.

When my paleo anniversary came around I decided that I was on the right track. I did indeed find I what I was looking for in the caveman diet but I needed to bite the bullet and try it without the dairy and without that 20%. It was with this knowledge that I picked up a copy of It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways.

This book is every bit as ground breaking and life changing as Wheat Belly. I couldn’t put it down and had to keep reading bits and pieces aloud to my husband because it was just to darn important and I had to share. It has lots of science but it is broken down into easy to understand concepts. Some parts reminded me of  the movie Osmosis Jones. If you haven’t seen it you are really missing out! It’s a cartoon about the workings of your inner body and some of the ways in which bodily functions are described in this book are reminiscent of the clever way that immunity, illness, and inflammation is shown in the movie. Want to know what a leaky gut is and why it is bad?? You will know after you read this book.

The book essentially goes through the functions and processes of four of your body’s hormones and how the food you eat directly impacts those functions. Some of the effects you may see and feel right away. Others are relatively silent but the damage is still being done. I knew the basics of all of it but this book really linked it together in ways I had not quite grasped. It also discusses the psychological effects of the food we are eating and how our body is sending signals to eat the wrong types of foods and making us crave them. Either by design or by accident ( I go with the former) the food industry has found a way to make our own bodies turn against us and crave the worst foods by creating foods that activate the aforementioned hormones. The damage being done is devastating…obesity, depression, fibromyalgia, thyroid disorders, insulin resistance, IBS, lupus, diabetes, horrible cravings, allergies, autoimmune disorders, and all manner of disease. Genetics may load the gun if you have a predisposition to some of this stuff but it really is your choice to pull the trigger or not and certain food choices pull that trigger.

The book makes a great case for why certain foods are making us sick and what we can do. The Whole30 is essentially a strict paleo plan and I knew that going in but it was still great to get a refresher course in why we need to avoid grains, legumes, soy, and a variety of other popular foods. There are four different criteria they use to decide which foods need to go. All the foods eaten during the 30 days have to create a healthy psychological response, a healthy hormonal response, support a healthy gut, and support immune function and minimize inflammation. The foods on the no list all fail to meet these criteria. They may fail on one count (dairy) or all four (grains, sugar). Either way you avoid those foods for the duration of the program.

The book has numerous personal stories from people who have done it to provide a little more incentive but I think the way you begin to feel even in the earliest days are incentive enough.  I am looking forward to finishing my 30 days and reporting back but it is my goal to be strict paleo from here on out and avoid all dairy. I also plan to quit that 20% rule because even that 20% is enough to mess with my hormones and wreak all sorts of havoc.

I think 2013 is going to be a very good year!


French Kids Eat Everything

by Tiffany in Book Reviews, Healthy Eating

I have a bit of a love affair going on with all things French right now. This is due in no small part to the some of the books coming out about French living, parenting philosophies, and cooking for kids. Do you remember my review of the awesome book Bringing Up Bebe – The Wisdom of French Parenting? Well that got me started and I can’t seem to stop. I loved that book and it made me realize that whereas attachment parenting resonated most with me whilst my kids were little I am definitely taking a page from French moms nowadays. It was where I was introduced to the concept of equilibre (eh-key-lee-bruh) or balance. Not letting any one part of life – including being a parent –  overwhelm the other parts. Everyone probably wishes they had some do-overs in regards to parenting choices but one of my do overs would be to have lots more equilibre as a mom, wife, and woman with her own interests and passions.

Among others books I have recently picked up are Paris in Love: A Memoir about a woman who sold off her belongings and moved her family to Paris for a year. I wish!! Also French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters.

Just like the aforementioned parenting book, I loved French Kids Eat Everything. Like the previous author, Karen Le Billon also moved to France only to be amazed by how mannerly French kids were and how they eat anything and everything set before them. French kids could manage to stay well behaved through a four hour meal with their parents and they relished foods that her own kids wouldn’t touch. The stark contrast between her own children and french children spurred her to investigate just what French parents were doing to achieve the near miraculous. This book is the result of all that research and also a memoir of her experiences and conversations. It is not only informative and helpful…it is also a page turner. How many parenting books and healthy eating books can boast that??

Once again I was amazed by how the school system works in France and just how well kids there eat. It is really a very rigid system and actually a rather punitive. No one’s quirks and preferences are pandered to and you if you don’t toe the line and conform to the rule of standard you are ostracised. While that may sound bad to me if that involves test scores or homework I see lots of value in that if it is nutrition education. Food education is mandatory in the French schooling system and this is so important because it ensures that all French children are eating healthy diets regardless of circumstance. We can see how in America it is the wealthier people who have greater access to healthy foods and nutrition education. It is just not like that in France. All kids from the time they are babies are encouraged to eat healthy foods within the school and daycare systems (also government run). Parents had the same education so they are on the same page. It really appears to be an awesome example of citizens and government being in sync with what is best for the people and nutritional health. In America the guy who vandalizes a McDonalds goes to jail. In France he is elected to office for being a crusader (true story).

In the US our government subsidizes crap food to make it artificially cheap whilst keeping healthy foods out of the reach of the poorer individuals. Nutrition education is also a joke. In France the kids are not only being taught from day one what is healthy to eat they are provided stellar meals with fresh fruit and veggies making an appearance every day (and being eaten), meats that include real chicken, fish, crab, roast pork (even in the poorest districts), real desserts (not twinkies), and water instead of sugary colored milk. Some schools even send home meals suggestions in advance for evening meals so that children are eating a perfectly planned and balanced diet.

You also won’t find too much of the fake processed foods in France that Americans seem to love so much. They have an affinity for healthy, quality foods and take pride in being foodies who want only the best. That may sound elitist but remember this is EVERYONE from the rich banker, to the school teacher, to the guy who fixes carburetors.

There are ten food rules in the book that were modeled to reflect the way of the French system and the author used to them to overhaul her own family’s eating habits. Many of them  I copied into a notebook or on post it notes on the frig. Food rule #2 is to avoid emotional eating by not using food as a pacifier, punishment, or reward. I know this to be excellent advice but it is so hard to do in practice, especially if you were raised in a contradictory way. #3 revolves around scheduling and planning meals (much better than I currently do) and making sure kids eat what the adults eat or they don’t eat…period. Amen to that as I chuck my short order cooking apron.

Food rule #4 is all about making all meal times social and beautiful, ala setting the table like royalty is coming to dinner and really making every meal meaningful. #7 is about avoiding snacks, which we are already implementing. Snacking is just not done in France and I happen to LOVE this. I have such a hard time convincing my own kids that they will not die if they are not allowed to graze all day.

One of the best tips I picked up was about adding more veggies to the diet (I forget what food rule that was). The author started making soups reminiscent of the purees that French babies eat to train their palates for all manner of fresh veggies. Her kids were older but she wanted to introduce them to veggies (which they refused to touch) in much the same way. Hubby and I discussed it and are now planning menus that include a thick veggie based soup as a first course before the main event. Think carrot soup, leek soup, cauliflower soup, broccoli soup, turnip soup, ect with lots of fresh herbs and spices thrown in. I can make just enough so that everyone gets about 1/4 cup to a whole cup and that needs to be eaten first. A particular soup never appears more than once in the same week. There are usually veggies in the main dish too but this just adds another veggie opportunity and a way to sneak stuff in that they normally won’t eat. Such a simple yet brilliant idea and the book is full of great tips and ideas.

I highly recommend French Kids Eat Everything as leisure reading for the health minded but especially if you struggle with making sure your kids are eating a varied and balanced diet. Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

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