The Half-Crunchy Mama

Trying to live a natural life with balance


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The Half-Crunchy Mama got a little crunchier

Unless you have a uterus, you might want to pass on reading this post. There will be a little TMI about the female body, so I will not be offended if you leave now. If you have female parts, especially if you currently menstruate every month, I’ve got some good stuff to share so I hope that you continue on. And if you don’t fit that bill and continue reading anyway because you have a spouse or daughter or lady friend that you care about and you want to be informed, I applaud you.

Almost four months ago, I purchased my first menstrual cup. Yes, saying those last two words together made me feel a little uncomfortable at first (and they still do sometimes), but that is not all my fault. It’s the way I was brought up in the world of disposable feminine products that have been the norm for my nearly four decades on this earth, and long before that. And then there’s the fabulous marketing that goes along with these products to influence and help us make decisions about what to buy.

A what?

After digging around a little, I learned that menstrual cups are not new. In fact, they have been around since at least the 1930s(1). I found this post that includes research showing a similar concept was used in the 1860s!(2)  If you are at all like me, you should be a little curious as to why it seems like we have only just started hearing about them? My answer: Big Business. Think of all the money that these manufacturers are able to allocate to their advertising. You can’t watch a show on the television or flip through a magazine (I’m not the only one still doing these things, right?) without having tampon or maxipad ads thrown at you. They even cater to young girls now with their packaging and naming. In 2010 and 2011, women in North America stocked up on $3 billion worth of feminine hygiene products(3). So their heavy marketing obviously works in their favor, but I think that’s because the alternatives have been kept hidden away from us. I’m here to tell you all about it.

Why I made the switch

This is a completely under-regulated industry. Since the FDA sees feminine products like pads and tampons as medical devices, there is no mandatory testing of the safety of these products and no laws to enforce companies to disclose their ingredients. This makes it almost impossible for us to know what is in our feminine products and to be educated enough to avoid chemicals of concern that are found in them.

Made from cotton and rayon, tampons (my preferred choice for the last 20+ years) are bleached with chlorine compounds that leave behind highly toxic dioxins, as well as pesticide residue from using non-organic cotton. Sure, I once thought I could just switch to organic cotton tampons that were not overly processed, but on month when I have a heavy cycle, I can go through a good box and a half of tampons. It’s not that easy to just run out to the store and get more as not everyone carries Natracare and Seventh Generation tampons and pads. (I’m including links to purchase both brands from Amazon (Natracare and Seventh Generation) in case the cup idea is too much for you, but you are interested in switching to healthier feminine products.) For some scientific information about the chemicals I (we) have been literally shoving into our bodies every month, WomensVoices.org has a fantastic piece for you to read, called Chem Fatale Report.

Toxic feminine products

Graphic courtesy of WomensVoices.org

Why I love it

So why did it take me so long to write about this if I’m so happy? I wanted to give it a good test. The first month, I was kind of learning the ropes. Inserting and removing take a little bit of trial and error. If you go with the bell-shaped cup like the DivaCup that I chose, folding method two is the one that has worked best for me. And my trick to share with you is that I found that if I set on the edge of the bed or something after the initial insertion, my body actually slides it into position even better than I can. It feels crazy weird, but I learned that my muscles are much more relaxed when sitting than while standing or squatting, and I can feel my body actually guide/slide/whatever the cup into the perfect position.

I also wanted to wait until I gave it a good test with all the types of exercise I do on a weekly basis. I was a little gun-shy about using it through my entire cycle that first month, getting frustrated sometimes when I couldn’t get the fit right and giving up to use a tampon. I can report now that I will never look back as last month’s trial solidified that I never need to use tampons again. I do a considerable amount of weight lifting, including a variety of squats, and not one complaint from me about leakage or falling out (as actually happened to me with a tampon in a Power Box/Tae Bo class one time). I have ran with it. I have done yoga and stretching with it. I have done Zumba with it. The only thing left to test it with is swimming and I can’t wait!! The pool opens next month and then I’ll be going to the beach in June. I am beyond excited at the prospect of not having to go straight to the restroom after getting out of the water in order to take the tampon out. Not to mention making sure that the string isn’t hanging outside my suit. There are no worries with this cup thing. Not a single one.

More reasons I’m in love:

  • I have been inserting it before my period actually starts, on the day it’s expected to begin. No more surprises while out!
  • It’s so reliable that there are no more trips running to the bathroom for frequent changes or to check for leaks. The cup can be left in for 8-10 hours at a time (and up to 12), depending on how heavy the flow is. I actually almost forget about it!
  • It’s made of medical-grade silicone and is latex free which is very important to me as I’m allergic to latex.
  • Tampons offer just eight hours before TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) becomes a possibility. With menstrual cups, you can go up to 12 hours in between emptying and it’s not really sitting there next to your skin; it’s in the cup. Also, if your tampon has even a slightly higher absorbency than your actual flow, you risk shredding. Tiny bits of cotton can cause small cuts in your vaginal walls—a perfect breeding ground for the bacteria causing TSS.
  • I don’t have to worry if I have any spares in my purse or car. One and done!
  • I’m learning even more about my cycle and my body. I’m always up for that.
  • **TMI/education alert** As the DivaCup site mentions, “Menstrual flow only begins to develop an odor when it is exposed to air. As The DivaCup is worn internally, your days of worrying about period odor are over. Menstrual fluid on tampons and pads is exposed to air which creates odor throughout the day.”(4) Which also means that the bathroom smells better, too, as there are no more used tampons sitting in the lidded garbage can. (Sorry for the extra information on this last bullet that you didn’t want.)
  • It saves money (see below), and who doesn’t like to save some green?

Let’s talk about money

My hormone and cycle history could be a post all its own, but let’s just start with when my cycle returned six months after weaning my daughter, the most recent history as she will be four this summer. It has been pretty whacky, sometimes light and others very, very heavy. Some months I would go through almost two boxes of tampons, one of regular and one of super. I always felt like they filled up quick or weren’t as absorbent as they used to be, and maybe they just were not fitting me well anymore. Maybe my body had changed, or maybe the products have changed. I will admit that I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist, especially when it comes to the government, big pharma, and big business, and the more I started thinking about it, the more I started thinking that maybe, just maybe, they are making these things less absorbent so you go through more of them every month? Seems like a good business tactic to me. (Moving along now…)

Then came my first cycle that I only used the cup. Um, why did I need to use so many tampons each month? Seriously…when emptying the cup after 12 hours, I would look and see that it was almost never filled. So tell me why did I have to change my tampons every 4-6 hours, 3 when it was a heavy day? We really don’t lose that much blood during the course of our cycle. I have seen proof of this from my own body with my own eyes. The cup can hold about an ounce of fluid and the average woman releases about 1-2 ounces throughout the whole cycle. Only one time have I seen the cup close to full, but that was also a day that I cramped a lot. (And I swear your period completely changes after giving birth.) Most of the time, it’s only about 1/4-1/2 full. Again, why did I have to spend so much money on tampons every month and use so many? What a mystery.

I picked up my DivaCup for around $20 though a buying group I belong to from Facebook. Basically, my savings in what I would have spent on tampons the past three months has paid for the cup already. And this thing is good for at least another 9 months before replacing it as they are good for a year, longer if you take good care of it. I really, REALLY encourage you to read through all of these First Questions as I think you might start to see the potential here.

Final thought

If you have been having hormone/endochrine disruption and have tried everything from diet changes to herbals and supplements, you just might want to give the cup a try. Or at least make the switch away from all the brands that we came to know and “love” as we grew into women. I feel that our bodies are becoming more and more sensitive to the chemicals we used to be able to tolerate on a daily basis. Just a few years ago, we weren’t bombarded with toxin exposure from everything to carpets and drapes to food and toiletries. Perhaps our bodies just can’t take any more and just one small change that we can make to reduce our toxic exposure can help heal us a little. Baby steps.

And because I enjoy a good Buzzfeed link: http://www.buzzfeed.com/becagrimm/x-reasons-you-should-switch-to-menstrual-cups-your-en98#.uq77r7mr9

 

References:

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstrual_cup

(2) http://www.labyrinth.net.au/~obsidian/clothpads/Cups_history.html

(3) http://www.nonwovens-industry.com/issues/2012-11/view_features/the-feminine-hygiene-market-847209/

(4) http://divacup.com/

Other resources:

http://www.womensvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Chem-Fatale-Report.pdf

http://www.gurl.com/2013/09/12/menstrual-products-techniques-through-history/#1

http://greatist.com/health/toxins-in-feminine-hygiene-products-111913?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=huffingtonpost&utm_campaign=pubexchange_facebook

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The Half-Crunchy Mama’s Baba Ghanoush

Yay! A recipe post! I’m glad you’re back. Food always brings people back.

The Russian* and I are obsessed with eggplant. Seriously obsessed. My daughter, now almost three, has eaten eggplant since she could eat food that only needed to be mashed a little before swallowing. Her favorite recipe is what I call “Eggplant Ragu” and I will surely post that one as soon as I make it again so  I can write it down. When they are 10 for $10 at Kroger, we are eating eggplant in a variety of ways. I like to slice and grill it, marinate with other veggies for a variety of dishes (one of several ratatouille recipes, eggplant parm, eggplant lasagna, eggplant salads…all future postings), and of course, baba ghanoush. If I could figure out how to freeze eggplants, we would be set! Hmmm….might have to start researching and experimenting.

They way I like to cook is kind of like how I get my news. I read a few different sources and make my own decisions on how to move forward. My recipes are usually a little from this recipe, a little from another, and some other piece or two from yet a different one, all mixed together with my own knowledge of cooking and what tastes good and works together. After reading several different recipes, I decided that I had enough information to make my own. I must say the first batch was pretty damn fantastic. After half a dozen or so batches, they seem to only get better.

One “mistake” I apparently made was cutting the eggplant before roasting it. Sometimes I read a little too fast and miss an important item. Kind of like when I’m supposed to read directions or instructions for putting something together. Well, after my maiden batch, I was pretty sure that this is the best way to do it and that everyone else made the mistake by keeping the eggplant whole.

First, slice the eggplant in half lengthwise.

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

Then oil up the cut side with some EVOO.

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

Place it cut side down on a nonstick baking sheet.

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

Bake it for about 25 minutes or so, depending upon how big it is (or they are if you are making a double batch). You want the eggplants to have some give when you push on the skins…usually anywhere between 20-30 minutes. They should look nice and golden and be pretty smushy. Perfect for going into the food processor.

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

 Now you will want to let them cool off before scooping out the insides, unless you’re impatient (I don’t know anyone like that). In that case, you will need a towel or something to protect your hand. However, I suggest giving them at least a few minutes. That will give you time to set everything else up.

Get out your food processor. I have a small one and large one, but it’s almost easier to make it in two batches than drag the huge one out. And clean it.

You will also need EVOO, that’s extra-virgin olive oil for those of you that have never watched any of Rachael Ray‘s shows. Sadly, much to the disappointment of all of my chef friends, she’s the one that actually got me cooking and helped me to realize how much I love to cook. In addition to the olive oil, grab a lemon, a few cloves of garlic, tahini (I like this one and you can get it in most stores), pepper (preferably fresh ground), and Kosher or sea salt. Yep, that’s all that’s in it. Gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, whatever your eating preferences or restrictions are, you can eat this! Unless you’re just picky and are afraid to try delicious things to put in your belly.

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

 Now for the fun part.

Hopefully the eggplant(s) are cooled off now. Scoop out the insides into the food processor with a spoon. Now, I’m not really one for measuring anything. I go with how I feel, so sometimes my measurements are estimates. Taste as you go, stick your finger in and taste, and then adjust accordingly. Salt is the biggest thing I have a hard time with and I often under salt my food. It’s better than putting too much in.

For a single eggplant batch, I usually add two cloves of garlic run through the press (even though it’s going to get blended, it helps to distribute better), a heaping tablespoon of tahini, 1/2 of a fresh squeezed lemon, 1-2 tablespoons of EVOO, 1/2-1 teaspoon of sea salt, and a few circles of the pepper grinder around the heap of ingredients waiting to be blended.

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

 You don’t want to process it too much or it will get really runny. I like it to be thick enough to pick up a bunch on the end of a baby carrot, not having to scoop it up with a spoon because it slides off.

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

 Hopefully you will get something that looks as beautiful as this when you are finished and have plated it…or put it in a plastic or glass container that can be sealed up. Store it in the refrigerator and enjoy for several days to come!

The Half-Crunchy Mama's Baba Ghanoush

 Remember, there are no preservatives, so enjoy it sooner rather than later. Clean and fresh food is best!

* This is the endearing term for my Moscow-born husband that will be regularly used when discussing anything to do with him in my posts.

The Half-Crunchy Mama’s Baba Ghanoush

These quantities are for a single batch. I usually double everything, so multiplying ingredients does not affect the taste as happens sometimes with recipes. For two or twenty, Baba away!

 INGREDIENTS:

1 Eggplant (FYI, to pick a proper eggplant, it should feel heavy for its size and give a little when you squeeze it)
2 Cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp tahini
1/2 Fresh-squeezed lemon
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for oiling the eggplant before roasting
1/2-1 tsp kosher or sea salt, to taste (I have used both at different times, so this one is your choice)
Several turns of fresh ground pepper, to taste

 DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise. Coat cut side with olive oil. Place cut-side down onto baking sheet and bake in oven for about 25 minutes. Total time could be anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes, depending upon size. The  eggplant is ready to be removed when there is lots of give when pressing on the skin with your finger. Allow to cool.
3. Once cooled, scoop insides of eggplant into food processor bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until combined and the preferred consistency has been reached. (Be careful not to over-process or it will be like soup.)
4. Store in airtight container for up to a week in the refrigerator. Enjoy!


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Welcome! Here’s the story…

The name

I first learned about the term “crunchy” after giving birth to my daughter when a friend mentioned that I was “kind of crunchy.”  Once the term crunchy was explained to me, I decided that I am “half-crunchy.” I never realized how much I had changed while on the journey I have been on for the past 9+ years. I have strong feelings about natural health and medicine, fitness, healthy eating, GMOs, breastfeeding, my newest obsession with essential oils, and a variety of other somewhat hot topics. Reusable bags and recycling are big with me. I have a container garden. I don’t take medications unless absolutely necessary, and neither do my husband or daughter. But there are limits to my crunchiness. I didn’t use cloth diapers. Despite my obsession with reusable bags, I still use plastic bags from stores for some things (like the small garbage cans around the house). I don’t compost. I don’t own a hybrid or an electric car. In fact, I own an SUV and a car that is twelve years old. I don’t believe in every little thing that the rest of the crunchy world does, but I get it. My life revolves around my daughter, my husband, my dog, and my job, and I have learned that nothing runs smoothly if I’m not focused on taking care of myself. This includes standing up for what I believe in and helping to share my knowledge with as many people as possible.

The history

When I take a look back on my 38+ years of life, I see the many things that I have lived through/lived with/battled; and right now I’m just talking physiologically.

I had insomnia and was a sleepwalker as a kid. Back then, no one would have ever thought to look into those two things and see that perhaps something was wrong. I also ate lots of crackers…like half a box watching Saturday morning cartoons, and I loved bologna and American cheese. As processed as you can get! We didn’t know then what we know now about nutrition, especially when it comes to kids. (thank God I played sports.)

Then as a teen, I had acne (who didn’t) and ovarian cysts, resulting being put on different prescriptions for the acne, both pills and topicals, and birth control pills from the age of 16 until almost the age of 30. I was “diagnosed” with depression and put on zoloft for several years. I also had seasonal allergies and took prescriptions so often that I would build up an immunity to them and have to switch to a different one every 6-8 weeks.

In my mid-20s, I found out I had been carrying Lyme disease for so long that by the time it made itself visible in my body, several of my systems had been affected. My knees will never be the same after having such awful arthritis as a result of the evil spirochete (and let’s not even talk about all THOSE medications I had to take).

The topic of my back could be a post all on its own. All you need to know for now is that I have had back problems since the age of 13 and was put on….you guessed it…lots of different medications.over-medicated

See a theme here? Medications, medications, medications. This is such a problem in our lives, and at this point in my life, I just can’t stand it anymore. We have become a world that thrives on instant gratification. Something wrong? Take this pill and you will feel better fast. Oh, those side effects? Don’t worry about those little things. We will give you something else for the side effects. The commercials, and the fact that we even have commercials for medications, that go through an insane list of side effects make me nuts.

I was a result of over-medicating a broken body that already faced some mild genetic defects. Medications are a band-aid. They only treat the symptoms, not the cause. They don’t actually fix anything.

The journey

The best decision that I have ever made in my life was to move to the south. There are a ridiculous amount of reasons for that statement, but the journey to my present state of health and the people that have entered my life are the top reasons that I feel this way.

We moved here without jobs. After about a month, I landed one of the three part-time jobs that would get me though one of the toughest times of my life until landing my current career at IBM (ten years this month – woo-hoo!). I started helping out in the office of a naturopathic doctor, Debra MacIntyre (now Kviesis) at her place in Roswell, GA, Natural Health Solutions. That was where my natural health journey began. I won’t go into everything that I learned while working there, I’m sure I will share many of those things in future posts as they come up, but it completely changed my life and opened my eyes to this new world. One that existed in other cultures for centuries, far longer than this country has even been around.

Then I met Dr. Don Parkerson at the HP Spine Center in Smyrna, GA. I had seen chiropractors since I was a kid and can actually can say that I lived through the progression of the field. I started off with the back-cracking, neck-twisting kind, moved on to the “new” chiropractic electronic stimulation after a car accident (and those two docs I had in NY were awesome and did help alleviate my symptoms), and then I met Dr. Don after living here six months and experienced the worst back pain of my life. He’s not your ordinary chiropractor. He’s an orthospinologist which is like magic to me. There you are, barely able to walk in the door and in so much pain, he taps the top of your spine with this crazy looking contraption, and a few minutes later, you can stand up straight and feel a lot less pain. Amazing stuff that I will save for a future post.

Now on to the incredible woman that brought me the rest of the way, Dr. Tamera Firnbach at Balanced Body Wellness Centre in Kennesaw, GA. After many dead ends with conventional doctors, I figured I didn’t have anything else to lose. There I was in my late 20s, waking every night drenched in sweat, realizing that I never had a good night of sleep in my life, dragging my butt every afternoon to get through the day, eating like a bird, exercising like crazy, and still unable lose weight. Every doctor told me my test results were fine. Primary physician, gynecologist, endocrinologist. Oh, really? Yeah, I feel “fine.” Everyone lives like this, right? After going over my history, blood tests, and profile with Dr. Firnbach, I had a diagnosis – adrenal fatigue that was later confirmed with saliva testing. Not to mention I had a liver that was a piece of garbage. Years later, and there will be posts about things relating to this part of my journey, I’m in a much better place. I learned that the proper functioning of my liver is key and most of the physiological issues of my entire life, nearly all hormonal, can be traced back to that extremely important organ in my body. More to come on all this.

I now know that the knowledge exists to recognize, address, and fix all sorts of health problems through natural means. No drugs. No surgery. It takes time and patience to follow the natural path. A LOT of time and patience. And money. We only have one body and it’s worth the investment. We generally don’t take shortcuts when it comes to our teeth or our eyes, the philosophy being that we only have one set of teeth and one pair of eyes. Why not place the same priority on the rest of your body? My one regret is not keeping a journal through it all. What I have learned and seen for myself when watching others that follow my path has changed my life for the better. The tricky part is that now I can’t unlearn what I know. So now I’m half-crunchy.

The now

Moving forward with my blog, I will try to share things that I think you will be interested in, or better yet, that will help you. That is my real goal. I want to teach about things that I have learned and lived myself.

I will talk about raising my kid, and those of you who are parents will laugh with me, while those of you without kids will likely laugh at me. And I welcome that. Laughter is good for the soul.

I will share (and sometimes vent about) thought and ideas on a variety of topics relating to all the things I juggle on a daily basis; being a wife, being a mom, having a full-time career, running a household, trying to budget, having a dog…the list is endless some days.

I will finally start publishing some of my recipes. Watch for those, if nothing else. They will not disappoint. I take my food VERY seriously.

And there might be an occasional post about cars, motorcycles, sports, guns, aviation, or technology. I’m not your average girl.

Hopefully you made it to the end. Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time.