Applegate Wienervention

A couple weeks ago I received a hilarious email from Applegate. “Let’s be frank: Friends shouldn’t let friends eat bad meat. It’s time to stage a “Wienervention” and Applegate is here to help.”

They sent me a lovely box of wieners and other cookout-related supplies (pictured below). There were no strings attached to this gift, but I really like their products and want to blog about it anyway!

If your kids like hot dogs the way mine do, you are probably looking for a healthier way to serve them up. I’ve tried other versions of “healthy” hot dogs, but in my opinion, Applegate’s are the best-tasting! I’ve also had their deli meats, cheeses, and bacon and been impressed by the quality of all their products.

More than 90% of people who consume hot dogs would rather purchase franks with a short ingredient statement, and that’s where Applegate steps in. Our ingredient list is simple: beef (that has never been administered antibiotics or hormones), water, salt and spices. It’s time to say goodbye to those dirty dogs filled with sodium phosphate, sodium nitrate, and who knows what else!

Do your backyard barbecue a favor and try them!

Applegate Wienervention 001

Applegate Wienervention 002

Post Alpha Bits and Little Free Library

031314 Alpha-bits 001

Recently I was contacted by Post Foods and Little Free Library to see if I would consider partnering with them to host a Little Free Library and promote literacy. I just so happened to have a conversation with a friend during that same window of time, and she mentioned that she has always wanted a Little Free Library in her yard. So, she and I are partnering together to make this happen for our community!

Little-known fact: I used to be the Literacy Coordinator at a YMCA before- and after-school program when we lived in North Dakota. I am VERY passionate about reading good books to my children. Teaching them to read and reading good books myself (so they see me enjoying learning) are on the top of my educational goals for them. So this should be fun!

We received some Alpha-Bits cereal in the mail. The kids are always excited to get a package, but when they found out it was for them, it turned to all-out glee. I asked if I could take pictures of them with their cereal, and Markus started trying to bust into it within seconds. Haha!

031314 Alpha-bits 002

031314 Alpha-bits 003

031314 Alpha-bits 004

I used to eat Alpha-Bits as a kid, so of course I had to try some. It doesn’t taste quite how a remember it, but thankfully I have my own Post cereal that I treat myself to sometimes: Great Grains. The kids had Alpha-Bits on their yogurt for snack.

The next day we shared some with my friend’s daughter, who doesn’t even know that she’s going to have a library in her front yard soon. The kids did some Snacktivities (fun little word coined by Post) like sorting letters and writing their names. And then they gobbled down handfuls of cereal. 🙂





(Markus had trouble finding an “M” in his pile.)

Next time I think we’re going to separate vowels from consonants before eating, and then I might bring out the big guns: construction paper and glue. So many fun things to do with edible letters!

To learn more about Little Free Library, visit them on Twitter or Facebook or their website.


I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

The Whole Life Nutrition Elimination Diet: Phases 2 and 3

Here’s a quick update on our progress with the elimination diet. Read more here if you are playing catch up.

Days 10 to 15: Phase 2

On Day 10 we introduced lemons and limes to our diet. We included it in smoothies, in our water, in our salad dressings, and to Husband’s delight, had some lemonade (he likes variety in his beverages). My favorite recipe was a lemon lentil soup.
On Day 13 we added in wheat-free tamari (kind of like soy sauce). We had it on asparagus and greens, in our collard wraps, and on our sunflower burgers.
Neither of us noticed any strong reactions to these foods.

Days 16 to 28: Phase 3

Phase 3 involves reintroduction of foods that sometimes cause irritations in people. We began with root vegetable pancakes (which tasted so delicious! yay, potatoes!) and breakfast greens. I noticed quite a few symptoms related to potatoes, so I am going to re-test those. I ate almost an entire pineapple by myself, though, and had no problems with that! 🙂 We’ve had several meals that we both enjoyed a LOT, including Curried Vegetables with Indian Fried Rice as well as Coconut-Lime Chicken (which we introduced two days before Easter to prepare us for some meat….Husband wanted his ham!). Husband continues to not notice any particular sensitivities and accuses me of hypochondria when I mention any of mine. I think I’m sensitive to bananas as well (boo, because I used to eat them almost every day!).

Overall impressions:
1. Husband’s family has many digestive issues, and he thinks he may have a mild case of IBS. He has trouble digesting most vegetables.
2. We’ve both lost weight on the diet. Not incredible amounts, but enough that we both feel better about our bodies. I’m guessing quite a bit of it was inflammation/water retention. I’ve noticed that my abdomen and face areas have slimmed the most, same with Husband.
3. We’ve decided that we are going to try to eat “Phase 3 style” most of the time with occasional treats, depending on what we find out during the Challenge Phase.
4. The diet continues to be a problem socially. Virtually everything served everywhere contains at least one of the Challenge foods: gluten, oats, corn, soy, dairy, eggs, or yeast. We both hope that none of these produce monumental reactions in us just so we can participate in social functions without feeling like a burden.
5. Things I miss the most: cheese and peanut butter. Sunflower butter and almond butter on rice cakes with dried figs or raisins have been a staple snack for me. Surprisingly, I don’t miss baked goods as much as I anticipated, though we also haven’t had them in the house… 😉

041611 001
Collard Wraps with Sunflower Pate

041611 007
Sunflower Seed Burger with side of avocado and pear

The Whole Life Nutrition Elimination Diet

Husband and I started the Whole Life Nutrition Elimination Diet (“a strict plan designed to promote cellular healing and to allow for the identification of foods that cause an immune reaction”) on April 2nd.  Our reasons?

  1. To see if we could find any triggers to some of the symptoms in our bodies (me = eczema, Husband = migraines)
  2. To show our daughter, who is currently on a gluten-free diet, support
  3. To improve our overall diet (though we had already been using a lot of the recipes out of the book, this seemed like a good jumpstart to get even more whole foods into our meals
  4. To lessen our salty/sugary/fatty cravings
  5. Because what I know about nutrition has expanded so much even since I wrote this post

So here is a little re-cap of our experience so far.

Days 1 and 2:  Green smoothies (with no banana or citrus) and water

Day One was actually the hardest for me.  I could drink as many smoothies as I wanted, ruling out hunger, but the ones I made were really disgusting.  I ditched some of the book recipes and started doing my own recipes (but, of course, including lots of spinach, kale, cabbage, parsley, etc.), and they were slightly tastier.  Don’t get me wrong–I love a green smoothie, but almost every version I’ve ever made has included banana and almond milk, and our blender left a significant amount of pulp.  Using a straw helped me gag them down until I got the hang of “good taste” ratios.  That night I went to bed feeling shivery, nauseous, and achy, much like the flu.  The book says that’s to be expected, so I didn’t worry about it.

I felt much better after a good night’s rest, and we continued with the green smoothies on Day Two.  I have foumd my favorite recipe to be the Minty Green Smoothie on page 97.

Days 3 to 9: Phase 1

Day Three was GREAT for me.  I was so excited to be able to eat real food again, even if not very many foods.  We feasted on lettuce wraps with sweet potato, brown rice with seaweed, adzuki beans and avocado, seasoned with cumin and sea salt.  Yum!  At this point Husband has complained about 3,487 times that “this diet sucks!” and I’ve told him I’d rather have him quit and support me verbally than stay on it and be such a whiner, but he is even more of a stubborn mule than me and presses on.  We eat more of the book’s recipes, like Lentil-Brown Rice Casserole, Coconut Quinoa Pilaf, and Sunny Sunflower Seed Burgers, and he complains a little less (I already knew he liked these recipes from before we started the diet).

I really have noticed a huge change in my sweet cravings. I still like a fig now and then, and maybe a nice medjool date after supper (they have never tasted so caramelly delicious before!), but I’m not wishing for cookies in the afternoons.  This makes me happy.  I do, however, miss peanut butter like it’s my long lost child.  Husband buys me a little tub of sunflower butter, and I spread it on brown rice cakes with slices of fig, and I’m golden.  Though between the two of us we’ve gone through half the tub in 6 days.  Oops! 🙂

The hardest part so far has been the social aspect.  I already was attempting to abstain from gluten most of the time (though haven’t been as good about it since Christmas, other than for pastas, breads, and basics like that), but having to bring my own separate meal to small group meal night wasn’t fun.  It also wasn’t horrible, though. I didn’t feel bad about what I was eating, and I was glad to not have the “I ate too much fatty food” feeling afterward.  Husband was pretty bummed on Saturday, though, when he went to guys’ night and munched on a bag of sunflower seeds and dried fruit while the rest of the guys had beer and wings and cake.  He, too, survived.  But neither of us would want this to be a long-term thing, where we can’t eat anything anywhere because it most likely contains gluten, corn, soy, oats, yeast, dairy or eggs.

I’ll post more later, since we’re now beginning the “re-introducing foods phase” with lemons and limes.


I want to send a big thank you to Shelley for introducing me to this cookbook and for being the guinea pig on the diet, which encouraged me to give it a go.

Minnesota State Fair – Food Picks for 2010

I am so glad Minnesota has seasons.  Because even though it’s August already (I’m still mad at June and July for coming and going in such haste), there’s stuff to look forward to.  Vikings games, apple orchards, and, even sooner than those, The State Fair.

If you’re planning to go, save yourself the trouble of costly food mistakes…here are my recommendations (and things to skip) from last year.

I realize not everyone is on the same page with me regarding Sweet Martha’s (obviously, since they are the top-grossing vendor at the fair), but you would truly be better off buying a package of refrigerated Toll House dough and baking them at home.  They are NOTHING SPECIAL.   If you are looking for a baked good to go with your all-you-can-drink milk, get something from French Meadow Bakery’s stand.  You will not be sorry!

New foods I’m hoping to try this year: Caramel Apple Puppy (from the Fudge Puppy stand) and O’Gara’s Sweet Potato Tots.

If you want to see what eats are at the fair this year, here’s a link to the Food Finder.

So I may be late to the party on these…

Is it just me, or can’t you simply give your kid an actual APPLE?

I happened across a site today where a dad was giving these bags of apples all kinds of props. Personally, I think the “preservatives” and “packaging” that an actual apple comes in are less scary and less wasteful than this. Call me Scrooge, but I don’t really want my fruit sliced and put in a bag when I can eat it the way God made it.

My Shampoo-Free Experiment

I didn’t shampoo my hair for 2 1/2 months.  Sounds gross, doesn’t it?

Back in November, I mentioned that I might give going ‘poo-free a try.   Right before New Year’s, I began using baking soda and vinegar to clean my hair.

Why on earth would someone do such a thing?  Several reasons, for me.  My family history of cancer is pretty grim.  My grandma had cancer, my grandpa died of it, my dad died of it (at age 51), and now my mom is in remission from it (at not too much older than 51).  I am very much at risk.  What can I do to give myself and my children a fighting chance?  Eliminate carcinogens from our daily lives.

None of us are smokers or are exposed to smoke regularly.  We don’t drink a lot of alcohol.  We exercise regularly.  So three major risks are out of the way.  But there are still a lot of horrible things hidden in stuff we eat, stuff we put on our bodies, and in our environment.  We haven’t made any giant, life-changing leaps as a family, but our small steps in the right direction are overall indicative of life change.  We filter our drinking and shower water, we buy organic when the price isn’t prohibitive, we make most of our food from scratch.  Most recently, I have been looking at the products we put on our bodies.  Many lotions, washes, and hair products have nasty things like sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, and other carcinogens.  I began by purchasing organic lotions and shampoos.  Then I started seeing blog posts about making my own (which seemed cheaper and actually, less time-consuming than driving all the way to the natural foods store in my area).

So first up, shampoo and conditioner.  I began with Simple Mom’s method (click on the word “posts” in the previous paragraph), a baking soda and water solution massaged into the scalp.  I used this method for about one week, “washing” every other day, and my hair was  Greasy, and about 12 shades darker than normal.   I apologize to all of you who saw me during that phase (which was right around when Markus was born).  I took her advice and eliminated the vinegar from the equation.  Better, but still gross.  I decided I must be in “transition time.”  After about three weeks, I was feeling so dirty that I was ready to give up, but then I tried Mrs. Boo Radley’s method (here outlined on Sorta Crunchy’s blog) and found it worked much better on my fine (yet thick), greasy hair.  I didn’t need the apple cider vinegar rinse at all, though.

After 2 1/2 months of using baking soda, I still considered Day 2 to be a “ponytail day,” and I wondered if there was another product I could try that would still be economical but do a better job.  Some people had recommended Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap, so I bought a bottle online.  Can’t say I liked it!  You could have topped off your car with the oil on my head that day!  I didn’t have time to re-wash, so I put on a hat and went on with life.  Thankfully Dr. Bronner’s can be used for a million other things, so it wasn’t a waste of money.  🙂

The next day I used a little bit of my old organic shampoo.  My hair was soft, shiny and blonde again for the first time since Christmas.  It was also lifeless.

For now, I continue to “wash” with baking soda every other day, and I have added a very light apple cider vinegar rinse (about 1 tablespoon ACV to 1 cup water) now that my hair has finally gotten used to the baking soda.   And every third or fourth wash, I use my organic shampoo to get me back to a normal hair color and rid my scalp of any build-up.  My hair has much more body than it ever did with daily shampooing, and it holds styles much more easily.  It still doesn’t look fabulous the second day, like photos I’ve seen of other ‘poo-free people…anyone know if there is a remedy to that?  It’s been three months now, so I figure my transition time must be over.

You may notice I called this an “experiment” in the post title.  Since I’m not yet fully convinced that it is something I will stick with (especially if I found an organic shampoo that worked well with my hair), I still do consider it an experiment.  Only time will tell if it will become part of my routine.

Next up, my face.

Visual Poetry: A Review

After reading (somewhere, don’t recall where) that a photographer enjoyed Chris Orwig’s new book “Visual Poetry,” I decided to pick up a copy to read myself.  Nursing usually affords me an hour or two of reading per day (during the day times when Anja isn’t awake or is playing nicely by herself), and I’ve read through this book in about two weeks.

First: I do not understand the cover image.  Perhaps there is some personal significance to it, and that’s why it was chosen, but it is not a terrific photograph.  The composition is mediocre, and the subject looks depressed.  Weird choice.

When I was in architecture school, most of the professors, while well-meaning, had a very minute grasp on actual practice.  They encouraged passion, creativity and originality.  I graduated with virtually no idea of how to actually practice architecture.  Orwig is a photography professor at Brooks Institute.  He encourages passion, creativity and originality.  However, he is also a professional who gets paid for his work.  Despite that, he has not lost his love for the trade.  Orwig’s outlook as a photographer is refreshing, even if his main foci (outdoor/adventure photography and portraits, from the looks of things) are different than mine.

Orwig thrives in the outdoors: surfing, hiking, camping…these are his passions.  This is very clear in the photographs used throughout the book.  His portraits (mostly surfers and musicians) are relatively strong, but his wedding shots (all from one event) are weak.  If you are looking to get into weddings or family photography, I’d look for an author who has more experience in this realm.

The book is broken into three parts, one each devoted to creativity and technique, tips for the many paths of photography (portraiture, weddings, travel, etc.), and gear and becoming a professional.

I thought the strengths of this book were the inspiring anecdotes and encouragement to get out there and do what you love.  The assignments given at the end of each chapter are great impetus for everyone, from beginners to those looking for renewed vision.

Weaknesses were the repetitiveness of content and the typos (oy vey, were there a lot!).

Overall, I think the book is worth a look-through.  If you read a few of the anecdotes in the creativity section, you can probably skim the rest of them and move on to the last two sections.  Orwig has a website that accompanies his book, so check that out, too.

Cosmetic Toxicity

I’m two weeks into going ‘poo-free, and today while doing some more research on it I came across this fabulous website that rates cosmetic safety.  You can search for products you use in the top search bar (for example, “aveeno conditioner” or “dove deodorant”), and it will tell you whether these products are linked to cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, violations/restrictions/warnings, allergies/immunotoxicity, or other concerns.

Considering we are doing our best to eliminate items of questionable origin from our diets and skincare routines (and holy moly, did I find out how bad my hairspray is!!!), this is a very timely tool.  Hope you find it useful, too!

My Experience with MAC Cosmetics

Normally, I am that girl who doesn’t venture beyond the aisles of Target when buying make-up.  But last month my buddy Ingrid visited from California, and we decided to go to the MAC Cosmetics store in the Mall of America and get makeovers.

Let’s just say I left with my wallet a little bit a lot lighter.  After using the products, I wanted to review them for you here, in case any of you are considering making purchases there.

1. Holiday Brush Bags – I purchased this one since it had the foundation brush I wanted.  It also included a blush brush and three good brushes for eyes.  I am not impressed.  To be fair, my consultant warned me that the brush sets aren’t as high quality as the individually-sold brushes because they are machine-made, not hand-made.  But when I pay $49.50 for 5 brushes, I don’t expect them to shed 47 bristles onto my face every morning, which is exactly what the foundation brush does.  I end up having to use a different brush to get those bristles off my face.  I have a brush set I got at Target last year for $10, and those brushes are, in my opinion, far superior to the MAC ones.  They are softer (making application less harsh-looking) and have hardly shed a single bristle.  Save yourself $40 and buy these somewhere else, ladies!

2.  Fab-racadabra Bronze Face Kit – Another one of the holiday kits that I bought to try and save a little rather than buy three separate items (bronzer, blush and iridescent powder).  I’m pretty neutral on this one.  It gives my cheeks a nice glow, but I’m not sure it’s that much better than my previous Cover Girl blush.  I may change my tune in a couple weeks when my skin has taken on its usual “death” pallor for winter.  That bronzer could be a winner.

3.  Mineralize Skinfinish Natural – Though, again, much more pricey than my normal Cover Girl pressed powder, this one is worth the money ($25).  I get a nice finish by dusting it over my makeup with a brush, and I’m not greasy (I’m prone to that in my T-zone) for hours.  Sometimes I don’t even have to reapply it all day!  It also works great when I don’t have time for anything but a little mascara.  It goes on more evenly than the Neutrogena mineral makeup I was using for those gotta-get-out-the-door-now mornings.

4. Paint Pot in Rubenesque – Far and away my favorite product purchased.   This glorious, shimmery little pot acts as a base for eyeshadow, but unlike another color they sell, Painterly, Rubenesque has enough color to it that it can actually function as eyeshadow if I don’t have time for anything else.  And the most amazing part–it lasts ALL. DAY. LONG.  No creasing, no smudging; this stuff stays put.  Even after an 8-hour day behind my camera, which usually has my eye makeup in ruins, I came out looking virtually the same as when I’d started that morning.  Worth every penny of $16.50.

5.  Eyeshadows – My consultant informed me that I would save money by getting a palette of these and inserting these little pots ($11 each), but that they contain the same amount of product as the individually-sold eyeshadows ($14.50 each).  I currently have three colors – one for filling in brows, one for my crease, and one for highlighting below the eyebrow.  I am still waiting for them to call me telling me they have re-stocked the fourth one (for my lid), and Rubenesque has been filling in as my main shadow.  MAC is known for their highly-pigmented products, meaning you have to use very, very little to get a saturated look.  I merely tap my brush on top of the makeup and it’s enough to begin application.  No smushing or swirling my brush to get enough on, which is nice (plus, it doesn’t leave layers of eyeshadow dust all over everything!).  These shadows also stay put (I’m sure partially due to the paint pot product) and will no doubt last me a long time.

6. Fluidline Eyeliner – Normally an eyeliner pencil will last me several years.  I just don’t wear enough to put much of a dent in it.  So when MAC girl put what looked like a thick black inchworm on my upper lashline, I wasn’t terribly excited.  However, I decided to give it another chance and had her switch it to a dark brown.  This looked much more natural on me.  After a couple of days, I got used to applying my liner with a brush rather than a pencil, and again, this takes very little product to make a huge impact.  It will probably not last me as long as a pencil, but it doesn’t smudge all over my face like pencil does, either.

There you have it–my experience with MAC.

I have continued to use my own cheaper mascara (Maybelline Great Lash Waterproof–love the stuff!  And pros use it.) and foundation (Cover Girl TruBlend), since I had just purchased new of them both and I didn’t particularly care for MAC’s version of either (my face was THICK with foundation; I looked fake).

What makeup do you use?  Have you ever gotten a counter/store makeover done?  Did you fall for it as hard as I did?  Have you stuck with any of the products?