Thursday, March 26, 2009

At least the house didn't burn down

While I was planning on blogging exclusively on nutrition this month I thought I'd share our little emergency today.

The interesting picture is what Laerdal Little Anne mannequin bags look like after they've melted from extreme heat. Yup, we almost set the house on fire today.

Not a proud thing for a CPR & First Aid Instructor to admit. While picking up the basement I put the bags on top of my pellet stove so the kids could ride their tricycles in the basement. The stove was off, was cool to the touch and the burn chamber was empty because I had cleaned just a little while beforehand. When the kids started fighting over toys I took my youngest upstairs for snack leaving my 3 year old playing downstairs. I never would have imagined that he would open the little door on the side and turn up the thermostat on the pellet stove. He turned it up high enough that it loaded pellets and ignited. I smelled the burning plastic and found him hiding in the basement. The basement was full of smoke and I'm really surprised that my smoke detector never went off.

He is fine, we're all fine. Had the FD come and help evacuate the smoke. Gave him a lengthy time out in his room as I was furious at first. Scared, angry and ready to talk came roughly in that order later. I'm angry at myself for placing the bags there, I usually don't put anything near it during heating season, and I'm surprised that he decided to play with the controls. Tomorrow we'll be replacing the smoke detector and figuring out how to prevent any of the kids from reaching the stove controls. I have some more cleanup to do- mostly laundry to re-wash since I'm sure the clothing downstairs reeks of smoke, but I am also thankful that we're all okay and that I smelled it as quickly as I did. Our house is still standing, no one was hurt and the damage is minimal, it could have been a lot worse.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Easy tips to make eating healthier

Today in the mail we received a flyer from our Health Insurance Provider. It had a page on eating well and some tips on making meals healthier that I thought I'd share.

* Substitute veggies for cheeses and meats on pizza or in omelets.
* Switch to nonfat or low fat milk, yogurt and cheese.
* Use nonstick sprays instead of butter, margarine or oil to 'grease' the pan.
* Choose water packed tuna, chicken or other canned meats instead of oil packed.
* Choose sweet fruits instead of candy.
* Pick smaller serving sizes and smaller plates
* Try whole-wheat products instead of white and brown rice.
* Try baking, broiling or grilling intead of frying.
* Substitute applesauce for oil in some recipes when baking.
* Substitute 2 egg whites for a whole egg.
* Make popsicles out of grapes and watermelon wedges.
* Season with lemon and herbs instead of butter and salt.
* Try veggies with salsa instead of chips.
* When eating out asking for dressing and sauces to be on the side and not poured over your food.
* Reduce the amount of salt.

Many of these tips are from the American Dietetic Association; America on the Move at and NHLGC Slice of Life at

Keep in mind that many of the health tips that you may find are recommended for adults and children over the age of 2. Little kids need a diet that is higher in fat. Do you have any tips to make your food healthier that you'd like to share? Add a comment!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Heart Healthy Grocery Shopping from the AHA

When you're shopping and trying to decide what to buy have you every noticed the food products with the red heart and white checkmark on them? Wondered what it meant?

The Heart Checkmark represents that the food item has met the American Heart Association's certification criteria to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol for healthy people over age 2. Their criteria lists looks at the amount of fat, salt, cholesterol, whole grains, fiber and some nutrients. By meeting their criteria list these foods are part of a heart healthy diet.

The full certification criteria chart can be found on the American Heart Associations website at Looking for this symbol can make it easier to make Heart Healthy food shopping choices.

Happy food shopping!

Friday, March 13, 2009

News travels fast on Facebook

Just like I'm new to blogging, I'm new to Facebook as well. I'm not on it all day, just 5 minutes here or there over the course of the day. And I'm not a huge fan of the changes that have just been made. But I wanted to share my observation that Facebook is fast becoming my means to communicate with people really quickly.

The other day I learned some really sad news about a good friend of many of my co-workers. I only work there part-time so I don't see these folks on a regular basis, but when I logged into Facebook there were all these odd status updates, and then within minutes an instant message "Have you heard the news...", and well it goes from there.

Over the course of the evening I received news, instant messages, offered sympathies, emailed and updated others all on Facebook while quietly carrying on my regular evening routine for my kids. I received 1 phone call, but otherwise all the news was relayed on Facebook.

This got me thinking about how I've used Facebook since joining. At first I was puzzled by it since I have been twittering for a while now. But I'm finding it easier to catch up with friends & acquaintances much more easily than email or making phone calls. I've done business networking and even possibly created a good local business alliance. I catch up with friends by posting comments on their wall more than I email or call them.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Using Facebook instead of email or calling? I think it is just the progression of technology. But I think the slight anonymity of typing allows us to be somewhat more truthful or real than we would be on the phone or a face to face conversation. We can type our true feelings clearly without the physical signs of emotion making it difficult for the reader to understand us. It is also easier to relay news that we might not be comfortable putting into words. And rather than emailing and having to remember email addresses, we can just post our status or write a note for our friends to read.

How quickly I have learned to use Facebook to keep in touch, find old friends, make stronger friendships with new friends and to promote my business. I'm sure I've only learned a fraction of what I can use Facebook for, but in just a few short weeks it has quickly become part of my daily routine like checking email. I'm in closer contact now with many people that before I only talked to occasionally. It just takes one status update to let everyone know how I'm doing or for me to see what is on everyone's minds or agenda for the day, all our news and information all on Facebook.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Facts on Fat

I've been looking at the fat content of foods lately. We're trying to eat healthier and I'm trying to lose weight. So I'm taking a bit more time to read nutrition labels on packages when I shop. The challenge I'm finding is that foods that are lower in fat tend to have a lot more trans fats or polyunsaturated fats or hydrogenated fats and I realized I have no idea what all that means. So I turned to the Amerian Heart Association and the FDA websites for some definitions:

Trans Fats are hydrogenated fats. This is made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil in a process called hydrogenation. This increases shelf life and flavor to the fat.

Saturated Fats are found mostly in meat, animal products and some plants. This includes milk, butter, cheese and some oils. Saturated fat is the main culprit behind high cholesterol.

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are referred to as the healthier fats. They are from fish, nuts, seeds and some plant oils. These fats can help lower your cholesterol when substituted for saturated and trans fats.

When you search 'fats' in a search engine thousands of hits pop up! Nutritionally our bodies need some fat in our diet each day. The challenge is to have a good blend of healthy fats or limit our intake of the higher cholesterol fats.

Want to learn more about the different types of fats? There is a great fat overview on the American Heart Associations website at as well as a good overview of comparing fats on food labels on the Food & Drug Administration's website at

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Heart Healthy Nutrition Tips from Heartstrong

Well in my search for Heart Healthy Nutrition Tips I saw this great blog post from the nurses at Heartstrong. Heartstrong is a health care education and consulting business run by two cardiac nurse practitioners. Their goal is to empower and help people live a longer healthier life.

What do they suggest?

A healthy diet includes 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Try eating more whole grains, lowfat dairy products, nuts, fish, and lean meats. Cut back on trans fats and saturated fats also limit your salt/sodium intake, and watch the added sugars. Fiber is very important.

Fill your refrigerator with:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables (variety is important - eat all the different color fruits and vegetables to improve the nutritional value)
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Skinless chicken, turkey, lean beef, fish
  • Frozen vegetables without added sauces to limit the added sodium

Stock your pantry with:

  • Olive or canola oil (avoid vegetable oil)
  • Non-fat cooking sprays
  • Try experimenting with different seasonings and spices (avoid salt or seasonings with sodium)
  • Raw nuts and seeds, dried fruits, whole grain crackers, baked chips, brown rice cakes, plain popcorn, whole grain pretzels make good snack choices

Before you eat it - Read it! Check the food label (especially serving sizes - most products list the nutrient values per serving but the package may contain several servings). Avoid or limit empty calories like soda, sweetened juices, alcohol. Watch your portion sizes and limit your fast food intake.

Avoid those infomercials and diet supplements that promise quick weight loss and try and stick to a sensible diet. A recent study found that the best way to lose weight is to CUT CALORIES - it doesn’t matter which diet you are following (low fat, high protein, low carb). To lose one pound a week you need to eat 500 fewer calories per day or burn 500 calories per day (exercising). If you need help think about consulting a nutritionist - they can help you develop an individualized plan.

Recent research studies have also shown that coronary artery disease starts to develop in children even though symptoms do not appear until adulthood. Encourage your kids to develop a heart healthy eating habits early - remember your children learn by watching you!

You can read their full post at: These nurses have also written what sounds like a great book “Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart” which includes heart healthy shopping and cooking tips and healthy suggestions when eating out. Learn your risk factors and how to prevent heart disease. More information is available on their website at

As I mentioned in my previous post, this month we're re-evaluating what we're eating. This upcoming week I am going to clean my pantry and see exactly what I've got in there and how I could improve my food shopping habits. Have any hints or tips for me? Please add your comments!

Friday, March 6, 2009

March is National Nutrition Month

I just saw the other day that March is National Nutrition Month. Nutrition and changing up some of our recipes has been a topic in our house lately. My husband has to attend evening trainings for work and at the last training they had a Nutritionist come and discuss healthy eating.

We do try to eat healthy at home, but there is always room for improvement and he brought several handouts home. I'm also doing Weight Watchers so I'm looking for anything to help me out with that as well.

It's funny that although I do try to cook healthy, shop and prepare healthy foods - I really know very little about nutrition. I grew up in a very Irish household so we ate lots of meat and potatoes. For my family I try to have more veggies and less of the meat and starch. I do have to be careful with my low-fat diet as I forget sometimes that my younger children still need natural fats in their diets.

So I'm looking for good nutritional information to include in my blog this month. If you'd like to guest blog, send some info for me to research & write about or just have some great ideas on nutrition just comment here or email me through my website,

Happy Healthy Eating!

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Safest House on the Block

I recently taught a private First Aid course at my home. The last one at my home for a while actually - you can read those details in a previous blog post. However someone said the most interesting thing during the class. He said "This must be the safest house on the block". My first reaction was to fall over laughing, but he had a good point. Since I teach First Aid, and the best way to prevent illness and injury to children is to practice good child safety, I had to ask myself: Do I really have the safest house on the block?

Most likely I don't. But it is not due to lack of safety knowledge or good intentions. My house is most likely the same as everyone else's. I have outlet covers and cabinet locks. Medications are stored up high in cabinets. We keep pens, markers and any pointy objects out of reach. My older children's toys with small pieces are kept in their rooms and out of common play areas. We have gates and keep doors closed to rooms we don't want little kids to go play in. We have car seats installed with the LATCH system and since all our children are under the age of 13 they all sit in the back two rows of my minivan. Young children are not left unattended except for brief restroom trips or when safely tucked in for naps or bedtime and yes I'm always peeking in when anyone naps for a really long time.

I have two First Aid kits in my car and a good stockpile of First Aid supplies in my house. I have a Fire Extinguisher, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and I don't cook on the front two burners of my electric stove except for holidays since my youngest two can reach the burners. I did buy an oven lock for my wall oven, but was unable to install it as it didn't fit the style of oven I have. Since my kids like to help in the kitchen I puchased a Learning Tower so they can safely stand on something to reach the kitchen counters without worry that they may fall.

Sounds really safe, right?

Well the kids love to pull the outlet covers out of the outlets. They think it is more fun to push kitchen chairs around the house to reach things they are not supposed to get into and I occasionally set off the smoke detector when I'm cooking pasta. But we are an average household. My kids are no more or less safe than my neighbor's kids. They do remember to wear bike helmets when we go riding and they know to wear their seatbelts in the car. We are no safer or at a lesser risk for injury because I teach First Aid than any other normal household with children would be.

As parents we try to provide a safe environment for our kids. We crawl on our hands and knees looking for hazards when our children first begin to crawl. We read books and follow childproofing checklists but for some kids no matter how diligent we are as parents, they may have an accident at home. In some ways it is best not to think we have the safest house on the block because then we become too overconfident and we can miss something that could be a hazard.

So do I have the safest house on the block? No, I don't. But I have a safe home for my kids just like many of my neighbors. I have no worries about my kids going to spend time at their homes just as they feel safe sending their kids to mine.