Monday, February 28, 2011

Petroleum Everywhere . . . Poor Jesse!

So you may or may not realize it, but unless you are living in a wildly counter-cultural way, you are probably swimming in a sea of petroleum just as we are.  I had a major eye-opener over the last week as we have delved further into what may be causing Jesse's allergic reactions.  After he had an anaphylactic reaction we got pretty desperate to figure it out (the soonest allergist appointment we could get is still two weeks away).  We're pretty sure he's allergic to miralax (stool softener for blood in stool issue) and mineral oil (taken for the same reason)--but when the allergic reactions only mostly cleared up, that left us wondering what else could be causing him problems.  We were interested to find that both miralax (polyethylene glycol) and mineral oil were petroleum-based.  So then we thought, "Well, after Jesse's eczema got out of control we had to start using petroleum jelly on it," hmm, more petroleum.  And the medications prescribed were all petroleum based.  After we figured that out, things got a little scary. 

We had the realization that the fleece pajamas he was sleeping in were plastic-based (aka, petroleum), as were his fleece lovie (petroleum), his 50% polyester blend sheets (petroleum), every single one of his stuffed animals   (100% polyester--petroleum), and his fleece blanket (petroleum).  His poor little body was being fed petroleum (miralax and mineral oil), coated in petroleum (Vaseline), laid down on petroleum (mattress?, mattress cover), covered in petroleum (pj's, sheet, blanket), and surrounded by petroleum (stuffed animals, lovie, etc.).  Not to mention his playing on the floor with his plastic legos all day (petroleum) . . . !  A scary prospect, a petroleum allergy. 

Well, thankfully before asking doctors if this were remotely possible (which, apparently, it is extremely rare--I barely found anything online about it), I tore through his room to make some immediate changes.  I stripped the bed, covered the mattress cover with thick cotton beach towels, switched his sheets for some that were 100% cotton, took all the stuffed animals out of his bed and made him a cotton stuffed one from his dad's old socks and t-shirts and a few cotton balls (see below), got out his not-so-warm but cotton slim fit pj's, and got a cotton receiving blanket for him to use as his lovie (thanks, Mom, for the way better one you made!). 

At first I saw no major improvements, because, sadly for poor Jesse, his inflamed and open sores from the months of eczema got infected and needed antibiotic treatment.  But after we got that under control, we saw an amazing improvement.  He now looks the best he's looked in months.  His skin (formerly hived, leathery, rashy, and covered with little sores) is smooth and clear.  The hives on the backs of the knees are better.  The red circles and bags around his eyes are much better.  It seems that we may have a diagnosis.  He's still taking an antihistamine (I can't imagine how high his histamine levels are at this point), but at least now it's under control.  Yesterday, after laying on the carpet at church for a while (petroleum), he got small red puffy rings under his eyes, but I also tried giving him less antihistamine yesterday, so I don't know which caused it.  I'm anticipating that it might be pretty difficult to convince a doctor to test him for petroleum allergy, but I'm going to try.

Update, 7/28/2013:

I wanted to add to this entry, though significantly after the fact.  It was in fact the Miralax that caused his reactions.  It was a little confusing because his symptoms improved significantly but didn't completely disappear after he got off of the Miralax.  It turned out that he also had a dust mite allergy (which also explains his reactions when laying on the church carpet).  But the allergist said that the secondary dust mite allergy didn't explain the level of reaction that he was experiencing, and that since we took him on and off of the Miralax several times and noticed the red circles around the eyes when on and an improvement when taken back off, that he would say (although it was extremely rare) that he was allergic to it and that that caused his extreme health issues.  (He actually wouldn't believe it except that we tried taking him off of it and putting him back on several times.)  His allergy to dust mites seemed a problem primarily because his histamine levels were so high.  But after being off of Miralax for two years now, his reaction to dust mites has calmed down, and taking Zyrtec daily is enough to deal with his mild symptoms.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bacon Leek Pizza

Yum, I was actually amazed how good this was.  I just hacked some frozen bacon off of the end of the sliced hunk we got from the local farmer and cut it into little pieces.  I cooked it in a saucepan with a little olive oil, about a small can of tomato sauce, a little spinach, a cup of chopped leeks, and some chopped mushrooms.  I cut some roasted red pepper (that I had frozed from the fall) and spread it across the uncooked pizza crust.  Then I spread the sauted mixture over that and topped it with mozarella cheese.  Then I baked it for 15 minutes and served.  The taste of the bacon infused all the veggies deliciously--it was one of the best pizzas I've had in a long time. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Food Rules by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore's Dilemna) came up with 64 rules his reader's sent in about food.  Things like "Stop before you're full" or "The whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead."  Anyway, he's asking for some more input if you want to submit any here.

But I thought I'd put in a link to the New York Times page where they list his favorite top 20 responses from readers.  Some of them are really hilarious.

Top 20 Food Rules

I think my personal favorite is "It's better to pay the grocer than the doctor."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cotton Sock Bear

Jesse with his new bear
Jesse has had bad eczema, an itchy red rash with occasional hive-like bumps, and allergy "shiners," which are red, baggy circles around/under his eyes.  One day last week he also had what we think was the beginning of an anaphylactic reaction.  So we're taking him to an allergist in March, but in the meantime we're trying to figure out patterns for this rash.

I think I've virtually guaranteed that Jesse won't end up having a petroleum allergy.  First of all, it's really rare, so it was unlikely in the first place.  Second of all, as soon as you go to the trouble to get a new pillow and make a stuffed animal made of cotton (all of his were polyester, as were his fleece blanket and fleece "lovie")--you can pretty much guarantee that it was for nothing.  :) 

Yesterday evening was basically devoted to that bear.  As Owen was alarmed to notice, it was made primarily of two pairs of his brown socks and two of his undershirts ripped up for the stuffing.  I made it up as I went. 

Spring Training . . .

It's hard to believe, since today it was snowing, but it was so warm the other day that I filmed the kids outside playing in the mud.  Here it is if anyone cares to see . . .

Warm Day in February (click here)

We are grooving in the unexpectedly muddy, wet, warm day today (unexpected because I don't really pay attention to the weather unless someone else tells me about it--often I find out about snow storms from Owen's parents in South Carolina because they watch the weather channel).  Here's a little tour of the backyard fun.  :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Light and Momentary Troubles

Over the past two weeks:

  • Abigail got a bad cold that started with a fever of 103,
  • Abigail was teething and fussy and stopped eating solid food,
  • Jesse went to a GI doctor again,
  • Jesse got a referral to an allergist for his severe eczema to see if he has a food allergy,
  • Jesse got the stomach flu,
  • Jesse developed hives in his eczema (food allergy looking likely),
  • Jesse fell off of the ladder at the playground today and needed four stitches at the ER,
  • and Val and Owen are tired.

The funny thing is, though I am as prone to bouts of self-pity as the next girl (or even more so), I have to say that we have been so blessed through all of this.  There were so many mercies mixed in with the suffering:

  • Abigail slept well at night through most of her teething and sickness--and though her naptimes were pretty bad at times, she has remained remarkably pleasant,
  • Abigail has been more than happy to nurse to make up for the solid food she's not eating,
  • Jesse got a great report from the GI doctor--it's not looking like there's a problem after all,
  • Jesse's doctor immediately suggested he may have a food allergy before I even started my arguments for the battle to convince him that I had planned,
  • No one else got the stomach flu, and it's been a while at this point--and Jesse getting the stomach flu and going back to simple foods may actually help us identify his food allergy,
  • The staff at the hospital was great and helped us amazingly quickly, Abigail slept two hours through the entire Emergency Room time and it was at a time when she ordinarily wouldn't have taken a nap at all, Jesse held up better than I would have guessed he could and isn't in pain,
  • and Val and Owen are feeling thankful.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Beef Cubes and Green Beans over Mashed Potatoes

This was a really, really good and really, really easy recipe.  I made it up at 4:30 because I needed something and kept adding as I went.  I started with the beef cubes I'd defrosted in the morning with no plan for what to do with them, and really, it was about as easy as it gets.  I'm actually blogging about it so I can remember it for next time.

Disclaimer:  Nothing is measured, this is a guess of how much I used.

beef cubes (~1 and 1/2 lb.)
thin sliced onion (1/2)
one to two quarts green beans (frozen is fine--I have frozen quart bags of summer green beans)
2-3 T brown mustard
2 T worchesterchire
1-2 T soy sauce
1/2 - 3/4 c white wine
2 T rice wine vinegar

Boil water with the potatoes in it.  The mashed potatoes took the longest of anything.   

Saute the beef cubes in a little olive oil on low heat.  When they're mostly cooked but not quite all the way, add the liquid ingredients above (I mixed them all together briskly before adding them).  Then I added the onion, and when it was simmering I added the frozen green beans.  The beef was ready before the mashed potatoes. 

Then I made the mashed potatoes and served.  It was easy.  I had baked apples for dessert which was nice.

Tell me how it turned out when you made it!  Did you tweak it at all?  What did you serve it with?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Baby Food Time

I realized when Abigail hit 6 months that I really wasn't ready for the baby food making thing again.  It all seemed so time consuming, but then, I did it before, right?  I know objectively that I did, but it's a bit of a blur.  So I felt the need to brush up on it, so I went ahead and bought Ruth Yaron's Super Baby Food book (with Micah, I just guessed with what to feed him, and I printed out a list from a website I was never able to find again; with Jesse, I asked my friend who had bought Yaron's book; with Abigail, I found this book used for about $6.00 and decided to buy it).  I found great glass storage containers with lids this time, and I contacted Rubber Maid and found out that my old ice cube trays are already BPA free (who knew?).  Anyway, the cooking and freezing of the food was a little bit of a no-brainer.  But I have to say the hardest part this time was using the microwave on every one of her meals before feeding her.  I mean, we do use a microwave--but for every food she eats?  That bothered me.  So I had to share my warming up method, I don't know how I came up with it.  I take the ice cubes out of the freezer ahead of time and put them in the refrigerator in a container for the next day or two.  When I'm ready to use one, I put it in a bowl and set the bowl ontop of the teapot.  I find that if I just heat water in the teapot until the water boils, the food is the perfect temperature. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another New Tilapia Recipe

So dinner tonight was so good!

I wanted to combine the craisins I picked up at the store today with pistachios and put them on my tilapia.  I did, but first I found Miami Mojo's blog and she suggested coating the fish with honey mustard first.  I didn't have any, so I drizzled olive oil, mustard, and maple syrup (we're getting our gallon of honey tomorrow, I was out) on the tilapia.  Then I sprinkled the ground pistachios and craisins on top.  It was really good.  I served it with sweet potatoes, sauted spinach, and sliced avocado.  It was a real hit with the boys, they ate a lot of everything. 

Snow Daze

Frankly, we're getting about all the snow days we can handle around here.  Certainly all I can handle.  Today we had no pre-school due to freezing rain.  Thought I'd include a picturesque photo from the last real snow instead of a dreary cabin-fevered shot of us.  I know what some of you are thinking, "Wow, Val doesn't post for a week or more, and then she does a bunch at once.  Must be related to her spastic personality type."  Look out, I actually may even post about dinner tonight.  It was just too good.

Seed Order Time

On the off-chance that it will help someone, here is a copy of my seed order to Fedco Seeds (a very affordable seed cooperative which provides non-genetically modified seeds especially suited for the Northeast U.S.)  Their website is a bit daunting, admittedly, but you can order online and my shipping was free.  I didn't order french breakfast radishes, green beans, or arugula because I already have a shocking supply of each.  A few of the odder varieties below make impressive claims to doing well in winter. 

The order:
1226 - National Pickling Cucumber ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $0.80 = $0.80
1232 - Calypso Pickling Cucumber ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
1402 - Eight Ball Zucchini ( A=1/8oz) 1 x $1.70 = $1.70
1409 - Raven Zucchini ( A=1/8oz) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
2042 - Scarlet Nantes Carrot ( B=1/2oz) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50
2551 - Tyee Spinach OG ( B=1/2oz) 1 x $2.40 = $2.40
2712 - Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce OG ( A=2g) 1 x $0.90 = $0.90
2731 - Cracoviensis Lettuce OG ( A=1g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
2786 - Red Tinged Winter Lettuce OG/BD ( B=2g) 1 x $2.60 = $2.60
2791 - Tango Lettuce OG ( B=2g) 1 x $2.00 = $2.00
2992 - Mesclun ( C=4g) 1 x $3.20 = $3.20
3034 - Perpetual Spinach or Leaf Beet ( C=1/2oz) 1 x $2.60 = $2.60
3036 - Bright Lights Chard ( B=1/8oz) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
3102 - Verte de Cambrai Mache ( B=1/8oz) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
3192 - Broad-Leaved Sorrel ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $0.90 = $0.90
3228 - Early Mizuna ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
3270 - Prize Choy Pac Choi OG ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
3327 - Piracicaba ( B=4g) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
3452 - Redbor Kale ( A=0.5g) 1 x $2.90 = $2.90
3459 - White Russian Kale OG ( A=2g) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
4055 - Rutgers Tomato OG ( A=0.2g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
4059 - Cherokee Purple Tomato OG ( A=0.2g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
4149 - Heirloom Tomato Mix OG ( A=0.2g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
4414 - Sweet Basil ( A=4g) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
4517 - Caribe Cilantro OG ( C=28g) 1 x $3.20 = $3.20

Subtotal: = $43.90

Green Energy, Take Three: the Saga Concludes

We finally got it--our green electricity!  It was a long and stressful process, but here's how it worked out . . .

First Attempt:  We tried signing on with a company who installs solar panels onto your roof and then you commit to buying the energy they produce over a period of 5 or 20 years.  They went bankrupt while we eagerly awaited the installation.

Second Attempt:  We tried to buy a solar panel.  This option came closer to fruition.  We actually came pretty close, had the loans and the company all lined up.  I was very excited.  However, it turns out that the tax break offered for the panel applies only to those actually earning enough money to be paying federal taxes.  Who knew?  I, for one, had no idea we weren't paying federal taxes.  So that one was out.

Third Attempt (The One that Took):  We switched from PECO to The Energy Cooperative, a company that features renewable energy sources.  And, though it costs slightly more than their other options, we can buy 100% renewable energy from them--and still pay less than we were paying PECO to be our supplier.