Organic Tomatoes and Beans

SillyMonkey is a fan of black beans. One of his favorite meals is black beans, brown rice and pan-seared salmon. Yes, I am talking about a 3 year old. The other day I tried giving him pizza and he screamed in horror proclaiming pizza was “yucky” and that he wanted sticky rice and beans instead. Not going to try to change his mind on that one….let’s just see how long pizza stays yucky.

It’s safe to say that we always have to have black beans available in the house. I used to buy organic black beans from Whole Foods, but then realized just because it’s organic doesn’t mean the can is not lined with BPA. So off I went to research which brands don’t have BPA in them. It’s few and far between but there are definitely options out there. We started buying Eden Organic Beans which do not have BPA in them (hooray) and it says it right on the can. I also found another brand called Fig Food Co. which is packaged in a tetrapack (let’s hope there’s no killer chemicals hidden in tetrapacks…sigh) and not cans and is certified organic and BPA-free. Fig Food Co. and Eden Organic are delicious and I actually buy both brands to help support both companies. The price is about triple what you would spend on a conventional can of beans, so the price was hard to swallow but I knew going organic and BPA-free would be pricey. On the up-side, Eden Organic beans are sold at Target and it’s a little bit cheaper there, about $0.70 cheaper! Who would have guessed! To be honest, it wasn’t too difficult to find a BPA-free alternative when it came to beans. All I had to do was look just a teeny bit harder and google the term “Black Beans BPA free can” and up popped several websites, which I guess is a huge bonus when you’re sort of late to the game, everybody’s already done the hard research for you!

But when it came to canned tomatoes there was no such luck, a BPA-free canned tomato just does not exist. But on the flip side, Eden Organic has started a line of organic tomatoes and sauces in amber glass jars that are BPA-free. The amber glass is used to protect the taste of the tomatoes since sunlight can alter flavor and cause discoloration through chemical changes. I’ve made a few dishes with the Eden Organic tomatoes in glass jars and I can attest that it’s just as good as any canned tomato I’ve ever used. So a huge thumbs up from me to Eden Organic for making a safe and delicious alternative to canned tomatoes. May others follow suit! unfortunately, I was not able to find the Eden Organic glass jar tomatoes at Whole foods, but I was able to find them at Mom’s Organic Market. Whole Foods, I’m beginning to think you’re slacking…more to come on that in a later post (related to organic foods made in China and sold at Whole Foods). For now I’m pretty proud to say that my family is now just a teeny tiny less BPA ridden. Gotta start somewhere!

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The deodorant dilemma

When it comes to armpits there can be no room for mistakes….one wrong product would result in an inexcusably stinky armpit situation that would leave me both miserable and embarrassed all day long. So when it came time to buy a new “organic” deodorant, all I could picture in my mind were long-haired hippies with long armpit hair applying some “natural” plant extract and claiming it reduced sweat and stink and yet if you got close enough to them you’d know it was a bald-faced lie.

I don’t play around with my deodorant. If my armpits are stinky I become absolutely miserable. I use Clinical Strength Secret and that stuff is magical. I still sweat a little but the smell is usually under control. I was having a little panic attack about the possibility of not finding a suitable natural subsitute…I mean come on, this stuff is Clinical!  I was seriously sceptical that anything made from nature (and won’t slowly kill me) would control both sweat and stink. I ventured into the forgotten aisle at Whole Foods that I usually never venture down….the personal products aisle.  I was really worried about the “natural” options out there but I took the plunge and trusted that there must be some decent, safe-for-you deodorant out there.

Tom’s of Maine Long Lasting deodorant: This was the first brand I tried out and it was a bad choice….very very bad choice. It confirmed all my fears. No wonder the hippie in my nightmares was smelly, she used Tom’s of Maine! That stuff was not good. Just not good at all. It was gelatinous, and the very instant the stick touched my armpit I felt the gelatin start to melt onto my armpit and started dripping. You’ve got to be kidding me! It was just nasty. The heat from my body made the gelatin melt. Gross. Then I was stuck with an armpit full of wet gelatin. I started to flap my arms around in hopes that it would dry, I fanned the wet armpit, I tried blowing on it, and yes, I probably looked as silly and ridiculous as you’re imagining me to be……it was just everything you would not want in a deodorant. Eventually I pat it with some tissue and hoped for the best. Approximately an hour later I noticed this deodorant was not doing its job in the least. I had sweat marks and could start to smell my armpits, and mind you I’m not an overly sweaty person to begin with. Gross. I went and showered and then promptly threw the stupid Tom’s of Maine deodorant in the trash, I was so mad with it that I just could not have it in my house anymore. Maybe I was being a touch melodramatic, but I hated it. It was a huge waste of money. I have never disliked a product so much as I disliked that deodorant. It was terrible. Just terrible. I’d give it a big fat Zero. I had such high hopes for it since Tom’s of Maine is a pretty well-known natural brand, but it was just all kinds of wrong.  So disappointed.

After the whole Tom’s of Maine fiasco, I was pretty skeptical that I would find a suitable alternative. I wanted to just run back to my Clinical Strength Secret, but I decided to suck it up and keep trying new brands in hopes that I would find The One. So I bought a new brand called Kiss My Face. The name alone made me laugh out loud when I saw it. Why would a deodorant be called Kiss my Face? But I digress. It’s the Brand name and they happen to make a deodorant, which I guess makes sense but it’s not smart marketing.

Kiss My Face Natural Active Life: The name alone made me think this wasn’t going to be any good ( it reminded me of Zoolanders Kiss-Face every time I read it), but I was wrong. This stuff works. I got a fragrance free version which is perfect and it made me feel clean and totally odorless all day long. I was impressed. Plus it’s free of aluminum and paraben. I looked into why aluminum and paraben would be bad as ingredients in a deodorant, seems like there is a link between those two products and breast cancer. Awesome. Apparently, parabens act as estrogen when applied to the skin near the breast frequently, and  a lot of estrogen is known to cause breast cancer growth thus the link, but nothing is conclusive so far. Which means it’s likely true, but since they haven’t been able to definitively prove it yet the companies can still use it as an ingredient since the FDA can’t ban it. Awesome. Aluminum coats the skin and blocks sweat glands from releasing harmful toxins, which then leads to those toxins to be distributed by the lymphatic system and to circulate the body causing various ailments. Double awesome. I’m not taking chances with my armpits and boobs, so I’m going aluminum free and paraben free from now on. Bye bye awesome Clinical Strength Secret. It was so fun while it lasted but you’re potentially bad for me so I’m going to have to dump you. I’d give Kiss My Face (gosh it’s such a terrible name) a 8ish, closer to  a 9. This stuff worked, it kept me dry, and odor-free. Plus I was wearing a black shirt all day and it didn’t leave any marks on my shirt, and it’s made in Canada! Yay!

I like the Kiss my Face brand, but I think I’ll keep trying other brands to compare and see if there’s anything I like better. Thankfully I will be safely un-smelly (and yes I just made up that word).

First shopping trip – Clothes for the kids (Success!)

Mr. Research (my husband) and I packed the kids into the minivan and made the 15 minute drive to the mall. SillyMonkey was determined to skip his nap and DramaLlama had just woken up from his morning one. As predicted, SillyMonkey fell asleep in the car while DramaLlama was cooing and screeching to the classical music playing through the minivan speakers.

SillyMonkey was in desperate need of new socks.

Finding a matching pair of socks for him (or finding any socks at all for that matter) was starting to become a very difficult and elusive task. Mr. Research and I would play the unspoken game of slyly trying to make the other one go on the hunt for his socks.

“Hey honey, I dressed SillyMonkey and all he needs are shoes. Can you put them on him while I finish dressing the baby?” (note: I never said the word socks or he’d be on to me like white on rice)

“Does he have socks on?” (oh he already knows what’s up)

“Just find him a pair and put his shoes on, I’m getting DramaLlama ready.

“Oh don’t worry about the baby, I can take care of him. You got SillyMonkey ready so I’ll get the baby ready.”

“No, no, no. I already started getting him ready. It’s fine. Just help SillyMonkey.”

“Really, I don’t mind. I’ll dress the baby.” says Mr. Research while reaching for the baby.

What both of us is really saying is “I don’t want to look for those damn socks!”

The point is, SillyMonkey badly needed socks. DramaLlama needed pants and both needed a couple of shirts.

We arrived at the mall and SillyMonkey arose from the dreaded 5 minute car ride nap and perked right up like he’d been asleep for hours. He knew within the depths of the mall lay a small train that can take you twice around the food court and charge you $5.

“I wanna ride the train, mama!” exclaimed my 3-year-old.

“Sure, but we have to go to the store first to find you some socks and new clothes.”

Mr. Research and I buckled the kids up in the Sit and Stand stroller and made our way into the mall. This marked the first shopping trip I was taking while truly being serious about not buying any clothes made in China. So yes, I was totally going to be looking at every label. The kids were actually being extraordinarily cooperative, which was a blessing! The first store I went into was Benetton. It’s usually on the pricey side for kids clothes but sometimes they have awesome sales and I usually take full advantage of them. So we walk in and I start browsing, I’m not seeing anything that catches my eye. The one sweater that I might have thought about buying was $56 and totally made in China. So that’s a big fat “No” on both price and where it’s made.

I decide to go to Hanna Andersson. I think to myself, “This is going to be totally awesome, it’s all pricey Swedish organic cotton stuff, I’m going to have to distract Mr. Research so I can buy whatever I want!” Yeah…..it was a total bust. There was plenty that was very cute, but every single item I touched was Made in China! Ugh! It was actually pretty frustrating. The only thing I picked up in the store that was actually made in Sweden was a pair of moccasins. How can companies be charging so much for their clothes and claiming to be all organic and Swedish and then be made in China? I must be missing something, but it was sure eye-opening.

So there I was having just walked out of two children’s stores and still totally sockless. I decide to go to the next closest store, which happened to be Janie and Jack. Ah, for sure this expensive children’s store would have what I was looking for. I saw a cute yellow rain jacket (that we totally didn’t need but it was seriously too cute to not contemplate buying) and it was made in China. And so were the other 5 knit sweaters I looked at! At that rate I was going to be leaving empty-handed yet again. Socks, mittens and hats were all made in China too.

By now SillyMonkey was itching to run around the mall like a crazy person. He wanted to go up and down the escalators so Mr. Research grabbed him and they both went to have some quality daddy-son-escalator time. I kept browsing because I couldn’t believe that everything in that store was made in China. And I was right. I found two pair of pants and a button-down shirt that were made in Bangladesh. Not bad, pretty sure they don’t have to install suicide-prevention nets in Bangladesh factories. ***runs to research and make sure*** I’ll take them!

I got out of the store and SillyMonkey and Mr. Research were nowhere to be found. I stood around waiting for them to emerge and then DramaLlama started to lose it. I unbuckled him and we played around until Mr. Research and SillyMoneky appeared bearing Auntie Annes Pretzels. I’m totally jealous but I’m on a boring low-carb diet so I can’t have any. It’s not organic but there were no organic options at the mall so we continued on our merry way. SillyMonkey was insisting on walking, and he was being really good the whole time, and DramaLlama declared his hatred for the stroller and refused to go back in. So I was holding a baby and pushing around an empty behemoth of a stroller. Awesome.

Gap kids was our next stop. The first 5 items I was interested in were all made in China, including this adorable navy blue chunky knit sweater on super sale for only $15! I would have bought it in a heartbeat if it were made anywhere else. Sigh. But I did manage to find a pair of pants and overalls for DramaLlama. Another success. I was getting hungry and SillyMonkey was begging to go ride the train so we decided to go up to the food court and split up. I took DramaLlama along to find something to eat and Mr.Research took SillyMonkey to go ride the train and then play in the indoor play area.

Slim pickings for this mama who’s on a low-carb diet. I got blah food and sat down to blah eat it but DramaLlama had other plans. After much struggle, I was able to eat about 40% of my food and entertain the baby at the same time. He ate organic puffs and flirted with every person who cared to look his way. He’s a cute one and knows it, so it’s pretty funny seeing him work his baby mojo and get people to fawn all over him. Nothing makes a mama more proud than people fawning over her kids.

Mr. Research and SillyMonkey made their way back to my table and we set off on one last stop. H&M usually has really cute and trendy kids clothes for unbeatable prices so I was a little worried it’d all be made in China. Admittedly, I’d never bothered to look before. We made it to H&M and of course the line at the register was ridiculously long as usual. I was unphased and I continued to the children’s section to start my browsing. Success! Almost everything I was looking at was not made in China! Huzzah. Socks! Glorious Socks! Thank goodness they were made in Turkey. I bought two packs along with a few sweaters for SillyMonkey.

DramaLlama fell asleep in 0.2 seconds after being strapped into his car seat…… my goal in life is to get these boys to nap at the same time. Maybe one day…

If I were to rate the difficultly of finding clothes that were not made in China, I’d have to say it was very mild. Actually it was more mildly annoying than it was difficult. There were plenty of clothes that were not made in China, and plenty of alternatives and options so it really wasn’t challenging at all. The only difficult thing about it was having to walk away from a seriously cute piece of clothing that I would have bought in a heartbeat if it were not made in China. There didn’t seem to be one particular store that had all its clothes made in China or not made in China, so really no consistent pattern, I just had to look at the label of every single item I picked up regardless of the store. Inexplicably, it seemed like every knit sweater I picked up was made in China. Totally random and weird but I seriously could not find one knit sweater made elsewhere.

Overall, I’d call the shopping trip a great big success!

This is going to be one tall order!

A few days ago, after putting my two kids to sleep and putting the house back in order, I collapsed on the bed and snuggled under the covers with my husband to watch some TV before we fell asleep. We were watching the Daily Show per usual and on this particular episode they had a segment that really struck a chord with me. It was about a Chinese factory having to install nets to prevent Chinese workers from jumping to their death as a means of escaping factory life. Not exactly a comforting image to have before falling asleep.

I looked around my bedroom and wondered how many things in that room were made in China, if I was honest with myself, probably most of it. I mean what’s NOT made in China these days? It’d be easier to list the stuff Not made in China than it would be to list the things that were. My sight then uneasily settled on my iPhone4 that was laying on the nightstand right next to me.

Yep, that was definitely made in China, and probably came from the very factory they were talking about on TV. I felt ashamed and outraged….deeply deeply ashamed. I realize this is some very heavy stuff I’m talking about now, and I’m usually very light hearted, but this was seriously upsetting and really solidified my reasons for not buying anything made in China from that point on.

Part of me always knew that the conditions of workers in China had to be difficult, and that’s putting it lightly. I knew they would not be able to mass produce things on such a cheap and large scale without making some serious sacrifices, but I guess I just chose to not think about it.

I’ve been wary of Chinese products for a while now. Since the birth of my first son in 2008, I’ve been reading labels a lot more closely and paying attention to where things are made and what materials are used to make it. I insist on buying BPA free. I thought that was enough, until I discovered one afternoon while reading a magazine in a doctor’s waiting room that I also had to pay attention to Phalates and PVC.

To put it bluntly, I was not very enlightened on the subject before having children. I was your typical middle class working American young professional, I worked hard for my money and wanted it to stretch. I had student loans and car payments to make. When it came to my food and home products I never paid much attention to labels and just assumed if it was on the shelves then it must have passed some rigorous government testing and rules to make it safe for me to purchase and/or consume.

Something about having to start feeding my son solids got me thinking about what I was putting in his mouth. I looked around at the food we bought and ate, none of it was organic. I started reading about why one would want to buy organic in the first place. It always just seemed like over-priced pretentious food for pretentious people. I was floored by my ignorance. I immediately started buying organic food, or at least what I thought was organic (more on that later). I had a hunger to educate myself on the safety of the products I used on my son, what I bathed him in, the lotion I slathered on him, the diaper creams, the shampoos, the toothpastes….the list goes on and on…

Did you know there’s a whole website dedicated to giving a safety score to everyday products we use on our skin and bodies? I had no idea. I found this site and started searching for the products I had in my bathroom. I panicked and threw out all the skin products I had for him and ran to the nearest Whole Foods and bought him organic and chemical free products. I keep trying to educate myself, and every day I learn how much I actually still don’t know. It’s exhausting. I try my best and I’ll keep trying. I feel much more enlightened than I did 3 years ago for sure, but I know there’s still so much for me to learn and so much for me to find out. I find myself becoming more and more “crunchy” (I hate that word) with every passing day. I now cloth diaper my youngest son whereas I used Huggies on my oldest. I’m slowly replacing all the plastic in my house with glass or stainless steel or ceramic. I’m really trying but I know there’s still so much for me to do and this blog is dedicated to my journey of “doing”.

Which brings me back to the whole China thing. I used to shy away from products if I knew they were made in China. I’ve read too many recalls for things laced with lead and/or cadmium to know that many cheap products from China come with a steep price health-wise. But to be honest, I was only half-heartedly doing it. I think I was most surprised when I was browsing through the aisles of Buy Buy Baby and came across a box of Baby MumMums. Displayed across the front of the box was the word “Organic”. Yes, this seemed like a great product to buy for my 8 month old. I take a peek at the label…..yep, Made in China.

Many products that claim they are organic are still made in China, and maybe I’m a serious skeptic here, but really, how organic can they be? I have a hard time believing that China would have the same organic standards we have here in the US, and don’t get me started on the mislabeling and intentionally misleading advertizing on so called organic and natural products here in the US.  Also, on that same note, I read an article a while back about organic farms in China, it’s not good news for the Chinese people. To sum the article up, organic farms are very limited and the organic produce it produces is strictly available to the elite and/or rich and none are available for the general public. So basically I am now on a mission. I am on a mission to take responsibility for the products I buy.

  • know how mistreated Chinese workers are. You’d have to be living in a cave not to be aware of that.
  • know that the safety regulations on Chinese products are just not good enough.
  • know that I want to buy organic products that do not contain harmful chemicals for me and my family.
  • know I want to also be as environmentally friendly as I can be during this process.

So my personal challenge is to buy only organic, earth-friendly products that do not contain harmful chemicals, and are Not Made in China. I know this is going to be one heck of a tall order. It’s going to take some serious research on my part, and a lot of effort (and money…), but I’m willing to do it and blog about it in hopes of maybe helping others find alternative products to the everyday chemical-laden, China-made products we use. I will try my best. I’ll be posting about my successes and failures and I’m anticipating quite a bit of failures. I’ll be researching and shopping for NMIC products as they run out in my household and as needed for the family. Guess I can kiss Thomas the Tank Engine toys goodbye! I’m going to try and compile a list of all the products I used to buy and the new chemical-free, not made in China products I use to replace them. I’ll be learning as I go but hopefully you’ll be learning right along with me. Or if you already know maybe you can just tell me and save me the hassle! The one thing I am sure of is that every time I look at a label and see Made in China, those suicide-prevention nets will be the first thing that pop in my head and that image alone will make me drop that product, turn around and keep looking for a better and more humane alternative. It’s a matter of principle.