There is no “microwave safe” or “dishwasher safe” plastic

Heating Plastic: there is no "microwave safe" or "dishwasher safe" plastic! Why and how to avoid heating food in plastic | Conscientious Confusion

Our trusty old dishwasher finally died lately, and I am super excited to have a shiny new one. Those 2-3 weeks handwashing dishes were no fun! But, regardless of whether we have a working dishwasher, there are always dishes in my sink. Why? Because I always hand wash plastics.

Why handwash? First of all, plastics are made out of chemicals. Yep, there is no natural substance out there which can be harvested to produce plastic in it’s final form. It’s all created in a lab. Most plastic is made flexible by PVC, a chemical that is well known to be toxic. Even plastics that are made without PVC are made of other chemicals. You can pick plastics that are “safe-r” to hold food by using this handy list, but there are no completely non-toxic plastics.

Here’s the thing: those chemicals are made active again when the plastic is heated. By default, any plastic that is heated will be releasing some of it’s chemical components. That is why plastic dishware degrades, gets spots, and warps over time. The chemical components of the plastic are slowly breaking down (read more here and here and a more technical study here. Relevance to cancer from chemicals in plastic.). When it comes to dishware, the heat allows those chemicals to mix with our food. Do we really want to be eating a side of chemicals with our meal? Remember that the FDA does not approve chemicals used in houseware (they only oversee Food and Drugs) — there is no regulation of the materials being used in your plates/bowls/sippys/storage containers.

You’ve seen the plastics labeled “microwave safe” and “dishwasher safe”, right? What does that even mean? The definition of “microwave safe” and “dishwasher safe”, as far as I can tell from online research, comes from appliance manufacturers. Both terms mean that your dishes won’t be visibly damaged, melted or broken in the appliance, not that the dishware won’t leach chemicals into your food. In other words, there is no “microwave safe” or “dishwasher safe” plastic.

Ideally, it would be fabulous to own no plastic food containers or items at all, but I have two preschool children. I do still use a microwave. With children this young, I still do not have the bandwidth in my food prep time to forego the microwave altogether for quick meals like leftovers and lunches, so stainless steel isn’t always practical. When using the microwave to reheat even something small, transfer the food to a glass container.

Tip #1: I bought small glass bowls from the dollar store specifically for reheating. I have about 4 of them so that there is always one clean. I just pop whatever I want to reheat into these open bowls and toss them in the microwave. The bonus is that I can also safely put them into the dishwasher.

Tip #2: To make storing and reheating from the refrigerator easier, I have replaced all of my formerly plastic storageware with glass food storage (affiliate link). These sets are easy to find at Target, Walmart, Amazon, and even Costco. I replaced it slowly, over time, when I could find sales and coupons. It can be pricey to do it all at one time, although Costco will frequently have good deals on glass storageware.

We have been working on teaching the kids to use glass responsibly. I still don’t allow them to have glass containers unsupervised, but they are getting much more mindful. Soon I hope to transition completely away from plastic cups and bowls for them and to ceramic and glass, which is what we use for the adults in the family.

For more information on the toxicity and environmental impact of plastic, I highly recommend my friend Beth Terry’s book “Plastic-Free: How I Kicked My Plastic Habit and How You Can Too” (affiliate link).

How do you avoid plastic in your home? Do you have any favorite products that you like?

Packing with food intolerances

Packing for kids with food intolerances | Conscientious Confusion

Even though we are light years away from where we started on our journey with our naturopath for my son’s food intolerances, his body continues to attack certain foods and have trouble absorbing the nutrients from common foods. We’ve also had to do a lot of travel recently, and often spontaneously. I think this is the third time in two months that I’ve packed all our gear with less than a day’s notice. That sounds like a lot of time, but not when you consider that I wasn’t able to stop any of our previous social engagements/school/playgroups.

So, because I was packing again when I wrote this, here’s a list of the things we typically bring for our dairy free, gluten free boy:

  • shelf stable coconut milk or almond milk
  • gluten free snacks
  • dried fruit
  • squeezy food like these or these  (affiliate links & I know disposable is bad but we are looking to have to refrigerate as little as possible and if we use our Squooshi pouches, we have to refrigerate them)
  • peanuts
  • our homemade low-gluten bread (I use our wheat bread recipe but substitute part gluten-free flour)
  • probiotics (we all use these – affiliate link)
  • digestive enzymes (he uses these and I use these – both affiliate links)
  • cultured coconut milk yogurt (example here)
  • liquid vitamins, since he doesn’t absorb nutrients from the chewables (we use this one – affiliate link)

Aside from clothes and bathroom essentials, these are the things I throw into bags and insulated coolers when we travel. Piece of cake, right? (um, wait, we can’t really have cake regularly…)

How do you pack healthy easy snacks for your allergic or food intolerant family members?

Really organic rosemary kale chips from our fledgling garden

This post brought to you by Organic Choice by Miracle-Gro. All opinions are 100% mine.

It’s been a few weeks now since we started back on our organic gardening efforts, and I’ve killed a lot of poor, defenseless seedlings since then. I have watched my dreams of tomato and basil bruschetta curl up and blow away. Fortunately, there are two plants nearly impossible to kill: rosemary and kale.

My kale hung on through the single-digit freezing, ice, and snow of the winter — with it’s leaves still green. It looks even better now that the weather has warmed, and I couldn’t wait to eat it!

Kale in garden 2014 | Conscientious Confusion

The rosemary has done equally well in the past, but this year’s low winter temperatures left more than half of it brown and withered. I love my rosemary in the giant galvanized steel pot, so I had to find a way to revive it without any dangerious chemicals, keeping it safe and healthy to eat.

Here’s how it looked when we started:

Rosemary bush BEFORE organic fertilizer | Conscientious Confusion

The good folks at Miracle-Gro Organic Choice sent me a bag of Organic Choice potting soil and organic fertilizer, which I also noticed is sold at Target in the gardening section (in case I need more later!). I decided to give the fertilizer a try in reviving my rosemary.

My son volunteered to be my little helper. All he had to do was sprinkle the appropriate amount of fertilizer around the base of the rosemary and then water it.

Little Sir helps add organic fertilizer to our rosemary bush | Conscientious Confusion

We also added additional Miracle-Gro Organic Choice soil to the rosemary’s pot, which was low on soil.

We fertilized on March 27.

On April 11, I took this picture of the rosemary bush.

Rosemary bush AFTER organic fertilizer | Conscientious Confusion

What a difference! I was truly surprised. I realize that fertilizer helps encourage growth, but this is really neat, right?!

Since the kale and rosemary are our only fully grown plants worthy of harvesting right now, I created a Pinterest board of Garden Recipes that contained kale and rosemary. Kale chips were one of the kids’ favorites from last year’s garden, so I found a rosemary kale chip recipe that utilized rosemary-infused olive oil. Perfect!

Making Kale Rosemary Chips from our garden! | Conscientious Confusion

The chips were approved by both of my kids (3 and 4 years old)! We’ve tried the kale chips from the store in the past, but they were never fans. I think the key to getting children to grow up eating healthy, fresh foods is really to involve them in the process. They have been so excited to be participating in our gardening this year.

I haven’t given up on the rest of our garden! We have some spinach, bell pepper, lettuce, swiss chard, and strawberries that seem to be doing quite well. I am particularly hopeful about the bell peppers, and I have actually Pinned a few articles from the Miracle-Gro Learn And Grow web site that has helped me toward a successful harvest. According to this bell pepper article, last year I probably let the bell peppers get too dry. This year I have a new hose system that I am very optimistic about, and a new resolve not to get so lazy with my watering.

Stay tuned for continued progress reports! I’d love to hear about your gardening efforts, and your favorite rosemary and kale recipes in the meantime!

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No SUV needed: two carseats in a sedan or compact car

So you’ve got kids. Maybe one, maybe two…Are you already resigning yourself to a gas-guzzling SUV or minivan? Maybe you started car shopping as soon as you got pregnant for the first time. It’s a pretty common trend here in Dallas. And certainly, once you hit that three-child-or-more threshold, you’re probably going to be driving a larger vehicle. But I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to give up your gas efficiency or eco-friendly driving habits just because you have one or two little buddies along for the ride!

We have driven a compact car — a Honda Fit — since shortly after our son was born in 2009. Before that, we primarily drove a Honda Civic, which we still have. Our children are currently 3 and 4 years old, so we have a convertible car seat and a convertible booster combo. Both are Britax — the Boulevard Convertible and the Pinnacle 90 Booster Combo (affiliate links), so they aren’t the smallest on the market. I’ve heard that one of the Japanese brands is actually the smallest, but I love the safety of the Britax brand.

I mention the average-to-large size of our two car seats because people often say that you cannot fit two car seats in a sedan or compact car. I am here to tell you that is just not an accurate statement. The kids are perfectly comfortable even in the grueling often-8-hour drive to San Antonio from Dallas. There is plenty of room for their toys and for an iPad hanging between the driver and passenger seat.

Two car seats in a Honda Fit, traveling to San Antonio in 2012
This picture was taken from the top of the iPad
resting between the driver and passenger seat

Just last week, we had to put the Honda Fit into the shop for repair work, and both car seats were moved back into our 2000 Honda Civic. Here they are in the back seat of the 4 door sedan, with room for all their toys in the middle.

Two Car Seats in a Honda Civic

And all that about not having enough trunk space in a small car? The trunk of our Civic is much smaller than the Fit (the Fit is a hatchback), and yet I was able to get all 11 of my yoga mats for kinds yoga inside their wheeled container, plus all the groceries from a trip to the grocery store into the Civic’s trunk with plenty of space to spare, as seen here.

Trunk of a 2000 Honda Civic

Obviously, we only have two kids right now. And it’s true that we cannot carry any passengers. We’ve had a few very ambitious family members (and once, myself) attempt to squeeze between the car seats in the back of the Fit, but it’s a terrible idea. My hips are very narrow and even I was unable to sit completely straight and was uncomfortable after 5 minutes.

It’s inevitable that as our children grow older and we wish to take passengers/friends with us in carpool situations, we will most likely have to purchase a larger vehicle. In a way, this post might even be a requiem for the dream of having the extremely fuel-efficient cars that we have had for the past few years.

I guess what I want to say is: please know that you CAN hang onto that smaller car a little bit longer. Save your money for when the kids are old enough to carpool or that third child. Hang on to that fuel efficient car as long as you can!
No SUV required - two car seats in a sedan or compact car | Conscientious Confusion

NOTE: There are 2 affiliate links in this post to Amazon, but I was not paid by Britax, Honda, or anybody else to write this post. Opinions are my own.

Earth Hour 2014 is tonight! (Saturday, March 29)

Have you ever heard of Earth Hour? It’s one hour (from 8:30-9:30pm your local time), one day (Saturday, March 29 this year), each year where we turn off all our electric appliances and do non-electric things! It can actually be really fun, with candles and actual TALKING to another person. We have to make a few modifications over here because we have some little ones who will be in bed but are afraid of the dark and sleep with sound machines. But my husband and I have turned off all the other appliances in the house for ourselves.

Some of the goals of Earth Hour 2014 include raising awareness of our energy use, giving us time to reflect, and even offering the opportunity to donate the money you might have saved on electricity to worthy causes (after the hour is over, of course!). Another great outcome of Earth Hour is to help us continue to change our habits going forward, in a positive way.

For example, you’ll probably turn off your devices during Earth Hour, but what about the chargers for those devices? eCycle has provided an infographic below which illustrates how much more energy we can each save if we just make sure to unplug our chargers when not in use!

Turning off your gadgets during Earth Hour 2014I don’t know about you, but I don’t really turn off my gadgets AT ALL, and I am very guilty of leaving the chargers plugged in. I will make sure to unplug in the future! Join me?