Friday, April 30, 2010

Toothpaste Woes

Brian hates mint. To the point where he will relocate to another room while I enjoy a cup of peppermint tea. This means that I am continually on the lookout for a toothpaste that is not mint flavored and not otherwise disgusting - a search that is more difficult than you might imagine. We've tried cherry, orange, herbal, fennel, baking soda and I can't remember how many other varieties of toothpaste in our never-ending quest. All of the above either left the mouth feeling like it had been smeared with pie filling or simply tasted awful.

So the other day when I was in the health food shop I did my usual quick perusal of the toothpaste section to see what I could find. After talking with the clerk, I ended up purchasing a brand called Ayurdent (which I expected to be nothing short of fabulous at nearly $10 a tube). Excited that perhaps this would be a lucky day, I returned home, opened the tube and squeezed this out onto my toothbrush:

Not so appetizing you say? I didn't think so either. But did the taste make amends for the appearance you ask? Nay. It nearly burnt my tongue and tasted STRONGLY of cloves with a bit of, you guessed it, mint.

One tube of toothpaste free to a good home. Or any home for that matter.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Canberra Organic Delivery

I just received my first home delivery of organic fruits and vegetables from Canberra Organics. Isn't it pretty?

This seasonal box was $35 plus a delivery fee. I doubt I'll order this every week but since we haven't planted a garden this year it's a really nice option for when I can't get to the markets. And since Riker is about to start solids, I want his veggies to be organic.

Oh, and see that retro looking crock pot in the corner? We scored that for free last week and have been using it almost every day. Feel free to pass on any good slow cooker recipes!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Thanks to Chris for nominating me for Hero of the World!

Pretty cool, eh? At the risk of sounding both old and dorky I have to say (insert Minnesota accent for greatest effect), "Oh my, technology these days!"

Monday, April 19, 2010

Blue Ribbon Mead!

Most of my faithful readers will already know that we make mead and in fact, mead making is now a decade long tradition in the McMillin family. You might also remember reading about our mead making experience with Australian honeys (snow gum, leatherwood and red stringy bark).

Brian's father, Carl, started making mead when his sister, Heather, requested it for her Scottish themed wedding and it's just been getting better and better ever since. Carl has won numerous awards for his meads and they're always better than any commercial meads we try. (We think he should go into business but that's another story). We were excited to hear that he submitted, to two competitions, some of our mead that was started just before we left for Australia. For this particular mead, Carl and I picked out the honey from the beekeeper, Brian and I started it with Carl's yeast, Carl and Keith tended it while we've been here and Brian and Carl tweaked the acidity when we were last home. We've just heard the results....

First, the Mazer Cup International Mead Competition. Neither Carl's nor our meads won anything, but we received positive comments from the two judges on our sweet mead with local wildflower honey:

Aroma: Good honey aroma 8/10
Appearance: Short legs, color good, clarity good 4/6
Flavor: Sweet, slight alcohol taste, fast finish 16/24
Overall impression: Nice mead 8/10
Total 36/50 (top end of very good range)

Aroma: Pleasant honey bouquet 8/10
Appearance: Clear light amber - pretty! 5/6
Flavor: Sweetness appropriate for style - nice balance, good finish 19/24
Overall impression: Nice well balanced mead 7/10
Total 39/50 (low end of excellent range)

The really exciting news is that OUR MEAD WON FIRST PLACE in the American Homebrewers Association National Homebrew Competition! It was submitted in the category for dry, semi-sweet, and sweet traditional meads in the East Regional competition (five states) and will now advance to the national competition! Here are the comments from the two certified judges:

Bouquet/Aroma: Honey and alcohol and acid in the initial aroma. Slight buckwheat honey aroma. 7/10
Appearance: Yellow-orange color. Very slight haze, noticeable legs. 5/6
Flavor: The initial flavor is very clean with a honey flavor and sweetness. The finish is slightly acidic with a honey sweetness and flavor. The aftertaste is sweet with a very slight acidity. Alcohol is standard. Body is medium-full. Slight buckwheat honey flavor. 20/24
Overall Impression: This is a very nice mead. It tastes and smells like a nice blend of wildflower and buckwheat honey. Nice job. 8/10
Total 40/50

Bouquet/Aroma: Gentle honey character - probably buckwheat. No flaws detected. 8/10
Appearance: Light amber. Clear with light suspended haze. Beautiful. 5/6
Flavor: Smooth, appropriate body. Warm finish is a bit harsh. Hard to characterize, probably a buckwheat. Pleasant overall. Alcohol is at high end of medium. 20/24
Overall Impression: Suspect a buckwheat addition, but not primary. The finish balance is very good. This is one of the two best (so far) on this flight. Thank you. 9/10
Total 42/50

How cool is that?


Monday, April 05, 2010

Jenn's Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting Reading List

For some time now I've been meaning to compile a list of the books (and a few websites) that I found most helpful, informative, interesting and/or enjoyable in relation to pregnancy, birth and parenting. I hope that those of you who have yet to experience this privilege (or are experiencing the privilege for the second or third time) will find these resources to be useful.


Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health
by Toni Weschler
This book is one of the top five most influential books I have ever read. If you are a woman you should read this book. Whether you are trying to avoid pregnancy or are attempting to conceive, you should read this book. It outlines everything we should have been taught about how our bodies work and how to track monthly cycles in detail. This is one of the most empowering books I have ever read. Seriously, read it.


Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
I read many, many pregnancy books and this is THE ONE BOOK I WOULD RECOMMEND TO EVERYONE (whether or not you are particularly interested in natural childbirth as you probably know I am). It is written by one of the most famous and well loved midwives in America, Ina May, who has delivered thousands of babies at The Farm, a community in Tennessee. This book takes the fear out of birth and leaves you confident in your capabilities. It will make you think twice about the seemingly benign epidural once you learn that epidurals are known to slow the process of labor which then require drugs like Pitocin to be used to stimulate contractions that have slowed due to the epidural. Statistically then you are more likely to have a Cesarean birth because Pitocin stresses the baby by enhancing contractions and once a baby is stressed, it must be removed as soon as possible. Don't get me wrong, these things are all valuable tools but this book reaffirms your natural ability to birth your baby using the "drugs" produced by your own body! It's also contains many terrific positive birth stories. Highly recommended.

Spiritual Midwifery
by Ina May Gaskin
Again, whether or not you are hoping for a "natural" birth, this book is excellent. Birth stories often have an element of fear to them but this book is full of positive birth stories that will remind you that women have been doing this for eons and you can too! Perhaps most importantly, the women in the book share what they were feeling and thinking that got them past their fears, not just clinical descriptions of the birth experience. Written in the seventies, the language is often of the fluffy hippy variety but if you can get past that, you will love this book.

Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: The Wisdom and Science of Gentle Choices in Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting
by Dr. Sarah Buckley
A very informative book written by a physician and mother with loads of information on natural childbirth with a range of personal experiences mixed in for readability.

Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation
by Pam England and Rob Horowitz
I read this book in my last month of pregnancy after I'd read all of the other informational texts and I highly recommend this. This book tells your mind to take a backseat and to let your heart and body do the real work of birthing. Great information on natural methods of pain relief too.

The Birth Partner: Everything You Need to Know to Help a Woman Through Childbirth by Penny Simkin
I didn't read this book but Brian found it a really helpful tool for both preparing himself and for learning how to best support me through labor (and he did a great job by the way). As he's really picky about books and writing styles, you can bet this is a good one.


So That's What They're For: Breastfeeding Basics
by Janet Tamaro
Read this book on the basics of breastfeeding BEFORE you have a baby! The author discusses nearly every possible issue relating to breastfeeding in a candid, warm and often humorous tone. Very helpful book when you realize that breastfeeding isn't as easy as it looks!


The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child by Dr. Robert Sears
The decision whether or not to vaccinate is probably the most controversial of all decisions to be made in the early days of parenting. There is so much information out there on both sides of the debate that I put a lot of research into deciding where to begin the research and which book on the topic to read first. I settled on this one as it is pretty unbiased (slightly pro-vaccine if anything) and written by the son of the famous pediatricians Dr. William Sears and his RN wife, Martha Sears. Even if you have no qualms about the current vaccine schedule you should read this book as it discusses each disease and it's vaccine, the incidence of the disease, the likelihood of vaccine reactions and the ingredients of the vaccine. It discusses some of the problems with combination vaccines, how to boost the immune system before vaccinating and most importantly, how to choose the brand of vaccine with the least creepy ingredients. For example, some brands have significantly more aluminum in them than others, which like mercury, is a known neurotoxin. Bottom line: know what you are injecting into your children.


The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by Dr. Harvey Karp
This is a great book for the first three months of your child's life. Karp recommends a series of five steps designed to imitate the uterus and help your baby adjust to life outside the womb. These steps include swaddling, side/stomach position, shhh sounds, swinging and sucking. These fives S's are the basis of the book and the techniques really work.

The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two
by Dr William and Martha Sears
In this book, the attachment parenting specialists William Sears and Martha Sears outline their approach to baby care basics, from newborns to toddlers. Attachment parenting is a gentle approach to parenting that stresses bonding with your baby, responding to his/her cues, breastfeeding, wearing your baby, and sharing sleep with your child. Bottom line: pay attention to your baby's cues and respond appropriately - trust your instincts and don't worry about spoiling your baby by attending to his needs when he cries. This book covers medical and health issues, child development, introducing solids and so much more.


This was one of the easy decisions for us as we are both very much against this practice. Still, I put a fair bit of research into the subject as I know it is still quite common in the US and I wanted to know why people choose to do it. Fortunately, here in Australia, the practice is rare and most hospitals will not even do it as they recognize that there is no medical reason whatsoever for circumcision - yet another reason I love this country and it's health care system! Bottom line: no one has the right to remove a part of another persons anatomy without their consent and little boys are not born needing improvements on their original design. If I were to blog in more detail on my opinions of the subject, it would read something like this.

The Case Against Circumcision by Paul M. Fleiss, MD, MPH (article and references available online).


Elimination Communication (EC) is a method of potty training from infancy where the parent uses timing and cues to anticipate a baby's needs to relieve himself thereby reducing dependency on diapers and helping a child to become aware of their bodily functions. EC is an ancient practice (as diapering is a fairly modern invention) and it is a gentle and sensible way to make toilet training easier as you shouldn't have to "unteach" your child that it is okay to wet themselves.

Elimination Communication at Wikipedia (great references at the end)

Diaper Free Baby - Lots of info and a network of EC support groups

NATURAL INFANT HYGIENE or ELIMINATION COMMUNICATION: A Gentle Alternative to Long-term Diapering by Ingrid Bauer

Tribal Baby - Nappy Free Down Under (lots of great tips on how to get started, written by a Canberra mum)


I own five slings: two wrap slings (a Hug-a-Bub and a handmade wrap), an Ergo Baby, a Baby Bjorn, and a pocket sling. All of them are useful for different occasions and I honestly couldn't recommend just one. Probably the best resource about baby wearing and choosing a carrier is


We love cloth diapers and find them easy to use and care for. I think of cloth diapering as a chance to do something great for the environment on a daily basis - you honestly feel great about yourself when you avoid that mountain of disposable diapers. Don't let anyone tell you that the environmental benefits of cloth are questionable because of water use either. When you consider the resources that go into the manufacture of disposables, the transport costs and the landfill space needed for the next million years, cloth is always a better choice. Finally, cloth is a good for your baby's bum as it is breathable and doesn't strip the oils from the skin and it is much more cost effective. To date, we've spent less than $200 and these will fit Riker until he's about thirty pounds. And of course they'll be used on future babies as well.

Cloth Diapers 101 - A great review of all of the different types out there and FAQs.

Adventures in Cloth Diapering - Tons of information including where to buy and sewing your own.

Diaper Pin - Cloth diapering tips, product reviews and secondhand sales.

Green Mountain Diapers - We like to use natural fibres for our diapering so we use organic cotton prefolds with covers from GMD.


I'm not sure if the fact that we took nearly three weeks to name our son makes you more or less likely to take my advice on baby name resources but here you go....

The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby by Laura Wattenberg
This is the best baby naming book I found and trust me, I've looked at lots of them! It categorizes names into styles and offers suggestions for other names you might like based on your preferences. There is also a Baby Name Wizard website with lots more info on specific names that you won't find in the book.

Baby Name Genie
- This website will generate names for you - hours of fun!

Whew! That took almost a week to compile but there you have it. I'm more than happy to discuss any of these resources in more detail or to make more recommendations for further resources on specific topics that might interest you at the moment.

My thanks to many sisters and friends over the years who have suggested these resources to me. Big hugs especially to Katherine for putting me on this path years before I even began to plan for my own children; to Heather for inviting me into the room for the most tremendous of moments and for traveling round the world to support me during my most tremendous moment; to Liz for suggesting the breastfeeding and naming books; to my mother for promoting natural health and wellbeing and for listening as I rambled on and on about the tough decisions to be made; and to Riker for inspiring me to be the best (and most informed) mama that I can be. Here he is "helping" me to write this post: