Archives for April 2012

Baby it’s hot outside

Summer is fast approaching and warm weather is just around the corner.  In fact we experienced some spring heat this past weekend.  As the weather gets hotter keeping our kids hydrated becomes a top priority.  When playing outside or in sporting events children acclimate to the heat but not as quickly as adults do.  Children also have a greater ratio of body surface area to mass, meaning that they have more skin surface area from which to gain or lose heat for each pound of body weight.  This is good except when it is hot and the outside temperature exceeds the skins temperature.   So in turn kids gain more heat from the outside temperature and are unable to get rid of it as quickly.  This is due to the fact that children have a lower rate of sweat loss than adults.   So what can you do as a parent to keep your kids safe this summer in heat?

  1. Expose your kids to the heat slowly.  The more days they spend outside playing in the heat the more their body will acclimate to it.  Increase the amount of time they spend playing in the heat each day and they will soon adjust.
  2. Make sure to keep your kids properly hydrated.  Water is always best.  Excessive amounts of juice and sports drinks only add unwanted calories and sugar.  Sports drinks however are very useful if your child is playing in a sporting event in a hot environment and a lot of running is involved.  If your child does like plain water, flavor with fresh fruit slices or make fruit ice cubes to place in the water.
  3. Proper hydration can be met in a variety of ways.  Think beyond water.  Below is a list of foods that you can include in your child’s diet throughout the day to make sure he/she is staying properly hydrated.

           20 Top Foods to keep you hydrated (greatest to least hydrating)


2.Iceberg Lettuce
3.Sweet Peppers
6.Canned mushrooms
8.Honeydew melon
15.Pasta Sauce
17.Cooked Cream of wheat
18.Canned plums
19.Mandarin oranges
20.Cottage Cheese

  1. Studies show that kids will drink more when the beverage is cold.  So be prepared and have ready to drink sippy cupsor bottles filled with water that are easily accessible to your child. Put them in an easy to reach place in the refrigerator or carry a small cooler in your car during the summer months.

Play it safe this summer and keeps your kids cool and hydrated.

Katie Valdes MS RD CSSD

Images from Flickr Creative Commons: Water Fountain Drink, Hot Summer,  Kids Playing, Drink of Water

The Six Best Questions to Ask At Open House

Spring Open House Season is in full swing. I had over 60 parties through my open house on 1349 Norton this past weekend and Realtors all over town report similar crowds of eager home buyers.

I am an expert at open houses. I have hosted hundreds of them in my career and there are questions that pop up with stunning regularity. I am talking about questions that make me wonder, “What is this buyer thinking?”

“You listed this as a three bedroom home. Where is the third bedroom?”.

“Um- that would be the home office that has just one door and a lovely walk in closet”

“But that is an office. Where is the third bedroom?”


“Is this house vacant?”

This question is asked in a house full of furniture, personal photographs on the wall and a loaf of bread on the counter.

“Uh, no. No, it isn’t”

Here’s another common one,

“What did they pay for the home?” or “How long have they lived here?”

The open house attendee is trying to find out how much negotiating room there is. Good idea- but this has to be one of the very worst ways to find out. What the homeowner paid ten years ago has nothing to do with what the market might produce for the homeowner today.

Right. Then, what should I do?

Today’s market offers very few good homes for sale. Asking the right questions at open house could make a huge difference in successfully buying the best house today or looking for the rest of your God Given Weekends.

Let’s take a look at some of the very best questions you could ask a Realtor at open house.

1. Why has the seller decided to sell now?

This is a variation on, “How motivated is the seller?”. I like this question because it will take the Realtor by surprise and is much more likely to get an complete answer. The Realtor will almost always answer the “how motivated” question with a “very motivated” answer because they want to hook you in. However, asking “Why” will give you far more insight into what the seller really needs and it might also tell you how urgent the sale is.

2. Have you had any offers?

Almost everyone knows to ask, “How long have you been on the market?”, but very few ask the best follow up question, “Have you had any offers?”. Most buyers miss the fact that they are “negotiating” against two entities- the seller and the other potential buyers. You need to know as much as you can about BOTH. Putting these two questions together will tell you a lot about how your potential buyer competitors are reacting to this home. Bonus points are awarded if you get an answer to, “How much were those offers?”

3. How long have you been at this price?

I have never been asked this question and I think it is a fantastic one. A home that has been at a price for a long time might be ripe for a low offer. A home that has been on the market for a long time, but just reduced the price significantly might be a steal overlooked by others.

4. What are the comparable sales?

Theoretically the Realtor has intimate knowledge of the recent sales in the area and how they compare to the home you are viewing. Asking about these sales will tell you a lot about the seller’s negotiating strategy. Did they price high, low or right at recent comparable sales? As a bonus, you will find out a lot about the Realtor answering the question. If you are shopping for a Realtor to represent you, the ability to answer (or not) will tell you a lot about their expertise.

5. Beside price, is there anything else important to the seller?

Let’s not kid ourselves, price is almost always the most important factor to a seller. However, in a market where multiple offers are common, like today, other factors can make the difference between two similarly priced offers. It might be the length of escrow or the possession date. It might be the size of a down payment or a commonality of values. If this is a house you covet, you will want to know the answer to this question.

6. What will it take to buy this home?

I know, I know. You are thinking, “If I ask this question, won’t I tip my hand to the Realtor? They will know I really want the home!” First of all, if you really DO want the home, it isn’t a bad idea to let the Realtor know. Our job isn’t to trick you into paying too much for the home. Our job is to facilitate a mutually beneficial deal. If you ask this question you are only indicating that you are a serious buyer. Nothing more. You might even find out that you could buy the home for a lower price than you are willing to pay.

There you have it, the very best questions to ask at an open house. You are officially the best armed buyers in town. And, if you are curious, I am happy to answer any of those questions at my next open house. Bring it on.



Pet Safety Tips!

I was recently at my vet’s office, Parkview Pet Clinic in Glendale, and saw a flyer printed by the ASPCA which read, “101 things you didn’t know could harm your pet”. I consider myself to be pretty cautious and careful with my two Labs but I was interested to see if I knew of the 101 things.  I learned a lot and wanted to share with you.

The first thing that I learned was: “of the 167,000 poisoning cases handled by the Animal Poison Control Center in 2012, the no. 1 culprit was human medications” (ASPCA).  This seems crazy to me since all of our medications are in the cabinet above our sink in our bathroom.  I have yet to see either of my Labs crawl onto the sink counter and open the cabinet but I also understand that people might leave their medications laying around the house where pets can get to them.

The ASPCA explains that symptoms of poisoning vary but your pet may experience vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy.  If you experience this with your pet you can call 24/7 to the Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.  Be prepared with your pet’s breed, age and potential poison.

Now is the moment of confession…..yes we have had to call this number.  When our Lab puppy was a few months old, she got into some grapes.  One of the kids left a bowl on a coffee table and the puppy grabbed a bunch and ran off to eat them without anyone noticing. (Just for the record I was not home at the time!).  When I returned home and found an empty vine of grapes I panicked.  I knew that grapes are toxic to dogs!  We called the poison control center and they walked us through a process of helping our dog.  They charged us $75 to our credit card but I will share the secret with you for free.  If you discover that your dog has just eaten something toxic you can induce vomiting right away with the attempt to get it out of their system right away.  Give your dog a soft piece of bread and then 1-2 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide.  You can stir the peroxide into some peanut butter or yogurt, something that your dog will enjoy eating quickly.  Then head outside and wait for your poor puppy to vomit. She will pace around and feel terrible, not fun to watch. Then she will throw up the toxic food that she shouldn’t have and will feel much better.  It was super fun for us to count the grapes in a puddle of puck!  We had round two with another dog that got into some chocolate.  Having shared this with you, if you have an emergency you can also head to the emergency clinic or vet’s office for professional intervention.  Poisoning is nothing to mess around with.  Sometimes stomach pumping or surgery is needed in these situations.


Now that I have totally scared you and gotten your attention, here are the lists of items to look out for…..

Household Items

Household Items: ibuprofen and aspirin, acetaminophen, cold and flu meds., antidepressants, vitamins, diet pills, anti-cancer drugs, tobacco products, detergents, fabric softener, drain cleaners, oven cleaner sprays, disinfectants, bleach, lime/scale remover, paint thinners, lighter fluid, insecticides, flea and tick products, rodent bait, mothballs, fly bait, lead and liquid potpourri.

Harmful Foods: chocolate, gum and candy, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, avocados, onions, garlic, salt, tea leaves, coffee, alcoholic beverages, raw yeast dough, spoiled foods and fatty foods.

Objects: balls, sharp objects, coins, buttons, batteries, twist ties, rubber bands, cotton swabs, glass, hair pins, jewelry, nylons, paper clips, plastic wrap, yarn or needles & thread, dental floss, electric cords, wax, socks, and towels.

Harmful Foods

Common Plants: aloe, amaryllis, Andromeda japonica, Asian lily, asparagus fern, Australian nut, autumn crocus, azalea, belladonna, bird of paradise, bittersweet, black locust, branching ivy, buckeye, Buddhist pine, caladium, calla lily, castor bean, ceriman, clematis, cordatum, corn plant, cycads, cyclamen, daffodil, daylily, devil’s ivy, dieffenbachia, dumb cane, Easter lily, elephant ear, emerald fern, English ivy, eucalyptus, ferns, fiddle-leaf-philodendron, Florida beauty, foxglove, glacier ivy, gladiolas, gold dust dracaena, golden pothos, heavenly bamboo, honeysuckle, hurricane plant, hyacinth, hydrangea, iris, Jerusalem Cherry, jimson weed, kalanchoe, lantana, lilies, lily of the valley, lupine, marble queen, morning glory, mother-in-law, mountain laurel, narcissus, needlepoint ivy, nepthysis, nightshade, oleander, panda, peace lily, philodendron, poison hemlock, precatory bean, privet, red emerald, rhododendron, ribbon plant, sago palm, stain pothos, schefflera, striped dracaena, sweetheart ivy, tulip, water hemlock, wisteria, yew and yucca.

Trouble Areas: doors and windows, balconies, bathtubs and since, toilets, washer and dryer and fireplaces. Dogs are more likely to be injured in these areas of your home.  Keep your pets away from these places or watch them closely when they’re near them if you can.

Outside the Home

Outside the home: algae, antifreeze/coolant, fire pit/grill, fences or gates, deck lattice, non-pet safe de-icing salts, compost, gasoline, oil, pesticides, fertilizer, pools and hot tubs.  Make sure that your dogs are safe if they enjoy the outdoors by keeping them leashed and away from these potential dangers.

I know this is a lot of information.  I felt that it was important to write because I have heard of too many stories of pets lost due to poisoning.  My sister-in-law lost her beloved dog due to raisin poisoning.  He got into a container of trail mix and ate a large amount of raisins.  When dogs eat raisins it causes them to go into renal failure.  So very sad.  We have also had our brushes with potential life threatening poisonings but thankfully have not lost a pet.  Let’s all keep our furry ones close and safe!

Maggie Mason, M.S.W.

Mother of two humans and two canines. Author and therapist in “pre-mom life”.

Earth Day in Glendale!

Earth Day

April 21 & 22

Looking for some good Glendale Earth Day Celebrations? You should check out whats happening at Descanso Gardens!

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night
Saturday | 3:30 p.m. | Under the Oaks Theater

“If music be the food of love, play on!” Revel in the pleasures of the Bard’s luminous comedy presented by the California Shakespeare Ensemble in the shade of Descanso’s oak trees. Enjoy live harp music a purchase selections from an organic wine bar as part of the revels. Free with admission. Recommended for ages 12 and older.

Mobile Homeboys in concert
Sunday | Noon-2 p.m. | Under the Oaks Theater

This rocking ensemble is a Descanso musical favorite. Sit back and enjoy an afternoon of hard-charging country-flavored rock and roll. Free with admission.

Earth Day Activities & Barbecue
Sunday | 11 a.m.-3 p.m. | Main Lawn

Learn more about ecosystems at Descanso’s annual Earth Day celebration. Children can explore nature through hands-on activities. Discover the “locavore” culinary movement, celebrating locally raised food, at Patina’s eco-friendly barbecue where mouth-watering selections will be sold. Most activities free with admission.





Gardening With Your Little Ones

Spring is right around the corner believe it or not and that means that it is time to start planning your vegetable garden.  Growing a vegetable garden is a great family activity.  Not only does it allow for some family bonding time, it teaches your child about where food comes from.  And if your child has been involved in the gardening process they are more likely to eat the vegetables they have grown themselves.

Peak your child’s interest by reading books on gardening together.  Some great fun reads are: How Groundhog’s Garden Grew by Lynne Cherry and Muncha, Muncha, Muncha  by Candace Fleming.  You can also visit local farmer’s markets, pick-your own vegetable farms and community gardens.  This will allow your child to talk with the growers themselves.  Now let’s get started!

  1. Vegetables love the sun so pick a nice sunny location in your yard.  If you don’t have a yard, don’t despair, a couple of large containers will work just as well.
  2. Prepare your dirt with some good soil amendments/fertilizer that can be found at local nursery or hardware stores.
  3. Pick your veggies.  Depending on where you live you will either want to start your vegetables from seed or plants.  Some good, easy-to-grow, and nutritious choices are tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, beans, and if space allows, pumpkins.
  4. If you are feeling adventurous, add some herbs to your garden as well.  Some great summer choices are basil, chives, oregano, thyme and cilantro.
  5. To keep your plants healthy make sure to water regularly and watch out for pesky bugs.  You can purchase organic pest sprays, ladybugs and/or praying mantis to help keep pests at bay.

Since growing vegetables can take some time, have your child keep a journal of the plants growth, either through words or pictures.  This will not only keep your child interested but it will also help you keep track of when your plants should be harvested.  All that is left to do now is to sit back and eat your veggies.  If your child was not eating vegetables before, I guarantee you they will be eating their vegetables now.

Katie Valdes MS RD CSSD

Katie is a Registered Dietitian specializing in weight management, sports nutrition and child nutrition. Katie maintains her own practice in Southern California consulting with individuals of all ages.  She has taught university nutrition classes, conducted nutrition seminars and lectures, and continues to author a nutrition newsletter.

She is an avid runner, having regularly run long distance competitively in high school, at USC, and she continues to do it today while pushing two of her three children, ages 25, and 8, in a stroller.  Katie has placed 13th overall female in the Los Angeles Marathon, 4th overall female in the Napa Valley Marathon and regularly ranks at the top of her class in races today.

Katie holds a Masters Degree in Nutrition and is Board Certified in Sports Dietetics in addition to her Bachelor Degree in Exercise Science from USC.



Images sources from flickr Creative Commons: Seeds, Enormous Cucumber, Planting



Bruce Davidson and Nature in Los Angeles

Bruce Davidson is a Magnum photographer and he recently spoke to the New Yorker about tree’s and nature. Urban Toot thought that it was fitting that for this Earth Day the tree’s of Los Angeles get some of the love and recognition that they deserve!

The Poop on Earth Day!

In light of “Earth Day” I just wanted to share some quick tips for my fellow canine owners.  We all have to use those plastic poop bags to clean up after our furry friends, but I have some biodegradable options.  The website called “” offers several poop bag options and healthy, natural doggie treats as well.

Their “original poopbags” are made in the USA with renewable resources such as corn and are biodegradable. They sell “Flush Puppies” which are PVA bags that dissolve in water and so you can actually flush the bags and doggie deposit down the toilet.  I also saw “mutt mitts” which are another option to picking up doggie deposits and they are also degradable.

    When we go camping with our 2 Labs we often use 8 or more poop bags per day.  Large dogs make large… well you know.  It would be great if our canine community could switch to poop bags that do not contribute more to our landfills.  The dogs don’t have a say about it so let’s do our part.  Here is the website if you would like to check out the bags that I mentioned and many other cool products.  Happy Earth Day.

Free Urban Farming Workshop

If you are hip on growing what you eat then you need to check this out! At the Huntington Library…

April 24  (Tuesday)

7:30 p.m.  Free



Ranch lecture – The Wild Mediterranean Food Garden: Ideas and Practical Methods for Resilient Urban Agriculture

If your vegetable gardening is tied to traditional methods for planting, irrigation, and weed control, an exciting new world of ecosystem gardening awaits your discovery. Ecological landscape designer Darren Butler will discuss how to balance wildness and human management in seasonal food production as he outlines the core ideas for a new and evolving approach to gardening. Free; no reservations required. Friends’ Hall

Eating to Fuel Performance in Softball Players

Eating to Fuel Performance in Softball Players

To achieve success in sports one must practice hard and fuel their body properly.  Softball is a game of skill that requires short bursts of energy for running, fielding, throwing and batting.  Besides becoming skilled in a particular position and developing speed, strength, power and agility an athlete must also focus on their sleeping habits, their stress level and their nutrition.  Making sure that you are properly fueled to last an entire game or practice takes some planning.  Without proper planning, performance can definitely suffer.

What should a softball players diet look like?


Depleted energy stores during games and practices are a big problem for many athletes.  To stop this from occurring the proper amount of carbohydrates must be eaten before, during and after games and practices.  Not only are carbohydrates imperative for a good physical performance they are also important for a good mental performance since they are the brains main energy source.  Keeping energy stores at proper levels will aid in good decisions on and off the field.  Since softball is mostly anaerobic, the amount of carbohydrates consumed will be less than other athletes that are engaged in more aerobic types of sports.  Note:  During preseason conditioning larger amounts of carbohydrates will be needed.

When to eat

A meal rich in carbohydrates should be eaten 3-4 hours before games and practices and if needed a small snack 1-2 hours before.

Meal Ideas:

  • Grilled chicken sandwich, side salad, pretzels, water
  • Sandwich with deli meat, baked chips and lemonade
  • Oatmeal, toast with peanut butter and orange juice
  • Pasta w/ marinara sauce and sliced grilled chicken, steamed veggies, water

Snack Ideas (if necessary): bagels, animal crackers, trail mix, granola/energy bars, fruit, sports drink or crackers

Avoid: high fiber foods, spicy and fried foods and milk based foods, which can cause stomach distress.


Protein is essential for the building and repairing of muscles as well as providing a small amount of energy during prolonged exercise, such as during practice or a game.  Since softball relies more on the anaerobic system, protein needs are a bit higher than other athletes.  Protein intake does not need to be monitored however because a typical diet usually provides enough protein.  If an athlete is restricting certain foods from their diet, protein intake should be monitored then.  Good protein sources include:  fish, chicken, lean meats, low-fat milk, eggs, nuts and soy.


Most people think of fat as the enemy but it plays an important role in the body.  Restricting fat excessively can lead to nutritional deficiencies.  When adding fat to your diet, choose wisely.  Choose heart-healthy fats like vegetable oils (olive and canola), nuts, seeds, avocado and fatty fish.


It is very important to stay hydrated.  Being dehydrated can lead to early fatigue.  To make sure you stay hydrated, drink fluids throughout the day by consuming a combination of water and sports drinks.  As a rule of thumb, always practice your fluid intake on non-game days so you know what works and what doesn’t.

Ways to stay hydrated

  • Stop at the water fountain between classes
  • Pack a water bottle or sport drink in your backpack
  • Drink as soon as you get up in the morning
  • Drink extra fluids at lunch to prepare for afternoon practice
  • Drink during games and practices

Post game Recovery

Following games or practice it is important to eat within 1 hour.  This allows the body to recover properly and to replenish diminished energy stores.  When a meal is eaten immediately after exercise the rate of recovery and replenishment is much higher than if a meal is consumed at a later time (>1 hr).

Snack ideas: Any of the pregame snack ideas will work as well as string cheese, milk, deli turkey, or peanut butter.  A sports drink and bar could be consumed as well.

Meal ideas

  • Pasta with tuna, olive oil, garlic bread, salad and brownies and milk
  • Grilled chicken with rice, beans, vegetable
  • Lean meat, with potatoes, broccoli and small dessert


Top 3 Take-away nutrition tips

  • Adopt a training diet that will fuel your workouts
  • Eat carbohydrate-rich foods or fluids right after games or practices
  • Eat before you train

Katie Valdes MS, RD.  For questions e-mail me at

Sources: Sports Nutrition for Softball Players, Thomas 2006

How many calories do you need:

Katie is a Registered Dietitian specializing in weight management, sports nutrition and child nutrition. Katie maintains her own practice in Southern California consulting with individuals of all ages.  She has taught university nutrition classes, conducted nutrition seminars and lectures, and continues to author a nutrition newsletter.

She is an avid runner, having regularly run long distance competitively in high school, at USC, and she continues to do it today while pushing two of her three children, ages 25, and 8, in a stroller.  Katie has placed 13th overall female in the Los Angeles Marathon, 4th overall female in the Napa Valley Marathon and regularly ranks at the top of her class in races today.

Katie holds a Masters Degree in Nutrition and is Board Certified in Sports Dietetics in addition to her Bachelor Degree in Exercise Science from USC.


Softball image by Ron Cogswell on Flickr Creative Commons 



Yet More Sparkletts!

A reader sent this photo of what appears to be Sparkletts Water containers outside a City of Glendale facility. Here is what the reader wrote:

…took this yesterday. It’s the building on Verdugo at Glorietta. It’s the water bldg where the metropolitan water blends and is treated along with Glendale water from the Glorietta wells.

After reporting that the Urban Toot staff personally witnessed and documented a Sparkletts water delivery to the city, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to believe that these are legitimate water bottles from a recent Sparkletts water delivery.

We have to ask. Why is the city buying bottled water instead of refilling from the tap?   Especially since a few years ago they promoted just that by supplying reusable “Fill & Chill” bottles to their customers with the motto of “Drink it right From the tap.”

Times are tough, lets start saving some of the tax payers money!





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