Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vignette Number One: Counting All Things Lost

Her womb was empty of life. But this, she did not know. In her imagination, there was a baby. She wanted there to be a child, and this child-of-her-mind was born out of the grief at the ending of her fertile years. Since she had been newlywed, she’d always told everyone that she wanted many children. “Six,” she would reply in answer to that question, “or however many God gives me.” In her mind, the “however many” was always a greater number, and never a lesser. So here she was, in years that still should have been childbearing years, with a brood of four, larger-than-average, and still she felt that longing and that regret. And now she thought she was pregnant, against all odds. She thought it, because it had happened to to someone she knew who was living proof that surgery does not always work to prevent a baby. So, in her mind, that was the truth, and not the harsh statistic of 99.99 percent effective. She believed in that one-in-a-thousand chance. She also believed because her period was late. Unimaginably late. And because each of the four times before when she had been pregnant, there had always been negative pregnancy tests during the first six weeks or so. And it is easy to imagine nausea, and a big belly just was. Her whole life was just a step away from nausea and why shouldn’t she believe the signs?

And then there was that test. Yes, a faint line had looked positive....wishfully positive, but it was an idea she clung to.

Baby excitement filled the air. As usual her husband was reserved and stressed out about the money a new baby would cost. “I am happy,” he would reassure her in an unconvincing and resigned voice when they were alone. She knew all that would change when he held the child. It always had. He was the best father, always patient and very involved. But they were poor as could be, and it was not yet time to tell the kids.

She never had quite the energy that other moms had, and it always seemed that her children were more demanding than other people’s children. They took more out of her. They were for some unknown reason more difficult to parent. But things would work out. They had a way of working out, didn’t they?

And her sister-in-law was about to have a baby, too. Baby excitement definitely filled the air. That baby would be due any day now, and she could not wait for the extended family to grow. One more precious soul to love.

That night there was a phone call. Her sister-in-law called. Her baby had died and would be stillborn. She wept. They wept together...these two women, miles and years apart. Both of them for the loss of this child. She could not imagine this mother’s grief.
And then, the bleeding began. And then she knew she’d been deluding herself, and she felt like an utter fool. And she cried. She cried for her non-baby, for her sister-in-law’s baby and for the babies she wanted but would never have. Perhaps she cried for the future that she did not yet know, for the dead dreams and the ones that would never even get started enough to be dreamt in the first place. Her pillow was wet with the tears over that-which-was-not, always a loss and never a gain. She cried over her husband’s family’s early death, over his ongoing grief and over moving and over culture shock and over being bullied in middle school. She cried over friendships lost. She cried for continents, countries and cultures she couldn’t go back to. She cried over her children being different, and over her own pain and fatigue. Her face was slick with regret, sadness and anger at her own body by which she felt betrayed. Life had betrayed her, and that night was for tears.

Much later there would be wisdom to see, and hear a quiet whisper of comfort, ancient as the universe “blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” It struck her, in that later on time, that she was calling The Suffering One blessed. And she was calling the mother of The Suffering One blessed, too. And this would be her own story, too...counting all things lost.

Note: This piece is a mashup of two different ancient memories. It's written in the third person, but it is about me. It contains some dreadfully personal material, but I'm putting it out here because it is a story, a woman's story, and although that woman happens to be me, I believe it is a tale which might resonate with or bless someone else. I've never ever encountered anyone with whom I could share this stuff, and so that leads me to believe there is someone in the world who may have felt similar things...and also felt alone in them. God bless you.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup (Paleo, Gluten free)

1 package of frozen broccoli
1 package of frozen cauliflower
(or 2 of one of these)

place in large enough pan and add some water, to not quite cover the vegetables.

2-2.5 tsp. salt
2 T. dried onion flakes
a generous spoon full of minced garlic (more or less to taste)
pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. dry mustard powder

All all to simmer until the vegetables are tender.

Remove from heat. Puree with immersion blender until the vegetables are "cream of x soup" textured.

Add 1 can of coconut milk.

Stir in and re-heat if necessary.

...this is delicious and very filling. Several of my family members thought it had cheese in it.

To make this soup more nourishing (but not vegan) use homemade bone broth instead of water.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Gluten Free Bread Recipe Tweaks

I just heard "This bread is PERFECT!" coming from my kitchen as one of my kids was making toast for breakfast.

I think so too. I've posted my GF bread recipe before, but I want to share some changes with you, so that you, too (if you are using my recipe) can have a better loaf of frugal, homemade gluten free bread.

Problems that I solved: The old recipe was not quite dense enough and kept collapsing into odd shapes once the loaves cooled. This recipe fills the pans better and does not collapse if you wait until after it's been cooled in the refridgerator to slice it. It can be re-softened in the toaster after slicing, and then has that wonderful fresh baked bread texture.

And, to make things even better, the change uses LESS ENERGY/ELECTRICITY and SAVES TIME.

Here it is:

5 cups GF flour blend (I use equal parts rice flour and tapioca starch)
1/4 cup sugar
2 T. dry yeast
2 t. salt
1/2 T. guar gum (or 1 T. xanthan gum)
...mix these dry ingredients together, then
add in:

1/4 cup oil
2 eggs
2 2/3 cups warm water

Mix on high with mixer for 3 minutes to get the batter smooth and aerated.

Pour into two small greased loaf pans.

Here's the different part:

Place pans into cold oven. Turn your oven on 350 degrees Farenheit and set your timer for 50 minutes. (This allows the loaves to rise while the oven pre-heats, but not rise too much. The loaves are denser but still have nice air holes and texture).

Remove from pans promptly after taking these out of the oven. Cool completely. This bread slices most easily after it has been refrigerated. It warms up beautifully in a toaster.

If you eat it straight out of the oven it will mush a bit when you slice it, but "who cares it's fresh hot bread", right?

Friday, November 02, 2012

Gratitiude Day 2

Today I am feeling grateful for my kids.

I also finished my dirndle (OK, ALMOST finished...I still need to hem it, and shorten the apron a bit). It's doubling as a hobbit dress, since we are all planning on going to see The Hobbit in full costume this December.

I look like I should be serving mugs of ale at the Green Dragon...or Oktoberfest.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Gratitude November

This month I want to focus on GRATITUDE. It is, after all, the month inwhich we celebrate Thanksgiving.

So while other people are busily enriching the world by participating in NaNoWriMo...(always feel like I OUGHT to have a novel in me bursting to come out, but I just DON'T), I am going to try and blog more faithfully.

So the thing that I am grateful for, today on November 1:

I am SO SO SO SO very grateful that I got to spend my childhood years in Basel, Switzerland. It was awesome. What a beautiful city, country and language. I miss Switzerland every single day of my life. (Tomorrow will mark 30th anniversary of coming to America). But today I'm going to focus on the GRATITUDE that I got to be there. How many American kids get to do that, you know?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Introducing Potentiana the Pious of Great Potential

Oh boy, have I been SILENT lately. I've been busy over on facebook, though.

The family keeps me hopping and I always have slightly less energy (and therefore time) than there is stuff that needs to be done. I'm learning to "let go" from it all, though, and to ask for help. The result is that my teenagers are stepping up to the plate and taking over more domestic things that otherwise their lazy selves would not be inclined to do.

All this, while I crash out on the couch and watch Deadliest Catch on Netflix. Before that, I was watching a series about climbing Mount Everest, and then Storm Chasers. ...well, actually I finished Deadliest Catch yesterday and now I'm stuck with River Monsters. Sigh.

We are quite busy here at the Sheldahl house, kids are doing school, I finally found a history and a literature curriculum that we all like, and so we are working on those subjects in a much more organized way than ever before.

But at any rate...

I've created a humor page over on Facebook, so if anyone wants to check it out, Potetiana the Pious of Great Potential takes a humorous look at middle aged woman's struggle(or failure to struggle) to live the Orthodox life.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Gluten Free Casein Free Baklava

I made GFCF Baklava today. The dough is not quite as flaky as regular phyllo dough and it IS a first attempt at all that rolling out, after all. But it's a noble first effort, nonetheless.

Here's what I did:

1 can of coconut milk
4 eggs
enough gf flour blend (I mixed rice flour, tapioca starch and sweet rice flour) to make a stiff non-sticky dough.

Let dough rest for two hours, covered in saran wrap.

then, assemble a 9x13 pan, a cup or more of melted butter flavor palm shortening or ghee, 4 cups of walnuts that have been chopped fine and mixed with a teaspoon of

cinnamon, a rolling pin and a pastry mat.

Divide dough into 16 sections. cover what is not being worked.

Start rolling. Roll it thin, then roll it the heck thinner. then find a way to but it the pan. Brush with melted buttery stuff and repeat.

Every two layers of pastry, add a layer of nuts.

Yes, you will get sick of this.

Keep going. Don't stop now!

After the last layer of nuts, add four or six layers of dough.

then cut your baklava into small squares. Then bake at 350 degrees Farenheit (you have now had AMPLE time to pre-heat that oven) for 50 minutes.

But don't get a nap yet.

Mix a cup of honey and a cup of water, and a teaspoon of lemon zest and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Bring this to a boil and then down to a simmer for 20 minutes.

As soon as the baklava comes out of the oven, spoon or pour this syrup over your pastry. It will soak in.

Then allow to cool, and nip that tiny irresistable corner piece, but be careful not to burn your mouth.

Drink some wine or something and reward yourself for this laborious process. Fall over dead. Yeah...that was worth it.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Better Than Store Bought Gluten Free Bread

So as not to impinge any particular brand of GF bread (the taste of which my family loves but not so much the price tag at six dollars per loaf), I did not cite the brand in the title of this blog post.

At any rate, I have started making GF bread for my family. The first batch was a bit dry and crumbly, and so I modified the recipe in more than one way. The results was a soft, springy and non-crumbly loaf. Everyone was happy.

This is enough dough to make two small (5.5x7.5inch) loaf pans plus four tuna cans...which is what I use to make GF hamburger buns. So you get two loaves of bread which are the same size as the six dollar store bought loaves plus four buns (which cost about six dollars for I THINK four, but maybe six...but I think it's actually four) that's eight teen dollars of bread products that I have made for much less than that.

I buy my GF flours at the local Asian market. I buy big bags of rice flour and big bags of potato starch (tapioca starch works too, they just have not had it in a while), and I do a 50/50 blend of this, and that is my mix. This costs me $1.67 per pound.

Obviously there is a small additional cost for the other ingredients, but (according to a quick google search) four cups of flour is one pound. So this recipe takes 1.25 pounds of flour. That's $2.08. Lets generously round the cost of the rest of the ingredients up to make this batch a three dollar expenditure. Lets say the electricity costs us another dollar. That's four dollars...for what would have been an $18.00 expenditure at the grocery store.

Considering this take about ten minutes of my actual hands-on time to make (no kneading), this is very very much worth doing.

So, here's the recipe:

5 cups of Gluten Free flour blend (50/50 rice flour and potato starch in my case)
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon xanthan gum or 1/2 Tablespoon guar gum
2 Tablespoons dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup oil
2 teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 2/3 cups warm water

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix with a spoon. Add wet ingredients and blend with a mixer on high for 3 minutes until you have a light and smooth batter...this dough should be soft and pourable but not totally runny. If it is stiff enough for you to roll out, you will get a crumbly loaf.

Pour into sprayed small pyrex loaf pans and 4 sprayed tuna cans or burger bun molds, or other baking dish as you desire. Each loaf pan should be between 1/2 and 2/3 full.

Set on back of pre-heating oven and allow to rise for about 30 or 45 minutes. Do not let it overflow your pans.

Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes. check the smaller buns and remove them after about 20 minutes, or when a toothpick comes out clean.

Remove from pans (they release very easily) and allow to cool on a cooling rack for slicing ease. If you MUST eat it hot, you won't be sorry, but you will have to make more sooner. ;-)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Food and Stuff

Last week when I went grocery shopping, something in my brain snapped. I have GOT to find a way to spend less on groceries. Now, everyone is complaining about high prices these days, and with a special needs diet-most of my family is Gluten Free, and two of us are grain free/dairy free, (unless it's pasta night and then I sometimes cave and have some gluten free pasta because spaghetti with meat sauce is, like, my FAVORITE food ever...but I digress)-food is even MORE expensive because we buy certain “speciality items” like gluten free flour and almond milk and way more cans of coconut milk each week than most americans buy in a decade.

And then there's all the kerfluffle about GMO's. I, for one, think they are most likely toxic and vile and very very bad for us. Interesting that it is the year that GMO's were introduced into the U.S. food supply that coincides precisely when my own health started taking a nose dive. I know causation cannot be proven by that, but suspicion can certainly be aroused.

So, someone on facebook asked me where to begin...HOW does a person avoid GMO's? On a budget? Is it realistic?

I would like to outline some very basic rules to follow and steps to take to get going in the direction of GMO free dining.

1. Eat at home. This goes without saying. When you eat out you have absolutely NO CONTROL over what happens in the kitchen. This is true about sugar, gluten, GMO's...anything. Eat at home and you save money AND you can control the ingredients.
. Cook from scratch using whole foods. Cooking from scratch does NOT mean assembling a meal from pre-packaged ingredients. It does NOT mean opening a can of cream of mushroom soup and mixing it in with rice and some ground meat and calling it a meal. In order to cook from scratch, girl, you gotta learn how to make that cream of mushroom soup. You gotta learn how to make those crackers. You gotta keep the list of pre-prepared foods that you buy to a bare minimum. Yes. It is a LOT of work. I have teenagers who help me, for whom I am very grateful. But the truth is, if they want crackers, they are the ones baking the crackers. If it were just me, I'd not be making crackers, but as it is, I don't really eat them.

3. Know your ingredients. Use healthy ones. Do some research. I happen to love the food philosophies of the Weston A. Price foundation.
a.)The first BIG step I took in improving the health of what I am cooking is that I switched from Canola oil (a big GMO offender) to using only fats that have been traditionally used by humans for thousands of years. I do NOT use margarine, or partially hydrogenated anything. No crisco. No Canola or Vegetable or Soybean oil (also a big GMO offender). What do I use instead? Palm shortening, coconut oil and olive oil, real butter and Ghee that I make at home...oh, and lard if I can find a beef farmer at the farmer's market who sells it (the lard at the grocery store has partially hydrogenated crap added to it). I read in the excellent book Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, that one reason we get so many sun burns is that we are eating rancid commercially produced oils...and this has proven true for my family. Since we switched out the fats in our diet, our sunburns have been a thing of the past, for the most part.

4. If you've made it this far down the list, you've come a long way, baby. This (and raw milk) was where we stopped in our food journey for a long time. Then, in the past year (my doctor said no more gluten or dairy and if possible no grains at all) or so I started realizing (after I'd done GAPS for a little bit) that when I eat regular chicken from the grocery, I get gut cramps. Probably all that GMO corn and soy they are fed. I started finding organic chicken and beef at Costco. Yes, it's expensive. I buy it anyway. The other stuff makes me sick and it's a compromise between the cheap regular and the super expensive pastured chicken from the farmer. What can I do? It's expensive. That's how it goes.

5. Read ingredients to EVERYTHING. I started having to read labels to stay off gluten, sugar and now it's a firmly ingrained habit. Unless a package is bragging about no GMO's, it probably has them in it. If it is organic, there will be no GMO's in it. There's a website called the NoGMO project, that can be helpful in finding what is what. Avoid Soy and foods that have soy in them and you will be going a LONG way towards doing all of the above mentioned things. This includes practically every food aside form instant mashed potatoes that's been processed. Cookies, crackers, baked goods...those are the biggest offenders. Make your own. It IS possible to find some prepackaged foods that are soy free and sugar free but these are items you can still make easily at home.

6. Condiments: I make my own mayo, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, gravies, sauces...there is NO NEED to buy jars of this stuff. Mayo is not hard to make with an immersion blender it only takes about 30 seconds. I use the internet...I look up how-to videos on you tube and I learn one new thing at a time. Eventually it has all added up.
So what, you ask, DO YOU buy?

I buy raw milk and pastured eggs through a local food coop. I buy a giant bucket of palm shortening for baking. I buy rice flour and potato starch at the asian store. I buy a giant bag of jasmine rice. I get organic veggies and fruits at the food coop. Organic apples and potatoes. Sometimes I buy conventional veggies, too. Sometimes I buy convetional frozen veggies. I can't afford all organic. I grow more organic veggies in my garden, and I have 32 quarts of green beans to prove it. I buy very expensive gluten free oats and brown rice pasta. I buy canned tuna that I've read the label on until I found some that's just packed in water with no soy broth...Costco brand. I buy that organic chicken and beef. I buy almond flour (at Trader Joes because that's the least expensive place to get it), coconut flour and golden flax meal for my grain free baking blend. I buy winter squashes like butternut and acorn, strawberries and grapes. I still buy diced tomatoes and tomato paste because I did not plant enough tomatoes to can my own this summer... I also buy GF pretzels, but those are not eaten often so I will probably stop. I occasionally will buy GF cookies to take to scouts if I know there will be snacks and I'm too busy to bake, but I know it is better for us to bake our own. I buy organic cheese and bulk parmesan at Costco. I still buy Gluten free Alfredo sauce in a jar, and spaghetti sauce (having read the labels). The alfredo is one thing I need to ditch and make myself. I totally can, just have not done so yet. I buy honey, maple syrup, plain almond butter, peanut butter (the crappy kind with hydrogenated crap in it) but it gets eaten only rarely...and I have been known to also buy Nutella. I buy walnuts and almonds and raisins and prunes and dates. Salt, baking soda and powder and apple cider vinegar and balsamic and red wine vinegar. Olive oil. Dry lentils and beans. Curry powder, cinnamon, other spices and herbs. Onions and garlic. Sea salt (did you know Iodized salt has SUGAR in it?). Stevia drops. Organic butter. Tea bags and sugar for the kombucha. Ginger for the homemade ginger ale. Daisy sour cream. Sunflower seeds. get the picture. I'm sure I've forgotten something. But it's basic boring stuff and I cook it and make stuff and we eat.

Convenience foods I still buy: Instant mashed potatoes (yes, I know...), Waffle fries, GF sausage links, Alfredo sauce, Chex cereal (well...we are finishing it off..won't be buying more), All natural brats and hot dogs (no msg etc), nitrite free bacon, spaghetti sauce, and turkey lunch meat. I buy these things because I have a boy with food related sensory issues and he has to eat something...and well, bacon. I read labels and make the bad stuff the least bad as possible.

I'm not perfect. I still probably eat too much "sugar" even though it's from honey and maple syrup.

If you want a good blog to read that goes more expertly into depth on some of these food issues, I highly recommend

Meanwhile, happy shopping, cooking...and eating. And yes, you will be broke. Broke and hopefully healthier than otherwise.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Find me on Facebook

If any of my readers want to find me on facebook: Alana Juliana Sheldahl. Send me a friend request and if I don't know you personally, just let me know that you read my blog...

A Dying Garden and Chilly Toes

Wes and I went out to the garden last Thursday evening to see if there were any more green beans to pick. We were met with a surprise: Some creatures (herd of deer most likely) had stripped all the leaves and beans off our green bean plants. Honestly, I was rejoicing. I've snapped enough green beans and canned enough green beans to keep me happy for a very long time.

We did gather in all the rest of the green tomatoes from an obviously dying tomato plant of the heirloom Cherokee Purple variety. I'm not enamored with that type of tomato, as they don't seem to ripen well. Additionally we got a huge bowl full of grape and cherry tomatoes picked.

I dug up all the rest of the carrot and beets, as the beet tops had been nibbled as well, and those were obviously done growing, too. We got a LOT more carrots than I expected...about half of a refrigerator crisper drawer full. So, that was a blessing. I feel like our fridge is just STUFFED right now with lots of good things to eat.

The garden, not just our plots, but everyone else's plots as well, is dying. It's the first week of September and it seems like we are a month ahead of schedule on this whole "fall" phenomenon. But that stands to reason, since spring arrived early this year as well.

I'm still getting used to our new house: domestic routines and all that. Additionally I'm dealing with a bit of a fibro flare right now. Felt sick and fat and ugly at Church this morning....sort of a Screwtape and Wormwood morning. But exacerbating all that was that I'd run out of one of my meds, and only had a half a dose this we snuck out as soon as we took communion today. Not something we usually do, but today, I was doing good to force myself to stay that long. Wes offered to take me home several times during liturgy.

It is lovely to have windows open today and to be getting fresh air into our house. I spent some time reading outside and the air is LOVELY. My toes are chilly. I like it that way.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


He kissed me and thanked me for picking, snapping, washing and canning all those green beans (14 quarts today)

and said he owed me dinner. I said: "If you take me out to dinner it will more than cancel out any savings we might have gotten from this work I did." We laugh. "Well, I owe you something!" he says.

...and I remember all those evenings in June when he swung his mattock into the hard Kentucky clay, to break up the soil.

I remember how he hoed it, and raked it and then carefully planted the bean seeds while I watched from my chair, often too sick to get up and do anything to help.

And long summer evenings when we both knelt and pulled stinky bean beetle larvae off the leaves, and when we together bonded over spraying essential oils on our plants so that the bugs would not win.

I remember last winter all the evenings he spent reading up on gardening, and how it was HIS energy, passion and drive that got me out there in the dirt in the first place.

I remember how he gave me time, and let me fall in love with gardening on my own terms, at my own pace....and if I had not, that would have been fine, too.

No, dearest...we are in this together.

I've been paid in long summer evenings in your company, listening to cicadas and the buzzing hum of life that is a summer-time garden. I've been paid by the relaxed conversations we had driving to and from and the walks we took out at the community garden. I'll be paid again in the winter when we sit down and eat these beans. I've already been paid. You don't owe me anything.

September 1

Well, it's been a busy week for me. I was feeling ill on Monday and went to the clinic. Ended up with antibiotics for two infections I had going on. Tuesday saw me at the endodontist for a root canal...a RE-DO root canal on a tooth that had already been done. Please pray that my dental insurance comes through and covers most of it. It cost a thousand dollars. I need to learn to ask more questions in advance of medical procedures, because that price threw me for a loop. A was expecting a few hundred, not ten hundred, for a re-do. Lord have mercy.

The thing that has me stressed out these days is our need to get our oldest some services. Now that she's 18 she qualifies for stuff regardless of her dad's income level, as she counts as an adult with an income of zero. Finding help and being her advocate are things that are very very difficult for me to do...especially as I balance home responsibilities and home schooling everyone, as well. Stress makes my brain basically shut down, and I've been finding myself shut down pretty much constantly lately. This is not good. I have to take one day at a time, make lists and get stuff done. Lord have mercy.

My husband is also working on her disability application process and he's sort of shut down as well. We are both grieving. If B were well and normal, she would be off at college this year.

Yesterday I went out to the garden and picked loads and loads and loads of green beans and also some beets and tomatoes. So I need to get up off the computer soon and start processing them and canning them. That's my task for this long weekend, as it is going to rain here, according to forecasters.

The leaves are looking fallish outside my window, which is rather unusual for the fist of September in Kentucky. But since spring came six weeks early, I suppose fall will come early this year, too....I wonder if the leaves only have a set number of weeks of green in them.

I, for one, am ready for cooler temperatures. I don't care much for summer. But over all it's been a good summer. We moved. What more can I say?

So, I raise my mug of brown caffeinated bevarage (shhhh...I fell off the no-coffee wagon and am drinking some) to a productive-yet-relaxed domestic Saturday.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Sorry this blog's been so quiet lately. It's been a very busy summer. We moved! Moving was quite the accomplishment and we feel so very blessed. God provided all the energy we required to get the job done. Yes, I did fall off the GAPS diet while we were moving (those Rolo McFlurries at McDonald's kept calling our names while we were moving in the 100 degree heat!), but now it's time for the straight and narrow. Two of my kids had birthdays this week, so the cake's been eaten (happens every August) and now I'm officially off non-gaps legal sugars again. Next week I'll go grain free and that will be good. Baby steps, right?

I'm really really really enjoying our house. It has a den/family room/tv room downstairs, and a garage and one bedroom. Upstairs is living room, dining/kitchen, and bathroom with three more bedrooms. Two of those have been turned into one big bedroom, and so that's the perfect place to put all three girls.

And now, since the birthdays are behind us, I am officially the mother for FOUR TEENAGERS.

Just a super quick update. Glory to God for all things.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

GAPS Vanilla Ice Cream and an update

Boy oh boy! It's been a long time since I've posted anything here. Sorry about that, dear internet.

I thought I'd give a bit of an update on my grain free/GAPS/paleo eating that I've been doing this year. I'm almost to the five month mark, as I started on January 17. I can count on less than one hand the number of times of "broken my diet/cheated". Once was with some plantain chips...that one was a brain fart. For some reason I thought they were legal, and then realized they were not. So at most a few bites of that. Another time was a slice of GF paska bread at Pascha. It was not nearly as amazing as I thought it would have been. And I put some soaked Quinoa (technically still grain free, but it is a starch food) in some meatloaf the other evening. I'll live.

So, cheats, but not CHEATS if you know what I mean.

Good results so far:

Less inflammation. My knees no longer hurt when I go up and down stairs.

My hunger/satiety signals seems to be healing, or something. Even just recently, my satiety signal, always elusive and not strong at all, has kicked in. It's like I KNOW, from one bite to the next when I've had enough. This is new. I think most overweight people probably share this experience: It is hard to know when the body has had enough. I watch my thin husband eat and he knows exactly when he needs to stop. The desire for food is no longer there. For me, over the years, it's been a struggle. How much should I eat? When do I stop? What rules to I follow about meal size, etc. I've tried every trick in the book and then some, but I have been living all along with this awareness that something's broken, here...why doesn't it work for me automatically the way it automatically works for him?

Well, for some reason or other, the "automatically" has been kicking in.

But I'm also dealing with RAGING food cravings. I want pasta. I want bread. I want nachos. I want DIET COKE, goshdarnit!!!

But I have not given in. I guzzle sour kombucha (lovely probiotic beverage, that) and that really helps the diet coke cravings. Yes, it's been since the New Year and I still crave that poison. I wonder if the craving will ever go away.

I have not lost much weight...five or six pounds perhaps. And my primary purpose isn't to lose, but oh, it would have been a nice side effect. My doctor does not think my body is "healed up enough" yet to lose weight. I'll try to be patient and not force anything. But my clothes are a bit looser, so I'll not complain.

I've been cutting down, way down, on the honey, and now dates are too sweet for me. And trying to minimize the nuts...but that leaves me hungry all the time. I'll keep trying, especially to lower the honey. I know it's not an ideal food.


This week I made GAPS legal Vanilla ice cream, which is amazing and I really really needed to make it, because otherwise a trip to GRAETER'S and a mega cheat would have been close at hand.

3 cans of coconut milk
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup honey
1 T or more of homemade vodka vanilla flavor (the vodka helps the ice cream to stay scoopable)
2 droppers full of liquid stevia.

blend all in blender, and process as for ice cream in an ice cream maker. Let cure in freezer.


Friday, May 11, 2012

The Chart

I made a chart. I got the inspiration on Wednesday when I was feeling good, make a quick run to the store to get about three items, and while I was in there started feeling like utter doo doo (pain, exhaustion, feeling flu-ish). I thought to myself: what if I charted my energy and pain levels?

So here it is.

Red-pain and utter fatigue, body aches...really can't do anything but sit or lie down (preferably lie down) when I'm red.
Orange-insomnia. When I should be sleeping or getting sleepy but I'm. just. not. It is NOT a productive insomnia. Note the similarity between the colors red and orange.
Pink-also related to red but not as dark. This is fatigue, but I can force myself to get up and "DO"...but I don't want to. But I can and do.

Green-feeling good and getting stuff done.

Most of my life is lived in the pink range. Green is a bonus. I can go from Green to red, or pink, really quickly. Climbing out of red takes sleep and effort and usually some time feeling pink.

May is Fibromyalgia Awareness Month. This is what Fibromyalgia, Chronic Epstein Barr that I can't get rid of, and Hashimoto's looks like.

Yesterday was a fairly good day. I got a lot done. Wednesday was hard. Most of it was red. Today I'm starting in the pink/red and I've been sitting here all morning watching TV and being on the computer.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Breaking it Down

OK, what components go into health and this elusive thing called "wellness"?

Relationships-family and friends
Movement: stretching/ strength building/ aerobic

I've been working SO HARD ya'll, on getting all of these areas in my life at a better place using baby steps. The spiritual part...well, been doing that for years. I won't go into that for now, but the other stuff...of course I've been blogging about it, so this is nothing new.

Of course I've been working a lot on trying to figure out all that is going on and why I feel sick every day, and I think I've finally arrived at some knowledge and acceptance: Fibro, Epstein Barr, and Hashimoto's (autoimmune) --henceforth to be referred to as the trifecta of badness.

I'm at last, as of this morning, taking a medication to help me cope with my fibro symptoms, which will hopefully also lift a bit of the depression I struggle with. It's called Savella.

On the food thing...the latest thing I cut out of my life was coffee, switched to black tea, then down to green tea, then decaf green tea...and today it was ice water in the morning... and with each subsequent change I have started sleeping better and better and better. Who knew? (Well, lots of people, actually).

And the sleep is helping my energy levels a little bit. I knew it would. The last three times I've been into the doctor I've talked about my inability to sleep. Too bad she did not say "cut out the coffee". Oh well. Better late than never.

So the sleep thing is improving.

And because of the GAPS diet I feel like the food thing is in a good place. I don't over eat. I promise. Yes, it is possible for someone to be obese and NOT overeat. Just like I refuse now (new year's resolution) to put a known poison into my body, I also refuse to NOT nourish myself adequately).

So the next big glaring weak spot for me to tackle in my wellness journey, as the trifecta of badness allows, is movement. No, see, I'm not even gonna call it "fitness" or "getting in shape". That's too ambitious. I'm just gonna call it "movement". As in: "I'm gonna take my cane and my fat trifecta self and shuffle around the block for 30 minutes if I can." or "I'm gonna fall on the floor and while I'm down here maybe I can do some stretching exercises." Awesome. I gotta add some gentle movement in, and I do mean gentle.

My habit, heretofore, is to always go at exercise with all guns blaring and then I die about two weeks later and lay around in a fibro flare for the next six months. And since the definition of crazy is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results (he joining weight watchers for the umpteenth time...not gonna happen, or watching Biggest Loser to try and inspire my inner Jillian with more self loathing than I already possess to whip my rear into shape when that's just going to bring on a flare of mono AND fibro...anywhoo...) I'm not going to do the guns blazing exercise thing anymore. No ma'am.

I have to figure out how to exercise WHILE I FEEL LIKE DOO DOO. So it's gonna have to be small and simple and do-able. Doo-doo-able. whatever.

Today I did some pilates for, like, ten minutes. Yesterday I dragged myself to the fitness room and walked on the treadmill at an excruciatingly slow speed (well, excruciating for my pride. My legs thanked me) for 25 minutes. And no, I couldn't keep going that extra five to make it a half an hour. The trifecta is to blame.

I have never been this pathetic out of shape in my life except when I had just had a c-section, and even then my overall fitness was better.

Today I did the intro "core basics" (ten minutes of easy stuff and how to breathe) of a pilates video. It was do-able but I could feel it.

So, that is the one big hole in my mental pie chart of wellness: Exercise. And I can't go all out. But slow and steady, as the proverb goes, wins the race.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Offer it Up

What a beautiful Saturday morning it is today! I've been up since about 2:30 AM, but I'll not complain. I got some reading and internet cruising done, and the fresh air coming in through my open back door is lovely.

A good morning for a bracing cup of tea!

Well, I went to the doctor again yesterday, and she agrees that since my MRI came back clear we could put off a neurologist until/unless weird neuro stuff starts up again. Meanwhile, I know for a fact now that I do NOT have Lyme Disease. Nor do I have CMV. But I DO have Epstein Barr. No big surprise there. My system (slow, sluggish and beleaguered that it is) just hasn't been able to fight it off yet. So I was right...the mono is still flaring up and affecting my life from time to time.

And so it looks like the three things (or is that four?) that we know about are what are going on: Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto's, Epstein Barr, the copper thing, the and hormones (ya gotta pronounce that like the lady on My Big Fat Greek Weeding, as 'or-mon-ees, just for fun).

So, it's time to start taking medication for the fibromyalgia. I've been diagnosed with it for eight years now, and although I've been on the guaifenesin protocol for many of those years, I was never all that much better. I went off the guai protocol last fall hoping that the Hashimoto's diagnosis was what was really going on...but by now it's clear that's just one piece of the puzzle.

I've changed SO MANY things for the better since last fall: gluten free, grain free, no more sugar, no more starches, no more coffee, lots and lots of good fruits, vegetables, meats when I can get them, etc.

I've seen wee hints of healing here and there. I'm no longer showing any signs of allergy when I eat almonds. So that tells me my gut indeed is healing. My knees don't hurt anymore when I go up and down stairs. That's a blessing, because in three months we'll be moving, Lord willing, to a house with stairs.

Why do I go on and on about my health? heh. Good question. Maybe it's because it is currently defining and proscribing my life. Did I use that word correctly? It's hemming me in on every side. There's so much I want to do that I don't get to do...both in general, and in specific instances: no contra dancing, no fitness efforts, a cancelled date last night because I was too tired, no big sewing jobs.... I just have to let those things go and give them to God.

As my Roman Catholic friends say: "Offer it up". Indeed.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Tallest Mountain

Every Sunday morning I feel like I am fighting a war. Actually the war starts on Saturday night while I'm sleeping. If/when I can. I never sleep well, and each night of deep sleep comes with the price of weird dreams, a side effect of the Melatonin my doctor has me on. So I put up with bad dreams on most nights in order to feel refreshed in the mornings. Saturday nights/Sunday mornings, the dreams are always particularly vile and I always wake up on Sunday's very very depressed.

Yes, I know. There's a war going on.

And physically I wake up on Sundays feeling beaten. Pummeled. In pain.

Yes, I know. That war thing. It's no accident.

I fall asleep praying, I pray when I wake up at night, and a wake up praying. Lord have mercy. Theotokos help me. Jesus have mercy on me a sinner. It's nothing amazing...just me crying out to God.

And the battle rages on.

Many times, I lose the battle and stay a home. The physical aspects of living with chronic illness are sometimes too much for me and I just don't have the strength to be there and fight for that meeting with the Lord. I think the depression stuff is worse, or as bad as the pain and fatigue. Maybe its all one thing.

Today was not such a day. Today was a day when I woke up and fought and pressed through the pain. I was in pain the entire time at Church.

A victory, perhaps, to be, and my stupid embarrassing cane, which I barely used today because I didn't have the energy to stand up hardly at all.

I was there, and I made confession and I took communion. The most important things got accomplished. Win.

And folks, I wanna say: Anyone who is dead serious about living the Christian life is living in a spiritual battle zone. We are at war. We are not alone, by any means, but we are at war...and not just the ones of us who are dealing with chronic pain or illness. We are all of us either fighting this battle or not fighting it.

It helps to look at Sunday mornings as a war zone. It used to be that the battle played out on my insecurities, and Sunday was the day I could. not. find. a. thing. to. wear. and when I battled my insecurities the most. Lately that hasn't been the issue (I only changed shirts once and jacket/sweater once...but that's because I dripped makeup on my first shirt and because I opted for a more comfortable/softer sweater over a structured jacket due to pain this point I almost don't care what I look like as long as I'm decent).

But that Sunday morning battle rages. It hits our weakest spot. It's like climbing the tallest mountain, sometimes...just trying to make to the Eucharist.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

GAPS/Paleo/SCD Birthday Cake

Bethany turned 18 today! Congratulations, and God grant you many years! Lemon Cake with Lemon Filling recipe here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

This blog needs a new name

I gave up coffee. Someone forwarded me an article about some reasearch saying that coffee has a protein in it that is cross reactive to gluten. Well, goodbye coffee. I quit the moment I read that article...and I do believe I'm better off for it. Currently I'm swigging my way through the black tea in my cupboard and once that is gone, I'll go with green tea and probably stay with green tea. Unless/until I learn something evil about THAT.

Meanwhile, I do believe taking iron is helping me, as I have a modicum more of energy. Thank God, thank God, thank God!!!!

ANNNNNDDDDDD....I put on a t-shirt that the last time I tried it on was a bit snug, and it fit perfectly. I wore it all day yesterday. Today, I went to put on a shirt that used to fit just fine and it hung like a tent. So, I had to go through all the shirts in my closet, and a bunch of them now reside in a bag destined for the thrift store. Some of them beloved favorites, too. Oh well. I'm not going to weep. So I went from one gargantual plus size to the next smaller not-quite-as-gargantuan plus size. At least I'm headed in the right direction even though there's a long way to go.

So, this blog needs a new name. Coffee can no longer be part of my IDENTITY, which is what it was. I knew at the beginning of the year that this year would be a year of change and growth. It has been and is continuing to be. The GAPS process is huge for me right now, but I don't want my blog to be all about the GAPS diet. Gluten free is huge, but again...not my main main thing.

So, I'm stuck and can't come up with anything good. Suggestions?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Holy Week

I feel so blessed. I AM so blessed, regardless of how I FEEL, and one of the things the Lord has been showing me is that I need to focus more oh how much He helps me (because He does!) and less on how tired I am.

This week, I think, God helped me A LOT. I was able to make several of the services. And that was a huge blessing. We did not go to the 12 Gospels service on Thursday night and on Wedesday, our kids were so fried that we scooted out the door as soon as we got our Holy Unction...B had been having a panic attack during the whole service.

So, Thursday night we stayed home and read the 12 Gospels together as a family. I decorated our fireplace mantle with some silk flowers found in our craft bin, and the right icons, and some candles. I know silk is a bit "redneck" but hey, we are shame!

The past two days I've been very busy in the kitchen. I've made SO MUCH FOOD...most of in "diet legal" junk food....GF cream puff shells, GAPS soda bread (well, B made that), GAPS nougats and chocolates which are ironically "lenten". I dyed the eggs reddish with onion skins, and found some gluten free salami at the store. I also bought some yummy sheep milk cheese and organic wine for our basket. It's been a busy two days, but I have been able to pace myself. I'm counting on a second wind to get me through the service tonight. Pure adrenaline!

We are all so excited! Pascha! Just a couple of more hours and we'll be heading out the door.

I was blessed to make it to Church this morning, and that was wonderful. Arise O Lord judge the earth, for to Thee belong all nations!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Palm Sunday Fail

It was such a blessing yesterday to be able to go to Church and receive communion on Lazarus Saturday.

But that was yesterday.

Today: Palm Sunday Fail.

I was there. I arrived at about 10:20 and stood in the narthex while a baby was being churched. I could feel my energy leaving me at that point. You see, I was barely able to make it in the first place.

That's how my days have been. I do one thing, and I'm exhausted. I plan my days around much needed naps and the rest of the family is picking up my slack.

Almost like when I had mono. No, wait. JUST LIKE WHEN I HAD MONO! (Do I still have mono? Well, as soon as the blood work comes back, we will know.)

Meanwhile, back to my Palm Sunday fail...

So I make it in to churhc. I sit. I can barely hold myself up. Misery. The antiphons are a blur. So is the Epistle and Gospel reading. During the homily I put my head on Wes' shoulder and just drift. Jesus is King. OK, got that. Jesus needs to be King of my whole life. Yeah, well, He is. He's KING of this here sick person. And it seems his Kingly will not to heal me. I drift.

Then I had to escape and use the ladies room. Since we sit up front, it's a long walk of shame down the side aisle. I'm embarrassed by my wooden gait and by how sick I feel so I keep my head down. Everyone looks so healthy and beautiful.

I finally get to the ladies room. I greet some gorgeous healthy looking woman who is exiting. I'm alone in there so I let myself sob for a bit.

When I woke up this morning, my eyes had dark orange-brown circles around them, like I'd been beaten up. My face looked distorted and swollen. But I was determined. Trowel on the make-up and off I went.

Too bad make-up can't fix what's broken on the inside.

And truth be told, it didn't really do a good job of hiding my misery.

After a bit, Wes found me in the narthex and took me home. I crawled into bed.

I'm sick, ya'll. I'm so sick. And it just doesn't go away, and it never seems to get better.

On Friday I was at the doctor's. We go the results of my hair analysis back. I have copper levels that are WAY too high and it's throwing lots of other things out of whack....causing anemia for one thing.

Too high copper levels can cause fatigue, depression, alleriges, dyslexia, spaciness, anxiety, phobias...all these things I have. But to call it fatigue sounds too mild. It's the kind of fatigue not that you get after a good day's work. No, it's the SICK kind. When you have the flu and you can't stay upright for a second longer. That's how I feel every blessed day. NOt every moment. There are some moments when I have a bit of energy...when I feel approaching normal but that fatigue is lurking there and it does strike and I never know WHEN it will strike.

So there's the copper thing. There's the anemia thing. There's the fibromyalgia thing. and I"m waiting to find out if my mono is still active.

While she was taking blood, she's testing me for CMV and Lyme as well.

God's will be done, God's will be done, God's will be done. So I missed Palm Sunday Eucharist and the lovely procession. God's will be done. I"m sorry this post is such a downer. Here's a picture of my lovely dark rings around my eyes. I swear I look like I have a movie makeup job of a "sick person". LOL.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Garden

Yesterday evening Wes and I took a drive out to the community garden to see what progress has been made.

It was a lovely evening. Insects were already flying in the grass by the road, and the earth had been disced, but not divided into plots yet. We hope to garden two of them this summer.

But there will be much work to be done. Wes wants to work it by hand, and bypass using the rototiller, and to that end he has purchased and spent the winter shapening a mattock. Just a wee step towards less dependance on petroleum products, I guess.

For my part, I just enjoy being out of doors, even if it means sitting and watching, or hobbling around with my cane, which support my legs need by the time evening comes.

After we looked around, we discovered some lettuce growing by the side of the road, so I picked it, and some wild flowers and we munched on some wood sorrel, enjoying its tart and tangy flavors for a few small bites.

While we were there, someone drove by with a horse in full lather who was pulling a two-wheeled cart. I thought my youngest daughter would have been outraged that the horse had its head pulled back by the harness straps to give it that more formal "look". She has, after all, read Black Beauty. ;-)

After looking at the garden-to-be and picking a few more wild flowers we drove over to where the animals are kept and said hello to the friendly goats. A few of them came up and let me scratch their chins and ears. Too bad I did not have any treats for them.

It was a lovely and warm evening and much too green for this early in April. I hope we don't get a hard freeze. Nobody plants much before Derby (early May) around here, but I'm not quite sure if that has to do with the actual weather or the unnatural focus on acquiring the best and biggest HAT.

Sunday, April 01, 2012


I have added new veils to my etsy shop. I must say, they are very pretty...and just in time for Holy Week and Pascha (Easter)!

Response Video to Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus by the OCN

Friday, March 30, 2012

Orthoodx Hymn Sampler...very lovely!

Chapel Veil Design

I designed a chapel veil today. Here are some photos. It is made from a D shaped lace, edged in flowers cut from the design and pleated in the back.from the front. It just sort of sits on my head.
Side view
On my head from behind.
Spread out on a pillow.

On Being an Autism Mom: A Post about Grief and Joy

Being an Autism mom means-

-the possibility of a never-empty nest

-watching your child "flunk out of" ballet lessons

-dealing with bullies and their parents

-feeling bypassed by the parents of normal kids

-being the mother of the odd-family-out

-finding kindred spirits in the strangest of places

-learning that age is no barrier to friendship and being grateful for ANYONE who will love your kids along with you

-not being invited to parties

-having no help or support

-not having people over as often as you would like

-spending all your money on doctors and medicine

-never being able to afford to go on vacation (see above)

-used furniture (see above)

-thrift store clothes because, in part, they are already broken in



-giving up your spontaneous side in favor of much needed routines

-watching the kids grow and develop at their own pace

-letting go of expectations

-fighting envy of "normal" kids' accomplishments and their proud parents

-accepting that some people will never be fashionistas...and being secretly grateful for that fact

-looking back and re-living the "golden days" of motherhood before it all came crashing down...before you KNEW...

-love, joy and hugs from people who, if they were neurotypical, might feel "too old" to want to hug their mom

-seeing a prolonged innocence in your kids due to their developmental delays

-knowing how to stave off a panic attack (theirs, not yours)

-have mad melt down alleviation skillz

-not being afraid of psychotic episodes

-keeping up with four different medicine and bio-medical supplement dispension trays

-last minute phone calls to get meds refilled because juggling all of it seems impossible

-being able to cook gluten free and live to tell about it

-the Gaps diet

-spending a large amount of money on food

-shopping at three or four different stores in order to find the right brands of everything that doesn't contain the garbage we are trying to avoid

-getting unwanted advice that is always kindly meant

-giving unwanted advice that is always kindly meant

-seeing your kids sitting alone during coffee hour...week after week after week

-bonding with other autism families

-offering up this grief to God

-wondering why, what caused this?

-asking "why me?"

-holding your breath and hoping none of your kids' cousins have autism...for their sake

-learning to accept your life as it is and not as you thought it would be

-seeing amazing talents emerge despite the kids' struggles

-"Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven"

Watchfulness at Night

This lent has been weird for me. I've had all this mental focus on my freaky health issues and the expensive tests for them, like the MRI. And then there's been making decisions about my oldest's care and medical treatment. And then there's been juggling the GAPS diet and the GFCF diet in our family and trying, trying, and certainly not doing it very well, or not being ABLE to do it very eat less meat. Every fasting period, I watch Eric lose weight and deterioroate. We are at the official point of him not being able to focus on his school work. And this is WITH our family still eating fish (which he refuses) and chicken (which he will eat a small amount of).

(Please, no comments on how to get him to eat. He's a teenager and at this point it's really up to him. And when he was wee...well, force feeding and causing him to vomit are NOT good parenting choices in my opinion. Ancient history.)

So for him, and his anemic undernourished self, beef is back on the menu. I hope htis means he can focus on his school work better.

Why do I share that here? I guess I do so to share my lenten struggle. This is what I'm dealing with day in day out. I'm dealing with the stress of finding out too late, two months in a row that dd needs a refill on a certain medication, we find out on Thursday evening that she only has doses through Saturday and I may not be able to get it filled until Tuesday because her doctor has a three day waiting period on refills...stresses like that. Why, you ask, do we not keep better track? Ah, I ask myself the same question and the answer comes down to a perfect storm of us trying to give more and more responsibility for meds management over to our almost 18 year old, and the fact that Wes and I are always, forever and perpetually maxed out. Each day hold more work and responsibilities than we have energy and strength for. There are never quite enough "spoons".

So in all of this it is easy for me not to make it to lenten services. Going is a torture. They are in the evening during the time of day when I literally feel ill. Daily, I wake up fatigued. I rest for a couple of hours in my chair with my feet up, then start school and do any chores or errands I need to or must fit in. On many days, by 4 pm I am feeling like I have the flu. Yesterday the fatigue and aches and weak legs hit me at about 2 pm while I was in Walmart getting groceries. I still had to finish that, take B to a therapy appointment and then run to Costco before home again. We made it home by 5:30. I had a cup of coffee at 2:45 on the way to the appointment. The devil is in the details: coffee now for safer driving abilities on I-65 and at rush hour, or no coffee, extreme fatigue and dangerous driving in exchange for the hope of a better night of sleep.

Needless to say I picked the coffee. I knew what I was choosing and was not disappointed. So last night sleep was hard to come by until after 1. And my upstairs neighbor...he gets up for the early shift around five. He's quiet, but even his normal footsteps wake me up. I don't think I ever really sleep deep. My doctor and I are discussing this.

Today, I am grateful, grateful, grateful that I have no appointments. Just at home work and perhaps, just for fun a quick zip over to Hobby Lobby so I can do some etsy shop sewing.

Holy Week Approaches and all this, at least, I am learning to offer up to God. All the weakness and tiredness and stress. It's more than I can handle, but it's not more than God can handle.

So I'm grateful, in an odd way for the watchfulness that I have at night. I say I never have private time. But I do. All those hours of not sleeping ARE good for something.


This is a lovely video. For those of my friends and family who are not Orthodox Christians, perhaps it is an inside glimpse into how we worship. At our parish we do have pews and so the prostrations often become simple kneeling. This is a blessing for the ill and elderly.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

On Colors and Thrifty Ways of Being.

How things come together: I'm thinking of colors and where to put furniture in what room when we move this summer...and what we have and what I love. I have these two wonderfully comfortable, "shabby chic" at this point, leather chairs with half circle ottoman dark GREEN. Not my color of choice. But the chairs are here and they shall remain. I love baskets, lace curtains, wooden furniture like a cedar chest, piano, old dish cabinet, spinning wheel...old world country. So how do these green overstuffed leather chairs fit into that picture? Here's how:

I'm not planning on doing a sunflower theme, mind you. That's too 1990's and matchy matchy for my taste. But that pale yellow against the dark green and brown (I know the color of the wall and it fits!)...truly inspired. So now I know what accent colors to start thrift-collecting for my future "parlor". Feeling grateful today.

Monday, March 26, 2012

GAPS Walnut Blondie

You know those awesome and amazing walnut blondies at Applebees? There they get served with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream and white chocolate sauce, which items I will have to perfect gapsy later. But for now, I bring you, inspired by the blondie, the GAPS WALNUT BLONDIE:

3 eggs, beaten
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup of honey
1/4 tsp salt
1/2T. gaps friendly vanilla extract (I found some at Meijer w/ no sugar. McCormicks also has one with no sugar. Or you can make your own with vodka, vanilla beans and three months of waiting).
2 cups of almond flour or almond meal.

Mix all together. sprinkle top with soaked and re-dehydrated walnuts. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 or until done.


Baptismal Gowns

It's time for a shameless plug for my etsy shop. I've put up three infant baptismal gowns at I hope these sell fairly well, as I am raising money, in my own quiet way, to help my kids along in scouting. I've been too sick lately to take them door-to-door selling flowers. Here's a photo: For more details, follow the link.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Walking when very fatigued

My legs get very weak, all of a sudden like. When they do, this is how I walk.

MY Brain.

Today I went for an MRI. I've been having some neurological symptoms lately and my doc wanted to check out all possibilities. I have no idea what it could be, but I have "peace that passes all understanding". Possibilites include Lupus, RA, some other autoimmune disease, or MS. I guess the MRI was looking for MS (or a brain thing, har har).

At any rate, the MRI machine is a great place for the Jesus prayer. I was clicking through the pictures on the DVD they sent home with me and found this image:

What do you see? I see a person kneeling at the foot of the cross, body is to the right of the cross, head/face to the left of the cross. Hair is hanging down.

I needed that today. God doesn't look at my fatigue and see a fat useless "lemon" of a person. That may be how I feel, but it's not the reality. This picture is like an icon of "me".

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

GAPS banana bread

Into food processor put:

four ripe bananas
four farm fresh eggs
1/4-1/2 cup honey
1/4-1/2 cup of coconut oil
pinch of salt
dash of lemon juice
1 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup almond meal

blend all until smooth. Scrape down sides as necessary.

Spray baking dish with olive oil spray. If you use a 9x13 it will be sort of flat. I have a baking dish that's the size of two small loaf pans side by side. Use whatever works for you. :-)

Pour batter into baking dish. Sprinkle soaked and toasted walnuts on top. Bake until a knife tests done...probably 45 minutes or longer, at 350 degrees.

Can you tell I'm not really into measuring my ingredients?

Lentil Stew (GAPS and Non-GAPS versions)

Alana's Lentil Stew:

1 onion, chopped

4-5 carrots, chopped

sautee these a bit (coconut oil is nice)

add 2 cubed potatoes and 1 large cubed sweet potato
bag of lentils
can of tomato sauce
1 T. salt
1 T. middle eastern five spice blend (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, cardamon)
1 T. cumin
Water to cover all. Simmer until all is tender.

Alana's GAPS Lentil stew:

3 days before making the soup: Soak a bag of lentils in filtered water for a day, then drain and allow to sprout for a couple of days in a covered bowl.

Proceed to make the following into a soup:

large onion, chopped,
6 or so carrots, chopped
sautee the above in a healthy fat. (I like coconut oil or beef tallow)

Add: 1 bag of frozen cauliflower, I bag frozen cubed butternut squash
1 T. salt
1 T. middle eastern five spice blend
1 T. cumin
1 can of tomato paste (make sure it's GAPS legal)
sprouted lentils
water or bone broth to cover all.

Allow to simmer until all is tender.

This is less carby than the first version but has very much a similar taste/texture. Sprouting the lentils makes them more nutritious.

Sisyphus (They guy in Greek mythology who couldn't get his rock to the top of the mountain)

Well, lent has been peaceful so far. I've been struggling with my health, but then again, what else is new? Last fall seems like a long time ago, and that one month of feeling good was so NICE, but by December it was all over and I started feeling sick again. This has just gotten worse and worse and worse. week...I go for an MRI. And yesterday I had a bunch of blood taken. My doc is testing me for Lupus, RA, and any other auto-immune disease they can think of.

Maybe it's "just the fibromyalgia" but the levels of fatigue I've been having and the weird neurological symptoms are new. Not as much pain, just ginormous my arms and legs are concrete. And my legs get weak and I walk funny.

Recently someone told me I worry about my health too much. Someone else joked that I have Munchhausen's after I opened a pocket knife and clumsily cut myself on the finger. I know he was just joking, but that sort of stuff hurts a tiny bit. But I guess it's my cue that people really don't want to know about it all. It must get comes Alana with her litany of ills.

I think I just want to learn to shut up about it all. (Ha!) Does that mean I'll blog about it more or less? I don't know. But then the problem with shutting up about invisible chronic illness, is that people expect you to be there, be able and to produce and put out and participate. And sometimes that is just not possible. Not enough energy.

I recently closed down another blog I have been writing on, and referred its readers over to this one. So, I may start blogging a little bit more about my faith than I have been in the past few years. I hope that's OK. More GAPS recipes to come as well. I made a wonderful pot of sprouted lentil stew the other day and it has been the gift that keeps on giving. I love leftovers!

Peace, my friends.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Gaps friendly Latkes and Carrot Cake

GAPS Latkes

1 large peeled and Shredded Rutabaga
Shredded onion
about three or four eggs
salt and pepper

mix together and cook in flattened lumps in a
skillet with coconut oil for frying them.

These turned out AWESOME. Very tasty and down-home if home happens to be eastern europe. I think every place in that general part of the world has this recipe. In Switzerland they are called "Roeschti". Yum. Normally these are made with potato of course.

Carrot Cake

3 cups or so of shredded carrots
6 eggs,
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup coconut flour
pinch of salt
1/2-3/4 cup of raisins.
1/2 cup coconut oil

mix all this together and bake at 350 F. until done...9x13 pan makes a flattish cake. This tasted moist and delicious and was just the thing for toting to coffee hour.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Lenten Embrace

Whenever I encounter people who are normal, who have healthy kids, zero chronic illness and who have all their material needs met in abundance I am always left a little bit bewildered. The temptation is towards envy, I won't deny it. I struggle against that, though, and I do believe that God gives me a bit of success in embracing my own reality of chronic illness, ups and downs, spectrum kids, etc. I am very very aware that for all the checks in my "grief and loss" column, it could be much much worse. I am very aware of all the gifts, talents and provisions that God has made for us. I am grateful.

So I learn to be grateful for what IS. And that is spiritual medicine.

Today I was reminded of the vast differences between where people are at when a stranger on facebook commented on a mutual friend's post about fasting: two meals a day, "dry eating"...that sort of thing.

Yes, I know, I have heard it before...this is not news to me.

I'd just forgotten, you see, because MY fast is so different. Due to the chronic illness issues, due to the Autism spectrum issues...due to lots of factors, that monastic level of so-called perfection will never be happening at MY house. And that is perfectly OK. In fact, it would be a sin.

But nonetheless, Lent is coming and that has got me to start reflecting: Each of our "fasts" may be different due to various factors, but they will all have this in common: The Lenten Embrace of the Cross of Christ.

Jesus says to his disciples (that's us) "Take up your cross and follow me." And the reminder is that MY CROSS, although it looks a bit different from the norm, is the one I MUST embrace. So I embrace the GAPS diet...that's my lenten cross which has been given to ME for my health and also my salvation. It requires me to do without ALL my favorite foods and it is for the health and healing of my body. I also embrace my kids' special needs and their various peculiarities and special diets. I embrace our economic situation, that is directly tied in to all these other issues. I embrace my lack of a HOUSE (this one is huge for me...I would SO love a lovely house and garden) and I will choose gratitude for our current dwelling place.

And so on and so forth.

The Lenten Embrace: "Take up your cross and follow me". Embrace the cross of Christ as it has been give to you. ...I'm writing to myself.

Any other path will not take us to Calvary, and Calvary is where we MUST go.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Praying with the Saints

Someone wrote to me and asked me to tell him/her about praying with the saints, as we Orthodox understand it. I decided that what I wrote would make a good blog post:

Prayer to saints/with saints: There is a verse in the LXX psalter
somewhere that is translated "God is glorious in his saints". The
reason saints are special (and this has everything to do with our
"salvation theology", our understanding of what OUR goal is, and the
concept of theosis) is because they are utterly filled with the Holy
Spirit of God. So, when you are praying with a saint you are
praying with him or her IN THE HOLY SPIRIT.

Have you ever read the vignette about St. Seraphim of Sarov (I
consider him and St. Herman of Alaska to be my two saint "grandfathers".)
where he is explaining to a pilgrim about the Holy Spirit? This
explains it so well. We are in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit
is in us, and we are filled with Christ...spiritually AND physically
when we take his body and blood into ourselves in the Eucharist.

It is the Holy Spirit who make some saints' bodies incorrupt. It is
the Holy Spirit who unites us with them...the "church militant and the
church triumphant" to use protestant terminology.

So when you are praying with a Saint, you are praying to/in the Holy
Spirit...because they have become a vessel/receptacle of the Holy

My favorite analogy of this is the image of a sword in the fire of a
forge. Theosis is like this. The sword, as long as it remains in the
forge, becomes glowing hot...because of being in the fire, it becomes
fire. But not by grace, if you will. As soon as the
sword is removed from the fire, it is no longer fire, it cools off and
is merely a sword. This image of theosis is very much the way we
Orthodox understand our salvation. As you already know, it is not a
one time event, check the box and you are done. It is a
relationship...we literally are that sword that needs to be in the
fire. And then we become fire. We become, by grace, what God is by
nature...from being all filled with God.

So that's where the saints are. They are all filled with God. And
because they are in that fire, and all filled with God (taking the
anaolgy one step further), if one were to hold an unstruck match to
the glowing sword, it would ignite. That's what our prayers to/with
the saints are like. We never get confused and think they are God,
just as we do not worship the icons...but because they are "in the
fire" of the Holy Spirit, God is there.

One thing that Orthodoxy teaches is that we experience God through
matter in the sacraments. Matter matters. The Eucharist: Christ
comes to us through matter. Chrismation: The Holy Spirit comes to us
through matter. Theophany: Water becomes sanctified and becomes
God's agent too.

And so the saints, by God's grace, have become His agents. We
ourselves become sacraments...and we are all united. I don't think
most of us have a CLUE about the glories that await us in Christ.

I think many of us with protestant backgrounds will balk a little bit
at the phraseology of theosis: That we are to become gods. Egads! A
part of me recoils from this myself, even though I've been Orthodox for ten years (which means I'm a toddler not an infant). But it's the truth in the sense
of the sword in the fire. This is who the saints are to us... and we
are the unlit matches that can be touched to them and caught fire
ourselves. It's not like there's any competition between God and His
saints, for He is the one who makes them that way...he is the Fire.
The match could just as easily be held into the flame to be ignited.

Neither are the saints a barrier between us and God. It's just all one big circle of fellowship. A love-fest if you will.

I John 4:12-21 explains that kind of love beautifully:

12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
The Consummation of Love

17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him[a] because He first loved us.
Obedience by Faith

20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can[b] he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

Here's a link to the St. Seraphim
of Sarov story

Thursday, February 02, 2012

A Lesson from my Kitchen

It's official: I hate my crock pot. I bought a new crock pot a few months ago because my old one's crock had cracked (for the second time) and the lid handle had already been replaced. Same brand. But this one has an electronic timer instead of manual controls... Stongly. dislike. that. electronic. timer.

I know. It's "just" a control issue.

I want to be in charge of my appliances! I want to be the one to tell when food is done! I want the POWER. I will NOT submit to some dumb electronic timer who thinks it knows better than me. Submission is for unto God, not unto a Rival Crockpot timer. I have enough things in life I have no control over, and I WANT control of my own appliances, by dingy!!!!

I used to make bone broth in my crock pot...I'd let it go for days and just add more water as necessary.

This crock, however, makes weak, anemic broth because it keeps shutting the flippety flip OFF. And, it does not really get hot enough.

With my old crock, I could cook a frozen chicken and it'd be done in about four or five hours on high...from frozen. This new crock won't even bake potatoes in that amount of time.

You know what? I think I AM this new crock pot.

My spiritual broth is weak because I keep shutting off and "being in charge", instead of letting God be in charge all the time. And I'm reminded of the "lukewarm" verse in Revelation.

So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Revelation 3:16

Oh Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

That Dark Place

I do struggle with depression, don't I? I want to write happy uplifting blog posts, but that's just not possible.

Today was warm and sunny. We had our lessons, I did some knitting, some cooking, some would think it'd be an easy day...A sunny day...a perfect day...

Instead, it was just hard. I struggled to get up this morning, and then there was the inevitable guilt that I feel when my slow body does not kick into gear as soon as I think it should. So it's a bit after ten thirty and we are starting school. (Not all the kids wait on me...some of them get a jump start on things like Math and Science while I'm drinking coffee...but others play the Wii, content to wait until I've officially started the school day before engaging their brains.

But we got it done, that's the thing...we DID get it done.

And by mid afternoon, I was dead on my feet. After doing almost nothing today. Not nothing...just quiet stuff.

Cooking soup for an early pre-liturgy supper (we don't even TRY to pretend we are able to keep the fast for vesperal liturgies, so we don't take communion on these's just SO not happening) so we could go to Church at six was my own personal Mount Everest today. I was that tired. It took me forty-five minutes to chop two onions, a few carrots, a few leeks, half a head of cabbage and then clean up after. It's a miracle I did not cut myself.

And then, of course, the soup was rejected by half the members of my family. Fortunaately there were also some date stuffed baked cinnamon apples.

And I did not go to Church. I was simply too tired. So yeah...that dark place rears it's ugly head.

So, deep breath. I will think of some stuff to be grateful for:

I'm grateful for the sunshine.
I'm grateful for my wonderful husband.
I'm grateful that St. Herman helped me find my keys again.
I'm grateful that the day is over.
I'm grateful for my helps me to relax.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Coconut Sweets

Today I bought three fresh coconuts instead of buying the already processed-with chemicals added flaked coconut.

Getting one of them open was an adventure, but it seems it will need to be an adventure I get used to, since I'm committed to eating fresh real food.

First I took a hammer and a scewdriver, and banged two holes in the top, and drained the juice out of the center. (I'd already shaken them to hear the juice sloshing in the store, and checked the integrity of the shells.)

After pouring off the juice we sat down on the concrete (covered in vinyl floor tiles stuff) kitchen floor and started banging away at the coconut. Nothing worked until I took it and gave it the old "medicine ball floor slam"...THAT cracked the shell. So then we pried the rest of it off, with a few hammer whacks and some jabs with the screw driver.

Eventually I was able to use a vegetable peeler on the soft brown inner rind. It was about as fun as peeling a raw butternut squash, which is to say, a bit labor intensive.

Eventually the flesh found its way into my food processor and I processed it for a good while, adding about a cup and a half of dried dates, and an indeterminate amount of raw sunflower seeds. Grind grind, scrape scrape, grind grind. I added the coconut juice for a bit more moisture.

Soon we had a mass of coconut sweets, which we formed into balls.

They are delicious! My daughter and I plan to ration them for when we desperately need a pick-me-up or when everyone else is eating desserts.

Oh and by the far I've had TWO people tell me I look like I have lost weight. I have. It is nice for that fact to be noticeable.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What the Gaps diet is really: Vegetables and More Vegetables

I did not really realize how much processed food I was eating until I started this GAPS diet. Now, I'm eating vegetables, meat and the fats derived therefrom, eggs and a very small smidgen of fruit and honey. That's it.

Today, at the grocery store my shopping cart contained the following:

Acorn Squash-3
Butternut Squash-3
Spaghetti Squash-3
mushrooms (4 packs)
brussel sprouts
cauliflower (I broke down and got this frozen because I knew I did not have room in the fridge)
carrots-4 lbs.
onions-2 bags
organic apples
small box of red currants
bananas-2 bunches, 1 ripe and 1 green
giant bag of frozen green beans
dried bananas (chewy like fruit leather, found at Trader Joes)
four avocados

coconut oil
sesame seeds (for later)
almond meal (for later).

I might be missing something. But that, my friends, is a LOT of vegetables!

I also bought:

1 pork roast
4 organic chickens
3 containers of ground pork for making sausages
6 pounds of beef (from farmer, actually)
3 dozen eggs (also from farmer)
organic butter for making Ghee (2 pounds)

There were a few other things for some of the family members who are not on the GAPS diet, but I wanted to share the GAPS stuff, in case someone googles GAPS diet and comes across this link. And lest you think we eat THAT much meat...I was getting chicken for two weeks, so I don't have to treck back out to Costco next week.

It's not as hard as I thought it would be. The first week started out just making soup after soup after soup...the kind with no rice or pasta or potatoes in it. I've discovered that eggplant goes OK in chili. I have plans to make borsht. And I do NOT care for ginger carrot soup very much.

I'd still be eating soup, but one of my teenagers on the gaps diet refuses to eat anymore soups and so to keep the cooking simple, I've been making bone broth for us to sip in the mornings and afternoons, and doing stewed meals.

This week we've moved into stews/casseroles, so for dinner tonight, I peeled and chunked up a bunch of beets, turnips, onions and carrots, plunked them the big roaster pot and put one of those organic chickens on top. Salt and Oregano. Covered all in foil and let it go long and slow at 325 F. for about three hours.

Those beets were GORGEOUS and the carrots! The burgundy and orange color combo is one of my favorites. I discovered tonight that beets are indeed delicious. I'd never liked them, but then the only kind I knew was the pickled canned kind. I intentionally try to cook enough for leftovers the next day (lunch!) but I never have quite as much as I think I ought to. I will definitely be buying beets and turnips again next week.

I'm looking forward to my cooking this week, because it's a lot of oven meals like this one...meat with various veggies, cooked together low and slow. Easy, simple and REAL FOOD.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Courtesy of Facebook

This blog post is sponsored in part by Facebook...which is currently down and not loading. He he he.

Seriously? Facebook is down? How will I get my George Takei nerdy funny pictures fix? How will I know what's happening in the wide wide world of Orthodoxy today? How will I ENDURE my morning without watching all my Facebook friends flinging political poopie pies at each other?

How will I be ABLE to endure the loneliness of simply being present here, in my own life, with my own kids and the responsibilities I have this day?

How can I be virtual? Auuuugh? No facebook?

Whatever did we do before FACEBOOK????

Ah yes, I remember...we blogged.

And before blogging, we had actual phone conversations with friends (hard to do for a home schooling or working mom, that's for sure).

And before that...I remember this thing called "people" that I used to hang out with. But that was when the kids were babies and toddlers and we had these phenomena called "play dates" and "La Leche League Meetings".

Now, don't get me wrong. I like facebook. I like blogging. I feel like I have a group of friends of people that I've never met cheering me on and participating in my life. How utterly narcissistic and selfish I sound. But in turn, I can go cheer others along, too.

I should blog more. And read blogs more. Blogging is special.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gaps update six.

Well, I started the GAPS diet last Tuesday (on my birthday)...and let me say this: It is brutal. I"m not unhappy, it's just brutal. I can tell that I'm experienceing "die off" symptoms, which means basically that whilst getting healthier, I'm temporarily feeling worse.

I'm back to needing to lay down in the late afternoon for an hour or so. I've heard that as exactly what a person with adrenal fatigue ought to do anyway, so it's good to know that I'm killing two proverbial birds with one proverbial stone.

I was able to make it to Church this morning, and it was SO good to be there and to sing in the choir and to take communion. I feel truly blessed. I hope and pray I can have the energy to start going to choir practice again. I was going to do that last Thursday, but by 6 pm I was dead on my feet and not going anywhere but underneath a blanket.

So far, with my body, the die off feels exactly like the fibromyalgia. Yes, achy and very fatigued.

I"m enjoying all the veggies and the meats and healthy fats. Glory to God for all things.