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.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Picture Says a Thousand Words

and After....

I tried to copy my facial expression and distance to the camera, so all things would be equal.

I was messing around with photobooth tonight (admit it, we all do that sometimes) and I found a picture that I'm pretty sure was taken last September or would have been BEFORE I started on my thyroid medication.

Notice how in the "before" shot, my neck is puffy and swollen, and how my face is flabby looking and also puffy. Notice the horrid acne. I'm wearing a hat, in part because my hair was not growing and looked basically dead.

And now the "after" face is so much slimmer, my neck no longer has that crease in it, acne has cleared up (although there are still some scars)...and I got my eyebrows done, but that's neither here nor there. I'm wearing a head band to keep my growing hair off my face and have it twisted up in a big hair clip in the back. My hair has basically come back to life.

NO...I have not lost weight. Maybe three pounds, if anything. But nothing so significant. It's the thyroid medication that has made a difference in my appearance. I was looking at medical pictures in a book on hypothyroidism that I bought, and there were other such pictures, with a starling difference in before and after for patients on Armour Thyroid.

So, not all of us hopeless cases are truly hopeless cases. Sometimes we are just ill.

Oh, I should also add, that the other big change has been that I went on a Gluten Free Casein Free diet...and my fibromyalgia pain went away within 24 hours. Picture number two is taken at the end of day 4 on the GAPS intro diet, so more good changes are to come, folks!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tooth Soap and other goodies.

One of the things I'm doing this year is striving to kick consumer products to the curb and make as many of my "body products" as possible with home-made food grade ingredients.

Today I made some tooth soap. I found the recipe at this site:

(Sorry, I tried a bunch of times to create a working link, and although I got a working link lower down in the article, for some reason this one just ain't cooperating.)

The tooth soap contains a wee bit of Dr. Bonner's Peppermint Castile Soap, some peppermint essential oil, coconut oil, xylitol and boiling water.

It is easy and very quick to make in the blender. I put my tooth soap into a jar at first but then I found a pump bottle which I thoroughly washed. Now my tooth soap is neatly in a pump. Bethany also wanted some in her bathroom, so the rest of the jar is in there.

I've read that tooth soap can be good for the enamel and also help one to get whiter teeth.

Oh, and I also went "no poo" a couple of weeks ago. Now, instead of shampoo, which has some objectionable ingredients in it, I clean my hair with a solution of baking soda and water, and rinse with a milk vinegar solution. This leaves my hair very soft and clean.

Oh, and then there's the "Pit Paste", as I like to call it. Recipe here. I did not bother making it into a stick. What I do instead is have it in a very shallow cute little canning jar that I found at the store. I can easly get a finger tip full from that a put it where it belongs. This recipe works well for me. People's body chemistry varies, so you might have different results. My dh, on the other hand, is able to use just a good alcohol rub down...I tried that but was still stinky after. I think it's because he lives at his desk, whereas I am up and about...either that, or I'm just more of a stinker than he is. ;-)

It's fun to go through my household and ask: What am I using/consuming thoughtlessly just because it is available for me to use/consume? What did people do before X was invented? So many of the things we take for granted these days are a created need, and not a real need. So many of these things that we don't even think about pollute the environment and our homes and bodies, making us ill and unable to love one another as we ought. Yeah, I'm not ready to give up my toilet paper yet...and I will be enjoying one of those nice "Pine Mountain Fake-o-burn Instalight" logs in my firplace tonight and I still puffyheartlove my kitchen-aid.


Monday, January 16, 2012

The Color of One's Skin

My first encounter with the race-relations/troubles in the U.S. was when I was "fresh off the boat" so to speak. I was 12, and soon 13, and new to the U.S. and new to my school and new to everything.

The missionary house that we started out living in, being hosted by our church, was sort of in the "city" if you will, on 17th Ave. South in Nashville. My bus stop was several blocks away, so I walked into "the projects" every day to catch my school bus.

I mean, on an academic level, I knew there'd been trouble. I knew about the slavery (my mom had read us Roots when it came out, and we'd even procured a TV so that we could watch the show...dubbed into German...when it came on TV) and that is was wrong and the Civil War, and the emancipation proclamation. I'd heard about the KKK and Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. All that stuff.

So, somehow, I thought America has been FIXED. I thought it was a better place and that stuff was in the past.

How wrong I was.

I was unprepared and mystified at the raw hatred that rolled my way from the other girls at my bus stop...who happened to be African American. I thought that if I don't hate them, they won't hate me, right? I'm not a racist because I know it's that leaves me with a "not a racist this one's cool" sign flashing above my head, so that all those girls at the bus stop would somehow accept me? Right?

So. Did. Not. Happen.

No, the hatred rolled on like a river....rolled eyes, mocking tones, derision. It was palpable.

I learned how to be afraid. I did not understand the aggression or the bravado that I was encountering in my busmates/classmates.

I learned to cower and to be shy.

But to be fair...all these really really bad vibes, and a few verbal jabs...that's as far as anything ever went. I was never physically assaulted or harmed.

But the bad vibes were enough for me to learn fear and to put up some serious walls.

THEY didn't know I was "fresh off the boat" and new to this country. THEY didn't know that I felt that my own personal story sort of made me a clean slate to the whole "American inter-racial dynamics" thing. They just saw me, a white girl, at their bus stop, in their territory, and reacted in a normal way based on their own life experience...and judged me negatively.

I could feel the hatred and anger.

It's not much fun being judged by the color of one's skin.

न्कौन्तेर्स विथ रसिस्म

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ordinary Time

Today I was a bit better. I woke up at 5 am with hearing a loud noise in the furnace, and when I got up to investigate the sound (couldn't figure it out but our place has not burned down yet;-) I found one of my really good kitchen bowls that I've been missing for a few months. It had been placed in our heater closet as a drip catcher, not having caught any drips it was very very dusty and full of grime and cobwebs.


I cannot, for the life of me recall placing it there, and if I had wanted to put a drip catcher there, I certainly would not have used my best mixing bowl! Wes can't remember at all putting it there, either, but it's the sort of thing either one of us might have done. I'm wondering though, if it might have been a maintenance man at some point. But grabbing a bowl out of my kitchen? That makes no sense and is a creepy thought, so I think I'll let it go.

I'm just glad to have my bowl back.

We had a nice drive out to New Albany to pick up our pet milk, and turkey legs and a beef heart and ground and some beef bones, and lots of eggs and soap from our farmer. The sun was shining. Last week, in some low wetlands near the interstate and the I-65 bridge I saw a gray crane. It was beautiful to see such a bird in the wild. Today it was frozen, so no waterfowl in sight.

Bethany and I went shopping at Meijer for the first time and I LOVE their produce department. We bought butternut and acorn squash, Zucchini, leeks, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, pears, apples, potatoes, carrots, ginger, mint, onions, mushrooms...oh, I've probably forgotten an item or two. There was so much, and it was all wonderful. Yes, there's the whole "it's not local or seasonal" devil sitting on my shoulder scolding me about those sorts of things...but I just want to feel grateful for the ability to go shopping and to feed my family and to be starting on the GAPS diet next week, so that's what I'm going to focus on today.

I was so grateful to have enough energy to get the shopping done.

And then when I got home I started having chills again, feeling sick and my throat got sore again. Clearly I overdid it. Bethany was also feeling ill. No one went to Vespers, and Wes cooked dinner. I'm so proud of the fact that after almost twenty years of being married, he is finally taking an interest in learning how to cook. Since we are not eating out any more at all, it's sort of necessary to have more than one cook in the family. Our teenage girls help some, too, in that department, but I'm glad Wes is stepping up and being a good example to our son. E is learning how to cook the foods he likes, so that is a start.

Eric is almost as tall as I am. He lacks an inch. He asserts that by the time school is out, he'll have passed me up. I don't doubt him a bit.

Unless being on the GAPS diet makes me taller! LOL.

Well, I've got me some bone broth brewing in the crock pot and I've moved my birthday dinner to "Liturgical time" (Monday night) instead of Tuesday, which is my actual there's a good chance I'll officially start the GAPS diet on Tuesday, my 42nd birthday...what a gift, eh? The gift of health.

But meanwhile I need to figure out what I want my big birthday dinner to be, and what sort of cake I'm going to have. It should probably be a smallish one, so that we won't have any leftovers.

Pehaps I shall make it tomorrow, since I have to bake another cake (or maybe just a couple of cup cakes) so that E can have something to take to a birthday party he's been invited to tomorrow evening. Having a family on special diets is hard work.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

In My Sewing Corner

There's been NOTHING going on in my sewing corner and I have been experiencing the strangest thing...I went from "top of the world, I can sew anything" after making those two wedding dresses last spring, to feeling like I never ever want to sew again after one rather spectacularly stressful well-constructed communication failure of a project where I ended up losing lots of time a not a little money.

Burn out.

Now, whenever I sit down to do some mending, or a wee tiny project, I'm all thumbs and threads come loose and things get tangled and it's just horrid. And I look at my work and I'm so unhappy with it.

Other people have etsy shops and other people's sewing projects are neat and perfect (or at least can take perfect picutres of their work).

And then there's me: The queen of imperfections.

I just want to give up. I want to close my etsy shop, I want to never sew anything again.

I know these feelings will not last. I'll sew again. Someday.

But it's winter and I'm sick and feeling low and I am SO TIRED of being sick and feeling low. But there's nothing else to be but how I am.

I know, the cold/flu/thingy I currently have is transient. It will be gone next week and I'll be bustling around having my birthday and getting ready to go on the GAPS diet. It will be fine.

I will be fine.

There's a saying: Pride comes before the fall.

Yeah...that's what happened to me in my sewing corner.

When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom. Provers 11:2

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A New Year....A New Me (In Other Words..."Jesus, Save Me!")

It sounds trite, doesn't it. We all make New Year's resolutions, and we all fail. Time and again, I have failed. Except for the year when my new years resolution was to NOT diet. I think I packed on about thirty pounds that year, and realized that all my half baked and unsuccessful dieting efforts were at least keeping me on an even keel.

But that was years ago, and I'm over it. Really, I am. Because I HAVE been on an even keel lately, even if said keel includes those thirty extra pounds from several years ago.

But this post is not about weight loss. Really. I promise it is not. Keep reading.

I know that 2012 is going to be the year of changes for me. I can feel them coming. I can sniff the air and somehow, bone deep, I just know.

So, last year there as the mono, which still rises up and nips me gently in the tookus with spleen pain (yes I had the stupid thing ultra-sounded, no I'm not worried, it's just a "body signal" ya know?) whenever I over do it.

There's that.

Then in the early fall, my new NP, who is perhaps the most effective medial person I've ever submitted myself to in my entire life, recommended the gluten free and casein free diet for me, to deal with leaky gut issues and while that helped my body aches and pain to miraculously disappear, and the thyroid meds she started me on are a lifeline of energy that my depleted body needs, more changes are needed still.

See, what I did when I suddenly had energy is that I went out and started working out. I wanted to get a head start on this "new me" stuff, and we all know exercise is the way to do it. I do love me some dumbbells. So I started back into lifting weights...and running.

Crash and burn, baby! That's what I did. Then I got slammed and had. no. energy....again.

What is UP with my sorry self?

So then my very competent NP explains to me about Adrenal Fatigue. Ah yes. Every time I work out, I'm putting my body in "fight or flight" mode, and stressing my adrenals, which, in case you did not know...she tells me...are utterly depleted, kaput, and (as I would have said as a young child) "gone gone"!

And the gluten free thing? Well, I was still having...well, suffice it to say, she's put me on the GAPS diet.

I've known about the GAPS diet for years. Yes, I've read all about it. I'm now re-reading all about it. The GAPS diet, my conscience has told me, is just what I need. I have known this long before I even acknowledged to myself how messed up my body is. I just haven't had the energy or fortitude to get on it.

So, doctors orders...All my new found energy must be channeled towards making bone broth and fermenting vegetables and avoiding starches like the plague, and filtering my water, and eating soup. Soup. More soup.

I know that's just the intro part of the GAPS diet. Once it settles in, there's more to it and it's very similar to the whole ueber-popular paleo trend going around right now. I can deal with it...

Oh, and I'm not ALLOWED to get my heart rate up very much. I'm not supposed to EXERCISE hard (gentle walking, stretching is OK) and by no means am I to "diet to lose weight".

Isn't it ironic?

But back the the adrenals thing: I realized, I AM the ADRENALINE QUEEN. That's how I function. That's how I operate. It's probably a survival mechanism...have no energy (thanks to gluten-intolerance induced autoimmune hypothyroidism) so how do I GET energy to do ANYTHING???? I get myself worked up in order to get an adrenaline rush (could be about is...about everything) and then I get-r-done. And then I crash and people take care of me. lather rinse, repeat. I explained this dynamic to my husband-who-loves-me-in-spite-of-this-crap, and he said "This explains your entire personality." "Yes, it does", I say with slightly narrowed eyes and chagrin.

This is SUCH an unhealthy dynamic. (I'm exposing myself on a BLOG that strangers all over the world read, and I'm putting my worst flawed self out there and it's not so comfortable this time.) And I MUST change. There MUST be a "new me". A new way of living. In order to heal my physical self, my personality will have to change.

Repentance. Metanoia.

But this, I am incapable of orchestrating on my own. Lord have mercy!

And the only way I can figure forward through this learning and change is in prayer...the desperate "Holy Mother of God save me!" type of prayer. I have an icon of Jesus pulling Peter out of the wind and the waves and "Jesus Save me" has become my "mantra" ever since Father told me to use that prayer whenever I get stressed about my weight (which is a constant ever present worry-drone obsession in the back of my head that has been with me since about the age of 13 or so, that pushes itself to my conscious thoughts only a million times a day...). That was last fall, just a few weeks before the layers of the onion that is my ill health started getting ripped away. And I KNOW there is a connection.

So...that's my way forward into 2012. Here's a quote that really blessed my heart this morning, and it really fits in with my thoughts:

"The Lord has taken all our sufferings and cares upon Himself, and He has said that He will provide for all our needs, yet we hold on to our cares so tightly that we create unrest in our hearts and minds, in our families, and all around us.
"Whenever I am burdened by problems, and when I try to bear all the cares of the monastery and the brotherhood by myself, then there is trouble in store for m...e and the brethren. Even the easiest job is carried out with great difficulty. But when I commit myself, the brotherhood, and everything else unto the Lord, even the hardest of jobs gets done with ease. There is no pressure, and peace reigns among the brethren."
-- Elder Thaddaeus of Vitovnica