Monday, November 28, 2011

I just loved our dinner the other day! We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with friends, and our hostess sent home smoked turkey with us. I usually don't like the texture of smoked turkey, but this one was wonderful. It was like ham- good texture and rich in flavor. I decided to make soup with it. Bean soup. It is Fall, after all, the season of rich, hearty soups. I went and looked at the shelves, pondering our bean supply. It didn't take me long to decide.

I made Anasazi Bean soup, with chunks of smoked turkey and bits of chopped kale. As it simmered into thick, rich goodness, I decided it needed some bread. I was really loving the authentic, truly American-ness of this soup (beans from the ancient cliff-dwellers of the Southwest, and our tasty native bird), so I thought the bread should continue the theme.

I looked in my "Flatbreads and Flavors" cookbook, and found just what I wanted. The recipe was called Pueblo Sunflower Seed Bread, but they said that pine nuts were most authentic. They substitute sunflower seeds since pine nuts can be hard to find. I just happen to have pine nuts on hand! I was so tickled to find such a perfect bread to go with the soup!

It all turned out really well. The family liked the soup and loved the bread. Success is rarely so tasty! :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Building Blocks of a Theory In Progress, regarding Alzheimer's

I have theories. Pondering and puzzling and coming up with theories is something I enjoy. Some of my theories have solid value, and others exist only to amuse me. The one I'm currently tinkering with is for real.

I think about Alzheimer's. I have heard different snippets of thought, and theories of cause, and possibilities for hope over the past several years. These nuggets and bits go into a drawer in a closet in my mind, and they mix around with one another, and jostle about. From time to time, I go in and see what they look like all together. I was mulling over this collection today, and started forming the basis of a possible understanding. Not the framework of a theory yet, but the shadow of the genesis of the idea of a theory.


-A few years ago, I heard that some people were studying the effect of blood sugar/insulin levels on the brain, and had even suggested the possibility of calling Alzheimer's Type III Diabetes.

- In the book Nourishing Traditions, I read their explanation of the real cholesterol situation in our bodies. They said that it is not high-cholesterol foods that cause elevated serum cholesterol levels in our blood. This author's explanation was this: Refined white sugar is highly inflammatory. High levels of sugar moving through the blood stream inflame the interior of the blood vessel walls. The body's natural response to this inflammation is to release higher levels of cholesterol into the blood, to repair the damage. According to this book, cholesterol is a natural healing tool of the body; a response to a problem rather than a problem itself. In this explanation, it is the sugar-caused inflammation that causes plaques to develop on the blood vessel linings. At least, that is my understanding of the explanation given. It was longer and better expressed in the book.

-The only conclusive diagnostic tool for Alzheimer's disease is through an autopsy after death, in which they examine the brain. What they look for are distinctive deposits in the brain, a unique and definitive sign of Alzheimer's disease.

- I watched a fascinating series of video clips on youtube, a documentary discussing the positive effects of coconut oil in counteracting the symptoms of Alzheimer's. The woman being interviewed is a respected doctor. Her husband was quickly disappearing into the darkness of Alzheimer's, and she observed, up close and personal, the dramatic improvements brought about by the introduction of coconut oil into his diet.

-Coconut oil... (when I mention coconut oil, I always mean unhydrogenated coconut oil!) ... is purported to have anti-inflammatory properties, among many other health benefits.

So, here are the loose bits from which I'm started to form the foundation of an idea:
What if sugars (meaning refined white sugar, as well as blood sugars from refined starches in the diet) have the same effect on the brain as they are said to have on the blood vessels? What if elevated blood sugar levels cause an inflammatory condition in the brain? What if this inflammation predisposes the brain for the development of the plaques unique to Alzheimer's disease, just as was described in the cholesterol explanation? And if coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, it could reverse this condition which leaves the brain vulnerable to that development.

I can see, with those bits, how the consumption of coconut oil could help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease, through it's healing and protective influence. With my limited grasp of even these few bits, I still don't see how it could reverse the condition once it had already been well-begun.

There has been an astronomical increase in the number of people with Alzheimer's disease in the past few decades, right? And people are always trying to find that critical factor that changed in our culture/society to bring this about. I know one theory I heard was that the use of anti-perspirants with aluminum were a contributing factor. So many people use such products now, and they didn't a hundred years ago.

But so many things have changed in our world in the past hundred years. The number of possible variables in this situation is beyond comprehension. We live in a polluted, mechanized world, full of highly processed foods, high stress levels, and harmful chemicals. Our lives have moved indoors. We as a nation have become sedentary, anxious and angry. We use large amounts of substances on our bodies to keep ourselves clean, tidy, attractive and smelling good. Our air is dirty. Our water is suspect. We protect ourselves from the sun, by covering ourselves in chemical substances or by staying indoors. We have lost touch with the natural world. We have lost our moral compass, as a nation, and many of us are spiritually adrift in a sea of uncertainty. We live in a constant barrage of input designed to make us alarmed about the state of things in our world. It is functionally impossible to isolate one single cause for any change.

And yet, I do wonder if this vulnerability of the brain, to this one condition, may in fact be linked to a simple cause: diet.

I wonder if the massive overuse of refined sugars and starches is behind the huge increase in dementia and Alzheimer's disease among us. These highly refined foods have become so completely normal to us that we don't even realize how they pervade every corner of our lives.

Starches/sugar= elevated blood sugar levels, often beyond the body's ability to self-correct= inflammation in every system of the body, including the circulatory system, including brain tissue= vulnerability to the formation of plaques on the interior of blood vessels (heart disease) and on the brain (brain disease/Alzheimer's)???

Eating a diet very low in sugars and refined starches, high in fresh, whole, "real" foods, with healthy saturated plant fats like coconut oil...and low in the most inflammatory foods (refined white sugar, refined wheat flour, dairy, red meat)...will heal the chronically inflamed conditions in our bodies...could= protection of our brains against Alzheimer's???

We know that the massive changes in our American diet have seriously messed us up in so many ways, with a national crisis of obesity, heart disease, cancers, diabetes, etc etc. It just makes sense to me that these changes in brain health could stem from the same root cause.

If losing just five percent of your body weight can make an immediate difference in diabetic symptoms, why couldn't small, but important, dietary changes have an immediate effect on brain health?

Monday, October 17, 2011

My (oddly) Autumn-y Afternoon

Cast of characters:

Two apple trees, very prolific this year. They have been dropping fruit freely. When these fallen apples are eaten by the Big Dog...bad things happen!

Big Dog and MiniMe:  not their real names, but if you've been reading the past couple of days you know how I love nicknames. Big Dog is Mandy, our six-plus year old sixty-plus pound Golden Retriever. MiniMe is Roxi, puppy of our youngest child, a three and a half month old, six and a half pound Chi-Weenie-...Heeler? mix. She really does look like Mandy's Mini-Me, even though they are breeds apart!

Me: I've been sick for several days. It's either a Cold, or the Real Respiratory Flu. Not sure which. Every time I start to think, "Nah, it's just a cold," then my knee joints ache, or my neck feels stiff, or my skin feels all weird and sensitive and then I start thinking Flu again. I have been extremely careful to avoid the outside world, so I wouldn't share this oh-so-fun whatever-it-is with other people! This means that I have not really left the house since Thursday lunchtime. This is Monday.

I am so done with being inside, sitting around doing nothing! It is a continual surprise to me that I actually have a limit when it comes to sitting around, reading, napping, and watching old episodes of Designing Women on youtube. But I do. I actually do.

Even though I'm so done being in the house, I still don't feel well, so I didn't want to solve my problem by going downtown and running errands. My Eureka! moment came when I took the dogs out back for a potty break. Aha! I went back in for the shed key and some work gloves. I was already wearing rubber boots- standard equipment for venturing into our dog-bombed back yard.

And I spent the next hour picking up apples and raking up dog manure! Good physical exercise. A job that needed most seriously to be done. A good long time for the dogs to run and run and run like mad things around the yard.

One of the great benefits of our arid, high-desert climate: within just a couple of days, dog piles are so dried that you really can just rake them up with a leaf rake!  I could go into how, when we got Big Dog six years ago, all these speeches were made about her being Everyone's Dog, and how Everyone would help with picking up after her...and about how long that didn't last...and about how unbelievably long it has been since Anyone bothered to pick up Anything from a dog in the back yard. I could...but I won't. ;)

What an odd combination of smells: the cidery fragrance of fallen apples....clashing with the acrid stink of disturbed dog piles!

In our back yard is an old blue plastic wading pool. Once upon a time, our wee kiddos used it for splashing play on hot summer days. They grew up, and it wore out, so now this somewhat broken wading pool is the summer bathing facility for Big Dog. Today, it became the Apple Basket. It is now about half full of broken, half rotted apples. And it is much closer to completely broken and useless than I realized, so this may have been its last hurrah.

The hour of work left me feeling tired out and breathless (respiratory illness has a way of doing that!), but also refreshed from the time outside, and pleased with my accomplishments.

After I came inside and recovered a bit, I started a pot of beef stew. The house is starting to smell all savory and good.

I must say, I'm feeling pretty good about myself right now. :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why It Has Been So Long...

I haven't written much for the past several months. Back when I started this blog, I was feeling energetic and well, and my creative brain had come alive. Then I started eating all the 'wrong' foods, which makes me feel tired and ill and decidedly uncreative. And whiny.   :)  I didn't want my blog to become a big old complaining whinefest, so I figured I would just not write till I had something positive to say. "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all!"  :) 

I Gave Our Kids Indian Names

Once upon a time, I was frustrated with our older son's attitude, so I started calling him Little Black Cloud. It sounded like an American Indian name, so I decided to give all four of them Native names. I dubbed them Runs Like The Wind (she was being wildly successful in track that year), Little Black Cloud, Golden Laughing Child, and Little Shining Star.  Later, I felt bad because Little Black Cloud's name was negative and bestowed in frustration, but when I suggested changing it, he protested. He liked it. :)   After a few years, I think his feelings changed on that point, so I renamed him. He had since grown enormously and I had found myself calling him The Tall One, so that became his new name. :)  I love how big and broad-shouldered he has become, this boy of ours, and his nickname reflects my delight and admiration.

When I've told this story to people, some seem to think it odd. I don't know why. Maybe they think I'm mocking Indian names, but I'm not. I really like the meaning of names, and like how some Native names reflect something important about the person.  I have many nicknames for our kids, almost all terms of endearment. In fact, I think that Little Black Cloud was the only exception to that. Our kids have grown up accustomed to me calling them by whatever name suits my mood at the moment, from cozy and affectionate to whimsical and silly.

Our family was a family of nicknames when I was growing up. We three girls each had a special nickname.  Oh yeah! My dad gave me an Indian name. A couple of years ago I told him how I like to make people's day a little better, just by being positive and friendly. I told him how I've noticed that if you smile and say "Hello" to someone, they almost always smile and say hello back, even if they looked really down or grumpy before. When I have succeeded in getting a smile from someone who looked like they were under a black cloud, I feel I've helped them feel better- kind of like tricking them into have a better day for just those few moments, because smiling just makes you feel good. Dad laughed and said he was going to call me Itsiyiyi (Little Coyote), after Coyote the Trickster, since I trick people into having a better day. :)

To me, loving fun nicknames make people feel good, like they're part of a special little club of people who love them. :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reading Pliny

Over the years, I've heard many references to Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger. This summer, I decided to find out about them. I found out that The Elder has a series of books on natural history, and The Younger a collection of published letters. I requested the first volume of each from the library.

First, I learned that they are not father and son, but uncle and nephew! Younger is the son of Elder's sister.

I was plodding through the natural history of Elder, and just decided last night that I'd had enough. It's interesting enough, but slow and kind of convoluted. Being written a couple thousand years ago, the understanding of how things work is pretty different. It was interesting to read how they thought so long ago, but I finally realized I wasn't enjoying it that much.

Now I am reading the Letters of Pliny the Younger, Volume 1 of 10, and I am enjoying this much more.

Some bits I've particularly enjoyed this morning:

from letter X, to Attius Clemens, writing about his admired friend the philosopher Euphrates: " is plain to my limited judgement that Euphrates has many remarkable gifts which make their appeal felt even by people of no more than average education. His arguments are subtle, his reasoning profound, and his words well-chosen, so that often he seems to have something of the sublimity and richness of Plato. He talks readily on many subjects with a special charm which can captivate and so convince the most reluctant listener...His dress is always neat, and his serious manner makes no show of austerity, so that your first reaction on meeting him would be admiration rather than repulsion. He leads a wholly blameless life while remaining entirely human; he attacks vices, not individuals, and aims at reforming wrongdoers instead of punishing them. You would follow his teaching with rapt attention, eager for him to continue convincing you long after you are convinced."

I just love that, both the way it is phrased, and the character of the man he described. "He leads a wholly blameless life while remaining entirely human."  To me, that sums up neatly what should be the character of a Christian!  To lead a clean life before God, while staying approachable, humble, joyful, and full of love.

I also love that bit about '...eager for him to continue convincing you long after you are convinced." That is so neatly phrased, and such a delightful thing to say of someone!

How glad I am that I decided to indulge my curiosity about the Plinys! :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Learning Curve Swoops and Dives and Spirals!

...And at last I have finally figured out how to reply to comments on my posts!!!  Yay!!  :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Room for Creativity

I read a while back that to be creative requires solitude, quiet, and freedom from interruptions.....hmmm. I think there's something to that. I absolutely love having our whole family home for the summer, and I would not trade it for anything....but it is true that when everyone is home, my creative process crashes to a halt. I noticed the truth of this back in April, when I drove up to visit my family, by myself. On that eight-ish hour drive, all sorts of ideas came to me- ideas for photographs, paintings, writing. If I had pulled over to jot down each idea that came to me, the trip would have taken a great deal longer. It's like my brain is a body of water. Regular life keeps it stirred and moving, like a lake with a stiff and shifting breeze blowing across it. Lots of chop and whitecaps. On that long drive, it felt like the surface of my mind became calm and still, and thoughts and ideas started rising to the bubbles coming from a deep place, breaking the surface and bursting into the open.

This explains also why I haven't written much on here in the past month. In addition to having everyone home, our schedule in July has been much busier than in June. With so much of my day spent making sure that I get people where they need to be (on time and with everything they need), and that I remember to do all that needs doing (returning phone calls, making appointments, doing piles of laundry, making meals happen, etc), there is little time for my mind to settle into calm creativity.

Knowing this, that a busy life and a creative life are in some sense mutually exclusive, helps me. It frees me from being frustrated with myself for not accomplishing more. I can relax into enjoying the summer with our whole family home, and all the busy togetherness that brings. And I can know that this fall, when the older kids are gone and the younger ones are back in school, there will be room for my creative mind to come awake again. Having kids living elsewhere is a blue and lonely thing, I've found. I'm truly excited for them to go out and make their place in the world, but I really miss them. If I give myself freely to the fullness of the summer, maybe I'll be able to take more joy in the freedom to think and create that comes with the emptier hours of Fall.

I think I need to plan proactively what I will do with my time and energy once school starts again, not just with things that need to be done, but to plan for my own creative enrichment. I'm thinking about taking an online college class, taking that first step toward a degree. Maybe it's also time to look into some other things on my Someday list, like learning to paint, or to speak another language.

I need to put a few more things into my "nest" so it doesn't feel quite so empty. :)  I want to pursue more of the things that are possible when things are quiet and calm, and to enjoy them fully.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What I Can Eat...

Okay, after focusing for all those words on what has been taken away from my plate, I really need to write the other side of it! It is chilly and breezy, and raining steadily outside, so sitting and writing seems especially appealing right now!

I can eat:

Some nuts: macadamia, cashew, pistachio, hazelnut
Beans: garbanzo, black, kidney, anasazi, navy, butter
Raw Seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, chia, poppy
Veggies: green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, yam, bell peppers, squash, pumpkin,  potatoes, carrots, celery
Meats: beef, pork, chicken, fish
Fruits: blueberries, strawberries, honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, apples, lemon, lime

That is a fairly short list, but it does leave me with many options.

For example, one of my main snack foods is homemade hummus. I can't have the garlic or sesame tahini in prepared hummus, so I make my own. I use garbanzo beans, some black beans for flavor, olive oil, lemon juice, a bit of lime juice, and sea salt. It is nutrient dense, a good source of protein, high in fiber, tasty, and easy. I eat it with corn chips (definitely not low-glycemic, but I think the protein balances that out) or with yam sticks (like carrot sticks, but cut from a yam. I don't tire of them nearly as fast as I do carrot sticks!)

I sometimes make a quick little bean salad with a can of butter beans, some olive oil and fresh lemon juice, salt, and some dried oregano, thyme, or Italian seasoning.

There's a quick soup I discovered, which has saved me from "starvation" or from eating what I shouldn't a number of times. When I've been out being busy and walk in really hungry, this is a good option. I use a can of butter beans, a can of pureed butternut squash (pumpkin would also work), dried onion bits, curry powder, cumin powder and salt. I stir that together and start heating it in a pan, then add about a cup of coconut milk. Without the coconut milk, it is rather nasty. The coconut milk brings it all together into creamy goodness.

Our family has eaten a lot of soup in the last year!

Potato Soup: I found a recipe for Irish potato soup that calls for no milk at all. Diced bacon-sauteed, dried onion bits, dried thyme, potatoes, salt and water. To make it creamy, I can puree raw cashews with water and add a bit of that to the soup.  (I have read that soaking the raw cashews overnight makes for a smoother puree)

Bean with Greens and Ham Soup: Cubed ham steak, dried onion bits, dried thyme, cans of several kinds of beans (kidney, black, butter), sugar-free garlic-free chicken stock, water, sea salt. Toward the end I add greens- Swiss chard and green kale, cut into small pieces.

Anasazi Bean & Green soup: I have found dried Anasazi beans and really like the flavor. I make a soup that is basically like the one above, but with no ham, and I start the night before with the dry Anasazi beans.

Red Lentil soup: diced carrots, olive or coconut oil, dried onion bits, dried thyme, red lentils, sugar-free garlic-free chicken stock, water, a splash of lemon juice. *I read that adding the salt too soon with legumes keeps them from getting soft. Wait till they're already fully cooked before adding salt. *I also read that if you bring your liquid to a boil before adding the lentils or beans, they'll be less gassy. I sometimes add small bits of kale to this soup. If the family is in a meaty mood, I'll saute bits of ring sausage that they can add, or cook up breakfast sausage links and cut them into bites, and stir them into the soup. The ring sausage has things I can't eat, but we found a breakfast link sausage that works for me.

Brown Lentil soup: basically the same as the red lentil, but it takes twice as long to cook.

Castle B: This is one of our family puns. I researched the French soup Cassoulet, and took its basic elements to make a soup of my own. The French original takes like two days and has things like duck sausage in it. Our is bites of chicken, white beans (I usually used Cannelinni), carrots, dried onion bits, dried thyme, maybe some dried parsley, chicken stock, a splash of white wine, and water. My husband would call it Castle B as a pun on Cassoulet (which sounds like Castle A), and the name stuck. If I'm tired of eating meat, I make a chicken free version and call it Castle Bean. :)

We have found that the Tinkyada brand Brown Rice pastas (spaghetti, fettucine, elbows) work well for us. I make pesto (can't have the garlic or Parmesan in prepared pesto) to put on it, or we have it with canned or smoked salmon. I make spaghetti sauce for the family, and just discovered a tomato-free alternative that I can make for myself (I wrote about this sauce a couple of blogs ago). Another pasta option is sauteed chicken bites, with thyme and broccoli. I add cashew cream so it feels kind of like my old favorite Chicken Broccoli Fettucine Alfredo. For lunch I'll sometimes cook up some brown rice pasta and have it with steamed broccoli and chia seeds.

We also eat my husband's delicious hamburgers (I skip the bun), grilled chicken (he always makes some for me that fits my needs), grilled pork chops, and steak.

With so many varied food needs, and people eating at many different times, we all just make our own breakfasts now. My breakfast usually consists of: brown rice cooked with coconut oil, raw walnuts, raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds, raw chia seeds, and unsweetened vanilla hempmilk. It's supercharged with nutrients and I feel all virtuous and healthy when I eat it.

This isn't every single thing that I eat, but covers a lot of it. And it's always good to remind myself that despite the limits of my food world, there is still plenty of good stuff for me to enjoy.

What I Can't Eat...

People often ask me about the limits of my food world, so thought I'd write about it on here. My whole health journey is quite a saga, so I'll not dive into that right now, but just explain how I figured out the food part.

The "Can't" part of my diet came about in several ways. First, back when our 1st son, who is now nineteen, was a year old, I figured out that dairy gives me severe congestion. I had a bad bronchial cough that had gone on for over two months. I stopped drinking milk and eating dairy, and the cough went away! When I have any dairy, I get sinus/throat congestion. Certain kinds (ice cream, sour cream, cream cheese) have a worse effect than others. The last time I ate a bowl of ice cream, I got 'allergic' bronchitis that lasted for two weeks. I dabble in dairy here and there, but avoid it in general.

Next, around the time I was pregnant with our youngest, who is now thirteen, I noticed that some foods, like chocolate and garlic, did dire things to my digestion. Garlic was fairly easy for me to give up, but I continue to struggle with the chocolate issue. As I've continued to dabble, I've learned that dark chocolate has a much more severe impact on me than milk chocolate does. Several well-meaning people have tried to convince me that I'm not reacting to the chocolate itself, but to the dairy in it. I can say, conclusively, that this isn't the case. Dairy gives me congestion. Chocolate does some rather serious things to my stomach and digestive tract. I gave their advice a try, and ate completely dairy-free, completely organic chocolate, and the results were just the same. It really is the chocolate in chocolate that bothers me.  I also noticed that tomato sauce seems to have a bad effect on my stomach, so I started avoiding that as well.

About a year and a half ago, prompted by other aspects of my health saga, I went to a naturopath. He ran a blood test called an Allergy Panel, and the results were surprising and helpful. I had been so frustrated. I would say to my husband, "I just want to eat and not feel sick!" I was eating a diet high in whole grains and vegetables, making egg-white vegetable scrambles for breakfast, eating raw almonds for snacks, and using soymilk and tofu as standard parts of our diet...but no matter what, after every meal I felt sick. The Allergy Panel shed light on this issue. The biggest reaction I got was from eggs, along with almonds and soy. Ah. Eggs. Almonds. Soy. Well, that covered about half my diet right there! No wonder every meal made me feel sick! I also got a moderate reaction on wheat, wheat gluten, and every wheat-like grain. Sugar also showed some reaction. And some random things, like cranberries, peanuts, pecans, asparagus and mushrooms. Since I absolutely cannot stand mushrooms, I was fine with that!

Curiously, the things I'd already figured out- the dairy, chocolate, garlic and tomato sauce- did not show a reaction on the test. So, while I found the results profoundly helpful, I don't think it's the answer to everything. It did give me information that I had not managed to figure out on my own. This test shows whether the response is immediate or delayed, and every single response I had was delayed. Because my whole system was inflamed and reactive, I showed some slight reaction to every single food on the list. The hope is that once my body recovers from its various problems, the inflammation with go away, and I will be less reactive.

Also, as part of the journey, my naturopath found that I'm insulin resistant. I think his method was absolutely brilliant. He drew a 'fasting' blood sample, then sent me out for pancakes! Instead of drinking a cup of glucose liquid, I got to eat the kind of breakfast I will probably never eat again! My sweet husband drove me around the city till we found a Shari's restaurant. I had pancakes with fruit topping and syrup, and hashbrowns, and a large glass of orange juice. There might have even been a cinnamon roll, but I don't remember for sure. By the time we got back for my second blood-draw, the sugar effect had hit me. I was extremely sleepy, could hardly sit up straight, and was staring to slur when I talked. It was like I had been drugged! My glucose levels rose, but my insulin level went through the roof. I'm so glad he had me do the test that way. It really showed me what the typical American sweet breakfast will do to me!

I had gotten all enthused about all the gluten-free options out there, and was making muffins, pancakes, waffles, etc left and right. Then I remembered the refined carbs thing. All of the gluten-free mixes I was using were made with extremely refined starches (white rice flour, tapioca starch). Now when I bake/cook gluten-free, I try for more complete ingredients, such as brown rice flour. I've also found that some gluten-free flours also bother me, especially sorghum. In the interest of limiting our overall intake of starches and sweets, I now only make a traditional breakfast (gluten-free egg-free blueberry muffins, or gluten-free egg-free dairy-free waffles with agave syrup- with breakfast meat to give us protein) about once a week.

As far as I know, there is not one commercially available salad dressing that I can really eat. Ranch was my lifelong favorite, but it's out now (dairy and garlic). I can do just plain oil and vinegar, but this is bland and not that appealing to me, and sometimes vinegar bothers me. I've experimented some, with an orange-balsamic dressing, and a berry-poppyseed vinaigrette. They were pretty good, but again the problem with vinegar. Also, sometimes lettuce seems to bother me. I am having a hard time getting enough vegetables in my diet, between the results of my allergy test, the things that just bother me, and the low-glycemic issue!


 So, I think that's about all of it. There are other foods of which I'm careful, having gotten a mild hit from them on the allergy panel (cabbage family), or because they're high on the glycemic index (potatoes, corn). With so many things on the 'can't' list, it is very hard to eat completely within my limits. I find it easiest and best to just cook all my meals myself. Almost nothing that is commercially prepared works for me. For example, almost everything out there has garlic in it! When eating out, I take the "What is the least damaging to me?" approach to food decisions. Almost nothing out there actually fits my limits: dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free, oat-free, rye-free, barley-free, garlic-free, tomato-free, sorghum-free, low-glycemic, peanut-free, pecan-free, soy-free, almond-free.

Okay, it always depresses me to a certain degree to really think about how comprehensive my "You Can't Have It" list really is. It is time to think of something positive! I will now post this and write one about what I can have!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Everything-Free Spaghetti Sauce experiment

I have a problem with spaghetti sauce. I love it, but it does not love me. First I learned that garlic is not my friend. Then I realized that tomatoes and tomato sauce do not agree with me. But I really miss spaghetti, so I've made it from time to time and just suffered the consequences. Last night, I tried an alternative, based on something my dad tried years ago.

My dad and my middle sister are both inventive cooks. They like to take a basic food concept and tinker with it. For example, my sister took the idea of dishes like sweet-and-sour chicken, where you have fruit and meat with the sauce, and adapted it. She did sweet-and-sour lamb with strawberries; same idea, but different ingredients. And it turned out really well. Our dad does the same kind of thing with food concepts. Years ago, when I was probably in high school, Dad experimented with spaghetti sauce. It is based on a vegetable puree (tomato sauce) so he wondered how it would work to use a different vegetable. I remember that he made a sauce based on pureed cooked carrots. I'm so glad I remebered that!

**Last night, I wanted to make spaghetti for the family, but I'm a little tired of the price I pay for eating the tomato sauce. I made a regular meat sauce for them, cooking the ground beef (the healthy kind, from our local meat shop), then adding seasonings. Before I added the tomato sauce to the meat, I took out a bit of meat for my experiment. I cooked some diced carrots- just boiled them in water. Then I put the carrots in the blender with some of their cooking water, and blended it till I had a nice puree. I put the carrot puree back in the pan with the meat I'd saved out for myself, and heated it together for just a few minutes. I put my carrot sauce over my brown-rice (gluten-free) spaghetti, and had green beans on the side. It was a little different, but by the time I was finished eating I really liked it! And no consequences to suffer!

I think that if I simmered the sauce longer after adding the seasoned meat, and maybe also seasoned the carrots while they cooked beforehand, the flavor would be richer. I'm dairy free, so I don't know how well Parmesan cheese would go with this. Sometimes I sautee sliced black olives briefly (just till they're warm), in olive oil and Italian seasoning, as an addition to spaghetti. I think that would make a nice boost to my carrot-sauce flavor also. The flavor of the green beans went well with my experimental sauce. I imagine broccoli would, too.

I'm so happy to have found a workable alternative to put on pasta!

Currently Reading: about ADHD

"The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child"  by Thom Hartmann...This is a very interesting book. So much to process and absorb. I'm a little over halfway through, and have found it fascinating. I love the idea of seeing ADD/ADHD not as a disorder, but as a skill set that is right for specific situations and unsuited to others. I've been very interested in reading the thoughts on contributing factors to this type of brain function- genetic switches that get flipped, the effect of a stressful environment on the developing child-brain, dietary/nutritional factors, mineral deficiencies...all very intriguing. I'm reading a copy from our local library, but I think I may need to buy a copy so I can reread it and really absorb what it's saying. So far: good book!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It All Started With Two Ugly Sweaters

It did. Really.

I come from a long line of "collectors."  Stuff just sort of accumulates around us. We are like eddies in a stream- whatever is floating past circles around and settles on our shores. And we tend to be sentimental about things, and to highly value any connection a thing has to friends or family. Just to illustrate: I still own my childhood rock collection. I just got the rest of it from my dad a few years ago. He had been hanging onto it for me since I got married...twenty-three years ago. I have some really cool rocks. And shells. :)

Add to that tendency about fifteen years of slowly fading health and mental clarity, which seriously compromised my ability to sort and make decisions. I could not go through a box of things and make the myriad small decisions necessary about the contents. The thought of it exhausted me. When I would  hit that point of overwhelm, the sound in my brain was like hissing static. Show's over; nothing more happening there. Shutdown. Needless to say, in those years a lot of stuff accumulated in our home and it became increasingly cluttered and non-functional.

We didn't enjoy living in a cluttery, inconvenient home, but for years I was sort of crippled by my sentimental-collector-static-brained self. I started reading books and looking for ideas that would help me.

Back to The Sweaters. The Sweaters are very symbolic to me, as they are the first two things I was able to part with. They were the very first baby step in my "journey of a thousand miles." I did not have good feelings about them while they lived here, but I have very fond feelings about their departure. :)  These sweaters did not look good on me. I'm fairly tall, and they were not made for someone tall. They were too short in the sleeves and body. They were bulky cotton and too big. One was hot  pink; the other was off-white (a terrible color for me) with sort of geometric cave-art brightly colored animals galloping across the chest. They had been given to me by my mother-in-law (who had also given me some really beautiful dress clothes that I loved). Though I did not like them, and they looked so very bad on me, I wore them about once a year out of a sense of  (drumroll please....) guilt and obligation. Tadaa! Guilt and Obligation. The chains that bound a lot of stuff to me. "But she gaaaave them to me!"

These unflattering Guilt Sweaters were the first two things I was able to get rid of. This was probably about ten years ago. What helped me to release them was when I thought about why I owned them in the first place. They weren't gifts, but hand-me-downs. This is how I finally saw the issue clearly: "I only own these sweaters because my mother-in-law did not want them. She only had them because her friend did not want them. Her friend most likely bought them on a clearance sale, which means she only owned them because every single person who shopped in that store did not want them." I only owned them because hundreds of other people did not want them! And I was keeping them...why? Realizing that set me free. I donated them to a thrift shop. What a relief!

My entire journey with Stuff is far too long for one post, so I'm just sharing my first baby step here. It is a long, slow, baby-stepping journey toward freedom and order and peace of mind and...freedom.


I have learned how to do paragraphs!

See?!  :)

I had wanted to break up the flow of my posts but wasn't sure how.

I tried it this morning, and it worked!

I was even able to go back and put paragraphs into my earlier posts, to make them easier to read!

Feeling very spiffy and tech-savvy at the moment. ;)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Everything-Free Breakfast

I seem to do my very best at eating healthfully in the morning. I remember to take my herbal thyroid support supplement first thing. I eat a serving of fruit before breakfast. I have a nice healthy breakfast. I feel good as I start my day.

Here is my current favorite healthy breakfast:  About once a week, I cook up a big pot of brown rice, with a scoop of coconut oil in it. This way I have a healthy base that doesn't take much time on a daily basis. (The coconut oil is very brain-healthy!)  I put a scoop of my coconut brown rice in my favorite bowl, and add whole chia seeds, broken-up raw walnuts, and either raw pumpkin seeds or raw sunflower seeds. I add my milk- which is unsweetened vanilla hemp milk (only 1 gram of carb per serving!!), give it a good stir, then heat it all in the microwave.

Though we have stevia and agave sweeteners on hand, I find that the combination of mild coconut and vanilla flavors is enough for me and I don't need it sweeter. Sometimes I add another teaspoon or two of coconut oil before heating it. The coconut oil gives it a good buttery mouth-feel. I really like this breakfast, and it meets many of my dietary focus points: low-carb, low on the glycemic index, high-protein, high-fiber, nutrient-rich, allergen-free, and tasty!  

There's a documentary on youtube about the affect of coconut oil on Alzheimer's symptoms. So interesting! Even though coconut oil is spendy, if by eating it I can avoid Alzheimers, which is a horrible way to end, then I am all for it! Saturated plant fats, like coconut and palm kernel oils, are very different from saturated animal fats. We need them! Our naturopath told us that when nuts and seeds are roasted, the fats in them turn to trans-fats, so we try to use raw nuts and seeds whenever possible. Trans-fats are bad news!

We read about chia seeds in the book "Born to Run." It's a very interesting book- makes me want to go run barefoot! According to what we've read, chia seeds are sort of a Superfood- high in fiber and protein, and other things I don't remember right now. For me, the protein from the combination of nuts and seeds balances out the carbs in the rice, so it won't whack my insulin levels. If I get super nutrients in the process- so much the better!

Girl With The Curl

I am that girl! You know the one..."There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very very good, and when she was bad, she was HORRID!"  When it comes to eating right, that pretty much sums me up!  When I eat right, I am extremely careful, my diet gets very limited and extremely healthy, and I feel much better (though often frustrated and bored by the narrowness of my choices). When I "fall off the wagon,", which is more like "when I jump off the wagon gleefully, yelling 'Yahoooo!'," then I eat all sorts of things that are bad for me. Top fail foods: Lindor truffles- top of the list always. I love them!; pizza- it's really a cheese craving but translates into a pizza craving; pastries- doughnuts, danish, Little Debbies Honeybuns or Pecan Pinwheels. 

So, what can I do? Well, I observed that I consistently get pizza-chocolate cravings. I started to wonder, "Why always those two together?" I think I have the answer to that. The pizza part is really a cheese craving. Cheese is high in calcium. And chocolate is high in magnesium. The calcium-magnesium balance in the body is an important one. They work in harmony. So...if I take my calcium-magnesium supplement (I use Shaklee's Osteomatrix), then the craving for cheese and chocolate fades away. Sigh. I always have mixed feelings when I accomplish that- sad to see pizza and truffles fading from my view, but also very relieved to have that battle off my agenda. It's a hard fight, and I miss the yummy things, but I am always relieved to be back to eating right and I do feel much better physically. I've also observed that when I take those supplements, my foot cramps go away! The Cal-Mag balance must be an important building block of muscle function too. Or nerve function. Whatever it is that is awry when I get leg/foot cramps. Nice to be able to take a pill for that!

The pastry part? Well, that, I believe, is simply an addiction to sugar. I'd be thrilled to learn there is a vitamin I could take to make that go away, but I really believe it is a simple addiction, like any other addiction. When I fight the good fight and avoid sugar altogether, the craving fades. If I have even a little bit, the Need comes back full force and I go on a sugar bender. So how can I fix that? One thing I'm really learning is that the first building block I need to put into place is adequate sleep. When I'm tired, I make poor decisions, like eating sugar. So, I am really working on getting adequate rest, so that I will have a good foundation on which to build, and to give me the strength to make good food choices. My good friend Beth spoke some wise words to me the other day, about where I'll end up if I don't get rest. My tendency is to get all inspired and start exercising, and working hard on the house...while still being sleep deprived. She helped me to see that the first thing I need to do is the sleeping part, and that will enable me to do the rest of it without depleting myself.

So....the things I am prioritizing right now: sleep (at least eight hours- I got nine last night!!!), and taking my calcium-magnesium supplements, and drinking enough water. I often try to do too many things and then fail at all of them, give up and go buy chocolate. I'm hopeful that if I focus on just these three, it will enable me to do the rest without getting overwhelmed. Simplify, simplify, simplify!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Not Perfect, But Better

Since we have a no-school day today, the Friday of Memorial Weekend, we're working on the house so we'll have the weekend free for other things. With the help of Son #2, I've just been giving the kitchen a good shine, and as I cleaned the microwave, I was thinking. I have deep-seated tendencies toward perfectionism. I've fought that battle and ridden that pendulum swing for years. Long years. Decades. (So weird to be old enough that I can speak in terms of decades!!)

One of the best and most important lessons I've learned is to let things be good enough! believe that Good Enough is...enough. Not "I don't care" but..."I've done enough and it is okay for me to stop now and walk away." I think I'm still working to really believe that. I've come so far, but when we start on a big bust-through-the-house kind of day, I become aware that those old echoes still survive in the closets and corners of my mind. Once I recognize them, I can tell them to shut up and leave me alone. It's not the big striving battle it once was, but still it's a deliberate and conscious choice to not fall prey to those old ways of thinking. It feels truly good to be achieving freedom from old toxic and oppressive thought patterns. By the grace of God, I am not who I used to be! And Good Enough really and truly is good enough. :)

The Beginning

Hello! Here I am! Usually, to do anything involving technology, I would be enlisting the aid of my children- who are far beyond me in computer skills, or my husband- who is the computermaster-he actually reads those two-pound computer manuals and writes programs...but if I'm going to step into something new I just think I should do it with confidence in myself and with courage-believing that I can figure this out for myself. So here I am, with my husband already off to work, and the kids still sleeping on this no-school day, making it work on my own! 

Dusting the Corners of my Mind seemed like a very appropriate title for this blogsite, as I envision it containing whatever I am pondering on any given day. My recent/current journey and probable topics for future thought: In the past two years I have lost fifty pounds (that journey, and the long-term reality of trying to maintain a healthier and more fit lifestyle), learned I have multiple food intolerances (nothing agonizing or dramatic but  they made me ill), learned to cook/live within that world (low-carb, and what we call Everything-Free: no eggs, dairy, soy, wheat, sugar, garlic, etc), have two children who have left home but come home to live and work in the summer, and two children still at home- in middle school now but one moving on to high school in the fall, have started clearing out the massive clutter that built up during my (fifteen?) years of fading health, have learned some important and exciting spiritual lessons, read many books, tried many new recipes, and continue to learn a lot about life, marriage, parenting, being a true friend, health, fitness, life, joy,