Why I Do What I Do – Part 2

Once I saw how effective natural medicine was I began thinking differently about everything in my life. I started caring about chemicals that might interfere or throw my poor body off balance. Make-up, detergent, cleansers, food, cleaning products, etc–all of these things are on, in, or around our bodies constantly. Why wouldn’t I want to do my absolute best to facilitate good health? That is what “living naturally” means to me — being aware of what my body and my family is exposed to.

Yes, for me, I started on this “green” path for purely selfish reasons. I didn’t really care about the environment. I didn’t want to save the ozone layer. I didn’t want to be politically correct or jump on any band wagons. I just wanted to be healthy. And I wanted my family to be healthy too.

Then a funny thing happened. As I started to do more and more research on how to keep chemicals/artificial stuff out of my life, I  realized how caring for the environment and caring for myself go hand in hand. If I destroy all that is good about our planet, I’m also destroying the nutrients that sustain healthy life for humans. The same chemicals that screw up our water systems and mutate animals will eventually effect me too.

I’m not the type of person who takes things at face value. I don’t do things because that’s how it’s always been done. I research and question everything. Unfortunately, when you do that, you are now responsible to do something with the information you receive. After years of researching and making small changes to my life I’ve ended up here: living in a fairly un-American way. But really, I’m just a normal girl, trying to be responsible with what I know.

For example: I try to cook from scratch because artificial dyes, flavorings, and processed food may impact the health of my family. I upcycle my clothes to try to cut down waste and be frugal with what I’ve been given. I avoid using plastic because BPA is a hormone disruptor. I garden and shop at local farmers markets because I believe organically grown food can help protect my family from all sorts of chemicals. I cloth diaper because I believe the chemicals in diapers can disrupt hormones in young babies and because waste-laden diapers will sit in landfills for hundreds of years. I buy grass-fed, no hormone, no anti-biotics beef from a local farm because I believe it more nutrient dense and safer for my family. I breastfed for a year because I felt it was the best way to give my child a healthy start in life. I clean with planet-friendly products because I don’t want my kid getting sick after licking the window I just cleaned. I recycle because I think we should repurpose materials to cut down on landfills and use less of the earth’s resources. I don’t cook with fake oils (vegetable, canola, crisco, etc) because it’s highly processed and full of trans fats. I believe in natural childbirth because it allows the body to do what it was designed to do — resulting in optimal health for both mom and baby. The list could go on and on.

Why?

Not because I’m a self-righteous hippy who wants to make other people feel bad about how they live. (I certainly don’t do everything perfectly and can still be found eating fast food or using disposable diapers on occasion. Sometimes doing those things is better for my family than obsessing over nutrition and health. We all have to be balanced with our knowledge.) Rather, it’s because I believe it’s the best way I can personally serve and facilitate good health for my family and the environment. And that’s why I do what I do.

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Why I Do What I Do – Part 1

Any of my regular readers will know by now that I tend to live a (for the most part) natural lifestyle: in medicine, food, home care, personal care, etc. I’m not sure I’ve ever really told y’all what directed me towards this natural path. It’s been a slow journey for me, but the impetus behind my life philosophy has been my health. This is sort of a long and detailed history, but it’s been a huge part of my life and a big factor in making me who I am today.

I have always had “health problems”. I put it in quotes, because that’s how the medical professionals I spent many years going to treated it. A few basic blood tests here, try this medication over there, and a “there is probably nothing really wrong with you anyway” over and over again. And yet, by the time I was 9 I complained to my mom that I was having headaches EVERY DAY. I would have constant stomach aches and get sick all of the time. Then I came down with Mono.

I don’t remember things getting any worse throughout elementary school, but they definitely did once I hit puberty. Headaches became Migraines. Stomach aches became crippling. I threw up a lot. I got bloody noses all of the time. My hormones and cycles were incredibly irregular. Fatigue became almost unbearable. Dizziness and feeling light-headed were everyday things. By my Senior year, I would go to sleep after getting home from school and still be exhausted the next day. I lived on Imitrex (the strongest prescription migraine medication available), was put on birth control, and was given blood pressure medication (even when I already had extremely low blood pressure). I don’t fully remember all we did during those years, but one thing stands out in my memory. There was a day when we finally tried a natural one: chiropractic.

I started by going to the chiropractor 3 days a week. Then I started seeing another doctor to receive acupuncture and herbal treatments. It certainly didn’t solve all my problems, but I finally was able to kick those migraines after treatments. A few other things began to balance out as well. My health improved to the point that I was able to go away to college with only a few difficult days. However, things took a turn for the worse the summer after my freshman year.

After the year of stress, fatigue, and sugar consumption that is college life, my chronic mono flared up. I was dragging big time and no amount of rest could rejuvenate me. To make matters worse, a few weeks before starting my second year at college I managed to get really dehydrated on a summer camping trip with my family. That Fall semester I hit rock bottom. I still don’t really understand how I managed to stay at college that year. I ended up trying anything and everything for answers: eating gluten free, allergy tests, ultrasounds at the ER, IV dehydration treatments, blood tests, endoscopy, colonoscopy, wearing orthotics, and seeing a crazy naturo-path doctor who specialized in Kinesiology. No answers. No real solutions.

Somehow I recovered from that really low place, but my health was still on the fritz until a year later. That’s when I found a doctor who finally diagnosed my hypothyroidism and chronic fatigue (caused by the Epstein-Barr virus). She put me on a crazy nutrition regimen of thyroid medication, fish oil pills, and vitamin shakes. She required exercise everyday (at this point that meant 5 minute walks, and I was exhausted after those!). With those treatments I was feeling almost normal. I still had headaches everyday, frequent bloody noses, tummy problems, hormonal irregularity, etc. But, compared to the way I had been feeling, I felt GREAT! Unfortunately, my health started to crash again during my post-college European travels.

For the next 2 1/2 years I drifted somewhere between “I’m sort of OK” and “I’m really not OK at all.” During that time I started working full-time, got married, and moved halfway across the country. On top of my “normal” symptoms, after getting married I started getting recurrent urinary tract infections. Just another symptom that my body wasn’t quite right. I was so tired of trying new doctors and treatments that I started accepting my lot in life. I was just a person who had health problems. Then I met Dr. Tim Leasenby.

It seemed incredibly unlikely to me that he could help, but he did. After 3 months of treatment (a mixture of chiropractic, acupuncture, herbs, vitamins, metal detoxification, and a bunch of other “weird” stuff) I was feeling better than I ever had in my life. In fact, that was 3 years ago and I can tell you–I still feel really good most of the time. Even when I occasionally have ‘bad’ days, they aren’t as bad as they were. I can’t tell you how much my life has changed by regularly seeing this doctor. I don’t take any medications any more, and yet I live with almost no pain or other complaints. How could this be?

Well, for me, seeing a truly natural and holistic doctor was the only thing that helped. I didn’t need to be diagnosed or medicated–I just needed someone who could listen to my body, figure out what it needed, and help it fix itself. So why does my health history make a difference in how I live today? Stay tuned for Why I Do What I Do – Part 2!

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Leftover Easter Eggs?

If by chance you made some of these over the weekend . . .

. . . can I recommend making one of these for breakfast or lunch?

English Muffins, Olive Oil, Tomatoes, Hard-Boiled Eggs, Mozzarella, Salt, and Oregano. Broiled for 5 minutes. Perfection on a bun. Seriously, so good.

Oh, and if you are stumped on dinner, why not try out this fantastic Cobb Salad recipe? I replaced the shrimp with chicken and added a small amount of shredded cheese. The garlic vinagirette is a fantastic way to lighten up a traditionally heavy salad. We had this for dinner last night and heartily enjoyed it. It felt like a really great way to recover from our indulgent Easter meal and all that Easter candy.

What do you do with leftover Easter Eggs?

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Easter Dinner

One of my favorite parts of any holiday is the food. I love sitting around the table with family, all enjoying a well-planned and well-prepared meal. I definitely was spoiled in that way growing up–anyone who knows my parents knows they are the best cooks/hosts around. It just doesn’t feel like a holiday to me without at least one big meal with a fully set table complete with seasonal decorations.

So, now that I have my own little family to celebrate holidays with, I find myself planning the same sort of meals. I thought you might want to get a glimpse of our Easter table this year! And just in case you think it costs a ton to put on a meal like this, think again. Our dinner cost about $5/person. Delicious and cheap!

Happy daffodils from our yard decorated our Easter dinner table.

Herb Crusted Lamb Breast (serves 4)
1.5 lb lamb breast
2 c bread crumbs
3 TBS olive oil
3 TBS chopped parsley
2 TBS dried rosemary
salt/pepper

Season the lamb breast with salt and pepper. Combine the bread crumbs, olive oil, parsley, and rosemary to create a rub. Add more olive oil if the mixture isn’t coming together to create a paste. Rub the bread crumb mixture over both sides of the lamb. Place the lamb breast in a baking dish and cook at 325 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes.

I made up this recipe this year using two other recipes for inspiration. It turned out delicious. Lamb breast is a very cheap cut of lamb, because it is a little fatty. Just cut away the fat and enjoy this succulent meat. Everyone will think you spent a ton on lamb, but you will know you didn’t!

Sweet Potato Casserole (serves 12)
This sweet potato dish is the BEST. It is from Cooking Light, but you would never guess that it was a light dish. It is sooo good that my husband won’t let me cook any other sweet potato dish. I usually go ahead and make the full recipe and then we enjoy leftovers for the following week. Seriously, so good. I had all the ingredients on hand except for sweet potatoes, so this was another cheap dish.

Buttered Green Beans with Mushrooms (serves 8 )
This was a fresh new take on a classic dish. I felt like the green beans could have used a few more minutes of steaming before going into the water bath. They were a bit crisp for my taste. But still, a nice side dish with little fuss. If you want to go even cheaper, just use porcini mushrooms instead of the specialty mushroom.

Easy Drop Biscuits (makes 6 biscuits)
These are such good biscuits. I’m not usually a fan of biscuits and these little guys still make me swoon. It’s probably that 1/2 cup of butter. Yum. I think that you can make the biscuits slightly smaller and make 8 instead. At least, that is what I did and nobody complained! Most of you will have all the ingredients for the on hand: cheap, easy, and yummy!

I hope you all had a great Easter!!

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Corners of my Home

Some weeks I think, “where did my week go? did I get anything done at all?” On those weeks, it’s helpful to look around the corners of my home to find evidence of what I’ve been up to. Below is what this week is shaping up to be.

::On my table::
Two 8.5 oz bottles of vanilla extract in the making. I used this recipe.
Now I just have to wait 8 weeks for it to steep so I can use it!

::On my sewing desk::
Two beautiful new home decor fabrics from the Crate and Barrel Outlet. These babies cost $4.95 a yard. Normally, $32.50 a yard. How excited am I? Jump-up-and-down-and-do-a-happy-dance excited.

::In my freezer::
A not-so-green homamde Key Lime Pie, with homemade graham cracker crust and homemade whipped cream. Yum. My decorating skills aren’t the best, but I still don’t think this bad boy will be staying in the freezer for long!

::In the Laundry Room::
A new stack of diapers to prep. 6 new pre-folds, 2 new Bummis XL covers, and 1 new Bummis XL swim diaper. That’s what a growing boy will do to ya! I also picked up some of my favorite diaper ointment: Angel Baby Bottom Balm. These are from my local cloth diaper store, Comfy Bummy.

::On my nightstand::
A new stack of books from our local used bookstore. I tend to plow through books quickly so I have to stock up when I make a trip. These might last me a week or so. Any books you recommend?

So that’s a small snapshot of what is going on around my home. Of course there are the countless loads of laundry, weeknight meals, hugs and snuggles, talks with friends, grocery shopping, organizing, cleaning, etc. that can’t really be quantified. But, at least I know I’ve been up to something around here!

How about you? What have you been up to this week?

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Things I Like

For the few of you that are familiar with my previous blog (Bolsa Chica, named after my etsy shop), I used to do a weekly post on Tuesdays called “Things I Like Tuesdays.” It was a fun way to brighten up a dark spot in my work week. Now that I’m home full time, weekdays don’t really have much meaning to me any more. I’m lucky if I even remember what day it is at all! But, it is still fun to take time now and again to think of all the little things that brighten up my days. I hope they brighten up yours too!


:: Black, strappy, wedge heels. Oh my these make me happy. I realize they are just shoes and life doesn’t revolve around articles of clothing, but wow, they make me feel great. I even have a pink (shocking for me, I’m usually a dark red kinda girl) pedicure (not pictured above) to complete the look. Everything about these say “Summer”. I need that right now, since we just had more snow on Monday. Come on Spring! You can do it! I believe in you!

:: Time with friends. So many good conversations over the last week. So thankful for dear friends– Sherah, Harper, Annie, Rochelle, and Andy. You all make me smile!

:: What’s not to love about this picture? There is a cute little boy, spiked hair, sunny warm weather, a grill, a sandwich, sweet polo, my back patio, and (if you look waaay in the back) some potted flowers. Everything about this scene makes me happy. This was during the gorgeous warm days we had early last week. Pre-snow. Again, Spring, I really really really believe in you!

:: Black Eyes Peas new song “Just Can’t Get Enough.” Bet ya didn’t peg me for a BEP fan. Well, we learn something new everyday, eh?

:: Baking. Oatmeal Cookies. Enough said. Cheesy Bread. Yep, it’s as amazing as it sounds. Key Lime Pie. Making it for the first time later this week. So excited to find a use for the 20 limes in my kitchen. 20? Yes, 20. Don’t ask. They were on sale.

:: My new purse from New York and Company (picture taken from their website). It’s been a long time since I’ve had a store-bought purse. You know it has to be special for me to pick one up! I just fell in love with this one and I’m so glad I did. It’s wonderful!

:: Gospel of John. We’re just wrapping up a year long study on the Gospel of John in Ladies Bible Study. It’s a perfect way to help prepare my heart/mind for Easter this weekend. The book of John has always had a special spot in my heart and this study has only made my love deeper. I love seeing Jesus’ compassion, relationship with the Father, relationships with individuals, goodness, reliability, power, and truth. So good.

So, what do you like right now?

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You Know You’re A Mom When . . .

…you feel like a broken record.

…you cry during the opening scenes of Dumbo.

…you immediately rearrange any table/desk/surface so that anything breakable is out of reach.

….you forget what it was like to walk around the house without stepping on food particles.

…you hate rain/snow days almost as much as your antsy kiddo does.

…you find yourself making funny faces, making funny noises, and generally making an idiot out of yourself for a laugh. And it’s completely and totally worth it every time.

…you immediately start rocking/bouncing when you hold someone else’s baby.

…you start to realize all that your parents have done for you and are incredibly thankful.

…you no longer use an alarm clock but still get up early everyday.

…some days you live for nap time, other days you can’t wait for your little buddy to wake up from a nap.

…you find yourself singing about everything you are doing: “Parker washes his hands, Parker washes his hands, splash splash splash, etc”

…you smile so hard it hurts sometimes.

…you realize that you never knew what unconditional love felt like before.

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April 14

There is no particular significance to today’s date. No anniversaries, first dates, birthdays, or holidays. It’s just a day like any other. And yet for some reason today feels special. Not because it’s different. It feels special because it’s like a thousand other days that I will probably never remember. In that way, it is unique.

It’s easy to live life for the BIG days. At least, it tends to be how I live. I spend my week waiting for the weekend. The weekend waiting for the three-day weekend or holiday. The holidays waiting for the vacations. Etc. I’m always looking for the next thing and can barely enjoy the special moments because I’m already thinking about them ending. You know what that’s called? Discontentment. Yikes.

But today, it feels slightly different. I wouldn’t say I’m 100% content, but I think I’m getting there. I still look forward to my husband coming home tonight after being gone at a conference all week. I still hope and dream for the day I can sleep in again. I cannot wait for the next time I get to be with my family in California. But in spite of all those longings, today is OK. It’s actually pretty nice.

So, that’s where I’m going to live.

In the moment.

Today.

April 14, 2011.

 

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Plants!

This past weekend was exceptionally warm for these parts. We were in the 70s – 80s all weekend! It was just glorious. It seemed like everyone emerged from the winter hibernation to get some yard work done. It was particularly perfect timing for me as I had been hoping to get my spring planting done. Thanks to the weather, I was able to get everything I wanted in the ground!

Right now my garden is all soil, so you aren’t missing anything by not seeing a picture. Here is what I planted: Spinach, Carrots, Romaine Lettuce, Onions, Shallots, Garlic, and Asparagus. Whew! I’m being adventurous! This is the first time I’ve really planted from seed, so I’m a little nervous. I’m hoping we don’t get an extended frost, so they have the best chance of survival. I guess time will tell!

My Chives came back from last year’s herb garden. I had completely forgotten about them, so it was a nice surprise when they showed up. I also planted a nice little pot of Basil. The rest of the herbs will have to wait until it gets a bit warmer. The Basil can always come inside if it gets too cold.

And because Parker is apparently fascinated with all things gardening, I got a little kit for him to grow watermelons. He has his own little gardening tools now and he thinks they are the best. And let’s be honest, since eating dirt is his favorite part of gardening, the trowel acts a bit like a spoon. Oh, boys. Anyway, here we are planting out watermelon seeds.

Excited to be mommy’s little gardening helper.

Patting down the dirt after putting watermelon seed into little pots.

After eating some of the dirt left on his trowel. Crazy munchkin.

The finished product enjoying the sunny spot in the window.

Mr. Handsome trying out the other gardening products. Clearly gardening markers are a desirable thing to eat! Oh, what fun gardening is!

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Recipe Organizing

So, I was planning a “Spring Organizing” theme for this week, but, well, I couldn’t get organized. Heh. Is that irony or just a fail? Even if I can’t organize theme weeks, I have been able to get some organizing done around here. Go me!

As you know, I have a huge love for cookbooks. And for Cooking Light. I am blessed with a lot of storage space in my kitchen, but between the cookbooks and cooking magazines my stash was beginning to bust out the seams. Plus, it isn’t very easy to find a recipe in a stack of magazines. Especially when you have 3 years of them. Oh my. Anyway, I decided to do something about it!

First, I bought a 3-ring scrapbook (Even though it’s a bit bigger than a traditional scrapbook, it’s totally worth not having to hassle with those dumb peg extenders. You scrapbookers know what I’m talking about!). Then, I bought a bunch of 12 x 12 photo pages that had six 4 x 6 pockets per page. Then I went through ALL my magazines and clipped out recipes I thought I might use some day. I tried to be honest with myself about what food I might cook, but there are still some wacky ones that made the cut. Then I organized the recipes and put them in the pockets. Easy!

Anyway, here is the finished product. I really love how it turned out. It’s still a bit cumbersome in size, but it’s worth it to be able to find my recipes and have them in one binder. I’m hoping to come up with some simple way to index the recipes, but I may end up just using a sticky note to divide appetizers from entrees, etc.

What do you do with old cooking magazines? What have you been organizing this spring?

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