Still here!

I’ve been a bit distracted from blogging lately…

We’re on our second round of chicken pox currently. Unless Andrew ends up getting them in a third round, we will have lifetime immunity for seven out of eight Blessings. It’s been a doozey, and we were gifted with a stomach bug in the midst of it, but I think we’re going to pull through. Do please pray for Katie, though. She’s just getting started on her case, and I’m thinking there was some basis to the article I read that said that kids with eczema and other skin problems are likely to have thousands of pox as opposed to hundreds. She’s not up yet today, but from the way she looked last night, my mama-heart is very concerned for her.

I started dreaming last year of making available an Advent Wreath resource that folks could download for free, and that project is almost done! I hope to have it available in the next few days. This coming Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, so I’m a bit down to the wire. If you would like to try using an Advent Wreath as a tool for worship this year, consider going ahead and picking up the needed candles while you’re out this week. You’ll need a white candle for the center (I like to use a pillar for this), and four candles for the outer ring (I usually use tapers) – three purple or blue, and one pink or red. What a solemn and estatic joy it is to celebrate His coming!

Our dearly loved dog Juilin died last week. He ran out in the road one too many times, and he did not make it. It was an honor to have him breathe his last with his head resting on my leg. We will miss him. I enjoyed going through our family pictures and picking out some of Juilin. If you like pictures of sweet adorable dogs, you might enjoy looking at them.

Our apples are all canned. I don’t have a final count yet, but hope to post more on our appling with some numbers and pictures. We did six bushels this year and tried some new stuff. I think we all enjoyed it.

And now, I must work on finishing that Advent Wreath book!

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Apple day

We’ve been busy today taking care of various projects around the house. It’s the first weekday the Blessings have had off school since mid-September, and they’ve been a big help.

We worked on getting the venison we were given earlier this week in the freezer at last. We were given one rear haunch and two front haunches, mostly clean. Jonathan boned and cleaned it up some more, then we roasted it. The boys and I got a good bit of it trimmed and pulled/shredded this morning, and when I realized I was wearing out with quite a bit of meat left and other projects still to do, we went ahead and got it all in the freezer… some ready to pull and some still in need of trimming. Whew.

The Blessings put the winter squash we gathered last night onto a shelf in the basement, and did some cleaning around the house in preparation for the arrival of our apples. Because today is apple pickup! I headed out at lunchtime to pick up the six bushels we’d ordered, and threw in an extra 1/4 bushel of a type we hadn’t tried before while I was there. We will get serious about putting them up next week, as we have chiropractic appointments this afternoon and a busy day tomorrow. I’m so excited about canned apples, applesauce, and applebutter, and I think we’ll try dehydrating some as well. Any favorite recipes you’d like to share??

We listened to the Statler brothers through a good bit of the day as we worked (that 30 years 3 CD collection lasts through a lot of projects!). Love the Statlers! My friends the Youngs introduced me to them when I was in high school, and I was thrilled that I got the bonus of marrying into a family that appreciated them as well.

I love to listen to the Statlers sing How Great Thou Art. I got all thrilled and throat-catchy today thinking on
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
and there proclaim (for eternity!!), my God, how great Thou art!

So, here’s a treat for you (you’ll have to follow the links because WP is not letting me embed them, for some reason)…
The Statlers singing How Great Thou Art in 1971 on a Johnny Cash special
And a more recent version (looks like it’s from The Statler Brothers Show)
Enjoy!

The garden is almost done for the year. Last week we gathered a large harvest before the first freeze of the year.

The Blessings and I also spent about an hour covering tomato and pepper plants with sheets before that first freeze to try to protect them and give them a bit more time to mature the fruit they’ve been working so hard to produce since the intense heat cooled. What you see on that plate was the extent of our tomato harvest to the date of the picture, less three tomatoes. Impressive for the almost 50 tomato plants we planted in the spring, eh? Hot hot summer makes gardening interesting, anyway!

The long skinny peppers are Holy Moles (holey moleys). This is the second year we’ve grown them. They are prolific producers with varying degrees of heat. The first year, they were quite mild, while this year they packed a bit of a punch. I found this out after I’d taken them to fellowship lunch along with miscellaneus bell/banana peppers and assured everyone that I had only brought sweet peppers. Or not…
I canned five pints of Holy Moles (sliced) and a couple pints of banana peppers (a portion of this batch), but I haven’t gotten a picture of their loveliness yet.

Tonight after we got home from town, we did another pre-frost harvest, as it’s supposed to get down to 31. Here’s what Jonathan and the older Blessings gathered while I got Andrew ready for bed:

The tomatoes made a bit of progress in the mild week+ after the first freeze; hopefully these will ripen nicely inside.
The pitiful watermelons didn’t have time to mature, yet this is the best success we’ve had yet with watermelons. Maybe next year we’ll grow some that we, instead of the chickens, eat.

A couple of the little butternuts broke off at the stem and were cooked tonight… gorgeous, aren’t they?

In Which I Speak of Soy and Estrogen

I have recently been asked to articulate my concerns about soy as food. I have told some of my experience with soy and estrogen dominance in my dust-gathering-yet-unfinished series on Balance, but thought I would share this brief as well.

About five years ago, at 32 years of age, I was displaying the classic signs of pre-menopause (about 15 years earlier than average). I will not go into the details of my physical symptoms, but I was miserable. In addition to my obviously feminine-related symptoms, I had memory loss, confused thinking, mood swings, anxiety, depression, irritability, extreme fatigue, and blood sugar issues.

A midwife friend suggested that I might be dealing with the results of estrogen dominance. After research, I realized that while I had likely been dealing with estrogen dominance for most of my life (having displayed key signs of hormonal imbalance along the way), the soy-intensive diet plan that I had been following for the previous year plus had sent my balance further askew than ever before. This resulted in the symptoms mentioned above, all of which are linked with estrogen dominance.

After realizing that my consumption of soy was likely linked to my physical, mental, and emotional difficulties, I cut soy from my diet. I made changes to eliminate other sources of phyto (plant) and xeno (chemical) estrogens from my life, but the elimination of soy was by far the biggest change. Within a month, I could see a dramatic improvement in my mental, emotional, and physical state. In a few more months, it was like a new person (the person I had once been, but hopefully even better) had come to live in our house.

Hormone balance is all about balance… having the right proportions of estrogen, progesterone, etc. Large amounts of soy, a phyto-estrogen, can cause an imbalance in anyone. Some people are more susceptible than others to this imbalance or, already having an hormonal imbalance, to even greater extremes of imbalance. I am one of those people, but I am not rare. And I believe that there are many people whose health issues are, unknown to them, due to hormonal imbalance.

If I’ve peaked your interest, I would be glad to answer questions as I am able. Also, I have found Dr. John Lee’s website to be a helpful and informative resource.

May Momentos in Miniature

A stroll through some highlights of May…
(click to enlarge)

Giveaways

I have, over the years that I’ve been reading blogs, entered a multitude of giveaways. I’ve pouted inwardly more than I’d like to admit over not ever winning one.

Well, for reasons beyond my ken, my losing streak has been broken, and broken soundly.

I’m not wanting to brag about winning, but I am wanting to brag on these wonderful people who have hosted and given. Please check out their blogs and products!

On October 24, I won a cloth diaper giveaway hosted by Tsh at SimpleMom.net. When Tsh sent me an email asking me which of the four sets would be my preference, I chose SustainableBabyish after much deliberation because the set that they were giving away had an option for either a regular/short wool cover or some wool longies (be still, my heart!). As it turned out, I was able to have my first choice of companies, and heard from the folks at SB within a few days. Unfortunately, at the time, the page for the starter kit being given away did not note the additional charge for the longies (a charge that makes total sense, just one that I couldn’t fit in our budget at the time). After some emailing back and forth, the kind folks at SB offered me the option of a pair of “seconds” longies if I would prefer them over a short wool cover. I was all over that. And, incidentally, the product page for the starter kit in question now reflects the price difference, for which I’m relieved for future customers.
So, on November 17, I received my package. And oh my. These diapers. They are the softest ever. Every time I come to one of them in the diaper rotation, I get all excited because they are just so soft and cushy. I wish I had clothes that soft! I just think they’re wonderful. And the pair of longies? I sure can’t find any flaws in them. A little lanolin sample would have been a lovely touch since their covers are not pre-lanolized. I finally bought some lanolin and it is in transit. So looking forward to getting this pair of longies in use!
Honestly, my experience with this company’s representative was less than stellar. But I think it was an individual thing, not a company-wide issue. And oh the diapers! They make the negatives fade in my mind. I would (obviously, from my gushing) highly recommend them. Thanks for the fabulous gift, SustainableBabyish! And many thanks to Tsh for organizing/hosting such a generous giveaway.

Then in November, I was surprised by a second giveaway notification – this time from The Grocery Shrink. She was giving away not one but three of her ebooks. I’d looked longingly at her books before and been so impressed that she helps you shrink your grocery budget while eating real whole foods. She also was including a hands-pampering set from Mary Kay – fun bonus.
We had some miscommunication, and then there was my horrid memory and holiday busy-ness. I totally forgot about downloading the books. And I didn’t receive her email about the hands set. I finally emailed her tonight to thank her and apologize for not doing so earlier. I’m going to download the books as soon as the Man isn’t playing on online game in which he might die if I clog up the satelite connection. 🙂 I’m sure that you’ll be hearing about them, because I plan to make use of her ideas.

On December 7, I won this giveaway at Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom. It was for a copy of the cookbook Go Dairy Free by Alisa Marie Fleming and (bonus!) a potato ricer. I’d been thrilled about getting a digital copy of the book, but was delighted when Heidi informed me it was a hardcopy.
I haven’t had a lot of time to examine the cookbook, but it is definitely more than just recipes. It looks like a wealth of information on this world that sometimes still feels new to me. Alisa’s blog, Alisa Cooks, has been a tremendous help and encouragement as I’ve learned the ropes of eating without dairy, and I’m thankful to have this hard copy resource as well.
I’d never used a potato ricer before, but I have been glad to have it. Perfect timing with Andrew beginning to try some veggies. Besides making mashed potatoes with it for the fam, I’ve run sweet potatoes and carrots through it for Andrew (freezing them in half cup portions for easy use). Works like a dream.
Oh, and the dairy free fudge recipe Heidi links to in the giveaway post? Fabulous. Totally made my Christmas season, as far as treats go. And my family said they thought it was just as good as “their” fudge.
Thank you, Heidi, for the gifts, and thank you, Alisa, for letting your readers know about the giveaway!

Also on December 7, oddly enough, I went visiting some new blogs after posting my Sweet Shot Tuesday picture. I like to visit some of the other bloggers who have posted pics and give enouragement, so I picked a few that I liked from the thumbnail linkies and went to comment. I loved the hands picture at the end of this post at sandwichINK – it reminds me of my dear grandparents. I dashed off a note to Kaye letting her know I appreciated her pics and post, and thought no more of it. Totally missed the giveaway business.
The next week, I received an email about having won a giveaway. I had to follow the link to Kaye’s blog to figure out how that had happened. What a fun and wonderful surpriseto have $15 to my credit at Amazon! Thanks, Kaye!

So that’s my giveaway roundup. Please visit these fine folks and, if they have products that would be a help to you, consider purchasing from them.

An update on Andrew’s diet

I mentioned near the beginning of the month that we had discovered that Andrew does not deal well with the bovine milk protein that comes through in my milk (a condition called allergic colitis), that I had gone off dairy, and that he seemed to be improving.  I’ve now been off dairy since around 1pm on Thursday, September 30 (not that I’m counting or anything) and thought I’d give an update on how Andrew and I are doing.

Andrew is doing much better.  Over the first couple of weeks, we saw a dramatic improvement in his comfort level, cheerfulness, and the quality of his stools.  About three weeks in, however, it seemed like he was moving backward.  I felt quite unsettled about him, and called wonderful Mary, our midwife.  She connected me with a friend/client who has dealt with allergic colitis with a few of her babies and who has, through necessity, become an expert.  It was very helpful to talk with her, and I tweaked a couple of things after our conversation, including dropping goat cheese, as her experience indicated that it is any dairy, not just cow dairy, that causes trouble.  That helped a bit more.

Early this week, with Andrew still having the occasional pre-bloody (I can explain that in more detail if you really want) or blood-tinged diaper, I became more convinced that Andrew is one of those babies who cannot handle dairy or soy.  I have generally avoided soy products for years now, but I had not realized how many innocent looking foods have soybean oil in them.  I’ve peeled off a whole other layer of the dietary onion this week. And it seems to be paying off.

Just to give you an idea of the changes I’ve made, here are some of the things that are in the works in our kitchen:

Things at which I feel the need to develop proficiency/for which I need to find recipes that are dairy/soy free –
~ Tortillas
~ Mayonaise
~ Biscuits
~ Potato soup – a fall/winter staple in our home.
~ Popcorn. I tried it tonight with seasoned salt (and olive oil to hold the salt on the popcorn). It was passable, but nothing to hoot and holler about. I’m looking for ideas.
~ There are more on my mental list, but I can’t find the mental paper it’s on. I guess that’s a sign that I need to write it down with pen and paper.

Things I’ve tried/am trying –
~ Experiments in substituting for butter in various recipes. I have some coconut oil, but it is quite pricey, and I’m definitely not going to be making cookies with it at a cup or cup and a half per batch.
~ Today I tried an idea suggested by a friend – using mashed up white beans as a substitute for butter. I found a recipe for oatmeal cookies using beans and they were quite yummy. I’ll post more about this on my Love You Can Eat blog, because, well, it qualifies!
~ I have a batch of artisan bread dough in the fridge so I can start making bread again. Need a carrier for my homemade apple butter, you know. (Store-bought bread is pretty much an automatic fail)
~ I made cornbread last night. I generally use bacon drippings for the fat in my cornbread, so the only sub was almond milk instead of buttermillk. Quite tasty.

Foods for which I’m developing appreciation (read: my sanity savers) –
Almond Milk
Dark Chocolate Almond Milk
Dark Chocolate that doesn’t use soy lecithin as an emulsifier
Almond butter on gala apples
(Do you see an almond theme here? I’m extra grateful that almonds are an alkalizing food, or I would be in a world of hurt!)

In the midst of our food journey, I am thankful that we do not have to be concerned about one of the most common side effects of allergic colitis, failure to thrive.

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