This week, we did something that scared the daylights out of me.
I was thumbing through my favorite blogs on the way to Hoss’s wrestling tournament today, and I landed on a short and insightful piece on how physical and mental discomfort helps us grow. Since I was a nervous wreck about his first throwdown in a full-contact aggressive sport, it fit the day.
Wrestling was not at all my idea. In fact, we put him in not one, but two situations where we were sure he would get knocked around a little, then hate it. But it backfired, and here we are. It’s the first of my kids’ activities that I didn’t choose for them.
Could this be one of those times that marks the transition to big kid?
After a few weeks of him not hating practice, it came time to test his skills in a real match with kids he didn’t know. He paced the house all morning. I paced the house too, in different rooms, so he wouldn’t pick up on my nerves. We left, we arrived, and waited.
Me shredding a napkin, a full two hours before anything started. Mister noticed I was doing this without realizing it and thought it was funny so he took a pic.
When his number came up, he took the mat. I was sure he would freeze, or get a facefull of rubber, or come off bleeding. Instead, he pinned his opponent in 35 seconds. After that, my nervous energy changed to eager excitement, and of course Hoss was pumped.
His second match, he went hard but lost, during which his shoulder took a twist that didn’t jive with my understanding of human shoulder anatomy. He was fine, but the straining, the look of pain and panic on his face…moms don’t like that.
Back to shredding napkins for me, uncertainty for him.
He won his third, and based on a points and brackets system that I don’t yet understand, that landed him second place in his weight class, and a new love for a sport.
He was happy when he won, driven to give it a little more when he lost. He was thriving in an arena I hadn’t chosen for him.
There was some legit fear, literal discomfort, and a whole lot of growing happening in that gym that day.
On the other side of fear, Hoss found a challenge, a killer workout, a new sport to get excited about, effort rewarded, and a little more of his likes and himself revealed.
On the other side of fear, mom found a the sweet side of loosening the grip, of letting the kids grow up and start learning to fly.
All the cool kids are doing it. Michael Hyatt journals as part of his morning ritual. Seth Godin built his platform with often short, sometimes longer, always profound thoughts posted every day. Happiness guru Gretchen Rubin straight up tells us to keep a journal. I see over and over this unstructured writing time as the common thread between the big names in everything. If journaling is something all of these highly effective people do, isn’t it time I learned how to journal?
Sure, I’ve written online for a long time, namely as a brain exercise – it helps me notice things I’d otherwise pass by. But journaling is different – it’s not for public consumption. I’m talking about writing for nobody, writing for me. I could write about anything and nothing – no purpose, no goal, no judgment. No spell check! Though I wouldn’t dare err.
I’ve tried journaling experiments before. Blank page, I write a few paragraphs about how my day went. Day 1, then day 2, then day 3…by day 4 I usually decide my life isn’t interesting enough to write about and I quit.
I liked Gretchen Rubin’s idea of a one-sentence journal, but I wanted a little more of a nudge than that. I was looking for direction – any direction. I could easily find a list of prompts, but we all know what happens if we make this too complicated.
So, I came up with a few things that I want to think about every day. Yeah, I’m adding a little structure to something that is supposed to be free, at least in the beginning. But if it gets me going, then direction works here. The writing can still go anywhere.
I even gave it a name! Enter [sound the royalty trumpets]…
I had to come up with a dumb nonsense name so I’m not flipping back to reference my four prompts every day. Remember, complicated, quitting, throwing the paper all around? Don’t want that.
So the made up word – it’s a mnemonic device that helps me remember what to write. It might look something like this…
Something that went well
We can call this the gratitude element, or noting the wins of the day. Go ahead, write out more than one.
My sweet girl was so brave during her ear piercing! She had a small panic moment as I was filling out the papers, but once she saw the sparkly blue flower studs she decided she was going for it. She was brave and she’s spreading her wings a little, but still wants mom for comfort. Can she stay this age forever?
Something that could be made better
Here, we decide that we want to improve something.
Went to bed after midnight. For what? It was SO not worth it. Did we really need to learn that fish have swim bladders to control their buoyancy? Your need for factoids is not filling your brain, it’s frying it, Court. GO TO BED. On time, please and thank you.
While we’re at it, let’s note second area to improve…stop disparaging yourself using the second person in your journal. That’s not what it’s for.
Something I noticed
This is the part where we stop and bounce something around that we might have otherwise passed by without internalizing at all.
I noticed that I notice so much more when I free-write even a few little meaningless bullets. It’s important to me to notice things. Now I’m noticing what helps me notice things. I’m glad I learned how to journal in a way that’s accessible to me.
Something I’m loving
Now, we bring it all home with something that just plain makes us happy.
I’m loving our “first snow of the season” traditions that have developed. We hold the door open and laugh at Bella dog as she goes outside and acts like she’s never seen snow even though she’s been through 11 winters. She leaps around like a little puppy, bulldozing a path with her nose and doing rolls in the fluff. We always have chili and cornbread on first snow day, and we wish each other a “bon iver” (bohn ee-VAIR, “good winter”) because that’s what they did in an episode of Northern Exposure and we liked it. How do people live in a place that doesn’t get snow?
That wasn’t so bad, was it? Of course you’re intimidated by a blank page expecting paragraphs of prose. Those things have teeth. But a few scribbles – we can all do that. Go buy a simple, pretty notebook (I use a sunshiny yellow Moleskine) and try it for a few days. After a while, you can write in the “no” section what you noticed it’s done to your brain.
Part of finding out about food issues is giving up your favorite things, and it’s especially hard when you’re letting go of holiday traditions you’ve had since you were a kid. Well, we’re bringing one back with this gluten free vegan green bean casserole. If you’ll have gluten sensitives, dairy avoiders or vegans at your holiday table, you’re about to become their favorite person ever.
You may have read here that gluten makes Mister feel like crud for about a week and a half. It’s bad enough that “cheat days” just aren’t worth it, and holidays are no exception.
It took a few years for me to get a hang of gluten free holiday cooking, but eventually I found a few recipes that worked. Lately, I’ve been trying to gluten-free-ify his favorite things, and I must say, I nailed the gluten free dairy free green bean casserole. It’s one of those no-fail deals, so why not try it this year?
Gluten Free Vegan Green Bean Casserole
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 med onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz package mushrooms, chopped
2 cans full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated in the can*
2 tsp coconut aminos
1/2 tsp black pepper
8 cups fresh or about 2 bags frozen cut green beans
gluten free French Fried Onions (I get mine at Aldi) **or**
thin-sliced onions dredged in gluten-free flour and sautéed in olive oil until browned
*My favorite is Native Forest brand, because it’s oh-so-creamy. For things like this where you need the coconut cream, I use the sloosh test that I learned from Dana of Minimalist Baker. Shake the can, and if you don’t really hear anything, it’s a creamy one. If it’s slooshing around, you’ll find a lot of coconut water in there.
Preheat the oven to 350˚. In a stockpot, saute onions in coconut oil until transparent. Add the mushrooms, garlic and pepper. Scoop out the cream from the cans of coconut milk (save the coconut water in the fridge for smoothies) and add to the pan with the coconut aminos. Add the green beans and mix it all up. Pour into a 9×13 casserole dish and bake for about 30 minutes (longer if you used frozen green beans) until bubbly.
Top with French Fried Onions or your pan-fried onions and bake another 5 minutes. If you’re making this ahead, you can do all but the baking part the night before.
Chances are, nobody will know it’s gluten free unless you taste this one and the canned soup version side-by-side. Personally, I’m never going back. Real food always tastes better.
Maybe you pinned some herbal remedy that seems easy enough to try. Or you tried a syrup or tea that your friend made, and you’re hooked. Either way, you find yourself where all of us herbies once were at the beginning – wanting to know more, but not sure where to start. There are plenty of herbal remedy books to choose from, but at first, it’s not easy to spot the trustworthy sources.
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I started taking a correspondence course by Rosemary Gladstar, which was a great way to find my bearings. No need to sign up for a class though, especially if you’re just wanting to dip a toe in to see what you think. There are materials out there so you can play.
There are fantastic resources online, but when I’m in my kitchen I tend to prefer a paper book, open in front of me. These are the ones I reference over and over again, and I’ve included how I use each one.
There is some overlap between them. For example, all will have information on preparation methods, and all will have at least a few recipes. I’m highlighting the best features of each one.
Methods of Herbal Preparation: The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook by James Green
This book is packed with information in a style that jives with my brain – charts, lists, etc. I love the way it’s organized. This is the one I reach for when I’m not sure which preparation to use with a specific herb (because there’s a chart for that!) or if I’m trying a preparation method for the first time.
Herbal Remedies by Body System (and a great place to start!): Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman
After just a few months of experimenting with herbal remedies, I’m not yet great at mentally recalling which herb relaxes my tension headaches or which one soothes my scratchy voice after I got too excited at the soccer field. Since David Hoffman’s book is organized by body system, I reach it when I have a specific issue I want to address.
Hoffman’s book also has a nice overview of preparation methods, as well as a pretty fantastic listing of herbs and their benefits. Holistic Herbal serves as a starting point so you can get to know the plants as you try them.
Alphabetized herbal reference: The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine by Brigitte Mars
Brigitte Mars’ reference is like a reverse Hoffman search – instead of searching by ailment or action, you search by herb. With so much detail on each plant, it’s become my go-to resource for getting to know the ins and outs of the herbs I use most.
Additionally, I love love love the index of Alternative English Common Names. Say someone asks you about melissa. A quick look-up reveals that melissa is also known as lemon balm, and yay! You already know all about lemon balm because it’s taking over half of your backyard so you may as well use it. If you’re me.
One more thing then we’ll move on. (Can you tell I love this reference?) The Desktop Guide also has a Glossary of Physiological Effects, which helps you link specific plants to their action. When an herb description says it’s a parturient, would you know that it assists in labor and delivery? Because I didn’t know that, until I opened it up to the Ps and found a medical action I didn’t know so I could make this point. Useful, yes?
An old one: Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss
Back to Eden was my $1 used bookstore score, and I challenge you to find a cheap one too because it’s been in circulation for 77 years!
I refer to this classic reference when I find conflicting information in my newer sources. Since a lot of herbology is based in tradition and experience, there’s a bit of variation between how herbalists use certain plants (it’s not profitable to for the big funding agencies to sponsor herb research, but we’re seeing more studies lately). The level of agreement between sources is high, but there are some small details that vary depending on your reference. Kloss’ book adds weight to one side or the other when I need more information.
As a bonus, Kloss has a famous liniment that’s supposed to be fantastic for topical infections. I can’t verify, because I just mixed mine and it needs to macerate for another week, and even then we’ll have to wait for some skin issues to test it. But, it contains some pretty powerful ingredients and those who have used it attest to it’s effectiveness. The recipe is in there!
For recipes: Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by Rosemary Gladstar
As I said, I’m in Rosemary Gladstar’s correspondence course, so I’m waving my Team Rosemary flag. Biases aside, I do believe her information is among the very best out there. Her writing speaks to everyone from the novice to the expert and everyone in between. Her recipes are simple, powerful and fun to make. If I had to choose only one, I’d choose Rosemary’s book because it’s for everyone. No exceptions – everyone.
For digging deep into a health concern: Rosemary Gladstar’s entire library
I know, I know, Team Rosemary flag again! She has more detailed references if you want to learn more about dealing with specific issues. Though I wouldn’t start with these books, they would be a logical next step after you’ve done some basic experimenting. I listed only a few, but she has an extensive library that’s worth a look.
I’m anxiously waiting a shipment so I can make some digestive bitters and honey throat candy.
So, is that enough to get your feet wet? Any more gems I need to add to my library? I have a trip to the used bookstore coming up soon and I’d love some suggestions!
My CSA farmers didn’t know it at the time, but they decided that I would make fermented garlic dill carrots this week.
Whether or not there’s another human in my presence, my CSA unboxing usually sounds like the part of the cooking show where the celebrity chef strolls through the staged outdoor market, “choosing” the produce that’s about to get chopped up on camera.
Wow, these shallots are a nice size. I’m going to need to find some good fish and a bottle of white wine just for these. Yay, I have an excuse to get wine! Ooh, heavy. Is that a butternut squash? If I’m impatient, I’ll make my apple bacon squash soup soon, but if I wait a few weeks it’ll be sweeter. Still getting tomatoes? I’ve been so ceremonious with the tomatoes since early September, because I keep thinking that every one I eat is my last. These have to be my last, right? FENNEL! Uh-oh, do I chop it up with oranges for a salad or bake it with the fish and shallots? It’s huge, I can do both…
Yep, all this happens out loud.
This week, among the familiar produce, I found that I have to use a daikon radish and a winter radish. When in doubt, throw it in a jar with salt brine and see what happens?
Experiments aside, I found the three main ingredients for a good ‘ol standby, fermented garlic dill carrots: carrots, garlic, and dill.
This is what I consider an easy ferment because there’s no smashing, pretty much no elbow grease. If you can shove carrots into a jar, you can do this!
Fermented Dilly Carrots Recipe
What you need…
5-7 carrots quartered lengthwise then cut to fit if longer than the jar
4 cloves garlic, left whole or sliced thin
4-5 good-sized sprigs of dill
Just over 2 tbsp Himalayan pink salt
3c Filtered water
1 bay leaf
Clean your jar and any utensils you may use in a hot water bath. Remove with tongs and cool on a clean dry surface.
Place a bay leaf, the garlic slices and dill (no need to chop) into the bottom of the jar.
In a measuring cup or another jar, mix 3c filtered water with just over 2 tbsp salt. I used my favorite brine calculator to figure out a 3.5% brine, which told me that I need 26g of salt for 3c water. According to my scale, 2 tbsp salt comes out to roughly 25g. So if we need 26, it’s just over 2tbsp. Or you can use your digital kitchen scale to measure a precise 26g. Set aside.
Place carrots into the jar, standing straight up. The goal is to have them all standing straight up and packed so tightly that they will not float. It’s kinda fun to see how many you can shove in there.
Pour the salt water over the carrots until the brine reaches an inch or more over the top of the carrots. Cover with two coffee filters secured with a rubber band. Find a clean, shaded, undisturbed place where it can do its thing for about a month.
**Check it every now and again for off-smells and signs of mold or kahm yeast. Kahm can be scraped off with a sterilized stainless-steel spoon, but even the slightest signs of mold means the whole thing needs to be dumped. I almost always get kahm in this one, and I got mold a few times using a 3% brine. That’s why I bumped to 3.5%. All good since using a little more salt!
Since these ingredients are available most of the year, this one can be made pretty much whenever!
**For informational purposes only. The above is the method that works for me in my kitchen conditions. Temperatures, kitchen and tool cleanliness, airborne pathogens and countless other factors can affect the quality of your ferment. Home and store-bought fermented products can turn unsafe to consume. You must use your best judgment to determine whether or not your fermented foods are safe to consume. The decision to eat something or not is yours and yours alone. We take no responsibility for any illness that may occur.
We were running around in t-shirts two weeks ago, and already I’m wanting to make my favorite butternut squash soup recipe.
Because it’s fall and it finally feels like it. It feels like the time of year when everyone is pumpkin spicing everything. Meanwhile, I’m over in the corner hoarding apples. I’ll eat them, I’ll toss them in a skillet with butter and cinnamon, I’ll dehydrate them, I’ll simmer them into applesauce, I’ll stuff them into gluten-free pastry crust.
The apples from the orchards right now aren’t the same as the ones you get in the store. They’re not even the same as the ones you’ll get produced by the same orchard, only three months from now. Apples keep for a long time, but they’ve got a crunch that softens, a sweet-tart bite-back that weakens. I try to get my fill in the fall.
They’re the star in the sweet treats for sure, but I’ll take them in the savory stuff too. Apples add the right amount of something when paired with butternut squash. And then there’s the bacon, which gives this soup the warm, cozy, sweet, salty, everything I’ve ever wanted on an oversized sweater and knit hat kind of day.
I love fall apples so much that I’m not even romanticizing the bacon in this recipe. But let’s be real, do I even need to say anything besides the word bacon?
Okay, let’s make soup.
Apple Cider Bacon Butternut Squash Soup Recipe
1tbsp coconut oil
4-6 strips bacon, chopped (skip for vegan)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 butternut squash
2 c apple cider
1 chopped apple
2 c chicken broth (vegetable broth for vegan)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and brush with butter or coconut oil. Roast in a 350˚ oven, on a baking sheet cut-side-down, until fork tender. Start testing when skin begins to blister. Cool, and scoop the squash away from the skin.
In a large stockpot, saute bacon in coconut oil until the bacon is crispy. Remove bacon pieces and set aside. Saute the onion in the rendered fat until onion is transparent. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the roasted squash and the remaining ingredients. Simmer 20 minutes, then blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Add the chopped apple and simmer an additional 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and garnish with crispy bacon.
Full disclosure, although fantastic on its own, a little drizz of maple syrup has been known to find its way into this butternut squash soup recipe on at least one occasion.
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