Category Archives: Getting Strong

Growing muscles.

Many and Varied Colorful Cursewords

This post is the most frustrating one I’ve ever had to write.
That may sound melodramatic, but it’s honestly where I am in this moment. There’s been a sea change in my life, my heart is crushed, and I am genuinely grieving right now.

I’ve been diagnosed with Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS). For those unfamiliar with it, OAS occurs when someone who has severe pollen allergies also starts to have symptoms when they eat certain foods — primarily raw fruit and nuts. In my case, the reactions have been on the milder side: it’s been mostly itching in my nose, mouth and throat. One symptom I’ve experienced that I haven’t seen reported anywhere, though, is an oddly heavy sensation in my head. It’s hard to explain — it’s sort of like the fuzzy feeling you get when you take one of the older antihistamines like Benadryl (which I’ve had a fair amount of experience with this week, thanks to new reactions popping up that have never occurred before).

If you’ve read this blog much at all, you know how I love food. Especially summer food. I adore stone fruits and berries and have only just developed an affection for melon, .
I’m not exaggerating when I say about half of what I eat from June to September is fruit and/or nut-based, and mostly raw at that. So for those foods to suddenly be taken away from me — the sadness is indescribable. I have cried more in the last week than I have in the previous six months.

I’m told (and have seen in one instance) that I may be able to have the cooked versions of most fruits, but I have not experimented with that very much as of yet. I’m still trying to get my system to calm down. Thus far that means regular doses of one of the newer antihistamines, coupled with a short course of oral steroids and Benadryl if I’m feeling a reaction. My new allergist also prescribed a longer term nasal steroid as well. I’m having blood tests done, and may also do skin testing once this allergy season is over.

In addition to my doctors’ recommendations, I’m also trying to boost my immune system. As always when I’m studying, I’ve been less strict than I want to be with my diet, but that’s got to change. I’m going to be focusing on doing the right thing. That means no more junky food, for a start.
It also means I’m going to help myself feel better via reducing inflammation by taking omega-3, improving gut health with fermented foods and probiotics; increasing my intake of healing foods like gelatin and bone broth; and taking vitamin C to help make up for what I’m missing by not eating fruits as usual. I’m not going to say that I will make my OAS go away, necessarily, but I am definitely going to commit to this regimen, because even if it doesn’t ‘fix’ my allergies, it can only do me good.

Taking Stock (but not making it)

My word, it’s been sooo long. At the moment, I’m knee deep in my studies and it seems I’ve barely got time to breathe, let alone blog. I feel like I’ve been exactly zero fun to be around, too. I guess that’s what happens when you separate me from my kitchen.

The worst part is that it’s not entirely my studies that have kept me from any serious cooking. Right around the winter holidays, the ancient cast iron pipe our (wonderful, beloved, if decrepit) old house gave up the ghost. As you can imagine, it costs a pretty penny to repair such a thing, and my inner cheapskate is deeply unhappy about it. Still, we will get it done.
In the meantime, however, it means our kitchen sink and washing machine are not as usable as we need them to be. With a family of six, that’s extremely challenging. We have gotten by with regular trips to the local laundromat (holy WOW, they are much better than I remember!), but the sink is another matter. Fortunately, the pipe isn’t completely gone — we are getting just enough drainage to do dishes — but the dishwasher I was planning to gift myself for Christmas will have to wait.

The broken pipe also means that there was some significant flooding in our basement as well, so we will be dealing with that for some time. I know I’d said I wanted to clear out the junk down there: perhaps it was fate offering a helping hand.
I’d expected that a remodel was in our near-future (we want to move one of the teens to a new bedroom in the basement), but first we want to see how the mess shakes out. I just keep telling myself that I’m learning lessons in delayed gratification, whether I wanted to or not!

At any rate, things around here will be sparse for the next couple of weeks, while I prepare to take my licensing exam and get the work done that needs to get done around the house. As always, it’s an adventure.
You know that old saying “may you live in interesting times?” It may be apocryphal, but it seems to be my lot at the moment. I’m looking forward to a lot less interest once this is done!

 

 

Happy Holidays!

Paleo + Life | Holiday Card

My youngest girl made this for me, with help from the oldest. I love it.

Oh, my – is it truly Christmas Eve? This month has been busier than I thought. In my mind I’ve written this blog post about 900 times already.

At at any rate, this being December, I have been busily running thither and yon. Celebrating my youngest girl’s birthday with a mega-sleepover (holy moly, little girls are nuts!), dealing with major flooding in our basement and getting ready for Christmas (grabby toddler equals no tree, at least this year). I have also been reading a ton of books and thinking about what I want to accomplish in the New Year.

First is a renewed focus on health. At the moment, I have a fierce sinus infection. At first, I thought it was a cold, but after a few days of painful swallowing I had to give in and see the doctor.
I’m quite glad that I did: it gives me the chance to combat this nasty sickness with both allopathic medicine (antibiotics and Sudafed) and some more natural means (lots of cranberry-ginger tea, probiotics to replenish the good gut bacteria, and supplemental NAC to loosen up all the gunk in my sinuses). I’m also trying to severely limit sugar, alcohol, chocolate, and caffeine. These are, of course, some of my favorite things about Christmas, which will make for an interesting holiday dinner.
(I expect I will compromise and have something with fruit and honey, on the theory that honey offers many health benefits as well as sweetness.)

I’m also looking at branching out a little from paleo. While the focus on the blog will not change — I like eating this way too much to give it up — I am intrigued and want to experiment a bit with some “paleo-adjacent” dietary philosophies. Specifically, I’ve just read The Adrenal Reset Diet and am intrigued enough (and like beans enough) to give it a shot. I will report back on that soon.

The other thing on my mind is a creative project of some sort. While I’ve passed the time in my life where I want to be famous — do all kids go through that stage? All of mine seem to — I do want to try some kind of creative project next year. The problem, as always, is more ideas than time. One thing on the list, though, is trying a video or two for the blog. Back when I watched TV on the regular, I adored watching TV cooks, and at one point aspired to be one. So video may be on the agenda for 2016. No promises, but I will keep y’all posted.

Finally, I want to reduce the clutter in my life. I know there are things in my basement that haven’t seen the light of day since we moved in to our house. It’s long past time for them to go! They say (whomever “they” are) that getting rid of things you no longer need or want makes room in your life for the things that you do. I sincerely hope that’s true. Even if it isn’t, I believe that the very act of making room will feel quite freeing.

Hmm. I started at Christmas, but have gone straight on to the New Year. While, as I’ve said I don’t do resolutions, I do like having goals. I look forward to striving toward these goals in 2016.

If you’ve got a goal you’d like to share, drop a note in the comments. In the meantime, happy holidays to you, whichever ones you celebrate, and best wishes for a smashing new year!

Limbo

Our kitchen

Our kitchen, when we bought the house.

GAH.

That is how I feel with no fridge. Yes, we have the mini fridge, and no, no one is starving, but I am longing to have my proper fridge back. I miss having the ability to store a bigger quantity of food, and plan meals over a longer period of time, and the convenience of being able to just do a leftover night on the spur of the moment.

I suppose, in some ways, this is what it might be like to undergo a remodel — which I have contemplated almost from the moment we bought the house. I love our neighborhood and our sunny, south-facing lot, and I am of course grateful that we have a roof over our heads (no easy feat with six of us to house), in terms of style, our house is, well, meh. It basically does the job of keeping us warm and dry, and we have made a few minor updates since this picture was taken, but I know it could be so much more.

It feels a little weird to discuss this here on the blog — remodeling doesn’t seem like a particularly “Paleo” topic. But I think it fits in, even if it’s a stretch. Paleo is about making yourself healthier, which to my mind includes setting up your home to facilitate healthy choices. My goals for the kitchen, I think, will do that.

I want to add a full-sized freezer, so that we can buy a side of beef from a local farm and have room to store it. I’d also like to add pantry space so that I have room for fermentation projects like homemade sauerkraut and kombucha. I would like more counter space so that I have more room for cooking with the sous vide. Finally, I really want a prettier space to work in. That would feed my soul, which at times feels almost as important as making the practical kitchen functions go more smoothly.

I’m sure there are other things that I’m overlooking. If you’re so inclined, please do leave a comment with your favorite thing about your kitchen. I would love to know what works for you.

Cussword!

Gah.

I have been reluctant to write this post, which I’m fairly certain means that I need to do it. So here goes. This is a little bit more intimate than usual for the blog, so if you just come for the food (which is totally okay with me — sometimes you just want some food!), feel free to sit this one out.

As you may have noticed, I took a break from the blog for a bit, because I wanted to concentrate on studying for my professional licensing exam. And study I did. Every day, for hours at a time, my world was condensed down to a coffee shop and a set of purple workbooks I grew to hate.
If it wasn’t a workbook, and it didn’t scream or bark, I didn’t pay it any attention.

Despite the months of effort, I did not pass my exam. Again.

This was pretty devastating, as you can imagine. All that time and effort. All the hours I missed playing with my kids and enjoying the summer, not eating right, not exercising — and all of it for naught. Just to find out, once again, that I was thisclose to passing, but once again fell short.

I’ve been rather down on myself as a result. Going back to school as a married woman with  three kids was hard. Having a baby in the middle of that was harder still. But I did it. I managed to get through it and looked forward to having a somewhat simpler life.
Yet this exam is the last hurdle before I can do what I’ve trained to do for years and I just. could. not. get it. What is wrong with me? I thought. How am I such a failure?

I think y’all can see where my problem is. Somehow, I decided my worth as a person was directly related to what I achieved in the world. That my value as a human being was only important as far as what I did, what I was able to do, how impressive I was able to be. How ridiculous is that?

I know better. It took me a really long time to learn that lesson, but I know it. Still, I am an academic achiever from way back, and I have a strong sense of myself as “smart”.
Smart is a big part of my identity and who I have always been.
So when faced with a professional/academic disappointment, I turned on myself. I forgot to show myself compassion, and gentleness, and support. I forgot to treat myself the way I would treat a friend.

Now, I’m going to tell you a little story:
Lately I’ve been trying to clean up my language. I am generally an unapologetic potty mouth, but our paleo baby is squarelly into toddlerhood now. Even better, he’s at that wonderful stage where as often as not, he parrots whatever I say. Since I prefer not to get kicked out of mommy & me activities because of my little foul-mouthed sailor, I started substituting the phrase “Cussword!” for what I really mean to say. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is nearly as satisfying as the real thing. (And highly amused when the boy runs through the house yelling “Cussword! Cussword!”)

So I’ve said a few (okay, more than a few) cusswords about this entire situation. I’ve careened between frustration and rage, and gone from despair to fury and back again. I’ll probably feel this way for a while longer. And that’s okay: I accept that I will occasionally be down about disappointments like this.
But I am trying to remember to treat myself as if I matter. To remember that what I do does not define who I am. That I am more than the numbers on a scoresheet, and that I am worthy of respect, from others, and from myself, simply because I exist. That I need balance in my life, and health, and that sacrificing those things, no matter how worthy the goal, is not how I want to live.

It’s a work in progress. But isn’t it always?

On The Go: Paleo Snacks

Paleo Snacks | Paleo + Life

Portable snacks are a lifesaver around here. Between the kids’ schedules and ours, we are on the go a fair amount. While there are a few paleo staples I have all the time, like hardboiled eggs and beef jerky, I thought I’d share a few, lesser known paleo snacks with you as well.
We rely on these sorts of things to stay as paleo as we can when we’re out.

Exo bars: These bars, made with cricket flour, are amazing. I was mostly amazed that they didn’t taste like the bottom of a dirty shoe (because, honestly, the idea of eating crickets sounded pretty darned gross). But it’s not just that they aren’t bad, the taste is actually good: the flavors are true, fruity and intense. The toddler has gotten more particular about his snacks as he heads into the terrible twos — even old reliable snacks like bananas and applesauce are rejected about half the time — but the blueberry vanilla Exo bar is the one he snatched out of the pile and demanded to eat RIGHT NOW. In my book

EPIC bars: I dig these because they are more savory than most. The vast majority of snack bars are fruity and/or sweet, which can be cloying after a while. Epic bars, though, taste as if a bratwurst has been flattened and turned into a portable snack. Beef Habanero Cherry is my favorite, though I have not yet tried the lamb and mint version.

Larabars: A Paleo classic (is there such a thing, really?), Larabars are a reliable treat that satisfies my sweet tooth pretty readily. Most of them are even clean enough for a Whole30: the ingredients are generally dates, nuts, and fruits (make sure you read the label carefully, as most, but not all, are paleo).

I really like the variety of flavors available, too, though I almost always choose Cashew Cookie for its simple deliciousness. Of the latest flavors, Pineapple Upside Down Cake is my new favorite, though Chocolate Covered Almond is a close second.

Vermont Smoke & Cure: These RealSticks are a nice alternative to beef jerky, which is my usual snack. They are not inexpensive, but they are delicious. I like the BBQ and Cracked Black Pepper flavors best — the pepper is sharp and feisty, while the BBQ has a classic southern-style tang.

 

 

 

 

 

A Near Miss

041415 Near Miss

Sigh.

Sadly, I did not pass my exam.

It’s disappointing not to have passed regardless of how much my actual score was, but I think I’m almost more disappointed because I was so close. How close? A few points — three questions would have made the difference. So instead of celebrating this week, I’ve re-started my study program.

I’m sure that somewhere in the universe there is something inspirational that will cheer me on my way — lists of the many famous people who have taken, and failed, this same exam are very popular, for example — but right now I’m not there. I am a little sad, a lot annoyed and even more determined to crush it next time.

Paleo Check In: March 2015

Welcome! Check ins are a monthly series of posts meant to document my progress towards better health, a stronger body, and general awesome paleo rockstar status. Find the first one here.

I haven’t done a check in post for a while; feels like a good time to revisit these.

Food

With all of the studying I did over the last few months, my “80/20” devolved to something like 55/45 while I was outside of the house. However, the longer I eat paleo, the less tolerance I have for processed food, so cooking at home has been much the same.

I feel like I’ve been cooking quite a bit, but only two recipes made the blog this month. Fortunately, they are good ones:

Sage & Pepper Pork Chops
Compound Butter

Body

Does anyone remember the phrase “freshman fifteen?” You know, how when you go off to college, it’s pretty common to put on a few pounds? Well, I have found the “bar exam eight.”
All that sitting and reading is no good for the waistline — or any body part, really. Not to mention that I have a strong mental association of studying with some sort of sweet.
In my mind, studying equals coffee (because let’s face it, sometimes studying is not that exciting). Coffee equals pastries, because coffee shops always have delicious sweet things to go along with the beverages, so therefore, studying has always meant treat time.

So long story short, I need to do some deprogramming. Too many items of clothing that had been loose are now tight. Not to mention that if I did not pass the exam, I will need to try again in just a few months.  It’s important to me to work on breaking that association now.

Mind

Somehow, I believed that finishing law school free up tons of time and that I would be able to really dedicate myself to some new projects and some self-improvement. Feel free to laugh at me now.
What is that old saw about work expanding to fill the time available? It’s entirely true.

My “baby” — now 18 months old — has stopped taking his morning nap. The parents among you will understand my dismay. Despite having been through this before, I still didn’t realize how dependent I was on the morning nap until it disappeared. It was when I did most of my photography/recipe prep for the blog, and I still haven’t figured out how best to find that time again.
While I am excited and thrilled that my busy little monster is becoming such an interesting person, and I’m absolutely delighted that he is so bright, cheerful and interested in the world, I sure do miss those naps.

The school-aged kids have all been on Spring Break as well, which means that when not entertaining the bunch of them, I’ve had to actually leave the house so that the little one could get that precious nap. Happily, we are getting back to the regular schedule this week.

On the plus side, I’ve read several novels in the last week! I really enjoy losing myself in a good book.

Goals

1. Re-focus on my exercise goals. I am aiming for daily sun salutations.

2. Dissociate coffee/tea time with sugary treats.

3. Sleep. I still don’t have this piece where I want it, so I’m trying to break it down. For this month, my goal is lights out/devices out by 11.

What are your goals for the month? Please share in the comments if you’ve got something good planned, or have any tips for getting back on track.

Paleo Off-Roading

image

Lately, I am having the sorts of days where I do things like wash a load of laundry and then accidentally pour laundry soap on it again. Or I start to do something walk into a room and then forget why I came into it. Where I look into the fridge and the only food to be found is a bunch of rainbow carrots, a bottle of lemon juice and a jar of strawberries I pickled in 2013.

 I can just about manage a load of laundry every other day — the piles that six people create are frankly shocking — and by and large, I remember to feed us all. Our little routines are taking on more importance; family movie night was always important, but is now a Big Deal, and Friday afternoon pizza seems to be A Thing for the youngest two. (I just discovered that our favorite pizza place does gluten free slices, which is very exciting.)

Speaking of pizza, I wanted to talk about “off-roading”, which is my phrase for foods that aren’t strictly Paleo. We do a fair bit of off-roading here, particularly when I’m in a busy period like the one I’m having now.

While I’m still avoiding the biggest Paleo no-nos (gluten, I’m looking at you) , I do think that there are solid reasons to consider these foods:

Beans: These get a lot of flak, because of their gas-inducing qualities, and also because their natural defense mechanisms are believed to be irritating to the gut. Dr. Alan Christianson, author of the Adrenal Reset Diet, makes a pretty good case for not worrying about eating beans in this article.

Rice: Of all the foods, I think rice was what my second-most missed during my Whole30 (oatmeal was most, believe it or not). But when I gave it a try during the re-introduction period, I my body reacted very strongly. I got the shakes and was dizzy about 30 minutes after eating.  Since then, I have cautiously re-introduced rice to my diet. As long as I don’t have too much at a sitting, and I accompany it with a good portion of protein and fat, I do okay.
Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple explains why, surprisingly, the occasional meal with white rice is not that bad, as long as it isn’t displacing better, more nutrient-dense foods in your diet.

White Potatoes: This one, oddly, feels like the biggest “cheat” to me. It’s largely because when I started eating paleo via a Whole30, we gave up white potatoes entirely. My husband, as I’ve mentioned, has diabetes, and white potatoes were not on the menu for us much anyway, but going off them was still a big deal.
However, as explained by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig in this post, white potatoes are actually pretty nutritious and thus, are now permitted on the Whole30. Because they are still pretty dense sources of carbohydrate, when we do have white potatoes, I tend to combine them with lower-carb veggies like cauliflower or rutabaga, or to use them as an ingredient in a stew or casserole rather than as a dish in their own right. It works for us.

What are your gray area/off-road paleo foods? Let me know in the comments.

Not a Four-Letter Word

Silly Cher | Paleo + Life

On our honeymoon, 2005

My, oh my.

At this moment, I am feeling deeply moved by Sarah Ballantyne, The Paleo Mom, who has shared a truly epic post about stress an]e last two years of her life. I highly recommend you take a look. I have not been this inspired by a blog post in a good long while.

Deeply inspired, but also really, really tired.

I am trying to take the lesson from Sarah and be pro-active in managing my stress. To do that, I have to admit sooner rather than later that I am feeling the strain. Bar study, combined with my regular family responsibilities, is really pushing me over the edge.

That doesn’t mean that I want to stop doing any of what I’m doing. I love blogging; it’s an immense relief from thinking about civil procedure and constitutional law and wills and trusts and all the other 4,037 rules of law that I am supposed to know, cold, when I finally take my exam. And of course, I can’t exactly leave my family behind — nor would I want to do so (mostly; sometimes, when the bickering starts, a desert island doesn’t sound so bad).

So I’m trying, instead, to help myself by recognizing the overwhelmed feelings and being pro-active about getting a little relief. I’ve shared my current supplement routine here before. These days, I’ve added ashwagandha and NAC to the mix. Ashwagandha is another adaptogenic herb meant to support the immune system, which makes me less likely to come down with the creeping crud, while NAC helps my body produce glutathione (an incredibly important anti-oxidant for general health that can be lacking in people under a lot of stress or who have autoimmune conditions).

I’m also attempting to get more sleep (always a difficult thing for me), and to be more present when I am not actively studying. Sleep, obviously, makes everything else I do for myself better and more effective — it’s just a matter of remembering that fact when I am tempted to short-change myself.
Presence, of course, is always something to strive for. It is often incredibly difficult for me to disentangle from thoughts of what else I “should” be doing … and it always seems there is something else I should be doing. So this challenge to myself will be even more important as I enter the home stretch of my studies. Just because I need to focus on the bar doesn’t mean the rest of my life needs to be neglected.

What about you? As you head into the second month of the New Year, what are the things you want to focus on? Please feel free to drop a line in the comments.

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