Saturday, April 1, 2017

Paleo Week 4

This week's breakfast is egg sandwiches made with Paleo English muffins.
This week's dessert is Paleo strawberry rhubarb crisp.

Wow, Week 4! I'm halfway to my goal of eating strictly Paleo for 60 days. I read a book written by a natural endocrine doctor, who has Graves Disease himself, and has successfully managed it using a natural treatment protocol. He writes that many people are successfully able to reintroduce some high quality dairy and gluten-free grains, and that is definitely my goal. I know that the way I eat is definitely going to change forever if I truly want to manage this disease without pharmaceutical drugs, but I'd be lying if I said I was ok with never eating cheese again ;-) 

So this week brought some interesting new finds. I made a Paleo "cheese" out of cashew nuts, gelatin, and some spices. It is NOT anything like dairy cheese, but it works in a pinch when I'm craving something creamy on scrambled eggs or a salad. I tried zucchini noodles ("zoodles"), for the first time in a shrimp and cashew stir fry and they were fantastic! Thanks to my mom for letting me borrow her spiralizer! I definitely want one of my own down the road. I also made Paleo brownies out of pumpkin, cocoa, eggs, vanilla and coconut flour. They were dense and fudgy - a very convincing replacement to flour brownies. I made the smoked salmon dish you see above last night and it was I really had to restrain myself from eating the entire portion and not leaving any for Brian! I was very happy and satisfied this week, and grateful for all the new recipes I got to try out. Speaking of recipes: check out that meal plan! NO Paleo modifications! Everyone's eating the same thing this week (with the exception of regular spaghetti noodles for my kids on Tuesday). I feel kinda proud of that.

Now that I've got the cooking part mostly under my belt, I'm moving on to researching supplements that would benefit me and the dozens of ways I can kick the toxins in my home out to the curb. I've done a lot of this already in the last few years, but there is still more work to be done. Autoimmune disorders are particularly susceptible to the endocrine disruptors and toxic ingredients in everyday household items, but I personally believe that all homes can benefit from removing these things. I'm also examining ways to reduce the stress in my life. This is NOT an easy one for me, as it's in my nature to react strongly to sometimes even minorly stressful situations. That will surely require some self-examination, daily reminders, and new routines, but I'm up for the challenge. I had bloodwork done yesterday, and I can't wait to get the results and see where I'm at! 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Paleo Week 3

This week's breakfast: Sausage and broccoli crustless quiche. 
Dessert: Paleo brownies with strawberry coconut milk ice cream.

I am entering Week 3 of the Paleo diet (this is meal plan #2 though...the first week I just bought a bunch of meat and vegetables and figured I would wing it), and I'm starting to really miss some things. The first few weeks I was so wrapped up just learning how to cook for myself that I didn't really perseverate on all the things I couldn't have. This week though...I would literally sell my right arm for a piece of pizza. Gooey cheese....yeasty soft crust...omg I have to stop thinking about it. I also hit a breakfast roadblock for a couple of days when I didn't have a breakfast plan and ended up having a smoothie and a hard boiled egg, when what I really wanted was rye toast with butter and an iced coffee. I am learning that I definitely have some emotional attachments to food, and I really just can't even envision life long-term without cheese. And my food true love, bread. 

Anyway, before I cry about all the things I can't have, let's talk about what's going well. I was 99% compliant this week...I had to subtract a point for the dab of butter I put on the Paleo pancakes my parents made me this morning. If I were at home, I would have had a couple options for butter replacements, but I didn't think to bring them with me and in a weak moment, I caved a teeny bit. I made a Trader Joe's stock-up run and came home with some great finds: plantain chips, coconut cream, bacon jam, cacao nibs, frozen fish, and some new tea, among other things. I have also found some favorite things in these first few weeks:

Hey speaking of Trader Joe's! So I would not have considered myself a sauerkraut kind of girl, but to my surprise, this is delicious! Even my kids tried it and liked it. Conventional sauerkraut is actually cooked at high temps to force the fermentation process, resulting in a mushy, stinky mess. This raw version is crunchy and pickle-y - a great way to get more probiotics into my diet. 

Boy was I sad to say goodbye to coffee when I started this journey. Eventually I'm hoping I might be able to reintroduce it, but I'm trying hard to stay totally compliant for the first 60 days. This product is made of ground, roasted cocoa beans and it is definitely the closest and tastiest alternative I've tried. It has a flavor that is part coffee, part hot chocolate, but it's not sweet on it's own. I add a couple teaspoons of coconut oil and some coconut milk to make a latte, and to really amp up the healing properties, I also throw in...

This product is never leaving my life. I am grateful that the Paleo experience lead me to jump on the collagen bandwagon, because it truly is a superfood. Now if I stop to consider the fact that it's made of ground up cow hide, it freaks me out a little, so I choose not to think too hard about that. It's amazing for so many things - hair, skin, nails, joint health, healing injuries and chronic pain, but most importantly for me: healing the gut. It is completely odorless and tasteless, and dissolves instantly in hot or cold liquid. I can add it to a smoothie or a hot drink and know that I'm supporting my healing. 

Ah, the humble plantain. Before going Paleo, I had never tried one, or given any thought to doing so. But, it turns out they are a great safe starch, and they are SUPER versatile. So far, I've made waffles and fritters out of them, made plantain chips, and pan-fried them with some coconut oil and sea salt for a side dish. I've enjoyed everything I've done with plantains so far, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what else I can whip up (plantain curly fries anyone?). 

So that's where I'm at so far! Thank you so much to everyone who has offered their support and kind words along the way!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Paleo Meal Plan #1

It's Thursday and that means it's grocery shopping day! I shop on Thursday nights for a few reasons:
1. It's a day of the week where we don't typically have anything else going on.
2. I HATE grocery shopping on the weekend. The stores are more crowded and it eats up a huge chunk of my day.
3. My husband is home in the evening, so I can leave my kids behind. Don't get me wrong, I love them with ALL my heart, but grocery shopping is one of those things I will always choose to do without them (why? Imagine your 3 year old yelling "HORSE HORSE POOOOOOOP! at the top of his lungs because his brother thinks it's hilarious. Then there was the time Jake loudly asked "WHY IS THAT LADY BUYING SO MUCH JUNK FOOD?" I've taught you well son, but for the love of God, SHHHH.)

I also have a strategy to my meal planning, and I'm keeping to it even through this Paleo transition. It goes like this:
Thursdays - we eat up any dinner leftovers in the fridge to make room for the incoming groceries.
Fridays - I'm always fried on Fridays so I like to keep dinner super simple.
Saturdays - when I was growing up, Saturdays were for simple, casual food like pizza and tacos, and I've kept to that my entire life.
Sundays - this is always my day to cook a really nice Sunday dinner that's more complicated and time consuming than I have time for during the week. My husband and I always look forward to Sunday dinner! Wish I could say the same for my kids.

Am I right?

Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays - these are for pretty typical weeknight dinners that can be made around our activities, sports for Jake, MOPS for me, extended hours for my husband, etc. 

Meal planning has always been something I've done and enjoyed, even back when I was single and living in a studio apartment, only cooking for me. There's just something about knowing what you're going to make every night that makes life so much easier. If I don't have a meal planned, I get stressed about it. Going Paleo has really given me a new challenge when it comes to writing my weekly menu. On one hand, I don't want to cook completely separately for me and my family. Making two meals every night when I barely have time to make one? Nope. On the other, it would be very expensive and frustrating to cook Paleo for everyone, and I don't need any more comments from my little peanut gallery about how disgusting the meal I made is. I get that often enough (Thanks kids! Love you! You're welcome for cooking healthy food from scratch every night!).

So, the end result is a kind of hybrid, where I'm cooking something we all can eat some nights, and on others, I'm just modifying my food so it's Paleo friendly. For example, on Saturday, I'll make homemade pizza for the guys, and the Paleo modification for me will be pizza stir fry, If you've never had it, it's delish! I liked to make it long before I went Paleo. You take all your fave pizza toppings - I like olives, green pepper, sausage, mushrooms, zucchini and red onion, and you saute them all up together in a pan. Top it off with some marinara and crushed red pepper - YUM. Breakfast for dinner is another super easy one that I think we'll be eating a lot more often. The kids love scrambled eggs, breakfast meat and homemade pancakes or waffles, and it's simple for me to swap in grain free recipes. 

This week's dessert is going to be Paleo apple crisp, which I am super excited about. And what's apple crisp without vanilla ice cream? I'll also be trying my hand at homemade vanilla coconut milk ice cream.

I am always up for a culinary challenge, and that's definitely the way I'm approaching the Paleo Diet. Feeling hungry and deprived makes me VERY VERY CRANKY (ask my husband), so my goal is to ensure that I am neither!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Well hello there, Thyroid

It's been awhile since I've heard from you. And I can't say I'm all that upset about that. You are the thorn in my side, the little (except not little) thing I like to forget about when you're behaving yourself. But for whatever reason, you've chosen now to remind me that you're really the one running the show. Well, technically, you're just my immune system's puppet. Let's back up a minute.

If you haven't heard the story, it's been almost 10 years since I was diagnosed with Graves Disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes my immune system to attack my own thyroid gland. The thyroid, in response, goes into overdrive and starts pumping out way more thyroid hormones than my body needs. The results of this - weight loss, difficulty sleeping, tremors, heat intolerance, heart palpitations, rapid pulse, and fluctuations in mood, are due to the major disruption of such a critical organ of the endocrine system. I was diagnosed after a routine physical at my doctor's office, when I mentioned to my doctor that I thought I was having heart palpitations. She did an EKG in her office that day, which didn't return much info. After a round of blood work, a radioactive uptake scan, and a thyroid ultrasound, the diagnosis came back: Graves Disease. It was a bitter pill to swallow at 27 years old, knowing that this disease would never go away, and the best I could hope for was remission. Remission, of course, was what I was hoping for. My new endocrinologist, Dr. Boring (not his real name ;), wanted to destroy my thyroid right off the bat using radioactive iodine. Baring that, he wanted to cut it out. No thanks. I'd like to keep that important little gland, thankyouverymuch.

Over the years, I've been on and off different drugs to depress the function of my overactive thyroid. Interestingly, pregnancy put me solidly into remission, as the hormone cocktail resulting from growing a person worked in my favor. But each time, the postpartum period, and the stress of breastfeeding, being awake all night, and going back to work all combined to mess up that peaceful state of equilibrium. After getting tired of fending off Dr. Boring's attempts to convince me to part with my thyroid and take synthetic hormone replacement for the rest of my life, I found a new endocrinologist who was comfortable with long-term medication therapy to keep it in check. This worked out well for several years, especially as I was able to go off my meds a year and a half ago as my disease went into remission on its own. But alas, it seems all good things must come to an end, and even my new doctor now feels like it would be in my best interest to destroy or remove my thyroid.

Here's the thing though. Getting rid of the thyroid isn't getting rid of the problem. The problem is my immune system. By removing the thyroid, you're removing the cause of the SYMPTOMS, not the root of the problem. My doctor acknowledges this, yet remains firm that there isn't a way to address the immune system component. I've known for a long time that there is a way to reset the immune system and calm its inflammatory response. I just haven't wanted to do it, because it requires sacrifice. A lot of it. And as a working mom of two, I just don't feel like I often have that much more to give. But I think we've reached the point where I have to try.

Enter the Paleo Diet. If you haven't heard of it, eating Paleo means eating a diet free of inflammatory foods such as grains, dairy, and refined sugar and focusing on whole, healing foods like fresh produce, meat (OMG so much meat), nuts, seeds and spices. I've been avoiding it for years because the very idea of giving up grains and dairy terrifies me. No fresh homemade bread? No hot bowl of steel cut oats, or air-popped popcorn with the kids? No fresh yogurt, cheese (CHEESE?), or cream in my coffee? I'm still wrapping my head around all of these losses. But, I've come to the point where healing just has to take priority over bread. Sorry, bread :( I still love you. The healing will happen, hopefully, from healing my gut, which is the source of everyone's immunity. Many people with autoimmune disorders have a "leaky gut," which allows toxins to pass into the bloodstream, which in turn, sends the immune system over the edge and it does wonky things like attacking the body's own organs. Some people are lucky enough to be able to reintroduce grains and dairy after a time on the Paleo Plan. Some aren't. Only time will tell for me. So I figured in the meantime, I'd blog the journey, and I hope you'll follow along. I need all the support I can get!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

All About Stella

Name: Stellaluna Gidley

Date of birth: October 9, 2015

Age: 6 months

Weight: 15 pounds

Best feature: Ears

Aliases: Miss Puppy, French, French Fry, Stellie Bellie, Stella Bella, Stella Bella Boo, Stellie Bells, El Toro Loco (The Crazy Bull)

Likes: Napping, bull pizzle, snuggling, chicken poop, playing, doing laps around the couch, chasing the boys, licking the water off our legs when we get out of the shower, ice cubes, walks

Dislikes: the vacuum cleaner, the baby gate, the 15 minutes that she's alone in the kitchen every night while we put the boys to bed 

Vices: eating copious amounts of "chicken candy," stealing laundry out of laundry baskets, farting when she's super relaxed, chasing Matchbox cars

Bringing Stella into our family was a GIANT leap of faith. I considered whether we should do it for weeks and weeks. On one hand, I felt like there would never be a perfect time to get a puppy, and she was soooooo cute. On the other hand, I already had my hands full with the boys, my long commute, full time job, and a million house projects at any given time. After we lost our German Shepherd to cancer in November, I thought it would be years before I was ready to take on the commitment of another dog. I was surprised when I felt the emptiness of our house so acutely after a few months without a wet nose in my face or a wiggling backside when we came home. But if we were going to bring home a new furry family member, I definitely wanted something less intense than our Shepherd, whom I jokingly referred to as my hemorrhoid, because he was up my rear all the livelong day. I had dreamed of getting a Frenchie since falling in love with my fur nephew Thor the French Bulldog a year before, and it seemed like the perfect fit: small to medium in size, easy care coat, quiet, lazy, not in need of intense exercise, an ideal family companion. And so Stella has been - the source of much laughter and play, her antics know no bounds. She loves to play with us and the boys, but she's equally happy to be my TV buddy or trot along behind me while I round up everyone's laundry, though this is most likely because she's waiting for her chance to nab a dirty sock ;) 

I knew having a puppy would add to the long list of things already on my plate, and in many ways, it has. What I didn't expect was the way Stella would force me to slow down and enjoy my days more...enjoy the outdoors more, play with my kids more. Before her, I was feeling like my days were full of mostly work. It's not that having a dog equals less work, but she has added a new element of playfulness and fun to our days, and for that, we are all grateful.

I mean really, how can this face NOT make you laugh?

What was once a tiny puppy is blossoming into a little lady with a thick bully neck, full belly and big girl haunches.


Fear the crazy eye.

We affectionately refer to Stella as our little old she is, complete with chin hair ;)

OMG being so cute is exhausting.

The snoring...oh, the snoring! Love.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Chicken Update

It's been awhile since I've written extensively about my flock. If you know me, you know I *talk* about them extensively (sorry about that), but I wanted to document where we're at, almost a year into our foray as chicken keepers. 

Simply put: we're crazy for our chickens. If you're reading this and thinking "I did not see this coming," you are not alone. Heck, I didn't see this coming. Me, lover of cleanliness and manicures and Nine West pumps. But you see, I also love nature, and simplicity, and a healthy dose of do-it-yourself, and it turns out that these things can coexist. So, what's cluckin'? 

Nearly a year ago, and with no small amount of trepidation, we brought home 6 (what we thought were) female "chickie babies," as Jake calls them. Who couldn't fall in love? They were ADORABLE. But we'd never done this before and I wasn't totally confident in our ability to keep them alive, despite the fact that we seemed to be doing ok with two human babies. 

Not only did they survive (in addition to normal every day chick concerns such as pasty butt, but also a close encounter with a heat lamp and an even closer one with our former pooch), they thrived. But as they grew, it became obvious that one was bigger than all the rest. A week in, Brian said he bet that one was a rooster. I scoffed. We had paid extra for sexed chicks! We ordered girls! Get outta here with your rooster. Turns out, chick sexing is about 95% accurate and we hit that lucky 5%. Dino Chick, as he came to be known, soon sported an impressive red comb and wattle and before summer was over, he was crowing with the best of 'em. Though I was dismayed at first at the idea of having a rooster, Dino proved himself to be friendly and gentle with the hens and with us, and we came to truly appreciate him. When he passed away of a sudden suspected heart attack, we were all distraught (I know, right? Over a rooster? What can I say?). Off we went on a day trip to fetch a new guy for our girls, and John Wayne entered our lives. His approach to being a rooster was a little, direct. And he is GOOD at being a rooster, if you know what I mean ;) 

When we moved onto our new 9 acre spread over Labor Day weekend, John Wayne, Crystal, Fuzzy, Daisy, Rosie and Marigold all came along for the adventure, and they have settled into their roles as country chickens beautifully. And they've acquired a friend, though they might not be ready to call her that. JoJo joined the flock after her own got picked off one by one by a predator. The story goes that she was the last one standing and she evaded that sneaky fox for months before our friends asked if we would take her, poor lonely thing. If nothing else, our girls have finally stopped kicking her out of line for food, and they do allow her to hang out with them now, so that's major progress! 

John Wayne is a very good rooster. Here he is showing his girls that he found them a tasty morsel. He makes a soft "gurking" sound to call them over, then bobs his head to the ground to impress them with his generosity. Then when they're busy sampling, he usually takes the opportunity to mount one. Ha. He is gooood at being a rooster. 

Here's the flock working the compost heap. Yummy. But see how the girls all have their heads down and their butts in the air, busily digging out all manner of bugs? Not JW. He is all business. Watching the skies, taking in their surroundings. Ready to sound the alarm in case of trouble. In fact, when I let them out this morning, I am almost positive I saw a bald eagle sailing in the sky above our yard. I glanced at John Wayne and was impressed to see him watching it, too. It went on its way, but he would have called the girls to safety if he had sensed he needed to.

See? He heard me sneaking up on them and reeled around to check it out. 

Our flock helps us out around the yard. Brian had freshly tilled our future veggie garden, and they got right to work scratching and aerating the soil for us. Thanks ladies!

And of course, the best perk of having chickens! Our girls have hit their egg laying stride this week, capitalizing on their age, the warming temps and longer daylight hours. It makes me feel that all my hours of lugging fresh water out to the coop at 5 am in the freezing cold, when the hens weren't giving me anything but a grateful purr, were well worth it. You can use supplemental lighting to get your hens to lay all winter, but I read that because you're essentially messing with their hormones, it's been linked to cancer and other not so pleasant side effects. Plus, something about forcing my hens to lay eggs when their bodies naturally wouldn't just didn't feel right to me. I kept saying if they got the winter off, they'd better step it up come spring and they are definitely delivering!

We have learned so much and had such a great time raising our little flock. I honestly can't see us being without chickens from now on. The only problem we will face is what to do with the girls when their egg laying days are over. We know we can't eat them, or send them off to be eaten, we know them and their goofy personalities too deeply. But we don't have the space to keep an entire retirement flock in addition to any new layers we'll if anyone wants some spoiled pet chickens in 3 years or so, let me know ;) 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fave Products of 2015

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: Hello, my name is Stacy, and I am a product junkie. I just love products - love to try them, use them, find what I like, see what other people like...there are worse things, right? Today, I thought I'd dust off the old blog to share the products that I just kept coming back to in 2015. I repurchased these multiple times, because they are just that good!

Amaki Skincare Bentonite Clay Mask

If there is one product in my entire life that has made a major difference in my skin, this is it. It's amazing. It comes in powder form, and you mix it up with water (I throw some raw apple cider vinegar in there too), and paint it on your face with the included brush. In 10 minutes or so, it tightens up and draws a serious amount of gunk out of your skin. It gets so tight, I can't move my facial muscles enough to speak! Then, you rinse it off and your face feels like it just did an hour of hot yoga. Bentonite clay is a miraculous natural substance that can be used in a huge variety of ways, and this tub is very generously sized. I got it on Amazon, and it included the brush and a free Konjac sponge (another fantastic natural product that made it into my last round of reviews!)

 Shea Moisture Raw Shea Chamomile and Argan Oil Baby Wash and Shampoo
This is absolutely my new favorite shampoo and wash for the boys. First of all, it's free of nasty artificial ingredients and parabens. Secondly, it smells scrumptious. I can't stop sniffing my kids after they get out of the bath. They just smell sweet and delicious and clean. And it doesn't irritate Cole's eczema, which is a major consideration for any product I use on him. I usually grab it on Vitacost or Amazon, but I've seen it in Target and CVS.

 Epsom Salt
I'm not loyal to this particular brand, although I have used it. Any plain Epsom Salt will do. It's fantastic for adding to the bath - both mine and the kids'. When someone is coming down with something, I'll use it to mix up a detox bath, with baking soda, ginger, and sea salt, and it's been very effective at stopping a few would-be viruses in their germy little tracks. It's also great for just a relaxing, weekend soak with some lavender essential oil, or when one of the kids has a sore bottom or rash - very soothing and healing. I threw this bag into an Amazon Pantry order, but Epsom Salt is widely available, even in most grocery stores.

 Honest Company Soothing Bottom Wash
No one relishes diaper duty, but at least if you have to deal with #2, you can have this little gem in your arsenal. We use cloth wipes much of the time, and a few sprays of this directly on the bum, or onto a wipe, takes care of any messes and smells heavenly while it's doing so. It's got an Orange Vanilla scent that is super pleasant, but not overpowering, and it doesn't leave behind any sticky residue. It's also excellent for cleaning up hands and faces!

 Essential Oils
Oh, essential oils, I love you!  There are entire books written about what you can use them for, but my very favorites are lavender, which we go through very quickly because it's so versatile, and:
A kid-safe version of the popular "Thieves" oil to support the immune system. I'll rub this on the boys' feet or diffuse it in the house if someone is showing symptoms of something.
Original Thieves oil (so named, by the way, for the spice merchants who were robbing victims of the Black Plague back in Medieval times. When caught, they received a lighter sentence in exchange for sharing why they hadn't caught the plague, even after touching so many of its victims. Turns out they were wearing masks doused with these oils over their faces). This is what I use on Brian and I if we're feeling the need for an immune boost. I've also made roller bottles and given them away to others for this purpose, with good feedback! I like to make homemade foaming hand soap out of this as well.

 Kiss My Face Moisture Shave in Cool Mint
Best natural shave cream out there, hands down. I'll never buy any other kind, ever again. My husband loves it, I love it, it smells great and lathers up, and gives you a fantastic shave. Go buy some! You can get it on Vitacost, Amazon, or in many grocery stores (Wegmans for sure, if you're lucky enough to live near one). 

 Acure Brightening Facial Scrub
This product is another game-changer for my skin. It has super-fine scrubbing granules, and lots of skin-loving ingredients like French green clay and lemon peel. It makes my face feel so refreshed and woken up, without any chemicals or synthetic fragrances. I've even caught my hubby using it ;) Grab it on Vitacost or Amazon (where else?), or Target.

 Out the Door Top Coat
Ok, I can't even pretend this product is natural. It isn't. Not even a little bit. But, sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do in the name of beauty ;) I love a nice neat manicure. It's a small way to pamper myself, and claim my femininity in a house full of smelly boy socks and farts. I have a LOT of nail polish. You know what I don't have a lot of? Time. That's why this top coat is seriously my beauty BFF. 5 minutes, people. In 5 minutes, you can have a shiny, cured manicure and return to your regularly-scheduled life. I would never paint my nails if this product didn't exist. Can you guess where I got it....? My old friend Amazon.

So, not a beauty product, but no Favorites of 2015 list of mine would be complete without mentioning my flock. I love the first 6 so much I've got 16 more coming my way in April (I know right, 16? Weird number. The minimum order is 15, plus the free bonus chick, just in case you were wondering ;). They provide us countless hours of entertainment and laughs, wholesome fresh eggs, and lots of learning opportunities. They live outside, they don't shed on my clothes, and they would probably eat me, were I to pass out in their coop, but gosh, we are chicken-obsessed around here. Over breakfast, Jake peruses any of the various poultry catalogs that arrive in the mail these days, and Cole will request to eat his afternoon snack "outside, with 'nicknens?" Plus, how cool is it to have a flock of the closest living relative to T-Rex running around your yard? Right? You know you want some. McMurray Hatchery, my friends. But be warned, you can't have just 6... ;)