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California and Coconuts 

“The Dark, Blue Sea… Thou Glorious mirror, where the Almighty’s form glasses itself in tempests.” -Byron

This week I sunk my feet into the California beach for the first time in my aware-life (since 2 years old). After hours of driving, we rushed to the beach for fish tacos and to see the orange sunset, hovering over the ocean rim, like an overly ripe Georgia peach, about to drop from the tree on a muggy summer day. I mean, the only thing that could have improved this heavenly moment would be a penguin clothed waiter with a linen towel over his arm, telling me how they came up with a low calorie Pina Colada and asking how many he could bring me. But, actually, the silence was enough. See, even though I learned that California is massively and understandably overcrowded, like a cod on a table at Pike Place, Seattle on a gray, downy morning after a good fish, the sounds of the ocean drown all those people out. So, I closed my eyes and just…..was.

I realized that it’s so rare for me to just be. Do you find that too? Everything seems to involve rushing, conflicts to resolve (I have 7 kids, people, and they can go all “kill the wabbit” on each other pretty fast), worries, new puzzles to solve, money to come up with, gas to pump and normal life can pile on my head like an overzealous and petty starlet who nasally says, “cha,” instead of, “yes,” thinks the Revolutionary War had to do with freeing the western World of the style atrocity called corduroy and loads down her butler with shopping packages.

In California, I heard a whisper on the ocean breeze, “You can’t control it all anyway, so stop trying and enjoy life. Do you have what you need in this moment here? Enjoy today.”  Whenever it’s God speaking to my soul and not something I just made up in my brain after too many slices of red velvet cheesecake, I feel a peace that I cannot muster roll over me, like the cobalt, frothy, cold waves, deeply soothing and starkly true. Side note and fair warning: avoid Cheesecake Factory’s Red Velvet Cheesecake at all costs! Red velvet cheesecake is like Sylvester the cat’s mini, cartoon devil on a plate, luring people with his finger, “Come to Papa.” Now, I would never describe myself as a control freak; in fact, I strongly believe in freedom to choose. But, I can get my hands all over my own life too tightly, like a child afraid of the dark who needs a blanket pried from her fingers with care and placed over her after she falls asleep. I left California with a decent tan, some rocking family memories but, most of all, with a tender reminder to take my hands off and trust my good and big God.

Exodus 3: 13 & 14

“Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people… what… <A whole pile of self doubting questions>. God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.'”

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Coconut Oil

I’ve long been pining to write about Coconut Oil. Many people ask, “How is coconut oil different than other oils?” There are a few key things that are unique: 1. Coconut oil is resistant to oxidation when heated because of its high content of saturated fat. (https://authoritynutrition.com/why-is-coconut-oil-good-for-you/) Oxidation is the scientific word for the production of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules with a missing electron in their outer shells. They will do anything to replace this gap, “including stealing electrons from your body’s cellular structures.” When cells are damaged in this way, that lays the groundwork for the formation of disease. Additional note: coconut oil is best for medium heats, like sautéing. For high heat cooking, use a virgin oil with a higher smoke point, such as grapeseed. 2. As we’ve mentioned, coconut oil is high in saturated fat, around 90%, which is higher than even lard, ringing in at 40%, and if you buy into the American age old belief that all saturated fat is bad for you, you might want to limit your coconut oil. However, an analysis of the studies that have been done by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that while coconut oil increases LDL (bad Saturated fat) it also increases your HDL (fats with important health benefits) much more “potently” than other common fats do. (http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/coconut-oil). 3. Additionally, simply put, most of the American diet is composed of long chain fats, while coconut oil (and butter actually) are medium chain fats. This refers to the number of carbon atoms that are linked together in these substances. Medium chain fats are more “rapidly absorbed by the body and more quickly metabolized as fuel.” The effect of this is that, “instead of being stored as fat,” the calories are, “very efficiently converted into fuel for immediate use by organs and muscles.” (http://nutritionreview.org/2013/04/medium-chain-triglycerides-mcts/) 4. Coconut oil is rich in Lauric Acid which can kill “bacteria, fungi and viruses.” (https://authoritynutrition.com/why-is-coconut-oil-good-for-you/)

Another interesting fact that multiple studies have found is that when populations are examined from the Pacific islands, where up to 60% of their, “total caloric intake <is> from saturated coconut oil,” there is almost no cardiovascular disease. Many believe that not all saturated fats are “created equal” and that it is actually our over processing of oils (hydrogenation) that creates the problem. (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/10/22/coconut-oil-and-saturated-fats-can-make-you-healthy.aspx) I would like to do more research but from what I have read, when choosing a coconut oil, look for a raw, virgin, unrefined and expeller pressed.

Coconut oil has hundreds of uses but I mostly use it in five ways.

  1. I use it as a healthy fat in cooking, as detailed above.
  2. I use it straight on a throw-away cotton pad to remove eye makeup. Then, I wash with warm/hot, soapy water on a washcloth.
  3. I cover my hair with it, put a shower cap on and leave it for 2 hours or overnight. I then wash my hair twice to remove it. It revitalizes dry hair!
  4. I use it on dry skin patches, my lips as a balm, sun burn or minor cuts after washing.
  5. I use it mixed with lavender essential oil as a nighttime moisturizer. By the way, adding Frankincense essential oil would be great for the skin too. I find if I wash my face well with hot soapy water, dry it and then apply the moisturizer, I love how soft it makes my skin.

Coconut Lavender Nighttime Moisturizer: 

A. Spoon the coconut oil into your container and flatten the top of it to determine the amount. Then, remove and place in a blender. In the summer, you may prefer to refrigerate the oil prior to mixing, as it is often in a more liquid state.

B. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil. Add slowly with the dropper and mix, until it is a smell you like. I use about 1/3 cup of coconut oil and 5-7 drops of lavender oil. Not all essential oils are of the same ilk and quality. Do your research. Two North American brands that are considered high quality would be Young Living and Doterra.

C. Return to your container. Apply nightly to the face and neck

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Dominant or Dominated & Elderberry Syrup

“Humility comes before honor.” – Proverbs 18:12b

“An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” -Proverbs 24:26

Most mornings, or should I just call it what it is and say, “The middle of the night,” my loving husband joyfully cuddles up to me and whispers sweet, “good mornings,” in my ear, so much like a jubilant Mufasa from The Lion King, greeting the dawn with the stance of ancient kings and a proud roar. Not only am I NOT a morning person but I have intense opinions about waking up before 6. When verbally pressed before 7, I communicate only in sign language, like an overtaxed nurse on a full newborn ward when the babies are finally silent. People are all wired differently. We think, communicate and go after different things in life….. by design. I’ve been thinking a lot about the social balance of powers. Let me take to the stage and act out a couple classic personas for a moment.

👩🏼”Hi my name is El. It’s short for Elizabeth. I like ‘El;’ it’s like a exclamation point. One of my main philosophies in life is that big things, history making things, are done by people who are willing to be bold and in people’s faces a little bit. I would never set out to be mean but if I’m trying to advance my cause, I’m ok with shaking people up a little bit. Why? I care so much for people that I can be pretty intense about my thoughts. I mean well and if they can’t see that, they will eventually. It confuses me when people think I’m pushy when I’m only trying to help them. I mean, I know what I’m talking about; I’m only 27 and I’ve built my own business from scratch and I make six figures. It’s not all about money. People don’t always feel I hear their every concern, sure, but they feel inspired working for such a fast moving company that is helping improve the daily lives of people. The best and brightest want to work for me! Our company is building wells in third world countries; if people don’t care for anything beyond their own noses, I’m not interested in them. We’ve created whole new well digging systems that save time and money. I don’t have time for comparatively rich people who work for me, sniveling about small things like being worked too hard when people are literally without water and dying. They can learn to sacrifice a little! When Nate left last month, he angrily referred to me as Pac-Man. What does that even mean? Nate just can’t handle the tough decisions of leadership. Clearly, it was a pruning time with he left and I’m good with that.”

Let’s meet El’s old VP who moved on due to leadership differences.

👨🏽”Welcome! I’m glad to meet you here for coffee today. My name is Nate. Why did I leave the leadership of Wells for the World, you ask? Well, since you’re my closest friend I will share this, although it pains me to say it. El and I had a significant difference of opinion on how people should be treated. No, it’s not that she was regularly and outright mean, although she could have moments of that. It’s more that I strongly believe that the most wisdom comes from true listening and collaboration in leadership. I believe the same hard thing can be said in a palatable way, a way that expresses value. I think fundamentally El believes she can force people into obedience and I believe that never works; I believe in caring for them, developing them and, out of that, most people will want do their best. I’ve never doubted her care, although I have doubted that she cares for individual people over her own ideas. It seems to come from the fundamental idea that she is the only one with valuable thoughts and that she believes regularly hurt people are the fallout of achievement, like the highest level fashion designer who has a steady stream of models in therapy for severe anorexia. When something leaks that much, I see it more as a cracked jug; it will work for awhile but eventually collapse. She doesn’t listen well or consider others, she forces her perspective even beyond the boss role, and makes people feel like losers if they have different ideas. Nobody challenges her; that’s the culture she’s set up. I finally, after 4 years, told her how I felt and gave my resignation. She won’t change. Even that, she dismissed as my inability to lead or as betrayal. Honesty isn’t betrayal and she loved my work when I was with her.”

My guess would be, you like some attributes of both characters. Jo is inspiring with her world changing vision, achievement and creativity, and Nate with his enormous value of people, collaboration and genuine care.

My whole life, I’ve noticed this societal tug-of-war, the forceful and the quieter. And, recently, I began to ask myself the question – which one is more right in the eyes of God? You might say, “Well, of course, Nate is the better guy.” Maybe, because character is a complex thing, but those who allow others to dominate them in an ongoing way tend to not confront enough and make the mistake of allowing the errors and mistreatment around them to continue. They are guilty by passivity. They will often sourly simmer, like a meat soup left to sit, rotting in the summer sun for days. Think of all the good they were put on earth to do, yet they miss in those moments when they choose to not confront wrongdoing! It’s time for these types to muster courage and speak up! While they coat their choice to be quiet as kindness, like a tough steak with a sticky, sweet BBQ sauce, it’s more often to do with not wanting to exert the emotional energy required or fear.

You might be a more boldly inclined person; I can just hear you saying, “There is nothing wrong with El. People need to stop being such babies and speak up!” Maybe so. But, putting a cause over the treatment of people is missing the point of life. Don’t get me wrong, tough leadership calls are necessary and having a goal and going after it is a good thing too. Often, people inclined this way are too fast, brusque, or even abusive, in how they handle natural confrontations. They also don’t take the time to truly care enough for the people around them and need to regularly check on their arrogance meter. If you’re someone who always feels you’re better/ superior at doing tasks or with your thoughts, it’s time to seek perspective. Learning to listen and engaging the heart can help balance your drive.

Oddly, I can lean towards both of those personas, depending on the day and situation. I am probably more naturally inclined like Nate but as I’ve learned to have the courage to be more honest about what I think and feel, I’ve had moments of having to apologize for being like El. The thought I’ve been having is that surely God wants something totally different from us – he doesn’t pick bold achiever nor gentle, “go along with everything” people. He doesn’t choose dominator or dominated. He chooses…. true love. Well, isn that sappy, Laurie, and about as fun as honey in my hair.

Let me explain. To me, true love for people is…

  1. Just like a teen boy who realizes it is time to break up but cares deeply for his girl, it is boldly honest but so tender in how it’s expressed.
  2. It is having spunk and drive for your mission in life but having a close relationship with God and hearing him when it’s time to slow down and listen well.
  3. It’s truely not thinking we have all the answers but being willing to keep going when faced with a golden, limestone wall of criticism, both perseverance and humility. So often, people have one or the other.
  4. It’s working so hard we sometimes drop into bed, like a pioneer of old after a long day of keeping his family alive, dirty, sweaty and with a great sense of accomplishment. But, it is also setting personal boundaries, like garden walls that show you where to focus your growth related energy, that are healthy as well as encouraging, sometimes protecting, the healthy boundaries of others in our care.
  5. It is drawing a clear, kindly stated but strong line in the sand at times, just like a beach volleyball game that doesn’t work without an immovable mid-point. It is making a habit of evaluating expectations for legitimacy and stating them clearly before a project starts.
  6. It is passionately stating beliefs (because who wants a apathetic sloth who takes all day to eat Gogi berries and swing from just one tree to the next for a leader) but, at the same time, vocalizing and embodying freedom to choose. Sometimes, that may be a choice for them to work for your organization or not. If not, that doesn’t mean they are messed up. It is also regularly asking, often truly implementing and considering the ideas of others, even when they disagree.
  7. It is standing for the culture of your family, organization or movement, just like your summer juice stand that posts a giant butcher paper banner scrawled with “Lemonade for sale” written by your kid sister. At the same time, it is knowing who you are and where you’re heading without feeling threatened or judgmental of people with different perspectives.
  8. It is standing up for what you believe is right in a winsome way with the hope of winning people; it is not reacting angrily in a knee jerk fashion. And, if you do (because we all do), it is fixing it.
  9. It is sometimes “over communicating” to make sure people feel heard and valued and having the courage to own your stuff. But, it isn’t owning everything as your fault. That is dishonest.
  10. Finally, it is being starkly honest when it is needed; however, this honesty is always done with kindness, careful wording and tone, not with the goal of chopping our friend down to size, like a giant redwood that ends up as matchsticks after our axe does it’s work.

As I consider all of this, I realize I am not seeking to be dominant or dominated but to be healthy, with the best attributes of both and full of love. I’ve been watching the old 70s t.v. show Little House on the Prairie with my youngest kids and I’ve been so struck by the virtues captured there. Yes, it is t.v. and not real life but the writers of that show struck a poignant balance of the best of the above attributes in the leading family. I hope to live and love that well. And, when I don’t, get on my knees and self correct with people too. You should check it out! 🙂

Friends

 

Elderberry Syrup

For my birthday this year, this vivacious and prayerful group of friends above surprised me with a lunch at The Old Stone Church Restaurant in Castle Rock. My friend Laura (third from the right), who is a beautiful woman with eyes that smile, a mouth that speaks truth with compassion and authenticity and who is a guru of health information, invited me to make Elderberry Syrup a month later. According to Web MD, “Elderberry is a plant. The berries are used to make medicine. Elderberry is used for ‘the flu‘ (influenza), H1N1 ‘swine’ flu, HIV/AIDS, and boosting the immune system. It is also used for sinus pain, back and leg pain (sciatica), nerve pain(neuralgia), and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Some people use elderberry for hay fever(allergic rhinitis), cancer, as a laxative for constipation, to increase urine flow, and to cause sweating.”

As someone who believes that both our bodies and foods have healing properties and abilities, given the chance, I happily agreed. It takes about an hour to simmer and another hour to do the leg work, so invite someone to make it and enjoy that time with a good friend! Also, it’s unknown to most people, so it sounds hard but it was very basic.

The recipe Laura and I used was from  http://wellnessmama.com/1888/elderberry-syrup/. I added a teaspoon per recipe (we doubled the basic recipe because we have big families) of the anti inflammatory Turmeric to mine, while Laura added Young Living Essential oils. Mine passed the kid test, as I had a son with a sore throat this week who only missed half a day of school and said it tasted good too! Enjoy and stay healthier this spring, summer and fall! I included spring, because in Colorado, sadly, May is spring. 🙂

Health Idioms, True or False

“For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion.” Psalm 27:5a

Joseph, who is very much the youngest child, a comical, sometimes pampered (he is the “baby” to 6 other siblings after all),” sprouting boy, whose legs are too long for his head, like a stalk of asparagus, said this week, out of the blue, “I feel a bladder coming on.” Ummmmm, Don’t we all. Lol. And, if he means a bladder infection, where did that come from since he’s never had one?! But, I can more than relate to the feeling that something is coming on illness wise. I’m about as impatient a patient as a pig in a bacon factory in the south. I have been known this week to bemoan to myself, “Just get me out of this!” But, let me tell you what I’ve learned, while I could only sleep one of five nights due to excruciating back pain. I was overcome, right in the middle of it, with waves of gratitude, which rolled in stronger than ever, even while the sky clouded over with a thick stream of smokey gray; the kind that turns 12 noon into a somber, colorless dusk. Gratitude? I know! Believe me, it’s not because I’m awesome; I was reduced to a crying pile of laundry, a sobbing mix of sweater, blankets, leggings with no head, as I asked God to help me. Somehow, in that place, God taught me gratitude anew and it came flooding into my heart before I was better. Gratitude’s stunning, twin sister, Perspective, joined her.

As I write this, I’m still hurting but slowly plodding back to being pain free, like an old donkey, placing hoof after hoof, clambering out of the orange dust of the Grand Canyon, late in the afternoon, when all his comrades have long been watered and kenneled. I’m overwhelmingly grateful for my health which is usually fantastic. Thankfully, this back issue is temporary. In all of life, I have enough. My needs are well cared for. I get breaks and treats. Most importantly, I am loved and have the privilege of loving.

I saw a video this week of an adult pit bull that had been greatly abused. Curious, I watched as the shelter worker cared for him over time and broke through his great fear until he was a licking, wagging, puppy-like love bug. I think of those of you who would say, “Great, well I don’t have enough. My needs aren’t cared for.” I am so sorry. It’s hard to grasp this because no human wants to hurt or die, but God is above it all. And, someday, we will understand it, like a lost, jungle traveler, confused by the bright green twists and turns of the Amazon, who suddenly sees a map and his journey on it. God has the crackling fire lit, the chunky, plaid blanket open and ready for you; will you let him comfort and love you?

Fitness Idioms, True or False

Important Note: I have not professionally trained in this field and, due to your unique health circumstances, you should always consult your physician before taking any of the following advice from my research. 

While I was under the weather, I began to think about longtime, farm country health idioms and whether or not there is scientific evidence to support them. Well, I was up for four nights straight, so I think that’s a pretty tame direction for my desperate, deprived brain to go. 🙂 All references/links are listed after the quote or information.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away:

Yes. As it turns out, this expression from Great, Great Grandma Pearl, who walked 5 miles to school every day, only ate hunted meat and homegrown veggies, named her cow Bessie in honor of other local cows all named Bessie, thought that pink calico was an edgy fashion statement to be avoided and, when they felt extra crazy, made red current wine, has a lot of truth to it! Web MD states, “The Cornell researchers suggest that a combination of plant chemicals, collectively known as phytochemicals, found mainly in the skin of apples, provide the bulk of the fruit’s anticancer and antioxidant properties. The cooperative activity of these phytochemicals, they argue, has health benefits that are superior to those found in single compounds like vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, which have been widely studied for their antioxidant activities. Using colon cancer cells treated with apple extract, Liu and colleagues found that 50 milligrams of apple extracted from the skins decreased the cancer cell growth by 43%.” (Webmd.com) Additionally, a research team out of the University of Michigan concluded, “…did a daily apple succeed in keeping the doctor away? No, it did not. There was no statistically meaningful difference in visits to the doctor for daily apple eaters in the analysis. But the study did find that an apple a day kept the pharmacist away.” (medicalnewstoday.com). See, to me, this finding absolutely backs up the apple idiom. While there wasn’t a significant difference in this study for the number of people who got a bad cold, there was a notable difference in the people who needed ongoing pharmaceuticals. This is enough to convince me that Grandma was no dummy!

Die with one’s boots on: 

This idiom means, “I never want to retire – I’d rather die with my boots on.” (http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com) This was a commonly held belief by the American frontier men and women. Is there a health benefit to this perspective? Or, is leisure and rest the way to go as we get older? The answer is yes, working hard staves off stress, a huge factor in aging and poor health, and helps us to stay physically and mentally fit. Here is what one expert says about “keeping your boots on” as you age, “Not only does regular exercise help you lose weight, tone muscles, build healthier bones, and boost mood, it can also help you think clearly. Studies cited by the National Institute on Aging demonstrate a connection between physical exercise and better brain power. ‘Walking for just 10 minutes a day lowers your risk of Alzheimer’s by 40 percent,’ says Gary Small, MD, director of the UCLA Center on Aging,” (fitnessmagazine.com)

Look the picture of health: 

Does looking healthy mean a person is healthy? Usually, yes. While there are diseases, such as Fibromyalgia which can create enormous pain and exhaustion but doesn’t always show on the face of its sufferer, there are certain things about our looks that can indicate health or illness. Some things to watch out for according to health.com : “swollen feet, tired eyes/bags under eyes, dry skin, abnormal body hair, wrinkles, hair loss, facial flush, cracked lips, a foul mouth, large hands and feet, dark skin patches, butterfly patch, pitted nails, moles, and yellow eyes.” Read the full article here.

Just pour some kerosene on it: 

No, do not use this as a remedy! While there are many folk uses for kerosene, from the treatment of lice to cancer, it is toxic and even the vapors can be lethal. The World Health Organization says that,Acute and chronic exposure to kerosene may result in CNS effects including irritability, restlessness, ataxia, drowsiness, convulsions, coma and death.” (http://www.who.int/ipcs/emergencies/kerosene.pdf)

Just drink a hot toddy:  

Alcohol has often been used medicinally. Indeed, our modern NyQuil contains a fair amount to help the ill person sleep. Hot toddies are actually a more natural way to achieve the same thing but two important notes, 1. Stick to just one or you may feel worse and 2. Drink plenty of water too! “Whiskey is a great decongestant — the alcohol dilates the blood vessels, making it easier for your mucus membranes to deal with the infection — and, combined with the herbal tea, squeeze of honey, lemon, and the warm steam emanating from the drink, you have the perfect concoction for helping to clear up your cold symptoms. And by the time you finish the drink, you won’t only be breathing a bit easier, but the alcohol will also start working its magic in the sleep department, making you just groggy enough so you can get some much needed shuteye.” (http://vinepair.com/wine-blog/drunk-aunt-right-hot-toddy-cure-common-cold/ )  And, another article written by ABC News, states that, “Drinks like hot toddies, which traditionally contain whiskey, lemon and honey, can actually give cold and flu patients relief from their symptoms,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. It just can’t prevent or cure a cold or flu virus. “It would not have an effect on the virus itself, but its effect on the body can possibly give you some modest symptom relief,” Schaffner said. “The alcohol dilates blood vessels a little bit, and that makes it easier for your mucus membranes to deal with the infection.”  (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/12/08/cold-remedy-cocktails-do-they-work/)

Eat your greens:

My goodness! Can’t you just see and hear a crotchety old Aunt Augustine, stalking in from the garden with one of her thigh-length, tangy-colored nylons falling down a ways, scratching at her gray bun as she croaks out, “Eat yar greens, youngun!” But, this couldn’t be a truer idiom! “Leafy green vegetables have more nutrition per calorie than any other food. Greens make up a significant source of vitamins A, C, E and K as well as several B vitamins. They are rich sources of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. They are rich in fiber, extremely low in fat and carbohydrates and provide an excellent source of protein.” (http://www.incrediblesmoothies.com/nutrition/green-leafy-vegetables/) And, for those of us who prefer a more direct scientific source, Medical News Today says that, “Dark leafy greens like spinach are important for skin and hair, bone health, and provide protein, iron, vitamins and minerals. The possible health benefits of consuming spinach include improving blood glucose control in diabetics, lowering the risk of cancer, lowering blood pressure, improving bone health, lowering the risk of developing asthma and more.”  (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270609.php)

When you have a cold, eat your chicken noodle soup:

While this might seem like it is just comforting (placebo effect), there is actually a physically healing element to it. One study conducted by Dr. Rennard showed that, “the soup inhibited the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection. Dr. Rennard theorizes that by inhibiting the migration of these infection-fighting cells in the body, chicken soup essentially helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms.The researchers couldn’t identify the exact ingredient or ingredients in the soup that made it effective against colds but say it may be the combination of vegetables and chicken that work together. The tested soup contained chicken, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery stems, parsley, salt and pepper.”  The full recipe published by the University of Nebraska Medical Center is available here. Another helpful soup that is used for many things, one of the foremost being to heal and seal the gut, is called bone broth and is similar to chicken noodle soup, except it is cooked for 24 + hours. This process of lengthy cooking brings out the minerals, gelatin and collegian nutrients. Here is one website with a detailed recipe.

Sweat it out: 

There is some conflicting scientific evidence out there on this one.  For years many people believed the same thing as Donald Smith, professor of environmental toxicology at the University of California, Santa Cruz who found that, “sweating eliminates less than 1 percent of toxic metals like mercury.” Link found here. However, a groundbreaking study was published in 2011, “in the Archives of Environmental and Contamination Toxicology, which explored the effects of bioaccumulated toxic elements within the human body and their method of excretion: ‘Toxic elements were found to differing degrees in each of blood, urine, and sweat. Serum levels for most metals and metalloids were comparable with those found in other studies in the scientific literature. Many toxic elements appeared to be preferentially excreted through sweat. Presumably stored in tissues, some toxic elements readily identified in the perspiration of some participants were not found in their serum. Induced sweating appears to be a potential method for elimination of many toxic elements from the human body.’” While there is disagreement on how much the body can detox through the sweat glands, along with the liver and kidney, it is definitely one method the body uses to rid itself of poisons. Since that is true to some degree, I am sure the practices of many cultures (such as the sweat rooms of the Alaskan Natives) or a simple good run yield some detoxing affect. Link found here.

That being said, the liver and kidneys are the key detoxing organs in the body and keeping them in tip top condition by eating a nutrient rich diet, doing bi-yearly cleanses and working out, along with keeping the toxins we are exposed to low, is the best ways to insure good health.

By my analysis, 7 out of 8 of those idioms have a significant amount of truth to them. So, give a nod and smile of gratitude to Grandaddy Horace, who tried to force feed you cod-liver oil to keep your aches, rickets and inflammation away and your general health, endurance and strength in tip top shape, because it works! Source found here and here.  By the way, not all cod-liver oil is the same; from what I could tell, one pure product is made by Green Pastures.

Girl Meets Super Bowl, Healthy Game Food

 

If I ever drift off into the dreamy world of delicate women and think that because I married an Englishman my world is full of chintz, bone china and blueberry studded scones filled with jam and cream, I am jolted rather quick into reality, like a monkey in a test rocket who suddenly goes into orbit. What do I mean? Oh, there’s very little in the way of rhinestones and mascara in our home; we are a very football dominant family, with three of our four eldest kids being defensive linemen. I experience reminders of that daily, such as when one son last weekend smacked my tail like I was on his football team while we were on the front row, as church began. I never felt more apart of the team. Lol.

100% Football

Now, I definitely joke in broad generalizations; it could even be said that I am the Cliche Queen. But, while there are all different men out there, from bearded hipsters, live- eat- breathe footballers to men who take Facebook selfies with their pet chinchillas perched wide eyed on their shoulder (Yes, yes, I actually saw this), I don’t know a single woman who would smack a woman’s butt to let her know she did well. Men and women are SO different.

Another time the strong male presence was apparent was when my boys broke into peels of pubescent laughter after mooning me a few days ago. So very white. That’s all I can say about that. Yeah, it’s all locker room around here. I mostly love it but every now and then I have been known to go into Mama-rant-mode, “Get these cheesy socks picked up ASAP and if you put me in headlock one more time, you’re giving me 10 laps around the pasture!” I have also been known to wail, “I am a giiiiiiiiiirl,” my words flying on the wind, as I’m being carried across the room and tackled on to the couch. I try to ignore their amused smiles, as if they are being chewed out by a high pitched, cartoon flea.

So, in this world of sweat, spit and any other gastro intestinal outpourings of pure love, I know that the Super Bowl table better be packed with food with a high meat content. I’ve included some healthier ideas below. Vibrant Life followers need to keep sauces to an absolute bare minimum (I don’t eat ketchup), avoid the cheese, wrap their burgers in two slices of iceberg lettuce instead (bun-like), steer clear of the chips, bacon & ham and use 93% lean ground beef. 

Burger Bar

Toppings to lay out. 

Sauces-

There are four different sauces sold by Hak’s (King Soopers) that are lower in sugar and gluten free; I’ve used the Thai Chili Tamarind, Chipotle Bourbon and the Pineapple Habanero. Ketchup (natural, low sugar and gluten free), mayonnaise (You can find a safflower oil based one by Hollywood). A low sugar blackberry or dark jam. Southwest Chipotle salad dressing by Hidden Valley (This isn’t amazing health wise but the only chipotle type dressing I could find. I plan on making a homemade one soon). Homemade, no sugar salsa.

Toppings-

Onions and peppers fried in a tiny amount of grape seed oil (this oil doesn’t have a flavor)

Mushrooms fried in a small amount of grape seed oil

Tray of iceberg lettuce leaves

Fat slices of large tomatoes

Whole eggs cooked sunny side up (I ask how many want this and cook it just in time to be put on the burgers)

Cooked bacon and/ or Black Forest sandwich meat ham from Costco (gluten free and high quality) fried up.

Cheddar cheese and feta slices (I would even recommend doing three different cheeses of your choice)

Boulder potato chips (or another healthier brand that is gluten free and doesn’t contain preservatives or unnecessary added ingredients)

Avocados

Cooked black beans

Leftover petite diced cabbage and chicken tenders fried in a small amount of grape seed oil (See the Thai Wraps below)

Funky Burger Ideas

My children weren’t fans of the Greek Mushroom Burger because of the Feta (no surprise there); the adults didn’t love the crunched chips inside the burger but the kids loved that.  

Bangkok Burger- Thai Chili Tamarind by Hak’s (King Soopers), fried onions & peppers, tomato, iceberg lettuce and leftover chicken and cabbage stir fry (from the rice wraps below).

Morning on the Ranch Burger-

Iceberg lettuce, tomato, whole egg sunny side up, low sugar blackberry jam and bacon.

Guadalajara Burger-

Lettuce, tomato, cooked black beans, cheddar cheese, avocados, salsa or chipotle salad dressing (Southwest Chipotle from Hidden Valley).

American Classic-

Lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, bacon and a basic potato chip crunched on top of the burger right before eating.

Greek Mushroom Cheese Burger-

Fried onions & peppers, fried mushrooms and feta melted on the burger.

 

hamburger bar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Wing Style Chicken Breast

Chicken breasts cooked under parchment in the oven for an hour (add a no sugar, gluten free hot wing sauce the last 20 minutes), sliced in large strips and paired with large slices of pineapple, stuck through with a toothpick. This sauce is fine for Vibrant Life Followers (although the sodium is a treat). My husband is having great fun, teasing me about how the chicken below looks raw; however, I can confirm it absolutely was not and these were devoured by that very same jokester. LOL.

_DSC0780

 

 

 

Thai Wraps

Fry up chicken tenders in a little grape seed oil, chopping while you cook until it is finely minced. Once the chicken is almost done, add petite diced green cabbage and cook until done. When done, add a few tablespoons of Thai Tamarind sauce by Hak’s (I made a tray of five, good sized chicken breasts and I added 3-4 tablespoons, just enough to give some flavor). Soak rice wraps in water for a couple minutes until pliable. Fill the wraps with the chicken mixture, thin, long sliced cucumbers, avocados, green onions and sweet peppers, finely chopped basil or mint and tightly wrap into a log. Half my family loved the rice wraps and the other half didn’t. Alternatively, iceberg lettuce leaves could be used in the same way instead. And, if desired, a mint or peanut sauce could be used (we didn’t).

Thai Lettuce Wraps

Side Ideas

Baked Sweet Potato Fries (best choice for Vibrant Life Followers)-

Thinly slice sweet potatoes into long wedges (I love the skin but many don’t, your choice on peeling). Fill a baking tray. Lightly douse in grape seed oil. Season with onion powder or flakes, a small amount of garlic, pepper and salt to taste. Toss and bake uncovered at 410 degrees for about 45 minutes. They taste better when they are the top item baking in an oven, so they become crisp (and golden when you use the regular potatoes).

Baked Regular Potato Fries-

Same as above but using any type of regular, white potato.

Chips (gluten free without preservatives) and homemade salsa

Veggie platter with dip. Find one from Pinterest in a football stadium shape and make a healthier dip from greek yoghurt mixed with any of the flavors from Simply Organic dip mixes (from Vitamin Cottage).

A happy and healthy Super Bowl to you! Go Broncos! 🙂

How to Make Meaningful Resolutions & a Health Survey

Picture credit: The talented, Cynthia Miller

“Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.” -Jonathan Edwards

How to Make Meaningful Resolutions

Joanna Gaines is my BFF. Ok, sooooo I’ve never actually met her in person. Alright, admittedly, I’ve also never corresponded with her in any normal way. Wait! Does pathetically saying, “You’re awesome. I want to be like you,” to the television count? LOL. What is it about that chick that is so appealing? Well, she rolls with the punches and she goes after her dreams in a big way. As 2016 begins, I find myself sitting by the throaty and crackling noises of a full, topaz fire, thinking about resolutions. In the past, so many people, myself included, have made grandiose commitments, only to see them quickly fall off the map, like a palm covered, tropical island that is overcome by the vast, rolling waves of the green-blue sea, to always sit just under the murky surface, hinting at what it might have been. I really love January. When the ornaments and tinsel all get packed away and we are left with the simplicity of our lives, there is something sober and fresh in it. January feels… a lot like being told the stark truth after an arduous and confusing conflict or looking out on a bleak, winter garden, with dark, thin trees that dramatically stand out against the bright light of a Colorado morning, clouds fat with snow. One of my husband’s friends and now Daniel always says, “It is good to get to the truth of a matter quickly.” I often want to patch things up in myself over and over, like a hole in the guttering that constantly leaks, year after year. There is a time to see the parts that aren’t working for what they are, pull them down and start over with certain aspects of our patterns or lifestyle.

I met an amazing man last night. I was so moved by the story he told us yesterday that I got out of bed today choked up. As he shared about fighting and winning (a couple years in) with stage 4 cancer, I found my perspective on new year’s resolutions shifted. If you are interested, you can watch his interview here. Last week, I typed up ideas for making resolutions that stick, like honey on a spoon, but this tenacious athlete whom I met, who spends time with his kids when he’s weak from a surgery where they removed pieces of major organs and continues to pursue and have a passion for coaching his sport, absolutely silenced and inspired me with two things. 1. I want to see life with clarity and go after it, so that every day doesn’t roll into the next, like lapping waves at low tide, lulling me to sleep. 2. His raw faith, as he said he “needed” God and that’s what got him through, set my heart on fire. Those two things, are the essence of meaningful resolutions. I saw a quote this week, “Know who you want to be and then make decisions that point in that direction.” Writing resolutions is knowing who you want to be and pointing your arrows towards the target. And, during hardship? Point the arrows with more grit than you can summon alone.

As I consider which joists are past their time, rotted out and, as our good-natured heroine, Joanna, who is as both laid back and intentional with her designs as a Texas rancher surveying his vast fields of branded cattle, would say, “Need to be torn out and replaced,”  from the structure of my life, I want five things:

1. Attainable goals, including specific monthly steps.
2. Physical, emotional, spiritual and practical goals, all four.
3. I want to pray about them and ask God what he sees.
4. I want my goals scheduled and posted in my house, so I remember them.
5. I want to be absolutely convinced of them and then go after them with all my heart.

A Health Survey

These are some questions I am asking myself to help form new health goals for 2016.

Emotional: Instead of justifying myself, how can I listen better and what can I learn about myself from people who hurt, offend and confront me? In what ways do I want to respond better when someone ruffles or offends me, like grains of buff colored sand stuck in my clothing? Are there any negative, condemning things I am believing about myself and what truth can I surround myself with to help silence the lie? Am I focusing on the good in people or the negative? What practical steps can I practice to shift that?

Practical: What areas of my life aren’t running smoothly and what systems can I put in place to ease that (ask for help from someone who is highly organized)? Do I have belongings that are gathering dust, like a dark, weathered ghost town in the prairie full of the scratchy tufts of sage brush and doors hanging off red, rusty hinges, that I need to make the time (and sometimes will) to get rid of?

Physical: In what specific areas am I not committed to my fitness, health and eating? What baby steps could I begin to take to “right” that? What do I need to schedule to make sure they happen? What equipment do I need to invest in? What would help me stick with it? What are my new fitness goals?

Spiritual: Am I aligning myself with God, who sets my heart straight each day (through a short time of prayer, worship and reading the Bible)? What is one practical area that I need to ask God to help me with in regards to how my beliefs play out in my interactions and behavior? What is one thing that I do that consistently hurts others or makes them shut down, as fast as a 1970’s wood framed television when the plug is pulled? Are there private areas of my thoughts and heart that need examining and shifting? What truths can I fill my head, heart and eyes with that counter those? (Idea: write them on your mirror with dry erase markers).

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43: 18 & 19

Christmas Cheer and Light Weight, Home/ Hotel Exercises With Muscular Impact

Above picture: One of those “by the tree pictures” with lots of love, bad lighting, and flash- induced smiles, that look like we’ve been sipping on too much nog. Enjoy! 🙂

“Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind 

In one the hearts of all mankind; 

Oh, bid our sad divisions cease, 

And be yourself our King of Peace. 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 

Shall come to you, O Israel!”

– 12th century Latin text

In the snowy, downy days of November, I decided I needed a new sweater to stay warm. When it arrived in the post, it was wayyyy too big but apparently I’m wrong because my daughters squealed with delight, just as they do over an array of nail polish colors, anything that sparkles and puppies dressed in baby sized clothes. Believe me when I say, you could draw young girls towards a hog if you glitter bombed its brown rump, smeared his lips in hot pink gloss and put an oversized tutu on him. Don’t believe me? Think about it. That is precisely how Hobby Lobby must have decided on their marketing plan.  When I had that oversized sweater on, which looked like I pitched an army troop-sized tent on my shoulders, those girls fussed over me, like bossy geese primping their young, and said, “You look adorbs! It’s IN to wear sweaters baggy!” I wondered out loud, “Hm, maybe I should trade it in for the next size down?” My 8 year old son looked at me with loving, doe eyes, “Don’t worry, Mommy,” he announced with a kiss on my cheek, “You’ll grow into it.” He looked confused when my daughters and I laughed uproariously. “I hope I don’t grow into it,” I quickly retorted.

Boy oh boy, did I need to laugh this week. Ok, go ahead and don your black robes with layers of folds, white collars, starched to precision, and censor to swing back and forth, full of the woodsy scent of Frankincense; it’s confession time. I have been about as overloaded the last three weeks as a tiny, ski patrol team of two, trying to haul thirty people who crash simultaneously to safety at once. I have been awfully silent on my blog too, as a result. It isn’t because I can’t say no. And, it isn’t because I don’t use my time to its fullest. It is because… can you guess? I have seven kids who all still live at home, they’re all at different stages of life with unique needs, and five of them are teenagers. Additionally, it is “go” time for college applications. That’s why. That “five teenager” reason alone should give you pause and cause you to bust out the bronze cleaner, shine up a halo and stick it on my head, with a deeply sympathetic kiss on the cheek, the next time you see me. Haha.

Anyway, I have been an absolute Christmas Grinch, green face, stomping demeanor and all. Ok, so I didn’t go quite as far as lasso-ing an elk rack to my dog’s head and roping him into my sour mood. But, I literally got irritated at my kids for chewing crunchy foods. That is how tense I became. And, you can imagine the chewing that takes place in a family of 9 plus friends! It really is good that chewing doesn’t usually bother me or I would find that my houseful of athletic boys, who eat the whole live-long day, would send me to the nut house! LOL. Have you ever been so overloaded that you are suddenly arrested by your own bad mood- stunned silent by the realization that you somehow went from a sweet, loving, involved parent to one that growls, doesn’t tolerate superfluous questions (aka, any questions) and expects the family to “take a number”?! OH MY. Hello, Martha! That was me this week. So, I could wax eloquent about my deep ponderings or I could just say the more important truth, which is…. Thank goodness I have a God who lovingly shines a light on my heart and helps me look soberly at myself. So, my deep thought of the week is simple and addressed to myself in bold, flashing, block letters – BE NICE 🙂 It is Christmas after all! Go outside, breathe deeply, pray and keep in mind that no matter the deadline or struggle, the Lord is above it all, with a long arm to save. And, really, very few things in life are true emergencies, even though they can feel that way. If we have blackberry jam sandwiches for Christmas dinner or the wreath that is lying on the deck, hoping for a wreath hanger to save it from the heels of 9 people never makes it to the door, as long as I know my savior and love the people in my life, it just doesn’t matter. Merry Christmas to each of you or, as a friend of mine poignantly said, “a Mary Christmas to you,” focusing on the reason for it all.

So, because of my recent time crunch, which has felt like running The Great Race, with detours and impossible odds, I have struggled to get to the gym. I couldn’t take it any more and reverted back to a home workout I used to do when I first started this whole thing. On a vacation, work trip or in a pinch, I’ve found that high reps of low weights doing the same exercises I would in the weight room still yields results. After doing my workout at home yesterday, I can tell you, I am about as sore as a cat who gets it’s rump too close to the fire. I used very low, easy to transport weights or body weight exercises. I’ve included some ideas below for some of the major muscle groups.

Effective lightweight/ Bodyweight Training:

Basic Equipment Needed-

A couch or solid chair, a set of light weights, a timer (I use the clock timer on my iPhone, set at 1 minute)

Additional Equipment Needed, if you find you really like working out like this-

Weighted bands

A suitable lightweight barbell

Exercise Ball

I. Make it a goal to fatigue the muscle group.

I do 10 exercises of the same muscle group, repeated twice through. Do multiple angles and variations on the same exercise, with the goal of fatiguing the muscle. Using the list below, research the internet and write down your 10 exercise choices. It is also good for you to see how each of your choices is done to achieve good form.  I do each exercise for as many as I can do in one minute or until the muscle feels fatigued. Women should start with a 2.5- 5 pound weight on most (the exception I can think of would be the bench press, which is better with a low weight barbell if you get serious about this type of workout). Men should probably start with 5-10 pound weights to achieve fatigue. To put this in perspective, I use five pound weights and I am fit but with moderate strength. 

II. Go fast, explode and occasionally throw in a slow set (1/10, maybe).

Keep up that pace your whole workout, allowing for a 1 minute break between the two sets of 10 exercises. Otherwise, I run through the workouts as fast as I can, with my only break being my quick set up of the next exercise. Out of 10 muscle group exercises, I do one slow, holding type set.  I usually workout from 25-30 minutes when I do this.

III. Focus and make sure it is an undistracted time, with your exercise choices written down and all equipment in place.

Because the effectiveness of this type of workout is the pace and focus, don’t allow distractions. Focus on using your muscles, so your joints and tendons, as well as any swinging momentum, don’t help them out at all.

CHEST:

Pushups of all kinds:

Decline Pushup

“Girl” Pushup

Military Pushup

Regular Pushup

Wide Arm Pushup

Push up and rotate (one arm up in the air), then repeat with other arm

One Leg Pushup

Diamond Pushups

Bench Press with light barbell (If you have one)

Wide Grip Pull-ups, palms away, using a resistance band to mimic the motion

Reverse Grip Chin Ups, palms facing you, using a resistance band to mimic the  motion

Close Grip Pull Ups, Palms Away, using a resistance band to mimic the motion

ARMS AND SHOULDERS:

Chair Dips, using the couch or chair edge

Bicep Curls, forward motion

Alternating Bicep Curls

Bicep Hammer Curls, dumbbell head facing forward

Side Curls (lift arms with fists facing more outward)

Curl with an overhand grip

Overhead Tricep Extensions (weights in both hands if possible)

Tricep Kickbacks

Shoulder Flies

Half Fly

Lying Tricep Extensions

Overhead Two Handed Shoulder Press

Alternating Shoulder Press

LEGS & GLUTES: 

Lunges of all kinds:

Lunge, regular forward lunge

Reverse Lunge

Side Lunge

Walking Lunge

Overhead Lunge (weights overhead as you lunge)

Squat two legged and reach up

Stand against wall in a sitting position for one minute at a time

Squat (using dumbbells or a single barbell)

Front Squat

Jump Squat

Bulgarian Split Squat (one leg behind on a chair)

Dumbbell Step Up

Romanian Deadlift

Deadlift

Body Weight Calf Raise

Weighted Calf Raise with dumbbells

Barbell or dumbbell hip thrust

Dumbbell or Plate Weight Glute Bridge (I rest the weight on my lower abs)

Single Leg Glute Bridge

Romanian Dead Lift

BACK:

Chin-ups

Pull-ups

Reverse Grip Chinups, palms facing you, using resistance  bands.

Wide Grip Pullups, palms away, using resistance bands

Deadlifts

Back Flies

Back Extension (over the edge of a bed or table, having someone hold your ankles)

Bent Over One Arm Dumbbell rows

Squat Chops, weighted

The Cobra

Reverse Flutter Kicks

Face Pulls, using a resistance band that is parallel to the chin, pull towards the chin, elbows out

External Rotations using dumbbells

ABS:

I don’t usually make abs my singular focus. I aim for x4 ab workouts a week and add it on to other types of workouts, cardio or strength training. I am including a link for an ab workout, many of which can be done using low or body weight. 

 

Adele, Kindness & Gluten Free Info

“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” -Victor Hugo

“Hello… it’s me,” the husky, lonely tones ring out from Adele’s new hit single, like an echoing wind across the empty, welsh countryside, that reverberates off an abandoned granite cottage on a darkening January afternoon. Maybe my husband and I are products of 25 years ago, cut out of dough, like little 1980’s gingerbread foot soldiers, but we rolled with laughter this week, as we realized every time Adele sings, “Hello,” we both mentally answer, “Is it me you’re looking for?” A warm nod to Lionel Richie, the original friendly, pining greeter.

With an overly full schedule this week, I desperately wanted time away to have a short, mental break. I finally had a few quiet minutes alone, which is about as rare as a steak on our grill, no matter how it’s cooked. Lol. Listen, financially, I had to choose steak or children and, while there are days where I want to say, “I change my mind; please pass the A1,” yeah, I overwhelmingly choose those lovable, send me to the nut house, hilarious children, who can be as demanding as a large litter of nursing, newborn calves. How’s that for a savory image?!

So, marvelously alone, I found a quiet corner in a cafe for a few minutes. At the register, I spoke with a server we have gotten to know. He’s just a guy in his 20s, a little rough around the edges in terms of his upbringing and choices but always kind to me. He’s fully tatted up, has a rough demeanor and not the sort of person I naturally express tender hearted things to. Operating on my belief that all people desire connection, love and belonging, and my natural inclination to behave a lot like a Golden Retriever seeing it’s owner after a week away 😜, I ordered my tea and oatmeal, looked him square in the eye and said, “I really like how you speak to people. You are straight forward and helpful.” It felt an awful lot like snuggling a pit bull but it kind of blurted out of my mouth, like spitting out a fruity lifesaver, before I could snatch it back. And, then, the most interesting thing happened! He melted. Right before my eyes, the Doberman went from slightly scary to a pink Care Bear, with pulsating hearts coming out his ears. I’d never seen anything like it! Oh good, warm fuzzies just before the holidays- how perfectly Hallmark Channel! No gagging all over your laptop please. 🙂

It hit me again that all people need love and that not everything is as it seems. Just as my brain automatically went to that Lionel Richie song, our immediate thoughts on a person’s exterior and how they will respond aren’t necessarily accurate. We obviously cannot go on some sort of hippy rampage, telling strangers we love them and to come draw muddy, henna hearts on our mid-drifts. Additionally, not everything can be solved by love because we humans have to choose to grow and receive it. However, it reaffirmed to me that often a little extra care, kindness, appreciation and notice at appropriate times goes a long way in this sometimes angry and hurting world.

Gluten Free Information and Product Ideas:

In a similar way, you’d never automatically imagine my Odysseus-like son, with traps the size of small, twin mammals sitting on his neck, as someone who couldn’t handle gluten. I mean, truly, many people believe having Celiac Disease is a white, first world, made up problem, embraced by girls who play tennis 3 hours a day and eat quinoa and kale salad daily at the club with men named Ned. I can assure you, as my son is reduced to a lover of all things porcelain and bowl-shaped for days every time he eats the stuff, it’s real! A friend asked me what products I use regularly to cook for my son with Celiac. Well, the hard news is I cook a lot from scratch, using simple, natural ingredients. But, don’t worry, I don’t stomp on grapes in an old barrel in my backyard creating juice for my kids. 😜 There are quite a few pre-made products that I use. For those of you avoiding gluten for health reasons, I have included lists of gluten ingredient words to watch out for below and I also listed some products that we really like. Additionally, I just heard that there is a great app called The Gluten Free Scanner FULL which costs $3.99. It allows you to scan in the bar code and it automatically tells you if it is gluten free.

Lists of Gluten Related Ingredients to Avoid:

You could print a sheet and keep it in your purse or backpack from one of these sites: cheatography.com Joybauer.com, Glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com, and glutenfreesurvivalguide.org 

Overlooked Sources of Gluten:

Ales, beers, lagers, breading, soy sauce, spices, cross contaminated oatmeal, brown rice syrup, coating mix, communion wafers, croutons, candy, luncheon meats, broth, pasta, roux, sauces, soup base, stuffing, self basting poultry, imitation bacon/seafood, marinades, thickeners, herbal  supplements, prescription medications and over the counter medications, vitamin and mineral supplements, lipstick, gloss and balms, play doh (be careful to wash hands well after use and make sure children don’t eat) Any packaged food items need to be thoroughly checked. Every product should be researched for cross contamination too (to avoid instances when wheat products are prepared or processed in the same facility).

to buy

List of helpful gluten free products:

Double check every product you buy; remember, it seems like gluten is in almost everything these days (you’d be surprised if you started looking for it) and the closer the product is to its natural state, both the healthier and the less likelihood it has had gluten added. For Vibrant Life Diet followers, sometimes you will find GF products that work in small amounts for this diet too, such as a half cup of brown rice noodles with dinner.

Treats: GF Oreos (King Soopers), Trader Joes has a couple different cookie options, as well as pancake and quick bread in boxes. King Soopers has a brand called Udi that sells muffins. King Soopers has a lot of gluten free box mixes that we haven’t tried yet. I think the best tasting baked goods are those recipes that have come from someone else who has experimented and perfected them (online).

Bread: Our favorite and least expensive is a brand carried by Costco called Canyon Bakehouse in their fresh bread section.

For use in binding casseroles and making biscuits: gluten free Bisquick, pancake and baking mix.

For flour: Namaste gluten free organic flour blend

To thicken soups and sauces: Argo, corn starch mixed into a cup of cold water.

Chicken broth, base for soups and sauces: Kirkland brand, organic chicken broth (Costco).

BBQ Sauce: Hak’s BBQ Sauce (King Soopers, there are 4 different flavors). This is a less sugary BBQ sauce that we are able to use for the whole family. You can buy another one by Sweet Baby Ray’s that is higher in sugar and, so of course, more popular in many crowds.

Croutons: New York, Texas Toast, Gluten Free Croutons (King Soopers)

Sauces for Spaghetti and Chicken Alfredo: Any Classico sauce (King Soopers).

Cheapest (and decent) macaroni style noodles: Trader Joes brown rice macaroni noodles come in around $2

Our favorite noodles (considering only taste): any variety by Jovial (King Soopers).

Flour Tortillas: I haven’t found amazing GF flour tortillas, so I would recommend using corn based ones.

Chips and Snacks: These aren’t that hard to find. My favorite cracker is Crunchmaster Multigrain Crackers (Sams Club). And, my kids love the chips made by Boulder Canyon. We also love the Kirkland brand of corn tortilla chips.

Oils: I use a canola oil, coconut or olive (always double check the labels because soy is often added and is often processed in a facility with wheat).

Alcohol: This is actually a tough one to find. One wine that we have found that is GF is Moscato by Yellowtail (I just went to their website and they state all their wines are gluten free).

Simple Living and Pesto

“For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity” -2 Corinthians 1

Recently, my son performed well in a football game but immediately started berating himself on not meeting his personal goals right when he got in the car to go home. I said to him, “Come on! Enjoy your good game for at least 10 minutes before looking to your next goal.” And, then, it hit me like a strong winter wind that howls around the corners of the house all night long and blows patio furniture into the neighbors yard, he gets this relentless drive, in part, from you, Laurie. Some days, my brain works on overdrive, like a 16 year old in his 80s, beaten up Ford Thunderbird, who drives with his foot flat down around girls who wear a half can of Aquanet on their hair, his t-shirt off, a giant S for superman painted in green on his chest and a mullet of clown hair, that badly needs some one-on-one time with scissors but he thinks makes him more “free.” Ok, who am I kidding, my brain works that way every day! Additionally, if anyone asked me to describe myself I would say, “A party animal with the convictions of a holy God running through me.” Phew! Good thing God got ahold of my heart early!  Sometimes I wonder if the good Lord put both that drive and passion for fun in me on purpose, knowing that either one without the other would burn me up!

So, I am naturally a complex person and my life feels constantly complicated. 🙂 Many of you men will undoubtedly be jumping in at this point with thoughts like, “Of course it is; you’re a woman!” No no no (insert tolerant, artificial chuckle :-)), I do have many female friends who seem to find life much more straight forward than I do. However, like so many of you, I’m sure, I find myself perplexed lately at how my days became so busy and long for a simpler life. When I read this self help headline on Facebook this week, “9 Ways to Make Your Days Simple Again,” I initially guffawed and thought, “Now this ought to be good. How will they make MY life simple?” However, I also felt a momentary, dreamy breeze move in off the ocean, lift my hair and run soothingly across my brow, “Could their tips help?”

Actually, there was only one that stuck out to me from their list and I will share that (I am not sure of the author) but the rest are my own goals that I am particularly focusing on for the next 3 months. Why? Because the simpler my life is, the more energy I have to love and enjoy people and God; and, my friends, that is what it is all about. Don’t worry, I stopped short of staring at myself in the mirror with the frosted over, vacant look of someone who is playing mind games and robotically stating a confidence they don’t feel, muttering, “You can do it! You can live more simply! You can say no! Mind over matter!” LOL. 🙂 Some of that stuff seems the same as dipping liverwurst in donut glaze. Lol.

My 7 Goals for Simple Living,

Written to Myself (maybe you will find them helpful too):

  1. Get rid of junk and get your house down to the bare essentials, room by room. Why the “bare essentials?” Because even if I say that, undoubtedly, I will keep more and keeping more means cleaning/taking care of more. Seriously, if it has been sitting there unused for six months, just give it away or throw it! I don’t care how cute or useful it might be down the road! Aim for one room or closet purge a month. Schedule it!
  2. Make a list of your major priorities/family mission and set your schedule around them (keep a copy in your purse or on your phone). Say no to commitments that don’t fit your priorities/mission and don’t feel guilty. This includes sometimes saying no to events you are invited to that are all about caring for people (Ooo, boy, that is a TOUGH one but sometimes has to be done). Otherwise, my dear kids are left with the scraps and will check themselves into a family counselor by the time they are 16.
  3. Schedule uninterrupted “me” time each day, even if it’s 30 minutes (for me this is prayer, workout or shower time). This was from the above article I mentioned.
  4. Give your kids (and yourself) healthy parameters and say no to stuff outside of that. Busy isn’t always better. Quiet time for them to just be home is actually healthy. For example, “You may hang out with friends on Saturday only during the school year.” Or, “You cannot hang out until your work is done.” “Friday night is date/ parent night and nothing else is scheduled (for driving purposes)” or “You may only play 1-2 sport(s) a year.”
  5. Schedule focused daily prayer. Prayer calms, levels us and focuses our thinking. Besides, God can move supernaturally when we pray and work out our “crazy.”
  6. Be fully present in the present. Make it a life discipline to be fully engaged with people in whatever you’re doing, not on your phone or     laptop. In this day and age, this one discipline alone might calm us significantly. I have given this one a lot of thought because I keep in touch with dear friends and family with my phone. I have wondered about setting up “no phone times,” such as during dinner and the hour afterwards or no phone when the family is all together. I think each person will need to figure out what works but scheduling phone time is better than being 24/7 available.  
  7. Identify the major problem areas in your house, schedule or life habits and create systems to help those run more effectively. For example, if your house is always a mess by Monday night, maybe it is because you are out that night and don’t have cleaning time. So, schedule an hour of cleaning before your meeting or first thing Tuesday. If you find your refrigerator a mess regularly, wipe it out every time you get groceries, etc.

_DSC0584Pesto Recipe:

Eating well isn’t simple at first. It requires preparation and new ways of cooking, shopping and thinking. Another difficult part of eating well is that it takes time to get used to cooking with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables which give rich flavor, instead of meals covered in sauce. The problem with dressings and sauces is they are full of sugars, fat and sodium. I wanted to give you a few sauces that are healthier to use as salad dressings or on top of grilled lean meat in moderation. Below, is a healthier version of pesto. I would recommend using a teaspoon on top of a grilled chicken breast, for example. In the next few months, I will periodically add a sauce or dressing recipe and will create a link to all of these.

Blend together:

  • 1.5 packed cups of organic basil (equivalent to a 4 oz box)
  • 1/4 Cup part skim parmesan cheese (for the best taste, freshly grate)
  • 1/4 Cup of organic coconut oil, just brought to melting on the stove top over medium heat
  • 2 Tablespoons of raw pine nuts
  • 1-2 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lime juice, depending on how much bite you like. I liked 2 but my kids preferred 1
  • 2.5 Tablespoons of organic chicken stock, fat free (Costco)
  • Garlic to taste (I have a family member with a significant garlic allergy, so I left it out. However, you could add one clove at a time, tasting as you go, up to 3).
  • Salt and Pepper to taste. It was salty enough for me without adding any.

Thanksgiving and Homemade Greek Yoghurt

“When I hear the wind rush through the trees, I have to stop and listen. There’s so much to thank him for.” -Barbara Mandrell

We arrived at the doctor’s office yesterday and my elementary son asked, “Do they help people with Algae here?” I immediately visualized a stagnant pond covered in swampy slime and internally shuddered, “Algae? What do you mean?” “You know, Algae,” he repeated impatiently, not understanding how his brilliant mother who had lived so much life couldn’t grasp this simple concept.  Inside scoop: just give him about 5 years and I will become a vacant woman, staring off into an empty abyss who answers, “uhhhh,” at every question. 😂 Didn’t you know, children become Einstein-Esque at 13. If only world leaders would realize that, all our diseases, wars and hardships would be over! By my late teens, I had come up with a cure for Aids and actually presented it to my biology class. That memory makes my face fill with heat, just like a teenage girl in a bandy bikini, smeared in lip gloss and Tropicana oil for 4 hours, flipping rotisserie style. “Algaes,” he repeated. The dots just weren’t connecting, like the intermittent lines on his school handwriting paper. My brain was too stuck in the green sludge of a mossy, damp forest. He enunciated aggressively, “All-UR- bees!” 🐝🐝🐝 Oh- allergies! My oh my, did the girls and I lose it giggling, like a quart of marbles in a mason jar that gets knocked over. I wouldn’t trade these moments.

I’ve determined that when my kids are grown up, I will volunteer somewhere with children once a week to have exposure to all that sweet energy, like a golden honey that gets stuck to everything it touches. Who are we kidding; with seven kids, I will be Grandma Of The Year, wear a winning, garland of roses around my neck for enduring and get a part time job just to pay for cookie supplies and chiropractic care (following our wrestling matches). My thoughts this week are on the joy, guileless nature, pure faith and the “World is good” qualities of children. But, you know what sticks out and isn’t always identified – their appreciation. Wait, what?!? Are we talking about the same species of children? Lol.

They are overjoyed at the most simple pleasures. While they may have to be reminded to actually say, “Thank you,” they become giddy with the falling snow, a plastic toy placed in their meal that will break in five minutes and simple, vacation bus rides become covered in glitter and magic. It’s like children live inside a roving snow globe. At heart, they have an abundant gratitude for the little things in life, rather than the entitled attitude that can come with age. This week, as I emotionally wrestle with a son who has a concussion (and was initially told to be prepared for him to, possibly, be done playing football this season in his senior year), I find myself grateful for the people I love around me. I’m grateful for hot showers, holding my husband’s hand as we take walks, that our refrigerator can always be filled and so much more. I’ve decided on a new practice in life- Each morning, I am going to start thanking the good Lord above for three things in my life. Gratitude isn’t just good for us to practice, it is good for our outlook, perspective and, actually, our physical health too. The cry of my heart is… Make me grateful of the simple, important things, like a child, Lord.

“And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  Mathew 18:2-3

YoghurtHomemade Yoghurt

So, algae reminds me of fungus and mold. Lol. I know, I know, you genius science majors, with hair sticking up in front, who wear lab coats with skinnies as a fashion statement, who tell the people around you who are enjoying a glass of wine that it is pickling their brains and end all your sentences with, “approximately,” because inaccurate social statements make you want to re-clean your test tubes, I know mold is vastly different than algae. But, just go with me on this. 😜 A healthy food option is nonfat yoghurt or greek yoghurt. And, even better? Homemade nonfat yoghurt, which is fairly free from all the fillers and preservatives. Try it. It’s not that hard and really good for you!

  • 2 quarts of skim milk
  • 1/2 Cup of a name brand yoghurt, preferably without additives and don’t use Greek Yoghurt ( I used a brand that is additive free, except for some fruit pectin, called Mountain High, fat free and plain)

Equipment: 

  • Accurate thermometer (I just used a candy thermometer clipped to the edge of the pan)
  • Double Boiler is preferable but I used a large, regular pan, stirring constantly
  • Jars to store finished yoghurt (you will need at least 2 quart sized mason jars and possibly one smaller one too)
  • A whisk
  • A good sized cooler or heating pad

In a large pan, constantly mix 2 quarts of skim milk with a rubber baking spatula on a medium heat. Make sure to mix it the whole time, especially when you aren’t using a double boiler. Bring the milk to 82 degrees Celsius (180 degrees Fahrenheit) or just to boiling and remove. Create a cold water bath using cold water and ice cubes in a baking sheet and set the pan base in it to cool it faster. Once the mixture has reached 42-44 degrees Celsius (108-112 degrees Fahrenheit), remove from the cool bath and whisk 1/2 C of yoghurt into the cooled milk. Pour into your yoghurt maker, follow the directions (I own a Yogourmet) and leave it to set for 4.5 hours. Or, place into (sterilized or dishwasher washed) mason jars with lids and set in a shut cooler with 1 gallon of 48.9 degrees Celsius water (possibly more), 3/4 up the height of the jars. It seems like you could also place the jars into a baking dish and fill it with 48.9 degrees Celsius water in a warm oven (depending how hot the warm setting on your oven is, 42-48 degrees Celsius is needed). Another technique that is used is to wrap the jars in a heating pad on low (this can cause the bottom to get a little golden). I’ve never tried any of the methods that don’t involve a “yogurt maker” but I have read and heard that they are quite straight forward, as long as the temperature remains between 42 and 48 degree  Celsius (low warmth) for 4.5 hours. That’s the key.

After 4.5 hours, to make the yoghurt thicker, into greek yoghurt or “yoghurt cheese,” place in a pre-soaked, triple thick and large piece of cheesecloth. Tie and suspend over a bowl in the refrigerator for 8 hours. The juice that comes off is called whey and can be used for other purposes. Enjoy! My 10 year old daughter LOVED how my greek yoghurt tasted; she said it was her favorite yoghurt ever!

The Strongest Force in Physics and 7 Basics for Losing Body Fat

Dory: “I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine and he shall be my Squishy.” -Finding Nemo

As a young girl, I remember my family taking an exotic trip to a Turkish beach resort. We enjoyed days of swimming in the cobalt waves of the faraway world of the Mediterranean, even venturing deep, out to the crumbling Kizkalesi (Castle in the Sea), located on a small island. Our evenings were full of slow meals at a candlelit, wooden, farm table, over fresh caught, batter fried fish, olives straight off the tree and warm flat bread, with a bare breeze that tickled the tiny coins along the seam of my scarf. And, I recall how deeply we slept after being tenderly kissed under our eyes by the rose sun. It was at that beach that I learned the force of love. One afternoon, my sister and I were swimming near a rocky, volcanic edge of the coast. Rather suddenly, the waves seemed to be hitting harder and the choppy water forcefully licked us up onto the tip of her blue tongue. My sister was laughing, looking out towards me and the vast sea, and didn’t notice that she was moving dangerously close to where the alcove of craggy rocks were punched with water, with a force that would smash a man and spit him out again, like a dragon getting rid of the bones. She was being pulled and couldn’t swim against it. I saw it a split second before she felt it and began to swim towards her with all the strength I could muster. “Please no,” I choked out a prayer, through salty mouthfuls of sea. It was God; there was no other explanation for how this leggy, desperate 11 year old had the strength to swim to her in time, drag her away from the pulling dark currents and maneuver us both to safety.

This week, I was doing my typical household, mama duties, when I heard the far off buzz of the kids on our four wheeler, like an angry yellow jacket stuck against a glass window. After that, came the awful smack of it hitting a tree and then nothing. Again, my prayer rose to heaven in a cry, “Let them be ok!” I rushed outside to find each of them, walking up towards the house, shaken and moving slowly but ok. And, then today, I saw a friend who lost a nephew just two weeks ago through great tragedy. We don’t understand the timing, the how and why things happen. God sometimes rescues in the way we want him to, while other times, we experience great loss and it’s only years later that we see his hand in it all. All I know is that life, even for a day, is a rich blessing. And, to love fiercely is the greatest gift of all; it’s something we inherited from God himself. It occurred to me this week, complete surrender is the ultimate act of love we can give to God. It says to him, “I fully trust that you see it all, love me most and have a good reason,” like a baby flying through the air laughing, knowing his father, just underneath him, will, ultimately, catch him. Today, I am grateful… for life, that I can sit in the sunshine, that I can laugh at the silly jokes my kids make, that I can work hard all week and enjoy a fire and a beer with my husband on our weekend, and that I can watch my son, who had a muscular disease as a baby, tackle an opposing player with the strength of a bison. It’s the simple things that matter most. And, love? It is the strongest force in physics.

1For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

3a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

-Ecclesiastes 3

How to Lose Body Fat

During my first time living in Turkey, a truck full of a DEET-like substance would come by every day around 6 p.m. to kill the jungle of bugs. Us U.S. Airforce kids would spot it first and one kid on his Big Wheel would yell to the 13 year old on her rainbow banana seat bike who would yell to to me with my side pony tail and on down the line, “The SPRAY TRUCK IS COOOOOMING!” Even though Gluten Free, Wheat Grass and Essential Oils weren’t something we ever thought about and an occasional Jane Fonda workout video, with her possy of permed  athletes, who loved bikini cut leotards over nylons, was about as fitness oriented as the average person got back then, we knew instinctively, being sprayed with a fire hydrant of bug killer just couldn’t be good. I mean, seriously, if I could survive that nightly for years, why don’t I just order up a wheelbarrow of thick, bleached flour pizza, hot wings dripping with high fructose corn syrup, a supersized keg of Coke, smear my lips in man-eating Carmex and call it good?! 🙂 LOL.

You know that luminous, turquoise scene in Finding Nemo, when they have to dodge the Portuguese Man of War jelly fish? They were squishy and made our aquatic heroes want to reach out and poke them. That was the consistency of my body for years! How did my hug-able, jello,  mama-body go from that to within the % body fat fitness range? You’re not going to like this… If someone nailed me down, like an old board to a gray and weathered barn wall, I would say the top two factors that helped me lose fat were cutting grains and sugar (except the minimal natural sugar found in 1 fruit a day). There are a lot of trainers out there, theories, and diet plans but the people I have seen be wildly successful, regarding fat loss, have cut those things. Additionally, there are significant health benefits from cutting those two foods, such as a decrease in inflammation which lowers your chance for disease, illness and negative symptoms. As far as the rich nutrients your body needs for life, sugars and modern breads are fairly nutrient deficient foods. Convinced yet? I found that to have drastic results, I had to take drastic action. Once again, most of the answer to fat loss is found in the kitchen.

7 Basics for Losing Body Fat:

(Print for your refrigerator to remind you.)

  1. Cut sugar and keep natural sugars very low (1 fruit a day).
  2. Cut grains (except 1/2 cup of oatmeal, 1/2 cup of brown rice OR 1/2 a large sweet potato. Those aren’t all grains, I know, but I have one of those a day max).
  3. Eat regular, lean protein (Stay strict on eating times and content).
  4. Good rhythm of restful sleep and some exercise.
  5. Drink tons of water; I aim for 14 cups a day (1 cup every waking hour).
  6. Take vitamins and fiber. I take a high quality multi-vitamin and a tablespoon of fiber mixed in water each morning and evening.
  7. Eat lots and a wide variety of vegetables, especially green leafy veggies.