Friday, May 28

A Highly Recommended Read

I recently finished reading Anti Cancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber. I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

The author was just beginning his medical career when, by accident in his own lab, he discovered he had brain cancer. He readily admits his attitude was that of the stereotypical doctor -- a stubborn reliance on Western methods of healing and health management. As the doctor became the patient, though, his eyes were opened to a frustrating world of downcast eyes and grim adherence to outdated treatments in spite of other promising options. 

The path he discovered, and followed, changed his life...quite literally because it almost certainly saved it. He has become a 15-year brain cancer survivor (wow) by caring for his so-called 'terrain' which involved changes in diet, exercise, stress management and spirit. 

Granted, that's a lot of the stuff I yammer on about all the time so maybe that's why I loved it. The book teaches so much about cancers, though, and how they take root and flourish in our bodies. Despite that part being nearly all-new to me, I found it a very easy read. If you have a family history of cancer, or even a personal one, I daresay this book will make you feel hopeful and powerful. 

Lest you fear that it will overwhelm you with the need to change everything about your life, I'll leave you with this excerpt from the final chapter:

Fortunately, we can begin to protect ourselves against the biological mechanisms of cancer without adopting all the methods that have a positive effect. The body is a huge system in equilibrium, where each function interacts with all the others. Alter just one of these functions and the whole is inevitable affected....Every situation, every person, is unique; each person's way forward will be too. What matters above all is nourishing the desire to live. Some will do it by participating in a choir or by watching comedies, others by writing poetry or keeping a diary or getting more involved in the lives of their grandchildren.

If you read it, please let me know what you think!!  

Summer CSA - Week 4

The only new thing we received this week is a different variety of lettuce. I'm not too educated on types of lettuces but it's green and yummy.

One month into our first CSA summer, I'm thankful to have learned so much. Last year, I read Carrie's CSA posts with feelings of great curiosity and possibly greater intimidation. I didn't know what a lot of it was and wasn't sure how she ever used those things! Would my gang even eat it???

As it turned out, though, I've found delicious and healthful uses for things I've never purchased before (kohlrabi, beets, kale, radishes) and discovered that I should throw out my opinions of what my kids will and won't eat. I told you yesterday about the radish green soup but not about the broccoli stalks (the florets were cut off for snacking/lunches) I steamed for myself because I couldn't bear to toss them out. Little did I know that everyone would eat stalks-only. Awesome!

Thursday, May 27

Good Eatin'!!

Life has seemed almost normal this week. What's been really odd about school ending a whole month early is just the sense of waiting. Waiting to hear about how grades will be determined, waiting to hear about field days and awards ceremonies and waiting until friends are finished with school has made May a month of uncertainty.

We finished all that up this week, though, and now we can really relax into our summer. We've already been to the library a few times, had garden-hose water fights and had lazy mornings which stretched into lazy days. Maybe a month-long warmup to summer is just what we needed!

For me, normalcy means hours in the kitchen and, boy, has this week been fun!

I made hummus which we all love and is a great alternative to dressings and dips for fresh veggies. It's also a wonderful spread on sandwiches.


Hummus
Put three cups of cooked and drained chickpeas in the food processor. Using a garlic press, add garlic to taste. (I use 5-6 cloves for a moderate 'garlic-ness' but if it's just for our family, I'll add a few more.) Turn on the processor and slowly pour in one cup of extra-virgin olive oil and process until smooth and creamy. 

Other highly-recommended things we've enjoyed this week:
Pork Blade Steaks with green onions, oven-roasted beets, Green Onion Hash Browns  and  Radish Top Soup which I originally made for C's lunches. It uses the radish greens which I thought the kids might balk at. I was completely wrong. They love it! Of course, with ingredients like homemade chicken stock and raw heavy cream, what's not to like?

Wednesday, May 26

Artsy Girl





















My girls love to paint. The last time E mentioned she couldn't think of a gift to make for someone, I asked her to paint a bin for my pantry. I was just thinking of a couple of pretty colors in a striped pattern, but this is what she came up with. It's certainly much better than I could have done!

Monday, May 24

Summer CSA - Week 3


Trying to catch up on these posts -- with food coming every week instead of every other, I can't keep up!

Our box this week contained swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, carrots, green onions, beets, radishes, cauliflower, kohlrabi, strawberries, bread and eggs.

The exquisitely odd-looking kohlrabi is new to us but was an instant favorite. A member of the cabbage family, it can be eaten raw or cooked. It's flavor is similar to a broccoli stalk but milder and sweeter. So far, we've just added it to the bin of chopped, raw veggies we snack on throughout the week. 

As for the greens, our share includes a LOT more than I normally buy. Fortunately, I love salad and I've been warming the kids up to it over the last few weeks with small side salads. So far so good on that front. 

Unfortunately, I wasn't prepared to use so many greens the first week and some wilted before I got to them. After dreading throwing them out (and accompanying guilt), I had a flash of inspiration -- vegetable stock!

Among the things that had seen better days were...bits of bok choy, kale, swiss chard, celery and green onions. I washed and chopped them and added carrots, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves. After simmering for a couple of hours, I removed the vegetables and seasonings and returned the broth to the stovetop to reduce further. In the end, I had two quarts of dark and delicious-smelling stock to stow away in the freezer. No waste, no guilt!

Sunday, May 23

Kefir Tutorial

Now that I've been making this wonderful beverage for a few months, I thought I'd post an actual how-to.
Your grains live in a glass jar with 1-2 cups of raw or organic milk and you'll know when your milk is fermented when you see both solids and liquids in the jar separated by a thin yellow liquid (whey). Depending on the temperature of your home, this can occur in as little as 12 hours or, in colder months, 36-48 hours. During the winter, I keep my jar in the pantry which is less subject to drafts than the counter. 


To separate the grains from the kefir, stir or swish them in the jar to loosen the surface and pour them into a stainless steel strainer placed over a bowl. Do not use other metals as they will melt your grains. 


Often, a thin liquid will drain first and your grains will retain liquid as shown above.

Kefir is a thicker beverage, though, similar to 2% milk. You have to shake the strainer to completely separate the grains. You may even need to use a spoon to move them about.

Dump your grains back into your (washed) jar and cover with milk. Cover the jar with a cloth napkin and set aside. (Never set the jar in direct sunlight.)

Place the kefir in another glass jar and cover with a lid. Store in the refrigerator; it keeps for 3-4 weeks. It addition to drinking it, you can use it as a buttermilk substitute in recipes. It's super handy when you you're running low on milk!

Other tips:
To grow your grains, add a larger amount of milk. Adding two cups at a time should double the grains in about six weeks.
Similarly, if you have a large volume of grains which produce more kefir than you can use, add just enough milk to cover. (They will, of course, consume the available lactose very quickly.) 
To share grains, put two tablespoons in a baggie with enough milk to cover. 
If you will be away for a weekend or just have too much kefir on hand, place your grains jar in the refrigerator. The colder temperature will slow the activity. 
Taking care of your little grain friends is important, but they are very forgiving. I've left mine a day too long and the top surface darkened a bit and looked dry. After straining, though, they were no worse for the wear. 

Thursday, May 20

Mom

Today is my mom's birthday. The kids and I (along with my sister, her youngest and my brother's two little ones) took her and Dad to the mountain where she was born. We had a picnic overlooking the valley.

I wanted to do something different to celebrate with her and I can't express how much fun we all had. The weather couldn't have been more perfect if we had sent God a special request.

It was all so simple -- egg salad, veggies and fruit on a few blankets followed by swinging the kids (even the big ones!) in a blanket and Mom's favorite schoolyard game, Red Rover -- but almost magical, as we were on top of the world and time stood still just for us. The unfortunately reality was, though, that the time absolutely flew by. I was so sorry when it was time to leave.

We've all promised to do it again very soon and I'm determined to make it happen. Nothing I could have done today would have meant more than celebrating the birth of the person who loved me first and, even now, loves me more than anyone else. (No offense, Dad and hubby but I'm a mommy too so I know the deal...) :)

Thank you, Mom, for being who you are. You are beautiful, talented, generous and have more imagination than most kids I know!

(NOTE: The above photo was not taken today. It's just one I love. My sis has a fancy-schmancy new camera so I let her take all the pics. I didn't feel like slumming with the point-and-shoot one I brought!)

Wednesday, May 19

Summer CSA - Week 1 & 2

We didn't receive a share for Week 1 due to the flood. The produce farmers suffered little damage but the meat farmer lost 1200 chickens and thousands of dollars worth of fencing. That things were back up and running for the second week was a welcome surprise!

Our second week's share included bread, eggs, strawberries, radishes, broccoli, bok choy, green onions, kohlrabi, swiss chard and three other types of greens which I couldn't readily identify. They were yummy, though!

The morning after we picked up our share I made french toast which we enjoyed with raw milk whipped cream and those delicious strawberries. It was a fabulous treat of wholesome ingredients after a weekend of hard labor!

Tuesday, May 18

Recovery


These days, I drive through way too many neighborhoods which look like this. In open spaces and lining both sides of the road, there are piles and piles of the things that made houses homes. Furniture, appliances, cabinets, drywall, carpet...it's really overwhelming and depressing.

If you've ever wondered what happens to all that, here's the answer. Below is a shot of a local park where the debris is being trucked. From here larger trucks transport it to landfills.

It was hard to capture the enormity of these hills of trash, but if it helps, the white rectangular object to the lower right of the tree is a refrigerator. There were several hills of the same size behind these.


I've been a negligent blogger, I know. Every day last week, I promised myself I'd write. But, somehow, the emotions seemed too daunting. Writing is such a great outlet for me but there was just too much to express and my sorrow was only about the pain others are feeling. I guess I'd be a true wreck if I'd lost my own home.

So, as much as I struggle with moving on with the lighter side of life while others face inconceivable losses, my being overwhelmed doesn't help anyone. Life does go on and we're all better off if we exercise our strengths when others are weak.

If you're still checking my blog, thanks! :)

Tuesday, May 4

Flooding, Day Four

I took this photo of the Harpeth River, although, if you're not familiar with it's normal flow, it might not be so astonishing but the water is nearly touching the underside of the bridge. The concrete where the bridge meets the road is so eroded I cringe driving over it.

The kids and I took our remaining family members to the airport this morning. I can only imagine how happy they are to leave Nashville. I just heard from an aunt and uncle who were evacuated from the Opryland Hotel over the weekend; they are one flight into their trip home.

We stopped by the church building on the way home to see if there was any way we could help. Right now, it seems I can best be used by doing laundry and offering to let people shower here since thousands are without water or under usage restrictions.

I have to laugh at the irony that a) I love doing laundry and b) I have a huge bucket of homemade detergent that I thought would be sitting around for months.

Any prayers you can offer for our communities are greatly appreciated.

What A Weekend

We have had a very full weekend -- full of joy and laughter as well as full of heartache and destruction.

The middle of last week we had a lot of family from all across the country arrive for a 5-day reunion. Some incredible memories were made and I'll definitely have to share those with you later. 

However, Saturday brought incredibly heavy rains to the Nashville area. It started around midnight Friday and stopped maybe twice before Sunday night. Saturday morning, we had brunch at the Opryland Hotel which looked like this less than 48 hours later. 

Sunday morning, I found out via text that one of my dearest friends had seen her car float away and had knee-deep water in the first floor of her condo. By mid-day the water was waist-high and by the time they were rescued that evening, it was chest-high. When the water recedes, we'll go back to see if anything can be salvaged. 

A few houses in a nearby community floated away and one school was almost completely submerged. Water services have now been shut-off as the water isn't safe to use. I haven't heard of anyone who lost their home who actually had flood insurance. So many will be truly starting over.

I have been so surprised at how emotionally exhausting this has been and, really, I haven't endured anything more than one day without power and water. I can only imagine how those with real issues feel.

Not a good post, I know. There is just too much to process right now...

(photo: tennessean.com)