I have an incurable sweet tooth. I also have a desire to keep my family (and myself) healthy and allergen free. What to do? Read on!
Recipe #1 No-bake coconut haystack bars (adapted from Carried on the Wind)
The basic idea is a traditional no-bake cookie but you're replacing the oats with unsweetened coconut and the peanut butter with sunflower seed butter. These also are dairy free.
I've read that sweet cravings are a lack of good fats in the diet. Here's a way to get some good fat and some sweetness all at once.
1 C sunflower seed butter
1 C coconut oil
1/2 C raw honey
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t sea salt (estimate)
5 C unsweetened, shredded coconut
(You can increase the honey to 2/3 C and add 1 C cocoa powder for a chocolate version according to the original recipe, but we didn't try that yet.)
Combine everything but the shredded coconut in a saucepan and melt over low heat just enough to stir it all together - no need to cook it. Turn off the heat and stir in the coconut. Spoon it into an 8x8 parchment-lined pan for very thick bars (or make balls, or logs, or maybe even press it into 2 pie plates for a gluten free crust, why didn't I think of that earlier? Grr.) and let it harden in the fridge or the freezer. Coconut has a very low melting point so in the summer you will have to keep these in the fridge.
Recipe #2 Peach chutney (adapted from Nectarine Chutney in Crockery Cookery by Hoffman)
We eat a lot of really plain food around here. Between the kids' preference for foods that don't touch each other and the need to avoid just about every processed food you can imagine due to corn sensitivities (currently Maya and Cady, and by Cady I really mean me), there aren't many sauces or casseroles coming out of my oven. But once in a while I just need some flavor, you know? And a sweet touch can really make a boring meal special.
I served this chutney as a side dish to accompany an otherwise very bland meal of fish and lentils and rice at our house, but made a rice/lentil/shredded chicken/chutney casserole for our church gathering tonight. It made both meals much more enjoyable!
2 C chopped fresh peaches
2 C chopped pears
1 small chopped onion
1/2 C dried cherries (these are amazing but you could leave them out or use another dried fruit if you can't get them)
1/2 C raisins
1 T honey
1/2 cider vinegar
1/2 - 3/4 C rapadura or sucanat (depends how sweet your fruit is)
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/4 t ground cloves
1 t ground ginger
1 t mustard powder
We don't make public vows to our children. It's assumed we'll always be there for them through it all. I know some children aren't that lucky, but, like all the other tireless Moms I know, I stand by my own. Laughter, tears, broken bones, teething, vomit, more vomit...
It's been a rough ride lately. Maya's been very sick (ER twice in 3 days). Yeah, very sick. It seems to happen at least once a year, sometimes more often. Super high fever (104+), unstoppable vomiting and diarrhea for days. She ends up dehydrated no matter what we try - and at her size it doesn't take her long. She started this round at 54 pounds and ended up at 49. We know that because she just happened to have a doctor's visit 2 weeks ago, and then the ER weighed her too. She gets to looking downright scary with those big eyes bulging and all her ribs showing.
So we headed to the ER on Friday night. I asked for an IV but they didn't want to. Instead, in their infinite hurried wisdom, they gave her apple juice, a colorful popsicle, and a drug to stop the vomiting. Have a nice day, she'll be fine now.
All that night she had bloody diarrhea and abdominal pains. We tried (all over again) to keep her hydrated and I even gave her another dose of the anti-emetic against my gut instinct. But I didn't want to go back to the ER to pay them to do it either.
By Sunday morning it was clear that she was in worse trouble. Her mouth was dry and her ketones were large still (I used my pregnancy pee strips to test her) so we packed up (in warmer clothes this time) for the ER. Now they were ready to offer the IV, and more drugs. Their intention was to stop up both ends and fill her with fluid. Not a great idea, but the fluids were necessary and I don't have that sort of equipment at home. Knowing her issue likely wasn't a killer bacteria, I kept still. After the IV the doc said her issue was likely bacterial so to start her on a strong antibiotic.
I was ready to jump down his throat at that point (with no evidence at all now you think she has a bacterial infection and you already stopped her from expelling it?!), but all I asked was if they would write a prescription or wanted to start it in the IV. He was going to send a script home. OK, fine I thought. Just keep my mouth shut and get out of here. I finally reached her regular doctor by phone after we got home, and she was relieved we hadn't given antibiotics to her. We agreed to wait until the results of her stool culture came back. So nice to have a reasonable doctor now! I don't mind using antibiotics when necessary, but I refuse to just assume things are bacterial when they could just as likely not be. And in Maya's case they were more than likely NOT bacterial because I've seen this happen to her before and it never has been infectious.
The IV seemed to be enough to revive her. She's still been feeling lowsy and has had a low fever on and off, but no more vomiting. Finally the stool cultures came back - all negative. Relief.
So, what's wrong with her?
Well, the reason she was at the doctors getting weighed 2 weeks ago was for chronic joint pain. Along with a diagnosis of arthritis, the doctor recommended food sensitivity testing to determine if food was to blame for the joint inflammation. Just so happened, though we didn't know it at the time, that her intestines were about to join her ankles in a massive revolt. Now, the results from the food panel are back and we're headed to the office today to find out our newest dietary fate. It's very likely, knowing Maya's history, that foods are to blame.
As an infant, food issues caused her all sorts of mucus trouble, intestinal trouble, and failure to thrive. The antibiotics and surgery used to "treat" her before I knew what was going on made things worse. Take a baby who throws up regularly and has ear infections, fill her up with antibiotics half a dozen times or more, poke holes in her ear drums, cut out her adenoids and tonsils when she's two, remove her acid-decayed teeth, treat her chronic leg pains with Tylenol, give her enemas to help her poop... and by the time she's five she'll be vomiting several times a week, having fevers for "no" reason, and generally being sluggish and sickly.
She's 9 now, and the last 4 years have been eye-opening to say the least. After seeing her rapid improvement the first time we radically altered her diet we were sold on the idea of food sensitivities. Hence the duck farming stint... Then having Daniel go through his own severe corn sensitivity further opened our eyes to what's in our foods. I suppose we were naive to think Maya (and Daniel?) had outgrown or healed from their issues. Instead of healing, Maya's body has found a new way to express it's misery - in arthritis pains and annual intestinal meltdowns.
The nurse told us a few foods to avoid over the phone and this afternoon we'll know for sure what's out of the diet again, but it also begs the bigger question, WHY? Why would her immune system think a string bean is toxic? What's so harmful about pinto bean protein that would send her to the ER? Why does she have leaky gut? Is there an underlying immunological problem?
That may take some more investigation...
Mother's Day looks like:
A chocolate mint plant and some for-mom-only treats,
a handmade ring Sadie made at school in a super fancy painted box covered with tissue paper flowers,
a dozen roses and Maya making supper for the kids,
Len making salad for our church group dinner,
a million handmade cards from home, church, and school, and, of course... kids in my bed!
Thanks for a great day guys! I love being your mom :-)
And where there's a Belliveau, there's a project...
Maya often complains that her feet hurt. The MD says it's growing pains, the chiropractor says her feet are out of alignment, her PE teacher says she has to wear sneakers to school, and Maya just says they hurt. I offered her a warm foot soak with Epsom salts to relax her muscles. Let's just say it didn't exactly go as planned! Before I knew it, she was washing her hair and Daniel was taking a bath (and apparently finishing his supper under the table)!
Here's Sadie on the bars and Maya waiting her turn at their new gym where they just celebrated a Spring Fling with Olympian John MacCready.
And a little pre-Easter egg fun while the little 2 were already sleeping... (although Abby would insist she's big - if she were still awake). We'll do an all-inclusive egg decorating session this coming weekend.
My room has been a mess since I was little. It got worse in highschool. Much worse, my parents can testify to that. Then I moved a bunch of times, had a few children and tried to stay on top of things, but habits are hard to break! Things were disorganized to say the least.
Then I married Len and his mess got piled up alongside mine. His industrial toys made ours look small and tame, but the more kids we had and the more stuff they accumulated, the more disorganized it all got. Then we moved and downsized tremendously - but not enough. The new house was still a mess.
I do read all of those great simple living blogs and how-to-organize tips and I do feel guilty about not following their inspiring lead, but our clutter was just overwhelming. There was nowhere and everywhere to start, all at the same time. Plus bums to wipe, food to cook, never ending dishes to wash, words to decode for the three year old, places to go, and laundry. Don't forget the laundry! But finally I started.
I started with the CDs and DVDs. I tossed all the jewel cases and put them in sleeves. Big space saver. (No I don't have an ipod or any other digital music thingies... but don't tease because at least we did purge Len's LPs when we moved.)
Next was the clothes. Spring has sprung in abundance here in zone 8 and the kids were looking for shorts again. The clothes situation had to be taken care of next whether I liked it or not. Pack up winter, unpack summer. I purged a lot of things from the smaller girls that no one else will wear. The next baby might be missing out on a few goodies, but 4 years is too long to save clothes that might be in season at the right time. Good-bye! I also took a hard look at my own closet full of things for a non-pregnant mommy. Useless at this point. I got rid of some more too.
Then the books. Oh, we love our books. I have several that are left over from when I was a kid. They should probably be replaced as the bindings are disintegrating, but what if the new edition has a different font or something? It would never be the same :-) I did box up quite a few non-heirloom books to donate though. Most of them were grown-up books as the children's stories will still get a lot more use.
These living room bins are wooden blocks, puzzles, balls, and toddler toys.
Then all the blessed toys. Birthdays, Christmas, new interests, the stuff just starts reproducing on its own I think. Most of what the kids have is really nice and they do play with it. The problem is that it all gets mixed up together and nobody is quite sure how to pick up or where anything goes. I did get rid of a few things nobody cares about, but literally only a few. Just last week (about 3 weeks into my cleaning spree) I read a post about this woman's playroom for her three boys. It was magazine quality. All the labels were fancy and laminated and all her toys fit into the categories and into the bins. There was no misc. bin. There was no pile of random stuff bin. None of the games were too wide for the game shelf. Sigh. I would never live up. My games aren't all in uniform size boxes. But the wheels in my head were turning.
I had to do something. I already had several matching toy bins, and our local grocery store carries the same brand that I already had. I sorted out some rough categories of things and figured out how many bins could fit where. Then I started sorting. The girls did help some, but they got bored much sooner than the work was done. I decided that as long as they were keeping Daniel entertained that was help enough.
It took about three days of on and off sorting to get through it all (ok most of it. There is still a basket of "stuff" in the corner of Daniel's room, but at least I know it all belongs in that room. I can toss in into the right bins in about 10 minutes if I'm alone.) There are some strict categories like "perler beads" or "legos", and some looser ones like "baby toys" and my favorite, "critters and people." There are bins in three rooms - Sadie and Abby's bedroom, Daniel's bedroom, and the living room. Maya didn't claim anything as her own except for a few American Girl things and her desk with some colored pencils, and she already had that stuff under control. She's more than happy to play with the pattern blocks and the legos and everything else, but she stakes no claim to any of it.
This was before I tied the labels on, but they are marked now. I used pin style plastic name badges with the pins removed and a string in their place. If I need to change what's in the bin I can just write a new name tag and slip it into the plastic pocket.
Up top are the things that I don't want Daniel to reach or Abby to have without permission - Perler beads and pattern blocks. The lower bins are Abby's Polly Pockets, toy money, and the critters and people bin.
So maybe we'll start new habits now. Maybe we'll enjoy seeing the carpet for a while. Maybe we'll appreciate our things more now that we know where to find them when we want them. Maybe we'll even keep it this way!
Now, back to that laundry pile...
This post comes pretty late because her birthday was nearly a month ago, but I think you'd agree Sadie's worth celebrating even after the fact! We celebrated when Ni and Nana were in town because every kid wants their grandparents as a birthday present. Her best friend also joined us for a rare afternoon at the movies and then dinner at our house afterwards. As little sisters always do, Abby left her mark on the day by vomiting all over the lobby of the theater as we arrived. Luckily Nana was there to stay with the birthday crew so I could shuttle Abby back home. The big girls had a grand time at the movies with Nana.
Sadie usually spends her time stealing Maya's chapter books and reading them in one afternoon before Maya even misses them, but sometimes she has other skills to master. Her latest endeavor (besides the tongue rolling) is trying to stop arguing with Abby. You remember how when you're 7 and you know everything it's hard not to tell your 3 year old sister she's wrong all the time? Well, she's working on that :-) Today I had her babysit Daniel (and his broken leg) so I could clean up the kitchen and do some laundry. She did a great job with him and I paid her $1.25 for her efforts. She was thrilled and so was I. The only issue was when Abby ran out of the room crying and looking for assurance from me that Sadie was not babysitting her too! Looks like a trip to the bank is in the works this week. Sadie's other project is saving all her money to buy a computer. Sigh.
Sadie's giant birthday cupcake. All that time I spent with the flu watching Cupcake Wars on TV paid off. Thanks for the valentine marshmallows, Mom!
We were driving to preschool this morning and Abby, who has recently decided to read everything in sight, had something to say. I wasn't really paying attention to our surroundings because the route is so familiar I don't really see it anymore, know what I mean?
We passed a vacant lot and all of the sudden she pipes up, "Mom, that tree's for sale!" After a minute of trying to figure out what she was talking about, I finally got it!!! Stupidly I tried to explain it wasn't really the tree that was for sale, but she just thought I was an idiot. She had seen the sign with her own eyes, afterall!
I dug out my favorite recipe from the good ol' waffle making days (I haven't made any since we moved) and set to work. The problem arose when everybody wanted to help. Usually that's great, but the counters here just aren't set up for 10 hands to be working at the same time! After a bit of frustration, we managed to clean up an area that would work even though that meant a one year old perching on a bar-height, swivel stool. The other problem arose when I was trying to peek over someone's shoulder to get a glimpse of the recipe. Instead of noticing the lowercase "t" I just read "T." I accidentally tripled the baking soda, baking powder, and the salt. Hmm, no other solution than to triple the rest of the ingredients too (since they were already measured in the bowl). But that required using nearly 6 cups of yogurt, and I didn't have that much! But there was some left over ricotta cheese...
You can imagine I was running out of other things too (haven't shopped for this coming week yet), but luckily we had plenty of eggs since I buy those from a local farmer 4 dozen at a time every two weeks. By the time we were done, the waffles were a delicious combination of buckwheat flour, whole grain spelt flour, white bread flour, regular white flour, whole wheat flour, yogurt, milk, ricotta cheese, butter, coconut oil, olive oil, eggs, flax seed meal, sea salt, and, of course, baking soda and powder!! Even with the initial measuring error, we were able to keep track of everything else (and even with 10 hands in the pot).
The end result made enough waffles to feed everyone as many as they liked for breakfast plus 3 gallon bags full for the freezer! Luckily they turned out delicious because I was standing at the waffle maker for ages! Here's the original recipe, but you might as well triple it and have enough to last the next two months...
1/2 C melted and slightly cooled pastured butter (or oil)
1 3/4 C whole milk plain yogurt (or ricotta mixed with milk)
2 pastured eggs
Beat these together, then add the following:
1 3/4 C flour (just about any gluten flour works here, spelt, wheat, white, sprouted, buckwheat)
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t sea salt
1/8 C flax meal
a splash of milk if it's too thick
Mix it all up, and cook in a waffle iron.
Makes about 16 small square waffles.
We moved away from our beloved Maine farm house to a suburban cul-de-sac on the other end of the country about 7 months ago (did I mention we weren't happy about that?). Since then plenty of things have happened, but I have neglected to share most of them. My photo card reader felt like working today, so here's a photo update:
The pool fence Len installed
Though Len and I have been through an insane amount of turmoil since coming here, much of which still continues, one thing remains constant. If there is a jungle to conquer, we're on the case! Raised beds are in the works.
The children were relieved to discover they do celebrate Christmas in FL even though it's not cold and there's no snow. (Yes, they actually were concerned about that!)
Like Father, like Son. I didn't know plaid was genetic.
Abby jumping into the foam pit at gymnastics.
The symmetry sisters.