Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

Can someone please tell me I’m not the only person still putting together their Thanksgiving menu?

It’s not a matter of procrastination. In fact, I’ve been planning our menu for weeks. Pumpkin scones, bacon wrapped dates, butternut soup… no, it’s not procrastination. It’s indecisiveness. I want to eat all the good things.

We’re celebrating Thanksgiving with friends and going halfsies on the menu. This is always easiest for us considering we have multiple food allergies to consider. I was given the go-ahead by my new allergist to start reintroducing a few of my weaker-positive foods but they want me to hold off on any wheat items until we can do an in-office food challenge in December. Knowing that the weight of dealing with multiple food allergies may soon be lifted from my shoulders is thrilling. Because really? One allergy is enough for this family.

Anyway, the one item I know I’ll be bringing to our shared table is roasted brussel sprouts. This dish has quickly become a hit and it’s my new go-to for potluck celebrations throughout the holidays. The recipe is so simple! I know some people are initially turned off by the thought of brussel sprouts but I promise that the combination of bacon and roasting changes the flavor from bitter to savory.

Did I mention how clean this recipe is? It’s paleo, gluten-free, and dairy-free.

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Ingredients.

3 pounds brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (nitrate-free is preferred)
1 yellow onion, chopped
salt, pepper, garlic powder as desiredMethod.

In a large skillet, brown the bacon over medium heat until cooked but not crispy, stirring frequently. Remove the bacon and leave the grease. Add in the onion, cook over high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the trimmed brussel sprouts and sauté for about 15 minutes or until the outside begins to brown. Combine the bacon with the brussel sprout mixture and spread evening on a roasting sheet. Cook at 350° for 10-15 minutes.

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Really, does it get simpler?

So, what’s on your Thanksgiving menu?

Are you traveling or sharing your table with friends?

Down and Dirty of Clean Eating // Meal Planning

//This is the fourth post in a blog mini-series called “The Down and Dirty of Clean Eating.” To learn more about the DDoCE series, check out the intro post here. Previously, we’ve talked about DDoCE basics and the budget. //

When Josh and I were newly married, one of our favorite things to do together was grocery shop. The epitome of romance, I know. Josh was still building his carrier, I was a senior in college and we were broke. Our living room furniture consisted of a few camping chairs and his grandfather’s old floral-print couch. I didn’t know a lick about cooking but every Friday, we would wander the grocery store for inspiration and spend the evening creating a surprise concoction and share a meal on that ugly polyester couch. Eventually, we had to forfeit our Friday night habits because life needs a bit more preparation than what’s found in the frozen food aisle. Now I like to spend as little time as possible in the grocery store with two children who like to pretend they’re Alaskan huskies and Earth Fare is the Iditarod. Once we meandered. Now we’re all Super Market Sweep.

Anyway. I recall those memories fondly but gladly trade the spontaneity of our grocery store wanderings for the structure meal planning provides our current lifestyle.

For our family, meal planning necessary. When you’re trying to eat a clean diet and dealing with multiple food allergies, it’s not as simple as throwing a pizza in the oven or grabbing take out when evenings get hectic. Additionally, it keeps our budget in check and eliminates wasted food. By spending a few hours planning, shopping and prepping, I feel much less overwhelmed which, in turn, makes everyone’s life a bit less tense. Because if Momma ain’t happy…

For simplicity’s sake, I follow three rules for meal planning:

1. Shop the kitchen. 

2. Group meals to maximize ingredients.

3. Plan everything.

I always start by shopping my pantry and freezer. Because buying in bulk and stocking up on sales are key to eating clean on a budget, it’s important that we actually eat what we buy. This becomes the frame work for meal planning. On a regular grocery trip, I don’t want to buy more much more than fresh produce, meats and some dairy.

I take stock of what’s on hand and then I scour Pinterest or cookbooks for inspiration. I shy away from recipes that have a ton of ingredients and try to group meals together that use the same fresh ingredients. If I plan to make Tex-Mex Rice and Black-Eyed Peas on Monday and it uses fresh spinach, cilantro and avocado, I will plan on making a spinach and eggs for breakfast the next morning and taco salads with cilantro and avocado for dinner. I very rarely use an ingredient in it’s entirety so I’m not going to waste money to have the other half rot in the back of my fridge. You dig? This doesn’t happen naturally do you have to plan.

I try to make my menu and subsequent grocery lists as exhaustive as possible. This means I plan three meals for everyone (except Josh, who typically has lunch meetings) and include snacks, wine, special events and splurges. This keeps me honest and prevents overbuying. It also ensures I don’t have an “oh no!” moment when I realize I forgot an essential ingredient. I go to the grocery store twice a week to make sure produce, herbs and meats are fresh and mark each ingredient on my list as either a Sunday or Wednesday purchase.

I have tried so many ways to organize my meal planning and shopping lists. There isn’t a one size fits all method. I have friends who love apps but I like the pen and paper approach. I tried various online templates but found it easier to just make my own. I bought a cheap 3-ring binder and keep my meal plan, grocery list and any printed recipes together ( I know, I’m probably the only person in Internet Land that still prints things).

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The most helpful thing I added to my grocery planning sheet is a column for the girls’ lunches. While I may throw in some chopped vegetables that were left over from dinner, I typically buy food specifically for them. Having designated food just for lunches makes it easy to mix and match items for added variety.

Like the rest of a clean lifestyle, there is going to be trial and error. I try to be as detailed as possible but I’m not afraid to nix a planned meal because I’m exhausted and I’ve decided it’s Josh’s turn to cook. That’s okay. Considering where we started, I’m thrilled to see progress.

How do you meal plan? Are you a pen and paper or list app kind of family? 

The Down and Dirty of Clean Eating // The Budget

//This is the third post in a blog mini-series called “The Down and Dirty of Clean Eating.” To learn more about the DDoCE series, check out the intro post here and the DDoCE basics here. Everything I share here is based off my journey in clean eating. Check with your doc before doing anything crazy. //

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Anything in life that is worth doing requires a bit of hard work.

People in the blogosphere will readily tell you that eating a clean, unprocessed, healthy diet costs just the same as the frozen, boxed and processed version. That simply isn’t true. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend the bulk of your income on food. Making small changes will snowball into larger changes and greater benefits.

Maintaining a food budget has been the hardest part of our family’s clean eating journey. Although I have expensive taste, that part of me usually go hungry because I’m a stay at home momma and we have some very particular diets  and we’ve chosen to make our health a priority.

Eating a clean diet is a choice that you have to make and it will require sacrifices in other areas of your life – namely time and money. Most people can’t find a balance between the two and end up falling short on one or both. If you want convenience in your lifestyle and are short on time, it’s going to cost more money. Conversely, If your budget doesn’t have much buffer, you will need to spend more time preparing and planning to be successful. But it is possible.

We were thrown into a cleaner way of eating because of multiple food allergies so we needed a total kitchen overhaul quickly and easily and as a result, our finances took a hit. Convenience and simplicity was most important. For our family, the initial struggle wasn’t adjusting to a new way of eating but instead working to make this new lifestyle fit within our budget.

There are ways to stick to a budget and make a healthy diet work with your current financial situation. Sometimes this means sacrificing what is ideal for what is still good. I will always prefer to buy local, organic and sustainable foods but there are months when someone needs new ballet shoes and unexpected bills arrive and something has to give. This isn’t failing. It’s making decisions on what’s best for your family and selecting an option that is good, even if it isn’t best. Don’t be discouraged.

So, how do I make it work?

Plan meals – and stick to the plan. The easiest way to ensure I stay within budget is smart meal planning. I write down what’s needed for a week’s worth of breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, late night snacks (ahem) – everything. This ensures that I actually use what I buy with little waste and I don’t wander the store to find inspiration for dinner and impulsively buy half of the ingredients for something I hadn’t planned.

Stock the pantry. When coconut oil is on sale, you better bet your bottom I buy several. Yes, it’s more money upfront so only buy things you know you will use. This makes meal planning easier because I can shop my pantry before heading to the store for fresh ingredients.

Trade convenience for quality. Quality foods that are ready to eat or packaged cost a lot. Make food from scratch. Spend a bit of time cooking, baking and portioning foods instead of buying it that way. I spend a few hours each Sunday preparing breakfasts and grab-and-go lunch items like paleo muffins, cubes of cheese, granola, bread, soups and so on.

Buy in season… It’s apple season here in North Carolina. Guess what we’re eating? Lots of apples. It is not strawberry season in North Carolina and we can’t afford to pay $7 for a quart of organic strawberries. So much to my daughters’ displeasure, we are not eating fresh strawberries.

…And stock up. Stock up on fruits and veggies when they’re in season and preserve them. You don’t need to be an incredible homemaker with an impressive root cellar and canning skills. Freeze berries when they’re in season. Most anything can easily be preserved for later use.

Don’t fall for marketing. Forget about “all natural” and even – gasp! – some organic labeling. There is currently no regulation of the use of the phrase “all natural” on products so don’t pay extra for it. Research companies, check labels and make an educated decision.

Buy in bulk. Costco has an impressive selection of organic meats, produce and pantry items with a far lower unit cost. Alternately, talk to a local farmer and consider buying your meats in bulk. You will pay far less per pound for a quarter or half of a cow than you would purchasing meat a la carte.

Shop local. Truly free-range, organic eggs are ridiculously expensive if you’re shopping in a grocery store. Buy them directly from the farmer and they become much more affordable. Check out farmer’s markets and you-pick farms. If your living situation permits it, put in a small garden or make a home for some potted herbs on your windowsill. Nothing is more local than what comes from your own backyard.

Shop online. I know, it seems counterintuitive to my last point. Nut butters, allergy-friendly chocolate chips, specialty seasonings and oils are usually cheaper online than in your local specialty market.

Eating a clean diet doesn’t have to break the bank. But you do need to consider that real, nutrient-dense food will cost more than processed alternatives. I have found that we actually consume less food now than previously because we’re providing our bodies with the calories and nutrients it can actually use. So we are buying less food which helps offset the increase in prices.

Of all this advice, meal planning has been the best tool for keeping our budget modest. If it’s cool with you guys, I’ll talk more about that next time.

How do you keep your real food budget under control?

October Unprocessed Challenge

When I started The Lambent Life in 2012, the site tagline became “Living Simply, Simply Living.” Living intentionally and with purpose for a greater goal. This isn’t a life of empty sacrifices for the sake of depravity. To me, living simply means eliminating the excess, celebrating the worthy and creating joy. I strive to spread this mantra to every area of my life and eating simply is one of the, well, simplest ways to get and stay on course. That’s part of the reason why I started the Down and Dirty on Clean Eating. Clean eating isn’t where it ends but it’s an awfully good place to start.

Last week, I shared my four basic principals for clean eating:

1. Eat more real food in it’s real form

2. Buy foods with an ingredient list you can understand.

3. Skip calories, count nutrients.

4. Eat with intention.

Sure, it makes sense and most people know this is how they should be eating but get caught up on figuring out exactly where to start. So I want to take a little detour from our Down and Dirty of Clean Eating series to talk about something exciting I found that I think can be a great jumpstart for many of you on your journey to clean eating and clean living. It’s all about eating simply. Andrew at Eating Rules is hosting an awesome challenge called October Unprocessed.

October Unprocessed 2014
The challenge is pretty self-explanatary – no processed foods for the month of October. Unsure if something it unprocessed? If your food doesn’t have a label (fruits, veggies, meats, homemade goods), chances are it’s unprocessed. If it has a label, are the ingredients unprocessed? As in, can the ingredient be created (ground, roasted, milled, pressed, dehydrated) or found in nature?  Could you actually go to the market and buy what you needed to recreate the recipe?
Here are two examples from my own kitchen pantry:
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These are organic animal crackers that I bought because my children were begging and we ran out of allergy-friendly samples at Costco. I cannot make “organic cane invert syrup,” “organic degermed corn flower” or “soy lecithin” in my kitchen. So, no bueno.
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First, Purely Elizabeth is my absolute favorite granola when I’m pressed for time and can’t make a homemade batch. Everything in this ingredient list is something I can identify and use in my own cooking. So this is acceptable.
I know life is crazy and sometimes convenience rules. I like this challenge because it isn’t barring packaged foods or meals on the go. Just make wise decisions.
When you visit the Eating Rules October Unprocessed page and sign the pledge, you also get highly coveted Bob’s Red Mill coupon which is, in my opinion, one of the best readily available product lines on the market.
Is 31 days too long? Set a short term goal and see how you do. Can you do a week? Can you eliminate just one prominent processed item from your diet? 

Down and Dirty of Clean Eating // The Basics

//This is the second post in a blog mini-series called “The Down and Dirty of Clean Eating.” To learn more about the DDoCE series, check out the previous post here. Everything I share here is based off my journey in clean eating. Check with your doc before doing anything crazy. // SONY DSC I am stoked, guys. I’ve been mulling over the idea to do a series like this for a few months and I’m so excited to see so many of you so excited about taking steps toward a healthier foundation of health. I want to reiterate that I’m not an expert and we don’t eat a perfect diet. I bribe my kids with cookies like the best of us. But we strive for the best diet without compromising sanity (which is a hot commodity in these parts).

I’m going to be upfront and say there’s a lot of debate around what constitutes a “clean” diet. There are different definitions and some items I consider clean maybe debated by others and vice versa. There is usually a good, better and best to all of life’s choices but starting a healthier lifestyle is based on where you are. At its most basic form, here is my list for clean eating:

1. Eat more real food in it’s real form. Fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, grains as close to nature as possible.

2. Buy foods with an ingredient list you can understand. Better yet? Make it yourself so you know exactly what is being used. Prime example? Bread.

3. Skip calories, count nutrients. Choose foods that are nutrient-dense which means they offer a lot of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber or food fat in comparison the amount of calories.

4. Eat with intention. Food can – and should – be fun. But it’s primary purpose is to provide the body with the energy and resources it needs to function properly. The simpler my diet, the more it became something I believed in and a tangible reflection of what I believed about nutrition and health.

It sounds simple enough, right? Or maybe it doesn’t sound simple at all. Putting these principals into practice can be confusing. Nearly every person I talk to says they’d love to eat better but feel so overwhelmed by all the rules. Gluten is evil, organic is best, avoid GMOs, buy grass-fed beef, stay away from sugar, only rbst-free milk. Many of them overlap and/or contradict and honestly, it’s easier to stick our fingers in our ears and rationalize that they way we eat really isn’t all that bad.

I want to help you not feel overwhelmed. Start small. Those changes toward a clear diet will snowball. Or, you’re like me. I have an obsessive personality. When I find something that I’m interested in or a goal to achieve, I’m like a race horse out of the gate and work to master it quickly. While that passion is fantastic, I also tend to become easily frustrated and hard on myself when things don’t go the way I imagined. I preach patience and practice to my children and yet fail to do so as an adult.

The best way I’ve found to combat the urge to go out guns blazing without losing the motivation is simple:

Preparation and planning leads to consistency.

You don’t sign up for a marathon if you’ve never even laced up your running shoes. You prepare. Please don’t click out of this window and throw out everything in your pantry. Read labels. Read books. A great place to start? Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. In 2009, this was one of the first books that made me reconsider everything I thought I knew about food. Talk to people. Be realistic. Figure out your barriers.

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I wrote a post about this way back when but it deserves another mention. Don’t confuse dieting with being on a diet.

diet [dahy-it], noun: food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health.   You should be on a diet.   I’m not talking about calorie restrictions or eating low-fat frozen foods (can we even consider that food?). A diet means thinking about your food – what it is, where it’s from – and eating with intention – providing your body with the forms of energy it needs to run optimally.   People would balk at the suggestion of putting dirty, unrefined gasoline in their brand new, shiny SUV. So what’s up with all the processed crap we eat?

Let’s chat. Do you find all the food rules to be overwhelming? What are your basics for a clean diet?

Detoxing and Discoveries.

On the first day of Dr. Alejandro Junger’s “Clean” detox, I felt great. I loaded up with my morning smoothie and went off to exercise. I came home and had some chicken and roasted brussel sprouts for lunch – still feeling strong. But by 3 p.m., the headaches began. Oh, caffeine withdrawal, I loathe you. I don’t consider myself to be a coffee-addict but it’s incredible how much simple things affect the body. By 6 p.m., I went into Naked and Afraid mode. Have you ever seen the show on Discovery Channel? Basically, they lay around in the wilderness exhausted and hungry (and naked) and wait for their 21 days to pass. While I was fully clothed, my body was preserving calories and I was “mentally” hungry. That evening, Josh was running late and I still had to cook dinner, bathe and put the girls to bed. By the time it was all done, I passed out in bed too tired to brush the evening smoothie from my teeth.

My first day is exactly how you shouldn’t approach a detox.

Although I thought I had planned well, I wasn’t prepared for how tired I would be and the caloric deficit I would have because I was still exercising with my normal intensity.

This was my first and second mistake. I typically shoot for 300-400 calories for lunch each day but that is definitely not enough when it’s your primary meal. I should have added quinoa or rice for a starch. Secondly, Junger recommends lower impact exercise like walking and yoga while on the detox. He does mention that routine exercise can be continued if you add in an additional protein smoothie post workout. I didn’t do this and suffered for it. After burning upwards of 700 calories in an hour of boot camp and hip hop, my body was beyond exhausted and needed that extra energy.

As day two arrived, I went back to my Clean manual and approached it better prepared. I planned out my meals appropriately and significantly upped my fat intake in the morning. I’ve never gone through so much almond butter, raw nuts and coconut milk. I added a snack of apple slices and almond butter in the afternoon. I started adding protein powder to my evening smoothies.

Here are a few of my favorite Clean Detox meals:

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I began with the smoothie recipes provided on the Clean website but I began mixing and matching ingredients to create my own as the week progressed. Since the focus is on eliminating toxins, I made sure to use organic and local ingredients when possible.

Junger recommends getting plenty of sleep each night which is pretty easy . But I was surprised at the quality of sleep that week considering I’ve been dealing with insomnia and restless sleep for nearly a year. I woke up refreshed and awake – despite the lack of coffee. The caffeine headaches lasted until day 4 and then I felt great. I was still tired in the evenings because although I was giving my body a break on digestion and eliminated irritants, it is still working hard to detox which takes energy. Clean recommends Yerba Mate as a coffee substitute (coffee is eliminated because of it’s acidity, not necessarily because of the caffeine) so I had picked some up the weekend prior without really knowing much about it except that it’s tea-like and people used to drink it from gourds. I decided to brew a cup late one afternoon and much to my surprise, Yerba Mate is rather caffeinated. This normally wouldn’t be a big deal but when you’ve been off of caffeine for several days, the effects are much more obvious. Yowza. That was the only night I had trouble falling asleep.

When I started the detox, I decided to track my calories using MyFitnessPal for two reasons: 1. I wanted to make sure I was getting enough calories and 2. I was curious. I want to emphasize that although the Clean isn’t about caloric restriction, I’m sure most people end up eating less than they normally would because there’s no late night snacking, sugar, alcohol, convenience foods or packaged foods. On a normal day, I eat around 1,700 calories but was averaging around 1,300 while on the detox. This is hard for me. Having dealt with disordered eating most of my life, it’s a slippery slope for me to reduce calories. Because of this, I decided not to weigh myself during the detox. Most anyone gets a thrill when they see their weight decrease but this can be particularly dangerous for someone who used calorie restriction as a way to seek control. I had to frequently remind myself of why I was doing this detox – to discover why I have been feeling so miserable and find answers.

And I did.

While following the detox, my hives stopped. The burning sensation in my hand disappeared. My lip no longer tingled. My night sweats were gone. Despite being very tired and desperately wanting a glass of wine, I felt better than I had in many, many, many months.  The only reactions I had that week were after eating out and because both were stand-alone events, it helped me narrow down the offenders. The first was an apple pecan salad from Wendy’s with no cheese or dressing but I did eat the nuts. The second was when I ate a quinoa salad with chicken from Zoe’s Kitchen. I knew that both items were gluten and dairy free. I did, however, forget to check for other allergens…

When the detox ended, I had to reintroduce foods to determine if there was a particular food causing my reactions or if my liver just needed to detox. Junger recommends adding foods in slowly and tracking how you feel after each meal. Because the excluded list is extensive – eggs, strawberries, nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, etc.), red meat, pork, shellfish, peanuts, pistachio and bananas to name just a few – it’s hard to not rush back into normal eating habits. So I went very slow. On Monday, I kept with a detox-friendly smoothie for breakfast and enjoyed a slice of gluten-free buckwheat bread from a local bakery. Soon, my hand began to burn. Interesting. Fortunately, the bread had an ingredient list. Rice flour, buckwheat flour, milk, cinnamon… soy lecithin. I went back and looked online for an ingredient list for the apple pecan salad – the salad itself was nothing more than lettuce and apples but the pecans – contains soy. Interesting. I checked out Zoe’s Kitchen’s allergen list and, sure enough, their chicken contains soy.

I’d say three makes a pattern, wouldn’t you?

I literally jumped out of my chair and ran to my kitchen and began pulling gluten free items out of my pantry. Glutino pretzels? Soy. My go-to Van’s gluten free waffles? Soy. Gluten free cinnamon thin cookies? Soy. Soy, soy, soy. It’s a common ingredient in gluten free items and considering I’d been eating them several times a day, it’s no wonder I felt worse since cutting out wheat. I’m embarrassed because prior to my wheat allergy, I was always aware of soy and avoided it when possible. Why? Some say soy can increase estrogen levels and I’m already estrogen dominant. Also, almost all soy is GMO. But when we began cutting out large food groups due to allergies, I relaxed because I could only cut out so much. Lesson learned.

I had a follow up appointment scheduled with my allergist and I shared my discovery. The doctor seemed less than interested but agreed to do another allergy test with wheat and soy. Wheat positive, soy negative. Which means I have a soy sensitivity that is more severe than my wheat allergy. And with that, the allergist passed me off to the next doctor to try and navigate the rest of my health issues. I love traditional Western medicine. Regardless, I was pleased with myself.

My biggest take away from the detox?

You have to take control of your health.

You know your body. You need to find the answers. If five doctors dismiss you, find a sixth. Don’t be dismissed as paranoid or a hypochondriac. Don’t write off your symptoms as stress or anxiety. And? The simplest solution is usually the best.

I’ve gone off my allergy medicine and now only take it as needed. I wish this was the end of my health journey but, alas, the road to discovery continues on. I’ve eliminated one problem but am now working on sorting out others – I promise to keep you posted as things progress and I make new discoveries.

Xoxo.

Doctors and Detox Prep.

// I swear I didn’t intend to leave such a cliff hanger and then disappear for two weeks. In my defense, we had an unexpected death in the family and then Emery started kindergarten last week. Big sobs //

Back when life was simple and less about my myriad of health issues, the hardest part of moving was finding a new hair dresser. Don’t get me wrong – a girl has got to get her wig busted. But once we got settled, I had to find a pediatrician, an allergist, a chiropractor, a dentist, an OBGYN, an ENT and a basic primary care doctor. And a hair dresser, of course.

Seeing that we move every few years and knowing what I learned working with medical professionals back when I had a “real” job, I know that I prefer a primary care doctor who is a D.O. – Doctor of Osteopathy – versus an M.D. – Medical Doctor.

Wow, Liz, I never thought about the difference before – enlighten me! 

Of course. According to Mayo Clinic,

“A doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) is a fully trained and licensed doctor who has attended and graduated from a U.S. osteopathic medical school. A doctor of medicine (M.D.) has attended and graduated from a conventional (allopathic) medical school.”

That’s crystal clear, right? Basically, in my non-expertise experience, D.O.s tend to be more hands on, looking at the body as a whole and not just treating the most obvious symptom. They have additional training on the musculoskeletal system and can perform manipulations (like a chiropractor) to alleviate other medical issues. They are not as thorough as, say, and internist or a functional medicine doctor but D.O.s have always suited my needs. I’m sure there are M.D.s out there that are equally awesome but looking for a D.O. has always been a beneficial search parameter.

So, I had my first appointment with a D.O. who was part of a large hospital system. I told him my (lengthy) recent medical history and went over my questions. Could my allergies be effecting my hormones? Could my allergies be effecting my Meniere’s? Could he offer support for this anxiety? Was there anything else I should be doing to help my body work to the best of its abilities?

:::crickets:::

So, the first doctor was a bust. Obviously not all practitioners are created equal. I did some more research and scheduled an appointment with another doctor – also a D.O. – but she is part of an internal and integrative medicine practice. I could give or take the “internist” part but was intrigued by the integrative medicine portion. Given my interest in natural living and my previous work in public relations at a hospital, I was familiar with the use complimentary and alternative medicine but hadn’t tried any under the direction of a medical professional. Integrative medicine is, to me, the best of both worlds as it uses homeopathy, aromatherapy, essential oils, massage, herbs and acupuncture to treat conditions or compliment Western medicines. On a “crunchy” scale, they are not as far East as naturopaths (who don’t and can’t deal with prescription medicines) but still far from their traditional Western MD counterparts who are typically in with Big Pharma.

Still following?

I’d seen three doctors in three months for these same health conditions and everyone thought I should just deal with it. I know, people live with really awful, debilitating illnesses and symptoms every day because not everything has a clear cause and solution and by comparison, I was still living a pretty full life. But why did I go from nearly perfect health to constant hiving, itching, insomnia, burning sensations, hair loss, blurry vision and on and on and all anyone could label was “allergies”? When my appointment finally rolled around, I was incredibly nervous. Unlike with the previous doctor, I was no longer concerned with whether or not I seemed crazy – I know I sounded a little batty because I was. No, now I was more concerned about what I was going to do if this doctor didn’t listen to me and try to help because this was my last viable option.

When we began the appointment, she listened while I talked. A lot. I laid out all the issues, when they began, what I thought was going on, why I didn’t think previous answers were adequate. And she went through with me, one by one, and addressed it all. She spent 50 – fifty – minutes with me.

Could my allergies be effecting my hormones? Probably not but inflammation can effect all body systems and it’s worth considering. Could my allergies be effecting my Meniere’s? Effecting? Yes. Causing? No. Could she offer support for this anxiety? Yes, what I feel is real and justified. Here is a non-habit forming medication to take as needed. Was there anything else I should be doing to help my body work to the best of its abilities? Yes.

Yes, yes, yes.

She suggested I look into Dr. Alejandro Junger’s “Clean” detox and diet. I picked up the book from library the next day and was a bit skeptical. Really, it sounded too good and too simple to solve the problem so many other doctors couldn’t. Regardless, I started reading the book that evening and Junger’s philosophy made sense. In a simplified layman’s nutshell, Dr. Junger’s 21-day detox concentrates on creating a balanced system within our body to help it heal itself. The liver is one of the body’s top organs for processing toxins but because our diets and environments are typically processed and contaminated, the liver has trouble functioning optimally and removing these toxins. This, in turn, spills over to other body systems creating a spectrum of issues like hives and allergies (hello!) to more serious conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular issues. Junger’s detox removes allergenic foods as well as foods that are harder for the body to digest. By giving the body a break on digestion and feeding it what it needs, there is more energy to dedicate toward healing. And because the detox follows an elimination diet, it is easier to recognize what foods your body is sensitive to as you add them back in.

Eating while on the detox meant a smoothie for breakfast, a full meal for lunch (a carbohydrate, protein and vegetable), and another liquid meal for dinner (either a smoothie or a pureed soup) – all from the detox-approved food list. Snacking and juicing throughout the day is encouraged as this isn’t about deprivation. The only stipulation is that you must fast for 12 hours between your last meal in the evening and your first meal the next day. So if dinner was at 8 p.m., breakfast is at 8 a.m. This  window gives the body enough time to digest all food and then flush toxins.

I made a plan to start the following Monday. Although the full detox is 21 days, I decided to try it for seven since we had company coming to visit the following week. Truthfully, I thought the detox wouldn’t be that much of a transition since we’re already wheat and dairy-free. I roughly outlined a meal plan for the week and I did my grocery shopping and picked up Junger’s suggested supplements. I had read most of the book and had the best of intentions – that should count be as prepared, right? I knew that if I was going to figure out why I felt so awful, I was going to have to do my own detective work.

All quiet. Unless it’s not.

As you’ve noticed, things have been pretty silent here on the southern front. Actually, that’s rather presumptuous of me to assume you’ve missed my random ramblings but, hey, we’re all a bit narcissistic in these parts. Regardless, I haven’t had much to say the past few weeks. And I’d rather not say something just for the sake of it, you know?

Things are good. Just busy in that no school/holiday sprinkled/too hot-buggy-muggy to go outside/is it Monday already way that summertime seems to pass by.  I’ve been meaning to stop in to say hello, so, that should count for something.

Even now as I’m trying to type this, I have a cranky, post-nap 2-year-old angrily shoving finger puppets on my fingers. Which is really making me want to hit “save draft” and never come back to finish it. Instead, I named the post which makes it all feel more substantial, thus committing me to its completion.

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So, what’s new? Lets see.

Courtesy of the four-day weekend, we finally had some time to hit up the Forsyth Farmer’s Market after our CSA pickup at Urbanna Farms. We’ve been getting loads of tasty squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and other goodies from our farmers but I’ve been missing the market’s fresh eggs and our freezer’s is getting low on good, local meat. So after an early CSA pick up, we ventured downtown to join the sweaty masses.

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We arrived at the market shortly after it opened so there was a good variety to choose from. I scored some peaches, an incredible canary melon from Walker Farms, some beef from Savannah River, two homemade peach popsicles for my overheated girls and two dozen of my ever so desired fresh eggs.

After some shopping, basketball watching and twirling – by the girls, not me – we needed to head home. I know, I know, I’ve said it a million times. But Savannah is really hot and humid this time of year. I’m not exaggerating when I say I avoid all absolutely vital outside time from June 15 – September 15 (at least). The heat paired with a 4-year-old who was really, really tired after spending the night wandering the house and checking out the stray animals out our front window is a really bad combination. Were done with this family outing.

We walked the short distance to the car and it dawned on Em that we were, in fact, leaving the market. Despite warnings. A popsicle. Sing-songy voices.

There is no rationalizing with an exhausted, overheated child.

As I wrestled to get her in the car and out of the busy, traffic congested street, I dropped my eggs. My 24 beautiful, multi-colored, rather expensive eggs toppled to the cobbled street.

I may have said some not-Jesus-approved words in a not-positive-parenting fashion and perhaps shut the car door a bit too hard and went slightly overboard as I “explained” to Emery why that behavior is unacceptable and a perfect example of why she needs to stayinherbedallnightlongandSLEEPinsteadofwanderingthehouse. Because a child cannot thrive on 7 hours of sleep.

It was my frustration over the eggs and not so much the tantrum that fueled my tirade. I’ll admit that.

When we visited Em’s new pediatrician for her 4-year-old visit, we discussed Em’s less than stellar sleep habits. The doc agreed that her mid-night shenanigans, although often normal, aren’t acceptable and gave us a few suggestions. Although we have already tried many of her ideas without success, we decided to revisit the reward chart system.

Let me tell you, there is very little I can convince this child to do. But throw a little bribery – nay, rewarding – into it and she’ll be obedient forever. Or at least until she gets the promised ice cream.

I sincerely apologize to my high school art teacher. Once upon a time, I actually knew how to make things that didn't look like an 8-year-old girl got bored in math class.

I sincerely apologize to my high school art teacher. Once upon a time, I actually knew how to make things that didn’t look like an 8-year-old girl got bored in math class.

I have no problem dangling the proverbial carrot in front of the horse. The key is in how long you make the stick. We tried a “good morning”  chart a few months ago but promised the reward after 10 nights of good sleep. No bueno. Too long and the girl lost interest. Anyway, four nights may seem to be too lax but Momma is tired and we all want sleep and ice cream. Win-win.

How are you? What’s new? Are you surviving the summer? 

A little green.

Did you know that Savannah has the second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the nation?

Yea, we stayed clear of that business.

While 750,000 of our nearest and dearest swarmed the historic district for the green festivities, our little family headed away from the crowds to visit our friends at Urbanna Farms.

The Farmer and his wife (and adorable baby boy) recently moved an entire farm to Savannah and we were eager to see their new set up and spend time with our new(ish) friends.

I know a lot of people love getting decked out in green from head to toe, but this is really much more my shade of green.

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We met all of the animals and when we got to the pigs, Blair says, “Hey! Eat! Pig!”

You’d never guess we used to be vegetarians.

We did a fall share in Urbanna Farm’s CSA and are really excited for the spring share to start. It’s a wonderful thing to not just know where your food comes from but also who grew it. It’s not just about good food. It’s about community.

Okay, I’m stepping off that soapbox for the time being.

Savannah actually is a fun place to be this time of year. The weather is perfect and some St. Patrick’s Day festivities are enjoyable.

Last Friday, I got together with some of my fellow running mothers and enjoyed the March of Dime’s Shamrock Run.

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Yes, I am a head and shoulders above the competition.

If you’ve been around for awhile, you know I put was on bed rest when I was 26 weeks pregnant with Blair. It was an incredibly scary time and we thought we might be dealing with a very premature baby. So organizations like March of Dimes are close to my heart. Fortunately, my sweet baby chunk made it to and past her due date. That stinker.

Anyway, Savannah also turns the iconic statue at Forsyth Park a lovely green, which is a sight to see.

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With potty training and preschool, we didn’t get to witness it this year but if you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it every year.

I can’t believe Em was ever that little.

So while we aren’t partaking in any crazy St. Patrick’s Day festivities, I will celebrating my very small sliver of Irish heritage with a glass of my most very favorite beer.

IMG_5274Ok, so it’s technically a Scottish beer but it’s brewed in an old Irish Whisky cask so that should count, right?

How is your weekend? What are your St. Patrick’s Day plans?

 

Hey (SCOBY) baby.

Everyone I talked to yesterday was perplexed and a bit concerned by the little science experiment I’m conducting on my kitchen counter. Much to Josh’s disappointment, I’m not brewing moonshine or any other illegal elixir but rather attempting to grow my own SCOBY baby for brewing kombucha.

I’m always up for a challenge. And I also hate hemmoraging money on supplements, probiotics and vitamins. So when I grabbed a bottle of GT’s Original kombucha from my refrigerator, I was stoked to see this little fella hanging around the bottom.

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SCOBY, maybe?

Hopefully, if all goes accordingly, that little gelatinous thing will grow into a thick and healthy full grown SCOBY in a few weeks and then I can start fermenting my first batch of kombucha. I’ve read mixed reviews about the success of growing your own SCOBY from bottled kombucha but I’m giving it a try. I mean, I spend $40 a month on probiotics for the girls. Momma can spend a little time growing a SCOBY for that cost.

I’m surprised by how many people are still unfamiliar with this tangy, healthful beverage. Mainstream health experts are finally touting the importance of probiotics and a healthy gut balance but the discussion rarely extends beyond those weird Jamie Lee Curtis Activia commercials or refrigerated probiotics. Rarely, if ever, do people talk about sources of good bacteria from fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha. We live in a culture where bacteria is bad and everyone is terrified of getting food poisoning if our foods aren’t constantly refrigerated below 40°. Not so, people!

But I can also understand how kombucha can be a little off putting. Really, it’s just a fermented sweet tea but occasionally yeast strands occur. Although they look weird, they are totally normal and harmless.

***Shout out to Angie at Pint of Goals for correctly identifying my kitchen experiment. I have nothing to offer you except (hopefully and eventually) a SCOBY baby of your own, if you’d like. Otherwise, everyone go and show Angie and that beautiful (non-SCOBY) baby belly of hers some love!***

Do you like kombucha? Prefer other fermented foods? Ever grown something (intentionally or otherwise) on your kitchen counter?

I once had an avocado roll behind some cutting boards and I didn’t find it for a few weeks. That was pretty gross.