Spicy Goodness

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Time for a good, simple wassail recipe?  One without refined sugar?!  I put this one together when my kids were little because I couldn’t find a recipe that didn’t call for a LOT of sugar.  If you’re working on shifting from a diet that is processed, artificially flavored and overly sweet to a more simple, whole food diet, here is a treat for you to try this holiday season.

Natural Wassail

1 part apple juice or cider (cider is the best!)

1 part orange juice

one orange pierced with 20 whole clovesorangeclove2

2-3 cinnamon sticks and or 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon

That’s it.

Mix the juices in a large pan.  I usually use 3 cups of each, apple and orange, but you could make a smaller batch if you’d like and just use fewer spices. Or, if you’re making this for a large group, use 5-6 cups of each juice and add spices.  Be creative!

Whole cloves have a shape like a push-pin, so you just push the pointed end into the rind of a washed orange, at about two inches apart, and put the whole orange into the juice. Add the cinnamon sticks and or sprinkle in the cinnamon and let it all simmer for an hour or so.  I love the smell of wassail cooking, so I like to turn the heat really low and enjoy the aroma without condensing it too much.

I hope you are counting your blessings and enjoying your Christmas preparations so far.  Slow and easy does it!

All my best to you!

Love,

Jacque

Time to Time

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Hi ya!
How goes the battle?
Now that we’re part way through fall and our routines are pretty set…how’s it all working?

Are the mornings moving with relative ease?  Is the homework getting done?  Teeth getting brushed, piano getting practiced, kids getting to bed ontime?  Sometimes?  If you’re finding some kinks-in-the-works, like stress and worry every day at a particular time or a pattern of sleeplessness or problems arising due to a lack of ___________ (you fill in the blank), you’re in a good place!

What I mean is that you have been unknowingly collecting data.  Now you can see a pattern emerging.  You can feel the effects of something being off balance.  It’s a great place to be, because now you can get creative and address the things that are grabbing your attention!

And it always takes faith huh?  Faith is looking forward and having hope that you will be able to make the best of life’s challenges.  Despair is feeling that there is no way out, that things are broken and that there is no cure.  In parenting, it is particularly tempting to let despair and discouragement in the door of your mind, because so often you are taxed to your limits physically and emotionally and spiritually, and that can leave you vulnerable to feeling overwhelmed and then depressed and then despondent.  Blaaaah.

Side note: I once wrote a goal for myself to master the depressive cycle.  (What I meant was to really understand it and to recognize it in myself EARLY before I was in despair and didn’t even know how I had gotten there!)  But re-reading my goal made me laugh and I changed it to read, “UN master the depressive cycle.” I already had mastered it.  ; )

I’ve been at this parenting game for 26 years.  And yes, I’ve lived with myself and worked with many women and this is what my experience tells me:

There is a moment of truth when you see that something isn’t working out like you had planned.  You  have a choice.  A) you can think of all of the women you know who seem to be doing a remarkable job with the issue you feel is a problem for you.  Then, you can go on to think of all the unlucky reasons it isn’t working for you and all the magical reasons it is working for so-and-so, the unlucky “comparison point.”  (Do YOU ever play the comparing game?)  If you’re a true pro, you might even go from comparing yourself on your maybe-not-so-strong-areas to others who have super strengths in every area you feel you are lacking!  It’s a trippy, lop-sided game for sure!  The comparison game is NOT about real data.  It’s about crazy-making-goofy-unrealistic-garbage!  Choice A almost always leaves one feeling in the dumps anyway.

So, choice B) then goes like this; something isn’t working so I’m going to think it through and see what is at the root of the problem.  Maybe the problem is…. that the kid’s homework isn’t getting done.  Questions to ask are things like; has there been a boundary set for when schoolwork is to be done?  Is there someone available to help answer questions at that time?  Are the kids accountable for doing their school work before other activities are an option?  Is there a larger issue that will require a visit with a teacher or problems that might take outside help?

Choice A leads to victimhood, right?  Choice B leads to change.  Choice A hones your skills of delusion. Choice B helps to clarify things as they really are.  Choice A may feel a little better initially, because in the unreasonableness of it, we justify our problems.  Choice B may take a little more courage up front, but leads in the end to a feeling of personal power and accomplishment!

Choice B risks the possiblity that WE may be part of the problem, or even the biggest contributing factor!  What if that is the case?  What do you do now?

You throw a party!  Because you’re now in the most powerful place to be….you CAN change things.  You can change.  We can change.  We can learn to set boundaries.  We can learn to be firm at the same time we are being kind, gentle and respectful.  We can be taught!

So, here’s to you and to the challenges that are uniquely yours; have faith!  In yourself, in your loved ones, in the future, in the changes God can help us to make when we are humble and ready to be taught.  We will grow physical, emotional and spiritual muscle as we face our problems and humbly get to work.

As a health coach for families, this is the kind of talk that goes on in my office; working out the nitty-gritty-practical issues of making decisions, making plans and taking charge of your health and home.  And I love it!

I wish you a terrific, faith-filled day!
Love,
Jacque

Happy October!

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Happy October!  How can it  possibly be this time of year already? I do not know!  But it is beautiful, and we are enjoying apples from Grandpa Jack’s trees, making pumpkin ice cream and watching the mountains turn into what looked the other day like colorful candy, dusted with powdered sugar snow.

Time passes and we work toward the next deadline, whether it is a piano piece learned for recital or a research project a child is working on or finishing making apple sauce with the boxes of apples that are taking over the (my) laundry room.

If you’re like me, sometimes in the haste, you stop and consider if all of the busyness is really bringing you the feelings of progress and validation you expected.

I clip things out of newspapers…Obituaries that inspire me are my favorite followed by comics that crack me up.  One funny I have in my file is of a doctor approaching the nurses’ station with a parking pass in his hand, and he asks the nurse to validate his parking, to which she responds something like;

“You stayed in the lines and didn’t pull too far forward…excellent job!”

What is validation?  How do we get it and why do we need it? If I may be so bold, I’d say that I believe the only real validation we get in life comes from our family relationships, real friends and from God.  Everything else is skewed by trends, statistics and the fickle barometer of public opinion.

To illustrate: on our 25th wedding anniversary a few years ago, we had traveled a few hours to a beautiful little get-away.  While we drove, we were reminiscing about our life together and feeling overwhelming gratitude for the road we have traveled and the blessings of children and family we had been privileged to experience. Somewhere in this trip down memory lane, my husband made a comment that I will never forget. It was so profound to me that I wrote it down…..

He said that when he looks back at his life, his education and career and the opportunities he has had, the thing that he is most proud of and what makes him feel the greatest validation in his life is when someone identifies him as one of our children’s Dad.  The job, he said is just that, a job, and the purpose of it is to have a way to provide for what we are doing at home, for the people we love and for the experiences we are having together.

Does this sound like an epiphany to you?  I think that the reason it struck me so forcefully is that somewhere along the way we have collectively bought into the notion that what makes you valuable or what is validating is a “job” or the accolades or perks that come with being publicly recognized as outstanding in a particular endeavor.

I’m all for progress and “self-actualization,” don’t get me wrong.  Education and creativity and the pure joy of work are commendable and fulfilling.  Our perspective can get easily skewed, however, when we believe that we have to be all and do all…all at once, to feel worthwhile!  The epiphany for me is that the messy, inconvenient sometimes test-you-to-your-limits work of family relationships trumps any other pursuit when you’re talking about being truly validated in this journey. And that, for most of us, that intense period of time with children at home is oh-so-fleeting and worth the effort it takes to be available and present at home as much as possible.

I remember my dad saying something similar when he had a milestone birthday and all of his kids were gathered for a celebration.  I remember a few tears and the sentiment that the most important and fulfilling thing he had done in his life was to raise us.

In the delightful book “I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better” (a must read for all family builders), Gary and Joy Lundberg teach that true validation comes when a person feels that they are important to someone and that their feelings matter. This belief is born when we listen with the intent to understand and to feel what someone is saying, to put ourselves in their shoes and have real empathy, and then to walk beside them as they work out their own problems.

It is pure magic when this happens at home.  It happens in a million little ways; when a healthy snack is waiting on the table for hungry kids (your health is worth my time and effort!), when a parent listens intently to a teenager who is working out their problems (I hear you, you matter!), or when real gratitude is expressed to your spouse for their love and help (your feelings matter and I value what you do!)

What you are doing at home MATTERS.  Doing what it takes to validate and encourage your family is worth any effort.  YOU will find great validation in the process.  I promise. The proverbial paydays are huge!

You can do this.
Love,
Jacque

 

Let’s Eat Cake!

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Hi!  I am so excited to share something new with you!  New to me, maybe new to you too…first a little background:

Three years ago this fall I took drastic measures.  I came to grips with the fact that gluten was hard on me and decided it was time to give it up.  It was a HUGE change, one that challenged me to tears on and off through the first few months. As many of you know, it is quite a shift to change your diet that drastically! Our family had made this change before, years ago,  when we (I, the girl in charge of food) cut out gluten and dairy after I attended an autism conference and learned about the possibility of such a diet helping our son.  It wasn’t easy then either, but only lasted the summer.  This time it was me who needed the help.  Thankfully, eating a gluten-free diet made a huge difference in my health within just two weeks!

Fast forward to last month when a friend of mine asked if I had ever heard of natural yeast.  I hadn’t.  I immediately went to town reading up on it.  What I discovered is that like a traditional sour dough starter, natural yeast dramatically changes the chemistry of regular wheat when it is combined with water and kept in a cool place. Ooooo.  The more I read the more interested I became.  I believe that there are ways to prepare foods that are much easier for us to digest, and culturing is one of the major tools we use to accomplish that. Could this work for me I wondered? Me, eating wheat again? Eating waffles again?  And toast and sandwiches….It was a heady thought.

After reading Caleb Warnock’s blog on natural yeast, I determined that I wanted to find out if I might be one of the people with an intolerance or celiac who might be able to use wheat prepared in this way.  Shortly after that decision was reached, my friend called again and asked what I had learned.  When I said that I wanted to try it she surprised me by saying that she had a start for me and that her daughter had baked a loaf of bread for me to try!  (I owe you Pam Thomson!) I was so hopeful that I would be able to graduate from pasty starchy gluten free “bread” but mostly to be able to get the nutrients in the seeds and grains that I have felt I’ve been missing.  I decided to try it….

(Note: We are each responsible for our own health decisions.  What works for one may not be a good option for someone else.  Caleb suggests that you take some of this bread to your doctor to lab test it and see if it is something you could tolerate if you are concerned about getting sick. For some, better safe than sorry.) I personally went with a “gut feeling” that it was ok for me to try it carefully and slowly. It was great to eat bread again.  I ordered the book!

I can’t say enough about the quality and thoroughness of this book by Melissa Richardson and Caleb Warnock. (Melissa’s blog is http://www.thebreadgeek.blogspot.com fantastic stuff there!)  The book is a delight in so many ways; the writing is witty and real, the pictures are beautiful and instructive and the recipes are tasty and healthy. 
 Can’t ask more from a cookbook than that can you?

Over the past few months, I have devoured the principles in the book and tried the recipes, created some of my own recipes and of course learned to keep my starts going. The actual hands-on time this kind of baking requires is minimal, it’s the thinking about what you want to make a day ahead that is a little tricky.  I have baked bread, made many different kinds of pancakes and waffles (which are crispy and light and taste a bit like a funnel cake), an amazing chocolate cake and cinnamon rolls.

Holy cow!  It is so much fun to create and to try new things!  I have been tweaking the sugars (another difficulty for me, maybe you can relate) and have found that natural sweeteners work well in these recipes. For instance, in the chocolate cake, I used sucanat and agave in place of white sugar which made the cake sweet, but calmly so.  It certainly takes time, when shifting to a whole foods diet, to untrain your taste buds to expect sweeteners on steroids, but this brand of baking sure helps.  You eat a piece of chocolate cake made with natural yeast and natural sugar and wait for the blood sugar spike…..and wait…..and it doesn’t come!  And that may mean that diabetes won’t come knocking either!


 Fresh garden tomato
Fresh basil
Toasted natural yeast bread
Mustard/mayo/basil pesto spread

“Mammy’s Bread” recipe by Melissa Richardson

We think this cake tastes divine!  And wow, it’s just so pretty!!!

Please let me know if there is some way that I can help you get started cooking with natural yeast if you are interested. I have only scratched the surface of what there is to learn about this here, so please continue to read on the author’s blogs.  They are amazing.

Hey!  I can share a start!  (8 starts went out of my fridge last night for cooking class! Hoorah!)

Happy eating!

Love,
Jacque

Living in Color

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Living in ColorSummer is winding down, and I hope it has been a good one for you!  I can feel the energy growing for school shopping, sign-ups for football and piano lessons and, and, and…!  While you’re in the midst of this gear shifting, please consider these words, profoundly placed on a bumper sticker I saw probably 20 years ago…“The problem with life is that it is so daily.”

What does this have to do with fall time?  It seems to me (from my personal experience) that when we think of a new schedule or about what time our children have for extra activities or what time we have to accomplish x, y or z, sometimes we forget that, what it takes to live and be healthy takes time too!

By this I mean, we were created to need to eat multiple times a day, right?  (Did I just hear someone with dishpan hands moaning?  I know, I know, dishes are soooo “daily”!)  Not only that but we were created to need regular rest periods, light, exercise, connections with others, belonging to a family culture, etc.

The problem that seems to eventually throw a stick in the spokes of our finely tuned schedules is that we really didn’t factor in these realities of living….that we have to eat, rest, play, move, breathe fresh air and belong.

So we’ve usually planned in the lessons and the work hours and the school hours and the sports hours, but how about the cooking hours?  The planning-the-menu and the resting time?  When we don’t plan to take time to do the basics (cooking, shopping, eating, resting, cleaning etc.) we set ourselves up for serious frustration!  And contention.  And malnutrition.

And as we see in our country, obesity and ill-health.

There’s a secret you learn after so many years of being a mom: It is that all of the things that we do to keep ourselves healthy and enjoying life can actually BE enjoyable and health-promoting in and of themselves IF we have given ourselves the time to do them.

I mean, growing your own vegetables is a treat…when you have the time to do it and it’s not an annoying job crammed in the holes of an already over-scheduled day.  There is something so renewing about  being in the dirt, pulling weeds, watching plants maturing, breathing in fresh air and feeling the sun.  Then there’s the feeling of feeding your family produce that is free of pesticides!  It is amazing!

As a young mom I just couldn’t resist taking pictures of freshly baked bread (probably because it took me so very long to make a decent looking loaf!) or of beautiful orange and pink peaches in jars.  Nature is so beautiful and being a part of it is rewarding beyond anything I know.

Maybe the biggest issue with all of this “daily living” centers on what YOU believe is worthy of your time. What validates you as a person and as a mother?  What influences are weighing most heavily on you that may keep you from feeling that the art of living a rich and full life with your family may not be enough?  That YOU may not be enough if you don’t have more to report about your afternoon than, “today I taught my three-year-old to pull weeds and we ate fresh tomatoes on the back steps for lunch?”

There is so much pressure to be all and do it all…and decptively, all at once!

I want to encourage you to weed out the pressures and influences that may be causing you frustration and discouragement.  There is nothing you will do in this life that trumps the meaning and fulfillment of being a mother.  If you can, why not slow down, UNDER schedule, and love the things that living requires?

Yep, we can live on frozen food and adrenalin pumping schedules…but not for long and not well.
And we miss so much during a moment in time that we won’t be able to call back later. After all, life is a long time, God-willing, and there will be time for many other pursuits…

Mothers, you are needed.  Your role in the family and in society is crucial.  You cannot be replaced by anyone else.  Your love, your smile, your time, your face, your laugh…make up the memories of home, of belonging and of being loved.  Is there really something more important than that? Within the array of choice that YOU have in your life, about how and where you spend your time, is there room for slowing things down, breathing a little easier and LIVING a little more?

My hope for all of us is that when we turn and look back over the years of our lives, that we will see the fruit of our family labors and have great joy in the harvest!

I send you my vote of confidence that you are enough.  And you can do this.

Love,
Jacque