What kind of baker am I?

I love to bake and I love all things British so what could possible go wrong with my watching The Great British Bake off when they added new episodes to Netflix? Well, maybe that I was on a crazy diet where I could nothing! Okay, not really, but almost.

It was torture. And that show is always a little bit like that because half the time I have idea what they are making or how I could possible buy or make that but it looks good. Even if they give me the recipe, I'm just never going to attempt to make a Rosace a l'Orange. Or Suet pudding - but I don't want to eat that either so that's okay. I have to consol myself with the fact that I will never be able to taste what they are showing me, but at least I can make a really good chocolate chip cookie (Ignore nestle; melt the butter! Then mix wet ingredients, let sit, mix some more until its ribbon-y and sugar dissolves. You're welcome).

I did crack up when the final's technical challenge of the season I was watching was - pretzels. And all three ladies were going on about how they only kinda knew what a pretzel should look like and why would anyone actually want to make a pretzel....and I had literally made pretzels the day before. (Pretzels were my gluten/wheat reintroduction food because the ingredient list is so simple I knew if I had a bad reaction, it would have to be from pretzels. Either that or I was reaction to water or salt in which case I have major issues. Plus they are yummy and liturgically appropriate! We make them all the time). The differences between America and Britain are fascinating.

I love how it only takes a few episodes before each baker on the show has a pretty definied role. Their's the guy who always cuts himself, the girl who has to have a theme and the interesting flavor combination person who always has Mary looking at them sideways. Or the short-cut guy who has Paul saying "well, that's not how I would do it." It got me thinking about what type of baker I am.

Messy for sure although I am getting better about that. Possible because I can often convince Craig to take kids outside to play while I tidy up and then I get to listen to whatever music I want instead of the Moana soundtrack on repeat. Just possible.

Pretty rustic and simple. I can do pretty and I used to love doing fun cakes when I was a teenager. But I'm always baking on borrowed time now. Nothing fussy.

Repetitive. I like to find a good recipe and repeat it until I've got it down. And I don't mess around much with flavors. Which is funny because I love flavors in my cooking and I cook a lot of ethnic foods - indian, thai, german/hungarian, korean - all the foods from all the countries with all the flavors. And I'm always trying new dinner recipes. I made samosas this week and they were good but both Craig and I said they needed more flavor. But if I make a cake, its probably be chocolate. Just chocolate. Maybe because I have to cook dinner every night so if it flops, no biggie. But I don't get to bake nearly as often so I want it to taste good.

But it rekindled in me a desire to start stretching myself. I've really done well with my breads and rolls lately but I want to try something fancier this time - the macaron. I mean, they are everywhere right now! At least, visually. I haven't EATEN one because I don't see them actually around here and I probably wouldn't want to spend the money on one if I did. But still, pretty, fun, not very rustic - something different!

I'm actually going to start with meringue cookies to work out those skills without having to worry about wasting lots of expensive almond flour. I think I've made exactly one meringue baked good in the last decade - a pavlova. It was good but even that was at probably two years ago. Time for practice! I'm guessing I'll have plenty of taste testing help.


Enjoy - A Book Review

The idea of rest and Sabbath and enjoying and delighting in God and His creation is an idea that I've been really thinking about a lot these past few months. So when I saw Enjoy pop up as a book to check out, I thought it would be a good fit for a devotional/bible study addition. I was right.

Trillia Newbell is not an author I'd ever heard of before but she covers this the idea of finding opportunities to enjoy the things God has provided us with in many ways. She talks about food and friendships and marriage and the sabbath and even art appreciation (yes, the arts!). I started reading this book and really pondering the end of chapter questions and thinking about how to apply it. Then I realized while that was great it was going to take me over two months to review this for y'all! So I speed things up. But it's not really a case of mile wide, inch deep because those are practical sides to an underlying issue of how everything in our life really should point back to God and how that fact is freeing. It enables us to enjoy it.

I'm also slowly working my way through a classic education textbook type book called Norms and Nobility. One wouldn't think those overlap much but they have. Norms and Nobility talks a lot about how modern education (and the modern world in general) has become very utilitarian. I don't think the church is immune to the effects of that. But Enjoy tries to combat that in a very practical, yet theologically sound, way.

Part of my wishes it went a bit deeper on some issues although now that I think about that, I see how that's not what she was going here but it will enable me to continue that on my own. I plan to go back again on the chapters I did faster and re-read and answer her questions and then go on to pursue some other books that focus deeper on the one to two issues that I think I struggle most with this. For me that means maybe a few of Flannery O'Conners pieces about Christians and their art which I've been hearing about and maybe a book that focuses on the Sabbath. But other people may have other issues they want to go dive deeper into.

 It's got a great conversational tone; I think Trillia sounds like a woman I could easily be friends and I think Enjoy would make an excellent book for a weekly or monthly women's discussion group.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Elimination Diet - Reintroduction Part 1

I did end up starting reintroducing foods somewhere about day 17. Between day 14-17 I could tell I was just not feeling good because of the lack of carbs. I know this was an issue for me when I tried gluten-free (and many others, just google low carb hashimotos!) and its much harder to compensate for that without grains as well. I just can't eat enough potatoes and bananas to supply me with the carbs I need to feel good. And they say right about two weeks of Paleo is when you often hit ketosis and that's right when I started to feel bad. Coincidence? Probably not. The doctor I am working with for Jonah's issues recommended 2-3 weeks as a good length for a gluten/dairy break for him anyway and since I was planning on doing much slower food reintroduction period than the 10 days Whole30 recommends, it seemed like a good time to get us all started.

That said, it wasn't a pretty start! I went with brown rice. Not because I had any great craving for brown rice but I had already planned the meals for the week and it was pretty simply to just make rice for everyone instead of making cauliflower rice for me to go along with everyone's brown rice. And I wasn't expecting any issues. And I actually felt really good that first hour (because, finally, carbs!) But then... Brown rice is now dead to me! I seriously felt like I had eaten a bag of rocks. That's the only way to describe it. I was that wolf in Little Red Riding Hood and was going to experience death by rocks. 24 hours later, I had not died but I had lost the desire to ever eat rice again. Now I have heard that white rice is a lot easier to digest and many who can't tolerate brown rice do just fine with an occasional serving of white rice. I am not yet at a place where I want to try this. Maybe down the road.

After I recovered from my one serving of brown rice, I waited another two days just to be mentally prepared. At this point, I'm not going to lie, I was really scared to try anything else. But I went with oats. Again, because kids eat oatmeal 2-3x a week so eating the same is very convenient. No issues.

Wheat a few days later. I've tried being gluten free for almost a year with no discernible difference in my labs or symptoms before so I was pretty sure it would be fine. Then 18 hours after trying to Wheat, I ended up with the horrible stomach flu. Violent vomiting a full day and a half after eating a sandwich is a bit extreme for a reaction to wheat so I was pretty sure it was just a stomach bug - but I was still nervous. The next day I was up to the BRAT diet. Except the BRAT diet without rice or wheat is just bananas and applesauce. That's not very sustaining. By the end of the day, I did try toast with almond butter and that was fine. No issues with wheat since. Kids didn't have issues with wheat either. And boy, are they happy to have their pb&j sandwiches back as a lunch option!

We actually just started dairy yesterday but jury is still out so I'll update that next time. And then I have some other stuff like corn, quinoa, beans and peanuts.

Sugar itself isn't a category to introduce on it's own like the foods because it just tends to come with them but I am keeping track of when I have sweeter things and how I feel. So far, I haven't done much. No binging, although I have wanted to! We had pancakes and they have a bit of sugar in them but I topped mine with fruit instead of maple syrup. I did make a paleo chocolate bar last week with cocoa, coconut oil, and maple syrup but even a small square of barely sweetened (we're talking 1 Tablespoon maple syrup in a 8x8 pan) treat was a bit much for me. I just felt jittery and had a headache later. The only new thing in that was the maple syrup so just as I suspected, I need to be very cautious about my sugar intake, even in more natural forms. My brain says eat a big bowl of ice cream, my body thinks that might be a bad idea. But for now, we keep going. The end is near!


Just a mild spring zephyr

The weather has been confusing lately. We went from 75 and kids complaining that I hadn't put any shorts in their clothes bin two days ago to them building a (teeny-tiny) snowman in the front yard this morning. But one thing I have noticed is that we are spending more time outside even when its a bit chilly because we plan things when its nice and then don't want to cancel.

A week or two ago the kids were begging to go to our local nature center so I planned it for a day it was supposed to be in the 60s. In actually ended up being low 50s and quite windy but we bundled up and survived. We ate our picnic lunch in the car but as long as we were hiking or climbing, nobody seemed to be bothered by the wind too much. And I actually remembered to take some pictures.

Jonah thwarted my attempts at a cute mom and kids selfie. He really just wanted his foot in the picture. I have no idea why. I make it a point not to try and understand why 4 year old boys do the things they do.

I call this one "Wait for me!"

She probably would have been able to keep up better if she didn't stop and pick up every piece of dried grass she found. Because there is a lot of dried grass on a prairie!

Using the sod house as a wind proof nature journaling spot. 

I let them take the stepping stone path all by themselves while I took the baby and stroller on the main path. I did warn them that if they got wet, they would probably regret it. They managed to stay dry.

She built it herself and was quite proud of it. 


Whole30/Elimination Diet - Week 2 Recap

Another week down. Actually, I'm writing this on day 15 so I'm halfway done with the intro part....if I keep at it for a full month. We'll see.

High Points: In a way things went smoother because we just kept to the same breakfast and lunches routine. The kids are eating more veggies now and we had a few good new good dinners. I've also started serving more side veggies at lunch and dinner - olives, pickles, fermented green beans, that sort of thing which I hope to keep doing next month.

Chicken Poppers - I used turkey and left out the optional cumin mostly because I forgot about it but it was a big hit with everyone. And they don't like zuchini but didn't mention it. We dipped them in guacamole. Guacamole has become the new hit of the month. I normally make my own if I can find good avocados but that's a pretty big IF so I've just been getting the Trader Joes/Aldi version and the kids seem to like a lot more than I remember. Maybe its the smoother texture of the store bought - or maybe they are just desperate for a creamy dip these days. I served them with Carrot/Raisin/Pineapple salad which was also a hit.

Orange Chicken - This was delicious. At least Craig, Norah and I thought so. Lucy and Jonah were not impressed which really surprised me. But Lucy had a tummy bug the day before and Jonah's been kinda whiny today and I'm suspicious. I'm really hoping they just didn't like the chicken and no more puking will be happening in this house this week. But either way, they were wrong, it was great. I used arrowroot instead of tapioca flour because I had it and am familiar with it and it worked just fine but don't add arrowroot into sauce until close to the end because it falls apart in too much heat. I also added snap peas to the mix. I served with brocolli for everyone, cauliflower for me and rice for everyone else. I've never been a fan of cauliflower before, it always just seemed like a bland form brocolli but I'm starting to enjoy it as a base instead of rice. But I'd still prefer rice. I miss rice. Rice is nice.

Steak Bites - No recipe for this. Just cut up steak into smallish pieces and marinated in a bit of olive oil, a bit of coconut aminos and some spices, fried up in my cast iron skillet. Kids probably ate as much ketchup with this as steak but ketchup is a vegetable, right? Served with roasted potatoes and a bunch of veggies. We buy our beef 1/4 cow at a time and funnily enough, I usually use up the ground beef and roasts first. I just don't think about serving steak until that's all I have left. But I really should. Steak is tasty!

Jonah and Norah are perfectly happy with what I give them. Norah isn't really dairy free since she's getting yogurt baby packets occasionally but since other stuff isn't in the house, she's not getting it in non-baby food ways. Jonah's always been my big carb guy so I'm really happy with how he's shifted to eating more meat. Normally dairy, eggs and bone broth are the main ways I've always gotten protein into him but a variety is certainly nice. He still eats his rice or potatoes first at dinner if they are there but will go on to the meat and veggies just fine. And he doesn't normally have any grain at lunch now with no complaints.

Low Points -

Lucy is annoyed with this all. And she was one I didn't think would mind much. But I underestimated how much she hates change. She likes the food I'm giving her but its different and she doesn't like different. I think I'll make some shrimp this week to appease her. It's one of her, and everyone's, favorite foods but they kids can eat like $10 worth of shrimp just between the three of them so it doesn't make it on the menu too much.

I had two slips. Neither intentionally though. One dinner was apricot chicken and I thought the jam we had was only fruit juice sweetened but I was wrong. Didn't realize until I was half way through recipe and I had no other plan to fall back on. Another time I thought I had a can of coconut milk but didn't so I used the kid's carton kind which had evaporated cane sugar in it. I remember seeing that when I checked label at store but got it anyway because it was supposed to be just for kids in their oatmeal or cereal which I'm not having (and because it was half off! A carton of coconut milk for $2!) If I don't make my own, I like the canned stuff for cooking, its thicker and more coco-nutty for things like curry but it slipped my mind. They actually ended up being on the same day too. In all its probably like 1 teaspoon of organic sugar so I hardly feel like a failure but my type A personality is annoyed. I am really happy neither was a case of my being tempted and giving in. That's big.  I'm finding it surprisingly easy to just not eat things. At church seeing donuts - that's okay, I'm not eating those. Everyone else eating veggie straws this afternoon. Not me. That part is kinda empowering I will admit.

I'm getting bored. I like to cook and I really love to bake and I miss it. I feel like I'm spending a lot of time with the part of food I don't like - the meal planning and recipe finding part and not as much on the fun cooking and experimenting part. Plus its expensive. Now, that's only an issue because, I still don't feel any different!! I think I'd actually be more motivated if I had felt bad like they said I might. Because then maybe I'd be more likely to feel good now - or at least have the hope of a change in the future. No tiger blood here. I think we just ate so well before that it really isn't that big of a change. I took stuff out but my body was already used to handling all the foods I'm eating - lots of veggies and healthy fats so no crazy reactions - or big improvements. Which is good long term. If I felt a ton better I'd feel like I need to stick with it ;-) I'm actually contemplating adding stuff in again next week. I'll be adding things one by one with a few days in between so it will take a few weeks to a month to do that still so it seems silly to wait just because. But then again, I made a committment so maybe I should stick with it. As you can see, I'm torn.

I'm also hungry. Really only at night. I'm used to having a snack and there are things I can have but nothing is easy. So I normally just have a piece of fruit or last night I made this apple nut "cereal" which was tasty (and one of those two oops moments). I'm not snacking nearly as much on Whole30 as I usually do but I really do need an evening snack as Norah still nurses the most at night and when I wake up, I'm starving but can't eat for an hour because of my daily medicine. It's rough. I miss having a cup of milk, or a piece of cheese or some peanut butter (and no, I don't really like other butters, I'm trying them but so far, not a fan) right before bed.

Jonah's diet doesn't seem to be helping him at all either. We'll give him (and Lucy but she's really just a tag-along) gluten tomorrow and see how he does.


Mother's Daybook - March 4th

Thinking - Thank goodness this month is over! This has been my first real bout with the February blues of homeschooling. Not just blahs of life, I'm tired of winter stuff, because, really, we've barely had any. It's the last day of February and the kids are running outside barefooted because its 72 degrees! But real, honest-to-goodness, am I doing okay with this homeschool thing? Are we getting everything in exactly as I planned (no, of course not), why can't we ever seem to get around to French (because something has to be the least important and that happens to be what gets dropped when something does), why is this so hard (because I've had a bazillion and a half appointments plus visitors plus lots of gorgeous weather beckoning us outside and when we are at home, we've got a toddler). Basically, am I failing my children?!

 No, I am not. I am feeling what apparently 85% of homeschooling moms feel in February. I made a few minor tweaks, texted a few safe homeschool mommy friends who are feeling the same thing, reviewed my list of read-alouds completed and took an honest and calm look at the schedule. We're going to be finishing week 6 this week which is really right on track so no need to panic. And then, I just pushed through! But today the kids were playing in their tree fort and spontaneously singing their folk song and I was able to just sit and enjoy it. I really enjoyed that they were singing their folk song OUTSIDE. February's song for us was There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea which, while perfectly delightful the first time you hear it each day, does tend to lose some appeal with repetition. But they love it and even if we were technically behind, all would really be okay. But I'm still glad it's March now!

Drinking - This Ginger Peach Green Tea with Matcha. It's Amazing! Yep, that capital A is deserved. And wonderful without any added sweetener. I also recently tries a similar tea, Pomegranate Raspberry Green Tea but its a little tart on its own and I can't add honey this month because of Whole30. I'll try it again in a few weeks but for now, its me and the ginger peach every day. Yes, daily caffeine. After many years of only herbal/rooibos teas, I have fallen pray to the lures of caffeine. It's true. I still love my rooibos teas but they are all loose and I broke my teapot with built in steeper thing so I can't drink them until I get some new steeping deceive. Better get on that self!

Watching - Finding Dory. Craig had to head out of town on business. I'm actually writing this now because I'm trying to stay awake to greet him as he comes home even thought its my bedtime already. But when he's gone, I tend to relax a bit. We eat simpler meals (hello Applegate Turkey Dogs and frozen peas!) and I break out a bit more screen time than our usual meager allowance. We went with Finding Dory and it was a hit. Jonah's seen Finding Nemo several times but it scares him still and I have to skip certain parts so I was relieved that he didn't mind much from this one. But I wish I could have recorded Lucy's face when she first saw baby Dory. Totally adorable! She was so in love with that cute little baby fishy.

Surviving - A tummy bug. Enough said.

But even when she's sick and needing her mommy, she can't let go of baby. The "three" of us spent a whole day this way. At first I thought it was just teething fussiness but no, it wasn't. 

Celebrating - Lent. Well, celebrating doesn't seem like the right word but for once I didn't feel like Lent snuck up on us. Our church doesn't have an Ash Wednesday service but we had a very early dinner, loaded everyone up and went into the city to go to the big Cathedral (this is before the tummy bug struck obviously. I didn't take puking kids to a Mass. I'm not THAT crazy). We had to leave a tad early but I think they all did well. And we got our ashes.

Lest you think I'm biased in favor of Norah when it comes to pictures. I did try to take the big kid's pictures but they weren't in the picture taking mood. They weren't grumpy, just being silly. 

Keeping Alive - Our new baby chicks! We got ten new little ones yesterday. The kids wanted to name them but thought keeping track of ten names/chickens would be hard so they named each group. The ones with black backs and black/silver sides are Wyandottes. Jonah named them Stars in the Sky but we are allowed to use the nicknames Stars (but not Star. It might be plural!) The ones that look all black (but as chicks are actually yellowish underneath) are Astralorps which is a new breed for us to try. They will be all black as adult so Lucy named them Midnight. All the Buff Orpington's are yellow are named sunshine and were my (and Craig's) responsibility to name so I went with the theme and did Sunshine.

This is our third batch of chicks and we've haven't lost a chick yet, even through some rough times, like a power outage that had us scrambling to fill water bottles to keep them warm enough a few years back. This batch so far seems particularly stupid/suicidal so we'll see if our luck, or should I say Chicken skills, hold out.

This is one of my favorite types of nature study . They grow so fast everyday is a new chance for nature study. One of the ten still had it's egg tooth so we got a upclose look at that this morning and will be watching to see when if falls off. In the picture below, its the little dot on the top of its beak that looks a bit lighter. I don't remember any of our previous ones having theirs but I don't remember looking either. They fall off pretty early so its lucky we got to see it. Plus, they are just so darn cute and fluffy.