Monday, December 16, 2019

The Holidays are here & looking forward

The Holidays are here!  Are you stressed yet?   Ready for a vacation? Done and over with the rush and hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping? 

I'm not.   Want to know why?  Because last year we had a house fire on Christmas Eve.  That event put a lot of things into perspective.  It reminded us about what matters most in our life and in what energies we expend.

2019 is coming to a close, and with 2020 looming, we want to build on more of that foundation.   We grow our own, we shop local, we gift handmade items, we make our own stuff when we can, we try to buy things with less packaging, we use fresh or whole foods, we use less toxins, have converted to a lot more natural cleaners. We also put a lot of stock in adventures and creating memories, not just buying materialistic things.  At the end - are we happier?  Yes.  If shit hit the fan and the world markets crashed - we could survive!

I've been so busy that I've not written out a bunch of recipes.   But I have some favorite things I've made in the last few months I'll make note of. 
Gumbo Night was another success!   Ribs, gumbo, fried green tomatoes, homemade sour french bread - oh so good!   My Gumbo is a prawn and andouille sausage version.  It's got a few "secret ingredients" and lots of love! It freezes well so I can't wait to have some for Mardi Gras!

It's not fall until we make a big pot of Harvest Tomato Soup!   It's what it is - tomatoes fresh harvested, roasted, and made into wonderful soup!  It's a fantastic soup that pairs well with some crusty bread!

Trying to lower your carb intake?  How about our Sheet pan Spicy Apricot Chicken with Mushrooms and Green Beans!   Combining our own Apricot Jam with some Thai Sweet Chili sauce, cooked chicken and green beans and sliced mushrooms - YUMMY!!!

Growing up my mom always order "Pollo ala crema" at Ixtapa Mexican restaurants, and since she will not eat mushrooms - I always got them!    This recipe was sans the mushrooms, but for my first try, we really enjoyed it! 

You may be able to tell, but we like to have a Mexican inspired dish at least weekly.  "Taco Tuesday" is our nod to the hispanic and latino cultures that are part of Americana today.    B likes hardshell tacos, I prefer soft.   So we can properly enjoy the hardshell tacos, I bought "Taco" plates.  They were on clearance for $2.00!   Taco Plate nights are some of our favorites!

Sourdough/French Rolls.    Sounds amazing right?   I can't tell you how many of these I've thrown out.  If you don't use just enough sugar for the yeast to sourdough ratio, or enough salt, they taste blah.  But when you get it right, they are DIVINE!    I would eat these daily if I could, but alas too much wheat and I go into autoimmune overload!   Thus I keep a bag in the freezer, ready to warm up as needed!

Speaking of wheat - my other favorite... Pasta.  Fresh Pasta.   Fresh Egg Pasta made with backyard chicken eggs. These were the three pastas that my nephew, niece and I made over the Thanksgiving holiday.  It was their chicken's eggs, and their first time making pasta.   I gotta say i wasn't sure how eggy spaghetti would turn out - but it was great!  To keep things simple we used jarred sauces.  The Kids choose spaghetti (marinara( and large macaroni (alfredo), with me choosing bucatini (pesto).  Spaghetti with Marinara was the winner!

With tiny bits of snow trying to make it to ground, today I picked a bunch of rosemary from our 8 year old rosemary bush.  I'll dry several pieces and might just infuse some Olive Oil with it for those rolls I have in the freezer!

Now you're caught up on my cookery items!     How about the Books?!

I've been so busy that I've also not read as much this summer. I know, I have the coolest little reading nook and I've just not used it.   Maybe it's cause the Tablet with netflix is so easy to use while being in the kitchen, or when cleaning.   But reading really helps focus me on only the page in front of me and it really helps quiet all the jumbled thoughts that go in and out of my head on a daily basis.  Am I crazy? Nope.  Unfortunately I've been really noticing that the words I speak are not what I think.  There appears to be correlation for when there are times I don't read or speak much.  For my job I don't talk during the day.  I talk to myself, in my head - but not really to others.   So with all of that, it's no wonder my hubby looks at me when I say thermometer instead of speedometer.  Yikes!

So what's up on the reading list?  How about Nora Roberts "The One" series.  It's her delve into apocalyptic fiction, and so far so good!  I've also caught up on the "Kendra Michaels" series by Iris and Roy Johansen and a few other Amazon finds.  It's hard to use my tablet as an e-reader, so my Liliana Hart series is just going to have to wait.

Once the snow hits, I can't wait to cuddle up by the tree, with a hot cup of Barry's Irish Tea and a book.   So happy and merry holiday season - cheers to a wonderful time with friends, family, and lots of memories made!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

August Update... Sourdough, Core 4, Beautycounter

This has been a summer for the books.  We have focused on relaxation, spending quality time, and being present in the moment.  B and I are thinking very hard on starting up a business for our crafty stuff, and hope to debut a few pieces / projects at our Annual Gumbo Night next week!

We have been busy in prep the last few weeks!  Cleaning, weeding, baking, woodworking, and so much more!   We can't wait for our guests to see what we've got in store this year!

Adventures  in Sourdough

One of my co-workers mentioned they were craving good artisan rosemary garlic bread.   I may not be the best bread maker, but I love a challenge.
Sure I could have taken a course, gone by the book -but that is not me.  Trial and Error seems to be the way I learn best.   Suffice to say I've learned a lot about sourdough the last few weeks.  I have a wonderful starter in my fridge that is waiting to be fed, and have made some epic biscuits and crackers, some dense door stop breads, horrible pancakes, and some wonderful muffins.  but we're not done!   This is a life long dream to be able to make good bread from scratch - without all the additives needed for commercial baking.  Sure it doesn't last as long - but it's just as good!

Who knows what will come out of our oven next!

Core 4

Maybe you have heard of her.  Steph Gaudreau has written a great book - The Core 4.  I've been following her on social platforms for years, and I love her message.  It's not about diets, it's not about meeting society's definition of normal.  It's about embracing your own strengths and not beating  yourself up cause you don't fit the mold that society thinks you should.  The focus on lifestyle changes, the holistic view of shifting the way you see yourself, the way you train with a more integrative approach - it's what I needed.

Of course eating good foods comes into play and she's got some great recipes from the Stupid Easy Paleo days.  Then this happened.  Baked egg cups with ham and green onions.  So yummy, a perfect breakfast bite!!

She is an inspiration and I love watching her lift with huge weights!    I don't plan on doing big lifts - it's just not for me, but I took a first step by purchasing my first kettleball.  Check her out, you won't be sorry!

Todays daily affirmation is: I will be my own amazing person and be enough for those around me. 

Beautycounter Update

I wanted to give an update on my Beautycounter tinted foundation experience.  The first day I used it, I took it off.   When you look at the ingredinet list - and if you know me - you know why.  There was a potential reaction to some of the ingredients.   I put it on, smelled it and thought - OH NO!  But I gave it a try anyway and so far I've not had blotchy red skin from the orange oil.   It could just be my skin issues, but when I just use this foundation, it dries quickly and looks like it's clogging my pores.   So I came up with a solution.

I use a base of coconut oil first, then I apply two fingers of foundation.  This way my skin is softened and after application, it looks smooth and with that little bit of tint that it needs!  I have freckles and sun spots, I have red marks from where I have to pluck hairs every day (thanks to PCOS), I have hairy cheeks and no I can't shave it unless i want to grow a beard (again, thanks PCOS).  I just need light coverage.  I am learning to live with my skin issues and I think I've found my solution with beauty counter.  I don't want to look like I've applied makeup with a paint brush. I'm a woman in her 40's and I'm not afraid to own up to that.

The end result?  I am very happy with my purchase!   It's not easy for me to drop $40+ on an unsure thing - but I'll be back for more!!  Next up may be the mascara. :)

Morning ramble over, now back to my prepwork for next weekend.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Taking steps to change your life

Each day we wake and have a choice.   That the knowledge of yesterday will help make better decisions today so that tomorrow is even better.

Over the past few years, we've gone from taking baby steps to shifting mindset and making new habits.   Take for instance toxins.   They are all around us!  Replacing some things seems daunting.   But we've taken a long look and decided we want to try and be our best selves in our 40's and beyond!  This list isn't necessarily in order, but my top 6 items to replace.

#1.  Deodorant
B and I have replaced our deodorants with more natural products which do not contain aluminum.  Not to scare anyone, but I used to get a lump which felt like a blocked pore.   I switched my under arm regime almost two years ago and have never had a lump since.   Once you find a lump, and you relate it to the products you've used for years, you take a hard look around at all the other things in your life.

Now I am going to give you fair warning.   When you change to a natural deodorant, you'll notice your "scent" more than ever.  This is your body clearing away toxins.  As you continue on this path, you'll notice your scent will change - depending on your stress and diet.  It may take up to a month to totally clear out some buildup in your system.

#2. Household cleaners.
The only thing that gets my oven clean?  Baking soda and vinegar.   Those two things have more than cleaned my house 100 times over.   It removes soot from walls, hard water stains from showers, pans with grime, carpets, beds, it's a"miracle".   Now I cannot clean everything this way, but using the natural alternatives with less toxins helps!

# 3. Personal cleaning products
I can't get my husband to give up his liquid soap - but we've added more natural shampoos, bar soaps, bath salts, and toothpaste.   Whatever item I cannot find in my local Fred Meyer store, I usually can find on Amazon.  Fred Meyer carries the Simple Truth brand, which I find pretty comprable to the national brands.

#4 Sunscreen
I am of Irish/Norwegian descent.   I do not tan.   I burn and get more freckles.  I only look tan due to my freckles.    B tans though.  He gets super dark, rarely ever burning.   Growing up I burned really bad, many times.  I was almost maroon from the deep burns I would get.    Suffice to say, I bathed in sunblock.    I couldn't go out without slathering it all over, and to this day my chest is forever pink.
When I was in my 20's I read that the main ingredients were known as an endocrine disrupters.   There is a very large possibility that due to my excessive use of sunblock, my PCOS was formed at an early age and could be the leading cause of my own personal infertility.    I doubt the damage will ever be fully reversed.   I've found a few good brands, and most with zinc as the #1 ingredient.

#5 Laundry products
Washington State bans phosphates in laundry soap, which in my mind puts us that little bit ahead.   For B's work pants, we use plain vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser, and at times sprinkle a little baking soda!   Then while reading about how much dryer sheets cant add to your toxic buildup, we did a bunch of research and bought some wool dryer balls.  They seem to work.   Maybe not for the fleece blankets (way too much static), but for everything else, they work great.

#6  Makeup and Beauty products
I am amazed at all the money that people spend on make up that is supposed to help them look younger.  Embrace your age and wisdom!   I baffled at the lack of oversight of cosmetic ingredients.  Then there are the companies that advertise and hook you on a monthly subscription promising that their cream or serum will reverse damage and change your life, as long as you keep spending hundreds of dollars.   Lies, lies, lies.   The secret is simple - look around at what you eat, how much you sleep, your environment, and the toxins you are putting in and on your body. 

Don't believe me?   My skin has always given me  issues.   Sun blotches, burns, blemishes, dark circles, excessive hair, swollen eyes and more.  It wasn't until I completed 45 days of AIP that I realized my skin issues are almost fully diet and lifestyle related.   Change is hard though.    I still want some makeup that is free from major toxins as I don't eat as clean as I should 100% of the time (sometimes you just gotta have that brownie).

I make all of my own sugar and salt scrubs.  I've a few hand salves, lip balms, and I was thinking about making my own eye shadow with dehydrated vegetable powders.  Then I thought of my space and decided to forgo making more of my own beauty products, for now.    I follow a few people on Instagram and Facebook and I've recently seen the name Beautycounter.     I ran out of my grocery store foundation and was willing to give something else a try.  It's not cheap.  It's the most I have ever spent, and I'm hoping it's worth it.  I only wear makeup a few days a week (the days I drive into the office and occasional trip to town on the weekends), so I can make it stretch (have I ever mentioned I am frugal?).

So tomorrow starts the test!
I'll add a review after a week or so, cause if this stuff works as good as I hope it does, this may actually convince me to join the bandwagon members or consultants!!

Have you replaced items with more natural products?  Have you found things you just cannot give up?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Is it Summer Yet?

Summer 2019 in the Pacific Northwest has been gray and dreary.  We've been warm, then rainy, then overcast, then warm, then cool, and we're back to wet at times with a higher humidity level.   My garden plants are loving it, but me not so much. 

In a typical PNW summer, it begins to creep and get hot after the 4th of July festivities.  We usually get that one rain and then boom!  HOT time!    We haven't reached that tipping point yet.   Hopefully soon! 

This year's gardens have onions, tomatoes, beets, carrots, zucchini, cucumber, radish, broccoli, artichoke, pumpkin, watermelon, garlic, corn, lettuce, peppers, and of course potatoes.   We've also let a few things go to seed, like these carrots!

So who knows what folks will get with their Christmas baskets this year!   Handmade salves, scrubs, creams, and maybe some glorious carrot, brocoli or kale seeds!

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Book time.

Some may wonder what came first?  the books or the brew?  Brew as in whatever food I've made not a witches brew or craft beer brew.  Books came first.

When I was a young girl, my sister and I shared a room.  I learned a specific way to read while I was in 4th grade (imagine all of the words), and from there I was lost in whichever world the book described!   The only downfall is that I can recall lines and text I've read and even get a song stuck in my head for days.   Those people who say their hear voices?   Yup, that's me.  I recall things and they get stuck on a loop in my mind - maybe it's a chorus of a song I heard - maybe its praise or a harsh word from someone.  Don't fret as I have learn to use spin those downfalls into mighty accomplishments!   I can remember lines that I have read, text I have written, and with a prompt music and songs!   The surefire way to get on track, fight insomnia when things are rambling in my mind?  Find a book and read - block everything else out and immerse myself.

You see friends, it is not just books that are my first love - it is the written and spoken words that make them up. Language, communication, diverse dialect, emotion conveyed through words.  Words are important, they can lift or crush you.  We should choose them with care for our audience and not be reckless with them.

I have not kept up on the trends - but I do find it fascinating how fast - or how slow- that slang language can take over.  Remember when texting was limited to a certain number of characters?  Or how you couldn't write a novel on a FB post?  Or go back farther and ask about a telegram!   The written and spoken Iword has gone through so many changes - the American English language is as fluid as the rivers which run from the mountains to the seas.  It can change with the seasons and swell with the tides!

Nowadays I read for so many reasons.   To escape, to quiet my mind, for entertainment, for stress relief, to learn something, for cooking, and just because I can.  You are reading this - so that counts too.   Maybe my book choices are not Nobel peace prize winners - I may not lean toward an autobiography of a famous person and certainly try to avoid the "in" trendy book of the moment (I never read the "grey" book series which everyone gushed about).  When I do like an author - I tend to buy their books, and man oh man is my library busting out the seams again!

I have read some not so great books too.   Perhaps the writers style was not too my liking, perhaps the content was not in my interests, or perhaps the delivery of the story was not...  See, trying to find the right word and "shitty" isn't right.  I recently bought a popular authors book (no I won't bash them), and it was so... summarized.  It felt as if the author published a rough draft, or it was meant to be a screenplay, or maybe someone else wrote it - but to me it was off-putting.   I read reviews on Amazon and others felt the same.   But again, reading is highly subjective.  Just because I did not care for it, doesn't mean another won't.

This all being said, I do more than just cook around here!  I may use the tablet, Netflix some shows while cooking and cleaning, but to really escape - I like to grab a cup of coffee or tea, a tangible book, and sit in a quiet place for a few hours.  Reading is what helps me to recharge.

Now onto the next book!  I am starting a new series by Erica Spindler.  The Lightkeepers "The Final Seven".   I love her other books and actually just finished "Justice for Sarah and "The Other Girl".

So the question I pose of you.  Why do you read? Do you find yourself drawn to a certain style of writing, or a particular subject?

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Annual asparagus event

It happens every year.  The asparagus grows, we buy it, pickle it and enjoy the bounty all year long.  Sometimes we give them as gifts, but many times we hoard them so we can make super delicious recipes.

My pickling recipe is pretty standard.  Water and vingear in equal ratio; sugar, salt and a spice mixture.  We redo this mixture every year, in search of the best one.  It is a work in progress!

Pictured above is dill, garlic, mustard seed, black pepper, red pepper flakes, onion, celery seed and juniper berry.  I know there are several non-AIP ingredients, so if you are sensitive to nightshades, unfortunately this is not the recipe for you.

Store for 4 months, then enjoy!  Then what do you do? Snacks, bloody mary cocktails, salads? How about a pickled pasta salad?

Enjoy the bounty of the season!

Thursday, April 25, 2019


2019 marks 10 years in a few anniversaries.   I quit smoking,  my dad was diagnosed and died 3 months later from lung cancer.   

This year I had a long conversation with my doctor.     My own health is at a turning point.    I am at the point that unhealthy habits that seem minor now will lead to a shorter lifespan down the road or have me suffering from medical issues.  I don't smoke but that doesn't mean my 12 years of doing so didn't do enough damage.

How does this happen?     You go from what you thought was healthy to a crash in 10 years.  My hair started falling out 10 years ago too.   Stress is not my friend.   While I have made several changes to get back on a better path,  it's time for some more.      Nerve pain is getting worse so I have to keep doing the good things that help and use products that don't hinder the healing.

Instead of giving things up,  I am trying to change my mindset about what I am gaining.   More time with my husband.   The lung capacity to take a high altitude hike!   Less mass on my joints leading to less pain.   Maybe less psoriasis flares.
The possibilities are endless!

I am going to slip back,  I am doing to fall down (I am a but clumsy at times),  but I will keep pushing forward!

I have a goal set,  a time frame.    Spring helps as I am naturally more active.   Gardening is a big job around our home, so expect to see a few more reading in the garden posts!

Don't fear change.   Take it slow,  be well,  keepoving, and rest when you need it.

Blessings to all.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Welcome 2019

I know I'm a little late welcoming in the New Year.  That doesn't mean I have been sitting on my arse doing nothing!   In the BNB WA kitchen all sorts of new reciepes are emerging, plus garden planning is going on, and reading time has been limited.   I can tell you it's easier to get reading time in with a cat than a puppy - so I take the tme when I can get it.

Daily cooking has lead me to vary my routine and reciepe collections.   When I make the weekly menu, due to the fact I am cooking for a house guest too, I need to make a touch more than usual.  I plan to make meals that are easily reheatable and filling to the hard working man (could be woman, but the two I am meal prepping for are men).
While I could get by with just a small salad and a protein, they need a bit more to work 10-12 hour shifts. 

Some of their favorites:
Salisbury Steaks
Cowboy Beans (actually is B's reciepe)
Sausage pesto pasta
Chicken Enchillada casserole with homefried tortilla chips
Shrimp stir fry with Coconut rice
Roast chicken with mashed potatoes
Sweet & sour Meatballs and Hawaiian style pasta salad
Amy's  Meatloaf
Fresh Pork chops n roasted veggies
Chicken Quarters with roast root veggies
Fully loaded steak salads with homemade dressings (choices!)
Teriyaki Chicken Legs with fried rice (in a number of combinations)

I must admit, I've had a bit too much of my trigger foods.  I ended up having a bad autoimmune flare a few weeks back.  Things that upset my system are legumes, corn, wheat, nuts, and dairy.  Legumes seem to be the worst right now.   I have come to the conclusion that almond milk creamer in coffee is actually a bad combination.  Thankfully I have found a coconut milk creamer that I enjoy - so I can have one cup of coffee.  Otherwise, it is back to tea; not that I am complaining as I LOVE tea too.

You probabally want reciepes. 

Some I may have posted about before, while others I just follow what I think sounds good at the time.  Things that inspire the menu are what is on hand, what is on sale, what is going to be fully used, or made to last over a few different reciepes - if I buy in bulk (like eye of round beef roast).

Amy's Meatloaf

Ground Beef - 1 lb
Ground Venison 1 lb
Ground Pork (plain not sausage) 1 lb.
Sourdough loaf (the airy kind not the soft kind)
Dark marbled rye bread (at least 4 slices)
BBQ sauce ***
Medium white onion, minced
Garlic, 2 cloves minced
Handfull of Parsley, chopped
Sea salt
Fresh ground Pepper
Large eggs
Worcestshire Sauce
Olive oil
Bone Broth***

*** These are items I make from scratch.

*Tear the sourdough into chunks and let it sit out on the counter overnight alongside the rye bread.  You want the bread to dry a bit so the crumb is fine when you add to the meat mixture.
*Next morning bring all ingredients to room temp except the ground meat.
*Using gloved hands, add to a large non-reactive bowl:  beef, pork and venison, minced onion, chopped parsley, minced garlic, dash of salt, dash of pepper,  and a splash of bone broth.  You only want a splash at this step.   
*Gently mix with your hands.  Remove and discard gloves.
* Add 3/4 of the bread by tearing the bread into fine crumbs for the rye bread, and half crumb and a few chunks for the sourdough.   Do not mix in yet.
*Once the bread is sprinkled all over the meat mixture, crack an egg over (ratio of 1 egg per 1.5 lb of meat so I use 2 eggs as I use 1lb of each meat item).
*add a dash of worcestshire sauce, a splash of bone broth, and a dollop of BBQ sauce.
*With new gloves, gently mix in the crumb and eggs with your hands.
*Review time - If the mixture is too dry, add a touch more of BBQ sauce or bone broth.  If it's too wet, add more bread (which is why we reserve some of the bread). 
*Adjust the mixture as needed, discard gloves.
*Prepare your pan.  I found that lining my baking dish with parchment paper made it easy to lift out the finished meatloaf.  But if you are only serving buffet style in the kitchen like we do, it's not needed.  Instead, just sprinkle some olive oil around the dish to give it a nice coating (and a nice outside edge).
*Add the meatloaf mixture, then smooth out.
*Coat with a light amount of BBQ sauce
*Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then top with a bit more bbq sauce and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
*Total is an hour - give or take until meat thermometer registers 160 degrees.
*Let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

I serve this with parmesan garlic mashed red potatoes and a side of sour cream!   Note - I make this when I can handle nightshades and eggs, not during a bad flare.

If you don't want this as a casserole, you can use this exact recipe to also make meatballs or cook in regular muffin tins, or mini muffin tins!   The possibilities are endless.

How do you like your meatloaf?  More meat than bread, ketchup or bbq sauce, dry or moist? 

Off to do some shopping - will post the next reciepe later on!