Monday, March 30, 2015

growing things

He bought me a little greenhouse, my man who knows me so well, who knows that I would rather have dirt under my fingernails than diamonds around my neck. Our garden beginnings this year are small since we are pressed for time and still learning the new farm. It takes at least a year to learn the best places to plant things--where shade falls, where water runs after a rain, if wild animals will be an issue, how to lay things out and what the soil is like in different places. But it's  start. Twenty-five little tomato plants and a dozen peppers are shooting new leaves toward the sky and seem happy to steam away in their green tent, even when temperatures drop outside. We had two nights of killing frost this week but hopefully now warmer weather is here to stay. We already have daffodils blooming, and there are other bulbs, planted by the previous owner, poking through the ground in various places around the house. Irises, I hope. And we put in a hundred gladiolus bulbs.

The story of mankind began in a garden. Somehow I feel more connected to the Life-Giver when I am outside, coaxing green sprouts from the soil.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

feed the soul

Let's talk about eating, shall we? Actually, let's talk about not eating. No, that's not right either. Let's talk about eating for the right reasons.

It's been awhile since I shared my personal story about emotional eating and I promised to follow up at some point, which I haven't done. Mainly because there isn't much to add, other than the fact that it is literally a daily struggle to not turn to food when I'm bored, stressed, sad, happy, or pretty much any time that I am not experiencing absolutely even emotions. I've decided that this is an issue that isn't ever going to fully go away. Not that I can't have victory, not that I can't overcome, but like someone who has a genetic propensity to depression, it is something that I will always have to guard against and fight to some degree. There will never be a point where I am just "over it". I am an emotional eater. I don't have to act on that, but it doesn't change the fact that it is an inherent part of me.

I was thinking about it last night, after a not-so-great food day, and  I had a thought that I had never had before. What if this issue is my personal "thorn in the flesh", my daily (sometimes hourly) reminder of my own weakness, in order for me to acknowledge my dependence on the power of Christ? What if my inability to completely overcome this is actually something that could be to my benefit?

As someone who was raised in a Christian home, I don't have a dramatic testimony, no shocking pre-Jesus life, and I will be honest here: it was hard for me to see my own depravity. I was a pretty good kid with a tender conscience. When I made a choice to love, follow and obey Christ at an early age, I did so because I knew it was the right thing to do, not because of a sense of my own wretchedness and my complete powerlessness apart from Him. That has come later, gradually, and every day now, I think, I am more aware of my need for Him.

What if my struggle with food is yet another step on that journey and an opportunity for His strength to be made perfect through my weakness?

 As I have read and studied about emotional and binge eating, I have been a little frustrated by the lack of Biblically-based resources out there. There are some excellent secular resources and I don't hesitate to take advantage of them, but they all fall short of addressing the spiritual aspect of the issue. They might incorporate spirituality in a "meditate and love yourself" kind of way, but not in a Christ-centered way.

I saw that as a bad thing, but now I don't. Because what God is teaching me can't come out of a book or an online course. I honestly believe that it has to come out of  desperate, nitty-gritty, one-on-one conversations with Him, out of the depths of my soul and not out of someone else's advice or insights.

It's easy to read or hear someone else's words and feel like we have done something to fix a problem when in reality, nothing has changed inside.

So there you have it, where I am right now. It isn't pretty and it involves a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but I can honestly tell you that it is good. Any time He takes us deeper, it is a sweet, sweet thing, regardless of the path that He chooses to use.

I do want to add a couple of really practical things that I am doing to fight the battle. One I think I addressed in a previous post, but it is simply to recognize the battle of the mind. When I have a bad day like I did yesterday, my immediate reaction is to start looking at vegan websites. To go to facebook pages on juice fasting. To pick some fad diet as a mean to get myself "back on track". I have to consciously fight this urge. Sometimes I have to remind myself out loud: "You're doing it again, Leah!" It's taking every thought captive.

Conversely, I have to battle the thought that says, "Ok, so you've blown it today and you know you shouldn't go on a fad diet, so why don't you head to Dairy Queen for a Blizzard?"

Isn't the human mind a crazy, fickle thing? I have to remind myself: balance. That's where peace lies.

The second thing that I have begun to consciously do is to build an arsenal of non-food delights that feed my soul. When food is an idol in your life, you see it as the answer to everything. When I think "special time" or "celebration", I automatically think, "FOOD!" I have a few minutes of alone time. I accomplish a big task. I learn a new song on the guitar. I figure out to the answer to a difficult problem. How do I reward myself? With a snack, of course! I just cashed in some swagbucks for an Amazon gift card and planned to buy something to eat with them, something special or gourmet that I wouldn't normally get. But I stopped myself.

Instead, I got a CD of music that I love. And instead of sitting down to a snack that I'm not even hungry for, when it arrives in the mail, I will feed myself a different way. With music. With beauty.

Some other things in my arsenal: Knitting (you knew that was coming, didn't you?!) or some other creative outlet. Crochet. Sewing. Writing. Books. Magazines. A walk outside. A nap (anyone else get the munchies when you're tired?). Time with my family. Flowers. And now that Spring is here, gardening.

Food is good, it is necessary, it is God-given. But there are things that feed the soul in a way that a cookie never will.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

the stash

Everyone who knits or crochets or spins or sews or quilts or basically does handwork of any kind has a stash. You know, all of those odds and ends, the leftovers from bigger projects, the skein of yarn that you bought just because it was beautiful even though you had no idea what to do with it. The latest issue of Spin Off magazine features some beautiful projects to use up your stash, and it inspired me to dig through my box of miscellaneous yarns to see what I had.

A couple of years ago, my mom gave me a sampler box of roving, all kinds of wool in all kinds of colors. I spun most of it into singles but there wasn't enough to ply and there wasn't enough of any one color (or even many coordinating colors) for a project. I've never knitted with singles before, but after doing a little reading on it, I decided to make them into blocks that I can turn into a small blanket or a shawl or a scarf...not sure yet. Since there are so many different colors, it will have a crazy-quilt effect, but that will be part of the charm. One of my favorite quilts is one where I deliberately did not match any colors, and I deliberately chose colors that I wouldn't normally put side-by-side. It's on Anwyn's bed now and I love it!

The yarn is knitting up beautifully and it's fun to work with because the blocks are only six inches square so I don't have time to get bored before I move on to the next color. The stitches do slant a bit, which I was prepared for in knitting with singles. I am blocking the squares as soon as I make them and hopefully that will solve that problem. I can't wait to get them all done so that I can lay them out and decide what to make with them!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

salad love

This cookbook sprang from a project that the author, David Bez, began, to fix himself a different salad for lunch at his office every day for a year. What began as an effort to eat more healthfully turned into a blog, and then into a beautiful and inspiring book, Salad Love.
It's no secret that I love salad, so there's nothing that I don't love here. A hefty 300+ pages, it is divided into salads for every season, from lighter recipes like honey roasted salmon, fennel and spinach for summer to heartier noodle and grain-based dishes for the colder months ( Couscous? Quinoa? Barley? Yes, please!). In addition, every recipe is categorized as vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, raw or omnivore, and offer alternatives for those who might be on a different eating plan (for instance, an omnivore recipe might contain a vegetarian alternative).
One of the things that I like most is the simplicity of the recipes...very few of them call for more than five or six fairly common ingredients, and since they were designed to throw together on an office lunch break, they are quick to assemble. But that doesn't mean that they lack in visual appeal or flavor. On the contrary...they even appeal to children. The day that the book arrived in the mail, my 6 and 8 year olds sat together and pored over its pages, picking out salads that they want to try...and they don't even like salad most of the time!
Whether you already eat lots of fresh food or whether you are wanting to incorporate more of it into your diet, this book is for you. Check it won't be sorry!
For more information about the author, click here.
To order, click here.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

smoothie bowls

I love smoothies, but as a meal replacement, I find them lacking. I've never been one to drink my calories...give me a candy bar over a coke any day. I need the chew! So when I discovered the concept of a smoothie in a bowl, I was thrilled. Basically, it is an extra-thick smoothie, topped with crunchiness, that you eat with a spoon. The combination possibilities are endless, but blueberry is definitely my favorite so far.
Here are two versions: one that is Trim Healthy Mama friendly and one that is not. Both are uber-healthy though, so I eat them both.
1 banana, broken into chunks and frozen
1/2 c. frozen blueberries
1/2 c. almond milk (or milk of choice, but almond milk is extra thick and creamy)
1 T creamed coconut (I like this brand best, and it's by far the most affordable that I've found)
Throw all ingredients into a blender and blend well, adding a little more milk or water as needed. You may have to start and stop the blender a few times to stir it want it super-thick.
Pour into a bowl and drizzle with additional creamed coconut (just a drizzle, because it gets hard when it hits the cold smoothie), unsweetened shredded coconut and your choice of crunchy nuts or seeds.
Coconut/Blueberry/Avocado (THM friendly)
1/2 avocado
1/2 c. frozen blueberries
1/2 c. almond milk
pinch stevia
1 T. creamed coconut
1/2 scoop good quality whey protein isolate
Blend and top as described above.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

this old river

With the weather a balmy 70 degrees, the kids begged us to let them swim in the river. We tried to tell them that just because the air temperature was warm didn't mean that the water temperature would be warm, but they insisted that it would be fun, and we finally gave in.
You know what? It was fun. Cold, but fun.
I've never lived on a river before and am constantly amazed at its changing moods. Every day, it looks different. And all it takes is one good snow melt or rain to shift the current, uncover gravel bars, turn from brown to grey to a brilliant green.
All my life, I've read books in which people spoke of rivers as they would speak of an old friend. I think I am beginning to understand.

Monday, March 16, 2015


I wanted to feature a green food in my St. Patrick's Day post. The choice was easy...GREENS, of course! More specifically, the first wild greens of the season made into a salad that I could easily eat every. single. day. Oh my goodness, ya'll, it is so good. Especially with a few almond flour/flax crackers on the side.
There's a bed of leaf lettuce at the bottom.
Then I added a generous layer of chickweed. This little weed grows everywhere here (and in most of the rest of the country too, I believe) and is just starting to come on strong, now that the weather is warming up. According to this website, it is high in vitamins A, B, D, C, as well as iron, potassium, calcium, and on and on. In's good stuff.

I added a few dandelion leaves too, but didn't get a picture of those. They are another early spring nutritional powerhouse. Then I topped the greens with diced avocado and two eggs, fried until the yolks were just a little bit runny, and covered the whole shebang with olive oil, salt, pepper and wild onions. These little onions literally grow like grass here.
If fried eggs on a salad sounds weird to you, just give it a try. The contrast of warm egg with the crispy greens is heaven on a plate.
So this St. Patrick's Day, how about exchanging those cookies with green icing for the green goodness that God made? Your body will thank you!