Personal Experiment #1

Using yourself as a lab rat is only acceptable in very few situations. Sure we see it in movies, and who has read “Flowers for Algernon”, but realistically it’s frowned upon. With that being said I’m going to use myself as a guinea pig to try new things before subjecting my family to them. Don’t worry,  I’m only talking about homemade toiletries and anything else I feel I could make myself instead of buying.

Personal experiment number one is making my own toothpaste. Now I can only imagine what you’re thinking because we all follow such strict rules when it comes to personal care products, but hear me out.

This is my first time brushing my teeth with something other than toothpaste in my entire life.  Over the years I have tried some of the more natural and/or fluoride free toothpastes as well as the big names you see everywhere, all the way down to the cheap stuff at the dollar store.  No complaints other than the cost, and I don’t just mean the fancy stuff.  Conventional toothpaste is not cheap either; and I tend to buy mine on clearance at some of the larger retailers as they are clearing out the shelves. 

Backstory:  I have becoming increasingly unhappy with my toothpaste options, and eventual choices, over the past year.  As recently as a month ago, I decided it was time to change my toothbrush, only to find it was as troubling an experience as the toothpaste shopping.  After two brushes proving inadequate for several reasons, I moved on to the third.  Despite the third also being a disappointment, I stuck with it because I ran out of room in the toothbrush holder (I can’t just throw them away, especially since they were only used once).  Even though I like my teeth to be clean I consider brushing them to be daily required self-care.  Also, something that should be important to everyone.  However, I couldn’t keep going with what I was doing.  This brings me to now; finally making the change I’ve been thinking about for two years.

I looked up some recipes and found quite a few that sounded like just what I was looking for.  Unfortunately, the really great sounding ones had some ingredients that I could not procure easily, and that led to a wrench in the gears of motivation.  Instead of beginning a search for alternate recipes or where I could get such rare ingredients, I stopped looking and became angry twice a day when I brushed.  Sounds like a great plan!

Enough of the nonsense already, time to make something happen.  So, I did!  I stumbled upon this mixture of coconut oil and baking soda.  It was too simple to make any excuses, and I already have both in my home all the time.  If you’ve ever tasted baking soda then you can imagine how it tasted.  The coconut flavor is noticeable, but not overpowering.  I like coconut so this isn’t a bad thing.  The overall flavor is slightly sour, with a weird popcorn flavor I can’t quite place, most likely from the strange combination.  A nice experience that would be even better with a stellar toothbrush to go with it.  That will be the next part of the puzzle as I’ve purchased three more choices.  I’ll admit that I’m worried what will happen if neither of these three work out, look out world!

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Gratitude-A Fresh Cut Christmas Tree

Shortly after Thanksgiving I found myself interested in getting a real Christmas tree. Throughout my childhood we often cut down our own tree or purchased a real one from one of those lots in front of the grocery store.

As I got older, I began working for a seasonal retailer and that started my relationship with artificial trees and decorations. My collection was grand with colored lights and funky ornaments. It was known by those close to me that a visit in February would give the surprise of a still standing,  still decorated Christmas tree.

Now that I have a family I long to revive the traditions of my childhood. A short consultation with my significant other revealed his willingness to carry on these family traditions, which are close to his own. We discussed my concerns with tree lots; including flame retardants, spray on color, and artificial pine scent.  He seemed so pleased and eager to embark on this journey I began to have doubts.

“Can I have that in writing?” I asked. “I bet you won’t be saying this in ten years,” I argued.

Oh my goodness! What was I doing? Purposely sabotaging a very willing partner in my newly rekindled family traditions. Immediately I stopped talking, and apologized. I apologized for taking his kind nature and skewing it into an argument. I apologized for not instantly becoming excited at the thought of fresh cut trees for each Christmas season. Finally,  I said, “I’m sorry,” for not being grateful that I have a partner willing to embark on an unknown journey, just to make me smile.

What did we experience on this first journey you ask?

*My car got stuck in the mud trying to park in the parking lot.

*My car got stuck leaving the parking lot and had to be pulled with our truck.

*We found the best 4ft tree!

*My little one helped cut the tree down.

*We played in the snow while we searched.

*My little one was cranky any time she wasn’t playing  in the snow.

*It snowed the whole day!

*I partook of warm spiced wine.

*We received free hot Cocoa and an apple doughnut.

*And finally,  we put up and decorated our tree that evening.

Nourishment in the Light of Connection

How do stories connect and nourish us?

Even the loneliest of people need human connection.  Hermit, vagabond, introvert; although most won’t admit it, they crave a special relationship and a deep connection with another person as much as the rest of us.

We all like to share our stories which bring us together in many ways.  Parents of school children come together and share stories of the little ones.  Adult siblings share conversations of current events and their joyous new families.  Coworkers commiserate of the trials and tribulations of the job.  As much as most of us want to connect with one another and share our stories, we need it.  It is a basic human need like food or water, and as we know, these are basic sources of nourishment.

While sitting at the dinner table with my family we are not only nourished by our food, but also by our conversation.  As we discuss our day, good and bad, share our stories, we are connected with each other and our relationships are strengthened.  We are nourishing a healthy relationship, a positive outlook, and our soul.

In times of trial and trauma our stories can be all that keep us from coming unglued.  With the passing of a family member our sorrow is shared through stories of the one that passed.  Stories of their life, what they accomplished, how they touched our lives, all of this helps to heal us and nourish our soul that is so filled with sadness.  I have not witnessed many people who refuse to speak of a family member who has died.  They might say they don’t want to talk, and the next moment they are rambling on, sharing stories from childhood to adulthood.

Sometimes the trauma is ours.  Although we may want to hide and avoid the obvious situation, at times we just want to tell our story and have someone listen.  In Rachel Naomi Remen’s book Kitchen Table Wisdom (2006), she shares stories of those who have gone through devastating experiences only looking for an ear to listen.  In our worst moments it can be an extremely healing and nourishing time just to know someone is listening without judgement.  An article in Psychology Today explains that giving ourselves to the lamentation and sharing it with those around us can be more beneficial that bottling, hiding, or ignoring the pain we may be feeling (Culliford, 2016).

I have a myriad of memories from times when my parents would dismiss what I was saying and it felt horrible, when other times they would listen intently and it felt rejuvenating.  I often find myself ensuring I am giving my full attention to my daughter so she knows I care.  It is necessary that she feels comfortable and open to share all of her life’s stories without fear of another person’s opinions.  These acts of non-judgement and compassion, rather than pity, are a foundation of nourishment for a family.  Something that may be missing from many people’s lives.

As humans we have an innate need for companionship, love, and nurturing.  Just as necessary as food and water, connections with other humans nourish our mind, body, and soul.  If kept in silence either by choice or force we are torn down, malnourished.  Our stories maintain the connections we so desperately seek and keep us in good health.

References

Culliford, L. (2016).  Lamentation Can Be a Good Thing.  Psychology Today.com.  Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/spiritual-wisdom-secular-times/201609/lamentation-can-be-good-thing.

Remen, R.N. (2006).  Kitchen Table Wisdom, Stories That Heal.  New York, NY: Penguin Group.

My Relationship With Food

Up to this point in my life I have never had a bad relationship with food, just a rocky one. I’ve always had a sweet tooth, rarely ate fast food, but always thought about food.  I became very passionate about food and nutrition in my teens, almost to the point of obsession.

My family knew how I felt and would generally keep conversations about food to a minimum.  Being so passionate caused some discussions to get heated. For quite some time many people I knew or encountered assumed me to be a vegetarian,  thinking if I was a healthy eater it automatically made me one.

Eventually my quest for nutrition knowledge led me to enroll in an undergraduate nutrition program.  Armed with a thirst for nutrition knowledge that was credible, the only choice that seemed sensible was school.  Finally, I was going to learn all about food and how fantastic and wonderful it is for us.  Unfortunately, much of my tenure was spent more confused and even more at war with food.

Why wasn’t I learning about everything food did for us?  Why was I only skimming the surface of what each vitamin and mineral was doing inside the body?  Why didn’t anyone care about what they were eating until they were sick or in dis-ease?

Do not be confused, I received a great education.  The direction I was pointed in however, was not the direction in which I wanted to go.  Food sustains us, it is our medicine, and our connection with others.  We need to purchase, prepare, and enjoy our food.  We also need to be in control of what we are eating and when.  Not the kind of control that one has in a disordered state, the kind that’s there without having to think about it.

Basically, I didn’t want to be a Registered Dietician (RD) because the only outlet seemed to be hospitals with the sick and dying, or following a diet plan that didn’t emphasize enough the significance of vegetables and whole foods.  Not all RDs are created equal.  Along my road and through school I have met many a RD with vastly different views that what mainstream information was telling us.  Even those following the mainstream are not bad; they are very good at what they do.  However, that’s not what I want to do.

The answer lies in discovering a new relationship with food and looking at it from a different perspective.  In just the first few days of my masters program I am opening up my eyes to see what I’ve been waiting to find for years.  Already my viewpoint has shifted and I’m feeling motivated and in awe of the simplicity with which we can view food, nourishment, and eating.  Many of my original beliefs about the food we are putting into our bodies every day has not changed.  The inspiration comes from knowing now that I am able to impact our food system in a different way, and move others in the direction of good health and wellness with a simple meal.

I am an army of one carrying an arsenal of plenty.

 

www.awayoflifewellness.com

 

 

This Is How We Do Tacos

this-is-how-we-do-tacos

When we have tacos for dinner it’s different every time.  The items that are currently on the counter, in the refrigerator, or in the pantry are all at risk of ending up in my tacos.  Usually the permanent ingredients are ground beef (almost always grass fed), beans, and tomatoes.  Rarely will I used a seasoning packet, and the toppings are just as varied based on what we have in the kitchen.  Despite the every changing recipe the tacos are delicious every time!  I hope you enjoy the recipe and have fun experimenting on your own.

1lb ground beef, browned (we used grass fed)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes, regular, seasoned, or w/green chilies

1 small can tomato paste

1 bag frozen organic corn

2 small onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

2 bell peppers, chopped, we used orange and yellow this time

1T dried parsley 2t chili powder dash of cayenne pepper (if the canned tomatoes don’t have green chilies)

salt and pepper to taste

  1. While meat is browning, saute onion and garlic in a bit of oil in large pan. Once onions start to turn clear add beans, tomatoes (with liquid), tomato paste, corn, seasoning and some water.
  2. Cook for 5-10 minutes on medium.
  3. Add meat and bell peppers and cook for an additional 15 minutes until most of the liquid is gone.
  4. We added refried beans to our tortillas, along with lots of spinach and kale as our lettuce, topped each taco with cheese, sour cream, and fresh cilantro.

Makes 8+ tacos using regular sized tortillas. We also had leftovers to add to eggs in the morning and eat with tortilla chips for lunch.

Mmm, enjoy!

www.awayoflifewellness.com

Gratitude-A Hot Shower

Previously, I mentioned having a little notebook I keep in my purse to write down little bits of gratitude I might find myself thinking or feeling throughout the day.  Sharing some of these was going to be a random yet somewhat regular occurrence.

I have never lived in complete poverty, or known what it’s like to live without things I see as commonplace.  Things such as electricity, running water, and the availability of food.  They are so commonplace that I don’t really think about them until they are not there, even for an instant.  The lights flicker during a storm, the water is shut off for an hour to perform maintenance.  However, I do appreciate a hot shower in the morning.  There are people in this world that never take a shower, only baths, and sometimes that is only after they have carried the water in themselves.  I find it strange that knowing all of this, I still wish the shower wasn’t so hot while the weather is 90F outside.  I think tomorrow is going to be the most enjoyable shower I have ever taken, even if it’s a hot one.

Comfort and reverence are found in the emotions gratitude shares with me.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

In general I try to be positive, at least most of the time.  It’s not possible for anyone to be positive all the time, that would be strange.  Lately I’ve been using the phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, either in article writing or various posts.  Funny thing is, we actually made lemonade with our lemons.

My daughter has been asking for lemons and lemonade for most of the summer.  However, lemons are extremely expensive compared to other fruits, even limes.  For most of the summer we have procured limes at some amazing prices, 20 for $1 was the cheapest, we bought 40.

I stumbled upon a $1 off coupon for a bag of lemons at the grocery store.  I love coupons for produce because we don’t eat much pre-packaged food and it gives us a chance to save money on our grocery bill.  My daughter was so excited to have lemons in the house, and so we decided to make lemonade on one of these rather hot days we’ve been having.  Here is my easy lemonade recipe that even a 6yo can help with:

Homemade Lemonade

1-1.5c lemon juice, fresh squeezed

We used about 1.25c, it depends on how lemony and sour you like it.  That’s what we had from 5 lemons.

6c water

2/3c sugar

Ice

-Heat up the water in a pot and add the sugar to dissolve.

-Once dissolved, turn off heat and let cool.

-Add lemon juice to pitcher with about 1c of ice.

-Add sugar water to pitcher and add more ice.  Put pitcher in the refrigerator to cool completely.

-Wait about an hour and Enjoy!

The same recipe can be used for limeade, just replace the lemon juice with lime juice.  It takes about 10 limes to get 1c of lime juice.  When we bought 40 limes we squeezed them all and froze what we didn’t use right away.

Tip:  Wear gloves, the juice can be painful if you’re squeezing more than one lemon or lime.

Yum!

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