Bye, Bye Wheat!

I’ve been suspecting this day would come soon. The day when, once again, I bid farewell to wheat forever.

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I’ve been here before. Years ago I went completely “gluten free” after discovering that eating wheat made me go into these awful, can’t-breathe, going-to-die, coughing fits. After moving to Europe and doing a good deal of wheat cheating cough free, I realized my problem wasn’t with wheat but with the bleaching agents they add to wheat (America likes to add all manner of nasties to their wheat products. Europe got wise and realized that was foolish and just said ‘no’). Bleached wheat meant I would be pretty miserable for about five to ten minutes. Unbleached wheat meant uninhibited carb binging.

giphy-1Halloooo German pastries!

After also cutting out diary, things started to really heal in my gut and I was able to eat bleached wheat no problem.

Until now.

Several weeks ago I started to notice some weird itchy skin on my back, face, and arms. Strange splotches started cropping up and my psoriasis was worse than it had ever been. I chalked this up to being stressed and didn’t really worry about it. Then I noticed inflammation in my joints whenever I woke up in the morning. My thinking was foggy which I blamed on poor sleep. Every time I ate wheat my skin would start itching. Then in the middle of church I got the old knock-down, drag-out coughing fits I used to have. I had to run out last week mid-sermon, tears streaming down my face from the coughing, gasping for air.

That’s when I knew: I have to quit wheat. I’ve got leaky gut and possibly an allergy to wheat. It didn’t matter if it was bleached or not, the itchy patches and coughing came up regardless of how “healthy” the source was.

There was no fanfare, no “just one last Chick-Fil-A biscuit” (my habit of cheating on my super-healthy life with CFA is honestly a huge reason why I’m in this mess), no last piece of sprouted grain toast. Just done. Tonight I had a wonton in some wonton soup. Just that one single wonton has been enough to make the skin all around my face and back itchy.

I’ve been down this road before. I know how hard it is. I know how frustrating eating out is going to be from now on. I know how hard it can be to explain to people when you’re at their house that you can’t eat their food. People look at you and think you’re just being picky. What you’re doing is watching your back.

Choosing health often means saying “no!” to something you really don’t want to say “no” to. But you know what? That’s what facing your demons looks like. That’s what discipline looks like. Choosing health can look like saying “Yes” to beautiful, healthful food, but also means giving up things that are literally making you sick. That’s where it’s hardest. I have NO problem stuffing down a forkful of kale or guzzling a glass of powdered greens

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(something a lot of people on a Standard American Diet would shudder at!). The hardest part now is going to be saying “NO!” when I need it most.

 

 

What are you needing to say “No!” to? What is getting in the way of you and a healthy body? What do you need to say “Yes!” to?image1

Fall Favorites: Delicious Root Bisque

I’ve been making variations on this soup since I was a dirt-poor missionary in Germany and root vegetables were the only things my sad little budget could afford. It’s cheap to make, and it makes a decent sized pot full!

The key to root soup is celery root, which can be hard to find in the US. I scored some at my local Earth Fare last week and quickly started planning to make another batch of root soup. Celery root, also known as celeriac, is pretty hideous, but oh so tasty! (It tastes nothing like celery) It’s rich in fiber and B vitamins, and has a more sponge-like texture than potato. It requires a bit of preparation before you can cook it, but I’ll cover that below. Combine it with antioxidant rich beets and inflammation fighting turmeric in this soup and you’ve got yourself a veritable tonic!

I got the ingredients for this soup without really realizing that Hurricane Florence would be barreling toward us. When we made the decision for me and the baby to leave and stay with my parents while my husband stayed behind and manned the RV, I didn’t really want to leave without cooking up as much as I could so he would have some meals when he came home after a long shift.

I don’t know how else to describe the flavor of this soup other than amazing, creamy, comforting, and smooth! I brought a mason jar of it to my parent’s house and my mom was hooked!

If you manage to find a bulb of this delicious but hideous veggie, be sure to pick some up and try this recipe!

Root Bisque

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

3 T butter
3 T coconut oil
1 medium sized celery root (skinned with head and root bits removed)
1 large Yukon gold potato (leave skin on)
½ small beet (skinned)
3 medium sized parsnips (skinned)
3-4 medium sized carrots
½ small white onion
small thumb of turmeric (skinned)
small thumb of ginger (skinned)
1 bay leaf
½ t. dried rosemary
3 sprigs of fresh parsley
1 t. salt
pepper to taste
2 cans organic coconut milk (Thai Kitchen is my go-to brand)
½ cup PLAIN coconut milk yogurt (So delicious is the best brand for this)
1 ½ Cups vegetable stock

Cut all your veggies into small, half inch pieces, skinning the celery root (use a knife, not a peeler), the parsnips, the beet, the turmeric, and the ginger. Celery root is seriously “rooty” and you may find yourself cutting a lot of the bottom off so you’re not eating literal dirt.

In a large skillet, heat butter and coconut oil. Ordinarily I’d say to just do coconut oil, but there’s something about the way butter and celery root play together that’s a little too magical to ignore. Add half of your salt, pepper, and all the rosemary and parsley.

Add ALL your roots (celeriac, potato, beet, parsnip, carrot, ginger, turmeric, onion). Sauté on high heat, stirring constantly until soft (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat.

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Transfer the contents of the skillet to a large pot on medium heat and add vegetable stock, coconut milk, bay leaf, and the rest of your salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and remove the bay leaf. Add coconut milk yogurt then blend with an immersion blender until all the vegetables have been just blended.

Serve hot and enjoy!

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Friday Fall Favorites: Stuffed Acorn Squash Recipe

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It’s not Fall.  Not technically.  And it certainly doesn’t feel like Fall.

But I WANT it to be Fall!  This is now my 13th Summer in the South and I just can’t get used to it.  I’ve lived nearly half my life in this corner of the country but every Summer I start losing my mind a little when it’s 93 degrees outside for the millionth day in a row.  Come September I am mentally DONE with Summer, even if it’s not done with me.  I start drooling over my Autumn-themed Pinterest boards. (yes, they exist)  I’m really looking forward to feeling what fall feels like in the RV.  Will there come a day when we don’t need to run the AC to stay alive?  I sure hope so!

It’s this time of year when, hot or not, all the yummy squashes come into season!  I saw an organic acorn squash at my local health food store and nabbed it! (Don’t worry, I paid for it)  I made this recipe tonight and my husband and I loved it!  Not only is it hearty and comforting (and crazy tasty) it’s incredibly healthy!  This recipe is begging for sweater weather.

Acorn squash is packed with Vitamin C (which I think we all need this time of year – hello germs!) and has numerous health benefits.  This particular recipe stuffs the squash with bison, goat cheese, shitake mushrooms, vidalia onions, and toasted hazelnuts.

We’ve been eating a lot of bison meat lately.  It’s way healthier than beef (almost twice the protein content and 1/3 of the fat!) and way more sustainable for the environment.  It’s also extremely tasty.  If you’re going to eat meat, eat bison.

As for the goat cheese, I simply prefer it to cow’s cheese as it’s creamier and easier to digest (and doesn’t give my baby eczema). Shitake mushrooms support immune and brain function.

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The toasted hazelnuts are heart healthy and provide tiny little explosions of flavor in your mouth.

You want the recipe?  Here you go!

Bison, Goat Cheese, and Hazelnut Stuffed Acorn Squash

Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Serves: Two people + leftovers

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized acorn squash
  • 1/2 lb bison meat
  • 5-6 medium sized shitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup thin sliced Vidalia onions
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1 cup toasted skinned hazelnuts
  • 2 tbs grassfed sourced butter (trust me, there’s a flavor difference!) or coconut oil
  • Himalayan salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 t. fresh thyme
  1.  Start by prepping your hazelnuts.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and roughly chop the nuts into halves or quarters.  Spread the nuts (also known as filburts for some reason?) evenly on a foil-lined baking tray and toast for 10 minutes.  When you take them out of the oven, put your nuts on a paper towel or kitchen towel and cover them. You’ll hear a faint hissing sound.  That’s the sound the skin makes as it’s slowly being annihilated.  Give the nuts a little massage with the towel.  This will quickly rub the skins off.  Put the hazelnuts in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Turn the oven heat up to 425 degrees.
  3. Chop the top off of your acorn squash, then cut in half down the middle.  Scoop the guts out and discard.  Place face down on the same foil-lined pan (you might want to spray it or drizzle the pan with oil to keep the squash from sticking).  Roast for 30 minutes or until the squash flesh is soft.
  4. While your squash is roasting, chop up your onions and mushrooms.  Melt butter or oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add salt and pepper.  Add onions and sauté until soft.  Add mushrooms and brown them.
  5. Move the onions and mushrooms to one side of the pan and add your bison meat on the other.  Break the meat up into small pieces and cook until done.  Add more salt and pepper and the thyme.  Bison meat doesn’t take long to cook.  Once it’s brown, mix with the mushrooms and onions.
  6. Turn the heat off and take the pan off the heat.  Cut your goat cheese into pieces (nothing fancy) and add to the meat mixture along with your hazelnuts and stir until the cheese and the nuts are mixed in.
  7. Stuff this goodness into your now roasted acorn squash and put back in the oven for another 15 minutes or so.

Enjoy!  I guarantee you will have leftovers if you’re feeding less than two people!

Hearty, healthy, and bursting with flavor!

Antioxidants, Oxidative Stress, and Why It Matters

Buckle up, friends. This is going to get nerdy, but you need it.

For years I kept hearing about how great foods are with antioxidants without actually knowing what an antioxidant was or why I was supposed to eat them. I just knew they were good for some reason and science said I was supposed to eat them. Then, one day curiosity took over and I started doing some research and was pretty blown away. Consider my life changed and consider me an obsessive consumer of antioxidants!

In order to understand what antioxidants are and why they matter, you need to understand what oxidative stress is and what it’s currently doing to your body.

Oxidative Stress and Free Radicals

If you passed high school chemistry, which I really hope you did, then you know what a molecule is. Certain unstable molecules have atoms whose electrons aren’t paired up properly (they can’t handle being single), sending them on a wild goose chase to pair up with other molecules to form zombie molecules which then turn and attack your body.

A better definition is: “A free radical can be defined as any molecular species capable of independent existence that contains an unpaired electron in an atomic orbital. The presence of an unpaired electron results in certain common properties that are shared by most radicals. Many radicals are unstable and highly reactive. They can either donate an electron to or accept an electron from other molecules, therefore behaving as oxidants or reductants.” Once this zombie-oxygenated molecule takes over, it wreaks havoc on different parts of your body at the cellular level. There are LOTS of different kinds of free radical molecules and they have different specialties: some go into your cells and break up the strands of your DNA, some attack your lipids or proteins, some cause your cells to die too quickly or proliferate too quickly.

If your body doesn’t have enough antioxidants to combat these little devils, you go into what is known as oxidative stress. This leads to accelerated aging and diseases like cancer (cells that proliferate too quickly), Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis as well as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and asthma, just to name a few. If free radicals pair up with free metals in your body, then they create a dynamic duo from hell and cause damage to the body to accelerate.

Where do these horrible little molecules come from?

A few are produced from within your body as a natural by-product of certain cellular functions. The bulk of free radicals, however, come from outside the body:

  • Smoking
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Heavy metals
  • Pesticides
  • Fried foods
  • Processed Meats (deli meat, hot dogs, bacon, etc)
  • Excess Sun Exposure

Some of these sources of free radicals are unavoidable (sadly, the world we live in makes avoiding environmental pollutants and pesticide exposure virtually impossible), but the rest you have some control over.

Antioxidants

Enter our heroes, the antioxidants. These stable little molecules are the fighting force sent out by your body to find and destroy (or at least neutralize) the disease causing free radicals. They stop the chain reactions that free radicals start which result in DNA death and cellular damage that lead to aging and disease. Thankfully, there are as many antioxidants as there are different types of free radicals. Each antioxidant fights a specific kind of free radical, and different antioxidants are absorbed at different levels by your body. So some are better loved by your cells than others. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Beta Carotene are all examples of antioxidants that you’re probably familiar with.

Where do we find antioxidants?

Until around age 27, your body makes its own antioxidants (in decreasing amounts year by year). After that, the body relies totally on the antioxidants provided by the food you eat (which is why aging seems to speed up in your 30s). Which foods? Healthy, plant sourced foods! Natural color (So, not sprinkles or fruit loops. Food dye does not count. I have actually had someone ask me this, sadly) present in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes usually indicate the presence of certain antioxidants and phytonutrients that your body needs to fight off disease and thrive. If you read my post on eating the rainbow, you should remember this fact. If the food on your plate is consistently beige, brown, or white I can guarantee you aren’t getting the proper amount of food-sourced antioxidants (more easily used and absorbed by your body than supplemental antioxidants) that you need to combat oxidative stress (unless you’re eating nothing but mushrooms, burdock and cauliflower, which I HIGHLY doubt!). Here’s a by-no-means-exhaustive list of some foods very high in antioxidants in no particular order:

  • Goji berries
  • Blueberries
  • Carrots
  • Walnuts and pecans
  • Mushrooms
  • Cilantro
  • Blackberries
  • Bell peppers (each color pepper will have a different antioxidant profile based on the colors present)
  • Cacao (in its raw form, boil it down and add butter and sugar and it’s chocolate but not nearly as healthy as its original form)
  • Dragon fruit
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric

carrot-kale-walnuts-tomatoes.jpgThis list could seriously go on forever. The key is variety! Simply noshing on a handful of blueberries every now and again is not going to do it. Remember that there are different kinds of free radicals and different kinds of antioxidants; so relying on one source to combat oxidative stress is not enough.  Also of note, these precious little molecules are pretty sensitive to heat, so boiling them to death, frying them, or putting them in some kind of cobbler is either going to destroy them or reduce their potency.  Eating fresh fruits and veggies in a state closest to their original form will ensure you get the most bang for your buck!

How do I avoid aging and disease from free radicals?

In order to keep the free radicals in your body from creating disease and in order to slow down the aging process you first need to eliminate the sources of free radicals that may be present in your life.

Do you smoke? By all that you hold dear, please I beg you: stop. Find whatever way you possibly can to quit. It’s the worst thing you can do for your health on so many levels. You’re literally killing yourself slowly.

If you eat processed meats like hot dogs or bacon, these need to be eliminated from your diet completely. They are listed as a Class 1 Carcinogen and are just as likely to cause cancer (remember what happens when you have too many free radicals running around?) as smoking.

Limit your alcohol consumption to just a few drinks per week or less. Try and purchase organic rather than conventionally farmed produce to reduce your exposure to pesticides. Limit your time in the sun to 30 minutes per day depending on your ethinicity (some sun exposure is crucial for your body to process Vitamin D correctly, so don’t avoid completely). Avoid fried or fatty processed foods.

Add antioxidant rich foods into your diet! Drop fad diets from your life. They do your body more harm than good in the end. Choose instead to change the way you eat completely. Adding in the foods that are going to greatly benefit your body on a number of levels is going to lead to you feeling young, clean, and energetic!  It’s a slow and steady process, but with mindful decisions and patience with yourself, you will find yourself making the changes you need to stay young and healthy!

Here’s to eating more color, friends!

People Who Live By Excuses Die By Them: A Word for New Years Resolutions

Ah, the last week of the year. The week where people are ready to shake off the previous year and say “hello” to the new one, even though deep down inside they know it will only be more of the same (or in the case of 2017, even worse). Christmas is over and the glimmer of hope that New Year’s provides sparkles like champagne bubbles. People start saving workout plans and healthy recipes on Pinterest. Photos on Instagram of colorful acai smoothie bowls and living rooms that look like a minimalist IKEA catalogue get liked more than ever, in hopes that any of it will translate into real life.

This is when people swear that they will lose ten pounds, they will be nicer to their kids, they really will clean out and organize the garage, and – by golly – that gym membership they’ve been paying for years will not go to waste. Then by March, they have resorted back to all the same habits and absolutely nothing has changed. July rolls around, and the garage remains frozen in time. By September, those 10 unwanted pounds have turned into 15.

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Why does this keep happening to people? Because they live by excuses.

Let’s come up with some examples of the excuses I’m talking about:

“I’m too tired to work out.”

“Eating healthy means eating salads, and I don’t like salad.”

“But ice cream is sooooo good….”

“I can’t get rid of X item in my garage, I might need it someday.”

“Kale is nasty.”

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Sound familiar?

The truth is, people rarely count the cost of living the way they want to. This requires facing some personal demons and it requires actually getting off your bum. The change people hope for at the beginning of the year is far scarier than they realize. The moment they think, “I have to change in order to make this happen,” they back off. The creativity required to learn what you need to make the necessary changes work takes too much energy.

By the time they are facing the twilight of their lives, they are popping pills they can’t pronounce for diseases they don’t know how they got and getting surgeries they can’t really afford. Their houses are full of junk their children will have to sort through if they don’t.

Ever since I was I kid, I wanted to live with the end of my life in mind. What kind of an old lady do I want to be? Broken, weak, fearful, and afraid of change? Or vibrant, healthy, wise, and content? Definitely the latter. What is it going to take for me now as a thirty-something to be a healthy, vibrant, happy eighty-something? It’s going to require intentionality on my part. It’s going to require letting go of excuses.

Excuses when it comes to eating right:

“I don’t know how to cook a meal that doesn’t require processed foods.”

This is a big deal for a lot of people, and frankly nothing to sneeze at. This, I admit, is a scary one to tackle for most moms. What if their husband hates it? What if their kids hate it? The key for this one is starting slow. You don’t have to turn into Julia Child overnight. Cooking healthy meals requires little culinary expertise; you just need some hints and shortcuts. Slowly introduce new foods onto the family plate that don’t come out of a package or can: steamed broccoli, summer squash, sweet potatoes, etc. You can up your game to swiss chard once everyone is feeling more on board. Also, slowly start removing processed foods from the plate. Eat out less. Stay committed to the process (no pun intended).

“But healthy food tastes bad.”

This is an assumption that people make who have never had healthy food. They are afraid to try something new and assume that it must taste awful. It’s also important to note that people who are accustomed to lots of unhealthy, processed, fatty, sugary foods have completely wired their brains and their taste buds to crave those foods. They are literally addicted to them. If this is you, consider that there may not be anything wrong with the healthy food, there may be something wrong with your brain.  Detox, water, and staying focused are key to getting rid of these addictions.

“Healthy food is too expensive.”

False.* You do not have to shop at Whole Foods to eat whole foods. It is actually cheaper to cook simple meals made from whole, fresh foods from scratch than it is to be constantly buying processed foods. Meal for meal, pound for pound, healthy is cheaper. Your grocery bill really eases up when you stop buying soda and ice cream. Also, you will pay for your health at some point. You can pay what might feel like more now and stay healthy, or pay a whole lot more later when you get diabetes and heart disease. Your choice.

*There are plenty of ways to spend a lot of money on health foods. Plenty. But it is absolutely possible to save money on your grocery bill by sticking to the real stuff.

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Excuses when it comes to exercise:

“I’m too tired to work out.”

My husband and I were just talking about this one the other night. Exercise gives you energy. I don’t know how many times I’ve walked into the gym feeling exhausted and wondering why I was there, and then left the gym feeling amazing. Also, people have this idea that working out must mean doing 45 minutes of plyometrics. What a horrible idea. No. Combine simple cardio and weight training instead. It doesn’t require running around like a chicken with your head cut off or dancing to the beat of some skinny DVD instructor when you have no coordination.

“I don’t have time to work out.”

Do you have time to watch Game of Thrones? Do you have time to play Candy Crush Saga? Do you have time to spend for ages on Facebook or Instagram? Guess what. You have time to work out.

“I have kids and I can’t get to the gym.”

The more legitimate excuse for not exercising in my book, but still not good enough. (“Wait until she has her kid…” I hear you whispering maniacally.) There are a lot of great avenues for working out at home that include your kids in really cute and fun ways, and it doesn’t always require a terrifying video of Jillian Michaels screaming at you from your TV. Who wants to be yelled at by a stranger in your own home? Ew. The truth is, a lot of the workouts I do at the gym I could easily do at home. Grab your kid(s), your yoga mat, and a kettle bell and have fun (don’t hit your kid with the kettle bell). My sister and I worked out with my mom to her amazingly 80’s Stormie Omartian workout video when I was little and we had so much fun. Got healthy and made some awesome memories.

“My (body part of your choosing) hurts too much.”

This one is for real, and I get it. I lived with chronic knee pain for over a year between my injury and my surgery and a good bit after that. You’re scared you’re going to hurt yourself or to make whatever it is worse. Totally get it. This is where I would say to go online and look up safe exercises to do for that painful body part and some that don’t involve it at all. Like I said, working out doesn’t have look like running a marathon or dancing to Zumba. Getting your body moving can be more gentle than you think. But not exercising at all is worse for your body (even the parts that hurt all the time) than babying it.

Excuses for getting rid of all the stuff you hold onto:

“I don’t know where to start.”

I do. Your clothes. Always start with clothes. It’s the easiest place to start. “Do I wear this or not?” and “Does this fit or not?” or “Has this been in style in the last 15 years?” are good questions to ask yourself as you proceed. Move on from there.

“But I was hoping to use/read/fix that someday.”

I have bad news. That day is absolutely never coming. You aren’t going to read that book ever. That weird piece of whatever you were hoping to use for a craft someday. Yep. Not happening. Swallow the pill of reality, and get rid of it.

“But that item is sentimental and makes me think of memory/deceased relative.”

My mom will be the first person to tell you that there are plenty of sentimental items I will hold onto with a firm death grip. Again, I get it. But let me ask you: is the item in question an actual time machine? No. Can it raise the dead? Nope. Will your memory be erased forever the moment you part with it? I hope the human mind doesn’t work like that (thankfully it doesn’t). If a sentimental item is also useful (hello, grandma’s super cute clutch purse from the ‘40s!) then by all means keep it. But if it seems like you’re drowning in a sea of sentimentality, it’s time to let go of the past and say hello to the present.

Real change, the change you want at the beginning of the year, is scary. It requires a lot of effort and a lot of transformation within yourself. It’s not really something you can resolve to do at the beginning of the year without really putting in the commitment to do it.

But I promise you that if you do, you will never be the same person, you will never want to go back and you will never regret it.

What are the excuses you live by? What would your life be like if you let those excuses go?

Travel Nursing Update: Pregnancy, Housing, and Living in a Retirement Community

We have now lived in Ft Myers, FL for seven weeks and as of today I am exactly 32 weeks (eight months) pregnant.

How my pregnancy is going:

Pretty uneventful, to be honest, minus a few ribs that like to pop out of joint and hips that don’t like staying in their sockets.  My mother and baby chiropractor in Cape Coral is an absolute lifesaver!  At the beginning of my pregnancy, my chiropractor in South Carolina told me she was pretty sure (but couldn’t diagnose since that requires an x-ray) that I have an inherited connective tissue disorder that results in extreme ligament laxity (which was so NOT a surprise since I’ve had so many ligament-related injuries over the years).  When you mix already lax ligaments and the relaxin my pregnant body is pumping out on the regular, it means that this mamma-to-be has the structural soundness of a pile of jello.  Other than my ribcage collapsing in on itself and not being totally sure if my hips are in their sockets or not, I’m doing really well!

Since we are moving next week (update on housing below), I’m trying to make sure we clear out our fridge, which means an unending amount of smoothies!  I’m not really prone to cravings anymore (except for a regular craving for pho, which is fine since there’s a great pho place up the road), which means sticking to a pretty strict diet is doable.  It’s really important for babies to have a healthy gut flora, and a lot of newborn issues like colic and acid reflux can be due to a lack of healthy gut bacteria.  This means I’m trying to keep my gut bacteria in a really healthy place (yes, mother’s gut bacteria gets passed to babies through the placenta as well as during birth).  That means limited processed sugars, refined carbohydrates, and dairy, and adding loads of probiotics and gut healthy foods like bone broth (incidentally it also means that the usual stereotype of pregnant women having constipation does NOT apply to me!).

Ironically, the Southern tradition of a meat and two vegetables has kind of been my go-to for setting up dinner (though you won’t find any chicken fried steak or fried okra in our house and macaroni and cheese does not count as a vegetable).  Dinner usually consists of a modest sized piece of meat (usually organic chicken or salmon), and two hearty portions of vegetables of varying kinds and colors (purple potatoes, swiss chard, sweet potato, broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc).  The only bread we eat is Ezekiel bread (or whatever arrives at our table when we do eat out) which is usually at breakfast.

My exercise regimen now consists of walking most days, stretching A LOT, and doing weight training a few times a week.  Since my body is getting more and more loose (and prone to injury), I’m taking it easier and easier with the weights.  It’s really important that I keep my muscles in tact for the marathon (birth) that I’m training for, so I won’t toss out weight training until I just can’t anymore.

What about your housing?

Glad you asked.  Remember the lady from the last post?  Yep, we love her.  We will be moving in with her on Wednesday.  She’s even driving us to the airport on Thursday for our flight to SC for Christmas.

The tiny house is another issue, though.  There is one bank who is deciding as we speak whether or not they’re cool with lending for a tiny house, so if you’re the praying kind, prayers would be appreciated that they will look favorably on us.

Thoughts on Living in a Retirement Community

I would say the majority of people living in Ft Myers are 55+ retirees (or at least that’s how it feels).  Especially where we live now, it seems like there are 10 silver haired folks/baby boomers for every Millennial.  These folks in particular have made it: they have retired to Florida, near the beach (or at least they have from November to April).  This means, for many of them, that they are in constant mental vacation mode.  I’m not saying that every snowbird has mentally checked out, or that everyone who retires to Florida is in vacation mode (my uncle and aunt would definitely be an exception, for example).

But you want to know something funny?  I’ve never overheard more complaining in my life than I have living here.  I’m not really sure how to account for it, either.  Maybe having a “grass is greener” mentality for 40 years just waiting for the day when life will be easier has led to permanent discontent, or maybe it’s a generational/cultural gap between me (an older Millennial) and the q-tips in the booth behind me at the restaurant.  Maybe life is just so much harder when you’re in your 60s and 70s than I ever realized.  I don’t know.  But I will say it surprised me.

I think the antidote to perpetual complaining/discontent is to avoid “someday” thinking: someday when x happens I’ll be happier, someday when I lose x pounds I’ll be happier, someday when I get x object that will make me happy, someday when I’ve saved x dollars my life will be easier.  The problem is “someday” may never come, or if it does “someday” looks nothing like you imagined and you’re left facing the bitter reality of “now.”  Focus on gratitude and contentment in your present.  Make life meaningful now.  Try to stay mindful of the times you complain.  Catch yourself complaining and ask, “How many times a day do I complain?”  It might be a lot, and you may realize that you’ve been a total Debbie Downer to the people around you for years and never known it.  Just a thought.

BUT the other thing I’ve noticed is the obvious lack of smartphones in the hands of said silver hairs.  And you know what?  It’s so refreshing.  It makes me catch myself a little when I realize I’m the only one in the room staring at a glowing screen.  Life is slipping by and I’m checking email (and I don’t even have a real job, what is wrong with me?).  Put the phone down every once in a while, friends.  Or better yet, turn it off and enjoy your surroundings.pexels-photo-386148

Comfort Food You Can Feel Good About: Autumn Vegan Pumpkin Apple Soup

pumpkin pileThere are so many things I love about autumn (even though I live in a region that never really feels like fall).  One of them is having pumpkins, acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squashes all in season.  They’re cheap, easy to find organic, and can easily be a meal all on their own.  Today I picked up a couple of organic pumpkins from my favorite local health food store as they were on sale for 99 cents a pound.

When I lived in Germany I discovered the wonder that is kürbis suppe (pumpkin soup) and I’ve loved versions of it ever since.

I’ve been seriously craving it the last few days and decided today was the day for some comforting pumpkin soup.

Being both pregnant and highly intuitive, this recipe popped into my head like one of my story characters.  It didn’t quite turn out as I imagined:  it was better!  It can easily be tweaked to your personal preferences.  If you want it more pumpkin like, you can roast two pumpkins instead of one.  If you want it more gingery, you can add powdered ginger as well as fresh.  If you want more rosemary, you can add more.  The hardest part is honestly cleaning out the pumpkin.  After that, it’s crazy simple, as life should be!

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Roasted Pumpkin Coconut Apple Rosemary Ginger Autumn Soup

1 medium-large pumpkin (2 pumpkins if you want it thicker and more pumpkin tasting)
1 half small white onion
2 apples (I used honey crisp since they’re so flavorful.  Use one apple if you want a less appley flavor)
two large thumbs of fresh ginger, skinned
2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary plus some for garnish (add more if desired, make sure to take the stems off)
1 cup vegetable broth or stock
2 small cans of coconut milk, save a drizzle for on top (I use Thai Kitchen organic since it has less yucky stuff in it)
2 small cartons of plain coconut milk yogurt (SoGood is the brand I use)
3 t Pink Himalayan Salt (or to taste)
1/2 t Fresh Ground Pepper
1/2 t ground turmeric
2 T coconut oil
pumpkin seeds for garnish if desired

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut pumpkin in half and clean out seeds and strings. Cut again into quarters and place on roasting pan.  Rub pumpkin meat with coconut oil and sprinkle with salt.  Chop onion into large pieces and sprinkle around  pumpkin pieces.  Roast for 20 minutes, then turn pumpkin pieces over and roast for another 20 minutes (take onion out if it starts to burn).

Once the pumpkin is done, scrape the pumpkin flesh off the skin and place on a plate to cool off a bit.

 

Cut the apples into quarters, removing the seeds and cores.  Place half the apples, one can of coconut milk, one of the cartons of yogurt, half of the ginger, and half the pumpkin and onion into a blender (if you have a glass blender, make sure the pumpkin is cooled.  I have a plastic blender so it’s less of an issue).  Blend until the mixture is just blended and pour into a medium soup pot.

Add everything else (veg stock, rosemary, remaining pumpkin, apple, ginger) except the salt and spices into the blender.  Again, blend until just blended and pour into pot.

Add pot to stove and cook on medium heat, adding salt, pepper, and turmeric.  Heat until steamy.  The longer you wait, the better the flavors have a chance to say ‘hi.’  Once heated through, add to your favorite bowl and garnish with a drizzle of coconut milk, fresh rosemary and some pumpkin seeds if you like making your food pretty.

That’s it!  Enjoy!