Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Balance: The Secret to Health and Happiness

It's been a whole week since I let you know I was giving myself permission to be imperfect

Since that time a friend mentioned that she had a hard time relaxing since her father had brought her up to work first and then rest.  It was a great idea, except the work never ends for a homeschooling mother with a house full of preschoolers and an entrepreneurial husband.  This is the idea that I shared with her.  I hope that it gave her a thimbleful of peace.  I hope you find rest in it, as well.

There is a time for every purpose under heaven.  When you work, do it with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength as if working for the Lord.  When you play, do it with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength as if playing for the Lord.  To do otherwise, cheats both health and happiness.

Shared with Simple Lives Thursday.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lactofermented Garlic Paste

I hate procrastination.  Especially when I'm the guilty party.

I've been wanting to post this recipe for just shy of a year, but it hasn't happened.  (I realize that I haven't been blogging for a year, but there were months of planning that went into this before I began.)  It really isn't my fault, entirely.  I have more ideas than I have time to put into practice, and I don't want to become overwhelmed trying to be everything for everybody.

Enough chasing of rabbits.  This is a recipe that's near and dear to my heart, because I associate it with special occasions, like my anniversary.  It's a part of my Indian feast.  But because I make it only for special occasions, as part of a larger feast, I don't have many opportunities to take pictures.

Now that someone is asking for my naan recipe, however, I've decided to post at least a portion of my Indian feast now and come back in a few weeks (after my anniversary, of course) to add photos.
Garlic Sauce
1-2 cold egg whites
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt, not optional
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup grapeseed or olive oil
1 Tablespoon living whey

Before we really get started on the recipe, let's pause for a minute and consider the ingredients.  Use a salt that is colored.  Salt is white when it comes from the lab.  In nature it has many colors, from reds and pinks to grays and blacks.  By choosing a salt that is colored, you can be sure that you are buying an unprocessed salt.  Don't be fooled (as I was) by a label like, "sea salt."  Almost all salt is from the sea, but that doesn't mean that the minerals weren't stripped.

Your whey needs to be alive.  Do not use powdered whey.  It is highly processed and will not be useful in this recipe.  Do not use whey which has been heated.  After a certain temperature the beneficial bacteria dies.  Instead use whey from making yogurt, unheated cheese, or (my personal favorite) dairy kefir.

If you do not have whey, you could just substitute another living starter culture, such as unpasteurized kombucha, water kefir, Body ecology starter culture, yogurt, or unpasteurized buttermilk.  However, all of these options will influence your final taste.  The whey or other starter culture is important, because it gives plenty of beneficial bacteria to overwhelm any nasties that might come along with the raw egg.

Theoretically, you could also add an extra tablespoon of salt and see what wild bacteria you can grow.  However, since most chicken (even backyard flocks) contains salmonella or campylobacter, I wouldn't do that without pasteurizing the eggs first.  I know that plenty of people don't bother pasteurizing pastured eggs since they are less likely to contain harmful bacteria, but it still is a little like playing Russian roulette--even though your odds of winning are better.

Also, don't forget the salt.

Note: my recipe is for those who own a Vitamix.  It can be adapted to any blender or can be made with a simple wire whisk, but I do not have experience doing it that way.

All ingredients must be at room temperature, except that the egg whites must be cold.  Place the egg white, garlic, salt, and lemon juice in Vitamix.  Select variable 1.  Turn the machine on, quickly move it to variable 10, and then to High.  While the machine is running, remove the liquid plug and pour the oil in a thin, steady stream until the mixture thickens and all oil is consumed (about 60 seconds).  Stop the machine.  Feel the outside of the machine.  If it is too hot to touch, then it needs to cool down to a more comfortable temperature.  (Don't be impatient or you'll kill off the beneficial bacteria that you're trying to culture).  When it is cool enough, stir in the whey and any remaining oil.  Leave it out in an air-tight container at room temperature for 7 hours, and then refrigerate.

I rarely just use a recipe without tinkering with it.  That's not how God wired me.  These are the recipes that inspired me, the ones I cobbled together into what you see above.

Sourdough Garlic Naan

Ever have one of those things that you plan on doing, but because of one small detail it doesn't get done?  This post is like that.

I've wanted to post this recipe for a long time.  It's a recipe that's near and dear to my heart because I reserve it for special occasions, like my anniversary.  It's a part of my Indian feast.  But because I make it only for special occasions, as part of a larger feast, I don't have many opportunities to take pictures.

Now that someone is asking for my naan recipe, however, I've decided to post it sans photos and come back in a few weeks (after my anniversary, of course) to update it.

Sourdough Garlic Naan
1 cup sourdough starter
3/4 cup living whey
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 Tablespoons melted lard, coconut oil, or butter
2 Teaspoons garlic paste
approximately 2 cups flour

Before we really get started on the recipe, let's pause for a minute and consider the ingredients.  Your sourdough starter does not have to be at the peak of its activity.  Heck, it doesn't even need to be fed, for that matter.  If you have a some-what active starter and are considering discarding 1 cup during a feeding, you might want to consider making naan with the discarded starter.

Your whey needs to be alive.  Do not use powdered whey.  It is highly processed and will not be useful in this recipe.  Do not use whey which has been heated.  After a certain temperature the beneficial bacteria dies.  Instead use whey from making yogurt, unheated cheese, or (my personal favorite) dairy kefir.  If you do not have whey just substitute milk.

Use a salt that is colored.  Salt is white when it comes from the lab.  In nature it has many colors, from reds and pinks to grays and blacks.  By choosing a salt that is colored, you can be sure that you are buying an unprocessed salt.  Don't be fooled (as I was) by a label like, "sea salt."  Almost all salt is from the sea, but that doesn't mean that the minerals weren't stripped.

Finally, do give lard a chance.  It makes the best breads, believe it or not.  If you don't have access to a good lard, coconut oil and butter make excellent choices, as well.

Mix sourdough starter, whey, baking powder, salt, cumin, garlic, and lard.  Slowly add the flour.  Depending on your flour and the moisture of your sourdough starter, you may need more or less than the two cups.  Adding too much flour will result in a dry, crumbly mess.  Not enough flour with yield a sticky mess that is impossible to roll out.  Find your happy medium.  Use your hands to mix the dough so you can get a feel of where you are at.  Cover with a towel, and let rest 2-3 hours until it rises slightly.  

Transfer to a lightly floured surface.  I had been told that amateurs add too much flour and end up with soured bricks, so I was afraid to flour my surface.  After making the recipe repeatedly I discovered that .the high humidity in my area calls for extra flour.  Now I'm not afraid to do what works for me.  

Knead for a minute or two until smooth, adding only enough flour to keep it from sticking to your hands.  

Preheat a heavy skillet (let's hear it for cast iron!) over medium-high heat.  Divide the dough into 8 balls.  Roll the dough with a rolling pin or flatten with the hands to 1/4 inch thick rounds (or oblongs).  Brush with water on one side and place water-side-down in skillet.  It will stick.  Cook for 30 seconds to one minute, until the dough is bubbling and it no longer sticks.  For those cooking on electric, flip and cook the other side.  For those cooking on gas, begin the next piece in the skillet and take the original piece to another burner, light it and cook over an open flame.  (A totally cool experience that should not be passed up!)  Hold it with kitchen or barbecue tongs and keep it moving constantly for 30 seconds or until charred.  

Top with melted butter.

I rarely just use a recipe.  That's not how God wired me.  Instead I mess with a recipe until I can get it to submit to my will.  These are the recipes that inspired me, the ones I cobbled together into what you see above.

Linked with Fat Tuesday, Monday ManiaTraditional TuesdaysReal Food Wednesdays, and Healthy 2Day Wednesdays

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Finding Peace in Chaos

My third daughter helped to take care of the little things
I've decided to give myself a break.  It wasn't an easy decision, but I knew that something had to give.  I decided it wouldn't be my sanity.

It started as we finished rehabbing Dad's house for sale.  At the time, we had finished most of the bedrooms and the office.  As rooms were being finished and preparations were being made for staging, the kitchen became more and more cluttered.  The right way to do the project would be to sort the items and bring them to their final destination, but in the hurry toward the finish line it was simpler to just dump it all into the kitchen.  Dad's house boasts a large amount of counter space and a sizable kitchen table (I wish I could keep them.  I definitely have counter-space envy), but both were quickly filled to the overflow.  Somehow we managed to find enough room to eat our meals and educate the children, but it took more and more effort to do so every day. 

Tools, fabrics, and herbs over here
From early morning to late at night we worked.  Breaks were few and far between. 

Through it all, I struggled to eat traditionally.  It's difficult to choose otherwise after being educated.  Yet, I knew that I had a choice.  I could either give my all to the project, or I could give my all to educating my children and feeding my family.  I knew that if I wasn't working full-time on the project it would take longer to move home and return to our normal life.

Banished to the laundry room and still content--that's why I love my toddler girl
Then came the day that we started working on the kitchen itself.  The refrigerator spent several weeks in the living room.  The stove spent a few days in the laundry room.  So did the high chair, but my toddler didn't seem to mind since she could never wait until the meal was served anyway.  We no longer had the ability to eat at the kitchen table every night.

I chose sanity.  I knowingly set aside what I knew about the links between food and health and chose to turn back to the standard American diet.  We still made wise choices for fats, meats, dairy, produce, and eggs, but it was filled out with boxed cereals, boughten breads, lunch meats, deli food, pizza, and even (gasp!) a frozen dinner or two. 

Managed to eke out some kefir and broth over there
Sadly, my children were in heaven.  I didn't worry too much about it though.  I knew that they were just happy because it was new and unusual.

Even after we moved home it took a few weeks before we fully returned to traditional cooking.  By then there were three more mammoth projects that needed to be done.  It was still all-consuming and unrelenting.  At first, I continued to need the respite of using some ready-made foods.

Breakfast o "champions" in the living room
Even after going back to a more normal food cycle, I still haven't fully transitioned back to normal entirely.  My laundry room has been filled with at least 6-8 loads of clean laundry.  (Okay, maybe that's a little normal, but still it's a little over the top.)  My kitchen table has more than the normal amount of clutter.

But the most important thing is that I'm okay with all of that.  I've given myself permission to be imperfect.  The truth is that I'll be imperfect no matter what my opinion is, so I may as well find peace in it all.

Shared with Simple Lives Thursday and Traditional Tuesdays.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Does God Set Us Up for Failure?

"In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day.  For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel.  Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread."  Exodus 12:18-20

 This past week marked the time set aside for the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  If you are unfamiliar with this Jewish tradition, there are a few key points to note.  This was a remembrance that was required by God.  It was required for the entire nation, as a people set aside to the Lord.

I must admit that I was curious as a child (heck! even as an adult) of what God was thinking when He came up with this plan.  I was taught how the yeast represented all of the ways we think, say, and do things that go against God's laws.  Therefore, the people were to get rid of the yeast as a picture of getting rid of the spiritual impurities.  That much made sense to me.

However, while the picture was all warm and fuzzy, I got caught up on the actual way things would go down.  Once the people got rid of every little bit of yeast in the entire nation, how then were they supposed to eat?  Were they banished to a bread-free realm?  Where was the picture of the Bread of Life then?

There were only two ways I could think of to get past the intricacies of  the feast.  Either they held a little bit back for a rainy day or they traded with the pagan nations nearby for yeast when the week was over--an idea that didn't sound very wise since every time they traded with those pagan nations they ended up worshiping false gods.  Either way, it seemed as if the Hebrew nation was doomed to failure in one way or another.

I was so relieved when, as I was going through my traditional, real food journey, I came across the answer.  More importantly, I was relieved to find out that the answer was deep enough to reveal an aspect of God's character.

In my ignorance, I had always thought that yeast was something that came in a little packet or a brown jar, a fragile item that required refrigeration and tender care or it would die.  It didn't occur to me that there was life before Fleischmann's.  That sounds silly, because I realized that they didn't have little packets in an ancient refrigerator, but I figured that ancient yeast was raised and sold in some ancient way just like ancient olive oil and ancient flour.

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.  Our God is a God who saves... Psalm 68:19-20a

What I discovered was that God supplies our every need.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  II Corinthians 9:10-11 

The yeast that is needed covers the ground that the grain grows in.  It rests on the grain, covering it completely.  It isn't harmed by grinding the grain.  It doesn't die in a cold snap.  It blows on the wind.

We as humans can do everything possible to rid our homes of yeast, but that doesn't mean that the yeast is in any danger of long-term loss.  A little flour, a little water, daily attention, time--the bread is back in only a few weeks.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Perhaps this is also indicative of a greater picture.  God asks us to set aside yeast as a picture of turning away from breaking His laws.  However, at our very nature we are law-breakers.  There is no way for us to get rid of all of that baggage.  Only the God who created us can set us free from all of that.

Perhaps that is the real picture of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.  Titus 3:5 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An Up Side to Fermenting

March 17, 2012--Post delayed due to security concerns

We were in our normal home for only a short time this week and were preparing to leave again first thing in the morning for an extended absence when all of a sudden it occurred to me that I had misplaced something important.  My toddler is on a food strike, so my husband had given her a bottle in the hopes of settling her blood sugar and restoring peace to the house.

As the day neared an end, we realized that the bottle had disappeared without a trace.  Thoughts of rancid milk clouded our thinking as we searched, to no avail.  At first, it appeared that we would be able to locate it by its smell when we returned at the end of the month.  Then my husband remembered that he had put just a spoonful of kefir in with the milk.

'It won't stink too badly,' we decided, and we headed for bed.

This morning we rushed through some last-minute details and loaded the car.  The last thing that we did was to go on light patrol, shutting down and unplugging everything non-essential.  Next to the last light receptacle my husband found the errant bottle.  It had been lost in the clutter of a dirty toy room.  It was filled with curds and whey and was no worse for the wear. 

I've found missing bottles before at the church nursery.  Whether filled with milk or with formula, it never ends well.  So I wholeheartedly say, thank God for fermenting.

Many thanks to my hostesses at Simple Lives Thursday, Freaky Friday, and Monday Mania for allowing me to share.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Washing Laura Ingall's Clothes--An Update

If you missed the original post, you can find it here.

This has been a learning experience for us all.  My original intention was to limit the amount of work I would have while we were working on rehabbing my father-in-law's home, but I found that it wasn't so simple.

The very first night that we lived at Dad's, my toddler began by vomiting.  Thankfully we found a set of replacement sheets in the linen closets, but I had no replacements for the pajamas.  I tucked her in bed with only a diaper on, and the doubts began.

I knew going in that there were at least two shortfalls with my plan.  First, our pioneer forefathers lived rather isolated during the workweek.  Even when they did visit each other, body odors were considered a normal part of life--unlike in our artificial world today.

Secondly, our pioneer mothers did their best work while spouting an apron.  I brought smocks and old clothes to wear while we were painting, but that offered little protection from tomato or coconut oil stains.

Over the next few weeks, I found that there were other things I hadn't fully thought through at the beginning of this experiment.  First, a toddler needs a different outfit almost every day.  Life happens differently before nerve endings are myelinated, and the clumsiness that accompanies that accessorizes our clothing in undesirable ways.  Her clothing just couldn't wait until Wednesday to be washed.

We brought a few extra outfits for my toddler.

One of my older girls is an occasional bed wetter.  When we started on the GAPS protocol, even though we cheated regularly, her occasional problem began to visit us nearly every night.  Bed sheets couldn't wait until Wednesday to be washed.

We brought a few extra pair of pajamas for my daughter.

( On an interesting side note, we noticed that on nights where she worked toward the Bowman squat (recently expanded here) she was invariably dry.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But we're keeping at it, just in case.)

I hadn't planned for growing children.  As soon as we arrived, all four of my girls went through simultaneous growth spurts.  It was almost laughable.  At home, I would just unpack a few boxes in my basement to meet the needs with either hand-me-downs or last year's clearance.  When we reached home, we were so busy that I found it difficult to find the time to unearth proper clothes.  (In fact, I found it more difficult to keep up with the laundry when we were home, since the girls wore new outfits every day, but we weren't home long enough to wash them.)  Hardest hit was my eldest daughter, whose only pair of work-worthy jeans were already last year's size.

In the beginning, I made sure that we packed our oldest, yuckiest looking clothing so that we wouldn't have to worry about stains in a work zone.  That was during the time that I naively thought we could get the job done in just six weeks.  Now, it's looking like three months, and I've come to the realization that our oldest clothes just can't survive this many weeks of constant wear and tear. I didn't blink when the knees wore out.  It irked me when my darling daughter decided to tear up her pants, in the hopes that they would look better as shorts.

When they developed holes in the back end or in the groin, I knew it was time to replace them.  The question remained though: what was the wisest way to replace them?  I certainly didn't want to bring something that looked nice.  Eventually, I found a few extra pair of pants (that were still modest) in the quilting pile and brought out replacements.  The jeans pictured here have all found their way to the trash bin now.

If I had it to do all over again, I would make some changes--the same changes outlined above.  But over all, I believe this has been a worthwhile endeavor.

Linked with Monday Mania and Simple Lives Thursday.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Grain-Free Lasagna

This recipe was designed in honor of my six-year-old, who missed some familiar favorites when we started our season of eating sugar-free/grain-free.   It includes enough kale, sulphur-rich vegetables, and bright colors to satisfy Dr Terry Wahl, although it would need a little modification (It contains soft cheeses and eggs) to be Paleo or GAPS friendly.

Grain-Free Lasagna
  • kale
  • 2 medium zucchini or yellow squash, quartered and slice
  • 1/4 c butter
  • 4 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3/4 teaspoon fennel
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 4 medium tomatoes, chopped (with juices retained)
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 c Parmesan
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 pound log of mozzarella, sliced length-wise
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Select enough kale to cover a 9" x 13" baking dish twice over.  For me, that's about 10 leaves, but there are large variations in the size of kale leaves.  Remove the large center stalk and discard or compost.  (Don't put it into the stock pot.)  Cover with boiling water and cook until softened, ranging from 5 to 20 minutes depending on preferences.  Drain without retaining the cooking water, and set aside.

Meanwhile saute the squash, mushrooms, onion, and garlic in butter for about 5 minutes.  Add ground beef and cook for 10 minutes or until done, stirring occasionally.  Drain.  (We usually retain all of that good fat for use on our eggs at breakfast the next day.)  Add seasonings and tomatoes.  Simmer, uncovered, until flavors have blended.

Mix cheeses and eggs until well-blended.

Layer half of the kale, 1/3 of the mozzarella, half of the meat sauce, and half of the ricotta sauce.  Repeat layers.  Top with the remaining mozzarella.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until heated through.  Serves 4 adults

Inspiration from Kraft recipes and Hunts.  Linked to Sunday School at Butter Believer, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager, Traditional Tuesdays at Cooking Traditional Foods, Real Food Wednesdays at Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Healthy 2Day Wednesdays at Day2Day Joys, Whole Food Wednesdays on Beyond the Peel, Pennywise Platter Thursday at Nourishing Gourmet, Full Plate Thursday at Miz Helen's Country Cottage, Living Well at Common Sense Homesteading, Freaky Friday at Real Food Freaks, Friday Favorites at Simply Sweet Home, Fight Back Fridays at Food Renegade, Friday Food Flicks at Traditional Foods, and Simple Lives Thursday at Gnowfglins.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The General Rules for Herbs

Herbs have a rich history which goes back to the beginning of time.  Because they have fewer side effects than Western drugs, we tend to think of herbs as being benign.  In actuality, herbs are drugs--nature's drugs.  While many herbs have beneficial side effects, not all side effects are desired.  For example, the same herb that dries up that runny nose will also very efficiently and permanently dry up lactation.

When dealing with herbs, please remember:
  • Each person reacts to drugs differently.  Since there is no one-size-fits all approach to health-care, you need to do your own research to find out what is beneficial for you and your family.
  • Side effects are considerably reduced by using the smallest amount of a drug that gives the desired response.
  • Herbs are not regulated by any federal agency in America.  Once again, you need to do your own research using your own trusted resources.
  • My statements, or any other statement from any other blogger, cannot be construed as medical advice.
Did I forget anything?  Please, feel free to leave your own general herbal rules in the comments below.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

To All a Good Night

Want to know the number one health complaint that people talk to me about?  Insomnia.  Now I must confess that I'm no physician, so people don't come to me with every little illness and ailment.  However, there's something about insomnia that causes it to come up in conversation.  Personally, I think it's the fact that lack of sleep makes a person cranky, and cranky people talk a lot.

Of course, there's also the scary, addictive nature of sleeping drugs that makes even the most hardened skeptic seek alternative therapies, such as the ones listed below.

What I'm suggesting is a combination of many different sleep therapies that have worked for my family.  I'd love it if you would leave a comment letting us know what has worked for your family, as well.

Morning Constitutional
After the death of my mother-in-law, I went through a period of depression.  Sleep was elusive and unsatisfying at the time, which probably fed the depression even more.  Eventually, I learned that to keep depression at bay and to provide restful sleep at night it was important to exercise.  In particular, it was important to walk outside.  Walking outside provides fresh air, vitamin D, a wider variety of colors, and time to reflect on the stresses of life, in addition to providing weight-bearing exercise.  (Remember, that weight-bearing means that your body bears it's own weight, not that you're lifting iron.)

Red light at night
Our sleep schedules are supposed to be regulated by the sun.  Sunlight is filled with a full spectrum of light, including blue light to keep us alert throughout the day.  The longer we're exposed to blue light, the smaller the amount of melatonin that our body manufactures.  The problem is that newfangled inventions like light bulbs, some alarm clocks, televisions, and computers also produce blue light, but they are capable of doing so for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  With so much blue light, the body stores of melatonin waste away to practically nothing.

An interesting twist is that red light doesn't interfere at all with the production of melatonin.  Back in the day, the hunters and gatherers only hope for artificial light came from the red light of a fire.

So try these two ideas for a better night's sleep.  Turn off the TV, computer, and any errant light bulb that you come across off after dark--or at the very minimum, an hour before bed.  Instead, light candles or set some fires to get your evening's work done. (Note: setting your homework on fire does not get it done any faster.)

Secondly, buy a sleep mask for deeper sleep.  (I got mine at a big box discount chain for only $10.)  Be prepared to sleep late in the morning, since the sunrise won't disturb your sleep one iota.

The sounds of sleep
Another easy adjustment to make to the bedroom environment is to condition the sound.  White noise generators provide ambient sound to mask the things that go bump in the night. 

One of the reasons that I like the idea of white noise generators is that they've tested very well.  In fact, studies have shown that white noise generators are as effective at helping people to sleep as over-the-counter sleep aids, but without any side effects. In another study it was found that infants were three times as likely to fall asleep with white noise in the background as they were with normal night noises.

White noise generators can easily run from $50-$100.  I prefer the cheap fan that cost me only $10.  Those who know anything about engines will tell you that the cheaper engines make the loudest white noise, so feel free to skimp liberally.

Everybody's favorite
Melatonin has become the favorite darling of those looking for a little all-natural mellowing, and with good reason.  Since the body manufactures it's own stores of this hormone, it plays nicely with most prescription and over-the-counter medications.  Take the smallest dosage that your body responds to about twenty minutes before bedtime, with an optional second dose just as you turn in.

I've never found studies that corroborate this, but in my own experience too much supplementation with artificial melatonin can cause you to fall asleep well only to awaken in the middle of the night.  I personally go easy with this one.  I use melatonin only when I'm having difficulty falling asleep or when my body doesn't seem to know when bedtime should be, only at the lowest dosage that my body will respond to, and only for a few nights at a time.

Melatonin overdose can have serious side effects.  It can mess with the liver, testosterone levels, and neurological systems.

Out cold for hours
While melatonin is helpful for falling asleep or resetting your internal clock, I turn to herbs for difficulty staying asleep.  I tend to make my herbal concoctions fluidly, sometimes adding every ingredient and sometimes omitting one or two that don't feel right at the moment.  Whenever dealing with herbs, please keep the general rules in mind.

My basic recipe is:
Sometimes I will mill the whole lot for 10 seconds after combining them.  Sometimes I leave them whole.

I add just a little bit of water to partially rehydrate them before adding either alcohol, to make a tincture, or glycerine.
  • 80 ml water
  • 120 ml vodka or vegetable glycerine
 Choose an alcohol-based tincture if you're looking for a highly effective, shelf-stable product that will last for months (in a cool, dark location).  It's also a good choice for those who are sensitive to sugars (or have weak enamel).

Choose a glycerite if you're concerned about giving alcohol to a child or if you need something prepared in a hurry.

To make a tincture, put your herbs, water, and alcohol into a 1/2 pint Mason jar.  Screw the lid on tightly.  Alcohol tinctures need to be stored in a cool, dark location for three weeks before they're ready.  Some recommend giving the bottle a good shake every few days or so.  When the time is complete, strain off the herbs and discard.  Store the alcohol in a 4 ounce amber bottle in a cool, dark location. The healing properties will stay in the alcohol for at least a year.

Glycerites are similar in manufacture.  Put your herbs, water, and glycerine into a 1/2 pint Mason jar.  Fill a small saucepan with water.  Put a dishcloth in the bottom of the saucepan and set the Mason jar on top.  Simmer the herbs for 3 hours.  Strain off the herbs and compost them.  Store in a 4 ounce amber bottle in a cool, dark location.  The healing properties will stay in the glycerine for months.

Keep in mind that the herbal brew above is a neurological depressant.  Do not use it continuously.  Some recommend taking it on the weekdays, and leaving the weekends au naturalle.  I prefer to take them for only 2-3 days before taking a night off.

Actually, I go through long periods of time anymore where I don't need any herbal help at all.  I pray that you find deep, healing sleep, as well.

Linked to Sunday School at Butter Believer, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager, Traditional Tuesdays at Cooking Traditional Foods, Real Food Wednesdays at Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Healthy 2Day Wednesdays at Day2Day Joys, Whole Food Wednesdays on Beyond the Peel, Living Well at Common Sense Homesteading, Fight Back Fridays at Food Renegade, and Simple Lives Thursday at Gnowfglins.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Washing Laura Ingall's Clothes

This is a time for new beginnings.  Not only is it 2012 now, but also we are living in a new place.  My father-in-law passed away in October, and we've moved to his home just long enough to sort through everything and prepare the home for sale.With so much work in store for us, I'm trying to simplify our lives as much as possible.

God gave me the foresight to begin our school year six weeks early, with the idea that the busy season at work may have been too intense for me to teach every day.  Actually, I was able to teach during that time, but it gives me the freedom to skip out on teaching now.  The older girls are going to be continuing some lessons in a study hall style, but I'm giving myself permission to take a full six weeks off from teaching first grade.

As for the housework, I'm trying to simplify that as much as possible, as well.  My girls have enough basic cooking skills to be able to prepare a simple meal by themselves and keep the dishes clean.

Laundry, however, is always a problem.  To be honest, I have one full-time slob who gets part-time help from her sisters.  She can single-handedly keep me busy from morning till night, either supervising her as she picks up her string of socks, shoes, coats, gloves, scepters, boas, scarves, crowns, shirts, pants, dresses, and handkerchiefs or just picking up the darn mess myself.

If I don't watch closely enough, the girls are liable to fold the clothes, put them on the floor by their dresser, walk over the top of them, and clean up everything on the floor straight to the laundry basket without ever having worn an outfit.  It's a maddening, depressing problem which I'm determined to rid myself of.

Over the last few months for entertainment my family has been reading the classic Laura Ingalls Wilder novels.  As I was thinking over simplifying our lives during these next few weeks, I stumbled across a bit of inspiration from the pioneer days.  Perhaps you all realized this a long time ago, but I must confess that it hit me like a lightening bolt.  If I want to wash less clothes, perhaps we need to own less clothing.

I haven't made any permanent commitments.  Nothing has been thrown away or given away.  During this temporary move, however, it seemed the perfect time for a grand experiment.    I had each person pack one Sunday outfit, one pair of Sunday shoes, two pair of work clothes (one to wear while we're working and one to wear while we're washing), one pair of work shoes, one pair of warm pajamas, and a week's worth of undergarments.  That's it.  Everything else was left at our permanent home.

The first thing that I noticed when I got here was that everybody's clothing fits into one drawer.  (Actually, there is one exception to that.  My husband didn't hear me when I told him that I had already packed for him, so he has A LOT more clothes than anyone else.  Since he's good about cleaning up after himself, I'm not really worried too much about that.)

My hope is that I'm able to wash everything in only a few loads.  My in-law's washing machine only holds about 3/8 cup of clothes at a time, so we'll have to wait and see.  I'll keep you posted on how this grand experiment works for us.

Read Washing Laura Ingall's Clothes--An Update.

Shared with: Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, and Simple Lives Thursday.