Time Marches On

So quickly… I can’t believe it’s the last day of August.  Murphy has already started back to school, the weather is cooler, and I’m re-evaluating my life.  I’m thinking of going back  to school.  It’s a frightening prospect, but exciting as well.  It would be so good to have some training in a field where I can feel I’m doing some good.  To have a little more influence on my destiny.  But I would be diverting a lot of the family’s resources for a year or two, and I have to make sure we can survive in the meantime. So I’m doing a lot of thinking, planning, and praying to figure out if this is the right thing to do.

I’m still seeing Nathan for herbs and acupuncture.  It does seem to be working; I have less pain more of the time, and my mental fog seems improved.  Today I have a wicked headache though.  Think I’ll go have some tea, and maybe a nap.  Then on to perusing applications….

So it’s Tomorrow

And I do feel better.  Marginally.  I’ve stopped crying constantly.  That’s a help, when you’re trying not to scare the children.

Children.  Just thinking about them makes me smile, even in moods like this.  Today was second day of school for Murph; he’s so THRILLED, beyond words, to realize he’s in 5th grade, and that means that next year he’ll be in middle school.  He couldn’t stop talking about it.  Apparently, middle school is AWESOME.  Not exactly how I remember it, but I hope it works for him.  And for the elder child, we talked him into shaving the full beard into a nice goatee, and he looks so handsome.  He’s a really good looking kid.  Ok, he’s not really a kid.  Man.  He’s a very good looking man.  Wow, that’s hard to say.

I’m selling off some of my fiber; if you’re interested you can check it out on ebay seller “Cherizac.”  Wool, alpaca, soon to be silk, bamboo, a bunch of other things.  May try to put up one of my spinning wheels  if I can figure out how to ship it.  And yarn, and spindles, and finished items, and knickknacks… The more things I can get out of the house the better.

Tonight’s dinner was potstickers and rice again.  Yummy.  Not as much fun with only me doing the wrapping, but it was definitely more efficient.  Doing ok on the diet, mostly, despite the emotional chaos, but I am still having trouble reducing the onions and spicy foods that I’m supposed to.  I don’t eat them raw, which is good, but I should only be having them “occasionally” and I have them every single day.  I’m trying to reduce but really, when you’re trying to make Asian food, or Indian food, how can you do it without onion or garlic?  I’m trying.  I’ll get there eventually.  Maybe.

Pain is tolerable, but mostly because I’m not doing much.  Going to try to make some Lavender Shortbread tonight to take to the job interview tomorrow.  Bribery works, right?


I’ve been trying to write a post for a week that I just can’t seem to finish.  I’m tired, in pain, tired of being in pain, tired of whining about it. I’m tired of job hunting and feeling a failure and useless.  I’m tired of carrying the financial responsibility for the family.  I’m tired of feeling stupid and incapable and unqualified. I’m tired of worrying.  I’m tired of the house falling down around my ears.  I’m tired of bugs and spiders and vermin and heat.  I’m tired of fucking with my diet and obsessing about food.  I’m tired of not sleeping well.  I’m tired of feeling ugly and unemployable.

A good portion of this angst is probably hormonal, but a lot of the underlying frustration is not.  Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of my life that I love and wouldn’t trade for anything, most of which is my family.  I love my husband and my sons more than anything I can imagine, and I’m so grateful to have them. That’s the one upside of this underemployment thing; I get to spend more time with them.  But that doesn’t get the damn bills paid.  I just want to pay the  bills doing something that matters.  Or better yet, stay home and be June Cleaver.

I need a break, and I seem unlikely to get one.

As I’m sitting here feeling sorry for myself, I can’t help thinking of my asbestos friend, who is under so much stress; the never-ending, merciless, drawn out kind, and who still manages to work full-time, keep a civil relationship with her family, friends and co-workers, do things in the community, be a superlative friend, and so much more, while not feeling the best herself.  She’s amazing.  So how can I get so upset over a little money worry?

I’ll probably perk up tomorrow.  Hormones suck.  So does job hunting.  Both together suck exponentially.

Finally – Pot Stickers!

I haven’t been doing a lot of cooking; it’s been HOT here, over a hundred degrees every day.    A lot of  salads, leftovers,  hummus and veggie meals, and a quick stir fry or two.   But the other day, I did make something I’ve been dying to make for ages; POT STICKERS!

I used a recipe originally written by Alton Brown (my hero!) but had been veganized; I had to make further changes to adapt to my bizarro diet.  Basically, I finely chopped some extra firm tofu, kale, carrots, and napa cabbage; added tamari sauce, grated ginger, sesame oil. My willing slaves then did the stuffing.  I didn’t have dumpling wraps, so I used a vegan brand of wonton wrappers and folded them diagonally.  I served them with some leftover General Tsao’s sauce and the dipping sauce that came with the recipe (soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, a touch of siracha), but I actually liked them best plain. Everyone LOVED these.  A lot of fun to make, and more fun to eat!  I did learn a lot from this first attempt. I need to measure the water added to the pan (too much is not good) and have just the right amount of oil for frying (too much is greasy; too little is too dry).  We froze the leftovers for another meal.  It makes quite a number of pot stickers.  After we ran out of wrappers I used the remainder of the  filling in the next day’s stir fry.  Simple, delicious.  The children were upset that we weren’t having the actual pot stickers for dinner though!

I’m looking for work, which is never a fun task.  My hours have been reduced, so I need to find something, anything, to keep the special diet coming (not to mention the herbs and acupuncture treatments!)  It’s been very discouraging; I sent out 20+ resumes on Craig’s List; one half got no response whatsoever, the other half got scam replies.  I have one person who has promised to call me today for an interview; keep your fingers crossed.  It’s office work, which I was hoping to get away from, but it’s a non-profit with a cause close to my heart, so it will still feel like socially responsible work.  Everyone in my house is searching for work, so if you have ANYTHING you want done, give us a yell.

My plants are coming along well.  It looked touch and go for a while.  The mint, which everyone tells me is so easy to grow, wilted terribly as soon as I put it in the new pot.  Neither watering nor sun seemed to help for a couple of days.  Yesterday, however, it perked up.  I did some rapid damage control, pruning back the dead leaves, pinching off stuff that looked too far gone, and it looks like it may survive!  WooT!  Ortiz Nursery is having a bulb demo on Saturday; I may attend, just for the giggles.  I so love growing things, and I’ve always been so desperately bad at it.  I’m really hoping this time will be different.  I really would like to get to the point where I can grow a significant portion of our food, and I want to compost.  Ambitious, for someone with bad knees, constant pain and fatigue, no?  I’m told I don’t do things halfway; which means when I fail, I fail SPECTACULARLY.  Pictures of the garden soon.  (Don’t you love how a few small pots becomes a “garden?”)

Oh, and for those who care; we finally uploaded pictures from the camera. Ok, so some are almost a year old.  I’ll be updating the family blog (Homespun Dreamings) with them soon.   I’m also going to be moving the family blog eventually; my aim is to have three blogs.  This one, for the journey I’m on now, Homespun Dreamings, which will become a retail shop for various and sundry items I make to sell, and a third blog, yet to be named, for family.   Oh, and my beloved will also soon have a blog for his musical undertakings; it’s under construction at present.   I’ll update as info becomes available.

Pain and Gain

Once again this week my job status has become, let’s say fluid.  So last night, gradually, I could feel the pain coming back.  I’ve had a week, possibly two, with very little to none peripheral pain; ie, my fingers and toes have not been aching.  Last night, and much more this morning, it’s back, along with the generalized itch driving me crazy.  Rather than wallow, inspired by my FB friend LizzieK8, I got off my butt and did things.  I ran a bunch of errands, including  emailing a billion resumes,  shopping, and going to Ortiz Nursery to pick up many of the herbs that Nathan wants me to use instead of my beloved onion and garlic.  I’m exhausted and stressed but am proud of myself that I got it all done.  Tonight, after the sun goes down and the temperature falls below “Broil,” I will attempt to repot the herbs and get a garden of sorts going.

I got Stevia, lemon balm, thyme, lavender, arugula, two kinds of tomatoes, and a few others, I think.  I’m so hoping I don’t kill them!

Rough Week

I have found it this week tough to stick to my new “diet.”  I use the quotes, because it is not really a diet; it’s food as medicine.  Which I am all in favor of, until I received  a list of foods I should eat, and a much longer list of foods I shouldn’t.

Changing to a vegan diet was a breeze compared to my current trial.  I am to cut out onions and garlic in all forms, along with cinnamon, all permutations of pepper (including ground black, all chiles, and even sweet peppers).  Limit soy, wheat, most grains, all fried food, and did I mention onion and garlic?  I’m supposed to include more (say it with me) dark green leafy vegetables, which is fine; but salads cannot have any commercial salad dressings, since they all contain raw garlic and onion (raw is especially bad.)  Even making my own dressing is tough; I’m not really supposed to have vinegar either.  Nathan recommends citrus juices (of which I am not really a fan) and olive oil, adding spices I don’t have (and don’t really like: marjoram, dill, thyme, lemon balm.)

I was very frustrated this past week, and especially this weekend, feeling that there is nothing I can eat that is enjoyable any more.  I didn’t mind giving up meat or dairy;  I truly enjoy a varied diet and there was still plenty I could eat.  Indian food especially was a new and wonderful frontier for me, and I was thrilled learning how to cook and eat it.  But most Indian food has garlic and onion in large quantities.  So now that’s out.  Mexican food is out; but that’s not really one of my favorites, so I can live without that too.  Chinese food?  Heavy on the garlic and onion again.  Sandwiches?  No bread. I’m allowed sprouted bread, or non wheat based bread, but my experiences with them so far have not inspired me.  I’d rather live without.

All this left me feeling deprived, frustrated, a bit angry and resentful.  BUT…. I really really really want to feel better.  And I’m beginning to see signs that maybe, just maybe, little parts of my health picture may be improving.

I met with Nathan tonight, and we talked about it.  He gave me a lot of ideas, and told me I don’t need to be QUITE as strict as I have been (I do tend to be an all-or-nothing sort of person, often to my detriment.)  He fed my “I want to grow things” meme and gave me a few tips on that as well.  I left his office feeling a lot better about things.  Due to financial constraints, I’m going to cut back the acupuncture but continue the herbs.

The other bad news is that my hours have been cut in half  “temporarily.”  We hope, temporarily.  Since I only work 20 hours as it is, this is rather catastrophic.  So I’m back pounding the pavement,  looking for a  job I can physically do and ethically live with.  Ideally.  I will, of course, do almost anything to get the bills paid.  Prostitution is still illegal, right? Just checking.

Overall, my pain has seemed a little less; the mid cycle pain came this weekend with cramping for about four days, but it wasn’t doubled over kind of pain, and the associated back pain was better also.  My mental energy seems a little higher; I actually took all the plants in our kitchen window that Billy had set up for me a system so I wouldn’t kill them (Thanks Bill!) and I repotted them and put them outside.  This is a huge thing for me.  I now have parsley, sage, rosemary and mint (psych!) growing in pots, as well as a pot of watercress.  The mint and the watercress two days later look iffy; it was really hot today but the soil was already wet, so I didn’t water them anymore.  Tomorrow I want to try to buy some stevia, marjoram, dill, lemon balm, nasturnums and bachelor buttons (flowers I’m told are good in salads!) and maybe some veggies.  Ambitious, no?

Like I said, all or nothing.

Because Amy Asked

I wanted to write about my seitan.  My first attempt, about two months ago, was dismal.  It came out hard and rubbery and just not good eats.  So I’ve been afraid to try it again; I don’t often have really awful outcomes in the kitchen. But I steeled my nerves, got a lot of advice (and some new recipes from Amy, THANK YOU!) I am so pleased to report that these batches came out AWESOME!  I made two; an Asian chicken style batch, and a Mexican beef style batch.  The chicken especially is light, fluffy, and even good plain, right out of the pot.  Rather than making “steaks” I made nuggets, and they’re just the way I think they should be.  Tucked them into the freezer (flash frozen on a cookie sheet, so they won’t freeze in a block) so that I can make yummy things later.  These should last me a while!  But the next batch I will try steaming them, as recommended; by then, maybe I’ll find a steamer by then. YUM!

Another visit

Another list of foods to avoid.  This one was sort of expected; but then a lot of things I didn’t expect too.  Focus on leafy green veggies; no problem; many fruits I can have, grains, fine.   But I have to avoid garlic, raw onion, and a LOT of spices.  Makes it hard to cook.   Cinnamon, powdered ginger, pepper of any kind, chili, curry, garam masala, rosemary, wasabi, horseradish, salsa, mustard.  Instead, I’m supposed to use parsley, mint, lemon juice.  Some basil, turmeric, coriander, cumin thyme.  So Indian cooking is mostly ok; mexican is out.  Asian if I’m careful.   He also does not want me to lose more than a pound a week.  That one I’m going to have trouble with. I’d like two pounds.  I know that I’m doing it healthy; I’m simply reducing portion size to normal, eating healthy foods, minimizing the snacks between meals, and trying to get a wee bit of exercise.  I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing; it’s working for me, it’s healthy, and it’s already tapering down on it’s own.  The lower I get, the slower it’ll go, and the last thirty pounds will probably be less than one pound a week.

Everything else is plodding along. Yesterday I spent the day in the kitchen; I made Indian red lentils and homemade naan for dinner; everyone LOVED it.  Really good.  I also made my now famous Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles and some Lavender Shortbread for gift packages at work.  They looked really lovely, and were a big hit.  Maybe I’ll get that vegan bakery off the ground yet…

Busy, sore, tired, but pretty happy.  Not bad, for a Monday.

Man, is this confusing.

I know I’ve posted before about possible problems with soy and thyroid implications.  I’ve also heard to stay away from gluten.  Now I’m hearing I should stay away from vegetables from the brassica family, which includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage in all forms, and brussel sprouts, asparagus, spinach, etc.  Other cyanogenic foods include peaches and pears, both of which I love.  Most of the sources I’ve read say it’s ok if they’re cooked, but not raw.   I do enjoy most of them cooked, though I love raw spinach.  This does not leave a lot for me to eat, especially if you throw in the things I’m trying to avoid to adjust pH.

The problem is that I don’t know what the basic problem is.  Thyroid?  Well, my levels are low normal, but they are NORMAL.  The symptoms I have are so non-specific and could be due to hypothyroidism, or to lupus, or to a bunch of other things.  So who knows?  Chinese medicine doesn’t care so much about labels, but about signs and symptoms, and they treat according to those.  So what do I do?

Well, the first thing to go is the pH thing.  I’m told it helps in metabolism and weight loss, but right now that’s all secondary; so I’m not even going to take it into consideration right now.  Getting rid of the pain and fatigue, is paramount, the mind fog and itch is next.  So I think I’m going to set a goal this week of not eating any soy products (though I think tofu is acceptable, since it’s cooked; but for right now I’m going to try anyway), work on getting all my protein from seitan, beans, and grains.  This requires some planning  ahead, which is not of course my strong suit.  But I’ll try.  I’ve already switched mostly to almond milk instead of soy, so that’s one hurdle.  My ice cream is coconut milk, thank goodness, as is my yogurt.  I’ll have to forgo the cheeze products, which won’t be hard since I’m really not wild about them anyway.  I’ll be fine, if my seitan comes out ok.

Now that I’ve purchased some, I have a better idea of what it’s supposed to come out like, so hopefully I’ll do okay.  I bought some at Lassen’s the other day; way expensive, of course; but it did go further than I thought. I used it in a General Tsao’s sauce, and didn’t think there was going to be enough for everyone, so I added some of the stuff I’d made.  Side by side the difference was amazing.  The purchased stuff was light, fluffy; and the texture was much closer to meat.  Mine was hard, rubbery and not really fun to eat.  I think I over cooked it for one thing; but I also didn’t realize how quickly the gluten would firm up when I added liquid, and I just let it sit while I got other ingredients. I hope that if I can correct those things, it will be more palatable.  Now I need to suck it up and go try, and then get ready to go see the Beloved play at Los Corporales tonight!  Whoo hoooooo!

Continuing Journey

I had a lovely moment today when a friend I hadn’t seen in a month or two exclaimed “You’re melting away!”  I’ve lost over forty pounds by the scale, but I don’t feel any different, and my clothes were always so baggy that it’s hard to tell, so I never really think about it.  It was very nice to hear, and as always, very motivating.

I’ve been taking my herbs, and I am sort of getting used to them, though they still make me wince.  I find that just holding my nose and chugging them in two LOOONNGG gulps, followed immediately by a sesame cracker chaser makes it well, doable.  I have been feeling better this week (until today) but it’s hard to tell if its the treatment or just the waning cycle.  I’m hoping.  Today the pain was creeping back; my arms especially were sore in the joints, but it wasn’t horrible.  The itch kinda is though; but I’ll get over it.

Haven’t been writing much about food; this week has mostly been leftovers, quick catch, and repeats (meatless loaf, General Tsao’s sauce on seitan, ate out one night) and the freezer is still semi functioning, so I didn’t get to the batch cooking last weekend.  I AM, this weekend, going to make an attempt at making my own seitan again.

I have also been asked to make some special cookie packages for welcome gifts to our referring agents at work.  That’s pretty awesome. I may try to make some lavender shortbread cookies along with the Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies for some variety.  My co-worker Jenny never misses an opportunity to help people on various levels, to network them and help (me at least) put myself out there.  She is an inspiration to me in many areas I need to grow.  She knew of my fantasy of having a vegan bakery someday, and she finds ways to help.  Awesome.

Thinking a lot about things; feminism, spirituality, my life and purpose, you know, nothing too deep.  Right now it’s all spinny and jumbled; but as it becomes more clear, I’ll try to get it down here.  No promises though, it may never become clear.  But there’s always hope.

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