31 January 2010

Another update ...

...but still nothing deep and meaningful. ;)

Happy Imbolg everyone! Life here is going well...our health continues to improve, though the amazing speed at which it started to improve when we first went wheat-free has slowed considerably. (And I continue to experiment, which sets me back when I do it. Latest -- a small bowl of oatmeal porridge for breakfast on Saturday, and for the last two days I am feeling achy, though not as bad as was normal a few months ago. Nonetheless, achy enough that it hurts to lie in bed.) I actually find it easier to resist the things I thought would be hard, because the feedback is so definite, but I am also finding that in my case, it seems not to be just wheat but any grain. Most of our "replacements" are nut and coconut based, so cutting out wheat has meant slowing way down on all grains. On Saturday our lunch was pretty grain intensive -- one and a half grilled cheese sandwiches on commercial brown rice bread, chicken noodle soup with a handful of quinoa pasta shells, and a small handful of corn chips with peach salsa. By the end of the meal, I felt really awful and I wanted to go lay down for a couple of hours. (There was no time to do that, but my blood sugar has been out of whack every since.) We had been going more and more toward most of our meals being GAPS/specific carbohydrate compliant, since we plan to give that a try in the next few months...and I think part of my feeling so much more energetic was less about wheat specifically and more to do with getting off grasses entirely most of the time. Oh well, as I said, feeling so much better makes that sound less daunting than it might have a few months ago.

In other news, planning is going full steam ahead on the next homeschooling unit, which will be based around Egypt.

One effect of our renewed health is that Rod has become far more involved in our education planning and as a result, we have made quite a few changes. Rod is moving ahead far faster with maths and science than my written plan would have suggested. That's just as well because my math and science planning are very weak -- but most of the ideas I have come across are either too expensive or way, way to advanced for a six year old.

Come to find out, though, math and science as Rod teaches them, are far more interesting to Jack than most of what I had been pouring into the lesson plans. Interestingly, that's taking us more in the direction of Charlotte Mason and away from the Well Trained Mind, which was my first love. Instead of removing the reference materials, though, we're keeping those for adult reference, since more and more this homeschooling thing is a family hobby as much as an educational choice. Rod and I have even started using the Great Courses materials from The Teaching Company at dinner time. They take a half hour, and at the end of twelve sessions, we have a good adult-sized grounding a new subject. Our current subjects are "A Brief History of the World" and "Great Scientific Ideas that Changed the World, Part 1".

Since Rod has also been participating in story time at bedtime, he is also better able to relate the material in the day time to the stories I have chosen to go with them. All in all, I feel like we're on the right track.

Imbolg is here and it's time to start planning the garden. I didn't have a lot of luck last year, because of getting sick at the height of the season and then remaining sick until early winter -- but I did learn a lot.

Planning at this time of year, though, does have its downside. In late winter, it seems that the only foods that appeal are orange. Squash, sweet potatoes, carrots...maybe some onions and cabbages. But of course, that isn't what will appeal most come summer. So, for the moment I am trying to get past my habit of living "in the moment" and send my self back to high summer, to do some planning.

Now that we have started to find some wheat free recipes for things like zucchini bread and eggplant Parmesan, I am definitely going to want some zucchini -- and we had a blast with Japanese eggplant last summer, so we need that, too. Lettuce works well for early spring.

The photos? Those are, perhaps, my favorite Yule gift. Rod and Jack gave me lots of lovely gifts, but Rod also helped me to hang some drapes that we'd had waiting for several years. I love the way they finish the look of the room -- and we've hung them so that Rod can push them way back out of the way come summer and have his view back. ;)

I have been getting an astonishing amount of reading done lately. I'm not having a lot of luck *finishing* a book, since the book I am reading usually isn't where i am when I get a chance to read, but that takes practice. (And one doesn't want to carry a library book in one's purse. That results in fines for damage.)

A couple of my favorites:

Shauna James Ahern's Gluten Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back...And How You Can Too. Shauna loves foods in the same way as I do -- it's all about the fresh flavours of real food for her, too, which means that most of her recipes appeal to me. But even better, I love the way Shauna thinks about food and I find reading her book and blog is bringing creativity back into my own cooking. I got this one from the library, but when the tax refund comes in, it's on my short list.

Jean Shinoda Bolen's Crones Don't Whine: Concentrated Wisdom for Juicy Women. Jean Bolen has been a sort of a spiritual "big sister" for me. She is a little older than I am, and so a little ahead of me on life's path. In 1984, when I was trying to figure out what it meant to be a woman, rather than a girl, she published Goddesses in Everywoman. In 2001, as I was contemplating growing older, she published Goddesses in Older Women: Archetypes in Women over Fifty. More recently, as I have contemplated my transition to crone, she published Crones Don't Whine. There is nothing earth shatteringly new in this one, so much as it is, as she titled it, concentrated wisdom. A series of meditations on the strengths of a crone, all in one place and pleasantly and inquiringly written. This one is also a library book that is on my list of books to own. I don't know whether Jean is pagan or just fascinated by Greek mythology, but her emphasis on the Olympians has allowed her to speak to me in a way that few writers of her ilk have.

Ok, I have people coming over to celebrate Imbolg with us at 3pm. I'd best get cooking: roasted root vegetables with Indonesian inspired curry served over steamed spaghetti squash. It's similar to the groundnut stew, but with the richer flavours of roasted vegetables it makes a lovely change!

27 January 2010

Homeschooling breakthrough in Michigan!

Homeschooling breakthrough in Michigan!


I am beside myself with excitement!  I just discovered that the Michigan e-Library is now available through the library web site (IPAC).


That means that any book at any participating library in the state is available for our use -- and I can order it myself and just ask Rod to pick it up when it comes in!  We have been buying a lot of books we didn't actually need to own because the library didn't have them and I didn't have time head down to the library to submit endless requests for inter-library loan.  The librarians have always been very nice about it, but it takes a long time and I can usually get it from Amazon weeks before I can get to the library.


That's no longer a problem -- and it increases the number of books we can try, since I don't have to be as careful about a potentially inappropriate 9for us) book if I can just return it to whence it came.   We're going to save a fortune by buying only the books we actually want to own and we're going to have a deeper and broader pool of resources for a richer curriculum than we used to. 


You know, I wanted to homeschool the older boys, but I have to admit that even had I been able to, there is no way I could have provided them with the education Jack is getting.  I just LOVE the 21st century!

Brief Update

Brief Update - january 27

This week marks nine years since Rod entered my life.  That's amazing to me ... it's pretty much *double* the time I have ever been with anyone and it all still feels so new and fresh -- but also so timeless.  I find it hard to remember a time before my beloved Rodney entered my life.  It feels as though it belongs to another lifetime.  Thank you, Rodney, for so many things I can't name them all.


In other news, we seem to have inadvertently begun to "politicize" our son.  Rod and I have both wanted to see Michael Moore's _Sicko_ since it came out, so when I found a copy at the library while looking for something else, I tossed it in my bag.  Usually when we watch that sort of thing, Jack plays nearby and seems to be ignoring it all.  Not this time.  He was glued to the computer screen and got angrier and angrier.  I tried to reassure him, but I was missing the point.  He wasn't afraid for us, he was angry because it's not fair.  He was also able to connect what he was seeing to what he has been hearing on the radio, which just made him grumpier.  TJ and Corey were both very political by the time they were six -- much more so than they seem to be now -- so I'm not sure why it surprises me, but it does.  Perhaps because Jack's life has been so much more sheltered than TJ and Corey were.  Tonight we're watching The Human Face with John Cleese.  I hope he will find that less...stimulating.  Politics are important, but I think getting too excited too soon is probably not healthy.  It seems like it may well breed a sense of helpless inevitability. 


It looks good for us to be back on the net from home sometime in the next six to eight weeks.  I hope we can pull it off before Rod lovely sister, Karen, arrives to visit.  It would be good if she could check her mail and Facebook while she's here!  (And I am eager to get back to blogging regularly...)


Work proceeds apace in designing our next school unit and Rod is working with me to adjust our notes on the previous unit so we can get it online.  I meant to get it up back in the autumn, when we finished planning it, but since we didn't, and since there were a lot of changes in our approach, we have decided that we may as well have it reflect what we actually did.  I am hoping to get the current one up at the same time, since as I understand it, a couple of other families are actually using those notes to help in their own planning.  How cool!! (I was also tickled when the librarian said that they would like to add my reading lists for various topics to their own Homeschool Resources binder and use them to improve the library's collection.  Woo hoo!  It feels good that the work is going to bear fruit for other people, too.


Jack has his second dental appointment (of three) today.  I am happy to say that I am not at all in turmoil this time.  Last time was such a "non-event" that I'm sure he's going to be fine. 



23 January 2010

I see by my ConFusion....

I haven't been to a Science Fiction Convention for something approaching
a decade.
I like the people. I like the events. I just haven't had time, what
with so many other interests...
But I have though for at least that long that my friend Mark would enjoy
conventions, so when he voiced an interest this year, I was quick to
offer to accompany him and show him the ropes.
I decided to "ghost" rather than to attend, in part because I could use
the time to sit quietly and blog and write letters while Mark attends
panels, and in part because I don't really want to get pulled back in.
I do enjoy the people and I do like the conventions...but we don't have
enough time as it is and Rod is very uninterested in SF.
So, I am sitting here at the hotel, not quite invisible with a laptop in
front of me. It's been interesting to see so many familiar faces, 10
years later -- and because I am not expected, the changes the years have
wrought have made me unrecognizable, too.
It's an interesting experience.
You're welcome to visit us at Chez Smiffy

Dental work, redux

All is well.

Jack flew through his first fillings with no drama at all -- he didn't
even have the injected anesthetic!

Brave boy!

I am amazed that they managed to leave him with the sense that even a
filling is no big deal...though I suspect that the "happy gas" they used
had something to do with it!

So very, very different from my childhood experiences! (Amazing what a
half-century of the development of dental science can do!)

13 January 2010

Dental Work

Dental Work

Jack is having his first tooth filled today.  In about two minutes, actually.


My stomach is in knots.


There are very good reasons I am not there to share this important milestone.  His dentists are superb -- very gentle and caring.  I am sure that, if I can contain myself, they will do a great job of helping Jack not to develop my terror of all things dental.  I suspect that my fear wouldn't have a particularly soothing effect on Jack, so I sit here unable to concentrate on anything but the fear I hope my little guy isn't experiencing.



 Mamma Bear. 




*twitch*  *twitch*

12 January 2010

It's been one of "those" mornings ...

It's been one of "those" mornings ...

I woke up early and got my chores done in record time. I showered and dressed carefully, since I have several meetings today.  My hair was behaving and my skin was, for a change, not scarlet after my shower.  (Gotta love rosacea...)  I even managed to make a condolance card Rod wanted to send before work.


And then I left the house.


In hugging me goodbye, Jack tugged on my hair, loosening the pins so that my bun was now on slightly crooked.


My hands were full, so when my trousers slipped down as I walked from the car to the office, there was little I could do.  The cuffs of my trousers got filled with salty mud -- which made for slippery walking, so I also spilled my cup of coffee on myself several times.  On the walk, I also evidently managed to jar both my salad container and my soup thermous, and the leaked all over me...so I smell like a vinegraitte withy turnips. 


So...how's your day going?





06 January 2010

[Fwd: Wheat free baking]

One thing we've learned about going wheat free. It may be best to
simply stop eating anything that is supposed to have wheat in it for a

before you start to explore wheat free baked goods. We have found that
the things we tried early on that were completely unacceptable are a

great deal tastier after not having baked goods for a while.
Interestingly, I now find that wheat tastes bad to me. (I have cheated
on occasion

over the weeks since I went mostly wheat free - but the foods I have
eaten haven't tasted good like they used to and the pain in all my joints

when i do eat wheat has been a pretty good incentive to find
alternatives instead.)

One thing that is becoming evident is that Rod is going to be on a
pretty restricted diet for a while. He has now identified soy and milk as

additional sensitivities ... and who knows what else his body will
reject as he gets the big sensitivities under control... (No soy rules
out a lot of

the replacement foods on the market ... we thought we might have found a
cracker replacement when valeries suggest Mary's Gone Crackers.

Sadly, Rod has a reaction to them.)

One lesson I am taking away from this: eat a huge variety of foods, and
don't repeat any one food too often, lest you become sensitive to it. It's

a good theory, but hard to pull off. We can add lots of new foods to
our diet, but it's still hard to get away from the concept of "staple
foods". I

am considering the idea of putting us on a food rotation protocol to
help us develop new habits. The last thing we need is to develop a

to almonds, coconut and eggs! Of course, since I am rarel;y the cook
during the week, it's a bit of a hard seel to the head chef. ;)

Oh, and a number of friends have speculated that Rod and I became
sensitive to wheat because we used to grind our own. I discussed that with

our doctor and he thinks that extremely unlikely. He suspects it has a
lot more to do with how ubiquitous wheat has become in modern life (it's

not like a wheat sensitivity is rare these days, after all) combined
with a genetic predisposition to wheat sensitivity. It seems likely
that the

refined and GM wheats we ate over the years would have played a much
larger role in our troubles.

Oh, and do any of my foodie friends know...is tapioca a whole food? A
google search hasn't really turned up anything definitive though my first

thought is, probably not. (It seems pretty refined.)

Here are some recipes we've adapted from a book by Natasha Mc-Bride that
we're pretty happy with. Her GAPS protocol was originally

developed as a treatment for autism, but her recipes are based on the
foods we want to eat. (No soy, wheat, or refined additives) We find that

they're a little bland for our tastes, but that's easy enough to fix.


4 eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil or butter (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups almond flour (can also use walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts or any
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cups coconut flour
water to thin

1. Whip the eggs up until fluffy.
2. Add the coconut oil and vanilla.
3. Fold in the flours

4. Allow to stand for at least 20 minutes (up to 24 hours).

5. Whisk in enough water (or milk, or coconut milk) to make a pancake
batter consistency

6. Fry up 1/4 cup at a time in butter or coconut oil over low heat

Note: These "pancakes" taste good and make an excellent 'flat carrier
for syrup". I recommend trying them after you haven't had "real"

pancakes for a while, though. They don't behave like wheat pancakes in
that they break easily and can't be folded and they don't really taste

much like wheat pancakes. A comparison with a fresh memory may be
pretty disappointing, but when you can taste them for what they are,

they're quite good.


6 eggs
1/2 cup of honey
1/3 cup of coconut oil or butter
2 cups of winter squash puree (we like butternut or pumpkin, but any
sweet orange fleshed squash is yummy)
2 1/2 cups of almond flour (can also use walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts
or any combination)
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cups coconut flour
1 teaspoon on vanilla, or 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

Optional: fresh or frozen berries, apples, peaches, dried fruit, or pinapple

Preheat the oven to 300F
1. Whip the eggs until fluffy
2. Warm the honey and butter together until they're very soft
3. Add the butter and honey to the squash.
4. Fold the squash into the eggs

Optional: spead the fruit evenly across the bottom of the buttered
baking dish or cake pan

5. Spread the batter eveninly into the buttered baking dish or cake pan
(on top of the fruit, if you added it)
6. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until it pulls away from the pan slightly.

Misti Anslin Delaney-Smith

You're welcome to visit us at Chez Smiffy

05 January 2010

Brief update

Ahh, well. Clever Misti wrote some blog posts on her thumb drive and made sure all the pictures were in order...and then carefully put the thumb drive away in her purse...and forgot to bring the purse (and the blog) to the cafe.

Oh well.

I have, however, learned how to post by e-mail, so I can get everything ready and post quickly when we do a drive-by download.

All is well here at Chez Smiffy; the increased energy at Chez Smiffy is lovely and remarkable. Jack is reveling in his "mid-winter break" as Rod and I work together to prepare the next unit...though the preliminary reading has begun with Boy of the Pyramids as this week's bedtime story. With a lot of input from my newly energized honey, the curriculum is changing pretty dramatically this time -- and all for the good! We're finding that Jack *really* responds to Charlotte Mason style learning and has begun to resist anything less engrossing, so we're moving further and further in the direction of pure pagan CM.

The baking has started to come together, though that was the topic of a longish post, so I'll leave it at that.

We spent the holiday pulling the house together (don't we always?). A visit from Purple Heart
on New Year's Eve has left us with a clear floor and a usable office again and we have started to dig into the dark corners where we hid boxes to deal with "later". The basement is just about empty, and soon we can start on the eaves storage.

I have continued exploring drawing and painting and amazed myself last weekend with not one but *three* recognizable pieces. Not good, necessarily, but one can guess what they are without prompting. This is progress! I have always wished to be able to draw and paint like Hunt, Millais, and Rosetti. Not sure I'll ever get there, but as the frustration subsides, I am finding art rewarding in its own right -- and that's the point, right?

OK, well, I'll post those blogs as soon as I can. Thankd for your patience!