29 August 2010

My thougts on dietary cholesterol

I have been interested in nutrition and food since the 1970s and I have read a lot of studies and done a lot of research. I went through almost 9 years as a vegetarian, based on the very best information I could get -- and I got VERY sick. (Vegetarianism is a fine diet for those whose body's are suited to it -- but not everyone is.)

As to cholesterol...did you know that there is zero scientific indication that consuming cholesterol has any impact on your blood cholesterol levels? Actually, only about 1% of the cholesterol circulating in your blood comes from dietary source, the rest is manufactured in your liver in response to inflammation in your body (infection, disease, etc.). If you eat more than you need, it is broken down, the EFAs used and the rest is 'disposed of'.

Heart disease was pretty rare until the 19th century. It wasn't unknown -- even the Egyptians had some trouble with it -- but it went from being relatively rare to being the leading cause of death as the Industrial age took hold. But people have been eating meat (sometimes in HUGE quantities -- think Eskimos) for 6 million years without a big heart disease problem. Why suddenly in the 19th century did our customary meat consumption become dangerous?

The research I have read suggests that it didn't.

Meat was never the problem. It was a another change in our diets at the beginning of the Industrial Age: far more processed foods - especially hydrogenated fats and refined sugars and grains. Non-infectious disease skyrocketed! In the 1950s, we exacerbated it further by adopting TV and along with it a remarkably sedentary lifestyle -- which has only gotten worse and worse.

Of course, in the years since the 1970s, as we have adopted an agribusiness model, meat *has* become dangerous. Meat from sick animals isn't good for us, and our methods of meat production are focussed on 'more for less' -- bigger, faster, cheaper is the thing that matters. Grains fatten cattle, so we feed them grains, even though they are supposed to feed mostly on grasses. The cattle are kept alive long enough to be slaughtered, but they're so sick they need to have antibiotics as a regular part of their diet. Their own immune systems are no longer up to the job!

If you don't have access to traditionally raised meats and eggs, I think that you probably should limit your consumption of meat and eggs -- but not for the reasons the common wisdom suggests that it's important. Since we do have access to the meat and eggs of healthy animals, I think they are a very healthy element of our diet.

More than you ever wanted to know, I'm sure.
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26 August 2010

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Barbecue sauce is another one of those things that tends to have corn in one form or another in it, whatever brand you buy.
So, again, I wanted to make our own to have on hand. Rod developed this recipe and we've made it several times with variations to rave reviews.

Rod's Home Made Barbecue Sauce
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup tomato paste

6 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 tablespoons chili powder
6 tablespoons dried oregano

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons molasses
4 tablespoons garlic powder
12 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons smoked paprika or chipotle powder

1/4 cup water or more, as needed

Whisk in a pan and simmer until it smells heavenly, adding water to keep it from getting too thick. Use it on the grill or in the oven -- or as a condiment. Yum.

Oh, and you know that you can make a simple chili powder, right?
Like this:
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/4 teaspoons cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 7/8 teaspoon onion powder

Home made ketchup - recipe 1

It's tough to find ketchup with no corn ingredients at all, so I was interested in trying to make our own. The recipes are varied like no other recipes I've checked out, so I was a little unsure where to start.

Rod has a very bad flu today, so I decided that today's the day to try the first recipe. It's first, largely because I have these ingredients. ;)

Home made ketchup recipe:
makes one scant quart
32 oz. tomato puree (ours is from the garden, your can be in a can)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
4 Tablespoon blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup prepared mustard (I wanted 1 tsp dry, but don't have any today)
2 teaspoons smoked salt (plus more to taste)
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Penzey's cake spice
2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Whisk together and then simmer on very low heat (under a splatter guard) stirring occasionally for an hour and a half or until there is ketchup sticking to the splatter guard. Be sure to remove the ketchup from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes before you to try to stir it -- as it thickens, it splatters a lot!

I'll let you know what the ketchup expert (Jack) thinks.

If I were to suggest parenting manuals...

Can it really be autumn already? I woke up to a very cold morning, the geese are flocking, and the light looks like autumn, so I guess it can. *sigh* Time goes so fast these days!

I've been pondering parenting manuals. First, because this interesting article appeared in this months of Secular Homeschooling magazine, and then because I picked up Hold on to your kids to get to the part where he explains *how* to hold on to kids.

(The first 80% of the book is spent selling the idea that peer orientation, normal though we think it is, isn't the best thing for children and families. I was sold before I bought the book, so eventually I put the book down for a few months and only recently picked it up again to find out whether he eventually gets to the point...he does.)

I am not a huge fan of parenting manuals.

I read them, and I usually get something of value from them, but parenting manuals, even more than most self-help books, have to be taken with a huge dose of common sense.

I find myself largely in agreement with Dr Sears and his attachment parenting theories, but I have seen his advice taken in what I think is not the best direction -- mostly people who miss the point seem to be inclined to put the kids in charge. Not good for the child or the family. But they do tend to be loving and that's good.

On the other hand, I also believe that, on rare occasion, a swat on the butt is a perfectly valid parenting tool. Having raised Jack for seven years, I know that some children will *never* need that. However, I have also raised a child who would have benefited by more aggressive parenting than I was capable of at the time. That said, like any tool, it should be used only when it’s the appropriate tool and for almost all purposes there are far better tools in the parenting kit.

So, if I were to be asked about what parenting books someone should read, what would I say? I would say “Not Babywise”. That book has some truths in it, but it is far more dangerous in the hands of inexperienced parents than any other parenting book I know of. (I never heard of Dr Spock’s book resulting in the death of any child. The end of civility, perhaps, but no babies died because parents followed that advice.)

On the positive side, while it’s not a parenting book, per se, I would recommend that anyone who wants to think about what babies and children really need might want to read “The Continuum Concept”. This the book from which Dr Sears drew his first inspiration in developing his attachment parenting theories.

The author’s observations of how a people who, on the whole, seem a lot more centered than we are, approach the whole parenting thing are very thought provoking. The author's observations give way to opinion on a regular basis, though, and her conclusions about what it all means can be a bit odd. If you're a reader who can sort observation from the opinions based on those observations, I would still recommend this book. More than anything else, I would say thatthis book has coloured the way I raise Jack.

The observation that had the biggest impact for me? Children are born wanting to learn to be adults and wanting to be a contributing member of the group. If you work with that impulse, children have higher self esteem, are more content, and are much easier to live with.

Another book i would recommend is “Hold on to your kids: why parents need top matter more than peers”. The authors take 179 pages to plead their case and only 84 pages telling you how to hold on to your kids, but it’s the first book that I have read that seems to hit on the things I learned in raising TJ and Corey from start to finish and it answers the questions that I had about "what went wrong" with raising them. Don't get me wrong, I am very proud of the men they have become, and I love them completely ... but I also feel that I failed them. I was not the parent they needed and I wasn't sure why. Drs Neufeld and Mate seem to have captured the thoughts that lurked just out of reach about my parenting of TJ and Corey and about my parents raising of me.

Neither of these books has anything much to say on the subject of how or when to wean, techniques for garnering cooperation from a cranky two year old, or how to keep your child asleep at night.

You might call them "meta-parenting" books. I guess that's one reason I'd recommend them over any other. Any one set of 'how to' advice won't work for every child -- pick one that works for each of your kids as individuals -- but in parenting, it is easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal.

That six month old who cries night after night, that two year old insisting on putting on his own shoes when you're in a hurry, that nine year old who won't do her homework? Those are very temporary issues. Ultimately, it's the relationship that matters -- because the crying six month old will all too soon be a fifteen year old deciding what to say to offers of a beer from a friend. The two year old will be a 25 year old, trying to decide what to do about an unethical demand at work. That fifteen year old will be a forty year old, making time (or not) to be with you.

Parenting is about providing the relationship that guides young people thorough the unknown, whether you're with them or not. It's about providing them with the confidence in themselves to deal with situations we can't even begin to foresee.

In the end...it's about building family.

25 August 2010

Today's haul ...

This is today's haul of tomatoes. Time to start another batch of tomato sauce, ketchup, and BBQ sauce. ;)
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24 August 2010

Letters to my grandchildren: August 2010

My darling children,
Wanja, I want to thank you for all the beautiful photos you have sent! I have posted photos of all three children on my desk at work, and I gaze into all of their sweet faces every day! I know how busy you are, so I am especially grateful that you take the time to remember me and “keep me in the loop”!

Corey came to visit this month for the first time since he left home. It was wonderful to see him, but one thing his visit did was to make me long to see all of you again, too. This old Grandma’s heart is so full of love for you all that it’s hard to be so far from you as you go through all your interesting times and you grow so fast! (Yes, even you, my lovely adult children – you are growing fast, too! Not physically anymore, I hope, but the changes you go through as you mature in your adulthood are wonderful to me!)

Do you ever play ‘what if’? It’s a game that I invented when I was a young girl, though I think many people invent it.

When I was a small child, my family moved frequently and every school year found me “the new girl”. I was also usually “the fat girl”. That meant I was teased mercilessly at school and was usually pretty unhappy until I was alone. And so, at night, before I went to sleep, I started to play ‘what if’. I dreamed a better life for myself; I dreamed of myself as a popular, pretty girl. I dreamed of myself as athletic, and strong. Later, I dreamed of myself as an adult, with great confidence and many accomplishments. Later still, when Farfar Olof and I were young, newly married, and struggling financially, I dreamed of ‘if money were plentiful in my life”. After a while, I started to get too busy raising my precious sons and making a life for us to spend much time in ‘what if’ very often – but sometimes I still play.

Lately, my favorite ‘what if’ is to dream about what I would do if I had the money to buy a house near you and to fly over frequently, so that we could come and stay near you and be a part of your lives for several months every year – and then also to buy a small house near ours and fly you here to visit and be a part of our lives for several more months every year! Perhaps we could also travel the world together, seeing London, Paris, Moscow, Rome, and Athens, Africa, Asia, India…there are so many interesting things to see in the world! It’s never likely to happen, but it’s a fun dream, and I would if I could.

If you were to play ‘what if’, what would you dream for yourself? Would you travel, in your imagination? Would you grow up to have a certain kind of adventure? Who would you be and what would you do?

‘What if’ can be a lot of fun as game, but it can also be used either a tool, or as a distraction. If you use it as a distraction, it can be like too much television – a way to spend a lot of time in fantasy so that you are too ‘busy’ to really accomplish much. That’s a sad way to live. If you use it as a tool, though, you can imagine yourself in all kinds of exciting adventures and try on different ways of seeing yourself. That can help you to decide how you want to live your life and to know what you need to do to be happy. That’s how I like to use the game.

When I was a young girl, everyone around me expected me to grow up, to marry young, and to have many children, whom I would stay at home to raise while my husband had a job and adventures ‘with the boys”. They thought it was sad that I was “too smart”, because they thought it would be harder for me to find a husband, and being smart would be wasted on a girl. It was expected that I would have many children (my mother was one of 11 children, my father was one of nine children, I was one of six children.) and would be too busy raising them and cooking and cleaning to do much else with my life.

I knew I wanted to be a Mamma, but I also knew that I wouldn’t be happy if that’s all I ever did. I imagined myself as a nurse, caring for babies in the hospital. I imagined myself as a cook on a cruise ship, seeing the world as I took care of the ship’s kitchen. I imagined myself in the Peace Corp, going to desperately poor parts of the world to help people to make better lives for themselves. I didn’t actually do any of those things – but I did learn to see myself as a person who does things and can make things happen. That is a skill that has served me well in my life—especially when things have been very hard. Playing ‘what if’ helped me to imagine new ways to help myself out of the difficulties and into a brand new life!

I would love to hear about your ‘what if’ ideas. Perhaps you could write to me, or draw a picture for me of the adventures you like to imagine for yourself!

My fondest love to you all as autumn creeps in. Enjoy the last days of warm weather and the first days back at school!

Be well, be happy, and be good!

Grandma Misti

23 August 2010

Update 23 August

I'm back...I think.
It's been a crazy few weeks -- things didn't slow down after Corey left and Mercury retrograde -- or 'Mamma sadness', or something -- caused my brain to go mushy. That could have been more frustrating except that there has been no time to sit down at the computer, between weddings, and moving friends, and work, and bonding again with Jack, who announced to his Auntie that 'while Corey was here, he had most of Mamma's attention'. Jack waiting patiently, but became a bit of a barnacle once Corey was gone.

The photo is of the front garden that Corey dug out for us. It was there before, but it had gotten lost in tall grass. I planted a heap of seed in there...and autumn promptly announced itself. Oh well, maybe we'll put the three remaining (very sad) rose bushes in there and try again next spring.

Remember how 2008 was "the year of death"? Well, the wheel turns, and 2010 seems to be the year of babies. I think we're at 6 or 7 so far this year...much nicer!

I'll try for coherent tomorrow. ;)

21 August 2010

Happy Birthday, Connor!

We all wish you a wonderful birthday -- and that eight will be the most fun age yet!
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20 August 2010

Still thinking about you!

I'm not really sure why my brain has gone silent. Certainly there has been much happening and much to say.
I'll try to get something written this weekend, but I wanted to know that you, my bloggy friends, have been on my mind all week.
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14 August 2010

Two more days with Corey, one day of which I'll be at work.
I should be back soon...

11 August 2010

Another experiment

We tried anoter experiment last night.

Cod with sweet and sour sauce, over grated zucchini instead of rice. (I had been envisioning shredded cvabbage or zucchini that would sort of simulate rice noodles.)
Rod seasoned the zucchini with olive oil and Pennzey's "Chesapeake Bay" seasoning.

It was quite good while the (home made) sweet and sour sauce was hot. It wasn't particularly appetizing cold for lunch today.
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Official first grade graduation

Jack has officially graduated from the first grade after finising te last of his Egypt unit.

This was our final project; all four of us made ahnks (Jack made two -- can you identify them?), Jack and I made scarabs, and Corey made a snake biting its tail.

It was fun!

I may well pull out the occasional fun project we didn't get to while I am assembling the next unit -- but we're on our way to second grade and Ancient Greece!
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06 August 2010


Having Corey here has been absolutely wonderful!

Not only is is marvelous just to have him here, but he has gone out of his way to lend a hand with some project or other just about every day. He and Rod have trimmed some trees that had dead branches too high for Rod to handle alone, they've cleared up some fallen limbs that were accumulating, and done heaps of other major yard work.

Then, yesterday, we were all out when Corey arrived home from an overnight visit with a friend, so Corey busied himself with opening a garden in front of the house that had been lost to weeds over the last four years! I had mentioned in passing that I wanted to get to that one of these weekends and came home last night (after a long day -- it was 9pm before I got home) to find it done. What a sweetheart!

On the less enchanting side, we have a mouse. A very brave (stupid?) mouse that makes little effort to keep out of sight. He isn't leaving feces all over the counter tops like his predecessors, but he does scamper about underfoot while we're up and trying to prepare and eat meals.

Time to set out a peanut butter feast for him and arrange a one-way ticket to the wilds far, far away.

If we were sure how long we could commit to a pet, I'd say it was time to consider a cat again. But we're not. And Rod's asthma is better...but I'm not sure he really wants to risk it. Oh well.

Jack wasn't entirely sure about 'sharing his Mamma' when Corey first arrived, but Corey has slipped so easily into our family life that Jack has decided that Corey is the ultimate in cool -- his first question every morning: "Where's Corey?" Any time Corey is away visiting friends, Jack wants to know when he'll be back. It's so cool to have my two youngest here together for several weeks!

But, of course, we've also been keeping very busy. That's what visits are for, right?

More soon!

Happy birthday to my sweet eldest son!

Has it really been 30 years since you were as little as that little guy on your lap?
Yeah, I guess it has.

I hope it's a great birthday and a wonderful year,

love Mamma

03 August 2010

Corey's birthday gift...

Months ago -- back last spring -- I mentioned that I was working on a large project for Corey's birthday, and that I would post photos when I was done.
Then I found out Corey was coming to visit, and I decided to give it to him while he's here, so work slowed down ... and then the garden took over my life. ;)
Well, Corey's here and his gift is *almost* done. Done enough for photos anyway.

In case it's not patently obvious, this is a "date minder" and correspendance tool.

Corey had mentioned that he wished he was better at keeping track of birthdays and the like, so I decided this might help. There is a folder to contain stamps, stationery, and cards. There is a perpetual birthday calendar to be hung over the current month's calendar as a reminder of who has a birthday this month. And there is a matching address book with lots of space for new addresses. I also included some cards made from some of his vacation photos that he's sent me over the years.

Now, to finish it up so hhe can take it with him.
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