Some experimenting with Photoshop watercolor effects


Where’s The Beef!?

Or should I say “Where’s the blog?” I have really been starting to feel the guilt of a sadly neglected blog weighing down on me lately, and in my defense, since school started this year, for me it really just seems like a few days . . . so, I will give you all a recap of where my last few months have disappeared to.

1. A new school year, always means new teacher drama for me as my very active and gifted son, Zee, adjusts to a new school year and new teachers. Let me recap – Me: Zee, school is starting up again next week. Zee: complete and utter melt down, involving kicking, screaming, etc. Me: You have to go, I can’t leave you home alone, blah, blah, blah, and all kinds of other reasons that mean absolutely nothing to him, while in my heart I am wishing I could quit my job and homeschool him so he could have an education from someone who really appreciated his genius, even though it is trying at times, (like when he took the door handle and latch on the sliding glass door apart and reassembled it backwards when he was 3.)

Time lapse – school has started and I am once again getting daily notes and phone calls from the school. A new teacher who I had so much hope for at the back to school night, because she had rotating classroom assignments, which is always a good thing for Zee, because he is just one of those kids who needs a special job. But no, it seems those only apply to a certain part of the day. And the teacher insists that he must do worksheets and readers – the really mundane ones with two or three words to a page. He has been reading words since he was 2. He hates the readers and tears them up on the way home from school so I won’t make him read them. They send home 6 a week, each one to be read 3 times each. HELL. Not that he can’t, but he wont. He got a zero on his reading assessment, and was in the 95th percentile for comprehension. HOW does that happen? I can tell you, the but teacher is ‘puzzled.’  I call the teacher and tell them we will be opting out and reading Charlotte’s Web instead. It is a book he picked out on his own and has been reading a little at a time already, even though it is hard right now for any book to hold his attention for very long. More notes and phone calls – he is hiding under his desk, pretending to eat gravel on the playground at recess, not staying in his seat, chewing on paper, talking to himself at his desk (probably on some Calvinesque adventure) turning the lights on and off, not bringing his ‘stop and go’ slips back to school with my signature, etc., etc, etc.

Then they call me in for a meeting with the teacher. She informs me that he is not behind, but that she is worried that he might fall behind at some future point. It would be terribly unjust of me to not take him to the doctor and put him on meds because if he falls behind it could jeopardize his entire school career. Me: He is board. I am not going to have him medicated for being board. Teacher: No, he is not board, he just refuses to do his work. He needs to be on medication. It’s not fair for you to not medicate him! Me: Over my dead body will this kid be medicated. They bring in the school councilor who says that he has been observing him over the last week and that he was only on task for some percent of time. Me: did you send him back to his seat? Teacher: I can’t be sending him back to his seat all the time. Me: did you give him a special job like I suggested? (That really helped last year) No, they did not. can they give him more challenging material? No, the district requires this set of readers and this stack of worksheets for every second grader in the district. Me: Kids are not cookie cutter replicas of each other. This is not working and something has to change! They say that they know this but their hands are tied. The district dictates it. (Yeah, bs!) I tell them I don’t give a crap about what the district says, I will not medicate my son for the reasons they stated, and if they can’t find a way to fix it, they will just have to deal with it.

canning tomato sauce

I go home and dig up research and info on the law about a teacher suggesting medication in the great state of Utah and the law is on my side 🙂 I print the legislation and research studies and other information. (The Kids on ADHD Drugs Do Poor at School) look into other schools for him. A week later I am called in again, this time to meet with the principal and a district special ed specialist. I am armed with my husband, a voice recorder, and all the papers I printed out. I was pretty sure that they were going to bully me into medicating. I had an “Acceptance of Responsibility” form ready for them to sign just in case they pushed it that far. It turns out that the district specialist didn’t know about the medication issue, and the principle was hoping to keep it that way. I didn’t give her the pleasure. At the same time, I didn’t end up needing the form – the specialist said he had observed Zee and agreed with me that he was board and didn’t need to be medicated. I let them know that there would be a legal issue if it was ever brought up again, and that was the end of that. Now the teacher is doing ‘interventions’ or more plainly, alternative learning activities instead of worksheets. But I am sure she wasn’t excited about having to do one more extra thing. Especially for the kid who asked her if she was going to shave her mustache. It was an honest question – really he didn’t mean to be rude! (but I did have a talk with him about tact and appropriate ways to ignore other peoples unsightly features.)  Now the drama has gone back under the surface, but I am pretty sure that next year it will resurface and rear its ugly head once more.

2.In the midst of all the teacher troubles, I am on a quest for real food real cheap, since we are also broke, and I refuse to resort to the use of artificial food-like substances to feed my family. I found a lot of good stuff in the classified ads, and all organic and locally grown! Woohoo! It felt pretty good to have something going right! I got 6 bushels of heirloom tomatoes, 24 sugar pie pumpkins, 200 lbs of potatoes, 30 lbs of onions, also organic, 2 huge banana squash, 7lbs shelled walnuts, 1 quart jar of no sugar pectin, a 25lb bag of brown short grain rice (the only thing not local) all for less than a regular grocery shopping trip. And I just scored a quarter of a grass fed beef for $1.50 a lb cut and wrapped! We will be set for groceries for a while 🙂 Looks like I found the beef!

3. Canning, freezing and preserving all the food

4. And, I made a nice big batch of my Momma Nature’s No More Owies (or Owie Cream as my kids like to call it)

5. Not to mention work. Did I mention work?! 🙁 I have one question – How did I survive?!

6. Up next, helping the kids with their homemade Christmas presents. I just helped my oldest daughter refinish her dresser so she could sell it so she could have money to buy her friends presents. It looks amazing!

Bee’s Door Knobs

Bee had her hair done up this morning in what she is calling “door knobs.”Bee's Door Knobs

7 Good Alternatives to Processed Sugar

Anything natural is better than artificial sweeteners, so nix on the Splenda, sweet ‘n low, and aspartame 🙂 but you already knew that.

Even refined sugar is better than all of those nasty things, but then when you get into the research, you can see that sugar does a lot of damage to our bodies by causing tooth decay, insulin resistance, yeast overgrowth, and weight gain among other things. So we start looking for alternatives so we don’t have to feel bad about treating ourselves (and our kids) to treats every so often. I think that anything – even if it was once natural- if it is over processed,  and even though it may be better than fake sugar, is still something you want to avoid. Things that fall into this category are refined sugar, most brown sugar (which is often just white sugar with molasses added back into it), high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and sadly the onetime favorite of many health conscious individuals, agave nectar. I am also very skeptical of Xylitol for this very same reason. Even refined white sugar is still better than HFCS, because the processing that HFCS goes through causes molecular level changes that have turned out to be REALLY bad. (Think cocaine, and then think crack cocaine – This may be an extreme example, but the basic idea is there)

So what sweeteners are ok, or even good for you in small amounts? My take on this is that if God didn’t want us to have sweets, there would not be dates, bananas, honey, maple syrup, or many of the other good sweet things we have that are naturally sweet with no monkeying around. Of course, we need to use sweeteners in moderation, and you can overdo any good thing. So when it comes to sweeteners, the more natural and the less processed the better.  Here are 7 good alternatives to processed sugar:

  1. Raw Honey: My first choice is all natural raw honey, straight from the hive, maybe run through a strainer, but that’s it. (make sure that the bees have not been fed sugar water – that changes the whole composition of the honey and that is a whole ‘nother story!)
  2. Maple Syrup or Maple Sugar: My next choice would be natural maple syrup, or maple sugar, which is dehydrated maple syrup. These are much less likely to cause your blood sugar to fluctuate – that is the major problem with sugar and that is what leads to insulin resistance.
  3. Raw Cane Sugars: Other good sweeteners are made from raw cane sugar, which is basically dehydrated cane juice, like mascavo, rapadura, turbinado, and sucanat. These can be coarse, medium, or even ground finely into a confectioners sugar, but still has the natural brown color to it, with a lot of vitamins and minerals that are typically removed during processing.Make sure that you get organically grown, otherwise any benefits of vitamins and minerals in the sugar will be outweighed by negative factors, such as pesticide residue.
  4. Blackstrap Molasses: Molasses is another better alternative to sugar – it is the stuff removed from the sugar during processing. You would want to get good quality, again, the less processed the better.
  5. Date Sugar: There is also date sugar, which I have never tried, but I have heard that it is very good and easy to use as a substitute for sugar in baking. But it is really expensive – nearly $50 for an 11oz package! Ouch!
  6. Coconut Palm Sugar: Like cane sugars, organic coconut palm sugar is also very easily used in baking, and is comparable in price. It is more expensive compared to honey, but can be substituted 1:1 like cane sugar. It is not nearly as expensive as date sugar though. You can get an 8oz package for between $6 and $10, depending on the brand. Coconut palm sugar is a darker brown sugar and tastes more like brown sugar than cane sugar. There are questions for some people as to the sustainability in the production of coconut palm sugar, for example they say that carelessly harvested palm sugar can damage the coconut trees from which it is harvested – if all the flowers are removed, no coconuts will be produced, and then no new trees can grow, resulting in fewer and fewer coconut trees, and therefore fewer coconut products like coconut oil, etc. Traditional harvesting methods of palm sugar ARE sustainable, and actually improve the yield of coconuts, and is more friendly to the environment than cane sugar production because it requires no artificial irrigation. There are other types of palm sugars other than coconut palm sugar, but I do not know enough about those to comment on them – see comments for more info on other types of palm sugars 🙂
  7. Stevia Leaf Powder: Then there is stevia. This is also 100% natural and doesn’t cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate, and a little goes a loooooong way. It is up to 30 or more times sweeter than sugar, and can be used in recipes instead of sugar in very small amounts with the same sweetness. However, I don’t like the flavor of it, as it can leave a bitter aftertaste, and darn it, one of the only good reason to eat sweets is for a treat, so don’t use it if you don’t like the taste – it defeats the purpose!

The Holistic LDS Living Conference

Dear Friends,

I am so excited to let you know that I will be participating in the upcoming Holistic LDS Living Conference! I have been gearing up for the last few weeks,  so I apologize that I have not posted in a while. I will be in booth 16 at the front of the vendor area.

The conference will be on the last Saturday in June, on the 26th, in South Jordan, Utah at Paradigm High School.  I would love for you to meet me there, so I wanted to let you know that the registration deadline is this Friday, on June 18.  After that, there may be some at the door registration spots left, but it’s not guaranteed and it will be at a higher price.

The conference is going to be amazing, and has 20 speakers providing 56 classes to choose from.  Truly something for everyone, you won’t be disappointed! Many magnificent and qualified practitioners in the holistic field will be presenting at this conference.  The opportunity to learn about such a vast array of interests  from herbs, essential oils, energy work,  vaccines, holistic dentistry, whole foods, and the like will be offered at the conference and is geared towards the beginner and expert alike. Be sure to check the blog and Facebook and Twitter pages to keep up to date on the last minute happenings.

As you know,  there has been a major shift in the acceptance of the holistic arts, especially within the LDS community.  It is important and timely to bring such an intensive learning opportunity to the public.  Although the conference is  spiritually based, it is open to people of all faiths and beliefs.

Your support would be very appreciated!  If you could forward on this information to your contacts to let them know about this fantastic opportunity to learn and become empowered, that would be great.

Thank you!

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I think every mother has a nightmare of having her child get a tooth knocked out. I had this lovely opportunity today – Bee was running down the cement steps to our back yard, tripped and fell and came back up minus a front tooth! Much of the edge was taken off on this for me, since the tooth has already been dead for a couple of years, as the result of getting headbutted (accidentally) by her older brother Zee when he was her age.

Unfortunately, since it is Saturday, our dentist is not open,

and she will have to wait . . . but I really doubt there is anything that they can do anyway. If the tooth had been alive, I think they can fix it, but with a dead tooth? I’m not so sure. But for now, the tooth is in a Ziploc bag with some ice in the refrigerator.  Just in case . . .

After cleaning up the blood and giving her a piece of ice to suck on, her take on the whole thing? When asked if she wanted the tooth fairy to bring her money,  she said “No way, I want candy!”

Making Yogurt with Villi and Greek Cultures

When I got my yogurt cultures in the mail from Cultures for Health, I was really excited, but had to put the project on hold due to my trip to the Raw Milk Symposium that weekend. I wanted to have plenty of time to do it right. So when I got back from Wisconsin, I pulled out the packets and with some very enthusiastic help from 7-year-old Zee, I went to work. We started with the Villi culture. Zee opened the packet for me and measured out the recommended 1/2 tsp of culture, which I mixed into 1/2 cup of raw milk. I left this in a canning jar on my stove top for 24 hours checking it occasionally – OK, so I hovered a little, I’m a little controlling – sorry! – after 24 hours, it was still not setting up, so I checked the instructions and saw that on the back of the page of instructions there was a special section for raw milk! So, I set the first try aside and started over, this time I slowly heated the milk to 160° and then cooling the milk to room temperature before adding the culture, and then began the waiting process all over again. Being a somewhat scientifically minded person, I left the first batch on the stove top along with the second one, and waited (alright – I already said I am not much good at waiting, but I really don’t think I hurt it any.) The next morning, the first batch had gelled up to a kind of slimy runny consistency, while the second batch was still not set up. I left it there and decided I would check it again when I got home from work.

When I got home, the first batch had gelled into a very soft yogurt that held form when first scooped up, but then collapsed into a really runny yogurt, more like kefir. The second one was much more firm and was beginning to separate from the whey. Glad that there was an extra half teaspoon, I used the pure starter and mixed it in to a quart of raw milk that I had mixed in about 1 cup of cream, and set it on the counter again. This batch set up very nicely after 24 hours and had a really nice thick mild flavored yogurt. Yum! I used the 3rd 1/2 tsp to make another pure starter (done right by heating the milk first) and put it in the refrigerator to be used in the next batch – I will make another pint of yogurt by heating the milk and then I can use 2 Tbsp in each quart of raw milk without having to heat it again until I want to make another batch of pure starter. This is done to preserve the integrity of the villi culture, because bacteria from the raw milk can change the culture and yield unpredictable results.

The Greek yogurt was a bit different – it requires very low heat. I started out right this time, warming the milk to 180° this time (as per instructions) and then cooled it to 110° before adding the culture.  With only 1/2 cup of milk, much of the liquid evaporated out. I used my food dehydrator and I am wondering if it may have been a little to warm. I put the starter into a Ziploc baggie and put it in the refrigerator. I think I will bring in the cooler and use the hot water method instead.

To be continued! . . .

The 2nd Annual Raw Milk Symposium

I got up before dawn on Friday, grabbed my bags and my husband drove me to the airport where I boarded the first of three planes, stopping first in Denver, then Chicago, and finally after hurtling through the air at 450+ mph over what looked like a beautiful patchwork quilt in a plane that felt as rickety and made as much noise as I imagine a tin can would at that speed, I landed in Madison WI at 3:55 PM. As I walked out the door the air smelled like grassy farmland and I could see the horizon stretching out for miles – not the usual for a girl who has spent the last 20 years of her life at the foot of the mountains in Utah.

Rosanne Lindsay from the Wisconsin Alliance for Raw Milk (ARM) picked me up and took me to the Hilton where the symposium would be held the next day, and I got to spend some time with some of the folks there for the symposium, caught some really good Italian with Augie Augenstein, the founder of the ARMi, and then Rosanne picked me up from there and I stayed at her home that night.

The next morning, Rosanne made sure I got plenty of raw milk to drink with breakfast and filled our thermoses for the day and then we headed out to the symposium, where we were able to meet Cathy Raymond from the fund, Gene’ Walls and her absolutely DARLING little boy, Michael Schmidt, David Gumpart, Mark McAfee, Scott Trautman, Sally and John Fallon, Max Kane, fund attorney Elizabeth Gamsky, Kathryne Pirtle, Kimberly Hartke, Jackie Stowers from Manna Storehouse, Andrew & Rebekah Sell, Annette Kohn-lau, Micah Taair, and many other great people (I am terrible with names!)

Some of my favorite bits from the symposium:

(Paraphrasing) This isn’t about milk, we are at war! Food can turn you into a perfect slave . . . We have a new form of dictatorship – a dictatorship of our own consent . . . To be silent is to consent . . . and creates a mockery of those who died to establish freedom.  . . we are for the government an unlimited natural resource if we are sick, because when we are sick, they can milk us to death. ~ Michael Schmidt

Real milk and Cod Liver Oil would solve 80% of our health problems. . . . (paraphrasing) This isn’t about milk, it is about freedom and it is about our children. It shows God’s sense of humor in that it’s all coalescing around a glass of milk ~ Sally Fallon

After the panel discussion, there was a wine and cheese tasting bar. I really loved the cheeses – there was a really wonderful gouda, some cheddar and colby, blue cheese, a fantastic chevre, (which I am going to try making myself) and some really yummy herbed cheese with parsley – none of it was labeled so I had to try to figure out what each one was, and since I’m not a cheese maker (maybe when I grow up 🙂 ) so I could possibly be wrong on some of them. One thing is for sure they were all really good!

At the end we wrapped up with a sneak preview to Kristin Canty’s upcoming film documentary Farmageddon. It is a very touching and personal glimpse into farm raids and the trials that many of our small family farms have been experiencing as the FDA is amping up their enforcement of gray areas in the current food safety laws – I strongly encourage everyone to go see it once it comes out!

Sunday morning I was up at 4:30 am, and off to the Madison airport to catch a 6:30 am flight back in to Salt Lake City. Thank you to everyone who made the trip possible for me, so that I could go and represent our group and make connections that will allow me to continue to be an advocate for raw milk!

Using Herbs to Combat Food Borne Illness

With all of the fuss around raw milk lately it may be difficult for many people to distinguish fact from fiction, especially if you are just starting out with all natural foods and have not grown up with raw milk like some people have. The truth is that it IS possible to get sick from raw milk. It is also possible to get sick from sushi, eggs (cooked or raw), raw spinach, lunch meat, rare meat, pasteurized milk,  deli cheese, fresh tomatoes, and the list goes on. The question really should be “is there anything out there that IS truly safe to eat, and what can I do about it if I or one of my children get food poisoning?”

For those of us who prefer not to foist our personal responsibility for our food choices off onto health professionals, taking care of the stomach complaints caused by food borne illness is really very simple. The good news is that there are several ways to naturally fight food borne illness, and if caught early, natural remedies can stop a stomach bug in a fraction of the time that antibiotics can. I have had food poisoning from eggs and the remedy that worked for me was simply a mixture of black walnut and olive leaf tinctures, one full dropper of each in a small glass of orange juice; all combined was less than the $30 copay that I would have paid had I gone to the doctor. Both of these herbs have strong parasite killing properties, and I have found them to be effective for stomach flu as well. I gave some to my neighbor once as she was getting ready to walk out her door to take her daughter to the emergency room, and less than an hour later, her toddler was running around as if she had never been sick.

I have read before, that in most cases what we call the stomach flu is actually caused by eating contaminated food. If this is true, then people actually get sick from food a lot more often than they realize. One of the great things about herbs is that often there is more than one way to kill a flu. I recently put the question out to the fans of my raw milk page on facebook. Even though none of these people had ever been sick from raw milk, they have encountered food borne illness from fast food or other packaged factory foods. Here are some of the remedies they have successfully used:

  • Grapefruit Seed Extract as a nutri-biotic with lots of Vitamin D3 and garlic to boost the immune system
  • Oregano oil (best taken in capsules)
  • Colloidal silver or nano silver – 2 to 3 Tbsp every 15 minutes until stomach upset is gone
  • Activated Charcoal capsules
  • Fresh garlic with cayenne
  • Where there is diarrhea also take slippery elm capsules

Any of these remedies should be followed by probiotics, like kefir or yogurt, to restore the intestinal flora and for fastest results, should be taken at the fist sign of stomach upset. It is common for these strains of bacteria to be highly resistant to antibiotics, and if food poisoning symptoms are ignored and you wait until they get really bad as many people do, they can become very serious, even leading to kidney failure or other long lasting health problems, especially in small children, people with compromised immune systems, or with the elderly.

With the food industry and its track record, it is best to be prepared because chances are someone in your family will end up sick with a food borne illness, no matter what you eat.

A Dozen Essential Medicinal Herbs to Grow

If you are thinking of starting your own medicinal herb garden, here are a few ideas of easy to grow herbs that no home herbalist should be without: (listed in no particular order)

  1. Comfrey – Comfrey is a cell proliferator and speeds healing. It is very easy to grow, just get a start from someone and plant it in a well watered spot in your garden in full sun. Soon you will see its large broad green leaves start to come up. These leaves are slightly fuzzy and stick together, making them good to use as a wrap. Pick leaves directly from your plant to add to infused oils, and other herbal remedies.
  2. Garlic – Garlic is one of natures strongest antiseptics. It is very easy to grow, in fact once it takes root, it is nearly impossible to get rid of it, so choose your location carefully!
  3. Cayenne – Cayenne is very easy to grow, and one thing that you may notice after planting is that unwanted wasps will not bother you anymore! Cayenne is good for the circulatory system, and can even stop a heart attack!
  4. Echinacea – Echinacea is beautiful, it has lovely purple cone flowers. Once you plant it will come back year after year, and the seeds will spread. You will want to wait until you have a large patch of it before you harvest the root, but tinctures made from echinacea can detox your system if you receive a poisonous bite, and it is a great immune system support.
  5. Lavender – Lavender is a wonderful calming herb, it is beautiful with all of its tiny purple flowers, and it smells divine! It enhances the properties of other herbs, and has strong anti-fungal properties. Lavender grows as a bush, and can get quite large and unruly if you don’t trim it back, so be sure to plant it in a part of your garden where it can spread out, or it may smother your other herbs!
  6. Calendula – Calendula flower petals have wonderful healing properties and can be infused in oils to be added to ointments, lip balm, and ear oil. These pretty yellow flowers will add a splash of color to your garden, and the petals can even be added to salads.
  7. Aloe Vera – Aloe Vera can be grown in a pot in your kitchen window sill, and is perfect to have on hand in case of burns, sunburn, bruises, and bug bites.
  8. Peppermint – peppermint and other mints are aggressive and spread very quickly, so they are best kept in a pot or in a section of the garden that you don’t mind having them take over. Once rooted, like garlic, they are impossible to get rid of. Peppermint is wonderful for belly aches, gas, heartburn, and makes an energizing herbal tea.
  9. Chamomile – Chamomile is a calming herb, great in a relaxing herbal tea to help on sleepless nights. Chamomile can also be used in an infused oil or added to an ointment or salve as an analgesic to soothe rashes and minor scrapes and burns.
  10. St. Johns Wort – Tinctures made from St. Johns wort are effective pain relievers for burns, shingles, arthritis, and bruises. It is also has antidepressant qualities, and can be used in herbal teas, tinctures and infused oils.
  11. Arnica– Arnica is essential for bruises and swelling. An oil infused with arnica flowers, immediately applied to an injury  will prevent bruising.  Great when you have an accident prone child!
  12. Lobelia– Lobelia and cayenne tinctures used along with CPR can help revive a person who has stopped breathing. It can also help with smoking cessation, or for someone who is in shock, to slow a racing heartbeat, or to help with circulation or blood pressure problems.

I could list many other easy to grow herbs for your medicinal garden, but this is a good start. These essential herbs will help you treat many common health issues at home.