Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Year Ahead {2013 Dawns} - a Primal Kitchen Giveaway

Now a couple of days on the other side of Christmas, we've cleaned up a lot of wrapping paper and packaging, and I'm finally getting a handle on planning to use some of the neat gifts I've been given.

My parents gave me some credit at my local yoga studio, for which I am extremely grateful. They also gave me a gift card with the stated purpose of finding some yoga clothing. My hope is to find some good on-sale fitness wear that I can use for both yoga and Crossfit - and since I've dropped a lot of weight, I now can really use that gift card to find more tops and bottoms in smaller sizes that fit. Though a year of Crossfit certainly made me stronger and generally fitter, yoga exposed a lot of my weaknesses, like flexibility and balance. I look forward to seeing what a couple of more months of yoga will bring to the table fitness-wise.

My in-laws really surprised me, with a smoker! (It was this year's Christmas gift and next year's birthday gift rolled into one.) Wow, it is cool! There are so many possibilities, but I am really excited about being able to buy pork in bulk locally and being able to smoke my own ham and bacon. How great to select the ingredients for our family's ham and bacon, so that my littlest can also enjoy it, too! And, admittedly, I cannot wait to smoke some roasts and baby back ribs in this bad boy. So, there are a lot of fun experiments and projects wrapped up in that present as well.
Wow, I wonder if this
model was hired because
of her resemblance to
Michelle Dockery...?

Fitness fun and kitchen fun. What can I say? Those made for a great Christmas, in my book.

Now, I want to throw a little more holiday cheer back out into the world to say "thanks" to all of my readers and commenters for a great 2012:

I'm giving away a Primal Kitchen classic lunchbox/kettlebell design T-shirt in the size/age/gender of the winner's choice! Yes, that means the winner can pick size of kids', women's, or men's tee!

Look for this, in the right hand column of Primal Kitchen,
and click "Join this site" to join!
If you are a follower via Google Friend Connect and you make a comment in this post with your favorite part about visiting Primal Kitchen, you are officially entered to win. I will use to generate a random number to chose the winning comment. I will also verify that your comment belongs to somebody in the "Google Friend Connect" list, so be sure that you also join there if you haven't already so that you aren't disqualified! To follow Primal Kitchen via Google Friend Connect, please go to the right hand column of the Primal Kitchen web home page and click the blue "Join this site" button!

So, three easy things: Join this site via Google Friend Connect (if you haven't already), make a comment (one per person, honor system!), and include in your comment your favorite part about visiting this site. Entries must be made before 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 2012. The winner will be announced on New Year's Day (January 1, 2013).

Winner must claim prize within 48 hours of award being announced, otherwise winner forfeits prize and a new winner will be selected.


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Sunday, December 23, 2012

On Embracing Progress However It Comes

Via Flickr Creative Commons,
the George Eastman House Collection
There is nothing like a collection full of loved ones' Christmas newsletters to remind me of the way people use the end of the year to mark milestones and achievements.

Admittedly, on the subject of human milestone celebrations, I've read some really, truly amazing testimonials in the two and a half years since I ditched processed foods in favor of nutrient dense whole foods. Some folks turned their lifestyle around on a dime, and dropped a ton of fat in their first few months, all while reversing one or many chronic illnesses like diabetes and autoimmune conditions. Some even manage to have their extended families on board after a few months, which I always consider to be a miracle, their magnificent transformations notwithstanding.

After I had spent an intense while reading up on nutrition, I fairly swiftly made the decision to eat more healthfully by avoiding processed grains, sugars, and vegetable oils. But while my decision was swift, my transformation has been a long term work in progress of fits and starts.

Maybe some folks reading can identify. For instance, it took me a solid year and a half of primal eating before I realized how dearly I needed to combine exercise with my improved diet. Once I started Crossfitting, I learned within a few months under my coaches' guidance and encouragement how to better monitor my carb intake and really watch some of my weaknesses (like for chocolate) while carefully tracking my personal performance and body comp data - thus allowing me to finally drop about 40 pounds.

It took a break from Crossfit this month while I recover from a lingering injury to discover the mobility-enhancing calm of hot yoga - and the fact that I can manage to keep my body comp steady or even more lean by carefully managing my carbs, despite the fact that right now I'm not working out at my Crossfit box at my firebreather frequency.

In other words, the last two and a half years have involved a lot of personal growth, and not necessarily at the pace I'd have originally liked to see. I think, though, that each person's pace is set the way that it is for a reason, and in my case, there were lots of humility-building, sometimes painful realizations within each of those lessons. Had I experienced all of my milestones in a few months' time, I'd have also had to experience all of those painful humility-building moments - and maybe not have learned as thoroughly from them!

So, my desired pace of progress is not always the ideal pace of progress. It's for this same reason that I fully embrace the progress that comes from those around me. With my parents and my in-laws, I learned a while ago to compromise in some areas where I can (as in allowing my older daughter some wiggle room). Meanwhile, I celebrate any concession, or adaptation, they graciously elect to make for my sake and my family's sake. I realize that for any parent, watching a heretofore "good child" embark on a thoroughly countercultural path to what seems like Crazytown, U.S.A. has to be worrying at best.

However, I think over the last two and a half years, my folks and my in-laws have had a long time to witness my personal growth and a growing acknowledgement of ancestral health principles by mainstream media and peer-reviewed research journals. They have seen my weight loss, my fitness gains, my ongoing journey to provide my youngest daughter with optimal nutrition for her neurological disorder. They've also seen mainstream and academic sources embracing coconut oil, shunning refined sugars, acknowledging inflammation as a driver of heart disease, and even outright suggesting gluten-free diets as a path to avoiding inflammation and obesity. For example, the Today Show recently had Drew Ramsey, MD advocating lard and butter as healthier choices for the 2012 holiday season. Even Dr. Oz had shows in December featuring modern wheat's impact on health (link is 1 of 3 parts, features cardiologist William Davis, MD),  and how to take a closer look at what cholesterol numbers really mean (link is 1 of 3 parts, features cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD)! If it takes a TV cardiothoracic surgeon to help my folks and in-laws to think of me and my principles as a little less "out there", then I will gladly accept it as one more marker of progress.

My brother has undeniably been an unintentional testimony to the power of fueling responsibly; he recently participated in his Crossfit box's first paleo nutrition challenge, and in one month's time added around 20 points to his Fight Gone Bad score - which any seasoned Crossfitter will recognize as an incredible leap! His performance jump was impressive enough to earn him the men's top prize at his box, including a free month of membership! His slimmer physique and features were plain to see when he returned home for Thanksgiving with our family and my folks.

Meanwhile, my mom has been working hard this year to learn more about gluten-free baking. She made an impressive gluten-free dairy-free bread at Thanksgiving, and a bacon-embedded gluten free cornbread stuffing that I dearly hope she plans to repeat. My mother-in-law has plans, too, to make a gluten-free grassfed beef prime rib roast (which we helped her to source) for the meal she is hosting on Christmas Day, which means that my youngest daughter can eat the same meal alongside everyone else.

Though my parents and in-laws do not fully accept the path we have chosen, they yet try to meet us where we are on it many times each year for our get-togethers, and to that end I count it progress, and I thank God for blessing us through another year of fits and starts as my little family continues along our ancestral-health-anchored path, even as our extended family makes progress of their own in learning about why we do the things we do.

Thus, my Christmas wish for my readers: This Tuesday, may you embrace your family and your progress - the small, the big, the in-betweens of 2012. Count as a blessing, too, the God-ordained pace at which you hit your milestones and lessons, even if it isn't the pace you'd have originally desired. Progress is progress, and the path you are on is yours and your family's to run! May you also anticipate a 2013 of increasing self-knowledge and challenging but achievable victories of all sizes - and I pray that God's grace sustains you in the pursuit of those victories!

Merry Christmas! What progress will you celebrate as 2012 draws to an end?


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Paleo (-"ish") Cookie Exchanging, And A Sun Butter Buckeye Bon BonRecipe

This is what I call a cookie group hug.
Heh heh. Nut sack. :)

Our Crossfit box's cookie exchange was today! We did things "paleo-ish" - gluten free and no canola oil or soybean oil. I was blown away by how many signed up to participate.

We had a great turn out, and so many different kinds of cookies - almond biscotti, no-bakes, pistachio-cranberry bark, chocolate chip, eggless egg-nog, samoas, soft ginger, and many more. One creative lady brought decorative favor bags filled with nuts as her contribution!

We gathered around and sorted cookies into boxes - some kind souls brought in some mimosas for the volunteers. Within about half an hour we had the boxes mostly packed and ready. 

I'm so grateful - even though I'm my December sugar detox has tapered off and my youngest can't eat refined sugars, my husband and oldest daughter will get to share some daddy-daughter dates over hot chocolate and some wholesome treats as Christmas draws near.
I mean, will you look at those beautiful paleo samoas?! My friend used the Real Sustenance samoa recipe.
And of course, always nice to have classic (paleo) chocolate chip cookies around.
Sun butter buckeyes. Legume-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free.
My contribution to the exchange was sun butter buckeyes. I saw a recipe for peanut butter buckeyes here and adapted it with sun butter and also made it dairy-free. I subbed coconut oil for the vegetable oil. I also halved the powdered sugar with no noticeable detriment to the taste.

Sunbutter Buckeye Bon Bons
Makes approximately 5 dozen

2 cups sun butter (mine for this came in bulk sweetened with sugar but you can order organic unsweetened, too)
½ cup palm shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups crispy rice cereal (I used Erewhon organic cocoa; 1 box is 6 cups so this recipe uses half a box)
2 cups powdered sugar
Semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life allergen-friendly chocolate chips)
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Warm the palm shortening on the stove or microwave until soft. Mix with Sunbutter and vanilla in a bowl with a mixer until blended through. Add rice cereal and powdered sugar, and continue to mix until thoroughly blended.

Using a teaspoon, measure out balls of the sunbutter "dough" onto wax paper on a cookie sheet or cake pan. Freeze thoroughly - at least an hour. You will probably need a lot of free freezer space for 5 dozen of these.

Melt the coconut oil and chocolate chips in the microwave and stir until smooth.Take the frozen balls out of the freezer about a dozen at a time. Using a slotted spoon, lower a frozen sunbutter ball into the melted chocolate and drop it back on wax paper. Every dozen that you finish dipping, place them back in the freezer to set some more (another 30 minutes).

Store in the freezer in an airtight container (for up to several weeks) or in the fridge if you are consuming soon.


What more wholesome treats did you bake up this year?

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Safer Bath Products in 2012: Shampoo Edition

I'm not going to make a claim that any commercially-sold shampoo is perfect for people in general or for any specific person. Even the most cleaned-up ingredient lists probably still have one or two ingredients whose merit could be debated. That said, our family went from being a reflexively-Pantene family to reading toiletry product labels a lot more carefully, especially after my youngest daughter's diagnosis of sensory processing disorder. So far we've not found a no-poo solution, so my stop-gap is shampooing my littlest's hair every 2-3 days, using less noxious options when I do shampoo, and using as little shampoo as possible to get her hair clean, often just a teeny drizzle. So, it is an ongoing process of reducing usage and product evaluation for us.

We progressed through a few "more natural" brands this year - and here I rank them by recommendation. I did also try using Dr. Bronner's liquid castille soap, which is great when used sparingly for cleaning in general, but despite its ideal ingredient list it strips hair far too harshly for me to recommend. Maybe next year we will discover other brands we like even better! - and maybe you can suggest some to try in the comments.

Aubrey Organics Green Tea Clarifying Shampoo

Out of what we've tried this year, this is my top recommendation, for both performance and ingredients. A little bit (a dime sized amount) can easily lather a whole head of hair, and it genuinely clarifies. It has no parabens, sulfates, phthalates, or petrochemicals. The green tea smell is pretty refreshing, too!

It is available through many online retailers, including Amazon and Vitacost.

The ingredient list follows: Alcohol denat. (38b lavender ) aqua hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) extract aloe barbadensis leaf juice glycerin camellia sinensis leaf oil panthenol simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil oenothera biennis (evening primrose) oil rosa mosqueta (rose hip) seed oil chenopodium quinoa seed extract pelargonium graveolens flower oil panax ginseng root extract ginkgo biloba leaf extract chrysanthemum sinense flower extract magnolia biondii bud flower extract angelica archangelica root extract.

Burt's Bees Very Volumizing Shampoo with Pomegranate

This is my second choice out of the three we've tried out this year. True to the label, it does have a deliciously fruity smell, but does not clean quite as thoroughly as the Aubrey green tea option - and in fact my past-shoulder length hair usually gets two rounds of sudsing with this one to feel sufficiently clean. The ingredient list is mostly good - I love that like the Aubrey one, it has no parabens, sulfates, phthalates, or petrochemicals involved. I could do without added fragrance, though. This one I've found at WalMart and other major retailers, as well, so it's been a good stand-by option for us when we've been waiting to order more of the Aubrey green tea shampoo.

The ingredient list follows: Aqua (water, eau), sodium bis-hydroxyethylglycinate coco-glucosides crosspolymer, sodium cocoyl alaninate, glycerin, disodium cocoyl glutamate, oryza sativa (rice) extract, hydrolyzed jojoba protein, sodium cocoyl hydrolyzed soy protein, punica granatum seed oil, origanum vulgare leaf oil, thymus vulgaris (thyme) oil, arginine, parfum (fragrance)*, sodium lauroyl lactylate, sodium cocoyl glutamate, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, lauryl lactyl lactate, sodium chloride, lactic acid.

Garnier Fructis Pure Clean Shampoo

This shampoo is the one I'd pick if I were on the road in the middle of nowhere, needed shampoo, and still managed to find a WalMart or Target that wasn't carrying the Burt's Bees. In other words, it's commonly available and is free from a certain amount of junk, but at the same time it's far from ideal. Its ingredients are said to be 94% biodegradable, and it is free of silicone, dye, or paraben. Not my favorite: it still has sulfate, preservative, and fragrance

The ingredient list follows: Aqua/Water; Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate; Cocamidopropyl Betaine; Sodium Chloride; Hexylene Glycol; Pyrus Malus Extract/Apple Fruit Extract; Parfum/Fragrance; Sodium Benzoate; Hydroxypropyl Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride; Citric Acid; Salicylic Acid; Benzoic Acid; Niacinamide; Pyridoxine HCl; Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride; Linalool; Hexyl Cinnamal; Saccharium Officinarum Extract/Sugar Cane Extract; Citrus Medica Limonum Peel Extract/Lemon Peel Extract; Camellia Sinensis Extract/Camellia Sinensi

What "more natural" shampoos have you tried this year? Do you have any with ingredient lists that you adore?


Monday, December 17, 2012

On Being the Antidote

Via Flickr Creative Commons,
the Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums
After Friday's horrific school shooting in Connecticut, life went on in our corner of the world this weekend. Christmas gifts were bought. A party was attended. And yet, there is nothing that we did that wasn't somehow chilled by the shadow of what had happened. The unfathomable horror of one's own child being mercilessly slaughtered does not swiftly depart any parent who allows even for a moment such a contemplation to enter their thoughts.

We received papers from my oldest daughter's school today - discussing the school's own actions and plans, and also offering cogent advice to parents on how and/or whether to discuss the situation in depth with their own children.

The only thing I could keep thinking was, I shouldn't even be in the position of having to wonder whether my 5 year old has already heard anything about this at school, because things like this shouldn't happen. The shooting such an angry red wound on the end of 2012, which has forever altered December and Christmas for countless families. It is all symptomatic of a deeply troubled, ill world.

I have not much in the way of comfort to offer my be honest it has been exceptionally hard to comfort myself on this count. One thing I remind myself in terms of safety and managing fears of is the real risks we undertake every day to live our lives: driving cars, for example. Beside this pragmatic analysis, I also grasp at positives. I embrace my children, I treasure a quiet evening at home with my husband, I laugh with my friend over the little bumps and bends in the road that are a mom's life. I try to go out of my way to relate to my friends and family a little more patiently, a little more graciously. In the face of the worst of what humans can do, the best of what life has to offer starts with us and our attitudes. It starts with our abilities to cultivate the right priorities, and to cherish those around us. We are the antidote, and every day we get a chance to celebrate that duty.

As the days until Christmas approach, savor your time. Savor your errands and your baking. Try hard to maintain your patience in the face of the usual stresses. Offer grace wherever possible. Say prayers, if you say them, most especially for the victims' families and loved ones. Be the best human you can be. Be the antidote.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Safer Gifts in 2012: Gluten Free and Non-Wheat-Based Modeling Dough Edition

Our family has been experimenting in 2012 with toys and art projects that are safer for my youngest daughter, who must be strictly gluten free.

Play-Dough is a ubiquitous childhood memory. I have fond recollections of squishing and manipulating Play-Dough, and modelling various little masterpieces before letting them air dry.

Unfortunately, Play-Dough and most commercial modeling doughs are made with wheat flour, so rubbing these products all over our family's kitchen table is not an option, as it presents a pretty high risk of cross contamination for the same place where we eat most of our meals.

Thankfully, there are a lot of good, safer alternatives that would make excellent gifts for almost any kid.*

So far, my top pick for a gluten free dough alternative is Mama-K's gluten free play clay. This stuff is in a class of its own for quality and design. We picked up the 5 tub variety pack of this in the summer, and the 5 different colors in modestly sized tubs turned out to be a convenient way to leave a few with my youngest daughter's preschool classroom, so that she can model with this if there is a Play-Dough project going on.

Each of the 5 colors has its own fragrance from organic essential oils: bergamot (yellow), lavender (purple), sweet orange (an orangey-red), geranium (pink), and lemongrass (green). My husband and I get headaches from artificial scents, but these natural scents are low-key and not overpowering to me - quite to the contrary, I enjoy them. Also, the flours used to make Mama-K's are certified gluten free, so of the options we've tried, this one seems to have the most stringent standards for its doughs' processing and ingredients.

See above, right, the screenshot from the Crayola website. Cross contamination seems to still present a very small, but relevant risk. Please choose only modeling doughs that meet your family's safety and dietary/allergen requirements, with the advice of your trusted health care professional.
The other non-wheat-based modeling alternatives we've been able to try out this year are by Crayola, and include Model Magic and Air-Dry Clay. While their ingredients aren't as natural/crunchy as those in Mama-K's dough, the Crayola doughs are still a good option for any air-dry project, or a project that you'd like to paint and customize after drying - homemade Christmas ornaments certainly come to mind. The Model Magic and another brand's take on Model Magic have popped up at my daughter's occupational therapists' office and at her mainstream preschool. On a practical note, I suggest opting for the white (uncolored) version of the Model Magic over the colored version, since I have seen our youngest daughter's occupational therapist use a Crayola marker to "dot" a wad of the Model Magic a few times and massage it, thus changing the white wad of dough into the marker's color. You could also experiment with natural liquid or powder dyes if magic markers are not an option, or wait until the white dough drys sufficiently before you paint your projects.

Have you tried a gluten-free modeling dough this year? What was your favorite?

*Note that according to the Crayola website, there is a small risk of cross contamination from the Crayola plant using the same processing lines as it uses for its wheat-flour-based dough - though the lines are cleaned between processing products. (See Crayola website screenshot above.) If your child is at risk from this potential level of cross contamination (i.e., putting his/her fingers in her mouth while modeling, or eating the Crayola dough, or working on a surface with the dough on which he/she regularly eats meals, etc.), you will need to decide for yourself with the advice of your trusted health care professional whether the products in this post meet your family's individual needs or not. Remember to read ingredient labels fully for your family's own needs. All posts and information provided within this blog are for informational and educational purposes only, and is not to be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken solely on the contents of this website.  

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Shopping Amazon through Primal Kitchen affiliate links supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you, so thank you!!

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