Dem Bones

I have been a stay at home mom for 7 years. I have been with my kids almost every single day of their lives (minus 13 days where either my husband was with them or my parents were watching them), which means I have had at least one child at home with me for 2,542 days out of my 2,555 days of motherhood. This past week my youngest started kindergarten. While many of the parents were sad to be dropping their kids off for their first day of school, I was excited. In fact, I may have skipped back to my car after dropping them off. I felt like I had “made it”. I successfully raised two children to the point they could go to school and I would go home and be able to functionally use my brain without anyone arguing with me, creating cyclonic disasters, or asking for snacks (all.day.long.) In fact, on the first day of school, I came home and did absolutely nothing. Nothing. The next day, I went grocery shopping. All.by.myself. No one asked for a cookie, or a lunchable, or candy from the checkout aisle. It was amazing. I got EVERYTHING on my list!

I adore my kids. I do. I have cherished all of the time I have been able to spend with them and I know I am so fortunate to have that time. However, there is a point after all the selfless mommy stuff, that sometimes mommy’s have to be selfish and this is my time to do that.

Last week I had a follow up with my pulmonologist where he confirmed my diagnosis for the second time. Systemic Sarcoidosis (which basically means it affects more than one organ). After asking him a thousand questions (“What should I do about the severe exhaustion?” “Take a nap”, he said. “My joints hurt.” “That is a symptom”, he said) , he told me he was going to have to refer my case to a specialist since it does not just affect my lungs. I had asked about the Autoimmune Protocol, which he was familiar with, but was not sure if it would work or not, but mentioned I should try it until I see the specialist. “It won’t hurt to try.”

I have been a little bit lazy in making a full transition to the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). Not for lack of trying, but for lack of willpower.

Humans are so funny (me included). We know doughnuts are not good for us, yet we still eat them. We know food out of a box isn’t really food, yet we eat it anyways. We know what foods are healthy and which are not, yet we constantly make decisions to eat the latter.

I know which foods will most likely make me feel better, yet while it is very easy for me to eat paleo (minus the Ring Ding I ate in a moment of weakness), getting into the AIP is very difficult. Mainly because I LOVE tomatoes, spicy food, and nuts. All of which are not on the AIP.

So…I’m starting over, making a slower transition this time instead of going straight from paleo to AIP overnight. If I can just commit, I will hopefully see a decrease in symptoms, which would be stellar.

I started with a big pot of bone broth, because fall is around the corner and I’m starting to crave soups and warm comforting food more and more, which should make the transition slightly easier and most AIP soups are right up my alley.

If you are looking for a way to freak your kids out this halloween, bone broth is where it’s at. My kids were so curious about whose bones I was boiling and with that, a little worried that they might be next.

Bone broth has a bazillion different nutrients that are good for you. Here is a great article outlining the benefits of bone broth : Bone broth FAQ. It is very easy to make as well. I throw it all in a crock pot and let is simmer away. Once it has completed it simmering process, I bag mine in 1 qt portions and freeze them.

bone broth

I had picked up some Swiss Chard at this weekends farmers’ market and had no initial plans for it. When I got home I flipped through the ever growing collection of cookbooks I own. With the weather cooling, I really wanted something warm and nutritious. One of my very favorite ‘games’ to play at a farmers’ market is to find something we don’t normally eat, bring it home, and figure out what to do with it. My hope is that by playing this little game I will broaden my children’s palates as well as my own food knowledge.

Hearty Vegetable Soup
Adapted from The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook

1 Tablespoon lard
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled & minced
4 carrots, peeled & cut into 1.5 inch chunks
2 parsnips, peeled & cut into 1.5 inch chunks
1 large sweet potato, peeled & cut into 1.5 inch chunks
1 cup crimini mushrooms, halved
1 Tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 Tablespoon chopped thyme
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s because it contains Mother of Vinegar)
2 quarts Bone Broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 bunch chard, stemmed and chopped (I used rainbow because it’s so pretty)

In a heavy-bottomed pot over med-high heat, heat the cooking fat and sauté the onions until they are translucent. Add the garlic and ginger, cooking until fragrant – about a minute or two. Add rest of the vegetables and herbs and sauté until the vegetables are lightly browned.

Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the chard, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for about 20 minutes (check to insure the vegetables are tender).

Add the chard and cook for a couple minutes until softened. Check for seasoning. Remove bay leaf and serve.

harvest soup

This was so good and can be added to in a number of ways. Crumbled sausage, turnip…the possibilities are endless.

And before anyone asks if my kids ate it, they did. They loved it. My youngest thought the parsnips were mochi – we did not correct her.

 

The B word

I have always loved breakfast. Eggs, bacon, sausage, corned beef hash, pancakes, waffles…bring it on, I’ll eat breakfast all day. Nothing would make me happier than being on a breakfast only diet.

Lately, breakfast has become a bad word around our house.

“The next person that says ‘breakfast’…”

Paleo is easy. Paleo breakfast is easy. I sit here now and think What was I complaining about way back then? Those breakfasts were quick and mindless food concoctions at ridiculous hours of the morning (hours I would not even dream of being awake right now).

By far, my hardest transition to the Autoimmune Protocol has been breakfast food. I just don’t see myself sitting down for breakfast with a turkey leg, or eating a hamburger. Not only that, but neither of those sound appetizing at 8am, but after reading a lot of autoimmune menus, that’s what they think I should eat. Not going to happen. For the past week I have been eating coconut yogurt, bacon, and fruit. It’s getting old, but it’s working…for now.

I decided to blog about something I’m not currently eating (though, bacon is pretty awesome), but that I know is not only good for you, but tastes amazing. It’s also pretty (and just so you know, pretty food, is ALWAYS amazing food. Unless it’s plastic…then you shouldn’t eat it).

Chocolate Berry Granola
Adapted From Against All Grain

(Quick Note: I always double this recipe. One recipe definitely makes enough, but I like to have it on hand for emergency breakfast situations. It’s good on yogurt too. Also, Trader Joes is my go to for nuts as their nuts are not gassed with PPO (propylene oxide) they also carry the strawberries for this, so it’s a one stop shop)

1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw walnuts
1/2 cup raw pecan halves
1/2 cup raw hazelnuts
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon flaxseeds
1 3/4 tsp sea salt, divided
1 cup honey
3 Tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
2 Tablespoons raw cacao
1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla bean paste
1/2 Tablespoon cinnamon
3/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup dark chocolate chunks (I used Enjoy Life chunks & chocolate chips)
1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberries

The nuts and seeds need to soak in water overnight. This process is called ‘sprouting’ it makes the nuts easier to digest. So in a large bowl pour in the nuts, seeds, and 1 tsp of salt. Fill with water until it is about 1 inch above the nuts. This will give them enough space to soak it up. Let them soak for 24 hours.

Strain the nuts in a mesh strainer and transfer to paper towels (or in my case…kitchen towels) and pat them dry. Place them in the bowl of a food processor and process until they are about the size of oats (about 10-20 pulses).

In a small saucepan, pour in honey, coconut oil, cacao, and vanilla and heat over medium heat until the cacao has dissolved. Add the honey mixture to the food processor along with the cinnamon and pulse a couple times to mix it all together.

Pour into a large bowl and add coconut.

Then, on parchment covered trays of a dehydrator, spread the mixture into thin layers. Dehydrate at 120 degrees for 24 hours. You will need to turn the granola twice so that it dehydrates evenly.

Once the granola is cool, break it apart and add in the strawberries and chocolate. Enjoy with some homemade coconut milk or on top of your favorite yogurt. Yum!

granola

It seems like a lot of work, but most of the time spent on it is not hands on. The end result is a delicious concoction that is suitable to eat any time of day. My kids love it AND my husband loves it. That’s a win-win in my book.

Anything that can go wrong…

Military Spouses know, that as soon as their service member leaves, the house is sure to burn down, the car will explode, and anything that can happen – will happen. It’s Muphy’s Law of TAD, TDY, and of course, deployment.

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Back in May my husband left for a short little Navy paid vacation. It was to be 63 days. For me it was a 63 day vacation to watch whatever I wanted on TV (with no sighing or laughing from the peanut gallery), eat all the tomatoes, mushrooms, and olives I could (since my husband dislikes them) and a way to gauge how my kids would react to a deployment that is hiding in the shadows in a dark alley close by.

It started out well. He left, my kids were upset for maybe two hours and then things went back to normal, quicker than I had anticipated. Well, as “normal” as things could be for the end of the school year, which basically means that “chaos” is “normal”. My oldest daughter had 4 school school events – a patriotic concert, a talent show, a science fair, and kindergarten graduation. On top of that she had her ballet recital. After the patriotic concert, my youngest decided she had, had enough and the next week at the talent show lost her mind in the middle of it and screamed at the top of her lungs.

She was tired, she missed dad (it had been about a week and a half), and she was over driving around to go watch her sister do cool things. As I got up to leave with my screaming child (I should mention this is very out of character for her, she is usually the happiest child on the planet), two lawn chairs, camcorder, camera, and a bag of snacks, I had a mom tell me she wasn’t judging me, and another women ask if everything was okay and that I should, “Get a handle on my child” as my 5 year old was playing spiderman on the car door, screaming and refusing to get in.

In what I can only describe as one of the worst moments of motherhood thus far, I shoved her in the car, accidentally pinched her with the seat belt as I was trying to hold her down to buckle her in, and promised I would buy her a pony if she would just stop screaming. It was a miserable drive home and I had no intention of buying her the pony. After we got home and she went to her room to read for a while so I could collect my thoughts, I decided that I was not going to “Get a handle on my child”. She missed her dad and no one was paying any attention to her. I have a tendency now and again to act out when I’m stressed, I could not punish her for being stressed. So, we talked about it and continued forward to the next day.

The next day she was playing outside with the dogs (dogs PLURAL because just HOURS before my husband left I thought it would be a good idea to add a second dog (*cough* puppy *cough*) to our household. “She will be a great distraction!” I said. I’m clearly mental) and accidentally (purposefully) threw their ball over the fence. She told me she wanted me to “toss” her over the fence so she could retrieve it. I said no. The fence is tall and if I was to toss her over she would surely break her ankles. She started screaming and I gave in, because at the time it wasn’t worth the argument and I decided I could get her close enough to the ground on the other side of the fence to drop her gently (we do have a gate on our fence, but it is so difficult to open I usually just jump over the fence). I picked up all 40 lbs of her, braced all of my weight against the fence and almost immediately, as I was still holding her, heard a “crack, pop, crack”. I dropped her and stumbled back. It hurt every time I took a deep breath. I somehow managed to yank the gate open with whatever superhuman strength I was exhibiting at that time and went back into the house where I made sure all of my limbs were still attached and not broken. I soon figured out that I must have done something to my chest and text a friend to see if she could watch my kids so I could go get an X-Ray (since at this time it had become excruciating to breathe).

Readers, this is Maddy. Maddy, meet my readers. (She is 18 weeks here)

Readers, this is Maddy. Maddy, meet my readers. (She is 18 weeks here)

My dear friend literally left in the middle of her pack out and met me at the Emergency Room, and took my kids back home, where her amazing teenager watched them. I had, of course, given myself a hairline fracture across my sternum, but more alarmingly after receiving that information, the ER doctor sat down across from me to let me know there was an incidental finding on my X-ray. In my right lung, there was what he described as “a mass” and in my left lung there were enlarged lymph nodes. They wanted me to go see my doctor immediately the next day.

At 7am I got a call from the Navy clinic asking me to come in as soon as I could. My 5 year old in tow, I trudged to the clinic…my least favorite place on this base. The doctor said that he thought that my X-ray was wrong, because I’m skinny and thought it must have picked up something else. He sent me to get another X-ray, a million vials of blood drawn, and a referral to get a CT scan should the X-ray come back with anything on it.

Of course that afternoon as I am picking my oldest up from school the hospital calls and asks if I can come in to get a CT at that very minute. We agreed the next morning would work out better.

In I went, back to the hospital, leaving my 5 year old with a sitter I had met basically 5 minutes before leaving her. They did the CT (which to my astonishment was WITH contrast…ugh…IV’s are my worst nightmare) and the doctor at the clinic said he would call within 24 hours.

There was no call the next day (Friday), so I went about my life thinking it must have been nothing. On Saturday, my husband’s SUV had basically had it and decided to have all sorts of problems and I had, had it with the SUV (if you were not already aware, we have horrible luck with vehicles).

That Monday with a list of husband approved vehicles to go look at, I was at a dealership when my phone rang. The clinic. The doctor.

The “mass” the ER doctor saw was actually a cluster of enlarged lymph nodes. Not only were the enlarged lymph nodes in both lungs, but also in my chest and near my heart. They needed more blood to rule out Lyme disease and several other medical conditions and needed to get me in to see a Pulmonologist ASAP. Apparently he had also gone through my medical history and saw that I had been complaining about being tired for almost a year, he felt it was relevant at this point (as were the lesions on my legs that just a month before had been diagnosed as ‘fungal’ by a different individual at the clinic).

I left the dealership (they were rude) and headed back to the clinic to be poked…again.

I’m going to fast forward through the next part because while stuff continued to break (I may have melted my husbands PS3 and the puppy ate 2 pairs of Lululemon Wunder Under pants…she really loves the taste of lulu…oh, and the neighborhood kids that not only broke into my garage, but broke in my house too…), everything was kind of a haze. The best part about those few weeks was that my parents had my kids come to Maine to stay with them for a week and a half and I got to sleep for almost 10 days straight.

My husband came back home at the end of July and fixed everything that had broken, told me he liked his new car (though I’m suspicious that he’s just saying that), and continued to drive me crazy wanting to go to appointments with me.

My first appointment with the Pulmonologist came and he said to make sure he had the correct diagnosis they had to do a Bronchoscopy. He was fairly sure what I have is “Sarcoidosis” an auto-immune disease with absolutely no known cause. From the CT he could tell that it was effecting my lungs, heart, and liver, but needed more information. It’s not fatal, but can be problematic. The exhaustion I experience on a daily basis is a symptom (I can only describe it as I feel like I’m sleep walking, half aware of what is going on around me and I constantly forget things that I am supposed to be doing) as were the lesions on my legs (they are sarcoid, no question…not fungal).

The next week I went in for the bronchoscopy. That same night there was “command mandofun” scheduled. After the bronchoscopy I had four hours until the event would start. In my head I figured that was enough time to take a quick nap, shower and go. What I did not account for was that the medications given for the bronchoscopy would make me sick. So, 15 minutes prior to the event, I sat in my husbands car and threw up. Classy Cait. I still went to the event (my sweet husband ran into the exchange to get me a toothbrush and some tissues), though did not stay for very long. I’m not even sure how I held it together for the 45 minutes we were there, but I did.

In the past two months, I have sat in more waiting rooms, poked with more needles, and had my lungs and heart listened to more than I ever thought I would. And while the diagnosis is not life threatening, it still stinks. On the plus side, it was good to know that I’m not actually going crazy, that everything I think that is happening is actually happening.

I have done a ton of research (on top of what the Pulmonologist has told me). I have read a million studies on how they treat Sarcoidosis. I came up with a plan to switch from Paleo (no gluten, dairy, sugar, beans, etc.) to using the Autoimmune Protocol, which is basically a stripped down version of the paleo diet (on top of the gluten, dairy, sugar, beans, it also excluded, nuts, nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers) and seeds). It probably won’t cure it, but it should make flare ups not quite so bad.

While my husband was away, I fell off the paleo wagon just a little bit. There is something to be said about comfort food making everything all better. While it’s not good for you, sometimes you have to do what you have to do. I have this crazy appreciation for Stouffers Mac and Cheese. It’s so gross and it’s not even remotely considered real food, but when I’m having a bad day, it tastes like the most amazing thing on earth. I eat my feelings and they taste fantastic.

After everything that occurred in the 63 days my husband was gone (which just seems like such a short amount of time for so much to go wrong), I am so incredibly blessed to have the friends I do. Without them I’m sure, without a doubt, I would have been reduced to a puddle of tears and stress, but they kept me upbeat and kept me going. They visited, they texted, messaged, hugged, laughed, went on outings, watched my kids, gave book recommendations (focusing on things I CAN do while I’m tired…I CAN read), and most of all they listened. They proved over and over again that military spouses are by far the military’s greatest asset. I love them and appreciate everything they have done far more than I could ever put into words.

I’m back to my blog and ready to share my journey into the world of the Autoimmune Protocol. There will of course be paleo recipes, because while I will be more restricted, my kids and husband will remain paleo. Of course, there will also be baking, because after all, it is my favorite thing to do.

While the Autoimmune Protocol seems incredibly restrictive, if you are a chai latte fan, you are in luck. I picked up The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook and to my astonishment there was a chai recipe in there. Now, I don’t care for chai at all, but my husband loves it and this seemed like a fantastic substitute for those Starbucks Chai lattes that are so crave worthy.

The great part is, it is so easy – you throw everything in a blender, blend until smooth, strain through cheese cloth and bam! A sort of healthy chai latte (it has dates in it for sweetener and dates are full of sugar).

1 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut
4 pitted dates
Seeds from one vanilla bean
1 inch ginger, peeled
3/4 tsp cinnamon
2 cups boiling water

Let it cool before you strain it so you don’t burn your hands. This can be enjoyed hot or cold and will keep for a couple days in the refrigerator.

chai

It smelled really good and my husband and oldest daughter thought it was the most amazing drink ever. It was the reminder I needed that good food does not have to take long to put together, sometimes the best things are quick and easy.

 

Under a Vacuum

I have a bit of an obsession with kitchen gadgets. We won’t even talk about how many whisks I have, or the fact every time a certain friend goes to the Le Creuset Factory Outlet I ask them to pick me up a whisk. The obsession does not stop at whisks, it goes to pots and pans, cool electronics, bakeware…the list is a mile long.

Last year I saw a Kickstarter campaign for this Sansaire Sous-Vide Immersion Circulator. Have you ever watched top chef and seen them vacuum seal food (meat) and put it in a water bath? That is sous vide. As soon as I saw the Kickstarter I was immediately interested, but arrived a little late to the campaign and was unable to procure a unit.

Then it happened. The Sur La Table catalogue came in the mail and on the front page…the Sansaire.  SOLD! Sur La Table has a military discount (those sweet sweet people) which made this an even more exciting procurement. I was completely geeking out with the store employees over this thing.

I picked up some steaks and got to work (the excitement in my kitchen was electric).

sansaire

Sous Vide is French for “under vacuum”. You vacuum seal whatever food you want to cook and submerge it in water. The machine takes care of circulating the water and making sure it stays at the same temperature the entire time. The great thing about sous vide cooking is that if you want a medium rare steak, you get a medium rare steak, you can’t over cook it (the water stays at a constant temperature, the food will not go over that temp). I like my steaks a little on the rare side so this meant it was not going to be overcooked. Perfect steak, every time.

I had a never used a machine like this in my kitchen before so I figured steak would be a good place to start. I used some hickory salt and some fresh pepper, along with a sprig of thyme and rosemary and vacuum sealed each steak separately. I set the Sansaire to 52 degrees celsius and let it do what it does. Once the water bath was at 52 degrees, I dropped in the steaks. I let them cook for an hour and then pulled them out and seared them for about a minute (probably less because I am impatient).

steak

I wish I had seared them better, but like I said…impatient. Maybe I should just get a blowtorch and torch them instead (that would be fun!)

steak2

This is not a good picture, but the steak was probably a medium rare. My lessons learned for my first experiment were that 1) for a rarer steak I need to turn the temperature down (I’d probably turn it to 48.8 degrees celsius) 2) do a better sear 3) patience.

Other than that, the steak was awesome. Everyone loved it and I was extremely impressed with how easy it was to use a device like this (as well as the result).

Next experiments – eggs and chicken (not at the same time). I’m completely hooked.

It Beets Broccoli

I have not always been a fan of beets. That purple nutrient dense superfood that can almost always be found gracing the shelves of our supermarkets. In fact, it was not until we went Paleo in January that I started eating them again. Three months in and my palate has done a 180 pivot.

Refined sugar is out, my body stopped craving it probably 30 days in. I stopped feeling like it was a necessity in my diet. Foods that were not sweet before I stopped eating refined sugar are now extremely sweet. Beets being one of those foods. They are like natures candy.

My friend at In Five Paragraphs or Less wrote a blog The Simple Truth About Vitamins about two months ago, which, after reading almost every Paleo book Amazon carries, still rings true and is still a conscious thought in my mind as I peruse the grocery store looking for foods to feed my family. They (the blog and the books) all talk about 1) variety (eating lots of color) 2) vitamins (making sure we are getting enough to sustain life). My husbands biggest struggle in the Paleo transition was that he was always hungry at first. The deal was that he would get his portion of protein (6oz per sitting) and then could have as many vegetables as he wanted. Which basically meant he was eating pounds upon pounds of vegetables. 3 months later, meals are 6 oz of protein and about a pound of vegetables which is very filling and sometimes a little too much.

In an effort to change our vegetables up, I have picked up purple cauliflower (which my kids found “SUPER COOL!!”, but were not sure they should eat), jicama, squash, and now…beets (we had been eating a lot of broccoli since it is my kids favorite thing to eat and I was tired of it). I had a beet salad while I was out to dinner a couple weeks ago and it was love at first bite. Recreating it was on the top of my list.

Beets contain tons of antioxidants, which basically means, if you eat them, you will become superman/woman. If you want to test your digestive health, eat beets. If you have low stomach acid or weak digestion, you’ll have beeturia (otherwise knows as…pink pee). It is a magic vegetable.

Beet salad, like the one I am about to share is pretty simple to throw together. I will tell you what I used, but you add all kind of stuff.

beetsBeet Salad

4 beets, baked and skin removed
1 bag of baby spinach
Salad add-ins (cucumbers, tomatoes, hard boiled egg, shredded chicken, avocado, etc.)

Vinaigrette

I made a lemon vinaigrette to brighten up my salad, but any vinaigrette works.

Throw it all together and enjoy! Now that you’ve eaten this super healthy salad, you can have a cupcake! (Hahaha. I’m kidding…maybe…)

When it’s warm…

We grill.

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in Southern New England. The sun was out, the temperature was over 50 degrees, the birds were singing – you get the picture. I had been itching to pick up some charcoal and pull the grill out. I jumped at the opportunity yesterday to do a little pre-summer grilling.

I almost forgot how easy and mess free it is to throw a piece of meat on a grill, cut it up, put it on the table. Dinner last night was a breeze and I was grateful for that. Winter meals are always time consuming. Chili’s need to bubble away for hours. Soups need to simmer. Not only that but one hundred thousand vegetables need to be cut up. Spring and summer meals are meant to be a reprieve from that (right?).

Back to dinner. Carne Asada Burrito Bowls. Packed with flavor and bright colors.

Carne Asada Steak Marinade 

3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup lime juice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup coconut aminos
1 tsp chopped canned chipotle pepper
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tablespoon black pepper
1 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup olive oil
3 lbs of flank steak

Place all of the ingredients, minus the steak into a blender and blend until smooth. Place the steak and marinate in a gallon size zip top bag and marinate for 4 hours in the refrigerator. Take the steak out of the refrigerator (and out of the bag), pat dry and grill (for about 4-5 minutes on each side for medium rare). Slice it up against the grain.

Grill up some of your favorite burrito vegetables. Toss on a bed of lettuce with guacamole and salsa and VOILA! Dinner!

Carne Asada Burrito Bowl

This life, it sparkles.

In June of 2004 a gentleman walked into my place of employment asking if we had any job openings. I can not remember if we did or did not, but he applied anyways. In the spot where you write your previous residence he wrote, Honolulu, Hawai’i.

No one in their right mind moves from Hawai’i to Maine. That’s just crazy. Anyone who does is clearly mental and therefore not employable (kidding…kind of). We hired him anyways (probably based on the fact he had come back in 150 times asking for a job, we were so fed up we just gave him a job) and made him work all of the shifts no one wanted. He basically did anything we asked him to and ended up being a great part of our team.

I ended up resigning from my job after receiving an opportunity for higher paying employment and lost touch with my old coworkers. One night in 2006 the mental gentlemen from Hawai’i found me on Myspace and struck up a conversation. Later we met up for drinks and chatted some more. He was a great friend, but I had been single for only a few months after my last boyfriend and was not looking for a new relationship (age old tale, the minute you stop looking is the minute you find someone).

He was such a great friend when I moved into a new apartment he bought me a housewarming gift (a bottle of Lindemann’s Framboise and some other awesome things). My roommates gave me a hard time saying, “He really likes you, no guy friend buys their girl friends housewarming gifts.” I laughed and shrugged them off. They had no idea what we were talking about.

He and I had a ton of fun. We went ‘mudding’ in his Jeep with no doors, top off. We hiked. We drove up ATV trails in his Jeep.

Cait Tub

I sat in bathtubs that we found in the middle of the woods. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…it’s a bathtub.

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After driving up an ATV trail. (I just threw those shoes out and I may have donated the jeans at some point). That poor Jeep. It went through a lot before we sold it.

Somewhere amidst running around the state of Maine I started to agree with my roommates. We decided at some point in 2006 to start dating and see where it went. By 2007 we were engaged and about 3 months after we got engaged we got married (the Navy NEEDED my now husband back at sea).

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(Not the greatest picture, but definitely one of my favorites)

In the past seven years, there have been two kids.

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(c) Cogdell Photography

My oldest was born in 2007, 5 weeks before my husband deployed. To say our first year of marriage was the most difficult would have been an understatement. I was alone with a new (colicky) baby, living in a city where I thought if I had to get on the highway it would be a surefire way to get myself killed. I learned quickly to adapt, make friends, and also learned how to drive in crazy traffic. This child and I have clawed our way through many rough days (with the help of the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Breakers Beach and Beard Papa’s). We have been very fortunate here in Rhode Island to find a child counselor who has helped her learned ways to cope when Dad is gone and taught me how to better help her stay confident when her life gets shaken up by Navy moves and deployments.

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My youngest is what us Military Spouses refer to as a deployment baby. This child is my eternal optimist. She always reminds me that “everything will be okay, we just need cookies.”

Multiple pets:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(My dog, Danger. He got a little aggressive after my oldest was born and we found him another wonderful home)

241220_1930193248510_7159235_o(Admiral Thatcher, our adorable and loving yellow lab)

1374736_10201248899558521_244929124_n(Abby, the rabbit. Chillin’ with Admiral Thatcher, her BFF.)

There have been moves:

We started out in Maine. Moved to San Diego. From San Diego we moved to Hawaii. From Hawaii we moved to Rhode Island and we are currently on the countdown clock for our next Navy move.

There have been deployments:

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As well as REFTRA’s, TAD’s, TDY’s, UNDERWAY’s, etc.

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This was sent to me during a deployment. It cracks me up every time I look at it (I know it’s not kid friendly, but…it’s funny in a Navy Wife during deployment humor kind of way).

There have been promotions:

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Commissioning

242398_1952077195595_4685128_oPromotion with the help of our kiddos.

This year brings him 19 years of Naval service. Pretty stellar for a farm kid from a little town in Washington who enlisted in the Navy with the intent to get out after 4 years. (Does anyone else see a trend with these pictures? The older he gets the younger he looks, the older I get the older I look. Must be the saltwater.)

There have been learning experiences:

My husband was deployed in 2008 when gas hit an all time high in Southern California. I think I was paying something like $5/gal to fill my SUV. After a $100 fill up, I had, had it. I emailed my husband to tell him I was going to trade the SUV in for a sedan with better mpg. I had never, ever gone to a dealership to buy a car. I somehow managed.

During that same deployment my kitchen faucet broke (this is a reoccurring event when my husband is away) as did one of the toilets. I quickly learned how to be a plumber.

I learned how to be married to a person that I rarely talked to face to face. Email is a beautiful thing, but it is hard to figure out how someone is saying something that is typed. Then, once I got the email communication figured out, we were on shore duty and had to figure out how to talk face to face (I think it’s the Navy’s way of ‘switching it up’ so we become excellent communicators).

I learned how to cook and bake, because pizza gets old after a couple months.

There have been tears:

We were at Sea World and someone stole my Maclaren stroller. I told my husband that I would just steal a Bugaboo stroller to make up for it. He said no. I was already in tears. The moral of that story ended up being ‘We’re not in Maine anymore’ (because people don’t steal strollers in Maine). Also, I probably would not have actually stolen someone else’s stroller. I would have been consumed with guilt, but I definitely had the thought (also, not an excuse, but I was pregnant with my youngest at the time and maybe a little hormonal).

In return for my stroller, Sea World gave my oldest child passes for Breakfast with Sesame Street which we used for her 1st birthday.

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(Great picture!)

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I’m not sure who had more fun, the kid or the husband.

There was another time when my husband was gone. There was a centipede in my oldest daughters bed, I had not slept in days thanks to the mongoose that was running around in my attic, and the geckos were chirping non-stop. There were tears and tongs (to eradicate the centipede). There were also flying cockroaches. That was Hawai’i. I will not be going back there.

Then there was homecoming in 2008 where I was horrified that I might have to sit on the pier for hours and wait for my husband. As a pretty introverted person, standing amongst people I hardly knew was almost debilitating (I’m way better at dealing with strangers now). I think I cried for a week until I figured out a way to pick him up without having to stand on the pier. I parked at the commissary across the street and made him walk. I had to go grocery shopping anyways, might as well kill two birds with one stone.

There have been laughs:

My husband and I have an incredible amount of fun together. No matter where we are, we always have fun. We joke and we make each other laugh. To this day I don’t know anyone who has made me laugh more than he has.

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Here he is brushing a Pony’s hair before leaving for work. The kids did his hair by placing a lobster on his head.

Through all of this, there has always been the two of us. We work hard to balance time for just us with time that we spend together with the kids. We have dinner after the kids go to bed and watch a movie or just sit and talk or read in each others company. We go out to nice dinners. We have great adventures while leaving the kids with a sitter for the day. We have gone to amazing concerts. I soak up all of the time we spend together and store it in my memory for the days he is away and I’m having a rough day, because it’s special.

(c) Winegeart Photography

(c) Winegeart Photography

Today is our anniversary and I can honestly say that I love my husband more today than I did when we got married. We have had such an adventure and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I am so grateful for that man that walked in almost 10 years ago inquiring about a job. He has blessed my life in so many ways.

When all my faith has gone, you bring it back to me. You make it real for me.

 

It’s a Cake Walk.

My oldest daughter had an ‘Arts Night’ at school. It’s a super cute production her school puts on to show off kids art. I love seeing all of the creative imaginative things they do in her class and all of the things her and her classmates come up with.

They had a couple other activities going on during Arts night, one being a cake walk.

I have not participated in a cake walk in years, definitely over 15. The school had asked for donations of cake, cupcakes, and cookies to give out to the winners. I pondered over what to make. I didn’t have many conventional ingredients left and I did not want to buy more. So…back to the paleo cookbooks.

Goodness. I’m going to be that weird mom that shows up with goodies made out of grass. 

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No Bake Chocolate Chip ‘Peanut Butter’ Cookies
Adapted from Paleo Chocolate Lovers’ Cookbook.

Did I forget to mention, they also had to be easy to make since I have had a bit of a busy week. Need cookies in a hurry? Here’s your cookie…you’re welcome.

1/2 a cup of Medjool Dates (for my local readers, BJ’s has huge boxes of these)
1/2 a cup of Organic Sunbutter (sugar free)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup Mini Chocolate Chips (I used Enjoy Life, they have a little bit of sugar in them, but they are nut, dairy and soy free)

Put the dates and sunbutter in a food processor and mix until they two are blended, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the coconut, vanilla and salt and blend again until everything is sticking together (about a minute or so). Take the dough out of the food processor bowl and fold in the chocolate chips.

Using a small cookie scoop. Scoop the dough and roll it into balls. Place in the refrigerator to set. These cookies need to be refrigerated (if they last that long).

I whipped these up and threw them (literally, haha) in the refrigerator in less than 20 minutes. I then told my oldest daughter that she better win them back during the cake walk.

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She did not win the cake walk at all (parents collective sigh…phew!) and these cookies were taken first (yay for not feeling like a weirdo!)

Built Fire with Sticks. Made Empanadas.

I love pie (we have covered this but I thought I would reiterate). Flaky buttery crust. Delicious fillings. Yum.

I have been working my way through a couple different paleo cookbooks, basically trying to learn the ins and outs of cooking and baking paleo. I had baked cakes for so long and made foods that were filled with gluten that I was not sure how to make or bake things without it. It’s been a pretty great learning experience. I also read every Paleo/Primal book I could get my hands on. (The Paleo Manifesto by John Durant…life changer and one of my favorites so far. He is not preachy, nor does he come off like a snob. It’s a fantastic read. I love books that make me think.)

So, I’ve learned a lot. The more puzzle pieces I put together, the more I understand how this lifestyle works and why it works. Also, ways to maintain it (I do go out to dinner from time to time. It has become infinitely easier to figure out what to order off a menu.)

Anyways, back to the pie. To be more specific, Chicken Enchilada Empanada’s from Primal Cravings. Not really Pie, but close enough.

Enchilada Empanada

 

My kids went absolutely bonkers for these delicious little pockets and I have to say, I was blown away. We made a double batch so that we would have leftovers and I think the leftovers were even better than the batch directly out of the oven. They were a bit time consuming to to make (rolling out 40 little circles of dough…super fun), but well worth the time it took.

Chicken Enchilada Empanadas
Adapted from Primal Cravings

Filling

15 ounces of tomato sauce (we buy HUGE cans of this since we go through it so fast, but one 15 ounce can will get you there)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon powdered onion
1 teaspoon ground coriander
salt
1 lb. chicken breast, cubed into 1/2 inch or smaller cubes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare a baking sheet with a silpat or unbleached parchment paper.

In a large saucepan mix all of the filling ingredients and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Dough

2 cups tapioca flour
1/2 cup potato flour (not to be confused with potato starch)
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large eggs

Take out two bowls. In one mix all of the dry ingredients together (minus the gelatin). In the second bowl, mix the gelatin and water together and allow the gelatin to bloom for about a minute. Mix in the rest of the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until they form a ball. Knead a couple times for good measure. Divide the ball into 20 uniform balls (about 35-37 oz each) and press them into thin discs.

On the baking sheet place one disc. In the center of that put 3 tablespoons of filling and top with a second disc (this is where things get messy). Press and roll the sides to create a seal. Do this with the other 18 discs.

Make an egg wash consisting of 1 egg yolk and 1 Tablespoon of water. Brush the top of the completed empanadas. Bake on the center rack for 28 minutes.

The best part of these was that I could throw them in my husband and daughters lunch boxes and it was like a pocket sandwich. Win-win.

This crust would also be fantastic filled with some pizza sauce and sausage (maybe a little pepperoni?) and mushrooms. It’s on my list of things to do.

Pickled Silly.

The first time I opened the Nom Nom Paleo cookbook, I saw them.

Pickled Carrots.

I had no idea such a thing existed, but I had to make them. The first time I attempted them I thought I would use my mandoline to julienne the carrots. That turned out to be a bust. I sliced one of my fingers.

For my birthday my mom and stepdad bought me a Julienne Peeler (I love kitchen stuff!) and I set out making the carrot strings once again, this time without cutting my fingers.

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These are super quick and super easy. They make a great lunch time side. If you are over eating tuna fish (like me), try it a different way with these on top in a lettuce cup. SUPER yummy!

Quick Pickled Carrot Strings
Adapted from Nom Nom Paleo

1/4 cup apple juice
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 carrots (you can julienne them or even cut them into thin circles)

Put all the ingredients in a bowl, make sure the carrots are covered by the liquid and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (I refrigerated mine overnight and they were delicious). Enjoy!

Today I am trying something new, fermented ketchup. The Domestic Man posted the recipe yesterday, along with the history of ketchup and I quickly gathered all of the ingredients so that I could start it today. I’m kind of excited (in a geeky foodie kind of way).