Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wanna see a magic trick?

I can do magic.  I can - and it is no trick.

And it is EASY!

Let me preface this: I have discovered I have a pretty major character flaw that I am sure drives my family crazy. When I find something that I truly love, that makes life easier, more wonderful, happier, etc. I like to share it with EVERYONE. You see, I think that if I love it there is a good chance you may love it too - and if you do then it makes my world. Because I got to share something wonderful with someone. If you don't like it, that is ok too. I don't get offended. I am just glad you tried it.

But some people don't like that...they don't like people sharing. That makes no sense to me.  Some truly strange people actually get offended if you offer them something that could make their lives happier. So....if that is you then ignore this. In fact, I'm pretty sure you will hate it anyway. So no magic for you!

I may be in a bit of a snarky mood, just ignore me. It is better that way...

Ok - so here is how the magic works.

Making your Starter:

Take a half a cup of warm water and a half a cup of flour. Mix it well. put it in a clean, glass jar and cover it with a damp cloth.

Then wait.....

The next day, add another 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup warm water.  Stir it again really well.

Wait again....

The third day is when the magic usually starts.  It's alive! There should be bubbles that have started to form. "Feed" it again with more flour and water and the moment you are done stirring you should see the bubbles rise to the surface again.  Magic!  It is growing.

On the forth day you will likely notice that your house has taken on a bit of a sour/musty smell - centered around your magic jar.  Don't worry, that will settle down some. The jar itself should be alive and kicking now! Lots of bubbles, lots of nice smelly sourness. It's almost ready!

Day 5 is about the soonest I would recommend using your starter.  Lets call her Bertha. All starters need names, they truly are as individual as their homes and have so much personality! Day five (Or longer if your house is cold or if you have a small-ish amount of wild yeast in the air. Some can take as long as 10-15 days. If you see mold, throw it out and try again.) take out a cup of Bertha (don't worry, she likes it. Now she has room to grow), put her in a clean bowl and then feed Big Bertha again (1/2 cup  water, 1/2 cup flour).

OR - if you don't want to go through that whole process and you don't live to far away from me or another magic enthusiast - borrow a bit of starter.  A cup is a good starting point.  Then skip down to the "Caring for Bertha" section to see how to make your starter your friend.  I would recommend feeding a borrowed starter for 2-3 days before you use it to make bread - just to bulk up your amount so you don't use it all. 
Now back to that bowl with your cup of starter (Little Bertha). This is where it REALLY gets good!


Sourdough Bread

1 cup of Bertha
3.5 cups of flour
1 cup of warm water
2 tsp. salt

Kneed it until it is sticky, but smooth.  Takes about 4 minutes in my kitchen-aid. Probably closer to
8-9 minutes by hand. Add a little flour if it feels too sticky - but be careful not to make it too dry. It should stick to your hand if you touch it, but the hand should come away clean.

Now roll it into a nice plump ball, roll it in olive oil, set it in a bowl and cover the bowl with  plastic wrap.

Now, Little Bertha needs to rest and work her magic.  You can let her rest all night long if you like. But make sure it is at LEAST 2 hours.  If you are going for the 2 hour mark I would recommend putting the loaf into the oven (remember it needs to be covered with plastic) and turning the light on.  This creates nice consistent warmth without accidentally baking. 

Isn't she pretty?

After rest time is done, it is time to take out your iron dutch oven.  A regular cookie sheet will work too, but I FAR prefer how the loaf turns out when I use the dutch oven.

Sprinkle just a bit of corn meal on the bottom of your dutch oven and set it in your actual oven - pre-heat the oven (and the pot) to 400.

Now Bertha needs to stretch her legs a little. So gather up the dough, put it on a lightly floured surface and kneed it about 5-6 times. Add a little more oil to coat (don't want her to stick to the bowl) and put her back.

The pot should heat for about 15-20 minutes.  Make sure it is good and hot! Bertha is happy to rest as long as you will leave her, so don't sweat if it happens to be longer (I find she is happiest with another 30-45 minutes. So if you decide you want to give her that extra time, wait to pre-heat your oven.)

Now, CAREFULLY place Bertha into the very hot iron pot. And CAREFULLY slice the top of the loaf.  I like to make a "hot cross buns" style of cut, but just a few slashes across the top will work just as well. (Ignore my "well seasoned" pot there.)

Put the lid on top and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, and bake for another 20 minutes.

If you are using a cookie sheet, you can do the full 40 minutes all together.

Enjoy how with the smell of baking bread, all your cares slip away and your house feels like a wonderful, magical island of peace. It's true, best perfume on the planet! 

Now this is the hardest part - after you take the loaf out of the oven you have to let it cool.  I know, torture! But it REALLY needs at least 15-20 minutes to cool off. An hour is even better. But once it has cooled off, you get to slice into the perfect loaf, ice it with butter - you heard me right. Don't skimp on the butter people!

And enjoy the magic!

Caring for Bertha

Now, Bertha is a feisty beast. She likes to eat. A lot. And she likes to continually collect wild yeast, so never seal your jar. I find cheese-cloth to work best at keeping out bugs and kids fingers, while still letting in lots of good live air. You can also use coffee filters or a loose weave cotton rag.

Standard feeding:

Take about a cup of starter out of your jar first (this is what you will use to create masterful works of art - or you can give it to a friend that wants to learn all about the magic Bertha can offer - but don't feel bad if you are just tossing it - remember, more will grow.). If I am trying to build up my stash I will skip that part and just feed her - but eventually you need to take some out or Bertha will literally burst her britches.

Then mix 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup warm (not hot) water into your jar.  You should see it start to bubble right away.  Some people prefer to feed twice a day (just cut the amount in half) totally up to you.

That's it! Easy right? 

If you are baking bread (brownies, pancakes, biscuits - there are LOTS of amazing sourdough recipes!) at least every 2 days (like me) I recommend keeping Bertha on the counter. But remember you HAVE to feed her at least once a day or she will quickly die, skip a day and you will notice that she is already angry with you. If you don't bake as often as that, then you can keep her in the frig.  I still recommend feeding her once a week (though she can go longer while in the frig.) Take her out the night before you plan on using her, feed her with equal parts flour and warm water, mix well and let her sit out all night to "wake up."  She will be ready to perform her most jar-dropping magic the next morning!

The liquid that forms on the top of the jar is called hooch and is completely normal.  It can be clear or brownish in color depending on your own unique bacteria.  Some people just say to mix it back in, but I like to pour it off. It can have a higher concentration of alcohol, and especially if you are reviving a neglected jar, it should be tossed to preserve the happy healthy yeast beneath.

Bertha also likes to be clean.  At least once a week I usually switch her to a clean jar. The splashes on the sides of the jar that occur while mixing can mold, and that is not good for our ladies health.  So make sure she stays clean and fed and Bertha will perform spectacularly!

There you have it - Now you can do magic too!

Feel free to share your favorite sourdough recipes, I am always looking for new good ones. For now,I am off to have a lovely large slice of pure heaven!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

There is a Joy in the Journey

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”
                                                                    ― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

 I am very raw today. We all occasionally need days like this. Days where blues become very blue, and reds become very red. Noise is overwhelming and we feel stuck inside a pocket of gelatinous haze, drifting a bit, living as an observer to the world around us - being careful not to touch because chances are, if we touch we will get burned. We fear the fire, so we drift.

This is not how I planned to start this post, I planned on writing an informative post on starting with Doterra and finding healing through essential oils, and I think I am getting there. But I suppose I needed a moment to drift first. Perhaps you do too - come, be protected with me here for a moment. Take a deep breath, shut out the world and just drift.

It's going to be alright.  It is well with my soul.

I have shared my health journey (multiples ) (times) on this blog. Hmmm- those links are not as tidy looking as I wanted. Oh well, they do the job right?

After several years of dealing with bone wrenching exhaustion as well as a whole list of other very frustrating physical and mental issues most of my waking moments, I have felt that 2014 has truly been a healing year for me.  There is joy in the journey you know.

My husband pointed out to me just this morning, I do not like blanket statements. (I do have a point here, I promise!) I REALLY don't. Not entirely sure why - the only root I can think of is that in college I had a professor that outlawed what he called "all-ness" statements.  Claiming the only "all-ness statement" that is true is that there are no absolutes. There is always an exception. And when you claim something and leave zero room for wiggle room, someone, somewhere will be offended. And you will be wrong.

Maybe I just don't like being wrong...

So when I was told a little over 2 years ago that I had an incurable auto-immune disease that I would have for the rest of my life, and that I would have to take medication to control it EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. That didn't sit well with me. And then when I discovered that even with medication, I would experience most of the symptoms to some degree every single day of my life...and that so long as the one blood test my doctor was willing to perform (TSH levels) came back "within the realm of normal" there was nothing anyone, anywhere in the medical community seemed willing to do for me unless I wanted to pay an outrages amount and be treated like a crazy person...well lets just say I grew very frustrated. I began a journey to prove them wrong.

The first thing I changed was diet. I cut out every ounce of soy (look on the ingredients of what you are eating. It is EVERYWHERE).  I discovered I was so sensitive to soy that within a couple hours of eating it, I feel drugged. Like someone has attached a tap to me and poured out all of my energy. It would hurt to breath because I was so tired, but somehow I still had to take care of three children! It is bad enough that I honestly can't safely drive after eating soy, I go into a tired stupor, almost as bad as being intoxicated. It was amazing to discover I could avoid that horrible feeling by simply changing how I eat.  The next thing I cut out was gluten.  I lost 10lbs in a month. I had not lost weight in 2 years no matter how hard I had tried. I now follow a very low gluten diet - the only bread I eat is homemade sourdough and that doesn't bother me at all, (and helps me not to get sick if I eat gluten at a restaurant or at someone else's house.)  I made several other changes as well, but I wont bog you down with details now.

But even with everything I had changed - though better, the symptoms continued.  I would get so tired so fast. I was cold all the time, my hair and fingernails were always breaking. Scratches would take weeks to heal, I would drop things all the time, forget the simplest things. I couldn't focus, couldn't stay organized and every join in my body hurt constantly. My ears buzz when I get stressed and the world starts to fly out of control around me and I can't make it slow down. Then I had a terrible goiter flair-up at the beginning of the year that started affecting my daily life. (doesn't that sound like some terrible mythical beast? "The attack of the fearsome goiter!" Talking, swallowing, sleeping and even breathing became something I had to do around a constant swollen globular barrier. Sounds like fun huh?

I had known a few people that had tried out essential oils for various health reasons and every single one of them had found success and healing. Worth a try right?

I started doing research, I discovered that clove, lemongrass and peppermint were recommended for low thyroid therapy and frankincense was recommended for auto-immune. There are several others that are supposed to be helpful as well, but I figured I had to start somewhere, and I could only afford so much!

I stuck to only Young Living and Doterra oils so I knew I was getting a reliable product, purchasing them off Amazon. (Which for quality control, I don't really recommend - but like I said, I had to start somewhere!) I started using them on a Monday, and noticed a difference in hormone levels right away. (I am pretty good at recognizing signs of that) I would take 1-2 drops of frankincense under my tongue twice a day and used the other three together (about a drop of each) twice a day, topically on the thyroid. I also starting drinking water with lemon oil in it (Which is amazing by the way!)

I will say that I did not really noticed any kind of dramatic difference in how I felt right away. Everything has been very gradual. But since I started the oils - I keep discovering that I have started large cleaning/re-organizing projects around my house. That NEVER happens! For the first time in years I feel like I am starting to be the one in control instead of drowning in a house that constantly threatens to over-power me.

I also have started getting up 40 minutes before everyone else in the house in order to have some quite/alone time to read my Bible and pray, and to read a bit of  '7 habits of highly effective people' which I started, just for the heck of it. I have cuddle time with my two early risers every morning and can say a prayer of joy over their days as we cuddle. They love that. I am not grumpy as I get my kids ready for school, I have not forgotten school lunches in weeks! My motivation level has gone from non-existent, to "let me take care of that right away." Even my husband has commented on it.

My goiter (I feel like he needs a name, is that weird? Perhaps I should be more concerned that I have given my crazy swollen thyroid a male persona...) Has gotten much better. It is still there on days where allergies or stress levels are unusually bad. But the last couple weeks especially have been MUCH better. My hair is not falling out as badly, and my joint pain is MUCH better.

So since I knew I would be buying the oils again (and wanted to not go bankrupt) I took the plunge, I signed up with Doterra as a consultant! (I have nothing against Young Living - the reason I chose Doterra was because I had the starting support I needed through a local consultant. So I can meet and ask questions whenever I need it). I am so excited! I just got my starting kit yesterday. This is what I got:   

I got 10 essential oils, Lavender, Lemon, Peppermint, Melaleuca, Oregano, Frankincense, Deep Blue® (muscle healing), Breathe (for congestion), DigestZen® (tummy/acid reflux trouble), and On Guard (anti-viral). 1 large bottle of base oil, hand soap and dispensing bottles, therapeutic deep muscle rub and daily vitality vitamins. (really excited about these!) There was one more roller Past-tense (tension/headaches) bottle I got too, but I forgot to add it to the pile when I took the picture. I also got a website: if anyone wants more info or to look at more oil options.

With success so far for thyroid symptoms - next on my list is managing my husbands ADHD and insomnia (already had some success with that in the week or so we have tried a couple things) my kids allergies/asthma, help for the inevitable sickness that regularly falls on us with three kids in three different classrooms, and general stress and calming for the whole house.

I have been so inspired by all this. I love the fact that there is always something I can try. When my kids are sneezing, have tummy-aches or are sad or stressed I am not helpless. There is always something to try, even if it is just a little lemon and pepperment warmed in the hands. They like it too, it makes them feel cared for no matter the ailment.

So I will warn you now, because my instinct is always to share with every person around me when I find something that is valuable - I beg your forgiveness in advance. I'm going to be talking about this a lot. And I am going to be asking you if you want to try stuff a lot. I will be getting some glass roller bottles tomorrow so I can give out samples of mixes. And I'll be getting my reference book early next week so please feel free to ask me what is recommended for different issues and I should be able to find the info pretty quick. I am NOT doing this to make money. I have no intention of trying to get people to "throw oil parties" or anything like that. I really could care less if I never make money off of it. I signed up as a consultant so that I could get the oils myself, and so that I could buy them for friends and family. But please know that if you want to learn more I can absolutely meet with you or help you find what would be helpful to you. I may do some educational type parties if there is enough interest, but never, EVER will there be any pressure to buy. I just want to share health and healing with as many people as I can!    

I know that poeple tend to be scared of something that is different. And I understand that most of you think I am a crazy hippie (I plead the 5th). But I'll steal a quote from a fellow "crazy hippie" that maybe will help to make it a little less scary.

"Essential Oils are NOT Alternative Medicine. They are The Original Medicine, created by God on the 3rd day of creation. Alternative Medicine is what modern day scientists have created by taking essential oil compounds, synthetically duplicating them, and throwing in a bunch of chemicals to equal "medicine". We would do well as a society to go back to the original perspective of what Medicine Really is...Essential Oil."       - Crazy Hippie (who's name I do not know)

After all, doesn't the Bible tell us to anoint the sick with oil? Maybe this is what was really meant. The oil itself is healing! God gave us the tools we needed for health, it grows all around us. We just need to stop for a moment, notice it is there and use it. The testimonies of emotional and physical healing using something as simple as a little oil is absolutely extraordinary. And while I run the risk of sounding like an infomercial - why suffer when there is natural, clean, healthy healing available.  

What exactly do you have to lose?

 “All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever.”
                                                                                   ― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain