Saturday, June 30, 2012

What I Read In June

As it would happen, the type of stress we were under this month was not conducive to reading, so it's a very short list.

1.  If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley - This is a really, really fun book.  (If a slow read.  I couldn't stick with it for more than a brief chapter at a time, so it took forever to get through.)  Worsley is an historian in the UK of fairly prominant stature, and in this book she has laid out an interesting look at the different rooms of the home and how they developed throughout history.  Also included is a look at the things we humans actually DO in each room.  Sometimes I wish there had been MORE detail.  Often I wished that there was an American counterpart.  Nonetheless, it was a fascinating, enjoyable read.  If you like to look at history from the everyday standpoint of how people actually lived, this is the book for you!

2.  Domestic Violets, Matthew Norman - Domestic Violets was a Books on the Nightstand recommednation, and so when it popped up on iBook's discount list I had to buy it!  (I frequent that list, and have found some amazing books that way.)  The entire novel was a very interesting father/son story....and I definitly related to the concept that one's father can be so very larger in life that it overwhelms yours.  (Although quite happily, my father is NOTHING like the senior Violet.)  I also love that it was a novel about writers.  Unfortunately, my reading of this novel was swept away on the events of June....and a few weeks later I find that it's probably one of the least memorable novels I've read in a while.  So fun....but nothing truly special. 

3.  Scarlet, Stephen R. Lawhead (audio) - This is the second book in Lawhead's Robin Hood triligy.  I love that each book is told from the point of view of the title character, and I love Lawhead's Will Scarlet....who's more sincere and down to earth than Will usually is.  There was an odd trick of storytelling - with most of the book being told as a flashback while Will is in prison, delaying his execution by confessing in great detail to a monk.  The first couple of times he broke into current time banter it caught me off gaurd and I admit to momentary confussion. 

4.  Tuck, Stephen R. Lawhead (audio) - So here's the funny.  Tuck, the third book, came available for checkout first...and I had to wait on pins and needles to see if Scarlet would become available before my download of Tuck expired.  I wanted badly to read them back to back!  With just four days left on my checout of Tuck that happened....thank goodness they are each only about 12 hours so that I could get through them both in that four days!  Tuck is actually the least interesting narrating character...but then in the final book there is so much stuff going on it's kind of nice that the personality recedes a bit in favor of plot. 

5.  Among Others, Jo Walton - I got this recommendation from a friend of mine, and I'm so very glad I read it.  For so many years all I read was fantasy with a smattering of sci fi, but I've moved quite a bit away from my favorite genres since I started tracking my reading and using recommendations from various literary sources like BOTNS.  Among Others, quite simply, is a beautiful book.  Having recently reread my teenage diaries, I can attest to the fact that it's framing in the pages of a teen's diary reads very true.  Also, our main character, Mor, is a broken girl who loves/escapes with books.  Ahem.  (I both absolutely loved that, and was also made pretty uncomfortable by it.)  I have a feeling this one is going to stick with me for a long, long while.

A bit on what to expect from next month's book list: 
  • Will probably be skipping audio books as I am catching up on my podcasts, including back episodes of some new shows that I've found.
  • I have some not-so-fun-but-neccessary nonfiction to read
  • Maybe....just maybe....I'll give myself some silly, escapist fiction to cover the rest. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Caught In The Act

I may have said a few bad words about the carnage spread around the base of my pot.....

Sunday, June 24, 2012


You may have noticed that my knitting has been a little bit on the dull side lately.

Well, that's not entirely true....

My knitting has been rich in color, but rather plain in pattern.  I've done lots of work on my blanket and have been working on plain, basic socks.  All worthwhile projects, but nothing that really takes the breath away.  OK, that's not true, either, as the blanket does make one gasp....


You know what I mean.

Quite frankly, the Princess shawl wore me out.  I loved every stitch, but I needed a bit of a break for a while so that I could 'refill the well.'

And this weekend my well ran over, and I began to knit lace again.

1.  I sampled the yarn and beads for Christmas gift for my mother-in-law.  She had fallen in love with the version I made for myself, and had asked if I would knit one for her.  Given how wonderful she is with my girls, it's the least I can do.  It took me a long while to find just the right color...and now I need to get just the right beads.  I have the right color, but the wrong size.  SO, it's been set aside until I can track down the right beads.

2.  I swatched with this lovely raspberry for a small shawl.  I fell in love with the color of the yarn, but there is bamboo in the fiber so I knew it would have to use it for a shawl.  The pattern is picked out....and it will either go in the basket for a Christmas gift or will be donated to my P.E.O. chapter for the fall auction.  (I have a gazillion's time to share the love!)
 3.  My friend Bonnie recently published a new pattern, Streusel.  It just so happened to be exactly what the doctor ordered.  I adore the simple edging and the way the garter stitch plays with the color of a mostly - but not quite - solid yarn.  Plus, the simple scarves and shawls like this in my collection get used a whole the more the merrier!
 4.  Just after I finished the Princess I did pick up my long-suffering Tibetan Clouds shawl and worked the first side.  This weekend I did a Russian join to attach the yarn so that I could work the second side.  Truth:  I'm not crazy about the side patterns, and I'm kicking myself for picking beads that don't show up better.....
 but my-oh-my, I still love the center!
 5.  I'm perhaps the most excited, though, about this last project.  This will be an Estonian lace scarf -  a pattern by Nancy Bush that I've long admired and wanted to do.  The kicker, though, is that I'm using some handspun silk to knit it!  It was a huge leap of faith to start this project, and for some reason it looks even more of a mess unblocked on the needles than other projects to so it's an even bigger trial to just keep going.  Good thing I pinned it out to see what it really looked like!
6.  There is one other lace project - a shawl I started when we went to Tucson this spring.  I am honestly having trouble trying to decide whether or not to keep going with the pattern as is.  The yarn is lovely - although it's made with an odd composition that makes it a bit uncomfortable to work with.  (Feels like cotton, with no give)  The color is delightful, though, and I have enough yardage to do a bigger pattern than the one I had chosen.  We shall see.  I've changed my mind about 800 times.

It's not really like me to start so very many things, but it has been a lot of fun to play this weekend.  As I told Sean, it's been one of the most unproductive productive weekends I've ever had!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Paleo Family

It's one thing for me to take on the Paleo Lifestyle, given my food allergies and my health needs.  It's another thing entirely to share Paleo with my entire family, and yet that is exactly what we are going to do.  Starting this week, our family is on a 30 day Paleo experiment.  We are looking forward to seeing where it leads us!
Yes, this is absolutely a big step - although for our family it's not as big of a change as it might be for most.  But still, there are kids involved and change in diet can be difficult for kids. 

So why are we doing it? 
As most of you know, in April of 2011 we figured out that my littlest, Tanith, had a problem with dairy just like her mommy.  Our allergist confirmed it, and we immediately pulled dairy from her diet.  (For people in our family who needed absolute proof, we did verify that with allergy testing this April.)  That one simple step has made a huge difference in her health and behavior...but I've still felt there was more we could do with her.  For one thing, she's a notorious sugar bug, and that has always bothered me.  Mommy's intuition says we just aren't quite there yet. 
Then there is my Gillian.  While she never had any obvious signs of a food problem, she has had pretty severe headache problems since kindergarten.  Let's be real....small children should NOT have severe headache problems.  We've been trying to pinpoint a food trigger for that - with no real success - for the last six months or so. 

Then two things happened this summer that clued me in to the fact that my daughter is even more sensitive to food than I had thought.  The first was a trip home to my parents' farm, during which she ate practically nothing that was not either grain or dairy based.  The second was camp just a couple of weeks ago.  A few days of industrialized, processed camp food triggered the exact same reaction that the food on the farm had....which was that my sunny, energetic, happy girl because an exhausted, whiny mess who felt sick and was miserable.  The night it happened at camp I looked at her and realized she was feeling the exact same way I feel when I am loaded with my allergens...that she was, in fact, experiencing the same yucky fatigue that had driven me to the allergist's office in the first place.  In both situations her diet was radically different than it typically was at home, and it was obvious that what she was eating was hurting her. 

Then I flashed back to kindergarten and first grade - where she was a complete peach at school, but would come home and have raging temper tantrums at night.  At the time we were told she felt safe with us because we were good parents, and that she was most likely just working out of her system any frustrations that were built because she was so good all day.  That and she was just that tired and was just that strong-willed of a child.  The problems had seemed to go away for the most part starting in second grade.....which is when I got my food allergy diagnosis and grains, sugars and dairy disappeared from most of our family diet at home. 


A whole bunch of things fell into place that night, and confirmed our belief that our decision to go Paleo was the right one for our family. 

You are what you eat, and what you eat can either heal or harm. 

Now I know that I'm not going to get 100% compliance.  My husband, for example, has no problem with dairy whatsoever and will probably continue to eat lunches out with his friends.  (He's also in-tune enough to know how foods make him feel, and so understands when he's going to have to pay the price for something that's not quite so great for him.)  I'm also a realist, and know that my kids are kids and are going to want kid-friendly food.  Occasionally there will be slip-ups.  However, the good news is that there are tons of great recipes out there to make 'paleo-friendly' versions of a lot of things they would otherwise miss. 

For our experiment we are following the 30 day menu plan in Sarah Fergaso's Everyday Paleo.  To supplement that, I have also bought a copy of the FABULOUS book, Eat Like A Dinosaur.  I checked that one out from the library, and when the girls had tagged almost every recipe with post-its I knew we had to have a copy for ourselves.  Both books have really great recommendations about how to make the Paleo lifestyle and food work for the entire family....advice we are really taking to heart.  (Tanith ate an entire bowl of kale chips because she made them herself....amazing!) 

So we shall see what happens over the next month.  I'm really looking forward to discovering how my girls respond.  Who knows?  Perhaps this change will become permanent!

Friday, June 22, 2012

My Paleo Life

Recently I walked you through what happens when I cheat on my allergy diet.  At the end of that not-so-fun post I promised to tell you about a recent discovery that had made my allergy diet both fun and sustainable for the long haul. 

Yay!  Today's the day! 

I'm not going to lie.  Even knowing the health benefits of sticking with and the consequences of going against my allergy diet as well as I did, I was struggling.  In fact, I'm rather embarrassed to admit that I had a complete breakdown this spring over how much I hated the blasted diet.  I felt I was condemned to a lifetime of boring food, and I was miserable.  It didn't help that I was having serious trouble complying, and so was therefor not really seeing any progress towards my health goals. 

Then - as often happens to me - right when I was at my worst the universe opened a window.  I was browsing through my facebook news feed when I discovered a some links that my allergist had added to a couple of popular Paleo blogs.  Hmmm, I thought.  I had heard her reference the Paleo Diet/Lifestyle before.....but I really had no idea what it was all about. 

So I clicked on the links and started reading.

30 minutes later realized I had fallen into the rabbit hole. 

The very next day I went to my Barnes & Noble with a gift card and bought a copy of Sarah Fergaso's Everyday Paleo....and I fell in love and found my answers.

As it would happen, the Paleo Lifestyle is really just a short sidestep away from my allergy diet.  To get there, I've given up white potatoes and all legumes and have significantly reduced the amount of fruit I was eating.  In return, I've gained back some nuts and seeds, coconut products galore, spices, coffee and a whole lot of fantastic recipes.  (Seriously, our family has loved everything we've tried so far!)  The fact that Paleo also emphasizes getting good, quality sleep, managing stress, making exercise more efficient, spending quality time with family, being outdoors as much as possible and having fun is a bonus.  Those are all things I can get on board with...and have! 

Amazingly enough, in no time at all I was seeing a lot of positive results.  I was getting all of the good stuff from my allergy diet....but I was also satiated (turns out I wasn't getting enough fat), enjoying flavors and food again, able to enjoy eating out because I had more options, and rid of a few lingering cravings and an odd bellyache or two (either the potatoes or beans....or both). 

I can't even begin to describe how happy this has made me!

I think the thing that really drew me in, though, is that fact that the online paleo world is so much more positive than the food allergy world.  Every time I had gone looking for food allergy websites and blogs I had come out depressed, unhappy, and feeling oddly judged because my type of reactions weren't someone else's type of reactions.  By contrast, the Paleo world is full of positive energy.  The focus is one of 'I can' instead of 'I can't.'  There are amazing stories of lives changed and health improved, many examples of how to tweak the diet to suit your needs, and a recognition that we are all human and so it's ok to just do the best you can do.

I should take a moment to say that while I feel Paleo is best for me - and for my family - I do not necessarily believe it's right for everyone.  (Also, there are some crazy zealots out there, and I don't always agree with the theories behind paleo choices.)  What I DO believe is that most everyone would benefit from a diet free of processed foods and sugar, that eating as close to the natural source as possible is a great thing,  and that most people would do well to learn to judge how they respond to different foods. We truly are what we eat, and I wish more people understood how connected how we feel is to what we put into our bodies.

If you are curious and would like to learn more, I heartily recommend the following sites:
Everyday Paleo
Mark's Daily Apple
Robb Wolf
Paleo Parents

And tomorrow....extending the Paleo Lifestyle into a whole family experiment!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Camp Socks

When I packed for camp I decided to be a good girl and take only a very small pile of knitting and a drop spindle project or two.

It was hard.

It was VERY hard.

In fact, there may have been a bit of a stand-off at the van as my husband pushed me out the door without the scrapbook blanket and I begged and pleaded to go get it because I just knew I HAD to work on it all week as it was the only project that would make me happy.


While at camp, I knit a pair of socks and came close to finishing a drop spindle project.  I had back up materials for one more project of each variety. 

I was a good girl.

Basic sock instructions from Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns
Opal of some sort, 1 ball.
Knit Picks DPN's - 2.0 mm
76 stitches around, 23 rows of 2x2 rib and 50 rows plain in leg, 62 rows between gusset and toe.
November 8, 2011 - June 21, 2012
(I always have a pair of plain socks going...and frequently they languish for a very long time with only a inch or two done at the cuff.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Mad Tatter

 I learned how to tatt when I was 16, after finding a small basket that contained my great-grandmother's tatting shuttle and some lace remnants.  Fortunately, we had a lacemaker at our Lost Arts Festival at Watkins Mill who could show me exactly how to tatt.  It's not at all something easily learned from books - even though the actual motions, once mastered, are quite simple.
Tatting was my primary craft for years and years.  I did two lace collars for work, 13 feet of lace for my formal period costume, Christmas ornaments, a doily or two, and the lace for the dress Gillian was blessed in.  Most of all, though, I edged handkerchiefs.  I absolutely adore old-fashioned lace hankies.
However, I gave tatting up for the most part shortly after Gillian was born.  Honestly, knitting is just so much more useful and varied....and tatting gets a bit dull after a while.  Besides, I think Sean got tired of hearing me cuss when I snapped the thread...which I did often, being a tense sort of person.
When our friend Eric died, the need to make something for his wife, Kari, was great within me.  That's what we makers do in the face of tragedy....we create, trying to hold the darkness at bay in even the smallest of ways.  And so, a hankie for Kari to hold during her husband's funeral....tatted with love for them both in the color that decorated their wedding, and carrying with it our prayers for her whole family.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Farewell and Godspeed

My friends,

Iin the coming days I would like you to take the time to tell your loved ones just how much they mean to you. Hold them close, and appreciate each and every moment you have together.

Life is a precious, fragile thing.

12 days ago one of my husband's oldest and best friends suffered a massive stroke at the age of 40. Despite the very best of care, the damage proved too great, and this evening Eric passed away,
surrounded by his friends and family.

Eric is leaving behind two small children and a wife who is expecting their third. He was a loving husband, a devoted father, and a good friend. In fact, he was just the type of person about whom a bad word was never spoken. The world lost something special tonight.

And our hearts are broken.

If you are so inclined, prayers for the Jansing family would be appreciated.

Also, if you haven't already done so, please consider becoming an organ donor. Eric was, and his final act of generosity is bringing great comfort to his family and friends.

Love to you all,

Friday, June 8, 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Hello all!

The Frazier girls are doing a bit of traveling this week and next, so I'm afraid blog posting will be spotty at best. If I have time I'll put up a few things Friday.....if not than I will see you in two weeks!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What Happens When I Cheat

"Allergies are reactions that involve the immune system.....Foods should not normally trigger an immune response.  Unfortunately, all too often, they do, and the immune system produces antibodies that target the food and circulate throughout the body, which is why an allergic reaction can show up in such a variety of symptoms just about anywhere in the body.  These antibodies in turn trigger inflammation, which can result in pain and tissue damage, leading to further symptoms.....It is not understood why an allergy to a given substance is expressed so differently in different people.  Some people get hives and swelling of the lips and tongue.  Others get digestive problems, migraines, or arthritis.  Each individual seems to have a unique weak point where symptoms show up first." 

Dr. Stephen Wangen, "Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerance's" Coping With Allergies and Asthma, Winter 2011, 2012.

For some time now I've wanted to write a post explaining what exactly happens to me when I eat a food that I'm allergic to for the simple reason that most people just don't 'get' my allergies since I don't have what they know to be a standard reaction.  It gets a bit exhausting, and honestly I'm sick of this whole conversation.  SO, for once and for it is:

1.  Dairy and grains:  cause immediate IBS/digestive symptoms.  I won't go into great detail, but will say that it runs from minor annoyance to major pain and can last anywhere from 24 hrs. to a week.  Sean and I have decided that these are my big bads.

2.  Sugar:  Sugar hurts.  If I get even a little bit I will wake up the next day with painful joints.  Trust me when I say this is not fun.  I'm also more likely to wind up with sore, achy muscles and/or muscle strains/pulls when under the influence of sugar.  The bigger problem, though, is that within an hour of eating sugar my energy completely disappears.  I spend at least the rest of the day walking around like a zombie - barely able to function.  This has become more and more pronounced as of late....but that constant state of exhaustion is part of what drove me to the allergist's office anyway. 

3.  The other no-no's (fermented anything, dried roasted anything, less obvious sources of yeast):  The scary thing is that sometimes I can have some of these things with no reaction whatsoever.  But at other times they can firebomb my gut.  As near as I can tell, hidden mold is the big culprit.  For example - even though coffee is on the no list, I've still always drank it at my parents' home, in part because they drink a coffee roasted here in my town that is always very fresh.  One weekend they fixed a different brand of prepackaged coffee - the only no-no I had that weekend - and I proceeded to spend the entire weekend on the toilet.  Not fun. 

4.  Reactions to all:  Of course, there is an obvious tell.  Anytime I cheat I wind up with a very puffy face and hands for the next 24 hours or so.  Within a week I break out with rather horrid there's no way to cheat without at least my husband and kids figureing out what I've done.  As a bonus, all that swelling can trigger carpal tunnel symptoms.   Fun!  Nearly all of my allergens immediately give me some form of insomnia.  (And thanks to my diaries I can track that symptom back to age 13.)  It starts immediately, and can linger for a couple of weeks after the offending foods are gone.  Headaches are also common to my allergic responses, as are bad mood swings (usually depressive, but sometimes anger).  My weight will always jump up a few pounds - even if I've eaten only a small amount of the food.  Perhaps one of the worst parts about it, though, is that my allergens will immediately kick off crazy, CRAZY cravings for all of that stuff that makes me sick.  It's rather insane...and bizarre.

5.  The scary stuff:  Sometimes I react with swelling and itching in my mouth and throat - although that seems to be pretty random.  More and more lately, I also get what I refer to as 'heart palpitations' - mostly in response to sugar.

The scary thing is that one reaction doesn't necessarily inform the next reaction.  Thus, I always carry benedryl and my epipen these days. 

I should also add that quality of food and my stress levels highly influence the type and strength of the reactions I have.  The better the quality - and the more relaxed and happy I am - the less likely I am to have a negative reaction.  My responses are also influenced by what's going on with my seasonal/inhallent allergies at the time.  While my drops have significantly improved my overall health, if mold and/or pollen counts are high my body has a harder time dealing with any food allergens.

Now I'm going to be totally honest.  I'm a big girl, and I'm very aware of the repercussions of cheating on my allergy diet.  There are times when I choose to eat things I shouldn't (although those times are growing more and more rare), knowing full well what's going to happen.  Having said that....

Now that we've talked about the depressing stuff, I have some great news!  In the last month I've found a way to make my allergy diet actually work for me in a way that I believe will be sustainable for the long haul.  Even better, my new plan makes it FUN, and is something we are going to be doing with the entire family.  Stay tuned to tomorrow to read all about that.