Growing for a Fall harvest

Spinach
I'm excitedly awaiting my spinach seeds and garlic in the mail, which will complete the planting I am doing for the fall! Just last week, I got in more lettuce, beets, turnips, snow peas, shelling peas, carrots and broccoli. I just love that gardening is not finished even though summer is hinting that it might not last too much longer.

This excellent article popped into my inbox today, and I thought it might be of interest to the gardeners out there. It's called "Second Harvest" and it focuses on when and what to plant for a fall harvest. Here's a snippet from the article:

Your vegetable garden is most likely at its
peak of production right about now, with basketloads of summer
favorites ripening every day. In just a few short weeks, though, the
season for tomatoes, cucumbers, and other warm-weather crops ends. Good
news: You don't have to wait until next spring to harvest more fresh
vegetables from your garden. This week, you can plant a variety of
crops that thrive in the cool temperatures of fall and some that even
tolerate winter temperatures in the North.



There are many benefits to enjoy when you extend your growing
season past summer. Most of the common, warm-weather pests and diseases
either slow down or disappear completely when the weather turns cooler,
making growing organically even easier. Fall and winter gardening is
also good for your soil. Many organic gardeners are familiar with the
cover crops that protect and build the soil. Fall and winter vegetables
offer the same level of protection and, with careful management, do not
deplete your soil. Best of all, crops such as carrots and kale taste
better after they have endured some cold weather. If you've never
gardened in fall before or even if you're an old hand at it, this guide
is full of hints and tricks that make it easy and satisfying.

I've been receiving newsletters from Organic Gardening's site for the last month or so, and have been enjoying much of what I've been reading!

Are you planting again for the fall? What are you planting (and where do you live)?

Living with PCOS: Taking a step back

Mysterious steps
Allow me to back up a little for those who are unfamiliar with PCOS, and give just a bit of information on this condition and my journey with it, before I delve into how I use nutrition and natural medicine to treat it.

I have mentioned several times now that I have PCOS, but have never
delved into the topic to any degree. I've decided it's time to bring up
the subject and explore with you more of my diagnosis, what it means to me, how
I've dealt with and am dealing with it, etc.

Just what is PCOS? To me, it is many things.

In a very real way, it is a gift from God and a testimony of His grace in my life, as He uses this trial to build in me character, faith, patience and most of all, trust in His sovereignty and goodness. At many times it is also a significant struggle and challenge that I must work through, with it's accompanying emotions, physical effects, etc. To a large degree, it has also become just a part of life. We all have elements of life that, while not ideal or what we would have chosen, we have become accustomed to.

For those unfamiliar with the term, PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It is a hormonal disorder that can look a bit different in each woman, but generally it involves sporadic or non-existent ovulation, higher than usual male hormones, and sometimes actual ovarian cysts. For most women, it means that their entire hormonal balance and menstrual cycle is completely out of whack. Here's a link to the long definition, and a shorter one- you pick!

If you are wondering whether you might have the symptoms of PCOS, here is a short quiz to give you an idea of how your symptoms line up with a possible diagnosis. If you are truly concerned, I would recommend that you see your doctor as soon as you can, explain your concerns, and ask that they would do the necessary testing for you.

I do not have what might be considered a standard case of PCOS to many doctors (though my blood tests and erratic cycles still equal a diagnosis), because I do not deal with one of the most commons issues: weight struggles. For many others, the struggle to keep their weight down is a constant battle, and it unfortunately creates more of a vicious cycle for them, as blood sugar and insulin levels that are off (as they often are in those who are overweight) only exacerbate the symptoms. In fact, many doctors believe that insulin issues may be a part of the cause in the first place.

I believe that my insulin levels are still greatly affected, despite the fact that I do not struggle with my weight. After my diagnosis, I lost a great deal of weight as I began to eat healthier and become more active, and I still experience very tangible blood sugar imbalances, when I don't eat often enough, when I eat too many sugary and high carb foods (particularly white sugar and flour), as well as during my last pregnancy when practically any sugar at all (even good sugars) made me feel quite ill.

For me, having PCOS looks like a very irregular cycle, frequent annovultion (not ovulating) and very wildly fluctuating hormones (I think this also affects the severe eczema I have on my hands, as it gets better or worse with major hormone shifts).

It also adds a greatly increased difficulty in conceiving. This is likely the most difficult part of the struggle for me, as it is for many women. Infertility is extremely common, and often very difficult to overcome.

I believe that my daughter's conception was an absolute miracle, and God's sheer kindness to me. We had not been planning to try to conceive, and when God suddenly changed our minds, it was during the first two months of "regular" cycles that I had had in years.

I have alluded to the fact before that there was some difficulty in conceiving my son. It took us one year, during which I only ovulated about 5 or 6 times and had quite confusing cycles. In the end, we saw a fertility specialist. I will talk more later about the things I did during that year, and why we made the decision we made to seek help.

I am an incredibly blessed woman. Despite this disorder, God has allowed me to conceive and carry two children to term, and to enjoy the rich blessings of being their mother. I no longer take for granted the idea of being able to have children, or hold any misconceptions about my right or ability to plan when or if they will come, and how many we will have.

Some days I struggle to want to try to take back that control (as if it was ever mine to have), and God gently pries it out of my hands, reminding me that I am not in control and that no matter what my family size looks like, He is still good. So very good.

I still plan to share about the natural ways to deal with PCOS, and look forward to that discussion!

Thoughts from those with PCOS? From others who live with a serious disorder or have experienced infertility? (Or anyone else for that matter!)

As well, are there any specific questions re: natural treatment or nutrition for PCOS that anyone would like me to attempt to answer? Please leave a comment with them, or email if you'd prefer, at keeperofthehome(at)canada(dot)com.Thanks!

More guest bloggers needed!

I just loved the guest posts I've been able to post this past month, so much so that I'm putting out a request for more!

We will be on vacation for two weeks this month, and since I haven't really taken much time off of blogging for nearly a year, I am eager to spend those two weeks just loving on my family and thoroughly enjoying them.

That said, I'm looking to fill about 3-5 spots for guest posts. The topics can be wide ranging- anything from organic gardening to natural mothering to nutrition or nourishing cooking practices to Biblical womanhood, frugality and homemaking. To get an idea of previous guests posts, you could check these out:

The Woman of Proverbs 31
"Greening" your Kitchen (the frugal way!)
No Guess Communication
Extreme Frugality: Attitude
Some finer points of hydration
Stewardship not Convenience

If you're interested, please send me a quick email to keeperofthehome(at)canada(dot)com and just let me know what you're thinking you might like to write about, and also your blog url. Thanks in advance! (And if you're interested, move quickly, because last time I put out a request, the spots were filled up within a few hours!)

Take me to the zoo

What a fun holiday weekend we had!

Do we really get to do this again, for two whole weeks??? I can't believe how soon our Arizona trip is coming up! We leave in a week and a half for Grandma's house, and in two weeks we board the plane!

But back to this weekend… we started out on Friday night with an impromptu night with two couples from our church. We had them over to chat and play Settlers of Catan (our favorite game!). Ry and I teamed up in hopes of winning, and lost anyways, but we still had such a great time.

On Saturday, I let Ryan sleep in a little while I played with the kids, and then I was able to leave for over 4 hours to have some personal retreat time, work on my ebook, and pick up the last of our blueberries for freezing. I had a wonderful time, and was really encouraged by it.

Sunday we went to church (well, not Ryan, as he was sick on Saturday night and still feeling a bit ill on Sunday morning). Right after church we headed straight down to a friend's house in Washington. The border was crazy (being Labor Day weekend), so we packed up the kids and their carseats and walked across, where my friend picked us up.

We spent a lively and enjoyable afternoon with a group of my friends from university whom I don't see nearly enough (I went to Trinity Western, btw). We all brought brunch items and ate an amazing brunch (that was really more of a linner, or dunch if you like, as we didn't manage to eat until nearly 2pm!). Our family stayed and played until past 8, when we finally decided we better get the kids home and make sure that our car was alright where we parked it (thankfully, it was!).

Monday morning, we awoke to the delicious realization that it was still the weekend! Since we have zoo memberships, my husband suggested that we pack up and spend a few hours at the zoo. We invited his sister and brother-in-law and their 1 year old son to join us, which made it that much more fun. Here are some highlights:

Caden-learns-to-walk1
Caden-learns-to-walk2

Caden-learns-to-walk3
Caden-learns-to-walk4

My sweet boy took his first steps this weekend! They were long awaited, but oh so worth it!

Abbie-and-snake-slide

Abbie almost enjoyed the playground at the zoo better than the animals itself (she claims, though, that the lions and tigers we watched being fed were her favorite).

Kids-on-giraffe

So it's not quite the real thing… they were thrilled to ride on a "giraffe" nonetheless!

Abbie-and-gabe-with-pony

These sweet minature horses were just wandering around on the path, and Abbie had so much fun with them. Here she is (a mommy in training!), teaching her cousin to be gentle when he pets them.

On the way home from the zoo, we stopped to pick up a flat of blackberries to freeze, as well as a few piping hot corn on the cob to snack on, from our favorite berry picking place (it's all about the experience- their little market, the gorgeous flowers, the Porch with it's milkshakes and berry shortcakes, and the most incredible berry pies ever!).

All of the berries are nearly frozen, which is good because I have so many things to do this week! Finish planning our trip itinerary, make more pickles with our garden cucumbers, pick up my passport, host a homeschool meeting, get back into the swing of homeschooling, try to find time to pick some more blackberries and make a batch of jam, keep fighting the powdery mildew in my garden (more on that later)… it's a full to overflowing week!

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend! What did you do? I'd love to hear about it!

Living Simple Saturdays

Mom and kids
I had a wonderful reminder this week of something to keep in mind as I seek simplicity as a wife, mother and homemaker.

I was speaking on the phone yesterday morning with a good friend, a mother of 6 (her oldest child has been helping me around the house to earn spending money for an upcoming trip with her Dad). Neither of us had a car available to us, to get her daughter to my house at our usual time, so we agreed that her Dad would drop her off a bit late.

Before we hung up, she laughed and said that not having a car wasn't a bad thing. It keeps us at home where we're supposed to be.

So true.

I think that one reason I felt so scattered and exhausted all summer was because I was out of the house either once or twice a day, every single day, when my students were here (quite uncommon for me, as I am usually without a car during the week). How difficult it is to have a regular routine, to stay on top of what needs to be done, to be focused on the needs of my husband and children and home, when I am constantly out of the place where my work is to be done.

Don't get me wrong… I'm not saying that women should be chained to the kitchen sink. Far from it.

I'm only saying that maybe we can keep life a little simpler, a little calmer, a little more organized, and a lot less hectic, when we fix ourselves in the place where our greatest responsibilities lie. Running around doing errands, grocery shopping, bargain hunting, having play dates or visits with friends, and taking our children to sports or music lessons or other activities are not bad things in and of themselves.

I would venture to say, though, that we really need to consider how worthwhile and necessary these things are, and whether there is a better way to fulfill those needs without leaving the house every day or  every other day. I have greatly benefited from working with my shopping and meal planning to learn to get by with less trips to the grocery store. When I don't spend time with my friends (or my children with their friends) every week, it is much sweeter and more anticipated when it happens occasionally.

I'm thankful to have been reminded of the simple blessing that getting to (not having to- it's a privilege!) stay home is.
_______________________________________________________________

Based on the responses from my post earlier this week on seeking simplicity, I've decided that starting next week, I will try hosting a "Living Simple Saturdays" carnival on my blog.

Due to the nature of the carnival, here are a few guidelines:

1) Keep it simple! The point is not to overwhelm yourself with a long post to write, or for readers to find the posts overly long and tedious to read. Short is good. Simple ideas are good. Less is more.

2) Why don't you try writing your post ahead of time, and have it all prepared to put up on Saturday, and then walk away from the computer for the rest of the weekend? (As I will be doing!)

3) Topic guidlines are simply this (hmmm, that's a popular word in this post): Write about your own journey towards simplicity, the things you are learning, ways that you are minimizing and cutting back, ideas for reducing clutter and streamlining processes, or perhaps a brief reflection on a simple truth. It can be practical or philosophical. What does simplicity mean to you?

4) For everyone's sake, please make sure that when you post your url, that you link directly to the post on simplicity, rather than the homepage of your blog. I will occasionally go through the links, and if I find one that is not linked correctly, I will delete it. This is not to be mean, but rather to serve those who are reading it and don't want to be frustrated or waste time trying to find the intended post.

5) Make sure you link your post back to my post. Much appreciated! :)

So, I am off for a morning of personal retreat and work time (thanks Ryan!), then to pick up the final berries of the season (ahhh, a well stocked freezer) and my raw milk (available again!!!).

The carnival will begin next Saturday, September 6th
. Spread the word. See you then!

(Photo credit- allposters.com)

Who me? A parasite?

Syringe
Well, I've been called many things in my lifetime, but this is the first time anyone has ever referred to me as a parasite.

Alright, so it wasn't direct, but I'm included in the group of parent's that Amanda Peet so lovingly referred to in a recent article in Cookie. Quite frankly, I barely know who Amanda Peet is, but her stance on childhood vaccinations caught my attention.

"Once we had spoken, I was shocked at the amount of misinformation
floating around, particularly in Hollywood," says Peet, who quickly
boned up on the hot-button controversies surrounding the topic,
including the unproven link between certain vaccines and autism; the
safety of preservatives like mercury-based thimerosal; and the fear
that the relatively high number of shots kids receive today can
overwhelm young immune systems. Her conclusion? Well, not only is
Frankie up-to-date on her vaccines (with no staggering), but her mom
will soon appear in public-service announcements for Every Child by
Two. "I buy 99 percent organic food for Frankie, and I don't like to
give her medicine or put sunscreen on her," says Peet. "But now that
I've done my research, vaccines do not concern me." What does concern
her is the growing number of unvaccinated children who are benefiting
from the "shield" created by the inoculated—we are protected from
viruses only if everyone, or most everyone, is immunized: "Frankly, I
feel that parents who don't vaccinate their children are parasites."

Thank you. I'll take that as a compliment. :)

If you'd prefer to read something of greater substance, I would highly recommend this Open Letter on Vaccinations by Dr. Jay Gordon, in response to the controversy created by Ms. Peet's words.

Additionally, I would also suggest this excellent article by Dr. Sears, Is Aluminum the New Thimerosal?

Quite truthfully, I'm not offended in the slightest and she is entirely welcome to her viewpoint. I think, however, that it's worth highlighting some more substantial information and research than simply the opinion of a Hollywood star, don't you?

two frugal, nutritious recipes

Living with PCOS: The beginning of my story

It all started in my 4th year of university. It had probably begun nearly 10 years earlier, but that was when I first began to be alerted to the fact that something was seriously wrong.

Though my cycle had always been erratic, it seemed to be getting worse. When I went through a period of 6 months with absolutely no cycle at all, a friend finally brought it to my attention that it just wasn't normal, and I needed to see a doctor. I was oblivious to the needs and concerns of my body back at that time, but I thought sure, I'll go. No big deal.

My family doctor ran some blood tests on me and then referred me to an OB-GYN for more testing. Following more bloodwork, a lengthy personal history, an ultrasound and a physical exam, she shared the news with me. I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

When I asked what it meant, she handed me a little brochure on the topic, told me I'd need to be on birth control pills most of my life, and that I could come see her when I wanted to try to get pregnant.

Stunned, I asked what I could do about it. Surely, I could change my eating, my lifestyle, I could exercise more! Something!

She flatly said that no, there was nothing I could do about it. It was just the way my body was, and I needed to deal with it, she stated emphatically, as she scribbled a prescription for the pills.

I left saddened, but also infuriated and impassioned. I went back to the university and straight to the office of our on-campus nurse, and told her the news. She agreed, sympathetically at least, that it was a challenging diagnosis, but that there was much I could do to help my body become healthier. She took a few women's health books off of her shelf and began to photocopy. I left with a large stack of papers, focused mainly on the basics of nutrition, and what a women's body needs to function well.

It was the beginning of my journey into natural health, nourishing foods and believing that I actually had a role to play in stewarding the health and well being of my body. God is still sovereign, and disease and death are inevitable aspects of living in a sinful world. But, He does not leave us hopeless or without the ability to pursue greater health.

More to come…

The Woman of Proverbs 31

I first came in contact with today’s guest poster, Laura, through her site Joshua’s Tree, where I was impressed by the creative ideas to help families focus on glorifying God through fun and thought provoking activities. This post is a wonderful reminder to me to stop striving (and it fits well with my earlier post this week).

Guest Post by Laura

Calla lily
If I told you that the rest of this post was going to be about a woman of the Bible, what would you think?  What if I told you it was about a woman who wasn’t even given a name?  What if she was the Proverbs 31 woman?  If you are like most women I talk to, you are probably doing one of the following:

Response #1: You are squirming with discomfort. The woman of Proverbs 31 is too much to look up to. When does she sleep? Can someone possibly do that much? She must be Superwoman. If I just ignore she exists, my life will be much happier.

Response #2: The Proverbs 31 woman – now she is someone to look up to, someone I strive to be like. And then you make a list of all of the tasks she has accomplished and plan to be just like her.

Those may not be 100% accurate, but I have to admit that I frequently jump between the two responses.

No matter what your feelings are towards this particular chapter in the book of Proverbs, the reality is that it’s there, and there are so many practical lessons we can learn from her.  Here are just a few of the things God has been teaching me.

Point #1: Jesus is our ultimate example. While the Proverbs 31 woman is pretty cool, and we can learn a lot from her, we must never place her example above God’s example.  I often need to remind myself of this when I study Bible characters, people in history, or even when I see others around me.  They are all flawed – except for Christ.

Point #2: It’s in the principles. Just as with most Biblical characters and stories, God often chooses to teach us principles. There are many in the Bible whom God specifically called to follow Him. Yet when the healed demoniac asked to follow Jesus, he was told to stay where he was and tell others about how he was healed. Yet in cases of both followers and the demoniac, the principle is the same – we must be willing to give up everything, including our own desires, to be obedient to God’s callings.

Here are some of the principles we can learn from the Proverbs 31 woman:

  • Diligence/Hard work
  • Care for family
  • Stewardship
  • Compassion
  • Wisdom
  • Fear of the Lord

Point #3: We can’t do it ourselves. This is so crucial, and is something I’m learning in so many areas of my life. We must allow Him to work in us. Then life becomes less of an issue of a list to check off, and more a life of surrender and dependence on God’s strength to follow through with His plans for our lives.

Can you relate to me when I become stressed out by asking myself these questions:  What do others think about my house, my work, my life, etc? How do they perceive me? Am I doing things the right way? Am I making the right choices? I often feel that my life has to look perfect and pristine – just like the Proverbs 31 woman. So I try . . . really hard.

Yet it is in this striving that we go wrong (check out Exodus 14:14). I cannot let social constraints determine what is important or how I should live my life. I cannot base my choices on perceived expectations of others. I must allow God to have all of my heart and my life. He can then work in me to make me more diligent, caring, compassionate, wise and a better steward. He can also help me to learn to grow in Him and give Him higher priority.

Why don’t you join me and the woman in Proverbs 31 and pray that God will daily help us to depend on Him so that He can work in our lives and transform us?

Laura great passion is to lead kids and their families to Christ. She loves her role as wife and is eager to add the mother role to her description someday soon. You can read about her adventures through life at her blog At Jesus’ Feet or learn about Joshua’s House, the family ministry God has called her to.

Nourishing Portable Food

Nourishing portable

I'm actually so thankful for this carnival, as it comes at a great time for me. I'm really struggling with what to send with my husband for lunch lately.

I think the reason I struggle with making lunches is because it is not consistent. One week he may only need one lunch, the next he might be home for 3 days, and need a lunch 2 days, another week he may be gone all week and be unsure of exactly where he will be each day for lunch (so leftovers may or may not work).

The unknown factors make it a source of frustration for me, and I am sad to say that I have not given it my all to find a solution that works for my husband and I. Many times I have had to toss together a lunch spur of the moment (not always the best, as you can imagine), many days he has had to eat out, and occasionally he has even just skipped lunch and had a few snacks here and there. Not ideal at all.

Since I desire to learn to serve my husband better in this area, it has been a good activity for me to think through the options I have and start to be more purposeful in this area. I haven't had the time these past two weeks to do any experimenting, but I thought I would at least give it some thought and suggest some of the things that we enjoy taking with us for lunches on the go.

Lunch Entrees:

Our favorite sandwich variations- rolled in tortillas, in pita pockets. on buns or biscuits or bagels, and of course, just plain old bread. My husband loves it when we have our favorite nitrate-free sandwich meat, but when we don't, it's any combination of lettuce, sprouts, pickles, cucumber or tomato slices, and definitely always cheese.

Salsa, guac and tortilla chips- not necessarily completely filling, in and of itself, but combined with something else, it's a nice, fresh lunch.

Rice and bean salad- This tangy salad is quite filling, and won't go bad easily in a lunch bag. Other salads that would be nice are Greek salad, this Black Bean and Avocado salad, or Tabbouli.

Homemade meatballs (these just feel like a very portable and easy finger food, but they're yummy and filling)

Samosas (these are tasty little pastry-like pockets that come from Indian cuisine, filled with a rice, veggie and meat filling, and then baked. I love using the Nourishing Traditions recipe and making a huge batch for the freezer!)

Meal salads (usually a garden salad, topped with either diced or sliced meat or chicken, canned salmon, chunks of cheese, or hard boiled eggs, with a small jar of dressing on the side)

Soup or stew in a thermos (we haven't always had a nice thermos, but now that we do, this will be a great option in the winter, and so easy to just make a larger dinner the night before)

Crackers, with meat and cheese slices (sometimes I buy nice nitrate-free deli sausages, and these are really nice in little cracker "sandwiches")

Hummus (with veggie sticks, with pita, with organic tortilla chips)- here's my favorite recipe:

Amazing Homemade Hummus (from a Lebanese chef)

28 oz. can chickpeas (or equivalent amount of your own cooked chickpeas)
7-8 cloves garlic
2 1/2 lemons, juiced
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp tahini
(sesame seed paste- available in most ethnic food aisle and health food stores)

Put 1 28 oz. can of chickpeas in a pot and boil until darker, then let cool (since I cook all my own beans, I just make the approximate amount, and overcook them slightly)

Food process or blend the chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, salt and tahini until smooth. If needed, add small amounts of water to help blend, until you reach a consistency that you like.

This recipe freezes really well, too!

For many more fantastic healthy and portable food ideas, make sure you check out the Nourishing Portable Food Carnival, over at The Nourishing Gourmet!