A Letter from an Absentee Blogger

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I haven’t posted in a Long. Time. Really long. I know how long but won’t say. Why not? Many reasons. And it’s not like I haven’t thought about it. I can’t tell you how often I throw together a recipe and think, I should write this down for the blog! Or do a craft or make a homemade perfume or cream I love and think the same thing. Or just have something I think might speak to someone or something I simply want to put out into the world, but I just don’t. Even this photo. I took it and added the scripture later that evening, having almost written the post in my mind. Maybe a year ago? Longer? And I never did. And I have no idea why.

The easiest reason. Life. I don’t make a living blogging. I do make a living running a transportation business with my husband. We have a five-year old. That we homeschool. Life is busy. So why write now? To break the silence maybe? (Cue awkward laugh.)

I came across the aforementioned picture and it seemed pretty appropriate. I remember taking it. I was on an airport run for our car service, and went to a park across the street from the airport in San Diego to wait on a flight. Having had a bad day, the water seemed soothing. It was so calm yet there was quite a breeze blowing, and this scripture from the Bible came to mind. And I thought about how life can blow at us it seems but it doesn’t always have to stir us up.

Another saying came to mind this evening as I was mulling over the idea for this post that I heard once…Sometimes you’re the Beemer, and sometimes you’re the [gosh-darn] deer. In other words, you either hit something and get a little banged up but then fix the dent, reapply the paint, and move on. And sometimes you’re impaled through the windshield. Or worse. Ever feel like the deer? I do a lot. And who wants to hear about that? But we’re all human, aren’t we?

I started this blog because I thought I was ready to write about the two boys we lost and I wasn’t. Then I began to learn more about my health and some health issues and began to write about that, but my heart wasn’t totally in it. So I began to focus on another idea and passion. I love jewelry. I started making it for myself years ago and for gifts every once in a while and then decided to sell it. I was planning my online shop before I even started the blog but didn’t actually open it until almost two years ago. I was beyond excited and I had worked so hard.

I closed the shop about eight months ago. I’m still heartbroken over it. All that time and all that effort and two sales. Both to people I know. I cried for days but those weren’t the first tears I had shed over it. I felt like I had wasted all that time. And I felt like a huge, unbelievable failure. It’s not my first business attempt that has failed. Or the second. Or third. It’s the fourth. It wears on you after a while. My creative juices just stopped. My little corner of our office became a war zone. I’m not kidding. Like an episode of hoarders. And it was how I felt on the inside. Just a huge mess. A pile of a whole lot of nothing that had started as several somethings I thought were pretty spectacular.

I’ve tackled it and it’s still a bit of a mess but I finally cleared a space, got out my bead board, and made a piece of jewelry. A necklace for my mom for Mother’s Day. It felt so good to create something again. And so I made another; something different for my mother-in-law. Then I sat down and repaired several pieces of my own that needed help. Even those felt good. I have so many ideas and no idea what to do with them. Or with the inventory I have. I keep telling myself I need to sign up for a craft fair or something but never do.

Another huge passion of mine is painting and art is part of my brand name tag line that laughs at me every time I see it. I haven’t painted in a very long time. I want to but haven’t. Maybe it’s rejections. My last attempt into the art world made me feel very much like the splattered deer. But it’s in my heart so on the tag line it stays until I have the gumption to pick up my brush again.

Rejection is awful. I haven’t submitted any of my writing anywhere in longer than I care to admit. Somehow people think it’s encouraging to send me stories of authors that finally get a book published after eight or nine publishers and a year or two. Yeah…I passed that like a hundred publishers and fifteen years ago. And I wonder, what am I doing? Am I wasting my life? Maybe, but then what else am I supposed to do with it? Writing is one of the few things that has been a solid part of my identity and one of the only things I have ever been sure I want to do with my life.

I’ve stuck with it this long because I feel in my heart it is my calling and I wouldn’t feel such a desire to do it if I wasn’t supposed to, but it’s still hard. I need to start submitting again, but again, rejection is hard. And sometimes you need a break. Which brings me back to the jewelry. I closed the shop because it had become a source of stress for me. I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. So I took a step back. As I said, I’m still heartbroken, so part of that is not talking about it. Believe me, bring it up to me in person and in seconds, I’ll likely be in tears. That’s how raw it still is. I can’t even describe it.

The last couple of years have taken a toll. I’ve had a lot of physical and emotional issues that have come up and they have been hard to deal with. And I am actually a very private and introverted person. The worse I feel, typically the more into myself I go. I’ll admit. A lot of my blog posts like this are simply a pretty pathetic attempt at putting myself out there. Feeling lonely and dejected and hoping maybe someone will read it and get something from it.

How are your waters? Still? Turbulent? Are you wading up to your ankles or drowning? As pathetic as an attempt as this may be, these words have been stirring in me a long time and some of my most emotional posts just suddenly feel like they have to be written. I believe that means they need to be written. That there is someone that will come across because they need to read it. Or so I hope.

So anyway, there you go. Hello again. In closing, I suddenly thought of a quote from a favorite movie I’ve been known to quote often… Sometimes I wonder about my life. I live a small life. Well, valuable, but small. And sometimes I wonder. Do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So, goodnight, dear void.

Until next time,
Emily

Paleo & AIP Shepherd’s Pie

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I made this over a week ago, hence the pretty fall photo edit, and was in the midst of getting the recipe jotted for the blog…and we all got sick!  Then there was Thanksgiving and a week of recovering, family stuff, and regular day-to-day goings on of the PreciousBelovedBlessing house.  So, here it is!

 

I love fall.  It’s my favorite time of year and who doesn’t love comfort food?!  I haven’t made Shepherd’s Pie in ages and it doesn’t come to mind when you are thinking either paleo or AIP, but it sounded good one night, so I looked at what I had in the fridge and decided to wing it.

 

What is paleo or AIP, you might be wondering.  Paleo is a type of diet that uses inspiration from our ancestors for a cleaner, less refined or processed, way of living.  It is free from grains, dairy (in some cases), and refined sugars, and basically anything artificial.  To me, it simply means a cleaner way of living.  AIP stands for Autoimmune Protocol, which is a version of the paleo diet that also eliminates nuts, seeds, definitely dairy, and nightshades, among other things.  I don’t think any one diet or lifestyle is one size fits all.  I eat the way I do to help me manage autoimmune issues such as Celiacs disease, eczema, asthma, and some other things.  I have found certain things I can have and certain things I can’t.

 

One thing I have never been able to reintroduce are nightshades.  A nightshade is a certain genre of a seed or plant with a make up that can be very irritating to the gut of some people – and I am one of them.  This includes – in this dish for instance – white potatoes and tomatoes.  I have discovered I can have a small amount of good-quality dairy on occasion, but my son (who also has to eat gluten-free) can’t tolerate any, but I had tried a couple of side dish recipes that used just a little fat and a food processor and had whipped up amazing mashed potato-like goodness, so I gave this a try.

 

I had sweet potatoes in my cupboard, ground beef in my fridge, along with some pureed pumpkin (a great substitute for the traditional tomato), and lots of veggies.  Here is what I came up with.  We all loved it, including my husband who isn’t crazy about sweet potatoes!  The ghee I have reintroduced successfully, but if you are still in the elimination diet phase of AIP use whatever cooking fat you prefer, like lard or coconut oil.

 

Enjoy!

 

Paleo & AIP Shepherd’s Pie

 

Topping:

4 medium sweet potatoes (yams would work as well)

2 Tablespoons ghee (or cooking fat of choice)

1 clove garlic

Dried oregano, thyme, rosemary, and basil to taste (I used probably about a Tablespoon total of the three when mixed)

Sea salt to taste

 

Bottom Layer:

1 pound ground beef (or other ground meat; Shepherd’s Pie is traditionally made with lamb, which would be good; I just used what I had on hand)

1 small onion

2-3 celery ribs, chopped

2 carrots, chopped (or more if preferred – mine were pretty big)

2 cups sliced kale (spinach or chard would be good too)

2 cloves garlic, minced

Dried oregano, thyme, rosemary, and basil to taste

2 Tablespoons plain pumpkin puree (canned ok, but NOT pumpkin pie filling!)

2 cups stock or broth (preferably homemade)

1 Tablespoon arrowroot starch

 

To Make:

First, cook the sweet potatoes.  Peel and cube them and place in a large pot of salted water.  Bring to a boil and simmer about 15 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.  Drain and set aside.

 

While the potatoes cook preheat the oven to 400 degrees (F) and grease a large baking dish.  (I used a 9×13” pan – there are only three of us, but I wanted lots of leftovers for the busy upcoming holiday week.)

 

Next, brown the meat, breaking it up into small pieces, season lightly with salt, and remove from pan with a slotted spoon when finished cooking; set aside.  Into the hot pan add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook a few minutes, until softened and the onion is fragrant.  Add the kale and cook until wilted, mixing well.

 

While that is cooking add the arrowroot starch to the broth and whisk well to combine.  Add to the pan, along with the garlic, herbs, and pumpkin, stirring well to combine.  Continue cooking until the sauce is thick and bubbly; this may take a few minutes.  Then add the browned meat and pour all into your prepared pan.

 

Lastly, take your drained sweet potatoes and put in a blender or food processor.  Add the remaining topping ingredients and blend until combined and fluffy.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be and then add to the top of the meat mixture.  I did this by spooning dallops over the top before carefully spreading it.  It takes a little time but is worth the effort!

 

Bake about 45 minutes, or until browned and bubbling.

 

Enjoy!

 

I hope you had a wonderful holiday and you enjoy this dish.  I’m definitely going to be making it again!

 

Have a great day,

Emily

Peace in the Breaking

Jude 1:20-21 ~ But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. ( NJKV) … Continue reading

Pumpkin Pie Porridge (Paleo, AIP)

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It’s November and finally feeling like fall in Southern California! We are loving it. And on chilly mornings who doesn’t love a hot breakfast? At our house we can eat pumpkin something or hot porridge any time of year, but in the spirit of pumpkin everything going on right now, plus the fact I haven’t posted a recipe in ages I thought I would throw my pumpkin into the pot so to speak. I haven’t posted anything pumpkin related since this time last year, my own version of a Pumpkin Spice Latte, which you can find here: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/pumpkin-spice-latte-dairy-free-aip-variaton-refined-sugar-free/.

I love porridge and hot cereal and miss oatmeal since going grain-free over a year ago and have made several paleo-friendly recipes that we like but I decided to combine the two. We tried a pumpkin porridge last year that we all enjoyed (including my husband who isn’t a porridge fan) and have made since, but it is loaded with nuts. I follow a version of the paleo diet called the Autoimmune Protocol and can have nuts, but they are a treat for me and I really have to limit the amount I eat or else suffer some pretty unpleasant consequences. Many others contain eggs or seeds, or frankly ingredients I find a little odd (cauliflower seems to be a popular choice and I haven’t gotten the gumption to try it yet). I have been trying a few of the so-called forbidden ingredients as of late, trying to reintroduce a few things, which I do every once in a while as my body continues to heal, to see how I do. I’ve had mixed results so when I can find something that will fill me up and taste good and be completely AIP I prefer that.

This version is nut, seed, dairy, egg, and nightshade free and contains several very healthy ingredients but tastes like a treat with texture really reminiscent of the oatmeal I miss. A few notes about the ingredients if you’re curious…or just skip ahead to the recipe! Lately when I cook I try to use things full of healthy fats and proteins; it is really hard for me stay strict AIP and feel satiated. Several of these really help with that.

Coconut contains fiber, which helps you fill up, and also stabilizes blood sugar (even if you don’t have blood sugar issues – which I do not – stable blood sugar makes you feel full and happy). It also contains a fair amount of protein, a bit of calcium, and even Vitamin C! When buying make sure you check the label; they often contain added sweeteners, preservatives or anti-caking agents. There should be just one thing in the ingredients list…coconut! You can make coconut milk yourself (I should really do a tutorial!), but right now my blender is broken so I am buying it. Make sure you find it in a BPA-free container; some contain additives like guar gum which some are sensitive to so keep that in mind when choosing a brand to buy.

You can use either fresh or canned pumpkin in this; did you know that pumpkin is one of the only foods that keeps its nutrients when canned (again, a BPA-free container). When using fresh you may need to adjust the liquid and use a little less, but it’s up to you. Pumpkin is a good source of carbohydrates (no, carbs are not bad for you!), and also is loaded with vitamins, fiber, mono-unsaturated fats, and even contain anti-inflammatory properties.

Collagen is high in protein and I add it to all kinds of things (I actually add it to my coffee or tea every morning!). It’s great for your hair, skin, and nails, as well as the tummy and other digestive issues, and even your hormones! Look for a good, clean source. I am currently using the Great Lakes brand, green can, but I have heard good things about the Vital Proteins brand as well.

Molasses I added for the flavor, but did you know it’s also a good source of iron, calcium, and potassium? Look for unsulphured and avoid any with added ingredients.

Even maple syrup has a few health benefits (the real stuff anyway). A darker, pure maple syrup is the best choice. Did you know it has up to 24 different antioxidants as well as vitamins like zinc, manganese, potassium, and calcium? We use it because we like the taste and it’s a healthier alternative to refined sugar or artificial sweetener. You could also use honey here if you wanted (I just thought the maple would compliment the pumpkin really well).

The spices pack a nutritional punch as well, believe it or not! All three are very anti-inflammatory (a big plus when dealing with autoimmune issues) but also protect your heart and can fight diabetes and are also a good source of antioxidants. And they taste great, giving it that spicy, yummy pie flavor.

I used Himalayan Pink Salt which contains more minerals than regular salt and is very detoxifying, but it’s a matter of personal preference.

But enough of all that! On to the good stuff!

Pumpkin Pie Porridge

Serves 1-2

¾ to 1 cup coconut milk (depending on how thick you like it)
3 Tablespoons coconut flour
2 Tablespoons finely shredded coconut
½ cup pumpkin puree
1 Tablespoon collagen powder
1 teaspoon molasses
1-2 teaspoons maple syrup (according to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of sea salt

Combine coconut milk, coconut flour and shredded coconut and whisk together to combine and remove the lumps. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cooking until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in pumpkin puree then add remaining ingredients, stirring thoroughly to combine. Serve with your favorite toppings (I used chopped persimmons and pomegranate seeds here – very fall!). Add a little love and enjoy!

I made a single batch this morning and shared it with my four-year-old, but we often like to double this. Re-warm on the stove with a little extra coconut milk and it turns out great!

Have a great day,
Emily

Happy Birthday to My Beloved

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* Just the Same *
I never got to hold you and bounce you on my lap,
I never got to read to you or watch you as you nap.
You slipped away so quickly, before I said your name.
And yet I want the world to know
I love you just the same.
~ Anne Peterson

Five years ago today, on April 28, 2010, at 3:06 p.m. my beautiful little Beloved Joshua James was born sleeping at twenty-two weeks gestation. Weighing in at only 1 pound, 2.7 ounces and 11-1/2-inches long he was completely perfect and beautiful with a sweet little round face and button nose and he totally stole my heart and left an imprint on my soul that will be there forever.

It’s hard to believe five years have passed. I miss him more now than I ever have. Enough it takes my breath away some days and makes me ache. We remember him how we can, honor him any way we can think of, and look forward to the day we will see him again.

Happy birthday up in Heaven, sweet boy. Mommy and Daddy really do love you just the same.

*Clockwise from top-right: me and my sweet Joshua. We were blessed with almost twelve hours to love on him. The blue blanket was a gift from my sister and her husband in memory of our sweet boy; the candle and bear were from one of his grandma’s, the ornament from a friend who had also experienced loss; this is from his Memorial Service. Angels on him and his brother’s shelf. Lighting a candle in front of his box of ashes in memory of him today. The plaque with the poem I posted above; this was gifted to us after Joshua’s death by a great-aunt who had also lost a baby; the little boy figure is one of two, called, Two Together. Joshua has an older brother with him in Heaven. It soothes our souls to honor our boys.


Emily

Easter 2015 ~ Food, Family, & Finding Joy in the Little Things

The Pselos Family's Easter 2015

Easter has come and gone and I’ve been meaning to write this for the last two weeks because there were some things I wanted to share. I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Ours was lovely. We had been very hot in Southern California the entire week before and it cooled off to where I was chilly outside in my little spring sundress! It was awesome; I am nowhere near ready for summer yet. There is plenty of year left for it to get blazing hot so I will take the cool when and where I can get it!

It ended up being just the three of us. Over a month before we had started asking family what everyone wanted to do and no one ever gave us an answer. Then hubby got a couple of runs that day (our transportation business, Integrity Transportation Service, is always open, which sometimes includes working holidays) so we decided to have our own get-together so that we could plan the day around his schedule. Plus, I actually prefer to cook these days. Yes, it is a lot of work, but at least I know I can eat everything! I often leave dinner parties hungry and/or sick even after trying to communicate with the host and I don’t expect everyone to become an expert, but am sometimes left feeling like an inconvenience – on top of hungry and/or sick – so I just prefer to do the hosting myself.

Everyone else apparently had their own plans, and it turned out to be a nice day, but I was kind of hoping for a busy day. As nice as it is to have just us, sometimes – particularly on holidays – just the three of us makes the house seem kind of empty and overly quiet.

Our son, Christopher, would be eleven this year and his brother, Joshua, five. Both died as a result of extreme prematurity and I miss them more now than I ever have. They are never far from my thoughts and I had been preparing and planning for Easter for weeks. I had been working on my menu and shopping and meal and goodie prepping, and doing fine. Until late Saturday night when I made up the Easter basket for our three-year old and it hit me hard. I was only making one basket when I should have been making three.

Henry's Easter Basket

Henry’s Easter Basket

So I admit a few tears were shed while I put together this fun Easter basket full of things my little boy loves. Everything he received was completely junk-free and fun. There were a couple of books, bubbles, a new baby (as he calls stuffed animals), a Thomas the train engine that chugs and whistles, and a card handmade by his mama. The only sweets he received was a box of Chirps, the clean version of Peeps made by a favorite local grain-free bakery. Here’s a close-up; aren’t they the cutest? They are made with honey and natural colors and real flavors and he was thrilled. He’d actually never had a marshmallow before; it was hilarious but now he may be hooked! I will be sweet-talking Laura at Snackin’ Free to make me a batch before our next camping trip for sure!

Henry’s Chirps, like a paleo Peep!  The blue are blackberry flavored, the yellow are lemon, and the white plain marshmallow.  We got them from a local grain-free and paleo-friendly bakery called, Snackin’ Free.

Henry’s Chirps, like a paleo Peep! The blue are blackberry flavored, the yellow are lemon, and the white plain marshmallow. We got them from a local grain-free and paleo-friendly bakery called, Snackin’ Free.

My husband was out early working, so it was just me and the little guy for breakfast. I have to eat grain-free for health reasons and he has to eat gluten-free, so fun meals can take a little planning. I had had several ideas, about making things or ordering things. I love cinnamon rolls and had found a recipe for them to try and then the bakery we got the Chirps from also had them to order, but in the end I bought a loaf of bread. Yes, plain bread. And it was a huge treat! I rarely have bread around I can eat because it’s quite expensive to buy and though I love to bake it can be a lot of work when you already are preparing a large meal from scratch, plus the ingredients (though it is cheaper than buying in the store) aren’t cheap either.

Then I was doing my meal shopping and my little guy asked for bread. So sweetly and he can be so hard to say no to! So we wandered over to the gluten-free baked goods section in the bakery and there was this loaf of grain-free bread, made locally, that is pretty expensive for bread, but really good. (It’s by Jackalope Good Food Company and worth the occasional splurge.) So while I saw many others on Facebook and Instagram and such serve a fancy brunch or make pancakes, or crepes, or eggs benedict, or such, Henry and I had toast and were absolutely thrilled. Oh, the simple things!

Me and Henry’s Easter breakfast: our grain-free toast with ghee and strawberry jam for me – an almond butter and jam sandwich for him – plus bacon, fresh and local strawberries and orange, dried dates, and Kombucha for him and bulletproof coffee for me.  Simple but divine!

Me and Henry’s Easter breakfast: our grain-free toast with ghee and strawberry jam for me – an almond butter and jam sandwich for him – plus bacon, fresh and local strawberries and orange, dried dates, and Kombucha for him and bulletproof coffee for me. Simple but divine!

My husband got home around mid-morning or so, and I was fighting to get motivated. Our original plan had been to eat at two and I had my plan all laid out and had gotten a meager start, but that was it. And I was emotional. I could hardly stop crying, though I was trying to hide it. Sometimes it just hits you. Many don’t understand, but the fact is you don’t have to be consciously thinking about someone you’ve loved and lost for it to hurt. It can just hit you out of nowhere like a freight train and take you by surprise. It wasn’t like I was thinking, Oh woe is me…my boys aren’t here…I’m sad…etc, etc, etc. It’s just there. And usually has hit you and run you over before you even realize that it’s there.

So my husband, bless his heart, came home to a weepy wife and didn’t even have to ask. He just knew and asked me, “Thinking about the boys?” He understood because he was too. He hugged me and encouraged me a little and then went to take care of some things and play with our son. I could hear him on the phone and the next thing I knew his schedule was cleared for the rest of the day; he had had one more run for later that night he wound up giving to one of our drivers. He had a run early the next morning and would have been out late, so that was part of the reason, but when I asked him later he admitted part of it was he also didn’t want to leave me on a difficult day. I was so touched.

I was initially really disappointed no one joined us, and the house still felt kind of lonely and empty through the day, but on one hand it was nice. It was so relaxed, it took the pressure off the schedule with no one showing up and no work for my husband to get to. On the other hand, there’s nothing like someone showing up your door soon to get you moving and motivated! I set aside my disappointment, worked through my down emotions, and we ended up having a really nice day.

Grief doesn’t go away. And you learn lessons from it. I am still learning but I think most days I do pretty well at just working through it and finding what works for me. (If I didn’t I would never get out of bed in the morning!) One of my struggles is my faith. I am working through it and have come spades and bounds, but there are still days I purposely avoid church. They are Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Even now that we have our little miracle (that I know we have God to thank for!) it still is hard to show up and put on a happy face and pretend I’m not hurting on days that are so focused on the little ones. I’m not saying I am dealing with it exactly as I should, but maybe I am. I have found what works for me. I turned on Pandora radio and turned to our favorite Praise and Worship station, which is so nice in the background, and after fifteen minutes the same song had come on three different times in different versions, but the same song. The last time was the version I was familiar with and why that made me change the channel in tears takes a story.

When I was in labor with my firstborn at twenty-two weeks and trying to stop it a pastor/friend from our church came to visit and brought me a beautiful worship CD by the group, Passion, with the song, Here I Am to Worship. It’s a beautiful song with an amazing message, but it was playing in the background when my son was born, and then again an hour later when he died. It will always be a song I associate with him, and that’s not always a bad thing, but that morning it was. So I changed the channel and after a few minutes came a song that made me take a deep breath and stop what I was doing to see what it was.

One Step at a Time, by Bernward Koch on Pandora, my Relaxation radio station

One Step at a Time, by Bernward Koch on Pandora, my Relaxation radio station

It was so beautiful and just spoke to me somehow and the breath caught in my throat again when I saw the name of the song and the album. Several more popped up through the day and now I want to download the whole album so I can listen to it whenever. It’s instrumental and very soothing, and I am a person really motivated by music. It speaks to me and inspires me – and is one of the places I find joy – but more on that later.

So I turned on my music, started on my dinner, eventually made myself get dressed and put makeup on, and spent time with my family. Our little boy, Henry, is such a joy and made me laugh many times that day. That brings me to the food.

My husband loves ham, and that was my first idea, but then we got to talking about his paternal grandmother who passed away two years ago last month. She was Italian and her husband Greek, and she melded the two together seamlessly and every big feast at Grandma’s house was big on traditional fare, but she loved Easter. Our family is a big melting pot, including along with the Greek and Italian, there is Polish on that side, and mostly German on my side with a little French and Irish mixed in. Quite a combo and we are tried and true American made with Greek, Italian, Polish, and German etc. parts, but I love teaching our son about his heritage and I LOVE family traditions. So we started a new one this year and wanted to honor Grandma Jean on one of her favorite holidays and share it with the little boy she loved so much. Here is Grandma, meeting Henry the first time – one of my favorite pictures of the two of them.

Henry, barely three months old, with his Great-Grandma Jean Pselos on October 30, 2011

Henry, barely three months old, with his Great-Grandma Jean Pselos on October 30, 2011

Grandma Jean was a sweet, fun lady who had quite a personality and we didn’t always get along, but we loved each other fiercely. She was never Mrs. Pselos, or Jean; from the moment I met her, even though me and her grandson were only dating, she was Grandma. And even later, I was never her grandson’s wife, but her granddaughter. She could be a little secretive when it came to her cooking, but I learned a lot from her. She would give advice – just not share recipes! – but she loved company in the kitchen so I learned to watch and help where she let me.

It was really hard on me when she died, and that was part of my tears on Sunday, just thinking about her and the memories. I must admit, I’m tearing up even now as I write! I know she was looking down at us and smiling as we tried to honor her that day and recreate recipes she had perfected over her lifetime and guarded so closely! We worked from memory plus a recipe book she gave us years ago, did some tweaking to make it compliant with me and Henry’s diets, and here was our menu. Completely gluten-free, paleo, and (almost) autoimmune protocol-friendly.

Antipasto
Italian Wedding Soup
Roasted Lamb
Pasta and Homemade Sauce
Salad

For dessert, Grandma made these Italian shortbread cookies covered in powdered sugar, but she made those more for Christmas. Other big family dinners she made cake or would buy these amazing pies from a local market. I ended up making a carrot cake and some almond butter chocolate-covered eggs.

The only thing missing is the potatoes. The Greek part of the meal came from the lamb and potatoes. I thought about it, but that was already going to be a lot of food for three people so we left them out this year. Then when it came time for dinner we had filled up on appetizers, so I nixed the salad too, but notice how it’s at the end of the meal? That’s an Italian thing and one of the lessons from Grandma – flashback to one of my first meals with her and I asked where the salad was at the beginning of the meal!

Our appetizers were super simple and not really planned to be honest. I had thought of a few things in case people came over and we were waiting for my husband to get home from work. Then my son finally fell asleep for his afternoon nap right about the time I was about to put finishing touches on dinner so we paused, pulled out some goodies and relaxed. There was a chicken liver pate I had made a few days before with some grain-free crackers (purchased from the bakery the Chirps came from), olives, fresh vegetables, and cheese.

A simple but delicious spread of homemade pate and crackers, cheese, olives, and veggies.  With red wine.  I couldn’t have the tomatoes and I admit I cheated on the cheese and wine, but it was a holiday!

A simple but delicious spread of homemade pate and crackers, cheese, olives, and veggies. With red wine. I couldn’t have the tomatoes and I admit I cheated on the cheese and wine, but it was a holiday!

One thing I have learned from eating real food is preparation is key. You can’t just open a bunch of cans, boxes, and packages the day of and throw together dinner. It takes planning and a lot of prep but is so worth it! For a big dinner like this I shop as soon as I can and start cooking absolutely everything I can ahead of time. And I make lists. Here I am trying to get organized about five days before Easter, which is actually a little last-minute for me, finalizing my shopping and to-do lists; this was posted to my Instagram.

We are also on a budget. Planning things out allows me to stretch out the expense. If I have a basic idea of what I want to do I can start planning weeks in advance, making sure I am stocked up on pantry staples, or picking something up ahead of time because it’s on sale and then freezing it, or such. It takes a little work, but it’s not hard and well worth it. I spent a lot on groceries for this meal, but we ate leftovers the entire next week. We happen to like leftovers and we like playing with them and making things different. (Like sandwiches, salads, fried rice – made with cauliflower – and the lamb and veggies on top of sweet potatoes for example.)

Dinner turned out amazing, though we still want to tweak the recipes of Grandma’s we tried to recreate. The others I got on-line. I used recipes I found for the pasta and sauce, cake, and candy. As I mentioned earlier everything was (almost) autoimmune protocol-friendly and I was referring to the pasta and almond butter eggs; the pasta was made with almond flour and the eggs with almond butter and chocolate. Those three things are cheats for me but I do ok with them in small amounts as long as I don’t overdue it and it was worth it. It had been so long since I had had pasta, I was beyond excited!

I found the recipe for it on Pinterest, and I was a little intimidated at first, but it was very easy. It is by Paleo Cupboard and you can find it here: http://www.paleocupboard.com/paleo-pasta.html. The sauce is a nightshade-free sauce I have made before and love; it works great in anything calling for tomato sauce, including pasta or pizza. My husband doesn’t like beets, but he likes this sauce, if that’s an indication how good it is, although he had his own sauce. We had one jar of homemade, canned tomato sauce given to us by one of our clients from her garden last year, so he used that (I love it when he gets homemade tips like that!). The No-Mato Sauce comes from The Curious Coconut and can be found at: http://thecuriouscoconut.com/blog/the-best-no-mato-sauce-autoimmune-paleo-marinara. A note about the No-Mato Sauce; I have made it many times and I often have a batch in my freezer, but didn’t this time so I made it fresh. It freezes beautifully and I usually portion it out into two-cup portions (perfect for a pizza), but for a big dish of pasta for the family I might thaw two.

Here is our finished dinner:

The soup and antipasto in Grandma’s soup tureen and china dishes.  Grandma always served soup in this tureen.  Always.  It means a lot to have it.

The soup and antipasto in Grandma’s soup tureen and china dishes. Grandma always served soup in this tureen. Always. It means a lot to have it.

The finished dinner:  roasted lamb, grain-free pasta with nightshade-free sauce, antipasto salad, and Italian Wedding Soup.  All paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free.  And oh, so good!

The finished dinner: roasted lamb, grain-free pasta with nightshade-free sauce, antipasto salad, and Italian Wedding Soup. All paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free. And oh, so good!

I’d been feeling very deprived of lately and still dealing with some eczema, but my body is still healing. I do cheat on things like almond flour and chocolate and red wine on occasion because I am so diligent all the time and I think occasional treats are ok as long as your body can handle them. As I stated already I can eat them; just not all the time or too much. And that bottle of wine is still sitting on my counter a couple of weeks later as I have yet to finish it, and I enjoy and savor each glass because it probably won’t be until the next holiday I open another one! Life is too short to constantly deprive yourself if you ask me. Like dessert!

I love cake and actually haven’t made one since going grain-free. I’ve made cupcakes but not a whole cake. And I had been craving cake. My birthday was last month and I had a couple of recipes I wanted to make and considered ordering one from the bakery I mentioned earlier but didn’t do either and regretted it, so when Easter came around it didn’t take long to decide what I wanted. Carrot cake! It is one of my favorites and so springy! I found this recipe from Health Nut Nation which happened to already be nightshade-free, although most recipes aren’t hard to make that way. She had several frosting options but I ended up using the Best Ever Paleo Frosting by Real Food RN because it has become the only frosting we use; it really is the best ever and is so good and very easy. I used it because I knew it was good and easy and turns out every time. You can find the cake recipe here: http://www.healthnutnation.com/2013/03/27/paleo-carrot-cake/ and the frosting here: http://realfoodrn.com/best-paleo-frosting-ever/.

I made the Copy Cat Reese’s “Peanut Butter” Eggs last year and they were a hit. Hubby isn’t crazy about carrot cake, but loves chocolate and peanut butter so I made these. Last year we had a big family gathering and no one could believe they were dairy- and refined sugar-free. They come from My Whole Food Life and you can find the recipe here: http://mywholefoodlife.com/2014/03/09/copycat-reeses-peanut-butter-eggs/. I tweaked it this year by using half almond butter and half homemade coconut butter. Oh my, so good; I may do them that way from now on. I was trying to lessen the almond impact and it made the inside a little fluffier too. They still really tasted like almond butter. I could slightly taste the coconut, but was never sure if it was simply because I was looking for it. They are very simple and quick and this year it was a joy to have Henry help. He made funny ropes and wanted me to make a bunny and a snowman. Such fun.

Henry helping with the chocolate eggs; he ate many while we worked, but that’s part of the fun!  These only have a handful of ingredients and are completely junk-free.  The eggs are super easy.  Make a ball, flatten it with your hand, and then pinch one end to a point.

Henry helping with the chocolate eggs; he ate many while we worked, but that’s part of the fun! These only have a handful of ingredients and are completely junk-free. The eggs are super easy. Make a ball, flatten it with your hand, and then pinch one end to a point.

The finished dessert ~ Paleo Carrot Cake and the almond butter eggs.  So, so good!  I didn’t make the frosting until right before dessert, but typically I like to put the frosting in the refrigerator for about ten or fifteen minutes before I frost.  This frosting pipes great once it’s firmed up a bit.  I did just round dollops on the cake and I like how it turned out.  I may have to make another this week; just thinking about it my mouth is watering!

The finished dessert ~ Paleo Carrot Cake and the almond butter eggs. So, so good! I didn’t make the frosting until right before dessert, but typically I like to put the frosting in the refrigerator for about ten or fifteen minutes before I frost. This frosting pipes great once it’s firmed up a bit. I did just round dollops on the cake and I like how it turned out. I may have to make another this week; just thinking about it my mouth is watering!

That brings me to my next point ~ finding joy in the little things. That can be really hard when you are hurting, either physically or emotionally. I don’t always do well at this, but I have learned you have to search for it at times and it’s usually never hard to find. Take for instance the music I mentioned earlier or treating myself to pasta, which I love and haven’t eaten in over a year. There was something else I wanted to share as well. In the middle of feeling sorry for myself that morning I sat down for a break to get lost on my phone and opened Instagram, seeing this.

This Instagram account comes from a woman named Nathalie Hillelrich. I know I did not find her by accident. I don’t spend very much time on Twitter. I follow quite a few people, but it’s not often I actually browse my timeline. I did that day, several weeks ago, and an account about infant loss I follow shared a picture and for some reason I clicked on it. What popped up was the picture of a woman and this tiny baby in a NICU that just took my breath away. I ended up following the link to her website which led me to her Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Find her website at http://www.nathaliehimmelrich.com. You can also find her at http://www.grievingparents.net. She has written a book titled, Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple. I’ve ordered it but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. She is inspiring and shares beautiful things, a grieving mama like myself who is moving on after the death of one of her twin daughters. I sent her an e-mail the day I found her and received the loveliest note back. I stumbled across her on a day I was really struggling and felt such a connection to this woman who lives literally half a world away. I sent her another note, asking if I could share this post of hers, to which she graciously agreed; check her out. She’s amazing.

So I submitted the names of my two angel babies, to which she replied, bringing me to tears. It was such a beautiful gesture and to have someone else acknowledge them meant the world to my husband and I.

My comment and Nathalie’s reply on Instagram.  Was just what my hurting heart needed that day.

My comment and Nathalie’s reply on Instagram. Was just what my hurting heart needed that day.

As hard as it is, and as much I miss them, acknowledging them brings me such joy. We do little things, like hanging their pictures, talking about them to our son, hanging stockings at Christmas, lighting candles, buying little trinkets that make us think of them; we have planted trees in their memory, made donations in their names, I wear jewelry with their birthstones, and so on and so forth. After ordering Nathalie’s book this suggestion came up on Amazon and I immediately ordered it. Reading it the first time made me cry.

Someone Came Before You, by Pat Schwiebart, Illustrated by Taylor Bills and put out by a company called Grief Watch (http://www.griefwatch.com).  A lovely book for a child who has come after a loss.  My advice?  Read it with a box of tissues.

Someone Came Before You, by Pat Schwiebart, Illustrated by Taylor Bills and put out by a company called Grief Watch (http://www.griefwatch.com). A lovely book for a child who has come after a loss. My advice? Read it with a box of tissues.

My note to Henry, honoring his brothers, in the book.

My note to Henry, honoring his brothers, in the book.

My son received this in his Easter basket. Henry is three but knows who his brothers are. He recognized them in pictures the first time very young. It gave me goose bumps. I walked by a picture of the two of them and he wasn’t speaking yet but I knew the look of recognition on his face and he reached for them. Believe what you want, but I believe his little spirit recognized them; like he remembered them from Heaven. Even now he likes to kiss their pictures and the boxes of their ashes and he knows who they are. I always wanted it that way. When someone asks me how many children I have the answer is always three. If someone asks if we have any more children than Henry I politely answer we have two boys who are no longer with us. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out thing. Some people ask more, some don’t, and both are ok. Just for me and my heart, I have to acknowledge them. This was another way for me to do that.

So this Easter I found joy in many things. I found joy in enjoying some wonderful, healthy, yet delicious food that is compliant with a sometimes difficult diet and I enjoyed treating myself to a couple of things. I found joy in honoring a woman whose legacy will always leave a mark on our family. I found joy in starting a new tradition. I found joy in getting all dressed up in a pretty little black and white sundress my mama bought me while here in February; it’s a lot of fun dressing up when you don’t do it that often! I found joy in some beautiful music and a lovely gesture from a new friend that served as a salve for my soul on a difficult day. I found joy in a beautiful little boy that I thank God every day for. Henry is a miracle, no doubt about it, and he himself has such joy and sweetness, and you can’t help but smile when you are with him. I found joy with my husband who my relationship with isn’t perfect but we understand each other, love one another unconditionally, and I know I am extremely lucky to have him in my life. And I found joy in my two angel babies whom I also thank God for. I wish they were with me. I wish I could wrap my arms around them right now and hold them close. I ache for them. Every. Day. But I know I will see them again one day and that brings me some small amount of bittersweet joy.

You have to look for it. You have to work for it. But it’s there. Trust me.

Thank you for listening. I know I really went on and on with this one, but I gave you a rare piece of my heart I don’t often share. I hope it touched one of you, whether it be about the food or the family. I have put myself out there to connect with you, be encouraged by you, and an encouragement for you. Leave me a comment or visit me on social media and let’s connect. Thank you again for sharing my journey.

Blessings to you today,
Emily xo

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My One Year Paleo-versary

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Yesterday marked one year since I started my healing journey with a paleo and autoimmune protocol diet. I didn’t set out to mark it in any way, but for some reason the date has stuck in my head; that was a lucky day for me last year, I guess! I thought I’d just take a minute and share with you a few things I’ve learned about the lifestyle and myself.

I like to call it a lifestyle over a diet. You say “diet” and immediately most people go right to the negative, but for me it is a lifestyle. It involved a major lifestyle change and changed more than the way I eat. It is not a fad or a trend to me; simply the way I live. It is purely a cleaner way of living. For me, I did it for health reasons after a lot of research and soul searching.

Which brings me to my first lesson. It’s not right for everybody and it is not one-size-fits-all. You have to make it work for you. I don’t always worry if something is 100% paleo; my focus is on as long as it’s clean, real, and won’t cause an immune reaction in my body. Then it’s ok in my book. I’m still learning, but I have to laugh when I hear or read, Would a caveman eat this? If you have asked that of yourself I don’t mean to be critical; I just think it’s funny. I eat a very clean, very paleo diet, but thanks for modern technology I eat a lot of foods a caveman never ate and I’m thankful for it! I’m talking about things like coffee, red wine, and chocolate. You’re probably thinking, you eat those things on a paleo and AIP diet? The answer is yes and no, but more on that later.

I had already been gluten-free for six years so I thought it would be no huge stretch. I already had several paleo blogs I followed and got yummy recipes from. I always liked the recipes I found because they had good quality, clean ingredients and being paleo they would always be gluten-free. You may be reading this and wonder what a paleo diet or lifestyle is. To me, as I already mentioned, it’s not unevolving (is that a word?) myself back to a primal cavewoman, but focusing on a clean, green, grain-free, refined sugar-free diet complete with quality dairy and meat.

I was actually a vegetarian until a couple of years ago. For me it was about taste; I never cared for it much and there are still things I don’t like. I also jumped on that low-fat bandwagon and believed that all fat was bad. I ate fish once in a great while along with cheese and eggs, and it worked for me for a time.

My first eye opener was my second pregnancy. I could not stand even the sight or smell of meat. It made me violently ill and I am not exaggerating. I thought I was doing a good job of making sure I was consuming plenty of iron and protein but when I was admitted to the hospital at 19 weeks with a failed cerclage we discovered I was quite anemic. I remember one of my doctors discussing it with me after a couple of weeks. It is very common for pregnant women to be anemic, as it is for vegetarians – not to mention pregnant vegetarians! It is also common to get anemic while on bed rest. Your body just processes everything different. I was getting more anemic as time went on and he wasn’t sure which it was attributed to or if it was a combination of all three.

I was given copious amounts of iron before and immediately after the pregnancy to compensate, which is rough. To give you an idea how much I hated it, I cried when they announced they were putting me on iron again during my third pregnancy. It can really do a number on your system and the side effects are not pleasant; at least that was my case. (I was doing better during pregnancy number three but put on iron because I was also on blood thinners to ward against blood clots given I was on very strict and complete bed rest.)

It’s now a joke between me and my husband how my vegetarianism ended. We suspected I was pregnant with baby number three and it was Valentine’s Day. We went out to eat and my husband ordered a steak salad as his first course. It came and looked divine! I turned to him and said, “Can I ask you a weird question?” He agreed and I replied by pointing to his salad and asking, “Can I have some of that?” He lovingly shared it with me, all the while chuckling and shaking his head and observing I must certainly be pregnant if I wanted steak!

I began craving meat so I gave it to my body because I knew it needed it. Your dietary needs grow exponentially when you are growing a human. I had done a lot of research the year before after my first big anemia wake up and was pretty confident. I had even done some extensive reading about pregnancy and vegetarianism, but as I said it was what my body wanted. People would ask if I was craving anything strange to which we had to answer yes. When they asked what everyone who didn’t know me thought it was rather weird we classified meat as strange, but it was for me!

I am getting off track, but after Henry was born I continued eating meat as you need even more iron and protein (along with some vitamins with their most concentrated sources in meat) when you are breastfeeding than when you are pregnant. Then I began researching several healing diets out there and doing a lot of reading and discovered it may be what is best for me. I have a love/hate relationship with meat and I still don’t think I would miss it all that much if you were tell me tomorrow I could never eat it again, but I have discovered for me it is what my body needs and I’m ok with that.

Like I said, it is right for me. I do not judge anyone for being vegan or vegetarian and please do not judge me for my decision either. Some people can get downright ugly when this subject comes up, so I’m just putting that out there.

I think my last two pregnancies may have been a huge autoimmune trigger for me. It was a very stressful time (pregnancy number two was after a previous loss and then after several weeks of complications resulted in another loss). With pregnancy number two I was still vegetarian and focused on eating lots of beans and legumes and grains, which can wreak absolute havoc on a compromised digestive tract. Not to mention lots of medication that did a number on me followed by the emotional roller coaster of the next pregnancy, more medication, more stress, and the fact that our bodies are not meant to be completely still. I basically started having allergic reactions to everything. I had dealt with terrible morning sickness from the beginning, but I was getting even sicker and we had no idea why. I was in a lot of pain, contracting almost daily along with back and joint pain from being so immobile. And the list goes on.

It was worth every moment and more. After eight years of heartache and disappointment we got our miracle, but I think a lot of the medications I was given did a number on my digestive tract and coupled with the stress along with all the normal hormone changes and such that go with any pregnancy it was just too much.

I dealt with severe post-partum depression after he was born and I am still learning about the connections between depression and autoimmunity. It’s fascinating but I’ll talk about it another time. It may have been related or simply been exacerbated by it. The insomnia I had dealt with on and off most of my life came back with a vengeance (and there’s little that’s harder for a new mom than not being able to sleep at all when you are already sleep-deprived!). The joint and back pain didn’t really go away and I had what I thought was the start of carpal tunnel; I would get terrible numbness and pain in my fingers and up my arms. Digestive problems were the norm and not the exception again and a small gluten exposure would make me sick for weeks and not days. I had problems with hives in the hospital and I had dealt with a small amount of eczema most of my life but it was suddenly out of control. I looked like I had an infectious disease and I was BEYOND miserable. It was like an itchy sunburn head to toe; it would itch so bad I would wake in the morning to find blood on the sheets because I had been scratching so much IN MY SLEEP! My husband can also tell you several stories about watching me moan in pain and misery on the floor in tears because it hurt and itched so bad.

I was desperate for relief and I have talked about all this before so I’ll move on, but whether the pregnancy was a catalyst for it or not I don’t know and it really doesn’t matter. I just thought I would share that in case because from what I have learned it very likely had a lot to do with that and maybe by sharing that part of my story someone will see something of themselves in it. I was diagnosed with celiacs after the death of my first-born, which was another trigger. Any big life situation, even the good ones, but especially anything very emotional, physical, or stressful can be a big trigger. Learn how to look for those; if you learn to deal with them and with the knowledge that can make symptoms of autoimmunity worse you can use that information. That is why I shared.

So back to last year. I started my paleo journey jumping head-first into the autoimmune protocol. A paleo diet or lifestyle eliminates all grains, beans, and legumes which as I already mentioned can be very hard on anybody (there is actual science why beans give you gas – you’re having trouble digesting them – there are ways to properly prepare them to help with that, but for people like me it’s just best to avoid them). The autoimmune protocol takes it a step further and eliminates nuts, seeds, dairy, nightshades, alcohol, and a few other things. It starts with an extremely strict elimination phase that I will admit is brutal but necessary. You remove any possible offenders from your diet, give your body a little time to heal and adjust, and then slowly began to add them back in. It was a huge learning experience that was very hard but I am extremely grateful for the knowledge I gleaned from it.

Which brings me to my next lesson learned: don’t sweat the small stuff. My husband can also tell you stories of me throwing the adult version of a tantrum. More than once I am ashamed to admit. As I said, it can be brutal. I was hungry. All. The. Time. I felt like I had a huge list of stuff I couldn’t eat and an extremely small list of what I could. I was still feeling miserable and very hungry on top of it. Many of the foods recommended were too expensive on our budget or I couldn’t find them and all my usual stand-by’s were off-limits. I have since found and learned to be thankful for the actual huge list of yummy, nutritious foods I can eat and which ones work best and keep me full and happy. For me I now need the extra protein I get from the meat I eat and good quality fats like coconut oil or avocados. If you have skin issues, try these; I noticed a huge difference.

How did I learn to deal with it? Well, I’ll be honest. I’m still working on it, but I am learning. I mentioned the coffee, chocolate, and red wine earlier? Well, I have learned what my body can handle and when and how. For the most part. The red wine? Well, when I say I drink red wine it’s MAYBE only once every few months. It is a huge treat. The coffee and chocolate I have mixed reactions to. Overall on any day they won’t bother me, but if I have had a gluten or nightshade exposure or a lot of stress has caused the eczema to flare or something like that, I will have a reaction to it. I keep those three things in my diet as treats because I have eliminated so much I am done depriving myself constantly and so I have learned WHAT WORKS FOR ME and when it’s ok for me to “cheat.”

Nightshades and grains are still a big no and my body still has a lot of healing to do. I am still having some ongoing issues and can trace them to several possible reasons, but I think it comes down to the fact I am still healing. The damage in my body didn’t happen overnight so it’s not going to heal overnight. Eggs and dairy are iffy. Oddly enough I can handle eggs ok if they are baked into something but not a cooked egg, like in an omelet or something. I thought I was crazy until I’ve since talked to a couple of other people who have experienced the same thing. It comes down to science; baking it plus the added ingredients changes its chemical makeup and it’s digested differently. Hopefully I’ll be able to handle them alone eventually; I miss eggs! Nuts and dairy are also special treats. Too much of either and I’m not a happy camper. After the holidays everyone was going on about too much sugar – my indulgence was nuts and dairy – and my body was not happy at me for it.

When I talked about making it work for you that is what I meant. Any of those “iffy” things for me you may see me eat and wonder why, but it’s because I know my body. Do I ever regret those “iffy” choices? Yes, I do. Not always but it happens. I make a mental note for the next time, go a little stricter AIP to get over it, and move on.

A surprise I have experienced is I eat some amazing food. And by that I mean I was eating the same (sometimes drab) things most of the time and these changes in my diet have forced me to think outside the box, get creative, and try new things. I started posting my meals and snacks to Instagram a while back because people were always asking me, “What do you eat?!” Check me out and you’ll see we eat some really yummy but healthy food! You can find me at http://www.instagram.com/preciousbelovedblessing. Some people are really surprised to learn we eat pretty much whatever we want – we just make the changes we need to so the whole family can enjoy them or clean them up so to speak.

We are on a budget as many are and have found a way to make this work for us as well, and are still learning. To follow strict paleo rules all meat must be organic and grass-fed and all produce organic and in-season. Well, organic grass-fed meat is often over twice that of the conventional. I read you should find a local farmer to get it from. I did – I found more than one – and they are outrageously expensive. I mean, like $30 for a small fryer chicken. I am still on the search for a more budget-friendly local source, but we’ve made it work. I have found a couple of small grocers that carry local eggs for a reasonable price; if I can’t find those I have found a non-local free range brand we can afford. I do sometimes buy grass-fed meat – when it goes on sale. One of my local grocery stores puts it on sale for the price of what the conventional beef is priced regularly and I can handle that, so I stock up if the week’s budget allows it. Otherwise, I have found a couple of places with good brands that my tummy handles (if you have trouble digesting grains a meat from an animal fed a heavy grain diet may not go down well). I always go for sustainably farmed, humanely raised and prepared, and no antibiotics. Yes, those cost a bit more, but a happily raised and slaughtered animal makes for better meat. Those are often also prepared without a lot of the extra junk, which I can’t eat (often containing gluten and/or nightshades). There are certain things I have made the decision to spend more money on and other things I haven’t. For instance, I always buy wild, sustainably caught fish; it’s healthier for me and my family as well as the environment. It costs more, yes, but to me it’s worth it. (Do you know what all they put in farmed salmon?! Look it up; you’ll never touch it again.) As far as produce goes there are lists called the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” which outline which produce you absolutely should buy organic and those that are ok. Those have really helped me.

In season is easy for us. We live in Southern California where our local produce contains everything from apples and grapes to avocados and almost every kind of citrus. A great reason to eat local and seasonal? It’s cheaper! Much cheaper! Find a farmer’s market or local farm stand for the best deals. Not sure what is local and when? Ask! They’ll tell you! Of course at those places it’s usually easy to see – what they have is seasonal – but my favorite local farm stand actually has a calendar posted that tells you what and when. We always try to preserve what we can by freezing or drying and I do that for budget mostly and just so we can enjoy what we love more! Do I still buy bags of frozen veggies? You better believe I do! It’s reasonably priced and I stock up on my favorite brands when they go on sale, plus someone has done all the work for me!

I meant to talk more about budget last year after I started my blog but got distracted. I’ve really gone on here so I’ll talk about it another time. There’s more I could get into; I just wanted to share what I have learned and am still learning. Never hesitate to ask me questions or give me suggestions – that’s why I’m writing about this! So we can help each other.

I have lots to share with you, but haven’t taken much time to do it with various things going on. I have some yummy recipes to share but am also working on another post that has been in the making since I started my blog. It’s not easy to write, it won’t be easy for everyone to read, but it’s been very cathartic and I know there are those it will touch. I am trying to be more consistent with the blogging but if you want to keep in touch with me you can follow me on Instagram as I mentioned, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Flickr. My profiles are all @preciousbelovedblessing, except for Twitter which is @PrecBelovBless.

Thank you for continuing on this journey with me. Leave me a comment if you want about your own experiences like these or something you’d like to hear me talk more about. Have a great day and be blessed.

Lots of Hugs,
Emily

November 17, 2014 ~ World Prematurity Day

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A year ago today I began my blog! While in the midst of setting up my website and such I learned November 17 is World Prematurity Day. The month of November is also Prematurity Awareness Month, and I remember getting goose bumps. It seemed so fitting! Part of the reason I was starting a blog was to share my story.

I am the mama of three premature babies and it is from them my blog and company gets its name. Christopher, Jr. (Precious One) was born on December 9, 2003 at only 22 weeks. He lived for 63 minutes before passing away in my arms. Joshua James (Blessing) was born on April 28, 2010, also at 22 weeks; he passed away moments before he was born but left an eternal mark on my heart. They both did. Their brother, Henry Lynn (Blessing) was born on August 8, 2011 at 32 weeks. Henry not only survived but thrived and we thank God every day for our miracle baby.

The name comes from their nicknames we gave them in utero before we knew they were boys. We didn’t want to simply call them it or the baby. We still call Henry Blessing. There is so much more to all three of their stories and over the last year I have struggled to write them and they are still coming. It is an odd thing; I have no trouble talking about them. All three of them have very emotional stories that somehow are very difficult to put onto paper. So bear with me. Even Henry’s is not an easy story to tell, though his has a happy ending. Getting there was a long, emotional, and at times painful journey that is not easy to tell and relive.

My blog has made quite a transformation. It has turned into more of a health/food blog of late, which was not my intention, but there have been a lot of health changes in my body that I am making for the better and some things are exciting, others just plain interesting, so I share that. Times like this, though, make me think of the other reason I have decided to share my heart with you – my three beautiful boys.

I am a mother of three. Not one. Christopher and Joshua left permanent marks on my heart and holes in our family only they can fill. As active and loud as Henry, a typical three-year-old boy can be you may be surprised to hear sometimes our house seems too quiet. Because it should be so much more active. It’s hard not to think that way at times. I miss them every day.

March of Dimes does amazing work and is working hard to learn about, raise awareness, and hopefully prevent premature birth and they were asking for stories so I made this to share:

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I love sharing Henry’s success. He is a miracle. No doubt about it. I lost count how many times we feared we might lose him. There were midnight emergency room visits at 19 and 22 weeks, with me contracting, and I was admitted to the hospital at 24 weeks, with them sure I was going to deliver – but I made it 8 more weeks of daily contractions and hosts of other issues, amazing and astounding the doctors and nurses. He is a miracle. Despite the odds stacked against him – and me – we made it through it together and he is here and absolutely wonderful. I still sometimes stare at him in amazement that this beautiful little boy is really here and he is mine.

Then I thought something was missing. Not every prematurity story has a happy ending. They weren’t asking for those, and I understand why, but the fact is not every story has a happy ending and as I already stated I am a mother of THREE, not just one. So I created this for my angel babies:

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If you are one of the millions of mamas or daddies grieving today instead of rejoicing in thankfulness then I send hugs to you. I got my happy ending, but I ache every day for the two precious boys I will never see grow up. I spent a few wonderful hours with them trying to squeeze in a lifetime of love. My husband and I had to say hello and goodbye all at once to those two sweet angels and they may be gone but they will never be forgotten. Today is for you too.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I look forward to continuing to share it with you.

Hugs,

Emily

Living With A Tender Heart: Some Personal Thoughts on Kindness

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I started this blog back in November of last year to share all sorts of stuff but my focus has shifted, I guess, because all my posts lately have been about food! There’s nothing wrong with that; I personally love finding new recipes online to try, but I haven’t been very consistent either, so I’ve decided to just start posting some various things. There are a couple of blogs I follow that sometimes a post is no more than a couple of paragraphs talking about their latest crochet project or just talking about family stuff.

You might not see me post a lot of stuff very often, but I’m not a full-time blogger. I’m a wife and mom and I have a life away from my computer. Blog posts have focused a lot on my current health issues and food because that’s been more of my focus as I try to heal my body from autoimmune issues (if you’d like to read more about those look back at my posts referring to my Healing Journey). I’ve got tons more to share but have been having some Internet issues and then I was out of town for two weeks visiting family. I had my computer and my notebook full of my Posts To Do list, but though I shared a few things on social media I would find here or there I was not focused on that but on spending time with family. Then I got home and the Internet issues were worse! (We think it has something to do with the receiver in my computer and we’re working on it.) But suffice it to say that even though with what I just said I have some great recipes to share including a paleo pizza that is out of this world, how to make healing bone broth, my go-to favorite paleo meal when I want something yummy and wholesome but am feeling lazy and don’t to spend all evening in the kitchen (or morning for that matter! It’s good for breakfast too!), a dairy-/nightshade-/junk-free pumpkin spice latte recipe, and then I want to share about my trip and my thoughts on traveling paleo-style with a travel companion who happens to be a toddler AND gluten-free in addition to a tribute to my grandmother who recently passed away.

Phew! But on to this post. I wanted to talk about kindness. Why? I was bullied yesterday.

Yes, you read that right. At thirty-five years old and by another (so-called) adult. I still can’t believe it. Let me share my story.

We live in a townhouse of an apartment complex. There is this beautiful clubhouse with a pool, fitness center, and a room called, The Business Center. I’ve never spent any significant time in there, though we’ve lived here eight months. My husband wanted to test a theory about my Internet problem and wanted me to connect to a different wireless network. I had just put our little one down for a nap so off I went with an iced coffee in hand and it seemed like I was getting this wonderful vacation!

They have it decorated very nicely in there – it kind of looks like the study or library in a fancy house – and there is a whole wall of windows that look out on a courtyard full of trees and flowers; there is a line of Birds of Paradise just out the window. It’s very nice (you might have seen a picture of it yesterday if you follow me on Instagram!). There are two computers and a printer but I had my laptop and was sitting in my own little corner with my headphones on in my own little world, working on my Etsy shop. And I was in Heaven.

There were a couple of people coming and going but we all kept to ourselves. Then a few kids came in. Then a few more. And a few more until that small room was full. And they were loud. I was really surprised but realized it was mid-afternoon and school had just gotten out. There is a rule about no kids under 16 being allowed inside without an adult, but I wasn’t going to be that person and I turned up my music and kept to myself. Then I turned my music up some more. Then a little more. Finally I could barely stand it was so loud in my ears along with the raucous noise in the room, and it was getting hard to concentrate. Believe me, I can work under distraction! And actually, I can’t work when it’s too quiet, but this was ridiculous. They were not only loud but crude with terrible language. Not to mention the fact that the entire reason I had gone down there was for a little peace and quiet.

So I removed my headphones, turned around, and very politely asked if they would mind keeping it down a little. I was very nice. They continued to come and go and though they quieted down for a minute it was soon just as loud in there as it had been. Then two adults walked in. They sat at the other computer and I was stuck between the two groups who began to converse and laugh and obviously knew each other. It only got louder and I have to admit I was getting frustrated but I was still very nice and asked them one more time to please keep it down. I heard some rude whispering behind me but ignored it and got back to work, though it was frankly a little upsetting.

Ten minutes later I had had it. Without a word I packed up my stuff and got ready to go. I am not very confrontational so it was very hard for me to say anything at all even though they were being so rude, and I absolutely cannot stand tattle-tellers or people who complain, but I briefly wondered if I should head across the clubhouse to the offices and talk to someone. That seemed silly so I decided to just go home.

I got up and went to the door and the room got very quiet. Then someone very loudly made a rude comment that does not bear repeating. I froze and turned around to find it had come from one of the adults in the room of all people! Everyone was looking at me and then started to laugh. It may not have been directed at me and it was almost as ridiculous as it was rude, but it was in fact rude and I was dumbfounded. I very badly wanted to put this…person in their place but I just turned around and left, but I was shaking.

I made a split-second decision and turned left toward the offices instead of right toward the door and went to someone in the office. I felt so absurd but I didn’t know what to do and thought it was best I leave it be instead of having an emotional outburst and sometimes a word from someone in authority carries much more weight.

I was still shaking and almost in tears as I explained what had happened and the woman I spoke to was so sweet. She came out from behind her desk and touched my arm and was as shocked as I was. She was very sympathetic and I actually felt rather silly for going to her but she assured me she was glad I did and told me they had actually received another complaint about behavior in that same room just the day before so she promised to look into it, wondering if it was the same group. Then she and I started to visit about how appalling that was and ridiculous. How can another adult act that way?

She and I have kids just a few months apart; mine just turned three and hers will at the end of this month and we talked about wanting our kids to grow up knowing how to treat other people and to be kind and considerate. We love where we live and there are some really great people here; people are so friendly (most of the time) and it’s rare to be outside and not have someone wave or say hi – even if I’m in my garage with the door open! Our neighbors will wander into our driveway when we’re outside and visit or sit next to us at the pool and we’ve gotten to know some great people here.

The kids are another story. Though, I don’t mean all of them and I am sorry for saying this, but the fact is there are some AWFUL children here! Rude, inconsiderate, and just plain mean! There is a small park on the grounds and on one of our first trips my then barely two-year-old son was bullied by a little boy who couldn’t have been more than five or so – he was little! He was shouting at my son, blocking him from getting onto the play equipment, and when he pushed him at one point I had about had it. It took every bit of composure I had not to actually throw that little kid off the play equipment! And the mother was there!

I should have said something to her, but I let it go. We’ve encountered that little boy again, along with a few others that are just ridiculously mean. It’s so sad! Another child can’t run up to mine without me tensing up and getting ready for a confrontation! The last time that happened I almost cried. This boy ran up to him that wasn’t very old but much bigger than he was and I immediately went on the defensive and ran across the playground as he asked him a pointed question about his shoes. To make a long story short, he was beyond sweet and kept taking my son’s hand, racing him around the equipment, helping him up when he fell, helping him put his flip flops back on when they fell off and more; it was precious.

What kind of world do we live in I have to feel the need to go into protective mama lion mode every time someone approaches my child?! I know I can’t protect him from everything and he needs to learn to stand up for himself, but it’s just so sad.

I’ll admit I have a very tender heart. I can be over-sensitive, but yesterday really bothered me. I got home and cried and cried and cried. It’s not the first time that has happened recently and I don’t get it. And sometimes it just gets to me.

I was bullied relentlessly all through school. It got really bad around second grade and continued through about my junior year when most everyone seemed to just grow up all of a sudden, but there were a few that never let up. I’ve had jobs since where there was someone in the office determined to be the bully and make me miserable, and it has brought all that back. And I have had several occurrences recently and as a result there are a couple of places I just don’t frequent anymore. There is a particular someone I know that has wondered why I never want to spend time or talk to them, but they are always very judgmental and critical, and frankly a bit of a bully. It feels like everything needs to be perfect all the time with them and I will almost make myself sick stressing about when I’m going to see this person. Who wants to willingly subject themselves to that?!

My husband and I started a transportation business a little over fourteen months ago and we are dealing with harassment from another company in town. They have been relentless and rude; not to mention extremely unprofessional and immature, and I pity them; they are so insecure and paranoid they feel the need to attack us! The irony? They had a chance to hire my husband but cancelled his interview an hour-and-a-half before it was scheduled and yes, we now have many of their clients, but they have all come to us after bad service from them! If you can’t keep your customers don’t get all bent of shape when they’re taken care of by someone else and you lose their business. It’s not that difficult. And it’s hard not to go on the offensive, as in some of these other situations, but sometimes we just have to be the bigger person and move on and let it go. It’s not easy but the best thing to not stoop to their level but I still don’t understand it all.

Some people are just rude, and others are actual bullies. I don’t hold anything against all these people. I just don’t get it. I never have. I personally don’t understand racism or war or hatred. Why can’t we all just get along? Why does someone feel the need to pick on my TODDLER at the playground?! What kind of ADULT joins in on the ragging of rude teenagers? How unprofessional is it to harass another person just because they are doing their best to provide for their family and make a living, not to mention provide good customer service? And what’s the point?

I can’t help but wonder if sometimes I wear this sign everyone but me can see that says:

I’M SENSITIVE!
PICK ON ME!!!

That’s ridiculous, I know, but it feels that way sometimes. Bullies are cowards at heart. Or so incredibly unhappy they have to make everyone else miserable. I feel sorry for them. I pity them, but sometimes it gets to me. Sometimes they make me cry. And part of it is just because of the sheer sadness of the situation. As I already said, what kind of person willingly hurts another?

I’m a nice person. I’m good people. I keep to myself, I’m polite, and I go out of my way to help others. I saw a little sign on social media recently that I saved and almost used as my cover photo for this, but I’m not sure where it came from and didn’t want to step on any copyright’s toes, but it said, Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness.

I’ve been told I’m too sensitive, that I read too much into things, that I should just get over it and move on, but who says I’m too sensitive?! I’d like to say to every person that has ever told me that, what if you’re not sensitive enough?

I didn’t post all this to complain but to share my story and maybe encourage someone else dealing with something similar – I know it helps me! – and to say this:

BULLYING HURTS. DON’T DO IT.

Life is too short. There are too many other important things going on than to pick on each other. And if you are one of those people, let me just say this one other thing and then I will get off my soap box. If I ever learn my child has been guilty of bullying, I would see it as one of my greatest failures as a parent. No matter how old he is.

How do you deal with it? Whether it be directed towards yourself, your spouse, or your child? I can’t help but think of the golden rule and doing unto others, etc. One more word from me in addition to thank you for “listening” me ramble on, and here it is. Be kind to one another.

Have a great day,
Emily