May Is Lyme Disease Awareness ~ Here’s My Story

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In 2007 I was awakened from a dead sleep with dizziness, nausea, extreme anxiety, and a strange buzzing or vibrating feeling all over my body. Within 12 hours I began throwing up and couldn’t find the energy to do much outside of my bed. I was running a low grade fever. My body could barely relax and I kept getting startled awake hundreds of times a night. It was like my nervous system was on fire, mixed with a severe case of the flu.

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Finally, someone suggested that I had vertigo and to go to the emergency room. They gave me a pain shot which made me feel worse. I have no idea why they treated me for pain. They ran lab work for what… I don’t know. Then proceeded to tell me that the nausea was “stress”. After about 2 hours, she finally checked my eyes and diagnosed me with vertigo and sent me on my way but not before telling me in a somewhat comical voice, that her best friend was on her 6th month of extreme vertigo. That irritated me and terrified me. How do you live your life with extreme vertigo?  It also worried me because I just knew in my gut that something else besides the vertigo was going on. The weeks went by and no one could figure out what was wrong with me besides the vertigo. Not the ER, not my MD, not my PA, my OBGYN, or my Naturopath. Test after test was inconclusive.

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The vertigo eventually subsided, but not 100% and it took 6 months before I felt anywhere near like myself. I had to stop volunteering several hours a day at my son’s school, something I had been doing for his entire life. I began to change my diet by eliminating dairy to see if that would help with the nausea. I also had my hormones checked and found out my progesterone was very low and started bio identical progesterone cream. I slowly started to feel somewhat “normal” again, but over the next two years began to deal with a lot of joint pain, severe neck issues, my feet were sore when I got out of bed in the morning, my hips hurt, I was still dealing with that nervous feeling, and I just never felt completely healed. Kind of like I was living on that cusp of just coming down with something.

I was run down, tired, and worried.

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In 2009 two years later, we were on a big family camping trip in Montana when I started to get the chills. Earlier that day, I had had a cupping session so we figured I was having a difficult time with detox. I was seeing a naturopath and we were having problems treating my liver. It seemed everything detox related we tried, made me very ill. By the next morning, I woke up in our trailer severely ill. My entire lower back was on fire, all of my joints hurt. I was in enough pain to cry and to have to be taken home. By the next morning, I knew immediately that I was having a relapse of whatever happened to me in 2007. Except this time I was worse. Way worse. I was bed or couch ridden the majority of the time for about 3 weeks in the beginning. I lost 25 pounds in a month and a half. I had all the same symptoms as I did in 2007 except the list was growing. Now, half of my face felt tingly and slightly numb. When I touched it, it caused my ear on that side to ring loudly. Both of my ears ringed horribly at night. I was sweating profusely all the time. We tested my adrenals and they were taxed as well. I had to quit my job. I began getting shingles. I had shingles every two months for a year and a half. In fact, I felt sick for an entire two years.

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During that time I increased my vitamin D3 which seemed to help build my immune system slowly. Quitting my job and trying to eliminate as much stress as possible also helped. I not only had eliminated dairy, but I stopped eating gluten as well. When I was able to get rid of the dizziness, I got immediately out of bed. I couldn’t stand it. So I hiked. Even when I felt like death, I hiked. I wore headphones and sang along with my iPod as I hiked. Sometimes I cried all the way up to the cedar forest. When I couldn’t hike I used the treadmill and I often prayed non-stop the entire time I was on it. I’m a fighter. Even when I don’t know what I’m fighting. I just knew that I had to focus on anything and everything that made me feel even slightly better. Again, I never felt completely healed, but  I was able to live life in a way that I could live with as somewhat, “normal”.

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Fast forward to the summer of 2013. We had moved to New Hampshire and several months later were enjoying a summer evening on our neighbor’s porch. Although I used bug spray, I went home with at least 15 mosquito bites on each of my legs. Within 2 days they were oozing down my leg and I was throwing up. The bites had taxed my immune system. I figured I had the flu. The second week, I woke with vertigo. Again. I was terrified because I knew what was coming. I could feel it. And if you’ve ever been severely ill and had absolutely everyone test you and poke you and prod you and tell you, “I don’t know,it’s a mystery”…you know the dread and fear I was feeling. Plus, we were 3,000 miles away from home and anyone we knew. My husband’s job was very demanding and we only saw each other maybe 7 days a month.

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After calling two doctors who wouldn’t see me because I was a new patient and didn’t have all of my medical records, I finally got a hold of one who agreed to take me on that day. She treated me for vertigo and sent me on my way, but not before I explained to her that I had been sick since 2007 and something was very wrong. I told her I needed someone who would try to get to the bottom of it with me, and she was happy to do it. I cried floods of relief all the way home.

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By week 3, I was seeing a physical therapist for vertigo exercises, which made zero difference. My blood pressure was through the roof. My doctor wanted to try Xanax for my blood pressure to see if it was stress. That didn’t work either and after 3 days I stopped because the last thing I needed was a life spent on pharmaceuticals. I felt dehydrated regardless of what I drank, had ringing in my ears, severe morning nausea and diarrhea, major muscle fatigue, severe heart burn, heart palpitations, anxiousness, ongoing headache, numbness in toes, high pulse. She started me on blood pressure medication.

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By week 4, all my symptoms remained. I stopped the PT because it wasn’t working and the PT therapist kept telling me all I needed was to go walk by myself without my dogs. Enter a bunch of questioning trucker swear words here. I was infuriated. She was an idiot. She laughed at me twice and patted me on the arm when I told her my symptoms. I called my doctor and told her I couldn’t stand the PT and I was done. My knuckles were like big knots and my hands were incredibly weak. I began having severe migraines. Week 5, symptoms still remained except the BP meds were finally beginning to lower my blood pressure. I began having shingles outbreaks again. I had terrible deep chills and sweats that only a hot bath would stop temporarily. The anxiety started to subside a little. The doctor tried to diagnose me with Fibromyalgia or Rheumatoid Arthritis but I wouldn’t allow it. I knew something else was wrong.

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By Week 6, the dizziness subsided but I began having severe joint pain and bone pain. My shins felt like I had shards of metal sticking into them. They ached like the most severe growing pains I had ever felt. My whole body felt like it had severe period cramps. I could no longer hike or go on long walks. It took all my energy to walk up the long flight of stairs to our bedroom. I could only accomplish a few tasks a day, sometimes getting ready for the day was all I could handle. Then, I would turn on the fire and lay in front of it for most of the day and sleep because I was freezing and had a level of lethargy words cannot explain. Maybe it was a blessing that my husband had to travel so much. I simply would not have been able to keep up with everything had he been home all the time. I started getting blisters on the roof of my mouth. My toes on both feet were numb. My hands were tingling constantly. I had such severe neck pain I rotated between a heating pad and ice packs all night, every night.

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During this time I was in contact with my husband’s cousins wife. She was diagnosed and struggling with severe late stage Chronic Lyme Disease. At that point, she was in a wheelchair and doing intravenous antibiotics. We had an online pen pal relatioship and talked daily. When I listed my symptoms she said, “April, you have almost every single one of my symptoms. You need to call your doctor and get tested for Lyme Disease.” So I did. The doctor look startled. Like she was upset with herself for not considering it earlier. The test came back positive.

Hallelujah! I didn’t know whether to weep because I was so thankful that I wasn’t completely crazy and the world’s worst hypochondriac, or feel absolute dread because I knew how dangerous and even more debilitating Lyme Disease could end up being for me. Finally, an answer to what I had been battling for the last 6 years of my life.

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On week 8 the doctor started me on antibiotics and I believe my first wave was three weeks. By week 10 I felt a pretty significant difference in energy level and although all of my symptoms remained, they were reduced in intensity. Then I did another three weeks which eliminated many of my worst symptoms like major fatigue, chills, nausea, and migraines. Still wasn’t feeling back to normal, but at that point, those improvements felt like a miracle! During those several weeks I buried my head in my computer for endless hours researching everything I could get my hands on concerning Lyme Disease, Chronic Lyme, and chronic illness. It was a real eye opener. I joined several private Lyme groups which were also tremendously helpful with information and support.

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A few months later we decided to move back to our home town where it turned out that my doctor’s new physician’s assistant was from New England. That was a major blessing because she is more schooled on Lyme Disease than the average doctor in this state. We did more testing with a  very expensive lab that specializes in Lyme Disease testing and I received another positive test. With all of the controversy over the CDC providing inaccurate testing and test results, lying about the incidence and prominence of Lyme Disease, it was important to me to spend the extra money to make sure I knew what I was dealing with. We also tested for co-infections in which I tested negative. She said it’s unlikely that I don’t have some co-infections, but like the Lyme bacteria, they aren’t always easy to find.

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The Lyme Bacteria is a super bug. It forms a bio film or cyst to protect itself. This is why it’s difficult to test and difficult to treat long term. The best defense to lingering issues is to seek treatment immediately upon being bitten. If a doctor argues that the infection isn’t passed until after 48 hours or even 24, the doctor is wrong. They have now done studies that prove that once the tick is attached, it begins transferring.

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I sat with the new PA and discussed the research I had done. She was patient and truly listened. She said she would read anything I brought to her, including books. We discussed options and she is completely open to following my lead. My choice over the last two years has been to only treat with antibiotics when I have a flare. I wait until it’s at its peak, and then we pulse with antibiotic treatment for 3 weeks. I believe I’ve had to treat 2-3 times in the past two years. It works very well for me. I also added high quality fish oil, extra probiotics, curcumin, digestive enzymes, and took the majority of grains,nuts and seeds, white potatoes, and legumes out of my diet. I’m able to indulge now and then, but in the beginning I completely abstained from those things for more than a year. It made a tremendous difference in joint pain, headaches, and fatigue.

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There are many Lyme Disease treatment options and philosophies. They are different when dealing with a new infection or an old infection. While I had and have many common Lyme symptoms, each person’s experience and how their body deals with it can vary. I have been unable to find any concrete proof that people who weren’t treated immediately can be healed completely with antibiotics or any other treatment.

The agreed upon goal for most people who deal with Chronic Lyme is to get it to go into remission by boosting the immune system and battling the side effects daily.  After working in a Naturopathic clinic for many years, I know the importance of gut health and how it is the epicenter of our immune systems. I didn’t want to ruin it further by taking multiple types of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals for a minimum 3-5 years straight, which is a common late stage Lyme treatment. I know that there are tried and true natural options for healing the body and boosting the immune system and I am willing to experiment with that along with pulsing with antibiotics only when I feel it is absolutely necessary. At this point in time, I have no plans to do long term antibiotic treatment or intravenous antibiotic treatment and I also keep my supplements to a bare minimum. I have found that many of my health issues can be managed well with diet, exercise, and simple supplements.

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Fast forward to today…9 years after my first flare. Over the past 5 months my health has improved greatly. I have my wonky feeling days when my body raises red flags and says, “Slow down and rest!”  I’ve taught myself to understand my body and to listen to it carefully.

Over the past year I’ve placed a large concentration of my efforts into my immune system, lowering inflammation, and eliminating as much controllable stress as humanly possible. The rest, I leave up to God. I am a fighter, I work hard to keep a very positive attitude, and my goal is always to focus on the good while fighting the bad.  I’m taking each chapter as it comes. I no longer worry about the “what ifs” because no one can control that and it stops me from enjoying the now and living my life to the fullest. People often tell me they admire my attitude and my strength. It pleases me immensely that they can see that and that I can provide support and hope to others who struggle.

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I chose to share this story with you during this month of Lyme Disease Awareness because had my friend not shared her story with me, it’s very possible that I would be in a very bad  and deadly place with my health right now. People can end up paralyzed, unable to speak, in cardiac arrest, in wheelchairs, bedridden for years, and eventually die from complications of Lyme Disease and we rarely ever hear about it. Lyme Disease mimics 300 different diseases and it is usually the absolute last thing, if at all, that is considered when testing for illness.

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You can visit this page where I list many links I studied while researching about Lyme Disease, Chronic Lyme Disease, and treatment.

South Of The Border Chicken Burgers with Cilantro Lime Sauce & Crispy Sweet Potato Fries

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I sat down the other day and  got myself organized.

I don’t know how you feel about organization. For me, it’s imperative. When things get too out of hand, I don’t like it. I’m not one of those who thrives on chaos.

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An organized environment helps foster an organized and calm internal environment. For me anyway. I try to organize things here and there a couple times a week. I find it easier to keep up on as I go, instead of ending up dealing with a great big mess.

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This week I focused on putting some menus together and gathering up some blogging ideas.

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I had recipe ideas and menu ideas in piles, numerous note pages on my phone, ideas  scratched on pieces of scrap paper, notes on napkins, recipes torn out of magazines that I wanted to tweak gluten free and dairy free… Organized piles, but piles none the less.

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Then, when I would want to come up with something different to cook for dinner, it was too overwhelming to deal with all that and I began slipping right back into the same-o same-o meals. Even food bloggers get in a rut.

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 I put together 12 or so weeks of dinner menus to choose from, summer cocktails I’d like to try, dessert ideas, side dish ideas, and sweet and savory blog ideas all in a nice binder that I am now keeping in the pantry.

Handy, easy, and organized.

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Just that small act of organization which probably took roughly 2 hours because I had several piles, made me feel tremendously better and added a big dose of peace to my evening mealtime prep.

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There are days when I’ve used up all my energy throughout the day and when dinner hits, I’m not in the mood to come up with something innovative and fabulous. Having things figured out somewhat ahead of time, helps.

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Now at the end of each week I’ll grab the binder, choose a few menus and jot down my shopping list. When the new week hits I have all the groceries available for those menus, I can choose which one I want to cook depending on my energy level each night, and there’s barely any hassle at all that goes into it. It gives us the opportunity to try new things and makes dinner exciting again.

When I get close to running out of menus, I’ll sit down and replenish with new menu ideas. I’m often writing them down and tearing ideas out of magazines, so replenishing will never be an issue. Also, I can set aside the menus we really liked and make a “favorites” tab in the binder for future use.

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Ahhh…organization.

Feels great!

We used my grain free, dairy free, dinner rolls for buns –  you can find the recipe HERE. Other good options would be a lettuce wrap as a bun, or an Udi’s gluten free hamburger bun. They hold together pretty well. You could also sandwich the chicken burger with two grilled portobellos or stack it with avocado slices. Lots of options!

South Of The Border Chicken Burgers with Cilantro Lime Sauce

Makes 8 burgers

*Preheat oven to 425 degrees

About 1.7 lbs of Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs

1  teaspoons of Cumin Powder

1 teaspoon of Dried Oregano

1 teaspoon of Sea Salt

2 oz (about 1/2 can) of Mild Green Chilies

3 Sun Dried Tomatoes (the ones packed in oil)

2 Tablespoons of Fresh Cilantro Leaves

1 Large Clove of Garlic

1 Egg

1 1/2 teaspoons of Avocado Oil

In a food processor (you can also use ground chicken and just chop and mix ingredients in), add all the ingredients and pulse several times. Then turn on low until all ingredients are incorporated (see picture above). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon 8 mounds of chicken onto the parchment and lightly form into a patty. Set aside.

Crispy Sweet Potato Fries 

I have found that one large sweet potato works well for 2 of us. Adjust accordingly.

1 Large Sweet Potato, cut into 1/8 to 1/4 inch sticks

1 1/2 Tablespoons of Sweet Potato Flour

Sea Salt

Garlic Powder

About 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Avocado Oil

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato sticks with sea salt and garlic powder, be generous. Then toss with the sweet potato flour until all the sticks are lightly coated. Drizzle with the avocado oil and season and toss again until coated. Line them on the parchment covered baking sheet leaving a bit of room between them to allow for crisping.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, then remove from oven and flip. Place them back into the oven along with the chicken burgers. Bake the chicken burgers for 15-17 minutes. Keep an eye on the sweet potato fries, if you feel they are becoming too dark, remove them and continue cooking the burgers.

*I cut up red onion, tomato, and lettuce as toppings. Also, the last couple minutes of baking, I topped a couple of the burgers with Daiya Jalapeno “Cheese”.

While the burgers and fries are cooking, make the sauces:

Cilantro Lime Sauce 

3/4 Cup Mayo

1 Tablespoon of Fresh Cilantro

1 Small Clove of Garlic

1 teaspoon of Oregano

Juice of 1 Lime

2 teaspoons of Coconut Sugar

Pinch of Chili Powder

Pinch of Sea Salt

I used a Nutribullet to mix mine together but a blender would work fine too. Just add all the ingredients and mix.

Spicy Sweet Potato Red Sauce

This is the easiest sauce to make! We love it on sweet potato fries and beef burgers too. I haven’t ever measured, I just eyeball it and fit it to our spice preference which is very spicy.

Mayo

Ketchup

Sriracha Sauce

If I had to guess I’d say 1/2 C of mayo, 1/4 C of ketchup, and a couple Tablespoons of the Sriracha sauce. SO tasty!

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An Unforgettable Experience & Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

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A few weeks ago I went on the most amazing learning adventure! I belong to a kind of support group, a “tribe” of people who want to make healthy changes in their lives and help others do the same. The group was created by a licensed marriage and family therapist, but he is not your typical therapist and likes to approach things in new and innovative ways. About twenty of us did a 30 day video challenge. Others in the group who didn’t do the video challenge were also able to participate by watching, sharing their own experiences in relation to ours, and giving feedback. Therapists and life coaches were also involved and some of them participated in the video portion as well.

We were asked to do a 3-5 minute daily video and simply come to the table being completely authentic and genuine with whatever was going on that day or in our lives at that time. Happy, sad, mad, crying, excited, bored, sleepy, whatever was going on, the goal was to be completely authentic about it. Not as easy as it sounds. But…

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It. Was. Amazing. Very scary at first. Unsettling. Emotional. Cathartic. Life altering. Empathy, sympathy, and compassion inducing. Ground breaking. Healing. Unbelievably rewarding. Eye opening. People were raw and funny and loving and depressed and happy and in incredible pain and lonely and hurting and best of all, real.

It has changed my own life and the way I view life, forever. We all started off a little nervous and guarded. All of us at one point or another had to struggle with, “Why am I putting myself through this?!” It didn’t take long though before we could all see that it was turning into something inspiring and amazing that I don’t think any of us expected. My goal was to get something positive out of it and to learn about myself and others. It was a bird’s eye view of people’s lives and how we all deal with our choices and life circumstances. In order to open myself up to learning and understanding, I had to step out of my comfort zone and allow myself to be raw and vulnerable. Something most people avoid like a swarm of killer bees.

As the challenge warmed up, many of us began to notice patterns in our own lives. Things we thought we might like to focus on. Watching other’s videos and the feedback and support we all gave to each other was monumental to the change we all experienced. It was healthy, thought provoking, challenging in positive ways, it involved tools, love, support, and the utmost of kindness and genuineness. We all had the same goal, to learn to understand what it really means to be truly authentic and genuine with who we are and to place less worry and focus on what other people think.

When we worry too much about what others think of us or fear their reactions when we are genuine, we stifle who we really are, what we really want, and it changes the outcome of situations that we’re in, relationships we have, and most of all, it doesn’t allow us to live life fully. Because everyone in the group shared the common goal of authenticity, there was zero drama or nasty judgement of any kind. In fact, there never is in this group, it’s really quite something. We agreed not to share anyone else’s stories outside of our group. This created what the founder of the group calls, a “safe container”.  It allowed for vulnerability and honesty. It was incredible and I have made life long friendships.

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Here’s just a few of the learning opportunities I came away with:

1. Many of us look to others and how they treat us as a barometer of our own self worth.

2. We worry about our value based on what we can or cannot do to help others.

3. We put others before our own self-care, which depletes us of energy and in the long run causes us to feel resentment.

4. If we aren’t used to self-care, the concept of it can be very uncomfortable, but it is imperative to our own health and the health of our relationships.

5. By not caring for ourselves and setting healthy boundaries, we become a doormat to others and invite narcissistic, overly needy, unhealthy, and manipulative people into our lives.

6. Feelings of guilt and not putting our emotional well-being first, stops us from feeling true joy and fulfillment when we do things for others.

7. Our self-worth is NOT defined by others. I read a quote by someone somewhere once that said, “Worthiness has no prerequisites.”

8. You can say “no” without guilt. It takes a lot of practice.

9. We can take time for ourselves and do things for ourselves on a regular basis without feeling guilty or selfish because in the long run, we are then healthier and ready to help others.

10. We need to realize without proper self-care and a “healthy container”, we are unable to give of ourselves fully, and unable to receive fully.

11. We have the power to form new and healthier habits, and break negative patterns. It can be done in a healthy way with the right tools.

12. We should strive to be aware of our wants and needs, to understand them and stick to firm boundaries for ourselves, and to care for ourselves so we can fully love others.

13. We are of value, just as we are. We all have gifts, talents, and qualities that add to our life and experience with others, but those gifts or the lack thereof, are not the barometer by which people should be loving us or the barometer by which we should be loving ourselves.What the world teaches is the complete opposite of that statement. Ignore it.

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For a lot of us, doing things for others is relatively easy. The difficult part for those of us who are big “feelers” and “givers” is that twist of guilt every time loving ourselves comes into play. Isn’t it selfish? Shouldn’t I always put others first? Isn’t this where the treasure is? In self sacrifice for the greater good? There’s nothing wrong with loving people and taking care of others, but we need to make sure that the cost isn’t so high, that it ends up being an unhealthy type of love and care.

The ins and outs of life tend to get in the way of how we love ourselves and how we love others. Relationships can be confusing and painful. They can start off great and then all the sudden something raises your red flags. How you deal with those red flags, makes all the difference. Our tendency is often to ignore and overlook our feelings on a regular basis. We don’t like to face uncomfortable truths about ourselves or others. Issues grow like weeds and over time if they aren’t dealt with properly, they choke out anything good. Your gut instinct is important. The action you take can make a life changing difference in your happiness.

Issues over the years that aren’t worked out properly, family dynamics and dysfunction, trauma, making unhealthy choices for ourselves, and pairing ourselves in friendships, family relationships, and romantic relationships with people who don’t know how to love or can’t love in a healthy way, cause our own life containers to be cracked. So does not taking the time to care for ourselves and not setting healthy boundaries.

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Life with a cracked container doesn’t work because no matter how much or how often we try to fill our container with peace and joy and people and stuff…it all just leaks right out eventually. So what then? Find perfect people to surround ourselves with? Protect ourselves by not having relationships at all? Always strive to do the “right thing”? Strive to be perfect? Strive to pretend that we are infallible? Pretend we aren’t in pain when we are?

Do we think that is the key to loving others and ourselves? Pretending? Living an inauthentic life? Not being genuine in our feelings, words, and actions? Or maybe the key is being a doormat? If I’m a doormat, surely people will see how loving I am and how much I sacrifice…surely they will love me for that sacrifice. Right?

Wrong.

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We all have cracks in our containers. It’s a fact. The key is to take some time to get to know ourselves enough to want to fix those cracks so that we can love others properly, receive love properly, and embrace life fully. What if we could stop wondering why we are surrounded with dysfunctional people and circumstances, and start figuring out what functional looks like and how we can get more of it? Choosing functional over dysfunctional means we work to be fully aware of our choices and patterns and how significantly they alter and change our overall happiness. We must be willing to ask ourselves all the really tough questions and then do the hard work to map out a plan to break the unhealthy patterns in our lives.

Why have I been complacent? Maybe I’m just now more aware? Sometimes things in life stir this awareness. Is it fear? Is it anger? Am I being lazy in my relationships and sticking my head in the sand? What makes me truly happy? Why am I willing to live with the status quo? What are my healthy life tools? Am I being genuine with myself? Am I being genuine with others? Who is in my “tribe” and are they adding or only taking away? Am I afraid people won’t like or love me if I’m genuine? Am I afraid of disappointing people? What does loving myself look like? What does loving others look like to me and is it a healthy picture?

Is my life balanced properly? Am I relying on others to fix and fill my container? What ARE the cracks in my container and what can I do to repair those cracks and fill my container with  fantastic life experiences, love, and peace, and joy? Why do I think I can give in a healthy way to the people I love if my own container is leaking? Do I have unhealthy relationships/experiences that I am still relying on to fill my container?

Do I have a solid vision of what my healthy, filled, container looks like?

Pretending that we are happy with certain situations, relationships, friendships, and circumstances, when we really aren’t, only creates more cracks. Healing comes with authenticity. With looking at ourselves and our environment clearly. Pretending may feel comfortable initially because inviting change can be unsettling and difficult.

Unfortunately over time, pretending steals our joy.

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Some people cling to their cracked container. Maybe it’s because it’s what they’re used to and they’ve become comfortable, maybe it brings them the attention they crave, maybe it gives them a good excuse not to work on their own life stuff. Sometimes it seems the more damaged their container, the better they like it. The same negative life choices are made over and over again. They cling to it like it’s a trophy. An unhealthy, personal memento of past pains and grievances. I deserve these cracks! People have hurt me! Experiences have hurt me! I OWN these cracks! They make me who I am!

We are not our cracks. Our cracks hold us back. They steal our peace and our happiness. Our cracks are not who we are but are an indication of what needs to change so we can live happily, peacefully, and healthfully. Authentically us. The way we were created to be as unique individuals. Practicing self awareness is achieved by looking at the negative and positive patterns in our own lives. We aren’t stuck with a cracked container. It CAN be fixed and filled with the most amazing tools, experiences, and healthy forms of love.

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A good place to start? Stop trying to fix other people’s cracked containers. We need this tattooed in our subconscious. We can only do the work to fix our own container. Stop focusing on what everyone else is doing wrong. Oh believe me, there’s plenty of people doing wrong…but it won’t do you any good to focus on them. They have their own unhealthy patterns that only they can work out. If  you have someone willing to work with you, then great. If not, don’t let that stop you from working on your cracks!

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Once our cracked containers are able to hold great things without leaking, amazing change begins to happen. Our perspective changes. Do you really know what that feels like? To really and truly have your perspective change? To have the realization that nothing has changed except YOU and in that process your entire outlook on everything changed in a positive way even though…everything and everyone else stayed the same?

It will rock your world.

Just by changing yourself, working on you and I don’t mean “self help” crap, I mean truly getting down to the nitty gritty of patterns (relationships, choices, issues) and directing them in a different way …just by changing the pattern,  you and your environment will change. You may think, “Well, that’s easier said than done!” And you would be right.

Changing our environment whether it be ourselves, the relationships we’re in, our health, our jobs, our social circle…is not an easy task. But it can be done and it is worth the hard work.

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A healthy, fulfilling, life takes awareness and elbow grease and here’s a newsflash:

Nothing. About. Life. Is. Simple. The actual act of changing  your perspective and letting go of the past, your mistakes, other people’s mistakes, and patterns that hold you back… takes work and insight, and a lot of uncomfortable self evaluation.

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When true perspective change hits you, it’s all at once an unsettling, wonderful, peaceful, mind boggling, awareness, that will change how you look at yourself and others forever in the very best of ways.

A changed perspective brings new experiences instead of the old scratched record playing over and over again. A repaired container allows us to fill up with healthy, soul fulfilling, experiences and relationships and enables us to receive and give love and support to ourselves and others, properly.

What does your container look like? How will you begin mending the cracks?

We repeat what we don’t repair.

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The vision behind the “tribe” mentality is that we were not meant to do life alone without other humans. That we can repair and heal with the help of others in a non-traditional “therapeutic” environment. A tribe is a group of people who you can relate to. No one has the exact same story, but a tribe is there to support and everyone learns from each other’s experiences and tools. People are heard without judgement and when there is no judgement, and people are given support, tools, and healthy, logical, feedback, people feel free to share and it deepens connection and builds strength. This is possible because there is the understanding and acceptance that everyone struggles with life’s ups and downs. With a firm focus on being authentic and transparent, it opens up a new and refreshing level of support.

John Kim, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and life coach. He will have a book available in the beginning of 2017. It’s called “Transparency”. I’ve read the short version. It will open your eyes to the relationships around you and the choices you make. Keep your eye out, it will be well worth the read. 

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Homemade Dairy Free Strawberry Ice Cream

*This recipe is best when the cream mixture is made a day ahead and allowed to chill over the night in the refrigerator before churning.

1 Pound of Ripe Organic Strawberries, sliced

1/4 Cup of Organic Coconut Sugar

3 1/2 Cups (27oz) of Full Fat Coconut Milk

8 Organic Egg Yolks 

2/3 Cup Organic Coconut Sugar

Scrapings From 2 Vanilla Beans

Place the sliced strawberries and the 1/4 cup sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat until sugar is melted and simmer for 20-3o minutes until strawberries are soft and sauce has thickened a bit. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large saucepan, add the coconut milk, egg yolks, 2/3 cup of sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Turn the burner on medium-medium low and stir constantly until it begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon. Do not overcook or cook on too high of heat or the eggs will scramble and the ice cream batter will be clumpy and taste “off”. 

Add the strawberry mixture to the cream mixture and pour into a container and refrigerate over night.

Pour into ice cream maker of choice. I use the ice cream attachment for the KitchenAid mixer. Churn according to directions and freeze to set.

 

Cinnamon Spice Crepes with Coconut Sugared Peaches

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About 10 years ago I figured out I could no longer tolerate cow’s milk dairy. I was feeling so awful. My stomach felt like someone was holding it in their hand, I was getting migraines all the time, my sinuses were constantly stuffy…I just didn’t feel right.

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Once I stopped the dairy I had major improvement. Then over a few month’s time, I could tell that gluten was also an issue. It caused what I call “cement neck”, joint issues, and often after I ate it, I was so tired and lethargic, I felt like I’d been drugged. I started to have hormonal issues and adrenal issues. I tested positive for Candida overgrowth in my gut. I kept a food diary for a year and a half, and sure enough, every single time I had gluten foods, they made me sick.

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I began to strictly change my diet, focus on my gut and my adrenals, address the hormone issues, and wouldn’t you know it…when you begin to help all of your body’s major “parts” to work together, your health improves.

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A few years later when I got very ill while we were living in New Hampshire, I tested positive and was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease. I’d been having Lyme flares off and on for at least 7 years but didn’t know what they were and neither did anyone else at the time. I’m a research warrior when something is going on with my body or in my life. I like to educate myself on the why’s and how’s and how other people are dealing with things. So, I researched for months and months about Lyme, food sensitivities, gut issues, systemic inflammation, auto immune disease, and every combination of symptom and chronic illness you could think of. I joined private groups so I could also learn more from other people with similar issues.

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One of the many helpful things I learned was that there are other grains that have similar DNA to wheat, so your body treats them as wheat, even though they are technically “gluten free”. Lyme Disease causes a lot of inflammation and joint issues, so the pain and other symptoms I was having made a lot of sense…but still, I just felt that there was more I could be doing to help my body deal with it naturally. I did not want a future full of pharmaceuticals.

I learned a lot about inflammatory foods and how systemic inflammation is linked to the foods we eat, the health of our gut, life stress, and stress on the body from illness. I learned about how food allergies and sensitivities, along with gut issues, lower your immune system. When you are consistently putting things into your body that tax your immune system, every part of your body suffers inside and out. Add a bacterial infection like Lyme Disease or any chronic illness or auto immune disease to a gut and body damaged by food sensitivities and stress, and it makes for a perfect storm of horrible illness.

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I pretty strictly eliminated all grains from my diet for about a year, along with many inflammatory foods like potatoes and legumes. I’ve had major improvement in all of the Lyme symptoms. Fatigue, pain, joint swelling, flu symptoms, sleep issues, vertigo, ringing in my ears, hormonal issues, nervous system complications like anxiety, numbness and tingling in my extremities and face, and shingles outbreaks. Diet has been paramount in allowing me to live an active life while battling a chronic illness. In fact, I have shared with people many times that I feel that without the changes in my diet and the battle against inflammation, I would surely be bed bound, if not dead.

Now I am able to eat rice, quinoa, and buckwheat on occasion, but I try not to push it. I can also eat potatoes and legumes now and then. However, if I get into a mode where I am indulging often and ignoring what my body is telling me, problems arise and it can take weeks to remedy. About a year ago I also added high quality curcumin supplement to my diet along with my other supplements. Absolute miracle worker, I would highly recommend curcumin supplements for everyone, but that’s a post for another time.

Long story short, in order to keep on top of your health, you must pay attention to your diet and gut health. Your gut is the epicenter of your immune system and the immune system and nervous system absolutely cannot work the way it was created to work, if you’re losing a battle with systemic inflammation.

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I have made it my mission to help people to understand that they are their best health advocates. I love to help you and show you that living with food allergies, sensitivities, and even chronic illness, doesn’t have to be the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. You can embrace all the good parts, and if you’re conscious about how you treat yourself, there are many good parts to be embraced.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to educate yourself. Being knowledgeable and being in tune with your own body and how it works and what it doesn’t like, will give you great freedom and improve your health dramatically. Educating yourself provides you with tools to take care of your body without sacrificing many of the things you love to eat and do.

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Now, go make yourself some crepes and seize the day!

Cinnamon Spice Crepes with Coconut Sugared Peaches

The recipe below looks wordy and complicated, but this is not a complicated recipe I promise, it is absolutely simple! I make them often with all kinds of different toppings and they come together very quickly. They’re also an easy, but impressive, breakfast or even dessert for when you have guests.

*Makes about 7 crepes and serves two people. Can easily be doubled.

For the peaches:

1 1/2 Cups of Frozen or Fresh Peeled Peaches

1 Tablespoon of Coconut Sugar (Maybe more if your peaches aren’t sweet enough)

About 1 Tablespoon of Water and 1 teaspoon of Arrowroot

Place the peaches in a small saucepan and if they are frozen, heat them on medium low until thawed and juicy. Add the coconut sugar and heat on medium until the sugar is completely melted and incorporated with the peach juice. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of the arrowroot mixture at a time, waiting a minute or so in between to get to the desired sauce thickness.You will need very little, don’t allow it to get too thick! Remove from heat, transfer to a small bowl and chill in the fridge or quickly in the freezer. (Your whipped cream will melt on top if the fruit isn’t chilled or at least cool.)

For the crepes:

1/2 Cup of Sweet Potato Flour

1 Tablespoon of Coconut Flour

Dash of Sea Salt

1 teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon

1 Small Pinch of Nutmeg

1 Small Pinch of Cloves

3 Eggs

1 teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract

3/4 Cup of Full Fat 100% Coconut Milk

2 Tablespoons of Water

Dairy Free Butter For Pan

Extra Cinnamon For Sprinkling

Measure all the ingredients into a medium bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine. Heat a small to medium ceramic skillet or non-stick pan to medium. Place 1/2 teaspoon of butter and spread around until melted. (You will only need to do this once.) When the butter starts to bubble, scoop just shy of 1/4 cup of batter into pan, lift the pan and swirl to the edges. Cook for about 1 minute until the crepe moves freely and flip. Cook for 5 seconds longer and transfer to a plate with parchment. I use a paper plate on top to cover them and keep them warm. They won’t stick together.

For the whipped coconut cream:

1 Cup of chilled 100% Fat Coconut Milk (There are two ways you can do this. With canned coconut milk that has been chilled over night, where you just use the solids, which then you would need probably 2 cans. Or, you can use one box of Arroy-D 100% Coconut Milk that has also been chilled over night. I used the Arroy-D this time.)

About 2 Tablespoons of Powdered Sugar or Very Finely Powdered Coconut Sugar

About 1 1/2 teaspoons of Pure Vanilla Extract

Pour the coconut milk into a stand mixer and whisk for a few minutes until milk is thickened. Add the powdered sugar and whisk for another couple of minutes scraping down the sides, then the vanilla extract. Continue whipping for another minute or so until thickened.

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Grain Free Pizza

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2016-04-21 18.42.10

We are pizza fanatics.

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I’m just going to be up front with you and say that my pizza…is my favorite. 

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We try gluten free pizza often when we go out. In Seattle, in Idaho, in our hometown…but honestly, nothing compares so far to what we make at  home. 

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For some reason, restaurants can’t think out of the Udi’s pizza crust box. Every single time we spend $20 or more each on a gluten free pizza meal at a restaurant, I cannot wrap my mind around how a chef or restaurant owner would be OK grabbing an Udi’s pizza crust out of the freezer and serving it to their customers. Blows. My. Mind.

It’s dull. It’s flavorless. It is as exciting as cardboard on your plate. And don’t even get me started on the tasteless pepperoni, and overcooked sausage. Or the fact that none of these restaurants (even high end) understand that there is a readily available (even locally made!) vast assortment of goat and sheep’s milk cheeses other than the same old stand by, feta.

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Every time we eat pizza out, my husband and I spend a large part of our mealtime talking about how we would run a restaurant. From the quality and type of food we would serve, how we would treat our staff, and most importantly, how we would treat our customers. We are serious about customer service and all it entails.

One can dream.

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Last weekend we had high hopes for a little local restaurant we found. Outdoor seating (my favorite), smells of fabulous wood fired pizza…turns out, the server and the person making the pizza, weren’t educated about the ingredients in their gluten free crust, or in the pepperoni or their sausage…or even their sauce! We opted out of the meal. I choked down a really bad glass of Riesling and we moved on.

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This time however, instead of just opting out, I explained to the server why we decided to eat elsewhere. I told her that it’s my opinion that the servers and the people preparing the food should be well versed with what’s actually in their food. As a person with food allergies, I take a chance every time I eat out. I know that’s my responsibility, but a restaurant with knowledgeable servers and staff, makes me a repeat customer. She ended up being very kind about it, apologetic, and said she would speak to the owner about the entire restaurant becoming better educated. I was happy with her response. We tipped her and left and who knows, maybe in a few months we’ll give them another chance.  

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Pizza doesn’t have to be complicated for it to taste amazing. I’m all about easy food! Easy or not though, it has to taste fabulous, be a treat for the eyes, and have high quality ingredients. You can use crust mixes or come up with your own crust recipe, but either way, make it unique with all of things you love. 

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I like to use Chebe Foccacia Bread mix as my base. I add a little of this and a little of that, and before you know it, it makes the perfect pizza crust. It’s soft like “regular” pizza crust with crispy crust edges, has great flavor, and gets rave reviews every single time I make it. 

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Chebe mixes are gluten free, soy free, corn free, rice free, potato free, yeast free, peanut free, tree nut free, egg free, lactose/casein free, iodine free, sugar free, non GMO, and kosher certified.

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Grain Free Pizza

*Makes two 13″ pizzas

2 Boxes of Chebe Focaccia Mix

6 Tablespoons of Non Filtered Organic Olive Oil

4 Large Organic Eggs

1 Cup of Filtered Water

1 teaspoon of Sea Salt

1 Tablespoon of Organic Dried Oregano

1 Tablespoon of Organic Dried Basil

1 Tablespoon of Organic Garlic Powder

1 Can of Organic Tomato Paste

1/4 Cup of Vegan Pesto 

1/2 Cup of Daiya Cheddar Style Cheese, grated

3 Other Types of Cow Free Cheeses About 1 1/2 to 2 Cups of Each (We used two types of goat mozzarella – low moisture and Brazilian Breakfast and a Dutch Style goat cheese that is similar to sharp white cheddar), grated

About 3 Handfuls of Organic Baby Spinach

1 Organic Yellow Bell Pepper, sliced thinly

About 1/3 of a Medium Organic Red Onion, sliced thinly

About 8-10 Large Organic Cremini Mushrooms, sliced

1/2 lb. of Gluten Free, Dairy Free Pepperoni (We have Applegate sliced at the deli)

4 Gluten Free, Dairy Free Hot Italian Sausages (also purchased at our deli)

Avocado Oil

1 Tablespoon of Organic Dried Oregano

Arrowroot or other GF flour for dusting hands, dough, and rolling pin.

*Preheat oven to 375 degrees

  1. Line two pizza pans with parchment. I lay it on top and cut it in a circle. Nothing fancy.  Set aside.
  2. Empty the hot Italian sausage from their casings and lightly brown in a medium pan with a little avocado oil. Drain on paper towels if necessary.
  3. Empty both Chebe mixes into a medium bowl. Measure in the oil, add the eggs, water, herbs, sea salt, and garlic powder. Stir with a fork until all the ingredients come together. 
  4. With floured hands, knead the dough until ingredients are fully incorporated and the dough is mostly smooth. Cut the dough in half and set each half on the parchment paper. (Remove the paper from the pans to make rolling easier.) Pat out each mound into a small circle, flour rolling pin and top of dough and roll to the edges of the paper. You can leave the edges as is, roll them up a bit for a thicker end crust, or crimp them. Whatever you like.
  5. Slide the parchment and pizza crusts back onto the pizza pans and bake for 17 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  6. Spread the tomato paste – half a can each, (I use the back of a spoon) around each crust all the way to the edges. Do the same with the vegan pesto.
  7.  Sprinkle each crust with the Daiya cheese. Then sprinkle the oregano on both crusts.
  8.  Next, top both crusts with the peppers, onions, and mushrooms.
  9. Choose one of your 3 remaining cheeses and sprinkle over the mushrooms.
  10. Add the sausage to both crusts. Then the remaining two cheeses. Then the pepperoni.
  11. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

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Baked Potato, Spinach, & Egg Scramble

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2016-04-19 09.55.01

I am an early riser. Usually around 4:30 but no later than 5:30.

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This morning I wasn’t hungry when it was time for breakfast so instead, I waited until about 10:30 to have breakfast when I would normally be craving a mid morning snack.

So I was starving.

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Something weird is still going on with my stomach. I think I told you about all of the oysters and other seafood I ate while we were in Seattle a few weeks ago. I really miss all the fresh seafood we had living on the east coast. So…while in Seattle, I went a little overboard.

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I came home very sick and it lasted about a week. Now, a few times a day I’m still getting some strange stomach twinges. It’s messing with my love of food. I’ll have to increase the curcumin I’m taking I guess and the kefir to kill off any unwanted creatures hiding out in my gut. My husband is experiencing something similar.

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Needless to say, it hasn’t completely hampered my overall appetite for all foodie lover type things. Like big breakfasts. And this one has potato in it which is a special treat for me. I try not to eat them too often as they are high on the inflammatory scale.

The next time you make baked potatoes, bake a couple extra and put them in the fridge. They keep for several days. I used one in this scramble and it was delicious. I also like to use them for potato pancakes. When I bake my potatoes I lay it on a square of foil and drizzle avocado oil, sprinkle with garlic powder, sea salt, and any other seasonings I like. I do this because I love the skins. Baking them this way makes for a very tasty baked potato with dinner or a very tasty baked potato breakfast!

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Baked Potato, Spinach, & Egg Scramble

*The majority of our diet is organic so while I don’t always list the food in my recipes as organic, it almost always is. It’s a good idea and a healthy way to live to strive to eat organic as much as possible. Potatoes are very high on the pesticide list, and don’t even get em started on the health issues concerning conventional eggs.

*This would probably feed two people a light breakfast.

1 Leftover Seasoned Baked Potato, cubed

About 2 Tablespoons of Diced Red Onion

1 Clove of Garlic, diced

About Two Handfuls of Baby Spinach

2 Eggs

Avocado Oil

Drizzle a little avocado oil in a medium skillet. Saute the potatoes until they begin to brown and add the onion and garlic and continue cooking. Add the spinach and toss until the spinach is wilted. Scoot the potato and spinach mixture to one side of the pan. Drizzle a little more avocado oil and add eggs. Scramble the eggs and toss with the potato and spinach.

Apple & Cinnamon French Toast Casserole

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How was your weekend?

Ours was fabulous! Spring has sprung in the best of ways. Warmer than normal temperatures and lots and lots of sun.

You know I love the sun.

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I’m sitting here in my office in front of a big window as I get this blog post situated. The sun is just coming up. Outside up to the left, there’s a mama Robin building a nest between an eve and the crook of a downspout. It’s amazing how hard and how quickly they work.

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She was here last spring and summer too. Unfortunately, another mama kept destroying her nest. Good mama kept rebuilding it and fighting her off.

Perseverance or instinct?

per·se·ver·anceˌpərsəˈvirəns/ noun
 Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

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Mean mama even tossed out all of her eggs. So there were no baby Robins to be heard last year. It tugs on my heart strings.

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This year she’s back with new energy and hopefully a new plan to fend off bad mama.

And believe it or not, I recognize her.

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I choose to believe that she’s back and building another home because of perseverance, not so much the result of instinct.

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She and I have that in common. We like to stay positive and keep trying, despite difficult conditions or “bad mamas” (anything or anyone)  who try to interfere with life. I  love seeing that perseverance in animals and people.

There’s a huge payoff in persevering.

Hopefully for her, the payoff will be peace in her new nest and new babies we can watch grow in a few weeks. Maybe she’ll continue to make our home her home and we’ll be able to keep track of how many babies she’ll have over the years.

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For me, the payoff for striving to stay positive and persevere despite “difficult conditions”, is always that I become stronger. Perseverance also makes us wiser, more joyful, able to count all kinds of blessings regardless of any situation, and then we can share that attitude in the form of positive support and love for others.

Apple & Cinnamon French Toast Casserole
1 Apple (I used Gala), Cubed (1 1/2 Cups)
8 teaspoons of Dairy Free Butter
6 Eggs
2 3/4 Cups of Full Fat Coconut Milk
1/2 Cup of Coconut Sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract
2 teaspoons of Pure Almond Extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray an 8×11 baking dish with coconut oil. Add the bread cubes, apple, and dot with the 8 teaspoons of dairy free butter. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, coconut sugar, sea salt, cinnamon, vanilla, and almond extract.
Pour egg mixture over the bread mixture. Using a wooden spoon, press down lightly on the bread and apples to make sure all of the cubes have been coated. Let sit for 15 minutes, pressing down with the spoon now and then.
Bake for 60 minutes or until the top is browned. It should still have a bit of jiggle but not be runny in the middle. Keep in mind it will also set up a bit more upon standing so don’t overcook!
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