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It Starts With a Hole

Holding out several packets of squash and tomato seeds to the nursery cashier, I asked.

“Is it too late to plant these?”

She then turned to the bagger and snickered.  “Ummmm, you can always try.  See what happens.”  She said in a “good luck girly” tone.

Okay, so it was no mystery that she was talking to an amateur, but would it have been too much to ask for her to have a little faith?

Armed with a bag of seeds, I then consulted with my neighbor about starting my own garden (Organic and non-GMO, of course!) in which she simply laughed, “By the time you start, gardening season will be over.”

I figured she would be the perfect source considering the fact that she’d managed to grow a jungle at her other house in the mountains.  Pineapples and lemon trees in the mountains of North Carolina?  In the middle of winter?  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  And although she’s a little tight lipped about the secret fairy dust she sprinkles over her garden,I’m beginning to believe one of the main ingredients is Miracle Growth.

I thought that perhaps with a little luck and lots of praying I could develop a green thumb or at least a fraction of it.  Were my ambitions so low that at that point in time my only wish was to have something green sprout out of the ground?  At least an inch or two or something plant-like.

So what if it was June-ish when I finally built a house for my soon-to-be garden and July-ish when I planted my first zucchini seed?  I needed that month to build the best veggie house I could on a budget and to muster up enough courage to actually build the damn thing.  If you haven’t guessed it by now, I was little worried about my adventure into gardening.  (Just a little.)  But I pushed through my concerns despite the snickers and giggles and here’s how it all went down.

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(By the way, I have to admit that if I were a vegetable, I’d want to live here too.)

Why am I imprisoning my beautiful garden you might ask?  

deer

There’s your answer.  Deer are a gardener’s worst enemy along with their buddies, the squirrels.  In Eastern and Central Carolina we don’t play around.  You either build a fence or forget about having food for yourself.  You’ll just be feeding the wildlife instead.

Okay, so I’m not a professional (Just yet), but I know a little somethin’ somethin’ about getting dirty.  I spent plenty of summers planting seeds along my grandfather in his garden when I was a little girl.  As a child, I may not have understood the true awesomeness of burying a seed into the ground or how that simple act had the potential to affect the rest of the world and someday possibly end world hunger, but I knew something great was about to happen.  And that greatness started with a hole.

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It took cutting through the arteries of the earth and going toe-to-toe with live snakes (Did I mention that I hate snakes?  Like run-in-the-house-with-the-rake-still-in-your-hand kind of hate?) to create this late summer miracle, but in the end it was worth the effort and next year I’ll be a little ahead of the game.

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BON APPÉTIT

Seeds Planted:

Zucchini, Patty Pan Squash (a.k.a. Spaceship Squash (the only way I could describe them as a child), crookneck squash, grape tomatoes, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, herbs: basil, chives, parsley, bay leaves, lemon balm, thyme).

Produce Harvested:

Grape tomatoes and all herbs

Healthy Journey!

(Deer: Photo courtesy) http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/whitetaileddeer.htm

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No Dairy, No Gluten, No Peanuts…NO Problem!

Piece of cake….

Well, it was a good journey, but not as sweet as a slice of cake.  (Strawberry cake, please!)  However, surprising to me, giving up dairy, gluten, and peanuts for three weeks wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be considering how much I like all three.

Dairy and I have always had a love-hate relationship, but I honestly couldn’t imagine living without it.  Going into this thing with that in mind, I knew that dairy was something I probably shouldn’t eat too much of or eat at all anyway.  A nibble of cheese or scoop of Ben & Jerry’s every once in a while, okay, but anything more than that within a 48-hour span is trouble (Bloating, severe gas mostly).

Gluten?  Who doesn’t love take a chunk of fresh-out-of-the-oven bread and slather it with butter?  Or cheese if you prefer?

And peanuts?  Peanut butter?  Peanut butter cheesecake?  Oh, my goodness, REESE’S?  Come on, life doesn’t get any better than that…Unless eating these things make you sick as a dog.

Some of you may remember my previous post in which I talked about embarking on an Elimination Diet journey in order to get rid of a chronic sinus infection from hell, but unfortunately, after only four days, my motivation tapered off.  Given that I’d gone to every type of doctor on the planet in search of an answer for the cause of my dizziness, body shakes, headaches, and more and after coming up empty handed every single time, I thought I’d take a closer look at my diet (Can you say run-on sentence!).  It seems like there’s more and more research out there linking what we eat to many ailments.

So why was my elimination diet a F-A-I-L?  The program was extremely strict and although I had a general plan of how to tackle my cravings, it wasn’t good enough.  I wasn’t eating enough food and staying hydrated.  I was also lacking the necessary vitamins and minerals needed daily to sustain myself.  Why not take a multivitamin you might ask.  In the many years that I have taken a multivitamin, I can honestly say that I haven’t noticed any difference in my overall health, but maybe that’s just me.  I’m multivitamin resistant?  In my mind, I thought that by eliminating most food groups following the plan, this would make eating a lot simpler and easy with limited choices, but I was living in la-la land.  Folks, I was hun-ga-raaay!  Even with eating these beautiful babies!!!!

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Could you handle not eating the following foods for 3-4 weeks?

NO Citrus

NO Nightshade Vegetables (Potatoes, Peppers, Eggplants, Tomatoes…)

NO Gluten

NO Nuts and Seeds

NO Legumes

NO Soy

NO Dairy

NO Beef, Chicken, Pork, Bacon (I repeat, NO BACON), Eggs,….(Only fish, lamb, turkey, and wild game allowed)

NO Sugar

NO Green or Black Tea

NO Caffeine

NO Chocolate

After the big FAIL, I took a week off and went back online researching the many causes of sinus infections and inflammation, reading testimonies.  I even came across sites that suggested an even more restricted plan than the one I described and needless to say, I couldn’t close those pages fast enough.  No way was I going to do THAT.  By the end of the week, I had basically concluded that the only way to deal with my potential food sensitivity was not to eat at all (Yeah, right!).  Okay, that was bit dramatic, but that’s how I felt.  Eat this, don’t eat that…blah, blahh. AHHHHH!!!!!!!

After calming down, what I decided to do was to try eliminating certain foods in phases, starting with the ones that I knew I wouldn’t have a big problem giving up: Dairy, Gluten, Peanuts.  Something to give me a boost of motivation when the time came for me to give up foods that I knew would be difficult to phase out like sugar and soy.  Sugar, because I’m addict and soy, because it’s everything, including the healthy stuff I try to eat to NOT get sick.

During my gluten-dairy-peanut phase, I wasn’t eating 100% clean and I still found ways to still have junk food while avoiding these groups of food, which I’m sure hindered my progress, but honestly, I was proud of myself for sticking to my ultimate goal.

I cooked more, ate out less, told people “no” when asked out to eat.  By week two, I was still going strong, but I didn’t notice much difference in my symptoms except that they were not as severe.  I still had headaches and fatigue, but not nearly as bad as before and more spaced out so I knew something beautiful was happening with this approach.  Mentally, I could think more clearly, but still felt a bit groggy.  I still had insane popping in my ears during both week 1 and 2 (imagine your ears sounding as if they’re making popcorn), however, I developed a bit of a head cold during week 3.  I thought this was my body’s way of trying to detox since it was mostly mucousy-yellow stuff (TMI) and I wasn’t running a fever and actually started having a little bit of energy.  But the most amazing thing happened.  After the mucous cleared up, so did the popping in my ears.  Six months of constant popping in my ear, poooof, it was gone.  The pressure in my ears somehow equalized and for me, that was enough proof that my horiable diet has finally caught up with me.

I’m making myself sick with food.

Sticking to the modified plan, I started reintroducing foods after week 3 and after most of my cold symptoms had disappeared.  The first food that I introduced was peanuts because I didn’t think it was a major problem or a problem at all really, but I knew it would be the easiest to give up.  I know for a fact that I’m not allergic to nuts or seeds or any food for that matter given I’d been recently tested for allergies.  However, I knew there was a posiblity that I could be sensitive to some foods and sure enough, I was right.  After eating a tablespoon of peanut butter in the morning and a gas station pack of peanuts later in the day, I developed migraine headaches that lasted a few days.  I haven’t had peanuts since then nor have I had any headaches.  Who would’ve thunk it?

A few days later, after my body had enough time to process the peanuts, I re-introduced gluten and waited a few days before finally adding dairy.  I did not have a noticeable reaction to dairy or gluten right away, but I know that these particular foods can take some time to cause problems unless you are allergic to them.  However, over the next week after adding gluten and dairy back, I’ve noticed that on some days my nasal cavity seems a bit inflamed.  I’m almost certain that it’s either dairy or gluten, but it’s slow acting.  Regardless of my discovery, I don’t want to go back to eating dairy or gluten as frequently as I use to.  Less is best.

I’m feeling noticeably better these days, but I’m not feeling 100%.  I’m working out more and drinking more water, taking my vitamins, but I’m still not done with my elimination journey.  I’m thinking of eliminating soy for a few weeks and sugar ( A BIG BIG BIGGY for me).

In the meantime, I’m eating more vegetables and fruit (Stay tuned in for my garden post!!!), more quinoa and brown rice.  And I’m learning that I’m fine without many things like pasta and bread.  It’s not the end of the world.

This is only the beginning.

MY PHOTO JOURNAL

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Healthy Journey!

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Anything Goes in a Bowl Power Lunch

Power Lunch Annie

 

Alright, I’m not going to bore you with an extensive list of ingredients and tedious steps on how to make a healthy lunch.  If you’re like me, you don’t have the patience to read through chapters and chapters of steps.  ‘Work smarter, not harder’ is what I believe in and Folks, this recipe is the result of that philosophy.   The following ingredients are just guidelines simply because they were leftovers.  You can alter this recipe as much as you want, just remember to keep it simple and healthy.

 

Power Lunch

 

If you don’t have leftover quinoa, black beans, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, and kale, NO PROBLEM.  Use whatever whole grains and fresh veggies you have in the fridge.  I often find myself wondering what in the heck to do with veggies that are close to going bad or I’m just not in the mood to eat alone.  The solution?  Throw everything together  in a bowl.

Power Lunch Bowl

 

 

Chop your veggies into small pieces or keep them chunky if you prefer.

Afterwards, put ingredients in microwavable bowl and heat for 2-3 minutes until mixture is warmed through.  Not a fan of warm salads?  Feel free to skip the heat.

Finally, add a serving or less of your favorite dressing. (Read food labels and pay attention to serving size.  Some dressings are well over 120 calories per serving.)

DIG IN!

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Substitute Ideas:

Whole Grains: Quinoa, Wheatberry, Barley, Brown Rice, Farro, 100% Whole Grain Pasta (Make sure packages are labeled 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat)

Veggies/Fruit: Carrots, Onions, Spinach, cucumbers, cubed sweet potatoes, apples, pears, blueberries, melons

Protein:  Chicken, Beef, Salmon, Chickpeas, lentils, tofu

Dressing: Whatever rocks your world (Just make sure it’s low in calorie or use less if it’s not.  Better yet, shake things up a bit and make your own healthy concoction.)

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