Summer Reading Resources!

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Summer is a great time to escape: to the beach, to the mountains, or to the world of a great book. This year, I found myself drawn even more than usual to books that took me outside (and I don’t mean the great outdoors). The books on this year’s summer reading list pushed me out of my own experiences, and I learned some things that shed new light on how our experiences shape us and where humanity might be headed.
-Bill Gates on his 2017 summer reading list

 

I remember in the 4th grade finding the shelf in the library with the Nancy Drew books. This shelf took up all of my time and a good chunk of my mother’s gas as she drove me back and forth to the library after I’d devoured yet another handful of stories and required more.

That summer was the easiest summer reading list I’ve ever had, because once I was done with that I went on to Trixie Belden…and then on to The Babysitter’s Club…and then Sweet Valley High…and then…
….school started 😦

Coming up with a summer reading list isn’t always this easy, though.

Finding the right books for picky readers might be more difficult.

I’ve made many lists of books I intended to read, but either I couldn’t find them at the library or I couldn’t find them in a bookstore, and I was left with Kindle or Amazon to finish my list…
But I’d kinda rather not have to buy every book. I’m a hardcore library type of gal.

When it comes to finding a good summer reading program, libraries always have a summer reading program for kids, so that is a good place to start.

And there are thousands of free Kindle books available on Amazon, believe it or not.

But where else could you find good summer reading for you and the kids, besides random free kindle books?

 

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Whole 30 Disaster Plan

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Last week I ate my ultimate bowl of rice.

Gone are the days of bottomless gluten free spaghetti, or the idle Red Bull Red which packs a delightful pick-me-up in the afternoon, at the expense of 39g of sugar.

I look sorrowfully at the drawer in my kitchen which houses the red potatoes, which seemed like I had just enjoyed yesterday.

Wine, my good friend…

I am on day 3 of the Whole30 cleanse.

I have written out my Whole30 disaster plan on a posterboard and taped it to the cupboard with electrical tape, because no one could find the Scotch tape (again).

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Since Friday, Day 0, I have lost 3 pounds of rice/bread/gravy/beer fat.

And, I feel fine…I say, confidently.

So far. 

Honestly, I feel kind of guilty about it since so many people have horror stories about the unmitigating headaches, nausea, irritability, awful pain and growing horns out of your skull and bleating like a goat until dawn…

The horns and bleating are unsubstantiated, but the suffering is not.

Dieting…excuse me, cleansing…is a serious deal.

Especially when you have to buy a book for it.

IMG_6898.jpgOn the plus side, I get to put a stick blender into a watermelon and make watermelon gelatin and blow the kids minds on how I got the jello in the watermelon. #awesome

So, being a forward-thinking, rather smart woman who already has an incredibly restricted diet (see: Celiac+Kosher), a diet in which I cannot have pizza, pizza with pepperoni, ham, clam chowder, shrimp, sausage, gravy, crackers or bacon… why on earth would I do an elimination diet?

What is there left to cut out??

What is there left to eat???

Well, I’ll tell you:

I’m doing it because a friend told me it was great, and I already talked them into giving up gluten (because they were painfully obviously Celiac), and fair is fair.

How’s that for a motivational speech.

Plus, I honestly do want to feel better, more clear-headed and a greater energy threshold than I have now. Because even though I have the amazing, and extremely convenient excuse of “I’m tired because I have 5 kids and we homeschool,” I shouldn’t be this tired. I shouldn’t feel foggy in the middle of the morning. And I would like to feel better, physically, in general, instead of blaming it on age or whathaveyou.

It’s just time to do something. And Whole30 is definitely something.

The overview:

It’s pretty much a Paleo-Atkins-LowCarb diet plan…I mean cleanse. They say it’s not a diet, it’s a cleanse, a million times in the book. So, okay, it’s a cleanse.

It still doesn’t have beer in the plan, so I can only be so excited about this.

Now, the nice thing is it is a 30 day plan. This means I don’t have to do it for 6 months, which would take me well into the heart of autumn at this point, and it lasts longer than a week or two, so it gives me time to really nail down better eating habits. And I’m okay with this.

However, there are 30 different emotional stages you are going to go through.

And I took out my Crayola purple marker and wrote down each one of these stages as a reminder for myself.

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Because I know me…and if I have a day when I am out of energy, or have a headache, or feel sick, or have just completely lost every ounce of willpower to be patient with daily life…then I am going to stop. Because I don’t want to make things worse, and maybe I could be making things worse; reverting to old ways would seem like the safest route to go.

Knowing this about myself, though, I wrote down the 30 different stages of the month to visually remind my lizard brain that what I’m going through is okay, it is a process, some parts of the process is harder than others, and I can make it to the end.

And maybe learn something along the way!

I could not believe this, but I actually discovered something just today that blew my mind.

I am the Queen of excusing pain away, and I know this. I don’t know if I have a high pain threshold, exactly, but I know for a fact that I have the stubbornness of a Russian ox and I can withstand whatever pain hits me for as long as it lasts. Oh, sure, I’m not entirely cheerful about the whole ordeal…but my teeth are firmly set to last it out to the end.

I also don’t know if this is healthy at all.

But the other morning I made an amazing dish of Shakshouka, which is eggs poached on top of tomato sauce. No one was more shocked than I when I served this on top of a corn tortilla for the kids, and they all ate it and liked it. It was astonishingly good! I liked it, the kids liked it, and I call it a winner!

Until this morning when I made it again.

I always liked eating eggs in the morning because I felt full for hours and hours afterward. There would be little to no need to eat much until the afternoon, because the eggs had filled me so thoroughly. This was extremely helpful…because I very much enjoy eating. Frequently. And a lot.

However, this morning as I was sitting on the couch and doing some reading with the kids I realized that my stomach was a little upset. Like, sour. So I had an apple to appease the nausea. That didn’t work so I had some water. That didn’t work so I had some green tea. That didn’t work so…

I realized that I didn’t feel full after eating the eggs, I felt bloated and barfy. That is completely different than “full.” That is actually the opposite of what I was going for, which was good food which helped me out. All this time, eggs were giving me problems and I just ignored it and thought it was a good thing??

And this is just day 3!!

So, tomorrow morning I am going to re-think breakfast and see what I can come up with. I was thinking about making some apple-chicken sausage, bell pepper, leek and sundried tomato hash and serve it over a bed of spinach…and see if I don’t feel remarkably better!

All in all, I’m glad I’m doing this. It isn’t as bad as I expected, and that’s definitely a relief.

In closing, here are a few things I’ve made!

18595572_10212945416492192_39507879321009269_o.jpgThe infamous Shakshouka, which still is pretty fabulous. I didn’t eat it with a corn tortilla, for the record.

 

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This dish was amazing. It is a Chicken Waldorf Salad with Avocado dressing (just blend the avocado and add a little coconut oil, that’s all you need). The kids wouldn’t stop eating this until I took the leftovers away…because I wanted lunch the next day 😉

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Also, I didn’t eat the potatoes on this, and some kids got Mom’s dinner hand-me-downs…but kabobs are a lot of fun, and this turned out really well. I used chicken, pineapple and red potatoes (which you can’t eat on Whole30, but you could use sweet potatoes! I just hate sweet potatoes and they gross me out, so no thanks).

After dinner I had a bit of a sweet tooth, so I diced up some boiled beets and put them on a bed of spinach and drizzled raspberry vinegar on top.

That was super adult of me. I am okay with this.

For drinks, I’m just chugging water and green tea until the thoughts of wine leave my head.

Which will be soon. I’m positive…

Gluten Free Fish and Chips: Because We’re Worth It.

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The other night, I made myself (and Ben) gluten free fish and chips.

Because I couldn’t figure out what to have for dinner, and I had 30 minutes to go to the store…and fish sounded good tonight.

Now, I usually don’t buy fish because it’s expensive. I wish we could have fish all the time, but it just isn’t a cost effective meal plan. Case in point: I got steelhead fish because it was $5 a filet, and the salmon was $33 a filet. Granted the tilapia was $1 a filet…but that’s because it’s tilapia, and that’s a gross fish.

So, for $15 worth of fish, I was able to make a very nice meal of battered fish for the two of us…and that’s nice once in a while!

Now, having Celiac makes frying food a little tricky. Because you are either going to over-cook the dish, or end up with some gummy, sticky concoction that is hardly comfort food.

However.

I have figured out how to fry fish like a normal person, and I am sharing this very very easy recipe with you, because everyone needs fish and chips every so often!

Ingredients

  • Whatever fish you want. If you want to use $30 fish…you go on with your bad self! I like steelhead, personally, because it has a good meaty texture, good flavor and the bones are pretty easy to remove.
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1c Brown rice flour
  • 1c Corn meal
  • 1c Crisco
  • Kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder

 

What’chu Do

I use Crisco for the oil because it is a very thin oil, and it fries crispier. It’s also a lot less greasy in the end.

So get out a large pan (such as a dutch oven, or a cast iron pan) and put 1 cup of Crisco in and turn it on med-high.

In the meantime, get 2 bowls out.

Mix 1 cup brown rice flour and 1 cup corn meal in one bowl.

Crack 2 eggs into the other bowl.

Dip your fish filets into the eggs, then dip into the flour/cornmeal, and place into pan.

Sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Turn after 3 minutes of cooking, cook for another 3 minutes.

Take tongs and pick them up and place them onto a paper towel to soak up extra oil.

 

That’s about it!! It is a very easy and very satisfying dinner, especially for Celiacs.

If you want to make french fries:

Slice up some potatoes of your choice and toss them with a light coat of vegetable oil and spread them out on a cookie sheet.

Then, lightly sprinkle them with Seasoned Salt and black pepper.

Bake at 400F for about 40 minutes, or until the edges are nice and brown.

 

BOOM.

Gluten free fish and chips!

We The People: Constitution Refresher Course!

Antique USA Map

You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird… So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing — that’s what counts.
-Richard Feynman

Sometimes, we know things backwards and forwards…and still don’t fully understand them.

Ah, but that’s life.

Understanding birds is one thing, but reading bits and pieces of Bird Watcher’s Digest won’t prepare you for the real life and times of birds in the wild.

Similarly, reading bits and pieces of the Constitution during “U.S. History” in high school won’t prepare you for the ways it impacts our lives as Americans.

Particularly in this day and age, learning about what our government is based on (and how it shapes our rights and freedoms) is paramount to fulfilling our duties as citizens.

I think one of the first presidents, Benjamin Franklin, who said it best:

Verily, I was never a President…and you would know that if you read more about U.S. History!

Franklin was hands down one of the most impactful ambassadors America has ever had…but he was the humorous uncle of the family of Founding Fathers.

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin was not allowed to write the Declaration of Independence, but Jefferson was chosen instead?

When they were deciding who should write the Declaration of Independence, they partially chose Jefferson over the significantly more qualified and respected Franklin, as some feared Franklin would embed subtle humor and satire in it that wouldn’t be recognized until it was too late to change.
– Today I Found Out

Oh, Ben.

Solid facts and critical thinking have always been of the utmost of importance for the foundation of America. Understanding realnews and real facts makes a huge difference in understanding what is happening in our world, and why.

Which is why a quick brush up on the Constitution is pivotal in knowing and understanding the life and times of our great nation!

 

PNW Rockwood Family Snow Day: To The Olympics!

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We love spontaneous trips. Period.

So when Ben suggested in the middle of church that we go to the snow, I said, “Okay, but let’s wait until church is over before we leave…”

Last year we went up to the snow when it was cold.

Now, I’m not saying cold is “bad.” Honestly, since moving up to Washington I have been surprised how much more I like the cold than the ridiculous heat in California.

(yeah, I’m looking at you +100F for weeks on end)

I remember knowing it was going to be a really hot day if it was over 90 and my forearms were sweating…by 8am. That was going to be an unbearably hot day. The most frustrating thing about the heat was that when it was in the 90s, it was okay. Just keep the kids hydrated and sunscreened, and we’re good to go.

But when it got over 104, which was constantly in the summer, the ground was too hot to step on and the sun was too hot to play in for too long…so I had to keep the kids indoors so they didn’t overheat or get sunstroke or burn to bits. And that was absolutely no fun.

Plus, I was pregnant most of those summers, and if you ever tell a pregnant woman that overheating is not a thing, you will not live to the end of the conversation. Overall, getting in the car in the middle of May and the car thermometer reading 116F is never a good time.

So, even though we just got through the rainiest and wettest winter the Puget Sound has had in the past 144 years (or, as long as we’ve been recording the weather up here), and dealing with overcast days which never quit, and having to buy waterproof jackets because you are going to get rained on, whether it is sunny now or not… it is STILL better than those summers in California!

But, as I was saying…last year when we went up to the snow, we treated it like going on a day trip to the Sierras.

And the Olympics are so not the Sierras.

When we took day trips to the Sierras in the spring, we’d take some gloves, jackets, extra pants, spare socks. Just the basics to play in the snow on the side of the road, build a few snowmen and call it a day.

The Olympics are different.

This snow was cold, blue, 6 feet deep, and ubiquitous. There were walls of snow 10 feet high, and this snow covered the entire mountain range. It was way out of the league of Sierra snow. This felt like real snow, and we basically came to the snow expecting a summer resort to be waiting for us.

Last year it was white-out conditions on the mountain, it was colder than I have ever experienced in my entire life, the air hurt our faces and we were vastly underdressed (see: expensive trip to the gift store)

This year, we changed our game plan.

And made proper snow angels…

THIS time we came overly dressed, changes of clothes, waterproof shoes and on a sunny day!

Let me tell you, scarves are not just for decoration anymore.

They actually keep the wind out of your jacket and keep your neck warm, and they are indispensable articles of clothing!! Who knew.

There were so many walls of snow, we had to write our names in the wall…

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There were some small hills where we just sat at the bottom and let the kids slide down for as long as they could. At some point they decided that their backsides were plenty wet and cold enough, and they would prefer to go back to the car and change into dry clothes. But we definitely got our fill of snowdom.

IMG_6597Now, I don’t know how to explain this properly, so I’ll just start by explaining it poorly…

I am a terrible snowman maker. Spheres are just so hard to make properly, and I am always overcritical of my snow-sphere making abilities. So, last year I made a snow-bust….because I can do that!!

This year I continued my legacy and created another snow bust, and I can say that I am very pleased with the results. Next year I am going to bring even more waterproof gloves (because mine had a limit, apparently) and I am going to build an even bigger bust…maybe even take a crack at David, who knows.

We had a fantastic day out there, and I cannot describe how beautiful the Olympic range is. It is an incredible and dynamic range of mountains which take your breath away.