Pumpkin Spice Cake: gluten free and delicious.

I mean honestly, you can't even tell it's gluten, grain & refined sugar free. It's that good. I wanted to make a pumpkin spice cake for turkey day that I could actually eat and love (I'm eating gluten-free, sugar-free and *sigh* low-carb because of this adrenal burnout issue).

I practiced with cupcakes early in the week, which is something that I never do. Usually I launch into a new recipe on holidays or for parties without care for the fact that it may totally flop. But this time I smartened up. I knew that I'd have to combine and adjust a couple of recipes to get it right. I based it on Elana's pumpkin spice muffins and Comfy Belly's pumpkin bread (almost cake). 
(my recipe is below the photos)

We ate it with a toasted nutmeg ice cream (modified-- I subbed xylitol and stevia for sugar and coconut milk for some--not all-- of the dairy). Yum. That ice cream is sooo good.

Here's what I did: note: I'm not a recipe writer-- so bear with me

Pumpkin Spice Cake
(makes enough for a double layer cake--but you could make this as cupcakes, muffins or even a loaf, just adjust the cook time and maybe cut the recipe in half)

2 cups of pumpkin puree (homemade or canned-- I used canned this time)
1 cup of coconut nectar (you could also use honey, agave or maple syrup)
1/2 tsp Stevia clear liquid*
1/2 tsp Vanilla creme liquid stevia
6 eggs

1.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt

spices--(not exact-- sorry!):
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
almost 2 Tablespoons ground ginger
1/2-3/4 tsp of ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp of cloves

4 cups of almond flour**
4+ tsp coconut flour (yes, teaspoons-- a little goes a long way with coconut flour)

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine wet ingredients and blend well (I used an immersion blender, but a mixer is fine.
Add in rest of ingredients (if you want, you can mix the dry separately and then add in gradually ;)
Bake in two well-greased round cake pans-- I buttered, lined the bottom with parchment and then buttered and floured.
Bake until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. I think it took about 35 minutes?? Whoops. See. I told you that I'm not a recipe writer. Next time I'll get it right. Set the timer for 30 and you should be fine.

*if you don't want to use stevia (or want it to be officially paleo) sub another cup of your choice of liquid sweetener and a bit of vanilla--- but in this case you may need to leave out an egg or two to get a similar texture... You could also use just plain liquid stevia.

**I love Honeyville blanched almond flour, but this time I used Bob's Red Mill I whirled it in the food processor to make a bit finer.

I almost forgot!-- I made a frosting of cream cheese, butter, tiny bit of cream and powdered 'sugar' that I made from xylitol... i think i added stevia to that too...



Silver linings.

It cracks me up that Finn dressed in the same colors-- I think it was by chance! B and that tongue...
I know that it was just a couple of weeks ago when I was writing about being nostalgic for autumn in New England. But you know what? California ain't too shabby this time of year either. I witnessed some amazing skies last week-- especially while driving down to the San Joaquin Valley (over an hour drive-- but the closest Trader Joe's!).  On Saturday night the first frost arrived and we woke up to a blanket of golden leaves in the backyard that turned brown by the evening. It was pretty cool.

By the way: It's Nablopomo day 14 and I'm barely surviving... happy Wednesday!


My favorite veteran

My Grandad has a booming voice and a sparkle to his eyes. He is the only grandparent I have left at age 89, and he lives across the country from me, in Rhode Island, where he's  lived for most of his life.

When my brother and I were little, Grandad would tell us his war stories. I could never remember the details, so 8 years ago I recorded him telling a story at my aunt's dining room table.*

Here's the story of when he was captured....
George Chaplin was a waist gunner during World War II on a B24H  that was shot down on June 23, 1944. The crew was on its 16th mission (although they would later be given double credit for many of those missions, so I'm not sure of the final count). They set out from Venosa, Italy to bomb an oil rig in Romania. They were flying at 25,000 ft and had just dropped their bombs at 9:20 when they were hit with an 88 mm shell (Grandad was taking photos of drop so he knew the time). By 9:30 they were on the ground.

When they were hit, the plane caught fire and my grandfather was burned on his neck, eyebrows and eyes. Before jumping, he noticed the ball gunner was stuck in his position. He attempted to get him out but he couldn't release the clutches on the ball gun and he had to go. (The ball gunner managed to do it on his own.)

Grandad jumped over the 50 caliber machine gun in his waist window and into the air. He had a "panicky" few seconds when he realized that his parachute was on upside down but was able to find and successfully pull the cord.

As he parachuted to the ground, he saw one of his crew members burning in his own parachute. They landed within 50 feet of each other on the south side of the Danube River in the Bulgarian town of Ruse. Grandad didn't recognize the other man as the radio operator at first because his face was badly burned. He'd later find out that the radio operator had actually fallen out of the plane when they were hit, but was fortunate (or smart) enough to have his chute on.

This is a B24...(but not his).
A truck drove up while he was trying to figure out how to get himself and his burned friend out of there. Out stepped a "half-uniformed man and another in black civilians with a fedora". Grandad thought that he was waving a gun but it turned out it was a black notebook. He was told not to run so he stopped because he didn't want to get shot.

Two other men from his crew were already in the truck-- both had been struck by flak. One had a broken wrist.** Grandad communicated to the driver that he wanted to give the radio operator morphine from his first aid box. They had no common language, but eventually it worked out. One of his other crew members was a veterinarian and instructed my grandfather on how to inject the morphine into the radio operator's arm. 

They were taken to a garrison prison where they stayed for 3 months. There were soldiers there from the Bulgarian army and navy and one Jew.  Seventeen of them shared a cell and they lay on wooden shelves to sleep and left the cell only to go to the latrine.  He was interrogated quite a few times by an officer who spoke Oxford type English fluently, they asked him 'every question under the sun' including personal questions about his family. He made up lies to all of them.

During one of the several bomb raids while they were there, my grandad was in solitary confinement and they wouldn't let him out. Guards were left there with him and they were as scared as he was with only a wooden shack protecting them. 

When Stalin's armies caused the capitulation of Bulgaria 3 months later, my grandfather was 'repatriated' through Greece, Turkey, Syria, Egypt and then back to Venosa in Italy. It was there in Italy where he told his corporal that he was 'just burned' not wounded. It was because the corporal wrote 'no wounds' that he wasn't eligible for the purple heart. (Even though he should have been). In his words, "It was one of those medals that I believe that I earned, however I don't have. Makes no difference, I'm alive and well."

My grandfather was almost home and in Rhode Island on October 23, 1944 "the very day that my oldest daughter was born". My Grandmother, Dorothy "Dottie" Harlow Chaplin, knew nothing about his whereabouts or if he were alive until that day. 

Incredible isn't it? The stories our grandparents have... I know that there are countless stories of other veterans, stories that I can't imagine living through and not being completely insane because of PTSD.  And of course, there is so much more to my grandfather that I haven't told in this post, but I just wanted to share a bit to honor him for Veteran's Day.

*I was hoping to submit the recording to the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project, but it has a lot of extra 'noise'. I may have to re-record. I feel like it is so important to record the stories of our elders. I loved hearing his voice as I listened to the recording today and was wishing that I had recorded my mom's stories. I can still hear her voice, but I get scared that someday I won't be able to.

**4 of the crew members were in the Bulgarian prison, 4 in Romanian prison and 2 disappeared. Two of the guys who ended up in Romania first landed on an island in the Danube. They killed and buried a guard there and were later captured. One of them (a real 'backwoods boy') tried to escape three times. He was beaten and put in solitary confinement. On the third escape he found horses and was about to steal one when the owner of the horse stuck a gun up to his head and took him back to camp. When he got there he found out they had capitulated and he was free.


Teen Yoga

Tonight was the last class of my 6 week 'yoga for teens' session.

 It's been almost two years since I stopped teaching high school to be home with my boys and I was really missing the energy and presence of teenagers. I used to teach an elective yoga class in addition to environmental science-- but this new class was especially good because the students actually chose to be there. They signed up, paid for it and came to the classes outside of the school day and on top of their heavy loads of extra-curricular and sport activities.

Aren't they awesome? We did some partner yoga tonight (as you can see in the photos), which is so much fun to do with this age group because they really want to be social (at least this class did-- it might not work with every group).

I love seeing the contrast between my adult yoga classes and the teens.  I find it fascinating, the different ways that people move, and how their bodies respond to various verbal prompts or poses in general.

But what I truly love is sharing a practice that has helped me to become more aware of my own body and mind in ways that have had a profound impact on my daily life.

I'm feeling grateful.... and sleepy.


Thanksgiving sides & such: gluten free

illustration: Rebekka Seale
I'm already getting excited for Thanksgiving... I'm not hosting this year, so it will be easy-- no spatchcocking or setting up a minute by minute plan for the cooking (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but as you probably know, the logistics take some coordination--even with the fun, small group we had last year).

This year, we get to go to my cousin's house. His amazing Aussie wife specializes in over-achievement far beyond my pre-adrenal burnout days. She is also an organizer extraordinaire. I love the fact that even though I live 3000 miles from home I still have some family here. My mom's sister --a transplant from Rhode Island--- lives next door to my in-laws and raised her kids here in this small town.
The hosts:  cousin, Aussie wife, 2 kiddos
The guests: My aunt and uncle, another lovely cousin & her 2 boys, friends of said lovely cousin (I think they are a couple and a toddler), the amazing Aussie's mum (all the way from Oz), and the amazing Aussie's aunt and daughters (who also live here in town), and finally--the four of us.

What I'm bringing:
  1. Sweet potato & sage butter casserole: this was a hit at last year's feast. I Highly recommend it.
found on The Bitten Word. Photo: Martha Stewart Living
2. A Festive cocktail: I'm thinking.....either the ginger bourbon fizz (illustrated above) or a version of this classic whiskey smash (maybe made with ginger syrup instead of simple syrup and possibly subbing another liquor):

from Bon Appetit

A gluten free stuffing/dressing-- I think I'll go the cornbread route (I came up with a tasty GF cornbread recipe based on others but of course didn't document it. I'll post it when I figure it out again).  Here are two cornbread dressings that look yummy: 1) Cornbread dressing with smoked bacon & pecans (from Southern Living) :

Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Heather Chadduck
 2) Cornbread, sausage & pecan dressing (from Bon Appetit):

Photograph by Christopher Testani

Toasted nutmeg ice cream from Saveur (also a winner from last year-- I changed it a bit but will figure that out later):
Credit: Todd Coleman
Some sort of gluten free dessert: I think I'll turn this butternut squash cake gluten free:

somehow crossing it with this pumpkin spice cake:

That's all for now... What are you cooking?


Found: Small town P.O.

I live in a REALLY small town. The post office isn't open on Saturday except to access your post office box and peruse the bulletin board.

J usually goes to the box to retrieve our measly mail, but today I was the one to make the trip.  I was pleasantly surprised by some of the bulletin board posts.

For example, who knew that Bonsai Dan the Man was in our midst?! I want to set up an appointment to learn a thing or two from him....

 I'm guessing this next one is for real? Although it makes for good comedy. I'm not sure where he got the note paper, but I sure do hope he finds some under the table work to get himself a photo ID. He IS resourceful.

And lastly: Would you call on this? Are you a trusting person? I generally am, but there's a cynic inside me that wonders... I hope there's not a horribly sad story behind it.

That's all. FYI: my headache turned into a stupid cold. I didn't think I'd make any post at all for Nablopomo day 10. Is this better than nothing? I'm not sure.


For your viewing pleasure: at play.

My head hurts tonight and after a long evening of rowdy boys I don't think I can muster up much writing.... so here are a couple of videos that I loved from last year. They are both beautiful and not too long-- please enjoy!

The first one is the JP Auclair street segment from All.I.Can by Sherpa Cinemas. The clip is 5 minutes. I love everything about it, especially the 'pay-off' (as Jason told me it's called) at about 2:45. So cool-- check it out:

The second is a short film by Juan Rayos of the most bad-ass girls on long boards in the mountains outside of Madrid. 4 minutes.

happy friday! I hope you get to play outside this weekend...


Gardening and getting outside in the 'hood.

B and I planted garlic today before the storm. We've also planted onions and one lonely plant of broccoli in our little boxes.  I'm hoping that something grows well. Even though I've worked on a couple of small farms, I don't seem to have the greenest thumb around.... But I'm hopeful. The chickens seem to like me anyway.
One of the best things about our new house is that our friends moved in next door. We get to have Sunday morning coffee/tea across our backyards and Finn loves having a friend to play with. In fact, I just returned from having a cocktail (and a half) and good conversation at their house.  
I'm fascinated by these 'pretend' deer (as Finn and I call them) that live down the street. Whoever lives here has an amazing creek-side park-like property. The deer seem comfortable, don't they?
B is into it. Watering those plants. He is a piece of work, this one. (another one of my mom' s phrases). 

More rain tomorrow! It's beginning to feel more like Autumn...


Loving Kindness Meditation: Peace out.

I think I've found it! A way to feel love and happiness daily without having to change anything externally!  Of course, it's nothing new. People have been practicing it for a few thousand years. Now I just need to commit to doing it myself every day...

Often at the end of a yoga class during our final relaxation (shavasana) I will lead the students through a guided loving kindness meditation. I do this because I have found this practice to have such a profound effect on my own life. Practicing loving kindness--even for a few minutes a day-- helps me to develop compassion for myself and to get out of a negative state of mind.

I'll give you a quick synopsis and then some links to read or listen to the meditation yourself:

First sit in a meditation seat or in any comfortable manner with a straight spine. Tune into your breath, feeling it go in and out. Notice what is happening in your body and mind, the sensations, the thoughts.

Then take your awareness to your heart center and feel the sensations there. Breathe some space into your chest. Picture yourself sitting (or lying) here. Picture what you're wearing and the position of your body and then say to yourself: May I be at peace. May I be happy. May I be free... (you can change these phrases to whatever feels right to you as long as you're cultivating loving kindness).

Notice any resistance, judgment or tension that arises and let it be. Allow yourself to open to the feelings of loving kindness. Let the feelings wash over you.

Then begin to extend the thoughts of loving kindness toward other beings-- allowing a mental picture of the person/people/beings to arise first. Repeat the phrases for each being or group of beings
...May they be happy. May they be at peace. May they be free.
Start with someone that you love dearly and move onto someone who challenges you. Next extend this loving kindness to people that you don't know, allowing the group to grow until it encompasses all sentient beings. 

Be sure to repeat the phrases at each step and give time to allow yourself to open, and allow the feelings to wash over you. 

After extending loving kindness to all beings, I like to bring it back in to your own heart. Again, picture yourself and end with repeating the phrases to yourself. May I be happy, May I be at peace, May I be free. 

If at any point you are doubting, resisting, scoffing, judging, etc., go back to the phrases. The loving kindness will come eventually, even if you're not feeling it.

After all, as zen teacher, Cheri Huber says, What You Practice is What You Have.

May we all be happy. May we be at peace. May we be free. 

peace out.

Loving Kindness script by teacher Stephen Levine
script from Wisdom Heart.org
Guided loving kindness meditation--mp3 (there are a lot on the interwebs, this is just one example)

illustration source


Laugh out loud

I'm taking suggestions, dear readers. I know that most blogs give out recommendations, but I'm reverse blogging and here to collect your wisdom.

Here's the deal: with adrenal burnout I can only watch, listen to or read funny things. Seriously!

Anything with suspense, sadness, violence, etc... shoots up my cortisol levels and my adrenals can't handle it. Intense dreams, insomnia, heart palpitations--I'm a basket case*. Ridiculous, I know, but it is what it is.

As long as I can remember I've been a sensitive type (with a special talent for turning red or crying in the most inopportune situations). Regardless, I've always loved dramas, painfully real (or fatastically unreal) films, even some violence (of the Kill Bill type), action,  you name it, if it is written well, I probably loved it.

But now is the time in my life for comedy.

Here are some parameters for your suggestion: I only have a computer-- no TV-- but I can watch shows on hulu or netflix (or rent dvds). I already watch a few shows such as The Office, New Girl, Parks & Recreation, The Daily Show and Colbert Report... SNL clips, Louis CK. I'll also listen to podcasts.

I need more! especially books-- the books don't have to be pure comedy (although I love David Sedaris). I did mostly ok with the Ya Ya Sisterhood recently (but had to put it down for a while when it got intense and had nightmares all night--crazy).

I'm a voracious reader,  so load me up, please!

*my mom's phrase-- often used to describe me as a child-- what does that even mean?


Know what you're eating: Yes on '37' not just for Californians

Fortunately I've been able to avoid the majority of ridiculous campaign ads this voting season. However, about a month ago the ads began to show up on Hulu.com and I was horrified as I watched the blatant lies told in the 'No on 37' ads for California.

Even if you're not a voter from Cali this proposition is landmark. A 'yes' on 37 means that food with genetically modified (GM) ingredients will be labeled. That's it.  It's not proposing any sort of ban on GM foods. Proposition 37 is landmark because it puts the power of information and choice in the hands of the consumer.

61 countries already require GM labels on their foods! The EU has been labeling since 1997 and the UK since 1999. Monsanto (major producer of GM seeds and herbicides) actually supported the labeling of GM foods and the consumer's 'right to know' in the UK during the 90s.

Yet when it comes to the labeling of GM foods in California, Monsanto has contributed $8.1 million to the 'no' campaign. DuPont has contributed $5.4 million. $1 million/day has been spent on 'no' ads in the last month.

Lies and misrepresentations abound in the ads-- everything from stating that research on cost increase due to labeling was conducted by a Stanford scientist to untruths about incentives for lawsuits with the passing of the proposition. (By the way there is no reason to believe that a slight label change would increase cost for consumers.)

Before having my second baby (almost 2 years ago now) I taught 12th grade environmental science. We spent a lot of time doing projects around food and the environmental impacts of our food system-- including GM foods. After researching the pros and cons of using GM crops, students often took a stance 'for' or 'against' them-- or they felt like more research was needed to make a decision.

However, one area on which  almost all students agreed was the negative social impacts of multinational corporations (especially Monsanto) patenting GM seeds and subsequently suing small farmers when Monsanto GM seeds blew into their fields and mixed with their crops. They felt compassion (most of them did anyway) for the small farmers in the U.S. and in developing countries   who became dependent and in debt because Monsanto controlled their seeds and therefore their food system.

But that's a discussion for another day-- that last part may not be too clear-- but I'm pressed for time because my son is up from nap and the vote is tomorrow!

Bottom line: a 'yes' on 37 is a vote for people's right to know what they are eating and feeding their families. It won't cost you a thing.

More sources (also see links in article):
Opinion article well researched
The Atlantic 

I'll add more to this later...or a new post with more sources


Crash and Burn-- the silver lining: tales of a burnt-out mama

Sunday in the backyard chatting with our friends across the fence. This is nice.
My brain has clicked into  screen saver mode
My eyes too heavy to open, yet too jittery to stay closed
My neck and shoulders are actually made of rock.

Despite my intent to use the least amount of effort possible this past week, here I am on Sunday in the midst of a full adrenal crash most likely due to eating something with actual sugar, a miniscule amount of gluten and drinking some wine. Seriously.

But I definitely don't want to whine, so this post is going to be about the good parts of adrenal burnout. Yes, the good parts.

Here it goes-- top ten eleven in no specific order:
  1.  I'm completely off the hook when it comes to doing dishes. Jason does almost all of them.
  2.  In the summer I was crashing once a week, now it only happens every couple of weeks! (this is a good sign of healing)
  3.  I'm eating a super clean diet. I've done this for a while-- but now it's new & improved, ultra clean and that's got to be good for me beyond the adrenal thing.
  4. I can now blame all of my insanities on heavy metal toxicity. (you could too-- check this out)
  5. When I feel good, I feel REALLY good. In fact, I have a whole new appreciation for feeling good.
  6. I also have an incredible tolerance for feeling bad.
  7. Having a tiny bite of fruit practically gives my taste buds an orgasm.
  8. I give myself permission to say 'no' to anything I don't want to do and I don't feel guilty about it.
  9. Even though most people have no clue what is going on with me, my husband and a few of my friends understand and support me completely. 
  10. I know that I will heal and that I will finally be able to deal well with stress (something I've struggled with for at least 32 years) and avoid disease. 
  11. Did I mention that I have managed to almost let go of having a clean house? and that Jason does the dishes?
Ahhhh, that feels better. Thanks for listening.  xo


Saturday in Photos

Our Dia de los Muertos altar

Odin on the altar

Not S &M (although one of my yoga students calls this fabulous restorative pose "butterfly bondage").
Birthday dinner for my father-in-law at V Bistro & Bar. Awesome guy mixing it up on the sax & drums.


Searching for home: Autumn California days.

October has become a hard month for me since my mom died five years ago. Even the amazing weather of California with its blue skies and bright sunlight doesn't always take away the emotional edge (although--I'll admit--the sunshine definitely helps).

I miss the vibrant colors of New England Autumn-- where entire landscapes are dripping with the saturated hues of red, orange and gold. Out here, you just have to look a bit harder and appreciate the small pockets of color.

Oh, California. With your progress and your new ideas. I do love you.

I'm still a stranger here, although I've been a resident for nearly 12 years. I love it dearly, yet I still feel like I'm missing a part of me--living so far from where I grew up.

I wonder where my little family will settle.

 I love to move around and see new places, but I also yearn for a sense of belonging where I live. I've always loved any place I've lived (and I've lived a lot of places). I guess I'm naturally curious and adventurous--but how do I choose the place to settle down?

How about you? Do you feel settled where you call home? How do you know? Please do tell.... share your wisdom.


Savers. Saving as best we can, moment to moment.

Halloween happened. We moved out of last year's Halloween central house so the pressure was off! No need to create a crazy elaborate display for a thousand (or so) trick-or-treaters. No need to create complicated costumes using supplies and methods I'd never heard of. Oh yes, I'll admit it; I enjoyed every minute of the prep last year. It was a welcome distraction for a typically tough month for me.

But this year was different. I've surrendered to adrenal burnout and begun the healing process.

As I unpacked the Halloween and Dia de los Muertos decorations (yes, I'm now actually one of those people that has a box just for this particular holiday). I was impressed and surprised to find all of the handmade items I slaved over last year. No wonder I'm burnt out! It was such a clear representation of how the past 30 years or so have set me up for where I am today.*

I smiled. I laughed out loud.  If there were only one thing I could 'teach' (or model for) my boys, it would be the ability to laugh at myself.

"Lighten up!" my mom & dad told me this a lot.... but it took me a long time to learn how to do it. I'm not sure you can teach someone how to do this-- except by modeling it yourself.

I still managed some homemade costumes- but they were simple.  I still baked preschool treats twice because (as usual) I tried a new recipe and made my own substitutions which didn't work and found myself baking an emergency 2 dozen cookies the morning they were due at school.

Would a normal person run to the store for some gluten-free, nut-free cookies that would be acceptable? Perhaps. Was it that big of deal to bake up the cookies last minute? Not so much. As Jason said, "You could just bring nothing." Could I? After all, I did sign up to bring something. *sigh*

So here we are. Full circle. It's November again and time for Nablopomo (National blog posting month). That's right. The month that I post every day just for the hell of it. Just because I want to. I'm not sure that I'll pull it off and I'm not going to put pressure on myself (really, I'm not), but writing is fun for me. It's alone time, it's processing time. Sharing these thoughts with you and reading some of your thoughts (and blogs) adds extra love and richness to my day.

So thanks for being here. ;)

*secretly: I was also proud of myself for making all of that stuff last year.


No snacking while nursing, and other tales of a burnt-out 'good enough' mama.

I have mixed emotions about nursing these days with adrenal burnout.*

I worked so hard to nurse with FinnI didn't give birth in the hospital so I didn't have one of those awesome lactation consultants until I sought one out. He didn't return to birth weight for 4+ weeks --and wasn't able to suck efficiently until he was three months.  For three weeks, I was oblivious as he sucked but couldn't manage to get out the milk.

 Until his little body and brain figured it out (which happened miraculously one day just as the lactation consultant promised), I literally nursed and pumped for most of the day and night (literally). First, I would nurse, weighing baby Finn on a rented gram-sensitive scale before and after to see how much milk he actually got.  Then I used a hospital grade breast pump to squeeze out what he didn't manage to suck, and finally, I fed him the pumped bottle. About 40 minutes later I started the process again.

The pediatrician (we went through 3 or 4) wanted me to switch to formula, so the weighing and measuring part was to prove to the doc that Finn was getting what he needed in milk. I'm exhausted just thinking about it! On top of it all, he had infant reflux or GERD and was in pain a lot of the time. I did everything possible to try to help him-- elimination diets, natural therapies, medical therapies, etc. He had surgery at 9 months for an inguinal hernia which seemed to solve all of his problems. I went back to work when Finn was 8 months and because of the shaky nursing start we had, my milk supply was on the edge the whole time. It really started to dwindle when I went back to teaching. I pumped every 2 hours at work while sitting on the cold, cement floor of the bathroom. At 15 months we naturally weaned and I was grateful to have made it that far.

Bobo on the other hand, sucked like a champ from the start and he's still going strong at 20 months. He also has food sensitivities and had colicky symptoms (read: barely any sleep ) that I've worked on like crazy. But he's not a sweet little nursling like his big brother; breastfeeding B has always been like an athletic event. He twists and pinches and kicks. He grabs a cracker and heads over to my lap for a drink (picture his big blue eyes...a few sips and then a bite). I must have my shirt completely lifted. If his big brother is up on my lap for a cuddle, little B insists that he must nurse NOW and then pushes his way in. 

Obviously, I had to set up some boundaries with this one. 

First off, No Snacking While Nursing. I've been bitten, and it hurts. Plus, no crumbs on my breasts, please. Second: I'm sure the 'don't offer, dont refuse' system has worked for some moms out there, but not me. Don't refuse? If this sweet little toddler had his way I'd be shirtless and available for a quick nip at any minute. Not happening.

The adrenal burnout was a long time coming for me. As you can probably tell by the way I'm describing all of this, I'm a bit of a hard worker. Must. Do. My. Best. I once had a therapist who said to me when we were discussing the anxiety I was having about working so much, "what if you were just 'good enough'?" at the time I was shocked by how uncomfortable that was for me. I couldn't imagine letting myself get off that easy, or settling for mediocrity. 


Now I have been forced into accepting my own mediocrity. My new motto is 'just enough effort'. It's not that I was awesome at everything before (certainly not), but there's just so much I want to do!...climb mountains, bike, run, cook every night, make everything I see on pinterest...and I basically can't do any of it. 

I am on a path to heal which could take quite a while, but I am grateful to have the opportunity to unlearn my patterns of stress and to see what happens. I just know that it's got to be good.

As for nursing? I'm just going to see how that goes too....and take it easy on myself. I think that will make me a 'good enough' mama.

* I know that I haven't explained this adrenal burnout thing yet....basically, my adrenals have been taxed for 30+ years from allergies (caused by a compromised gut lining) and stress-- which is a vicious cycle. Now they don't work properly, which in turn has messed up my hormones and minerals. Healing takes a while-- but it will happen!


Get your domestic chi in order: spontaneous tears and Nora Ephron

We moved. Only 8 miles, but 8 miles with 2 small boys and into a place with no storage in the heat feels like torture. There have been complications (so many leaks, a broken oven-- although it's far too hot for cooking), but we are here.

My adrenals have been taking a whipping and just to launch them into complete despair I CHOSE to drive to Sonora (only 25 minutes away--but there's traffic and more heat) when we should have been home eating and getting ready for nap. I needed Grocery Outlet and some blackout shades. You see, we live over an hour from the closest Trader Joe's or Costco up here, so sometimes I think I  NEED some inexpensive food .

Alas, the shades didn't work out and Grocery Outlet was more of a miss than a hit. They also charged me for 3 boxes of Lara bars rather than 3 individual bars (which I didn't realize until both boys were strapped into their carseats and one was smashing banana all over himself ). But damnit if I'm going to drive 25 minutes on winding roads and end up paying $16 for three 60 cent Lara Bars. No ma'am, we went back inside.

oh joy. thankfully, we are home and both boys are napping as I type.

This morning I was surprised to find myself spontaneously crying. Not that spontaneous tears are a rarity in my world, in fact they're quite common, but it still took me by surprise. I was catching up on a blog--Cup of Jo--in between wiping bottoms, cleaning up massive amounts of food on the floor and getting Finn ready to go to swim lessons. As most people who have been actually been paying attention to the world probably already know, Nora Ephron died of cancer a couple of weeks ago and upon reading this and seeing her face, I started crying. I've never really followed her...of course I loved some of her movies, but I was mostly ignorant to her amazing accomplishments and influence.  I think the tears were because of damn cancer again and the fact that she was just 5 years older than my mom would be. Her face even reminded me of my mom and she actually looks nothing like my mother. But she's somebody's mom. And she's a really cool woman.

I think it's a sign. I need a mentor in my life. so.....

As you may or may not know, I tend to pick something to obsess about for a while. It becomes a project and I spend all of my free energy reading about it and doing something with it. This week it's  Feng Shui. I don't know why. Maybe it's the fact that we are in a family financial crisis and I'm trying everything. Honestly, a lot of it seems like superstition to me, but I figure what the hell, might as well get our domestic chi in order. My point? I'm going to enhance my "helpful people" bagua and see what happens.

How about you? How's your domestic chi?

Image credit: Linda Nylind/Eyevine/ZUMAPRESS.com


This photo (of me and my dad) was taken by Jason last year at Sachuest Point in Rhode Island. I can't remember where my baby was...was Jason pushing both boys in a stroller while taking this?
Dear Dad;
I know that I wrote you a tribute last year on here (and maybe it's just because I can't get my act together to get something out to you in the real mail on time)....I hope you don't mind.

I don't know what it's like to be a dad, or even a man, but I do know that it's different than being a mom. I mean, beside the whole giving birth part (which is no small feat). It's just different. Sure, today gender roles are changing or less defined, and some families have 2 dads and some 2 moms. But I digress. Now that I'm married to a father, I can see that (in general) there are different pressures on men than women. They feel a biological or societal pressure (or maybe some of both) to provide for their families.  

I just wanted to take a moment and acknowledge the fact that you (and mom) worked incredibly hard to provide for us. The coolest part about it is that you both always followed your passion. I knew that you loved accounting and then you started writing books in your spare time and loved that too. You always supported mom in her career whether she was nursing, going back to school, starting a bed and breakfast, or opening a cafe.

It was hard with you commuting so far to work when we moved to Rhode Island. I missed you, but I knew that you were doing what you had to do. I remember when mom got sick and you quit your job to be closer to home. You took a large pay cut to start teaching college students, but it showed me that nothing was more important to you than all of us.

Thanks for all that you gave me (and continue to give) and all that you taught me just by being you.
Happy Fathers' Day!
I love you--

this picture cracks me up! The blue suit, and the tie!


Questions for my mother Part 4: Why did you push me away?

Yesterday I was going through some dusty files and found an old letter from my mom sent in 2004. It was a note apologizing for how she had acted the night before on the phone. I don't remember the conversation, but she said that she had no right to 'judge my decisions'. She was coming out to California for a visit and I was only going to be able to spend a few days with her because I had just gotten a new job and had to travel for a training. I had to be at the training, or forfeit the position.

Damnit. If I'd only known then that my time with her would be so limited... I remember leaving my aunt's house to head out of town. My mom was standing on her deck watching me as I got into my pick-up to drive away. There was this sad, ominous  look on her face that is forever imprinted in my mind. Two months later she called with the news that her cancer was back (she'd been clear for 16 years) and metastasized.

The letter is typed on blue paper (I think it's the only thing she ever sent me typed) and signed "Love you enormously, Mom" at the bottom in blue ink. Her words were supportive and loving. I sobbed in the garage for a while after I found it. Guilt. Anger. Sadness.

I long to truly know my mother. Everything changed when I had children myself. I think about her constantly. There are so many things I want to talk to her about. There are so many things I feel like I understand about her now. I wish I could share them with her.

I wonder why she pushed me to be fiercely independent so soon. I know that I was challenging. I can see myself in my own children, and after spending my days with a sensitive, intense, argumentative preschooler, I understand how hard it is. But I grieve the fact that we didn't have a closer relationship when I was young. I wish she had held me tight more often and told me that I was okay.

She did the best she could at the time, and I don't blame her. It is so hard to be a mom.
I always knew she loved me.

I'm just really feeling the loss.

I know...I have to be 'grateful for the time we had together' etc., etc.... but you know what? sometimes I NEED to feel the loss--deep  in my bones and in the hollow of my throat. Sometimes I want to wail like a banshee and then curl up on her lap and let her rub my head. Sometimes I just want my mom.

Thanks for listening...


Finn is Four. and where am I?

I can, indeed, believe that it's been a month since I've visited the good life here in cyberworld. I've been an on an unintentional hiatus, otherwise consumed with the good life off-screen, engaged in activities like finding mold in our rental and staying temporarily at our in-laws. Yes, mold. yuck. A couple of dear family members have passed away after tough battles with the big 'C'.

I was diagnosed with complete 'adrenal burnout' and told to stop running (not that I was doing much of that) and to start lying down flat as much as possible during the day! Ha! (It feels reeeallly good to do it...but nearly impossible to do more than once a day with two crazy boys). I'm supposed to pretend I'm on perpetual vacation, stop eating all fruit and forms of sugar, eat meat at every meal, and re-mineralize myself. More on that later.

In the middle of it all, my sweet little bull, Finn, turned four! I can hardly believe it. He's still challenging as ever, but also hilarious. Here are some moments I did manage to capture....
 Fish cake-- Finn's choice. Template from Martha. I've never made a meringue butter-cream before and also never used turmeric to dye frosting-- so that was super fun. The cake is my tried and tested Vanilla bean cake  (grain free) from Kelly at The Spunky Coconut.

He had a bit of "Too Much Birthday" (Berenstein Bears reference)-- The poor guy was exhausted.

Finn's 95 year old great-grandmother (J's grandma) and his second cousin made it!

My cousin's lovely children showing off their party tattoos.

After a few good nights' sleep, Finn was back in action....(after 10 REALLY tough days!).
 Four just sounds too old. I had such a good cuddle with him tonight before bed. He was cracking me up talking about his 'bones'....pointing to various parts of his body, "This is a bone, right here. Elbow?! That's not a bone!"...etc. Too cute. It's so fun to see him learning this stuff and being thoroughly fascinated by it.


Look Ma, No Kids! (a weekend getaway)

Guess what? In celebration of our 6th anniversary, we went away for TWO WHOLE NIGHTS to San Francisco. We actually left the li'l ones for 57 hours to be exact. It was the first time Jason and I have been away for two nights alone since before Finn was born! And we've never left B. The verdict? Easy. (Thanks to awesome grandparents.) They even got B almost sleeping through the night. I could have stayed one more night, if allowed.

Thanks to Blake's recommendations, we had some killer food and an amazingly fun-filled, sun-shining Saturday (I think she was responsible for the sun too).

We arrived late on Friday. We live way out in the boonies, so I had to cram in a quick H&M trip on the way down. It wasn't very enjoyable since neither Jason nor I are skilled shoppers, but it was necessary. After sitting in horrendous traffic, we checked in to the Ocean Park Motel in the Sunset District (we even had a kitchen!) and went for dinner at B Star Bar-- a spawn of Burma Superstar without the 1.5 hour wait (Desi's recommendation).  Lamb curry and a yummy gingery cocktail for me.

 Saturday morning sunshine and walk on the beach...
Followed by brunch (since I wasn't able to get dinner reservations!) at Bar Tartine in the Mission. Delicious. My eggs benedict was overcooked, but overall tasty. And they have so many fermented foods! I had a lemon ginger water kefir that was awesome. Jason's meal was off the hook-- blood sausage, fried egg and stewed sauerkraut.
We hopped back on the Muni and made it in time for the tail end of the Farmers' Market at the Ferry Building. I had the best greek style tart frozen yogurt ever! And we tasted goat milk products--mostly cheese and ice cream. Oh-- and even a gluten free baguette that didn't suck. We brought that back to the hotel with some other goodies to eat after taking a nap. Yes, I had a nap!

wild shrooms. j has foraged for these and we sold them in the city in years past...
(trying to get a shot of the cute dress my mother-in-law gave me, but I am a HORRIBLE model.)

Late afternoon-- we headed to the Presidio (along with a third of the city's population)-- but found a cool hike  that wasn't crowded from Baker beach to the Golden Gate bridge (we quickly passed by some interesting nude sunbathers).

By chance, we found a perfect bite to eat at "Q" (falling-off-the-bone duck confit and fried polenta)-- before our 9pm Wonderfoot appointment. Yes--Wonderfoot. 70 minutes of foot reflexology (Chinese style) and a 'back massage'. It was a good one--not nearly as good as the Happy Buddha in San Diego, but it was Jason's first time, so it was fun regardless. 

That's it! I would have loved to do more-- see friends, go to museums...but alas, we had to hit Trader Joe's, Target and Costco before returning to the mountains. 

I would love to be able to do this more often...

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