Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Family's Winter Diet

I wanted to share a snapshot of what my family's diet looks like these days.  We've been following a Weston Price-inspired diet for over 10 years now, including about 18 months strictly following the GAPS Diet in 2010-2012.  I was very strict with our diets for many years, but over time I have found that approach to be unbalanced, anxious, and stressful. Being very strict with our diets also did not improve our health over the long-term (homeopathy has worked much better for that).

Over the last few years, rather than continuing to exert extreme dietary control, I have shifted to a place of finding balance. My emphasis has been to find a healthy diet that we can sustain and enjoy for many years to come. We are still eating a primarily nutrient-dense diet, but rather than aiming for perfection, I am aiming for an unstressed, maintainable diet.

Because we eat somewhat seasonally, this will be the first in a series, with more dietary snapshots to come in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Here is a snapshot of our Winter diet.


    • My second breakfast is most often sprouted whole wheat or white sourdough toast with eggs and frozen veggie mix sauteed in butter, usually with a glass of raw milk. I have a dose of extra-virgin cod liver oil with my second breakfast about twice a week (as determined by when I feel a craving for it).
  • My husband eats homemade custard cake for breakfast 6 days of the week every week. (He likes eating the same thing over and over; I can't stand doing that!) In the winter, I most often make one of the following custard cakes for him to have for breakfast each week:  
  • My nearly-6-year old son often eats sprouted whole wheat or white sourdough toast for breakfast, always buttered, sometimes with honey or jam, sometimes with an egg, and always with a glass of raw milk. On days when he doesn't want toast, he often eats a homemade muffin with a glass of raw milk for breakfast. He chooses to have a dose of extra-virgin cod liver oil with his breakfast about 2-3 times per week.
  • My 8&1/2-year-old daughter often has one of the following for breakfast, alongside a glass of raw milk. She also chooses to have a small dose of extra-virgin cod liver oil with her breakfast about once or twice a week.



  • The only snacks my kids are allowed between breakfast and lunch is fruits or veggies, which they have to get for themselves. That makes it where they are certain to be hungry at lunch (whereas previously when they were allowed more-filling snack options, they often didn't eat well at lunch). In the winter, their fruit and veggie snack options are:
  • Perhaps 40-50% of the time, the kids will have a small snack after our afternoon Quiet Time, usually consisting of nuts, fruit, or cookies (such as butter shortbread). I am always ravenous when I wake from my daily nap, so I always have an afternoon snack such as butter shortbread, plain whole milk yogurt with maple brown sugar granola, apple and cheese, etc.
  • The kids have a snack before bed every night; usually fruit, yogurt, or applesauce. About twice per week they will have dessert such as ice cream or cookies. 



The drinks we consume the vast majority of the time are:



  • I make a from-scratch dinner meal about 2-3 times per week (and I always make a large portion so there will be enough to freeze for my husband's lunches, or for us to have as leftovers). I can't stand eating the same thing two days in a row, so I plan to eat leftovers a few days later, or freeze them for a future use. In the winter months, the dinners I make most-often are:
  • Side dishes I commonly make in the winter months are:
  • On days when I don't make a from-scratch dinner, we have leftovers or dinners which include some already-prepared ingredients (which I consider to be compromise dinners). The ingredients in our compromise dinners aren't absolutely perfect, but they are pretty good, and incorporating these items into our diets allows for busy days when I don't have hours to spend in the kitchen. Our most commonly-consumed compromise dinners in the Winter are:
    • Pizza made with Against the Grain crust, quick-and-easy homemade pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, sauteed mushrooms, scallions, and nitrate-free pepperoni, kielbasa, or ham
    • Nitrate-free sausages such as kielbasa, hot dogs, or mild italian sausage, served with hash browns or frozen sweet potato fries, and fermented pickles
    • Spaghetti marinara sauce with added ground beef and veggies (onions, carrots, celery, and/or mushrooms), served over white rice noodles or bean thread noodles
    • Tuna salad or chicken salad sandwiches, made with canned tuna or chicken, served with kettle chips and fermented pickles
  • We eat out at a restaurant about 2-3 times per month. We also often eat Sunday dinner at my mom's house, and are often blessed with leftovers to often bring home which will make for an easy meal some other day of the week.

Do you find it helpful or interesting to see what we're eating?  What are your favorite Winter meals?

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Maple Brown Sugar Granola (gluten-free)

There is a cozy little bed-and-breakfast nestled in the New Mexico mountains that is one of my favorite places to stay on our seldom away-from-home adventures. The breakfast is from-scratch and amazing, and always includes a side of the house-made granola served with plain yogurt. The granola is so yummy that I had to re-create some for our home. Maple Brown Sugar Granola is crispy, sweet, and delicious.

Ideally, all of the whole grains we eat would be soaked to reduce anti-nutrients such as phytic acid (which are present in all whole grains, and block absorption of minerals such as calcium and magnesium). However, rather than aiming for dietary perfection as I was for years (and ending up stressed and overworked), I am at the place in our real food journey where we are finding balance and a diet that we can maintain for the long-term. This granola is not soaked, so I consider it to be a compromise food, which means that we enjoy it, but don't overdo it.

Maple Brown Sugar Granola (inspired by Bear Mountain Lodge Granola)
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, salt, maple syrup, and sucanat. Mix to combine.  
  3. Add the butter and mix until well-combined.
  4. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. (I love to use my Exopat silicone mats for this recipe.)
  5. Divide and spread the granola evenly on the two sheet pans.
  6. Bake at 300 degrees F for 30 minutes, then turn/stir the granola.
  7. Reduce the heat to 275 degrees F.  Bake for another 15 minutes and turn/stir the granola. The granola will be done when it is lightly golden brown.  If necessary, cook for an additional 15 minutes at 275 degrees F.
  8. Remove from oven and cool. 
  9. Store in airtight containers. I like to store it in the fridge so there is no rush to consume it quickly, but it will easily store for a couple weeks at room temperature.
  10. This granola is great as a breakfast cereal or, my favorite, sprinkled over plain whole milk yogurt and topped with dried blueberries. Yum!

What are your favorite compromise foods?


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Monday, January 4, 2016

What's Working and What's New? Our Homeschool Mid-Year Review for 2015-2016

I plan the bulk of our home schooling curriculum once a year in July, but each January it is time for our mid-year review.   The intent of our mid-year review is to look at the following with regards to our home school:

  • What has been working well?
  • What needs to be improved?
  • What needs to be removed from our curriculum?
  • Is there anything new to focus on? 
  • What specific needs does each child have over the next few months?
I write out my own reflections on the previous semester, and then think about each child's current interests and ways that I can direct our schooling to make the most of those interests. Then I meet up with each child for individual mentoring conversations to discuss their goals and desires, needs and wants.  Through the process of mentoring conversations, I am able to give my children the opportunity to take part in the direction of their educations. There are more details about how we do our Homeschool Mid-Year Review in this post

2015-16 Midyear Review: Things that Are Working Especially Well

Bedtime Math
This little book has been a great addition to our math curriculum for the year.  Each page includes some fun facts and then three math problems (ranging from easy to difficult) that give my children a chance to put math concepts into practice. My children absolutely LOVE Bedtime Math, and they are always begging for one more page.

We always let my youngest try to solve the first problem, if it is appropriate for his skill level, then my daughter typically solves the second problem, and I solve the last one. To increase the learning that occurs while I am reading Bedtime Math, I like to use a lap-size dry erase board to write down the answers to the problems and show different ways to solve the problems. My children often choose to write down their own answers and show their work, as well.     
Having penpals has led to a large increase in the amount of writing my children choose to do. They write letters to grandparents, aunts, and, more recently, to some homeschooling peers whom they've never met in-person.

Typically, my children will dictate their letters to me, which I type on the computer using Print-Clearly font in a pale color. They choose coloring pictures to add to their letters, and then I print them out.  My children then  trace over the letters; they love to work on their letters while I am reading aloud. All of this writing practice with tracing has made them much more confident in writing on their own, too.   

Once the heat of summer faded last semester, my children and I started regularly going for hikes with my mother.  Hiking has been a great way for my children to learn to persevere even when things feel too hard, to have exposure to the many beautiful landscapes nearby, and to bond with their grandmother.  It has been amazing to see how much hiking can be a self-confidence booster for both of my kids, in being able to accomplish something that seems difficult and enjoy the "view from the top" after their strenuous efforts. I intend to continue making hiking a regular part of our homeschool curriculum during the cooler months of the year here. 

"Child of the Week"
Each week, one of my children is the "child of the week" who chooses which curriculum resources we will use for the week. My children relish this opportunity.  The "child of the week" gets to choose:
  • which math games we will play, 
  • which history and math books we will read, 
  • whether we will do a science experiment, nature study, or microscope exploration, 
  • whether we will go for bike rides or walks, and where to, 
  • which composer we will listen to during music appreciation time, and
  • which poems I will read during Circle Time

2015-16 Midyear Review: New Curriculum for the Coming Semester

Snap Circuits is a new addition to our curriculum for the coming semester.  This year, our science studies are focusing on physics and machines. Snap Circuits will be a great compliment to these areas since it is a set of 100 experiments in electrical circuits, designed for elementary-aged children.  We  have already started diving into this fantastic resource, and my kids are loving it.

2015-16 Midyear Review: Notes from Mentoring Conversations

Both of my children had some good insights and surprises for me during our mentoring conversations. 
8 & 1/2 year old daughter Alina 
Alina's interest in animals and all-things-equine has been growing lately, and she envisions herself someday having a job working with animals.  She wants help in learning more about taking care of pets, as she would like to buy herself a pet fish and perhaps a bird eventually.  She also decided that she wants to start saving more money (from her egg business) to someday buy a horse.

Alina also tearfully told me that she feels like my rule of keeping only two unfinished projects during our monthly cleaning day is too difficult.  (With her personality type, she loves starting new projects but often does not finish them, so I have tried to find ways to manage the clutter over the last couple years.)  We came to a compromise, where Alina may keep two unfinished projects on our craft table on cleaning day, just as before, but that she may also put unfinished projects in a small drawer of her collections organizer.  

Nearly-6-year-old son Ian
Ian's current interests include machines of all kinds, and especially transportation machines. He expressed that he wants to be able to use the steam mop and vacuum more often (I'm not making this up!), so we agreed that his morning chores could include those activities instead of just scrubbing sinks and toilets. 

Ian also expressed that he wants help in making sure he does not have "atrocious table manners," specifically stuffing his mouth and talking with his mouth full. (This was a surprise to me, but I think it was inspired by an audio we listened to last year about a brilliant composer who happened to have atrocious table manners.) Ian also wants to teach our new dog how to play fetch, and asked for my assistance with that task.

Not Just for Home Schoolers

Our mid-year review gives us a renewed sense of vision for the coming months of home schooling.  However, mid-year reviews are not just for home schoolers. Any parents who are fostering a love of learning could benefit from periodic planning and mentoring sessions. These are wonderful tools for focusing our efforts on the things that our children need and desire in order to find their own personal missions.

Do you have a mid-year educational review? Do you like the idea of being a mentor to children rather than a teacher?

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