Friday, October 28, 2011

Fall Colors

The kids and I walked and biked around our local park the other day soaking in some of the last sun we may have for a while. We fed the ducks, had a snack by the lake and admired the stunning colors on the trees. There's just something about the color of turning leaves that almost makes it look unreal. I mean how can there be so many colors on a single leaf? Add the leaves all together and the tree looks like it's neon or at least a color that you can't really name. Beautiful!









Thursday, October 27, 2011

Camp Korey's Fall Festival

My family always visits a pumpkin patch or corn maze in the fall. We're suckers for the crisp air, apple cider and s'mores. This year I found a Living Social Deal for Camp Korey, which is just down the road in Carnation, WA.
Camp Korey serves children with serious and life-threatening medical conditions and their families at no cost. We provide year-round recreation programs specially designed to support the medical needs of campers while letting them just be kids and have fun.

I knew when I bought the deal it would support a great organization, but I really didn't know what we were getting. Turns out Camp Corey's Fall festival has it all! We got a yummy lunch of tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwich and hot chocolate, found our way through the corn maze to the fire pit where we roasted s'mores, went on the hay ride, did pumpkin bowling, got our face painted and even petted some baby rabbits and a wallaby!  I grow my own pumpkins in my garden, so we didn't buy any from them, but if I had wanted pumpkins they had a great selection.


When I added it all up, even without the Living Social deal, Camp Korey is very affordably priced and proceeds go to help kids who deserve to have some fun. So, if you haven't gone to visit a fall festival this year, or want to go again, consider Camp Korey!






Curried Nuts

It seems to me that a lot of paleo snacks are sweet. Fresh fruit, dried fruit, Larabars, etc. all fulfill that need for sweet, but sometimes you just want something that's crunchy and a little bit salty. Lately I've been interested in flavored nuts as a salty, crunchy snack. I've seen several posts on Paleo blogs about dressing up mixed nuts with various spices. So I decided to try and make my own spiced nuts. The results were very good and even my non-Paleo friends were scooping them up by the handful. This mix contains Walnuts, Almonds and Sunflower seeds, but there are twice as many walnuts as other nuts. Walnuts are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to reduce inflammation in the body. So eat more Walnuts!



Curried Nuts
1/2 C almonds
2 C walnuts
1/2 C sunflower seeds
1 t curry powder
1 t salt (if nuts are already salted, omit salt)
1 T olive oil

In a skillet, toast nuts and seeds for about 2 minutes on medium high heat until they are just toasted. Mix curry powder and salt together in a small bowl and set aside. Remove toasted nuts from heat then add oil and mix to coat. Stir the spices into the nuts.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

That Pesky Little Squirrel


About a month ago I was startled awake at O-Dark-Thirty in the morning by what sounded like someone hitting my roof and the side of the house. I got up and went down stairs to see who to yell at only to find nothing obvious. I was still hearing the banging but had no idea what was causing it. Then I saw a fir cone bounce off the deck...but why was it raining fir cones? I stepped outside onto the deck and almost got beaned by a cone, but I was able to see WAAAAAAAAYYYY up at the top of the fir tree a teeny tiny squirrel throwing down the cones. And he just kept doing it! For the next few days he threw down every cone in that tree and the ones next to it. And he always did it at about 6 in the morning, which was earlier than I wanted to get out of bed. Throughout the days after he'd made his morning haul, he would scurry over, pick up a cone and scurry away behind a tree. Or on some days he'd scurry around, find a cone and perch on the edge of the deck to tear it apart and eat the seeds inside.


If he wasn't so darn cute, I'd have to do something mean to him to get him to stop making noise in the morning and leaving a mess on the deck.  I even saw him chasing a much larger grey squirrel around the yard the other day. I guess he's claimed our back yard as his domain and nothing else can share his territory. But he's so fun to watch, I guess he's become our backyard mascot.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Paleo/Primal Pumpkin Pie

I love fall! I love Halloween and Thanksgiving. I love the colors of fall and the smells of the food that you seem to get only this time of year. One of my favorite things about fall is Pumpkin Pie. Every Thanksgiving I make Pumpkin and Pecan pie for the pot luck dinner we host for our friends. This year will be a little different as I'm not really eating the same foods I've eaten in the past. So I've been thinking about to do with my traditional foods and my non-traditional eating style. The more I thought about Pumpkin Pie the more I realized that it is very easily adaptable to Paleo eating. I've seen some recipes floating around lately with some interesting ingredients used to make pumpkin pie, but I think Pumpkin Pie is easier than that.


For the crust, I used almond flour, coconut oil and shredded coconut. For the filling I used pumpkin puree, coconut milk, pumpkin pie spice, eggs, honey and vanilla. That's it. The crust is the main difference between this version and traditional, but it's really a lot like a graham cracker crust. The filling is virtually identical to the original with only the coconut milk substituted for regular milk and honey substituted for sugar. Simple, easy and tasty. The kids didn't even know I'd changed the recipe when they had their dessert tonight. So I'd say that's a success!

Paleo/Primal Pumpkin Pie
Crust
1 1/2 C Almond meal
1 C unsweetened shredded coconut
1 C Coconut oil, melted

Filling
2 C Pumpkin Puree
14oz Can of full fat coconut milk
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2/3 C honey or maple syrup

Mix all crust ingredients then press into a pie pan forming the crust of the pie. Bake empty at 350 for about 10 minutes. Mix all filling ingredients then pour into baked pie crust. Bake at  350 for about an hour until the middle doesn't jiggle when you gently shake the pan.

Update:
Turns out that the crust is very coconut-y with the shredded coconut. It's more like a pumpkin coconut pie, which is good, but not like traditional pumpkin pie. So I'm going to work on another one with all almond meal or maybe almond meal plus coconut flour.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Paleo/Primal Breads

I was feeling the urge to bake today and thought I'd try out some variations of Paleo bread. My first go-to source for Paleo/Primal baking is Elana at elanaspantry.com. There I found this bread recipe that looked pretty nice. I tweaked it slightly to make up for the ingredients I had in my pantry. Using the almond meal  rather than almond flour made the bread have a nice hearty texture, but it would be more like regular wheat bread if you used the flour. Making this bread gave me the excuse to break out the paleo jam my friend April gave me a while back. It uses honey as the sweetener.




Paleo sandwich bread
1 ½ cups almond meal
2 tablespoons coconut flour
¼ cup flax seed meal
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
5 eggs
¼ cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Whisk all dry ingredients in one bowl and all wet ingredients in another. Mix wet into dry then bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes in a loaf pan. I used 2 small loaf pans with parchment "handles" to get the bread out of the pan. (to make handles just cut a piece of parchment that will lay across the bottom of the pan and up 2 sides and over the edges. Then lift the pieces that go over the edge to release the bread from the pan.)


But I couldn't stop there! I really wanted to make a veggie bread that was more savory and would make a good melted cheese sandwich. So, this recipe I mostly made up as I went along. I know there's no way the kids will eat it since it's very green and full of seeds, but I really didn't care this time. I'm happy to keep it all to my self or maybe share with Hubby. In this picture you can see the steam that was rising off the slice. Mmmmmm.



Paleo Veggie Bread
1/2 C almond flour
1/2 C flax seed meal
1/2 C Coconut flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp dried shallots (could use fresh, but use a Tbs at least)
1/2 C sunflower seeds
1/2 C coconut oil melted
1/2 C coconut milk or almond milk
5 eggs
2 C carrots
2 C kale

Bring all ingredients to room temperature. In a blender puree carrots, kale, eggs, oil (make sure it's just barely melted and not hot) and milk. In a bowl whisk all dry ingredients together. Then mix the veggie puree into the dry mixture. Pour mixture into a loaf pan and bake at 350 for about an hour. Test for doneness with a knife.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Photos of Rainbows and Large Food

This was an upside down rainbow that I saw in a mostly clear sky. According to Wikipedia this phenomena is called a circumzenithal arc, and arrises from refraction of sunlight through horizontally-oriented ice crystals, generally in cirrus clouds, rather than from raindrops. It forms no more than one-quarter of a circle centered on the zenith and on the same side as the sun.  Interesting.
Double rainbow on a rainy day.

Same double rainbow, but the bottom one got really bright (don't worry, I wasn't driving. )


The largest pancake I think I've ever seen! When my friend Kate ordered a side order of one pancake no one expected this.

Fresh picked cranberries. Although the cranberries themselves were pretty large, it was the quantity of cranberries that was memorable. I got to watch the dry harvesting of cranberries in a bog in coastal WA. It's very labor intensive and uses a walk-behind harvester that is no more than 3 feet across and moves no more than a mile per hour. But despite all that they had huge boxes full of whole berries.

Continuing the Cranberry theme we ordered the Giant Berry Cake with an even larger pile of ice cream and whipped cream on top. Five of us together couldn't eat it all. But we tried!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

From a Catterpillar to a Butterfly

A couple years ago one of the kids got a "Raise your own butterflies" kit for Christmas from a relative. They thought it was the coolest idea ever! So, I took the coupon for ordering the caterpillars from the box and put it on my desk. There it sat for over a year. During the summer I kept telling myself I needed to send it in, then when winter came I told myself it was too cold and I'd wait till spring. Then spring came and I finally sent it in only to be told it was too hot in whatever part of the country the company was based in for the caterpillars to survive transport. So we waited...and finally one day in fall the caterpillars arrived!


Ten Painted Lady caterpillars came in 2 little cups filled with a caterpillar food/water mixture in the bottom. We kept them on the kitchen counter so we could watch them grow, which they did fairly quickly. Along the way they spun silk all over their little cups around the food and their droppings. After about a week and a half they were fat little caterpillars that kept crawling to the underside of the cup lid. My daughter's class raised butterflies last year, so she was the expert and told us all that when the caterpillars attached themselves to the lid in a J shape they were ready to spin their chrysalis.



At this point I was instructed by said expert to move the caterpillars to the butterfly tent. This was no easy feat. Under the lid of the caterpillar cup was a sheet of tissue paper onto which the caterpillars had attached themselves. Unfortunately this piece of tissue had been shredded and was nearly impossible to attach to the roof of the butterfly tent with straight pins, but I managed to do it! In this picture you can see that 3 of the caterpillars have finished their chrysalis and are a lighter color than the 2 who are still working on theirs.


The remains of the caterpillar food/water mixture was probably as much caterpillar poop as food in the end.


All but one caterpillar spun a chrysalis around itself. I assume that the one that didn't has now died or will at some point soon. He's still hanging up there with the rest, but has no chrysalis. But that's a 90% transformation rate from caterpillar to butterfly. Not too bad!

Yesterday after we got home from a hike with some friends I happened to notice that one of our caterpillars had hatched into a butterfly! The butterfly was just hanging on the outside of the empty chrysalis letting its wings dry according to our resident expert. And not more than an hour later I noticed that another one had freed itself as well. I stood there waiting for a long time trying to capture another one emerging but the others are taking their time. This morning 2 more had emerged. So now we have 4 butterflies fluttering around in there. I've put some sugar water and fruit in the bottom for them to eat. Hopefully they like banana and nectarine!


You can see in the picture above that the empty chrysalis is almost colorless. So all of the color of the others comes completely from the transforming butterfly inside.

video

After they all hatch we'll release them into our backyard. The company assured us on their info sheet that Painted Lady butterflies are native to all 50 states; so hopefully they'll be happy in our yard and will go lay some eggs that might hatch next spring.





A Pain in the...

About 2 weeks ago after walking about 5 miles of hills with my good friend Kate I started having a mild pain on the right side of my lower back. Being the geek that I am I did some research to find out exactly what this pain was and what I'd done to cause it. After wading through a few medical websites I concluded that the pain was in my Sacroiliac Joint (SI joint) on the right side and it was probably caused by the inadequate shoes I'd been wearing while we walked up and down those hills. To try to fix this problem I went out right away and bought myself some proper walking shoes with a low heel to facilitate the full-foot walking that mimics walking with bare feet. Walking in these shoes didn't hurt my back, and after a few days I could tell my SI Joint was getting better. I also added extra stretching exercises to my yoga routine to massage and strengthen the ligaments and tendons surrounding the joint. (more on those below)

Well, all was going well, and my back was getting back to normal, then I went and fell down a flight of stairs on a weekend away with some friends.  After climbing back up said stairs, I tried to sit down to calm myself a bit. But immediately after sitting down I realized that if I sat there for any length of time I would not be able to get back up again. Ug, aside from the fact that I had a huge ugly bruise on my butt, my back had gone completely out of whack. My SI joint felt like it was going to seize up on me and refuse to let me move. So I paced around the room for quite a while trying to teach myself how to walk without pain. Those first few hours were pretty rough. I'd walk a few paces then my back would zing me and make me want to fall down or curse or both, but after a while I could walk or sit without pain. It was the moving from standing to sitting and back up again that was not fun. I was somehow able to dress myself, but there was no way I was going to be able to put my shoes on. Luckily I had friends around who were willing to baby me until they got me back home.

The whole first day was pretty bad, but luckily after a good night's sleep ON my right hip, I woke up feeling better than I had when I went to bed. Day 2 had much less pain than day 1, but all of those sore muscles appeared that day. I had a stiff neck and a sore upper back and sore ab muscles. I guess falling down stairs is a lot like having a car accident. The adrenaline rush immediately after the accident masks most of the pain, then after that wears off you feel the immediate things that hurt, then the day after you feel all of the little things that were stretched or pulled when you were trying to keep yourself from being REALLY hurt during the accident. But all in all I was VERY lucky that I didn't break a few bones or end up with a concussion after that fall. My doctor even said I looked surprisingly well for someone who'd just fallen down a flight of stairs. Then Hubby asked if I had a comedienne for a doctor. I guess you either laugh or cry about any accident, and I hate the way crying makes my face look, so I'll laugh. :)

SI Joint stretches
I talked to both my yoga teacher and my doctor about stretches to help my SI joint heal. Luckily they both gave me the same answers but called them different things. Here are the 4 stretches/yoga poses that will help a SI joint injury.

Cat Cow Stretch: On all fours, arch back up into the B - cat position below and hold for 10 seconds, then move into the A - Cow position and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat several times.

Downward facing dog: From all fours, press up onto hands and the balls of your feet. Press into your fingers to push your sit bones into the air and straighten back and legs. Hold for as long as you can.


Wall Supported Squat: With upper and lower back pressed firmly into a wall slide down until legs are at an angle (doesn't have to be all the way down to 90 degrees). Hold as long as you can.



Happy Baby: While on your back reach through your legs and grab your big toes or any other part of your foot or ankle you can reach. Grab pants legs if you can't grab your feet. Then roll around on your back massaging your sacrum. This one was a bit uncomfortable for me when I first injured my SI joint, but the more I rolled around the better it felt.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chicken Funnies

Chickens are always good for a laugh. I mean, just watching them interact with each other is comical. Then they'll go and so something like sink to the ground and pretend to be a boneless chicken or give you that funny one eyed stare. I was able to capture a few pictures of them the other day that deserved to be shared.



This is our mystery hen. Neither Hubby nor I remember having this chicken in our flock before last week. She's a pretty hen with nice markings and fuzzy feet. You'd think I'd remember her, but I don't. So is she a stray chicken someone decided we needed? Is she an escapee from the neighbor's flock? Has she been hiding in the bushes for the last few months just to psych us out? The other hens don't seem to have any dominance issues with her, so she must be acting like the lowest rung hen or they remember her and we don't. It's a mystery.

  
On sunny days the chickens flop themselves down on the ground and spread their wings like they are trying to soak up every drop of sunlight. They usually try to lay on top of each other while doing this resulting in something that looks like a pile of boneless chickens.




Even the chicks were boneless last week.



This is molting season where a good chunk of the older chickens lose a good chunk of their feathers and stop laying eggs. They really start to look raggedy after a while. Red is our oldest rooster. I think he's about 3 years old. This year he lost all of his gorgeous tail feathers during molt...except one. At least I think it was molt and not just getting hen-pecked. But either way, he's got this lone tail feather left that you just want to go pull out to get it over with. Poor Red.

Although, he seems to still have plenty of girlfriends even without tailfeathers.

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