Tuesday, July 15, 2014

snip, snip, snip!

So our friends were coming over for dinner. It was the perfect night to grill and dine outside. I was quickly trying to wipe down the patio furniture and set the table before they arrived. My cute little succulents had these two tall stems towering over the snug cute flowers I had tucked in just right when I planted. 

They looked ridiculous! Two long skinny, spiny antennas. I ran to the scissors and right before I snipped them off, I noticed tiny, lovely little orange blossoms way up at the top. 

So I didn't snip.

I almost snipped because it didn't look right.

I almost snipped off the prettiest part.

I almost snipped off blossoming beautiful life.

I almost snipped off what the plant is created to do.

And I felt like the garden was talking to me again. 

In parenting, life, business, marriage have I quickly snipped off the blossoms because something didn't fit my original vision? Have I made hasty decisions? Have I been so concerned about what others might think that I cut off something that could have been amazing? Has God asked me to do things that seem or look ridiculous so I opted out? Have I not stepped back long enough to anticipate something blossoming? Snip, snip, snip all through life.

Sadly I probably have. Probably more than once. More likely, a lot. 

Thankfully, I didn't this time! These delicate, precioius, lovely, vibrant little flowers spoke up! They reminded me to pause, step back, and look carefully before I snip! 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fumbling through The Plan

I wanted to give an update about my LoveHate relationship fumbling through the plan. I don't know the best way to journal it for you, but I'm going to try.

Day1: Hated it! Flax Granola was soggy because I did it wrong (don't double the recipe) and put almonds in it which I wasn't to do until day2. Hated no salt! Bird seed diet. And pouted and sulked about it. Lunch and dinner were ok.

Day2: Hated it! BUT lost 1.1lb! So that was a perk! Flax was better because I corrected my error. Still a little chewy not crunchy. Had to go to a restaurant for lunch and packed my own food. MY tip for packing your food is to ask the server for a plate and as quickly as possible, get your special food on their plate. Then it looks like they brought you something special. I don't like sauteed Kale as an entree but celebrated Brown Rice. No salt was bugging me!
Also Day2 was a very high stress day and my emotions seemed toxic. I finally got my journal out and wrote out all the junk, very fast, sparks were flying. It felt so good. Induced a good cry. And I was able to hear God. I'm not sure if it was a symptom of the detox, life, hormones or worse, it just happened to be Day2 of the detox and so I'm reporting. But I muscled through.
It is interesting that if I hadn't been on The Plan I'd likely have taken those toxic feelings right to the bread and butter, chocolate ice cream or cookies, a big plate of pasta, etc. Comfort food does provide a short term comfort and when you choose to deny them, the feelings are not tempered down. You have to deal!

Day3: Still annoyed with it, BUT! Lost 1lb! Starting to feel better about it for sure! Introduced low sodium chick peas to my diet that had consisted mostly of rabbit food and bird seed, I mean-vegetable based whole foods. They tasted amazing! Chicken with dinner. And for all of my belly-aching, I already started adjusting to no salt! Friends! This-is-a-miracle!

Day4: Warming up to The Plan. Lost 1.4lb. Whaaat?! Liking this now. No reactions yet. And 3day detox is over! I do believe the detox to be the hardest part. Now I'm just testing. Hello GOAT CHEESE! Hello DARK CHOCOLATE (1oz). Never has goat cheese tasted so good to me. I had an ounce, which is actually a lot, on a salad with olive oil and herbs as only dressing and was in Heaven! My palate is so clean and neutral now, it's crazy! I was so excited to have dessert!

I FORGOT COFFEE! I am going back over things and realizing that Day4 I was also encouraged to add coffee and I didn't! Yikes! I'll be adding a bullet proof coffee in a few days. I found while on the Clean Program that abstaining from coffee made a positive difference on my cycle. So I actually don't want to add it yet although it's my favorite thing!

Day5: Gained .2lb Since I'm up that would be a reaction. If I only react that mildly then goat cheese to me is worth it! I realize this is not the most informative journaling of The Plan. If you're wondering what I'm eating, it's very similar to what other healthy plans recommend: Lots of fresh greens, lots of vegetables, meat is a very small portion (like half a chicken breast), grains are small and paired specifically with veggies, cheese very small (1oz). I drink half my body weight in ounces of water. Snacks are small and clean, fruit or nuts or something very light. If anyone ate like this all the time, I'm sure they would lose weight too without following The Plan, however, the magic of The Plan is that you are able to test foods with a neutral body chemistry to determine which particular foods cause you inflammation. Inflammation will show a gain on the scale and then you have the knowledge to do whatever you wish with. Here is what I'm NOT doing: eating or drinking anything past 7:30, which for me is the HARDEST PART! I haven't tested coffee yet. I'm not salting my food. I use kelp and dulse instead.

Day6: Lost .2, added Rye Crackers. Normally they taste like particle board but now with almond butter they are one of my favorite things. I ate great all day. We went to dinner that night with friends and I ate mostly to plan from the menu, had 2 glasses of wine, and a vegan popcycle. AND! all of this after 7:30 and not enough water. Loved every minute of it!

Day7: The same. No gain! No loss! So I know that if I don't want to gain weight, I have 1 glass of wine, not 2. I eat earlier. I bet the vegan pop was fine. And I'm not disappointed that I stayed the same.

So fast forward now. I'm starting to love The Plan. It's making a lot of sense. I've learned after checking in with my plan seasoned friend Sheley, that I can test the things I like, skip the suggestions that don't interest me and learn on my own. I followed the meal plans to the letter the first 5 days. I find that was stressful and I know that I could have used my own common sense and still learned and lost.

I'm continuing to lose tenths of a pound each day. I'm learning to enjoy the large portions of greens. I think I can do this for a long time. I don't feel like a slave to the scale. I don't want to react and gain, but it's going to happen, and it's merely information.

I hate that I can't eat or drink after 7:30 but I love how I'm feeling, looking and eating! And I forgot to mention that I haven't worked out once on The Plan, since walking my lazy dog doesn't really count.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Plan, Inflammation and Attitude

So, The Plan by Lyn-Genet Recitas, is an "eating plan" (code for "diet") that helps you determine which foods cause you inflammation, a response that contributes to not only weight gain but a host of other health issues. As you know, I am on a mission to reduce inflammation due to my brothers experience with quadruple bypass surgery back in March, as well as our family history with heart disease.

So yesterday was Day 1 of The Plan and so far it has revealed to me an inflammatory bad attitude towards food. Day 1 is a detox day of eating a lot of healthy whole foods. What's wrong with that? Well I'm learning that I don't like being told exactly what to eat, when and to limit my salt. I didn't think I was rebellious but I'm certainly feeling like I am. I have been talking myself in and out of following The Plan throughout the whole day, but.......

I did it! I muscled through Day 1, lived and lost a pound. I ate this for lunch:

Mixed Greens w/Pear and Pumpkin Seed, Steamed Broccoli, and Carrot Mocktail
It was decent. I won't lie and say that I loved it. It was decent. What I wanted to do was sprinkle a mini snow storm of Celtic Sea Salt all over everything, but I didn't. I'd love it all with plenty of Celtic Sea Salt on it. I have an old blog post devoted to the attributes of Celtic Sea Salt and why some nutritionists consider it a health food. Although I wanted to very much so, I complied. And lived.

So that lovely looking Carrot Mocktail is a tip/trick that really helped me out with this lunch. It's supposed to be "soup" but it's not my kind of soup. It's not creamy-boy was I tempted to pour a bunch of coconut milk in it, it wasn't fatty, and it had NO salt. I've heard from seasoned Plan followers that nobody really likes it. I would have followed this advise except that I had already made a huge batch of it in preparation since it comes up in several preceding menu plans. I had it in a giant canning jar in the fridge. I decided to add ice and some flair and just call it a Mocktail. I actually enjoyed it which I hadn't expected to since my initial taste test of the Carrot Soup when it was hot was, "Ew, Ick!" My thoughts are that the flavors improved from "marinating" in the fridge together, and good old fashioned pretend play made it much more enjoyable. Knowing this, I'll make it much spicier next time!

The recipe called for a "drizzle" of orange oil over the Steamed Broccoli, and by "drizzle", it they meant "douse" or "dunk", then I did really well with that! It's Extra Virgin Olive Oil with fresh orange zest that's sat in there long enough to infuse good flavor. I took liberties to add a crushed garlic clove and some purple basil from my garden. Later I poured it through a sieve and bottled the oil. Please, I do so deserve a pat on the back for not putting a big pinch of salt in there. And I learned that there are amazing health benefits from citrus zest and will likely be using it much more.

Orange Oil
For dinner I had this:

 Kale & Shiitake Saute w/ Spicy Coco Sauce and Shaved Carrot Beet Salad
Surprisingly the star of this dinner is that vibrant salad of beets and carrots. It got a nice bath of Orange Oil and sprinklings of Kelp and Dulse Flakes which mimic salt. So YAY! Almost salty. The Kale was fine, the shiitakes were nice, and the Spicy Coco Sauce was fantastic because I amped up all of the spices it called for and simmered it forever! By "forever" I mean while I short order cooked another meal for TrueLove and Jake.

The challenge was getting all of this goodness inside me before 7:30. I really wanted hot tea at 7:45 and had a little pout about not getting to have a healthy drink whenever I wanted, but I did it! I finished the day strong! Understanding the reason I am doing this is to determine which foods cause me inflammatory reactions. Every body is different. I know-big revelation! So this "diet" ends up looking a lot more like a science experiment and the mad scientist of it all figured out that drinking after 7:30 taints the results of the experiment. (The people pleaser in me just thought that all of my natural weird food eating buddies would freak a little at the no drinking after 7:30 if I didn't explain.)

So far so good! Day 1 taught me that I have an inflammatory reaction to strict diets and eating plans. I am creative, I like doing my own things, I know a enough about nutrition to cop an i'manexpertiknowbetter attitude when new concepts arise (especially about salt and tea at night), and on a lighter note, I have much more self discipline than I thought. Also, that my health and fierce fight against inflammation have me convinced that the information I am looking for is worth the headache. ( I had a headache from lack of salt, I mean caffeine. I forgot to take Feverfew, the magic herb that prevents this.) Yes, worth the headache.

and for crying out loud! I'm making a big fuss out of a 3 day detox phase. And I'm already 1/3 done!!!

now for Day 2....

Friday, June 13, 2014


to my gorgeous & fantastic niece ISABELLA CASATICO
the stylish and fun-loving BAILEY VALENZUELA
to the uber talented and radiant KAI BAINES
to the lovely COURTNEY CLARK
to the smart & sassy JULIA FREET
my handsome & charming nephew THOMAS GILMORE

Thank you for sending us such fabulous pictures that we strung across our entry way. Each one is gorgeous and a reminder that you are all valued and worthy of looking up to!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Beauty Arise! Lunch Bag Journals

Calli and I are so excited to be hosting a chapter of Beauty Arise, 
a ministry to women all over the world 
through YWAM LA, here in our home for Calli and her friends!
What a fantastic community of women we are joining and learning under!
Tomorrow fifteen girls hungry for God and community will literally be climbing over one another in our cozy little home and I couldn't be happier! 
These young ladies will know that they are
valued, they are loved and they are beautiful!

Calli and I wanted the girls to have journals 
for everyone to decorate but after a quick jaunt through the craft store 
we decided to make our own! 
Calli and I wanted to have some samples for "how-to" as well as inspiration. 
Here is a sneak peak of our Lunch Bag Journals
that the ladies will spend time making and embellishing over the 
next six weeks.

Calli's journal is so cute!
We decided to protect the table with pads and then covered them with packing paper so
that way we could write inspiring messages on it for the girls 
as well as make templates for how long to make ribbons for the bindings. That table spread is covered with glue, scissors, string, hole punch, pretty paper, paper clips and stickers.
We had most of these things in the craft room and the rest I picked up without spending much at all.

Table laid out with supplies.

To make: 
1)Take a stack of lunch bags and fold down the middle together. No particular order.
2)Punch a few holes in the fold.
3)We tied string with bows for the binding, but you could use duck tape, metal rings, ribbon or even staples. The fun thing about these journals is that they need not be perfect.
4) Go crazy! No rules. Just make it function the way you like!
The other genius thing about lunch bag books, not just that they are cheap, is that they make lots of little pockets on their own.
We made tabs for the pockets for the 6 weeks we will study together.

Mine is a little crazy of course.
We also folded little pockets and glued the sides for things like: notes, encouraging words, prayers and pictures. I'll be taking a portrait of each young lady, getting cheap wallets from Costco so that the girls can keep them in there. They can write their phone numbers and instagram info on the back and remember to pray for each other as they start high school in the fall.
Soon it will be stuffed with notes and fun things!

Tomorrow there will be 15 girls putting little touches on these. Hopefully each week the ladies will bring special things from home to embellish their journals.

All of those lunch bags are cheap!

This craft will work for a youth groups, club meetings, birthday parties, camp workshops, almost anything you can dream up. It also makes a fun book for birthday gifts, vacation memories or a memory book just for a special event.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friends! Meet "Adopt-a-Block"

 Every Saturday
Fourteen blocks of low-income families will benefit from generosity that flows from this place!
The Vacaville Storehouse

Not just 14 blocks of families. This outreach is literally transforming the city of Vacaville.
Fresh Produce- a LOT!

By "transforming" I mean, they are cleaning up that town. They have reclaimed parks riddled with crime. Some of the volunteers on Saturday will go do graffiti abatement after they load up all the food. They have favor with the police department. The police department often will contact the storehouse for emergencies. Adopt-a-Block is dialed in with volunteers at the ready, so, "sure police department, we'll go to those neighborhoods and pass out flashlights!" And, I haven't mentioned it, but this storehouse is open to the public five days a week, two hours a day, and people come in and fill a bag of groceries and shop for toiletries and clothing too!
Oh and, that's not all!
Sometimes they even get good stuff like meat! And when I was inside looking around, I could see that some homeless teens were in there packing bags of groceries, sorting clothes and, yes, working, getting some job skills and being loved on.
Yeah, that too!
Preparing for the volunteers to arrive.

Pictured below is some of the food that will go out to the fourteen neighborhoods. There are fourteen vans that each got to choose a tote full of breads and three boxes of sweet treats from this line up. Stuff Safeway and some other stores donated.
Bounty waiting to be loaded.

In addition, we loaded up two boxes of corn, two boxes of cabbage, two boxes of baby food,  six small boxes of artichoke sauce starter, one box of canned white beans, six big boxes of frozen blueberries, and a pallet of natural all purpose cleaner. Oh, all that stuff was just for our van. Every van got that same list.
When we arrived at our neighborhood, Alamo Gardens, we set the boxes out like a tiny little farmer's market so that the recipients could pick what they liked.
See all those boxes stacked in the back? That's food going out!
Even baby food!

And! If you thought that was a lot of food...this Saturday every van also packed thirty bags of pre-packed USDA groceries-noodles, chicken broth, soups, canned veggies and more.
These bags are heavy!
All the bags say
"We love our city"
on the side!
There they are! Pretty little vans all in a row.
Even kids can help! Serving is fun, so why not blow bubbles and celebrate that the poor are being cared for this beautiful Saturday morning?
Getting it done!
Almost ready to go!
This is our van heading out. First time jitters. It's hard to not get excited about feeding people and blessing families. From start to finish, "finish" meaning in our own car heading home, three hours!

Those are all the pictures I took. I'll take more next time, pinky swear. Truth is, I was too busy working. No grass grows under these people's feet! There are people to feed. The thing that baffles my mind is that this is 
every single Saturday!
9 to 12
I know that many of you want to come with us and here is a snippet of what you can expect:

Arrive: 9 and start sorting & packing
9:30 or 10: worship and prayer 
"worship" meaning one song
prayer all at once, 30 seconds max
10: pack and go
arrive, set up "market"
recipients wait in line for us to arrive
we give them bags to fill
off they go
team leader registers them
volunteers deliver groceries to shut-ins, we had five
we pack up and get out!
unload any left-overs back at the storehouse
vans get returned
done by 12

The rules are simple!
1) Have fun
2) No knocking on the door like the police! (I'm not kidding!)
3) When you are done-you're done! Don't overstay your welcome.

How cool is that?!
So who wants to go?

And another little side note........
Jon is training to bring this program HERE!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"Foster Farms"

Today my garden is speaking to me and it's got rich meaningful things to tell me.

Lessons about hope, new life sprouting up, the patience of waiting for fruit to be produced.

These little guys that look like Christmas lights are popping all over the plant and it's one of the most fun things to check for when I get up in the morning. Does my heart foster the best environment for new ideas, gifts and ministries to bud like these shiny little green "light bulbs" that will be juicy tart lemons soon.

I noticed the words "FOSTER FARMS" on one of my milk crates. When I water our garden I reflect on the soil of my heart, ask the questions about what containers in my heart are being nurtured and which ones have I let go, and I pray over my gardens both the one in the pictures and the one that is my heart. I pray that the garden of my heart is bearing prolific fruit, blossoming and that new buds are popping up. 
So I love this milk crate.
It reminds me to ask
"What AM I fostering in my life?"
I hope that I am fostering healthy vibrant things that nurture and satisfy others,
like this gorgeous lettuce.

This small container of lettuce was bursting this afternoon. I was able to make this salad with it's beautiful leaves that fed my whole family. It's such a mirror of what I desire for my life, relationships, family and talents. Good fruit that feeds and nurtures the people around me.

I hope to have a fragrance that attracts people to the Creator of Life, like the fragrance of this beautiful Lemon Thyme.

Or this fabulous Pineapple Sage! 
I can't tell you how sweet it smells and it just seems to get better and better.

Or the fragrance of this gorgeous Basil or the deep rich color of it's cousin Purple Basil, 
their aroma is fantastic!

With little effort and fostering this Purple Kale is going to give me ridiculous abundance and it's going to power up my morning smoothies in a glorious way. Little effort and great results. There are parts of my heart that take little effort to get results and of course there are the areas, like parenting, that take tremendous fostering, nurture, weeding, pruning, and lots of hard work over time, but have the potential to feed the world in ways that I could not do alone. 

Are there parts of my heart that need rest? After last week I can give an enthusiastic YES to rest and refreshment. It will come.

My back yard garden has good organic soil, plant food, faithful watering, weeding, and lots of love. Ah! And Bandit's supervision. My heart needs love, prayer, forgiveness, honesty, faith, meditation, and just as careful attention. Sometimes I move things around in my garden-like my basil that benefits a little by the shade the tomato plants are providing in the afternoon. What relationships in my life am I surrounded by? Are all my relationships symbiotic or do some need to be moved to the other side of the yard or worse-uprooted? The garden has all of these lessons waiting here for me.

Is my garden healthy enough that it draws people in?

Just a moment to reflect on "fostering". 
It's simple, I know.
I had a very emotionally challenging week last week, grieving with a friend experiencing tremendous and tragic loss, my mother and brother in and out of hospitals on opposite ends of the earth as it seemed, difficult conversations, mixed with the emotional highs of getting to serve with Father's House Vacaville's Adopt-a-Block for the first time, graduating my baby from the 8th grade, ending my long stretch of homeschooling, and saying "good-bye" to the program that kept me in the game of homeschooling since my kids were wee little. The last yearbook Calli and I make together, the last class party.... Life is filled with lows and highs and oddly I am grateful for them both. Reflecting on how I foster the areas of my heart today, will determine how I am able to walk through the highs and lows that come tomorrow.