Nut milks can be magical

I’m doing a sort of elimination testing to refine what nuts and seeds, under what conditions, cause the troubles I howled about last week. It’s possible there might be a way I could keep some in my diet; we shall see. More on my guts later.

I want to share how I make nut milk, quick before I forget.

pitcher-glass_w-milkIt can be delicious, nutritious, and beautiful.

pitcher-glass_w-milk-purple

I’ve found it to meet all 3 criteria only when homemade. Fortunately, it’s very easy to do, and very easy to space the 1- to 5-minute tasks so I can do it in little bursts.

I was taught how to make this by the chief cook and supervisory bottle-washer aboard S/V The Excellent Adventure. I owe her and her family a deep bow, because not only did I learn to make nut milk, but I got to experiment (look under “Variations”) with a boatful of beta-tasters.

I wrote up the basic recipe and my favorite variations this afternoon, for some relatives of Cougar’s. I turned it into a PDF so I could share it online without facing the horrors of Word conversion and wandering images.

As many of you know, nuts are fantastic nerve/pain food. The healthy oils calm the pain and inflammation, the abundance of minerals smooth out neurotransmission and cellular house-keeping (which is a very important thing), and the protein and fiber are digestible and body-friendly. (Unless you’re allergic.)

I’m beginning to think it’s the rancidity and mold I’m reacting to. More on that later.

Anyway, back to nut milk. It’s very easy to make, tastes fresh and clean and delightful, easy to make creamy if you like that thicker texture, and — in case I haven’t said so already — it’s ridiculously easy to make.

PDF linked here: Isys-Nutty-Milk-Adventures_including-recipes

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The right toothpaste turns out to be my own

Updated to reflect much experimentation and the final recipe, Dec 16, 2016

We forget that tooth pain is nerve pain. There are big fat nerves going right up into every one of those 30-odd things in your head.

Cross sections of teeth intl

I have sensitive teeth, related to the fact that I have CRPS, which does its very best to thin the bony tissue out until it’s like a lacework pattern crocheted by the famous one-armed wallpaper-hanger.

So, basically, my head is set up for lots and lots of nerve pain.
poison_skull
Have you noticed that there are no brands of toothpaste for sensitive teeth that are anything other than mint-flavored? Moreover, the toothpaste focus groups apparently like a strong minty taste, because that makes them feel like it’s working. Heaven forbid they just lick their teeth to find out, I guess.

The vocal but persistent minority that does NOT like a strong minty taste apparently just isn’t profitable enough to serve.

Those of us who find it obnoxious or uncomfortable, or who are sufficiently chemically sensitive that the mint actually causes a chemical burn? Tom’s of Maine provides a couple of marginally less-caustic alternatives, but none for sensitive teeth.

That’s right, folks. Chemical burns to go with your sensitive teeth. Isn’t that clever?

So, my dental routine has sucked for years. First, brushing requires tension in my wrist tendons for a couple of minutes. Second, it jars my joints every time I switch direction, which happens a lot. Thirdly, I’M GIVING MYSELF CHEMICAL BURNS THROUGHOUT MY MOUTH. There’s something very wrong with that. Fourthly, in the nature of a cherry on the sundae, toothpaste doesn’t actually seem to get my teeth clean. It scores lines in the muck, but it doesn’t actually clear it away.

The routine I developed, which I could only do every few days, was this:
1. Damp washcloth to wipe off the muck, front and back, top and bottom. Only way to clear it off.
2. Floss with a flossing sword, hoicking more muck out from between the choppers.
3. Brush with the least-burning sensitive-teeth toothpaste I could find, the Walgreens brand.

That’s going to happen twice a week at most, not twice a day. It’s a lot of fine-motor maneuvering and, of course, the CHEMICAL BURNS THROUGHOUT MY MOUTH make it hard to look forward to. I can’t eat or drink anything for at least an hour, not without slamming the cup down as I’m sharply reminded why that was a bad idea.

This is a stupid problem to have. It should not be hard to have a non-burning toothpaste which will get the muck off my teeth and protect them afterwards!

Then a friend of mine (a fellow spoonie with a different set of spectacular health challenges) mentioned that she had been using calcium carbonate to brush her teeth, and they were suddenly whiter and stronger and better.

Then the pieces started coming together in my head. I put the calcium carbonate (yes, it’s chalk, in case you were going to look it up) together with some other things I knew about handling oral hygiene in the non-conventional, post-industrial world, and made my own toothpaste.

With one brushing, half as long as my old brushings, my teeth got COMPLETELY CLEAN. I might be hallucinating, but they seem a half a shade lighter after 1 day and 3 (that’s right, 3) brushings.

I’m keeping the potassium-nitrate toothpaste nearby in case this doesn’t work out within a week for sensitivity, but this is a real pleasure to use! It’s tasty, it doesn’t hurt, the jarring isn’t as bad on my wrists and I don’t have to do it as long, so I can actually brush my teeth a couple of times a day and it hardly takes any spoons at all!

This was so worth it 🙂

ADDENDUM/CORRECTION: So, the original recipe for toothpaste was outstanding for a few more days (when my teeth got visibly whiter and felt fabulous!) but the pain came back, absolutely unbearable. I couldn’t eat solids at all. I suspected that the calcium carbonate, which is extremely absorbent, basically sucked the potassium nitrate out of my teeth and may even have trapped the clove oil so it couldn’t do its job. I used commercial sensitive-teeth toothpaste for a few days until it stopped, went back to the homemade toothpaste to build up my teeth, and went back to the commercial stuff every so often as needed, until my home-made tooth PASTE turned into tooth SOLID. The calcium simply did what calcium carbonate does: it absorbed all the water and solidified. It is spectacularly good at absorbing liquid.

After lots of, um, learning experiences, I came to terms with the fact that the only tooth care I can manage to make for myself is not going to be a paste.

I’m not interested in adding glycerine and strange oozy substances to my dentifrice. It’s tedious, mucky, and provides no benefit I care about.

I grew up watching my dad clean his teeth with tooth powder, and he had the best teeth in the house, so it doesn’t seem odd to me at all.

I shake about a half teaspoon into my palm, dab it up with a wet toothbrush that’s as soft as I can find, and my teeth are cleaner and whiter, with less effort, than ever before.

I’m pleased.

Here is my..

Toothpowder recipe for sensitive tissues:

  • ~1/3  powdered xylitol, a specific non-caloric sweetener.
  • ~2/3 powdered calcium carbonate.

 

If you like, add to each cup of powder mix:

  • 20 drops essential oil of sweet orange (to boost the cleaning and de-mucking)
  • 20 drops essential oil of clove (to ease nerve pain)

 

+Why xylitol? Because it loosens the muck. It disrupts the biofilm made by all the different bacteria getting together on your teeth, by dissolving the glue that holds them together. (This is why your dentist likes you to have xylitol candy if you must have candy.) I recommend the xylitol made from hardwood, because the corn-derivation has gotten so that almost anything derived from corn makes my pain spike. Sad but true.  I get mine from http://store.xylitolusa.com/xylitol/.

Forward-looking statement (e.g., dream castle)

In the fullness of time, I hope to have a little cottage industry making this stuff up and selling it on to those who need it but can’t put it together or can’t get the stuff in bulk. Fingers crossed..

 

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“Best Christmas in years”

J’s experience of the holiday of loving and giving was one of manipulating and threatening for a long time. He doesn’t say that, of course; it takes detective work to glean the data from the clues he drops. He doesn’t reflect on the past, but it does tend to cast shadows into his present.

After last year, when I’d kept the holiday out of our home and opened my gifts in private, he said — to my surprise — that he’d like maybe a little bit of decoration and festivity next year. Not the commercial garbage, just a little light.

This year, I put redwood swags tied with burlap bows against the fence and draped a green swag of redwood across the trunk outside.

I picked up redwood cones, which are tiny and exquisite. I dipped them in penetrating epoxy to make them sturdy and non-porous. Then I painted the tips in copper or gold paint, and where I had twin cones on a single twig, I made one of each.
redwood-cones_decorated
On Christmas Eve, I made lamb kofta that turned out better than any I’ve had in years. It was the first solid food J had had in almost 2 weeks, and he ate half of it in a few hours. It went down well.

We’d gotten new flannel sheets. I dressed the bed in a brighter, perkier version of Black Watch plaid, fresh and soft and soothing.

That was enough preparation for me, clobbered by the worst humdinger of a cold I’ve had in years.

Then Christmas day dawned, sparklingly bright and crisp. Once he’d had coffee and I’d had tea, I made blueberry pancakes (recipe below) which he told me were the best I’d ever made.

We noodled around the house and yard all day, warm and content. I opened my gifts in the living room (he’d gotten and opened his earlier.)

I made a leopard-print minkee shawl for his dog, who has been swanning around ever since, clearly feeling as breathtakingly stylish as a modern Grace Kelly.
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The satellite TV was out, but I figured out how to connect my computer to the new TV and stream Netflix on our gorgeous HD screen.

Like many people, he has deep scars from mainstream religion. When he started climbing down that rabbit hole, I told him the history of the Christmas holiday, which dates back thousands of years in Europe. People collected under the largest available roof for the armpit of winter, keeping warm and entertaining each other, and those who had more shared with those who had less. Everyone got through better together than they would have alone, and familial and social bonds were reconfirmed ahead of another year of hard, often lonely labor. When the Church moved into Europe, they moved the celebration of their Savior’s birth from springtime to a few days after Yule, because the good ones loved the season of warmth and sharing and the scheming ones could spot a good opportunity. (I told him that the 3-day margin gave people time to sober up from the Solstice bonfires and clean up in time for Church.)

That isn’t about faith, just about historical data. Belief creates its own reality, and I respectfully support everyone’s right to choose and structure their own beliefs. All honest forms of worship make the world better, in my view. Amen.

The history lesson took the sting out of Christmas, and the last detail made him laugh.

After a week of prostration with that awful cold, he actually got up and washed all the dishes. The kitchen was sparkling by bedtime. It’s the little things that really tell you.

From about dusk on, J kept saying, “This is the best Christmas I’ve had in years.”

Something tells me they’ll get even better.

Recipes

These are Isy Recipes, so they don’t have too many ingredients or too many steps, and every ingredient has something fabulously useful about it.

Pain-cutting Pancakes

2 bananas, mashed
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flaxseed, ground
1/4 coarse raw sugar
1/4 package Boreal blueberries

Beat everything together and let it sit while the pan heats to medium heat or slightly lower. These cook low and slow, not like flour pancakes.

Pour the oil off the top of your almond butter into the pan. If you don’t have that, use safflower oil. Either one makes a wonderful crispy edge.

Spoon the batter into the pan about 3-3.5 inches (5-6 cm) across and up to 1/4 inch (.75 cm) thick. If you’re using the almond oil, they may fizzle and make white foam with a lovely scent. Cover the pan. It takes at least 5-7 minutes for them to cook well enough to flip in one piece. Cook the other side for slightly less time. Serve with Kerrygold butter and non-osmosed maple syrup, if possible 🙂

Kofta Kebab

1 pound (2.2 kg) ground lamb
2 eggs
~2 tsp natural mustard
2 handfuls of finely chopped spinach (I couldn’t find the parsley)
Spices:
Lots of ground cumin
black pepper
1 tablespoon (scant palmful) basil
2-3 tablespoons parsley (I found it)

Mix everything well with your clean hands. Heat 1/4 inch (.5 cm) of grapeseed or olive oil in a frying pan over medium high heat, hot but not smoking. As the oil heats, take small handfuls of meat and squish them into a lozenge shape, laying them out on a plate or board. Drop them into the pan, one batch at a time. If you made the lozenge shape rolly-polly enough, you can roll the kebabs over in the pan. Only turn them once; more often and the meat gets tough.

When they are crispy gorgeous dark amber, scoop them out and lay them on brown paper to drain. Eat with your fingers if you can’t wait, like me, or with ketchup if you’re a total yahoo, like J.

Lamb has lots of zinc, which is good for fighting off viral infections.

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Winter Recipe #1 – Cyano-berry brain booster, with special maple syrup notes

I view a recipe strictly as a starting point.

To some, recipes are instructions to be followed. That’s probably very wise.

To me, they’re a series of friendly suggestions, and every ingredient (except baking powder) has the unspoken caveat, “adjust, substitute, or mess with, to taste.”

The recipes I post are decidedly Isyan recipes. Even if I haven’t made them yet, I’ve made many similar things over the years, so I know they’re in the right ballpark. If you’d like to use them, please do — and realize that every ingredient here carries the implied caveat, “adjust, substitute, or mess with, to taste.”

With good ingredients, you can’t go too far wrong.
antioxidant_foods
When it comes to canning and preserving, I do what I do, but I suggest you follow the instructions you can read at any credible site on the subject. The USDA guide is here.

Cyano-berry Brain Booster

The point of this is to provide a stonking great dose of those anthocyanins and antioxidants which have consistently demonstrated that they help my memory and thinking. This is not desserty at all. I think it makes a great breakfast.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5-3 oz dried organic schizandra berries.
  • 1 Qt/Liter organic concord grape juice.
  • 1 small finger (~1-1.25 inch [~3cm] long piece) fresh ginger, or equivalent powder, to aid digestibility.
  • 2 Tablesp (rounded palmful) ground clove.
  • 1 Tablesp (scant palmful) ground cinnamon.
  • 3 Pounds/1.4 kg wild Boreal blueberries, wild (farmed) blueberries, organic currants, organic bilberries, or the most nutritionally dense, fresh or frozen dark-blue berry you can get your hands on.
  • 3/4-1 C (6-8 fl. oz., or 180ml-240 ml) non-osmosed maple syrup (see note below.)
  • 1/4 C (60 ml, or slightly overflowing palmful) ground chia seed.

Preparation:

Put the schizandra berries into the grape juice. Write the date on the bottle, along with the date 3 weeks on, and stick it in the fridge for 3 weeks. The rest of this waits until the schizandra berries are thoroughly steeped.

When you’re ready to make it all up within the next half day, then blend the berry/juice brewage until the schizandra seeds no longer sound like grit hitting the blades, but like very fine sand. Give it at least one minute. (I wear ear protection for that part, or leave the room.)

Grate the ginger fine.

Grind the chia seed in a spice or coffee grinder.

Rest if needed, then aim to finish the tasks below in one session.

Making and canning:

Put 6 quart bottles and new lids into a deep, lidded pan. Once they have boiled for the recommended length of time, you can turn off the heat and leave them there, good and hot and covered.

Combine the ingredients you’ve already prepared in a large pan. Add the spices and maple syrup. Mix everything well, so the spices are thoroughly incorporated. Add the maple syrup and blueberries. When it starts to simmer, turn the heat down to keep it simmering and stir the chia in, mixing well. I leave it loosely covered and let it cook for 5-10 min. I want to preserve the anthocyanins and the volatile spices, after all, not boil them to distortion and death.

Set the jars and lids up so it’s easy to transfer stuff from the pan. When you fill the jars, leave headroom — don’t fill into the neck. Try to keep anything off the lips of the jars.

Use your favorite clean absorbent material to wipe any dribbles or slurps off the lip of each jar. Each lip should be absolutely perfectly clean, with nothing to interfere with the seal you’re about to create.

Lid, band, and tighten each jar. Return them to the pan they boil in. Boil according to your canning instructions.

I actually boil them for about 5 minutes — this is just clean fruit, with preservative spices. I’ve had no problems, except for one batch that didn’t get the final boil because the fuel ran out. It got a bit fizzy after awhile, and wound up giving me half a quart of the best sparkling spiced-blueberry wine ever, plus half a quart of inedible spiced-blueberry sludge. Overall, a happy accident 🙂

Equipment notes:

I wash everything well, with hot water and soap, before I even boil it. They always put seizing of some sort on new bottles and pans. I can’t stand the taste, and I can’t say it’s likely to be good for me.

Ingredient notes:

Clove is a shockingly strong antioxidant and it helps reduce nerve pain. Having said that, it also has a very strong flavor. If you’re not extremely fond of it, that’s the first ingredient you’ll want to adjust. However, I love it, and I can eat this stuff day after day.

Schizandra berries are called, in Chinese, “Five-flavor berries.” They incorporate the flavors of sweet, sour, bitter, salty/savory, and the fifth flavor we don’t have a word for in English, but if you mix fresh-dug peat with barley malt and plum paste, you’re probably close. I happen to like them, but I’m notoriously odd — and internationalized. There’s no question that they’re amazingly good for the brain. Try them and see. I prefer them to goji berries by a long way, and a lot of people can choke gojis down.

Maple syrup is not what you might think these days. Traditionally, sap is collected from sugar maples during the first real warm spell in early Spring.
maple_syrup_tap
It’s then simmered down to syrup consistency, and the scent of it can drift for a mile downwind…

Most modern producers use reverse-osmosis filtration to reduce the volume of the maple sap, sucking the minerals and much of the flavor out of it, then boil the remainder just enough to say they did. The filters themselves are considered so toxic that they have to be sent to the landfill; all those wonderful minerals that get caked up on it are considered to be no longer fit for human consumption, and must not be used for anything that might possibly wind up in the food chain, according to a representative from one famous and otherwise delightful sugarhouse.

In the end, with reverse osmosis filtration, you get expensive brown sugar syrup, without the kick or the minerals of maple syrup. It all tastes much the same — like good brown sugar made into syrup. Traditional maple syrup, on the other hand, has “terroir”, just like wine. Its flavor varies from place to place, depending on the soil, water, bedrock, and microclimate. The Shelburne/Heath terroir has a refined floral foretaste that has to be tasted to be believed. Right over the ridge, in Ashland, the syrup has a deep earthy note like really great whisky. How awesome is that, eh?

The natural/organic syrup producers I wrote to are fine with the highly artificial process of reverse osmosis, as it saves fuel, which reduces their carbon footprint. Standard practice in that group seems to be to osmose the sap until it’s about a third or half the volume (“two passes”) and boil it down the rest of the way. They “feel” (this tells me that they didn’t get out the test tubes and check the nutritional changes) that they “retain the best of the flavor and nutrition of the syrup.” They really don’t — I can always tell when it’s been osmosed, and a few years ago I went taste-testing hundreds of miles through prime sugaring regions to be sure. I dropped a lot of money on tiny little sampler bottles just to make sure I was not imagining things.

The real test is this: the maple syrups I got from standard supermarkets, Trader Joe’s, and Costco made me hurt. The maple syrups I get from my producers who boil it all the way down does not make me hurt. So, as far as I’m concerned, reverse osmosis either puts something in that hurts me, or takes something out that stops the hurt — but, in either case, osmotic filtration hurts me, and I’m not going to pay money for that.

I use maple syrup in order to have a nutritious, painless and digestible sweetener, so I want the stuff that still has that nutrition and digestibility. It’s a bit pricier than the osmosed stuff, but a pain-free gallon lasts nearly a year in my tea and occasional grain-free pancakes, so it’s money well spent.

Buyer beware. Call and ask the producer if they use reverse-osmosis filtration, or if they boil the raw sap all the way down. I don’t recommend discussing it, just asking… New Englanders are not easily persuaded. They’re generally realistic and decent, though, so if the producer you call uses reverse osmosis, ask if they know someone who doesn’t. If they know someone, they’ll tell you. They might even get you their number.

I got my last good, fully-boiled-down batch from a friend of a friend: Jerry Smith at Deer Ridge Farm, 4057 Hinesburg Rd, Guilford, Vermont, (802) 254-3540.

View Larger Map
He’s on country time, so be ready to call and remind him to post your package if you don’t see it in a week.

Most of the fully-boiled producers do NOT seem to be part of industry groups (e.g., the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association, where I wasted a lot of time contacting members only to find that all those who bothered to return my messages used reverse osmosis.) They’re just farmers who happen to have sugar maples and some equipment, to keep themselves from getting bored during “mud month.” You have to be there to find them — or have good connections, like me 🙂 If any of you New Englanders or Canadians have other fully-boiled-down producers to recommend, please do — the more, the merrier, and it’s good to have fallbacks in a weather-sensitive and seasonal industry.

Note on posting: Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes are the cheapest way to ship heavy things like quarts or gallons of syrup in the U.S. If you need to use international mail, better figure out your best strategy for that ahead of time, since that isn’t in a rural U.S. farmer’s normal frame of reference. A quart of syrup weighs around 3lbs 2 oz (1.45 kg). A gallon weighs around 12 pounds (5.45 kg). These are not exact, as weight varies slightly from batch to batch. It is, after all, a handmade product.

Carriers who ship outside the U.S. include the United States Postal Service, DHL, Fedex and UPS.

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Preparing for winter in “Settler summer”

I’m too conscientious a historian to call it Indian summer, when the normally pleasant California shoulder season turns murderously hot.

I’m cleaning up, getting rid of clothes that were old a year ago and replacing them, and canning, dehydrating and even preserving food. I feel driven to, although it’s a lot of work and not necessarily CRPS-friendly tasks.

J cannot fathom why I’d be cooking in this heat, let alone making heavy, hearty food like bacon mash.

He’s cutting firewood instead.

Yeah, I know. We’re both kinda special.
matchgrins-horsenwoman_decamps-pauline_4blog
I have 4 blog posts almost ready to go up, but I keep making the mistake of starting my online time at social media. Within minutes, my attention is shot. I can’t finish a blog. I can barely finish a sentence.
me_wrysmile
This is the first vaguely functional day I’ve had after a spectacularly ghastly mast-cell-mediated flare.

Silly me, I ran out of my zyrtec (which I didn’t take very seriously; it’s not important like an SNRI, right? HAH!) and spent one day incoherent and two days merely swollen, crabby and able to cope only by losing myself in mindless tasks or Terry Pratchett books.

Took a day to figure out what was wrong. Partly, that was because I didn’t realize how much the zyrtec was doing for me, and then, of course, there was the headache that made me want to hack off the offending part, which made it quite hard to reason things through.
Sketch of brain, with bits falling off and popping out, and a bandaid over the worst
J is still avoiding me, hiding in the trailer with the tv when he’s not actively butchering logs. It’s possible this chicane isn’t over yet; his behavior is usually a reasonable guide to how unbearable I am.

I only took one zyrtec today, as my stomach would not even think about more. In a couple of days I may be back up to my usual 2. It will be nice to have normal fingers; reasonably functional digestion; less inflammatory pain playing xylophone on my spine, with rimshots off the other joints; and maybe a calm and considerate personality again.

Anything is possible.
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Isy’s anti-inflammatory mashed potatoes
Obviously not for those with belladonna sensitivity.

  • 5 pounds organic red potatoes, cleaned and coarsely chopped
  • Turkey broth
  • 1 organic white onion, diced and lightly browned
  • 4 oz grassfed butter, like Kerrygold or Organic Valley Grassfed, in chunks
  • 10-12 oz grassfed aged cheddar, like Oscar Wilde 2 yr, Cabot Extra-Sharp, or Kerrygold aged cheddar, sliced or chunked
  • Optional: nitrate-free naturally-raised bacon, like Niman Ranch, cooked until very crisp, then drained and crumbled fine

Steam the potatoes in the turkey broth.

You might need to assemble the rest by halves, depending on the volume of your mixing bowl or blender.

Dump the rest of the ingredients into a mixing bowl or, if you have a really good blender, use that instead. Put the potatoes and broth on top, so the butter and cheese start melting under them and make it blend better.

Beat or blend until it’s the consistency you like.

Enjoy it nice and warm on an achy day.

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Isy’s principles of blogging 101

Quite a few people I know are going into blogging. Most of them are CRPSers, all of them are clever and interesting, and I think that is terrific. I couldn’t find a Blogging 101 that wasn’t oriented towards cashcow blogs, so I figured I’d better write one.

Each writer who writes as themselves is unique, and the more of us who write truly about CRPS (or whatever we struggle with), the more others will begin to understand what’s really at stake when we talk about managing and even curing it.

The more, the merrier!
The more, the merrier!

First, let’s knock off some assumptions…

What it isn’t

– A blog post is normally not a chapter in a book, or a news article, or a short story — unless it is. If you’re posting any of the above, it means you’re writing a particular sub-category of blog, which is a good thing to be clear about. (Generallly, a blog is a place to work out ideas which subsueqently turn into books or articles, we’re writing for.)

– It’s not a journal. Generally, it’s creepy people who want to read other people’s journals; most of the rest of us are uncomfortable with that feeling.

– With that in mind, writing a journal entry before writing a blog post can really help deliver a punchy, powerful blog post.

Then let’s talk about the almost unlimited potential…

What it can be or do

– A great place to work out ideas that later go into books, articles, and so on, with more focus and a better understanding of the audience. The interaction and feedback you get on each nugget of thought is a great way to learn how to tune your writing and make your ideas clearer.

– Pre-marketing. When people love your blog, they’re liable to be interested in any work that comes out of it: books, articles, even speaking tours or movies.

– Wonderful way to connect with people in your target group, the group of people you want to explain things to or share things with.

And now some basic guidelines…

What a good blog usually is or does do

– Each post has one or two main points. A post is a limited space, oriented towards people with not a lot of time — either because of work, attention span, or memory issues. Keep each post to the point.

– Short posts get read more. Kinda sad, but true.

– The above is a good reminder to keep the writing “tight”, that is, no needless words, no needless sentences, and no needless paragraphs. (Another reason why journaling is so helpful — we can get the need to gnaw on an idea out of our systems, so we can step back and deliver it more tightly and strongly in less space.)

– Be particular about which posts get long, and keep them engaging to someone outside one’s own head. Extended metaphors or an underlying plot can keep people reading.

– Serious stuff matters. Humor keeps people reading. The two often go together really well, or at least can take turns gracefully.

– Keywords/categories/tags (the terminology depends on the blog host) are important. They help people find your blog online, so choose terms that people are likely to search for.

And finally…

Further tips and suggestions from my experience

– As I have to remind myself now and then — my readers are people outside of my head, not in here with me 🙂 This helps me explain and unpack when my first impulse is to be telegraphic; it also keeps me from belaboring a point that’s bothering me more than it would bother someone else.

– I get a lot out of watching the director commentaries on good/entertaining films, especially if there are director commentaries on the deleted scenes and outtakes. Hearing how they chose to eliminate much-loved or super-cool scenes in service to the overall piece, is like a mini-workshop on creative structure and knowing what your priorities are. Most notably, the concept of eliminating “repeated beats” is key to keeping my blog posts solid. I’ve deleted some great lines, but they aren’t missed. It took awhile to realize that, if they won’t be missed, they aren’t needed.

And now for a practical note…

Choosing a setup for blogging on

If you have access to a server and a web geek, read no further. You’re set. Just do what they advise and ask for any help you need.

If you’re totally new to all this, it’s not crazy to go to http://blogger.com, set up a Google account if you don’t already have one, and go through their step-by-step process for setting up and customizing your blog. The upside is, they really protect you from spam and thin out the hacking issues. The downside is, once you’re hacked, you’re hacked. They don’t seem to have a way of letting you build in extra protections.

If you have some geek skills and can get access to a server or hosting service, you might prefer http://WordPress.com to build your blog site with. It’s highly customizable and you can choose from plenty of forms of protection, which you can alter, tune, and change as you like. Downside: the spam is horrific. Upside: You can always upgrade your hacking protection.

There are a growing number of options, but I’m describing what I know and have worked with myself. Hope it’s helpful.

Happy blogging 🙂

Link list

Predatory mis-links are so common now, I aim to be more diligent about providing lists of the links I actually use in my blogs. That’s not a bad tip, actually, and it was first suggested by one of my readers 🙂

  1. Writing Like Yourself, by yours truly
  2. Blogger.com
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Recipe: Even Brain Food Shakes evolve

As my digestion has gotten more frail, I’ve had more and more trouble with my Brain Food shake.
 
I went to a powder, because organic kale was hard to find and unwieldy,  and the nonorganic kind smells like a chemist’s armpit. And was still unwieldy.
 
But those shakes still hit my stomach like a cannonball.
 
J listened to me complain for the second day in a row and said, “Don’t eat fruits and vegetables together. Of course it’s impossible to digest.”
 
I stared at him a moment. “I used to know that,” I said with chagrin.
 
That was over a month ago and I think I’ve finally figured out how to make the greens taste like something other than pond.
 
So here are the current incarnations of my Brain Food Shakes, the simplest way to get maximum nutrition with minimal effort:
 
Morning Shake:
 
– 1/4 pound Trader Joe’s frozen Wild Boreal Blueberries (high anthocyanins, low toxins)
– heaping soupspoon almond butter (good oil, protein, minerals) (TJ’s is cheapest)
– Cal-mag supplement (for nerve transmission, teeth and bones; 1 tablespn Lifetime brand, blueberry flavor)
– 1/8 tsp clove powder (massive antioxidants, calms nerve pain, and I love clove)
– ~3 oz apple juice concentrate (malic acid helps clear cellular detritus)
– stevia (stabilizes blood sugar, cuts any lingering bitterness)
 
Whizz it until the flakes of blueberry skin are more or less uniform and quite small.
 
I’ve recently added:
 
– fat pinch of schizandra berries (massive antioxidants, seems to stabilize neurotransmitter behavior; whole berries take extra time in the blender)
– lecithin (improves digestibility and oil uptake)
 
Once everything’s whizzed down smooth, I add at the last minute:
 
– 1/2-3/4 cup blueberry kefir (I really like Lifeway brand, blueberry or plain)
 
The point of blenderizing is to chop open those cells so the nutrition is easy to get to, but with kefir or yogurt, the cells only work if they’re intact. So I whizz in kefir just until blended, maybe 2 seconds.
 
I mix in blackberries and fresh local berries when I can. On the road, I use dried currants, which are an overlooked “antioxidant powerhouse”, in modern marketing lingo. They can make the sweetness overwhelming, though.
 
This afternoon (fruit is more appropriate in the morning, veg in the afternoon) I tried something like this:
 
Afternoon Shake:
 
– Vegetable juice (TJ’s Garden Patch, but I’m open to suggestions)
– Scoop of green powder (I get distinct results from Garden of Life brand Perfect Food Raw; brain really perks up)
– 1/4-1/2 an avocado (cleans up blood vessels, great oil)
– 2 handfuls chopped kale (most nutritious veg per calorie; thanks to TJ’s for taking the work out of prepping organic kale)
– 1 handful sliced cabbage (sulfur for brain, glutathione precursor; also, does something magical to the kale so it tastes smooth and mild)
– salt (reduces ANS/POTS symptoms of dizziness and wonky bp)
– lecithin
– 1-2 individual grains of Epsom salt, a.k.a. magnesium sulfate (sulfur for the brain, magnesium for nerve transmission and electrolyte balance)
– water enough to make it go
 
Has a wonderfully fresh, pleasingly grownup flavor. A bit of cilantro, onion and lemon, and you could call it gazpacho.
 
I’m considering a pinch of curry powder, for the antiinflammatory circumin and that wonderful taste. It doesn’t need it, but it could add a bit of variety. 
 
I’ve often said that it HAS to taste good, or I won’t be able to keep doing it. And, since I test regularly (that is, try to do without), I know I have to keep doing it.
 
And as long as it tastes this good, I’m happy to do so.
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Metabolic moon dance

My digestion is not happy.

Between the stress of househunting (and the way that forces us into other families’ dreadful dramas), some really egregious motels, and too many things hanging fire for too long…

Plus taking that spirochete-assassinating, gut-grating antibiotic doxycycline for three weeks (19 days, actually; those last four pills, I almost vomited just looking at them)…

With a bit too much pain and dysautonomia for a little too long…

Amidst, of course, the infinitely complex metabolic moon dance of CRPS…

In consensus reality,
this is a shot of my old marina’s night lights…
but it’s a great visual metaphor for the body events of CRPS. Fling!
Image c.2008

… Well, things have been better.

They could be a great deal worse, but really, they could be rather better.

I haven’t been able to keep up my kale shakes, because the indigestion is too energy-sappingly unpleasant. My sweetie made a remark the other day that gave me a clue I want to pursue: don’t mix fruits and vegetables.

I used to know that.

I’m going to try berries with kefir and nut butter as the morning shake, and kale with avocado, cabbage and broth in the evening. (And, for the record, I’ve reconfirmed that organic berries are a lot less nauseating in this hotwired system.)

This assumes, of course, that I can get all the ingredients… Handle the blender… Have a place to plug it in… And somewhere to rinse it out afterwards… In the midst of homeless upheaval and chaos… Twice a day.

Editorial comment is useless. There are times when my natural wryness is wholly inadequate to real life.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Dietary limitations? Where? I’m too busy feasting, thank you

Dietary limitations are a recurring theme in my life — and that of many who read this.  There’s little self-pity left in me for it, because my world of food has opened up in magnificent new ways. I hardly miss wheat, for instance, because I have so many other wonderful things to wrap my teeth around.

This attitude is essential to a bearable life.  Admittedly, it’s an adjustment to learn not to think in terms of “not“… Wait, let me rephrase that…

Since it’s hard to get started with food changes, and my energy and attention are limited, it helps to have people show me alternatives.The past decade or so has been filled with people who do things — like eating — differently from how I did, and that has been a huge help. I’ve mentioned the Brain Food shakes (once or twice) but the blender is only one of the arrows I have in my dietary quiver.

I’ve also had the advantage of living in “foodie” areas where it’s not that hard to find alternative sources of nutrition:

– heritage and heirloom strains of vegetables abound (a good way to reduce exposure to problematic proteins is to eat unmodified strains),

– gluten-free mixes of several different brands let me figure out what works for me (I do best with sorghum/tapioca based blends), and

– it’s easy to find foreign foods like quinoa (a quick-cooking grain which is extremely high in protein and tastes fantastic with a little butter) and English cucumbers (which are more digestible than the US kind).

It also helps to experiment with different forms of cookery. For instance, I loved discovering sprouting, because it creates lots of food from very little outlay, it’s mechanically easy, and it takes only a few seconds of effort at a time — perfect for CRPS-induced ADD!

There’s a lot of, well, let’s call it culture, around sprouting. Don’t be fooled by the complex gear and the long lists of instructions. Those complications are for those who find it satisfying to work out the details.

That’s fine. It’s also optional.

Sprouting

It’s really very simple. There are only 3 things you need to have and 3 things you need to do.

Have

1. Clean jar,
2. organic (or close) sproutees,
3. safe water.

That’s all you need. A mesh top for the jar is handy, but you can make one with cotton gauze and a canning band, or by drilling the original lid. Toss the used gauze in the washer and reuse, or just toss it and cut off more.

Do

1. Water them.
  a. Soak sproutees overnight, covered +2″ with water, in the fridge. Pour out water in the morning.
  b. Then rinse 2-3 times a day, more if it starts smelling anything other than fresh and bright. Just stagger to sink, pour water in over gauze/mesh, give it a gentle slosh around, and pour it out. Repeat.
  c. Park aslant, head down, in a clean drainer or in a lip of the sink. Drains excess moisture.
No fussing.

2. Grow them until the tails are at least 1/4″ or 60mm long, for best nutrition; up to 2″, if you like greenery. Takes 1-3 days to get to 1/4″.

3. Eat them fresh; keep a couple jars going so you always have something coming up. It’s very encouraging. As soon as I empty a jar, I set it back up.

Whatever I sprout, I buy it fresh enough to have its proper color and scent, and that yields 80% or more of sprouted germs. Less yield with older product.

I’ve discovered that tiny red lentils sprout quickly and have a subtle sweetness that’s wonderfully satisfying and goes with soup, salad, on sandwiches, in rollups, and (usually) straight out of the jar.

Sprout amaranth to just over 1/4″, add half and half or cream, sweeten with a touch of brown sugar … it’s halfway between Cream of Wheat and Malt-O-Meal. I was stunned. Had to try it a couple more times just to be sure.

If you’re inspired, please let me know if you discover any real gems, like amaranth cream of wheat 🙂

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Recipe: Kale Shake & the Sunshine Band

Being able to manage means having enough brain and energy to work with. In recovery from a major setback, that means getting down enough kale and berries to choke a couple of horses.

The most manageable way for me to get them in is via my handy little one-person blender. It keeps them raw (maximum nutritional value) and prechews the kale, which can really be troublesome after the 3,000th bite.

Here’s my basic recipe. Options and rationales are below.

– handful of berries (I prefer blueberries and cane berries), or 1/3-1/2 a half-pint container.
– about 1/2 cup water (helps soften berries)
– 3-4 medium to large stalks of the fluffy kind of kale, called “lacinato kale.” 7 or 8 stalks of the smooth variety. Chop in strips ~1″ wide, depending on blender strength.
– about 1/2-3/4 cup apple juice or cider.
– 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.

– Options:
   = Dessertspoon of nut butter or a slosh of yogurt, for protein and a bit of oil/fat to help me absorb all the nutrients.
   = Pinch of stevia powder: adds sweetness, further aids with blood sugar stabilization.

Kale: given the quantities I eat this in, it has to be organic or I’m in strife.

Berries: I use either fresh or frozen, whatever is available and affordable. Always organic or close to it, because industrial growers use lots of pesticides on most berries and they’re hormone-based (estrogenic) – I used to live near strawberry country and the spraying was really obnoxious. I tried using berries grown by industrial methods, to save money, but it put me on a horrible hormonal roller-coaster… 2 solid weeks of PMS? Not so good.

Cider/apple juice: provides malic acid, which helps clear garbage out of the cells. Also helps cut the bitterness and predigests the burpy stuff out of the kale. Use a splash of raw cider vinegar if you have to use another juice.

Cinnamon: It cuts the bitterness the rest of the way, and helps stabilize blood sugar. There’s a lot of sugar in this, for me. You wind up not tasting it, but the shake goes down better.

Options: I often add the nut butter. The resulting texture is creamier. The yogurt, even a little bit, makes the shake more filling, so it’s good for making it feel like a meal.

I recommend adding a bit of oil/fat, because it’s so important to squeeze all the nutrition I can out of each bite (especially when nausea makes eating unpleasant) and oil or fat helps with the absorption of key nutrients in this shake.

I also find that pain is less and thinking is better if I get adequate fat in my diet, meaning, a moderate amount more than I need to absorb this nutrition; one day I’ll remember why.  It rings a bell from my nursing school classes. Might relate to the demyelination issue in chronic CRPS.

If I don’t add a bit of something oily to the shake, I have a slice of aged cheese or meat, which provides brain-friendly fat and also gives my body neurotransmitter precursors — adding more oomph to the brain-value of what I’m eating.

It’s an uphill slog but I’m determined to get better again. These shakes really help. Trouble is, there’s only so much room in an individual tummy, and I do need to stay under a bearable weight and eat other things to stay in balance.

Sigh… It’ll work out. It’s hard to be patient enough, but healing in the face of profound illness does take time. If there’s one thing I’m learning, it’s patience.

Time for another shake…

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