Friday, August 16, 2013

Reversible Bag

It took me two hours to get the Kenmore running. No, there wasn't anything wrong with it. I just forgot to read the instructions. Good thing I have the manual. Apparently, in order to do a straight stitch on a 1703, you need a straight stitch foot AND a little straight stitch plate. Good thing I have all the attachments. Once I had the proper parts in place, it only took a little fiddling with the tension and she was good as gold!

The only problem I've found so far, is the bobbin winder mechanism doesn't work. A rubber part inside is old and crumbling. Not sure If I can find a replacement, but for now I just reach over to my Singer 404 for bobbin winding. It seems to work just fine, even though they're made for different class bobbins.

Once I got her up and running, I was DYING to to try her out. So off I dashed to Pinterest to pick an easy project from my overflowing sewing board. I settled on a free reversible bag pattern from verypurpleperson. I didn't want a huge bag, so I resized it to 80%. Perfect size.


The handles turned out a bit short for my tastes. It fit me fine as a summer bag, but I despise a shoulder bag that's difficult to get over a winter coat. To lengthen the handles, I added 2 pieces of denim roughly 4-5 inches long to each strap. Turned out a bit too long.

Of course.

Pardon the amateur stitching. This was the last part, and I was ready to be done!

It's not bad. I probably could have gotten away with only 2-3 inches, but I think it turned out nicely. The denim is a cute contrast to the green and blue damask, plus it makes the strap a bit more durable. The inside is denim from an old pair of pants, and the damask has been hiding in my stash for over a year.

Now, I don't know about you, but I can't live with a bag that has no pockets. Purses are like black holes. If I don't put my cell phone in the pocket, I'll lose it for a week. It doesn't matter how many times I call that thing or move stuff around.

That's why my current phone is Ferrari red. Now I only lose it for 2-3 days. It's wonderful!

I didn't think too hard about the pocket. I just made sure the base was no wider than the darts, stitched the top, folded in the sides, and stitched it down. I did this before assembling the pieces, so all the stitching is hidden. Then, because I'm sick of fishing for pens (it's worse than my phone, I tell ya) I added a line of stitching about an inch or so from the side.

The main pocket is big enough to fit my checkbook, which I love! I didn't do a pocket on the other side, mostly because I was lazy and wanted this to be a 1 day project. I will be figuring out how to stitch a D-ring in there somewhere.

A few years ago, I started keeping my keys on a clip like this. I love, love love them. Hubby has his keys on a blue one, and mine are on red. Not only is it easier to figure out who's keys are who's, but I RARELY lose my keys anymore! I'll clip them on a belt loop while unloading groceries, or onto my purse straps (tucked inside the purse) while shopping. No more fumbling through a sea of receipts while your kids are screaming and your food is defrosting! The handles on my new bag are WAY too wide to clip on my keys, so I'm going to add a small D-ring inside. Seriously, this little detail makes life SO much easier!

The sewing bug has bitten me HARD, even though I have SO much to do. I'm actually supposed to crochet a bridal shrug for my sis-to-be by November! I would have started months ago, but the arthritis in my hands was awful. At this point in time, it's either suck it up or tell her I can't do it.

I'll probably suck it up.

But not before sewing a few more small items.

I'm thinking underoos...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Sewing Machine Addiction

Hi, my name is Maria, and I'm addicted to old sewing machines.

 It started out innocent enough. I wanted to get into sewing, but didn't have the money for a new machine. One day, whilst perusing our local thrift store, I saw an old machine for only $5. I figured, what the heck, for five bucks I can teach myself to sew, and then someday when I have the money I can buy myself a better machine. This was my first hit.

Well, that first five dollars taught me a lot. The first thing it taught me, was that there is such thing as a straight stitch only machine. Yep, it goes forwards and backwards. Straight line. That's it. Granted, you don't really need much more than that to sew most stuff, but it does prevent you from doing more complicated projects. I tinkered with the Dressmaker for a bit, but it just didn't seem to sew very nicely, so I decided to head back to the thrift sore and try my luck again. There had been a second machine there at the time I bought the Dressmaker. It had also been $5, but it was really, really dirty inside so I had passed it up. Boy, am I bummed that I did. It was a beautiful blue Morse. She looked kind of like this:

Image found at Great site!
Gorgeous, isn't it? Unfortunately, she was gone. I wandered the outdoor furniture area for a bit, hoping to come across a consolation prize, when I noticed that the workers were unloading a truck full of new donations. There, out in front, was a beautiful old machine in a cabinet. My heart went pitter-patter. I casually floated by and looked her over.... I laid my hand on the flywheel and gazed at her beauty. I looked her over for a price sticker, but she must have been fresh off the truck. No price. I moved away, but she whispered to me again... twice more I wandered past, her soft voice beckoning me to stay with her. Finally, I couldn't resist any longer. I turned to one of the ladies unloading, a woman I knew to be a head honcho at the store. How much did they want for the machine and cabinet?

"Oh, you can take it. They never sell anyway."

I couldn't believe my ears! Really? I can just HAVE it? I tried to keep my cool as I walked back to my car. In reality, I could have skipped. I carefully loaded the whole thing into the back of my Bonneville and proceeded to drive as fast and yet a gently as I could back home. SHE WAS MINE! This is my first and greatest love, a Singer Slant-O-Matic 404 in her original cabinet:

Hello, sweetheart.

 It turns out that the 404 is also a straight stitch machine, BUT she is a force to be reckoned with! Made in 1959, this little lady was built to stitch through anything. I ended up having to buy a missing part, but once that new part was in she sewed smooth and quiet.

Ah, the day I brought her home! She needs a bath.
One of the greatest perks to buying an old Singer machine, is you can find TONS of information on them, much of it from Singer themselves. You can get manuals, parts schematics, even replacement parts for just about every Singer ever sold!

Slant-O-Matic or gangster lean, you decide.

As much as I adore my sweet, hardworking 404, that pesky straight stitch issue kept me on the lookout for a more versatile machine. A few months later, I happened upon this little lady.

The duct tape is from the case, which is broken.
 She's a Singer Stylist 457. All she does is straight and zig-zag, but I'm convinced that's all you really need to get by. This machine taught me a few more lessons. First, don't trust the staff when they say "yeah, it works." I got it home, went to try it out, and promptly shattered a plastic gear. A gear that is notorious for breaking, as I quickly learned. It took me a good six months before I got around to replacing the gear (surprisingly easy) and re-timing it (absolute pain in the butt). Second lesson, was always do a search on the model you are looking at. Old doesn't guarantee good, and it doesn't guarantee bad. (Look for quilting and sewing forums to read from people who collect and use old machines. This is where you'll get your best reviews.) Unfortunately, everything I read about the Stylist said that it was meant mostly for light-duty sewing. My few test runs have confirmed this. It just doesn't have the "oomf" that the 404 has.The third lesson I gleaned from this one, is that gears make the difference. Older machines, meaning -for the most part- before 1960, used all metal gears. The only belts, if there were any at all, attached the motor to the flywheel. That's it. Metal gears almost never wear out, and it takes a lot to slow them down.

Because it took me so long to fix the Stylist, I continued to keep my eye out for machines that might have even more stitches or power than my previous three. That's right, I'm up to three machines now. Next machine to catch my eye was this little thing and her cabinet, which we found at Goodwill. (I've developed an eagle eye for sewing cabinets, and nine times out of ten there's still an inhabitant tucked underneath. It's like treasure hunting.)

This is a Singer Touch & Sew 600E. First thing this machine taught me, is that I didn't learn my lesson with the Stylist. I should have gone home and done my research before plunking out $20. To date, she is the most expensive machine I've ever bought, and that's accounting for parts and repair. If you do half a minute of research, you'll see that this is a notoriously troublesome machine. It's not that she isn't good quality. The gears are all metal and she can do a wide variety of stitches without cams. However, the bobbin winding system is a train wreck. Some T&S machines apparently worked very well, but this is one of the ones that didn't. I tinkered with this thing on and off for months. No matter what I tried, I couldn't get her to sew properly. Then, when I was giving it one final attempt last February, I accidentally broke a screw thread. You know, the one the online tutorials said that YOU SHOULD NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE BREAK BECAUSE IT'S A UNIQUE SIZE AND CAN'T BE REPLACED!

Well, nuts.

Good thing the cabinet is gorgeous and worth the $20 by itself.

Oh, and in the meantime, I happened to inherit Hubby's grandmother's sewing machine.

Easily the heaviest machine in my collection.

An Elgin 2468, built in 1958 by Viking. She's beautiful and built like a TANK, but unfortunately they never found the cams while cleaning out Grandma's house. (cams, by the way, are little discs that allowed machines to make special stitch patterns. Many machines can barely do a straight stitch without their cams.) This was heartbreaking, but I plan to keep my eye out for a set on ebay. I'm not holding my breath, however. This model seems to be incredibly rare. Heck, even Google has barely heard of it.

In case you're wondering, this now puts me at five sewing machines. I'm not done yet...

At this point, I decided I really need to stop buying machines, at least until I unload some of the old ones. I was doing a good job of keeping my hands in my pockets, until a friend on Facebook said she needed to get rid of an old treadle sewing machine, and would anyone be interested? Um, yes. Yes I would. We had just traded my Bonneville for a Grand Caravan, and what better way to christen all that cargo space, than with a treadle sewing machine!

This is a Singer 27, made sometime around 1904! The decorative pattern is called Gingerbread or Tiffany's, I've heard it both ways. (NO YOU HAVEN'T, SHAWN!) The cabinet has six drawers, which puts it at the top of the line in its day. Both the machine and the cabinet are in rough shape, but with a little (ok, a lot) of TLC, I know I can get it up and running again. Until then, the cabinet is stashed in the basement where my boys can't destroy it further, and the machine is in my sewing area, where I can ogle it every day.

Gorgeous details everywhere!

Again, I told myself NO MORE MACHINES. I tried to get rid of a few via Facebook, but no takers. I had the Dressmaker and the Stylist up and running, but no one wanted an old machine. So, for now, here they sit. (I actually have a plan for them now. Stay tuned!)

And so, a few more months passed by, and my mind wandered away from sewing machines and back towards gardening and preserving. Funny how the cycle of the seasons moves you in and out of your various projects and hobbies. I really hadn't thought about it much until last week, when the fam and I were once again wandering around our favorite thrift store. Spotting two sewing cabinets at 100 yards (give or take) I decided to take a peek under the lid, for curiosity's sake. The first one was a lousy looking Singer from the '60s. The next one was in possibly the ugliest cabinet I had seen to date. Awful '70s wicker drawer fronts, but even worse, the "wicker" was plastic! Oh, Lordy. I popped it open, and found an interesting Kenmore machine. Nothing special, so far as I could tell, although she was in good condition (I need to start bringing smal screwdrivers with me to thrift stores.) Then I noticed there was a full-size drawer in the cabinet. Usually it's just a little secret compartment that fits scissors and about 8 pins. I pulled the drawer open... and started to geek out. It was full, and I mean FULL of sewing junk. Buttons, ribbon, thread, the manual, and TWO boxes of original attachments! One included several presser feet and a buttonholer, while the other one held a full set of cams!

You would be proud of me. I didn't buy the machine. It was $15 for everything, and while I knew I could make that much just selling the cam set, I decided to be smart and not buy a SEVENTH sewing machine. And so, a few days went by. I just could not get that drawer of goodies out of my mind. There was no way I was going to spend $15 on another machine without a darn good excuse, so I came up with one. "What if the cams fit the Elgin? I mean, if they don't fit I can just sell them and make my money back, but what if they DID?"

I'd like to take a moment here to say that I have an amazingly patient and supportive husband. Not only does he not mind my tomfoolery, he often encourages me. With his blessing, I skipped off to see if the Kenmore cabinet was still there.

It was.

This is my seventh and FINAL machine! (to date...)

Window back lighting is a pain.
 This is a Sears Kenmore 1703, top of the line in her day, and she has all the bells and whistles. Built in stretch stitches, built in edging stitches (no need for a serger!), and the ability to chain stitch.

Bottom drawer is removable and has legs! The only redeeming feature.
I think she only had one other owner, and that person wasn't much of a sewer. Many of the attachements are in their original packaging!

I still haven't had a chance to sew with her yet, as I'm moving my sewing space from a heaped corner in my bedroom to our overstuffed office/man cave. It's remarkable how well we've fit everything in. I don't anticipate a problem with getting the Kenmore to sew, however. She's in immaculate condition inside and out. Not a speck of dust!

Well, there you have it. The long, babbling account of how a girl who couldn't afford one new machine ended up with seven old ones! In addition, I have four sewing cabinets and the treadle. My total investment at this point, including parts I replaced, comes to about $72. In the next few weeks, I plan on trying to recoup some of that money, and in the process downsize my collection.

I don't regret any of my purchases. I learned a lot from each one, and the challenge of trying to repair them taught me a new skill. I found that I enjoy repairing machines almost as much as I enjoy sewing with them! I don't yet have experience with the motor and electrical work, but I know that will come in time. I am addicted to these machines for life!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Canning Fever: it begins....

Is it just me, or did June fly by REAL fast? Not to mention, we're halfway through July already! What's up with that? June has been hectic, and July is only going to be more hectic-er (it's a real word if I say it is).

I've been bit by the canning bug. It started innocent enough... I noticed that blueberries were on sale for a dollar a pint, and of course that means it's time to make jam! If you remember, thanks to the evils of corn, I can't touch any of my precious jams from last year.So, armed with a corn-free pectin and 24 (yes, that's twenty four) pints of blueberries, I started canning. Then I made strawberry jam. But I have to give it away because I started reacting to the strawberries. They must have been sprayed with something corn-based. All 16 pounds... Well, at least Christmas gifts are already figured out!

This year, I'm testing out two new-to-me canning products: Pomona's pectin and Tattler reusable lids. I've worked with Pomona's a few times so far, and there seems to be a learning curve to it. I'm not always getting a full set, and I'm not quite sure why. I don't mind too much. It's still the best damn fruit syrup you can find! I'm going to keep fiddling with Pomona's until I get it right.

The Tattlers I will probably test out tonight on some pickles and peaches. Fingers crossed!

Last year I dipped my toe into this canning business for the first time. This year I have a pretty extensive plan for canning. Jams and pickles are nice, but I want to be able to put up at least a portion of our meals for the coming year. Easier said than done, when you don't have a pressure canner. I'm strictly relegated (officially speaking) to high-acid foods. It has taken some ceativity to not only find recipes I can make, but ones we will happily use on a regular basis.

Enter: Harvard beets. What are Harvard beets? A  lovely sweet/sour side dish that is a breeze to make. I made them last year using store bought canned beets and making the sauce from scratch. But, as I looked at the recipe, I realized it was remarkably similar to the recipes for canned pickled beets, but with minor changes and on a smaller scale.

Well, thought I, why couldn't I do this with pickled beets I make myself? Imagine taking a jar of pickled beets, draining the liquid, adding it to a saucepan with some spices (if your beets weren't spiced to begin with) and flour/cornstarch/what have you. Cook til thick, add the beets back in, warm them up, and ta da! Your veggie side dish is done!This was an exciting revelation, because it allowed me to take "pickled" foods and make them palatable enough to eat in larger, side-dish portions.

I currently have a 25 pound bag of carrots that will pickled up the same ways as the beets. Think that sounds weird? Look up recipes for carrot "copper pennies." It's an old dish made very much like Harvard beets. Again, I tried this dish with the family to make sure they liked sweet/sour carrots. The dish was received with rave reviews. Woohoo!

Many, many things on my canning wishlist for this year:
Pickled beets
Pickled carrots
Blueberry jam DONE
Strawberry-kiwi jam DONE :(
Sliced peaches in honey syrup
Whole blueberries in syrup
Plum halves in honey syrup
Zucchini in pineapple juice (supposed to taste like and be used just like pineapple!)
Candied jalapenos
Tomato sauce
Whole tomatoes
Garlic-dill pickles
Apples in syrup
Apple peel jelly
Beet jelly
Chow chow
Plus more that I either can't remember or I haven't  made up my mind on...

And this is just the canning list! I also plan to start utilizing my chest freezer better. I have five basil plants that need to become a boatload of pesto. Yum.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Harbingers of Spring and Violet Syrup

La Violette de Mars, otherwise known as the Common Violet.
SPRING! Spring spring spring! Have I mentioned how excited I am about SPRING? Yes? Well then, I'll only mention it once more... SPRING!!!

The world is only just turning green here, a full month later than last year. One of the plants I am watching for are the sweet little violets that blanket my backyard every spring. Last year they were even more robust than usual. As is my tendency when I find a resource in abundance, I soon began wondering how I could take advantage of nature's bounty. The first thing to pop up, and the only thing I had an opportunity to try, was violet syrup. Not only is this unique floral syrup a treat for your tea or pancakes, but it can also be helpful for coughs and other medicinal needs. As a matter of fact, the leaves are also medicinally useful, but that's a post for another day. For now, check out this post on Common Sense Homesteading for a good rundown. One of my latest passions is herbal medicine, so you will certainly be seeing more about it in the coming months.

The violet syrup was easy enough to make. I followed the recipe on Life's a Lasagna, with some minor alterations. First, I had to gather about 4 cups of blossoms. Yes, this takes forever, but on a beautiful spring day I'll jump at the chance to sit in the sunshine for an hour. I packed all the blossoms in a quart canning jar, poured 2 cups of boiling water over top, then let it sit to steep overnight. What happens next is... downright magical. The color from the petals quickly seeps out, and the water will turn the most unbelievably gorgeous blue that I have ever seen. I wish I had gotten a picture, but I was feeling sick that day and forgot.

In fact, I ended up coming down with a 104*F fever that lasted a full five days. Instead of steeping overnight, my blossoms steeped for a week. Thankfully, I'd had the forethought to stick the jar in the fridge after the first day. After such a long steep, the brilliant blue had changed to a deep, DEEP amethyst. So beautiful!

Now, this next step is where I differed from Ms. Lasagna's recipe. You see, the brilliant color of the violets is very sensitive to heat and changes in ph. Both the heating of the liquid and the lemon juice called for in many recipes turns the brilliant blue (or purple, in my case) to a vibrant fuchisa pink. While beautiful in it's own right, I much preferred the color I started with. So, this is what I decided to do. First, I ditched the lemon juice. It's only there to add a touch of flavor and acidify it for canning (which I didn't do, I froze it), and it's the acidity more than anything that changes the color.

Look at that color!
Next, I decided to heat my syrup double-boiler style. I set my 4 cup glass measuring cup in a pan of water, poured the strained violet water into the measuring cup, and added 2 cups of white sugar (any other sugar would probably overpower the delicate violet flavor, but any sugar will work). I initially used the double boiler so it would be easier to pour the syrup into bottles, but a fortunate side effect was that I was able to gently heat the syrup just until all the sugar dissolved. Much to my delight, this process preserved every bit of the amethyst color!

It actually looks more like the above picture, but I love the color in this shot!

 I then decanted my springtime treasure into bottles and stuck most in the freezer. Sadly, I think I still have two down there. I really didn't use the syrup much, but then I really didn't know HOW to use it.That's not the case anymore, as I have expanded my knowledge of edible and medicinal plants. I'm contemplating trying to make violet candy this year, or possibly violet jelly. Either way, the coming onslaught of nature's jewels will only increase my excitement for spring!

Friday, April 12, 2013


Spring in my kitchen window! (Please ignore the filthy glass. Thank you.)
Oh, baby! The weather has finally warmed up, the world is starting to turn green again, and I feel GREAT!

Well, ok, I feel emotionally great, which is a pretty big deal. I don't know if it's all the vitamin D my skin has been soaking up this past week, but I just plain feel POSITIVE about life! My hormones were FAR more stable last month (NO PMS!) and last week we met with our soon-to-be next door neighbors. I'm so excited for them to move in at the end of the month! They have two little boys the same age as my goobs, and I foresee a little Lucy & Ethel style shenanigans in my own future...

I've also been able to get started on the garden. If you remember my tomato debacle last summer, you know that I have to break new ground in order to grow anything this year. In addition, my new eating habits have me buying GOBS of fresh vegetables. This is putting a huge strain on the food budget, so I'm hoping to ease that by growing some of my own.

There's another reason I'm growing my own veg this year. Over the last few weeks, I have come to realize that I am ridiculously sensitive to even minute traces of corn. The slightest amount causes joint inflammation, disorientation, headaches, and exhaustion.

My Arch-Nemesis... dang, that looks delicious.

If you think dairy and gluten are tough to avoid, wait til you try cutting out ALL corn. It's in EVERYTHING! Modified food starch, dextrose, citric acid... all of these ingredients are most likely derived from corn. Citric acid was an especially frustrating, although enlightening, find. I've known for a while that Hunt's Garlic & Herb tomato sauce affected me, but couldn't figure out why. The ingredients all looked clean. I started avoiding it and cooking with plain diced tomatoes or tomato sauce. Much to my confusion, I was STILL reacting to foods. Finally, two weeks ago, I realized that the ONE common ingredient (besides tomatoes, duh) was citric acid. Although it can come from other sources, in America it's typically made from corn! Since then I have scoured store shelves for a citric acid-free canned tomato product. Nothing. Even the organic brands boast a "naturally derived" citric acid, but I hardly trust that vague distinction. Looks like I'm going to have to can my own tomatoes in order to have a product I can trust.

As of that wasn't a big enough kick in the stones, just last week I found another product I can't have. I was getting a pretty big headache one day, despite eating nothing but pbj on grain free bread. The bread? Totally safe, I made it from scratch. Peanut butter? I only buy Krema brand, which has one ingredient. Jelly? It was my homemade apple peel jelly (still one of my favorites!). Let's see, the jelly had apple peels, tap water, white sugar, a small amount of spices and... pectin. Uh, oh. I checked a box of pectin, and sure enough, the first ingredient was dextrose, a corn-derived sugar. All those jellies and jams I canned up last summer? Can't have them. At all. After all the love and effort that went into them, this was seriously depressing. Thank GOD I also have apple butter, which does not contain pectin. It has become my one sweet treat.

Now, I know there are people who might be saying, "come on, the amount of corn that would actually be in an entire batch of jelly, never mind a jar, never mind a sandwich, can't possibly be affecting you!" If you're saying that, you're in good company, because even my dear, supportive Hubby is having trouble grasping just how sensitive I am. Some days, I worry that I look like a hypochondriac, even though there is no denying the physical effects I feel. I have eaten foods without carefully reading labels, and just by how I felt 15 minutes later I could tell you there was something in it I can't have. So, doubt me if you like, I would certainly do the same in your shoes, but my body is shouting loud and clear to lose ALL corn products.

There's always an up side!

On to more positive news, my sudden burst of positivity (and a clean kitchen) has me finally tackling the problem of an adequate diet. Cooking 100% grain and dairy free is a real challenge, especially when you have a normal-eating husband and two kids to feed as well. Virtually everything that passes my lips has to be made from scratch, and I'm even picky about what brand of chicken I buy. (many are injected with "broth" to enhance flavor, but there's no telling what's in the broth. My biggest question is, how lousy does the meat taste that you have to inject flavor?!) I am tinkering with quite a few recipes, and when I finally get the results I'm looking for I will be sharing them here. I'm also completely out of the habit of menu planning, and want to get back in to that.

Speaking of planning, I am also working on getting my household binder back up and running. I developed a pretty good system that, potentially, could work very well for me. It's going to take some effort, because my schedule is going to get very busy very soon. AC will finally be getting in to speech therapy, starting next week! I can't wait! Although he's much better than he was a year ago, he could still use the help. What I'm NOT looking forward to is the drive. Twice a week, an hour away. Yuck. I did find out that there's a Whole Foods very close to the therapy building, and since I've never been to one I think I'll be making a stop after AC's appointment. Mommy needs field trips, too!

Ok, enough chatter for today. Maybe next post I will get around to showing you my progress in the garden. To save money I am tilling up the whole thing by HAND! Not an easy task, but I am actually enjoying the exercise! I love SPRING!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Goodbye, Rooster Sauce

Oh, you wicked rooster, why do you hate me? photo credit
Whoops! February got away from me. I suppose I should check in on my dairy/grain free attempt. I've actually spent the last week with a head cold, which is making this whole "pay attention to your health" thing rather difficult. If my spelling or grammar is erratic, this is why. I no think good right now.

So far, I have learned that there are far more things I am sensitive to than i realized! In fact, I'm struggling to be sure that even ruling out grain and dairy is enough. I've had more down days than up these past few weeks, but the two truly good days I had were enough for me to realize how much I am affected on a daily basis. I'm pretty sure I have an issue with corn, and I'm 90% sure (but not willing to test the 10%) that I have a strong reaction to xanthan gum (which, if you didn't know, is derived from corn).

What kind of reaction? In short, I get a little stoned. Yes, you read that right. The longer I pay attention to my diet and my body, the more I have been able to identify my symptoms. The two times I had xanthan gum recently, within half an hour I became extremely tired and slightly disoriented. My eyes were heavy and I often had to blink to get them to re-focus. After thinking about it, this is what I feel like nearly every single day! I  am perpetually struggling to think clearly and linearly, to the point that most days I can only attend to the boys' basic needs. There have been far too many times in the past year when I was out driving and felt slightly... un-focused, I guess. It's hard to describe. I never understood why, it's not like I drink or have any other issue that would cause impairment. Prior tests said there was nothing wrong with my blood pressure or blood sugar, so I could rule that out. There was never an instance where I thought I was unable to handle the vehicle or navigate traffic, so I never worried for my safety. But still, I could tell I was not fully "aware," if you will.

Being able to attribute this to a food reaction has really opened my eyes (pun intended) to how careful I need to be with my food intake. The second time I accidentally ate xanthan gum, I found it at the bottom of the list of ingredients on my beloved Rooster Sauce! And I had only eaten MAYBE a teaspoon TOPS. Whether I am simply more sensitive to the xanthan form of corn or all corn, I don't know. Clearly, I will need to make sure even minute traces are out of my diet if I hope to see improvement.

Has all this diet fuss been worth it? Yes and no(ish). Because I seem to react to each food differently, I would never be able to identify them all without peeling back each layer one at a time. My only frustration is that I did NOT get that three-day turnaround that I got last time I went gluten free. In fact, every day seems to be a roller coaster of clear moments and pure exhaustion. As careful as I have tried to be, I will still find myself reacting to meals that should be safe, and what's worse, I don't know which of the 5+ ingredients are the culprit!

I'm starting to think an elimination diet would be worth the frustration. I've contemplated an elimination diet before, in fact GAPS Intro is very much like an elimination diet. Each time I have considered it, I have always talked myself out of it, and I know why. It has been so complicated, expensive, and isolating to cut out grains and dairy, that I absolutely DREAD cutting out any more foods. It's all I can do to feed myself right now, but to take more of my building blocks away would be devastating! What if it's coconut? Or tapioca starch! (my go-to grain sub right now) Or worse, what if I lose eggs????

I know, I know. The truth is, whether I know that a food upsets me or not doesn't change the fact that it is affecting my health. It simply pushes me to act accordingly if I want to be healthy. And that's what it all comes down to. Do I want to FINALLY be healthy, energetic, clear-headed, and HAPPY? YES!!! A million times, yes! Well then, Maria, you are going to have to accept the difficult task of MAKING IT HAPPEN. Nothing good can come without sacrifice.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Resolutions or Goals?

Ah, the ever popular "New Year's Resolution" post! I read another blogger recently who said she preferred "goals" over "resolutions." After thinking about it, I heartily agree with her. Resolutions are concrete, unshakeable decisions that MUST happen in their entirety to be considered a success (government being a notable exception-in-denial).

On the other hand, a goal is something that you have chosen to move toward in the coming year. It is something you want and have chosen to pursue. Your year can be seen as a success so long as you have actively PURSUED your goal. If you achieve it, hooray for you! But life was not designed to function within 1 year increments. If your "resolution" is to lose 50 lbs and you only lose thirty, you failed your resolution. Those hard-fought 30 lbs are inadequate, because you failed in your "resolve." BUT, if your GOAL is to lose 50 and you make it to 30, then you have made terrific progress!

Yes, many people see success in what they accomplished, but they still know that their resolution was unfulfilled. Despite the concreteness of their resolve in January, by November they have redefined the word "resolution" to mean: "a good idea I had while drinking champagne and wearing a party hat."

Perhaps this is just semantics, but I also see it as realism. I KNOW I'm not going to be perfect at maintaining house this year, much less this month. I want to strive for it, but why put the unneeded pressure on myself to achieve perfection? I will become frustrated and angry as I fight against my flaws. I am an imperfect being. But, the greatest mark of a person is to always yearn for and seek out perfection.

Some people reject the idea of a New Year resolution BECAUSE they fail every year. I think this is very unfortunate. Humans love nothing more than to chase after something. However, many people give up chasing because they are already convinced they will fail. We cannot grow if we never risk failure.

I want to be MORE than what I am, and yet I also know that I fail daily. How can I overcome this? One way is to focus not just on the end goal, but on the CHASE! Part of the thrill of love is to pursue your beloved. If we embraced our yearly goals the same way, we could see ourselves grow in incredible ways! We would learn the lessons of perseverance, patience, determination, ingenuity, humility, and many more. Each lesson refines us from WITHIN, and each one gives us the strength and skill to continue. I may not keep a perfect house by next January, but I pray that I will be at least one step closer. And really, isn't being one step closer better than never even trying?

In short, I think that calling it a resolution is to say: "I WILL achieve you!" However when I have a goal, I say: "I want you, and I'm willing to pursue you for as long as it takes to finally embrace you!" Doesn't that sound far more attainable, not to mention happier, than the resolution? Despite acknowledging that we will frequently struggle, we embrace the challenge with passion! It is no longer a fight, but a dance!

And now, I am off to make myself a small list of GOALS for this coming year. Well, perhaps I'll make it after I clean something. It can be one of the things I get to cross off the list as soon as I write it down. I love those.