Saturday, November 19, 2016

Easy Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry syrup is one of our winter staples and a traditional folk medicine staple in many parts of the world. And while I like to buy it from great companies, with our family of five it can get pretty spendy. So, last winter I ordered a bag of dried Elderberries and decided to try my own recipe.

It's quick and easy, and there are so many variations of recipes around the web, some with spices and some without. I'm posting the easiest, no-fuss version. Also, just a head's up, it's not thick and syrupy like store bought versions. It's definitely more of a juice consistency. I add it to a little cup and put in a tsp. of cod liver oil and they drink it down like a shot. But, I'm also stingy with my honey. Make it sweet enough and they'll be begging for more! 

Benefits of Elderberry (Sambucus) from Herb Wisdom

"Elderberry is used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, to improve vision, to boost the immune system, to improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis. Bioflavanoids and other proteins in the juice destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell."

Give it a try! A bag of elderberries lasted in my freezer for one full winter and then another month into this current winter. We don't take it every day if no one is sick, but if we're fighting the sniffles or a stomach bug, we take it multiple times per day.

I purchased Organic Dried Elderberries and Dried Elderberries from Frontier Co-Op on Amazon. (disclosure: these are affiliate links!)

Super Easy Basic Elderberry Syrup

1 cup dried elderberries (try Amazon or Mountain Rose Herbs)
1 cinnamon stick
3 cups of water (or try 3 1/2 to stretch)
1 cup raw honey or to taste (I like Mickelberry Gardens or Bare Honey, both are treatment-free)
Optional: a few cloves, a chunk of ginger. 


1. Add the elderberries, water, and cinnamon stick to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. When the mixture is boiling, turn the heat down to low, partly covered, and let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
3. Remove from heat and pour the mixture through a stainless mesh sieve or strainer. Press the berries into the strainer to squeeze out all the juices. The leftover berries can be composted (or I read a recipe for elderberry vinegar, etc.)
4. Let the mixture cool before adding the raw honey, or the heat will neutralize the honey's beneficial properties.
5. Pour into jar and stick in fridge, where it will last 1-3 months!

Dosage: 1/2 - 1 tsp. for kiddos, every other day seems to help. 1 Tbsp+ for the adults. If you're sick you can take it more frequently, too.

There you have it! Simple, easy, cost-effective elderberry syrup!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Three Books on my Wish List

(Disclaimer: this post contains Amazon affiliate links.) 

Last weekend I attended a training for teaching yoga to people with Post-Traumatic Stress (Disorder). It was so fascinating but also incredibly intense!

So this week, I've taken a little rejuvenation time by planting more of our vegetable garden and visiting the local nursery for some extras, like a climbing Jasmine to hopefully grow over the chain-link fence in our backyard, and some strawberry plants and a blueberry bush.

My strategy for gardening, rather than being exotic and growing things I know we won't eat (hi, beets!) is to plant a LOT of things that we eat a LOT of. Lettuce, carrots, celery, cucumbers, zucchini...also, growing things that cost more in the store, like berries. Now we have a raspberry and blueberry bush, and some strawberries. I swear, my kids can tuck away $50 worth of berries in the blink of an eye.

Andy and I had the conversation over the past few weeks of how to work more gardening and house maintenance into our daily rhythm. It's hard to add a new habit! It's also hard living in a rental, when some adjustments aren't possible. But there is a lot of small things we can do and we are trying to find the inspiration and motivation to tackle some projects.

I picked up A Wilder Life while visiting the new 2-story Anthropologie store downtown (holy overwhelm of beauty) and immediately went on my wish list.

"Like a modern-day Whole Earth CatalogA Wilder Life gives us DIY projects and old-world skills that are being reclaimed by a new generation." 

The Hands-On Home is right up my alley.

"Covering everything from cooking, canning and preserving to making your own nontoxic home and personal care products, this fresh take on modern homemaking wil help you make the most of your time, effort, and energy in the kitchen and beyond." 

And How to Be a Wildflower: A Field Guide  is just plain whimsical and adorable.

"Encouraging self-discovery through encounters with nature, beloved artist Katie Daisy brings her beautiful paintings and lettering to this collection of things to do and make, quotes, meditations, natural history, and more."

What are your favorite life/home/dream/garden books?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Grain Free Banana Bread Granola (AIP friendly)

One component of healing from my concussion has been reducing inflammation through dietary changes. I found the autoimmune paleo diet/protocol has been a wealth of information and recipes for still eating well but keeping any inflammation to a minimum. Since I don't actually have an autoimmune disease I have more flexibility in my food choices (chocolate, i love you) but overall it has been transformative for our family. Andy has been struggling with gut and allergy issues for a while and we decided to do it together. So far, I've been able to tolerate adding a few grains back here and there, but he's seen so much success with how he feels that he'll be mostly off grains for the foreseeable future.

This granola is quick to put together and freakin' delicious!

Grain-Free Banana Bread Granola

Adapted from AutoImmune Paleo

2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes or shards
2/3 cup dried fruit of choice (raisins or cranberries)
1/2 cup nuts of choice (walnuts, pecans, etc.)
2 medium ripe bananas
2 tbsp. melted coconut oil
1  tsp. cinnamon (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. sea salt (or to taste)

Optional Step the day before: Soak and dehydrate the nuts prior to making granola. Good if your digestion is iffy.

1. Preheat oven to 300F. Grease a pan with coconut oil (or use parchment paper)
2. Stir together coconut flakes, dried fruit, and soaked nuts in a mixing bowl.
3. In another bowl, mash the banana until soft. Add the coconut oil, salt, and spices.
4. Pour the banana mixture into the dry mixture and stir until well coated and combined.
5. Spread the mixture evenly onto your pan.
6. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring halfway through. The coconut should get delightfully crispy.
7. Let cool, break up into granola-sized pieces and store in an airtight container.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

some new beginnings and learning to love my brain...

The journey of recovery from my head injury has been challenging and humbling. But also surprising in the way it has changed the course of my life and encouraged me to explore new paths that I otherwise would have walked by without a second glance.

The most surprising change of events was when I enrolled in a yoga teacher training here in Portland in March. This all came about quickly (as things in my life usually do) and it stemmed from a random meeting in the lobby of my neurologist. 

We were waiting for our appointment and a young couple was sitting opposite us. A conversation started, as usually does in these situations, "What are you here for? What happened? What's your challenge?" and it turns out that he was Kevin Pearce, a former professional snowboarder who had sustained a traumatic brain injury while training for the 2010 Olympics. He gave us the code to watch the documentary made about his recovery and I explored the web site of the foundation he started called LoveYourBrain. 

What stood out to me was the tab labeled Yoga & Meditation. I clicked through and discovered that they were launching a pilot program of TBI-friendly yoga classes in partnerships with studios around the country. Ok, now this was intriguing! I didn't see any listed for Oregon and searching further was forgotten. 

The next week, or a few weeks later (I can't remember), a yoga teacher shadowed one of my treatment sessions at the neurologists. I figured she was interested in trying to incorporate more brain-friendly practices within her own class. When I questioned my coordinator, it turns out she was just there for a job interview! "Are there many yoga classes around that are brain friendly, like the Love Your Brain Foundation's?" The coordinator shook her head. "There is nothing that I know of." 

Whenever I hear something like that, the wheels inside start churning. I was in no physical or mental position to seriously consider pursuing the training, so I tucked it away but thought about it often. 
Like most women my age, I've done yoga on and off for my adult life. I gravitated in and out of classes but never committed myself to a serious practice. So why was I contemplating pursuing this, to become a yoga teacher? It really did not seem like something I would do, it didn't make sense. All the more reason I was seriously considering it! 

After a few more weeks of treatment and my very intense five day, five times a day intensive, I was feeling so much better and more grounded, and the opportunity came into my mind once again. There was going to be a LoveYourBrain training in Boston in a few months time...maybe the timing would be right? Maybe I could travel cross-country for this workshop? If I had a goal like training with LoveYourBrain, then pursuing my yoga certification might actually make sense. 

When I told Andy my plan, I think he was shocked but ultimately was excited and encouraging. "I could really see you doing this," was what I needed to hear, and it's exactly what he said. 

So, true to form, I looked up yoga schools online and signed up for one that started two weeks from that day. In a few days' time I filled out the application, was accepted, and paid the deposit. Then, I freaked out. Could I handle it? Why do I do crazy things? Something comes over me and I jump in feet first. Sometimes it's a disaster, and sometimes it's awesome. After having to quit everything I had been doing last year it seemed scary to say yes to something again. 

The answer has so far been Yes. So, here I am. Enrolled in a yoga teacher training! It's really strange but been so empowering, challenging, and transformative. The best part has been one of my dearest friends enrolled with me, which has made it so much less intimidating. And fun. 

The very first night of our class we had to take pictures of ourselves in certain poses for a future "embodiment project," where we would compare ourselves at the beginning and end of the course. I laughed until tears rolled down my cheeks and then made this meme:

Yep, I'm in yoga teacher training school. Buckle up! 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Nine months later (No, not a baby!)

My first post for 2016! It's been nine months since I've written something here. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest reason is a car accident that happened six months ago.

Short story: I was t-boned by an oncoming car, directly into my driver's side door. My head broke my driver's side window and I don't have much recollection of what happened, just a few memories of voices and sounds. Fortunately, my chair also broke and I was pushed up onto the middle console. I was still pinned in the car and had to be extracted and taken to the hospital, but it could have been so much worse. Andy was with the girls in the car behind me with the girls, and I am so incredibly thankful no one was in the car with me.

Physically I was in amazing shape for sustaining that kind of impact. But recovery from the head injury has been slow and unexpected. I did not realize that concussion injuries carry with them cognitive, physical, and psychological repercussions.

Brain injuries are bizarre. You look the same on the outside. You can walk, talk, carry on conversations, and it can seem like all is well. The only "external" physical signs are chronic headaches. But inside, things aren't so good, and it is very hard to put a finger on exactly what is happening. I have so much empathy for others who have sustained brain injuries or have chronic hidden health problems and are thought to be crazy or told "it's all in your head." It's not, it's not at all. Even trying to journal privately through this experience has been strange. "I am here, but part of me is not here. And it feels scary, strange, and exhausting."

In many ways I was improving from where I was after the accident but some issues were getting better and it it was a helpless feeling. I still was not able to drive more than a few minutes from my house and couldn't handle the stimulation that came from a houseful of little girls. So, about a month ago I had a five-day intensive at a functional neurologist's office here in Portland. He is one of the best. And from only the physical exam, he could tell what was off in my processing, and where things were getting jumbled up in my frontal lobe and brain stem.

Sidenote: It's amazing what we know about the brain. Also, it's amazing what we DON'T. There is so much to learn!

Once the doctor articulated his theory of what my injuries were, I felt such relief. The depression, anxiety, panic attacks, inability to handle stress, and extreme introversion. The inability to read and comprehend information like before, the light and sound sensitivity, and the way "overwhelm" can take over quickly. The best way I can describe it is to say I feel a shutdown happen from the top of my brain down to the tips of my toes, like someone is turning the lights off room by room, and there is little I can do to stop it.

The intensive was hugely important to my recovery and I feel like I am getting part of me back that was missing these past months. There's still recovery to do, but I'm very optimistic now instead of in despair, wondering if this was the way it would be for the rest of my life.

In many ways, this accident was also catalyst in making some major life changes that have put me on a brand new path that I never would have thought possible. The only huge regret I have is missing out vacation in Italy, which we were to leave for two days after the accident happened. Those ticket vouchers are burning a hole in my inbox!

So, I'm back here to hopefully document a little of the new adventure I'm on and share everything I'm learning.

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