Friday, June 28, 2013

Live From The CSA Bag

Each week, we never know beforehand what will be in our CSA share bag, and I've grown to really enjoy this suspense. The suspense also comes with the challenge of using up all the veggies before the leafy greens and other easily perishable vegetables start to go limp and spoil. And as we know, organic produce has a much shorter freshness lifespan than the conventional stuff, which is often laced with preservatives.

This week, our bag contained turnips, cauliflower, swiss chard, yellow squash, cucumbers, salad greens, and a bunch of large spring onions. Here are the two vegan dishes and the one meat dish that resulted from some of this week's selection.

Since my son is a big fan of cucumbers, all we have to do with those is wash them, slice them up, and eat them raw as a snack, or in salads and sandwiches. They're incredibly tasty, and like all the rest of the biodynamic veggies we get, you can literally taste the earth in each bite, meaning they're full of minerals.

Cauliflower & swiss chard:

I washed and cut up the cauliflower, brushed the pieces with olive oil, salted, and roasted them in the toaster oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until they browned.

I washed and chopped the swiss chard and boiled it in salted water for about 20 minutes. Drained it, let it cool, then squeezed out all the excess water.

I set these veggies aside and next made the garlic tahini sauce. Tahini sauce is a common dressing in Lebanese cuisine, used to accompany many fish, bean, and vegetable dishes such as fried cauliflower or "hindbeh" (dandelion leaves). It's become our favorite dressing for the greens we get that I don't know what else to do with, like lamb's quarters leaves for example. I had never heard of this edible plant before we joined the CSA, and until recently I found it boring and never particularly liked it. It has a funny rough texture, and its leaves are velvety and hard to wash. You would never think it's edible from the way it looks and feels. I've tried to cook it in so many ways, even mulukhiyya style, but it never impressed. We got some in last week's share, and finally, I discovered that the best way to eat lamb's quarters is to boil it and make a tahini sauce to go with it. Now I love this leaf, and unlike previous seasons, I will look forward to getting more.

So, the tahini sauce: Mash one garlic clove in 1 teaspoon of salt and whip it with 3 tablespoons of raw tahini (sesame paste), 1/2 lemon juice, and the same juice amount in water. I usually turn the juiced lemon half and fill it up with water for measurement. Add extra water if needed to get the sauce creamy, and not too thick.

And so I mixed the swiss chard and cauliflower together, added the tahini sauce, and sprinkled some roasted pine nuts on top. It turned out deliciously. It's best eaten as a side dish with fresh pita bread.

Here is the final result.


I used the turnips and some of the beets that came in last week's share to make the traditional Lebanese turnip pickles. There are many recipes out there for these red pickles, but my mom's version has no sugar nor garlic.Wow. I just tasted one and they're about a day away from being perfectly ready!

Yellow squash:

From the squash I made a traditional stew. In Lebanese cuisine, such beefy tomato-based dishes come in a variety of vegetable and meat options and are categorized as "yakhneh" -- so, for the Arabic-language enthusiasts out there, this dish would be called "yakhnet koussa asfar." My husband happens to make the best broths and we always have some at hand in our deep freezer. Along with the chicken broth, some organic tomato sauce and a pound of Polyface Farms' ground beef, I made my spicy squash "yakhneh," shown below on organic basmati rice.

Stay tuned...

Monday, June 24, 2013

To TV or not TV?


So we've decided to put our son on a "TV diet." This actually means a complete fast from TV. Not even yoga or language DVDs. His behavior had been "off" lately, so we decided to further limit his limited TV watching, as per Dr. Moore's advice. Our boy didn't throw a fit, and by the second day, he stopped asking for TV altogether.

Guess what... It works. Each time we lessen the time our son spends in front of the TV, his behavior improves markedly! Obviously this gives him extra time to spend on all his other toys and projects, which leads to his being more engaged in play and creativity, which gets my notice and positive attention, and ultimately everyone wins. Bingo!

TV is even more toxic than I thought it was six years ago, when we decided to discontinue our cable subscription.

I'm convinced that if adults tried a "TV diet," and just unplugged for a week or so-- from late night laptop surfing, too-- they would see the same kind of positive results in the quality of their moods and lives. I'll bet it might even save some marriages!


Friday, June 21, 2013

Better Late Than Early, part II

"(A child) will learn the most by doing what he enjoys most, and he will enjoy most what he is able to do best."

That's another great quote from the book I'm reading, "Better Late Than Early"  which made me come back and want to write some more about this great little book.

There are many theories about when the US education system started its deep decline as it began to to systematically fail the American children. But in my personal experience and lifetime, I felt the nose-dive happen when President Bill Clinton started talking about his "information superhighway." As a result of this dangerous technological trend, my biggest fears have been realized. This is where Mr. Clinton's highway led. The "education dark ages" we are living in today.

At that early point in my teaching career, I truly felt the first pinches of the irresponsible pedagogical assumptions of the government, and the beginnings of the trend to de-localize and federalize American education. To me, sometime in the early nineties, we stopped listening to the child experts and local communities, and started listening to big government know-nothings when it came to what is best for our children. Perhaps the coincidental surge in cable and TV viewership at the same time period might have helped this happen without us noticing too much. Then came George Bush's "No Child Left Behind," and that put the last nail on the coffin which our current president continues to hit with his golden hammer.

The authors of this very old-fashioned book insist that TV is very detrimental to a young child's eyes at the early stages of development (under 8). They made me feel that I must now rethink even the very limited amount of time my son watches TV because of this new revelation. Luckily, the book also offers many logical and practical ideas and activities as an alternative to TV. It offers simple skill-building that engage children and nurture their development rather than current misguided  Ipad learning practices which retard the development of children's eyes, emotions, and positive sense of self.

I'm very grateful for what this book has given me so far (still reading, so watch out for a BLTE part III). Apart from the useful wisdom it offers, it's also given me more insight into the history of early education and the big mistakes made over time which brought us here. It's so filled with wise science and child-development expertise and little wisdoms that I'm beginning to feel a certain attachment to it, like some people are attached to a holy book. I can compare my response to this book to the first time I read Gibran Khalil Gibran's The Prophet. Both offer a depth of vision, and so much comfort at the same time, that I can read them over and over. Even though they are outdated in some ways, they remain timeless literature. 

Since my son is now approaching the age of 4, I was particularly intrigued by, and almost made a spiritual connection with, an excerpt from the Chapter "Age 4 to 7" (sneak peek below) This excerpt perfectly illustrates and practically predicts the experience I had when I tried to put my fully home-schooled child in a full-time Montessori preschool. I sighed deeply as I read, finally making full sense of why our schooling plan lasted only three weeks before my gut instinct told me to pull my son out and get back to exploring more home-school. He simply wasn't ready to fit their box, and now I can better see why.

I'll definitely be returning to this book during the many times in which I need assurance that I am not alone facing instances of self-doubt due to outside pressures. Dr. Moore and his wife do so well to put me at ease and assure me that what I'm doing is all so worth it. I'll definitely be reading more by the Moores, so,

stay tuned...

P.S. If you haven't already heard, the Kanyeshians named their newborn compass "North West." Please keep her in your prayers.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Better Late Than Early - an unschooling book

 Product Details
Have you ever borrowed a book from a friend or the library and then proceeded to go out and buy a copy because you had to own it, and scribble  on it, and make notes and markings because the information in it is so valuable? Well, I'm reading such a book which I borrowed from the library and I just proceeded to order a used copy for myself from Abe Books, not from Amazon this time. The prices on Amazon ranged from $25 to $150. I got it for less than $10 on Abe, including shipping. Abe books searches all used copies for sale on the net, lists them, and the buyer chooses the seller. The book was published in 1975 and is now out-of-print.

Better Late Than Early was written by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore. I'm loving reading this book. It reveals the history of preschools/day care, investigates early education studies, and cautions against current schooling practices. In the book, the authors repetitively insist that formal schooling for "normal" children should not begin before the age of 8, the "age of reason." The book makes very strong arguments against early schooling and premature institutionalization of children before they reach that critical developmental stage. We learn in the book that pre-schools were initially only meant for the underprivileged, and later became a mainstream practice due to social and political pressures.

According to Moore, "children thrive better in bad homes than in good institutions."

I couldn't agree moore.

I always said that the best service government can provide to working American mothers is not the funding of more day care and monetary handouts, but instead pay mothers (or fathers) to stay home with their kids for a couple of years or so. The results would be far better for the children, for our society, and a much better return on investment on the welfare tax dollar.

It's so refreshing to see that Moore agrees, and backs up this rationale with research-based evidence. "Certainly, the public should have concern for children, but we definitely feel that more effort and money should be directed toward helping parents in the home, rather than bringing children to school."

The authors provide a common-sense reasoning for delayed schooling using their own experience and a multitude of studies that contradict today's early child education practices, which are being enforced in our society with no scientific backing at all. The Moores do believe that in some cases, early schooling is an appropriate and reasonable choice for some special children. But for most average children,  they say this is not the case. And if such schools were absolutely necessary, they should very closely mirror the home, with similar adult relationships, rooms, and chores. The teacher's role would resemble that of a surrogate parent, not a rules enforcer and test-giver. Children would have the same teacher for 3 or 4 years. The primary job of the teacher would be to love the child, care for them, play with them, and teach them age-appropriate day to day home skills and self care.

This is my dream school--a home school away from home for children under 8. A place for gentle guided growth, not an academic wireless zombie-zone.

So, I need to own this book because it carries many of the principles which my future school will be founded upon.

Stay the school revolution.

Kim Kanyeshian

If you haven't heard that Kim Kardashian had her baby yet, lucky you, you must live in a cave.

The gossip media (is there another kind these days?) has been holding its collective breath waiting for the baby photos...or anything about the baby girl of father Kanye West born last Saturday.

I'm sure the baby photos and name will be announced soon. Suspense, suspense.

In the meantime...

I'm not a celebrity follower by any means, I don't even know what Kim Kardashian is famous for and I don't think I know a single Kanye West song. But there's a certain level of celebrity, which includes Angelina Jolie, who are in your media face and you cant get away from their headline-making news.

I will admit though,  that I have been closely following Kim's pregnancy. Not so much because I care, but because her pregnancy fully reminded me of my own 4 years ago. For example I gained 65 pounds and was swollen all over and felt alien in my own body. I also ended up giving birth 4 weeks early, as she did.

But the last thing I expected from her was a natural childbirth.

Cool...I wonder if she also ate her placenta as I did...well, sort of.

Stay tuned..

Finally, a Sensible Celebrity

Melissa Etheridge says Angelina Jolie's decision to have a preventive mastectomy is "fearful," not "brave."

Though Etheridge never used the word, some have gone so far as to call Jolie a "coward." I just think the poor girl needs to stop with the facade and get psychiatric care to help her with the addiction of poking knives and needles into her beautiful body.

From a recent Washington Blade interview with Melissa Etheridge...

BLADE: As a breast cancer survivor yourself, what did you think of Angelina Jolie’s announcement?

ETHERIDGE: I have to say I feel a little differently. I have that gene mutation too and it’s not something I would believe in for myself. I wouldn’t call it the brave choice. I actually think it’s the most fearful choice you can make when confronting anything with cancer.

My belief is that cancer comes from inside you and so much of it has to do with the environment of your body. It’s the stress that will turn that gene on or not. Plenty of people have the gene mutation and everything but it never comes to cancer so I would say to anybody faced with that, that choice is way down the line on the spectrum of what you can do and to really consider the advancements we’ve made in things like nutrition and stress levels.

I’ve been cancer free for nine years now and looking back, I completely understand why I got cancer. There was so much acidity in everything. I really encourage people to go a lot longer and further before coming to that conclusion.

Monday, June 17, 2013

CSA Season is Back!

Summer officially begins for us when we start getting our CSA shares. A CSA is a Community Supported Agriculture program, and this would be our seventh year being members at the Fresh and Local "biodynamic" CSA of our great farmer-friends Alan and Maura Balliet out in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. This stuff is way beyond FDA organic!

Basically what CSA shareholders do is help finance the seed and labor of a local farm, and they get a farm-fresh bag of amazing goodies delivered weekly. Sometimes the veggies are even picked on the same day! Our CSA also offers free-range eggs, wild flowers, and fruit shares you can buy into. This is the closest us city folks can come to growing our own clean food.

So last week we received our first bag of the season. There were so many greens I decided to juice lots of it in the Blendtec. But there were also some beautiful spring onions in the bag, and a lovely cauliflower which I fried in Palestinian olive oil and made into my own version of makloubeh!

Making a biodynamic dish is by far one of my favorite CSA cooking challenges. I consider a dish biodynamic when at least 80% of the ingredients come from the same source farm. An example would be getting a share with string beans, tomatoes, garlic, and onions. With a little olive oil and salt, you can make the most amazing biodynamic loubieh b'zeit. There's something truly spiritual in the biodynamic dishes we prepare. I can't explain it too well, but eating it is not just a dancing experience for your taste buds, but a holistically medicinal feeling in your body.

On that note, I'll end with a quote I recently noticed in this gem of a book about food and growing it (Thanks, TQ!)  From Akkar to Amel: Lebanon's Slow Food Trail.

"Traditional local products are time-travelers bringing a message from the distant past." -Corrado Berberis

For a CSA near you, go here and type in your zip code.

Stay your food.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Hope for Homeschoolers

I recently received an email from a father who found me on Parents for Liberty, a website on education I came across at Ron Paul Curriculum. Although this gentleman and his wife deeply believe in peaceful parenting and homeschooling, they are considering putting their only 6-year-old son in public schools next year due to the difficulties parents endure with homeschooling only one child. I was in this exact same position once, and I completely related to the mixed feelings this couple was having. I experienced this dilemma back in the fall of 2012.

Last October, I nearly gave up on homeschooling and enrolled my 3-year-old in a full day Montessori program in a public elementary school. I really thought that the extra time free from my daily child obligations would make everything easier. I was especially encouraged because I worked at that particular school as a Language Acquisition Specialist for three years, just before giving birth to my son, and I felt extremely at ease handing him over to familiar colleagues and administrators with whom I shared mutual professional respect. Things couldn't look rosier. My friends and staff at the school seemed to be thrilled to be receiving my son, and I was so grateful at this fateful opportunity.

To make a long story short, only three weeks into the program, the teacher and administrators felt like my son wasn't adjusting quickly enough and wanted to "evaluate" him with a battery of tests and reports and what have you. Nobody had any clue what it was like for a child to transition from home directly to pre-school, without any day care 'experience.' Suddenly my professional and parental knowledge and experience had no weight on the decisions and my opinion was suddenly insignificant in the eyes of the education masters facing me. I felt a profound sense of let-down, and immediately pulled my son from the school. Aside for fearing for his very life, I quite frankly found the morning routine of prepping and feeding my son to get him to school at 9am and picking him up, was also quite hectic and a difficult adjustment, even for me! They simply didn't want to give us a chance.

Later, I kept asking myself: if I couldn't entrust my child to a school under the care of my own former colleagues and friends, who can I entrust him to?

So without a second blink, back to home-schooling we went, where I again took my role as First-Responder. First to care, first to teach, first to ease the pain if he harms himself, first to notice his successes, first to cheer a milestone. I decided I wasn't going to give this job up to a stranger for as long as I could.

After getting over the disappointment and worry,  I started reading up more on educational philosophy, child psychology, and homeschooling styles. Finally I made up my mind that I would continue to home-school in the unschooling method, for as long as I felt nature intended me to do so..learning, doing, living by the day, by the moment.

Through my search for good guidance, I was recently intrigued by a statement I heard the late Dr.  Raymond Moore make in a very interesting recorded radio interview. He said that when kids are kept at home until 2nd grade, they will more likely than not, hit the ground running when they're later enrolled in a traditional school. A sigh of relief..

Among my mix of theories, I've been a subscriber to some of the methods in the Waldorf (Rudolf Steiner) theory of education. One idea Steiner schools also practice is delaying formal instruction in reading and writing. This topic is discussed extensively in a book I'm currently reading,  Better Late than Early, by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore. I'm a believer that the skill of reading emerges in children at different rates, on its own, through natural need and exposure. Attempting to accelerate  this process, as the modern practice does, only results in negative outcomes, misjudgement, and lost time for the child in doing what they naturally are inclined to do otherwise. Reading is all about readiness. This is what is not understood by the modern educators who are pushing reading in the womb today.

So for now, home is the place to be and here's what we do..

For socialization, my son participates in weekly yoga classes with other kids his age. He also has a playmate which he sees away from home twice a week for six hours each time (here's where I do my most constructive work). He also meets and plays with buddies, familiar and strange, at the various playgrounds in our area, at least twice a week. He knows the names of all the various employees in our buildings and interacts with these adults daily. At the grocery store, where he is taken several times a week for shopping and 'food education', everyone knows his name and speaks to him. He has two half-siblings, grandmother, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends and relatives from every generation who he interacts with in weekly visits.

 I love taking on the argument that home-schooled kids are short on socialization. I doubt kids who are classroom-ed between walls all day have the same opportunities to freely socialize, learn from, and interact with all kinds of people and develop relationships with them.

At home and outside the home, the world is his classroom. He plays with puzzles, and builds uninterruptedly with Legos, blocks, and train tracks. His imagination runs wild! He is left to freely grow his creativity with new ways to use his toys, water, Playdoh, or practically any home object he shows interest in. With high expectations for his learning abilities and capabilities, his father and I  show him how to use and do almost everything he sees us using and doing. From using tools to cutting, stirring, folding, and hanging. Just today he cleaned the living room glass perfectly with spray and paper towel. Such activities fill him with pride and confidence. They spark his lively interest in his world.

Of course, there's a little down side. When your child is with you most of the time, it opens up the day to more accidents, distractions, frustrations, and behavior issues. Things got so bad for me last week in this respect that I sought the advice of books. I found most modern books deal with child-rearing with either rewards methods or consistency in rigid expectations. For me, I found all the peace and liberty I need from an out of print book by Frances Kendall. Super Parents, Super Kids. This book which I found a used (and autographed!) copy of on Amazon for $7.00, is worth its weight in gold! After reading, it I was finally able to rest in knowing that this was the best method for me and my family to follow. It seemed natural, respectful, and the results since I've increased my awareness in it have been phenomenal.

For home-schooling or non-home-schooling parents, I found that Kendall offers good advice. Some of the book might seem dated, but in era and language only. Try not to take offense and rather see the bigger messages.

So rather than summarize the book, I'm posting a photo of the first page of the final chapter which does the job perfectly.  The author clearly illustrates what could be easily considered the "10 Commandments" of this gem of a simple book.

Finally, as much as I hate to admit it, I sometimes resort to TV technology to educate my son with "busy time." However, our houseold does't subscribe to any cable/dish TV services, and we almost never watch anything piped in from stations. We choose the DVDs we want to watch and watch them exclusively at our convenience. My son never sees us flipping channels, so he's not attracted to learning how to use the remote control as other kids are.

I engage him in yoga dvds for children which he adores. I also choose music shows, such as good old Raffi. I try to be extremely cautious about choosing stories he is fully capable of understanding. Animated Disney films about mother-child relationships are favored and so he watches Dumbo and Bambi on occasion. Just as adults see new things and notice new parts in films they view more than once, children are the same. So each time my son watches, he repeats  expressions he learned in previous viewings as he continues to grow into each movie and discover new information.

That said, the time spent in front of a screen is strictly managed and appropriate. I've come to strongly believe that technology exposure should be highly restricted with children under the age of 10. The risks of exposure are immense.

Travel is another thing I heavily rely on to educate my child. It is much easier to do this job out of a suitcase than out of a home-- in whole new environments, whole new world-classrooms. As much as we can afford,  we take our son on trips ranging from local hikes in nearby trails to short road trips to 14-hour flights to lands of different construct, color, culture, language, and wonder.  In travel, every moment of every day is filled with new things for young children to absorb in their awesome developing minds. Even with my Master's degree, I feel that most of the best education I have today came from the traveling I have done in my young and old life, not from my formal schooling. Travel gave me a curiosity, tolerance, patience, and a sense of wonder in the world around me.

In summary, home-schooling doesn't have to be that hard, I hope the couple that contacted me hangs in there and reconsiders their decision. With a lot of love and patience,  it can be done quite naturally, even with one child, when a child is respected, challenged, and included in everyday home -living.

There is no curriculum to follow. Let each day invent its own programs and lessons as it unfolds itself to your child and you.

For an extremely enjoyable and informative presentation on libertarian parenting, you may enjoy this youtube video:

stay tuned...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Ron Paulian-American

Consider this: Is there any such thing as a Mitt Romneyian, or Ronald Reaganian, or Carterian, or even Obamaian? No, but there is such a thing as a Ron Paulian! None of the others would deserve an i-a-n attached to their last names because none of them have created a following with the type of people who have historically turned men's names into names of movements and philosophies. 

I am a Ron Paulian because like the man, I believe that our nation is so lost. We have strayed off course, on so many levels, and the civil rights of the citizenry continue to be assaulted a little more every day.  Ron Paul is the only politician I know who tirelessly continues to offer real solutions to revive this country from its winter coma, back to the springs of its legacy. He continues to work tirelessly for this country, yet, he's under-appreciated by the general public, and obviously feared and marginalized by the bandits who are currently running this country.

Even today, after retiring from the the US Congress and getting knocked out of three runs for the presidency, Dr. Paul is still leading and working his 77-year-old ass off for liberty in America. I'm still following, or rather, walking beside him because that's what we have to do to win this thing called liberty. We need to stand together, all Americans, side by side, not sheeple-Americans abidingly forming single-file queues handing out our Constitutional rights to the neo-govs, in return for empty 'security' promises.

Ron Paul continues full-steam ahead with his deeply American messages in liberty, government, education, economics, foreign policy, prosperity, and even food freedom (which we are also losing, by the way)! He is constantly writing, speaking, engaging, and building. I don't know anyone who has so faithfully and so energetically kept to his promise to defend the overall American culture of liberty, as Dr. Ron Paul.

Which brings us to a peek at the "disillusioned immigrant-American" here...

I came the the US at the age of 17. I studied at an American state university and got my BS in 1987, then left. Two years later, I returned to go to graduate school and I've remained here since. So I've spent a good deal of my life as a participant in American society and have done much voluntary social service. I taught in public schools for 17 years. I marched with protestors against war on Washington DC a countless number of times. I've written and met my congressman many times, too. I've worked for campaigns, volunteered, cleaned up parks, fed the hungry, started medical charities and everything else that is characteristic of what an American does. This, is our true culture.

But as a naturalized citizen, my experience has led me to recognize three main differences between American-born citizens and foreign-born citizens such as myself. Apart from these main differences I see that we are all people: men, women, gay, straight, single, divorced, married, Atheist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, and a million other labels. What makes us the most similar, though, is our undeniable love for the liberty this country promises. At the very least, we can hopefully agree on that.

So  the three things we differ on..

1. The naturalized citizens are obviously not born in the USA, but under the law we presumably all have the same exact rights.

2. The naturalized citizen swears an oath to bear arms and defend the US Constitution. American-born citizens might not have to make any such pledge in their lifetime. They might perhaps be required to make such a pledge for government service of some the presidency!

Here is a section of the exact text of the  Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America which I read, with one hand on heart, when I became a proud American citizen on August 8, 2002.

"I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law;... so help me God."

Heavy duty oath, eh?

Then..the last difference between the born-heres and the born-theres..

3. Once you set foot in Israel-- especially if you are an Arab or Palestinian-born American- you cease to become an American in the eyes of the Israeli government and military checkpoints. You are instantly reverted back to the citizenship of your birth country, even if you're a blond blue-eyed "diplomat brat kid" who happened to have been born in Egypt while your mother was stationed there in 1988. Doesn't matter. You will be questioned and harassed by this "friendly" country funded by our tax-dollars Even the US embassy in Israel treats Americans differently depending on the citizen's place of birth. So, better stay away from Israel if you want to be respected as an American.

I've had the honor of meeting Ron Paul and I've  heard him speak on a couple of occasions. I've read his books, and I keep abreast of his cutting-edge articles, blogs, and causes, with the latest being the home-schooling website "Parents for Liberty."

Unlike other American presidents and elected officials, past and present, I'm sure Ron Paul would be quite a bit annoyed that Israel treats his fellow American citizens this way. That's another reason I'm a Ron Paulian-American.

Doesn't that sound a lot better than 'disillusioned immigrant-American?'

Maybe it's time for a blog heading change.

Stay the revolution.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Are there any Russians out there?
One of the cool new features on Blogspot, which wasn't around back when I first retired from blogging, is a tool that gives the blogger the ability to know who and where the audience is coming from. This feature tracks how many site hits your blog gets per hour, day, week, month, etc. and even breaks the numbers down by posts and shadings on a world map.

By the way, welcome, my new reader from Spain.

Anyway, I love looking at this feature, and by far my biggest chunk of audience thus far comes from the USA. People pop in from Lebanon, Indonesia, Germany, UAE, UK, and more. But when it comes to second place,  surprisingly the most readership is coming from........ Russia.

I find this amusing because I only know one person  in Russia, and she doesn't even know I have this blog.



OR-- actual Russian persons who are reading this blog purely for its content?

If you're Russian, and you're really out there and not a robo-tracker of some sort, may I respectfully ask you to introduce yourself? Perhaps in the comments section..?

Help me, I can't bear the curiosity.

Здравствуйте и добро пожаловать

And please, do

stay tuned...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

On Being an "Older Mom"

 Had I become a mom in my twenties or thirties, I'm sure I wouldn't have complained so much about being tired a lot. I'm sure motherhood would have been less physically tiresome, because I see those young moms and how they bounce around with several kids-- in high heels! But I'm also convinced that I probably would have reached my forties with some regrets about my mothering choices, just because of what I didn't know -couldn't have known- in my youth.

In many ways, it was challenging to become a first-time mother at the age of 43, but I also feel a deep gratitude for the simple wisdom I couldn't have possibly have had if I became a mother in my younger years.  I know so much more now than I could have known as the gullible, young, wild, 'media' and 'medicine' duped woman I was in the 1990s-- when most of my generation were having their kids. In those days, I deeply trusted in medical doctors, their 'opinions' and the latest fads in their pharmaceutical solutions and invasive procedures. I made many bad choices about my health in those days, simply because of bad trendy advice. Today, the internet changed everything. It put the power of knowledge at our fingertips.

So in retrospect, if I had my son 10 - 20 years ago, I'm sure I might done things quite differently. I might have had ...

.. a hospital birth instead of a home-birth (with a 30% possibility of a c-section.)
...a drugged birth/pregnancy instead of a natural & drug-free pregnancy and birth umbilical cord cut recklessly early instead of one that was cut only after it stopped pulsating, and later preserved in the shape of a heart and framed as a souvenir (main photo :-)
... a placenta and an umbilical cord disposed of, instead of preserved and consumed for possible postnatal benefits.
... an OBGYN's care(lessness) instead of  the midwifery model of care. 
...a circumcised instead of an uncircumcised son
...a fully formula-fed instead of breast-fed child (admittedly, not exclusively)
...a day-cared instead of a home-cared for child
...a Schooled instead of a home-schooled child

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

In short, given all those things, I believe I would have been a completely different mother, with a completely different kid. As tiresome as it can be, I  feel kinda lucky that motherhood didn't happen for me in my youth and before the information revolution, although I do wish my mother had this same advantage and was able to make better informed choices for me in the late 1960s. We all do our best given our own circumstances, I guess. And anyway, as a hospital-birthed, formula-fed, and day-cared kid, I still turned out okay at the end.

I think.

Stay tuned...

What's (Home School) Cooking?

I love food and I find pure joy in handling it and experimenting with it, and I rarely follow recipes-- except for delicacies that must be made in a precise way.

Most of the time the ingredients which happen to be on hand guide the final food design of the meal. That's right, design. Since I usually work from a unique palette of ingredients,  I don't consider myself a true cook/chef, as much as I consider myself a food designer or improviser. I'm lucky to have a great sense for food and a fondness of the kitchen. Thanks to my dear mother. Watching her in the kitchen throughout my life gave me the best foundation. Nothing I learned here from any school, folks, just at home.

My food preparation undertakings are often completely experimental, so admittedly, on rare occasions the results aren't that great. But today's meal came out pretty well, so I decided to share it. The objective was to make a meatloaf without using any bread or wheat products. After reading the best-selling book, Wheat Belly, we've seriously become scared of this grain and what it can do to our health.

I had in my fridge 10 stalks of asparagus, a yellow bell pepper, and a zucchini that needed cooking or they'd otherwise spoil soon.

Stocked in my kitchen, I always have yellow onions, and I usually have parsley. In the pantry, there's usually some quinoa.

And yesterday, I bought some of the best quality grass-fed ground beef you can ever find at the farmer's market. This meat came from Bill and Lucille Salatin's happy cows at Polyface Farms.  Oh, and by the way, there's also some phenomenal home-schooling magic going on at that heavenly farm.

I also have in my pantry more than our son's weight in Himalayan salt that I'm happy to share with readers if a mailing address is supplied. That's because we accidentally made a bulk-order twice. Aside from the salt, there's also never a shortage of spices, especially the very essential arabic "bharaat" also called "all spices" in English. Caution, this is NOT the same as allspice! It can be found at most Middle Eastern grocers, and of course, at Amazon. 

So with all this, I decided to experiment with an easy quinoa meatloaf.

I could have just as well made it without the zucchini and asparagus, but it was a good use for the aging veggies, and it gave the loaf a nice look when it was sliced.


1 lb grass-fed ground beef.
10 spears of asparagus
1 zucchini cut into 8 long strips
1 stalk celery
1 bell pepper, any color
1/3 medium yellow onion
1/3 cup dry quinoa
1 tsp bharaat or other pepper mix
4 tsp fresh ground Himalayan salt.

Pre-heat oven or mini-oven to 375.

Using one tsp of salt,  sprinkle the long strips of zucchini so that some of the moisture escapes while you do the other prep.

Paper-towel dry the zucchini strips and set aside with the asparagus.
In a mini-chopper, or by hand, finely chop the onion, parsley, celery, and bell pepper.

In a bowl, mix well the chopped vegetables with the beef, quinoa, remaining salt and all spices.

In a bread loaf pan, spread a half-inch layer of the meat mix, then add a layer of asparagus, followed by another half inch layer of the meat mix, followed by a layer of the zucchini. Add the remaining meat mix-- this should be just enough to cover everything up. Press down firmly on the 'cake' and ensure that the whole top layer is covered tightly with meat.

Cover the pan in tin foil and put it in mini-oven at 375 for an hour. Then uncover and cook for an additional 20 minutes until all the juice dries up.

Turn it over and pop it out of the pan. Slice it up and enjoy. It can be eaten hot, cold, or even in a sandwich with mustard and mayo. A wheat-free sandwich!