Happy chicken eggs, a sweet little bunch of violets my girls brought in for me from the yard, and a peppermint plant from my dear friend Annie.
It’s been exactly two months since I last posted. In that time, we took a family road trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. In our trusty Honda Pilot, we traveled 4,400 miles round-trip. We followed Route 66 on the way out. We touched 200 million year old trees turned to rock in the Petrified Forest National Park; we gazed down into the Grand Canyon; our bare feet splashed in the Pacific ocean for the first time. We were awed into silence by the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, and bored into tears driving through Nebraska. When we got back in early April, I started editing and putting together the hours of video, and sifting through the hundreds of pictures we collectively took. I went back to work, and life clicked right along for two more weeks.
On Wednesday, April 24th, I woke up, kissed Richard good morning, and brushed my teeth. I gave good morning hugs to my girls, took a shower, and got ready for the day. Jess caught her school bus. Just before getting into my car to go to work, I had what seemed to be some sharp gas pains. I went back into the house and into the bathroom, and then slow, hot pain blossomed in my right lower abdomen. I sat down on the toilet lid and tried to figure out what was happening. I was dizzy and starting to see stars, and the pain was pulsing with my heartbeat. I’d been in the bathroom about ten minutes, and as Richard was passing by, he tapped on the door and jokingly asked if everything was ok. I said I wasn’t sure. I heard him freeze and backtrack, and he asked more urgently, Are you ok? I came out and very slowly walked to the living room. The pain was settling into a large, hot mass inside my belly. I sat down on the couch and Richard asked what was wrong, and I couldn’t explain. My mind was scattered, distracted. He asked me if he should take me to the ER. I thought about it a few seconds, and then answered that I wasn’t sure, that the pain seemed to be ebbing a bit. He said, No, if you couldn’t say no right away, we’re going now. He got Abby dressed in about a minute flat, and we all went to the ER, about five minutes away.
I couldn’t breathe very deeply at all, just shallow little breaths. He dropped me off at the doors and raced to park the car. I limped into the empty waiting room at a crawling pace, and gave the receptionist my name and my symptoms, and told her I had to sit down and my husband would give her anything else she needed. Richard and Abby came in then, and a nurse took us back to an exam room. Pain level? Eight, maybe nine. Hard to breathe, hard to move. My belly felt large and painful. They pressed all over it, and asked me questions. They wanted to get me in for an X-ray but took a urine sample first. I almost fainted on the way back from the bathroom; thank goodness for large strong male nurses to lean on. Richard had left to take Abby to school. He got back, and they put an IV in my right arm and gave me a dose of morphine. Another nurse came in shortly after that with the results from the urine screening. She had a small, gleeful smile on her face.
She said, Mrs. Taft, you’re pregnant.
What? I looked over at Richard, at my other side. He was as flabbergasted as I was. I’ve never been pregnant. I’d been having regular cycles, right up to two weeks previous, when I had my last one. I said to Richard, If I’m pregnant, something is very, very wrong. The nurse’s smile faded. She said, Well, this changes things. We’ll be taking you for an ultrasound instead of an X-ray.
They wheeled my bed to another room with an ultrasound technician. The pain as she pressed the transducer against my swollen belly was excruciating, but there was no way around it. She kept apologizing. I felt bad for making her feel bad. She kept looking for the fetus, and it was nowhere to be found. My blood pressure was dropping slowly and steadily. The female nurse came in to tell me the Ob/Gyn had been paged and was on her way. Another nurse was trying to get an IV into my left arm for saline, with success on the third try. The sonographer tech was still trying to see what was going on inside me. I heard her breath change, and then she quietly told the doctor next to her, I found it. I craned my neck to see the screen. There was the little heartbeat, strong and steady. I glanced at Richard, who was staring at the screen. I heard the sonographer say quietly, yes, eight weeks.
Things got a little scattered for me at that point. I don’t know the sequence of events. My blood pressure was 80-something over 40-something, and dropping. The Ob/Gyn arrived and told me that the baby was a tubal pregnancy, and I said, Ectopic? Yes, Mrs. Taft. The baby is in your right fallopian tube, and the tube has ruptured, and you’re bleeding internally. We need to get you into surgery immediately to get the bleeding stopped. Stupidly, I asked, can the baby be moved, or…? She said gently, no, the pregnancy’s not viable. Oh, ok. Richard kissed me and said he’d be waiting for me when I got out. They wheeled me down halls as the anesthesiologist explained what they were going to do, cheerfully and clearly. I thought of the scenes in TV shows and movies, where they show the patient’s view of endless lights blipping past overhead. I took the opportunity to appreciate my role as Patient. I looked up at the masked faces of the people pushing me, with their kind eyes and baby blue hairnets. I breathed, and blinked, and felt my body wobble over the slight bumps my bed rolled over. I had the sensation of floating along on the shoulders of a mighty river, sure and wide and deep.
We arrived in the operating room. It was full of people, all certain of their roles and performing their duties briskly. Just another Wednesday morning. Everybody was cheerful. That’s a good vibe to come into as a patient. As they prepared the mask to put on my face for the anesthesia, the lady standing next to me held my hand and rubbed her thumb soothingly in my palm. I could tell she was smiling encouragingly behind her mask as she looked down at me, then returned her gaze to the anesthesiologist. What a kind action, I thought. Nobody has to stand there and hold your hand in an OR when you’re going to be put out in a few seconds. They put the mask over my face, and told me to take deep breaths. I had some really strange dreams while I was under.
When they woke me up, I was being wheeled into the room I’d be in until Friday evening. I was presented with the facts of what they’d found:
- They performed open surgery on me, via a seven-inch incision on my lower abdomen.
- They removed two liters of blood from my abdomen. I was bleeding out.
- I had a very large dermoid cyst surrounding my left ovary, to the extent that there was no ovary tissue left, so it was removed. My left fallopian tube was left intact.
- There was another dermoid cyst on my right ovary, but they were able to cut it off cleanly, leaving my right ovary intact.
- The baby and my right fallopian tube, damaged beyond repair by the rupture, were removed.
I was given a transfusion of two units of blood. I had many kind nurses. I ate many cups of Jello and chocolate pudding, at all times of day and night. My inner eight year old was in heaven. In the next few days, I figured out how to turn off the beeping alarm that meant I’d moved my arm the wrong way, so nurses didn’t have to run in to do it. I watched some TV, but I mostly just sat and thought, and waited for my pain medication button to light up on my Jeopardy buzzer so I could push it again. Richard brought me chocolate and an overnight bag, and visited me several times a day. He brought my mom and the girls on the second night.
While in the hospital, anybody who asked, How are you doing? got the same answers, the same backstory. We weren’t trying to get pregnant. I didn’t know I was pregnant. We adopted two girls several years ago, and now they’re four and ten years old, and they keep us very busy. It’s ok, we weren’t looking to have more children. God takes care of us and we don’t always know why He does what He does, but it’s all ok.
Whoever had asked always seemed relieved that I wasn’t falling apart, and surprised that I was taking it so well. Who could blame them? I was surprised myself. However, I also knew that every time I prodded my heart for an answer, the prod met no resistance; it just dissipated, like throwing a tennis ball into a mist. That’s how I knew I was full of shit. I just didn’t know what the actual answer was. How WAS I doing? No idea. Throw another tennis ball, watch it disappear, and make cheerful small talk to reassure someone that I wasn’t going to go all weepy on them. I was released to go home on Friday afternoon, April 26th.
I’ve been on leave from work for two weeks, and have another four to go. I’m healing. The last two weeks have been chasing tennis balls; just giving my heart and mind the space to catch up with what’s happened. This is my new milestone. Everything in my life is currently measured against, was I pregnant then? How old was the baby when we were digging our toes in the sand in the Pacific? Did I know, somewhere inside me, that I wasn’t alone in my body?
This story doesn’t have an end yet, because I’m still right in the middle of it. I haven’t been brave enough to Google what a fetus looks like at eight weeks. Every night at about eleven o’clock, after everyone else is asleep, the grief comes. The pain wraps around me and squeezes, and I remind myself to breathe, breathe. Richard’s and my baby wasn’t meant to be, and I don’t know why this happened, and it’s too big for me. When I start going under, I send up a simple prayer; Please, help. And it does, a little.
Posted in Muriel, Sometimes I Wish I Was Astonished At My Own Ignorance, spirituality | Tagged abortion, blood transfusion, cyst, dermoid, dilaudid, ectopic, emergency, god, miscarriage, morphine, ouch, percocet, pregnancy, pregnant, surgery, tubal, vicodin, why | 7 Comments »
After the kids went to bed tonight, I tossed together some almond flour berry muffins. The recipe is from Elana Amsterdam’s (of Elana’s Pantry) wonderful paleo book, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook. I doubled and modified her delicious Chocolate Chip Banana Cake recipe to omit the honey, and used frozen mixed berries instead of chocolate chips.
- 3 c. blanched almond flour
- 1/2 t. sea salt
- 1 t. baking soda
- 1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
- 3 large eggs
- 1 T. vanilla extract
- 1 c. frozen mixed berries
- 1/2 c. (about 1-2) ripe bananas, mashed
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange silicone muffin liners on a baking sheet.
- In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, sea salt, and baking soda.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the liquid coconut oil, eggs, bananas, and vanilla extract.
- Stir the wet ingredients into the almond flour mixture until thoroughly combined.
- Fold in the mixed berries and fill each muffin liner about 2/3 full.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
After I was done making the kids’ lunches, I made mine. I had some leftover celery sticks that didn’t fit in their lunches, so I put them in a container to take to work. I decided I wanted some ranch dressing to dip it in. While humming Rubber Ducky, I pondered my day and set about gathering ingredients.
Mid-hum, I realized that I’d assembled these ingredients, mindlessly and effortlessly, within seconds:
Without a recipe, without looking anything up in a book, just … experience, in my fingertips. Holy cow. I think I might be getting the hang of this real food thing. Within another couple of minutes, I had this:
A few whips later and I had my celery dip:
So Monday started out being a full-on pain in the ass, but after leaving work and as the evening wore on, I had a pretty awesome Monday.
Posted in Breads, Brunch, DIY, Gluten-free, Healthy Lifestyle, Kid Food, Low carb, Lunch, Paleo-friendly, Processed Foods, Real Food, Recipes, Salads | Tagged almond flour, baking soda, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, coconut oil, eggs, elana's pantry, mixed berries, muffins, paleo, raspberries, salt, vanilla | 2 Comments »
We didn’t have much planned this weekend, and that’s such a nice change. Just us.
As I contemplated the Coleman cooler sitting in my kitchen, I felt … intimidated. It wasn’t the two turkeys I’d recently helped butcher, or the bloody gallon-sized Ziploc stuffed full of necks and giblets. It was the 14 gray, disembodied, eerily reptilian turkey feet sitting on top.
I was also giddy with excitement. As most of you know, I’m deeply into the subject of nutrition and am always seeking to know what’s in my food down to the micronutrient level. I love knowing where my food is from, who grew it, how it lived, and how it died. While not “fun” (well, ok, it was so tremendously interesting that it tread awfully close to “fun”), participating in the slaughtering and butchering process of seven turkeys was immensely satisfying. I knew these animals from when they were tiny fuzzballs, and had held and petted them. They had been treated VERY well while they lived. They were killed humanely, with as little fear as is possible to impose on an animal. As they died, I sent up a prayer of gratitude for the lives that were taken in order to nourish my own. I think these moments of gratitude are crucial to being an eater of animal flesh; they are what keep us human, connected both to the mortal life cycle and each other. This connection is what’s missing for the overwhelming majority of the U.S., who have been systematically distanced from their food animals by companies interested only in selling us shiny packaging and sanitized, faceless, bloodless “meat”. I, on the other hand, played a quiet little game in the gut pile of “guess what THIS body part is” with myself. (For the record, esophaguses look and feel like long, rubbery, banded smoothie straws, and the wobbly purse-shaped thing at the end of it is NOT the “gobbler”, as I discovered later when I Googled it. It’s a sphincter, and it serves to keep food and drink down once it’s swallowed. So we have sphincters at both ends to keep the food in. How about that for a Thursday Fun Fact?)
I have lots more to say on this subject, but I digress. Back to those crazy feet.
If you’ve made it this far, you must either know why a person would be playing with turkey feet, or wondering why the hell anybody would be playing with turkey feet. Nutrition, of course!
A summary of the benefits of bone broth:
Promotes healing: Bone broths have been used successfully in treating gastro-intestinal disorders, including hyper-acidity, colitis, Crohn’s disease, and infant diarrhea.
Digestive aid: Aids in the digestibility of grains, beans, legumes, vegetables and meats and is hydrophilic in nature
Macro minerals: Contains highly absorbable forms of the calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur and fluoride as well as trace minerals
Gelatin and Collagen: rich in both; promoting bone and joint healing in addition to supporting digestion, particularly broths made from the feet of chickens (and turkeys)
Protein: adds easily digestible protein to your diet
Amino acids: Glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and lysine are formed, which is important to detoxification and amino acid production in the body
Joint support: Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid are produced and present for additional muscle and joint support
Immune system: Promotes the assimilation of vitamins and minerals and thus supports the immune system
Delicious and nutritious: use as soup, cooking liquid, sauce or as a tea.
From Lance Roll, CEC, HLC1, The Flavor Chef
And, according to Jenny, at Nourished Kitchen: ”Chicken feet [and turkey feet] produce a fine golden broth that’s rich in all the obscure nutrients that make a good stock so nourishing: glucosamine chondroitin, collagen and trace minerals. Moreover, a chicken stock is an excellent source of calcium. Understandably, a stock made from chicken feet gels beautifully just as a good stock should.”
So there you have it. Cheap (or in this case, free), bursting with easily absorbed nutrition, and freaky-deaky as HELL. Who could resist, I ask you? Not I!
With the feet of any fowl (and this may already have been done for you if you’re buying them packaged from the market), you need to get the leathery outer layer off. It’s full of stuff that the birds step in all day. Nobody wants THAT soup when it’s done, and who knows if you’d ever get the boiled bird-crap stench out of your curtains?
What you’ll need:
- A large pot with salted water for boiling the feet
- A large bowl filled with ice water
- A small sharp knife
- A large sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Receptacle for discarded skin n’ bits
- Receptacle for cleaned fowl feet
Here’s how I set up my kitchen before I started. (Ignore the scissors; one of the girls left them on the counter and I didn’t see them in time to get them out of the picture.)
Make sure your salted water is boiling hard.
Drop a bird foot into the boiling water and let it boil for just one minute, no more, no less.
Pluck it out of the water with the tongs and immerse it fully into the ice water, and swish it around for about 10 seconds.
Using the large knife, get any feathers or other undesirables cut off the leg end of the foot.
Switch to the small knife and use it to slit the skin, which helps to get you started on peeling it.
Start peeling the skin off. If you’re doing it wrong, you’ll be peeling up the underlying leg cartilage and it’ll bleed, believe it or not. If you’re doing it right, peeling the outer skin will leave a perfect pink replica of itself underneath. Kinda like a macabre jello mold.
When you get to the spur, use the pliers to firmly grasp the hard nail of the spur and wiggle it. The outer shell should pop right off, leaving the shiny whitish-pink claw exposed.
Keep working your way up the toes. I found that after peeling the skin off the “palm” or “frog” of the foot, I could then put my fingers between the toes and keep pulling the skin sheaths off the toes, like turning gloves inside-out. I read several sources that said to chop off the talons at the first knuckle, but I found that the hard outer shell just came right off with the skin, and there’s no sense in wasting the underlying claws since they have all the same nutrients as the rest of it.
When you get to a claw, use the pliers again to get a firm grasp on it. Wiggle it and pull at the same time. It should pop off, just like the spur did, leaving the shiny pink claw exposed.
When you’re done with skinning it, start the next one. I didn’t overlap this process much because I read that if you boiled it too long, the skin fused to the leg and you couldn’t get it off. The horror.
When you’re done with the feet, you might have a lovely pitcher full, like I did.
And your child may think it’s funny to grab a couple and menace you with them, like mine did. Her little sister thought it was hilarious.
Now, as cool as I think bird feet are, I’m not sure I want to make a giant pot of foot-only broth. I decided that since they were much larger than chicken feet, I’d wrap them individually in waxed paper and place them in a Ziploc bag. That way they can be taken out one at a time and added to a pot of regular bone broth when we make it, for added nutrients and gelling.
This was one of the most awesome kitchen experiments I ever did, and I’ll do it again when we run out of paws. I didn’t need to be so intimidated after all. The smell was interesting. It smelled exactly like boiling wool. I used to boil wool in order to dye it, for spinning, and I also sold the handdyed rovings on Etsy. If you’ve ever exhaled into a pure wool scarf on a cold, biting-wind kind of day, and smelled that woolly smell on the inhale, that’s the smell of boiling wool. And of boiling turkey feet, it turns out.
Posted in Big Ag Can Suck It, Chicken, Frugality, Healthy Lifestyle, Main Dishes, Muriel, Nutrition, Paleo-friendly, Real Food, Small Farming | Tagged boiling, bone, broth, chicken, chondroitin, cleaning, collagen, feet, fowl, glucosamine, joint health, minerals, nourishing, nutrients, peeling, pliers, preparing, processing, real food, salt, stock, turkey, wellness | 2 Comments »
These are one of my favorite lunch items. I make the tuna salad and pack my romaine leaves in a ziplock the night before, so I can just grab my lunch bag and head out the door in the morning. Enjoy!
Tuna Salad Boats
- 4 romaine leaves, washed and dried, thicker stem ends cut off
- 1 can of tuna, drained and flaked
- 1 stalk of celery, chopped finely
- 1 T. dried currants
- 8-10 crispy almonds, chopped (here’s a recipe for how and why to use soaked and dehydrated nuts)
- 1/4 c. olive oil mayonnaise, plus or minus, depending on your tastes (here’s a great recipe, with video!)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all ingredients EXCEPT the romaine leaves and mix well.
- Fill the romaine leaves with the tuna filling, holding like a soft taco. Proceed to “mmmmm” and “ahhhhhh” over the devastating, tiny hits of sweet from the currants, the crunch from the celery and almonds, and the silky, savory, and healthy olive oil mayonnaise tying it all together.
Posted in Cutting out processed food, Fish, Fresh Vegetables, Gluten-free, Healthy Lifestyle, Kid Food, Low carb, Lunch, Paleo-friendly, Real Food, Recipes, Salads, Wraps | Tagged almonds, crispy almonds, currants, delicious, dinner, healthy, leaves, lettuce, lunch, mayonnaise, olive oil mayonnaise, paleo, raisins, real food, salad, tuna | 2 Comments »
You know, going grain-free/gluten-free has not been hard. I suppose we were about 90% of the way there since we’d already cut out pastas, crackers, most breads, and all other processed products containing white flour and refined sugar. The thing that I was leaning on pretty heavily for my kids’ lunches (and my own, as work started intruding on my evenings at home and cutting into making-lunches time the last few months) was sprouted 7-grain bread. I felt ok about buying it not only because it contained sprouted grains, but also because it is a local company. But something always niggled at me. We had cut out so many other easy grab-and-go processed foods, but we still grabbed the sprouted bread on *every* grocery trip. At the beginning of 2013, almost exactly a year into our whole foods/SOLE foods (Sustainable, Organic, Local, Ethical) diet changes, I finally confronted the ingredients label without my rose-colored glasses. Can you see the problem?
Ingredients: Whole sprouted grains of red wheat berries, oat groats, rye berries, barley, corn, rice, millet, wheat flour, water, wildflower light amber honey, vital wheat gluten, yeast, molasses, salt.
If you’re a glammed-up over-processed nuritionally-deficient waist-expanding health-deteriorating junk food, please take one step forward. Why, hello, “wheat flour”. Yeah. ”Wheat flour” or “enriched wheat flour” is plain old white flour, wearing spanky clean pre-frayed jeans and a reproduction vintage T and trying to blend in with the newly-hip crunchy crowd.
After confronting the poser, I sighed and decided to go gluten-free, and while I was at it, grain free. We’ve been leaning more and more towards paleo anyways so it wasn’t a big leap. Since cutting out lunch sandwiches, my cheese consumption has gone way down, too, which was about the only dairy product (besides butter) that I was eating with any regularity. Not that I have anything against dairy. I have no problem with the occasional glass of milk or dish of yogurt, or a few slices of cheese. It’s just not part of my daily or even weekly diet right now. This isn’t rigid adherence to paleo/GAPS/any other prescribed food guidelines. I am just actively listening to my body’s responses to what I feed it, and gently, respectfully isolating food experiences in order to hear its response more clearly. The more I do that, the more it tells me exactly how to feed it best. Right now it’s telling me that dairy is not desired or needed, simple as that. Maybe it’s a winter thing, or a hormonal thing, or – who knows? As always, I guess I’ll know more tomorrow.
All that said, here’s the delicious recipe for Almond Flour Biscuits that I used (thank you PaleoinPDX!) and a few pics of our delicious sandwiches.
Almond Flour Biscuits
Makes 12 biscuits
- 2-1/2 c. blanched almond flour
- 2 T. coconut flour
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 t. baking soda
- 1/2 t. sea salt
- 1/4 c. melted ghee, butter or coconut oil (I used coconut oil)
- 3 T. honey
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl.
- Add the eggs, melted ghee and honey. Mix well until all the ingredients are incorporated.
- Drop large tablespoons of batter onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a greased baking sheet.
- Run a wet hand or spoon over each biscuit to smooth out and flatten a bit. They get larger in diameter as they bake, but not much higher.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until they’re nicely browned. I like to bake them for about 12 minutes in a normal oven, then put them on convection for 2 more minutes, to brown them up nicely. These are better overdone than underdone, so go with your instincts.
When the biscuits are done, make a delicious bacon, tomato, and avocado sandwich using two of the biscuits. Enjoy!
Posted in Breads, Cutting out processed food, Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Healthy Lifestyle, Low carb, Lunch, Main Dishes, Paleo-friendly, Real Food | Tagged almond bread, blt, bread substitute, gluten free, grain free, paleo, sandwich | 8 Comments »