Monthly Archives: August 2014

How the Whole 30 is affecting my sleep

I have always had a hard time falling asleep. When I say always, I mean, at least since before 2nd grade. I don’t remember exactly when before 2nd grade, but this happened in a house that burned down when I was in the 2nd grade…so it happened before that.

My mom told me to go take a nap, and I said something like “I’ll go lay down but I won’t be able to sleep.” I wasn’t being obstinate. I wasn’t trying to get out of a nap. I just knew that when I laid down to sleep at night, I laid there and stared at the ceiling, and couldn’t sleep, so why would the nap be different?

It is awful to not be able to go to sleep. Everyone else in the world is gone to you, and you have to keep the light off or you bother your sister sleeping cattycorner from you in your room. Well, I actually didn’t do that. I read. I read and read and read and read, and when she yelled at me to turn the light off, I would say things like “just one more chapter” but that was a lie. I have actually read until the sun came up before, but that was much later, in college, when I didn’t have classes on Fridays so I didn’t need to sleep so I could get up, I thought. I read because laying in bed starting at a dark ceiling sucks.

Screaming at yourself to “Go to sleep already!” is counterproductive, to say the least. The worst is when you knew you had a big day the next day, knew you needed to go to sleep, and finally glance at the clock and it shows 2:30. So you get up to take a Tylenol PM, go to sleep, and then feel drugged the next day because you didn’t get 8 hours for the effects to wear off.

What was/is the problem? I don’t really know. Probably hormonal, as most of my problems are.

I admit that since I got married, it is better. I don’t know if it is hearing his deep, slow, constant breathing that comforts me? If he puts his hand in the middle of my chest, like on my sternum, (or I grab his hand and put it there after he is asleep and I am having trouble falling asleep) and it is just laying there, that also helps. Yes, weird. I don’t know why that helps but it does.

I’ve done relaxing techniques where I tense my toes for 10 second, then relax them for 10 seconds and don’t let myself move them again, then up to my arches, calves, whatever muscles are around your knees, quads and hams, etc, right up to your face. Sometimes that relaxes me enough to go to sleep, but not always.

One change I have made over the years is to put blankets up over the windows, under the curtains, to make it pitch black in the room. We shut the bedroom door, there is no bright alarm clock, and there is no light at all in there. That did make a big difference once I decided that it was time to go to bed.

But my real problem is that it doesn’t occur to me to go to bed. I am not tired, I am not “wound down” whatever that means. I’ll look at the clock and it will be 10:00 then 11:00 then 12:00 then 1:00 and I’ll think, huh, I better go to bed. I have to get up in the morning…which is the attendant problem of not sleeping.

‘Cause once I do fall asleep, a bomb could go off and I wouldn’t wake up. Again, a problem I have had since I was young. Dragging me out of bed for school was not pleasant, I assure you. I am not ashamed to admit that I had to have my mom call me to make sure I was awake before for school/work. Not all the time, but if I was going through stretches where I was having an especially hard time falling asleep/waking up, I would ask and she would do it for me. I have missed 6:00 am basketball practices because I slept in. I have been late to work, late to church, not signed up for things I would like to do because I knew I couldn’t get there in time. The only time I remember getting up in the morning and being excited about it was my wedding day. I was up by 8:00 that morning with no alarm and popped right out of bed. See how twisted I am that getting up at 8:00 was a stellar day for me?

I haven’t got into the Coffee Addiction problem, thank goodness. I think it was because I was always rushing around too much in the morning to get ready to stop and make a pot. No time, you see, cause you gotta get ready to go, rush, rush, rush, because you slept too late. I was going to say “pushed snooze too long” but most of the time, I didn’t even hear the alarm to snooze it. It would just go and go. Drove my sisters crazy.

So what has changed since doing this Whole 30 this time? I don’t know if it is because of the food or because of the weight I am dropping (down 50 pounds since a year ago last April, thank you very much) but if the eating is causing the weight to drop, maybe it is both, huh? Lots of the weight has come from the belly area, as I have dropped two belt notches in the past few months, and isn’t Cortisol the hormone that both makes you put on belly fat and guides your circadian rhythm?

Well, yes, yes it is: Cortisol — Its Role in Stress, Inflammation, and Indications for Diet Therapy

I haven’t really put these things together until right now, this instant, when writing this. I suspect I have always had an adrenal problem, I knew I could never sleep and could never wake up on time. I gain weight easily and lose it very slowly. I am infertile. Well, looky here (from the article linked above):

Blood Sugar Imbalance and Diabetes
Under stressful conditions, cortisol provides the body with glucose by tapping into protein stores via gluconeogenesis in the liver. This energy can help an individual fight or flee a stressor. However, elevated cortisol over the long term consistently produces glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels.

Theoretically, this mechanism can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes, although a causative factor is unknown.1 Since a principal function of cortisol is to thwart the effect of insulin—essentially rendering the cells insulin resistant—the body remains in a general insulin-resistant state when cortisol levels are chronically elevated. Over time, the pancreas struggles to keep up with the high demand for insulin, glucose levels in the blood remain high, the cells cannot get the sugar they need, and the cycle continues.

Weight Gain and Obesity
Repeated elevation of cortisol can lead to weight gain.2 One way is via visceral fat storage. Cortisol can mobilize triglycerides from storage and relocate them to visceral fat cells (those under the muscle, deep in the abdomen). Cortisol also aids adipocytes’ development into mature fat cells. The biochemical process at the cellular level has to do with enzyme control (11-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase), which converts cortisone to cortisol in adipose tissue. More of these enzymes in the visceral fat cells may mean greater amounts of cortisol produced at the tissue level, adding insult to injury (since the adrenals are already pumping out cortisol). Also, visceral fat cells have more cortisol receptors than subcutaneous fat.

A second way in which cortisol may be involved in weight gain goes back to the blood sugar-insulin problem. Consistently high blood glucose levels along with insulin suppression lead to cells that are starved of glucose. But those cells are crying out for energy, and one way to regulate is to send hunger signals to the brain. This can lead to overeating. And, of course, unused glucose is eventually stored as body fat.

Another connection is cortisol’s effect on appetite and cravings for high-calorie foods. Studies have demonstrated a direct association between cortisol levels and calorie intake in populations of women.3 Cortisol may directly influence appetite and cravings by binding to hypothalamus receptors in the brain. Cortisol also indirectly influences appetite by modulating other hormones and stress responsive factors known to stimulate appetite.

Immune System Suppression
Cortisol functions to reduce inflammation in the body, which is good, but over time, these efforts to reduce inflammation also suppress the immune system. Chronic inflammation, caused by lifestyle factors such as poor diet and stress, helps to keep cortisol levels soaring, wreaking havoc on the immune system. An unchecked immune system responding to unabated inflammation can lead to myriad problems: an increased susceptibility to colds and other illnesses, an increased risk of cancer, the tendency to develop food allergies, an increased risk of an assortment of gastrointestinal issues (because a healthy intestine is dependent on a healthy immune system), and possibly an increased risk of autoimmune disease.4,5

Gastrointestinal Problems
Cortisol activates the sympathetic nervous system, causing all of the physiologic responses previously described. As a rule, the parasympathetic nervous system must then be suppressed, since the two systems cannot operate simultaneously. The parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated during quiet activities such as eating, which is important because for the body to best use food energy, enzymes and hormones controlling digestion and absorption must be working at their peak performance.

Imagine what goes on in a cortisol-flooded, stressed-out body when food is consumed: Digestion and absorption are compromised, indigestion develops, and the mucosal lining becomes irritated and inflamed. This may sound familiar. Ulcers are more common during stressful times, and many people with irritable bowel syndrome and colitis report improvement in their symptoms when they master stress management.5 And, of course, the resulting mucosal inflammation leads to the increased production of cortisol, and the cycle continues as the body becomes increasingly taxed.4

Cardiovascular Disease
As we’ve seen, cortisol constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure to enhance the delivery of oxygenated blood. This is advantageous for fight-or-flight situations but not perpetually. Over time, such arterial constriction and high blood pressure can lead to vessel damage and plaque buildup—the perfect scenario for a heart attack. This may explain why stressed-out type A (and the newly recognized type D) personalities are at significantly greater risk for heart disease than the more relaxed type B personalities.6

Fertility Problems
Elevated cortisol relating to prolonged stress can lend itself to erectile dysfunction or the disruption of normal ovulation and menstrual cycles. Furthermore, the androgenic sex hormones are produced in the same glands as cortisol and epinephrine, so excess cortisol production may hamper optimal production of these sex hormones.5

Other Issues
Long-term stress and elevated cortisol may also be linked to insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid disorders, dementia, depression, and other conditions.4,5

Check, check and check, huh? I guess this will be a topic of conversation at my next doctor’s appointment.

But what exactly prompted me to write this now? Well…I was tired last night. At 10:30. Wut? I was tired “early” the night before, too. I got up this morning before my alarm clock. These are not normal things for me. These are…scary things? Out of the ordinary for sure.

I think that eating the way I have been, with meats, vegetables, fruit, vinegars and spices, etc., has done something extremely positive other than decrease my waist line. Hopefully the rest of the list I had to check off from the article above is reset the same way.

Pond work

We had a depression in the ground that used to be a pond in the back pasture. The dam had been blown through and couldn’t hold much/any water. DH asked his dad how long it had been that way, and his dad said when he was in grade school (!) So, 50 years or so? This land was his dad’s cousin’s and they mostly raised hogs, so they didn’t really have a need for a pond. Thus they didn’t fix it.

We have been watering cows with rural water, which at ~$7 / 1000 gallons, is expensive. Like, $600-$700 a month in the winter when all the cows are home. We have a well, but no windmill, and no electricity out to the well. DH used to pump out of it using a transfer pump run with gas, where he would have to start it and wait hours until the tanks filled because it couldn’t be automatically turned off when the tanks got full. Like 2-3 hours a day sitting and waiting for water to run. Not efficient. So using rural water is better time wise, but more expensive.

But what is better than a well and rural water? A pond!

Friends of DH started doing dirt work recently, so he had them come and start work on the pond. I didn’t know they were going to be showing up, or I would have taken before pictures. Here are the after (or the during…it isn’t after until it has water in it).

DH and Boobock climbing down the dam
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They pushed the willow trees out of the way. Willow trees, cottonwood trees and cedars suck up an unbelievable amount of water, and we were hoping that if we got the trees out of the way, maybe there would be some seepage and the pond might draw from an underground spring. No such luck yet.
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They scraped down to the bottom of the original pond, and built up the dam with the dirt they removed, making sure to include a spillway.
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You can see the change in elevation and grass where the pond used to be full to.
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The pond bottom was muddy, but they didn’t break into any springs. The cows must have come down to check it out sometime overnight.
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For scale…the pickup on top. Boobock is halfway down the slope.
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Coming back up. It’s a real haul.
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The backside of the dam is very steep. No way you can climb down that.
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We are talking about planting something on the dam and on the more gradual slope to cut down erosion until grass can be established. It is a bit late for planting any grasses, but we might go with some winter wheat which will grow and stay green all winter…as long as we get some rain. We can’t use a drill/planter on the back side of the dam, but the seed guy at work suggested getting some brome bales and rolling them down the slope on the back side and letting the brome in the seed heads self seed. That’s a possibility.

Of course, this is now just a great big hole in the ground. We missed another substantial rain last night…went north of us by one county again. We need a real turd floater to get this one full. But once it does, it will be a real relief to let the cows drink from a pond instead of a stock tank. Ooh, and we could stock it with fish! And we could swim in it! And we could…well, let’s not get carried away until it is full.

Beginning of the fall garden

I’m finally putting my money where my mouth is and sticking seeds in the ground for a fall harvest. I am late, oh so late. We had a few weeks in there with temperatures in upper 90′s and lower 100′s and I just didn’t feel like going out there and baking. Oh yeah, and Boobock couldn’t come out in that heat either. Yeah, let’s go with that.

So now that is has cooled off significantly, and I finally got the potatoes dug, I could start today. I tilled where the potatoes were, and got started.

I started at the north part of this section, as it is under the canopy of the weird tree growing beside the garden. I put some of the more heat sensitive plants there, so maybe I can get them to produce instead of bolt. I usually take my handy three prong rake thing and level out a wide row about 3ish feet wide.
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Here is the entire row, smoothed out. Boobock is showing off the eggplant he pilfered.
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I then started planting. First was spinach. I am using seed left over from spring and previous years, so some of the quantities are pretty low. I also have a hard time getting things to germinate because of the heat and lack of rain, so I am doubling up on the seed amount I plant and will thin later. So, this small area is all the spinach. I made a rule this year that when you are done planting some particular kind of seed in the garden, I have to mulch it right away. This makes planting go much much slower, but at least the mulching is done and I can remember where I planted the seeds and not have to wait until they come up before I can mulch.
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Next was pak choi. I am running the rows north/south because of the small amount of seed I am using. If I had enough to run an entire row, I would go east/west, but because I am putting 4 different types of plants here in this one row, grouping them together makes more sense.
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Finally, kohlrabi and then broccoli. All mulched up and ready to go. We watered this part of the garden when we were done, trying to not blow the seed out of the rows when we did it. Boobock did some of it, so I am not sure how successful we were with regards to that.
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I am mulching with wheat straw from 2 or 3 year old 1200 or so pound round bales. DH brought me in a new one early this spring, and I have been slowly pecking away at it. I use the 3 pronged rake to scrape it off the bale and into my handy dandy cart, and then cart it to where it needs to go. This thing is ancient, and we found it in the yard of our farm after we took it over. The wheels are out of balance, the center of gravity is a little off, and the rubber on the tires is hard and cracked and some of it is missing. But it works oh so well. I can’t just use a pitchfork because the straw is deteriorated pretty bad (the previous bale more so than this one.)…and DH has the pitchfork at the farm. So I make due, and it works.
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Boobock loves to climb and jump, so he thought it was the best thing when I let him climb up this bale. He slid down once, then climbed again and said he was going to jump. I told him to stop…but I was too late. He jumped, landed on his feet, but his momentum carried him forward and he ended up landing on his stomach, arms akimbo and with a hard plunk. He looks up at me and says “See!” and then “Whah!!!!”. Delayed reaction, dude. He was fine. And now knows not to jump from the top of a big round bale.
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Digging potatoes

Got home from work at a decent time (after an hour commute and only having to stop for gas) and went to pick up Boobock. We got home, changed and immediately went out to set the chickens free. We keep the chickens locked up during the day, but in the evening, we let them out. They have learned that when we open the gate and start clapping at them, they can run out and over to the apple tree…which has fallen over, but still produces good fruit. There are a lot of branches on the ground, so it is hard to mow under and hard to chase chickens out from under, but they go in there and clean up the fallen ones for me and help control the apple worms. Last year, almost every apple had a worm in it, and then I got chickens. One rooster and one chicken escaped and I could not keep them in, so when the garden was done for the winter, I just let them stay out. They spent most of their time under the apple tree or in the garage, and they really cleaned up under the tree. This year, we had significantly less trouble with the worms. (I know it’s a baby moth. Still annoying.) I have been letting the chickens out when I am outside so I can herd them away from the garden, but now they pretty much stay under the tree, so I am getting more adventurous and letting them out earlier and earlier. There is nothing funnier than watching a little 3 year old boy with his “running shoes” on chasing after chickens, scattering them every which way, him wheeling around and running just as fast as his little legs can carry him, and getting the chickens to where they need to go. He feels so accomplished.

After herding the chickens, it was on to potato digging time.

This is only my third year of planting potatoes. I tried them in tires one year, and got nothing. I think that it was too hot in the black tires and I didn’t water them enough. I didn’t get one potato out of that experiment. Last year I had them in the part of the garden where I have trouble with bermuda grass, and my water hose was just not quite long enough, so again, watering didn’t occur like it needed to. I also think I put too much dirt on them when I hilled them up. I basically killed them with dirt. I didn’t know I was only supposed to hill it up 1/3 of the way…I went way way way higher. I got like 3 potatoes. It was pitiful.

So this year, I didn’t have high hopes. I only bought 2 pounds of seed potatoes from the local nursery, and I had some on my counter that sprouted, and so I thought, why not? And cut them up and planted those as well. I put them in two rows in a newish part of the garden that hasn’t been amended as heavily as other parts, but I was able to water more evenly.

The tops had died back maybe a month ago, but I had just let them stay in the dirt. They were beside the beets and onions, and so that part of the garden didn’t need watering any more, so I just left them. But I am ready to put in my fall seeds, so I knew I would be planting in that area and watering, so I needed to pull them.

With my trusty, though flighty, help Boobock, I started digging. I actually used a hoe and a three pronged rake instead of a potato fork. I would dig/scrape the soil and he was poised over the trench, yelling “I see one” every time we found one. He would pick it up and try to toss it in the bucket. Until he was intentionally missing and there were potatoes everywhere. Oh well, they are easy enough to pick up. The soil was pretty hard and clay like, and the drought has done a number on it. Some of it came away in large hard chunks…but there were potatoes in there!
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I hilled up a few of the potatoes with dirt, but that didn’t seem to make much of a difference. I used straw on the rest, and I think that the straw did a better job. I definitely saw a difference where the straw was. The ground was very hard under the potatoes, but I had a lot of them right on top of the ground under the first layer of straw.
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We ended up with about 15 pounds of potatoes.
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10 1/2 pounds were blemish free, and 4 1/2 pounds had a cut mark or bug bite. I put the blemish free ones in the garage to dry out a bit and let the skins toughen up, and we have the 4 1/2 pounds in the house. I washed 2 of them, and sliced them up. We grilled tonight, so we put olive oil down on some aluminum foil, then potatoes, a little Tony Chachere (a very excellent Cajun spice) and some butter, and put it on the grill.

Due to my Whole 30 diet, I couldn’t eat them (sad panda). I had one bite and it tasted amazing, but then stuck to my approved food. The rest of the potatoes better wait to spoil for a few weeks at least so I can have some…

I don’t know if it is worth it to try to can them up or not. I’ve never canned them before, as my first 2 years yielded 3 potatoes total. I think we will get through them before they start to go bad, but I might try it anyway.

Oh yeah. The chickens started coming in by themselves, and Boobock chased them round and round and round, and the all eventually found their way back inside the coop. He then filled their water, drenching himself in the process, of course. I hauled more straw in for them and shut them up for the night.

A productive evening after a full day’s work and hour commute, I would say!

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Tuna salad stuffed peppers

I used the Double Delight Hybrid Sweet Pepper out of the garden, but any bell pepper would work.

Tuna salad stuffed peppers
4 peeled hard boiled eggs (I put eggs in cold water w/ a splash of vinegar on the stove, bring to boil and boil for 1 minute, turn off heat, put lid on, and let sit for 12 minutes)
1 can tuna, drained
1/4 onion, chopped (my white onions are pretty potent this year, so I only used 1/4)
Sesame dressing
4 peppers, split down one side and deseeded.

Chop up the peeled eggs. Add the drained tuna, onion and dressing, adding enough of the dressing to make moist, but not drowning in it. Cut the tops off the peppers, split the peppers down one side and pull out the seeds and stuff with the tuna salad.

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Sesame Low Carb Salad Dressing and Dipping Sauce

I can’t get enough of this. It is a good salad dressing, a good dipping sauce, especially for grilled eggplant, and good in tuna salad. I originally put “no carb”, but I’m sure there is some minuscule portion of the garlic and red pepper flakes that are carbs. I think there are similar ones out there, but I didn’t want to put any sugar in it like other recipes use. The coconut oil adds a bit of sweet, but is not overpowering…if you don’t use too much.

Sesame Low Carb Salad Dressing and Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 T plus 1/2 t sesame oil
1/2 t coconut oil
pinch garlic
2 shakes red pepper flakes

1. Mix up and put in a jar.

lol. 1 step. Tough, huh?

Have you had your morning coffee yet?

“Sorry, I haven’t had my coffee yet.”

“Don’t talk to me yet. I haven’t had coffee.”

“More…coffee…(stumble stumble).”

“Oh jeeze. That was a dumb mistake. Sorry. Must need more coffee.”

Do people hear themselves admitting an addiction every morning and lusting after dark, roasted acidic beans, usually with enough sugar and cream to actually be making a shake? Is that ok with everyone? It bothers me. I mean, what would really happen if there was a Columbia embargo and there was no coffee to be had. Would the entire country stop producing anything of value and go on a week long tantrum ending with the Great Coffee Raid, involving Navy Seals, an aircraft carrier and drone strikes? Maybe. But then we would be in such coffee withdrawal people would be hiding in their beds with raging headaches and depression, so the embargo would probably continue to be successful.

Not having your morning coffee is not an excuse to be careless, though some seem to think it is. It isn’t an excuse to be rude or snippy either. This is especially true if you wait to get to work before getting your fix. You drove to work, presumably. That whole time in your car in traffic, was one eye barely open, the other clenched tightly against the bright morning sun, playing the freeze out game to keep yourself awake? That sounds like a very unsafe way to be driving.

I once worked with a man who drank straight black coffee all day every day from the same small, white plastic cup with a small handle, too small really for his large hands. He never washed that cup, and it was stained beyond any salvaging. 10-12-14 cups a day of just coffee, no water, no breakfast, I don’t think he went to lunch either. That cannot be healthy. Was he self medicating in some way? Addicted so badly he couldn’t function otherwise? In this particular case, probably self medicating, as he had other serious health and mental problems, enough to make him quit a job he really enjoyed.

If you can’t wake up in the morning, why is that? Are you getting enough sleep? I admit, I am the worst at going to bed at a decent hour. I have trouble falling asleep, always have, and I have gotten it in my head that if I am going to stare at the ceiling all night, might as well do something else. I also have trouble waking up. The hormone cortisol is responsible for our sleep/wake cycle, and since I have whack hormones, of course my sleep/wake cycle is also messed up. Strange side note: 3, 5, 7 and 9 days after I show signs of ovulation, I take a subcutaneous HCG injection on my leg, as HCG is yet another hormone that I don’t produce in enough quantity. Those nights, I always have to get up in the middle of the night to urinate, and no other time in the month do I have to do that. Are hormones responsible for slowing kidney function not working as well these nights due to the injections, and allow the kidney to keep pumping out waste throughout the night? I don’t know. I’ve never heard of that side effect before, but it is consistent monthly with me. Cortisol levels should drop before bed, but if they don’t, it is tough to go to sleep. Adrenal problems could exacerbate the problem, or may be caused by it – hormonal problems are never a one way street, but instead a feedback loop of doom. If falling asleep is a hormonal problem, relaxation and calming routines or actions before bed time helps. So does sex, in my experience. If it isn’t a hormonal problem, maybe just, um, go to bed earlier.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against you drinking coffee. Your life, your choice. (Though it does impact insulin, so those with diabetes/insulin resistance/PCOS should probably stay away.) I enjoy a cup myself, every once in a while when my guard is down and I am in the midst of sabotaging myself, with a packet of Splenda and one of those little cups of French Vanilla creamer. Is it really a choice, though, if you can’t function without it? Is it really a choice if when you don’t have it your body goes through physical withdrawal for days at a time? That doesn’t sound like a choice. That sounds like an addiction you should get help with, not proudly proclaim and use as an excuse to be foggy headed and rude.

Motivation and results

At work today, I overheard a conversation between two men about losing weight. (Hey, if you don’t want people to hear your conversation, don’t have it in a room full of cubicles.) One guy had just started running, and the other was asking him about how it was going.

The new runner said he had lost about 30 pounds so far, and was feeling pretty good about his increasing speed and results. The non-runner listed a bunch of excuses, such as he doesn’t have time, he has never been a runner, etc. The new runner replied “I hate it. I hate running. But I love hunting in the mountains, and last time I went, I was so winded I couldn’t enjoy it. I enjoy that week of hunting so much that I’m willing to wake up before the rest of my family and go for a run every morning.”

This guy is motivated by hunting. Hunting! I mean, good for him. Whatever does it for you, and he found what does it for him. I compare that to my motivation, and I feel kind of … disgusted with myself.

My motivation is to have another baby. Yet I find myself recently sabotaging myself quite a bit. I started a Whole 30 in July and after two weeks found myself eating buffet Chinese and even a Blizzard from DQ by the end of the month. What in the world? Am I not ready? I better get ready, toot suite, as I am rapidly approaching 37. My ovaries are not getting any younger and I have extremely low estrogen and progesterone levels. I am scared it will never happen, and then what? I am also scared it will happen and I will lose another baby. And then what? Can I handle that? I would have to, I guess.

I mostly concentrate on food and not much exercise, currently. I am not able to run as my knee grinds and hurts much too much at my current weight to make that effective. I mean, I could power through it. I have the ability to do so, but mechanical problems such as I have with my knee shouldn’t be pushed through. Pain is there for a reason. Maybe after losing another 40 pounds or so (I’ve lost about 40 since April 2013). At the end of the year last year I was doing a HIIT program that I could do in the house, and I had worked up to about an hour workout. I find myself now spending too much time in the garden or making excuses about how hot it is, and I know I need to start again. Why don’t I?

The bad part of being motivated by having another baby is that there is only one metric of success: getting (and staying) pregnant. Early in my PCOS journey, there were measurable changes with cycle length. As I lost weight, my cycle went from 35-45 days, down to the normal 28-29 days. Every time my ovulation day moved back a few days towards normal, that was a success. That was concrete evidence that what I was doing was doing some good. Now that I have that down, there is no other measurable metric. Scale and a BFP are it.

My Na-Pro Technology doctor, at my last appointment, said there is still hope and that she has seen women get pregnant with the low estrogen levels I have. But she snuck in there for the first time that “even if you don’t get pregnant, we have gotten you more health.” Excessive estrogen can cause some types of cancer, and long cycles with estrogen dominance that women with PCOS have higher rates of those cancers. She said by getting my cycles down to “normal” that I have decreased that risk. But. Is she letting me down easy? Is she trying to prep me for life after “not possible to have another?” What happens to any motivation I have then?

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Chunky Mustard Zucchini Pickles

Had a little time this morning, and so decided to make some of these pickles. I made them last year and my brother just went wild over them, so I am definitely making more for us and for him for Christmas. We all agreed that the original recipe had too much sugar and could use a little more kick, so I adapted the recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving to be a bit more to our taste.

Chunky Mustard Zucchini Pickles
14 cups seeded peeled zucchini
6 cups chopped onions
1/4 cup pickling salt
1 cup granulated sugar (original recipe called for 3 cups)
4 T low sugar pectin (original recipe called for ClearJel)
1/4 cup dry mustard
1 T ground ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 cup water
2 cups white/apple cider vinegar (original recipe called for all white, but I ran out and had to supplement with apple cider vinegar)
1 bell pepper (original recipe called for red, I used green)
1 jalapeño, minced (original recipe didn’t have jalapeño)

1. Peel zucchini, split in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and cut into chunks. Peel onions and roughly chop.
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2. In large stainless steel bowl, combine zucchini and onions. Add salt, mix thoroughly, and let sit 1 hour. Drain.
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3. In saucepan, mix sugar, pectin, mustard, ginger, turmeric, water, vinegar and peppers. Mix and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Boil 5 minutes.
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4. Fill jars with zucchini and onion mixture, then ladle spice mix over the top. Leave 1/2″ headspace. Remove bubbles, wipe rim, place lid and put in canner.
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5. Process 10 minutes at low altitude. I processed 15 minutes, as we are 1500 ft above sea level, and the recipe said to increase by 5 minutes for 1001-3000 ft. Remove to towel-covered countertop and wait for the pings.
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6. Remove bands,wash the outside of the jars, label and store. (I “label” by writing on the side of the jar with a thick permanent Sharpie. It is easy to scrub off with a green scrubby when washing, or for more stubborn ones, a Magic Eraser.)

This yielded me 6 pints plus another not quite full pint that I decided not to process and instead just eat. It was very, very good.

Stir Fried Chili Cucumbers

It started with a facebook post…lots of ideas start either there or on pinterest, amirite? I belong to a fermentation group, and someone asked what to do with extra cucumbers. Along with fermented suggestions, someone suggested stir fried cucumbers. Um, wut? Never even thought to cook cucumbers. But we actually eat cooked cucumbers all the time – we call them “pickles”. It isn’t as if I don’t have an extra 50 or so hanging out in the kitchen, so I decided to investigate. If it sucked, we could always throw it to the chickens and open a jar of green beans instead. The person who suggested it said to add chili sauce and ginger, and sauté until al dente. I thanked him, and he said to thank China, as they “cook everything there.” Ok. Thanks, China!

I had no chili sauce, but improvised a homemade replacement. Once I had the chili powder sauce, I could make the stir fried cucumbers.

Ingredients:
olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
1 T dried minced garlic
3 medium cucumbers
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
3 Tablespoons of my homemade Red Chili Powder sauce

Sauté onions, garlic and olive oil over medium heat and cook until onions are tender.

Peel the cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and cut into big chunks. Salt and let drain, and after about 20 minutes, rinse and pat dry.

Add the cucumbers to onions and garlic. Cook down until tender all the way through.

Add ginger, salt to taste, and chili powder sauce.

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And the verdict is: not too shabby. Needed more salt. Definitely worth doing again, and also worth figuring out different sauces to use with sautéd cucumbers. I’m thinking a honey mustard or a teriyaki sauce, with large chunks of onion instead of mincing it so small.

Let me know in the comments if you try it and if you have any tips!