The Half-Crunchy Mama

Trying to live a natural life with balance


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Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips

I have two very good friends of mine that have embarked on their own healing journey after (finally) listening to me and going to my naturopath.  I have some stubborn friends…that I love to death..and their stubbornness is working in their favor. My voodoo doc is really so incredible and I’m beyond thankful for all she has done for me and my family, and now I have been witnessing theCinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips | The Half-Crunchy Mama transformation within these two fantastic and important women in my life.

Their journeys are very different from mine, yet I have tried to give them all the support that I can. My journey was difficult for very different reasons and I didn’t have anyone aside from The Russian (who thought I was even crazier for a bit) and my mom who was all the way back in New York to lean on for support and understanding. I hope that I have helped raise these women up to meet their challenges as they are both very dear to my heart. For some, the natural path can be extremely difficult to walk. Especially when there are serious things to deal with.

Even though I have dietary things to follow (and I’ve been slacking lately and feel like crap), nothing compares to what these two have been dealing with. Interestingly enough, they are ridiculously similar in the way they need to eat, probably for the rest of their lives. I’m used to eating and making strange things for meals and snacks, so I always look forward to getting together with either of their families because with all of our dietary restrictions, we all eat the same way and there are no stupid questions asked like, “What are you eating these days?” or “Why can’t you eat (insert whatever)?” when trying to plan the menu and who is bringing what. No embarrassment, no feelings of needing to explain ourselves, just feelings of acceptance and a level of comfort that puts us all at ease.

So the reason for my post. These two can’t eat much these days. One of them is a lot farther along in her healing and has started adding some foods back in, but there are lots of things that will probably never re-enter her diet. And for my other friend…what a trooper she is trying to be. She keeps testing the limits of her “new” body, but finds out rather quickly that she needs to cut the crap out and find other ways to fulfill her cravings. This is where I come in. Or at least I’m hoping to.

Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips | The Half-Crunchy Mama

This past May, my gym had a contest going called “The Biggest Mover.” It was to see who attended the most classes for a month or something, I really don’t remember the rules, but all you had to do was have your instructor initial a paper and then you drop it in a box on the way out. Sure, why not? The first week (I think it ran for 6 weeks), I won that week’s prize. I think that was a random drawing, but I won a nifty gym bag that I have been using since.

I ended up winning the whole damn thing and my prize was the basket in this picture. I was actually pretty excited about it. The loot was 4 cans of coconut water (I don’t like plain ones, but whatever), a bag of goji berries, a bag of golden berries, a bag of shelled hemp seeds, a bag of chia seeds, and a great little cookbook. I have been playing around with the recipes when I have time, and have been hopeful to give my friend some snacking ideas. This one was a big hit with my other friend’s family, and mine.

So I thought she could eat sweet potatoes, but as I was writing this, she tells me she’s going to try and pull them. WTH? I’m putting this out there for her and all my Paleo folks as they are allowed sweets, as I like to call them. I literally told her in our Facebook message, “Maybe with the spices and chia seeds, you can handle them as those additions should handle the inflammation that it casuses. Just my uneducated-i’m-not-a-doctor-but-know-some-things opinion.” Then she reminded me that she can’t do ANY seeds. BULLSH#T! So of course she will leave them out, as will any of you that need to follow the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol for anyone that doesn’t know what that means) diet. Regardless of her leaving them out, at least she can quickly and easily make a potato chip that will satisfy both the need for sweet and salty, with a crunch!

There are a few other recipes from this book that I will be sharing as I work through the book and tweak ones as I see fit. One in particular has been a BIG hit with my other friend’s family and my own, and another I have fixed up a little to be easier to work with and enjoy. Stay tuned for more tasty recipes that can be traced back to this book.

Why chia seeds? Rich in fiber, omega-3s, antioxidants, and amino acids, and almost all the carbs in them count as fiber.

A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds contains:

  • Fiber: 11 grams.
  • Protein: 4 grams.
  • Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
  • Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
  • Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.
  • They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.

Chia can aid in weight loss as they can help reduce food cravings by preventing some of the food that you eat from getting absorbed into your system. This blockage of calorie absorption makes them a great diet helper. They can help you feel fuller faster because they absorb 10 times their weight in water, forming a bulky gel. They are often used as hydration for athletes because the “chia gel” can hydrate the body. They may reduce your blood pressure as evidence has suggested that they can reduce blood pressure. They are rich in Omega-3s, and are the richest plant source of Omega-3 (the vital fats that protect against inflammation—such as arthritis—and heart disease). In fact, they contain more Omega-3 than salmon! They can also be beneficial for diabetics because chia seeds slow down how fast our bodies convert carbohydrates into simple sugars, and studies indicate they can control blood sugar, leading scientists to believe chia seeds may have great benefits for diabetics. And they are easier to digest than flax seeds, and don’t need to be ground up. Give them a try! Add them to yogurt, smoothies, baked goods, anything that you can think of. They are annoying and a pain to clean up (not to mention they can hang out in your teeth – pet peeve!), but they are worth it!


Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips

This is a great sweet and slightly salty, crunchy treat to replace store-bought potato chips. I go a little overboard on the spice quantities because we like flavor in this house. Figure out how spicy you want to make them. These are cheap, fast, and easy to make, and barely make it through the day in our house!

INGREDIENTS
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb)
  • 3 Tbsp EVOO
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Few pinches of sea salt
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 300ºF.
  2. Peel the potatoes and slice into paper-thin disks, or however thin you can get them. A mandoline would probably be best for this. (I had success using the flat blade from my spiralizer after using a hand-held mandoline slicer last time that made the chips a little too thick and chewy.)
  3. In a large bowl, coat the potato disks with the EVOO and chia seeds. In a small bowl, combine all the spices.
  4. Spread the chips out in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet(s) and sprinkle the seasoning over them, and then sprinkle with salt.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp, flipping about halfway through. (I seem to end up baking between 30-35 minutes, so the time depends on your oven and how thick they end up being.)
  6. Store in an airtight container, if you don’t eat them all before nightfall. Enjoy!

Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips | The Half-Crunchy Mama


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Why I’m not going to tell you that essential oils fix everything

Don’t get me wrong, oily friends. I am definitely in love, borderline obsessed, with some of the magic that these little oils have delivered for me and those in my life over the past several months. Essential oils can be very beneficial to us, but I just don’t think that they are a cure. Yes, I have read some testimonials and seen actual proof of healing, but I believe that those cures are the exception. Some of the wonderful benefits that I believe in include ridding the home of toxic chemicals for cleaning and freshening the air, boosting the immune system, providing natural pain relief, and easing a variety of symptoms from anxiety to insomnia, digestive issues and allergies to migraines, acne, and insect bites. The list is actually endless and if you ask me about what oils you can try to help aid with something that you struggle with, I’m positive that I can come up with a few ideas to try. Naturally.

Did you notice the words that I chose to use above? Easing a variety of symptoms. This is my point. It’s one that I could receive quite a bit of flack over from serious oilers, but I have to get this out of my brain. It’s actually making me feel a little crazy (there’s an oil for that) and I really want to tell everyone that the oils seriously CAN help and to give them a try, but don’t ignore me because you are judging and think this is some silly fad that only crazy hippies are a part of. Remember, I’m only half crunchy. This means that I don’t believe everything, especially anything that gets hyped up. I’m educated and consider myself to be a fairly intelligent woman. I don’t believe in miracle cures and I certainly trust that there is a time and a place for medications in our lives. Just not to the extent that we medicate ourselves in this country.

Here are my two cents on the subject of oils. In terms of our health, they help ease the symptoms that we experience. This equates them to medications in my book. Medications mask the symptoms, providing relief. They don’t fix problems, but they allow us to live comfortably or with the appearance of a healthier existence, think blood pressure medication, insulin, and other things that help people stay alive. Does going on insulin (not applicable to childhood diagnosis) or blood pressure medication “fix” the sugar or pressure regulation in your body? Or would diet, exercise, and addressing the why actually fix it? I’m speaking in general terms here, but I think you get my point.

The only way I am able to think about getting and maintaining a healthy body is following the way that I got here. After many failures with conventional Western medicine, I turned to functional medicine (my voodoo) and naturopathy. On my journey, I learned that we should only use whole food supplements to fuel and try to correct things that are missing from or are misfiring within our bodies. Whole food supplements are not the dead garbage that most of the population buys in the vitamin stores, but actual supplements that are made from food, herbs, and depending on the use, desiccated animal organs. Functional medicine gets to the root cause of the symptoms that we experience and can actually help correct, even retrain what is malfunctioning. I may have the same symptoms as my best friend, but our bodies are experiencing them because of completely different reasons. The supplements that we each would need to address and correct the issues will probably be very different. Individual treatment. I’m not going to say that this cures everything as that is way too strong of a word, but it comes as close as possible. And yes, some things have pretty much been eliminated from people’s lives or thrown into remission, including mine, but other things can be managed with supplements. I could babble on and on about this topic, but will save that for another time.

Aside from engaging in functional medicine, which included whole food supplements and homeopathics, NAET (allergy treatments), and BRT (body restoration technique) treatments, the deeper change had to do with my lifestyle – diet, exercise, drinking, smoking, the environment, and stress. We are a whole unit, a body, so why don’t we ever look at the bigger picture? Deep down, we can trace almost everything back to diet and exercise. (The environment has been playing a much larger role in our lives for the past few decades, but I will save that for another post.) I had already learned what foods work and don’t work in my body in the years before I started learning about naturopathy, but I didn’t necessarily know how or why my body reacted the ways that it did. I digress. Let’s get back to the oils.

Can oils help? I say yes. Emphatically! Things I have personally experienced and witnessed:

  • Deeper, more restful sleepHalf-Crunchy Mama
  • Little to no snoring (the Russian)
  • Relief from aches and pains (muscular)
  • Back pain relief
  • Anxiety gone
  • Calming atmosphere for the entire family
  • Less bloating
  • Increased digestive health
  • Clearer, healthier skin
  • Healthier hair
  • Insect bites disappear
  • Stronger immune system
  • Nicotine craving support
  • Increased energy and adrenal support
  • Allergies
  • Fighting colds and coughs
  • Safe and healthy cleaning in the house
  • Safe and healthy air purification and odor elimination
  • Hangover relief
  • Arthritis in pets

There are more, but that’s what I’ll share for now.

Do I ingest them? A few I do. I have found great results with bloating, cravings, and weight loss adding a few drops of grapefruit, lemon, and peppermint to my water. (I would only recommend ingesting Young Living oils as they are the purest available.) Those are the only ones that I personally have ingested, but I know a few people that have had amazing success with improving their gut health by ingesting others, like DiGize.

What do I love? I am obsessed with Joy. I huff this sh*t all day long. Okay, I’m not that bad, but some days it feels like it. It makes me happy and has really evened out my hormones…or at least it feels that way. The other one that I love is called Tranquil. I’ve been using it at night and I haven’t slept this good in a very long time.

Am I careful what I use with Sugar Bee? Of course I am, not only because of her age, but because she is so sensitive to everything around her. I almost always dilute them and only apply them to her feet as her skin is extremely sensitive. She loves them and has responded really well (future post). She will ask for her lavender for any bug bites and that is the only one that I don’t dilute. The huge, swollen bumps disappear before our eyes. I can’t debunk actual proof, as hard as I may want to. I was skeptical at first, even though my voodoo doc was helping guide me. It took a little time for me to get comfortable with them, and now here I am, spouting about what they can do.

Does the Russian use them? You bet he does. He has learned that all the crazy, crunchy crap that I do really does produce results. Lasting results. The proof is in the pudding as they say. Actually, I never knew anyone to actually say that outside of using it for a case like this, but whatever. Through the years, he has seen the dynamic changes in my body and how it operates, and this is no different. The results that he has personally had with some skin issues and his snoring alone has made him a supporter of this oil craze…that has been going on for decades in the real crunchy world. Other countries around the world have used essential oils to aid in treatments throughout history, and still do. Oils have been used for centuries, but to our society it just looks like another fad. It shouldn’t be this way.

Am I going to tell you to throw out all your medications, never go to a doctor, and only try to fix things with oils? Hell no. My daughter has a life-threatening allergy to pineapple. We actually have Benadryl in the house for the first time ever, but we MUST have it in the house, along with her Epi-pen. We are aiding the natural treatment of her other allergies using the oils and have been very pleased so far. Anything that can help!

If we can get away from all the pain medications that we take that make it even harder for our bodies to operate the way they are supposed to, I’m all for it. PanAway has helped me incredibly with my back issues and Deep relief is awesome for muscular things, including headaches and muscle aches from my workouts. This doesn’t mean that I’m never going to go to my back doctor again, but if I can save a little time and money without doing harm, finding relief when I need it, I’m game. I personally don’t take anything (unless I can’t move), but in general, we make our livers work so hard already without adding Tylenol, Advil, or whatever that has to get filtered through this important organ that we should jump at a form of natural relief. When you add in allergy medications, hormone replacements, anxiety and antidepressant medications, ADD/ADHD treatments…the list is endless…our livers get full of junk that make it weak, thus weakening many other systems in our bodies. We can look for other ways to support our bodies and help ourselves.

Will the oils help? Most likely. Will they fix the root cause? I don’t think they will. Some things they do and it’s obvious, like with Sugar Bee’s mosquito bites disappearing after applying lavender, a pimple clearing up with melrose or purification, warts and body tags leaving the body using Thieves and Frankincense. Most importantly, they can ease the symptoms of other aliments while you figure out the cause and find a way to naturally heal and help your body to thrive.

If we can get away from the barrage of harsh and toxic chemicals in our homes, stressing our respiratory systems, our brains, and our organs, then let’s do it. Bug sprays, household cleaners, scented candles, plug-in air fresheners, and so many other things that we don’t even realize are exposing us to chemicals on a daily basis, disrupting our endocrine and neurological systems.

I have had issues with household cleaners for years. It took me so long to realize why I would feel sick for several days after cleaning the house…weeks if I cleaned the oven. Thieves cleaner has been a gift from heaven for cleaning the floors, the kitchen, and my oven. I had to stop using the plug-in air freshener things when Sugar Bee came along. Her little body couldn’t handle them and what an improvement when we removed them from the house (not to mention the carpet in her room). We almost never use scented candles, despite how much I love the smells. Now that I have diffusers in the house, I don’t have a need for them. I can make my own scents to fill the house and they will have an added benefit (or 3 or 4 depending on what I’m diffusing) for us all. Even the pup! Peace and calming has been diffused every evening and now the witching hour in our house is all but gone. Bonus!

I would think that this society of instant gratification would love the oils right away because of how fast they work. I’m not exaggerating at all. I get relief in minutes, whether it’s emotional, physical, or physiological in nature. I have shared some of my experiences this far on my Facebook page and in one of my first posts the I have linked in a few places already, Snoring? Backache? Hangover? Allergies? Bug bites? My oil solutions (Part 1). Essential oils have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier as they are made up of such tiny molecules. Relief comes fast. We love them.

Give them a try. What have you got to lose?


If you are interested in trying one or two, visit my store at https://www.youngliving.org/sraesid

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Ask me anything. I’m just here to help and share my knowledge.


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Creamy Veggie Tagliatelle (yes, it’s gluten free!)

How I came up with this recipe is twofold. It was partially due to what I was craving and knew I had in the house, and the rest was inspired by a recipe used for the photo on this box of pasta. I had found myself scoping out the egg pastas as I was craving some egg noodles, hoping to find some gluten-free ones so that Sugar Bee would be able to eat whatever I ended up making. All of the ones at the particular store I was at contained wheat. This was my very first time trying this brand (whether egg or plain pasta) and the success from this meal was the reason I ended up using this brand for my Eggplant Ragout one night. My thoughts that I shared in that post about choosing the spaghetti are identical to when I first picked this box up. In fact, I’m pretty sure that this was my first experience with Jovial pasta, but egg pasta IS different from regular (as regular as GF can be), so I think those thoughts are still valid here. I took one look at the box and between the “100% organic” and “Product of Italy” on the label, I was sold. Italians know what they are doing with pasta, glutened or not.

Creamy Veggie Tagliatelle - The Half-Crunchy Mama

Upon further inspection of the recipe on the box, I realized I had most of the ingredients at home and I could make a dish like this with minimal investment during this trip to the store. I was getting close to payday, so of course I was short on funds and looking to maximize my spending. This was so cheap, fast, and easy…just how I like my weeknight meals to be.

I took a large zucchini and julienned it, giving me about 3 cups of shredded zucchini. Then I sliced a sweet onion into pieces that mimicked the shreds. That was the extent of my prep work.

I melted 3 tablespoons of Kerrygold butter in a pan over medium heat. I threw in the onion and about 2 teaspoons of minced garlic from a jar, and sauteed for about 2 minutes. I threw in the zucchini shreds and about a cup and a half of  matchstick organic carrots from a bag (no prep!), tossing everything in the butter to coat. After adding some sea salt and fresh ground pepper, I let this all cook for about three minutes until the veggies started to soften a little, but kept their bright colors. I removed the veggie mixture from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving behind any leftover butter drippings.

Creamy Veggie Tagliatelle - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 I cooked the pasta according to the directions on the box and then returned the saute pan to the stove over low heat. I added 3/4 cup of regular whipping cream and a cup and a half of grated Parmesan-Pecorino cheese, stirring until the cheese had melted. I then returned the veggies to the pan, tossing to coat them well in the creamy cheese sauce.

After cooking and draining the pasta, I returned the noodles to the pot and poured the creamy veggie sauce over them, combining well to plate a perfect summer pasta dish.

Creamy Veggie Tagliatelle - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 The absolute best part? This dish reheated PERFECTLY, unlike a typical Alfredo or cream sauce that you would make for a pasta dish. Bonus!

Creamy Veggie Tagliatelle - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 


Creamy Veggie Tagliatelle

A jazzed-up version of a recipe on a box of pasta, with extra cheese, added garlic, and lighter cream. I would think you could serve this over spaghetti squash, too, in case you are living completely grain free.

INGREDIENTS
  • 3 Tbsp butter or ghee
  • 1 onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic (I used jarred)
  • 1 large zucchini, julienned (about 3 cups)
  • 1.5 cups matchstick carrots (bagged is perfect)
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream (heavy cream not necessary)
  • 1.5 cups grated Parmesan-Pecorino cheese
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
DIRECTIONS
  1. Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, cooking for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the zucchini, carrots, salt, and pepper, and toss well to combine and coat in butter. Cook for 3 minutes. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Cook the GF tagliatelle according to package directions. When finished, drain and return to pot.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, return the saute pan to stove over low heat. Add the cream and grated cheese. Heat until the cheese is melted. Return the veggie mixture to the pan and toss to coat in the sauce, heating until warmed through.
  5. Pour creamy veggie sauce over the cooked pasta and stir to combine well. Serve and enjoy! (Even leftover!)


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We are both pretty sad after saying goodbye to the paci

It has been two weeks since giving up the pacifier and we are both still struggling a bit. All of us, I guess. But mostly Sugar Bee and I.

Bye-bye, paci. “When I’m three, I will have zero pacis.” She was telling everyone that. She would also talk about giving them to a friend’s new baby because she needed them more. I had done my best to prepare her and we talked about all of the events that surrounded her becoming a “big girl.” At the ripe old age of three.

I completely admit that I am guilty of doing lots of things that the old preschool teacher me of the past would want to slap me for. I still help her eat sometimes. She was still in a crib until just after her third birthday, and she still had a paci for sleep and those time she needed extra comfort. I can’t seem to get this stubborn kid to be independent enough with some things so I end up helping or doing them (slap); pottying without help with her pants (she knows how), getting dressed on her own (or at least only needing help), even shoes are often a discussion point (annoyance). Lots of other kids her age do these things already. I have milestones in my head from years of teaching and helping to raise other people’s children. I am aware that I may place more pressure in other areas as I can see what kind of brain she has, but for some reason I’m not pushing some of the other things that I should be encouraging her to do. Maybe I’m subconsciously trying keep her my baby just a little longer. I know that I am savoring moments, every moment,  maybe a little too much. No one has any idea what lies ahead and this gift from God may very well be the only one that I get to receive. Savor, I must.

I always wanted lots of kids (like 3 to 5), but things don’t always turn out as we planned. Our own plan is not THE plan, and that is possibly one of the hardest things I’ve tried to learn throughout my adult life. It is still a struggle for me. We had put off conceiving our first child when we found out the Russian’s army unit was going to deploy. And then they put off his deployment. Twice, if I remember correctly. So I lost a few of the easier-to-conceive years living by the the motto most military families are familiar with, “Hurry up and wait.” Sure, I could have gotten knocked up and handled pregnancy, delivery, and even those first weeks/months on my own if I had to. But I didn’t want to. I knew the awesomeness and wonder of babies, but the Russian did not. He never held one until she arrived (true of most men) and I didn’t want him to miss anything. I’m so glad that we waited because all of my experience didn’t prepare me for this kid. And I needed him so much those first months. Colic is no joke.

Now here I am pushing 39. I may never have another opportunity to experience these moments of being a mom to a preschooler, so I make the most of everything when I can. I know what you’re thinking…lots of women have babies in their 40s. Let’s be realistic here. I come from a line of women that didn’t have the easiest time conceiving, I delivered my first child at 35, I have a full-time career and the stress that comes with it, my husband is in school at night after working all day and we hardly ever see each other (or have energy to get together), and I’m already tired. Babies take a lot of energy. If it comes to be, I will be overjoyed. For now, I’m settling into accepting the fact that I may very well be raising an only child. I will save my thoughts on that for another time.

I’m slightly envious at times of true SAHMs that do not have a job (that they get paid for) outside of the millions of jobs we all have inside the home. Even my times with her in the house with me (after her morning preschool and nap are over) are often distracted by my computer/sametimes/conference calls and the myriad of things that I have to get done on a daily and weekly basis to run a household. So when nap time comes, I make the most of it. Putting her down for a nap has always been my favorite time of day. Yes, I still rock her her to sleep (slap) because I can. There are no other children that need me, and this allows me these precious times with her. It is the one time of day that I truly give her all of me…and I take plenty from her in return. I soak up her peaceful quiet and enjoy the sound machine in her room, temporarily able to leave my work on the other side of her door. Most days, this time is the only point in the day that I am able to do that, to completely focus in on her and her needs. And sometimes I can’t. There are days when I have to get her down earlier or do it in a hurry in order to make a conference call or get back to a really hot issue for work. I hate those days. The ones when I feel like I have to rush through this precious time that I’m trying to hold onto. I’m grateful for my job and my career, but I despise when I feel robbed of this part of my day. Evening bedtime is treated differently because she is left to fall asleep on her own so that I can return to my computer and finish working after the break for cooking dinner, giving a bath, reading books, and saying goodnight. Nap is our time together. I cherish it.

I watch her, peeking through my eyes as she finally starts to drift off. Then I just stare at her, taking in every part of her face, the way her hair falls, her breathing. Now as she lies there without the pacifier blocking part of her face, I am forced to see that she really is no longer a baby. I mean, she will always be my baby, but she really is growing up. I forced us into this with my thoughts and feelings that she needed to be out of a crib and was not supposed to have her paci anymore, and what better way to make it all happen than to tie everything together in one big event. Turning three. So we took away the beloved plug that we all didn’t really mind having around. She only was allowed to have it for sleep or when in dire need for comfort, and it had been that way since before she was two. It soothed her, gave her comfort when she was really upset, tired, or not feeling well, and the best part was how well it helped her sleep.

Did I do the right thing? I still don’t know. Here we are, just past the two week mark after losing the paci and she still seems to struggle at times, especially with falling and staying asleep. In the days since I started drafting this post, at least the sleep has improved for her, but other things have gotten worse. What concerns me is that she seems to have more of an oral fixation than I realized, regressing sometimes by putting toys or her hands in her mouth, even chewing on her nails a little. She’s looking for a way to soothe herself. Even her blankies aren’t enough….but those are only for sleep times. The paci has been her comfort through so many things in her entire short life that I can’t blame her. Maybe I should have waited longer and found a different way to say goodbye, but I can’t go back. We have made it this far and things are improving. Just a lot slower than I thought they would. I still have that last paci stashed away in her drawer, and I have fought the urge a few times to give it to her. We will fly in October for the first time without one. To be honest, just thinking about it makes me kind of nervous. She’s always been a fantastic traveler, but we also always had two pacifiers with us. I know it has always helped her with flying and that we will find another way to cope, just as we are finding ways to help her cope in her daily life. She still talks about her paci almost every day and I feel sad for her. And maybe a little guilty.

I’ll never know if I did right by making turning three, the big girl bed, and letting go of the paci a triple combo or not, but what’s done is done. She’s sad. It’s like she lost her best friend. And I am sad, too. I lost my baby. She’s growing up so very fast. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

 

Did you have a paci kid? What was the adjustment like? How long did it take? I would love to hear some of your experiences. Please share with me in the comment section below.


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Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

My creation for dinner Saturday night. A bag of frozen cooked shrimp, a few zucchini, some fresh herbs, and items that are always in the house gave birth to deliciousness.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

As I mentioned in my post for Creamy Zucchini Noodles, I love my spiral slicer. We love zucchini noodles and they are a healthy alternative to pasta for whole food and grain-free diets. So I made some noodles.

I took this next picture to share with you another of my favorite kitchen tools, the Microplane grater. I zested the whole lemon before squeezing all the juice, using both for the sauce.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

 Aside from making the noodles and handling the lemon, the only prep that was needed was getting the garlic ready for the mincer. My favorite kind of meals are ones that are fast, cheap, and easy. This one checks all of those boxes.

As usual, I tossed the noodles in olive oil that was preheated in a skillet over medium heat. I shook some salt and fresh ground pepper over it and cooked them for about 5 minutes until they softened, but were still a little firm. I removed the pan from the burner and set it aside.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

 Then it was time for the sauce. I melted 4 tablespoons of butter (I use Kerrygold) over medium-low heat and then added 6 cloves of freshly minced garlic, cooking for about 2 minutes. Then I added 1/4 cup of white wine, the lemon juice, and zest, bringing it to a boil.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

After about a minute or two of boiling, I added the thawed shrimp. I heated the shrimp in the sauce over medium until they were heated through. (You can tell when they are heated enough when they have shrunk a little and the sauce starts to boil again.) I removed the shrimp from the pan with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Then I added a tablespoon of gluten-free flour (Bob’s Red Mill), whisking constantly to combine. I also added a little salt and fresh pepper after the flour.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

Once the sauce had thickened, I returned the shrimp to the pan and coated them in the buttery lemon sauce.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

I threw in about 2 tablespoons each of freshly chopped parsley and basil from the garden, tossing well to coat the shrimp.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

I divided the zucchini noodles into our bowls and topped them with the Lemony Shrimp Scampi. Oh. my. It was so good that this is the fastest turnaround for a recipe post from me. Ever.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi


Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

The amount of shrimp should probably be for three servings, but I only had two servings of noodles (portion size is not something the Russian and I do well), so I would suggest that you add another zucchini to the noodles if you don’t want to eat 6 ounces of shrimp in one meal. Another thought that I had was it may not be easy to find a 12 ounce package of shrimp, so if you can only find a 16 ounce one, use two additional zucchini and increase all the sauce ingredients slightly. If you are friend of mine, you can probably eat the portions that this recipe makes – perfect for two!

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into noodles with a spiral slicer (or julienne peeler)
  • 1-2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp butter or ghee
  • 6 cloves of garlic, freshly minced
  • 1/4 c white wine, preferably on the dry side
  • Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon (about 2 1/2 Tbsp)
  • Zest of one lemon (about 1 tsp)
  • 12 ounce package of frozen cooked shrimp, thawed and drained
  • 1 Tbsp gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp chopped basil
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
DIRECTIONS
  1. Heat EVOO in a skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, salt, and pepper to pan and toss to coat. Cook for 5 minutes until noodles have softened, but are still firm and bright green. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Melt butter in another skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook for about two minutes until garlic is soft and fragrant, but not browned. Add wine, lemon juice, and zest. Bring to a boil and cook for about 1 minute.
  3. Turn heat to medium and add the shrimp, tossing to coat. Cook until heated through (when visibly shrinking and liquid starts to boil again). Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Add flour, salt and pepper (to taste) to the lemon butter sauce and whisk constantly until flour dissolves and sauce thickens.
  5. Return shrimp to pan, add fresh herbs, and toss to coat.
  6. Serve zucchini noddles topped with shrimp, drizzling extra sauce over the top. Enjoy!


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Eggplant Ragout

Get excited!! It’s a true original from The Half-Crunchy Mama. I apologize to my readers (especially my Facebook fans that knew about this for a few weeks) for taking so long with this post. Back-to-back weddings, a few weeks with Sugar Bee out of summer camp, and my job workload has left me with about a dozen drafted posts that aren’t close to publication time. But hey, I’m finally getting this one out to you! Better late than never and I think you will find it was worth the wait.

I have varied my eggplant ragout so many times through the years. For this particular batch, I worked with what I had in the house. You can switch up the spices, add some red wine, use sauce from a jar, improvise! That’s what I’m always doing in the kitchen. About 95% of the time that I make this dish, it gets served over oven-roasted spaghetti squash. I couldn’t find one in Kroger and was in no mood to go to another store that evening, so I went with a gluten-free pasta. I kind of prefer it on the squash, but it will be just as delicious served over any pasta you choose (but I would go for the squash). There are a lot of things that you can do to make this your own. Hopefully, it will still look similar to this in the pan when it’s finished and ready to fill your belly.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

The most exciting part of making my ragout this time around was that it was made with two freshly grown eggplants picked right from my very own container garden.  #humblebrag One large one would probably be enough. Feel free to adjust the quantity of both the beef and the eggplant based on the ratio that you want to have in your sauce.

Peel, slice, and dice the eggplant.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

Dice it even smaller than this. I left them a little too big this time (about 1/2 inch dice), but it worked good for the photos 🙂 Put the diced eggplant in a bowl lined with paper towels, tossing with salt as you add to the bowl. It’s time to get the eggplant to sweat.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Let the salted eggplant sweat it out in the bowl while you prep the other ingredients. It should be nice and glistening with visible water droplets before it gets thrown into the pan.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

Chop and dice an onion. If you somehow missed this tutorial on the interwebs, it will forever change the way you cut onions. Next, mince up about 5 cloves of garlic….more or less depending on your taste. As I’ve said before, we love garlic in this house.

Heat your oil in a deep saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic to the pan, and saute until the onions are just getting soft, but not browned. I LOVE the smell that fills that house from just this part alone.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Throw a pound to a pound and a half of ground beef into the pan and combine, breaking it up. Add some Worcestershire sauce and/or red wine. Yes, I use the “unclean” Worstey sauce on just about anything beefy or pretending to be beef (like ground turkey).  I love the flavor. And I love wine which is why it’s often included in any meaty saucy concoction, but I actually didn’t have any red wine in the house. WHAT?!  Hard to believe, I know, and a shame that I didn’t have any to go along with cooking my ragout. I knew something was missing.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 While the meat is still a little pink, add your (hopefully) very sweaty eggplant to the pan.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Drizzle a generous amount of EVOO over the eggplant, as well as some freshly ground pepper, before combining with the meat mixture. Eggplant absorbs a LOT of oil, so don’t worry about going a little overboard with oiling it up in the pan. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook 5-8 minutes, stirring often, until the eggplant starts to get softer. (They will be releasing liquid as they cook.)

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

Add the fire-roasted, diced tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato paste, and all the spices. Taste a little of the liquid and add salt and pepper according to your taste buds. I can’t tell you how much to add because I don’t use much salt. Start with maybe 1 teaspoon of salt and several turns around the pan with the pepper grinder and taste it again. Continue until you like the flavor.

You will know it’s ready to simmer when it’s ridiculously thick and you can stand a utensil up in it.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Cover and simmer the sauce until the eggplant basically turns to mush. When you think that it’s getting close to being finished, get going on the pasta. If you are roasting spaghetti squash like I usually do, you should be about ready to take it out of the oven if it’s not already cooling off to get spaghettied.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

As I mentioned above, Kroger didn’t have any squash and I was pressed for time, so I headed over to the natural food section to scope out what GF pastas they had. They had a few brands that I don’t really care for because they do NOT reheat well and taste horrible as leftovers, so I was starting to get nervous about what I was going to do. Then I spotted this box:
Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Gluten-free spaghetti made in Italy? Well surely this must be tasty. After all, Italians know their pasta! I cooked it up and I must give it a RAVE review. I have tried almost every brand of GF pasta on the market and can tell you what tastes “real” and what to avoid unless you are going to eat it all right away (no leftovers). Not only did this taste amazing, but it reheats beautifully. Six thumbs up from this household!

After finishing the pasta (or making spaghetti out of the squash), it’s time to eat! This was the plate I made up for Sugar Bee.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Of course mine needed cheese. Fresh shredded Parmesan-Reggiano….yum.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

As usual, Sugar Bee approves!

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Eggplant Ragout

Be sure to dice the eggplant very small or it will take a long time for them to soften. You could also leave the meat out and double the eggplant for a vegetarian meal. If you prefer to make a casserole or want an idea for what to do with the leftovers, scroll down past the recipe details for a cheesy transformation! 

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 large or two small eggplants, peeled and diced small (1/4 inch)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (several tablespoons, divided)
  • 1-1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1-2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce and/or red wine
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 28-ounce can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 28-ounce can of tomato puree
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 3 ounces tomato paste (about 3 ounces)
  • Pasta of choice or roasted spaghetti squash
  • Cheese for garnish, if desired
DIRECTIONS
  1. Sprinkle peeled and diced eggplant with salt while adding it to a bowl lined with paper towels. Set aside to sweat.
  2. Heat oil (a few turns around the pan) in a deep saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions start to get soft, but not brown.
  3. Add ground beef and Worcestershire/wine, and mix well to combine.
  4. When the beef is still slightly pink, add the eggplant, fresh ground pepper, and drizzle a few tablespoons of EVOO all over the eggplant. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, for 5-8 minutes until eggplant begins to soften.
  5. Add tomatoes, puree, paste, and spices, and add salt and pepper to taste. (Taste a few times.) Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until eggplant starts to get mushy.
  6. When the sauce is almost finished, cook pasta according to package directions or spaghetti the cooled roasted squash.
  7. Serve ragout over pasta and top with cheese, if desired. Enjoy!
*Note: If using spaghetti squash, begin roasting it before making the sauce as it takes time to cook and will need to cool before handling. Here is a link to basic cooking methods. I cut in half, coat flesh with EVOO, and roast cut-side down in the oven at 375ºF for about 30 minutes, depending on size. When cool enough to handle, shred with a fork to make spaghetti-like strands.

 

Leftovers? Or maybe you want it to be a casserole instead?

Here’s a second meal you can make out of what is leftover or you can just continue here from where I ended the Ragout recipe.

Combine pasta and ragout in the pasta pot or a large bowl. Add to glass baking dish (I used an 8×8-inch one for the leftovers) coated with cooking spray. Pat down with spatula or back of spoon to flatten.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Add a layer of grated Parmesan cheese. I use a grated Parmesan and Romano blend that I get from Trader Joe’s.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Cover with about one cup of shredded cheese. I like the Italian blend one from Publix, but regular shredded mozzarella would be just fine.

Eggplant Ragout - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Place in preheated oven and bake at 325ºF for 15 minutes. Switch on the broiler for the last minute or two to brown the top. Now you have another meal!

2014-07-19 18.56.48

 


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Things that I learned from a few days away from my family

1. I was missed almost immediately. I had taken three phone calls and we were barely halfway there. It was nice to be missed already. By both of them and likely the dog, but he can’t talk on the phone. The girls and I chuckled a little as there were also a few texts, but it was sweet. I was not annoyed. And I missed them, too. A little.

2. I was a little heartbroken at first. Kissing Sugar Bee goodbye as she slept in her crib, a first for me, was quite a shock. I had no idea that I would have such strong feelings at that moment about leaving her behind. I needed it. She needed it. We all needed it (my pre-trip post). But it still was very difficult for me. And it surprised me. As I drove to meet the crew I was traveling with, I could feel the distance growing between us. It sounds crazy, but the energy connection I have always felt with this kid is nothing to scoff at. Once the girls and I were on the road and singing our lungs out to Journey, all was good. I felt so much better. And almost normal. I had a most excellent time with the girls I drove and roomed with.

3. Age is just a number. I say this a lot, along with, “You’re as old as you think you are.” Truth. I was among the last ones standing each night. I might be old in comparison (I think the bride to be referred to me as her “older and wiser” friend), but I can still hang. I had ridiculous amounts of fun that weekend and was not feeling like someone pushing 40….whatever that is supposed to feel like.

4. While on the road, somewhere around hour 2, it dawned on me that this was my first ever trip with only girls in my adult life. I think the last time I went anywhere with just girls was high school. During college and up until last weekend, all the trips I have taken were coed. I have always seemed to have more male friends and was never much into lots of girly stuff, but I had a absolute blast on this trip…dancing, eating, pool, drinking, catamaran, nothing but fun with just a bunch of girls!

5. It is still possible for me to sleep in.  I was in bed until 10 a.m. I WAS IN A BED UNTIL TEN IN THE MORNING!! And it felt INCREDIBLE. Of course I had been awake off and on, but I actually kept falling back to sleep. It was amazing. I was up a little earlier on Sunday, but I wanted to get showered and packed so I wasn’t holding anyone up…and I was awake anyway, just enjoying the peace and quiet. I was a little worried that I would have a difficult time sleeping without the sound of the white noise in her room as even on nights when she stays overnight at Gigi’s house, I put the monitor on so I can hear the white noise. Yes, she’s three and we still have a video monitor. Judge me all you want, but my kid loves her bed so much that I would never know when she falls asleep or wakes up without it. Her sleep is a good indicator for the type of day she will have, so I’ve been a bit obsessed with her sleep. Perhaps it’s one of the results of dealing with a colicky baby. I still can’t believe I was in a bed until 10. THANK YOU GIRLS!

6. I have more of a caffeine (coffee) problem than I realized. I drink a pot of coffee every day. I work from home and my coffee maker has a stainless steel carafe to keep it warm for hours. The hotel had these little single-serve packet things. I kept going into the hall to ransack the maid’s cart for packs at a time. I have a problem.

7. I miss “dancing.” I have that in quotation marks because I am fully aware that I am a white girl. Zumba has at least taught me better rhythm, but I would never want to see video of me on a dance floor. We had a lot of fun that night with each of us on 3-4 hours of sleep and traveling that morning.

8. The Young Living Ningxia Red is NO JOKE. I seriously had no hangovers. And I should have. I drank a packet before bed, one in the night when I woke up to potty, and another when I got up in the morning. AMAZING. The oils helped, too, as I applied them at bed and in the morning. (See my previous post on some of my oil successes this far for what to use.) Totally helped the brain fog lighten up and get me on the road to feeling normal….once the appropriate caffeine levels were reached.

9. The house can survive without me. Yes, I came home to a mess, inside and out, but soup was cooking and wine was chilled thanks to The Russian. He does good sometimes. He gets a gold star for that one. He got another couple of gold stars for keeping the kid and dog alive, and the house was still standing. I could feel the relief emanating from him when I walked in the door. It’s nice to be needed. And it was nice to be away from that.

10. Seeing Sugar Bee for the first time in over three full days was completely anticlimactic. It was far from the reaction that I expected. I was hoping for the greeting that The Russian gets after coming home from work, on the rare occasion that she sees him when he doesn’t have school. Even when I get home from my Saturday job that I actually leave the house for, I get a pretty awesome greeting with running and joyful cries. She turned and looked at me from the couch, and then turned back around to watch tv. Ouch. I sat down next to her and she basically seemed to be avoiding me and not making eye contact. I was sure that this was normal, but it still hurt. So I just scooped her up and hugged and kissed her, telling her how much I had missed her. Before long, she was back to her old self and all about mama. The last three days had been a nice break, but I was ready to get back into my real place in this current life. And as always, the dog was overjoyed to see me. Nothing like the love of a dog. For real.

11. I needed to fast the next few days. I will get a post together about the different ways I fast and why, but my poor body sure as hell needed a break. I was so happy to get to the gym on Monday!

12. I realized that I need to do something like this at least once a year. My doc told me I need to do it once a quarter 😉 I really did have the best time. I almost didn’t go because of money. Things have been tight the past few months and we have a ton of things coming up (weddings, other travel, my HS reunion), but I found a way to make it work. I had some leftover bonds from childhood and cashed them in to pay for the bulk of the trip. That was all my money that I used for something that was all for me. I think that’s fair and it made me feel a heck of a lot better about spoiling myself with a weekend getaway.

My top favorite moments: the drive out to Charleston singing like fools and sharing about each other, the drive back to the hotel on our night out and singing our heads off while crammed in one vehicle, the catamaran excursion (who doesn’t love drinking on the water?), and getting to know a fantastic bunch of girls.

Thank you, ladies, for making my first weekend away from my family such a fantastic and memorable one.2014-07-26 20.20.02-1


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It’s time for me to leave. We all need it.

This Friday, less than two weeks before my daughter turns three, I am going to go away for the first time. Without her.

Sugar Bee has been traveling since she was three months old, with me wherever I went. We have traveled to New York and Florida many times to visit my mom and dad in their respective states. We have been to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic on our first family vacation with her Russian side of the family. We have driven to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Phenix City, Alabama, and Panama City, Florida. She has been on more airplanes than some of my adult friends. We have always been together.

In the first 14 or so months of life, this was because I was breastfeeding. Pumping never worked for me, so there was little chance of a separation then. And to be honest, I never wanted to leave her. I was truly cherishing every moment, even the colic, the allergy issues, the early onset of her seriously fiery personality, and I had no desire to miss a beat. I am fortunate enough to have my career and work from home, making traveling places easier since I can work from anywhere. I haven’t had a traditional office in years and the thought of ever having one again makes me physically ill. It would be nice, I suppose, to get to leave the house and all the stresses associated with it behind for a few hours (out of sight, out of mind) and then be able to leave work behind to come back and focus on home life. Being able to still have my career while raising my daughter for the past three years has given me so much satisfaction and a healthy sense of pride, and I constantly remind myself how lucky I am to be able to have it both ways. But I need a break in the worst way. And the time is now.

When Sugar Bee entered our lives in 2011, my husband was still in the Army Reserves and working full-time. He would leave for his weekend every month, getting his break from this new, crazy life we now had. (We joked about how he was going off to “camp.”) Then he started back at school to finish up his degree, going to school at night after working all day. He would have his 2-3 week leave each spring for his regular spring Army commitment, and then it would be just the girl and I for more than just a long weekend. He has gone to visit his parents in Russia at least 4 times for 2-3 weeks at a time, including long layovers in places like Rome, Paris, and the Netherlands where he had time to explore those cities. (It’s important for him to visit his family, and he works hard and deserves these breaks.) When his time with the Army was fulfilled and he was released in September of 2012, he really ramped up his course load. For the past year and a half, there have been semesters where he says goodnight to our daughter on Sunday night and doesn’t see her again until Friday after work. (Let’s not even address how this has changed our marital relationship because we never see each other.) All week long, it is all me. All mama, all the time. And I love it, but I’m tired. No, exhausted. I don’t even think that word is enough sometimes.

I feel like I have been a single parent for a lot of her life, and I want to send a huge shout out to all the single parents out there. You are amazing and have my utmost respect for everything you maintain, and for doing and giving your best every day for the little ones. For all my complaining, at least there is someone around on the weekend so I can go to the store by myself, go to church, take the dog for a walk, or work in the yard. I do take her to a preschool four mornings a week (three days for camp this summer) from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. to give me time to focus on work. She (thankfully) takes a nap for 2-3 hours when she comes home so I can get a few more hours of work done, but after she gets up, the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening is shot. After I finally get her to bed, I’m back at my computer to do more work, often until 11 p.m. or later. It makes for very long days and I’m pooped.

So when my good friend was over one night a few weeks ago, we were chatting about all sorts of things (as wine can sometimes make happen) and she mentioned her bachelorette weekend was coming up and that I should come along. I have never been to Charleston and I really enjoy this group of girls. Friday through Sunday? That’s only two nights….SURELY they can survive without me. I immediately started to get excited. I wasn’t even sure how it could happen as my husband would have to take a vacation day, but I decided that I was going to give it a try.

The next day, the Russian and I were instant messaging through our chat system at work (we both work for the same company), so I asked, “Can you take a look at the calendar and see if it might be possible for you to get the 25th of July off?” His response was, “I already have that day off. And the 24th.” I immediately asked him why, figuring he had taken the days off to go get together with his Army buddies for their summer boys weekend (forgot to add that one to his list of breaks that he’s had), and started to feel bummed. When he explained that he already had those days off because he has to work the weekend before (which happens every other month or so), I was cautiously excited again. Is it possible that the stars had aligned to make this a real possibility? Am I actually going to get some time away to just be me and relax with some girlfriends? Of course he immediately asked me why I was asking. “Well, Tina’s bachelorette weekend away is that weekend, Friday through Sunday” I wrote. It was followed by an immediate response back, “GO!”

This was quite possibly one of the nicest gestures from the Russian ever. I have never asked to have time away, to leave my family and my responsibilities as mother, wife, maid, cook, dog caregiver, and my job, but for the past 10 months or so, I have talked about how I felt that I was really needing a break. That we all need me to go somewhere, to recharge for a few days. It never mattered where to or for how long, and now this was the perfect occasion. He has always supported me going somewhere, and for a long time, I really thought I needed to go alone. In fact, I had started talking to people that I know around the country to see who I could stay with for free to get some time away. I have lots of miles for someone that doesn’t travel for work and can fly anywhere, but I didn’t want to blow up the budget (I’m the accountant) to do something for myself. Why do I/we as mothers feel guilt for that? Why have I felt guilty sometimes going to get a pedicure? That is ludicrous. He’s never felt guilty leaving or buying a new gadget, so why do I allow it within myself? For all that I do on a daily basis, I should be able to give myself a little luxury, a small treat, yet I often find my brain wandering while I’m relaxing, thinking about bills or some expense that is coming up in the future, a meeting I need to prepare for, something to do for Sugar Bee’s school, a vet appointment…the list is endless. Guilty is the wrong word, but I don’t know what else to call it.

Two weeks later, the post When It’s Mom’s Time to Leave, came out. Holy crap there were so many things that resonated with me, even to the point of a few tears. This was possibly one of the best ones I’ve read this year. I love when I read something that makes me feel a little less crazy, or mean, or guilty, or alone in this whole mom thing.

“It has become all too common for moms to carry the entire burden of child-rearing, all while not inserting a single need of their own. But it doesn’t serve our children, it doesn’t serve our families and it breeds resentment to play the martyr all the time.”

There are some things that are just part of my personality. I’m a nurturer. I take care of people and always have. My friends are treated as my family. I’m terrible at asking for help, but I have definitely gotten better at it since having a kid. I suck at taking care of myself; the emotional self. I’m fine with the physical one as I put my health and body in my list of important things, but I don’t take any other time for me aside from my time at the gym. I allow myself that, but very little else.

There was another thing she was right on about. No one can tell you when it’s the right time because there is no answer. I’m sure some of you reading this have never left your kids. My mom tells me all the time how back then, “taking a break” was never a thought to her. She’s right. I don’t ever remember a bunch of moms going off on girl trips together, leaving their young kids behind. I remember when my parents had an opportunity for her to join my dad on a business trip to Japan and China. She was so worried, even though both of our grandmothers were staying with my sister and I. Of course, I ended up getting really sick while they were gone, but I’m sure that won’t happen this weekend. Right?

As Kiri Westby writes in her post about her mom, “…her generation of moms were fighting just to be allowed to work outside the home, while my generation of moms are expected to work outside the home, raise amazing kids and still look good in a little black dress come date night… thus, most of us feel like we’re failing.”

My mom went back to work when I was ten and my sister entered high school because she wanted to and she felt we were old enough. Times were different then. Today, most of us need two incomes to just survive, let alone have extra left at the end of the month. The internet and social media has given us a ton of places to compare ourselves and our lives with others that may seem to be doing it right or better than us. We are all different, not better or worse. None of us really knows what we are doing and if someone says that they do, they are full of it and probably have less of a clue than I do.

She also mentions in the article about how her husband wants his daughter to know he can be there for her and take care of her. That goes along with why I say, “We all need it.” The Russian and Sugar Bee need me to go away, too. I want her to know he’s always there for her, especially now that he’s absent so often between work and school. I want them to bond, to do things together without me around. I want them to do something different and new while I’m gone. I’m always taking her to places for the first time or am at least part of it, and maybe he will take advantage and do something new with her himself. Or maybe not. It’s not my problem to worry about, I just want them to be together and have time without the distraction of mama. She should know and trust that he can do what mama does, for the most part.

Once I had been given the day off from the flight school where I work part-time on Saturdays, it was real. The Russian didn’t have to worry about work, I had Saturday off, and I was actually going to go away. Without my kid. Eeek! The next thing I knew, I found myself almost bragging about leaving. Anytime someone asked me what was new, that was the first thing that came to mind. “I’m taking my first trip away from my family!” I have some friends that have left their kids behind for girls’ weekends and trips away with their spouses several times, even when there’s a little-little one around. It doesn’t make them cooler than me or make me better than them. I’m happy for them that they have had the opportunity and the ability to take the time for themselves. I think it’s great. And I’m thrilled that I am finally ready and actually doing it. As I said, we are all different.

My daughter has stayed overnight at Gigi and Jack’s a few times through the years. They are close friends, more like family to us than friends, and we refer to them as our Georgia family. But one night with her a mile away when I’m picking her up around 9 o’clock the next morning isn’t the same thing. This is going to be a whole new experience for me. I’m sure they will both be fine and I know that I deserve (and need) to do this for myself. Considering how much of my daily life is spent thinking about and tending to my family’s needs and the demands of my job, of course I’m excited about the prospect of getting away and focusing on myself and this ridiculously fun weekend that lies ahead. But I’m also nervous, anxious, worried, and feeling a little guilty. (There’s that damn word again.)

Three consecutive days of being Shannon again. I’m sure I will miss her terribly and wonder if she’s eating enough, sleeping well, or missing me. But maybe not as often as I’m imagining right now. I will have to write about it when I get back.

Of course, the next thing is to plan time away alone with the Russian. That will be the next big thing.

 

I stumbled upon a few more great reads on the subject of the importance of us moms having a break before writing this post. Here they are:

10 Reasons Every Mom Should Leave Her Kids for the Weekend

Going away–without the kids? Feeling guilty or worried? Read this.

Mom’s Weekend Pass: Two Nights Away to Recharge Your Batteries

When was your first time leaving your kid(s)? How long were you gone? How did it go?


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Snoring? Backache? Hangover? Allergies? Bug bites? My oil solutions (Part 1)

Essential oils are the newest addition to my natural lifestyle. In some of my posts, I will be sharing uses, recipes, success stories, and basically anything that will be a good resource for you. After these posts about my initial successes in my own personal life (I can’t control my excitement and MUST share NOW), I will spend time focusing more on each of the oils that I currently use to give you a sense of how much you can do with these little bottles of magic.

WhyYL (1)

Did you know it only takes 21 minutes for Young Living oils to reach every cell in your body? Talk about fast! This is serious competition for all the medications that you have in your house. One thing that I need to stress to you is that the essential oils that you choose must be 100% therapeutic grade in order to be effective and not cause any harm. The information I will be sharing on oils will only apply to Young Living Essential Oils as that is what I choose and know.

D. Gary Young started Young Living over 20 years ago. They are a world leader of essential oils. They own their own farms in Utah, Idaho, France, Ecuador, Peru and Oman. Their oils are exclusively used in over 50 hospitals in the US for treatments and complimentary care. The quality of these oils is above and beyond industry standards. The FDA classifies essential oils as a food additive, therefore, there are oils out in the market containing less than 3% essential oil, labeled as 100% pure. The Young Living Seed to Seal process ensures that the products you purchase from them are genuine oils, free of synthetic chemicals, and of unmatched purity. These oils are so pure that you can ingest them!

Enough about the reasons why I choose to use Young Living Essential Oils (YLEO), let’s move on to the good stuff! I had three MAJOR wins within a 4 hour period of time.

Snoring

The one I am most excited about is benefiting both the Russian and I. One of the YLEO blends is called Valor. It’s referred to as a chiropractor in a bottle, but that isn’t even the best use for it! For ten+ years, there has been a snoring issue in our bedroom (not it). I have never been a fantastic sleeper and if I wake up, it’s sometimes difficult for me to go right back to sleep. Especially if there is an incredibly loud rumbling coming from the body next to me. Sometimes I swear it’s like a train. So you can see how neither of us have been experiencing good quality, uninterrupted sleep (forget about the fact that we are parents)…me from the droning snore and him from my pushing him, rolling him over, waking him up to move, and just the waking up that occurs when you snore and have borderline apnoea.

Picture this: It’s 4:30 a.m. on July 5th. I had been drinking the night before (well it was the 4th of July), so I woke up at my usual time. 4:30 a.m. is when my liver and adrenals have dealt with the alcohol and I almost always have crappy sleep from that point on. And I never learn, but that’s not the point of this paragraph. So the Russian Express is running along side of me and it was among the loudest and worst that it had ever been. In his defense, he was still getting over a cold and was quite congested, but still! Oh. My. God it was loud!! I had been reading testimonials about putting Valor on the bottom of the feet, specifically the big toe area, and I knew one of my best friends, The Oil Girl, had used it on her husband with great success. I stumbled into the dining room where all my oils currently are, rummaged through the box to get the valor, and blindly applied it to the bottom of both of his big toes (and a little extra around the area for good measure) as I was still half asleep. Holy crap!! It WORKED! And I’m not talking in an hour. It was MINUTES!

Now, I’m half-crunchy so I believe in a lot of things that others don’t (and scoff at) and I embrace natural relief, therapies, medicine, etc., but even I had my doubts. Not anymore! And even the Russian believes this one!valor There was silence. It was better than silence. It was seriously the first time that I have ever heard him have peaceful sleep in more than ten years. I was so excited about it that I couldn’t fall back to sleep. There I was, just lying next to him, listening to him quietly breathe, taking the empty sound in. Then I thought of my dad and his girlfriend. I bet she is going to go buy a case of this stuff for my dad. This is magic in a bottle. For real. The Russian has used it every night since. I don’t even have to say anything.

Backache

Since I had been drinking the night before, my sciatica and hip were also keeping me up that morning. The pain was so bad that I could barely relax my leg, so there was little chance of me drifting back off (in addition to my excitement over the snoring cure). After about an hour, I remembered (still new to the oils) reading about Valor and the back. I decided it was worth a shot, especially after my huge win with the Russian snoring machine a short while ago. I got up and rubbed a few drops into my lower left side where my generally uncomfortable SI joint is, and by the time I got back into bed, I was feeling relief. What the Hell?!! Was this for real?!?! Why, yes; yes it was. I was not dreaming, although I wished I was since I was so tired, and the pain was decreasing by the minute. I fell back to sleep for the next hour and a half until I had to get up for work. Enter in my third win.

Hangover

Well, it was the morning after the 4th of July. And I never learn. You would think at my age that I would be past this behavior, but I’m pretty sure it’s a part of me for life. It is what it is. I awake from my final hour+ of sleep, thanks to some Valor on the back of my left hip, and I can tell it’s going to be a bit of a rough morning. Most people rejoice when the 4th falls on a Friday. For me, Saturdays are the only day of the week that I have to actually leave the house in a presentable manner. That is the day that I work my part-time job at a flight school. It’s the day I get to be me again; not mom, not wife, not maid, cook, accountant, dog keeper, etc., etc., etc. It’s just ME. So while I grumble some mornings that I have to get up, I do enjoy my Saturdays, even if they cramp my social life sometimes. What? Wait, I’m a mom. Whatever. I make my way to the bathroom and think, “Why did I do this. Again.”

hangoversmallI remembered reading something about using lemon and grapefruit to help with a hangover. I couldn’t remember and was in no shape to go do any research, so I went ahead and put about two drops of lemon on my fingers and rubbed the back of my neck. Then I took another two drops and rubbed it on my stomach over the general location of where my liver is. Then I repeated both steps with the grapefruit oil. In a matter of minutes, the brain fog cleared up and nearly all the things associated with a mild to moderate hangover were gone. I got ready for work, reapplied both oils a second time, and was on my merry way.

If you take baths, and have time for one, another option is to add a few drops of each oil to the bath and relax. Diffusing would also be a great idea and I was kind of inhaling them as I got ready since my hand still carried their scents. Where has this remedy been all my life? Ha! I don’t meant to imply that I’m hungover all the time, but things happen. Now that I’m a mom, it happens a lot less frequently, but I sure could have used this when I was in my 20s.

You could also use some lavender as it is a natural calmer for both the body and the mind. I didn’t try it, but maybe if there’s a next time.

 Two words of caution: You could/should probably dilute the oils or coat with the carrier oil of your choice. Direct application had no effect on me to cause concern, but if you have sensitive skin you may want to dilute. The other more important thing is that lemon and grapefruit can cause sensitivity to direct sunlight for 12 hours following application. I didn’t have any issues, but just be careful where and when you apply it to the skin.

When I started thinking about writing this section of the post, I decided to dig around and see what else might help with the morning flu. People have found that the high amount of antioxidants in Young Living’s Ningxia Red helps to ease symptoms. I woke up a little “slow” again yesterday and downed one of the 2-oz pouches of this stuff after applying only one round of oils and I was no longer operating in slow motion. I will definitely be bringing a bunch of these pouches on my trip to Charleston in two weeks for a bachelorette weekend (first trip away from my kid! eek!), along with the oils, of course.

There are many benefits from drinking this stuff, but here’s what I found out for this use. It’s recommended to drink 4-6 ounces of Ningxia Red before bed and 4-6 ounces upon waking to aid in recovery from abusing the body with alcohol. If it’s a really bad morning, continue to drink 2 ounces every two hours until you feel better. Again, where was this stuff when I was in college?? ningxia-red

Bug bites

If you follow The Half Crunchy Mama on Facebook, then you already saw this one since I couldn’t wait to finish writing this post to share the news. These are before and after pictures from last Thursday. Bugs love my Sugar Bee and she has such a bad reaction to them. The site of the bite spreads out into strange shapes of puffiness. She actually started scratching them that day after getting bit. That was the first time that she has shown discomfort from a bite. Of course if I had sprayed her with the bug spray I made she wouldn’t have been bit up in the first place. My bad.

This first collage are the bites before nap. I applied Young Living lavender essential oil and topped it with a diluted allergy trio mixture that I made with their lemon, peppermint, and lavender mixed together in franctionated coconut oil. I keep this handy in a roller bottle as I’ve been applying it almost daily to her for her crazy seasonal allergies. 10435927_250890581785291_6535451595347202282_n You can barely see the bite sites in this collage of pictures taken after nap, just two hours later. This stuff is amazing! 10488027_250890601785289_1722104004942372258_n The pictures don’t really to the reaction justice, but the fact that I had to look back at the pictures from before nap to make sure I was looking at the right places shows how well and fast they healed. This is so incredible and I’m thrilled to have completely natural relief for her. If I can get better about remembering (and carrying) the bug spray, then I shouldn’t need to use this very often.

I have so much more to share with you. This is just a snippet of what these amazing little bottles of oils can do. I felt that it was best to start off with my own personal success stories instead of sharing some of the amazing things that others have experienced.  After I post Part 2 of this, I will get to writing individual posts about one oil at a time to discuss all the things it can be used for. For now, it’s all about what I have witnessed with my own eyes.

Until next time.

If you would like to purchase any of the oils that I mentioned above, visit my store and order directly from there.

If you’re interested in Young Living Essential Oils, whether to browse or sign up as a distributor yourself to get the 24% discount on products, visit here to get started (My Sponsor/Enroller ID  1876381). You won’t be disappointed and you’ve got me to help guide you through it!


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Creamy Zucchini Noodles

This recipe is a huge favorite with the Russian and I. After I made it once to try it out, I added it into my regular rotation of dishes. It’s fast, cheap, and easy, all very important characteristics with everything I’m juggling these days, and his eyes light up whenever I mention making it again. There is little doubt that once Sugar Bee* gets over her “it has skins” phase about everything put in front of her that she will be chowing down on this one, too. She still loves avocado (her first food) and is a total veggie-head. Don’t be fooled by the word “creamy” in the title. This dish is non-dairy, gluten-free, vegetarian, paleo-friendly, you name it and it probably fits, like nearly every recipe I will ever post.

The recipe originates from the blog of Empowered Sustenance. Her original recipe can be found here. She is an amazing resource and I have really enjoyed her posts. You should follow her blog, too!

First, I have to mention (brag) that the zucchini used for this blog was successfully grown in my own container garden. This is only my second year taking a crack at growing my own food and I’m quite impressed with myself. If I actually had time, I would research a lot about how to successfully grow each individual crop and spend a lot more time tending to the plants. I’m sure I would probably have actual garden beds, a greenhouse, and compost everything, but containers are about all I can handle at this point in my life. Just take a look at this beauty!!

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Now let me focus your attention on one of the best things ever invented, next to the Kitchen Aid  stand mixer. I LOVE this thing! You can spiral fruits and vegetables into noodles or chips in minutes. It’s so easy to use and clean. If you don’t have one, go buy it. Now. Amazon usually has the best price. Look, I’ve even given you a place to click and get one here. If you are a clean eater, paleo, or GFer and you still don’t have one, I’m not sure we can talk anymore. You should have had this yesterday. But if you don’t have one, you can use a julienne peeler like this one to make the noodles.

Creamy zucchini noodles

Another nifty item to have is an avocado saver. There are those rare occasions where we actually have half an avocado left in our house and this thing actually works. You do have to pull it real tight to make sure air can’t get to the flesh, and there might still be a little discoloration when you get to it, but it’s a very thin layer that scrapes off very easily.

Creamy zucchini noodles

This was after two days in the saver in the fridge. I think that’s pretty darn good! The lighting  in this picture stinks, but as you will see in the picture down below in this post after it’s been scraped into the bowl, it was still nice and green. The only thing was that those little stripes appeared. TWO DAYS. Here it is on Amazon, but I bought mine in Publix. My mom found one for herself up in NY at Stop N Shop, so I’m sure you can get one anywhere. Do it.

Creamy zucchini noodles

To make the zucchini noodles, trim the ends off the zucchini, position it in the slicer, and turn the handle. Yep, this is really hard stuff here.

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I like to make my noodles on the short side. When I first started making this, I would make them too long, making cooking, mixing, and even eating them a little difficult. I break them off after a few turns and drop them in the bowl. Then I turn and make some more. One of the easiest things going on in my world of cooking prep.

Creamy zucchini noodles

When you are done making the zucchini noodles, it’s time to cook them. Heat the EVOO in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the zucchini noodles, some Italian seasoning and garlic powder, and turn the noodles around in the pan to coat them in the oil and spices.

Creamy zucchini noodles

While the zucchini is cooking, get the sauce ready. Scoop the avocado into a medium-sized bowl with juice from half a lemon, a giant tablespoon of mayo (you could use yogurt, if tolerable), salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste.

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Mash the ingredients together with a fork until it looks like a creamy guacamole.

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When the zucchini has finished cooking, it should still have a nice green color and be soft, but not mushy. Remove it from the heat and let it stand a minute or two. Don’t let it cool too long as the warmth from the zucchini helps the creamy avocado sauce to coat the noodles.

Creamy zucchini noodles

 After it has cooled for a few minutes, add it to the bowl of creamy sauce and stir to combine. I try to drain some of the oil off of the noodles before placing them in the bowl or the sauce can get too runny. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Creamy zucchini noodles

* Sugar Bee is what I call my three-year-old daughter. I actually call her My Sweet Sugar Bee, but this shortened version will work fine for my blog.


Creamy Zucchini Noodles

These quantities make two servings if made as a side dish, one if you eat it all by yourself as a meal…which you might want to do after the first time you make it. This is easily doubled and since I have found that it does last until the next day, I usually make a double batch. I have also sauteed fresh garlic in the oil before adding the zucchini for extra flavor (then omitting the garlic powder). We love garlic! Happy cooking!

INGREDIENTS
  • 1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil (or the oil/fat of your choice)
  • 1 medium zucchini, made into noodles with a spiral slicer or  julienne peeler
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2-1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • Juice of half a lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 1 heaping Tbsp of mayonnaise (or yogurt)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS
  1. Heat oil in saute pan over medium heat. Add the zucchini, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder, tossing to coat. Saute for 3-5 minutes until noodles have softened, but not mushy and are still bright green.
  2. While noodles are cooking, mash avocado with the remaining ingredients in a bowl with a fork until it has the consistency of a creamy guacamole.
  3. When zucchini is finished cooking, remove from heat and let cool for 1-3 minutes. Add to the bowl with the avocado mixture, allowing some of the oil to drain off. Stir to coat noodles and serve. Enjoy!