Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Gluten-Free Diet Changes June 8, 2014

Filed under: cooking,family — ourprairiehome @ 8:12 pm
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In recent weeks, our son’s therapists each were encouraging and supportive of our trying a gluten-free diet with him.  He has already gone dairy-free due to lactose intolerance.  No surprise there since both his Daddy and I are lactose intolerant.  Unfortunately, Pookie still gets a gassy belly whenever he eats foods containing wheat.  So, with that in mind we are going to try gluten-free and see if that helps.  It takes about 3 months of being gluten-free to fully rid our bodies of the effects of gluten.

Being that we eat a predominately vegan diet, we already don’t eat much meat.  Not that we don’t like eating meat, but between how my body feels after eating meat and the high price of meat, it is easy to go without it.  In fact, we no longer buy meat.  The only time we will have meat is when we go out to eat.  Then it is really hard to eat vegetarian/vegan.  We don’t have much in the way of options where we live.   Unless you are completely in love with the idea of eating salads only, you have to get creative.  We found buffet type restaurants to work best for us.  Now, there is a new twist for our eating options.  Now we have to find gluten-free options.

One of the hardest things about going gluten-free is the fact that most breads sold have the texture of styrofoam.  It is dense and the taste is not very pleasant.  So, my first challenge was to find a recipe for homemade bread.  I looked at the various recipes and found that in the comments, there were some who loved the recipe while others said it was too dense and bland. For our family, that would not work out for us.  We love eating bread.  So, I felt that finding a good recipe was critical for us.

We are a family who believes that if one family member has to eat a special diet, then we all will do the diet change in support of that family member.  This is especially true when kids are involved.  It is difficult to explain to a young child with dietary challenges why they cannot eat a cookie or treat that their sibling is able to eat.

I did a web search for recipes for making a gluten-free all purpose flour.  There are many recipes out there.  I wanted one that was easy to make, low cost, and had a good flavor.  I love to bake all of our breads and baked goods.  It is far less costly than the store bought alternatives.  The baked goods are also much better for you in that they are not full of chemicals and preservatives.  Finally, it is just plain fun to bake.  Little Miss, Pookie, and I enjoy baking together.

I found a really easy and good all-purpose gluten-free flour recipe last week.  I like the flour recipe.  All ingredients were very easy to find at the health food store and at a good price.  The same blog has a recipe for a Soft Gluten Free Sandwich bread.   I am going to give it a try this week and see how we like the recipes.  I will post the results.

As for eating out, I think we will continue with the buffets or possibly start using bento containers and taking food with us.  We have done that often enough in the past.  That is my next Pinterest quest…..finding some fun gluten-free meals to take in bento containers that the kids will enjoy.

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Common Sense Diet December 18, 2013

Filed under: cooking,family,simplicity,Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 8:19 am
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It seems lately that I keep seeing posts on the social networks about one diet or another.  Fad diets have always been around.  I have found though that if you follow common sense, many diet issues can be avoided.

I come from a family with a history of health problems.  My mother’s parents were both diabetic.  Common sense would dictate that I limit sweets and the foods that cause diabetics’ blood sugar levels to rise too much.  On both sides of the family there are problems with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.   Just as with the diabetic history, it is wise to moderate the amount of food that I eat that is known to affect blood pressure and cholesterol.

I began to really pay closer attention to the foods that I ate back in 2007.  Little Miss was approaching her first birthday and I was having a lot of chronic pain and mobility problems.  In fact, I was using a walker and when away from home used a wheelchair.  I did a lot of reading online to find natural means to address the problems.  I found that by eliminating processed foods, I was able to be pain-free and regain my mobility.  Fast forward a couple of years and I was dealing with high blood pressure.

Since that time, I have continued to make adjustments to my diet that has had great affect on my health.  My family has benefitted as well.  The first change was to eliminate as much processed and refined foods as possible.  the hardest to eliminate was foods containing high fructose corn syrup.  I was dismayed at how many foods contain it.  I remember hearing as a teen the idea that if you cannot pronounce or recognize the name of the ingredients in a food, then you probably shouldn’t be eating it.

Next step was to identify the foods that contribute to high cholesterol.  In the simplest of terms, animal products are the culprits.  If I stayed away from the animal products, then I wouldn’t have to be quite as concerned about my cholesterol levels getting too high.  I found that it also had an affect on my blood pressure as well.

Today, my blood pressure has been under control and within the normal range for just over 3 years without taking any prescription medications.  For a time, I was taking garlic capsules as a natural cure for high blood pressure.  I also took cinnamon capsules to help control my blood sugar levels.  Though not diabetic, I do have problems with low blood sugar from time to time.

Overall, our family eats whole foods, cooked from scratch, and eat lean meats sparingly.  My husband, son, and I each have lactose intolerance in varying levels.  We avoid milk most of the time.  We use almond milk or a low-fat powdered milk to help reduce the lactose problems.  I also cook eggs only when necessary.  Instead of using eggs in my recipes, I substitute them with flax seed meal mixed in water.  A tablespoon of the ground flax seed meal mixed with 3 tablespoons of warm water equals one egg.

When using white potatoes, I peel, cut, and soak the potatoes in water overnight before using them.  The potato water is cloudy and often thickened from the starch in the potatoes soaking out of the potatoes.  This cuts done considerably on the amount of starch you eat.  The starch turns to sugar in your body.  For those with diabetes, this can cause a lot of problems.  We also use sweet potatoes in place of white potatoes quite often.  They are far better for you and do not have the starches that russet potatoes contain.

Our diet is based on vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.  For us, this is simply common sense.  I buy the basic ingredients and cook as much from scratch as possible.  We eat very little of the heavy sauces such as gravies.  I keep healthy snacks on hand.  We typically eat 5-6 times a day, including 3 light meals and 2-3 snacks.

For us, the way we eat make sense.  It isn’t following any specific diet but it works for us.  I am slowly losing weight.  Yes, I would love to lose it faster, but a slow weight loss will last longer.  The healthy eating habits we are developing will stick with us.  They will become a habit.  They will be a part of our daily lifestyle.  Eating smaller more frequent meals/snacks each day will help maintain energy levels throughout the entire day.  Come summer, when our garden is producing, the daily meals will include pickings from the garden each day.

Now, we eat very few packaged foods.  I find us eating them less and less as time goes by.  I also find that our grocery bill each month lowers even further with the whole food approach.

 

Loving Summer July 4, 2013

Filed under: faith,family,homesteading — ourprairiehome @ 4:30 pm
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This summer has been a very mild one.  Last year, we were already in the triple digits by June.  This year, we have only had 1 day in the triple digits.  The average temp has only be in the 80’s.  I love it!

On the home front, there are small changes happening that will bring great blessings to the family.  My Beloved husband has been truck driving throughout most of our marriage.  With this job, he is away from home a minimum of a week at a time.  Currently, he is home overnight once a week.  Not much time for family with that schedule, but it is what the company demands of him.  We have been working towards the day when he can be home more often.  In the past years, we tried twice to do this and failed.  He had found a local job each time, but they were not trucking related.  Living in a rural area as we do, you have to have a specialized job in order to make ends meet.  During one period of about 2.5 years, our family of 4 lived on a single income that was barely above minimum wage.  Our lifestyle helped to make that possible, but we still were getting behind.  Financial needs were met but we could not make any improvements to the homestead.  So, back to trucking he went.  The challenge now has been that I don’t have the ability to do all the work necessary on the homestead while tending the home, kids, homeschooling, etc.  We basically have been just taking care of essentials.  In many ways, it was no better than when he worked local.  Basic needs are met, but there is no time for expansion when my husband is home.  So, after much prayer, we were prompted to take it slower this time around.  Last week, my husband was able to get the extra endorsements on his trucking license to allow him to drive any type of truck, including those for the fuel companies.  Now, the next step is that he will be looking for a local trucking job that will allow him to be home more often, yet pay what we need.  Lord willing, he will have a new job by summer’s end.

Our children are having a lot of fun this summer.  Between trips to the zoo, vacation Bible school, and playing outdoors, they are kept busy.  In August, our baby girl will start going to Girl Scouts.  Wow!!!  The time has surely flown by.  She is so excited to start up.  We signed her up during the spring.  Our son is making headway in his development.  He has finally regained the ability to feed himself, even using utensils for the first time.  He is chattering a lot more often than previously.  He still doesn’t say any words, but jabbers like an infant learning to make letter sounds.  Cute part is that he does it in such a way that it sounds like he is singing.  He is such a happy little boy.

It has been such a wonderful time for us.  So many blessings that outweigh any challenges that we have faced.

 

Starting the Garden April 30, 2013

Filed under: cooking,gardening,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 5:15 am
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Filling up the recycled containers with potting mix in the morning. Frost danger has now passed us by. I have very few above ground plants to put in this year. We are barely out of the drought stage, so I am planting a drought tolerant garden instead. Of the above ground plants, I am only planting a few summer squash, but will be planting plenty of winter squash. The rest of the plants will be root crops.

Little Miss has some pumpkin seeds starting. They should be popping up in about a week. Once they are a good size, they will be transplanted along the edge of the yard. I am considering how we will plant them. If I can find a few old tires, I will use those as planters. I used tires to grow watermelons when I lived in an upper desert region and they did great. The sidewalls of the tires helped to hold the water near the plant.

As I previously mentioned, there is a really good produce farm not far from our homestead. I will be buying from them any crops that I don’t grow at home. I will be talking to them in the near future about buying things like green beans by the bushel for home canning. Hopefully, I will get a good price for the bulk purchases.

Our family has become hooked on a new snack. I bought some vegetable chips at Whole Foods in Tulsa on my last trip there. The chips are thinly sliced veggies and whole green beans that are dried or baked. A small amount of sea salt is added to them, but it is a very small amount. I looked online and found various recipes on how to make them yourself through dehydrating, baking, or frying. As soon as I see the fresh produce hitting the produce farm’s shop, I will be trying the recipes out to find our favorite. They are a wonderful healthy alternative to eating regular potato chips!

I have started my summer meal preparations. In warm months, we eat very few cooked meals during the day. Instead, we have lighter, raw or chilled meals. A variety of salads make up a large portion of our diet. I add cooked quinoa to nearly every salad that we eat. This helps to make sure we get enough protein each day. Cooked meals that we do eat are ones that can be prepared very quickly. A favorite is making a stir-fry with teriyaki sauce served over cooked quinoa in place of rice. Ever since we started eating quinoa, we have given up rice almost completely. Compared to rice, there is far more nutrients in quinoa.

By making the meals fast to prepare, I don’t have to worry about heating up the kitchen too much through cooking. We have a large griddle, like the type that you see for outdoor kitchens. On that griddle, I am able to make a large amount of flat bread at once time. During summer, that bread is the only type that I make. If you allow the dough to rise before you start forming the rounds for dry frying, the bread becomes thicker & lighter during the cooking process. I roll out the dough slightly thicker than you normally might do. The flat bread then will puff a bit like a pita bread when you dry fry it. Once cooked, you can then cut a slit into the bread to use as a pita.

The lighter meals also provide us with a great opportunity to take full advantage of the fresh produce in season. We are so blessed to have kids who love to eat this way.

Once I see how this year’s plantings do, I will decide what to plan for next season. As long as my husband is still away so much with his trucking job, I am limited on how much garden we plant. Throughout the season. We will be gradually adding more raised beds to plant our garden in. That will also determine the amount we plant.

By and by, the garden area will be completely moved to it’s new location and we will be able to grow more. Just having to use patience for now.

 

God’s Will April 22, 2013

Filed under: faith,family — ourprairiehome @ 4:54 am
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Today, we had the blessing of being able to go to church services at our home church in OKC. My beloved husband was home long enough from his trucking job to go with us. It was so timely that we went today. Our pastor spoke about God’s Will in our lives. One thought kept coming to my mind as I listened to the sermon. If I knew ahead of time what God’s will was for me, would I have accepted it? Or would I have fought against it?

In every person’s life, there are moments and experiences that we go through and wonder “why?” I have certainly had many of these in my 50 years of life. At the time when I was going through the experiences, I had many times questioned the purpose of it. I learned through time however that God has His own timing. While He may not bring about the hardships of our lives, He can certainly turn that experience into something good. We learn from those experiences. We grow in faith. We become more humble. How often have you gone through a rough patch only to be able to later comfort someone else going through a similar situation? The compassion and empathy you feel was gained through your own experiences.

Today, I try to look at life from the perspective of “how can I use this situation to praise God?” Our son’s autism is one example. I could very easily give in to the negative emotions of dispair and anger that our son has classic autism. But what good would that do? Would that attitude suddenly take away the autism from our son? Would it make our family life easier? Of course, the answer to those questions is “No.”

Instead, I look for God’s grace and blessing in our son. With each new step in progress, I see God’s work. When my son, who has no speech, suddenly uses sign language for the first time spontaniously, I see God’s blessing. When I see my son, pointing outon a chart his answers to questions that I ask about his school lessons, I see God’s blessings. When my son comes up to me for a hug, I feel the love of God around us.

Does this perspective take away our son’s autism? No, but it does take away the sting of his disability. It keeps hope alive that he will continue to progress.

In thinking about God’s will for our lives, here is my thoughts. I believe that a part of His will for us is to see Him in our lives. For us to know that we never travel through live alone. His spirit is always with us, guiding us and comforting us. For me, the key to recognising the Lord’s hand in my life was to stop looking at my life experiences and situations from the perspective of the world, but to seek the evidences of the Lord’s presence in our lives.

If we can stop looking at the hard times and experiences through the perspective of “why are we having to go through this?” to a perspective of “How can this experience bring glory and praise to the Lord?”, a change happens within. The focus shifts from ourselves and all the hurt and upset we are feeling. We start to focus on the Lord and His glory. As we praise Him for the little things, we share our testimony of Him to others.

It isn’t always easy to maintain this attitude. I do have days when I just want to cry when I think on what our son cannot do. Yet, I feel as though I am cheating my son each time that I allow myself to feel that way. By focusing on his limits, I am not seeing clearly his strengths and abilities that the Lord has blessed him with. In my sorrows, I rob him of the joy I should be feeling for all he is accomplishing. The Lord has blessed us greatly with our son. Though there was much said about what his limits would be when he was first diagnosed, the Lord has shown grace on him and our son is making progress ahead of when he was expected to. Seeing all that he is able to do, how can I allow myself to grieve what he cannot do?

God’s will for our son is just as precious as it is for anyone. No matter what level of progress he ultimately makes, God is in control and has a mission for our son’s life. He has a plan for our family. While we may not have chosen to have an autistic son, the Lord saw fit to allow that to come to pass. I don’t believe that God caused our son’s autism, but I do know in my heart that He can use our son as a testimony of His grace.

 

Emergency Ready? April 18, 2013

Filed under: family,pantry building — ourprairiehome @ 12:29 am
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Here in our region, the spring tornado season has arrived. It is an annual occurance that we take into stride. I am always surprised by the number of people however who never consider preparing for emergencies until it is upon them and too late. Whether it is a winter storm, tornado, or other situation, the best time to prepare is before the emergency happens.

How often have you had the power go out during a storm only to find that you don’t have extra flashlight batteries? Do you have a sufficient water supply? What about a basic first aid kit?

Many years ago, I was a member of a church that promoted emergency preparedness to it’s members. We were encouraged to stock our pantries, garden, learn first aid, have a well-stocked 1st aid kit, and other items that would be helpful during a natural disaster or other event. I grew up with that attitude even before my years in that church. It was a way of life. In my lifetime, I have seen those food stores in the pantry sustain our family during finacially hard times. Living so far from a good hospital, the first aid training and supplies are a blessing. It isn’t wasted expense or knowledge.

When I lived in Montana years ago, I saw first hand the value of having a grab-n-go bag. I often carried a small duffle bag in the back of my Geo Tracker that contained a change of clothes, granola bars, dried fruit, first aid kit, flashlight & batteries, emergency blanket, and bottled water. I have to admit that since moving to here, I have been a bit lacking in carrying a car emergency bag. I have emergency supplies at home, but what good are they if we are away from home when the emergency happens? I had grown complacent in the fact that I am a home-body at heart. I love being home more than going out. Now that the kids are getting older, I have been taking them out a lot more. Trips to the zoo and other outings take us a minimum of 45 miles from home. Trips to the zoo are about 85 miles from home. What if something takes place while we are that far from home or somewhere in between?

So, I am now putting together a basic bug-out style bag. Here are some of the items that I am including.

a change of clothing for each person
emergency blankets for each of us
dried fruits, veggie chips, and granola bars
bottled water
first aid kit
flash lights & batteries
glow sticks for the kids
a new package of disposible training pants for our son

An extra item that I am planning to order are dog tag ID necklaces for each of us with emergency contact info in case of an accident. My darling husband gave me this idea. He wears a dog tag style ID in case he gets into an accident while on the truck. It has my contact information so that emergency personnel can reach me if he were unable to do so. Our son already has one that identifies him as being autistic & non-verbal with my contact information on it in case he should wander off. It is a common thing with autistic kids to do, so we take that precaution even though I always keep close watch on him. Having an ID for our daughter and myself would be a good idea also. I am considering having 2 tags for the kids, one with my information and the other with their Daddy’s phone number. This way, the information for both parents is available. The ID dog tags unfortunately do not have room for both my husband’s and my information to be on 1 dog tag. The cost for the tags are really low if I order online. The peace of mind will be great if our kids are with a relative or at a church youth activity that has them away from us.

What do you carry in your emergency kit in your family vehicle?

 

Re-purposing Sweatshirts Idea April 10, 2013

Filed under: green living,sewing,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:14 am
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One of the challenges that we run into with our son is keeping him clean when eating or drinking. He is 5 years old, has Classic Autism, and is considered low functioning. He is unable to feed himself, but as we feed him, he constantly wipes his mouth across his shoulders. Doesn’t matter how fast we try to be with a napkin, he walks away from a meal with a messy shirt. When drinking from a cup, he often dribbles is drink down the front of himself. This is in large part due to him not holding his mouth correctly as he drinks. At his age, it is difficult to find a bib large enough to keep him clean. So, I did a bit of brainstorming.

What I came up with is a nearly no-sew bib using an old sweatshirt. The fabric is very absorbant and soft. By re-purposing the sweatshirt, it elimnates a lot of time and work put into sewing a large bib. Total amount of time it took for me to make this bob was about 20 minutes. The following are 2 different bib options, depending on your needs.

Bib Option #1 – Full Coverage

I took an old sweatshirt and cut it straight up the back. This allows it to be fast & easy to put on and remove.

Next, cut the sleeves to be about short sleeve length. This will provide coverage over the shoulders and upper arm where he tends to wipe his face.

Using 2 lengths of ribbon, hand-stitch a ribbon to each side of the neckline in back to make a tie for securing the bib on.

If you want a pocket for the bottom of the bib, turn up the bottom hem to make the pocket. With needle and thread, use a few stitches to tack the hem in place, leaving the entire shirt front open.

That’s it! The project is very fast and easy. You can use sweat shirts that have recently been out-grown or get a couple from a thrift store.

Bib Option #2 – More traditional style bib

For this bib, there is no sewing. Lay the sweatshirt onto a table and spread smooth to remove any folds. Carefully, draw alarge “U” shape going from one shoulder, down the front to just above the bottom hem ribbing and back up to the opposite shoulder. I would start the tracing at the seam where the sleeves attach to the shoulders.

Flip the shirt over and repeat the tracing but only going about 1/3 of the way down the shirt back.

Carefully cut on the traced lines, front and back. That’s it! A very easy pullover bib. If the sweatshirt neck is a little on the snug side when putting the bib on, use your scissors to make a straight cut down the back. To maintain the pullover style, only cut about 3-4 inches down from the neckline. This will give extra room when putting the bib on or taking it off. Or you can cut straight down the entire length of the back and add a ribbon at the neckline to hold the bib secure when used.

Save any excess sweatshirt fabric or the ribbing from the bottom hem. The fabric scraps make great baby wipes or cleaning rags. The ribbing can be used for making mittins.

To make mittins from sweatshirts, trace your child’s hand with thumb extended and fingers loosely together. Add 1/4 inch around the tracing for seam allowance. Cut a double layer of the sweatshirt fabric for each mittin. Sew around the mittins, leaving the bottom open. Measure the wrist of the child. Add a 1/2 inch to the measurement. Cut 2 lengths of ribbing using the wrist measurement. Fold one ribbing in half and sew short ends togehter to make a tube. Pin into place on a mittin and sew. Repeat with remaining ribbon on 2nd mittin. Voila! You have a new pair of mittins to help keep little hands warm.

Enjoy!