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I was talking to one of my best friends a few days ago.  We were talking about tough things that have recently happen in our lives and how we are handling them. I was reflecting on how hard the hot summers are on me here, and how they wipe out a lot of my energy. As they drag on, my mood gets worse because I am unable to do a lot outside and feel like I am not accomplishing anything.Sudeley Castle- 1

We were talking about my recent health issues and how well I am handling everything. I was initially super frustrated as I started realizing how many things I could not do, but once I wrapped my brain around my condition, I realized that there was only so much I could do and just needed to slow down. I had no choice but to slow down. I told my friend that since I could mentally acknowledge my physical limitations I have had a much easier time acknowledging the pace at which things will (or will not) get done. I am at peace with that.

The temperatures here are now into the 90’s and there has been some humidity with that. I have taken a huge step backwards in my stamina and energy. I know it is the heat, but it is still frustrating.  I have also started physical therapy to help increase my lung capacity and endurance. That is helping, but there is still a long road of recovery ahead of me. If I think about the amount of work I used to do outside and where I am now, I would estimate I am possibly at 40%. It is really hard to put a number on that. When I got out of the hospital I could only walk at a snail’s pace and just walking across a room was challenge. I am able to walk a bit faster than that now (and talk at the same time), but it is still slow. I am doing some tasks in the yard, but I do get out of breathe fast and just stop and rest. I have chairs placed all over the backyard so I have a place to sit and rest when I need to.Rose scented geranium 1 - Copy

When I am feeling a little frustrated, I just take a look around the yard, or even in the house, and I realize that I have so much to be thankful for. When I am having a hard time figuring out what the heck I have accomplished today, yesterday, last week – again, I just look around and realized that I have accomplished so much. There is always more to accomplish. There is always more to do, but if I just step back and breathe, things look a little better.

Do you have to take a step back and breathe every now and then?

Sincerely, Emily

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Like many things, I have wanted to start brewing kombucha since I started hearing  about it a  few years ago. Well, I finally met the right person; someone to get a scoby from and I was off and running. I was getting my photos ready (ahh, 4 weeks ago) and started writing up my post over on my personal blog when I read Miranda’s, “Who’s your Mother?” where she talked about making vinegar and a mentioned kombucha. I figured I would follow her lead and post about my kombucha experiences here instead of over at Sincerely, Emily

With my new scoby in hand I was ready to get started. I better back up a bit… what the heck is a scoby? You may remember from Miranda’s post about vinegar and its mother; it is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast  or scoby, and it turns a simple brew of tea and sugar into an amazing beverage. Kombucha is one of those wonders of the world I think. Chalk full of great stuff like beneficial enzymes and probiotics. Amazing things that will help with your entire body. Seriously, it is that good for you!

I am not the first at NDIN to write about kombucha. You can read a great post about it called “Kombucha” that was posted back in August of 2008. I encourage you to read that post, it is full of a lot of the details and benefits about kombucha so I won’t repeat it. Even though I had read a lot about it, I still had questions, so I wanted to share with you about the things I didn’t find in the books I read.

My friend handed me the smaller jar like you see in the above photo with an odd looking “thing” inside with some liquid. That “thing” is the scoby. The liquid is there to keep the scoby moist and alive, but that liquid is also used to start your new batch of kombucha. I didn’t go home with much more information. All she said was keep the scoby in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it (slows down the growing process.) Brew some strong black tea with sugar, let it sit over night and once it is at room temp you can add your scoby. How much tea? How much sugar? What do I put it in?

Kombucha – Day 6

When I have seen scoby’s advertized on Craig’s List most of them come with and a gallon glass jar (the kombucha will react with metal and it will absorb things from plastic, so always use glass), so I had already figured out I need the jar, now I needed to figure out what recipe to use. I have two books that touch on kombucha, but both have very different recipes in them.  Here is the recipe I use:

  • 3 quarts of filtered water
  • 1 cup of sugar (I use organic cane sugar) everything I have read advised against using honey
  • 4 scoops of black tea (I use organic loose tea, but you can use 4 tea bags also)

Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add tea. Let steep until liquid is at room temperature. Remove loose/bag tea and pour liquid into gallon-size jar. Add your 1/2 cup of kombucha that your scoby came in (or from your previous batch), place scoby on top of liquid and cover with a cotton dish towel. You want your towel to do two things; cover the opening in the jar to keep dust and critters out, yet allow it to breath and also to keep the entire glass jar covered and the contents in the dark.

Brewing your batch can take anywhere from 7-10 days. I initially went with 10 days, but after 2 batches I realized that 7 days worked much better because of the amount of heat in our house. I found that brewing it for 10 days the outcome was a very sour, vinegary tasting kombucha, while the 7 day brew was a bit tart and tasted much like a tart apple cider or apple juice and had quite a bit of fizz that had developed. I imagine as the fall temps start creeping in I will need to increase my brew time.

Kombucha – Day 10

So, I set out and brewed my tea liquid and was ready to start the following morning.  Some of my loose tea escaped through my tea ball so I strained the liquid as I added it to the jar. Next was to get the scoby out of the smaller jar. I wasn’t prepared for the feel and texture of it. It was much firmer than I expected, and spongy/fleshy (sorry). I was trying to gently get it out of the jar with out damaging it. I thought it was a tender, delicate “thing.” My brain kept telling me “it’s alive” and I as I was nervously laughing, I had to keep saying out loud, over and over, “it’s ok, you can do this” like it was going to suddenly move or wiggle. I finally got it into the larger jar and it looks like a big flat pancake in there (just like Miranda’s Mother), although this one looked like it had been used for a few batches (and that ok) and was sort of frilly around the edges.

On day 9 I brewed up another batch of tea/sugar and let it cool overnight. When day 10 came along, I was ready. I had peaked on and off at the kombucha brew as the 10 days went by and I could see the new baby “mother” forming. It was very white and creamy compared to the darker tan on I started with. I started by trying to separate the baby from the original scopy while it was still in the jar. I have since figured out it is easier to get it out, place it in a bowl and do the separating then. I poured the brewed kombucha into bottles and set them in the refrigerator to cool down. I washed my gallon jar and was ready for my second batch. I poured in the tea/sugar mixture and then set out to separate the two scobys. That first time was interesting. The were still quite attached to once another and it took me a few seconds to get them separated. My new baby scoby came off with a hole in it about the size of a quarter. I still used it and placed it in the new liquid helping it to lay on the top and then added some of my newly brewed kombucha. The older mother I placed in a jar along with addition kombucha and placed it in the refrigerator. I needed to make another batch of tea/sugar and then I could use that mother too.

Kombucha – separating the new scoby

I checked on the new baby after a day and noticed it was not floating horizontally on top of the liquid, but it was completely submerged and floating vertically. Vertically! What?! I think that happened because of the hole in it. The batch still formed a new scoby horizontally at the top of the liquid. It was so perfect and smooth that is was amazing looking.

I also now stagger my batches or I run out of empty bottles to use and run out of room in our refrigerator.

Brewing your own kombucha is easy, very affordable and very healthy.

  • Cost: One 16 oz bottle of kombucha in the store is anywhere from $4-5. I can brew 4-16 oz bottles for the price of 4 tea bags and 1 cup of sugar.
  • Scoby: You can buy a scoby online or get one from a friend. I was thrilled to find a scoby from a friend. Now I have a several scoby’s in my refrigerator just waiting to go to new homes. I will keep a few in there as back up, but the rest go into the compost pile.
  • Vacation: after you brew a batch, just place your scoby in a glass bowl w/lid or jar and cover it with kombucha. Store it in your refrigerator. It will be waiting for you when you get home.
  • How long does a scoby it last?: The scoby can be used for many, many batches. If you start to notice any black spots or the entire scoby turned black, it is time to discard it because it has become contaminated. Your newly developed scoby is so white and creamy in color, but it be more brown after your first batch with it, that is normal. If you batch isn’t souring properly, it is also time to toss that scoby and start with a new one.
  • How long does the kombucha last once you have bottled it?: I haven’t tested this yet. We drink the kombucha withing 3-4 days.

If you get a scoby from a friend or order one to get started, I hope you have fun with it. Even though you can buy kombucha in most health food stores (in the refrigerated section) you will find that making it yourself, at home, is very inexpensive and easy to do.

I think making ginger beer will take a back seat to kombucha in our household. They are both super easy to make at home, but I think, once you have a scoby, kombucha is so much easier and I think the benefits far out weigh those in ginger beer.

One book I read cautioned about allergies noting that some people may have a reaction to kombucha. With anything new (and fermented), it is always best to go slow. Try a bit and see how you feel and how your body reacts before you jump in head first. I remember an experience when I was younger that involved homemade sauerkraut. Eating too much right away lead me to spending a bit of time in the bathroom. So….  start with a little and work y our way up to more. Your body will appreciate you thoughtfulness.

Have you made kombucha before? Do you have anything you’s like to share about your experiences with it?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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I was knocked down by yet another cold this season. This is hard for me to wrap my brain around (especially in the cold-induced foggy state.) I have been healthy and cold free for about 2 years and this year is completely different.

I have learned a lot over the past few years about herbs and foods and characteristics that are helpful, but I have also found that my best intentions haven’t prepared me to fight these colds.

I want to grow elderberry bushes so I can make immune boosting syrups and tinctures and even wine. I want to grow calendula and chamomile, horehound and stinging nettles. I want to grow sumac and dandelions and ginger. I know I can grow these things. I have a few growing now. It just takes time and I have to realize that I can’t do it all overnight!

Even though I can and will grow these things, it isn’t practical to think I can grow and make my own “everything” all at once. I need to step back and realize that I can (and should) buy some of these wonderful dried herbs and fruits and just start making the tinctures and syrups and throat lozenges so when I am hit with a cold I am prepared. When my bushes and trees and herbs mature I will then know what to do with them and be thrilled I can use my own.

Drying some horehound to make throat lozenges

There are a few things I did during this last cold that helped me to fight it off faster. I drank hibiscus tea and I also drank garlic tea. Garlic is chuck-full of great antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. I cook with garlic a lot, but drinking the garlic tea is another way to get it into your system and help fight off the effects of the cold or flu. You can read about garlic tea right here at Not Dabbling in Normal.

Along with losing my appetite I also lost my sense of taste and smell. To help get me through this cold I made a healing chicken soup that I know helped nourish me and get me through this much quicker. I made a bone based chicken broth and threw in ginger, onion, hot peppers, dark leafy greens (kale and chard and spinach), turmeric, and garlic along with basil, oregano, thyme and parsley. I wasn’t really thinking about taking photos while I was sick, so the photo you see below is the second batch of soup I made when I started to feel better.

This past week I got together with a culinary group I belong to. The theme this month was “soup.” One of the ladies brought an “Immunity-Boosting Winter Soup” and it was the first soup I ate that night. It was so much like the one I make, but hers included freshly harvest dandelion greens.   We talked about her soup along with the ingredients and the properties that each ingredient has. I was thrilled to know I was on the right track with my soup.

What went into my healing soup?

  • Ginger – works on congestion & great for nausea
  • Spinach/Kale/Chard – full of vitamin C, and A, folate and potassium
  • Hot peppers – help to relieve pain and stimulate endorphins
  • Turmeric – antibiotic properties
  • Garlic – an expectorant, natural antibiotic
  • Red Bell Pepper – high in Vitamin C & A

The immunity-boosting soup that my friend made also had a pinch of cinnamon (infection fighter), calendula flowers (immune stimulator), dried thyme (antibiotic & expectorant), astragalus root (help to strengthen the immune system) and dandelion greens (high in vitamin C & A and many trace minerals and is especially high in potassium)

I am back on my feet and the fog has cleared. I attribute that to the things I ate and drank. Now I better start making a list of things I would like to order so I can get some syrups and tinctures made up to help keep my immune system in tip-top shape.

Do you have any herbal or home remedies that work for you?

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Sincerely, Emily

You can also read what I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily

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Almost three years ago, my husband was diagnosed with a triglyceride level of someone twice his weight, and was borderline diabetic. Not wanting to be tied down to a lifetime of prescription drugs, he opted to adjust his cholesterol levels by adjusting his diet. Fortunately we had the support of our family doctor in this transition.

I immediately started poaching everything, removed butters and switched to olive oil and margarine, swapped to skim milk from 2%. We removed all cured meats, breads and pasta from our diet, in addition to the few boxed and frozen processed foods like macaroni and cheese that we ate. We added wheat germ and removed egg yolks, in other words – we did everything the American Heart Association suggests in their diet.

Hubby also stopped eating cheeseburgers and french fries at lunch. He started eating vegetarian wraps for lunch and within a short time he lost 30 pounds without exercise. In essence he starved himself. He ate likely less than 1200 calories a day and he had almost no fats or sugars going into his body because we limited ourselves strictly to protein and vegetables. And it showed. Sure, he lost the few pounds he needed, but he looked hollow and weak. His shoulders looked like those of someone twice his age, he had circles under his eyes, and his skin looked sallow. What was important at that time was that his triglycerides were where they belonged.

One year ago our family warily committed itself to the Real Food Challenge. And while I had already introduced organic homemade butter and milk to our diets and we had baby chicks on the way, I don’t think we were quite prepared for the changes the Challenge would make to our lifestyle.

Hubby gained 10 pounds immediately, but his cholesterol levels remained healthy because we added good fats to our diet (no sugar), and he’d long stopped “starving” himself. We didn’t realize that we’d want to keep eating Real Food forever. I thought after that month that I would go back to purchasing some pre-made foods, but even sandwich bread, no matter the brand, tasted flat and dead to me – and all other foods are too sweet or salty.

We’d grown accustomed to the taste and flavors of good, healthy food. Sure there were some flops. My husband didn’t care for my pasta recipe, I’d had homemade wines explode in my storage room, and there were last minute bread baking adventures.

I didn’t know that I’d become an advocate for food in a society where women are supposed to shy away from eating heartily. I wasn’t aware that I’d fear eating processed foods again. I was surprised how much I’d love to cook on a daily basis since now it’s all an experiment. I was amazed at the wonderful flavors Real Food had and appalled at the flavors processed food lacked.

For some odd reason our culture has equated eating tons of meat, large portions of food, dining out too much, eating fast food or processed box meals with the lifestyle to have. Sorry, but if I were to compare my life to the Jones’ I wouldn’t want to be so busy that I would have to resort to eating this way. And if you know someone who eats this way because they cannot afford to eat healthfully, perhaps you could share something from your garden with them this year, or share some knowledge to help them eat and cook better.

As for Hubby and I, the Real Food Challenge is like an anniversary of sorts reminding us why we spend the extra time and money to eat the way we do. We actually decide what we’ll give up in order to afford this lifestyle.  We’re always looking for new recipes and trying to stay on top of healthy eating news. If you need some ideas for recipes or information pertaining to the Challenge, be sure to click on the Resource tab at the top of this page. Also, at the end of this month, we’ll be giving a few things away in celebration of the Real Food Challenge.

Be sure to stay with us all month long!

 

You can find Jennifer at Unearthing this Life where she blargs about raising chickens, a daughter, and gardens; shares recipes and rants; and otherwise discusses life in rural Tennessee, often with a view from the back of a motorcycle.

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Since Kim talked about using garlic to help deal with a cold or flu I thought I’d talk about one of the things we do around here to boost our immune systems not only so we don’t get colds but also to help protect us against cancer and other baddies. Along with a healthy diet and lots of exercise, eating mushrooms regularly can help you fight off the cold and flu and help you fight all sorts of things like cancer, obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc. Here’s an interesting article about mushrooms and immunity. When it comes to mushrooms, usually the tastier the better for you, although even white button mushrooms help boost your immune system.

You’ll want to look for the more obscure mushrooms like: shiitake, hen of the woods, oyster, morel, etc. I’m lucky that we have a local mushrooms grower that specializes in these types of mushrooms. Each week at the farmers market I buy whatever mushrooms they have for sale. Last week I found Hen of the Woods mushrooms for the first time. I also really like baby portabella mushrooms, which I buy at my local health food store.

We also forage for mushrooms in the spring, so far we’ve only found and eaten a few varieties of morels. I really want to learn more about growing mushrooms myself so I can grow them in the garden. I’m thinking of talking to the people I buy them from at the market to see if I can buy spawn from them since I know the ones they grow do well in my climate.

I’m quite lucky because I LOVE mushrooms of all shapes, colors and sizes. Some of the more exotic ones take some getting used to, but after a few times you’ll find them quite delicious. Mr Chiots used to refuse to eat mushrooms when we first got married, he’s come around though and now happily asks for seconds when we’re eating sauteed mushrooms.

Are you a mushrooms lover? Have you ever considered adding more mushrooms to you diet for health reasons?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, and you can follow me on Twitter.

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