A Paleo Conversation : From CST to PST, a bi-regional take on living paleo.
  • *tap* *tap* *tap*

    Is this thing on?

    Dearest E-Bet,

    They say that life is what happens when you’re making other plans.  I think they’re right.  Voila “other plans”.

    Since we last blogged back and forth Jeffrey has started walking, and just a bit of talking.  John’s achieved that peculiar age when teeth falling out is to be celebrated, and he’s learned to ride a bike.  We are all well and hale and hearty.  Busy enough, but not too busy.  It’s a nice balance.

    I’ve got kombucha burping away on the countertop and a failure in planning resulted in a hasty meal tonight of scrambled eggs.  We’ll do better tomorrow.

    We’ve had adventures though!  I tried a new old thing called kava and loved it, but gave it up again.  Perhaps again one day. There’s a fun story in that that I’ll delight in telling you soon. We’re eating paleo, but relaxedly. I’ve been reading, and thinking, and learning and I’ve got ideas I want to run by you.  I want to hear how you’re doing and how your own wee ones are growing.

    I’ve missed you, so let’s please consider this one step back to our strange PST/CST friendship.

    All the best,

    Joweenie

    PS. The giant photo of the top is of Krusteez gluten-free cornbread for our cornbread sausage stuffing on Thanksgiving.  All agreed it was a hit! Will post recipe later. The Krusteez was very good, but quite sweet, and though it wasn’t paleo, didn’t result in rumbly tumblies.

    -J

  • Viva La Kiva

    Dearest E!

    Go, Grandma, Go!  100??  WOW.  Let’s plan on having an epic cocktail party when we reach that eminent age.  What a great way to celebrate!  Looks like you made some wonderful connections, and fabulous food too. What did you use to wrap those enchiladas?  I myself do indulge in the occasional corn tortilla, but a better wrapper might put this on the weekly rotation, rather than every few months.

    As for us, it’s been a busy month, as usual.  Sure beats being bored.  A round of influenza and ear infections knocked the stuffing out of us for a couple of weeks, and then we found ourselves in a mad scramble to prepare for, go on, then recover from a trip to Texas.  I took John down for a week with my parents, my brother, and his family.  We were a roiling mass of humanity for  a week together.  It was awesome, and I can’t wait to take you there!

    My parents, as you know, are taking a wee vacation from retirement to rehabilitate a derelict restaurant and bar in the mountains of west Texas, in the erstwhile mining village / ghosttown / tourist trap of Terlingua, just west of Big Bend National Park and east of Big Bend Ranch State Park.  Their place is called La Kiva (Instagram here!) and though it is currently a bar, it is likely only days away from being a restaurant and bar.  It’s lovely there, surrounded by mountains and desert, and dug into the bank of Terlingua Creek.  It’s mostly built out of rock, and possesses a naughty imagined big cat fossil in the wall, named *ahem* the Penisaurus Erectus.

    The patio at La Kiva on the banks of Terlingua Creek.
    The patio at La Kiva on the banks of Terlingua Creek.
    Skipping stones to Mexico.
    The patio really is lovely.
    The desert in the park.
    The desert in the park.
    Santa Elena Canyon. That's Mexico right there!
    Santa Elena Canyon. That’s Mexico right there!
    In the side room at La Kiva, with a creek view.
    In the side room at La Kiva, with a creek view.
    The bar, with P. Erectus in all its glory.
    The bar, with P. Erectus in all its glory.

    I’m pushing hard on management to help make the place Paleo-friendly.  Not exactly trying to get the menu Whole-30 compliant, but trying to have a menu that doesn’t involve going completely off the rails, if you don’t want to.  Efforts are also being made in the direction of vegetarian-, vegan-, and gluten-free friendly too.  I’ll also push to get a good allergy statement letting people know where the dairy, soy, etc. is.  The kitchen team, so far, are fabulous – on board with the idea of cooking food from ingredients, not just tipped out of ready-made bags.

    I also made the acquaintance of a good friend of my parents’, a one Jeff Leach.  As in Jeff Leach from the American Gut Project and Human Food Project.  I told him a bit about us, and some ideas we have for projects, and he was very interested, very encouraging, and wanted to hear more.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to chat for very long – I had a minivan full of kids and siblings to contend with, and they weren’t in a place where I could ask them to hang on for an hour or two while I talked about poo with the nice man.

    In other news, Jeffrey is 11 months old today.  It’s hard to believe our babies are growing up so fast – I remember when your wee Henry was this size.  John is just about to turn six.  Today, Roman and I did some math and figured out that we have enough frozen breast-milk to make it to the end of the month, so as of today, I’m officially done pumping!  We did exclusive pumping / bottlefeeding for Jeffrey for various reasons that make me fascinating to talk to at cocktail parties, and I’m both excited and a bit bereft to be done.  12 months on breast milk for the baby – that was the goal!

    Much love to all of you and yours,

    Jobanana

    PS.  Snowed this morning.

  • Ghee Willikers

    E-Ra!

    As you well know, feeding a house full of men is a costly proposition.  Especially when you try and focus on high quality, primarily paleo foods.  We buy in bulk, prioritize well, do our best, and we still spend a lot on food.  One of the best things we started doing was shopping at Costco.

    For years, we’d eat at various friends and family dinners and compliment the food only to find, shared in hushed tones, that it was all from Costco.  Yeah yeah yeah.  We scoffed.  Just a bit.

    Then we went to Costco.  Now, when people come over, we share (in hushed tones) that all the food is from Costco.  Their prepared foods are pretty good, we love the veggies, but my favorite thing is the Kerry Gold butter for almost half the grocery store price.  We splash it around lavishly.

    Partly, because it is delicious, and partly because it’s mostly grass-fed, meaning that it’s full of CLA and Vitamin K2.  I’m a big fan of Vitamin K2, especially since I learned that this is the vaunted Activator X that Weston A. Price theorized in his Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Kate Rheaume-Bleue has written an excellent book on the subject.

    John had some issues with his teeth demineralizing, and my own teeth were weak and soft.  A few months on K2 (supplement and diet, with cofactors D3 and A), and both of our situations resolved themselves completely.  Anecdote, I know, but it’s part of our story.

    My favorite thing to do with butter is turn it into ghee!  At Costco prices it is way cheaper than buying the Pure Indian Foods stuff.  Delicious, but costly.

    Making ghee is very easy – but I’m wondering if this method would work for you and your famed dairy sensitivity?

    You start by inserting butter in pan.  Two pounds here.

    I use medium/low heat, and watching it melt is fairly meditative.  The color is magnificent.

    IMG_8536

    I’m being very indulgent here, with so many images.  This really is representative of how much time I spend hovering over the pan when this is in progress.

    IMG_8535

    Going…

    IMG_8537

    Going…

    IMG_8546

    Gone!

    This is, in my humble opinion, the most important part of the proceedings.  At this point, skimmed and drained, it’s clarified butter. Toast it for a while, let the water cook off, let the proteins brown, and it turns into liquid savory caramel.  That’s ghee.  I’m not sure if you share the caramel love that dairy-eaters have, but Roman and I can eat it by the spoonful at this stage.

    I skim the skunge off the top, and carefully pour off the golden ghee into a jar.  The salty, brown proteins at the bottom of the pan go into a special pot for Roman in the fridge for him to shave infinitesimally into eggs and onto steaks. He loves it, it’s salt caramel.  I’m not such a fan.

    IMG_8541

    It gets very spitty and ends up all over the stove.  This lets the water cook off, but keeps most of the butter in the pan.

    IMG_8548

    An hour later you get this.  Let it set on the countertop and it ends up pebbly like the storebought stuff.  Lovely, of course, but my favorite is to put this straight in the fridge to let it cool quickly.  That keeps the fat crystals small and makes it smooth and delectable.

    What do we do with ghee?  I’ll get into that in another post.

    In the meantime, best of luck with baby scoby!

    Hugs and Misses,

    J4

  • Resurrection

    Dearest E,

    Perhaps we are a bit delusional, but perhaps it is just the persistence of hope.  I’m forever making lofty goals, and then watching them recede backwards to the horizon as others come looming up.  I suppose I don’t mind terribly as long as I understand why things are slipping.  I’m not okay with things slipping out of laziness, but busy-ness (as opposed to business?) is at least, in my book, forgivable.

    Babies, careers, families, projects… I truly couldn’t be happier!  Well… you could live three doors down again, that would be nice 😉

    Speaking of pets, projects, and neglected dear friends, meet the monster.

    Monster Kombucha Mama

    That’s a gallon jar, by the way.  This wee beastie is my kombucha mother.  Hoisted out from her regal repose at the back of the countertop by your plea for a new mother (kombucha, of course) of your own.  I’ve got a baby scoby for you, lounging on the countertop with a bit of fresh, sweet tea, recovering from long neglect before a quick trip over to your house.

    I’m not sure if her immensity is truly coming through.  Perhaps the addition of a banana for scale would help?

    IMG_0785

    That doesn’t help at all.  That’s a huge banana.

    By way of introduction, I thought I’d post extremely briefly on my own personal Kombucha Practice.  It’s not so much a beverage as a hobby and friend.

    You’ll remember the winter I started with Kombucha, I think, I pestered you with questions and you encouraged me to dive right in. Dive, I did.  I ordered a dried up scoby from Cultures for Health and promptly completely failed to resurrect it in the appropriate manner.  I think I cooked it, inadvertently, with tea a bit too hot. Weeks of having a strange jar on the countertop followed, and Roman kept asking me what it was.  Tea, but vinegary, I explained.  He failed (and still does) to see the appeal.  He likes kvass though.

    Desperate, I went to Kowalski’s, got a bottle of GT’s Kombucha and tipped that in.  Voila!  Within a week I had a diaphanous whisper of a scoby at the top, and the (dead?) one halfheartedly hovering in the middle of the jar.  I was enchanted.

    I like my ‘booch sweeter than you do, and I sometimes do a secondary ferment with tasty additions to get a bit of fizz.  I always come back to flat semi-sour kombucha though.

    Couldn’t bear it while I was pregnant, and while I’m still breastfeeding, it’s got too much caffeine to drink.  Hence, the neglect.

    These days I make it with Yorkshire Gold, but I prefer PG Tips.

    IMG_0781

    Five teabags plus four cups of water.  Six minutes in the microwave together to get them boiling.

    IMG_0780

    Half an hour on the countertop to mash (or steep), squish out the teabags, add a cup of sugar.

    IMG_0790

    [Side note: Feeling very fancy here.  Was worried I was going to drop my phone into the tea, attempting this VERY EXCITING action shot.]

    Pour it over ice.

    IMG_0794

    [Another action shot!! Didn’t drop the phone this time either.]

    Fill it up the rest of the way with water.  I use filtered water from the fridge.  Not sure how the scoby would cope with our well water and its full complement of minerals

    IMG_0797

    [I’m just showing off now.  Didn’t even spill!]

    Back in the jar with the scoby.  Speaking of the scoby.  Way too thick – very hard to peel apart, so I just bunged the whole thing in.  You’re getting the one peeling I could get off it.

    IMG_0802

    Then back in the pickle jar, and snugly tucked back in the corner of the kitchen.  It’s winter, so it might take a couple of weeks to get going.  I have a little jar heater I can dredge up, if I get impatient.

    We’re having a cold snap right now.  I was texting my cousins and was able to tell them it was -24 outside.  Bit more impressive when you’re talking Celsius.

    IMG_0803

    That’s your scoby in the pyrex on the right.

    Speaking of resurrection – working on my Primal Cert again!  Got one more module done last week, and am hoping for two more this week.

    That oxtail broth looks amazing!  How was it?

    Love and hugs to you both and the kids,

    J and the boys

  • On Balance

    Elizabeth!

    I’m completely awful. This time it’s my turn to apologize for a long delay. That makes it even more interesting to me that your last post was on balance. This last month, I lost it. Completely.

    Also, I found that the longer I waited to post, the better I felt the post would have to be to be worthy of posting. That spun me up into a loop of not feeling like I had good enough content, and consequently filling my time with other things in a perpetual cycle of postponement and delay. To that end, here’s a completely scattered and conclusion-less brain-dump.

    As you know, I’ve spent the last month recovering from a surprise appendectomy. When isn’t it a surprise? The surgery went very well, the recovery went very well and quickly, and all is fine now. The recovery took a lot of my spare mental energy, however. I didn’t knit. I didn’t blog. I got lazy about food and have gained a couple of pounds as a result. Then, the laziness became a habit, and the habit got easy.

    Well, enough is enough. I’m sick of loosening pants tightening again. I’m sick of dinner happening by chance rather than plan. I’m sick of not being proud of my habits. It stops now.

    This doesn’t mean I’m going into an orthorexic fit of pure eating, just a return to solid habits. A step away from gluten-free pizza every week, away from a glass of wine every day, away from a weekly ice-cream treat, away from lazy snacks at work.

    I’ve restarted my kombucha practice (post forthcoming!) and I’m making ghee again (should I post?). We’ve got this year’s pig pending delivery from our farmer. I’ve improved my bacon recipe, and I’m starting to feed my baby real foods.

    Crabapples!  Nothing to do with the post, but really pretty.
    Crabapples! Nothing to do with the post, but really pretty.

    There’s lots going on, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

    So with this, I recommit.

    Much love and missing you terribly,
    J

  • On The Joys of Commuting

    Elizabeth!

    It seems like I blinked and two weeks shot by.  Fall is well and truly on the horizon, trees are starting to turn orange at the corners and the morning is characterized by a parade of yellow school buses.  The sugar maple that I still think of as *your* sugar maple is positively glowing now!  Not fully turned, but just starting in from the edges.  Winter is coming, as they say.

    As you know, I’m back at work now and I’m finding the commute from Stillwater into Minneapolis is an absolute pleasure.  It’s quiet time between the bustle of home and work.  I’m by myself, and I love it.

    I also listen to audio books, and these days that’s just about the only way I get any reading done.  Progress on the Primal Blueprint Certification has slowed considerably, sad but understandable.

    I use Audible and I recently listened to Biological Anthropology: An Evolutionary Perspective, part of The Great Courses series. It’s wonderful!  I had realized that I’m all about being paleo, and reading up on it, but I actually don’t know that much about the evolutionary origins of humans.  Kind of central to the whole “paleo” idea, don’t you think?  So I loaded this up and got a really interesting grounding in human origins.

    The thing I most enjoyed is that this isn’t a paleo diet book.  It’s not trying to sell me on a way of eating and living, it’s just laying out what we’re pretty sure we know about our origins.

    I came away pretty comforted – I think that the paleo diet community has a pretty solid grounding in evolutionary anthropology.

    One of my favorite ideas that came out of listening to this book is the idea that evolution and diversity are different.  In particular, lactose tolerance is part of the remarkable genetic diversity of our species, but since it’s not representative across all (or even most) populations it’s not precisely “evolution” yet (or at least as I interpret from this audio book).  Just a very popular, successful, and useful genetic mutation.  It’s like skin color, or hair texture.  Makes me wonder where it will be in 10,000 years.  Will all humans have the gene?  Fun to think about.

    Makes for an interesting drive too!

    Miss you!

    J.

  • One lump, or two?

    Greetings to you!

    What a wonderful market!  Reading your post, I sat here thinking how marvellous it must have been, and wondered out loud (yet to myself) why *I* haven’t been going to farmer’s markets this year the way I usually do.  Then the baby started crying and all in a rush I remembered why.  It’ll be more fun next year when I’m not constantly circling the baby and the breast-pump.

    Here are some photos from a market in Barcelona I visited in grad school.  It was completely spectacular and I’d love to go back.  Ostrich eggs!  Seafood galore!  Minnesota does well with farmer’s markets, but not a patch on this…

    Check out the ostrich eggs for 15 euros each!
    Check out the ostrich eggs for 15 euros each!
    Tasty little critters!
    Tasty little critters!
    Gorgeous little beasts...
    Gorgeous little beasts…

    I love that picture of Henry!  I know John would have been exactly the same, even down to the choice of cheese pizza.  Heck, if it didn’t mean days of tummy upset, I’d be tempted too 😉

    All here is well. This week I’ve been thinking about sugar.  Trying to organize my thinking on it.  Partially this is prompted by the coursework for the Primal Blueprint Certification, and partially by watching my honeybees and bumblebees in the garden.  One of them stung me on the bum, and though I did a bit of dancing and cursing as a result I’m still thrilled that they are enjoying my garden.  I particularly love the bumblebees (Dumbledores!) and am reminded of an old joke my dad tells about an aeronautics engineer who studied bumblebees and told a friend that he’d come to the conclusion that bumblebees can’t fly.  It’s impossible.  The friend promptly shushed him, “Shh! Don’t tell the bees!”.

    The way I see it, there are a few ways to approach sugar and paleo.

    • Total Ban – like the Whole 30.
    • Strict Restriction – like Primal Blueprint, avoid added sugars but there is some flexibility in the famous 80/20 rule/escape clause.
    • Moderate Avoidance – this isn’t so much tied to a plan as it is a reflection of what happens when perceived paleo-friendly sugars are used particularly when making “paleo” treats.

    I vacillate between these three levels. I don’t worry much about a spoonful of sugar here and there, and I tend to steer clear the profusion of paleo sweets since I’m working on losing weight.

    The major sugars I’m thinking about here are glucosefructose, and sucrose (white table sugar) which is made of a glucose stuck to a fructose.

    In all the paleo brownie recipes etc. that are out there, many of which are delicious and can be perfectly sensible treats (no judging here!) the sweetener called for is often honey, maple syrup, or (less often) agave syrup. The perception is that they are a healthier choice than white sugar (debatable) and that they are delicious (absolutely!)

    Apart from a few trace minerals, I don’t see how these are better for you than white sugar? Tastier certainly… but I have a hard time believing they are healthier.

    Ultimately, based on the reading I’ve done, I believe fructose is worse for you than glucose, and that people should limit all sugars in the diet.  It also seems to me that many of the fashionable paleo sweeteners are heavy on the fructose, and as such I tend to try and avoid them, but I don’t get paranoid about it.  Though I don’t use added sugars very often at all (except when making kombucha!), I tend to use white sugar or coconut sugar when I do.

    • Honey is a mixture of glucose and fructose in varying amounts.  Sometimes the glucose crystallizes out and you get crunchy honey, sometimes (like Tupelo honey) there isn’t much glucose, it’s mainly fructose and it doesn’t crunch up. I know there are some groovy enzymes and micronutrients and the like in there, but once it’s been baked into a brownie – are they still significant? Are they degraded by heat? Do you get enough in a sensible serving to make it worth it?  As far as I can tell (Wikipedia) honey that is heavy on the fructose is comparable to public enemy number one, high-fructose corn syrup.
    • Maple Syrup also contains a few groovy micronutrients, seems to be lower in fructose than honey but has more than white sugar (according to the University of Vermont).
    • Agave Syrup is very high in fructose and reportedly has saponins and other unfriendlies in it.  Can’t recommend it.
    • Coconut Sugar is mostly sucrose, and the rest is balanced between glucose and fructose.

    Mark Sisson covers this all a lot better than I can.  Robert Lustig has a great video on sugars here,  and there’s a good rebuttal  of Lustig here.

    I know you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I’m very interested in your thoughts on this.  Am I off base?  Should I refine my thinking?  Or do I need a chill-pill and a cocktail, and to not overthink it especially since I don’t have much anyway?

    That having been said, I’ll never pass up a paleo brownie if one is handed to me!

    Cheers!

    J.

     

  • Stillwater Fizzywater

    El-Ra,

    WOW.  You have a nice desert garden there!  Cereusly.  I adore xeriscaping, and I actually think that we need more of it here as well as over in your neck of the woods even though you’re the one in the middle of a famous drought right now.  This is where my day job is creeping in here a bit.  Minnesota is seen as water-rich.  It rains plenty (it’s raining right now!), the rain stays on the landscape in short- and long-term storage, and flows off in a more-or-less orderly manner.  And we’re still using too much of it and running out (case and point – draining White Bear Lake).  My professional opinion is that the domestic lawn is the number one crop in America, and is a massive waste of resources.  I think we’d do better to have smaller lawns – keep them exquisite and jewel-like if needed, and surround them with wilder, richer xeriscaping and permaculture. If I return to Landscape Architecture, it will probably be my battle-cry.  It’s a battle I fight in my own home and my long-term plans for this place include reducing our turf footprint and watering needs.  Hopefully I can get the community association president to okay the plans.  Luckily, I’m married to him 😉

    In the meantime, I’m looking forwards to hearing about the foods you’re harvesting from your own little bit of paradise.  Pomegranates, avocados, grapefruits and persimmons?  Mmmm! I’m very very curious about the Cereus… how exotic!

    In the spirit of productive landscapes, here are two snaps of John from his recent time at the Children’s Farm.

    Handing me a bean, in the bean tunnel.
    Handing me a bean, in the bean tunnel.
    Up, up and away!
    Up, up and away!

    Thanks for the nudge about Gary Nabhan.  He’s now officially on the reading list, and at the rate I’m going and the length of the list, I should be able to get to it by about next summer.  😉

    All this talk of water has reminded me to tell you about my favorite new gadget.

    We got a SodaStream and it’s my new favorite thing.  My very own fizzy water!  If I use our wellwater, it’s mineral water too with a distinctive iron-tang to it.  Ours is the Source model and can fizz to three different levels from “why bother” all the way up “crazy fizzy” that makes you burp.  Well, it makes me burp, and I’m sufficiently classless to thoroughly enjoy it. I tone down the fizziness when company’s coming over.

    They’ve got some nice fizzy water flavors too, but they’re crazy expensive and hard to get so I can’t recommend them.  I just toss in a bit of lemon juice or some orange extract from the cupboard from time to time.  Roman likes his the same way that Alton Brown does, with bitters in.

    I like it so much, I’m considering getting one for work, though I’ll have to get a handle on the whole belching-like-a-sailor situation.

    Miss you!

    J.

  • Certifiable

    E!

    Brownies on the beach? Glasses of wine?  What hedonistic pleasures!!  Thoughts of lounging on the beach all day are delightful, but somehow I think our little beach down on the St Croix doesn’t quite compare to the Pacific Ocean.  I’d love to live by the sea again.  In the meantime I’ll have to make do by coming out to visit you.  To do research on paleo beach cuisine of course.  Business trip, you see.  Tax write-off 😉

    Hmmm… not so sure about butter-wine.  Sounds like it would be better poured on a steak than drunk with it.  More testing needed!  I myself haven’t been Bulletproofing my coffee lately, but that’s entirely due to being lazy about the extra dish I’d have to wash.  However, when I return to work in two weeks, it might be worth the (very minor) bother.

    We’re having a warm day today, might hit 93 degrees (cue laughter from California).  It’s a bit humid but not too bad.  Once I’ve finished this I’m going to go sit outside with a coffee and enjoy roasting for a bit.

    Time for a cuppa.
    Time for a cuppa.

    In other news, I did it.  I’ve signed up to become a Primal Blueprint Certified Expert.

    So why am I doing this?  I know we’ve talked about this, but I’m still not quite sure why.  It honestly could be the end-of-summer start-of-school itchy feet urging me to seek fresh beginnings through study.  I’m not sure, but here are a few thoughts driving me:

    1. I’m interested.  I read a lot of books, articles, and posts about the various flavors of evolutionary nutrition and I continue to find it endlessly fascinating.  I am interested when theories and hypotheses agree with each other, and when they disagree, and how they are changing as the movement matures.  I’m interested in the motivations and goals of the leaders and the adherants in various disciplines.  It’s all fascinating! I’m even interested in our critics, though I’m dismayed by how many are ill-informed.
    2. I’ve a soft spot in my heart for the Primal Blueprint.  The web site and book were my first resources when I started down this tangled path nearly four years ago.  At that time I was struggling with many bodily frustrations and I’d realized, with a shock of horror and bad timing (having just moved with my husband, 18-month old, and two dogs back in with my parents to facilitate selling our house) that I really should try giving up gluten.  My poor mum trying to feed us all!  Primal Blueprint gave me hope, inspiration, and explanations.  It also gave me direction and a plan.  Things haven’t been the same since.
    3. This will help make me a better advocate.  I will at least feel better informed, and be perceived as a more credible source.
    4. The price is right.  Though it is by no means cheap, it’s not ridiculously expensive either.  This is something the budget can bear.  It isn’t so expensive that I feel that I need to make a monetary return on my investment, it’s ok if this is just for me.
    5. It’s encouraging me to return to my foundational works.  I’ve read nutrition books as a hobby for quite a few years, and I’m seeing the value now in re-reading them.  Lucky you! I’ll probably tell you all about them!  I’m not just a crashing bore at parties, I can be one here too!

    Care to join me?

    Much Love,

    Jo and the Boys

  • Poulet Vert

    Welcome back to Earth, Redlandling!

    Its wonderful to hear that you’re settling in.  I can only too easily imagine Ryan at the Crossfit gym – seems to be a great fit for him. Got any hints on how to squat well?  I tore a ligament in my knee once when squatting – though to be fair, I had 50 pounds of wiggling five-year-old on my back at the time. 🙂

    I’m sad to tell you that we are now dogless.  Our poor Dirk took a turn for the worse last weekend, and left us with only one compassionate choice.  This is the worst part of having dogs, as you well know.  Upon reflection, we realized that we don’t have many funny stories about him because he was such a good boy.  The worst of his hi-jinx involved wandering down to visit you, and happily walking back to us with Ryan.  I’m thrilled to hear that Zoe was such a trooper and travelled well.

    Dirk, The Wonder Dog
    Dirk, The Wonder Dog

    Stillwater is still where you left it, only a bit cooler and rainier. The prairie is filthy with yellow blossoms, but that’s nothing on our wildflower patch back by the firepit.  It’s a ten-foot tall bedlam of wildflowers, humming and buzzing with bees and butterflies.  We’ve seen a fair few monarch and yellow swallowtail butterflies back there, as well as bumblebees which we, of course, call Dumbledores.

    Purple Coneflower (Echinacea),  Grey-Headed Coneflower, and Common Ox-Eye (I think)
    Purple Coneflower (Echinacea), Grey-Headed Coneflower, Common Ox-Eye, and Prairie Sunflower (I think)

    As you know, a couple of weeks ago I tried making Nom Nom Paleo’s Green Chicken.  We loved the recipe, and have since made it again.  John thought it was a bit spicy, which was surprising since as a baby his first favorite food was Carroll Shelby’s Terlingua Chili and frequently ate his teething crackers with a drop of Sriracha on them.  Tastes change, and I backed off on the pepper flakes the second time around.

    Green Gunge.  Smells better than it looks.
    Green Gunge. Smells better than it looks.
    Looks like I scraped it out of the mower.
    Looks like I scraped it out of the mower.
    Ready to go!
    Ready to go!
    Come here, my wee beauties.
    Come here, my wee beauties.
    To gunge, or not to gunge?
    To gunge, or not to gunge?
    Tasty Roasted Gunge
    Tasty Roasted Gunge

    I was a bit slapdash (read: generous) with the greenery in the recipe, and once it was all whizzed up it looked like nothing so much as that green gunge that gets stuck in the lawnmower after mowing the lawn.  We also had a little family debate as to whether or not to leave said green gunge on the chicken or remove it for cooking.  We left it, and it browned into the most delicious crust.  Spectacular!  I’ve rarely seen the boys eat quite so much chicken in one sitting, despite protestations from John re: the spiciness.

    On calling it Poulet Vert; I was feeling particularly inspired by Julia Childs that day, and thought it was a bit more elegant than calling it Lawnmower Chicken, which was my runner-up title.

    Much love to you all, so glad you’re settling in!

    Joanne and the Boys