Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Promotional Message

Here is something I have been thinking of mentioning for a while but wasn't sure if it was tacky or not. Today I've decided: it's my blog! Who cares if it's tacky! I am gonna tell all of y'all how to get some free stuff like I do, and it's totally up to you whether you do anything about it. I don't even actually think it's tacky.

Here's the deal. There is a website called swagbucks where you can collect made-up points and trade those points for real-life stuff. Like Amazon giftcards! That's all I've redeemed points for so far, but it's $15 towards Amazon that I didn't have three months ago, and that is not too shabby!

If you sign up, there are a bunch of bonus points you can earn at the beginning and it's pretty easy to accumulate enough to redeem for something. There are tasks that earn you small amounts of points each day, and there are special offers that can earn you a bunch of points all at once! One such offer is to sign up for a free trial of Netflix - if you do that, you will instantly (once they process it) have more than enough for a $5 amazon card.

Search & Win

^Click on up there and check it out if you're at all interested^

If you haven't tried Netflix before, you totally should! Matt and I have it instead of cable, and there are lots of great movies and TV shows available to watch. If it's not your thing, just cancel before your free month is up, but for $8/month it is cheaper than renting 2 movies, and it's available 24/7 at home without any hassle.

SO sign up for swagbucks, try out netflix if you haven't already, and download the toolbar if you want an easy way to earn points towards gift cards or the many other prizes Swagbucks offers! If you sign up through the banner, I will get matching points for the first 1000 points you win through searching!

Or, you know, carry on as usual :)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Seeker or Sought?

I really enjoyed the sermon I heard this morning and thought I would share some thoughts from it. For the second week in a row, the text was about Jesus calling his first disciples - last week was John's account, and this week was Mark's. The pastor emphasized the fact that these disciples were going about their normal work when Jesus called them, that they weren't a very spiritual group seeking God at all but that Jesus sought them out. The real trick in the passage is that when Jesus told the men to follow him, the text simply tells us they did. We don't know the circumstances they left or the emotions they felt or any decisions they weighed; we simply read that they responded to Jesus' call, and we know that ultimately this response changed all their lives.

The preacher put a spin on the idea we often have of seeking God, that people who go on a spiritual quest to "find God" are often very lost to themselves, that the distance we feel from God is often related to confusion or lostness in ourselves. He reminded us that God is not far off for us to search out and pursue but that God is constantly pursuing and wooing and inviting us to follow Him. When we do that, it is not uncommon to find ourselves in the process.

After all, how can we know ourselves without understanding the One who made us? Believing and trusting and trying are all tangled up in the idea of seeking God, but without understanding that He is also seeking us, those pursuits may end up in a wild goose chase. On the flip side, having faith that God comes after us can be the inspiration we need to take those steps that can bring us to Him.

This is very helpful to me right now as I am in a good place with God but not a good place with church. If I stick to the rules that I have always known, then I must settle down and get involved and put my faith into actions as a committed part of some congregation. My faith in people is shaky though, so the only steps I trust myself to take right now are to chase after God, to worship Him with others, and to believe that He knows where I belong even when I do not. I'm not afraid to lose Him, since He found me in the first place.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Three Things Thursday [Vol.3]

This week's theme is: things to enjoy on their own terms!

Being on this diet has brought Matt and I to try to replicate some of the things we love but aren't allowed to eat right now. We have been very pleasantly surprised by the results of our experiments, but we also agree that these are not substitutions you could slip by an unsuspecting guest. However, on their own terms, we love them! And we will continue to consume them, diet or no diet :)

1) Hot chocolate. We have a can of carnation hot chocolate mix sitting in our cupboard. It is sometimes tempting, telling us how rich and creamy it is, but we kept it out in case we have hot-chocolate-craving company, which in youth ministry is not rare at all (I don't think I mentioned this - we put our shelf-stable forbidden foods in bags in our storage closet. Out of sight, out of mind.) However, the first three ingredients are: sugar, corn syrup solids, and hydrogenated vegetable oil. Cocoa is nestled in the list right between modified milk ingredients and cellulose gum. To be honest, I don't see myself going back.

Our substitute has only four ingredients, and here is the recipe!
1 can coconut milk
1/2 can water
2-3 tbsp cocoa (can adjust to taste)
1-2 tbsp honey (again, adjust to taste)

This is a rich drink that is not meant to be as sweet as our carnation mix - thank goodness! It is full of good fats and has a slight nutty taste from the coconut milk, and the cocoa is relatively high in iron. Healthy, filling, and delicious on its own terms!

2) Spaghetti and meat sauce. Matt says this might be his favourite meal of life, but there is no pasta in the Maker's Diet (because God chose the Israelites, not the Italians!), so I tried to think of some alternative. I had heard of gluten-free families substituting spaghetti squash for real spaghetti, so I bought me a squash and baked it in the oven while I browned some beef to add to our Ragu.

[Here is an aside about Ragu - I was able to price match it for 99 cents a jar, and it only has one objectionable ingredient (soybean oil, listed third). I would consider making my own pasta sauce as many people on the internet love to do, but I tried it before and it was a disaster. I couldn't eat it because it tasted SO bad. I am not saying I will never make my own pasta sauce, but I certainly don't have the time to gamble on it right now. There are limits even to my DIY ambitions.]

When it came time to scoop the squash out of its rind (rind? husk? shell? I looked it up, it's rind), I second guessed myself for wanting to put meat sauce on a vegetable. Totally weird. So I put it on the side. Matt and I both ended up mixing them on our forks, taking a scoop of squash and dipping it in the sauce, AND it was so tasty! The squash was so light and sweet under the rich taste of the sauce, and it was delightful. There was plenty of meat in the sauce, so it filled us up, and I plan to buy another squash for next week. This diet has reminded me how much I LOVE squash.

3. Corn chips. Okay, really what we love is all kinds of chips! But we have found a very easy and frugal alternative to buying illegal bags of Tostitos! We buy a pack of corn tortillas, cut some up with a pizza cutter, and lay them out on a baking sheet in the oven at 350-400F. They magically turn into chips in a few minutes (I stay close because of the fine line between crispy and burnt). I love this alternative because we can make only as many chips as we want to eat, and the tortillas keep forever in the fridge. A big difference between this and commercial chips is saltiness, but you could salt your tortillas before baking if that mattered a lot to you. We find that dipping these plain corn chips in salsa and/or homemade bean dip more than makes up for the flavour that's missing, and they are just as crunchy and satisfying!

We actually tried this substitution before starting the diet, and since corn was listed as a food to avoid for phase 1, our tortillas have been abandoned at the back of the fridge. However, now that corn, beans, and cheese are allowed, I think it won't be long before we finish this pack right off!

Whew! That was a long post for just three things! Would you consider trying any of them? Do you have any suggestions for saving a little time, money, or nutrition on your own terms? I would love to hear it :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Meal Plan - Phase 2

I have not been following the meal plan I wrote out nearly as consistently in phase 1, but I am taking that as a good sign that I've become more comfortable with the "rules" (for lack of a better term) and am therefore more flexible to mix and match the food we have on hand with the days I had planned we'd eat them. Having a meal plan definitely makes it easier to shop, so I hope I continue this habit well beyond the diet!

With that said, here are the dinners I planned for phase 2, whether we've eaten them in that order or not!
  • chicken breast, pan-fried sweet potato, green beans
  • goat stew (this will get pushed to next week, but the meat is in the freezer anyways)
  • sweet and sour lentils with steamed broccoli
  • rib eye roast with vegetables
  • squash soup with apples, garnished with sour cream
  • spaghetti squash, ground beef and tomato sauce, green salad
  • the seventh meal was going to be salmon fillets with green beans and corn, but I couldn't find the salmon I wanted at the grocery store. It is looking like we may have enough of other meals for leftovers anyways.

Lunches are still mostly left overs, with tuna salad or hard boiled eggs and veggies as backup.

Our breakfast smoothies have gotten tastier in this phase with the addition of yogurt and concentrated orange juice to mix things up. I may also add avocado or spinach to my smoothie, but that is not new. I thought we'd be so excited to have fruit again, as well as some dairy products (including sour cream and cheese), but not a whole lot has actually changed from phase 1 yet. I did make up some bean dips (white and black) that we will enjoy on corn tortillas for snacking, but we haven't been snacky so far this week, and we always have a really tasty dinner to look forward to anyways! Maybe on the weekend :)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Our Second Week on the Maker's Diet

This week went much easier than last week! Sunday (day 7) I had a BAD cold, so I took it easy all day and managed to recover in time for work Monday. Barely. I still had a stuffy nose for the first part of the week, but I was totally encouraged when I read the following at

You may even find that you “catch a cold” a week or so after starting to treat your yeast and parasite symptoms. This is actually a mild Herxheimer reaction, and backing down supplements and drinking more water should help it pass quickly.

We aren't taking any supplements to fight off yeast or parasites, but obviously I am starving something out of my body by avoiding fruit, dairy and grains! So that was gratifying, and other than an occasional headache I feel so well in general. I do think I have lost a bit of weight, so I will be planning for bigger portions and more snacks, trying to take in all the healthy fats I can and exercising now that I am feeling strong as normal.

Matt is also feeling great this week. He has commented that his sleep is much deeper and more refreshing than in the past, and we have both had such positive moods that it is remarkable. I have also really enjoyed spending lots of time together in the kitchen, cooking, prepping, and washing tons of dishes.

Another change that I did not expect was navigating PMS and cramping without any need for medication. Excruciating cramps was one of the reasons I started taking the Pill (which ended in disaster), and when I came off it things were better than before but still a rough couple of days. I am VERY interested to see how things go with my next cycle and curious to see how what I eat affects how I feel.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Three Things Thursday [Vol.2]

Number one - I started reading Anna Karenina on my Christmas eReader, and it is way easier to get into than I expected! I downloaded it free from Kobo because it's a classic, and I like to be classy with free books ;) I don't want to speak too soon, but a couple chapters into it I'm very interested to see just what happens and how things all turn out.

The cutest thing on today's list is that Nimoy made a friend! There are no pictures yet, but his buddy looks close enough to this dog. He is a puppy, and about Nimoy's size at this point, and he was tooootally freaked out when we first showed up, but they were running around in the yard together and trying to wrestle a bit by the time we had to go. I think Nimoy knows he's a puppy because he was so... NICE! Like when ten year olds have to play tag with four year olds, but they let themselves get caught sometimes. I have the best dog :)

Last thing is that I have been reading tons this week about how grains might be super bad for you. I'm not completely sold, but I will definitely continue to think about it and read more. If you're curious, check out this post How Grains Are Killing You Slowly, and also read an interview about the harmful effects of wheat with the author of Wheat Belly.

If you take the time to read either article, I'd love to hear what you think!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More on Praise

I read Psalm 50 today, and verses 12-15 emphasize so much what I have been thinking about praise. They say (God is speaking):

"If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."

I think this is such a vivid way of describing God's desire for worship - but that the instructions he gives are not because that is what he needs. Instead, as our Creator, he teaches us how we were designed to interact with him so that we can be fulfilled in our relationship with him.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Praise Brings Power

I spent some time on my lunch today meditating on Revelation 4:11,

Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.

The second line caught my attention, because it was different from what I expected - if it was a modern worship song it would say "to receive glory and honour and praise." So I let my mind wonder about why power is ascribed to God here, and I wondered how God can receive power anyways since he is all-powerful.

Glory and honour are things I know we can offer to God even though he is absolutely complete - but power? Are we to give God power, and how on earth could that be?

My only guess at this point, and my thought for the day is that the answer lies in praise, in the word I expected to see but got power instead. Because true praise and worship of God opens our lives up to be used by him, and that gives God power. Not power that he needs or lacks, but just like the glory and honour we give him, when we praise God and obey him, we become like mirrors to reflect his greatness. God does not become more powerful, but his power is seen and felt more on Earth. Synonyms for the Greek word that means power in this verse are ability, abundance, mighty deed, miracle, and strength.

God is worthy to receive glory and honour from us because we are his creation! He made us and sustains us, and when we praise him and give our lives to him, he will abundantly, miraculously display the strength of his power. Praise is empowering - for us, and for the One we worship.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Our Phase 1 Menu Plan

Each phase in the Maker's Diet is two weeks long, so my strategy for meal planning is to plan one week and then repeat it. We may eat meals in a different order the second week, but then we will be on to a different plan the week after that so I don't think it will become too repetitive.

For breakfast during the week, we both have a coconut milk smoothie blended with frozen berries and ground flax seeds. Lunches are left overs from the night before, except for Thursday because omelettes make for sucky left overs. I made a tuna salad with homemade mayonnaise for lunch that day, eaten over lettuce instead of bread. (I did modify the mayonnaise recipe above just by adding vinegar, but will talk about DIY condiments in a separate post and after a couple more experiments!)

As for dinners, we ate/will eat:
Homemade salmon burgers with green beans and squash
Beef stir-fry with broccoli, onion and red pepper
Basil onion and goat cheese omelette
Garlic chicken stir fry with cabbage, onion and red pepper
Sweet and sour lentils with green salad
Green salad with chicken and avocado
Beef soup

Lunch today was a spinach, salsa and goat cheese omelette, and tomorrow we will have salad with chicken, goat cheese and toasted almonds. We could also have spaghetti squash with meat sauce and green salad as an alternative meal.

For snacks we have been enjoying avocado and salsa, hard boiled eggs, soaked and dehydrated almonds, chopped vegetables, and hot chocolate (made from coconut milk, cocoa and sweetened with a bit of honey).

We are both kind of stuffed up/sneezy and are getting headaches on and off, but we don't feel sick so I think it is detoxing rather than actually having colds. It has been interesting over the last few days as we experience less hunger and have breakthrough times of feeling really healthy and refreshed in between detox symptoms. I'm looking forward to seeing what our second week of phase one brings!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Diet Experiment

I wasn't going to post about the diet Matt and I are doing, but it's forty days long, and now that we are mostly through day 4 I am realizing how unsatisfying it will be to keep notes for the next month and a half and then try to sum everything up out of the blue. So now it's out there - we are doing a diet.
  • NOT as a New Year's resolution, we just conveniently had no groceries on Jan. 1 and decided if we were going to do a big shop we might as well get what we need for this diet.
  • NOT to lose weight, although it might happen for Matt. I wanted to do this diet as a cleanse to hopefully address some reoccurring health problems. I would rather get my body right than need to take more medicine every couple weeks or months. Matt agreed to do it in solidarity.

What are we doing? Following The Maker's Diet, which I came across on the internet and only chose because the book was in at the library. To be honest, I have read very little of the book itself other than the diet plan, but it sounds like a very interesting story, how the author recovered from near death due to Crohn's Disease by following a "Biblical" diet.

The diet is broken down into three phases of two weeks each, and each new phase is less restrictive than the last. Phase 1 is extremely low-carb, with no grains, no fruits, and no starchy vegetables. It is dairy-free and also sugar-free: we are permitted to use up to a tablespoon of honey as sweetener per day. Coffee is allowed if you grind it yourself :) Black though, of course.

I am interested to see how cost works out over the course of the diet, but it is way too soon to say. At this point, our groceries for the week were close to double what we normally spend in a shop and we will have eaten everything by the time the week is through. However, part of that is eating much larger portions of meat and vegetables since that's all we get (no rice or pasta or bread to fill up on!), so it may not be so drastic over the course of time. Also, our grocery costs have been pretty low the last few months, so doubling probably just brings us up to normal. I'm being vague to build suspense for the financial-reveal post I can do up when we are done!

How are things so far?
Well, the whole thing got off to a kind of crazy start when Matt and I both had a mild case of food poisoning from dinner Sunday night (away from home). We were both prepared to not feel very well at the start of the diet due to some detoxing (if bad microorganisms are not fed, ex. by certain carbs, they die and release toxins that the body must remove. Headaches, flushed cheeks, and a low-grade fever are not uncommon responses to these toxins). Well, we really didn't feel well, but for the first day or two it was hard to tell what was detox or food poisoning, and it didn't really matter so we just toughed out sick and tired spells, drank lots of water and ate our food.

If you've read this far and are still with me, wow congrats! That is all I'm gonna cover in this post to say that for the first few days we were HUNGRY. But check back to hear how the rest of the week went and to see the meal plan we're working with (so you know I'm really not starving, mom!).

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Healing Creeps In

I have been in a bad way spiritually for the last couple months, and I finally came to my senses how foolish it is to hope for unchanged circumstances to yield new results. And this week since I decided to change some circumstances I have started to read my Bible again. And I've prayed!

These are small but hopeful steps that I am SO grateful for, as I feel some healing creep up into my soul :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

What I'm Into Vol. 1

I'm not always that into stuff. Life happens day by day, framed by work and chores, commuting and running errands. But. I don't know whether it was the super-duper Christmas AND New Year's long weekends or just having some down time in general, but I have expanded my horizons people! Yes, I have found time to participate in culture. And I love it! So please enjoy this peek at three of the things I am currently into:

I'm reading Anne of Green Gables. I downloaded the first two books for free to my ereader after Christmas and soaked them up like comfort food for my soul. I cried when Matthew died like I always do, and I need to get my act together to put the third book on hold at the library so it will be ready as soon as I finish Anne of Avonlea!

I'm watching Lie to Me.All three seasons are on Netflix, so Matt and I are making our way through the show, loving the humour, the twists, and most of all discovering expressions in people's faces in real life that we wouldn't have noticed before!

I'm listening to Milow. And oh my goodness am I glad I discovered this Belgian singer! It happened very much by accident because I was trying to find this song which has been stuck in my head thanks to Matt's Shaun White snowboarding game. So I searched for "born in the eighties" and Milow has a song with that title, which I listened to, figured out was NOT what I was looking for, but in a deeper sense it was EXACTLY what I was looking for! He even has a song called Canada!