Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Milkmaid Goes Dairy-Free (and Eliminates Mood Swings)

Some of you know that I have hinted about eating dairy-free for a while now. I still can hardly believe that this is me's so contrary to everything I knew, since I grew up on a second generation dairy-farm and milked Jersey cows by hand for most of my teenage years.

 Mary, Ellie, Ginger and Erma on my parent's farm about 8 years ago. 

 My husband and I basically met over a glass of raw milk and we were proud to drink it by the gallons each week. I made our own cottage cheeseyogurt, cream cheese, mozzarella cheese and everything.

Homemade mozzarella cheese, circa 2011

Going grain-free 5 years ago was a huge change on it's own, but I was ever so relieved I didn't have to give up dairy. It wasn't causing any issues for Daniel or me (we tried the Whole30 for a month to find out) and we figured the benefits of raw milk were greater than eliminating it at that time and were fine with not giving it up.

But now, things are incredibly different.

A year ago in November, at the suggestion of my naturopathic doctor, I did a 30-day dairy-free trial to see if it might be part of the problem with some hormone related issues that had come up. So for a month, I took out all dairy in my diet except butter. From Daniel's reading he figured that butter would be the least of the problematic dairy-products, so we didn't eliminate it. Dairy allergies/sensitivities are usually related to either the proteins or the lactose and butter is very low in both. Ghee is the next step better and contains only the butter fat.

Along with ditching the dairy, I started some progesterone and other supplements and I was pleasantly surprised to see an immediate improvement. Plus a bonus that I hadn't really been focusing on too much: my mood.

Daniel noticed big time, and was hesitantly optimistic, but it was real. My emotions were increasingly stable and I wasn't nearly as grouchy towards him or Natasha.

Come the end of those 30 days I was thrilled to bring in milk and cream again for Christmas. However, as soon as I did, my happiness decreased and I got...grumpy. That's how I describe it, but it's more than just being grumpy. In my mind I can feel this slow but sure, sense of sadness and and anger building up. It just creeps in and suddenly everything in my world is not rosy. Any problem that would arise would make me angry and snap at anyone in my house. The person that I become doesn't even feel like me.

A good way to describe it is something like this: Eeyore.
With a bit of Oscar the Grouch mixed in.

When I returned to my doctor at the end of my little experiment, I knew what she would say and sure enough, it was pretty apparent that I have a dairy-sensitivity after comparing journal notes from the dairy free month followed by the re-introduction month. She suggested introducing one dairy product into my diet at a time to see if it was one specific item causing an issue, and wondered if goat's milk might be fine since some people can handle goat products over cow's. I was hopeful that perhaps I could just limit my dairy intake to once a week or so with no negative effects.

So I started at the bottom of the list for things that might cause problems, and tried some kefir (99.9% lactose free), hoping to work my way up and eventually figure out which one was making me so grouchy. But I never got past kefir to the items next on the list like yogurt or hard cheeses. Even the kefir made me slightly depressed and sad. It wasn't nearly to the degree of milk or sour cream, but I could tell there was something bothering me just under the surface.

We came to the conclusion it must be one of the dairy proteins that is causing a problem rather than the lactose. Obviously it wasn't the fat because I never eliminated butter and unless I eat a big dose it doesn't bother me. Apparently even the small amount of dairy proteins (casein and whey proteins) that remain in butter are too much if I eat a large amount of butter.

It has been a year now of being dairy-free, and after I got over the first few days of denial and anger about having to give up traditional cheesecake, my very own recipe of lasagna, and sour cream on burritos, I persevered with cooking dairy-free. Within the past year I have had the occasional muffin with some milk or buttermilk in it or the smallest bite of cheese or truly only a swallow of milk. Those minute amounts usually don't cause a problem, but they have to be exactly that: very. small. amounts. Just this past fall I discovered even goat's yogurt in banana muffins caused me to get grumpy so it really can be surprising what impact small amounts have. I have tried cheddar goat's cheese twice, and each time I can tell that something in my mind gets ever so slightly depressed and downhearted. Nothing near to the level of typical cow's milk, but there's something that switches to "crabby/sadness" mode when I eat those products.

Therefore, for the happiness of my household and to maintain a cheerful disposition with my husband (very important!), I try to stay away from dairy at all costs. We have found decent substitutions for my favorite dessert: cheesecake, we drink almond milk and occasionally we buy coconut milk ice cream or coconut milk yogurt. I say we, because even though Daniel and Natasha are fine with dairy products of all kinds, Daniel feels slightly better without dairy, and it's just easier to keep it out of the house for all of us.

It's a good thing my husband still likes to research and experiment though, because I have tried the very authentic Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese that is aged at least 2 years (Costco seems to have the best price). And guess what? It's a cheese I can tolerate! It has been a lovely little addition to mealtimes and I'm super pleased about it.

Looking back over the last few years, I really wonder what mothering would have been like had I been aware of what dairy was doing to my mood. Especially during the hardest times of all when Natasha was 2-3 and being potty-trained. That's when I really think my little girl and my husband could have really benefited from me being a little saner without the mood-changing after-effects of drinking milk. I still can hardly believe I am one of those people who has to ask about certain foods having dairy in them when at other people's homes, or eating out,'s reality right now.
And as much as my taste buds like to imagine that almond milk is just as good as raw milk, it's not. I still miss it, a lot.

However, I also really like being a cheerful momma and wife, and I think my family does too. :)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Thoughts for Mothers Day

I wrote a post a couple years about why I don't like mothers day, and I wondered at the time if I would ever reconsider liking mothers day, and the time has come that I think I do. You see, two years ago I was raising and trying to potty-train a very independent-minded 3-year-old, and it was harder than I ever thought it would be.

I probably had too high of expectations and was worn out and discouraged and my hormones weren't in order. There was that mood-altering, as-yet-unrecognized dairy sensitivity as well (that'll be a topic for another day). 3-year-olds do grow up a little though. They do get potty-trained and they do learn to amuse themselves. The potty-trained part is a huge relief, but I'm not beyond jumping at the sound of running water at inopportune moments in inappropriate locations.

Doubt and fear still sneaks in at times though, making me wonder if I'm good enough as a mom. There are days when I feel like I say, "No, not right now," too often to my girlie. Of course, those are the days when I tend to do what I shouldn't, and take a few moments to look at my "Mothering" pinterest board for an inspirational quote or something to help me feel better.

That is the wrong thing to do.
Don't go there when you're already feeling down on yourself.
It's just full of pictures of lovely mommas and babies, tender moments and kisses. That end up making you feel even sadder.

May 2013, during a rather picturesque mothering moment

The last time I did this, I told my husband that it wasn't encouraging at all and instead made me feel worse. That's when he told me,

"A picture is just a split-second image. It's only a moment. 
I could probably capture 100 of those moments during your day." 

April 2015

That was the best thing he could have told me.
Because that's what mothering is. Split seconds of everyday life 24/7.

We as mothers don't tend to see them, because it's just natural to kiss the top of that little one's head when he wakes up. Or hold hands as you walk to the mailbox. Or quick color the sky blue in a picture with your little girl before you wash the dishes. It's just the things mommas are supposed to do, and we do them quite well.

You can't compare your entire day, with one shutter snap of someone else's life.

But if you imagine a photographer spending the day with you, those are the exact moments they would capture and send you beautiful pictures of 6 weeks later. Then you would sit and realize, wow, I guess I can seem patient and loving. Because it's true. If you stack all those little moments together, you get a lifetime and that's what the little ones will remember.

The annual foot tracing on her birthday.

God has given us all a memory and a tendency to forget things. Sometimes one outweighs the other, but they don't remember when your voice was raised and your anger triumphed as much as we might think. I'm learning that children give grace to us as mothers a lot easier than we give grace to ourselves. I'm not saying they don't remember any of the uncomfortable moments...nor should you just let impatience rule and anger get the best of you.

But they do forgive readily. 
And love incredibly.
And that's what we need to do right back, not only to them, but to ourselves.


So keep on capturing those split-second images, because that's how we can remember all the glorious moments of mothering. In between all the repeated answers to questions the little ones "didn't hear", and the constant explanations of the bedtime routine we do every. single. night.

Happy Mothers Day fellow Mommas!
You are good enough and you're doing a fine job.

Just don't get carried away on Pinterest too often. Turn to God instead.

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, 
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 
2 Corinthians 5:21

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March Madness at our Home

March has been fun.
It included some fun cousin time, and Aunt Janel time too. I watched the little ones while their mommas worked on a bathroom makeover at my in-laws house, and it was such fun to have these three together one day. It's like having all the fun of twin 16 month olds, but they go home to their own respective mothers at night. How about that. Did I say "fun" enough for ya?



I took advantage of our inter-library loan system and read a few books I've had on my list for quite awhile. The best one so far, "The Lost Art of Dress" by Linda Prybyszewski. I'm amazed at that last name every time I see it. Anyway, it was very inspiring to dress respectfully when out and about, and even take a little more care in the home. We needn't look like slobs all the time, even if yoga pants are comfy. One of my many favorite quotes was at the conclusion of the book:

"We all know that growing older usually makes you less of an idiot. But there's little sense today that age might endow you with sophistication, dignity, grace, stateliness, and wisdom. Or that we might aspire to dress in a way that expresses all these qualities."


And, we gained a new reader in the house. There are officially now three of us reading. Here is the youngest, working through, "Green Eggs and Ham".


I still do a lot of reading aloud to her, and this was a recent gem I found. The cover was rather perplexing to Natasha, but the book was a delight to read. I think my favorite part were the short, stubby grandparent crayons, "Silver" and "Gray".


Daniel had a birthday and we celebrated with German currywurst, Panamanian patacones, American roasted broccoli and cranberry salad (lovingly prepared by his mom), Flourless Apple Cake, and fruit salad. I did half the cake recipe since I didn't feel like using an entire pound of almond flour for one cake, even if it was for a 30th birthday meal. It still made a substantial amount of cake that easily fed 8 people. (One slice each, of course...we didn't go overboard with seconds.) Of course, I have no picture. It was eaten too fast.

And I do need to share my currywurst recipe one of these days. I'm amazed every time I serve it that everyone raves over it and I've already given the recipe out twice. Maybe you'd like it as well?

Natasha thought the gifts needed a special cart for transportation.

What was your March like? Our fun really isn't over yet since Natasha gets to be part the children's group waving palm branches for our church's Palm Sunday celebration this weekend. Easter is just around the corner too...and maybe spring? Really looking forward to warm weather.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

7 Practically Perfect Years


Daniel and I celebrated our 7th anniversary last month. I never expected that in the past 7 years we would have ever done as much as we have together, but it's been grand. Simply grand. Not completely perfect, because hey, we live on earth. We aren't sinless, but together with God, we have had the best 7 years I could have asked for. And I'm so thankful I have spent them with this guy. We shared vows during our wedding saying, "I do." and I'm proud to say, "I still do."

To celebrate this year, Daniel planned a little trip to Puerto Rico for a few days, just the two of us. We basically spent our time as follows:

Reading in the shade with the ocean waves below us and our backs to an ancient fort:16-071

Exploring the fore-mentioned fort grounds:13-040

Walking the streets of Old San Juan:18-075

Eating plantains, sweet yellow ones and fried green ones:IMG_3366

Admiring the blue sky, and that fort again:

Trying out stripes with polka-dots:
At some point of this particular day, I realized I was wearing a completely homemade outfit. 

And thinking we were living a real-life postcard.

Friday, February 20, 2015

I'm Loving White

Which is a very good thing right now because it's very white outside. Good thing I don't mind much.
However, it does mean we're inside...a lot. So I drink tea, read books (to the little one in the house, and myself) and admire the beauty of fresh, clean snow. The bright snow makes the whole house seem nice and bright too. Our bedroom isn't usually featured here much, was fairy tidy the other day and so here it is.

Photo by a certain short person in our house.


Since my love for whites hasn't been diminishing recently, I dug down in the crawlspace for our white down comforter that was a wedding gift. We haven't used it much because it's SO warm. However, I brought it up at just the right time because it hasn't reached 15* for days now. The nights are even colder, and I'm loving the coziness that I forgot a feather comforter offers.



I printed this cute little printable several months ago and cut it to size for my little frame.

I think I should wash that globe...

Oooo let me show off my new print! For my birthday we headed to Ikea and although we didn't come away with what I really, really want (a new couch) I did make a somewhat impulse purchase with this LONDON print. It came with two others: PARIS and NEW YORK, and since I've been to two of the three, it seemed fitting as a birthday gift for myself. It was marked down as well so that might have had something to do with the sudden urge to have it as my own. London was the first to go on the wall since Downton Abbey is still our show of choice at the moment. I still haven't taken down the greenery that I draped over the window frame back in December, but it still seems wintery and makes our bedroom seem more like a cabin deep in a forest somewhere. If we use our imaginations.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

These Winter Days

Everyone might at some point in their life learn to hand stitch in a swimming suit ("Mommy, I'm wearing a long sleeve shirt to make it look like a leotard"), with 6 clips in one's hair so absolutely no hair will fall into your eyes.



Meanwhile, your Mommy might sort your Great-Grandma's cross stitch thread and think to herself, "Grandma sure had a lot of stuff...but she was certainly organized."


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

It's Me


Hello 2015! The Christmas tree is outdoors, the manger scene and ornaments are packed away, the wreaths have been brought in, and things are looking much less "red and green" once again. The New Year's calender has been hung and the annual tidying up has begun again. It's a good feeling to begin anew.


All of December was full of merry-making; decking the halls,


To steal my cousin's comment, "Thanks Pinterest" for wrapping ideas. Couldn't have done it without ya. 

 baking up dozens of cookies,


A gluten-free roll-out cookie recipe that didn't make me want to say bad words when rolling the dough out. It was that amazing to work with. Tasted just like my Grandma's cookie dough recipe too. I can't stop raving over it.

She knows where the food coloring is stored. 
Top shelf.

My Grandma's spritz cookie maker in action. Used this recipe

 sending out of Christmas cards,

Not always so cheerful at facing 30 some cards that need signing.

I must have had New Zealand's sheep on my mind, since they all appeared on on Christmas cards.

making memories,


 They haven't fallen down yet, although my jolly-rancher stained glass window has a hole since the lights inside were a wee too hot and melted it. :)

 and so on and so forth.

Watching a Christmas movie in the living room, then sleeping under the tree.

Cinnamon Rolls for Christmas morning breakfast

 It was a lot of fun, but I feel...tired. Completely wore out and ready to face a proper January with no official celebrations. I want to curl up in a couch (which we don't have) and knit, read and eat chocolate chip cookies. 'Cause lets face it: Iced sugar cookies, spritz cookies, thumbprint cookies and all those traditional Christmas desserts are grand, but they usually don't include enough chocolate.

We decorated these cookies after Christmas with my sister-in-law's expert instruction. 

One of my favorite bloggers mentioned that this is the time of year when we all hunker down for a long winter. And, just as my husband said would happen, the beginning of January brought us winter. Snow and c-o-l-d temperatures. Now I don't mind winter in general, but the single degree temperatures make me absolutely and completely a homebody. I don't feel like going anywhere. Staying warm inside practicing my handstands is enough movement for me and I'll just look out at the lovely snow for entertainment.

Downton Abbey started up again, and we are watching it online to stay updated. Only one episode in, and I'm already planning afternoon tea time with real teacups and saucers. That show has a way of making me do things like that. So please excuse me while I go dig out my Grandma's teacups and have afternoon tea. Perhaps while I do so, I will contemplate how so many of the bloggers I follow can blog and live life at the same time. I seem to be able to only do one or the other. Ha!

Happy New Year everyone!

Post Script: As very close readers might notice, a few of the recipes I linked to have rice flour in them. Rice is a grain, and generally we ARE grain-free. However, white rice is the one exception and we've started to incorporate more of it in our diet. Not only cooked rice on the menu, but rice flour in baking. We haven't noticed any negative affects of this particular grain and especially for baking this holiday season, it made my life incredibly easy with those recipes. I'm singing the praises of the gluten-free baking with tapioca flour, potato starch, rice flour and xantham gum.