Friday, December 27, 2013

Holiday Non-Traditions?

I had been uncomfortable the weeks leading up to Christmas.  I had been enjoying others' family pictures on Facebook, and I had been reading accounts of Christmas preparations and traditions.  Talking with friends and family, I'd heard them describe their annual festivities that they had enjoyed and were planning.  I paused and reviewed the years of my nuclear "family-ness".  Then I faced the bare naked truth:  we didn't have any traditions.  In fact, we have spent no two Christmases exactly alike. 

Maybe it was hitting our fourth anniversary this October.  Something clicked with a resounding confirmation that we were absolutely, positively no longer newlyweds.  We were established now.  We should have traditions by this time, everybody has them.  Every family has them.  Why didn't we?  Is it because we don't have children?  Is that what forces people to carve traditions into their holidays and histories?  Then I realized it.  The question that was haunting me, though I tried to ignore it:  Were we any less a family because we didn't have any traditions?

We took stock of our holiday activities:  we see family, we sometimes go to Christmas Eve Eve service with our friend, Christy,  we attend a party in our community.  Did these count as family traditions?  I began a quest to think up some traditions for us and to start following them fast.  Several times over the last month I have asked Greg what traditions he would like to start.  We began to list them.  But to just pick from a list is not how one forms traditions.  They are formed by values, deeply held values. 

Christmas Eve was the turning point for me.  I have peace and realize that we have tradition, our one tradition.  You see, each Christmas has been a little different, but with one common theme:  driving to someone, a friend or family member, to spend time with them.  Today I  remembered that we made a decision our first Christmas that we would serve others somehow.  Every year that service has come to us in a unique shape and form, mostly small and unnoticeable to anyone else.  Yet, we have both recognized the small gift each year.  It occurred to me, in not having our time bound up keeping our own family traditions, we have been available to go and bless someone in whatever small way we were called.  The most beautiful part?  Anyone can be available and used by God, no matter what their family size or singleness status.  What hope this is for everyone, single, married with children, married and childless.  How wonderful.

I'm reminded of a pregnancy that was anything but traditional.  It is a true account that you can read about in the Bible, the book of Luke, chapter 2.  The couple was very young and were technically not yet married.  They had not received the community's blessing.  No shower had been given.  As well, this non-traditional pregnancy culminated in an even more non-traditional birth.  They had travelled more than one hundred miles and  arrived at their destination, only to find that there was no room at the inn.  In fact, there wasn't room anywhere in the entire town.  The whole of Bethlehem was filled with travelers who had returned to fulfill a mandatory census.  They would stay in a stable with animals.  There would be no midwives, no family to help.  There was nothing traditional about this birth.  Yet this couple had received this service, this gift, this calling in agreement with their Heavenly Father months prior.  And at the appointed time, the Christ child was born to them, and for all of us. 

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season, filled with wonderful memories of traditions and also worship and service to our God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

--Two Peas


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Juicers Compared and 10 Uses for Juice Pulp

Are you considering juicing?  Don't know what type of juicer to use?  We have been juicing for about two weeks and now I look forward to it everyday.   There are many juicers and ways to juice so I have written about two main types in this post, juice with no pulp and juice with pulp.   I hope it helps you decide that juicing is for you, no matter what type of juice and juicer.

Dueling Juicers

In our house, food is our medicine, so when we took the opportunity to compare two juicers, the Vitamix and the Sharper Image centrifuge juicer, we did it with the understanding that both ways result in benefiting our body, which is a win-win either way.

The Vitamix pulverizes fruits and vegetables, leaving all the ground up flesh:  skin, seeds, stalks, etc.  You end up drinking the whole plant, pulp and juice.  Other brands like this include Magic Bullet Nutribullet,  Blendtec and Ninja. 

The Sharper Image centrifuge juicer separates the ground up pulp from the juice, so only the juice is what you drink.  There are many brands that do this as well, such as Breville, Cuisinart, Hamilton Beach, etc.  Then there are masticating juicers made by Omega, which do an even better job of separating the pulp from the juice.  You can spend a lot of time shopping for of these on Amazon (there are so many) but I recommend that you think about your needs, the price and read the reviews.  We had purchased our Sharper Image juicer about 4 years ago and honestly have barely used it until now.  If I were purchasing one today, I likely would pick a different one simply because I have more interest in juicing now.

My husband insists on using the Vitamix to juice since he wants the fiber, hates to waste food and is juicing for the purpose of getting concentrated nutrients.  He also firmly believes that much of the vital nutrition resides in the skin and seeds of fruits and vegetables and doesn't want to miss out on these.

He is not alone in this conviction.  Many health proponents insist that the only way to truly benefit from fruits and veggies is to consume the whole plant.  For example, in many vegetables and fruits, the skins and peels contain the highest amounts of vitamins, carotenoids, flavonoids and antioxidants. To read more on juicing using the whole fruit or vegetable, I've linked to a good article below.

Whereas, I am juicing according to the GAPS protocol, (similar to many therapeutic diets) where juice without the fiber is used to absorb nutrients quickly and aid in detoxification.  There are many health practitioners which promote fiber-free juicing as the only way to benefit from juicing.  Some even eschew reusing the pulp afterward.  I've linked to one such article below.


One day, we decided to compare the process and outcome of the two juicers.  We made juice in the Vitamix and the Sharper Image centrifuge juicer using the same exact ingredients.  Both required the same amount of prep time since the vegetables and fruits need minimal chopping.  The juicers took the same length of time to produce juice. 
Next, we compared the amount of juice and quality of juice.  The centrifuge juicer produced exactly one glass of juice that was very liquid and pulp-free, whereas the Vitamix produced double the amount of juice, filled with pulp.  The centrifuge juice was delicious and palatable, whereas the pulp in the Vitamix juicer rendered the drink thick (and disagreeable, at least to me).  With the centrifuge juicer there was a full pitcher of pulp leftover from the centrifuge juice.  My husband was not thrilled with this waste (even though we compost it).


An example of a health advocate who promotes both pulp-free and pulp-filled juices, the Food Babe article linked here, highlights how she drinks pulp-free juices but also drinks smoothies containing pulp:

10 Recipes for Pulp

And there are plenty of ways to use the juice pulp.  The Plan to Eat article linked below boasts 10 such ways to use the pulp leftover from juicing, and in the comments there are an additional 20 more  suggestions!  I love all the ideas on how to use the pulp.  No more waste.  No more conflict.


Lastly, we compared the clean-up.  Without question, the Vitamix was far, far easier to clean than the centrifuge juicer.  It was clean within 60 seconds, whereas the other juicer took a good 15 minutes to clean, due to all of its parts.

Remember, both juicers are efficient and beneficial, depending on your purposes in juicing.  Both produce nutritious juice quickly.  The whole idea is to get more vegetables and fruit in you, and either will do just that.   I know people who have lost 60 pounds through juicing with pulp and I know people who have lost 60 pounds through juicing with no pulp.   So, juice, juice, juice no matter which way you do it.

Happy Juicing!
-- Two Peas

Friday, December 13, 2013

Magnesium Deficient? Here's What You Can Do

The weather outside may be frightful, but enjoying a hot soak is not only delightful, it is also a great source of magnesium, if Epsom Salts are added to your bath.

For a couple of years now we have indulged in Epsom salt baths.  It is pure luxury!  The heat soothes muscles and joints, and best, the magnesium in the Epsom salts are absorbed quickly through the skin.   For anyone magnesium deficient that is really good news.

How do you know if you are magnesium deficient?  According to the NIH, most people are not getting the recommended daily allowance of magnesium.  In addition, the soils in which our food is grown is deficient in magnesium and therefore our plant and animal food sources are also.  Especially at risk are those with a damaged gut, type 2 diabetes or an alcohol dependency.  Certain prescription medications block the absorption of magnesium in the diet.  And too much calcium in the diet may upset the balance of calcium and magnesium, preventing the absorption of precious magnesium.

Deficiencies can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, migraine headaches and a long list of other symptoms.

How to increase your magnesium?  A good start is a healthy diet loaded with a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes.  Magnesium oil is an excellent way to get magnesium directly into your bloodstream via transdermal (across the skin barrier) absorption.

For more information on the symptoms of magnesium deficiency see the Food Renegade article, linked below.

For a great list showing the amount of magnesium in foods, link to the NIH Fact Sheet on Magnesium.

Stay Warm,
--Two Peas

Monday, December 9, 2013

In a Good Mood Today? Thank Your Gut Microbes

I just love when scientific studies confirm what real food advocates and alternative doctors, such as Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride of the GAPS diet, have been stating for years.  In this case it is the research on gut microbe activity and how it affects the human being, specifically the brain and mood.  Dr. Campbell McBride has documented much of the recent findings in her book, "The Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Natural Treatment For: Autism, ADD, ADHD,  Depression, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Schizophrenia". 

Kristen at Food Renegade has documented the new research data on her blog and I've linked to it below.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

And remember, next time you are in a particularly good mood, thank your gut microbes!

Happy Trails (and microbes),
--Two Peas

Friday, December 6, 2013

In Praise of Vegetables -- Juicing

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  I have this strange obsession with vegetables.  I can't seem to get enough of them.  At the farmers' market or grocery store, I'm all over them.  This morning (fridge still full of carrots, celery, eggplant, daikon radish, cabbage, spinach and baby greens) I found myself drawn to the organic green cabbages.  I bought three heads!  Then there were the red, yellow and orange carrots.  Mmm...had to get them.  Then it was the leek and then the turnip.  Yep, brought those home.  You get the idea.

This "obsession" can be traced back to earlier this year when I went on the GAPS diet and removed all grains from my diet.  The Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet enables the gut to heal and reseal itself by removing hard-to-digest grains from the diet and increasing foods like bone broth, protein, good saturated fats, pro biotic foods, fruits and vegetables.

While the diet was beneficial, the added bonus was how it broke me of my dependence on carbs and opened up a whole new world of cooking to me.   On GAPS I had only vegetables to satisfy my hunger, so I learned to cook them in a variety of new ways:  juiced, in soups, as snacks, as meals and fermented.

Keep in mind, I am no gourmet cook-- if I can do this, you can too!   Join me in this new passion for vegetables and finding delicious ways to cook them.  Perhaps this obsession with vegetables will spread to family members and children.


Inspired by my friend Denise Rhodes and convinced of its many health benefits, I'm dedicating this post to juicing vegetables, commonly referred to as "juicing".
Denise has lost over 60 pounds and has seen many health improvements in the last year and a half simply by adding juice to her daily diet.  Juicing became such a way of life that she planted a summer garden, her first ever.  She then turned it into a winter garden! You can read testimonies, see her vegetable garden, get vegan recipes and view how-to videos at .
Why Juice?
  • In a nutshell:  to get a concentrated amount of nutrients in one glass.  We've been told to "Strive for Five" or get 7-8 servings of vegetables each day.  Juicing makes that easier.  You wouldn't eat a pound of carrots in one day.  But you can drink a glass of carrot juice!   And you'd be multiplying the vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants over eating just one carrot.  
  • By juicing vegetables you remove the fiber, making nutrients easier to absorb and able to stimulate digestive juices, revitalize the liver, purify the blood, and cleanse the kidneys. 
  • Also, juicing detoxifies and cleanses the body.  The nutrients in vegetables rid your body of toxins such as heavy metals.  Juicing provides high amounts of minerals that chelate metals without the added stress and side affects of chelation therapy. 
Juicing Tips:
  • To get the most benefit, use a juicer that removes the fiber or pulp from the vegetables (a Vitamix won't work here).
  • Use only organic vegetables and fruits, if possible.  
  • Drink your juice on an empty stomach, which means first thing in the morning and/or late afternoon an hour before dinner.  
  • Start with a moderate amount of greens, and balance with fruits to sweeten the juice.  As you progress in juicing, add lemon or lime juice to brighten the bitter taste of greens without adding sugar.  
  • Juice once a day to start (no fasting or starvation diet here!).  If you have leftover juice, drink it within 24 hours; it will remain fresh if refrigerated and sealed very tightly.  

Beginner Juice Recipe:
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 celery stalks
  • apple
  • orange
  • 3 cups of spinach

For more recipe ideas see the list at: .

Happy Vegetable Trails!

--Two Peas

Monday, December 2, 2013

Post Thanksgiving Day: Still Giving Thanks

"Offer to God thanksgiving" Psalm 50:14. 

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving.  We reflect and give thanks this time of year.  We rejoice in all that we've been given.  We give and share with others out of the bounty that has been granted us.  This exercise, this discipline of gratitude so aligns us with the giver, God himself.

Thankful.  It is so easy to say.  But am I really living it?  Applying it?  If I were, I would trust God in everything and not worry, knowing that He will give all that I need.  Daily my mind and my heart need to be exhorted in being thankful.  Ephesians 5:20.

A few thoughts on being thankful:

Giving thanks moves our thoughts away from ourselves... and onto God.  When I am thankful, my heart and mind are changed: my mind turns from self and things on earth to things above.  Col 3:2.

When I am thankful, my mind becomes content to dwell on the present.  Things past or things to come are gently diminished and I grow satisfied, content and joyful in everything.

Jesus modeled thankfulness, by giving thanks himself.  At the Last Supper he gave thanks to God for the bread provided before breaking and sharing it.  Luke 22:19.

My hope is you, as we are enjoying this season of thanksgiving, and are remembering all we have to be thankful for.

--Two Peas