Sugar is Making You Fat

Sugar.  We all want it, crave it, reward with it….but do we really need it?  

No.  It contains no nutritional value- whatsoever!  But, it does come with it’s share of baggage.  A friend shared this article on Facebook today and as I was sitting down at lunch to my plate of grapes, cheese and salami the title caught me.  You’ll Stop Eating Sugar After Reading This Post…and I clicked to learn more.  

Recently, I was diagnosed with Post-Pregnancy Thyroiditis about 7 months after my little Cora was born.  I actually diagnosed myself well before the doctors did.  I was having major mood-swings, horrible joint pain, headaches, burning sensation over my entire body, a temper that I had never had before, extreme fatigue, insomnia, swelling in the hands and face and unable to loose weight.  

After a lot of reading I came to the conclusion in March 2013 that I had a major thyroid problem and went to see my doctor.  He tested my T3 and T4 levels…and they were all over the place.  My levels were so bad, that I was referred to a doctor who specializes in the body’s hormone-secreting glands (endocrinologist). It was there that I started to feel hope that I would feel like a normal mommy again.  

About Postpartum Thyroiditis:
Postpartum thyroiditis often lasts several weeks to several months. However, postpartum thyroiditis can be difficult to recognize because its symptoms are often mistakenly attributed to the stress of having a newborn and postpartum mood disorders.

For most women who develop postpartum thyroiditis, thyroid function returns to normal within 12 to 18 months of the start of symptoms. However, some women who experience postpartum thyroiditis develop permanent complications.

My Case:
I went through two months of testing on my thyroid gland, including radioactive testing.  I learned that your thyroid gland controls everything…and I mean everything in your body.  Finally in June 2013, I was placed on a medication to slowly start bringing my thyroid back into check, not to mention my mental health.  (In all seriousness…I felt many times like I was loosing my mind, from forgetting simple things to becoming majorly irritated over the slightest thing.  It’s not a happy feeling.)

In June I met with a nutritionist that had some experience in thyroid treatment.  I learned about gluten and how it effects your body, the hidden sugar that is all across our food system, the American diet is surrounded with sugar in everything, and the importance of protein in your diet. I remember being told that I needed to go sugar-free for 4 weeks! I almost fell over when she stated that.  (I am a HUGE chocolate lover and all things sweet!)  But, I made it through 4 weeks of being gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free…and felt like a million bucks.  Difficult- yes, but I started shedding some of those pregnancy pounds and was feeling much better.  

About a month ago (March 2014) a year after I first went into the doctor to figure out what was wrong with my body…I was taken   off the medication.  Slowly my baby pounds are coming off and I feel like myself, after almost 2 years of agony.  Am I still gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free..NO.  But, I do watch the amount of all three in my diet.  I’ve learned to not drink sweet tea as much, we don’t make as many desserts, I don’t consume as much bread and overall we read labels…religiously.  

What Have I Learned?
-Sugar is one of the worst things you can put into your body and does bring on those unwanted extra pounds.  Does this mean I don’t let my children indulge and have a candy bar or cupcake?  No.  But I monitor how much sugar they get and I provide healthy options for them at all times.  

-Read the above article, it will change your mind about how much sugar you put in that ice tea or how much processed foods you eat.

-Eat a diet rich of REAL, WHOLE FOODS.  Say no to the box.

-Green smoothies are my delight!  And, my family now enjoys them just as much as I do.  

-I highly suggest women getting their thyroid levels checked out.  It’s not a routine test that doctor’s run, but should.  You will have to ask for it.  After I learned about my diagnosis I suggested my mother have the same test, as she was always very run down. She thought it was her age, but I had an idea it was her thyroid- and it was!  She is now on medication for her thyroid as well…and feeling much better than she has in years.  

-Overall – Eat real foods, cook at home, eat less from a box and more from your garden or the farmers market.  

Farm Girl’s Perspective on New Face for HSUS

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There are very few issues that I publicly take a stance on.  I am in a position that makes it hard to voice my own personal opinions on different political topics, as I represent a diverse group of individuals.  However, sometimes the right thing to do is VOICE your opinion and educate others.

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has finally pushed me to that point.  You might think that HSUS is your local animal shelter, but please know that this animal rights group is the furthest thing from the truth!  $148 Million – That’s how much revenue the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) generated in 2009 according to its 2010 IRS 990 disclosure form.  If you thought your $19.99 went to saving the poor kittens and puppies seen on most all HSUS propaganda, you were wrong.  HSUS only gives less than 1 percent of their budget on operations involving local humane societies and shelters, according to Humane Watch and many other reputable sources.

I am a cattle girl and a farmers daughter and I support the agricultural industry to the fullest degree.  Does the industry do everything right, not always, but what industry do you know that does?  I want the very best for my farm families, rural America and for my children’s children.  I have been lucky enough to work in various jobs that have given me a broad spectrum of REAL American Agriculture.  And let me tell you- what HSUS tried to present as REAL agriculture is not always the truth.  You know that place where the truth lies and then the outskirts between a lie and the truth?  HSUS hangs out there, markets the HELL out of it and pulls at your heart strings with scare tactics and photos that show YOU the worst possible situation of a large farm and tells you this is American Agriculture.

I have watched what HSUS has done in other states over the past 10 years to the ag industry, not to mention stripping rights away from Americans.  Yes, that’s correct if you are a game hunter you better watch out- HSUS already banned Dove hunting in Michigan and their leadership has openly stated they wish to “end all sports hunting in this country.”  You better say good-bye to those delicious venison steaks or duck breasts at your family’s table.

Here are some quotes from HSUS leadership that made me cringe a little.

“Eating meat causes animal cruelty.” – HSUS senior campaigner Paul Shapiro, in a 2003 speech

“If we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would.”— CEO Wayne Pacelle, quoted by the Associated Press, December 1991

“Nothing is more important than promoting veganism.” HSUS senior campaigner Paul Shapiro, at the 2004 National Student Animal Rights Conference

“My goal is the abolition of all animal agriculture.” –HSUS Director of Animal Cruelty Policy John “J.P.” Goodwin

You wouldn’t think that these quotes would come from an organization that now says they want to SUPPORT farm families and give farmers the skills to raise animals in a humane manner would you?

I can sum up HSUS in four words: Fundraising, Advertising, Lobbying and Salaries. According to their 2011 tax records, 41% of their funds were dedicated to marketing & advertising.  In 2010, Wayne Pacelle stated that HSUS had about 50 lawyers of HSUS’s 636 total employees. The White House only had 454 employees in 2011!  HSUS has $32.7 million invested in Wall Street hedge funds.  Where is their money going?  To federal court with all their lawyers and lobbyists, not saving animals or saving family farms.

If you want to read other alarming figures on where HSUS spends its money, check out Humane Watch for a great breakdown of HSUS’s spending habits.  And, these are some other figures that stood out to me after much research. $24.3 Million and $36.2 Million – That is how much this organization spends on fundraising and on the salaries and benefits of their own.  But wait, I have one number that really hits home.  “Thought Leaders,” ever heard of them?  These are HSUS’s newest ways to alter public policy and influence others and apparently it costs $48 million to form public policy, because that is how much HSUS spent to buy new laws and regulations in our country and work to restrict the rights of animal owners, hunters and farmers.  I can tell you this- they sure didn’t spend any of that $48 million to help the family farms they are now promoting.

Why am I writing educating you about HSUS? Why should you care where and how they spend their money?  There is a new face to the HSUS and it comes from our own. HSUS has been forming Agricultural Councils in a number of states recently to be the voice of HSUS’s Farming for the 21st Century focus, a focus on humane farming.  Humane farming….I get that.  I also see our family farms all doing this already.

Sometimes its better to agree to disagree in manners like this one, and I have with a few in the industry.  I don’t support every agricultural practice in this country, nor do I support every technological method available for any industry.  But I know this, I will never support groups like HSUS that are working to make decisions for me, my family and my farming community. HSUS is making legislation to harm 98% of our family farms in Missouri because they do not like the other 2% of the industries practices.

HSUS use scare tactics to make consumers scared of their food and think that all farms in the US are like the ones in the HSUS’s marketing.  I have worked in public relations and marketing my entire life and I can tell you it’s very easy to make a mountain out of a molehill with the correct marketing.

I know Missouri’s farming community, I know family farms, I know their practices, I know their beliefs in land and environmental stewardships and I trust my farmers!  I hear the new HSUS Missouri Ag Council touting “we want to help Missouri farmers create more humane measures on their farms,” maybe they haven’t toured or met the majority of Missouri farmers- they are ALREADY doing this!

What I find frightening is that HSUS thinks they should be a 3rd source verifier for farms.  I can tell you what that means- higher priced food for everyone! HSUS thinks that by placing more legislation and regulations on farmers (big or small) because both will see these regulations, that they will force the large CAFOs out of business.  But, what they don’t understand is more regulations mean that the large organizations will just pay to change their operations and fit into the new regs, whereas the small family farms will yet again suffer.   And, the more it takes a farmer to produce a farm product (whether that is a family farm that is a grower for Pilgrims Pride, Cargill or for grocery stores or a farmers market), the more the consumer will pay.  But, hey…that’s HSUS’s goal- to reduce the amount of meat consumption and to get folks to eat a more vegan diet – so I guess they are winning in the long run.  They are controlling what you and I will eat, because they are trying to ensure there will not be a choice with your pocketbooks.

Recently, I posed many questions on one HSUS Missouri Ag Council’s Facebook page asking for definitions on what a factory farm was, what is big ag, small ag and various other topics in which he was spouting the gospel.  He would respond, but never with definitions.  He did call a CAFO a “Confined Animal Farm Operation” however, which I kindly corrected him.  A CAFO is a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, which confines animals for a specific amount of days during a growing season, the confinements are a certain size and the area is traditionally inside a structure.  I think a person serving on this new HSUS council would know the correct terminology he was touting, wouldn’t you? But, if you don’t come from a farm or farm yourself…sometimes those things get lost in translation.

Recently, I attended a HSUS meeting: How We Eat, How We Farm, which was put on by the newly formed HSUS Missouri Agricultural Council.  I went to learn, listen and hopefully come away with some answers.  Unfortunately, the opposite happened.  I learned about the council members and their beliefs on humane treatment of animals (which I share), support of local food (which I also support), but I heard a lot of political jargon and bashing of the Right to Farm Amendment, how so many of our diseases today are because of Large Ag farms (confinement, antibiotics), how I should only buy food that doesn’t have a label because it’s MUCH more safer for my family than Certified Organic, Certified Humane to name a few, and even how we shouldn’t eat as much meat as we do for our health (this was in reference to HSUS supporting “Meatless Monday” (however, all the council members did say they were  NOT vegans).

The last hour of the 2-hour presentation consisted of questions that were supposedly submitted BEFORE the meeting, but sounded more like scripted questions from the organization themselves.  Finally, I raised my hand to ask a simple question: What plans does HSUS have to help family farms?  I mean they tout how they support family farmers (and always have), the group says they support local foods and want to help make it easier for consumers to choose local, healthy products.  But, when asked what their plans where – I had no facts or plan of action presented by any panelist.  Hmmm…

But, they said they planned to use their HUGE group of lobbyists to rally to change public policy to support sustainable agriculture, connect consumers with producers, show family farmers how they can go from industrial ag to sustainable farms, and get more farmers farming land.

This all sounds wonderful, I mean I support all of this and I am sure all the farmers I know would say, “YES” to all of this as well.  But it also sounds like a lot of political “fluff” to me.  Folks can say whatever they want, but it’s ACTION that I want or at least a plan to get there.  I saw none of this at the meeting.

I came away with a very uncomfortable feeling after the meeting as well.  I might be going out on a limb here, but I saw HSUS using “our own” to speak their message.  I am a marketing gal and I know that HSUS has lost footing in Missouri after Proposition B last year. This organization is finding a way to get back in the good graces of Missourians…or better yet, our family farmers.  So, what better way to do that than gets locals within the communities to support their cause and preach it to their neighbors, their friends?  It’s a great way to garner support in our communities by using our own folks.  Brilliant!  But, I for one will not be fooled.  I have watched, seen first-hand and talked with leadership of HSUS in the past and their actions have shown me their true colors.

Take Joe Maxwell for instance.  He is the HSUS Vice President and claims “humane” farming, but his pork co-op Heritage Acres was suspended by the USDA for violations of humane slaughter/treatment regulations in 2009.  There were 150 violations to be exact. The violations ranged from humane handling issues to meat contamination to unhygienic conditions. More specifically, it was found to excessively use hotshot and stunners on its livestock, have meat contaminated with fecal matter and tainted carcasses, and display animal waste and condensation in the slaughter room.  You can read the full report here.

It’s time we as an industry stood together.  It’s time that we as family farmers, of all sizes, shapes and scopes stand as one industry.  Forget the rock throwing of  Big Ag vs Small Ag, the Traditional vs. Alternative – we are one industry and must stand united.

I tell my own farmers to advocate for their products, tell their story to their customers and neighbors, BE THE VOICE that is not heard in our industry.  Consumers want to hear your stories, they want to buy your local products, they want to understand corn and soybean farming practices, but if we as an industry do not let our voices be heard, then our country will not hear our stories…they will only hear the voices and stories of groups that have NO farm background and NO rich farm history.  Be the VOICE!  Speak out to your friends, family, consumers and neighbors.

Learn about Right to Farm and really educate yourself on the facts- the TRUE facts.  If you are a consumer of local products and up in the air about Right to Farm or the HSUS’s new “farm focus”- talk with REAL farmers in your community.  I have done this and I can tell you where they lie…and it’s not with a professional fundraising non-profit organization.

In Honor of National Pie Day…Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

Happy Pie Day ya’ll!  My husband texted me early this morning to say, “Happy Pie Day…Sugar Pie.”  Love that man, he’s always full of surprises.  

If you are looking for a listing of winning pie recipes, check out the American Pie Council website.  I already found a few new ones I can’t wait to try.

To honor National Pie Day, I thought why go with a sweet pie, I’ll turn to my classic Ozark Chicken Pot Pie.  I can remember helping my mother in the kitchen prepare this dish on many chilly days.  It’s one of the perfect dishes to warm your soul!  And, that is what food is all about, warming the soul…taking you to a place of childhood memories.  

If you can catch a local farmers market in your area, try and grad local veggies and chicken for this dish.  Love your farmers and try and incorporate as many local products in your weekly grocery shopping.  Or, join a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, for a weekly basket of whatever is in season.  

Ozark Chicken Pot Pie
By Lane

2 cups peeled red potatoes cut about ¼ of an inch
1 bag of frozen of mixed veggies
3/4 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
½ all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon Italian seasonings
½ teaspoon poultry seasonings
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 cans chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups cooked local chicken, chopped
1 crust (recipe follows)
1 large egg, beaten

Grease a 3 quart baking dish. Boil potatoes over heat for 5-6 minutes, drain and add drained canned vegetables to pot.

Melt butter in a very large saucepan. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes, stir in flour and all seasonings and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Stir in broth and cream and cook for 7 minutes. Stir in chicken and vegetables and cook for 18 minutes.

Pour into casserole dish. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On a floured surface roll out the pastry crust to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into ½ inch strips. Arrange crust in lattice design over the filling, trim strips even with the dish. Brush crust with beaten egg.

Bake 28 minutes. The casserole will be done when it is golden brown.

Flaky Pastry Crust
By Paula Deen

I love using this crust for the pot pie…very flaky. If you don’t have a food processor you’ll have to do everything by hand though.

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup cold vegetable shortening, diced
¼ cup cold butter, diced
¼ cup cold water

In a food processor add flour and salt, pulsing to combine. Add shortening and butter, pulse until mixture resembles corn meal. With the processor running, add cold water through the chute, processing until combined. Press mixture gently into a 4 inch disc; cover with plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.

The Perfect Hush Puppy

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Hush puppy you ask? Have you never indulged in these amazing little side poppers?  Please say it isn’t so….You can’t call yourself a Southern, unless you know how to fry up a batch.

Wikipedia says, “A hushpuppy is a savory food made from cornmeal batter that is deep fried or baked rolled as a small ball or occasionally other shapes. Hushpuppies are frequently served as a side dish, usually at seafood restaurants.”

Well this 417 Mama says no fish fry is complete without a savory Hush Puppy.  I remember growing up on the farm and enjoying a fish fry after my dad would come back from the lake with a fresh catch of Walleye or Crappie.  Mom and I would whip up a fresh batch for a perfect side dish to the freshly caught fish.

This is my grandmother’s recipe that I grew-up enjoying on the farm. There is no other recipe that even touches these hush puppies. I have made one change to the original recipe however. I like to add about 1/3 cup of corn to the batter, gives a little extra bite to this wonderful side dish.

With summer on its way….it’s time for crappie fishing on Table Rock Lake and I can’t wait.  This will be the first year that our youngest, Caston, gets to go fishing with his daddy on the boat- just the two of them.  I can’t wait to see what my boys bring back from a day at the lake.

Grandma’s Hush Puppies
by Lane

½ c. ap flour
1 ½ c. corn meal (1/3 yellow, 2/3 white)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1 egg
¾ c. milk
1/3 cup corn
3 scallions with green tops

Mix ingredients together in order and fry in bacon or fish grease.

Granny’s Egg Custard

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Egg custard is my father’s favorite sweet treats. I remember as a kid having it served with dinner at least once a week.

This dessert is just sweet enough for a light dessert and perfect alongside just about any dish! The recipe comes from my Great Grandma Garrison, who my mother says “was the best cook in Douglas County.”  Many of my mother’s recipes, came from her.

You want a really light and fluffy custard?  Be sure and pick-up a couple dozen eggs from your local farmers market- the yolks make this dish golden!

Granny’s  Egg Custard
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup sugar (sprinkle very slowly)
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cups milk
½ tsp. vanilla
Sprinkle nutmeg on top

Bake at 325 degrees in a glass dish (a 9×9 works well). Place glass baking dish in a pan of water (hot water bath) for 20 minutes.

Working Mom’s Beef Roast

I work from home…most days.  However, that doesn’t mean that I have loads of time to spend in front of the stove.  I commute between Branson and Springfield at least three days a week, sometimes more.  Plus, I am the one that typically drops off the kids (at two stops) and picks them up, due to my husband’s job.

I am always looking for ways to prepare home meals for my family that are delicious, yet can easily be made for a weeknight meal.  My Crock Pot Beef Roast is one of them.  If I am at home working all day, I throw this in the Dutch Oven and cook in the stove.  But, if I leave early in the morning for work and gone all day…hello CROCK POT!

Today’s recipe is one of our favorites in my house. It’s simple, quick and can be turned into a number of other dishes for later in the week.  For instance, I take some of the broth and make gravy, but there are lots of other great dishes you can make from stock.  I save ALL my stock from any meat dish.  I use that stock to boil rice, make soups and for beef broth I make Beefy Noodles.  I cook penne pasta in beef broth, add a little corn starch after the noodles are cooked and toss in some chunks of beef roast and a little feta cheese.  Hello- new meal for Day 2 of your roast. Hope you enjoy!

Crockpot Beef Roast
By Lane

1 beef roast (I like to use chuck roast from a local farm)
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 beef bouillon cubes
1 T. parley flakes
1 T. garlic powder
½ tsp. basil, dried
½ tsp. Lowery’s seasoned salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 cup of small baby carrots
1 parsnip, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine (omit this if you don’t have any on hand, but red wine gives this dish a great depth of flavor)

Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper and a little olive oil.  Brown in skillet on all sides.

In a large crock pot, place the onions, carrots and parsnips. Place the beef cubes on top, then lay beef roast. Add all the seasonings and the seasonings. Fill crock up with water – to cover the roast with.

Place crock on low setting and cook from 7:30 am until 4:30 or 5:00 pm, depending on the size of the roast.

*After the roast is cooked, keep those wonderful juices! Make some gravy with it, boil some penne pasta in it. You can also use the juice to make some wonderful beef soup.

*If you cook pasta in the juice, the pasta will make it’s own gravy because the starch in the pasta thickens the broth up. I like to then place the pasta in a casserole dish and sprinkle with some tasty feta cheese.

* Or freeze the broth to use another time.

Salmon Fettuccine

Fettuccine NoddlesThis is a favorite dish around my house, actually it is the most loved meal of all. I came up with this dish while experimenting in college.  It’s easy to make for a weeknight meal and provides plenty of yummy leftovers.

This sauce is rich, but totally worth the calories. And yes, it does have plenty of calories, but you can also feel good about the salmon in the dish too.  You could easily substitute half and half for the cream, if you wanted to make it a little lighter in the waistline.

TIP: I always use a high-quality Parmesan Cheese, wine and noodle when making this dish.  Whenever you have a dish with few ingredients, don’t skip on quality!

PHOTO: From www.thelittleepicurean.com

Salmon Fettuccine
4 tbs. butter
2 ½ c. heavy cream (the best your can find)
½ c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
Salt and pepper
½ tsp Oregano
1 tb Parsley, plus extra to garnish
1/2 tsp basil
1 package of the best fettuccine you have available
2 -3 salmon filets
½ c. dry white wine

Salmon:
In a skillet run 1 tsp. of olive oil around pan. Place salmon in skillet and pour wine over it and add salt and pepper to preference. Cook salmon thoroughly (till fish turns white all the way through and wine has cooked down.) Flake off the salmon pieces and place in separate bowl away from heat.

Noodles:
Cook fettuccine to recommended directions. Be sure to add ½ tsp olive oil and ½ tsp salt in water before adding the noodles, this helps with sticky noodles.

Alfredo Sauce:
In a medium saucepan melt butter, add cream and cheese. Bring sauce to a boil, constantly stirring. Add all seasoning, tasting to see if there needs to be more salt added. When the mixture thickens to your liking add flaked salmon and toss lightly.

Drain noodles and place in a large casserole dish. Pour sauce mixture over noodles and toss lightly together. Place in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Take out and garnish top of dish with Parmesan cheese and parsley. Serve immediately.

Making Your Own Homemade Pizza Pies

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Around our house just about everything is homemade- pie crusts and fillings, mac n’ cheese, baby food, lemonade- even the pizza!

A family friend of ours from Dora, MO., has what I call true homemade pizza!  Marty Uhlmann shared her recipe with me recently and its become a favorite.  My parents and the Uhlmann family would have club every Saturday with other farm families, where the men would talk politics and the women would bring some of the best homemade country fixins’ and us kids would play in the hay barn or the creek. Good memories….

I interviewed Marty for a freelance article I was writing and she had prepared three recipes- pizza, Lemon Meringue Pie and a Custard Pie. (Which I had a piece of each- you know me- I never turn down good food!)

The pizza crust taste like homemade rolls-it’s amazing and fairly easy.

During the interview I recall Marty stating: “Back then we didn’t go to the store to get a pizza- we made it!” I laughed, it’s funny how things change. But, around our house we still do it the old-fashioned way, at least most of the time.

Enjoy this pizza and let me know how you like it. This recipe will make two pizzas- we freeze the other one, so there is always one on hand, then there’s no need to go to the store.

Another great option is going to your local farmers market.  A few local bakers I know in our area make delicious pizza crust, even gluten-free and Paleo options to suit your dietary needs.  Check out Crust Creations or Scotty’s Biscotti at Farmers Market of the Ozarks for delicious crusts, then just add your own sauce and toppings- perfect weeknight meal for the family without a lot of prep work.

Homemade Pizza
by Marty Uhlmann
Makes two crusts and two toppings
 Crust:
1 pkg. yeast
2 Cups lukewarm water
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
7 Cups flour
1/4 Cup salad oil
Dissolve yeast in water and mix. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Dough will be dry. Set in a warm spot and cover with a towel. Let the dough double in size. Meanwhile- make the topping.
Topping:
Pan fry the following ingredients:
1 lb. hamburger
1 lb. sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cups tomato paste
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 lb. grated cheese (1/2 mozzarella, 1/2 cheddar)
Place ingredients in large skillet (we use a cast iron skillet) and cook. Punch dough down, split into two doughs and turn out on floured counter and roll the dough thin. (Remember this dough and topping will make two large pizzas.)
After rolling dough out, place in pizza pan and fold crust over and pinch to seal. Cover with towel and let it rest for 10 minutes. Add skillet mixture then add any of the following ingredients: olives, mushrooms, green peppers, pepperoni, smoked wieners and cover with cheese. Bake at 425 degrees until crust is brown, approximately 25 min.

Raisin’ Up Chitlins…What I’ve Learned

Raising a Boy

Reflection is a powerful discovery. It helps us evaluate the choices in our past and future and helps to make us better individuals.

More than four years ago my life changed in a way that I could have never expected. My husband and I expanded our family from two adults and two dogs – and added a bouncing baby boy.

As a new mother you “think” you are ready for it all. I was that mom. I’d read the books, done my research of all the latest baby gadgets and trinkets and had an incredible mother myself of which I could call on for anything.

Unfortunately, the reality of having a new baby is that you can never be prepared for the UNEXPECTED.

Wes Parker 065Here is what I’ve learned the first 12 weeks of having my first baby:
1.) I have the most awesome husband in the world- who BTW is the greatest father too!
2.) I can still function (well kinda) on no sleep and mini power naps
3.) My house doesn’t have to be spotless clean all the time
4.) I can’t cure all of the reasons why Caston cries- sometimes he just cries bc he’s a baby – and that’s the only way he can communicate
5.) I never imagined I would be so deeply in love with my baby boy the instant he was placed in my arms
6.) You have to ask for help from others- they really want to help you out
7.) Sleep when Caston sleeps
8.) It’s ok to cry- hormones are wacky things!
9.) Remember to take time to reconnect with the hubby each night
10.) I should have enjoyed those sleepy Saturday mornings while I had them
11.) No matter how much I read about babies, pregnancy, breastfeeding, childcare- I still won’t know everything! Books can’t teach you everything- sometimes you just have to drive in and either sink or swim!
12.) I am even more thankful of the scarifies and love that my parents have given me through the years!
13.) Some people think they know everything about raising babies- when really they don’t know squat. But, just smile when they give you advice and go on about your business.
14.) There’s a major difference in Pampers and Huggies diapers- I will never buy Huggies ever again.
15.) It never gets old watching Caston sleep so peacefully!
16.) Spit-up happens…so does pee and poop
17.) Dreft laundry detergent is my all-time favorite smell
18.) Babies won’t be babies forever- so enjoy the snuggle time while you can
19.) Always give yourself at least 15 minutes longer to get ready to go into town. That’s how long it will take to make sure the diaper bag is ready, the baby has a clean diaper, you look half way presentable, and to get the bay in the car seat.
20.) Life is short- enjoy every moment- you won’t have it forever!

Our son Caston Ray arrived at 4:45 a.m. on Nov. 18, 2009. We were living in Jefferson City at the time, working with a doula for our birth of Caston. Although the birth was a very long one, when his little, delicate body was laid on my chest, I melted away. He was perfect and had the deepest dimples on both sides of cheeks that reminded me of myself and a nose that was exactly like his daddy.

We had two weeks of bliss until the UNEXPECTED reeled it’s ugly face. Feedings became a nightmare and a very high stress time, as Caston would projectile puke everything he consumed.  He struggled gaining weight and by the time he was three weeks old we found ourselves at the doctor’s office asking- WHY?  We had our suspensions that he had very bad acid reflux (GER) and explained this to our then pediatrician.  Although, the doctor believed his condition to be nothing but “a little spit up, as all babies spit up,” we both knew in our gut it was not the case.  Finally, after a lot of persuasion and lab tests, the doctor called in medicine for him that was for acid reflux and within two days he was keeping most all his milk down.  POINT No. 1- Always follow your gut when your baby is ill- a mother knows best.

June 25, 2011 052During this same time our family was also preparing for two other major changes- my husband’s new job and a relocation back to Southwest Missouri.  We had lived in Jefferson City for 5 years and were lucky enough to finally be able to move back to our roots.  This left our family searching for a house four hours away with a three week old baby.  We had put our house on the market and within one day it was SOLD.  Something pretty short of amazing with the housing crunch evident at the time.  We also had to be out of our house by the 10th of January, leaving us about three weeks to find a house.

We looked at seven house in one day, as we were looking for a new home four hours away with a newborn baby – something I would never wish upon anyone.  However, we found a house, closed on our old house and new home and prepared for our move down south.  POINT No. 2 – Life will be out of control for awhile, learn to accept it.  Babies throw your entire universe off kilter, accept the change and embrace it.

I remember the day the movers left after moving all our family’s possessions into our new home like it was yesterday- Caston was screaming (as he was going through a growth spurt and wanted to be attached to me 24/7, the house had box after box strung from room to room and I looked at my husband and began crying.  I had no idea how I was going to get my house and life back in order.  POINT No. 3 – Life will hit rock bottom at some point, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Make sure you are stocked up on wine…and breast milk when it does.

Luckily, we have a strong work ethic and parents that are incredibly helpful.  We slowly turned our new house into a cozy home for our family.  My husband’s new job took him away on many overnight trips and although I knew it was part of the new transition, it was hard being a new mother to Caston.  Even though he was on medicine to help him with his GER, there were many late night and early hour feedings that I found myself covered in baby vomit after Caston would let out a belch while being burped.  Nothing is worse than being a new mommy, sleep deprived, suffering from a little “baby blues”, covered in vomit at 4:35 a.m.!  POINT No. 4 – You will make it through, I promise.  Learn to have a really good sense of humor- it helps.

We laugh now about the times we were covered in baby vomit and tell Caston about how his mommy and daddy used to call him the “puke kid,” and we all have a nice laugh recalling the memories.  But, at the time, I thought my life would never be normal again.  Eventually I came to the realization that “normal” was my life post-baby, not pre-baby.  Then, everything else fell into place.

As Caston grew I tried to ensure that I was always on top of the latest books, medical articles about babies, toys, gadgets, recall lists, stimulating his mind according to his age and all that jazz.  Let me tell you- it’s exhausting.  Not to mention the “Mommy War” that goes on daily…”you don’t have Caston taking baby swim lessons, you haven’t read Caston that book, you haven’t bought Caston the toys that sparkle and are covered in gold and diamonds…” SHAME ON YOU, don’t you know that you are depriving your son.  POINT No. 5 – Love your child, play with them, kiss and hug them and do it your OWN way.  That’s all they need- your love.  And, POINT No. 6- Learn to ignore the “know-it-alls and one uppers” in life.  You thought you left that arena in your life after you became a mother? Wrong, there is what I like to call the “Mommy War” going on.  Moms making other moms second guess their motherly abilities.  Seems like these days mothers are trying to keep up with one another between swim lessons, sports, play dates, museum tours and…all that jazz.

DSC_0187I was shocked to find this happening, but it was – all around me.  We as new mothers have enough stress with just trying to get ourselves showered, teeth brushed, dressed (maybe even eyeliner- if your lucky) and out the door with our new babies.  We don’t need to be talking down to one another.  Where’s the encouragement for each other, the love, the patience, the kindness, the friendship?  POINT No. 7- FInd friendships with mothers that you VALUE.  There are mothers that will offer you this.  They will be the ones that sit and listen as you cry to your hearts content during a play date.  They will be the ones that ask to take the baby for a couple hours so you can go grocery shopping BY YOURSELF.  They will be the ones that let you decide where the play date will be and what you will do at the play date.  They are relationships that matter and will flourish because both mothers are caring and compassionate towards one another. These are lasting relationships.

Moving on…next big topic for a new mother that I experienced myself is Febrile Seizures.  Never heard of it- do some research.  Accoridng to the Mayo Clinic website, a febrile seizure is a convulsion in young children that may be caused by a spike in body temperature, often from an infection. Watching your child experience a febrile seizure can be alarming. And, although a febrile seizure may last only a few minutes, it may seem like an eternity to you. Febrile seizures represent a unique response of a young child’s brain to fever. Fortunately, febrile seizures aren’t as dangerous as they may look. They’re usually harmless and typically don’t indicate a long-term or ongoing problem. You can help your child by keeping him or her safe during a febrile seizure and offering comfort afterward. After a febrile seizure, call your doctor to have your child evaluated as soon as possible. POINT No. 8 – When your child has a high temperature, work to get the temp. down soon.  Do some reading about Febrile Seizures, most baby books don’t discuss the condition in detail, it’s worth doing a little research on.   

Caston was 15 months old when I went into his room to check on him in the afternoon during his nap time.  He had been suffering from a cold for a few days.  I walked in his room, peeked over the crib, expecting to see a sleeping child, but what I found instead was my son’s eyes rolled in the back of his head and his entire body jerking frantically.  I knew he was having a seizure.  I picked him, carried him into the living room and laid him flat on his back.  (I remembered from reading a child wellness book that if your child was having a seizure to lay them flat on their backs and monitor them closely.)

I watched his jerking body for what seemed like an eternity, then his entire body went stiff and he lost all consciousness and his body turned a tint of blue.  During all of this I was on the phone with 911, explaining the symptoms to a lady on the other end.  When Caston started to turn a bluish tint- I lost it at first.  Seeing my baby like that was an experience that I can vividly recall today.  I knew that seizures only last for a little while and that loss of consciousness was part of the process.  By the time the ambulance arrived (about 15 minutes, as we lived outside the city limits), Caston was gaining consciousness and looking around frantically.

Febrile seizures most often occur as the body temperature quickly rises, usually within 24 hours of the onset of a fever, and can be the first sign that a child is ill. The child’s body completely shuts down and then it takes some time for their bodies to start-up again and begin functioning normally.   The doctor suggested us trying only ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), as his body might react better to it than TYLENOL, which is what we were using for his  temperature at the time.  Which is what we’ve done since and never had an issue with a lingering temperature.

100_9954It’s reflections like these that make me laugh about how my husband and I are raising our second bundle of joy who arrived on July 12, 2012 at 10:41 p.m., Cora Monet.  When your second baby comes your life gets shaken again, but you are ready for it and expect it.  It’s easier the second go around- from your pregnancy, to the birth and even the first 12 weeks because you’ve already been there before.  But, there are some things that you won’t be ready for with a second baby:

1.) Big brother or sister “helping” rock the baby right out of their bassinet
2.) The baby being fed dog food from siblings
3.) Having to get yourself, a toddler and a baby all cleaned, dressed and out the door on time
4.) Grocery shopping with two little ones (ALONE)- it’s a trip, just make sure your list isn’t long
5.) The baby getting a major boo-boo because your eyes were focused on big brother at the time.  It’s hard keeping them both in eye sight at the same time.
6.) Finding big brother laying in the crib with his 5 week old baby sister
7.) Turning around to find that big brother and little sister decided to have a food fight during lunch
8.) Little sister mimicking everything her big brother does – that you do not want repeated
9.) Trying to get them both to nap at the same time- so you can take a nap!
10.) Finding the family dog in the bed with the baby…and big brother saying, “She was lonely mommy.”
11.) Trying to breastfeed with your toddler running around, begging for attention.
12.) Getting lunch or dinner prepared for your family and trying to eat your own food while it’s hot.  I now know why my mother said she never ate a hot meal until her children were 6 years old.
13.) The moment your baby and toddler hug and kiss each other- Priceless!
14.) Having two little ones sick with the stomach flu at the same time
15.) Trying to keep your house in order with toys, books and baby gadgets for two little ones.  Learn to teach the kiddos Barney’s “Pick-Up, Pick-Up Song”
16.) How much your weekly food bill will increase once the baby starts eating real food.
17.) How much quicker the younger sibling learns to do things like walk, talk and crawl because they try and keep up with their older siblings.
18.) The first time both your baby and toddler decided to have a melt down at the same time- right at the same instance you are having your own melt down
19.) Bedtime routines with two kiddos is interesting to say the least, but be prepared to start a good routine for both of them early on.
20.) This list is endless and grows each and every day.  So will yours- embrace the challenge and the messy life you live.  They will only be little for a little while, make every day count!

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