Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Story of Four Perfect Pebbles/Marion Blumenthal Lazan

This week we had the honor of meeting Mrs. Marion Blumenthal Lazan and her husband Mr.  Nathaniel Lazan. Mrs. Lazan is a Holocaust survivor who tells her amazing story. It is a hard story to hear, imagine, or even understand, but amazing in that she has been through one of the most horrific historical events ever and has come through with such unbelievable love and devotion to humankind. She spoke this week to many people in the community and many, many groups of school children telling her story so that it can be shared and the relaying the importance of it being remembered so that it does not ever get repeated.

Ms. Lazan spoke at the Gertrude C. Ford Center on the UM campus this week and we thought this would be something that would be great for our children(the older ones) to experience, and I really wanted to hear her story because I have always found that the people who have been through these situations have been so courageous in their experience, but also in their ability to share what they have had to endure in hopes that maybe our future will take what they have to say and turn it into an opportunity for positive growth. Her story was truly heartbreaking, what she, her family, and millions of others had to endure was truly beyond understanding. The images that she had to deal with daily for those years at that age most of us will never have to face. Several of my children are at the ages that she talked about during her days in captivity, and travel, and escape, an finally freedom. We have a 4 year old, 7 year old, 9 year old, 11 year old and a 17 year old. The idea of having to survive through that at those ages(at any age) is truly overwhelming.

The best part of the whole story was the four is truly a perfect description of a child's way of processing hope, courage and survival in the darkest of days. I encourage everyone to read this book definitely, but if you have the opportunity to see Mrs. Lazan speak and to meet her in person please take that opportunity. She is a beautiful person, an amazing soul,  and a true treasure in this world. I hope that hearing her and meeting her has made a lasting impact on my children because she has made a lasting impact on me.

We bought several copies of the book  and asked Mrs. Lazan to autograph them for each of the children so that they have a copy to remember the day they met her and also in hopes that it will be a treasure for their future to read, remember and pass along as their families may grow in the future.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Kale-uffaletta...A Punny Name

Sunday night I made a muffuletta for the family for supper. It is a Louisiana staple that developed in the New Orleans area. Italian Immigrants developed it and I am so glad that they did. It is a lovely slice of meat and cheese sandwich heaven slathered with a salty briny olive/vegetable mix that just makes such an amazing combination.

Occasionally I indulge and make it at home. It came out beautiful, but unfortunately my oldest was sure to point out that I am not able to have it so I said don't worry, I have a plan...I modified it and made a "Kale-uffuletta" for me. I got a few giggles at the cleverness of my word play, and some skepticism at the idea of it, but I proceeded to create my bacon wrapped kale, meat, cheese, and olive salad mix masterpiece. In the end it was intriguing and I would definitely do it again. It will most likely need adjustments for future versions, but for the first try I believe it was a success.

First I started by weaving a bacon blanket to hold everything together.

Then I added a couple of layers of kale to hold in all the lovely layers of meat cheese and olive mix that makes up the middle of the sandwich.

A layer of cheese. I use several kinds of cheese in our sandwiches you can choose what ever you like. This one was Swiss. On top of that, the olive salad mix.

A meat layer next. I chose a layer of black forest ham

Then cheese again. This was Colby-Jack. Then I added a layer of hard salami(forgot the picture).

...and finally a layer of smoked provolone cheese and more olive salad mix. This is truly just a preference of how much or little you prefer...most of us like does not...there is always one...

Carefully roll up the layers trying to keep the bacon blanket together so that as it cooks it tightens around the whole thing and holds it together.

They both went into the oven and baked for about 15 minutes in a foil wrap. I took the regular Muffaletta out of the oven because it only needed to heat through to warm the bread and meat and melt the cheese. The "Kale-uffuletta" had to bake until the bacon was cooked so I opened up the foil and let it bake another 15 minutes so that the bacon would crisp up a bit and brown a bit. It was taken out of the oven and let rest for a few minutes to let the cheese cool down a bit and set up so that it wasn't too much of a gooey mess.

We ate a side salad with our various versions of Muffuletta. Surprisingly, the kids were just as interested in my version as they were the bread was the bacon...

It was definitely a good first try at a new creation. I will do it again definitely. I would like to try and layer in more vegetables and more kale.

As far as cooking it, it definitely needs to be cooked on a rack to make sure that the bacon, meat and cheese drippings are able to escape so that it doesn't get soggy on the bottom. sealing it in the layers of kale worked really well to keep the cheese from escaping. what do you think? Would you try it?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse 2017

Our Epic Trip to the zone of totality I would say ranged up there with one of our best spur of the moment trips ever. In July we found out about the eclipse happening...a little late to the game I guess because some people have been planning for years. Our first thought was to just stay local and view it because even in Oxford Mississippi the totality range was somewhere in the 90% range and most of me was thinking that that was close enough. Then there was this little nagging inner voice that was screaming from the nerd in me, "NO!!! It must be viewed in totality. It is so very close we have to make it closer. So we tentatively planned to go to Nashville, but all the hype and media coverage of it seemed to be causing the possibility of huge traffic congestion and many millions of people converging on the cities that were being claimed as the best viewing spots. We started looking and after a while, decided that maybe Wickliffe, Kentucky would be a great place to go because it was close but a smaller town that wasn't participating in all the craziness, but at the last minute(like halfway there) I found out that even there was only 99.9% totality clearly if we were to make this trip 99.9% is just not good enough so Benton, Kentucky it became.

We left Oxford at noon after Mass on Sunday and drove to Middle Tennessee where we camped at Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park. It was a nice campground and not overly crowded or crazy. We got unpacked, and the kids began setting up the tents and hammocks while we checked in at the office. After we got back and finished setting up sleeping arrangements we went for a walk on a trail to cover our Sunday walk for the training that Matt is doing with the boys. The trail was beautiful, but very steep and rocky. Matt and I enjoyed it, the kids...not so much they were not prepared for so much uphill walking but they lived.

 When we returned to the campsite the kids gathered small sticks and Matt, Benjamin and I went to find some larger wood to burn for supper...Hot dogs and s'mores. We made a salad to take with us, but forgot salad dressing and forks to eat it with so we made do. Nathan, Noah, and Jacob set up hammocks in the trees and planned on sleeping out. Jacob made it about 10 minutes before deciding to sleep in a tent with Evelyn. Nathan and Noah made it the whole night. I was very nervous and worried(too many episodes of Criminal Minds I guess) about someone grabbing the boys in the night...I didn't get much sleep.

We woke up at about 5am(to beat all the expected traffic) and packed everything up to leave in what I would say was record time for us...just over an hour.
Our first stop on the road was Paris, Tennessee. Where we had the opportunity to see the splendor of the Eifel Tower and then headed to Walmart to stock up for our day with food, snacks, and more water just in case there was lots of crazy.

We were on our way. Several places along the way had highway signs warning of traffic and no stopping off on the highway to view the eclipse. We eventually arrived in Benton and settled on a state park area on the Kentucky Lake. We got to a Marina that looked promising and set up camp. There were lots of people coming and going with boats, but the area wasn't at all crowded.


We found a shady spot and set up some blankets(because we had so much stuff and so little space the camp chairs just didn't fit into the car...we were "roughing it".) We got out the lunch stuff, snacks, and drinks. We set up our pinhole camera and our white board to view the shadows. The kids took out their eclipse adventure papers for while we were waiting(we got there at 9am) and we just hung out along to water's edge.

Eventually another family showed up and they had an amazing telescope. All the kids played together and kept each other company while waiting for totality to arrive. As the kids were talking and playing we realized that everything was beginning to take on an eerie hue and it was getting close.

Things quickly started getting dark, and the temperature began to be noticeably different. As the moon closed on the sun the streetlights began to come on in the distance and a beautiful sunset fell over the sky around us and distant cheers and hollers erupted in the distance as it fell dark.  We were able to take off our glasses and see the stars(and Venus I think) had come out and everyone was able to look directly at the eclipse aura. I took a couple of quick pictures before it was over, and as if a light switch was flipped on everything began to return to normal.

We had an amazing time, and even though I was grateful that it wasn't crowded like all of the claims made, I think that it was so much more fun to enjoy the time with someone else, and when it was all done the kids left with new memories and friendships. 

We decided to head out before the actual ending of the moon's journey across the sun to continue our journey. Matt and I decided to take the kids to Sikeston, Missouri to go to Lambert's Café...Home of the "throwed" rolls. We set off to Paducha and then headed to Wickliffe and crossed the Ohio River and the Mississippi River because that is the point that the two converge. That was the first time that any of us saw this and it was an amazing site to see. At that point we crossed over from Kentucky to Illinois to Missouri in the span of just a few minutes.

When we arrived there were quite a lot of people there...quite a lot. The line was out the door and around the side of the building in the parking lot. We got there at about 4:30pm and were seated at about 6:10pm. Yes, it was worth the time spent waiting. The kids made friends with all of the other kids running around, climbed trees and played on the wooden train in the front. Lots of the adults were sharing pictures and stories of their eclipse stories. It was actually pretty amazing to see everyone standing around and sharing. The kids had a great time at Lambert's Café. Some of them were able to catch rolls. They looked like gophers when they heard "hot rolls" yelled out. We left there at about 8pm and headed home. We made it back home at about midnight.

So in the span of two days we went from Mississippi, to Tennessee, to Kentucky, to Illinois, to Missouri, to Arkansas, to Tennessee and Back home. I don't think we have covered so many states in one trip.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Eclipse Shirts

 Just a couple of days before the Eclipse, one of my Sister-in Laws posted a tutorial on how to make t-shirts that had the image of the eclipse on them. They looked really nice so I decided that we should make some for our epic trip to the range of totality. They were really easy to make, we had lots of fun, and everyone loved how their shirts came out. 

 First thing we did was protect our work space and gather all of our supplies.

We needed: 
Acrylic Paint(purple, red, orange, yellow and white.)
Sponge Brushes
A tooth brush or stiff bristled paint brush for making "stars"
small paper dessert plates
double-sided tape
cardboard for inside shirts
Everyone taped their plate down on their shirts. I used the brush to make stars on everyone's shirts since flinging of paint was involved and I really didn't want paint all over the house.

All the kids began to paint their shirts using each of the colors of the paint to make it look like space. First using purple(we mixed red and blue) was painted in the widest ring how ever far out they wanted to go(some chose not to use purple).
 Then red was used. We chose to paint most of the colors before each dried so that their was quite a bit of blending of colors. Some chose to wait between colors to see more contrast between colors.
Orange was next in a smaller ring and then yellow was used barely on the outside.
We let the shirts dry a bit and some of the kids added more color. After the shirts dried for about an hour, we removed the paper plate and I edged each of the shirts with a white ring. 

Because there was not enough space at the table I waited to do Matt's shirt and my shirt...Of course, I got distracted and forgot to tape the plate down before I made the "stars" and our shirts had a bit of star matter in the center of our eclipse. I mostly fixed it with black paint, but it still showed through. So remembering the plate before the "stars" is a huge step.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Low Carb Life: Progress Update

Yesterday I came home from the Doctors office with some amazing news. All the hard work over the last few months has paid off!

Weight...January 173...March 166...April 160...August 146
I am extremely happy to see some of the weight gone, but my biggest goal is not necessarily with myself although it is an important step...I want to break this cycle so that my children don't have the same issues in their adult years. My hope is that if I can beat this and give them the tools they can understand that it isn't something you just accept.

A1c 9.8 in April...Today A1c 6.1
(A1c is a protein marker used to diagnose the severity of diabetes...a normal range is between 4 and 5; at risk range is between 5 and 7; above 7 is diabetic. At a 9.8 I was told that I should have been on Insulin and at least two oral medications...maybe three...That would have been a death sentence for me. I knew I would not have followed it right and that wasn't good enough)

Fasting Blood Sugar March 230/ Fasting Blood Sugar August 130
(Normal fasting blood sugar is between 70 and 90; between 100 and 125 someone is at risk of developing diabetes; and anything above 125 is diabetic)

That means that I am no longer in diabetic, but still at there is still a lot of work to do...but it is a good start. I did have a bit of a back slide during the month of July, but it wasn't horrible and I am going to begin again...

In three months it all gets checked again and a cholesterol check. I have to say the cholesterol numbers bother me even more than the diabetes numbers...I really do not like the threat of a statin in my future, and that is what is coming.

Carrying around extra weight and having unhealthy issues with food have been a struggle since I was a child. Going through life I always had the idea that one day I would deal with it and that there was plenty of time in my life to fix the issues before I got to an age where it would be too difficult. I had moments in my life where I was healthy and in very good shape, but it usually didn't last long and I would slip back into old bad habits that have lead me to where I am today. I'll be 45 in a couple of months and I always promised myself that I wouldn't let myself be unhealthy at that I'm determined not to...We'll see what happens.

Over the years I have watched several of my family members develop and struggle with diabetes. My Grandmother, some of my Uncles, My husband's Mother, recently my Mother and my Brother. Knowing that there was also a history of it in other family members on my Father's side it was something that just seemed to loom in the future...especially my children's future. My brother and my mom have been a huge inspiration. They have both turned their eating habits around and made huge progress in the right direction. 

I have had gestational diabetes with every one of my kids and "knew" it would catch up to me. Every single pregnancy put me one step closer to being diabetic. Each time I had symptoms worse than the previous first I controlled my diet, the next time I still controlled my diet but was warned that a subsequent pregnancy would probably mean that I would be medicated...I was. With that pregnancy I was at the edge of needing insulin and warned that another pregnancy would probably mean that insulin injections would be necessary...and that is exactly what happened. The last pregnancy was still controlled by insulin, but seemed to go easier...but unlike every other time I went home with higher than normal blood sugar that just didn't go away...I ignored it because I didn't want to continue to deal with it. Fast forward four years and now I have to deal with it because ignoring it is not an option anymore.

All of what has been accomplished up till now was because of elimination and diet modification, not much in the way of actual consistent exercise. Recently we(mostly the older kids and Matt) are training(Couch to 5K) and I have switched my diet from paleo to Keto, I expect that the next 3 months will be even better.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Copperhead Falls

Today's adventure took us to Copperhead Falls in Abbeville Mississippi. Much like the trip to the creek for the fossil hunt except this lovely little outing took us down a back road to an area near a bridge where we parked along the roadside and walked down a steep rocky slope. At the edge before we got to the creek, the kids discovered the remains of something and had to investigate. After a short time, they came to the conclusion that it was definitely not human and it was okay to continue on with our adventure.

I of course had to take a moment to photograph the two beautiful butterflies resting on part of the spine of the dearly departed stinky critter. Moving on, we worked our way down a rather steep, rocky bank that went down. There we noticed several pairs of shoes on the edge of the bank that lead to a pretty little shallow creek that was ankle deep. The stream meandered left and right around several sandy and clay banks with rocks of various sizes intermingled.

As we walked upstream over and around the rocks along the creek bed that was winding left and right  and around corners, the stream wove its way through the wooded landscape going over rocks, under fallen trees and around the sand and clay banks.  Eventually we heard the rushing water of the waterfalls.

Now, I don't want to deceive you  into believing that as we rounded the corner we came across these fabulous rolling falls that you may be imagining. It is Mississippi after all and the landscape is still relatively flat, these are small low falls that were rambling over the rocks in the middle of the creek that created small pools that poured into other pools.

I have to say, that there weren't any areas that I would call particularly deep and I wouldn't say that there was anything at any point that was particularly treacherous, but because of the clay and algae covered rocks, I would warn anyone who might be unsteady or carrying any kind of special electronics like phones or cameras to be a little cautious. There were a couple of times that I lost my footing and almost drowned my camera. But, I digress...

It is a rather beautiful and unique site and I was very happy to experience it. We came across other people enjoying the day and hanging out. We explored the area and kept walking around a few more corners to see just what lay around the next bend. Eventually the creek became too overgrown to continue and we turned around.

We came across lots of different types of native plant species and some invasives growing along the bank also. A huge beautiful Green Dragon(Arisaema dracontium)-a relative of Jack-in-the-Pulpit-was standing tall right at the entrance with a beautiful group of berries still green at this point.

The intoxicating smell of kudzu flowers was amazing. It was probably my favorite smell along the way...a whole lot better than the decayed critter near the roadside entrance that the kids took an interest in and had to examine to figure out what it was. There was also beautiful orange spotted jewelweed(Impatiens capensis) lining the banks with their little spotted orange flowers dancing on the breeze.

One of the kids noticed a tree that had either berries or some type of seed pod that looked like they could have been mulberries, but I wasn't sure because our mulberry tree at home has already fruited sometime in May and it seemed late to me.

There were quite a few critters to see also, snakes, dragonflies, damsel flies, butterflies, minnows, frogs, and algae in different colors. The snakes were harmless water snakes, but it is always important to maintain a safe distance and give them their space. The small snake in the water had just caught a snack and was on it's way to find a safe place to eat it.

The kids played at the falls for a while longer and eventually we headed back toward the car. It was a great day and a great place to explore. We will definitely be back occasionally to enjoy this space hopefully seasonally so that we can see it at different times of the year to watch the changes of the season within the space.