Friday, October 24, 2014

Photos from my childhood - Part One

I was born in March of 1979 in what was then Eastern Germany, part of the Communist Block. My father was Hungarian, my mother German. They had met in my mother's home town while Dad was working there. I was the third child after my two older brothers, who were 1 and 2 1/2 years older than me, respectively.

When I was about 6 months old, our family moved to my Dad's little home village in Hungary. Thus, my earliest memories all date back to Hungary, and Hungarian was the first language I ever learned.



Our little abode was very modest compared to the standards of the Western world in the early 80's. To me, it was home, and I loved it. We lived in the back half of this "duplex" - in the above picture, everything to the right of the fence. The house was generally dark and narrow, and from what I can remember, it only had two rooms: the kitchen when one first entered through the door on the left, and a single bedroom beyond that, which is on the right in the picture above. We had electricity, but no running water or indoor plumbing. Water was fetched from a central pump on the main street. There was a well right in front of our door on our own property, but it was defunct, and we children were strictly forbidden to get anywhere near the pile of rocks and the deep pit that remained of the well.

 My mom painted this dresser, as she did much of our furniture.

I don't know how my mother managed with three little kids and no running water, no disposable diapers, no washing machines or bathrooms, but somehow she did, because we all made it. I'm guessing she did her laundry in a big wash tub with a washboard, because that's the way my grandma was still doing it as long as I can remember. The diapers I think she boiled in a large pot on the single electric stove plate we had in the kitchen.


My Grandma's house, in 2004

My grandparents lived just a few houses up the only street in this village. That is my Grandma's house above, where she continued to live even when we visited her there in 2008. By that time, the house had been upgraded with limited indoor plumbing, and my Grandpa had passed away and been buried in this same village where he was born and had lived his entire life.

This house brings back so many wonderful memories. My grandparents, as well as my great-grandmother, lived there my whole life. My brothers and I spent countless weekends there as children, and much of our summer breaks. I can still smell their pantry (which made up a large part of the house) filled with all sorts of dried and cured goodies, loaded each fall during harvest. My favorite were the fresh walnuts, spread in the attic to dry. I also remember shelling beans of every type and color with great-grandma, watching grandma kill and pluck chickens for dinner, and watching the men butcher a pig and process it into meat, sausages, etc all right there on the little farm.

 My uncle with Grandma. The ladder in the back goes to the attic, and I have climbed it countless times.

 Grandma in her pantry. By this time, she was an old lady and living alone, so it was no longer in its hayday.

I once tried to show Grandma that I could walk down the stairs to the porch backwards, but missed the steps, and tumbled down instead. I bust my head open and had to have stitches, which are still visible on my forehead today. 

When my brother, who took these pictures, told her he'd be sending these on to me, she made him wait while she put on her Sunday best. 

 I don't think this dear lady ever wore anything but skirts and dresses. It was a very different time, even just a few decades ago.

Grandma was a great cook, and we never lacked for delicious food at her house. My favorite were her cakes. She cooked everything on an old wood stove. 

The electric stove in the back was not there when I was a child. Rather, this big cupboard was against that wall.

 The wallpaper, on the other hand, was the same they had when we were little.

My Grandpa was strict (I remember he spanked me once for refusing to take a nap!), but according to my Dad and my own memories, he loved me dearly. Him and Grandma had two sons, then there were my two brothers, and finally at long last I was the only girl to come along. I remember watching him wash up and shave in the mornings, then he'd take his cap off the peg by the door, and head out to his day's work. In addition to their little subsistence farm, and their own little vineyard, both my grandparents worked in some sort of rock quarry. Grandpa would often bring home pretty glittery rocks for my brothers and I.

Grandpa knew I loved sunflower seeds, which are abundant in Hungary, and which they grew themselves. He would spend his free time all week long shelling sunflowers one at a time, so that by the time I came on the weekend, he would have a little cup full sitting on that cupboard, waiting for me to eat them. After he had worked so long and hard, I would put the cup to my mouth, and "drink" it down in no time flat. Yet, he never did tire of shelling them again the next week. 

My brothers and I had a favorite snack he would make for us, called "Little Soldiers". Basically, Grandpa would take down a piece of smoked pork fat from the pantry, cut it into small cubes, top each with a dollop of mustard, salt them, and we'd pop them in our mouths as quickly as he could make them. We also loved roasting the pork fat over an open fire at night. We would let the fat drip onto thick slices of white bread until they turned into crunchy pork rinds we would eat with fresh tomatoes and peppers from their garden.

My parents soon moved to the big city nearby, but we continued visiting our grandparents every week until we left Hungary. More on that next time.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Lactation Cookies (grain free, gluten free, whole foods, THM S)

This will be the last recipe post for a while... I think... :)


These are seriously tasty - like a macaroon. The peanut flavor does not come through because I don't much care for peanuts. If you like them, feel free to substitute some or all of the butter in the recipe with peanut butter. You can also sub it out with almond butter if you prefer.

And as far as being effective - well, I had several before bed last night, and let's just say my chubby baby has been feasting royally ever since. I wasn't sure if it was possible to make a lactation cookie without the obligatory oats, but for me personally, this is even more effective than my standard, oat-based recipe.


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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cheesecake Recipe (THM, whole foods, grain and gluten free)

Cheesecake has got to be one of my favorite desserts. As a child, I was put off by the name - it's the same in German, and to my childish mind, eating a cake made of cheese didn't sound appealing at all. But once I tried it, I was hooked.

Since I am following the "Trim Healthy Mama" plan to get back to pre-pregancy weight, I wanted to come up with a version that was grain free (i.e. no graham cracker crust), and used only low glycemic sweeteners in moderate amounts, while not compromising taste. (Please note: I follow THM without using any of the funky "on plan" sweeteners.)

In addition, I did not just want to create a cheesecake substitute, but rather something that was delicious in its own right. A cheesecake that would convert those who were not yet fans of it.

Not to be singing my own praises, but this did come out pretty awesome, as confirmed by my ravenous in-home taste testers. It certainly doesn't taste like I am missing out on anything. The crust in particular was simply delicious. I like it better than the traditional graham cracker crust. 

And - hold on to your hats - I even created a recipe card at the end of this post to make it easier to print the recipe. At least that's what I hope it will do. I am not exactly computer savvy, and if there is an easy recipe plug-in for Blogger, I have yet to find it, so I made a recipe card instead that can be printed as an image. Please share your feedback with me on this. Is this working for you? Does it help?

Cheesecake 
(THM, whole foods, grain and gluten free, paleo)


Pie Crust (adapted from the Coconut Pie Crust in this book, which I highly recommend)

3/4 cup blanched almond flour
3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tbsp coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Toast the coconut in a pan over medium heat until fragrant and just turning golden. It seems like this is an unnecessary step, but it really does bring out the flavors of the coconut so much more, and it only takes a few minutes during which time you can measure out the other ingredients. 

Combine the almond flour, coconut, salt, and coconut sugar in a bowl; mix well. 

If the coconut oil is solid, melt over low heat. Stir into dry mixture along with the vanilla extract.


Press the crumbly pie crust mixture into a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 7-10 minutes until crust is set and golden. Turn oven down to 325 degrees.




Filling

2 - 8 oz blocks of cream cheese at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup raw, unfiltered honey (local is best)

For the filling, I just reused the bowl from the crust mix - it caused no issues whatsoever and saved a dish, so feel free to do the same :)


Beat all filling ingredients well until smooth (a stick blender works best). Pour over pie crust, and bake at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes until the middle is set.

 


Carefully remove cheesecake from oven, and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Then, carefully run a butter knife along the edge between the cake and the springform pan; then open the pan and remove the outer ring.

Cool the cheesecake to room temperature, then move to the fridge for several hours or overnight to set completely. Enjoy!

(Makes 8 servings. If you are following the THM plan, this is an S dessert)


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And - another exciting techy update: I have simplified my blog address to www.stevenandersonfamily.com, which will automatically redirect you to my page on Blogger here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

History is repeating itself



Top left: Solomon and Isaac, today
Top right and bottom left: Solomon and Isaac eleven years ago
Bottom right: Stephen and Boaz

They all look so much alike - and all equally cute/handsome (if I do say so myself). 





Monday, September 29, 2014

Trim Healthy Mama - Facts and Fiction

To read my previous posts on all things THM, please click here.

- This is just another low carb diet. - Fiction

The plan is about separating carbs and fats, as well as eliminating unhealthy versions of these. So no sugar, sodas, juice, and other simple, empty carbs. Healthy carbs are encouraged in the right proportions and settings.

- You have to buy a bunch of specialty ingredients. - Fiction

It doesn't take any special ingredients to keep your carbs and your fats separate. Anyone can get started on plan with simple foods they already have in the house, such as eggs, cheese, butter, oats, etc. The more "exotic" items can be purchased over time as the budget allows. They are only for making the plan funner and easier, but not necessary. I personally know several people who have lost large amounts of weight on plan without ever buying hardly any of the specialty items.

- You are required to eat processed junk food. - Fiction

Just not true. We eat virtually only whole foods around here (please ignore my post on Krispy Kreme below...), and the plan works just fine for me. To join my Facebook group of THM - whole foods style, please click here.

- You have to use only zero-calorie sweeteners. - Fiction

While the book may insist on using only stevia, xylitol, or erythritol, the plan works just as well with whole, low glycemic sweeteners. Again, if you join the THM - whole foods style Facebook group, you will find lots of others who are having success on plan, minus questionable sweeteners.

- You will gain the weight back immediately after going off plan. - Fiction

This plan does, in fact, reboot your metabolism for the better. I have gone off plan for months at a time without gaining the weight back (except for during pregnancy) or suffering any other ill effects.

- The THM principles are based on the Bible. - Somewhat true

Personally, I don't really find that it goes against the Bible (except for making honey off-limits), nor that the principles in the book by and large come from the Bible. I do agree that bread, butter, salt, etc. are all foods the Bible speaks highly of as being important and healthy, and THM incorporates these, so I guess that could be considered as "biblically sound"

- The book is poorly laid out. - Somewhat true

Yes - but there are lots of great resources online, both for how to "tab" the book, as well as oodles of recipes and other tips/tricks. I wish the ingredients for recipes were listed better (with amounts would be a great place to start!), but none of that makes the book unusable. For being self-published by two SAHMs, they certainly did better than I could have done.

- The book is wordy and long. - Somewhat true

If you are the chatty kind, you might like their style. If you just want the straight dope on the plan, you may find the book to be a bit slow-going. In spite of having lost a combined total of 50 lbs on plan, I have never yet finished reading it because I just haven't had the time to do so. But - who cares. Even reading over select parts is doing the job for me.

- The book is full of sound nutritional advice. - Fact

Except for the funky sweeteners, yes, the book has much to teach in the way of sound nutrition. I think for most of us, the revelation that fat does NOT make us fat is an important one. Realizing that juice is not a healthy food, and that it's simple carbs that are growing the obesity epidemic, is monumental. There in an emphasis on fermented food, sprouted/soaked grains, etc.

- The plan is easy to follow. - Fact

Yes. Is it ever! No calorie counting. No starving and depriving yourself. No daydreaming about food while your stomach grumbles on and your metabolism tanks. The authors like to talk about "food freedom," and it's so true. Once you learn the basics of separating carbs and fats, and have a feel for how to "THM-ify" recipes, it's a cinch.

- The plan works. - Fact

Just go to the official Facebook page or the website for lots of testimonials. A friend of mine has lost almost 50 lbs in the last 7 months, without using the sweeteners recommended in the book (her sweetener of choice is coconut sugar). I am currently scratching on 30 lbs lost in 5 months while exclusively breastfeeding, a time during which I usually could never even attempt to lose weight without ruining my milk supply. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Solomon is a teen!

Today, my oldest baby turns 13 - which officially makes him a "teen." Which means that until the last kid leaves the home, my husband and I will from here on out always have a teen in the house. That could be decades from now, so this is a major benchmark in family dynamics for us.



Wow, they were both babies in that photo! I remember my husband shaved his beard when Solomon was just a few weeks old, and it was hilarious seeing his confused reaction.


The picture above is with his cousins, the only other grandkids on my husband's side at that time. There now are 20! On my side, Solomon is the oldest of currently 11 grandchildren.




Doesn't he look just like Boaz in these photos? I have noticed that all of our kids look virtually identical as babies.




When Solomon was 9 months old, my sister-in-law gave us a digital camera. Suddenly, I could take pictures of my little dumpling!!!




Wow, I cannot believe we started having kids as young as we did! I mean, I am SO glad we did, and I have loved every minute of it - but look at us, we are practically kids ourselves! My husband gave me a reality check this week when he remarked that if Solomon became a Dad at the age that we had him, I would be a grandma in only 7 more years. Whaaaaaat? How can that be? I know I just gave birth to him, like, yesterday. 




I remember that we didn't have a lot of money back then. In fact, the sandals in the picture above were Solomon's only pair of shoes, and I could only afford them because it was fall and they went on clearance. Also, all of the professional portrait pictures above were the one free promo photo offered by portrait studios. Except for the last one where he is standing in the box - I bought that one for an addition $15 because I just could not choose between that one, and the picture before. We really did not have the money for such luxuries - my grocery budget in those days was $40 per week - so buying that photo led to a fight with my husband (understandably so on his part). I remember telling him, "We will survive, and one day I will be so glad for that picture!" - and what can I say? One day is here, and I am thankful for the photo. 




The pictures above were taken during Solomon's first trip to Germany with me. I was 7 months pregnant with Isaac at the time. That is my baby brother next to him, who I think looks just like my Johnny.  

Thank you for bearing with me through these baby photos. As much as I would love to fill this post with dozens more of photos of my baby, I will spare you. Let's just have one more for each birthday, shall we? 

2 years old

3 years old

4 years old
 
5 years old

6 years old

 7 years old

8 years old

9 years old

10 years old

11 years old

12 years old

Am I afraid of the teen years? No, not at all. While Solomon is maturing into a young man and an adult, with the necessary yearning for independence and making his own decision, he has never embraced the concept of rebellion being a necessary step in that process. He is kind and loving to friends and strangers, fiercely protective of me, and generally very responsible. I have no doubt that he will mature into a fine young man in the coming years, and that he will make us proud and happy, as he has always done so far. 

Being the oldest, these milestones with him are of course harder on this mama, but like most things in life, it's bittersweet. When the first child is born, the parents are also born, so this is an anniversary of sorts for me, too. I am thankful that I have been able to spend virtually all of his waking hours with him up to this point in life, enjoy them to the fullest, and not have regrets as he grows older that we would have had more time together. While I do not love him any more than I love any of the younger kids, I have loved him the longest. Other than getting saved, becoming a parent has been the single greatest seismic shock in my life, and a huge step in growing up myself. 

Happy Birthday, Solomon! You are a blessing, and have made me happy every single day since I found out we were expecting you. We are so very proud of you! :)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Baby shower gift ideas for moms of many

We host many baby showers at our church, as it is our custom to have one for every baby born to our church members, and not just the first. We like to celebrate mom and baby every time! 

Of course, many babies means many growing and large families. Giving a gift to a mom of many who likely already has all the gear and clothes she needs can be a bit tricky. Below are some of my favorite ideas. 

(I can post this now that I am not pregnant, so it won't sound like I'm trying to drop hints of things I want for myself - ha!)

- Flowers, chocolates, balloons! So simple, and yet always loved. High-quality dark chocolate is not just a delicious treat, it is also great for bringing in mom's milk supply, too. My midwife gives me the baby chocolates and flowers after every birth when she comes for the 1-day checkup.


- Paper plates, cups, plasticware: Many large families, used to living frugally, will not splurge on these, no matter how convenient they would be after baby. Mom will think about you with gratitude every time she uses these!


- Diapers & wipes: Every baby needs these, whether it's baby number 1 or 10. Find out first if Mom prefers fabric or disposable, or certain brands. You can make your gift more fun by making the diapers into a cake, wreath, or other elaborate item like a stroller.


- Frozen meals: A cute idea for a shower of a mom of many is for everyone to bring a frozen meal to keep on hand for after the baby is born. Pinterest has a wealth of freezer meal ideas.


- Lactation-boosting cookies: An economical, yet highly appreciated gift. They can be baked, then frozen, and enjoyed straight out of the freezer. If you prefer them soft, they only need a few minutes at room temperature. Personally, I absolutely LOVE eating nursing cookies during the first month or so of having a newborn. Nothing like sitting down with a couple of cookies and a tall glass of raw milk to recharge mom AND her milk supply during those first busy days and crazy nights of adjusting to a new family member. Click here to see my favorite recipe for these. Only changes I make is to reduce sugar/honey by half, and to use 1 cup each of dark chocolate chips and walnuts. Or, you could try this "Lactation Cookie in a Jar" mix.
- Stuff to keep the older kids busy: This need not be a purchased gift or toy. In fact, the last thing most moms with lots of kids want or need is more toys! It could be a simple consumable like playdough, bubble solution, sidewalk chalk, sticker books, etc. Basically things that don't require mom's help and are not too messy (or intended for outdoor use).


- Membership to a warehouse like Costco or Sam's club if you want to be practical, or the zoo or some other family place if you want to make it fun.


- Magazine subscription for mom to enjoy while sitting down. Again, this could be something strictly for mom (cooking, crafts, homeschooling) or something the whole family might enjoy.


- Professional services: If you are a photographer, offer to do a photo shoot of the family. If your husband does landscaping, he could offer to take over lawn care for a limited time. Alternatively, you could pool resources with others to hire professionals, such as housecleaning help for the first few weeks after baby.


- Stuff for pampering mom: Likely, mom will use her time and resources on herself last. Which, in a large family, may mean practically never. Some ideas are: high quality teas and supplements, body care products, a gift card for a massage or spa treatment, etc.
 

- Small luxury items for mom or baby: There are always plenty of nifty new gadgets and accessories being invented to make taking care of a baby easier. Since many of these might fall into the "would like to have" rather then the "must have" category, even a mother of many may not have them. For example, Bumbo seats were not mainstream until our 4th baby. An amber teething necklace is both cute on baby, and a sanity saver for mom. Another fun new baby item is teething jewelry from brands such as Chewbeads and Nixi. My husband recently bought me one of their necklaces, and I just absolutely love it!



What are your favorite ideas of baby gifts for Moms of many?