Paleo Vegan Blueberry Lime “Cheesecake”

2015-03-01 14.19.47My family LOVES dessert. Being the health conscious mom that I am, I usually serve dark chocolate or one of my homemade frozen banana ice creams, but today I decided to go for something a little different. This dessert is a recipe I adapted from Vegan Family Recipes. I didn’t have all the ingredients called for, so I substituted with a little of this and a little of that. If you have a variety of healthy fats and natural, low glycemic sweeteners on hand, it’s very easy to make healthier, or just slightly different, versions of various desserts. It’s fun to experiment, even when it doesn’t come out that great!

The first change I made to this recipe was to use a muffin tin and paper baking cups, since I didn’t have a spring form pan. Neither did I have the nuts listed. No problem! For the crust I used 2/3 cups of almond meal, a tablespoon of sunflower seed butter, 2 dried apricots, and maybe a teaspoon of maple syrup. It was a little bit too sticky after I blended it, so I stirred in some shredded coconut to help me pat down the crust. I’d say I used about a tablespoon.

Next came the filling. The only substitution I made here was to use about 2 teaspoons of sunflower seed butter in place of the cashews. And I added an extra tablespoon of lime juice just because.

Finally, the blueberry topping. I didn’t have fresh blueberries since I live in the currently Arctic Northeast, so I thawed some frozen organic ones. Didn’t have dates either, but again, no biggie. I used some raw, unfiltered wildflower honey… maybe a tablespoon? For extra protein and omega 3, I sprinkled some raw hemp seed hearts on top. The result was absolutely delish!


Immunity Boosting Spicy Lime Hummus

hummusI love to make my own hummus when I have the time. It is so much fresher and more flavorful than what you usually find in grocery stores. I prefer to use dried chick peas and soak them overnight, which also adds to the freshness, but you can use canned chick peas as well. The variety of spices in here, as well as the lime juice and apple cider vinegar, are all great for your immune system. A little disclaimer here: I find it very difficult to follow recipes without making my own modifications to suit my tastes and available ingredients. Therefore, I also have a hard time measuring very accurately and providing exact recipes, but I think this is the closest I’ve come so far. It’s almost exact, so here goes…

2 cups organic chick peas (dry, soaked overnight and cooked 1.5 hrs, or canned)
Juice of 3 limes (squeeze out every last drop!)
2 tbs. avocado oil (could also use olive or walnut)
2 tsp. organic apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. purified water (alkaline, ionized if you have it)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 tbs. tahini
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder or 1-2 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
ground rainbow peppercorns to taste (I turned the grinder about 4 times)
dash cayenne pepper

Toss all ingredients into a Vitamix or food processor and blend away. If it’s too thick, try adding a little more of any of the above liquids (lime juice, oil, or water). If you like it spicier, add more of the cayenne. My kids don’t like things too spicy so I kept it mild. Serve with fresh veggies, chips, or if you’re like me, you may just want to eat it plain like a bowl of pudding. My four kids (2, 5, 8, and 9) and I polished this off in a matter of minutes. Enjoy!

#FridayFavorite: Duolingo

duolingoI am so very happy that I discovered Duolingo at the end of last year. As a home schooler and life long learner, I am always looking to try new things, pick up new skills, and spark interests in my kids. This amazing site allows you to learn a host of new languages absolutely FREE, and the quality is very comparable to Rosetta Stone, which we’ve also tried. Thanks to Duolingo, my husband, 8- and 9-year-old, and I are all learning German and Spanish (in my case brushing up on the Spanish, which I had been meaning to do forever) this year.

The site offers brief lessons that are easy to keep up with, and you can select the pace at which you’d like to learn so that you receive reminder e-mails at the right frequency for you. Besides the regular lessons, you can engage in discussions with other language learners, and practice translating documents, so you get a pretty well rounded language experience.

I love, love, love this site and highly recommend you check it out if you’re interested in studying other languages.

Slowing Down to Speed Up

“I don’t want my children’s education to be so fast-paced and so abstract that there is not time to meditate on the fantastical. I do not want them to treat glorious facts as mundane.”
–Leigh Bortins, The Question

I was just meditating today on the concept of slowing down to speed up, and then I got this quote in a Classical Conversations e-mail, validating my thoughts. The slowing down/speeding up concept is that if you stop and think about what is really important to you and just focus on that one thing… or maybe one or two simple goals related to that thing, you’ll soon end up leaps and bounds ahead of where you’d be if you had a checklist of 10-50 things you’re trying to accomplish all at once. It’s so easy to get distracted and over-schedule these days, yet this “busy-ness” is getting us nowhere.

To share a personal example, last year all I really wanted to focus on was home schooling my children well. I just wanted to be a good mom, and a good teacher, and in a good mood, more often than not. Pretty simple conceptually, although all moms know that this is far easier said than done for nearly all of us. As I focused on just this one main goal–whereas I normally have a minimum of 6-7 challenging goals going simultaneously–I started to feel so light and unencumbered. I actually had time to think, and read for pleasure (!), and just sit and enjoy my kids. I was so unaccustomed to these luxuries that I kept feeling guilty or lost at first. I had a sneaking suspicion that I was forgetting something and that my bubble would be burst at any moment. But instead, what happened was that eventually other goals that I had not previously been able to accomplish when I tackled them more directly and distractedly, began to come to fruition as well. Consequently, not only are my kids and I now enjoying home schooling immensely, I am also in my best physical shape in more than a decade, and I have my own business that is actually bringing in money! And those are just two of the bonus goals–there are several other “lesser” goals that would never even have made my top ten list in the past that I am also making progress on.  WOO. HOO.

Slowing down is such an important thing to do. As much as we like to identify ourselves by our occupations or bodies or reputations, we are in fact vibrant, creative spirits that long for beauty and truth and love. In a world that constantly tries to suck the meaning out of everything, we are yearning to make our lives meaningful. For most of us, I’m willing to bet that our dreams are pretty much just sitting there beside us, waiting for us to turn and pick them up, but we’re just flying by, too oblivious to notice. If you think things are moving too fast, or you’re frustrated that you haven’t been able to accomplish things despite putting them on your “list” for years, try slowing down for awhile. Breathe, and assess your values and priorities. And then if you’re really feeling courageous, try organizing your life to actually support those top priorities, at the expense of lesser ones if necessary. I can almost guarantee it won’t be easy, but it will definitely be worth it.

Truth About Wealth

As a stay-at-home mom for the past two-plus years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time pondering the concept of wealth and assessing my values and desires. Having this time to breathe has been such a tremendous gift and has allowed me to think and reevaluate how I want to live and raise my children. One of the things I’ve come to realize lately is that money is actually one of the poorest measures you can use to determine wealth. Loving relationships are wealth. Health is wealth. Wisdom is wealth. Time is wealth. Creativity is wealth. Money is only wealth to the extent that it is used to support and enhance these other invaluable assets rather than diminish them.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with money. I’ve made many stupid mistakes with my money over the years, which I am now in the process of rectifying, but I’m not overly upset about those things, nor do I resent those who have been wiser and/or better educated than me in the area of money management. I just think that as a society, especially here in America, we place far too much emphasis on making money as a means to success and happiness. Wealth comes from the inside out, but hardly anyone talks about that fact.

To further illustrate my point, in Hebrew, the word for money comes from the root word kacaph (kaf, samech, phe) and means, “to become pale, i.e., (by implication) to pine after; also to fear: have desire, be greedy, long, sore.” Kind of shocking when I first read it. Money causes people to cease from being grateful for what they have and long for more. Money often brings stress and fear. No wonder Scripture says that the love of money is a root of all evil. Loving money will never bring you any satisfaction. Similar to a drug addict, you will never get enough.

Still, this truth does not necessarily mean that money can’t be a useful tool to those who understand how to use it. I am working on this understanding myself. As I said in the beginning of this post, money can be considered wealth when it is used to serve the real assets in your life–your relationships with family and friends, your talents, your health, your time–all of which you must recognize as gifts to be cherished, not prizes which you have earned.

Money should work for you, not the other way around, but that is easier said than done. For the first time in my life I can say without reservation that I am an entrepreneur, and that I am earning money doing what I love and what I’d be doing even if I weren’t getting paid. But, I have fought my heart out to get to this point, and I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn. Am I wealthy? Absolutely! Am I “making Arab money” as they say? (No offense to anyone.) No way! I AM happy. I AM hopeful. I am looking forward to sharing more of my journey with you here. I hope you’ll share your lessons learned with me as well. I will always be teachable.

Thanks for reading. Here’s to our wealth!

Classical Conversations Practicum & Foundations Tutor Training

It’s been a while since I’ve written about home schooling, so I thought I’d give an update on the latest. We’re just winding down to our summer schedule, which includes reading more great books at our leisure, practicing Spanish conversation, and lots of time in nature. We also just attended a Classical Conversations Practicum, which is a fabulous three-day, free training for parents (kids’ camps available at a very reasonable price) on classical education as well as the CC theme for the year. This year’s theme is rhetoric. I love these events because they are so encouraging and thought provoking, and I meet the most wonderful people. I can’t resist giving a little plug here, so if you’re interested in attending one near you, check out this link for more details, times, and dates:

For CC tutors and directors, there are afternoon trainings during the Practicum for Foundations, Essentials, and Challenge. I attended the Foundations training at this Practicum, and I was really impressed. The trainer had brought a posse of extremely talented, close knit tutors from her community and incorporated lots of demonstrations of ways to present the content in the classroom. Even with a year of tutoring already under my belt, I learned so much from them! It was inspiring to see what good friends these tutors have become. They’re obviously helping to elevate one another to the highest standards of excellence while keeping it lots of fun. I hope to foster this same kind of environment as I direct my own community this year.

Another great thing about the Foundations tutor training was that issues like discipline and classroom management were brought to the forefront and plenty of ideas shared from experienced tutors. I hadn’t had any experience leading a classroom when I started tutoring, and I was primarily focused on creativity in presenting the content rather than setting classroom expectations and having a plan of action for disciplinary issues. I thought that since parents are usually in the classroom with their children, I could leave that entirely up to them, but I’ve since realized that every classroom needs clear expectations and some form of discipline in order to run smoothly. I later found lots of great classroom management ideas on Pinterest, but I wish I would have used them from day one. If you are going to be a CC tutor in the coming year, be sure to spend some time thinking about your strategy for maintaining order. The kids quickly become good friends and are excited to see each other every week, so it’s normal for them to be energetic and chatty when they come together. It’s important to keep things fun, but also to emphasize the importance of respect for others, respect for the property, following instructions, etc. for the benefit of everyone participating.

Review games was another topic we spent a good deal of time on, including more great demonstrations. This was an area I hadn’t anticipated spending so much prep time on as a tutor. Every week, I’d agonize over finding the perfect review game, and I felt like I had to come up with a new one every week (at least for the first half of our year). There was a lot of trial and error. Again, I found tons of stuff on Pinterest, but it was hard to gauge what would work with my kids until I actually tried it. I had kids who were very competitive, and kids who were not at all. I had a couple kids who rarely wanted to play any game, no matter what it was. I was tempted to take it personally when a game didn’t work out. At the training I found out that most of the tutors struggled with these very same issues. It would have been great to hear this last year just so I’d know I wasn’t alone or doing something wrong. Turns out I really only needed 4-5 good games for my class and there was one they requested almost every week. I had a fantastic first year as a tutor and I LOVED my class dearly — these are just little things I wish I’d anticipated to make the year even more amazing. I have no complaints — I just mention these things here to help others who may be preparing to tutor for the first time.

Our new community is growing nicely and I’m excited to see who the Lord brings to join us over the year. We have more Info Meetings to hold over the coming months, and it seems that more and more people are hearing about CC all the time. We had 70,000+ students nationwide last year! It’s really exciting to be part of this dynamic community, which is stretching my whole family on so many levels. I look forward to reporting more as our journey continues to unfold.



Spartan Postmortem

Today is the day. Let's do this. #spartanrace

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Yesterday was the big day —

the day this 40-year-old Spartan Virgin was initiated into the world of Spartan racers. I knew that the race was going to be intense, but I had no idea just how intense, or just how woefully under-prepared I was as I stood at that starting line. This was just a Spartan Sprint, mind you, the shortest distance offered (4+ miles and 21 obstacles), and still it has left an indelible impression on me. Thus I feel it is my civic duty to help prepare any potential future Spartans for the realities of this race, as well as offer my kudos to the event’s organizers for finding such a creative outlet for their sadism.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I’ve always been an athlete, and I usually find athletic challenges to be fun (and frankly, not all that challenging). For example, I’ve biked 105 miles through the desert in Death Valley, with diarrhea (entirely TMI, I realize, but I need to give you the full picture here). It was very tough, but I handled it. I’ve also given birth to four children vaginally, three of them without drugs. So maybe you’re beginning to get an understanding of why I thought this #SpartanRace might be just another over-hyped, remedial “challenge” like those we encounter in so many other areas of life these days.

Not so, folks.






Some caveats:

Not surprisingly, my body decided to give me a few extra difficulties on this of all days. I was menstruating. I had a cold/cough/scratchy throat. And on top of that, my husband really ticked me off on the car ride there. So granted, I wasn’t starting off on the happiest of notes when the race began. I had trained diligently for 5 months (not more than that because I was nursing my new baby for the whole previous year). But then I stupidly scheduled a vacation right before a 3-day conference I had to attend, all right before the race. So I had nearly 2 full weeks of exercise challenges (rushed, abbreviated workouts and long days of sitting still) immediately before the event. I was pretty exhausted. I now realize I should have been training hard core every day and going to bed early every night right up until race day.

The blow-by-blow:

All excuses aside, here’s how it went down. I arrived at the venue, a ski resort, and stared up at the steep, smoking hills before me. A little shiver crept up my spine. Young, muscular bodies flowed gracefully around me in a constant stream. A few of the elite class men were already weaving their way down the rocky mountainside, pecs slick and glistening in the sun. I turned to my left and headed toward a set of obstacles at the foot of the mountain. College kids were hoisting heavy sandbags into the air, grimacing only slightly, as if stuck on a tricky question during a Bio final. They then scampered toward an inverted wall and activated their spider powers as they climbed over the top in a matter of seconds. I moved on, scribbling copious mental notes and taking a few deep breaths.

I then arrived at the starting area to warm up. The wave before mine was about to take off. The emcee was psyching them up, having them shout “I am Spartan!” in response to his rousing declarations. I didn’t think much about his obvious mirth at the time, but in retrospect, I now see why he found the whole scene so bleeping hilarious.

We had to climb a wall just to get to the starting line, by the way. That was my first clue that this could be a bit more than I bargained for. After our own Spartan pep rally, we were off, zig-zagging up the mountain strewn with rocks of all sizes and little smoking things stuck into the ground for extra effect. The first third of the race actually went pretty well. It was mostly strenuous hiking through the woods, climbing walls and nets, and monkey bars over muddy water. I started to enjoy myself.

Then came several upper-body challenges, like lifting and carrying a 65-pound boulder, dragging cinder blocks through the woods with a chain, carrying logs through the woods, etc. I have never had much upper body strength even in my best shape, and here is where I realized that arms/shoulders should have been my primary area of focus in training. I was in for a rough 2+ hours (2:11:20, to be exact). The other thing I didn’t realize is that you only get one chance to complete most of the obstacles, and if you fall or miss, you can’t go back and start again. Nope, you immediately get sent to the burpee zone, where you have to do 30 burpees (chest hitting the ground) for every obstacle you miss. In my training, I could never really do more than 30 burpees in a day without great difficulty. On my race day, I did at least 150-180 (I lost count after awhile). This was both exhausting and demoralizing.


I whimpered a few times. I wasn’t used to feeling so defeated. But I soldiered on. ‘Soldier’ is truly an appropriate verb here, as I eventually had to crawl what seemed like 1/4 mile under barbed wire, scraping my knees and shins on the hard rocks underneath me as I inched and rolled along to the sound of the drill sergeant’s taunts and jeers. I also had to carry a sandbag up and down yet another steep hill, and the only way I could do it was to pretend it was a baby, whom I had to carry safely through a war zone. Everyone else had the bag on their head or shoulders, but I cradled it right against my belly, picturing my baby every step of the way. It was the only way I could keep myself going.

There were some other bright spots along the way. I loved the steep downhills where I just let my feet fly and somehow managed not to fall and break my face. I loved the camaraderie of the teams I saw along the way, waiting for each other when someone fell behind and encouraging one another to keep moving. I even managed not to be bitter about my own team bailing on me at the last minute. (Oops, did I forget to mention that in my caveats section earlier? Yeah.) But honestly, even if you do participate as an individual, you soon realize that you are all one big team during this event. One woman offered me her shoulder to stand on, as we both stood waist deep in muddy, manure-scented water staring up at the first step of the wall we were about to climb. And then there was the sweet volunteer who now knows my crotch about as well as my midwife does, after shoving my rear up over that inverted wall I mentioned earlier (guess my spider powers failed to activate). So you see, it wasn’t all bad, really.

Some of the later obstacles are barely worth mentioning, as I was so exhausted by the time I got to them I could scarcely attempt them before sulking my way over to the burpee zone, again. Eventually, I got to the last few obstacles where my husband and kids were watching. Seeing their proud faces and hearing my kids cheer me on really gave me the strength to continue and even start to feel a little proud of myself at last. After a couple more manure baths and twisting my ankle just as I was about to leap over the final obstacle — logs on fire! — which almost caused me to land in the fire, I limped across the finish line with a huge wave of relief. A protein bar and a banana were shoved into my hands, my finisher medal hung around my neck, and I was released back into civilization once again.

It was over.

I didn’t feel the same euphoria I had felt after my first mud race, which was more of a glorified 5K with mud puddles in comparison, and even now I am not sure how soon I will be signing up for my next punishment, I mean event. (But I’m sure I will be signing up — only for the Sprint!) It wasn’t until my daughter got ready to do her Spartan Kids race the same day that I really felt excited about the whole experience. Seeing her beaming face as she approached each obstacle, and watching her proudly display her finisher medal (which I’m pretty sure she slept in) has truly made this a rewarding experience. It’s really not about looking good for the cameras, or finishing in the top 10, it’s about developing physical, mental, and emotional toughness, and learning to persevere even under the worst of circumstances.

Action shot of Scarlett from yesterday.

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In short, when I signed up for Spartan, I thought I was signing up for a fun obstacle race. What I got instead was another rough life lesson, but in all honesty, I’m still very grateful. Once my soreness subsides and my scrapes heal, I’m sure I’ll be more enthusiastic, but I wanted to document the brutal realities of this race while they’re fresh in my mind. If you are planning to run a Spartan Race and are not already a world class athlete, you now have a pretty accurate idea of what to expect. I wish I had read something like this early in my training, so I thought the least I could do is give someone else the heads up I didn’t get. Let me be clear: I absolutely recommend this race…for those who will prepare for it. It’s awesome. There’s nothing like it. But when they say it’s no joke, they mean it.

Go Spartans! Aroo!

We did it!!! #spartanrace #finishers

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