Oak kitchen renovation

I’ve been really wanting to update this blog with photos of our house and all the fun things we’ve been doing. Since I’ve been spending so much time in the kitchen with this new diet, it felt right to share kitchen projects first. And, man, did this house need them!

When we saw our house for sale online and looked through the pictures, we were like oh man. That NEEDS TO GO. Wait for it.. Here are some of the pictures from the listing:

So much potential with an open layout and in exactly the neighborhood we wanted. So, crazy tile and oak cabinets here we come!

Crazy Tile.

Literally started this about five minutes after I got the keys. Ran through the whole house and took before photos before getting to work. We had about 6 days before we were moving in and some serious work to do. As you can tell. Did you see the colors of the walls, too? Lots of work ahead.

As soon as photos were done, grabbed my handy screwdriver and REMOVE THESE LIGHT SWITCHES. Yes. Those are custom ceramic light switches & outlet covers, painted to go along with the PEACH AND TURQUOISE tiles. Really now, who does this?

12208369_10156149670535246_8152889568481604855_n

First step, remove hideous light switches.

unnamed

Second step, get to work on the lining of the cabinets. We tasked our lovely friends and family with pulling all this terribleness out of our cabinets before move-in. Easier said than done. It took a full 2-4 hours of tearing this paper out only to find MORE underneath that somehow was even worse (not pictured). Then, it was another few days of scrubbing the stickiness clean and finding a replacement. Longer than anticipated process and we still have a few remnants that we haven’t gotten to (mostly in the bathrooms), but mostly much much better.

Third, destroy tiles.

unnamed-1

Literally hours after we got the keys 

Tile demolition was harder than we anticipated and more destructive. So, it was months of patching the drywall and then sanding it down, cleaning it off. But I’d rather live in drywall than in crazy tile. (see below)

unnamed-9

Finally, Halloween weekend we got to it! About two months in.

We found this nifty sticky paper that eliminates the need for that mastic.

unnamed-5

Cut it up and paste it on the clean, flat and dry walls.

unnamed-8

Normal light switches. Pre grout.

I’m sure you can get a better step by step on how to tile somewhere else, so I’m not even going to try. The paper sticky stuff (Simple Mat) was great, and we rented a tile saw from Home Depot for 24 hours (well, 25, because we gained an hour, thanks daylight savings). Those are my tips. Also, maybe don’t destroy your drywall in the process.

We took a break for festivities Halloween night, snagged an extra hour of sleep (thanks again daylight savings!), and got back to work in the morning.

12196080_10156144045490246_5639303350523976901_n.jpg

We went as Claymation Christmas, in case you were wondering. Not surprisingly, the guy with the axe (YUKON CORNELIUS) was the one who helped us get the tile off. 

And BAM! Tiles up. Grouting done. Way easier than we thought it would be. Project time: 1 weekend (once the drywall was ready and tile was picked out).

unnamed-6

During the time that we took to patch the walls, we made endless trips to our home improvement stores checking out tiles and pricing of different ones and seeing what would go best now and long term. Careful to pick ones that you know the maintenance time of. Like, the stone ones we liked a lot needed to be resealed after a few years, and that wasn’t something we were interested in. So, we scratched everything and bought subway tile with “smoke grey” grout. Anyway, a long process.

The Cabinets

During our two months between tile destruction and new pretty tile we also started work on cleaning the cabinets. They were so worn and dirty that we cleaned and cleaned. Dish soap, all purpose spray/cabinet cleaner (my favorite is this stuff, thanks Shark Tank!), and wood oil. Shocked at the results.

Before photo below.

That was step one. Now, from the photos, you can tell that it none of these have handles. Also, some were hung wrong and/or sideways. So, we flipped them around hung them right and added some nice looking handles. Easier for us and jazz up the cabinetry.

Our reasoning: We have dark molding across the entire house, so it was tough picking #1 a wall color and #2 figuring out what to do with oak cabinets. Oak cabinets and dark molding, you can’t just paint your kitchen cabinets because then you have to  paint all the molding and doors in your ENTIRE HOUSEHOLD. No thank you. Not right now. There’s enough to tame in this house right now. So, here’s our alternative to painting your oak kitchen cabinets – add some seriously functional handles.

We were lucky in that these aren’t hideous by any means. The oak matches the rest of the house, and we don’t mind them one bit. Especially with these handles.

Ok, back to the photos. Are you ready to see the after?!

IMG_9685

So nice! And so much more cleaned up!

And voila! A brand new kitchen!

IMG_9679

Slowly but steadily, upgrading. Next up: sink & appliances. Also those hang down lights! And, maybe some new window coverings soon. Oh, the endless house projects…

Oak Kitchen

Advertisements

AIP Breakfast Hacks & Recipe Ideas

I’m about 6 months into the Autoimmune Protocol diet now, and feeling so much better. It’s hard to believe just the food could make so much difference.

In the last six months, I’ve learned a lot about how to save time prepping on the paleo diet and specifically for the Autoimmune Protocol and especially in the morning.

A friend of mine started Whole 30 right around the same time I started AIP, and we’ve basically been commiserating through the experiences. She’s tried Low FODMAP, regular Paleo, some things in between, and now is back to Whole 30 after some failures. She asked what I had done to help with prep time.

At first, I was like, nothing. My life is only cooking now.  But then, I realized that I’ve totally gotten into a routine. First, with understanding what I need in the morning and what is easy to make. Second, with having the things I need on hand. Third, my trial and error hacks I’ve stumbled on – either through Instagram and Pinterest ideas or through mistakes that have really turned into happy accidents.

AIP Breakfast Hacks and Easy Easy Recipe Ideas

So – to the breakfasts.

AIP Breakfast Hacks & Recipe Ideas

AIP breakfasts are probably the hardest thing to get used to – but I assume it’s not just AIP. Whole 30, Paleo, or any big diet change that requires a grain-free, veggie-heavy breakfast is a big change from typical American breakfasts. Cereal and milk? Toast and peanut butter? Nope. Life shattered.

And, AIP is EGG FREE and all my reintroductions of eggs have failed so far. So, this has been a challenge. Especially because all your normal egg substitutions for AIP (substitution post coming soon) like gelatin eggs, avocado, banana, and others if you’re not AIP (like chia eggs, tofu, or egg replacer powders) just don’t work for a scramble, omelette or anything. Creativity is key, or maybe just a complete rework of your standard breakfast.

So here’s how to make your breakfasts faster. And, breakfast ideas down below.

  1. Prep, prep, prep.
    The night before. The breakfast before. Freezer. Anything you can do to save yourself time in the future or in a crunch is helpful on AIP, especially for breakfast. Sweet potatoes or yams are part of most of my meals. So, I’m usually peeling and cutting one daily or nearly daily. If I have an extra minute or two, I’ll just grab a bigger cutting board and dice a few of them up and toss them into my glass tupperware-like containers. Into the fridge for the morning.
  2. Microwave.
    For years my husband and I didn’t even have a microwave (our 1st apartment was small so it was an easy way to save space). Ever since going AIP, I’ve used my microwave more than I’d ever thought. Back to the sweet potatoes – take your pre-chopped sweet potatoes and pop them into the microwave for 2-4 minutes. Stirring half way through. They steam and cook through so you don’t have to wait for them to pan-fry 45 minutes every single morning.This works great for other veggies too – like broccoli. Another great addition to your breakfast hash.

    Then, take the mostly cooked sweet potato pieces, pop them into the frying pan and  hash is almost done!

  3. Freeze.
    Yeah, yeah. Typical recommendation for making all your meals then freezing them to cut back on time. But, I’m not a fan of that.I like to only freeze what I have to or freeze stuff before it goes bad. Like, leftover shredded chicken. Excellent for mornings!
  4. Leftovers
    At first, I was like, never ever am I eating leftovers from dinner for breakfast. All these ideas for eating soup or salads in the morning or whatever, not happening. But, I’ve learned that it doesn’t necessarily mean eat your same meal you had for dinner for breakfast. One example – we made sweet potato fries the night before for dinner. Had a bunch leftover, so instead of all that shopping and everything, just popped them into a pan with bacon and a bunch of other veggies. One of the more delicious hashes I’ve had. So, think about ways you can repurpose your leftovers and turn them into something scrumptious for breakfast instead of just eating the same meal over and over again, as my mom likes to say, like a dog. (She’s not a fan of leftovers.)
  5. Eat enough!
    This was the biggest learning curve for my AIP breakfasts. I wasn’t eating enough or the right things to feel full. Now after breakfast, I can go until say 1 or 2 pm before I really get too hungry. You have to have enough veggies, carbs, and fats to stay full. And for me, I really need the protein/iron in the morning so having a vegan breakfast hasn’t worked out for me. I just get tired, grumpy or really hungry. Hangry. Maybe a little of everything. It’s not pretty. So eat up for breakfast! And on to the recipe ideas…

AIP bREAKFAST ideas

Meats:
These are the three major sources I rely on every morning. Pick one from here, and one from the next list. 

  • AIP homemade pork patties
    Mix ground pork with salt & pepper (omit pepper for strict AIP), thyme and oregano. Form into little patties and pan fry until golden brown.
    Sometimes, in the morning, I’ll make extra of these and have them for lunch with a side of leftover veggies and/or cauliflower rice. Delicious!
  • Bacon
    It’s really not healthy how much bacon I eat. But, it’s pretty delicious.
  • Leftover pre-cooked meats
    Other lean meats are great for adding to a hash or veggie “eggless scramble” I really like leftover whole chicken for breakfast. Just shred some off the bone and add it to your pan! I am not a big fan of a cooked chicken breast for breakfast. Too much meat, not enough breakfast feel.

Veggies & carbs:

  • Sweet potato hash veggie & carb
    With a sweet potato hash, I like to throw in a little ground pork or fry up bacon in the hash or on the side. As I said above, prep sweet potatoes before. Toss in microwave. Heat through in pan with other veggies and greens. Sometimes a half apple is good to throw into the mix too, with pork especially.
  • “Baked” sweet potato veggie & carb
    Just kidding I’m not going to bake a sweet potato in the morning. Stab with fork, microwave on potato setting. While cooking, fry up veggies to go inside – kale & broccoli. Top with coconut butter. Enough veggie, fat and carbs to keep you going, so meat is kinda optional on this one. It’s a nice AIP vegan breakfast, even though that contradicts what I just said… As an ex vegetarian, sometimes it’s nice to just not have meat first thing in the morning.
    AIP/Vegan easy and quick Breakfast idea for busy mornings
  • Stir fried veggies aka “eggless scramble” veggie
    If I’m not in the mood for sweet potatoes, I’ll go for a veggie scramble without the eggs. Add greens (spinach, kale, cabbage or a mix of something like that), mushrooms, and whatever else you have lying around. I like broccoli, onions, carrots sometimes. Or, leftover veggies from your dinner the night before – pre cooked makes for faster AM cooking! Be sure to pair with a meat and/or a carb with a side of avocado. Delicious.
    "eggless scramble" AIP Breakfast hacks and recipe ideas
  • Coconut banana pancakes – carb
    These are surprisingly delicious! Mash a banana, a few tablespoons of coconut shreds, a dash of cinnamon and vanilla extract (vanilla optional, careful to find AIP compliant too if you’re strict AIP). You can add berries to these too, but I haven’t been lately. Pair with veggies and a meat maybe some avocado. You can see mine are more burned than they are in her picture, but I like them crispy rather than mushy.Coconut Banana Pancakes | AIP Breakfast essentials, hacks and recipe ideas for easy mornings
  • Plantain & apple fritters carb
    These are another easy morning pancake or toast-like substitute. If your plantains are ripe enough, you can mash them without a food processor, shred a half an apple into the mix and fry up. While they’re cooking, I package the rest of the apple with my lunch and take it to work for a snack later. Again, pair with meat and veggies/avocado. You can skip the apple and use frozen berries as a sweetener instead, as I did below.
    Plantain-cakes with frozen berries
  • Waffles carb
    There are a lots of recipes for AIP waffles. I was on a mission to find the most waffle-like, and this was the one. They take some time though, so this is where the leftovers come in again. Make extras on the weekend. Freeze and toast when you’re ready! These sweet plantain waffles are a good option if you don’t keep expensive cassava flour on hand. But I haven’t tried freezing them. They’re a bit more flimsy and pancake like. The trick to them is letting them cook much longer than your waffle maker says to cook. Takes a while to crisp up!
    AIP cassava waffles

Hopefully that helps someone!  Find me on Instagram or follow my AIP Breakfast Board on Pinterest for more ideas!

AIP Paleo Fried Oysters

As I’m learning more and more about the autoimmune protocol, it sounds like you’re supposed to have a good amount of seafood. Something that we’ve been slacking on just because I usually don’t buy seafood. I basically grew up on the coast, and everyone I knew always fished. We never, ever bought seafood because it was always around. So in the store I just feel weird buying it. Plus, the actual good stuff – wild caught – is always so dang expensive!

But, one thing I do buy in stores are oysters in the jar from Costco. They’re great fried, baked, or smoked. This last round of cooking oysters I really struggled to find an AIP-friendly fried oyster recipe.

Of course, I know that frying isn’t the healthiest option, but who cares! I was determined, and I’ve been on a mission using Otto’s Cassava flour ever since I found it in a store up in Portland.

IMG_3339.jpg

So, the AIP-friendly fried oyster was born. It’s gluten-free, egg-free, nut-free, and whatever else AIP falls into. I feel like the list is never ending!

But, the taste is there.

This is actually the second time I tried to fry oysters in an AIP friendly way. The first time, I used arrowroot starch because that’s all I had. And, let me tell you, even for oysters they were slimey and chewy. Not awful but I’ve learned to put up with a lot on this diet!

These however are not slimey. Just check out this picture. Look at that crust!!

IMG_3345.jpg

Golden. Crispy. Perfect. If I do say so myself…

Husband liked them too, and we tried a few different combinations before finally settling on the one below. Really, you could use all Cassava flour, but I like the mix mostly because you still get the golden deliciousness and coconut flour is WAY cheaper.

AIP-Friendly Paleo Fried Oysters

This egg-free, paleo, gluten-free/grain-free, oyster recipe is delicious! And, it’s the only thing I’ve found that replicates actual flour. Got to love Cassava flour as a gluten replacer.

IMG_3337.jpg

Recipe serves about 3-4 people. We had plenty of leftovers for lunches – though, they are best the first day.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Otto’s Cassava Flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour (I used the stuff from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup oil for frying (I used avocado oil)

How-To:

  1. Prepare flour mix: mix all dried ingredients together until combined.
  2. Dredge oysters (should be covered in that lovely oyster slime) into the flour until covered. Should stick to the oysters fairly well. Usually, you would dip in egg before, but I’ve found this works just fine until all oysters have been covered.
  3. Heat oil in skillet on high or medium-high until hot.
  4. Carefully toss in floured oysters. Fry for about 2-3 minutes per side, until well browned but not burned. Watch careful! Gently flip oysters to second side. Second side will take about half the time.
  5. Once fried, let the oysters dry (is that the right word?) on a paper towel to soak up excess oil. Serve!

AIP Biscuits & -Gravy-.jpg

AIP Biscuits and “Gravy”

I was mid-way through making a totally different dinner, prepping some biscuits I had wanted to try for the next day’s breakfast. I made a few tweaks based on the ingredients I had on hand with flavoring (in the recipe below) and with the high oil and fat content, so lightened them up a little bit. Last time I made AIP “rolls” or “biscuits” they were way too greasy.

So finally, my biscuits are ready and I could finish with the rest of my dinner. I couldn’t resist waiting until they were cooled (especially since there’s always a risk they’ll go stale or brick hard the next day anyway). And, oh my goodness. They were so tasty and fluffy! I literally couldn’t believe these weren’t filled with gluten and eggs. Seriously.

Just look at them:

AIP Biscuits & Gravy | Paleo, easy to make, and AIP-friendly.

I fed a piece to my test subject/husband. He approved, and I was totally inspired to use them up just in case they hardened the next day and went to waste. They tasted like they were meant to be served with gravy. Seriously. Amazing. I don’t even like biscuits and gravy, and I’m no expert (or snob) on the matter. But, I was determined to make it happen. And sometimes I just like to be a good wife and make tasty, traditional/homestyle things for my husband. Haha.

Ditched the first dinner idea and decided it would be breakfast tomorrow instead. And, I turned to Pinterest again and found a AIP friendly gravy recipe that wasn’t cauliflower or coconut milk based. Found! Grazed and Enthused to the rescue. Instead of coconut milk or cauliflower, this recipe called for white sweet potatoes to make the “gravy.” As any faithful AIP dieter, I have a TON of sweet potatoes in my pantry, and I was sure that these last ones I bought were white sweet potatoes, not orange.

I started peeling and chopping the sweet potatoes and unfortunately they turned out orange, not white. Ugh! I was so bummed. But I was already on dinner two idea, and I couldn’t reasonably turn back now. And, at this point. We’re not eating dairy, gluten or eggs and we’re having biscuits and gravy for dinner. Who really cares if the gravy is orange instead of white!? Onward. And, results were amazing.

AIP Biscuits & "Gravy"

AIP-friendly Biscuits & Gravy
Gluten-free, cauliflower-free, coconut-milk free biscuits & gravy. Suitable for AIP, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, nightshade-free, seed-free diets. And, I’m sure many more diets if there are any others even left!

First, the biscuits!

 

AIP Biscuits & Gravy | Paleo, easy to make, and AIP-friendly.

Biscuit Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour (I used a blend of very dry and regular, so amount might vary depending on your coconut flour consistency)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 4 tablespoons gelatin
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Biscuit How-To:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. I like Amanda’s description of the gelatin, so I’m pulling the whole thing here:  Prepare your gelatin for use. First, you will have to “bloom” it, then you will melt it. Add water to a small pot and sprinkle/rain gelatin on top, about 1/2 Tbsp at a time in a single layer. Do NOT let it clump or pour it all in one place. You want to spread it out evenly. If not, clumps may form that are difficult to dissolve and the texture in the final product will be negatively affected. Be patient with this part! I use a whisk and vigorously stir the gelatin after each 1/2 Tbsp has been added and wetted. Once all gelatin has been wetted, heat over medium low for several minutes until all gelatin has melted and you have a translucent liquid. Stir occasionally with your whisk until dissolved.
  3. After you’ve sorted through the pain of gelatin making, which isn’t so bad once you’ve done it once or twice, add the oils, fats, and vinegar. I did this in the same pot as the gelatin over very low heat.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients well in a separate bowl. Pour in wet ingredients to the mixed dry ingredients.
  5. Divide batter into 9 biscuits on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I’ve learned to always line any AIP baked goods unless you want them to completely fall apart. Which I’m sure you don’t!
  6. Bake until golden brown, somewhere between 30-45 minutes. Watch closely!

Adapted from Savory Breakfast Cookies by Amanda Torres of The Curious Coconut 

Gravy Ingredients

  • 2 small sweet potatoes (white preferred, but if you mess up like me, your gravy will just be orange as pictured)
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup warm broth
  • 1 tablespoon mixed fresh savory herbs  (I used thyme and rosemary)
  • A couple pinches of salt
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot starch/powder
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat/lard
  • 1/2 pound ground pork

IMG_2040

Gravy How-To:

  1. Peel and dice sweet potatoes in a steamer basket over a pot of boiling water. Cover and let cook until soft and easy to poke with a fork.

  2. Meanwhile, cook onions in bacon fat until soft and  caramelized  in a saucepan on medium until well browned. If you don’t have reserved bacon fat, or you want bacon in your gravy, you could cook bacon, set aside then cook onions in bacon fat. Once onions are caramelized, add pork until well browned.*

  3. Once cooked, add diced sweet potatoes, herbs, and 1/2 of the warm broth into the blender and puree. Add remaining broth and puree until smooth. Add arrowroot starch to thicken and puree again until everything is smooth.

  4. Add mixture in blender to the pan with your ground pork. Cook and stir on low heat until warmed through.

  5. Top 2-3 biscuits (depending on how hungry you are) with “gravy” and serve immediately.

  6. Refrigerate leftovers (if you have any) in an air-tight container.

*Note: My husband said that onions are not usually in gravy, but I like the flavor and texture. If you don’t want onion chunks, add onion mixture to blender with sweet potatoes then cook pork separately

Adapted from AIP Chicken n’ Gravy by Alaena Haber of Grazed and Enthused 

AIP Biscuits & Gravy | Paleo, easy to make, and AIP-friendly.

AIP Two Months in

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been experimenting with the Autoimmune Protocol diet. At first, I was under the impression that it would be a 30-day stint, an elimination phase and then reintroduce foods to get me back to normal. So, after 30 days, I went to see my doctor and she dismissed that. She said, if I’m feeling better don’t change anything and let’s check in again in 2 months.

TWO MORE MONTHS?! Possibly forever??

That was definitely my initial completely defeated reaction, and I had a hard time breaking it to my husband that it wasn’t as minimal as I had let on. I mean, AIP is a huge change. You cut out everything processed – nothing with added vitamins, preservatives, hormones, antibiotics, “chemicals”, stabilizers, or anything else. So everything is from scratch, and with whole foods you’re looking  at no dairy, gluten, grains, nightshades, seeds, legumes, processed sugars, nuts (except coconut). So, it’s a big change.

Food is such an intimate, emotional and obviously important part of life. And, I do food marketing as a job – hubby does tourism, so it’s a really big part of our lives especially.

I’ve always had a funny deal with food – until I was 20, I weekly or daily would have what my mom and I had always called “low blood sugar” attacks. My fatigue would be uncontrollable and my mood would swing to grumpy, sad, and 100% indecisive. Eating something would usually make me functional.

Finally, enough was enough, and I saw some nutritionists and doctors in college. They didn’t help all that much. My tests for diabetes all came back within normal ranges, but just barely within normal ranges. A campus nutritionist said that if I ate a hardboiled egg everyday all my problems would be solved. So, I dismissed that right away and gave up.

Then, I had this internship with a food nonprofit based on developing local, organic, real-food economies and I was introduced to a whole new world. Around the same time, I watched Food Inc. And, I gave up meat and slowly began giving up processed, non-organic foods. And, voila! My mood swinging, low blood sugar problems improved immensely and basically disappeared, especially at the frequency I was having them. I really was impressed with the healing power of food and thought everyone should get on board with this new view.

Two and a half years later, I was out of college, and still feeling like there were some problems going on – food related or not. My pain levels were growing, my fatigue was high, and my stomach was always gurgly.

Tests again proved I was just “normal” and maybe it was me having a iron deficiency problem, likely due to my lack of meat. Otherwise, their recommendation was to get into therapy (because it’s all in your head). My then boyfriend, now husband, was happy about eating bacon again, and we went on our way.

After we got married, we moved back “home” to Eugene. For my back, knee, shoulder, ok – maybe just whole body – pain, I went to see a new chiropractor. And, after a few more referrals I learned that Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) was most definitely what was causing all this pain and fatigue, along with all sorts of other things. And, that it was likely another coexisting condition, like dysautonomia or POTS, that was causing my food problems.

That was kind of a devastating blow, to learn that food changes were just helping me because I was basically sick, not necessarily because this is the way the world should work – eating organically and unprocessed. This is something I go back and forth on – are we sick because of the food? I’m not. I have a genetic issue that causes me to react this way. Or, do some people survive just as well as they would on non-organic, highly processed foods? It’s not something I think I’ll really ever know or completely comprehend. And, it makes my job as a food marketer a whole lot more complicated, ethically and passion-wise.

But either way, this diet has been crazy helpful. My dizziness is much more under control. My constant brain fog is minimal now. My energy levels are way up, and my bad pain days aren’t so bad. Really, even my periods and cramps are so much better (perhaps an overshare but I’m here to be real with you). I’m not going home sick or in pain from work, and I can function so much better when I am at work.

As an ex-vegetarian, I’m having a hard time relying on so much meat in my diet. Plus, I know it’s not good for the planet – eating meat like this. But I’m trying to step out of the guilt and over thinking and learning more about why it’s helping and what all I’ll keep permanent.

I’ve found that the online community is so entirely helpful with recipes, ideas, and tips. I know a few others who are experimenting with new diets to help chronic conditions, and that’s been a nice support network as well.

All in all, I think food is healing, but everyone has to find what works for them. And, absolutely I will try new diets and other methods of healing first before diving into pills and other medical treatments. I think the two worlds of “natural healing” and western medicine should work together, not in isolation. If you’re in it for a pill to fix life, you’ll never find a solution. I feel like I’m on a good path towards managing my condition with this now. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. And, I hope this blog can be a place of resource and community for others.

So, long post out of the way. Here we go! I really hope I can stick with all this.

Quick 2015 recap and onwards

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and with good reason! This year has been a whirlwind. And, since we’re about a week from the new year, I thought I’d give a quick recap and hopefully a new push into the new year.

In 2015, both my husband and I switched jobs, we bought a house, moved, and adopted a dog. I was also diagnosed with a chronic illness, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and a whole bunch of co-existing conditions to go along with it, so we’ve been overwhelmed with doctor’s appointments, medical bills, and lifelong changes.

Ehlers Danlos is a complicated, rarely diagnosed connective tissue disorder than explains a lot of my otherwise unexplainable issues – from hypermobility to chonic fatigue and pain – almost everything I’ve been dealing with throughout my life and especially over the last few years now has a reason – and it’s not that I’m crazy or it’s all in my head. So that’s a little reassurance.

I’ve been working hard to keep a positive and proactive attitude about the diagnosis and prognosis. Being proactive is important with EDS- there is no cure, and I’ve decided it’s mostly like a description for the way my body is built.

With EDS, I’ve been seeing a lot of different doctors. Most recently, I’ve been seeing a pain management doctor who recommended that I start eating on an Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet, basically a really restrictive paleo diet. I was skeptical about its benefits, but I’m almost 2 months into the diet and feeling a lot better. EDS is not an autoimmune disease, so I think that the diet is actually helping my coexisting conditions, like dysautonomia and POTS, more than the EDS itself. But, more on that later.

I’ve found so many resources online, and I’ve been taking it as a cooking challenge, which has been a fun way to look at it. So, I thought I should start contributing on the online resources and community with recipes and things I’ve learned. Community is really important with this stuff! So just like I’ve said many years over, maybe 2016 will be the year I stick with this blog.

Cheers to the new year, new recipes, more photos, and more crafting!

Five mistakes bloggers make with brands

Today, I had a friend ask how to start a blog and get a brand to sponsor some posts. Are you wondering how to ask brands for products to review on your blogs? Looking to host a giveaway on your blog with brands?

While this blog in particular might be pretty touch and go, I do have experience with this, career-wise. Most recently, I was someone on the other end, monitoring requests from bloggers on behalf of a natural food company. Bloggers would always ask to sponsor their posts and for us to send them free products. Here are the biggest mistakes bloggers make, and how to avoid them, when asking for free stuff or sponsorship from brands.

So here’s some advice from someone who has taken, vetted and approved some requests from bloggers on the brand side. You might be able to get by with one of these mistakes, but definitely not any more than two of them! Take these into consideration before your next pitch.

mistakes bloggers make with brands (and

Mistake #1: Your blog is brand new.
Don’t reach out if you just started your blog yesterday. You’ll need a track record of consistent posts. Even if you say, “I know my blog is brand new,” it raises a huge red flag. You have to build credibility, a readership, a niche, and a voice. Know it and live it.

If you are new and are destined to review products or have something sponsored, do it yourself! Review a favorite product, then reach out to the brand with the link (especially if they’re a smaller brand and not a giant: NOT Kraft foods). Mention them on your social media accounts, too. That will show you’re interested!

Mistake #2: Send the same email to all the brands.
Don’t send the same email to everyone. You have to customize your outreach or else you probably won’t get much response. It takes just a little more effort than copy and pasting to everyone’s contact forms – and the brand will know that you actually are interested. Consider it like a cover letter, applying for a job. First paragraph is all about them. Second paragraph all about you, your blog, and your readers. Third paragraph how you’d like to work together. Remember, keep these short and sweet.

Example:

Hi there – I just wanted to reach out to whoever might be the right contact. I have been a fan of <BRAND> for <TIME PERIOD>. <insert some personalized review of the product and/or brand here – how has it impacted your life, have you shared it with others?>.

I run a blog called <name of blog>, and I focus on <your niche – crafting? healthy eating? parenting?>.I’d love for you to check it out: <website link>. My readers love <something personal, the brand might be able to connect with like: “My readers love learning about new, healthy products.” Or maybe they love entering in giveaways – make it about your audience, not just you!>. I have <Do you have strict standards for your blog and products you review that this brand fits in with? Do you have an impressive blog stat? Brands would like to get a better feel of who you are before they click over to see what you have to offer.> 

I’d love to talk more about working together <Be specific! What do you want from them? Free products to review? Hosting a twitter chat? Creating a group Pinterest board? Create a recipe with their products? Something more inventive – having a party with friends? Coupons to giveaway to readers?>. 

MISTAKE #3: Reaching out to the WRONG brand
This one goes right along with the last one. Don’t reach out to a bunch of brands with no personalization and no connection to your blog. You have a Christian parenting blog? Don’t reach out to a food company you love, because chances are, they won’t see you or your blog audience as their ideal customer. Any relationship has to be a two-way deal. That said, you don’t have to be a food blogger to reach out to a food company. Running and healthy lifestyle blog, feel free to reach out. Maybe even include some dietary issue you have, a recent comment from one of your readers, or how healthy eating is important to your readership, and how it fits to your niche. Just, make the connection, because the brand might not see it right away and write you off.

MISTAKE #4: All your posts are sponsored
Your blog can’t be all sponsored because it looks fake, not genuine and not targeted. Some brands might go for it, for your reach (so, if you’re in it just for that, be sure to include your numbers), but most are going to be wary of diving in.

MISTAKE #5: Spelling mistakes
This can be in your pitch to them or just in your blog in general. If it’s unreadable, it looks bad and lazy, and the brand isn’t going want to associate itself with you. Spell check is easy, so use it! If you’re not so great with writing, have someone else look anything over before posting or emailing. They might be able to catch something you didn’t.

Wine Cork Earrings DIY Tutorial

My round up of some of the best wine and cork crafts was one of my more popular posts on this blog, so I thought I’d add another wine craft to the mix. These DIY earrings are so adorably cute and easy to make.

wine cork earrings

Wine cork earrings

The supplies:

  • 2 earring hooks
  • 2 head pins
  • Bead of choice  (large ones like the photo above or 3-4 small ones to stack)
  • 1 wine cork (might be good to have 2-3 in case you have trouble cutting them)
  • A large knife – to cut the cork
  • Round nose pliers
  • 1 thin nail

Process:

  1. Prepare. I’ve read all sorts of things about cutting wine corks. Some places say you should soak them or boil them before cutting, to make the process easier. That’s what I did, and it seemed to work pretty well. Test some things out and figure out what’s best for you, your knives, and your corks. They all respond differently.
  2. Slice. Next step, slice the cork! Give it about 1/4-1/2 an inch and slowly saw the cork with a large knife (non-serrated) until you slice through. It took me a few corks to get the process down, but once you have it, you’re golden.
  3. Make a hole. By slowly twisting the nail in your cork through the cork, lengthwise on the skinny side (not through the circle part).
  4. Thread. Thread the head pin through the hole you just made. Add the bead, twist the pin with the pliers to create a hook. Attach the earring hook to the head pin.

Done! It might sound more complicated than it is after writing all that down, but really it’s easy and happens within 15 minutes!

Crafty Q&A: 5 crochet tips for beginners

It’s official. This blog, now called Organically Crafty, has a new URL and my Facebook page is up and running. It’s been just under 24 hours, and I’ve had my first question come through. So, it’s inspired me to start a new category here on the blog, Crafty Q&A.

This question comes from Kimberly. She asks:

“I really want to learn how to do this kind of stuff. I have a grandbaby on the way and want to learn. Anyone know the best way to teach yourself?”

Awesome question. I struggled with learning how to crochet and knit. I tried knitting and absolutely failed. With the two needles, homespun yarn and endless YouTube tutorials it just wasn’t working. Years later, I came back to my yarn attraction with crochet instead. #1. I seriously think crochet is WAY easier, especially for baby crafts. So here are 5 tips for getting started.
5 tips for learning crochet
5 tips for learning how to crochet:
  1. Pick your yarn.
    Use yarn that is thin and one texture. I started with this baby bernat yarn, but anything in this style, thin big enough for your project – and if you’re lucky, pattern included – is a great starter yarn. The homespun and bulky yarn is great, but you can’t see the pattern as well and you’re about 100x more likely to mess up and get frustrated (and if you’re like me, swear of the craft forever). If you don’t have a baby to craft for, try a yarn like this – it’s beautiful and still easy to work with.
    From a professional craft-failer: Baby yarn is perfect to start with, and babies are the perfect recipients of your first yarn masterpiece. They’ll have absolutely no idea if you screwed up.
  2. Get more than enough yarn and in the same color.
    If you’re new to yarn, you need to pick yarn that either has no dye lot or you examine the yarn label closely (in the store) and pick yarn that is from the same dye lot. Of course, if you’re buying one giant bundle of yarn, it’s no problem. NOTE: If you’re making for a baby – use baby yarn. Anything else irritates their skin, so yes it’s worth it!
  3. Pick your project and follow the pattern.
    My advice: buy the yarn with the pattern or pick a pattern that is slated for beginners. Either pick a baby blanket, or do a scarf. It’s the same pattern over and over and you just go in a straight line, nothing more complicated, like hats or pretty headbands, till you get these basic stitches down. I promise – it will be worth understanding how crochet works. My first project was this hooded baby blanket.
  4. Pick your needle size and type.
    Pay attention to what the pattern calls for and do not switch sizes. I like to get the multipack metal hooks because they’re easy to hold and they’re not slippy. Plus, it’s a minimal investment to see if you like crocheting. A lot of needle variety packs come with a beginner’s guide to stitches.
  5. Start crocheting!
    Just do it, test it out and see what questions you come up with. The first day or two I played with my yarn and new crochet needles, I just practiced different stitches according to the little guide that came with my set. Once you nail how to hold the yarn (MOST important step right here. Find what’s comfortable and do what works for you – everyone does it differently), how to chain stitch (can be another toughie for beginners), and how to single crochet, double crochet, you are set.

Bonus step: Start with a group of friends. Even better if one has a little know-how on knitting, sewing or crocheting. Honestly, stitch and bitches are the best. Have one at work on your lunch break with coworkers or have it once a week as a wine night with your girls (or guys – it was a 20 something guy who introduced me to the art of crochet, and I’ve met plenty of guys who crochet since then, so it’s not an old ladies only sport by any means).

5 crochet tips for beginners

my first crochet project

179056_10150364935140246_339450_n

Ultimate Holiday Green Beans

Last Christmas, I was stuck for what to make as an easy side dish. My co-worker told me about these easy, amazing green beans, and I was all about an easy to make, easy to please side dish. I’ve made them for any gathering I’m supposed to go to, birthdays, potlucks, holidays. Literally everything.

Let me tell you, these are the easiest side dish and everyone will love them. EVERYONE. Constantly asked for the recipe, so I wanted to share.

best green beans you'll ever have

ULTIMATE green beans

holiday green beans

easy, (mostly) one-pan green beans

Recipe:

  • 2-3 cups green beans, about 16 ounces or 2-3 cups
  • 5-6 strips bacon (regular, not peppered)
  • a few pinches of brown sugar
  • 1/2-1 cup sliced or slivered almonds

How-To:

  1. Wash green beans, remove stems and cut into about 1-inch pieces. Par boil green beans.
  2. While water is boiling or green beans are boiling, cook bacon. Sprinkle brown sugar on bacon once in pan, and cook until just ready. Remove bacon and cut into small pieces, but keep bacon fat.
  3. Place green beans and almonds into bacon pan. Coat with bacon fat and return cut bacon into pan. Combine until warmed and coated. Serve immediately

Time: 10-20 minutes

Serves: 6-8 if you’re real hungry for beans