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Me!  A friend from the blogosphere, Genevieve, awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award last week.  Isn’t it pretty?

This reminded me that my mom, also a rockin’ blogger, awarded me the same honor a few months ago, and I forgot to thank her properly.  So thanks to both of you lovely women!

The Versatile Blogger Award requires me to share 7 facts about myself, and shout out to 15 bloggers who make my blogosphere a little bit brighter.  Are you ready?

First…7 Things About Me

1. I got the musical theatre bug in the 9th grade, and I got it BAD.  It was my first great passion, and one that stays with me almost 25 (wow…yeah, 25) years later.  I love to sing just about anywhere, but most especially in the car while driving. There’s something about speeding along at #$ mph while belting out my favorite MichaelJohn LaChiusa tunes at the top of my lungs.

2. Since it’s musical theatre, I act while singing.  I act real hard in the car.  Risky at stoplights, but totally worth it.

3. This weekend I had a wonderful conversation with someone I’d known for about six hours.  She recently began training in Reiki, and talking with her reconnected me to how much I loved the Reiki training I received several years ago.  I spent a year studying and practicing, and eventually earned Reiki Master status…and then, over time, I moved on to other interests and passions, until I had nearly forgotten how much I loved this subtle art.  Maybe it’s time to touch into that part of me again.

4. My favorite place in the world is Yosemite National Park.  I have fantasies that I’ll move there in my retirement and work as a trail maintenance worker, or maybe leading hikes up to Mirror Lake in the crisp fall mornings.

5. I haven’t worn a pair of shorts in 12 years.  True story.

6. I’ve been a spiritual seeker my whole adult life, checking out services and classes in just about every religious tradition.  I always wanted to find a spiritual home, but never felt comfortable anywhere, so remained basically a solitary spiritualist.  But in the last couple of months I’ve been attending unprogrammed Quaker meetings, and like Goldilocks, it finally feels just right.  I might have found my spiritual home.

7. I wasn’t sure I would share #6, but I’m glad I did.

Second…15 Awesome Bloggers

1. Small Notebook

2. Pink Coyote

3. Holistic Mama

4. Cheeseslave

5. Nourishing Days

6. Nesting Place

7. The First Gates

8. SouleMama

9. Simple Mom (and its sister sites – see the tabs at the top of the homepage)

10. Tiny Buddha

11. The Debt-Free Family

12. chicken tender

13. Modish

14. Rowdy Kittens

15. Wisdom Heart

There you go!  I highly encourage you to spend the next hour clicking through all these blogs and enjoying great content from all across the blogosphere.  And don’t forget to check out Genevieve‘s and my mom‘s blogs, too.  BlogLove!

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Okay, I admit it.  I’m excited!  My first guest article, “Get Cultured, Invest in Stocks & Take a Long, Hot Soak: Next Steps in Getting Off the Food Grid“, appears at SimpleMom.net today.  The post builds on a Maggie’s Nest article from a few months back called De-Centralize Your Food System.  In that article I outlined the first three steps one can take toward becoming less dependent on our centralized food system of “Big Ag” businesses, food manufacturers (think about that phrase for a minute!) and supermarkets.  Today’s article at SimpleMom.net takes you further down the rabbit hole of food independence, showing you three easy ways to make your food more nutritious while saving money at the grocery store.  Nice, eh?

If this is your first time visiting Maggie’s Nest, welcome!  You might enjoy reading some of my other food-related posts, including How to Make 3 Meals from 1 Chicken, Bone Broth 101, Traditional Fermentation 101, or How to Make Homemade Yogurt.

Recently I started my journey on the GAPS diet in order to heal my gut; I’ve since learned numerous 20th and 21st century ailments that have been successfully healed with this diet.  If you’d like to know more, click to read What’s GAPS? and Why Now? or, 5 Ways to Make Intro Easier.

I talk about more than food here at Maggie’s Nest, so please feel free to browse around in the various categories.  Travel articles are in the “Wandernest” category; posts about creative process abound in “Nurturing Creativity”, and more philosophical articles about family, home, living on purpose, and practicing self-care area also littered throughout the site.

I hope you enjoy your visit and come back often!

Yes, it’s my 200th post today!  You might have noticed that I didn’t post on Saturday – it was so this post wouldn’t be a Visual Sunday edition, but one where I could say HEY!  It’s my 200th post!! In honor of this auspicious occasion, I thought I’d quick-share with you some of my favorite posts over the last year.  Thanks to all of you who have visited and who keep coming back!

Favorite Nourishing Foods post: How I Met the Rock Star of the Raw Milk Revolution

Favorite Wandernest post: 76 DAYS IN EUROPE – Day 71: Missing the Boat

Favorite Keeping a Simple Home post: A Dining Room Table

Favorite Living On Purpose post: Become Attached to Your Stuff

Favorite Nourishing Creativity post: 76 DAYS IN EUROPE – Days 22 & 23: Creative Habit-Making

Favorite picture: Flying

As for the rest…well, feel free to click around and see what you find!

Do you have a personal favorite post on Maggie’s Nest?  If there’s one that really sticks out for you, I’d love to hear about it here!  If I don’t hear, I’ll just assume that you all. love. them. all.  🙂

★★★★✩

★★★★★

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As some of you know. Maggie’s Nest started out as a personal blog where I could share my daily thoughts with family and friends.  Earlier this year, starting my fourth year of blogging, I wanted to reach a wider audience and share my passion for living a meaningful life through real food, simple homekeeping, nurturing creativity, and other ways that have become important in my own life.

Well, the Universe listened!  In the last three months more of you have been visiting Maggie’s Nest than ever before – thanks to a little love from Nourished Kitchen last Thursday, this site had ten times its normal daily traffic!  And since then, almost twice the usual daily traffic.  I am so grateful for all who visit, contribute, and return.

So now I’d like to get some feedback from you.  Please take a few minutes to complete this survey – only seven questions – so I can continue to develop a site that resonates, enriches, and serves the people who it’s for: you!

As an incentive, I’m doing my very first giveaway!  Leave a comment on this page after you’ve taken the survey, and on Sunday, April 3rd I’ll randomly choose one commenter to receive a copy of Nina Planck’s excellent book, Real Food: What to Eat and Why.  It’s my favorite introduction to the real food revolution, and I’m honored to give it away to one lucky reader.  To enter, all you have to do is complete the survey and then leave a comment saying that you’ve done so.  Thanks in advance for your help!

TAKE ME TO THE QUICK SURVEY

This weekend I am all about populating the house with those heavy hitters of the nourishment world: bone broth, and traditionally fermented foods.  More on the broth in tomorrow’s post – today I want to talk about the benefits of traditional fermentation.

In the long span of history before refrigeration, fermenting was the primary method of preserving food for long periods, ensuring that families would have nourishment in lean times or over cold winters when fields lay fallow.  It’s a practice found in traditional cultures around the world: Germany is well-known for sauerkraut but it is actually an ancient food that the Romans prized both for taste and medicinal qualities (and probably imported to that region of Europe now called Germany).  Korean and Japanese meals, even today, are not complete without some sort of pickled vegetable served on the side (kimchi or umeboshi plums, anyone?) to which they ascribe great health-giving properties.  American pioneers made the most of summer harvests by fermenting corn, cucumbers and even watermelon rinds into relish and pickles,turning ripe tomatoes into ketchup.  Honestly, just about every kind of food out there can be fermented, although you might better match them up with synonyms like curing (meats) and culturing (dairy).  Today I’m focusing on fermenting vegetables.

All right, you might be asking, so why is traditional fermentation better?  To quote Sally Fallon from my kitchen bible, Nourishing Traditions:

“…preservation of vegetables and fruits by the process of lacto-fermentation has numerous advantages beyond those of simple preservation.  The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels.  These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances.  Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”

Traditional fermentation is not a quick process (although preparation time is short), but leave it to the 20th century and its penchant for speeding everything up, to replace the old ways with quick-fermenting vinegar which, unfortunately, bypasses the nutrient-building that happens with a slow, traditional ferment.  As we became more divorced from nature (again, largely a 20th century invention) we also became micro-phobic, desiring to eradicate any bacteria from our foods.  The process of widespread pasteurization killed off harmful bacteria but along with it killed the beneficial bacteria that would have likely taken care of the bad guys themselves, while also making themselves available to populate our guts for better digestion and overall health.  The result is what I call a “dead” food – pasteurization literally kills the life in our food.  I believe (and I’m not the only one) that this now-common practice has led to the proliferation of food allergies, intestinal disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s disease, and the epidemic rise of autism which, along with schizophrenia and ADHD, has been strongly linked to gut disorder.

A few years ago I started checking labels of the fermented foods I bought, trying to find brands that use traditional ingredients like salt, sugar, whey or lemon juice.  They are out there if you really look, but eventually I decided I’d just learn how to make those foods myself.  It’s far cheaper and more satisfying.

Fermentation is a craft, one of those domestic arts that was nearly lost but is being revived, thanks largely to the internet and the traditional foods community, led by websites such as Real Food Media, Nourished Kitchen, Cheeseslave and Nourishing Days (and, now, Maggie’s Nest!).  Books like Nourishing Traditions and Wild Fermentation also champion the effort to bring this ancient kitchen wisdom into the 21st century.

Today’s recipe, modified slightly from Nourishing Traditions, is touted as their favorite introduction  to traditionally fermented foods: “the taste is delicious; and the sweetness of the carrots neutralizes the acidity that some people find disagreeable when they are first introduced to lacto-fermented vegetables.  Ginger carrots go well with rich foods and spicy meats.”

Lacto-fermentation is best created by adding fresh whey to your vegetables, but sea salt can be substituted and that’s what I did since I haven’t made my own whey yet.

Quick & Easy Gingered Carrots

Ingredients:
approximately 10 medium carrots (about 8 inches long and 1 inch thick)
1 big knob of fresh ginger (about 2 inches long and 1 inch thick)
2 Tbsp unrefined sea salt (if you have fresh whey, use 4 Tbsp whey and 1 Tbsp sea salt)
2 Tbsp lemon whey or lemon juice (set aside)

 

1. Grate carrots and ginger in food processor.  A hand grater can also be used; you’ll come up with a finer grate with the food processor, but it’s much quicker and your hands will thank you!  It’s also a nice way to thoroughly mix the ginger and carrots.

2. Gather grated carrots and ginger in a large flat-bottomed bowl or pot.  Mix in the salt (and whey) and pound with a wooden hammer or meat pounder to release the juices.  This will take about five minutes, so be patient.

3. Place pounded carrots and juice into one quart-sized jar or two pint-sized jars, and continue pounding until juices cover the carrots.  Carrots should be at least one inch below the top of the jar, to allow for expansion during fermentation.

4. Top up jar(s) with a bit of whey or lemon juice that was set aside.  This will provide a bit of a seal on top to deter any growth of unbeneficial bacteria.

5. Cover jars tightly and place on counter at room temperature for 3 days, depending on the warmth of your kitchen (colder kitchens will produce a slower ferment, so lean toward 4 days), then place in refrigerator or other cold storage, like a basement or root cellar, for long-term storage.  Gingered carrots can be eaten immediately after fermentation, although flavor will deepen over time.  This recipe should keep for at least 6 months, and has been known to keep for upwards of two years!

As I said earlier, fermentation is a craft and does take some practice.  It doesn’t always work, but it’ll come out right more often than you’d think, so don’t give up hope!  For inspiration, read about my failed first attempt at sourdough starter (another traditional way to ferment grains).

What are your favorite fermented foods?

Photo courtesy of geos.ed.ac.uk.

As I was trying to drift off to sleep tonight, a bleak scenario played itself out behind my eyes, and it all started with a plastic bag.  One of the two plastic grocery bags I have gathered since I got to Korea.  Normally I use the rollable/reusable Envirosax bag that I bought in Germany and have always carried in my purse since then, but for some reason (probably a momentary laziness on my part) two plastic grocery bags have followed me home anyway.  Tonight I thought hard about how I can best responsibly deal with those bags, since I have not seen a way to recycle them here.  Shall I pack them and bring them home with me?  Re-use them to pass groceries on to my successor?  Hm…  And then came the scenario: Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published with the title “Why I’m a Traditional Primal Locavore…and what the bleep that means.”

Sweet Potato-Eggplant Tapenade.  New York, June 2010.

Those of you who know me or have eaten a meal with me know that I am a bit picky when it comes to my food.  Many people are afraid to order “off the menu” in a restaurant even to the slight degree of taking your BLT without the L; not me!  I am an unabashed special needs customer when it comes to food, and long ago stopped being timid about it.  While I don’t end my food orders the way Meg Ryan did in the famous diner scene, her way of ordering can be retroactively attributed to me.

Why all the trouble?  Well, it’s a long story, but it started with one book (Diet for a Small Planet) that took me on a 17-year vegetarian trip, and another book (Nourishing Traditions) that literally changed my life and made me an omnivore again.  I seriously thank the universe every day for bringing that book into my life.  Why?  Well, let me just say that if it had been around 17 years earlier and crossed my path then, I might have spared myself a litany of health-related problems that I now see as primarily caused by the nutrient deficiencies of my vegetarian diet: PMS (increasingly painful and mood altering over the years), poor eyesight, crooked teeth and overbite (I’m not kidding), chronic fatigue, depression, mood swings, anxiety, yeast infections, bladder infections, low sex drive, ovarian cysts, joint pain, chronic weight gain, chronic tonsillitis, lots of colds and flus….yep, I think that’s all.  Oh no, mustn’t forget the increasing food sensitivities which to date include gluten, dairy, soy and eggs – the foods that I turned to quite often in my vegetarian days to get protein and that meat-like taste and texture that I really missed.  Coincidence?  I think not.

(Does a vegetarian diet have to cause so many problems?  Maybe not.  But with all respect to the vegetarians out there – believe me, I have been there and for many of the same reasons as you – I now believe that it’s damn hard to make a vegetarian diet nutrient-dense enough to be truly, vibrantly healthy.  Veg*ns, I lovingly and respectfully offer this link.)

So…Nourishing Traditions came into my life in 2007, and true to fashion I devoured a number of other books on the subject of traditional foods (I’ll include a reading list at the end).  This year I read yet another book that crystallized everything I’d been reading since going omnivore again – combining the best of the traditional foods movement with an in-depth study of how humans ate before the advent of agriculture (namely, the cultivation of grains and dairy).  Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint has not changed my life so much as synthesized and clarified what I was already gathering:

* Stop eating processed foods.

* Get off the horrid carb/sugar treadmill that our packaged-food culture is so addicted to.

* Understand that our addiction to speed and convenience has robbed us of the enjoyment of properly preparing and truly savoring our food.

* Realize that fifty years after America went low-fat, we are the fattest, least healthy culture in the world.

* Take a good look at where your food is coming from, and the damage being done to the planet just so you can have asparagus in September (hint: it’s likely coming from Argentina and traveling thousands of gas-guzzling miles to get here).

So, now I identify myself as a Traditional Primal Locavore.  Traditional: relying on the wisdom of our ancestors for how to prepare and eat food.  This happens to mean, among other things, NOT FEARING FAT AND EATING LOTS OF IT, ESPECIALLY SATURATED FATS.  (Note: my cholesterol is as low as when I was a vegan and I have pretty much stopped struggling with my weight since upping my fat intake.)  Primal: eating foods that our way-back ancestors (as in 10,000 years ago) would have been able to eat.  Locavore: eating as locally as possible.

Do I do it perfectly?  Far from it!  Do I do it joyfully?  You betcha!  In another post I’ll detail a bit more about what I actually eat.  Am I healthier as a result?  Maybe I’ll post about the changes in my list of maladies, but for now let’s just say that I would estimate that my various symptoms and problems have decreased by about 80%.  Thanking the universe.

If you want to know more, please feel free to ask questions – I am a bona fide food geek and love to share what I’ve learned.  Also check out the books in my reading list, especially “The Primal Blueprint” and “Nourishing Traditions”.  Of the two, I would now recommend “The Primal Blueprint” as the book to read if you’re only going to read one.

READING LIST

The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon & Mary Enig

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck

Full Moon Feast by Jessica Prentice

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price  (This book is also available free on the internet.  Although the text is incredibly valuable, the pictures are worth a thousand words a piece.  You can scroll through to look.)

WEBSITES TO VISIT

Mark’s Daily Apple

The Weston A. Price Foundation

Slow Food USA


At some point in my youth my mother decided I would collect music boxes. Actually, I don’t remember if she chose that completely on her own or if I indicated at some point that I wanted to and she ran with it. When I was young, it seemed that everyone in my family collected something – it was seen as a part of your personality, and an easy tip for gift-giving. So throughout my childhood and teen years I received music boxes of all sorts, eventually honing in on those that played show tunes to match my love of musical theatre. There’s one that plays “The Impossible Dream” and another that tings out “Hello, Dolly!” By the time I left home to strut my stuff on the Great White Way, I’d outgrown my collection so they drifted into the back of my mind, into a box in my parents’ garage. Recently I came across them and wondered what I should do with them. Even though I don’t want to keep a collection of music boxes, they’ve become somewhat sentimental to me.

I’ve never really understood the collector’s mindset – what compels someone to collect hundreds of tiny Hummel figurines, or porcelain dolls with spookily vacant faces, or antique cookie jars? I don’t have any judgment about it – actually I think it’s kind of neat, but I’ve never felt the pull to have one of my own. I often wondered if there was anything I would someday grow to love enough to start a collection.

Last week a friend of mine taught me how to knit. We met at this yarn shop and spent some time perusing the miles and miles of gorgeous yarns from all corners of the world, spun into dizzyingly beautiful skeins and stacked in racks that rose above our heads. Although there were thousands of choices, I knew as soon as I felt the soft nubby chenille yarn in shades of plum, lavender and charcoal that it was to be my first project. Giddy and proud, I bought my first skein and set of needles, and we went back to her studio for the lesson. She was patient and encouraging – a great foil for my perfectionist and judge; they could barely get a word in edgewise with her positive coaxing! I learned the stitch, very slowly and clumsily at first but then with growing ease and comfort. We chatted about all sorts of things until it was time to go.

That night I sat knitting, and thinking about the “hobbies” that feel most important to me now – gardening, cooking, baking, sewing, knitting, slowing down – and I thought to myself, maybe this is my collection. I’m collecting antique skills, special tasks passed down from woman to woman for centuries. They speak the ancient feminine, the womanly arts that have kept families clothed, fed, and nurtured for so long.

These skills have been dying over the last century, since industry and convenience became more desirable than true craft and patience. I’ve grown up in a generation that largely doesn’t know how clothing gets made, or food or the beautiful decorations that fill Target and Ikea. I forget that once upon a time people crafted their own, and grew up knowing how to do it because they had to. We don’t have to anymore, but perhaps we should. The pendulum is swinging back to center. What were once cast aside as limiting and demeaning women’s work in the feminist era are being reclaimed as links to our long feminine ancestry. As I stitch or knead or mend or tend, I am enlivening ancient knowledge.


I’m constantly intrigued and a bit surprised by my own pull toward the pleasures of nourishing old-fashioned food and down-home domesticity. I was raised in the heyday of the Women’s Lib movement, by a mother who shed her domestic life licketysplit for a high-powered advertising career, and taught me volumes about how to make it in the working world. Her advice did not go unheeded – with my own successful business and fulfilling work, I have never shied away from the challenge of making a damn good career out of what I love to do. It has always been my area of greatest comfort and experience, while the tub went uncleaned for years at a time and the fridge was stocked with Trader Joe’s packaging and takeout leftovers.

But I have heard the siren call deep in my belly to slow down and bury my hands in the the soil (and products of the soil). I remember in high school watching “Flashback” with my mother and being inexplicably, psychotically aware of a deep need to bake bread right then and there. Had I ever actually baked bread before, I would have known not to start such a project at 11:30pm (and if my mother knew this secret wisdom she should have told me). But no matter, I mixed and kneaded that bread with fervor, woke by my alarm at 2-hour intervals during the night to punch down the living cushion of dough, and rose at 6am to set my inaugural loaves to the fire. Although the initial product better served as doorstops than sandwiches, I never forgot the primal satisfaction of that experience. It has surfaced again over the years, though my drive to succeed in business has usually taken the front seat while baking, gardening, spring cleaning and homekeeping have been relegated to the trunk.

That is, until recently. Over the last year I have found myself journeying to feed this deep, primal place inside, answering the cry of Hestia, goddess of hearth and home to be expressed through me. She doesn’t want to wait any longer, and I feel the time is ripe to embody her more and more. What this looks like, I can’t be sure just yet. It does involve more bread-baking (which has improved greatly since 1989) and more…the making of traditional, whole, nourishing foods…the satisfying freshness of sun-dried bedsheets…the addition of homegrown rosemary and thyme, and in the summer, tomatoes and squash…the enjoyment of nurturing our family as it grows…the deepening of my conversations with Gaia (earth), Hestia (home), and Eileithyia (motherhood)…and probably other gifts that I can’t even imagine.

All of this, humbly submitted in posts about adventures in homemade marmalade, cat poop in the garden, and tips for how to clean way-overdue bathtub grout. I’m not at all sure how this blog of mine will turn out, but it seems like a fun way to chronicle my journey home. Thanks for witnessing and joining me.

The Author

This is a site about saying yes to life - written by a multi-passionate rock star who loves to take life between her fists and kiss it full on the mouth.

"Make my boy realize that, at the end of the everlasting why, there is a yes. And a yes and a yes!"
- Mr. Emerson,
A Room With A View

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