Taco Seasoning

When we first began to switch to eating cleaner and healthier, I looked at the seasoning packets I was using when I made tacos, chili, ranch dressing, etc for the first time and was in awe! I thought I was using only spices. Yep, I was that naive. I never really saw the other ingredients!

Seasoning_Mix_Original

Being allergic to Italian seasonings (Yes, oregano is in most taco seasoning mixes.) I had to come up with my own mix to use in place of store bought and online versions minus the oregano in it. As with most things in cooking, when you take something out, you have to figure out what to add back in to replace it. This one took me a LONG time! Here is what I use…

Taco Seasoning Mix:

2 Tbs chili powder (recipe)

5 tsp paprika

4 1/2 tsp ground cumin

3 tsp onion powder

2 1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Taco seasoning...

Taco seasoning…

WE FREAKING DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

***UPDATE***
I HAVE BEEN GETTING A LOT OF EMAILS LATELY ABOUT THIS POST. THEY ALL ARE ABOUT ONE THING…WHAT ESSENTIAL OILS DID I USE TO CURE MY DAUGHTER’S IgA?

I FEEL I HAVE SOMEHOW NOT BEEN AS SPECIFIC AS I THOUGHT I WAS ABOUT EVERYTHING WE DID TO PUT MY DAUGHTER’S IgA INTO REMISSION. I DECIDED TO REWRITE THIS POST TO CLEAR UP ANY CONFUSION. EVERYTHING WE DID IS LOCATED THROUGHOUT THIS BLOG.

PLEASE KNOW THAT THIS DID NOT HAPPEN OVERNIGHT. THIS TOOK US SEVERAL YEARS OF BEING VERY STRICT  AND IMPLEMENTING EVERYTHING AS A WHOLE TO GET TO WHERE WE ARE TODAY. IT WAS NOT AN EASY ROUTE TO GO DOWN. WE MADE MANY THINGS A PRIORITY THAT WERE NOT PRIORITIES BEFORE.

I DID NOT USE ANY ESSENTIAL OILS TO “CURE” MY DAUGHTER’S IgA NEPROPATHY. ALTHOUGH I LOVE MY ESSENTIAL OILS, THEY ARE NOT A CURE ALL FOR ANYTHING. I USE THEM IN MY DAILY LIFE AND FEEL THAT THEY ARE AMAZING….BUT SERIOUSLY LIKE I SAID THEY ARE NOT A CURE. ANYONE THAT TELLS YOU OTHERWISE IS NOT TELLING YOU THE TRUTH. YOU CAN TAKE OILS INTERNALLY AT YOUR OWN RISK. MANY CONSULTANTS WILL TELL YOU IT IS SAFE. I WILL TELL YOU THAT OILS ARE EXTREMELY POWERFUL AND TO USE WITH CAUTION.

The most important thing to remember is that I did everything I could think of to strengthen our immune systems and guts. It all acts as a whole. When you have an autoimmune disease, you have to think about things differently. Illnesses hit harder and take longer to get over. When you have IgA Nephritis, the more frequently you are sick the more irritated the kidneys become. The more irritated the kidneys become, the more damage to them and possibly other organs.

I WILL REPEAT THIS AGAIN IN CASE YOU MISSED IT IN ALL THE RED BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS ABOVE…I DID NOT USE ESSENTIAL OILS TO “CURE” MY DAUGHTER’S IGA NEPHROPATHY. I USE THEM IN OUR DAILY LIVES THOUGH…

You have heard me say over and over in this blog that the personal choices you make in your life with regards to foods, cleaners, and medications can affect you in ways you never dreamt were possible. Listening to your body is the key to helping you stay healthy and can truly change your life.

My Daughter’s Story

Here is an inside glimpse at what my oldest daughter’s world has been like for the last 19 years. A story that she seldom shares with close friends and family. I have been given special permission to share parts of it with you all now.

Since as far back as I can remember, my oldest daughter has had health issues of various forms. One of my roles in her life is to be her advocate and not accept what goes against my gut feeling especially when it comes to her health.

Where It Began

My oldest daughter had gotten sick with pneumonia and a major sinus infection when she was little. She was put on antibiotics for the usual 2 weeks. She seemed to get better. However, within 2 weeks after ending the antibiotic, she was sick again. I took her back into the doctors and she was again placed on antibiotics. She seemed to get better, however, within 2 weeks of being off the antibiotics, she was sick again.

This went on for weeks. Those weeks turned into months. Those months turned into over a year. At my wits end, frustrated, dealing with the side effects of the antibiotics, a constantly sick child, and no answers, I began demanding to see specialists when my daughter’s pediatricians failed us. Because she had insurance through the state, I had to go through her pediatrician for referrals. They were denying my requests.

I was told by the pediatricians in the office that I was…

  • A psychotic mother
  • Boarding on Munchhausen
  • Abusive
  • Neglective
  • Obsessive

All I begged for was to have her tested to see what was REALLY going on, not to have her prescribed another antibiotic and sent home. Let’s just say, I was not well liked! I was passed around through the practice with notes of my insanity written in her charts.  Unfortunately, we lived in a small town with only 2 pediatricians offices that took the state medical card. This practice was the better out of the 2. I continued to fight for her. On one of our bi-monthly doctor’s appointments (Yes, it was that bad!!) the doctors in the office had finally had enough of me and gave me to the nurse practitioner in the office warning her about how crazy I was. I heard them in the hall talking. She walked in and saw something that NONE of the other actual doctors in the practice saw.

The first part of our mystery unfolded.

She asked if I had a picture of my daughter from before she got sick. It just so happened that I did. When I showed her my pics, she noticed that my daughter’s sinus passages were really puffy and her face appeared swollen now and not in the pictures she was looking at. She sent us for scans immediately. Turns out my daughter had SEVERELY impacted sinuses aka one hell of a sinus infection. The antibiotics she was put on for the past year were not strong enough for her body to heal itself and the infection was returning within the 2 weeks after the course was done. She prescribed another round of stronger antibiotics for a longer time frame and the infection cleared up.

I felt vindicated and my daughter was no longer sick with the reoccurring sinus infection.

We continued to see the nurse practitioner, Cindy (ONLY) the entire time we lived in that small town. It was heartbreaking when we finally left the practice. However, it became too hard to do after we moved to another state.

The Hits Keep Coming

My daughter continued to get sick constantly. If there was a cold or virus going around she was guaranteed to get it. The symptoms would be more severe and it would last twice as long for her. No matter what it was, allergies, colds, viruses, flu. When we tried to figure out the why but there were never any answers for us. All we were told is that because she was a preemie at birth that maybe this was just one of the “side effects” of that.

Fast forward to her preteen years of February 2010. I received a phone call from my daughter’s school nurse telling me that she had collapsed and passed out in the hallway. The nurse told me that she thought she was faking it to get out of an exam. I took her immediately to our family doctor where she was diagnosed with a major kidney infection. The doctor was shocked that we did not know she had an infection or any symptoms of one at all. However, it was when she peed blood for the first time after the kidney infection had cleared up, that we knew we were in for something altogether different.

Our World Crashing Down Around Us
The first time she peed blood, her urine was checked and there were high levels of proteins in the urine along with blood. We were immediately sent to our local hospital and then to hospitals and specialists in Washington DC and Baltimore. It was crazy. She had just gotten over strep throat. X-rays on her kidneys also revealed fluid filling the 1/4 lower section of one of her lungs. At first, they thought it was pneumonia. However, that was not the case. It was actually blood in her lungs. That got all our attention, let me tell you!!! They ran test after test on her. We were being thrown names of all kinds of diseases and ailments that they thought it was. NONE were what a parent wants to hear and with the list growing we were unsure what the next course of action needed to be.

After several weeks and several specialists later, she was finally diagnosed with an autoimmune disease….IgA Nephritis (also known as IgA Nephropathy). IgA Nephritis is a kidney autoimmune disease. There is no cure for it.

I have been asked not to share all of the issues she faces daily. Many are just too personal for a 19-year-old to share. So the only thing I will share with you is that she gets sick often, it lasts at least 2 times longer and is more severe in symptoms. I will also tell you that she suffers flair ups when she gets sick. The only thing I will share about her flair ups, is that she does pee a HUGE amount of blood.

The effects compound in the body creating long term health issues (High blood pressure, swelling of the extremities, kidney failure, other organ failures, just to name a few).

What is IgA Nephritis and how is it diagnosed?

I am going to tell you the gist in nonmedical jargon…..

igan1igan3

Whenever you get sick, your body does multiple things at once to try to stop the infection. One of them is for your kidneys to send out a protein called IgA throughout your body. The IgA attaches itself to the germs and your kidneys basically give a loud whistle and the IgA coming running back with the germs in tow and your body gets rid of it in the urine. AKA you pee it out! Just one of the reasons you always hear to push fluids when you are sick! Well, the issue with IgA Nephropathy is that the body just kind of likes to continue to produce the IgA protein ALL THE TIME! Your urinary tract is NOT impressed, with it. They continue to bleed in protest. Normally it is small amounts seen only under a microscope. However, when you get sick, it is a whole different story! Since you usually produce this protein in mass amounts when you are sick, the proteins are increased with illness. The kidneys do not know what to do at that point. As I have already said, they are consistently bleeding in small amounts. When you get sick they get REALLY irritated and bleed a LOT. This is when you can see the blood in the urine. In my daughter’s case, it looked like you had dumped an entire IV bag of blood in the toilet when she peed.

Her kidneys were really pumping it out each time she got sick. The worst part though is that there is only so much blood your body can reabsorb at once. When my daughter would get sick and have a flair up, the blood from the kidneys would push up and her lungs would absorb it. That is what the fluid was in her lung on the X-rays.

Normal kidney

Normal kidney

Kidney with IgA. The black is the proteins....

Kidney with IgA

I will also tell you that when you go online and try to research IgA Nephritis, the information you find often contradicts itself. From the age that is most often diagnosed, to the treatment, and even the sex of those affected with this the most.

What did and does all this mean for my daughter’s overall health?

She sees a specialist who monitors her and makes sure we are doing everything we can. Remember there is no cure for it. All we do is manage her symptoms. If she has a flair up, she has to get blood work, scans, and urinalysis tests immediately. She has to drink a certain amount of fluids daily. It also means that eventually she will have to have kidney dialysis, multi-organ transplant, can’t drink alcohol ever, and the most painful one for her was being told that she would not be allowed to get pregnant.  These were just some of the issues she would face. It also meant that her immune system would always be compromised. She will continue to get sick constantly and that it would be harder for her body to fight illness.

This was the second part of the mystery that had plagued us since she was a baby.

We now understood why she was sick ALL. THE. TIME.

I could accept almost all of the things that were thrown at us.

EXCEPT for one thing.

THERE. IS. NO. CURE.

This is not something I would or could accept. I looked at it differently and decided to do all that I could think of to help my daughter beat what we were being told was unbeatable….

THE CHALLENGE HAD BEEN LAID OUT….

THE CHALLENGE WAS EXCEPTED!

What did I change?

Diet, cleaners, medications, the way I treat us when we are ill.

Diet
The first thing we did was overhaul our diet. We loved, LOVED, L.O.V.E.D. our processed foods. Did I mention LOVED??? This was one of the hardest things we changed. We switched to a Real Whole Foods diet and then incorporated the Feingold Diet into that. I cut out processed foods and also took out the artificial sweeteners, additives, preservatives, nitrates, nitrites, sodium benzoate, high fructose syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, and more. We had multiple things going on with various family members all at once. I knew that gut health was vital in helping all of us to get to where we needed to get to. Basically, we cut out all processed foods and as many preservatives and additives as we were able to. Processed foods to us now are pickles, tortillas, cheeses, noodles. We began shopping local and buying as fresh as possible. We stopped eating out. I am not talking about here and there type things. There is no cheating. No shortcuts. I moved into making almost everything from scratch. What I can’t make has 5 ingredients or less in it and I know what they are and why they are in there. Boxes and canned foods are almost non-existent in my home. I forced her to drink tons of water. We eat all natural prebiotics and probiotics. I discovered the power of fermented foods and the correlation between the gut and the immune system. My thought was that the healthier she eats the less she will get sick. The less she gets sick, the more her body can heal itself. The more her body can heal herself, the stronger her immune system will become.

Food Storage Containers
We moved away from all plastic containers and water bottles opting for glass instead.

Household Cleaners and Other Chemicals
This one was another one I had to get used to. We now make our own cleaners. Trading in the store bought chemicals for the homemade all natural ones instead. I add essential oils to my cleaners. We got rid of the smell good candles and plug-ins. Air fresheners and Lysol are gone as well. If I want to make the house smell good, I use essential oils and one of my diffusers. Laundry detergents and dish soaps are all free and clear of scents and colors. We also removed as many of the carpets as we were able to in our home replacing them with wood and laminate flooring. We change out of air filters in our home more frequently than is suggested

Beauty Products 
We make as many of our beauty products as possible from scratch. If we can not, then we are very careful with ingredients. The fewer the better. I add essential oils to our beauty and skin care products. Not because of her IgA but because of their therapeutic properties.

Other The Counter Medications and Prescriptions

I started using homeopathic remedies as my first line of defense against colds, viruses, and allergies instead of running to the pharmacy and doctors offices. Things like teas with BUCKWHEAT honey and lemon or increasing pickles (pickle juice), dark chocolate, etc for cold and cough relief, detox baths with Epsom salt, baking soda, and essential oils in them instead of Vicks. From scratch chicken noodle soups. Pushing fluids and lots of rest when sick. We use essential oils in diffusers in the rooms that we are in. We also incorporate sinus and throat massages when we are sick.

If we need a supplement or a vitamin, we work it out with the doctors to let us try increasing foods that contained them first before putting us on meds or supplements. If we do need to go on them, we take with natural prebiotic and probiotic foods (fermented foods, dark chocolate, plain greek yogurts).

Seasonal allergies are treated with essential oils, rest, detox baths, netti pots, and staying indoors with the windows and doors closed when needed. This includes keeping our windows and the sunroof of our vehicles closed when allergies are at their worst.

Doctors Offices
We used to go the doctors offices at the first or second symptom of any virus or illness. Especially because of my oldest daughter. Little did I realize that we were causing us more issues. The doctors offices are Petri dishes for germs (confirmed by the doctor). They do not disinfect the chairs, magazines, toys, pens, surfaces, door knobs, exam tables, etc. You often end up picking up more there than just the initial diagnoses you were there for. Now, we wait 5 days before going into the doctors office. If I can not get the illness to subside and run it’s course or if it is getting worse instead of better, then we get in for antibiotics. When we go in, we do not touch anything. We do not sit down in their waiting rooms. We do not read their magazines or play with their toys there. We bring a tablet or use our phones for entertainment. We wipe down the exam room before touching anything or sitting down. We use hand sanitizer while there and also the second we leave the offices. When we come home, we change our clothes immediately. We do everything in our power to stay away from touching our eyes, noses, and mouths. Seems extreme to many but we have not caught anything from the doctors or specialists offices in over 5 yrs. We do this year around.
Knowing When To Become Hermits 
During the fall (a week after school starts) until the late spring we rarely go out to places when they are busy. We are semi-hermits. We do this to limit the germ exposure. Sounds crazy to many but when you have an autoimmune disease, it is not. We are trying to keep the immune system as healthy as we can. My kids and I are not cooped up. We are just smart about when we do things. Movies are matinees when not as many people are there. Grocery shopping is done when the stores are not as busy. Play dates are random and far between during this time of year. Parks are gone to when not a lot of kids are there. Museums and aquariums are done during the week and as early in the day as possible. We wash our hands frequently and use a lot of hand sanitizers when in public. .

Bags, Purses, and Shoes
Shoes are taken off at the door while purses, book bags, diaper bags and grocery bags do not touch tables and counters. All but grocery bags are actually left at the entry way of my home on hooks and emptied there as needed. Grocery bags are emptied on either a chair or while they are on the floor. They are folded and taken back to the entryway of my home immediately.

It has now been 5 years since she had her last flair up and 2 years since her last formal specialist check up. At her last check up we were in awe with what we were told.

It appeared as though we either had brought the IgA Nephropathy into remission or completely reversed it. My daughter’s specialist decided to run more tests and do another urinalysis to see where the levels are and to confirm what she believed that we were able to do. I waited to finish the original post until we knew what the outcome of those test results were. They ran and then re-ran the tests to make sure that the test results were accurate.

We were hopeful.

We were affirming.

We were setting it into motion.

We were staying positive!!!

THEN THE CALL WE HAD BEEN WAITING FOR AN ENTIRE WEEK + HAPPENED….

  • WE REVERSED THE IgA IN MY DAUGHTER!!!!
  • AS IN GONE!!!!
  • NO PROTEINS IN HER URINE!!!!
  • KIDNEYS WERE BACK TO FUNCTIONING THE WAY THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO!!!!
  • 100% GONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What Did This Mean For My Daughter?

  • She is now allowed to get pregnant. She will need to be monitored more closely during her pregnancies but she can now have a baby if she chooses.
  • She can now take medications and prescriptions if she needs to.
  • She can live a normal life.

The only thing we have been warned about is that if she no longer decides to follow the path of “treatment” that we figured out for her, her IgA Nephropathy can return with a vengeance. We were also told that unfortunately there is long term damage to her kidneys and lungs that we can not do anything about.

Want more information on IgA Nephropathy????

kidney.org

kidney.niddk.nih.gov

emedicine.medscape.com

Squooshi Review

As many of you know, we do not eat out. So, when we are running errands, I always try and pack something for us to eat in case we get hungry. I opt for reusable food pouches.  Squooshi being my favorite.

Homemade smoothies, yogurts, applesauce, my list goes on and on for what creative things I can make and put in these clever pouches. It is not recommended for liquidy items (they may leak).  They are freezer and dishwasher safe.

 They arrive in about a week in an envelope. No wasted space or packaging.

Look at what came in the mail!

The envelope.

Front side of the package...

Front side of the package…

Back side of the set packaging....

Back side of the set packaging….

The kit I bought contained the following items:

1 small lion (2.5 fl oz (70mL))

1 small bird (2.5 fl oz (70mL))

1 large walrus (4.5 fl oz (130mL))

1 large panda (4.5 fl oz (130mL))

1 large monkey (4.5 fl oz (130mL))

1 large penguin  (4.5 fl oz (130mL))

4 Squooshi Replacement Caps

50 Squooshi Dissolvable Content & Date Labels

2 Squooshi Sip’n Silicone Soft Tops

They got all of this into the small packaging...

They got all of this into the small packaging…

Pretty cute huh?

I have to say that ALL three of my kids LOVE these things.  Yep, even the college student has NO issues whipping out one of these things while at school.

 They are made out of  a lightweight plastic though they are NOT flimsy. With a sturdy zip-lock style seal and a choke-proof cap, they are ready to fill, enjoy, wash, and repeat over and over again. Nothing to throw away. This makes me a happy Mom!

Opening in the bottom of the pouch...

Opening in the bottom of the pouch…

I made 2 different smoothies to try in the pouches. One was PB, banana, and dark cocoa (with whole milk) and the other was just 100% real fruit with nothing else added to it.

Peanut butter, banana, and dark cocoa smoothie getting ready to be blended...

Peanut butter, banana, and dark cocoa smoothie getting ready to be blended…

Fruit smoothie...

Fruit smoothie…

Filling The Pouches

The directions say to fill the pouches no more then 3/4 of the way full. After the first 2-3 pouches, I got the hang of it rather quickly. However, I had to wipe off the zippers before I closed them. This is not an issue with the pouches, but rather an issue with the operator…me!  They close very tightly, nothing leaked!

Ready to go in the freezer for tomorrow! Kids wanted them frozen.

Ready to go in the freezer for tomorrow! Kids wanted them frozen.

We placed these bad boys in the freezer for lunches throughout the week. We pull them out of the freezer in the AM and by the PM they are the perfect temp for snacking.

Cleaning

I decided to put these pouches through a test to see how well they would actually come clean. I took two of the pouches that had the smoothies in them and left them on my kitchen counter for 3-4 days. They smelled absolutely horrid when I opened them. Seriously GAG worthy! I soaked them in normal hot soapy water for about 5 minutes like I do all my hand wash dishes and then rinsed it. I was expecting the seriously nasty 3-4 day old sludge to be a pain to wash out. The sludge washed out immediately. The only area I had to gently scrub was where the zip lock closure and the bag met. There is a slight lip that some of the smoothie mix decided to attach to. I gently scrubbed it and it came right off! I am in LOVE with them! The smoothies even came off the lids with NO issues. The smell that often remains in plastic when something spoils in it was absent from the pouches.

I decided to give the dishwasher a try as they are dishwasher safe. I did open it up and place it over the prongs on the top shelf to help keep it open. As you can see, it did not come clean for me.

Inside of the pouch after going through my dishwasher...

Inside of the pouch after going through my dishwasher…

We will stick with the hand washing from now on. I would recommend getting or using a bottle drying rack (if you already have one) to dry the pouches easier.

 Squooshi Filling Station Set

I decided one kit was not enough for this house and ordered their filling set.  You guessed it, it comes with a gadget to fill the bags easier.

Filling Station Set contains the following:

Filler Tank

  • Capacity – 17 fl.oz (This will fill approximately 7 small pouches or 4 large pouches.)
  • Dimensions – 6″ high x 4″ in diameter
  • Plunger, which doubles as a masher
  • Yellow cap for filling spout

2 small pouches and 4 large pouches

Sip’n silicone soft tops

A pack of 50 labels

Really cute bonus bags (They are not listed on the site, but came with my kit)

Cute packaging!

Cute packaging!

They really do not waste ANY space!!

They really do not waste ANY space!!

Look at it all!!!

Look at it all!!!

Bonus bags...

Bonus bags…

Here is a smoothie recipe that is a favorite here. It is super simple with no added sugars.

Blueberries...

Blueberries

Oranges and banana...

Oranges and banana…

Peaches and pears...

Peaches and pears…

Strawberries adding to the YUM factor!

Strawberries adding to the YUM factor!

Hello there beautiful....no sugar or milk added. Occasionally we will add Greek yogurt to it.

Hello there beautiful….no sugar or milk added. I will also add frozen fruit to it too. Occasionally we will add Greek yogurt.

Getting blended....

Getting blended….

Part of a carrot...The kids decided to add carrots to the smoothie at the last second...

The kids decided to throw in carrots too.

On to the filling action….

Pouch tip slides onto the filler...

Pouch tip slides onto the filler…

Filling...

Filling…

Full..

Full..

There is a plug / cap you are supposed to put on the fill station directly after you take off the pouch. I obviously did not listen to the directions.

Oops! This why you should cap it!

Kinda leaks a little bit without it.

Yellow magical "plug"...

Yellow magical “plug”…

Once it is filled, I slightly leaned it back and took off the pouch. The smoothie doesn't leak out...

Once it is filled, I slightly leaned it back and took off the pouch. The smoothie doesn’t leak out…

It really uses all the smoothie!

It really uses all the smoothie!

The only smoothie casualty. There was enough smoothie to fill the filler twice...

The only smoothie casualty. There was enough smoothie to fill the filler twice…

The fill station is just as easy to clean as the pouches are.

How Do You Get Squooshi?

If you want to order them or learn more about them click here for all things Squooshi or get them on Amazon.

DISCLAIMER:

I WAS IN NO WAY SOLICITED BY SQUOOSHI OR ANY COMPANY NOR COMPENSATED FOR THIS REVIEW IN ANYWAY. I AM NOT AFFILIATED WITH SQUOOSHI. I PAID FOR THE KITS ON MY OWN. MY REVIEW IS BASED ON MY OWN EXPERIENCES.  

Garlic Asiago Italian Bread

This is one of those recipes that is so versatile. I use it for bread loaves, bowls, rolls, buns, sticks, etc. It is easy to change up the taste by adding in different seasonings, herbs, spices, and cheeses or leaving them out altogether for just plain Italian bread. This recipe is one of my family’s favorite bread recipes. I am often asked to share it. It is a very simple recipe that even my 11 year old daughter can make on her own.

Ingredients
2 1/4 tsp Active yeast (1 packet )
1 1/4 cup Warm water (110-115 degrees)
2 T Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
3 cups Flour
Asiago cheese (grated)
Garlic (minced)
Parsley (optional)
Pepper (optional)
Oven safe pan with 1″ of water in it

Instructions
1. Place the yeast, salt, and sugar in a bowl.
2. Add in the warm water.
3. Let sit for about 5 minutes to proof the yeast.
4. Add the flour to the mix and knead until dough becomes smooth. If you need more flour add it in a little at a time.
5. Form dough into a ball cover with a large towel and let rise (about 40 minutes). You can grease the bowl if you prefer. I do not grease my bowls.
6. Punch down the dough and shape into a ball (Easier to work with) on a lightly floured surface.
7. Slighty flatten out the dough ball and add the garlic, Asiago cheese, seasonings to the dough ball.
8. Knead until blended in.
9. Place dough on a greased pan, oven safe bowl, bread pan (whatever you are using to bake the bread in).
10. Cover and let rise until doubled (about 40 minutes).
11. Place the pan of water on the bottom rack of your oven.
12. Spritz with water and bake at 325 degrees until golden brown (about 40 minutes.

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Eggrolls

My best friend and her kids stayed with us for a couple of days before moving on to visit family a couple of years ago. She taught me how to make eggs rolls. Over the years, I have played with the recipe and tweaked it. It has been one of the best, most forgiving, and often asked for recipe in my home. When my family see a head of cabbage in the fridge they all know what is coming.

Ingredients
Small head of cabbage (julienned) 
Carrots (julienned)
Garlic (minced)
Onion (minced or julienned)
Any add-ins (optional)
Soy Sauce (to taste)
Egg Roll Wrappers 
Small bowl of water
Oil of your choice (to fry in)
Pinch of Salt (optional)
2 tsp Sugar (optional)

Optional Add-In Ideas
Meat of your choice (julienned)
Eggs (cooked without stirring, flipped once, and julienned)
Mushrooms (julienned or chunked)
Bamboo chutes (julienned)
Water chestnuts (julienned or chunked)
Broccoli (julienned)
Bell Peppers (julienned)
Squash  (julienned or chunked)
Eggplant (julienned or chunked)
Snow Peas

Directions
1.Combine cabbage, carrots, garlic, onion, soy sauce, and any of the vegetable add-ins to a large skillet or wok on medium heat. Cook until cabbage wilts and veggies soften. Anywhere from 2-6  minutes depending on your version of softening.
2.Drain the liquid from the mixture and set aside.
3.If using meat or egg, cook to your preference and add to the mixture when done.

*Many people prefer to add oil when cooking the veggies. I do not. I find that my veggies are wet  enough without adding the oil. You can do it either way.
*Many people add salt or sugar to the veggies mix as they are cooking it. I do not. The soy  sauce    has enough salt already in it for my family. I also tend to steer away from adding  sugar as well.    Feel free to add them to the veggie mix if you want to.
*Your color of cabbage and onions will determine the color the egg roll mixture. I chose    purple cabbage and red onions for ours. Hence the purple egg roll mixture.

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Assembling The Egg Roll
1. Place the wrapper in a diamond shape on a flat surface.
2. Take a spoonful or so of the mix and place in the lower ⅓ of the wrapper.
3. Dip a finger into the water and trace the outer edge of the wrapper.
4. Take the bottom flap of the diamond, lift it up, and tuck it over the top of the mix.
5. Next fold the left flap to the center of the wrap and repeat with the right side. This will    create an envelope.
6. Gently, beginning from the bottom of the wrapper, roll the egg roll upwards until the  top flap rolls over the egg roll and creates a seal.
7. Heat oil in deep skillet or pot and deep fry until they are golden brown. Place on paper    towels or a wire rack to remove excess oil.

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Fighting Back

This blog post was a hard one for me to write. It touched on a subject that is personal, raw, and heavily clouded in stigma. It took me several months to write and weeks to press publish. Be gentle with me on this one please.

Somewhere I lost myself.

Somehow I became unrecognizable to me.

Sometime I stopped living and began merely existing.

Some point I decided to fight my way back.

Depression is never easy. It slinks into our lives and encompasses us whole over a period of time. It is slow, silent, and methodical. It changes everything about us, stripping us raw in the process. By the time we realize it has a firm grip on our soul, we are often at a loss about how to rebuild our lives once again. There is so much stigma surrounding depression that many will decide not to seek help or treatment. Others will not receive the proper forms of treatment and will “give up” treatment altogether.

Depression Stats:

  • 17.5 – 20 million Americans and 30+ million people worldwide are affected by some form of depression.
  • 70% of those affected by depression will be women.
  • 1-4 people will have some form of depression by the time they are 24 years old.
  • Many forms of depression are often linked to other mental illnesses.
  • Those experiencing PTSD are especially prone to having co-existing depression.
  • 50% of depression stems from genetics according to experts.

Some Causes Include:

  • Medications
  • Thyroid and hormones
  • Chronic Illness
  • Chronic Pain
  • Grief
  • Alcohol and recreational drug use
  • Genetics
  • Family History
  • Abuse
  • Conflicts
  • Life changes
  • Loss of someone or something
  • Eating disorders
  • Personal issues (isolation)

Some Signs And Symptoms Include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.
  • Hallucinations

Long Term Side Effects Of Depression:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Low bone mineral density causing osteoporosis
  • Mental Decline
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Suicide
  • Lowered immune system
  • Increase chance of having a stroke
  • Complications in pregnancy
  • Breathing related sleep disorders

Who To See To Be Diagnosed:

  • Family physician (although most will refer you to a licensed Mental Health Practitioner)
  • Licensed Mental Health Practitioner

Treatment Options (Mainstream):

  • Medication is one of the most popular forms of treatment prescribed for depression.
  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Combination of medication and psychotherapy
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for Depression
  • Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

Treatment Options (Non Traditional):

  • Food
  • herbs, supplements, essential oils
  • Adult coloring books
  • Walking
  • Exercise (Especially Yoga)
  • Managing stress levels
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Find and do things you are passionate about.
  • Go to a movie, a ballgame, etc. that you once enjoyed.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Have patience with yourself.
  • Break up larger tasks into small ones.
  • Set some priorities and do what you can as you can.
  • Spend time with people that truly care about you and are positive.
  • Confide in a trusted friend or relative.
  • Try not to isolate yourself,
  • Let others help you.
  • Do not expect to suddenly “snap out of” depression.
  • Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Think positive.
  • Educate yourself about depression.
  • Surround yourself with things that calm you.
  • Remove the clutter in your life (Both physically and metaphorically speaking).
  • Plan and start a project around your house (revamp a room, organize a room).
  • Plan a mini vacation or day trips to places you have always wanted to go to.
  • Meditation
  • Visualization
  • Fresh flowers (can come from grocery store, farmer’s market, florist).
  • Surround yourself with daily reminders that are inspirational to you.
  • Find your creative side.
  • Take a class on something you have always wanted to learn about or to do.
  • Acupuncture
  • Hypnosis

Ideas To Help Loved Ones Fighting Depression:

  • Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
  • Talk to him or her, and listen carefully.
  • Never dismiss their feelings.
  • Never tell them to “get over it” or “move on” etc.
  • Never ignore comments about suicide.
  • Invite them out for walks, outings and other activities. Keep trying if he or she declines, but don’t push him or her to take on too much too soon.
  • Offer to just hang out and keep them company.
  • Provide assistance in getting to the doctor’s appointments or any other errands they may need to do.
  • Do realize it will take many things being done simultaneously before they begin come out of depression. There is not a one size fits all treatment.

I wish I could say I am not an old acquaintance of depression. I refuse to call it a friend. But I have lived with various forms of depression on and off since I was a teenager. Probably further back than that if I am going to be honest. My past, like many, is colorful. I strive on a daily basis to prove that I am not my past. Just like with my PTSD, I refuse to allow depression to define me and take away all that I have in my life. Trust me, depression is a master at it. Sometimes it just takes me longer to fight back than others. 

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This past year has been one of the hardest for me. I knew that depression had set in, but I did not realize how deep it went until I began to fight back. My PTSD was horrific this past winter. It manifested itself in new ways. Between my PTSD and the depression, I was constantly overwhelmed. I knew I needed to change things. It just took a while to figure out what needed to be changed, how to change it, and in what order.

I can not say that I was suicidal. I did not sit and actively think about ways to kill myself. I did not wish for death. Nor was I to the point of “If I wait a couple of seconds longer or slow down my speed then the semi that is driving 70 miles an hour will hit me.” or “I could just slightly vear off the road and roll down the embankment or hit that tree.” I am not going to lie though, I think I was close to that point. I began to understand those that do attempt or are successful in committing suicide. I have always viewed suicide as a selfish act. I still see it that way. But I completely get it.

I just wanted  needed the pain to end. My entire body, mind, hell even my soul, is / was so tired of the daily pressure and pretense of looking like my shit’s together. I often feel like I am anything but together. My “give a shit” meter was on pause in terms of my appearance. My clothes and hair reflected my inner love for myself. I wore stained, holey clothes when I was at home. If I matched, BONUS. Make up?? What was that?? My main go to hair style was a bun or pony tail most of the time.  If I brushed or combed it every couple of days, that was another bonus! Finger combing worked just fine for me usually. When I went out into public, I did try and make myself more presentable and less embarrassing, I promise. I was once told “What does my appearance matter because I am a stay at home mom?”by someone. Yet that comment got stuck on auto repeat this past yr. It is amazing what gets stuck on auto repeat sometimes in our brains. 

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Then there is the guilt as those I love pass silent and more often than not, not so silent judgment about the effects the depression is having on me and those around me. Comments about maybe trying medication or I am “acting off” are said frequently as well. Defending my decisions on why I refuse to use medications or why I am acting off  are met with yet more judgment. Medication will help my PTSD and depression how???? It’s nothing but a bandaid in my eyes. You need to assess the issues first before you can decide how to treat them. 

Please understand that I put enough guilt and judgement on myself for my lifetime and yours. My mind was and is in a million other places so yea, I am going to act off occasionally. I do not know anyone who does not have off days. I constantly feel overwhelmed and like there is not enough of me to do what is needed to be done in the time frame that it all needs to be done in. Something is always not marked off on my to do list from the day before and sometimes from the day before that. I wish for a clone on a daily basis. The funny thing is, I am told constantly that many people would not be able to do all that I do daily and that they have no idea how I do it at all…Yet, I am here I am, doing it daily.  Maybe not perfectly, but I am still doing it. 

You often hear that those that are depressed feel completely numb. They are right…We do! I think we feel numb because we feel too much. Those emotions never seem to leave us, they just compound one on top of the other. I think that the feeling numb part is the only way the body can still function while the brain tries to process it all while it and keep us going daily. It is trying to keep us safe.

My Fight Back

Counseling / Therapy
One of the first things I did was start back into counseling this past year. Due to personal reasons, I had to stop counseling for a few months. I think it was one of my downfalls. I did not have a choice though. 

If you chose to go this route, find a counselor / therapist that will understand what your needs are from the start. Do not just settle with a therapist for the sake of going to therapy. Chose wisely. I have heard from so many people that they were not able to relate to the therapist or that the suggested therapies and coping strategies did not work for them in any way because the therapist did not have an understanding, experience, or proper training in what they were seeking help in.

Write A List
Seriously, if you want to conquer something, you need to be able to see it all in black and white. I created a list of everything that was overwhelming me. My Hubby and I sat down and divided up the list. This is what was on it and what we and I did about it.

Clean House
I can not function in a house that I feel is not straightened up and actually clean. It physically weighs on me. My 11 year old helps me straighten up the house several times a day (5 minute clean ups here and there as needed) but I also needed help with the bigger things like cleaning bathrooms, dusting, vacuuming, mopping. My Hubby and oldest daughter were not helping in the way I needed. I looked into hiring a cleaning service. At $500-$700 a month, they decided that helping more was not a bad thing.

MOUNDS of laundry 
5 people create a LOT of laundry. We do not use paper towels or paper napkins. If the laundry was on a main floor vs basement I think it would have been better for me to keep up with. But that was not the case. It was hard for me to sort, transfer, etc with Reine. She would take off and get into things immediately. Hubby took over the collecting, sorting, and washing of all laundry. The girls and I fold it and everyone puts their own laundry away.

Meal planning
Meal planning consisted of me creating a meal plan because no one wanted to help and then everyone telling me they were not hungry for what I made. To say I was frustrated would be an understatement. Now, everyone sits down and figures out a month worth of meals together. I then figure out a weekly meal plan and write a grocery list based off of the “master” list.

Errands and Grocery shopping
Errands and grocery shopping have always been hard with Reine. I can only go to 1 or 2 places (for only a couple of items) before it becomes too overwhelming for her. My grocery shopping is not 1-2 places. I now run errands and or grocery shop when the kids are able to remain at home.

This past year when my PTSD was really bad, I also began to “disassociate” when I had a massive anxiety or panic attack. I now go at times when I know the stores I am going to, will not be crazy. That is usually early morning or late at night. I wear noise cancelling headphones and listen to music when I am out in public.  If I know I am getting to the point that I am close to disassociating, I will cut grocery shopping or errands short immediately, call my support circle (Hubby, Mom In Law, or best friend) and they will stay on the phone with me until I am in “safe” location which is usually my home.

Cooking 
If you follow the blog then you know that I cook almost everything from scratch. I LOVE to get creative in my kitchen and cook. Meals began to get routine and I got very overwhelmed with the cooking and attempting to keep Reine safe and in the same room as me. I still do most of the cooking. My middle daughter has now started cooking full meals a couple days a week. Dinner waits until someone else can have control with Reine.

My Autistic Mermaid (Reine) 
If you follow Simply Reine, then you know my youngest daughter has autism.  Trying to navigate into her world and to understand her can be exhausting. Trying to stay one step ahead of her is a never ending process. Honestly, it has been just as exhausting for me to get my Hubby to help me implement certain things to give Reine her freedom and me my sanity.

In his mind, none of these things should be needed to keep Reine safe. I should be watching her 27 / 7. I am often left feeling like I have failed her once again as a parent. Realistically, that is not an option. I have things that also require my attention. Before you pass judgement on me and tell me I am a horrible mother, understand that my kids are my #1 priority. Their safety and well being is apart of that #1 priority. I am talking about things like cleaning up after her when she creates a mess (spilling a drink, leaving toys all over the floor, dogs need to go outside and we are in another room, occasionally I need to go to actually go to the bathroom, or when I am getting her a snack, drink, or a meal. She loves to go into our bedrooms and get into things she knows she is not allowed to (Like Big Sis makeup and perfume). Or to try to go outside when no one is with her.

Recently Reine has begun showing signs of Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD). She throws things (sometimes breaks them) and hits people. We are in the process of being placed on a weight list to her tested for it. But I can not leave glass on the floor or broken plastic pieces for her to cut herself on can I?

I need things like locks on doors, extra locks on the front and back doors, alarms on windows, video monitors to help me keep her safe as she grows and begs for more independence.

My Oldest Daughter’s Schedule 
This may seem like an easy one, but it has not been. My daughter will often make plans that I do not have any knowledge about. I do not mind that the fact that she made the plans at all. What I do mind is the lack of sharing of these plans with me, reminding me of them, or letting me know the times that they are happening.  She often needs a ride to work, school, etc. She has a calendar on the back of the front door that she tries to put things on but I honestly needed a better system. Sometimes changes that were made are not on the calendar or the plans have changed last minute. She now gives me a copy of her work and school schedule. She is working on letting me know if she is going out and whether or not she needs a ride to and from wherever she is going. Better planning on her part and on mine.

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Social Media
This one was hard for me. I felt obligated to groups and pages I was a creator of or admin on. However, I realized I needed to be selfish and do what I needed to do for my own health. I weeded out the pages and groups that I did not feel I contributed to in the way that was needed of me.

I rebuilt Simplicity Redesigned on Facebook from the ground up. I was not able to add things or do things on the page that I truly wanted to do to it. It was something I had thought about doing for a long time, but was too afraid too. I lost all my followers on the page during the rebuild of it.  If they are truly fans of the page then they will find it once again.

I recently weeded out family and friends on Facebook as well. I decided to keep my inner circle limited to those that support me instead of those that I felt obligated to have on my list.

Staying compliant
I spent the better part of a couple of months trying to stay within compliance guidelines of an essential oil company I use. I rewrote blog posts, deleted boards on Pinterest, deleted pics on Instagram, my blogs, FB pages, deleted tweets, etc. I received emails, phone calls, and letters telling me I had to remove everything that contained their branding. The catch was that I had already removed the content. I was told I would be suspended and lose my ranking within the company if I did not comply. This went on for months. It was seriously ridiculous! I was ready to end my relationship with them. I decided that I will no longer advertise by either print or verbally that I have anything to do with this company directly instead. I will not share, post, blog, takes pics of anything about the company or it’s products ever again. I was never in it for the money. It is a Multi-level marketing (MLM) company. But hey, I will never be non compliant with them again either.

Blogging
Writing is one of my biggest “therapies”. I write for myself and if others like what I write or can take anything from my life experiences and lessons that can benefit them, than that is a bonus to me. Like cooking, it is a release of emotions and relaxing for me. However, I had so much going on in my head, I was unable to get it out. I lost my voice so to speak. I decided to walk away from my blogs for a time. I continued to write on them as the words came to me. I knew it would not be forever.  I needed to be gentle to myself and my soul. I had to allow myself time to find my voice once again.

Purging
It seemed like everywhere I looked there was just “stuff”. It was hard to get people to pick up after themselves all the time. I got tired of it. I decided it was time to purge. It is now a kind of obsession for me. I have purged my two younger daughters’ bedrooms. This included their closets and toys. I then moved into their playroom, the classroom, my kitchen and my closet. I am now moving onto my living room, bathrooms, and linen closet. If I do not use it, have a use for it, or truly want it, it is gone.

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Family
Family is always complicated, messy, chaotic, and rarely works the way we truly wish it would. This year, I have had my share of family heartaches and chaos. It really took a toll on me. I made decisions, did what I thought was needed to be done. Some worked out for the better while some…let’s just say I was expecting doors to be slammed in my face but I truly was not expecting the doors to be slammed in my kids faces as well. I do not regret my decisions or my actions. I just wish the ending was very different.

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Downtime
This one is a big one for me. I feel like I never take enough time for myself. I am always “on” as a mom and a wife but not for me. I rarely felt calm or relaxed at the end of the night. Instead, I was going to bed hyped up from the day. Sleep was not what you would call restful by any means.

Hubby now takes our youngest daughter when he comes home from work so that I can make dinner, unwind, blog, etc.

We gave Reine a strict bedtime of 8 PM. My Mom In Law gave me the idea to put my middle daughter to bed at 9 PM. She has an hour to either bathe, read a book, craft, or do something on her tablet for an hour. It has to be done upstairs. This way I have 2 hours to myself.

Bedtime
I often experience bouts of “insomnia” like episodes with my PTSD. I can not get my brain to shut off. I am sooo exhausted, but not exhausted enough to sleep. It is like my body is not allowing me to get the much needed rest it needs. Going to bed at 5 AM and waking up at 6:00- 6:30 AM (when Reine says Hello to the Sun) does not do the body, mind, or soul any good.  Sleep deprivation only makes my PTSD and depression worse. Now I go to bed at 11:00 PM whether I am tired or not. I am training my body that bed means sleep and it helps tremendously. My brain is learning to shut itself off.

Mini Zoo
Let’s be honest here, I have a mini zoo. We have 1 turtle, 1 lizard, 2 birds, 2 dogs, 3 cats, 4 hermies, and lots of fish. The zoo upkeep was just not as high on the list of priorities as I needed it to be. Kids stepped up and the zoo is clean and smells nice.

Doctor Appointments
To say that doctor and specialist appointments are HELL for me is putting it mildly. We have been to several appointments, specialists, and even a trip to the ER this past year. My Hubby or my oldest daughter now come with me to all appointments. I am not facing them alone and they are able to help me with my PTSD flares.

Lack Of Creativity
This one was rough for me. I am a very creative person. Somewhere along the way I lost that part of me. I buried it deep! I created my two youngest daughters’ Halloween costumes. I thoroughly enjoyed that. Ripping seams and shredding the dresses and veils after dealing with epic meltdowns was extremely therapeutic.

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I have rediscovered adult coloring books. I am getting ready to start drawing and painting again. It has been a long time for me.

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Life Planning
I spent months trying to find the perfect life planner and blog planner for my crazy life. Many life planners also include some kind of a day planner in them. However, I could not find any that met all my demands. So, I spent the past 6 months creating ones that did. I also bought a Passion Planner and added that to my planner I created. It fits perfectly inside of it. This has proved to be one of my favorite ongoing projects I have done in a very long time. I am able to change it up, customize it whenever the mood strikes. But it also is my life line. It has my menu planner, grocery list, food money, calendar etc all in once place.

DISCLAIMER….DISCLAIMER….I AM NOT AFFILIATED WITH PASSION PLANNER, NOR WAS I PAID FOR THE LINK IN THIS POST. I JUST REALLY FREAKING LOVE THE PLANNER!

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Fires & Flowers 
Fires have always calmed and relaxed me. I light them in my fireplace year around or  I put on an HD video of a fire in a fireplace on my TV or laptop.  I LOVE flowers, especially wildflowers. They are an amazing pick me up for me. When I am able to, I surround myself with smaller bouquets that I create out of larger ones. I place them in the areas I am in the most.

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Staying Positive
I am a firm believer that those you chose to surround yourself with will greatly affect who you are, who you become, and your overall health. I have a VERY small support base in my life. The people I have chosen to be in my inner circle have proven that they are always there for me time and time again.

Words and thoughts are just as important to me as the people I surround myself with. When I am at my worst, I try to think about all I have positive in my life. I start out with the basics. I can breathe, see, hear, speak. I can walk use my hands and feet. I can think and move my body. I am not in copious amounts of pain, I have a place I call home, I have food on my table and running water and both heat and AC. I have a vehicle that I am able to drive. I add to my list until I realize how truly blessed I am. There is always someone out there that has it worse than I do.

In my planner, I have placed my favorite positive quotes along with quotes that inspire me to better myself in my planner. I also started to purchase inspirational jewelry that I wear daily to remind me that I am a survivor and not life’s victim. I can overcome anything that is thrown at me. 

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Essential Oils

I use essential oils daily to help with my PTSD and depression. This year I found a stainless steel and leather aromatherapy bracelet from AromaRain that I am in LOVE with. (You can see it on me for size reference in the pic above.)

DISCLAIMER….I AM NOT AFFILIATED WITH AROMARAIN, NOR WAS I PAID FOR THE LINK IN THIS POST. I JUST REALLY FREAKING LOVE THE BRACELET!

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Yoga, Meditation, EFT Tapping
I have recently began to do yoga again with my kids. I have found that Reine enjoys sharing my mat even though she has her own. Many of the poses resemble more of a game of twister then actual yoga.

Meditation, oh sweet meditation! This is my sanity more often than not. I am able to do this anywhere, at anytime, without anyone being the wiser.

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I do EFT Tapping. It is one of my most used forms of therapy. This I do not do in public or in front of anyone if I can help it. 

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It has been a LONG journey.

One that is not over yet.

Each day I am more determined than I was the day before.

I am a survivor.

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dosomething.org
psychologytoday.com
mentalhealthamerica.net
randomhistory.com
healthguides.healthgrades.com
webmd.com
nimh.nih.gov

Au Gratin Potatoes

I have been asked to blog this recipe by so many people over the years. It is a very forgiving and easily adaptable side dish. You can change the seasonings, add bacon, add ham, skip the onions or garlic, use different cheeses, add a condensed soup to it instead of the milk, skip the breadcrumbs, etc. The versatility of it makes it one of my personal favorites. 

Supply List:

1 Onion (chopped)

4 Cloves of garlic (minced)

4 tbsp Butter

1-2 tbsp Flour

2 ½ cups Milk

2 cups Cheese (More if you want them VERY cheesy and or a layer of cheese on top)

6 medium potatoes (sliced thin)

Bread crumbs (The amount needed will depend on how thick of a layer you want on the top of the potatoes.)

Your choice of seasonings (I used salt, pepper, chives.)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Saute onions and garlic in the butter until tender over low / med heat. Stir in flour until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Be careful to continuously stir so that it does not stick or burn. Remove from heat.

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Stir in milk, seasonings, and your choice of cheese. Turn burner back on low / medium heat. Continuously stir until you have create a sauce. Place potatoes in an ungreased casserole dish or oven safe bowl. Pour cheese sauce over the potatoes. Gently mix together.

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Bake uncovered for about 1 ½ hours until the top is golden brown and the potatoes are almost fully cooked. This step will require you to actually taste the potatoes.

Should go without saying….but you never know….Please be careful! THE POTATOES ARE FREAKING HOT!!!!

Once potatoes are almost fully cooked, layer bread crumbs across the top of the potatoes and place back into the oven until they are golden brown and bubbly (about another 30 minutes). If you choose to, you can add more cheese to the top of the potatoes along with the bread crumbs at this time.

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