I bought the book, The New Global Student, to inspire my family’s future travels around the world. I don’t recall how I came to know of the book, but when I read the description, I knew it was destined to be in my library.
In 2005, Maya Frost and her husband sold everything and left their suburban American lifestyle behind in order to have an adventure abroad. The tricky part: they had to shepherd their four teenage daughters through high school and into college. This hilarious and conspiratorial how-to handbook describes the affordable, accessible, and stunningly advantageous options they stumbled upon that any American student can leverage to get an outrageously relevant global education.
Sounds good, eh?
It is, though I didn’t devour the book in one sitting. Actually, I started and stopped the book a few times over the past year (or two?).
I guess I didn’t feel a need to rush through it, seeing as my daughter was only five years old at the time. I figured I had a while before I would take action on anything I was reading. Not only that, I didn’t see the reality that we’d be moving abroad any time soon, because, like, THAT seemed a daunting idea… so why rush reading through the book? I could take my time.
As I was reading it one day, however, I wanted to share some of it with my husband, Greg. So I did that. We were driving to my mom’s which was about 45 minutes from our home and I started reading some of the really cool things I’d highlighted. As expected, he loved what I was reading to him, and his excitement served to inspire my continuing the book.
Over the following weeks, I read the book at a faster clip. It became more and more exciting, as I imagined the life we could give Kamea… helping her become The New Global Student. Wow, the advantages were numerous and awesome.
So. Yesterday, I wrote that we’d always known we would travel the world. Honestly, though, I never knew when that would be. I really didn’t know how to make it happen. It seemed like a dream. It was a dream I felt would come true, but I didn’t know when “someday” would be.
I mean… how does one just up and travel the world or move to another country?
The New Global Student was enticing me with fun stories of families traveling all over the world (many of whom didn’t even homeschool, by the way). Still… while I was reading it, I didn’t really make a connection of how I could relate to the stories I was reading. For example, I read about families selling their houses, cars, and/or businesses. They sold belongings, got rid of tons of stuff, and then had money to move somewhere else in the world. One family even bought a sail boat and took to the oceans for their epic adventure (turns out that’s a thing).
Well, I didn’t have a business to sell. I didn’t have a house to sell either. I didn’t want to buy a boat (Greg gets seasick.)
Hmmm… I just kept reading the book, figuring that someday we’d figure it out.
At the end of the book the lightbulb came on for me. At this point, the author’s husband chimed in and itemized the savings and expenses the family incurred while living in Mexico. I was blown away by the savings and cost of living that was possible. The book also illuminated the notion that any age is a good age to start (with respect to kids), emphasizing that younger is good and totally doable!
I salivated at how much money we could save living in Mexico (or other parts of the world). Savings plus the obvious awesomeness of immersing ourselves in other cultures, learning languages, and helping Kamea be a Global Student was just too good of an opportunity for which to wait.
Turns out I wouldn’t have to… I realized that since we rent our condo, there would come a time when the lease ends and we won’t be obligated to pay that rent anymore. (Um, duh, Kristen. Why hadn’t I thought of this before now??) At that point, we could sell belongings (not a whole lot since I embrace minimalism these days), including cars. We could donate stuff. We could put anything leftover into storage (um, hello mom!).
Bam. We could take this dream of living abroad and make it happen when our lease is up.
I know this sounds silly, but it just never dawned on me that we could simply not renew the lease. The veil had been lifted. The light was turned on. I could see our worldschooling path before my eyes.
At this point, I closed the book, having finished it, and called Greg into the bedroom.
The topic of living abroad was not new to us, as I’d just been reading him The New Global Student a few weeks prior. But, when I told him that we could actually do it when our condo’s lease ended, I think I took him by surprise. I filled him in on the details, and told him about some areas in Mexico where we could begin our adventure… and the wheels began turning in his head.
Now, mind you, he wasn’t jumping up and down with excitement (yet) like I was; but, truthfully, I’d had a whole hour to chew on it before I told him. :)
He raised a few questions about whether he could transfer his work successfully to a laptop only. He already works from home, and I told him we absolutely could (exciting details on that for another blog post). However, to make it easier on him, the lease wasn’t going to end for a good long while. We had time to figure it out and make it work.
The fire was lit under my ass… my deep dive into living abroad research began. Expat life is within reach.
It’s been about three months since that conversation in our bedroom, after I finished reading The New Global Student. I’ve gone from knowing nothing (other than it was possible somehow to do this because clearly other people are doing it) to knowing quite a bit about the how, when, where, and why for our adventure.
I’ll share in the next post what I’m learning with my deep dive of research.
I’m watching Cooked, the documentary series on Netflix featuring Michael Pollan, and I was inspired to share my life with respect to some of the ideas presented in the show.
Namely, home cooked meals.
My family eats most of our meals at home, and almost all of them are made from scratch.
Scratch cooking means the meals are made from fresh ingredients. Therefore, we don’t eat a lot of meals made from ingredients that are pre-cooked or processed, except a few (canned sardines/tuna, organic salsa, BBQ sauce, etc).
Sadly, it’s not what’s going on in most American homes anymore. Michael Pollan points out in Cooked that as the amount of time cooking went down, obesity went up. I’m not surprised.
Maybe I’m a bit strange, but I get such a rush from cooking this way. I think making meals from scratch is beautiful, especially when I’m connected to my food by knowing my farmer, fisherman, and rancher. When I cut into an orange that was grown in my mom’s yard, and the light hits it just right so I see the misty spray coming from the peel, and I smell the intense aroma… I get chills from the thrill.
In fact, my Amazon wish list is filled with pots, quality utensils, and other kitchen gadgets I want in my collection. When a birthday or holiday comes around, I ask for these things. Do I ask for clothes, purses, or shoes? No. I ask for a Le Creuset pot or a fancy ice cream machine or a beautiful salt collection.
I’ll admit not every meal I make is a success, in spite of the time I put into it. I also recognize that making all of these meals isn’t always easy. I experience a large part of my life in the kitchen preparing food, shopping for food, cleaning up after cooking (there are so many dishes to wash!). But… At least I know what’s in my food. I approve of the ingredients. I don’t have to wonder.
Scratch cooking, for me, was a process that occurred over the years as I learned more and became more confident in the kitchen. I took classes, I asked mom and dad questions, I read cookbooks, and I practiced. I didn’t read just any books on food though, I read books about how to shop for produce, what spices go well together, and the science behind cooking.
As a result, my comfort level in the kitchen has grown tremendously. For the most part, I can fix my messes, and if I can’t, I still know the meal was made with wholesome organic ingredients, which compensates for any culinary mishaps, at least in my opinion.
My meals are pure, organic, and prepared just the way I want. And, aside from the obvious nutrition reasons, it comes back to Chop Wood Carry Water for me. I enjoy the process. The kitchen draws me in… if I’m not making something I’ll find something to make.
My life has sourdough bread in it.
For the past year I’ve experimented with adding traditional sourdough bread to my family’s diet. (Gasp.) Gluten? Seriously?
Yeah, I started eating sourdough for a few reasons and here they are…
1) Ummm… It’s delicious, but could it also be nutritious?!
One of my favorite foods for the past 20 years has always been toast; however, when we stopped eating a vegan diet because it was destroying our health, I embraced a paleo-type diet and eschewed grains.
That served us well for a time, because as we slowly started adding things like quality grass-fed dairy and white rice, we were able to track how we reacted to them. It was kind of like going on a diet to find allergies where you eliminate a bunch of stuff and slowly add it back in to see how you react. Only, that wasn’t my plan. It just happened naturally as I learned more from people like Chris Kresser, Dave Asprey, and the Weston A Price foundation.
After some time, I decided it might be nice to have authentic sourdough bread, but my requirements for that sourdough were strict. The sourdough bread had to be organic and it had to be true sourdough… No added yeast. Long-fermented pure levain dough… fermented the old-fashioned way: with a starter.
I wanted my sourdough to be this way because that kind of sourdough can actually be healthy for many people. It’s less allergenic, easier to digest, and has some nutrition.
I remember Chef Pascal, from France, telling us in cooking school that he believed it wasn’t the gluten bothering most people, it’s all of the additives and crap in processed foods with flour. That statement opened my mind a bit.
And, as Michael Pollan said about sourdough bread in his docuseries, Cooked…
“If I gave you a bag of flour and water, and you had nothing else to live on, you could live on that for awhile, but eventually you would die. But, if you take that same bag of flour and water and bake it into bread, you could live indefinitely. … The technique, the technology of baking bread represented this revolutionary advance for our species.”
2) I was moved by Weston A Price’s research of healthy people who had sourdough bread as a staple in their lives.
From the WAPF website…
According to recent news articles, celiac disease–the inability to digest certain proteins in gluten-containing grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats–afflicts at least one in 30 people. So common and so debilitating is this malady that many popular nutrition doctors and nutrition writers forbid the consumption of grains as a matter of course. In The Paleo Diet, for example, author Loren Cordain blames the consumption of grains for our modern deficiency diseases, and the narrowing of the jaw so prevalent in modern humans. According to Barry Sears, PhD, author of The Zone Diet, the switch to a grain-based diet in Egypt was a chief factor in the emergence of the diseases of modern civilization. Dr. Joe Mercola tells his patients to avoid grain, period.
Yet Weston Price studied several societies that enjoyed remarkable good health even though they consumed grains as a principle foodstuff. The primitive Swiss of the Loetschental Valley baked a sourdough bread in communal ovens, made of locally grown rye ground fresh in a stone mill. Rye bread plus rich dairy products–milk, butter and cheese–were the chief articles of the diet. Likewise, the primitive Gaelic peoples subsisted on seafood and oats. Both these groups exhibited beautiful facial structure and were free of deficiency diseases.
Price also found healthy groups in Africa and South America that consumed large quantities of grain, usually as a sour fermented porridge or beverage.
Again, huh… that’s the sound of my mind opening just a bit more. Clearly, bread is not destroying everybody.
3) Sourdough bread is an excellent carrier for grass-fed butter.
More and more people are appreciating the health benefits of grass-fed butter. I’m one of them. So, it’s only natural that I find more ways to get more butter into my diet.
Sourdough bread fits the bill. And, lucky me… my farmer’s market had a baker who made sourdough bread the right way. He uses an old starter that he’s had pretty much forever (generations maybe). It’s long-fermented, pure levain dough. He uses all organic ingredients. It’s super fresh and doesn’t last if you don’t eat it within the few days after buying it, because his sourdough doesn’t have any preservatives. It’s perfect. And it’s perfectly delicious.
It’s just the kind of sourdough bread I’d make myself, if I were making my own sourdough bread, which I never ever in a million years thought I’d do. But, here again, I find myself drawn to making it. Chop Wood. Carry Water. I love cooking and I love the process from beginning to end. The kitchen beckons me. If I’m not in the kitchen creating something, I’ll find something to make.
I started buying this wonderful bread for my family, and, of course, we all loved it. We were ga-ga over having such delicious bread (and toast!).
When I eat it, I don’t even want people talking to me. I have to close my eyes, tasting it fully. I can’t help myself. It’s pure bliss. It tastes so right. It feels so right.
We did this for many months, having sourdough maybe once a week. Sometimes less, sometimes more. Every time we ate the sourdough bread we felt great. There was no bloating. There was nothing but satisfaction.
I think a trick to having sourdough bread in my life is that I don’t get carried away. I don’t eat it at every meal and I make sure that it doesn’t start taking the place of our veggies.
It seemed so friggin’ daunting though. People say it’s easy but I couldn’t get comfortable with it. Therefore, I dove into researching it with the gusto that I research everything else.
In the end, I came out with a plan which used different tips from various sources.
The things I read in learning about sourdough bread:
I read a lot of books, articles, and websites about making sourdough. I spoke with my friend in Austria who convinced me to create my own starter instead of buying one, and she shared the details about how sourdough has been a healthy staple in her family’s life for generations.
The one common thread throughout my sourdough bread research was that it could, and should, be very easy to make.
Still… I couldn’t bring myself to take action.
I kept reading and re-reading and re-reading articles and books. I was trying to absorb as much as possible so that it would become second nature by the time I started.
However, I think the trouble I had with my sourdough bread research was that, in spite of some common directions from various sources, there were also some distinct differences.
For example, there were some people with specifics (like water temperature and using a scale) and other recipes where they didn’t weigh ingredients or mention anything about temperature for making sourdough bread.
I read that not every one kneads sourdough bread! That was interesting – like, really? Then, “folding” is enough? How? Why?
I also learned that some people vigorously stir the starter when you feed it and others just mix until combined.
I read a book where the chef uses oil on his hands instead of flour when working with the dough. I never saw that anywhere else.
Then, there’s proofing baskets and whether to use those. And, what do you bake it in? A Dutch oven is popular, but it should be the right size for the perfect loaf. Of course, there’s a regular bread pan but those don’t have lids like a Dutch oven does which apparently is important for getting a nice exterior.
There’s something called a “hydration ratio.” Yikes.
And don’t even get me started on trying to make tweaks to the recipes so that you get a good “crumb” – I mean, what the heck does that mean? Can there actually be a “bad crumb” with sourdough bread?
Another wrinkle is determining which flour(s) to use. There is an ancient wheat called einkorn which is probably the best wheat to consume (once made into sourdough bread). Its origins date back to 7600 BCE and is referred to as “original wheat.” It’s not hybridized, has more nutrients, and is more gentle on the body than contemporary wheat.
I was intrigued to use einkorn, for sure, but I learned that it doesn’t behave exactly like other wheat. Another example is rye… it’s a flour that can be easier to digest but also behaves differently, i.e., harder to work with.
But, wait, there’s more. We have sprouted flours as options which also can behave differently.
Lastly, there’s the issue of whether I should use freshly ground flour, as I have a stone grinder. However, it seems it’s wasted if using it on making (or feeding) the sourdough starter, but that using it with which to bake the sourdough bread could be amazing.
What should I do???!!! The decisions!!!
I found that all a bit confusing.
Yet, I guess all of these variances should prove that sourdough bread is forgiving and doesn’t require so much precision.
In the end, I realized that making sourdough bread is more tacit knowledge than anything else probably, though I felt better at having studied it so much.
So, for my entry into the sourdough baking world I decided to be as precise as possible. I chose to make my own starter following Ken Folkish’s book, Four Water Salt Yeast because he details so much, including times to do things, weights, and temperature. He’s Portland’s rock star legendary baker… so I chose his directions for my starter. To be clear, not all of the recipes in his book are basic sourdough without added yeast (as you can glean from the title), but he does have a couple long-fermented pure levain bread recipes, and I plan to try his first.
I will forgo the einkorn wheat until I’m comfortable making a basic whole wheat / white wheat combo sourdough bread, without the added distraction of sticky einkorn dough. From there, I can compare the way einkorn works and tastes. I’d ultimately like to have a sourdough bread that uses mostly einkorn for nutritional reasons.
So, here are links to sources I used in my research:
- Cultures for Health – This company sells sourdough bread starters and has many recipes for using their starter. They have amazing online customer service. I have bought their yogurt starter (awesome) and milk kefir grains (haven’t tried yet).
- Ken Folkish’s Artisan bread site with videos and book (plus various other bread making books, but I like Ken’s best)
- Jovial for einkorn flour
- Various internet articles like this one from Holistic Squid
- Cooked docuseries by Michael Pollan
Here we are today… I started my sourdough starter.
And… It worked!!! It’s alive.
As I said, I followed a recipe where I weighed everything, used an instant-read thermometer to ensure water temp, I used spring water (I like Castle Rock), and I used a thermometer next to my starter so I knew the temp and could ensure I had that area of my house between 75 to 90 degrees F.
I bought a special, and I mean special, dutch oven. She’s the right size, 4.5-quarts, but, more importantly, she’s pink: Le Creuset Dutch oven. It’s going to be dedicated to making my bread so I wanted something, well, special. And, oh my dear, I love it. The minute I pulled it from the delivery box, my heart danced and smiled.
I even slept with it the first night. #DeadSerious
I named her Blossom (short for cherry blossom because those are my favorite flowers).
I opted to get the right bannetons for proofing (two of them since many recipes call for making two loaves of sourdough bread – I have no idea why – and I’m not comfortable halving the recipes yet), but I can cook them successively in my one Dutch oven, Blossom. I do have a larger Dutch oven I plan to try so I can compare the resulting shape of the sourdough loaves.
I went the extra mile and bought all of this stuff because, well, it’s a long story but I’ll try to make it short and perhaps elaborate on another post, but basically…
I’m making some life changes.
I find that being so strict with things in my life, such as food, is not serving me. And, in many ways, I’m becoming more relaxed and go-with-the-flow. Taoism is at the heart of it… accepting that the universe has a certain way to it, and you can either fight it or flow with it. I’ve decided to do the latter. So, making bread is an example of the life change I’m making cuz it’s fucking bread. It’s a big thing and having that beautiful pink Dutch oven is a symbol of that for me. I’m in a new chapter of my life and embracing sourdough bread is a big part of that. I’m chilling out more, enjoying the things that bring me pleasure.
I know gluten, bread, grains… they’re all controversial as to whether they’re healthy and if people should eat them. But, everyone is different. If there’s one thing to notice over the past few years of health news is how much genes play a role in people’s health and that includes our individualized responses to dietary variables.
For me, I think of how we evolved, how foods are prepared, what I’m drawn to, and what feels good with respect to my food choices. Then, my family experiments. If something doesn’t work, we stop doing it. If something does work, we keep doing it. I would encourage everyone to do the same. Think of what you’re drawn to, try it, and see what happens.
And besides… health is so much more than food. My health stems from multiple things including tons of walking and movement (we don’t even have a couch anymore), meditation, family, and community, too. It’s not all food.
Back to making my first ever sourdough starter:
After following the instructions for making a sourdough starter by Ken Forkish, after the first day I had success! Like, wow.
I couldn’t help but name my starter, Bertha. After she started to grow, she became Big Bertha. I imagine her helping me bake big beautiful loaves of sourdough bread.
Here she is, right after mixing the first time. It was simply organic whole wheat flour and 90 degree F spring water mixed together by hand until incorporated. I left it as is for two hours before covering it and placing it in a warm spot of 75 to 90 degrees F which meant my oven. Parts of the day I had the light in the oven on and parts of the day it was off. Parts of the day I cracked the door open and parts of the day it was shut. All the while keeping track of the temperature around the starter.
Here’s after day 1. I woke up to see that my sourdough starter is alive and well. She had some bubbles of activity and smelled nicely.
Per the instructions, I removed about 3/4 of the starter which was thrown away. “Spent fuel” as Ken Forkish calls it. Then, I added more organic whole wheat flour and 90 degrees F spring water. Mixed it by hand, until incorporated, and did the same thing as day one with respect to leaving it uncovered for two hours, followed by covering it and placing it in the oven where the temperature seems best.
I’m excited. I can’t wait to bake my first loaf of sourdough bread in a few more days. I’ll keep you posted. Read about the following days here.
- Sourdough Starter Mini-Me With Einkorn Flour. Oh, and Sourdough Rye Crackers
- Sourdough Bread Attempt #2 with Einkorn Flour. Why Einkorn Flour?
- Sourdough Bread Fail – I’m Baking My First Loaf. Whoops. Not What I Expected.
- Square Sourdough “Starter” Biscuits Recipe
- Sourdough Starter Day 4 Plus Sourdough Pancakes and Sourdough Crackers.
I find there are days where it seems the only veggies getting served are at dinner.
That’s not cool.
In my attempt to get more veggies in our bellies, I have started adding them more often in breakfast meals. Today, I hit it out of the park with an easy, nutritious, one-skillet breakfast. My whole family was thrilled. I was thrilled. Everything in the world was good.
And… I decided that it’d make a super easy dinner the next time I need a nutritious meal on the table in under 15 minutes.
Recipe: Cabbage n Eggs
Yield 2 good-sized servings
- grass-fed ghee or grass-fed butter
- less than 1/4 head of green cabbage, thinly sliced and chopped
- sea salt
- 4 organic, pasture-RAISED eggs
- Optional toppings: fresh herbs, grass-fed full-fat yogurt, organic salsa
- Heat some ghee or butter in a skillet. Add the green cabbage, and season with salt. Stir it a bit while it cooks.
- Once the cabbage is cooked to your liking, crack in the eggs.
- Stir the mixture to “scramble” the eggs and let it cook until it reaches your desired doneness.
- Portion into bowls. Top with fresh herbs, yogurt, and salsa, if desired.
You could swap out the cabbage with onions, kale, shredded carrots, or Brussels sprouts. Just use whatever you have on hand.
It’s been a couple of years now that I’ve had a focus in my life on meditation so that I could calm my mind, body, and soul.
In fact, two years ago it was the only goal I set for 2014 because it was THAT important.
I even felt it was probably more important than my healthy eating habits or exercise, because stress wreaks havoc on a body.
I figured if I could reduce stress and just go with the flow more and chill the f#*k out, that I would probably increase my longevity … more than all the best eating or exercising I could ever do.
That said, I knew a combo of:
- Healthy eating
- Living a calm life …
THAT would be the ultimate.
Well, I pretty much dialed in the healthy eating bit, eh? And exercise and moving? Heck, we got rid of our dining table and couch -> embracing the “furniture free” movement. Check!
Next, I needed to focus on calming my sh*t down.
I’m proud to say that I’ve come a loooong way and I’ve learned a lot the past few years including this post detailing how and why my family meditates, including our daughter (she’s 5 now).
Meditation has changed my life for sure. It’s helped me react less to stressful times. But, I found ways to cope when those stressful times still reared their ugly heads.
That’s what this post is about! I came up with nine ways to instantly chill out. Seriously, they work.
Oh.. And. This past year I found Taoism – WHOA – but that’s for another post.
In the rush of the *sometimes stressful* holidays, these are extra important. Warning: my mouth runs a bit foul in this post.
Here are my top 9 ways to immediately hack your stress and get calm.
The next time your feathers get ruffled, try one of these ideas and see how it instantly calms you. Over time, the more you do this, the more natural it becomes and the more calm you feel ongoing.
- Going Down the Rabbit Hole Calmed My Anxiety About Selling Our Car
- Raw Food Weight Loss Series – Part 4 – Stress
- A 1-Minute Gratitude Journal Can Be Better Than Coffee to Wake You Up. (almost)
- 6 Tips for Being Happier, Healthier, and Reducing Stress
- I Wish I Were Still Eating A Carnivore Diet With Ribeyes.