Travel Essentials

I know I haven’t written a recent post in a long time, but when I looked at the date of my last entry (October 30, 2018) and hovered over today’s date, I was shocked that it’s nearly been a whole year. Yes, I had to check today’s date because I really can’t keep track of the calendar. I also can’t believe I am already 32 weeks pregnant with our third baby. We are intending to have our child in Istanbul this time. Trying out a different country each time around 🙂

We also moved into a new home back in February, so that was a very busy period. Ramadhan, a few trips to Cyprus and back, just being already extremely busy with my two toddlers who are a handful – I can barely respond to my WhatsApp messages during the day unless it requires a simple response – so that explains some of the lack of activity on my blog. Also, recently we visited the US as we normally do every summer. We were there for a little over a month and a half, and we traveled quite a bit by car, twice to Chicago and once to Canada from Michigan. We stayed at anywhere from a friend’s house who was out of town, to hotels, a motel, a couple of Airbnbs, and at a camp site.

I try to go ‘minimal’ while traveling in regards to shoes & clothing (we don’t own a lot in that department anyway) but I had to keep a bag of home remedies with me everywhere we went, especially considering we were traveling with small children. I’m going to list most of what we had and mention how they were useful during our travels!

  1. Black Seed Oil – my go-to remedy for sore throat, ear aches, and overall immune boost. Both the kids developed a sore throat during part of our trip abroad and we used quite a bit of this remedy, a teaspoon every other hour but especially at the onset and first thing in the morning. Black seed oil may sting a bit if the sore throat is severe and may taste too bitter for some people (and especially kids) so what I usually do to convince my kids is mix a bit with honey and give them that way. On the contrary, some people love the taste and I am one of those people. In case of an ear ache, I give both internally if it may be related to a sore throat, and I rub in and around the ears. After we arrived in Michigan, my son who had fallen asleep after a very long flight woke up screaming in pain and it seemed he had an ear ache perhaps from pressure, I wasn’t sure, but I rubbed some of the oil into his ears and massaged his body with it too to calm him down and not too long after he was asleep again. Thankfully he was fine in the morning and it wasn’t an infection.
  2. Lemons – whole lemons to squeeze for fresh juice as natural vitamin C. At some point I realized it wasn’t very practical to travel around with whole lemons and no easy access to knives, but I ended up peeling one with my hand during a car ride and just eating the lemon pieces. My daughter loves lemons. If you can carry around some rock/sea salt and sprinkle a teeny bit on the lemons, it’ll taste even better. Yum. A shot of freshly squeezed lemon juice is also a great pick-me-up, and excellent for breaking up a congestion, or for sore throat.
  3. Raw Honey – again, good for sore throat. Even better with powdered cinnamon, ginger &/or marshmallow root. You can carry those spices/herbs in those tiny resealable bags. Kids usually love honey so that’s also a plus. Honey is also good in case of cuts and scrapes and on burns.
  4. Herbal Tea Bags (Camomile, Fennel Seeds, Lemon&Ginger) – I told myself I wouldn’t be having any coffee or black tea during the plane ride this time and I carried around a bunch of herbal tea bags with me. I stuck to my intention and believe it was the right decision. Caffeinated drinks can also be dehydrating and you don’t want that on a plane ride which is already dehydrating in itself. I carried herbal tea bags without during the rest of the voyage too and prepared the kids tea when they caught a cold several times. My son at some point developed diarrhea for a few days and other than cutting down most foods that may have aggravated his problem, I found that fennel seeds helped him the most from all the herbs I tried, and maybe thyme but we stuck with fennel seed the most. I got whole fennel seeds that I carried around with me, as well as some anise seeds (you can also get them in tea bags as that would have been easier or put them ground in tea bags yourself), simmered about 2 teaspoons per cup for a few minutes and then had him sip that throughout the day.
  5. Homeopathy Kit – I carry with me a combination of homeopathic remedies, from Arnica to Belladonna, Apis Mel, Nat Mur, Mag Phos, Kali Mur, Lycopodium, Hypericum, Camomila and so on. I’m no homeopath by any means but I get advice from my mother usually who has quite a bit of experience with homeopathy herself considering she raised 5 children on homeopathic and herbal remedies, or consult one of several homeopath friends if I must. I tend to most commonly use the remedies I have on hand for falls, allergic reactions, insect bites, colds with congestion & runny nose, and fever. My son fell and hit his eye and forehead during our camping trip, so Arnica for that. I predict both my children caught the flu towards the end of our camping trip, with sudden onset of fever, sore throat, runny nose and whatnot so I used some homeopathy in combination with herbal remedies to ease their symptoms and help them recover. Our camping trip in Canada was at the Seekers Guidance Retreat, so there were a lot of other brothers & sisters with us. A sister who got stung by a mosquito experienced an aggressive reaction and her hand was extremely swollen. She didn’t react well to Benadryl and experienced some of the side effects associated with it, so somehow my youngest sister who was also with us told her I might have something for her if she’d like to give it a try. Luckily, I had Apis Mel as well as lavender EO and I gave her both remedies. She came to me at the end of the next day to show me how much better her hand was and said she would be buying the homeopathic remedy as well as the lavender essential oil because she was so pleased with the results, whereas initially she was always a bit skeptical of ‘natural remedies’.
  6. Arnica Gel – I’m not here to prove whether natural remedies work really well or not, it’s your call. I wholeheartedly believe so myself, and being a mom for the last few years with my kids bumping their heads quite a few times and developing anything from a goose egg to a small bump, this thing really works in bringing down swelling when applied immediately. Do not apply on cracked skin. Only bumps or achy areas.
  7. Lavender Essential Oil – as mentioned above, really useful for insect bites and excellent for burns when applied immediately. This is all I use on burns when I am in the kitchen. I never apply ice, and I never get those burns that develop water retention. Another sister at the camp was also stung by mosquitos and experienced some swelling. The other sister who happened to have the remedy gave her the essential oil, and she said she’s never seen something work so well on insect bites.
  8. Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil – excellent for the immune system, being a natural source of Vitamins A & D, as well as Omega 3. I only get Dropi. Rosita is also another brand I can suggest, just a little more expensive than Dropi. Otherwise, if it’s not extra virgin (i.e. raw) it’s either going to be low on the vitamin content, or have added vitamins which defeats the whole purpose and makes no sense at all. If I want added synthetic vitamins, I might as well just get a synthetic vitamin and not some smelly fish oil. (It does smell. Somehow my kids love it, though.)
  9. Magnesium Citrate/Glycinate – I like to use Magnesium even when I’m not pregnant, but especially being pregnant, I find it really helps with the restless leg syndrome I experience sometimes as well as being regular if I’m having some difficulty. I don’t tend to use any vitamin or mineral supplements but Magnesium is an exception. It’s so essential. Get citrate or glycinate for optimal absorption and best form.
  10. Mama’s Chest Rub, Vapor Balm – I find this at Whole Foods and you can also order via Amazon, to rub on the kids’ chest and/or upper back to ease up congestion. It’s a perfect size for travel and smells so good I always smell my fingertips after rubbing it onto their skin. An alternative is eucalyptus essential oil (which I didn’t have during this trip and never got, but used rosemary instead with some desired results) which you can use in combination with a carrier oil as a massage oil on the upper torso, or in a steam bath (no. 5) to help break up congestion, get that mucus moving out of your system, and to ease coughs. I had both my kids get in the shower and used rosemary essential oil at one point when they were ill just before bed time. They washed up while inhaling the scent of rosemary that filled the entire bathroom. Maybe eucalyptus would have been a better option for this particular case, but it was quite soothing to say the least.

 

Journey to Pregnancy

I didn’t have a particular issue with fertility but I wanted to share some of the things I learned ever since I got concerned with having a baby.

TMI warning in advance.

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Nearly two years ago, I conceived my first baby girl Zaynab. We had been married for a year and a half, and having been one of these women who almost always had a regular menstrual cycle, I found my cycle to change dramatically and never go back to normal right after getting married. My cycles seemed to be longer, and I just never knew how long or short each one would be anymore. No cycle was the same as the previous or next one again. Once I noticed this change, I downloaded a period calendar app to keep track. I also didn’t know anything about fertile mucus, ovulation and so on until after I got married. I thought getting pregnant was a lot easier, just join the two cells any time of the month excluding the days of menstrual flow; but no!

My husband and I weren’t living together for the first 15 months of our marriage, until I finally got my green card and was able to join him in the US. In the meanwhile, he did visit every couple of months for a few days but I still never got pregnant. I experienced three other cycles before I would conceive after my move. I got my first period shortly after the move. I do remember having menstrual camps around the second day, which was typical for me, for a few hours.

After that, I discovered a practice called bajos, which are vaginal steam baths. This practice is found in a lot of different cultures across the world, but I particularly came across an article by Dr Rosita Arvigo. Without wasting much time, I prepared a steam bath using some herbs from my garden and from my herbal apothecary. I did this first bath at the peak end of my second period. I also noticed that this second cycle and eventually third cycle were shorter than my usual cycles for the last few months, and they were also about the same in length, lasting approximately 29 days. God knows best, but I attributed that to healthier eating as I was buying more organic, wholesome foods after moving into my own home, or eating less meat, which maybe didn’t have to do with less meat in general but rather less meat that was full of hormones. I still ate dairy but only organic.

Then I did some more research on some of the practices that Dr Arvigo advocates for, and found out about Mayan Abdominal Therapy. Luckily, I found a practitioner nearby and made an appointment to see her. At our appointment, I first filled out some personal information, followed by a discussion mostly about my reproductive health, and then finally, I was taught how to perform the abdominal therapy on myself.

One thing I remember mentioning to her during the appointment was that I never notice that fertile, stretchy, egg-white, cervical mucus. She told me that having a period doesn’t necessitate successful ovulation. She also told me she felt that my uterus was a little tilted to the right. The Mayan abdominal therapy would help lift the uterus and realign it. Other benefits would be undoing tight knots in the abdominal area, and encouraging improved blood and lymph flow. The practitioner told me it’d be best if I did this therapy every day, excluding a few days before the predicted start of my cycle, and the days of menstrual flow.  So I stuck with it.

I did a second steam bath at the peak start of my third and final cycle. Sure enough, this time I didn’t experience any cramping. A few days after the end of my cycle, I felt a tiny pinch on the lower right side of my abdomen. When I went to the bathroom a little later, I noticed blood-tinted, thick clear mucus. This egg-white mucus continued for a couple of more days. I wrote my practitioner telling her about my experience, and I wondered if that pinch I felt was ovulation, followed by a little bit of ovulation spotting.

My fourth period never came and I got my positive pregnancy test on the evening of August 9th, 2015. My estimated due date was April 14th, 2016. I went into labor April 12th, and gave birth on April 14th at 2.15am.

Links:

Vaginal Steams | Forgotten Ancient Wisdom for Women’s Healing

Vaginal Steams | Alignment Monkey

Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy

My Understanding Of Prenatal Care

A few weeks ago, I was listening to Maryn Green’s livestream on Facebook where she talked about prenatal care. She concluded her video by asking what prenatal care means to you, the expecting mother. This is my second pregnancy and I am past 40 weeks right now. Last pregnancy, I was in Michigan and I had two midwives whom I saw regularly. Their prenatal care consisted mostly of just chitchatting about how I felt, if I had any concerns, questions, and they offered me different assessments I could take at certain stages as the pregnancy progressed. I did a few blood tests at the very beginning of pregnancy to check for blood count, whether I was Rh positive, iron levels, and Hepatitis B I think. These were all blood tests that I decided to do from the list my midwife read out and explained to me. I could have done more or less. In addition, we listened to baby’s heartbeat both with a fetoscope and a doppler throughout the pregnancy when it was possible to do so, and I had a GBS test done later in pregnancy which I tested positive for. No scans and nothing else.

This second time around, I happened to be living in Istanbul. It took me a while to settle with one care provider. Most care provıders in Turkey, no matter how ‘natural’ leaning, seemed to be adamant on me having at least a few scans which I did not want to do. While I was still looking for someone, my mom convinced me to have the baby in Cyprus where my family is because I’d be getting a lot more help postpartum IF the one obgyn a few of my friends had their babies with would be OK with me not having a scan and if I liked her. So I accepted to meet this doctor. Anyway, long story short the first meeting with her was short and pleasant. She seemed chill and didn’t care about me not having a scan. She asked for a lot of blood tests, if I agreed, weighed me and took my blood pressure and sent me off. It was a rushed appointment though, to say the least. The feeling I got was that she didn’t even care to see me throughout the pregnancy unless I wanted to which I was totally fine with because I lived abroad and felt healthy really and didn’t see much benefit in going in to check my blood pressure and weigh, pay about 200 Turkish liras and walk out. She didn’t say anything about having a scan later in pregnancy and from her attitude I assumed she wouldn’t ask for one. Fast forward, I made an appointment at 36 weeks because I wanted to at least pop in to say hi and make sure that when I called her during labor, she would at least have a clue on whom I was. So I thought this appointment would be very similar to my first and last one back at 10 weeks pregnancy. I was also planning on telling her a few wishes I had in regards to labor and after labor. I tried to limit my list to four things, two during and two after labor so I wouldn’t sound like a control freak and so that she wouldn’t end up, rightfully, telling me to go find another caregiver if I didn’t want to go by her rules. During the appointment, I didn’t even finish telling her exactly what I wanted. I didn’t feel comfortable or confident. I ended up having to do a scan because it seemed very important to her. She wanted to check the position of the placenta to rule out placenta previa, and obviously the position of the baby. She had me take an appointment for 10 days later for a cervical check, and I walked out the clinic wanting to cry. Later I called and canceled the appointment for the cervical check.
I should mention that in Istanbul, I saw one other obgyn for an actual prenatal rather than to meet her – she was respectful of the fact that I wanted to avoid scans. She checked for positioning with her hands, we listened to baby’s heartbeat and we did the usual body weight and blood pressure. She said she wanted to see me again before I left to Cyprus and asked for a few blood tests. She didn’t feel happy about my skin color which is very pale and gives off the feeling that I have very low iron although I have never suffered from major symptoms of anemia, pregnant or not, and my blood tests have always come out borderline to low iron levels but never alarmingly low. I had already done all the tests she wanted me to take. I was planning on taking them again anyway because frankly, I was just hoping she’d give me an OK note for traveling in case they asked at the airport at 35 weeks pregnancy. I was too tired and busy to get the blood tests done and schedule another appointment so I never did, and no one asked anything at the airport.
So Maryn made so much sense during her live session and talked about how prenatal care should really revolve around what the mother considers prenatal care to be. What she feels like she needs whether that’s physically or emotionally or spiritually. For example, I always felt like a regular massage during pregnancy would be such a bliss but I never placed it in the category of prenatal care. I had the blessing of knowing a professional massage therapist in Michigan who offered her services inside your own home. Personally I would be making use of that opportunity if I were to have access to it throughout my pregnancy, more so than a frequent trip to an obgyn’s or midwife’s office for a weight and blood pressure check which can really be done at home. If you can only afford or have access to very limited massage therapy, you can make sure you practice some self-massage with sesame oil before a shower, followed by a relaxing 2-minute facial gua sha.
In addition, I saw an osteopath on three different occasions during my current pregnancy and felt relief each time from some hip issues I was experiencing. Some expecting mothers frequent osteopaths and chiropractors on a regular basis. Another practice that moms can benefit from is prenatal yoga, either at home or in a group setting. I had established a routine habit of practicing yoga in the mornings especially during Ramadhan and it was a great start to the day. Eating mindfully and taking regular walks is another essential part of maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Despite how constipation is seen as a normal and expected part of pregnancy, I never seemed to have an issue with it in relation to pregnancy but rather I realized that tension during my day and an inability to relax and take a break for at least 15-20 minutes with deep breathing is what causes me trouble. I need to put my mind to it. I like to include an essential oil into the breathing session too, sweet marjoram being my personal favorite. You can intend for the deep breathing to relax & benefit your womb and prepare you for the upcoming labor too. It’s a good habit and needs to be practiced prior to labor, if you are planning on using breathing techniques during labor. I tend to experience restless leg syndrome some nights especially if I’m going to bed late (which is best avoided!) so a 10-minute soak in a small bucket of warm water with epsom salt does wonders and is a great treat. Massage your feet with raw Shea butter or olive oil after drying them with a towel.
As other women, I’m guilty of sometimes feeling like pampering myself is selfish. I’m still young and maybe don’t experience the aches and pains and the struggles of life that older women do, I feel, but I need to remind myself that I am a full-time mom, wife and homemaker. I need to acknowledge that I do work hard; I’m trying my best to keep up and sometimes I have very high expectations of myself. If I expect myself to function as a sane humanbeing and avoid going out of my mind from exhaustion so that I could continue doing what I have to do, my body and emotions need to be taken care of. And so do yours.
So these are some things that I consider to be essential parts of prenatal care for me i.e. what a pregnant woman needs and really, what a non-pregnant woman needs. Another mom could feel that she needs that extra blood test and frequent blood pressure and weight check, as well as the many other routine checks that modern obstetrics and some midwives have to offer. Others might have things to add to the list of practices I mentioned. Maybe a warm cup of herbal tea or milk with honey before bed or while reading a book, meditation… I’d love to hear comments from other moms!purplepansy

Three Soup Favorites: Vegan Lentil, Vegetarian Ginger Pumpkin, Turmeric Chicken

I grew up in a family where soup was the staple dish of dinner nearly everyday, even in the hot summer days of Cyprus. After getting married, I didn’t insist on cooking soup as often as we did back home especially because my husband wasn’t big on soup either but now that I have a baby who is fed easier that way and who – mashallah – loves soup, I’m more motivated to make soup and I try to shoot for at least twice a week. If you make a large amount, it could last you for a couple of days, or you can freeze some and thaw it later at another date.

Last week I made some nettle & spinach soup which I think is also a favorite of mine, but I decided on these three for this post.

VEGAN RED LENTIL SOUP

Ingredients:

1 onion

2-3 small to medium carrots

1/2 cup red lentil

1-2 tsp tomato paste

approx. 4-5 cups water (guessing the amount off of my head right now. You might have to add more later as the water will lessen as the soup cooks, or you might leave it as is. Your call)

olive oil

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon

red chilli flakes

salt

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Red Lentil Soup

Chop up the onions and carrots. The shape is not important since you’ll blend this soup at the end but if you cut them up small they’ll cook faster. Rinse the lentils. Now you could start this off in two ways: either add everything all at once along with the water, minus the olive oil OR you could add the olive oil and the spices and then the vegetables and tomato paste, gently fry for 2-3 minutes, then add the lentils and the water. Once the vegetables are cooked through (usually the red lentils cook earlier, at least in my case. If the lentils you have take long you can try soaking them prior to cooking) blend the soup using a hand blender. Add more water if necessary. Salt & pepper to taste.

VEGETARIAN GINGER PUMPKIN SOUP

Ingredients:

1 pound of pumpkin

1 onion

piece of fresh ginger root size of half a thumb or 1/2 tsp of ginger in powder form

1/2 tsp cinnamon

coconut oil

butter (optional)

heavy cream or full fat milk (optional)

water

Normally I give the onions and pumpkin a quick fry and then boil them till they cook thoroughly and finally give it a blend, but this last time, I roasted the pumpkins instead. And I actually didn’t have any onions or ginger in the house (shhh) so it was definitely missing something BUT let’s assume I had onions and ginger, and this is how I ‘did’ it. Place the pumpkin on a baking tray, add some coconut oil and butter over it. Adding dairy to this recipe is completely optional. You can omit the dairy and have it vegan. You could also add nut milk for creaminess if you prefer that, up to you. Sprinkle some thyme, cinnamon and salt. Bake it until the pumpkin is cooked completely. In the meanwhile fry some onions with turmeric and some more coconut oil or butter (or olive oil) for a couple of minutes, add the baked pumpkins, add some water, blend until smooth and adjust the water to your own taste. Once the water comes to a gentle boil you can let it simmer for a bit and then finally add your cream. If you’ve noticed, I left out the amount for cream and water, because you’ll decide on the water according to your desired consistency, and the cream is added in small amounts usually (less than the water.) It’s really up to you.

TURMERIC CHICKEN SOUP

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 onion

1 carrot

1 tsp rosemary, dried

thumb sized ginger, shredded

2-3 cardamom pods

1/2 tsp cinnamon or 1-2 cinnamon sticks

1 lemon

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Chicken soup with rice
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For the LO & me

Squeeze a lemon over the the chicken and rub it clean using the lemon pieces. Put everything (excluding the lemon) into a large enough pot, cover the chicken with water and bring to a boil with the lid covered. Lower heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked thoroughly. This usually takes about an hour. Remove the chicken and sieve the stock into another pot. Now you can decide what you want to do with the remaining vegetables. I discarded it. Actually I do usually feed the cats, dogs and seagulls outside my kitchen window but I didn’t this time. Anyway, back to the recipe. I ended up cutting the chicken in half and baking one half with potatoes until nice and crispy at the top, and the other half is what went into the final soup. Just to clarify, we didn’t have two meals consisting mainly chicken in one day – we had the baked chicken the first day, and I prepared the soup the next day. Remove the chicken meat and shred it using your hand. Discard bones (now the cats and stuff came into play). I chose to save 1/4 in a glass container in the fridge to make into wraps or add to salad. The rest I threw into the stock which by the way is full of nutritious gelatin. You know that jelly when your stock gets cold? That stuff. You can also add some grains to your soup like barley or oat flakes. I added some small organic alphabet pasta lol. Adjust the salt & pepper if needed and once the grain is cooked the soup is ready. Squeeze some lemon and you’re done. This is a great choice if you’re trying to beat a cold too.

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I just realized all three soups have similar color tones! Enjoy. ♥

Note: I do not use refined salt in my recipes. I do not use processed oils. I try to use only pasture fed organic chicken and pasture fed organic dairy.

Speaking of Dallas Hartwig: Whole30 experience

I discovered the Whole30 after finding Dallas Hartwig’s instagram through Nutritious Movement. I was about 2 months postpartum when I decided to give it a shot. It was Ramadhan. I wasn’t fasting this year as I was exclusively breastfeeding. I encouraged my mom to give it a shot too. She thought it’d be incorporated nicely with her 30 day Ramadhan fast. Unfortunately I couldn’t go past day 17, not because it wasn’t doable, but because I was invited for an iftar at a friend’s and I felt too shy to tell her I was strictly avoiding pretty much everything I knew she’d be serving for dinner – turned out I was right. I didn’t want her to plan according to me as I wasn’t the only guest, but I knew she’d make changes so I didn’t want to give her a hard time. Well, the plan was that I’d break only some of the rules. I ended up breaking them all. I felt like I had a hangover the next day. I experienced a terrible headache that lasted nearly all day. I had had sugar, wheat, chickpeas, rice, and yogurt. For those of you who don’t know, Whole30 is basically a paleo diet, except somewhat stricter: no legumes, no natural sweeteners etc. After this, I decided I’d try one of the no-no’s on the list every other day and note how I’d feel. I noticed that I experienced major joint pain and headaches shortly after eating particularly gluten. I didn’t feel much difference eating dairy.

OK, since my Whole30 attempt was a bit of a fail, I want to still mention some of the positives I noticed while I was following the rules in those 17 days. I didn’t experience any constipation or bloating at all during those 17 days. Even after eating, there was no bloating. I felt very light which made me feel good overall. I did notice some bloody stools a couple of times, and after some research, I thought it could be due to reducing carbs cold turkey. I didn’t have any pain though, so I don’t know.

My mom, on the other hand, successfully completed the 30 days. She was suffering from frozen shoulder syndrome for about a year. Whole30 cleared that up for her, which we thought was pretty amazing. I remember reading somewhere that frozen shoulder was something Dallas experienced too, until he improved his diet.

Just another note on Whole30/Paleo, I’m personally not too fond of the idea of eating so much red meat & chicken. I prefer sea food. That reminds me, I will be writing a post about some locations in Istanbul that are worth going to for those visiting Istanbul including a couple of seafood restaurants that I liked. I can’t find grass-fed organic red meat easily where I live in Istanbul, and Sunnah-wise it’s best to reduce red meat intake in general.

As the weather is getting colder now and as I’m experiencing stiff and achy knee joints, I’m seriously considering reducing my wheat intake (don’t touch my rice & oats! I try to prepare those properly, I promise.) I have some guests staying over with us for the next 5-6 days. My plan is to go on a 10 day wheat & sugar detox once our guests leave and then compromise once in a while if necessary.

To health & overall wellbeing.