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How do you even start to describe December? This year, December seemed to be synonymous for the words tears, temper, sickness, exhaustion, frustration, dread, sadness and agony; some for a moment, many all at once. The month started off wrong and seemed to keep going that way. And, when it improved in once facet it only got worse in another. Rejoice? Ha, not in December.

Work was absolutely nuts, there is no other way of putting it. “Getting ready for Christmas” is absolutely exhausting. What with all of the decorating, party planning, play rehearsing, present making and people pleasing. Stress, stress, stress, get it done, do it fast, then do more. Believe in yourself, believe in others, and believe in the Christmas spirit. Donate to the less fortunate, pump yourself up and feel really good about how well you do charity. Tell children about Santa, feed them candy; feed them poison, feed those lies. And make sure to give yourself a headache by riling up the children for the holidays. Have you seen Santa yet? What is Santa bringing you for Christmas? What do you want for Christmas? What are you getting? What is inside those presents underneath your Christmas tree? Christmas cards, Christmas gifts, to from, to from, spend, spend, spend. ‘Tis the season to be jolly – smile, laugh, have energy, be lively. Give everything to make you look good. Spend money you don’t have and give gifts you don’t mean while pretending your hastily written Christmas cards carry more value than you actually intend. Spread the Christmas spirit but make sure to do it quickly before time runs out.

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Nothing is simple. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is calm. No wonder why everyone is burnt out and tired.

Near the beginning of the month I had a lovely conversation with a good friend. We talked about frustrations at work and how she was not in the mood at all to celebrate Christmas. The realisation had already started to come to me that we, as Christians do not celebrate the same holiday. Christ. Christ is the holiday, not Santa, not gifts, not family, Christ. Christ, then everything else. As hard as it is to avoid the commercialism and try not to get sucked into the mindset, if we deliberately shift our focus and attitude then Christmas can be something completely different. It was hard to step back and watch rather than participate. At times I did find myself wrapped up in the false front but when I actually let that all go and thought of him, that joy started to sneak in and cover up the sickness of my heart.

Sick in the heart, sick in the body. Sick definitely was I. December was a dreadful month for my body. Starting with a terrible allergic reaction to a jacket, ending with a never-ending cold (still not fully ended), and impelled on from a cake-pop contamination before winter break. One thing after another has left me weak, tired, and quite honestly, with little hope of being better. Lies, obviously, but I have felt so physically ill and emotionally exhausted that it has been hard for me to rejoice in progress. It has been exactly 1 year (well, 1 year minus 2 days) since my journey began. 1 year since I actually began to experience life like it was intended. 1 year of incredible healing and knowledge. 1 year of growth and excitement. 1 year of strength! I have begun to run, to bike, to work out and to enjoy movement for the first time in my life. And have the energy to sustain myself through it all. All of that was taken away this December. Some days it was all I could to do to get out of bed and go to work. No running, no work out videos, no energy for the kids. No energy to clean, little energy to cook. It is hard, really hard actually, to take steps back and be stuck in the past. To get up early to work out only to go back to bed after the warm up is one of the biggest disappointments I have thus experienced. In Christ alone my hope is found; he is my light, my strength, my song.

Siblings :)

Siblings 🙂

He does not leave me alone, ever. I have so many people supporting me. From my mom to Ben to friends, Lynn and random people at the grocery store, I am always surrounded by people who have wisdom, knowledge and love to share with me. I am surrounded by people here to heal my body and people to reconcile my heart. Sometimes I am blind to my surroundings, oblivious to the encouragement that is within my reach but he always gives me a reason to look out. Just this past week, I was delighted to discover that a cousin-in-law has also been on a health journey of her own. We have some key differences but I was delighted mostly by the knowledge that I am not alone. There are other people eating for health and healing and doing it in a way that counterculture to the norm. I am not alone! Though there are people who try to understand, I think you can never fully grasp the frustration and discouragement until you actually live through. To know that I am not the only one being called cracked, crazy and dumb. It is such a relief and encouragement! Truly it is hard for most to understand how difficult it can be to live / eat this way. Awareness is different from experiencing and it seems that most cannot look at the way I eat without questioning or judging me to some extent. And I know that because one year ago I was one of the worst. But through it all, Jesus has brought me joy, peace and understanding through people like Kerry and countless others who have supported and encouraged me along the way.

Joy. Even with everything that December brought, through all my tears and exhaustion and sickness there was an unquenchable joy. In himself Jesus has given me life abundant that I may live in peace and joy free from guilt, or shame or worthlessness. He was born a child and then a king, born to set his people free!

He hasn’t left me on my own. He has blessed me beyond belief with friends and family who are all here to support me no matter what. He has given me the most incredible gift, a fiancé! On December 15, 2012 I caught a cold and I caught a fiancé. I’ll be you can guess about which I was most pleased. I am so excited to marry my best friend. Horray!! This might be my shortest paragraph but these words hold the most love and the most excitement for the future J This summer I get to be a wifey to the most amazing man I could have ever imagined being blessed to fall in love with. Blah. I love him J And miss him right now from here in the land of cold while he is at home.

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A last minute “You need a ring picture before you go!” picture

Yikes, it’s getting late and time to get this wrapped up so that I can go to bed! Although aren’t we allowed to stay up as long as we want while on vacation? I realized on the 23 that a Christmas feast just isn’t a real Christmas feast unless there is a chocolate pie to accompany dinner. And assuming (rightly) that I wouldn’t be able to eat any other desert items I decided that it was high time to make a chocolate pie.  A dairy free, sugar free, coconut milk chocolate pudding pie to be exact. It didn’t turn out quite like I wanted it to, but I’m quite sure I know where I went wrong and next time (which there will be) I’ll give it a couple of nicks. I started out trying to force people to eat the pies (I made 2) but gave up when nobody seemed interested, however by the end of the night all but a piece or two were left and many compliments were given. Thanks everyone! The recipe I followed was a hodgepodge of many and have lost my sources. My recipe will be normal with my desired modifications (for next time) bolded.

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Almond Crust

2 cup Almond flour (1 ¼ cup)
¾ cup coconut flour
3 tablespoons tapioca starch (no tapioca)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup honey
1 egg (no egg)
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Mix wet
  2. Mix dry
  3. Pour wet into dry and mix
  4. Pat into pie tin – mixture will be very stick but harden as it cooks
  5. Bake 15 minutes at 350 in a pie tin.

Filling

2 cans coconut milk (1 whole can + 2 cans no liquid)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
½ cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons tapioca starch
¼ cup coconut oil (1/3 cup)
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cup cocoa powder
1 pinch cinnamon (no cinnamon – some liked the flavour but I did not)
(Gelatin – I saw some recipes that called for a bit)

1. Heat coconut milk and vanilla on stove until warm
2. Temper the eggs (Honestly, I don’t know how important this is but I followed directions for at least one of these steps :P)
3. Add cocoa powder and tapioca starch
4. Whisk continuously on medium-low until pudding starts to bubble
5. Pour into freshly baked pie tins and cool

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One day I will learn to clean as I go..

In the end I found the filling very soft, when it cooled it was a very soft pudding rather than a thicker pie. I suppose the addition of gelatin is perhaps what makes it hold shape. Other than texture though, the taste was delicious.

Time for bed, Merry (dayafter) Christmas everybody!

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I’ll leave you with lion love 🙂

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Coconut Rice Pudding

Ginger-ale, chicken noodle soup, saltines; traditional sick food. What’s yours? Growing up, my sick food was always peanut butter on toast and rice pudding right out of the carton. No matter what the ailment, Mom made sure that my stomach was happy. Last year, I felt sick all. the. time. and as such, I ate an unreal amount of cozy shack and kraft on toast. Our fridge was perma-stocked with rice pudding. I even went as far as stalking my work fridge with rice pudding and probably ate (on average) 2 or 3 of the individual servings a day. Recycled art day was always the bomb because kids can do anything with those little cups and thanks to me, we had plenty. Somebody else might have observed the mass consumption of rice pudding and seen all of the little warning signs but I just carried on pretending I wasn’t sick.

May 8, 2012, I had been successfully (mostly) avoiding gluten since December which cut out the toast but I had kept on eating my rice pudding. Cozy Shack is “gluten free” and I still felt sick, still needed the comfort. Turns out, I can’t do dairy. Or sugar. All of you out there with your own sick food know that you don’t necessarily eat a sick food because it’s healthy for you, you eat it because it is comforting… comforting or not though, rice pudding had to go.

Fortunately(!!) I stopped feeling sick. I started feeling healthy and alive and didn’t need to spend my weekends wrapped up in a blanket eating rice pudding straight from the carton trying to recuperate from the week. I had some withdrawal and mourned for a time (rice pudding, Oreo McFlurries and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups were the hardest to give up), but I put on my big girl pants, moved on and learned to live life without them.

Dominican Lemonade!

While we were in the Dominican Republic, Dad, Keyli, my Tio Christian and I went on an adventure. Somehow, through conversation he decided it was important for me to have a real cacao. Driving through the country-side, all we saw were green ones on trees but we wanted a red one. Finally, we had nearly given up when we saw a girl walking out of a house carrying a tray of something. Curious, my uncle stopped. It turned out she was setting up the Dominican version of a lemonade stand, freshly made rice pudding cups! Hungry, my uncle stopped and bought 4. Very wary, I made Keyli do a finger test and (I’m pretty sure that Dominican food is magic) it passed! I was still pretty leery so I shared one with Keyli but oh my goodness it was the best rice pudding I have ever eaten. No lie. The fire of love had been rekindled.

Long story short (ish), we  got our cacao – turns out the lemonade stand girl’s parents had a cacao field- went back to my aunts house, raveed about the rice pudding so much that she decided it was time for me to learn how to make it.

This past weekend I was away with the youth leaders for our annual retreat and even though I ate well and definitely did NOT desire to feel sick, I will be honest and say it was a bit disheartening to watch everyone else eat chocolate covered almonds, Reese’s pieces, Clodhoppers, Elias’s homemade caramel dipped chocolate covered pretzels, Amanda’s cinnamon buns and cookies and not be able to enjoy them at all. A million years of death would have been handed down to me if I had eaten but a bit of any of those. Didn’t miss the sickness, didn’t go hungry, but I was sad because I am so restricted. EXCEPT I’m not because rice pudding.

RICE PUDDING!

Rice pudding. Rice pudding. Rice pudding! Let me tell you, this completely made up for feeling bad this weekend.

I came home and the first thing I did, after eating a proper meal, was to make rice pudding! Partially because Amy had requested it and in part because I had been thinking about it on my way home.  Even our cravings are the same… yeesh. I followed my Aunt’s method and improvised some parts as well. There are a few things I will try to improve upon next time but overall it was pretty dang good. I might have had 2 servings before it even cooled.

Amazing Rice Pudding (for mass amounts of people… or one) – Makes a whole pot, takes about 45 minutes.
(I tried my best to use measurements for this, I want to be able to recreate things)

 

Nearly done!

Requirements:

3 cups long grain rice
9 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 cans coconut milk (I used 2 but I think the perfect ratio would be 1 can per 2 cups of rice. So 1 1/2 would’ve been perfect for this batch)
1 lime
1/2 cup coconut flakes (optional)
Salt (didn’t add, will do so next time to give it a bit more intensity)

Method:

(Clockwise) Uncooked, cooked, mostly cooked

In a large pot add your rice, cinnamon sticks and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the rice is plump. Please be sure to stir! I took a picture of the rice, just because I thought it looked pretty neat; uncooked, mostly cooked and cooked -although next time I will actually cook it a little bit longer because I like the grains of rice so squishy they practically dissolve. Make sure you take some time to stop and SMELL (You’re welcome Amy) the amazingness from the cinnamon cooking in the rice.

This is my Aunt peeling the lime. She didn’t even spend 30 seconds doing this, I may have taken much, much longer.

Once the water level has been reduced to just below the top of the rice (you want it to still be a bit wet), add the coconut milk, the “outer-layer, not including the pith, once and a half around a lime” (Thanks Amy). Stir!

Next add the honey, vanilla and if desired, the coconut flakes.

Keep stirring frequently but this is the part where you can cook it down a little longer or turn it off and eat as is. Remember that it will thicken as it cools.

And that’s it! You have done it 🙂 Feel free to bring me some next time I’m sick… or anytime really 🙂 Serve and top with more cinnamon if you feel so inclined.

*As I am finalizing this post my Parents and their friends are just sitting down for an evening coffee over in the other room and one of them just exclaimed, “Oh my goodness Alicia, this is good!” Hooray!*

Honorable mention, Amy helped me out when I need a word for when the rice gets fat: plump.

Just thought I’d end this post with a picture of a cacao.