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I am back from a sun-drenched vacation (glorious!) and returned to dingey, overcast skies that are practicing for June gloom.  It’s left me feeling sort of blah in a couple of ways.  Blah because vacay is over and work is on the agenda.  Also blah because I feel gross from indulging in food I normally don’t.  So to reset myself, I’ve embarked on a cleanse.  Knowing that I’m giving my digestive system a bit of a break is helpful and leads me back to a more normal – and primal – way of eating.

I’ve never really explained when I started this pokey little blog on why I choose primal living.  I choose [present tense] because it’s a conscious decision I make everyday.  And what I decide today can be different than what I decide tomorrow or next year (obviously like when I was on vacation).  My husband is really the one who got me more in tune with a healthier lifestyle.  Because he has done so much research into natural supplements and alternative medicine, I followed his lead.  My initial forays into healthier eating started with the goal of losing weight.  I followed conventional trends:  low-fat, low-carb, vegetarian, soy-everything.  But I started to wonder if a trend was so healthy, why doesn’t it stay that way instead of being replaced with a new one?  It all got to be very confusing.  Then everything changed the year my first child died and I was diagnosed with cancer.  My heart was broken and so was my body.  I could not see beyond my grief to care about what I was feeding myself.

It has taken me a long time to feel anything more than loss and despair but I have come a long way.  Once I started to feel more hopeful and was looking toward the future, I realized that I had to change my lifestyle to live and to thrive.  I had to be as healthy as I could to be a wife and mom.  In addition to conventional medicine, I sought out homeopathy, acupuncture, and spiritual guidance.  Thankfully, a year and a half ago, I landed on Mark’s Daily Apple and found what I was looking for.  It all seemed so clear and simple and exactly what I needed.  I was first introduced to the Paleo Diet by a co-worker years ago, but didn’t give it more than a fleeting thought since it seemed ludicrous to give up bread (serious?)  My friend also didn’t consume dairy, season her food or really invest in the process of cooking.  She took in the nutrients she needed and that was it.  While that approach didn’t appeal much to me, I was intrigued and agreed with many of the paleo principals.  The foods we eat shouldn’t be able to sit in a box on a shelf for years and they shouldn’t have a list of ingredients that takes longer to read than to actually prepare.  The idea made a home in my brain and continued to pop in and out for the next several years.  As I discovered the Primal Blueprint, it all came together and I knew what I was missing.  Mark Sisson breaks it down and keeps it straightforward and I was ready to make the change.  Hubby and baby were coming along.

While there were certain aspects of our diet that didn’t need a whole lot of tweaking – we’d already been buying organic produce and grass-fed meat – we were still eating a whole lot of grain.  I went from white flour to whole wheat to sprouted berries but it was all still wheat and gluten.  I was making homemade bread to avoid preservatives and refined flour but was adding vital wheat gluten to help them rise.  And then there was the sugar.  My rotten sweet tooth couldn’t grasp how to bake without sugar.  I have since been schooled on the subject and found a wealth of information and recipes.  Thank you, internet!

One of the greatest things about the Primal Blueprint is that it factors in the idea of eating like a caveman with living in a modern setting.  Strict adherence, while admirable, is not required nor realistic.  For a while, I thought my recurring rash may have been food related, possibly wheat, and I have made the choice to eliminate gluten as much as knowingly possible.   We do occasionally , however, have other types of grains and pseudo-cereals such as rice, and millet and quinoa.  Eating this way certainly has it’s challenges and I think we have fared reasonably well.  Although, I am finding that influencing your child’s diet is tough enough without having to exclude all the stuff that other kiddies are eating.  That’s for another post.  I love to cook and share my food and have found that I am cooking so much more than ever before.  It’s inevitable if you’re bent on having fresh, nutrient-dense food but I don’t mind the extra work.  I prepare all of my daughter’s meals and snacks for daycare even though I don’t have to.  This way I know she won’t be eating the same empty calories that her little friends get.

This has been an evolution.  I am still learning about food, nutrition and fitness and it has been wonderful to find an ever expanding community of primal and paleo eaters.  I would love to hear about your experiences.  Grok on!

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You’ve probably figured out from the title and photo that this post is not going to be about food.  It’s not.  But the idea was worthwhile enough that I want to share.  I was reading about the Johnson family of The Zero Waste Home and was spurned to act.  Yes, we recycle and, yes, we compost, but what my family consumes and throws away is quite shameful when I see what the Johnsons have done.  (Case in point, it’s Sunday and our recycle bin is already full and the next pickup isn’t until Friday!)  So I decided on the spot that I would start with something small and keep working at it.  I came up with replacing our paper napkins with cloth ones.  We have been cloth diapering our almost-2-year old since she was born and it stands to reason that if we could do that, the napkin switch should be a piece of cake (and much less stinky).  It also seems to be in line with the whole primal way of living.  Eating whole, natural foods means going back to the basics.  The ingredients require little packaging and, with some creativity, can be used almost entirely without much waste.  Shouldn’t the rest of the household dealings follow suit?  I’d say so.

Having decided to go with reusable napkins, the next decision was whether to buy them or make them myself.  I went with the cheaper option of  making them.  Now, I’m not the craftiest person – I don’t scrap book and I don’t make my own baby clothes.  I do own a sewing machine, though, and know enough of the basic functions to operate it safely.  So I bought some pretty, 100% cotton fabric that was on sale and settled in for a DIY weekend.  I had no template or pattern, I just folded the fabric over on itself enough times to get a size I wanted and cut to size.  Then I pressed and hemmed the edges and threw them in the wash.  What you see is what came out of the dryer and folded.  They’re a bit wrinkly but perfectly fine for casual dining.  Once used, I store them in a little container under the sink and I’ll wash them once a week with the kitchen towels.  For 3 yards of fabric, I got 24 cute napkins and the freedom from buying a gargantuan package of disposable napkins at Costco.  That’s a pretty good trade off to me.