Letting Go…

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need to let go of my Knitter’s Guide To Beer book concept. While I feel this book has good potential for success, and would be fun to write, my body’s ability to comfortably process more than a couple of pints of beer per week has declined noticeably in the past few years. Combine this with the fact that when people find out I’m writing a book about beer they want to have a beer with me – which is awesome! – and it becomes even more difficult to reduce my consumption for the sake of my health.

This problem would only escalate if I were to finish the book, and then attempt to promote and sell it. And so…I’m listening to my body and letting go.

Being a believer in cosmic forces, it’s clear to me that my writing efforts were meant for a different purpose. Something a bit deeper than matching knitting projects to beer styles.

Looking at all I’ve learned over the course of my life so far, I’ve found that my pursuit of passionate, hands-on inquiry and research into a variety of self-selected subjects has taught me far more than I ever learned sitting in a chair in a room answering questions posed by a teacher. Finding answers to one’s own questions, and sticking with a subject until one’s curiosity is satiated, is far more satisfying and productive.

While there are many subjects that have caught my attention and interest during my unschooled life, I’ve settled on four as the focus of my redesigned book project…Unschooled Path: Knitting, Medicine, Beer, and Bare Feet. What I’ve learned from each of these subjects goes far beyond what I expected to learn. In addition, I’ve found that when explored on a deeper level, the four subjects are connected and interdependent. The knowledge and skills I gained in one subject, helped to improve my understanding and abilities in all the others.

So what’s the most important thing I’ve learned from each of these four subjects? Well, I’ll tell ya…

  • Knitting The value of process. How we get there and what we learn along the way are far more important and valuable than achieving our preconceived goal. In other words, the books we read, the people we meet, the skills we struggle to improve, the choices we make, and the experiences we have that disrupt our progress…these are what life is all about.
  • MedicineThe health of the soil will determine the health of our bodies. When we deplete and impoverish our soil, we deplete and impoverish ourselves. Soil, terrain, terroir…these are what matter to our health, far more than bacteria, viruses, genetics, or even chemical exposure.
  • Beer Microbes should be respected as colleagues, as equals, rather than being feared. They are an essential part of our life and necessary for health. The more we understand and respect our microbe friends, the more we are able to assist in the maintenance of a balanced, stable, and healthy environment – for our own benefit, as well as for that of our microbe family.
  • Bare FeetHuman innovation cannot improve on nature. Certain tools and other human creations can make our lives easier, more predictable, and more satisfying, but we only create problems when we start to believe that we can improve nature. Or worse, that we are smarter than nature. When problems arise, we should always look first to a human action that needs to be undone, in order to make things better.

Through this book concept transition, writing, research and learning continue to happen. Sometimes an activity I take on or a book I choose to read seems like a distraction from my task at hand, and then I find that it’s absolutely related and helps in my understanding of the picture as a whole. As I learned from knitting, the process is where the value is.

With that in mind, yesterday I made cheese for the first time and then made these awesome No-Bake Cheese Tartlets. Way yum! And far easier than I thought it would be…even though my kitchen was a disaster when I was done.

Enjoy the journey!

-Jenne Hiigel

My Favorite Breakfast…

It feeds my soul, feeds my body, and makes me feel good every time I eat it. Breakfast is the one meal of the day I have figured out. When I eat something other than the recipe below, I don’t necessarily feel bad, but I definitely don’t feel as good. With this breakfast, I feel great, my digestion is happy, and my day gets off to a great start.

This is not your typical American breakfast, although all ingredients are grown organically in my local, Californian soil. I don’t add sweetener. I do add greens. Here’s my very flexible breakfast recipe…just in case you want to give it a try.

JENNE’S FAVORITE BREAKFAST RECIPE

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Ingredients:

  • Pre-cooked whole grains…Brown rice, oat groats, rye berries, barley, or any other grain or combination of grains. I’ll cook up a batch in my pressure cooker and keep them ready to go in a jar in the fridge. These are the whole, unchopped, unprocessed versions of these grains.
  • Dried fruit…Raisins, cranberries, apricots, dates, prunes, etc. Bigger fruits can be chopped. Small ones don’t need to be.
  • Nuts…Walnuts, pecans, cashews, etc. A small handful, chopped.
  • Leafy greens…Kale, chard, spinach, dandelion greens, beet greens, carrot greens, etc. Chopped into bite-size pieces.
  • Sprouts…Broccoli, radish, sunflower, fenugreek, alfalfa, etc. These are easy to grow in a large mason jar with a screened lid.
  • Fresh fruit…Blueberries, strawberries, apples, peaches, raspberries, etc. Whatever’s in season. Chopped as needed.
  • Soft-boiled egg…One.
  • Unsweetened almond milk…Or other milk product that you prefer. I don’t make my own almond milk…yet. It’s on my to-do list.

Get two saucepans. One for your grains/greens and the other for your egg. Put the egg in one pan and cover it with water.

In the second pan, put in the desired amount of pre-cooked grains. Add the dried fruit and nuts, and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Heat on medium. While that’s warming up, prep your chosen leafy greens. Put the greens in the pan on top of the grains.

At this point, heat your egg saucepan on high. While waiting for that water to boil, stir your grains/greens as needed…allowing them to simmer and slowly cook the greens, adding water as needed to prevent sticking and scorching.

As soon as the egg water starts boiling, switch on your timer. You can turn the heat down slightly on the egg, but you want to maintain a vigorous boil. Cook your egg for 3 minutes. You can adjust the cooking time based on egg size and personal preference, but for me, with a large egg, 3 minutes is perfect. At the 3 minute mark, remove the pan from the heat and rinse the egg in cold water to stop the cooking.

Now it’s time to put it all together. Put half the grains/greens mixture in your bowl. Add a layer of sprouts and then the rest of your grains/greens. I like my sprouts warmed up, which is why I put them in the middle, rather than on the top. The fresh fruit goes on top, along with the soft-boiled egg. Add some almond milk and it’s ready to eat.

To keep breakfast interesting, you can vary the grains, dried fruits, nuts, greens, fresh fruits, and sprouts. I strongly recommend that you don’t add sweetener to this breakfast…even the “healthy” ones. Allow your taste buds to appreciate the wonderful flavors already in your bowl. Adjust the sweetness, as needed, with the quantity and variety of dried and fresh fruits.

So, there it is. My personal favorite breakfast. If you come up with any variations that work well for you, I’d love to hear about them!

-Jenne Hiigel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calming Rosacea…

As I track how people have found this blog, one of the most common search words used is “Rosacea.” Clearly I’m not the only one dealing with this issue. So let’s talk about it a bit  more and I’ll share what I’ve learned.

First, what is it? The most prominent symptom of Rosacea is red, inflamed skin on the nose and cheeks, often affecting the chin, forehead, and neck. When it’s riled up, it can be burning, itching, and dotted with white-head pimples. At its calmest, the skin is redder than normal. It can also affect the eyes, making them dry and gritty (Blepharitis) or worse (Keratitis).

Because the symptoms are most notable on the face, many people are convinced this is a skin disorder. It’s not. The skin is just a reflection of what’s going on inside. Rosacea is a digestive disorder. The only way to calm the symptoms for the long-term, and have any hope of actually healing the condition, are by improving one’s digestion and changing what one eats.

“But wait, my doctor says…” Yeah, yeah. I know. Your doctor says there’s no known cause or cure, you should be on lifelong antibiotics, you can have laser treatments to temporarily improve how you look, you should be using steroid creams to reduce inflammation, blah, blah, blah. Lifelong antibiotics? Yeah, right. That’ll fix my internal flora and fauna right up…and make me a patient for life. No, thanks!

The improvement of my Rosacea has included the following actions:

  • Betaine HCL – People with Rosacea tend to have insufficient stomach acid. Taking Betaine HCL with each meal noticeably helped my digestion. I was able to phase these out as my digestion improved.
  • Digestive enzymes – Also taken with each meal to improve digestion, and also phased out as my digestion improved.
  • Avoid nightshade plants – Nightshade plants, particularly tomatoes, can aggravate Rosacea. Other foods in the nightshade group include potatoes, eggplant, and bell & chili peppers. Sweet potatoes and yams are okay to eat, as they are not in the nightshade family.
  • Avoid spicy foods – Spicy foods can aggravate Rosacea symptoms.
  • Alcoholic beverages – These can increase facial flushing, which aggravates Rosacea. Reducing the frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption can help improve symptoms.
  • Pay attention to your digestion – Which foods make your stomach say “Oof” for a couple hours after eating? Make note of these “oof” foods and avoid them. For me this includes bread and other refined flour products (especially sandwiches and pasta), sugary foods and desserts, deep fried and oily foods, and raw vegetables, seeds and nuts. Raw foods can be difficult to digest. Light cooking can be a big help.
  • Pay attention to your digestion – Which foods make you feel good after eating? Make note of these helpful foods and keep them in your diet. For me this includes whole grains (whole, cooked brown rice, oat groats, rye berries, barley, etc), leafy greens, sprouts, prunes, winter squash, sauteed vegetables, in-season fruit (not too much, though), and a pastured-raise soft-boiled egg now and then. Eating fresh and in-season makes a big difference  to my digestion.
  • Avoid medications that throw your internal flora and fauna out of whack – especially antibiotics and antifungals. If you have an infection that needs addressing, consider Vitamin C megadosing instead. I have personally seen Vitamin C knock out mononucleosis, pneumonia, allergies, colds, flus, and even hangnails. How much to take varies from person to person, but when fighting a serious infection dosages of 20-50 grams per day are not unusual. Everyone I know who has embraced Vitamin C consumption, at the level their body needs, has become a convert…because it works.
  • Eat live, fresh foods – Make or grow them yourself when you can. Make sprouts. Learn to ferment and pickle. Eat ginger and garlic. Make mustard. Make yogurt (without added sugar!). Go in your kitchen or out in your yard and learn how to do stuff. In the meantime, buy these health-giving products from people who already know how to do this stuff.
  • Listen to what your body wants – If you find yourself drawn to radishes and cilantro, for example, there’s probably a reason for it. Look up the medicinal benefits of various foods that you’re drawn to and add that information to your knowledge base.
  • Avoid food with garbage on or in it (chemicals and/or drugs), food that’s been messed with scientifically, and food that’s been shipped thousands of miles to sit on store shelves for months before being eaten.
  • Add green vegetables to your breakfast.
  • Eat less, chew more. Leave room in your stomach for digestion. Your food needs room to move around in order to digest properly. Give your digestion an assist by chewing your food thoroughly.
  • Fast every now and then – Fast for a half-day, full day or a couple of days. It’s good to periodically give your digestion a break to allow your body to focus on something else.
  • Improve your confidence and reduce your stress – Self-confidence reduces blushing. Calmness reduces flushing, and is less taxing on your body than stress.
  • Strive to improve your digestion, rather than just “avoiding triggers.” This is a perspective issue, and perspective matters. Focus on the positive, rather than negative. Look at what you need to embrace, while you’re letting other things go.

Rosacea is still an issue for me, but much less so. When it flares up, I can usually pinpoint what I did that aggravated my digestion. Lifestyle and diet changes take effort, but that is effort well spent. You and your body are stuck with each other, so you may as well learn to get along. Start listening to what it’s been trying to tell you. It will tell you what it needs. Breathe deep and listen with an open mind.

-Jenne Hiigel

Freshening up…

As I go about my day-to-day life, I’m often asked “How’s the book coming?” Since my last post on this book blog was almost 18 months ago, it is a fair question. I continue to research and write most every morning (striving to get up by 5am, so I can write for a couple of hours before work) , and progress is definitely happening, but not necessarily in the direction that would make an estimated completion date predictable.

My knitting/beer book project hit a speed bump in the last couple of years when my body started complaining when I drank beer or wine too regularly…typically in the form of aggravated Rosacea symptoms, increased challenges with dry eyes, and excessive nighttime thirst. I do better when I limit my consumption to once or twice a week at the most. And yet, when I talk to people about my book project, it’s natural to want to do so while sharing a pint.

As I began looking at what would be needed to promote my book once it was finally finished, I determined it would be really hard to talk about and promote my book without a glass of beer in hand. And so, a quandary. Ignore my body for the sake of the book, or adjust the book for the sake of my body. Since my body and I are stuck with each other for a good while longer (hopefully!), I decided to opt for the latter course of action and have adjusted the focus of the book.

By keeping beer in the picture, but also adding the subjects of medicine and bare feet, it calms the beer-focus and hopefully will allow me to promote the book without feeling compelled to drink more than my body cares for. The medicine angle will be a discussion of things that aide and promote wellness and healing, which mostly rules out pharmaceuticals. The bare feet focus will introduce readers to the rebel act of kicking off one’s shoes, and the health benefits of doing so.

Another factor that slowed my progress was the health decline and eventual passing of our family dog, Booboo. He died in June 2013, just a couple months shy of his 15th birthday. That experience impacted my life far more than I had ever expected it to, in both good ways and challenging ones. It sparked an idea for a second book project…currently titled, “Lessons From Booboo About Life & Death.”

A third topic that has been bubbling up on my priority list is the need for schooling to be non-compulsory. Radical idea, I know, and yet quite important. I’m planning to dabble in that subject here and there, and hopefully get some writing done for that as well.

So…with renewed focus on my original book and two more book ideas that are demanding some attention, I decided it was time to refresh my web presence. I’ve established a website…jennehiigel.com…that has links to my book project blogs. As I get some writing done on one of the three topics, I will post some or all of it on the relevant blog. I would thoroughly appreciate any and all feedback…what you like, what you don’t like, what interests you, what doesn’t, and so on.

I have my website mostly up and running, although there are a few pages that just have the comment “Coming Soon…” My first priority will be to get those webpages completed, and then I’ll get back to the book projects themselves. Progress is definitely happening, but not necessarily in the direction originally envisioned. And yet, isn’t that the way life tends to work?

-Jenne Hiigel

Walking Barefoot…

I have been washing my feet a lot lately. Every night, in fact. It has become a ritual; a way of ending the day and preparing for my night’s sleep. This is different from taking a bath or shower, where one’s feet just happen to get clean in the process. Instead, this is focused attention on just my feet, one at a time… gently, lovingly, appreciatively.

As I wash, I get to know each foot a bit better. I rub the soap between my toes, around my heel, and across the ball of my foot – which is becoming increasingly smooth and leathery. I feel the muscles that have grown stronger, now that they’re finally being used again, providing the arch support as nature intended. I check for any minor injuries and give those a bit of extra attention and care.

As I wash my left foot, I always pause at the scar on my ankle bone. It’s slightly over an inch long and at an angle that goes from my heel to my instep. For me, this scar represents the epitome of human arrogance. A physical manifestation of science and medicine believing it can improve on nature.

This scar sometimes makes me sad, sometimes angry, but mostly it makes me determined. It reminds me how disconnected people can become from nature’s design. How much we expect science, technology, and “experts” to solve our problems… and the many new problems that this path creates. How often we look for a new “fix” to an existing problem, rather than letting go of the previous “fix” that created it.

When faced with an incompatibility between nature and science (my foot and shoes), the doctor concluded that nature was at fault and needed to be altered. He could have concluded that there was something wrong with my shoes, or even all shoes, but that’s not what he was trained to do.

The unspoken motto of modern medicine is, “When in doubt, do something.” And often the more invasive the better, because at least you’re taking action, you’re trying, you’re doing your best to remedy the problem. Non-action makes doctors uncomfortable. Just go to a doctor with a problem and say “no, thanks” to all their drugs and procedures, and you’ll see what I mean. Society has also been trained to feel uncomfortable with inaction. “I have a problem. Aren’t you going to do something to help fix it?!” We have lost our faith in nature, in the human body’s ability to heal.

The idea that either doing nothing or un-doing something is often the best course of action is way too radical for most people to handle. In a society where doing nothing or doing less is considered lazy, non-productive, and shows a lack of caring, we often feel forced to take action…even if such action doesn’t help or actually makes the problem worse.

What was the human creation that caused problems for my left foot? Shoes. And the solution that science and medicine came up with to fix that problem? Alter my foot to fit the shoes better.

I was nine or ten years old. Shoes regularly rubbed my left ankle bone, making it sore. Going with the accepted course of action for the period (the 1960’s), I was taken to a doctor to find a solution to this problem. The doctor concluded that my left ankle bone was too big, giving fault to my body rather than the shoes. If the bone was shaved down a bit, making it smaller, shoes would no longer rub that area – thus solving my problem. This is the course of action that was taken.

The surgery itself was not traumatic for me. Reducing the size of my ankle bone solved the specific problem I was having. Medical intervention for physical problems was accepted in our family. It’s only in hindsight that I’ve been bothered; when I look back on what the decision meant – what it says about our way of thinking, our disconnection with nature, our willingness to embrace significant intervention rather than altering or letting go of previous human creations.

It also shows how the solution that seems obvious to me now, going barefoot as much as possible, didn’t even occur to us as an option back then. I have the same problem when I try to imagine how my life would have been different if I had been homeschooled or unschooled, as we did with our own children. Clearly that never would have happened. It wasn’t even considered as an option; not even a flicker of the imagination. If we can’t even imagine it, how can we possibly make it happen?

This is the point of my book. To toss seemingly radical ideas into the ring. To help you expand your options. To have you consider things that may not have even crossed your mind. Some ideas may seem like the next natural step, or they may instead be so foreign in concept that you will need to abandon what you thought you knew in order to even consider them. Either way, awareness is always the most essential step.

Actually, more often than not, the concepts I will be discussing are tried and true ideas. We’ve just forgotten. Or perhaps we never had the opportunity to learn.

In our society there are a few assumptions that are generally agreed upon by a vast majority of people, such as:

  • If you’re sick, you should see a doctor.
  • Shoes are necessary for healthy foot functioning.
  • Bacteria is bad and dangerous. In fact, all microbes are suspect.

Regardless of how much I’ve learned to dispel these assumptions, or at least minimize them to the “only in extreme situations” category, they are still so deeply ingrained in my thinking that I have to continually brush these thoughts away as they keep popping back into my head.

Even though I know that doctors often make things worse rather than better, when I see someone who is ill my first thought will be, “You should see a doctor.” When I’m walking around barefoot and see someone else without shoes, I find myself looking at the person with suspect eyes and thinking, “Where are your shoes?” And even though my fermenting beer or sauerkraut sits in a crock for weeks, often tasting better the longer the microbes are allowed to do their work, I will still look at food that’s been out of the fridge for a couple of hours wondering, “Is this in the danger zone?”

It takes a long time to let go of beliefs that one used to consider hard, fast truths; and I’m actually starting to believe they never fully go away. Perhaps a shadow remains to remind us how easily it can be to get swayed by common assumptions, particularly ones that have been marketed to us from a very young age by people trying to make a buck.

-Jenne Hiigel

The Concept Evolves…

My research over the past several months has been wandering into seemingly unrelated areas, but has brought me full circle back to this book project with increased determination to make it the book I really want to write.

Subjects I’ve been reading intensely about include:

  • Health and Medical Issues… Mainstream medicine causes more problems than it solves. Alternative medicine needs to play a stronger role. Each person needs to take responsibility for his/her own health and stop making the medical profession responsible. Since what we put in our mouths determines our level of wellness, diet and lifestyle changes have the potential to make the most difference.
  • Corporate Personhood… Corporations are not people. That seems obvious to me, but apparently not to the Supreme Court and the various corporate Boards of Directors. Corporations need to have LESS influence in our lives, not more. Fortunately corporations need money to survive, so if we want to limit their ability to manipulate us, all we have to do is stop giving them our money.
  • Compulsory Schooling… Forced government schooling needs to end. We don’t have to dismantle the public education system, but each person (I’m including children here as persons) should have the right to choose not to go. Every person should have the right to pursue their education in the manner that best meets their own needs.

Our country is facing significant challenges which have their roots in these three issues. So what do these things have to do with beer and knitting? Well, corporate influence combined with compulsory schooling has turned us into a society of consumers.

Most people no longer know how to make things. They just know how to buy things. Any knitter who has had someone oooh and aaah at their simple garter stitch scarf will understand what I’m talking about. Even the simplest skill seems out of reach for most Americans. Without the ability to produce things for ourselves, we become dependent on corporations to do it for us.

If we want to be rebels, the best way to do so is to become skilled. Learn how to do things. Learn how to make things. Learn so many skills that when you go into a store you start passing by more and more items for sale and think… “I can make that myself .” The more we as a society do this, the less control the corporations will have over us.

In John Taylor Gatto’s newest book “Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling” he pulled everything together beautifully for me:

“What nineteenth century American experience demonstrated unmistakably is that an independent, resourceful, too-well educated common population has the irresistible urge to produce – and the ability to do so. … [In] Federal times and Colonial days … the common ideal was to produce your own food, your own clothing, your own shelter, your own education, your own medical care, your own entertainment, etc.”

As people become more capable of producing, they become more independent, resourceful and  self-sufficient. These are the qualities that used to be abundant in our citizens. It’s time to bring those qualities back.

Knitting and brewing are fundamental household skills. Both genders have history in both crafts, and it’s time to embrace those skills again. In order to build the desire to learn a craft, it helps to have a good understanding of the process and appreciate the end results.

That’s what “A Knitter’s Guide to Beer” will do for the craft of brewing. It will give the reader an understanding of the brewing process and an appreciation for the variety of beer styles that are possible. If we can start our rebel adventure with beer and knitting, then we’ve got to be on the right path!

-Jenne Hiigel

Prepping for Sock Summit…

On Friday I’ll be getting on the train and heading for Portland. Sock Summit starts next Wednesday. I’ll have five-ish days to visit with my daughter and extended family in Portland, and do some typical tourist stuff (breweries & pubs, yarn shops, book stores… all the must-see kinds of places) before my daughter and I leave the real world for four days and immerse ourselves in knitting heaven.

As I start packing for this trip, I’m having to go through my yarn, needles and UFOs (to find even more needles) to make sure I bring what I’ll need for my four workshops. In addition, I have to decide what I’m going to knit on the train. It’s a 24 hour trip. That’s a good batch of focused knitting time. My options are pretty much  limited by how much luggage I want to carry. A variety of small projects seems to be where I’m leaning.

My book proposal is progressing bit by bit. I’m finding I’m treating this project the same way I would a knitting project. Each knitting project has it’s own timeframe. Some get focused attention from start to finish, while others get a good start, periodic bursts of attention here and there, and eventually a boost of enthusiasm to get it done and the ends woven in. Kind of like the mitered square afghan I’ve currently got wrapped around me while I type. It took me several years to get this afghan done and I am thoroughly pleased with the finished result. I love this blanket!

In spite of the slow-down on my book proposal progress, research for the book continues. Beer & Knitting Classes will continue monthly through the end of the year. I’ve even gotten a request for Beer & Spinning Classes, so I plan to add those to the line up in 2010. Beer & Knitting Nights continue semi-regularly, with our next one taking place tonight at Koberl at Blue (check out their beer list!).

In the tradition of knitters everywhere, I’ve gotten an idea for my second book even though I haven’t finished my first one yet. Fortunately, having a second book concept already underway when I approach a publisher could give me the potential for a two-book contract. So my knitter tendencies may not be such a bad thing in this case. (Or am I just demonstrating my extensive rationalization skills here?) As long as my book projects don’t turn into UFOs, I should be okay!

The working title for my second book is A Knitter’s Guide to Non-Alcoholic Beverages. Beverage choices in restaurants and bars for non-alcohol drinkers are generally limited to coffee, tea, corn-syrup-laden sodas and water. In this book I plan to explore other alcohol-free beverage options, with a focus on businesses that are taking this area more seriously and creatively. Alcohol drinkers shouldn’t have all the fun! And, yes… contrary to what many 20-somethings believe, it is possible to have fun without drinking alcohol.

On the Rosacea front, I’ve made significant progress. As I mentioned in a previous post, Vitamin C has been a big help. Then I read Mark Hyman’s book The UltraMind Solution and put into action his recommendations to fix my digestion and improve my overall health. With each passing day my digestion improves and my Rosacea becomes less of a issue for me. I even had a glass of red wine a week ago, with no major flare up. Now that’s progress!

-Jenne Hiigel