Paleo + Vegan = God Only Knows

Paleo + Vegan = God Only Knows

by Angie Nasrallah

Paleo and Vegan!  Can you say those two words together in the same sentence?  Well, let’s see… I’m mostly Paleo; but, right now I’m vegan.  That doesn’t sound right does it?

And, why do we call ourselves words that identify us with a particular diet?  While camping next to a middle-aged couple, you may hear the wife reveal as you offer a roasted marshmallow, “Sorry, we’ve been Atkins for ten years now.”  Somehow, we identify with the foods we eat.

A couple of years ago, my doctor put me on a strict Paleo diet to help with my digestive problems.   A Paleo diet is an approach to eating that focuses on reducing inflammation in the gut or body by eliminating known inflammation causing foods like additives, gluten, processed grains, industrial seed oils, dairy and sugar.  Inflammatory foods happen to be associated with a modern diet rather than the foods eaten by our ancestors. So, basically, Paleo is a way of eating that gets us back to vegetables, clean meats, most fruits, nuts and seeds. Think cave woman or early native American.  Think hunters and gatherers.

So, why am I writing about being Vegan and Paleo?  In the Orthodox Church, we strive to fast several times a year.  Whether you are Vegan or Paleo, South Beach or Whole 30, these prescribed  fasts ask us to stretch ourselves physically and spiritually by fasting dairy, meats, eggs, wine and olive oil.  Thankfully, the church fathers weren’t of any dietary persuasion and they knew in their spiritual wisdom that food consumption is directly related to our spiritual lives.  As my husband says, “Heavy stuff.”

Now, to the dilemma:  How does one keep the Orthodox fast and yet still keep the parameters of a healthful diet?  How does one, during Advent, hunt and gather?  If you were to set up a Venn Diagram with Paleo and Vegan as the two headings, the common foods in the center would be…vegetables!   Unless you are John the Baptist, eating locusts and honey, this is very difficult.

This past Lent was an interesting experience for me and I want to share with you what I’ve learned about merging these two seemingly opposite approaches to eating.  Perhaps this information will be of help as we enter Advent.

The first thing was to realize that fasting is about reconnecting with God and becoming the kind of Christians God wants us to be.  Fasting helps us toward that end, but it is not the whole equation.   “The value of fasting,” St. John Chrysostom says, “consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices.” This reading from St. Chrysostom showed me something very important:  I’ve got to work on my inner thoughts and my sinful nature first!  It is actually easier to give up chocolate or coffee cream than to quit sinful habits.  The first week of Lent was difficult, fasting nasty thoughts and meanness.  Then, I had to work on replacing those destructive thoughts with prayer and kindness.  This was and is the real work of Lent.

The next thing I did was open up and start talking with people about my struggle.  After Divine Liturgy, during coffee hour, I would hang by the coffee pot and just talk with people about what I was going through with diet and Lent, etc. Surprisingly, what I discovered is that a lot of people struggle with dietary issues.  Here I thought I was all alone in this!  One mom I talked with said she struggles with a rare autoimmune disease that requires she cannot consume sugar, nightshades, gluten or dairy.  Another man mentioned that he was attempting to lose 35 pounds and get back to his prenuptial figure.  A friend shared that her thyroid disorder had her on a strict Paleo diet for life. Hearing these and more stories showed me that we are not alone in our struggles.  Everyone is dealing with something.

Thankfully, I read this during the fifth week of the Fast:  “He who prays with fasting has his wings double, and lighter than the very winds…nothing is mightier than the man who prays sincerely …But if your body is too weak to fast continually …. although you cannot fast, yet you can avoid luxurious living”  (St. John Chrysostom.  Homily LVII on Matthew XVII).  I may not be able to keep the Fast well, but I can at least cut indulgent foods like vegan chocolate death cake or the lobster bisque!

So, with the words of St. John Chrysostom  in my mind, I altered the way we served fasting foods at home.   Here is some of what I did:

  • veggie spaghetti – I made pasta for my wheat eating family and I cooked up spaghetti squash for myself (and whoever was brave enough to try it).
  • veggie chili – I served the beans on the side!
  • veggie soups were made with Qorn, a protein product made from fungi.
  • avocados were always kept on hand and served for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • nuts of all kinds were always on a counter for eating
  • I kept a can of tuna or salmon around and put that on salads at lunch when I needed a protein hit.  By the way, the calcium in canned salmon is a good replacement for what you are not getting from dairy.
  • I could definitely keep the dairy and the alcohol fast closely.

If you are on a restrictive diet for medical or health purposes, there are still ways to participate  in  the church fasts. In attempting to reach beyond our comfort zones we can allow the Lord to work within us.  We can connect with people who are also struggling and offer encouragement.  We can fast destructive thinking. We can show our families that we are not perfect and that God uses broken vessels.  We can still step away from this world for a few weeks and deliberately work on our relationship with the Savior by purposely not indulging in the luxuries that are so abundant in our world.  That may mean different things to different people, but for me it was staying away from indulgent entertainment, gossiping , beef, dairy and sweets.

So, what does it mean to be Paleo and Vegan?  It will mean different things for different people.  But, as we trust that He can work out the details of a keeping a challenging diet and a fast, it will likely show each of us that we need Him more than we need food!!

May each of us have a blessed Advent and a joyous fast in preparation for our Savior’s birth!

 

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Have I lost My Marbles?

Have I lost My Marbles?

Project 2:  Acrylic, food dye and shaving cream on thick drawing paper.

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Have I lost my marbles?  Maybe.  But, in the process, I’ve discovered  marbled paper!  Paper marbling is the process of placing paints onto a medium like water or shaving cream, swirling the paints and then lifting them off the medium with heavy paper or card stock.

Every time I see swirly paints mixed together into a beautiful collage of color I want to know how it’s done.  I’m on a mission to try every technique to create the marbled effect.

So far, we’ve tried two approaches:  Blick’s marbling paints on water and now acrylic paints on shaving cream.  Shhh!  We did try it with whipped cream, but I’m not counting that here.  The Blick’s paints are oil based and imprint the paper brilliantly clear.  The shaving cream with acrylic has a muted effect to print softer, bubbly shades.  Both approaches produce completely different marbled effects that are absolutely beautiful.  With the Blick’s paints, though, you will have to order ahead if you don’t live near one of their supply houses.  If you happen to have shaving cream and acrylic paint on hand, then your’e in business!

We started this project on a rainy September day.  I saved an old aluminum serving tray from a fairly recent party.  Next, we GOT to squirt a whole can of menthol shaving cream into the tray.  The whole room smelled of smooth skin and freshness!  After we emptied the can, the cream was lightly tamped down to make a workable flat surface.  Of course, we used hands to flatten. Next came the little drops of paint.  Three or four droplets of paint from three different bottles is all we needed.  Then we stirred.  But, be careful not to over mix the paint.  You want it folded together, but not completely mixed.  Too much mixing makes a nasty greenish brown color.  Once we had it swirled just right, then it was time to gently place the heavy paper onto the creamy surface making sure that the card covered as much colored foam as possible.   Now for the best part, the wow part! Grab a ruler, preferably one with a fine metal edge, and slide it slowly across the shaving cream. Wallah!  What’s left is the print and you’ve got marbled paper.

Now…what to do with all this marbled paper?   Bookmarks, naturally!  If your’e on our gift list this Christmas, you’ll probably see one of these.book marks

For cheap entertainment, we tried this project with whipped cream and food dyes.  Here’s the result:

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Whipped cream and food coloring looks cool, but it stays tacky!  Tacky is bad.  It doesn’t dry and will probably get all moldy over time.  No doubt though, the whipped cream marbling experiment was the tastiest art project we’ve ever attempted!

In the end, we loved marbling with shaving cream.  It was cheap, fun, easy to clean up, smelled good, and made a legit marbled print.  We’ll do it again outside in the spring with access to running water!  I would love to know if you try any of these marbling techniques at your house.  Let me know how it turns out and if you manage to keep your marbles in the process!

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How Marvelous! Your Marbling!

Project 1: Oil Based Marbling on Paper and Canvas

When you’ve been homeschooling long enough you find that there are activities that you really enjoy doing with your kids.  In my home school, with an 11 year old, I figure our time is limited, so I have us doing exactly those things we like doing.  What do I mean by limited?  Well, I never know when these days are going to change.  When will this whole homeschooling adventure end?  I’m never sure.  So, I feel like each homeschooling day is really a gift.  It’s a gift because I know these kids are all growing up and moving out.  I’ve actually seen it with my 20 and 22 year olds. They don’t stay young and little and curious forever!  They move on.  And, at some point, they join their own kind…they merge in with others of their own generation.  Kids, like baby chicks, eventually mature and join the hens in the larger flock.  When they join the flock, they aren’t  interested in all the art and the experiments and the nature walks.  At that point, you’ve done your job and they lift off into the great blue skies.  So, I savor these days like a mamma chicken taking a sunny dirt bath on a winter day.

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Raw art we enjoy and I’m making more time for it this year.  Enter paper marbling…

We’re on a mission to try every feasible way to marble paper.

Vivid color and texture were the original goals with these projects. But, as we learned with the shaving cream approach, the muted bubbly prints are nice too.  Either way, with paper marbling, the process is where the excitement is.

Project one:  Marbling with Easy Marble paint.  I grabbed three tiny bottles of these marble paints from Blick’s Art Supply.  At $2.75 a bottle, this wasn’t too expensive for several rounds of printing.  We printed onto card stock, drawing paper and mini canvases and I still have about 1/3 of a bottle left in each.  The oil based Easy Marble paints printed magnificently brilliant.

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Here are the basic directions:

Get a disposable tray. I recycled one from a recent buffet.

Have your paint bottles nearby.

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water color paper or canvas for printing

Tip:  You have exactly 30 seconds from the time you drop the color onto the water’s surface to print.  In fact, the sooner, the better. Otherwise, the paint dries into a glob.

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Fill your tray with a couple inches of water.  Now, this next step is where all the talent comes in… shake three or four droplets of paint from each bottle onto the surface of the water.  Gently stir or swirl with a stick and let your inner artist escape!  Your heavy paper will pick up this design and each one is totally unique!

We dropped the paint onto the water, stirring gently to swirl.  Next, we carefully placed the clean paper directly down onto the surface being careful to make complete contact with as much paint as possible.  The paper was lifted directly up and A LA Peanut Butter Sandwiches!  Marbled paper!  It was that simple and the ahhhh’s were worth any effort that was made to set this little deal up.

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In Project 2, you’ll see the results of our crazy shaving cream marbling adventure!  It started calm and ended wild!

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Cheap Field Trips # 3: Bob’s Trail

Cheap Field Trips # 3: Bob’s Trail

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Cheap Field Trips # 3

What’s lush, girded, roaring and peaceful all at the same time?  Well, it’d have to be the Bob Callan Trail, of course.

If you’re up for an interesting twist on nature, take a walk down the Bob Callan.  It’s in the middle of where you are and it’s totally free!  The trail traverses the region at the convergence of Interstate 285, Interstate 75, Cumberland, Akers Mill Road, Rottenwood Creek and the Chattahoochee River.  Remarkably, this diverse trail abounds with natural, architectural, and urban fascination.

I discovered the trail when  I saw a news article featuring a man traversing a newly paved concrete path beneath I-285.  What’s this?  Something natural under the Cumberland Connector?   We’ve got our next cheap trip adventure right here.

 

Thankfully, my youngest is usually game for an adventure, so off we went.

First, literally, the biggest challenge was to find it!  The whole place around there is under construction.  I circled the area for about 20 minutes looking for an access point.  Finally, we gave up,  parked in an office parking lot, and hopped over a silk EPA fence and into the trail.  Hopefully, by the time you read this the trail head parking will have opened.  Here’s what came up on Google Maps:

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Wide and paved, the trail is a fascinating confluence of  highly engineered highways and disordered woodlands. The trail seems to refill dead zones that were inaccessible when the highways came.  As my husband says,” I’ve spent all my time above.  Walking the trail gave me a sense of what’s beneath.”  There’s a hidden treasure down under the concrete canopy.   God’s art meets Man’s Art.  The man-made stuff obstructs; but nature finds its way around.  The trail gives you a glimpse into this battle that rages on beneath the thoroughfare, between the natural and the man-made.  In some places, the man-made is winning the battle; but, as you walk along, you see that nature is winning the war.  Little pockets of handsome purple flowers push up at the trail’s beginning.  A large mill-stone, broken in half by time and wear, is exposed in the creek bed.  A tree busts through a concrete retaining wall.  You know that over time, if left alone, nature would reclaim this strip of land back to its own quiet customs.

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In the meantime, until the apocalypse,  there is a great deal of symmetry and concrete to appreciate.

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We stopped frequently, taking in the splendor of a building’s reflection in the water or the feel of cold, steel  bridge I-beams.  Eventually  we advanced past all the bridges, railings, graffiti, and traffic sounds to the place where Rottenwood Creek deposits itself into the Chattahoochee River.   Even here, the mouth of the creek was buttressed with a concrete hedge.  Yet, the water softened the view and made for a lovely sound as it spilled over into the river.

I looked at my phone while we listened to the water spill into the Hooch! Where had the time gone?  We’d lost an hour here beneath the concrete canopy.   Time to head back.

This place impacted me in a bizarre and wonderful way.  Now I think about that trail and the nature going on there every time we drive over the top.  I can hear the rushing water under the bridges.  The image of my son dwarfed by the massive concrete wall, his colorful clothes contrasting against the grey, stays strong in the back of my mind.

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This trip revealed that there are beautiful, natural places to visit in and around our concrete city.   I’d say “The Bob” is a good destination in and of itself.  But, its also a good stop over place to take a lunch or traffic break and well worth the effort to find.  We’ll be back for sure.

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A Bizarre Realization

A Bizarre Realization

Face up, under the belly of my son’s car, my husband was elbow deep in a repair. Suddenly I leaned over the bumper and asked, “Hon, don’t you have one good adventure left in you? ”

That  was 9:00 Sunday evening, August 20th.

An hour later, my hubby came inside:  “Alright! You’ve got me,” he spouted.  “I guess I’ve one adventure left.  But, only one and we leave early as dog-dukers!”

That, my friends, is how we began the adventure to totality!  It was a quest to see the corona.  It was a journey skyward and westward.  It was a cosmological expedition that confirmed what we already knew and what we were yet to know.

Next morning at 7 am, we traversed the entirety of north metro Atlanta to access the 100% eclipse zone on the morning of August 21.  Now, that was an adventure in itself. With the help of a Spotify playlist, 3 1/2 hours later we arrived at the meadow of what was once Lake Hartwell.  This dehydrated field marks the border between Georgia and South Carolina and would be the perfect westward-facing location to view the sun and moon as they crossed paths.  It would also be in the bulls-eye, the 100% coverage zone.  We would have 2 minutes and 20 seconds to view the corona and just maybe, we would be lucky enough to see Bailey’s Beads.

Upon arrival, we gathered our ragged chairs, an umbrella and drinks and settled in for the spectacle not fully understanding  the magnitude of what we were to witness.   At about 1:10 pm, Anna broke open her solar shades and yelled, “Its starting!”

I fumbled in my backpack and found my own protective glasses.  After fidgeting a few seconds with the cardboard folds I managed to place them correctly over my eyes and look sunward.  Behold!  A large black sphere had entered the frame of the sun.  An Oreo-sized bite was missing from the right side.   OMG!  This is it!

Everyone got into place and some friends arrived.  We took measured glances at the advancing black moon covering the solar surface.  My camera came out.   Someone hummed “Black-Hole Sun.”

 

Ever so gradually, the light on that field reduced as the moon approached. Great white egrets flew across the darkened skies towards a dusky roost.  A  chorus of frogs started chirping their evening songs.   Dark shadows cast by human forms  were projected by the diminishing sun onto the dry lake floor.  The atmospheric color changed to sepia.

Then, it happened.  At first, there remained the tiniest sliver of sunlight.  Then, that the blackness slid over and the sun was blotted out of the sky!  The moon would have its say for the next 2 minutes 20 seconds.

Darkness and coolness settled over the field.

The protective glasses came off.

“The Corona!” someone blasted.

Comments ranged from “It’s a Corona, Extra Light!” to “Oh my Gosh!”,  “Wow!”  and finally,

“This is literally the most amazing thing I have ever seen!”

Then, at the mathematically appointed  millisecond, the sun’s rays literally burst forth on the other side.  In a flash, the lake bed was ablaze with light and color.

How do I describe an event so brief and surreal?  A time when  clouds, life and the sun seemed to stand still?

I cannot do it justice.  But, there is something I can surmise.

A collective, “what just happened?”  appeared on the faces of all present.

What just happened was that we became aware, at that brief moment, that we are actually on a giant sphere that is being orbited by a smaller sphere and together these two spheres are orbiting an even larger, blazing sphere.   Humans are absolutely minuscule in this whole process.  Yet, we are in the hands of God and He controls the sun, moon and stars.  It was a bizarre, yet comforting realization.

“And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.”  Amos 8:9

Then, we packed this adventure up and went home through the traffic to our mundane lives, pondering what we had just witnessed.

 

Ben

Ben

by Angie Nasrallah

(part 3 in a series about Keeping our Young People in the Church) 

“What we love is what we orient our lives toward.   Christian liturgies shape our vision for the good life and aim our hearts towards God. ”  — The Areopagus podcast, “Are We Doing Youth Ministry Wrong?”

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:21

These words have me taking a deep breath!  As you know, I’ve been contemplating how to keep our young people in the faith.  We want our young people to treasure Christ and His church.

Benjamin is a young man who is thriving in the Church and is making a big decision to commit his life to prayer and service.  I want to share some of his story.

We’ve been  blessed to know Ben since he was just 11.  Already, he had a special twinkle in his eye, a spiritual awareness unlike other kids his age.   Ben always crossed himself when he ate even a bite of apple or sipped from a water bottle.  If you told him you weren’t feeling well, he would say, “Lord have mercy” and offer a prayer on the spot.   From his tall stature, dark features and  thick chestnut-colored pony tail, you can tell he’s part Cherokee.  But, mostly, he’s all-American boy!  At 21, he attends junior college and owns his own landscaping business.  Like many of us, he comes from a family recently converted to Orthodoxy.

Talking with Ben, he takes great care to listen and give his undivided attention and I think this is part of the reason he purposely doesn’t keep a smart phone.  I’m the one who is distracted and rushing things along.  Yet, Ben takes his time and this is a good lesson for me.   Last month, we sat on my back deck and talked about his upcoming plans to visit the Holy Mountain in Greece and then to enter the Hermitage of the Holy Cross Monastery in Wayne, West Virginia.

“What is it that draws you to the monastic life?” I asked peering out over my back yard.

“I’ve never liked change much,” he confided drinking from a glass of tap water.   “I enjoy standing and praying and I know that when I’m at the monastery I won’t have to change or shift gears every day.”

I nod.

Ben is spiritually wise.  I think I understand what he means.  Ben has oriented himself toward a life of prayer and Christ.  His compass is pointing straight toward the monastery, where he will pray for all of us his entire life.  What a sacrifice and what a calling!!

Growing up in a non- Orthodox home, I never understood the idea that God can call people into the Monastic life.  God gifts certain people with prayer and that gift overflows into those around them.  Ben’s father, Jimmy, credits Ben for bringing a consistent prayer routine into their home:  “He encouraged us to pray regularly! Then, it was his sister and the rest of us that were praying with Ben.”  So, as it happened,  Ben’s desire to pray positively impacted the whole house.

In talking with Ben and writing this post, I discovered something completely different than I thought I would:  Sometimes it’s our children that point us to Christ!  Our kids can help us get our bearings, but we have to be attentive.  A small child, frequently scared by bad dreams, may be asking to have regular evening prayers.  A teenager, apprehensive about the future may be asking for guidance on how to prepare.  How do we respond?  If we are brave enough, we can respond with the proper orientation.  We will make adjustments like setting aside time each night to pray with our kids, or we will encourage our young men to look to God for answers rather than relying on themselves.   We will establish Christian liturgies in our homes that become their hearts’ treasure.

Later in our conversation, I asked Ben what words of advice he had for young people.  I think he was surprised at this question.  “I’m not very wise myself,” he said.  But, a day later, he sent me this:

“Everyone in our society wants to be different.  But, what happens is that everyone ends up getting into the same temptations. All of us, though we want to be different, end up floating down the stream with all the other dead fish.  To be different truly, means to not just do whatever you feel  like doing, but to become like Christ; He is the only perfect and “different” one there is.  To be different in our world means to get up and do your morning prayers and prayers before you sleep, and to pray without ceasing between both!  Who does that in society after all? ”

Ben sent more, but these comments were enough to keep me busy for awhile.  Isn’t this struggle really about me and how I respond to God every day?   Looking at Ben and his life encourages me to be brave in the effort.

Just after Christmas, Ben will leave for the Hermitage of the Holy Cross!

Looking to Christ

 

 

You’ve Got to Set an Alarm!

You’ve Got to Set an Alarm!

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Second in a series on keeping our youth in the church.

Yesterday, on a rainy Sunday road trip day, I had the benefit of sitting beside my lovely 20 year old daughter as she took a driving shift. We were headed home from a family reunion in Florida and talking about the struggles of staying active in church during the college years.

“You’ve got to set an alarm,” she stated.

“In high school, you just woke me up for church. In college, I have to be motivated to set the alarm so that I will get up,” she said confidently, one hand at the wheel, left foot tucked up onto the seat. I gazed out at the rural scene moving past my wet window pondering her comments.

“You’ve got to set the alarm!”

These words are telling.

That’s a pretty simple idea; but it’s complicated. It’s complicated because maybe as a college student, you don’t want to set the alarm to get ready for church. Maybe you are the only college student going to a particular parish. Maybe there isn’t a priest at the local parish. Maybe you don’t have a car.

Regina had all of these problems her first year at Appalachian State. Somehow, she still kept setting her alarm and going. Thankfully, she found a ride most Sundays and was able to connect with the people at her small mountain parish as they plugged along looking for a permanent parish priest.

“Sometimes there would be just a handful of us singing Typika,” she said.

“But, I still wanted to be in church because it reminded me of home and I knew that going was good for me,” she confided as we raced along past a peach grove and some cows.

Somehow, I suspect that her desire to set the alarm was established long before she graduated from high school. Regina was about five when we converted to Orthodoxy. She has walked this faith with us for many years. One impactful experience she had as a young girl growing up in a household of boys was that she was the St. Lucia girl. Each year, on the 13th of December, I would set my alarm and wake her up just before daylight. Eagerly, she would arise, and put on a white night gown and come downstairs. There I would have Little Debbie cakes and a single candle burning on a brass candlestick. Groggily, she would take the candle and the cakes, and walk around to each room saying, “Jesus is the light of the world,” whereupon she would offer each boy, or Dad, a “St. Lucia” cake. It was her special thing. The Scandinavians have remembered and honored St. Lucia since 304 when she died a Christian martyr during the Diocletian persecutions.

Our priest also asked Regina to offer the festal cakes during the St. Lucia Vesperal service on the evening of the 12th. We have always loved this tradition and it has given her a special function in the service.

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I’m not going to say that being the St. Lucia girl is why Regina is setting her alarm on Sundays now that she’s in college. Yet, something stuck. She sees the importance of being in church and worshipping the Light of the World even when it’s not very convenient. So, I think one can make the connection that involving our young ladies in little traditions like this is worthwhile and may one day pay rich dividends. Over the years, these experiences layer in on a foundation of faith and tradition that keep our youth connected to what’s really important.

Like setting an alarm; it’s simple, yet very important.

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