AsylumMom

Life on the inside. I've been sentenced 18 years to life and The Wardens are doing their best to drive me even crazier.

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The Scientist – When in Doubt, Follow the Recipe

The next person I want to introduce is The Scientist, aka: my mom. My mom will tell anyone that asks that she cannot cook. She knows one recipe, roast beef, which is delicious by the way. But outside that juicy hunk of meat, nada, nothing, zilch, nope! So just how did she inspire me in the kitchen? Simply put, she bakes. Where cooking needs creativity and inspiration, baking is a science. She follows recipes to the letter and nails them every time. She’s the best recipe hunter I know and she can bake anything to perfection. 

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I was awful at cooking. No, I’m serious, ask my family members. It’s true! I have creativity to spare but I lacked knowledge. I lacked efficiency. You can’t simply start throwing things together without any concept of what it might turn out to be. I was working without a foundation. Finally, I started to listen to what my mom was trying to tell me for ages: to follow recipes, learn the chemistry behind baking, learn the subtle differences in how they work together and how those differences change the outcome. Bread, for example, is almost always the same 3-4 ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast. But the different quatities, times, and preperations can change the outcome into so many different loaves! Finally, I started paying attention to recipes, or if I had something in mind, I searched for the commonalities in similar recipes until I had a fine idea of what to do. I started building my foundation of knowledge and in no time, my cooking and baking got better!
 
Now, I still experiment, and it drives The Scientist crazy, because it goes against her very nature of following the rules. But that’s okay, now I know to write things down, take notes of what does and does not work (when I remember to!) and to gather information before diving in. You don’t have to follow the recipe exactly, but it never hurts to be a little educated before you experiment.

Some of the most enjoyable moments are when we are baking together, something we try to do at least once when I go to visit her, The Guru, and The Commune. We sit together and argue recipe versus intuition and eventually arrive somewhere in the middle… and it always works out! Most recently, we embarked on some sugar/shortbread cookies inspired by Panera Bread’s flower cookies with lemon icing. We didn’t get it quite right, but we got close and they tasted good!

My mom, The Scientist, taught me how to find and trust reliable recipies. She showed me how to hunt down the good ones and what certain terms meant. She has helped me become the kitchen mom I am today and has stood behind me in my movement into more real foods from sources that I trust. She really doesn’t think so, but she played a big role in how I prepare foods in my kitchen. Not to mention the love of baked goods she sparked in me! She DOES, however, know that she’s the source of my bread obsession! And that she’s reason I feel like I need to bake something at least once a week or else I feel unbalanced.

She’s an inspirational woman, in many areas of her life, and I’m proud to call her my mom. Very Proud.

The Guru – Love Each Ingredient and Never be Afraid to Experiment

For the first introduction in this mini-series, I’d like you to meet The Guru- aka, my step dad. It just so happened that his birthday was last week, so he will be first.

The Guru married my mom several years ago and she will freely admit that he’s the best thing that happened to her life (since I was born of course, not that I have an ego or anything…) and he happens to be one of the best things in my life as well. Often times, people mistake us for biological father and daughter because I am very much like him in many ways, and one of those ways is with food. He has helped me grow in my love of cooking simply by loving it himself and being willing to answer any (and I mean any) questions I may have about food. He knows a lot about obscure ingredients and how to use them so when I have an odd question or see an ingredient I don’t understand, he’s my lifeline.
The Guru got his name from first, his personality and because he likes the word “guru”, but secondly because he seems to have a sense about cooking. When we visit my parents, he usually makes all of the meals and when he does, you can watch him prep each ingredient with care. Carrots are peeled and chopped, dried herbs in large, exotic-looking bags are measured and sprinkled, garlic is crushed, meat is trimmed, bones are saved for stock and peelings are composted. He truly strives to waste no piece and I try to do the same.
The Guru taught me some very important lessons for the kitchen. First, love each ingredient. This means that you try and cook starting with the most basic form of each ingredient and work your way up. You buy your ingredients with care, store them with attention, and use them where they will be noticed. He keeps many things minimal so that the individual flavors can shine through. His meals even rival most restaurants I’ve tried, by a long shot!
Second, he taught me to never be afraid to experiment with flavor. Whether in the kitchen while preparing, or out at a restaurant. Never be afraid to try something new. The worst case scenario would be that I didn’t like it and he would finish it for me anyway. Often, he will look at a recipe, read it over, get an idea of what he wants, and then he will just use instinct. This actually drives my mom crazy because if she ends up liking the recipe a lot, sometimes he can’t recreate it because he doesn’t know the exact measurements that he used. It can get quite comical, really.

So, The Guru is kind of a free spirit in the kitchen, which is also funny because his outward attitude is a very convincing cover of someone that is the exact opposite of a “free spirit”. Don’t let it fool you. He’s really quite fun and interesting to be around, and if you ever doubt the colors you just thought you saw behind his eyes, just try the stew. You’ll never doubt them again.

Who Inspired My Love of Food?

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I am introducing a new mini-series of posts this week! Yay!
It’s no secret that I love to bake and cook, that I love food and foodie experiences, and that even when I am sick, I turn to my kitchen to feel better. However, something that few of you know, is where I gained this love and who inspired and fostered it within me.

Therefore, I will introduce three rules of cooking that I derived from the people in my life that had the biggests hands in my love of food!

The three rules are:

From The Traditionalist:
1) Always have enough. And if you aren’t sure how much you will need, then make more than enough.

From The Scientist:
2) When in doubt, follow the recipe. And if you don’t have a recipe, turn to the internet.

From The Guru:
3) Love each ingredient, don’t be afraid of something new, and experiement with it.

These are the three most important concepts in my kitchen, and even if they may seem slightly contradictory, it’s only because they come from three distinct individuals, who all approach cooking in a different way. 

The next few posts will feature each rule and the person they were inspired by. I will tell you a little background story for them and an experience we shared in the kichen that might have been a defining moment for me. I hope you enjoy this little series as much as I will enjoy writing it!

In the meantime, any guesses on who they are? Leave a comment below with who you think they might be!

Etsy is Taking Over!

It’s almost half way into September now and Dad and I are feeling the crunch. We were planning something big for our family in October but its still up in the air over whether we will be able to fund it or not! If you feel compelled to help, feel free to visit my Etsy shop that I have been working on all month to find something you might like! I do custom art available in a variety of forms from you printing at home to notepads and canvas prints! Here’s an example of some of my work:

My moms beloved cat, Dally, who passed away a year ago.

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A set of baby shower invitations done in a safari theme.

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And a piece that speaks directly to me as an autism mom, when I hear someone say “I’m sure he can be fixed.” My heart breaks just a little. I made this piece of art for any mother or father out there that may struggle with similar pain, available for little girls as well.

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Please help a momma out and tell your friends!

Body Image – A New Look

A while back I had this wonderful idea that I wanted to do for some friends of my family. I was having one of those moments where I was really annoyed with someone because they were so insecure with themselves. And then I realized that I was annoyed with another persons insecurities. How tragic is that? I wanted to help her. She’s one off those women that even when you compliment her, she turns it into an insult. She absolutely cannot in any way accept anything positive about herself. That’s a very tough thought for me to take in!

Many women have issues with their image and are subject to this notion that we can’t be proud of our so called flaws without looking like a fool. Have you seen The Beautiful Body Project? This inspires me in so many ways. I’ve never been one to take part in self bashing, and when I slip up, I always feel sick about it. How on earth can this be healthy? I remember sitting around a table recently and every single woman there was exchanging flaws and self disgusts and diet “tricks”. Sounds like a bad movie but it was really happening!

But wait, there’s more.

I honestly hate when I try to encourage someone to do something and they say “No, you can because you’re skinny and pretty, but I’m too fat and ugly for that.” I always try to tell them they are wrong but this person can’t fathom the idea that they actually are pretty and therefor, nothing I say helps.

Where it gets really upsetting is the moment you hear “I don’t know why he even loves me, I’m too fat for love.”

Yes. I really heard that. Too fat for love. Those were the words that came out of her mouth.

That. Is. Heartbreaking.

After these events, I was laying in bed, letting my mind wander, when I thought, “They just need to see themselves the way their partner does.”

Slowly, I formed an idea. If you have image issues, please, take part in this exercise. If you don’t have image issues, take part anyway! It’s a healthy way to boost your self esteem!

All you need is a pen, some paper, and a partner. It can be anyone you love, trust, and respect. Whether this means your husband or boyfriend, or if you’re single, your mom or best friend or sister. Feel free to exchange and each do it but it was originally designed for a husband and wife duo to help the wife. So adjust it to your needs, the idea remains the same. 🙂

First, write down 5 things you hate about yourself. Easy, right?

Now write down 10 things you love about yourself. A little harder, but you can do it!

Next, have your partner write down 10 things they love about you. Then have them read their list to you.

Now, here’s where the magic happens. After hearing the wonderful ways your partner sees you, take the 5 things you originally said you hate about yourself, look at them in a new light, and turn them into something positive.

Now stand up and read your new list of 15 things you love about yourself.

You are SO beautiful, in so many ways. I only want you to be able to see it.

I made some printable pages you can use if you like, because who doesn’t love pretty printables!? 🙂 I hope this could help at least one person.

I had a friend, “M”, volunteer and test it for me, she opted to do an exchange with her best friend. They each took part in both sides and ended up with a wonderful new outlook on themselves! This is what she had to say about it:

“It was really hard for both of us to turn some of our dislikes into positives… Like my tummy and her nail biting. It was also hard to come up with 10 things we liked about ourselves. We almost gave up! But we finished and I guess it worked pretty well!” -M.

Thanks to M for volunteering in my exercise! Now, the rest if you, go do it and learn to love yourself just a little bit more!!

Here are the printables!

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I Love Being a Mom, But Parenting Sucks.

Parenting sucks. I mean, being a mom is great. But parenting? That sucks. Know why? Because apparently it’s EVERYONE’s business. And it starts before the baby is even born.

You’re keeping the baby? You’re putting her up for adoption? You’re not finding out the gender? Your naming him/her THAT?

You’re going to do unmedicated birth? You’re going to use DRUGS? You’re going to do a home birth? You want a doctor telling you what to do?

You’re not breast feeding? You’re not covering up while your boob is hanging out? You’re supplementing? You’re NOT supplementing?

And I could go on and on. But here it gets worse. Because it starts coming from places where you’re supposed to feel supported. But you can’t please everybody.

If you chose to spank, someone says you’re abusing them. If you chose not to, someone says you’re spoiling them.

If you chose to CIO, you’re torturing your child and starving his attention. If you chose to pick him up, you are spoiling him and fostering feelings of attachment and insecurity.

If you chose to feed them mainstream food, you’re poisoning them and you’re lazy. If you chose to feed them natural and homemade foods, you’re trying too hard and think you’re better than other moms.

If you chose to use generic brand products, you’re injecting them with chemicals and setting them up for sickness. If you chose to use organic products with fewer chemicals, you’re, once again, trying too hard and think you’re better than everyone else.

If you chose to raise YOUR child, YOUR way, then you are a know-it-all, selfish, better-than-everyone-else idiot.

I hate that this is what parenting has turned into. I hate even more that it comes between families, even between couples. I hate that we aren’t even free to make choices for our children anymore. When did parenting become a public affair? Just because I am a mom, doesn’t mean I lost all of my rights as a human when I gave birth to one.

Cooking from Scratch (Finally)

Happy Birthday! Thursday, August 15, was my mom’s birthday. My mom lives 8 hours away from me so I didn’t get to see her. However, my brother lives 5 minutes away and was going to visit her this weekend, so, I decided to bake her a surprise birthday cake and send it with him! As you can guess, I made the cake, and icing, from scratch! OF COURSE! Haha. So, this is the most recent example I can give of how cooking from scratch is cheaper.

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Sorry for the horrible photo. It’s too bad the cake didn’t really survive the trip to my mom. All the roses melted off of the sides! It was in AC the whole way but Texas heat can’t be reasoned with. My mom said it tasted great though! So that’s all that counts I suppose. I was still sad about my roses, though they weren’t much of a loss considering I kind of messed them up anyway. Ha! Anyway, on with the math…ugh.

For me to have baked this cake from a box mix,it would have cost about $16.00:

(These are rounded off to make this easier)
Boxed cake mix: $3.50
2 tubs of icing: $5.00
Milk/eggs/oil for cake mix: $2.00 give or take.
Raspberries for the raspberry filling: $4.00
Purple gel food coloring: $1.00

Or if I bought it from the bakery, probably around $20.00 right?

Here’s what it cost me to make from scratch, with items I keep on hand because I like to bake often.

Cake, recipe can be found here, I cut the recipe in half to make a smaller cake (two 6″ rounds instead of two 9″ rounds)

Cake Flour: $4.00 per 2lb box, I used 1 1/8C = approximately $1.50
Milk: $4.00 per gallon, I used 1/2C = about $0.12
Eggs: $3.00 per 18ct carton, I used 3 = about $0.50
Almond Extract: $2.00 per 2oz bottle, I used 1tsp = approximately $0.16
Vanilla Extract: $2.00 per 8oz bottle, I used 1/2tsp = approximately $0.02
Granulated Sugar: $7.00 per 10lb bag, I used 5/8 C = bout $0.25
Baking Powder: $3.00 per 10oz can, I used 2tsp = $0.10
Salted Butter (sticks): $2.00 per 4 stick box, I used 6tbsp (3/4 stick) =$0.75

Icing and raspberry filling. Recipe for icing can be found here, I doubled it to make filling and have extra. The filling was about 1/4 of the total icing, with fresh raspberries and 1tsp of raspberry extract added.

Salted Butter (sticks): $2.00 per 4 stick box, I used all 4 = $2.00
Confectioners Sugar: $3.00 per 2lb bag, I used 6 C = about $4.50
Vanilla Extract: $2.00 per 8oz bottle, I used 2 Tbsp = about $0.25
Milk: $4.00 per gallon, I used 3Tbsp. = approximately $0.19
Fresh Raspberries: $4.00, I used about 1/4 of the bag (approximately 1C) = $1.00
Raspberry Extract: $2.00 per 2oz bottle, I used 1tsp = about $0.16

So my total, from scratch, was $11.50! That’s cheaper!

Now, aside from my cake costing less, I now have all these ingredients on hand, which means I can bake any time I want and it will all be cheaper unless it requires a lot of a special ingredient.

Now, I’m not here to tell you “and knowing what goes in my food is priceless” (even though it is) because you may be like my husband. In his eyes, he doesn’t care if it’s healthy or not, if it doesn’t cost less, then it’s not worth it. So we are JUST talking bottom line here.

But the beauty of cooking from scratch is when you meal plan with it. Meaning, plan for meals with similar ingredients and your money will go further! Now, I also bake bread from scratch. Ingredients are flour, yeast, salt, and water. It ends up being less than $1.00 per loaf! Where at the grocery store, you may pay $2-3.00 per loaf with all kinds of preservatives in it!

How about actual meals? Well, a favorite of mine is pork fried rice done the lazy way. We mix pork chops that I’ve sliced up, rice, and frozen mixed veggies to make a meal that all 4 of us eat WITH enough leftovers for lunch the next day. Wanna take a guess at the cost? About $5.00. FOR TWO MEALS! Now, buying fried rice as takeout or in those handy little microwave cartons is what, around $4.00 per carton? Times 4 people equals $16.00, times two meals equals $32.00!? I’ll take $5.00 over $32.00 ANY DAY. And guess what? Yup, there’s pork chops, rice, and mixed veggies still in my kitchen waiting to be used on another meal.

Am I making any sense yet or do you need more math? I hope not. I hate math. Haha! But seriously, the budget that the wardens has put me on is pretty tight, but their appetites keep expanding, so I’m having to learn how to save every penny I can. I hope to have an expansive vegetable garden one day to cut even more costs from our grocery bill, but that’s not an option at the moment so I will stick with learning how to cook from scratch in preparation for when I DO have one.

Good luck to all of you! I hope I can help at least one person save money!

Pick a Topic!

Happy Monday everyone! (Not)

So, this week I have a few ideas on topics, which one do you want to hear about? Maybe I will find time to do two, even! Let me know!

Autism – a scary word for most parents, relief for me. (Potential for a guest post!)

Babywearing versus strollers – some of the more obvious differences

Cooking from scratch – is it REALLY cheaper?

Escaping reality – what books have I read lately that help me get away?

Bad baby, Good baby – a look at babies and why the differences in their personalities don’t matter!

Let me know what you want to read about this week! You don’t have to give your opinions on any of the topics just yet, wait for the post! 🙂

In the mean time, enjoy this picture of B with my Father-in-Law working on Dad’s truck!

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Animal

This is a little tid-bit post for the night! So, in my spare time, I like to write-

-HA! Spare time, like I have any of THAT.

Okay, in reality, I do a lot of thinking while I’m doing dishes, and with my habit of constantly baking and cooking, I do a lot of dishes. Some days I think about hot celebrity men, my favorite tv shows, and clothes I wish I could afford to buy… But other days, I think about things with a little more ground. Maybe it’s because someone said something that irked me and I feel like retaliating or maybe I read something profound. Either way, about a week ago, I had one of those days and decided to actually write out what I thought. I titled it, posted it on fb, and moved on.

Okay, you got me again, I didn’t move on! I anxiously awaited the replies of people, hoping I’d said something that touched someone. So what if I like the idea of changing someone’s life, that’s not unreasonable is it? (Is it?)

But what I got instead wasn’t going to touch someone else, it touched ME. An old friend of mine took it upon himself to give my musings a voice… and it was beautiful. It really did mean a great deal to me to actually hear the words with that level of emotion. Below is a screenshot of the conversation following his recording.

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Josh, I do thank you for what you gave me.

Here is what I wrote as well as a link to the recording of Josh’s reading of it. Please enjoy and give me any thoughts.

ANIMAL

You, incapable of seeing the suffering of others beyond your own kinship of mind, with even the thickness of blood not sufficient enough to render your accusations null, cannot possibly comprehend the thousands of incidences of pain and choice lived through by every other being around you. You, who chooses so easily to cast aside all value outside your own, who so quickly passes judgment on souls you’ve never been so blessed to know, cannot ever receive the privilege of loving an undeserving life. Oh! What a joy it is to feel compassion for a life that would take yours without guilt! How freeing it is to know that your choices are not hindered by the heaviness of a hatred unbridled! You, who live in those shackles of darkened emotion, cannot fully understand what it is to walk in lighted paths. While there are times for disrupt and unkempt hearts, for without darkness the light would not shine so bright, I much prefer to live a life in the sun with my heart soothed and my mind softened by joy’s gentle hand. How I wish I could lead you, hand in hand like a child, to a place where your hatred would suddenly crack and spill open, revealing a small and broken flower to which could be tended until stable enough to love on its own. How I wish I could, but hatred so strong grows chains in the earth of your soul, choking the broken flower until it is all but a shell, a shadow of the child you once were. You were not born to hate, no, a child is born knowing only how to love and wishing only to be loved in return. Eyes wide and shining, he ventures fourth into the world, one wobbly leg at a time, and reaches for the joy in others. No, you are not born to hate. You are taught. There are fortunate few who escape the torture of surrounding souls attempting to snatch the light from within them. As if the light of a child’s heart is offensive to the darkness in their own, as if they must dim it some to be able to keep company, and it is far easier to smother a single light than it is to try and match the brightness. Those fortunate few that have escaped such torture have been blessed with a source of light so strong that it can never be extinguished. Oh, but how I wish it could be shared! Alas, I am limited to merely show it to you and hope that you do not recoil in disgust. But I have shone brightly in my own right and you have recoiled. Revealing your nature while taking care to attempt and convince me of my wrong doing. It is your actions that are wrong. For how can loving another be wrong? It is your walls that you built, caging yourself, that is the abomination. Only animals live in cages. And you have made an animal of yourself.

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Please take the time to listen to the audio version. It brings the emotions I felt while writing this to life. If you don’t hear anything, be patient, it has a few seconds of silence before he begins reading.

MIA – An Explanation(Well, An Excuse)

Hello everyone! I’m so sorry I just dropped off the edge like that. I got incredibly sick and it came with a migraine. I still have it but I felt too guilty. I’ve been avoiding technology to save my eyes the strain. The Wardens don’t understand migraines so they have been screaming and crying away! Insanity, here I come!
Here’s what has happened since I went missing:
1) We got our tax return!
2) Dad and I each purchased one personal item. He got a steal on his dream truck (a 1958 Chevy Apache that he plans to remodel) and I got my very own iPad! Yay! Now I can blog-on-the-go.
3) I got sick (as I mentioned) and I’m still sick. It’s awful. That’s all on that subject.
4) Because I got sick, I’ve been sticking to easy or backup meals so you aren’t losing out on any recipes from the meal planning.
5) Along side my new iPad, my new phone will be here Friday. A birthday present from my family (thank you everyone!) I’m excited to have all my new technology!! But alas, that is all I have for you today. I have to stay away from the screens for a while. They make my migraine worse. So, I bid you ado.

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