Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Hodge Podge Post

I know that I promised you some pictures and I'm sorry to say that I'm not quite done with either project.  I ran into something that I can't talk about and can't explain but it is causing quite a mental hurdle for me and will continue to do so until next year.  I wish I could say more...but I hope that you can understand that sometimes you just can't control life...the most one can hope is to find a way to cope and go forward.

Speaking of coping...we found this amazing map.  It is called Sky Elements and is full of something for everyone.  Be warned...there are monster spawners...everywhere.  They are in trees and in boxes and under the ground.  We spent a good two days just blowing up every two steps trying to clear out the jungle.  But now we have it under control.

I tried to find a path into the heart of what I wanted to say and couldn't find one.  So shifting gears...

In the old days, the well of the community was it's heart.  Water is necessary for survival.  Everything would spiral out from that water source and without it a town would surely become a ghost town.

The "well" in our body is our gut.  The human body houses about 100 trillion microorganisms in the gut.  Good gut bacteria take energy from the fermentation of undigested carbohydrates and the product of the absorption of fatty acids.  Many of these bacteria act like organs in the way they perform metabolic jobs around our body.

Bacteria line our intestines and help us digest food, they make vitamins that are vital for life, they send signals to the immune system and they make small molecules that help our brain to work.

Over the years we have learned that these symbiotic bacteria help keep many functions of our body running smoothly.  The numbers are constantly changing as science starts to really look at the bacterial in our gut.  A study I read in 2013 said that on average the people they tested had 200 strains from 100 different species.  Another that I read said that there are somewhere between 5,600 different strains of gut bacteria; but about 99% come from the same 30 to 40 species.

The point is this is a new frontier and we are just on the cusp of understanding how important these gut flora are to our well being.  The helpful bacteria in our gut outweigh our own cells by a factor of 10.  We only know what a fraction of these good bacteria do; there are still so many unknowns.

The most well known of these is Lactobacillus.  This bacteria that resides in the small intestine is responsible for producing lactase, the enzyme required to break down lactose.  Lactose is the sugar found in milk.  It also ferments carbohydrates in the gut to produce lactic acid.  Your gut is acidic so that it can discourage the growth of bad bacteria which thrives in an alkaline environment.  Lactic acid also helps to absorb some important minerals like copper, calcium, magnesium and iron.

If you break it down further by strain you can see how involved this bacteria is in our well being. Some of the many strains are:

L. acidophilus - helps to maintain the integrity of the intestinal wall, ensure proper nutrient absorption and supports healthy overall digestive function.

L. plantarum - produces hydrogen peroxide to defend against bacteria consumed in food it also supports immune function

L. rhamnosus - can survive in the GI tract, is excellent for female health organs, eczema and depression

L. salivarius - can survive in less then ideal conditions and is found in the mouth, throat and sinuses, intestines and female organs.  It also helps to prevent the colonization of the bad bacteria

The Bifidobacterium species lines the walls of the large intestine.  It helps to ward off invasive bad bacteria, including yeast.  It also produces lactic acid which provides up to 70 percent of the energy required by cells that line the intestinal wall, this helps to strengthen the protective barrier in the gut. It also helps to keep the pH for the large intestine acidic to discourage growth of harmful bacteria. The lower pH helps the absorption of minerals.  Bifidobacterium also produces B-complex vitamins and vitamin K.

Some of the strains of this bacteria are:

B. bifidum - this strain is one of the first that we receive as babies and travels our life with us as one of our good flora that is found in the large intestine sometimes the small intestine as well.  It promotes bacterial balance, prevents the growth of unwanted bacteria, molds and yeasts

B. longum - is very common and has an ability to break down carbohydrates and to scavenge and neutralize toxins.  There is research being done right now that suggests this bacteria also practices chelation of metal ions and the scavenging of free radicals.  Regardless, this bacteria supports immune health.

B. infantis - this bacteria is found in babies and declines as we age.  It regulates our gut and decreases bloating and bathroom difficulties

So why is this suddenly such a a big deal.  Two big reasons:  the foods that we used to consume because fermentation was a necessary part of the diet are not being eaten as much...especially in this country.  Kimchi, sauerkraut, unpasteurized cheese, buttermilk, fermented cod liver oil, kefir, kombucha, miso, natural pickles (not the ones on the shelf), tempeh, apple cider vinegar and yogurt are a few of the foods that are full of these helpful bacteria.

The second reason is antibiotics.  Antibiotics are amazing when you need them but they kill gut flora. If you were on a broad spectrum antibiotic you might have killed off an entire strain and not even known it.  And since each of those above listed foods only have certain bacteria in them, you might not be able to repopulate your colony and may lose out on their previous contribution to your well being.

An example of this might be, say I killed off my Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain.  This strain is responsible for the GI tract which might be handled by another strain.  It is hard to know the extent of losing one strain can have on the body.  Many people with eczema and skin inflammation are found to be deficient in this bacteria.  Further study has also linked this bacteria with the happy feel good feeling that your brain needs to have to maintain good emotional balance.  Without this enzyme this balance is lacking and many times depression is present in individuals with a L. rhamnosus imbalance or deficiency.  It helps with weight loss as well.

If I would hypothesize the lack of L. rhamnosus starts a chain of events that in the beginning might not be noticeable but as time goes on would start to become apparent.  If the GI tract has lost some of it's guardian forces then maybe some bad bacteria would start to grow.  Bad bacteria eat processed food, sugar and sugar free substitutes.  It is very easy to feed them which is why you need a strong army to keep them at bay.  Bad bacteria create inflammation and encourage weight gain.  When you are craving sugar it is probably your bad bacteria needing a fix.  So during this process the scale is probably going up.

The effects of the harmful bacteria start to move through the body in this example into the skin and brain.  We know that there are bacteria which fight the brain fog that is one of the first signs that your gut is out of balance.  Anxiety which is another thing that L. rhamnosus helps to keep in check starts to spiral out of control and maybe there is trouble sleeping or focusing which both raise stress levels. Stress supports and feeds the inflammation and now there is a mental and psychical imbalance.

That is just a hypothesis but I feel it is close to the truth.   I have watched health, sometimes my own spiral out of control and if I looked back I could see the warning signs for what they are.

My gut right now is very sensitive.  I feel foggy a lot of the time.  My anxiety has gotten worse over the last year.  I have patches of eczema that just came out of no where.  So that example could be me.

I have been struggling with the sugar cravings but thankfully been able to hold my weight and I may be an anxious easily stressed mess but I am happy and thankful.  Last year I could not say that as easily but I am constantly working with myself...working towards a balance of spirit, mind and body.

When I had my spider bite I took a broad spectrum antibiotic and I never really through about it until I started researching probiotics for my family...but I think that I have compromised by gut flora and it is out of wack.

I'm going to try probiotics and see what difference they make and report back to you.

Shifting gears again...the foot scrub sales are going good, people like the product and I have repeat customers.  I have a bunch of new things in the works for fall to take people into winter.  I also had a few requests for products which, is really nice.

I find that I like putting together the herbal concoctions as much as I like writing up a pattern.  It takes the right combination of oils, and herbs and a good base to create a quality product.  I am also learning about layering scents.

A scent that really grabs you has notes of different intensities.

There is the top note: this is the one that grabs you first and then just as quickly it fades.  It is can be something like peppermint, nutmeg or frankincense.

There is the middle or heart note:  this one imparts warmth or fullness.  It can be a floral like rose, jasmine or chamomile.

There is the base or dry note:  this one is what stays after the others fade.  It can be something like sandalwood, vanilla or patchouli.

I am really excited about working with scents again.  This is something I did when I was younger and I really enjoyed it.  I have some ylang ylang which smells fruity and floral and I can't wait to see what it pares well with.

The thing I like about scents is that you can use their aromatherapy properties for healing, stimulating, invigorating, warming or cooling and many other things as well.

Anyway, this post is really long and disjointed so I should probably sign off.

Hugs to everyone!
May the seeds you planted in the spring be bearing beautiful and productive fruit.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The lay of my skyblocks world from my mob spawner
Skyblocks is an older survival world where you are dumped onto an island in the sky with a tree a bucket of lava and a block of ice. Your island is made up of dirt and you want to save each piece of it like gold.  You must generate cobblestone to build with and you have to get a sapling off of your tree or you have to start over because you can't make a pix axe to harvest your stone.

There is a second island with a slice of melon and pumpkin seeds that is made of sand and has a cacti on it.  You have to get under it and harvest it carefully.  There is also 10 pieces of obsidian to build a portal.  Don't make a mistake or you will be done.  There are no diamonds here!

Finally there is a third chest in the nether that has your second ice block so now you can make a continuous water source.

From there you build out.  You move your grass slowly...always leave blocks with green on them...because grass has to move from block to block one at a time.  When you make a 7 x 6 area of grass then good mobs will spawn.  I was so happy to get my first chicken and bunnies! 

But it was the squid that was really hard to get.  There is this list of achievements for this game and one of them is to have 10 blocks of black wool; so I needed squid.  They spawn between 46 - 62 so I had to make pillars off of the platform and make my way under everything....twice.  Finally, I got beautiful black, frolicking squid and I was so happy!

I finally got two pieces of iron from zombies so I could make shears!

My sister stopped by my Skyblocks world and did some really helpful building.  She worked on my mob dropper.  I had trouble with my mob dropper.  The rules for each version always get me messed up and it was nice to learn a few things. Actually, everyone ended up helping me with my mob dropper.  The spiders kept causing problems.  It is nice to be able to reach out to family members when you need some help with stuff; it is even nicer when they come to your world and lend you a virtual hand.  :)

My sister build me this nice cobble generator.  I really love the way it works!

So, the Nether in this world is nothing but a red haze and you have to build it out.  After making some cobble pathways and platforms I found some new friends.  I thought the 5 gold block achievement would be hard to get but it was really easy thanks to these guys.

After doing some research, I made a new mob dropper and I have been getting the most amazing things!  The problem is that if a creeper sees me then there is sheer panic in trying to fix the thing as I get blown up over and over.  But that is okay because the drops are amazing!  Both my son and my hubby encouraged me to use trap doors so I could get loot when the creepers aren't there and that works really well.  I've gotten records from mobs hitting mobs and a lot of really neat stuff.  Witches have dropped some potions and I have a bunch of enchanted items.  I even got 5 pieces of iron!  If I get clothes I just put them on since I only have one cow still so leather goes to books and I get it while fishing.  Never forget fishing, especially in the rain, can bring you really great stuff.  

But yeah, here is my achievement chest all completed and I am really happy.  This was a fun survival experience...frustrating at times...not all together easy...but fun.  I still want to play with the Nether to see if I can get a blaze rod because I myself, am trying for the actual Minecraft achievements as well.  The lack of a few essential things is making it really hard and maybe quite impossible...but I want to see how far I can push it.  :)

Which reminds me of what I wanted to talk about.  Excuse me as I switch topics to knitting. In knitting when you make a mistake you can tink back to fix it.  Tink is knit backwards.  You can rip back to fix it.  In ripping you take the stitches off the needle and either throw caution to the winds and just rip out your stitches or you can rip back to an inserted needle or previously inserted life line.  You can ladder down and fix a stitch under your row of stitches and then ladder the stitches back up.  There are many ways you can fix a mistake.

Many times I know that a mistake needs to be ripped or tinked to but I just don't want to do it.  So I try and fix it and then I am left with oodles of yarn that now has no where to go.  In this case it is probably better to rip back to the mistake and retake the yarn.

But then there are times that I amaze myself by fixing something that I thought there was no hope maybe it is better to try then the throw in the towel?

Down in my knitting room is a drawer of things that I lost my way on for one reason or another and I just made a note and put them in there.  One of these is my sister's sweater that I was trying out a new pattern on and then I ran out of yarn.  I was at Starbucks and didn't write down where I stopped can see where this is going...

I pulled out the sweater Monday and swore I was going to figure out where I was and at least finish the lace this week.  Usually I can read a chart and figure out where I am.  If I could have done that I would have done that long ago.  So I did my last resort and tinked back recreating the chart as I ripped it out for two rows; this determined exactly where I was.

Now why was that so scary?  Why did I wait so long to figure it out?  Why didn't I believe in my talents more?

So many questions...and I have no answers for them.  I have a drawer of things like this where I just stopped for one reason or another.  I'd like to work my way through them, but for now, I am knitting a sweater and I need to focus on that.

I should have some knitting pictures to show you next week.


Sunday, September 06, 2015

End House

This weekend we went to the End in Minecraft.  The newest snapshot has added some really neat new blocks and plants.  My favorite is the chorus Plant.  You can see it pictured above.  Those spiky, twisty turning purple plants have stolen my attention this weekend. They have flowers on top that you can use to use to replant the chorus plants and when you cut them down then they rain down fruit which can be used to make the purper blocks, pillars, stairs and slabs that are a delightful mauve color.

The End City Buildings
I was really happy by the changes in the End.  The new structures are innovative and fun to climb.  The shulker are a new mob that will drive you crazy.  They look like big purple blocks until they split open and reveal the creature inside.  That creature will spit spiky balls of damage at you.  But these are not normal projectiles; besides doing damage they give you the levitation effect and up you float into the air.

The sensation can be disorientating but very helpful in the parkour climbing you need to perform to make it up the towers.  It is better in my opinion to leave a shulker there to assist you in making the harder jumps that one must make to get to the treasure. And what amazing treasure it is.  I have never seen such booty of enchanted wonderfulness!  

The whole thing is still a work in progress so look out for invisible blocks and other weird anomalies.  We even found a note that something was in the works and we can't wait to see what that is.

Fighting was a bit of a learning curve with the new cool down on attacks and learning to use a shield but all in all it was a bunch of fun and we enjoyed ourselves.  I love the new spectral arrows; they fly really far and light up the mob with an aura that can be seen through objects.  Pretty darn neat!

The chorus fruit surprised me when I ate some in the End and teleported to a new location.  I tried it in the Overworld and this did not seem to happen; I just got happily full.  I think these may be one of the easiest fruits to grow and use on long journeys. All you need is a bit of End Stone, which can now be made into bricks, for the chorus flower to grow on.  You could easily bring a block with you and put it in the ground and then pillar up for the night and in the morning you would have more fruit. That would be great in a pinch.  Or you can plant them in a cave at your staging area and then when you run low on food you will have more fruit.  

When I take a plant or tree from the land in Minecraft I replant it.  In the villages if I take their stuff I replant it.  If I need meat and I have to kill animals, I always leave two so they can be bred to repopulate the area.  Managing resources is something that every player learns about who plays a survival scenario.  In a limited world you only have so much coal that you can find so you have to use wood to make charcoal.  Trees can be replanted but coal is gone once you have mined it all.

In a normal world this isn't really an issue since the chunks are never ending...but I always play as if I am part of an ecosystem, because I am.  I find it hard to live as if there is always more.  I need to be part of the process of  giving back to the cycle of renewal in any world.

The Earth that we live on has limited resources like coal and oil.  Plants if they are not replanted will die out just like animals who lose their habitats.  There are many herbs that are on the endangered list and I find myself wondering what I can do to help.  If real life were like Minecraft I would clear a hill away from the houses and plant species that grow well in that biome...but real life is not like Minecraft unfortunately.

This is something that I am going to be thinking about as I take my herbal classes and make my different salves, balms, scrubs and vinegar preparations.

There is so much on my mind right now.  

We are trying to eat a clean meal once a week as a family.  I shoot for 3 times a week for myself.  This is a new buzzword, but the concepts are not.  Eating clean means eating healthy, whole, unprocessed foods.  Choose unrefined over refined foods.  Eat ingredients you can read.  Be mindful of how the food got to your plate.

Tonight I am making ratatouille.  It is wonderful for this time of year when we are overflowing with zucchini, squash and tomatoes.  The first time I made it I layered everything like they did in the Disney movie.  It was really beautiful and delicious.  Sometimes I chop everything up and cook it that way.  

We get our meat, dairy and produce from local organic farms.  If we can't eat organic we try to eat in local places that get their produce or meat from the local farms.  We know eating in these restaurants help to support the local farms.

More places are changing their menus to cleaner options.  People want to know what is in their food and more and more people are educating themselves before using a chemical they don't know...and this is good.

For example I eat KIND bars because I know what is in them and they taste good.  But taste is not just what it is about.  A company has to care what their impact is on the world around them.  AT KIND they believe in creating and maintaining the conditions that nurture a sustainable environment where humans and nature can exist in productive harmony. 

Plants need time to regrow, they are not a magical inexhaustible source.  Plants have natural seasons and times of year where their growth is in harmony with the environment around them. 

There is so much to consider because, everything we eat comes from somewhere.  I have been focusing on brands that care more about the world around them then the bottom line. I've been trying to switch to environmentally friendly brands and we use companies that focus on natural solutions for health, body and house cleaners.

This is nothing new for our family; we have been striving to cut down on toxic solutions to our body and our environment since our son was born 14 years ago.  Any relationship takes work and the bond we have with the Earth is no different.

So many things to think about...

I finished another Caitlin and I love the colors!  I also finally got it up on Ravelry.  It is a free download.

Also, I made Happenstance this week from Sock Yarn Shawls.  I love the way the tonal colors dance throughout this pattern.  I really enjoyed knitting something for pleasure again.  I have been so crazy with designing and making comissions that I started to forget the "why" of it all.  And that is most simply that I love to knit.

I love the feel of a soft yarn slipping through my fingers.  I love to watch the colors change and form new colors as they touch on a different hue.  I love to watch a ball of yarn turn into something so beautiful and new; and to know that a bit of me went into that creation.  I love the way knitting connects me to to something bigger...and ultimately that connection brings me back to the Earth itself.  I love the deeper connection to my ancestors that all knit as a way of keeping warm and giving back.

I really just love knitting.


I looked today at my brioche pattern and it has almost 1000 downloads!  Wow!

There is so much going on right now.

I'm working on some new herbal products that are targeted to the dryness that comes in winter.  They should be ready in a few weeks.  My foot scrub is doing really well and my client base is slowly growing; which is great.  I like slow growth it gives me time to breathe and catch up.

I passed my first exam so I am off to unit 2.

The house smelled so good this weekend.  On Saturday I did a healing and we smudged with frankincense, myrrh and dragon's blood and then on Sunday we crocked a pork roast with garlic, turnips, parsnips and sweet potatoes.  The scent was heavenly as the roast danced with the healing smoke.  I felt so balanced and at peace with my talents and myself.

I realize this post is long and disjointed, but really it is not because these are all facets of my life coming together in a beautiful dance that I really am blessed to be a part of.

Hugs to everyone.