Looking Ahead

Things have been rather quiet around here on the blog. Life has this way of taking us in directions we didn't imagine & then dropping us off at random intervals. None of it's surprising to our Creator, but it sure can be surprising to us, can't it? Such is the way of things around our home lately..

Our youngest is still dealing with days riddled with anxiety, all though they are much brighter days then they were at the start of this journey. He's better equipped to handle the moments when things weigh him down, most of the time. We're learning, alongside him, to look for his triggers, to notice when things aren't quite ride & offer what we can to him.

He's faced many of the fears that were holding him back, & some he's weathered bravely & others he's needed to retreat from. We know he'll make it, but the journey can be rough at times. Add that to teenage hormones & some days are a real struggle, but we'll get there.

He's still not content with school, & we've made some big changes for him in the year ahead. In fact his new curriculum arrived yesterday much to his chagrin. He was hoping it wouldn't arrive before 2025. Once the box was opened he changed his mind a little bit, & I really think once we dig into it he'll find his groove & I hope a bit of his joy in learning again. Time will tell.

The eldest is still steadfastly working away at his pile of school for the year. He'll wrap up his history early, which excites him to have the time to focus on the literature he'll have left to deal with as well as many electives as he hones his ideas on what he'd like to do with himself for the future as we attempt to help him map out his 4 Year Plan for the future.

This has led to some interesting discussions about jobs he could pursue in fields of interest. We've even discovered many jobs that could combine many passions he has. Much of the remainder of his year will be dabbling in the various fields that he's interested in to help him choose the direction he'll need to take in the 4 years of high school ahead of him.

Yes, 4 years. We're choosing to stick with the US methods despite our current location. We have a few reasons for this choice, but we aren't quite ready to share all of them yet. What I will share is that at this stage we're also persuing an Umbrella school for Expats for our high schooler so he can walk away with an accredited diploma. Depending on which of these options we choose he'd even have the option of participating in a graduation ceremony if he wanted to travel to the appropriate location.

Our boy is looking towards the arts or history for his focus beyond high school, & I'm excited to see what the Lord has in store for his future. I know whatever he choose to do he'll be incredibly dedicated & passionate about it, regardless of how long & difficult the journey may be. I'm excited & nervous for him as he finished up this chapter & prepared himself for the next.

I've been battling an onslaught of migraines, something I haven't dealt with in a long while. After helping Nana battle through a virus of some sort, countless amounts of chicken soup seemed to help, I managed to pick up a cough & with it came the crazy headache. I'm ready for it to hit the road as it's really hampering my ability to cope with things & it's really messing with my VPD.

While celebrating Nana's 82nd birthday my VPD went a little nutty under the lights in her home. Our home is generally bright during the day & dark in the evening as we don't have many lamps on. It tends to catch guests off guard, but for the VPD sufferers it's easier to deal with natural light then artificial. I ended up asking my eldest for his ball cap, he generally wears one everywhere he goes, but he'd left it in the car. I must have looked a real sight because the poor kid took one look at me & dashed out to the car for the hat. When I say light sets off VPD, I'm not kidding. I popped that hat on which blocked out the lightbulbs & my head settled down & I was able to rescue the carpet from near death when the youngest dropped a lit match on the floor. And thus he, & I, learned a valuable lesson about lighting 82 birthday candles.

Mr S is, as always, crazy busy at work & then comes home to help in any way he can. He's an absolute champ rolling up his sleeves & jumping in with the tasks I'm not able to accomplish while dealing with this migraine. He's become a personal math tutor around here as the eldest embarks on Algebra, in which I'm little help in explaining the why behind the formulas. Mr S has also embraced Crazy Science Lab Teacher who breaks out popsicles & other funny treats while they wait on longer experiments to "do their thing". Oh the memories these kids will walk away with, right?

So here we are. A crazy mess of insanity, but loving every minute of it.. or most of those minutes anyway.

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Weekly Wrap Up 2016: Week 22

We've reached that point in our school year where I can't remember what week we're on unless I refer to the calendar. It gets kinda crazy when you can't remember which week you're on & you're trying to do a quick long range planning session! On the other hand, it's kinda nice to know we're far enough into the school year that the weeks are no longer slowly trickling by.

Of course, this also means the year is flying us by. We flipped the calendars over to welcome in July this week & it was a bit of a shock to realise just how much of the year had also flown by.

This week also marked the date for American Independence Day, Happy 240th Birthday America!! We seem to celebrate a little differently each year depending on when it falls, & this year was no different.. some things were done on the day of, & some things were saved until the weekend with chatter about pre-planning for next year, agreeing to the day off school & Mr S taking the day off work. We shall see, we shall see..

In our Bible readings this week we finished up the book of John. It was both fulfilling & strange to finish it off. We read John from front to back where as with other books of the Bible we've skipped around a bit to gain an overall perspective of them. We're using one of our older SL Bible Reading Schedules, as I'm often asked what we use for a Bible reading Schedule. Having said that there are many free ones available online which is what we'll likely end up using next year.

Our poetry book is so small this year & scheduled so differently & we decided to skip the pre-made schedule & read all the poems by one poet each day. It's been interesting & we certainly appreciate some poets over others. We were delighted to find Waltzing Matilda & Mulga Bill in our book to read last week, amongst other fun poems.

We are nearing the end of our Devotional, but we're not quite there yet. We tend to only use it 4x a week as our 5th school day is for catching up, electives, & outings. We'll probably have about 3 weeks left in it if we maintain that schedule. We're all ready on the hunt for another lovely devotional, we own a few we could certainly reuse so we'll see what happens.

Morgan bolstered on with his history, as per normal. I have no idea where he is in SOTW because he does it entirely on his own & then comes to tell me all sorts of interesting facts, after he's looked them up in the encyclopedia, &, at times, Googled them. He's been pretty amazed by some of the information he's gathered this year.

He finished off The Good Master & absolutely loved the book. He hasn't stopped raving about it & was delighted to learn that the next book has the same characters in it, just a little bit older. I generally pre-read all his books. This is a common thing amongst many parents, but truthfully I only pre-read most of them in order to know exactly what my boy is talking about. He absolutely loves to discuss books. Unfortunately, this is one I didn't pre-read as I was going to read it to him, but he's plowed onward alone which is lovely & sad all at the same time..

Our whiteboard often has some kind of chaos on it. This is actually neat for us. Mr S has been known to leave silly drawings & messages for the kids & then, of course, they in turn find it funny to make slight changes & see how long it takes him to notice. This week our board had some different spelling patters & the water cycle on it. It is, however, free of math problems which is a bit of a shocker.

One of the boys hit a hiccup with math this week & much to his frustration I urged him to back up 2 lessons & start again. He did so, all be it while dragging his feet. The hope is that by backing up he'll regain what he's struggling with & march solidly forward. So far so good, all though I did hear him shout out, "No one in their right mind says stupid things like Sally is 5x times older then Ann who is A times older then Susan." If your child should burst out with this, I'm going to warn you right now, don't laugh. Just don't.

The other one continued to move forward in his own lessons. Ahh fractions, I'm torn between absolute delight in the unlikely event of ever having to teach this particular subject again & moments of panic lest I've forgotten something. Honestly, I may be asking the kids for math help before long!

Jayden did a couple lessons of science last week, he was scheduled to do one a day, but his anxiety was really in overdrive last week & getting him to focus on things was rough stuff. He was incredibly tired from it all, & I opted to just work on the basics with him. In our home that means: Reading & Math without doubt, & writing if possible.

He spent a good deal of time reading his current reader, Ralph S Mouse which he insists he doesn't like, but seems be making rather quick work of.. He does enjoy animal stories, but he's also not one for feel-good type stories. He likes the stories to be fast paced, gripping, & adventurous. He still lists his favourite book being the one he was given for Christmas this year called Mercy Dog of World War I.

He had a couple of good days & worked on his Wonders Of The World Lap-Pak & loved making the Stone-Henge booklet. He also worked on a few others that I seem to have managed not to get a photo of. One of them was the Leaning Tower Of Pisa which reminded me of a university library in the town we use to live in. While the library is not leaning there is nothing on the top floor. When the library was built they did not take into account the weight of the books & so to be sure that the thing doesn't fall down the top floor is empty. I've always been a little skeptical of that story, but it keeps circulating..

He also watched one of the documentaries I'd flagged for watching on TLOP & wasn't certain he wanted to watch the whole thing, but information about the tower & WW2 came up which rather engulfed him while I spent ages looking for a missing ruler. Yes, a ruler. Morgan's working from home & a specific ruler is his main tool. The thing has entirely disappeared, but anyway..

We did accomplish writing this week too, all though that is likely to be the last week for Jayden with WWE. The boys are using Fix-It Grammar! & I'm debating using the sentences in there that he grammatically fixes for dictation.  I didn't have Morgan do any writing this week either as we look over the final few lessons in his book & debate which ones he'll tackle before we put it away for the year as well. We'll likely pull out Story Starters for him to use, but we'll see.

We hit our 100th day of school this week as well. I'd mentioned it the day prior to the kids who weren't paying attention, so when I mentioned it on the day of one says, "That's odd, it doesn't feel like it.." while the other instantly said, "No wonder I'm so tired of school." Ha! Yep, that pretty much sums up each child's attitude about school, without doubt.

No, we are not required to count days, hours, or anything else for school here in regards to reporting, but I've often kept track of our days. All though, I'm told that I probably don't give as much credit as I should.. To that I clearly pointed out the camping trip I counted considering children who go to a brick & mortar school at certain levels have a camping trip which is, indeed, counted as a school day. Mr S just chuckled at me..

Jayden received this amazing Meccano Robot for his birthday from a grandparent & he enlisted Morgan to help him with the fiddly bits of it. Morgan works on it every morning for him while we're doing our Book Basket & each day it looks a little more like it should. It's been on small feat getting that thing put together & everyone is now lobbying for nicknames for the crazy bot!

We continued reading Journey To The Centre Of The Earth this week during our book basket time. It's been great timing to read this book while Morgan is studying Earth type sciences. We also pulled out the 2 newer versions of the movie, better known as Journey 1 & 2 around here, & watched those a while back. I figured it was better if they watched them again BEFORE we finished the book to look for similarities. Mr S has never quite gotten over the kids sitting on the sofa shouting the whole time we watched a Heidi movie that it was not right at all & that Grandfather would have never, EVER, acted like that.

We also had our annual reading of The Declaration Of Independence. This is the book I mentioned in a previous post. This particular photo has always sent my kids into fits of hysterics, all though at least one of them tries, very hard, to remain unmoved by the pictures these days. He was doing great until I burst out with, "Well it looks like ol' Thomas Jefferson will make a great recruit for the local footy club!"

No hockey this week as the school kids are on term break. There was a Hockey Skills Clinic we were going to attend, but didn't quite make it. We settled for some walks between various crazy weather we've been having around here.

All in all, not a bad week.

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Silly Things

I bought a rockmellon/cantaloupe a few weeks ago & someone had popped it into the fridge. I pulled out one evening & told the guys to leave it on the counter to warm up & we could have it for snack the following day. I know some people love their melon ice cold, but i've never been a huge fan of biting into anything that is ice cold.

Morning snack hour came & went with people busily working away on school, & I busied myself with some chores. When the kids asked if it was lunch time yet & I walked into the kitchen this fellow was sitting there waiting to greet me. Ahh, well played boys, well played.

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Independence Day

Independence Day, better known as the 4th Of July to many, is a tricky holiday for some Expats. I'm part of a few Expats group & it was fun seeing how many rounded up anyone they could to come celebrate with them. We, too, have done in that in the past, but it's far easier when the holiday falls on a weekend then on a Monday.

With so much travesty in my homeland I was feeling especially drawn to the holiday this year. Perhaps the semi-after effects of being belittled & ridiculed for being American played a part in that this year, who knows.

Long gone are the days when we had drawers full of patriotic decorations to pull out, or decorations for most holidays. Hobby Lobby was amazing for that, especially when things were marked down.. I digress.

 The point being that I don't have a great surplus of decorations for Independence Day, so I dug up what I could find around the house, & in typical fashion many of those resources were handmade crafts or books.

Our fireplace, all though seldom used, is usually our mail place for decorating. This is part of our learning room & also happens to be where we gather each morning to start our day, & many times where we gather as a family to end our days as well.

The flag was something the kids made years ago when we did the HSITW Revolutionary War study. It was a fantastic study to really bring the reason for Independence Day to life for our gang. It was also the moment they fell in love with history. We revisit parts of it each year, & sometimes they giggle about the infatuation they had during that time for Liberty Kids.

The banner is something I made years ago & was sized for a particular location in another home, however it works well there & is hung up with small clear clips we became accustomed to using in our rental years. I keep telling the guys how I need to make more of it, someday..

Some of our very favourite books about the holiday were pulled off the shelf & placed around the room. It's amazing how many times people will pick up a book if it's just laying around vs having to go to the shelf & actually find it. The kids claim this is because I'm the only person who can be asked for a specific book, walk to the shelf & find it, but I'm not so sure about that..

Both are older library copies & have that beautiful old-book smell. I think I've shared about both of these books before too. I'm not sure that the Revolutionary War Hero book is still available for purchase but, you can find The 4th Of July Story over at amazon.

Please don't waste time telling me there are no heroes in war. There are heroes in everything when one makes a sacrifice for the good of others. The men covered inside that book knew that the actions they took, signing their name to a simple sheet of paper, meant they could be tried for treason if their efforts failed. Yet, they truely believed in what they were doing, & they did it anyway knowing what fate could possibly await them. There are heroes everywhere, if only we look to find them.

We own many of the Jean Fritz books based on US history, or Jean Fritz books in general for that matter. Most of ours have the funny new caricature type covers, but the words inside are the same. The Landmark book was one we discovered doing American History with the Winter Promise curriculum, & is often reread by the kids. The Secret Soldier tells Deborah Sampson's story & her part in the Revolutionary War.

The Declaration of Independence is written in it's entirety inside that book. It is, however, broken down & illustrated to help children understand what just how much the words mean. There's a lovely glossary in the back as well for harder to understand words, & a timeline of events that led up to & through the Revolutionary War. We've been reading that very copy for the past 8 years now, it's a 4th Of July tradition regardless of what day of the week the holiday lands on. Unfortunately, the book is now out of print, which is an absolute shame as it's well worth acquiring to read to children to really help them understand the meaning of the words. This video doesn't do a bad job of it either, but it's not the Declaration, rather the reasons why it was written. Please be advised some of the images in the video may not be suitable for all children.

The imagination station books were gifts for one of the boys a year or two ago when he was infatuated with this time period & made a perfect addition to a side table, not to mention the possible lure of someone reading them.

I ended up splurging this year & picked up a US flag bunting & a fun photo booth type opportunity for when we have our own celebration this weekend, unfortunately the latter arrived slightly bent so it's currently under a mattress being flattened out. No fireworks, of course, but sparklers are always a fun addition to our celebrations, & thankfully legal!

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Week In Review: Week 21

We had our first week back to business around here last week. We had a few hiccups along the way as we pulled ourselves back into our routine, but the majority of our week went reasonably smoothly. We have one who enjoys sleeping in, & that caused for some longer days for him & later starts for subjects & books we do together. The gloomy winter mornings really are a struggle for everyone to get up & rolling, especially when the sun doesn't rise until nearly 8am!

We're looking for that happy medium for the sleepy head while the rest of us maintain a semi-normal schedule. Or at least our normal winter schedule.

Both boys opted to review previous math lessons to be sure they were ready to move on. One had no issue, the other elicited much help for various problems. I was a bit surprised by that because previous to our break he was flying along. We'll see how things progress from here.

We stared our new IEW book, Fix-It Grammar. We're hoping it gets a little deeper as we move along. For now it's extremely simplistic & we're looking at moving through it an excelerated pace to get to the meat of things we're not familiar with yet. In the mean time, the ease of it allowed even my most intimidated student to ask if he could do the whole week's worth of work in one day. Go for it Mate!

Our Book Basket was heavily abandoned as our week progressed. Those late starts mean one child was all ready deep into his own studies & it was quite difficult to find them not busy at the same time. On Thursday afternoon I rounded them both up so we could dip into our devotional & catch up on our Bible reading. They begged for Journey To The Centre Of The Earth which they are thoroughly loving. Not a huge surprise there.. We also managed our poetry book a couple of times last week, but not daily as we would normally.

Morgan hit Week 20 & parts of 21 in his Bookshark this week. He's all over with his readers, but began The Good Master last week which he's been raving about since he started. I walked through the lounge and heard him chuckling away with it one day. He's still very much enjoying his time with Story Of The World, he's in Volume 3 & about halfway down with it, as well as Kingfisher. I'm not sure if our Kingfisher will survive, the poor cover is getting mangled from the spine. Sad, but a sign it's well loved.

Jayden changed plans before we even began the term & kicked off with learning about the 7 Ancient Wonders via HSITW's Wonders of The World, or WOW as we call it around here. He was really smitten by the information he learned & pulled out the Usborne Ancient History Encyclopedia to look for things. We'd intended to watch the documentary I'd flagged, but never got to it.

We started our new spelling book this week which caused mixed emotions for some. I think with the words in the next level starting out so simplistic there was a little annoyance, but the words will build up over time. Admittedly if the kids ace day 1 & I don't see words later int he week that they will likely struggle with we either advance forward or leave it for the rest of the week. As people were dragging this week we ended up leaving it after the first 2 days resulted in 100% for each. I did however offer some gumballs as a little encouragement to get people to the spelling table on Monday.

We spent Friday hanging at the library & the park, because we're totally geeky like that. Never fear we cleaned the house top to bottom first & even dropped some parcels off at the post office. We're in the process of selling curriculum we're well & truely done with in order to make room for next years.

In fact we ended up staying so late at the park the sun was nearly gone, not hard in these winter months & Mr S met us there after work. At which point I called it a dinner free-for-all, which is better known in most homes as, "fix-it yourself.." Not our best foot forward for the first week of term, but it was also not the worst.

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A Little Experiment

Our boy is playing hockey again. He fell in love with it after the summer session he trialed & was keen to sign up again for the winter session. Sports aren't an easy venture for someone with VPD/SSS, especially when the sports are played with small white balls. Our boy holds our own though, & does remarkably well considering..

The entire group was willing to happily use a blue ball one week, just for him. Which was not only incredibly kind, but really boosted his morale. It's not that he can't play with the white ball, he can. He's managed to assist in many goals & block many too. All though his response when asked how he saw that ball coming towards him, is always, "I don't know, it was just a bright light & I went for it."

The organiser for the winter sport is even very familiar with the whole VPD/SSS thing having a sibling who also has it. This caused a lot of excitement for our boy to meet a "real live person" who got it.

But, our boy was still struggling with asthma. This has been a problem nearly his entire life. At a very young age he went form having a cold to being hospitalized for several days due to breathing issues in a matter of a 24h period. It's always made me overly protective against people with colds or upper respiratory "junk" around my family. What may be a sniffle for one person is life threatening for another, quite literally.

Late last year he was finally given a diagnosis of asthma, a small "plan of action", & a puffer with strict instructions to come back in if things got worse then they currently were. There was also discussion of removing adenoids to help with some of the issues he was dealing with, & a great many other suggestions.

This boy of ours struggles with excess mucus like you wouldn't believe. We've learned to mentally block out the snorting & snuffling. His Dr put him on a nasal allergy medicine which does wonders for the snorting issue, but only half the day through. This same kid really struggles swallowing tablets thanks to a high gag reflex so some of the other natural helps we could offer him are ruled out.

A couple of weeks back my high powered blender broke. Thankfully it's under warranty, but it was just such a punch to our lifestyle. Due to other allergies our family has had smoothies for breakfast for the past 4 o 5 years now. With no idea what I'd do I sent Mr S an SOS to pick up some cereal on his way home for the kids to consume. It was rather exciting for kids who don't generally get cereal, especially the gluten-free child.

The downside was, as the cereal solution fixed the breakfast problem it created a new issue. Our asthmatic boy was getting worse. He was choking on mucus while just laying on the sofa, he needed his puffer twice as much during sporting events, or home exercise. I was concerned about the situation & debated setting up an appointment to get him in right away, when a thought struck me.

The milk allergy that plagues the majority of the people on my side of the family had likely struck the second child. This kid loves dairy. He's not a big milk drinker, but he makes up for it in his use of cheese & sour cream. After consuming his daily bowl of cereal the following day he sought me out to say he felt like he was choking on the excess sludge in his throat & wondered if we had anything that would break it up. He'd all ready taken all his allergy items. I suggested he pick a lemon & try a quick glass of lemonade, & then I broke the news to him.

"I think the problem is milk."

He stood there for a moment before abruptly leaving. I've hinted at it before that it might help him to give it up, but it's always been met with an extra dash of cheese on his plate or something equally silly. But this time, I decided we needed to try an experiment.

When he'd calmed down from the initial blow I sought him out, with the glass of lemonade, & challenged him to a month of no dairy. I told him the choice was his, he didn't have to do it, but I suggested that if he did what health benefits we might see. If we didn't see any we'd go back to the Dr & see what the next move should be.

He agreed to the challenge, & to make it a little easier on him I removed meals from our plan that would normally have him reaching for the cheese our the sour cream. His first week at hockey he'd only been dairy free for 3 days & we realised afterwards that his allergy tablets have lactose in them. I should have known, I had to switch medication too for the very same reason. His results at hockey weren't fantastic, & I wondered if he'd throw in the towel on the whole experiment, but he didn't.

That weekend as a rare treat the guys went out to lunch together. I got an SOS from Mr S asking what on earth Morgan could eat, "He says no dairy, what do I order him?" "A chicken sandwich with no cheese." Mr S was relieved, but ended up ordering a milkshake. Morgan accepted it, but didn't consume a single sip, which was the moment we realised just how seriously he was taking our challenge.

As the days ticked by, we started hearing him say things like, "Did I take my allergy medicine today, I can't even remember?" Friends, this kid could barely make it form one day to the next without relying on it.

I stopped finding Jayden sleeping on the sofa because the snoring in the bedroom had been so unbearable. Morgan could go on a normal walk with us without feeling winded less then a kilometer into the walk.

He had his second hockey match this week, while still being dairy free. I was excited to see how he'd go as he was no longer taking the lactose laden allergy tablet, his system was considerably clearer, & this kid wasn't in need of 2 allergy medications every day. In fact, the very expensive nasal medication was something he was rarely using now.

Due to having sports induced asthma it's imperative that he take his puffer prior to starting, so he did. He took his normal 3 puffs & ran out on the field. He played a full first half of the game in a position that had him running up & down the field like a crazy man. He came off the field at halftime sighed & sat down. Then off handedly used his puffer for one puff. I asked if he was okay & he shrugged & said he was fine, just annoyed they couldn't score.

After the second half of the game {a win for his team}, he came off the field after telling everyone good game & looked really grumpy. I was worried his asthma was acting up, because with this kid deciding between grump & fear these days can be iffy.

"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he snapped.
"No issues breathing?"
"What? No, of course not. I'm fine."
"Okay, it's just you don't seem fine, so I was worried about you."
"I just can't believe that ball hit me in the leg & no one called it!"

I laughed, which he didn't appreciate.

"Sorry,  I just thought you were struggling to breathe not that you were upset about an umpiring call. Umpires miss lots of stuff, they're just people. Besides, at least it hit your leg & you've got guard on. Poor H got hit in the hand, he's lucky he didn't break a finger!"
"Good point."
"So, how do you think you went with your breathing?"
"The same I guess."
"But, you haven't even used your puffer yet. You even hung around without it for the team meeting afterwards."
"Did I? I guess I did, I hadn't noticed."

I'm not going to say he's in love with the experiment, but he's in love with the results of the experiment. He commented that it's so nice not having to use the nasal medicine, mostly because he always felt like he needed it 2x a day & it's a 1x a day medication.

He can go a whole day without the allergy tablet & be fine. It was suggested when he was only 5 or 6 that we give him Zyrtec daily for some nasal issues he was having way back then. It was something our boy couldn't go a day without or he'd be tearing his skin up. He's got other minor environmental allergies so it's unlikely he could go forever without an allergy tablet, but it's a relief to see he's not so heavily reliant on them.

To clarify, I'm not saying my child doesn't have Asthma, I absolutely believe the Dr that he does. However, I also believe that there are things we can do to help our bodies cope when they are dealing with situations of overload. Milk seems to be one thing too much for our boy & by removing it he can better cope with his asthma. He's pretty excited by the progress & can't wait to meet up with his Dr to share the good news, & that, that makes me smile.

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Allergy Friendly Shepherd's Pie

Way back in March, for St Patrick's Day, I was suppose to make a corned beef. It was just something my family always had on that particular day of the year, & while we use to eat it a little more often in our own home, it was always on the menu on that particular day.

The problem is, that prepackaged corned beef here is also semi-pickled & the crazy pink sauce on the stuff has things in it some of us can't eat without getting pretty sick. Crazy, right? Well, I figured no big deal I'd pick up a piece of silverside & brine it myself. I had a few recipes flagged to try out & it seemed like a great idea.. you know, until I pulled up the recipe that morning & saw it said to let it brine for 15 hours at the least & up to 10 days.

I stood there for a minute debating what to do, we had company coming for dinner & everything! In a minor moment of genius I thought, "Now's as good a time as any to attempt a gluten free shepherd's pie." Did you know they normally have some form of gluten in them based on the typical recipe? It's been a long time since my gang has had Shepherd's Pie & they bemoan it all the time. My last attempt was pretty tasteless so I wasn't exactly rushing to try again, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

I do not remember where I stumbled upon the original recipe, but I edited it to fit our needs & supplies & this is what we ended up with:

Shepherd's Pie

Meet Layer:
500g beef mince
500g pork mince
2 medium onions, diced
2 T coconut oil
2 t Herbamere salt
1 t black pepper
3 T tomato paste
1.5 c chicken, plus 3 T
3 T arrowroot powder

Veggie Layer:
Mixed veggies of choice

Potato Layer:
Mashed potatoes

Heat the oil in the pan & sauté onion until soft; add beef & cook thoroughly. Add spices, tomato paste & the 1.5 c of broth & stir well. Combine the remaining 3T of broth with the 3T of arrowroot until smooth. Add to pan & stir to thicken. Place in the bottom of a casserole pan. Top with veggies & potatoes. Bake at 200 C for 40-60 minutes, or until the top is golden & the gravy layer is bubbly.

I've used whatever oil I happen to have on hand at the time ranging from coconut oil to rapeseed.

If I remember correctly the origional recipe called for straight beef mince, but at the time I had an excess of pork mince in the freezer for one reason or another so I split it 50/50.

We use homemade chicken broth most of the time, but on the rare occasion we don't have any I purchase a Paleo Bone Broth as it's the only one locally that is safe for our gang. It's crazy expensive too. Needless to say both work in the recipe without any issue.

Herbamere is available in our local grocery stores & health food stores. It's basically herbed salt. While I don't use it in everything it's great in recipes like this to add some extra flavour. We've only ever used the green bottle, original I believe it is, in this recipe

If you don't have a corn allergy you could use cornstarch in place of the arrowroot, unfortunately we have a pretty severe corn allergy to most corn products in our home. Thus our choice of thickeners.

The recipe above generally fills our luxuriously large green casserole pan, but I can't tell you what size it is. generally there's enough in it that I can make 3-4 mini pies as well for lunch the next day.. unless I go off to a double header hockey match & forget to set the oven to keep warm. In which case you'll have really burned the entire large pie & have to feed your family the small one. Either way, our family of four, including 2 teenage boys, manages to have enough for 1 full dinner meal & enough for lunch the following day including some in a thermos for Mr S most of the time. The photo above is one of the mini versions..

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