Getting Stuck with Needles for Fun


Over the past couple of years, I’ve done acupuncture several times for anxiety and insomnia. It’s extraordinarily effective. But we always seem to move after a couple of treatments. Not strange; we move a lot. But acupuncture is most effective when you have several treatments close together to deal with the acute problem, and then taper off slowly to ensure long-term effectiveness. So this has become yet another plus side to living somewhere for more than a few consecutive months.

For my latest foray into acupuncture, I looked up providers covered by my insurance. There were two within 100 miles of my house. One 45 minutes away, and one an hour and 45 minutes away. So I picked the one that was 45 minutes away (toward downtown Orlando). It was totally worth the drive, especially since our insurance paid the whole thing, even covering the copay.

I spent a couple of months going to my acupuncturist twice a week, and then once a week. The difference in how I felt was apparent immediately. The obsessive worrying, anxiety, and resultant irritability and inability to concentrate were gone. It was like the constant static in my head had been suddenly turned off. The insomnia took a little longer, but it eventually went away too. By the time I went out to California last July, I was feeling lots better.

When I came back and started my job, though, I couldn’t keep going to acupuncture. I work in Palm Coast, which is an hour north of where we live, and my acupuncturist was 45 minutes south. It was logistically impossible. This didn’t matter for the first couple of months, because I was still feeling pretty good. However, eventually I started to feel the anxiety creeping up on me again. It wasn’t as bad as before. Yet. I could still sleep at night. But I knew I needed to hunt down an acupuncture solution. To make matters worse, we were switching insurance, and our new insurance didn’t cover acupuncture at all. I didn’t know how I was going to afford it without insurance coverage.

Enter the blissfully beautiful idea of community acupuncture. Acupuncture in the United States has traditionally been a sort of high-end boutique alternative medical treatment, performed in private, hour-long sessions that cost you $75 to $100 and/or your insurance $300. Several years ago, an acupuncturist clinic in Portland, Oregon had the idea of treating people in recliners in one big communal room so they could charge less and make acupuncture available to anyone who needed it. They called the idea “Community Acupuncture” and offered a sliding payment scale of $15-$35 per treatment. It turned out to be wildly successful, with the increase in clientele more than making up for revenue lost by lowering the price. The idea caught on, and now there are Community Acupuncture clinics all over the United States, and abroad.

Ours is called Deland Community Acupuncture. I’ve been going once a week for several months now, and it’s absolute bliss. MacKenzie, my acupuncturist, is also very artistic, so her clinic, decorated in vibrant greens, is like a mini Zen-retreat, complete with music, white noise machines, and at least 1000 paper cranes. My stress levels drop the moment I walk in the door.

As well as anxiety, depression, and other psychological complaints, she says she treats a lot of back pain and other chronic pain issues. It’s a very non-invasive way of treating these types of conditions (the needles are no big deal, I promise!), and most people, including me, fall asleep during treatment. And the only side effects I’ve noticed are improved digestion and a general feeling of well-being. So if you deal with a chronic health issue and would like another effective and inexpensive treatment option (it works fine in conjunction with other “natural” or conventional treatments), go ahead and check out Community Acupuncture. And if you live near me, I’d love to introduce you to MacKenzie!

And no, she didn’t pay me to write this. I’m just a very happy client, and I think everyone should have a chance to give acupuncture a try.

The Joys of a Liquid Diet

As I mentioned in my last post, I had jaw surgery two and a half weeks ago. No, I don’t really want to talk about it, since thinking about what my surgeon was doing while I was out still makes me queasy (if you’re absolutely dying to know, you can look up orthognathic surgery on Wikipedia and learn all the gory details. There, I just taught you a new word). Nor did I take pictures of myself after the surgery, when I looked like a cross between a gigantic chipmunk and a basset hound. Because some things are just better left to the imagination.

The recovery period has been . . . as good as can be expected. Yes, I did end up almost fainting at my post-op check-up five days after the surgery. Turns out that staying properly hydrated when your mouth is banded shut, swallowing hurts your throat, and you’re vaguely nauseated and can barely wake up because of the narcotics is not as easy as it sounds. A couple of I.V. bags later (and an informal prescription for a milkshake on the way home), and I was feeling better.

Life has pretty much returned to normal by now. Except that I have a plastic bite plate wired into my mouth for the next month, which gives me a charming little temporary speech impediment. And I’m on a liquid diet. So in case you’re ever in a situation where you’re consigned to a six-week liquid diet, let me give you a few tips:

  1. Pretty much any food item can be blended up if you add enough liquid. This does not mean that every food item will remain palatable once it is sodden and diluted. For example, a hamburger and onion rings. Just don’t try it.
  2. Your food will taste better if you blend it up with an appropriate liquid. For example, ribs with braised carrots and cabbage blended up very nicely with beef broth. Similarly, I used chicken broth for chicken shish kebabs, and it was delicious. However, fruit is nice blended up with milk, and my normal smoothies with juice work nicely too. Some things, like melon or soups, don’t need any added liquid at all, so they are most likely to remain similar in taste to the original food.
  3. The magic bullet! (or cheap Walmart knock-off.) Trying to make single serving meals in a normal blender would be a pain. With a Magic Bullet-style blender, it all goes straight into the cup you’ll drink from, and you can easily blend up small amounts. And you don’t have to wash your big blender after every meal.
  4. A high-quality protein powder/meal substitute shake is a good idea. It’s hard to get enough calories in a day when you have to blend everything up, and you can’t just grab a normal snack out of the fridge. Several people recommended Ensure, but two of the main ingredients are sugar and soy oil, so I figured I could find something better. I settled on True Vitality Plant Protein Shake with DHA and 8 Billion Probiotic Cells, because I was happy with the ingredients and it wasn’t outrageously expensive (well, comparatively speaking, at least). I got the vanilla flavor, and it tastes . . . bearable, especially if I mix it with milk, banana and peach. I also put in my normal daily dose of pollen, but I skip the flax seeds because:
  5. Beware of seeds, at least if you’re dealing in fixed orthodontic appliances. I made the mistake of whipping myself up a blackberry milkshake during my first week home. Not only did the tiny seeds clog up my syringe-with-flexible-long-tip (sort of the adult version of a bottle), but they got stuck in my bite plate and braces. I’ve since graduated to drinking from a cup, thank goodness, but I still avoid berries for now.
  6. Your juicer is your friend, since raw vegetables don’t really turn out that satisfactorily in the blender. However, juicing all the ingredients on the back of the V8 bottle will not result in anything remotely resembling V8. Ask me how I know.
  7. If you have stitches somewhere in your mouth, do not add pepper to your food! Even if you normally like spicy food, now is not the time, since eating spicy stuff right now is basically like rubbing tabasco sauce in a wound. I also appear to have had a flare-up of my long dormant avocado allergy, due to eating avocado a few days after my surgery while everything was still a little raw in my mouth. Sad times.

Via the above, and some trial and error, I’ve managed to eat what I think is a fairly balanced diet in liquid form. Although sometimes I think I should just make it easy for myself and eat sugar glider food. I have lost a few pounds, I think, since my clothes are feeling mighty loose these days. I know some people consider that a great side effect of orthognathic surgery, but I’m with Frodo: “I hope the thinning process does not go on indefinitely, or I shall become a wraith.”

photo credit

On Wheels

We had another marathon market day in Cuneo yesterday. It was made longer by the fact that the 1:30 bus inexplicably never came, which left us stranded till the 2:45 bus. The bus schedule is exceedingly complex. Some busses come only on weekdays, others only on weekends, others only on school days during the school year. There are a few other nuances we have yet to understand completely.

However, in the intervening time we found a local beekeeper selling honey and pollen. The pollen comes in a jar, and it looks just like those little yellow balls of pollen one sometimes sees on the back legs of bees. Because you see, it is! Supposedly, the enzymes in bee pollen (along with the trace minerals, vitamins, and essential amino acids) are what cause many beekeepers in Georgia (that’s the country, not the state) to live well past 100 years. It’s worth a try. And the kids love it.

When we arrived home from the market (completely overloaded, as usual), we found Mother Goose, Adler’s How to Read a Book, and the whole six-volume set of Charlotte Mason waiting on our doorstep. Miss Mason suggested that children under six should spend 4-6 hours every day outside. I’d like to spend more time outside too.

So we decided to get bicycles (outfitted with child seats and baskets, just like the Italians’) so we can ride up into the Alpine meadows in the afternoons. We’re going to pick them up tomorrow, so I’ll let you know how it goes. Who needs a car?

More Raw . . . . (no, not milk)

We found raw honey two nights ago. It was easy to find, just like everything else here (well, no, not everything. Not coconut oil or books in English). We just popped in at a house down the street with a sign that says “Miele.” They had three kinds on hand: castagno (chestnut. a very strong flavor, and one that we’ve been enduring since I bought a kilo of chestnut honey in Saluzzo months ago), dandelion, and melata.

Coincidentally, I was just reading about melata honey the other day when I was researching apitherapy (healing with honey and other bee products). We’ve done a few rounds of royal jelly, but I wanted some unprocessed stuff straight from the farm. That’s the way I like everything. Straight from the farm. Melata is acquired by the bees from secretions of some other type of insect, and not as nectar from flowers. It has a sweet, wild, mysterious flavor, like flowers opening secretly in the dark. I love it, although I feel a little ambivalent about something that’s been through two sets of insects. Best not to think too much about it.

Manuela, the beekeeper, speaks perfect English. Tony was very impressed when she correctly used the word “centrifugate” in a sentence. The honey is raw and unprocessed. They do run it through a centrifuge to get rid of all the sediment, but it’s unpasteurized. That’s important because pasteurization destroys all the good stuff, just like in milk. The bits of pollen in it are great for allergies. After honey is pasteurized, it’s basically just sugar.

In a few weeks, Manuela said they would have millefiori (wildflower, or literally, “a thousand flowers”) honey, which is very good for people with allergies. We are looking forward to that. She was very sweet when she was talking about the bees. She said all the beekeepers were having problems because the farmers spray the corn, and it kills the bees. Some of the beekeepers have lost many “families” of bees. She looked very sad as she described how the pesticides were bad for the “little ones.” It was a tender image until you pictured who those little ones actually were. (I confess I still battle a childhood insect phobia)

Meanwhile, we went into town and asked what types of cheese go well with honey. We came home with caprino (goat cheese), castelmagro, toma piemontese, and a soft, crumbly, tart tomino. They were all delicious. We ate them with dandelion honey. When we go back to the apiary for wildflower honey, we’ll ask the beekeepers which honeys go best with which cheeses.

I am also using melata honey in conjunction with the butter I made this morning and a gift of fresh figs from Beatrice to make cookies. We’re taking them to her tomorrow because she is so kind to us. Every day when we go to pick up our milk she has something extra to give us. The other day when I went in the middle of an argument with Tony (we had a lot of extra feelings floating around after being apart for so long) she said, with uncanny perception of my unspoken feelings, “I will give you a thornless rose. I call these the my husband’s roses, because I planted them after he died. They last 15 days after cutting.”

She has a new little calf that Axa has been dying to see. Now that she’s over her chicken pox, we’ll all go tomorrow, take some pictures with the calf (and Beatrice), and give her the cookies. La vita e bella!

Oh, P.S., that wasn’t the Tour de France. The real thing came by the next day, with two hours of fanfare, consisting in dozens of cars outfitted like permanent floats in a parade. It’s the advertising opportunity of the year in Europe, evidently. Tony got more pictures than even he wanted. We sat up in our window and watched the parade go by. The only catch was that we were too high up to catch the candy thrown from the cars.

Buttermilk and Bees

Carla is in Rome for the week with Rebecca, so we invited Giorgio over for dinner on Wednesday. I made him peach crisp for dessert, since he couldn’t make it on the 4th of July when we had Carla and the missionaries. Just before dinner, Tony went out on bicycle to buy gelato to go with the crisp. As he left the house, he noticed that Giorgio was just behind him on motorcycle. In fact, he seemed to be trailing him. They drove all the way through town, with Giorgio just behind. As Tony reached the gelateria, Giorgio veered off in the other direction.

The mystery was solved when after dinner, Giorgio brought out a tray of those lovely (and delicious) little Italian pastries: cannoli, bacchie di dama, tiny cream puffs, and some others whose names I don’t know. He had actually been on his way to get gelato, but guessed Tony’s design and executed his own Plan B.

We had pasta with tomato-buttermilk sauce. I’m sure that’s very strange to serve, but I made it with my own buttermilk (my cream cultured up quite beautifully all by itself as it was waiting in the refrigerator to collect enough for butter). I am mortified to serve pasta to Italians, since I am sure I don’t cook it for the exact time to make it perfect, and I know my pasta sauces aren’t exactly right, and I imagine there are a lot of other things I haven’t even dreamed of. The fewer the ingredients, the more important the technique.

But Giorgio was very cordial, and complimented the pasta, as well as the tomatoes, which we had gotten that very morning from Beatrice across the street. She also threw in some free basil, so of course I had to make caprese salad. I think the salad was good. I feel pretty comfortable with salads. She also gave us rosemary, which I put in a cream sauce yesterday to go over quinoa. I just put green onions and rosemary in at the end, and then some sliced boiled eggs. The colors were quite lovely.

I think I should try making some cream soups. We have plenty of delicious raw milk these days. We get two liters a day (except on Sundays), which is enough for muesli every morning, Tony’s yoghurt experimentation, my forays into butter, and all the crepes and creamy sauces we want (I use milk, actually, since the cream is for my butter). I’ve not felt the need to buy any meat at all for weeks. It is summer, after all.

Gloriously summer, although a bit hot. Axa is also getting periodic asthma from something in the air. I need to do some research on natural remedies for asthma. I’m looking for a local source of organic bee products (honey, royal jelly, propolis, etc.), since I’ve read that helps with allergies, and I’m fairly sure the asthma is allergy related.