In the past three years, there have been many people who have asked for the truth of how our kitchen became a “scratch kitchen”. In this post I will share how, when, and the truth of why I decided to start cooking from scratch. From allergy tests to health problems, to financial decisions, I am going to share all of the nitty-gritty details of going from thinking I was a cook to learning all of the skills and helping to save our family a literal fortune along the way.
That picture above, myself with Elliana, is such a significant moment for me. This was during the 4th of July in 2019, and our family was up at our family’s cabin for the week. We were on a boat, eating snacks, specifically trail mix and I had an oral allergy reaction. It was scary, but I ended up going for allergy testing which could have saved my life.
Published January 27, 2023
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2008 and starting a family
2008 was when we got married. Waiting for kids was not on our plan, we wanted to try for kids right away and not wait. I had just finished my Associates degree and had no plans to further my education once we found out we were pregnant.
Both of us lived in families with both parents working fulltime. We, however, did not want that same lifestyle and decided for me to be a stay-at-home mom. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not what everyone wants or decides, but this was the RIGHT choice for US. I never once have regretted being a stay-at-home mom, never once regretted this decision to be at home and not provide an income. In the age of “buy whatever you want” and “you can have it all”, we chose to make sacrifices so that our kids can have one parent at home. One sacrifice we made was to live off of only one income. Cooking from scratch helped this immensely.
Now, this was not always easy, along with having a newborn, we made the choice to buy our first house, a house that would grow with our family and the mortgage was completely reasonable for us to manage. To tell you the truth, this first home helped us become a family and we raised our kids in it for ten years.
Tyler and I were married in 2008, had Samuel in summer of 2009. If you were around that time and remember the financial crisis of 2009, then you could understand with me the torment it was to buy a house. We were in this little bubble of invisible invincibility. We thought we were going to find this amazing house that would be our forever home. Where there would be no problems and the roof would be awesome and the driveway would be perfect, and the neighborhood would be welcoming.
Let me burst that bubble for you, because that bubble burst for us pretty quickly as well.
The house was infested with carpenter ants.
The roof had hail damaged about 2 years after we bought it.
The driveway was cracked.
The garage floor was broken.
Our neighbors next to us were this amazing couple that we truly loved and got to know. He even got Tyler to commit to working at the same company he is now. It changed our lives. But they sadly moved to a different state.
The yard was full of weeds and potholes. Mowing was always a risk for sprained ankles. And ants. Ant hills everywhere.
The garden was infested with giant spiders. Garden weavers. You couldn’t mow near the garage without a face full of web.
The deck was full of splinters, you couldn’t walk barefoot without the risk of tetanus.
The basement leaked, every time it rained, and I was always battling the basement river.
The windows were drafty, and insulation was basically nonexistent.
Every time it rained, or the snow melted, we had water in the basement.
Backyard in the old house that was super uneven and flooded when it rained. We did eventually put in a large garden where we planted tomatoes, zucchini and had a massive raspberry patch.
The bathroom was outdated with the shower a stunning robin egg blue. We did update the bathroom with a new sink and under the sink cabinet for more storage.
The first thing we did in the house, back in 2009, was to remove this chain link fence. It was unreasonable and unrealistic to have right on the driveway.
Renovating our first scratch kitchen
But in all of that, it was our home and we spent ten years redecorating and redesigning and remodeling to make it livable. The kitchen received an entire renovation as water damage caused mold. This was the kitchen where I learned to cook, learned to make meals and feed our family. This was the first scratch kitchen that inspired this blog back in 2015.
The attic was in studs when we moved in and remodeled into an extra bonus room.
The siding was replaced, new door, roof, outdoor lights and a brand-new deck installed.
2012 adds Matthew
In 2012, our second son, Matthew was born. We were living the dream and I was also babysitting kids that helped to bring in a little income and helped pay our mortgage.
This, however, came to a screeching halt when Samuel went to kindergarten. The district would not allow us to put him on the bus as it was a “safe walking route”. Can you imagine sending a 5-year-old to school alone, crossing not one, but THREE busy roads? One of which was next to a hospital and cars NEVER stopped at the crosswalk?!
Samuel loved going to school!
So, as much as it gutted me, I could no longer have my little in-home situation that did help to pay some of our bills.
Fitness and the scratch kitchen
Around that same time, in 2013, I started having mild health concerns. Anytime I ate anything, I had horrible gut pain. Mind you, I was not eating healthy, but I was the healthiest “weight” I was. Ever. Matthew was now 18-months and I had completed Tough Mudder with my younger brother, Bryan.
If you are unaware of what Tough Mudder is, it is a running course with many obstacles, typically in the mud. We ran over 11 miles in fields, forests, hills and streams all the while doing 27-or-so obstacles of strength. Think of it as a ninja course mixed with a 10K run. It was epic.
I had trained for this since Matthew was born and was roughly in a size 6 pant, weighing in at 155 pounds. While training, I did not consider what I was eating, but merely counting my calories to make sure I was meeting my needs through the day. Just the typical 1,800 a day along with my workout routines. To tell you the truth, I wish my health would have not declined after this and I would have kept up with the exercising and workouts.
The first blog published was on November 15, 2015. In it, I shared the Reasons and Why’s for starting this blog.
Health issues begin
It was at a local restaurant, where we had pizza that sent me over the edge. My parents came out with us. My dad and husband had a meat-lovers pizza while my mom and I shared an alfredo chicken pizza, and that night I was writhing in agony on the floor. It was pain worse than labor, for real, because it was constant and unrelenting. And having two natural labors, this pain was by far worse.
Tyler brought me to the hospital where they did an MRI and found nothing. Bloodwork came back normal. Urine test was normal. To them, I was faking the pain, and ended up giving me morphine for the pain. It took two doses for it to lessen, and then the FINALLY did an ultrasound on my gallbladder.
What resulted was a diagnosis of Gallbladder disease, along with two stones in the bile duct. I was sent home with instructions on what NOT to eat for the 10 days prior to my surgery. Even white rice and blanched vegetables still caused me pain. I at a low-fat and no-fat diet for 10 days and lost an additional 15 pounds.
The doctor who removed my gallbladder said it was one of the worst he has seen. It was rancid and also filled with bile, with the two stones in the bile duct causing it to not expel any but hold it and expand to three times the normal size. He said, if two more weeks were to pass, it would have burst.
This surgery, drastic as it was, caused me to need to completely change my eating habits.
I could no longer eat fatty foods like brats, dairy, or deep-fried foods as often as I’d like. I had to restrict my diet to the point of finding out which foods set me off and which were tolerable.
My first experience with a food that summer was corn on the cob, it left me in such severe pain, and I have only had one or two corn on the cobs since 2014.
Start of needing a scratch kitchen
One thing that I had started to notice in 2012, while pregnant with Matthew, was that eating apples caused my mouth to get tingly. The only way to explain this feeling, is that it was like eating pop-rocks. Pregnancy cravings are no fun, especially when eating the craving causes your mouth to be tingly and weird.
In my small research, I found out that this reaction was called “Oral Allergy Syndrome“. Where the pollen in the fruit causes a reaction in the mouth, lips and tongue.
According to Health Line, “Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) is a common food-related allergic condition that develops in adults. OAS is connected to environmental allergies, such as hay fever.”
What triggered my OAS was still a mystery to me, and I would not find the true answer until 2019.
At this point, only apples had caused any type of reaction when eating them.
Levi joins the family
In 2016, Sam, Matthew and I went strawberry picking while I was pregnant with Levi. While there, my hands and arms past my elbows broke out into hives. We’re talking red, swollen and painful hives. Thank God that another piker was there and had kids Benadryl so that the reaction could be under control.
Additionally, I was thinking I was lactose intolerant, I started cutting out dairy and switched to almond milk. My aunt was married at the same chapel that our wedding was at, and two days later Levi was born! He was 9lb 13 ounces.
In fact, all four of our kids were big.
Samuel was 9lb 1oz and came 12 days early.
Matthew was 8lb 10oz and came 15 days early.
Levi was 9lb 13 ounces and was 10 days early.
Elliana was 9lb 2 oz and was 7 days early.
More food issues come to light
As time passed, my reactions to foods started to be more noticeable. Not just apples anymore, but raspberries from our garden would cause my lips to tingle. Eating an orange would make my tongue sore, throat itchy and even cause sores to show up in my mouth. Lemons? Forget about it. Even just a slice of lemon, placed on a water glass at a restaurant caused me to have an oral reaction.
Elliana joins the family in 2019
In 2019, our daughter and fourth child was born. She was our second biggest at 9lb 2oz and was the cherry on top for our family. Having a daughter after three sons has been such a joy!
2019 and Bradycardia
Elliana was born so suddenly and severely that I ended up in the hospital with her as a 5-day old with bradycardia, that was thought to be from a blood clot in my lung. After a day in the CICU, MRI, CT, x-rays, bloodwork, labs and even passing a stress test, the doctors were still at a loss as to why my resting heartrate was in the low 30’s.
The cardiologist had me stop ibuprofen, as he said it could cause a blood clot while in the hospital. Mind you, I had a 5-day old baby girl and allergic to pain meds, so ibuprofen and Tylenol are the only pain meds I can use. Being hooked up to all of the monitors and also trying to care for a 5-day baby, healing from labor, and then the stress of this health concern was scary.
I left the hospital with a heartrate monitor that I then wore for the next 30 days. My cardiologist said that if my heartrate would not change or get better in that time, then a pacemaker would have to be considered. I was 32.
On day three of wearing the heartrate monitor, I succumbed to a massive migraine, like nothing I had ever experienced before. The pain was so severe that I could hardly walk, let alone drive. I was able to get to my chiropractor and he diagnosed me with a C1 & C2 Subluxation. My cervical vertebrae had suffered “car accident” like trauma from the sudden deliver of our daughter, Elliana.
I would spend the next three, almost four years, going every two weeks for him to readjust and realign my cervical vertebrate, all the while suffering migraines that only increased in pain and quantity, all without knowing the cause.
Truth about my scratch kitchen
What used to be an extremely rare occasion, became my normal to have a migraine twice to three times a week. All the while, trying to maintain our home, cook dinner, take care of four kids, and then manage a life-altering pandemic.
While so many of my friends rocked it as homeschooling moms, I wanted to curl up in our bed, with the windows shut and cry myself to sleep, hoping that when I awoke the pain would be more manageable.
Needing, not wanting, to maintain the level of cooking needing was daunting and exhausting to say the least. I could not just grab a loaf of bread off the shelf or pick up all of the granola bars and foods as I needed to be sure the ingredients were safe for me to eat.
Short relief for this scratch kitchen
One thing that did help me during this was to pray. I prayed and asked God to show me what was wrong. What I could do to ease the pain, and to show me how to manage this new normal. During this time of the early lock-down, when materials were scarce, I sat in front of my sewing machine and made masks. I made facemasks for friends, family and strangers. People who knew I was doing these donated materials if they had them, or cash if there was an item they knew was needed. It was the most rewarding thing to be a part of, and I felt blessed at this small reprieve, this little thing I could do to help.
Some of the masks went to nurses in my family, not only in Wisconsin where I live, but also to Texas for my cousin who was a NNICU nurse, who was reusing her masks, and some of her coworkers. Some masks went to California, Alaska, and more. More masks also went to a neighbor who was boots-on the ground in the COVID ward at our local hospital. The Miraculous part was it was done without a single migraine.
But like all good things, this time of pain-free sewing did come to an end.
Allergy testing for weeks
In all of this, I was able to get in to see an allergist and get a lot of tests. All in all, I had three blood tests, one set of skin test, and then a second set of skin tests with raw fruit to check the reaction against the processed liquids. The spot on the left was dust mites and the one on the right was almond. Turns out, I am allergic to almond, and as it were, trying to be healthy and drinking almond milk instead of lactose was not helping my health.
Truth and Results for this scratch kitchen
Going into this test, my thoughts were that I would be allergic to cats, dogs, rabbits, horses, mice, and milk. My results were staggering.
Turns out I am NOT allergic to lactose, or even celiac. I am allergic to birch pollen and oak pollen, mice and severely allergic to dust mites. Additionally, I am allergic to almond and strawberry. She recommended me to stop opening my windows, remove carpet, wear a mask while dusting and try to limit exposure to dust, which causes me severe reactions. In addition to these allergies, my results came back that I was allergic to fruit and some vegetables.
The reason for my fruit allergy is quite complicate, yet very simple. When oak and birch trees are releasing their pollen, fruit growing is then being infused with the trees pollen. Then, when consumed raw, the tree pollen irritates the mouth causing an allergic reaction.
Total, I am allergic to almond, strawberry, apple, apricot, peach, pear, plumb, cherry, lemon, raspberry, blueberry, lime, kiwi, carrot and celery. Out of all of these, almond and strawberry are my “true” allergy and I need to avoid at all costs and may cause anaphylaxis.
“Allergic reactions to fruit are commonly associated with oral allergy syndrome (OAS). It’s also known as pollen-food allergy.
OAS occurs from cross-reactivity. The immune system recognizes the similarity between pollen (a common allergen) and the proteins in raw fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts. That recognition triggers an allergic reaction in some people.” –Healthline
Additionally, you can find more information about Food Pollen Allergy Symptoms and OAS from acaai.org, American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology.
Through all of this, I have learned to not rely on foods that are prepackaged or processed. Mainly, learning to read food labels and be smarter about what we buy and make for dinners.
For example, being allergic to almond, anything that has “Tree Nuts” as an ingredient is off limits.
This causes me to need to redirect our grocery budget to more raw ingredients and whole foods. Cooking from scratch helps to maintain a healthy budget and diet, reducing my allergy symptoms.
Going to restaurants or gatherings is tricky, and I need to be careful about what I can eat. If I can read the label, then I feel safer knowing the ingredients, but if there is no label, I just stay away.
Migraines return with full force
The last six months, my migraines have returned with full force. Just basic adjustments do not help anymore, and I was desperate for some relief. While at my chiropractor for my weekly adjustment, I broke down and told him about the severe pain that I had been in, the days-long migraines, and no relief. He then scheduled me to get an MRI of my head and cervical vertebrae.
If you are like me and like to Doctor Google yourself… don’t. Just don’t.
I did and regretted it for days and weeks until the results came back.
Did I have a tumor? Cancer? Will I need a stint? Is it a pituitary tumor? Do I have brain cancer? Will I need surgery or a neck brace?
So many questions, so much anxiety, and NO answers.
Waiting is painful for a scratch kitchen
Turns out, my chiropractor was seeking advice, for me, from neurologists and neurosurgeons. He wanted to see if my case was surgical or if PT would be enough.
Turns out, I had something called Chiari Syndrome. Because of having, not only four babies, but four BIG babies, my ligaments loosened and never went back to normal. Their relaxed-ness caused my cerebellum to actually lower into my spinal column, causing severe migraines. With a few simple exercises, done daily, the hope is that my migraines will subside, and the ligaments will strengthen and then bring my cerebellum back to where it needs to be.
On the downside, it is recommended that I never run again, no rollercoasters or any actions that can cause whiplash as that is what may be the root cause for this to have come out when Elliana was born in 2019.
Additionally, to Chiari, I also have arthritis in my neck which does cause strep-like pain on occasion.
According to the MRI, this blue line indicates where the brain should be above.
Additionally, the front neck shows compression and pain on my neck. The hope is that in the next few months to a year this pain can be resolved.
So, our kitchen has become a scratch kitchen. Not only does this save us money on our food budget, but it also helps to keep me healthy and NOT have allergic reactions to foods. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments and I would love to get back to you!
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