Sunday, October 23, 2011


Hey look! I'm actually back on topic today! There will still be a picture with a baby though.

The chickens are all grown up! Those noisy little chicks have been replaced by a quietly clucking herd of hens (and a couple of roosters). They love to wander around the yard and have a nasty habit of making patches of mustard greens and kale disappear if not watched. They also leave lovely large brown eggs behind for us every day. Every few days they leave an egg or two more than before. I see much custard and many boiled eggs in our future.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Working Motherhood

I work outside the home. I can not express how odd that phrase feels to type out. Why is that strange? After all, our culture is laden with working mothers. I know plenty who work from home, plenty who work outside the home, and plenty who spend each day busting their butts watching their little ones every day. It's not like any of these things are unusual.

I suppose it comes down to the fact that I never expected to be working outside the home if/when I had children. I wasn't sure I wanted to be a full time stay home mother either, but working part time from home seemed reasonable. I've also spent most of my life surrounded by people with negative views of stay at home parents, so maybe that has clouded my own views. No matter how much logic I apply to my brain, sometimes old stereotypes I was raised with lurk in my subconscious.

Stereotypes go both ways though. Part of my reluctance to consider my work to be a "real job" may be related to abnormal hours and feeling odd about calling something I love to do "work". I suspect that is only part of it though, as another deeply flawed idea I was surrounded with growing up is that mothers who decide to work are doing so because they're bored at and these aren't real jobs, but glorified hobbies. It is difficult to reconcile that, no matter how much I logically know it's a bunch of bull, with the fact that I have some rather sizable student loans that drag us down as a family and should not be my husband's responsibility just because he was soft hearted (or stupid) enough to marry someone that was lugging around that kind of debt.

So now I work. I am working my way through midwifery training and doing my best to also take clients for a variety of other things to pay the bills. I love what I do, but I also miss my babies. I worry that I'm missing too much of them growing up. I'm in the very lucky position of being able to take my youngest with me to many things and having two bosses that could not be more breastfeeding supportive, but it is still not quite the same.

It's an odd conundrum, this working mom thing.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Picking Up and Moving On

..But not from our home for once! In fact, we're quickly approaching the one year mark of living in our current abode without being in the process of moving or trying to move.That is a feat we've only managed one other time in the past 8-ish years, but I digress.

The long and the short of it is that I got oh so diplomatically fired from teaching the homeschool co-op class I had been hacking away at. To be honest, it wasn't working out and I had not planned to offer to teach again after this quarter was completed, but I was expecting to finish the last three classes before throwing in the towel. I learned a great deal during the experience. Unfortunately, I think I can only say the same for about a third of my students. My respect for k-12 teachers with large classes has also doubled or more. Whoever said "Those who can't do, teach." was clearly never in the position of trying to convince a semi-hostile pack of preteens to get up and work on a group project. I think I'm much better suited to "Do, or do something else."

In any case, I'm not a big fan of feeling like I failed at something, or calling it quits on something I've committed to before completing it. I like to think that's a desire to make things work talking, but it could be pure stubbornness and ego. I'm trying to swallow the idea that this is for the best. I guess only time will tell.

In the meantime, I think this is perfect opportunity to use the time I now unexpectedly have free to get some of my to-do list checked off. My desk has been accumulating an ever growing collection of half finished personal projects the need some attention. I also have a very intimidatingly long list of vocabulary words I need to be working my way through for study purposes.

There's also the fact that I may have lost sight of what drew me to the concept of homeschooling to start with; I want to spend more one on one time with my children. Maybe it's time to refocus myself, not just on work and education, but on cardboard box fort construction and pine cone collecting expeditions as well. They grow up too fast as it is. No need to rush the process, and I definitely don't want to miss it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Thank You

This post inspired by a blog carnival I ran across on the subject of doulas, and, more importantly, my fantastic doula.

I swear I'm trying to keep birth related posts to a minimum, but as Dahlia passes the two month mark I find myself still wanting to shout to the masses how not scary, wonderful, and uncomplicated birth can be. I feel like I owe four people huge thank yous: my husband, my mother, my midwife, and my friend and doula, Talitha.

As of late, I've sung freely the praises of my midwife to anyone who will listen. She was and has continued to be a very positive influence on my life, and she made the birth of my youngest child the joyous event it deserved to be.  I believe I've also made no big secret of my extreme pride in the degree to which my husband stepped up and supported me. It might not hurt to tell him that a bit more often though. I have a long thank you letter I've been slowly writing, editing, and adding to that will eventually find its way to my mother. My doula, however, has gone essentially thankless to this point.

Let me remedy that. Thank you. Thank you! THANK YOU!

For full disclosure, for anyone reading this who does not know me, I am a doula and therefore carry a significant degree of bias regarding the usefulness of the profession. That said, I came to be a doula after having my eldest left me really wishing I'd had one. I won't go into the details of her birth, but I will say it made a doula a requirement for the births of any other children I should happen to have after that.

That whole being a doula myself came with some pros and cons. On the up side, I already knew a number of other local doulas and had a pretty good idea of who lived close enough to me for comfort (I have fast labor and deliveries), I felt comfortable around, and had a philosophy that meshed well with my own. In short, my interviewing process was very brief. On the downside, these other women are essentially professional peers. Did I want someone I occasionally work with or might in the future seeing me stripped down and groaning? What if this birth wasn't as minimally physically painful as my first (it wasn't)? Would I be self conscious about screaming or crying in front of them if I really needed to during labor? If I found myself asking to transfer for pain meds, would I be made to feel like I failed?

After a discussion with my doula-to-be, I felt infinitely better. I didn't bring up most of my concerns, but still came away with those fears quelled. I suspect she's psychic. After an official interview that included the hubby, we were set. I was comfortable with her, hubs was comfortable with her, and Talitha would be our doula.

Most of my pregnancy was uneventful. It was mostly eight months of feeling like we had all the time in the world to get everything done and one month of panicked unpacking of baby gear saved from when the eldest was an infant. I didn't have any great deal of questions or concerns during most of that period. The last month changed that.

I repeatedly told myself that I wasn't "due" until 42 weeks. I had delivered a bit early with my eldest, but was determined not to count on a repeat of that experience. This approach kept me feeling fine with continuing to be pregnant, even through the heat of a southern summer, until baby decided it was time. What I didn't consider in this plan was prodromal labor. I really dislike prodromal labor. The first couple of times I shrugged it off. After five or six rounds I was frustrated. After several weeks of contractions that would get down to 4-5 minutes apart and feel very intense, then just stop, I was ready to tear my hair out.

After one particularly annoying day and night of contractions that had stayed twelve minutes apart for most of that time, I started to meltdown. I felt like I was on a timer. I needed to go into labor when both my husband and my babysitting were available. At that moment my daughter was a few hours away from coming home from spending the night with her grandparents and my husband had just left for work. It was like I had missed my window and would have to wait another week. It wasn't rational, but it was the place my brain was at that time.

I sat in my glider bawling my eyes out and texting my doula. She calmed me down and offered to come be with me while hubby was out. I told her I would be fine and I was pretty sure it wasn't happening today. At that point I don't think I believed it was EVER going happen. I was wrong.

I'll spare everyone the whole birth story, but shortly after that conversation my contractions went from twelve minutes apart to three. I still didn't believe I was really in labor, but my husband thankfully realized that something was very different in my behavior (over text messages, if that says anything about how well he knows me); he called me back after one batch of texting and told me he was coming home and I needed to call my midwife and doula.

Once again, I'll try to spare everyone a huge tangent into birth story, but hubby arrived first and was trying to get everything ready for the birth while I labored. What I really wanted at that moment was my loving partner and father of my child to sit in front of me so I could lean on him, be held by him, just have some kind of physical contact, but I knew I would be really stressed out about everything that wasn't done if he didn't do it (getting the birth kit out, setting up and filling the pool, and cutting up some melon for me to snack on in case it was a long labor).

I often run into the perception that a doula will intrude on a birth or take over the father's support role in the birth, but mine gave me back my husband. Upon her arrival she took over all the tedium so he could give me that physical contact I needed. She gave him a quick refresher course in counter pressure so he could apply it.   In all honesty, I don't know what all she said or suggested to him beyond that; I was very inwardly focused at that point, but I know she was helping him and the two of them together made for the most intuitive support I could have imagined. There was only one point in the entire labor and delivery where I didn't feel like they were practically reading my mind. It was amazing to get the support I needed, when I needed it, and all without any hint of complaint or irritation when what I needed changed every five minutes.

Aside from general support, I really owe some major thanks to my doula for a few specific moments. The biggest one involves the birth pool. I wasn't totally sold on a water birth, but laboring in water was at the top of my list as a backup plan if I found myself with a long, painful labor. Despite everyone else's convictions, I wasn't convinced I was really having a baby, or that it would be any time soon, until Dahlia was crowning. That whole prodromal labor bit really did a number on my mental state in that area. I was urged on a few occasions to give up the attempt to fill the birth pool under the idea that there was no way it would be filled even a minimum amount before baby was born (which turned out to be true).

Only Talitha seemed to realize how desperately I needed to know that I had that backup plan in place if I found myself with contractions of the intensity I was experiencing for hours more. I was terrified that if we gave up the effort, we would only find ourselves desperately trying to resume it several hours later. She continued efforts to get the tub ready, surely knowing as well as everyone else in the room (myself excluded) that it wouldn't be done in time. I know that seems like a terribly small thing, but keep in mind how little room for logic there is in a laboring woman's mind, compared to the incredible degree that fear and stress, rational or not, affect labor.

After the delivery, she, along with other parts of my birth team and my mother, made most of the evidence that I had just had a baby in my living room disappear before most of the family appeared. All this freeing my husband to help me clean myself up and get settled into bed to rest and snuggle my new baby. I think my house was cleaner when everyone left than it was when I went into labor. To top it all off, my wonderful doula even cooked us dinner before she headed out.

I can't imagine any better start to motherhood than relaxing with my partner and our newborn after a peaceful birth with nothing feeling like it needs to be done and a wonderful meal on the table. Can you?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Diet Food Does Not Have To Suck

That's right. I said it. Eating with the intention of weight loss doesn't have to be a miserable experience.

I know that runs contrary to what I was often lead to believe growing up and as a young(er) adult, but it's true. Our meals lately have been simple and amazing. They've been whole grain, fresh, and packed with flavor. A large potion of our meals have been built around what is available in the garden, cooked from scratch, and rarely had more than a half hour of time spent on cooking and prep. I've been favoring Thai inspired dishes (coconut soup and a red curry pictured below), but other, more traditional dishes have been on the menu as well. Roasted or stewed vegetables, greens, and steamed grains have made up several other simple meals (stewed summer squash with toasted couscous of a bed of raw spinach pictured above). Flavored with fresh herbs from the garden, this has been a quick, tasty way to put a meal on the table at the end of a long day, or to whip something up for lunch while simultaneously chasing the toddler.

I have been cheating a bit on my dietary plans. The call of the drive through has not been ignored as much as it should have been on a few occasions when I was under prepared will meal and snack solutions while out with the kiddos. I also have a bit of basmati rice habit when I cook certain things. While I have no problem with carbs, I'm trying to stick to options that may be a bit less processed than white rice.

Even with my occasional cheating, so far, so good. As of this morning's weigh in, I'm down eight pounds. Not bad at all, in my opinion. I am also cheating a bit in that I'm also nursing a baby, which theoretically helps with postpartum weight loss. It didn't work out that way for me after Mellie was born, but circumstances were different that time around. My goal, at this time, is 40 pounds of loss by Dahlia's first birthday. At the current rate of loss, with ten months to go, my prospects seem pretty good! Here's hoping.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Snack Time

Changing how I eat has been a mostly non-issue. There have been a variety of things including pasture raised eggs from family chickens with veggies and herbs from the garden for breakfast, sandwiches with homemade bread, jam, peanut butter (with as many homegrown ingredients as we have available) for lunches, and lots of curries with garden produce and grains.

Mellie is pretty open to eating these meals with us. It's what she has grown up eating and isn't "weird" food to her, just normal fare, so that's been a non-issue. What has been more difficult is snack time. I'm bad about snacks. If I'm not also eating, it's not unusual for her to get store bought crackers, single serving jello, pudding, or yogurt cups, or other ready made things that I really have no clue what is actually in them, and probably don't want to know. Problem is, much like curries, marinated salads, or other things that many people we run into are amazed she happily eats, Mellie is now used to junk food for snacks. I'm discovering more and more that the packaging has more to do with it than the food itself. She doesn't want the single serving pudding transferred into a bowl, but put homemade yogurt in a container she can open herself and she digs in. Slowly but surely I'm using little tricks like this to turn the tide in her diet.

After all, I'm hoping weight loss will be a pleasant side effect for myself, but the ultimate goal is to live healthier, and I want that for my whole family.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good Morning River

I drug myself out of bed considerably earlier than normal this morning in order to catch the morning light for a little photography.

Dahlia came along and seemed to be a very happy baby as we did a little wading in the Chatahoochee River for a watery maternity session. The water was a little chilly on arrival, but thankfully not too cold.

My model was fantastic. The current was a bit strong today for whatever reason and didn't allow some of the images I was envisioning, but my model was gorgeous and glowing and looked very much like a mother mermaid sitting on the river rocks with her skirt swirling around in the water and hair blowing in the breeze.

It was a fun start to what turned into a crazy day. Looking forward to doing it again soon!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Getting Out More

My pelvic bones are pretty out of whack, I'm still easily exhausted, and I have a two year old that is constantly redefining the term "active". Whining about it aside, the facts are that Mellie hasn't been slowed down any by having a little sister, but I have. That combined with having an infant in my arms makes me deeply appreciate help with the kids when venturing out of our home, and a little anxious about going anywhere without it. With Cal back at work now and homeschool co-op fall classes starting very soon, it is about time I start getting used to handling both the girls on my own outside of our home too. 

A perfect opportunity presented itself this morning in the form of a photographer friend who had a couple of extra slots in her schedule today and extended an invitation to bring the kids and take some pictures. Cal had to work, so it was just Mellie, Dahlia, and a mommy determined to make it work. I'm now exhausted, but far less worried about how I'm going to manage the coming weeks. Mellie was mostly cooperative until she started getting really tired and Dahlia pretty much just wanted to ride in her carrier and sleep. By the time we got there, the lighting was less than optimal, to say the least, but Kim managed to get some cute pics for us.

Now I'm determined to get us out more often. I think there may be a visit with friends in the cards tomorrow!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Eat Real Food Diet

I have a few (more than I would like to admit) pounds of baby weight leftover from having my daughters. While I try to put vanity low on my list, I admit that I would really like to be my pre-first pregnancy size again. I'm not a fan of this whole overweight thing. I've tried it and it's just not working for me, so I'm thinking I may try a little dieting experiment.

I'm going to call this the "Eat Real Food Diet". The premise is pretty simple, my diet will not include heavily processed foods or artificial ingredients. This isn't a huge stretch from how we eat normally, but I will be going to extra efforts to eliminate those occasional fast food pit stops that we are prone to on busy days out or while at work. Refined sugars and white flour are also going to be making their way out of my kitchen in favor of other sweeteners (honey, fresh stevia leaves, unrefined or minimally processed sugars like turbinado) and whole wheat or other grain flours.

I will try to include more raw food, both for ease of preparation and for nutrition. I stopped eating vegetarian about halfway through my most recent pregnancy, and am not planning to go back to it at this time, but any meat will be carefully selected. As hunting season is fast approaching, and we always end up with some venison being given to us by friends and family in the fall, that will probably make up a large portion of it. There will be more cooking and packing lunches to help avoid the temptation to swing through a drive thru.

What I am not restricting is the much longer list. I have zero intention of counting calories, carbs, or grams of fat. There will still be ice cream in my freezer (though it will likely be homemade as the store bought varieties that meet my other parameters are not within my budget parameters). I will eat when I'm hungry and until satiated. Dessert will still grace my table, as will pretty much anything else we are in the mood for.

Now, on that note, I'm off to start lunch!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy Hooking

I'm not the most advanced knitter or crocheter, but I enjoy it nevertheless. I love how portable smell projects are and how, when working on a simple project, it can easily be turned into a social activity. I'm not very fast, but getting faster. My sewing machine was broken in the last move and has yet to be replaced, so I'm doing more crochet now than I ever have. I also recently took a stab at expanding my knitting abilities in order to knit hats for Dahlia. So far, none of my hats have come out quite right, but each one is better than the last. Thankfully, I'm a little better with crochet, and I got an opportunity for extra practice with a side of great company last night.

After a month spent mostly staying home with my babies, a week of work, and the first few days of having the kids to myself after Cal's paternity leave ended, I was ready for a mom's night out with some of my favorite  hookers (and Dahlia, because I'm just not ready to go out without her yet). Another local mom is putting together a large afghan, and the plan for the evening was to crochet as many squares as possible for that project as possible. I'm not sure how many we ended up finishing, but a handful got done and there was ice cream, coffee, and great company along the way. Dahlia was wonderfully cooperative, sleeping in my lap most of the evening. I wish I got an opportunity to do this more often!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Homemade Deodorant

It's amazingly hot out and has been all summer. I'd been blaming this on the pregnancy, but I'm not longer pregnant and 90F still feels like a nice, cool evening. "Cool" should not be the first word that comes to mind with temperatures in the 90's. Just my luck, I ran out of deodorant in the middle of this lovely streak of warm weather. Time to make some more!

The recipe is simple. Coconut oil a a binder and moisturizer, cornstarch to absorb, baking soda to deodorize, and a couple of drops of essential or fragrance oil for scent, if desired. The specifics can be found here, though my mix includes a drop of lavender oil and one of sweet orange. I like that combination, but choose according to your own tastes, or go unscented.

I love this recipe. It's simple, inexpensive, and effective. I loaded mine into an old deodorant stick container I had from when I still bought premade deodorant and keep it in the fridge (doesn't require refrigeration, but it keeps it very solid in the heat of summer which makes application simple and feels great going on). It also lasts long enough to only need to make it once every few months. I don't know about anyone else, but ten minutes a few times a year is something I can fit into my schedule.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Getting Ready For Fall

It's crazy to think it's August already. It's time to start making plans for the fall. We joined a home school co-op and  Mellie is signed up for a couple of classes, once a week, starting in September. I've been pretty neglectful when it comes to trying to make sure she spends time with other kids in the past few months and am hoping this will give her an opportunity to make some friends, get some energy out, and get out of the house. Today we picked out a couple of new pairs of shoes for her to wear and I flipped through some old sewing patterns to get an idea of what I might want to make for her now that she is quickly outgrowing most of the stash of clothing I compiled before she was born. I'm hoping to make something new for Dahlia as well so she's not just getting her sister's hand me downs.

We also had a brief conversation about what we want to plant for the fall. I have most of a garden terrace where the potatoes and onions were this spring that is now open to be replanted. I love beets, so they are a given. Kale, radishes, quinoa, winter squash, cabbage, and broccoli will probably make up the rest. Turnips and collards will likely go in the pasture. Spinach and arugula may join the list, but I'm very short on seeds for both and am tempted to save what I have for spring to make sure I get more seeds from them.

Also on the agenda is the possible addition of a small hoop house over some of our raised beds. We would love to have fresh produce all winter and should be able to use our existing beds with this method. Though it is yet to be seen whether or not we will end up adding one, I'll be sure to post a tutorial if we decide to do it!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

When It Rains, It Pours

I had every intention of picking figs yesterday evening and roasting them to make some yummy tartines with the last of the bread I baked over the weekend. Mother nature apparently had other plans. I literally had my hand on the first fig I planned to pick when the not terribly menacing looking clouds decided to dump rain down onto us. A little water doesn't bother me, but it was accompanied by a generous serving of lighting. I try not to stand under trees in open fields during thunder storms.

So I picked a handful of figs in the immediate vicinity of where I was standing and headed for cover. That didn't really result in enough figs to base a meal for two and a half people on, so we had a change of plans. Instead, hubby stuffed a couple of acorn squash that we had with some brown rice, garden veggies, and goat cheese. They were delicious, especially for a last minute meal. I'm now convinced that more acorn squash deserves a spot in our fall garden plans!

I did manage to get out and pick those figs today. I only managed about a gallon this afternoon (my quick once over of the trees on the first day I picked them this season yielded almost five gallons, for comparison), but it was plenty to try out the roasted figs with honey and rosemary recipe I found on The Kitchn a week or so ago. I haven't tasted them yet, as they just went in the oven, but our entire house is filled with the delicious sweet scent of figs and the fir tree smell of fresh rosemary.

I hope they turn out well. I'm taking them to a potluck meeting tonight. I'm always anxious about taking a dish I've never cooked before to be enjoyed by others, but it the aroma coming from my oven is any indication, these should go over well.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fully Functional and Anatomically Correct

Kudos to you if you get the title reference.

Blame it on the newborn I'm nursing while I type, how recently I gave birth to her, the fact that I do a lot of work with pregnant women, my habit of reading pregnancy blogs, or simple the reality that, for one reason or another, I always seem to have babies, pregnancy, and birth on the brain, be they mine or the concept in general, but today's entry will be birth related. Since that's a little off the normal stream of thought here, I'm giving anyone reading this some advance warning. If discussion of babies arriving into the outside world or womens' reproductive rights aren't up your alley, come back tomorrow. I'm planning to make deodorant and pick some more figs tonight, so I'm sure I'll have a post regarding one of those things up then.

I had a bit of an epiphany this morning regarding inductions. I won't go into too much detail regarding the process of inductions, but here is some background information if you don't know much about them. Induction of labor is a very common procedure in the US. It also has a pretty high rate of failure, and, even when successful, can be very painful. There are many reasons they are performed, some based in evidence, some with research finding they don't improve outcomes, or even worsen them. The process can vary, but the most common method in US hospitals involves a drug to soften the cervix, another administered through an IV with a gradually increasing dosage to stimulate contractions, then artificial rupture of membranes to drop the baby into the pelvis. This process can take days. If you want to know more about indications for induction, the risks, or the physical process, do a little research. There's a ton of info out there.

My epiphany was regarding failed inductions and the mindset that goes with them. I've had one. They are not fun. Worse is the feeling after. Most often they are followed by a surgical delivery for what is termed "failure to progress". I've long disliked this term. No one likes to be told they've failed, and there is a whole slew of thoughts that follow that, like "Am I broken?" and "Is there something wrong with me?". Not exactly confidence boosters. This is no normal failure though. This is being told that someone had to rescue your baby from your body because it wasn't coming out otherwise. While this can leave some women feeling grateful for that rescuer, it can also leave their confidence in their body's ability to function on its own pretty shaken.

I'd like to pretend like I'm immune to this, like I never thought of it as failure and I unleashed my inner mama bear after my failed induction and told people where they could shove it. I didn't. In fact, I simply directed my loss of confidence in another direction. I got deeply frustrated with the idea of failed inductions being termed as failure to progress because, if the the mother wasn't a good candidate for induction, I had it in my mind that the induction made her fail. While that was going in the right direction, it was still going with the idea that the mother had failed.

An off hand comment from a midwife on another blog made me reassess this when she reminded a woman who mentioned her failure to progress diagnosis that, if her baby wasn't ready, her body had done exactly what it was designed to do by trying to keep her baby in the womb to gestate a little longer. This simple statement has completely overturned how I think of failed inductions. The induction may not have worked, but that doesn't mean the mother's body has failed. Our bodies aren't designed to have an eject button for whenever someone else decides it's time. They are designed to keep our children safe so they can develop until they are ready for birth. When an induction fails with a mother and baby that aren't ready for birth, the mother's body isn't failing, but functioning as it has evolved to protect baby from a premature arrival.

May I always remember this when discussing inductions from now on.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Not So Lazy Saturday

I had a deceivingly short list of things to do today. Take some three week portraits of Dahlia, bake some bread, finish up an encapsulation project and deliver the capsules to the client, and then laze around the house with family some. Maybe take a nap. So, yeah.. about that plan...

We used up the last of the spring potatoes, which brought to my attention that we were out of a number of things. I knew we were out of bread, thus the plan to bake some, but I've not yet figured out how to whip up aged cheddar in an afternoon, grow coffee in our climate, or successfully milk a goat that needs to be freshened, so a trip to the Farmer's Market joined the list. The last few potatoes were delicious though.

Then I remembered my soft box light was visiting a family member, and I would need to go get it if I wanted to take the portraits I had planned. Determined to get that done today (it didn't happen), that got added to the list. By the time the bread got baked, the capsules were ready to go, and my light was loaded in the back of our car, a massive thunderstorm had rolled in.

After waiting for the storm to pass, wading through traffic because I failed to consider that the storm I was hoping would pass by was going the same direction we needed to go, picking up some supplies from the market, and getting back to our side of town, it was after 9pm by the time we were all home and the car unloaded. So much for my lazy day. At least my client got their capsules on schedule and my little helper and I got the bread baked.

Simple Sandwich Bread
This is a pretty basic, straightforward bread recipe that makes a semi-dense, but nice, soft, and moist sandwich bread. It's not the healthiest recipe in the world with the all purpose flour, but it gets the job done for a quick lunch solution.

2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup coconut oil (you could substitute another oil, but coconut makes it wonderfully moist without being crumbly)
6 cups all purpose flour

Stir sugar into water, then add yeast. Let it sit until yeast is foamy.

Add salt and oil. Oil should be liquid. If room temperature is under 77 F, you may need to run the oil container under warm water to bring it to a liquid temperature.

Slowly add flour, working it into the mix. Knead until smooth after all flour is added, then cover with a damp cloth and let it rest for roughly an hour, or until dough ball has doubled in size.

Punch dough dough and knead lightly, then divide into two halves. Shape into loaves and place each in a loaf pan.

Begin preheating oven to 350 F while letting dough rest under a damp cloth. Let dough rise for 30 minutes before placing in oven to bake.

Bake for 30 minutes.

The Chicken Queen

My eldest is the queen of the chickens. Really. I'm not sure why, but they love her. They follow her around like she has a magical chicken attracting magnet in her pocket. Except she doesn't always have pockets since she loves them in return and can be frequently found charging straight out of the bath she was getting because she was playing with the chickens straight back to the chicken area to play with them some more. Silly mommy thought Mellie would wait patiently for her to get a towel. Mommy thought wrong!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dahlia Rose

My tiny baby is three weeks old today. Oh, how time flies! It doesn't seem possible that three weeks have already gone by, but the calendar disagrees with my internal clock.

She was 9 lbs. and 22 inches long, born on the couch in our living room after a short labor I spent most of doubting I was actually in active labor. We named her Dahlia Rose, though Mellie calls her "Sisser Baby" more often than she uses her name. She has a head full of light brown baby hair and the most beautiful blue eyes. What can I say? I'm in love.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Blessings In Disguise

I used to think I was a terrible procrastinator. As I've continued into adulthood I've learned this might not exactly be the case. The reality of the times I struggle to keep up with everything on my plate has a common theme: I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew. And I procrastinate... but that's not the point.

This has been increasingly apparent to me as I continually find myself trying to take on the same kind of workload I would have pre-children, despite the fact that I am my childrens' primary care giver, and nap time makes up a very small portion of each day. It started with the brilliant idea that after our eldest was born I would continue to run my small business, resume taking freelance illustration clients, continue to do event photography, return to roller derby, and, while I was at it, I'd go ahead and get my birth doula certification. Why not, right?

The short version of how that went involves a miserable experience turning over my business to someone else, a client list for illustration for the last couple of years so short I'm embarrassed to have it on my resume, and roller skates going to live in a box in a storage unit. I did get my birth doula certification though, and kept shooting event photography (especially if you classify birth photography as a sub-category of "events"). I should learn from this, right?

Well, apparently I'm a slow learner. Even after the above mentioned post-partum stress fest, and the year of too many doula clients that taught me how to say no (2010), I went biting again. I've fallen more and more in love with photography since I first ventured out with a point and shoot when I found myself with a no show photographer and a desperate need for photos of an event I was organizing. I've gotten a DSLR, learned how to shoot in full manual mode, and fallen in love. So when a photographer friend whose work I like tossed up a post on Facebook advertising that the group she interned with a year or so prior was looking for a fresh batch of interns, pronto, I jumped at the opportunity. Three months of internship, three months of maternity leave; that's fate, right?

I admit, I didn't expect to get the internship. I saw the application at the last minute and it was filled out in a rush with a portfolio tossed together in a similar fashion. Getting the email that I made the first cut was a bit of a surprise. I was excited and thrilled. I consulted my mom regarding babysitting, talked it over with my husband, and filled out the second application. I heard back almost immediately. The answer? Thanks, but no thanks.

The next thing that happened was probably the most unexpected part of the whole thing. I was relieved. Deeply, truly relieved. My habit of taking rejection personally and having to remind myself that it's not was no where to be found. Instead, I snuggled my little girls and remembered that I was taking maternity leave for a reason.

They grow up too fast as it is. I still want to make an effort to fill out my photography portfolio, get lots of practice, and work to improve in that area in the next few months, but I suspect I'll be focusing on a much smaller group of models. I rarely think of things as true blessings in disguise, but the internship I didn't get is a reminder of something crucial: my babies won't be babies forever. Everything else can wait.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Figs, Figs, and More Figs

I went looking for other ideas for cooking with figs and found some rather interesting ones. These look delicious!

Fresh Fig Tart

Grilled Figs with Honeyed Marscarpone 

Roasted Figs with Rosemary and Honey

Fig Cocktails

Wheat Berry, Fig, and Red Onion Salad

Fig and Sesame Jam

Fig and Lavender Goat Cheese Galettes

Fig Season

In my part of the world, the fig trees are now dripping with ripe fruit. A few gallons of figs are easy to gather in an hour. I have a love/hate relationship with figs. On one hand, I grew up eating them and they are comfort food for me in every way. The bright pinkish red insides are distinctive, beautiful, and deliciously sweet. Fig preserves on a warn, toasted piece of bread, muffin, or biscuit in the dead of winter warms my soul. On the other hand, they're probably one of the most delicate fresh fruits I enjoy all year. Drop one and it may be bruised beyond recognition when you pick it up. Wait more than 24 hours to use your freshly picked fruit and it may already have rotted. It is somewhat ridiculous the care and speed needed to utilize these little beauties when they are picked ripe.

At least the chickens adore the ones that don't make the final cut.

They are also a sign that summer's end is creeping closer. Growing up, this made figs the last thing I enjoyed eating fresh from the tree, vine, or bush before returning to school for the rest of the year. As I've spent most of the summer pregnant, I'm scrambling to put away as many figs as possible for the colder months to fill out the space left by my lack of preserving much of anything else this year. I managed to gather and freeze some blackberries, but that's been it. My plan is to fill in the remaining space with figs, dried, preserved, and turned into jam.

So far we have fig preserves, fig and ginger jam, and dried figs. I'm hoping to make some habanero fig jam as well with some of the extra peppers from the garden. Looking forward to a tasty winter!

A Post-Birth Return

Blogging dropped to the bottom of my list of priorities the last few months. The new place has turned into a much bigger project than anticipated, the garden became a bit overgrown as my feet disappeared below a pregnant tummy, and work kept me running until a few weeks before my estimated due date. Now I'm happy to have a beautiful baby girl in my arms and am starting to get back in the swing of normal life. I feel horribly out of practice with writing and am eager to get back to it. I'm hoping to update every other day, but am determined to have a minimum of one per week. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Winter Downtime Is Over

The early freeze last year did in most of what I had planned to grow over the winter. I've let my blogging slip while I've been busy with other things, but that downtime is quickly coming to an end. We are moving into what should be a temporary housing set up about a quarter mile from where we have been working on the dream home(stead) plan. It needs some repairs, which has been part of the whole staying busy bit, but is also in need of a quick garden set up before it's time to plant some early spring veggies.

The first of the new variety veggies seeds arrived today. The plan is to finish making the switch to heirloom seeds this year. Last year we had a few non-saveable seed varieties in the garden and, while having them saved money initially, it has been increasingly frustrating to need to buy those seeds again year after year. I'm also adding some new varieties of radish simply because I've discovered I love them and want to have them throughout as much of the year as possible.

Also new on the list will be some edible flowers and a handful of fruit bushes. The husband, who adores blueberries, seems to be pretty excited about the possibility of adding a few varieties of blueberry to give us fresh ones all summer. Hoping for a good year!