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.