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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Simple Lives Thursday

I have been lucky enough to spend this whole day with friends and Ellie, and can't bear the thought of spending another moment plugged in to the computer, so I'm going to let the fantastic contributors to Simple Lives Thursday entertain you with their superior content.  Soon I will have a post full of picture of Ellie and some resolutions for 2012.  Until then...

Featured Posts from Last Week's Submissions

SLT Featured Post Badge
 We really enjoy reading your posts each week! Featured post bloggers, please grab the badge above and display it on your site! Link it to one of the host blogs' posts for the specific week that you were featured. Here are our picks from last week's submissions. Thanks to all who participated -- it is always hard to choose!
 
1. 8 Steps to Reducing BPA Exposure for Your Child by Real Food Forager. Jill shares excellent information and resources about BPA and how to avoid it.
2. Buttermilk Ranch Dressing by Our Nourishing Roots. A lovely, delicious, simple ranch dressing recipe that will quickly replace your favorite jarred brand.
   
 3. Make An Easy Bath Salt by Jo's Health Corner. An easy bath salt recipe -- so easy your kids can join you. It would make a lovely gift.
   
 4. Cranberry Grapefruit Brunch Salad by Katy She Cooks. Katy shares a favorite refreshing holiday brunch salad recipe that she finds refreshing amid usual heavier holiday offerings.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Week Away and Clementine Cranberry Bread

On Monday night right before bed, I told my husband that my right breast was starting to hurt, feeling like it was bruised.  I had been running around like a crazy person getting ready for the holidays and hauling Ellie along with me every step of the way, so we figured I must have just stressed myself out too much or hurt myself pumping or something.  I tried to brush it off, but being afraid about the pain kept me up a lot of the night.
Tuesday morning, he went to work and I stayed home with baby.  The pain was still there and I had a headache from failing to sleep well, so I canceled a day-trip I had scheduled for later that day, telling my would-be-companion that I thought I should take it easy just in case but didn't feel too bad.  When I called the midwives, they thought it might be clogged duct and gave me some techniques to loosen it up.  They asked me how I was feeling and I said I was just tired but didn't really feel sick.  This was at 10:30 a.m..  The nurses told me that if it was a case of mastitis, an infection of the breast, that I would feel like I'd been hit by a truck.  I told them that I didn't feel that way and hung up the phone.  Two hours later, I called them back in tears because I was feeling so awful, telling them that I needed an antibiotic because I most certainly had mastitis and I was not dragging myself and my baby in to get them.  I then called my husband and made him pick up my antibiotic and come take care of Ellie because I could barely take care of myself.
I haven't felt that sick in a long time.  Within the hour and a half between my first and second calls to the midwives, my fever spiked to 100, my headache became debilitating, and my muscles were so sore that I could barely stand up.  I didn't even need to look to know that I had the trademark red sploches that indicate a case of mastitis. Everything I ate made me nauseous and I had the chills,  I still didn't feel warm wrapped up in a sweat suit under our down comforter.  I  was shocked at how bad things got and how quickly it escalated.  
I was put on a 10 day round of antibiotics that I take 4 times a day.  The nurses admonished me to be very careful about watching my symptoms and to go in if they hadn't gotten better within 48 hours because I would be at risk for developing an abscess which would require surgery.
Thankfully the antibiotics did their work and I've been feeling nearly normal for days now, and I was able to continue nursing throughout.  If I hadn't known what mastitis was and looked like, I would have probably just thought I was sick and things could have been much worse.
This whole incident has reminded me what a privilege it is to be able to breastfeed my baby and that I need to take care of myself in order to take care of her.  It's very easy for mothers, especially first time ones, to get entirely consumed by taking care of their little ones.
It also gave me the opportunity to step back and appreciate all the hard work I have had to put into maintaining a breastfeeding routine with my daughter.  Some dyads are lucky enough to just pick up breastfeeding from the first latch without issue.  This has not been the case with little Ellie and me
.  We've had to work for the relationship we have, and it continues to ebb and flow.  I know that without solid breastfeeding role models in my life (Vanessa! Maggie!) and a serious commitment to the process, I wouldn't be exclusively breastfeeding.  It so true that what new moms need to be successful is lots of support and a committed family.  I feel very lucky that my husband is extremely supportive and has done anything and everything to keep us breastfeeding, including informing himself (when I told him I forgot my pump once he said "Well, how good are you at hand expressing?) and taking care of me in any way so I can continue to feed her (I can't count the number of glasses of water he has brought to me, some at 4 a.m., just so I'm more comfortable when feeding her).
Breastfeeding is just as much a cultural/social issue as it is physical.  This is why I'm choosing to write about my journey with it here, in the hopes that other mothers can see that while it's the most natural thing in the world, it requires constant commitment and dedication.
But boy, does it pay off.  I have an excuse every 2-3 hours each day to sit down, snuggle my baby, and stare into her eyes.  She has discovered her hands, so when she feeds she plays with my shirt or softly strokes my chest, fiddling with my necklace.  It is the perfect bonding experience.  Also thanks to breastfeeding, I managed to lose all of my pregnancy weight within the first two months.  My body isn't the same as it used to be, but I'm off to a good start.  Breastfeeding also reduces maternal rates of breast and cervical cancer.  And plus, she's grown these cheeks:
 More than worth it, right?
Since I posted here last, I've also done a ton of cooking and a little documentation of it.  For Christmas, I baked a loaf of clementine cranberry bread.  Winter is citrus season and clementines are everywhere.  I just love them because they are tiny (cute) easy to peel, nearly seedless, fragrant, and delicious.  Two years ago I used them with cranberries to make a deliciously tart marmalade.  This year I had the idea to make a sweet quick bread with them, and it turns out chef Anne Burrell had the same idea but with oranges instead of clementines.  I slightly modified her recipe and brought it to my husband's family Christmas where it was welcomed and quickly consumed.
I snapped Ellie into the Boba and got cookin'.
Clementine Cranberry Bread
modified from this recipe by Anne Burrell


  • 2 cups a.p. flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick cold butter, diced
  • the zest of 2 clementines
    • 1 egg
      • 3/4 cup fresh juice from the clementines
      • 2 clementines, peeled, segmented, and chopped
      • 1/2 cup dried cranberries


Dice the cold butter into small pieces.
 Add the cold butter to the flour, sugars, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor.  
 Pulse three to five times or until the mixture looks sandy.
 Add the clementine zest.  (Be sure to use organic if you can since you're using the peel.)
Juice the clementines with a reamer.  Rolling your citrus on the counter first will get you more juice.  I got 3/4 c. out of four clementines.

 Section and chop your clementines.
 Add the wet ingredients to your dry mix, pulsing just to combine.
 Transfer to a mixing bowl and fold in the chopped clementines and cranberries.
Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour 15 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

 The bread will be moist and sweet and each bite should have a burst of fresh clementine or cranberry.
 It was perfect with our Christmas brunch.
 Are these not the cutest great grandparents you've ever seen?
 Miss Ellie got three different first Christmas ornaments this year.
 
 They found their place among our other favorite ornaments.



 And I have done some relaxation therapy this week using a little Silk Nog and brandy.
All in all, we had a fantastic holiday in spite of the illness and some major fussiness from Ellie.  (It turns out that she is very easily overstimulated and needs as much quiet as possible, or she'll scream for hours being unable to calm herself down.  The only thing that we've found to consistently break her crying spurts is a bath, so I got to test out two foreign bathtubs this week.)  
We're gearing up for a quiet new years and our second annual new year's brunch.  I will certainly be making the cinnamon rolls again, and I can't wait to see what else my friends come up with this year.
I hope your holiday went well and you were surrounded by love and good food.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hi!

Hello there! I swear I am still alive. I will be back soon to tell you all about everything that has been going on and share a recipe, but until then, a teaser: it involves antibiotics (mine) a 2.5-hour-long screaming fit (Ellie's), and some clementines. To tide you over, here's a cute photo of my BFF reading Ellie the back of a pizza box, which put her right to sleep.
And one of her in a cute hat that is one of only two pieces of clothing I have ever had to buy her.
I've missed you and will talk to you soon!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oil Cleansing Method and Simple Lives Thursday


Greetings!
Guess what?  The semester is over.  I am home until the first week in January. That makes me go like this:

I'm going to share a new way I've been cleaning my face these days.  I started thinking today of just a few of the things that people don't tell you about pregnancy and childbirth:

  • Your hips might widen, and it might hurt, especially since you can only sleep on your sides.
  • While your hair and nails will be full and amazing during pregnancy, this will change when baby finally arrives, just when you've started getting used to it.
  • It is totally normal for your moles and freckles to change during pregnancy, so what would send you to the dermatologist for a check in your regular life is just a part of the process.
  • You can get back to your pre-pregnancy weight but still not fit into some of your clothes. 
  • The hormones during pregnancy could make you break out like a teenager again.
  • Once your baby is born, your skin might be totally different than it was before and during pregnancy.
The final point is one that has hit home for me big time recently.  I normally have very dry skin, but for some reason it's been normal to oily recently, which throws off my whole cleansing routine.  I usually no-poo but I'd never tried making a daily cleanser for my face.  I had read about the oil cleansing method (OCM) and decided this change in my skin type was a perfect time to give it a try.  I've been very happy with the results and plan to keep it up so long as it keeps working so well.

This page is an excellent one for learning more about OCM and that blog is fantastic for homemade skin stuff in general.  

Here's what I do:
Mix in your palm or in a bottle

  • One part cold pressed castor oil
  • Two parts sweet almond oil (I used this one)
  • One drop lavender essential oil (optional)

 I rub this on my dry skin and use it to remove make-up.  (It's the best way to remove makeup that I've found.)
After washing with the oil, I wipe it off well with a wet washcloth with very hot water.  I follow up with a moisturizer or leave a little oil on my skin.  

It's Simple Lives Thursday, so check out last week's featured posts and submit yours!


Featured Posts from Last Week's Submissions

SLT Featured Post Badge 
 We really enjoy reading your posts each week! Featured post bloggers, please grab the badge above and display it on your site! Link it to one of the host blogs' posts for the specific week that you were featured. Here are our picks from last week's submissions. Thanks to all who participated -- it is always hard to choose!
1. Start a Harvest Sharing Program by Food Farm Health. "Harvest sharing is the idea of linking up people with unwanted fruit trees or berry patches or even extra garden harvests with those who want of it via a fruit sharing organization. It is about rescuing and redistributing food." This blogger shares her tips for getting started.
2. Meat by clabbermouth. Raising animals for meat or by-product means making tough choices about animals you love. This meat had a wonderful life, and was cared for deeply and respectfully.
3. "Sugar" Cookie Cut-Outs (includes GF option) by The Nourishing Home. Just in time for Christmas. Sugar cookies sweetened with stevia and real maple syrup.
3. It's Not Too Late for a {Super-Frugal} Handmade Christmas! by RiddleLove. Simple, Frugal, Homemade. What's not to love!

Monday, December 12, 2011

On Geese and Seeing

Nearly every day, I plan something to write here.  Despite how it may look, I in fact have much more to say than I have time to write.  (This post by the talented and insightful Jennifer New rings so true, and the poem is perfect.)  I still have plenty to share about food and eating, but since the baby entered my life, I've been thinking about much more.
Motherhood has been the most profound experience of my life.  Returning to work after being home with my daughter for two months was a bizarre experience.  In a way, it felt like I very easily slipped right back into the life I'd put on pause.  But deep down, when I have quiet moments to think (which are rare) and reflect on what my life is and what I want it to be, I feel irrevocably changed.  I feel like my brain is wired differently.  By developing new skills like recognizing E's breathing patterns and anticipating her needs before they arise, I am slowly realizing that this mastery comes at a cost.  I have always been the kind of person who wants to have it all, and insisted that I can and will do so.  Having a baby hasn't so much changed this idea as forced me to reflect more seriously on the specifics of what that looks like in my life.  It is teaching me that, for now, I have to let some things go.  I can and will continue to cook the way that I do, and take pictures and write about it along the way, but I won't be able to post every thing I cook or think that is worth sharing.  I will continue to journal to E a few times a week, but I will likely not find the time to complete a 365 project on Flickr like I've tried to for the last two years.  I will continue to run because I love feeling fast, but I might not get to squeeze in those impromptu long runs when the mood strikes and the weather is good.  
I don't write these things here to complain or as an excuse for posting less often, but in the hopes that you'll understand why I don't always have a meatless post up on Monday and I frankly don't feel too bad about it.  
I see this realization as an empowering one, rather than letting it make me feel old or helpless.  I used to get frustrated with my body when it didn't look the way I wanted to, or when it was stubbornly slow or weak.  I took it for granted.  It feels very different now that this body has created, carried, and birthed my child, and feeds her the only food she needs.  This experience has allowed me to look at my body and myself from a place of understanding and appreciation.  Instead of being so demanding and full of expectations, I'm trying to look at my situation for what it is, learning that I will see returns on the investments I make, but my stores are finite.  
Writing in any form tends to make you feel that you need to document every last moment, rather than simply be there and enjoy it.  I was reminded of this poem while walking to work this morning and watching honking geese pass overhead.  Seeing the sun rise in the cold has made my early walks to work easy to enjoy.  These geese, along with the melanic squirrels I pass each day, made an otherwise depressing Monday away from my sweet loved ones and warm bed much easier to bear.  

Snow Geese
by Mary Oliver
Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
to ask
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.
One fall day I heard
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was
a flock of snow geese, winging it
faster than the ones we usually see,
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun
so they were, in part at least, golden. I
held my breath
as we do
sometimes
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us
as with a match,
which is lit, and bright,
but does not hurt
in the common way,
but delightfully,
as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.
The geese
flew on,
I have never seen them again.
Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won't.
It doesn't matter.
What matters
is that, when I saw them,
I saw them
as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.


These days I'm just trying to enjoy seeing.  So today (tonight) I'm writing what I feel like sharing.  
First, this photo of my cousin's visit, and four generations of women in my family.  (Are my mother and grandmother not radiant?!)
Me and this girl.
And brothers adoring her.  (I swear this was not posed.)
Herculean tummy time.
 This pot on the stove, simmering away, filled with clementine peel, cinnamon, and cloves.  This is the smell of winter to me, thanks to my mother.
 And our best Christmas tree yet.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Meatless Monday: Stuffed Squash

The little Miss turned 2 months old recently!
Yep, she's cute.  She's been keeping me busy and it's been so much fun to watch her start to become aware of the world around her.  Not at all surprisingly, she's a chatty little girl already and loves to coo and squawk at us.  She has been such a trouper about the car rides and days away from home to see loved ones for the holidays.  
The season of holiday get-togethers is upon us and eaters with special diets of any kind, be they meatless, gluten-free, or low sodium, are often an afterthought at the dinner table, relegated to plates full of sides.  I wanted to make an easy meatless dish that would be seasonal, celebratory, beautiful, and delicious for your holiday table.  Using ingredients I had on hand, I put together this entree that will make any diner feel special, and also happens to be entirely free of animal products.
I think it's terribly sad that bread stuffing is only eaten on Thanksgiving (turkey, I'm less upset about) because it's such a versatile dish that uses up lots of leftover bits to make something that's greater than the sum of its parts.  Stuffing's underuse was my starting point for this meal along with the desire to start using the squash that I have stored in the basement.
I made this meal in two days because it was easier to break it up, roasting the squash on the first night while we ate dinner and doing the rest on the second night.  You are welcome to use whatever bread you have on hand to make the croutons and any spices you have and love.  I think sage is required for good stuffing, along with nuts, celery, and stock.  The mushrooms make it extra hearty.  Be sure to moisten the stuffing without getting it too wet.  If you add just the right amount of stock, it will season everything and the croutons will be tender on the inside and just crispy and chewy on the edges.

Stuffed Squash
Serves two, 1/2 squash per person


1 sweet dumpling or acorn squash
4 slices potato bread, cubed
1 tbsp. dried majoram
1 tbsp. dried chives
1 tbsp. seasoned salt (or make your own)
1 onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
8-10 crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp. dried sage
1/2 c. pecans
1/4-1/2 c. vegetable stock
olive oil
salt and pepper

Begin by steaming your squash in the oven.  Slice in half, scrape out the seeds, and place cut side down on a baking sheet with 1 in. of water.  Bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until a knife slides in easily.

In a dry pan, toast your pecans over low heat for 2-3 minutes or until you smell them.  Cool and chop.
 While your squash is baking (or the next day while you're assembling the rest of the stuffing) make the croutons.  Slice your bread into 1 inch cubes and coat with olive oil and the marjoram, chives, and seasoned salt.
 Cook at 375 for 10-15 minutes, or until your bread is dried out and a little crunchy, but not hard.  You can easily use old bread for this.

While your croutons are baking, add the onion to a pan coated with olive oil over medium heat.  Season with salt and pepper.
 Let the onions soften for a minute or two and then add the celery.
 Once the onions are translucent and the celery is bright green and starting to soften (another 3-5 minutes) add the mushrooms and continue to cook.
 Keep cooking until everything had broken down and is soft.
 Mix in your croutons and pecans, crumble in the sage, and add enough stock for the mix to be moist but not wet.  Give it a taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
 Stuff the mix into the cavity of the squash.  Put any extra stuffing in a baking dish.
 Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes or until the edges of the croutons are crispy and brown.   We ate ours with the Anchor Steam holiday beer.
 The pecans should still have good crunch, the mushrooms should be savory and rich, and the croutons should have just a little chew.  The herbs round out all the vegetable flavors and the creamy squash hold everything together.
Give this a try at your next celebration, or just your normal Monday night.  I think you'll like it!


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