Thursday, February 23, 2012

Feeding my Family

Recently, I found myself staring at my open fridge, as I usually do, trying to find some inspiration for dinner that night. Do I want spaghetti...or something quick, like pizza? This is what my diet has become. *Please note: When I say "diet" anywhere in this post or blog, I'm referring to my food choices as a whole, not some calorie-restricting health kick, or something* Anyways, back to the debacle that is my culinary repertoire. When I wanted something "healthy" I went for a frozen chicken breast with rice-a-roni. Yeah, I'm not ignorant, I know how bad that is. But compared to what I usually made, that is healthy. I had gotten lazy about my eating habits. So there I was, staring at the fridge and I thought, "This is pathetic. I don't have any fresh produce. My pantry is filled with preservatives and corn syrup. How the heck am I supposed to be this shining example for my daughter and husband (whom I frequently pester about eating right) when I can't even make one single meal that is actually GOOD for you? 

Challenge Accepted. 

My first attempt at "healthy" was a lighter take on chicken enchiladas. I used whole wheat tortillas, shredded chicken, salsa with low-fat ricotta as the sauce, I added brown rice, zucchini, onions, and corn. I topped it off with a sprinkle of shredded cheese.  

Tasted pretty good.
 Overall, it wasn't a totally healthy meal, but at least I got some veggies in there and cut out a lot of the cheese that normally would have smothered it to death. Added bonus: my husband actually enjoyed them. This is a crowning achievement in the Johnson household, since he is the pickiest eater I have ever known. He says he "hates Mexican food"...the dude is half-Mexican. Explain that. 

Guy enjoying some healthy tofu tacos I made!
I surfed some health blogs, watched some documentaries, the most noteworthy being "Forks Over Knives". I didn't love it for it's scientific accuracy (kinda dubious) but more for its overall message that a diet of whole, unprocessed plant foods can bring remarkable health improvements if you are used to eating a high-crap diet. That's something you can really take to heart. (for more info on this stuff see this woman's website. Kinda densely worded, but s'good information.) 
So, I decided I was going to bring out the big guns. I'm talking about a mostly plant-based diet. What does that mean, you ask? Well, instead of designing my meals around the animal protein, I am designing them to pack as much goodness in as possible, by way of plants. I'm not reaching for the ground beef, I'm grabbing the crumbled organic tofu. I'm not buying any more animal protein. I'm spending my grocery budget on the freshest organic produce I can find, protein-rich legumes, and getting creative with it. 

New staples.

I'm also omitting cooking oils. I start my sauteing with a bit of water in the pan, adding onion first to draw out their liquid and cook with that. It's amazing how effective this method is. The vegetables turn out crisp, flavorful, and cooked just right. No added oils required. 

Tofu Taco filling. 

 My new menu for this week: 
Tofu Tacos
Whole wheat penne with tomato sauce (had some leftover lean beef) and spinach salad Vegetable stir fry
Stuffed Acorn Squash
Vegan Chili and Vegan Cornbread
Veggie burgers on a whole wheat bun with Sweet Potato Fries

It's only been a few days, so the jury is still out on how long this will last, but I'm hoping it sticks. I'm not letting the 1973 corn subsidy bill influence my food anymore. 

My very supportive husband is pretty much traumatized every night with all the new flavors he is being subjected to...but he eats it all. Gotta love him for that. 

I will be sure to update you all on how it pans out. Please offer us some encouragement! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Please don't judge...

I have a secret. I didn't even want to believe it myself. But here it is...sometimes, I've resented my babyThe past 8 months of motherhood have been...interesting. I got off to a very shaky start, not because I didn't love her, but because every day was a struggle to meet her needs.
Most new moms worry about whether they will feel sexy or if they will get their pre-baby body back soon enough. I thought that would be the extent of my issues. Instead, I was dealt a hand of really shitty cards that included post-partum depression, breastfeeding issues (putting it mildly), health problems, and resentfulness towards, well, everyone. 

I was asked on many occasions if I felt any symptoms of post-partum depression, but I always said "a little..." I was kind of lying, to myself included. I felt like crap every single day.  I had a lot of post-partum bleeding, so I went on antibiotics. When Olive couldn't latch properly, I got thrush, which was worsened by the antibiotics. Trust me when I say, that shit is really freaking hard to get rid of. Then came the mastitis, which can only be described as sheer hellacious torture. I swear, every time I let down, it felt like a swarm of bees were hiding inside of my boobs, stinging me on the inside, trying to get out.

I wasn't able to nurse her properly, and I had no clue why. Every time she got hungry, I started crying. I was so scared to breastfeed her because I knew it would hurt like hell. I bled, I bruised, and we both ended up in tears. I would get so angry with my husband, as if it was his fault or because he wasn't feeling what I was feeling. This is the point when most mothers decide to bottle feed. I probably would have too, but I just knew there was some underlying issue that needed to be addressed. I clung so hard to the idea of having that picture-perfect breastfeeding experience that all of my friends were having, I wouldn't give it up. I ended up using a 'nipple shield', which I don't really recommend. While it was probably the only thing that got me through that period of agony, it was also incredibly hard to stop using. I went to a few different experts (lactation consultants, pediatric ENT doctor, etc) and I finally got my answer: she had a tongue-tie and a lip-tie. After it was corrected by a dentist who specializes in frenectomies, thanks to Joy at The Joy of This who recommended him, I was finally able to nurse her with zero pain! I thought it would transform her completely, but it didn't. I soon discovered that the needy, clingy, sensitive little baby was just who she was. I'm so thankful that I finally got the wonderful nursing relationship with my child, but at the same time I have to what cost? I often wonder if she would be a happier baby if I had just let my milk dry up and gave her formula. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret sticking it out and getting her tongue-tie fixed, but I wish I had done it sooner, and I wish I hadn't let it get so bad before finding a solution. That's why I feel so compelled to help other new moms solve their breastfeeding issues before they reach that breaking point.

Some days, she is a sweet, happy little angel and we have the best time together. When we are around other people, she is actually pretty easy going, like she is putting on a show. But most days, even at 8 months old, our time together can be kind of a hair-pulling nightmare. I learned pretty quickly that Olive is the kind of baby that NEEDS a routine. She takes 2 and a half naps a day, in four hour cycles. If she skips a nap, it's the end of the world. She cries and cries because she's tired. Trust me, Olive can cry REALLY loud. I think she has the loudest cry I've ever heard. I know, I know, baby cries are always worse to their mother, but seriously...just ask my friends or family. She doesn't give any warning cry, it's just a blood curdling "WAAAAHHHHH!" The girl knows how to get my attention. She cries like this when she is hungry, when she is tired, when she is teething, when she is gassy, when she is constipated, if a noise is too loud, and so pretty much all the time. I've learned to deal, since she is kind of a high-needs baby and cries very easily. But sometimes, it really grates me down to a shell of a person.

 I'm sorry to anyone I have stood up or cancelled plans with, but I can't make commitments.  I'm sorry that I can't give my husband the clean house at the end of the day, like he deserves, because I can't guarantee that anything will get done. I have no idea what kind of day we will have even as it is happening. About 50% of the time, things go smoothly and I love my time with her as she is an absolute joy. But when I have to stay home and skip the fun outing I had planned with a friend, or I end up carrying her around the house literally ALL DAY, I feel kind of resentful. Then I hate myself for feeling that way, and it's just a spiral of sadness. 

Luckily, I have the most supportive husband and the best friends a stressed out mother could ask for. They are always there to cheer me up with a "this too shall pass" or reassure me that I'm doing a great job. My family is also a great help for the times when I just need to escape. My brave mother has gladly watched her when my husband and I want time to ourselves, even when she is a teething mess. My mother-in-law has done this for us, too, and I'm incredibly grateful to have her in my life. When they say "It takes a village to raise a child," they aren't kidding. 

So, there you have it. While I totally love being a mother and I absolutely love my "spirited" little Olive, I owe it to all future mothers to be totally honest in saying it can be true misery at the same time. I hope you don't think I'm terrible for saying that...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Funny Valentine

Allow me to preface this post with the announcement that I enjoy Valentine's Day! Although, that could be because I am married, so I'm guaranteed to have a valentine. Honestly, though, I fall for all kinds of Valentine's Day gifts...from the heavy romantic gestures to the sweet little notions and all the "I love you's" in between. Yeah, I'm a big sap. And yeah, I'm proud of that. But you know what the best part is? I found someone who loves it too. He might not enjoy shelling out money on the occasional big gift, but deep down I know he believes in a thing called love and the day of celebrating it. It just might be the only holiday where we don't bicker. We set aside our squabbles and petty jabs to get cozy in our love nest. Now that you have thrown up, I digress...

Yesterday, I had one of the best meals ever cooked in my kitchen. The best part? I didn't even make it! The pickiest eater I have ever known (cough, GUY) was the master chef for Valentine's Day. I thought "ooh boy, let's see how this plays out..." since Guy has only ever cooked me about 10 meals, most of which were spaghetti or something frozen.

I attempted to make a very healthy version of blueberry muffins for breakfast, which tasted of cardboard and had the texture of week old bread. I'm sure they would have been delicious if I hadn't tripled the flour. 

Blueberry turd nuggets.

Lucky for me, Chef Guy Johnson was making Chicken Parmigiana and bread sticks, from scratch! There was absolutely nothing healthy about this meal, but who cares? It's Valentine's Day! This man worked his butt off. He started making the dough for the bread around noon. I didn't have to help one bit, other than verifying we had the ingredients. He even figured out how to use the Kitchen Aid mixer. By this time, I was falling in love with him all over again.

He flattened and breaded the chicken breasts perfectly...he rolled the dough into beautiful little bread sticks and baked them flawlessly. Even brushed them with butter and garlic salt. This is the beautiful meal my husband made for me...
Guy's chicken parmigiana with angel hair pasta.

Guy's handmade bread sticks.

The meal was followed by a bedtime routine for Olive, then Guy and I just hung out on the couch together. We shared a bowl of the chocolate mousse I'd made the previous day (ssshh it was made with tofu, don't tell Guy!) and we laughed as we watched some of our favorite TV shows together. It was a lot like every other night, with a few differences, but that's my ideal romantic evening. I love every day that I get to spend with my family, so just add a handsome chef in the kitchen and you have the perfect Valentine's Day! 

My funny valentines!

What did you do for Valentine's Day?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"No-Poo" How-To

About 8 months ago, I was presented with the idea of never using shampoo to clean your hair. My first thought was "Eww." Then I read up on the subject and decided to do a little experiment. 
Recently, some of my friends were asking about how to start living the "no-poo" lifestyle. So, I thought I'd write up a kind of tutorial for how I made the transition. 

A quick lesson on how "no-poo" is better for you.
Most shampoos contain surfectants like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), which strips the natural oils from your hair, giving it that "squeaky clean" feeling we so often desire. Take a look at the ingredients on your shampoo bottle. If there is an ingredient that contains the word "sulfate", it is probably stripping your hair. The downside to this is that our sebaceous glands will start to overcompensate for the lack of oil, and produce an excess of sebum,  making your hair greasy. So, you start to shampoo more often, and this just makes things worse! If you are shampooing everyday, your glands will adjust to that level of oil production. Why would the shampoo industry put this stuff in their shampoo if it is so bad for your hair? Well, it's just smart business. Wouldn't you want your consumers to use more of your product?
So if you are thinking "I can't even go a day without shampoo, my hair gets so greasy!", I think your head would be the perfect candidate for a little "no-poo" therapy.

How to clean your hair without Shampoo 

All you will need to clean your hair from now on is baking soda and vinegar (apple cider or white). Don't worry, you won't smell like vinegar if you are rinsing properly. With this method, you should only have to clean your hair every 4 days max. Just brush out your hair between washes. I can go a whole week (don't worry, I still shower often). 

Yes, that's a 13 lbs of baking soda. 

Squirt bottle-you'll need 2.

For deep cleaning (once a month): Dissolve one tablespoon in enough water to create a paste. Apply this to your roots and let it sit for a moment. Then, start massaging your scalp, starting at the crown of your head, working upwards and out. Really focus on the area where your part lies. Lastly, scrub the remaining paste into the back of your skull and sideburn area. All this massaging will clean out the grime and stimulate blood flow. Be sure to scrub gently, as to not break the hair. 

For regular washing (only needed every 4 days): Put one tablespoon of baking soda in a squirt bottle (or an empty shampoo bottle!) filled with hot water. Note: you may need to experiment with different amounts of baking soda for your hair type. Mine can get pretty oily, so I use a bit more.
Anywho, squirt it into your roots, massaging it in as you go. You should really only use 1/4 cup of the mixture. After a good scrub, rinse it out thoroughly. It may feel like its not clean, but it is, you are just used to the "squeaky" feeling of shampoo. You may over wash your hair the first couple times. 

The rinse (about every other wash): I use the rinse after every wash, but you may find it to be too much. Pour one part Apple Cider or White Vinegar into another bottle with 4 parts water. Squirt this into the ends of your hair and rinse promptly. Rinse it very're done! 

See? Just as clean as shampooed hair!

Please keep in mind there is a transition period of about 1 month. To offset this, try adding a bit of Dr. Bronners castille soap to your wash bottle. Try the kind with lavender or tea-tree for some extra goodness! Just be sure to phase it out of your wash, otherwise your hair won't adjust to less frequent washing. 

I love not having to buy shampoo ever again. I'm just cheap like that. BUT...If you find this all to be too much of a change for you, try just switching to a sulfate-free, paraben-free, shampoo and conditioning system. They cost a bit more, but your hair will thank you! 

Happy scalp!

Trouble with "no-poo"?

  • "My hair is frizzy!" -use less baking soda or add some honey. 
  • "My scalp is itchy!" -massage some essential oils into your scalp after cleaning. Try tea-tree, rosemary, or lavender. 
  • "My hair is greasy!" - you are using too much vinegar. Try using the white vinegar if you were using Apple Cider vinegar. Or use lemon juice instead. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Great Scare

So, today I went to visit a friend with Olive. We had a great time and Olive got to munch on some delicious teething biscuits. When she was finished, she was very fussy and seemed tired, so I quickly loaded up and started driving home. I had just left my friend's apartment complex when I heard strange sounds coming from the backseat. 

I looked in the rear-view mirror, which reflected her face off the mirror we have attached to the headrest. I saw my baby turning red, fighting to breathe. 

She was choking. Luckily, I was able to pull over right away into a gas station. My mind was racing and my blood was rushing so fast as I entered crisis mode. I threw the car in park and jumped out. After I pulled her door open, I could see the sheer panic on her sweet little face. No mother ever wants to see that look. 
I was already in tears and scrambling to unbuckle her harness before I even knew what I was going to do next. Then I remembered the article I recently read about what to do if your infant is choking. I had read it, just in case, since we had started solid foods. I was so angry with myself for never taking a CPR class. Why couldn't I have just taken the damn class?! I quickly held her facing forward on my arm and began slapping on her back, between her shoulder blades. At this point, she was coughing and drool was going everywhere. I could hear something was still caught in the back of her mouth, so I fished it out. It was a clump of regurgitated teething biscuit. I glanced around and saw a cop just happened to be pulling out of the gas station, so I flagged him down. I don't know what he was thinking when he saw me, baby in arm, tears streaming, and screaming "OFFICER!!" 
He promptly back up and rushed over to us. I wasn't really sure why I called him over, since at that point she wasn't choking anymore and was just crying. I think I just needed to know everything was going to be okay. He asked what happened and I stuttered, "She was choking, and I think she is okay, but I don't know, I'm not sure what...please, help" Poor little Olive just looked at him with bits of biscuit all over her face, covered in drool, and tears in her eyes. He said, "She seems alright now. Did she throw up?" I nodded and said I got the food out. He stayed for a few minutes to make sure we were calm, telling me he had five kids of his own, and that it's always scarier for the parents than for the kids when they choke. Olive eventually gave me a little smile. I finally felt like she was alright.  

So here I am, writing this while Olive sleeps, checking on her every now and then to make sure she is still breathing. I feel embarrassed, like if I was a better mom I could have prevented her from choking. If only I had given her something to drink after the stupid biscuit to make sure it all washed down. I'm lucky everything turned out fine, but I can't help but feel like I am to blame. This little life is dependent on me. She relies on me to make sure she is safe. The least I can do is make sure she swallows her food. 

Well, I messed up. But I was able to fix it thanks to this article I read a couple weeks ago. If you have kids, please take the time to educate yourself on what to do. You never know what can happen...

To find a CPR/First Aid class near you:

5 Minute Baby T-Shirts

As a cloth diapering mom, I have experienced the frustration of finding onesies that fit properly over that fluffy bottom. Besides, when I spend money on a cute printed cover or I make a wool cover, the last thing I want to do is cover it up! So, I typically lean towards t-shirts. Now, I have a surplus of onesies that are too small in the rear but fit just fine in the shoulders...then I realized I can recycle those onesies into T-Shirts! Here's how:

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert seamstress, I am self taught so my methods might not be considered "ideal". I just do what works for me through trial-and-error.

One: Find a Onesie that still fits in the shoulders

My 8 month old daughter typically wears a 12 month Onesie. This is a 6 monther!
Two: Cut that Onesie at the hip. Be sure to use really sharp fabric scissors to keep it nice and straight. 
I like the t-shirts to be as long as possible, but cut it shorter if you prefer.
Three: Measure your seam allowance (how far from edge your seam is) and iron down the seam. I like to use a measure to be precise. I just measure as I go, but you can press the seam and pin it, if you like. This will ensure your seam is even all the way around. 

I typically use a 1/2 inch seam allowance. 

Four: Set up your machine. I use the double overlock stitch (two lines with zigzag in between) because I'm lazy like that. Most people will tell you to finish your raw edges first, but I find the overlock stitch does the job just fine without unraveling. 

Five: Sew that hem! Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of your seam.

Start at the side seam and work close to the raw edge. This material is a stretchy knit, but the overlock stitch can handle the stretchiness so I don't like to stretch it very much as I go. 

You can see that I stitched as close to the raw edge as possible.
Six: Trim your threads and you're done!
Seven: Have your model try it on. 
Lookin good Olive!
Do you have any ideas for recycling your old onesies? Please share them in the comments!