Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Festival Full Day

Busy is good.  Exhausting, yes.  It keeps blog posts from happening until days after events take place, yes.  But I would always rather be busy than not. However, after a weekend as busy as this one was, a recoop is in order. Today I have decided to stay home for the sole purpose of writing this post and pajama snuggles with my sweet boys.

The Great Cloth Diaper Change was fantastic, as was the Earth Day Festival at which it took place.  We are still waiting for the overall numbers to come back for the world record, but the Little Rock location had 45 babies changed.  There was something really awesome about being surrounded by like-minded parents.
I wasn't taking photos considering I was changing a diaper, but Espresso Love Photography was covering the event and they've given me permission to share a couple of photos here (there are many more photos available on Espresso Love Photography's Facebook page).  This was the moment they said "Go!", we all held up our diapers then started the change.

I love calling myself part of this kind of community.

Also, there was a bit on the news with Rebecca, the precious owner of Natural Bambino, advocating cloth and the record setting.  Check it out here.

Since you already know how much I love earth day and festivals in general, I'll just show you some photos of why...

My score from the silent auction, some goodies from Crow Mountain Crafts. She's a local etsy seller (based out of Russelville) providing lots of deliciously scented soaps for all and wool care products for cloth diapering. 

I got to chat with some folks from The People Tree. They are working towards a goal of enriching our community and building a local food system. One project is the Argenta Veggie Garden, where you can rent a plot to grow your own produce.  It costs $15-$25 a year which includes water, straw & access to gardening tools.  Super cool. 

The People Tree's nifty little give-away, a "flower bomb".  It is a ball of fertilizer and wildflower seeds to throw anywhere that could use "a little life".  Love. 

Can't wait to go visit this place for lunch. Looking at their website is almost enough to make me break my plan to stay in pajamas all day. A menu full of locally sourced food?  Yes, please. 

Of course, I had to visit with the homebirth midwives from Birth Works.  

Mustard Seed Church from Conway came out with a really cool way for outreach.  Tobias and I stopped and chatted with them for a moment, all while planting a basil seedling in a planter repurposed from old fence pickets. What an awesome way to advocate caring for the earth and also sharing His love!

Yummyness from the Homegrown Food Truck

The girls from G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Rolling In The South) Roller Derby had a booth selling the best homemade jam ever.  I brought home a jar of strawberry (made from some delicious local berries like I blogged about a few days ago) on Saturday, and it's already halfway gone.  I'm going to have to contact them to purchase more because when it runs out, my household might just weep in mourning. 

From the Earth Day Festival, we headed over to show our support at Little Rock Etsy's 2nd Annual Indie Arts and Music Festival.  The weather was perfect and there was facepainting, food, and lovely crafts by sellers like Mindy's In-Stitches, Bearhunt, and The Little Chick.

My beautiful childhood friends Lindsay and Brandi of The Pigeons etsy shop had their booth of of fabulous vintage clothing and handmade accessories.  All their planning and hard work to make the festival happen really paid off, it was so lovely. 

Can you believe at the end of this post, I wish I had taken more photos?  I suppose that's why I love festivals so much, there is just so much to take in and so many interesting people to meet.
I have more from the weekend to share but that will have to be another day.  Pajama snuggles are going to have to take priority for now!

Monday, April 16, 2012


Few places in the world inspire me as dangerously as garden nurseries.  The reality of my actual skill level is irrelevant here.  Somehow it is magically washed away at the door and I feel as though anything is possible. 
There have been more than a couple of occasions that I wandered into a garden center and wandered out with considerably less money and a lot of planting to do. 

The problem with me and gardening is that I love it, but I am not a green thumbed person. My mother can grow anything.  Seriously. Anything.  Last summer, she had banana trees bearing fruit in Arkansas.  She carted the huge monster plants from patio to living room during the cold months for a good few years, endured us picking on her for the way her house looked like a jungle in the winter and then stunned us all when they actually started making bananas. In Arkansas!  When she approaches the clearance plant rack of a garden center, it's like you can almost hear the little plants rejoicing that their savior has come at last.  

I, on the other hand, did not inherit this talent.  I love plants and appreciate them.  But let's just say, when I approach the clearance rack the plants droop a little more and know that I'm carting them off to hospice, aka my house, where they will surely die. 

Despite this unfortunate fact, I keep buying plants every year and learning what I can.  I can grow basil now.   And hostas. And pothos (except I don't think pothos counts, I think my dog could grow pothos.)  And I had a good long run with a Peace Lily I affectionately called Hubert, but he succumbed after a forgetful night left out in a freak late freeze. I haven't yet succeeded in keeping a hydrangea or an orchid alive but I've got goals and one of these days I'll see one to maturity.  You'll see. 

This has been a busy spring with Tobias joining our family, so though I've been anxious to go plant shopping,  today was my first trip to the nursery.  We will soon be undertaking "Operation Ugly Beds and Empty Pots" so I was mostly gathering ideas.  Plus, it's just fun to look at all the lovely things. 

Though I may not be a natural born gardener, I am quite good at nurturing imaginations.  Here's Asher winding up in his Sonic the hedgehog stance.  

And Jackson with his precious freckles for good measure.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Opening Day

Shopping malls always make me feel plain.   I recently went on the search for some jeans that fit my postpartum bod.  After wiggling into several pairs and surveying less than satisfactory results in the mirror, I left defeated.  I am not a fancy woman. I don't dye my hair and a lot of make up makes me feel like I'm pretending to be someone I'm not. I cannot justify the expense of pedicures. I like shoes that are easy and I lean towards clothes with character rather than style.  These things are generally truths of which I am confident.  However, I feel so out of place in a mall full of expensive, fussy clothes and the people purchasing them that I sometimes get a little deflated.  I forget how different we all are, how we all have different places to feel comfortable.

Farmer's Markets are my place to fit in.  You will not go to the farmer's market and feel frumpy. How can you when you are surrounded by life and talent and wholesome food being handled by the hands that grew it?   I love a farmer's market; they make me feel alive and exactly where I should be.

Yesterday was the opening day of the Certified Arkansas Farmer's Market in Argenta.  "Certified" means that every vendor is selling wares made or grown locally.  I was a bit late arriving due to a soccer game, but I wasn't too late to score some lovely salad greens, cream honey, and a quart of fresh picked strawberries. Buying food in this fashion makes me realize what we lack as a nation is respect and appreciation for our food sources.  Mass production, the pesticides and preservatives that are harming us, and the ability to transport foods across nations and oceans to buy out of season all make it possible to buy a 2 lb. carton of strawberries in February.  But do you appreciate it?  Do you pick up each berry and notice how jewel bright it glows in the sun, how the juice burst forth as soon as your teeth break skin, how there is no way to eat it without closing your eyes?  Or do you just let the last few tasteless berries mold in the fridge before remorselessly tossing them in the bin?

Something about a farmer's market commands respect for it's wares.  Every table is carefully lined with jars and produce, the people who created them full of knowledge and able to answer questions with ease about their products.  Each item purchased represents their hard work.

One more addition and I'll leave you for the day.  I just have to visually elaborate my point.  Jeremiah and I were putting together a fruit pizza for a church potluck this afternoon and polished off the last of the fresh picked berries from yesterday's market.  To finish the recipe, I pulled out the remainder of a carton of conventional strawberries I'd grabbed at the commissary this week.  I can only describe the difference in the taste between real food and mass produced food. The difference is huge but my descriptions are largely ineffective. It's really one of those things that you can only truly understand by comparing them yourself.  I do wish I could hand every one of you these berries to try because you would become a believer in locally grown, seasonal produce I am sure.
Since I can't do internet wide taste test, however, I'll have to settle for a photo.  Which one would you rather eat?

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Homemade Pantry

Read any good books lately?  I have.

A few days ago, I followed a link and stumbled upon a blog that I knew at once I would love.  Eating From the Ground Up is written by Alana Chernila.  She talks a lot about my favorite things, family and real food.  It just so happened that I found her blog about a week after her first book, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making , hit the shelves.  On a whim, I purchased it.  

The little brown Amazon box hit my doorstep two days later and I ripped it open like a child on Christmas.  My darling husband looked on skeptically but at this point he is used to such excitement over things like new cookbooks.  By noon the next day, I'd devoured the book cover to cover.  Now I love a good read and I love a good cookbook, but most of all, I love an instance where the two come together to make something completely wonderful.  Alana's book is filled with delicious recipes and beautiful photography woven together on a rich tapestry of family life.

The title pretty much sums up the recipe content of the book.  Learn to make everything from mayonnaise to fruit roll-ups to pasta and soups.  What normally might come across as intimidating endeavors become downright achievable with Alana's blurbs about "tense moments" (you know, those times when cooking that you aren't sure everything is going to plan) and instructions on storing the foods for later use. 

Each recipe is introduced with a personal story, just a paragraph or two from Alana with some sort of relation to the food at hand.  Within the first 10 pages of the book, I was hooked.  I was reduced to laughter at the idea of leaving out a bowl of dry cereal for the early rising two year old (haven't we all tried something like this?).  I was wooed by the idea of a wedding reception full of lovingly made lasagnas.  I related completely to the idea of cornbread as safety and mac and cheese as consolation for loss. 

Usually when I obtain a new cookbook, the first thing I do is go through and dog ear the pages of the things I must try right away.  There are no dog eared pages in my new copy of The Homemade Pantry.  No, I fully intend on properly abusing it the way a well-loved cookbook should be abused.  I've already broken the spine so it would lay flat while I made Car Snacks last night, but I want to cook it all.  I couldn't just pick a few pages.  It really is that good. 

If you fancy yourself a homemaker, give this book a read.  If you are anything like me, you'll find yourself enchanted by the idea of a homemade pantry and bolstered enough to get in the kitchen and make it happen.  As Alana says, in order to become the kind of person who makes butter, all you have to do is start making butter! 

Monday, April 9, 2012


This was a fabulous weekend.  Saturday morning, I was a proud momma cheering my babies on the soccer field.  Then, our amazing church home, ThatChurch.com, put on an extremely cool event for the community that involved dropping thousands of eggs from a helicopter over the Sylvan Hill football field.  Easter morning was spent at church celebrating the empty tomb and the afternoon was spent in my dad's backyard eating delicious food and watching the kids hunt eggs. Quite perfect, really.
The weekend is over but this is not a grumbly Monday for me. I am super pumped about several things right now.  So much that I found it almost easy to extricate myself from the bed I was sharing with a snuggly little one month old boy (a month already! unreal!) and come blog this post.

First, it's the kick off day for my city's curbside recycling program which means we got to set this bad boy out to the street this morning chock full of unsorted recyclables!  How easy is that?  It's exciting to think of how many people will start now that it's being made so convenient.

Second, I stumbled upon an Etsy shop in my search for wool shorties for Tobias and was lucky to find SuperFoxRocks.  I ordered this super cute pair of handmade shorties and upon receiving them I knew I had to have more!  The knitting is impeccable and they fit him perfectly.  I contacted Lesley and she got to work on a custom order of crimson and white shorties (I've procreated with a die-hard Sooners fan so my child is destined to a life with a lot of crimson and white) and a nice blue pair for good measure.  I saw photos of the customs this morning and can't wait to receive them. Follow the above link for her etsy shop or check her out on facebook here.  Her business is new but her skills are not lacking at all!  I will definitely be a returning customer!

Speaking of cloth diapers, that brings me to the next thing I'm excited about.  We are quickly approaching Earth Day.  No matter where I've lived since having kids, I always find an Earth Day celebration to attend. I love them because I can sling my babies in their cloth diapers and I can breastfeed and I can usually look around and see another mom doing the same.  Crunchy moms dig Earth Day.  
This year is going to be exceptionally cool and a first for me.  We will be participating in the Great Cloth Diaper Change, which is being hosted by Natural Bambino at the Arkansas Earth Day Festival. There are 262 officially registered locations in 15 countries where moms and their babies will come together and attempt to set a new world record for the most cloth diapers changed at one time.  Advocacy is the goal and the mass numbers just go to show the world that cloth diapering is no longer obscure.   Check out The Great Cloth Diaper Change website to find a registered location near you.  If you are in the Little Rock area, you can find the facebook page for the event here and then you can send me a message telling me you are attending so I can find you there!  Yay for new crunchy friends!

Also for the Little Rock folks, April 21 will be the date of the 2nd Annual Indie Arts and Music Festival by Etsy Little Rock.  I've been looking forward to this for quite a while. The fact that it takes place the same day as the Arkansas Earth Day celebration AND the Great Cloth Diaper Change makes me downright giddy to think about a beautiful April day chock full of festival goodness!  For more information on the participating vendors and musicians and to RSVP, check out the event's facebook page here.

So what are you excited about this Monday morning?

Friday, April 6, 2012

An average day

Do you ever wake up in the morning gung-ho to just create and produce?  You know these days.  On these days, you are just the bomb.com and by George, you are going to get something done.
Then there are those days where you're one goal is to make it to the post office and you get there, unload the kids and wait in line just to remember you forgot one of the articles you were supposed to be mailing on the couch.  So you go home, get back in the car just to have the bottom fall out of the sky and you have no choice but to admit defeat rather than unload a 4 year old and newborn in a torrential downpour.

I've had both sorts of days this week and yesterday started as the former and ended in the latter fashion.
I spent a good hour yesterday cruising pinterest and googling snack recipes that included no refined sugar.  I assessed the pantry and fridge and decided the nicely browned bananas quickly expiring in the fruit bowl would probably like to retire as a lovely loaf of fresh banana bread.  I dug up the recipe and collected the ingredients, taking a photo as a good aspiring blogger should...

I mixed the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another, all while nursing Tobias in the sling and patting myself on the back for being so darn awesome. The feeling was short lived, however, as the next moment I dropped the wet ingredient bowl and watched as a big goopy glob of bananas, egg and honey dripped down the face of my cabinet onto the floor. Fantastic.
Moments like this make me feel like a child in the classroom of my almighty Teacher.  I often find myself praying for patience and expecting God to work in the same way a fairy godmother would, tapping me on the head and granting my wish.  Up until this point, He never has.  Instead He works with grace and the knowledge of the One who created me.  He constantly gives me circumstances in which my patience is tested and given the chance to grow.  Phillipians 1:6 states "I am certain that God, who began the good work in you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns."  In other words, pray for patience and goodness and He'll work on it....but it's going to take a while.
I often fail spectacularly, but sometimes I do not.  Sometimes I simply take a deep breath, scrape the glop off my freshly clean counter and back into the bowl, access the amount of goop on the floor and remove an equivilant amount of dry ingredients to counter the loss, then mix together a tasty, albeit smaller, loaf of banana bread.  Yeah, it was a little springy but the kids didn't complain and I think I ended up with a better morsel to blog about than bread anyway.

The recipe, in case you're wondering, is quite good when you manage not to spill it.

Banana Bread 

2 c. flour. Whole wheat is best.
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (I used my vitamix to blend an apple into applesauce but you can use store bought. Just check it for sweeteners.)
3/4 c. honey
2 eggs
3 mashed brown bananas
Optional mix ins- 1/2 c. pecans or 1/4 c. chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease a standard loaf pan. 
Mix the first three ingredients in a large bowl.  In a seperate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients.  Then slowly pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture.  Stir until incorporated. 
Pour into loaf pan. 
Bake for 60 minutes. Stick a toothpick or knife into the loaf.  If it does not come out clean, bake for an additional 5 minutes and then test again. Cool in pan for 10 minutes.  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I love food.  Give me good food and I am a happy girl.  I love everything about food...cooking it, shopping for it, serving it to other people, and of course eating it.
It is within my nature to be inquisitive.  I want to know how things work, what they are made of and where they come from. Once, on an afternoon about 6 years ago, Dr. Oz was on Oprah doing a special about the Dr. Oz diet.  I forget the specifics of the segment and of the diet itself, but one thing left a mighty impression upon me.  He went into a woman's home and told her they were going to clean her pantry and fridge out and any item containing one of the following five ingredients had to go. 
The list included: saturated fat, trans fat, simple sugars (such as fructose, galactose, lactose and maltose), enriched bread or high-fructose corn syrup.  
Being the ever curious woman that I am, I decided to go check out my pantry.  I loved to cook but knew very little about nutrition.  I would buy products simply because they stated that they were full of vitamins or "natural". I think it is safe to assume I was very much like your average, underinformed, well-meaning american consumer.  The amount of garbage in my home, which we were regularly eating, was baffling.  I genuinely had no idea.  Thus began my journey to change the way I eat.
It has been a rocky road.  At one point, I found myself feeding my family primarily whole foods, organic and local whenever possible.  However, in true life fashion, stuff happened.  Things got hectic and frankly, I've come to a point that I've once again found my pantry full of convience foods and my trash bin full of take out wrappers. Now ignorance is an invalid excuse and I have the responsibility of shaping the habits of my children on my hands. Too bad knowledge is useless without the discipline to apply it.

It is time for a change.

Today I've started a personal 30 day diet challenge. The guidelines are no refined sugars, no fast food, nothing deep fried and only water and smoothies (made at home) to drink.  This is just a basis for resetting myself so that I can lead my family into healthful eating.  Additionally, I'm hoping to highly limit preservatives.  I felt it would be unrealistic with a newborn breastfeeding around the clock to try and start making 100% of my meals from scratch and eliminating refined sugar in itself will require a lot of whole food cooking considering sugar is in just about everything. This should be a good starting point to reset my own habits and in turn, those of my family.

Monday, April 2, 2012

And the beat goes on.

Hey blog.
How's it been?  I feel the need to explain my month long absence...though it's probably obvious considering my last posts were about my impeding labor and though it felt like pregnancy would last an eternity, it didn't!  We welcomed our son, Tobias James, into the world on March 9.  That combined with the catastrophic failure our computer endured over the last month has kept me away from you, blog.  My handy husband has been performing open-case surgery on the computer and finally cleared it off the kitchen table night before last, putting it back together and giving it some new life a la newegg.com.

So I come bearing photos and tales of birth and a strong desire to get some of my bloggy ideas out into the world.  I've had multiple instances in these few weeks of 3 a.m. nursing session blog brainstorms, though half of those ideas have escaped my sleep deprived brain by morning!  For now, I do have this to share...

Laboring at home as long as possible.

After a relaxed early labor that lasted over a day and an intense few hours of unmedicated active labor in the hospital, I was so ready to meet this little guy.

Daddy getting him ready for skin on skin contact with me about 10 minutes after birth.  He was so alert.

And finally home....our whole crew together at last!

This birth experience was absolutely amazing.  My contractions changed in nature on Wednesday evening and I could tell they were no longer false labor.  They didn't hurt exactly but started to cause pressure really low.  Thursday morning I woke up and told Jeremiah that I was in early labor but it could last a long time.  I spent most of the day in my room, walking around the house and taking it easy with Asher.  My sister called that afternoon and after talking to me, she decided to go ahead and start driving from OKC.  At about 6, we sent the kids to my moms to spend the night and at around 10 Wednesday night, I decided I would sleep while I could (thinking a little that the contractions would stall out, proving to be more false labor).  I woke up a few hours later though and all I could think was "OW!". I was thrilled, it was the real deal!  Jeremiah and I laid down again. I couldn't sleep but wanted him to get some rest because I really needed him to be on par for the birth.  A few hours went by and I had to get up and pace.  I finally woke him up and said I was ready to go to the hospital.  I was really worn down from not sleeping much the last two nights, I was in too much pain to rest but I knew it was still early labor.  With my previous births, early labor has lasted a very long time and active labor (from about 4 cm. to birth) lasted a very short time, generally about an hour. When it became apparent that my labor was not going to progress at a faster pace, I decided to go get checked out at the hospital and see what my options were.
We arrived and after talking with my nurse, I agreed to a very low dose of pitocin.  I have thought a lot about this decision and I don't regret it, though I would be hesitant suggest other moms take the same route without really supportive hospital staff and knowledge of your own body.  Mary, our nurse, agreed to manually set my dosage instead of putting it on to increase automatically.  She also agreed that when my body responded to the drug and moved into active labor, we would stop increasing the dosage and leave it alone.  She asked me one time, before we started the pit, if I was sure I wanted to forgo all pain management and when I said yes, she did not ask again.
About an hour after the pit started, I was starting to have to really work through the contractions.  My sister saved the day by bringing my birth ball and favorite pillow which I had accidentally left behind in my haste to leave the house.  Those two things made a world of difference.  The smell of my home was so comforting, I would bury my face in the pillow at every contraction. I spent a good two hours laboring on the ball as labor progressed, continually replaying a mental list of inspiration:  the natural birth stories from Ina May's books and from my crunchy mom friends, the idea that my body was capable and the mental image of my body opening up and pushing my son out into the world where we could meet him and love him.  With every contraction, I would replace the jerk reaction of "Ow! Ow! Ow!" with "This isn't pain, this is work. It's hard but it's got a purpose".  I'd read an interesting bit a while ago about how as the cervix opens, the uterus actually pulls up into itself and the fundus (the top of the uterus) becomes thicker and stronger to push the baby down and out.  I kept visualizing this during contractions and thinking "Up!". This lead to my visualizing running up a flight of stairs each time a contraction built and resting "on the way down".  It fascinates me that this is what I came up with in the moment, but I must say it was quite effective.
At noon, Mary came in to check my progress and shocked us all when she said I was dilated to 7 cm.  The doctor poked his head in and instructed the nurses to begin setting up because he figured the baby would come in about 30 minutes based on my history.  After this things become a blur and I can only say that it was Jeremiah staying calm and controlled that kept me grounded.  He kissed me through contractions like Ina May suggests in her books, stating that it helps sphincters to open to relax your mouth.  He applied counter pressure on my lower back and he assured me it was almost over and I was doing a good job.  Tobias was born 28 minutes after the nurse announced to the room I was at a 7.  He was, and is, completely perfect.  If I'm being honest, until they laid the little guy on my chest, I wasn't 100% sure I could do it.  After having two highly medicalized births, recovering from anesthesia and interventions, I desperately wanted to do it naturally but I just wasn't sure I was able.

 Unbelievably...3 1/2 weeks have passed since Toby's birth!  It's one of those things that just blows my mind. It feel simultaneously like time has flown and like he's been here forever.   We are finally falling into a good groove, exhausted but smitten.  God has big plans for this little boy, of this I am sure.  He has certainly blessed us.