Saturday, December 19, 2009

Twas the night before renovations...

One thing to note: Just so you know I haven't been pregnant for well over a year - I was pregnant at the time we started this renovation and lost that baby in January 2010. 
One the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me - one widened doorway and two groovy open concept shelves.

It has been a crazy seven weeks since we moved. I've blogged a couple of times but not really opened up the personal side of things. My grandfather died about a week after we moved. He was in poor health but it was not really expected. My grandmother has Alzheimer's and is currently having some pretty significant physical problems as well. I would appreciate your prayers especially for quality medical care - it is harder to get to in the area they live (very rural).

I was really participating in unpacking, settling in and the renovation - then the nausea hit. Yep - we are expecting baby #3. So renovations have majorly shifted on the shoulders of my husband. Not only the renovat8ions but a lot of cooking, cleaning and children responsibilities. In spite of the overwhelming-ness of all that - he has made some huge progress on the kitchen. So without further ado - here are some pics of the progress.

Here's the way it was left after Thanksgiving: The gap in the cabinets is where the fridge used to sit. The mismatched lower cabinets are the the "repurposed" ones from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore (love that place!)

This is the kitchen from the opposite direction where we are widening the doorway to the pantry to insert out big deep freezer. No - having it hanging out in the middle of the floor is not permanent LOL!

Here is the doorway opened - just needing paint and we can move the freezer!

Here's my true love putting up the open shelves
- yay! And our little one admiring her Daddy's new miter saw (birthday gift from his parents/sisters).

Monday, December 7, 2009

Recipe or Concoction?

Last week we had an unusual opportunity to get some serious focus on this whole kitchen renovation. Since I had been to the market to pick up my CSA (love the Faucette Farms), I had a bunch of yummy veggies just asking for consumption.

The girls (who do not care for "stuff" in their breakfast) were happily at grandma's house eating their weight in homemade biscuits. So with only myself and Pete to please - I decided to have a veggie scramble breakfast. Aside: I told Pete I was jealous of myself for getting eat this delicious dish. He mentioned pridefulness - I repented.
Here's what I was on my plate: eggs, green peppers, roasted red peppers, leeks (I can't do onions), fresh tomatoes, spinach leaves, cheddar cheese and pesto sauce.

Wanna try it? Here's what to do (although I imagine there are several different approaches). Big hint: Get all your "parts" together and ready so you don't accidentally overcook the eggs.

1. Put a little olive oil or coconut oil in a big frying pan and heat to med high.
2. Begin sauteing peppers and leeks.
3. Add several beaten eggs (I used 5 between us I'm pretty sure) with salt and pepper added.
4. Scramble the eggs and veggies to get them partially cooked.
5. Throw in the roasted red peppers, fresh tomato and spinach.
6. When the eggs are done to your liking, remove from pan and stir in a little pesto sauce (I used half teaspoon to a teaspoon)
7. Grate some cheese over top. Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum Yum.

More renovation pics and stories soon!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Kitchen Reno - Before and During

Here I'm letting it all hang out. Here is my kitchen when we purchased the house. The next two pictures are photos taken three days ago. We are repurposing and finding materials. Habitat for Humanity Restore has been a great financial blessing (albeit an extra challenge for size and type).

We purchased two used kitchen cabinets that Pete will be resurfacing the drawers and adding doors. It has been fun to see how Pete and I work together. The last picture is showing the current "functional" cleanish kitchen as it is right now. It is quite a project and we would happily appreciate prayers for all the come together.

After the cabinets are created we plan to ceramic tile the top. This will likely be a fairly long process. And I'm already tired. LOL. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rice and Easy

I know I twittered that I was sharing sour cream. When I "tweeted" that, I did not realize that we would be without a working dishwasher for over two weeks! As I mentioned before, our new house is great but the one major area that is not updated is the kitchen.

For a lady who is passionate about natural cooking (that would be me), it has been challenging to have my kitchen discombobulated. My wonderful husband has worked on the old dishwasher, installed a free dishwasher from my uncle (which ended up not working), and now finally in the process of installing a new dishwasher. Yay!

So I wanted to share a little idea that seems to make our lives a little easier. We eat brown rice as our primary carb with meals. Okay - one hour is not that big a deal most weeks to cook some. However - I have been very oriented toward "easy" as we moved, traveled and have general chaos in our world.

So I made a big pot of brown rice then dished it out into muffin tins (no teflon - just a little olive oil to keep it from sticking). I froze it, then popped it out, lined zip bags with wax paper and stored in the freezer.

It can be heated directly or tossed into a pot of broth with some chicken and yeehaw - a meal :-)
I'll get back to the sour cream soon - I will do my best!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

As promised... Homemade Yogurt

My main guide for making yogurt is one I I found on ehow. But I thought I would share my version and some pictures.
  • milk 
  • yogurt (yes, it takes yogurt to make yogurt - unflavored with active cultures - Stoneyfield is my favorite to use as a starter yogurt)
  • thermometer - The temperature of the milk is very important (learned that the hard way). I have used a meat thermometer, but we now have a real candy thermometer.
  • whisk - Getting the "already yogurt" to mix well into the "becoming yogurt" is also very important (another hard way lesson).
  • a pot to heat it in (narrow at the base ideally)
This is how I do it:

1. Measure the milk into a quart jar. I fill it a little less than the full jar so there's room for the yogurt & milk together when you go to let it "process." I usually leave about two inches gap.

2. Get your pot and heat the milk to 110 degrees F. I usually tilt the pot to submerge the bottom of the thermometer to get a more accurate reading. I also keep swirling the milk around with a whisk to get a good reading too.

3. Once the milk hits 110 degrees, remove from the heat and whisk in about 1/3 cup of yogurt immediately. Then I pour it back into the jar.

4. Set the yogurt in a warm place (110 degrees) for about 8 to 10 hours. My yogurt mentor, Susan, has said that the longer you leave it, the more tart it becomes. My family likes it about the 10 hour mark. I make it before I go to bed while I'm still cleaning up. Then the next morning, while I'm making breakfast I remember that I left it and then put it into the fridge.

As far as leaving the "milk becoming yogurt" in a warm place.... My yogurt mentor places hers in the oven with the light on all night. I've heard you can use heating pads or a crockpot. I just happen to have two different yogurt making things.

I bought the Salton 1-quart yogurt maker from Amazon about a year ago and paid maybe $25 to $30 including shipping. They currently have this listed for almost $200! -which is absolutely insane. I picked up a single serving yogurt maker which is sort of an older version of this one. It was $5 -sweet!
We are plain yogurt people. We just keep blueberries in the fridge and add as we serve. I also like mine with toasted oat and a little honey. But I'm trying to lay off the honey. So happy yogurt making! I'm off the pack up my house!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Homeowners! (and a peek)

Today we signed and or initialed roughly 50 sheets of paper. It was very pleasant all around. Our lawyer was great. He said that "happy closings" are rare - usually one or both parties feel like they're getting the shaft. We had the crazy notion that we should pay a fair price, the portion of closing costs that we committed to and be flexible about the rest. The "sellers" are not just a line on a form. They are people. They have their own family's needs to consider. I'm just very grateful that they are not only "sellers" but our friends.

So as I ponder creating my home, there are several things we want to do. Most of the house is in excellent shape. Mostly we are looking at wall color changes, etc. I'll be sharing before and after pictures of each room as we "make it our own." The one room that we want to update is the kitchen. We won't be in the house for another 10 days, but I thought I would give you a peek at the kitchen as it is now.

This is one corner - looking up and then looking down towards the floor. I am considering just painting the stove vent for temporary appearance improvement. At some point we may replace it but given the thousands of dollars out of our bank account - it is not high on our priority list. A can of Olympic zero VOC paint in an almond or sage is cheap enough and will really make the kitchen feel like mine. Any natural, fugal ideas?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Moving is...naturally stressful

This is our new house and we are so excited. You can't get this from the photo, but the shutters are a bright, royal blue. So anytime someone is coming over, we just say, "the house with the blue shutters" and they will know exactly which one ;-)

We are so excited that our loan was approved. If you are in the market and don't make a lot of money - you may want to look into BB&T's CHIP loan. It is a loan that has 3% down with no PMI!

So as we think about moving (in 25 days!) there are a few things that we need to do. There are some hardwood floors in the room that will become the girl's new room. We plan to take up the carpet and if necessary resurface and seal the floors. We've heard this is a big job, but we will be a little low on cash and elbow grease is free.

The main decision right now is what kind of sealant to put on the floor. The least VOC levels I could find at Lowe's Home Improvement was 235 g. Most were 450 g. A product we are considering is the Polyurseal BP which is a very, very low VOC product. Since the women who work at home have a 54% higher death rate from cancer than women who work away from home, we want to do all we can to minimize toxins in our home.

I'm packing as much as possible (while planning for some major minsitry functions) and I think we'll be in a good spot. I bought some zero VOC Olympic paint for the china cabinet we bought off Craig's list. That is a project Pete and I will be tackling together in the next couple of weeks.

And I'm thinking of doing some canning. I'm currently looking for a pressure canner. The jelly was downright inspirational. So if you know of anyone who doesn't want theirs anymore... ;-) I'll keep you updated. Prayers appreciated for good progress packing, potty-training and wise natural choices that are financially feasible. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bold choice in my quest for jelly

So I "have to" deal with these delicious looking muskadines and scuppoernongs. It is time to make jelly. All I need are the berries, jars, pectin and sweetener. So my grocery envelope has 55 cents left and I have no pectin to make the jelly "gel."

What I do have is beef gelatin from my marshmallow experiment (part one, part two and part three). aside: I do believe I will be trying those again with honey this winter. Unfortunately I read online that animal based products lead to spoiling. Alas - but then I remembered... I bought agar powder! Agar is a red algae vegetarian substitute for gelatin. Now technically I need pectin, not gelatin. But I figure if the only reason not to use gelatin is the meat content - then I should be safe to use agar. Does my logic make sense?

So since there is no other website that I can find that has documented this much less gives the quantities - this will be an experiment in the highest degree. So I'm going to take you along the journey and see what happens....

12:15 p.m. Put Faith to nap and them wash all the berries.
12:20 p.m. Realize kitchen is in no shape to produce food - decide to clean kitchen first ;-)

12:40 p.m. Much better. Twenty minutes to clean and I even fielded a phone call about the caterer for our fundraiser dinner. Here's my Gracie washing the berries and removing (many of) the stems. :-)

1:45 p.m. Muskadines and Scuppernongs are lightly boiling, started cracking the peels and smelling quite lovely. Discovered that okra in fridge was getting desperate too - so cut and frying that right now as well.

1:50 p.m. Looked over some writing work and cranked up Explode the Code online for Gracie. Strained the juice through a colander, then through a lightweight cloth (from my cheese experiments). Set the juice to simmer for about half an hour. Feeling weak, realized I fed children and never ate. Well, looks like the okra will make a fine lunch ;-)

2:30 p.m. Added agar power, 2ish cups of grape juice and a half a cup of honey to sweeten. I kept adding agar power until I put a spoon in the fridge and it jelled! I have no idea how much I put in. Probably a couple of tablespoons? Stirred it in with a whisk (one of my favorite kitchen tools).

3:00 p.m. Boiled water in my stock pot to sterilize and proof the jelly.

3:30 p.m. Realized that full quart jars cannot fit with an inch of water boiling over the top of them. Perhaps should have bought pint jars, but I'm low on funds til Friday and couldn't go out anyway - Faith sleeping.

3:40 p.m. Water boiling - barely meeting the top of the lid. Hoping for the best. Realize I do not have a jar lifter. Called our neighbors to see if they had one, but they weren't home. Sterilizing the jars was already a little tricky using towels and hot mitts.

Catching you up - after they lightly boiled for 15 minutes, I removed them from the heat and very carefully lifted them out onto a towel. Babysitter arrived and we left for a staff social. When we arrived home I checked the jars.

They gelled and they sealed! If they actually taste good I will have reached the pinnacle goal of my afternoon (including finding a great price for food for our fundraiser dinner LOL). I'm going to save the taste test for tomorrow morning on my toast. I am pretty sure it tastes good though - I did some sampling to adjust for the desired sweetness. Thanks for joining me on the journey!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Challenge for Natural Sweeteners

This week at the market, I was so excited that my "bag of CSA goodies" included both muskadines (right) and scuppernongs (left). If you not from the deep south, you may have no clue of the deliciousness of these wood grown wild grapes.

So here's the challenge - my favorite way to consume them is in the form of JELLY! But we gave up sugar - agh! So I am on a search to try to discover if it is possible (and etible) to make either unsweetened jelly or honey-sweetened jelly. I know I have some beef gelatin from my marshmallow experiments (saga part one, part two and part three). So join me (advise me ;-)) as I pursue another hilarious experiment in food preparation. BTW yogurt making with photos coming soon!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Moving with a Natural Twist

Well, I am so excited to tell you that we are about to become homeowners! We've been renting over 3 years and because our current residence is slated to become a parking lot - we feel like it's a good time to move LOL.

Through a series of ways that only Christ could direct - we are planning to purchase a house across the street. So you will likely be invited to the journey of moving and decorating with a natural twist. I'm already recycling ;-) We're using boxes that would have been thrown out from a restoration company.

Because this semester is already delightfully busy (yes - delightfully, I really mean it), I want to pace myself in the process. I have not made any graham crackers, cheese or breakfast cookies lately. I am making yogurt and of course the required food for maintaining a husband and & two little monkeys.

To keep a steady pace of life (or maybe to try to achieve one), I'm packing five boxes per day. We will be moving sometime between Oct 1 and 20th. There are a few factors in that- I won't bore you. Anyway - there are boxes stacked high already and as soon as the camera batteries are recharged - you will have a photo to see for yourself.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Apple Honey Oatmeal Cake

I just made this and wanted to share with you. This is so moist and delicious. It is such a loose take off of a recipe I found on the internet (using neither honey, pecans or apples) that I feel comfortable calling this my own. I had some apples I bought at retail natural foods store that went mealy really fast. Not wanting to waste, I peeled, chopped them up and cooked them for something yummy. This recipe is more like a muffin batter, but I cooked it in a 9X13 pan for the ease of cleaning.

Apple Honey Oatmeal Cake
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
11/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1/4 cup butter - melted and cooled
1/2 cup honey
11/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups (can vary of course) of cooked apples
1/2 cup chopped pecans

I baked mine at 375 / adjusted down to 350 about 20 minutes into cooking. I think the total time in the oven was 30 to 40 minutes.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Off the fence - agave, friend or foe?

Okay, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it does seem to be that agave is not the super sweetener that it claims to be. It is super though - super concentrated fructose. Agave contains a much higher percentage of fructose even than the evil High Fructose Corn Syrup (boo, hiss)...."junk."

So although it does taste great, it is a not something you really want to consume in quantity. Dr. Mercola and the Weston Price Foundation have weighed in. The low glycemic index (which I thought was good) is apparently something we want triggered to tell us that we are consuming enough food.

Aside ; you'll never guess - bees are being forced to make honey year round and fed high fructose corn syrup. So that's another reason to buy your honey from a local source (nice amish folks have bees and sell honey at the Greensboro Curb Farmers Market). Oh bother (yes that was a reference made to Winnie the Pooh within the discussion of honey :-)

So in light of the research - what will our little family be doing?

Continuing to limit sweeteners. It's amazing how much less sweetener (honey this week) that it takes to make a blueberry muffin taste good. We're not throwing away the bit of agave we still have, we'll use it along with honey in recipes. Don't think we'll be buying more in quantity (i.e. by the gallon - ack!). The truth is I need to eat less sugar. This is hard because sugar - be it agave, honey, maple syrup or a big chocolate bar - is delicious. Personal discipline with sugars - another opportunity to rely on God for strength - I certainly can"t make it on my own. Have a great day!

Invest in your local Farm

This spring we joined a CSA. (Yes I'm from South Carolina, but no - this CSA is not the Confederate States of America, LOL). A CSA is Community Support Agriculture. It is a really awesome, really fair way for those of us who are not in a position to grow all our own veggies to partake in the farming world.

So we joined a new CSA with Faucette Farms in Greensboro. If you're in the area - I highly recommend them. Basically, I pay quarterly (equals about $23 a week) and receive whatever vegetables they have in season. Here's the veggies I got one week in May. Don't they look yummy?

In a CSA the risk of a hard year is spread across many people. By investing in the farm - I get really fresh vegetables, local and organic. I think my favorite part is feeling less like a "consumer" and more like a part of the farm. Now it's summer we're getting fresh corn, cantaloupe and blueberries! I am so grateful that God has blessed us with the Faucette's organic food.

If you are interested in joining a CSA, check out Local Harvest or Slow Food. They have searchable databases you can hopefully find a CSA in your area. Happy healthy day!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sabbatical from Agave

How long have I loved thee - agaveee?

I suppose it was too good to be true - a sweetener that has no strong taste or aftertaste - that dissolves immediately in liquid. I've heard rumors, caught a little article here and there saying that agave is more processed than we first expected. But I chose to ignore. This stuff is great - there are always nay-sayers.

Alas - two sources whom I trust - Dr. Mercola and the Weston Price Foundation (article by Dr. Ben Kim) both came out recently about the delicious liquid. Unfortunately not only regarding it's degree of "natural" but unfortunately its danger as well.
I need to read more carefully and get all the facts straight. (I have been distracted by the other things happening in my life right now).

After I do some more research, I'll share a more put together blog about it. But to be cautious - we are taking a sabbatical from agave. We're now all about maple syrup and honey. I made honey chocolate cake and some honey brownies that were quite good. The cake is from another site, but the brownies are my own adaptation. Here's the recipe:

Brownies Sweetened with Honey

* Between 1.5 & 2 cups honey (depending how sweet you like it)

* 1 cup oil (usually I use 1/2 sunflower, 1/2 olive - all olive is a bit too much of the taste)
4 eggs
* 1.5 tsp vanilla

Mix all this together and then grab another bowl for the dry ingredients.

* 1.5 cups flour (it can handle all whole wheat, but for lighter brownies, try half naturally white flour)

* 1 tsp salt
* 1/2 cup of cocoa

Mix this well especially the cocoa chucks. If you are inclined you can sift it and it turns out better. I should, but I usually don't. Kitchen confessions ;-)
Mix everything together and bake in a greased 13 x 9 pan in a 350 degree oven (if your oven runs hot - turn down to 325 or they won't taste as moist or sweet). Bake for about 20 minutes. Take out when the middle is firm, but not 100% completely done on top. This takes a little experimenting to see how to get them cooked just right. Happy Honey Cooking!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Birth Stories, Part Three - A loss

I hoped to fill this blog with lots of natural baby and pregnancy posts over the next few months. I was waiting for that 12 week milestone to share our news that we were expecting a baby in January. Now I have a different story...

I've had two natural (unmedicated) childbirths and now I've have a natural miscarriage. Last week Thursday I began spotting. I contacted Debbie, my midwife and I texted my friends from accountability group, called family and asked for prayer. Debbie advised bedrest, calcium/magnesium and some herbs for calming the uterus.

After a fitful sleep, praying through the night, I awoke to see that miscarriage was truly setting in. The entire experience lasted almost a full day (to the hour). The worst was about a five hour span of intense "discomfort" and intense bleeding. I was grateful for my natural childbirth experiences since those gave me tools to handle the "discomfort." Pete reminded me to get on top of the pain and breath deeply through some of the harder contractions. Around 8:00 p.m., my body released the fist-sized placenta. I was grateful that I could not see the baby.

Even though we were 1600 miles from home, Debbie monitored my progress, answered questions and gave us the advice we needed to make wise decisions. It was a physically exhausting. and Debbie had me doubling up on my green juice (Ben Kim's Greens) and Floradix Herbs + Iron to help strengthen me and rebuild my iron from the blood loss.

It has been a process for me to come to the realization of the loss. We did name the baby. We're not sure the sex, but I felt it was a girl so we named her Mercy. I want to share a couple of paragraphs from my journal the day after the miscarriage:

I don't want to think about this baby in a medical way - blighted ovum, threatened miscarriage, chromosomal abnormalities. I was pregnant, now I'm not. It comforts me to know that there is almost nothing I could have done to stop it - it could be the baby died 4 weeks before my body began this process...

All I knew and needed to know was this - God is good. He knew all the days of this child's life before it was even conceived. He could peer into the "deep" where my child was forming. He and He alone chose that this child would not be born. I love Him, I trust Him. I know He is sovereign. The death of this baby did not shock Him - He allowed it to happen by His mercy. I am at peace. Gently He placed this baby into my womb, mercifully He took it out.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Birth Stories, Part Two - Faith

My big plan for the birth of my second child was “birthing center.” I figured there would be the chance to have my unmedicated birth without the potential of Petocin! When I discovered that the only two options in Greensboro was hospital or home – I honestly was initially scared – of both options!

Homebirth / waterbirth was never in our initial plans, but once we prayed, researched and committed – it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. So instead of packing my bag to prepare for the birth, I gathered birth supplies. I had complete prenatal care with Sarah, my midwife about the same frequency as my OB (only spent more time talking with her). She loaned me her birthing pool which we kept at the house until “time.” (see the side of the tub in the pic)

At 37 weeks I was very excited – perhaps too much so! I went into labor early – unfortunately at one point my husband is across the International Date Line! Sarah suggested some supplements and to try to calm down! Labor didn’t continue and once his conference over, Pete flew home. At 39 weeks I’m a “watched pot.” Family came to visit for Gracie’s birthday with the hopes for a birth. Nope.

Over the next ten days, contractions would begin and quit. Three days over the due date and Sarah suggested that I send everyone home (except my sister to watch Gracie). Our family left and that very evening contractions began. I looked at Pete and said, “Is this it?” We’ve had so many false starts - I didn’t even want to call our midwife. So we went to bed. God’s graciousness toward me – the contractions stalled and I had a great sleep. The next morning – my water broke! So we called Sarah. We called family (and said please don’t come yet). I labored mainly in the living room – talking and eating and watching TV. I sat on a towel so I wouldn’t mess up the couch. Early afternoon I began to really feel “uncomfortable.” Sarah asked if I wanted to go upstairs and get in the tub. I said I didn’t want to move. She said then it was definitely time for the tub.

Pete went upstairs to operate his very coolly engineered shower / hose system so that the baby could be born into filtered water. The water was cool (about 10 degrees below body temperature) and felt good! I was uncomfortable so I wiggled a lot. Sarah reminded me to get on top of the pain, take some deep breaths and grunt if I needed to. Oh I grunted. I guess it was more of a deep chest gurgle. It felt good (albeit loud). As the contractions intensified, I asked Pete in the tub too. He did a “superman quick change” into his swim trunks and got in there with me.

I held the handles of the tub pulling up – simultaneously pressing down on Pete’s knees (poor Pete’s knees). Sometime in the late afternoon / early evening the labor changed. I said I wanted to push. Sarah asked if I wanted her to check my dilatation. I said yes, but was so fidgety and uncomfortable that she couldn’t reach. She suggested I push just a little and tell her how it felt. I gave a little push and it felt really good! So I was given the okay to proceed. One very big difference from the hospital was the concern for my perineum. Sarah gave some counter pressure as I pushed to lessen the likelihood of tearing. She also told me to back off if I felt any stinging. With Gracie I was encouraged to push full on as hard as possible and through the pain.

It took longer than I expected from the point of “seeing the head” to getting the baby all the way out. I was much more connected to what was happening and could reach down and feel the head between contractions. With Gracie I pushed laying on my back without any clue what was really happening down there. Once the shoulder wiggled out, Sarah told me to sit back (I didn’t realize she was setting me and Pete up to catch). One more push and up pops a baby. This kid was buoyant! When I held the baby up, the umbilical cord was between its legs. I was so sure I was going to have a boy – I figured the cord was just hiding the package. Nope, no package – a baby girl! I was honestly shocked on three levels – she’s a girl, she’s huge (8 lbs 9 oz compared to Gracie’s 7lbs 8 oz), and she has long black hair and a lot of it.

We both got out of the tub, dried off and Faith and I lay on the bed. I was shivering so they wrapped us up in a quilt. Faith laid on my stomach and chest for a good while and nursed well. After a while, Sarah weighed her and did her apgar (which was high). Family arrived a few hours later. Gracie was able to see her sister and hold her all here at home. It was a peaceful transition for our whole family. After Sarah checked us – she said good night and went home to her own family. She came back the next day to see how we were and then again a few days later. Home – water – birth – would love to have more babies and have them all this way!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Birth Stories, Part One - Gracie

Since I have had both an unmedicated hospital birth and a home birth - I have been meaning share my experiences with each. The first installment is my firstborn which was planned for in a carefully chosen hospital.

* * * * *
July 12 - Monday morning around 5:30 a.m. my water broke. We were so excited. Contractions were regular at about seven to ten minutes apart and Gracie was on her way! We called our doula (Colette), our parents and close friends. Colette came over to our house and we decided to wait until the contractions were strong and regular before heading over to the hospital.

Around 10:00 a.m. - Contractions stopped. I ate, took a nap, took a walk, took a shower - still no contractions. We watched a movie, ate some more, walked on the treadmill - still the contractions were few and not regular.
Around 5:30 p.m. we decided it was best to head on over the hospital. We arrived at Allen Bennett Hospital and was given a beautiful room. Those in the Greenville, SC area - this is the hospital to have a baby! The room had recliner, table and chairs, rocking chair, big bathroom with a big Jacuzzi tub. As soon as I was allowed, I was in that tub! We asked to be allowed to labor naturally (without being induced) with the hopes of avoiding anything unnatural with the delivery.

Later that night, the contractions became very regular - 5 minutes apart and were a bit more difficult than the earlier ones. Pete and Colette took turns rubbing my back during the "uncomfortable" part. This went on all night. As best as they could - Pete and Colette tried to sleep in turns.

The next morning, I was checked and was still only about halfway dilated. Dr. Cowart said that we needed to go ahead and take the Petocin. I was pretty scared at that point. My commitment to go unmedicated was being tested. Around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday morning (7/13) they started the Petocin. Unfortunately, that meant that I was on the monitor constantly (belt around my tummy) and had an IV and could no longer enjoy the Jacuzzi tub.

The Petocin is some tough stuff. Contractions were being artificially created and came on top of each other. I was close several times to asking for the epidural, but Pete and Colette kept encouraging me. By early afternoon, the contractions were so strong, that only Pete had the arm strength to press in on my back and relieve some of the "discomfort." We prayed and prayed and the progress seemed so slow. Pete and Colette were starving and would try to run quickly out to the outer room and grab literally a bite of sandwich before coming back for another contraction.

Around 5:30 p.m. (yes, 36
hours since my water broke) I was told that I could finally push. I had been at Allen Bennett so long, that Dr. Cowart was no longer on duty and Dr. Helmrich was going to help deliver. I was exhausted. Pete and Colette were dripping with sweat from holding me up and giving counter-pressure on my back. However, when I could push - Praise God - it was nearing the end! From the childbirth class I knew it shouldn't be but maybe a half hour. But…I pushed for three hours! At 8:40 p.m. (after almost 40 hours of labor) Gracie was born.

She was immediately placed on my chest and given an opportunity to nurse but she did not nurse very much – I think she was exhausted too. We held her for about an hour off and on as the nurses measured and weighed her and was being stitched back together (just tearing, no episiotomy). When the sewing was done and my modestly restored – the families were invited in. Roughly 500 photos were taken – mostly in the hallway so I didn’t see my child for probably an hour. But I was too busy eating to really notice. One aspect of a hospital birth is nothing but clear liquids – for over 24 hours of being there I was sustained on Sprite. I dined on cereal, chocolate pudding and Dr. Pepper (yes, this was almost 5 years ago, LOL).

Gracie was finally brought back in and nursed some m
ore and fell asleep. My mom stayed with me that first night so Pete could get some much needed sleep. Gracie slept all the way until around 6:00 a.m. I was sore, but finally rested and nourished. And after the first night, Gracie slept like a regular newborn – short periods and lots of nursing.

Overall – the hospital was positive. The nurses were all (well, there was one I didn’t care for, but she wasn’t there long). They were very respectful of our birth plan and not once were we offered an epidural. And both OB’s that were apart of the birth were great. For my first child – I was glad that I was able to have an unmedicated hospital birth.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Seriously! I haven't shared the money story???

One thing I know for sure - going natural is a whole-encompassing process. you think you're just changing your eating habits to be healthier. Then you realize that how you clean affects your health. Then you realize how you sleep (what you sleep on) affects your health - sometimes critically. I would like to propose that how we use and view money and material possessions is just as critical to living a natural life.

In the Dr. Pepper years, my husband and I enjoyed the fruits of our careers. We spent money, borrowed money and lived highly off of "cream of something" casseroles and eating out. In one year of marriage, we created close to $70,000 in debt (plus a house purchase). Oh yeah, we had school loans, borrowed a down payment from parents and of course, we accidentally bought a timeshare.

Seven years later (yup, doing the math - we've been married eight years) we are debt free! It was not easy. We sold our house and now we rent (which we really love renting). We were both working for the first part of the journey so everything I made (after giving to the church) went against the debts. Later, when we went into the ministry, we were still not out of debt, but we kept saving what little we could to put toward the debt. Our main resource was Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey. We highly recommend!

Our pursuit of natural living fits so well with a traditional view of money. I like the depression-era saying of "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." Every time we "repurpose" something we already have, or find something cool on freecycle, or discover a treasure at the Salvation Army - we are living that natural life. Our great-grandparents made butter, wore all cotton clothing, used cash to buy things. That is beautiful picture of where I want to be.

So here's a little bit of practical to go along with the inspiration. We use cash for most catagories that "get out of hand. As much as possible goes on auto billpay and the debit card is hardly used except for gas (safer to pay at the pump with kids in the car). Each of us "manages" certain envelopes for the areas we use the most.

My envelopes: groceries (our CSA prefers cash anyway :-), home furnishings (aka Salvation Army & craigslist), children's clothing, Hair/ grooming (I manage three heads of hair), supplements, gifts (I am the primary shopper, but I just hand Pete the money we had budgetted when my birthday, Christmas or Mother's Day comes up) and my personal money which goes for my clothes and whatever I would like (magazines, coffee, etc).

Pete's envelopes: Home maintenance (we rent, but there are always "projects"), car maintenence, technology (in our house there has to be a technology budget ;-), dating (pays for babysitting and eating out), activities/trips (we go visit family 3+ hours away fairly frequently), vacation, and his personal money which is the same as me - clothes and the occasional indulgence.

We like each having oversight for the envelopes. If we make an online purchase or accidentally forget our cash and we use the debit card, we have to put the cash into an "Oops" envelope. That cash is then recycled to the next pay period when we refill the envelopes. Just starting out, it took a while (months) to work out the system to function and make sure we had the right amounts in the envelopes. We're still tweaking things and as "seasons change" so do our budget lines and amounts. Happy natural finances!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Save Yourself from Your Cleaners!

The Facts: Have you considered...?
In an industrial setting, the use of bleach, antiseptics or chlorine requires protective clothing. Our precious vulnerable babies are being laid on a plastic mattress that is regularly sprayed down with diluted bleach. This concerns me because chemical cleaners are so dangerous and the available alternatives are both effective and frugal.

What makes bleach so bad?
When bleach (chlorine) comes in contact with organic matter, it creates chloroform which is both a toxin and known carcinogen. So whenever we wipe up some crumbs, pee pee etc, we are adding this toxin to our children’s lungs. Bleach also becomes ineffective as a disinfectant very quickly when it comes in contact with organic matter. What that means is that in order for bleach to disinfect properly the surface must be completely clean before the bleach touches it in order for it to disinfect completely.

It does more harm than good. On porous surfaces, it does not penetrate so for killing mold, it only cleans the top layer. Bleach is not registered with the EPA as a disinfectant to kill mold. It also damages floor and countertop sealers, and damages surfaces, discolors and corrodes hard surfaces over time.

Many natural cleaning products such as tea tree oil or vinegar can be used to both clean and disinfect at the same time which can save a lot of time when you are cleaning.

This does not have to be an area of choosing safety over cost effectiveness. A single bottle of tea tree essential oil (one ounce for $7 = 200 to 250 drops) can make enough spray disinfectant for 8 to 10 gallons of water (that's 40 bottles of spray disinfectant for about $7!). There are so many fantastic alternatives. I keep spray bottles with various mixes of essential oils for disinfectant, odor control and antiseptic purposes. For general cleaning, I use Shaklee Basic H which also is diluted and cleans great. Seventh Generation products also disclose exactly what's inside the bottle. Read your labels - the simpler, the better. Happy cleaning!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Food, Inc.

I just saw this trailer on Keeper of the Home blog and I have to continue to share it. This goes right along with my recent posts on mattresses, SIDS and toxins. We as a society are less and less connected to the realness of life. I am not afraid (we are not given a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind - 2 Timothy 1:7). But I do praise God for blessing us with his Word (which is why we eat the diet we do), and the information through wise people face-to-face and online. Life is about choices - choices to eat local or convenient; choices to spend or to save (or repurpose); and the choice to make life about
us..... or God. My goal is to eat the gift of food in the manner my Creator created it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

This may make you angry

SIDS aka Crib Death - if you read "back to sleep safe sleep" website you will find that SIDS is the #1 killer of babies age zero through one year old. ....AND they have no idea what causes it......REALLY???

RANT warning: I am not a conspiracy chick, but there is definitely a trail that begins in greed. Follow the money (i.e. FDA drugs etc. but that's a whole 'nuther blog). Did you know that crib manufacturers fought to get the name changed to "SIDS" so that we the consumer would not associate death with a crib? Helps sell more cribs. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

What if it is the toxic fumes, fungus and off gassing of the baby's mattress? When I found out about the four-year research study, the 100% success rate in making a change to your baby's environment - I was angry. I trust that God is bringing you to this blog to open your eyes (or find out from a "real mama") the truth about keeping our babies healthy.

A 100% successful crib death prevention campaign has been going on in New Zealand for the past 11 years. Midwives and other healthcare professionals throughout New Zealand have been actively advising parents to wrap mattresses. During this time, there has not been a single SIDS death reported among the over 100,000 New Zealand babies who have slept on mattresses wrapped in a specially formulated polyethylene cover. The score in New Zealand is now 810 deaths (orthodox crib death prevention advice) to none (mattress-wrapping).

You are currently reading the blog of a mattress wrapper (cue the beatboxing, LOL).

Here's what we have done in our home:
  • Our bed - three layer Queen latex from savvy rest which was about $2000 (but it lasts 30 years!)
  • Baby Bed - Arm's Reach Co-sleeper - awesome alternative to sleeping in literally connected to your bed. The mattress is regular foam, so we bought a wrap ($25 - two years ago)
  • Big Girls' bed organic futon mattress (seen here). It has a wool cover so it is naturally flame retardant and doesn't off gas dangerous fumes.
  • Crib Mattress - New mattress from babies r us and we bought a wrap (another $25 - two years ago)
  • To have a safe place for me to nap with the baby (now almost two), we purchased a cover for the spare room bed ($38 from No Chem) Our toddler grew out of her organic futon crib mattress so she now has the wrapped full bed mattress from the guest room.
I encourage you to read about the research and 10+ years of use - Cause of SIDS, and Stop SIDS Now. You can buy the covers here (BabeSafe is the manufacturer): Eve's Best, For adult beds at No Chem bed Solutions. Sleep safe!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Going all BED!

I know what you're thinking...nope - not what you're doing in bed - what you are sleeping on!

Three years ago we became completely debt free!!! That's an awesome way to go natural. And the first thing that we "saved up first, then purchased" was a new mattress. Ours had been a showroom floor discount and after five years was completely shot. As we pondered finding a wonderfully comfortable mattress, we were made aware of an interesting reality.

Mainstream mattresses are full of chemicals. The process that makes foam (which many beds have) breaks down over time and releases CFC's and more. So we started researching and found the option of a natural latex. It is not chemically created and lasts for 30 years! We bought our bed though a local distributor with Savvy Rest.

Honestly - we don't care for traveling too much because the best sleep is right here at home. You can pick your level of firmness and your husband (or wife) can select their firmness. Oh, it feels so great to sleep so well!

The two best things about our bed: I could sleep on my stomach way into my pregnancy. If you have been pregnant and are a stomach sleeper - you know what a pain it is to be big as a house and not able to sleep! LOL! And because it naturally keeps away the dust mites, we were breathing better.

Peruse the guest comments about direct health related experiences with all kind of mainstream mattresses at Chem-tox. Then read some more details about what our mattresses are made of. Watch out - my next blog is going to be able baby mattress toxins!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Things I never thought I would do...

For a girl that grew up on Dr. Peppers and nutty buddy's, I have become some hilarious health nut. If I my 24 year old self ever met my 34 year old self - she would think I was way over the top. And so I am.  So in the last two weeks I have made butter, buttermilk, yogurt and mozzarella cheese! If you are willing to have milk all over your kitchen for a few hours....
  • Butter - I tried using the stand mixer, but the food processor was much, much easier (and cleaner)
  • Buttermilk
  • Yogurt - I actually bought a yogurt maker to keep the cultivating stuff at a constant temperature. It was only about $20 - very worth it since we spend $5 to $8 per week on yogurt. BTW - I don't use the plastic container - a washed out mayonnaise jar fits perfectly inside.
  • Mozzarella cheese - mine did not "spin," but it tasted great and was able to be shredded the next day.
  • Ricotta cheese - here's the recipe - I'm planning to make it tomorrow from all the whey I had left from the cheese making.
  • Sour cream - here's the recipe - I'm planning to make it Saturday after I get a fresh gallon. It also has good info on butter, buttermilk, etc.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Recovery without Antibiotics

Sorry to have taken so long to follow up the previous post on my double dip of strep throat. After I was better, I have been trying to catch up on everything I missed while being in profound pain.

First let me address the pain - the first round I was able to handle it using Motrin. The second strep infection was much harder. I took the prescription Hydrocodone that the doc prescribed for the first round. Gratefully, I only took about three tablets to hold off the pain so I could sleep.

I read somewhere that homeopathic medicine needed lots of doses - just keep stuff going in. Well, I made an excel sheet to coordinate all my natural meds. Here's a rundown of my "Get rid of strep throat homeopathically" plan and action:

To boost immunity:

  • Vitamin A (7600 IU)
  • Vitamin D (1200 IU)
  • Echinacea/Goldenseal (50 drops in water 3X day)
  • Cod liver oil (once a day)
Pain relief and healing
  • Spray with a natural throat spray based on the immune properties of cow's milk (three sprays every hour)
  • Old Indian Wild Cherry Bark Syrup (3X day) - high alcohol content - good before bed
  • Chewing raw garlic clove (yes, it burns) with some honey on it (made me nauseous once, make sure you don't do this on an empty stomach) -sporadic - it hurt, I had to get up my gumption to do it.
Natural Antibiotics
  • mercurious solubus - Pete is really concerned that I might have erred since this is a mercury derivative. But it really worked. In the future, if I catch an infection early, I would choose Belladonna. My research said that Belladonna is only effective if applied early. (these little tablets I took five at a time 3x a day)
  • phytolacca decantra (same dosage as mercurious)
I was spraying, chewing, dissolving, swallowing, gargling etc. at least once an hour during waking hours. If the pain woke me at night, I would grab some mercurious and phytolacca, and take a few sprays. Overall, the pain was pretty much done in five days with some residual scratchiness. I kept up most of the meds, gradually decreasing the amounts over the next five days. Now, if I can just get used to the time change...

Monday, March 2, 2009


So I was telling you a few weeks ago about my flaming throat and the exciting experience of gargling thieves oil. That night, I barely slept and the next day went to see a mainstream doctor. I was really miserable and kind of afraid that I had strep throat.
The doctor took a look and a culture - he said my throat looked "nasty" and prescribed an antibiotic. I took the dose faithfully and in a couple of days was feeling a lot better. I was grateful - entertaining my friends that I went to a mainstream doc.
Until Sunday. A little over two weeks later (5 days after my last dose of amoxicillin) I get this scratchy throat that seems a little familiar. Now I am into my second day of pretty painful throat feelings. My glands are swollen and it hurts to swallow. My question is - what was "fixed" with the antibiotics?
So I did some research:
"In the USA alone, "over 3 million pounds of antibiotics are used every year on humans . . . enough to give every man, woman and child 10 teaspoons of pure antibiotics per year," write Null, Dean, Feldman, and Rasio. (5) "Almost half of patients with upper respiratory tract infections in the U.S. still receive antibiotics from their doctor" even though "the CDC warns that 90% of upper respiratory infections, including children's ear infections, are viral, and antibiotics don't treat viral infection. More than 40% of about 50 million prescriptions for antibiotics each year in physicians' offices were inappropriate." from doctor
Further research and a call to a fellow natural mom - with lots more experience than I. So I'm kicking in several immune boosters - adding echinacea, golden seal and a throat spray called impro. My gut, my husband and my friend all agree that this (even strep) can be taken care of through natural means. I'll let you know how it goes. Prayers for healing and wisdom appreciated. Thanks!

See Part Two

Monday, February 23, 2009

Makers Diet - Day One

Yep, we've read the book and applied some of the principles, but not it's time to drink the kool aid (actually that's not really allowed, so drink the organic tea). I was journaling last night before I want to bed. Here's an excerpt:

Why haven't I done this yet? Am I really waiting until it gets easier? It's never going to be a good time to feel bad, just like it's never a good time to be nauseous for three months [as in pregnancy]. So I guess if I'm going to do this, it better start tomorrow.

So with Pete fully on board, we are beginning the 40 day experiment. It has been five hours now and it's not so bad. I do wish I could have a piece of toast.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sore Throats and Runny Noses

Several people have asked how we handle being sick. I think like most people, keep trying to function and make ourselves as comfortable as possible. I have a truly lovely photo of Faith's walrus nose that my hilarious husband took (but I will spare you, LOL). It is much worse than this one.

So as I am writing this, my ear s and throat hurts and my 18 month old has a runny nose and is generally irritable. We're sick, game on.

For the girls - They just went to bed. In their room we have a humidifier with eucalyptus and purify essential oils. We put about four drops of
each in the little tray thing at the top. We also drip eucalyptus on their pillows (two drops). Purify stains so we don't put it on bedding. They brushed their teeth with Dentarome to kill bacteria.

For dinner I upped the spice and made stir fry with leeks, peppers, cabbage, etc. and added lots of ginger, curry, etc. They each ate an applesauce laced with vitamin C and grapefruit seed extract to boost their immunity. It's best to give these before bed - seems to improve their effectiveness.

Before dinner they had a bath. I put about five drops of eucalyptus and five drops of tea tree oil in the bath swirled it around and let them soak in it a little longer than usual.

Tomorrow we'll limit milk products (for the mucus) and keep trying to boost our immunity. We'll keep up these measures until we're all better.

* * * * *

Several friends have asked about the essential oils. I just found this website with a video and decided to try one of the testimonials. Like I said, my throat is hurting. Sooooo I took some thieves oil and put it directly under my tongue. – Seriously – just now. It burned!!! I drank water and forced myself to swallow it. My mouth does not burn anymore and my throat is remarkably better. I feel like I did a product test right here with you LOL. Anyway - young living makes very good oils, but they are very expensive. Thieves, Relieve it and Panaway are unique blends I can't find a comparable substitute for, so we just bite the budget on those. We have a friend (Gloria) who is a distributor, so I’m sure she would appreciate the business if you decided to try some.
I linked the other oils to Lucky Vitamin. You may find a better deal - this site has been my favorite for shipping costs, speed and overall price. I wish I received a discount for plugging their company, but right now, it’s just a way I can share the info. Here's a couple more sites that may be of use: The Herbs Place and Wholistic Scents. As you can tell from the burning false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Thieves experience just moments ago - I am far from an expert. Let me know what you try and how it works for you!

* * * * *

One of our students came over the other night and we were chatting about our lifestyle. He said, "Two habits too expensive to get into: drinking and eating healthy." Thanks Kenny LOL!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Coupon Follow Up

Okay, I did try the grocery game, and I also tried going online to find and print coupons. I want to say that if we weren't so far off the end of normal - those would be valuable pursuits. But we are, so they are not (for us). I was talking to a friend about Mambo Sprouts and their coupons you can find a Earthfare and Whole Foods. And because we avoid the refined sugars, a lot of the bars and things you can get in there are still outside of our diet. So....drumroll......I am giving up coupons.

I'm trying to learn where God wants me to place my energies. (caution, rabbit trail) I have been reading Strong Women, Soft Hearts (amazing). This book, added to several other awesome God--given inputs into my life right now, has been challenging me to focus on my real dreams and desires.

Since I really dream of eating all natural food obtained from local farmers, I realize that to save money I need to learn to eat more "in season," put things up for the winter, and make more frugal recipes. It feels good to let the coupons go. ;-)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Remodeling a Rental

Okay, is it silly to fix up and "remodel" a house that is not even yours? Probably , but I have a very tolerant and understanding husband. Mostly we have painted ugly wallpaper nice, neutral tones. Then I realized that there was more that paint can do.

BEFORE: Dining Room "gold" chandelier

And with a little paint: AFTER: ta da!

Classy, elegant, neutral, very, very cheap and not too much time.

Even though I really love a beautiful room, our bodies are too precious to needlessly expose to harmful toxins. Gratefully there is a low to zero VOC paint available at a very, very reasonable cost. Lowe's Home Improvement's Olympic Paint (more or less their generic brand) is one of the best. Sherwin Williams has the Harmony brand, but by far the Olympic is the most cost effective. Happy decorating!