Thursday, March 31, 2011

How to make Herb Infused Oils

Herb infused oils are wonderful to have on hand for both medicinal and culinary uses. I've been thinking I ought to try making them for a year or so. Which is why when I saw a little article on how to do in in an herb catalog, I immediately decided to give it a go. Since I had the time, some useful herbs on hand to try it with and copious amounts of olive oil as well. (I tend to get a lot more done when I have the "seize the moment" and "Why not now" attitude)

As a result, two days and very little effort later I had myself some pleasantly aromatic St. Johns Wort oil which I fully intend to use on burns(including sunburns), scrapes and bruises as a pain-reliever and healing rub. (And when I get some beeswax, eventually, I'll make some salve with it too.)

Amazed at how easy it was, I thought I'd give a little tutorial on the subject.

You'll need: a crockpot*, a washcloth, water, a mason jar, herb(s) of your choice and food grade oil, (I used olive oil.)**

This time around, I decided to use a blend of Rosemary and Sage for a cooking oil. (These herbs are also really antiseptic and effective at fending off viruses.) I used approximately half the amount of each. I didn't measure, though.

I recommend using a mason jar with the proper seal and lid, but any old jar will probably do. Just make sure it has a well fitting and leak-proof lid.

Once you've got your herb in your jar, pour in your oil. (sorry about the blurriness of a couple of these photos)

For the culinary oils I used an herb to oil ratio of about 1 to 3. For the St. John's wort, I used 1:2 because I wanted it to be pretty potent. They both turned out excellent so use your own judgment or experiment to see what works best for you.

Screw the lid on tightly. Place the washcloth on the bottom of your crockpot, set your jar of herby oil on top of that and pour water all around it until it's almost to the top. You don't want your jar submerged, or even water to get too close to the lid because water and oil don't mix and a little water could ruin the batch.

Turn your crockpot onto low setting and then continue your life as usual. Just be sure to check back every few hours to refill the water, as it will evaporate fairly quickly. (I refilled mine 2 or 3 times a day.)

Approximately two days later turn off your crockpot and let it cool, remove your oil and open it up to smell the fragrant infused oil.

Strain and or funnel into the storage jars of your choice. (You can even strain it into a bowl or cup and then pour it back into the original jar after you've discarded the herb remnants.)
(As for discarding the herb remnants, I couldn't bring myself to, though I have no ideas of what to do with them. Ideas anyone?)

Label it up. And....
Tada! Your very own custom infused oils. I'm thinking these will be amazing gifts.

I use brown paper bags and permanent markers for my labels. I like to think that it gives them a rustic, natural and old apothecary style. I also like how it gives me a chance to use all the tiny brown paper bags that I get a ton of and don't have the heart to throw away.

*If you don't have a crockpot, or would rather not use your giant family sized crockpot for such a little thing, you can buy a small one for a fairly decent price. I bought the 1.5 quart one in the picture for about 8.50 on sale at Target. It's adorable and perfect for this very thing.

**I didn't use extra virgin olive oil, though you can use it if you'd like. I can't guarantee, however, that it will retain it's healthy extra fatty goodness or whatever it is, since you do heat the oil. Then again, it may not affect it at all.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring Fever

Spring is truly here, friends, I am happy to say. Both officially and weatherwise now.

PJM rhododendrons preparing to bloom.

I took a long walk today to work at my friend's pottery studio for a couple hours, and let me tell you, it is delicious outside! Spring is really springing. Today was positively balmy in comparison to this past week.

Yesterday had decently warm weather; bright sunshine, blue skies. But the wind was something fierce, and if you lingered in the shade you could believe that it had only snowed a couple days before. Today, however, ah today. Beautiful today.

I still wore a coat, mind you, and a scarf wouldn't have been a bad idea either, but half way into the walk, after warming up, my coat was a bit too much, so I took it off and wore it around my waist. What a good feeling!

And flowers are blooming. Have I mentioned that? I've actually been walking quite a bit this week and on Monday I noticed some bright yellow peeping out of the dirt. My first thought was "Are those real?" And upon closer inspection, my heart rejoiced, they were! Lovely yellow crocuses. I And since then I've seen white and purple ones too.Camera at the ready this time. (And from now on for the flowers to come!)

I also saw a tufted titmouse on the birch tree outside my window today. I wanted to pull my eyes out it was so adorable. And on my walk home, as I crossed the little bridge down the road, what did mine wandering eyes see? Mr and Mrs Mallard taking a spring afternoon float down the creek. I gaped and grabbed my camera as fast as I could, but they were a bit far when I finally snapped the shot.

(There are ducks in this picture, I promise.)

My heart is light and I feel a bit floaty. Pretty soon there will be leaf buds on the trees and one day we'll look out the window and BLAMF! there will be leaves.

And another thing: squirrels are skinny again.

Wordless Wednesday: Colours of Fall

It feels a bit funny to be posting these autumnal pictures with spring rounding the corner the way it is, but I did say I would! So, here are the promised photos from last Autumn. Enjoy!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Movie review: Alice in Wonderland

I meant to post this yesterday. So, here you are.

Maybe it's a bit late to be doing a movie review on a movie that came out like what.... a year ago? But I rarely see movies in cinemas (way too expensive) and it's even less likely that I'll rent a movie as a new release. Pretty much, if I hear about a new movie that I'm interested in seeing, I settle in to wait until it hits the library.

So when I noticed this one on the shelf at our local library I grabbed it up. I had seen previews for it when my father-in-law took us to see Avatar for Christmas the year before last (last movie I've seen in cinemas, and I only went that time because it was a treat). My first thought was "not another Alice movie!" The Disney Cartoon was good enough! And lets not go into that entirely-too-long live version they made a while back. Really, the book was an excellent read and no movie can really capture the politicality (did I make that word up?) Lewis Carroll incorporates into his strange and imaginative stories. Books, I should say, though they always treat Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass as one and the same.

But then. *cough* I noticed it was by Tim Burton. I have liked a lot of his movies. Even though Charlie and the Chocolate factory was really nothing like the book, and Johnny Depp will never beat Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka...I totally enjoyed that movie. And I loved the Corpse Bride which was really a good story and quite whimsical despite the grim title and scary idea it conveys. So.... I thought I'd like to see it after all.

I brought it to our friends' house to watch after dinner with them one evening. And the result? I liked it!

A lot. It was inspiring art-wise, and funny story-wise. The characters were fun. To look at, watch, listen to. The graphics were beautiful. It was whimsical and mysterious, beautiful yet darkly real too. Real, that is, for a fantasy world.

I loved Alice's clothes. The first dress was a bit boring; the typical Alice in blue. But as she shrinks and grows, her clothes frequently do not re-size themselves with her. (You never see anything though, thank goodness!) So she acquires new dresses and outfits throughout the movie. My favourite was the red and black one she gets when she goes to the Red Queen's castle. (as pictured above)

I also really enjoyed the emphasis on the "Six impossible things before breakfast" quote, which has always been one of my favourites. It just makes me feel like every day is rife with possibilities (impossibilities?) when I think of that in the mornings.

As for things I didn't like it, there weren't many. Since it wasn't actually supposed to be the traditional Alice in Wonderland story, I didn't mind that it veered a lot from that track, but I didn't like how some of the traditional characters were represented. The caterpillar, I felt, didn't get enough screen time. And the March Hare was just kind of there and jittery and not really much of a presence either. Occasionally, I felt I saw Jack Sparrow coming out of the Mad Hatter, but then, Johnny Depp is just an actor and I suppose he can only be so different before he's really just...the same. The White Queen was...well, she seemed too good, too perfect; it made me wonder if it was all just a facade, but you don't really get to find out. And in the end, I was disappointed that Alice didn't stay. The beginning really didn't give you a feeling that she had any real reason to live in "The real world."

The Cheshire Cat, however, I loved. Adorable. Makes me want to get a green tabby cat with big green eyes and a big white grin. Haha. And I loved the part where Alice was small and rode on the dog's back. Makes me want to be small and gallop away on creatures I wouldn't normally be able to ride.

I also kind of feel like making cookies and icing them with the words Eat Me. Overall, I'd recommend seeing it if you're the magic and whimsy type, which I definitely am.

p.s I have my computer back up, thanks to my darling husband, so there should be a good photograph laden episode tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Parenting conference thoughts

We went to a parenting conference today, despite lack of kids.

It was good and thought provoking. I'm not sure I can honestly say I learned anything new, but I definitely got food for thought and heard things that I feel I've always known but never quite knew how to express and got all kinds of ideas of how to put them into action. Pretty enjoyable, that. What I liked best was that they focused on understanding the heart of the matter and teaching children good attitudes above mere behavioural modification techniques.

Among the many interesting points they made, a few stood out in my mind:

You teach children life-lessons when they are young so that they know how to be good adults. I loved that this was one of the main themes throughout the conference. I wonder how many parents think about that. You aren't just training your child not to throw temper-tantrums because you don't want to deal with that while at a supermarket, you are teaching them that losing control and throwing oneself on the floor is not socially acceptable, as children or grownups.

Of course someone wants to have good, well behaved children, but they also want their children to grow up to be well-liked, successful and responsible adults. I think when you teach your kids with that in mind, it may give you a lot of perspective on what course you take as you raise them.

Yelling is what you do when you don't have a plan. This rung very true for me. I hate yelling as a means to teach children, because I don't think it actually teaches children. When you yell "NO!" either once, or repeatedly, all it does is get the child to stop for the moment. It's an instant gratification method but not a long-term solution. They stop, but it doesn't mean they won't do it again.
Now, I didn't grow up in a yelling family, in general, but there were occasional times when we got yelled at. And while it did cause us to get our butts in gear to clean our room right away, it didn't encourage us to keep our rooms clean, nor did it make us think "Well, I should just do this without being told."

Think about it; yelling at adults doesn't work, yelling at kids doesn't work.

Instead of telling them what they are doing is wrong or yelling at them, give them pointers as to how to do it well or what you want them to do instead. This really is good advice for anyone teaching anyone anything. It starts as redirection for very young children, I think. If they are destroying a book, take it away and attract their attention to something else; a child safe toy. When they are old enough to understand take them aside and tell them that books need to be treated with care; show them how to turn the pages gently and so on. If they are an adolescent aged child, explain to them that books need to be put on the shelf and not left on the floor, couch etc. so they don't get ruined or make clutter.

Anger is a signal but not a solution. Can you recognise the feeling of anger before it begins to take action? It seems like a useful skill. When I get angry or defensive, I feel myself get hot through out my whole body. Being angry is not necessarily bad. It's actually good if you take it as a sign that you need to stop whatever you are doing before you lash out.

Both adults and kids get angry. But when adults get angry, they recognise the emotion for what it is. Young children are still learning. They know they have a strong feeling and want take action because of it, but they don't know what it is and until they do they can't control it, indeed, don't even know that they should control it.

So first, it's important to teach your kids how to identify their emotions, particularly anger because it can be such a catalyst to some strong reactions. When they can identify it, you can move on to teaching them how to control it. The conference leaders mentioned three steps to controlling anger:

Identify it. Anger has a few stages, and the sooner your child (and you, for that matter) realises he is angry the sooner he can move on to step 2: Stop and pull back. Instead of hurdling towards destruction charged with emotional energy, stop. Instead of yelling or throwing something, walk away, breathe and so on. When you are calm you can start step 3 which is Think of a solution. And there are lots of solutions any one problem. But yelling, stomping, and or throwing things does not solve problems Help your child learn how to focus on solutions instead of being angry about a problem. Once you give them some ideas to get the ball rolling, most kids can probably come up with quite a few on their own. I love this because it totally applies to adults too.

Of course, the conference leaders had all kinds of good examples and stories to illustrate their points which I can't quite remember or don't have time to go into. But you're clever, you can think of your own, I'm sure. Especially if you have kids.

They had a lot more cool tips and really interesting points too. I felt particularly drawn to their advice about teaching young kids, since (obviously) I'll be dealing with that before I'm dealing with teenagers. And if everything goes as planned, if I teach them all the good attitude and responsibility stuff at that age, then when they're older, they'll only be perfecting it! (Haha, we'll see, right?)

But really, Any method to teach a child should be respectful and done in love and thoughtfulness. One of my personal thoughts is If it wouldn't work on an adult, it probably won't work on a kid. No good manager yells at their employees, or punishes them by hitting them repeatedly when they do the wrong thing or even sending them to "time out." Why do we think these work on children?

You can learn more about the people who put on the conference here:

Friday, March 25, 2011

In which I ramble

Since I've kind of opened this blog up, I feel a lot easier about stupendously going for it whenever any particular thoughts hit my brain. I have so many ideas sometimes it's hard to extract them one at a time. Not to mention how many other ideas swarm in when just ONE is removed, and then remembering what they were when I focus on a new thought. Making lists really helps me in this area, but only for the five minutes or so that I'm actually making and looking at the list. Once I turn my mind to other things....well, until I randomly spot that list laying on the coffee table, I'm probably just as confused as I was before. And if I make my lists on my computer, then it's even less helpful; I have to deliberately open that file and read it. And even if it's named in all CAPS and in the middle of my desktop I'm not very likely to do that. It may be an understatement to say I make a lot of lists...

Well, I happen to have a list of ideas for future posts for this blog. Sometimes I wish the days would go by faster so I could just get them all on here without looking like I have waaaaay too much time on my hands. Which I probably do, particularly on days where I wake up at a modest time. Which I do a lot on days hubby has to work. He likes getting up around 6:45 and being out by 7:15 every morning. Which means I have to be up then too, in order to make his breakfast, get his lunch ready and give him an endearing goodbye kiss.

Well, I don't have to. I want to. John tells me every-now-and-then, on mornings like today where I really don't want to wake up, that I can sleep if I want. Well I've taken this option a couple times and believe-you-me, it's never worth it. I hear him bustling around and can't fall back asleep, then I smell his breakfast and start feeling hungry, but the worst part is when he comes and kisses me goodbye while I lie in bed and then he leaves and I hear the door shut and I want to run after him and appologise for being such a loser wife. Which when I do, he tells me not to be silly because I'm the most amazing wife in the world, but I still feel pretty crappy about it and the sleep is not worth it.

note: I realize there are lots of wives who may not get up every day and do this for their husband and I'm not implying that THEY are loser wives. Everyone's got their own style. It's worth it to me, though, when I see how much John appreciates it.

Besides, I like being up early, it makes the days feel long. And on long days I get a lot done and feel like I still have time to do fun stuff. But I hate waking up. Doesn't matter if it's 7am or if it's 11am. Pulling myself out of the creamy, slippery, delicious vat of sleep, separating dreams from reality, extracting myself from my warm covers and releasing my pillow is pretty much the hardest thing I have to do in any given day. It definitely doesn't help that I love dreaming. It's adventurous, magical and full of amazing ideas. Thankfully, my reality is as sweet or far better than any dream I have these days.

Well I was going somewhere with all this at one point...

Oh yes.

Lists. Ideas for the blog. I have a lot and it makes me mad that I didn't post yesterday, but the main reason was that I couldn't decide. And then when I got around to pulling up my blog my computer went kaputz. I think that's how you spell that...

Well, obviously, I can still post because here I am, posting. I'm on my husbands computer. My computer, which has the lists and photos, needs some mal-ad-viral ware clean up. Which John can easily do when he has the time. Hopefully that will be soon. But until then photos may be on hold, unless I decide to plague John's computer with bunches of files of new photos...Which I very well may, depending on how fast he figures out how to un-kaputz my computer.

In the mean time, I'm going to catch up on reviews of some of the books and movies I've been reading and watching. Mostly books though. I read a lot. And I feel very fortunate that I have time to spend on such an enjoyable hobby. And a heads up, John and I are going to a parenting conference this weekend, so I'm hoping to get some fodder for a post on that. Should be interesting.

Anyway, just letting ya'll know.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Dirty house, Clean house

I cleaned my house today...It really needed it.

Laundry, dishes, clutter etc...


A clean house is a happy house.
Do you get depressed when your house is dirty, too? Which chores do you hate or enjoy the most?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Life history update: Solomon

Caution: this post will probably be sad and very long.

I was thinking of posting this yesterday, but it was my anniversary, so I didn't. Plus, I didn't want to post two too serious posts in a row. I want this to be a happy blog. But I do feel that this is an important thing to share. It is a rather important part of my life now and I want to be able to refer to it here without people wondering "What is she talking about?"

I was pregnant at the beginning of this year. 21 weeks pregnant and filled with happy dreams and thoughts of a baby due in May. How fun it would be to have a tiny baby with me on all my activities this summer! I'd take him to Old Songs festival and dance to the folk music with him there. I imagined tying him to my back or front (I plan to be a baby-wearer) and picking summer berries with him. I'd take him for my hikes and sit on logs or rocks in the woods to breastfeed him. And on the weekends John and I would take him to the beach with us. We would be a real family, the three of us. And all our plans and ideas for anything happening after May of this year included a third brand-new person.

note: I didn't know he was a boy at the time; we chose not to get an ultrasound because of expense and we didn't have any insurance. But in proper English grammar "he" is appropriate if you don't know and less bulky than "he/she" so I always referred to the baby as a "he" to keep it simple and grammatically correct.

I hadn't realized at the time just how much love and eagerness we had put into my pregnancy and the product thereof. I certainly did everything I could to make sure I was healthy and the baby was healthy, starting even before conception. I took folic acid and gave it to John too so all parts of our future baby would be protected from spina bifida. I didn't really know what it was, but I definitely didn't want our progeny to have it. I stopped drinking alcohol once it was a possibility that I was pregnant. No babies with fetal alcohol syndrome for us! I read up on preconception diets and pregnancy do's and don'ts. Do get regular exercise - I started walking and stretching every day. Don't smoke - duh! Neither John nor I have ever smoked anything in our lives, and I didn't plan on starting while pregnant. But I made especially sure to stay away from any kind of second-hand smoke. I was going to do everything right.

When the happy day came when the pregnancy test was positive I wandered about in a dream planning my homebirth, reading about The Bradley Method and natural childbirth and looking up midwives in my area. I ordered my prenatals and omega3 fish oils to give my baby a brainy headstart. Our kid was going to be a genius, John and I both agreed. And maybe he would have been. We'll never know.

What we do know was that he was healthy. Incredibly well formed, handsome for his age and size. All the right organs in all the right places. He enjoyed kicking up a storm whenever I was resting on the couch, reading or crocheting, and frequently while lying in bed trying to fall asleep. I didn't mind. I loved feeling my baby. I became so accustomed to those kicks that even when he was gone I thought I was feeling them. And he had bravely kept up that kicking, even in the last hours of his life, when his home, my womb - the safest place on earth, supposedly- failed him and emptied itself of all amniotic fluid.

I think back to those days before it happened and wonder "if I had known, if I had called the midwife earlier, gone to the hospital before it was too late, could we have saved him?" The midwives and doctors said "No." But I wonder still. Maybe they're just trying to make me feel better. After all, "What if's" And "If only's" can't bring babies back anyway.

It was new year's eve and I felt the baby settle a bit, what felt like lower in my womb. He seemed to be directly on my bladder. Even when I didn't actually have to pee, I felt like I had to. Frequently, when he kicked, it felt like he was kicking my bladder. It was vaguely uncomfortable but I had heard that it was quite normal to feel a constant need to pee and I've heard and read about many pregnant women complaining of a baby being on their bladder. I brushed aside my worries and enjoyed a new year's eve party with friends, toasting the new year with sparkling cider and then scurrying off to bed to get a good night's sleep.

It occurred to me the next day that the real reason I was feeling uneasy was the change in my discharge. It had become watery and there seemed to be more than usual. Sometimes, I would feel the wet leak into my underwear and think I had peed some. That had happened occasionally, though usually along with a sneeze or a cough. It didn't feel like anything had escaped my bladder though. I thought to call my midwife, but I had only just called her the day before about some blood spotting. She said it was due to the intercourse we had had, and not to worry unless other miscarriage symptoms happened. So instead, I googled my problem. I found that sometimes it was amniotic fluid, but that usually was a light yellowish colour and smelled strange. My discharge didn't smell like anything and it was very clear. But then I read that sometimes it didn't smell like anything. I also read that when you get into your second trimester (which I had reached a few weeks before) your discharge becomes more watery. Well, that was probably it. I figured. And tried really hard to dismiss the knot in my stomach. I'm feeling it now, just thinking about it. Why didn't I call my midwife then?

New Years day was a Saturday. And it came and went without much happening. Sunday, my knotted stomach continued as the watery discharge did. And sunday night, while using the bathroom, a flood of liquid trickled into the toilet, it was definitely not pee. It was definitely not regular cervical mucus. I paled. I panicked. I told John. He told me to call the midwife right away. I desperately hoped to her reassuring me that I was silly to worry and get some sleep. Instead, she told me to meet her at her office as soon as possible. We got there around 9:30pm.

She did a test on the mysterious fluid, which I felt leaking a whole lot more after the gush. As far as her tests were confirmed, it was amniotic fluid. She sent us to a hospital she worked with to do further tests and see if we could save the baby.

Before heading to the hospital, John and I stopped at home to pick up some items - toothbrushes, books, a change of clothes. We didn't know how long we would be there. I grabbed my camera. I had read in "What to Expect when You're Expecting" That after 20 weeks, if you had to give birth, or went into labor, there was a slim chance the baby would survive. I held on to that thought with all my might. I brought my camera in case I had to give birth (I had no signs of going into labor). We'd have pictures of his first moments of life. John and I prayed the whole way to the hospital. I was feeling jarred, but hopeful. John kept saying it would be fine. He told me not to worry. It was going to be okay. I let myself think "Maybe it will be okay."

It wasn't okay. We endured tests from the moment we got to the hospital at 11pm until around 3am, when the current doctor on staff told us that as far as she could tell my womb was nearly devoid of all amniotic fluid and the baby probably wouldn't survive. "But" She told us, "We'll have to wait till morning, so we can do further tests with a much higher quality ultrasound machine to really see what's happening." John and I slept at the hospital, fearful for what the morning would bring.

I remember when I gave up hope. Or I thought I did at the time. We waited for the ultrasound technician to be ready, and breakfast to come. I wasn't hungry, but I forced myself to eat. From what the doctor had told us, if the ultrasound confirmed what she was afraid of, inducing labor would be our best option. I shoveled down unsweetened cream of wheat, barely tasting it. Around this time I caught John's eyes. They were wide and sad. He took my hand and whispered "we can try again."


My heart failed. All along John had been telling me it would be okay! If he had given up hope, it would definitely not be okay. "No!" I said. My voice caught and my objection turned into a sob. "Please, don't say that." I said. I wanted this baby. I didn't want to have to try again, I didn't want to have gone through all that- the hoping, the dreaming, the morning sickness- only to have to try again. Tears filled my eyes.
"I'm sorry." he said. "You're right. It will probably be okay." But I could tell he didn't mean it.

We went across the street where the little ultrasound office was located. They looked at our baby. He was strong and had an amazing heartbeat. He was in a womb that was empty. He had no chance to survive inside. And then another doctor came in to talk to us. At 21 weeks, life outside the womb was "inviable" she said. But, but, but? "What to Expect When You're Expecting" said.... Were my thoughts. She told us she was sorry. She told us our options: To wait until the baby died and let my body naturally go into labor, or to be induced and have the baby as soon as the pitocin went to work. The first option included the risk of infection and being monitored for up to a few days depending on how soon my body decided to expel a dead baby. We chose the latter. And then I realized I hadn't quite given up all hope until now. John was crying. I was crying. I was thinking "I've never seen my husband cry before." And I kept wishing I still hadn't seen it.

To make it worse, we had to call people and *cringe* tell them our terrible news. We called our friends first. We had had dinner plans with them and we called to tell them we wouldn't be making it and why. They immediately came to the hospital to see us. We called our pastor. He and his wife also came. I called my parents down in the Keys. My dad prayed for us and comforted me over the phone. He sounded very sad. He really likes having grandkids.
Every time John and I would manage to dry our tears and regain some composure, another person would find out and call, or come into see us and they'd be crying and we'd start all over again. It was terrible. And wonderful. We realized how many good friends we had up here.

Well, the pitocin kicked in and I went into labor. John and I hadn't started practicing the Bradley method together yet, but we both new the basics and put what we knew into action. I relaxed as much as possible and he held my hand and massaged my back. The midwife told me that my contractions and labor would be the same as if I were giving birth to a full sized baby. The only difference would be the actual pushing part. I had read so much on pregnancy and childbirth that I felt as prepared as I'd ever be.

Somehow, four hours went by. It felt so short! I kept my eyes closed nearly the whole time. I stayed as relaxed as possible and let my body do its thing. As long as John held my hand I felt okay. He left once to try and eat some food they had brought to him, and I felt completely deserted. He abandoned his burger and stayed by my until the end. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I felt this was a little unfair. I knew he had to eat, but I couldn't let him go. I needed him too badly. I also kept thinking, "wow, I have an amazing husband. How do women give birth without their husbands by their sides?"

I had to pee the whole time and it was really getting ridiculous. The midwife attending me let me try once, but it was in the bed that I was to try and I simply couldn't. I remember her checking to see how dilated I was and telling me it was okay if I wanted to push. Well, I didn't want to push, but I wanted to be done, so I did. He was a breech baby. His tiny body slipped out quickly and then I had to actually work his head out. That was hard. But it was short. I think. I felt so gross having half a baby hanging from my body and working up a sweat to push out his head. Head-first babies seem to have a lot going for them, kept thinking. Then it was over. I had my baby. A boy.

So he was a boy all along. I thought so. Then again, I had a 50/50 chance, so...

There's the facts: He was long and skinny and his skin was wrinkly and kind of see-through. He hadn't developed fat yet. His eyes hadn't finished perfecting yet so his eyelids were still fused shut. His fingers were lanky, one wrist was bent weirdly, like it had been broken during the rough birth. His head seemed much too big. He had some reddish abrasions and there was dried blood on his face. The midwife gave me a warm wet cloth to wipe his skin, but it was so delicate I was afraid to wipe him almost at all.
Then there were my feelings: He's perfect. He's beautiful. He's tiny. He's mine. I love him. The nurses gave him a little yellow preemie hat. We took a lot of pictures of him. We both held him and kissed him. We named him Solomon.

We spent another night there, at the hospital, with our still-born baby in a bassinet beside our bed. The next day we made arrangements for his incredibly small body to be cremated. I was numb after the birth. I had just gone through a very real labor and birth and after I went home, I had no baby to account for it. My womb was empty. My arms were empty. A mother without a child When it sunk in, I cried for a long time. On and off. John and I went home and slept. Friends brought us food, they cleaned our house, they invited us to their homes for dinner. One of the deacons in our church paid for my mom to fly up and be with me. We loved the company. It was better than being alone to think about it and cry. Of course. We did cry, but over the weeks it was less and less. John was an immense comfort. I wouldn't have gotten over it if it weren't for him. But then, like he said "You wouldn't be dealing with this if it weren't for me." True.

In one of my sketchbooks I have the quote by Christina Rossetti "Better by far that you should forget and be happy than remember and be sad." And it's true for me. Of course, one has to allow themselves to grieve, but after a point the grieving doesn't help any more. It's like beating a dead horse. And even the sympathy gets old. I never knew how to respond to it. "Thanks" "I'm sorry too"? I won't forget Solomon, but I can remember him now without sadness at his death and the circumstances surrounding it. (Though I admit to shedding quite a few tears while writing this.)

So, nearly three months later, I feel pretty well recovered. My body is finally healed (though that was quite an ordeal in itself.) One more period from now and I have the doctor's go-ahead to try again. And I'm looking forward to it. I want to try again now. I'm willing to go through it all again for a live baby. Solomon can't be replaced, but he can have siblings.

Here is a link to photos of my first son:
please be warned that while he is a fully human-shaped child, he was a little undeveloped yet, so they might be somewhat disturbing and very sad to the weak of heart.

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's snowing

Happy spring everyone!

Yesterday was a lovely (almost) warm, sunny day. And today is cold and wet and snowing. But I'm OK with this, though I'm really eager for spring. There's something kind of magical about this snow. It's a spring snow. It's wet and though it has been falling for a good three or more hours now, it's barely stuck at all. And now that our days are long again and the Spring Equinox has made it's debut, I have a happy feeling that things can only get warmer and better and greener from this day on. The random warm days will soon become the norm and the random cold days will get less and less cold and even the sporadic snows won't dampen spring spirits.

Today is my anniversary. Three years. As I mentioned in my past post. And speaking of my past post, I feel like I barely scratched the surface. I realise that there are whole blogs dedicated to the subject of marriage, and no one post can really delve into it properly. But still. I almost feel like I missed making my point. And I also think I may have made it sound too easy.

Basically, I feel that John and I have a great marriage and most of the time it doesn't feel like we work hard to make it that way. But on the other hand, we're both super easy-going and relatively good-humoured people. If I did half of what I did for John, I'm sure he'd still be really happy. And if he admired and praised me half as much as he does now, I'm sure I'd still think I was the luckiest girl in the world. He's just that good. So maybe it depends on the people. Everyone is different and some people have a harder time at it than others.

I do think, however, that pretty much anyone could make a marriage work with anyone. I've read histories of arranged marriage where neither party had even met before the wedding and they worked it out and were even happy. And there is something to be said with letting an older, more experienced person pick out a life-mate for you. It's still done and still works quite well in other countries. Countries that have a much lower divorce rate than the U.S for that matter. Whether that's because couples are so happy together or because it would bring disgrace to the family or be against their religion if they did, I don't know. I haven't researched that topic...though it does seem interesting.

So, I'm trying not to get all soap-boxy on you again, but I wish people would lay off trying to put out a "marriage is like-" statement. Because it can be wonderful, and then again, it's been really awful for some people. And I'm sure for a lot of people the hard work is made up for by the fulfillment they get and I'm sure some people feel they never reap their rewards and other people (like John and I) are incapable of expressing how amazing and good it is to be married and don't understand why everyone can't be as happy they are. Every person is different and when you bring two people together, they become twice as different as the next couple. But it feels that even the really happy couples might put out a warning like "it can be hard" just so the dovey-eyed engaged couple don't crash after the wedding. And I guess that's better than letting them have too high expectations. It just seems that, if you can be friends, you can be married.

And I think that's all I'll say for now on the subject. Because it's too broad. And I'm afraid I'll end up repeating myself if I go on.

I've made a lasagna (it just needs to be baked) and I have plans to make a Tunnel of Fudge cake for our anniversary dinner. I made a fantastic meat sauce for the lasagna and I'm totally going to post the recipe and some photos of it soon. Probably tomorrow. Because I have a cake to make now.
And John will be home soon....*grin* and then the fun begins.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Soapbox Sundays: Marriage isn't as hard as it's made out to be

With my third anniversary coming up (it's tomorrow) I've been thinking quite a bit about marriage lately; how it's nothing like I expected (better) and a lot less difficult than I had been led to believe.

Growing up, I thought a lot about marriage, who I would marry, how to be a good wife, what my wedding would be like... I planned a lot, and felt I ought to prepare myself too. I learned to cook at a young age so I'd be a good wife (I also found that I really enjoyed it, and mostly cook for that reason now), I read books and articles on the subjects of love and relationships written by various types of people: men and women, Christians, psychologists, counselors, pastors and their wives, widows, etc. I also listened to and observed other married couples around me, my parents especially, but also my oldest sister who got married when I was 10, and has had a lot to say on the subject ever since.
All around me I heard all kinds of things about marriage -good things and bad things....mainly that marriage was "hard, but rewarding." Sometimes, sadly, it seemed that the "hardness" of marriage outweighed the rewards.

I wasn't put off by any of this. "All right," I thought, "the married life can be tough, but I'm sure I can be a good wife. And if times get tough we'll tough it out." After all, millions of people through the ages had gotten married and a lot of them seemed decently happy. Besides, being married was a prerequisite to having children for me, and I definitely wanted to be a mom too in my life, besides being a wife.

And eventually, I did get engaged to an amazing and wonderful man. Now, this isn't the story of how we met (all though its an amazing story, and perhaps I'll write a post on it later) but in short, I lived in Florida and John lived in New Hampshire, and we long distance dated for quite some time before John decided he needed to move down to me to date properly and ask me to marry him. So he did. And he did.

Naturally, I heard a lot of advice when I actually got engaged. This advice was generally more positive, but still had all kinds of warnings. "Marriage is the hardest work you'll do, but it's really worth it!" One lady told me. "You get out of it what you put into it" was another bit of advice that seemed to make sense. But during the engaged part, I started getting new ideas.

Since I was living in Tampa, away from most of my family in Key West and John was away from all his family and friends in NH, we hung out together all the time. We were, in essence, all we had in our new big city. So even more than normal dating or engaged couples hang out, we definitely hung out. On my way to work every morning, I would stop by John's apartment and say hi before starting my day. And on my way home, I would stop by and we would hang out the rest of the day. I would make dinner for us and we'd watch movies, talk, take walks together and generally hang out until around 11pm and I would drive home to my sister's house where I was living at the time. On weekends, I would do his laundry at my sisters house (Which I brought home Friday night) and then drive to his house for a hangout all saturday. When we did spend time with newly found friends or my sister, it was together, as a couple.

After John romantically asked me to marry him, it vaguely occurred to me that after our wedding my life might not change much. We already shopped and saved money together (We have very similar money values,) I did his laundry with mine anyway, and cooked for him, we cleaned his apartment together as though it were ours rather than just his...Only one thing would be different: at night I wouldn't have to drive home and I would get to sleep with him! And have sex with him! (We were both virgins when we married eachother.) What a wonderful thought! When I had come to this logical conclusion, I realized maybe it wouldn't be has hard as everyone was saying it would be. Or would it change when the vows were said? Would John or I go through some psychological metamorphosis and become a different person. Would we see each other differently, when we had tied ourselves together for better or for worse? Would we suddenly start fighting and bickering over which way the toilet paper ran or if the toothpaste was squeezed from the bottom or top despite the fact that we had dated for five years and never once had an argument?

Um no. We didn't. In fact, I was right in my assumption that it would be the same. Except better. Because now it's like a permanent sleep over with my best friend. I don't have drive half-asleep to my sister's house after drowsily watching a movie together. Instead, we can curl up together on the couch and just sleep there if we want. And let me tell you. It. Is. Awesome. And it's fun! And it's not hard. Really, it's not.

Maybe we're the exception to the rule. Maybe everyone else in the world has to struggle to have a good marriage. Maybe everyone else has to fight urges to be selfish and only take from a relationship rather than freely giving and doing things for the person they love. Maybe no one else is best friends with their spouse. Maybe John and I are the only people who both feel like they got the better deal when we married each other. And maybe we are the only couple ever to have an oh-so-rewarding marriage without considering it "hard." Or maybe we're just still in "the honeymoon phase" and once disillusionment sets in, or reality hits us we'll realize that marriage is not the cake-walk we've thought it to be...

But I rather think I'm wrong there. Because I've continued to observe old married couples and it seems to me that an awful lot of them seem very happy together. I'm not saying they don't fight (all though now I'd bet that a lot of them don't) and I'm not saying they don't have to work to make their marriage work, but it seems like they're happy. Happy with one another, happy with themselves. Maybe it's my married eyes seeing new things, but happy couples seem a lot more predominant now than they did when I was still under the notion of marriage being a tough thing.

My main thought is that marriage isn't any harder than life in general. And in fact, if you aren't married to an amazing supportive and encouraging husband (or wife) then your hard life will probably be a lot more miserable than if you are. So, maybe you do have to work at marriage, but just as much as you have to work at anything; friendships, jobs, self-improvement.

And that's why it bugs me when you meet a disillusioned married couple, or a person who may not have the greatest relationship with their spouse and they go on to tell you that when you've been married as long as they have, you'll know how hard marriage is. When they say "You're still in your honey-moon phase." I want to reply "Well, we'll stay in that phase, thanks for the advice." And sometimes it feels like they're just waiting for you to hit some rough patch in life before you begin feeling the need to fight...
Well, John and I have hit some pretty rough patches (like losing our baby. I plan to write a post on this later.) and it only brought us closer as far as I can tell. I'm only more and more convinced that I've married the most wonderful, patient and caring man that probably ever existed. And really, that just might be the reason we have such a good marriage; John is exceptional. He probably is the secret strength here. I'm pretty sub-par and married to any other guy I might have actually had to work to make the relationship work, but John is a rock. And a handsome one at that.
So either it's just because we both consider the other the most amazing person in the world, or John is just really amazing and I'm really lucky, but whichever one it is, we have a great marriage, fun and rewarding and better than I ever imagined it could be.

I'll get off my soapbox, now.

edit: Actually, a few more thoughts, but this may be more than a post script can handle, so it may end up needing to be a whole new soapbox sunday post, but...Please choose the person you marry with care. Don't let my "marriage is a breeze" attitude lead you into thinking you can make it work with anyone (Well, you can, but it may actually be hard sometimes.) So if you aren't married keep some things in mind when choosing your mate: Definitely let it be someone you love, but don't let love be the only factor. Compatibility (are you friends as well as lovers? Do you like eachother? If you weren't dating would you hang out?) and similar views on important issues: Money, primarily. Make sure your financial habits are agreeable. But also, equality in religious beliefs (if its important to you, it should be just as much to them) and future type plans. If you have any doubts about or reasons not to marry someone, you're probably better off not marrying them. I'm not a relationship counselor and I don't have any expertise in this subject beyond my own experience and observations, but I think this is pretty standard advice.
If, however, you are already married and struggling, maybe accepting the person for who they are, as they are will help. And wanting to make it work is the first key to making it work.
Um...that's all. Sorry to rant even further on you on a subject somewhat off subject...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lovely days and thoughts on blogs. (this one in particular)

The past few days have been beautiful. It's really something when you can open your windows and let warmth in, rather than letting it out. We turned our heat off about a week ago (cheers for saving money on electricity!) and it's been very comfortable. Last night I was actually quite warm, almost uncomfortably so.

Yesterday and the day before were very warm. Shorts and flip-flops were pulled out and worn with great relish. We even took a barefoot stroll on the beach. Really nice. Of course, the ocean was still down right chilly and getting rolled over by a wave felt like my foot had just been frozen off....heh
Today is also lovely. It started out a bit grey but has been getting cheerier as the day progresses. This is my excuse for the few days break this blogs been having. And will continue to have.... Haha, just kidding. Sort of. I've been plotting some future posts, that I feel are necessary in order to make this blog more *real* feeling. But I have to seriously think them out before I just throw em up here.
Blog writing is a relatively new genre of literature, and I'm not sure I've quite gotten the hang of it. It's a blend of anecdote, insight and tutorial. And even that can change depending on your niche.... Which makes me wonder....

What is my niche? Do I have one? A blog about weather? boooorrrring. I have more hobbies and interests than that! And some of them can be quite interesting. So I suppose it's more of a personal blog than anything. About projects and hobbies that strike my fancy, subjects and themes grab my interest and any other type thing. I'll be trying to organize and get this blog rolling for the benefit of anyone who comes by to see what it's all about. I'm new at it, so bear with me.

I'm going to try and include weekly themes -I've seen a lot of Wordless Wednesdays, and wonder if I can do that too, it seems like an easy cop out once a week. I have a few other ideas too...Soapbox Sundays, where I rant about things, issues, problems etc. that bother me or that I feel need to be discussed. (I have a great one for tomorrow...Actually, I have a few really great ones coming.) These will include a broad spectrum of subjects, including but not limited to consumerism, saving money, marriage, epidurals, breastfeeding, being green (and the many aspects thereof) precycling, vaccinations, natural medicine, health, exercise, TV and it's effects, parenting ....Well, there's a lot. It's stuff I'm interested, stuff I research for fun because I find it so fascinating and stuff that frequently just needs to be ranted about.

Then, I was also thinking to include at least one recipe a week, maybe more depending on how many delicious new/original things I cook or bake in a week. And I'd like to put up more photographs up of crafts, artwork and similar projects I've been working on. I think this would not only be interesting to the reader (If I have any!) but it would also get me motivated to work on and finish the many things I plan, start and then put aside. And photo-documentaries. I have a few of them that I'll be making public and a few in the works (some things take time) but I believe they are a fun way to see something come into being. Things that are not generally seen made. Edibles: - wedding cakes, wines, extracts and infused oils, as well as inedibles: huge wall hangings, upcycled or refashioned clothing, crocheted items...

Also, paragraph breaks. I need to remember these. They do so much for the readability of a post. One long unbroken page of text does tend to be intimidating. *goes back and starts putting paragraph breaks here and there* *cough*

Once I get my act(s) in order, I'll feel a lot more comfortable lending the link to my blog out and sharing it. One of my goals is to get some food photo of mine onto That would really get my name out there. But first it has to be a blog worth reading and looking at.
So anyone who is out there currently, I appreciate you...even if you are shy or not into commenting, but just be ready: this blog is going to be so much better when I get the hang of it. I've already given it quite the facelift and it looks really awesome. (IMO)

Lets see if we can make some these goals this coming week.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bananas for dinner (and breakfast and dessert.)

Last night I made an amazingly delicious dish. Banana Spaghetti. I have had a dish called Banana Spaghetti before made by my culinary talented brother-in-law Terence. But when I decided I wanted to put bananas in my pasta last night, it was a bit different than what I remembered eating for an Independence Day Dinner a few years ago. From what I remember of Terence's it had bell peppers, roasted bananas and no red sauce (probably had other stuff too, I just can't remember, but it WAS good.) Mine had peas, corn, carrots, peppers, onions, garlic and cayenne pepper all sauteed along with bananas (which got mushy with the frying and only lent flavour and no actual banana chunks) and since I knew my husband would balk if there was no sauce, I put a can of tomato sauce in there too. And it was gooooood. Sweet, spicy, flavourful. Both John and I really enjoyed it (and the leftovers were fantastic too.)
So I thought I'd share a bit of a recipe with you. Mind, I didn't measure anything and you can mix and match with vegetables and spices. This is how I normally cook, think of what I have, think of a basic dish and make it up as I go. So be creative and I hope it works for anyone who wants to try.
As a side note, prepared pasta will be a given in this recipe, so I guess its really more of a sauce recipe.
Banana Spaghetti
Onions, chopped
red, green, yellow bell peppers, chopped
a carrot, chopped
a handful of frozen peas
a handful of frozen corn
one or two sliced bananas
sea salt
cayenne pepper
crushed garlic
a pinch of rosemary (I like to grind rosemary in my mortar, so it's less pine-needle-y)
a pinch of sage
a dash of cinnamon (in hindsight, I don't know that the scanzy amount of cinnamon I added did anything for the overall dish, I couldn't taste it, but it may have done it's part, I don't know.)
dash of allspice (I believe a little more allspice would have been nice. I like allspice in tropical-like savoury dishes.)
one can of tomato sauce (if I wasn't compromising for my husband's sake, I would have put a can of diced tomatoes instead, or better, chopped fresh tomatoes, of which I had none, so therefore, could not add)
But while we're on the wish list-I bet fresh basil would have done wonders to this dish.
Annny way, I basically sauteed all this together in my cast iron pan until the onions were translucent, the carrots tender and the banana good and mashed up and then mixed it into my prepared pasta. It was tasty and rather different.

Funny thing, on the banana theme, I woke up today and made banana pancakes (sorry, no recipe) and then after dinner tonight, I made a delicious banana chocolate pudding/mousse.
Basic recipe is as follows (I'm trying for some measurements here, but bear with me as I'm estimating, feel free to tweak if needed):
Banana Chocolate pudding/mousse/pie filling (frosting?)
3Tbs coconut oil
4 tbs cocoa powder
1 or two bananas mashed with a fork
4-5 tbs honey
Combine all in a shallow pan and turn heat to low (just enough to melt the coconut oil and dissolve the honey, basically) Once the oil is basically softened, turn the heat off and whisk with a fork (or if you have one of those awesome tiny whisks, I'm majorly jealous.) You can eat it while warm, if you like your pudding warm and slightly runny, or let cool to room temp for a nice thick pudding. I ate it at room temp, but I imagine if you put it into the fridge, you'd get a nice solid silk-pie texture. This was good, and incredibly easy, and not too unhealthy (it seems to me). Plus, I usually have these ingredients!

As an awesome close to this post, John just asked me on a date. Heck yes. :D

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More signs of spring and the beginnings of winemaking for the year

In my last post I mentioned some sounds of spring. I missed a couple, such as the sound of a brook or creek breaking loose (what a happy sound and sight!) and the sound of ice breaking up in a lake. Another sound that will soon be filling our ears is the sigh of wind through leaves. Leaves. I am so excited for leaves.

Yesterday, John and I drove to the Lake House to visit brother-in-law and wife. It's still pretty wintery feeling up there, what with them being in more mountainous regions, but still very pretty. And on the drive there, I had a chance to see hundreds of trees along the side of the highways all shaded with a very light pink-buds!
Edit: I've seen some chipmunks scampering about too! If they've come out of hibernating, I think everything else is soon to follow.

Tonight John and I are making our first wine of the year. A new type of wine we've never tried before-beet wine. I'm really excited and curious to see what it tastes like. The beets were on sale at our local Market Basket and we thought we'd give it a go to kick start our goal of making the most of every chance we get to make all sorts of interesting wines and beers this year. Last year we were positively too lax on taking up on all the chances we had, so hopefully this is a harbinger of a bountiful year where we take advantage of all that we can. We started by buying a book called Making Wild Wines and Meads by Patti Vargas and Rich Gulling. It has all kinds of amazing recipes and encourages using what you find to make wine. John and I don't normally buy books new, but the thought here was if we have an easily accessible recipe (as opposed to browsing through myriads of recipes on the web) we might be more motivated to do something. (Though we'll still probably be looking on the internet for recipes the book doesn't have).

But so far so good! We're currently waiting for the beets to simmer until tender over low heat. I'm taking photos all along so I'll have a little photo-documentary on the making of beet wine in a couple months. Well, sometime next year, I suppose. Wine making takes such a l-o-o-o-n-g time. Brewing beer is positively speedy in comparison. And speaking of which, I'll post some photos of husband's Lemon Hefeweizen when he does the bottling. I totally spaced on photographing the actual brewing of though :( My excuse is that John's parents were over and I was too preoccupied with having tea and pleasant conversation with John's mom while John showed his dad the ropes of brewing. (He was super interested, too.)

Makes me excited for having kids to raise and homeschool and teach all kinds of interesting things, such as brewing, wine making, foraging and putting up food in all kinds of clever ways. Hopefully that's not a far off dream either.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Signs of Life

A brief stroll to the dumpster and then a walk to the mailbox has assured me; the world is slowly coming back to life. Snow is an effective silencer, but as it slowly melts away, sounds seem to return. Despite the grey chill of the day, birds were chirping and singing away, the sound of the train near by was loud and clear once again. I don't hear it today, but there's another sound I love to hear: drips. The drip drip drop of snow melting. A couple weeks ago, we had a lovely warm day (it must have gotten up to 55.) And the sound of snow melting off the roof and pouring out of the gutter was a very merry song indeed.
Don't get me wrong, I love winter. I loved this winter in particular. It was a real winter. Cold, bitter at times, frosty, chill, snowy, icy, freezing, inclement, wonderful. Last winter was wet, to say the least. This winter we had real snow, lovely powdery sparkly snow that swirled in the wind and frosted trees and cars like icing on cakes. I hiked in it, played in it, danced in it and flopped, exhausted, into it. I made my first snow man this winter (it was tiny) and had a couple snowball fights as well. I would have liked to do more, but some unfortunate things prevented it (more on that later, perhaps).
Snowy days inspire as well. I completed my first real crochet project, a gorgeous green and very long scarf for my husband. I spent endless hours drinking tea and reading books, drawing, daydreaming... And there's nothing more wonderful than staying in, making and eating a lovely big waffle breakfast or cozying up with John and some hot chocolate...Yes, I had a really good winter overall.
But spring, how I do welcome thee...
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