19 May 2011

Adventures in Baby-Led Weaning: First Foods

It's happening. What we parents dread from the very moment we see those two lines on our home pregnancy test. The one thing we wish we never have to face but we know is as inevitable as the rotation of the earth around the sun...

My little boy is growing up.

It feels like he was tiny and squishy and helpless only yesterday. Where did this active, expressive, curious little guy come from? And it feels like only yesterday I was plastered to the couch with a tiny person attached to my breast for hours on end. Now I'm lucky if I can get him to nurse for five minutes...total. And he's begun the journey that will eventually lead to him weaning off the breast entirely (although that will be a slow and gradual process, and doesn't look like it will happen anytime soon).

He's started eating solid foods.

18 May 2011

Runny Rhubarb and Sloppy Strawberries

It's high time I posted another recipe here. And since it's strawberry season, what could be more appropriate than my favoritest strawberry pie ever? I'm preforming an experiment this year, though. When I made this last year, I ended up with strawberry rhubarb soup in a pie crust bowl. Delicious, but hard to eat. So I did some snooping and discovered that wheat flour does not make a very effective thickening agent in fruit pies, as it tends to break down in acidic environments. The original recipe uses wheat flour. So this time I'm substituting tapioca flour for the wheat flour, as tapioca flour does not break down. Also, I'm macerating the rhubarb in sugar overnight to coax out some of the excess juice. Hopefully these measures will produce a less soupy pie.

I took ingredients from the original recipe (which can be found in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook) and the idea to macerate the rhubarb in sugar overnight from Greg Patent's Baking in America.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 Tbsp tapioca flour
4 cups (1/4 inch peeled pieces) rhubarb stalks
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup sliced strawberries

1. Mix together the rhubarb and sugar in a bowl and let sit overnight or for 6-8 hours (refrigerate if your kitchen is warm).

2. Stir the rhubarb mixture to dissolve any remaining sugar. Set a strainer over a bowl, transfer rhubarb mixture to it, and let drain for about 1 hour. Measure the juice, adding water if necessary to equal 3/4 cup.

3. Adjust one oven rack to the center position and set a baking sheet on the rack (to catch all the gooey stuff that inevitably bubbles over). Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line pie pan with dough.

4. Whisk together rhubarb juice and tapioca flour and stir in the rhubarb and strawberries. Spoon the mixture into the bottom crust, mounding it slightly in the center. Dot with the butter.

6. Roll out remaining dough, wrap it around the rolling pin and unroll it over the top of the pie. Make slits in the top in a pinwheel pattern (or make a lattice top, which is how we've always done it). Crimp edges.

7. Place pie on top of the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake for 40-45 minutes more until juices start bubbling up and the crust is browned. Cool pie on wire rack before serving (filling will be runny if cut too soon).

Easy Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1. Mix 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon each salt and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Cut 2 sticks chilled unsalted butter into pieces. With a pastry blender, cut in butter, working until mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. Add 4 tablespoons ice water; work with hands until dough comes together. If dough is still crumbly, add more ice water a tablespoon at a time (up to 4 more tablespoons). Do not overwork.

3. Divide dough in half, and flatten halves into disks. Wrap disks separately in plastic; refrigerate at least 1 hour.

4. To form the pie shell, roll the dough on a floured surface into a 14-inch round. Wrap around rolling pin and carefully unroll over a 9-inch pie plate.

5. Fit gently into bottom and side of plate. Use kitchen shears to trim dough to a 1-inch overhang; fold under, and seal to form a rim.

The result?

Pie perfection! It didn't run at all! After convincing myself I would never be able to make a fruit pie that didn't have to be eaten with a spoon, this is a thrilling triumph! Wahoo!

So to sum up: Tapioca flour ROCKS in fruit pies. Take note.

Oh, and it tasted awesome, too.

02 May 2011

God Loves Osama Too

"I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live." Ezekiel 33:11

While I wholeheartedly disagree with expressing joy over the death of another, no matter what that person has done, I can see the point of those who take comfort in the fact that this man is no longer capable of committing the terrible acts he was known for. I can sympathize with that sentiment. I can't, in good conscience, take pleasure in his death. He is a child of God and a sinner like the rest of us (albeit his sinfulness caused quite a bit of damage, but still).

"Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace.” -The Vatican's Statement on Bin Laden's death

May God have mercy on his soul.

01 May 2011

Adventures in Baby-Led Weaning: Introduction

Dominic is approaching the six-month mark. That magical age when he begins the journey into the world of solid foods. The beginning of the end of our breastfeeding relationship (more on that). Time to begin replacing his feedings of nutrient dense breast milk with nutritionally void, iron-fortified rice cereal!

Wait a minute. That doesn't make sense.

Rice cereal, like all refined carbohydrates, breaks down into sugar in the body, raising blood sugar and insulin levels. Chronic high levels of insulin contribute to obesity and diabetes. Not to mention young babies lack intestinal amylase, the enzyme required for the proper digestion of grains. So we probably won't be stocking up on Gerber rice cereal, or any baby cereal for that matter. Unfortunately just about every pediatrician and well-meaning grandparent in the country advise rice cereal as the first food introduced to an infant, sometimes as early as two months. The only reason I can imagine for this is that rice cereal is the least likely food to cause an allergic reaction and/or the mistaken notion that after six months (or two months) milk (whether breast milk or formula) isn't enough to sustain a growing baby.

The latter is simply nonsense, of course. But enough about that.

I've had a lot of time to think about how to start Dom onto solid foods. Before he was born I bought Cooking for Baby, a cookbook full of wholesome recipes and tips for starting solids. We knew right from the beginning that we didn't want to feed him commercial baby food. It's full of preservatives and added sugar and the organic baby food requires a small loan to purchase enough for the first three months. So we planned on making our own purees from foods we regularly eat (flavors he would have likely been exposed to through my breast milk). Sure, it's a little extra work, but it seemed worth it.

I didn't take into account how much of a lazy mom I am.

Yes, lazy. Why? Let's review my parenting decisions over the past six months:

  • Breastfeeding: No bottles to wash, no powder to measure, no cans to open, highly portable, always the right temperature, and (after the initial 2-3 months) so easy. Definitely lazy.
  • Co-sleeping: I don't have to get up out of bed when Dom wakes in the night, no worrying about waking him up to put him down in a crib, no need to sleep train. The ultimate in laziness.
  • Babywearing: No need to lug a stroller or car seat around (those bucket seats are heavy!).
  • Cloth-diapering: OK this one is admittedly more work than disposables, but I don't have to go out and buy diapers when I run out, so it's kind of lazy.

There are a few others that are slightly more controversial, so I'll leave them for another post. But you get the picture. So why on earth did I think that I possessed the motivation required to not only prepare separate meals for Dom, but also to puree, label, date, and freeze the individual portions for later use?

Luckily for me I soon discovered baby-led weaning. No purees, no cereals, no "baby food". Just give them table food and let them at it. Perfect!

Obviously, there are guidelines. You can't hand your kid a bag of Fritos and let them go to town. And you probably want to avoid peanuts and honey for the first year. But the essential principle still holds true. Babies can feed themselves actual food around six months (or later depending on the child). Nutrient content is important, of course, but he still receives all the calories and nutrients he needs through breast milk, so no need to obsess over whether he's "getting enough" (had to obsess enough about that in the first weeks of breastfeeding). We can focus on letting him try a wide range of flavors and textures without pressure. It's the perfect solution for us!

First, I should explain the use of the word "weaning" in this context. This method of infant feeding is based on a book by the same title published in the UK, so the word means something slightly different than what we in the US consider weaning. Here it means the cessation of breastfeeding, but in the UK it means the introduction of solid foods (so the cessation of exclusive breastfeeding). So we're not talking about the end of the breastfeeding relationship, although starting solids does signal the beginning of such a process, as solid foods will eventually start to replace breast milk as the child grows.

So how do we know when he's ready to start rubbing mashed potatoes into his hair? Here are some of the signs to look for:

  • Your baby shows interest in food and family meal times.
  • Your baby can sit without support.
  • Your baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex (pushing solid foods out of the front of the mouth).
  • Your baby is ready and willing to chew (though he may not have many teeth).
  • Your baby can pick up items with the thumb and forefinger (pincer grasp) as opposed to using the whole hand (palmar grasp).

The last one is debatable, I think. It's sufficient if he can grasp an object accurately and bring it to his mouth. Pincer grasp is more important for smaller bits of food, like peas. Dominic is already showing some, but not all of these signs. He becomes transfixed on our actions whenever we sit down to eat, has begun imitating the way we chew, and can grab fairly accurately. I'm not sure if he's lost the tongue-thrust reflex entirely and he can't sit up unassisted yet, so he probably won't be delving into a plate of spaghetti the day he turns six months (this coming Thursday), but I'm sure it's not far off.

It's a fairly relaxed approach to starting solids and quite different from the way most of us are accustomed to feeding babies. The basic principles of this approach are:

  • At the start of the process the baby is allowed to reject food, and it may be offered again at a later date.
  • The child is allowed to decide how much he wants to eat. No "fill-ups" are to be offered at the end of the meal with a spoon.
  • The meals should not be hurried.
  • Sips of water are offered with meals.
  • Initially, soft fruits and vegetables are given. Harder foods are lightly cooked to make them soft enough to chew on even with bare gums.
  • Foods with clear danger, such as peanuts, are not offered.
  • Non-finger-foods, such as oatmeal and yoghurt, may be offered with a spoon so baby can learn to self-feed with a spoon.

Remember, milk is still the main source of nutrition, so solid foods are offered more for exploration than for nourishment. Food before one, just for fun!

As Dominic approaches this new stage in his development, I plan to chronicle our experiences with this method in a series of posts (including pictures). So look forward to some sloppy shenanigans in the weeks to come!

28 April 2011

Sacraments, Soap Nuts and Swamps.

If I had been more on the ball I would have had a post ready to be automatically published on Easter Sunday celebrating the Resurrection like a good little Catholic blogger. But I'm relatively new to this enterprise and still learning the ropes of good blogging, so I hope you'll forgive me my omission.

Dominic's first Easter went much better than I was expecting. He's been settling into a pretty regular nap schedule, which makes him primed and ready for bed at about 7:30 or 8pm. If he skips any of his naps he's a grumpy bugger until he goes to bed. So we started our Triduum fairly well. Holy Thursday Mass was at 7pm so we were cutting it close but still able to keep him relatively good tempered until it was over. On Good Friday we were not so lucky. I had to skip out because Dominic missed his afternoon nap (our fault...we were out looking for dress shoes for his Easter outfit) and he was not going to cooperate. We were worried that there would be a repeat performance the next day and I would have to miss out on the Vigil Mass and instead go to Mass in the morning without my darling husband (as the Director of Religious Education he had to be at the Vigil for the Sacraments of Initiation). So we took extra precautions and got him down for an extra nap right before we had to leave for the Vigil, which started at 8pm. Lo and behold! he handled it beautifully, especially considering it was very much past his bedtime! I had to pace with him in the ring sling near the doors to get some air during Communion, but that was the extent of it. Moral of the story? Babies can and will exceed expectations...and they are remarkably resilient. Oh and a ring sling is a must-have for long Vigil Masses.

Now, in my attempt to switch entirely to natural household products, I have finally delved into the world of soap nuts. We all know the saying "Money doesn't grow on trees." (Or, as I like to say, "My money tree isn't producing this year"). But guess what does grow on trees...laundry detergent! These soap nuts (or soap berries, as they are more accurately named) contain a natural detergent called saponin in their hulls. When you soak them in water they release the saponin, which reduces the surface tension of the water, allowing it to penetrate fabrics and thus clean them. Cool, right?

I have been making my own laundry soap for over a year now, but, after experiencing some problems with leaking due to possible detergent residue on my cloth diapers, I decided to give soap nuts a try. I got mine from NaturOli because their prices were the best and they don't use plastic in their packaging. I got a 1/4 lb. bag, which can be used for over 40 loads of laundry. That works out to about $0.25 per load (if you buy the 4 lb. bag, it works out to $0.08 per load)! I have been using them on my diapers for over a week now and I'm impressed! My diapers come out clean and soft and I have no leaking problems. My laundry smells clean...no not the "fresh" scent so commonly associated with cleanliness, but actually clean. And if you really like your laundry to be scented, you can throw a towel with a few drops of essential oil on it into the dryer with your load.

What's even better is that NaturOli offers 50% off their soap nuts and Extreme 18X liquid concentrate in honor of Earth Day. Unfortunately, the sale ended Tuesday at midnight, so you can't take advantage of this deal (yet another example of how I need to be more on-the-ball about getting posts up quicker). But it's still cost-effective, even without the sale. I was able to purchase a 2 lb. bag before the sale ended at $19 with $10 shipping, which works out to $0.09 per load! Hooray for natural and cost-effective!

Now if only I could hang my diapers out in the sun to dry...

I mention that merely as a segue into my next topic, which is, of course, RAIN.

Lots, and lots, and lots of rain.

Normally, rain is a good thing for a gardener. Unless, of course, your soil is mostly clay and it pours buckets for a week straight (or longer, I don't know. I've lost track). Our lawn looks like a prairie, which is not in and of itself a bad thing if you're going for that look. The weeds next to our shed have grown nearly a foot since this all started (and no, I'm not over-exaggerating). My garden beds are now more suited to rice paddies than anything resembling a vegetable bed. Had I known this deluge was on its way, I wouldn't have planted my lettuce seeds. My neat little rows have been scattered all over the bed, so I'll have to wait until they get their true leaves to figure out which variety is growing where. Ugh!

I would have taken a picture of what basically amounts to a bird bath in my backyard, but it was too depressing at the time (and my camera ran out of batteries).

It looks like my tomato and pepper plants will have to wait for the soil to dry out a little before they can be planted.

18 April 2011

A Lenten Public Service Announcement

So...remember my post at the beginning of Lent? Welp, it's now Holy Week and guess who has totally fallen off the Lenten bandwagon? Me, that's who. It's a lot easier to give up coffee than try to improve oneself spiritually, let me tell you!

In a last-ditch attempt to salvage what's left of Lent, I'm going to give up the internet for the rest of the week. So I won't be posting again until Easter Sunday.

It's kind of lame, but it's all I got.

Happy Holy Week!

16 April 2011

Got [Raw] Milk?

I recently drove 45 minutes for a gallon of milk.

Yup. I did.

And it was worth it.

Some of you may be wondering, "But Amy! You're lactose intolerant! Why would you go through all this trouble for milk if you can't drink it?" Well, here's the thing. I can drink this milk.

"But Amy! How can this be?!?"

Alright, enough buildup. I'll spare you the rest of this quirky vignette and get to my point. The reason I drove 45 minutes for the only gallon of milk in the world I can apparently drink is because we are now getting raw milk straight from a local farm. It's an awesome setup because the milk comes from 100% grass fed JerseyGuernsey, and Normande cows (all cows known for the high quality of their milk) and it costs no more than the store-bought organic milk we were purchasing previously.

Now before you bombard me with the dangers of drinking raw milk, let me just say that this was not a decision made on a whim. We weighed the risks and benefits thoroughly. The risks seem to be greatly exaggerated, and are far outweighed by the benefits:
  • Raw cow's milk has all 20 of the standard amino acids.
  • Raw milk contains lactoferrin, which is an iron-binding protein for improved absorption of iron and also anti-cancer properties.
  • Contains CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated omega 6 fatty acid which has many health benefits such as raising the metabolic rate, strengthening the immune system, lowering food allergy reactions, and is also a cancer-fighting agent among other things.
  • Contains vitamins and minerals including calcium which has many benefits in itself including reduction in cancer, lower risk of osteoporosis, higher bone mineral density, strong teeth, and lowered risk of kidney stones.
  • Sixty-plus fully intact and functional enzymes.
  • Contains beneficial bacteria.

This is a rather simplified list that really just scratches the surface concerning the health benefits of drinking raw milk. Pasteurization destroys most of these factors or greatly diminishes their effectiveness. Enzymes are the best example. Raw milk contains phosphatase for calcium absorption, lipase for fat, lactase for lactose, and many others. One of the tests to confirm pasteurization was successful checks for the absence of these enzymes! Not to mention the loss of many of the heat-sensitive fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins: up to 66% for Vitamins A, D, E and F, 50% or more for Vitamin C, and the total destruction of Vitamins B6 and B12.

So if pasteurization is so bad, why is all our milk pasteurized? Simple. It allows conventional diary operations to continue producing thousands of gallons of milk daily. Without pasteurization these operations would have to change their farming practices drastically in order to assure the quality of their milk. As it stands right now, they don't have to worry about contamination or disease because their milk will be pasteurized anyway. Nevermind that pasteurization doesn't prevent contamination.

This is why, as is true for much of our food, it is so important to know where your food came from. If Horizon Organic started selling raw milk at Kroger (a highly unlikely event given the current food climate) I would most likely pass it up considering I have no idea how they feed and care for their cows, whether they are allowed to graze or kept in confinement, if they've been screened for tuberculosis and brucellosis, and how often they're milked. Which is why we're going to a local farm for our milk.

I can't tell you how excited I am about this! Before we committed ourselves to a cow share we were able to visit the farm and see where the cows are milked, housed, and grazed. As a matter of fact, the day we went was the first day the cows were sent out to graze, so we went out to the pasture to "meet" the cows. Two of the younger, more curious ones came trotting up to us to investigate. Dominic kind of just looked at them, non-plussed, and proceeded to stare at the ground (which was apparently far more interesting than the large ruminant sticking her nose in his face).

The owner introduced us to all the cows, including some cute tidbits about the temperaments of a few of them. They were all happily munching on some the greenest, most lush looking grass I'd seen in a while. As I told the owner, "This makes me wish I ate grass!"

After we saw the cows, we made our way to the other end of the pasture to see their herd of mama sheep and their brand new babies (squeeeee!!!!!!). The lambs stayed safely behind their mothers and most of the mothers kept their distance, but the owner was able to get one of them to come over so we could pet her. Nick was kind of obsessed with the one spotted lamb and kept trying to get a picture of her, but she kept hiding behind her mama. He ended up getting some cute ones though.

Then she took us to see the brand new calf and the milking stall. They only milk one cow at a time to minimize the likelihood of contamination. She showed us the stainless steel tank where they keep the milk chilled, explained how they sanitize the equipment (very thoroughly was my impression) and showed us where they keep the bottled milk for pickup.

And then...

...we got to taste the milk!

Think back to any time you've ever had a craving for something, let's say French fries (I craved them a lot during my pregnancy). In your mind they taste exactly as a French fry ought to taste: salty, starchy, with just the right ratio of crispy exterior to soft interior. Then, when you finally have a pile of fries in front of you, you're disappointed to find that they're too crispy/mushy, too salty/not salty enough, too thin/too thick, etc, etc. Your expectations find no match in reality. So you resign yourself to sub-par potatoes and hope dousing them in ketchup will make up for it.

That has been my experience with milk (and, really, all dairy products) up to this point. I would think about milk and imagine something creamy, slightly sweet, full bodied. I was always disappointed by the store-bought variety and had resigned myself to the fact that there was no such thing as what I was expecting.

No more!

This milk tastes exactly how I always thought milk should taste. It is divinely delicious, rich and creamy. We signed up for a share on the spot. Now, I get a craving for a glass of milk...and I have a glass of milk. It is extremely satisfying, especially since it is not only delicious, but also health promoting.

I highly suggest looking into finding fresh milk and trying it yourself. Make sure you're getting it from a good source, one that keeps healthy, disease-free cows (no hormones or antibiotics), feeds them an organic, grass-based diet, is meticulous about the cleanliness of their milk and has it tested for contamination regularly. Clean, raw milk is highly nutritious and just as safe, if not more so, as its pasteurized counterpart.

Raw milk. Does the body good (really).

12 April 2011

Mothering, Feelings, and Great Expectations

I remember taking the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator test during high school at our diocesan Christian Leadership Institute one summer. I think back then I figured myself out to an ENFJ, because all the people I most wanted to be like were ENFPs or ENFJs. I took the same test a year later as a member of the Maine Diocesan Council of Catholic Youth and came out as an INFJ, because both of my best friends at the time were INs. Is there a point to all this? Yes, yes there is. I'm simply trying to show how easily manipulated such a test can be. And how little stock I actually put into its results. Which is why I was surprised when this quiz, based on the Myers-Briggs Types, actually got it right.

The 'Know Thyself' Mother

Sensitive and family-focused, the INFJ mother looks for and encourages the unique potential of each child. Self-knowledge may be her byword. Her aim is to help each child develop a sense of identity and cultivate personal growth. In fact, she may value the mothering experience as a catalyst to her own personal growth and self-knowledge.

The INFJ mother spends time observing and understanding each child. She is drawn to intimate conversations and seeks a free exchange of feelings and thoughts.

Sympathetic and accommodating, the INFJ mother strives to meet the important yet sometimes conflicting needs of each family member in harmonious and creative ways.

She is conscientious and intense as well. Probably no one takes life and child-raising more seriously than the INFJ. She approaches mothering as a profession requiring her best self.

It gets really eerie when it starts discussing the particular struggles this personality type may have to contend with:

Details. The INFJ mother may gravitate toward the idea of getting the family and household organized and in order, only to exhaust herself with nitty-gritty follow through. Regular baths for small children, weekly laundry, daily meals, picking up clutter, and ongoing repairs can be overwhelming.

Real life vs. the ideal. Because she lives with an ideal in her mind, the INFJ mother often has unrealistic expectations of herself and others. She may feel inadequate and critical of herself when reality falls short of her ideal.

Yes and YES!

I am SO like this! I have this marvelous picture of a perfectly organized household that never seems to come to fruition for one reason of another. I'll be all gung-ho and rarin' to go about my FlyLady routine one day and just go crazy organizing, folding, putting away, washing, drying, etc, etc. Two or three days go by and my laundry baskets are all full of clean laundry I have yet to put away and the dirty clothes are just piling up on the floor around them, I can't see my counter top or the inside of my sink for all the dishes, and the mail is spilling over onto the floor. Meal planning? Maybe. If I get to it. Ugh!

It's that ideal, of the perfectly organized household, that ends up making me feel inadequate. As if not being June Cleaver makes me suck as a human being. Don't worry, the self-loathing doesn't last long. But it rears its ugly head on occasion, no denyin' that.

So what's a mom to do when faced with such difficulties?

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

h/t to Just West of Crunchy.

11 April 2011

Raised (Ish) Garden Beds and Seedlings!

And so it begins...

There's no way out this time. My seeds are here (and some are started), my plants are on their way, my beds are dug, and there's nothing left to do but start planting and hope for the best. This has the potential to be a stunning success, a moderately satisfying achievement, or a crushing failure. I can live with a moderately satisfying achievement if it means at least ONE fresh tomato still warm from the sun. A stunning success is too much to hope for considering my dearth of experience with horticulture, so if I find myself in such happy circumstances, I will be pleasantly surprised. Crushing failure? Well, I'd rather not think about it.

And now it seems I will be having a gardening buddy this year! My brother-in-law is growing a small crop of corn in our yard since he has limited space in his own due to a rather large tree shading most of it. Fresh corn? Win! The downside of this arrangement is that I now have an impartial witness to any possible failure on my part. Note to self: Don't fail.

Yesterday was warm and sunny so we took the opportunity to get our beds dug and ready for planting (good thing, too, as it has been rainy steadily all. day. long.) My dad and sister helped us dig the beds while they were here looking for rental properties, so the initial digging had been completed already. That made things a little easier. What we did yesterday was edge the beds with cedar planks, rather like a raised bed, but not so raised. Why go through this rigmarole, you ask? Well, I was recently informed by my dear neighbor that our yard is full of bermudagrass, a particularly hardy and invasive species of turf grass. Let's put it this way...one of its many names, according to the referenced Wikipedia article, is Devil's Grass. Fitting, no? My neighbor claims the roots go straight to China.

The beds from my kitchen window.
In order to keep this grass from invading my beds, we dug a trench about 3 inches deep around the beds and stuck the cedar frame into it, leaving a gap around the outer edge so I can see the stolons and cut them off before they get to the bed (we hope). This may be an exercise in futility, but it's worth a try. The unframed bed is where the corn will go.

And speaking of gardening, I finally got to starting my seeds! Not very many of them required indoor germination, but those that did (including my German chamomile, English lavender, and Greek oregano...sounds like a meeting of the European Union) needed significant time to do it. There's nothing more exciting than placing a tiny seed in some soil and watching it grow. The day I first saw sprouts in my seed starting tray basically made my week (second only to the day we visited the Indiana dairy farm where we will be getting our milk from now on....but I digress).

Some basil sproutlings (Genovese to the left, Cinnamon to the right).
German chamomile sprouts.
The only seeds that have yet to germinate are those of my English lavender. It has been pointed out to me, however, that lavender is a very picky herb to grow from seed and may take a day and an age to do so. I really hope it sprouts, because I love love LOVE lavender.

Once it stops raining, I'll get out to the beds and hopefully get some lettuce planted. The tomato and pepper plants are scheduled to arrive on April 25. I can't wait!

05 April 2011

I Killed Wilson...Again

Well, I didn't actively kill him...he just kinda languished from neglect. I've come to the conclusion that having a 5 month old today! baby makes taking care of such a picky project as a sourdough starter much much more difficult (and annoying)! He did pretty well for the first few days, but once I had to start discarding and feeding I felt burdened by the whole process. I mean, seriously, do I really want to fuss with a gooey mass of fermented flour and water after finally convincing my child surrender to his exhaustion at 10pm? Pssht!

So, unfortunately my sourdough experiment will have to wait, again. Sorry to disappoint, if in fact anyone is disappointed...

I basically feel like a truck ran over me, I've been hit by a bus, the hapless victim of a freak skydiving accident. It's rather odd and kind of alarming that the last time I felt like this was after we returned from our trip to Maine for a good friend's wedding. This time, my parents, sister and young nephew were staying with us to look at rental houses in the surrounding area (did I mention my family is moving to Indiana?!). Notice a pattern? I should start wearing a face mask when I see them...(kidding!)

I was pleasantly surprised at how well my child handled the constant fondling and abuse visited upon him by his 19 month old cousin. My nephew is a hair puller, and though Dominic has little to speak of, Benedict was still able to wrap his little fingers around what few wisps he had and pull with all his might. Poor Dom...he cried a bit but was easily comforted. He was so fascinated with B that he hardly noticed the abuse, most of the time. It made for some pretty adorable and funny moments.

Oh, and did I mention I've ditched my nursing cover? It's true. Dominic has gotten to the point where he won't nurse if it's on and will push at it and pull on it the whole time I'm trying to feed him. So I grit my teeth and nursed for the first time in public without a cover (while I was in Maine, actually) and it was not the awkward experience I was anticipating. I still cover up if I feel like the outfit I'm wearing reveals too much (like some of my dresses), but we've gotten pretty adept at what my husband calls "ninja nursing". But my NIP stories are better saved for another post, I think.

And be on the lookout for an increase in posts about health and nutrition...it's my current obsession interest, especially as it relates to the issue of cholesterol (did you know cholesterol is an antioxidant?) And maybe some stuff about unschooling as I peruse the relevant literature and other homeschooling resources. I figure now is a better time to decide how to handle Dom's education, rather than waiting until he's 6 and ready to start Kindergarten (which he's never going to do because he will always be my baby and he will never ever grow up ever!)

I should also mention my little sister (mother of the previously mentioned adorable hair-pulling nephew) has resurrected her blog, Catholic Wifey. Go enjoy the antics of their crazy little family (complete with an emotionally fragile German Shepherd named...wait for it....Puppy).

There, Lor, you've been linked! KTHXBAI!

21 March 2011

Prayers for Fr. John Corapi

Fr. Z has a great post on his blog concerning the accusations leveled against Fr. Corapi. For those of you who don't know, Here's what is posted on his website:

On Ash Wednesday I learned that a former employee sent a three-page letter to several bishops accusing me of everything from drug addiction to multiple sexual exploits with her and several other adult women. There seems to no longer be the need for a complaint to be deemed “credible” in order for Church authorities to pull the trigger on the Church’s procedure, which was in recent years crafted to respond to cases of the sexual abuse of minors. I am not accused of that, but it seems, once again, that they now don’t have to deem the complaint to be credible or not, and it is being applied broadly to respond to all complaints. I have been placed on "administrative leave" as the result of this.

I’ll certainly cooperate with the process, but personally believe that it is seriously flawed, and is tantamount to treating the priest as guilty “just in case”, then through the process determining if he is innocent. The resultant damage to the accused is immediate, irreparable, and serious, especially for someone like myself, since I am so well known. I am not alone in this assessment, as multiple canon lawyers and civil and criminal attorneys have stated publicly that the procedure does grave damage to the accused from the outset, regardless of rhetoric denying this, and has little regard for any form of meaningful due process.

All of the allegations in the complaint are false, and I ask you to pray for all concerned.

Unfortunate, to say the least. Of course, there's no sense in engaging in speculation about his guilt or innocence at this point. We simply need to pray that the truth will be made known. I for one both hope and pray that these accusations are false, and that the good Father will be proven innocent.

19 March 2011

Spring Is Here! Spring is Here!

Life is Skittles and life is beer! Tom Lehrer anyone?

Ahem, anyway. Remember my escapade from yesterday? Today has already made up for it, and it isn't even noon yet!

Some of you may already know that I'm planning to start a vegetable and herb garden this year. We just moved into a house with a great yard (if you didn't already know that, don't worry. It was under wraps until recently for some very complicated reasons) so I have tons of space to plant and plant and plant some more! I'm really excited, and a teeny bit scared as I've never really grown anything apart from a Chia Pet when I was 10. I'm really hoping I inherited my father's green thumb...

So why is today so very very awesome? My seeds came!

Top, from L-R: Crisp Mint, Bronze Arrowhead, Forellenschluss, Susan's Red Bibb, Amish Deer Tongue, Red Velvet, Cinnamon Basil; Bottom, L-R: Greek Oregano, English Lavender, German Chamomile, Giant From Italy Parsley, Cilantro, Genovese Basil.
And that's not including the tomato and pepper plants I bought, which will be shipped to me after the danger of frost has officially passed. I'm getting Amish Paste, Cherokee Purple and Brandywine tomatoes, as well as Ancho Gigantea, Traveler's Jalapeno, and Sweet Chocolate peppers! I purchased all my seeds and plants from Seed Savers Exchange. They sell heirloom varieties and certified organic seeds, both of which I prefer. I think heirlooms are just plain awesome and I'm all about doing what I can to preserve biodiversity.

So I know the first day of Spring isn't until Monday, but this totally means Spring for me! Time to get dirty!

18 March 2011

Go With the Flow: It's Not Worth It

Today was supposed to be a "good day".

Supposed to be.

I didn't wake up in a bad mood because my child was babbling and fussing away next to me at 7 o'clock in the morning. He still fussed, but I didn't let it bother me.

I had a Guinness cupcake with Bailey's frosting for breakfast.

I made up a menu for the coming week and put together a grocery list.

I emptied the trash can in the bathroom (that thing fills up fast!)

I took a shower! (*gasp*)

So why, with the deck seemingly stacked in my favor, did today fail to be a "good day"?

Because I am a big, big baby.

Everything was fine at first. We went to Target to get some things we've been needing but hadn't gotten around to purchasing yet, like a mail tray for the entryway table and a boot tray for our shoes. Dominic napped in my Mei Tai Baby while we shopped. We headed to Panera for lunch, since it's basically the only place in town with truly meatless menu options. And then...it happened.

I slammed my finger in the car door. Hard.

Those who know me know that I am extremely accident prone, especially when it comes to my fingers and toes. I've stubbed my left pinky toe three times, tearing the ligament each time and resulting in about a month of hobbling around pitifully. People must think I'm some kind of drama queen when I tell them, "I stubbed my toe." Except for me, "I stubbed my toe" really means, "I internally maimed my toe." I digress.

I had just put Dom in my ring sling (I tend to use the ring sling when we go out to eat because he invariably wants to get out and it's so much easier to pop him in and out of a ring sling.) When I went to close the door I must've forgotten to move my hand because there was my ring finger, crushed helplessly in the jaws of our Dodge Stratus. It was so wedged in there that I had to actually open the door again to free it. And BOY did it hurt!

Remember in my birth story where I said I'm a wuss? Here's proof.

I cried. A lot. I mostly cried because it hurt, and because I was mad at myself for being so clumsy. In retrospect I actually think I was upset more because it basically ruined the rest of my day. I wanted to go home immediately and nurse my wound (See? Totally a wuss.) which meant that my brilliant plans for the remainder of our outing would have to be scrapped. So we went home, after pilfering the towel filled with ice lent to us by the nice Panera people. And I sulked on the couch while Nick went back to Panera to get us lunch, because we still had no food.

So what did I learn from all this? I am a big baby. I'm realizing this about myself more and more. I have trouble making the best out of a bad situation. If things don't go the way I plan, I pitch a fit. "It's not FAIR!" is a favorite saying of mine in times of trial. I talk the talk about redemptive suffering, but I certainly don't walk the walk. And that needs to change.

I need to be more flexible. I need to roll with the punches. Otherwise, I will break like a dry twig. It's not worth the impact on my physical and spiritual well-being to be always swimming against the current. And it's not a good example I'm setting for Dominic.

From this day forward "It's not fair" will be stricken from my vocabulary (as will "I hate my life"...because I really don't, I'm just being a baby again). Because being angry about it does no good. And honestly, it's not worth it.

Muffin VS. Cupcake

What's the difference between a muffin and a cupcake for breakfast?

The cupcake is just wearing a hat.

17 March 2011

Beannachtai na Feile Padraig!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! In honor of this most festive occasion, I offer you:

Thanks to Dirt and Diapers for this idea.

The rest of the year, I'm just about 25% Irish. But today, I bleed green! So I'm gonna grab me a pint of Guinness (no green beer here) and celebrate appropriately. Thank goodness this feast doesn't fall on a Friday.

Sláinte mhaith!

10 March 2011

The Resurrection of the Starter

This is Wilson.

Wilson was my beloved sourdough starter before I got pregnant.

Yes, I said was, for Wilson has since passed on. He was hidden in the back of the fridge during my first trimester and neglected for so long that he eventually turned grey and went into extreme hibernation. When we moved from our apartment, I wasn't in the mood to try and revive a clearly troubled starter so I let him go to Sourdough Heaven. Besides, he was starting to smell like potato chips (not a good smell for a starter).

Why am I telling you about Wilson? Because I am going to reincarnate Wilson! Yay Wilson!

I'm following the "recipe" for a wild yeast starter here. I'm using Hodgson Mill whole grain rye flour and R.W. Knudsen organic pineapple juice.

Why pineapple juice, you ask?

Mixing just flour and water creates an environment that is almost neutral pH, but the yeastie beasties we want prefer an acidic pH. The neutral environment is good for other organisms in the flour that produce acids as a by-product, thus lowering the pH to a level where the yeast can grow. But this takes longer and can be very frustrating because the starter will look like it's doing awesome around day 3 and then appear to "die" on you. This is because gas-producing bacteria cause the starter to grow and then die out when the environment is no longer to their liking. It's only after these bacteria die out that the yeast is allowed to grow. By using pineapple juice, we bypass that initial phase and go directly to an acidic pH favorable to the yeast. The yeast get a foothold right away and don't have to do battle with the gassy bacteria.

Make sense? If not, don't worry. You don't have to know why something works for it to work (thank goodness!)

So last night I mixed 2 tablespoons rye flour with 2 tablespoons pineapple juice in a mason jar.

I will continue adding 2 tablespoons each flour and juice for the next two days until it starts bubbling and then I will start discarding and feeding (if I didn't discard some of it every time I fed it, Wilson would take over my kitchen in about a week! First stop kitchen, next stop...WORLD).

Stay tuned!

08 March 2011

Gee Williker's! It's Time For Lent!

It's that time of year again. The time of year where I vow to give up coffee (and end up drinking lots and lots of tea), clean up my language (and fail miserably in less than twenty-four hours), and pray a daily rosary (as long as it doesn't interfere with tea time and/or brainstorming sessions to come up with alternative words that don't sound like they came from an episode of Leave It to Beaver).

As you can see, I'm not very good at this "Lent" thing.

This year, the Lenten season has taken me completely by surprise. Despite the fact that Easter is way later this year, I haven't taken advantage of that extra time to prepare myself...at all. So here I am, the day before Ash Wednesday, compiling a haphazard list of possible sacrifices and practices for the next 40-ish days that I will probably end up dropping by day 12. Maybe I should give up self-deprecation? Hmmm...

So what should I give up? Usually I give up coffee as my material sacrifice, but I used to be much more of a caffeine addict than I am now. We're talking 4-6 cups a day! Now I'm down to 1-2 a week. So that wouldn't be much of a sacrifice now.

I've heard some say that instead of giving something up, one should take up a new (preferably good) habit. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1438:
The seasons and days of penance...are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).
And, from the Pocket Catholic Dictionary:
Its purpose is to better prepare the faithful for the feast of the Resurrection, and dispose them for a more fruitful reception of the graces that Christ merited by his passion and death.
Ah, so the season of Lent is in the business of spiritual purification. So giving things up and adopting new habits are both in keeping with the spirit of Lent. Instead of an either/or mentality, however, I think it would be a good idea to purge a bad habit (swearing, let's say) and replace it with a good one (using the selfsame gift of speech to pray, for example). For me that would mean that whenever I feel the urge to use a profanity, I would replace it with a prayer for patience (my use of profanity is pretty much restricted to instances of anger or impatience). It....could....WORK! (Young Frankenstein, anyone? No? Nevermind...)

Now I know some would say: "But profanity is something you should avoid all the time, not just during Lent!" True, and I know that Lenten observations shouldn't take the form of New Years resolutions. But, let's be honest, we all use this time of year to try and make ourselves better. After all, Lent is prime time for conversion. It originated as a time of purification for those entering the Church that year. Over time, the congregation joined them in their preparations, readying themselves to renew their own baptismal promises at Easter. A big part of our baptismal promises was the renunciation of sin. So as part of my preparations to renew my baptismal promises, I hope to rid myself of my attachment to this particular sin. Self-justification complete.

I was also thinking of picking up St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises and incorporating them, to some extent, into my daily prayer life (or lack thereof). I'm afraid if I try to do too much too fast I'll end up doing none of it, so I'll focus on the Daily Examen.

And in the spirit of self-denial, I'll probably give up Facebook, like the rest of the Catholic world. It might free up more of my time to write blog posts! One can only hope...

Now at least I have some semblance of a plan going into Ash Wednesday. Let's hope (and pray!) I can stick with it this year!

Check out these FAQs About Lent over at Catholic Online. It explains the connection between Lent and Baptism.

Also, my darling husband has posted some resources for Ash Wednesday and Lent that are worth looking at.

05 March 2011

Four Month Anniversary of Dom's Escape from the Womb!

My little guy is four months old! My how time flies! Next thing I know he'll be walking...

04 March 2011

Dominic's Birth Story

WARNING: The following account may be too explicit for some readers. Use caution.

I wanted to share my birth story with you all for a few reasons. First, I'd like to get it down in words while it's still fresh in my mind. What was already somewhat of a blur might become hopelessly unrecognizable should any considerable length of time be allowed to pass. Second, I think it important to demystify as much as possible the birth process, especially since most of our understanding of birth likely comes from watching A Baby Story on TLC. If someone like me, who despises even the smallest discomfort, can endure a natural labor, anyone can.


No, really, the last time I stubbed my toe, I thought I was going to die.

Anyway, if this subject makes you squeamish or uncomfortable, I won't be offended if you don't read it. You won't hurt my feelings. That said, I begin my tale.

The estimated date of delivery given to me by the hospital after a 14 week dating ultrasound put me at 40 weeks on November 2nd. I was pretty sure that date would prove to be too soon since a 6 week ultrasound showed me to be due around November 8th, little less than a week later. I was prepared to be considered "overdue" and began planning how I would put off an induction, should the subject arise. November 2nd dawned and I wasn't in labor...yet. My Braxton-Hicks contractions picked up a bit in intensity, but they weren't cause for any alarm until that evening. I couldn't sleep through them, and in fact they intensified when I laid down. Being the newbie I am, I was convinced that labor was starting, and around 3am we made our way to the hospital...an hour away. Long story short, we (me, my darling husband, and my mom) found ourselves home once again at 11am the following morning. False alarm.

Needless to say, I was pretty discouraged. My contractions gradually petered out as I attempted to regain the sleep I had lost while at the hospital and by the end of the day had completely disappeared. How was I ever going to know when real labor began? I tried to keep my mind off of it the rest of the day, hoping that I wouldn't have to wait too much longer.

02 March 2011

You're Not In Kansas Anymore

Fun Factiod: I've actually never been to Kansas. Which is probably a good thing because I'm deathly afraid of tornadoes. And yes, I do realize that Kentucky sees the occasional tornado (my town tests the alarms weekly...to my chagrin), but Kansas is so much worse! Didn't you watch Twister?

Anyway, you may or may not have noticed that some things have changed around here (and if you are in the "have-not" camp, I highly suggest corrective lenses and/or a literacy course), most notably the very blog title itself. I realized, after typing my own blog url into the address bar several times, that "Chestertonian Paradox" was just too damn difficult to spell, and probably even harder to remember. That and I think it's probably a bad sign when one has to dedicate an entire page to the explanation of said blog title. I decided I needed something simple and easy to remember (and easy to spell!)

I chose "Home-Grown Catholic" because A) I'm Catholic, B) I was raised Catholic (or you could say "home-grown"), C) I was homeschooled and plan on homeschooling my kids, and D) part of living naturally and simply is either growing your own food or buying locally.

I also altered the design to reflect these changes (that and Blogger has some cool new features I wanted to play with *nerd*).

I know this doesn't really count as a blog post, but hey, it's something! Look forward to some new posts soon, though!

02 February 2011

Just Roll With It

I so relate to this post about getting nothing done when you have a baby. It's been a while since I've had the time (and both hands) to sit down and type out a blog post, let alone do the laundry, make dinner, take a shower, wash the dishes, clean the bathroom, sweep the floor, organize the bookshelves, sort through baby clothes, solve world hunger, save the whales. etc, etc.

People, especially those with kids, always have some words of advice to give you when you're pregnant with your first child.

"Your life will never be the same again!"

"Be prepared for some sleepless nights!"

"I hope you're ready!"

My response to these people was always, "Oh yes, we're prepared. We're looking forward to it!" (not referring to the sleepless nights, mind you, as we planned to co-sleep from the beginning). I heard what they were saying, but I never really reflected on what kind of impact this kid would have on our lives until he was born. I was prepared (some would say over-prepared) for my labor and delivery, but what I was not prepared for was the near-complete loss of my independence once he was born.

Don't get me wrong, I love being a mom. There are significant rewards to this lifestyle (the contentedly sleeping child I'm currently "wearing" being one of them...and OMG he just let out a sigh...HOW CUTE IS THAT?!? Ahem...anyway...) However, I have to admit, in all honesty, that there are times when I miss being able to veg out and watch Jane Austen movies all day, or bake whenever I feel the inclination. Nowadays I have to run all my activities by a certain small person, who does not much like my attention being focused on anything but him. He's gotten better at entertaining himself in his bouncer while I do simple tasks like make myself breakfast, throw the laundry in the washer, or take a quick shower, but for the most part, he needs my full attention.

It got better once I became accustomed to babywearing. I learned how to wear him on my back so I could accomplish some things while still fulfilling his need for semi-constant contact. It took a month or so to surrender myself to this new life. I'm not just living for me now. This little guy is depending on me, as his primary caregiver, for all of his physical and emotional needs. The dishes will just have to wait.

Speaking of which, I think someone needs a diaper change...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...