Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Potato pizza crust

I have been field-testing some different grain-free pizza crusts lately, since John's biggest grain craving is pizza. He seriously loves the stuff, but even gluten-free pizza crust made him really sick. So I've been experimenting a bit. Zucchini pizza was okay. It varies quite a bit depending on how dry you drain the zucchini, and even at its best it reminds me of an omelet, but it did allow you to shovel pizza into your mouth with relative ease.

This time I decided to try potato pizza. I invented the recipe myself. Potatoes aren't allowed on the "primal" diet, but John and I eat potatoes all the time, because they're an inexpensive non-grain option that helps supply our very high calorie needs.

I definitely preferred this pizza to the zucchini pizza. It made a thicker, more substantial crust, and tasted less eggy. You can adjust it to your needs: more eggs for more strength, more cheese for more crispiness, more potatoes for a thicker crust. It does taste a bit like potato, but I happen to like potato as a pizza topping anyway.

John gave his vote of approval, so I think I'll be making it again!

Potato pizza

3 medium potatoes (about 2 cups mashed)
2 egg whites*
1/2 to 1 cup grated cheese

Cook the potatoes, either by boiling whole or by baking. Let cool and peel the skins off. Mash the potatoes by smooshing with a fork or passing through a ricer so that there are no chunks or lumps (or as few as possible). Add the cheese. Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks and fold them into the potato mixture.

Spread onto a baking mat or parchment paper and form into the desired shape. Press as flat as you want it, making sure there are no gaps. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until firm. You can remove the crust from the parchment paper at this point, if you want it to brown better. Then add toppings (you may want to go easy on the cheese because there's so much in the crust) and bake till the cheese is melted and toppings are warm. Let cool a little bit -- it firms up as it cools -- and enjoy!

*It would probably work fine if you used a whole egg and didn't beat it, but I use my yolks for so many other things that it was a saving just to use the whites.

This post is included in Fight Back Friday with Food Renegade. I forgot to say that earlier ... there are tons of great posts about real food, so go have a look!

That carnival post, and a recipe

My cosleeping post is finally up! Yes, I know you've been holding your breath for it. Well, you can finally go on with life knowing our journey to become part-time cosleepers.

Since I wrote that post for the November Carnival of Natural Parenting, we've had some ups and downs, especially as the baby's been sick. Lately he's been waking up a lot, I think due to separation anxiety. It's weird because he's never minded being on his own before, but this is the age for it. I've found that all it takes is for me to be nearby -- either lying beside him, or standing by the crib with my hand on his back. (Guess which is easier?)

Marko still sleeps most of the night in his crib, but I am glad to have cosleeping as an option.

Here's a baby-led weaning recipe I devised the other day. Marko loves his pumpkin, and I mean LOVES, but it's a huge mess. He'd be coated with it, the high chair would be coated with it, and the carpet would have little blobs of pumpkin. So I was hesitant to give it to him because I knew it would be a huge production: high chair on a drop cloth, nice outfit off, bib on, then a huge wipe-down and/or bath. I ended up using potato starch to make the pumpkin into some yummy fritters!

Grainfree Pumpkin Fritters

1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
2 tablespoons potato starch
oil -- whatever you have introduced; I've used olive oil and bacon drippings

Mix pumpkin and molasses. (The molasses is rich in iron, important for babies, especially if they're not eating fortified cereals like mine isn't!) Add the potato starch, a little at a time, until the pumpkin is thickened a bit. (You can add more to make a dough, if you want to be able to shape them. The more starch, the chewier a fritter you'll get.) Heat the oil over medium heat and drop in the pumpkin mixture by spoonfuls. Flatten a bit with the spoon if you can. Turn them once they're relatively firm to the touch on the bottom (you don't want them to be too crispy or brown for little babies) and cook the other side till it's firm too.

Dice into tiny pieces for babies, or leave whole for toddlers and grownups. It's a great finger food that doesn't require any grains!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Working with baby

An old friend of mine contacted me the other day on Facebook, asking about how I've managed going back to work after the baby was born. I answered her, but then I realized that I haven't explained very much about it on this blog, and I probably should. After all, the number of moms who bring their babies to work with them is quite small, but I think there's a lot of room for this to become a more popular option.

Here's what I wrote to my friend:

I never intended to go back to work after the baby was born. But the school where I had taught before contacted me, saying they had just one class that they needed me for. Since they were going to let me bring the baby with me, I saw no reason why not -- I'm a firm believer in keeping the baby with me all the time.

He was 5 months old when the school year started. I think I could have managed from, say, 3 months on. When he was tiny, I probably wouldn't have wanted to expose him to all the germs at school.

My one class takes less than an hour a day, and the prep work is pretty light, so it's a pretty easy situation. I also ended up volunteering to be on the sub list, so I've subbed for longer, and even working the whole morning long hasn't been a problem. I probably wouldn't want to do the whole day, though, because he does need a nap.

While I work, I usually wear him in a baby carrier like a sling or my Moby Wrap. (That thing is great -- he feels so light in it.) The kids (high school age) aren't usually too distracted by him, and he behaves really well. I do have an unusually easy baby, but I think most babies like getting out and getting some stimulation. I haven't had a problem with him crying in class more than once or twice, and the office says I can leave him with them if that happens. I don't do that, though; instead I just assign the kids some desk work so I don't have to yell over his fussing.

Overall it's been really great. I don't make a ton of money at it, but the little I take home is really handy right now. From what I know, most Catholic schools are very adaptable about babies, so you may well be able to swing a similar deal.

A couple things to keep in mind:

Your baby might not sleep through the night until s/he's much older. So you do have to be prepared for dragging yourself out of bed to go to work when you'd really rather sleep.

I have taken many more sick days than I used to, because if either the baby is sick or I'm sick, we can't go. So far this year I think I've taken three (including today).

I'm breastfeeding, but I don't feel comfortable nursing in front of the kids. With younger kids I might, but with high school kids, it's tougher. So I nurse in the teacher's lounge right before class, or else at home before I leave, and generally he lasts fine till class is over. It takes some careful scheduling to make sure he's hungry at the right times, but he's a pretty predictable kid. Once he was really fussy during a test, and I put the diaper bag on the desk to block the view and just nursed him. It wasn't a problem. I wish I could manage nursing in the sling, but I've never gotten the hang of it.

Our school has a lot of evening events the teachers are expected to go to. I begged off of all I could, and for the few I really had to make, I've left the baby at home with John.

That's all I can think of. If you can, it would be great to wait until the baby's born to decide, since all babies are different and you don't know how you'll handle it, but I suppose that's not always possible. In any event, you should talk to your school and see how far they are willing to accommodate you.

Hope that helps!


Overall, I have no regrets about having returned to work. I was very resolved not to leave the baby -- not to mention I have no affordable childcare available. Being allowed to bring the baby has made it possible for me to care for him and be a part of the workforce. From my perspective, it's the best of all possible worlds.

I think more workplaces should provide this option, instead of requiring the forced dichotomy that women are often faced with: spend time with children or work. In an economy where two incomes are almost required, while childcare is expensive (and not the ideal for many women), we need to be thinking of more creative solutions like this.

Service-oriented jobs tend to be the easiest to combine with parenting. I've heard of receptionists, hairdressers, pediatric nurses, and daycare providers babywearing on the job. Babies love interaction, and as long as they're cozy in a sling, most have few needs. Moms will need adequate break time, and many find it helpful for a coworker to be on backup for them in case both the job and the baby need their full attention at the same time. Part-time is much easier, though I've heard of moms managing their babies at work full-time.

Here's a good source for more information.

Any other readers who have brought their babies to work? How did it go?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Our grainfree Thanksgiving, with pictures

Our Thanksgiving went great! I hope all of yours were happy and blessed, too.

I posted the other day about what I intended to do for Thanksgiving. In the end, I decided to expand the menu quite a bit, but I still kept it 100% grainfree! Taking pictures of every dish helped motivate me to make everything just right, even without guests (and with a husband who barely cares what he eats).

First off, I decided we needed an appetizer. I had chickpeas I'd promised to make into hummus, but wasn't quite sure what to put it on -- normally I like crackers or pita wedges. I decided on celery and carrots. John was quite pleased and said that was a very good idea! I think the celery went with the hummus best, but then, I've been on a bit of a celery kick lately. We ate the hummus about lunchtime, to tide us over, since we'd decided to have Thanksgiving dinner at six p.m.

After that, I decided to make some cranberry sauce, mainly because I had a whole bag of cranberries and I knew the cranberry apple casserole wasn't going to use them all. John happened to mention that he didn't like cranberries, and I made a decision: I was just going to make what I wanted to eat, because I was tired of saying, "Well, making X for just one person would be a waste, so I'll just go without." By golly, one day a year, I'm going to the trouble to make what I want. (Meanwhile, I am slowly training my child to eat what I eat, to put that picky husband of mine in the minority. (John believes that he is not picky. He says I'm the one who's picky because I insist on dinner being hot when I eat it. Different strokes, different folks.))

My recipe was simple: one cup of orange juice, one and a half cups of cranberries, and a few tablespoons of sugar. It's a great way of adding flavor while using much less sugar than traditional recipes. I nearly burned the sauce on two different occasions because I was distracted with the baby, but luckily it escaped unharmed.

Dear readers, it was the best cranberry sauce I have ever had.

The most delicious part of the meal turned out to be an afterthought. I was walking into the kitchen a little before the turkey was due to come out, and the delicious smell of it roasting made me think of sage and celery. I hadn't planned to have stuffing -- my thought Wednesday was that it's just wet bread stuffed up a bird's behind, no big deal -- but at that moment I felt I had to have it! Quite a frustrating realization when you passed up 99 cent boxes of stuffing only the day before, and you have no idea how to make it from scratch (I could probably guess, though I'm not sure). And, of course, stuffing is not at all grain-free!

I decided to just follow my usual instinct for grain-free recipes: just make it as usual, but leave the grain out and increase the other ingredients. It worked great for beef stroganoff, after all. So I chopped up some celery and onion and sauteed them in olive oil. When they smelled absolutely delicious, I poured in some of the giblet stock I had simmering for the gravy, and seasoned the whole thing with poultry seasoning (mostly sage, thyme, and rosemary). The stock pretty absorbed completely, so I dumped the whole thing on a plate and put it the oven to keep warm. That also made it a bit crusty on top, yum!

Today I made the same thing for lunch, only I replaced the turkey stock with water to be vegetarian and added mushrooms. Definitely mushrooms need to be a part of this recipe.

Technically, this is dressing, not stuffing -- I would not recommend putting it inside a bird. Anyway, it was really delicious, and my favorite part of the meal. I keep forgetting how much I love celery, particularly if it's cooked right, and then every Thanksgiving I remember.

Here's the bird, in all its glory:

He weighed a good 12 pounds -- and only cost 46 cents a pound! I'm so glad I waited and browsed the local stores ... Aldi kept the price at 99 cents clear through Thanksgiving (and they are probably still 99 cents now).

It wasn't as juicy as last year's, though I can't think why. I did the exact same thing: cooked it breast-down, in my Pyrex dish, at 350 degrees. Perhaps it was just a drier bird. It was still good though. I rubbed the outside with olive oil and poultry seasoning, and John asked "Are you giving the bird a back rub?" Yes, dear. Yes, I am.

I did not find arrowroot powder for the gravy, but I did find potato starch. You're supposed to dissolve 2 tablespoons in 1/4 cup of cold water, add it to the stock/drippings, and boil for a minute. That's what I did, and it turned out fine -- though more transparent than I'm used to. Still thick enough, so I had no complaints.

The gravy was composed of a mix of drippings and stock made from the giblets (including the neck), celery, carrot, and onion. As usual, it was delicious. John mashed the potatoes that went with it, and those were good too -- but, you know, with me, potatoes are only a vehicle for gravy.

The apple-cranberry casserole, such as it was, was pretty simple: cut-up apples, cranberries, and a dusting of sugar, baked for 45 minutes. I didn't realize, though, that the streusel was playing a valuable role in the original recipe -- it kept the fruit from drying out. So it was drier than I'm used to. Next time I'll add a little water or something -- or just keep the streusel topping, seeing as John didn't eat any anyway.

I ate this with ice cream, and it was delicious!

John's contribution was the seven-layer salad. To be honest, guys, I really don't know what-all was in it. I know it had scads of vegetables, and also a mayonnaise-based dressing, and cheese. It was really good.

Here's the guest of honor, shoving pumpkin in his mouth like there's no tomorrow, while staring at the dining room fan:

Here's the table all set and pretty -- which I did for you, dear readers, because no one else cared. Oh, and for me. I definitely cared.

Here's my plate, all dished up with some of everything. I had forgotten the cranberry sauce. Don't worry, I had some later!

The lack of grains may have helped more than just John -- I felt great after this meal, not overstuffed, just satisfied. I had seconds of turkey and a little more mashed potatoes, but I didn't feel like eating any more than that. And I didn't feel the least bit bloated or sleepy, like I often do after Thanksgiving dinner.

Afterward, we played Scrabble and I ate my apple-cranberry casserole. The baby, who had been cranky and miserable all afternoon, suddenly flipped a switch and stayed up playing happily an hour and a half after his bedtime. I wasn't going to mess with a happy kid, so I just let him.

All in all, it was a success! Quite a huge feast for three people, one of whom ate nothing but pumpkin and mashed potato, but it was a comfort to me to have a traditional meal at a time when I'm missing my family something awful. There's something about the completely predictable menu that gives me a sense of continuity with the past. I can understand why Jewish people get so much out of their Seder meal. Our nation's traditional meal has no "meaning," as such, but it's a vehicle for us to practice some very meaningful things: gathering with family and friends, memory, gratitude.

Yes, it was a good Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Our grain-free Thanksgiving

Sorry there haven't been any posts lately. Baby and I have been sick. Any parents will know what a long story that sentence hides ... a lot of me sick, then baby sick, then me sick again, and some with us sick simultaneously; a baby too congested to sleep or nurse, me coughing too hard to let the baby sleep or nurse; a baby who needs to be bounced and walked around all day while I need to lie in bed with the covers pulled up all day ... Well, it's been rough. We're feeling somewhat better now, thank God.

Anyway, for Thanksgiving this year, I'm planning only grain-free dishes. I was going to make at least some stuffing for our guests, but sadly we could not dredge up a single one! Last year, you might remember, we had what I call an "orphans' Thanksgiving," where we invited two guests who didn't know each other a bit, and had a lovely time. I tried to do the same this time, but no one could come, sigh.

Here's our menu for tomorrow:

Turkey: a 12-pounder, the smallest I could find, but also on such a deep sale (46 cents a pound) that I was happy to buy what I could. You're just not going to find meat cheaper than that.

Gravy: I'm hoping to thicken this with arrowroot powder, if I can find it. Other grain-free thickeners include tapioca and potato starch.

Mashed potatoes: with butter and milk.

Salad: John's "ancestral recipe" is seven-layer salad. I don't think we've got all seven layers worth of vegetables, but it will have lettuce, cucumber, tomato, green peppers, peas, and carrots.

Apples and cranberries: My "ancestral recipe" is apple-cranberry casserole with streusel topping. I'm just omitting the streusel, so it's just apples, cranberries, and sugar, baked together.

That's all. I could do sweet potatoes, but John doesn't care for them, and with only the three of us, I don't want to overdo things. The baby will probably just eat turkey, apples, some of the salad vegetables, and maybe his first try of potatoes.

It'll be a quiet Thanksgiving, and I do wish we could have some company (ah, for the lovely company we had last year!), but I think we'll have fun. In any event, that turkey will feed us for weeks!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What we're eating

I'm eating pumpkin curry soup garnished with lacto-fermented ginger carrots. What is it about fall that makes me crave orange vegetables? I also added cloves to the carrots, which was a nice addition, I think. I agree with the author of this post about the salt -- 1 tablespoon for a pint was too much.

Baby's eating the ginger-clove carrots by themselves. Baby-led weaning is going great. Now that he's mastered the pincer grasp, there's pretty much nothing he can't manage as long as it's in small pieces! I'm going very slowly with introducing new things, though, because of his food sensitivities. I gave him cheese awhile ago and he got a horrible diaper rash, so no dairy yet, and also no eggs, no grains, no nuts ... that sort of thing. His most common foods are ground beef, beans (I squash them a little, for fear of choking), sweet potato, carrots, pork, and apples (always peeled and diced -- apple peel is too easy to choke on). I can tell that meat tends to be the best digested ... as Nourishing Traditions suggested, animal foods are closer to what he's used to. The vegetables, he enjoys, but ... I'm not really sure if he gets much out of them.

It's adorable, the way he bangs on his tray when he wants more. I've tried to teach him the sign for more (which is tapping the fingers of your two hands together), and maybe he's trying to imitate me. Or maybe he just likes to bang.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Airport screenings

I was all set to write a post about candida overgrowth (you probably have it! and don't even know it!) when I came across a few posts about the TSA's new screening procedures. I've been hearing for a long time about the new "back-scatter" scanners that use a low level of radiation to get a "naked picture" of you so that the security personnel can check you down to your skin without having to strip-search you.

I did not know the alternate option to this scan is not a regular pat-down, but an "enhanced" pat-down in which the TSA worker touches all of your body -- to the point that it would be considered sexual assault in another context. I was quite shocked to discover this.

What is with this?! Why are we being treated like criminals? What happened to protection from search and seizure without a warrant?

Well, the simple answer is, you are not legally required to submit to any of these searches. So you still have a choice. Except you can't fly unless you do. It's not force -- but it's rather akin to blackmail.

I've flown a lot. I've crossed the country more than 40 times. I've flown before and after September 11th. My first flight after 9/11 was pretty scary to me -- I had to take off my shoes and everything! Now all that is old hat to me and I grow impatient with those around me who fumble with their belts and shoelaces. I adjusted to pulling laptops out of cases, throwing away bottles of water before the checkpoint, carrying a ziplock bag with my chapstick.

But this is just too much. It was very hard to me to submit to the exams required by the doctors when I had the baby. (Can I just say -- ugh.) But that, at least, had a purpose.

This doesn't. There is no new security threat prompting the changes. Rather, it's just the development of new technology ... and to make sure we use the technology, the alternates are made even worse. Tel Aviv's airport, one of the most secure in the world, doesn't use the technology and manages all right.

I'm not sure what the best response is. Go along with it and get another dose of radiation every time I travel? (I'm more concerned about the baby than me, here.) Insist on a pat-down instead -- even though that's even more invasive? Boycott the airlines? This website suggests that will be effective, but since the TSA operates off our tax dollars, not plane ticket sales, I doubt anything will be gained. It isn't the airlines' fault this is being required. And if a movement insists on being strip-searched in order to slow things down, I still don't think that will change anyone's minds -- just continue to make air travel less and less convenient. When has the government ever given up a power, once it managed to gain it?

For my own benefit, though, I intend to limit air travel as much as I can. I can't visit my family (even once they are back in Seattle -- they are in Asia right now) without flying, practically speaking; but we do intend to drive when we visit John's family. I just don't want to go through all that.

This whole thing is just another loss of freedom. These are appearing faster and faster these days. I'll close with something my dad always says (not word for word, but the general gist): When terrorists cause us to live in fear and lose our freedoms, they have already won.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What cosleeping is like

When I mention cosleeping to people, a lot of them answer in one of two ways: either "I could never do that! I'd roll onto my baby and smother him!" or, "I could never do that! I wouldn't sleep a wink!" Those who say the former are usually deep sleepers; those who say the latter are usually light sleepers.

My main problem is the second, and not the first. I know how I sleep: I get into the perfect position (on my right side, knees bent, arms in front of me, blanket over my ear) and fall asleep. Eight hours later (wow, how long it's been since I slept eight hours) I wake up in the exact same position. So I know I wouldn't be rolling onto a baby. (Prolactin makes mothers sleep more lightly anyway, so most breastfeeding moms would probably find themselves in the same camp when it came down to it.)

I'll admit it: the first several times I brought the baby into bed with me, I didn't sleep a wink. That's why I didn't stick with it. On the other hand, the first many nights I was married, I didn't sleep a wink either. There's something about having someone else in my sleep space that is really hard for me. Because people aren't perfectly still in their sleep. They twitch. Their breathing changes. They roll over, pull the blankets around, flop onto their other side.

I do this too, which is why I can't even sleep with my cat. I have fallen asleep petting her and woken up with horrible scratches on my hand ... later reconstructing that I had started to grab her as I fell asleep.

So, my twitches and breathing changes kept the baby awake, and his kept me awake. We would lie awake and stare at each other until I finally put him back in his bassinet.

Over time, though, we've learned to sleep together. When he had a cold, he liked to nap upright in my arms. (This sounds like a huge sacrifice for me to do, but it was really just a good chance to catch up on my Google Reader.) At first, I had to be perfectly still. My arm could fall asleep under him, and I had to leave it there. I'd be starving and thirsty and my nose would itch, but if I moved at all, he would wake up.

After a few days of this, though, he got used to my movements. Some clicking around on the computer ... a readjustment of my arm ... until I found I could switch him from one arm to the other, go into the kitchen, and get myself a snack, and he still wouldn't wake. He'd become accustomed to the normal movements that I make.

We do this, as humans. The fact is, hardly anyone sleeps through the night. We wake half up, adjust the blankets, turn over, make sure we are comfortable. We hear a noise, and we take a moment to decide whether it's a noise we have to respond to or one we can ignore. We aren't fully awake when we make these decisions -- I call it "triage mode." Triage mode explains why I wake up the instant the baby makes a peep, unless John is up with him, in which case I sleep right through it. I thought John's alarm didn't wake me, because I always woke up with no memory of hearing it. But he told me I actually sat up, looked around, and resettled when it went off. I'm now adjusted to John's presence in the bed, so a poke of his foot, a flop as he turns over, or a tug at the blankets doesn't wake me -- and yet I don't roll into him, either. I know he's there without having to wake up and be conscious of the fact.

The ideal of cosleeping is to train your triage mode to the sounds and motions of your baby, so that you wake up in the morning saying, "Boy, I feel refreshed -- did the baby wake up at all? I don't remember," and yet the baby is happy because he was fed five times over the course of the night and you didn't roll over him. My mom used to call my sister Juliana her "miracle baby," because she would go to bed resolving to keep Juliana in her crib, but wake in the morning and find her in bed with her. Her brain "triaged" the situation -- baby crying, baby not settling, baby hungry -- and decided cosleeping was the best solution. But she was still enough asleep that no memories were formed.

The best thing that I've found for acclimating yourself to someone else's sleep is to go to bed at the same time. Your brain can freak out when it wakes up and finds a different situation than the one it fell asleep in -- which is why babies cry when they fall asleep in Mama's arms and wake up in a crib. When I coslept with my younger brother Joseph, all went well (relatively) as long as I went to bed when he did. If I stayed up later and joined him once he was asleep, he wasn't aware of my presence and would keep rolling into me and kicking me in the stomach.

Once you're acclimated to a sleep situation, it's the one you prefer and find most comforting. I trained Marko to sleep in his crib, so when he finds himself in his crib, on his tummy, with a thin blanket over his feet, he feels calm and often settles back to sleep. Yet until recently, if he found himself in my arms (and I wasn't walking around, which is his preference) he would wake up crying. Now that he's getting used to sleeping with me, it's no longer a surprise to find me with him when he wakes up, and he more often wakes up smiling.

An added bonus is that I can now comfort him more easily, wherever he wakes up. It used to be that, when he woke up, the best I could do was hold my breath and hope he settled back down. If I touched him or adjusted his position in any way, it woke him up and he'd cry. Now, when I lay him down in his crib, I give him a kiss first, lay him down, leave my cheek against him for a minute, and slowly straighten up. If he's wiggly or half-awake, I can pat his back or stroke his hair. These things, which used to wake him, calm him now because he's used to them.

So, now that we're getting the hang of things (though we still cosleep less than half the time -- just for some naps and sometimes early in the morning), we're both sleeping much better than we used to. He snuggles into my arms and gets comfy. I adjust my position until I'm as close as I'm going to get to my accustomed position and start to feel relaxed myself. (It helps that nursing is a surefire sleep aid, both for him and me. A bit of nursing before we lie down gets us both very drowsy.) At first I never dreamed when napping with him, but now I do. I don't think I sleep very deeply, but I wake up refreshed.

And unlike when I nap in my bed while he's in his crib, he never startles me awake. We always wake up gradually, at the same time. He stirs a little -- my dream starts to dissolve -- he grunts -- I stroke his hair and hush him -- after a few half-awakenings, he opens his eyes and smiles at me.

It really is the best.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

November Carnival of Natural Parenting

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: What is natural parenting?

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our Carnival coincides with the launch of Natural Parents Network, a community of parents and parents-to-be who practice or are interested in attachment parenting and natural family living. Join us at Natural Parents Network to be informed, empowered, and inspired!

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


No post today -- my post will be featured on the Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 23rd.

It's going to be on cosleeping. If you've been following this blog, you know that we don't cosleep regularly, but sometimes I wish we did.

When we do, here's what it looks like:


I wrap my arm around him to cushion his head and keep him from rolling away. This way, I wake up if either of us moves, and I can make sure we stay in a safe arrangement. If I use blankets, I keep them around my waist so I'm not tempted to pull them over my head (an old habit of mine).

Check back in two weeks for a link to my carnival post!



Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaStop by Natural Parents Network today to see excerpts from everyone's posts, and please visit a few to read more! Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Three of the participants below will instead be featured on Natural Parents Network throughout the month, so check back at NPN!

This list will be updated by afternoon November 9 with all the carnival links. We've arranged it this month according to the categories of our NPN resource pages on "What Is Natural Parenting?"

Attachment/Responsive Parenting

Attachment/responsive parenting is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive; please follow each link to learn more):




    • "Attachment Parenting Chose Us" — For a child who is born "sensitive," attachment parenting is more a way of life than a parenting "choice." Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares her experiences. (@CodeNameMama)

    • "Parenting in the Present" — Acacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present.

    • "Parenting With Heart" — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment parents naturally because healthy attachments early in life help our little ones grow into healthy, functioning adults.



    • "Sometimes I Wish We Coslept" — Sheila at A Gift Universe has started to add cosleeping into her sleep routines and has found frequently unspoken benefits. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 30. (@agiftuniverse)



    • "Unconditional Parenting" — The philosophy of Alfie Kohn resonates with Erin at Multiple Musings, who does not want to parent (or teach) using rewards and punishment. (@ErinLittle)


Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature

Holistic Health Practices

  • "Supporting Natural Immunity" — If you have decided against the traditional vaccination schedule, Starr at Earth Mama has some helpful tips for strengthening your children's immune systems naturally.

Natural Learning

  • "Acceptance as a Key to Natural Parenting" — Because Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog values accepting and responding to her daughter's needs, she was able to unravel the mystery of her daughter's learning "challenges." (@myzerowaste)

  • "Let Them Look" — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy makes time to look at, to touch, and to drool on the pinecones.

  • "Why I Love Unschooling" — Unschooling isn't just about learning for Darcel at The Mahogany Way — it is a way of life. (@MahoganyWayMama)

  • "Is He Already Behind?"Ever worry that your baby or toddler is behind the curve? Danielle at will reassure you about the many ways your little one is learning — naturally — every day. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 16. (@borninjp)

  • "How to Help Your Child through Natural Learning" — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers tips on how to understand and nurture your child's natural learning style. (@DebChitwood)

Healthy Living

Parenting Philosophies

Political and Social Activism

Monday, November 8, 2010

What I've been eating lately

...because I know you're dying to hear! I have a lot of good ideas for long posts, but I haven't had any time to work on them lately, so this is a short(er) post to tide you over.

The first thing I've been eating lately is lacto-fermented vegetables. Pictured are sauerkraut, the last of the pickled beets (those went fast; they were really good!) and my most recent, cucumber pickles. This morning I packed some ginger & clove carrots, so we'll see how those go!

I'm finally getting the hang of lacto-fermentation, and I have discovered a few tips that no one ever told me.

First off, don't do what I did the first time: put the vegetables in the jar, then mix the salt, whey, and water together and pour in the top. Inevitably, not all the water will go in, and then you're left wondering if all the salt and whey you needed got in there. Depending on the vegetable, you might not need water at all (the juice may suffice), so add the salt first, then the whey, then the water. For the cucumbers, I sprinkled in salt after each layer of cucumbers, left them for awhile to get juicy, and then added the whey. I didn't need to add any water! For the sauerkraut and the carrots, I added the salt and whey in the mixing bowl before packing them into the jars.

Second, the recipes from Nourishing Traditions say to leave the jars out for 2-3 days, than transfer to the fridge, where the best flavor develops after six months. I just don't have fridge space (or patience!) to wait six months for the best flavor -- especially when you're wondering if they'll turn out at all! The Joy of Cooking suggests leaving pickles at room temperature for 1-2 weeks, and I find this preferable. You can taste throughout the fermentation period, and when it's over, the vegetables are ready to eat. You can stick the jars in the fridge whenever the sourness is just right. A week worked well for both the beets and the cucumber pickles.

Third, it's okay to taste as the fermentation goes along ... it won't hurt you! However, it's likely to be much too salty until it's been fermenting for awhile.

Fourth, any whey is fine to use as long as it contains active cultures. I forgot to mention that before -- many commercial yogurts no longer contain active cultures, so their whey is just sour water, no good for fermenting anything. Same goes for whey powder. But any live yogurt, like Activia or Stonybrook Farms, will yield plenty of whey if you strain it. (Or, make your own yogurt!)

Last, if you ever hope your husband to eat lacto-fermented vegetables, don't eat a slightly iffy batch when you've got morning sickness and then barf them up almost in his lap. No matter how many times I promise these pickles are okay, he won't try them. (I'm not sure if the barfing was due to morning sickness or to not putting in enough salt, but it hasn't happened again, in any event! A truly spoiled lacto-ferment will taste so awful you wouldn't dream of eating it -- much safer that way than home canning.) John is creeped out enough by the idea of eating something with living bacteria, so it was pretty much a doomed battle from the start anyway. I'm sure they'd do him good, but I'm not pushing it. That's why I do lacto-ferments in pints rather than quarts as all the recipes say ... a quart of sauerkraut takes a long time to get to when you're the only one who eats it!

In conclusion, lacto-fermentation is actually really easy -- easier, I think, than canning because no equipment is needed. All you need to do is put your vegetables in a glass jar along with 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of whey per pint. Mash them down with a spoon or pound with a meat hammer until the juices are released, and add water if necessary to cover the vegetables. Then put the lid on and leave in a warm place till it's as sour as you like it! This method works for most vegetables, such as cabbage, cucumber, beets, and carrots. You can even lacto-ferment salsa and fruit chutneys!

So, that's one big thing that I've been working on. The other is pumpkin. I recently bought a pumpkin, hoping to get a good price once Halloween was past. (The price was only decent -- 39 cents a pound -- but still, not bad.) Pumpkin is easy to cook: just chop it in half with a sharp knife (you can put it in the oven first for a few minutes if it's too hard to cut), scoop out the seeds and pulp, and bake the pumpkin for an hour or so. Then pull off the skin and puree the flesh. My hand blender managed it in no time, but a potato masher works well too.

That pumpkin puree goes well in pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, and many other things! I have one container full of pumpkin seasoned with molasses, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon, which I use as a topping for oatmeal, ice cream, or yogurt.

Here's the recipe for pumpkin soup, which I devised on a chilly day when I really wanted something warming.

Pumpkin Curry Soup

Saute some onion and garlic ... a quarter of an onion and a clove of garlic should be about right. Butter is my favorite fat, but olive oil goes well too. Then add about 2 cups of milk and heat it to the scalding point, which is when tiny bubbles appear at the edge of the pot. Add about 2 cups of pumpkin (more for thicker soup, less for thinner) and stir till combined. Then season with some ginger and curry powder and eat! Serves ... me, all day long. I guess it was about three or four servings.

What are you eating this fall?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Look out, world!

He's army crawling now, so he's into EVERYTHING!

No one and nothing is safe.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Requiescat in pace

My grandmother passed away on Friday night. She went very quietly and peacefully, they tell me.

I haven't seen her since July, so my head tells me there's no reason for me to miss her any more now than before. But I do.

It was my grandma who taught me to sew. I really wanted to learn, but once my mom had taught me the running stitch and my dad taught me the overcast stitch, they had exhausted their knowledge and passed me off to Grandma. I stayed with her and Grandpa for a week and made a nightgown with paw prints all over it. I guess I was about twelve.

During that time, my aunt dropped off my two-year-old cousin for the afternoon. (He is in high school now!) I took it upon myself to keep him entertained. Grandma laughed at me, saying I couldn't expect to keep up with a two-year-old, but I was convinced I could and spent all afternoon chasing him around the house. At eight p.m., my aunt picked up her son, and five minutes later I was sound asleep on the couch. Grandma managed to carry me into the bedroom, took off my shoes, and gently tucked me in, all without waking me up.

Six years later, she gave me the sewing machine I still have. I remember us tinkering with it together, trying to figure out how to get it threaded.

A different year, when I think I was about eight or nine, she asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I said that all I wanted was hair three feet long, like she had said my aunt had used to have. That must have been a real stumper, but on my birthday she gave me a box of fancy shampoo, conditioner, and combs. I was thrilled.

I never was unusually close to Grandma, but as I think of her, I believe she's the grandparent I take after the most. She liked to talk, to tell stories. And her favorite topic for those stories was family. I loved to listen as she told us all stories of when my dad and uncle were boys, or of my aunt growing up (she was much younger), or of the adventures of various aunts and uncles I didn't know. (I do not know anyone on that side beyond my grandparents; the J. family isn't so big on family reunions as the other side, I guess.)

And yet Grandma didn't talk all that much about herself. I don't know what her childhood was like or even how many brothers and sisters she had. I wish I had listened to more of her stories. I wish I had more of her to hold onto besides a sewing machine, a special lasagna recipe, and all too few memories.

I'm hoping those who knew her better than I will fill me in on some of the details. As time goes by, we'll trade stories to increase each of our hoard of memories.

And yet it will never be the same. I miss my grandma.

I believe that the strong rejection we all feel toward death is one of many signs that we were not meant to be separated from our loved ones forever. I believe we will meet again in heaven. Today is All Saints' Day; tomorrow is All Souls. Living and dead, we form a "great cloud of witnesses," and although we can't yet speak face to face, we are united in Christ.

I believe all this. And yet it doesn't change the fact that I'm sad and wish I hadn't had to lose her so soon.
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