February 25, 2011

Thank you, Recovering and Support After Miscarriage

Today, I just want to say - Thank you, so much - to all of you who have offered love and support over the last few days in response to this post about my harrowing miscarriage experience last week. I have been feeling physically stronger - and that has led me to the second and probably harder part of recovery from miscarriage, dealing with the loss of our small one. It hits me at the strangest times and for the most improbable reasons.

I have been surprised by the lack of readily available support for women recovering physically and emotionally from miscarriage. Perhaps because the loss of such a young baby is almost an invisible experience, our culture doesn't really know how to acknowledge it past the initial incident - if it is acknowledged at all. Part of that may also be due to our reticence to share because it is such a personal and deep pain.

But more than one of you told me that when you did share, the response you received left you feeling your grief was over-dramatic or not legitimate. I may be in the throes of my own experience but I'm logical enough to say, if you have lost a child at any point in its development, your loss is real and legitimate and grief-worthy. I am not really in a place of being to give strength in this moment, I do hope for solidarity with those of you who are or who have been where I am now.

Because I chose to be so open (which felt very vulnerable and kind of scary), I received many thoughtful messages from friends and strangers about our experience. But, I was also surprised at the number of friends who didn't respond to the private email I sent - which was brief and to a very short list. I think many people are just overwhelmed by what this event means to a loved one and don't know what to say.

And - I intend to put together the resources I encounter as I intentionally and gently face my loss and grief. I will create a section for it - and post a regular update what it is like to recover from miscarriage.

As I said before, this is a decision that requires me to be more emotionally exposed than I usually allow myself to be in this space. But, this should not be something we are silent about as women - or families. It shouldn't be so hard to find information or hope past miscarriage. It's important to mark the experience, grieve the dreams and expectations that disappeared with that little one and to go on with the encouragement and strength of others and the hope of future joys.

I am surrounded by wise, kind, encouraging people. Thank you again for all that you have given me this week. It empowers me and inspires me to give back to others who have been in this place.

Sincerely - Monna

February 23, 2011

Devil's Food Cake with Chocolate-Orange Buttercream - oh yeah.

In light of yesterday's very serious post, I decided today should be more lighthearted and chocolate-filled. Hehe. We all need a little chocolate! As I recently stated, chocolate is great therapy when you're feeling stressed (so is sex - but I digress...)

For Valentine's Day, I wanted to make something divinely chocolate. Chocolate may be the food of the gods but I was looking for something that would make me feel a bit on the wicked side! Also, I wanted something homemade because I'd been to a few too many events recently that sported corn syrup and stabilizer filled desserts. So, I pulled out a recipe I'd used from Epicurious.com years ago and had only made once because of the time and ingredients involved.  The cake was so memorable family members will sometimes say, "Remember when you baked that chocolate cake?" Then, their eyes get misty and they start drooling as they drift away with the memory.

Well, maybe that's a little dramatic. But, my family does remember the cake and they speak of it fondly. It's a recipe that takes time - melting chocolate over a double boiler and doing everything from scratch. Although my mom was not above using boxed cakes, she taught us to bake from scratch when we were young. I've found it doesn't really take that much more time (usually) and it definitely tastes better.

The only time this didn't turn out to be true was when, as a pre-teen, I increased the baking soda in a Texas Sheet Cake from 1 t. to 1 T. You can imagine what a dreadful disaster this turned out to be - especially when I didn't discover it till the party and couldn't convince the guests to stop eating it. They all gulped it down with pained expressions while assuring me it was delicious (as though I couldn't taste it). AAHH!! The mortification!

This cake does take a bit more time than other homemade cakes - maybe because it uses melted chocolate, cocoa nib powder, yogurt & milk & orange zest (you get the picture), but the combination of the ingredients creates a moist, decadent, incredible cake worthy of being called the Devil's Food. I didn't use the lavender because it just didn't sing to me at the time and I didn't miss it.

So, the Saturday before Valentine's Day, I left my girls with Rob and borrowed my mother-in-law's kitchen. My oven has been running hot.

First, I melted the chocolate...

The recipe requires semi-sweet chocolate (I used Valrhona at least 70%+) melted over a double boiler. Mmmm.... 

Next, I creamed brown sugar with butter, eggs and vanilla - this is my favorite part!

In goes the cooled, melted chocolate. I think I would rather eat the batter than the cake. Well, maybe.  Or, both...
The first set of cake pans - I doubled the recipe for a really tall cake.

The frosting begins with orange zest. Yes, I used organic - no pesticide cake for us!

And, of course, more melted chocolate and a tad bit of Grand Marnier. I could eat it with a spoon!! (wait, I DID eat it with a spoon!)

And, here you can see my GIANT beautiful cake - and my big mistake! I didn't sift the powdered sugar and it was a little lumpy. No amount of mixing fixed it. But the lumps dissolved and no one complained.

Also - for those of you who know me and my aversion to eating too much sugar or giving it to my girls... We don't eat stuff like this often, but when we do, I don't try to recreate the wheel. To me, a cake is supposed to be an occasional, luxurious treat. So, this is a REAL cake made with real sugar, butter, flour etc. I would rather my girls eat this over fake corn syrup filled, shortening covered cake any day. It was incredible - and we ended up giving a lot of it away. After all, what girl really needs a four layer chocolate cake on her counter all week? If I ate it all day for a week, I couldn't get rid of it!

The original Epicurious recipe is here - but I'll warn you. I doubled the cake recipe and there was still enough frosting for the whole thing. So, if you're planning to make just a single recipe, you will have leftover frosting. It's good on graham crackers - or on a spoon if you're desperate to make it go away!

Great, I may have to break my own rules and make it again. Anyone want to help eat it?

February 22, 2011

A Miscarriage - And An Unexpected Turn of Events

***If you are faint of heart, this may not be a post for you. It contains frank and graphic descriptions of blood and loss. ***

Up until last week, my family and I were happily anticipating the opportunity to announce the impending arrival of our third little one. We wanted to wait till I was a little further along to let everyone know - though close friends were aware of our news. Miscarriage is not a word any family, expecting a baby, wants to hear. And, unfortunately, my news today is not the happy announcement I was planning.

This is a very personal story for me - and part of me wonders whether or not I want to write about it. But because so many people have expressed their love and concern and because so many have said that this is a silent pain that many women carry, I am going to open my heart and hope that you will treat it with tenderness. Losing a child - at any stage - is terribly sad. It should not be something we carry silently. Women (and men and families) who have experienced it need a way to mark their loss and they need the support of loved ones and the hope of encouragement.

Last week, I shared that we had a long week of sick kids and restless nights. Thursday and Friday, I found myself encompassed by a powerful feeling of grief, accompanied by uncontrollable weeping. At the time I thought it was the long week - but Friday morning, it occurred to me that the baby might not be ok. I pushed the thought aside and chalked it up to stress. In retrospect, I wonder if my body was not giving my spirit a little insight into what was coming. Saturday, I took the girls on a little hike just to get us out of the house and to give me a little perspective.

Sunday afternoon, I began spotting. I don't believe the sick kids or long nights were implicit in this - but it does explain why I felt so absolutely exhausted. I grounded myself on the couch and Rob came home early from church to help me get the girls to bed. Knowing that spotting in early pregnancy doesn't always mean a miscarriage, I chose to rest and to talk to my baby. I expressed my love and deep desire to meet him or her and hoped for the best. But, as I continued to have light spotting Monday and Tuesday and the color changed from pink and brown to red, I found tears springing into my eyes more frequently and felt a certainty (that I tried to ignore) that the baby was saying goodbye.

My midwife came by to check on me Tuesday and sat with me for a while to make sure I was ok. She also let me know what to expect if I did miscarry. Rob and several of my sisters were present throughout the day and took the kids out for a few hours. A few close friends kept in touch, knowing what was happening. Tuesday night, I spoke with a wise friend of mine, Lisa, who encouraged me to continue to rest and hope for the best but to call 911 if I began to bleed too much that night.

After visiting with Pam, Lisa and my family, I found some quiet time alone. I cradled my womb in my hands and told our baby, "We love you and want to meet you - but if you need to go, it's ok. We will always be your mom and dad and we'll see you again some day." I went to bed with a sense of peace although I could feel mild cramping and knew what it meant. I slept quietly for a few hours.

Around midnight, Robert came to bed after a night of working through a new song set for an upcoming rehearsal. I woke and felt the labor-like pains Pam told me I might experience. They were strong and intense and felt like the start of real labor - only very close together. It takes my breath away now just remembering it. I tried not to dwell on the fact that the pain meant I wouldn't be meeting my baby. Instead, I tried to just be in the moment.

Robert helped me to the bathroom and I lost blood and tissue. Then, I remembered Pam reminding me not to stay in the bathroom but to rest in between pains because it might take a while. As I lay back down in bed, I felt the pain subside and I wished I could sleep. But, I asked Rob to stay awake with me because I was afraid I would bleed too much. My inner wisdom was guiding me.

Time passed so quickly. Soon, I found myself needing to be in the bathroom more and more often. We put a towel on the bathroom floor and I lay there between contractions. I felt pressure like I needed to push but blood would just rush out if I stood up. Around 2:30 am, I had 4 or 5 of those rushes of blood (which happened in a very short time). I knew I was in trouble and asked Rob to call 911.

While he was on the phone, I passed out a few times. Rob kept waking me and I tried hard to stay conscious. When the paramedics arrived, my bp was 59/4-? (after I heard the 59 I sorta missed the second part). I knew the situation was serious but reassured them, "Don't worry guys, I'm going to be ok." The paramedic taking my BP looked at me (probably wondering if I had any idea what was happening) and said, "Well, we're taking you in right now." I laughed and found my reply was slurred, "That would be nice." I think my mother-in-law arrived around this time to watch the girls and I remember being relieved that Robert would be able to come with me to the hospital.

As six strong guys carried me out into the night, Rob threw my special blanket over me. I bought it in Mexico on a missions trip almost 20 years ago and it's been through a lot with me. It was cold outside but time seemed to stand still for a moment as I caught a glimpse of the nearly full moon through my favorite pine trees. I breathed deeply and captured the picture in my head for the journey that lay ahead.

The paramedics took me to the nearest hospital instead of going to my preference. It was a difference of 7 minutes and they seemed to think it was an important time difference. I arrived alone because Robert needed to drive. The nurses buzzed around me for a few minutes, checking the IV the medics had put in and adding other things to my IV cocktail. Robert soon arrived to watch over me.

The next several hours are a bit of a blur. I could see my monitor and knew the instability of my vitals meant I was in bad shape but I intentionally decided not to dwell on it too deeply. Instead, I choose, in my lucid moments, to breathe deeply and think of my family. I talked and joked with nurses and tried to convince them to give me one little ice cube because I was so thirsty. I had the uncomfortable experience of trying to use a bedpan while laying down. I don't really recommend it.

I remember having an ultrasound and the ER doc doing a pelvic exam and trying to clear out whatever was causing the bleeding. The ER staff explained when something is left in the uterus after a miscarriage, it can cause severe bleeding and require a D&C. The exam was a traumatic experience, despite my kind nurses standing by me and holding my hands, encouraging me. I remember thinking that this would be pretty scary if I'd let myself actually think about it. I remember wondering whether I would ever want to be pregnant again should I recover.

I remember hearing my BP monitor going off a lot when my BP dropped into the 70's and thinking, "Maybe the cuff isn't on correctly." Then, I would feel a gush of blood between my legs and I would pass out. I thought I'd passed out 5 or 6 times throughout the early morning but Rob says it was more like 10 or 12 and that I was out of it for the better part of four hours. That explains why I don't remember the part of the night when the nursing staff said my BP hovered in the 50's and 60's.

The next time I woke, several of my nurses and my doctor were standing at the end of my bed and my doctor said, "We're transferring you to the ICU where you'll get blood transfusions and have a D&C." After they left, my sweet ER nurse came over to me and held my hand. She said, "I don't want you to be afraid. You are going to be ok. Don't worry." I knew she was a little worried from the way her eyes widened when she said it (I think I've watched too much "Lie to me" - Haha!) but I appreciated her kindness and chose to believe her.

Soon, I was transferred to the ICU where my nurse put in another IV. This was at least the fourth attempt - since my veins were hiding. I had them in both arms and both hands. She started the blood transfusions and continued the pitocin and saline. I really wanted to go to the bathroom and for some reason, my nurse let me try. I sat up for a moment to use the chair next to the bed. But, as I sat up, I passed a red mass the size of a grapefruit and immediately felt lightheaded. I asked my nurse if it was my placenta but she said it was a blood clot and hustled me back into a prone position. She too kept saying, "You're going to be ok," over and over.

Before my surgery, my father-in-law came to the ICU. I was so relieved because Robert was being so strong for me and I knew he needed support. Our friend Jim had already come while I was in the ER and another friend, John, came as well. But, having Rob's dad there was good. I could tell my father-in-law was very upset. Blood kept seeping through my blankets and staining the bed, despite the nurses changing the pads regularly. I'm told my face was a tad on the pale side - even for a girl of Irish descent. I tried to joke with his dad to let him know I was ok but I don't think he bought it.

My surgeon came by to prep me for the D&C and I loved him right away. He was confident but not arrogant and I felt a strong sense that I would be ok. Robert and his dad prayed with me and off I went. I closed my eyes all the way to the OR. I didn't want to see bright lights or tables. Instead, I pulled up the picture of the beautiful night I'd seen right before arriving at the hospital and as I crashed to sleep, assisted by the anesthetics, in my mind I was holding tight to the trunk of my favorite pine tree. I intended to stay grounded to earth.

When I woke, it hadn't even been an hour and two nurses were standing at the end of my bed discussing my next room assignment. "No. She doesn't have to go back to the ICU," one nurse said, "She's been downgraded from critical." "OK," said the other, "I'll call the floor and let them know she's coming."

Soon, I was in a normal room with a roommate who apparently loved American Idol. It was like listening to cats being tortured but I didn't care because I was glad to be alive. Robert was there and I just rested for the majority of the afternoon. That night, I was glad to get visits from family and friends. It lifted my spirits - and Robert's - and kept me from thinking too much about our loss or how frightening the experience had been.

Rob had to go home that night since I was rooming with Ms. American Idol and I confess, I was a little afraid to fall asleep. My BP was still hovering in the 80's and 90's but I just trusted that I would be ok, and tried to rest. It was the first real sleep I'd had since Monday.
Thursday morning. Hey, I look way sexier than I did the day before!

The next morning was Thursday and my doctor came by to chat. He encouraged me and said there is nothing wrong with me. That though 70% of women have miscarriages, most are not this extreme (trust me to take the dramatic route!) and that we can definitely have more children when my cycle returns to normal and I feel ready. He said that I could leave the hospital and go home. He encouraged me to sit up, eat what I could and walk. I'd been afraid to walk during the night since I'd not sat up without fainting in almost two days. But, my blood pressure had cleared 100 by early morning. I felt ready and wanted to go home.

My tech helped me walk around the halls after removing the catheter. I couldn't wait to use the bathroom! What a funny thing to care about, right?  When I saw my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I was shocked by my appearance. My eyes were nearly swollen shut and my face was as pale as a Twilight character but not as sexy. My fingers and arms were swollen like sausages from the saline and drugs and there was still blood in my nails from the miscarriage. I couldn't seem to scrub them clean without a brush. My eyes filled at the memory but I pushed back the tears because I didn't want them to swell shut.

Robert came in time to bring breakfast (thank God because hospital food is awful!) and after lunch, we were ready to go home. When I arrived at home, it was quiet. My sweet sister came over to clean up leftover traces of Tuesday's trauma and spruce up the rest of the house for me while I rested.


Being home has been surreal. But, I am writing this from a place of profound gratitude today. I am so grateful to be here, sitting up (without fainting - yay!!) to write even this sad story.

I am not going to lie to you. Writing this was not easy. Little flashes of the last few days have been running through my head like a nightmare I can't wake from. Remembering the cool tile of the bathroom floor on my face while the paramedics checked me, seeing the blood in my nails, feeling the flatness of my abdomen, hearing in my head the thoughtless words of someone who apparently meant to comfort me by telling me I'm now a "statistic". I'm hoping that writing the thoughts down will be therapeutic. I will keep what is helpful and let love soften the pain of the rest.

Partly I'm writing this for those of you who didn't know how serious it was. I don't want to have to repeat it over and over or explain why I'm so very tired now. It wears me out to think of it too much. I know it will take a few weeks to get my strength back.

I'm not far enough past the trauma to deal with the grief of the loss we suffered. Right now, I'm focused on small thoughts like, "I'd like a glass of water," or "Isn't my two year old funny?!"

This experience is yet another that has changed the landscape of my mind - and heart. I am still the same person in some ways - but forever different too.

One thing that remains - is that as usual...I am grateful.

I am grateful to be alive. I am so, so grateful for my family. I am grateful for the amazing people at the hospital who not only saved my life but were kind to me in the process - the paramedics, ER staff, Jennifer, Evelyn, Steve, Dr. M, Leah, Julie, Dr. P., Joanna, Sheretta and those whose names I don't know or don't remember.

I am grateful for you - my friends. For your prayers and the many expressions of love you have shared in meals, hospital visits, magazines, kind words, flowers, watching my children, calling and listening, sharing your own experiences, cleaning my house. I and my family have felt your love and it has made and continues to make a difference. Thank you so much. I promise I am ok and getting stronger daily. It's ok to call or write. And please know that if I don't write back right now, I am feeling your love and appreciate you.

February 17, 2011

On a break

Organic Mama needs to take a break this week.

In the meantime, here's one from the archives. It describes where I am right now...

I'll see you next week...

February 15, 2011

Teary Parsnip Pie, Recipe for Disaster

Did I already mention last week was a long one? Well, in case you missed my previous post, my girls were sick early in the week so I spent a lot of time playing nurse and cleaning up after everyone. By Thursday night, we were sorely in need of a trip to the grocery store because the cupboard was pretty bare. I considered dragging my recovering two year old out to buy a few things but she was so tired, I just couldn't do it. An early nap won.

Maybe I made the wrong choice because things sorta went south from there. I knew my husband had a producing gig that night and I planned to make dinner early so he could eat and run. When I took stock of the bare cupboards, I found carrots, potatoes, parsnips, greens and a little leftover hamburger. Perfect. Pot pie would probably work. I had just enough butter for a crust. So, I made the crust, popped it in the fridge and started working on the veggies.

But, when I took out the back of potatoes, which I've always kept in a cool, dry cupboard (like my mom did), I found a roach running around in the bag. Now, girls and boys, I'm pretty cool in a real crisis - like the time our car was stolen from behind our house and we watched it drive away. But put a roach in front of me and I will totally l-o-s-e it. Which is exactly what I proceeded to do, especially because I'd already put-my-hand-in-the-bag when I found the roach! AAAAHHHHH!!!!

What if the roach had POOPED on my potatoes? The potatoes had to go. Since I didn't want the creepy little crawly to escape and run into the dark reaches of my cabinets, I stood there holding the bag for a few seconds while doing a terrified dance around the kitchen - shrieking for my four-year-old to come help me. That's right. I'm admitting it. My four year old had to rescue me from my own ludicrous terror.

"Mom!!! What is it?!!" shouted my little would-be-savior.

"Ah!! A roach is in the potato bag! A roach is in the potato bag!!" (eloquence disappears when terror hits)

AH!!!" responded an equally freaked out four year old.

"Quick, open the garbage can!" I shouted.

She opened the can and I threw the potato bag inside the garbage, tied the larger garbage bag around it and ran for the door so I could put it outside for Rob to deal with when he came home. Very unfeminist of me.

Then, we slammed the door (like the roach was going to tunnel through two plastic bags and come after us) and stood there huffing and puffing excitedly while we danced around shrieking.

"I hate cockroaches!!"  I shouted. I felt like there were roaches crawling all over me.

"Me too!" she shouted back. And she danced around like she felt the same way.

After we calmed down, I went back to the kitchen, looking around me for any signs that cockroaches were going to come pouring out of my cupboards. Then, I realized I was acting insane and resumed cutting up the veggies that hadn't been pooped on by gross bugs. Then, it occurred to me that I really needed those potatoes for my pot pie. My uber-frugal grandmother and mother would have been horrified to see me throw out a partially full bag of potatoes. After all, they grow in the ground, where bugs crawl all over them before they even get to my pantry.

I wish I could say I went outside, saved the potatoes and made a killer pot pie. Because potatoes would have balanced the carrots and parsnips perfectly. Instead, my worn out brain said, "Nope. I'm sure parsnips, carrot, onion and meat pie will be just fine." Meanwhile, my girly emotions said, "This pie is going to suck." Then, my two year old woke up and decided to use me as a jungle gym from which she could grab at the pie dough (which I was simultaneously trying to roll out). Between the roach dance and the pie grabbing, I realized there wasn't enough time to back a full pot pie so I switched to empanadas.

Have you ever tried to roll out empanadas with a two year old grabbing the dough straight off the cutting board? I confess I lost my cool at this point. I was so tired from taking care of everyone else without a break for so long. I could barely stand. I still had the creepy feeling that cockroaches must be roaming my kitchen freely if I found one in my potatoes. I felt incompetant because I hadn't planned my grocery menu better (an unreasonable expectation since I'd not left the house in 4 days!) and hated that I was too cowardly to face the cockroach to rescue my potatoes. My little monkey was grabbing the few bits of food I had left on the board for our dinner and considering I didn't actually want parsnip pie for dinner anyway, I can honestly admit I really didn't want snotty parsnip pie for dinner.

My patience reached its end. I am ashamed to admit I shouted, "NO!!! Stop grabbing the dough!!" At a two year old. Who wanted to "help" mommy.

She burst into tears. And so did I. I gave up on the pie, picked her up and sat down with her, both of us blubbering profusely. She - because I hurt her. Me - because dinner was going to suck and most of all - because I was being a jerk.

It was this amazing reality that my cyclist husband rode into that evening. A partially made (sure-to-taste-crappy) dinner and two of his girls in complete emotional disarray.

He quickly rescued us by taking our two year old on an adventure to the water store while I finished making dinner and pulled myself together.

And, when Dad and baby returned, she'd forgotten all about my horrible moment of rudeness and laughed and played with me.

The empanadas tasted weird but Rob ate them valiantly and pronounced them delicious. I knew he was lying because the girls wouldn't eat them. They ate bread and jam for dinner. Yep.

I know there will be days like this. There are a few things I need to learn. Like how to keep my cool when I'm tired and things aren't going my way. I hate hurting the people I love.

One thing, for sure, I will do differently.

I'm keeping my potatoes in the fridge from now on.

February 11, 2011

Local Last Minute Fun For This Weekend - Feb 12, 2011

This was a long week for us. My girls were sick at the beginning and I've spent the last few days cleaning up from the fallout of not doing any housework during sick people time. It seems like laundry and dirt explodes when my family is sick! Then, today - as I was working on my already - last - minute - links, my still recovering two year old asked, "Mommy will you hold me while I sleep?" What do you think I said?

Since I know some of you had a similar week but will be ready to get out in the fresh air this weekend, I couldn't let the Valentine weekend pass without listing a few fun things/places to see. Keep it local! You'll be surprised how much fun it is.

Chakra 4 Herb and Tea House Chocolate Festival - Feb 12 from 11:00am - 6:00pm
Several of you are familiar with one of my favorite shops in town. We visit Chakra 4 for many of our herbal needs - to stay healthy. But, they also have a great little cafe and hold fun events like this one for Valentine's Day. If you haven't had their chocolate, you are really missing out! For more info on Chakra 4, visit their Facebook page: Chakra 4

Central Phoenix Seed Swap Feb 12th from 1 to 3 PM
Downtown Phoenix Public Market - inside the store by the front windows, 721 North Central Ave, Phoenix
For those of you interested in gardening, this is a great opportunity. Get seeds for free!! Even if you don't have seeds to share, you're invited to participate in this event.

Cibo Pizzeria - Regular hours on website
603 N. 5th Avenue Tel. 602-441-2697
Located in a charming downtown bungalow, Cibo serves deee-licious artisan pizzas, great salads and antipasto. I especially love that their crusts are not so bread-y they take away from the flavors on top. I've had several of their pizzas and have never been disappointed. And, I have to be honest. At this point in my life, I'm not so into the ultra dark spaces that are usually considered "romantic". Usually, for my husband and I - that's a recipe for falling asleep by dessert. This space has a nice ambience but enough energy and movement going on that you'll stay awake through dinner and maybe even make it through dessert! Their patio is lovely in a garden-like atmosphere usually sports outdoor heaters in cooler weather. If you're looking for reasonable prices, a casual atmosphere and delicious food to celebrate your love this weekend, Cibo's is a great pick.

Central Slope - This weekend!
8801 N. Central Ave (Central just south of Dunlap)
Since I'm on a roll with businesses beginning with C, here's another. Central Slope is a great, locally owned business that features locally made green goods. This is right up my alley. It's a wonderful place to find a locally made present for your loved one this weekend and features items for the home (think design) or the body - local jewelry or body care by Zaaina Skincare. Zaaina is offering a buy 1, get one 50% off this weekend. Also, if you spend $30 or more at Central Slope this weekend, you'll get a handmade designer jewelry set.

The Garage by Ivy / Juju's Tutu's and Invu Photography Valentine's Day Grand Opening
February 12 · 10:00am - 5:00pm
5202 N 7th Street
This weekend, visit the grand opening of the above shops' location. These are some seriously talented people! Here, you can find artistically designed floral arrangements (check out their website gallery!), incredibly cute girly tutus and a photographer to document the occasion (you need an appointment but you can always check them out first!), this is a great one-stop-shop. I happen to know one of the amazing women who run this shop - and can say you're also supporting at least one local mom.

All these businesses are locally owned AND feature items made by other local artists or business owners. Remember that when you spend money at a locally owned business rather than a big box store or chain restaurant, more of that money goes back into improving the health of Arizona's economy. If you can't make it this weekend - support them in the next few months!!

Besides, these are all great businesses and offer high quality food or services. Go out and meet your neighbors. It's going to be a beautiful weekend!

February 9, 2011

Global Village Construction Set

Today, while checking out The Tiny Life blog, I ran across this video and wanted to share it with you. I love seeing what happens when people put their skills together to create something that can actually change the way the world works. These are pretty incredible creations - open source inventions of equipment with interchangeable parts - that can be used to create an entire village/community - or your back 40.

Global Village Construction Set in 2 Minutes from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

February 6, 2011

Rose Hip Syrup

This morning, I finally made some rose hip syrup. I'd been putting it off because I have a million other things to do - like changing diapers, making meals, cleaning, changing diapers, washing dishes, playing princess and did I mention changing diapers?

But today, my four year old woke up with the look.  You know the one. Slightly puffy eyes, flushed cheeks, chesty cough? Yep. That one. I ran a quick hand across her skin to confirm. Yes. A fever. So, I had to do what parents sometimes have to do - be the bad guy. This morning I was the bad guy because it's Sunday and she loves going to church to see her friends. Afterward, we usually have lunch with Grandma and Grandpa. But, not today. Boy, was she disappointed. But, I knew I'd made the right decision because she only sniffled for a moment, then crawled right back into bed and snuggled into her blankets.

I spent the rest of the morning making lemonade (fever reducer!), snacks she felt like eating (oatmeal and canteloupe), and toast. Of course, my littlest got a slightly different breakfast since she went to bed sporting signs of the Big "D". Oh bugger. They're both sick - and with completely different symptoms!

So, I grabbed my bag of rose hips, which are high in Vitamin C, and threw them in the pan to make some rose hips syrup. It's pretty easy to make. You just simmer 1/2 c dry rose hips in about 3 cups of water for 45 minutes, strain and add 1 c honey. Stir together and - it's done. I gave it to my four year old in little teaspoon doses. It's pretty strong so I might try putting it in her tea next.

Here's a pic of the syrup. I think mine is much darker than usual because I used a dark honey in it.
Rose hips (if you don't know) are simply the fruit of the rose bush. They look like little red (or purple) bulbs (here's a pic). If you have roses and find these pretty little fruits on them, take some time to read about how to use them. As long as you don't use chemicals on your rose bushes, they should be ok to eat. Just one more thing from your garden that can bring healing to your body.

Who knew the rose could be so useful?

February 4, 2011

Death by Superbowl?

Today a local morning show posted the following statement/question on Facebook.
"Superbowl can be fun... but if your team loses doctors say it can be deadly. How stressed are you about the game and how will you keep your cool if the "wrong" team wins?"- Smart Family
After I (and several others) stopped laughing and responded with sarcasm about the obviously misplaced priorities that would make someone so upset they'd DIE if their team lost the Superbowl, I thought about the second question SF posted. "What do you do to handle stress in general?"
This is a little more up my alley because in the last few years, I have found that stress tends to affect me profoundly if I am not paying attention to it. We've all heard stress can cause all kinds of body ailments from headaches (listen migraine sufferers!), stomach to heart problems. It can also affect a woman's monthly cycle - causing ovulation to be delayed or just skipped that month. So, what can we do to minimize stress in our lives? Here are some of the things that I've found helpful. 
1. Acknowledge, without judgment, you're feeling stressed. This is harder than you think. Americans in particular feel that we should be able to go and go and go without rest. After all, we have the technology to burn the candle at both ends and squeeze every drop out of our day. For some reason, it feels good to schedule every minute so full we don't have time to think or attend to the more spiritual aspects of ourselves.
2. Get off the crazy ride for a moment and STOP what you're doing. If you don't stop, you probably won't figure out what it is that's got you feeling like your heart is going to squeeze out the top of your throat (or what's making your head hurt etc). Give yourself the freedom to take time to rest your brain and then ask yourself, "Is everything in my schedule really necessary? Or can something slide?"
Just a note about scheduling life...When I was in my early twenties, I went to a seminar where author, Dr. Richard Swenson, gave a session on his book, Margin. The concept was simple. We tend to pack our days 100% full of activity, often barely giving ourselves enough time to race from one appointment to the next. Then, when something unexpected happens (as it usually does) or if a friend needs help, we melt down down because there's no margin in our schedule to handle it.  His suggestion? Fill your schedule only 80% and give yourself room to handle the unexpected or to just enjoy life.
3. Purposely schedule time for yourself to just RELAX. I've done this for myself lately. In the afternoons, my two year old takes a nap and my four year old wants to play on the computer. So, I decided I would rest by reading - for a whole hour and a half. I felt kind of guilty the first few days but after a while, I really enjoyed it and found I had the energy to tackle some projects I had been too tired to approach previously. See? Resting can be PRODUCTIVE!
Here are some ways to actually use that relaxing time...
Take a bath. - I recently convinced a friend that a hot bath might help with her headaches. She told me today that she takes one every week now. Aside from being grateful that she's taking better care of her hygiene (haha!), I'm happy she's finding a way to just enjoy some time alone. She's one of the hardest working people I know. Now, if she can only keep her 3 year old from jumping in every time mom's taking a bath!
Go for a walk/run/hike. Exercise does more than keep our muscles and bones strong. It stimulates blood flow and energy throughout the body and lifts our spirits. Can't schedule an hour? Try going for ten minutes and take deep breaths as you go. You'll be surprised at the difference you feel in your spirit and body and I bet you'll be finding ways to stretch that ten minutes to twenty!
Speaking of deep breaths...Take some. Sit in a chair or lie down and take 5 slow, deep breaths while relaxing your whole body. You might even fall asleep. 
Take a nap. I've noticed that when I'm tired, I don't handle stressful situations very well at all. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I often create them for myself. Do yourself (and everyone around you) a favor and get a good night's sleep or a nap during the day. 
Pray or meditate. There are all kinds of studies that say prayer has inexplicably positive results in our physical lives. Try it. You might be surprised to get an answer.
Make new friends or visit the old. When we feel isolated, life's biggest challenges often seem - well, BIGGER. The laughter and balance that a good friend can bring is invaluable to bring perspective to those challenges. Find some people to laugh with and forget your troubles for a while. If you don't have many friends, take a yoga class, join a meetup group, find a church. There is someone out there who wants to have  a friend just like you. Trust me, I know this - Mr. Rogers told me. Who knows, maybe your friend will have already been where you are. 
Have SEX. Think you're too stressed to do it? Just make an effort, you might surprise yourself. Think of all the reasons you love your significant other. Or think of all the reasons you're doing it for you! Not enough? My husband keeps telling me that men who have sex three times a week live 15 years longer than those who don't. In fact, he informs me, it's part of elite athletes' healthcare regimens. Maybe he's a really good con man but can I afford to risk it?
Eat a piece (or two) of dark chocolate. We have all seen this in magazines right? Dark chocolate has amazing properties like lowering blood pressure and gifting us with antioxidants. But, that's not why I eat it. Eating chocolate just makes me happy. So there.
Well, that's all for today folks. What do you do to de-stress?

February 3, 2011

Apple Pie in a Pan

Some of you saw my post on Facebook about this dish (I almost can't call it a recipe!). It's my lazy girl way of making pie because
1. I don't like to mess with pie crust with children around me in the kitchen. They always distract me either with cuteness or frequent requests and I invariably mess up some part of the recipe.
2. This has less carb/fat in it than pie - but it tastes DELICIOUS.

Even better, the overall cooking time is only a few minutes - maybe 6-10 - depending on how many apples you use. And, some of you may not like this - but it's not super exacting in measurements because it's meant to taste as sweet/spiced as YOU like it to taste. Be careful, this dish is addicting!

Finally, I'm posting this tonight as a favor to a friend - so no pics 'cause I'm not actually making it right now. Apparently, I'm feeling too lazy to even make a lazy dessert... haha! I'll try to add pics later.

Apple Pie in a Pan
Cooking time: As fast as you can cut up your apples + 6-10 minutes more

Apples - 1-1 1/2 per person - Any kind but I like to mix up Granny Smith with the sweeter apples like Fuji, Gala, Pink Lady etc.
Cinnamon or Pumpkin pie spice
Coconut oil or butter
chopped pecans (if you like!)
1 T. (or less) Sweetener of choice - maple syrup (the real kind!), brown sugar or honey (we use honey)

Equipment - Knife, Saute pan or wok

1. Core and slice apples as thick or as thin as you like them (I like them 1/2-3/4 inch thick)

2. Heat a saute pan to medium heat and toast the pecans for just around a minute or so. They'll start to smell good. QUICK! Take them out before they burn.

3. Place the pan back on the heat and put just enough oil or butter in it to make it slippery - probably around 2 teaspoons. Just enough to keep the apples from sticking to the pan, not to fry them. A wok is better because you'll need less oil/butter.

4. Throw in your apples and saute them till they start to get kinda soft. Then, shake some pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon over them. If you're just making one or two apples, go light on the spice until you reach the flavor you like. Don't be afraid to taste an apple just to be sure.

5. When the apples are just shy of the consistency you want, add just a little sweetener and stir gently stir it until it melts into the apples. The idea is to keep the flavor of the apples intact and preserve the healthiness of the dish - not melt sugar all over it!  If you use a sweet apple, you hardly need any!

Regarding cooking shape - I like my apples to be soft enough that when you stick a fork in 'em, it slides out easily but the apples keeps their shape.

6. Remove the apples from heat and top with pecans. 

7. Eat

See? Lazy girl pie.

February 2, 2011

Count Your Blessings...

This morning, I woke up thinking about counting my blessings. Here are a few of the little moments from the last few days that made me laugh....well, eventually if not at first

1. Overheard: My 4 1/2 year old playing in her room. "If you like the red purse, click here. For the blue purse, click here."  Hmm....maybe time to cut down on computer time?

2. Seen & sensed: Cleaning up the kitchen after dinner when I realized the two year old who had been "finishing" a diaper present for me was now jumping on the couch - sans diaper. Yep. Imagine it, imagine it. Eew. That was what it was like.

3. My four year old has taken to reading to her little sister. She knows her books so well, she can recite the stories with great animation. Right now, she says she's going to be a storyteller and a scientist when she grows up. Hmmm...interesting combination.

4. This morning, my four year old asked, "Mom, how do mermaids go to the bathroom?" I said it was the secret of the mermaids...

5. Every morning, my girls (who sleep together) wake up and greet each other so sweetly. "Good morning sissy!" "Good morning!" They usually end up hugging and snuggling for a while. Then, my two year old will say, "I love you so so SO much, Sissy!" Now I just have to remember that moment when they're fighting over some little toy later!

See, if you've not had to mess with number two this week  (haha! see how I did that?), consider yourself in good shape.

What little moments are reminding you to be thankful for this day?
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