29 May 2012

Blueberries and Babywearing

Unlike last year, I made sure to remind myself that berry-picking season here in Florida comes pretty early!  We already missed strawberries, but luckily blueberries are in full swing now!
Don't mind my stupid hair that never stays put.
The friend I went with also has a baby about Cora's age.  She brought her in her stroller, which was fine, but I wanted to try a long carry with my Boba 3G.  It was pretty great!

That was the first time I used the sleeping/sun hood, and Cora pretty much slept the whole time.  I kinda take forever to pick berries, so that was very nice of her.

My half-gallon of berries
As much as I didn't want to get up really early, we definitely should have.  It was HOT!  We started around 9 and were out there until almost 11.  Luckily, I usually have a change of clothes for both baby and myself, so we were out of our sweaty clothes in no time!  The carrier actually stayed cool and sweat-free (and odor-free) though.  I was quite impressed.  And since I used all of my Amazon gift cards for it and paid about $20 out of pocket, we'll call it money well spent!

I guess you're wondering what I did with all those blueberries, huh?

I totally screwed up my first-ever attempt at streusel topping, but it tasted great anyway.
Big fresh blueberries are amazing in muffins!  However, these hardly put a dent in the amount of blueberries I picked.  I froze most of the rest!

Next month is grape-picking around these parts, and that will be a new one for me.  I can't wait!

23 May 2012

10 Years

10 years ago today, I graduated high school.  I officially feel OLD.  Yet I also still feel like I'm 22 and freshly out of college.  Then I hear that Mark Zuckerburg turned another year older; he was born 3 weeks before me and is also a 2002 high school grad.  Well, I'm no billionaire.  But I had a kid first, actually finished college, and didn't have to trick people into coming to my wedding.  Take that, Zuckerburg!

Even though it wasn't my "peak," high school was good to me.  I won various awards and scholarships, got good grades, had good friends and made good memories.  I was the quirky smart girl who purposely mismatched all her outfits and pulled it off.  I got to dabble in everything that interested me--soccer, debate, quiz bowl, choir, cross country, Spanish club, the list goes on and on.  But if I look back on the highlights of my life, very few of them happened in those four years.

My high school has the longest name EVER.  (But we just called it "Central")
I've done a lot in the past 10 years.  Graduated college with two degrees, joined and finished AmeriCorps, moved a few times, gotten and quit a big-girl job, traveled both domestically and internationally, learned a lot of new skills (cooking included), volunteered for a wide range of nonprofits, gotten married, had a beautiful baby.  I'm sure there are a ton of great things I've left out as well, but those are the biggies.

I posted on Facebook about today being our 10-year date, and one of my best high school friends said it made her feel sad because it reminds her how close we are to turning 30!  I'm not scared of my thirties at all; I actually know plenty of people who LOVE their thirties.  Instead of fearing it, I just wonder what fun adventures the next 10 years will bring!

Can't believe my cheapo high school actually gave us our diplomas in this thing!
So I may not have a bazillion dollars like Mark Zuckerburg, but I do have the love of my family and friends, and that's pretty awesome.  I also haven't burned too many bridges, and no one has even tried to sue me.  Heck, I haven't even gotten a speeding ticket.  I guess I can't complain--here's to the next 10 years!

18 May 2012

A Mother's Ring

My mom got this ring for Mother's Day probably about 10 years ago.  She wears it on the same finger as her wedding and engagement rings.  I've always admired it.

It has 4 stones - the birthstones of my mom, dad, sister, and me.  (Alexandrite, Rose Zircon, Peridot, and Amythest, if you're curious.)  Her and Dad's stones are in the middle, and my sister's and mine are on the outside.

My mom said she should add 3 stones for her grandchildren, but I'm trying to convince her to get a separate grandmother's ring to wear on her other hand.  Otherwise, it will get to the point you can't see all the stones!

I probably won't get one of these until I know my family is mostly complete, which won't probably be for another 10 years.  But for a Valentine's Day/push present to myself this year, I found a necklace with baby Cora's Garnet birthstone.

From 1saleaday.com, so it was not expensive at all!
I love to wear it, but I can't do it too often because now she loves to pull on it a lot.  (I'm currently looking for a nursing necklace, and my birthday is coming up--hint hint to whomever.)

I sometimes wonder what my full mother's ring will look like.  I hope I don't have too many April babies because those diamonds might get expensive!

16 May 2012

Some Life Updates

I figured it's about time to just let y'all know what's going on around here.

Last week, we celebrated a lot!

First, B's 29th birthday was on the 8th.
Those are birthday brownies from a box.  I'm not super-mom over here.
Then on Thursday evening, we drove back to my hometown in Georgia.  That means that Cora gets to cross another state off her list!  Friday was spent sinking a bunch of money into repairing my car (new alternator and water pump, ugh), and then on Saturday we had not one, but TWO big celebrations of faith.

My nephew/godson received his First Communion:
That's him kneeling in the first row.  I got a video of the whole thing even though I wasn't supposed to :)
And then that same afternoon, my precious baby girl was baptized!
She's wearing the gown that both my sister and I were baptized in!
We did two cakes, one from Publix for my nephew, and I decorated the one for Cora.  It's not awesome, but I think I did an okay job.
The more important part is that it was YUMMY and got gobbled up very quickly!
B had his D.C. trip early this week, so Cora and I dropped him off at the airport on Monday morning, and went on an adventure!  I did this last year on the same weekend after my niece's baptism and regretted going to somewhere a bunch of field trip students were.  So this year I steered clear of touristy places and a friend joined Cora and me for our first IKEA trip.
I wish I lived near one so I could just go there for breakfast all the time!
I got a handful of toys and toy storage and picture frames, and it was great!  This is totally my type of store.

After that side trip, I had to drive back to Pensacola on my own with baby.  It really wasn't so bad.  She's gotten a lot more efficient at nursing, so we just took our time and didn't do bottles since I would have had to pump if we did.  We only made two stops, so it worked out just fine!

Other than our travels, the big deal in our household right now is B's job hunt.  He signed up with another headhunting agency, which I think has had someone call him almost every day.  He's going to a big job conference in Baltimore next week, where he'll be interviewing with a handful of companies he matches.  If you're the prayin' kind, please add him to your list next Tuesday!  It absolutely freaks me out that wherever we end up moving to in just a few short months could be our FOREVER home.  I want him to have a good job and all, but I guess my role as wife and mom is to make sure we end up somewhere that has a good environment for families and preferably good schools.

And just because she's stinkin' cute, here's a recent picture of Cora:

10 May 2012

some new music: Colleen Nixon

Okay, so I kinda know this girl.  We sorta worked together at a camp in north Georgia many moons ago when we were both college students.  She's also our current priest's sister-in-law (small world, huh?).  Anyway, I've loved her voice ever since I heard her sing at that camp seven years ago.  I got to hear her sing again at our Pensacola church back in 2010, when she was pregnant with her son (that's her baby boy in the video).  I bought her religious CD then, and it has helped me out whenever my spirits need lifting.  She also has some secular songs, and this is one of them.

I have this primed to start right before the music starts, but this is actually from her KickStarter campaign that she has going right now, so there's some of her talking about it before and after.  (She's beautiful, amirite?!)  She's trying to raise some money so she can record a full-length album, so if you feel so inclined, head on over to KickStarter and help the girl out (you can pre-buy a digital copy of her album for $10).

Enjoy "Perfect" by Colleen Nixon!

Linking up with Goodnight Moon if she ever puts her hop back up...

07 May 2012

Homemade Protein Bars

Since I've been losing 500 calories a day sitting on the couch feeding this child of mine, I've been HUNGRY!!  I tired of having to make myself a sandwich at odd hours, so I've been buying some protein bars to keep me full.  They generally do the trick (I especially like Builder's Bars).  Now that Cora has a consistent bed time, I thought maybe I could try saving myself some money and preservatives and make some myself!  I had made some homemade granola to put in my yogurt a few weeks back, so this seemed like a logical step.

I searched around and found a few decent videos that helped, and now have made these a handful of times.

Chocolate Protein Bars
Yields 12 Bars

Dry ingredients:
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup chocolate whey protein powder
  • ¼ cup nuts (I suggest chopped/slivered almonds or peanuts)
  • ½ Tbsp. cinnamon
  • (⅓ cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit--optional)
Wet ingredients:
  • ½ cup nut butter of choice
  • ¼ cup honey (raw is best!)
  • ¼ cup milk (any kind, you could probably also use water instead)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.  In a different bowl, mix the wet ingredients together, then microwave the wet ingredients for 30 seconds.  Stir the wet stuff together until creamy--this might require some extra microwave time.  Pour the wet stuff onto the dry (or vice versa).  Mix it all together.  Feel free to add some extra mixins like more nuts or chocolate chips.

Line a baking dish with parchment paper (or wax paper, but it doesn't stick to parchment paper) and drop the mixture down into it, smooshing it down.  Put another piece of parchment paper on top to help you get it uniform (it's pretty sticky).  Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, but preferably longer.  When you take it out, turn the whole thing upside down so it lands on the top piece of paper.  Then cut it into bars, which is easiest if you use a pizza cutter.  I did mine in an 8x8 baking dish and cut it into 12 bars.  You could also make these into balls or cut into small squares if you want.

Easy to cut with pizza cutter.

 I'll admit that these are pretty sticky.  To make them not sticky, you could roll them in crushed nuts or even dip in chocolate almond bark if you're feeling ambitious.   

There are a few things I'll do differently next time.  I didn't have any almonds, so I threw whatever I had in there.  Which were pecans.  Yeah, I don't recommend those.  I used regular creamy peanut butter, but I wonder if using a more natural nut butter (the kind you have to refrigerate) would make it less sticky too.  I also might add some extra chocolate chips in at the end because I just love my chocolate.

I also wanted to see a cost breakdown to see if it was worth my time.  (It took less than 15 minutes, so the answer to that is "most likely so.")  But I'm a frugal and curious momma, so why not figure this out.  This calculation actually took me longer than making the recipe because I had to keep converting volume measurements to weight (thank you WolframAlpha for speeding this process up).

The recipe above yields 10 bars, and the cost per bar breaks down to this:
whey protein powder: 0.13
oats: 0.09
peanut butter: 0.07
cinnamon: 0.01
almonds: 0.05
craisins: 0.05
raw honey: 0.12
almond milk: 0.01
applesauce: 0.02
chocolate chips: 0.04
pure vanilla extract: 0.03
Total: 0.62

62 cents is about half what I spend buying these in the store, so I'm going to say that yes it was worth it for me!

UPDATE 7/2/2012  (Since this has been going around Pinterest.)  I have made these about 5 times now, and the original recipe is still pretty awesome.  I would recommend using the quick oats, just for texture's sake, but I still use either depending on what's in the pantry.  Also, if you want to add more chocolate chips (or PB chips or white chocolate chips) for something crunchy in it, wait until you've mixed everything together (i.e., have a big sticky mess).  Otherwise, the chips will melt.  I think these are really really good with that extra crunch, as I've decided that using dried fruit in this just doesn't work for me.  Another easy way to get a crunch is to use extra-crunchy peanut butter.

 I have also figured out an easy way to use parchment paper to roll them up into individual bars that you can take with you, and will get pictures of that process soon, but here is the finished product.

Protein bars to go!

As for the price, I did my calculations based on the absolute most you would reasonably spend on each ingredient.  Personally, I use non-raw Thrifty Bee honey, cow's milk, and regular peanut butter, so my final cost is closer to probably around $0.55.

02 May 2012

our ups and downs with breastfeeding: part 2

This is the second part of a series. You can read the first part here.

The first few sleep-deprived weeks were rough, but then it started to fall into place. So much so that I even had a semi-epiphany about how very cool it was that my body was producing everything my baby needed to live!

Well, apparently, I thought this too soon. My baby had finally regained her birth weight a few days after her 2-week checkup (a bit late, but I was happy about it). I got another weight check at the 4 week mark just to make sure, and she had lost almost 10 ounces! I was freaking out at the clinic. The family practice doctor she was seeing (whom I hadn't been fond of since the 2-week check) immediately said to supplement with formula. I asked him about using my freezer stash of breast milk to supplement, and he just stared at me blankly. I called the Lactation Consultant in tears that night and refused to give her formula just yet. We gave her some extra pumped milk that night. I also decided to switch her back to the Pediatric clinic (we get to choose here, and I'm quite grateful for that).

I went in the next day to do a weight check with the LC, and Cora had gained a few ounces back. I was advised to pump for the next 24 hours and feed her bottles so that we could assess if my supply was too low. I did that, and yeah, it was on the low side. The LC had me supplement her with an ounce of formula and/or expressed milk after each feeding while I started taking an herbal supplement called fenugreek to boost my supply. The fenugreek was amazing and worked within a few days! We weight-checked her again a few times that week, and she was doing much better.

This all is the reason I never got a picture when she was 4 weeks old, which means I also didn't get a one-month picture. The day she turned a month old, all I did was nurse her and cry. I don't think I even realized what day it was. Sleep deprivation can really do a number on your emotions, especially when you're still combating some baby blues.

I think it was that same day that was the first Sunday of Lent. I sat in the pew at church (nursing her, probably) and decided then and there that I was gonna tough this out until Easter. I made a pact with myself and later announced it to my husband that if by Easter I was still in tears every other day because of breastfeeding, I would stop.

Why was I so determined? I know breastmilk is "best for baby," but formula has come a long way. I was formula-fed myself, and I never get sick, and I don't think it has affected me in any terrible way. B was breastfed for six months and has suffered allergies all his life. Breast milk is not the be-all end-all that some of the books would have you believe, obviously. (And it's beyond genetics for me, as my sister never gets sick either and she was adopted.)

But for me, it probably comes back to one thing. MONEY. This is how my mind works. Feeding my baby is free. It's also really nice to always have food for my baby wherever I go. One of my other reasons was that if I could master it with the first child, I figured the subsequent ones will be much easier. I had noticed among friends and acquaintances that it was very hard for them to breastfeed a second child if they had formula-fed the first. Those first few weeks of nursing are so hard that if you're comfortable with the alternative, it is really really appealing to switch!!

If you haven't guessed yet, I made it to Easter! And weeks beyond now. I actually had almost forgot about that pact with myself by the time Easter rolled around, but I was talking to someone about the low supply issue and it came back to me. I was able to sorta wean myself off of taking Fenugreek a week before that, and it seems like my body is doing what it's supposed to now. Hooray for womanhood, right?

Well, I did get a plugged duct during our road trip, but that worked itself out really easily, so I'm gonna call that a non-issue for now. A non-issue that I hope doesn't happen again.